The World According to Keitho

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Posts Tagged ‘Bay Area’

My jazz camp adventures

Posted by keithosaunders on July 3, 2017

I have just returned from a week long stint spent as a teacher and performer at a jazz camp in La Honda, California.  La Honda is located deep in the Santa Cruz mountains –  a beautifully  scenic place.  I had a great time teaching, playing, and connecting with old and new friends.

The last day, however, my friend, Michelle, and I had a little disagreement. Nothing that serious, but, well, let me just tell you about it…

We were eating breakfast when I casually mentioned how much I hate scat singing and that no one should be allowed to do it.  Michelle responded, “I don’t give a fuck what you think.” As I was preparing my carefully worded response, Michelle removed some nun chucks from her backpack (that she happens to carry) and cracked me across the knee caps. As I was doubled over on the ground in the fetal position, crying like a little girl, I could hear the sound of a switch blade opening and before I had time to apologize, or beg for mercy, Michelle had slashed open my nose – just like Roman Polanski did to Jack Nicholson in Chinatown!

She stuck me in a wheel barrow and wheeled me to the camp nurse, who told me that she had never seen someone so severely injured at jazz camp. The silver lining is that now my photo hangs on the wall of fame at the jazz camp infirmary.

jazz camp woods

 

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Close the damn door!

Posted by keithosaunders on February 2, 2017

I realize that it’s strange and somewhat ungrateful to complain about the cold when I’m living in California, but it’s my blog so clear the field, here I go.  It’s been a rainier and colder winter than normal.  The rain is good as it appears that our drought is all but over, but I’m sick of playing gigs with freezing hands.

It’s true that in the Bay Area we do not get bitter cold, sub-freezing temperatures, but it has been in the 40s consistently since November.  That still counts as cold in my book, especially when most of the clubs and restaurants keep their doors and windows open.  Why do they do this?  They don’t know from vestibules here.

Don’t restaurant owners understand the ‘open’ sign concept?  You hang the ‘open’ sign over the front door and then people know that you’re open.

Let me tell you something, there’s nothing charming about outdoor eating, even when you have heat lamps.  Do you like your food garnished with a sheen of exhaust?  Then outdoor eating is for you!

Even in the summer months it never gets that hot here.  Especially in the summer months!  Close the damn door already.

 

 

Posted in San Francisco, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

Vestibules now!

Posted by keithosaunders on January 3, 2017

Image may contain: 4 people, people sitting and night

Folks, here is concrete photographic evidence of a clear and present danger in the Bay Area: An alarming lack of vestibules.

When people observe jazz in their overcoats they are not enjoying the music – they are counting the minutes until they can be reunited with their heater. Head colds and gig-related illnesses are predicted to spike in future years.

Stop the madness. #vestibulesnow!

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Can I get a vestibule over here?

Posted by keithosaunders on September 20, 2016

For the most I love living and gigging in the Bay Area.  I’ve been here for six years now and am firmly entrenched in its jazz scene.  That said, I have a bone to pick.

I’m sick and tired of going to a gig at a club or restaurant only to discover they have left their door open.  ON PURPOSE.  I’m sitting there trying to play the damn piano and I’m freezing.  What’s more, I look around and the customers are freezing too.  They’ve all got their jackets and sweaters on and they’re rubbing their hands together like they’re trying to make fire.

Now I get that the management wants their establishment to be all charming and rustic, and that we’re in California with the year-round mild temperatures.  But here’s a news flash:  It gets unusually cold on summer nights in San Francisco.  You see, there’s this little thing called fog.  Face it, ‘Frisco, you’re not an outdoor dining city.  Get over yourself.

I’m trying to play music and I can’t even move my fingers.  This may be difficult for restaurant owners to understand but I have to manipulate individual fingers in rhythm at distinct parts of the piano.  It’s not like I ball my hands into fists and smash them against the keys and Our Love Is Here to Stay comes out.  NO.  I am moving my fingers to form patterns which in turn yields shapes and colors.  SHAPES AND COLORS, FOR GODS SAKE.

Would it kill these people to build a vestibule?  They don’t even know what a vestibule is out here – I had to explain it to somebody last week.  If they had vestibules a musician might be able to enjoy a damn gig instead of feeling like a character in a Jack London novel.

And by the way…how do you think they caught the Chelsea bomber?  He was lying in a vestibule in Linden, New Jersey.

Vestibules:  Is there anything they can’t do?

Image result for vestibule

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The night before I moved to New York

Posted by keithosaunders on July 9, 2016

The night before I moved to New York City I walked into the living room to discover my brother sitting by himself on the couch.  I asked him what he was doing there.  A minute went by when he said in a choked voice that he was going to miss me.  After 23 years of sharing a room, fighting for stereo supremacy, arguing over what to watch on TV, and competing in cut-throat, sibling rivalry-infused games of basketball, or whatever sport was in season, we were saying goodbye.  He broke down in tears, as did I, and we stood together in the darkened living room embracing for the first time ever.

The next day I moved to New York City where I remained for the next 26 years of my life before moving back west to Bay Area some six years ago. During that time I met my wife and we had three children.  My brother moved all over the country before settling in Chicago.  There he met his wife and had two children.

Now both of our parents are gone and those days when we were a family with all of the security and angst that went along with it are but a distant memory.  My oldest son, just as I did in my early 20s, has moved to New York City.

Time is moving too fast.

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Slow patch

Posted by keithosaunders on May 5, 2016

The music business is capricious at best.  Last year I probably played over 300 gigs which is my personal best, probably by far. This year has started out busy but in the last couple of days I’ve hit a bump in the road.  I lost my Monday steady jam session gig in Oakland due to low attendance.  It was easy to see coming but it’s never pleasant to lose a gig.  A steady gig gives the week form and structure.  They’re like old shoes — comfortable. That being said, I’m actually looking forward to having my Monday nights back.  I can use them to catch up on transcribing music (solos and songs) as well as get some errands done which will free the days up for extra practice.

What has irked me is having my second Sunday of the month brunch gig cancelled with four days notice.  This month’s second Sunday happens to fall on Mother’s Day and the management decided to book a different band for the occasion.  I have asked for half payment, but this is the restaurant business which is only a few steps more legitimate than the gangster business. Suffice it to say that it will be a cold day before I see that money.

In the meantime I am still extremely busy, gigging between 5-6 days a week and juggling 7-10 students.  I’m one cancelled steady, however, from turning into a whining simp.  Tom Hanks said it best:  There’s no crying in jazz! 

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The dawn of the baseball season

Posted by keithosaunders on April 1, 2016

And so, after a long cold winter, or in the case of the Bay Area, a wet winter, the baseball season begins again this Sunday.  This year, instead of the traditional opening night game, there will be three Sunday games:  The Cardinals vs the Pirates, the Blue Jays vs the Rays, and my Mets will visit the reigning World Series champion Royals.

First of all:  Nice touch by baseball tweaking the opening day schedule.  It will be great to have the triple header to kick things off instead of the usual anti-climactic lone Sunday night game.  Plus, baseball feels better in the day, especially to open the season.  I don’t say this very often but…kudos to MLB!

Not only that, but we have three sexy match-ups.  I don’t know about you, but I loves me some NL Central division teams and the Pirates have long been one of my favorites.  So you have a classic match-up between two of the oldest teams followed by a game between two expansion teams.  The Blue Jays figure to be a lot of fun this year and they have earned their slot in the opening day spotlight.  Perhaps we’ll get a Joey Bautista bat flip which will insight another juicy Goose Gossage rant.

Finally we’ll have the Mets vs the Royals.  This is the first time in 30 years in which I’ve gone into the season expecting the Mets to win their division.  Usually the best I can hope for is for them not to embarrass themselves.  This year, with the signing of Cespedes, and the return of their young, stellar pitching staff, the immediate future looks bright.  By the way, when is the last time the two World Series teams from the previous season opened the season against each other?  Answer:  Never.  Yet another nice move by the schedule-maker: finding a clever new spin on a hackneyed inter-league format.

Play ball!metsbeagle

 

Posted in baseball, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Off to the races

Posted by keithosaunders on February 26, 2016

Every Tuesday and Thursday I teach beginning piano for three hours at after school programs at a pair of schools in Orinda. (Orinda is located in the Bay Area — it’s in Contra Costa county and is approximately 8 miles east of Oakland.)  The kids are cute and I have a good time with them.

At the Tuesday school I have to pick the individual kids up at an after school room and walk them all the way across the school to the music room.  My first student, Devon, is a kindergartner who one day challenged me to a race. I accepted figuring it would be a good workout since I had missed my morning jog.

After Devon’s lesson I went back to the after school room to retrieve my next student who happens to be his sister.  She noticed that I had raced her brother so she insisted on racing me too.  After we came back from her lesson she told the next student to race me, and on it went until now all five students insist on racing me every week.

Devon is only five or six years old and since I believe, given optimum conditions, I can take him, I go all out.  He wins anyway, but not by much.  His sister, however, is really fast and I have no chance.  She destroys me. By the time it gets to the third student, who is a little slower, I’m too tired to go full on so she beats me by an even wider margin.  With the fourth student I’ll occasionally employ Ben Hur tactics, edging her into the wall, or yelling, ‘Look over there! but she’s spry and fends off my attacks as easily as a club owner denies giving a musician a raise.

By the time it gets to the fifth and final student I’m so beaten down that I merely pretend to race while the kid tears off into the distance at top speed.  I’ll call out for effect, “HERE I COME!  I’M GAINING ON YOU, WATCH OUT,” as I limp along wondering when piano teaching became an extreme sport.

 

 

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Table-stand night

Posted by keithosaunders on February 19, 2016

table standBack when lived in New York my buddy, Taro Okamoto (a drummer) and I used to often ride together to gigs. Once while we were loading up the car after the gig he asked me, “What’s your number?” He meant how many pieces of equipment do I have to load. He had 6 pieces of gear to remember, I had/have 4.

I always load in the same order: keyboard, amp, cart, & stand – from heaviest to lightest. Yesterday, for some reason, I decided to load the stand first, but instead of putting it directly into the car I laid it against the passenger side and went back to my apartment to get the rest of my equipment. (you see where this is going)

When I arrived at the 7 Mile House Sports Bar & Grill for my gig with Peppe Merolla I opened my hatch and I found that the stand was not there. In a moment I realized where it was — lying on the sidewalk on Buchanan st in Albany. I sprang into action calling the other band members asking if they had a stand and could they bring it. Ollie Dudek brought one but it was a little rickety and wasn’t going to support that much weight.

So it was table-stand night for me. It was embarrassing but funny thing, it was the best damn sound I ever had. I’m wondering where I can buy a restaurant-grade table.

I left the gig with a good feeling until I realized…I had forgotten my jacket. D’oh! And so it begins…old age.

 

(All’s well that ends well!)
street stand

 

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Night at the office

Posted by keithosaunders on January 30, 2016

Being a musician is a strange career.  Often times the easiest part of our job is the playing. Most of us have been practicing our instrument – honing our craft – every day of our life since the time we were kids.  (in my case since I was 8) We have logged more hours in pursuit of our quixotic profession than any doctor or lawyer.  By the time we go to work in the evening the execution should be like turning the ignition key in a car.  Sure, there are nights where our playing is less than inspired and we may clam a few notes or forget a some chords, but for the most part we play at an consistently high level.

From where I sit the difficult part of our job is maintaining our concentration amidst what are often less than ideal performing conditions.  What we do requires a heightened sense of listening which can be challenging under the best of circumstances, but daunting in a room full of screaming bar patrons.

I often play this gig at a crowded dive bar in the Haight Ashbury section of San Francisco – Club Deluxe.  For the most part I love this place.  It is integral to the Bay Area jazz scene, providing a space for musicians in a city that is practically bereft of jazz clubs. The vibe at Deluxe is usually good and although people are often noisy there is enough positive energy (and free beer!) to make for a fun night.

Last night, however, was rough.  The place was unusually busy for a Thursday and it was packed with inebriated 20-something tech people.  Sitting directly across from the band was a trio of loud, drunken dudes.  It’s one thing to deal with the white noise of a jam packed bar — it becomes a background din and you can deal with it.  But when you have people in close proximity screaming at each other at the top of their lungs, not only is it jarring but it becomes like nails on a chalkboard.

Three hours into the gig the frat boy alchys were still there and louder than ever.  As we were beginning our final set our bassist could take it no longer and he asked them to move.  One of the dullards said something snide and our bass player, giving his best dead-eyed Clint Eastwood stare, said, “Get the fuck out.” At that point I stood up and flanked the bass player.  I don’t know what the hell I was thinking  – I’ve never been in a bar fight and I’m pretty sure I would get my ass kicked – but I was ready to go to war with these louts.  Somehow the sax player was able to de-escalate the situation and the drunks ended up leaving.  But the whole thing left a sour taste in everybody’s mouth.

The good thing about the music business?  Tomorrow is another gig.

 

 

 

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