An Entertaining Truth

WOW! Ok, that was a long break. But, I’m back 🙂 So dig:

Here is the TRUTH. Coming to your very own TV set! For me, this truth also fits into my personal religious beliefs. What about you? Discuss…

Cosmos copy

Click the image or the link below to see the clip!

…and watch COSMOS!

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New Interview!

Blogatious WunderKATS,


Blog #1 of 2014! Well, the good folks at ArtistShare® (the wonderful place where my project Concerto for Folded Space is housed) have put together a profile interview and it is now posted. They asked some really cool questions and it was a blast to put together. Lots of stuff I have either never thougth about, or haven’t considered in awhile.

Check out Part 1 below, and then CLICK HERE for the full thing on their site.


The ArtistShare Profile series features exclusive interviews with ArtistShare artists focusing on inspirations, current projects, and the creative process.

Featured Artist: Steve Wiest


ArtistShare: Describe the moment when you realized you wanted to be a musician.

 An exact moment is hard to nail down. I do know that, for as long as I can remember, I have been deep into creativity. I am completely right-brained (can’t even access the organized left-brain math-zone…something about “no password” keeps coming up…) It is that absolute spark, or joyous feeling that the act of creation, or perhaps more accurately, the prelude to the act of creation causes in me that keeps me coming back for more. Whether it was the first drawings that I made as a child, early designs of games that I would craft with cards and toys, or goofing around on the nasty old piano in our basement in Woodridge Illinois-creativity has always completely captivated me.

I suppose there are a series of first-times in my artistic development that made me realize that I wanted to be a musician: The first time I heard the blues, the first time I heard Jimmy Pankow with the rock group Chicago, Urbie Green, J.J. Johnson, Carl Fontana, Maynard Ferguson, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, Gil Evans…the list goes on and on (and hasn’t stopped yet) But perhaps the most defining moment was when I had a piece of music performed for the first time. It was a silly piece, in hindsight, in fact: it was SO silly that we couldn’t play it! This ultra funk piece was written for a garage band that Jon Fairbank (one of my dearest friends) and I had organized while I was living in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Along with transcribing popular groups such as Chicago and Blood Sweat and Tears and adding horn parts to ZZ Top tunes, that first original absolutely sent lightning bolts right through my heart. To hear other people perform music that I had written! Wow. I still try to recreate that feeling every time I compose.

By the way, that first original was called “Punkin’ Head” Imagine the slinkiest, funkiest thing you’ve ever heard, then imagine trying to play it while looking at that title, with a “Punkin’ Head” cartoon character that I had drawn on each musician’s music. Impossible!

AS: Describe the latest creative process update you made to your project.

Steve: The most recent update was an analysis of one of the pieces, in this case “Queen Ian,” using multiple platforms. Basing everything on a cool bit of software called Camtasia, I made a video of myself discussing the Finale score. This software makes it possible to film a video of yourself that displays in the corner of the screen while also filming your desktop. The cursor is set on “magnify” so that every part of the screen that I move it to is enlarged to emphasize what I am pointing out. I think this makes for a wonderfully organic method of analyzing the music, not unlike how it would be if I could invite my participants over to my studio and show them the computer screen while I talked about the chart.

I followed that update with a PDF file that includes all of the scores that I have written so far and plan to follow that up with a new batch of MIDI demos. Then, things will really get to jumpin’ as we begin to piece together the Pro Tools template. I will be filming every stage of that process and uploading exclusive behind-the-scenes video excerpts of that phase as well. All participants will be able to log in to their accounts to access all of these fun goodies!

Read Part 2

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NO copy

Happy New Year’s Eve Mighty Members of the Macroblogger League of Extraordinary Hippsters!

And……hey waidaminnit! Why is there a picture of Britney Spears on my blog? Have I gone stone-cold crazy and been deemed spam in the great celestial in-box of sane e-mail? (The answer of course is yes….long ago, but I digress…)

UPDATE: If you are reading this blogpost via e-mail: To see the videos at the end of this you will need to go to the blog itself: CLICK HERE

Reading one of my favorite websites recently (Alas, the newspaper that is delivered to my doorstep has gone the way of the hand-written music score in my 21st Century life) I was stunned to see the following article: 5 Reasons It’s totally Fine Britney Spears is Lip Syncing in Vegas. I was amazed not only at the sloppy use of the English language in the headline (but HEY, anyone who has read at least one of my blogposts knows just how much I obsess with proper grammatical usage…an’ stuff like that and whatEVER.) but also at the content of the article itself and what it says about our artistic health in general. In my humble opinion (or IMHO if you speak Twitterese) if even ONE person agrees with this referenced article beyond a cursory “OK, yeah, I get it” then we are in need of aesthetic 9-1-1…STAT!

The reasons given that lip-syncing is ok had to do with the pageantry and choreography of a modern concert exemplified by the Spearsian example. In other words, she and-or her costumes and choreography look so good, Brit shouldn’t be bothered or burdened by the music. And…uh…WHAT?

OK, my thoughts:

1. This is an example of an amazing performer who has downshifted into a surreal Newtonian (as in Wayne, not Isaac) spectacle-show in Las Vegas to make the most of the twighlight of a once popular career. No worries there. Smart business move. Good for her.

2. There is little difference between this show and a karaoke effort with amazing funding.

3. I respect the choreography in such a spectacle greatly and consider it to be high art. But to then pretend to be singing when actually faking it instantly plunges the entire affair into the realm of false advertising and insulting one’s audience. (granted, this is an audience that has paid GIANT money to see Britney…another blog for another day)

4. Why not embrace the joy of singing AND dancing AND having fun with spectacle? Why cut out the singing part? What up? (therein lies the unpacking of said soapbox)

So, I love well-written killer-slinky grooves and an occasional nibble of a tasty super-sweet pop hook, but DAYUM! My appreciation for this genre stops cold when you cut out the music and treat it as superfluous to the overall effect. Why not just sing in front of a screen where a film of the dancing takes place and lose the live dancers? Because that would be a drag for the artists who are dancers! Why not just have Britney stand in front of a black curtain and sing into a microphone? Well, no spectacle then…different genre. So: why cut out the live music aspect?!

(That being said, I haven’t seen the show, maybe at one point in the evening the lights go down and Miss Spears walks out to a bedazzled stool, sits down lit up by a tight spot and croons something into the microphone from the Great American Songbook like a cross between Garland and Vaughan. And if so, good for her…which begs the question, if she COULD do that, why doesn’t she? And another question…does this mean the Cubs will be in the World Series next year? …but once again…I have digressed…)


The article states that she is “singing along with a backing track” and “lip-syncing a little.” What does THAT mean? I can see singing along with a recording to get that fat multi-layered but slightly out-of-phase pop singer sound: very cool. I would like to try that myself via trombone when we have the opportunity to perform Concerto for Folded Space live (nice product placement eh?) But don’t abdicate altogether on the music! If you are not singing, then you can’t bill yourself as a singer…period! How about the following metaphors:

If the article is correct, then by definition….

1. It would be ok for a surgeon to forgo the anesthetic? (“It was like just SO expensive, and I didn’t like the anesthetist anyway, whatever.” BTW: If your surgeon talks like this, consider another surgeon, or better yet: a Homeopath. Just sayin’)

2. You can legally sell cars without tires? (“OH HELL yeah” said Honest Bubba at “We Sell ‘Em Kwik” right down the road from my house upon  hearing this news.)

3. It is legal to sell weapons that aren’t equipped to use ammunition? (“Welcome to my world friend” said Barney Fife with a sublimely effective sneer.)

OK…I’ve run out of metaphors because the rest that I thought of were actually true and it was beginning to depress me.

And who wants to be depressed on New Year’s Eve? (except all of my friends who took those lame New Year’s Eve gigs….”Friends! Step away from the those gigs….back away….turn……RUN!”) It is a time rather for happy reflection and hopeful forward looking into the pleasant face of opportunity. Woo Hoo!

Therefore, I leave you with the hope that the talented and successful Miss Spears’ decisions are not musically representative of the current ethos in pop music live performing and that our society is more aesthetically sophisticated than this one article and/or its author would indicate. Nothin’ but love Britney, for real: I wish you all good things and am happy for your life.

However, I have faith, GALLONS, TONS, and GANGS of faith in the world. Faith that the efforts of thousands and thousands of music educators have not been in vain and that we are fast approaching a critical mass of well-educated consumer driven artistic prosperity where truth lives! Hallelujah and A-MEN! Now ain’t THAT the hyperbole and unnecessary grandiose verbiage that you singed up for when you began reading this blog? You’re welcome.

And to end the year on a good note, here are some examples of live performances that are not all quite spectacles, but are absolutely the best that modern pop has to offer IMHO, IMTSTTUM

(you already know the first Twitter-word, the second is: I Made The Second Twitter Thing Up Myself.)

Happy New Year: Live Long and Groove!


Justin Timberlake (Britney’s old BF…Oh Snap!) Live band, in-ear monitors, intonation, killing groove, nice lights, great show, hmmmm)

Sting and Jo Lawry LIVE. Live Studio Orchestra, great mix, good conductor, in ear monitors, regular monitors, cool lighting, etc. etc. No big dance numbers, but wow, what a show!

BeyoncĂ©! This video is the most comparable to the Spearsian example, and argues STRONGLY for actual singing while one is dancing athletically. Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter is simply one of the strongest, most talented, performers on the planet. (and my daughter would have KILLED me if I didn’t include this in my short list of real-deal pop artists) C’mon…you want a SPECTACLE? PT Barnum, Cecil B DeMille and Caligula all said “DAYUM” upon seeing one of these live shows. A mix of live dancing (understatement) filmed video imagery, live musicians, recorded textures and loops both vocal and instrumental, a real band, background chorus, great intonation, and NO, this was not filmed in Vegas with lip syncing. BAM

And lastly, a couple of my FAVORITE pop-music performing groups that I KNOW put on KILLING shows of the highest degree:

My Boys! Chicago with a guest dancer even: Al Pacino! The great actor appeared on stage with the group at The Greek Theater in Los Angeles to film clips for his movie “Imagine” No heroic dance routines, but talk about a show! And these guys ALWAYS kill it live. (Granted, Chicago also has jazz and rock at its core, but everyone else is allowed to do that too if they want, you dig?)

And I will leave you with perhaps the greatest pop talent of our era (once again IMHO) here is the timeless Sir Paul McCartney signing his wonderful arrangement of his mate George Harrison’s classic “Something” (see if you can suppress the thrill when the guitar solo comes in…)

Does it count as “spectacle” if the singer just stands there and emotionally destroys 100,000+ people with a simple song? I kinda think it does 🙂

PS: I could have listed THOUSANDS of great examples of modern pop artistry SINGING live here. Please feel free to do so in the comments (only if you include a Youtube clip for all of us to enjoy! 🙂

Posted in Special Days | 7 Comments

The Joys of Subliminal Ignorance


Ok, and uh…….WHAT? Not to mention OY, and wow…just WOW! Maybe even an OMG for good measure. In fact, how about a DAYUM!

From even the good folks that bring us the Thanksgiving Day Parade, our first glimpse every year of Santa, Miracle on 34th Street, and teach us all to BELIEVE…comes THIS? Did nobody even think that they should run this ad by anyone to make sure of the acuracy of the “model” they hired to “hold” the trombone? This also begs the question: why not just hire some hungry good looking TROMBONIST to pose for the ad? Could have probably saved some bread, sadly.

I must admit that this is one of my soapiest of soapbox issues. Why is it that otherwise well-educated people seem to suddenly become completely clueless when it comes to the arts? Specifically, instrumental music. As a trombonist, I can’t tell you how often I have seen the following or one of the following has actually happened to me:

1. A “model” is used for an image, movie, or commercial to play a trombone with the same disastrous results as you see above. (Why does nobody seem to consider checking for accuracy. Or worse…do they think it isn’t even worth bothering about?)

2. Non-musicians are used in movies to play the parts of musicians (in a cheap, non speaking role even!) and/or the editing or actual slide movement has NOTHING to do with the music we are hearing. (try that kind of editing with the voice-track and see how many people notice)

3. A doctor has said to me, you play the trumpet right? (after I told them it was the trombone) and then are likely to follow that with “Have fun playing that tuba!”

4. TSA folk, flight attendants, security…EVERYONE at an airport upon seeing my trombone in it’s case will say something like: “A trumpet, right?” (followed by…”You gonna entertain us later?” Haw, haw, haw…

5. Gazing at a masterwork by some wonderful genius even…and seeing a trombone in an otherwise meticulously-researched painting (perfect human anatomy, visual perspective, light and shadows, etc) being held in a manner similar to the “Macy’s Magic” above with the lead-pipe seemingly being ingested by the musician.

And on it goes. What is this phenomenon? I shall call it (in full rant-mode) subliminal ignorance. This is what happens when we have a lack of art education in our schools! It is evidence of some kind of systemic societal madness. Behold, on the brow of this ad executive is written: DOOM! (ok, that is a bit over-the-top….but WHAT then?)

My optimistic and super-wise colleague at UNT Tony Baker said today as I tried out this rant on him: “Well, at least someone had the idea to try something different and feature a trombone rather than the typical Gabriel Herald Trumpet” To which my full-flight pet-peeve-enhanced self thought, “Or maybe they actually BELIEVED this was a trumpet?”

I usually strive for positivity at all costs. Why not? If we have a choice, why not choose to be happy and positive? I will make it so. But some things just make me crazy! (a phrase I have used since childhood BTW)

However, in the interest of my happy soul, I will also list the following:

1. My dentist has an office outfitted with Miles Davis posters and a sound system that plays jazz. Try some of THAT with nitrous oxide….just sayin 🙂

2. Once at an airport, an airline pilot came up to me after noticing my trombone over my shoulder in a gig bag and said that he used to play trombone and upgraded me to first class on the spot!

3. My medical doctor used to play trumpet in a lab band at UNT!

4. Dali seems to have gotten it right:


(full disclosure, this is of course a trombone-centric satire of Salvador Dali’s masterpiece:
The Persistence of Memory.
I am being funny, you dig?)

So is there hope for our magical world? In the final analysis, at the end of the day…when all is said-and-done, I would say YES.

But if I see one more picture like the one at the top of this post…..

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Me and Saint James

Blogtites! (as opposed to “Blogmites” I suppose)

What up? Well, I wanted to stay true to the “about” section of this cyber coap box (see what I did with the whole “C” = “S” sound thing? Oh-BOY! The English language is a HOOT!) and speak to “Concerto for Folded Space” by talking about one aspect of this exciting project: Jimmy Pankow.

(Above: Youtube video of me and Jimmy Pankow)

How about THAT? Yep, that is yours truly with THE MAN Jimmy Pankow: trombonist-composer with the legendary group Chicago. As with every trombonist of my generation that I’ve ever met, one of my first heroes on the instrument was James. How could you not dig flat-out big sound, extroverted solo style, sassy-soul phrasing and J.J. Johnson influences…..with a ROCK BAND!?

James Pankow was almost the only representative of my beloved instrument on the A.M. radio that we were all slaves to back in the 1970s. Plenty of vocals, guitar, bass, drums, piano, synth, sax, some trumpet…but trombone? Only Jimmy with Chicago, Dave Bargeron and Jerry Hyman with Blood Sweat and Tears, and the occasional blessed moment of Fred Wesley with James Brown. For me, every time a new Chicago album would be released I wold scour it for horn solis and trombone solos before digesting the whole work of art. Jimmy never disappointed and has been one of my most important “sonic templates” ever since.

So imagine my joy to now include James on a new recording adventure. As part of my “Concerto for Folded SpaceArtistShare project, “Saint James” will be joining me on two pieces. The plan is to fly out and hook up with him while the band is on tour this spring and add his tracks along with the spots we play together in whatever hotel they are staying in at the time. Now THAT is a snapshot of the 21st Century music biz. Even the multiple platinum Chicago itself is recording this way these days. Check this out:

(Above: Youtube video of Chicago horns Jimmy, Walt and Lee recording in a hotel room)

Is that COOL or what? One of the greatest horn sections of all-times laying down a track in a hotel room! That’s right. No need for studios, OR record labels in the digital age. Technology has liberated everyone (well, those who have money) to be able to acquire gear and software that is of the same level as the best-of-the-best in any professional house. However, one must have the expertise to operate said treasures. And of course Chicago et al have the tools AND the brains to “git ‘er done” which will result in a much-celebrated return to their creative roots. No suits, no restrictions. At this point, they have released two singles in this way and will keep ’em coming as the Muse speaks from out on the road.

Concerto for Folded Space is following this same brave new path. In my case, we will be putting together a Pro Tools “bed” for all of the music using The Eclectic Electric Band outside of the studio. Once this template is together, I can then fly it out to Jimmy and Bob (Mintzer) so that we can add their voices from the comfort of their venue of choice.

If you would like to take part in this project, surf on over to my ArtistShare page and sign up for one of the participation levels. I am posting all kinds of goodies there on a regular basis that are only available to participants. Here is a sneak-peek:

This is a snippet from a MIDI-Demo that I made for Jimmy and The Eclectic Electric cats. While it is fairly primitive and will pale in comparison to the finished recording (with humans 🙂 ) this mock-up using Logic Pro software gives everyone an idea as to what I’m thinking of with each piece:

So I have come from scouring Chicago albums in the 1970s for trombone goodies, to actually recording some myself along with the man who is now my good friend: Jimmy Pankow.

Life really IS grand when you think about it, ya know?

To learn more about “Saint James” and his amazing career check this out: I wrote this back in 2004 for the International Trombone Journal little knowing that it would lead to a Concerto for Folded Space. Coincidence? …I think not 🙂 Here is the text of my ITA article about Jimmy (sans amazing pictures…you will need to check a university library periodical section for the original ITA 2004 Issue, or join the ITA and get one of your very own!) 

Posted in CFFS | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

And The Winner Is…

mcfar57 !!!!!!

Ta Da! Hey, actually EVERYONE is a winner in my opinion. All contestants get a free copy of my CD “Out of The New” no losers THERE! (no brag, just fact…I love that project:) So congrats to all and thanks for taking part!

But mcfar57 stole the show with her ultra hip spin on the question “Are We Alone” check out her post, then dig the photos. She completely hooked me on the thought that she had some kind of ultra-clandestine behind-the-scenes Area 51-type info…only for me to realize that she was speaking from the viewpoint of an extraterrestrial! How cool is THAT? A nice spin indeed. ‘Tis the stuff of good-reads. It answers the question wonderfully while intensifying the mystery all the more.

In fact, it reminds me of the point of view of a favorite story of mine from one of my teenage heroes (when I was a teenager that is) Buzz Aldrin. The second man on the moon wrote a very cool sci-fi novel from the extraterrestrial standpoint titled “Encounter with Tiber” I recommend it highly!


So, here it is. mcfar57 wins Out of the New, Excalibur a pre order for Concerto for Folded Space and a signed copy of The Dover Stone. Congratulations!

Enjoy all ye Blogeteers:


AWE Contest Winner:

From mcfar57

Yes, well, first, I want to thank you for he opportunity of entering this contest. I was passing nearby, when I saw this message. Secondly this is a very important issue – many of my family and friends don’t bother discussing the subject,whether we are “alone” or is there intelligent life on other planets. These past 30 years or so, we have been overwhelmed with rumor, hoaxes, unverifiable sightings or encounters … how do we sift through the myth to find the fact?

I can count three significant encounters with other-world, intelligently designed articles – and after deep research have determined none were made on our planet, the materials have elements not possibly made on or near our planet, and the markings, though decipherable, have roots in a civilization beyond our knowing. I have included images of these articles, and hope you might shed light on their origin.

Finally, without physically meeting any being from this planet, I can only surmise I am not the first to come across evidence of life forms from this world. Others from my home tell stories of life forms, obviously with high intelligence, waving what is said to be arms, planting flags and scurrying around in small transportation units. (Images attached.)

Yes, Mr. Wiest, I truly believe, with the mounting evidence and witness accounts, we are definitely not alone.

Photos: Linked is the slideshow I e-mailed you. Hope this works!

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Contest Time!

Blogatious Nation!

It’s time for a contest!

Visual Rimshot

Visual Rimshot

Yes…my man Jerry Lewis knows how to react to THAT subject line.

So, what up?

Well, I would like to hear what YOU guys think about a subject near-and-dear to my heart: “Are We Alone?” Here are the parameters of the contest and (most importantly) the bodacious expensive SWAG that comes along with it!


“Are We Alone?” (The AWA Contest)


Every freaking member of the cyberverse! (aliens are welcome, and by default instant winners)


The AWA Contest is open until Monday September 9, 2013. WHAT!? Yes, pretty small window…better JUMP ON IT!

How and What to Enter:

Write as much or as little as you like as to your answer to the question “Are We Alone?” This refers to the age-old query of: are we alone in the universe?, is there intelligent life out there besides us?, (do we qualify as intelligent life? Hmmm, perhaps another contest that one…) have aliens visited us?, why have we not been contacted?, have we been contacted but the results have been kept secret?, etc. Go further with it…if you believe we are NOT alone: what would aliens look like? Do they have culture? Do you think they  dig jazz?

Enter your thoughts here on this blog-thread as a comment. Be as creative as possible. Use pictures, videos…come up with something cool! I will pick the winner based on my subjective analysis (and whatever makes me laugh the hardest or ponder the most or say HUH! )

What Will You Win?

JUST FOR ENTERING: Well, for starters, just for entering the contest you will receive a free copy of my CD “Out of the New”!!! (while they last) How is that even possible? Yes, I know…I’m crazy.

FIRST PLACE: A free signed copy of my book The Dover Stone, a free copy of my CDs “Excalibur” and a free copy of my new project “Concerto for Folded Space” (to be released April, 2014…your CD will be sent to you as soon as a hard copy exists)

There is no second or third place winners, only First and EVERYONE!

So, to sum up:

I couldn’t have said it any better. Looking forward to reading your entries!

Posted in Contest! | 15 Comments