It’s been a minute since my last post. Chair duties at USC and traveling/writing have consumed all the hours in the day lately. Life continues to be interesting and challenging in good ways. Grateful to be here!
USC is looking more promising by the day. I’m happy to have the chance to make a difference in my role as chair of the jazz department. We have a faculty of some of the workingest musicians on the planet, and this is turning out to be a terrific conduit for our student’s journey into the world of the working musician. I’ve been using several students in my big band (We took Eric Hughes, undergrad senior trombonist to Japan last June) The faculty trio (Peter Erskine, Alan Pasqua, Darek Oles) did a concert with doctoral student Greg Johnson for the L.A. Jazz Society in August with faculty member Ambrose Akinmusire on trumpet. Several of the jazz students have been appearing as extras on the TV show “Glee”. So the cats are working!
We are in the process of forming a larger umbrella department at USC which combines film scoring, studio guitar, industry, popular music, and technology under one roof. This will enable students of jazz to get a look at other disciplines and acquire multiple skills while honing their jazz chops. This bodes well for the “triple threat” philosophy we have at USC: Writing, Playing, Teaching.
Los Angeles is jumpin’ these days. The recording studios are in full swing, and there are gigs to be had. It is far easier to book a gig in L.A. than it ever was in New York. Our USC students are working around town, and playing in and forming bands. Jazz (and all kinds of live music) seems to be alive and well out here!
I’ve read two great books lately. One is a book about Rubin Hurricane Carter, the professional boxer who was framed for murder back in the 70’s and spent 22 years in jail. It turns out one of the authors, Terry Swinton, is an amateur saxophonist, and contacted me about my etude books. He sent me a copy of the book (made into a movie starring Denzel Washington) and I was drawn into this story in a big way. It amazed me how racist our society is and how corrupt the justice system can be. But what was most inspiring was how Terry Swinton and a group of Canadians stepped up to advocate for Rubin Carter along with several luminary lawyers who worked free of charge. This is a very hopeful and uplifting story that tells me that we all can make a difference!
The other book I’ve read is called Eat to Live by a Dr. Joel Fuhrman. Dr. Fuhrman lays out a clear and focused approach to eating better and explains why. I’ve always been an advocate of healthy eating, but this book puts a new spin on it and exposes how the media and even the medical community plays a role in perpetuating a sick society by missing the point when it comes to diet. IF you stop and consider how much money is made by the health care industry in the U.S. you will understand why this is the case. I heard a former health care executive articulate it succinctly the other day: “We don’t want you to die, but we don’t want you to be healthy either, because we need your business”. One sure-fire way to stay healthy is to eat well and exercise. This book has made a big difference in my energy level and outlook in a short time.
Writing to you from Shanghai, China. I’m here with the Yellowjackets. We’re very grateful to be here spreading a message of peace and cooperation through music and art, a great contrast to all the finger-pointing concerning trade agreements and philosophical differences between countries. Music is the glue that holds us all together! Keep the faith! Bob