The World According to Keitho

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Archive for December, 2011

New Years in New York

Posted by keithosaunders on December 31, 2011

I have mixed feelings about being back in New York.  I am here for a week to play my New Years gig, which is a gig that pays enough to make it worth my while to fly out.  

The best part of being here is staying with my best friend, and occasional guest-blogger, Jeff Mazzei.  We get a chance to catch up on life, as well as watch sports with impunity.  This year we will get to experience the final Sunday of the NFL, which will feature much more meaningful games than usual, with the Giants v Cowboys topping the list.

To me New York represents my past, and with it, the unrealized dreams and potential of my youth.  It’s difficult to pass a street without its associated memory  and I find this both fascinating and disconcerting.  I am proud that I was able to thrive in this hyper-competitive city, but always regret that I was not able to accomplish more.  I’m sad to call myself a former New Yorker, and sheepish about being back.

I spent two months here this past summer and I find it amusing that the earth has managed to travel halfway around our solar system in my absence.  When last I was here the temperature was in the high 90s with humidity.  Now, with the trees bare of leaves, the temperature is a comfortable and unseasonably warm 45 degrees.  

Manhattan is rotten with tourists, and much to my chagrin and consternation, I am one of them.  The city smells like fear to me.  There are cops on every corner — who knows, perhaps we went to crimson-red on the terror color scheme — and midtown seems tense and joyless. 

I was verbally assaulted by a security guard at the big library on 5th avenue and 42nd st.  She took me for an out-of-town rube and to that end forced me to open my backpack, delaying my exit.  When I glared at her, asking if she would like to look at my [Daily] News, she raised the ante, screaming at me to get out and advising me not to have a happy new year. 

I remember this New York.  In the old days I thrived on such confrontations.  These days I’m out of practice — they not only feel annoying to this re-transplanted Californian, but unnecessary.  I know — I should have my head examined for walking around midtown on December 30th.  Maybe I am a rube…

The best part of New York is the Italian food.  (not the Italians!)  On two consecutive evenings, in the Bronx and the Village respectively, I have had spectacular linguine, first with red clam sauce, and then with white, along with my favorite vegetable, brocoli rabe.  You can’t get that in California.

Not to mention the music.  I heard a great piano trio last night, and after my gig tonight I will end up at my favorite jazz club, Small’s.  In the end there is no denying the greatness of this town.   

Being here in the Christmas season is no bonus.

Posted in life, New York City | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Give me that old time religion

Posted by keithosaunders on December 20, 2011

I played at a Sunday church service in Oakland.  It was a jazz-loving church and we interspersed a few songs amidst the Sunday sermon. 

I am a non-observant Jew, and someon who disdains most religions.  I have to admit, however, that sitting in that church listening to the reverend’s sermon, I found some facets of religion that are positive.  The sermon largely dealt with the virgin Mary, but the main crux of it was that Jesus is most interested in the downtrodden — the underdogs, so to speak.  That part of religion appeals to me — that there should be empathy for the less fortunate, and a spirit of brotherhood among all people.

But this is Oakland, where most folks empathize with the poor.  Where is this empathy in the mega churches of the South?  Where is it in the Catholic Church?  Where is it in Hasidic community, and in Israel where atrocities are committed against Palestinians?  And where is it in the Islamic community?

The problem, as usual, stems from ignorance.  A population whose mind is numbed by adherence to superstition and myth, is a pliant population.  You can do anything in the name of religion. 

 You would think, given my feelings of antipathy towards religion, that I would have found a kindred spirit in the late Christopher Hitchens, who began as a left-wing columnist, and became an outspoken critic of organized religion. 

Hitchens championed the Iraq war, long after it had proven to be a debacle of the highest order.  He was an avid supporter of murder, as long as the victim was Moslem.  Here he is celebrating American’s use of cluster bombs:

…those steel pellets will go straight through somebody and out the other side and through somebody else. So they won’t be able to say, ‘Ah, I was bearing a Koran over my heart and guess what, the missile stopped halfway through.’ No way, ’cause it’ll go straight through that as well. They’ll be dead, in other words.      

He wrote that  his reaction to the 9/11 attack was exhilaration because it would unleash an exciting, sustained war against what he came to call “Islamofascism”

With those words he has my utmost contempt.  What is the difference between him and the Moslem radicals that he rails against —  or Pope Innocent III instituting the Inquisition?

Hitchens was another in a long line of right-wing hacks — the only difference between him and garbage like Ann Coulter or Glenn Beck is that he possessed more intelligence.  He was a good writer and a glib speaker, but that does not diffuse the fact that he was as morally bankrupt as the Islamic radicals he wrote about.

It comes down to this:  Are you willing to condone or commit murder to further your own gains?  You can be a pope, an Ayatollah, or a writer — ultimately you’re an abomination.

Posted in Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Tebow time and Gingrich slime

Posted by keithosaunders on December 14, 2011

Few will be surprised that I am not a fan of the Denver Bronco’s second year quarterback, and pain-in-the-ass evangelist, Tim Tebow, but I must admit to a certain how does he do it fascination.  He’s a terrible quarterback.  Sure he’s a good runner, and that’s a handy tool to have, but everybody knows that the successful NFL QBs thrive in the pocket.  Don’t they?

Tebow ranks 27th in yards per pass and 14th in total yards, but somehow, due to a combination of his legs, a brilliant Bronco defense, and good old-fashioned luck, Tebow finds himself poised to take the Broncos to the playoffs.  Last Sunday, rather than the thanking the lord, Tebow should have thanked Marion Barber for not running out-of-bounds, thereby giving the Broncos time to march down the field for a game tying field goal against the Bears.

Tebow is all the rage.  I wonder if he would be so beloved were his name Tim Tebowitz and his post game pressers consisted of long lectures on Talmud.  I take that back — I’m not wondering.  

A Denver defensive lineman had the right idea:   After a pre-season game in which Tebow, then a rookie, suggested the team pray, the defensive lineman responded, “why don’t you shut the fuck up?!”

Yeah!  Who care’s what God thinks about football?  I’m sure he’s got more important things on his mind.  Anyway we all know he’s a Giants fan.

Then there’s the faltering campaign of Mitt Romney, who belong to the religion of which he dare not speak its name.  Much to my amusement the Republican electorate cannot bring themselves to get behind their only viable candidate, thus giving Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul their turn at relevancy.

Newt, who to his credit is trying to run a smear-free campaign, was forced to fire an aide who had suggested that evangelicals were “poised to expose the cult of Mormon.”  While I’m happy to see turmoil in the Gingrich campaign, this puts me in the uncomfortable position of being aligned with evangelicals.  

Of course Mormonism is a cult.  Let  me get this straight:  Christ appeard in upstate New York after the resurrection?!  What, was he appearing in the Catskills at Kutsher’s opening for Shecky Greene? 

Then there’s the proselytizing, the multiple wives, the prohibition of caffeine and alchoh…wait a minute, back up…multiple wives?

Sign me up!       

Posted in football, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Casual

Posted by keithosaunders on December 12, 2011

I played a casual last night.  Here on the west coast gigs that are affairs — weddings, Bar Mitzvahs, corporate parties — are referred to as casuals.  Why they are called casuals I don’t know.  They are anything but casual.  In fact, you often have to wear  a tuxedo, although last night was not one of those nights.  In New York such gigs are referred to as club dates, yet another misnomer.  Canadians call it jobbing. 

Years ago I had a sax player buddy who nick named me Captain Casual, not because I played that many casuals, but because I was really bad at them.  I didn’t know that many standards, and I knew very few pop tunes.  I didn’t even know what a cha-cha was, let alone have one in my repertoire.  Not that this is anything to be proud of.  It’s just that over the years, from necessity, you learn enough of these tunes to get by. 

These jobs are a necessary evil of the music business.  Why?  Because they’re the only gigs that pay any damn money!  Especially with today’s economy — few of us are in a position to turn down these gigs.  And if you are lucky enough to play them with good musicians, under the right circumstance they can be enjoyable, or at least painless.

On Saturday I played a casual in San Mateo; a large-scale corporate party for Virgin American.  For some reason these parties often have a theme.  Why they feel compelled to have these themes I’ll never know.  It’s corny.  Why can’t people simply eat, drink, dance, and go home?  Is that asking too much?

Saturday’s theme was chocolate.  Or was it candy?  It was never really clear to me.  Somehow there is an invention that can pump various scents into a room.  Our room smelled like chocolate, while another room smelled like peppermint.

In our room there were a half a dozen TVs showing the old film, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory  — the one staring Gene Wilder — not the soulless Tim Burton/Johnny Depp monstrosity.

The move kept playing on a loop, and since it was a long gig it was on several times.  For some reason I wanted to see the part where Charlie finds the golden ticket, but I kept missing it.  I don’t know why it was so important for me to see this scene, but the more I kept missing it the more I wanted to see it. 

That’s basically it.  I made my money and drove home.  Just one more thing, though.  The San Mateo bridge is the longest bridge I’ve ever been on — it’s eight miles long.  That’s one long-ass bridge.

Posted in music | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Blow taps on the Reyes era

Posted by keithosaunders on December 7, 2011

The inevitable has finally happened — Jose Reyes is no longer a New York Met.  The Marlins, doing their best impression of the Miami Heat, offered Reyes a boatload of money — something that is in short supply in Met-land these days.

A lot of Mets fans are outraged at the loss of their homegrown star.  I think it’s a shame they couldn’t keep him, but I am not devastated by this move.  Even with Reyes in the lineup the Mets are not close to contending.  Let’s face it, that ship sailed long ago. 

The Mets had great shots in ’06, ’07, and ’08.  A Yadier Moliona game 7 homer, followed by consecutive September collapses, followed by a myriad of injuries slammed that window shut. 

Even if they signed Reyes, who’s to say he would stay healthy?  You’ve got a player, now in his thirties, with a history of leg troubles.  I’d rather start over and build something from the bottom up.  The Mets couldn’t win with Reyes, Wright, and Santana in their prime.  I say back up the truck!

Posted in baseball | Tagged: , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Cut

Posted by keithosaunders on December 1, 2011

When you’re a musician you’re always balancing your ego with your talent.  You’re thinking about the music — how can I make it sound as good as possible, how best to interact with the rhythm section, and, as a pianist and accompanist, how can I best compliment the soloist. 

Yet you crave validation and acceptance from the audience, as well as your peers.  It’s natural to do so, I suppose, but there are times when this need can play havoc with your head.

The other day I had finished the first set of my Sunday gig when one of the audience members introduced himself as a fellow pianist.  He complimented me, but only tepidly, and years of being in the jazz trenches had me realizing that he was sizing me up — taking my measure. 

He asked who I had played with when I had lived in New York.  I could have dropped some names — notable people who I had come into contact with during my 26 years there — but I preferred to mention those with whom I had played the most steadily — great players in their own right, yet not as widely known to people outside of the New York area.

I could tell he was unimpressed and he proceeded to give me a little of his background.  Somehow this morphed into a didactic lecture on the jazz schools that were Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers and the Betty Carter group.  (not that they were real schools, just that playing with these masters was like being in school) 

He was going on and on, and suddenly I realized that this guy was talking down to me.  and he began to irk me.  Of course I knew about Art Blakey and Betty Carter — any jazz novice, let alone a veteran, would know this.  I began to lose patience with him and rather than have a blowup I decided to remove myself from the situation, excused myself, and went over to talk to another pianist.

I realized that I had walked into a trap.  This guy may have been a west coast musician, but he had the vibing acumen of a seasoned New Yorker.  

The punchline is that he sat in and brought down the house with a great solo on a blues.  I felt it was gimmicky, yet I couldn’t deny that he had talent.  Let’s face it, he cut me.   

I have to give it up to this guy, though.  It’s possible he woke me out of a stupor, because the next set, and the next night, I played with renewed intensity and fire.  I’ll be ready for this guy the next time I see him, if only to avoid talking to him.

Posted in jazz | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »