Jazz Great Makes Jacksonville Surprise Appearance


by Cole Pepper
August 8, 2013

This sort of thing happens in New Orleans or New York or Chicago all the time. But in Jacksonville?

Tuesday night at the Grape and Grain Exchange in San Marco, jazz trumpet legend Wynton Marsalis dropped in to jam with piano player Marcus Roberts. Why Jacksonville on a Tuesday night?

Bob Smith, owner of Grape and Grain Exchange explains:

“Wynton Marsalis came to Jacksonville to celebrate his friend (jazz pianist) Marcus Roberts’ 50th birthday. Also, 60 minutes is doing a biopic on Marcus, so they wanted to see him play a gig as part of the background for their piece. Basically, Monday evening Marcus and Wynton were jamming with Jim Daniels, who is a mutual friend of Anthony Norton (a managing partner at Grape and Grain Exchange). Wynton asked Jim if he knew of a venue that was available for them to play a gig on tuesday evening, and Jim called us!”

Smith didn’t promote the appearance on social media, only mentioning the possibility that Marsalis could show up to a few friends and customers. By 9pm, the word had gotten out and a line was forming outside the door of the Parlour, the speakeasy at the back of the Grape and Grain Exchange. Around 100 got to experience Marsalis and company while more than 200 were turned away.

It wasn’t just Marsalis and Roberts who wowed the crowd. Three young musicians from the Douglas Anderson School of the Arts joined the pros on stage. They will have a story to tell the rest of their lives.

Come to think of it, anyone who was there (and I was) will have a story to tell. The only other time I’ve been in a small room with an artist of this caliber performing it was Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend of “The Who” at a press conference before Super Bowl XLI in Miami. They played three songs with Townshend on acoustic guitar. You can check it out here. It was great, but its wasn’t the same as Tuesday night in Jacksonville. This was right here in a little back room in my home town. That made it special for a lot of people who experienced that night.Wynton3

It also made it special for Grape and Grain and the Parlour.

“Tuesday night was a real validation for me that there is still a thriving jazz scene in Jacksonville and it needs to be supported,” Smith said. “Too many times over the years I hear people moan about not having any good Jazz clubs and that Jacksonville lacks culture. Music scenes don’t happen by accident and they don’t thrive on lip service. We hope to be a driving force over the coming months and years to bring Jacksonville’s jazz and blues scene back to the forefront of our community.”

As for the next surprise jam session?

“We have reached out to Charlie Hunter and a few artists who we follow and love,” Smith said. “Honestly, though, after Tuesday’s recognition, there’s really no telling what’s going to happen next!”

—photos by¬†Debbie Smith and Jackson Somphonhakdy


10 Best TV Themes of the 80s

by Cole Pepper
August 2, 2013

Is there any better way to waste time than by playing “Name that Tune” to TV themes? Answer: no, no there isn’t. That has inspired me to compile the following list of the 10 Best TV themes of the 1980s. Note that this is not a list of the 10 best TV shows of the 80s (although many of these selections could make that list) and the only thing a show needed to do to qualify was to run at least one episode between January 1, 1980 and December 31, 1989.

10. CHiPs-Even without the early 80s splendor that is Erik Estrada, the CHiPs theme is a top 10 pick.

9. Family Ties-I love a TV theme that can stand alone as a song. If someone whistles this song, you’ll immediately conjure images of Alex P. Keaton and family.

8. Greatest American Hero-Has that special AM Gold quality. Ironically awesome or awesomely ironic? You make the call.

7. Simon and Simon-As you’ll see later on the list, I apparently have a weak spot for twangy guitar theme songs.

6. Dallas-Certainly iconic.

5. Magnum P.I.-The Ferrari. The Chopper. The mustache. The theme song.

4. Moonlighting-It’s tough to beat Al Jarreau singing your theme song. Great show, too.

3. Knight Rider-If you can’t recognize this song within 2 seconds of it starting, you weren’t alive in America in the 80s.

2. The A-Team-How many shows can parody one of the main characters other roles in the intro sequence? Just one. This one.

1. The Fall Guy-An upset? No way. The lyrics are genius and tell you all you need to know about Lee Majors’ character’s life.

I would have put the Wonder Years in, but because the song was an already established hit, I DQed Fred Savage and company. But if you insist…

Do you disagree? Let me know in the comments. Enjoy!

The 10 Best Inventions of All-Time

Doc Brown

by Cole Pepper

Being a man, I’m a gadget guy. I already love the next thing that is going to make my life better. So, feeling a bit nostalgic, I look back on the 10 Best Inventions of All-Time.

10. WiFi and Cellular Telephony-This works with a couple of the other entries on the list, but think about how cool WiFi is. The ability to cram tons of 1s and 0s through the air to create something…anything…at a device near you is pretty awesome. I know that your iTunes folder would still exist without it, but you wouldn’t be able to suddenly download that A-ha song that you really want to hear without it. That, in and of itself, is enough to earn top 10 honors.

9. The Process to Make Fire-We go from hi tech to low tech. Fire is basic, primal. It’s also awesome for cooking meat, burning stuff and warming you. My brother loves to ask the question: have more man-hours been spent in all of time staring at a TV or staring into a fire. My response is always “does watching a fire on TV count? What about a TV on fire?” Put that in your pipe and smoke it. You’ll need to build a fire to do that.

8. Tempurpedic material-In my house, the bed and the recliner are made of this stuff. It clearly kicks butt. The bed is the best thing I’ve ever slept on and the recliner is the second best thing. I’m not a good enough writer to explain how much better Tempurpedic is than other stuff you put in beds and chairs, but it’s about this much better:

courtesy: the year 3000
courtesy: the year 3000

7. High Definition TV-Five years ago, I would have said television. But geez, high-def is so good that you can actually see the puck on a hockey broadcast without it having a comet tail superimposed on it. You can actually see that news anchor’s recent face lift scars. You can tell that the audience isn’t laughing at Jay Leno. I’m certain that there is a higher definition to come, but for now, HD is pretty awesome.

6. Smart phones-I think it’s true that thanks to smart phones, 75% of all office jobs can get 85% of a days work done while still on a golf course. That means that 22.5% of all reasons to procrastinate are 65% obselete. That also means that you’ll need to pull up that Calculator App on the smart phone to figure out what the heck I’m talking about. While you do that, I’m going to play Angry Bird-Star Wars Edition. ‘Cause that’s how I work smarter, cuz.

5. The Internet-If for no other reason than it give you the opportunity to read this blog, then snarkily post comments using a fictitious name, the Internet makes the top 5. That would be enough. But add to it sports scores, YouTube videos of primates smelling their fingers and illegal streaming of everything that has ever been broadcast and you’re off to a great start to a big weekend.

4. Television Remote-Okay, be a pessimist. Tell me that this is the root cause of the obesity epidemic. I’ll say that it is a great example of electronic Darwinism. Once, there were three networks plus PBS. If you were lucky, there was a local independent station with a creepy, future target of Chris Hanson who dressed up like Dracula to introduce the campy thriller movies on Friday night. We had very little need for a remote. Yes, the show we were watching was pretty cruddy, but we know that the other four shows on were just as bad. So we sat there. Then came cable and the chance that the other 30 shows weren’t so cruddy (of course, they were, but there was always hope). Then satellite TV and 500 options. Of course we need a remote. How else am I going to flip back and forth between Pawn Stars and Antiques Roadshow (British Edition) to see all of those family heirlooms/pieces of crap that someone should sell now while the market is up? Exactly. We need the remote.

1950s family watching television
Back in my day…okay, this wasn’t my day. But it was somebody’s day and that person wants you to get off their lawn.

3. Big Green Egg-Now we get to the heart of things. This gives me an opportunity to get personal and give some advice to all of the soon-to-be-married guys out there. When somebody asks you what you want as a wedding gift, tell them what you REALLY want. Yes, you are going to do the whole gift registry thing, but tell them what YOU want. It’s the only reason they are asking YOU and not your bride-to-be. Your answer should be the Big Green Egg. This smoker/cooker/grill is an example of an ancient device that is perfected with modern materials and manufacturing techniques. I barbecue a lot, as you might know. The following is a list of all of the things that I have cooked on the BGE that qualify as the best of that category that I’ve ever cooked: ribs, pork butt, chicken, brisket/burnt ends, turkey, lamb, duck, sausage, steak, quail. There may be more, but I’m getting too hungry to think about the rest.

Turkey on the Big Green Egg. Thanksgiving has never been the same.
Turkey on the Big Green Egg. Thanksgiving has never been the same.

2. iPad-I’m writing this post on my iPad, but that’s not why the Apple device rises to number 2. It’s the execution of a concept that has changed the way we consume information. Allow me to digress for a bit here. In the early history of humans (how’s that for an opening phrase in a digression?), we communicated information around the campfire. As we developed language and culture, the way in which we shared information changed. The prophet foretelling the future in the square, the minstrel, the town crier, the printing press, the telegraph, the radio then television all marked a step forward in the way we consume and disseminate information. What the iPad has done is set the standard for how we consume visual entertainment and information. We now are conditioned to see what we want, when we want it, wherever we are. As much as it’s great to play Angry Birds on a larger screen three times the size of your smart phone, its really about the ability to be absorbed into the viewing experience on an airplane, in a hotel lobby, waiting for a class to begin, or while you watch something else at the same time on TV. The iPad’s impact reaches well beyond what it does and into the realm of “what it changes.”

1. Air ConditioningPerhaps I wouldn’t feel quite as strongly about this as the #1 invention if I lived in Skagway, Alaska, but I don’t. I live in Jacksonville, Florida. Still, consider what air conditioning has done for the world. For starters, it has made a vast amount of warm climate land habitable for millions more people than before. Let’s face it, some folks can take the heat, some cannot. Now, even though you sink into mild depression every time the high temperature hits 80 degrees, you can still live in relative luxury all year long. Second, is it any coincidence that the life expectancy has gone up and the infant mortality rate has gone down as air conditioning has spread across the globe? I’m no doctor, but if a woman doesn’t have to bake in the heat of a 90 degree month while pregnant, I have to think that’s good for both mom and the baby. Third, two words: Summer Blockbuster. Why did the Summer Blockbuster phenomenon become part of the American culture? We like movies and we like to be comfortable while watching them. Voila! Finally, air conditioning (and similar technology) both makes ice cubes and keeps computers and other machines cool, so they last longer. What other invention can put a couple of rocks in my bourbon so I can sip it while surfing the internet in late June in Florida? Case closed.

Honorable mention
: the wheel, the microchip, rocket propulsion, the barrel, the airplane, carbon-fiber material, March Madness, hand held lighter, alternating current, cruise control, moister wicking material, fiber optics, camera phones, satellite technology.

Note: I did not include discoveries, like say DNA sequencing in this list, only actual inventions.

What did I miss?