2012 March at John Mackey's Blog



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  • March 27, 2012

    Strange Humors – for clarinet quartet

    I got a new camera on Friday: the Canon 5D Mark 3.  I’ve only been able to play with it a tiny bit so far – not enough to justify a full blog post – so I’ll intersperse a few pictures from the camera throughout this post, which has nothing to do with cameras or photography or flowers, but everything to do with “Strange Humors” and clarinets.

    Back is 2009, a clarinet grad student at Middle Tennessee State University emailed me to ask if I would considering adapting “Strange Humors” – my piece originally written for string quartet and djembe, then arranged for concert band, and then sax quartet and djembe – into yet another version, this one for clarinet quartet and djembe.  Could that work?  I wasn’t sure. My favorite version is still the original for string quartet, because nothing has that same “bite” that you can accomplish with the hard downbow of a single string instrument.  Wouldn’t clarinets end up having to soften every attack, making the piece sound… mushy?  Could clarinets get any sort of edge to their sound, and accomplish it throughout the ensemble?  (Just ask Loki, shot at ISO 8000, and with zero out-of-camera noise reduction applied.)

    My response to the grad student – Jessica Harrie (currently a DMA student in the awesome clarinet studio at Michigan State): sure, if I can just transpose the sax quartet parts for you.  Jessica agreed, I made her a set of very ugly parts (that were still labeled “soprano sax,” “alto sax,” etc.), and I completely forgot about the little side project.

    In January of this year – a full three years after I’d sent those parts to MTSU – I received an email from somebody with the following text:

    Hello… I’m wondering where I can purchase a copy of Strange Humors for clarinet quartet… thanks.

    I didn’t even remember making parts for clarinet, so I ignored the email.

    Then, two minutes later, another email, from a different person:

    Hello! Just heard Strange Humors by John Mackey for clarinet quartet and djembe and I’m wondering where I can purchase this! Thanks.

    What the… At first, I thought somebody had arranged it without my permission (that would be: bad) and performed it somewhere, and these two people heard it and liked it (that would be: good). So I replied to one of these emails, asking where they heard it (i.e., whom did I need to sue?). Moments later, a reply with a link to the YouTube recording of the piece. I clicked, saw Jessica’s name, and the whole thing came back to me. Oh right! Nobody would be sued after all (that would be: I guess good?). But how did this sound? Hot damn. It sounded awesome. Check it out:

    Damn, that’s a great ensemble! Thanks to their performance, the whole thing works so much better than I expected. Thank you to Jessica Harrie, Clay Hensley, and Cordaro Hudson on Bb soprano clarinets, and Gordon Inman on bass clarinet. Whereas the original version of the piece, with all of the string glissandi, sounded almost Arabic, the clarinets transformed that sound – pretty far culturally – to the world of klezmer.

    Hearing that the piece not only works well with clarinets, but becomes a very different piece, I decided to make an official, edited version, which I am releasing today. (The printed version is in a different key than the recording above. I lowered it a full step to match the original string quartet version – and to take advantage of the low concert C of the bass clarinet, one of the coolest notes on any instrument.)  You can view the perusal score on the new page for Strange Humors: version for clarinet quartet and djembe.


    March 24, 2012

    The Dallas Marathon

    One of the benefits of living in Austin was being driving distance from so many great high school bands.  The Dallas area in particular has been so supportive of my music ever since Steve Andre and the Grapevine High School Band performed Redline Tango back in 2005.  (Plus, kudos to the Dallas Symphony, who gave the second performance of “Redline Tango” – the original orchestral version.  Getting a second performance is often a lot harder than a first performance.)  When AEJ and I decided to move to Boston last summer, I knew I didn’t want to give up the opportunity to work with the Texas high schools.  Why not continue to return to Texas during contest season to work with a bunch of bands, back-to-back, every year?  But how would I put such a thing together?

    Enter TMEA, and conversations with two people in particular: Benny Davis of Rockwall Heath High School, and Charles Pennington of Allen High School.  Through a series of phone calls and emails, those two conductors put together a string of clinics that I couldn’t have scheduled on my own, largely because I didn’t know who all was performing my music this year.  (When I sell a set through a music store like JW Pepper, I have no idea who ends up with the piece.)  With the addition of a few other clinics requested via email, I ended up with a total of eleven high school clinics between Monday night and Thursday morning, all in the Plano/Allen area, and the Rockwall area.  And here’s what happened.

    I arrived on Monday afternoon and rented a car at Advantage Rent-A-Car.  I mention them only because you should never, under any circumstance, rent from Advantage Rent-A-Car.  They might be $5 less per day, but you’ll spend up to 45 minutes waiting for them to “prepare” your car.  After four hours on a plane, I don’t imagine most people would be too excited about standing for 45 minutes to wait for a car, only to end up with a car much larger than requested.  I wanted a small car to save on gas, but they gave me this minivan.  At least it’s a Dodge.  As my friend Bruce Richardson said when he saw it, “A Dodge! You’re just like Eminem.”  Indeed.  And as AEJ said, if you’re driving from school to school to work with kids, the best impression is to arrive in a van, preferably with tinted windows.

    This would be my schedule over the next few days:
    Monday night: Allen High School Wind Ensemble, working on “Aurora Awakes”
    Tuesday, 7:30am: Allen High School, 2nd band, working on “Foundry,” not for contest, but for their spring concert
    Tuesday, noon: Plano East High School, top band, on “Aurora Awakes”
    Tuesday, 2:30: Allen High School, “IB Music Class” – sort of an AP class for theory, etc.
    Tuesday, 4:30: Plano East High School, second band, on “Undertow”
    Wednesday, 8am: Rockwall Heath High School, top band, “Aurora Awakes”
    Wednesday, 9:30am: Rockwall Heath, second band, “Foundry”
    Wednesday, 11:45am: Utley Middle School, “Foundry”
    Wednesday, 2:15pm: Rockwall High School, top band, “Hymn to a Blue Hour”
    Wednesday, 4:45pm: Clark High School, “Hymn to a Blue Hour”
    Thursday, 7:30am: Allen High School, 4th band, “Undertow”
    Thursday, noon: home

    First stop: Allen High School! Holy crap, this was the most incredible high school facility I’d ever seen. I only saw the new performing arts wing, so I don’t know what happens in the rest of the building, but I assume there’s an indoor pool, a bowling alley, a spa, and possibly a Maserati dealership. This is the lobby – of a high school concert hall.  You know what every high school theater lobby needs? 13 LCD displays.

    What would you like to study at Allen?

    Culinary Arts? Like, burger flipping? No. Culinary arts. In an industrial grade, stainless steel kitchen that outclasses most restaurants.

    And they don’t just prepare that food for themselves, or just for a grade. No, they have a restaurant. A very nice restaurant.  (Presumably, these bars are normally open.)

    When I was in high school, I was in drama club (I was the president of the drama club, until I was impeached in a scandal — true story), and I, for a time, thought I’d like to be on TV. (I’ve been told that my large head and tiny body would work well on the small screen.) If my high school had Allen’s TV production facilities, my life might have turned out differently. “Let’s go to John John Mackey for the weather.”

    I won’t get into the classrooms, with their massive touch-screen computer displays and stereo systems, because I have a lot of schools to cover. Let’s just say that Allen has an incredible facility, and I’ve never seen anything like it.

    And I didn’t even get a picture of their new concert hall, a beauty that seats 1500 and sounds better than just about any college concert hall I’ve heard. Unbelievable. And then there’s the band.

    This is one of the largest schools in the United States, and with nearly 5000 students to pull from — just in grades 10-12! — it’s not surprising that this is an incredible band. Solid playing throughout, and Mr. Pennington gets not just technique, but expressive musicianship from his ensemble. It was a great way to start the week.

    The next day, after a 7:30am rehearsal at Allen, I headed to Plano East High School — another massive, stunning facility.  As I said on Facebook, if your high school has a manmade lake and a dedicated fine arts building, your school might be fancy.

    I worked with two groups there — one on “Aurora Awakes,” another on “Undertow” (with a trip back to Allen in between) — and was again blown away by what these students could do. Incredible technique to spare. Do you think these groups have ever won any trophies? Evelio Villarreal has an incredible program.

    Back at Allen for the IB (basically, AP) music class.

    Wednesday, I spent the day in Rockwall, about 45 minutes from Allen and Plano. My first stop was Rockwall Heath High School, where I got to work with two really good bands. Also, a flutist in the band, Alex Martinez, drew this. (Happy belated birthday, Alex!) I had a really nice couple of hours at Rockwall Heath.

    Then, Utley Middle School, where the band was working on “Foundry.” They were so well-behaved and respectful (aren’t middle school kids supposed to be a pain?) — and they played really well. And they were even smaller than I am!  (That was a nice change of pace.)

    One of the coolest things there was this set of “Foundry Bars,” built by John Thomas, the associate band director at Utley. (If anybody wants to order this “four metals” instrument, you can email John via this link.) The sounds were great. John designed them to sound like the samples on my Foundry page.

    Here’s a video, including a bonus giggle:

    A detail of the side.

    Springs to allow the metal bars to “bounce” for added color.

    Strike with these small, light hammers.

    Next stop: Rockwall High School, with their new Director of Bands, Chris Kosterman.

    Chris had emailed me to tell me how much his students had enjoyed working on “Hymn to a Blue Hour,” and that they were looking forward to the clinic. He wrote: “My kids will, for the very first time ever, get to see the art of creating music through the composer’s eyes. I hope we can bring your Hymn to life and discover all of its profound message.” I was a little intimidated. I don’t consider myself or my music to be “profound.” I thought I was just supposed to yell at kids who screw up, make a few jokes, and try not to curse. This was seeming like a different thing.

    And it was. I have never heard such an earnest and beautiful reading of “Hymn to a Blue Hour” by a high school ensemble, and few college groups have approached what Chris and his students played for me on Wednesday afternoon. I got a tiny bit teary on the next-to-last page (okay, I admit it), and by the time Chris gently cut off the final chord, I was literally speechless, on the verge of losing my sh*t. To give you an idea of the mindset of these students, during the Q&A after the rehearsal, the principal clarinetist had this question: “To me, ‘Hymn to a Blue Hour’ is about loss and mourning, but also about healing. I’m having trouble determining whether my solos are about the loss, or about the healing. What do you think?” I about lost it again, just to hear a question like that about some little ditty that I would have called “Pretty Song in Eb” if AEJ hadn’t come up with the much better title. I spent 90 minutes with the Rockwall band, and I would have stayed another 90 if I didn’t have to rush back to Plano for another great clinic at…

    Clark High School! John Mays and his group were doing “Hymn to a Blue Hour,” too, and this was with a band of only 9th and 10th graders. Jeez, what do they put in the water in Plano?! Two Texas All-State players in the clarinet section alone, another in the trombone section, and there may have been more. Just awesome playing. What are these students going to sound like when they’re seniors?! Also, I now have an idea for a sequel: “Hymn to a Blue Flower.”  (This picture is so much cheerier than the blog post about the Asphalt Cocktail bloody performance injuries.)

    Then: dinner at one of my favorite places in Dallas, Reikyu Sushi & Bar. I started with spicy tuna on crunchy rice. Holy hell – nom.

    Some nice, fresh sushi – yellowtail and eel.

    One of those crazy deep-fried rolls with cream cheese in them. Totally not traditional, but yummy.  Just don’t tell my friends in Japan.

    And some albacore tuna.

    The next morning, I had one last clinic at Allen High School, and then I headed home to Boston. It was pretty exhausting having up to five clinics in a single day, but it’s hard to complain when you realize that public high school band directors do this every day, five days a week, throughout the school year. That is a hard gig.

    My thanks to Charles Pennington, Matt Boening, Bob Ferguson, Sam Woodfield, Evelio Villarreal, John Brennan, Jana Harvey, Benny Davis, Joey Sivinski, Shawn Davis, Chris Kosterman, John Mays, and the bands at Allen, Plano East, Rockwall, Rockwall Heath, Utley Middle School, and Clark High School for an awesome couple of days. I’m totally doing this again next spring. I’m just not renting from Advantage Rent-A-Car.  That company sucks.


    March 12, 2012

    Fried Rice

    When I was young, my dad had the idea of selling a recipe through mail order. “Want to get rich? Mail order,” he insisted. That, or start a religion. “Momism,” he suggested. “You should start the Church of Momism.” I think I nodded, imagined the tremendous wealth that would be coming our way, him selling recipes through mail order, me as an evangelist of Momism, and then I went back to playing video games.

    He took action, though. Not just action, he took out an ad in a magazine – I don’t remember which magazine it was – offering to sell his fried rice recipe for a dollar. $1. People ask me, “John, where did you get your business sense?” Look no further. I give you: Dave Fried Rice.

    Yes, his fried rice recipe was called “Dave Fried Rice.” Not Dave’s Fried Rice. When I asked him about this, he said he was thinking: subject, verb, predicate. As in:

    Jimmy: Did you hear what happened today?!
    Tom: No.  What happened?
    Jimmy: Dave fried rice!
    Tom: Holy shit.

    Believe it or not, this didn’t catch on like he’d hoped. After placing the ad in whatever publication, he sold exactly one copy of Dave Fried Rice. It went to somebody in Pennsylvania. Minus printing the recipe (although knowing him, it was probably hand-written), postage, and the cost of the ad, I think he lost about $50 on this venture. Gotta spend money to make money, I always say. But sometimes, even that doesn’t work.

    Tonight, AEJ and I made fried rice. Sadly, after all that build up, we didn’t make Dave Fried Rice. Why? Because I don’t have the recipe for Dave Fried Rice, and my dad doesn’t remember it. I wish I’d invested in an original copy. Instead, we made AEJ+JCM Fried Rice. (That’s what happened tonight: AEJ and JCM fried rice.)

    As with any cooking adventure, it’s best to start with a cocktail. After that, little else matters.

    Our recipe is awfully complicated — for fried rice. Isn’t this supposed to be something you do to make good use of leftovers? Like, grab rice, an onion, an egg, fry it up, and done! Not for us. This recipe starts with shallots. If your recipe starts with shallots, not just an onion, you’re trying too hard.

    You toss some shallots, garlic, and green Thai chili peppers into a food processor…

    … pulse, and you have this. Don’t sniff this, unless you like a burning sensation when you breathe.

    Chop up some onions and green and red peppers, and sauté those for a few minutes, then add snow peas. This smells amazing.

    Next you take that shallot/garlic/chili pepper paste and sauté that for a few minutes. To this, you eventually add a mixture of brown sugar, molasses, and soy sauce.

    It turns out that five Thai chili peppers makes a dish really spicy. We cut that with fresh pineapple. (We bought it pre-chopped.)

    One other crucial ingredient: fresh ginger.  It’s not pretty, but it’s yummy.

    For our “leftover rice,” we used rice we made last night. (It really does need to be day-old rice so that it’s dry enough to absorb all of the other flavors.) We make the rice in a Zojirushi rice cooker, which makes rice perfect every time, and even I can’t mess it up. Instead of using water as the base, we use homemade vegetable stock, so the rice is pretty flavorful even before we’ve added all of this other stuff. It doesn’t look like much, though.

    Another crucial ingredient for fried rice: eggs.

    You make a “well” for them in the center of the rice, and scramble the eggs.

    Now we mix the vegetables into the rice.

    It’s getting there. Now we add mirin (it’s a low-alcohol rice wine), more soy sauce, and some sweet Thai chili sauce.

    Don’t forget the pineapple! Oh, and peanuts. We throw in a handful of salted, roasted peanuts.

    Lastly: a secret ingredient that makes a huge difference. Seriously. It adds sweetness, more saltiness, and deepens the flavor overall.

    Throw a few scallions on top, and: voila! AEJ+JCM Fried Rice!  (That’s what happened tonight.  AEJ+JCM fried rice.)

    1 Comment

    March 9, 2012

    New Orleans

    I haven’t posted a blog entry in over two months. What have I been doing? I…

    * Finished a new, slow, “grade 3” lyrical piece, “Sheltering Sky.” It premieres in April, and I’ll write more about the piece when it’s available.  Are you excited? You should totally be excited.  It’s a slow piece – and it’s EASY!  If you know how to play a Cb. (Hint: just play a regular C, only play it super flat.)

    * Finished a short, fast, lots-of-notes, “grade 5” piece, “High Wire.” It premieres in May, and I’ll write more about this piece after I’ve heard it for the first time. In the meantime, you can check out the demo recording and see the score right here. It was fun to write a new no-holds-barred piece after a grade 3, I’ll tell you that.

    * Visited New Orleans for the first time! Let’s focus on that.

    I was brought in by Charles Taylor, the Director of Bands at the University of New Orleans. The plan was to work with the wind ensemble at his school, and also to work with an area honor band that UNO was hosting. The wind ensemble would perform “Strange Humors” and “Kingfishers Catch Fire,” and the honor band would perform “Undertow” and “Foundry.” Great! I’m in. Let’s do it.

    A few days before the trip, I took the crazy step of reading my contract and realized that I was responsible for covering the expense of my hotel (but not responsible for making the arrangements themselves), but I had no idea where I was staying. When I pay for a hotel out-of-pocket, I put myself somewhere completely un-fancy. I emailed Chuck to ask where he’d reserved a room. Weeks before, he’d told me he’d booked a room in the French Quarter of New Orleans, and that sounded fantastic — until I realized it was on my dime. How much was the room going to be, I asked? Without answering, Chuck panicked and changed my room reservation, thinking the original room was going to be too expensive. I appreciated that he’d found me a cheaper room… until I reached the hotel. This was the view from the front door.

    Very handy, if you plan on doing freeway work during your down time.  Have you seen my hands?  They are soft, lotioned, non-callused hands.  I’m too weak and wussy for freeway work.

    It’s not like there wasn’t stuff around the hotel. I could have checked out the mattress sale across the street.

    I mean, it was clean. And surprisingly quiet, considering it overlooked the freeway construction. But before I’d even checked-in, I begged Chuck to put me back where he’d originally planned. This hotel wasn’t even in New Orleans (it was 15 minutes away, by car), so my grande (yes, with an “e”) plans of walking around the French Quarter were going to be a non-starter. I was happy to pay an extra $50 a night to be in the French Quarter. I didn’t care if it was nice — the location was what mattered. If you go to a cool, unique city like New Orleans, you want to stay in the heart of the action, right? Chuck made some calls, and the next morning, I changed hotels.

    Holy crap, this place, built in 1855, was incredible. The “Claiborne” of Claiborne mansion was the ancestor of fashion designer Liz Claiborne.

    When the owner realized that I was paying for this out of pocket, and that I was a composer (“you must be so very poor, and I’ve never heard of you because you’re not yet dead” – I’m paraphrasing), she charged me less than I was paying at the first hotel. She had single rooms and suites, but she only had a suite available for the nights I was there, so she gave me the suite at the single room rate. This was my sitting room! I HAD A SITTING ROOM! If I may quote Fonzie from Happy Days, “SIT ON THIS, BITCHES!”  And that’s not some camera trick distorting the ceiling height. Those are 14-foot ceilings.

    Just a reminder. This was the hallway in my first hotel.

    And this was the hallway at my new hotel.

    The place was right on Washington Square. Here’s a picture of the hotel itself — it’s the yellow house — as seen from the park across the street. My room was on the second floor, facing the park.

    In case you can’t tell, I loved the hotel. And I already loved New Orleans, and I’d been in New Orleans-proper for all of 20 minutes. So let’s go for a walk!

    First, I stopped by this huge flea market.

    I considered getting one of these to wear during clinics. It could totally be my “thing.”

    There’s some awesome food in this city (we’ll get to that in a moment), but if you don’t like seafood, it gets a little trickier.

    More of the open-air market.  Shouldn’t these children be in school on a Friday afternoon?

    The night before, we’d had a quick bite on the way to rehearsal. Being that I was in New Orleans, it seemed I should have fish — and more importantly, hush puppies. I f-ing love hush puppies, but I think I’d only had them at Long John Silvers. These were better.

    But what about lunch the next day? My first real meal in New Orleans? I realized I was close to NOLA, one of Emeril Lagasse’s restaurants. That seemed like a good choice. It was.

    I sat at the bar because I hate to eat alone in a restaurant, but it doesn’t feel weird if you’re at the bar alone. Although now that I think about it, drinking alone at the bar in the middle of the day may not be wise, nor is it socially acceptable. Ah, but I was in New Orleans, a city with no open container laws, so I’d already seen people walking down the sidewalk with cups of beer at 11:30am. I didn’t have anything official until 8pm that night, so… Screw it. I bet they make a mean bloody mary.

    Yes. Yes, they do. The vodka is infused with spicy peppers, and it’s incredible. Maybe I should live in New Orleans part of the year…

    Since it’s a regional dish — and when you travel, you should always eat the specialty cuisine of that region (don’t go to Ohio for Mexican food, or Boston for barbecue) — I had shrimp and grits for lunch. Sauteed gulf shrimp, grilled green onions, smoked cheddar grits, apple smoked bacon, crimini mushrooms, and a red chili-abita butter sauce. In. Sane.

    I chatted a bit with the bartender, who was very cool, and he kept topping off my bloody mary. By the time I was leaving, I’d had three. I love you, man. I love you.

    So I walked/stumbled towards the Mississippi River, and thought I’d hang out there and watch some boats go by. It was a beautiful day with some crazy clouds.

    On the way back to my hotel, I checked out some antique shops. There’s probably a joke about this.  I don’t know what the joke is.

    I almost bought these for me and AEJ to wear around the house. (I don’t know if you’ve seen her, but she’d be the one in the taller suit.)

    MPG don’t matter when you’re pimpin.

    After a shower (by this time, it was in the low 80s outside, very muggy, and I was carrying a heavy camera, so I’d gotten a bit stinky), it was time to head to dinner. I picked, based on recommendations, and based on liking him on Top Chef Masters, one of John Besh’s restaurants: August.  But you can figure that out from the next picture.

    Again, I sat at the bar. I don’t remember what this cocktail was called, but it may as well have been called “super girly pink thing that tastes like pears.” It had Grey Goose Pear vodka, and I thought this might be the one time that pear vodka could work in a cocktail. I was wrong.

    Everything else about this meal was incredible – even the warm bread. (I say that like “warm bread” usually sucks.)

    The amuse bouche was this delicious truffle custard with caviar. (Was that a parmesan crouton? I forget.)

    I ordered the vegetarian tasting menu. I love a place that offers such a thing, and I love it even more when it’s less expensive than the standard tasting menu. (As you can see from most posts here, I’m quite the bargain hunter.) The first course was this salad of Covey Rise Farm’s heirloom beets and Ponchatoula strawberries, St. Martinville goat cheese, and tangelo.

    I love beets. Love ’em. I’d never had them with strawberry before. And this goat cheese was so soft and creamy, it was almost like whipped cream — the fancy kind of whipped cream, not the equally delicious kind from a spray can.

    Next up: cast iron roast broccolini with local pecans, candied fennel, and aleppo pepper. This was pretty spectacular, especially when you re-read what it was. It’s broccolini – and it was delicious.

    Next: acorn squash risotto with brussel sprouts in brown butter (nom!) and mushroom parmesan crisps. Yeah. Mushroom parmesan crisps. Have you ever heard of such a thing? Hot damn, those were great. The whole dish was a stunner.

    Dessert! Ponchatoula strawberries (same as the beet salad above) with sablé Breton, pistachio, and creole cream cheese. Lordy. Just… lordy.

    You know a restaurant is fancy-pants when they bring you Bonus Food, like the amuse bouche above, and this extra dessert offering.

    August was the best dinner I’ve had in a long time.

    The next morning, I decided I’d have the famous beignets from Cafe Du Monde. Nobody warned me that I wouldn’t be the only person with this idea. The line, which you don’t see pictured (although you can see a small part of it in the back) stretched for probably 75 yards.

    There was powdered sugar everywhere.

    Like, everywhere. For a second, I was like, “is that powdered sugar, or cocaine?” but then I remembered that I was in New Orleans, not Miami in 1985.

    I couldn’t deal with the wait for a table, so I waited in line for the to-go coffee and beignets. That line still took about 20 minutes, but I eventually had this.

    Inside the bag: this.

    Honestly, it wasn’t so special. It was weirdly chewy. I had a feeling it might have been better on a weekday morning when they weren’t mobbed. This seemed like it had been fried along with 4999 other beignets, maybe 90 minutes earlier. Eh, it was fine. Not worth all the hubbub, though.

    For dinner that night, Chuck picked the restaurant. I’d requested a John Besh restaurant earlier in the week — before I decided I’d go to August — and Chuck made a reservation for another Besh place, Lüke. I was fine with two Besh meals in two days. This is what is called a “first world problem.”

    These are not actual size. The real jars were even smaller. Very cute, but it reminded me a little of that story from The Onion, “‘How Bad For The Environment Can Throwing Away One Plastic Bottle Be?’ 30 Million People Wonder.”

    Lüke (can we just call it “Luke?” That’s how everybody pronounces it. Er, pronoünces it.) is a more casual place than August, serving a hybrid French+German bistro menu. You can’t be in a place like that and not have the French/Freedom Fries. Fantastic.

    Chuck and I both had the pasta special — house-made pasta with lobster, shrimp, and jalapeno. Just spicy enough to have a little kick. A great dish.

    Chuck’s dessert was this berry tart.

    I had the warm bread pudding with pecan caramel sauce. Lordy Lauridsen, it was delicious.

    I wish I’d had enough time to really check out the music scene in New Orleans. I had some great meals, but I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface of what that city has to offer. I guess I’ll need to go back.

    Oh, and the honor band kids were awesome. I heard the best high school oboist I think I’ve ever heard. And thanks for introducing me to the band Dream Theater, honor band kid!