Tag Archives: Music

Scenes from the Burbs

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Glorious Friday, what a day!  As we gently prepare for the advent of more rain here in the burbs, all eyes are on the two reservoirs, levees and the dams that contain the mighty waters of the accumulated rains and will they hold?  We sure hope so.

In the meantime, crab a cup of java and let’s chew the proverbial fat.  It’s time for Bacon!

This Wednesday past, I had an outing in the evening to another favorite watering hole and Mexican food emporium here in the burbs.  Out here, we have an interesting mix of the chains and family owned restaurants.  If you want to go where the locals go, follow the local crowds.  Enchiludas is where we head on Wednesday as it is biker night there and the food is excellent!

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Enchiludas is owned and operated by Pepe and Gladys, a couple that has a long history of being in the restaurant industry here in Houston.  The food is quite interesting and the new menu encapsulates the wonders of Tex Mex cuisine into a sometimes delicate art form.

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One of my faves is Ceviche. It’s not on the menu but if I am planning to go there, I call ahead and get Pepe to make it.  Then, it’s a feast of Ceviche, Queso Flamado, Chips, homemade Salsa, Margaritas and a lot of fun.  There is no pretense here, just good food and good friends.

You might ask, why are we hanging around bikers?  Well, I’ll be honest, I would rather hang around people that are comfortable in their skins and that have my back. Enchiludas has a great policy that everyone is welcome from families to party animals and we all cohabit together in Margarita bliss for the evening.

Another favorite on the menu is the Seafood Soup that can be custom made by Pepe and the staff there that includes tilapia, muscles, crab, shrimp, octopus and sometimes even crawfish!  Enchiludas also serves up a great Crawfish boil that is not that pricey and a great bargain!

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The band that evening was a Rhythm and Blues duo that took me back to my roots in Memphis, Tennessee.  Man, these cats were cooking with gas!  Two brothers, known as the “Black Cats” with some interesting professional experiences that we shared during their breaks.

Black Cats
Other menu items that are of note include the Enchilada plates varying in price, the Burritos that are humongous, the Shrimp wrapped in bacon and embedded in a fresh jalapeno and the variations on Chorizo!  Yum Yum!

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Have a great weekend!  If we float by, grab the cooler and refill it please!

From Casa Ukitena in the Burbs of Houston.

Jere

Musical Ramblings and Visions

Today I am listening to spotify, some of my recordings and those of friends I have worked with around the world.  Being an artist is a treasure I hold dearly in my life and apply artistic aspects to everything I do.  My canvas is sound at times and I love painting with sound.  Music is my primary language and an escape from a rather hectic world.

I am in my easy chair with Ms. Ethel on my lap and the Duker vying for attention at my feet.  These are our kids as we call them and all rescue animals that just showed up on our doorstep.

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The music today is taking me back to Memphis, Tennessee, home of the blues, culture, Memphis in May, The outstanding Memphis Symphony and Germantown. It is also the home of the Rendevous and Interstate BBQ of food network fame.  header

I have an interesting history with these establishments both musically and in the kitchen.  Heck, I grew up there and love the taste and feel of the city! We have cooked side by side at many events across the Memphis/Shelby County area to the joy of many!

Enough of that about me and on to my reasons for sharing today.

There is a lot going on around the world right now. Mr. Paul Pellay is having a composition of his premiered by a highly capable Violinist.  Paul and I go back decades and he is married to a great violist, Michelle Pellay-Walker that I consider my sister from another mother.  This performance is taking place in Jolly Old England.

From Peter Sheppard Skaerved, Violinist

“At the violin, a day of rigour and joy. Bach in the morning then this. I am proud to have studied, and premiered, literally, hours of solo violin music by the extraordinary Paul Pellay, and this latest is absolutely engrossing-here’s the score, at what I call ‘base 1’ technical work. The groundwork in place, the notes in the hands and the brain, and now the real work begins. Here’s a Spotify link to Paul’s extraordinary ‘Thesaurus of Violinistic Fiendishness’. Violinists, what are you waiting for?”

Paul Pelay score

 

On the other side of the world, the the Pacific Northwest, Dr. Justin Smith, Director of Choirs at Maryhurst University is preparing from the summer.

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Stay Tuned!  Things are heating up here in Houston also!  But for today, I am relaxing before the weekend when Jody and I celebrate our 16th anniversary of being together. We were officially MARRIED in November of 2014.  We are having a casual at home BBQ where Tennessee meets Texas!  16 years ago, on April 1, I arrived in Houston to begin a life with Jody Turner. It’s been an up and downhill roller coaster ride but we are still together these 16 years later! FB_IMG_1436131882732
We would like to cordially invite you to our home on Sunday, April 3, 2016 for a Tennessee meets Texas BBQ in honor of this decade plus of being together. A lot has happened in these years and it’s time to celebrate.
Stop by for good times, good friends, good food and some all out fun!
Please pardon the house as it is now a DYI project that will be ongoing for a bit. I am also taking the liberty of creating videos of the work as it progresses along with recipes, exploring Jere’s kitchen and teaching videos for clarinet excellence.
If perchance, anyone would be considering an anniversary present, we need help on the renovations to the house!
We look forward to seeing everyone!  Recipes and menus will be here later but today, I am having fun with our mischevious kids!  

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Ta Ta for now and have a great day!

Jere

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Bipolar A Discussion

I get a kick out of some things, laugh at others and some make me downright angry.
In 1983, is was made aware that I could possibly have a condition known as Bi Polar. I had no clue what that was at the time but I have learned. I have also learned how to control it so it does not control me. Statistics say that today there are over 10 million in the United States alone that deal with this condition, some quite successfully and some not. It’s important to have a conversation about this and be aware.
From the American Psychological Association: Bipolar: Environmental factors – abuse, mental stress, a “significant loss”, or some other traumatic event may contribute towards bipolar disorder risk. Traumatic events may include the death of a loved one, losing your job, the birth of a child, or moving house. Experts say many things, if the variables are right, can trigger bipolar disorder in some people. They add that we all react differently to environmental factors. However, once bipolar disorder is triggered and starts to progress, it appears to take on a life and force of its own.
Mine came from being in a bizarre family situation growing up, the product of divorced parents and having to deal with the absurd behaviors and stuck in the middle of the fights. As I said in an earlier post here that I hid behind the horn and the organ and expressed my emotions that way. I was actually a very shy child.
Recently, I checked into the DeBakey Veterans Hospital here in Houston for a kidney infection. In Triage, I was given a full dose of Morphine and another full dose of Dilaudid for pain. That sent my blood pressure into the bargain basement and put me in danger of saying goodbye to this world. That’s what happens with interns in a trauma environment where qualified professionals are needed most.
The next day, I met the lead care team and was pounded with a lot of questions concerning my medical history and such. All of this is available through the computerized records there. I did not know that this team had called for a psychological evaluation done on me that day. This is what happened and the notes from my final discharge from that facility.
The Psych evaluation on final discharge from the VA in Houston states that as an artist, I am delusional and well, that’s why I do not like parts of the VA.
The myopic vision along with draconian perspectives of the Mental Health clinic is absurd. Their banal existence in a cubicle about as small as their mind is astounding.
The funniest thing, on a VA document that I have seen lately, is the comment about my “writing movements”. Lol. That invalidates the comment and the document.
I feel it is time to up the ante on Health Care in the United States and recognize the subjective side of the Psychological team and how that can be improved.
Bipolar is a discussion we need to have and make it productive.

The Man in the Penguin Suit

Act 1, Scene 2
College Beginnings
In 1975 I graduated high school and began my college career at the University of Tennessee at Martin with a full tuition scholarship for marching band. It was nice, it was fun and it seemed all the Milan kids went there so it was a comfort zone for me. Tony D’Andrea was the band director and I had already studied with him some. Great guy, Italian, reed player, good person and liked to party. I thought what could possibly go wrong?
Well, I became a party animal and since it was my first year in college, I thought what the heck. The Hourglass was a local hangout and I think I had some large bar tabs there but I was on fake ID. I was having a blast.
The classes were boring to me except for English and History, accounting I whizzed through, and the rest was music. So my days were quite full with rehearsals lessons and the arts and of course my two hour practice sessions, then the Hourglass till midnight. It was fun times but when Christmas came around, something happened. Daddy and I got into it and it was not pretty. So, we parted company and not in a good way.

Continue reading The Man in the Penguin Suit

Dedication for Man in the Penguin Suit

Hello! My name is Jere Kizer Douglas, better known as JK.  This is the story of my life and world, how I’ve grown and come into being.

The title of this biography reflects what it is like to be a professional musician, playing in the pits, symphony orchestras and back up to major stars.  I am of the ones you hear but probably never see or know.

Behind the Ligature was suggested by a dear friend and my Auntie Mame that I met in Houston, Mr. Lloyd Wassenich.  Lloyd is a major theater buff and quite knowledgeable on not only that but other topics as well.  He is a dear friend and we have been there for each other through sickness and in good health, therefore I consider him one of my brothers of choice.

Other people in my life include Mr. Don Johnson whom I grew up with in Memphis and let’s just say other places around the country.  We met and became dear friends as young adults in the bars and denzions of Memphis and the MidSouth.  Without him, I sometimes wonder if I would be here today.

Then there is Mr. Vance Reger, Dr. Marshall Fine, Mrs Michelle Pellay-Walker and Dr. Kelly Ker Van Hacklemann who have been around me for decades and I consider to be a part of my family of choice. All greatly talented artists and musicians.  I treasure there friendships and closeness.

My family including my wonderful grandparents who fought over me and yet saw to it that I had a great foundation to build a life on.  My mother, father and step mother who dealt with and overcame some major issue in their lives including acceptance and compassion with a gay son, grandchildren that are multi racial and a great sister who said one Christmas Eve as we were sitting in the snow while Papa was asleep on the couch, “Bubba, Reverand Jesse Jackson would be very proud of this family, it’s the whole Rainbow Coalition under one roof!”

To the Memphis Symphony Orchestra and all the great musical artists there that have an inspiration to me and a part of my development since childhood.

Last but not least, my life partner and spouse, Mr. Jody Turner.  What a great adventure meeting you and taking that trip to Houston so many years ago. And to our unique little family group, the Ukitena Clan of Houston, Texas.

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Dr. Marshall Fine, artist, composer, friend, colleage.

This work is dedicated to the gracious memory of Dr. Marshall Fine.

Without his wisdom and knowledge, I might not be here today.

Dr. Fine, gone too soon, this is for you Sir!

The Man In The Penguin Suit

A small introduction to this series. This is my life story about growing up with divorced parents in the fifties and dealing with being a prodigy. I hope you enjoy this as much as I enjoy telling it.

The Man in the Penguin Suit is about my life as a back up and pit musician for various on and off Broadway shows and as a freelance recording and performing artist.

This story is also being published here.

Jere

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OH, this is where the fingers go!

Act One, Scene One

I was born in a small town in Tennessee. My mother said that when I was born there was a football game and the band was playing. She also said that the football team had just scored a touchdown and the band was playing the fight song. What an interesting way to be born! Word filtered out over the City that Margaret DeShong had a new grandbaby and life changed.

Mama and daddy took off in another couple during their junior year in high school to Corinth Mississippi to get married. Imagine that! Well things heated up and they happen to not tell anybody they were married until mother started showing with me. I think she might’ve had morning sickness or something when they finally had let the cat out of the bag and boy did life change then.

Well I began life as a product of two people much too young to be married and least of all children. My parents had just graduated from high school and were separated when I was born. I began my life in the court systems of Gibson County, Tennessee. People have asked me how later in life I knew so much about the legal system in the United States. The answer lies in my being in an out-of-court fortitude for two decades and dealing with attorneys along with men in black robes. By the time I was a teenager I knew the ins and outs of every courtroom in Gibson County and West Tennessee. Here’s an interesting way to grow up and back then,in the 50’s, it was unusual to have a single mother.

When I was five years old my mother had another child, a brother whom I’ve never met but perchance might someday. It’s ironic that my mother was also adopted and raised by two loving parents who also embraced me. Seeing that my brother was not particularly welcome at the time and living in a small town, we had to move. That move took us to Memphis Tennessee where we lived in East Memphis not far from Second Presbyterian Church where I grew up. Growing up Presbyterian was kind of interesting as that is where I also went to school at Presbyterian Day school. There isn’t much I don’t know about the Presbyterian Church or the system of government in the church and that’s something I’m quite proud of. I was also fascinated by Mrs. Robertson playing the organ every Sunday. To me it was humongous and I started taking piano lessons at the Berl Olswanger studio in Memphis. I was also exposed to a wonderful choir and talented musicians of the Memphis Symphony, some of which attended church there and my love of music was ingrained for life.

I really enjoyed my first year of piano learning the notes learning the sounds and playing by ear. I used to dream even at that young age of playing at Carnegie Hall one day. My grandparents bought me an upright piano and it was placed in the living room far far away. Our house on Goodlett was gigantic to me and it even had a maid’s quarters in the back. This was in that timeframe of the 50s and 60s, the time of the civil rights movements across the United States. Yes I was raised by Willie Mae and her sister. Have a lot of fond memories of them. My grandmother was involved in the bridge club and my mother was a working single mom. My grandfather was a traveling shoe salesman and was gone a lot during the week. So my practice time was in the afternoon playtime lasted about 45 minutes when dinner began and time for studies. Life seemed grand to me for a while.

As I grew older, about seven or eight years old, I began to wonder why I didn’t have a father around all the time and started questioning my mother about why daddy does live with us. I could not understand why he was in Memphis in college and I went to see him at the Sigma Chi house all the time. Every other kid I was in school with, their mother and father lived together so why don’t y’all? That’s when I first begin to realize that things were a bit different and I had to adjust. I did have some of the kids picking on me at school asking where my father was as it was unusual to them for me not to have a father. I took it to heart and began to delve into the music more along with the books. Music became my escape, my safety zone, my safety net. Practicing took me away from the realities I did not want to face.

It’s very interesting to me that later in life when I became a professional musician at the age of 11 there was something inside me that wanted to come out and I spoke to the music but it was vocal, organ, piano and later on clarinet. Thanks to the work of Ms. Turner, I became the youngest member of the chancel choir at Second Presbyterian Church when I was in the seventh grade. And thus began another aspect of my life.
I was quite happy singing in the choir as it was a dream come true for me. There I was in the chancel area, on stage, and I could watch Mrs. Robertson play the organ.

About a year later, I could finally reach the pedals on that wonderful instrument and I began to play the organ. I had already been playing Bach on the piano and after the Stainer book on organ technique, I graduated the Bach chorales, figured bass, and that unique collection of organ works by Bach. I thought this is fantastic! About that time, during the ninth grade, there are some problems at home and I decided I wanted to see what it was like living my father and he had just become married again. It was an easy making the change in fact it was a fight between me, my father, my mother, attorneys and the judge. Interesting memories and feelings from that time.

One good thing that happened with move and back and forth was I picked up the clarinet, sax and flute. My first teacher was a gentleman named Mr. Robert Hodge. He was the band director for the junior high he came across during the time of integration. He is a wonderful man and an interesting person very dedicated to his craft and come to find out was a jazz artist! More about that later…

I was back and forth during that ninth grade year in school, between Memphis and Milan as it was different to me actually living with my father. I knew my parents loved me in some way and I expected the same thing I saw with my friends and their parents. However it wasn’t that way and I did not understand why. Was I not good enough? Was I a bad kid? What am I doing wrong? All questions of a young teenager.

I sometimes feel I grew up before my time as I was always hanging out with adults and felt uncomfortable with the kids. I spent a lot of time practicing the organ and the clarinet also reading. I began to collect books, kinds of them. I liked biographies, world history, Civil War history, American revolutionary war history and the occasional lower book. I dated a lot, became engaged, dated long-distance, and still the music. My grandmother Douglas, better-known as Mimi, purchased a Thomas organ for me, the Lawrence Welk Deluxe like Bob Ralston played on the show. I was adamant practicing the organ and piano along with playing with Mrs. Foster at the nursing home. She could not read a note of music but boy can she play at the age of 80. We put a lot of duets together and even got a picture in the paper! Seem like fun times of going to school, working, going to the lake and living life so to speak. There were good days and bad days at the times and sad times and even though daddy and I had our differences there was a bond of some type.

Mother was my party animal in my Auntie Mame. She was a single mother of the 60s and 70s and she were that as a badge of honor. She had a good job, supported herself and me, and like to eat well and party. When I would go see her in Memphis it was always a fun time yet there was an undertone always. It took me a few decades to figure it out as mother events of my life but I did that’s a story for another chapter but suffice it to say I graduated high school with the help of Don Farmer and many nights my nose in the book trying to stay sober.

I began my high school music career playing the organ professionally and clarinet in the band. Mr. Robert Hodge was the jazz band director and boy was he tough! I don’t think any of us realized that he had been around the world seemingly and played with some of the greats that we only dreamed about meeting. I believe it was our junior year when he took a group of us up to meet Count Basie and his orchestra. I remember shaking his hand and him asking Robert if he brought his horn. The Count was a very unique man and I did not realize that our paths would cross again. I have to say that Robert, even though he was tough, was very thorough and made sure we knew all her parts and how to read jazz rhythms and jazz licks. He turned out a kick ass band!
I didn’t find out until years later when I was playing with Ray Charles and it came to Georgia my mind. You probably know that song, is one of his most famous. Well, I was in Memphis playing lead clarinet for a pickup orchestra job during Memphis in May with Ray. The rehearsal was that morning and when they came in he sat down piano and started playing. After he got his fingers warmed up and started rehearsal, it got to the song Georgia and well I started playing the clarinet. I wasn’t nervous and I played the best I could. He stopped the orchestra, looked my direction and said “That’s got to be a black clarinet player!” I responded, “No Sir, Mr. Charles. I am white but my first teacher was Robert Hodge!” His response, and I quote “Count Basie’s lead tenor!” Yes Sir! That was an eye-opening experience for me as I could not believe this connection it may just from my sound after Mr. Hodge being so difficult so hard on us. Looking back I learned a lesson there, never take anyone for granted as you never know their history unless you ask and they want to share.
I have to say that growing up between a major metropolitan area and a small town was quite an adventure. I actually had two sets of friends, one set I was around a lot and another set I knew on the fourth weekend of the month and six weeks in the summer. One of the aspects of growing up this way has given me itchy feet and letting the grass grow under my feet for too long makes me anxious to be someplace else a lot of the time. The results of this will be explored throughout this tome of my life’s adventures. Some say I have never met a stranger. Well, that holds true because I am usually the first to say Hello to anyone and carry on some type of conversation.
Grab a cup of coffee and let’s chat for a bit!

Reflections

Coming from an educational standpoint, it’s not necessarily the teacher’s complete responsibility to guide each and every student to the trough of knowledge and wisdom, that responsibility lies in the laps of the parents and families of the children also, perhaps more than the teachers themselves. My personal educational experiences are a more hands on approach than sitting in lectures about methodologies and pedagogy.
There is a very old adage, “You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink!”Well, for me, I would drink, but I’m not a horse, I don’t think I am at least, but then, I had the want to know feeling about who and what I am and how I can impact myself and the world around me. There is a wonderful experience in my life, studying with a great mentor, perhaps an icon of artistry and intellect, Mr. Robert Marcellus.

Continue reading Reflections

Messiaen and the Quaret

In my life I have been around some amazing people and heard their stories. This man, Olivier Messiaen and a personal friend of his, Jean Langlais befriended me on a performance trip to Europe in the eighties I made. The “Quartet for the End of Time” was a piece I had heard and thought it to be way outside my boundaries both on technical and artistic aspects. However, when I heard his and Jean’s story, they inspired me to move beyond my self-imposed boxes and explore different realities in interpretation and performance.
I was not aware of the life history of Olivier but I found out as he shared with me about the conditions around the composing of the Quartet and that sharing was so powerful to me that I made a decision to tackle that work. At the same time, there was another influence in my life, a young artist named Marshall Fine, who saw the potential in me and pushed me to look outside my personal boundaries and become the artist that was trapped inside me.
There is another work that is performed a lot by Charles-Marie Widor, one of the mentors of Olivier, the Widor Toccatta. It’s a powerful, fantastic work and every time I hear it here in Houston, I go to a different place mentally and remember.
Today, as I am preparing these pieces again, I feel very blessed to be surrounded not only with memories but with amazing artists and composers. Paul Pellay, Don Freund, Marshall Fine, John Bell, William Shumann, Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland, John Rutter, William Matthias, John Williams and the list is endless it seems. I did attempt to communicate with J.S. Bach but he was decomposing at the time and it didn’t go well. Maybe another day…..(smile).
“Jere Douglas, Founder of the Parlor Project, is the premier Arts Experiences Curator. He empowers us to see and live life as an art form! Through the Parlor Project, he connects professional artists and musicians to rabid professional arts lovers, their organic fan-base. As the Man in the Penguin Suit, Jere curates multi-sensory artistic experiences that challenge staid traditions in the arts and antiquated concepts in arts presentation. In a powerful combination of access, interaction and adventure the Parlor Project puts a human face to the marvelous sounds that people hear and provides an opportunity for its members to explore their creativity in all aspects of life.”
Jere

An Experience with Maestro Alan Balter

Behind The Ligature

Maestro Alan Balter, My Teacher and Friends

Alan Balter, Musician, Mathematician, Conductor, Maestro, a Wonderful Human Being!  Working with Alan was never dull or boring, always a new adventure each and every day. 

Beginning with a couple of lessons when he was at the San Francisco Conservatory and I was still in the First Marine Division Band and carrying forward to Memphis, Tennessee, it was a decade of improvement and exploration without parallel. 

Most did not know of Alan’s expertise on the computer or of his double degree in Mathematics, an ideal combination for any musician or any other field of endeavor.  At his home in Memphis, we would work with the clarinet and the piano for hours and adjourn to his study for a bit of enlightenment on the computer and learning DOS from a true Master. 

During his performing career, Alan had a bout with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, which caused issues with his ability to produce…

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