Player's Journal 2005
Long overdue cleaning
I hadn't cleaned the fretboard on my Aria for many years, just been ignoring the muck that had built up there. I decided it was time for a cleanup. In the past I had used 000 steel wool for this job, but when I went to the local Woodcraft store, they didn't have any. What they did have was a pad that claimed to be a substitute for 000 steel wool. For $1.99, I thought it would be worth a try. As it turned out, it worked well. I took off all the strings, cut narrow strips of the pad, and sanded across the neck, pushing a fingernail into the pad to get close to the frets. It took quite a while, because there was maybe ten years of dirt on the fretboard. I also polished the frets, gently, with the pad. Then I put on a new set of D'Addario Jazz Light Round Wounds. The guitar is almost 40 years old, so I try not to shock the neck with sudden changes in tension. This caution is no doubt unnecessary. Bob Cavanagh, at Wurlitzer in Boston, used to do my repairs, and he'd just take a pair of wire cutters and cut all the strings. I groaned when I saw it, thinking of the abrupt change in tension on the neck, but he claimed it would not hurt the neck. Even so, as a rule, when I change strings I change one at a time and bring it close to pitch. So after the cleaning, I put on the two E strings first, tightened them a bit to start putting pressure on the neck, and worked from the outside strings in. Once all the strings were on, I gradually brought them up to pitch, letting the guitar sit for a few minutes at each stage along the way. Once again, probably foolish caution, but it's a cheap guitar and an old one, so I baby it.
I also tightened all the screws: on pickups, pickguard, tuners. I used to do this twice a year, summer and winter, as the wood expanded and contracted with the weather, but I'd gotten out of this habit.
What had prompted me to do this cleanup was that the other night, at the Dover Soul gig, the guitar was not sounding very good. Once in a while it gets a sort of nasal tone. Nick Phaneuf was at that gig, and I mentioned to him that the tone was odd. He said, "Yeah. It seemed to have a lot of high upper mids. But the sound warmed up as the night went on." Nice to have a discerning ear in the audience. Sometimes just moving the neck pickup a bit helps the tone. I think it gets positioned under nodes in the string that emphasize the wrong frequencies. But that night the pickup wouldn't move much. So I thought that tightening all the screws might realign things just enough to help. With all that hardware on it, the Aria is finicky.
Now the guitar feels and sounds great. I tried it through my Peavy amp. Noticeable improvement. The strings are still too new to be able to tell if the tone is where I want it. I'll practice for a few hours Monday and Tuesday. I'm looking forward to Tuesday's gig at Dover Soul, curious to see if the sound is better on stage.
I've been working on THoTH, translating the program logic into database logic. In the original program, all the rules for chord-scales were in one large "IF" statement, and now I'm moving them into the database. For readers who are confused by this, all it really means is that the rules are being moved from a text file to a database. The rules are based on Bill Leavitt's approach to chord-scale analysis, as he expressed them in his Modern Method for Guitar series.
As I was working on this, I was thinking, "What would Bill think of all this -- translating his chord-scale analysis into computer code?" He never had any involvement with personal computers -- they came into common use very near the end of his life. But he would have liked the logic of the computer. Bill was a very logical guy. His analysis was systematic, which is why it translates so well to computer logic. But Bill also understood exceptions. He used to say, "There is no such thing as 'never' or 'always' in music." I thought of that as I wrote the logic for transposing B-natural up a fifth. In most cases, if the root in question is named with a sharp, when we transpose up a fifth, we name with a sharp: up a fifth from C# is G#, not Ab. And if the root is natural, up a fifth is natural: up a fifth from A is E, not D##. But up a fifth from B is F#. We do this intuitively. But computers are not intuitive; we must tell them about the exceptions.
Main Sreet Auction
Main Streets is an organization, with branches across the country, that promotes local businesses and tourism. My wife volunteers for Dover Main Street. It's a good, hard-working, imaginative group that sponsors interesting activities in Dover. Each year they have an auction to raise funds. This year I donated to the auction a 2-hour performance. They decided to bundle it with a florist's donation. It didn't go for the asking price, but it brought some money into the organization, and someone will get floral arrangements and jazz for their private party. I don't know yet who purchased it, so I look forward to getting a phone call.
Not-So-Dry Martini Bar
As I mentioned in my last post, I tried a different reverb setting at last-night's Dover Soul gig. I liked the sound. Provides a little more sustain, so I don't have to work so hard.
Dry Martini Bar
Lateley I've been praciting on my Guild T-50. It has a rich, reverberant sound, so when I go back to my Aria it sounds a little dry. I noticed this on the last gig at the Dover Soul Martini Bar. The room has a nice sound, but it is not very reverberant. That night I tweaked the digital reverb up a bit, but still felt the sound was too dry. So tonight, at home, I plugged my Alessis Nanoverb into my Peavy and tried the Aria with various reverb settings. I had been using Plate 3 with the Mix setting on about 3 and the Adjust setting on about 7. After some trial and error, I settled on Hall 3 setting, with the Mix on about 2.5 and the Adjust about 5.5. That's more reverb than I'm used to, but it does sound nice. I think I've been too much the purist lately, so I'll indulge just a bit. I have a gig at Dover Soul Tuesday night, so I'll give this setting a try. If it's still too dry, maybe I'll add a little Vermouth.
A Little Night Music
I've renewed an old tradition. While Mal cooks dinner, I take my old Guild T-50 hollow body down to the second floor and play tunes. I usually practice in my office on the third floor, and I usually practice on my Aria, which is my gigging guitar, so this is a change of scene and a change of ax. The middle floor of you new condo has an open floor plan, with living room, kitchen, and dining room all in one open space, with lots of window. The wood floor and the open stairways leading up and down create nice acoustics. I pull a stool out from under the island in the kitchen area and sit looking out the windows. So Mal gets to hear some music while she cooks. (I haven't yet wired up stereo speakers on that floor.) In the past few weeks I've gotten to play in the light of the setting sun, which comes in those windows. Now that the days are getting shorter, we have to have a real early dinner if I'm going to see the sunset.
The first time I did it, Mal commented, "I'm lucky to have my own concert while I make dinner." Now it's become a kind of running joke. After a while I say, "Well, the band needs to take a break. Don't forget to feed the tip jar." She says, "Dinner is the tip."
Actually, treating it as a gig is pretty healthy exercise. At first I used the time to polish up rough spots in some of my solo arrangements, but I felt bad that Mal had to listen to the stop-and-go. So now I treat it like a gig and just play through my repertoire; I do pick tunes that need workk, or that present a physical challenge. It keeps me in shape, and we both enjoy the music. Fortunately, Mal never tires of the tunes I play, nor do I.
Slow and Steady
I played jazz brunch at Crescent City Bistro today. It was on pretty short notice, so I didn't have a lot of time to think about the gig in advance. But the one goal I decided to focus on was to avoid rushing the tempo. Of course, since it's a solo gig, no one but me knows when I've rushed the tempo. But the problem is that once I've rushed the tempo during the improvised choruses, the melody becomes harder to play on the out chorus, and on many tunes, in this situation, I fluff notes or play chords that are not clear. So the listener, though he or she may not be aware, is short-changed. When I'm aware that I've rushed the tempo, I can slow down while coming out of the improvised chorus, but I always feel like that's cheating. So I made an extra effort today to stay steady. For the most part, it worked, but I noticed rushing on a few tunes, and a few glitches in the out chorus. I'll keep working on it.
The Concert for Katrina Benefit got a nice writeup in Foster's Daily Democrat. Raised over $3,200 for the victims of Katrina.
Bye Bye Blackbird
Busy with gigs lately, which is a good thing. Last weekend the fund raiser at the Bell Center, for Katina victims. They raised a few thoudand dollars. Hope it helps some of those people from Mississippi and Louisiana. Tragic, what happened there. The negligence of "our" government, both in neglecting the levees in the first place, and in the delayed rescue is hard to bear. Playing music helps, and to be able to help, in some small way, financially, eases a bit of the sadness. I was only in New Orleans once, for a few days, but the city has always meant a lot to me, as a jazz player and teacher. This is a hard time for a lot of us.
The Bell Center event went all day and was well-attended. I did two sets: one solo set in the afternoon, and a jam at night. Steve Fink on trumpet and Nat(?) on clarinet at the evening jam. Lots of fun. A little hectic, but jams are like that.
Today I played at Crescent City Bistro, and that, too, was bitter-sweet. This was a return engagement for me. The restaurant, as the name implies, has a New Orleans theme. The last time I played there was before the flood. I viewed the room quite differently this time, the feathered masks on the walls, the fountain. I played a few tunes associated with New Orleans: "A Kiss to Build a Dream On" (Louis Armstrong), "Green Dolphin Street", "Bye Bye Blackbird." In researching "Blackbird," I found this disturbing piece of history:
In 1927, the great Mississippi flood rumbled down upon New Orleans. As Barry writes in his account, "Rising Tide," in the New York Times, the disaster ripped the veil off the genteel, feudal relations between whites and blacks, and revealed the festering iniquities. Blacks were rounded up into work camps and held by armed guards. They were prevented from leaving as the waters rose. A steamer, the Capitol, played "Bye Bye Blackbird" as it sailed away. The racist violence that followed the floods helped persuade many blacks to move north.
I'll never hear, or play, "Blackbird" quite the same way again. It has taken on new meaning. Now the challenge, for me, is to put some of that meaning into my playing of the tune.
My next gig is another fund raiser for Katrina victims. We do what we can.
Jam, New Hampshire
Last weekend I did another gig at the Wildcat Tavern in Jackson Village, NH, with Mike Scott and Mary Mitchell. As luck would have it, there were some people there who frequent the Press Room in Portsmouth. They enjoyed the trio and said we should try to play at the Press Room. We shall see.
I've been enjoying the music scene here in New Hampshire. People here seem to appreciate music so much more than they do in the Boston area. I'm playing next Sunday at a fund raiser for the Katrina hurricane relief, at the Bell Center in Dover. Lots of local musicians have volunteered their services, so I'm looking forward to hearing them and meeting them. I see from the schedule that I'm booked for two short sets, one solo and one as a "Jazz Jam" with a guy named Steve Fink, who I've never met. Should be interesting.
A Gentleman and a Scholar
Last weekend I went to hear Herb Pomeroy at the Press Club in Portsmouth, NH.
The first memory I have of Herb goes back to about 1970.
I got a call from a singer named Jimmy Helms. Jimmy had just made his first record, and had recently been on national TV. He had a one-week show at a local club, and I'd been referred to him by Stan Strickland. Jimmy said if Stan had recommended me, I must be Ok, and he asked if I could do the gig. Sure, I said. Great, Jimmy said, wear a tux. I told him I didn't own a tux. Jimmy was taken aback and asked if I had a black suit. I said that the best I had was a brown corduroy jacket. Ok, Jimmy said, wear that. He told me when to show up for the rehearsal. I said I didn't have a car. Jimmy paused for a while and then said, well, if Stan had recommended me, I must be OK, so he'd drive me to the gig himself.
I think I had done maybe one night somewhere with Stan, and maybe my name was the first that came to his mind when Jimmy Helms asked him to recommend a guitar player. I was about twenty-five years old and, to be honest, I was not ready for this gig, as I would soon learn.
The rehearsal was, as is so often the case with show gigs, a one-hour run-through before the first show. Jimmy picked me up and we loaded my Ampeg into the back in his Ford Pinto. On the way to the gig, Jimmy said he was really excited about this show, and that he had been lucky in hiring a great band. He rattled off a few names. The only one I remember was Herb Pomeroy.
When we got to the club, the band was already set up. I don't remember how many pieces there were, but I do remember seeing more saxophones and trumpets on the stage than I'd ever played with. The bandstand was so crowded that there was no room for me to set up. Jimmy said, "That's Ok. You set up down front here with me." As I set up my folding music stand, I heard someone in the band, behind me, say, "Nice tux." I heard another voice say, "Oh, leave him alone." As I placed the heavy guitar book on the stand, it caused the stand to collapse and the music to spill all over the stage. The band laughed heartily. I gathered the music up and hastily put it back in order. We got ready to rehearse the first tune. Jimmy turned to me and said, "You've got the intro." I looked at my chart. It was a piano part; the intro was a long flurry of arpeggios. I couldn't read it. The piano player, seeing the look of panic on my face, said, "Don't worry. I'll play it." This was going to be a long week.
There were two "green rooms", one for the "stars" and one for the band. Because I was set up on the stage with Jimmy, he said I should go on and off stage with him, rather than go through the bandstand, so I spent every bread in the "star's" green room. The opening act on the bill was a comedian. We got to know each other pretty well in that small green room (Jimmy was usually out working the crowd). The one thing I remember this guy telling me: when you're going to go on stage, make sure your shoe's have a good shine. His shoes were impeccable. The only bit I remember from his act is his immitation of Cary Grant stepping on a cat's tail. "RRRagnhnn" he's say in Cary Grant's voicing, jumping and looking down at his polished shoes. Must have been a funny bit if I remember it after all these years.
[To Be Continued...]
Trio of gigs
It was a busy week. Tuesday night the mural unveiling, Wednesday night my first appearance at Dover Soul, Thursday night a duo gig at Three Chimneys.
Two of these gigs came through new friends, one through an old friend.
One new friend is Jessica Smith, the real estate agent who found us our condos (one for us, one for Sheri & Jason) in Dover. After we moved in, we took Jessica and her husband, Scott, out to dinner. Jessica told us a lot about Dover. She mentioned that she had commissioned a mural for the mill building, and that there would be an unveiling event in July. I immediately offered to play for the unveiling. Scott mentioned that he'd always wanted to play guitar and was thinking of take lessons. Later Jessica told me that Scott had taken some lessons. Later, at the unveiling Scott and I had a few minutes to discuss, briefly, the joys and frustrations of learning to play guitar.
I got the Dover Soul gig through another new friend, Liz Parmalee. Mal and I went to Little Louie's Fish House, which is attached to Dover Soul, for a fundraising event and wine tasting. Liz was performing in Soul. We walked in to Soul briefly but it was crowded and so noisy that we couldn't really hear the music, so we went back to Louie's. A few days later I went into Soul with a PR package. I had been told that a woman named Sherry did the booking so I asked the young woman behind the counter if Sherry was in. The young woman said Sherry was not in, and I explained that I wanted to leave a PR package. The young woman said, "Oh, I do the booking." I said, "Oh, well, we were in here the other night and there was a woman singing, and..." "That was me." I was pretty embarrased that I had not recognized Liz, but she was cool about it. We talked for a while and I left her the package. The next day she emailed me and set up a gig at Soul.
A few days later I saw a flier in the window of the new burrito shop in Dover, Dos Amigos, saying that Liz Parmalee would be performing there on Friday night. I dropped Liz an email and said I'd come by to see her perform. Mal and I got to Dos Amigos about a half hour before Liz was scheduled to go on. We planned to have dinner and then listen to Liz while sipping a beer. It was a sweltering summer night, the restaurant was small, with high ceilings, no aircondigioning. Liz was there with her guitar and amp. We chatted, and then Mal and I got our meals and sat at a small table near "the stage." The "stage" was just a corner of the room near the windows facing the street. There was no power outlet there and Liz was trying to figure out how she was going to plug in her amp. Mal and I ate burritos and sweated. After a while, one of the guys who worked there ran a yellow extention cord from a plug in the ceiling down to the "stage." Liz set up her amp and mic and set to work. As she tuned up and tested the mic, she looked at the yellow extension cord hanging from the ceiling, directly in front of her mic and said, half to herself, "Embrace the cord." Undaunted, she went into her first number." Unfortunately, the sound was awful. After a couple of numbers, Liz looked at me and said, "Does it sound really echoey?" It sure did. The high tin ceilings and the rectangular shape of the room made for nasty echoes. Liz had both her guitar and her mic plugged into her little Fender amp. She was getting some feedback. I helped her reposition the amp. She had it on her right, so the sound was going directly into the f-hole on her guitar, and into the mic. We moved the amp to her left, I turned off the reverb, tweaked the tone controls. It helped some. There was no helping the room acoustics. Liz was a trouper. She performed with energy and enthusiasm. Unfortunately, we couldn't understand a singel word she sang, thanks to the dreadful acoustics. I hope to catch her at a venue with better acoustics. She's a good guitarist and has a very nice voice.
The Wednesday night gig at Dover Soul was great. I'm going to write it up in a gig journal, so all I'll say for now was that it was great to have Liz and Mal while I played; made it feel very homey. Sheri and Jason came in later in the evening, so I had friends and family. And there were some customers who really enjoyed the music. Look for the gig journal on this site in a few days.
The Thursday night gig came from an old friend, recently rediscovered. Mal and I, as part of our mission to check out the venues in the seacoast area, had dropped by the tavern at the Three Chimneys Inn on a Saturday afternoon. We sat at the bar and chatted with the bartender, Elaine. I explained that I was a local musician and that we were checking out all the local places that have music. She suggested I also check out the Barn Tavern in Dover. Later, we did -- but that's a different story. Elaine said they had a duo on Thursday nights. I said that I'd checked their web site and that I saw that the guitar player on Thursday nights was Gerry Adams. I had known a guitar player named Gerry Adams when I lived in Boston about thirty years ago. Could it be the same guy? Well, the next Thursday night Mal and I went to the tavern at Three Chimneys to have dinner and listen to the group. Guitar player and upright bass. We sat a long way from them so I couldn't tell if it was the same Gerry Adams, but the style sounded familiar. When I walked up to them on a break, sure enough, it was Gerry. We "chewed the fat" (to use Gerry's expression) for a while, and later talked on the phone. As it turned out, Gerry was planning to take a vacation and needed a sub for a Thursday night, so he asked me if I'd do it. The bass player, Tim Webb, is a fine player and a nice guy, the room is pleasant, and the food is excellent, so, of course, I said yes. I did the gig last Thursday and had a ball. I'll write that up in a gig journal, too.
The mural unveiling went very well last night. I'll write about it and post some more pictures when I get a chance. For now, here's a link to a newspaper article about it. No time to write right now; I'm off to a gig at Dover Soul.
I did a dress rehearsal of the mural piece at home tonight. I wanted to practice not only the piece, but my introductory remarks, so I asked Mal to be my audience. I put the "score" up the music stand in my office, plugged in my guitar, pulled my stool up to the music stand, and set up the one chair in the office as "the balcony." Mal was on the first floor, in her office, so I went down and flashed the lights, as they do in concert halls. Mal came up and settled in her reserved balcony seat.
I gave a brief introduction, explaining that I had several themes derived from the images (holding up the score -- though even the near balcony seat would have trouble seeing it)-- and that the music would evolve as the mural does. I played through the piece. The response from the balcony was polite but reserved.
"Maybe, for the people who don't know that much about music," Mal said, "you should explain each part of the music as you play it. Here the women are working at the mill, here they go out on strike, here the boat is replaced by a train, here by a horse and buggy, and here by a trolley. Like you did when you used to do poetry and music."
Probably a good idea, but not something I can pull off at this point. It's going to be hard enough to play the piece without providing a running narrative. But I do think I'll change my introductory talk. I'll play each of the themes, explaining their significance, and then I'll play a bit of the variations on the themes and their significance. Here is the theme for the women weaving in the mill. Now here are the women out on strike; a similar theme, but with an edge to it; you can hear the dialogue, sometimes heated, with the men in charge of the mill. Here's the boat on the river, placid, slow-moving; here the river evolves into the train tracks and here's the theme modified to represent the train.
The essense of jazz is improvisation. Tomorrow I'll be improvising words and music, though not in a familiar form.
On July 11 I'll be playing at the unveiling of the mural at the Millworks building in Dover. A couple of weeks ago Jessica Smith gave me a sketch of the mural, and a timeline narrative. I've used these as a basis for the first compositon in my Suite Dover. I've written themes for some of the images in the mural: a river theme, a train theme, a women theme. Some of the images in the mural evolve into other images, so I've composed my themes so that they can evolve into one another. My "score" consists of the sketch with pieces of sheet music taped to it, each piece a theme, pasted near the image it relates to. I'll improvise the complete piece on the spot. I love a challenge!
Here's one of the themes:
Dover Soul is a coffeehouse by day and a martini bar at night. It's actually two restaurants: Little Louie's Fish House, and Dover Soul. Several large rooms, all connected by hallways. Soul consists of two rooms, the coffeeshop and the martini bar. I'll be in the martini bar.
My first two gigs in the Dover area were quite enjoyable. Crescent City Bistro and the art show at the Somersworth Heritages Festival. I haven't had time to write up the gig journals for those, but this is a long weekend, so I'll have time for that. Tomorrow I have a return engagement at the Crescent City Bistro, and I'm really looking forward to it. The Bistro has a New Orleans theme, so I was planning to add some tunes to my repertoire like "Ain't Misbehavin'", but, once again, no time. Right now, the only tune I do with a New Orleans association is Louis Armstrong's "A Kiss to Build a Dream On." Still, I think my music is well suited to the room. Last time I played there, it rained heavily and the roads were closed for a bicycle race, so turnout was low. I'm hoping, since this is Memorial Day weekend, we'll get a better turnout.
There are plenty of venues with live music in this area. This week Mal and I put together a dozen PR packages. When the local newspaper, Foster's Daily Democrat, arrived, Mal looked in the Calendar section, checked off some places we should try, and said, "We're going to have to put together more packages." That's good news. Of course, few have jazz, but we're hoping to change that.
In July I'll be playing for the unveiling of a mural in downtown Dover. Painted by a local artist, it will depict local historical events. I'm going to get photos and sketches of the mural in advance, and I plan to compose some pieces based on the mural, and perform them at the event. If time allows, I'll record the pieces in my home studio and have CDs available at the event. Ever since we started thinking of making our home in this area, I've been thinking about Steve Swallow's tune, "Portsmouth Figurations." I think he wrote it while vacationing in Portsmouth, NH. So these pieces will be the first of my Dover figurations. Maybe I'll call the collection "Suite Dover."
Maiden Voyage in Dover
It's been a long time since I made an entry in this journal. We were busy with our move to Dover, NH. We're pretty much settled. I hung my two guitars up in my new office. Now it feels like home.
One of the reasons we moved here was that we thought the music scene would be better. It's already starting to look like that will be the case. Within four days of starting to look for gigs, I lined up four gigs. Tomorrow is my maiden voyage in the seacoast area, a jazz brunch at Crescent City Bistro. I think I'm going to like it here.
I'm Wild(cat) Again
Tomorrow we'll drive up to Jackson, NH, for the return engagement at the Wildcat. Mal will be going with me, of course, and we're pleased that on this trip Sheri and Jason will be joining us. Usually, when we visit Mike Scott up in Bartlett, we drive up on Friday afternoon. But we all had to work today, so we'll get an early start in the morning, drop our stuff off at Mike's place, then go to the gig, then spend the night at Mike's and drive home Sunday afternoon.
I'll take along my "gig bag," a big bag of wires, extension cords, guitar stand, direct box, etc. I will only need a few things out of it, but it's easier to just throw the thing in the trunk than to try to wean it down. I just threw a new flashlight in there; as I mentioned in my journal entry about the last Wildcat gig, lack of a flashlight contributed to a late start. I guess I'm not to old to learn a lesson.
I looked over "Am I Blue" and wrote up a new chord chart for it, one that's easier to read. I looked over some of the other music, too. I was trying to figure out some better harmonies for the bridge of "Since I Fell For You." Didn't come up with anything, but maybe something will come to me on the spot. Mary does "Ain't Misbehavin'" in A-flat, the same key Skye did it in, so I refreshed my memory on my arrangement of that. Brushed up on a few other tunes. So I feel more prepared than last time.
For my solo pieces, I'm planning on doing mostly originals: "Blue Illusion," "Night's Shadow," "Baba Ghanosh." Since Sheri will be there, I'll play one of the tunes I wrote for her, "Sheri's Shuffle," which I played at her wedding. I guess I need to write a tune for Jason.
We dropped by Joe's the other night. (See entry below about Joe's.) Joe Sr. was working the shop alone, leaning back against the counter, watching the TV. He was glad to see us, asked what we'd been up to. We chatted for a while. Joe said that Patty was going to be arranging another art show for a wine-tasting at the store in March. I had played at the early January event, but I had a gig the weekend of the second even, in New Hampshire. Joe said people had asked, "Are you going to have the guitarist again?" That's always nice to hear. Joe said that at the last wine-tasting, a masseuse had give chair-massages. Mal, hearing that, offered to do Reiki sessions at the March event. I offered to play again, also.
Joe said that Patty had expressed concern at the last wine-tasting because Joe had not done real well in wine sales, while the artists and the masseuse had done very well. Joe smiled and said, "I told her it doesn't matter. You did well, we all helped each other, that's what it's all about.
Mal and I purchased a nice bottle of wine -- it was Mal's birthday, we had just had dinner around the corner at Il Faro, and excellent Italian restaurant -- we said goodnight to Joe, and we trundged out along the slushy sidewalk to the car. I said, "I wish there were more people in the world like Joe." Mal agreed.
So in March I'll have a couple of gigs in Medford, one at the library and one at Joe's. It will be a good month.
Harmonic Analysis Examples
From web stats, it looks like not many users were finding the harmonic analysis examples on my web site, so I added a link to a new page. On the Lessons page, I now have a link: Harmonic (Modal) Analysis Examples.
The page lists the available analyses generated by THoTH; clicking on a title displays the analysis. Right now there are four tunes listed. I'll be adding more soon.
I made an entry on my software development weblog about the code behind the new page.
I read somewhere that when Jim Hall and his wife Jane bought a new house, Jim gave a lot of thought to the first piece he would play on the stereo. It was Stravinsky's "Petroushka," as I recall. (I've looked through my notes for this, but haven't found it.)
Mal and I are about to move into a new condo in Dover, NH. Our house in Medford, which we bought five years ago, was the first home we owned. The first piece I played on the stereo here was Prokofiev's "Romeo and Juliet." So now I have a tradition that I will continue at the new house. This house is about a hundred years old, and much music had been played here before we moved in. But the condo is brand new, so this will really be a sort of initiation."Romeo and Juliet," aside from being a magnificent composition, has special meaning for us. We took our daughter Wendy to a performance of it by the Boston Ballet when she was in high school. A few months later, after dropping Wendy off for her first year at Cornell, I listened to the piece on that drive home -- the longest and saddest drive of my life, because we would miss Wendy. But Wendy has flourished, has graduated from Cornell, is in California pursuing her Masters. Our other daughter, Sheri, and Jason, her husband, who now live upstairs in this old house, will be moving into a condo next to ours in Dover. So the first listening in the new place will bring joy.
I noticed a posting on the rec.music.makers.guitar.jazz newsgroup that mentioned Standel amps. That brought back a memory.
In about 1974 an unknown kid came to teach at Berklee. His name was Pat Metheny. He was a protege of Gary Burton, and, not having a teaching office of his own, shared Gary's office, which happened to be on the fifth floor of the Bolyston building, the home of the guitar department.
In those days (and I think this is true today), most guitar teachers who taught guitar ensembles just plugged into whatever amp happened to be available in the ensemble room. Most teachers would have the ensembles play charts from the guitar ensemble libraries. Berklee has always negotiated to get amps donated whenever they could. In those days most of the amps in the ensemble rooms were bass amps donated -- or sold at whatever discount -- by a company that, in a mood of generosity, I will not name. They sounded dreadful.
Pat mostly passed out lead sheets and tried to teach a sort of group lesson on comping and improvising. I got to know Pat, and he invited me to sit in on some of his ensembles. He would roll his amp from Gary's office, down the hall, into the ensemble room. He said to the students, "You're not going to improve your sound by playing through these amps. Your sound is you. It is the one thing that, more than anything else, distinguishes you from other players."
I loved Pat's sound at the time. His amp was a Standel with two twelve-inch speakers. The vinyl on the sides was falling off, and the grillcloth was falling off, but it was his amp, he used it on gigs with Gary and with Mick Goodrich, he dragged it to classes, and he made it sing.
Creator of values
In all that I have been saying about creative thinking there is implied the strongly imaginative quality of the artist's mentality. I stress this now because there has been a tendency in recent times to put the emphasis rather on the artist as craftsman, with much talk of the composer's technique. The artist-craftsman of the past is held up to us as the model to be emulated. There is a possible source of confusion here: amidst all the talk of the craftsmanlike approach we must always remember that a work of art is not a pair of shoes. It may very well be useful like a pair of shoes, but it takes its source from a quite different sphere of mental activity. Roger Sessions understood this when he wrote recently: "The composer's technique is, on the lowest level, his mastery of the musical language....On a somewhat higher level...it becomes identical with his musical thought, and it is problematical in terms of substance rather than merely of execution. On this level it is no longer accurate to speak of craftsmanship. The composer is no longer simply a craftsman; he has become a musical thinker, a creator of values - values which are primarily aesthetic, hence psychological, but hence, as an inevitable consequence, ultimately of the deepest human importance."
Aaron Copland - Music and Imagination
In Principles of Violin Playing and Teaching, Ivan Galamian recommends practicing scales with various rhythms, phrasings, and articulations. Today I was playing my solo arrangement of "Days and Nights Waiting," and I fumbled on the little lick I like to play at the end. So I made a scale exercise out of it.
I also practiced variations, for example, with the first two notes as sixteenth notes, and with various combinations of phrasing and articulation. This kind of practicing is more fun than mechanical scale practice, and much more beneficial. At the same time, you are exercising your hands and your musical imagination.
A guitarist mentioned recently that he tries to work with, not for, a club or restaurant owner. That's a good attitude.
This weekend I'll be working with Joe and Joe at Joe's.
Joe's Fine Wine and Spirits is a new wine shop in Medford Square. A couple of weeks ago Mal saw the ad for the grand opening in the local paper and said that maybe we should check it out. So one Saturday we walked down to the center and dropped in. Joe Sr. and Joe Jr. are the new proprietors. They were having a wine tasting that day. The store is long and wide, with lots of open space, and in the center they had set up a table with a few bottles of wine. We tasted and chatted. Joe Sr. mentioned that they had recently had an art show there. I mentioned that I was a musician and that if they ever wanted some background music, I'd be glad to come in, set up in a corner, and play a few tunes. I always try to help out local businesses, if the people seem friendly and well-intentioned. I know how hard it is to get a business started and to keep it going. Joe and Joe liked the idea.
The next week we dropped in again to pick up some wine for New Years Eve, and I brought along a PR package and CD. Joe said he was planning an art show for January, and he'd let me know when it was firmed up. A few days ago he called and said it was on. The wine tasting and art show will run from 3pm to 8pm; I'll play from 4pm to 7pm. I'm hoping to sell a few CDs and maybe meet some people who might hire me for house parties. At the least, I'll view some local art works, visit with some friends and neighbors, and help out a couple of really nice guys. Should be fun.