Saturday, November 29, 2014

Proposal for a Pavilion, Pan Am 103, High School Band

Back in June, I performed a score composed to animate an installation at LAMOA (Los Angeles Museum of Art). The score is by Gregory Lenczycki, the installation by Renée Petropoulos. The title of the installation and the performance work is "Proposal for a Pavilion." It is a work that has to do with the bomb exploded on Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. You can read Renée's writing on her work "here." You'll find a review of it "here," and a little bit more about her work "here."

I have played a number of Greg's scores by now. This one is by far the easiest and most free. It is mostly free. The musicians are bound only by time, our interactions with each other, our response to the text and conception of Renée's sculptures. We were required to somehow include whatever elements we saw fit of the U.S. and Libyan national anthems and "The Bells of Scotland." That actually is a lot to be bound by, but not as bad as playing subdivision of 32nd notes, like a lot of Greg's music demands. This score allows your mind to go where it might want to go. For sure, with guidance, but basically free. 

As it turned out, my mind had a lot of places to go. Unbeknownst to Renée or Greg when they asked me to participate, I have a personal connection to the crime of the bombing of Pan Am 103. I went to high school with one of the passengers - Jonathan White. I changed schools my last year of high school. I couldn't deal with the dictatorial and somewhat thuggish nature of band directors at Locke High School, in Los Angeles. Let me say here that high school band culture can be beautiful if your interest line-up with interests of the band's administration. If it is otherwise, you will be made to understand that it is their way or the highway. Doesn't matter what you, your parents, your private teacher or anyone else thinks. I took the highway. In addition, Locke High School was a violent place in a violent community. I needed to get out of town.

Through some fortunate coincidences and a friend in a high place, I went to a Waldorf School for my last year. It can be rough changing schools, especially in your last year. This place was small and very welcoming. Jon became a great friend. He had a big heart and was full of verve. He also gave me a nickname that a few people still call me: Boom-Boom. It derived from the pleasure I took in playing the position of left-guard on the flag football team. There are people in NYC, that don't know me by any other name. After high school, I really didn't stay in touch with any of the Waldorf folks. It was not until I moved to Altadena and ran into another of those Waldorfians, that I found out Jon was on that flight. That was five years after it happened. 

Last weekend, Renée and Greg reconvened the musicians and actors to make a studio recording of the score. They used Catasonic Studios and its wiz engineer Mark Wheaton. I am glad that they decided to make a studio recording. As hip as live performances can be, if you are going to preserve music for posterity, go into the studio. You can control shit. A recording is a different animal, it is a memorial really. 

In the photos, I've included ones of the memorial to the victims of the Pan Am flight and of the KAL 007 in Wakkanai. I found the Wakkanai sculpture especially moving. I will compose a piece inspired by it someday soon. Writing this post prompted me to do an image search of memorials to victims of air disasters. Some of them are very striking. "Here" is a link for you.

I was told that the thinking is to ultimately release the studio recording on vinyl.  Very retro. 

The cohorts at LAMOA.

Alice and Renée.

Rt to Lft: Rebecca, Greg, Jorge, Roper.

A variety of instruments was called for.

Accessing the first take.

Preparing to do it again.

The composer in the act.

Yours truly, using a Japanese tuba

The Big Cheese taking a moment out of the funhouse. 

The cohorts at the end of a successful day. Lft to Rt: Jorge, Greg, Alice, Rebecca, Renée, Roper, Gabie. 

The two big cheeses take a break from the funhouse.

KAL 007 memorial in Wakkanai.

Pan Am 103 memorial in Lockerbie.

Pan Am 103 memorial in Arlington National Cemetery. 

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Festivals: Not Found, Found Wanting, Being Part Of and Cowboys

I thought festival season was ending. It is, but not as soon as I thought. I was perusing those online calendars for weekend activities back in early October and saw that the Moon Festival was happening. As I didn't expect such a thing, in order to attend I needed to get out the door fast. The big festival was to the east, out by my brass repairman's shop. The train is not happening there yet. I drove, parked and walked. And walked. And walked. I thought I had found it, though it was not really where it was supposed to be and was much smaller than advertised. It was all kind of wrong. Like I was in a parallel, but more shabby universe than I should have been in. Turns out I didn't pay close enough attention to the date. The festival I was looking for wasn't happening until the next day. What I ran into was an employee picnic for the L.A. County Dept. of Parks and Recreation. I got a good five mile walk out of it though. 

If you worry about chem trails, this is not a beautiful scene.

It could be the Moon Festival, but it doesn't feel right.

It also doesn't look right.

That is because it is not right. Might as well be in Texas.

This is where the ponies run in Arcadia.

I have a very vague memory of being at this track, but I would have been a real little kid. 

Somebody important to the people of Arcadia.

Angels are important to everyone... want them on your side. 

An olive tree that has been around for awhile.

Remember that they are extending the Gold Line to the east...

this is the east...

...and easter (more east).

I couldn't help but rock-out on these doors. 

Pretty cool.

Next day, Sunday, I didn't have time to go back to Arcadia, because I had to make the Autumn Moon Festival in San Gabriel at the Gadatsu Church. This turned out to be a really small, neighborhood event. But they had chili rice, which I hadn't had for at least a month. I also got to do a little walk around a community that I do not know at all. The walk took me by the Resurrection Cemetery and Mausoleum, which was okay, because in a couple of weeks I ended up spending plenty of time in a cemetery. 

The Autumn Moon Festival.

It was small, but the did have an ukelele orchestra...

...not every festival can boast of that. They sang and sang and sang.

You know which sign caught my eye.

I did not immediately give into temptation.

I had to see what else was happening.

Nothing, so I got my chili rice. A whole lot of rice, not much chili.

The sponsor of the festival.

A Vietnamese something or other along the walk. It struck me as some kind of spiritual meeting place. 

Beans abound.

It was a Sunday. Sundays are busy days at cemeteries. 

An alley with occupants. 

I had to rush away for an visit with a choreographer friend of mine. Good blueberry pie.

Days pass with nothing out of the ordinary happening. Played a private party with a big band at Club Vibrato, which is owned by Herb Albert (of Tijuana Brass fame). Because it was a private party, we were fed food from the menu. Very often when you play at restaurant/clubs, you might get fed, but it is a sort of special group meal made up for the band. An understandable move on the part of management. Musicians can and will eat you out of house and home. A few shots of some of the dishes:

Members of the band.

The menu.


Eggplant Parmesan. 

A hunk of beef.

Meyer lemon tart, pistachio ice cream.

The same band did another private party in Long Beach a week later. We did not get to eat what the guests ate. We had cold cuts; much more the usual fare. That is fine, we got paid. The gig was in Long Beach. Here are some shots of the surrounds.

When I was a kid we used to go to The Pike. We didn't go as often as we went to Pacific Ocean Park (owned by Santa Anita Park - who knew?), because Long Beach was a lot farther away, but you to ride the Cyclone at least once in your life.

The hotel of the gig.

The marina.

Looking toward Long Beach and San Pedro Harbor.

Long Beach is now the home of the Queen Mary.

A spot where you can begin someone's life and finish your own.

If you get murdered, they may enact your story here. I think it would have to be pretty dramatic for them to take it on. 

You can pet the sharks at the Aquarium. 

This is a sad homage to what The Pike and the Cyclone Racer used to be.

You already know that on my outings I am always in search of tamales. Well, even more than tamales I am always on the lookout for barbecue. Yes, barbecue, as in smoked meat. Famous Dave's is a bit of a chain. Don't let that stop you. The rib tips are happening. I've been to Famous Dave's before, so would have preferred to try something new. Time didn't allow for that; Dave's is right across the street from the hotel. I was all for it. 

Dave's rib tips. I never order my bbq sauced. I have to see if they did the right thing first.

Aerielle, was the hostess-with-the-mostess. She got me out of there quick, as I was running behind. 

Two of the band members: Nolan Shaheed (standing) and Keith Fiddmont.

Pablo Calogero, holds down the bari chair.

It is amazing how well this 114 year old horn fits some situations.

Now, the end of October - beginning of February, it is Day of the Dead (Dias de los Muertes) time. This is a big deal in Southern California and covers two weekends. I was crunched for time both weekends and had to choose my celebration sites carefully. All the more reason for the great gnashing of teeth and cries of woe on my part. What is the deal with not having an event happen when your website says it is going to happen? This time it was not me being in too big a rush to read the information carefully. These folks just didn't do what they said they were going to do. 

The Oakdale Memorial Park and Mortuary is 20 miles from here. Their celebration was supposed to go until 4 PM. I get there a bit after 2:30 and everything is ended, the booths are closing down, the stage being dismantled. There were a couple of trucks still open at the food court. Only one of them was of any interest to me (Tortas 2Die4) and he was all out of pig. Zeke had no explanation for the early close-down. I took advantage of the cemetery. It is not every day that I am in one. The light was very special, perfect for a Dias de los Muertes evening. The earliest birthdate I could find on a grave was 1825. Since I couldn't have any pig in the boneyard, I stopped at Wienerschnitzel and got a couple of dogs. Hot dogs. Don't know if they are beef or pork, probably a combination. It is not clear on their website.

Way past time for me to be part of a festival rather than just going to them. On the Saturday of the next weekend, I played two concerts at the L. A. Jazz Institute's "Something's Cool - Celebrating Jazz Sounds of the Cool School," festival. I played music of Gerry Mulligan's Ten-tette, led by Pete Christlieb and from the Prestige album of 1956, "Gil Evans & Ten." An interesting time was had by all.

Pete and Linda Christlieb.

The next day I decided to go to the Self-Help Graphics Dias de los Muertes celebration. You guessed it - closed up early. The first photo below is of their sign at the event taken at 3:39 PM. The sign says the event ends at 5 PM. I rest my case. I was not the only one disappointed. There were people showing up with kids. You can imagine. It was a big thing for me to decide to go to the Self-Help shindig. I had an issue with them in the past. They were off my list of good institutions. They were on my personal boycott list. But I said to myself, "It is 2014, 22 years since that occurrence. Get over it, go to the party." So I did. See what they did to me? Stabbed me in the back. 

Hey, I was downtown. Where can you be sure there is going to be a party on the weekend in downtown Los Angeles? That's right, Olvera Street! A person would think that is the only place in town that gets its boogie down.

The band was led by a kid, a trombone player. It was a good band.

The prize was $1,000.00. I didn't win.

Spinach and mushroom tamale.

Making pupusas.

Rico pozole rojo.

Most recently, a new group of mine played in the Los Angeles suburb of Northridge at the Jazz Vespers, hosted by the Northridge United Methodist Church. We call ourselves, "The Obihiro Cowboys." You remember Obihiro, from the Hokkaido train tour, right? The town that reminded me of Chicago. A town that a hungry dude could get some serious beef. The quartet's members are Bobby Bradford - cornet, Michael Vlatkovich - trombone, Joseph Mitchell - drums and yours truly on bass horns and various animal body parts. We had a special guest in the person of Clifford Childers, who graced us with some dulcet tones from the harmonica. Visual artist, Jennifer Gunlock, exhibited works in the sanctuary's lobby. It was a wild ride. 

The Obihiro Cowboys - William Roper, Michael Vlatkovich.

The Obihiro Cowboys - Michael Vlatkovich, William Roper.

The Obihiro Cowboys - Bobby Bradford, Michael Vlatkovich, William Roper.

The Obihiro Cowboys - Michael Vlatkovich, William Roper, Joseph Mitchell.

The Obihiro Cowboys - Bobby Bradford, Michael Vlatkovich, William Roper, Joseph Mitchell.

The Obihiro Cowboys - Special guest: Clifford Childers on mouth harp.