Posts tagged: Music

James Booker, Stones Throw Records, Muscle Shoals

By , October 21, 2016 12:41 am

Hi everyone!

I recently went through a good run of music-related documentaries that I would highly recommend:

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Bayou Maharaja – This doc is about James Booker, a New Orleans pianist and entertainer that was active primarily in the 70’s. Although he made several European tours and played with many of the era’s great musicians, Booker stayed in NOLA for the most part, which is part of why he is still unknown to many people. I first heard about him when I visited New Orleans with Polyrhythmics the first time in 2014, and it’s a shame not only that I had not become familiar with him sooner, but also that he is still so underappreciated. Completely unique, extremely talented, and fascinating in every way.  Check out the movie!

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Our Vinyl Weighs a Ton – Our Vinyl Weighs a Ton tells the story of Stones Throw Records, the LA label started by DJ Peanut Butter Wolf and responsible for supporting music by Madlib, MF Doom, J Dilla, and others.  In addition to those artists, I have Stones Throw to thank for turning me on to a few other artists that became important to me for one reason or another, like the Stepkids, Mayer Hawthorne, and James Pants.  What interested me the most when watching this movie was how organic the process was in creating the musical scene around the record label; Wolf would actively pursue the music that he thought was cool, regardless of how the bands and musicians related to each other.  In this way, there are some Stones Throw albums that, when put next to each other, would seem like they don’t belong on the same record label, and yet at the same time there is something in the sounds of all their records that makes it sound like Stones Throw.  Wolf created a sound and a scene by not worrying about style or genre or whether it made sense.

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Muscle Shoals – Similarly, I enjoyed how Muscle Shoals recounted the creation of the style and sound that would come to represent early music by Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, and Duane Allman.  The Muscle Shoals Sound would become famous, and its origin is nothing more than 4 studio musicians and a recording engineer from a small part of Northwestern Alabama making music that sounded good to them.  The story of Muscle Shoals, from humble beginnings to more modern music industry struggles and everything in between, was truly inspiring to me.

 

I hope you’re encouraged to watch these films after reading this.  You won’t regret it!

 

Art

 

 

East Coast, California, and Oregon

By , October 21, 2015 3:46 pm

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Home again home again after a busy couple of weeks:

– The Polyrhythmics East Coast Tour was overwhelmingly positive, both individually and as a group. Although our time in each area or city was usually pretty short, I really enjoyed being in areas where the moods, personalities, and cultures were a bit different than that of the Northwest, from New England to New York to DC to North Carolina. Equally interesting were the parts of some of the cities that I found really similar to Seattle and the Northwest; sometimes it was the way a town felt, sometimes it was the way the people were, sometimes it was something else. Regardless, there was strong support and love for our music, which was heartwarming. New York in particular was wonderful; I reunited with several friends with whom I always enjoy catching up.

– After that, our stops in California and Oregon were familiar in the best of ways. Many of the venues we’ve played several times before, and it’s comforting to know that the place you’re playing any given night likes you and will treat you well, and you will probably see some familiar faces too! I talked about music a lot with a couple of the guys on this run, discussing where we see our music (both as individuals and as a band) fitting in compared to all of the other music getting made out there. I always find those conversations very rewarding, and think it makes me a better musician (or at least makes WANT to be better).

The Polyrhythmics twitter and instagram accounts were pretty active on these runs, so there are more detailed descriptions of the tours here and here.

It is not easy to make tours like this happen (much of the credit should go to Ben Bloom, our guitarist and tour manager), and there are sacrifices each of us in the band make to do it, but I feel very fortunate to be along for the ride.

On to the next!

3 Months In

By , March 10, 2012 2:57 pm

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So here I am, almost 3 months into working exclusively as a musician and teacher.

It feels as though my workdays have become compressed; lessons can’t start until kids get out of school, and gigs and rehearsals are almost always at night, plus most gigs are squeezed onto the Fridays and Saturdays of the week.  In this way, I kind of have an early night schedule now, which is kind of funny.  The trick, as I’ve told several of my friends, is turning that downtime during the day into something productive, which I’m still learning to do.  So far I think I’ve been doing okay.

I also feel like I’ve learned a bit about the business and non-musical side of playing saxophone over the last 3 months.  I’m really lucky to be playing in 3 bands with a member that has taken it upon themselves to handle those aspects, and in all 3 cases I’m really impressed with what they do.  Right now I’m just trying to watch them and pick up what I can.

Something I’ve been thinking about more and more is how important it is to believe in the value of your music.  It may seem obvious, but I have to condition myself to see the music I play as something of real value and importance, and a service worth paying for.

Of course, that mindset can be taken to an extreme, and of course I want to share my music with as many friends and family as possible (without milking them for money all the time), but I think I do need to get more into that mindset of music performance as a job, a job I enjoy and am lucky to have, but a job nonetheless.  And, by the same token, I always should work toward doing that job in a professional way and at as high a level as I can.

See you out and about soon!

-Art

 

Sideman adventures continued

By , September 26, 2011 1:32 pm

Last week was one the busiest playing weeks I’ve had in a long time.  It’s not often that I have many weekday/midweek performances, so it was kind of a new experience for me.  This is also on the heels of a couple of sub gigs I’ve recently done, so I’ve been thinking a bit about playing music and playing with different people.

 

– So many great musicians!  There’s always that amazing player in town that you haven’t met, or that person you’ve seen around but haven’t listened to and then they blow you away.

– Interacting with a lot of different musician friends makes me a better saxophonist.  Sometimes when playing in a band, you get really comfortable just doing what you’re already good at, so it was great to be challenged to play in a different way to fit whatever setting I was in. 

– I can see now the huge difference time can make on a band and the way musicians play together.  The level of music-making that comes from people that play together all the time and have done so for a while is super high. 

– On the other hand, there were many moments where I really felt like there was some awesome music going on with people I had either just met or didn’t know very well, so I guess it just depends.

 

I made many of these same points in my previous sideman post, but recent events brought them back to the forefront so I thought I would share them again.  That’s what a blog is for, right?

 

– Art

 

 

 

Almost Done…

By , August 9, 2009 3:38 pm

I told myself I would wait to put posts up until my site was fully operational, but this is close enough, and if any of you out there have suggestions on how to make it cooler, let me know!

I also am not completely sure what I’m going to post about, or how often I’ll get on here; I think that’s a question that will probably take care of itself. I do know that I’d like most, if not all, of the content to be music-related, and ideally focus on Seattle music in particular. I’ve found that every musician I talk to about the scene has pretty clear ideas and opinions on the state of live music in this city, but tend to keep them to themselves unless they are asked about it, in which case the floodgates open! I’ve been exactly the same way, so hopefully this blog will change that. Stay tuned…

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