Category: Bands

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 4

By , October 25, 2018 12:34 pm

On Tuesday night we played in St. Paul, Minnesota, at a club called Vieux Carre.

Vieux Carre is a sit-down dinner club that focuses on the food and culture of New Orleans, as evidenced by the name. The walls of the club are covered with beautiful black and white photos like the one below of Allen Toussaint and Dr. John.

Polyrhythmics don’t play very many dinner shows, but I enjoy them because it reminds me of going to Seattle clubs like Jazz Alley and Tula’s, especially when I was younger and imagining what it was like to play on those stages for a quiet audience at tables.

As it turns out, a combination of a small group of passionate fans and a large group of strangers visiting town for business made for an unexpected vibe, but everyone had fun and we played well.

Next up I’ll talk about Milwaukee, which we played last night.

Current listening: Smack Talk’s in-studio session for KNKX: http://www.knkx.org/post/modern-jazz-rock-seattle-s-smacktalk

I’m happy Seattle has a station promoting great new music with the in-studio sessions, and I’m recognizing more and more how many really talented musicians there are in town that I don’t know about, which is both sobering and motivating; it keeps me inspired to work hard on my music too.

Tour Blog, Fall 2018, Day 2

By , October 22, 2018 11:23 am

Hi Everyone! I’m blogging from Nebraska.

Our first show of the tour in Denver went well.  I think we’ve built a little following over the several times we’ve played there, and the city has a certain circle of folks that are into creative groove-based music.   Also, I always look forward to meeting up with my old friend Justin and his friends when I visit there.

I lived with Justin, along with my friend Josh, together for several years around 2008, the same time that I left my job as an office assistant and committed to teaching and playing music full time.  I think sharing the same space when I made that transition has given Justin particular insight into my professional journey.  Since he’s moved, we still talk about music and bands, and how everything is going with my musical career.  Plus, he’s probably second only to my fiancé Jessica in dedication to following artbrownmusic.com posts!

As always, I thank him and his friends for the support, and for making the trip down from Colorado Springs.

Tomorrow I’ll write about our show in Lincoln, thanks for reading!

Current listening:  really cool sounds and music from the band called The Internet, recommended by our drummer Grant.  Check it out!  WARNING:  some explicit language

 

Art

 

 

Tour Blog, Fall 2018, Day 1

By , October 20, 2018 5:39 pm

Hi all! I thought I would try to bring the tour blog back (it’s been years!)

Last night/this morning I took a 12:50 am flight to Denver, arriving at 4:30 am by myself. The Polyrhythmics van and trailer were somewhere near there at the time, having left Seattle Thursday morning with a few members in tow. I chose, as several others did, to stay in town yesterday and today to work, teaching as many lessons as I can before a long break, and take a budget flight (as much of a budget as it can be) to meet up with everyone tomorrow.

Any given tour involves many of us making that type of decision, balancing time, money, various jobs, and being with loved ones, and working out a vague equation of when we can afford to hit the road and when we have to get creative.

When it all comes down to it, though, we in Polyrhythmics have decided that the music should travel as much as possible, and for all the stress and extra management that touring requires, I am happy and feel lucky to perform in different parts of the country. I don’t always get to linger and enjoy them, but it’s worth it nonetheless! Tonight is Denver, tomorrow is Lincoln, Nebraska!

Stay tuned!

Current Listening: I’m really inspired by saxophonist Melissa Aldana at the moment, check her music out!

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!

 

 

 

 

Ghost Note Tour

By , May 10, 2018 11:12 am

Last month I spent 17 days on the road with Polyrhythmics, having played 13 shows, and on 11 of those shows we shared the stage with the band Ghost Note.  Although the road is always thought-provoking and eventful (in addition to a lot of work), it’s the sharing of the stage that’s prompting this post.

Ghost Note is co-led by Nate Werth and Robert “Sput” Searight, both musicians I first heard when they were performing with the band Snarky Puppy.  They are the center of the group, are both immensely talented, and draw equally talented musicians to that center, surrounding themselves with people that match their level of musicianship and passion for creative music.

The tour began with Nate on percussion, Sput on drums, MonoNeon on bass, Vaughn Henry on keyboards, Jonathan Mones on Alto sax, and Sylvester Onyejiaka on Tenor sax.  Halfway through the tour, Sylvester and Vaughn left, and the band added Domi on keyboards, Peter Knudsen on guitar, and A.J. Brown on bass (for 2 of the gigs).  All from different parts of the country, all immensely talented.  It was incredible.

I could write a whole other blog post on Ghost Note’s music itself – fun, melodic music with room for a lot of complex rhythm and interplay, as well as specific spaces for improvisation and solos.  But as fascinated as I was with the music, I was equally fascinated with the personal dynamic of the group and how it stays together, works together, and plays together.  I didn’t ask Sput or Nate very many specific questions related to this, but in conversations with them and the other band members I started to get a picture of it.  Here a couple of observations:

 

-These guys WORK.  Like all the time.  Whether it’s recording parts for someone from their house, DJ’ing radio shows, travelling for gigs, or making videos and music through their social media platforms, everyone involved in Ghost Note works on music-related projects in a wiiiiide variety of forms.  And it’s not limited by geography; they’re involved in collaborations with people across the country.

-Even while they travel and connect with people away from home, they’re connected with the scene where they live.  Following them on social media, I can see what everyone is doing locally, whether it’s Portland, Miami, Dallas, or New York, among other places (yes, there were members of Ghost Note currently living in each of those places!)  And although I’m sure all of the Ghost Note members have occasional issues similar to what I’ve just begun to deal with – in terms of striking a healthy balance between in-town/out-of-town and work/friends and family – it was motivating to talk to and be around musicians that were so professional in terms of networking and personal promotion.

-They were all really warm and supportive!  They’ve played with some of the greatest and most famous musicians in the world, and there were no egos, just people focused on playing music at the highest level they can, and enjoying it at all times.  And that was the case no matter how big or small the venue was; they always brought it and played with full intensity.  This is another thought that seems obvious when it’s written down, because everyone says that great musicians do that, but it’s different when you see it in action.  I can think of a few very specific situations on this tour where Ghost Note could have played differently or dealt with things in another way, and I watched them put huge amounts of time and energy into the show, their fans, and the venue and staff.

 

I have a lot of other thoughts swirling in my head after this tour and Polyrhythmics’ recent run to New Orleans, but I will end here with these initial thoughts about the Ghost Note run.  If you’re so inclined, check out their recent album, Swagism, and stay tuned for more from me!

 

 

 

 

Saxophone Siblings

By , April 15, 2018 4:48 pm

I started playing music by learning clarinet when I was 9.  I had 2 cassette tapes:  one of Swing clarinetist Benny Goodman and one of saxophonist Kenny G.  That ended up being the only Kenny G music I had, but I did go on to get several Benny Goodman tapes after that.

I then went on to listen to more and more jazz, and by the time I was 13, when I had the opportunity to play in Jazz Band at school, I was excited to play this music.  At the time, however, the band did not allow clarinets, so if I wanted to join I had to play the saxophone.  

I don’t remember being disappointed about it, and in fact I think I was excited to learn this instrument that was in so much of the music I listened to, so I was given an old Alto Saxophone from one of my cousins and things kind of took off after that.  I’ve been playing alto ever since.

After college, I bought a Tenor Saxophone from an old friend and would play it by myself sometimes, but never really worked with it; all of my gigs were on alto, and I considered myself an alto player.

Then one day Scott Morning recommended me for a new band, and assured the members that I did, in fact, play tenor (although at the time he didn’t know for sure!)  That was my introduction to Polyrhythmics.

As Polyrhythmics continues to move forward each year, I have deepened my commitment to being a better tenor player.  Although the 2 instruments are closely related, they really do require different things, and most importantly the voices are distinct and very different from each other.  

It’s difficult to maintain a balance, because I never want to stop playing alto.  It’s where I began and I still feel like it’s an important voice to me.  But I think some of the difficulties I’ve had lately (that I hinted at in my last post) come from an underdeveloped voice on tenor saxophone.  After all, I have 20 years of playing alto to try to catch up on if I really want to strike a balance.

As I said, alto will always be a part of me, and I will continue to use it as a primary voice in Theoretics, as a well as a part of my sound in Unsinkable Heavies.  But I am also excited to expand and explore tenor sax more seriously in the years to come!

 

Writing

By , April 4, 2018 1:13 pm

Hi all,

It feels good to be a little more active in blog posting, so thank you to any of you that have checked out what I’ve been writing the past couple of months!

Polyrhythmics recently finished several days writing new music together, which is always very exciting.  Last time around, I had a few ideas for a song bouncing around in my head, and with the help of the band, and Grant in particular, that song eventually became Vodka for My Goat, which is on the most recent album.

This time, I didn’t have anything in mind for a new composition, which I was comfortable with going into the writing session; I was ready to add my musical voice to whatever the guys brought in, and if some organizational thoughts came up that I could share regarding other people’s songs, then so be it.

It’s not always easy to be comfortable in that role, though.  When the songwriting and compositional impulses are going strong for everyone else in the group, it’s hard not to feel like you need to pull your weight in that department.  There is definitely a stronger feeling of ownership in a project when you have a direct hand in the music-writing process.

So even though I did as I intended, helping to organize other guys’ ideas and trying to add small suggestions when I felt like it, there was a bit of insecurity for me in the session, which I’m still dealing with a little bit.  This is also compounded by some current feelings of stagnation in my playing, which I think comes from a couple of different places.

I’ve tended to focus my development on playing the saxophone and becoming a better saxophonist, or at least better at playing saxophone in my given approach/style.  One of the things I love about the instrument is the wealth of different ways to play it, all of which can take you down wildly different paths.  And although I occasionally stretch myself and work on writing and composing music, that pull does not feel as strong to me as the pull to work on the craft of playing the saxophone.

We will see what happens; the periods of time when I feel that pull to write music come and go, and when they come I will turn to my saxophone to bring that music out.  Improvising as a way to coax out music in my head has been somewhat successful in the past with Hardcoretet, as well as previously and currently with Theoretics, so I see no reason why it can’t help me bring something new to the Polyrhythmics table too. 

In fact, in the process of writing this post, I’ve already started trying to work with some ideas that have popped up in the last couple of days.  It would appear that composing is just a slower process for me, and being patient as well as persistent (hopefully) pays off!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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