Houston Composers Salon #9

Photo by Pin Lim at forestphotography.com

Photo by Pin Lim at forestphotography.com

I’ve been invited to perform one of my original compositions at the next Houston Composers Salon. Instead of pulling something out of the file cabinet, I decided to go ahead and write a brand new piece for this performance. I’m calling it Body, Soul and Spirit and it’s scored for three trumpets and a tuba.

The reason I chose to write a new piece is because I want to share one of my Spider Chord compositions with the Houston composers’ scene. The Spider Chords are an original harmonic language based on twelve-tone serialism. It is one of my most significant contributions to the world of music but continues to lay dormant due to lack of exposure.

When Thomas Helton invited me to be part of this performance, I felt like this was the perfect opportunity to put the Spider Chords on display and see what kind of feedback I get.

Here is the information for the concert. If you are into modern music, then you don’t want to miss this. It features original compositions by Thomas Helton, Joe LoCascio, Andrew Seifert, and yours truly.

Houston Composers Salon #9
September 15, 7:30 PM
Cullen Hall, University of St. Thomas
4001 Mt. Vernon, Houston, TX 77006
Q&A following each piece, moderated by Professor Ryan Gabbart

Composed by Thomas Helton
Richard Nunemaker, Clarinet

5 movements from “13 for Piano”
Composed by Joe LoCascio
Hsin-Jung Tsai, piano

The Bass’s Mechanical Heart Collapses Under Emotional Pressure
Composed by Andrew Seifert
Thomas Helton, bass
Andrew Seifert, clarinet

Body, Soul and Spirit
Composed by Eddie Lewis
Eddie Lewis, trumpet
John Goode, trumpet
Alex Lewis, trumpet
Thomas Helton, tuba

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Daily Routines in Europe

Daily Routines for Trumpet by Eddie LewisI’m not sure why we never mentioned this before. My readership is an international one and it just slipped my mind to mention it. Spaeth/Schmid – Blechbläsernoten has been carrying our books in their inventory for several years now. If you live in Europe and have an interest in any of our products, please feel free to patronize their store.

Looking at their catalogue online, I see that they officially carry eight of my books. All-State Prep, Daily Routines, Go With The Flow, The Physical Trumpet Pyramid, Trane for Trumpet, Twelve Tunes and Twenty Studies. You can see all of our listings by clicking the following link:



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Life Builders: Curt Warren

It’s been a while since I wrote one of these Life Builders posts. I changed the structure of my daily schedule and haven’t been able to spend as much time writing as I used to. But I recently emailed my good friend Ricky Malichi who told me Curt has retired and is traveling around the country, and enjoying life. That prompted me to write this new Life Builders post because Curt is certainly one of those people who made a major impact in my life.

Curt Warren on Guitar, Me (Eddie Lewis) on trumpet, and John Nelson on tenor.

Curt Warren on Guitar, Me (Eddie Lewis) on trumpet, and John Nelson on tenor.

Curt Warren: El Paso’s Jazz Great

Since before I ever got to El Paso, Curt Warren was always the most venerated jazz musician in town. Curt is to El Paso what Dennis Dotson is to Houston (just to put it into perspective for my Houston friends). He is the most knowledgeable, most capable and most musical jazz player on the scene.

Here is a copy of his biographical information taken from The El Paso Conservatory of Music (I’m copying it here because I know Curt has moved from El Paso and I don’t know how long this bio will remain on their website):

Curt Warren is an active jazz guitarist, known primarily in the southwest, who is quickly making a name for himself on the national scene.  The El Paso Conservatory of Music welcomed Curt to its guitar faculty in the spring of 2011.

1963: Curt began his professional career playing the Frankie Laine show in Las Vegas.

1968-1970: Curt played shows in Hawaii including Teresa Brewer, Tony Martin and a televised appearance with the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra.

1970-1972: Curt was the leader of the El Paso Sheraton house band where he worked with Della Reese, Billy Eckstein, Fran Jefferies, Jerry Van Dyke, Joanne Summers, etc.

1974-1978: Performed with the United States Navy Band, “The Commodores” (the official Navy jazz ensemble) in Washington, DC. While performing with this band, he was a featured soloist at the Newport Jazz Festival, the Midwest Band Convention in Chicago, and at the National Association of Jazz Educators Convention in Dallas, TX.

1978: Curt began his employment as a Professor of Guitar at the University of Texas at El Paso, teaching jazz guitar and jazz improvisation, and performing at various functions and concerts at the university. He continues to work with his own trio in jazz clubs in El Paso where he has played with such greats as Herb Ellis, Bill Watrous, Carl Fontana, Rob McConnell, Bud Shank, Eddie Harris, Joe Newman, Tommy Tedesco, Al Viola and others.

1984: Recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Fellowship Grant.

1986: Again received a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Fellowship Grant.

Curt Warren has three albums to his credit. The first one, I’ve Got the World on a String , was recorded with legendary jazz bassist Monty Budwig. The second, Jazz Ruined My Life, was recorded in Chicago and features the great Chicago jazz pianist Larry Novak, Rusty Jones on drums, and Nick Tountas on bass.  The third album “Jazz Ruined My Life II” was recorded both in Chicago and El Paso, Texas. It was released in October of 1998 by Innovative Strings Records, and is available online via amazon.com. Curt performs annually at the Texas Jazz Festival in Corpus Christi, Texas. He performs and gives clinics around the Chicago area, and in the Albuquerque, El Paso, and Houston areas. Curt is looking forward to expanding his excellent career even further.”

Byron Mutnick in back on drums, Curt Warren on guitar, Curt Black on bass, me (Eddie Lewis) on trumpet and John Nelson on tenor.

Byron Mutnick in back on drums, Curt Warren on guitar, Curt Black on bass, me (Eddie Lewis) on trumpet and John Nelson on tenor.

Solfeggiating Monster!


My first experience with Curt was in my freshman year at UTEP. Curt was my sight singing teacher. The earliest memory I have of him was when he demonstrated solfeggio in class, singing along with his guitar, almost George Benson style, but doing it solfeggio. I was impressed.

I think that influenced me to take the solfeggio seriously. Thanks to Curt Warren, Buddy Sisco and Cesar Morales (all of which are solfeggiating monsters), I am convinced that learning solfeggio is a very important part of growing as a musician.

Getting Spoiled

One of Curt‘s talents as a guitar player is that he can make any note you play fit the changes. This was a good thing for me when I was first learning to improvise, but a rude awakening when I left El Paso and learned that not everyone plays this way. I had many opportunities to jam and perform with Curt while I was a student at UTEP. I can say with complete honesty that I always sounded best when Curt was covering up my mistakes. 🙂

I remember that Curt told me that this is what he does. He gave me lots of examples of wrong notes that he made fit the changes. Back then I thought it was amazing that he could do that on the fly. But today, I don’t just see it as amazing, I also see it as being extremely generous. Houston is full of wonderful musicians, but I have been places where, if you aren’t cutting the changes, you were treated like an outcast.

But Curt was always very kind to me in that respect. Looking back now and understanding just how little I was capable of back then, I really have to admire him for being so patient with me. I don’t think I REALLY started playing changes until about ten years after I left El Paso.

Here’s a Youtube playlist I created of some of Curt‘s videos:

Appreciating Jazz Lines

It was Curt who inspired me to appreciate jazz lines. I took his improvisation class and a few lessons. But I learned mostly from talking to him at jams and gigs. Curt likes to practice horn player licks. I remember that he was the first one to introduce me to minor ii V i licks that start on the flat five of the two chord. He showed me a tom Harrell lick that I still use hints of even today.

It was Curt who influenced me to begin collecting the jazz lines that eventually became my “book.” Long before I ever published one of my other books, I had a manuscript notebook full of jazz lines that I practiced in every key. I carried this book around with me everywhere I went and people would often ask me if I would sell them a copy. Ha! Their prompts are what put the idea to some day publish my materials in my head.

These Life Builders posts are my opportunity to acknowledge how people have contributed to my success in life. In my earliest years of jazz improvisation, Curt planted seeds in my life that have today come to full fruition. He introduced me to the philosophies that shaped my understanding of the jazz language.

I believe that when we use the term, “Jazz Language,” it specifically refers to how we structure our melodies, our lines. I believe that the individual notes are the jazz equivalent of spoken syllables. I believe that motifs (three to six note groupings) are the jazz equivalent of words. I believe that jazz phrases (what we call lines or licks) are the equivalent of spoken sentences. Finally, choruses in jazz are like paragraphs in speech.

This is one of the cornerstones of my jazz playing and how I teach jazz improv. It was Curt who pointed me in that direction. It was Curt Warren who taught me to appreciate jazz lines instead of just trying to play scales and arpeggios all the time.

Curt Warren Guitar

Thank You Curt

The last time I saw Curt was when he played a gig here in Houston on his way back from the Texas Jazz Festival. I had played with him one last time just a few months prior to that gig (the picture to the left is from that “gig”). Knowing that he has left El Paso makes me wonder if I will ever get a chance to work with him again. And that makes me sad.

Curt, I don’t know if I ever told you how much I appreciate you and what you did for me. Thank you so much for being true to who you are. I don’t do well talking about these sorts of things in person. But I want to thank you for being such a big part of who I am today as a musician. Much of who I am as a jazz player finds its roots in your influence in my life. So thank you!

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Mike Sailors on Money in Music

Mike Sailors:
To Spend or Not to Spend:
Advice From Someone in the Know.

A great post about money in the music industry. I agree with Mr. Sailors 100%. If you have been following my blog much at all, you know how I feel about undercharging or underpaying for music services. It’s just nice to see that I am not just a freak weirdo. There are others, plenty of them, who feel precisely the way I do.
money and budgeting

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Dealing With Rejection and Failure

Over the past month, Pearl and I have watched two shows that caused me to reflect on some of the “less successful” (to put it lightly) aspects of my past. The first was a Without a Trace episode about a kid who was picked on, (I guess it’s called bullying today) by his classmates. The second was a movie on Hulu called The Browning Version.

Without a Trace

For both of these, there were moments during the show when my past hurts welled back up inside of me. The Without a Trace episode brought back very painful memories of my junior high years, in Hawaii, when I was beat up on a regular basis. Although the scenes in the episode were not exactly like my situation, there was enough similarity to trigger emotions that I haven’t felt in decades.

I was often stripped naked by the “bullies” before they beat me up. In those days my sanctuary was the band room. I knew that, when I was there, Mr. Hamm would keep those kids away from me. So I spent a lot of time in the band room, practicing and playing with the other band kids. But one time, when Mr. Hamm had to leave the band room on a short errand, the “bullies” barged into the band room, stripped me naked, beat me up, and locked me in a tuba locker.

Here's a picture of me (Eddie Lewis) in Maui.

Here’s a picture of me in Maui.

But that wasn’t the worst of those events. The worst, at least from my perspective anyway, was when I was attacked in the locker room showers. The locker rooms were right across from the home economics building. The kids tackled me while I was still wet from my shower, picked me up (there were about six of them I think), took me to the back door and swung me out the door before locking it. My first reaction was to the pain from being thrown and hitting a poll with my side. But as I came to realize where I was, I was overwhelmed with shame. I was standing naked in front of about fifty girls who were waiting for the bell to ring. The only way for me to get my clothes on was to walk past them, around the locker room building, to the front door. It was by far the most humiliating day of my life.

Now, while these bullies were beating me up, they told me WHY they were doing it. They told me as they beat me up why they hated me so much. It was because I was white. Yes, I know first hand what it means to experience prejudice, discrimination and racism. I know, from genuine experiences, what it is liked to be hated because my skin is a different color. I lived that way for two years of my life.

Of course, there are those who have told me (the defensive non-whites that is) that the REAL reason I was beat up so often was because I was an easy target (certainly, they reasoned, no whites have ever been beaten up for racial reasons). By that time in my life, I had already given my life to Christ. I didn’t believe in fighting. So usually I just took it. I let them beat up on me without making any effort to fight back. So even though the actual words from the mouths of the “bullies” were racially motivated and hateful, there is probably some truth to the fact that I got more than my fair share of that hatred because I didn’t fight back.

Note: Today, I’m not as convinced that not fighting back is always the right Christian answer. But that’s a different topic for a different day.

Watching that Without a Trace episode brought those old emotions back to the surface. I could empathize with that kid so well because I have lived it myself. It is not a “what if” scenario in my life. I actually lived it.

The Browning Version

I experienced a very similar reaction while watching The Browning Version. It’s a movie about a teacher, Andrew Crocker-Harris, who is dealing with all of his failures. Although he began his career as one of the top minds in the country (England), he had experienced a constant string of failures from the time he left university until the day he was forced to retire, without pension, from his teaching job.

At one point in the movie, he was summarizing his list of failures to the man who was having an affair with his wife. As he went through his list, I felt the same sort of empathetic emotions that I felt watching Without a Trace. It was “been there, done that” on steroids!!! I know first hand of the failures “The Croc” (as he was infamously referred to) was dealing with in that movie. I have had a very similar string of failures in my own life and career.

I think it was the number eighteen that first triggered my empathetic emotions. Crocker-Harris was leaving his job after eighteen years and that’s how long I was married to my ex before she left me. So that number probably served as an emotional trigger of sorts. But over and above the infidelity, just looking at the kind of man he was, you know, I can relate to that. I can understand why he was not liked. I can understand because I am that same kind of man. I may not be as sour as he was in the movie…but then…according to the movie, he became increasingly sour as the failures and disappointments mounted. So it was my impression that he wasn’t always as uncaring and unfeeling as he was in the movie. So yeah, I could see myself one day being just as dark and bitter as he was in the movie.

And yes, I am that same kind of person. I am not interested in what is cool. I do not care about sports. I am not one for social drinking or partying and such. I enjoy more enlightening activities. And yes, I understand that this makes me dreadfully boring. I understand that my friends and family would actually spend more time with me if I wasn’t so dull.

Ha! This reminds me of when I was a drinker. He he he… I started drinking beer socially soon after my ex left me. I did this for about eight months before I quit. What I found to be very amazing was how many friends I had while I was drinking! All of a sudden, for the very first time in my life, I had friends who wanted to spend time with me. It’s funny because, when I told some of those friends that I was going to quit drinking, they laughed at me and said, “but Eddie, you never started.” Apparently, two beers is not considered “drinking.” He he he…. But it was enough to make people feel like we had something “fun” in common.

So, no, I am not the kind of person most people like to spend time with. I am as dry, dull and boring as Crocker-Harris was in that movie. And as a result, there are a lot of things in my life that I can look back on and say that I am a failure, rejected by society, a misfit, with no real friends and even some family members who refuse to speak to me.

Dealing With It

But what of it?

As I experienced those empathetic emotions, I thought to myself:

“All my life I have been presented with a choice…a constant choice. I can choose to accept that failure, that rejection, and let it define who I am. Or I can pull my head up out of that muck and see things how they really are.”

None of those things I listed from my past have power over me. They do not define who I am. I am not caught up in reliving those painful moments the way some people do, over and over again.

The truth is, I forgave those bullies immediately after they beat me up. I forgave them every time. In fact, I would have to say that the only way I would have ever let them repeat their crimes was if I HAD forgiven them. Without forgiveness, I would have been less capable of restraining myself.

And by the way, for those of you who think people who do not fight back are cowards, I can tell you from experience that restraint takes far more courage than you will ever need for a fight. I believe it is the cowards who fight, because they do not have what it takes to suffer the shame and humiliation and still hold their heads up high.

And as for my Crocker-Harris-like failures, my great many failures, I happen to know that there is no success without failure. I dare you to ask any successful business man if he has ever experienced failure. The pathway to success IS one long string of failures. It is not only a well known truth in the business world, but also a Biblical fact. The following is only one of many quotes from the Bible that deal with failure:

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” – 2 Cor 12:9-10

So Let’s Get It Right!

And this is where I think Andrew Crocker-Harris had gotten it all wrong. All of us have our own sob stories to tell. But how we live our lives is really a matter of choice. We can choose to live in failure, to live in disappointment, to live in rejection, or we can choose not to. We can let our past pains darken our lives, or we can choose to let God use that pain to bring light into the darkness.

I have a student, Jay Herder, who has been taking lessons with me for about seven years now. The first day I met him, I was impressed by his attitude. It was very early in the morning and the other trumpet students were complaining about having to be up so early for band practice. But Jay bounced into the room saying, “I like the mornings!” He went on about how much he loves to see the sunrise and to hear the birds. He went on for several minutes about all the things he likes about the mornings.

Jay Herder in one of his lessons.

Jay Herder in one of his lessons.

Like all of us, Jay has his own reasons to be dark and bitter. And yet, he does not let his own personal pains, rejections and disappointments ruin his life. Today, Jay is doing well as a college student while also working as an assistant manager at H.E.B. He is also playing his trumpet, active in his church praise and worship team, and volunteers as a fireman. As far as I’m concerned, he’s one of my most “successful” students because he is always moving forward with his life.

In that way, we should all be more like Jay. We should all focus on what’s ahead instead of what lays behind us. Don’t dwell on the rejections and failures of our past. Use those experiences. Learn from them. Let them make us stronger. Then we will be ready to go places we would never be able to go without having lived through those more difficult moments.

Yes, there are times when we will feel sad, hurt, lonely, angry, or disappointed. That’s normal. But it is our choice to not let those feelings define who we are. One thing I know from experience is that when you allow those things define your personality, they feed on you like a cancer…just like they did to Andrew Crocker-Harris in the movie. When you let the rejection, failure and disappointment define you, your life will become increasingly more dark and bitter. You will become lifeless and even hateful. You will blame it on those who hurt you, blame it on circumstance, blame it on your mistakes, but in reality, it was your choice all along. Take it from someone who has more than my share of reasons to be dark and bitter. It is your choice. If I can choose something better, then so can you.

My First Sermon

Interestingly, now that I’ve finished writing this post, I realize that it is very similar to the message God gave me to share in my very first sermon to a church congregation. When Pearl and I were in South Africa in April, I was invited to “share the word” at one of the churches. I asked the Holy Spirit if there was something I should share with them and this post is very similar to what I felt He wanted me to speak about. I had more scriptural references for that message than I do for this post, but it was essentially the same message. Maybe I will share those references in another post.

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South African Birds: Kingfishers

We saw two different kinds of king fishers on our trip to South Africa. Here are a few pictures of a Pied Kingfisher and a Brown-Hooded Kingfisher

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Lead Trumpet Stereo Types

Can you play loud and high? He he he….

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