Long Overdue Site Update

Well, it was time. I finally bit the bullet and updated my site. Lots of new information since the last time!

I have been extremely fortunate to play in the Graduate Jazz Combo (christened the Gradtet) here at UNL. Our book consists of original tunes and arrangements; it's been a blast to play. Being in a band made up of 50% doctoral jazz comp students has really forced me to stretch my limitations. I've gotten to play some alto flute, which is fun but a continuing adventure in pitch.

A few weeks ago the Gradtet and the Jazz Orchestra traveled to the Elmhurst Jazz Festival just outside of Chicago. For those who don't know, Elmhurst is probably the premier collegiate jazz festival in the country. When I was much younger and more impressionable I remember being in awe of groups like the University of Kentucky's Megasax Quartet, who went to Elmhurst and came away with great acclaim for both them as players and their program. It was really an exciting experience, not to mention getting to hear the Dave Douglas Quintet and the Maria Schneider Orchestra. Walter Smith III and Rich Perry on tenors two nights in a row! And I managed to snag a picture with Mr. Perry:

Bob and Rich - it's a Selmer Soloist, for those wondering

I am also proud to say that both the Gradtet and the Jazz Orchestra received awards for Oustanding Collegiate Ensemble.

More good news - I have been accepted into the doctoral program for Jazz Studies at UNL. I can honestly say it's a little surreal; sometimes you just spend so much time with your nose in books (or the practice room) that things fly by. It's strange to look up and go "Oh, hey, I might actually pull this off." Still waiting on word about assistantships, but a big step was been hurdled.

I will try to update the blog more frequently with my thoughts about, uh, stuff. For the gearheads among you, I have updated my gear page to reflect a change in mouthpiece. I've been really into Joe Henderson and Rich Perry recently - the core and vibrancy of their sounds. I've long been one of those open tip/soft reed players, having cycled through Links, Guardalas, before finally settling on a Strathon 8. The Strathon is an interesting piece. For those who aren't familiar with it, it has a sliding baffle that is supposed to allow the player a leve of customization in the sound. Slide it all the way back, you get a Getz type thing. All the way forward and it's bright and edgy. Tom Scott and Gary Thomas use them on tenor, Nick Brignola used one on baritone. Great full sound, but I realized I wasn't speaking in my voice. My teacher, Paul Haar, loaned me a great mouthpiece made by Gottsu in Japan. It's called a Sepia Tone and this version was an 8; I loved it immediately. It was full and beautiful while very much in the Henderson vein. Henderson's sound was once described as like sandpaper, rubbing away at the chord changes. I've always loved that, and hoped to capture it.

Well it's one thing to be a Gottsu artist, it's another to try to acquire one as a regular joe. The only place I could find one was in France for a hefty sum. I was willing to spend the coin, but then I came across a deal on a Mouthpiece Cafe Espresso. The Espresso is designed to be like the old Selmer Soloists played by Henderson and Perry. So I was looking at $300+ to get the Gottsu shipped from France, or $250 for the new Espresso I'd been eyeballing. By some stroke of luck I found a guy getting rid of an Espresso for a good price and I bit.

I was blown away. It felt like I was really speaking in my own voice for the first time. The Gottsu was an amazing piece (and I'd still like to acquire one) but this was itNow, of course, I'm really tempted to try an old Soloist. The mouthpiece carousel never stops...

In the next blog post, maybe I'll discuss how my smartass mind is getting me in trouble naming big band charts...

- Bob

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