The Art of the Sideman

This is a post I recently put up as a guest blogger on trumpeter Jason Parker’s website www.oneworkingmusician.com:

This past month, I found myself picking up a string of gigs in which I considered myself a sideman. These were shows and performances in which I enjoyed the music, worked hard to play at a high level, and put on a good show, but was not as heavily invested as I would be with groups that I helped form or for whom I write or arrange music, promote, or otherwise guide in certain directions. I don’t get put in these kinds of situations often, so although it was a new and fun experience, it did get me thinking about the nature of the “hired gun” working musician.

I won’t lie, it feels pretty cool. You’re basically requested to play because someone else has a project they care about that, in their opinion, needs YOU (as well as the rest of the band, of course!) to make it the best show it can be. It also can be a pleasant change of pace in that you slip into worker bee mode: “Tell me what you want me to do musically, and I’ll do exactly that.” This isn’t to say you can just zombie out and go through the motions; it’s a different kind of satisfaction when you fulfill someone else’s vision for their music, and you feel like a true professional, performing your tasks on a high level.

All that being said, by the end of this month I will be sufficiently burned out. Ideas for my own music and bands have been put on the back burner, I have not been able to promote, and my practicing has gone down as well. Also, most of these gigs could only be rehearsed for once or twice, so by the time things really start to gel, the show is over! What’s a hired gun to do?

I should bring forth a few footnotes:

I have a day job. The sideman is one facet of being a professional musician, a job that arguably needs to be full-time to be done correctly. I realize that most of the problems I’ve had boil down to just having enough time in the day, and having another job seriously handicaps me in that arena.

I also obviously weight my various musical projects in different ways. There are some that are more important to me than others, and this might not be the case with other musicians who are all about playing, no matter what it is.

I guess when it all comes down to it, it depends on the type of person you are. I know musicians that enjoy putting themselves in different situations and trying to rock the “jack of all trades” side of things, and, after all, what musician doesn’t want to expand their palette and try new styles and ways of playing? For right now, though, the sideman is not me. Maybe next month I’ll give the opposite a shot: Focus on a couple of projects, tailor my musical life around them, and work my butt off to make those get off the ground. I’ll let you know how it goes…

Soul Kata audio tracks up

I went ahead and put up a couple of tunes from the Soul Kata CD release party I was fortunate enough to play on at the Triple Door earlier this month, enjoy!

This show, as with any Soul Kata show, was an immense amount of fun. It’s always cool to do the backing horn section thing every once in a while, and just try to be as tight and clean as possible with the parts instead of worrying about soloing or thinking about how I’m sounding individually. This is always easier with my boy Scott Morning on trumpet next to me, since we’ve been partners in crime on these kinds of gigs for a while, so we have a pretty good idea of how each other plays.

That’s just icing though, the band plays great original stuff and they all sound awesome, plus they put on a great show, something that gets missed occasionally. Props to Katrina, Josh, Nate, Adam, Ben, Eli, Tai, and Bridget.

Hardcoretet

This past weekend Hardcoretet had a great rehearsal after a small break after recording, and began talking about putting a tour together.  Just the idea of touring stirs up all sorts of anxiety:  Where can we play this music?  How much will it cost?  Will anybody show up?

This is interesting because I’ve been reading a lot about the death of jazz lately, and also heard a lot about musicians brainstorming how they can make money/get people to come to shows/sell records.  Then I re-read this interview with Tim Berne on the blog for the band the Bad Plus:  http://thebadplus.typepad.com/dothemath/2009/06/interview-with-tim-berne-part-one.html

Here is a guy that plays saxophone music that is decidedly avant-garde, and is definitely not going to be booked for any weddings or restaurant gigs any time soon, and he is working his butt off playing and touring and putting cds together because he believes in his music, and there are people around the world who do too, even if it is a smaller group than the one that’s got Top 40 on their radio.

I’m biased; I have a day job, and have the luxury of not trying to pay rent and bills off of music alone, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still be successful playing the music you want to play if you work hard at it like Berne and so many other fringe musicians have.  I’m also in NO WAY comparing myself to these musicians; they have a motivation and work ethic that I have yet to find in myself!  I guess all I’m really trying to say is that I hope I can get to the point where I care more about who comes to hear me than how many come to hear me.  Props to all my awesome friends and family that support the shows, I’m extremely lucky to have them.

If we get this tour together and play for one guy in San Francisco that likes our stuff, I hope I can feel like I accomplished something

Thanks everyone! / Dexter and Hayes

Thank you for all of your support and great comments about the site!  I never really know how well it works or looks to other folks, so I’m glad it works as well as I’d hoped.

Tuesday night I headed down to the Dexter and Hayes pub to play standards and straight-ahead jazz with Gravity, a trio featuring Tim Kennedy, Ian Sheridan, and Claudio Rochat-Felix.  These guys know so much about so many different styles of music, but when it’s time to throw down and play a certain type of material, they just get into it and always sound super tight and burning.  Plus, they always have a lot of fun doing it.

The people at the D&H know all this too.  There are the regulars, young and old, that come through and get hugs from the guys, hang out with them, and throw some money in the tip jar, but there are also always at least one to two people that end up sitting in one of the booths and really digging the music.  Then there are the musicians that come through too.  There are definitely slow Tuesdays sometimes, like anywhere, but when it’s cracking it’s really cracking.  It’s too bad this session and the jam session at the Owl and Thistle are the same night, as the Owl attracts the same badass musicians, and is really the only other steady straight-ahead session in town.

Almost Done…

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…