Category: Listening

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 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 3

By , October 24, 2018 8:46 am

I’m a day or so behind but I’m going to keep going!

In Lincoln, Nebraska we played the Zoo Bar, a small blues club that opened in 1973. The walls were covered with old posters and flyers with some of the biggest names in blues music, all of whom had played the Zoo Bar at some point.

We played an early Sunday evening show, which the club doesn’t always do, so the room wasn’t packed, but the people there had a lot of nice things to say about the music and bought records and merchandise, so for a Sunday, which is often an off-day for playing shows, it wasn’t too bad.

I enjoy trying to get into the history of clubs like the Zoo Bar; I hope that it keeps me aware of the history of live touring music and touring musicians.

I try to prepare as much as I can for being away from home, but it is still difficult. I set my alarm for the same time Jessica and I get up at home, so we can text and wake up together, and I text and call when I can. Inevitably, though, every time I leave something breaks or goes wrong at the apartment, like clockwork. Which isn’t to say she can’t take care of it; she’s a tough cookie. It’s just that it’s easier to take those things on as a team, and it’s hard to be away.

We’ve had a couple long drives, and most of the guys sleep or have headphones on, but we talk a lot too, often about a wide-ranging array of topics. When you’re in a van for 8 hours, it’s not unusual for conversation to move from music to teaching music students to the future of memory retention to robots and Artificial Intelligence to genetically rare reptiles and amphibians (thanks Karl!)

Next post I will write about St. Paul, which we played last night.

Current listening: Nubya Garcia, an awesome saxophonist from London. I’ve really been digging this track: https://youtu.be/qndu03MaVSE

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!

 

 

 

 

 

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