Brian Blade Fellowship

By , October 11, 2018 9:45 am

I first heard the Brian Blade Fellowship, now known as Brian Blade and the Fellowship Band, in 2003 when they performed at the Ballard Jazz Festival.  I was not familiar with any of the musicians in the band except for Blade, and it was honestly one of the most significant turning points in my musical development.  The songs were melodic, sweeping, and epic, and the improvisations throughout were creative and free of any cliche or standard ideas.  I had been in the Jazz Studies program at the University of Washington for a year or two, and that concert blew my mind.

After that, the band’s second album, Perceptual, was my musical world.  I listened to that CD obsessively, listening to the songs, and also thinking about how expressive the soloists were.  From there I went back to the first album, just called Brian Blade Fellowship, and then back to Perceptual, and then some time passed.

In 2006, my classmate and bandmate Tarik Abouzied called a group of musicians together to play:  me, Neil Welch, Evan Flory-Barnes, Nathan Vetter, and a piano player that had just recently moved back to town from the East Coast:  Tim Kennedy (I’ve talked about Tim several times on this blog in the past).  At the end of the hang, Neil played us a bootlegged recording he had of the Fellowship, playing live somewhere, and it blew my world up all over again!  It was all the feelings I had had in 2003, from the same band, and I listened to that recording non-stop once again, playing it and burning it for anyone that would listen.  The Fellowship did release more albums, which I picked up of course, then some time passed again.

In 2013 or 2014, videos of that bootlegged concert showed up on Youtube.  It turned out to be from the Jazz Baltica festival in Europe.  We finally had video of those songs we had listened to all those years back!  Now I’m going back once again, learning some of the solos from that concert, and it is great to dig in to this music again.  Here is a short clip of Myron Walden’s solo from the first song on the bootleg.  Thanks Brian Blade, Jon Cowherd, Chris Thomas, Myron Walden, Melvin Butler, Kurt Rosenwinkle, Dave Easley, and everyone else involved in the Fellowship!

 

 

 

 

Paul Gonsalves Continued

By , September 20, 2018 12:05 pm

Some more Paul Gonsalves from Diminuendo in Blue.  I really like the mix of traditional and modern (at least to my ears) in his playing.  The last chorus on this clip gets me every time!

 

Music Interview Podcasts

By , August 31, 2018 10:54 am

Gilles Peterson (middle) with Stretch and Bobbito

 

I’ve been doing a bit more driving lately with my private teaching, so I’ve started to get back into some podcasts, specifically music related ones.

I have heard some interviews in the last couple of months that I found completely fascinating!  I thought they would be worth sharing here in case any of you all would be interested.  The Gilles Peterson interviews are older, but luckily they are still available on Soundcloud.

Gilles Peterson interviews Jon Hassell:  https://soundcloud.com/gillespeterson/jon-hassell-words-music

  • I only knew Hassell by name before listening here.  Informative stories about working with David Byrne and Brian Eno, his formulation of the “Fourth World” concept, and how he views integrating and fusing different musical styles and traditions.

Lenny Kravitz with Stretch and Bobbito:  https://www.npr.org/2018/08/20/640288231/lenny-kravitz-on-race-raise-vibration-and-duetting-with-aretha-franklin

  • Kravitz talked about his childhood experiences with some of the greatest jazz and soul musicians, adjusting to growing up in LA vs. growing up in New York, how he was marketed by the music industry in the late 80’s and early 90’s, and much more.  

Gilles Peterson interviews Goldie:  https://soundcloud.com/gillespeterson/goldie-interview

  • I was not familiar with Goldie at all before this interview, so needless to say I learned a lot!  Goldie covers significant musical ground, talking about the Stranglers, UB40, Supertramp, Pat Metheny and Lyle Mays, Art Blakey, and Teena Marie,  as well as soooooo much music from his peers in Drum and Bass music.

Gilles Peterson interviews Chaka Khan:  https://soundcloud.com/mistral-productions/gilles-peterson-with-chaka-khan

  • Some of the topics:  Chicago funk, Charles Stepney, and Rotary Connection, leaving as a teenager for LA with Rufus, working with Rufus in general, collaborating with Miles Davis, how Stevie Wonder ended up writing “Tell Me Something Good”, her preferences for horns and horn sections, and a lot more!

 

 

 

 

Paul Gonsalves

By , August 10, 2018 4:51 pm

I have a new project! I’m not sure how long I will last but I have begun working on Paul Gonsalves’ famous 27 choruses on “Diminuendo in Blue” from Duke Ellington’s 1956 performance at the Newport Jazz Festival.

There is a lot of backstory surrounding this performance, none of which I can verify as true or false: the band’s financial struggles and drop in popularity leading up to 1956, a cultural and generational clash at the festival between older patrons and a newer and younger crowd, Ellington’s clashes with the rowdier members of his band (Gonsalves included), and the story of one energetic young woman that began dancing in front of the band and (according to legend) reenergized the band and their set.

Regardless, the solo is really fun and incredible, and it’s a good showcase for Gonsalves’ style, which I think is really underrated. His technique his totally unique, sliding between notes with an articulation that nobody else I’ve heard has, and that kind of hides how modern a lot of his ideas are. To me, Gonsalves has a really modern vocabulary but his tone and vibrato are really expressive and kind of old-school; its not super crisp and clean like a lot of saxophonists during his time or after. Check out the songs “Happy Reunion” and “In Triplicate” for some other examples, but there are plenty of others from his time with Duke!

This style adds to the challenge of transcribing, as it’s really hard to nail that sliding approach down! Still, it’s just the beginning and I did my best, so here’s the first 3 choruses, warts and all!

Junior Walker

By , July 11, 2018 7:20 pm

My earliest memory of “Shotgun” by Junior Walker & the All Stars doesn’t actually involve the song, exactly.  I remember watching the Cosby Show with my family a lot as a kid, and I thought, when I was younger, that “Shotgun” was the theme song, at least for a couple of seasons.  As it turns out, it was a really a similar sounding song by Craig Handy called “Kiss Me”, but that confusion goes to show how iconic a song “Shotgun” is.

It’s been used in TV, movies, and everywhere in between, and in addition Junior Walker is one of the greatest Rhythm and Blues saxophonists of all time (as well as one of the first musicians my fiance and I connected over), so it was about time I dig into Walker a little deeper.  It helped that Walker’s birthday came around recently, and my friend, record collector/A&R Man/Super Supporter of Soul Music Colton Thomas (who I interviewed on the blog here) hit me up to suggest a little transcription in honor of the occasion.  This intro is just a start, and a work in progress; my first reaction to learning it was surprise that I haven’t had to learn flutter tonguing until now!  Here’s to filling more holes in my technique and learning new things!

 

A Corner of the Internet

By , June 25, 2018 2:03 pm

Thank you to everyone that’s watched the new video clips I have been putting up!

In the last several months, I thought a lot about what I wanted my career to look like online, and what I wanted to share and have accessible to others around the world (even if it’s just family and friends in Seattle and the random page view from somewhere else in the galaxy).  Video clips seemed to be a good way to put something out there musically that was independently my own content (kind of; the primary content owners so far have been David Fathead Newman and King Curtis, of course!) 

I wanted to be able to share musical elements with people that don’t necessary come to shows or performances that I am a part of, and I wanted to share material that I thought people should know about.  This affected the videos I chose to make, because in my online world I see a fair share of video clips that focus on bebop and bebop-influenced music, the type of saxophone playing that I would be most drawn to posting about, and all of the clips are burning; there are so many wonderful and talented saxophonists out there!

It’s very likely that out there on the interwebs somewhere is a huge contingent of saxophonists posting clips of and talking about R&B saxophone, and I have to break out of my bubble to see it.  If that is true, it is on me to expand my view and learn more about the styles I am exploring.  For now, I saw these Fathead Newman and King Curtis clips as examples of saxophone sounds that were underrepresented in my online circle, and I sincerely wanted to post something I cared about, something I thought people might like to see, that they don’t see a lot of on their feeds.

I guess the only other big part of online presence that I thought about was this website.  It looks a bit dated to me these days, but I’m also too busy (or too lazy) to try to revamp it myself, and I don’t have the money to pay a professional to make me something really hip, so the best I can do for now is keep it updated and blog as much as I can.  In that sense, I’ve already improved quite a bit over the last month or so, and hopefully I keep it up!

Thank you for reading and/or watching!

 

 

 

 

 

King Curtis

By , June 13, 2018 11:36 pm

A little yakety sax for your Thursday!

One of my grandmothers had a bunch of old records that she would let me look through, and one of them was a Boots Randolph album.  Randolph was famous for the record entitled “Yakety Sax”, the title tune of which became the Benny Hill theme song and was used in many other tv commercials and themes, but I only remember listening to Randolph’s version of “Moon River”, which I would play on my grandma’s record player over and over.

Much, much later I would discover one of Randolph’s contemporaries and the soloist that influenced his “Yakety Sax” composition:  King Curtis.  Although I didn’t know his name when I was younger, I had in fact heard Curtis’ playing already; he was Aretha Franklin’s bandleader for years and was a mainstay session musician for Atlantic Records.

I didn’t know anything about King Curtis until college.  Thanks to Professor Larry Starr’s class on mid-20th century Popular Music, I listened to Curtis’ solos on recordings by the Coasters.  “Yakety Yak” was the first one I heard, and the first time I really thought about that type of playing as a unique and specialized style of playing the saxophone.  Since then I’ve heard it referenced in various ways:  “Texas Tenor”, “Ballads and Blues Tenor”, or just “Rhythm & Blues Saxophone” (although each of these labels encompass a LOT more of their own characteristics).  I’ve even heard “yakety sax” as a term for this style!

Since then, I’ve listened to a bit more of King Curtis, especially his album Live at the Fillmore West, but there’s a lot more out there.  Here’s a transcription of Curtis’ solo on “Yakety Yak” to give you a taste:

 

Stuck on the Inside

By , June 8, 2018 9:55 am

Recently, Grant (drummer for Polyrhythmics) told me that he has been discovering new music primarily from his non-musician friends, rather than other musicians, and that got me thinking about my similar experiences.

I would think, logically, that the best resources for music that would be new to me would be my musical and professional peers; music is their career, and listening to it an important part of their continuing education.  And yet, I can think of significant chunks of my music collection and musical memory that came from my friends and family that do not, in fact, play music, professionally or otherwise.

Why is this the case?  I don’t want to speak for Grant or anyone else, but I think I have a few hangups that contribute to the trend.  One of the reasons my musical tastes were so narrow for so long (they still are, but I’m getting better), is because it can be difficult not to view my listening in terms of my own music, so whenever I put anything on there would be that small voice somewhere asking me “how does this song improve my playing?” or “how does this song apply to the music I write and play?”

The correct response to that voice is “I don’t know, but if I like it and it makes me feel good then it is helping somehow, whether I can detect it or not.”  But it can be hard for me to remember that, and taking that analytical mindset instead will immediately reduce the variety of sounds I listen to.

On the other side of this dilemma, Jessica and I were talking about a recent interview with John Mayer where he described having almost the opposite problem, wanting to play all the different kinds of music that he likes and listens to, and then having to kind of make a distinction between the music he listens to AND makes, and the music that he JUST listens to.  There were many many different parts to the interview, and this was one small piece (as Jessie would readily point out), but it was one that stuck with me.

Another reason non-musician friends turn me on to so much more new music, I think, is that they often don’t think about whether the music will be something I like, or whether it’s in line with the styles I usually listen to.  They just really like it and want to share it with me. 

When I would recommend something to another musician, there used to be a lot of self-consciousness and insecurity (again, not as much nowadays, but still a little).  I wanted to know for sure it was something they were going to like, and be in line with their tastes.  I think that’s a complete non-issue for friends that don’t play music professionally.

To be fair, it’s probably a non-issue for most professional musicians too; I can only speak about my own problems!

Regardless, I am thankful for all of the new music and musical discoveries I have been able to make through all the beautiful people in my life, and I look forward to continuing to expand my musical palette and grow!

 

 

 

Short Transcription

By , May 30, 2018 11:15 pm

Hi all!

I have one more David Fathead Newman transcription to post, very short but really great and possibly one of Newman’s most iconic solo breaks:  his solo introduction to Ray Charles’ “The Right Time”.

I plan on diving into any interviews I can find with Newman after this; I tried to find any relevant biographies or an autobiography with no luck, but it looks like there are some other resources I can explore.  I hope to learn more about Newman and put a blog post together in the future!

Here’s the transcription:

 

Transcription

By , May 18, 2018 11:53 pm

Hey all,

I’ve already posted this on my other social media platforms, but here is a bit of a sequel to my previous transcription post, another David Fathead Newman solo off of the Genius of Ray Charles album, from the tune “Deed I Do”:

Once again, you can check out a little description if you click on the youtube link, but in general it has been really informative and inspiring to get into how freely Newman plays with rhythm.  Also, this solo really gives you a sense of how wonderful Newman’s tone was, especially the beginning of the solo in which he restates the vocal melody (you really should listen to the actual recording for that, though.  I’m just a vague imitation!)

 

 

 

 

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