Jazz Sax Friday at The Seasonal Grille

With the advent of storm season, I've been so preoccupied with severe weather that I've let my jazz saxophone posts slide. But the jazz musician in me is still very much alive, and I'll be kicking out the jams this Friday evening in downtown Hastings. Did I mention that besides playing the sax, I've added vocals to my tool kit? Yes, I can sing! And having finally gathered the courage to do so, I'm finding that people like my voice. The Seasonal Grille is the venue. I've played there once before. It's a wonderful new restaurant, all ambience, featuring gourmet Italian food impeccably prepared by Justin Straube, the owner and head chef, at prices that are almost ridiculously affordable. Really, it's one of the best dining deals you'll find in these parts, and the setting is enhanced by a beautiful bar. I'll be playing there from 6:00–9:00 p.m. with West Michigan keyboard veteran Bob "Gus" VanStee, so you can pleasure not only your taste buds but your ears as well. I might add that Bob and I will be fitting into the larger tapestry of the annual Hastings Jazz Festival. It's a weekend of urban music in an unexpected and very cool small-town setting. I love how this modestly sized community halfway between Grand Rapids and Battle Creek has embraced the American art form known as jazz! Kudos to Justin for supporting the music at his restaurant. It's a perfect fit. The Seasonal Grille is the kind of place that's tailor made for live jazz. So ink this Friday into your planner. Here are the details:
The Seasonal Grille 150 W State St, Hastings, MI 49058 Friday, April 15 6:00–9:00 p.m. (269) 948-9222

Blowing Strong: National Storm Chaser Convention and a Great Gig with Francesca

What a fun and interesting weekend this has been! I had the rare pleasure of indulging both of my two main passions in life, storm chasing and playing jazz. Fellow chasers Bill Oosterbaan, Kurt Hulst, and I got together Saturday at Bill's house and spent the day watching live, streaming video of the eleventh annual National Storm Chaser Convention in Denver, courtesy of SevereStudios.com. When 6:30 rolled around, I broke away and played a gig at One Trick Pony in downtown Grand Rapids with Francesca Amari. The engagement was a blast and we were well received; tunes included a vocals-sax duet on "Good Morning, Heartache," as performed on Francesca's new CD, Better Days. Then this morning, I got together with Bill again and we watched the rest of the conference. The entire conference was great, but from my perspective, the last part was the best. This included talks by Dr. Greg Forbes, Jon Davies, and Rich Thompson on forecasting and mesoscale analysis. I learned a couple things that will definitely be helpful for this coming chase season, which is just around the corner. All in all, a most enjoyable couple of days. I finished by spending an hour or so practicing my saxophone, which is performing beautifully for me after coming back from the repair man. Another point of interest: I've been invited to put together a little unit to play for the Thornapple Jazz Festival on April 17, hosted by the Thornapple Arts Council of Barry County. I'm excited about this, and pleased that the festival coordinator, my friend and fellow jazz musician Joe LaJoye, thought to ask me. I've already got two standout players lined up for my rhythm section, and am considering whom I'll use for the last one. Lots going on, and much of it good. Today it snowed, but with temperatures in the thirties, even the cold weather is warmer than it was a few weeks ago. From storm chasing conferences to jazz festival invitations, there are signs that spring is on the way.