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Monthly Archives: February 2010

Roger in High School
Ed Wolfe

One of the first students I met upon arriving on campus at San Dimas High School was Roger Burn. Being verbally “outgoing” and perhaps not too subtle, the conversation went something like this:

“Mr. Wolfe, I’m Roger Burn.  I play percussion, and I have a question. Can you improve this jazz program so that it will be as good as Robin Snyder’s at Bonita? If not, I’m going to transfer over there for my last two years.”

“Hello, Roger. Nice to meet you. Who is Robin Snyder and where is Bonita? You know, I would hate to lose you or any of my students to another program, but I will need to have loyalty here to build the band program San Dimas deserves. You will need to decide to do what is best for you, but if you do leave, don’t ask to return.”

Thus began my relationship with the young Roger Burn. Over the course of the next two years, The band program began to grow, and Roger began to flourish. Roger and some of the other jazz kids used to come down to the apartment and play Risk. After the other students left Roger would always ask questions about music theory. Sometimes he would stay quite late. His parents, Ed and Joyce seemed to always know where he was and did not seem to object, but since we had a Jazz Band rehearsal every morning at 6:30, I would have to “throw him out” often so that we could get some sleep. He was not particularly interested in the traditional harmony of the common practice period, but when we talked about Twentieth Century techniques, his ears really perked up. He learned about tritone substitutions, extensions and altered chords, and suddenly there was an interest in learning to play piano as he was already becoming quite proficient on vibraphone.
Roger’s piano technique was horrible. He would use two fingers in each hand and fire at the keys Harpo Marx style. He was not interested in learning technique from the Czerny book I provided, or practicing any of the “adult beginning” pieces I provided. He simply wanted to improvise and learn new chord voicings…(he was especially in love with the dominant seventh with a sharp nine or other altered variations he could use in the blues) He wanted to learn how to arrange, so I loaned him my Mancini Sounds and Scores textbook. He probably still has it in his things!…So it began!

I did not learn until later, that he had begun writing out (by hand) a fake book of jazz tunes that he called “The Good Book”. He was proud to exclaim to me that these tunes had “the right chords” and were not like some of those other fake books. In addition to many of his favorite jazz standards (over 150 pages), are some 20 original compositions, some of which were performed by the San Dimas High School jazz combo. “Animal Blues” was written for his friend and bass player, Rusty Houts, and “Gerswintite” was an opportunity to show off some new chord voicings he liked.

Those of you who spoke with Roger often may have observed that his life was basically one long run-on sentence with no punctuation in sight! He was opinionated, biased, driven, sometimes bitter and always outspoken, but he was also fiercely loyal, disciplined, caring and compassionate to those who he felt deserved it. He also had a sense of right and wrong….Roger was right, and the rest of us….had some work to do!

Roger was always hanging out with the Bonita players and attended many jam sessions at Robin’s house. In March of 1979, the San Dimas Band was playing a concert band festival at Bonita, and Roger was featured on a little rudimental snare solo on one of the pieces. Roger showed up to the festival as we were exiting the stage! He had missed the whole thing hanging out with the Bonita kids.

Another time, in Reno, Roger did not make it back to the hotel from the Basie performance at the Pioneer Theater in time for curfew. I went back to the Pioneer and after some searching, found him backstage talking to some of the Basie sidemen….that was Roger.

I remember how angry he was when Chad Wackerman was selected for the Monterrey Jazz All Stars and he was selected as the alternate drummer. I also remember how elated he was when the San Dimas Jazz Band won our division at the Reno Jazz Festival and Robin’s Bonita band finished third in their division. (It didn’t seem to matter to Rog that Bonita was in division III-A and San Dimas was in division II-A. “We won!”). He was particularly pleased that we had qualified for Monterrey and was particularly disappointed when our audition tape resulted in the band being an “alternate” band. I took them up anyway so that they could hear the festival and audition for the all stars.

In Roger’s senior year, he was leaning towards Cal State Northridge as a choice under the jazz direction of Joel Leach. He was particularly angry that freshmen would have to play in the marching band and lasted only one year in the college program. The rest is basically known by all of his professional friends and acquaintances.

Over the years, Roger and I remained close. I used him as a guest soloist with my bands, and he was fiercely loyal to me personally as an “educator who knew and did it the right way”. He was a good man, and I love him and miss him!

A news giant and one of my heroes died today at 92. Walter was the epitome of professionalism, thoroughness and accuracy. The article below (which I wrote several months ago during the presidential campaign) is still valid today and an era of broadcast news has passed with Walter’s death. He was “the most trusted man in America” for most of my life and the country has lost a man of immense stature and honesty….a man with true American values. I am sad, “and that’s the way it is….” Goodnight Walter.

Enough!

News agencies and news reporters are supposed to report the news. In my view, that should be done in a professional unbiased and non-partisan way. I have been an avid consumer of news TV for more years than I would readily admit. I have enjoyed the work of the news giants who, without needing to hear their surname, are immediately recognized as giants of professional and unbiased journalism. I have enjoyed nightly communion with Chet, David, Charles, Bernie, Walter, Dan, Tom, Barbara, Tim, Connie, Peter, Bill, Edward, Harry and Ernie to name just a few!

I have enjoyed the network news on all three major networks, Fox News, MSNBC, CNN, CNBC, CBS, NBC, ABC etc. for many years, but I don’t enjoy them any more. I watch daily flipping from station to station in the vain hope of finding a network that will report the news without the totally vain need of the reporters to participate in the story rather than to relate it. Guests are now partisan and selected to reinforce the views of the station or the moderator. Moderators are on such a time limit that very little intelligent discussion is possible. Everyone talks too fast, says too little, supports their party or cause and relates almost no information that could possibly stimulate any intelligent thought by the viewer….sounds very much like Congress doesn’t it?

Anchors and shows who were originally fun to watch on all of the news networks; Chris, Keith, Bill, Wolf, Lou (now there is a pinnacle of objective news reporting), Katie, Anderson (whatever happened to Anderson’s predecessor…he was enjoyable), etc…..I still sometimes enjoy Larry King…..have become opinionated, aggressive, ugly inquisitors rather than presenters of the facts.

The right of the audience to know does not include opinions of journalists who speculate, intimidate, argue, interrupt, berate and otherwise throw tantrums, snicker, scoff and sniffle through their newscasts!

I say, enough! I yearn for the facts without the garbage. The new young news reporters like Rachel are copying and becoming clones of Keith etc. to the point of mannerisms! The whole thing is ridiculous! Keith has decided that Don Quixote, raging against George Bush is appropriate for the audience of Countdown. Right or wrong, factually, these news anchors should take a careful look in the mirror. They are brilliant people, but they may be appealing to a young confrontational generation of video game playing non-thinkers (but I doubt even that); however, those of us who want to form an opinion about what is taking place in our world are driven to CSPAN and other stations that simply do not report anything…they just show the proceedings! What a shame! What a disintegration of a formerly informative professional representative of American values and facts. I lament our society at times!

Thank you, Bernie Shaw (former news anchor of CNN). When asked just now during an interview with Wolf Blitzer…”How do you think the news media is doing in reporting the presidential campaign?” …he explained in a few sentences the following points:

1) He was a traditional news reporter in the tradition of Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite.

2) The news anchors are supposed to report the news.

3) Many of today’s reporters report the news out of one side of their mouth and comment their opinions out of the other side of their mouth.

4) A news reporter is allowed to have an opinion but it should be a candid one and not reported to the public as the news….in other words, the anchor should not be a participant in the story.

Thank you, thank you, thank you….I’m sorry you retired!

In a special invitation-only ceremony to be held during GRAMMY Week on January 30th, one of jazz’s most beloved citizens, Clark Terry will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award from The Recording Academy®.

“This year’s honorees are a prestigious group of diverse and prominent creators who have contributed some of the most distinguished and influential recordings,” said Recording Academy President/CEO Neil Portnow. “Their outstanding accomplishments and passion for their craft have created a timeless legacy that has positively affected multiple generations, and will continue to influence generations to come. It is an honor and privilege to recognize such talented individuals who have had and will continue to have such an influence in both our culture and the music industry.”

The Lifetime Achievement Award honors lifelong artistic contributions to the recording medium. This award is determined by vote of The Recording Academy’s National Board of Trustees. The other honorees this year are: Leonard Cohen, Bobby Darin, David “Honeyboy” Edwards, Michael Jackson, Loretta Lynn, and André Previn.

Considered to be one of the early pioneers to use a flugelhorn in jazz, Clark Terry’s career in jazz spans more than sixty years. He is a world-class trumpeter, flugelhornist, educator, and NEA Jazz Master. He performed for seven U.S. Presidents, and was a Jazz Ambassador for State Department tours in the Middle East and Africa. He received two Grammy certificates, three Grammy nominations, thirteen honorary doctorates, keys to cities, lifetime achievements and halls of fame awards. He was knighted in Germany and is the recipient of the French Order of Arts and Letters. Clark’s star on the Walk of Fame, and his Black World History Museum’s life-sized wax figure can both be visited in his hometown, St. Louis, Missouri.

Clark composed more than two hundred jazz songs, and his books include Let’s Talk Trumpet: From Legit to Jazz, Interpretation of the Jazz Language and Clark Terry’s System of Circular Breathing for Woodwind and Brass Instruments.

He recorded with The London Symphony Orchestra, The Dutch Metropole Orchestra, The Duke Ellington Orchestra and The Chicago Jazz Orchestra, at least thirty high school and college ensembles, his own duos, trios, quartets, quintets, sextets, octets, and two big bands — Clark Terry’s Big Bad Band and Clark Terry’s Young Titans of Jazz. His career as both leader and sideman with more than three hundred recordings demonstrates that he is one of the luminaries in jazz.

Clark’s discography reads like a “Who’s Who In Jazz,” with personnel that includes great jazz artists such as Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Quincy Jones, Ella Fitzgerald, Oscar Peterson, Dizzy Gillespie, Dinah Washington, Ben Webster, Charlie Barnet, Doc Severinsen, Ray Charles, Billy Strayhorn, Dexter Gordon, Thelonious Monk, Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughn, Coleman Hawkins, Zoot Sims, Milt Jackson, Bob Brookmeyer, Jon Faddis, and Dianne Reeves.

In 1960, Clark helped break the color barrier at NBC, “The Urban League had inquired of NBC why they had so few black employees, only to be told that there were no black people qualified to play music on television. The League sent out questionnaires seeking musicians who could “play studio music, read music, play in a section, play first trumpet, solo, etc. My name happened to come up on all the questionnaires,” related Terry.

Soon he became a fixture in the “Tonight Show” band, with which he was often featured in the “stump the band” segment, sometimes performing what had become somewhat of a trademark, his “Mumbles” act.

Just a quick personal note: I have had the personal pleasure of having Clark work with my students over the years. He was always extremely professional, kind and caring to the kids, and personable to me as though we had been good friends for years. I have followed his recording and television performances since I was a very young trumpet player. He is my idol, but more than that; he is a genuine caring human being, talented, yes, accomplished, yes, but a lovely man who has left a positive impact on America’s youth. God bless you, Clark and congratulations.

Bill Cosby has a great way of “distilling” things. Looks like he’s done it again!

AMERICA NEEDS A CANDIDATE WITH THIS PLATFORM!!

I HAVE DECIDED TO BECOME A WRITE-IN CANDIDATE FOR PRESIDENT IN THE YEAR 2012..

HERE IS MY PLATFORM:

(1). Any use of the phrase: ‘Press 1 for English’ is immediately banned. English is the official language; speak it or wait outside of our borders until you can.

(2). We will immediately go into a two year isolationist attitude in order to straighten out the greedy big business posture in this country. America will allow NO imports, and we’ll do no exports. We will use the ‘Wal-Mart ’s policy, ‘If we ain’t got it, you don’t need it.’ We’ll make it here and sell it here!

(3).. When imports are allowed, there will be a 100% import tax on it coming in here.

(4).. All retired military personnel will be required to man one of the many observation towers located on the southern border of the United States (six month tour). They will be under strict orders not to fire on SOUTHBOUND aliens.

(5). Social Security will immediately return to its original state. If you didn’t put nuttin in, you ain’t gettin nuttin out. Neither the President nor any other politician will be able to touch it.

(6). Welfare. — Checks will be handed out on Fridays, at the end of the 40 hour school week, the successful completion of a urinalysis test for drugs, and passing grades.

(7). Professional Athletes — Steroids? The FIRST time you check positive you’re banned from sports .. for life.

(8). Crime – We will adopt the Turkish method, i.e., the first t ime you steal, you lose your right hand. There is no more ‘life sentences’. If convicted of murder, you will be put to death by the same method you chose for the victim you killed: gun, knife, strangulation, etc.

(9).. One export of ours will be allowed: wheat; because the world needs to eat. However, a bushel of wheat will be the exact price of a barrel of oil.

(10). All foreign aid, using American taxpayer money, will immediately cease and the saved money will help to pay off the national debt and, ultimately, lower taxes. When disasters occur around the world, we’ll ask The American People if they want to donate to a disaster fund, and each citizen can make the decision as to whether, or not, it’s a worthy cause.

(11). The Pledge of Allegiance will be said every day at school and every day in Congress.

(12). The National Anthem will be played at all appropriate ceremonies, sporting events, outings, etc.

My apology is offered if I’ve stepped on anyone’s toes ….. nevertheless…..

GOD BLESS AMERICA.

Sincerely, Bill Cosby