Endings & Beginnings

The lesson of the universe these days seems to be “Take your vitamins, you’ll need to keep your strength up.” Lots of good stuff happening, lots of bad stuff, lots of sad stuff. The rains, as everyone knows, brought havoc to many in Central Texas. I was lucky, just some property damage from a 100 year old oak falling near my house. Many of my friends are cleaning layers of mud from their houses, sorting through flood-damaged possessions, etc.
Many artists and musicians are lending their talents to raise money to help, and I’ll be playing with a group to do just that on June 13. Global to Local: A concert for Central Texas Flood Relief will feature world musicians from Texas and India in a night of great music for a good cause.

Over the last few months several friends passed away, including music brother Slim Richey. I first met him in 1983, at a jazz jam at the Driskill Hotel. I thought “Who is this guy with the long beard?” But when the jazz started coming out of his finger tips, all questions were answered. I had the real privilege of playing a bunch of shows with him, with the Jazz Pharaohs and later with the Jitterbug Vipers. So many many songs!

I have a few more shows lined up for June (check the calendar), and then June 19 I’ll be heading out of town, making my way back to Boston to see my parents, and playing some shows around New England for much of the summer.
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March Happenings

As I grow older (gracefully, I hope), I’m finding it helpful to organize each new year by blocking off some challenging creative projects.  That way, as the days flow into weeks, the weeks into months, in a blur of making-the-donuts tasks and deadlines, I can lift my head out of my foxhole and keep some perspective.  Oh yeah, I got that thing done (wrote a song, got dental insurance, planted a garden, etc.).  I think it’s a truism that time speeds up as you grow older, so we gots to make the most of it!

That said, I have gotten a few good things done in these first few months of 2015 (besides getting dental insurance):  Wrote 5 new songs with lyrics (I look forward to playing them at my shows soon); recorded an original classical-based quintet (“Serpentelos” – available soon!); played a great Mardi Gras show with the new and funky band Gumbo Ya Ya; played a wonderful set with Marcia Ball (which brought back some great memories) at the HAAM 10th Anniversary Celebration; and I’ve been having a lovely time most Friday happy hours at C-Boys, playing with the Jitterbug Vipers, part of my extended dysfunctional musical family, who I love dearly.

So SXSW is next on the horizon, which nicely bookends March.  Until then, it’s back into the foxhole for me!

PK

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Spring 2015

After cold rains, cedar pollen, and other hints of winter in Texas, the skies have been blue, the sun has been warm, and I have tried not to feel too guilty about enjoying it, as my family up North weathers huge snowstorms and cooooold.  Of course, snow is beautiful too, in its own way, but here my thoughts are turning toward the harbingers of spring: blossoms on trees, plans for SXSW and, of course, Mardi Gras.

This year I’m helping to put on a pretty big deal Mardi Gras party, as an alternative to the 6th Street stagger-a-thon.  Of course I like to see people in skimpy costumes screaming for beads, but that only can take you so far.  If you’d like a more lasting memory, join me at the Skylark Lounge on Feb 17 for good food, drinks, and dancing to great music.  I have been playing with a fun new band lately, Gumbo Ya Ya, dipping into the New Orleans funk bag.  It brings back a lot of memories from my days with Marcia Ball and all the Mardi Gras shows we did in New Orleans.  The songs have deep roots, and it’s a joy to play them again:  Professor Longhair, Dr. John, The Funky Meters, Fats Domino… All kinds of down and dirty beats to sink your teeth into.

After Gumbo Ya Ya, the John Gaar Band will finish out the night, with their trademark rich vocal harmonies.  Mmmmm!

 

Paul Klemperer’s 3rd Annual Festivus Celebration

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Paul Klemperer hosts a wild and fun variety show in celebration of a completely made up holiday (unlike all those other ones!)… The first year it was a modest undertaking held at Tom’s Tabooley, with a funky aluminum pole provided by owners Brigid and Tom.  The response was unexpectedly fervent, and a new tradition was born!

Last year Paul took his message of unrealistic hope and jaded sentimentality to the Paramount Stateside for a mix of song, dance, and airing of grievances.  This year the mayhem will go down at the Spider House Ballroom, where the audience can choose to sit, stand, or dance (or even wrestle each other to the ground if the moment seems right).

The theme this year is “It feels so real.”

When we were young, wintertime had a certain magic.  Christmas was everywhere, full of candy canes, reindeer, pine scent, treacly tunes played over and over.  In Boston, where I grew up, the possibility of snow meant that school might be canceled, or at the very least, thrown off schedule, which was magical in its own way.  Christmas, Hanukkah, Solstice, whatever, it was all magical!

Then we grew up, and the magic seemed to fade.  The maw of hypocrisy became visible under the veneer of the holiday spirit.  There was no peace on earth, goodwill toward men.  There never had been, and likely never would be.  The blanket of snow heralding the stillness of winter no longer meant sledding and snow angels, but only shoveling your car out of drifts made by uncaring snowplows.  Sidewalk Santas reeking of cheap whiskey, stores full of crap made by minimum wage elves, bills piling up while you run around trying to find gifts you can’t really afford, nerves getting frayed as the days dwindle down…

But even so, a little voice in your head, a little corner of your heart still hold out some small unrealistic hope for a feeling, a completely deluded belief that it all means something, that your childhood innocence and your deepest unvoiced dreams were part of some greater truth, some abiding connection that transcends our temporal frailties.  Are we deluded?  Yes.  Is it all a bunch of hooey? Yes.  But it still feels real, and that is reason enough to celebrate it!

That has been the underlying theme of my previous Festivus Celebrations, and it seems to resonate with folks.  It doesn’t matter what your background is, your religion, your traditions.  We are all equally delusional in our need to attach heartfelt emotions to a bunch of random words and images.  So let’s do it.  Whether it’s a cartoon reindeer, an angel-shaped lightbulb, red and green shrubbery, an eight-pronged candle holder, or a handful of yellow powder… Let ‘er rip!

This year’s Festivus Celebration will carry on our tradition of ecumenical smorgasbord, with some sweet soul and Latin music for dancing, jazz, Bollywood dancers, and much, much more.  Bring your dreams, tattered though they may be, and join us!

 

Paul Klemperer

October Happenings

Lunar eclipse on Oct. 8 they say.  I’ll be watching in from the deck of the Navigator of the Seas, the ship which is hosting our merry band of jazz revelers.  Wish you were here!  Next year maybe you will be.

The Texas Jazz Jam Cruise.  Leaving from Galveston, the cruise is October 5-12, and is designed for jazz players and fans who want to get a little deeper into the music.  Workshops offered by day, jam session at night, and in between, ports of call in the Caribbean.  Not bad!  I’ll be leading the band and facilitating the jam sessions, as well as offering a few workshops on jazz topics. Details: www.texasjazzjamcruise.org

Coming in December…  Paul Klemperer’s 3rd Annual Festivus Celebration.  Date: 12/18/2014.  Location: Spider House Ballroom.  It will be a musical extravaganza like last year’s event at the Paramount, but even groovier!

Through the end of the year I’ll be continuing my third Wednesdays residency at the Skylark Lounge.  Check the calendar for details!

The Dog Days Of August

After a great visit to the Northeast, I walked out of Austin Bergstrom Airport into a wall of hot humid air and knew I was home.  Back into the whirlwind of music, I had a bunch of cool gigs in rapid succession: The Kickbutt Jazz Jam, Jazz & Sushi in the wilds of Cedar Park, hot and heavy African grooves with Zoumountchie over at the Sahara Lounge, Sunday morning jazz at the Unitarian Universalist, more jazz with singer Divy Nelson at the Brass House, Blues & more at Elysium (a benefit for a very cool cause – Swan Songs), and the beat goes on.

On the teaching front, I have welcomed some new students into the fold.  I have some new tortures to share with them, in addition to the old favorites (like breaking them on the wheel, otherwise known as practicing the Circle of Fifths), so it will be an interesting fall.  I’m thinking of handing out mouse ears for them to wear, while I don a white lab coat.  It’s all in the interest of science!

In the midst of all these weekly musical machinations, I’m gearing up for the Wobeon Festival in September, the Texas Jazz Jam Cruise in October, the return of amazing Indian vocalist Sandhya Sanjana in December, and finally ending the year with another big Festivus Celebration (date and location to be determined soon).

Maybe, if time permits, I’ll make it to Barton Springs before the year is over!

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Jack Trammell, Vampire Hunter

Some Thoughts On Jack Trammell

 

Paul Klemperer, 6/12/2014

 

Finally, some fresh air in the political discourse.  A right wing economics professor vs. a progressive sociology professor (and novelist), are going to duke it out in Virginia.

 

David Brat, the new Tea Party darling, grabbed the reins of the GOP’s runaway stagecoach from Eric Cantor, who was too busy fundraising at high-dollar steakhouses around the country to win his own primary race.  Brat promises to steer the stagecoach firmly back into the past, with paranoid economic theories on immigrants, gays, uppity women, and other time-tested hot-button issues designed to circle the wagons against the forces of history.

 

Meanwhile Democrat Jack Trammell is reprising the role of Jimmy Stewart in “Mr. Smith Goes To Washington” by running for office because no other Democrats would step up.  His greatest strength is perhaps the fact that he is writing a vampire novel – the metaphorical resonance of battling the undead will connect with voters more than any other political soundbites that get tossed around.

 

As someone with a background in both sociology and writing, I am naturally inclined to support Trammell.  Of course, it depends on what he does with the vampire theme.  I’m working on my own vampire novel, but our popular culture landscape is glutted with vampire shtick these days, and it will take someone with great insight and creativity to lead us into new vampire metaphorical territory, someone with bold new ideas who won’t just rehash old vampire storylines.

 

Frankly, our country can’t afford out-dated, dead-end vampire plots.  After the Anne Rice books, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, True Blood, and Twilight (for the tweens, some of who may be of voting age by now), we can’t go back to simple Euro-Christian vampire themes: crucifixes, holy water, Good vs. Evil.  These dusty memes aren’t just limiting in metaphorical resonance, they are actually dangerous plot devices for our modern 21st century vampire stories.  They can’t prepare our young people for the complex vampire-related questions they will face in the world we have created for them.

 

We need fresh ideas about the undead.  In the same way business leaders are embracing innovative thinking and out-of-the-box business models, we need fresh, out-of-the-coffin ideas about vampires, zombies, werewolves, and all the rest of our monster mythology.

 

Why?  Because our popular culture monsters are the dark mirror we hold up to examine ourselves.  When a young person comes to the realization that the blood-sucking fiend stalking the neighborhood is really just a metaphor for our own sociopathic gluttonous consumer culture, will that young person be able to grapple with the crushing existential moral implications when armed only with a silver cross, wooden stake and holy water.  I don’t think so!  Even without armies of pedophile priests cluttering the moral battlefield, these antiquated tools have lost their cultural potency.

 

What we need now are writers with a greater vision, people who can draw from global cultural traditions, using both traditional and modern metaphorical plot devices to equip readers with a much more diverse set of intellectual tools.  The struggle against vampires is really part of a larger struggle to understand ourselves.  It’s a tough job but America has always shown great sociological and novelistic ingenuity in the past.  I just hope Jack Trammell, vampire hunter, is equal to the task.

Free Music Workshop: “Using Blues In Jazz” @ TX Historical Society

On June 15, noon-2:00pm, Paul Klemperer will lead a free workshop: “Using Blues In Jazz.”  The 2-hour workshop, sponsored by Diverse Arts Culture Works and the Austin Jazz Alliance, is aimed at beginning to intermediate players who want to learn jazz, but may be coming from other musical styles like rock, blues, folk and classical.  Some knowledge of basic major and minor chords, and the minor pentatonic scale, is helpful but not essential.

Paul will demonstrate melodic and rhythmic phrases that occur in many jazz tunes, and are helpful for playing solos over various jazz song forms.  Participants can bring their instruments and will have a chance to play.

This workshop is an introductory sample of other workshops and classes offered by Paul.  Handouts and links to helpful online PDF’s will be available.

Summer In Austin

May has given us a taste of summer with some  sweltering days, but we still get reprieves of cooler weather and spring rains.  As a sometime gardener I do appreciate the rain.  My big satisfaction this spring is a crop of artichokes which I’ve started sharing with friends.  My mom makes a delicious hollandaise sauce and I always associate that with artichokes.  But I’m too lazy and set in my ways to learn how to make it, so I make do with lemon & butter, or throw together some kind of remoulade with mayonnaise, hot sauce and whatever else falls into my hand.  Really, the artichokes are so deliciously fresh they taste magical just by themselves.

Musically it has been a productive spring as well.  I finished up a semester playing with the ACC big band under the direction of Tom Husak (I love his arrangements, always fun & challenging to play).  We closed the semester with a fun concert at the Clive Bar, with Redd Volkaert as the featured artist.

I’ll be playing a show in June with my old compadre Graham Reynolds and the Golden Arm Trio.  It will be a concert in the park in Houston, June 6.  I’ll have a few more shows in June and then it’s off to New England to play and teach for several weeks.  That will still leave plenty of Texas summer for me when I get back in August.  Gotta love it!