Monday, April 22, 2013

They Had A Dream

They had their dream,
They had their guns
They quietly moved among the crowd and
planted their bombs hoping to run.

Two brothers with one thought in mind,
Kill people
Doesn't matter what kind.

For all they knew they  could hurt their own
but the first to die was a child of eight,
an unknown.

They ran like the dogs they were.
 Shooting in the streets, fighting for their lives with the guns they got somehow.
They killed again but one would die
the other escaped and hid in a boat,
thinking some how away he would float.

Now in a hospital charged with his crimes
Surrounded by those who brought him in
Do you think he knows what he has done?
Do you think he knows, he was wrong?

Guess he and his brother didn't know

Saturday, April 7, 2012

It Started On A Sunday

The sun rose early that Sunday morning. As the night sky disappeared and the Sun glided over the rising buildings the sound of birds started filling the air with the natural sounds of their music. Very soon there would be men, women and children in the streets strutting along to get to their destinations. The markets were starting to get busy while a cool breeze swept over the city. But this Sunday was different. There was a soft whisper among the folk.” He’s coming, he’s coming”! Some knew but many did not. “ Soon he’ll be here”. “Who will be here”? “Haven’t you heard”? “They say he is the Son of God”.“The Son of God”. What’s his name”?” I think they call him Jesus”
Three hours later riding on a donkey followed by his disciples Jesus of Nazareth entered Jerusalem. As he passed by, palms were laid in his path and people reached out, called his name and tried to touch him or even look for a glance their way for it was said that he was a healer, a miracle worker and with a look or a touch you could be healed from whatever ails you. It was rumored that he commanded Lazarus to rise from the dead and Lazarus rose. Never in the history of the world had there been such a healer. Maybe he is the Son of God!
The high-ranking Rabbi’s of the Jewish community met Jesus.He was taken to the temple and asked many questions such as, are you Who are you? He answered, “I am who am” The Rabbi’s did not understand. They thought that the man who stood before them was a charlatan, or at least arrogant enough to think he is the Son of God. In their minds he did not fulfill the prophecy claiming the Son of God would someday appear. After all, although he understood the scriptures he was only the son of a carpenter and a carpenter himself.
The line that separated the Jews from the Romans was very thin and to have a Jew claim he is the Son of God or the King of the Jews would not only create havoc among the population but also damage the political lines between the two.
Something had to be done. But what? Secret meanings were held. It was decided he would be brought to the governor, Pontius Pilate, to decide. But how will this be done? Someone knew Judas. Judas was in debt and needed money. He probably could be persuaded to lead the Roman guard to Jesus to arrest him.
On Thursday night at dinner with his disciples, Jesus told them that someone in the group would betray him and he would be arrested that very night. Many of the disciples shouted, not I lord, not I. Jesus also claimed, “As the cock crows three times, one of you will deny knowing me”. Shocked again they shouted not I, not I. He told them I must pray. “Come to the Olive garden and wait outside while I speak with my father”. While still praying a group of Roman soldiers arrived being led by Judas. They asked which one of you is Jesus. Judas told them he is not here. He is in the garden. The soldiers tied Jesus’ hands behind his back. Informed him he was being charged with heresy and led him away. The disciples yelled and screamed and begged, but there was nothing they could do.
That night Jesus was put in a dungeon. He endured torturing and the laying of a crown of thorns on his head. Bleeding he awaited his fate. The next day, he was brought in front of Pontius Pilate. At the town square in front of many people, the governor asked, what do you want of me? The Rabbi’s said that this man is a criminal. He claims to be the King of the Jews and the Son of God. Pilate said it was not a crime and he went to a bowl and washed his hands as a symbolic gesture. “Sire this will not do. Something has to be done” Pilate said let the people decide. The angry mob clamored and yelled for crucifixion. Along side this holy man was a thief and a murderer. All three would be executed in the most horrifying way.
The Roman guards placed a heavy wooden cross on Jesus’ shoulders and he was ordered to carry that cross a very long distance to Mount Calvary. On both sides of the road the crowd jeered and taunted him. They were same people who laid palms in his path a few days before. The trek to the mountaintop was difficult. Jesus fell three times and each time he was whipped and told to get up. Finally exhausted he reached his destination. He was stripped of his robe and put atop the cross. The other prisoners were tied to their crosses, but Jesus was nailed. His cross was raised and put into the ground. The mountaintop was filled with all kinds. Many were his followers who looked on in disbelief and cried. Others were part of the mob that enjoyed watching a man die. Others were curious to see if this was truly the Son of God. Maybe he will perform a miracle and step down off of his cross. Hi mother Mary and Mary Madelyn stood in front of the cross and wept uncontrollably.
Jesus suffered for three hours. It was said that he cried out before he died, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do”. To make sure he was dead, a Roman soldier stabbed him with a spear. His body was taken down and brought to a tomb. Both Mary’s washed and anointed his body with oils and wrapped it in a clean white robe. The tomb was sealed with a big stone.
It is said that an Angel appeared to Mary and told her that Jesus would rise in three days. Three days later the big stone that sealed the tomb was set aside and Jesus’ body was gone.
Many of his disciples said that Jesus came to them as they hid from the Romans. All believed it was Jesus except Thomas. But this man standing in front of Thomas showed him his wounds and Thomas believed. A few days later as each disciple ran from the city in fear of being arrested too. The cock crowed three times and as a Roman soldier pointed to Peter and accused him of being one Jesus’ disciple, Peter denied it three times.
The Question Is:
If Jesus died to save us, why aren’t we saved? If the Christian Religion was formed based on the teachings of Jesus, why has the Catholic Church accepted pedophiles into the priesthood and protects them? Why throughout the years have the Christians done so much wrong and have contributed to the downfall of society as we know it? Don’t you think if Jesus came back he would be disgusted the way we have turned out. Wouldn’t he ask himself, I went through all that for nothing? Do you think if he knew how we are now, he would have gone through all that suffering and pain? I doubt it. And if God the Almighty is All That Is, he knew this was going to happen. So what was the point of putting his son through all that?
Questions, Questions and More Questions!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

What's The Point

By the time I was 14 years old I had studied the guitar seven years and was playing at church dances in and around New York City. I played in a few different bands, and because my repertoire was limited, I would bring music with me till I could memorize the songs that were needed. Sometimes the leader of the group would bring the music. The most important thing was that I was playing my guitar in front of an audience. That need became a very significant part of my life. As a beginner performer, there were many times I played for no pay. I needed the experience. I got my union card when I was 15 years old and for all intensive purposes I was a professional musician. A year later I was backing up 50’s type singing groups at rock and roll shows and getting paid. At eighteen I was a full-time musician but a year before while still in high school, I started playing in nightclubs. I’d work till three or four in the morning then go home and sleep two or three hours and then go to school. I did this two or three times a month, but I did work every weekend. I was like most young people who had a part-time job to earn money, except my part time job was being a musician. Through my earnings I was able to buy the things I needed to sustain myself as a musician: new guitar & amp, strings, picks, a tuxedo, guitar lessons and eventually a car.

When I graduated from high school. I went to college but my heart was into playing. I dropped out of college and started working as a full-time musician, which meant I had to get a cabaret license; during the 50’s and up to 1967 in order to work in New York City nightclubs, a cabaret license was a requirement. You couldn’t get a license until you were finger printed to see if you were convicted or arrested for any crime. Of course I wasn’t, but many great artists, such as Chet Baker, Thelonious Monk, Charlie Parker and Billie Holiday had their cabaret licenses suspended because of drug charges, and Lenny Bruce for his reputed obscenity.

I remember sitting on a bench filling out the application and sitting next to me was a face I recognized, but couldn’t place. He was very congenial and we spent our time waiting and talking. I finally said, “ You look so familiar, have we met before?” I introduced myself and he put out his hand and said “I’m Maynard Ferguson”. I practically fainted. I’d seen Maynard play many times at Birdland - my home away from home. A few minutes later he was called up to the window, finished, smiled and said goodbye. To me that was a great experience meeting someone who contributed to jazz. Up until I was fifteen, my heroes were athletes, but that all changed when I started listening to Jazz and hanging out at Birdland.

In the fifties, Birdland had a ‘peanut gallery,’ which meant anyone under eighteen could sit in the back of the club, have soda and watch the greatest Jazz musicians in the world perform. There were always two acts on the bill. My heroes and teachers were Johnny Smith, Dizzy Gillespie, JJ Johnson, Horace Silver, The Jazz Messengers, Miles Davis with John Coltrane, and the list goes on and on. Every time I discovered someone new I would buy their records and they would become part of a long list of influences and heroes. I didn’t know or care about their personal lives. All I knew is they were great players and I wanted to do what they could do and that desire is still with me to this day.

In the late fifties, early sixties, musicians were paid $25-$50 dollars a night in bars and lounges. Of course the famous musicians were paid much more, but I am talking about your everyday working musician. In those days, musicians were put into categories:
1. Studio Musicians- recordings, jingles etc.
2. High End Club Date Players - with big-name band leaders who played parties and social functions for the rich
3. Club Date Musicians - Weddings, Engagement Parties, Barmitzvahs etc.
4. Show Musicians - Playing for Big Name Acts at Night Clubs
5. Broadway Show Musicians
6. Jazz Musicians
7. Latin Musicians
8. Bar and Lounge Players
9. Classical Musicians - Free-lance and Orchestra.

The highest paid musicians were the Studio, Broadway and Classical Musicians. The lowest were the Latin, Lounge and Jazz Musicians. The point is, everyone got paid. It was during that time, that I was a regular working musician. I worked in all the above categories except the Classical and Latin fields. I was so busy, I kept myself working and three other guitar players busy too.

Along came the mid-seventies. Electronic synthesizers had taken the place of many musicians. Studio musicians ended up playing for Broadway shows. When the synthesizers invaded theatre music, those musicians ended up playing weddings. Then came the disc jockeys replacing live music with recorded music at weddings. They put those musicians out of work. The big show bands that backed up famous acts at hotels in New York City had stopped in the early seventies and the Catskills show bands were gone by the late eighties and the musicians union was just about broken. Non-union musicians could play anywhere and the bandleaders did not worry about paying scale to their players. That also meant health and pension benefits went out the window. At the same time, studio and Theatre musicians who most likely started off as Big Band or Jazz musicians, but needed to make a living ended up in the studios or playing in the pit for Broadway shows. They still had a need to play Jazz and in order to satisfy that need, and since they didn’t need the money, they would play in bars and restaurants for no pay. (The beginning of the end)

There was a rise of Jazz Departments in Colleges and Universities throughout the USA. In the past, Jazz Study was unheard of in colleges except for a few. All of a sudden, every school in America had a Jazz Program offering degrees in performance. I personally think that these programs were created so that jazz musicians could work. Every kid who dreamed he could be the next Coltrane or Miles Davis, enrolled in these schools and graduated with a degree.

What this meant is - a lot of kids with degrees could play a lot of scales and understood all the modes and all the theory associated with jazz and if they were lucky enough to have good teachers, they could play some Jazz. They weren’t experienced Jazz players, but the potential was there. The problem was and still is, where do they go to get this experience and did their schools teach them how to survive as musicians? The answer is a decidedly, No! The school advisers and teachers did give them some advice: if you want to get the experience you need, go to New York where there is great music& energy, and eventually if you’re lucky, you will make it.


The worst part of this advice is, these kids think if they come to New York they’ll take the town by storm. They were ‘so successful’ in college - everyone told them how great they were, they assume by coming to the Big Apple, they’ll meet lots of musicians, which they do, but they think there is so much work, they’ll immediately find work. But they find at least another hundred players as good, if not, better - and most of them are out of work and barely surviving. They all have part-time or ‘day jobs’ and are living with roommates. The roommates are usually musicians and all of them have a need to play. In order to fill that need, they play at make- shift jam sessions or after-hours at some club. But playing at sessions with other musicians doesn’t fulfill their need to perform in front of an audience or help them make a living at their chosen craft.

So what do they do? The same thing that the studio players did years earlier, they play in bars and restaurants for no pay or a pass-the-hat situation, which means after the set someone goes from table to table with a hat, (or basket, bucket,) hoping the customers will donate money for the musicians. Sometimes the musicians themselves would go around with the hat. All of this in the hope they can satisfy their need to perform and be heard or even ‘be discovered’ while earning a few dollars to pay for the subway ride home.

Passing the hat does amazing things for your ego and sense of self worth. You fool yourself into believing that you are contributing to the Jazz effort and at least your music is being heard. Some musicians get so depressed they quit with a sense of failure. They get ‘normal jobs’ and live a life filled with frustration and unhappiness.

Then there’s the ‘artist’. This is a person who has ‘hung in there’ for years and has developed a style of playing he/she can call his own. No one sounds like them and they are the future of Jazz. The problem is no one cares - or at least very little – or is willing to pay these great artisans of improvisation. Another problem is because the music is advanced, where can they play? If you are not a proficient grant writer, your chances of winning a grant are null and the gigs you want to create never happen.

If you are a well-known player there are only a few places in New York City where you can perform. But how many in New York are known players? Being a ‘star’ doesn’t necessarily make you a great musician, some are not very good, but a ‘star’ is well- known and can draw an audience. That’s why they make the big bucks and because they ask for big salaries, the clubs are asking for a lot of money from the public to see one set.

You try to get an agent or manager and even though they recognize your artistry and like your music, you have to ‘make it’ before they will handle you. It is a never-ending cycle.

There are only a few super-stars in improvised music. But the highest paid star is probably Cecil Taylor. Most people, except for the so-called ‘in crowd’ know who he is but very few, except for some musicians, understand his music. He is well paid and greatly appreciated overseas more than here in the States.

During the sixties and throughout the country, began the end of jazz as a popular music except for Fusion, a combination of Jazz and Rock. Some jazz musicians hated this music and I personally think it was created to try and bring in young people. Miles Davis was the leader of the pack with his recording of “Bitches Brew”. Miles was forever changing and if the young supported Rock ‘n’ Roll, why not have them support Fusion too? It certainly made Chic Corea, John McLaughlin, Larry Coryell, Keith Jarrett and more major stars. But Rock ‘n’ Roll had taken over the airwaves, and Fusion didn’t last very long. It is still around, and in the last twenty years, jazz has wears many hats: Swing, Be-bop, Modern, Post Be-bop, West Coast Jazz, Gypsy Jazz, Fusion, Latin Jazz, Smooth-Jazz, Third Stream, Free-Jazz, Improvised Music etc. In the late sixties, early seventies, Free Jazz musicians in New York City reverted to playing in lofts. People would come in and pay a few dollars, sit on pillows, couches or on the floor, and listen to free jazz, which was considered angry and far out.

After a while as the decline of jazz continued, and the rise of rock, disco, & pop music kept growing, the loft scene slowly disappeared. Many of the loft players went to Europe to work and live where Jazz was and has always been looked on as the highest form of art and was honored and respected there.

In the mid-eighties with the emergence of Wynton Marsalis, jazz began to slowly re-emerge and become popular again. Because of Wynton and many like him the public began to be more enlightened and appreciative of jazz. There also started what I call a separatism that has become very divisive and has worked against the jazz community.

Coming up as a young jazz player, I watched black and white musicians working together. There was camaraderie among them. If you played jazz and were really good, you were accepted, no matter what color you were. I played along side some of the greatest jazz musicians in the world and it didn’t matter what my color was, but in the last twenty years that has changed. Instead of working together to keep a unity between jazz musicians, there has become a divide that has hurt the jazz community. There’s a segment of musician out there who tells us what jazz is and ‘should be’ and that it shouldn’t be called jazz anymore. The word jazz brings with it tones of racism and bigotry. Many of the jazz giants such as Max Roach, Duke Ellington, Monk and many more hated the word ‘jazz’, but despite their efforts to change it, the name stayed the same. It seem every 20-30 years the same issue comes to the forefront. Now they claim they want the name changed to BAM in hopes the new name would reign in a missing black audience.

I firmly believe you're not going to bring back Black audiences to Jazz by changing its'name to BAM or whatever you want to call it. I think the best way is education. Since Jazz is and has been American Classical Music for over seventy years, it needs to be part of the curriculum in grade schools, even pre-schools. All of us should be working towards this goal. There are many teaching artist working in the public school systems throughout the USA. We need to encourage them to teach and use Jazz as part of their program. We need to get school boards and legislators to encourage teachers to teach about jazz in their music appreciation programs and if there aren't any music appreciation programs, start them. Don't wait for Black Appreciation Month to let kids know who Duke Ellington was. One week and one name out of one month a year doesn't cut it.

I was a teaching artist in the NYC public schools from 1995-2001. I taught Literacy through song writing. I started with the Blues and moved on till I got to Jazz. The kids not only learned to appreciate and enjoy the music, some of them actually learned to scat sing.

What is confusing is, if you hate the word so much, then don’t accept teaching positions in College Jazz programs or perform in Jazz Concerts or Jazz Clubs. If it is expected that clubs like The Blue Note Jazz Club will change to The Blue Note BAM Club or the Sedona Jazz Festival will change its’ name to The Sedona BAM Festival-it will never happen. Clubs and Jazz Festivals throughout the World have spent tons of money promoting and paying artists to perform Jazz, after all these years it won’t change.

As jazz emerged again, along came the old and new improvisers. But there was no place to play except the Knitting Factory, and a few other places, which were door gigs (same as pass the hat except patrons paid at the door). Eventually more performance spaces emerged. Along with the performance spaces came the bar gigs which were also door gigs. The prices at some of these door gigs were dictated by the cubs and sometimes by the musicians. Some places called them donations. If you wanted to perform, these were the conditions you had to deal with. The problem is, you must provide the audience or you will not make any money. That means before you play, you have to promote the gig. Promoting the gig will cost you money. If you intend to treat your musicians with some dignity, you pay them out of your own pocket and you keep whatever is made at the door. Ninety-eight percent of the time you will loose money especially if the venue wants a guarantee. That means they get a cut, whether there is money to be made or not. You also shouldn’t book a gig three nights in a row at different venues or even one per week. You want as many people to come to your gig so it is best to have one gig. You can’t expect your friends, family and fans to show up three times in a week. You’re lucky if they come once a month.

With the advance of technology and recording equipment, many musicians whom a Major Record Company couldn’t sign or Independent Label began to self-produce. Putting out one CD a year, which was and still is, very expensive. But they could recoup their expenses at gigs. Many musicians take door gigs because they can sell their CD’s - but with the dawning of digital downloads, very few people buy CDs. If you do or don’t have an audience, and can’t sell CDs, what’s the point?

Most radio stations and reviewers require CDs. They haven’t kept up with the technology that is now available. I understand that change is hard, but it must be dealt with in order to help artists. If you, as and independent artist, only put out digital downloads, you are still required to send them CD’s with art work, liner notes in other words the whole package in order to get radio play and reviews. So it will cost you some money and the chance of recouping your investment is not good. All and all, these are impossible situations. Some magazines (even though they won’t admit it) will not review your CD, unless you advertise with them. Radio station directors decide whom they will give radio play to. To be fair radio stations and jazz journalists are overwhelmed with music and it is impossible to give everyone a chance, but review and play the same people over and over again doesn’t seem fair. In essence your career may be in their hands. If you are part of the new improvisers scene, your music will only be played on college radio stations. At least the college music directors are opened minded to new music and some of them accept digital downloads, which isn’t the case for the commercial jazz stations.

A few months ago at a performance venue in New York City, an argument over money ensued between the leader of the group and one of the managers. It became violent and the manager punched the musician in the eye. The musician wore glasses. He ended up in the hospital getting stitches and is lucky he is not blind. Word spread throughout the musical community and many musicians have banned that venue. This was beyond unforgivable. This is no way to treat artists and musicians. Needless to say no one I know has worked there again.

What has happened to us, that our need has outmoded our dignity? It’s time to stop playing door gigs and passing the hat. Stop playing for nothing and stop playing. You may say if we stop, someone will come along and play anyway. They won’t play if there are hordes of musicians outside of these gigs carrying signs that say Pay or We Don’t Play. Ask the customers going into the bar/restaurant if they would work for nothing. It may be considered harassment, but something has to be done! If this happens at every venue in New York and Brooklyn and then spread throughout the USA and Europe, it just might make a difference. If we can’t get that grant that will pay us, then go find another way or don’t play. Somehow we have to get back the respect that we as artists have lost. You wouldn’t call and electrician or plumber to fix something for you for no pay and if you did, would they show up? They have a service that requires pay. We as musicians have a service that requires pay too!

“But I play for the love of it”
Well play for the love of it at home if need be and let the musicians who need the money get paid.

I know we say to ourselves, what about all the hours of studying and practicing I’ve done, or the two hundred thousand dollar education I got, isn’t it worth something? Yes it is, so why play for nothing? Some musicians want the reputation, but that rep won’t put food on the table. Remember the venue you are playing in is making money, but you’re not and the only reason they are making money is because of you.

In our neediness to play and perform, we have lost sight of who and what we are and most of all we have lost our self-worth. Throughout the world, and especially in the USA, greed has been the dominant force adding to the decline of civilization. In this weakened economy the rents for all these venues are high and getting higher all the time. In order to sustain, the clubs and performance venues must charge more, but charging more does not mean ‘don’t pay the musicians’. As the prices go up, the amount of work goes down.

You can blame Wall Street, Politicians, anyone you like, but the truth is we have to blame ourselves. It is unbelievable to me that clubs and venues throughout the city and Brooklyn, not only don’t pay their musicians, but they are booked seven nights a week with non paying performances and because musicians are clamoring to play (I would say work, but playing for no pay is charity), these venues are booked six months in advance, There is something definitely wrong with this equation.

Until we regain our self-worth, nothing will change and nothing will change till we change!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Vampire's Revenge

Halloween will be here in a few weeks and I thought it would be fun to repeat a revised version as my new blog
Tales of CBGB’S:
The True Story Behind The Vampire’s Revenge

Once upon a time in New York City, there lived a beautiful Vampire. She was 5’7’’ with long flowing blond hair and beautiful deep blue eyes. One would say she was absolutely stunning. She looked young, although she was reputed to be over 500 years old. Lorna was able to hide her fangs, except when she smiled. By not smiling she was able to add to the allure of being dangerous. mysterious and sexy at the same time Lorna loved music. Every night you could find her at some club either dancing or listening to music.

Our story begins on a Sunday night in October of 2004. In fact it was the Sunday before Halloween that Lorna made her way downtown to the famous now defunct CBGB’S, where she could hear some of the best up and coming rock and roll bands in the country. It was also the number one place to find young new blood to quench her hunger. When she arrived the band hadn’t begun to set up yet, and it looked like it would be a while before they would play. The crowd was just beginning to make its way into the small club. She decided to go next door to the Galleria. Sometimes there were some interesting groups playing, but on this night, again, the band was just starting to set up. She was about to leave when she heard some strange sounds coming from the downstairs lounge. She asked the young man standing at the top of the stairs, "What is that?" He said it was the Sunday night Downstairs Avant Jazz Series. Lorna decided to take a look.

When she reached the bottom of the stairs, another young man sitting behind a table, asked her: “Who are you here to hear?” She said: “Anyone.” He said: “That will be $10 please.” Lorna gazed into his eyes with her hypnotic stare and he said: “Go right in.” Lorna went straight to the bar. She sat down and listened to this strange but intriguing music. She thought to herself: “What have I been missing?” Just then a good-looking young musician (he carried a case over his shoulder…it looked like some kind of horn) said to her: “You must be new here. I’ve never seen you here before.” Lorna smiled and said: “Yes I am.” He looked at her beautiful face with that seductive closed lipped smile and Stephen was immediately smitten and very much taken with Lorna, as Lorna was with Stephen. He asked if she could wait till he finished his set and maybe they could hang out together. Lorna anxious for some new blood said: “Of course.”

Later on that evening, at Stephen’s apartment, Lorna began her Seduction. Slowly she enticed him with short sweet kisses along his face and neck. Stephen felt her rapture and was sexually charged as Lorna lay in his arms. Noticing her fangs, he wanted to ask her Who’s Your Dentist? but he didn’t want to break the mood. Lorna spent a lot of time kissing his neck. Then all of a sudden she dug in with her fangs and started to suck the blood right out of him. Shocked at first, he shouted: “No! No!” But then he began to enjoy it. Stephen moaned as he went into a dream like stupor and when she stopped sucking, he cried "No! No! Don’t stop! Just One More Bite."

Lorna decided she would not kill Stephen, but make him a Vampire. That night Stephen went through a Transformation. When he awoke 24 hours later, Lorna explained what she had done to him. He had been brought over to the Dark Side.

Stephen was very upset. All he wanted was to have a great time with this sexy lady and now he was a Vampire and part of the walking un-dead! Lorna explained how great it is to be a Vampire. Now, he could live forever, "but be careful, you must never walk in the daylight. The sun could kill you!"

The only thing that really bothered Stephen was that he could never play a daytime gig again. On the positive side, most of his gigs were at night and he preferred night to day anyway. With daylight savings time in the winter, it would get dark at 4:30, which isn’t so bad. He would have to plan his practice time and feeding and social life around his vampire hours. One thing was for sure, he would have to give up Sunday afternoon brunches with his Mother and adjust his embouchure (the placement of the mouthpiece). Because of his newly formed fangs he would have to learn play without them being too obtrusive. Oh yes! Because of his paleness he might have make some adjustments with tanning block or makeup and definitely wear sunglasses, which would make him look cool!

The very next night Lorna took Stephen out for a stroll. This was his The First Day (night) as a Vampire. Lorna wanted to teach him how to live and survive in his new reality.

His first kill wasn’t as hard as he thought. In fact, it was fun. With his newly found strength and his keen sense of smell and sight, overpowering his victims was easy. He felt just a little guilty about killing, but he told himself it was the only way for him to survive. He would save on grocery bills and never have to go to the bathroom again and he’ll only try to kill bad people. Stephen thought to himself, who could be luckier than I. I can live forever, and play the music I love forever too.

Then he thought to himself, the audience for free-form-avant jazz is getting smaller and smaller. With this new power of mine, what can I do to help change this? Suddenly a light bulb went off in his head, and Stephen knew exactly what he had to do.

“Yes! This makes absolute sense! If I infect hundreds, no, thousands, no, hundreds of thousands of people, and because I am free form- avant jazz musician, these hundreds of thousands of people will love this music and we will finally have the audience we deserve. It could go on through eternity and I’ll never be out of work!” It was at that very moment that the Blood Lust took over.

For the next year, Stephen did not stop. Sometimes he would bite up to thirty people a night. At this rate, in the next ten years, he could infect over 100,000 humans.

For some unknown reason, the audiences at his performances were not getting larger, in fact sometimes only a few people showed up. His plan was not working! What could be going wrong? He thought his idea was just what free-form avant jazz needed, a Blood Sucking Vampire, but it was too late. Because he spent so much time hunting at night, his lust for blood was increasing and he couldn’t stop himself.

The summer of 2005 would go down in infamy. It was reported on Fox News (and we know, they don’t lie); July 9th, that without a doubt there is a Vampire loose in New York City. Someone had seen Stephen devouring a helpless woman in a back alley off of Canal St. This attack was videoed taped. The tape ran on every major news station throughout the world. The woman appeared on CNN, 60 Minutes,Oprah and every TV news outlet in the USA. Each time, with tears in her eyes, she told what she saw and she described the desperation in the victim’s eyes. She called 911, but it was over in less than a minute and by the time the medics arrived, the woman was dead and the vampire had disappeared in a flash.

A frenzy took over New York City. Everyone was searching for the Vampire. Major Bloomberg begged people to stay home and let the police do their job, but The Hunt was on! Days went by and then a month, but without any results. People were scared and frustrated. Stephen had become sloppy. More and more victims were piling up, and yet, no one had seen this Vampire.

The Mayor called for calm and made another special announcement. He had sent for the great ‘Vampire Hunter’. Derek was world-renowned. He made his reputation as a Vampire Hunter by killing over three hundred vampires.

The day the Hunter arrived at JFK from Transylvania, there were thousands of people lined up along the Van Wyck Expressway. Two million showed up for the ticker-tape parade along Broadway. When the entourage of Limo’s pulled up to City Hall, the crowd cheered as the Derek stepped out onto the Red Carpet that led up the stairs where the Mayor welcomed him. In a brief ceremony, Mayor Bloomberg gave Derek the keys to the city. When the Hunter stepped up to the podium he growled and screamed “Vampire! Vampire! Where You Gonna’ Go? Where You Gonna’ Hide?" With that, the crowd went wild. They stormed the steps of City Hall and carried him over their shoulders while shouting, “Where You Gonna’ Go? Where You Gonna’ Hide?”

Three days later the police found Derek’s body ripped to shreds. It was said that a newly engaged couple, while walking down 5th ave and 33rd St., could hear shriveling and screeching yells. It was as though an animal was ripping a human being to shreds. As they walked by, the couple looked at each other and said: “Wow, that sounds strange,” and as typical New Yorkers they continued on their merry way.

A few nights later on the Letterman show, Dave got a call while on the air. At first he wouldn’t take it. In fact he yelled at his staff for trying to put through this called while he was doing his opening monologue, but the producer ran on stage, an apparently whispered in his ear; “It’s the Vampire!” Shocked! Dave took the call, ‘live on the air.’ Of Course, NBC were angry that the Vampire would call Letterman and not Jay Leno. It made perfect sense that the Vampire called Dave. Jay leno is in LA and Dave is in New York and New York is where all the killings were going on and NBC had no way of knowing that the Vampire was a fan of the Letterman Show long before he was a Vampire. In fact, he was still felt betrayed that The Tonight Show moved to L.A.

As Letterman put the phone to his ear, he could hear the Vampire shouting, “I will have my revenge.”

And thus dear readers the music to the The Vampire’s Revenge was born.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Bill and Me

In the month of August I got an email from the Ruby Flowers Production Company that asked if I was available to perform on September 14th for a benefit to raise money for the Cecil Taylor Art Museum. There were musicians flying in from around the world for this event. Of course I said “yes” and would be honored to play for Cecil.

A few days later I was sent a list of musicians who were definitely performing and was asked whom I want to play with. One of the bass players was Albey Balgochian, who I regularly play with and is an amazing ‘out player’. My drummer, Jay Rosen was not on the list because he would be coming in from Europe that day and would be too late, but Andrew Cyrille was available, I always wanted to play with him, I was given the OK. As the date got closer, each day I was given more info about the concert. It would be at Brooklyn Borough Hall and the event would start at 6PM. There would be many rooms and each group would perform ten-minute sets. There would also be a Green Room with food and drink for the musicians, This was going to be a classy production and I was happy to be part of it. As the weeks went on, some musicians dropped out and new ones came aboard and somehow the trio I was to play with didn’t exist anymore. I decided to just go with the flow and let things be and not rock the boat.

Then an email came in that announced Bill Cosby would Emcee the event; this was amazing. I knew Bill is a big jazz fan and always had jazz musicians on his show, but never avant-garde musicians. I didn’t care. All I knew was I was playing for Cecil and introduced by Bill Cosby!

A few weeks before it was all to happen, Cecil decided he didn’t want a benefit. Of course I was disappointed, but what could I do?

Two days later an email came in and asked if I could perform on the following day, September 15th at le poisson rouge Lounge for a benefit for the Dizzy Gillespie Foundation that helps musicians pay for medical bills. And Bill Cosby was very much connected to this foundation and would host the event too. How could I say no?

Again emails came in with lists of musicians. Many musicians who were on the original list were gone and new ones had replaced them. Andrew Cyrille was not available, but my regular drummer and long time friend who can play anything, Jay Rosen was. Terrific! I would be in my element.

I was told to show up at 6pm and the first set would start at 7:30. I arrived with my wife Carol at exactly 6:30. Carol found a spot at the bar till other friends arrived and the she sat at a table with Richard and Roberta Berger.

At approximately 7:50 Cheryl Wills from Channel One introduced Bill Cosby. Bill came on stage and was immediately funny. This is a man that I watched from the time he was on Johnny Carson, Mike Douglas and every talk show you can think of, and every time he had me along with and millions of viewers in stitches, laughing at his unique sense of humor. When I Spy became a national television hit, I made sure I watched every episode.

To this day Carol and I watch the re-runs of the Bill Cosby Show, which in my estimation was a role model on how a family can be. It was clean, funny, and informative and stressed family values that are surely missing in the last fifteen years in the so- called sit-coms that I call sick-coms.

Before each act started to play, he would ask whom the musicians were and he would do a little bit and tease them and the band would play. By the time the third band played, I realized none of these musicians were ‘out players’. They all played ‘straight-ahead’. It was modern be-bop, all good, but not what would have been played at Cecil’s event. I was sitting with Albey and we both looked at each other and laughed. I said while laughing, he’s going to F#@**N hate us. And Albey, laughed and shook his head yes.

A short time before we were to play, Rash Moshe asked if he could play with the trio. He said it was too confusing who he was to play with, so he rather work with us. I said, “of course play with us”. Ras is good guy a great player. I used him on The Vampire’s Revenge and of The Bird The Girl and The Donkey. He brings so much talent and creativity to any group he plays with.

My group was standing about ten feet from the stage, waiting for Kim Clarke’s group to finish their set. I told the guys I wanted to play solo for about forty seconds and then join in and when they do, rip it. So that was the plan. Bill Cosby asked, who’s up next and Cheryl Wills announced the Dom Minasi Group. Bill immediately asked which one of us was Dom Minasi. I nodded and he came over to me with mike in hand.

Bill: Okay Dom, What are you going to play?
Me: I don’t know.
Bill: What do you mean, you don’t know?
Me: I don’t know”
Bill: Does the bass player know what to play?
Me: Ask Him

Bill goes over to Albey and asks, “Do you know what to play”? Albey answers’ Yes!
Bill walks back to me
Bill: He knows
Me: Of course he knows. He has to know.
Bill: what are you talking about?

This went on for a few minutes. Meanwhile I’m laughing. Bill is making faces and the audience is laughing and in my head, I’m thinking, here am I on stage doing a ‘bit’ with Bill Cosby. What could be better than this?

We began as planned, I started and the band came in. We played at a very high energy level for about 10 minutes. The crowd went wild and we got a thunderous amount of applause.

When we finished, I unplugged my guitar and was about to leave, when Bill comes over again with mike in hand and says’, "Wait a minute. Tell me about yourself and where are you playing next"? I was kind of stunned. Here is Bill Cosby asking about me…Whew! What can I say?

A few minutes later I took my wife backstage to meet Bill. He was so gracious to both of us and told me how much he loved the set.

This was one of the best nights of my life. I am so grateful to all, especially Annabel of Ruby Flowers Productions that helped make the night a success.

Dom Minasi

Saturday, July 2, 2011

A Letter From God

Dear Dom,

I received your letter via three weeks ago. I ‘m sorry it has taken me so long to answer you, but sometimes I’m a little busy.

What struck me is why are you writing me now? You haven’t prayed or gone to church in over fifty years. In fact, you stopped believing in me, so why bother me now?

I know you are concerned about many things as I am too, but truthfully there is nothing I can do. You see, I gave mankind free will and in doing so, I allowed you to do whatever you wanted to do with your free will. Of course I gave you some rules to follow, but it was your choice to follow them or not.

What I don’t understand about mankind is the violence, hatred and greed. I don’t understand starvation, homelessness and sickness. I know this is your main concern, because not like others, you are not asking for yourself, but for humanity. Because I am God, you want some kind of miracle to straighten every thing out, but there is nothing I can do.

I am happy that after all these years you have decided to connect with me again. You must feel things on earth are really bad and you must be desperate to call on me. I hope this is not a one time only sort of thing. It is important that you talk and pray to me, for I am your redemption. Prayer is always good. It helps clean the soul.

You’ve heard that old adage that if your prayers aren’t answered, God has said no. That’s not true. I never say no, but I also never say yes. You may ask, why do I exist? I exist to guide and love you, but to not to do things for you. That is up to you. Again, Free Will.

I must say I’ve been very disappointed in you, especially the remarks you have made throughout the years about the Catholic Church and now their priests.

You know, the church in the very beginning was finding its way. And as in all things, mistakes were made. Just because millions of lives have been taken in my name, doesn’t mean the church is bad. Remember their original meaning was good.

Yes, yes, I know many priests have strayed and have committed unthinkable acts, but look at it this way, they have been found out. They may not have been punished, but the new Pope has done what he thinks is best. He moved them to Rome where they are under his watchful eye.

Know this! It is not true, if you are not a Christian, you will never be admitted to heaven!

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but there is no Heaven. There isn’t a Hell either. There is a place you go to, but it is hard to describe. All I can say is, you’ll know when you get there and no matter what you believe, you will all go there no matter what faith, creed or color. Will we meet? That’s hard to say. You may feel my presence, but meeting face to face, well not really. You see I don’t have a face. I just am.

I know this is hard to understand, but trust me, someday you will.

Throughout the centuries, I have instilled in some minds new discoveries or ideas through science and math to help advanced your species, but you have taken these advances and misused them. You have developed weapons. The drugs and medicines I help you with, cost so much money, that unless you are rich, you can’t afford them. The whole purpose of discovery is to help mankind, not make them suffer through illness or violence while others reap the profits.

The people of earth have been on the wrong path for thousands of years and yet through it all you haven’t learned to live and love and help one another. My heart, yes I have a heart, cries for you. I even sent a mystic, who you called my son to forgive you and sacrifice his own life to wipe away your sins and start anew, but you started a new religion and it became about money and greed and not love. All I wanted was for all of you to be happy, and live a loving life filled with health, abundance and creativity.

I am very sad. Millions of you are good souls, but through circumstance you have had to do things and become who you are not. All I can say is look into your heart and try to be the best you can be and do it with love. Love is your saving grace.

Dear Dom, I leave you with this one thought.
Look to the inner, not the outer, for in all things there is goodness, but it is up to you to find it.

Sincerely With All My Love and Blessings

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Short Stories About Kids

My Kids

I loved to tease or joke with my kids when they were growing up. I am proud to say that my son has carried on the tradition.

Here’s one little antidote about my son.

There were times when we sat around the kitchen table and I would say to my son, “I know what you did so you better confess. He would say, “ I didn’t do anything.” “Come on it’s too late I already know”. This would go on for a minute or two, and then he would say OK, OK but I didn’t mean it ,and he would confess to some stupid thing and I would just laugh and he would get so angry that I fooled him.

My Daughter

When my daughter was about four years old, when she said, or did something or misbehaved and I told her if she didn’t stop I would spank her. She stood there defiantly and said,” If you hit me I am going to call the police and report child abuse” What? Child abuse? What do you know about child abuse? Apparently she picked it up from TV.

When my kids were young I would take them on music jobs with me. One summer I had a jazz gig playing in between races at Roosevelt Raceway.
On one of those nights, Ray Nance of Duke Ellington fame was the featured guest star. Ray would play violin or a pocket trumpet. Whatever he played, it was great fun to be around him and listen to a master. Ray would also sing. He loved to sing Take The A Train and the audiences loved it.

After the job, Ray asked me if I could give him a ride. I said of course I could. We were all in the car with Ray in the front seat and my two kids in the back. I asked Ray where he was going. He told me to drop him of at the nearest E train. At once my daughter responded, “I thought you took the A train”


There was the time I was baby-sitting my kids and their cousins. One of the cousins, Scott, started talking like Donald Duck. I asked him who taught him how to talk like that and he answered very seriously, “Donald Duck “

Sometimes my son, my daughter and I would sit around the breakfast table and make believe we were a jazz band. I would pick a tune (when they were young they knew the jazz standards). My son sang the drum parts. My daughter sang the bass parts and I would imitate all the different instruments’ taking solos. We would laugh and we had a great time. My ex-wife would come and say,” you are all crazy”. Yeah, but we were happy crazy.


A few years back, as a teaching artist, I was teaching a second grade class.
I had a distinct program, which was teaching literacy through songwriting.
No matter what age group, I always started with the Blues. I would play a blues and I would give them a short history and then we would go about and write a down-home blues. We would move on to what I called a Rock & Roll Blues, which was Rhythm & Blues from the fifties. Next came a Jazz Blues. It was important to me that the kids understood the difference and recognized the difference.

When teaching a Jazz Blues, I would incorporate the use scat singing as an example. Of course the kids would laugh, but they really enjoyed themselves.

One day after demonstrating how to scat, I asked for volunteers to try and scat a blues. A young black girl came up and to my surprise she was able to do it and do it well. When I asked her how she learned how to scat, she told me her parents played jazz in the house all the time.

The next student to come up was a young white boy. He immediately got into it and was just as good as the little girl before him. When I asked him where he learned to scat, he calmly answered from Bill Cosby. He watched the Bill Cosby show with his parents and Bill always had jazz and scat singing on his show (The power of TV).

It’s important that we guide our kids and make sure they are watching, listening and learning things that matter to help them grow and reach their potential as human beings

Till Next Time

Dom Minasi