Posts tagged: new orleans

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:

booker

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!

wolf

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.

rick-hall

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

 

 

Possibilities

By , May 11, 2016 3:31 pm

IMG_0580

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.

1798801_10203591249373799_5772432801414670965_n

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!

 

 

Greetings From The Road!

By , February 18, 2015 11:24 pm

The Polyrhythmics are currently on our way out of Louisiana, heading toward Colorado.

IMG_1124 (1)

The Mardi Gras celebration in New Orleans was more colorful and vibrant than I could have imagined, and although the multiple parades and costume balls range from neighbor and family friendly to parties that were for older folks, the one thing that was everywhere was MUSIC!

Just as it was last year after our trip to NOLA during JazzFest, I was sad to leave the city. I love being a part of the music community in Seattle, and I never want to leave it, but it always feels special to be in New Orleans, and I think it’s a city I want to continue to visit throughout my life.

Other news: Theoretics have released a new EP, and I think the music we made on it is unique, exciting, and creative in a way that I am very proud of. You can check it out here: https://soundcloud.com/theoretics/theoretics-fugue-state

A few other recent performances I found really musically fulfilling:

Tim Kennedy Quintet at Tula’s – Tim’s original material allows all of us to interact and make great music together.

Lucky Brown and the Super Premium Chiefs at Port Townsend’s Strange Brewfest – More on Lucky here

 

We’re moving on to Wyoming and Idaho from here, then we head home to Seattle.  See you all soon!

– Art

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tour Blog 5

By , June 18, 2014 3:34 pm

When I left off, we were heading to Texas, a state I had never visited before, pretty exciting!  It was an early departure from Santa Fe, and it was going to be a long day of driving, but luckily there was no gig we had to get to, just a hotel room waiting at the end.

photo1

Ben and Nathan took the lion’s share of the drive.  High priority for everyone was to get some real Texas barbecue at some point, which we did in Amarillo, at Tyler’s Barbeque.  The owner talked to us for a while – apparently they get bands in there fairly frequently – and he was really hospitable and nice.  He told us about Texas and we told him about the Northwest, which he’s visited once or twice, and he asked us about touring and the van we use, among other things.  It was a great first Texas experience for me!

10257046_10202612002839540_3431751094876587570_n

The weather took a pretty nasty turn during Nathan’s part of the drive, although I was asleep for most of it.  Some of the darkest stormclouds anyone had seen before rolled in and there were heavy rains for a couple of hours.  But we made it through and Nate kept chugging until we got to Dallas to stop for dinner.  From there it was an hour and a half to our hotel in Houston.

The next day we were playing at Plonk Wine Bistro, and we weren’t really sure what to expect.  From what we gathered, it wasn’t a traditional music venue; the owner would pay for an outdoor live music event 3 or 4 times a year as a  kind of celebration for his regular patrons and friends.  Because of this, and the fact that we had never played in town before, we didn’t know if anyone showed up.  As it turns out, people did show, and they were really enthusiastic!  There was a fair amount of New Orleans transplants there too; it appears as though they’ve built their own live music community there in Houston, pretty cool!

The next morning was a somewhat early one so that we could make it on time to our load in at the Austin venue, Speakeasy.  My friend Lindsay had been in Dallas visiting family, and she made the trip down to Austin to come to the show, which was very awesome of her!  I had a delicious gourmet hot dog at a stylish hot dog shop/coffee shop/bar (seriously) and then met Lindsay at Fado, just like Seattle.  She showed me around town a little bit, although not as much as I would have liked but time was a little limited.  One of the bars we stopped at had Western dancing lessons in the evening and then a dance band at night that you could try your moves out with, which seemed pretty fun, and Stubb’s barbecue was served outside.  This was a big deal for me because I only knew of Stubb’s from the barbecue sauce that’s sold in grocery stores in Seattle; to be somewhere where the real deal was cooked was a neat experience!  Of course, the night was warm, so there were bike cabs everywhere, moreso than in Seattle, so that was a little different scene too.

The actual performance at Austin went okay; the conclusion we came to was that the venue just wasn’t a good fit for us.  There was a comedy show in the front room while we were in the back, and anyone coming in had to pay cover for both, not a great business strategy.  Oh well.  I’m excited to go back to Austin someday, as I enjoyed the people and the city seemed really hip!

Also, big shout out to Amy for a nice stay at an apartment that belonged to friends of hers, beautiful river-view and enough room for 9, what a blessing!

OKAY…next up:  New Orleans.  I’ve already talked off many of your ears about NOLA if I’ve seen you recently, but it’s already been a month since the trip (geez, time is moving quickly these days), so I think it will be good for me to reiterate a lot of my thoughts on the blog, hopefully you enjoy it.

 

 

 

 

Upcoming Tour Blog

By , April 3, 2014 3:13 pm

It’s less than a week now from when I will be on the longest tour I’ve ever done, three and a half weeks to New Orleans with the Polyrhythmics, and I haven’t done a tour blog since the first tour of my career, when Hardcoretet went down the coast to Los Angeles 5 years ago!

Stay tuned for posts from the road throughout April, and hopefully I will be able to put up a video or two as well.

April Excitement

By , March 8, 2014 4:48 pm

I had a nice excursion North to Bellingham the last couple of days; Theoretics had a solid first Bellingham show at the Wild Buffalo, and I was able to spend the following day with Karl, drummer for the band Polecat, who the Polyrhythmics have shared bills and festivals with pretty frequently.  It was good to talk about music as a career with someone else who has been doing it for a while:  how to make it work, the positives and negatives, and how to balance everything out.  Then that night we topped it all off with a great jam with Jeremy, guitarist for Polecat, Jefferson Rose, a killer bass player with a band of his own, and Mars, one of the best trombonists I know.  Right on, Bellingham!

A couple of things I’m looking forward to next month:

April 8th Hardcoretet will be releasing our third album, a full-length recording that we are all very excited about.  Not only that, we are also opening for Kneebody, a group that has been one of my primary musical influences for the last couple of years, and the show is at the Tractor Tavern in Ballard, one of my favorite venues in town!  Some preview tracks of the new album are available at the Hardcoretet band camp page:  https://hardcoretet.bandcamp.com/

The next day I embark on tour with the Polyrhythmics; we are travelling down the coast to Southern California, East through Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas, and finishing in New Orleans.

I have never been to New Orleans and cannot wait to be there to take in as much as I possibly can.  The more I play and listen to music, the more I know I am influenced by that city.  Many of the musicians I enjoy listening to have spent significant time there, and its historical significance cannot be overstated, in my opinion.  I’m going to try to post a bit from the road, so stay tuned!

There is a fundraising campaign to help us minimize the expenses and costs of the tour; most of the places we are playing are new to us, so there will likely be a few lightly-attended gigs, so to speak.  If you want to help, please go here!  http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/polyrhythmics-new-orleans-jazz-fest-2014

Panorama Theme by Themocracy