California Highway 1, August 2006

Here we go…yikes!

Well, here we go again folks. I must admit, this one has some extra baggage attached (not including the extra person, past trips were a quartet). Going through home territory, getting a chance to visit friends and programs, taking a trailer along (now I know some of you think it might be a bit cushy for a challenge but let me remind you that it makes mobility tougher, increases the gas factor--and let’s be frank <what instrument does he play?> did we ever think that filling the tank would be more than a room?) It also means the five of us are cramped into my pickup truck, so those who might want to accuse us of luxuriating while all of you are at home or on your summer vacation, I suggest you come along for a day or two…ha.
We go to the first going away party this afternoon, a chance to stuff our bellies’ and find out how many people are glad to get rid of us, of course food and wine sort of tilts the whole quotient. We also do our first packing and unpacking dry run, for our Route 66 trips this was done in Chicago, so this time if we jettison cargo we won’t have to pawn it. 
Now would be a good time to introduce the cast of characters:
I’m Bruce Forman, leader of this aggravation called Cow Bop and founder of JazzMasters Workshop (JMW), the program we are supporting through this madness, tour narrator...oh yeah, I also play the guitar
Pinto Pammy is our vocalist, band aesthetic, and photojournalist
Mike McKinley is riding the drums (never seen him bucked off once!) he is also Regional Director for JMW, he runs four or five workshops a week
Gabe Noel is our bass player, a new recruit, fresh from USC where he is still in school, awesome young player, he’ll teach us a few things
Noah Freedman, fiddle, soon to enter 11th grade at Carmel High, a JMW participant for the last few years, multi-talented, plays all styles, he’ll be in charge of technology and podcasting. He’s also an astro-physicist, but we already knew there were violinists in outer space.
Monique Bourin is events coordinator for JMW, she’ll caravan along, be our advance person and probably bail us out of jail if we stray in that direction. at least I hope she will…please!!!
Hank is our pickup truck, part Hank Williams part Hank Mobley, down home, soulful, tasty and swingin
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Dinah is our trailer, she’s a 53 Westerner
Gotta go now, I’ll let you know how the shin digs…chow 


SUNDAY August 6

Getting ready to hitch up the trailer and head south. A bit of a change was made in the plans: due to an interview at KKJZ in Long Beach and our Kick-Off party in LA at the Crowne Plaza LAX, we have decided to depart from Dana Point (the southern terminus of Highway 1) on Tuesday. A lot of excitement is generated by the fact that we have a great gig on the deck at Big Sur River Inn on the way down and that Roger Kellaway, star of the piano, is gonna hang at the gig Monday night.

Just looking forward to meeting new people (sometimes very out of the ordinary, as witnessed by Duane Lee, who we met at an arch bridge on Route 66 in Kansas, that's his invention I'm playing, the 'panjo') Description: http://images.quickblogcast.com/33682-31430/5_11Gettin_down_with_Duane.JPG

or see some truly historic American icons (such as the world's largest ketchup bottle in Collinsville, IL)
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Never know what you'll come across out there, I highly suggest you come along for a piece of it. Use the 'band tracker' to find us. Until then, swing on, and remember a pledge, no matter how small, ensures that kids get a chance to play with the great musicians in their community and really makes us feel like our efforts are duly rewarded. 

MONDAY August 7

What a first day!!! For not even having officially started, we are spurring the band into a hard gallop. The gig at the Crowne Plaza LAX was spirited, we had Roger Kellaway sitting in riding the piano, man he swung us into some new spots along the trail. David Jackson came and hung, sang, played and brought his special brand of general jollification. Noah and Gabe--the youngsters--held in there, taught us a couple of things and I look forward to what we get into as the groove deepens.

We arrived in Long Beach last night a bit harried, a long drive from Big Sur, and if you haven't navigated a trailer through LA freeway traffic, then I suggest you leave it to others. One thing I learned: Don't use your turn signals, now I know the guy who taught me in traffic school is cringing, might even want the diploma back, but hey, when you use those things down here, all it does is give the other drivers the idea that you're on to something, and they race to fill it in before you do. I'm serious!!!

We got to the hotel and all the parking spaces were full so with a team effort we disconnected and wrestled Dinah into a small area next to the ice machine, ha, the usual road grind. I got up early to do an interview at KKJZ, it was a lot of fun, once the coffee kicked in.

We downsized temporarily, leaving the trailer behind at Luther Hughes, (JMW Regional Director, LA), we had rooms for this gig, thanks Merle Kreibich of In-House Music. It'll be nice to sleep in a cushy bed, sort of fattening us up for who knows what? 
Tomorrow is the official start date, I hope the guys don’'t put up too much of a fight when I ask for their money stash. hey, I'll give it back!!

Of course the real reason we’'re doing this, to ensure that the living legacy of music and playing is treasured and protected. Our workshops have proven how important and effective the mere act of sharing your passion for life and art can make for a young life, and I ask all of you to consider supporting us with a contribution so that we can continue to do these trips and expand the workshops.

Until then, keep a swingin...or better yet, come down and caravan along, I'll do my best to leave that tracker on.



TUESDAY August 8

Off to a rousing start! We found the beginning of Highway 1 and went to the Dana Point Harbor to get our feet wet playing in the Pacific Ocean, sure glad we were unplugged. Hey, we've only started and it seems like 'On the Edge' has become 'over the edge'!

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Then, of course we had the ceremonial surrendering of personal cash, one more explanation of the rules: we live on the first $100 and what we earn by impromptu gigs, any pre-set gigs funds go to the program, no exceptions! If we got to starve, sleep in the truck, or walk, that's the blues! After all the protestations and denying strange--but creative--loopholes that were argued at length (had me thinking it was LawyerMasters), I pulled out the road stake, this time supplied by our great friends and supporters Bob & Lisa. Some of us are a little more comfortable with the whole idea, the new recruits are gonna have to work into it. Five mouths to feed and gas prices going through the roof ought to make it a whole lot more challenging, so it means a lot more playing, I'm way down for that!

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Headed north to Laguna, had a date with about a hundred little kids, a JazzMasters Workshop site at the Boys & Girls Club in Laguna Beach. It's been going for about three years, headed by Luther Hughes. We showed up and it turns out it was 'cowboy' day, what are the chances of that happenin? So, we set up in the gym and played for all the kids, not only the ones who play in the workshop. Of course, after a good set with plenty of encouragment and some tunes I explained what we were doing and why. They were just like all the adults we meet: 'you guys are crazy'

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Naturally, in the spririt of JazzMasters we got some up to play, Denise rode the drums with a little help from Mikey:
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and Ebag gave a bass clinic:

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all in all, you can't ask for a better audience, the future of our music!!

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We played an evening concert at Aliso Creek Resort, what a beautiful place, our stage was the first tee, perched high above the golf course, the backdrop a lushly palm and scrub populated desert beach cliffside, the creek meandering slowly back into the canyon as deer munched quietly on the dewy grass, not at all bothered by Cow Bop's syncopated gait.
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The resort is putting us up, man, I hope the new guys don't get too used to this we are gonna be roughing it before they know it. Oh well, enjoy it while it lasts, eh? Ended the evening with a jam in the bar until they closed it down. Can't wait to hear what tomorrow brings. See you down the trail. Got a big day ahead, chow...

Quote of the Day: "Cow Bop, where great old tunes go to die" (you had to have been there I guess)


First thing a.m. (all right, around 10:30) we tried to get back on the tee at Aliso Creek and play some more, but the golfers weren't going for it. Hey man, let us play through!
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Back to reality. I'll admit it's been a while since our last trip down Route 66, so I was rusty when it came to the 'instant hits'. I tried to teach the others how to spot a likely place: plenty of people, ample space to play, no TV or loud music, and most corporate-owned places have rules about that kind of stuff (yikes) and we need to talk to someone who can say yes or no. Well, we tried a few, no luck, and frankly I thought I'd lost my touch and was a more than a bit concerned. I know they say inflation is under control, but try and buy breakfast for five, and look at the price of gas (although we don't need it yet). OK, I was worried. But alas, we moved into Palos Verdes and found a cute place called Kelly's Corner, an old post office, deli and tack store (nice combo, tailor-made for Cow Bop), and I talked them into a set.
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Lots of people went by and stopped to hang out with us. They threw down enough to replenish our stash, I could feel it, the magic was back! We even got some horse-ridin youngsters to sit in on the box...swingin,
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This cardboard box-drum thing is a bit of a signature for the band, I think Mikey is working on an endorsement (all you beer companies need to send samples if you're interested, he requested that they arrive full so he can road test them all). Kelly's treated us to the tastiest root beer floats I think I ever came across, of course the heat and humidity might have had something to do with my opinion. We played at a party in Andy Patman's backyard, lots of supportive folks contributed to the fun and the program. Andy & Kathy set a splendid table and the merriment flowed freely into the late evening. Don & Sue Miller showed up all the way from Phoenix, they run the Paradise Valley Jazz Party (and how I met Andy & Kathy in the first place) it was really great to see them. The band is picking it up a notch, just goes to show when you hit the road and live for playing (in this case literally) it takes the level of commitment to a higher level and effects the music in great ways. Music, live in front of folks makes it all work and the JazzMasters Workshop method was in full view...just play man! I know we have some converts and I hope we can set something up in this area, Tomorrow is an empty canvass, but I'm sure we'll be fillin it up with lots of swingin grooves and plenty of eighth notes. In any case, it'll be in the moment, which is where I hope all of you are, it's a wonderful world out here, come on out and join us. PS> Any ideas of places to visit or play along Highway 1 (use the tracker to find us) are extremely welcome, just comment to the blog or email from the site, I'll get it. The trailer awaits, I bid you all fondue

THURSDAY August 10

What a day! Woke up in the trailer on a hill, Pammy rolling halfway to PCH (Pacific Coast Highway). A light knocking on the door, and young Matt with a sign that said: French toast...didn't take us long to rouse and hit the kitchen. A great breakfast had us feeling pretty optimistic about the day. The grim news on the TV was startling, but we were thankful that our travel plans were more rustic than the airport.
We needed a plan, after a long discussion (you know, democracy is not necessarily the best way to run a band but thought I'd try it).  We decided to check out USC, where Gabe goes to school and I teach. Even though school isn't in session, we were hoping for freshmen orientation, early arrivals, old friends, anything. We went and hung out by the Commons and played a set.
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While some of the people passing by hung out, it was amazing how invisible we were to most of them. I mean, how often is it that you pass a western swing/bebop band playing their heart out actually living off the whole experience? And I know you can feel it when you see and hear it. Now I don't expect everyone to love it...or help out, but an acknowledgement (a nod, eye contact, pulling those ear buds out of your ears) makes more difference than you can imagine. Sometimes it is hard to keep the whole thing in perspective, that and the pressure of keeping everyone on the same page...not to mention fed. It all went right when Mikey did a special solo on the bells of a local vendor's pushcart, and he played the box at the same time…ding ding!

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After an hour or so, and running into some friends, we got the most polite eviction I ever experienced (polite eviction, not two words you commonly hear tied to each other). It went like this:
MR X: You can't play amplified music here
Noah (in the most diplomatic, respectful and peaceful tone you ever heard come out of a teenager's mouth, he's very well-trained): We are playing acoustic, we aren't plugged in
MR X: I meant no drums
Noah: He's playing a box!
MR X (exasperated): You're playing outside the Vice President's office...
At that point I jumped in and explained that I'm on staff....blah, blah, blah, we actually knew many people in common, so,  everything was hunky-dory, and it was time to split anyway. After that, we returned to the beach area, got the trailer (we'd left it behind) and headed to a where else? A wine bar.

The wine bar was fun, we played to a big crowd, Pammy was so inspired she took up the bass...nice try!! Hey we did well enough to fill the tank ...no, not with Bordeaux, Hank drinks a cruder vintage
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Getting late now, got to get ready to blow this 20 million horse town. Was lots of fun, but now we're all looking forward to the open road. Hope it's cooler tomorrow, temperature I mean. Swing on folks, and please, remember why we are doing this. Your help (a pledge to JazzMasters Workshop) will go along way to ensure that kids get the opportunity to play with established pros, and it's a method that has over 100 years of success. 

See you somewhere soon I hope, reservoir!

FRIDAY August 11

Today Noah was a hero! First was brunch at the grandparents pad, an incredibly designed cottage, a meal to match. We ended up playing as long set, telling stories, we didn't want to leave. That's one of the things about these trips, as long as we are in a great place, we don't want to quit, because when we do it’'s back to the unexpected. While making music we are in our element, in control and unconcerned with the quotidian requirements that consume us the rest of the time.

Then after an unusual amount of 'no-play' zones, we found ourselves in Santa Barbara at a bountiful table, complete with family and friends, courtesy of, you guessed it: Noah! It turns out, Noah's mom's best friend was there to save us and next thing you know we're sharing one of those famously beautiful California summer eves on the porch, playing for the kids, telling stories and embraced by the warmth of family and new friends. It was miraculous. I hardly even remember the frustration and pressure of the day's strike-outs.

We were offered a lovely pad to hang at afterwards, a view with a house, we are looking over all of Santa Barbara, I can't wait to see the view by day, the lights and tonight's meteor shower is ridiculously beautiful. The house is totally empty, the folks who loaned it to us have yet to move in, not a prob for the Cow Bop road rats. This is one of the powerful parts of these trips, the overwhelming generosity of new friends'and all of you who pledge. makes the gargantuan effort worth it. Tomorrow, I plan to regain the Route 66 glory, I'm aiming for a minimum three hits…count 'em.

Got enough bread to make Big Sur. almost, yikes!

(sorry, no pics today, had to use a different uploading system due to connectivity challenges...plus, the hamsters are tired)

SATURDAY August 12

We finally got it happenin! A five hit day! Started out with a patio swing in Arroyo Grande, moved to a couple of hits in the parking areas at Morro Bay, then a Mexican restaurant (food included on this one, we did a mariachi-style troubadour thing) in San Simeon before meeting up with my cousin Deb. Then a jam session in a studio at a ranch outside Cayucos. A barn with a studio, a big trailer for the cats, man, this is what it's all about! Played real late so excuse the brief blog here. Also, connectivity in this area is once again a difficult challenge. I'll add pictures later when I get to a better connection. Not worried that we are burning more of our stash on gas than anyone could have imagined, it just makes us work a little harder. We can already feel home territory coming our way, the halfway marker point of no return, probably be hard to rally the troops and get 'em out of town...we'll see, might have to resort to desperate measures, like on the road it's not the begging and pleading that gets them, it's the crying?! An early evening hit tomorrow in Big Sur (pre-arranged, so all the funds go to JMW) but we plan on hitting the Cayucos pier for some running dough, we 'll blow our last dimes on a cup of coffee, sounds like a blues to me.


SUNDAY August 13

Ah, home sweet home! It seems as though we've been gone a month. Everything looks the same but feels different. Somehow the enduring road and the challenge of the undertaking just seems to add a new dynamic to the comforts of home and appreciation of where we live. 

Pulled in just before midnight, no time to relax, gotta blog then hit the streets tomorrow, plan to make hay while the sun shines. Cool day today (both temp and situation), started with an early wake-up at the ranch, saw how beautiful it was in the daylight. There is an old barn (with live-in owls), a huge orchard to one side--looks like avocados--and a garden with veggies, flowers and a few fruit trees. Pammy and I snuck out as the others got their beauty rest to get gas. Backtracked to Morro Bay to find the cheapest gas we could, alas, after doing the math we realized that we drove out the savings...yikes! Spend a dollar to save a dollar...my bad!

Dave gave us all a lap around the property on his go-carts (turns out along with mandolin, bass and guitar playing, he's a stunt driver, truck driver and I predict he'll be the Central Coast's impresario of live music). The machines were nosy and bumpy, but sure to put a smile on your face, a ridiculous wake-up potion.

Then, we moved into Cayucos to play in front of Rudell's Smokehouse, right on the beach, world famous for smoked albacore tacos...really, the Food Network, the NY Times! It seems as though Dave runs a jam there every Sunday, we just got it started early, of course with help from Dave
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After a great hang, wonderful lunch and some generous people (enough for the next tank) we had to hit the highway and head up to our get together at the River Inn. The toughest stretch of the road happens here at the southern end of Big Sur. Easy to see why the Spaniards just gave up and took the inland route, the road barely hangs to the edge of the continent and the trek is not always for the faint of heart. There were a couple of times when people actually stopped their cars in the middle of the highway for a photo op...I swear, double parking on a highway! (please note that the following shot was taken as we drove...by a passenger). The magic of perspective: I met some Italian tourists and used the opportunity to brush up on my Italian, they were incredulous as I complained about the price of gas, they pay almost twice as much...yikes!
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Arrived at the River Inn just seconds late to catch the Cachagua Playboys, but we all got a chance to hang and tell some stories. Here's a pic from last Sunday's gig:
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It seems that when we reminisce, all we ever talk about is the good times, no one in the band harps on the tough stuff: no place to sleep, some of our less than gourmet meals, ok, edible would suffice. It is a testament to the unwavering and irrepressible pioneering qualities that jazz musicians need to survive. Hope all of you don't get the idea that this is a cakewalk, we are busting it out here, but enjoying almost every minute, knowing we are doing it for a good reason, and it is an experience we're not likely to forget, especially Noah, who at the tender age of 16, and Gabe at 21, have a long road ahead. I'd love to hear how they explain this one to their grandkids. 

Hank and Dinah (our truck and trailer) have held up well, they have been good partners and I'm getting better at parking and turning them around. However, turning radius is down from 40 to 20 acres. They are a pretty pair, eh?
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The party at the River Inn worked out well, good friends and a nice welcome back to home territory. The Big Sur River Inn--truly one of the most beautiful places I've ever been--have been stalwart supporters of JMW and Cow Bop got many of its first gigs there. So, do yourself a favor, take a day, go down and sit on one of the wicker chairs in the river and sip on a cool one as the water runs below you at your feet.

Can't wait to get in between the sheets. l plan to knock back a few thousand z's and hit it again tomorrow. I hope you all who are here on the Monterey Peninsula can come out to visit at the Carmel Youth Center 7-8:30, where JazzMasters Workshop started, and join in on the official point of no return party. Should be great times with lots of people to play along.
A gentle yet firm reminder: We are doing all of this so that kids in communities across this great land have access to great musicians (an untapped resource that is crucial to the foundation of our culture). You can help by making a pledge on the website: www.jazzmastersworkshop.org 

Mille grazie!

Here's a shot of the kids playing along yesterday in San Simeon, Mikey's box playing has gotten the same great response it had on or Route 66 trips, our box-set...
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MONDAY August 14


Blue Ribbon Day! We deserved it, I'd say! Started with a great chat with our friends at Magic 63 Radio, been having some trouble connecting due to weird cell phone reception. Then we headed into town, decided to check out the Rio Grill, might as well start at the top. Lo and behold, Derek set us up with a great lunch after we'd played a couple of sets both outside and in. One for one, we were stoked.  
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Then on to the streets of Carmel, where only recently they repealed the ban on live music, but then again maybe they checked my pulse and decided that I was OK. It is possible that this tour is tougher than I'd thought. We hung out at Wittpenn's Fine Antiques and visited our friend Chip (who helped us get the tour T-shirts together. BTW: if you want one you ought to order as soon as you can, they are going fast. You can do it at: www.wayoutwestmusic.com all proceeds go to JMW) The crowds, mostly foreigners, all agreed that Cow Bop was the best band around, especially in its price range. After that, we just followed the hordes, who were very generous and ensured that Hank will be well fed with gas for the rest of the trip. Now we have to refine our menu options, at least financially. The action-packed afternoon ended at Jack London's with a well-deserved beer (except Noah), earned for a well-played set.

Playing so much and on the street is really having a great effect on the music and musicians. You have to project your sound out there, and the importance of being heard yet retaining nuance, expression and character are the hallmarks of great musicianship.

On our way back to the truck we met up with Gaston Georis, one of the more fortuitous moments of the day. He invited us over to his restaurant after the party. Speaking of which, the point of no return party at the Carmel Youth Center was heartwarming and swingin. Scott Brown (who helps Mike run the workshops and is a stalwart music master in the area) got it all set up for us so we could open up with some of our road-tested material (and I don't mean asphalt!) Then all the kids joined in: Andrew Parker who is going into eighth grade at Washington Middle School in Salinas) set the tone. He 's been playing with the band quite a bit and has a deep pocket and swings hard. We also had: Brice Albert, back from his tour of Japan with the Monterey Jazz Fest All-Star Band, and Max, Anna, Brittny, Alex, Tyler, Jacob, Cain, Matt, Michael and numerous others. We played through some tunes and had a great time, everyone made us feel so supported and I appreciate that everyone participated and got a taste of the JMW experience in action: What it is we do and why we do it!

Then over to Casanova's for some more playing. We started out on the front patio where we got a generous tip for (and I'm not making this up!) playing Happy Birthday for a dog. It was his fifteenth (105 in dog years) and I'm sure Doris Day would approve. We serenaded our way throughout the whole place and were well-received by all. Then Gaston set us up with a bountiful table full of splendid food, wine and great spirits.

I must admit, that with the way things were going, I was more than concerned that one of our CowBoppers might decide to jump ship since we'd docked here in our home port. But morale is high and I think we'll make it out of town with our heads held high, rearing to go, ready to take on the next challenge in the name of music-performance and music-mentoring. Just to be sure, I'll breathe a bit easier when Hank and Dinah clear the county line with all five of us in tow.

Onward ho!

TUESDAY August 15

Half Moon Bay! Left home, got everyone in the truck, the trailer attached and hit it...only an hour or so later than planned. We headed to our pre-arranged hit at the Green Valley Grill, hey, lunch is enough to get us serious about now. We went in and had to elevator it up to the restaurant, so we decided to try our hand at elevator music, good acoustics in there!. The door entered into a nice lobby that led to a fine eating establishment. It's strange, an elevator is like a transporter, you never know what reality or plane you will encounter when the doors open. I'm sure the people in the grill were more taken aback than us, although I'll bet they heard us coming.

We played in the restaurant before settling into our normal spot, the bar. There, we hung, played a bunch of tunes, told stories and were treated to a nice bounty of food and drink. A lot of fun, but just like always we knew we had to move on, although I think all of us could have just kept playing there, after all, as long as we're playing, all is OK and the world is comfortably rotating on the proper axis.

We met up with our pal Stan in Santa Cruz (after the first close call in the truck: a stall on the left, a downed tree on the right, in the middle of Santa Cruz traffic, got kind of gnarly, but the team of Dinah and Hank performed well. Stan took a bunch of video of us playing on the street in S.C., he said he was submitting it to KSBW, the local station on the Monterey Peninsula, I hope they aired it. I mean it's not your everyday story...what do we got to do to get everyone's attention here? And to throw down the gauntlet: do we care about the kids, can we support the cultural legacy and generational exchange that is the hallmark of our civilization. I know it sounds lofty, but think about it, it is how we have advanced and nurtured our species since recorded history, the people that have the knowledge share it with the upcoming generation, that is JazzMasters Workshop's core belief. (Sorry if I went too far there, but hey we're out living and playing on the street, I figure I have a 'get out of jail card' on that one?!)

Santa Cruz is an interesting town, unlike most others and a lot of fun. Walking down the street with my guitar and the rest of the band I was warned in no uncertain terms by some interesting (read eccentric) characters that I was entering their territory and I should keep moving. OK, the code of the busker, I can relate to that, but man, do more than smoke something, play!

Then to Half Moon Bay and the gig that we'd set up in advance. Those hits are nice, something to look forward to, and of course we can usually depend on a meal and some friendly faces. We played at Cetrella's a beautifully designed restaurant that was made out of an old grower's exchange for the local farmers--who still supply everything from pumpkins and flowers to fruit and veggies--and what a job they've done, a really beautiful place. We played in the bar (where else? For Noah's mom: there were other kids in there and food was served) where many of the great players of the Bay Area work on weekends. We set up acoustic, Mikey playing the box and did our Cow Bop thing.
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It It was a bit of a shock to some but they received it with open arms...hey, you never know. My mom and nephew made a surprise appearance always great to have family around, I just wish I'd gotten a picture of them for you. Oh well, maybe they'll be at the hang tomorrow.

Our friends from Dana St. Brewing Co, in Mountain View made their way over the hill to visit and brought provisions: coffee, chocolate chip cookies and chocolate-covered coffee beans, we'll be awake for the rest of the trip that's for sure. Armelle sat in for a couple of tunes...very nice!!
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The gig was put together by Harold Fethe, JMW Board member and guitarist who graced us with his playing for the night. He played his Rodeo Girl Guitar, a nice compliment to the sound of my baby: Ruby.
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Noah wowed everyone and is sitting deeper in the pocket with every passing day. Mike Lyons, one of our founding Board members was there as well, a real JMW turnout. Thanks guys, without you nothing would ever happen. I, the other mentors and the kids are filled with gratitude for your vision, expertise guidance and caring commitment to the mission of the organization. And Harold, once you go Cow Bop you can't go back, now that you've made two gigs you're in, might as well swing with it. I think we can fit you in the truck somewhere.

Well folks, early lobby call, wonder what'll happen tomorrow…stay tuned. 


Puttin on the Ritz! OK, it's a first, we ate breakfast at the Ritz-Carlton, courtesy of Harold Fethe, JMW Board member and stellar guitar player. Thanks man, it's a far cry from the dollar meal at McD's, I'll tell you! Then we drove north, took on the Golden Gate Bridge and took some shots at the vista point (I'll post as soon as I get a fast connection).

We played and walked the town of Mill Valley met some great folks a made a podcast or two, didn't even get rousted by all the cops. I guess the band has taken it to a new level.

Then on to Fairfax, and our dear friends Wendy and Tim. First we went to a slamming dinner at Sorella's, a first-class Italian restaurant (and having been to Italy as many times as I have you can tell an impostor before you go in. This is the real deal). We ate family style, and they generously donated the meal to the cause...wow! What an eating day we had...it just kept getting better. We played some tunes in and out of the place and managed to stop in a few different places as we walked over to the hit to drum up (or in this case box up) some people for our hit at 19 Broadway. Man, what a fun time!  With all of the street hits, it was nice to play with amps and a full drum set, find out how the arrangements are faring, I must admit, I was not at all disappointed. Young Noah has taken his game to new level everyday, oh to be that young again. We had lots of sitters-in, even a mosh pit slam dance cow bop style session, you had to have seen it.

We have the long trek up the north coast now, real pioneering in store, wish us luck. The gig ran very late, we just didn't want to stop. However, I think I'll let this go for now and catch up tomorrow, stay tuned.

Gentle reminder: We're out here for JazzMasters Workshop, all of the funds we raised from tonight's gig were donated by everyone in the band. Can you help out too? Pleeeze!

THURSDAY August 17


Dear Mom,
Thanks for checking in on us again last night, and yes, I am taking good care of Noah. He's sleeping out under a beautiful canopy of stars. 

Well folks, we’'re almost there, and barring any unforeseen occurrences we should cross the finish line with ease on Saturday morning. We began the day with a leisurely departure from Fairfax, heading for the sleepy town of Olema. It’s a crossroads of sorts, with some nice eateries and shops, just down the road from Pt. Reyes Station. There is quite a musical history here, many of the rock bands from the Haight Ashbury days ended up in this area and still hang out and play around here. The town of Fairfax is a perfect example, quite amazing. For it's size there was a huge amount of musicians and places where music was being played…on a Wednesday night! They were all very receptive to our Cowbopping, and were taken aback by the musicianship of our younger guys. (I’'m old news in these parts).

Played for lunch in Olema and took on the Northern part of Highway 1, a curvy road that put me and the vehicles to the test, to say nothing of the passengers. Reminds me of the story:
A guy is overheard talking to his friend: 'I want go out like my granddad, sleeping, not screaming like the passengers in the car he was driving'

Now I drive extremely cautiously, especially with such precious cargo, but I'll bet it was as tough on the passengers as it was on me: many crazy drivers, tight curves, dips and the distraction of some of the most beautiful scenery that the earth has to offer. Talk about photo ops, it's easy to see how the highway has held it's distinction as one of the most coveted drives in the world. It never ceases to amaze, the engineering feat of creating the road in the first place, and the massive amount of effort, and money,it must take to keep CA Hwy 1 on the edge, not off or over. I have heard that it is the most expensive road in the country to maintain, and since 85% of statistics are made up on the spot, I’'m inclined to believe it.

We drove through some sleepy towns without stopping, besides the lack of people walking around, the fog had settled in and it was a tad chilly. Boy, how we'd have welcomed this in SoCal last week. About a half-hour south of Albion the sun came out. The transition was magical and cottony wisps seemed to hang of the trees that hung out over the road. Prisms of light showered the road and I could taste the soft salty air on my lips.

We stopped in and visited my friend Monterey Jack, one of the most generous and spirited supporters of the arts I have had the fortune to come across. He's a great friend to many jazz musicians along with being one of the more astute people you could ever hope to meet. He set us up where he lives now, with sculptor Richard Yaski. Richard has turned seven acres of Mendocino splendor into a garden that is magical. His large sculptures grace the natural beauty with a timeless and meditative feel that is hard to describe. Perhaps some of the pictures (I'll download them when we get a connection that is fast enough) will do it justice. His creativity also extends to dwellings, there is an old school bus that has morphed into a double-wide wooden palace, a cabin that seems as if it might be a trailer in search of a vintage vehicle to partner with, and a house that blends into the contour of the land. A nice space for concerts extends between the meditation garden and the house. His workshop is replete with every kind of tool and he gives a lot of his time to training and mentoring others who want to learn the crafts that it takes to create fine art. There is a definite resonance with the JazzMasters theme, he teaches by doing, forging a living context for the personal expression and continuum of the artistic process.

Jack took us around and we scouted a bunch of potential hits tomorrow, we decided to get in early and try to get an early start for what will likely be our last day 'on the edge'. I'll take this opportunity to revel in the accomplishment of doing and the idea that embracing the effort as the goal is what life is all about. It is tasting real sweet about now.
Wish you were here. 

FRIDAY August 18

Almost there. A swingin' day. It's always this way on the road, you really hit your stride and boom, it's on to the next. We must've played eight hours today, in the most varied settings, like nothing, too bad they don't have an Olympic sport for this.

We woke up in the woods and a fog had settled in, the wisps hung to the trees and sculpture. All sounds were muted by the heaviness of the air. There were roosters crowing, Gabe was playing long tones on Buddy Jones' bass. (Buddy was like a father to me, a Carmel Valley resident who introduced me to the joys of living there, a man who played with Bird and so many others, and now I have a precious piece of his history with me. He'd be happy to know his bass was out on the road like this for the cause we are supporting, ensuring this music is properly passed on to the next generation)

I woke to Noah's shoes and jacket strewn about, was afraid that a bear had found him, and was relieved to find him sipping tea and readying himself for a shower...whew! It turns out he was evading an angry yellow jacket.

We played at a thrift store in Ft. Bragg, run by a group that is the major, and in some cases sole,sponsor of disabled people's outreach efforts out here. This area is not your run of the mill place, it’s hours from a major metropolitan area and most everyone does their part to keep everything on track. It also is a better spot for street playing, as most of the people are not over-stimulated by media and mass population, they are appreciative and supportive and we are extremely grateful for our efforts and abilities.

The thrift store had a lot of cool stuff, but I was afraid to put my guitar down, thinking it would be quickly picked up by a wily bargain hunter. In fact, Patty (who runs the store) once set a sweater down and lost track of it, found it later in a rack and bought it without realizing it was already hers…true story, she swears.

After that they stoked us to a great pizza meal and we went back to Mendocino, a lovely little West Coast Cape Cod looking place, lots of tourists and plenty of cool locals. We spent the afternoon playing on the street in front of and inside various establishments, and ultimately at a great music store that also runs a music camp called Lark in the Morning, (see podcast). We regrouped after a windswept three or four hours and headed north to a hit at La Playa (or so we hoped). It is run by Marta, and once we played Sabor A Mi we were in. We played for diners and got a lovely dinner…swingin! Then the Mendo swing dance contingent found us there and we spent the rest of the evening hanging and playing for them, great party. Amazing how fast the grapevine moves in these places.

Now we're settled back in, looking for an early departure (that'll be a first) for the end of Hwy 1 and the finish line for our trek. It was quite a journey and I have a new appreciation for the undertaking, music and my fellow inhabitants of the planet. I'll wrap it all up tomorrow, as I’'m whipped right now. The rest are either sawing logs or checking their eyelids for leaks. At least I'll get a clear shot at the bathroom. I have the highest esteem for my fellow Cow Boppers, I know I have been demanding, often irascible and single-minded, had to, someone had to keep the train on the tracks. Their patience, tolerance and humor has made this work so well. Good goin guys, I noticed.

Now, to the great North, or at least Leggett, adios.

pics to follow when I get a quicker connection, come back and visit

Well, we crossed the finish line Saturday Aug 19 at noon.
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It was magical and lovely ride up the coast to Legett. We ambled our way through old towns and prehistoric forest canyons, tracing the Pacific's edge viewing rock formations that thrust dramatically up from the pounding surf. Cloudy wisps of fog hung to the edge of the cliffs, trying to push their way through, evaporating into threads that filtered the light of the midday sun, a wonderful metaphor for the moment. The road turned inward and snaked its way up over a mountain ridge, the temperature changed from cool and salty fresh to the warm velvet of late summer. Trees everywhere, air so clean and full of oxygen it rejuvenated us from the arduous ordeal (an odyssey of sorts), and we were full of the bittersweet feelings that accompany every major event in a lifetime. We reveled in the successful completion of the undertaking, carrying with it a pioneering snobbishness, and we were all excited, discussing upcoming projects. Yet, we were all sad that the journey was nearing its end. We had created a family, a band of gypsies, a sound that was uniquely ours and a common experience that had forged lifetime bonds. I realized that it was a typical--yet profound--summer's ending.   

What a trip! Once again, we proved it could be done. That you can--though the power of music and with a true purpose in mind--travel the road of life and the universe will provide. The overwhelming sentiment I had was appreciation, for everyone who unselfishly helped out with food, housing, a place to play, were willing to share a smile with us and lend encouragement. This includes family and friends (both old and new). I have come to believe that appreciation is the key to life, that helps us coexist with others, and it ensures that we fully comprehend and honor the bountiful gifts that we receive daily. It also demands that we act accordingly, genuinely, with generosity, integrity and concern. It encourages us to be gracious, as the gifts that have been bestowed upon us are the single reason we have attained what we have and enable us to be where we are.

In many ways, that really is core of the mission of JazzMasters Workshop. I encourage all of you to participate in any way you can, be it financial support, participating in a workshop, or taking the time to share your expertise with a young person. It is the only hope for our culture, civilization and the human values that make the world a better place.  We must all embrace the effort as the goal.

Appreciation for my fellow travelers:
Pinto Pammy: How did you manage to endure all the 'guy' road stuff? To sing hours and hours without a microphone, in both the wind and cold and the muggy heat, always smiling and giving it your all. You da woman!
Mike McKinley: Drumming up the beat, whether on a box or a set, helping keep the show on track, keeping the mission of JazzMasters Workshop firmly in focus. Your dedication to the organization is the reason we have achieved what we have, my enduring appreciation and admiration.
Gabe Noel: I heard and saw so much talent in you during our lesson time at USC, but I never imagined the depth of your talent and personality. You are a joy to be around, to play with, and you give me hope for the future of the music that I have dedicated my life's work to and that I love so much.
Noah Freedman: Through the past two years at JazzMasters with you I have heard such growth, yet these past two weeks you have really helped prove to me that the mentoring process works, and for that I'll always be grateful. Your talent and humanity is going to take you far, enjoy the ride!
To the whole band: I appreciate your willingness to go along, to fight the fight, and I'm glad that you got experience the many unique and wonderful things in life (things that we often pass by in our hurry to get things done). I know I was irritable at times, please forgive me, sometimes the awesome responsibility and the pressure and fatigue got the best of me. I know we'll all remember this.
To all of you who helped out: We'll see you in our dreams!  
To the readers of this
: Thanks for coming along for the ride. Keep Swingin

Yet again I am astounded by the love and generosity of my fellow human beings. I am one of those people that needs to be reminded of this on a regular basis, and this trip really brought the message home.  From dear friends and family to complete strangers, we were welcomed into people's homes, fed, entertained, and generally uplifted every day.  I thank all of you for that - you know who you are!!
NOAH FREEDMAN: Along with having an amazing series of adventures on the road, I learned a lot from playing almost constantly. We all came a lot closer as well, an unavoidable consequence of sitting in the same truck for hundreds of miles. Overall, I am so glad that I was able to help raise money for JazzMasters Workshop and have such a life-changing experience at the same time. 
MIKE McKINLEY: Once again, we met the challenge. Our success was really because we had a lot of fun, played a lot of music and met so many good people who helped us out with thier support and generosity. As soon as my laundry is done, I'm ready to go again.

Alas, the only casualty of the trip was the little cable that connects the camera to the computer. Not bad, no technical failures, vehicle failures, sicknesses or personality malfunctions that created meltdowns along the way. We came through unscathed and richer for the experience. 
Here are some images (as promised):
Harold and Fran send us off from Half Moon Bay:
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Headed north (facing south, Vista Point the Golden Gate BridgeDescription: http://images.quickblogcast.com/33682-31430/ggb.jpg
Parked in Fairfax (sign reads: FREE, EVERYTHING WORKS, really applied to paper bag, it had the aquarium stuff)Description: http://images.quickblogcast.com/33682-31430/ffx.jpg
Richard Yaski's Shibui Sculpture Garden (thanks Jack and Richard for putting us up and putting up with us)

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of course we had to mark our territory (sorry Richard):
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jamming around Mendocino:
Description: http://images.quickblogcast.com/33682-31430/javajam.jpgDescription: http://images.quickblogcast.com/33682-31430/mendojam.jpg

Tim Negris