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 5

By , October 25, 2018 12:41 pm

I should take some time to talk about Stuart Jackson.

Stuart has been the touring sound engineer for Polyrhythmics for a year and a half, in addition to providing driving services and getting the van and trailer where it needs to be when we can’t do it as a group. He also is on the team running sound at Nectar Lounge.

Having Stuart working on our sound on every live gig has really become invaluable to shaping Polyrhythmics’ live show. To not only be able to adjust it to the different venues we play but also add a consistent quality and overall vibe makes him a ninth member of the band, essentially. And I know I’ve learned a lot in my conversations with him about technical aspects of sound and effects. Cheers, Stuart!

Wednesday night was Milwaukee, at Shank Hall. Shank Hall is a reference to the movie Spinal Tap, which I love, and it also had a significant amount of press photos of great musicians that have played there.

As it often happens, we didn’t get much chance to see the city, which is too bad because I was curious to see what Milwaukee was like, but maybe next time. Even though the venue was more of a rock club feel, the crowd was similar to St. Paul, without the business travelers: small but mighty. Everyone bought merchandise, was enthusiastic in talking to us, and loved the music. To a certain extent this run seems like what first-time runs are expected to be, in that some crowds are small but they are determined to spread the word so that the next time out the numbers are bigger. I guess we will see if that’s the case.

Next post: Chicago, a city I have a little more experience with.

Current listening: Alison Miller, “Otis Was a Polar Bear” https://youtu.be/B3N6U6albkQ

I was only vaguely familiar with Alison Miller’s drumming and music before Jessica played this song for me a while ago. She liked the imagery that the song and its title conjured up; you can see a little polar bear poking around, exploring, and being rambunctious. The rest of the album is also top-notch music and improvisation!

Tour Blog, Fall 2018, Day 4

By , October 25, 2018 12:34 pm

On Tuesday night we played in St. Paul, Minnesota, at a club called Vieux Carre.

Vieux Carre is a sit-down dinner club that focuses on the food and culture of New Orleans, as evidenced by the name. The walls of the club are covered with beautiful black and white photos like the one below of Allen Toussaint and Dr. John.

Polyrhythmics don’t play very many dinner shows, but I enjoy them because it reminds me of going to Seattle clubs like Jazz Alley and Tula’s, especially when I was younger and imagining what it was like to play on those stages for a quiet audience at tables.

As it turns out, a combination of a small group of passionate fans and a large group of strangers visiting town for business made for an unexpected vibe, but everyone had fun and we played well.

Next up I’ll talk about Milwaukee, which we played last night.

Current listening: Smack Talk’s in-studio session for KNKX: http://www.knkx.org/post/modern-jazz-rock-seattle-s-smacktalk

I’m happy Seattle has a station promoting great new music with the in-studio sessions, and I’m recognizing more and more how many really talented musicians there are in town that I don’t know about, which is both sobering and motivating; it keeps me inspired to work hard on my music too.

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!

Brian Blade Fellowship

By , October 11, 2018 9:45 am

I first heard the Brian Blade Fellowship, now known as Brian Blade and the Fellowship Band, in 2003 when they performed at the Ballard Jazz Festival.  I was not familiar with any of the musicians in the band except for Blade, and it was honestly one of the most significant turning points in my musical development.  The songs were melodic, sweeping, and epic, and the improvisations throughout were creative and free of any cliche or standard ideas.  I had been in the Jazz Studies program at the University of Washington for a year or two, and that concert blew my mind.

After that, the band’s second album, Perceptual, was my musical world.  I listened to that CD obsessively, listening to the songs, and also thinking about how expressive the soloists were.  From there I went back to the first album, just called Brian Blade Fellowship, and then back to Perceptual, and then some time passed.

In 2006, my classmate and bandmate Tarik Abouzied called a group of musicians together to play:  me, Neil Welch, Evan Flory-Barnes, Nathan Vetter, and a piano player that had just recently moved back to town from the East Coast:  Tim Kennedy (I’ve talked about Tim several times on this blog in the past).  At the end of the hang, Neil played us a bootlegged recording he had of the Fellowship, playing live somewhere, and it blew my world up all over again!  It was all the feelings I had had in 2003, from the same band, and I listened to that recording non-stop once again, playing it and burning it for anyone that would listen.  The Fellowship did release more albums, which I picked up of course, then some time passed again.

In 2013 or 2014, videos of that bootlegged concert showed up on Youtube.  It turned out to be from the Jazz Baltica festival in Europe.  We finally had video of those songs we had listened to all those years back!  Now I’m going back once again, learning some of the solos from that concert, and it is great to dig in to this music again.  Here is a short clip of Myron Walden’s solo from the first song on the bootleg.  Thanks Brian Blade, Jon Cowherd, Chris Thomas, Myron Walden, Melvin Butler, Kurt Rosenwinkle, Dave Easley, and everyone else involved in the Fellowship!

 

 

 

 

Paul Gonsalves Continued

By , September 20, 2018 12:05 pm

Some more Paul Gonsalves from Diminuendo in Blue.  I really like the mix of traditional and modern (at least to my ears) in his playing.  The last chorus on this clip gets me every time!

 

Music Interview Podcasts

By , August 31, 2018 10:54 am

Gilles Peterson (middle) with Stretch and Bobbito

 

I’ve been doing a bit more driving lately with my private teaching, so I’ve started to get back into some podcasts, specifically music related ones.

I have heard some interviews in the last couple of months that I found completely fascinating!  I thought they would be worth sharing here in case any of you all would be interested.  The Gilles Peterson interviews are older, but luckily they are still available on Soundcloud.

Gilles Peterson interviews Jon Hassell:  https://soundcloud.com/gillespeterson/jon-hassell-words-music

  • I only knew Hassell by name before listening here.  Informative stories about working with David Byrne and Brian Eno, his formulation of the “Fourth World” concept, and how he views integrating and fusing different musical styles and traditions.

Lenny Kravitz with Stretch and Bobbito:  https://www.npr.org/2018/08/20/640288231/lenny-kravitz-on-race-raise-vibration-and-duetting-with-aretha-franklin

  • Kravitz talked about his childhood experiences with some of the greatest jazz and soul musicians, adjusting to growing up in LA vs. growing up in New York, how he was marketed by the music industry in the late 80’s and early 90’s, and much more.  

Gilles Peterson interviews Goldie:  https://soundcloud.com/gillespeterson/goldie-interview

  • I was not familiar with Goldie at all before this interview, so needless to say I learned a lot!  Goldie covers significant musical ground, talking about the Stranglers, UB40, Supertramp, Pat Metheny and Lyle Mays, Art Blakey, and Teena Marie,  as well as soooooo much music from his peers in Drum and Bass music.

Gilles Peterson interviews Chaka Khan:  https://soundcloud.com/mistral-productions/gilles-peterson-with-chaka-khan

  • Some of the topics:  Chicago funk, Charles Stepney, and Rotary Connection, leaving as a teenager for LA with Rufus, working with Rufus in general, collaborating with Miles Davis, how Stevie Wonder ended up writing “Tell Me Something Good”, her preferences for horns and horn sections, and a lot more!

 

 

 

 

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