Requiem For A Genre

by SteveHulse on April 17, 2018 · 3 comments

April is Jazz Appreciation month. A month for Jazz Appreciation? Really??
Sigh. I guess I should be miffed about the designation of a single month for a
style of music that has defined most of my life. But the truth is, Jazz is fairly
lucky to get its month at all, considering it is far down on the list of
popular music today.

Maybe that’s one of the reasons I relate more to the ’50’s and ’60’s… jazz
was fairly big back then, as the big band era was just winding down. There
was (and still is, to a degree) a musical iron curtain of country music
around Montana back then. The jazziest thing you could get on Montana
radio in ’57 was Martin Denny’s “Quiet Village.” Gyla Hulse sent me a
Andre Previn & Friends album in ’60 that I wore out. Rick McGregor and
I found a late-night radio program out of Salt Lake City called “Bowen and
All That Jazz” that really helped give us the larger view of how much good
jazz was really out there beyond Hank Williams.

In 1963 I heard Louis Armstrong live in Missoula and that was a kick. But
what really lit my life-long fire for jazz was a Miles Davis album I picked up,
“Someday My Prince Will Come.” The pianist on that album was Wynton
Kelly, and he was making the piano sound exactly the way I would want it
to sound! And what he played was mesmerizing to me! That was the
beginning, right there!

 

 

 

 

 

Wynton Kelly

My love of jazz naturally led me into other avenues of music… composing,
arranging and sound recording. After completing my studies at Berklee I
wrote music for two plays in Toronto, arranged an album for a singer named
Jimmy Helms and got a job as an intern in a recording studio where I learned
audio engineering.

These activities led me to Atlanta, where i enjoyed a 33-year career as a
( gasp! ) jingle writer for Doppler Studios. During that time I composed and
recorded music to 4 movies, dozens of documentaries and corporate films.
Sandy Fuller taught me to be a location sound recorder and helped me start
my own recording studio… which I ran for 30 years.

Being able to make my living in music for all those years was a blessing
I can’t describe. Jazz led me into some incredible music experiences, some
which were barely music related at all. There was a lot of travel, some
photography… I even taught meditation seminars for a short time. But
always my heart brought me back to my beloved jazz.

A little-known side benefit of playing jazz is the fact that it makes one a
more versatile musician… being a decent jazz player usually means we
can play three or four other styles of music with ease. Piano players and
guitar players benefit the most from this, being able to play country music
and rock and roll very easily. Being able to walk into a club, hear their band
play two or three tunes, then sit in with them and blend in perfectly… that’s
a kick for both the band and the jazzer! I’ve had so much fun sitting in with
strange bands over the years, making new friends in the process!

Funny, how a style of music, and the love of it can guide a person’s entire
life. For most of my career I tried to make my music assignments as jazzy
as my clients would allow, always hoping that its inherent tonal sophistication
would somehow magically transform the listener, or at least raise their
musical taste a notch. Not sure it ever worked, but it was fun trying. and
always, always, I hoped that the emotional power of instrumental jazz
would reach the vast audiences of the world who seemed to need a singer
and a lyric to help them feel the music. I continue to hope it might still happen.

One of my favorite benefits of loving jazz and playing it came in the form of
blurring the lines of racial distinction, then erasing them altogether! Playing
deep into the Boston nights with the black musicians in an after-hours club,
my Montana-born racial prejudices dissipated into thin air and were then
flushed into extinction by the jazz, the harmony, the singleness of purpose
we created. A late evening of hot jazz, Johnny Walker and some fried chicken
began a brotherly love and respect for all races that has never left me. A fine
jazz drummer, Reid Jorgenson of Boston introduced me to the Pioneer Club
and life in Boston after 2 a.m. and I will never forget him for it, or for
all the other great times we had playing together!

A huge benefit of playing good jazz is the spiritual connection it suggests for
those of us jazzers who are looking for an intangible power outside the scope
of organized religions. Good jazz soloists can all relate to the special feeling
of “playing beyond ourselves,” experiencing a “high,” an out-of body, beyond
time and space period when our playing level rises above our normal
capabilities, and seems to be flowing from somewhere outside of
ourselves, or perhaps from an intangible source inside ourselves. Whatever,
it’s real and it’s powerful… powerful enough to give many of us a quiet
personal strength along with a daily guidance that can be tapped into
outside the realm of music.

Atlanta was, for me, a great town for jazz. From ’72 ’till now, there are
world class jazz musicians who live and work there, many whom I’ve been
lucky enough to play with. I would mention them by name, but the fear of
missing one stops me from doing it.

Finally, I continue to love jazz and to play it from time to time as it continues
to sustain me. As long as brain functions and fingers wiggle, I can sit down
at a keyboard, still raise the hair on my own arm, and still draw an
occasional tear. A month for a lifetime love?? Barely a drop in the bucket…

Steve Hulse

{ 3 comments }

Bitter Sweet

by SteveHulse on March 22, 2018 · 1 comment

 

 

 

 

 

Today I sat down and signed away my old friend, Iron Jack. How do you
sign away an old friend? Well, the “old friend” is a truck. That’s right, Iron Jack
is a ’66 International pickup. And so, you might ask, why do I call a truck
an old friend?

Easy. A friend, defined is this: a person attached to another by feelings of
affection or personal regard. 2. a person who gives assistance;
A person whom one knows, likes, and trusts.

In translation, a friend, defined as a person attached to a truck by feelings of
affection or personal regard; a truck that gives assistance; a truck whom one
know, likes, and trusts.

I have known Iron Jack since 2006, when I saved him from a rusty extinction.
Roger Williams told me there was an old truck down in Laurin, MT, which the
owner wanted to get rid of. We checked it out, and Iron Jack was given to me
with the agreement that I remove it from the owner’s property. The humiliating
aspect of this agreement was that the owner wanted Jack out of there to make
room for a bigger croquet course. After having known Jack for 11 years, I
choose to think he was grateful to me for saving him from having to rust quietly
beside an old barn and watch croquet on warm Montana afternoons, especially
when he had so much life left in him. Yes, his windshield was cracked in a half
dozen places and the passenger door didn’t open from the inside, but under
the hood beat a heart of gold that not even a cranky, temperamental tranny
could hold back.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Iron Jack has had a rough, but well-documented history. He was bought brand
new in Tonopah, Nevada, in 1966, driven up to Bozeman, MT and engaged as
a farm vehicle for the next 38 years on a Bozeman ranch. The guy who bought
him in Laurin used him to knock around in the high country for a few years, as
Jack was tough, and had 4-wheel drive. He was given the name Iron Jack by
Christy Jones, as we sat around her boyfriend’s kitchen table one evening,
sipping some fine Jameson’s and contemplating farm trucks in general.

When I signed him away today, Iron Jack had 77, 741 miles on him…
actual miles, hard miles. Jack never saw much pavement, as he wasn’t geared
for highway speeds. Most of the miles we shared were on dirt roads and
high country trails.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Iron Jack needed a little help when I first got him, but not a lot. Roger and I
towed him about 2 miles to a mechanic who went through him with grease job,
oil change, new plugs, new points; timing, radiator flush, replaced vital fluids.
$300 and one day later I drove Iron Jack 9 miles home and we began our new
life together.

After several trips up into the high country, I realized that Jack’s steering was
a bit loose and sloppy. A few of the trails up in there were steep enough and
dangerous enough that a steering malfunction would have probably meant
the end of us. So I drove him to Bozeman and had a whole new front end
installed, $3K. He drove so much better after that, and I felt so much better
whenever we got into a sticky spot, which we did from time to time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some days I’d take Iron Jack up into the hills with a thermos of coffee, to find
steep trails and new country. But as time passed and my trust for the old
truck grew, we mostly went out, chainsawed a truckload of wood and came
home.

 

 

 

 

 

We made 4 or 5 trips to Whitehall ( 100 miles round trip ) for wood,
but it became evident that Iron Jack didn’t care for highway travel, or any
pavement, for that matter. So we went back to getting all our wood up in
the sticks.

 

 

 

 

 

Jack became the go-to guy to pull my trailer, L’il Debbie, up Alder Gulch
to park her beside Alder Creek in the summertime. He also towed my two
snowmobiles and 4-wheelers down to West Yellowstone several times
to go riding with friends. He was always a pleasure to drive, as long as you
didn’t have to go over 60. On a mountain trail in low or second, Iron Jack
was at his hefty best, purring up through the trees with low-end torque
at the ready.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Iron Jack’s heater worked, to a degree (pun intended) but was set
permanently to defrost, since all it was capable of was barely keeping
the frost off the windshield on a cold winter’s ride. And Jack’s ride? Rough
and noisy, naturally, but once you got used to it, you were reminded every
minute that you were doing something special, going somewhere special,
because you were driving Iron Jack, that he would get you there, and home!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trust is always important to a lasting relationship, and I had plenty of
opportunities to build trust with Jack. His one weakness was his braking
system, and even that never failed me. His gearbox would get stuck between
reverse and 3rd gear once in awhile, then I’d have to remove the floor
shifter, stick a big screwdriver down into the transmission and unlock the
faulty gears. Don’t tell me you don’t build intimacy and trust when you have
to do surgery on your good friend several times!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Many guys around the county called Iron Jack The Corn Binder.
Corn binder – a nickname given by farmers and ranchers to any of the many
self-powered products, E.G., trucks, tractors, tractor/farming implements
& attachments, refrigerators created by International Harvester Company
or better known as IHC or IH.

Many’s the time a guy has come up to me somewhere and said, “So how’s
the old Cornbinder runnin’… they’re tough as nails, ain’t they?” Or, “I knew
you were in town because I saw your old Binder parked in front of the bar…”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Am I a rotten turn-coat bastard because I’m ending a long and rewarding
relationship now? Well sure, it probably looks like it. But I have left Montana
and see it as allowing Iron Jack a longer, happier life by leaving him in
Montana, in the stomping grounds he is so right for, with a new owner who
already knows him and appreciates him and his unique abilities.

I will miss Iron Jack… a lot. In many respects I’m a totally normal American
male, one who partially defines himself by what he drives. I’ve spent so many
happy hours behind the wheel of the truck I love, bouncing along through the
Southwest Montana that I dearly love… making this parting of the trails bitter
sweet at best. But I know it’s for the best… for both of us.

Steve Hulse

{ 1 comment }

Hey, Remember The Time…

by SteveHulse March 10, 2018

So today, the news of the day and the quiet time following the recent holidays have driven me back out on the sound on my trusty craft, The Aimless. Haven’t been out here for several months now, so time to enjoy a one or two-day cruise on the North Sound. It never fails to clear […]

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Remembering Billy

by SteveHulse February 11, 2018

This is for a dear friend of mine in Atlanta who we just lost. My Atlanta pals will understand this very well. Billy Degnats was a great drummer… world class. And some of us knew he was an even better person than he was a drummer. His wife, Suzanne, has beautifully given us an insight […]

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Time (code) In A Bottle

by SteveHulse January 28, 2018

A Mini View Of The Midi Revolution Non-audiophiles, beware! This one is for my music biz pals who are over 50… and there are quite a few, believe it or not. I’m hoping you will find this interesting, or, at the very least, memory-jogging and perhaps entertaining. It’s one person’s view of the transitional time […]

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What’s In A Name?

by SteveHulse January 13, 2018

“That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” William Shakespeare Well, I get that, Bill. There is, of course, a basic truth in what you said. Turns out, though, your famous quote might not be the be all and end all to this name game, Willy old sport. For […]

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The Child In Us All

by SteveHulse December 22, 2017

I’ll never forget my first electric train. I was six. My dad nailed it to a piece of 4X6 plywood. After I was asleep on Christmas eve, he somehow got it up into our tiny apartment above the bar, and set it up on the floor next to the tree. I remember being thrilled on […]

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In Search Of The Holiday Spirit

by SteveHulse December 19, 2017

B & I were chatting about Christmas the other day, about how commercial it has gotten and about how difficult it seems to be to recapture the spirit of Christmas that we had as kids. “Yeah, my bell has certainly stopped ringing,” I lamented, referring to Santa’s little bell in The Polar Express, which could […]

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The Magic In The Moment

by SteveHulse December 10, 2017

We’ve all had them, those special moments, when there is momentarily more clarity, more awareness of who and where we are, and, perhaps, why. Often we’re in a new and different place, which might trigger long dormant synapses that that sparkle and connect in a way that is unique to each of us. I have […]

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A New Perspective

by SteveHulse November 17, 2017

Very happy to be back on the North Sound on the SV Aimless, my safe haven from all the madness below. We just finished an excellent trip to Europe, eye-opening and perception-expanding, as always. The water and the air here are so refreshing, it feels like pounds of humanity dust are falling off me, making […]

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