It's nice to enjoy the small things.

Tonight I am thankful because Bon Jovi is rockin' the free? world just a few blocks from my swank yet ghetto apartment. The crowd is 50,000 plus. I've got the windows open to catch a nice cross breeze & still can't hear a thing beyond normal NYC noise. As a busker I find myself in an unusual state of agreement with the NYC Park Department's Noise Police.


In which I find Miles & purchase my first LP.

If you've read my previous posts, you'll recall that my first trumpet teacher was appalled by the fact that the only "trumpet" album I owned was by Chuck Mangione. He gave me list of trumpet players to seek out.

Soon afterwards, I made a pilgramage to the Record Bar at Mountaineer Mall. The fact that we were at the mall would indicate that we had my Wednesday Night post-lesson meal at Pizza Inn instead of Wing's & Things. The Record Bar was not a great store, but just like Obi Wan Kenobi it was my only hope. I can still remember the jittery fluorescent lights overhead as I appproached my very first Jazz Record Bin. It was an auspicious moment.

The Jazz section was small, but more than large enough for my needs. All of the names were completely unfamiliar to me. It was confusing. I remember feeling slightly nervous as I started to look through the records, list in hand. When I made it to the "D's" I found a name from the list. Miles Davis actually existed!

There were maybe four albums in the racks. How would I make my choice? With no other information to go on I went for the bright yellow one, the one that actually showed someone holding a trumpet on the front cover. This way, I could be sure I was really getting a trumpet record. I walked to the sales counter, record in hand & paid the money for Miles Davis' new release, We Want Miles.

In a perfect world this story would end with me going home, opening up the record, putting it on the turntable, having my mind blown & going on to international superstardom as the great white hope of trumpeters. It's not a perfect world, is it? Here's what really happened:

I went home, opened the shrink wrap, looked at the amazing photography, put the record on the turntable & HATED IT! The music was strange. The trumpet sound was abrasive. Miles was cracking notes all over the place! To me it sounded like a beginner playing. Believe me, I knew that sound because I was a beginner myself. I soon put the record away & didn't think of it again for a few years.

When I was 15 or 16, a day came when my family was off somewhere & I found myself at home alone. I was still into music. I was also into shooting basketball in front of the house. I was a pretty good shot, but I never learned how to dribble because our driveway was made of gravel. With no-one else around it made sense to combine the activities.

I opened all of the windows on the front side of the house, cranked the stereo way up & put on my Dad's rarely played Cream Album. It sounded good, especially at high volume. Rock & Roll! After that LP was over I went inside & started flipping through records in search of the next selection. Beatles? no. Jackson Brown? no. Willie? no. It's a good thing we didn't have a tape deck attached to the stereo back then or I probably would've just played one of my dreadful cassette tapes instead of an LP. Once again, I was attracted by the bright yellow We Want Miles record cover. I put it on & turned the volume even higher.

This time it made sense! The funky, raw & driving music went really well with shooting hoops. I think the blaring distortion of an overdriven home stereo amp helped too. In some ways it rocked harder than Cream. Soon the basketball became almost more of a dance than a sport. What a discovery! I think I played the double album two or three times in succession. After a while I put the ball away & got my horn out. Amazingly, I found that I could figure out notes to play that sounded OK with the music. There were parts I wouldn't understand for a while yet, but this was the day I made my first baby steps towards improvising.

It still wasn't my favorite album, but this experience became really important years later when I helped form Lily Pons. When I started jamming with the future Pons boys, my We Want Miles training helped me know how to fit my horn into a crazy electric soundscape.

When I hear the album today, I can't help but notice how the band stays out of Miles' way. No doubt they were intimidated by his reputation, even as he struggled to regain his chops after a five year retirement. The most interesting, explorative parts of the record occur when Miles is laying out (especially during Mike Stern's guitar solos.) The other standout performances are the amazing bass playing of Marcus Miller & Al Foster on drums. To this day, I sometimes find myself calling on the ingrained influence of this record when I decide it's time to play a solo from a standpoint of studied ignorance, as if I've never touched a trumpet before.

Sadly, in a moment of financial crisis, I sold my vinyl copy of We Want Miles in the early 90's. My rationale was that it was almost too scratchy to listen to & I'd just buy the cd when I had money again. As it turned out, there was no cd to buy back then. Luckily I found a Japanese import version a few years later at the great Ear-X-tacy store in Louisville. I still miss that vibrant, slightly scary LP art though.

Required Listening: This whole album, played very loudly! Shoot a few baskets if you've got the equipment to do so.


Overheard in NYC, 12/11/2007

Tuesday Night, 11PM.

The cold, damp corner of 79th Street & Lexington Avenue is occupied by a 60ish, utterly nondescript man, a woman with two cute, fluffy dogs in equally cute dog sweaters and myself on my way home from work.

The light changes to WALK. The man speaks. His voice is as quiet and mild mannered as his appearance. What do you think he said? I'm reporting this quote verbatim:

"I think you should put your slum ghetto dogs in army uniforms & send them to Iraq so they can get bombed with the rest of our white American soldiers."

Whoa, OK! What's going on here? Does this guy hate dogs? Perhaps he just has a problem with cuteness.

I'm usually the first to revel in the outlandish & zany behavior we sometimes take for granted here in the city. But listen; I hope someone smacks me into submission if I ever fall so low as to attack tiny little cute fluffy dogs my cat could eat for breakfast.



Apologies Dear Readers - Crazy Links Edition

As this thingamabob continues, conventional wisdom suggests most of my sizzling-hot new posts will most likely be unveiled on weekends. ...umm... But hey, not this week. I'm headed to West Virginia! I intend to spend most of my time there playing with my adorable niece & helping my brother install some light fixtures, as long as it doesn't interfere with my chilling out.

If I post at all, it'll be due to the fact that I've found a way to rub two sticks together & upload via dial up.

Good Times!


Way Back Music

Lexington KY, 1988:

One morning during my sophomore year in college, I woke up with the type of primal, superlative hangover one hopes to experience no more than five times in one life. I currently have no more than one of these left on my scorecard. I'm trying to avoid it. Unable to sleep & unable to move from my bed, the only entertainment within reach was a clock radio. All the stations were full of nothing but the most mundane BS. Desperately scanning the dial in search of anything good, I finally turned all the way to the left, below NPR. When I reached 88.1 FM I found something I desperately needed.

It was a sonic revelati
on. Banjo, Mandolin, Fiddle & deliciously twangy high harmony singing. I was instantly transported back in time into a culture I'd been doing my best to deny. Regional Fiddle Contests attended with my parents. AM Gospel radio in my Mamaw's kitchen. It all came flooding back into my soul.

After an hour or so I was able to make it across the room to the stereo. I turned on the big speakers to the same station, WRFL (which must have been brand new at the time) & crawled back to bed again. The show was called Blue Yodel #9, hosted by Brother Ephraim McDowell. That morning a DJ saved my life.

Since then I've always kept at least a small part of my wide ranging ear tuned to Bluegrass & Folk music. One of my all-time favorite records
is "They Can't Put It Back" by Rich Kirby & Michael Kline, on the June Appal (Appalshop) label from Whitesburg, KY. Anytime I choose to listen to this record, I can easily return to a wonderful, childlike state of mind.

I once used a tune from it in a showstopping class presentation on Schenkerian Analysis. Who woulda thunk?

Kudos to my parents for owning this album in the first place. The last time I listened to it all the way through was via iPod on a train in the South of France. It doesn't matter where or when I hear it. It's always great.

The internet evangelist in me is saddened to report that I can't find the stunning original cover photos by Doug Yarrow anywhere on the web. The image I've used here is from a reprint. It appears that the album can now be purchased as a digital download. I'll remain satisfied with the LP copy I obtained from the Lexington Public Library in their great vinyl sell-off of the mid-90's.

Turn the Radio On!

(please note: I'll pretend to be a good congressman here, & will revise & extend my remarks later.)


UK Visa Nightmare!

I spent most of today recording the next record. So let's have a Kokolo post, shall we? This is dedicated to Martin Atkins, who asked me to write this. Please buy his book. It's the greatest music business book I've ever read.

Our UK booking agent proudly offers the service of sorting out the work permits (for an extra fee of course.) In practice the process is often a bit strange. On one tour I received the Permits via super blurry fax fifteen minutes after I'd meant to leave for the airport. Good thing I was running late. As I reviewed the documents in the car to JFK, I noticed that there was a permit for our trombone player, who is a British citizen and doesn't need one, but none for me. Big Problem! After assorted hurried consultations and phone calls to the agent, it was decided that I'd just have to enter the UK as a tourist. I'd say I was traveling with the trombone player to "visit" his parents in Yorkshire. All parties were briefed to play along with the story if they received a call from immigration.

The plan called for me to rush off the plane and get to the front of the immigration line while the others dawdled behind, effectively separating our group in the eyes of the authorities. As it turned out, we were landing in Manchester, not crowded Heathrow as we usually do. By the time the passengers divided into EU & Non-EU lines, the band was only three or four people behind me. To complicate things, our singer had taken an earlier flight and was there already, waiting on "the bench" because we had his work permit. Luckily, he was aware of the drama & knew that he should ignore me as if I were a stranger.

I was very tired that morning, but smiled bravely and stepped to the counter. "Good Morning Sir. Your passport is in terrible shape, isn't it? Just visiting, are you? I see you've been here three times in the past year. Is that correct? Please take a seat for a moment, won't you?" I sat down on the bench & waited as the rest of the flight was processed without incident. I was then called forward again. "Sir, you've had a work permit on your previous trips & none now. Do you have a job in the States? And your job lets you take so much time off? You must be very lucky." I truthfully answered "Yes" to everything. "Sir, there's really no reason why I should be required let you into the UK today. I could easily send you home on the next flight."

The gentleman was obviously in a bad mood and wanted to send me home. We began a cycle in which he would interrogate me for a bit, then disappear into the mirrored glass booth to speak with his superiors for ten minutes. It went on and on. Having no other choice, I remained calm. After everything I've been through over the years, I instinctively realized that whatever was going to happen would and I'd just go along with it no matter what. After about 30 or 40 minutes of this exchange, I started to notice assorted band members peeking through the windows at five minute intervals to see if I'd been deported yet. While remaining outwardly calm I was thinking to myself, "Don't look at me, fools. Don't you know they have CCTV everywhere? You'll just fuck everything up!" Eventually, I was allowed to enter England. The Immigration officer was clearly disappointed when he said, "Welcome to the UK, Sir." He obviously realized I was there to play gigs. My guess is his boss also knew how much of an extra burden to the workload it would be if I was refused.

For our latest tour we made a lot of noise about getting the hard copies of the UK Work Permits mailed to us ahead of time. After that fell through, we spent the first week of the tour in the Baltics calling the booking agency every day to make sure everything was OK. We were told that everything was fine & the permits would be mailed to us via the Lithuanian promoters. It didn't happen. On our last day in Lithuania, the agent promised that the Permits were being faxed that minute to the terminal at Heathrow and all we had to do was tell Immigration they were on file. We finally arrived at Heathrow part way through an 18 hour travel day. We approached the counter, waited a few minutes and were told, "I'm sorry. There aren't any permits here for you." What fun! This time it was the entire band (except for the Brit) sitting on the bench together. The only thing we had was the booking agent's contact info and the name and number of the UK Home Office employee who had issued the permits. It was 5:30 on a Friday afternoon. Neither of these people were answering the phone. We waited and then waited some more, as the Immigration folks tried to reach our contacts.

As I sat there, I had no choice but to observe the other problem cases around us. A planeload of Brazilians arrived to watch an important Football match. Quite a few of them were refused for various reasons and they all needed translators. I also saw a 14 or 15 year old kid from Africa who arrived with no passport at all. All he had was a crumpled piece of paper written in pencil. I have no idea what happened to him. I hope he's OK wherever he is. The whole time I was just sitting there thinking, "I bet we could've gotten in as tourists, but we can't change our story now, can we?" A few hours later the booking agent finally answered his cell phone and told the Immigration people that he didn't understand why we were being held up as he thought everything had been taken care of. It was flimsy information at best, but they finally let us in with barely enough time to make it onto our transfer flight. In this case, I think they let us in because we stuck to our story & they finally realized that the booking agent's office had fucked up. Either that or the Brazilians wore them down.

Just before we left the country, someone handed us the work permits. We then found out we were still being charged for them.

Good Times!


The Chuck Issue

One of the responses to my mass e-mail about Styx was from my brother. He said;

"It could have been worse. Scott Santibanez could have been an REO Speedwagon fan. I must admit, though, that I'm still not completely recovered from your Chuck Mangione obsession."

This bit of information opened up the floor to some great comments such as;

"Chuck Mangione? And you were ashamed of Styx. Your little brother just ratted you out. We can get some mileage off of this on our next Kokolo trip."


"hahaha.....you're the true gangster of love, jt!"

I consider Gangster of Love to be an honorific. *note to the readership - if you think you'll likely click only one of my links, make sure it's the 'gangster of love' one in the previous sentence* I never said I was ashamed of Styx. It was Junior High School! The thing with Chuck Mangione started before that. Here's the story:

Once upon a time, my heart's greatest desire was to receive this album for Christmas. I think I'd been listening to Casey Kasem's top 40 countdown & became obsessed with "Tragedy." It's completely ridiculous to think about today, but the reason I liked the song so much was because it had this massive explosion noise during the chorus. Believe it or not, I think that explosion may have had a small influence on track number 2 from this album of mine.

I was an enthusiastic young baby trumpeter at the time, and I was seriously jonesing for some Bee Gees in my life. I believe that my folks thought it would be better if I had a trumpet album instead. Then again, it's entirely possible that they didn't want to be tortured by the robo-funk disco stylings of the Brothers Gibb (not to mention the explosions) in their peaceful home. This was the pre-Walkman era. There were no headphones in our house yet.

Not being Jazz Folk, they likely had no idea how to proceed. I'm pretty sure my Mom asked the Band Director at the school where she worked what album I should get for Christmas.

And so it came to pass that I became the proud owner of "An Evening of Magic, Live at the Hollywood Bowl."

For better or worse, I still own a copy of this album. It's a sprawling double LP package simply reeking of late 70's Major Label bloat. I haven't listened to it in a long time. Somewhat curiously, I haven't gotten rid of it either. I don't think I really need to listen to it as I can replay the most significant portions inside my head using my trusty brain pod. I'd never claim CM as an influence, but I learned a lot from this record. If nothing else, it exposed me to the sound and concept of shit-hot session cats, totally in the pocket & grooving together live. My memory of this LP is all about the band. Chuck is fine, but the band is where it's at.

Even as I type this, I've just spotted through the record for the first time in 10 years. I was looking for my favorite part, the bass solo on "Hide and Seek" - (It's on side 3.) I'm not sure what else Charles Meeks ever did, but he's totally killing it here.

Back when this was my first and only "trumpet" album, Chuck (who plays fluegelhorn) obviously influenced my development. When I started taking private lessons my teacher was clearly frustrated with my tone. He finally asked, "What records are you listening to?" I said, "I've got this Chuck Mangione album..." He nearly fell off his chair as he replied, "That's it! You sound like a damn fluegelhorn!" He then gave me a list of great trumpet players & advised me to start searching out their records.

I soon found this Miles Davis album. It was the first LP I ever purchased. I absolutely hated it at the time though it became important to me later. My teacher gave me some Clifford Brown tapes & I was on my way. The tapes looked exactly like the picture on the left.

A few years ago I was out in the Hamptons on a summer weekend. If you must know, we stayed in the most glamorous, mosquito-ridden Public Campground available. One night we had a few drinks in town before heading back to the tent. Strolling down the sidewalk, I took notice of a small man facing away from me. His shiny jacket featured the classic Chuck Mangione silhouette logo right between the shoulder blades. I thought to myself, "What fool would be caught dead wearing that silly jacket in this day and age?" Guess who? Chuck always was a self-promoter.

Recommended listening: The Bass Solo from "Hide and Seek"