A group picture after the concert honoring Al Mendez for his time as band director of the Andress High School band.
Jazz Unlimited – Al Mendez Tribute Concert
Last week, Pearl and I traveled to my home town of El Paso, Texas, to participate in a jazz band concert honoring my high school band director, Al Mendez. El Paso’s Jazz Unlimited Big Band invited several of Mendez’ alumnus to perform as soloists in the concert and I was one of those soloists.
What began as an idea for a concert ended up turning into a full-fledged Andress High School Band reunion. Past students went to El Paso from around the world to be part of the celebration.
In the week leading up to the concert, we did a number of master classes for which we will write about separately. We also did a quick hike to the top of the Franklin Mountains and were the highest two people in Texas still touching the ground. But we will write more about those things in subsequent posts. Right now, I want to spend this time writing about the concert.
Jammin’ with Jawn Glass and Todd Baldwin
Eddie Lewis in the balcony.
Jawn Glass in the balcony.
Roger on stage playing in unison with Jawn and I.
Roger in high note mode!
It was such a pleasure to share the stage with one of my old high school buddies, Jawn Glass. The first two tunes I played were tunes that both of us took solos on. In fact, the opening tune began with Jawn and I in the balcony and Roger Morgan (another high school buddy and the main organizer of the entire event) on stage performing Scarborough Fair in unison.
Then the tune opened up for Jawn and I to do some “free improvisation”…still from the balcony. It was a great deal of fun to do something like that again with Jawn, who has become trumpet royalty in El Paso. The guy works more than I do and when you hear him play, you know why. He puts his entire heart into every note!
Todd Baldwin taking the next solo on the opening tune.
Also jamming on the first tune was Todd Baldwin, the star trombone and euphonium player when we were in high school.
Drummer Alan Chavez was the fifth Andress Jazz Alumni featured on the opening tune.
I also got to jam with Jawn again on a tune that the students always LOVED when we were in high school, Los Hermanos de Bop by Mark Taylor.
I’m watching Jawn play a solo on Los Hermano de Bop.
Eddie and Jawn jamming together on Los Hermanos de Bop.
Solos Featuring Jawn, Roger and Todd
Most of the tunes on the concert featured each of us as soloists. Jawn Glass was featured on his flugelhorn on a beautiful performance of Come Sunday.
Jawn Glass performing Come Sunday with the Jazz Unlimited Big Band.
Todd jammin’ on The Nearness of You.
Todd featured on Emily.
Roger featured on The Nearness of You.
The highlight of the performance, for me personally, was having the opportunity to perform one of my original combo pieces with Al Mendez jammin’ right next to me. Behold is a piece I wrote in 2004 for my band to perform in the Kemah Jazz Festival. When Roger Morgan approached me about a combo tune that we could play on this concert, this is the piece that stood out. What a thrill it was to play jazz with my high school band director, the man who basically got me started doing what I do for a living today!
Eddie and Al Mendez playing Behold.
Al Mendez jammin’ on my tune, Behold.
Guest performers playing my composition, Behold. Left to right: Chris Reyman – Piano, Eric Unsworth – Bass, Eddie Lewis – Trumpet, Al Mendez – Alto Sax, Alan Chavez – Drums, Jimmy Olivas – Tenor Sax, Todd Baldwin – Trombone.
Boys Play, Men Fight
The Jazz Unlimited Big Band performing Boys Play, Men Fight
I’m going to break this post into two parts. Part II will talk more about this piece. It’s an original composition I wrote specifically for this concert, as a dedication piece for Al Mendez. I was supposed to introduce the piece, but completely forgot. So the second part of this blog post will talk more about the idea behind the composition and what I was going to say if I had remembered to introduce the piece.
Here I am soloing with the band on my original composition.
Al Mendez – Andress High School Band Director from 1977 to 1984
I have written about Al Mendez before, on this blog. He is one of my mentors, one of the people who helped me become the person I am today. What made this concert so special to me was that it gave so many of us an opportunity to express our gratitude to a man who made a positive impact on their lives.
Roger Morgan Exercising Love
Roger Morgan talking about Al Mendez’ influence on him and the rest of us alumni.
I don’t blog much anymore. One reason is because it takes so much time. I’m looking at the clock on my computer right now and I’ve been working on this one post for over three hours. This time it’s because I’m posting so many pictures, which need to be cropped and edited before they are posted.
Anyway, for those of you who have read my blog, you may remember my posts in the “Love Is” series. [Click HERE to read that series.] I never finished the series, only writing about two and a half of the fifteen points on the list.
I’m telling you this because all week last week I was thinking about how Roger Morgan put my teachings on “Love Isn’t Proud” into action, without even knowing it. I believe that when the word “pride” is used in the Bible, it is describing when we take credit for things that God has done for us, or through us…OR…..when we take credit for things other people have done for us. I haven’t written any blog posts about it yet, but I did that homework many years ago and still have the notes I was using for the series on this blog. Maybe someday I will get back to blogging and finish it.
When I teach about 1 Cor. 13, and when we get to the subject of pride, I suggest that the way to avoid being prideful is to make a habit of acknowledging God and acknowledging those people who have contributed to our success. According to my interpretation of 1 Cor. 13, this is part of what it means to love someone in a biblical sense.
And that’s what Roger did. Not only did Roger acknowledge Al Mendez’ influences, but he also created an environment for all the rest of us to do the same. And for that, Roger deserves to be acknowledged himself.
Our society is so very lacking in people we can hold up as examples of how to live. But in this regard, as an example of how not to be proud, Roger has raised the bar. He has given us a taste of what it’s like to exercise biblical love.
Thank you Roger! Thank you for all of your effort and enthusiasm.