More on Musical Circles

By , June 30, 2015 1:57 pm

Although I won’t be in town, I was excited to see that Kamasi Washington is coming to Seattle, playing at Neumo’s on July 30:

I’ve read a fair amount about Washington in the last couple of months, but one aspect of his approach that particularly interested me was his participation in creating the West Coast Get Down, which is the community of musicians that have known each other since high school, play together in various combinations in Los Angeles, and recently collaborated on a month-long recording session, which resulted in a whole wealth of material written by different individuals in the collective. Kamasi’s album The Epic is just the first release from that material.

What I really like about musical collectives is they give you a wider view of the music that’s coming from a particular time and place. Because a group of like-minded people that know each other well are involved rather than one individual dictating ideas to others, the end result feels more collaborative. The West Coast Get Down and Kamasi Washington’s album is what a certain part of LA’s jazz community sounds like in 2015. I do wish the other members of the West Coast Get Down were mentioned as often as Washington and the collective are, but perhaps that will come in time when the rest of the material from that recording session is released.

I talked a bit about Seattle’s musical circles here, but the stories about Washington’s album and the West Coast Get Down got me thinking about them once again (post edited: I tried listing all of the music communities I consider collectives or near-collectives, and the list was just too long, I’m sure you all know many of the ones I do), and it made me wonder what Seattle music in 2015 sounds like to people that don’t live in Seattle or haven’t listened to it very much.  Perhaps it’s better to refrain from over-categorizing and trying to define the music being made; when it comes down to it we’re all just trying to be musically honest and playing what we like without making it fit into a style.  I know I’ve had this type of conversation with different people many many times, but it always seems to be on my mind, so if I’m repeating myself I’m sorry, friends!

 

 

Jazz Shows

By , June 15, 2015 12:18 pm

I had the opportunity to bounce around a bit this weekend, and really wanted to hear some jazz, so I went to several shows/sessions that I absolutely loved this weekend:

Brass Tacks in Georgetown with Ron Weinstein, Jeff Johnson, and Mike Stone:  I had heard about Brass Tacks before; I think Darian Asplund has had some gigs there, and I had seen Ron’s name attached to it too, but I had never been there.  I really like the playing of all three of these guys, and they are some of the nicest, most fun musicians to hang out with and talk to as well.  In addition, the restaurant is really nice, and although I didn’t try any of the food, it looked delicious.  One of the owners, Skylar, was constantly walking around, shaking hands and checking in on tables, and introduced himself to me, then, after a nice conversation, offered me another beer while I watched the guys play.  Even though the gig is, for all intents and purposes, a background music gig for a dinner crowd, it’s a great time.

The Lost Pelican in Belltown with Steve O’Brien and Delvon Lamarr:  This time, I did try the food, and the crab cakes were delicious, although the portions were a bit small.  Sounds like the move is to get there for the brunch and have the biscuits and gravy.  Delvon said they may be the best biscuits and gravy he’s ever had.  Whoa!  Once again, Steve and Delvon are guys that I really enjoy both playing with and talking to; they get as excited about jazz as I do, and as always I came away from the gig energized and motivated about my own playing.  Another background music gig, but, again, really really fun.

The Angry Beaver in Greenwood with Max Holmberg and friends:  The Angry Beaver is a jam session that I think has been going for a bit but is still pretty new, and feels similar to the Owl and Thistle jam session on Tuesdays.  The vibe is super friendly and the playing is top notch.  I knew a handful of people, but there were also a lot of musicians I didn’t know, or at least don’t know super super well, and I’ve only met Max once before, when we played together a year or so ago at the 118 Public House with Tim Kennedy.  Despite this, it was super comfortable; Max does a good job of walking around and hanging out and making sure people get to play, so even though the crowd was largely unfamiliar to me, I never felt awkward or out of place.  The bar is also pretty close to my house, and looks like a fun spot to catch a hockey game (it’s a Canadian hockey bar).

 

 

Roy Orbison and Local Music Circles

By , May 28, 2015 11:24 am

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I had a fun opportunity a couple of weeks ago to perform in a tribute to the music of Roy Orbison, a musician whose most popular songs I’m familiar with but who also wrote and performed a lot of material less well-known to me.  It was fun and interesting to play the show and get a little deeper into his sound and style.  Granted, it’s not as though I was playing with the man himself, but the band and lead vocalist really knew the material well, and were into playing it as faithfully as possible.

I also played in the opening band, The James Apollo 5, and I’ve had the opportunity to play with them several times now in a 2-piece horn section with Scott Morning (thanks Scott!)

Playing with the people in both of those groups gave me a view into some Seattle music circles I’m not as in touch with, which can be very enlightening.  It’s easy for me to stay involved and informed about the circles I already consider myself  a part of, or at least circles I have close friends or peers in, but there is SO MUCH music, of all kinds, being played, and I think it was good to be reminded that it can be beneficial to step outside of my musical comfort zone sometimes.

When I stop to think about it, I can think of many musicians in the Seattle scene that move between musical circles comfortably on a regular basis, without ever losing their unique voice and sound, and I really admire that.

With that being said, there’s also so much music happening inside (what I consider) my circles, and musicians that have a more focused or singular vision of what they want to play, which I also admire and respect.  I guess it’s always a bit of a balancing act.

Strong music supporter John Lalonde once compared the Seattle music scene (or, specifically, the attempt to keep up with the scene) to “drinking from a fire hose”, meaning that there is so much great stuff happening all the time it can be easy to get blown away (John, that was you that coined the phrase, right?)  It seems as though this post really just reiterates that sentiment in a different way.

What a great problem to have!

– Art

 

 

New Orleans JazzFest 2015

By , April 30, 2015 5:47 pm

Hi all!

I’ve made a playlist on my YouTube channel with some of the short video clips I managed to take while in New Orleans.  They are very short, but it hopefully will give you at least small idea of the energy behind these live performances and the music happening here.  Go here and check out the New Orleans 2015 playlist for a tiny taste of Jazzfest!  In addition, there is a clip there of me from our performance at the Blue Nile, in the French Quarter district of New Orleans.

In addition to what I’ve said in the past about the high number of talented musicians in New Orleans and the supportive culture in the city surrounding live music, one of the other parts of the JazzFest experience I enjoy is meeting and talking to touring bands and musicians that are at the festivities for the same reasons we are, and sometimes these bands and musicians travel just as far.  It’s interesting to get their take on traveling and playing this kind of creative groove music.  In general, there seemed to be those people that were part of the core groups of bands, kind of like we are in Polyrhythmics, and then those independent musicians that get hired to play in this or that group or band.  These are the people that I found myself asking “who are you playing with this year?” because they may be in a different horn section or featured with a different group, etc.

Both of those types of conversations are equally fascinating to me, but I regret not talking more about just music and playing.  I feel as though this year if I became self-conscious or nervous I would fall back on those kinds of music business-type questions instead of asking about music.  Something to keep in mind for next time…

A few extra photos:  
  
Frenchman Street, where many of the live music clubs are all lined up.  This is definitely the street where I spent most of my time.
  
The blanket fort is from the friends’ house where we stayed.  The house was pretty small so I slept on the floor under the table, which led somebody to build me a fort…the sign says “Art’s Fort – BEWARE IT STIRS”
  
The third photo is our keyboard player Nate and I riding in our friends’ van to get to one of the gigs.  We had to borrow some drums so Nate and I made sure it got there.  Don’t worry, it had seatbelts!

I was going to add a photo of the Alligator sausage I had, but it tasted better than it looks, you’ll just have to trust me!


 

-Art

 

 

Lottie’s Lounge

By , April 15, 2015 1:28 pm

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Great gig at Lottie’s Lounge with Eric Hullander and Papa Josh the other night.  I got a chance to really dig into some standards that I haven’t played in a long time, and all three of us were listening close.

I found myself thinking a lot about the old Dexter and Hayes sessions I used to play with Tim Kennedy and friends years ago (more on that here) while I was at Lottie’s.  It hasn’t had live music for too long, but I could see a really similar scene there that grew at the Dexter, where older regulars mixed with younger listeners and musicians.

Maybe I saw the similarities because I want another scene like that one.  The thing is I know that there already are scenes like that in town,  I just don’t frequent them that often, at places like Darrell’s Tavern, Egan’s Ballard Jam House, the Owl and Thistle, and the Royal Room just down the street from Lottie’s.  I guess when it comes down to it, venues and music nights hit different people different ways, and it can’t always be explained why one person enjoys certain scenes more than others.  I do know that Lottie’s felt good last night, and it was great to play with Eric, Josh, and Lamar Lofton (who I hadn’t seen in way too long!), as well as meet some new people.  I hope Lottie’s continues to do well!

 

– A

News

By , April 6, 2015 3:59 pm

Hi everyone!

Lots of exciting stuff happening.  Polyrhythmics just returned from 4-day west coast tour that culminated in a show at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco, CA.  The Hall has been the site of many amazing concerts over the years, and is a beautiful room to play in.  I felt very lucky to play there!  The Polys will be going down to New Orleans for JazzFest once more at the end of this month, another place that seems like a blessing for me to visit.  I look forward to taking in as much music as I can and getting input and advice from other musicians.

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Theoretics are gearing up for several festivals this Summer, which is very exciting since the band is, to me, still pretty young, at least with its current sound, and I think there are a lot of new listeners out there that will really appreciate what we do.  Our Seattle show at the Tractor Tavern went very well, and we will be opening up for Robert Glasper on April 14 at Neumos.  I have enjoyed Glasper’s music for a while now (here’s an older post about him here ), so this is a great opportunity to maybe get a little closer experience!

Teaching is going well, although working out the education/performance balance is constantly ripe for improvement.  For the future, I am thinking of experimenting with Skype lessons while on the road, as well as keeping students more informed about what touring and performing is like.  Perhaps a mailer or more consistent blogging is in order…

Art

P.S.  Check out The Main Squeeze.  This is the band we shared the stage with in San Francisco.  Great stuff!

 

 

Greetings From The Road!

By , February 18, 2015 11:24 pm

The Polyrhythmics are currently on our way out of Louisiana, heading toward Colorado.

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The Mardi Gras celebration in New Orleans was more colorful and vibrant than I could have imagined, and although the multiple parades and costume balls range from neighbor and family friendly to parties that were for older folks, the one thing that was everywhere was MUSIC!

Just as it was last year after our trip to NOLA during JazzFest, I was sad to leave the city. I love being a part of the music community in Seattle, and I never want to leave it, but it always feels special to be in New Orleans, and I think it’s a city I want to continue to visit throughout my life.

Other news: Theoretics have released a new EP, and I think the music we made on it is unique, exciting, and creative in a way that I am very proud of. You can check it out here: https://soundcloud.com/theoretics/theoretics-fugue-state

A few other recent performances I found really musically fulfilling:

Tim Kennedy Quintet at Tula’s – Tim’s original material allows all of us to interact and make great music together.

Lucky Brown and the Super Premium Chiefs at Port Townsend’s Strange Brewfest – More on Lucky here

 

We’re moving on to Wyoming and Idaho from here, then we head home to Seattle.  See you all soon!

– Art

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tour Blog 5

By , June 18, 2014 3:34 pm

When I left off, we were heading to Texas, a state I had never visited before, pretty exciting!  It was an early departure from Santa Fe, and it was going to be a long day of driving, but luckily there was no gig we had to get to, just a hotel room waiting at the end.

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Ben and Nathan took the lion’s share of the drive.  High priority for everyone was to get some real Texas barbecue at some point, which we did in Amarillo, at Tyler’s Barbeque.  The owner talked to us for a while – apparently they get bands in there fairly frequently – and he was really hospitable and nice.  He told us about Texas and we told him about the Northwest, which he’s visited once or twice, and he asked us about touring and the van we use, among other things.  It was a great first Texas experience for me!

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The weather took a pretty nasty turn during Nathan’s part of the drive, although I was asleep for most of it.  Some of the darkest stormclouds anyone had seen before rolled in and there were heavy rains for a couple of hours.  But we made it through and Nate kept chugging until we got to Dallas to stop for dinner.  From there it was an hour and a half to our hotel in Houston.

The next day we were playing at Plonk Wine Bistro, and we weren’t really sure what to expect.  From what we gathered, it wasn’t a traditional music venue; the owner would pay for an outdoor live music event 3 or 4 times a year as a  kind of celebration for his regular patrons and friends.  Because of this, and the fact that we had never played in town before, we didn’t know if anyone showed up.  As it turns out, people did show, and they were really enthusiastic!  There was a fair amount of New Orleans transplants there too; it appears as though they’ve built their own live music community there in Houston, pretty cool!

The next morning was a somewhat early one so that we could make it on time to our load in at the Austin venue, Speakeasy.  My friend Lindsay had been in Dallas visiting family, and she made the trip down to Austin to come to the show, which was very awesome of her!  I had a delicious gourmet hot dog at a stylish hot dog shop/coffee shop/bar (seriously) and then met Lindsay at Fado, just like Seattle.  She showed me around town a little bit, although not as much as I would have liked but time was a little limited.  One of the bars we stopped at had Western dancing lessons in the evening and then a dance band at night that you could try your moves out with, which seemed pretty fun, and Stubb’s barbecue was served outside.  This was a big deal for me because I only knew of Stubb’s from the barbecue sauce that’s sold in grocery stores in Seattle; to be somewhere where the real deal was cooked was a neat experience!  Of course, the night was warm, so there were bike cabs everywhere, moreso than in Seattle, so that was a little different scene too.

The actual performance at Austin went okay; the conclusion we came to was that the venue just wasn’t a good fit for us.  There was a comedy show in the front room while we were in the back, and anyone coming in had to pay cover for both, not a great business strategy.  Oh well.  I’m excited to go back to Austin someday, as I enjoyed the people and the city seemed really hip!

Also, big shout out to Amy for a nice stay at an apartment that belonged to friends of hers, beautiful river-view and enough room for 9, what a blessing!

OKAY…next up:  New Orleans.  I’ve already talked off many of your ears about NOLA if I’ve seen you recently, but it’s already been a month since the trip (geez, time is moving quickly these days), so I think it will be good for me to reiterate a lot of my thoughts on the blog, hopefully you enjoy it.

 

 

 

 

Post 4

By , May 7, 2014 6:20 pm

So we’re back home, in beautiful Seattle, but I have still have a ways to go in the tour.  I enjoy talking about it, and hopefully you guys enjoy reading about it, so I’ll keep going.

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Okay…with the end of the Phoenix show came one of our monster drives:  10 hours overnight to Telluride, Colorado.  Jason and Nathan knocked out the majority of the drive and a couple of the rest of us filled in the gaps.  Unfortunately, we had just missed tourist season, as Telluride is a big ski town, but we had an opportunity to put on a show for the locals there, make an impression for next time, and make at least one new fan (albeit a four-legged one that came into the club late).  Regardless, the hospitality was exceptional; we had rooms at a nearby lodge and the staff at the Fly Me to the Moon Saloon treated us well.  Plus, who can beat that view?

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After Telluride came Sol, in Santa Fe, New Mexico.  On the way there, while talking to the venue owners, concerns were rising that it may be not be worthwhile to perform at Sol at all; there was some confusion on the date, there had not been time to properly promote, and the efforts we had made to promote had produced little result.  But this was also the only show on the tour where we had the opportunity to collaborate with our old friend and influence, Joel Ricci, aka Lucky Brown.  Joel had been in Taos working on playing and recording music with the lovely Ivy, to whom he is married, and they had driven to Santa Fe to do a special show with us, which was another factor to consider in deciding whether to do the show or not.

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Ultimately, we decided to play, and I think it was a success!  Several regular supporters of the venue were there, as well as 2 local bands and a group of listeners that had driven from out of town to see us.  The gratitude they showed us doubled the turnout in my mind.  The room sounded great, we played well, and to perform with Lucky always keeps things fresh and new, so it was a timely show in that sense, a week and a half or so into the tour.

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We had a day off in Santa Fe, and luckily we had the hospitality of some of Ben’s family, who allowed us to stay at their house.  It was a much-needed 24 hours of laundry, sleep, decompression, and Game of Thrones (for some of us).  As she did allllllll tour, Lauren rocked the meal plan!  We would have been feeling a lot worse without her keeping stuff organized and cooking amazing food for us.

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Next up was Texas:  Houston and Austin.  More on that next post!

 

Tour Blog 3

By , May 4, 2014 11:18 am

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San Diego:  Our San Diego show was in the beach town of Ocean Beach, at Winston’s, where we’d played once before and had a really successful show.  Unlike last time, I went to the beach for a little while before we started, which was gorgeous!  A nice last look before we turned East.  Then I talked to my sis and got the recommendation for fish tacos (she lived in San Diego for a couple of years).  I also found a record store and got a Grant Green vinyl, Solid, with James Spaulding and Joe Henderson, two saxophonists I like.  Our gig was with a local band that I was familiar with through Twitter, Sure Fire Soul Ensemble, and they sounded awesome too; interesting tunes, cool sounds, and nice and supportive people to boot!  I made sure to grab one of their 45s!

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Then we took the left turn to head towards the middle.  First on that route was Phoenix, at Last Exit Live.  The building was kind of on the edge of town and the “green room” was an old airstream trailer; not a lot to look at on the outside.  But, sure enough, the inside was stylish and clean, and they had a fence that was hiding a big patio with nice tables and chairs everywhere.  Their sound system and staff was top notch (several of them from the well-known Recording Institute they have in Phoenix, where my friends Matt and Adam went), and the inside of the trailer was hip too!

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Our local connection there was the Phoenix Afrobeat Orchestra, and they tore it up!  Lots of energy, commitment to the Fela Kuti sound, and what looked like a community that was really into creative music; several of the audience members had just seen Kneebody in Phoenix the week before, after they played with Hardcoretet in Seattle, and they had listened to some of the Polyrhythmics before we got there and were really excited about us.

Around this time I was really becoming aware of how quickly I fell in love with all of the places we play.  I understand that I’m getting an unbalanced view, being somewhere one night, maybe two, and only encountering locals at the show, where obviously everyone is going to have similar personalities, but I can’t help but be fascinated with what it’s like living somewhere else and being immersed in music somewhere other than Seattle.  After all, I’ve never lived anywhere else.  It would be a long time before I ever moved – I have too many connections with friends, family, and musicians that would be too difficult to leave right now – but this tour in particular really got me thinking, and this is before the real kicker:  a week in New Orleans.

BUT FIRST:  An overnight detour to Telluride and a Lucky Brown reunion in Santa Fe!  All that and more in my next post.

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