Monday March 03
I'm back in action in diary-land. The bulk of the mega-3CD recording
project is completed. Some mixes to fix, and the instrumental CD still needs
some form, but most of the real work is done. Forty two songs. And
now, the focus moves to polishing.
Much has happened in the three months since I was a regular public diary writer.
Far too much for back-tracking. So we begin fresh, focused on the present.
* * *
Tuesday March 04
Roadshow (CD1) Preview:
* * *
Wednesday March 05
New SBRS lineup is getting tighter, and 3-part harmonies on Starship Trooper
are making me smile. Nice email today from another Starship contributor working
hard in Woodstock. SBRS had an early evening rehearsal at Seattle
Circle HQ in preparation for the upcoming California Guitar Trio show.
Good energy in the room tonight.
* * *
Speaking of mail, I received a note from JAM today who noticed that
Sanford Ponder has an
article on his award winning Pod project in this weeks 'Real Change' paper.
Time magazine recently called Sanford's pods one of the best inventions of
2002. Thanks for the heads up John!
* * *
Thursday March 06
Found this in a recent mail from ol' pal, luthier, BTV field correspondent, and
extremely creative SBRS supporter,
* * *
Friday March 07
At about 2pm this afternoon, I felt an illness creep up on me and announce that
I would soon be going down hard. Unfortunately, I still had 3 hours of
important meetings with exciting and super smart people to follow through on.
So I pushed it.
And later in the evening, the illness pushed back. Harder.
Going down now.
* * *
Saturday March 08
A day literally in bed all day. Sweating, empty, aching like a mofo.
What is this foreign feeling: helplessness.
* * *
Sunday March 09
Ditto on today. Fortunately, I'm in good hands.
* * *
Monday March 10
Wisely staying home.
In bed, literally all day. Half alive. Zero energy, sweating,
aching, throbbing, intense bursts of chills followed by convulsions in muscles I
barely knew I had.
* * *
Tuesday March 11
Just when I think it can't get any worse, I wake up today. When will this
flu be through with me? More nursing from my 1/2-human + 1/2 pet nurse
team of Franklin and Lisa.
* * *
Wednesday March 12
Taking a chance and heading back into work today. Meeting this morning
with someone visiting from Austin who traveled here to meet with me.
Not very nice if I don't show up, eh?
Also, an important review at 3:00pm that had already been postponed numerous
times. Decided to 'tough it out' and make this happen. As
predictable by any sane person, half-way through the day I began to feel total
regret that I went in at all, despite the guests and necessary meetings.
* * *
Then, if that were not enough, a necessary, pre-CGT-show, SBRS Electric
rehearsal this evening at HQ. Also impossible to blow off. We
are verrry under-rehearsed and have a high-profile show in two days.
Hmm... suck from being under-rehearsed or suck from being sick? Not a good
trade-off. How about plan C: excellent show, what ever it takes?
Our evening rehearsal also became a run through for guest percussionist (MB) who
was kind enough to come down to meet us, pick up some CDs, and be our friendly
ears for the evening. I've been working to get together with MB for months
- sorry that it had to happen when my voice/energy are shot. But, no
excuses: show must go on.
* * *
Uplifting surprise at home: a Fedex package from Woodstock arrived today filled
with acoustic and electric low-end happiness. Tasteful
affirmative quotes are rocking my bottom as I type this.
How do you say thank you to someone for something this superb?
This is a not-so-subtle fulfillment of an event that happened roughly 22 years,
5 months and one day ago that changed my life and in some strange way made this
possible. Who knew that the 'drive to Carbondale' would land us here, now,
hearing what I am now hearing?
* * *
Thursday March 13
Wisely stayed home from work today. Logging more downtime in bed,
something that I'm not very good at, but doing again out of necessity today.
Must get over this flu which now feels like it's morphing into a cold.
Everyday, I keep thinking I'm past the hump, and each day, I am surprised by the
grip it has on my energy, eyes, nose, throat.
Illness, be gone.
* * *
Friday March 14
Met with SteveT and DonM a few weeks (months?) ago and SteveT turned me onto
Scary that someone has made an archive of the entire web.
* * *
Friends in town tonight for a house concert at Seattle Circle HQ.
Seattle Circle Headquarters at dusk
old Crafty pals
Photo by Curt Golden
* * *
Saturday March 15
Found this while deleting piles of old mail today. My favorites in bold:
----- Original Message -----
From: Travis Metcalf
To: Steve Ball
Sent: Friday, December 06, 2002 10:26 AM
Subject: SBRS Anagrams
Steve Ball Roadshow:
A BAD VERSE: HOWL LOTS
SLEW: SHOT A BAD LOVER
BALLADEER SHOT VOWS
ADORABLE VESTS HOWL
DATABLE LOVERS SHOW
HE LOVE LOW BASTARDS
WHOLE LOVE BASTARDS
BREAST SHOVE ALLOW'D
WHORE VETOS BALLADS
LOBSTER WASHED OVAL
OWL DEATH ABSOLVERS
DEATHBLOW OVER LASS
BLOWHARD SEALS VETO
BLOWHARD OAT VESSEL
BLOWHARDS LOVE SEAT
SHADOW REVEALS BLOT
* * *
Sunday March 16
More mailbox clean-out. Finding some doosies:
----- Original Message -----
From: "Travis Hartnett"
To: "Steve Ball"
Sent: Monday, September 30, 2002 2:02 PM
Subject: Other funding ideas
Interviewer: How were you able to manage it? [keeping his ensemble together in
the early years]
Phillip Glass: I made some shrewd and smart decisions at that time that
made it possible. For one thing, I did not take a teaching job, which I never
wanted to do. I had other work and I supported the ensemble by my jobs. After
the first concert, I began paying people. Now, that was very hard to do; it
usually meant that I never got paid myself. Also, I decided that I would let
no-one else play the music but the ensemble, because I felt that if I had a
monopoly on the music, that as the music became known there would be more work
for the ensemble. So for the next eleven years, the only people who played my
music was the ensemble.
I set a goal for myself of twenty concerts a year--not at all an arbitrary
number. If you do twenty concerts a year, you can then qualify as an employer
who can take out unemployment insurance for his employees. What I could then
offer my players was twenty weeks when I would pay them, and twenty-six weeks
when they could get the money down at the unemployment office. The beautiful
part of this was that I didn't need grants. I didn't need the approval of any
other composer at all. By 1975 I was doing twenty concerts a year. I had
discovered a way of living not only independently of the academic world, but
also independently of the foundation world.
* * *
More mailbag mulch (this one forwarded to me by MartinP):
How Jazz Works -
by Ed Fuqua
Pianists are intellectuals and know-it-alls. They studied theory, harmony and
composition in college. Most are riddled with self-doubt. They are usually bald.
They should have big hands, but often don't. They were social rejects as
adolescents. They go home after the gig and play with toy soldiers. Pianists
have a special love-hate relationship with singers. If you talk to the piano
player during a break, he will condescend.
Bassists are not terribly smart. The best bassists come to terms with their
limitations by playing simple lines and rarely soloing. During the better
musical moments, a bassist will pull his strings hard and grunt like an animal.
Bass players are always built big, with paws for hands, and they are always bent
over awkwardly. If you talk to the bassist during a break, you will not be able
to tell whether or not he's listening.
Drummers are radical. Specific personalities vary, but are always extreme. A
drummer might be the funniest person in the world, or the most psychotic, or the
smelliest. Drummers are uneasy because of the many jokes about them, most of
which stem from the fact that they aren't really musicians. Pianists are
particularly successful at making drummers feel bad. Most drummers are highly
excitable; when excited, they play louder. If you decide to talk to the drummer
during a break, always be careful not to sneak up on him.
Saxophonists think they are the most important players on stage. Consequently,
they are temperamental and territorial. They know all the Coltrane and Bird
licks but have their own sound, a mixture of Coltrane and Bird. They take
eeeeeeeeexceptionally long solos, which reach a peak half way through and then
just don't stop. They practice quietly but audibly while other people are trying
to play. They are obsessed. Saxophonists sleep with their instruments, forget to
shower, and are mangy. If you talk to a saxophonist during break, you will hear
a lot of excuses about his reeds.
Trumpet players are image-conscious and walk with a swagger. They are often
former college linebackers. Trumpet players are very attractive to women,
despite the strange indentation on their lips. Many of them sing; misguided
critics then compare them to either Louis Armstrong or Chet Baker depending
whether they're black or white. Arrive at the session early, and you may get to
witness the special trumpet game. The rules are: Play as loud and as high as
possible. The winner is the one who plays loudest and highest. If you talk to a
trumpet player during a break, he might confess that his favorite player is
Maynard Ferguson, the merciless God of loud-high trumpeting.
Jazz guitarists are never very happy. Deep inside they want to be rock stars,
but they're old and overweight. In protest, they wear their hair long, prowl for
groupies, drink a lot, and play too loud. Guitarists hate piano players because
they can hit ten notes at once, but guitarists make up for it by playing as fast
as they can. The more a guitarists drinks, the higher he turns his amp. Then the
drummer starts to play harder, and the trumpeter dips into his loud/high
arsenal. Suddenly, the saxophonist's universe crumbles, because he is no longer
the most important player on stage. He packs up his horn, nicks his best reed in
haste, and storms out of the room. The pianist struggles to suppress a laugh. If
you talk to a guitarist during break he'll ask intimate questions about your
Vocalists are whimsical creations of the all-powerful jazz gods. They are placed
in sessions to test musicians' capacity for suffering. They are not of the jazz
world, but enter it surreptitiously. Example: A young woman is playing minor
roles college musical theater. One day, a misguided campus newspaper critic
describes her singing as "...jazzy." Viola! A star is born! Quickly she learns
"My Funny Valentine," "Summertime," and "Route 66."
she embarks on a campaign of musical terrorism. Musicians flee from the
bandstand as she approaches. Those who must remain feel the full fury of the
jazz universe. The vocalist will try to seduce you, and the rest of the
audience, by making eye contact, acknowledging your presence, even talking to
you between tunes. DO NOT FALL INTO THIS TRAP! Look away, make your distaste
obvious. Otherwise the musicians will avoid you during their breaks.
Incidentally, if you talk to a vocalist during a break, she will introduce you
to her "manager."
The trombone is known for its pleading, voice-like quality. "Listen," it seems
to say in the male tenor range, "why won't anybody hire me for a gig?"
Trombonists like to play fast, because their notes become indistinguishable and
thus immune to criticism. Most trombonists played trumpet in their early years,
then decided they didn't want to walk around with a strange indentation on their
lips. Now they hate trumpet players, who somehow get all the women despite this
disfigurement. Trombonists are usually tall and lean, with forlorn faces. They
don't eat much. They have to be very friendly, because nobody really needs a
trombonist. Talk to a trombonist during a break and he'll ask you for a gig, try
to sell you insurance, or offer to mow your lawn.
Picking the tune:
Every time a tune ends, someone has to pick a new one. That's a fundamental
concept that, unfortunately, runs at odds with jazz group processes. Tune
selection makes a huge difference to the musicians. They love to show off on
tunes that feel comfortable, and they tremble at the threat of the unknown. But
to pick a tune is to invite close scrutiny: "So this is how you sound at
your best. Hmm..." It's a complex issue with unpredictable
outcomes. Sometimes no one wants to pick a tune, and sometimes everyone wants to
pick a tune. The resulting disagreements lead to faction-building and under
extreme conditions even impromptu elections. The politics of tune selection
makes for some of the session's best entertainment.
Example 1: No one wants to pick a tune. (previous tune ends) (silence)
trumpet player: "What the f#@*? Is someone gonna pick a tune?" (more silence)
trumpet player: "This s%!* is lame. I'm outta here." (Storms out of room,
forgetting to pay tab). rest of band (in unison): "Yes!!!" (Band takes extended
break, puts drinks on trumpet players tab.)
Everyone wants to pick a tune, resulting in impromptu election and eventual
tune selection (previous tune ends) pianist and guitarist simultaneously
"Beautiful Love!" / "Donna Lee!" guitarist to pianist: "You just want to play
your fat, stupid ten-note chords!" pianist to guitarist: "You just want to play
a lot of notes really fast!" saxophonist: "Giant Steps'." (a treacherous
Coltrane tune practiced obsessively by saxophonists.) guitarist and pianist
(together): "Go ahead asshole." trumpet player: "This **** is lame. 'Night in
Tunisia'." (a Dizzy Gillespie tune offering bounteous opportunities for loud,
high playing.) saxophonist:
"Sorry, forgot my earplugs, Maynard." (long,awkward silence) pianist, guitarist,
saxophonist, trumpet player all turn to drummer: "Your turn, Skinhead." (drummer
pauses to think of hardest possible tune; a time-tested drummer ploy to punish
real musicians who play actual notes.) drummer: "Stablemates." trumpet player:
F#@* this! I'm outta here." (Storms out of room, Bartender chases after him.) ("Stablemates")
trombonist: "Did someone forget to turn off the CD player?"
Not only are these disagreements fun to watch; they create tensions that will
last all through the night. (As an educated audience member, you might want to
keep a flow chart diagramming the shifting alliances. You can also keep
statistics on individual tune-calling. Under no circumstances though, should you
take sides or yell out song titles. Things are complicated enough already.)
* * *