Gene Ammons – Boss Tenor

Author: tshook

From time to time I figure I can post cd’s that have been particularly important to me.  I’m not a big fan of public criticism, but on the other hand, I need stuff to write about.  So in the interests of blogging, here’s one of my favorite cd’s of all time:  Boss Tenor, by Gene Ammons.

Gene Ammons - Boss Tenor

Check out Boss Tenor at

What I like about this cd: It’s perfect.  This is an example of how groove and tone and love and melody are everything.  You can put this cd on at a party.  You can put it on while driving.  You can put it on while going to sleep.  Or in the car (did I already say that?).  You can put it on when studying, or reading.  If you’re in a happy, sad, or anything in between mood this cd will work. Its perfectly seamless.  A lot of Gene Ammon’s stuff is like that, also.  He seems to bring out the best in the musicians around him.  This is some of the best Tommy Flanagan playing I’ve heard (although I’m not really an expert on his stuff).

Performance in October 2007

Author: tshook

The Travis Shook / Veronica Nunn Quartet is playing live at the 2007 Jazz Improv Convention & Festival in New York City.  We don’t know what slot yet, but it’ll be somewhere between October 25-27 at the New Yorker Hotel.  There’s a lot of buzz surrounding this event, and the performance roster includes McCoy Tyner, Pat Martino, Geri Allen and Stanley Clarke – so mark your calendars – sure to be exciting.

UPDATE: Travis Shook Quartet will be performing with his band October 27th at 11:00pm and leading a panel discussion with Veronica Nunn on October 26th at 2:00pm for the 1st Annual Jazz Improv Festival 2007 in NYC.  Musicians for the performance on October 27th will be Jaz Sawyer, drums, Jay Anderson, bass, Veronica Nunn, vocals, and hopefully Kebbi Williams, tenor sax (not yet confirmed)

Turkey rocks.

Author: tshook

Hi – I’m back again, its really hard for me to write these things so I just took off the titles to individual blogs.  I think WordPress is amazingly cool with titles and categorizations, but it makes it feel so formal to have titles.  Seeing as I don’t really have anything to say, a title only seems to accentuate that fact. 

Anyway, Standard Delivery, by Veronica Nunn is now out.  I’m playing piano on it, with the same group from my cd’s (Jennifer Vincent on bass and Jaz Sawyer on drums).  It came off really well and is playing on radio stations across the U.S. and Canada currently. 

Me and Veronica played in Istanbul, Turkey about 6 months ago and I was really moved by the experience.  I’m actually pretty well-read literature-wise, but history is new to me.  I hated history and english in high school and it missed me that Istanbul was the old Constantinople.  I figured that out the first day I was there, but I don’t think I told anybody because that’s kind of an embarrassing thing not to know.

It was at a club called Nardis, located at the base of the Galata Tower (the tall, pointy thing in the picture).


I’ve been to maybe 40 countries or so over the years, and so far Turkey was my favorite.  It’s the people that make a country, and Istanbul had some of the nicest, most honest people I’ve met. I did visit some of the tourist spots also – like the Sophia Haga which was originally a Christian Church later changed into a Mosque.  The Bizarre was kind of intense -  Istanbul reminded me of New York in the shopping district, very cool, very fashionable and fun to walk around, but in the tourist district (where the Sophia Haga was) the people selling stuff were incredibly aggressive.  I taxi driver told us that the local merchants often know over a hundred languages (not fluently, but just enough to sell their product), complete with local trivia about whatever country the customer is from.  Anyway the whole experience was deep for me and I was really glad we went.

Gotta go, I’ll write something again soon.

One line – pretty cool

Author: tshook

I just re-watched this great movie again which a friend had recommended to me about a year ago – Adaptation.

There’s such a nice line in there:  “You are what you love, not what loves you.”

I’m not going to comment on it, because I’ll just mess it up.

The Snake Whisperer

Author: tshook

I was going to scare a visiting friend of mine with a rubber snake, and then my better self took over and I couldn’t go through with it, and I confessed to him my dastardly plan.  The next day I found the rubber snake moved to a different place in the garage. Figuring my friend had put it there to get back at me, I picked it up with much satisfaction that my moral standards were far too high to play a mean trick like planting a fake rubber snake on an unsuspecting person, but that others in this world did not hold such high standards for themselves.

That’s when the snake bit me, and as I watched it slither off to a different part of the garage after dropping it on the ground, I reflected upon what a fool I was for having a rubber snake when real snakes are around, so that I would have trouble distinguishing one from the other.  So I got what I deserved, and learned something new:  Rubber snakes and Woodstock don’t go together.   I think I’m going to get a life-sized stuffed bear next…

Yeah, sure, whatever

Author: tshook

One of the big secrets that a lot of people never quite get is that the greater the work of art, the greater the humility of the artist. 

This is the simplest form I can think of to describe it:  When creating, you have to give yourself over to the moment.  In order to give yourself over to the moment you have to lose the ego.  Once the ego’s gone, what’s left is humility. 

Once a jazz musician gives themselves over entirely to the music (loses the ego) than he or she will be coming from what Far Side creator Gary Larson called an “intensely personal, and therefore original perspective.”

And this is the only way real art is created.  Sometimes we look at our heros, or hear musicians talking “so and so has a huge ego” – no they don’t -  not if they’re playing the real shit.  Its always exactly the opposite.  This has nothing to do with the rest of their life, however.  Artists often tend to be self-indulgent, narcissistic as people in general, but once the horn comes out, you can hear when someone has moved out of their own way.

Delayed Time Zone

Author: tshook

I realize its been a while since I’ve updated this blog – I’ve been busy doing stuff to be written about later – I’ll start updating again soon.

List of Players

Author: tshook

I was going to write about some of the younger players I like, but then erased what I wrote because I didn’t feel comfortable singling people out – because that means I would have to leave off others, and I don’t want to make those kinds of assertions about players currently out there trying to do good.  The only thing I will say about the younger players is that I like everyone who’s sincere in what they’re doing.

These are some of my personal favorites/influences among the piano legends (in no particular order): 

Ahmad Jamal
McCoy Tyner
Duke Ellington
Bill Evans
Herbie Hancock
Earl Hines
Art Tatum
Don Shirley
Nat King Cole
James P. Johnson
Phineas Newborn

Of course, there’s lots of others I think are amazing, but I tried to keep the list narrowed down to players who particularly resonate with me.

Don Shirley

Author: tshook


One musician I would like to pay my highest respects to is Don Shirley – a true living legend. For those not familiar with him (which unfortunately will be most people due to his lack of promotion in the media), he has managed to combine classical, jazz and gospel into his own unique style that plays naturally, without a hint of pretention. But its not just his harmonic and pianistic technique that is impressive, or the seamless union between jazz and classical he’s created (and in my opinion he is the only person who has managed to do this successfully). It’s the sheer beauty of what he’s trying to say through his piano.

Anyway, his most recent album “Home with Donald Shirley” released in 2001 is highly recommended – as well as everything else he’s ever recorded.

Standard Delivery

Author: tshook

We’re going into the studio this coming Monday to record material for Veronica Nunn’s upcoming album, Standard Delivery. It should turn out nice, I think. We just finished setting up the tunelist, and we’re going into the arrangement phase.

I’m fairly relaxed about it, but there’s always an intensity surrounding this stuff. My biggest concern is that I won’t be able to be honest (I’m not worried about the rest of the band, they’ll be great, and of course Veronica is always brilliant). That’s part of the process that I go through every time I prepare mentally – I have to go through a soul-searching phase before I can let it go and enjoy the experience. I’m avoiding getting to work by writing this blog. Time to go.