Friday, August 31, 2007


Bad cops give you tickets
because they're mad at you.
Good cops give you tickets because they don't want you
to murder yourself.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007


This week I've begun doing something new. I'm preparing the music for services at Christ Church in the Hill Country. It started as a branch of Christ Episcopal Church, but has quickly grown to be self-sustaining, and is the model of what a church can be.

They're happy and healthy, with solid leadership, from both laity and clergy. In their services, they honor the great traditions of the Church, while pouring them into new wineskins, fresh for each day and decade. So, they observe the full Episcopal liturgy — Book of Common Prayer and all that — but it's user-friendly and easy-going. They sing the great hymns of the church, but do it in a way that speaks to the moment, while also bringing in songs of today's generations, from the folky stuff of our parents to worship songs that hit this year.

And, as of September, they have a new worship leader. While I still remain involved at TBC, I'll be at CCHC every Sunday morning, leading and playing music that I've crafted for the service at hand. Their pastor, the gentle and pitch-perfect Eric Fenton, sends me the readings for the day and his sermon topic, and says Go. I take it from there, putting my 25 years of experience to work, with blessed freedom.

This is going to be fun.

Sunday, August 26, 2007


Ken Slavin's new album is released tomorrow. Both the Express and the Current have extremely kind words to say about it. Jim Beal of "Night Lights" calls Ken a "first-class singer" and "top-flight showman," and calls my production "deft." Read more.

Meanwhile, Gilbert Garcia interviews the singer and analyzes the CD in-depth. Along the way, I find out that I'm a "respected pianist/composer." Wow! Who knew? Read more.

Saturday, August 25, 2007


The bass player said, "So, what do you want to start with?"

I had a strange idea, remembered an offhand quote I'd made in a solo the other day, quickly thought (ii-V-I-vi-#ivø7-vii7b9-iii7-yep), and said, "How about 'Copacabana?' "

He said, "Copacabana?!"

"Yep. Follow me."

And so the first time I ever set my hand to "Copacabana" was as a snappy swing, in front of a roomful of people, one of whom chuckled.

Every single gig you play, you should play something you've never played before.

Monday, August 20, 2007


Why is it so hard to make a comedy that's funny? So many recent movies have a grim air about them. You can feel the sweat of their desperation to make five hundred million on opening weekend. That's why it's nearly impossible to get me to go to any movie with Ben Stiller, Robin Williams, Jim Carrey, or Will Farrell. They're hilarious men, but they're part of a system that can't provide hilarity reliably. At least not for an entire movie: most comedies have only just enough comedy for a preview that's three-quarters funny.

The other day we saw Liar, Liar, probably Jim Carrey's best comedy. Most people use the word "vehicle" as a deprecation. They call a movie a vehicle for an actor only when the vehicle doesn't get you there. But Liar, Liar is a true vehicle, in that it carries its star without breaking down, getting a flat tire, or straying off the road. The only real problem in it is that the moments of real emotion — love, forgiveness — that make any comedy really shine are handled here with a clumsiness we're all wearily used to, especially because not only every adult character but the movie itself talks down to children. Even with that giant stain, the movie manages to be fun.

Ahhhhh, but this weekend Catherine and I saw a comedy that was funny. Everybody knows that England has thousands of brilliant supporting actors roaming the streets, to be picked at random. America has worked hard to match this condition, Law and Order being Exhibit A, but only in the dramatic realm. Overseas, they can be hilarious seemingly without effort.

The latest proof of that is Death at a Funeral, a movie that's just as profane and scatological as America's worst, and which is also very very funny. It's just a relief to see that when the inevitable moments of reconciliation, honor, and love come forth, they're done in an organic, believable, non-overblown, unsticky way. And it's sheer pleasure to sit back and enjoy the timing — from actors and from the director, Frank Oz, and from the editor — that nears perfection. All the elements go off in a symphonically delightful wave: a pill bottle, a menacing midget, a parade of people bursting in the door one after the other.

Tons of fun. Throw some money its way.

Saturday, August 18, 2007


The Jazz Protagonists just did a gig with Joan Carroll and trumpeter Logan Keese. Joan, an accomplished photographer, took some nice pics while we were swinging.

Monday, August 13, 2007


When pioneers came across this place on a giant lake on their journey west, they smelled a smell, and they heard a word. The smell came from rotting wild onions. The word, spoken in the Potawatomi language, described that smell: "Chicago."

In the 1880s, a French visitor claimed to be able to feel the smell of Chicago.

Saturday evening, after a walk down Michigan Avenue, where we looked at and tried on the latest fashions, people-watched, felt the heat, and saw the entire region from the top of the John Hancock building, and before a giant Italian dinner with dear family friends, we felt the smell as well. Except, these days, the smell was more like chocolate.

It is, in fact, chocolate. Chicago smells delicious.

Thursday, August 9, 2007


Greetings from lovely, and slightly hot, Grand Rapids! Catherine and I are up here as part of a thirty-first birthday trip. We'll catch a concert with Dar Williams and Over the Rhine tonight, then head to Chicago for the weekend.

We're staying in a beautiful century-old mansion in the heart of Grand Rapids' historical district. It's bright blue, with beautiful, large rooms, creaky floors, high ceilings, and intelligent, fun-loving hosts. Last night we went out to Lake Michigan to see a slightly dorky but fun light-fountain show, and took a walk on the dark dark beach. Good food, new friends, and exploring a part of the country neither of us has seen.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007


Suppose you met a new member of your church, and they said this:

"I walked in here the first day, and it just felt like my home. I knew this was where God wanted me."

What would you say in response? What if you said this:

"Hm, why didn't you choose Church of the Redeemer? It's perfectly wonderful, and the people are just as nice there as they are here, and their ministries are excellent. Honestly, it's a bit immature of you to place such emphasis on which church you're in. Spiritual milk, that. I'd like to think that I could serve anywhere."

Would you say that? What would you think of a person who did? (Beyond, of course, asking them why they chose this place instead of Church of the Redeemer.) Probably what you'd say is more something like this:

"Wow! That's fantastic! We've been waiting for you here, and it's obvious that the Lord has work for you here. I'm so glad you followed your heart."

Now. What if that person said this:

"This isn't family for me. The people here are wonderful and friendly, and they're doing great things for the Kingdom, but I've just never felt like this was my home."

My hope is that you'd say:

"Well, get out there and find them! I know that God has work for you to do, and a place for you to do it. Blessings to you!"