My intent to write a blog post more often than once a year has resulted in thirteen months since my last post, and what a year it’s been. The first two and a half months of 2020 alone have been incredibly challenging, rewarding, and alarming in rapid succession. But some very positive things have happened since I launched this revamped website a year ago February, so I’ll focus on those. Despite the alarming events of the Corona virus and resulting cancellations of concerts and live events that are a musician’s bread and butter, I’m grateful for the beautiful creative things that have happened over the past thirteen months.
Progger had a mellow year: no touring or recording, but lots of local shows, some new compositions, and serious help from the wonderful bassist Matt Weatherly and the incredible fraternal duo of Zach and Charles Reid. We also had the opportunity to be featured guest artists for the Palo Alto College Jazz Festival in San Antonio, which was a great experience. We had MUCH more time with our dear prodigal guitar champion, Carter Arrington, than expected, due to some unfortunate visa problems (that are now sorted out)… Lucky for us, but tough on his poor family. I’m glad they’re reunited in England even though Austin misses him dearly. I had the honor of producing backing tracks for his new instructional video before he flew home.
Last spring, my good friend, former roommate, and former tour-comrade Reid Umstattd recorded an EP of his own songs for the first time. Two even older tour-comrades of mine, Chris McQueen and Mike St. Clair, contributed as well. We played some good shows shows in 2019 including opening day of Formula One at Circuit of the Americas and at ACL Live’s small room with Grammy-nominated Southern Avenue. Nice bonus surprise to see our Atlanta bass-homey Evan Sarver playing with Southern Avenue as well, and to hang with their incredible tour pup, Marlie, after our set!
At the beginning of last year’s non-canceled South By Southwest, I had the opportunity of a lifetime: put together a band to back up one of the greatest comedians on earth, Paul F. Thompkins, for a night with the Dynasty Typewriter comedy company at Esther’s Follies. I recruited a couple hobos off the street, Dave Scher and Daniel Watson, who smashed. We laughed our asses off and played some tunes. One of the lady comedians fell in love with Daniel. I got to accompany PFT on piano for “Pure Imagination,” and he can actually sing.
In mid-2019 I started diving more deeply into education than I have since grad school at North Texas. I joined the faculty of Austin Community College, which is a fantastic institution, in the departments of music and music production. I believe very much in ACC’s values and I think it does a wonderful job of providing high-quality and affordable higher education to the community. There are many genuinely good musicians on the faculty and I’ve worked with some very, very cool students, some of whom could hang musically at some of the most prestigious schools out there. At the moment I’m teaching jazz and contemporary piano and composition, and in the fall I’ll add a jazz combo and a contemporary improvisation class as well.
For the past couple years my obsession with the hauntingly beautiful recorded sounds of Wayne Shorter and Miles Davis, especially on E.S.P., has led me to countless hours of research into the microphones, preamps, studio, and engineers involved. My wife has been very patient with my never-ending web-delving, and fortunately for both of us it’s led to only a modest amount of new and reasonably-priced gear. As a plus, my home recording and production game has gotten into very good shape, and while there will always be more to learn and improve, I’m getting some results I’m happy with. An album of satirical indie-pop songs should emerge soon.
Pandemic panic is taking a toll on the music community. Gig cancellations have been rolling in for us all, and we’re all poised to lose a lot of income over the next few weeks. It’s very likely the upcoming Progger tour, about which the guys and I were very excited, will have to be canceled or postponed until later in the year. But these are extraordinary times for the whole world and everyone is having to figure things out right now, not just us. We should focus on our actual priorities and values: the incomprehensible, fragile gift of life, our loved ones, and what we can do with every single day that we’re lucky to still have. I’ll try to do my part to make some beautiful things happen and I hope you do too.