Freddie Hubbard...R.I.P.  

Posted by Tony Guerrero

Freddie Hubbard, a musical hero of mine and the man whom I consider to be the last great innovator of the jazz trumpet as well as someone I had the distinct honor of spending quality one-on-one time with, died this morning.

If you didn't read my previous blog, please details my summer spent in his company. I reposted it HERE and I have also included an audio excerpt of ME actually giving HIM a trumpet lesson (read the story!).

And, while you're here, to help me honor him, take a moment to watch this YouTube clip.
It was impossible to choose just one clip to capture him, so this one is as good as any.
You do not have to know anything about the trumpet or jazz to recognize that this man played with fire and passion. You'll need to watch through his solo - about 3 minutes. (You may recognize the pianist as Herbie Hancock, also the subject of an earlier blog. And you may recognize the tune - these are the guys who recorded it originally in the 60s and were sampled in the 1993 remake hit.)

Rest in peace, Freddie. Thank you for the music and the inspiration, and for your generosity to me.

My Christmas...  

Posted by Tony Guerrero

1. 2 Kids + One Grandma With No Shopping Self-Control = Way Too Many Gifts.
Seriously, where are we gonna store this stuff? And this picture is only one of two van-fulls, not to mention the stuff under the tree. Sheesh.

2. All the grandparents, parents, kids & grand kids together for the first time in...dunno how long.

3. Another action packed year of Christmas services at Saddleback. After all the work, I love hearing the music come from this family of dedicated volunteers, and it sure is a beautiful sight seeing a congregation of people lighting candles and singing about the Savior.

4. For Christmas this year, my gift to my family started as a little weekend project back in October. It turned into a 3-month ordeal, with about an $800 price tag. But worth it. I gathered every old photo from both sides of my family, dating from roughly the 1890s to the 1990s, and had them all scanned. I also found hundreds of undeveloped slides and negatives, mostly from the 1940s-50s-60s and unseen for decades (some never seen!) and had them developed and scanned. And three unseen 8mm films of my family from around 1971. In total, the final discs hold 9,440 photos, spanning both sides of my family over the last century.

I learned so much about my family going through these. For example, my uncles on my mom's side hosted their own radio show in Hollywood in the 1940s, and featured guests like 40s bombshell Jane Russell (that's the first picture above, my Uncle Otto on the left) - how could I have not known that?!? And my great-uncle on my dad's side was a candidate for President of Mexico, but was assasinated by the sitting president?!? (I have pictures of my uncle, but the newspaper above shows my grandmother at the funeral, far left.)

So, now, if the house ever burns down, we don't need to grab the photo albums because they are all preserved on multiple copies, and my family will have them to pass on forever!

(By the way - while I scanned about 1,500 photos myself, the bulk of them were done by They are in Irvine, but also do it through the mail at the crazy low price of $49 per 1,000 photos!)

So, how was your Christmas?


Posted by Tony Guerrero

A few years back, I recorded a collection of 18 Christmas Carols. Nothing fancy, just flugelhorn and piano, intended to be background music for tree-decorating, present-opening, eggnog-sipping, etc.

Its yours FREE if you want it.
Download it here:

And the winner is...  

Posted by Tony Guerrero

So, my CD 'Apasionado' was in the preliminary round for the Grammys (in the Contemporary Jazz category), but didn't make the final cut of five albums. (I know, I know...its an honor just to be nominated to be nominated...!)

However, a gospel song I co-wrote with Alva Copeland has just been nominated for "Independent Song Of The year" by Worship Leader Magazine, and YOU can go vote for it!

Just click here:

And tell your friends! (Each computer can only vote once)

Sure, I'd like it to win because it really is song of the year, and not because I flooded the votes, but that's a sacrifice I'm willing to make. :)

I promise - if it wins, free cars for everyone!
(That is, if the prize comes with ten-zillion dollars, otherwise, you'll get my heartfelt thanks.)

The Journey to Yucaipa, and beyond  

Posted by Tony Guerrero

One of the most rewarding creative experiences I have ever had was back in 2005 when Shawn King and I co-wrote "The Journey", a musical re-telling of the Nativity story. Seeing a vision become reality and be played out by a huge cast and orchestra was such a thrill, and the icing on the cake is that churches and theater companies around the country have been doing the show these past few years. Last year I flew to Florida to watch a production of it. Very unique experience to walk into a room and see your heart's work played out by strangers!

Last Saturday, Shawn and I were able to see The Journey at a very small regional theater in Yucaipa, CA. When Saddleback did it, it was a huge production, but we wrote it hoping it would translate to small productions as well. This theater only seats a tiny audience, and the stage is about as small as they come. But the cast (of mostly amateurs) poured their hearts into it and presented our show so lovingly and with such care. What made the night more fun was that, just an hour before show time, my niece called me from St. Louis, Missouri, having just walked out of a production of The Journey in a local church there.

If you saw Saddleback's production, you might get a kick out of seeing these pictures from the small Yucaipa theater's production:
So fun to see the sets and our characters done by different people!

Hope your "journey" to Christmas this year is a blessed one!

17 years later, I'm a hit!  

Posted by Tony Guerrero

(Pictured: Saxophonist John Coltrane)

Last night I played a gig with a very good sax player whom I'd never met. During the evening, as we were all kidding around on stage, he made an off-the-cuff joke regarding the famous sax player, John Coltrane. I recognized the joke right away, and I was a little startled to hear it, so I asked him - "Hey, where'd you hear that?" He told me he'd had a little cartoon of the gag hanging up in his band room for years, and he and his band members would often pay homage to it.

So, why does this matter, and why did I recognize it? Because it was a cartoon I'd drawn and had published in a jazz magazine back in 1991! (Did I ever mention that my first 'dream', before being a musician, was to be a cartoonist?) In all the years since then, I've only heard about it one other time (from yet another sax player), and now am curious if perhaps the gag made the rounds a little more than I'd thought. Frankly, I was pretty proud of it when I did it.

The cartoon was one of a series I called "Playing Outside" (jazz musicians who explore more intrinsic and obscure harmonies are often considered to be "playing outside" of the normal rules of music theory). I signed the cartoon "MAG" - the initials of my full name.

If a joke has to be explained, it often means its not funny. Sometimes, though, a joke can only be funny if you understand the characters and the context.

So, allow me to explain, because this little cartoon could really only be funny to a small portion of jazz musicians.

John Coltrane was a saxophonist who is widely regarded as one of the all time great musicians. His music reached deep into people's souls, so much so that to this day, some 30 years after his death, there is even a church in San Francisco dedicated to him. His musical quest was parallel to his spiritual quest.

One of his landmark albums is called "A Love Supreme" and is a direct result of his spiritual journey. In the title track, he chants the phrase "a love supreme" 19 times (because, he believed, the number 1 is "solution" and the 9 is "universe" - 19 is the combination of 1 and 9). The song has a very meditative feel to it, as if we are listening in on someone's religious experience: "A love supreme, a love supreme, a love supreme, a love supreme, a love supreme...", etc.

Sounds deep, huh? How to make a cartoon gag of it, you wonder?

Well, Jack-In-The-Box has a sandwich called the "Chicken Supreme".

And thus:

My 6:30am Wake-Up Call  

Posted by Tony Guerrero

O Stupid Christmas Tree  

Posted by Tony Guerrero

While I love a nice real tree, I have no shame about using the fake ones whenever possible. For years I have walked by the $300-400 pre-lit mega-trees you see in the stores. "Pre-lit" sounded so appealing - I hate dealing with tangled strands of Christmas lights. In fact, usually I toss the lights out year after year - for $2.99 a box I'd rather just buy new ones every Christmas. But a pre-lit tree? I mean, c'mon - stand it up, plug it in...instant Christmas! Still, could never justify the expense. I just stuck it out with my fake Charlie-Brown model. But the dream never died.

And then, last year, in the days after Christmas when all that Christmas junk is 70% off, I did it. I saw a big, very real looking pre-lit tree for next to nothing. I bought it. (Arguably the biggest single example of pre-planning in my life.)

So, tonight was "decorate the tree" night. After a year of waiting (and years more dreaming of the moment) I was anxious to unveil the new tree. To see its lights twinkle upon the majestic branches with nary a bit of effort from me except to flip the switch. I stood it up, plugged it in, and, voila! Some lights. Yep - you heard me...some. Half the lights were out, others were dim. So, how does one fix a pre-lit tree? Send it in and get it back in March? I could try returning it, but I got it on 75%-off sale and well over the 90-days return policy. And who even keeps their receipts from a year-old impulse buy?

So, then, defeated after a lengthy attempt to resolve the issue, I decided to make the best of it. I can't fix these lights, but its still a better looking tree than my old fake tree, so I'll just take these lights off, and use the lights I always used on the other tree. This, my friends, was a bad call. I spent the next 2-1/2 hours wire-clipping and yanking light strands that had seemingly been extra-wrapped around every inch of fake branch available. It was as if the factory workers received bonuses for the amount of knots and wrap-arounds they could manage on each strand. It was like a box full of loose Slinkys. Nightmare.

What was supposed to be the fulfillment of a long-standing desire for a simple, yet elegant fake tree, turned into one of the most frustrating, annoying and laborious evenings of the season.

Bah humbug.

(And no, the picture isn't the actual tree. But it is how I see it in my head now.)

Brush With Greatness, Pt 5  

Posted by Tony Guerrero

About a year after high school, I ended up getting the opportunity to be the band leader for an upcoming stint in Las Vegas. I would be leading the band for two 1950's legends, Bobby Day ("Rockin' Robin") and The Coasters (the group had one original member left...other original members were also touring with their own version of The Coasters). Turned out the promoter was kind of a shyster, so I ended up backing out before it happened, but there is one night worth talking about.

Since I still lived at home, I rehearsed the band in my parent's garage. One night, Bobby Day and one of the Coasters came over to rehearse. We were doing Bobby's classic "Rockin' Robin", and of course, the neighbors could hear us. One of them came over and said, "Wow, he sounds just like the original!", to which I answered, "He IS the original." Within a few minutes, the buzz spread and suddenly all the neighbors were in our driveway having a sock-hop...dancing to two 1950's legends right on their own street in a once-in-a-lifetime private concert.

I'd forgotten all about this until I happened to hear "Rockin' Robin" on the radio recently. I love the music biz.