Posts tagged: jazzfest

Possibilities

By , May 11, 2016 3:31 pm

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The Polyrhythmics tour to New Orleans and the Southeast, from Kentucky (or, as some call it, Kenpucky,) to Florida to North Carolina and beyond went relatively smoothly, with many new areas visited from both the band perspective and a personal perspective.  I enjoyed the cultures and people in the South so very much, and loved having the opportunity  to play music there; once again I felt a real appreciation for professional musicians and bands in the cities to which we traveled.

Even before this tour I had a few long drives, so I checked out a book on tape:  Possibilities, an autobiography by Herbie Hancock.  I really liked it!  Herbie goes into detail about how certain musical projects and bands came about, and what the dynamic was like in those groups, as well as how his musical philosophy changed (or stayed the same) throughout his long career.  Definitely some interesting perspectives from a guy that has been TCB’ing (Taking Care of Business) for quite a while.

I would also recommend, to other aspiring professional musicians in particular, this interview with drummer and producer Jojo Mayer that Adam Gross recommended to me.  There were a few observations from Mayer there about where you work and play music versus where you live, the decisions you make regarding your life as a professional musician, and what the music business means to him.  Good stuff.

I think each time I return home after 2 or more weeks away I engage in the same self-reflection, but once again it’s really hitting me that music is my professional future, both teaching and playing.  For a while after college it was in the background of my professional life; something I was doing intermittently when I wasn’t busy working.  Then, even when it was in the forefront, I assumed that someday I would have to push it back again.  I think I’m getting closer to eliminating that assumption, which feels really good.

 

 

 

 

More Focused Listening

By , March 23, 2016 5:03 pm

When David Bowie passed away, I was motivated to listen to more of his music, as I had really only heard his big hits previously.  As I have occasionally done with other artists in the past, I decided to start with his early albums and move through them chronologically (I wrote about this approach previously here).  Listening to his albums this way definitely taught me some things about the development of songwriting, exploring different sounds and textures in pop music, and how pop music can be inventive and unique.  I really missed the boat in not listening to his music earlier.

With an upcoming special event that Ben Bloom and the rest of the Polyrhythmics will be putting together in New Orleans for JazzFest, I moved on to do the same focused listening with the discographies of Fela Kuti and the Grateful Dead.  I knew a fair amount of Fela’s music, but almost none of the Dead’s music, and once again both experiences were significantly enlightening.  What struck me in listening to the Grateful Dead was how interesting the actual composed material was; it seems to me that they are largely known for the improvisational nature of their performances, but I enjoyed the written material just as much.

Fela’s music is, in its own way, a perfect example of the approach that I frequently talk about achieving:  a unique synthesis of all of his influences into an individual sound.  Throughout his discography you hear how he incorporated West African Highlife, Jazz, and Soul in the style James Brown in a way that allows them all to work together.  The political nature of his music and how fearless he was in declaring his views is also an important part of who he was, and how the music sounded.

Polyrhythmics have never claimed to be an Afrobeat band, or tried to accurately and faithfully execute Afrobeat music as Fela and others played it, but the influence is definitely there, and it would be irresponsible to ignore or downplay that.  I’ve thought a lot recently about my responsibility as a musician to not only acknowledge influences but to bring them to the front of conversation when talking to listeners or students about my playing, especially if they are not familiar with those earlier bands and musicians.  I haven’t done a great job with that, and hope to do better.

Art

 

 

 

New Orleans JazzFest 2015

By , April 30, 2015 5:47 pm

Hi all!

I’ve made a playlist on my YouTube channel with some of the short video clips I managed to take while in New Orleans.  They are very short, but it hopefully will give you at least small idea of the energy behind these live performances and the music happening here.  Go here and check out the New Orleans 2015 playlist for a tiny taste of Jazzfest!  In addition, there is a clip there of me from our performance at the Blue Nile, in the French Quarter district of New Orleans.

In addition to what I’ve said in the past about the high number of talented musicians in New Orleans and the supportive culture in the city surrounding live music, one of the other parts of the JazzFest experience I enjoy is meeting and talking to touring bands and musicians that are at the festivities for the same reasons we are, and sometimes these bands and musicians travel just as far.  It’s interesting to get their take on traveling and playing this kind of creative groove music.  In general, there seemed to be those people that were part of the core groups of bands, kind of like we are in Polyrhythmics, and then those independent musicians that get hired to play in this or that group or band.  These are the people that I found myself asking “who are you playing with this year?” because they may be in a different horn section or featured with a different group, etc.

Both of those types of conversations are equally fascinating to me, but I regret not talking more about just music and playing.  I feel as though this year if I became self-conscious or nervous I would fall back on those kinds of music business-type questions instead of asking about music.  Something to keep in mind for next time…

A few extra photos:  
  
Frenchman Street, where many of the live music clubs are all lined up.  This is definitely the street where I spent most of my time.
  
The blanket fort is from the friends’ house where we stayed.  The house was pretty small so I slept on the floor under the table, which led somebody to build me a fort…the sign says “Art’s Fort – BEWARE IT STIRS”
  
The third photo is our keyboard player Nate and I riding in our friends’ van to get to one of the gigs.  We had to borrow some drums so Nate and I made sure it got there.  Don’t worry, it had seatbelts!

I was going to add a photo of the Alligator sausage I had, but it tasted better than it looks, you’ll just have to trust me!


 

-Art

 

 

News

By , April 6, 2015 3:59 pm

Hi everyone!

Lots of exciting stuff happening.  Polyrhythmics just returned from 4-day west coast tour that culminated in a show at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco, CA.  The Hall has been the site of many amazing concerts over the years, and is a beautiful room to play in.  I felt very lucky to play there!  The Polys will be going down to New Orleans for JazzFest once more at the end of this month, another place that seems like a blessing for me to visit.  I look forward to taking in as much music as I can and getting input and advice from other musicians.

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Theoretics are gearing up for several festivals this Summer, which is very exciting since the band is, to me, still pretty young, at least with its current sound, and I think there are a lot of new listeners out there that will really appreciate what we do.  Our Seattle show at the Tractor Tavern went very well, and we will be opening up for Robert Glasper on April 14 at Neumos.  I have enjoyed Glasper’s music for a while now (here’s an older post about him here ), so this is a great opportunity to maybe get a little closer experience!

Teaching is going well, although working out the education/performance balance is constantly ripe for improvement.  For the future, I am thinking of experimenting with Skype lessons while on the road, as well as keeping students more informed about what touring and performing is like.  Perhaps a mailer or more consistent blogging is in order…

Art

P.S.  Check out The Main Squeeze.  This is the band we shared the stage with in San Francisco.  Great stuff!

 

 

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