Thursday, October 17, 2013


I told a few of you that I would keep a blog over the next month of touring, so here goes nothing. 

At around 4:30 pm yesterday I locked my apartment door and won't return for the next 40 days. (Dramatic?) I am now headed to gig number one of 30 on a tour of the good ole heartland of America with Allan Harris and crew.  

Last night, the travel to Minneapolis was just about as hilarious as it could be. It involved the most crowded A train I've ever been on, super long security lines, plenty of service without smiles, and to top it all off a lost bag.  So instead getting mad, I decided to make a list of all the cool things that happened to me last night, and I'd like to share that list with you. 

1.  Having exactly enough change to pay for the cream filled cupcakes from the hotel vending machine. (Don't judge, losing a bag is sad.)

2. There is a shuttle at my hotel that goes to the Mall of America. I took it today and rode a roller coaster with my friends. (That's pretty cool.) 

3. Complimentary tooth brush and toothpaste that the bearded man at the front desk gave to me. (Big win!)

4. Additional random hotel shuttle driver that would probably take me anywhere as long as I listened to him talk to me about movies without falling asleep. (Could come in handy at some point.)

5. The King Pony CDs are basically done. More details to follow. 

6. The last time the airline lost something it was my bass. I have my bass this time. (Sweet!)

7.  There is a 24 hour pizza place near me named American Pie that will deliver something called the Viking burger at anytime of day or night. (Probably wont take advantage of that one actually)

8.  It turns out life isn't so bad. More to come later. 

Over and out 


Thursday, July 11, 2013

Too Cool for School?

Too Cool for School?

Hello friends, family and people that I don't know.  I am writing to you today from the wonderful Umbria Summer Jazz festival in Perugia Italy.  A few nights I was fortunate enough to catch most of the Keith Jarrett trio concert and it got me thinking about a few things.  The show was a pretty far walk from my hotel, and the entire way down there I was surprised at the amount of people that were walking away from the performance.  I was a little late because the hour hand on my american watch doesn't go past 12, so things get confusing.  (kidding?)  

Anyway, it turns out that people were walking away from the concert because The Keith Jarrett Trio was indeed playing to a stadium full of fans, some that paid a great deal of money for the experience, in the dark.  The stage was completely black except for one lonely stand light for the bassist.  I've heard a few different reasons about they decided to play in the dark, but in the end I don't think they matter.  I arrived during what I thought was the last song, and afterwards the trio took a bow and walked off stage.  All in the dark, never acknowledging their fans.  

Following a decent round of applause things got quiet, and some of the audience started to leave.  I had never been to a Keith Jarrett concert before, and was unaware that he is known for playing many encores.  So even though the stage was still dark, and nobody was clapping my friends and I decided to stick around just incase more music happened.  After about 20 minutes there was an announcement and people started to cheer.  So either the concert was going to start again, or somebody hit Keith in the face with a pie.  My Italian isn't perfect, and the crowd would've cheered for either scenario, I think.  

The concert did start back, about 20 minutes after it stopped, but this time they played with the lights on.  I was expecting just one or two more songs, but they played almost another concerts worth of music to a still packed house.  Hmm, so what is really going on here?  Was the dark intro just a test to weed out the true fans?  Does Keith hate us?  Do I hate Keith?  Was the darkness meant to enhance the experience of seeing the trio?

Since the concert I've been pondering the role of an artist, especially when it comes to relating with his or her fans.  What I take from the Jarrett concert is an artist who creates art without his fans in mind, and in my opinion there have been many famous artists over the years that have done the same thing. Miles Davis during his I'm going to play with my back to everyone period is probably the most famous example.  Are these artists wrong?  Should all artists have to adhere to the same set of standards?

In my opinion Keith Jarrett is in a place where his art is so highly respected that catching his trio live literally becomes a challenge.  Because they can play almost anywhere in the world, they don't end up in your backyard too often.  What I see in Keith is a man who is highly talented and has also spent years developing his artistic voice.  I do understand that without support from his fans for all of these years he would have zero career, but is it possible for an artist to reach the point of where it is their fans privilege to enjoy their talents?

Personally I believe that an artist is free to choose whether or not they want to make art for the people, or to make art for the sake of making great art.  In Keith we arguably have a man who's influence will last forever.  People like that do not come around that often.  While I do think that is it a little ridiculous for fans to get accosted for something as simple as taking a picture,  it does give us a glimpse into the focus and attention to detail it takes to become a great artist.  Also, Keith isn't shy about broadcasting his demands, so if people don't like them, can't they just stay home?  

What do yinz think?

ps-Keith is probably a crazy man, and maybe he shows his respect to his fans in different ways?  At the end of the day he did play almost an hours worth of encores.

Over and out.


Thursday, April 25, 2013

music advertising mad men?

Over the past few years I have become very interested in the music advertising scene.  How does it work?  Where does the music come from?  Is it fun?  With the current state of the music industry I believe that advertising music is a respectable, and valuable resource for musicians.  It is a way to get your material played for audiences that otherwise may have never heard of you.  Even if you're an established artist, it's a way to add more zero's to the good ole bank account.  I decided to write this post because I recently read a few articles by well known musicians about their thoughts on the role of music in advertising.  Turns out, the music you hear in the background of your favorite commercial may be coming from a very familiar voice.  

Here is a good place to start,

Another job well done by Beyonce.  This ad/mini music video seems like a great idea to me.  Beyonce clearly isn't hurting for work, but why not take the opportunity to show off a brand new song in collaboration with one of the most popular clothing companies in the world?  (my opinion)  The ad will be shortened for television this summer, and Beyonce will also work with h&m on creating new ads.  It's an interesting spot, kind of hard to tell that it has anything to do with a clothing company honestly.

Moving on, take a look at this,

Remember that guy?  He brought you all sorts of hits in the early 2000's that definitely are not suitable to Tv.  Looks like he is able to wear a few more hats than most people thought.  I know, brands like Coca-Cola figured this out a long time ago.  People enjoy popular music, so why not pair it with your brand to boost it's success?  For me it's another reminder of the versatility that it takes to survive in the entertainment business these days.  Ugh, just when I thought it was time to hit the golf course.

Enjoy the day,


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Ah, so this is why we like music?

I remember saying to myself "this article looks interesting", whether or not that was a few days ago and I just got around to reading it is a different story.  If you have the time, check it out.

Moving on, I have been thinking a lot lately about how different people seem to be drawn towards different types of music.  I really enjoy it when I find out what a persons favorite song is, mainly because they are always so different.  In short summary the article says that we enjoy listening to music for two main reasons.  The first is that it can release the magic brain chemical "dopamine" sending us into happy thought land.  Second, it may actually feed our brains desire to make accurate predictions about what is going to happen in the future.  Lets all think of our favorite song.  Done?  Good.  Chances are there are many songs that sound a lot like it, and if you were played one of these songs, you'd probably like it a lot.  Why?  Because you are most likely able to make a prediction of how the next beat of the song will sound.  People like to know things, apparently.

This has got me thinking about the way that we are all exposed to music these days.  Much more on this to come later.

Monday, August 13, 2012

CrazySexyCool and HardJazzSwingBop

Is a great album, and I'm going to write a blog post about it right now.  About a half a year ago I thought that it'd be a good idea to try it make it through Rolling Stone's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.  (  It is a few years old, but I'm still having a good time chugging through it.  Of course, making a list of the 500 greatest albums of all time is impossible, but I'm looking at it as a reason to listen to music that I might not otherwise.  TLC's CrazySexyCool is a great example.  I've been keeping notes on some other album highlights that I will share at some point, for now this will have to do.

In a nutshell, CrazySexyCool is a funky throwback from a great era of history.  It was the same year that the world series was cancelled, Nancy Kerrigan got hit really hard in the knee (ridiculous), Tiger Woods was still innocent and Microsoft ruled the world.  I was 9ish when the album first came out, so I don't know much about it's immediate impact on society, but today I wish people would bring it up more often.  I haven't heard a more honest album in a long time, and everyone needs a reminder to stop chasing waterfalls, they are dangerous.  Listen to it, I guarantee you will love it.  Babyface, cheers to a job well done.

Moving on, another thing that has been on my mind lately is how hardjazzswingbop comes across to the people that haven't grown up listening to, or playing the music.  What is hardjazzswingbop you ask?  It is basically any instrumental song that is played over a standard jazz form.  A few weeks ago I had some friends in town, and decided to pick their brain a bit about instrumental music.  I'm not the biggest fan of musical genres, but I'd rather use them in this post instead of naming individual musicians. The responses from my friends were generally the same when I played them songs from a wide range of era's, so it makes it a bit easier to lump them together in this post(hardjazzswingbop).  Welcome to the world HardJazzSwingBop!

To make a long story shorter, one night we saw a great modern jazz group, and the next night we saw a talented group playing hardjazzswingbop.   Both were instrumental, and in my opinion both were of high quality.  So when I asked my friends what they thought, the general consensus was that the modern music was actually much easier to follow because the difference between sections were more clearly defined.  This confused me a bit, because these same people probably know more words and melodies to older tin pan alley era songs than I do, but found hardjazzswingbop to be some of the most confusing music that they have ever heard.

So I'd like to start a conversation about why people think this is so, and how much it matters to the future of instrumental music.  Making another long story short, it seems like many people today have just completely skipped over the hardjazzswingbop era, and have labeled it as slightly introverted and confusing basically in the same exact way that many musicians view the direction of modern instrumental music.  Weird?

I've wondered for a long time about what would happen if a DJ suddenly decided to play a a swing track at a crowded bar or dance club late at night.  Would people be confused?  Would they dance?  Would they leave?  Would they do heroin?  To me, exposure to instrumental hardjazzswingbop music in dance settings is a big reason for it's decline in popularity.  When I would play "funkier" hardjazzswingbop (I love this word) examples, their reaction was still confusion, but not as much so.  What was most interesting was that my buddies all agreed that they would be more open to dancing if; 1.  The music was played in a setting that was more dance appropriate than a small club  2.  Other people were dancing as well.

So my idea is that we as improvising instrumental musicians start buying DJ's drinks and asking them to play some funky swing, and then live music will be saved.  My laundry is done drying, more on this later.


Friday, March 30, 2012

Deerhoof Interview

Many times in my life I have been part of a conversation about a band that I have never heard of.  Sometimes I pretend like I have, others times i don’t.  After minutes of careful thought, I’ve decided that I really like these conversations.  My hope is that this blog will be a starting point for many different types of musical discussions.  Some of it you may like, some of it you may hate.  Isn’t that’s what makes life fun?  
Ever hear of deerhoof? I spent a lot of my subway riding time this summer listening to them.  Turns out I liked what I heard.  It was a perfect end to a day of carrying heavy boxes and couches.  Check out their myspace page, and take a listen for yourself.  (
So what happens next?  
Greg Saunier, deerhoof drummer, was gracious enough to answer some of my questions about their music.  For this I am very grateful.  
Here she goes:  (blue/red is me, black is greg)
When you return to touring it looks like you are playing venues
ranging from small taverns, to large festivals? In which setting do
you feel more comfortable as a performer? Do you think your music
fits better in one venue over another?
-You never can tell! Our band has a few idiosyncrasies that make small venues kind of a challenge… Satomi sings very quietly, and although all four of us love the sound when she sings that way, it's a constant struggle to make the instruments quiet enough on stage. Her mic is cranked up so high that it's picking up everything on stage, and often the sound engineer will complain that they're getting more snare in the vocal mic than vocals. We've been playing for something like 15 years and still after almost every show Satomi will tell me I played too loud tonight! So in a way playing big and especially outdoor shows can feel like a breeze, I can bash away and there's no sound bouncing off a wall and into her mic. But when we can pull off a show on a small stage it's one of the greatest feelings in the world.
Would you call songwriting for the band a collective process, or
do you handle most of it yourself?
-Neither actually, we have four distinct songwriters in the band. Each person writes their own songs separately from the others. That person usually has a very good idea of how they want it to sound. But then when the group gets their hands on it, that composer is quickly unburdened of the idea that they can control how it will sound. So actually songs get changed around pretty drastically. We don't have a system - We never know what kind of song anybody is going to bring in and that person never has any idea how it will end up after everyone's made it their own. A lot of times though the person who writes the lyrics is not the same person who wrote the music.
Do you make attempts to explain your music to listeners before
their first listen? Or do you just sit back and let the music speak
for itself?
-Ha, I don't even make attempts to describe it after they listen, I don't like describing it. In fact I don't like describing any music very much, I never agree with the way stuff get categorized. To my ears a certain "jazz" recording might have much more in common with a particular "classical" piece than it does to the rest of the "jazz" genre. Another way to answer your question would be to say that yes, I do explain our music, I explain it through the music, the music is an explanation of itself. So we don't really sit back, we work pretty hard at trying to make the musical ideas as clear as we can.
When I listen to your music I'm very intrigued by your use of
melody, and rhythm. A strong melody is always present, but it seems
like the importance of the lyrics vary. Every time I listen to your
music I tend to walk away singing the groove and melody. Can you talk
about how you view lyrics in your music?
Hard to sum it up! Every song sort of has its own story. We have songs where the melody was written way before the words, we have others where it all appeared at once. Sometimes the lyrics are really difficult and take forever, sometimes they just flow right out. We all have written lyrics at different times. For my lyrics I tend to like extremely simple but also ambiguous, like you could map the words onto a variety of different possible topics. You don't know if they are about a personal relationship or a political situation. I get excited by a certain kind of irony, where the mood of the words seems at first glance to contradict the mood of the music. I'm also always trying to write lyrics that use very simplified English, partly because we have so many fans from countries where English is not the main language, and also we have some very young fans.
In the fall you are doing a lot of shows with brooklyn based xiu
xiu, and father murphy. What qualities do you look for in bands that
you share gigs with? Are the selections usually music based, or crowd
drawing based? Or both?
-Well we would never choose to have other music on the bill that we don't like. But whether or not we worry about their draw depends on the size of the venue. If we're playing smaller places then we often bring totally obscure acts. Also it's more than a question of simply whether we like the music, we also look for something that makes your ears excited and ready for more, because we're next! For our New York show coming up we are playing with Axiom Ensemble which plays contemporary classical music, and they and I have been involved together in deciding which pieces they might play, which is so exciting for me. We don't always play with "bands".  (I would love to see more shows that include music of different “genres”)
Currently it seems like your music has a concentrated set of
listeners. Is this something that you are happy with?  (not the best question, sorry about that)
-That's probably true but it never seems that way to me. We have always had more listeners than I thought we would! And our fans, bless them, are such a wide-ranging group in terms of age or what other music they like. We've always been so lucky in that way, we've never ended up in any clique or subgenera.
Do you have any questions for me? Any band, or person you would
like to see in future interviews?
-Jim Black! What a drummer…
Lets all give Greg a round of applause.  Please check out their music and tour schedule at  
I look forward to your comments/questions/concerns.  

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Step in the right direction?

     First off, sorry that it has been so long since I last updated this blog.  From now I will post at least once a week.  Next, about a week ago, CBS news named Wynton Marsalis their cultural adviser.  (  I've been thinking about this for a few days now, and would really like to hear what you guys think.  Like most newsworthy events surrounding jazz lately, the public seems to be quite divided on this issue.  Also, as usual, most of this debate has been done via facebook, by the same people that have been arguing about the BAM movement (refer to last blog post for info on the BAM movement).

Before you read on, check out these two links;



     The first is a blog bashing everything about the decision and Wynton.  The second is a link to Wynton at work in the CBS studio.  It is the only link that I have been able to find.  I'm not sure how often he appears on the show, or how many of his segments will be available on the internet.  If any of you have more information on this, please share  Anywho, the video is enough to get a sense of his role at CBS.

      ...And welcome back.  I'm just going to dive right in and say that I think this is a great move for the music industry.  Not just jazz, but the music industry as a whole.  In the opening seconds of the video you see a clip of Wynton playing his trumpet.  I don't know about you, but it is not that often that I see a musician playing an instrument unaccompanied on national television.  One point for live music.  Next, the guy really does know what he is talking about, or at least it seems that way to me.  At first I thought it was a little odd that he starting talking about this background in New Orleans.  Then I realized that he was simply referring to a time, and experiences that aren't discussed in public every day.  One point for culture.

     I do understand most of the complaints of the pop matters blog guy.  However, I don't think they are worth stressing over.  Yes, it is true that Wynton's concept of jazz has been, and isn't the most forward looking.  But, we also have to keep in mind that he is working for CBS, not pitchfork.  (  People that tune into CBS aren't looking for the cutting edge, and this is not a bad thing.  

     Here is how I see it.  Wynton is the face of Jazz at Lincoln Center.  This new position gives jazz at Lincoln Center more exposure than ever before.  I also feel that Lincoln Center is doing a better job than in the past of diversifying their performances.  Most of their early sets feature the veterans of this music.  In my opinion they deserve such a setting.  Next, most of their later sets consist of New York's up and coming musicians.  I see nothing wrong with giving either of these crowds more exposure.  So to make a long story short, I feel that any exposure to jazz is good exposure.  That is why I see nothing wrong with CBS and their new cultural adviser.  Again, music is a business.  Wynton and Jazz at Lincoln Center have done their part to build a following.  Instead of bashing that following, the rest of us need to figure out a way to do the same.  CBS is not the only avenue to accomplish this goal. 

     Lastly, if you want a great work out, buy this ( and read again, and again, and again.