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  • Writer's pictureThomas Doggett

Midsummer check-in

It's hard to believe that it's July already. I feel like school just ended but that was a month ago. Here's what I've been doing and what I'm getting ready to do.

If it's the end of June then that means that I'm in rehearsal for the 4th of July. It's a time to connect with students. It's a time to connect with the community. It's honestly the biggest audience the students will perform for in a school year. I love hearing about what my students have been doing. From jazz camps to working to traveling to chilling at the pool, they're keeping busy.

I've been going to shows. The second week of June, I drove to Kansas City with Lisa to see Snarky Puppy at the Kauffman Center. I saw them at the Kauffman Center exactly three years ago. It was great to see them again and it was obvious they were happy to see us. The Pups gave us 30 minutes of new music at the start the concert before playing familiar material. The new songs were off of their soon-to-be-released upcoming album, Empire Central (September 30). When I saw them in 2019, the audience shouted "play Lingus" when the band came out for an encore. I clearly remember Michael League saying, "no, we're not going to play Lingus." For their encore this time, they played Lingus. For me, it connected the two concerts despite being three years apart.

Another show I saw in June was Wave Cage. They played at Noce in Des Moines. Clearly drawing influences from Kneebody, Donny McCaslin, and Iowa's own, Jack Lion, Wave Cage mixes jazz and electronic elements. Sitting in with Wave Cage was Chris Merz (saxophone) and Mike Conrad (trombone), both University of Northern Iowa jazz professors.

If you've been reading my blogs or following me on Instagram, you know that I have a collection of songs that I've been working on titled Lineage. I took a lesson with Mike Conrad to get some more insight on how I can improve as a soloist and composer. Mike is so knowledgable. We went through my songs and discussed concepts and different techniques used by different composers. Much like my lessons with John Waugh, the primary goal is to perform the songs with musicians. To achieve that, the sheet music (called "charts" in jazz lingo) needs to contain enough information to provide what to play but not so much information that they become boxed in. It's not an easy task but not impossible either. This is why studying with an experienced composer and performer really makes a difference.

And since I'm talking about the songs, I should announce that they'll be heard on August 1st at xBk Live in Des Moines. My good friend, Scot Sutherland, has been hosting a weekly event called Monday Night Live. MNL began at The Greenwood several years ago but has recently been moved to xBk. The concept is taken from Saturday Night Live in that a guest artist is brought into perform their songs with the house band. It's a special night of music to hear an artist perform familiar songs they're known for in a different musical setting. The night also includes an interview with the artist by Annie Ducharme-Jones. For the event on August 1st, I'll be sharing the bill with my favorite singer-songwriter, Courtney Krause. Monday Night Live is free and all-ages. Doors open at 6pm with music beginning at 7pm.

This upcoming show is part of a larger series of events. When I finished writing the nine songs that make up Lineage, I knew that I wanted to perform and record them. But what I've learned about myself and what I've seen in other artists is that songs get written, songs get recorded, songs get performed, songs take on new shapes in front of an audience. I want to reverse the steps meaning that I want to perform the songs in front of an audience before they get recorded. I understand why it's done the aforementioned way. In case you don't, recordings were initially a way to get audiences to a concert. Get someone to a concert and they can experience the live show plus buy a t-shirt or tour book. It's still like that...kind of. My music falls under the jazz umbrella where the recording is nice but the focus is on the live show. I'm also doing all of this myself with no pressure of any kind from any record label. I just want the recording to be the best representation of the songs and I believe to do that, they need to have that honest feedback from a live audience. Lineage will be recorded this fall. There will be some singles released as well as a release show party. Stay tuned for more.

Lineage is my primary focus this summer. Besides lessons and booking, I also had photos taken by Jami Milne. To say that Jami is amazing is an understatement. She has a gift to put anyone at ease. From there, she engages you in conversation that makes you unaware that she's clicking away on her camera. You'll see more from my photoshoot with her both in promotion and album art.

Another thing I've done to get ready for performing and recording Lineage is getting my horn worked on. I drove up to Tenor Madness this week and dropped my horn off with Randy Jones. I must confess, I wait too long to have my horn worked on. Seriously. Why? I'm so quick to blame myself. "I need to practice more" Randy looked at my horn and the first thing he said was "your right-hand keys need adjusting. Are your low notes difficult to play?" No, Randy "I just need to practice more."

I knew my horn needed work after I played on my dad's horn last week. I was in DC for the first time in 2 1/2 years visiting my family. The great thing about visiting my parents is that I can play my dad's tenor. It's a fine instrument. A Yamaha 62 from the early 70's. Plays like a dream.

While in DC, we took in lots of sites both inside and out. From museums to gardens, we did everything we could in a week.

The thing we have to remember is that history is alive. It's a living thing. It's happening. We are connected to it. We are part of the story regardless of where we live or when we're alive. I was reminded of this with the recent Supreme Court Justice ruling. Being in DC the same week allowed me to witness history up close. Standing outside of the Supreme Court felt like the right place to be last Sunday morning. A women's rights are human rights.

I'm traveling to Europe for the first time in four years. It's crazy to think it's been that long but it has. Pandemics and quarantines tend to distort time. Regardless, I'm going. I've been working on my Dutch. I know that I can get by with English while I'm there but I want to make an effort. I've been on DuoLingo for the past 57 days. There's something about learning a language. It's not just words, it's a way of thinking. The more I study, the more questions I have. That's part of the joy of learning.

As always, bedankt voor het lezen...I mean...thank you for reading. I'll write more soon. Until then, stay awesome.


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