Monday, March 9, 2009
Rubik's Cubes and Maria Schneider charts...
There's nothing like a good arse-whupping once in a while to keep me humble and on my toes. Last weekend I was visiting my inlaws and my wife was cleaning out her childhood play house. She brought down a box of assorted goodies including those Strawberry Shortcake dolls, snap-together plastic blocks that my baby son Cameron would like, and a Rubik's Cube. I was planning to take a nap that afternoon ("Sleep when your baby sleeps" screeches the annoying, unrealistic mantra of parenting books... whoever wrote that must have a live-in nanny, cook, housecleaner and a trust fund), but instead I decided I could solve the Rubik's cube in, oh say, an hour tops. This was a real vintage Cube, you can tell because some of the stickers had been removed and replaced, the end game of a frustrated 80's teenager giving up and outsmarting the toy designers by simply moving the damn stickers. A week later, I'm still determined to beat this thing, this hideous piece of bubble economy engineering and spatial-orientation challenge, some nearly thirty years after it first reared its ugly square head. And I'm not going to cheat by moving the stickers... I'm much smarter, clever and patient than I was in junior high school. My wife might beg to differ.
Which brings me to part two: I'm practicing for a concert this Thursday in Sacramento, with vocalists Julia Dollison and Kerry Marsh, and the three of us are doing a program of Maria Schneider's music in preparation for Julia and Kerry's upcoming album. They've worked out vocal arrangements of some of Maria's most challenging music, singing all of the horn parts, and somehow I'm supposed to play the rest of it on piano. So I get the solo on "The Pretty Road", which starts out simple enough as a nice little pop tune in D Flat. But by the time it gets into the solo changes, Maria has me jumping through harmonic hoops faster than a trained tiger in a Siegfried and Roy show. I'm getting my butt kicked, and it's leaving a mark. But it's good for my brain, they say... and the effect of actually getting to the end of that solo without major psychological damage is cathartic, kind of a chord scale sweat lodge with a movable "do" system.
I feel confident that as I get older, as long as there are Rubik's Cubes and Maria Schneider charts around to kick my butt, I won't go senile.