Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Rottweiler: Linking Up

Hints have been dropped here and there, so I suppose I won't get in hot water now for mentioning that the map I'm working on is designed to link up with other maps. For the last couple of weeks, I've been redrawing it because the hex size on the original was slightly too small. It was good enough to play on, but when set edge-to-edge with a published map, the hexes wouldn't line up.

The new map is a hex or two narrower, so I also needed to adjust the locations of some cities and features. Today I got a full-size printout, and brought it home. I am pleased to report that it lines up quite nicely. I should be able to try some combined-board games sometime soon.

But I did need to make more changes. With the maps joined, it was apparent that some cities at the edges are poorly placed. I had to move a few cities, and rename two of them so that their names would be more appropriate to their new locations.

I did a solo playtest last night on the previous map. The current iteration of the rules and new features held up well, and I liked the way the session played out. But I'm now starting to notice some subtle things about the map: I may change the color of a city or two. Since I print the maps in grayscale and hand-color the cities, I think the new map is ready to be printed. I can think about city colors in the meantime.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

"New Orleans Jazz"

Back in May, I posted about recording with Ted Shafer's Jelly Roll Jazz Band. I was terrifically excited because the other band members are all excellent musicians—some are among the best in the genre. I don't often get to perform with so high-powered a group, and the thought of actually getting a CD of the occasion felt almost overwhelming. Since doing the recording I've been on tenterhooks, waiting for the arrival of the finished CD. Yesterday it arrived!

I'm very happy with the album. The sound quality seems excellent, with good definition and stereo separation, and the voices are well-balanced. I can hear the two cornets as a blend, but I can also "focus down" and hear my own performance, even in the full ensemble parts. The individual performances of the other musicians are wonderful. For my own part I think I managed not to embarrass myself too badly.

Here's an excerpt, the final out chorus from "Ostrich Walk". (Sorry about the cheesy Ken Burns video, but this blog site won't let me post pure audio clips! The artwork is the cover of the CD.)

Purchasing the CD

A few folks have asked, so here's how to get it. (Rest assured, I will not be offended by anyone who doesn't rush to buy a copy. This is a niche music; not everybody loves it like I do!)

The CD is currently available only by mail order. There are a couple of Web sites that offer some of the band's other albums, and I'm hoping they'll have this new one soon. If so, I'll post a link to them. In the meantime, if you want a copy you'll have to do the following:

Make out a check for $16.00 to "Merry Makers Record Company". Send it to the following address, and specify that you want "Ted Shafer's Jelly Roll Jazz Band: New Orleans Jazz -- 50th Anniversary". Be sure to specify this product code: MMRC-CD-38, and of course, don't forget to include your postal address. The $16.00 includes shipping within the continental U.S. If you are not in the U.S., the price is 19.00 USD and includes overseas shipping. Here's the address:

Merry Makers Record Company
926 Beechwood Circle
Suisun City, CA 94585

About the music

This is a two-cornet band in the style of Joe "King" Oliver's Creole Jazz Band (KOCJB), which played in Chicago in the early 1920's. I like to think of the KOCJB as the band that was so hot, they had Louis Armstrong playing second cornet. The Jelly Roll Jazz Band is also influenced by Lu Watters' Yerba Buena Jazz Band, which was the first revival (post-1920's) traditional jazz band, and which established the West Coast style of trad jazz.

My cornet partner in this band is Leon Oakley, possibly the finest living trad jazz cornetist. It is tempting to remain silent in order to claim, by implication, more of the credit than I deserve for the cornet work. But the vast majority of the lead cornet parts and cornet solos are Leon's. (And with good reason!) I mostly play the second (harmony) cornet parts. I do get some solo choruses and breaks, and occasionally an arrangement would call for us to switch parts so that I play lead for a while.

Once you're used to Leon's powerful and assured playing, it's pretty easy to recognize my own lesser efforts. However I will mention that on one number, "Chimes Blues", I do play lead throughout and also play the cornet solo. I was happy with the way that one came out. Also on "King of the Zulus" the first 16-bar cornet solo is Leon's, and the one immediately following is mine; and I play lead on the first chorus following those solos. Leon returns to lead the final out chorus.

Personnel: Leon Oakley and Rick Holzgrafe, cornets; Glenn Calkins, trombone; Pete Main, reeds; Ray Skjelbred, piano; Tom Downs and Howard Miyata, tuba; Bert Thompsen, drums; Ken Keeler and Ted Shafer, banjos. (This band has two cornets and two banjos, but not two tubas! Tom Downs played tuba for one of the two recording sessions, and Howard Miyata played the other. The liner notes specify which tunes each of them played.)

Tune list:
  1. Ostrich Walk
  2. Aunt Hagar's Blues
  3. Alligator Hop
  4. Terrible Blues
  5. Tiger Moan
  6. Snag It
  7. Grandpa's Spells
  8. King of the Zulus
  9. I'm Going Away to Wear You Off My Mind
  10. Chimes Blues
  11. Buddy's Habit
  12. Of All the Wrongs
  13. Krooked Blues
  14. New Orleans Stomp
  15. Jazzin' Babies Blues
  16. Tears
  17. Room Rent Blues
  18. Midnight Mama
  19. Sorry
  20. Bay City
  21. Here Come the Hot Tamale Man

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Librarians Say More Than "Shh!"

My friend J.C. Lawrence passed this along via Twitter: Uncle Bobby's Wedding, a blog post by librarian Jamie Larue. It is an incredibly well-reasoned (and well-written) response to a library patron who wanted a particular book removed or sequestered. I find it remarkable not only for its defense of free speech, but for its respect for the differing points of view found in our heterogenous and contentious society.

(As a side note, Mr. Larue's blog site gave me a little moment of deja vú because it is formatted almost identically to my own. But that's a coincidence.)