Saturday, February 24, 2007

There goes the neighborhood

So as I prepare for the IJG PNW debut (March 7/8), I thought I would pass along the following notes.

1. Portland's own Tim DuRoche has a killer blog, Occasional Jazz Conjectures. DuRoche, until recently the go-to jazz writer for the Willamette Week, Portland's sexiest alterna-paper, is also (among other things) a very groovy, solid, well-informed drummer (I heard him play some pretty funky free jazz with Phillip Greenlief back in October). His writing (like his playing) is what I would call "refreshingly old-school." Item: check out the post entitled "WWWBD?" (as in "What Would Whitney Balliett Do?" -- Balliett being the fella who coined the apposite phrase "the sound of surprise" to describe Louis Armstrong's music); it's a kind of homage to the recently-departed critic. Thanks to the aforementioned Mr. Greenlief, Tim is one of the first cats I met upon moving to PDX; I sincerely hope I can rope him into an Industrial Jazz gig at some point.

2. Speaking of the Willamette Week, here's the blog that collects or references much of their music writing. Without a dedicated jazz person on the roster, it seems a little incomplete to me (although it looks like the intrepid Jason Simms will be stepping up to that particular bat, as I hope to demonstrate soon), but I have nevertheless been enjoying poking through the entries a bit. It's a nice coinkydink, especially in light of the recent conversations we west-coasters have been having about comedy and music, that one of the first pieces I stumbled over was this one about some dude named Michael Rockstar. Actually, a little cursory web-searching suggests that Mr. Rockstar's take on music and comedy isn't exactly my cup o' tea, but I did perk up when I read this question from Amy McCullough: "How is Portland a better fit for a musical comedian than the epicenter of entertainment [L.A.]?" And MR's answer: "I feel like it’s a better fit than L.A. because it’s younger, newer, more open minded. People don’t feel like everything’s been done here like they do in L.A. or New York. They are still open to freshness; they’re more open to the sort of thing I’m doing because they perceive it as fun or quirky, rather than lame or over." Indeed. Veddy interesting...

3. Bathtubs! Nothing but bathtubs!

4. Last night, as I struggled to fight off my second cold of 07, I made my way over to the Musicians Union to catch a little bit of the Rob Scheps Big Band rehearsal. A good percentage of the folks who were present are going to take the plunge with the IJG book in a few weeks, and I wanted to take the opportunity to meet them before we had any sort of proper rehearsal. So in addition to Rob (who I had already met) I got to shake hands with saxophonists Gary Harris, Scott Hall, and Dave Valdez; trumpeters Matt Carr and Garner Pruitt; trombonists Stan Bock and Tom Hill; and drummer Ward Griffiths. All of these folks are going to be on the IJG shows on March 7/8 (can I plug these gigs any more shamelessly, I wonder?), and thank heavens for that -- I have already described Scheps as a motherfucker, and surely you know that motherfuckers tend to associate with other motherfuckers. To put it less obscenely, this band is extremely good -- a fact that was clear even though (or perhaps because) they were reading their way through some truly byzantine Ed Neumeister charts (I was particularly taken with a jaw-dropping arrangement of "E.S.P.").

This subbing-out-the-entire-band-except-for-the-comparatively-financially-secure-Jill thing is turning out to be a very interesting and exciting experience, though on some weird level it feels vaguely like cheating. It also feels vaguely insane.

One index of a quality big band: they sound bitchen even when they're sitting down.

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