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!



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!


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.

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!

Spring Events 2014

SXSW was Dickensian as always.  The best of times, the worst of times.  All the ink and blogging about it maybe reflects how its huge size has changed its character in one fundamental way: It is too big to sum up.  Everyone who participates in SXSW (or is just impacted by it) has a unique set of experiences.  In this spirit, I think all the commentary is helpful rather than confusing or detrimental, as long as we can try to step back and let the various voices help fill in the big picture.

For myself it was an exhausting couple of weeks, but I met some good people, gleaned a few specks of gold from the various panels and publicity events, caught a few interesting musical acts that stood out from the pack, and even managed to play my usual gigs around town.  The biggest victory was, of course, finding a parking space when you needed it.  For my showcase at the Russian House I did have to resort to a pedicab to get my gear and myself to the gig from my car which was parked over a mile away.  I was one of the lucky ones, I’m sure.

The high point of SXSW was getting to play with Sandhya Sanjana, the amazing Indian vocalist, who bridges classical Indian styles, jazz, funk and pop.  I look forward to working with her again when the stars align.

A big thank you also to Jakes Srinivasan and WOBEON, for working so hard to strengthen and promote the world music scene here in Austin.  The monthly shows at One2One Bar are really memorable, and more cool events will be forthcoming through the year.

2014, Here We Go.

As far as New Year’s Resolutions, there could have been many, but one idea seemed to take hold: For 2014 I will focus on some major projects which already are shaping the year for me.  Of course the usual ongoing musical events fill up each week, fun things happening on a regular basis.

The First Tuesday Jazz Jam at Kickbutt Coffee.  Each month, the first Tuesday is a party at Kickbutt Coffee, 5775 Airport, as my rhythm section lays down the jazz grooves and then opens up the stage to players of all ages and levels.

The Third Wednesday Lounge Night at Skylark Lounge.  Come by for a retro vibe hang as we play music from 8:30-10:30pm.

My regular shows at great Austin bars: One-2-One Bar, Satellite Lounge, the Elephant Room, and more.  Check my website calendar for updates.

Here are the big projects on the horizon for 2014:

March: SXSW, I’ll be backing up Indian superstar Sandhiya Sanjana on her showcase.

July: I’ll be performing in New England, as well as teaching some workshops there, in Boston, Western Mass, and New Hampshire.

October: The Texas Jazz Jam Cruise will be going through the Caribbean, and I’ll be leading the house band in entertaining all the fine folks joining us for a musical week.

December: I’ll be hosting another wild Festivus Celebration to close out the year.

Whoosh, it’ll all go by so fast!

December 20, 2013: A Gala Evening!

As the date of Paul Klemperer’s Festivus Celebration fast approaches, folks have been asking for more details.  The list of performers is quite long and exciting:  Amie Maciszewski leads Sangeet Millennium for the lobby reception, catered by Chefs Catering.  Then the Festivians take the stage.  Paul Klemperer assembled this high caliber ensemble especially for the occasion: Peggy Stern on keyboards, Utah Hamrick on bass, Wayne Duncan on drums, Rey Arteaga on congas.

They are joined by musical guests: Dave Sebree on guitar, Roberto Riggio on violin, and the Hot Wax Soul Revue Singers.  Add to this some holiday musings by writer Spike Gillespie, and a grand finale of the DIYA Project, Bollywood dancers.  All of this and a majestic Festivus Pole as well!

Paul Klemperer’s Festivus Celebration to include a Charity Guilt-Off


One of the time-honored traditions of the holiday season is the Salvation Army Santa. Standing there in his red suit, shiny black belt, and ringing his big bell, SAS is a reminder to us all that we are fortunate for what we have, that there are many people in need, and that we can shed pounds of guilt just by throwing a few coins in the donation pot, on our way into the store, on our way to buying a bunch of crap to give to people who probably don’t need it and often don’t want it. ‘Tis the season for giving and, as we all know, charity is the gift of feeling good about yourself.


On the other hand, charity is perhaps the oldest accepted form of income redistribution, aside from armed robbery and outright war. That is to say, people around the world do try to give some of their extra bounty to those who have none. So it has been for millennia, and it’s probably a good practice. Ayn Rand and Paul Ryan have a different angle on the whole Grinch thing, but that’s a story for another time.


A big problem that people seem to have with the global charity game, however, is that it has become a big business unto itself.Charities compete with each other to get your attention and your extra dollarinos. Glossy envelopes pour through mail slots every day, proclaiming “Emergency!”, “Urgent!”, with pictures of starving, fly-covered children, or soiled polar bears clinging to shrinking chunks of ice. Who should get our paltry stop-gap donation, the suffering humans, or the innocent animals? What would Meryl Streep do? What to do, what to do! We feel good when we give and we probably help a little bit by giving, but in so doing we support a bloated charity industry that feeds off of our guilt. The solution, whatever it turns out to be, certainly isn’t coming in the next few weeks.


That’s why I say let’s celebrate our convoluted moral predicament with a charity guilt-off! As part of Paul Klemperer’s Festivus Celebration, a portion of the ticket sales (after expenses, just like the big charities do it), will be donated to a charity to be determined in a Charity Guilt-Off. The rules are simple: Two teams compete, representing Suffering Humans and Innocent Animals. The audience decides. In a heart-warming gathering reminiscent of the Circus Maximus, some lucky recipient will get a thumbs up this holiday season, and you can be part of the fun!


Ticket information:

Life Imitating Art

This was a little too Dickensian to pass up:   An Associated Press report on a lawsuit by Monsanto against a soybean farmer who allegedly violated their patent on replanting genetically modified soybeans without paying for them.  By and large, “farmers appreciate what we do,” David Snively, Monsanto’s top lawyer, said in an interview with The Associated Press.

Now the whole GMO thing is complicated, but really, a lawyer named “Snively” seems a bit blatant.  Who is writing this melodrama?  Next thing there will be a square-jawed hero named “Doright” speaking on behalf of the downtrodden farmers.

I do wonder about all these herbicide-resistant crops that make up more and more of our daily diet.  I’m hoping that as I get older, and am less and less of a rolling stone, I’ll still gather no moss because I’m just too full of herbicide.

For a really dark and creative futuristic view of the logical consequences of GMO patents, and corporate control of agriculture, check out the fiction of Paolo Bacigalupi: “Yellow Card Man” and “The Tick Tock Girl”… wonderfully scary stuff!