Monday, May 31, 2010

The Sound Of A Scream

Yesterday during the middle of an afternoon nap I heard Pearl screaming. High and shrill and with many repetitions. Now, if you have ever been in a house with, or you are lucky enough to have a couple of young daughters then you know that screaming is not usually done to alarm. So, it was not until I heard my wife Michelle scream that I decided I should get up and go see what all of the commotion was about. It's funny how just the sound of a scream coming from someone who you know can give you little hints about the situation. Michelle's scream was one more of startle and surprise than anything else. When I got to the girls room I could see just what would invite such a response from Chelly. Around 4 feet long, what I would call a Field snake, had made it's way up the fence, just outside the girls window and had made it's way through an opening in their window screen and onto their windowsill. After a little thinking, I used a broom handle to kill the snake and then we skinned it, cut it up into snake nuggets. Then dip them in a little butter, flour, and fry 'em up. It wasn't a huge meal but it was fresh and yummy.

Just kidding. Michelle and I carefully helped the snake back out the way he had come. We all hope he enjoys a long life outside of Casa Verde.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Best Seats In The House

Here are a few fotos from last nights "Noche de Jazz" at Cava Manolos. Cuban pianist Gabriel Hernandez, Mexican bassist Jorge Preza, and me trying to play the trumpet. Jorge really rose to the occasion and sounded great with Gabriel. Gabriel always sounds amazing. With 1 or 2 exceptions I was really struggling all night. Since I am the "booking agent" for most of these gigs I am constantly thinking about how many people show to make sure I can pay all the guys what I have promised. OK, I'll stop whining. It was, like always such a pleasure to stand next to jazz great Gabriel and listening to Jorge play his ass off. Even if I don't play great I always have one of the best seats in the house.

Do not adjust your screen. I know the foto in the middle is dark. Cava Manolos was not dark at all. I guess the flash didn't work, but I thought the foto looks cool.

Life In Cuba

Gabriel Hernandez came in from San Miguel yesterday. I met him outside of town at the Hotel Gran Plaza. He followed me (it is almost imposible to give directions in our twisted little city) to Cava Manolos in Plaza San Javier on the opposite side of Guanajuato. He had never played with Jorge Preza before so we played for about 45 minutes until Jorge had to leave. The acoustics in Manolos sound very nice. After deciding, mas o menos, on a song list for the show, Gabriel and Fransisco followed me back to my place (Casa Verde). I got my girls and we walked down Tecolote to the "Ben Franklin'ers" place where we all hung for a while. It was very interesting to listen to Gabriel tell stories of life in Cuba. He is also very good with children of all ages. It was fun watching him sing songs with Isla. When we got back to our house my girls had a blast throwing, kicking, and hitting a ball around the street in front of Casa Verde with him.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Band Geeks

Back when I was living in Colorado Springs after my stint with the Air Force I worked for 1 year as a band "director" for a new school just south of Denver. There were not many kids in the band program, but I managed to throw together a pretty entertaining basketball band. I asked the kids what our name should be and the settled on "Band Geeks" That's where I got such a cool t-shirt.

Young Kids

I had a blast playing at Zilch last night. Since Guanajuato is a college town Thursday night is usually a crazier night than Friday or Saturday. Most of the college students don't stay in town over the weekend so Thursday night is kinda' like Friday night for the youngsters. We had a great crowd. I love watching the young kids as we are setting up. They seem comfortable with the drums, but when they see the tuba, sax, and the trumpet being pulled out of their cases they do look a little confused. New York City slide trumpeter Stephen Bernstein of the amazing jazz group "SEX MOB" said he and his group are "trying to make instrumental music sexy again." I love Stephen's playing, writing, "SEX MOB", and that quote. We, the members of TUBA JAM are doing exactly that. While the young kids may not expect it, by the time they leave I believe that we have made these super cool, relatively ancient instruments sexy once again.

One of my favorite things in life is to be able to get a crowd of people dancing with my music. Last night we had many wonderful dancers. It always helps start things off when you have a ringer in the crowd. Local jewelry artist Cynthia Dufault was celebrating a birthday. Everyone in town knows of her cool creations, but I am one of the few people who knows that in her former life Cyndi was a professional dancer. So when she gets out on the dance floor, look out. It is great to watch one persons display of happiness effect all of those around. Happy Birthday Cyndi.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

gig update

Here is a last minute gig update to my gig calendar on the left side of the page.

While walking the girls to violin lessons, I stopped by Corcho to see if they wanted more duets Friday night after the OSUG concert. When I came up to the manager Arturo he said, "Listo!" Meaning "Ready!" So, Dan and I are on for what I hope becomes a regular gig. I'll try to get some fotos this time for those of you out of towners. Those of you lucky enough to be in Guanajuato stop by for a listen and a glass of wine. Corcho de Bacco this Friday night. 28 Mayo. Whenever Dan is done playing with the orchestra and as soon as he can walk over we will start. Usual start time is around 1030. Hope to see some of you there.

Other Half

Yesterday I had an interview on TV8 here in Guanajuato. TV8 is the local cable channel for our fair city. TUBA JAM appeared a few years back on one of their shows. The interview yesterday was to help promote Noche de Jazz this Saturday at the new jazz club in town, Cava Manolos. If you are better on the interweb than I (which wouldn't take much) you may be able to find the interview on I was told the show would air Last night (Wed. 26) at 10pm. In the fotos you can see Jorge Preza and myself. Cuban pianist Gabriel Hernadez will be the other half of the group. Should be a wonderful evening of jazz.

Sunday, May 23, 2010


I had a pretty busy weekend playing my trumpet. Wednesday night I played at Zilch with the TUBA JAM guys. It was a special day/night in Guanajuato because it was "Day of the Student". Guanajuato is a college town and it seemed like every student was out ready to party. We had a packed house at the club. Our sound equipment was acting up so we just played acoustic. It is nice to have a group that doesn't require power. Even without our amplified sound people really enjoyed the show.

I got called Friday afternoon to play duets with Dan (the TUBA JAM duo) later that night at the lovely wine bar Corcho de Bacco. We had a very fun crowd. Played from around 11 until 1.30am. We always have a good time playing at Corcho. The acoustics are great and with only the tuba playing I try to play as relaxed a possible so I can make it through the night. It is nice to be able to entertain a crowd with only 2 cats playing brass instruments.

Most of the day Saturday we spent at the pool in Silao celebrating Rose's 8th birthday. Always super fun hangin' with my girls. Later that night, I played for the Yeccan Waldorf School benefit at the hotel Casa de los Cuentos. It was the first time I have performed with Jaime Valle a new guitarist in the San Miguel scene. It was great playing with Jaime and Tyler Mitchell on bass. It was nice to be able to introduce Jaime to the people of Guanajuato. We played from 8 until 9'ish. Corcho had called again so I went back and Dan and I played more duets from 1015 until 1230. A bunch of the people who were at the benefit showed up and the highlight of my night was watching Tyler laugh as I sang the Afro Man classic, "Because I Got High" especially for him. Yes, that's right I said "sang". I have started singing a few tunes with TUBA JAM. People always seem to love it. I have been told I have a lovely singing voice, but the person who said that is about 75 and wears hearing aids. You'll have to come check us out and see what you think.

Today was the perfect ending for a busy weekend of trumpet playing. Cuban pianist Gabriel Hernandez and bassist Tyler Mitchell returned to the Gene Byron. It is such a pleasure listening to these guys and it is beyond my powers of description to write what it is like playing with these 2. At my request we played "Dance of the Little Ones" my favorite Gabriel composition off of his latest disc, "Mr. Many Moons". It's been a while since I have played a composition with the composer. Very cool. Another highlight for me was playing the beautiful Frank Loesser ballad "The Very Thought of You". Such a gorgeous tune. I love playing ballads. I felt much better about my playing this time, than I did the last time we played at the Gene Byron. I felt more in the groove and was able to actually get a few ideas out of the end of the horn.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

My Part Of The Show

The whole family went to Casa Simurgh up in Valenciana for the GALA INFANTIL Recital de Pantomima y Clown. Raul Catalan and Jose Luis Porras, 2 local clowns and mimes put on a very fun show. You can't beat the ticket price of 30 pesos (about $2.50 US) for entry.

In the fotos you can see my part of the show. I'm in the white Rocketsled t-shirt. The guy in the blue shirt holding on to me is local legend and TUBA JAM sax man Oscar Escalante. We were 1/2 of the human tightrope supports. I have never tried to hold up another person balancing on a rope before. I LOVE Mexico.

Brass Section

Since resigning from the orchestra I began teaching a brass ensemble 2 days a week at the Renaissance Academy in Santa Ana, GTO. The school is located just outside of Leon (the BIG city). Just this last week the director of the school asked if I would be the head of the brass program and a musical advisor to him. This school is privately funded and is for the less privileged families in Santa Ana and the neighboring towns.

I have always had fun trying to express some of the love I have for music to beginning musicians. Yesterday there were several visitors touring the campus. We have just begun to work on some (mostly Christmas) brass quintet music over the last few weeks. So when the visitors came by we played "O' Canada"(the kids favorite) "Angels From The Realms Of Glory" "Angel We Have Heard On High" and "Lo' How A Rose Er' Blooming". They have really learned a lot in the last few weeks. I was very proud of the brass section. It's always nice hearing Christmas tunes during the hottest days of the year.

This foto was taken during orchestra rehearsal.

Saturday, May 8, 2010


While we were at the Zoo on Monday. We witnessed many things we had never seen before. I don't recall ever having seen a couple of Hyenas, both Mexican and Canadian Wolfs, Water Buffalos, lots of cool stuff. One of the most interesting and impressive sites was sitting and watching the Elephants walking around. I could sit, watch and listen to these spectacular animals for hours. Such grand creatures.



Here are a few fotos taken at the Zoo in Leon, Guanajuato. MX. We all had a blast.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Dark Side

Today the girls had the day off from school so I took them into Leon (about an hour drive from Guanajuato) to check out the Zoo. The Zoo is wonderful. We had a blast! Lot's of great fotos I will post soon.

Since I stopped drinking a few weeks ago, I have been reminded of the very dark side of drinking during the last few days.

DISCLAIMER: The following events can and do happen all over the world.

The first instance occurred when I was walking up Tecolote returning from a gig that was cancelled Saturday night May 1st. Tecolote is a steep "callejone" the word for alley. It is pretty steep and only the upper third or so is accessible to cars. However, you can ride a motorcycle down if you are gutsy enough (there are a few steps). Pizza delivery guys in Mexico all ride motos and are by the very nature of their business, gutsy. As I was walking up I could hear a moto coming down and I moved to the side and watched as the delivery guy raced passed. I turned as he passed and saw him whizz by a family of 3. Mother, Father, and adult Son. The Father, who had obviously been drinking was not to pleased with how close the moto had come. Father said a few words and clearly wanted to fight. The moto stopped just out of reach, like a bird who knows the cat is there and knows he can tease the cat and fly away at a moments notice. This only made the father more irate. He was being restrained by his wife and son. I kept watching as the mans family did their best to hold him back. After a few minutes the father started punching his own son. At this point I had had enough Jerry Springer for one night and continued my walk home.

When I witnessed this I thought about posting something about it, but I don't like to put negative information on my blog. But, after what happened today I thought this small episode would make a good intro.

Today on our return trip from Leon I asked the girls,
"Which road do you want to take?"
There is a toll road and a free road. I like the free road because it is much more interesting.
Rose said,
"Toll road."
Pearl said, (probably because she knows it's my favorite)
"Free Road."

Driving along one of the curvy parts of the free road we came upon a group of 6 or 7 guys walking along the side of the road. Not unusual in Mexico. As we passed one of the guys flipped me off. No big deal, however unusual for Guanajuato. Then I looked just in time to see one of the guys throw a beer bottle right at the car. The windows were open and the bottle broke on the part of the car frame between the 2 passenger side doors. The broken shards of glass continued straight for my beautiful Pearl's face. I turned around to see Pearl beginning to be covered in blood. I brought the car to a screeching stop, got out and took a look at my girls. Pearl was covered in her own blood, Rose seemed more or less OK. The bottle must have been mostly full as there was beer and glass everywhere. By this time many very nice and helpful people were stopping. Pearl later said,
"It was like a parade."

One of the guys who stopped, Graham, I actually knew from town as he use to own one of the better (as stated in the NY Times) restaurants in Guanajuato. Graham said he would stay with the girls since I was determined to go and try to get these guys. I took off running after them. Even after all the commotion I could still see the group of guys walking calmly away. A couple guys drove up and offered me a ride. When we came upon the group I was out of the car before it could stop. I don't know what I was thinking. I know 6 or 7 against 1, even the angriest 1, isn't the best odds. After throwing 1 of the guys down a very steep hill, the rest of the guys ran away like I was Jackie Chan. Ask any of the border patrol how hard it is to run down a few motivated Mexicans over ruff terrain.

Back at the car. The police came and in true Mexican police fashion were there for 3 minutes (tops) and then they took off never to be seen or heard from again. The ambulance came. The medics were very helpful and professional. Pearl just has 7 or 8 small cuts on her forehead. The biggest is a perfectly straight 3/4' cut above her right eye, in her eyebrow. It looks just like a boxing cut.

I am very happy to report that when they went to bed tonight both my girls are more or less fine.

When we were finally on our way home Pearl started asking,
"Was what he did a crime?"
"Yes." I said.
"What would his punishment be?"
"I don't know." I said, "That's the tricky part."
"I think he should be locked up forever." Rose says.

We talked on the subject of matching punishments to crimes for a bit and then Pearl decides with all of the athourity
of a Supreme Court Judge,
"I think we have to get him, when he's not drunk, and teach him what he did was wrong."

Pearl has always said she wants to be a teacher. She has already taught me so many important lessons. I am so proud of her toughness, braveness, sweetness, and compasion. I hope all people (myself included) would be so quick to forgive others after being treated so unfairly.

That's my Pearl girl.

Sunday, May 2, 2010


Had a great time playing with the TUBA JAM guys this weekend. Friday night we played at Cappelina, a very nice Italian restaurant in the centro. It was the TUBA JAM trio plus Casper, the friendly flautist. I didn't know Casper would be there, but it is always nice to hear him play. The sound of the flute gives us a different sound and a nice change of pace.

Saturday the original members of TUBA JAM were out in full force in the Plaza Allende. Guanajuato legend, painter, sculptor, instrument inventor, Oscar Escalante on soprano and tenor sax, Dan Norman tuba, and Laloc Vallejo on the drums. We played here as a trio a few months back. Even more fun with the whole group. Great having Oscar back playing in his signature style. Oscar also built his own house a few years back. Just one of the many reasons I love this guy.