Wednesday, December 22, 2010 - December 2010 News

Greetings!  It's been a very busy, creative and productive year.  I have so much to be thankful for - here's wishing you and yours a great holiday season and a very happy and safe 2011.

Rob Birdwell's Gigs of Note in 2011

January 15, 7pm - "Between the Cracks" with Beat Poet Robert Briggs at Corvallis Art Center - I'll be playing some jazz with a small group of outstanding musicians, including pianist Dana Reason.  Tickets and more information...

February 27, 3pm - 5th and B play a Klezmer concert at Odd Fellows in Corvallis.  We'll perform many tunes composed and/or arranged by master Klezmer musicians Mike Curtis, Dave Leslie and who knows, maybe even my little "Amazing Flying Pickle" offering!

April 1 & 2, 7:30pm - Chris Botti and band with the Corvallis-Oregon State University Symphony at LaSells Stewart Center in Corvallis.  Rob Birdwell, conductor.  Get your tickets soon - this event will sell out!

TBA:  October 2011 - a Harry Potter concert featuring the music of John Williams and the Corvallis-Oregon State University Symphony is in the planning stages. Rob Birdwell, conductor.

After trying to manage an email least for the last 8 years or so, I've decided to retire it.  So if you got this message via email and would like to continue getting updates on my music offerings, gigs and the amazing musicians I collaborate with too - like the "5th & B" crew of Dave Storrs, John Bliss, Page Hundemer, Dave Leslie, Ben Mutschler, Page Hundemer, Mike Curtis and/or Viking & the Svens - then by all means, make sure to connect with me on Facebook and/or MySpace!

Monday, December 06, 2010

Svens at Bombs Away December 18 2010

This will be a holiday show complete with festive songs and surfin' melodies.  Fun for all!  I'll be giving away my own  bootleg-autographed CDs and I'm sure there will be lots of other stocking stuffers! Happy holidays!

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

5th and B Perform at Cloud 9 for Brass Ring Carousel Benefit

5th & B
In a benefit concert for 
The Albany Brass Ring Carousel

Saturday, November 6, 9:00 P.M. 
Cloud 9,  First St.  Corvallis, OR 

5TH & B, an 8-piece ensemble thatplays spontaneous and original compositions, is pleased to perform a benefit concert for Albany’s Brass Ring Carousel project.

5th & B consists of Dave Storrs, Rob Birdwell, Page Hundemer, John Bliss, Ben Mutschler, Mike Curtis, Fred Berman, and Dave Leslie.  Collectively they play trumpet, flugelhorn, soprano, alto, tenor, and baritone saxophones; clarinet, bass clarinet, flute, electric bass, electric guitar, exotic stringed instruments, keyboards, trap drums and a wide range of percussion instruments from all over the world. In their music you will hear influences from Africa, jazz, the Middle East, klezmer, Americana, blues, Dixieland, and classical music.  Their sound has been described as a combination of Weather Report and Charles Mingus with a village’s drum circle thrown in.  For this concert band members have composed several original pieces inspired by the carousel project.

Albany’s Brass Ring Carousel is being built largely by volunteer help not far from the Willamette River in downtown Albany at 503 First Avenue West. When finished there will be a most colorful menagerie of 54 or more hand carved animals in the style of Victorian era carousels. Visitors and volunteers are always welcome between 10 AM and 4 PM Monday through Saturday. There is no admission fee. Come down for a visit. Chances are, after seeing this project, you’ll want to become involved! Go to  for more information.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

5th and B Tune List

The following are the 5th and B tunes to date, not including the tunes we invent on the spot:

  1. The Amazing Flying Pickle
  2. Amber Grass
  3. Beached
  4. Better Times
  5. Buddy Collette
  6. Carousel Dreams
  7. Cub Scouts Barbecue
  8. Dancing Boys
  9. Eleven Bars
  10. Essential
  11. Flat Tire Blues
  12. Fourth Way
  13. Fragments
  14. GT Waltz
  15. Kazimierz
  16. Lopin' (Ben's new tune, no charts)
  17. Memories of a Bright Yellow Object in the Sky
  18. Naftule Spilt fur dem Rebn
  19. Nervish
  20. Pissedofflogy / Annoyedology
  21. Puppy
  22. Queen Anne (as dead as)
  23. Righteous
  24. Sahara
  25. Samsiye
  26. Sayulita Smiles
  27. A Sevdah Waltz
  28. Some Tune
  29. Southtown
  30. Sunday Night in Jerez
  31. A Walk in the Park
  32. Welcome to the Big Top
  33. Ya ya ya
  34. Zibibidee Bow da Bow

5th and B are Dave Storrs (drums/percussion/trombone/vocals), Page Hundemer (bass), Dave Leslie (keys), John Bliss (guitar), Rob Birdwell (trumpet/flugelhorn), Fred Berman (flute/alto/tenor/clarinet/bass clarinet), Mike Curtis (soprano sax/bass clarinet/e flat and b flat clarinets), Ben Mutschler (tenor sax/bass clarinet)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Buddy Collette Dies at 89

Very sad news to hear about of course, the passing of Buddy Collette.  One of the true greats, both as a person and in the music world.

I had the opportunity to take part in a workshop he put on at UCLA.  There were just a few of us in the room with a piano - and Buddy of course. I didn't know much about him or his work at the time.  He was so friendly and encouraging.  Really made me feel special - as I'm sure he did with everyone.

The conversations we had still echo with me today - always will.

I was very moved by his auto-biography ("Jazz Generations - A Life In American Music and Society" by Buddy Collette with Steven Isoardi, published in 2000) which I read a just few years ago.  I knew his music by then but had no idea of the other details of his life.  In particular, how instrumental he was in brokering the merging of what were then two musician unions in Los Angeles:  black local 767 and white local 47.  Learning about how he managed to balance his musical and family life where fascinating; growing up in L.A., stories about Mingus, Dolphy, Parker and others.  It's a wonderful book - I must re-read it again!

I wrote and dedicated a song to him in 2007.  It's a simple tune and chords that reminded me somewhat of the tunes he shared with me ("Addison Street" being one of his that I love) in his songbook. I didn't know what to name it so it's simply "Buddy Collette" - people ask me about the tune and it always leads into conversations about Buddy.

No life is ever an easy road - but Buddy Collette seemed to find the light where there might otherwise have been darkness.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Svens at Bombs Away

This show is terrific - great story telling, songs and surprises!
Hope to see you there:

Bombs Away Cafe, Corvallis, OR
Saturday, September 18th, 9pm

And as always, Bombs Away features excellent food and beverages.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Letters to Myself - listen to the tracks

The 9th track "Honey Bee" is also available when you order the CD or digital download.  Enjoy! 

Rob Birdwell

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Letters to Myself - CD Now Available

I had a lot of fun recording these songs.  Now it's time to set them free - give a listen!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

July Jam in Central Park Thursday July 29 6pm to 9:30pm

Come celebrate summer with music in Corvallis' Central Park on Thursday, July 29 starting around 6pm..  You'll hear a wide variety of music including folk, jazz, swing, surf and more!

Music and revelry from The SvensThe Blowholes, Marzipanhandlers, and Fromage à Trois.

This is a FREE, family-friendly event.  Bring your family, friends and have your dinner in the park and enjoy the music.

Starting just after 6pm you'll hear acoustic music from the likes of MarzipanhandlersFromage à Trois, and others.

At 7pm The Svens will perform a show that is sure to entertain:  narrated tales of the wild west blended with surf music delivered with The Svens' unique stylings.

8pm - more acoustic music with Marzipanhandlers, Fromage à Trois, with others joining in.

8:30pm - The Blowholes return!  Rested and ready, The Blowholes are a 7-piece progressive swing group (4 horns and 3 rhythm players) who will swing and groove as the sun sets.

9:30pm - We'll wrap it up and combine all the musicians with a couple jam-style tunes.

CDs will be available from the respective bands, including The Svens' "Doc" CD, and my own semi-acoustic-folksy-blues collection of new songs entitled "Letters To Myself"

Hope to see you there!

Rob Birdwell

Friday, July 02, 2010

The Svens at Bombs Away Cafe July 10

Caught in the Act at Corvallis Red, White and Blues Riverfront Festival

Playing (trumpet/flugel - maybe a little sax too) with Caught in the Act.  Been sitting in with these guys for a while now.  A terrific band and a super group of guys.  You'll hear some classics (like "Still Diggin' on James Brown") as well as some originals that sound like classics!

Caught in the Act plays from 4:30 to 6:30 - two full sets.  Looking forward to hearing the other bands too.

It's a lovely way to spend the day.


Tuesday, May 04, 2010

OPB Hard Times Series wins Peabody Award - Svens Music Featured

Just got word that the OPB's "Hard Times" series won the prestigious Peabody Award!  This is wonderful news for a number of reasons and one of them is that The Svens' performance of "Hard Times Come No More" was among the musical features!

You can read more about the music used in the series, including The Svens' offering!

So raise your goblet and say it loud, say it proud:  Skål !!!!


Sunday, April 04, 2010

Thoughts on Gigs

Over the last 20 years or so I've played a lot of different gigs: jazz combo (private parties, restaurants/clubs), big band, orchestra, my student jazz band, musical theatre, recording sessions, and, more recently, rehearsals and performances with a surf band.

Today, playing in a brass ensemble with organ and a small choir for an Easter service (something I haven't done in many years) I was reminded of how good it feels to play - what a privilege and honor it is.  It doesn't seem to matter the style of music or the venue.  Being part of a group of musicians (either as a hired horn or leader) is simply a deep love for me.

I can name numerous things I dread:  weeding, working for a big company, taxes, getting rid of mementos, calls at 4am - that's a few.  But I would be hard-pressed to tell you of a single musical performance I didn't think fondly of, especially with the passing of time.

And more and more I have the privilege to play and work with really good and even great (and sometimes fabulously great) musicians.  Although the last year (with the tough economic collapse) has been tough on local businesses and venues, the musical adventures for me have, fortunately, not only continued but proved to be even more special and appreciated - by me at least.

I seldom tire of "musician talk" - talk of tunes, techniques, tips, tricks and other bits; of hearing of other gigs players have had and their experiences.  Perhaps most of all, I love the humor and laughter shared with my fellow musician friends.  Not necessarily the nefarious kind you might expect from a trumpet player type like me (which I will neither confirm nor deny I contribute to) but the stuff that just makes you smile and be glad...glad to be in the room with folks who you can share a smile, story, and music with.  

And of course I do mourn the folks I don't play with anymore either because of a lack of time, location, or the fact that they're no longer alive.  Still, I maintain this childlike hope for gigs to come and the wonderful friends I'll get to share the stage/room with soon.  And in that childlike mode, I like to think that the best is yet to come - that my full potential as a person, musician and performer will continue to grow and thrive.  Well that's my little mantra.  You can't tell me I'm swimming up stream.  And even if you did, I tell you that's the way I need to go.

Naturally, it's nice when folks express an appreciation for the music and/or musicians - not completely rare of course, but not as common as the gigs where 1) few people come out to listen; 2) the music was regarded no more than "filler" music - nobody really listening or engaged in the creative process of music making; 3) finger food and some friendly conversation between fellow musicians being the only tangible benefit - definitely not the worst case!

No, I'm not satisfied with gigs that don't engage my own creativity or skills and do my darndest to filter out the situations/gigs I know won't be a good fit for me.  But more often than not, the gigs I play end up being more than enough to keep me inspired - plenty to fuel more research, exploration, practicing, writing, and dreaming...

Every musical performance is a lesson.  It teaches us humility, respect and the importance of being part of something bigger than us as individuals.

Well, that's all I have to say now.  Nothing particularly deep or profound here but today I was once again reminded of something worthy of noting in my little blog.

So here's to good friends and good music...and to the next one.


Friday, April 02, 2010

The Svens at Bombs Away Cafe April 10, 2010

The Svens will once again perform at Bombs Away Cafe Saturday, April 10.

It will be an extra special night of music - a double header!  Starting around 8:30pm we'll perform "Hulda's Story" - the narrative is a real letter from a grandfather to his granddaughter, Hulda, reporting on his adventures exploring Alaska.  Various surf tunes are crafted into the mix along with some tasty sound bytes by Viking.

(Incidentally, we recently performed "Hulda's Story" for the real Hulda, still going strong in her 90's, at her residence in Lebanon, Oregon in March.  We toned things down a bit for the room (what we call Svens Sv-unplugged) it was particularly moving to hear Hulda talk at the conclusion about her grandfather - sounded like an amazing fellow.)

Then around 9:00pm or so we'll perform an all new rendition of "The Blacksmith" - new tunes, sound bytes and a fresh take on this classic show.

And the evening will be extra, extra special because we'll be celebrating a great new CD recording release of the previous show "Doc" - I think it's the best recording yet of The Svens.  The band is tight and the Sax parts are beginning to sound like a real Sax player is playing them! (Ha!)  I know Viking worked very hard on the mixes, fixing our glitches and making it come to life - some of the best Sven studio takes yet. So bring your CD money too and take some Svens music home for the whole family to enjoy!

See you there!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Graters of the Lost Carp at DaVinci Days Film Festival

The short film "Graters of the Lost Carp" (written and directed by Mike Aronson, music by Rob Birdwell) will show at the DaVinci Days Film Festival March 13, 3:30pm at LaSells, Oregon State University.

Click on the image on the left to see the nice poster in its full size!

Click here for more about this film and the other films being shown!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Virtual Trumpet - Limited Time Offer - Register for a BUCK

Well folks, as you may or may not know, my Virtual Trumpet software (for Windows) has been around for almost 10 years believe it or not!

It has always been FREE to download and try out, however, if you wanted to "register" the product to get both audio and MIDI playback (and get rid of the registration "nag" screen) you'd normally have to shell out $15 dollars.

But now, for a limited time (sorry that sounds so "commercial" doesn't it?) you can STILL download it for free, but the registration fee is only a single BUCK...yep, just $1 U.S. dollar.

It's pretty good deal but it won't last long.  So, whilst this offer is still good:

  1. Download and install Virtual Trumpet >> here's a link to the setup files.
  2. Download and install the Virtual Trumpet Audio Library >> here's the audio library link.
  3. Go to the Virtual Trumpet product page and purchase your registration license - here's the link.

Bear in mind that I haven't been doing any development on the Virtual Trumpet product for quite a while (as I'm too busy writing and performing "real" music these days - a good thing).  Virtual Trumpet currently runs on Windows 2000, XP, Vista and Windows 7.  However, support for Virtual Trumpet will be fairly limited, but hey, waddaya want for a buck?!

Monday, January 11, 2010

New Year Musical Reflections - Business as Usual

Happy new year everyone!  I realize we're deep into the new year already, but as I'm just getting re-acclimated from the holidays, it sort of feels like the start of the new year is just now happening.  I've been away from blogging, tweeting and facebook for so long that I almost feel I'm living in the 90's again

Musically, last year was quite mixed bag - however, even with the economy tanking, nothing really changed for me or my peers when it came to playing gigs, writing, and exploring various forms of musical expression - none of us got paid much at all.  Some venues cut back or closed completely - others opened their doors.  So in other words, business as usual!

Last July I decided to create my own economic stimulus package in the form of my "Sweet Surrender" CD which featured me and more of me.  So if you like "me" (and hey, I like "me"), you're going to love Sweet Surrender as it's chock full of me. Meanwhile, my plans for the next CD are forming and will likely be a return to more of my vocal and lyrical offerings, with a heavy dose of horns and such.  Maybe I can enlist the help of some friends in The Blowholes to break some new ground - or maybe another ensemble will come of it...not sure.  Yep, business as usual.

In the Spring of 2009 I wrote a symphonic work entitled "A New Day" - it featured the Max Planck Big Band from Germany - it was a thrill to get back to some orchestral writing.

My live performances were split between my Sideways Portal collaborations (Flugelhorn and Percussion) and playing in The Svens (Tenor Sax).  These groups are worlds apart in many ways, but in my mind there's a common thread that is hard to explain.  Anyway, the guys in both groups are amazing and such dear friends - and it's just so dang fun.  So look for more business as usual this year in those departments.

I'm in my 7th season of directing the Early Bird Jazz Band at Linus Pauling Middle School.  Although Jazz and 7:45am are not exactly ideal, the kids are amazing and I'm so proud of the work we're doing.  I've seen a very high percentage of my "Early Birders" (at least 90% I'd guess) continue on as successful high school players (and some even in college now as music majors!) so to be a small part of their musical journey and to perhaps have a part in their outlook on music and how it can enhance our lives and the world we live it, well, that pretty much tops all.

In 2009 I did a fair number of "virtual" horn man gigs - that's where other bands or artists find me on the internet and say, "wow, this guy is pretty good - and he's obviously cheap" and so they hire me to lay down horn parts for their own golden parachute productions.  I actually enjoy this process - I can work in my underwear and since I'm a swimmer, that's pretty much the way I like to work anyway.  I get to do my thing (hey, they hired "me" - what else can I do?) and hopefully I can add a bit of edge to their tune.  A notable few of my clients this year included Neal Gladstone, Natasha Urale Baker, Alex Sheridan, and others, including work for various small media productions who need custom horn sounds; mainly things that sound comical and/or fart-like.  Hey, it's what I do.  Business as usual.

As for writing, if I were going to set some goals (and I'd rather remain flexible) I would lean towards integrating more vocals into the ditties I'm writing and balancing those with horn lines and improvisations.  For me personally, I enjoy a story - it can be anything really, but music has to tell a bit of a story, even if it's only embedded in the cryptic title.  But better yet if there's some meat in there - something I can react to (laugh, cry, hurl, whatever).  So I'll be exploring that territory a bit more - nothing new. BAU.

I also have at least one offer to write something for an orchestra again and suppose I'll just go ahead and pursue that since, you know, I'll want to be done with it before the stream of other offers blasts my way.

Yes, it's business as usual at!

All the best to you and yours - and here's to a musical, happy, healthy and fun new year!

Rob Birdwell