MAR 25, 2021 

  • Elise Osenga maintains one of Aspen Global Change Institute’s 10 soil moisture monitors. Researchers use data from stations like this one to figure out how much snowmelt and precipitation will reach rivers and streams. ALEX HAGER /  ASPEN PUBLIC RADIO

When it comes to water in the West, a lot of it is visible. Snow stacks up high in the mountains then eventually melts and flows down into valleys. It’s easy to see how heavy rains and rushing rivers translate into an abundance of available water. But another important factor of water availability is much harder to see. Listen Listening…4:56

Beneath the surface, the amount of moisture held in the dirt can play a big role in how much water makes it down to rivers – and eventually into the pipes that feed homes and businesses. 

Elise Osenga, community science manager for Aspen Global Change Institute, gathers data from 10 soil moisture monitors in the Roaring Fork Valley.

“I can’t tell you what the rain is going to do,” Osenga said. “But I can tell you where we’re starting out with soil moisture and snow scientists can tell you where we’re starting out with snowpack and that can help you to realize what’s coming ahead.”

When dirt is saturated, more water from rainfall and snowmelt will trickle into streams and rivers. When dirt is dry, it acts like a sponge, soaking up precipitation and holding it in the ground.

“If you have dry soils, snow melts and you’re not going to see as much runoff,” Osenga said. “But if you take a year where maybe you had the exact same snowpack, but you went in with really, really wet soils, those soils can’t take up as much water. So you’re going to see a higher runoff from that same amount of snowpack.”

That runoff feeds streams that make up part of the water supply accessible to people. 

One of Osenga’s monitors is tucked away in a dense thicket of scrubby brush on a hillside above Glenwood Springs. It’s a metal tripod adorned with boxes, monitors, and wires heading underground – where a set of metal prongs uses electrical signals to measure the amount of water held in the dirt. 

Each monitoring station uses metal prongs buried in the soil. By sending an electrical signal from one prong to another, they are able to gauge the amount of water held in the dirt. CREDIT ALEX HAGER / ASPEN PUBLIC RADIO

That data, combined with findings from the other stations around the valley, is informative in both the short term and the long term. 

Water managers – who decide how much water cities and towns can sustainably use each year – can use that data to figure out how much snow melt might reach rivers each summer. That’s especially important in places such as Aspen, where much of the water supply is drawn directly from streams rather than stored in a reservoir.

Osenga said the network of monitors is spread across a variety of sites in the area to help with some of the long-term findings. 

“We wanted to pick 10 spots that would represent different types of ecosystems and different elevations across the valley,” she said. “And the reason we wanted to have that elevational spread is because we’re really curious about climate change impacts.”

Those impacts are a bit hard to measure because researchers are working with a limited data set when it comes to soil moisture. The Natural Resources Conservation Service – a federal authority on snowpack and Colorado’s watersheds – only has soil moisture data going back about 10-15 years. 

This soil moisture monitoring station near Glenwood Springs is part of a network of 10 in the Roaring Fork Valley. Gathering data from a variety of locations helps researchers track long-term climate changes. CREDIT ALEX HAGER / ASPEN PUBLIC RADIO

Brian Domonkos, Colorado snow survey supervisor for the NRCS, said the agency can start to confidently extrapolate patterns after about 30 years of data collection. Despite the deficit of long-term records, he said recent years appear to be dry.

“We’re seeing that there is a trend of below normal precipitation during the summer and that the soil moisture is getting quite dry,” Domonkos said. “Even with normal precipitation or snowpack right now on top of those dry soils we would have below normal runoff.”

Snowpack data, which draws on about a century of observations, shows a slight decrease in annual volume over time.

Although measuring soil moisture is relatively new for environmental scientists, it’s a practice that has a long history in the world of agriculture. Farmers and growers develop an understanding of water and dirt that helps them make decisions about irrigation.  

Casey Piscura is the owner and director of Seed Peace, an agricultural research nonprofit. He works at Sunfire Ranch outside of Carbondale, along the Crystal River near Thompson Creek.

“When you are coming into a season like this one where you see lower than normal snowpack,” he said, “The amount of water that can be held in the soil is essential to being more efficient with the water that we have when we know it’s going to be limited.”

Piscura pays close attention to soil health. The composition of dirt can affect its capacity to hold water and sustain crops. That capacity comes into play when he is making decisions about irrigation.

“Without good water and good soil moisture,” he said, “We really are limited in the quantity and quality of things that we can grow. So it’s essential.”

Sara Tymczyszyn plants seeds at Highwater Farm in Silt. Although measuring soil moisture is relatively new for environmental scientists, it’s a practice that has a long history in the world of agriculture. CREDIT ALEX HAGER / ASPEN PUBLIC RADIO

Keeping tabs on soil moisture may grow increasingly important. Piscura and other farmers say long-term changes in climate conditions could lead to “desertification” in the area – where previously fertile land dries out and loses its ability to host crops.

An understanding of soil moisture bears significance for people outside of farming, too. 

“It’s important for understanding whether or not you’re going to be in a drought,” Osenga said. “I think this year in particular, everyone in Colorado is kind of standing with their hair on end thinking, ‘Are we going to be in a real serious drought next year?’”

With snowpack hovering below average, and dry soil making it even harder for that snow to reach rivers and streams when it melts, this winter’s indicators hint at another dry summer. Without improvement, that could put the Roaring Fork Valley and Colorado on track for water usage restrictions and increased risk of wildfire.

Gabo’s neighborhood


Hotel Santa Clara courtyard
The Doorman at the Santa Clara

Don Frank enjoying his Mojito


I was in Gabo’s barrio, San Diego, in Cartagena last week. Had a mojito in the colonial courtyard of the Hotel Santa Clara. The hotel was originally built as a convent in 1621. Gabo’s house is next door to the hotel. They talk about ghosts in the hotel…..fantasmas.

Un abrazo grande


Gabo’s neighborhood/Barrio San Diego near Hotel Santa Clara

crédito total, Don Frank

Gabo, The Creation of Gabriel Garcia Marquez

If you are a Marquez fan you have to see his life story. You can find it on Amazon Prime.



‘Gabo, The Magic of Reality’ is a story about the incredible power of human imagination, which follows the interwoven threads of Gabriel García Márquez’s life and work – “Gabo” to all of Latin America – with the narrative tension of an investigation.

Listening to Miles this afternoon …

Miles Davis: ‘Kind of Blue’ NPR

~~~ 54-minute Listen ~~~

Miles Davis (October 1959)Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The best-selling jazz record of all time is a universally acknowledged masterpiece, revered as much by rock and classical music fans as by jazz lovers. The album is Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue.

Kind of Blue brought together seven now-legendary musicians in the prime of their careers: tenor saxophonist John Coltrane, alto saxophonist Julian “Cannonball” Adderley, pianists Bill Evans and Wynton Kelly, bassist Paul Chambers, drummer Jimmy Cobb and, of course, trumpeter Miles Davis.

Davis and his cool, measured trumpet style had been attracting attention in the jazz world since the mid-1940s. By 1958, at age 32, Davis was an international jazz star whose playing set the standard for jazz musicians of the day.

And just as younger artists looked to Davis for guidance and inspiration, he looked to them for raw, new talent and innovative musical ideas. In the mid-1950s, Davis discovered gold in the subtle sounds of 25-year-old pianist Bill Evans, whom he recruited into his late-1950s sextet. Evans would prove an essential contributor to the Kind of Blue sessions.

Even before Kind of Blue, Davis was experimenting with “modal” jazz, keeping the background of a tune simple while soloists played a melody over one or two “modes,” or scales, instead of busy chord progressions — the usual harmonic foundation of jazz.

In addition, Evans introduced Davis to classical composers, such as Béla Bartók and Maurice Ravel, who used modalities in their compositions. Davis also drew on his knowledge of the modal qualities in the blues.

With Evans, Davis worked up a few basic compositional sketches, and when the musicians arrived at the studio on March 2, 1959, they were given the outlines. Davis wanted to capture the musicians’ spontaneity — and he wanted to capture it on the first take.

The first tune recorded, “Freddie Freeloader,” is representative of the “first take” magic on the record, and it features the happy, swinging playing of pianist Wynton Kelly, who had recently joined Davis’ sextet.

The second tune recorded that day ended up as the lead and probably best-known album track. “So What” took an unusual tack: bassist Paul Chambers stated the opening melody, and with Evans playing rather unorthodox chords underneath, the song serves as somewhat of a fanfare or overture, hinting at what was in store for the listener.

Davis was at a musical peak in the 1950s and had been preparing the ideas that would become Kind of Blue for years. A year before the recording, Davis slipped Evans a piece of paper on which he’d written with the musical symbols for “G minor” and “A augmented.”

“See what you can do with this,” Davis said. Evans went on to create a cycle of chords as a meditative framework for solos on “Blue in Green.”

The second day of recording did not take place for seven weeks. When the band finally gathered again, this time minus pianist Kelly, the first tune recorded was essentially a series of Flamenco- and North African-derived scales.

Ashley Kahn, author of Kind of Blue: The Making of the Miles Davis Masterpiece, says that the resulting recording possesses an almost spiritual quality as the musicians — particularly Coltrane — seemed to take a reverent approach to the composition.

For the tune “All Blues,” Davis again played with the simplest of elements. He took a standard 4/4 time blues and gave it a waltz feel in 6/8. Evans said that was part of Davis’ genius — creating a simple figure that becomes much more. The setting allowed alto saxophonist Cannonball Adderley to return to his big-band roots.

To the musicians who recorded it, Kind of Blue was just another session when it was released in August 1959. But the disc was quickly recognized by the jazz community as a classic. Jazz musicians were startled by the truly different sound on an album that laid out a clear roadmap for further modal explorations.

“So What” became the tune, the one that every musician — not just the practitioners of jazz — simply had to know. The other tracks also quickly became standards, and the individual solos throughout the record continue to inspire musicians to this day.

Musicians from all genres perform, record and study the album’s songs, and the influence of the songs on culture beyond music continues to grow. Drummer Cobb says it all comes down to simplicity — the reason Kind of Blue has remained so successful for so long. And because of its inherent balance, historian Dan Morgenstern adds, the album never wears out its welcome.


In an episode hosted by Carey Mulligan, “S.N.L.” looked at the American justice system through the lens of a fictional midday news program.


By Dave Itzkoff

April 11, 2021

After two weeks of testimony, the murder trial of Derek Chauvin, the former officer charged in the death of George Floyd, has gripped viewers — including the hosts of a fictional news program on “Saturday Night Live,” who drew very different conclusions from what they’d seen.

This weekend, “S.N.L.” began with a sendup of a local midday show, called “Eye on Minnesota” and hosted by Ego Nwodim, Kenan Thompson, Kate McKinnon and Alex Moffat.

Reacting to the case so far, Nwodim said, “Watching this trial brought back so many bad feelings from last summer.”

Moffat supportively added, “The video footage alone should tell you everything you need to know about what happened. And hopefully justice will be served.”

McKinnon said, “Sounds like we all agree — there’s no way Derek Chauvin walks away from this.”

With an immediate, knowing skepticism, Nwodim and Thompson both replied, “Welllllll—”

~~~ WATCH ~~~

Nwodim remarked that the defense’s attempt “to make a case that George Floyd’s drug use was somehow responsible is just deplorable.”

Thompson added, “It was a clear act of desperation to create doubt where there is none.”

“Exactly,” McKinnon said, “and there’s no way the jury’s going to fall for that.”

Once again, Thompson and Nwodim did not share in this certainty.

Moffat asked them, “What are you guys trying to say?”


Bertrand Tavernier’s “ ’Round Midnight” shows what it means to devote your life to music.

By Howard Fishman

April 7, 2021

Still from Round Midnight showing musicians playing in a jazz club
Jazz musicians play a club, in a scene from “ ’Round Midnight.”Photograph from Warner Bros. / Photofest
  • The jazz world owes a debt of gratitude to the filmmaker Bertrand Tavernier, who died on March 25th, at the age of seventy-nine. The French auteur’s career included such stylistically disparate films as “A Sunday in the Country” and “Death Watch,” but his signature work may be the moody, impressionistic “ ’Round Midnight,” from 1986, about an aging American jazz musician in nineteen-fifties Paris and the admiring fan who befriends and helps him. It’s ironic (and maybe fitting) that it took a foreign director to do justice to a quintessential American art form. “ ’Round Midnight” is the film that jazz deserves.

American jazz movies tend to resemble the “scare films” in driver’s-ed classes, cautionary tales that show what happens when we don’t follow the rules. From “The Jazz Singer,” in 1927, right up through this past year’s “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” and “The United States vs. Billie Holiday,” the story that Hollywood has told about jazz is one involving over-the-top caricatures, the lives of its geniuses rife with criminality, runaway libidos, wanton self-destruction, and obsessive madness. If American cinema has a message to impart, it seems to be that jazz musicians are trouble—best observed from a safe (read: morally superior) distance. They’re exotic creatures, these movies say. They’re not like us.

“ ’Round Midnight” is the exception. Tavernier treats the jazz milieu with respect, subtlety, and restraint. (He also co-wrote the screenplay, with David Rayfiel.) There is no overheated drama to be found here. There is a love story, but, rather than a fraught tale of sexual misadventure, it’s a platonic one—and it’s between two men. That one of them is Black and the other is white doesn’t overtly factor into their relationship, a reminder that the opportunity for regular work was not the only reason that many great African-American jazz artists fled to Europe in that era. (The film was inspired, in part, by Francis Paudras’s “Dance of the Infidels,” an account of the pianist Bud Powell’s expatriate years in France.)

Tavernier’s elegiac film shows us scenes of musicians as real, three-dimensional people: plying their wares each night, talking about life, listening to records, sharing meals, taking walks. They’re funny and flawed, imperfect yet dignified. Some tropes do appear—the central character struggles with alcohol dependence, and there is a fast-talking New York manager (played by Martin Scorsese)—but these are treated with a soft touch.

Tavernier’s best decision was entrusting the lead role to the saxophone legend Dexter Gordon, who infuses every frame he appears in with a kind of insouciant gravitas. (His acolyte is played by François Cluzet.) Although only in his early sixties when the film was shot, Gordon was “very old for his age,” the film’s producer, Irwin Winkler, told me. He seems ancient, and not of this world. His character interacts with everyday reality as much as is required of him—to place an order, to introduce a tune, to offer some gentle wisdom to a small child. But whether speaking, playing, or simply in repose, what Gordon exudes most is philosophical detachment, the melancholy knowledge that the life he has chosen demands that he keep some part of himself separate, ready to heed the call of his muse when he takes the stage each night. “My life is music. My love is music. And it’s twenty-four hours a day,” Gordon’s character says. His heavyweight, world-weary performance is that of someone who knows that his days are numbered, like Robert Ryan, in John Frankenheimer’s adaptation of “The Iceman Cometh,” or Richard Farnsworth, in David Lynch’s “The Straight Story.”

Although Gordon portrays the fictional Dale Turner, we always know who he really is, and we’re lucky to have his magnetic performance captured for posterity. (Gordon died less than four years after the film was released.) When he’s heard invoking the names of some of his favorite tenor-sax players (“Lester Young . . . Coleman Hawkins . . . Ben Webster”) or when he rhapsodizes about Count Basie and Charlie Parker, these are stirring meta-moments that add to the film’s verisimilitude. Tavernier called the film “incredibly emotional to shoot, because the frontier between life and fiction was always completely thin.”

Gordon had never before played a dramatic role on film, and his only acting experience had been in a Los Angeles production of Jack Gelber’s play “The Connection,” a quarter-century earlier, in which he portrayed a jazz musician with a drug habit. But his widow, Maxine Gordon, told me that “Dexter always considered getting onstage as a performance and as acting. He was ready when he was selected for the film, and knew that he had to do what other great artists had never had the opportunity to do.” Gordon received an Oscar nomination for his work, and Marlon Brando wrote to him to say that it was the first time in fifteen years that he’d learned something new about acting.

The entire film is like a lazy, languid ballad performed by an ensemble of masters. In interviews that Tavernier gave after the film’s release, he spoke of the challenges of capturing “the bizarre, enigmatic way jazz musicians relate to each other. They make Pinter’s characters sound like . . . over-explainers.” He solved this by allowing Gordon and his fellow-musicians (a cast of jazz heavies that included Ron Carter, Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Tony Williams, Freddie Hubbard, and Billy Higgins) to set the tempo of the scenes. He let them relax. He gave them space, and then let them fill it up. Sometimes, there are long, empty pauses, “the same way that in the jazz the notes that the people don’t play are as important as the notes that they play,” Tavernier said.

All but one of the musical performances were shot live, and are gorgeously captured, with long swaths of camera stillness that linger over the introspective concentration of players who are creating in real time and the audiences that are admiring them. Tavernier was careful to populate these scenes with genuine jazz fans and people from that world rather than with movie extras, to allow for authentic reaction shots. “I wanted that kind of thing where nothing happens,” he noted. “Just people listening.”

It’s the sort of cinematic pace that has all but been done away with in the Netflix era; no swirling cameras or frenetic jump shots here—just long, pensive, slow takes of musicians at work. We see Gordon’s wordless gestures again and again, his reactions to what his bandmates play, the delight he takes in the colors they choose in their comping and in their solos. We see the joy of musicians simply making music together—the smiles, the eye contact, the body language. It feels authentic because it is.

“I was impressed with the approach,” Ron Carter told me. “So often, you see musicians played by actors who don’t even know how to hold their instruments correctly” (although he was quick to single out Chadwick Boseman for fingering his trumpet properly in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”). To the untrained ear, jazz can sound as random as a Jackson Pollock drip painting looks, but the visual intimacy that Tavernier captures makes the mystery of a jazz ensemble universally accessible.

I was a teen-ager when “ ’Round Midnight” was released, just beginning to explore jazz as a listener, and I remember the revelations it held for me about the life surrounding this music, one so at odds with the values presented by my homogenous, upwardly mobile upbringing. These musicians didn’t make a lot of money, drive fancy cars, or have much in the way of creature comforts. They lived in small, sparsely furnished rooms, ate home-cooked meals, and lived modestly. But they were seemingly in possession of an inner calm that I found alluring. Their spirits seemed vital, their souls intact. I remember thinking to myself, “I want to do that.”

Having now spent most of my adult life as a musician and bandleader, I can say that just about every other jazz film I’ve seen depicts a reality I don’t recognize. Although it’s true that the history of this music is littered with struggle, misbehavior, and hardship, what profession isn’t? Humans are human. For every Buddy Bolden, Lester Young, or Anita O’Day, there are any number of lesser-known, less-celebrated jazz musicians as dedicated to their art, minus the self-torture. The ones I know—those with staying power, the first-call players who always have work—are mostly a quiet bunch, humble people dedicated to their craft. They’re good friends, devoted parents, loving siblings, and loyal partners who do their jobs with the positive attitude, solid work ethic, and healthy sense of humor that are the hallmarks of any career professional. The ones who unhappily subscribe to the Hollywood notion that great art requires suffering, those who engineer chaos when their lives get too placid, generally don’t last. As the violinist Charlie Burnham, a man who’s been doing this for more than half a century, said to me, “The jazz life is not that much different from any other kind of life.”

Revisiting “ ’Round Midnight” after all these years, I was stunned by how nuanced and true it still feels. Maybe it’s just the effect of this long year (and counting) of being unable to perform in small rooms, but the film viscerally evoked the best associations I have of my life as a bandleader: the cozy, unspoken camaraderie that can be established with a group of strangers each night. The daylight hours spent exploring the streets of a new city, breathing unfamiliar air, noticing a different quality of the light, internally reviewing the previous night’s show: what had worked, what had not, what could be added or changed—a different tempo or new song—to the set that evening.

But, more than anything, I was reminded of a feeling I’ve been fortunate enough to have known at the end of many of those long evenings on the stand. Having made myself completely available to the flow of improvised music, emboldened by the trust afforded me by my bandmates and our audience. Having followed unexplored paths, and discovered worthwhile things. Those nights walking home along the deserted streets of a dreaming city, with perhaps only a fistful of dollars in my pocket, my clothes reeking from perspiration and the stench of the club, but rich with a feeling I might call ecstatic peace—an awareness that I’d not only served my purpose that day as well as I possibly could but had even managed to somehow transcend the particulars of my individual life. A sense of being complete, of deep satisfaction, a kind of success not included in the American dream of cash and prizes.

I count these experiences as among the highlights of my life, a fulfillment of the promise I saw offered by “ ’Round Midnight” when I first watched it, thirty-five years ago. As Dexter Gordon himself asks rhetorically in “Sophisticated Giant,” Maxine Gordon’s account of her husband’s life, “Why do most jazz stories dwell on the negative side of this life? We are people who get to play music for a living. What could be better?”

Howard Fishman is a writer, performer, and composer based in Brooklyn.

Dropping In With Mickey Munoz


~~~ The Surfer’s Journal ~~~


Mickey Munoz recently fooling around with us in the waves with classic great style ,…he’s 83…and very jazzed. Baja California Sur

crédito total de la photos, SxB

Haaland visits Bears Ears

A historic moment 

Jonathan P. Thompson
Apr 9

This week, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland visited southeastern Utah in order to “listen” and to “learn” about Bears Ears National Monument and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. The visit, which included meetings with tribal leaders, the Utah congressional delegation, and local and state elected officials was part of the Biden administration’s review of the monuments, which were shrunken dramatically by the Trump administration. 

A cynic might see the visit as political theatre, and there was some of that. But that shouldn’t take away from the historical significance of the Bears Ears visit. Here was the first Indigenous person to serve as secretary of the Interior, traveling through the first national monument to be conceived of and proposed and fought for by five tribal nations with deep roots in the land in question. And Haaland, herself, a citizen of the Pueblo of Laguna, also has ancestral ties to the region. 

(Much has been written about these ties, but for a quick overview I strongly recommend this piece by Lyle Balenquah, a Hopi archaeologist and artist. He’s talking about Hopi connections, in particular, but the ideas extend to the Pueblo people, in general. And here’s another about ties to Grand Staircase-Escalante.) 

Unfortunately, that deeper significance is often lost amid the political posturing and squabbling over the monument, “land grabs,” “local control,” the extent of the Antiquities Act, and the like. It is lost among the overblown assertions that a battalion of drill rigs will descend upon the Bears Ears, themselves, without a monument and, similarly, that the place will suddenly be thronged with millions of visitors, a la Zion National Park, as soon as it becomes a monument. I’m not going to rehash all of that now (for more of my thoughts read The Meaning of Monuments, the Mega-monument that Almost Was, and this piece on Industrial-scale Tourism). 

Instead, I’m going to ask that everyone slow down, forget about these arguments for or against monument designation, and consider the meaning of this moment in which five sovereign tribal nations—some of whom were historically at odds with one another—saw that their ancestral homeland and their culture was threatened, came together, and over the course of years formulated a proposal that could not only protect some of that culture, but also maybe give the tribes a little more say over how it is managed and interpreted. That is a big deal no matter how this all turns out. 

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