New Year’s Eve at Fall Creek Restaurant

Hey, everyone, here's a quick heads-up to let you know that I'll be playing with my good friend Ed Englerth at the Fall Creek Restaurant in Hastings on New Year's Eve. Ed and I will be playing an eclectic assemblage of tunes in a low-key acoustic format, with Ed on guitar, me playing soprano and alto sax, and both of us doing a bit of singing. With other restaurants in the area featuring live bands in a festive spirit, the owner of Fall Creek wanted something laid-back that would allow people to converse. So that's what we'll be providing: music that is fun, enjoyable, but not obtrusive or melt-your-earwax loud. Here are the details:
Ed Englerth and Bob Hartig Saturday, December 31 8:30–11:30 p.m. Fall Creek Restaurant 201 South Jefferson Hastings, MI 49058 (269) 945-0100

Gigs: One Trick Pony Tonight; Seasonal Grille Tomorrow

A quick reminder to my West Michigan friends that I'm playing with Francesca Amari and band tonight and tomorrow night. Tonight's gig is from 8:00 to 11:00 p.m. at One Trick Pony in downtown Grand Rapids. If you're from around here, you know where it is. Tomorrow's gig runs from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. at the Seasonal Grille in Hastings, right across from the courthouse square. Address is 152 West State Street. Besides Francesca and me, the lineup consists of Dave DeVos on bass, Bobby Thompson on drums, Wright McCargar on keyboards tonight at the Pony, and Mark Kahny on keys tomorrow night at the Grille. You can count on good food and a good time. Make it if you can.

Gig Alert! November 4 with Francesca Amari at Seasonal Grill

The Seasonal Grille in downtown Hastings, Michigan, is a great place to eat, and if you're a musician, also a great place to play. I've done several gigs there over the past year, and from the start I've appreciated the owner, Justin Straube, and his crew as people who genuinely enjoy the music, and who treat musicians well. Perhaps that has something to do with a mutual respect among artists, because the fare that Justin serves up is just that: culinary art. I continue to be amazed that food as superb as what you'll find at the Seasonal Grille comes at such an affordable price. But enough of my touting the Grille. Let me switch to talking up my friend Francesca Amari. I met her on a big band gig four or five years ago, and we've played together ever since as opportunity has presented itself. Francesca is more than a great vocalist and gifted national cabaret artist: she is also an engaging, well-loved performer who projects a wit and sweetness that are totally authentic. In a word, she shines. She loves her audience, her audience loves her, and as a bandmate, she's just plain fun to work with. So you see, you have lots of incentive to come hear Francesca and the band, including moi, at the Seasonal Grille two weeks from now on Friday, November 4. We'll be there with a full rhythm section consisting of Dave DeVos on bass, Bobby Thompson on drums, and Mark Kahny playing keyboards. This is a more ambitious date for the Grille than the piano–sax duos that I normally do there. I'm pleased that Justin was open to my suggestion to bring in Francesca, who will be visiting Grand Rapids that week. This event will be something more than background music for diners, so I hope you'll come join us. If you enjoy live jazz and show tunes, I can guarantee you a great evening. Here are all the details in one compact call-out:
Francesca Amari and Friends Place: The Seasonal Grille Date & Time: Friday, November 4, from 6:00–9:00 p.m. Phone: (269) 948-9222 Address: 152 West State Street, Hastings, MI (right across from the courthouse square)
The band will also be playing the previous evening, Thursday, November 3, at One Trick Pony in Grand Rapids. Downbeat for that gig is 8:00 p.m., and Wright McCargar will be filling the keyboard chair. That will be another fun night, so if you can't make one, then make the other. See you in two weeks!

Jazz Friday Night at the Seasonal Grille

Yikes--almost forget to mention, I'll be playing tomorrow night (Friday, September 23) at the Seasonal Grille in downtown Hastings, Michigan. Come on out, drop a few dollars on dinner with your sweetheart, and take in a little live jazz. The Seasonal Grille is a fabulous place, and the food is not only outstanding in quality, but also just about absurdly affordable. Paul Lesinkski will be joining me on keyboards. We've done a good number of piano-sax duos through the years; he's a fantastic musician, a good friend, and someone I love playing with. You'll like what you hear. Here are the details: The Seasonal Grille 150 West State Street Hastings, MI Time: 6:00–9:00 p.m. Phone: (269) 948-9222 Hope you can make it!

Update and Gig

The Latest on Navigating the Move

This is my first post after changing my Web host to Dryline Hosting. The transition has been a bit bumpy, largely because I'm not familiar with the details involved in Web hosting and have had to deal with the learning curve. My friend Karina Myers, who with her husband, Mitch, operated the now-defunct Tablox Web Solutions, was gracious enough to move my files for me, and as I look at how many of them there are, I realize how overwhelmed I'd have felt if I'd had to handle the transfer myself. That kind of thing takes infinitely longer when you don't know what the heck you're doing! Anyway, right now you'll notice that the header and all my images are missing. That includes all the practice exercises and solo transcriptions I've developed over the years. RELAX! (I'm saying that to myself as well as to you.) The image files all still exist. But I've obviously got a bit of work to do in order to get them back to where you can once again view and access them. Trust me, doing so is high on my to-do list. I want to get my Stormhorn blog site fully functional as soon as I can, so stay tuned, and please bear with the current, stripped-down look, sans images. It's only temporary.

Gig Saturday at the Cobblestone

A reminder that my jazz trio plays again Saturday night, January 22, from 6:30-9:30 p.m. at the Cobblestone right here in Caledonia, Michigan. The place is an ideal setting for jazz. The room is such that you can hear the music anywhere while at the same time being able to carry on a conversation. The food and wine are great. And my fellow musicians, bassist David DeVos and keyboardist Paul Lesinski, are some of the best in West Michigan. Tomorrow is our last booking, and while I hope that the owner will  extend our stay, I don't know at this point whether that will happen. Ben loves jazz and really wants to make it happen at his place, but he needs an increasing customer base in order to make it work for him financially. So come on out, show your support, and enjoy an evening of  live jazz with the Stormhorn Jazz Trio  in the warm, relaxed, and inviting setting of the Cobblestone Bistro.
• Date & Time: Saturday, January 22, 6:30-9:30 p.m. • Place: The Cobblestone Bistro & Banquet Center • Address: 9818 Cherry Valley Ave. SE (M-37), Caledonia, MI • Phone: (616) 588-3223 Reservations are recommended, but walk-ins are welcome.

Stormhorn Jazz Tonight at the Cobblestone

A quick reminder, in case you haven't gotten one from me on Facebook, that my jazz trio, Stormhorn Jazz, is playing tonight from 6:30–9:30 p.m. at the Cobblestone Bistro in Caledonia, Michigan. This is a beautiful place with superb food, world-class wines, a good offering of domestic, imported, and craft-brewed beers, an elegant and comfortable bar, and ambiance galore complete with a fireplace and even, yes, a waterfall--plus, of course, live jazz by Dave DeVos on bass, Steve Durst on keyboards, and me on the alto sax and vocals. The Cobblestone is one of the best things about Caledonia, at least from a musical and dining perspective, and Ben, the owner, loves jazz. So come on out and show your support. I promise you, you'll be pleased at what you find. Here are the details:
• Date & Time: Saturday, January 15, 6:30-9:30 p.m. • Place: The Cobblestone Bistro & Banquet Center • Address: 9818 Cherry Valley Ave. SE (M-37), Caledonia, MI • Phone: (616) 588-3223 Reservations are recommended, but walk-ins are welcome.

Stormhorn Jazz at the Cobblestone Bistro (Or, The Difference a Bass Makes)

Saturday evening at the Cobblestone Bistro here in Caledonia was one of those very rewarding gigs that result from the combination of a stellar rhythm section, a beautiful setting, and an appreciative audience. I couldn't ask for better guys to play with than Paul Lesinski and Dave DeVos. Each is a seasoned, top West Michigan veteran on his instrument, and both are just plain nice, down-to-earth guys with no attitudes to deal with. They're responsible and easy to get along with, solid and intuitive musicians who've been around the block many times over, so I have confidence in them. That confidence in turn inspires my own creativity and willingness to take risks as a saxophonist. Last Friday on New Years Eve, Steve Durst and I played for the dinner crowd as a piano-sax duo. With years of experience under his belt, Steve does a superb job, and we got some very nice compliments. But man, what a difference the addition of Dave on bass made this weekend! I'm certain Steve would readily agree that having to fill in the bass part with the left hand greatly limits what a keyboard player can do. Good players can pull it off, but I don't know of any pianist who wouldn't much prefer having a bassist handle the bass part so his own left hand is free to do what it's meant to do in a jazz context. The difference is huge--the groove, far better; the sound, fuller and richer; the creative options, much broader; and the energy, multiplied. All without any significant increase in volume that can distract from conversation in a restaurant setting. The crowd certainly liked our sound. People were actually listening to us and applauding from tune to tune, and even for some of the solos. I stopped to chat with a few of the diners during break, thanking them for their responsiveness, and I got some glowing comments in return. It's really gratifying to see the interest in jazz that exists in this rural neck of the woods, many miles from the urban center of Grand Rapids. We play again at the Cobblestone this coming Saturday from 6:30-9:30 p.m., this time with Steve filling the piano chair. If you like live jazz, come on out and enjoy an evening of good food and world-class wines plus the Stormhorn Jazz trio, all in an ambience-rich setting that will warm you as soon as you set foot through the door. Here's the info:
• Date & Time: Saturday, January 15, 6:30-9:30 p.m. • Place: The Cobblestone Bistro & Banquet Center • Address: 9818 Cherry Valley Ave. SE (M-37), Caledonia, MI • Phone: (616) 588-3223 Reservations are recommended, but walk-ins are welcome.
I should mention the large and beautifully designed banquet hall in the back of the building, styled in the manner of a large, European sidewalk cafe. Ben, the owner, is contemplating special events, so keep your eyes open for jazz concerts in the future. I'll keep you posted on this site and on my Stormhorn page on Facebook as brainstorms and good ideas become actual dates on the calendar. Need I say, please come out and support the Cobblestone. It's a great setting and has the potential to distinguish itself not only for destination dining, but also as a hotspot for jazz that's located outside the urban clutter, yet close enough to be convenient.

New Years Eve Gig at the Cobblestone

Man, this year has blown by fast, hasn't it! Five days from now we'll have turned the corner into circa 2011. New Years Eve is the last of the big holidays. After that, we get down to the business of doing winter up here in the circumboreal region. So what are you doing for New Years Eve? How's about enjoying it with Steve Durst and me at the Cobblestone Bistro here in Caledonia, Michigan? We'll be playing jazz standards through the dinner hours from 6:00-10:00 p.m. Let me tell you a bit about the Cobblestone, because it's a jewel. Located on the east side of M-37 (aka Cherry Valley Road) on the south end of Caledonia, the Cobblestone is designed for ambiance. Step inside and you'll find an elegant, modestly sized dining room that features a fireplace, a waterfall fountain, superb cuisine, a selection of world-class wines, and a very nice bar. We're talking destination dining right here in little old Caledonia. If you're looking for a cozy place to spend the evening with your special someone, you'll be absolutely delighted. Of course, besides all of the above, this New Years Eve you'll also get Steve on the keyboards and me on the alto saxophone providing live jazz to complement the mood. So come and enjoy dinner with us in one of the nicest settings you can imagine. Here's the info:
• Date & Time: December 31, 6:00-10:00 p.m. • Place: The Cobblestone Bistro & Banquet Center • Address: 9818 Cherry Valley Ave. SE (M-37), Caledonia, MI • Phone: (616) 588-3223
If the weather proves to be as warm as is currently forecast, this New Years Eve should be perfect for a night out. Spend it with us at the Cobblestone! I hope to see you there.

This Week: Gig and Recording Project

I'm pleased to say that all the time I've been spending these days practicing my saxophone is going to get some practical application. This week Thursday, October 7, I'll be playing with keyboardist Paul Lesinski at The Seasonal Grille in downtown Hastings, Michigan. Then Saturday, I'll be getting together for a recording project over at Tallmadge Mill studios west of Grand Rapids. THURSDAY'S GIG: October 7, the town of Hastings is promoting a Ladies' Night on the Town. With The Seasonal Grille offering a combination of wonderful ambiance, superb Italian cuisine at eminently affordable prices, and a good selection of wines and beers, I'm sure the place will be doing a thriving business. I'm pleased to be providing the music there with Paul. Come on out and get a mouthful, an earful, and a beerful!
Place: The Seasonal Grille Address: 150 W. State Street in downtown Hastings, Michigan Phone: (269) 948-9222 Time: 6:00-9:00 p.m.
SATURDAY RECORDING SESSION: I'm really excited about this! The guys I'm getting together with are some of my musical heroes. Ric Troll, owner of Tallmadge Mill Studio and organizer of the get-together, is not only an extremely tasty drummer, and more recently a guitarist, but also a wonderful composer. Anything I could say about him would be too little, and that goes for the rest of the guys as well. Randy Marsh, Kurt Ellenberger, and Dave DeVos are not merely superb players, they're also fantastic, complete musicians, widely known and respected in West Michigan. I'm thrilled that I'll be playing some original music with them this weekend. Look for cuts from the session here on in the future as they become available. That's the news for now. It's late and I'm tired. Time to call it a night.

Remembering April 11, 1965: Highlights of the Palm Sunday Tornado Memorial Service

If you've been following this blog lately, then you're well aware that yesterday was the 45th anniversary of the 1965 Palm Sunday Tornado Outbreak. The commemoration held at the Tornado Memorial Park in Dunlap, Indiana, came together beautifully thanks to the hard work of my friend Debbie Watters, who owns the park. To say that it was a memorable event understates some of the truly amazing things that transpired. Dan McCarthy, the meteorologist in charge at KIND in Indianapolis, was the keynote speaker. Dan did a superb job describing the strides that severe weather forecasting and the warning system have taken since 1965, and explaining how the Palm Sunday Outbreak served as a catalyst for those changes. If there is any comfort to hearts that still ache over the loss of loved ones in the storms, Dan suggested that at least part of it may lie in knowing that a tornado catastrophe of such magnitude is unlikely to ever happen again. Several other speakers followed Dan. Last of all was Debbie. I think one reason she does so well behind a microphone is that she pours her heart out toward her listeners. At a gathering of tornado survivors and their families, the needs may not be readily apparent; but Debbie, having lost her brother Stevie in the Dunlap F5, knows what lies below the surface. It had to have taken some courage to address the subject of survivor guilt as honestly and straightforwardly as Debbie did, but it's only in shining light on such a painful issue that its grip can perhaps be broken on people who, over four decades later, still wonder why they lived while their loved one died At the end of the service, there was a balloon launch in loving memory of the Elkhart County tornado victims. It was a poignant moment, watching those bright, merry balloons soar skyward into the blue. But it was the behind-the-scenes happenings, the interpersonal connections, that will live on in my mind. There were some heartwarming moments, and a few that were just plain incredible. Debbie had always wondered who the stranger was who saved her mother's life after the tornado, and who sheltered the two of them in his car until an ambulance arrived. Yesterday, a woman introduced herself to Debbie as the man's wife. You can imagine what a powerful meeting that was for both women. Among the roughly 150 attendees, I was delighted to see Paul and Elizabeth Huffman. Paul is the retired Elkhart Truth photographer who took the famous image of twin funnels straddling US 33 south of Dunlap, destroying the Midway Trailer Court. That photo, one of six in a sequence, is arguably the most famous and dramatic tornado photograph of all time, and one that has inspired more than one young kid to pursue meteorology as a career. Now in his eighties, Paul is a peppery and humorous personality, and his wife, Elizabeth, is a sweetheart. It was fascinating, in talking with them, to get insights into how things played out that day. Paul wasn't even aware of the twin-funnel structure when he snapped the photo; in his viewfinder he saw just the rightmost funnel. It was only when the startling image of "The Twins" emerged in development that Paul realized he had captured something extraordinary on film. I was particularly pleased when one of the speakers, Brian Beaver--an award-winning radio correspondent formerly with IPR--took time to publicly recognize Paul and honor him for his achievement. My friend Pat Bowman and her brother John were also present. But of course they would be--Pat is integrally knit into these events. She and Deb are my two "tornado ladies," dear to each other and to me. The way that the three of us connected is a pretty incredible story in its own right, and it all started with Pat. Actually, it started long before, with a newspaper account of a young couple's tragic loss of their child, and of a small boy's prayers for them in response. There is a reason that Pat is very special to me. But that story is for another time. The last photo on this page is one I will always treasure. That's Elizabeth and Paul Huffman on the left. Debbie is the blonde, and that's Pat on the right. God gifts us with people, and it was a blessing to me to see these four together. The threads of events that connect them are intricate and remarkable, and I feel privileged to see the connections continue to unfold in their lives and in mine.