Saturday, December 18, 2010


Here's my vote for 1 of the best deals in Guanajuato:

A chorizo torta from Tacos Roy. I get it "con todo" with everything. $25 pesos, a little less than $2.25 U.S. and well worth every cent.


3 Wheeled Bike

Today I went to Silao to try and buy a very cheap bike. After a bit of stumbling I found 1. During my stumbling's I took a few fotos. A few 3 wheeled bike fotos.

Christmas in Mexico.
The bike gang is ready to head out.
These ladies were more than happy to pose for a foto.
This one, not so much.

Christmas Cornet

I remember years ago walking into our living room on Christmas morning to find, still to this day, the most beautiful Christmas present I have ever seen. Sitting on the red velvet of it's opened case was a silver plated shepherds crook cornet. I have never seen anything put off such a glow. I had seen my Dad's silver trumpets but my new cornet sparkled in a somewhat different way to my eyes. It was mine. Later that following spring with my Christmas cornet, I played my first public performance for the 6th grade talent show at C.B. Berry elementary school in east Arlington. In the years that followed I would play my little Christmas cornet with pride in many bands and even at youth orchestra where all of my much older trumpet section mates told me, "You really should be playing a trumpet not a cornet in orchestra." Someone really should tell Berlioz.

So if I can recommend anything for a Christmas present it has to be a horn, trumpet or cornet. A trumpet makes a wonderful gift. And you need not spend very much at all to get a "pro" level instrument.

Those of you who have been paying attention may have noticed that I changed trumpets a few months back. And if you are really observant you may have also noticed that a few months before I changed trumpets I changed mouthpieces. Well to be more exact, the outside of my mouthpiece changed. The inside is the same copy of an old Mount Vernon Bach 3C with a 24 backbore I have played for the last year or so. The outside was made to look like an Al Cass mouthpiece. I wanted a mouthpiece that didn't look like everyone else and I love the look of the old Al Cass's. So I had the mouthpiece guy at Kanstul make me my own cool copy.

My "new' trumpet is an used Kanstul 610. All Kanstul products are made in the US. This trumpet was marketed as a "student" horn but it plays much better than my "professional" Stradivarius Bach which I had played for the last 16+ years.

In my own personal crusade against the insanely sky rocketing horn prices I have noticed over the last few years, I began to search for good trumpet deals over this past summer in an effort to find a great playing horn for cheap. During my search I stumbled across the Kanstul 610. It got great reviews online and I found 1 on e-bay with just a few dents for less than $250 so I emailed my e-bay expert who also happens to be my cousin, Matt. He bid and we won. My Mother actually paid for the trumpet and brought it down last summer. And I have played it ever since.

So when a relative told me her daughter wanted a trumpet for Christmas, I told her not to worry I know just what to do. I found 2 this time. 1 in excellent condition that we got for $211 and another that looks good just used for $103. Even with $15 for shipping I now have realised a small dream I had of getting a trumpet for less than the price of a custom Kanstul mouthpiece $125. I did it. I'm looking forward to trying out these "new" trumpets to see if they play as well as my current 610. You can't beat the price.

This may be late for this years Christmas shopping but just for future gift giving events for young children keep in mind the trumpet. I can't imagine getting more use out of a present than I have gotten out of the trumpet.

Here's a wonderful short story I was hipped to from my trumpet student Dianne:

Harry's Love  by Mill Horton
(From Steve Moss, ed., The World’s Shortest Stories)

He looked at her lying there, entranced by her sensuous curves,
her golden glow. But it was her voice that really moved him—sometimes soft and sexy, sometimes wild with abandon.  

Whatever his mood, she matched it.

He lifted her lovingly to his lips. Tonight they would make beautiful music together. Harry and his trumpet.

Now that's good writing.

Not sure why "beautiful music" is blue.

Mexican Recycling

Several years back Michelle asked me if we should separate our trash for the recycling. I told her that we don't need to worry because in Mexico they have people that do that for you.

The way recycling works here is like this: The guys in the trash truck pull up to the dumpster, they jump inside the dumpster and the recycling begins.

Here's a foto of the Mexican recycling program in action. I had a better shot moments before but I decided not to shoot until I was out of the middle of the street. The light was perfect and with the beautiful mountains of Guanajuato in the back ground it would have been better than the below foto but it still gives you an idea of what I'm ramblin' on about.
Also a few of the many power lines I love so much.

Quiet When They Shatter

Tomorrow after my concert at the Gene Byron, me and all my ladies will be headed north to Estado Unidos (U.S.). We normally take the bus, however this year we will be driving a friends car up. It's been a few years since we have driven up. I love driving in Mexico and we are all looking forward to our trip. We will meet our friends in Houston give them there car back and then head up to the DFW metroplex to begin our holiday traditions.

Before I leave I thought I would give you a blitz of blog posts to keep you busy.

I have had quite a few questions about our house and if we have made any recent progress. To this I have a few pieces of advice. If you are building a house and you are not independently wealthy don't quit your job (no matter how much you hate it) until you have finished enough of the house to move in. And if you don't finish it enough to move in, don't put a roof of clay tiles up. It's just to hard to resist throwing a rock to see what happens. I don't know why it is, but it is fun breaking things. Teja titles are surprisingly quiet when they shatter.
Around 300 teja tiles. 

Now I know how a tile floor would look.
Yesterday my friend Luis (see earlier post My Friend Luis) and I replaced the teja tiles with a metal roof. Not very pretty but much stronger and much less intriguing.

Sunday, December 12, 2010


As I am writing this the sounds of explosions fills the air of Guanajuato signaling Dia de Guadalupe. I love Mexico. 
I had a great time playing with organist Ann Riley yesterday evening in San Miguel de Allende. I felt good about my playing. It's different playing "classical" trumpet after my recent focus on playing more "jazz".
We had a wonderful crowd and I received many nice comments after the concert. 

Last year we played an arrangement of Handel's Hallelujah from the Messiah as our encore. This year it was the last piece on the program. It's a beautiful way to end a concert. Last year the audience began to stand after we began. This year I invited the crowd to stand and if they wanted, to sing along. Most of the audience did both. And they actually sounded pretty good. It's a great way to end a show. You are guaranteed of a standing ovation and if you chops are a bit tired it's harder to hear with everyone singing.

The fotos were taken by Pearl who is 10. She also sold 10 of my Christmas CD's. That's my Pearlie girl.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Piel Seca

Yesterday I was in San Miguel de Allende for the final rehearsal before my concert of trumpet and organ Christmas music at Saint Paul's. I will be playing with the lovely and talented Ann Riley. Ann got her masters from De Paul University in Chicago, the same place where I meet my wife and all-time favorite horn player (see earlier post Horn Player) Michelle.

Anyways, I am looking forward to the concert tomorrow evening. I love playing with great organists. The organ and trumpet combo is a perfect match. I haven't been playing much "classical" trumpet lately, so I have been practicing. It should be fun.

On my return trip I took the left turn onto Piel Seca, my favorite street in San Miguel. I have made enough trips to San Miguel over the last several years and I have turned my random stumblings into a very rudimentary knowledge of the town.

Piel Seca is a street that has stayed with me since the first time I drove down it. The first time I drove down it I had the reaction, "Cool, there's a tree in the middle of the street." You don't see that every day, unless of course you live in San Miguel.

Yesterday, after a fun rehearsal I turned left onto Piel Seca and decided to take a few fotos to show you guys what I am ramblin' on about. Here they are:

The guy in the middle of the Piel Seca is doing the same thing as I.
I hope he puts a foto of me on his blog.
In this foto you can see something pura Mexicana.
Kids, anyone can ride in the back of or on the back of anything.
That's a beautiful street.
I can see how people can fall in love with
San Miguel de Allende.

Wonderful Family

I traveled to Texas a few weeks back. When I knew I would be returning to my hometown I made a plan to try and play some of the music I play in Mexico for my family in Texas who have not had the chance to come to Mexico and hear me live. I was really most interested in playing for my Grandparents. Who are now to old to want to travel much of anywhere very far away. 

I contacted Terry, the outlaw chef and owner of Fred's Texas Cafe in Fort Worth Texas and asked if he had any place for the Texas edition of TUBA JAM to play. Terry is an old friend from back in my bike racing days and he said, "Yes."

I then contacted tenor sax player Gerald Burnham from Plano Texas. A few years back Gerry spent a year teaching in Guanajuato. We ran into each other on the street and during our conversation he mentioned that he played tenor and was looking for some guys to play with while he was in Mexico. Gerry is a wonderful musician and an even better person. We played many times throughout the year and I was fortunate enough to have Gerry play on the 1st TUBA JAM recording we made in 2008. Gerry is always up for just about anything and when I asked about playing at Fred's he said, "Count me in." I love this guy.

Now with a group named TUBA JAM you kind of need a tuba. I sent out an email to a few of the tuba professors around the DFW area. Don Little from North Texas responded that I should contact tubist and bassist De'Marcus Walker. In Don's words, "You won't be disappointed." He couldn't have been more correct.

I meet up with De'Marcus at North Texas the day before we were to play at Fred's. Interesting feelings as I walked through the halls of the school of music I first walked through as a freshman back in 1991. The halls still have the same smell. I love the way smells can instantly take you back. I walked into a room where I took music theory and ear training and found De'Marcus and his tuba. We ran through most of the tunes that we would play the next night. De'Marcus has a wonderful tuba sound and is plenty funky. It's great having a world class tuba player who also plays bass. I have a feeling I'll be able to say, "I knew De'Marcus back when....."

The next day a cold front blew in which I would normally not write about except that we would be playing outside at Fred's. It was a cold and windy night. And the whole evening I felt like playing the trumpet was about the hardest thing I have ever attempted to do. I felt as if I were in a cage match with an angry Mike Tyson. That's why I get the best cats I can, so they can rock out even when I can't figure out how to play the trumpet. Despite the cold temperature, De'Marcus and Gerry sounded just as good as I knew they would.
Gerry Burnham and De'Marcus Walker rockin' the house.
The cold temps didn't keep my family and friends away. Even though I was struggling with the trumpet the entire night, it was a treat to play for so much of my family and friends. Thanks to all those tough enough to brave a cold night. For those of you not brave enough to get out in the cold, my 88 and 86 year old Grandparents made it out and when my cousin Zac told them that he could take them home my Grandmother who was bundled up in blankets said, "I'm not ready to go". I have a wonderful family.

Thanks to Terry and everyone from Fred's. Thanks to the cats, Gerry and De'Marcus. I was my pleasure to share the stage with such talented, hard working nice guys.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Best Trumpeter of the Festival

The above collage is a small homage to the greatest trumpeter in the history of this wonderful instrument. Louis Armstrong, was not only the greatest trumpet player ever, he also loved to assemble collages. My collage features a few of the trumpeters who performed at this years Cervantino.

Jazz at Lincoln Center played on the first Friday night of this years festival. Trumpeters Ryan Kisor, Marcus Printup, Kenny Rampton and of course the great Wynton Marsalis. Not a bad way to start. The Lincoln Center cats split their show with Cubano Paquito D'Rivera and his wonderful small group. In Paquito's group was Argentinian trumpeter Diego Urcola. I had never heard of this cat before and before he had played a note I wondered what it would be like to follow some of the greatest trumpeters. From the first notes of his opening solo I knew that Maestro Urcola was not following the greatest trumpeters, he was 1 of them. Oh, he also kills it on the valve trombone.

The 2nd Friday of Cervantino I received a free ticket from a new trumpet player friend, Marc Osteer. Marc is the newest ex-pat trumpet player in Mexico. He is the new principal trumpet for the UNAM 1 of the many orchestras in D.F. (Mexico City). Marc was playing with a brass quintet that combined with 1 of the best brass quintets in the world, the Meridian Arts Ensemble to perform a concert entitled Resplandores Sonoros. The concert featured music of Gabrieli and a few others. It was nice hearing these compositions played in the beautiful Templo de la Compania. The only complaint about this concert was that I didn't think the audience waited long enough after the completion of each tune before they started clapping. As a brass player I like to hear the sounds completely die before interrupting. 

A trumpet note: It is hard to tell inside of a structure as grand as the Companina who is playing what, but at the conclusion of the last piece I saw trumpet great Jon Nelson look over at my new friend Marc with a wonderful look that could have only meant that Marc had just nailed it. Nice job Marc. And thanks for the ticket.

The next night I heard the Orquesta de Jazz del Concertgebouw big band from Holland. I can't believe that there were 2 big bands at this years festival. In the word's of Tom Matta, "Big Bands are BACK!"  Jelle Schouten, Wim Both, Rini Swinkels, Ruud Breuls and Jan van Duikeren were the trumpeters. The concert was wonderful. More swingin' world class brass.

While all of the trumpeters mentioned above are some of the very best at what they do, there was 1 trumpet player who came to Cervantino and did things I have never heard of or even thought of attempting during my 25 or so years of buzzing into this metal tube. 

Pierre Bastien from France brought over his little creations and showed all that were lucky enough to be in attendance, that just like the title of the show states, Sounds can dance. Pierre is a very creative inventor and like most great inventors he isn't shy about showing anyone his creations. It was very kind of him to open the stage up after the show for all to see.

I'm not a good enough writer to explain well what went on during the show, but I'll try my best to give you some sort of explanation.

Pierre has several tables covered with small devices that he uses to create different sounds. There are many small cameras placed in and around the devices that capture the images of the sounds being made and then the images a projected on a large screen. Once Pierre gets the sounds where he wants them, he picks up his pocket trumpet and improvises along with the sounds. It's not just his improvising that I liked, at different times he played the trumpet through homemade mutes (1 filled with water) and he even played the trumpet with no mouthpiece. This show is a part of Festival MUTEK which is an organisation with some of the coolest cutting edge new music. It was nice to see so many young people at Pierre's show. And it's nice to hear someone doing something completely new and fresh with the trumpet. He totally surprised me and Pierre Bastien gets my award for Best Trumpeter of the Festival. I'm sure he's excited.

Sounds CAN dance.
Cool stuff.
Pocket trumpet and the Water mute.
I will try to get video online. Please email me if you want more information on any of the Cervantino events that I have mentioned.

I think that any thing that calls it's self a "Festival" needs to take a good look at how many events in the "Festival" are free. 1 of the best things about Cervantino is that so many events are free. Which makes it perfect for people to experience the art. I love it when you aren't expecting anything and you just walk right into it. This is the way for all people to experience art. No money needed for tickets, no fancy clothing needed to fit in. Artist create art for all people, not just wealthy people.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Art In The Making

As I walked down the callejon to see what I thought would be my last show of this years Cervantino, I stumbled across a little art in the making. I'm not sure if this is part of Cervantino or not, but I like it. 
This is where Smir was on my way down.
Smir in action.
On my way back up after about 45 min.
What a cool city. Smir and his angel are in the lower left.
This foto and the next 5 are all fotos of the same wall.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Strong Girls

As I edit through my fotos from Cervantino I am reminded of all of the great shows that we enjoyed in Plaza San Fernando. The beautiful Plaza San Fernando is about a 15 minute walk from Casa Verde. The picturesque jardin is surrounded by restaurants and a few retail shops. It is a wonderful place even without the entertainment. During Cervantino, Plaza San Fernando was the setting for 31 separate performances by 10 different acts from around the world. During the 24 days of Cervantino there were 19 days you could have seen something for free in Plaza San Fernando. That's right, I said for FREE.

18 y 19 October in the Plaza San Fernando, Theatre Biscornu from Quebec performed La Risa Muda. A live performance of a silent film is the best way I can describe La Risa Muda. It was a great show. Very entertaining. No dialog needed for the best actors. 

Pearl with the cast of La Risa Muda.

21 y 22 October in Plaza San Fernando, Bourask an extremely talented quartet of dancers, again from Quebec, performed the most interesting modern dance I have seen in some time. I love modern dance and the ladies of Bourask were doing things I had never dreamed of. African with their own seasonings. Their show, Monsieur Bossbottes was a very comic take on the South African mines, where this very strange, very rhythmic style of dance originated from. This show was 1 of my favorites of this years festival.
This is the main "Boss" of the miners. You know a show is
going to be good when this is how it starts.
I love fotos of crowds watching an event. This is exactly how I felt too.
Eyes wide open in amazement and jaw dropped as if to say, "Wow."
Fotos can't do this group justice.

24, 25 y 26 October Les 7 doigts de la main, from yep, you guessed it Quebec, wowed the packed jardin in San Fernando. The Circo de Mujeres featured 5 very impressive "women". Michelle thought that this, their "street" show was even better than their longer show that we saw in the big state auditorium. I thought both were amazing. 
It always starts with Eve y la manzana.
This foto and the next 3 were taken be my lovely assistant, Michelle.
Yes, he catches her after she flips.
Muy impresivo!
Another Michelle foto. She was, just as I am impressed
 to see a new mother return to work so fast.
The guy on the left was the "Mujer Misteriosa".

31 October y 1 November Princesse Patate entertained the San Fernando crowd with El Gran Circo Minusculo. How about I just tell you when an act isn't from Quebec. A very fun show for kids. I told the girls after the show, "Those girls actually get paid to play with dolls." Not a bad gig.

2 y 3 November, the last show we caught in San Fernando was El Mundo de los Payasos performed by Alexio and Marie-Bulle from, do I even have to say anything. Look at their names. Maybe they should re-name Plaza San Fernando, Plaza San Quebecando. I don't need to say much about this show. I think you all know how I feel about clowns.
Had to have at least 1 foto of a guy. 

As the father of 2 girls, I always seek out any performance of any type that features strong girls. I'm not talking about physical strength, although you see plenty of that in the above fotos. The "girls" we witnessed this year did not disappoint. Strong, smart, beautiful, graceful, creative, inspiring, just like all the girls in my life. You go girls!