Monday, April 29, 2013

a photo treasure trove discovered

Ever hear of Vivian Maier? No one had heard of her until after she died. That's when they discovered 100,000 negatives of photos she'd taken since the late 40s.

The second half of the twentieth century, captured in New York and Chicago, mainly: fortunately for us, the capturing was done by an expert eye and hand.

Some smart guy bought most of it up at a garage sale for a few bucks, then took it home and discovered an amazing artistic oeuvre. That mild-mannered gal who lives next to you? She's Alfred Stieglitz.

The guy put up a website about Vivian Maier: read more about it and see more pictures.

Friday, April 26, 2013

the rules of the playground

Have a blast, everyone!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

ten years up

I woke up today feeling groggy. Stuffyish nose, still tired out from a heavy Saturday of gigging, after a week of not feeling great or being able to get much nutrition.

At some point along the way today, though, I smiled, because today marks the tenth anniversary of coming out of chemotherapy. That is to say, on this day ten years ago, I was further from a chemo infusion than I'd been since I'd started that January.

My episode with cancer wasn't, I think, one of those things that changed my life or colored my perception of everything that came after. It was just a crappy situation that I had to get through. I knew going into it that the particular kind of cancer I had (testicular cancer, spread all up and down my aorta in late Stage II, and beginning to spread to the lungs) was very chemosensitive, and that, since I was young and otherwise healthy, they could practically kill me and therefore stand a very good chance of killing all that cancer.

I remember thinking on that April day that, for the previous four rounds, I would always reach the point of beginning to get better only to get knocked down again, but this time there would be no knocking down. I would just get better and better.

Here are my thoughts from that time:
I recently saw an old friend who mentioned that I didn't seem like the type to go through life wearing my cancer-survivor status as an identity. And I think that's probably right. It has forever changed my eyes: I can spot a cancer person a mile away now, and have some idea what they're going through. But I actually look forward to being just me again.

In the depths of the chemo, I occasionally would emerge to play a gig or half-gig, and I was really refreshed to think that people didn't see me as Cancer-Barry, but just as a particularly (or typically?) worn-looking jazz musician. They had no idea what was happening in my body at that moment, and I was sort of glad. It's nice to be anonymous that way.

But it's also nice to be the recipient of such care. People I didn't even know would pass me at church and say, "We're praying for you every day." I'd get random emails from not-very-close friends who were deeply touched and concerned, and expressed lavish support. I now see those people in a totally different light, having seen their previously unshared depth.

So. I'm writing some songs, doing some recording, playing gigs, teaching Sunday school, inventing meals to cook, building a new big-enough bookcase.


Onward indeed, through a rich life. One day in April of 2003 I walked to the mailbox and back by myself — a major victory for me. (It still is, and for you too.) Since then, I've married Catherine, fathered two children, traveled the world, made music with great musicians, and more. More!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

paying attention

The students are lined up to race. The coach says, "Ready ... set ... GO!" The students all begin the race.

The students are lined up to race. The coach says, "Ready ... set ... [beat] — Zach! Olivia! you're disqualified. You gotta pay attention!! ... OK. Ready ... set ... [beat] ... [another, longer beat] ... GO!"

The band director lifts the baton and counts off, "One, ... two, ... one, two, three, four" but then holds the baton up while the band lurches in and then falls apart, realizing bit by bit that the director isn't moving. Aha! "I never gave a downbeat, people. You gotta pay attention!"

The problem here isn't that the kids weren't paying attention. It's that the kids were paying attention, and the coach and director let them down. After all, the purpose of such countoffs is to get everyone to start at the same time, which is necessary for (in a race) fair competition and (in a performance) good music.

When the leader steps outside that cosmos and interrupts it, that's not teaching an important lesson about respecting the leader and following instructions; it's teaching an inadvertent lesson about the lack of respect the leader has for the situation at hand, and all its participants, and an important lesson about the abuse of power, however small.

The one-two-three rhythm that begins a race — the "Ready" establishing a mark, the "set" establishing a temporal distance by which we can predict the exact moment of "GO!" — is just as important a boundary as the dimensions of the track. The countoff that starts a piece — whether the two measure groove of a band director or the one-beat uptake of a classical conductor — is just as important to the piece as the tempo and dynamics.

For the leader to obey it, without power games, is a sign that that leader is all about the things that matter, and deserves your trust.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

puppy dog jig

I'm glad to announce the pre-release concert event for Owen Duggan's new album Puppy Dog Jig, which I played on and co-produced.

Owen's first CD, An Elephant Never Forgets, which I also co-produced, has won numerous awards including a Top Ten International Hit designation from IAIRA, gold medal from NAPPA and a silver medal from the Parents' Choice Foundation.

Puppy Dog Jig features original songs with lyrics and music by Owen, as well as collaborations between Owen and bestselling children's authors Sandra Boynton and Lorijo Metz, Texas music legend Lyle Lovett, and folk star Marty Cooper (who wrote "The Biplane Evermore" and the hit "Little Play Soldiers" for The Kingston Trio as well as "A Little Bit Country" for Donny and Marie), and a beautiful setting of a Rudyard Kipling song from The Jungle Book. You'll also hear my fellow Jazz Protagonists Darren Kuper and Greg Norris on drums and bass, laying down jazz, rockabilly, reggae, and a dozen other delightful beats geared toward making kids move.

Whether or not you get to come to the release, Puppy Dog Jig is something to look for for any kid you know.

Friday, April 5, 2013

guardians of thebes

The other day in my inbox appeared a notice from my friend Alice Underwood, that her newest book, Guardians of Thebes, is out.

That's good news to all fans of the Tapestry of Bronze series.

I've written before about these books, and what an intellectual and visceral pleasure they are. I can't wait to get my hands on the new one and give it a spin. My guess is that it will again strike the perfect balance between juicy page-turner, scholarly tour-de-force, theological and social exploration, and historical/mythical joyride.

When's the next one coming out?