Monday, October 29, 2007
Fredericksburg is known to most for it's Civil War history. But come this May, it will be known as the home of the Marine Corps Historic Half Marathon, sister race to the Marine Corps Marathon. I am super excited that Fredericksburg will now be on the running map!
Interested in running it? Registration opens on Nov. 1 and is expected to sell out quickly, so sign up quick! And let me know... maybe my parent's will put you up! ;)
Yeah, Fred-vegas (Kyle term), yeah!
Monday, October 22, 2007
Sunday, October 14, 2007
Sean P. Diddy Combs
I'm a broken man," Eric Alexander says as we meet at noon for a run around the reservoir in Central Park. Thanks to his 19-month-old son, Alexander has been up since 8 a.m.—which wouldn’t be a big deal, except that he went to bed at 3 a.m. after headlining at Smoke, a jazz club on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. The June sun is high and bright, drawing sweat to his fair skin and providing a constant reminder of his less-than-ideal hydration of the recent past.
"I took it pretty easy last night," he says. "Think I had only four beers. It’s rare to get through three sets on less than four. Maybe it was five." Alexander still has to take part in a photo shoot and give a saxophone lesson before leading another three sets that evening at Smoke.
So why, despite his comfortable, conversational pace, are we passing each and every one of the hundreds of other runners circling the reservoir? It probably has something to do with the fact that the only race of Alexander’s life was a 2:58 marathon. continue reading
All he wanted to do was beat Oprah's 4:29:20 time at the 1994 Marine Corps Marathon. And in 2003, after only 8 weeks of training (!), P. Diddy ran the New York City Marathon in 4:14:54.
What made you run the marathon?
I went with my family to watch the runners go by at the edge of Central Park because we had a friend running. We went to cheer her on. And what I saw was so inspiring I turned to my wife and said "I'm going to do this next year." That was it. I saw these people going by who had done this incredible thing. Ordinary people like me. I thought "I could do this too."
Was it hard to train for?
That's a funny story. I applied on the New York Road Runner's website and I did not make the computer lottery. I was rejected. And I thought "oh well I'll try again next year." And at the very end of September I got an e-mail from the Road Runner's Club telling me they had such a precipitous drop off in the number of overseas applicants because of 9/11 that they were inviting me back in, so to speak. So I said great and I wrote back and I accepted. The only problem was that the New York Philharmonic, of which I am the principal cellist, was about to leave for a nearly month long tour of Asia. And at the end of September, I had what...about 5 weeks in which to train. So I did all my training on the road in places like Kuala Lumpur, Beijing and Manila. It was very unusual, to say the least. My training was pretty haphazard and not at all thorough. I already was maintaining a basic level of fitness, so I knew at least I could finish the race. It wasn't a big leap to try to get ready for the marathon. Although, this ext time I'll do it a little differently, I'll certainly start considerably farther in advance.
Was it hard to perform after the marathon?
Just the walking part. Fortunately, when I work, I sit down. But I remember taking a week off from running.
When the Philharmonic travels do you run in foreign cities?
Oh yes. All the time. Quite a few of us do. All the runners in the orchestra know each other and sometimes we arrange to go out in pairs or in groups. Or otherwise we'll see each other in the hotel gym on the treadmills. There are a couple of runners in the horn section and the other member of the orchestra that ran the same marathon is the assistant principal clarinet. Another runner is the second oboist.
Do you run before a performance?
It energizes me completely. I always feel better and more prepared mentally and physically after I've run. It doesn't tire me.
Do you run after a performance?
There's no reason not to, it's just that most performances take place at night. We're nocturnal creatures. But after a matinee for example there's no reason why I wouldn't want to go. I do have to say it's more likely it would happen the other way around because running energizes me but concerts deplete me. I find performing much more tiring.
Does being a musician help your running?
Not directly. But I think they both demand the same kind of discipline. The difference between a professional and an amateur in any field, certainly in music, is that the professional cannot depend on the inspiration of the moment to produce a high quality product. You just have to be able to do it even when you don't want to. If you're feeling lousy or if you just had a fight with someone, nobody cares, you just have to go out and do it. So, I try to apply that same type of discipline to my workouts. There are plenty of days where I just sit on the sofa with a magazine and veg out. But I try to maintain a commitment to fitness. It's like practicing everyday. There are lots of days when I don't feel like practicing either.
Have you ever run with a cello?
Strapped to my back? Only to catch a bus. I don't recommend that.
[incidentally, I have a friend who ran the Boston Marathon with a tuba on his back!]
Do you run to a beat?
Oh, definitely. I almost always have music going through my head. I bet a lot of people do. It's a very natural thing. Very often it's some piece that we happen to be performing that week.
If you know of any other musicians that have also completed a marathon, please let me know!
Monday, October 8, 2007
And by old, I mean not new. Meaning this past Thursday's Jazz Gallery hit was the third show of Darcy James Argue's Secret Society I've seen and I have yet to get bored. The gig proved to be a great to start to a very full weekend of show-going.
Darcy has the right idea by letting fans download his music for free. I did just that, this past spring with the intent of spying on the competition. My evil plan backfired as I was slowly converted to a hard core fan. I say slowly because it did take several listens for me to really get to know the beauty in his melodic lines, the intensity of his anti-swing drum stylings, and the intricacies of the linear writing which together, construct the labyrinth of sound which defines his music.
He calls this music "steampunk big band." But to me, there is too much depth in each tune to be called punk. This is proved by songs like Habeas Corpus, dedicated to Maher Arar, a Canadian wireless technology consultant who was the victim of racial profiling, and the more personal tunes, Chrysalis, and my personal favorite, Transit. You say "punk," I think of my 6th grade trumpet players (whom I love dearly!). Likewise, you say "big band," and I think of folks like my dad expecting to hear Glenn Miller with minimal soloing.
What I enjoy most about Secret Society shows, in addition to the writing, is the superb quality of the band. You'd expect 5 trumpets to be a bit much, but with players like Ingrid Jensen in the line up, the brass section as a whole knows when to be subtle and when not to be. The woodwinds are not to be outdone. Thank you Erica vonKleist for playing the flute in TUNE, and leading the section in blending those annoying doubles. With a strong rhythm section to root the band in place, and superb solos across the board, this band does not get old.
But don't take my word for it. Visit Darcy's blog for the full set list and band line up as well as free downloads (unless you feel so inclined to make a very much appreciated donation) and see for yourself.
And speaking of Darcy...
It was thanks to him that I got to partake in an afternoon of completely new (to me) music.
I know hardly a thing about the indie rock scene, but this past Saturday gave me the chance to hear for myself a fair share of non-mainstream music. This mini festival, held at Randall's Island and hosted by the Bowery Presents, was headlined by Arcade Fire and LCD Soundsystem. Also in attendance where the bands Wild Light, Les Savy Fav, and Blonde Redhead. For more educated reviews, go here, here, here, and here. Continue on for my own newbie impressions.
My favorite out of the five was Blonde Redhead. With a Portishead meets Bjork sentimentality, I found the melodies sensual and the grooves hypnotic. I really dug their use of electronic manipulators on their voices, in which the lead was shared between Kazu Makino and Amedeo F. Pace. Like the other bands, I had not heard of these guys before, but as it turns out, my sister shared the stage with them at the Black Cat back in her Estella's Muse days! Crazy, small, indie world...
Part of my enjoyment of Blonde Redhead could be that the band's stoic, more serious stage presence was a refreshing change from its prelude, Les Savy Fav. A kind of cracked out vaudeville, frontliner Tim Harrington did more entertaining than music making as he pushed his way through the sardine packed audience, stealing cake which he later threw back into the audience in between sessions of stripping and rubbing his naked belly. The musician side of me tried to listen to the rest of band, but the insecure, shy, high school freshman side overtook as I cringed in fear that Tim was gonna find me in the crowd and do something utterly embarrassing to me as he did to the guy a few people in front of me. Later, when I listened to the band's MySpace, I did not recognize those clips, which I actually liked, from what I heard on Saturday. I guess it all depends on what you personally want out of a show. Entertainment (read: awkward discomfort) or music.
If it is music you expect, the opening act Wild Light is after your vote. Or at least after some listeners. Their admission to being recent graduates of "new band 101" won me over as did their lighter, fresh tunes. Give them a few more years, and we'll probably be hearing them on Grey's Anatomy.
As the afternoon wore one, the sun set, offering no relief, sadly, to the heat, which only increased as the crowd grew denser and excitement for the headliners mounted.
LCD Soundsystem was the penultimate performance of the evening. Let me tell you, the audience LOVED these guys! And for good reason- their performance had such high energy that I myself could not help bouncing around to the highly percussive (and very loud) uber synthesized grooves. Immediately, I loved the contrast between the long, simple vocal lines against the crazed rhythms of the first tune. When their set ended, I felt sorry for the closing act, for I could not see how another band could possibly enthuse the crowd in such a musical frenzy as these guys did.
My worry was for naught; when Arcade Fire's set started with projected videos and sophisticated lighting illuminated the many musicians and instruments on stage, I began to understand the hype surrounding the band. It was definitely sensory overload as the band played their heartsout in what became a light show sing-a-long. I spent most of the set craning my neck to see exactly which of the instruments where playing, as I could not quite HEAR, despite the wall of sound blasting in my ears. Sadly, I never was really able to make out the bass sax (who also doubled on french horn!), trumpet, clarinet, or violins which undoubtedly created an interesting layer to the already dense organ, guitars, percussion and unison vocal choruses. I could, however, learn a lesson or two on how to write a simple, addictive melodic hook, such as the "we are the world" crowd uniter, Wake Up (could you imagine the members of congress standing on the steps of the Capitol building singing this anthem?!).
It was a long day of music, but an enjoyable one, and a nice break from the normal jazz-only live shows that I have been in attendance to as of late.
Speaking of jazz...
Thanks Nad, for lending me the following jazz CDs to spruce up my listening:
And now for something completely different...
My dad would be so proud of me, for this past Sunday, I went to church! Admittedly, I did not go on purpose.
When Sara invited me to hear her play in Ike Sturm's premiere of his Jazz Mass, I assumed it was a concert, held in a church as music often is, and I'd be listening to a recital of sacred jazz music in the form of a musical mass, something along the lines of Ellington's Sacred Concerts.
Imagine my surprise as I walked into Saint Peter's to face a congregation of jazzers and then some! Apparently, this Lutheran Church has quite the jazz initiative, and if anything was to bring me back to the fold, it could well be Ike's music.
The mass was set for 50 voices, 10 strings, and a sextet of voice, trumpet, saxophone, piano, guitar, bass, and drums. The premiere was part of a Jazz Festival Celebrating 42 years of Jazz Ministry and honoring none other than, Dr. Billy Taylor, who was present at the mass.I really enjoyed the six sections of the mass, which I am so used to hearing sung in Latin by a monotone Catholic priest, played instead with thick jazz harmonies and inspiring solos by Ingrid Jensen (for the second time this weekend) and saxophonist Laren Stillman. The congregation seemed to really enjoy the music, and perhaps a new audience will be introduced to the genre.
I admit to partial zoning out during the spoken parts of the mass and did not feel comfortable enough to recieve communion, but this spiritual celebration was a lovely close to a weekend of high energy, extreme music participation.
Friday, October 5, 2007
I realize I'm no Harold Crick, but when I come across guys like Matt Harding, I get a tightness in my chest on the verge of detonation that I recognize as a desperate, immediate desire to put my current life on an indefinite hold to crawl slowly in a winding, indirect path around this world.
To never experience the rest of the world is to me, a great tragedy that I am currently living. It astounds, and depresses me that there is an enormous planet full of varying vegetation, landscapes, people, languages, food, sounds, animals, music, clothing, rituals, lifestyles, that I have not been able to see, hear, touch, smell or taste.
What good are our senses if they are only exposed to the same experiences day after day? How can we expect to have true compassion for mankind if we've only ever had encounters with one culture? Do we truly understand what it means to care for our planet, if we've never seen vegetation outside of our own? How can I sit at this desk every morning, pretending to write music, expecting to contribute to a society I've never met?
This is not Matt's advocation. In regards to any message he might be stating through his happy feet he states: "Up to you. I'm just dancing."
Check him out, and see if you don't feel inspired to do the same:
For more on Matt's adventures, visit Where The Hell Is Matt?