I'm 45 years old, live in Bellevue, Washington, a suburb of Seattle in northwestern United States a few hundred yards from Microsoft campus in Redmond, with my wife Jean and three sons. My eldest, Gregory, is 18 years old and has just completed his first university year. Mark, my middle son, is 15, and Mathew my youngest is 12.
I was a Microsoft employee for 13 years (1984-1997) and worked almost entirely on Microsoft Word. I contributed to all of the Macintosh versions of Word, I was the lead programmer for Mac Word 5, and also did major work in Windows Word 1.0, 6.0 and Win Word 97.
I left Microsoft in 1997 and since then have been privately developing a music composition and editing program which will be released under the SongTrellis name. During this time I've also created the SongTrellis web site using Userland Software's Manila web services.
I am a musician of sorts. The instruments I play best are various kinds of hand drums and percussion (congas, djembe, ashiko, bells, shakers). I have played with several African drum ensembles at dances in Seattle. Most of these bands were formed in drumming classes at Microsoft. We MiSFiTs who loved drums, hired teachers to come to campus at lunchtime once a week for group lessons. I also play tenor sax. Until I started taking private lessons after I quit Microsoft, I was quite bad. After a year of saxophonic speech therapy to erase a lot of the bad habits I acquired since high school, I'm getting to the point where I can play through solos slowly (Charlie Parker, Miles, Coltrane, Shorter, Rollins).
I play piano slowly, arranger style, but well enough that my first 20 or so compositions were composed that way. I wrote my first composition in 1979 when I was 24. Since 1988, when an early version of my music editor became capable enough, I started composing with Macintosh laptops. Nearly all of the tunes I've written since then have been composed on computer.
I have been interested in music as early as I can ever remember. I loved records of show tunes when I was a small child, three of four years old. My aunt had a recording of Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Oklahoma!", which was my special favorite. Even as an adult, I still have a soft spot for "Oh What a Beautiful Morning" and "Surrey With a Fringe on The Top". She also had a recording of Dinah Washington singing September In The Rain which I loved. When I discovered I could check out LPs from the public library as a ten year old, I would bring home lots of classical recordings. I finally caught on to rock and roll when I went to high school in 1968. My favorites during that period were Jimi Hendrix's "Are You Experienced?", "Led Zepplin II", the Beatles "White Album" and "Abbey Road", the first Blood, Sweat and Tears record, the first Crosby, Stills, Nash record, Jefferson Airplane's "Volunteers".
In the middle of my sophomore year, I came across Miles Davis's "Bitches Brew" and became a jazz fanatic from that moment. My second jazz recording was John Coltrane's "A Love Supreme". My third was Coltrane's "Ascension". My fourth was Cecil Taylor's "Conquistador". My fifth was Taylor's "Air" on Candid. My sixth was an Atlantic Records "Best of Ornette Coleman" compilation that included "Lonely Woman", "Una Muy Bonita", and "Ramblin". My seventh and eighth were Miles Davis's The Sorcerer and Ornette's "Skies of America".
While attending the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, (I grew up in Omaha, Nebraska and went to the University in Lincoln), my knowledge of music really expanded. There was an incredible record store in Lincoln, Dirt Cheap Records, that tried to carry every kind of music as long as it was great. Through browsing, listening and talking to my friends there, I found out about Wayne Shorter's Blue Note recordings, Lee Morgan, Eric Dolphy, Charles Mingus, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Art Blakey, Archie Shepp, Albert Ayler, Don Cherry, Dexter Gordon, Bud Powell, Max Roach, Kenny Clarke, Clifford Brown, Jack DeJohnette, Chick Corea, Dave Holland, Cannonball Adderly, Bill Evans, Big Bill Broonzy, Reverend Gary Davis, Muddy Waters, Albert King and B.B, Indonesian gamelan ensembles, Ravi Shankar, Ali Akhbar Khan, Duke Ellington, Stravinsky, Bartok, Bach (especially the Cello suites and the Magnificat), Scarlatti, Brahms, Charles Ives, Milton Nascimento, the Wild Tchoupitoulas and the New Orleans Indian tribes, Joe Pass, Wes Montgomery, John McLaughlin, Oregon, Keith Jarrett, Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young, Betty Carter, Ray Charles, Aretha, Sarah Vaughan, Ella, Helen Merrill, Sheila Jordan.
I heard my first live jazz concerts in Lincoln. The first was a local band assembled by drummer Victor Lewis, who was just about to leave Nebraska for Minneapolis and then New York. The second was Herbie Hancock's band with Bennie Maupin, Buster Williams, Billy Hart and Eddie Henderson. The third was McCoy Tyner's band with Azar Lawrence, Billy Hart and Alex Blake. The fourth was Keith Jarrett with Dewey Redman, Charlie Haden and Paul Motian.
Around this time I became interested in musical community building. I was a founding member of the Lincoln Jazz Society in Lincoln, Nebraska and became its president in its second year. Over four years, we presented concerts by the Modern Jazz Quartet, McCoy Tyner, the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra, Dexter Gordon, Dizzy Gillespie, Woody Shaw, Bill Evans, Joe Pass, Betty Carter, Max Roach and the Toshiko Akiyoshi-Lew Tabackin Big Band. See Story of the Lincoln Jazz Society.
I also helped found a non-commercial radio station in Lincoln, KZUM, and was president of Sunrise Communications, the corporation that ran the radio station for a year. See KZUM Story.
During the period we were promoting our concert series, we were also sponsoring performances by local jazz musicians in Lincoln night spots. I learned how a musician studies to prepare to solo on a tune by hanging around with these guys. I got my copy of "The Real Book" by xeroxing a copy I borrowed from a local piano player who was a Berklee graduate. I learned to teach myself to play piano so I could read through tunes in the book.
I broadcast at KZUM from 1977 thru 1982. I called my jazz program Blues, Thunder and Beauty, a formula I made up to describe what was great about jazz: the humor, sadness, directness of expression and personal testimony it inherited from the blues, the thunder of drums and the rhythms inherited from Africa, and the beauty the musicians found inside of themselves. I learned a tremendous amount about world musics from KZUM, I heard bluegrass, Doc Watson, and David Grisman for the first time there. I engineered a program for my Venezuelan friend Carlos Siso and learned about Salsa and many indigenous South American musics from him. Through a program Carlos did, I heard Pablo Neruda's poems for the first time. I learned about the wild sambas and capoeira songs they play in the Bahia in Brazil. I found out about Joseph Spence, the Bahamanian guitar genius and the wild songs of the Bahamas. I heard countertenor Alfred Deller singing Elizabethan lute tunes for the first time on the station. I heard Mahalia Jackson singing Come Sunday with the Ellington orchestra for the first time while I was half asleep. I woke up quick! Still causes goosebumps. I heard Native American chants and Omaha flute music there.
My favorite jazz recordings are probably the Coltrane Impulse's, the Miles Davis 60's Quintet's, Shorter's Blue Note's, Charlie Parker's Dial, Savoy and Verve recordings, Sonny Rollins' The Bridge, Saxophone Colossus, There Will Never Be Another You, Ornette's recordings on Atlantic, and Mingus's recordings on Atlantic and Candid.
My favorite classical pieces are Bartok's Third Piano Concerto and the Concerto for Orchestra, Brahm's Fourth Symphony, Beethoven's Fouth Piano Concerto, Bach's Magnificat, Cello Suites, and Well-Tempered Clavier, Prokofiev's Flute Sonata, Messiaen's L'Ascension, Ives Second Orchestral Set, Debussy's Nocturnes, Schubert's Death and the Maiden String Quartet, Stravinsky's Rite of Spring and Firebird.
My favorite Brazilian singers are Milton Nascimento and Djavaan. My favorite African drum recording is of Mamadou Ly playing with his Mandinka kutiro ensemble on Village Pulse records. I love Yousou N Dour. I love Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and his party singing qawwali songs. I love Hariprsad Chaurasia playing ragas on bamboo flute. Zakir Hussain is my favorite tabla player. I like the Aphex Twin stuff that my son Greg finds on the web.