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THIS LITTLE LIGHT OF MINE 


On this day in 1885, the Statue of Liberty arrived in the New York Harbor, a gift from the people of France, designed by Frederic Auguste Bartholdi.

The statue became a symbol of hope, welcoming immigrants to the USA.

On her pedestal is inscribed "The New Colossus" by American poet Emma Lazarus:

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me.
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.


It's interesting to contemplate this sonnet today.

Here in Anglozona, where I make my home, immigration remains a divisive and hotly debated issue as we approach the centennial of our statehood.

The word "immigrant" carries a strong negative connotation around these parts. Apparently, we palefaces forget that we are the aliens. Our claim to this territory is quite recent, and dubious at best.

I don't know the Tohono O'odham or Apache name for the white man's arrival, but I don't believe we were "greeted as liberators."

I do know that the shameless land-grabs of northern Mexico, which our history books disguise with convenient euphemisms (treaty, purchase, Manifest Destiny), are referred to in Mexican texts as The North American Invasion.

Nevertheless, it's 2011, and here we are.

And there stands Lady Liberty, lifting her lamp, welcoming immigrants.

I'm celebrating her anniversary by seeing the movie Green Lantern, which opens today.

It seems fitting.

My favorite comic book from childhood, Green Lantern is an inspirational superhero space opera.

It tells the story of myriad aliens, coming together in teamwork and harmony, heroically using their creative imaginations, strength of will and light to overcome the evil, destructive power of fear.

HAPPY EARTH DAY 



In celebration of EARTH DAY I've posted 3 beautiful videos by the talented Norwegian landscape photographer Terje Sørgjerd.

THE MOUNTAIN features Sørgjerd's stunningly beautiful time lapse photos of the Milky Way, captured earlier this month atop El Teide, the highest mountainpeak in Spain.

Set to music by Italian pianist and composer Ludovico Einaudi ("Nuvole Bianche" from his album Una Mattina), the video offers a view of our earth and heavens like none I've ever seen.

THE AURORA pairs Sørgjerd's images of a brilliant Aurora Borealis display over a national park in Norway with ethereal film music by Lisa Gerrard and Hans Zimmer ("Now We Are Free" from their collaboration on Gladiator).

Gerrard's otherworldly voice, as she sings to God in her invented language, seems to me the perfect sonic complement to the mysterious aurora.

THE MARKET juxtaposes video of the Maeklong and Damnoen Saduak markets in Thailand with Katie Noonan's cover of the Gnarls Barkley hit "Crazy."

I remember the floating markets from my travels in Thailand and Cambodia. It's intriguing to see one of them again through the eyes of a visual artist, especially when accompanied by music with such a fascinating provenance:
  • The piece began as "Nel Cimitero di Tucson," an Italian movie theme created by the Reverberi brothers for a 1968 Spaghetti Western.
  • Half a century later, Gnarls Barkley (the American duo of Danger Mouse and Cee Lo Green) reinvents the piece, adding lyrics and a new hook.
  • Their single "Crazy" becomes a spectacular international hit, spawning over 30,000 downloads in the United Kingdom, placement in popular films, and dozens of other versions by artists all over the world.
  • Australian singer Katie Noonan puts her own spin on the song, and this recording is the version selected by the intrepid photographer from Norway to underscore his colorful footage from Thailand.
Crazy, indeed. Sørgjerd's video speaks volumes, not only about the unique flavors of a traditional Thai market, but about our global marketplace in this increasingly interconnected digital age.
 
Follow Terje Sørgjerd on Twitter.

THERE CAN BE ONLY ONE 



When I was at Berklee in the 80s, the Boston jazz community was teeming with talented trumpet players.

There was the brilliant INGRID JENSEN, who had the freshest sound in town, the legendary HERB POMEROY, a lyrical master of bebop, and the ultramodern TIM HAGANS, a harmonically adventurous improviser of the Woody Shaw school. DAVE BALLOU was known for his pitch-perfect intonation and musicality, JEFF STOUT for his uncanny way with a standard, and KEN CERVENKA for his inventive spontaneity. GREG HOPKINS could break your heart with a ballad, while the always soulful KENNY RAMPTON made the trumpet sing like no other. There was also the spirited ROY HARGROVE, a musical chameleon steeped in Blue Note tradition, the explosive ANDY GRAVISH, who channelled Freddie Hubbard at will, and TONY THEWET, a playful prankster with a gift for infectious island rhythm.

The scene was inspiring, to say the least, but it could also be quite intimidating. I was playing trumpet more than flugel in those days, and trumpet players tend to be a bit competitive by nature. Nevertheless, I tried to learn something from everyone and carve out a niche for myself.

Inevitably, whenever I grew confident about my place in the pecking order, I'd hear someone new who blew my mind.

In those moments, I felt like someone who had stumbled into the world of Highlander holding nothing but a pocket knife.

Like the time I worked on Brandt #6, a challenging etude for trumpet.

I had to sweat the thing for weeks before I could make its awkward intervals sound even remotely musical.

After I don't know how many hours in the practice room, I was finally ready to play the piece for my teacher. Sure enough, the hard work had paid off.

I was feeling pretty good about myself until the trumpet player in the adjacent studio began to mimic what I'd just played, only effortlessly, by ear, at a brighter tempo, and doodle tonguing it like Clark Terry.

But what really took the wind out of my sails was when he started cycling the melody through the keys.

I decided I'd better go over there, find out who it is, and pay my respects. Apparently no one had ever told this guy that playing the trumpet is difficult.

And that's how I met GREG GISBERT.


~DM

CORN PONE 



Whooo, I've been craving CORN PONE all day!

For my yankee friends, corn pone is one of the most beloved comfort foods in all of southern cuisine: a thick cornbread that's been cooked over a fire in a cast iron skillet.

There are many ways to enjoy corn pone. Some folks like to bake it in the oven and serve it with a bowl of beans or hearty stew. Others like to mash up warm chunks of the stuff into a cold glass of buttermilk, then devour the entire mixture, dessert-style, with a long spoon.

As for me, I like corn pone best when it's been fried in butter until the edges are as brown and crunchy as hushpuppies.

Readers of Mark Twain (not to mention friends of my Dad) are no doubt already familiar with "corn pone humor," the southern gentleman's ready penchant for pulling your leg, making silly, off-color jokes and telling the tallest and most ridiculous of tales.

As you might have guessed, people can be corn pones, too. Southerners affectionately tease unsophisticated country folks for acting "like a corn pone."

More often than not, the designation is intended not as an insult, but as a term of endearment for the best kind of friends — the ones back home who never put on airs, like you for who you are, and get along easily with just about anybody.

WHAT I LEARNED FROM SUPERHEROES 



Like many who grew up before the era of personal computers and video games, I spent countless hours in my youth reading the adventures of superheroes in comic books.

Here are 12 of my favorites and what I learned from each:

1. SUPERMAN — Rise to the occasion. Be courageous, respectful, honorable and selfless. Your strength comes more from your character than your talent. Remember that even the greatest of us has an achilles heel, and sometimes needs solitude. Usually, however, it's possible to hide in plain sight!

2. SPIDER-MAN — With great power comes great responsibility.

3. GREEN LANTERN — Your imagination and willpower are the only real limits to what you can create.

4. BATMAN — Childhood trauma can be a source of strength. Facing your fears can be transformative. And having the right equipment is half the battle.

5. X-MEN — Evolve! Celebrate diversity.

6. WONDER WOMAN — Strong women are sexy.

7. IRONMAN — Dress for success. Clothes make the man. There will be setbacks, but don't let your flaws define you. And innovate! A better version is always possible.

8. FANTASTIC FOUR — There is power in teamwork.

9. THE FLASH — Be the best at what you do.

10. THE HULK — Never judge a book by it's cover. You can't know what a man is capable of simply by looking at his appearance...especially what he might be capable of if he gets angry.

11. CAPTAIN AMERICA — Know your mission. Be willing to take a stand, even if it's unpopular.

12. THOR — Remember your birthright, but don't seek glory. If you do the job right, you'll get it anyway.


~DM

REMEMBERING ALLEN SMITH 



My friend Allen Smith, the great trumpeter who passed away this week, will be remembered as a Bay Area treasure and a true gentleman of jazz.

Raised in Pittsburgh, Allen succeeded Clark Terry in the World War II Navy Band before touring with Johnny Otis and becoming one of San Francisco's most beloved musicians.

Allen recorded with Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington and Gil Evans, and performed with Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, Nat "King" Cole, Quincy Jones, Joe Williams, Frank Sinatra, Gerald Wilson, Tony Bennett and others.

In recent years, Allen shared the stage with the Bay Area's leading vocalists. A swinging and soulful soloist in the style of Harry "Sweets" Edison, Allen appeared with Kim Nalley, Lavay Smith, Jackie Ryan, Paula West and many more.

I'm personally grateful for having the opportunity to know, perform with, listen to and learn from this brilliant musician.

On behalf of his many friends and in recognition of his lifetime of excellence in jazz, it was my privilege in 2004 to present Allen Smith with the San Francisco Jazz Festival's coveted Beacon Award.

Through his music and the memories of all who loved him, Allen Smith lives on.


~DM

KUDOS, OKEEP! 



"Congratulations to my friend (and producer of my album Penumbra) ORRIN KEEPNEWS, on the occasion of his receiving the 2011 NEA Jazz Masters Award for Jazz Advocacy.

The NEA Jazz Masters Award is our nation's highest honor for jazz musicians and industry professionals.

I can think of no one more deserving than Orrin, who, by following his own street sense and good taste, became the leading curator of American jazz, producing nearly every historically significant jazz album of the modern era.

Like many musicians and fans, I trace the beginning of my jazz education to nights at the turntable, courtesy of Orrin. Thank you, Mr. Keepnews -- and kudos!
"

~D.M.

MONSOON SEASON C'EST ARRIVE ! 

"According to 'Good Morning, Arizona,' the monsoon season officially begins tomorrow. What is monsoon season? It's when the tropical rains arrive, bringing welcome relief from the desert heat.

Here in the Sonoran Desert, we call these thunderstorms “monsoons”...a misnomer, since the term refers "to a seasonal shift in wind direction." But that simple definition doesn't do justice to the spectacle of Arizona’s summer monsoon season.

Every year, sometime between mid-June and mid-July, the prevailing winds, which come from the west most of the year, change direction and flow from the south and southeast. This seasonal shift of winds brings tropical moisture from the Sea of Cortez and the Gulf of Mexico into Arizona.

When this moist tropical air collides with the desert heat, monsoon thunderstorms--one of the most spectacular and thrilling of nature’s displays--are born.

We desert dwellers yearn for the crack of thunder, the brilliant flashes of lightning and the deafening downpour of rain that cools the sweltering desert heat and makes the creosote bushes release their aromatic, herbal fragrance...if only for a few hours.

And when a monsoon moves in, temperatures may drop from 105°F to 60°F in a matter of minutes.

I can't wait."

~D.M.

CONGRATULATIONS, MISS NELLE ! 




I first read Harper Lee's southern gothic story To Kill a Mockingbird when I was 12, at the Brookstone School in Columbus, Georgia.

I was too young to fully appreciate the novel's themes, but its compelling characters made a deep and lasting impression, ultimately becoming part of my personal mythology.

I've always aspired to be like ATTICUS FINCH:  a beloved, respected, tireless crusader and a morally upright community leader.

Atticus is educated, honest and articulate, yet free of racial and class prejudice. He does not hold himself to be superior to his neighbors. In fact, he hides his extraordinary skills (for example, he's an expert marksman) until they're necessary. Atticus is the intersection of supreme intellectual confidence and absolute social humility.

As it turns out, I'm no Atticus Finch.

I'm more like BOO RADLEY: a pale, reclusive, misunderstood shut-in.

I keep to myself, emerging for the occasional creative, caring or heroic act. These go, for the most part, unseen, unsung and unpunished.

And I'm more like the MOCKINGBIRD: I don't do much but make music for folks to enjoy...(and that's why it's a sin to kill a mockingbird).

Congratulations, Ms. Lee, on the 50th anniversary of the publication of your masterpiece -- and thank you.

A LABOR OF LOVE ~ DM on Monarch Records 



Like many independent jazz labels, Monarch Records was a labor of love. None of us got rich, but we had fun and were able to make available some quality music by Cedar Walton, Dave Ellis, Eddie Marshall and others. We released dozens of recordings before the company was sold. I'm most proud of our live recording by Art Farmer, one of his last and our best.

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