El Paso Trip Reflections

posted in: Jazz, Performances, Reflections | 0

I am back now from spending five days in El Paso, performing and speaking about music. It was a nice trip and I wanted to spend some time reflecting here on what happened while I was there.

This is the hotel where they put me up. Very nice, one of the best I've stayed in.
This is the hotel where they put me up. Very nice, one of the best I’ve stayed in.

Jawn Glass and Joe Barriga

The first event for me on this trip was a rehearsal with the UTEP jazz ensemble. Since most of the trumpet players from UTEP were at the Cancer Blows event in Dallas, I was asked to join Jawn Glass and Joe Barriga as subs in the section for the rehearsal.

Of course, why not!!!

It was wonderful playing in a jazz section again with Jawn Glass. Jawn and I were in high school together and did a few college years together as well. So it was very nice to spend that kind of time with him again.

It was also a nice opportunity to meet Joe Barriga, who is one of El Paso’s up and coming players. Apparently Joe knew me from a workshop I did at NMSU many years ago. So that was cool. He has developed into a fine lead trumpet player.

Jazz Gig and a Special Honor

On Tuesday night I did a jazz performance with the guys from our recent CD, A Not So Distant Pass; Ruben Gutierrez, Erik Unsworth and Ricky Malichi. Not only did we have a blast hanging out and making music together, but it was also a very special honor to have some special friends come out to hear us play. It was great to see Martin Huerta and Jeff Stevens.

Tuesday night gig in El Paso

I think the following video was shot by Jeff at the gig:

The biggest honor on Tuesday night was my high school friend (and reader of this blog), Devin Gray. Devin drove all the way from Albuquerque to hear us perform. If I remember right, that’s a four hour drive.

You cannot imagine how much I appreciate that anyone would drive so far just to hear me play my horn. That was the kindest thing anyone has done for me in a very long time. Thank you Devin!

Devin took some photos while he was there and I’ll be including them in the mosaic below.

KTEP Radio Interview With Dennis Woo

I also had the privileged to do a radio interview Wednesday morning. Dennis is not only a radio DJ. He is the current president of the El Paso Friends of Jazz, teaches broadcasting at the university and plays a bit of jazz guitar as well. So he had some wonderful questions for me that I enjoyed answering.

It’s nice talking to people who appreciate what you have to say. And if there is any one thing I would say about the interview, it would be that I definitely felt appreciated when it was over.

UTEP Performance

The concert on Wednesday evening featured four other bands besides just UTEP. The first of those bands was a very impressive junior high band from Indian Ridge Middle School.

Indian Ridge Middle School

This kids swing harder than most of the college bands I’ve heard. It’s amazing how mature they sound.

This was also a great opportunity for me to hear Roger Morgan’s son, Chandler, who is the jazz trumpeter for Franklin High School. Roger was my section leader in high school. He was always a very impressive, natural player. His son is obviously following in his footsteps.

The concert went well. I haven’t mentioned Dr. Willie Hill yet. He was the guest conductor for the UTEP jazz ensemble. I had the pleasure of eating lunch/dinner with him three different times and he is a delightful character. It was very interesting to hear stories about his work.

Dr. Hill is also a very good jazz educator. It is rare when I hear a jazz band director say pretty much the same things as I would have said. His sense of swing and overall jazz style is very similar to what I like to hear and teach to my own students (even though I haven’t directed a band in years).

Jazz Improvisation Workshop

The following morning I presented a workshop on the topic of “Musical Honesty in Jazz.” I shared with the students (and some teachers) my concept of Wholesome Musical Priorities and then demonstrated how those priorities can manifest themselves as individualism in the way we practice jazz. We talked about grammar in the context of jazz vocabulary and how to take traditional jazz motifs and practice them in a way that makes it our own.

I got such wonderful comments and feedback about the workshop, and that touches my heart. Really, I think it’s important to take everything we do back to the basics. Not just musical basics, but all the way back to who we are as a person. If we are not true to ourselves, even in the way we practice, then our performances will always be fake.

So it was good to hear that the students responded so well to what I had to share with them.

Thank You All

In summary, it was a very nice trip and I want to thank everyone who made it special. Erik Unsworth was a very good host and made my stay very comfortable. As always, it was a blast making music with him, Ricky and Ruben again. And I was so thrilled to hookup with so many dear friends while I was there. Thank you all for welcoming me back with open arms.

Here’s a bunch of photos from the trip:

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