The past few days have offered the opportunity to get off campus and visit with Ben Aldridge and his wife Anna up in Winterport ME. As there are no classes at Dublin School today (Monday), in favor of Earth Day related activities, we had the chance to make it a long weekend, meaning more fun for all.
Ben is a good friend and long-time colleague from The Walden School. He is also a jazz player, as well as a teacher, composer, and music publisher. He and I decided last summer, while hiking Gap mountain and Solfeging assorted bebop melodies, that it would be a good idea to have a weekly jazz practice check in, when we could share details about what we’re each working on, who we’re listening to, what concepts we’re exploring, and in general spread around some all-purpose enthuse and motivation. We’ve kept the phone calls going pretty regularly throughout the year and I can say unambiguously that I’ve become a better musician as a consequence.
Back in February, Ben stepped into the role of being my artistic manager. In addition to offering feedback about sections of The Jazz Musicianship Book, exploring strategies for book promotion, building a spreadsheet of clubs in the Raleigh area that have live music, transcribing some of my original tunes, and various website stuff, Ben has been helping me articulate and organize my long and short term goals. At present, the five year plan includes a tour of Japan, a date on Marian McPartland’s Piano Jazz, releasing an album of original tunes once a year, completing the second volume of Jazz Musicianship, and developing my teaching resume. In a recent conversation with my mother (who has generously offered the use of some of her images for JazzMusicianship.com), Ben said something to the effect that “I’d been asking myself, when is Bill going to get off his butt and knock the world on its ear?”, to which Mom adroitly responded “I’m really excited to hear someone say that who isn’t Bill’s mother.” (I love you both.)
Among many other things, it was a terrific weekend in the food department, beginning with Friday night Indian in Portland (a great way to break up time on the road), followed up by Saturday afternoon pizza, Saturday evening sushi at this really neat place with tables set into the floor (we decided that Shitake Maki is really fun to say), Sunday afternoon fried seafood – Maine style, and capped off by home made enchiladas Sunday evening. Give the man credit, he does cook. Of course, we did have to do a little oatmeal instructional session on the morning when Anna was leaving early for her church choir gig; that would be 1 cup of oats with 2 cups of water, not the other way around. Throw in a few home made cookies and some ginger beer on the side, and I’m feeling well padded for the chills of the New England “spring”. (I feel my trampoline a calling. I hear a rumor that she’s put together and waiting.)
It hasn’t been whole sale sedentation though; Ben has been starting off his days with some informal and highly spirited work out videos and I figured I’d join in the fun. We quickly agreed that I wouldn’t kid him about the work out videos if he would return the favor about my on-line orcs and swords game (something of an obsession with me). Given that this was Saturday morning and Saturday is battle day in Orcland, this was an easy agreement to make. So, after forty-five minutes of vigorous walking, with a variety of accutraments thrown in (side steps, knee lifts, kick backs – “and lift, and lower, and lift, and lower…”), and of course given that this is Ben and I, we had to add some musicianship drills into the mix – “major-minor seven up from C: C-E-G-Bess”; after work out and after shower, we tuned in for a detailed blow by blow of the concluding battle of the 5-week league tournament: Mestron Warmongers vs. The Pride of Cats. (Can you guess which team is mine?) It’s kind of fun, because last season I tied with Warmongers for fifth (out of 420 homesteads in the realm) and this weekend we had the chance for a face to face rumble; it wasn’t pretty, but I pulled out a win.
Food, orcs, and dorky exercise routines aside (oops – sorry Ben, does that count as making fun?) the highlight of the weekend was, no surprise, music. Ben and I have played together before, but it’s been quite a while. (We can’t decide if it’s been three years or eight years; either way, it hasn’t been lately.) Ben (and Anna) teach at a community music studio in Bangor, and we sneaked in a few jam sessions in the lobby around their various lessons. Of course, Ben would put me on the spot by calling one of my tunes, one of those that I wrote a few weeks ago and haven’t thought much about since (and that he’s been shedding rather systematically). I think I managed to turn the tables though, calling a Beatles number that Chip, Weldon, and I are doing next week for the students, which happens to be in a less comfortable key on the saxophone.
And that my friends, has been my weekend. Along with some CD browsing, assorted doggie shenanigans (Ben and Anna have a beagle named Nadia, and she and Tighlman were hitting the romp, daring each other to run across the pool, cover on, much to their delight and our hysteria), reading aloud (on learning the story of Ben and Anna’s courtship, I felt moved to share one of my favorite short stories: David Schickler’s “The Smoker”), Wii bowling (170 to 139 – we won’t say whose was the 139) and quality conversation with good hearted people, it’s been a lovely few days away. More musicianship teaching awaits me in the morning.