That NEW Adage

A pressure-relief valve about God, and just about everything else.

Vegas — Part Deux

The reason I haven’t been able to blog for months is that, as I said in the prior post, I was whisked away to Las Vegas to a two room apartment with no computer access.

The BB King’s club in Las Vegas has been open since the end of 2009, and they have had a number of bands, none of which fully satisfied the owner who is from Memphis. He wanted to stock the club with Memphis musicians in order to give the various locations the same sound the the original one has. Back in April, the house band there (of which I was a member) was informed that we would be flying to Vegas for a month to get that location on its feet.

We got right up to the point of leaving when circumstances beyond anyone’s control caused the job to fall through. I was highly upset, mostly because we had just had a baby (number three!), and Kathy was still on maternity leave, and I was the only one bringing money in. We lost a LOT of money when the gig fell out.

God was surely chuckling at our anxiety, knowing what He was about to bring to pass!

We were getting by on my pay from the house gig and from jobs that would pop up right when the last breath of air was running low. God was really training us on how to rely strictly on Him! By the end of the month of June, options were thin.

Prentice, the trombone player in the Memphis house band was picking up and moving to Vegas to join the band there. Actually, a few of my Memphis musician friends were going.

The lead singer — unbeknownst to me at the time — had signed on, the bass player from my church was to be the bandleader, and the drummer was a long time associate as well. I was at Prentice’s place to look at some of the furniture he was leaving and, having heard that the Vegas band was having some horn section issues, I decided to put in a bid for doing some work out there…

“How is the band out there?” I asked playing dumb.

“They’re okay, but the sax players are apparently not cutting it. They’re not playing the stuff the way we do it, and they are constantly subbing out,” he responded.

“Oh. Well, if you talk to Tommy (the owner), tell him I’d be willing to go out there for a month and get them on their feet. I’ve played with Larry (the front man) for nine years, and I know his arrangements, and made up a lot of the horn parts. Make sure you tell Tommy that!”

Prentice was surprised, “You would?!? You would really go?!? Man, that’d be great!! Yeah, I’ll tell him!” Prentice is a good guy, and he looks up to me, so I knew I had an advocate in him. Turns out, I had a LOT of advocates!!

By the time I got back home an hour later, my phone was ringing! It was Thursday. I was in Las Vegas Saturday afternoon!! Making four times what I made at home!

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October 15, 2010 Posted by | Christianity, God, God's Hand, Music, Work | Leave a comment

“…Arise, take up thy bed (and thy entire LIFE) and go. TO VEGAS!”

So, I live in Las Vegas now. The last place on Earth — next to Mississippi — I expected to live.

I went –er, I mean, CAME — to train the horn section of the BB King’s Club in the Mirage casino for just a month. That was hard enough… I missed my oldest son’s fourth birthday, and my baby son was only five months old.

It was a trying ordeal that wound up being extended for an extra four weeks, but we needed the money with Kathy on maternity leave with no pay, and with financial options running out and Pharaoh’s army fast approaching…!

I will color in the details later, but the rough outline is this:

The front man is a good friend and former band mate whose arrangements I helped create, so, it was a prime opportunity for me. I put a word in on a Thursday, and I was in Vegas two days later. In an apartment with blue, pink, and orange walls with big daisies stuck to them, and an enormous ROUND bed in which to sleep! Vegas!

At the end of the first month, right when I was about to go home, the sax player quit, and they offered me the gig, which I previously vehemently refused to consider accepting. The money was too good to turn down, especially considering the bleakness of the landscape back in Memphis.

The entire story is heart wrenching and glorious, and I will be recounting it in the coming days and weeks. Suffice it to say for now that my wife and kids and all our worldly possessions are on this side of the country, and everyone we love is on the other! With NO prior warning…

September 14, 2010 Posted by | Christian Life, Family, Music, Music Business, Work | 5 Comments

Steven Horace Williams. And the Tempest on which He Came

Now, thanks be to God, I have three children! TWO of them sons!

Steve — named for my lost cousin, and my father — came into this world Tuesday morning amidst a whirlwind of activity.

Usually, when I play gigs, all I have to do is show up and blow. However some church members recently asked the church band to play their wedding reception. And they asked if I would play the wedding, too. I wound up being the point man for the function, which meant I would have to meet with the couple, get their requests for material, negotiate the price, get the music out to the guys, and hire the sound man and players. (Most of the church guys had other gigs.) A lot of extra work.

Now, when I took the job, I didn’t put it together with the fact that it was happening FOUR DAYS AFTER MY BABY’S BIRTH, and that Kathy would be having her third c-section! I just looked at the fact that it was January, and as I had been jobbed out of my New Year’s Eve gig, the money would be cool.

We have experienced record cold temperatures the last two weeks or so. Weekends are tough for me. I usually don’t get to sleep Saturday nights until 5 AM, and I have to be at church at 7:30. We have two services, and I’m usually done at 12:30 or so. I then go home, help Kathy get the kids fed, and we usually go to my parents’ house for dinner. I try to get a nap in there somewhere, and we’re home by 8 to feed the kids again. But I don’t get to sleep until about 4 or 5.

Mondays used to be my recovery day, with the only work I had to do was raise the kids. But the club switched our night from TUESDAY and Thursday to MONDAY and Thursday.

So, with all that, I went to work Monday night, and got to bed after 5 since I was too nervous to sleep. We had to get to the hospital at 7:30 for the birth. I was dead tired, and it was 15 degrees outside! By 10 AM, Steven Horace was here! Another nine-pounder!

After a long day of visitors and everything that comes with having a child, late that night, I decided to brave the sub-twenty degree weather to go get something to eat.

There was no one on the road. The car was driving funny, and I thought it was because the engine was still cold… I pulled into the turning lane to get out and see if a nudging fear I had was legitimate, and I found a blown-out tire! I rode verrry slowly down the turn lane looking for a place with enough light to get my thoughts together, and found a church parking lot. Kneeling on the ground to get to work, the cold crept up into my bones and took residence!

I was done and back on the road in about twenty minutes. But now, the thought in my mind was that tires for this car cost almost $300! And we just had a third baby in three-and-a-half years! I was juggling figures in my mind. And a snowstorm was in the forecast, so I couldn’t be driving around with a donut on the front of a front wheel drive car.

I had a rehearsal the next night at 11:30 PM, so I would have to take the car home, turn the faucets on to keep the pipes from freezing, say hello to my kids (who were being kept by Kathy’s mother Tuesday and Wednesday), get my truck, and go to the rehearsal. As I arrived at the club, the “CHECK ENGINE” light popped on!! What next?!? This could be big, or it could be small. But with single-digit temperatures and possible snow, 2 AM wasn’t the time to gamble!

After — prayer– and practice, I headed home. I had to spend the night at home because Kathy’s mom had to work and couldn’t keep Max and Diana, so I had to get them up early, dressed, and fed, and take them to my folks’ house to stay until Saturday afternoon. Soooo tired. After I did all that, I went back to the hospital for a couple of hours with Kathy and Steve before I had to leave for my Thursday gig.

I drove the truck, so after work, I went back home to check on the house, turn on the faucets, and switch back to the car since I needed it to take Kathy and the baby home in the car seat.

Now, all during the week, I’m corresponding with the groom, the sound man (who thinks he might have pneumonia!!) and the guys in the band. I had to make CD’s with the tunes on them, and e-mail others out to guys with whom I couldn’t contact. I had put together a GREAT collection of players!

Friday was even busier than the other days… After getting Kathy and the baby home, I left right out to get a tire for the car. The wedding gig was far out, and I couldn’t trust the truck to make it. After I got the tire, I came home, got the directions to the venue and headed straight back out to the wedding rehearsal! I wasn’t even home ten minutes!

And it was about 8 degrees outside. On the way home from the rehearsal, I treated Kathy and myself with Papa John’s!

So, we’re sitting at home, chillin’, after a long week, eating pizza, and I get up to go wash my hands, and the doggone water won’t come on!!! The pipes are frozen!! It’s Friday, and my troubles are just starting. Kathy: “Oh, yeah… Mama told me something about the water wasn’t running…”  Would’ve been cool to know that a whole lot earlier in the day. (in fairness to Kathy, she turned the bathroom sink on, and when it worked, she thought everything was cool. But THAT sink never froze.)

I turn up heat, turn on blow-dryers, space heaters, and the ENTIRE STOVE to try to get the water running again. My friend, Tim, came over to help, and I wound up going to Wal-Mart to buy a replacement line for the kitchen sink — which, being next to an outer wall, was the biggest trouble spot.

More running around and less rest for me. And the next day, Saturday, was the busiest day. And the bride and groom and all their visiting family didn’t care about my problems! The show must go on.

I got up very early to go and pick my kids up from my parents’ house, and would head right out to a noon set-up and soundcheck. The wedding was at 6, and the reception was right after at 7. I wouldn’t be coming back home until about 11 PM when it was all over.

Kathy called me at about 2. I thought she was calling to tell me that the faucet was running again. She was at home with three children, 3 years old and under, four days after having a baby cut from her womb, and I had booked a gig at the wrong time!

“You need to come home! You need to come home RIGHT NOW!! There is water coming down through the cabinets and all over the kitchen!! Water is gushing all outside!!!” I could hear my kids laughing and oblivious in the background.

It took me twenty minutes to get home (at 100 miles an hour!), and I couldn’t get the water turned off at the street because the valve was faulty. By the time a plumber got there, another thirty minutes had passed!

When would it end?

The plumber gave me an INCREDIBLY low price and said he would NOT have to cut through the walls! Kathy stopped crying when I told her that.

Turns out, he had to tear the cabinets out and cut through the walls. Still incredible price though!

My wonderful parents came and got Kathy and all three kids, and I went back to the gig.

The drummer got pulled over for speeding and we had to stretch two tunes for twenty-five minutes until he got there.

The gig was cool. Everybody was happy, the band got cash, and the sound man didn’t fall out. And I had to turn around and get up for church with one hour of sleep, work Monday… I still haven’t rested. And Kathy is just as tired, plus major surgery.

The thing is, though, that with all the drama and running around, I had to do… I never got frustrated. I usually would crack a LITTLE bit, but not this time. It was like God opened the valve — pun intended — a little at a time so that by the time the BIG disaster happened, I had built up enough confidence in His work to know that He would come through.

So, my second son, Steve, rode in on a tidal wave of action and turmoil and amid it all, he is the epitome of peace. I can learn a lot from him.

January 14, 2010 Posted by | Action, Birth, Children, Christian Life, Christianity, Drama, Family, Gigging, God, Music, Stories, Work | 8 Comments

BB King’s gig

This was an, overall, pretty decent night — mix notwithstanding… I’m on alto and tenor saxes. And some vocals.

Sorry about the fuzzy video quality. Wasn’t ME!

Check out Steve Bethany on rhythm guitar!!! Just about the best at it!

Come watch my SyncLive.com show at 8:30 PM on 9/3/2009

September 6, 2009 Posted by | Entertainment, Live Music, Music, Saxophone | Leave a comment

Yes, God is my Father, but He’s also my Big Brother

Back in May, I bought a new horn, remember? I posted a picture of it…

It came with some problems that I shoved to the back of my mind — not wanting to disappoint my wife, and not wanting to think that all the waiting was in vain.

It was made in Taiwan, which until recently had been known for making substandard quality saxophones. I did over a year of research on this particular brand and came to the conclusion that Taiwan was the new Japan in the sense that where they once had a bad reputation, they now were becoming leaders in the industry with brands such as P. Mauriat competing favorably with the big brands, Selmer, Keilwerth, Yamaha, and Yanagisawa — the BIG 4.

So, I contacted the “owner,” the guy who’s name is stamped on the bell of the horn, and placed an order. The main selling points were that these horns were of pro quality but two or three  thousand dollars less than what a comparable one would cost, and that I would have one-on-one contact and consultation with the main guy. You can’t expect that from Selmer!

The one I ordered was their newest model, a copper horn which was about a thousand dollars more than the ones I had been researching. It was way more than I had prepared to spend, but it was so unique… There was something about having something that no one else has.

I received an e-mail from the owner’s “partner” confirming my order. He told me that the demand for this new model was more than expected, and that I would have to wait at least a month. I ended up waiting almost four.

In May I finally got it! When I opened it, there were some problems… It had been damaged in shipping, and one of the key guards was bent. There was a lot of room for the horn to move inside the case, and it had obviously been bumped around.

I guess there was a look on my face, because as soon as I opened the box, Kathy asked me with anticipation, “So, you LIKE it?!?”

“Yeah,” I said, but there was something in the back of my mind…

The brace that holds the body of the horn to the bow was bent as well, and off track. I assumed this was all due to the shipping.

I got out my tuner to see if the horn played in tune, and it did from the lowest note until I got up to the palm keys (I realize that I am speaking in esoteric terms, but you’ll get the gist), where the Eb and E were waaaay sharp! This was disconcerting, but I attributed it to my not having a new tenor in eighteen years.

And there was a problem with the way the left-hand palm keys fit my hand. One key was too high, and another too low, making it hard for me to move with speed.

I got the horn set up by a technician who called it, “a beautiful lookin‘ little horn” disdainfully. I sneered at him and just wrote his opinion off to not recognizing the name. He fixed most of the damage and lightened up some of the springs, quickening the action a bit. But the ergonomics were basically unalterable.

Long story less long, I contacted the “owner” and his “partner” about the problems (and some others I haven’t mentioned here), and was told basically to keep them appraised. Not the first-hand customer service I expected, but I wasn’t eager to have to box up and ship the horn back and wait months more for it to return.

So I played the horn — which sounds a lot better than my well-run old Selmer — in good spirits ignoring that fading ringing in the back of my mind.

I had been steadily checking the internet for reviews of this horn by other players, when after work one night, I was reading and discovered that the two guys from whom I bought the horn had split!!! The owner was continuing to sell horns out of his home as usual, but under different names. The partner was now in the saxophone business on his own.

Not only that, but I found out that the split was over the very model horn I have!

It turns out that the horn was NOT made in Taiwan, but in CHINA! They are known industry-wide for making junk horns in pink and blue and red and orange that play way out of tune and are basically thrown together.

I did NOT spend all my money for a Chinese saxophone! Shoot, I had JUST grown accustomed to the idea of a Taiwanese one! All those nagging fears had been justified.

I e-mailed the owner in New York, and went to tell my wife what had happened. It was after 4 AM Wednesday.

The next morning, he called me. Now, this guy is not a shill. He has almost thirty years in the business making mouthpieces for well known heavyweights.

What he told me shocked me. He said that I did not buy the horn from HIM! That I bought it from the other guy, and that I should contact him if I wanted my money back, but good luck, “cause he still owes ME money!”

I was groggy from sleep, and did not say the things I would have said had I been fully coherent.

I e-mailed the other guy (I don’t really want to name names based on how this all played out) in Austin Texas(!) and asked what the process was for getting a refund since the horn was basically misrepresented.

HE responded that two months was too long for a refund, but that he would be willing to pay for any repairs. He vouched for the quality of the horn.

Now fully awake, I called New York and got into an only somewhat heated back-and-forth. I told him first how sorry I was that his reputation was being damaged and that this must be awful for him, but that to ME this was world-shaking because it was all the money I had, and that I make my living with my horn.

 He seemed to wash his hands of the matter, telling me repeatedly — as though ANYONE would see it — that I did NOT buy the horn from HIM, that I bought it from the other guy!! I threw every logical point at him: “YOUR name is on the horn! I ordered it from YOUR website with YOUR name on it! YOU advertised that these were YOUR products, and YOU stood behind them. I contacted YOU about buying a horn! He was YOUR partner (He was not my partner! He was just my distributor!) He worked on YOUR behalf…!”

He deflected every argument. “So, I’m basically screwed, hunh? I gave you guys my hard earned money for one thing, I got another, and I’m just screwed?”

“No, no, you’re not screwed. I’m gonna make it right for ya.” in his New York brogue. “All ya gotta do is contact the Attorney General of your state, blahblahblah, blast ‘im on the internet, blahblahblah and when I get proof that you’ve done everything you could, then I’ll see what I can do. Butcha didn’ buy the horn from ME, blahblah…”

I was a ball of stress! I felt awful. But through the whole thing, there was a calmness in me. As angry and stressed as I was, I said to God, “YOU gotta work this out for me, ‘cuz I can’t!” And I didn’t fly off the handle and start cussing folks out like many thought I should.

I had to play it cool withthese guys because they had my money and they were spread out all over the country. I had NO leverage. One wrong word from me, and they could just hang up the phone and act as though I never existed. I couldn’t make unreasonable threats and demands because I — as my father says — had my arm in a lion’s mouth!

I posted the bones of the case on a popular saxophone forum. Nothing slanderous and derogatory. By that night, I got a note from the ex-partner (the owner HAD publically called him that) suggesting that we try to come to a reasonable conclusion… maybe I could swap this horn with one of the ACTUAL Taiwanese models (which cost LESS money).

We talked on the phone, the ex-partner and I, for over twenty minutes the next day. He told me what he had in stock, the properties of the horn, and about all the controversy. He gave me a different perspective, of couse, from the one of the owner. Both of them were angry at each other, and I just happened to be the dude that bought th first horn in this new batch and got entangled on this mess.

He was extremely helpful, attentive, and apologetic. This was the kind of customer service I expected from the owner and NEVER got. It was Thursday.

By MONDAY I had the other horn. IMG_2089

It was GREAT! Undamaged, and in a cool case that allowed for no movement. And it played almost by itself! Big, booming sound, perfect ergonomics, and in tune all the way up. Just a great horn!

This was what I wanted all along.

All that was left was to work out the amount of money for the other horn. There was about a $700 difference in price, and the thought of that last pending battle gave me just the slightest anxiety. “God, work it out.”

Two days ago, I sent an e-mail to Texas, saying compactly, “I LOVE this horn! What is the next move from here?”

This was his reply:

I have been trying to think about what would be appropriate and fair to you regarding the situation you got caught up in.  

 I continue to believe the MAC 20 is also a great horn.  It is different but still a terrific horn.  I know you have had your MAC 20 adjusted and that you have it setup for you etc.

Derrick, I think in view of all you were put through that you should just keep both horns. The MAC 8 is my gift to you.  All I ask is that you be fair with your assessment with both horns on any reviews you may wish to write.  I am not asking that you say anything you don’t believe in your heart and if you really feel the MAC 20 is not a good horn you should simply state your reasons.  I respect whatever your opinion is good or bad.  

Blown away was I!! He went from “No refund,” to “just keep both horns!!!”

I never thought it would work out this well. At best , I thought I would have to make an even swap. At worst, I thought I would just have to come to love a horn I only liked. My wife would have felt forever that we got beat.

I can’t express the emotion that I felt as I read that e-mail. Not that I get to keep these two pretty things, these material items — but that through seemingly insurmountable circumstances, God pushed me out of my way and fought the unseen bully into submission.

He made me keep my cool, showed me the moves to make — the perfect balance of firmness and compassion — and he worked it all out.

Some may say that the guy in Texas only made a smart business move. I agree it was smart to treat a customer right.

Some may say that he only let me keep the horn because he wouldn’t be able to get rid of it. But I say that were that the case, why send me another one? The horn is in better shape now than when it was new, and he could have sold it as new, or taken a few dollars off it and gotten a LOT more than the difference in price between it and the one he sent me. But he let me have both.

GOD did this. And there is no remaining doubt in my mind that He really does fight for me. He really is concerned about the ins and outs of my daily life. He really does intercede.

I never had a brother. I had to fight my battles and learn all the hard knocks myself. But in God, I HAVE that Brother. In fact, He has ALWAYS been there… Like the time when that gang of boys surrounded me at the bus stop and had a three inch long pin a millimeter from my eyeball. I had to smooth talk my way out of that close call, and the LORD was in my ear telling me what to say.

He has always told me when to fight, and when to get out of the way and fight the bullies who were too big to engage.

Closer than a brother.

August 7, 2009 Posted by | Christ, Christian Life, Christianity, God, Jesus, Music, Music Business, Near Misses, Saxophone, The Nature of God, Work, Writing | 2 Comments

MAXims

Those who can, do.

Those who CAN’T, criticize those who can.

Those who can’t yet, keep trying.

For the jazz snobs.

(“All he’s playing is a pentatonic scale…” “That’s not jazz. That’s just the blues scale.” “He’s just a scale player.” “Anybody can play that. It’s just a bunch of patterns.”)

June 18, 2009 Posted by | Adage, Advice, Jealousy, Life, Life Lessons, Maxims, Music | 1 Comment

The Squeaky Wheel Gets FIRED! *edit

I still blog, but I’ve been busy. Partly, dealing with the following:

Unfair treatment is often a sign of Salvation.

I used to play in this Christian jazz band but the leader let me go in a shady, dishonorable way.

While I was extremely angry at first, it was not for being fired, but for the lies that clouded the firing.

I had many issues with his leadership, and told him so on a number of occasions.

And because I work on ONE of our TWO rehearsal nights — and thought I would have to quit because I suspected that he would not be willing to accommodate me — he made moves (unbeknownst to me) to replace me, rehearsing my replacement while I thought I still played the one time a month gig.

After many heated words and seething anger, I have let it go. I am much clearer of mind not having to deal with the stress of learning so many tunes to only play only once a month. And I don’t have to any longer be bothered with trying to deal with subpar leadership and untruths.

 I have learned great lessons, chiefly that all that glitters is not necessarily Christian, and that God works His wonders through our suffering.

I am further motivated to win — to let fulfillment of potential supplant righteous vengeance. To let achievement be the counter-punch to that slap in the face.

While my desire is to name names and point fingers and give details, God has allowed me — through the THIRD version of this post — to just state the silhouette and move along.

THAT’S what I’ve been doing.

Oh, and I got my new horn!

My Horn

May 14, 2009 Posted by | Advice, Christianity, Life, Life Lessons, Live Music, Music, Work | 7 Comments

Work and Family: All I Do

Max, Diana, and Ryan   Max       Diana  Work

Sundays @ Neil's  Gotta Be Somebody's Baby!

  I'll Kill a Brick!

                 On the Job

 

KWEST   I've got a better son than my parents have!

Rich, Ryan, DJ, Allissa, Max, and Diana  

Election night. 

December 12, 2008 Posted by | Babies, Childhood, Children, Christian Life, Christianity, Daughters, Family, Fatherhood, Fathers and Daughters, Fathers and Sons, Home Life, Kids, Life, Marriage, Music, Parenthood, Parenting, Parents | 6 Comments

Ingreat?

I want to be great.

I struggle with this. I know that God says that He will give His glory to no man. I ask myself constantly if the reason I have not yet achieved my goals is that I want to be glorified in some way. Maybe God knows (I want to say, “Maybe God THINKS,” but I know He doesn’t wonder) that I would not be as humble as I need to be if He allows me to do the same things as those as whom I know I am at least as good. (prepositions! whew!)

Or maybe I simply have not worked hard enough.

I play music and I write words. I often think, when I see humorists and columnists and hear certain saxophone players, “I KNOW I can do this! I’m at LEAST that good! Why can’t I get a break?” I know I’m kind of good, but I want to be great. And not obscure. And I begin again to wonder if what is blocking me is simply my thought process.

Maybe my thinking has to change… Maybe I have to think more about what greatness will mean for God than what it will do for me.

From day one I have been Charlie Brown. I was the insignificant kid, the ridiculed kid, the unremembered kid. I was the one who the girls looked at from the edges of their eyes. I was the one who either ate alone at lunch or went and found others with whom to eat.

I was never at the center of the action, always at the outer ring. Never the life of the party.

When I started to play music, it wasn’t to get girls or to be cool. I just wanted to learn how to play an instrument — something no one in my neighborhood did. All through school, the fact that I could hear a tune and reproduce it and improvise a little bit did nothing to initiate me into that cool musical circle.

When I grew up and began doing it for a living, my mother, who worked at my high school, would ask me to come back and play for assemblies. My own band director (with whom I rode to school EVERY DAY for three years!!!) was shocked when he heard me, remarking to my mother, “I had no idea Derrick could play like that! When did this happen?”

He had not bothered to notice or nurture my talent. He never pushed me. While the cool kids were taking theory classes and playing in the jazz band, I was at home picking out Grover Washington and Spyro Gyra solos. Teaching myself.

When I was in the eighth grade and on the verge of academic mediocrity as a student in the first Optional School class in Memphis, my English teacher brought a knarry tree stump into the classroom and asked us to write a story based on what we saw. I, thinking myself a failure at English, got the highest grade in the class. In me was born the love for words I now have. I changed at that moment. And a lot of the arrogant kids in the class looked at me differently — although being good at English doesn’t make you cool.

Writing didn’t become cool for me until I began getting paid to write love letters for guys — something I was scared to do for myself for a long time.

This very blog is all about me trying to be great. It is more than a geek with a computer corrupting journalism. It is me trying to not just rant, but to make literature. I want to leave my children with something that shows them that their father did not just consume resources, but that he THOUGHT. I want to not get to God’s throne and have Him disappointed because I left unused some gift He gave to me.

I want to MATTER — to be necessary. I want to be great in His eyes AND send my kids to college. Can’t you do both? There is the rub… That which makes ascent uncertain…

Being so consistently rejected bred in me this thing, this need, to prove them all wrong. To prove to — whomever — that I was worthy of note. Not of exaltation, but just valuable enough to be heard, to be listened to. It is the same drive, I think, that led Michael Jordan to prove wrong the coach who cut him when he was a kid. The same drive that made my father put cement and a pole into buckets to make his own barbells back in the fifties when kids laughed at him and called him scrawny.

I hate being treated as “less-than.” HATE it! I am the first one to esteem my neighbor as greater than myself, as long as my neighbor doesn’t presume to assume that position! I’ll get in the back seat as long as you don’t insist that I belong there. It is for this reason that arrogance is one of the things I hate most in the world.

 I want to show all those who belittled me and dismissed my contributions that they are what is wrong with the world. (But it doesn’t consume me as much as it may sound)

Maybe in a twisted way, though, that is revenge… I don’t know. I mean, I don’t have a desire to hurt anyone, or to repay in like fashion, so maybe it’s not vengeance. But maybe my thinking is wrong. Maybe I need to focus more on how GOD would be proved worthy of note if these things happened for me the way I want them to… I know I am not arrogant — I am PROUD of how humble I am! I make way too many mistakes to have an exaggerated idea of myself.

God, however, sees things in a different way than do I. Maybe my thinking is out of synch with His. Maybe if I can figure out how greatness and fame intersect, that last door will open.

Or maybe it is just not time yet.

I know He has not closed the door though, because I have continually been able to support myself, and because step by agonizing step, I have done a little bit better. I have worked with some pretty big acts and have played as though I belonged there.

We all live and eat by having people give us money to do something we are good at doing. Our gifts make our way for us. That is all I want. No Bentley, no floor length mink, no gaudy jewels. No breathless fans or VIP status.

Just ample recompense for art rendered. Commensurate compensation.

Lord, I don’t want Your spot or your shine. And if I don’t speak up enough, it is of shyness, not of usurpation. Create in me that right way of thinking, and even closer fellowship with You.

I’m not so haughty, reader, as to think that my life is so compelling that you just HAVE to know about it. I just hope the words are interesting enough to keep you reading them.

November 26, 2008 Posted by | Arrogance, Artistry, Christian Life, Christianity, Fame, Food for Thought, Glory, God, Greatness, Humility, Life, Music, Saxophone, Words, Work, Writing | 9 Comments

Um a Souuuuul Mane! (shameless plug time)

Soul Men,”  starring Samuel L. Jackson, the late Bernie Mac, and the late Isaac Hayes, opens tomorrow. Go see it! I played on either the score, the soundtrack, or both. Help me out so that my checks will be a little larger! Thanx!

Samuel L. Jackson and Bernie Mac star in The Weinstein Company's Soul Men

November 6, 2008 Posted by | Bernie Mac, Entertainment, Isaac Hayes, Movies, Music, Music Business, Samuel L. Jackson, Saxophone, Soul Men | 2 Comments

Museday Tuesday

I’m excited.

Yesterday, I was supposed to start working on my record, but it wasn’t able to happen. I have a whole week to do it since Kathy is off. Today is Tuesday. I still have four days left including this afternoon. Let’s see how it goes…

I’m excited! I get to exercise a gift to the fullest!

 

Didn’t happen.

October 7, 2008 Posted by | Jazz, Life, Making Music, Music, Recording Industry, Saxophone, Work | 1 Comment

Music Monday

I’m excited.

Kathy has the week off for my birthday (she does it every year), and I have time to connect with my musical friend to  FINALLY begin really working on my record. I have a bunch of ideas!

 

Didn’t happen… We’re trying again tomorrow.

October 7, 2008 Posted by | Jazz, Life, Making Music, Music, Recording Industry | Leave a comment

Music: Is It You?

One of my favorite songs ever. Lee Ritenour (guitar), Kenya Hathaway, Grady Harrell (vox).

Now I can see it (hear it) whenever I want to.  YouTube is Santa for musicians!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b55nuG3dJCw

September 30, 2008 Posted by | Grady Harrell, Kenya Hathaway, Lee Ritenour, Music, Songs | Leave a comment

Just a Snippet…

I have said that I play the saxophone for, what has been lately, somewhat of a living. Here is a clip from a gig I did with a band in which I really enjoy playing. It is the closest thing to the kind of music I want to play that I have been able to do in a long time — I hope you followed that. This is the band playing, “Sister Moon,” as done by Herbie Hancock and Sting.

Bear with me! The clip takes a few seconds to load, and the picture is small. I didn’t want to buy the Pro version of Quicktime just for this one thing. I hope you like it.

http://www.cmdstudio.com/kwestweb.mov

September 23, 2008 Posted by | Entertainment, Jazz, Life, Live Music, Music, On the Job, Performance, Saxophone, Sister Moon, Video Clips, Work | 2 Comments

Forgive Us Our Trusspasses…

Kathy had to sing at a wedding this past weekend.

At the rehearsal Friday, the bride-to-be informed her that the woman who was to sing The Lord’s Prayer ghosted her, and she — right then — begged Kathy to sing it.

Having grown up COGIC, she said that they never “sang” the song, that they only recited it in prose form (Amelodically, if you will). She came home and told me this, and my heart went out to her. I HATE doing weddings! I have played a bunch of them, and have seen my share of calamitous mishaps.

Like the time I did a wedding with my best friend, Kevin, who sings

The building had three walls of brick and a fourth one of glass. Thirty feet high and probably a hundred feet long. Of course the wedding party would make use of that wonderful view of nature as a backdrop. They were all set up in front of the window.

Everything went smoothly right up until the preacher began doing the vows.

There were, on this late spring day, trees right outside full of birds chirping and singing. Something must have startled them.

In one synchronous move — you know how birds do — they all took flight. It was at a very quiet and solemn point in the service (maybe somebody was praying…).

At the very moment when they would have slammed into the window, all the birds veered right.

All but one.

Now, Kevin and I should have been deep in prayer, I’m sure, but we weren’t.

One near-sighted bird missed his turn and hit that window like an open hand —SPLAPPA! — and, just like a cartoon, slid down about twenty feet to the ground. It was very quiet in there.

My boy and I were THROUGH! He sniggled and tried to catch it but didn’t. I think some snot came out a little bit. I held my breath and started praying myself like somebody had sprinkled some anthrax in the room. People started looking at us. Glaring at us. “Silly musicians.”

In order to play it off, at times like these I always start fiddling with my mouthpiece, or my reed, or something to distract me from all the laughter that is dammed up inside my mouth. It was cool in there, but I was sweating and thinking that if I closed my eyes no one could see me.

There was another time where this arrogant lady singer who thought she knew it all and didn’t bother to show up for the wedding rehearsal, and she waved off any pre-ceremony run-through with the piano player. As a matter of fact, she said haughtily that she would be doing the tune a capello. When it all got going, she got lost, and with her hand at her side, waved for the piano player to start playing. He flipped through the wedding program, and acted like he didn’t even see her!
When she got through dropping that stinkbomb, you could have heard folks thinking up in there it was so quiet!

So, back to Kathy…

I had a gig and couldn’t be there as intended, but I couldn’t stand the thought of my girl up there laying eggs and getting laughed at. So we spent hours trying to get that melody ingrained in her head. I found some clips of people on YouTube singing it. Some were good, some were… not. But we found two that were good enough to give her the gist.

She sang it, and sang it, and sang it. And Max started to pick it up, too. Kathy kept running through it after I left for my Friday night gig, but by the time I got home at about 2 AM, she groggily told me that the melody just didn’t sink in. I sang it with her, and she did fine, but when left on her own, she was sort of all over the place.

I was feeling bad, but I told her that since I had prayed for her, she would do fine. The Lord didn’t want her to be up there messing up the song He wrote!

I had an idea! I would write the words on paper, and put lines above each syllable to indicate whether to go up or down, or to stay on the same note as the one before. Like such:

We tried that for a while, but as she doesn’t read music, and the lines above the words didn’t tell her what notes to sing, it didn’t work. And she was now falling asleep.

I had one final epiphany: I went into the living room and got my old micro-cassette recorder (which I still use to write horn lines), re-wound the tape to the beginning, and sang the song in a key in which I thought she would be comfortable. I went and woke her up and gave her my plan knowing she wouldn’t go for it. It was too risky.

The wedding started. Kathy was in the back left side of the room by the DJ table. When her turn to sing came, she took her ipod earphones, stuck one in her left ear under her hair, away from the crowd (She could do this because their backs were turned until she got going.), she ran the cord down the side of her dress somehow, and plugged it into the mini recorder which she held behind her back, looking all formal and stuff! She pushed play.

“Baby! We sang that song!!” she told me on the phone afterward.

“We? Who else sang it wit you?”

“YOU!! I said ‘we’! I hit that button, and we rocked it! You got a little ahead o’ me at one part, but I just waited till you paused, and I caught up wit ya!”

She was so happy. And so was I. I couldn’t let my baby fall.

Yeah, she cheated. WE cheated, but I can’t help but think that the Lord was leaning on the windowsill chuckling at His kids.

September 3, 2008 Posted by | Christian Life, Christianity, Embarrassing Situations, God, Humor, Life, Marriage, Music, Singing, The Lord's Prayer, Wedding Songs, Weddings, YouTube | , , , , | 6 Comments

Heart of Stone

While I’m on the subject of music, I thought I’d fill you in on that story I said I’d tell you a while back.

It is a sordid tale of trust, loyalty, disloyalty, apathy and disillusionment.

Shortly after 9/11, when the nation was in turmoil, I got a house-gig working with what would become the best band I’ve ever played in. I got the job like this: My bandleader at the time went on an extended crack binge, and seeing the “smoke signals,” I hurriedly got some business cards and went downtown to make my availability known! A week or so later, the Lord blessed me with a job at BB Kings club downtown. We would be the backing band for the headliners, Larry Springfield (of “Star Search” fame), Ruby Wilson (OMG! Wait’ll I get the chitlins to tell you about HER!), and the late, great, Little Jimmy King (gone too soon at 33!).

While I looked at it as just another gig, it turns out that there were guys in this group who had world class abilities. We consisted of the standard rhythm section plus trumpet and me on tenor sax.

The guitar player, Steve, had played with Howard Hewitt, Glenn Jones, Jeffery Osborn, Jill Scott, and saxophonist, Mike Phillips. The bass player, Anthony, was about 19 and had the chops of a guitar player. The drummer, Marles, was a beast. With much drama in his life! The trumpet player we ended up gettng, Marc, is the best trumpet player I have worked with, by far. And the bandleader, Jonathan, was in demand as a producer and has a voice that channels Donny Hathaway!

It is Jonathan, and headliner, Larry, through whom most of our opportunities for real industry work came. The management group for singer, Brian McKnight, on the advice of Larry, came to check us out in ’02 to see if we would be the group to hire to back their client, model and singer (in that order), Cherokee. We got the job. I started to think that I was really on my way after that!

We did one gig, in D.C., before her deal fell through. She was one of pretty much a horde of cute little pop singers with average — at best — voices. It was a crap shoot with loaded dice.

Jonathan was in negotiations to do a production deal with a well-known singer whom I hesitate to name not out of fear, but because I don’t want to cause Jonathan any problems since he — amazingly — still works with her at times. Besides, Kathy thought it wise that I not, as badly as I want to do it. Trust me, though, she is someone you have heard if you listen to any r&b music nowadays. It is she about whom I write. I’ll call her Patty.

Jonathan ended up signing with her. Our deal with the club was that we could do outside work of any kind as long as we either told the club in advance, or hired a substitute to play our position. That turned out to be not so true. BB’s is in Memphis, and Memphis is in the South. This factored in to a lot of the problems we had there.

So, JoNa, as we called him, would sub out quite a lot because in addition to being Patty’s producing partner (she was working on her second record), he was also hired to head up her live band, which was peopled with young guys who JoNa said were unpolished and unhip. He had been trying to get Patty to hire the band he worked with in Memphis, and she was apparently, reluctantly, warming to the idea seeing how bad JoNa was.

In the summer of ’03, I got a call from Jonathan: ” You ready?” he asked.

“Ready for what?”

“Patty got booked to do this cruise, and she just fired her band! We in!”

My heart was beating like those cops on Rodney King! This was IT! “Yeah, I’m ready!” all teeth.

So we did the cruise with one rehearsal with Patty, (still another story) and did so well that Patty assured us (I got it on tape) that she would do right by us. Meaning that since we did the two shows for about $500 — a pittance on that level — she would do better in the future and that we would be her band. Here it was! I was in the industry! Just like I pictured it! Skyscrapers, everythang!* Now, I would get my chance to network with people who would hear me and hire me for bigger and better stuff. I would be able to make real money and not have to remain at the club where I had to argue just to get a bill** a night while they cleared 80 grand a week! Be aware that when you go to these tourist spots that the bands — which drive the industry — get chicken change. BB’s would be Apple-B’s without live entertainment. Someone needs to show that to management!

In July of ’03, we got word that we were going to Detroit to headline a show at Ford Field, where the Lions play. Big show! We started rehearsing in Memphis five or six days a week. It was grueling and none of us liked it. We were being pushed hard. On top of that, Marc and I had to create horn parts for all of Patty’s music, which had none. We did this before, too, and since she had just released a new album (you can still say “album.” That is the forum, like a photo album. The CD is just the format. I’ve wanted to say that for a long time!), so we had to do it again for a whole record. Patty reserved the right to cut whatever we did, and this was a source of stress for Marc and me for obvious reasons. She never showed up for any of the whole month of rehearsals!

JoNa informed management that we would be gone Thursday, the 28th, and Friday, the 29th, and that we would be back to play on Saturday. We were cleared. 

I need to say this right here… Before we got the BB’s gig, the band that had the job — along with their frontman, blues singer, Preston Shannon — left for a higher paying job at the now defunct, Isaac Hayes’ Club one street over. They were rivals. Another good story there. They had by now been let go and were sniffing around back at our club for their job back. We had established a rocky relationship because we basically would not go for the “okey-doke.” Jonathan, a militant with a gift (and a love) for arguing, would let nothing get by. They HATED him! But we were so good! 

We had been fired and re-hired by now, and the new management (hint, hint) had cooled to us significantly. We had been working Monday through Saturday, but Preston got them to give him Monday nights. We were not happy about it, but we were all good friends. We were upset at the bosses, not the labor. So now down to five nights a week, we were all wondering when the next shoe would fall. There were new rumors every hour. They still operate that way to this day!

So, “Yeah,” JB, the club G.M., said, “We’ll get Preston to sub for you guys. No problem.” I heard him myself. 

Here it is.

We depart for Detroit and this gig, which by the way, pays about four hundred dollars less than it should. Patty has not done one rehearsal with us.

When we did the cruise, she barely spoke to any of us, as charming and Southern as we all were. We thought presumptuously that we would have her eating out of our collective hand. NOT! It was on that cruise that we learned pretty much all we needed to know about Patty.

The morning after the show, at about 8 AM, I got a call from Patty’s manager saying that they were waiting on us down on the lower deck to sign autographs. We had been up all night celebrating a great show, and I was in no mood to be getting up after only three or four hours of sleep. I got up.

When we all got downstairs, Patty’s manager gathered us all together and said frantically, “Thank y’all for coming down! Patty is having respiratory problems and she asked me to have you all sign autographs for her. There is a room full of people waiting for y’all!”

Now, right here, something started ringing in the back of my head.

When the manager, “Pinky,” walked hurriedly into the room, we all hung back and I said, “Man, wassup it that? Don’t nobody want our autographs! They came to see Patty! We ain’t got no T-shirts wit our faces on ’em! They don’t know us from a can of paint!” I really didn’t want to go in that room and look like a fool.

“I do hope Patty is gonna be all right, though,” I naively said.

Her background singer, Stephanie, gave me the Sister Mouth and shot, “Boy!! Ain’t nothin’ wrong wit that heffa!She just mad at TMC!”

Oh.

“TMC” (not his real name) was her boyfriend at the time. He went everywhere she did, and lived his living by meeting certain of her needs. He was an ex-con who was a “rapper,” and they were supposed to be in lovvvve. Gonna get married. They fought like two cats though. A cougar and a tomcat. She has operated by the same formula for years. Still does.

So, they got into it about one trivial thing or another, and it meant that the band had to get up before the dolphins and endure the angrily muttered discontent of Patty’s fans.

This was a precursor. I hope you’re still with me. It gets better. Or worse, depending…

In Detroit, we went from the airport directly to the venue for a short sound check. Rather than just check everything out and go check in to the hotel, we launched into a full fledged rehearsal! No one was happy! What she should have done for a month in Memphis, which was her agreement, she tried to do for three hours in the stadium. The sound guys were livid. Curt and short. No one blamed them.

One thing: When Patty’s people bought the tickets for the band, they took it upon themselves — knowing full well that we had a regular gig to get back to — to book our return tickets for Sunday! Meaning that we could get fired from BB’s for not showing up for work Saturday night, on thin ice as we were. When JoNa found this out, he called Patty’s management, and through a lot of back-and-forth, it wound up that the only solution was that each returning band member would have to pay $100 of his own cash to have the tickets changed. Apparently the only returning flights for such short notice were a lot higher, and an hour NORTH of Detroit in Flint!

So, this big star with all this money and clout, who promised to “do right by us,” couldn’t foot the bill for a huge mistake made by her own people? She would pass it down to guys who had to scrap a living $100 at a time.

After our sound check/rehearsal, we checked in to the hotel (where all the people coming to the gig were staying. Remember that!), and went to dinner at a fancy restaurant where I met mayor, Kwame Kilpatrick.

We needed a place to rehearse the next day, and they ended up finding a place way ‘cross town in the hood. We had to take about three cabs to get there. We spent our own money, which was to be reimbursed. “Was this how it was?” I asked myself. “On this level?” Shoot! I did a chitlin-circuit blues festival back in ’96 in Alaska with Little Jimmy King that paid twice as much ( I had to strong-arm him for my cash! He tried to pull a fast one on me. I got fired when I got back home…), and we were chauffeured everywhere! We didn’t have to hail no doggone cabs!

Patty wasn’t with us, though. She took her three background singers shopping with her while the band kicked off the rehearsal! We couldn’t believe it! The singerswere the ones who needed the dadgum practice! Besides, Marc and I needed to know what she thought of the lines we had written, and we needed the time to make the changes and commit them to memory. But she was busy shopping!

They rolled up, with TMC, about four hours later — now, this is the day of the gig — falling out of the car with bags of clothes crackling like Christmas morning.

The backing singers line up on the stage with their music stands to hold the lyrics (!) and we get going. Patty is looking mean and surly sitting up against a wall in the front of the room. She proceeds to change everything — the horn lines (she cut most of them), the vocal arrangements, the feel — everything.

The tension was thick like rush hour in Beijing. Everyone was on edge and snapping at each other. This was definitely not the way I envisioned the “Music Business.” No fun anywhere to be found.

After a couple of hours, we took a break. Marc, formerly of Preston’s band, either called or got a call from Tom, Preston’s sax player. They were engaged in casual conversation until it turned to the subject of BB’s.

It went something like this: “So, how’s it going at the club?” Marc asked.

“It’s cool, you know. Same ol’ stuff. You know how they are. I’m getting ready to head down there now. After tonight, one more night of it, then you guys can have it back!” Tom complained.

“Wait! Whaddaya mean, ‘one more night’?” Marc asked.

“Yeah. You know… Thursday, Friday, Saturday.”

“Naaaw. You guys aren’t doin’ tomorrow! WE are!” Marc exclaimed.

“All I’m sayin’ is what JB told us. You guys are out the rest of the week.” Calm as a fish pond.

“I’ll call ya back!” Marc hung up.

When he told us what had just happened, a sense of dread came over all the guys in the band.

Jonathan got on the phone immediately with JB. All of us were there, Patty too, sitting over there in the corner looking totally disinterested.

“JB! I specifically told you we would be out Thursday, and Friday, and that we would be BACK to play SATURDAY!!!”  “What?!?” ” No, I specifically TOLD YOU SATURDAY!” “WHAT?!?” “NAW! I don’t care!”  “WELL YOU GOT TA TELL PRESTON HIS BAND AIN’T WORKIN’!”  “WHAT KINDA BIZNESS Y’ALL RUNNIN’ DOWN THERE? IT’S ALWAYS SOMETHING! WE WORK EXTRA, AND THE MONEY AIN’T ON THE CHECKS, WE COME DOWN THERE, AND Y’ALL TELL US WE OFF… Y’ALL TREAT US LIKE SOME SLAVES!!”  “WE CHANGED OUR FLIGHT PLANS SPECIFICALLY SO WE COULD GET BACK TO PLAY SATURDAY!”  “WHAT?!?”  “I DON’T CARE!” “YOU DO WHAT YOU GOTTA DO, AND I’LL DO WHAT I GOTTA DO” ” WHAT?”  “I’LL CALL TOMMY (the club owner)  MY SELF!”

By now, I got heart meat all in the back of my mouth hearing this…

“Hello? Tommy? This is Jonathan.  I just got off the phone with JB. Yeah. He double-booked the club Saturday.”  “Well, yeah, we’re in Detroit now, but I specifically told him we would be there tomorrow! He fired us.”

(WHAT?!?!?!)

“Okay. If that’s the way you want it. We’ll never work there again!”

(WHAT?!? “WE?!?”)

He hung up. The room was like a wake. All we needed was the body.

“JB fired us. (US?!?) Tommy said JB was in charge. It was his call.” Jonathan revealed.

There it was. With Patty and everybody listening, this gig had gotten us fired. The club had us (or Jonathan, so they thought) where they wanted us. We wondered what role the other band had had in all of this. Jonathan — who was going to sub out at BB’s Saturday, by the way — had gone to bat for us in a big way, and we all were canned.

Immediately I went into rationalization mode: We were in the industry now. Who needs BB’s? Pee on ’em. (I was mad, forgive me.) We were the famous Miss Patty’s band now! BB’s was peanuts! They’d be watching us on tee vee!

With great effort, we resumed rehearsal under this pall. We returned to the hotel with only a couple of hours till showtime.

While we were getting dressed, my roommate, Steve (Nope. She wouldn’t even spring for individual rooms! I bet David Sanborn never had to share a room with Steve Gadd!) got a call. After he hung up the phone…

“We ain’t playin’, mane.” He said with a chuckle and a tone of “I told you.”

“What!”

“The gig is off, dude. We ain’t playin.” He was laughing now. First fired, now this. “Patty called the show off. We done.”

Okay, give me a little leeway here. One of the three background singers, Michelle, is amply endowed in the posterior region. She is huge in the backside. She is enormous in the trunkular area. Biggest tailfeather I’ve ever seen shake! And the funny thing is, it is exactly properly proportioned! I mean, if you boiled her down evenly, by the time she got down to a size two or four, she would be Halle Berry, or some perfectly-shaped starlet. But there would be a LOT of grease on the floor!

But she is about a 70” in the hips. No lie. The thing is… a lot of Brothers like that kind of thing. You would be surprised. Most Black guys are “butt men.” But Michelle got stuck in the Butt Line in front of Angelina Jolie and Miss Jane Hathaway and the last fifty years of Miss Americas.

Here’s what happened: In what appears to have been an attempt to start some trouble, one of the other singers told Patty, “TMC shole is lookin’ at Michelle booty!” You couldn’t NOT see it! You could see it from the front if you were facing the other way with your eyes closed!

(Don’t worry. Kathy knows all of this, and is not upset.)

That was all that was needed.

An argument apparently ensued between Patty and TMC (he was innocent it turns out.), and Patty’s famous “respiratory problems” showed up.

“Naw,” I told myself. “This woman ain’t gonna cancel a show ’cause she got into it with her boyfriend! She ain’t gonna just sit in her room while all these thousands of people who came from all over the country on planes and buses go to the stadium and wait on her to show up! She ain’t that selfish.”

So we got dressed and went down to the lobby to wait to be driven to the venue. As we were waiting with our instruments, people began streaming out of the hotel on their way to the place. “I know y’all gonna kill it!” they all said as they passed and saw our faces. And recognized us for later.

And we sat. And sat. And Patty never showed.

About thirty minutes after we were supposed to be playing, and earning the money for our month of hard work, and justifying getting fired, Pinky came down, looking all troubled, “Patty is having trouble breathing. She won’t be able to perform.” Just like that.

We ambled back to our rooms and pondered our fates. I had just gotten married, and now I was out of one job, and unsure about another. And how were we going to make it out of this hotel with everyone seeing our faces and knowing we stood them up?!? I could only pray that God would sustain me like He had done for the fifteen years before I had even met “Patty”.

Guess what? About an hour later, some of us were at the front desk in our civvies trying to decide where to eat when Pinky popped up, “Good! Here you are! Go get dressed! They want you to perform anyway! Hurry up! Stephanie is gonna do Patty’s set!”

So, with much fear and reluctance, we went to the stadium without Patty, who sulked in her room and let us take this beating for her, and proceeded to lay he biggest, stinkinest egg ever laid in the history of Show Bidness.

Those people, out of at least HUNDREDS, if not thousands of dollars, formally dressed, saw us up there sans Patty and hit the exits like it was the second quarter at a Lions’ game! Within twenty minutes we were playing for the wait staff as they cleared the tables of dishes that had not been used! If they had dropped US on Hiroshima, we probably would have blown up all of Asia!

The next day, on the way back home to nothing, Patty, with the Stones of a safe cracker, peeked onto the bus and said, “Sorry. These things happen.” And left.

“These things happen?” I said. “Yeah. They happen when you MAKE ’em happen!”

Patty sat there and watched us lose our jobs at home, and AFTER that, cancelled a show she could have done, and let us take the heat for it. Because she was mad at her boyfriend.You can understand why I want to say her name. I have seen her make a spectacle of herself on tee vee and recognized her abhorrent behavior.

That was the Injury. The Insult is that we didn’t get paid!!! Some guys eventually got half. Jonathan wound up — I know — giving me mine out of his pocket.

That was the last time Marc and I “played” with Patty.

That is another story.

 

 

 

 

 

* “Living for the City” Stevie Wonder

** $100

August 24, 2008 Posted by | Celebrities, Divas, Embarrassing Situations, Entertainment, Humor, Music, Music Business, Show Business, Singers, Stories, Work | , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

This’ll Be Funny in a Few Years

I’ve been quite busy since Diana got here. (When she starts doing stuff, I’ll be writing about it. She’s just lying there being cute right now.) I haven’t had the freedom to write a frequently as before.

I want to tell you about what has been going on musically lately. Aside from the fact that I have NO movement on my record and starting my band.

I’ve been playing in a band called KW’EST, headed by bassist, Charles Johnson, which plays jazz (fusion) with a Christian focus. This is a different group than the one I gripe about.

We played a gig this past Sunday night that we do at the same place on the third Sunday of every month. The last date was interesting because of everything that went on surrounding it.

When Diana was born, I pretty much did all the nighttime stuff (and much of the daytime stuff, too) because Kathy was recovering from a c-section. Being a night owl made it a little bit easier until the weekends came and I had to work. Most of my work starts on Fridays, but occasionally there is work during the week, too. Plus, there are always some rehearsals and sessions that come up… Sunday mornings were especially rough because I play in the band there, and we have to be there at 8 AM and play both services. We are usually through at about 12:30. I got NO sleep on Saturday nights (not one minute!) because Diana required a lot through the night. She was not happy with being out of the womb! And the foreclosure crisis and astronomical gas prices had her so upset that she could not sleep.

I dealt with this arrangement knowing it would be only a few months before she began to sleep through the night. So on Sundays, I would usually get three or four hours when we all went to my parents’ house for dinner.

When Kathy was set to return to work, however, her shift was changed (this is one of the many dastardly aspects to her job!) yet again. Now, she has to get up at 4:45 AM(!), and so she has to go to bed soon after we really get rolling with family stuff at the house. Our agreement with taking care of Max was that she would do the nighttime stuff, and I would do all the daytime stuff.

Being a person who has always — since childhood — stayed up past two or three in the morning, I had to try to adjust. I have failed. I routinely stay up till past 4 AM against my own will. Obviously, though, my work schedule makes it logical that I watch Max during the day.

“What does this all have to do with music?” you ask. Bear with me.

I quietly made the decision that I would put Max to bed when the time came (he sleeps later than the norm so that I can.), and that I would care for Diana too so that Kathy could get some sleep. She routinely gets about four or five hours.

So, that being the case, I get two or three hours a night on average.

About four months ago, Kw’est booked a recurring gig, and I received three or four cd’s full of music, 95% of which I had to lead. Max won’t let me practice. He tries to climb into my lap every time I pull my horn out, and he pushes and pulls on the keys (and scrunches me in the scrotum, dads) to the point that I can’t get anything done. So when can I learn this catalog of tunes that I have never heard before?

So, to the present. Last weekend ( August 15-16) my family had a reunion in Nashville three hours away.

When my folks — and wife — asked me about going, I said that I would go if I didn’t have a gig. I don’t miss work. I got that from my parents. The band, A-440, in which I regularly (seldomly, lately) play usually has a lot of weddings and private functions this time of the year, and I wanted to be sure that I wouldn’t miss one.

As time passed, though, I thought about all the family functions I had missed over the years, and how many of my beloved relatives I had not seen in so many years, and I decided that we would go. I wanted them all to meet my kids, too. I would just have to miss whatever gig came up. So I thought…

Actually, what happened was that three weeks ago someone called me about doing a job, and I said, “I don’t know. I heard we are workin’ that night. Let me call you back in an hour to see if we are.”

I found out that I couldn’t reach the boss because he was on vacation with his family.

When Kathy heard THAT, she flew off the tracks while she was chopping onions; “Awww, so HE gits to go on a vacation with HIS family while his band is sittin’ at the house, huh?!? Y’all ain’t hardly worked all summer, and he’s been constantly workin’ wit everybody! (that was true) You sittin’ around here talkin’ about you not gonna go see your family that you ain’t seen in years, and you gittin’ ready to turn down some work bein’ laid in yo’ lap cause you got integrity! ‘Cause you tryin’ to keep yo’ word!”

“Well, I jus…”

“You betta call him back and tell him you’ll do that gig!!” And that was that on that!

My bandleader is what we black folk call, “triflin’ ” when it comes to handling the business. A-440, I mean. We would routinely not find out about a gig until the day before. And that was if WE called to inquire! Not to mention allll the other stuff that frustrates the “goodness” out of me.

So I decided then to go to Nashville on Friday and return Sunday, the 17th, to make church. I knew I would be tired, but by now, I was used to it. I could get a couple of hours Sunday afternoon before my Sunday night gig with Kw’est. Or so I thought…

Thursday, Kathy and I realized that due to some “financial mishaps” we were waaay short on some bills that were due to be removed from our account on Friday, the 15th.

“I can’t go to the reunion, ” I told Kathy. She refused to go without me. Okay, so now, we aren’t going. I would not get to see cousins I played with as a child. I would not get to see the uncles and aunts who love me so much and whom I love so much in return. This was my knee jerk reaction. After a couple of minutes of thinking, I called the bandleader. Now, by this time I had already told him that I would not be able to do the Saturday night date.

“Hey, John, this is Derrick. You find anybody to sub for me Saturday yet?” I asked.

“Naw. I got some possibilities, but they ain’t called me back yet.”

“Well, call ’em back. I can’t afford to miss Saturday, so I ain’t goin’ to the reunion.” Now, here, I expected a sympathetic reaction something like, “You ain’t goin?!? Aw, man, I hate to hear that. Thass my bad! I know we ain’t been workin’ that much, but I’m gonna do better…”

What I got was: “Aw. Thass cool! I had called Alan, but he didn’t answer the phone. I’ll call him back and tell him ‘thass okay’.” No regret at all in his voice.

“What time does it start,” I asked.

“8:30 at the Germantown Country Club.”

“Cool. I’ll see you then.” I hung up.

When I told Kathy how the conversation went, she made the “Sister Mouth” and said, “Um” skeptically in the back of her throat and left it at that. (Ask your black friend.)

Upon further thought, and council with the Holy Spirit, I decided we would go to the reunion and just leave at about 4:30 in the afternoon. Which was right when everything was getting going good, it turns out.

I made arrangements to get some money till the weekend was over.

So, I was up all night Thursday night to make sure Diana got fed at about four, which I do every night, and Kathy went to work Friday morning. I got about two or three hours of sleep before Max woke up, and when Kathy got home, we packed and left.

I drove through the rain (I got sleepy about thirty minutes in), and we arrived at about ten. We fellowshipped with family, checked into the hotel, and I got to sleep sometime after 1 AM. I thought I would finally get eight hours of sleep. I thought…

Diana, used to that 4 or so AM feeding woke up angrily at five griping about all the negative campaign ads airing on TV. She, being so dependent on outside help, is a Democrat right now.

So after getting four hours of sleep, I wasn’t able to fall back.

I felt like I was going to have a breakdown. We went to the picnic, and as I said, right when everyone was getting settled in for a day (and night) of fun, I packed up my dejected wife and crying son and drove the three hours back to Memphis to do a gig at a place I hate with a band I don’t enjoy for some money which I shouldn’t need but do.

The gig was over at 12:30 Sunday morning, and I had to go buy diapers afterward because both kids were out of them. I got home at about 1:30, and had to at least listen to the material for church Sunday morning and the gig Sunday night, practically every song of which I had to lead. When did I have time to learn these songs? When did I get to sleep? Well, at least I would get a couple of hours after church, right?

On the way home, I got a text message from Charles, the Kw’est bandleader, stating that since the band wasn’t able to rehearse Saturday (I was excused from that one), we would have to rehearse at 2 o’clock Sunday afternoon! No excuses.

Okay. At least I would be able to come back home and get something to eat and maybe lie down for an hour. So I thought.

The saxophone is the quietest instrument in the band, relying on the vibration of a three inch reed to produce the sound. Everything else is amplified electrically except the drums, which are loud enough by themselves. So, in order to be heard in a group setting, I need a microphone!

When we got to the rehearsal, which was at the venue at which we were playing, there was no sound man, so while everyone else had their own amps, I had to resort to simply blowing harder in order to be heard. The drummer asked me to turn and face him because he still couldn’t hear me.

One keyboard player — we have two in the band — neglected to show up till over two hours later. (When I called him at 3:40 to see whee he was, he was at home asleep!) Two problems; HE was the one who needed the most work, AND the rehearsal was supposed to only last for two freekin’ hours!!! Rehearsing during soundcheck is a professional no-no.

We ended up having to run over everything we had already done when he got there, and it ended up being a four hour rehearsal for a three hour gig!

And I didn’t get to go back home. No food. No sleep. And I haven’t slept for almost five months. And I have already played two church services, and a four hour rehearsal with no microphone. My mouth is SHOT! (imagine squatting for four straight ours…) And I have to be up front entertaining people, playing unfamiliar material confidently and alertly. But “The show must go on.” No excuses.

Oh, yeah, and the person after whom I have patterned my entire professional life is going to be there. And my tank is empty. Here is my chance to have Kirk see me in the environment I claim to be born for, and I have been sapped of all my mental and physical strength. And HE is the one I remember saying that to get that big shot is to be prepared at all times. I wasn’t hoping that he would sign me or anything like that. I just wanted him to know that I was ready. And I wasn’t. And no excuse was sufficient. People spent their money on a product, and they don’t want to hear, “Oh, the food isn’t as good because the cook is sick.”

I couldn’t even remember the horn line to, “What You Won’t Do For Love,” which I’ve been playing for fifteen years! My brain was fried. I felt that I had let myself and the band and the audience down. And the sound man was taping the show! I kept thinking that I surely didn’t want to hear that monstrosity.

Kirk (Whalum) sat in with us and played the paint off the walls! He was great. My parents, sisters, and church members were there in force, and they loved everything. I remember praying to God during one song that He get me through this night because I couldn’t hold myself up. I think He carried me.

The one thing about playing music is that when the audience is caught up in the moment, they can sometimes see the colors but can miss the lines that separate them. Ask Simon Cowell. Listening to a recording can often tell a different story.

The sound man forgot to tape the show! Look at God!

There is no overarching moral here. I just wanted to write about my weekend. But I DO know that God lets adversity occur in order to tone up the muscles. And I don’t mind that. I’m getting pretty strong in my soul bone lately!

August 21, 2008 Posted by | Children, Christian Life, Christianity, God, Humor, Life, Music, Parenthood, Playing Music, Work, Writing | 6 Comments

Death Wears Three Shoes. Two Have Fallen…

“Hey, Derrick, we got a possible session comin’ up, and it’s BIG. I don’t wanna say anything yet, ’cause I might jinx it,” my trumpet player friend, Marc Franklin, told me a couple of months ago.

I didn’t press the issue because I’ve had a number of false alarms in the past.

It turns out that it IS happening. Tomorrow, August 11, we are (were) scheduled to play behind Anthony Hamilton and other notables on the soundtrack of the upcoming movie, “Soul Men” directed by Malcolm D. Lee, Spike’s cousin,  starring Samuel L. Jackson, the late Bernie Mac, and the — Lord, help us — late Isaac Hayes! I didn’t even have a chance to be happy about the whole thing because Marc had played everything so close to his vest that I didn’t even know that I was to be part of the music to the movie. I was fired up about the chance to shoot my shot with r&b artist Hamilton.

It hurt to hear about Bernie Mac simply because he was so genuine and funny. I always loved that dude. I didn’t even know I was working on his LAST FILM!

And then today, as I was at my folks’ house trying to get my usual Sunday afternoon nap (since I don’t ever go to sleep on Saturday nights anymore), I heard Kathy screaming from the distance and getting ever closer to where I was. “Isaac Hayes just died!” I sat up.

“WHAT?!?”

“They killin’ all the black people!!” she lamented. “First Bernie, now this! I can’t take it! Who next?!?” She was pretty upset.

You know they always say these things come in threes.

So, needless to say, tomorrow’s session is cancelled. See, Isaac is in the movie, too (unbeknownst to me), and the guys who played on the “Shaft” score with him, Skip Pitts (wa wa guitar) and Willie Hall (all those drums), are in the group that I often play with, and they are doing this project. They were at the studio when they got the news, and it was, I’m told, not pretty.

Isaac is the icon of Memphis music. He was one of the pioneers who got out and did it BIG. I can say with honor that I have played with him a few times and have spoken with him. Cool dude! Truck Turner in the flesh!  And, as I found out, he was a real musician who knew the music.

I was playing in the horn section at a NARAS (National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences) event a couple of years ago (nearly eerily where I met Morgan Freeman). We were honoring hometown Stax Records and Memphis musicians, among them William Bell, Justin Timberlake (when he was still with Cameron Diaz), and Isaac Hayes.

At a rehearsal, he came in to check out the band. We were working on a song of his, and one of the charts had some funny voicings for the horns. Isaac came over with a smile and asked us to play what was on the paper. I was like, “Man! Isaac Hayes is right in front of me listening to me play! Don’t mess up!”

We got into it, and I thought I was killin’ it when he stopped us…

“Play that again. Just the horns,” he baritoned. (“Wow! Sounds jus’ like hisself! I kin dig it!”)

We played the section again, and he looked at me and stopped us again. “Gimme your chart.” Cool as butter.

“See this ‘B’ right here? Play a ‘B’ flat. ” He basically re-voiced the whole chord. But I thought, “Naw. That ain’t right. He must have mis-read it. This is like major, and that note ain’t even in the key. It’s gonna clash, and everbody is gonna think it was me. He IS kinda old. I’m ‘on play a ‘B’ natural.”

So we played it again. See, I’m trying to impress Isaac Hayes with my abilities.

“Stop. Did you play that ‘B’ flat like I told you?”

My black face turned red. On the inside. “Aw. My bad. I musta missed it.”

He was still smiling at me.

So we hit it again, and I played the ‘B’ flat. Man, that chord rang out as pretty and altered as some Miles or some Monk or something!!

I looked up at Isaac and he had a grin on his face wider than an Atlanta expressway! I couldn’t do anything but laugh! We spoke no words, but here is what we said:

“Isaac! Maaaannn, you know yo’ stuff!”

“Yeahhh, young buck, they ain’t just invent music five years ago. I’m thru wit’ stuff you ain’t even heard of yet!”

“I’m impressed! My daddy got your records, but that whuppin’ you just gave me raises you waaay up in my book! I ain’ gone never forget this lesson! (I break verbs an assault adjectives and murder modifiers in my thoughts.)”

“You keep on playin’. You gone be all right. Just listen to the old heads.”

All that with a glance and two smiles. Isaac Hayes is — was — thorough! And now, he’s in the hands of the Lord.

Death hurts. The living as well as the departed, maybe the living hurt more. It is cool to have a few memories, but the pain of all this is a memory, too, and they kind of all go together. Otherwise, it would be like watching the first thirty minutes of a movie and leaving before the end.

I never got the chance to even wonder what it would be like to talk to Bernie Mac at the premiere. And the fact that I have interacted with Hayes makes his passing even more poignant.

It’s just not right to be speaking of these men in the past tense.

August 11, 2008 Posted by | Bernie Mac, Celebrity, Current Events, Death, Hollywood, Isaac Hayes, Life, Movies, Music, News, Show Business, Soul Men, Work | 5 Comments

“What about if…if ya FAMOUS???”

…Uttered that well-known bigamist songster, Dewey Cox, in “Walk Hard.”

Those words must have been also said by R. Kelly upon being charged with videotaping sex acts with a minor child. We are a culture which deifies our celebrities.

“You can’t pee on a fourteen-year-old child, Mr. Kelly.”

“You can’t have sex with young girls, Mr. Kelly.”

“You can’t marry them either.”

“What about if… if ya famous? What if you write songs that make people think they can fly? What if we did it for love, with a Chicago two-step groove? What if… if you write bumpin’ tracks that make booties shake? Ain’t nuthin’ wrong wit a little bump and grind! Even if the grindee is fifteen. Age ain’t nothin but a number. They be feelin’ me in tha hood, feel me? I re-invented Ronnie Isley, n’umsayin’?! I created the twelve part song/video! I got a movie deal for the idea now.

“Ain’t nobody gone convict me! I’m gifted! My lawyers will delay this thang so long that all the witnesses will be in the AARP by the time we go to trial! And those who do talk won’t have nothing to say. A little Velveeta goes a long way! Besides, that wasn’t me! I don’t care if the cops came in and caught me in mid-stream… Deny deny deny! Nope! Wuddn’ me! That was my brother or somebody… I got a mole. He don’t. He ball headed, I got a afro. You can’t grow moles and afros in eight years. What? My history of having ‘relations’ wit all them other minors is immaterial! (Learned that one from my counselors) The wheels of Justice turn slow enough for me to get out the way first, playa.

“I’m famous. We get off. On tape and on trial. Where my parade at?”

I guess it’s NOT illegal, then. I tell you what… Bett’ not be MY daughter!

June 14, 2008 Posted by | Celebrity, Culture, Current Events, Entertainment, Music, R. Kelly, Show Business | 2 Comments

Niagra Without that First “A”

I was a nigra Saturday night. A good ol’ fashioned, 1932 model, down home, Jim Crow, Miss’sippi nigra. If that offends you, imagine how it offended ME to not just READ it, but to LIVE it.

I play a lot of wedding receptions in the “Band I Don’t Want to Be In.” I hate playing them. The music is cheesy, the clothes are uncomfortable, the stigma itches, and we usually are treated coldly.

Most of the functions we do are white (as a way of denotation…) because for some unknown reason, black folk usually don’t have enough money, generally speaking, to pay a fair wage. We are ALWAYS hired by white folk.

The bandleader books most of our gigs through an agency. There is, on their website, a long list (photos included) of acts available to do any type of function requiring entertainment. Prospective clients can choose who they want.

The gig in question was at a country club. Yes, I hate playing at country clubs, too. The pictures on the walls NEVER have any black faces, as all of the members over decades have always been white. (A young debutante named Cybil Shepard was in one of them) It makes one of my particular hue wonder why we are viewed as we are… The wait staff is ALWAYS all black. Always. Not good enough to join, but good enough to cook and clean. Still. Thank God that God values service over status! I know we’ll fit in in Heaven.

Here’s where the rub is: As soon as we began to play, the bandleader stopped us, “Hey, hey, hey, y’all! When we git through playing, don’t nobody go eat none of the weddin’ food! We been told they got a room for us around in the back, an’ they gone bring us some samwitches to eat. So when we git through playin’, less jus gone to the back.” It may not have been as Stepin Fetchit as that, but it was real close!

I have played hundreds of these things over the years, and when this happens, it is clear what is going on! It is usually offensive enough to me that we are totally ignored until we play some “Motown” or the dreaded “Mustang-doggone-Sally”! (Who made that song the Beethoven’s Fifth of this era!?!?) We don’t even exist. But even then, most folk have had the decency, the courtesy, to let the band partake of the buffet! It is almost understood.

I must tell you that in my younger days, I was what would be — and was — considered militant. Militant not in a racist sense, but in the sense that I didn’t overlook acts of injustice, racial or otherwise. I never disliked white people, but I disliked CERTAIN white people! I was always Christian.

I would be the victim of some mistreatment or another and would try to rally friends to rail out with me and I would only get the chirping of crickets… and a cough from somewhere in the back of the room.

So, now I was hot. I was already frustrated at having to be here, but now I was in Medgar Evers mode. (Keeping in mind that I was to work as though for the Lord, and that this was somebody’s wedding day)

“So they want us to play music for them,” I thought, “They want us to display our natural gifts of rhtyhm and daincin’, but we can’t eat their food, or even remain in their regal presences once we finish?!” I was sure it would have been better for them had we simply vanished through the bottom of the floor rather than walk through the crowd to our quarters!

I’ve done gigs with this band where we were told to eat in the kitchen! (You better believe I didn’t eat in nobody’s doggone kitchen!) And I have done country club gigs where Amos and Andy tapes were stacked on a tv on the stage behind the curtain. This stuff is more the norm than most would care to admit.

So I walked, fuming, past a wasteful embarrassment of victualage to a room around in the back of the building to water, cokes, and– fifteen minutes into our break– cold-cut sammitches a pickle spear, and some random ruffles in styrophoam containers.

That was the black eye. This was the dirty word: After all that, after all the specific warnings not to mingle or eat, while we were performing the second set, a waitress was sent to the stage to tell the band, “to be sure not to eat any of the cake” when they cut it!!

Didn’t we already know this? Weren’t we capable of taking a hint in the form of a brick to the head? Did we not see the disdain with which we were held? The upturned noses? The downturned mouths? Why did they even hire us? Why not hire some white guys to do all these black songs and not have to worry about us ogling the young girls? “Don’t eat the cake!” I knew where I wanted them to put the cake. Prob’ly wouldn’ta fit though… But I only thought it. This Christian bit in my mouth…

Here is what made it worse for me: I am no stranger to this kind of treatment. But there were at least two members of my church in attendance. The church I rave about. This is no indictment of the church or the people. I know that any human organization will have to get the oil changed or the head gaskets replaced from time to time.

I met one member who was very nice. I didn’t even recognize him since we are growing. He thanked me, and complimented the band.

But there was another guy whom I knew by name. I see him and his wife at church all the time. He works with the the kids sometimes and is crazy about Max. When he passed in front of the stage, I thought, “Hey, I know him!” and tried to make eye contact. He “didn’t see me.” And he kept right on not seeing me the rest of the night. Even though — aside from the newlyweds– we were the focal point of the whole deal. I am the tallest guy in the band, maybe in the room, but he didn’t notice me. Or seemed not to… I just wanted to wave.

Now as the night played out, I thought: this is the world he REALLY lives in. Not the one where races are forced to live out the Gospel. Not the one where issues are lain on the table, splayed open for autopsy.

In this world, the only faces that matter are the paler ones, unless tanned to brownness from a trip to Cabo or Greece. He would probably not have recognized the waiter serving him who manicured his grass either. In this world we don’t exist unless we are on the news or approaching down a dark street or booming bass in the adjacent Crown Vic at the red light.

Maybe now I know how God feels… to not be there until and unless there is a problem…

Whether my church member ignored me or not, the problem was that he was, by appearances, friends with these people. Or a business associate. But he was in lockstep with the behavior that had us in the band — including my friend Marc who is white– feeling so less-than. This may sound unfair, but it seems that lately people are being held accountable for their associations, so… 

So here is where my activism kicked in. On the second set, we played “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg,” and during my solo, I shoved my horn way up into the mic and played boldly, “Weee Shaaall Overco-o-ome”! Dadgummit! On somebody’s wedding day. Guys in the band were howling! “He crazy, man!” The bandleader wasn’t laughing, though… Only a tight nervous slash of a grin/grimace. Even if I swing and only hit air, at least I swung.

On the second break, I noticed that the guys were huddled together outside, and when I approached them to see what “revolution they were cookin’ up,” I found that they were only telling a dirty joke about… well… a dirty joke.

Once again in the face of injustice, we were content to just let it slide. Once again when presented with the opportunity to strike a blow against racism, we found stuff to laugh about instead.

That, I think, is what has lead to the mistaken assumption that black folk aren’t hurt by things like being slaves or being poor and uneducated. “They are so resilient,” they say, letting themselves off the hook, “Look. After a whole day of whippins and work, they jus’ huddle under the sycamo tree an’ sing Spirituals. See, they’re po as dirt, but they still tell jokes and jus’ laffff! They don’t care what you do to ’em, they jus’ shake it off! Our nigras are happy.”

Maybe I should just let it go, too. But I rock these kinds of boats.

 I told them that I had to do something. So when we went back for the third set, we were told by the coordinator to announce the departure of the bride and groom. As they were leaving, I got on the mic and said, “Save me some cake! Is it okay to git some chicken fangers now? Can I have a couple of wings?” No reply. A small gesture to be sure, but they heard me, and they were exposed. I know it was a little bit unprofessional, but I had to let it be known, as I always say. It was kind of like dealing with a roomful of hecklers. Sometimes real life gets in the way of the minstrelry.

The bandleader was not happy that I did that, but the guys were.

As was said by Marc, the bandleader could have put a stop to that kind of thing a long time ago. All he had to do was tell the booking agents that if those kinds of requests were made, book another band. I don’t need your money. I don’t need the kind of money that comes with cork smeared all over it.

Yeah, I was a nigra Saturday night. According to them. I can live with what they think. But can they live with their secret shame knowing God, and now we, know?

 

May 19, 2008 Posted by | Arrogance, Christ, Christian Life, Christianity, Music, Race, Racial Reconciliation, Racism, Weddings, Work | 8 Comments

…Just another office job.

Some of you may know that I play at BB King’s club here in Memphis on Monday nights. I used to be in the house band, and I will soon tell you how I came to not be. Playing in clubs is a treacherous endeavor. Here is one example of why:

The current house band has been on staff since we, Ty Brown, were replaced back in September of ’03. They back up the highly paid headliners and are required to know all the headliners’ material, as well as perform the last set during the week alone. They are an excellent group of players who tour with nationally-known acts on a regular basis. They have done great work for the four-plus years there, having to be proficient in various music styles such as blues (of course), pop, R&B, jazz, country, reggae, and soul. The guys would rehearse early in the mornings despite getting off late at night.

The year for a working local musician goes like this, generally; busy in the spring and summer, not so busy in the early fall, booked solid during the Christmas season, and hibernating in January and February!

At BB’s in Memphis, the year is about the same, except that Memphis in May is a BOOMING time for them. Beale Street is the main tourist attraction in Memphis — Elvis notwithstanding — and BB King’s club is the premier spot on the street.

I’m no business expert, but I know that a club like that establishes its budget around the busy season and lives off the fat in the slow time. I’ve been told that that is how they do it. Landscapers operate the same way. It is (usually) understood that musicians in a house band are employees just like the rest of the staff, and as such, have a set salary. The pay doesn’t fluctuate like gas prices or my blood pressure. It has never been my experience that this has been the case. Until now.

A new general manager was hired last year, and when she came in, she met with the leaders of the bands who played there and assured them that, unlike the past regimes, she understood the musicians and would work on their behalf to make the environment fair, respectful, and enjoyable for all of us. People have been getting fired left and right since then. (see the film, “I Come in Peace.”)

Last week brought the coupe de grass. She informed the band that due to the fact that the club was doing less business after Christmas, their pay during the week would be cut by twenty-five percent, and that if they didn’t like it, they could walk and that another band could be brought in at less than what she was offering them! Point blank. Cold blooded! Happy New Year! (Our band had its pay cut as well, but our bandleader took the hit and pays us the same as before, which is decidedly less than what we would normally make elsewhere.)

Now, these guys had done nothing to warrant this pay cut, and they should have quit. The hard fact is that the GM was telling the truth. She could bring in some hacks to play five hours for fifty dollars a man or less(!) and the average tourist would not know the difference because they would have no other point of reference and would be so caught up in the whole “Beale Street Experience” that they wouldn’t notice the poor musical quality. Musicians around here don’t stick together, and the union is feckless. There is some bad music on that street sometimes.

I was told that she said that the pay would go back up in the summer, but who’s to say? If they went for this — taking less money and liking it — they will go for anything. If the GM has shown no conscience or loyalty to the band up to this point, why would she be expected to when times “get good” again? All she is concerned with is the bottom line. It is the classic corporate model. Quality suffers while the bosses get richer. Look at all the plastic they put on cars now… But they are ten times more costly to own.

I’ll bet the managers didn’t take a pay cut!

This club can probably go the whole year from what they make from May until Labor Day. I was told by a lower-level manager once when I was in the house band that on a particular Saturday night while we were playing, the club was so packed, the band was so good, that they made 10,000 dollars on food and alcohol in one hour!!

It is funny: The musicians are the reason why these clubs even exist. The musicians are the ones who take thoughts and make them into art. Yet when there is “fat” to be trimmed, the musicians always get cut. Beale Street, BB Kings Club, would be just a restaurant were it not for the live music, and good musicians. But we always get the snotty end of the stick at these times.

I, personally, would have told the GM to go ahead and get some hacks to take the stage. My abilities don’t depend on HER, they depend on those who care to enjoy the ART of good musicianship. Another gig can be found without being insulted in this way. See how long the club would remain the premier spot with some crusty old dude in a orange suit sittin’ on a bucket playing an out-of-tune guitar with four strings on it. If jazz has only a niche audience, in all its elegance, think how small an audience there would be for gutbucket blues 24/7. 

The Bible says that for a time the injustices of man seem to go unpunished. The wicked seem to prosper. This may be one of those times, and I must fight to accept it. But I’m not wired like that! I had to at least say something! I can’t stand unfairness. Before you say it, No, BB isn’t involved with the running of these clubs that bear his name.

And here I thought I was out of the thorny corporate loop…

January 15, 2008 Posted by | Christian Life, Employment, Life, Life Lessons, Music, On the Job, Rant, Work | Leave a comment

MY New Year’s Eve

 Tonight (Monday, new year’s eve) I am playing a party. I’d BETTER be! This is the biggest gig night of the year for a musician. My gig will pay me almost six times my normal amount. It is about a forty minute drive from home at a casino in Tunica, Mississippi.

I found out by text message at about 1 AM last night that the 5 o’clock sound check is mandatory. Now, normally, sound checks don’t involve me because I am just the sax player/background singer and I don’t have to set up any amps or pedals or anything. Usually the boss will tell me to just get there about thirty minutes ahead of time to check my mics and everything. I assumed that today would be no different.

I was wrong.

My wife hates her job. One of the reasons is that, for example, today she has to work. (She works every Christmas Eve, too.) She gets off at five. I watch Max during the day, and she takes over when she gets home. See where I’m going?

I text messaged the bandleader, who has always been reasonable about stuff like this — even on big gigs, to ask what I was supposed to do about sound check since I had Max and that Kathy didn’t get off till five.

Oh, yeah, I forgot to mention that our other car has not been roadworthy enough for extended trips since this old lady ran me off the road and into a curb, and now whenever I have to drive more than a couple of miles, I start to smell tire rubber burning…

What am I supposed to do? I wrote.

In less than a minute his reply was, That’s not my problem.

Not his problem. Motherfather! (sorry. I don’t curse but sometimes substitutes creep into my mind… Pray for me)

So, as far as he knew, my wife would have to leave work early, or I would have to bring the baby with me to sit around and wait for two hours just for me to say, “Check, one two, one two” and come back home and get ready for a gig that won’t start till about 9:30!

Let me inform you here that for the type of gigs I usually do, sound check is a COLOSSAL waste of time. We all knew that if the time was set for five PM, they would not even start running cables until the entire rhythm section was set up. Why did I have to be there at 5? I HATE with a passion having my time manipulated and wasted!

That is EXACTLY what happened.

Heck, the boss — whose problem it was not —  didn’t even get there until 5:20! When I got there at 4:50 or so, the drummer was the only one there!

Okay, lately, I’ve been mulling and praying over the idea of starting my own band. I have a lonnnng list of grievances with my bandleader, the latest of which is the fact that I went the entire Christmas season without playing ONE Christmas party! This is usually the season to be jolly, pocket-wise! Meanwhile, he has been playing with other bands (he is the bass player in the band), renting out his audio gear, and is going to Singapore next week with a blues singer.

I’m not jealous at all. The thing is that we, his band, have been either sitting at the house, or scraping to find work while all the other bands are booked up. Part of the reason why he gets so much more than I do is because it is his job to deal with the agents and the clients, and to find us work! He expects us to be available when he books a gig, but his incentive to do so has been compromised because he has so many less stressful outlets by which to make money. 

It is a lot harder for a non-essential sax player to find work than it is a drummer or keyboard player. (I wouldn’t trade my horn for anything!)

When airing my grievances to the other guys (the boss basically blew me off and tried to string me along when I tried to talk to him), they felt that it was my job to take care of mine, and that when it was all boiled down, Bossman was looking after his OWN family.

Okay.

I always said that I didn’t want to form a band of my own until I got a manager to deal with all the headaches — lateness, drunkenness, drugs, irresponsibility, laziness, skirt-chasing, etc.

But the more I talked, the more I heard, “You’re ready! Get your own group.”

I am making a point with all of this. Bear with me…

I talked to a few guys, none but one of whom plays in the band with me regularly, about the particulars and possibilities of doing this.

“I want to play more jazz and Nat Cole, Frank Sinatra-type standards, and not this top forty/old school junk that we play ad nauseam. Is there a market for this here?”

“Should I deal with an agency, or go by word-of-mouth?”

“If an agency, what measures do I take to get signed?”

“I have no gear. How much would I need for this type thing?”

“How much would a small set-up be?”

“If I do this, would YOU want to play with me?”

“When I get enough cash to make a record, will you work with me on it?

I asked around to get the tenor of the times, so to speak, and a lot of guys wanted to get on board.

The thing is this: Was Bossman’s attitude so cold towards me earlier because he had somehow heard about my possible plans? I was very discreet, but my wife seemed to think that was the case. I felt that since I was not doing him wrong by trying to support myself — without taking any of his guys with me — he had no reason to be upset. Besides, I was only just thinking about it! I wasn’t trying to burn any bridges. The river’s too wide to try to swim back across!

Back to the story…

Everyone had told me to play it cool and not to go off, even though he had it coming! I’m terrible at the poker-face.

So it’s 5:30, and everyone was at the venue, but nothing was set up, and the lone sound man was dragging his feet. Setting up a stage this size is an hour job for three or four guys, so having just one didn’t bode well for us, time-wise. And I had to go all the way back home to get dressed.

Most of the other guys had brought their clothes, but, as I tersely related to the foot-dragger, I didn’t assume that I would not be able to return home from a 5 o’clock sound check for a gig that started at freekin’ 9:30! That’s why I didn’t want to go all that way in the first place! I knew they would be piddling around with my time!

He made a smart remark that left me biting a hole in my lip.

The funny thing is this: When the boss saw me, he smiled, said, “What up,” and proceeded to pass out calendars for next year! As if all this down time were just a blip! He was totally oblivious!

If he were planning to pre-emptively fire me, he surely wouldn’t be doing that!

At 6:40, 6: doggone 40, the lead singer walks in cool as iced tea, and nobody raised an eyelash. Now if he could do that, why did I, as far as the bandleader knew, have to get my wife to leave work early and lose money for me to sit around for two hours before any microphones were turned on?!? Why was it so crucial that I be there to stew in my own suppressed anger with nothing to do but watch the “Beverly Hillbillies” marathon backstage on Nick at Nite?
At 6:45, we were ready to check the mics and the instruments. The lead singer’s mic was awful, and the sound man, frustrated by his lack of help, and by our absence of sound check etiquette (everyone was checking stuff all at the same time. I hate that), snapped at us.
This, this set the boss off, and he proceeded to curse the guy out as I walked past them both on my way to the car for the forty minute trip home to eat and change. I thought it was interesting that he went to bat for the guy who showed up an hour and forty minutes late, but left me to fend for myself earlier without even a thought.
All night during the show, he tried to crack jokes with me and make light while I concentrated on being professional, and sang on a mic that wasn’t even on! I couldn’t even be phoney enough to make eye contact with him.
As the lead singer butcherized the words to “Auld Lang Syne,” my decision was being hardened with every beat.
The show was complete with belly dancers, showgirls, fire-baton twirlers, full-scale pyrotechnics, and smoke machines that made the place look like the devil’s lobby! All I kept thinking was of the rich man in the Bible, all nervous,  saying, “Please! Somebody get Lazarus on the phone! He knows me! Somebody call Lazarus!!”

 I told Kathy about all of this when I got home.

“Baby, now, a new year is coming in!” she said in an attempted motherly tone. “You can’t be ticked off for the new year.”

“Why not?” I asked, ” ‘Cause I’ll be ticked off the whole year?”

“Well, you know,” she said, “History does like to repeat itself…”

“No, it doesn’t LIKE to. It just TENDS to.”

We threw back our heads and laughed. (freeze frame, roll credits…)

This year will be different.

Happy New Year, dear readers! I love you all. Thanks for indulging me in this endeavor, and for encouraging me. May God bless you as He has blessed me, and may He give you the nervous anticipation and hope that He has given me as we all embark on this new journey called 2008.

January 1, 2008 Posted by | Christian Life, Employment, Humor, Life, Music, New Year, On the Job, Playing Music, Saxophone, Work, Writing | 4 Comments

Cone CHIPPIN’!

All right, so here’s another one:

This is how slang terms get invented.

A couple years ago we, the house band at BB King’s club in Memphis, went to Chicago to do a gig at the Isaac HAYES’ club (this got us cussed out by Tommy Peters, the BB’s owner! “How tha bleep y’all gone take off from playin’ at MY fragglerockin’ club, an go all tha way ta ChaCAgo to put money inta tha pocket of tha shadrackin’ people that tryin’ ta shut my meshackin’ place down?!?). The parent company of Isaac Hayes club in Memphis “allegedly” tried to mount a subversive campaign to drive the club out of business.

We were known as “Ty Brown,” and to date, it is the best band I’ve ever played in. 

It was the dead of winter, and the eight of us were crammed into this 15 passenger van, which any musician or church group knows won’t seat 15 grown, often fat, people! It was TIGHT! Plus, all the pillows, blankets, bags and snacks took up any extra room. I, after six years of playing for blues singer, Denise LaSalle, had grown used to sitting in the back. Sorry, Rosa.

When we reached our destination, I squeezed my way out from the back past some of the guys in front of me who were moving too slowly. Then it hit me. Rather, it hit my NOSE.

“Man!” I said. “Somebody FEET cone CHIPPIN!” (meaning, for the unaware among you, that somebody’s feet smelled remarkably like an open bag of corn chips whose expiration date had lonnnng passed)

They all laughed. But one guy laughed the hardest. I suspect that HE was the posessor of the putrid podiatry. I did not do further investigation, though. It ain’t good to be in close quarters with your shoes off on a long trip if your dogs are barkin’.

I just said it in passing, but it kind of caught on. The next thing I knew, it had transmogrified into a musical term which defined bad playing. Now, if a band is doing a bleep-poor job of execution, they are “cone chippin’,” or depending on your geographical configuration, “corn chipping.”

We see it all the time. I don’t like to be hyper-critical of guys’ playing abilities, but when they act like they got it going on and clearly DON’T, they become fair game. See: Most of the bands on “The Next Great American Band.” 

Sadly, I have played quite a few gigs where the chips were flying, and in the interest of providing some relief from all the crooked-preacher-ranting, I will be recounting some of them from time to time.

Like two weeks ago when doing a Jewish wedding, our boss/bandleader neither told us that we had to play “Hava Nagila” nor provided us with the music!!! Come on, now! How you gonna do a JEWISH wedding and butcher up the Jewish WEDDING song?!? I was furious! That’s like playing for Sinatra and not knowing, “My WAY!” That’s like George Bush writing a speech and not using spell check! Cone CHIPPIN’, y’all!

And a WEEK later, we were supposed to do “Just the Way You Are” for the bride and groom’s first dance, and he didn’t tell us about THAT either!!! That doggone song has more changes in it than a freekin’ Liberace show! The singer knew the words, and thought the keyboard player knew it. The bandleader/bassplayer (the LOUDEST instrument on the stage!) tried to catch it on the fly and sounded like he was playing with oven mitts on from the back of a galloping horse! It was crickets and coughing up in there after that was over. (add to that the fact that we started 45 minutes LATE!!!) I can’t go on like this!! Chippun’! Calgon, come git me!!!

The only Christian tail I can pin on this is that I can’t cuss folk out and act a fool in public because of how it would make God look. Thanks for the handcuffs, Lord.

By the way… click this link and you will hear a rehearsal for a Marvin Gaye tribute we do yearly. http://myspacetv.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=vids.individual&videoid=8227470 The other horns and the strings and backing vocalists were not here on this day, so use your imagination. This is NOT the band I was just griping about!

Sax- me.

Trumpet/flugel- Marc Franklin

Bass- Jackie Clark

Vocals- Larry Springfield

Drums- Dave Mason

Keys- Tim Terry

Percussion-Felix Hernandez

Guitar- Joe Restivo

November 2, 2007 Posted by | Christian Life, Christianity, Humor, Music, Slang, Work | Leave a comment

F.O.D. Not What You Think… Wait. It MAY Be.

Okay, this one may get a little scatological…

I used to be in the Air Force in one of my other lifetimes. I was a missile technician. Sometimes we would work on the flight line and be around the fighter jets. We were constantly warned about foreign object damage (f.o.d.). Screws, gravel, ink pen caps… all this type stuff, anything on the runway that can be sucked into the jet engine, is considered FOD.

A few years ago, well after my time in the service was completed, I played in this band, Three Nice Guys, that used to do all kinds of stuff;  jazz, pop, country, r&b, everything. An executive at FedEx here in Memphis had an idea of incorporating live music into their monthly (I believe) status meetings. I’m not a corporate guy, so I’m probably not calling it what it was.

We would meet at the front gate of the “Hub” at the unGODly hour of around 7 am, get passes, and drive our vehicles onto the highly restricted and secure flight line to set up for the 9 am meeting. It felt kind of cool to see the stares of the working stiffs who seemed to think, “Who are these guys who get to drive their vehicles onto the highly restricted and secure flight line?”

What was to happen was that we would, in this room that seated about 50 people, play while the corporate types drank coffee and ate and mingled and such. When the main speaker got up, we would do some Johnny Carson-type fanfare stuff. When each new person was introduced, we would play something appropriate from a TV show, a commercial, or anything. For instance, If the person was from Chicago, we would break into “Chicago” as he approached the podium. Breck, the keyboard/keyboard bass player, is a genius and knows a million songs. He has perfect pitch (google it) and almost perfect recall, so we had a library of tunes at our disposal.

Now, what I must mention here is that the band was set up in the front of the room on the stage. Directly next to the podium. Remember that.

This one particular meeting is the point of this post. A lady got up to talk about the status of “foreign object damage” and what improvements there had been in its reduction. She spoke about how important it was to be vigilant in the prevention of foreign object damage and how much money was lost at each incidence of foreign object damage. After a while, she abbreviated the term to F.O.D., and a minute or so later, she just shortened it further to “fod” to save time.

 It is important to note that White folks and Black folks speak differently. This woman was White.

FedEx is a company known and admired for its fairness is diverse hiring practices. at least half the room was Black. The band was all Black.

The speech went something like this:

“I just want ya to know, you’re doing a bang up job in keepin’ yer fod to a minimum. But we can do better. The Memphis hub has had a 30 per cent reduction in fod over tha last quarter, but in tha last month, you had 3 cases of fod. What happened? Why the increase in fod? You managers are gonna have to do whatever it takes to keep the fod down.”

Right here is where I tell you that, phonetically, the word WE use for the Godly act of passing gas sounds UNCANNILY like “fod”. Now, I pride myself in not being inappropriately silly. Certainly, as a musician, I have heard all the stereotypes about how irresponsible we are. I did not, sitting right up front in front of all these corporate executives, want to appear silly. But this woman had “fod” on the brain. And being White, she appeared to have no IDEA that what she was repeatedly saying was like poking us in the side. I’m ticklish right there.

We were cool the first couple of times she used the word, but Lord have mercy, she talked for about thirty minutes!!!

“Fod damage is dangerous and costly, folks. It costs us in lost equipment, but also in lost man hours. I can’t tell you how much looking at the fod numbers leaves a bad taste in my mouth! When a plane has to be repaired. It’s cuzza fod. When guys haveta do extra duty (doody?)? It can usually be traced back ta fod. We GOTTA keep it down folks! Fod is a stench in the nose of a company like FedEx!”

It started with a shiver.

We in the band were set up in somewhat of a circle, facing each other. I could see every attempt they made at trying not to laugh. It only made it funnier.  When something embarrassing happens onstage, I usually try to avert my attention by fumbling with my reed or mouthpiece, or by otherwise occupying myself.

Like the time when Kevin, my best friend, and I were doing this wedding…

The church was set up so that the whole back wall was glass. CLEAR glass. From floor to ceiling. The preacher’s back was to the glass, and the audience was facing it. Kevin sings, and while we were waiting soberly for his turn, we noticed this big flock of birds sitting in a tree outside. A squirrel or something scared the birds and they suddenly flew away in our direction. Now, the preacher was praying, I think, so everyone’s eyes were closed but ours. We were working. Playing soft music.

Most of the birds veered sharply away at the last moment, but one       missed. He didn’t see the glass.

BAM! flutterflutterflutterflutter. Dead. I squeezed my eyes shut!! Tears forming. Shuddering. Bowing, praying now. “Lord! Pleeeeeze help me!” I snorted and snotted a little bit… I fumbled with my reed to busy myself.

But Kevin outright laughed. In the middle of that solemn prayer. For just a nanosecond. But that was all it took for him to get glares from a lot of the people there… So when I have moments like these, I PRAY to the Lord to take the funnyness away.

Breck shivered. He and Herman, the drummer, weren’t saved back then, and they didn’t seem to have the compulsion to be serious. I fumbled around with something or other, praying to the Lordthat this woman wouldn’t say “fod” no more, and I think He was laughing, too! I had to close my eyes. It worked for a few seconds. I thought it was over. “Cool. Okay. I’m cool”

“So, what can we do to prevent fod?”

I know you all have had those moments. In class, or in church. You tell yourself it’ll be funny later, but it suuure ain’t right NOW! Even though it is.

We were all looking at each other pleeeading for something to make it stop! But she just kept on, culturally blind to what she was doing to us! I mean, we were in the front of the room! And I could clearly imagine what would happen if one of us undisciplined musicians lost control.

“What can we do to keep the fod down? Fod fod fodfodfodfodfod.” She would    NOT    STOP!  

Herman, who was crying, let out a squeak that sounded like when someone steps on a dog’s foot. My face was mashed all up as though someone really waspassing gas, and when Herman squeaked, Breck, who was sitting on a swiveling stool, jerked around, away from the audience in this small room.

At that point, the Lord heard my prayer. Someone in the audience, someone Black, probably heard Herman and broke out laughing, and the room erupted! Exploded in laughter! Relieved and thankful, we all did the same! It felt like making it to the bathroom juuuust in time. We spent the next two or three minutes in uncontrolled head-shaking, knee-slapping tripping!

I was just so glad that it wasn’t one of us musicians who broke that particular iceberg. What surprised me was that so many of the rest of the people in that room were trying to fight off the same onslaught. White and Black. The only person clueless was the speaker, who looked up, startled, trying to see what had happened. The head guy, who was Black, came up and whispered it all in her ear. She was mortified!

Those times happened to me a lot. It is proof that God DOES have a sense of humor. He HAD to have been laughing. Flatulence was His invention, although the word for it is probably ours…

It is cool that in spite of all our supposed differences, we of different races find common ground in times of humorous adversity.

God invented laughing. He is all right wit’ me!

October 27, 2007 Posted by | God, Humor, Life, Music, Race, Work | 8 Comments

Music and Drama.

Yeah, I play the saxophone. Mostly, right now, I play section stuff in r&b bands doing clubs, occasional casinos, and various parties. I want to front my own band, but with all of the drama that goes on with guys showing up late, getting drunk, forgetting parts, and other musician stuff, I’ve declared that I would not get my own band until I got a manager to deal with all that junk!

I see a lot of stuff. Things that make me laugh, things that make me angry, and things that make me pray! I’ve seen guys do things that I can’t figure out how to clean up enough to write about that would make you fall out laughing.

See, being a Christian puts me in the position of being the “Mr. Good Guy” who tries to be some kind of example (at least) in the face of a lot of debauchery. The one band that I work primarily for, which will have to remain nameless because some guys’ wives may read blawgs, provides a lot of material. We do this club gig on Monday nights in downtown Memphis, and although I haven’t seen anyone knifed, I’ve seen just about everything else. Like the time my boy Curtis got into it with these two guys about them stealing money from the tip jar…

Curtis plays trumpet with us sometimes, along with Marc. On this night he was playing with the house band, of which he is the leader.

Anyway, Curtis confronts this guy, a part-time bodyguard and full-time drug seller Darryl, I believe he is named, about the cash, and the argument escalates until Darryl, about 6′-4″, 280, draws him outside where his unnamed accomplice sneaks up behind him and knocks him down. (Curtis had slippery-bottomed dress shoes on, and it was drizzling outside.) After they get him down, they proceed to peel his head open with a music stand! All this while the band was onstage! Nobody helped him. A couple of the guys were mad at him about band stuff, and I guess the others were reluctant to maybe get shot. That was real messed up, though, for them to let that happen to him.

Curtis got a concealed weapon permit shortly thereafter. He said that he wasn’t takin no more “A” whuppins!

So, yeah, a couple months later, after his stitches and everything came out, I was onstage at the club on a Monday and out the front window (the whole front wall is basically a window…), we see all these blue lights flashing. Folks in the club started to turn away from all the scintillating entertainment to see what was going on… Okay, here’s what happened:

Apparently the night before, Curtis (A lot of stuff happened to Curtis, but he always lands on his feet. Except for that last time…) was hanging out at the bar. He wasn’t working that night, just hanging. His wallet came up stolen. So, I guess the guy who stole it, not knowing that the guy he stole it from actually WORKS in the place(!), was at the front window bar posing as guess who?! The manager on duty (foolishly?) calls Curtis at home and tells him about it and that the guy is running up charges on his card but not to worry that he has him on ice.

Curtis, I guess, gets this new gun and shoots down to the club. We’re onstage while all this is going on.

So, anyway Curtis gets out of the truck, a Tahoe with big, shiny rims on it, and decides against bringing the gun in. See, the cops set up shop right outside the front door of the club.

But just at the last second, Curtis has a change of heart and turns around to get his gun. This is Beale street, a main tourist attraction in Memphis, and there were a lot of people walking around on a Monday summer night. This White lady saw Curtis stick his gun in his pants and immediately calls 911 with the details: “This Black guy just got a gun out of this big, pimped-out suv and stuffed it in his pants! He looks angry!”

Okay, now we’re back to the point at which I see all the blue lights.

So, they got Curtis on the ground, right? And they got guns drawn on him, and feet and knees and stuff on his neck, and they’re shouting and cussing at him, okay? And Curtis was thinking, “I wasn’t gone shoot the guy, I was just gone persuade ‘im. Scare him a little bit.” He didn’t get a chance to say none of that to the cops. Too much aaasphalt in his mouth.

We were almost through with our second of three sets when all this came together, so when we ended the last song, I shot out the side door and ran around to see what had happened. See, a waitress came to the front of the stage and told the lead singer that Curtis had been arrested, and he told ME. So all I knew at that time was that my padnuh (friend) was in the “back seat.” As I approached the car, his girlfriend (I GOTTA tell you about HER!) beseeched me, “Tell him to bee qwiiiiet! Carlos almos’ had him out, but hee won’t quit cussin’ the po-leece out!” Translation: They were about to let him go, but his persistent belligerence negated that possibility.

“Curtis, shut up!” I said. “Just shut up!”

Curtis said through the tiny crack in the window, with his arms politely behind his back, something like, “Man fornicate these cops! I tole them I had a permit, but they ain’t lissen!” That was probably because cops don’t generally like to be cursed out by gun-toting Black guys. Permit or no permit. If he had just calmly let them slam him to the ground, everything would have been sorted out with only minor cuts and bruises. Better yet, if he had adhered to the law that states that you can’t have a pistol where alcohol is sold and left his gat in the truck, I would have no story to tell.

As it was, Carlos, the manager, was able to get the thief locked up, but unable to keep Curtis from going to jail. It was a CIRCUS! We were back onstage playing “Brick House”(I hate that tune!), or some other drivel,  and Curtis was in the back seat of a police car in the front window of the club where he worked, spitting and cursing, and about to go to the BIG house while the actual criminal was in the car next to him chillin! They spent the night in the SAME JAIL!! The folks in the club looked like they were watching a tennis match, heads going back and forth from the band to the front window.

That, folks, is the environment in which I live out my Christianity. I try to be light to the guys with whom I work, doling out Scripture and advice whenever appropriate, but guys don’t often like to be preached at. I pray for them, though. Would you do so, too? My work world is not much different than a restaurant (I did that too, once, and it was BABYLON, believe me!), an office, or many other occupations. I am blessed that the Lord strengthens me and enables me to remain free of drug use and some of the other common pitfalls that accompany a musical life. Ironically, it was Curtis Monday night who suggested that I write some of these stories down in a book. Maybe I will clean up a few more stories, if you like, and write them here. Let me know. In the words of that great theologian, Rodney Dangerfield, “I gotta million of ’em!” 

Remind me to tell you about the time one of his women tried to run him over. Or the time Larry, another singer, got mad and walked out while we were playing his intro music… Or the time Bill C. took a deaf groupie to his hotel room and tried to whisper “sweet nothings” to her in the dark! Naw, I can’t figure out how to tie a Christian tail on that one. Peace.

October 17, 2007 Posted by | Christian Life, Christianity, Humor, Life, Music, On the Job, Playing Music, Saxophone, Work | 2 Comments

Wailin’ like Whalum!

In what field do you work? What activity do you wish you could make a living doing? Is there someone you admire in a particular arena that is the epitome of skill and expertise?

Are you a sports fan who admires A-Rod, or Jordan, or Peyton Manning? Are you a painter who loves the work of Rembrandt, or Picasso? Are you an aspiring actor or playwright? Do you work in the restaurant business, or the automobile design industry, or the cosmetology field?

If you think about it, every one of you has at least one person who is the icon of your admiration in a given area. I am a musician. By profession. I am of a blessed few who get to do the one thing I LOVE for a living, meager though it is right now. This means that the person I most look up to in the entire musical world does both what I love and what I do.

I am a saxophone player, and hopefully not a hack! I am not a poseur. I don’t walk around town with my horn on my shoulder, and I don’t dance when I play. I MOVE, though… For me, it is about getting better on that horn, and the musicians I most admire are serious about their discipline. My two favorite singers are Sam Cooke and Nat King Cole. My favorite female singer is Lalah Hathaway. Or maybe Sarah Vaughan. It’s pretty close. My favorite piano player is Phineas Newborn, Jr.. My favorite trumpet player is, I think, Clifford Brown. My favorite guitar player is, maybe, Wes Montgomery. My favorite bass player is Marcus Miller. I don’t have a favorite drummer.

There are a million sax players in this town alone. I love that the Lord gave me that instrument to play! It is so complex and so expressive. There are so many who play it well; Cannonball Adderley, Sonny Stitt, Coletrane, Joe Henderson, Grover Washington, Wilton Felder, Branford Marsalis, David Sanborn, Eric Alexander, Phil Woods, Paul Desmond (Take 5), Kirk Whalum, Bird, Stan Getz (Human velvet), Dexter Gordon, Chris Potter, Johnny Griffin, Kenny Garrett, Gerald Albright, and scores more.

The thing is this: Of all the singers I like, but didn’t mention, and all of the other musicians whom I just love, the ONE who is my favorite– out of all who have ever sung or played a single note– is Kirk Whalum. You can agree or disagree, you can argue and present your case for the brilliance of Bird or Trane, and you can cite the mastery of Sarah Vaughan and Stevie. You can talk about Jimi Hendrix and Marvin Gaye and Brother Ray. You can plead the case for David Ruffin, or Billie Holliday, or Wynton Marsalis, or Sinatra, or Donny Hathaway, and you will have some valid points. But for my money, the one who resonates with me is Whalum.

He has the ability to convey pure, raw emotion in a single note. His horn sings and cries and shouts and growls. He is at once soulful, and harmonically competent. Not many can say this. They are usually one or the other. It is an awful thing to hear a straight-ahead cat (musicians say “cat”) try to play some soul! And vicey-versey. He is the leader among guys who can make a sax sound almost human.

The moment I first heard him in a Denver record store way back when guesting on a Bob James record, I immediately asked the store manager who it was. I was hooked. That was how I wanted to sound! It sounded like he was wringing the notes from a wet towel! Every note was urgently played. I thought that if I could play like that, I would be able to tell girls with music what I was too scared to utter with words.

A year or so later, I heard him on a Luther Vandross album, and this one song, “Anyone Who Had A Heart, ” by Bacharach, repeatedly put me in the saddest mood. Beautiful! I have followed his career since the first day, waiting on album releases, and buying every record I saw his name attached to. Some of them were duds with the songs he soloed on being the only ones I dug.

Somewhere in there, I decided that I wanted to do what he did. I wanted to drop out of architecture school and become a musician. It was the only thing I felt that I could really do and do well. I wanted to make people feel whatever emotion I felt when I played a song or a solo like Kirk Whalum did. I had a long, long way to go. (I only have a long way to go now.)

I started from scratch, not having any guidance. I began to teach myself licks, and turns, and scales, and phrases. And most of all, I worked on my TONE– the way I sounded. I gigged with my friends who were grass-green like I, and we used to play at family house parties with just a piano amp, and no gear for no money. I graduated from there to playing for a gospel artist for no money. But we had gear, though.

After a year of that, I got a gig with blues singer, Denise LaSalle. I was on my way! I was making money, but the gear was AWFUL! I continued to teach myself by practicing the solos of Whalum, and my other “teacher,” Grover Washington, as well as any other artist that inspired me. I played lead vocal melodies, piano solos, guitar solos, and everything. The main thing, though, was to always be soulful. And to have that pretty tone.  

Friends would tell me (they still do) to be more of a showman, to walk into the audience, or to wave my hand like Dave Koz does. I just couldn’t. “I just wanna get better on this horn,” I always reply. If I am feeling what I am playing and move accordingly, sincerely, that is honest. For ME, it felt phoney to use gimmicks to get a response. I was trying to please musicians! If THEY dig you, then you know you’re doing something. I may be wrong.

Now, from time to time, I get the comment that I “sound like Whalum.” What was to be expected? I had played, really, millions of Kirk Whalum notes! Now, though, I have to find my voice out of all that emotion and wailing! There is already a Whalum. It’s hard to be discouraged by hearing that, though. I kind of get the same feeling as when someone tells me I LOOK like my father. How can I not like that? My pops is the MAN!

So… my question is this: How would you, as a golf fanatic, like to play a round with Tiger, or Ernie Els? How would you, as a basketball player, like to be on Jordan’s team? How would you, as a real estate person, like to spend time with Trump? Singer– Stevie Wonder? Cook–Emeril, or Rachael Ray? Actor– Hopkins, Hepburn, or Denzel? How would you feel if you, an average citizen, were called upon to perform with or for your greatest hero? How would you feel if, out of ALL the people in the world, the ONE person you most admire watched you do what HE does? And what if that thing that he does is not just your recreation, but your VOcation? How would you feel?

Well, today, at the church at which I play, the musical director said at the last minute, “Hey, let’s play that Whalum tune we closed with last week!”  That being the song from his just-released album that we sort of butchered up last week. At that very MOMENT Kirk Whalum and his wife walked in!!! Ohhh Lorrrd! I pride myself on not being scared of a musical challenge. How can I call myself worthy of being a contemporary of the masters if I am scared to do what I can do musically?

I was as scared as my little son, Max, when those guys in the hamburger suits come on the teevee!

Tim, the m.d., was like, “man, whass wrong witchu? I ain’ neva seen you like this!”

“I ain’ neva been like this,” I said, knees sounding like dice about to come up snake-eyes. “I ain’t prepared. That song has a crazy pattern that’s hard to follow wit’out a chart!” It was 9:57. Church started at 10:00. No time to practice, and I couldn’t punk out. So, I prayed, and we played. It was okay. Only minor mistakes. I do this for a living. But I didn’t want to sound like a scrub with the icon of my artistic life sitting 20 feet away! There was a problem, though, and that is the reason for this post.

The service was about GOD. What about GOD? Isn’t HE a greater audience than Kirk Whalum? Kirk, being a Godly man would say, “yes.” (I know this because I have met him a few times, and he occasionally comes to my church. More pressure?!) All I could think of during the musical portion of the worship was, “Don’t mess up, Kirk’ll think you’re a scrub. Play that flat 5 lick right here, Kirk’ll think that was cool. Don’t overplay, ’cause Kirk’ll think you’re into your self. I wonder what Kirk thought about that tag I put at the end of that last song?” I mean, I was in the same room as my hero, and I was playing HIS song, his style, his instrument! It was too much.

And I was so ashamed of myself. I kept apologizing to God for making Him ride in the back seat so Kirk could sit up front. “I’m sorry, Lord,” I kept saying, and I kept shifting my focus back from God to man.

“I wonder if he heard that bad note? I wonder if he heard me play that cool run? Oh, Sorry, Lord.”

My wife consoled me, saying tht the Lord understands, that I’m only human. True, but that fact didn’t keep Him from holding us accountable for the fact that we sin. Without Jesus, we still suffer the repercussions of our actions. Humanity is no excuse for faults.

I know God forgave me, but the thing is that we need to be aware that God is always sitting on the front row. For every scene. Good AND bad. We should conduct ourselves according to the fact that the One universal Celebrity requires us to serve, worship, praise, and perform for HIM. And He deserves it. Look at all the stuff He did. All the things He made…

Kirk Whalum is not an idol of mine in the sense that he occupies God’s throne of glory. His skill and talent, as are ALL of ours, are a sign of what God can do. That is why God gets the praise for the made putts and three-pointers, the Grammys and the Oscars, the pictures and the sculptures.

At the end of service this morning, as we played the benediction music, I felt someone come up from behind the chair in which I was sitting and grab me, choke hold style, around my neck.

“You blessed me, man! You really blessed me by playing my song!” Imagine Jordan telling you that you played well… Imagine that you felt that he meant it… That made my WEEK! And I thanked GOD!

I wanted to ask him a thousand questions… about mouthpieces, and horns, and chords and solos, and sessions, and about helping me make records. But I didn’t get to. I don’t like to crowd celebrities when I see them. They have lives. People are always trying to get something from them, and I feel that if I am good enough to do this on a higher plane the time will come when God says so. If I really CAN play, he, or someone, will give me my shot.

So what I have is the memory of his gratitude. And my OWN gratitude to God for being so cool and merciful and Beautiful. And for inventing the saxophone and putting it in my hand.

October 8, 2007 Posted by | Art, Christianity, God, Heroes, Jazz, Kirk Whalum, Life, Music, Saxophone | 2 Comments

The Gospel According to Jay-Z

What is the difference between the Prosperity Gospel movement and hip-hop as it is currently portrayed?

Nothing!

In the version of hip-hop, or rap music presented by 50 Cent, Ludacris, Nelly, Li’l Bitty Kim, Paul Wall, the Cash Money crew, P. Diddy, or just about any of the “artists” of the last 15 years, from the Notorious BIG, and Mase to now, the genre is all about materialism. That is: what you have, how much money you got, and how many women you got.

In the current aberrant version of Christianity being thrust down our throats by such luminaries as, Benny Hinn, Creflo Dollar, Juanita Bynum, Kenneth Copeland, John Hagee, Joel Osteen, Rod Parsley, Paula White, and the whole TBN, Daystar, Word Network cabal, the focus is all on materialism. That is: what they have, how much money God is tryin’ to git to you, and how many women they got.      In their congregations. (‘Scuse my grammar)

In hip-hop, you are bombarded with images of expensive exoticars, champagne bottles spilling over with the nectar of the idol gods, multi-thousand-dollar watches, million-dollar rings and necklaces, fur-clad beauties, mansions, and lear jets.

In the Word of Faith milieu, you are bombarded with images and stories of (say it with me…) expensive exoticars (just look at Jamal Harrison-Bryant’s website), $25 vials of anointing oil, jewel-encrusted watches, flashy suits and milti-million-dollar edifices, fur-clad CO-pastors, ostentatious mansions, and privately owned lear jets.

Wowww… this is spookily similar!

In hip-hop, the focus is not on art, but on self. Self-promotion, self-indulgence, self-reliance, self-importance, and self-satisfaction.

In this prosperity trash, the focus is not on the Divine Artist of all creation, but on self. Self (I really could just “copy and paste” from here)-promotion, self-indulgence, self-reliance, self-importance, and self-satisfaction. Here, I will elaborate:

They promote themselves and what they have, and rather than spreading the ill-gotten wealth, they tell you to go get it from God.

They indulge themselves on the helpless sheep, from whom all their blessings flow. They indulge their own greed, and instruct you to do the same.

They are relianton their own “Faith” to get their personal will done. God, to them, is “illegal” (Myles Munroe, Hinn, Dollar, Copeland, Hagin, and on…) in this Earth realm without man’s assent. How blasphemous!!! HE relies on Creflo, et.al.

Of course they are self-important! All those titles! Apostle this, Prophetess that, Bishop the other… Call T.D. Jakes, mister Jakes, call Juanita, missus Bynum-Weeks, and you might catch a dirty look and a beatdown from their security cadre– I mean- “Armor Bearers.”! With Juanita, you’ll get TWO dirty looks!

Self-satisfaction? Their game is all about self-satisfaction! This enterprise is not about loving God, the beautiful and wonderful Creator of the universe. It is all about getting needs met, never about getting saved. It is about getting that job, that car, that MAN, that healing, that MONEY. As Creflo says, “You ain’t gone HAVE no peace unless you got some MONEY!” God is a by-product. God is a side effect. God is the Middle man. The only use for God, in their economy, is to facilitate the transaction!  God is just the bus that takes them to the bank! (sorry, Lord.)

Hip-hop seems to be inundated with rump shaking strippers, euphemistically re-termed “Video Vixens.” (I guess I know too much about this junk…)

The current Charismatic, Pentecostal, Prosperity movement (sadly, these all seem to transmogrify-to use a COGIC-style word- from one to the other) appears to advance the notion that if they can keep you dancin’ in the aisles shakin’ that “money-maker,” you won’t have time or energy to learn how to read and interpret Scripture, or to watch your wallet!

          note: David danced, for sure. But he knew his Word!

Gangster rap/hip-hop has prostituted and diluted the significance of the term “art” for personal gain.

Crooked preachers have pimped and distorted the image of the true Word of God for personal gain.

Hip-hop proponents tell us that if we criticize the genre, we are un-hip, and neglecting to notice that Elvis did the same thing and that they are only ghetto journalists. They label naysayers, “haters.” You might get shot.

Prosperity junkies tell us that we fail to realize that Jesus was rich, and wants us so. They warn that if we “touch God’s anointed,” we are judging, and in danger of hellfire. 

 This is amazing! Hip-hop and Prosperity preaching are conjoined twins! I can’t tell where one begins and the other ends!

 They were doing this in the earliest days of the Church; prostituting the Word for sordid gain. The current hip-hop brood has learned their trade admirably.

September 16, 2007 Posted by | Art, BET, Charlatans, Christianity, Creflo Dollar, False Doctrine, False Prophets, False Teachers, Frederick Price, Gangsta Rap, Hip-Hop, Humor, Joel Osteen, Juanita Bynum, Kenneth Copeland, Music, Paula White, Prophetess Juanita Bynum, Pulpit Pimps, Religion, TBN, Televangelists | 12 Comments

Jazz- Proof of God.

I was watching Phil Woods at the recommendation of a friend, and it struck me that something this beautiful could only have been created in us by Someone as sublime as a God. THE God. We didn’t rise from primordial slime to this!

I am glad someone was inspired to invent this instrument, and this vehicle.

I’m glad I play it, and wish I sounded this good! Yes, I’m baised, but I ain’t wrong!

Take six minutes or so, and be carried away.

Thanx, Lord.

August 31, 2007 Posted by | Art, Atheism, Christianity, Entertainment, evolution, God, Intelligent Design, Jazz, Music, Phil Woods | Leave a comment

TURN LOOSE THAT MICROPHONE!

TOO MANY PEOPLE HAVE A VOICE

Everybody has a forum today, and many of them don’t deserve it. And, yes, I DO taste the irony in my mouth… Everybody has a mic in his mouth and a camera in his face speaking his opinions and attitudes and predilections to the world, changing the idea of what is acceptable.
We — Blacks– are marketing a version of ourselves to the world that is distorted and degraded. We aren’t ALL about sangin and daincin and runnin and jumpin, which IS beautiful. We have surgeons and mechanics and pilots and programmers. But prison, gang life, and “skrip clubs”* are the prevailing images we present. We appear to be childishly materialistic and distressingly carnal.
We, like all cultures, have a well-rounded array of attributes to offer the world. Sadly, though, our entertainment-obsessed society refuses to be distracted long enough to notice anything except all the “Mantanning.” Just as the internet was immediately commandeered by porn-peddlers and identity thieves, hip-hop, once upbeat and promising, has been given over to the basest of human behavior in a relatively short time. As the beats got better, the content got darker. And I don’t want to hear that, “lt’s no different than ‘The Godfather’ ” argument! Marlon Brando never got into a fight with Robert DeNiro at the Academy Awards. John Wayne’s security never shot Kirk Douglas’ “manager” over some beef about who was the baddest fake gunslinger. Theirs was truly just MAKE BELIEVE!
Okay, you have a forum, now. Don’t use it to glorify the aspects of ghetto life that everyone generally wants to escape. Why is that not a fair request? Drug infestation, sexual irresponsibility, high crime, illiteracy…. What is good about any of this?

”If I wasn’t rappin’, I’ll probly be in jail.”

Nowadays, with the glorification of prison life I don’t see where that would be seen as a bad thing! Why not be in the midst of that which you glorify? Sagging pants, tattoos, untied shoes, ”down-low” brothahood, all these trends are said to come from jail. Prison chic. Whoda thunk it? What do you expect, though, with more brothers in jail or on probation than in college?
Let’s just get this straight: Ain’t NUTHIN cool about jail. If you wanna do something that proves how hard you are, join the Marines or go to Africa and kill a lion with a knife. Or marry the girl you impregnated, and stay there and raise freekin’ citizens! At least then, you wouldn’t have to worry about getting shanked in the throat or being raped or being forced to braid hair in a halter-top!
Another thing, everybody “on lock” ain’t a political doggone prisoner! Some people in jail actually did it! They ain’t all heroes or victims of racism (some are, to be sure). Let’s worry about rehabbing and returning to society with a positive story to tell. Prove to your people that you didn’t deserve to go, or that you regret what you did. Then you would be truly respected. As it is now, I don’t want my kids being role-modeled by some cat with a prison mentality.

“lf l wasn’t rappin’, l’ll probly be climbing through your window.”

And if l heard you, you’d probably be getting shot! Just kidding. No, l ain’t. So, your point is…? That if it weren’t for us giving you platinum chains, 22 inch rims, and a boat, you would just take what WE have? What makes that a cool thing to say? How does that make me wanna say, “Ooh, l gotta go get that ‘Gangstafied’ cd, cuz he so HORD! I gotta keep him paid so he don’t jack nobody.” So, you get it from us one way or another… l admire strength and power, too, but l want to know that a person has some artistic integrity before l go out and spend what l earned on him. People spend their food money on a lot of this trash, and all they get in return is a mind full of rotten potatoes and used baby diapers masquerading as art.
Kids who can barely speak (toddlers AND teens) quote this musical iodine like Scripture, talking about pimpin’ and stripping techniques and drug transactions and prison sentences.
But they can’t write a sentence!
The videos are so explicit, that I feel I need to put a trench coat on before I watch them. I’m not a Puritan, or a prude, but sex belongs in a context – a category – and a music video is not it. I don’t go to “skrip” clubs, or solicit prostitutes, or violate my marriage vows. Not because I’m so good and pure, but because I’m tethered to a Standard way higher than my own ability keep from to slipping and falling prey to my weaknesses. Stop pouring grease on a wet floor!

”If I wasn’t rappin’, I’ll probly still be sellin’ drugs. Thass how I paid f’ my firss album.”

Well. That’s cool to know. Selling drugs. At least you’re not perpetuating any STEREOTYPES and making it hard for me to, say, drive my nice car through a White neighborhood! Matter of fact, l can’t even BUY the car l like because that’s the one the ‘dope boys’ drive. What you do now is no different than selling drugs, anyway. The wanton, glorified violence and irresponsible sexuality you peddle is probably more insidious. And it is just as addictive and generally devoid of hope and purpose.
The “Not My Problem” rationale you employ so lamely is the same as the dealer’s:
“Iss the parent’s responsibility.” lt’s so obvious you heard somebody else say that.
“If you got a prahlem wit it, turn the channel.” To what? it’s everywhere! I can’t even watch a sitcom without hearing cursing! And every month, a new word gets admitted. Pretty soon, the only reason to watch pay TV will be to see snuff films and executions. Am I to be expected to walk through life blindfolded to keep from being offended? Is it now MY responsibility to sidestep your un-scooped poop?
“If l wasn’t givin’ it to ’em, SOMEbody would.”
But, why does it have to be YOU?
Well, take your ample share of the responsibility and wear it proudly. Wear proudly the fact that in so short a time, we have gone from martyrs in a righteous cause to the office joke. From glowing accomplishments to debauchery, from jazz to sequenced ignorance, from scatting to Ebonics. Be proud that in a community on the precipice of collapse, where practically NO one has a father, where children learn nothing in the way of discipline and order, where all they learn from the outside world is of the excess and permissiveness of the majority, where their souls are hemorrhaging at the brink of extinction, be proud that rather than help stop the bleeding, you instead rummage through their pockets taking what little hope they have left. The lessons they learn, YOU teach them, for you are all they hear. Your foul lyrics are the words to their too short life stories. “Selfish” is way too soft a word for what you do to your own people, your FAMILY, in a sense. And don’t bother thanking God for your “Shake it Like it’s Hot Up in Here” award, unless you mean to thank Him for not smiting you for producing so much gabbage! Don’t say you love Jesus for your material blessings, because HE said that,”What you do to the least of these, you do to ME.” Marinate on THAT!
And now ain’t the time to talk about what the White Man did. The White Man didn’t cause the over 70% out of wedlock birth rate or the outrageous murder rate. The White man didn’t tell you to drop out, or to not read a BOOK! He didn’t force the production of gangsta rap or the glorification of thug life. Nope, the Blame the White Man peg, sometimes justified, won’t fit in THIS hole. We did this one to ourselves. Deal with it. Change it. And GIVE that durn microphone to somebody who has something to SAY!

*Strip Clubs

July 2, 2007 Posted by | Art, Celebrity, Fame, Gangsta Rap, Hip-Hop, Music, Personal Responsibility, Race | 3 Comments

FOR THE RECORD

Let me say this For The Record: I completely disagree with mistreatment of anyone based on a belief or way of living. If my opinion differs with yours on a subject, don’t falsely label me as a basher, or a hater, or a ‘phobe. My beliefs prohibit me from any prejudice or hatred or such. My beliefs, however, absolutely REQUIRE me to not fall in line with behaviors antithetical to those beliefs, and if something you read here offends you, understand that my words do not stem from hatred and are not designed to communicate such. I am allowed to agree or disagree with whatever I choose to, and to express said opinion. At times, maybe at all times, it will appear as though I am pointing my finger and lecturing. The way I feel is that one can only be a passive passenger for so long, and this vehicle is to the left of the double yellow line and headed for a semi. Urgency requires that I speak up. If someone told me the things I will tell you (and someone has), I would listen. So, please listen. That being said, those inclined to contort the context of these opinions for whatever reason are requested to REFER TO THIS ENTRY before doing so.
I Believe;

The Bible is inerrant AND infallible. Read those words CLOSELY! I did NOT say there are not bad translations.

Homosexuality is STILL a sin, but not the unforgivable sin. I neither hate nor fear you. But l won’t lie to you.

Sex outside of marriage is wrong.

Spanking (whuppin’) kids is not, in itself, abuse. Neither is saying ‘no’.

“Timeout” is a joke.

Abortion is the killing of a baby, and not about the woman, but the baby. It is a human rights issue, not a woman’s rights issue.

I didn’t evolve from a single-celled organism.

God made me Black, so I love it, just as much as the Dutch or the Italians love their heritage and culture. No sin in that.

Our ice is just as cold as White folks’ ice.

Even though there are Whites in this country who want nothing more than our destruction, we Black folk are often our worst enemy. No one gets a free pass.

Christianity is the Christians FIRST loyalty, therefore mine.

Racism and racial prejudice are wrong, and still exist.

I think our history is largely responsible for the plight of the Black poor, BUT we have no right to marinate in that reality and be socially irresponsible on so many distressing levels.

The ”Christian Right” don’t do much, if anything, to heal racial wounds.
Neither do ”Black Leaders.”

Homosexuality and Blackness are not equal. Race is not a way of behaving. It can AT LEAST be argued that homosexuality is a way of thinking, feeling, or acting. The act is a sin. And I don’t hate you in saying this, so don’t shout at me.

Democrats AND Republicans make me equally sick. Really.

Just as all photography isn’t pornography, all hip-hop isn’t trash. But probably most of it is now. Rap, in and of itself, is no more insidious than singing. What is being done with it? Does a thing get to be art just because someone calls it art? Is my son’s dirty diaper art when I frame it? The beats are funky, though. So don’t kill me…
Messengers should not be shot. Or stabbed, or kicked, or shunned. Those who would do so will be exposed as simply trying to suppress dissenting opinion through intimidation. I love you all. MaxDaddy

June 27, 2007 Posted by | Abortion, Art, Christianity, evolution, FOR OPENERS, Hip-Hop, Homosexuality, Immorality, Marriage, Morality, Music, Parenting, Politics, Race, Racism, Religion, Respect, Sexuality, Spanking, The Bible | 1 Comment