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Why are we in Miami?

(Posted by Kevin)

You may wonder why we're here – in Miami, Florida – just about the farthest place in the U.S. from our home base of Portland Oregon. Nope, we're not snowbirds. And, if we were, this would be way too early to be leaving a place with Octobers as beautiful as Portland's.  

No, this time, the blame must at least partly go to my family. When we were in Colorado, I looked at a map and said "Hey, we're more than halfway down to where my mom lives in San Antonio. We've never taken the Airstream down there."  Laura was an easy sell – with the prospect of adding some new state stickers to our map – so down to Texas we went.

While in Texas, I sent a a message to my brother Craig in Miami "Hey, guess where we are? Texas!"

Craig replied "Where are you going after this?"

"We are planning to probably make our way back to Portland."

"Well, I assume you're going back to Portland via Miami?"

I'm no genius in geography, but I was a bit skeptical about how much "on the way" Miami was as a stopover between Texas and Oregon.

We looked at the map and – guess what?  AGAIN, we were more than halfway there. We decided that this would be a great time to visit Florida, which we'd wanted to do for a long time.  After all, we were already more than halfway there. (This "we are more than halfway there" turns out to be a dangerous travel-planning trope.)

We plotted a leisurely course down through a lot of places we'd wanted to visit – Lafayette, New Orleans, the Florida panhandle…

While we were poking around in the Florida panhandle, we got another message from my brother in Miami.

"Hey, when are you planning to get to Miami?"

It turned out that he was performing at some concerts in "Festival Miami" (a huge annual music festival held at this time each year). Those concerts started Friday, and we were in the Panhandle on Thursday. Oops! Time to make some miles!

My brother is one of the foremost trumpet players in the world. He is currently the trumpet professor and chair of the instrumental music department at University of Miami. He is also the former principal trumpet in the Chicago Symphony, former associate principal in the San Francisco Symphony, and has played concerts and solo performances around the world as well as on numerous recordings. On Friday night, he was doing two solos as part of "Nuevo Tango in Miami" a concert of music by Astor Piazzola. The first solo, "Milonga sin Palabras" performed on a custom-made, rotary-valve German flugelhorn was a beautiful lyrical ballad. The second "Tres Piezas Breves" (three short pieces) was performed on the much-less-conventional Electronic Wind Instrument (EWI) – a remarkable breath-controlled synthesizer that allows him to use many of the skills and musicality he has developed as a trumpet player on a much more flexible electronic instrument with a six-octave range, an incredible dynamic range, and a huge diversity of sound production options.

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Soundcheck at the Maurice Gusman Hall

Both solos were inspired and musical – exactly the kind of sensitive and emotional performances that have defined my brother's career. Afterward, we lingered in the lobby for awhile as fans asked to have their photo taken with him (this never seems to happen to me). Then, we went with Craig and his wife to "Two Chefs" – one of their favorite restaurants and bars – for a late night drink and chat.

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Juan and Craig

The bartender, Juan, who was originally from Puerto Rico was a genius with his cocktails and was also a fascinating conversationalist on just about everything from politics to baseball to the history of the world. We laughed, listened, and chatted until after midnight.

p.s. Here are two videos of Craig playing the EWI, if you're interested. They're pretty cool:

(Posted by Kevin)