My Five Essential Jazz Recordings

Saxophone

I am not a jazz expert, but I wish I was one.

My jazz experience began in high school and continued through college, right up until the moment when I realized I had taken my saxophone abilities as far as I could. I saw the wall, I could touch it… and I knew that whatever I needed to break it down, was not in me.

For those that aren’t certain what I mean, I’m talking about feeling the music in your own performance and then claiming it. Oh, I could play a song that was put on the stand in front of me, I could even do a “successful” solo. (I put that in quotes, because why it might sound good to the audience that day, I knew I was just repeating what I did the last time I performed the tune.) In other words, I was merely doing what I needed to do.

See, I’ve never been the kind of person to be satisfied with just “doing what I needed to do,” and this is especially true around the arts. If, for example, I am to write a book, it needs to be different from every other book you may pick up. And if it is in a genre, it will break the mold. If this sounds arrogant or bombastic, you are right. For that is how I see myself. I claim it. I am loud. You pick up a Scott Southard work and you will get something unique and different, nothing cookie-cutter. And I could never be that for jazz with my saxophone so I dropped being a music major, walked away from the music muse and ran over to the one that oversaw writers.

As much as I know my own limitations, accepted them, and my saxophone continues to gather dust in my closet, I still love jazz. I read books on artists, have watched Ken Burns’ documentary on Jazz numerous times, and collect jazz on vinyl. My weekends begin with the scratchy sound of the needle dropping, and doesn’t stop until the kids are asleep.

Below are my five favorite recordings, with my reasons and links. These are the one that stir me, inspire me, and make me wish I was something more than I am. I can’t give you reasons why they are important like an expert could for Mr. Ken Burns, I can only say, “this for me is jazz.” Continue reading

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Five Things I Am Into Right Now, July 2014

Scooby GangThis might as well be called my month of nerd. With the continuously releasing news about Star Wars Episode 7, Doctor Who, The Hobbit, and everyone else fantastical, I’m in many ways in nerd heaven. Heck, I even thought the last season of Game of Thrones was the best one so far (which I wrote about here)! And there have even been rumblings about Indiana Jones!

Now, here is the thing that has been obsessing me more than any other (possibly making me a king of the nerds)- I’ve got an idea for a Scooby-Doo movie.

You know how they seem to release one to two direct-to-video Scooby-Doo cartoon each year? Some are great (and I have seen them all, so I can judge), some are okay and some are frankly bad (for example, when Shaggy sings a love song to his alien girlfriend). Well, I have an idea/plot/synopsis for a Scooby-Doo cartoon movie and it is doozy.

I’m not joking! I have an idea for a Scooby-Doo animated movie and it would be freaking great!

The trick (and it is a big trick) is figuring out how (and who) to throw my synopsis at. You see I would love to write this script (and it wouldn’t take me long), I just need to know if it would be read before I go to the trouble of doing it. So here I sit, twiddling my thumbs trying to figure out exactly how someone gets a message into the world of WB Animation. Seriously, I have no clue.

Now before anyone worries, I won’t be changing anything we know about Scooby-Doo if this script is picked up and the beats we all expect in his stories. I don’t want to break the mold; I just want to create a fun adventure in that world. Also, as a parent of two little kids who are obsessed with Scooby-Doo, it would be really great to do something like that for them.

“Hey kids, guess what? Your dad wrote a Scooby-Doo movie. Want to watch it?”

Oh, these are all just dreams, I get that. Without contacts or an agent (who works specifically with writers around this) to go to WB Animation and pitch the idea, it will only be a fun daydream. I just can’t help but dream… dream of Scooby Snacks and pizzas covered in ice cream, anchovies, pickles, hamburgers, and salami, that is.

Now on to my very nerdy list for this month! Continue reading

Drums and Kings: Turning Forty

Gandalf by Ted Nasmith I have always been a book nerd.

A great example of what I mean is my first reaction to J.R.R Tolkien’s masterpiece The Lord of the Rings. I read the book that first time when I was around nine and while I loved it, my favorite moment was probably not the same as for other readers.

There is this wonderful chapter in the first book The Fellowship of the Rings called “The Bridge of Khazad-dum.” For those that don’t know or remember, this is the lowest point for the fellowship as they run to escape the dark of Moria, pursued by unspeakable evils. Yes, I worried about the heroes but really what made me sit up straight and take note was what Tolkien did in his writing and I had never seen anything like it before.

The orcs and goblins chasing our team were using drums but their drums were more than drums. They were speaking.

Doom, boom, doom, went the drums in the deep.

They are relentless, and obviously doing more than simply beating. They are screaming a warning, building to a crescendo over the course of the chapter until finally at the end Gandalf is lost and the drums then fade into the distance, leaving the fellowship and the readers all breathless.

But for me, I wasn’t breathless because of the action and the loss.

No…

I wanted to know how Tolkien did that.

Continue reading

The New Kid in the Audience: A Holiday Confessional

Hi, my name is Scott and I’m a Christmas-aholic. It has been two hours since I last listened to Nat King Cole sing “The Christmas Song.”

I love this season.

I always have.

I look forward to putting up the tree and buying presents (many times I have been known to do this in September and October… the presents, not the tree).

I love the stories that come up each year.  A Christmas Carol is in my opinion one of the few perfect works in literature (Right up there with Pride and Prejudice). Continue reading

The Nat King Cole Inside My Head

I am obsessed with The Beatles, I adore Belle and Sebastian, I’ve seen They Might Be Giants five times in concert, and I can’t stop playing the new Fiona Apple CD… but Nat King Cole is the musical comfort food for my soul.

I have read a few biographies about him over the years, and as amazing of a life he had, it’s always hard for me to connect him to his voice. Frankly, his voice is so engrained into my own life, it is hard to think that it once even belonged to someone else, as strangely as that sounds. I don’t feel his struggles against racism in his career and his growth from jazz pianist to just a singer fronting a band in a studio, lost in the business of just singing singles hoping for a hit, when I listen to his music.

I hear my own life in his voice, in his performing, making each recording I adore something akin to a special gift. Continue reading

Introducing Your Child to Jazz

Recently, I’ve been listening to jazz a lot with my children. What can I say? It is like comfort food for me. I play it in the morning, around dinner time; it’s a Scott thing. Anyway, it got me thinking of an article I wrote a while back for Green Spot Blue (a literary parenting online magazine) about jazz and parenting.

In it, I recommend some records for the young listener and give some parental suggestions on how to listen to the music with the younglings.

Here is the beginning of the article:

As parents we all want the best for our kids, and our plans are filled with the best intentions.  Many times this relates to music and our desire for our kids to know more than just what is on the pop stations. Some parents may try to listen to classical more, but for me I have always chosen jazz. Jazz, above all other music genres, seems to me to sing of creativity, the thrill of thinking outside the box. Songs are filled with experimentations, expressions. You feel love more, you feel pain more. There is a story there that surpasses any you may hear in the lyrics of a country song.

The problem is that many times when we parents sit back and look at our own musical choices, we can’t help but feel guilty. Usually it is the same artists, the same albums; we return to the comfort of what we like the most, not realizing that our child is hearing the same thing again… and again… and again….

Well, for the parent that wants to introduce their child to America’s great original artform, might I recommend 7 classical jazz albums to share with the family. Consider this an opportunity to lose The Wiggles, this is an introduction to jazz.

I go on in the article to recommend work by Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Louis Armstrong, Charles Mingus, and others. You can check out the article here.

I still stand by my anti-Wiggles statement.

Music and My Writing Brain

I first learned the power of music in my writing while I was an undergrad in college. At that time, I was working on a story and for some unexplained reason I had to listen to The Nutcracker by Tchaikovsky (This happens, now and then I get taken over by a certain “sound”). Anyway, so there I was in a writing class (it might have been a writing table, I don’t remember which) and I started to read the story… And I began to notice that the meter in my words mirrored Dance of the Sugarplum Fairies.

Yes, without realizing it, my character’s speech was actually set to music. I had to fight to control my giggles, now imagining my character on toes as he was speaking. I’m sure my reading began to seem ridiculous to the other writers there, but at that moment I knew I had a problem… and, of course, I knew I was going to have to rewrite the entire speech.

Well, since then I have figured out the potential impact music can have on my writing. While I have not let the cadence of a song take over a story again, certain artists and music became part of the creation process for me around different works.  Sometimes I use them to influence a mood I am hoping to create, sometimes they are just simply the soundtrack for the “world” I am “living” in. Here are five examples: Continue reading

Introducing Your Child to Jazz- Some Recommendations

Green Spot Blue has printed a new article by me.  This one is about jazz and how to introduce your child to some of the great artist and records.  Here is an excerpt from the beginning…

As parents we all want the best for our kids, and our plans are filled with the best intentions.  Many times this relates to music and our desire for our kids to know more than just what is on the pop stations. Some parents may try to listen to classical more, but for me I have always chosen jazz. Jazz, above all other music genres, seems to me to sing of creativity, the thrill of thinking outside the box. Songs are filled with experimentations, expressions. You feel love more, you feel pain more. There is a story there that surpasses any you may hear in the lyrics of a country song.

The problem is that many times when we parents sit back and look at our own musical choices, we can’t help but feel guilty. Usually it is the same artists, the same albums; we return to the comfort of what we like the most, not realizing that our child is hearing the same thing again… and again… and again….

Well, for the parent that wants to introduce their child to America’s great original artform, might I recommend 7 classical jazz albums to share with the family. Consider this an opportunity to lose The Wiggles, this is an introduction to jazz.

You can read the rest of the article, as well as the recommendations here.