Transcription Clip: Michael Brecker, “The Four Sleepers”

By , August 16, 2019 4:46 pm

Hi everyone!  For this transcription, I went to one of the most influential saxophonists from the 1970’s through the early 2000’s.  Although many of Brecker’s solos would take significantly longer for me learn, this little clip is from a medium-tempo tune and he largely sticks to 8th note ideas, so I had a better chance!  It is also is over a standard chord progression, the 1st section on Autumn Leaves, so it’s a cool opportunity to hear what he does over conventional harmony.

Even with that, Brecker’s exploration of range and sound leave a lot for me to work on, and I feel like I began practicing jazz saxophone at a period just after a lot of people were focused on him, so I haven’t really delved into it as much as I should have.  No time like the present!

 

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Theoretics

By , June 18, 2019 10:25 am

 

Theoretics released a new track, “Suspended Animation”, last week, part of an EP that we hope to release in the near future, funded by pay-what-you-want donations.  You can check it out here: 

https://theoretics.bandcamp.com/album/suspended-animation-3?fbclid=IwAR3xPbt23Jebf3QftaaSO2YgY-fI00VB0Kp3tB32T7S6ox79EWH3T_NLRWU

The group has taken a break for a while now, mostly focusing on getting the last of our creative material out on this EP and then seeing where we want to go from there, and the break was taken for a lot of reasons, but it’s hard not to look back and try to figure out what we could have done to give this music a little more traction when we were playing more shows and releasing more music.

The looking back is a process I’ve gone through with several groups I’ve been in that are gone now, and I’ve talked with other Seattle musicians about it.  You think about the quality and accessibility of the music, the role that luck plays, and all of the non-musical elements (promotion, networking, marketing, etc.), and other ingredients that are supposed to combine to be the “winning” recipe.  I surround “winning” with quotation marks because just defining that word for the given group/band is an important part of the process too.  What are our expectations with our music?  How far do we expect the music to go?

I think I have a pretty good idea how accessible (or inaccessible) the music I play is, in all of the groups I’ve been involved with, but every band I’ve played with in the past that could not get the momentum to continue moving forward leaves me with the same questions.  I guess it’s part of the life cycle of bands and musical groups.

This isn’t to say that Theoretics is no longer a group!  However, the dip in activity leaves some space to reflect here.  

 

 

 

 

 

Transcription Clip: Woody Shaw, “If”

By , May 22, 2019 2:49 pm

Hi all!

It’s been a little while but here’s a bit of some music that’s had my attention lately.

This is a bit of Woody Shaw’s trumpet solo on Joe Henderson’s song “If”, off of Larry Young’s Unity (lots of credits, there!) I love Joe Henderson but I had to try some of Shaw’s ideas because they are so interesting, although I tried swapping out some of the trumpetisms for saxophone false fingerings.

I’ve been listening to a couple new albums as well, from new Blue Note artists James Francies and Joel Ross.  Check out their websites below!

http://www.jamesfranciesmusic.com

http://www.iplayvibes.com/

 

Art

Transcription Clip: John Coltrane, “I Hear a Rhapsody”

By , February 20, 2019 3:37 pm

Playing Alto Saxophone exclusively when I was studying in college means that most of my knowledge is still pretty deeply related to that voice; I didn’t learn songs or jazz solos in all keys (which I should have), and for most of my time as a musician I heard ideas on alto rather than on tenor.

Because of that history, I have been energized recently by learning jazz standards on tenor in addition to continuing to transcribe tenor saxophonists, and it is especially fun to work on Coltrane.  Even though I’ve listened to him quite a bit and learned 1 or 2 of his solos on alto, studying his playing while actually playing tenor opens up so much, and it’s great to actually play those Coltrane idioms I’ve heard for so long (or at least try to imitate them!). This clip is rough, with plenty of things I still need a lot of work on, but I’m really enjoying it so I thought I would post it here!

 

Transcription Clip: Melissa Aldana, “Free Fall”

By , December 14, 2018 12:08 pm

 

 

 

This clip is from a solo from Aldana’s first album, released in 2010.  I’ve really gotten into her playing the last couple of months for a few particular reasons.  I think she’s one of the tenor players currently on the scene that really explores changing tone and expression while executing technical ideas at the same time.  She openly holds up Sonny Rollins as a really big influence for that approach, so her music has also led me back to Sonny, which of course is inspiring as well!

 

 

 

 

 

Tour Blog, Fall 2018, Day 9

By , November 15, 2018 11:58 am

Although tour has now ended, I am going to pick up where I left off and continue giving some day-to-day posts from the road. These will lead up to Polyrhythmics’ big shows in Portland this Friday and Bend this Saturday, as well as the grand finale in Seattle on November 24.

A few things about Eric Rouse.

Polyrhythmics met Eric at one of our shows years ago, and he’s come to many shows since.  For this Midwest run, Eric offered to drive himself, put himself up, and follow us on tour to sell merchandise for us.  This was incredibly gracious, obviously!  I didn’t know exactly how it would go, to be honest, because it’s so different to hang with friends at shows, when the focus is to have fun and get down, than work with them and have them deal with the business side of things the way that we do on the road.

Also, we’ve been lucky to have enthusiastic, genuine, and positive merchandise heads in the past; our good friends Lauren and Maxianne did several extended tours with us, handling all things merch-related.  But with this tour, Eric did awesome.  He was a valuable asset, and we were grateful to have him, as we have been with all of our merch family!

 

 

The Old Rock House in St. Louis was a beautiful restored old building (established in 1818!) with a big stage and big dance floor.  As I mentioned in the last post, the folks that brought us there were really enthusiastic, and the crowd was a little thin but absolutely could not wait to talk to us and tell us to come back.  The Gateway Arch looms over the entire city, and is really impressive.  I thought it was really cool, but I didn’t have time to explore.  After the show, I flew home to teach for a couple days (as well as do laundry, pay bills, and make sure the cats still recognize me).

I would meet back up with the guys on Day 12, in Boise.  More on that next!

Current listening:  Makaya McCraven, “Where We Come From”

After Elijah (I know him as Eli, but I believe he’s come to introduce himself as Elijah) and I connected on London artists like Shabaka Hutchings and Nubya Garcia, both of whom I’ve talked about before, he hipped me to Chicago musician Makaya McCraven.  McCraven played the Royal Room in Seattle a couple months back, it so happens, but his most recent album is a collaboration between London and Chicago musicians, with songs and improvisations remixed/cut up or left alone, and all released on a single record.  It’s a super inspiring project, with a story as interesting as the music itself!

 

 

Tour Blog, Fall 2018, Day 8

By , November 14, 2018 2:23 pm

Although tour has now ended, I am going to pick up where I left off and continue giving some day-to-day posts from the road. These will lead up to Polyrhythmics’ big shows in Portland and Bend this weekend, as well as the grand finale in Seattle on November 24.

“Will it play in Peoria?”

Before I left for tour, my dad told me about this figure of speech.  I had never heard it before, but if there’s a whole Wikipedia entry for it, it must be worth something, right?

Our gig in Peoria brought us back into Illinois, to Kenny’s Westside Pub.  Kenny’s had some delicious takes on Irish pub food and some very energetic costumed music fans.  This was one of the latest shows on the tour, and although we were a little paranoid we’d be wiped, I think the energy was up until the end, even as a loyal handful of folks were still partying.

After playing Kenny’s, on the drive to our hotel, I had a good conversation with Ben about expectations and ticket sales on this Midwest tour.  The promoter for our Peoria show is also responsible for booking other events and venues in the area, and the booker at our St. Louis show the following night was in a similar role there.  Most of my experiences playing gigs deals with venue owners and people that work for the venue directly, and for better or for worse, that sometimes makes their number one priority filling the room and selling tickets.  Granted, you can’t play music that nobody likes; you have to find the audience and the appropriate spaces to do what you do, and try to run business accordingly, but it occurred to me on this tour that I don’t think about “tastemakers” all that much, and that’s what these guys are doing.  

I’ll talk more about St. Louis in the next post, but both promoters were extremely passionate about our music after we finished our shows.  They were ready to go to bat for us if nobody showed up and were ready to go to bat for us after people lost their minds too, and in writing this post I’m thinking about some of the people I know in Seattle that do the same thing, some working at venues, some running festivals or non-profits, etc.  

Sometimes it’s easy for me to be apprehensive about venues and promoters, to think that some will book anything that sells tickets.  But in general, I’ve been lucky to deal largely with people that are on the same mission I am, and the more I can reason out my cynicism and get rid of it, the better things will be, I think.  Thank you, all you tastemakers!

Current Listening:  Noname, “Room 25”

I caught a little bit of Noname at Capitol Hill Block Party some time ago, but this tour I listened to her most recent album, “Room 25”, and I like it a lot.  I think the songs are well-written and create a real mood, and Noname is a very talented vocalist and musician.  Check it out!

NEXT, for real this time:  St. Louis

 

 

 

Tour Blog, Fall 2018, Day 7

By , November 13, 2018 2:13 pm

Although tour has now ended, I am going to pick up where I left off and continue giving some day-to-day posts from the road. These will lead up to Polyrhythmics’ big shows in Portland and Bend this weekend, as well as the grand finale in Seattle on November 24.

After Chicago we had an early morning departure to take a long drive to Cleveland.  There were a couple of these early morning drives, with a lot of ground to cover to get to the next town and 9 band members that will need restrooms, coffee, and food along the way.  We have definitely gotten better with moving as quickly as possible while being as healthy as we can in terms of getting sleep and getting sustenance, but it can be really challenging.  It is very clear why tour managers are important, but until the day comes when we can have someone to take on that role, Ben does an amazing job managing the drive, coordinating schedules, and herding all of us.

The Music Box in Cleveland was a beautiful large room with tables and dinner service, although it also had a large dance floor in front.  It was right on the river front (the Cuyahoga), and had some really pretty views of the city.  Thanks to my forgetfulness, I got to drive through the city again the next morning to go back to the club; I had left my duffel bag backstage…

To me, Cleveland had a feeling of revamping and renewing the old and historic, creating cool and interesting neighborhoods out of its blue-collar background.  I liked what I saw, quickly that day.

The band we played with was Wesley Bright and the Honeytones, who have a recording out on Colemine Records, the same label that our friends DLO3 worked with and that put out Polyrhythmics’ very first 45 record.

Wesley and the band were awesome and super nice, and we got a chance to talk a little bit about the scenes in Cleveland and Seattle. As usual, the outside view of Seattle in general was that it’s wonderful and way too expensive, which none of us can really take issue with; it does, however become a little disheartening when you hear it in each city you visit. All in all, it was a good hang, and Cleveland was a good new experience for me!

Current listening: The saxophonist and flautist in the Honeytones, Nathan Paul, is a bandleader and composer himself – in addition to being a burning player – and has a really killer modern jazz (that’s how I’d describe it, hopefully Nathan is okay with that) album on iTunes called Bootleg Music. I’m having trouble posting the link but check it out, it’s really amazing music!

Next up: St. Louis!

Tour Blog, Fall 2018, Day 6

By , October 27, 2018 8:57 am

Polyrhythmics play Chicago for the first time!

My sister has lived in Chicago for some years now, so I was happy she would get the chance to see the band in her town. As it turned out, the venue, the Tonic Room, was about a 10-minute-walk from her apartment, so it was an area I was familiar with, and I felt like I knew the neighborhood. It also ended up being just down the street from Kingston Mines, the blues club we went to the first time I had ever been to Chicago, so it kind of felt like I’d gone full-circle.

Trying to meet up with friends and loved ones in other cities while on tour is tough; the schedule involved in mobilizing all 9 members, getting to the venue, loading in gear, soundchecking, and starting the show is large and unpredictable, so you have to get creative to find those holes of time to jump away and meet up. Despite that, I think it’s always worth it, even if it’s a quick chat to catch up.

This time around I managed to meet Emily and her friend for quick dinner at a great taco spot, and get some quality brother-sister time before the show. The venue, the Tonic Room, was small but for us to play the first time out it was the right size, and the show ended up being a fun party.

There wasn’t much time to linger, as we had to leave by 7 the next morning to get to Cleveland, which I’ll write about next.

Current listening: Jennifer Hartswick, “Nexus”

I first heard Jen Hartswick when she sat in with Polyrhythmics at a show in Portland early on. Ben knew her through some friends, and I came to find out that she has been a regular collaborator with Trey Anastasio in his solo projects for a long time, in addition to being gigging musician in Nashville and in other bands around the country. She’s a killer trumpet player and singer, and her most recent album was co-produced with Christian McBride, a musician I’ve admired for a long time. Check it out!

 

 

 

 

Tour Blog, Fall 2018, Day 5

By , October 25, 2018 12:41 pm

I should take some time to talk about Stuart Jackson.

Stuart has been the touring sound engineer for Polyrhythmics for a year and a half, in addition to providing driving services and getting the van and trailer where it needs to be when we can’t do it as a group. He also is on the team running sound at Nectar Lounge.

Having Stuart working on our sound on every live gig has really become invaluable to shaping Polyrhythmics’ live show. To not only be able to adjust it to the different venues we play but also add a consistent quality and overall vibe makes him a ninth member of the band, essentially. And I know I’ve learned a lot in my conversations with him about technical aspects of sound and effects. Cheers, Stuart!

Wednesday night was Milwaukee, at Shank Hall. Shank Hall is a reference to the movie Spinal Tap, which I love, and it also had a significant amount of press photos of great musicians that have played there.

As it often happens, we didn’t get much chance to see the city, which is too bad because I was curious to see what Milwaukee was like, but maybe next time. Even though the venue was more of a rock club feel, the crowd was similar to St. Paul, without the business travelers: small but mighty. Everyone bought merchandise, was enthusiastic in talking to us, and loved the music. To a certain extent this run seems like what first-time runs are expected to be, in that some crowds are small but they are determined to spread the word so that the next time out the numbers are bigger. I guess we will see if that’s the case.

Next post: Chicago, a city I have a little more experience with.

Current listening: Alison Miller, “Otis Was a Polar Bear” https://youtu.be/B3N6U6albkQ

I was only vaguely familiar with Alison Miller’s drumming and music before Jessica played this song for me a while ago. She liked the imagery that the song and its title conjured up; you can see a little polar bear poking around, exploring, and being rambunctious. The rest of the album is also top-notch music and improvisation!

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