Thursday, November 24, 2011

Are we (musicians) our own worst enemy?

I want to get these thoughts down before I slip into a food coma...

I have been thinking a lot about the current scene here in Rhode Island/New England and I realize...I have seen the enemy, and I am he. I always notice when I am playing, a lack of fellow musicians in the audience. This makes me grumble a least it did until I took an objective look at myself. When I am not working (which, like most of us, is more often than not these days) my behind is most often fused to my sofa watching Rachel Maddow or 30 Rock, NOT out at a club supporting my colleagues. This is unacceptable. If there is to be a sustainable jazz scene in Providence then it is up to us to support each other and this is a commitment I am making tonight. I have come to love Providence and I can see myself settling here someday. There is such potential here for a healthy creative music scene, but we need to get out of the house and support it. The commitment I am making: if there is live jazz happening and I am not working, I will be there. I have left too many of my friends and fellow musicians hanging...if I'm not on my gig, I'll be at yours.

A scene is created by showing up. I want to show up.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all!


Friday, June 10, 2011

Everything can be practice

I played a graduation today.

It was a concert band setting, light classical and the inevitable "Pomp and Circumstance"...a LOT of consecutive quarter notes, imagine the "motor" behind the melody and that's what I was playing. This would be a tempting place to go on auto-pilot and mentally visit the Azores as we repeated the melody over and over, but something about the way we were playing the quarter notes reminded me of something from my undergrad days. My teacher Stephen Duke has an exercise that he called "The Scale and Arpeggio Exercise", the specifics of which are to deep to go into here. Suffice to say, that a portion of it involves tapering notes to silence in time.

I decided to take this few minutes of playing quarter notes and be hyper aware of my note lengths, taper, and attack. Could I make each taper the same length? Could I control the taper in such a way that there was true silence between each note? Could I EXACTLY match the tapers of my colleagues?

In playing this passage while asking myself these questions, I was able to take a simple gig in terms of technique (in terms of "fast fingers") required and make it into a valuable practice session in instrumental control (every bit as much "technique", yes?).

It can be tempting to mentally check out from time to time on simple music. But, if we look deeply enough, there is a lesson every time we pick up our instruments.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Primary Sources and Modern Inspiration

I have been slow to warm "modern" musicians. I think I can trace this attitude back to when I was in high school and I really began to get serious about listening to jazz. My father had a record collection that included Miles, Trane, Herbie Hancock, among others. By the time I was 15, I was pretty clearly ensconced in the Trane-Wayne-Sonny-Joe universe. My first year of college, I was probably the only one there who hadn't been wearing out Brecker's "Don't Try This At Home." I say this all by way of realizing that my musical world view is seen (heard?) through a lens in which most of what I hear in my head as an example of an ideal is at least 50 years old.

I have, of course, come to love the entire spectrum of music, but jazz recorded between 1957 and 1972 will always hold a place in my heart as the TRUTH.

I love to listen to many musicians on the scene today, but for study and inspiration I always find myself going back to the primary sources. How about you?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

John Coltrane

I have been listening to the master a lot these days.

Specifically, "Meditations". It has taken a long time for me to really be able to appreciate some of Trane's music from his later period. I've come to hear that the music on this recording, while being very abstract, contains some of the most intensely beautiful melodies anywhere on record.

Consider the following from the "Love" movement:

What really touches me is the relatively simple way that Trane treats the melody (starting around 2:20). The simple, almost child-like melody with increasingly dark and shifting colors never fails to grab at my heart as does the absolute conviction that Trane plays with.

Just beautiful....

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year!

Farewell 2010...hail and well met to 2011! I spent the last hour of 2010 listening to this. I'm rather embarrassed to say that, while I've know about the Bill Evans episode of Piano Jazz for quite a while, I hadn't heard it prior to this evening. What a great conversation. The playing is absolultly beautiful and hearing Bill talk about his processes is a treat. His thoughts on structure should be required listening for all musicians.

Here's an excerpt from The Universal Mind of Bill Evans where he discusses and demonstrates more of the same.