Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Character Wanted

This, like most of my posts that wasn't birthed on the grill, was born on Facebook. And so it begins...

Stephen McPherson, you are, as usual, a breath of fresh air for my soul! I love your challenges, your insights, your high standards! In regard to the events in question: In my lifetime, I have had a few incidences where I have dealt with police officers. (Most recently this past Halloween night.) I have always conducted myself respectfully and I have always been treated with respect. I have never felt endangered by the police. I am well aware that this is not always the case. But here is a word to the wise. Particularly if you believe that white police officers are out to get you. Do. Not. Do. Anything. To. Antagonize. THEM. I think most officers of every ethnicity want to protect the communities they work in and they want to go home to their families at the end of their shift.

I also think there are much more grave dangers in the black community than bigoted police or a prejudiced legal system. We each need to police ourselves. We can't go around telling each other than getting an education is "trying to be white". We can't continue to have well over half of our children born out of wedlock and fatherless. We can't let Uncle Sam be our Baby Daddy. We can't continue to embrace thug life as an acceptable goal. We need to reach for something higher. Of course, there are still problems in race relations in our country. But I can't think of a worse way to deal with it that looting and murdering. Let's not rush to call every incident racially motivated. Let's take responsibility for our own actions individually and hold ourselves to a higher standard than we tend to. My admittedly uninformed opinion in regards to the purported incredulity of some of Officer Wilson's account is this: The situation got out of hand at some point and he panicked. Not necessarily in his actions, but in his testimony. Again this is uniformed, and I apologize. I believe he saw (accurately) his future after having shot a young black man. Knowing that he was absolutely going to be crucified in the press. He, it seems to me at worst, thought he needed to shore up his story and did so very poorly. I honestly don't know but IF his story doesn't hold water but if it doesn't I believe that's why.

But WE have an obligation to ourselves and the rest of society to not behave like criminals. Protest and honest dialogue are one thing. Giving whatever racists are still out there their "proof" by acting like animals is an entirely different matter. We need to get ourselves to the point where a police officer sees one of us or a group of us and he has no reason to think we're up to no good. And we're the only ones that can create that perception. Much of our entertainment to this day glorifies drugs, violence, disrespect of authority (and really everything and everyone else) and immorality as "The Black Experience". Not just showing that part of the Black Experience as real, but lauding it as the only legitimate Black Experience. We project that on the screen and on the airwaves and then we're shocked and angered that "That's how THEY see US." We need to embrace the great, significant and valuable aspects of our culture and reject the things that hold us back and keep us down. (In reality and in our own perception and the perceptions of others.) Other minorities have been through the ringer in America as well. And while we are the most obvious ethnic minority we need to drop that as an excuse for our own bad behavior. For the most part, other minority groups don't give themselves excuses to not measure up and no one makes excuses for them. I can never ever repeat it enough that I KNOW there is still racism. We need to be less bigoted ourselves. We need to less bigoted against others. Just like "they" need to not expect the worst from "us" we need to not expect the worst of them. And WE. NEED. TO. AIM. HIGHER. It will take time and herculean effort. But that will be a major, if not the most significant contributor to the dream of not being judged by the color or our skin but the content of our character.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The "Take A Sad Song And Make It Better" Challenge: Crime/Punishment and "What do we do now?"

Quick intro:

It's been a big Facebook morning:

Now, I invite you all to join in on a tremendously important topic:

Crime and punishment.

Let's figure all figure out some ideas to make our society better. Let's start with us and then move on to "The System". THE SYSTEM IS BROKEN! So let's figure out how to best keep people OUT OF THE SYSTEM.

I would particularly love to hear from my friends in the law enforcement and legal communities because of your unique vantage points.

This is my Facebook Post:

Here are several ideas to help fight crime (and general societal decay as well): Men be honorable (Women and others: act similarly as it applies to you.) Don't impregnate and move on! Marry THEN impregnate. THEN stay around and be a good parent forever. Not perfect but good. Teach values like hard work and respect for everyone. Everyone means everyone. Male, female, other. Black, white, other. Gay, straight, other. Atheist, agnostic, other. Muslim, Christian, other. Democrat, Republican, other. Respect does NOT have to mean agreement or endorsement nor could it possibly do so. Think of respect as a willingness to accept another's value and treat a person accordingly regardless of agreement with views, opinions, beliefs, lifestyle etc. Judge actions sympathetically but honestly. Be honest but again RESPECTFULLY... Be accountable. Hold yourself to a high standard NOT the lowest common denominator regardless of what anyone else does. Don't look down on others when they do not do so. Lead by example. Be forgiving, knowing that at times you will fail to live up to your own standard.

I know many of you do not consider the Bible as a credible source. But I hope we could all agree to these principles and the Bible is where I happened to glean them from.

I have things to learn from others:
Proverbs 27:17 NIV
As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.

I must consider my actions:
Luke 6:31 NIV
Do to others as you would have them do to you.

It's not all about me:
Philippians 2:3 NIV
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.

I am not the authority on everything:
Proverbs 26:12 NIV
Do you see a man wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.

All that said, please forgive me when I fail to live up to this and PLEASE feel free to hold me accountable, respectfully.

The Muse...

(My response to a post I read)

I don't mean to be "harsh" but rape, arson and murder in the aftermath of a botched burglary? Some people need justice. Occasionally, justice happens. I really can't stand the "bad environment" defense. I've always thought it's such a slap in the face to everyone who grew up under horrible circumstances and didn't turn into a psychopath or sociopath. I am not entirely unsympathetic but could we please start celebrating the ones that rise above and DON'T become thugs. This IS the right call. Ok, I'm stopping now...
Thug Who Raped Iraq War Vet's Wife, Executed Them Both Learns His Brutal Fate
This is the right call.

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Julie Hinojosa, Joseph R Ellison, Steve Andrusko and 23 others like this.
  • Scott Oliver Here's the thing. Pure evil has no remorse, no guilt, no care. There is no justice good enough for someone like this. The damage is done and no justice will undo it. All I can say is....Jesus come quickly.
    5 hrs · Unlike · 2
  • Patrick Weill I agree Scott. But that's what hell is for. I believe in eternal life in both realms. Even if we were to slow torture a bad person for the rest of his or her life it would not be as bad as hell eternal.
    4 hrs · Unlike · 2
  • Aaron Gayden As important as the eternal question is there is still the question of what do we as a society do about it. There is no justice good enough but there is such a thing as not enough justice so to speak. Again I don't want to be harsh but these criminals ...See More

    DPIC | Death Penalty Information Center
    The U.S. military has its own laws and court system separate from those of the states and the federal...
    3 hrs · Like · 1 · Remove Preview
  • Scott Oliver As a side note and a left turn.....I'm now listening to Toto "Hydra" as a result of your last post.
    1 hr · Edited · Like
  • Janelle Caywood As a criminal defense attorney for 20 years I can tell you the criminal justice system is inherently biased against people of color. Yes, there are dangerous people that should be incarcerated. However, sentences and penalties are much more stiff for those who kill or hurt white people than those who harm black people. You should follow the Innocence Project's pages of FB and discover how many people are wrongly convicted and condemned to die, most of whom are poor black peopple. Those who are truly interested in how egregiously unfair the criminal justice system toward people of color, should listen to this talk about race in the criminal justice system by Bryan Stevenson, a Christian and the most Christlike person on the planet. He talks about how the issue is not whether these people deserve to die but whether we, as a society deserve to kill., Janelle

    We need to talk about an injustice
    In an engaging and personal talk -- with cameo appearances from his grandmother and Rosa Parks --...
    53 mins · Edited · Unlike · 1 · Remove Preview
  • Aaron Gayden Good word, Janelle! And as a person of color I have made it incumbent on myself to not put myself in that position. It should not be a black white issue (though I know that is impossible to get around.) Particularly, if you know you will pay a higher price for criminality you should may more of a point to not be a criminal. I truly believe a large part of the underlying problem is people trying to get away with murder literally and figuratively. Again, let's laud black people and anyone else who is underprivileged and decides to be a law abiding citizen. I by no means intend to discount your years of experience in the legal system. Criminal behavior should absolutely be punished equally. But I do want to address the underlying problem. The black community, in a broad sense, desperately needs to embrace and uphold better values. Embracing thug life, raising children especially boys with no fathers, not assuming responsibility for one's actions, blaming anyone else (even when there is truth to it) will not get the job done. Saying that being educated is "trying to be white" will not get the job done. I'm listening to the Ted talk as we speak. I knew gang bangers growing up. One of my best friends as a child was killed because he was involved in gangs. Because he didn't follow a better path, make better choices he is no longer here. I had a neighbor who was shot and killed in the street between our houses. Because he had gotten into a gang and then left. I had neighbors who were in and out of jail. Because of their behavior. The issue does not have simple answers. There is more to the fact that 1/3 of black men have been incarcerated than racism. Much of that is because they have embraced poor decisions, wrong, criminal decisions. I agree that we are more than just our wrong decisions and actions. I have lived what I will call often a lower middle class life on the edge. But at no point have I believed that crime was a lifestyle option (except behind the wheel, but that is on me). There are multiple problems. There are issues in the system and there are issues in the community. We must deal with both. But I fear that if we exonerate and excuse behavior that we know is criminal we are doing equal harm to the individual and to society itself. I agree with virtually all of this Ted Talk. But dignity without accountability is very shallow and in fact dangerous. Both justice and mercy are needed. These are extremely tough issues. I would love to hear ideas on how to address the issue of goodness or good behavior in addition to, not by any means, in lieu of ideas on how to fix the system. Just fixing the system is just as impersonal as just people in the system for the crimes.
    Just now · Like
    It will take us all to take this sad song and make it better so let's start!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Right this very minute...

For the record, I do know that Christmas is so not something you can buy in a store. But, I just happened to walk into a store and see all the Christmasy things and I got my first Christmas feeling. I know the fact the Christmas commercialism encroaches on many of you and annoys and even outright enrages many of you. I on the other hand play Christmas music year round. If I'm in a bad mood Christmas music will put me in a good mood. If I'm already in a good mood Christmas music makes it even better. I am a Christmas junkie so when the rest of the world starts to acknowledge Christmas it just makes my day... This has been a tough year so I'm not going to hesitate to start celebrating the fact that Christmas is in the air. (I am also very, very thankful so Thanksgiving is where up on my list too.) It's not about the presents or decorations or music or even family (though that's getting close). Christmas is NOT about the stuff but for me the seeing the "stuff" reminds me even more about the real stuff of Christmas. That we are desperately loved by the Creator of the universe. So much so that He began to give the ultimate gift on Christmas. I know December 25 is at very best arbitrary and at worst adopted from pagan celebrations but what better to warm hearts at the beginning of Winter? This morning something within me was saying I need a little Christmas right this very minute...and there it was :-)

Christmas in a Chestnut Shell
Luke 2:10-14 KJV

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. [...and women and children and plants and animals ]

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Thank God for Cops and Soldiers!

I was coming home from playing in Folsom late last night and started to go through my old neighborhood in Auburn. I forgot that my intended route would take meby American River Canyon Overlook. The CHP were still doing crime scene work and politely asked me where I lived and also politely instructed me to take another route. As I drove away I thought of the other officers who had either lost their lives or been wounded in the day's crime spree. I thought of the NYPD officers that were attached with a hatchet earlier this week. I thought of the Canadian soldiers that lost their lives in service to their country this week. I thought of the US soldiers around the world fighting protect their loved ones and fellow citizens. There is a reason why being the military is called being in the service. There is a reason why police officers and firefighters are called public servants. They do what the rest of us won't or can't do. They go to the danger while instructing the rest of us to avoid the danger, to separate ourselves from the danger.

Are there soldiers, police officers etc that are bad apples? Of course, there are. No one debates that. But for the very most part these are good and brave people who go to work everyday knowing that it could be for the last time. Are they perfect? Of course not. They are human beings who have volunteered for a super human undertaking. The ones who do it honestly and well are the majority and they deserve our utmost respect and occasionally our immediate compliance. The level of scrutiny they are under is ever on the increase. They ARE for the most part quite accountable. As a society, most of us have a video camera on our person at virtually all times. There are lawyers who are always ready to go after a City or an law enforcement officer at the slightest hint of impropriety. And we are a culture that now thrives on and only seems to respect disrespectful behavior and attitudes. We are ever more erratic, unpredictable and violent. And yet the uniformed peace officer is expected to be more restrained than ever. Again I am not saying they are perfect. But as citizens WE SHOULD also be expected to have some accountability and self restraint. (And for that matter, if you suspect law enforcement to already be against you for whatever reason, you should be MORE RESPECTFUL not less. What sense does it make to poke the bear that you already believe is out to get you?)

There are those who would ask why I like "them" so much. I would answer with these words from A Few Good Men. "Because they stand on a wall and say "Nothing's going to hurt you tonight. Not on my watch."" And for those who know the next line, they, the military and law enforcement do "police" their own in addition to policing/protecting us. In the military, when they are caught crossing the line one thing their behavior is called "conduct unbecoming" and they are deemed UNFIT. Once again I say no military or police organization is perfect. Because no human is perfect and these organizations are all made up of humans. No one discounts that. But the good ones, and they are the vast majority, bravely protect, serve and fight the freedom and safety of us all. And by us, I mean honest law abiding people. (And even honest law abiding non citizens.)

To all of those who wear a uniform and serve your fellow citizen; I thank you! God bless and protect you! For the families of those who have given their all. We are so sorry for what you are going through. We are praying for you. Words are not nearly enough to say thank you for all you and your fallen loved one has sacrificed. Thank you for the restraint you exercise day in and day out. (Especially, yesterday , knowing that your own had fallen and the perpetrator will be given the benefit of the doubt in our court system.) Thank you for standing on that wall.

For those who have and will do harm to others, as a Christian, I do love you. But I am allowed to pray that you are brought to swift justice in this life as well the next.

I love you all, uniformed and civilian alike. May we ALL treat each other with respect, courtesy and honor. I pray God's blessing and protection on you.

Monday, July 7, 2014

I was just thinking...

Your mission... "Mylon Nathaniel Brikowski was the youngest person ever appointed to the U.S. Supreme Count. Known affectionately as "City Myles" he was also undoubtedly the hippest." 

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Gender, Race, Etc Or Creed: I Don't Care What You Look Like...


"A creed, confession, symbol, or statement of faith is a statement of the shared beliefs of a religious community. Creeds are not intended to be comprehensive, but to be a summary of core beliefs. The term "creed" can also refer to a person's political or social beliefs, or is sometimes used to mean religious affiliation."

Etymology[edit] See also: Credo

"The word derives from the Latin credo, which means "I believe" (because the Latin translation of the Apostles' Creed and the Nicene Creed both begin with this word) so a creed may also be called a credo. A creed is sometimes referred to as a symbol signifying a "token" by which persons of like beliefs might recognize each other.[4]"

I do know that racism exists. Believe me. I believe and in fact know first hand that prejudice exists. And to be perfectly honest I have actually experienced more prejudice from "my people" than from other ethnic groups, because I have lived my life according judging by content of character versus skin color. (Mind you not by a lot. I have not suffered too terribly in life at all.) I believe this is because of God's grace and the fact that I was raised to work hard and respect people. So, I have generally received that respect in kind. Most (and I say most because I usually don't like to make "allness" statements) of the conservatives or Tea Partiers or whoever, I know vote their conscience and their values. And most of those values are birthed from a biblical worldview.

Race is a very tricky deal. And I think that in large part, like with other 3rd rail issues both sides would do well to actually talk to each other... But it appears in our current society where most of the voices would probably consider and indentify themselves as progressive or liberal that to even discuss some of these issues is racist, sexist etc. My favorite talk show host is Dennis Prager . (This link is for his website, specifically for one of his articles on racism) He came up with this acronym. SIXHRB: sexist, intolerant, xenophobic, homophobic, racist, bigoted. Put any of these in the mix and you stop all discussion. Are there people out there with SIXHRB-ian views? Of course! But I truly believe much inportant discussion and debate is eliminated because once you are ACCUSED of any of the above the all bets are off and you lose. Not "convicted" but accused. For many, the fact that I could easily be called an "arch conservative" or "right winger" makes me "self loathing" as a black man. (Personally, I have ALWAYS considered myself a moderate. One of my main philosophies of life is this. BALANCE IS EVERYTHING.) Or a traitor to my color. I seriously do not care about color, gender etc. Mine or anyone else's.

I vote the way I try to live. I measure positions, people, ideas, and what not in this manner: Do the ideas or positions measure up to biblical standards as I understand them? Do the people act with integrity and goodness towards me and others, as far as I know? Do the ideas work in the real world? Are the ideas the best thing for our society as a whole? (Not just me and my needs, not just any particular group. But society as a whole.) Back in the day, I often debated internally about which of two of my talk show hosts that I listened would make a better godparent for my kids or a better political official. One was a straight, black male Libertarian. The other was a gay, Jewish male (I believe) Republican. (Please forgive me for not having a female Democrat in the mix.) Based on what I knew of them from their broadcasts, I would have chosen or voted for the gay Republican. Because in a relatively close race, his values won on over the other candidate.

Life is complex, but at the end of the day, try to know what you believe and why you believe it and seek the truth of every matter that is presented before you. I don't vote for anyone based on their skin color or what their opponents say about them. I let their own record and their own words define them. Heck, they're politicians. That could be hard enough to parse through...

“From all this we may learn that there are two races of men in this world, but only these two — the “race” of the decent man and the “race” of the indecent man. Both are found everywhere; they penetrate into all groups of society. No group consists entirely of decent or indecent people.”― Victor Frankel

To draw from the Prager well again, we don't need to reach agreement, just clarity. Or to paraphrase myself, I don't care if you dislike me as long as you dislike the real me.

Matthew 12:25 NIV

Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, "Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand.

Different context? Yes, but Jesus' words and this principle seem pretty clear. Let's figure out what we can agree on and work from there...

With that knowledge, maybe the decent can join together on the things we have in common and passionately yet politely discuss the rest. I believe we can do this if we try hard enough. Regardless of our different creeds etc. True tolerance doesn't mean everybody will think and feel and act the same way about everything. It just means, to quote the Rev. Rodney know.


Friday, June 13, 2014

Nice IS (Often) Different Than Good

My son and his awesome drama troupe did Into The Woods this past spring and you can learn a lot in the woods. In the song I Know Things Now we find little Red Riding Hood straight from being rescued from the belly of the Big Bad Wolf singing this. "Mother said, "Straight ahead," Not to delay or be misled. I should have heeded Her advice... But he seemed so nice." We can a learn from this line alone. Sometimes, "old", "ancient", "out of date" advice is really wisdom.

I Know Things Now from Into The Woods by Steven Sondheim

Mother said, "Straight ahead," Not to delay or be misled.
I should have heeded Her advice... But he seemed so nice.

And he showed me things Many beautiful things,
That I hadn't thought to explore.
They were off my path, So I never had dared.
I had been so careful, I never had cared.
And he made me feel excited- Well, excited and scared.

When he said, "Come in!" With that sickening grin,
How could I know what was in store?
Once his teeth were bared, Though, I really got scared-
Well, excited and scared-

But he drew me close And he swallowed me down,
Down a dark slimy path Where lie secrets that I never want to know,
And when everything familiar Seemed to disappear forever,
At the end of the path Was Granny once again.
So we wait in the dark Until someone sets us free,
And we're brought into the light, And we're back at the start.

And I know things now, Many valuable things,
That I hadn't known before:
Do not put your faith In a cape and a hood,
They will not protect you The way that they should.
And take extra care with strangers, Even flowers have their dangers.
And though scary is exciting, Nice is different than good.

Now I know: Don't be scared.
Granny is right, Just be prepared.

Isn't it nice to know a lot!
And a little bit not...

Proverbs 14:12 NCV
New Century Version
Some people think they are doing right, but in the end it leads to death.

Red found that out the hard way and if not for the courage of the fearless butcher...excuse me baker Red and Grandma would have been lost. There ARE times to get off the beaten path but wisdom would suggest not at the invitation of a wolf.

There are things in this world that SEEM nice and beautiful and fair and good. But nice is often different than good. It would be nice to just raise the minimum wage for everyone. But not necessarily good. You can't just start paying all of your employees higher ages without consequences. If your company only makes so much money and suddenly is required to pay out a lot more money what do you do. Contrary to popular believe not every business owner is rolling in dough and exploiting their workers. Most small and medium business owners are fighting for their own survival. So what happens when the government acts nice and forces them to page a higher wage than they can afford? It's most likely that one of two things will happen. Either they comply and pass the difference on to their customers (because the government can't suddenly make the business a lot more revenue) or they can keep their prices the same, raise the wages the pay and (because the government can't suddenly make the business a lot more revenue) let some employees go. Raise, nice. Laid off, different than good.

Or *transgender bathrooms for elementary school children.
(*Click on link for full article.)

Transgender Bathroom Rights Bill Passed By California Lawmakers

By DON THOMPSON 07/03/13 09:01 PM ET EDT

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- California lawmakers approved a bill Wednesday that would require public K-12 schools to let transgender students choose which restrooms they use and which school teams they join based on their gender identity instead of their chromosomes.

Some school districts around the country have implemented similar policies, but the bill's author says AB1266 would mark the first time a state has mandated such treatment by statute.

The issue has become a battle in some local school districts around the country. For instance, a Colorado family filed a complaint with the state's civil rights office in March, claiming that their local school had violated the state's nondiscrimination laws. The family had been told that their first-grader, who was born a boy, could not use the girl's bathroom and would have to use the restroom in the nurse's office or the teachers' lounge.
California's bill would give students the right "to participate in sex-segregated programs, activities and facilities" based on their self-perception, regardless of their birth gender."There should be certainty that every kid has the chance to go to school and be treated equally and fairly," said Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, who carried the bill in the Senate. "We know that these particular students suffer much abuse and bullying and denigration. We can't change that overnight, but what we can do is make sure that the rules are such that they get a fair shake."

That may seem nice and good and beautiful and fair for the minute portion of the elementary school population that identifies themselves as transgender. Please hear me. I AM NOT ADVOCATING BULLYING, NAME CALLING, ETC. But you literally cannot be nice and fair to all parties in this instance. You cannot be fair to the children who do identify with their own gender and are uncomfortable with sharing a bathroom with the opposite sex and with the children who are not comfortable within their own birth gender. Please forgive the Star Trek analogy here but you cannot always sacrifice the needs of the many for the needs of the few...

Our society is becoming so fragmented and relativistic that it could soon be impossible to say anything is nice, good, fair or beautiful because there are so many views of what is nice, good, fair or beautiful.
It's nice to say that everything is equally good. Everything is equally beneficial to society. It's actually impossible to live out tolerance of everything. To do so, you would have to be tolerant of...the "intolerant". Which isn't "nice"...

In the words of the Rev. L. Red Riding Hood "Now I know: Don't be scared. Granny is right, Just be prepared. Isn't it nice to know a lot! And a little bit not..." 

There are so many other instances in life when it would be great just to be nice. There is much wisdom to be found in the ancient, old-fashioned bible. And yes, I do admit there are things that are very difficult to reconcile, comprehend, interpret and apply in our modern world. But with a great deal of patience, study and discernment it is actually good, if not always nice. Sometimes it is better and even best to gain from the knowledge and wisdom of the past.

Rev. Hood also said "And I know things now, Many valuable things, That I hadn't known before: Do not put your faith In a cape and a hood, They will not protect you The way that they should.And take extra care with strangers, Even flowers have their dangers.
And though scary is exciting, Nice is (often) different than good."

Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Roller Coaster of Musical Love

I am a full time musician. My professional life is in many ways based on this one concept. A lifetime of training bringing you to a moment of freedom. In other words, do your homework and be prepared because you never quite know what is coming around the corner.

A few weeks ago, I went to sit in with some other musicians as a bass player. I didn't know the lineup of musicians and since it was supposed to be a pretty small group I brought my keyboard, affectionately named Fanny Roland, to play a few backing tracks if we needed to. As it turned out, the group was minus a keyboard player that day but had a drummer. So suddenly my bass gig turned into a keyboard gig. I ended up sightreading the gig on keys as opposed to bass. I am not a stellar reader but I know my way around, though I was very I didn't have to sight read the head (melody) on all these tunes. It was a great first time thing for me. I am a pro on both instruments but in a jazz setting I am virtually never the keyboard player. This was a time where the years of training really paid off.

Jazz is not just JAZZ:
Not every musician is interested in jazz, as far as they know. But I think our perception of jazz is often limited. I think much of the best music in all styles could be classified as jazz, as the simplest definition of Jazz is improvised music. "A broader definition that encompasses all of the radically different eras of jazz has been proposed by Travis Jackson: he states that "it is music that includes qualities such as swing, improvising, group interaction, developing an 'individual voice', and being open to different musical possibilities".[8] An overview of the discussion on definitions is provided by Krin Gabbard, who argues that "jazz is a construct" that, while artificial, still is useful to designate "a number of musics with enough in common to be understood as part of a coherent tradition".[9] In contrast to the efforts of commentators and enthusiasts of certain types of jazz, who have argued for narrower definitions that exclude other types, the musicians themselves are often reluctant to define the music they play. Duke Ellington, one of jazz's most famous figures, summed up this perspective by saying, "It's all music".[10]"

I do music in a very wide variety of settings. For instance, I play with my own band as well as several others. I play/sing for my worship team at church and I also lead worship. I am often asked at rehearsals, "Are we going to do it just like that Sunday?" My answer is usually something along the lines of "There's always that possibility, but just watch me and be ready for anything..." Worship is often jazz regardless of the musical style. Because sometimes things happen in the moment and you don't want to stifle God if you have prepared but He has something else in mind. The same can be true of any type of show, concert etc. Sometimes 8 bars is just not enough time for a soloist to tell the entire story, so you go another 8. Even if it's straight up rock that just became jazz, improvised music.
So any time you are playing beyond just what you learned or what you are reading it's jazz.

"Throughout the Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, and Romantic periods, improvisation was a highly valued skill. J.S. Bach,Handel, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Liszt, and many other famous composers and musicians were known especially for their improvisational skills."

Jazz is not just advanced harmony and swing rhythm etc, it's musical freedom regardless of what form of music you are playing.

I want to invite you to come see the Aaron Gayden Band and experience... Well, it's like a musical roller coaster and only God Himself knows where the tracks will run! I think you'll enjoy yourself. Even if we're playing rock or R&B or Gospel we're still playing jazz.

Aaron Gayden Music Services:
Are you a young or inexperienced musician? Are you looking to broaden your horizons musically? Are you a trained musician that feels stuck or limited? Do you want to be able to play more than just what is on the page? Then you are interested in "jazz". If you are interested in learning how to stretch your musical muscles, please talk to me. I am in the wonderful position of being able to in my small way teach freedom. I teach bass, keyboard, voice and how to "jazz"up your musical life. One more of my musical services is custom music. I can help you arrange/record your original song or compose/record/perform a song for your special event. (Wedding, graduation, birthday, etc)

Contact me and let's take a roller coaster ride!

For a live shot of jazz...

Aaron Gayden Band Live June 6 and June 21

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

It's Not About Me: But I Actually Am Me...

First things first. Read this article which was sent to me by a wonderful friend of mine.

Are We Headed For A Crash: Reflections On The Current State Of Evangelical Worship

Here are a few excerpts:
"Last week I spent a couple of days attending the National Worship Leader Conference, hosted by Worship Leader Magazine, featuring many well-known speakers and worship leaders. The conference was held about 15 minutes down the road from me, so it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. I’m glad I went."

"It’s good for worship leaders to experience this kind of wide-exposure from time to time, and the National Worship Leader Conference certainly provides it."

"Yet throughout the conference, at different sessions, with different worship leaders, from different circles, using different approaches, and leading with different bands, I picked up on a common theme. It’s been growing over the last few decades. And to be honest, it’s a troubling theme. And if this current generation of worship leaders doesn’t change this theme, then corporate worship in evangelicalism really is headed for a major crash.
It's a good, true and interesting article. I've always maintained that balance is the hardest thing to find. As a part-time worship leader I try to keep to one original song per service these days. Because I don't lead frequently enough for the congregation to stay familiar with my music. When I was full time I would introduce a new song (mine or anyone else's) 3 weeks in a row to allow the congregation to digest it. I make a point to try to put songs in a key where the melody doesn't go higher than a certain note, in order to make songs as physically easy to sing as possible. There are congregations, such as at Tommy Walker's church that have developed a culture of participation in worship even with very complicated music. And I have heard of people being very accusatory towards Tommy for showboating with his guitar, when literally nothing could be farther from the truth. But the person was not part of his church's worship culture."

It's a conundrum. I am not moved by a lot of the worship music that comes out so I don't use it when I lead. I am often disappointed by the fact that there are often several near identical versions of the same worship song recorded by different worship bands and artists. I often find it creatively lazy and not honoring our very creative God... But I am not a "standard issue" type of person in general. I am the guy who just did a live remix of Birdland and Mustang Sally after all. So I am obviously not a normal person...

I know it's a problem, especially when a self proclaimed worship junkie can't even follow along and engage in worship.But I am not sure of how to address that problem... It's very hard to lead people along a path you are not on. Every sincere Worship Leader wants to take people into the presence of God. But not very worship leader is in tune with his inner Chris Tomlin. (For the record, I led worship this past weekend and did both The Wonderful Cross and Take My Life voluntarily and virtually without alteration. He is just the first name that came to mind.) But as a writer, I literally can't fanthom a worship world where we all fit into one universal cookie cutter shape for worship. As creative people, Christians are so often told how great it is when we "use our gifts for the Lord". Sometimes with an underlying implication of instead of using them for "yourself" out in the world. For some our creativity is our livelihood. And if we didn't use our gifts in the world we'd either have to work outside of our gifting and many, possibly most have to do so, or work only in ministry which is rare and often very limiting. And if the fact that we write our own music is part of the problem with worship today that puts a serious damper on using ones gifts "for the Lord"...

As an aside, I truly believe we are doing a huge disservice to this generation of musicians by teaching them how to NOT read music. I am not even the sight reader that I should be, but if I were the king of the forest I would destroy virtually every chord and lyric sheet in existence and decree that lead sheets be mandatory. I wouldn't really go quite that far. At least put the chord over the right word. But I do believe we have some very bad musical habits in most churches that you could quite frankly make a case for them being dishonoring to music itself if not to God. Case in point, electronic drums are often teaching young drummers how to lack musicality (DYNAMICS) by just turning down their volume and playing as hard as they want. (I've even heard a drummer friend extend that to drum shields...) And I mean after all, isn't the Creator of the universe worth more than just three triads. David said I I'll not offer a sacrifice that cost me nothing. But I am a extended harmony snob and I digress. That said, for the record, I live to worship singing Revelation Song and How He Loves (oops that has four chords and one is a minor 7 chord). I only recently succumbed to my natural tendency to "blackify everything", in the words of my good friend and brother The Reverend Dr. Dave Pettway, and reharmonized How He Loves for the Northern California Gospel Music Festival... *Pett, these days I am very prone to Latinizing and/or reggaefying everything but I am as God made me...

Life IS a complex thing... And finding balance in worship is no less complex than life itself. Not every worship leader is a songwriter. Nor is every worship leader *MADD like I am. (Musical Attention Deficit Disorder) I guess the best thing to do is as worship leaders is search our hearts and try to prioritize pleasing the Lord and bringing His children into His presence and helping lead the lost into His arms above all else and earnestly working on making the HOW most appropriate for the culture of where we are leading. And of course, destroying all the chord and lyrics sheets and electronic drums... I'm trying to be kidding about that...

Saturday, January 18, 2014

All We Are Saying Is Give Them A Chance

It constantly breaks my heart that as a society we have come to value virtually everything more than a human fetus. I am greatly saddened and enraged for every woman and girl who is impgregnated against her will by some horrible act of violence and violation. But this is not by any means a large statistical number of the abortions that occur. I am devastated by the number of abortions that either for convenience or fear or, I am sad to say it, whatever excuse women choose. Am I saddened for the the teen who finds herself pregnant after her first sexual experience? Yes. But whatever circumstance arises a much better choice is to allow SOMEBODY to decide to raise a helpless newborn baby. SOMEBODY will CHOOSE a BABY regardless of ethnicity, birth defect or even an extremely short life expectancy. People love babies, people want babies, we must protect them in order to give willing parents a chance to do so.

Otherwise we are no better than the various members of the animal kingdom that eat their young. I beg you, please don't get me wrong I really don't condemn anyone for their choice even when they come to it frivolously. How can I condemn someone who Jesus has literally died to forgive? But I do not and cannot condone the practice of abortion. There IS a difference between saying "I believe you've made a terrible mistake." and saying "I think you're a terrible person." WE ALL make terrible mistakes. But this one happens to be a moral mistake we are making as a society and it is destroying our very moral fiber. What is more helpless, what deserves our protection more than a human fetus? After all a human fetus does not become a harp seal, it becomes a human. This rampant destruction of so called tissue is child sacrifice and we are willfully blind not to see it.

Abortion Statistics In America From
"If the statistical data by age groups is taken into consideration, women in their 20s top the group with 58 percent of the total cases of induced abortion, followed by women in their 30s with 22 percent cases and women below 20 accounting for 18 percent of the total cases.
Of the overall cases of abortion, girls belonging to the age group of 17-19 constitute for 11 percent of the cases, those in the age group of 15-18 constitute for 6 percent and those who are 14 and below constitute 0.4 percent of the total cases."
Andrea Bocelli's Story

The child you save may or may not be the next Andrea Bocelli or the next "your favorite famous or important person's name here" but EVERY child deserves the chance to become whatever God had in mind for him or her to become. Every person has significance and value, whether they become President, a doctor, a car salesman or a person that has to be cared for their entire life. Someone is willing to care for raise and nurture that child if given a chance.

Why Women Get Abortions
The three reasons focused on in the article above are:
Financial Instability
Negative Impact on the Mother's Life
Relationship Problems and/or Unwillingness To Be A Single Mother

These issues appear to be seen solely through the prism of "This child is going to ruin my life if I have it." This supposes that if you have a baby you have to keep the baby. Believe me, if you don't want to have a child we don't want you to raise a child. we just want you to have the child some some loving family can. The vast majority of these issues could be addressed through adoption. A 9 month detour to save a human life. Why do we as a society almost completely disregard the most loving, compassionate and beautiful option? It is quite difficult to adopt a child in America and quite easy to abort one. This is not a good thing for society. It's an incredibly callous method of troubleshooting or problem solving. Why destroy life when you don't have to?

I don't say any of this callously or without compassion. And I know I will never know what it feels like to be pregnant and feel trapped. For that I apologize. But I have held a baby in my arms and thought "You're so beautiful!" And when I think back to those moments I think "How could someone want to kill you?" When an unwanted pregnancy happens why can't our reasoned logical thought be that when we say. "You have options." the assumption is that we mean you can have the child adopted as opposed to "We can make that go away."?

I don't want to see anyone's life destroyed by having to raise a child while one is a child. I don't even want to see someone's life inconvenienced because they are not ready. I don't wish for anyone to be a mother if for whatever reason they deem it the wrong time for them. But the answer is not to destroy life before it can blossom. I almost never speak in absolutes but here goes. I will say it again. There is ALWAYS someone willing to love a baby. All we are saying is please, please give them a chance.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Who Do YOU Think I Think I Am?

The Question: How well do we know one another? Or even ourselves for that matter.
It can be answered in many ways.
The first question I threw out was in my game called Who Do You Think I Think I Am? was this: who do YOU think are my five favorite bass players. The answers were quite good  but no one got them all correct for right now in my life. I am going to keep asking questions regarding different aspects of myself and I hope others do the same. It seems a safe way to get under each others skin a little. Safely and in a good way ;-)

Here we're MY answers to the first round of the game. Enjoy and deploy!

 Spoiler Alert: Here are my 5 Top Bassists of all time. No particular order. This is my knee jerk list at the time I posted the Dare.

 Marcus Miller: master and innovator on so many levels, ruthless tone and probably finds his way onto the playlist more than anyone. 

Jimmy Haslip: Formerly of The Yellowjackets. I have logged more miles with the Jackets in my ear than even Marcus. I hope he finds his thumb now that there is a place for it... Love his tone, touch and taste. He moves me. 

Pino Pallidino: When i Hear fretless i THINK Pino. New York Minute/Don Henley  :-) :-) :-) 

Nathan East: POCKET, POCKET, POCKET .....   TASTE   ...... POCKET
Neil Stubenhaus: Back in the day, most times when I would look up the liner notes on a CD to find out "Who is the bass player? He isn't playing anything and it feels soooo good! " it would be Stubenhaus, The King of the Perfect Nothing! Taste and pocket for eons...but even more subtle than Nathan somehow...

Fred Hammond and his bass players Maurice Fitzgerald and Terrance Palmer. I have to include all three because of the sheer mileage and rewind factor... The baselines are Fred but many of the live interpretations are Mo and TP and expand on the original siqueness recipe! 

Honorable Mentions:
BRUTAL list to whittle down! 1st some honorable mentions go to Jaco, James Jamerson and Stanley: They are the DNA. THE SPOCK to our collective Sheldon Cooper... Without them the others wouldn't know to exist, if you know what I mean.

Abe Sr. Favorite live! I haven't seen everyone of my faves live, but how do you experience more than experiencing Abraham Laboriel Sr. Live!? I don't think I can be done. I just don't :-)
Chariya Bissonette, this is for you! EVEN had you not checked in, EVEN IF I DIDNT KNOW YOU GUYS, Matt Bissonette would have gotten this HM. Julian Lennon Help Yourself: Years after I met you, Chariya, the lightbulb came on and I realized that Matt played bass on it. Not only an all time fave but an all time fave BASS ALBUM long before I knew or even KNEW I knew the bass player...

Other honorables I would have or may have mentioned: (in a knee jerk first that come to mind basis)
Aaron Mills/Cameo TONE & lines
Prince: Lines
Verdeen: Lines
Victor: Holy!!

I think that most of this list was compiled in this manner. Consistently through my life to this point, which players have most shaped me directly:
How I listen to music, am I listening for bass specifically?
How often do I come back to this music?
Has it changed me? How I play, hear or think about The Bass
Do or how much do I have think or woodshed to play and sing this baseline?
Probably, the greatest factor is how much do I come back to it, because that seems to inform everything else...

Missing honorable mentions:  James Neuble and Cedric Lee. Both phenomenal bassists that I have worked with and have graced me by allowing me to wield their axes a time or two. But most of what I have gotten to hear of Jimmy and Ced has been tempered with this. When I hear them I am required to not cease to do my job while they throw down. AND THEY DO! But I still have to singing/playing/running loops etc and specifically not let myself by completely absorbed into the Borg of Funk! Even though I would become mo'phunky it would keep me from leading worship if I let myself go all the way DOWN TO THE BASSMENT...

FIVE IS WAY TOO SHORT. THE LIST IS SUBJECT TO CHANGE. Thank you for coming along on this Fantastic Voyage!
Hint for a future list or two. Heartbreak Hotel by The Jackson's and Teen Town by Jaco

Stay tuned for future Who Do You Think I Think I Am? DARES! And don't forget this bonus question: How did Who Do You Think I Think I Am? get it's name? Want a hint? PLEASE post your own WDYTITIA? DARES :-)

Saturday, January 11, 2014

A Tale of Two Presents

I have been sick literally all year and then some. Actually, since the day after Christmas. So I am pretty excited to be up to lashing words together at length.

Today we are going to talk about the a glorious convergence of two of my favorite things.
Christmas and music. God bless us Amazon. Let me get this straight. I live Christmas probably more than anyone you know not named Buddy. I just realized I wrote live instead of love back there but both are true so I'm leaving it. Also, it's not about the presents. Ask my kids, they will probably still be able to tell you what I want is world peace. Meaning for everybody in the house to be getting along and truly happy and honestly pleasant... But we have a big wonderful family, so the Amazon wish list is indispensable. All that to say I scored all the way around but I just happened to actually review two presents formally during my convalescence.

First, Sting's The Last Ship Super Deluxe Amazon Exclusive

5.0 out of 5 stars Great change of venue! Typical genius! One caveat !,

I am a full-time professional singer, songwriter, bassist and keyboardist. Sting has always been my gleefully dark side, so to speak. He's such a storyteller. Better yet, in keeping with the adage that a picture paints a thousand words, he's a master painter. Top to bottom The Last Ship carries you in a bittersweet, raucous, heartbreaking AND heartwarming journey through the seaside town, the ships being built and the Theater, for which the songs have been crafted.

For me, Sting's music tends to be a tasty dish that is constantly comfortingly familiar yet filled with surprise. He has themes and threads he loves to weave thru his entire body of work. From winks, nods and suggestions to direct self quotations in various songs across the decades it's like a musical train tour through England. From The Last Ship, to The Night The Pugilist Learned How To Dance (my current favorite), to Practical Arrangement he takes you there. It's like A Christmas Carol except you're whisked around by a spirit into the lives of the characters in the song, not your own past, present and future. What more could you ask for?

Well, there is ONE thing I could've asked for. There are two F-Bombs in Jock The Singing Welder. I could've lived without them, particularly, as my first listen was with my wife and early adolescent son. Not so much that they are there or gratuitous or whatever. We just didn't see them coming. As you can see, I still gave the album five stars. I just would've appreciated a heads up.

In the words of the truly great, Reverend Gordon Sumner, "It may not be the romance that you had in mind,
But you could learn to love me,
Given time."

Gordo, you had me at Roxanne and you have me at The Last Ship. I can't imagine how you could lose me...
In fact, If I Should Lose My Faith...

P.S. I'm a devout Christian with the terrible habit of honoring great turns of phrase by designating the author "the Reverend" "Right Reverend" "Reverend Dr." etc insert wordsmith's name here. (It's usually Donald Henley, American Treasure) I love words, so it's essentially my personal version of a Pulitzer Prize, an Oscar or the Congressional Medal of Honor. They aren't necessarily or necessarily not given to preachers and I mean disrespect to no one ( nor the above honors) on any level. That's just how I roll. For the uninitiated, Gordon Sumner (Also referred to as Gordo) IS Sting and is NOT, nor is likely become a minister. The same goes for "THE DON".

5.0 out of 5 stars Quality time with your music teacher AND your wife/girlfriend that SHE will EAGERLY sign up for...

Marcus Miller: The ONLY Artist I can consistently expect to still be playing when I get back in the car when my wife has been driving at length! I was reminded of this album when I was looking for a Christmas present for my pastor, who happens to be a phenomenal bass player. Long story short, he already had it, it ended up on my wish list and subsequently among my presents. We put in A Night In Monte Carlo for our annual pilgrimage across California on Christmas afternoon. That was over two weeks and a thousand miles ago. I've been sick and laid up in the house most of that time (including the trip home). Marcus is still playing... And at least during one of the few times when I was both in the car and conscious I heard my wife say, most appropriately, "That's just sick!"

Marcus and the Band plus Roy Hargrove & Raul Midon AND the Orchestra.
Plenty of nasty and tasty improv. Interwoven are some sick unison lines that carry so much force with the weight of Marcus' Bass (capitalized intentionally) the band and orchestra. Stanky, quirky, butter smooth, lyrical, haunting, jaw-dropping, ruthless, beautiful, funky....SIQUE! In all it's a work of art, a master class in multiple bass techniques and arrangement, composition, orchestration, interpretation...AND great for DATE NIGHT!

Granted my wife is musical, but not nearly the funk/fusion head that I am. I play a lot of "musician music" around the house and in the car, Yellowjackets, Karizma, Ricky Peterson, George Benson, Miles, Trane... But I only expect Marcus to still be playing when I get back to the car.

...and thereby hanger a tale...