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And…We’re Back!

"Would I chuck this wood?" - Mr. W. Chuck

“Would I chuck this wood?” – Mr. W. Chuck

Hello. Remember us? Do we remember ourselves? Who are we? Is this real? How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?

That’s right, we are trying this again. It has been over 1 year since you have heard from mda and RBD. We are still alive and kicking. Well I still kick, but RBD probably doesn’t kick as much as I do. I don’t really know why. So what should we write about? Baseball, music, books, kicking, beer, the Aristocrat, all of the above?

RBD: Well mda, it’s true we haven’t written for a long time, but not because we didn’t WANT to write. We haven’t written because we both are busy and are on different life trajectories. I think we should kick off 2013 with a slew of new blogs covering ALL of the topics stated above. Our first blog should be about the books/reading that we have been doing.

mda: Reading is fun and enjoyable and good food for the brain, in my humble opinion. I wish I had more time to read,

The book mda is trudging through these days

The book mda is trudging through these days

but work and other life experiences tend to get in the way. However, I still make time for reading whenever I get the chance. Lately I have been reading quite a few magazines as I purchased subscriptions to National Geographic and Smithsonian magazines on my iPAD. It certainly is fun reading those magazines. In addition, I keep up with a variety of cycling magazines because…you know…cycling has become a passion of mine for some reason. Other than that, I tend to stick to my ‘favorite author list’ and read – sometimes trudge – through their books. Currently I am enjoying Haruki Murakami’s magna-opus 1Q84. It is an impressive book and I still don’t know where the plot is going even 1/3 of the way through. How about you?

RBD: Well fancy pants has an iPad. Way to drop that in. So subtle you are. I too have some magazine subscriptions that I am working my way through. I subscribe to The Paris Review, and get the Audubon and Sierra Club Magazines. So far, I am 5 issues behind on the Paris Review (that translates to 16 months behind) but only a couple months behind on the Audubon and Sierra Club Magazines. I love reading and wish I had more discipline to read more often. There are a lot of distractions that sometimes keep me away god-delusionfrom my reading material, but I’ve been trying to change that this year. I currently am reading The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins, and working my way through the Collected Works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I’m diggin’ the Sherlock Holmes stories! I plan on reading in 2013 biographies on Abraham Lincoln, Beethoven, and J.S. Bach. What is it about trudging through a book that is so rewarding?

mda: I do not know. Maybe it goes back to college days of learning new things and the enjoyment of accomplishing said ‘new information’ that feels so rewarding. Now that we are both out of academia (well, you still flirt with academia…I just stare longingly from afar) we find that thrill/reward of accomplishment through the trudging of a book. Or maybe we are all making it up. So I have never read any of the Sherlock Homes stories. What do you find so intriguing about them?

sherlockRBD: To be honest, the new show on the BBC called Sherlock is so good, I thought I should check out the original material. I did just that and I wasn’t disappointed at all! Most of the stories are quick reads which I can do easily during the day, or before I fall asleep. The new show on the BBC does an excellent adaptation of the stories. Some dialogue and speech patterns are taken word for word from the original stories!

Well, mda, what shall our next blog post topic be?

mda: I know what you mean about quick reads. Those are always fun. I have the complete works of Mark Twain and it is fun to just pick it up every once in a while and read a few pages. More blogs….well it’s almost baseball season. We could start our preseason predictions. By the way, April 1 you are required to join me at the Crat for opening day. Yankees play at 1pm. I’m taking the day off. Or we could discuss the difficulties the ISO had last year.

RBD: Let’s blog about baseball next, then after we hear a great ISO concert tonight, we can blog about the ISO woes over the past 6 months. By the way, you have a date on April 1st mda! Surprise, it’s me!! See you at the Crat.

mda: I’ll make sure to wear pants on that day…


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How to Succeed in the Arts Without Really Trying

How does one succeed in the arts world without really trying?

1. Have a trust fund that can support you until you die.
2. Pick another career path.

Frustrating huh? What I’m trying to say is that it is NOT easy to succeed in the Arts, but it IS possible.

Far too often, people come up to me and say:  “Man, you’re so lucky! You have so many gigs and  it seems like you’re working all the time! How do you do it?”

My response goes something like this: “Luck equals preparation meeting opportunity! I’m not lucky, I just work hard and take advantage of the opportunities that are presented to me.”

Then they leave me alone. (Job well done.)

Seriously though, luck has nothing to do with my success. And anyway, what is success?

You must define what success means to you.

Success is defined like this in the dictionary:
1.the favorable or prosperous termination of attempts or endeavors
2. the attainment of wealth, position, honors, or the like
3. a successful performance or achievement
4. a person or thing that is successful

So what does success mean to you? How do you define success?

Do you want to play every night?
Do you want to travel?
Do you want to write/arrange?

Do you want to teach?
Do you want to simply play your instrument?
Do you want to work a day-job?
Do you NOT want to work a day-job?
Do you want to play in an orchestra?
Do you want to play in a big band?
Do you want to play the best music all the time no matter what the cost?

Are you willing to make sacrifices in your life to achieve these goals?

As soon as you can define what success means to you, you can begin achieving it.

Have a general idea of what your life will look like. It doesn’t have to be set in stone. It should be malleable, yet set firmly in reality. For example, I will not define success for me like this:

I want to be the best trombone player in the history and future of the entire world. I would also like an island, shaped like a trombone named after me.

Ain’t gonna happen. But my actual general idea of what I want my life to look like goes something like this:

I want to play great music.
I want to play great music with incredible musicians.
I want to play great music with incredible musicians and be able to pay bills and life comfortably.

If I can achieve 2 out the 3 above, I consider that a success.

So, set goals and work a little everyday to achieve them.

How do you do that?


“It’s not WHAT you know, it’s WHO you know.”

-Who you know will get you in the door and what you know will keep you there!

Networking is now a 24/7 endeavor! Through Social Media, you have the potential to connect/interact with your fans and your potential fans at any time and they have access to YOU.

So, how does Social Media fit into all this?

A simple question with a simple yet very complicated answer:

Create and maintain an online presence

Social Media is a place to share your views and thoughts, not just for promotional use.

  • Engage with your audience/fans
  • Make sure you’re in a two-way conversation with people consistently
  • Leave comments, don’t just ‘Like’, interact
  • Drive web traffic to one place of your choosing based on your goals.

All the above is your new ‘day-job’.

But…”My music should speak for itself”. That’s just great and I’m happy for you and your music SHOULD represent you, but if no one is there to hear it, then the music is speaking only to itself and not potential paying fans.


–  Tell people WHEN and WHERE you are playing!
– Go out and meet fellow artists, get to know them
– Pass out business cards as you collect them. Email your new ‘acquaintances’, be polite
– Social Media doesn’t replace the ‘old’ marketing/networking, it enhances
– Shut up and LISTEN!
– Ask Questions
– Read blogs! Check these out:

Music Think Tank
One Working Musician
Indianapolis Social Media
Owl Studios Blog
The Jazz Artist Survival Guide
NPR: A Blog Supreme

In conclusion:

There is no fool-proof method to promotion. Don’t let the non-music activities interfere with the musical activities. Find a good balance, take chances. If something doesn’t work, stop doing it, but be patient. This is a slow developing business. Eventually, if you keep at it, with a consistent presence on-line, you will begin to see a nice Return On Investment (ROI) and you will meet or exceed your original goals!

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Jazz Album Review: Anthony Nelson Jr.

So here we go.  The first album review for the RBI blog.

Anthony Nelson Jr.

Anthony Nelson Jr. – Testament/Live at Cecil’s Jazz Club & Restaurant

Anthony Nelson Jr. – tenor and soprano saxophone
Freddie Hendrix – trumpet and flugelhorn
Allyn Johnson – piano
Matthew Parish – bass
Tyshawn Sorey – drums
Cecil Brooks III – drums

Recorded live at Cecil’s Jazz Club and Restaurant in West Orange, NJ

mda: The album consists of 11 total tracks with a nice mixture of originals and standards.  For a live recording, the engineering is quite good.  A concern with live albums from smaller labels or independent artists is whether they will be able to spend the proper money on recording and mixing.  Anthony Nelson obviously did.

RBD: The first thing that struck me was the intonation. Or lack there of to be honest. It is hard enough playing in tune throughout the night on a brass or reed instrument as it is. Lots of reasons can go into why people have intonation problems, temperature fluctuations, hearing issues among other reasons. However, the intonation, right from the beginning, is bad. I will blame this 80% on the piano that sounds like it should be in a saloon out west during the 50’s…the 1850’s. So, for me, the recording just never settles into a comfortable place due to the out of tune nature. OK, that’s out of way, let me proceed. The opening track is burnin’! Great energy and as I was listening I could tell that the band grabbed the crowd and didn’t let go. Recording a live performance is tricky…what if you have a bad/low energy crowd. That could make things more difficult. Tyshawn Sorey literally set the room on fire! With such a great bed or rhythmic intensity the rhythm section was laying down, I just didn’t feel that the soloists could keep up.

mda: I agree about Tyshawn Sorey.  He is without a doubt the strongest musician on the album.  Actually, I would say the second strongest musician on the album is the other drummer, Cecil Brooks III.  The soloists definitely cannot keep up to the drummers.  The intonation is certainly a major issue with this recording and certainly must be taken in to consideration with thinking about purchasing this album.  But we will get back to that in a few.  The compositions and arrangements by Anthony Nelson Jr. are quite strong.  The album starts off with two strong tracks ‘Two By Two’ and ‘Elsie.’  I can easily say these are the two best tracks on the album in my opinion.  Some of the other highlights for me would include ‘This Little Light of Mine.’  Nothing overly special about the arrangement, just a nice, whimsical, New Orleans-type shuffle take on a children’s tune, except for the end when the drummer (Cecil Brooks III) decides to recreate the sound of a machine gun multiple times.  I feel it was totally out of place for the arrangement.

RBD: I agree about the arrangements. They are strong and Anthony Nelson certainly is a talented writer. I wish that some of the arrangements had time to breathe, they feel rushed, or they start strong, stay strong and end strong (with the exception of ‘Paul Danielle’ I must admit). On ‘Polka Dots and Moonbeams’ Nelson gets a nice, soft, ‘old-school’ sound and it is very nice. I’m feeling that perhaps there is still some searching going on with his sound. Coltrane? Webster? or something more contemporary? Getting a cohesive and consistent sound will very quickly unify a set, give direction to compositions. As a young player, Anthony has a way to go, but this album is a representation of where he is in 2010 that he can look back upon with pride. Oh and Cecil Brooks (drummer and club owner)…TUNE THAT DAMN PIANO!!!

mda: Yes Anthony’s tone is unfocused.  It almost seems like he practiced too much before the gig/recording session and lost his embouchure throughout his playing.  I just don’t know what to say other than that.  But overall the music is a nice listen, I just wish the performance of the music was a few notches better than what it is.

Physical Product/Packaging
RBD: One thing that we are going to do a little different on the RBI blogs is that we are looking at the albums we review as a whole. From the moment the CD arrives in the mail we are formulating an opinion and an idea of what the record is all about. With Testament by Anthony E. Nelson Jr, the overall look of the product is cohesive and looks rather nice. It is in an older-style Jewel case (circa 1996, so not THAT old) and the booklet with the liner notes by Zan Stewart are easy to read and has a wealth of information. The ‘Song Listing’ that has Anthony’s remarks about the tunes and a quick description are a little hard to read as they are in a paragraph setting. When I went scanning the paragraph for details of a particular track, it was a little difficult to locate what I was looking for.

mda: I do like the overall design of the package.  Zan Stewart’s liner notes are very well written, something one would expect from a newspaper guy, eh?  The nice thing about the package is that Anthony gives all the information one would need to understand his musical concept for this recording.  It does help with getting in to the music when one knows where the artist is coming from and what he is trying to accomplish.

The Ratings:
(A description of the rating system we are using.)

mda: **  (I am torn, I really would like to give this album a 3-star because of the enjoyable composing/arranging and the playing of Tyshawn Sorey.  However, the intonation and the lackluster solos force me to offer up a 2-star.)
RBD: *** (Despite the terribly out of tune piano (which is where I believe the intonation issues originate) and the lackluster soloing as mda stated, the arrangements are well thought out there is a TON of energy and it is a fun album!)

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The Issue of Gustav Mahler and Orchestras

Gustav Mahler Photograph

mda: Another blog while sitting at Upland Tasting Room in Indianapolis.  So RBD and I (mda) had the great pleasure of hearing Mahler 2 by the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra the other week.  First off, this is one of my all-time favorite pieces of music without a doubt.  I have a feeling RBD will agree with me on all accounts.  So before we discuss this issue, I would like to say a few words about the performance.  It was a great interpretation of the piece.  The conductor really took some liberties with the tempos, but I rather enjoyed it.  The choir was excellent…great interpretation of the vocal parts.

RBD: I do agree, mda, with your assessment of the performance by the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. This is one of my favorite pieces as well. I remember hearing this as a Middle School student or young High Schooler with my Dad in St. Louis. I felt this time, as I did back then (about 20 years ago) from the opening lick, as if I began a journey. An epic journey! Mahler said that he felt that he needed to put the whole world into his symphonies. That is so true with Symphony #2!! Oh, mda, you mentioned an issue in your previous statement. What’s the issue my friend?

mda: Well I believe you and I were talking after the concert about how the orchestra performed Mahler and I mentioned something along the lines of “Mahler really displays the inconsistencies of an orchestra.”  That made me start thinking about Mahler as a whole.  Is there really a composer out there that consistently pushes the limits of the orchestra like Mahler?

RBD: That’s a good point. Mahler has EVERYTHING! A HUGE orchestra that has people playing the whole time, plus chorus. I can only imagine playing an entire season of classical to neo-classical music (plus Pops Concert after Pops Concert) and then have to play Mahler for a week!! It’s like thinking it’s no big deal to walk down the street to the store. It’s only a mile away after all. Not bad, until you realize the store is actually 3 miles away, uphill and it’s raining! You’re tired by the end of that walk!

mda: Well that is one way to put it.  It really is is an interesting thing to think about and discuss.  Mahler’s orchestras are typically larger than a typical orchestra, but the way he writes shows every little, minute detail of the orchestra makeup.  Each player is just as important as the principal of each section.  Now I realize that this isn’t just a ‘Mahler issue.’  However, it somehow presents itself more than most other composers.  Now RBD, since you are a musician who regularly performs in an orchestral setting do you feel you and other musicians prepare differently for Mahler? Obviously you do, but what are the differences?

Famous Mahler Silhouette

RBD: Well, I would say that most orchestral musicians actually prepare for Mahler. They prepare mentally and physically. If you look on the schedule and see “A Night With the Beatles” or “Pink Floyd Tribute”, you’ll probably not run up to the library and get the parts. BUT, you more than likely have the Mahler week down in your calendar. You already have the parts and you begin listening to the beast well in advance. If you’re lulled into a musical sleep by doing short, easy pieces for weeks on end, you have to get yourself back into condition to be able to play something as massive as Mahler. A giant piece like that does show flaws. There is so much going on all the time, that slip-ups are bound to happen, even with the best of the best. The better the orchestras the less noticeable the slip-ups, but I guarantee they are there.

mda: All good points, but we would like to hear from you out there.  Tell us what you think of this Mahler conundrum? What other conductors would you place in to this conundrum…maybe Shostakovich or Wagner?  Would you want to place Beethoven in this arena?  Tell us what you think!

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The Nature of Reviews

RBD: Recently, as employees of an small jazz record label, we have noticed a couple of interesting things that have turned up in reviews. Now, not everybody knows this, we love getting reviews of the albums we release. The reviews usually gauge the importance and popularity of the album before it is officially released. I will let mda talk more about the process of sending out the albums and gathering the reviews. Anyway, with the release that gets sent out, a bio or a description goes along with the album (sort of a detailed explanation about who is playing: what where and when). If the reviewer takes, say 3 minutes, to read the description of the album, then listens to the album, then writes the review, there really should be no errors in who is playing what when and where on the album. That however, doesn’t always seem to be the case.

mda: I agree it seems like it should be quite easy to read the accompanying material and go from there.  However, I am going to play devil’s advocate for a second.  I am sure these reviews receive 20-50 albums in the mail every week…if not every day.  And then the publicists are calling and/or emailing wondering if the reviewer will publish a review of the album.  I would assume they think they do not have the time to read and then listen to the entire album.  This should not be an excuse! I would think that publicists would want to do the best possible job day in and day out, which would mean reading and listening to all material.

RBD: I agree with your devil’s avocado argument mda. I can see that reviews do have a TON of albums to review each and every day, but at what point does their lack of time listening to the album, or reading about the album begin to effect the quality of the review? When you consider how much the artists, not to mention, the record labels rely on honest reflections and reviews of their products, when does this lack of attention start to hurt the product? Is their a happy medium? Less reviews for more money? (do reviewers get paid to publish reviews?)

mda: I actually do not know.  I think there are two different types of reviewers now: the traditional newspaper/magazine reviewers who get paid for their words each and every day; and the internet/blog/webzine reviewers who generally do it because they enjoy music and care about educating the public about new, exciting music.  These people might get some piddly compensation if it is a large enough blog that is supported by another entity, but I believe they mainly do this on their own.  And have you noticed a difference between these two reviewers?

RBD: Well, actually no. I’m not sure where I stand. As we’ve had reviews coming in, some of our artists have gotten upset and asked why more musicians are not doing the reviews. My answer has been that either a musician is to busy practicing/gigging to do reviews, or too bitter for not practicing/gigging that

Greg Osby

you don’t want them to do a review! All this discussion comes to me from a blog written by Greg Osby. His band was touring in Italy and they received a poor review. He argues that perhaps the reviewer needs to walk a mile in the musicians shoes. The writer commented that the band sounded somewhat uninspired and misdirected. Osby agreed, but thought that had the reviewer known that the band had been traveling and performing for weeks on end, there could be a benefit-of-the-doubt given. I don’t know if that’s right, wrong or not important, but ultimately I want reviews, of concerts and albums, to be honest, but with some insight, some appreciation for HOW the music comes together! (especially if they get a sheet that tells them how the music came together!!)

mda: I agree and I think unfortunately only 60% really do that.  Oh well, I don’t think it can actually be changed.  People are going to do what they do no matter what.  What do you think would have happened if, say Robert Schumann or Hector Berlioz (both well known reviewers/writers during their time) didn’t really pay attention to the concert and wrote some nonsensical review?  They would have been laughed at.  The world isn’t like that anymore…such a shame.

RBD: I guess you’re right and it is a shame. What do you think? Should we start accepting albums for review? Or should we just stand on the sideline and criticize the critics?

mda: I will gladly accept albums to review.  I love listening to new music and educating others on the wonderful new music.

RBD: Well that settles it. No reviews. Sorry.

(OK, we are indeed up for doing reviews if you want to send us anything! Just email us at and we’ll send you our address so you can send us your music!)

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Pump-Up the Volume…?

No, I’m not talking about the 1990 movie masterpiece…

Pump up the Volume!

I’m talking about the volume of the music at gigs…jazz gigs, rock gigs, funk gigs, home stereo’s, car stereo’s, clubs and restaurants. Is it me or is everything getting too damn loud?!!?

Loud Music Graph

Loud Music Graph

NPR had a great article/segment on this topic as Robert Siegel interviewed recording mastering engineer Bob Ludwig. NPR simply titles their segment, The Loudness Wars: Why Music Sounds Worse. Well, by reading the title the reader can tell what conclusion  they will come to, but it is still an interesting read/listen. Over the years, music that is being recorded and then mastered is getting compressed. Compression means that the softer volumes get louder and the louder volumes come down. The overall result is a less dynamic and vibrant piece of music. The compression is due to of the digital life this music has. The more compressed the music, the smaller (and lower quality) the music will be.

But at some point, the volume has to stop being turned up…and up…and up!!

Turn the Volume down!

The silence of Earplugs

If a piece of music is too loud on the radio, one can simply turn down the volume. But what do you do when you are in the audience of a live performance? You can put ear plugs in your ears, but why would you have to do that? This is some of your favorite music, why dampen your experience by shoving foam plugs into your ear canals? What would happen if you didn’t wear earplugs? Well, here are some sobering thoughts:

  • A typical conversation occurs at 60 dB – not loud enough to cause damage.
  • A bulldozer that is idling (note that this is idling, not actively bulldozing) is loud enough at 85 dB that it can cause permanent damage after only 1 work day (8 hours).
  • When listening to music on earphones at a standard volume level 5, the sound generated reaches a level of 100 dB, loud enough to cause permanent damage after just 15 minutes per day!
  • A clap of thunder from a nearby storm (120 dB) or a gunshot (140-190 dB, depending on weapon), can both cause immediate damage.

Here is a humbling list. Take a look at this and see if you have been exposed to damaging decibels:

Decibel Chart

Continuous dB          Permissible Exposure Time
85 dB                                      8 hours

88 dB                                      4 hours

91 dB                                       2 hours

94 dB                                       1 hours

97 dB                                        30 minutes

100 dB                                     15 minutes

103 dB                                     7.5 minutes

106 dB                                     3.5 minutes

109 dB                                     < 2 minutes

112 dB                                      1 minute

115 dB                                       30 seconds

Quite the humbling chart. I came across the status update on Facebook the other day by legendary drummer Mike Clark. This is what he had to say:

“I don’t play much funky music anymore but I have noticed that cats play so loud it ain’t funky its more like rock and it doesn’t swing because of it. I mean they are playing all the funky licks and lines but the volume squashes everybody else’s creativity. They talk about the groove non stop but there is no groove at that volume..very oppressive!!”

I recently did a gig, a big band gig, a jazz big band gig, an acoustic jazz big band gig. You get the picture. It was loud. REAL load. I had to put in earplugs and my ears were still ringing after the gig. During the gig, I pulled out my trust iPhone Decibel Meter app and turned it on. During a piano solo…A PIANO SOLO…the decibels were hovering at 98 dB!!! Now, let me look at my chart here…97 dB sustained for 30 minutes does damage to hearing. Supposedly, during a piano solo, the volume would be less than when all 16 jazz musicians play! So, I’m sitting there thinking to my self, ‘Self, I love playing music, but this is so loud, it’s impossible actually play music. I can’t even hear what’s coming out of my horn!! WHY IS THIS SO LOUD?!?!??!’

Why is everything so loud these days? Why do people want to play so loud? Is loud better? As an audience member, do you want to hear music louder? Do you feel like you got ripped off if a band plays kind-of loud instead of REALLY loud? What’s the deal here?

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Renaissance Brothers Top 10 of 2009

It seems that everybody and his/her brother has a Top 10 list. Well so do we! However, our Top 10 list will be much better than all the others.  Why?  Because it is from your Renaissance Brothers.  It will also be better than others because we are writing the Top 10 list while sitting in the new Upland Brewery Tasting Room in Indianapolis.  Upland is hands down one of the best microbreweries in the world (in mda’s humble opinion, it may just be THE BEST).

But we digress.  The Top 10 of 2009.  This list will discuss the 10 best live classical and jazz performances that one or each of the Renaissance Brothers have had the pleasure of enjoying in the greater Indianapolis area. We both enjoy live performances and tend to see quite a few shows each year so we feel we can create a good list for the city.  Without further ado…

– Wagner Das Reingold Indy Opera/ISO at Clowes Hall

You can NEVER go wrong with Wagner.  This was a very interesting production as it was ‘partially staged.’  What does this mean?  Well, the orchestra (the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra) was on stage throughout the entire opera.  The acting in the opera was done with a video screen for scenery and the vocalists performing on scaffolding.  Sounds strange?  Well, it really wasn’t.  The Indy Opera brought in quite a few well-known Wagnerian vocalists for this production and we are glad they did.  Great stuff right here…plus RBD played in the orchestra.

– Higdon Violin Concerto with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra

This was a world premiere of Jennifer Higdon’s Violin Concerto that was performed in February 6th, 2009. Commissioned in conjunction with Curtis Institute of Music and the Baltimore Symphony, the first performance was indeed here in Indianapolis. Played by the great violinist, Hilary Hahn, this concerto started with a bang and never, ever, let up. What was truly amazing is that Hilary played this FOR MEMORY! This night was truly a once of a lifetime experience and I congratulate the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra for programming such a wildly adventurous piece and am still in awe of the piece itself and Hilary Hahn’s virtuosic performance of the concerto.

– Leisure Kings Big Band Show at The Jazz Kitchen

The Leisure Kings is a two-man operation.  They take 80’s popular music (gangster rap, hair/metal music, Kenny G…you know the usual) and ‘loungifies’ them.  It is one of the most hilarious things one will ever witness.  Now let’s add a 16 piece professional big band to support the hilarity!  That is what happens twice a year at The Jazz Kitchen (generally June & December).

– Marcus Miller at Indy Jazz Fest

So I (mda) have been a Marcus Miller fan for quite a while.  Granted, some of his music becomes a little too ‘smooth’ for me, but damn the man can play.  I originally heard his stuff from the Miles Davis albums but really first got into his music from a Michel Petrucciani-Marcus Miller live album on the Dreyfus label out of France.  Great stuff.  The group he brought to Indy Jazz Fest on Sunday blew away everything else from that day (sorry RBD, who played that day as well).  I set included a great mixture of originals, Miles Davis tunes and even a tribute to the King Of Pop, Michael Jackson.

– Joshua Redman at Clowes Memorial Hall (to begin Indy Jazz Fest)

It seems the new trend for a lot of major jazz artists (especially tenor players) is to work within a trio (tenor, bass and drums). This trend is nothing *new* per se, just consider Gerry Mulligan and Chet Baker’s  piano-less quartet. A small jazz group sans piano really opens up the harmonic structure that the jazz artists have to work with. (Would it be too cynical of me to also suggest that it is cheaper not to worry about one more person on a tour and finding a nice piano for the pianist to play…?) Well, at any rate, Joshua Redman was at Clowes Hall September 19th to kick-off the 2009 Indy Jazz Fest. Along with Josh (on tenor sax) was Greg Hutchinson on drums and Matt Penman on bass. It was easy to tell that this trio has been playing together for a while because they were TIGHT! Playing jazz standards together is a wonderful thing. Playing jazz standards in awkward meters like 7 or 5 tightly is a different story all together! My mouth dropped open at the first downbeat and stayed open for a full 75 minutes! The energy was palpable. The connection between the three musicians was visible. Moments of that performance have been imprinted on my brain and I am happy to say that I will carry those memories until the day I die.

– Les Claypool at The Vogue

OK so this is not really a classical or jazz show per se.  However, the show was amazing and Claypool’s playing is always very improvisational.  His band is an odd collection of top session players in the jazz and rock world and the music is as good as it can get.  Les Claypool defies all genres.

– Frank Glover and Claude Sifferlin at The Chatterbox any Thursday

Frank Glover and Claude Sifferlin have performed together for over 20 years.  They are two musicians that would be on top of the jazz world if they were located in NYC.  Their performances are bordering on sheer genius every Thursday night at The Chatterbox jazz club in downtown Indy.  Frank is releasing a new album in 2010 on the Owl Studios record label.  This is with his new group Kilho and features a 25-piece orchestra.  This WILL BE one of the best albums of 2010.

– Ariade auf Naxos at Clowes Memorial Hall

The Indy Opera company is a hidden treasure in Indianapolis.  The 2009-2010 season is unfortunately one opera short due to the economy.  However, the economy has not hurt the quality of the operas being performed.  Ariadne auf Naxos is a great, late opera from Richard Strauss.  It is a great mixture of comedy and drama.  Of course with the music of Strauss, one knows the opera is going to be great.  The production is especially significant because it featured Indianapolis native, and opera diva Angela Brown.

– Bach B minor Mass at St. Pauls Episcipalian Church

Bach is pure. Bach is beautiful. Bach was a nice nightcap to my 2009. On November 13th, 2009, mda and I (RBD) and our buddy Eric (trumpeter) went to St. Paul’s Episcopal Church for an experience that we will not soon forget. Some say that the acoustics at that church are poor, but I simply loved this performance. All of us in attendance were all impressed and comforted that this performance happened in Indianapolis. The Indiana University Chamber Orchestra and Choir, conducted by Professor William Jon Gray, performed this piece and the audience, at that point in time, the luckiest people on the planet. Such peace and goodwill flowing through the sanctuary was almost overwhelming. Everything was so clear and (dare I say) perfectly executed there were nothing but smiling people leaving that building on the night of November 13th, 2009.

– APA afternoon concerts at Christ Cathedral

The American Pianists Association has a great piano competition for up-and-coming young pianists, which takes place right here in Indianapolis.  The competition included a chamber music portion at Christ Church Cathedral on the circle of downtown Indy where each finalist performed with the Parker String Quartet. Taking place every day for a week during the noon hour (FOR FREE!), this might have been the best concert series in Indianapolis for 2009.  The level of musicianship was absolutely amazing.

Honorable Mention

Magic Flute IU Opera in Bloomington

Opera…you either love it or hate it, or maybe ambivalent about it. Either way, people have opinions, and some of those opinions are about Opera. I (RBD) really enjoy Opera. I’ll always go into it with a positive attitude. Early opera is not my thing, and Mozart is really not THAT early, but still, you know what I mean. I’ve played the Magic Flute twice while at IU so I knew what I was getting into. BOY WAS I WRONG!!! This production was so exciting! The production was done in conjunction with the Atlanta Opera and will be premiered down there in April of this year (2010). I was mesmerized by this production and was sad when the opera concluded. The fact that the music was sung in German and the dialogue was in English was at first jarring, but you soon got over that! I am continually amazed at the production value of the IU Opera Department and was thoroughly thrilled at The Magic Flute!

– Fareed Haque CD release party at The Jazz Kitchen

Fareed Haque was recently awarded the Best World Guitarist of 2009 by Guitar Player Magazine.  He released Flat Planet in March on the Owl Studios record label.  The album received rave reviews, including being top on the JazzWeek world music radio charts and a feature interview on PRI’s The World.  Fareed traveled through Indianapolis for a CD release party at The Jazz Kitchen and blew the roof off the place.  Certainly take advantage of Fareed’s tours around the world.  He always puts on a great show.

– Freddie Hubbard Tribute at Madame Walker Theater (Indy Jazz Fest)

With a line-up that includes Steve Allee on piano, Rufus Reid on bass, Donald Edwards on drums, Rob Dixon on tenor sax, James Spaulding on alto sax and 4 incredible trumpet players: Randy Brecker, Nicholas Payton, Derrick Gardner and Pharez Whitted, one would think that this concert would be easily in our top 10 and not in an ‘Honorable Mention’ category. Although this concert was great consisting of wonderful solos by world-class jazz musicians and incredible new arrangements by David Baker, Steve Allee and Derrick Gardner, the concert was L O  N  G!!!!!! I mean, really long! We’re talking easily 3.5 hours! Now THAT’s a lot of trumpet! We knew it would be a long concert when each player took 10-14 choruses EACH on the first tune, all trying to outdo the other! Whew! It was a journey, with a lot of playing, but sometimes you want to leave the audience wanting more…


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