This wedding was in a castle in Southern France.
Perhaps I didn’t cry enough. Perhaps I held back my tears too much. The pain in my throat…perhaps it was love, trying to get out. Perhaps love trying to get in. The anticipation of what was to become a most amazing and inspirational wedding ceremony, hung in the pre-ceremony air as if we all knew. Even the birds, the wind, the light, the stone walls, floor and ceiling. Just like all weddings, you know what to expect. That’s when the pain starts.
This wedding though, was different
This wedding was for my niece, Hannah Long. This wedding was attended by all my brothers, “The Boys” (Jeff, Jay, Jon and Joel). Yes, we’ve come a “long” way from California, 1964, when our Dad died in a car accident, leaving my Mom to raise 4 boys in Montana. This was the first time “The Boys” were ever out of the US at the same time, let alone in the same country. This wedding was only my Moms second grand kid’s marriage. This wedding was attended by my wife Barb and son Baxter. This wedding was artfully “officiated” by my brother Joel. This wedding gave me a new nephew in Wes Barker!
Laurie Andersen believes that grief is the release of Love.
The pain in your throat when you grieve is the same pain I felt during Hannah and Wes’s wedding. Perhaps it is because I was holding back my tears.
Perhaps the tears that come from inspiration, reflection and beauty are also a release of Love. They come from years of taking for granted, the things that life can only reveal. Things that are exposed when we get together for those few events in all our lives where we are forced to reflect on what is important…. people’s lives and the love for each other.
Joel, in his beautiful oratory, mentioned how old is actually new. You are the newest manifestation of your self. I believe that love is the ultimate evolution of life. It represents the newest universal manifestation that exists because of life.
And during this wedding, and during the reception, and during the toasts, and during the explosive cake reveal, and during everything and behind every story and behind every person’s personal adventure that led them to these moments in this castle, in Uzès, France, there is a story of pain. The pain and challenges of international travel, the financial pain of getting to a very specific and special remote place on the other side of the planet for a 30-minute ceremony, the pain of sitting on a plane for 20 hours, multiple connections, the pain of not understanding languages in other countries, the pain of jet lag, the pain of planning, bad planning, miss-guided transportation fiasco’s, the pain of filling up your rental car with gas before you return it, the pain of driving in French cities, the pain of sketchy internet.
But, these are pains that we can tolerate without emotion, if we choose. These are pains that we endure for family and friends. These are growing pains. We are not just obligated, but excited for these adventures. At worst, we are just, merely exhausted because of these things. Eventually, we laugh and are proud of these things as we go through life. We overcome. These are the pains that we endure to expose ourselves to fulfilling lives.
But the pain I felt in my throat before and during the wedding, and you perhaps feel in yours as you read this, is the result of being present in life, it comes unexpectedly, when you are touched by words and the air of love that you feel and the things you see and hear…. that is not just the pain of life. That is love. Let it out.
Tears to Hannah and Wes!!
I still am playing the trumpet nightly and loving every minute. Due to Essential Tremor, I can’t play as intensely as I need to to stay in shape and practice. But, because I knew I would someday feel the effect of this stupid disease, and because my brother Jeff Long got it and adapted by learning the EWI, I was able to ease into the steep learning curve of playing the EWI as well. I am not missing a beat.
Katharine Hepburn, Ozzie Osbourne and John Quincy Adams had ET. It effects 10% of the population. It sucks, but, it’s not progressive and honestly, I probably wouldn’t even know I had it if it weren’t for the trumpet. But, it does come out in my voice, mouse movements and even shaving. Nothing I can’t live with.
The EWI is now my main instrument and I’m able to get to the same zen space as the trumpet, in fact even more.
The EWI(Electronic Wind Instrument) has given me infinite dimensions of sound, with the same trumpet-ish valve like playing that I’ve grooved into my cerebral cortex since I first played trumpet in my back yard one day when I was 9 years old. “Look mom, I can play”.
I’ve also picked up the Ukulele and can say, I love it!! Being called “Mr. Obvious” many times by my friends, I will, in the face of further ridicule say, it’s not the trumpet that I love, it’s music.
But I still do love the trumpet!
Departed Chennai on Wed. night, fell asleep on the plane before take off, woke up upon de-boarding 5 hours later to find myself in Bangkok, taxied to the hotel and hooked up with Jay and Lea.
Ate mussels, crab cakes and other asian deliciousness. Barely made a flight to Cambodia(Seim Reap) due to lack of attention to time, bad Uber service, horrible rush hour traffic thru the heart of industrial Bangkok, watching the sunset as we moved along at 3 miles per hour. With less than 30 minutes before our flight, Jay had to “go”, then got his bags searched, found a cork screw and sent him on his way. Meanwhile, I got to the gate, found a long line to the bus that eventually took us to the plane. Bought 2 cold beers for $1, just as Jay sprinted around the corner, pissed, sweating and just in time. We consumed the beer on the bus, a nice asian woman taking our empty bottle as we boarded the plane.
We filled out paper work for various government requirements, the entire 40 min flight to Siem Reap. Customs only took 30 minutes, getting sim cards for our phones took an hour. Hilarious mishaps with their credit card machine, Lea had to help them. Meanwhile, I went to another sim card vendor and she canceled the other. Got on a Tuk Tuk with a driver that we have for the weekend. Staying in a cheap, but, gorgeous air b&b and located across from a park with incredibly loud bugs, Food carts, Restaurants, gecko’s, cat’s, dogs. Stayed up until 3AM, up at 8. Going to the Temples today to see an ancient city that rose around the beginning of the 12 century.
I’m just waking from a sleep which began in Pondecherry, India in the middle seat of a van we rented and driven by a private driver.
For $30, this driver picked us all up at our houses, hotels, hostels on Sat. morning, dropped my excess bags off at my new home(Park Hyatt), drove down the southern coast of India, 4 wheeled it through thick jungle roads of thick palm, coconut and Palmeria trees to the boys orphanage, then, to Pondecherry, with many stops along the way to indulge us in all sorts of road side experiences or off road pee breaks, complete with parrots, dogs, goats, bugs, wine and cigarettes for my buds. I was at the mercy of the 5 Indians that I normally work with and are now escorting me through unimaginable adventure.
The late night beach trip was unfortunate in that it resulted in me acting like a fool on children playground teeter totters and spinners similar to the ones we used to get slivers on in Cascade Montana in 1968, stepping off at a high rate of speed after Binil and I had this thing going so fast, the last one off, me, was relentlessly released from orbit, landed wrong and tweaked my hip. You could hear it pop. Ya, I’m old. Much older than a 6 year old. We should have stuck to just walking around our resort housing, I told them the next day. That would be fun enough. They told me, that there can be trouble at night with the fishermen. Hm. Ok. Well, long story short, doctor came to my room, told me to rest, walk it off and gave me 3 med’s and some lotion that burns my pain away. 30 minutes after talking to Jay and Lea about how they may be carrying me through Siem Reap when we meet in 3 days, I’m playing volleyball in the pool. Not a big deal, I can walk.
But, the next day, we did stop and go where locals are and did get to see normal Indians doing “normal” stuff. Bought a drum, ate burnt corn on the cop, drank from a Coconut, ate the meat with a spoon made of the same coconut, filmed wild dogs and stuff.
The most profound moment, perhaps of my life, but certainly of the trips to India, was when visiting the meditation center yesterday at some temple. We had to take our shoes off, enter through security who made sure no phones, cameras and ensure quiet as active meditation was happening.
The silence was palpable. After wandering through ponds filled with thick cut flower tops and ancient pathways, meditators everywhere in random places, I sat down with my buddy Saurav and, well, meditated. This is something I don’t ever do.
At first, as I sat Indian style(if you will), I gazed around the room at all the other meditators, some gazing around as I did, some draped over statues of Ganeesh, some with their hand towards floating flowers, some on the edges of everything, all dead quiet. I closed my eyes and had an experience that changed my life forever. It wasn’t sleep, it wasn’t difficult and it wasn’t anything I forced. It just happened.
In the 15 minutes of eternity that I travelled thru, I saw my life as it is, a magical gift of time that I can do with whatever I want. What impossible luck it is to exist, to be born in to a time and place and into this body from a mother that raised me to be able to think myself into anything I want. At one point, a tear literally shot out of my eye.
So, to avoid the inner air flow tube design flaw of the EWI 5000, I blocked the inner tube and added an external tube that I can replace at will. Probably will replace once every few months as needed. We’ll see. My first EWI 5000 clogged up completely after 12 months. This is a prototype. This is purely a proof of concept. Notice the exit is at the top of the octave rollers. This has the added benefit of constant moisture on the rollers, creating a more secure electrical contact between the rollers and your thumb.
Today marks 5 years of playing Jazz trumpet for me. Prior to that was a post college 23 years of non-playing. And even in college, I couldn’t really improvise. I can now. As I get better, and as I am consistently practicing, listening and playing with other live musicians, a simultaneous calibration of my perspective of what is good is occurring. Relative to 5 years ago, I’m good. Good, is the baseline. Good is always changing. On a scale from Suck to Great, Good is in the middle. Great is when I feel like I’m playing at the top of my ability, Suck is when nothings happening. I’ve realized that, despite my desire to play great, I experience a range of outcomes, nearly every night I’m performing or practicing. What I’ve noticed in the past year is that playing good is a state of being. At the beginning(5 yrs ago), I wasn’t sure if I could consistently not suck. Now, I feel that greatness can happen every night. In fact, it does happen almost every night, along with good and perhaps sucking as well sometimes.
Anyways, I’m loving every minute of playing. I’m currently playing in a new band called Groove Holiday. Super fun. Lot’s of originals. Jazz Funk Instrumental. Our 2 gigs so far were Quixotes and Dazzle in Denver. Greg Warren, Chris Anton, Kalin Capra, and Tyler Bender. I’ve been sitting in weekly at the Pourhouse in Loveland(my first sit-in Mar. 2 2000). Kalin Capra has also been playing bass there since 2000. I took another lesson this year from my friend Hugh Ragin. He introduced me to Whisper Tones.
Here are some realizations that I have come to over the years as I’m figuring this music thing out.
It’s not just learning how to blow and play, but learning how to listen and hear.
Seeing sound is basically seeing time.
It’s more about turning parts of your brain off than on.
Remember, it’s all about the music. Music is not playing notes, playing parts, theory. Forget all that. Just play!!!!
Practice your ass off. You really can’t practice too much. But, even if it’s a small amount of time, make it count. Practice your ass off.
When you play, it’s your soul talking.
Music is not a sum of precisely placed notes or the result of thousands of hours of practice.
Music is separate from technique.
Some amazing music can happen when a musician is putting his heart and soul into it.
Pushing through worldly limitations, the music shines through, despite technique, taking the musician and the listener beyond this world, beyond technique.
The phrase pushing the envelope? The envelope: It’s you. Don’t fight it. Let it go. It’s your soul that’s trying to get out. Let it out.
Don’t practice not stopping. Practice taking your horn off your face.
Brad Goode once told me “Listen to everyone else but yourself”. Bam! That was a game changer for me. It showed me first, that I don’t listen enough. And second, in doing so, I can still play. Stuff comes out of my head, even though I’m not technically thinking of each and every note I’m playing. Kind of like walking without thinking of each step you are taking. It’s just natural.
Listening to everyone else allows me to involve myself in the musical moment. That’s where magic happens. That’s the only thing that matters. At that moment, that is your reality. And is, for the most part, created by everyone else on stage. You’re free to do with it what you want. “Reality is your perspective of the manifestation of all others perspectives”. Jon Long
Today is the 3 year anniversary for me and my new Trumpet life. I’ve been playing non-stop, every day since.
It’s been a blast! I’ve been lucky to have had many great musical experiences, including all the crazy gigs with the awesome funk band Futaba, subbing with another great band: The Lindsey Obrien Band for Bandswap, my latest adventure: The Steve Johnson Group and sitting in and gigging with some amazing, talented rhythm section players: Mark Raynes, Mark and Myles Sloniker, Roger Barnhart, Steve Thurston, Alwyn Robinson, Mark Diamond, Andy Weyl, Kalin Capra, Chris Kroger, Peter Knudsen and many more. My school yard has been the jam sessions at the Brad Goode Jam Session in Boulder, Tavollas and the Jaeger, in Greeley, The Pourhouse in Loveland and the Sunday jam at the Boulder Outlook. The Longtones, of course, threw down everything from Bitches Brew inspired grooves to ballads at many Avo’s gig’s.
What started 3 years ago as a renewed ambition to “be good” is now as normal a part of my life as breathing. In fact, a good percentage of my breaths exhale through my horn.
I still take lessons a couple times a year. Hugh Ragin, Brad Goode, Gabe Mervine and Peter Sommer have all sparked ideas in my head for creating the integral pieces of the puzzle for learning to play this crazy thing we call Jazz. Form, Harmony, Articulation, Air Speed, Time, Space, Sound, Rhythm, Performing vs Practicing, Listening, Transcribing, Creating and Collaborating.