Guymon Ensley & G.E.Q. Jazz


The Flag Was Still There


Today, I visited my father’s grave. His stone reflects his service in the U.S. Army as a PVT at war time, World War I.  Born in 1896, he would be 120 years of age this year. As I approached his marker which I knew was a bit overgrown with grass, I notice what I though was a piece of paper sitting on it. As I got closer, I noticed that the color was red, white and blue . . . but it wasn’t just a piece of paper at all. It was a tattered piece of cloth . . . a piece of what looked to be a small, worn U.S. flag, a piece of one that was originally about 8X10 inches.


May not mean anything, but here’s the story:


I believe that is was 4 or 5 years ago today, that I placed a small flag by my father’s marker. I pushed the wooden stick about eight or ten inches into the ground because I wanted it to stay there until the following year. I wanted to see how worn it will become as the year progressed. Then one year later, on Memorial Day, I intended to pull the flag from the ground and keep it, for it remained on my Dad’s grave for one year and weathered the elements and survived.

There it stood as I visited him again on my Mother’s birthday (July 7) and again on his birthday (October 20) . . . the flag stood tall, fading, ripping weathering beautifully. I returned in March the following year and the flag “was still there,” barring the signs of the winter’s harshness. Only two months to go . . . to return and find the Daddy’s flag standing tall and surviving for an entire year.


On May 30, Memorial Day, I stepped from my car, about forty feet from his grave and saw no flag… the flag was gone… there was no flag. I would not be telling the truth if I was to say that it did not anger me. Why would someone either take or destroy an American flag placed on a grave by a loved one? However, anything could have happened to it.


Each time I visited my Dad, I remembered how it was so easy to see where he was because of the flag. As mentioned, when I walked up to his marker, I didn’t know what to think. Is someone playing a joke?... No. It’s my Dad’s flag. I should have taken the shot right then, but I picked up the worn, tattered, faded flag and immediate wrapped it up, I just wasn’t thinking.  It made me a bit emotional during the whole time I policed his marker, and then that of making a memory. I placed the flag strategically back onto his marker and took this shot.

Need I Say More?


Filming "Dawn Of Justice"


About two years ago, I was casted as an extra in the filming of the Warner Brothers film "Dawn of Justice." They needed "military type" people as extras in the movie. I went through the motions and was called for fitting, involving bald or "high & right hair style and absolutely no facial hair period. 


Off i went to my fitting appointed and was custom fitted in a Marine Corp, Class A dress uniform, baring two stars on the applet and a host of bars and medals. 


At the shooting, I arrived on set as a uniformed Major General, the second ranking Officer under the main actor in the scene, General Swanwick, played by actor Harry Lennix.


 While the producers and A Ps were preparing and setting up for the scene, Mr. Lennox and I greeted each other and began to converse. I told him that I was a musician, and he ask me who my favorite trumpet player was. My mind went blank, however I quickly scaned and came up with the artist, who's music I've been listening to for the last month and who is one of my favorites, Terrance Blanchard.  A big smile appeared on his face and he told me that Terrance is a good friend of his. What a coincidence. We talked further whenever we had seconds between adjustments in the shooting and had fun between takes. 


With a host of additional extras as military personnel, as well as real war Vietnam and Korean War Veterans playing "war Veterans," we rehearsed and shot two parts of a scene which took the entire day. For the first part, I pretty much shadowed Mr. Lennox the entire time. Shot at the Masonic Temple in midtown Detroit, It was a scene where he and I and two other uniformed ranking Air Force and Navy Officers went down a reception line at a ceremony for the Military Veterans, shaking their hands and thanking them. We filmed the second part of the scene, where I was to appear towards the end of the scene, as he walked past me, after he ended a conversation with Louis Lane, played by.      . Almost the whole scene was not in the movie. There was only about four seconds of my profile could be seen. Here's where. When General Swanwick (Mr. Lennix) first appears in the film, he talks to Louis Lane as he exits a bathroom. The scene ends in a close-up on Mr. Lennix, where a profile of my head can be seen in the background in the lower right hand corner of the screen. The conversation was at the very end of the two part scene that we shot. The rest was eliminated from the movie.


3 Masterpieces Of The Seventies

Every social site and twitter-twatter, Facebook & spacebook and instagram & instant spam are increasingly being filled with more and more violent videos, TMI posts and dirty pictures and most recently, election year garbage. This stuff is making it not so fun to peruse the sites and communicate with you friends and take in positive information. To the folks right in the middle of this digital evolution, it may seem like a normal process. But to any old pencil and pen, 20 something person in the seventies and "come in when the street lights come on" kid of the sixties like myself, the bombardment of this digital thing was a bit challenging at first ... at lease it seemed that way to me, even though to many, the arrival was a welcoming change. 

A good friend and colleague of mine had a great idea. Just like myself, he was quite sick of the normal FB posts of real "downers" and decided to make a game of a positive post. He would assign a letter of the alphabet to anyone that LIKED his post. That letter would be the first letter of the name of an artist, a musician. You would then post a video track of that artist. The purpose of course, was to post some good music all over Facebook for an entire day instead of the skull duggery that usually took up space all over the place. Many of the responses were artists that tickled our fancies in the recent past . . . crooners and instrumentalist that really "set it out." The responses were outstanding! All day long, there were posts of artists, young and old . . . all types of swingin' and groovin' . . . sixties stuff, Motown stuff, "Head" stuff . . . Pop, Metal and Rock. I especially enjoyed the old grooves that took me back. Yep, it was really, really cool.

But speaking of the old "grooves" of yesteryear, (I mean "MASTERPIECES" of yesteryear), while I was takinig a breather and allowing my mind to wonder aimlessly, I landed right on these three albums, who's ridges I wore completely off of it's vinyl disk back in the day. You groove lovers of the seventies should remember these albums by these geniuses: Gino Vinnelli's "Storm At Sunup," "Romantic Warrior" by Return To Forever and of course "Southern Comfort" - The Jazz Crusaders. Clicking on the links will take you right to them on Youtube. Crank up them volume and take some time out and CHECK EM OUT RIGHT NOW!!

Hey Trumpet Players, It's All In The “GAP”


Recently I’ve discovered something special that I have to share with trumpet players all over the world. I love things the WORK . . . and when I discover things the WORK, I like to share them. It’s about the GAP. I’m referring to the short distance between your mouthpiece’s shank and the horn’s leadpipe. It’s measured in millimeters. The larger GAP causes back pressure, which actually assists in a couple of ways, but hinders the horns performances in many ways. However, let me say this . . . generally, the smaller/shorter the GAP, the better the horn performs.


After putting a post about mouthpieces on Facebook’s, I received numerous referrals to Mr. Otto Alcon (a Warburton Mouthpiece representative). With years of experience in “fitting” trumpeters, I hooked up with him to check out his service.  I don’t need to write anymore about the outcome . . . put it this way, that’s why I’m telling you about it.  But I do want to say this . . . both of my primary trumpets have never responded better. The adjustment took the “fight” out of the horn(s) and made them easier to play, it’s the best way I could explain it. Additionally, after testing with Otto, I found out that the rim size of my mouth piece(s) was too small. Even though the smaller rims facilitated an increased range, I found that my range doesn’t suffer even with the larger rimmed mouthpiece and recommend cup depth. My tone is fatter and overall sound has greatly improved.


It’s a crazy thought when you think about how the manufacturers of high quality trumpets don’t reveal this GAP factor. For instance, I can see if you play a Bach and your preference is a mouthpiece by another manufacture, the GAP may need adjusting. However, if you play a Bach with a Bach mouthpiece, shouldn’t the GAP be built in by the manufacturer? OK, I’m done . . . trumpeters, you have to check it out. Visit Otto on Facebook.



My Other Hero Was A World War One Veteran


Pictured, is my other hero, and a picture of me. They are cropped, but his was taken in approximately 1956, when I was about three years old. The cropped photo of myself was taken in 2013. In both photos, we both are approximately the same age (60 years old).


I have always honored and respected my other hero. I still miss him.



I Watched My Dad When We Met Jackie Robinson


The movie “42” that depicts the great Hall of Famer, Jack Roosevelt “Jackie” Robinson’s entry into the “major leagues” was the top grossing movie during its opening week, April 12-14.  It is reported that box office receipts topped 27 million dollars.


Mr.Robinson holds a special place in my heart. I will never forget the look on my Father’s face when we met him.  Let me explain.


My Dad, Lloyd “Do-Love” Hoggatt was born in Nashville, TN in 1896.  He moved to Minnesota in the mid 1920’s where he played professional baseball in the “Negro League.” At that time, a “Negro” was not allowed to play in the ‘major league.’  There are several books including “The Biographical Encyclopedia – The Negro Baseball Leagues” by James A. Riley, that discuss the plight of the professional Negro baseball player.


Daddy played second base and was given the name “Do-Love” as many Negro league players had that came after my Dad; James Thomas “Cool Papa” Bell, “Satchel” Paige and Ted “Double Duty” Radcliffe are only three of the thousands of players. I could only recall what I heard him say when he was talking to his friends and family. I remember him always laughing when he talked of adventures that he had when he was around his brother, my Uncle “BB” Hoggatt, about how he traveled throughout the south on busses, going from town to town, playing games against other teams. I didn’t know what the stories meant at that time, but I seemed to record them in my mind as being something important to him and somehow, I believed that he knew that I was listening.


In the early 40’s, on a trip to Detroit to visit his sister, he met and married a beautiful young woman, my mother “Mommy”.  He decided to settle down and had three boys.

In the mid 50’s my Dad started playing catch with my older brother, teaching him the mechanics of being a good well-rounded ball player. In subsequent years he would teach each of us the fundamentals of each position on the field. At least once a week, Daddy took us to the ball field and hit what seemed to be the highest fly balls ever!  There were of course trips to the then Brigg’s Field (later named Tiger Stadium).  Baseball was a part of our lives and we loved It!

My brothers and I went on to play organized baseball in the minor league, little league and teener/Babe Ruth baseball teams in our home town of River Rouge, MI. I was a mediocre ball player at best, but my older brother developed a pretty good pitching arm and my little brother, well “Kermit” just nonchalantly knocked the cover off the ball whenever he felt like it. Daddy surely would not have minded if one of us would have played ball professionally. My Dad coached the US Post Office female softball teams for many years and he coached my little brother’s little league team in 1965-67, till the age of 71. Daddy just loved baseball.


When I was 6 or 7 years old, a local newspaper announced that the great Jackie Robinson was going to be signing baseballs at a local department store.  Daddy’s excitement went through the roof!  It always interested me to see the things that made my parents excited. Daddy was just beside himself! On the day that Robinson was to appear, Daddy got up early, showered, and put on one of his best dress shirts (which he always buttoned to the top button). He had it tucked in his pants this day. There was a smile on his face that didn't go away. It was almost scary!

He packed me and my brothers into the car and travel about twenty minutes to the store. There was a long line of proud dads with their sons, dressed in baseball uniforms, waiting to meet the great Jackie Robinson.


When it was our turn, we stepped up to what seemed like a tall platform with a long table, where Mr. Robinson sat. This was the man, a great man and a major league baseball player that my Daddy had talked about with so much pride.  I glanced up at Daddy as he squared his shoulders and approached Mr. Robinson. I knew then what admiration and pride looked like. I had never seen this side of my Father. With a big smile on his face, he handed Mr. Robinson a baseball to sign, and said, "these are my boys, they play baseball.”


"Oh Yeah . . . I See What You're Playing" - Jazz Improvisation

The Third Half Of Life – On My Journey


When we talk about the half of anything, we think of something that’s divided into two parts. It’s a bit abstract to think of anything that has three halves, yep there are three halves. I think of our lives as having three halves or parts.  


Follow me on this journey: From birth to theoretically our eighteenth birthday (or until we are independent of our parents, guardians or authority figure), we are nurtured, taught and generally directed toward independence. We go through stages of stages, many of which cause our parents to endearingly and constantly figure out ways to avoid eliminating our existence instantly. It’s the time(s) when life teaches you how to function or how to 'duck and cover' when the stuff hits the fan. You get the picture.


Nevertheless, at the point in our lives when we realize that we are out there on our own and there is no backup, cavalry, or apron strings to hold onto, we begin the second half of our lives or as it were -- the first half of adulthood.


As young adults, maybe charging forward with an education or with some discretionary cash or both, we set off to conquer the world. We eventually find the job(s) that we LIKE, then the job(s) that we NEED, then the job that we WANT, then the job that we LIKE and NEED and the job that we LIKE and WANT, then the job that we NEED and WANT… you get knocked down and bruised a few times but you are on a mission, so you pick yourself up and the cycle starts anew. Exhausting!


Maturing, we get closer to early midlife -- some of us earlier than others -- and we start thinking about love and friendship and relationships and love. So you pick yourself up after falling out of what you thought was love and you’re disappointed at people who made you feel you were in love… and you continue healing from a broken heart and blah, blah, blah. There are a lot of bandages and scabs but we keep moving.


After wading through the obstacles of life, we began to figure out the best way we can possibly salvage those portions of our lives that have been beaten up, broken or badly bent. We decide on a course of action; where to make improvements and adjustments, and finally, where we want to be in --- say five or ten years and maybe even go so far as to look deeply and try to put a finger on how, when and where we want to do this thing we’ve seen people do… yeah retire!  Sigh!  Yeah, time to figure out how, when and where to begin the THIRD HALF of our lives.


I call retirement the time that one starts to LIVE! But what is 'LIVE' and how do you do it?  In this case LIVE is an action verb: the act of doing something. A very important definition, in my book: to do what “I” want to do; to work at what "I "want to work at and to play at what "I" want to play at. (I know good people of correct grammar I am leaving “at” at the end of the sentence). 


The first two halves of my life have prepared me for LIVING! It was extremely difficult! I deserve this! I WILL make the best of it!


Yep, on the brink of the second half of my life, at the age of nineteen, I knew I wanted and needed to write music, play music and record music. A little more than fifteen years ago, after twenty eight years of working a job I wanted and sometimes liked, I started to LIVE… writing, playing and recording music and loving every minute of it. To date, my band ‘GEQ’ has performed almost fifteen years worth of concerts, festivals and club engagements, including seven tours in the Caribbean and Hawian Islands.


In 2003 GEQ and I released our first CD ‘Here Put This On’ nationally and it was re-released in 2009 with two bonus tracks. A second project, ‘Meet Guymon Ensley’ was released in 2006 and three singles followed.


My life has been a series of stops, false starts, and side trips but I have enjoyed the journey. Some of you I have met on my journey to 'Living My Life' and I’m glad to have shared the ride. For you new travelers, – just hang on, the ride – the music is always exciting.  To hear/experience the most recent additions on my musical journey, click here for my NEW Extended Play CD 'This Comes With It’. Thank you for being a listener and a passenger on this journey.  



swingin’ & groovin’ harder than ever!


Your Next CD's Coverart Should Be "Whatz-up!"


Last week, I attended the 2015 Jazz Connect Conference, held at the St. Peters Church in New York. In attendance, were musicians, producers, music educators, record company executives, music journalist and more. The panel and plenary sessions were complete with information on branding, artist owned and run labels and the role of social media, just to name a very few. However, a common thread throughout most of the presentations had something to do with the replenishing of the jazz audience. This was articulated very well by keynote speaker, bassist Christian McBride. As only Christian can do it, he used his humorous approach to sum it up advising everybody to bring a young person to jazz.


There are fine young jazz performers, composers ad educators showing up all over the world and among their following, are young consumers. The rich history of this artform, born in New Orleans and nurtured in other great American cities, has seemed to carry with it, a tradition. Over the years, I remember the artwork on the front of album covers of many jazz artists being photos or drawings of the artist or their instruments. For the most part, the great jazz Katts through the years dressed “hip” or “cool” . . .  or maybe there was something pretty cool about an outdoor scene that was pretty appropriate at the time. 


But I got a reminder of how important the artwork on album covers are. It was right after Christian McBride’s keynote speech on getting young people interested in jazz.  I was in one of the large rooms outside of the sanctuary where the speech occurred. As I stood there, a young lad walked up to me and introduced himself. He was a musician, a drummer from Brooklyn . . . and he had a certain humbleness that seem to indication that he was accomplished in a since. We exchanged business cards and CDs and continue to talk. He glanced at my CD and placed it into his bag. Then, he very deliberately, however respectfully stated: “do you know why a lot of young people are not interested in learning about jazz . . . because many times there are pictures of older people, or something older on the front in the artwork.” He also referred to a photo of “Sun Ra” on the front of this month’s Jazz Times Magazine. I found that to be interesting and pondered that thought for the rest of the afternoon and evening.


That evening, I found myself sitting in “Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola,” checking out the jam session night with students from the Juliard School of Music taking the stage. Those young people were playing some of the hottest licks, and taking command of the music. I enjoyed every second of it. I introduced myself to a young tenor player who had just stepped from the smoldering stage that he just set on fire. As we talked, I took advantage of the opportunity to get his take of  how important cover artwork is. I showed him a copy of the image on my newest CD. As you know, it sports an image of tweed trousers, pointed toed shoes and white socks . . . the photo is from about the knees down. He studied the picture for a few seconds and told me that he liked it. Then I asked him about its appeal to a younger musician like himself and a younger consumer of jazz music . . . someone that might want to buy a CD “cold” . . . or does he think it’s a pretty cool photo. The young sax player hesitated a few seconds and commented on the white socks, stating “the picture is OK . . . but if the socks . . . if the socks weren’t just white . . . if they had some color . . . then that’s  “whatz-up!” So . . . that’s what I did, I added some colored socks!


 The lesson I learned here is that artwork should not be just “hip,” “cool” or even an image of my own mug . . . but it’s got to be an image that's “whatz-up!”


Thank You For Your Good Wishes


I want to thank everyone for your good wishes on my first time out for a Grammy nomination with my new album “This Comes With It.” I fell short of the nomination this year but I promise to keep writing and trying to keep it fresh for my next opportunity. Congratulations to those artists that made the cut this year, I wish you the best.

Guymon Ensley


RSS feed