Kent Denver/ Denver Sound House Clinic and Concerts

After a few days to recoup I wanted to write a bit about my experence with Steve Holley and his bands at Kent Denver School and his "Caleb Chapman's Sound House" bands.  Frankly I was astounded!  I arrived Wednesday April 22 and attended one of Steve's latin band rehearsals.  Right away I was impressed with how autonomous these kids were, It was almost like they ran the rehearsal themselves.  A common theme with Steve's bands as I was to find out.

Thursday was a busy day rehearsing and running the bands.  So many talented students.  Steve began each rehearsal reviewing the last gig each band had which happened to have been just a couple of days earlier.  some of the bands play up to 60 gigs a year, so they get a lot of practical experience.  Something that just can't be taught in the classroom. The students had many constructive suggestions and were off and running.  Later that night I played with The Quincy Ave Rhythm band and The Blackmer Big band.  It was an amazing night,  Besides Caleb Chapmans Bands in Salt Salt lake I had never seen students that we so enthused and supportive of each other.  There was so much talent and so many smiles.  As the seniors in his bands were graduating soon, they all took time to thank Steve for his stern but effective teaching style and how much they learned from him,  I must attest to the effectiveness as I was so impressed not only by the students musicianship but by their confidence especially when public speaking.  Steve also makes sure each student gets a chance to play frontman (or woman) and announce tunes and players.  At the front of the stage on the floor every student from the other bands would dance and cheer their fellow musicians on stage. I didn't notice a single student that didn't seem sincerely excited and supportive of their fellow students. Usually that's not the case. After the show ended, I was treated to the biggest surprise, EVERY student stormed the stage and proceeded to break down the risers, carry off the amps and coil up all of the cords.  It wasn't necessarily planned or structured, they all just took it upon themselves to get it done.  It was kind of a sight to see as they figured it out.  Later I learned that Steve instructs them to make it happen, whether it's at a big school concert or their own combo gigs.  So many lessons about being a musician are learned on the gig.  It took me personally a while to become seasoned. To learn about the little things that make gigs go smoother.  Perhaps many of these students will not go on to be professional musicians, but they learned many things that transcend just a music gig and apply to any job, profession or endeavor.


What an awesome bunch of kids,  I was honored to have been able to share my music and experience with them.  It definitely was a mutually benificial evening!   

What an awesome bunch of kids,  I was honored to have been able to share my music and experience with them.  It definitely was a mutually benificial evening!


Friday consisted of my clinic and a concert with the Soul Confluence band.  I covered how Big Bad Voodoo Daddy got it's start, how it's redefined itself over the years and then I talked about some of my rhythmic concepts that I think contribute to my own personal sound. And how to identify and cultivate concepts to develop the students personal sounds.  Shortly thereafter I played a set with the Soul Confluence band. I was again taken with the energy of the students.  And by the way that they perform.  Unlike many school jazz ensembles or concert bands, all of the kids knew their parts without sheet music. And the difference ALWAYS shows, whether it's a school aged band or a pro band, memorizing your music always makes for a more entertaining show. They sounded great and unlike most "School" bands they looked great too!  

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If only Steve Holley could be replicated and sent all over the country, his method of high expectations and real world experiences make for an amazing program.  These students are learning life lessons that will go well beyond their musical experiences. 




Road Tales

I always get a grin on my face when we're out and about on the road, and I overhear a excited tourist discovering something.  In a small way I get to re-experience the excitement of their new discovery. As a "seasoned" traveler, if you are not mindful, many of these sights may slowly, if unintentionally, fall into the "been there, seen that" bin.  Not by apathy, but by the slow, quiet creep of familiarity.  Fortunately,  after nationally touring for nearly 2 decades and playing an average of 150 shows a year our enthusiasm for discovery has yet to fade. Throughout our travels our familiarity has grown into a fondness for the many "homes" away from home that we regularly check up on. We often come into a city and note which restaurants closed, what  buildings have been built or torn down, or where that "cool club" used to be, that's invariably become a bank or a Starbucks. After so much traveling, it's odd to discover that I can often navigate in Chicago, Minneapolis, New York, or dozens of other cities better then in my hometown.  (Honestly, I'll probably always have trouble navigating Santa Barbara's maze of one way streets.)  After touring all 50 states, it can be easy to forget that most folks will never have the opportunity to see 25 states, let alone 50.  Fortunately we all are mindful of the wonderful opportunity our travels afford us, and we still have an earnest enthusiasm for discovery. Luckily it's a big world and there are endless new things to discover. 


Often it's the quirky, unique road side attractions that are fun to check off the travel bucket list.  The superman statue in Metropolis Illinois, the "worlds tallest teepee"  in Medicine Hat, Alberta, "Billy the Kid's" disputed grave in Fort Sumner New Mexico. It's awesome to see the grand, "must see" locales   But there's also something really cool about experiencing the lesser known legends and lore that surround road side attractions.

We got a chance last month to check out another of these great, must see spots. The Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo Texas.  You know the place, where there are 10 vintage Caddies with their front ends buried into the ground. It's like a Detroit inspired Stonehenge, with a Jackson Pollock paint job. 

Glen, Andy and I called one of the few local private cabs and made our way over. There isn't much hoopla surrounding the edifice. There's just a small break in the fence off interstate 40 outside of Amarillo.  The  cars are about 100 yards from the highway. No signs, no ticket booth, just a straight array of cars in a large scorched dirt field, strewn with thousands of discarded paint cans, and caps with the occasional "Monster Energy" or "Budweiser" can. Apparently there is an unwritten understanding that it's okay to add your own paint flourish to the cars and each car is incapsulated in layer after layer of aerosol paint. Sometimes up to an inch thick. Any headlight or taillight housings are have been gone for the ages, same for windshields, rear view mirrors, tires or hubcaps. It took a bit of examination to determine what model year each car was as the trim and any other identifiable accoutrements had been either removed or painted over. It was just a few days after Thanksgiving, but it was starting to be brisk even around noon, when we arrived. We stayed for maybe 20 minutes, taking pictures, trying to determine each model year, and marveling at how much trunk space these big beautiful boats had in their bygone era of cheep gas and prosperity. It's funny that over the years, after visiting so many wonderful locations, it's often the quirky unique places that leave the biggest impression.  I have a feeling that, even though the Cadillac ranch didn't host an illustrious list of attractions and activities, it will still remain in our memory for some time.