Player's Journal

Instand Drum Lessons

PJ Donahue, a fine young drummer I frequently work with (see Lamprey Gig Journal), has started a new website,, that looks like it will be a fine music education resource for drummers.

Casals Performance

Primrose Book Cover

Primrose, William

Walk on the North Side, Memoire of a Violist

Brigham Young University Press, 1978

Foreword by Yehudi Menuhin

Several other string players made a deep impression on me while I was a student. I heard Casals for the first time in London when he performed the Lalo concerto, and in the second movement his playing of the lilting middle section literally lifted me out of my seat. I was literally transported by the ravishing euphoria he induced. When he played the C major suite of Bach, I heard him do something I have never heard before, and I have adapted it to my own use. Where that impressive dignity descends through two octaves to the open C string, as he bowed the last note, Casals plucked the string with his left hand to make sure he gave a clean articulation of the note. That impressed me as being a very sensible and practical thing to do and especially when I came to play the viola I made use of the device. The viola, being a more recalcitrant instrument than the violin, sometimes needs a very discreet amount of left-hand pizzicato to cause the notes to speak with clarity and definition. That is why I adhere to the theory that, on the viola at least, the fingers should not be lifted straight up from the strings, but should come off at a slight angle, yielding an exiguous left-hand pizzicato effect. I shall never forget a concert, about this same time, in which Casals shared the program with the Czech violinist Vasa Prihoda at that monstrous barn, the Albert Hall. Although Prihoda had had a fair amount of publicity and his records were known, the management may have felt that he probably couldn't fill the hall on his own or sustain enough interest for an entire recital. So they added Casals, a strange miscalculation. Mr. Prihoda executed the first half of the program, exposing himself and his astonishing technique in a mess of meretricious music. Mr. Casals then played the second half of the concert. There was Prihoda in diffident fashion, deploying extremely difficult passages all over the fingerboard, some of them really too banal for public exposure but intended no doubt to make the eyes of the listening string players pop out of their heads. The eyes didn't pop far, however. Prihoda's technique, in contrast to Heifetz's, was pedestrian. It never soared aloft. After so much scampering through a lot of double harmonics, tenths, and sixths, I felt inclined to say, "So what?" Casals followed with unaccompanied Bach! An old Spanish aficionado attended all of Casals' concerts and consistently perched himself in the front row. He was obviously disgusted and indignant during the Prihoda presentation, indignant that he should be in the same hall, let alone on the same program, with Casals. When Casals came on the old boy cheered, "Ole! Bravo!" and banged on the floor with his walking stick. That afternoon was indeed memorable.

pp 30,31

topics: Casals, Pablo; Primrose, William

Journal Topics Index

Journal Index Topics

I finally got around to starting the task of indexing my Player's Journal entries. At the top of this page you'll see a link for Player's Journal Topics. Hovering the mouse over that link will pop up a list of Player's Journal Topics. Clicking one of the topics will take you to the Player's Journal Topics Index page, and the links for that topic. Clicking one of those links will take you to an entry on that topic. Also, at the end of most entries, I'm adding topic tags. Clicking on one of those will also take you to the Player's Journal Topics Index page, and the links for that topic. This should make it easier to browse entries in my many Player's Journals for a given topic. I'll be adding topic tags and updating the index over a period of time, so make sure you check the topics from time to time.

topics: Player's Journal

Mary Gatchell Concert

Mary Gatchell

A couple of weeks ago I went to hear Mary Gatchell in concert at the Leddy Center in Epping, NH. I had not heard her before and did not know what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised. She has a great voice, terrific stage presences, and puts on a entertaining show. I was especially impressed by her drummer, Rodney Holmes. Mary asked him to play a solo to set up one of her tunes, "Jump on the Bed." It was clear from Rodney's reaction that this was not planned, but he just started in, and played the most amazing drum solo I've ever heard in concert. What was even more impressive than his flawless and varied technique was the musicality, the musical logic of his solo. His web site is well worth a visit.

At the concert I picked up Mary's latest album, Syretha. (Unfortunately, Rodney is not on the album.) Mary's renditions of "What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Live" and "Here's to Life" are deeply moving, as is her acappella rendition of "You Are My Sunshine."

topics: Gatchell, Mary; Holmes, Rodney


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On Columbus Day, I'll be playing at the first annual Fall Eco-Fest at Clayhill Farms in York, ME. I'll play a short set of solo guitar in the Gazebo at 1PM. Mal will be giving Reiki session in another tent, and I'll play some while she gives session. In the Gazebo they have electricity, so I'll play that set on my Aria, but in the tent where Mal will be working there is no electricity, so for that I'll use my Guild acoustic -- Steve Carter Un-plugged!

topics: Gig; Mal; Gig; Reiki

Power of Music

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I'm looking forward to playing at the Power of Music New Hampshire - One Song - International Music Festival in September. I'll be playing solo guitar at the Jazz Brunch, featuring my compositions from Touching Light. This will be my first time performing at the Meadowbrook US Cellular Pavilion.

I'll also be giving a presentation on sound technology.

Update: This has been postponed until 2010.

topics: Gig; Touching Light

Greg Clayton

Greg Clayton was one of my first students at Berklee. Lyle Robinson just wrote a nice review of Greg's recent performance at the Montreal International Jazz Festival 2009. It's great to see that Greg is having such a successful career. He's a fine player and a real gentleman.

topics: Berklee; Clayton, Greg;

Notion 3 First Impressions

I've been Beta-testing Notion 3. With this new version, they've expanded their excellent notation program with pro audio capabilities. I've barely scratched the surface of this new version, but even at that I'm finding it an amazing tool. (Bear in mind that this is still a Beta version when you check out the screenshots and soundclips below. You can click on the images to enlarge them.)

One of my recent projects is writing charts for a seven-piece gig I have coming up. I started one chart in Notion 2, and when I got Notion 3, I opened it in that and did more work there. It imported with only one small glitch -- chord symbols didn't come across. Not a big deal. Notion 3 makes it easy to type in chord symbols. Notion 3 has a nice feature that Notion 2 lacked, Jazz fonts and style.

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At the top of the screen are playback controls that make it easy to jump to a location in the score and begin playback. Notion has completely recreated their sound samples for this release, using close micing. The playback is more than adequate for proofreading. There's a new feature that was missing from Notion 2, the ability to tell the playback to swing the eight notes. In Notion 3, you can simply put in the Swing marker, and use a little slider to adjust the amount of swing.

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"Don't Get Around Much Anymore"

The mixer allows me to solo instruments or groups of instruments, which is a great help when writing a score. It also allows balancing the instruments for playback.

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Here's a score that I've started in Notion 3:

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"Love For Sale"

topics: Notion


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Alex Case just mailed me the rough takes from our recent Travelin' Light Duo recording session. This is the second time John Melisi and I have recorded with Alex, and I think he enjoys the experience as much as we do. He's always amazed that we can record so many tunes with just one take -- you'll see, if you click on the image above, that he addressed the envelope to Steve "1-take" Carter. That's largely due to the calm professionalism that he brings to every session. Here's an exerpt from one of the rough mix takes:

"I Can't Get Started"

topics: Case, Alex; Melisi, John;

Third Course

After a couple of postponements, John Melisi and I went into Fermata studios yesterday to record our third CD, which is tentatively named "Third Course." We recorded something like twenty tunes (after a while I lost count!) in about five hours, most of them in one take.

topics: Melisi, John;


I now have an Artist's Page on, as well as a page for my latest solo CD, Touching Light.

About OmStream: was created out of a need to locate music that elevates consciousness amid the clutter of almost a million songs available on iTunes and the other download services. We wanted a place where world music can take center stage. We built the site to easily find music specific to your moods. Please let us know how it works for you. We’re constantly refining the process to give you the best experience possible while on our site. Over the course of the next few we’ll be rolling out exciting community features. More will be revealed…

topics: Touching Light

Automated Upcoming

Until recently, I had been updating my Upcoming Performances page manually, using an HTML editor. I wrote a database application to keep track of my gigs, and for a while I've wanted to write code to update the upcoming performances page automatically whenever I inserted or updated a gig in the database. I finally managed to set aside the time to do that. Now, I just click the Publish button in my database app and the upcoming performances page on my web site is updated.

topics: Gig

Music a Hit

A few weeks ago, Danny and I played at a fundraiser for Congressman John Tierney at the Powow River Grille. It was well-attended, and people seemed to enjoy the music. The congressman made it a point to get my name and address and sent me a very nice thank-you note. He even took the trouble to add a hand written note to say that "the music was a hit." Good politician.

topics: Gig


On Tuesday, John Melisi and I will go into Fermata Studios to record our third CD. Fermata is run by my friend and former student Alex Case. I've recorded three albums with him prior to this, and I'm looking forward to this next one.

Here are some of the tunes we're thinking of recording:

  • Secret Love
  • Sweetest Sounds
  • Love ďs a Many Splendoreod Thing
  • Over the Ranbow
  • Emily
  • Meditation
  • My One and Only Love
  • Lullaby of Birdland
  • Laura
  • Once I Loved
  • How High the Moon
  • I Can't Get Started
  • Don't Get Around Much
  • Stella
  • Summertime
  • How Insensitive
  • Quiet Nights
  • My Funny Valentine

Of course, we record to hard drive these days, not tape, but it's interesting that we still hear from the control room, "Rolling!"

topics: Melisi, John; Case, Alex

Solo in Bb

Today I was practicing "Solo in Bb" from William G. Leavitt's Modern Method for Guitar, Volume 3." My copy of Volume 3 dates back to the days when I first started teaching at Berklee, back in the 1970's, so it tends to bring back memories. Practicing this piece reminded me of a day in one of my guitar ensembles. Steve Vai was in the class. He had taken private lessons with a couple of semesters earlier. He was a great guy, and obviously a very dedicated guitar student, but he seldom practiced what I told him to practice. Anyway, on this day, as the students were settling in, Steve was talking to the guy next to him about "Solo in Bb,"" saying he'd been struggling with it for a while. Steve turned to me and said, "Steve, can you play that piece." I said I could -- though I did not go on to add that I could not play it as well as I would have liked. Steve said, with all sincerity, "Well, you're a better guitar player than I am, because I can't play it." I said something like, "That doesn't mean I'm a better guitar player, it just means that I can play that piece." Well, now, more than 30 years later, I'm still working on it, trying to become a better guitar player.

I was flipping through the pages of Volume 3 and ran across another memory. I used to practice from that book a lot. At the time, my daughter Sheri was 2 or 3 years old. One day as I was practicing, she was busy with a little rubber stamp, stamping away merrily on any piece of paper she could find. She interrupted my practicing to inform me that my book needed to be stamped.

Sheri said, "Now when you practice, the frog will remind you to be happy." To this day, it still does.

topics: Berklee; Leavitt, William G; Vai, Steve

Speak Low

Yesterday I replaced the speaker in my Peavey Studio Pro 112 with an Eminence Delta Pro 12A. The original speaker was sorely lacking in low frequency response. Today I did a two-hour solo gig, the first gig with the new speaker. It sounds great! The lows are rich and full without being boomy. The highs are clear, and there is a marked improvement in the sustain. The Peavey's still not as warm and sweet as my Ampeg B-15, but it is very good for solo guitar. The gig was background music for the open house for Blue Moon in Dover, celebrating the 5th anniversary of the store. I played some tunes from my Touching Light CD and some from Act One. The tunes from Touching Light feature modal voicings with lots of open strings, and they sounded crystal clear and rich. The tunes form Act One feature jazz voicings with strong bass lines, and the bass was supportive without overpowering the melody notes. My Aria guitar has a clear sound that allows each note of each voicing to be heard distinctly, and the Peavey now delivers that sound extremely well. Overall, I'm very pleased with the new speaker.

topics: Amplifier

Milling About

John Melisi and I had a very pleasant gig this afternoon at the old mill building in Dover. A local company was holding a private party to celebrate their 20th year in business, and they hired us to play some background music. Their offices are on the second floor of the mill, and their doors open onto the hallway. They asked us to set up in the hallway, in front of one of the doors, so the guests would hear the music as they came up the stairs, and the music would carry into the offices. The high ceiling, wooden beams and pillars, and carpeting in the hallway, which has an opening to the floor below, provided excellent acoustics. John and I were able to play very quietly and still hear each other perfectly.

We got a few really nice compliments. One guy came up to John and said, "When I walked in and heard the music I thought, 'Oh, I think I have that Stan Getz recording.'" A young woman said to John, "You get a beautiful sound out of that tenor sax." It turned out that she is a baritone sax player. Several other people commented that they enjoyed the music.

The people working for the catering service, Galley Hatch Catering, were very pleasant, and they took the time to thank us for the music. When we had finished playing and were packing up, the guy in charge of the catering crew asked if we'd had anything to eat. We said we had not, because we hadn't really wanted to take a long break. He had already packed up all the remaining food and taken it out to his truck. He said that while we packed up he'd put something together for us. He went out to his truck, and as we were milling about waiting to load our equipment into the elevator, he stepped off the elevator with two covered plastic plates. "I've got some fish, rice, and a roll here for each of you," he said, handing us the plates. We stood in the hallway and enjoyed the food, which was quite exceptional. He said,"My stepfather is a jazz musician, so I know how it is." Very thoughtful!

tags: Melisi, John; Gig

Latin Night


Last Saturday night was slow at Jonathan's. Larry, the manager, says that it's always slow this time of year. There were about a dozen customers in the dining room, but only two people in the bar. We started the night with "O Grande Amor," a tune by Antonio Carlos Jobim. Then John called another Jobim tune, "Triste." I sort of chuckled, because we seldom open with two Jobim tunes in a row. John laughed and said,"Let's do them all. Let's do a whole night of Latin tunes. We've never done that before." And that's what we did. Two and a half hours of Latin tunes. Tunes composed by Brazilian composers Antonio Carlso Jobim, Louis Bonfa, and the lesser-known Roberto Menescal ("My Little Boat"), along with Benny Carter's "Only Trust Your Heart." There was only one tune that we played that night that was not originally a Latin tune; we do "It Might As Well Be Spring" as a samba.

Mal often meets friends at Jonathan's, but on Saturday she wasn't expecting any of her friends to come in, so she went to the gym at the Windemere Resort, next door. The two people at the bar left after a few tunes, a few diners lingered. There weren't many there to hear our first-ever all-Latin night, but we had fun!

topics: Melisi, John; Duo Playing

Economic Stimulus

As I mentioned in a previous post, some restaurants are cutting back on services, due to the economic slowdown. But some business owners see things differently; they feel that in order to get people out, in this tough economic climate -- especially in this snowbound winter -- they need to provide something extra. Phil Philbrick, the owner of Philbrick's Fresh Market has hired me and Danny to play two Saturday afternoons this month. Phil said, "People have been in their holes long enough. Let's give them something to come out for!"

Francis and Mark, the owners of the Powow River Grille have continued the Thursday night live jazz dinner. Last week Danny was busy, so John Melisi played the gig. At the end of the night, Francis asked John Melisi if he'd be interested in playing solo on Thursday nights at the Plum Island Grille. So now on Thursday nights, Danny and will be at the Powow, while John is at Plum Island. Three musicians are working, and customers at two restaurants are getting good live jazz.

Now that's what I call economic stimulus!

topics: Melisi, John; Harrington, Danny

A Little Voodoo'll Do

Last week, on the Powow River Grille gig, Danny mentioned that he'd jammed his finger in a file drawer, and it was bothering him. At the end of the night, Mal gave him Reiki on that finger. A few days later Danny called and left a message on our answering machine to thank her, saying, "I woke up the next morning and my finger was 90% better. I don't know what Voodoo you did, but it worked. You RULE!"

Mal's "Vooddoo" works for me. Whenever she gives me a Reiki session before a gig, I always play better. I guess it's no crazier to think you can affect people's bodies by waving your hands over them than to think you can affect people's hearts and souls by striking metal strings with a little piece of plastic.

topics: Harrington, Danny; Mal; Gig; Reiki

Sqeeze Play

With the economy in such rough shape, the restaurants are being squeezed a bit, which means I'm being squeezed out of some gigs. The Travelin' Light Duo had been doing Thursday nights at Christopher's Third Street Grille in Dover, but that's on hold for a while. Christopher is thinking of Sunday Jazz Brunch in January, but that's still up in the air.

The Travelin' Light Duo was also playing every Friday night and Saturday night at Jonathan's Restaurant in Ogunquit, ME, but for January that has been cut back to Saturday nights.

My steady gig with Danny Harrington at the Powow River Grille in Amesbury, MA, is still on, but has been moved from Wednesday nights to Thursday nights.

Recently I was reading a book on the history of jazz, and I read a comment by Cab Calloway, who was playing during the depression in the 1930's, and Cab said that music usually does pretty well through tough financial times. (I had the opportunity to play a show with Cab many years ago -- a memorable experience.) I'm just going to play the best I can at each of my gigs, and hope that Cab was right.

topics: Calloway, Cab; Harrington, Danny; Melisi, John; Duo Playing