Listening Back To My Last Year In LA


Schoenberg Hall, my home base at UCLA for four years

Yesterday, I returned to Peñaflor after a brief return trip to Southern California, in which I spent a week with Marina selling our car and finalizing various other aspects of our life together in Los Angeles. I’m happy to report that we have arrived safely—and it is a thrill to have her along for the rest of my time in Chile.

The week-long trip also offered me a chance to reflect on leaving Los Angeles, and although I am incredibly grateful to be moving on to Santiago, it’s always a little sad to say goodbye. What became especially evident during the week—and this is somewhat of a cliché but I’ll say it anyway—is that what I will miss most is being around the tremendously musical, thoughtful, and motivated friends that I made during the past four years. Y’all know who you are: the work you’re doing is an inspiration and I can’t wait to read more about it soon. Curious readers can familiarize themselves to the work of Albert AghaGanavya DoraiswamyDeonte Harris, AJ KluthScott Linford, Alyssa MathiasEric J. Schmidt, Darci Sprengel, and Dave Wilson—just a few of the UCLA scholars I am proud to call friends—at the links above. Catching up with so many of them in such a condensed period of time deepened my appreciation for how much they have taught me.

The other thing that became clear is that a lot happened in the last year and a half of my time in LA, and since I haven’t been documenting it at my blog, I thought it might be a useful exercise to summarize it here, as I have done in previous posts after long episodes away from the blog. Continue reading

Posted in Education, Ethnomusicology, Jazz Journalism, Links | 2 Comments

Remembering My 21st Birthday in Buenos Aires


The Andes Mountains are massive.

Thank you to everyone who has reached out to send birthday greetings—it has been a pleasure to receive them throughout the day.

Scrolling through all of your lovely messages on Facebook and email reminded me of the first day that I remember experiencing the joy of the e-birthday-greeting, when I celebrated my 21st birthday in Buenos Aires, Argentina. I had just started using Facebook that year, and distinctly remember sitting in an internet cafe, slightly hung over, basking in the well wishes from friends and family back home in the States.  Continue reading

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Lubricity Is Back … In Santiago, Chile

My new home: Thelonious, Lugar de Jazz

My new home: Thelonious, Lugar de Jazz

Well, folks: I made it to Santiago. As longtime readers of this blog know, Chile’s jazz scene has already taught me so much about what it means to make music in the world today—and that jazz is thriving all over the world. Last month, I began what will be eight months of ethnographic fieldwork here, inspired by Chile’s jazz lovers to learn more about why people still make jazz happen today, and how that helps us lead meaningful lives. Continue reading

Posted in Chile, Ethnomusicology, Links | 11 Comments

Tigran Hamasyan Review @ LA Weekly

Photo by Alex W. Rodriguez

Tigran Hamasyan (center) and Sam Minaie (left) perform “Hov Arek”

Tigran Hamasyan — The Alex Theatre — 4-22-14

By Alex W. Rodriguez for LA Weekly West Coast Sound

This was my first concert review in a long time — and I had a lot of fun checking this out and putting the review together. Special thanks to my fellow concert attendees AJ Kluth and Alyssa Mathias for coming along and helping out. Also, thanks to Tigran Hamasyan both for the incredible music and for the website shout-out!

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I Know What I’ve Done Since Last Summer


Playing Duke Ellington’s “In a Sentimental Mood” to my beautiful bride Marina.
Photo by Greg Cohen

The last time I posted here, over six months ago, I wrote:

Next up: I’m flying to Chile on Thursday to start a month of fieldwork in South America. Wish me luck on the next step of this adventure—and let’s hope that it generates lots more writing in the near future!

I’ll say! But more than just writing, I have been incredibly fortunate to start this new chapter in my life with projects that incorporate many aspects of what I enjoy, including writing but also music, teaching, improvising, reading, making new friends, and—most important of all—the love of my life, Marina.  Continue reading

Posted in Chile, Education, Ethnomusicology, Jazz Journalism, Links, Trombonists | 5 Comments

New Writing at Ethnomusicology Review and IASPM-US


Brainkiller, whose recent album “Colourless Green Superheroes” is pretty great.


I’ve been writing at a decent clip this month, with pieces now online at the IASPM-US website and the Ethnomusicology Review Sounding Board. Check ’em out:

Music Scenes: Creating Space for Creative Music at LA’s Blue Whale for IASPM-US

CD Review: Book of Omens and Colourless Green Superheroes and

Book Review: People Get Ready: The Future of Jazz is Now! for the Ethnomusicology Review Sounding Board

Next up: I’m flying to Chile on Thursday to start a month of fieldwork in South America. Wish me luck on the next step of this adventure—and let’s hope that it generates lots more writing in the near future!


Posted in Ethnomusicology, Jazz Books, Links, Music Review, Trombonists | 1 Comment

My Dad, The Poet Who Didn’t Even Know It


For a long time, I used to get really jealous of my jazz musician peers who grew up in musical households. So many of today’s great young players—Gerald Clayton, Anthony Wilson, Zack and Adam O’Farrill, the list goes on—come from families of jazz greats (not to mention, of course, the Marsalis Dynasty.) I remember hearing Clayton, for example, as a precocious dreadlocked teenager wowing all of us in jam sessions at the annual Port Townsend Jazz Workshop, where he is now on the teaching faculty, and his dad John is now the Artistic Director.

Even as a young player, I could tell how skillyfully these musicians soaked up new musical ideas, plugging them into a seemingly inborn musical logic. Of course, they woodshedded harder than the rest of us; still, I’ll never forget feeling like they had access to some secret formula. These guys had something special—and everyone knew that their proud papas had a lot to do with it.

What I never realized then, but have since come to appreciate since taking a dive down the Jazz Writing Rabbit Hole four years ago, is that I was getting a similar father-son transmission all along—I just don’t think that either of us knew it before.  Continue reading

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4 Years Majoring in Jazz Writing at WordPress U

Photo courtesy of reddit, dottylemon

Photo courtesy of reddit, dottylemon

When I logged into my WordPress account for the first time in a few weeks this morning, I was greeted by a cheerful note:

Happy Anniversary with! You registered on 4 years ago! Thanks for flying with us. Keep up the good blogging!

Wow — not only is that a lot of exclamation points, but four years is, like, a really long time. For those keeping score at home, that’s one seventh of my life, and the same amount of time that I spent pursuing my B.A. It also reminded me that this blog has roughly coincided with my return to academia as a graduate student — in fact, my first post was also a paper that I wrote for my first class at Rutgers (and later became the introduction to my MA thesis.) I’m not sure quite what to make of the milestone, but I’ve been meaning to put up a stuff-I’ve-been-up-to-recently post anyway, so here it is!  Continue reading

Posted in Education, Ethnomusicology, Links | 3 Comments

Tigran Hamasyan @ Blue Whale: An Improvised Concert Review

Tigran Hamasyan, photo by Rob Gaudet for blue whale

Tigran Hamasyan, photo by Rob Gaudet

On Wednesday night, I finally made it back to my favorite LA jazz club, blue whale. Pianist Tigran Hamasyan was playing a solo show, and I knew that it was going to be something that I’d regret missing. So I carpooled with two friends, Alyssa Mathias and Kristin Gierman, to check it out—and we sure weren’t disappointed! Rather than write a straight-ahead review, though, I thought I’d try something different: an improvised concert review. So after the set, I fired up my audio recorder in the car, we asked each other questions about the set, and I transcribed the result. Check it out after the jump, lightly edited, minus our typically Angeleno debate over which freeways to take home: Continue reading

Posted in Ethnomusicology, Jazz Journalism, Music Review | 1 Comment

Martin Luther King’s Jazz Dream


In MLK Days past, I have shared a famous quote that outlines Martin Luther King, Jr.’s love of jazz, a passage that has been something of a mantra for me ever since I first came across it in 2009.

Today, I’ve linked to it again but also want to share another, perhaps less-well-known quotation that ought to resonate with what jazz can mean for our continued struggle against racism in the United States and around the world.

I first got hip to this quote via the prolific and oftentimes hilarious antiracist advocate John Randolph, aka Jay Smooth. Here’s his video of ten OTHER things MLK said:  Continue reading

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