Posts tagged: polyrhythmics

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 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

Tour Blog, Fall 2018, Day 2

By , October 22, 2018 11:23 am

Hi Everyone! I’m blogging from Nebraska.

Our first show of the tour in Denver went well.  I think we’ve built a little following over the several times we’ve played there, and the city has a certain circle of folks that are into creative groove-based music.   Also, I always look forward to meeting up with my old friend Justin and his friends when I visit there.

I lived with Justin, along with my friend Josh, together for several years around 2008, the same time that I left my job as an office assistant and committed to teaching and playing music full time.  I think sharing the same space when I made that transition has given Justin particular insight into my professional journey.  Since he’s moved, we still talk about music and bands, and how everything is going with my musical career.  Plus, he’s probably second only to my fiancé Jessica in dedication to following artbrownmusic.com posts!

As always, I thank him and his friends for the support, and for making the trip down from Colorado Springs.

Tomorrow I’ll write about our show in Lincoln, thanks for reading!

Current listening:  really cool sounds and music from the band called The Internet, recommended by our drummer Grant.  Check it out!  WARNING:  some explicit language

 

Art

 

 

Tour Blog, Fall 2018, Day 1

By , October 20, 2018 5:39 pm

Hi all! I thought I would try to bring the tour blog back (it’s been years!)

Last night/this morning I took a 12:50 am flight to Denver, arriving at 4:30 am by myself. The Polyrhythmics van and trailer were somewhere near there at the time, having left Seattle Thursday morning with a few members in tow. I chose, as several others did, to stay in town yesterday and today to work, teaching as many lessons as I can before a long break, and take a budget flight (as much of a budget as it can be) to meet up with everyone tomorrow.

Any given tour involves many of us making that type of decision, balancing time, money, various jobs, and being with loved ones, and working out a vague equation of when we can afford to hit the road and when we have to get creative.

When it all comes down to it, though, we in Polyrhythmics have decided that the music should travel as much as possible, and for all the stress and extra management that touring requires, I am happy and feel lucky to perform in different parts of the country. I don’t always get to linger and enjoy them, but it’s worth it nonetheless! Tonight is Denver, tomorrow is Lincoln, Nebraska!

Stay tuned!

Current Listening: I’m really inspired by saxophonist Melissa Aldana at the moment, check her music out!

Stuck on the Inside

By , June 8, 2018 9:55 am

Recently, Grant (drummer for Polyrhythmics) told me that he has been discovering new music primarily from his non-musician friends, rather than other musicians, and that got me thinking about my similar experiences.

I would think, logically, that the best resources for music that would be new to me would be my musical and professional peers; music is their career, and listening to it an important part of their continuing education.  And yet, I can think of significant chunks of my music collection and musical memory that came from my friends and family that do not, in fact, play music, professionally or otherwise.

Why is this the case?  I don’t want to speak for Grant or anyone else, but I think I have a few hangups that contribute to the trend.  One of the reasons my musical tastes were so narrow for so long (they still are, but I’m getting better), is because it can be difficult not to view my listening in terms of my own music, so whenever I put anything on there would be that small voice somewhere asking me “how does this song improve my playing?” or “how does this song apply to the music I write and play?”

The correct response to that voice is “I don’t know, but if I like it and it makes me feel good then it is helping somehow, whether I can detect it or not.”  But it can be hard for me to remember that, and taking that analytical mindset instead will immediately reduce the variety of sounds I listen to.

On the other side of this dilemma, Jessica and I were talking about a recent interview with John Mayer where he described having almost the opposite problem, wanting to play all the different kinds of music that he likes and listens to, and then having to kind of make a distinction between the music he listens to AND makes, and the music that he JUST listens to.  There were many many different parts to the interview, and this was one small piece (as Jessie would readily point out), but it was one that stuck with me.

Another reason non-musician friends turn me on to so much more new music, I think, is that they often don’t think about whether the music will be something I like, or whether it’s in line with the styles I usually listen to.  They just really like it and want to share it with me. 

When I would recommend something to another musician, there used to be a lot of self-consciousness and insecurity (again, not as much nowadays, but still a little).  I wanted to know for sure it was something they were going to like, and be in line with their tastes.  I think that’s a complete non-issue for friends that don’t play music professionally.

To be fair, it’s probably a non-issue for most professional musicians too; I can only speak about my own problems!

Regardless, I am thankful for all of the new music and musical discoveries I have been able to make through all the beautiful people in my life, and I look forward to continuing to expand my musical palette and grow!

 

 

 

Ghost Note Tour

By , May 10, 2018 11:12 am

Last month I spent 17 days on the road with Polyrhythmics, having played 13 shows, and on 11 of those shows we shared the stage with the band Ghost Note.  Although the road is always thought-provoking and eventful (in addition to a lot of work), it’s the sharing of the stage that’s prompting this post.

Ghost Note is co-led by Nate Werth and Robert “Sput” Searight, both musicians I first heard when they were performing with the band Snarky Puppy.  They are the center of the group, are both immensely talented, and draw equally talented musicians to that center, surrounding themselves with people that match their level of musicianship and passion for creative music.

The tour began with Nate on percussion, Sput on drums, MonoNeon on bass, Vaughn Henry on keyboards, Jonathan Mones on Alto sax, and Sylvester Onyejiaka on Tenor sax.  Halfway through the tour, Sylvester and Vaughn left, and the band added Domi on keyboards, Peter Knudsen on guitar, and A.J. Brown on bass (for 2 of the gigs).  All from different parts of the country, all immensely talented.  It was incredible.

I could write a whole other blog post on Ghost Note’s music itself – fun, melodic music with room for a lot of complex rhythm and interplay, as well as specific spaces for improvisation and solos.  But as fascinated as I was with the music, I was equally fascinated with the personal dynamic of the group and how it stays together, works together, and plays together.  I didn’t ask Sput or Nate very many specific questions related to this, but in conversations with them and the other band members I started to get a picture of it.  Here a couple of observations:

 

-These guys WORK.  Like all the time.  Whether it’s recording parts for someone from their house, DJ’ing radio shows, travelling for gigs, or making videos and music through their social media platforms, everyone involved in Ghost Note works on music-related projects in a wiiiiide variety of forms.  And it’s not limited by geography; they’re involved in collaborations with people across the country.

-Even while they travel and connect with people away from home, they’re connected with the scene where they live.  Following them on social media, I can see what everyone is doing locally, whether it’s Portland, Miami, Dallas, or New York, among other places (yes, there were members of Ghost Note currently living in each of those places!)  And although I’m sure all of the Ghost Note members have occasional issues similar to what I’ve just begun to deal with – in terms of striking a healthy balance between in-town/out-of-town and work/friends and family – it was motivating to talk to and be around musicians that were so professional in terms of networking and personal promotion.

-They were all really warm and supportive!  They’ve played with some of the greatest and most famous musicians in the world, and there were no egos, just people focused on playing music at the highest level they can, and enjoying it at all times.  And that was the case no matter how big or small the venue was; they always brought it and played with full intensity.  This is another thought that seems obvious when it’s written down, because everyone says that great musicians do that, but it’s different when you see it in action.  I can think of a few very specific situations on this tour where Ghost Note could have played differently or dealt with things in another way, and I watched them put huge amounts of time and energy into the show, their fans, and the venue and staff.

 

I have a lot of other thoughts swirling in my head after this tour and Polyrhythmics’ recent run to New Orleans, but I will end here with these initial thoughts about the Ghost Note run.  If you’re so inclined, check out their recent album, Swagism, and stay tuned for more from me!

 

 

 

 

Saxophone Siblings

By , April 15, 2018 4:48 pm

I started playing music by learning clarinet when I was 9.  I had 2 cassette tapes:  one of Swing clarinetist Benny Goodman and one of saxophonist Kenny G.  That ended up being the only Kenny G music I had, but I did go on to get several Benny Goodman tapes after that.

I then went on to listen to more and more jazz, and by the time I was 13, when I had the opportunity to play in Jazz Band at school, I was excited to play this music.  At the time, however, the band did not allow clarinets, so if I wanted to join I had to play the saxophone.  

I don’t remember being disappointed about it, and in fact I think I was excited to learn this instrument that was in so much of the music I listened to, so I was given an old Alto Saxophone from one of my cousins and things kind of took off after that.  I’ve been playing alto ever since.

After college, I bought a Tenor Saxophone from an old friend and would play it by myself sometimes, but never really worked with it; all of my gigs were on alto, and I considered myself an alto player.

Then one day Scott Morning recommended me for a new band, and assured the members that I did, in fact, play tenor (although at the time he didn’t know for sure!)  That was my introduction to Polyrhythmics.

As Polyrhythmics continues to move forward each year, I have deepened my commitment to being a better tenor player.  Although the 2 instruments are closely related, they really do require different things, and most importantly the voices are distinct and very different from each other.  

It’s difficult to maintain a balance, because I never want to stop playing alto.  It’s where I began and I still feel like it’s an important voice to me.  But I think some of the difficulties I’ve had lately (that I hinted at in my last post) come from an underdeveloped voice on tenor saxophone.  After all, I have 20 years of playing alto to try to catch up on if I really want to strike a balance.

As I said, alto will always be a part of me, and I will continue to use it as a primary voice in Theoretics, as a well as a part of my sound in Unsinkable Heavies.  But I am also excited to expand and explore tenor sax more seriously in the years to come!

 

Writing

By , April 4, 2018 1:13 pm

Hi all,

It feels good to be a little more active in blog posting, so thank you to any of you that have checked out what I’ve been writing the past couple of months!

Polyrhythmics recently finished several days writing new music together, which is always very exciting.  Last time around, I had a few ideas for a song bouncing around in my head, and with the help of the band, and Grant in particular, that song eventually became Vodka for My Goat, which is on the most recent album.

This time, I didn’t have anything in mind for a new composition, which I was comfortable with going into the writing session; I was ready to add my musical voice to whatever the guys brought in, and if some organizational thoughts came up that I could share regarding other people’s songs, then so be it.

It’s not always easy to be comfortable in that role, though.  When the songwriting and compositional impulses are going strong for everyone else in the group, it’s hard not to feel like you need to pull your weight in that department.  There is definitely a stronger feeling of ownership in a project when you have a direct hand in the music-writing process.

So even though I did as I intended, helping to organize other guys’ ideas and trying to add small suggestions when I felt like it, there was a bit of insecurity for me in the session, which I’m still dealing with a little bit.  This is also compounded by some current feelings of stagnation in my playing, which I think comes from a couple of different places.

I’ve tended to focus my development on playing the saxophone and becoming a better saxophonist, or at least better at playing saxophone in my given approach/style.  One of the things I love about the instrument is the wealth of different ways to play it, all of which can take you down wildly different paths.  And although I occasionally stretch myself and work on writing and composing music, that pull does not feel as strong to me as the pull to work on the craft of playing the saxophone.

We will see what happens; the periods of time when I feel that pull to write music come and go, and when they come I will turn to my saxophone to bring that music out.  Improvising as a way to coax out music in my head has been somewhat successful in the past with Hardcoretet, as well as previously and currently with Theoretics, so I see no reason why it can’t help me bring something new to the Polyrhythmics table too. 

In fact, in the process of writing this post, I’ve already started trying to work with some ideas that have popped up in the last couple of days.  It would appear that composing is just a slower process for me, and being patient as well as persistent (hopefully) pays off!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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