Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Alex Trebek and me, 1985. For the first week of the second season, they changed the format to put the champion in the far right podium. That's why I'm where the champ normally is. This was a very short lived change.
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Jeopardy! is in the middle of its $2 million dollar tournament of former champions. I wish I could come back on the show, but the rules preclude it. Unless you’re invited back for some special event, you have just the one shot.

On the first game of the tournament, they had a clue in which part of the answer was Sun Ra. Of course, no one got it! Why didn’t they have clues like that when I played?

I competed on the first show of the second season. It was taped in June of 1985 and aired the following September. I was ahead after the first round, but I was in trouble once the categories for the Double Jeopardy! round were revealed. Out of the six categories, three (Fashion Designers, Law, New England) were perfect for the Female Attorney from Connecticut! D’oh! After the other contestant (the returning champ) and I got stomped in that round, the Final Jeopardy! category turned out to be Female Athletes. Surprise!; she got this right and established a new one day record in earnings at our expense - $18,000. (Today, it’s chump change for the show, but it was a big deal then.)

I got home from the taping early enough to catch the Jeopardy! show airing that night. (This one was taped several months earlier). In the Double Jeopardy! round, one of the categories was Jazz!!! No one wanted to touch it; it was the last category selected (they didn’t finish it). To add insult to injury, one of the Daily Doubles was there!!! That’s the kind of luck I have. Oh well………

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Cecil Taylor at UCLA, 1978 Posted by Hello

Cecil Taylor

I was talking to my uncle the other day and he told me Cecil Taylor played in his town last month. This is shocking because my uncle lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico, which isn’t exactly a hotbed of jazz activity!
The Cecil Taylor Trio played at the Latino Cultural Center (!) and of course my uncle was there. He told me it was a great concert to a receptive audience.
I was reminded of the first (and only) time that I saw Cecil Taylor in concert. He was playing at UCLA’s Royce Hall in 1978. At that time, I had heard of him, but I hadn’t heard him. At 18, there were still a lot of artists I was trying to check out. It was a solo piano concert and the first ‘song’ was 50 minutes! I had never experienced anything like that! At the end of the two-hour concert, I felt overwhelmed. I didn’t dislike it, but I was lost.
Since then, I’ve learned it’s good to do a little homework before you go see an artist, especially someone like Cecil Taylor. I now have a lot of his recordings, from solo to big band, and can appreciate where he’s coming from. Unfortunately, he doesn’t come to the Los Angeles area very often, which is why I was only able to see him that one time (so far). It also makes his Albuquerque appearance all the more interesting.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Artist's conception of the Aulochrome. (from www.aulochrome.com) Posted by Hello

Anthony Braxton examines the Aulochrome. (Photo from Jazz Review.) Posted by Hello

The Aulochrome

Recently, I became aware of a new instrument called the Aulochrome. It’s a polyphonic woodwind instrument looks like two soprano saxophones joined together. It was created by a Belgian instrument maker named Francois Louis. It mechanizes many of the things Rahsaan Roland Kirk was able to do manually with two or three horns - pedal point, interval playing and contrapuntal lines. Maybe it should be called the Rahsaanophone!
I wrote to the inventor and he informed me that only the one prototype exists. He also hopes to add sound samples and a fingering chart to his website once he has the time.
It hasn’t gone into production yet, but the Aulochrome is my new obsession. I had to wait 30 years to get a stritch; hopefully it won’t be that long to get an Aulochrome.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Me playing the Lyon and Healy semi-curved soprano sax (1985). Posted by Hello

A Rahsaan Roland Kirk notecard, by Los Angeles artist Ramsess. Posted by Hello

Rahsaan Roland Kirk playing the 'Stritch.' (Atlantic Records publicity photo) Posted by Hello

My Horns

As I’ve mentioned before, one of my favorite artists is Rahsaan Roland Kirk. He’s even influenced the instrument choices I’ve made. Two of his signature instruments were the manzello and the stritch. He claimed they were 19th century precursors of present day saxophones, but in truth they were about 30 years old when he started playing them!
When I was in high school, I badly wanted to own a stritch. What’s a stritch? Well, that’s Rahsaan’s name for the straight alto sax that was made by Buescher in the 1920s. I’ve yet to see a satisfactory explanation for the name, but if you look at it, the horn looks like an ostrich’s neck. My own theory is that ‘stritch’ is a contraction and variation on ostrich. Mine is made by Keilwerth (see profile photo). They recently stopped production on them, but you can still see them occasionally offered for sale on eBay. Currently, LA Sax also makes a straight alto, but they’re not as good as a Keilwerth (an uncompensated endorsement!).
The saxello was a soprano sax variation by King, again from the 1920s, that featured a curved neck and a bell that went out 90 degrees from the body. Rahsaan’s ‘manzello’ was a saxello with the original bell cut off and replaced by a larger one (it looks like it’s from an alto horn). He kept the original saxello bell and attached it to his siren whistle.
I came across what I eventually found out to be a Lyon and Healy semi-curved soprano sax (also known as a Lyon and Healy Perfect Curved Soprano Sax). It was an attempt to rip off the saxello design and was actually made by Martin in the late 1920s. The picture of me playing it was taken in 1985. Several years after that, I received a birthday notecard that featured the picture of Rahsaan playing his manzello. It was a rather freaky coincidence to see a card that so closely resembled my photo!

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Sonny Rollins' autograph Posted by Hello

Sonny Rollins

When my ISP was Prodigy, they used to have non-live chat sessions with various celebrities. They’d ask the particular groups if they had questions and the guest would select from those submitted. Two jazz guests I remember from that time (the early 90s) are Steve Turre’ and Sonny Rollins. Why just those two? Because they both answered the questions I submitted!
Sonny Rollins has played with pretty much everybody – Miles Davis, Bud Powell, Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, Coleman Hawkins, John Coltrane, etc. I asked him which great players he regrets not playing with.
His reply: "I’ve worked with so many great people – all the people you mentioned I’ve got a special charge out of. I was very fortunate to be able to play with these people – I’ve learned something from all of them. I would have liked to play with Fats Waller, and with Louis Armstrong – just to name two. Thanks, Sonny Rollins"
At first, his reply puzzled me because I couldn’t imagine what he would have sounded like with either Waller or Armstrong, mainly since they were both pre-bop musicians. But actually, Sonny has a lot in common with them. They’re all virtuoso performers on their instruments who also were able to infuse their art with a great sense of humor and fun. (But unlike the other two, I don’t think Sonny sings!)
When Sonny played the Hollywood Bowl a few months later (September 14, 1994), I got a chance to meet him and asked him to sign my printout of his answer. He remembered it and asked me what I thought of his answer and asked if I was a musician also. Even though it was probably all of 3 minutes, it was pretty cool to hang with Sonny Rollins!
I’ve got the answer and autograph framed and hanging in my attic room. The inscription reads: "Thanks for the questions & keep the faith. Sonny Rollins 1994"

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Ted Curson and Pepper Adams. Bob Magnusson is on bass. (photo by Steve Bowie)Posted by Hello

Ted Curson playing the piccolo trumpet (photo by Steve Bowie) Posted by Hello

Pepper Adams and Ted Curson

These pictures were taken at the OCC (Orange Coast College) Jazz Festival in Costa Mesa, California in 1984(?). The OCC Jazz Band was featured with guest soloists Pepper Adams and Ted Curson. Also appearing that night was Bill Berry’s LA Big Band.
Pepper Adams [1930-1986] played the baritone saxophone in a style that was counter to the more popular sound of Gerry Mulligan. I always preferred Adams over Mulligan because a baritone sax should (at least in my opinion) really be played with a big sound. Adams was part of the great Detroit jazz scene that included two previous mentionees, Kenny Burrell and Tommy Flanagan.
Ted Curson [b.1935] plays trumpet and is one of the few that have used the piccolo trumpet in jazz. I don’t know what he’s been up to these days, but he was blowin’ that night!
Adams and Curson are also alumni of various Charles Mingus ensembles. I don’t know if they played together with Mingus; this might have been the only time they played together.
This is one of the many sets of pictures I have that have become separated from their envelopes. Unfortunately, I can’t find anything that will pinpoint the date beyond c.1984. Anybody out there know?