Category: Music

Transcription Clip: Shanice, “I Love Your Smile”

By , September 11, 2019 12:48 pm

I learned this short solo for fun for my wife a little while ago after we put the song on our wedding playlist, but lost the video on a broken phone!  I decided to try it again and put it up here.  After a little bit of research, I discovered the saxophonist is the great Branford Marsalis, which is a fun bit of trivia!  Without diving into discussions about tone, there’s some of the ornamentations and style here that point to a lot of saxophonists that would be considered Smooth Jazz, and it would be interesting to get more into that language, just for my own knowledge if nothing else.


 

 

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: 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 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 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.

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!

 

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