We’re just starting the 2011-2012 season at the Wortham Center with the Houston Ballet and the Houston Grand Opera. Tonight we’ll open with a very unusual ballet piece, Gustav Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde (The Song of the Earth). Based on Japanese poems, it’s basically a symphony with tenor and alto soloists. Mahler wrote this piece after the death of his daughter Maria in 1907, and after being diagnosed with a terminal heart condition. It’s an absolute great piece of music, but very, very seldom done as a ballet, so it’ll be interesting to see how the audience react!
I’ll realize I haven’t been writing any blogs for over a year, hopefully I’ll do better in the future!
Anyway, I’ve been busy playing and teaching. A few highlights from the past twelve months was Peter Grimes and Dead Man Walking with the HGO, playing with my dixie-band The Hot Vikings at Cezanne jazz club in February the Texas Southern University Jazz Festival where Andre Hayward and myself did our two-trombone line-up, a clinic and jazz concert at Baylor University in March, going to Sweden in April to play with the Royal Opera for a few weeks, playing the Broadway production of Chicago in June, and finally Tom Walker’s Gospel Train Big Band in August.
I felt pretty worn out during the summer, and felt that I needed to get back to basics about my playing. Then I happened to dig up a copy of Daily Drills and Technical Studies by Max Schlossberg. I bought this book way back in college, but never really used it, until now. Well, I’m a convert! It’s a great way of getting your chops together. I do about an hour each day out of the different chapters, and my big regret now is that I should have practiced this 20 years ago! Highly recommended.
Till next time, keep swinging!
On Friday, July 9 2010 Dr. Bob Linder and Thomas Hultén will be interviewed on Houston’s “The Front Row” – KUHF 90.1. The show starts at noon and goes til 1pm. Topics of discussion will be Thomas’ album “Slide Side” as well as our new Texas Jazz Masters series.
This upcoming weekend, May 14-16, I’m going to Charlotte, North Carolina, to participate in the Salvation Army Brass Spectacular. It was started a few years ago here in Houston when Jamie Hood, trumpeter extra-ordinaire and Salvationist, brought together a “dream-team” of a brass-band, mainly with players from the Houston orchestras, some guys from the New York Staff Band and still a few coming over from Europe. Steven Mead was the euphonium soloist, both Steven Bulla and William Himes were there and brought pieces they’d composed, and it was just a great night!
Jamie moved to Charlotte in 2009 to keep working for the Salvation Army, and brought the Brass Specatcular with him. I haven’t be able to go since that first concert until now, I’m sure it’ll be a blast. The trombone section will be killer, with both Herb Bruce and Eric Alexander in it, my old collegues from Sprititual to the ‘Bone.
Bill Pearce, pioneering radio broadcaster and founder of the Nightsounds radio program died February 23, 2010 from complications of Parkinson’s disease. He was 83.
Bill was a fantastic trombone player, and influenced a whole generation of players with his smooth and unique style of playing. I got to spend a day with him in his studio in Rockford, Illinois, about ten years ago, and I’ve never met such a humble, gracious and truly Christian person before or since. He remains one of my big heros, both as a player and as a person. There’s a very nice tribute to Bill on Doug Yeo’s home page:
We just finished the Houston Grand Opera season with Tjaikovskij’s Queen of Spades. There are some very nice moments, but I have to admit it’s not one of my favorite operas. It’s long, over three and a half hours, and the trombones hardly play at all in the first two acts, so when the action finally starts in the third act, it’s way past my bedtime!
Fox News 26 will be running a story on Tierra Studios and our Texas Jazz Masters series. Thomas Hulten was the point man to represent the Texas Jazz Masters, and held a recording session that was captured on film. Also, Fox News 26 interviewed Thomas…all this will air Friday, March 26 at 9AM!
Here’s a behind the scenes view of the interview.
Ok, I know I should have written this earlier, we’re already done with Houston Ballet’s new production of “La Bayadère – the Temple Dancer”, music by Leopold Minkus. (No relation to Charlie Mingus….)
But, it’s not that often we’re having four live snakes on stage! I got to pet one of them on the cast-party on opening night, and he liked hugging the ladies.
The best part was when we played a school show for 2500 middle-schoolers, and the snake-handler came up on stage and had a little speech for the kids. “If you stay in school, and listen to your parents, study really hard and get good grades, you can become a snake-handler just like me.” Yeah, right!
We have another weekend of Leonard Bernstein’s “Fancy Free”, written in 1944 when he was 26. It’s about three sailors in New York, so I guess it has something to do with “On the town”. It’s really fun to play, lots to do in the brass, with little jazz solos here and there. I even get to use a solo-tone mute and do my Tommy Dorsey-imitation, complete with slide-vibrato!
For you Swedish-speakers and -readers, I got a very nice review of my album on DIG jazz, a great web-site devoted exclusively to jazz. Here’s the link: http://www.digjazz.se/Diggat.html#Hulten
We’re starting rehearsing Tjaikovskij’s Pique Dame at the opera in a couple of weeks, and I aslo have a show coming up with Marvin Hamlisch and Joel Grey, should be fun.
The Director of Jazz Studies at the University of Houston, Noe Marmolejo, interviews Thomas Hulten about the recording process on his album “Slide Side”.
Thomas Hulten commenting on his song “Pilska Polka” from his album Slide Side. You may buy it now!
I’m continuing my somewhat schizophrenic musical journey with going straight from Chorus Line to playing Tosca with the Houston Grand Opera. We had opening night a few days ago, and you know people like it
when there’s that roar coming from the audience at the end!
Patricia Racette debuts in the role of Tosca, and I can’t resist quoting from a couple of the reviews:
“Houston Grand Opera’s new production of Tosca, custom tailored to the company by director John Caird and set and costume designer Bunny Christie, is an absolute triumph. The magnetism of the opera itself, with three of Puccini’s greatest characters sketched in page after page of his strongest music, is allowed to speak for itself. Orchestra, chorus and soloists are united by the incisive baton of Patrick Summers, and the result is a non-stop ride of staggering intensity. To put it briefly, this is how Tosca should be done.” (Concerto.net)
“From the first chords that explode from the orchestra, maestro Patrick Summers just about propelling himself out of the pit with them, a gripping sense of urgency drives Houston Grand Opera’s potent new production of Puccini’s Tosca, which opened Friday at Wortham Center.
Under John Caird’s astute direction, just about every aspect of this Tosca sustains that dramatic intensity — most particularly, a superlative trio of star performances.” (Houston Chronicle)
We had Brent Phillips, trombone professor at Baylor University in Baylor, and former soloist with the US Marine Band “President’s Own”, come and do a clinic and a concert at University of Houston yesterday.
This guy is absolutely amazing. He is very detailed, organized and analytical in his approach in how to learn to play the horn, yet one of the most musical players you can hear. Check out his newest CD “Stepping Stones for trombone”, especially aimed at younger players. Very impressive!
A couple of jazz things to check out this week: This Friday night January 29 I’m playing with trumpeter Ralph Stivison and a cooking rhythm section at the Cézanne jazz café on Montrose Boulvard, downbeat at 9 pm. Also this coming Sunday at Trinity Episcopal on Holman Street we’re doing jazz masses at 10.30 am and 12.30 pm with the Matt Lemmler group, Trinity have their annual jazz festival this weekend. Come by and get blessed!
Thomas and crew performing “Karin” from his album Slide Side. Along with musicians Warren Sneed, Paul Chester, Thomas Helten, and Andrew Sneed.
After playing 32 Nutcrackers in December plus all the Christmas gigs, and then having a nice week off with my family, I’m now in the second week of playing “A Chorus Line” at the Hobby Center here in Houston.
I saw the movie years ago, but never played the show until now, and I gotta say it’s a treat.
With a great score by Marvin Hamlisch, the show is basically about a Broadway audition, and the life stories of the dancers. It’s based on real interviews made in the early 70s, and when the show opened on Broadway it was a huge hit, and ran from 1975 to 1990.
This production is the Broadway tour, they’ve been on the road for about a year and a half, and will stay here in Houston for another week.
The HGO winter season is starting up, we had the first orchestra reading for Puccini’s “Tosca” this morning. One of my favourites, I played it in Stockholm with the Royal Opera a year and a half ago, but this time I actually get to rehearse it!
There’s also some jazz coming up; January 29 I will play together with trumpeter Ralph Stivison, pianist Ted Wenglinsky, bassist Andy Gordon and a yet to be named drummer at Cézanne jazz club on Montrose boulevard. Hope to see you there!
Are you tired of hearing the same Muzak in every store you go into while you do your holiday gift shopping???? Well, allow me to offer a respite in your present collections. Come by Cactus Music, located at 2110 Portsmouth Street Houston, TX 77098 (713) 526-9272 this Saturday, December 19th from 12:00pm to 1:00 pm and enjoy some live music while you shop. Join me, Warren Sneed, Paul Chester, Thomas Helten, and Joel Fulgham at Cactus with refreshments provided by St. Armold’s Brewing Company. Pick up a copy of Slide Side! Hope to see you there!
The holiday season is here, and for me that means 35 performances of Tjaikovskij’s classic The Nutcracker with the Houston Ballet. I’ve played it several times before, but only for about a week at a time. From Thanksgiving up until the New Year is a different story! Our Principal trumpet Jim Vassallo figured he has played it over a thousand times over the years!
Still, it’s a great piece of music, and lots of fun to play. And compared to Lohengrin, the Wagner opera we just finished, it clocks in at half the time, two hours instead of four!
I won’t spend all my time in the pit, though. This coming Saturday, December the 5th, I’ll be playing with Ambient Brass and the Houston Choral Society for their Christmas show. I’m also playing Christmas concerts at the Grace Presbyterian Church and St Luke’s United Methodist Church.
If you want to check out some cool jazz, come to River Oaks Baptist Church on December 13 at 6 pm, where we’ll play with Matt Lemmler’s sextet. Also, on December 19 we’ll have an in-store concert at Cactus Records at noon with my own group promoting Slide Side, my new CD. Hope to see you there!
The last time the Houston Grand Opera presented a Wagner-opera was Tannhäuser in 2001. Now, finally, Wagner is back, with a spectacular production of Lohengrin in a co-production with the Grand Théatre de Genève in Switzerland. Simon O’Neill sings Lohengrin, Adrianne Pieczonka Elsa, and Maestro Patrick Summers makes it all come together.
If you think the concept of a four and a half-hour opera sounds a little scary, I promise you there’s a reason Richard Wagner is considered one of the greatest composers ever. Whether you’re in the audience or part of the production, you get mesmerized by the story and the music.
The first complete Wagner-opera I played was Tristan and Isolde with the Royal Opera in Stockholm, Sweden, last year. Everybody kept telling me it would be a great experience, but I wasn’t really looking forward to spending five hours in the pit, counting rests. How wrong I was! I was completely captivated, by the music, the story, the skill of the singers. That they can be heard over an 80-piece orchestra is beyond me!
Lohengrin is considered Wagner’s “Italian” opera, not because it’s particularly Italian in style, but probably because it’s full of melodies familiar even to the casual listener. Pretty much everybody would recognize the Bridal March from the third act (“Here comes the bride”), the Preludes to the both the first and third acts are also famous pieces.
For you trombone-geeks: My friend Terry the Repair Guy is building me an old Conn 88H Elkhart with a Kanstul CR Open Wrap-trigger. Hopefully I’ll get it next week, report to follow. It should be good!
More trombone-geek stuff: I had the opportunity to try a German Lätzsch 210 trombone for a couple of weeks. A very different animal, at least for me who’ve always played American horns. Beutifully made with a warm pleasant sound, but in the end I still prefer my old Conn.
HOUSTON TROMBONE PLAYER THOMAS HULTÉN
DEBUTS ON CD “SLIDE SIDE,”
TO BE RELEASED BY TIERRA STUDIOS ON OCTOBER 19, 2009
Trombonist Thomas Hultén debuts with Slide Side, a collection of ten original tunes and three jazz standards, set for release by Houston’s Tierra Studios on October 19, 2009.
“To be able to realize one’s musical visions with full artistic freedom is every musician’s dream,” says Hultén. “I’m really excited about this album, and I feel that we’ve accomplished our goal: world-class jazz, written and produced in Houston, Texas.”
Hultén is joined on the recording by his Houston-based ensemble consisting of pianist Pamela York, guitarist Mike Nase, bassist David Craig, and Joel Fulgham on drums. Slide Side is augmented by local jazz greats such as Dennis Dotson, former Woody Herman trumpeter and Warren Sneed, Director of Jazz Studies at Houston’s High School for the Performing and Visual Arts.
“You can really hear the years of experience these musicians have when you listen to the songs,” says engineer Glenn Wheeler. “Getting to record the talent this group brought to the studio was truly a pleasure.”
Slide Side also features orchestral backing for Hultén and his ensemble on several selections. Strings were arranged by Daniel Kramlich and conducted by producer Dr. Robert Linder.
“When Thomas sat down at the piano and played me a few phrases from a number of his original tunes, I knew he had something special to say–through his musicianship,” says Dr. Linder. I thought, “WOW! What a combination–a fabulous trombonist that can write and arrange great tunes! ”
Thomas Hultén started playing trombone at the age of ten in the local Salvation Army Band in his hometown of Katrineholm, Sweden. After completing his military service with the Swedish Army Band in 1984, he studied trombone performance at the Gothenburg Conservatory with Ingemar Roos as his primary teacher. After graduating, he won a position with the Bohus Big Band, one of Sweden’s two professional big bands.
Since moving to Houston in 1997, he has performed with Ray Charles, Tony Bennett, Dave Brubeck, Natalie Cole, Barry Manilow, Patti Austin, Johnny Mathis, Michael Bolton, the Moody Blues, the Temptations, the Four Tops and the O’Jays. He performs regularly with the Houston Symphony, the Houston Ballet, Theatre under the Stars, and the Houston Grand Opera, of which he was recently named principle trombonist.
Slide Side is the latest album in a series of jazz releases that features prominent Houston jazz musicians, produced by Tierra Studios. The first CD in the series is No Worries, featuring saxophonist Larry Slezak, available on iTunes and at http://www.larryslezak.com.
For more information, contact Larry Murphy at 713-686-1953 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
UPDATE – Added Buy Links at bottom of post.
Now for the big event this fall, at least for me: “Slide Side”, my new jazz CD on the Tierra Studios label, is finally out and ready to buy and ship to a location near you!
I still have to see and hear the finished CD, I hope to get one later today, but listening to the master-copy I’m very happy with it. When Bob Linder and Glenn Wheeler from Tierra contacted me in July of 2008 to record a CD, they had a short wish-list for the project: new original music and getting the best musicians and sound available. Bob was pretty insistent (those of you who know him know what I mean!) that he wanted original music that was still listenable, not too “out there”, and not too long, 4-5 minutes for each tune. We also agreed we needed a few jazz-standards on there.
I was given pretty free hands, and decided to record the three standard tunes with my “brunch-trio”, trombone, guitar and bass. For most of the tunes we used a quintet of bone, sax and rhythm, I also did a couple with just rhythm-section. We added horns, percussion and strings on most of them, and I gotta say it came out even better than we hoped.
It sounds fantastic, the playing by some of the top Houston players is amazing and the music is great, really fun to listen to. Swedish tenor-players Eric Norstrom and Nils Sandstrom contributed one original each, thanks to both of you! Dan Kramlich wrote some exceptional string charts, and yours truly did the rest of the writing and arranging.
Check out the Tierra Studios web-site, www.tierrastudios.com, and copy this link to your browser to order the album from them, http://www.tierrastudios.com/2009/10/link-to-purchase-thomas-hultens-slide-side/
I will try to set something up on this site so you can order the album here, and it will also be available for downloading from iTunes.
More good news: we had break-in in our house back in January, and my three main horns were stolen, a Conn 6H, a Conn 8H and a Conn 88H-CL. Luckily I have a couple of back-ups, my old King 2B and an old silver-plated Conn 88H. This was right before we started recording, so it was a bit rough getting started. Thanks to the fine detectives at the Houston Police Department and my good friend Rick Reeves, who found the 88H-CL on eBay, I finally got all three of them back last week!
Buy a Slide Side CD with Pay Pal
If you want to hear some good jazz, come the out the jazz concert at Muniversity of Houston’s Moores Opera House Wednesday night October 8 at 7.30 pm. Both big bands will perform under the direction of Noe Marmalejo and Ryan Gabbart, Henry Darragh will sing and play some cooking piano and I’ll play a few tunes, among them a new big band arrangement of Pilska Polska form my CD. These band are made up of students from UH, and they’re kicking and swinging, good stuff!
So what about my CD, will it ever come? Yes! It’s off to the printers and is scheduled for release on October 19, more on this web-site and also on the Tierra Studios site, www.tierrastudios.com.
The first opera for the season is Wagner’s Lohengrin, one of those five-hour deals. Most operas or shows I’ve played have been at the most three hours, and I couldn’t imagine sitting in the pit for five hours. That was before I got to play Tristan and Isolde with the Royal Opera in Stockholm, Sweden, last fall. It was an amazing musical experience, and this Lohengrin-production promises to be another high-light. Patrick Summers is conducting, cast is great, something to look forward to.
August and September are brutally hot and humid here in Houston, and gigs don’t really start to pick up until late September-early October. I had a pretty busy weekend with a Klezmer-gig Friday, Paragon Brass Ensemble Saturday morning, Second Baptist early evening and then a party-gig with Infinite Groove Saturday night. Sunday night we rehearsed with Joel Fulgham’s new big band made up of some of Houston’s finest. Joel is a fantastic drummer, and he can soon be heard on my new album, out October 19….
How I celebrated winning the HGO/Houston Ballet audition? I spent $300 on a new rear-main seal for my $900 Chevy truck, so now it won’t dump any more oil on my drive-way!
I’ve been playing with the Houston Grand Opera for a couple of years as a sub on Principal trombone, something I’ve really enjoyed. It’s very thrilling being in the middle of a big opera production. My good friend John McCroskey, formerly with the Houston Symphony, has been playing with the Houston Ballet. John is a fantastic player, and a wonderful person in every way.
Both orchestras play in the same house, the Wortham Center, and most of the players are the same, but since there are two different organizations, on paper they’re separate.
Last fall it became clear there would be an opening for the position of Principal trombone in both the opera and the ballet orchestra. Needless to say I’ve been looking forward to the audition with a combination of fear and anticipation. I’ve been practicing like a maniac, playing for pretty much everybody I could think of, taking lessons, taping myself, doing mock auditions and doing whatever I could to prepare myself.
I’m happy to say this time it paid off! Monday, September 21, I managed to win the job. There were two of us in the finals, and up until to the end I was sure they would pick the other player, a guy I really respect and admire. Even the finals were behind the screen, and I guess I must have done something right, because they ended up picking me. I can’t really describe the feeling, just a huge relief after all the work I’ve put into it, and finally landing a job after having free-lanced since 1997. Last time I won a job was in 1990, so it’s been a while!
I’ve learned a lot about myself and how to audition during this process, and as soon as I’ve collected my thoughts I’ll try to write something and put it on the web-site.
Well, the Kemah Jazz Festival is coming up this weekend, hopefully without rain and hurricanes this year. Tomorrow Friday September 25 I’ll be performing with the Musician’s Union Big Band, and Sunday the 27th with Thomas Helton and Tribute, the original charts from “Birth of the Cool”. That’ll be a treat, so come check it out if you can!
Summer’s over (but the Houston heat is not!), the kids are back in school, time to get into some regular routines. I have started teaching trombone at University of Houston this fall, something I’ve really been looking forward too. I’m sharing this position with Brad White and Brian Kauk, and there are a lot of students, almost thirty in the trombone choir!
When I moved to Houston I started getting mysterious calls for bass gigs. Ok, I know how to get around on an electric bass, but this was different, until I realized people were trying to get Thomas Helton, the bass player! To complicate things further, he’s also a decent trombone player, and is listed right above me in the Musician’s Union book! The first gig we played together, I was playing tuba, and he was playing trombone, and yes, we do look like brothers!
We’ve been playing a lot together over the years, and if you wanna check it out, come to Houston’s premier jazz venue Cezanne on Septmber the 5th and listen to us pay tribute to the famous Gerry Mulligan Quartet.
We will also perform Thomas’s transcriptions from Miles Davis’s “Birth of the Cool” on September 27 at the Kemah Jazz Festival.
Thomas is a great musician, always checking out new things, and yes, he has been to Sweden and played with Tim Hagans and the Norrbotten Big Band. Check out his web-site www.thomashelton.com. Just make sure to spell the last name right, or you risking getting to a certain tromboneplayer’s web-site!
I just came back to the Houston heat and humidity after spending two wonderful weeks in the hills of North Carolina. I could walk outside without feeling like being in a sauna!
The event was the Salvation Army Carolina division‘s Summer Music Conservatory at Camp Walter Johnson. It’s a month-long camp for middle- and high-schoolers with brass band, choir, drama group and piano classes. I was there last year for a week together with Mark Barton, the tubist with HGO and the Houston Ballet. We both liked it so much so we decided to come back this year for more. Great kids and a great camp!
The camp is run by Jamie Hood, Scottish trumpeter extra-ordinaire, and Daniel Simmons. The other guests included my old buddies Herb Bruce and Steve Bulla. Herb is the fastest trombone in the east (and the west!), an absolutely incredible player. He’s a master slammer, junk food aficiniado, BMW devotee, nuts, and an all-around great guy.
Steve Bulla is well-known as the Chief Arranger for the US Marine Band, the President’s Own. He is a master arranger and composer, who got his start in the Salvation Army New York Staff Band as a trombone player. He’s the guy behind Spiritual to the Bone, the trombone-jazz group that I’ve been fortunate to play and record with on tour in Australia, Switzerland and the US.
The Salvation Army in Charlotte, NC, also puts on a big event twice a year called the Brass Spectacular, with Jamie conducting an all-star brass band. I did the first one in Houston back in 2007 when Jamie brought in euphonium master Steven Mead from England: lots of fun!
Tonight is opening night for Houston’s Masquerade Theater’s production of “The Producers,” Mel Brooks’ hysterical musical. I played it a few years ago when the touring Broadway production came to town. I was still laughing at all the jokes after playing it for three weeks, and it’s the same this time, it’s priceless! My favorite character is of course Swedish bomb-shell Ulla, I get a lot of favorable comments about Sweden coming my way in the orchestra! Come check it out at Hobby Center’s Zilkha Hall through August 6.
I think it’s safe to say I’ve now reached the pinnacle of my career: I get to play with the Kit Kat Klub band! I like playing trombone by itself, but getting to do it in women’s clothes and doubling on tuba just adds a whole new dimension to being a musician. And the rest of the guys in the band, now I know what sisterhood feels like!
When I saw myself in the mirror I realized I look like a mix of my mom and Björn Borg (my mom’s never been much of a tennis player though). I did wish for a bigger cup-size, hoping to make my wife jealous. As it is she’ll just laugh at me, you just can’t have everything in life…
This production of the musical Cabaret is in Houston’s Hobby Center with TUTS, Theater Under The Stars. The orchestra in this production totals 11 musicians, with five of us onstage acting as the club band, that’s why we’re in drag. (The other guys are of course very envious, and I probably have to report a couple of them for sexual harassment after grabbing my tits). I’ve always liked this show, great (very tragic) story, great music and fun to play.
I own this old King Bb tuba that I play dixie-gigs on from time to time (it has to stay in the garage, not trained to stay inside). Luckily the tuba part in Cabaret is pretty basic, I do the “um”, the rest of the band “pa”, if it was more complicated I’d be in trouble!
We’re in the process of wrapping up the recording part of my CD, then it’s on to mixing and mastering. I went over to Tierra Studio a couple of weeks ago to check out the new mixing console, a Solid State from England, priced like a nice medium sized house!
In my ignorance I didn’t think I would be able to tell the difference from the old console, but when Glenn played me some tracks from my CD, I couldn’t believe the difference in sound, amazing! There’s a clarity, depth and detail that just wasn’t there before. Glenn Wheeler and Bob Linder, the engineer and producer, are really excited to get the chance to mix the album on this new console, and I couldn’t agree more.
I came back to Sweden a few days ago to get some vacation time with my family. The first couple of days were spectacular, mid-80s, not a cloud in the sky, absolutely gorgeous. Then real Swedish summer hit, mid-50s, rain and northern winds! The meatballs are still spectacular, though!
My jaw dropped when I was out walking in Stockholm the other day. In the water by the Royal Dramatic Theatre was the biggest yacht I’ve ever seen, the Mayan Queen. It’s like seeing another city block parked in the water, all the other boats, including passanger ferrys, looked like little toy canoes! I did a little googling and found out that it was built in Germany in 2008, is 92 meters long (over 300 ft) and is owned by a Mexican mining billionaire. It’s the 17th largest superyacht in the world. I haven’t placed an order quite yet, have to talk it over with my wife first…
We ended the HGO season last night with Rigoletto at the Miller Outdoor Theatre in Hermann Park here in Houston. A classic opera thing happened, that somebody had to jump in and sing a new role at the last second. Hector Vásquez, who was singing Rigoletto, felt a little under the weather so he couldn’t sing after the first act. Instead Octavio Moreno, who was doing Marullo, had to sing Rigoletto, while mr Vásquez acted the part without singing. This without any rehearsal at all, they just switched parts in the middle of the show! That’s impressive! Mr Moreno did an outstanding job, and the audience was very enthusiastic , great way to end a great season.
Friday was ine of those days when I was running around constantly, without getting anything done. In the afternoon I had to take my oldest son Jakob and a couple of his buddies to a schoolproject. I had 45 minutes before I had to pick them up, and since I desperately needed a haircut, that’s what I did. Unfortunately I didn’t have time to go to my regular $3.99 place (I’m as cheap as they come), but found this other place. A little bit more expensive, but OK, this time I’ll spend the big bucks, I’ll pay the 7 dollars! My Spanish is not that good, maybe the lady misunderstood me, but when I looked in the mirror, I had this strange looking bush growing out of the top of my head. By that time I was already late picking up the kids, so I had to dash out the door. Yesterday action was needed, fast. I plugged in my clippers and stood in the backyard, cutting my hair and using our backwindow as a mirror. The look on Jakob’s face when he saw me running the clippers over my head was great, his jaw dropped to his knees. The lesson? Don’t spend the extra money, stick to the $3.99 haircut.
I’m on my way over to the Houston Community College to play a benefit for the great guitar player Mike Nase this afternoon. Mike is a native Texan and one of the finest jazz guitarists I’ve ever heard. He’s featured on three of the tunes on my upcoming CD from Tierra Studios. About two weeks after our session in December of 2008, Mike had a stroke and couldn’t play. He’s slowly getting back into playing, and is doing really good. Today all the Houston jazz musicians are getting together for a marathon Mike Nase benefit concert, from 3 pm to at least 10 pm. It’ll be a great occasion. Keep swinging!
I came home Wednesday night last week after the dress rehearsal of Brief Encounter, André Previn’s new opera, and happened to turn on the TV just as the last act of Tristan and Isolde started. This was a live performance from the Metropolitan Opera in New York, conducted by James Levine, and it was great! I’ve always liked the overture (or “vorspiel” as Wagner calls it) but never though I’d enjoy 5 hours of Wagner until I got to play it with the Royal Opera in Stockholm last fall. It’s mesmerizing, great story, great music!
If you get a chance to see it, do it, but bring a snack!
Thursday night we rehearsed Mozart’s c-minor Mass at the Centrum in Spring, north of Houston. Everything worked fine until the school district (half the choir was from a local high-school) decided to suspend all extra-curricular activities because of the swine-flu. They moved the concert from last Sunday to May 17, which means I can’t play the concert because of a jazz gig! Even Mozart is not immune to the flu! Luckily it seems like the outbreak is a lot less severe than first thought.
So what’s that jazz gig on May 17? It’s at the Houston Community College northwest, a benefit concert for guitar-great Mike Nase, who suffered a stroke in December. It’ll start in the afternoon through evening, and pretty much all the Houston jazz cats will be there. I will play with Matt Lemmler’s sextet, and also Joel Fulgham’s big band. Come check it out!
This is funny: My ten- and seven-year-olds come home from school raving about all these really cool tunes. Turns out it’s all these songs from Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” from 1983! The kids have since been glued to the computer, watching youtube-videos from the 80′s! I don’t mind at all, when was the last time parents and kids actually agreed on music? I played Jakob some Tower of Power, and he thought it was the coolest thing, not realizing it’s 30 years old!
I asked some high-schoolers not too long ago what they listen to, since I have no clue what’s popular right now. The answer: the Beatles!