Seeing as we have already swept into March almost, I am, obviously, a bit late on updating my website. Here is a brief recapitulation of the past few months:
After a productive winter break, I auditioned into the Jazz Composer's Combo at UCO. It is a group of forward thinking modern jazz musicians, who either compose or transcribe modern jazz tunes. We had our first concert last night at the Jazz Lab playing selections by Mark Tuner, Stephen Schultz, Cedar Walton, and Jesse Van Ruller. It was a great set last night, everyone sounded great, and for once I get to be the one getting beat up in rehearsals. I have been on the upper edge of most of the ensembles I have been in thus far at UCO. I have been fortunate to be in some great ensembles, but this combo has truly driven me to practice harder. I am truly blessed to be playing with these guys. I wish we could rehearse everyday!
For some time now, I have been researching semi-hollow guitars in order to bridge the sound between arched-top and solid-body instruments. I have been through several Ibanez models and been very disappointed by both vintage and newer models. Sometime around January, I stumbled across Bill Comin's Guitar Craft Series, which are built in Korea then shipped to Philadelphia where Bill sets them up and sends them to dealers. Being a jazzer in Oklahoma City puts me at a significant disadvantage to trying new gear, but I decided to go ahead and order a Comins GCS-1ES. I should take delivery of it by mid-late April, but I am very excited about his instruments. I have scoured the internet for a negative review of these instruments and I could not find one. I am not looking to give up my love of arched top instruments, but I do need a little more practical guitar to haul around everyday.
I have played a few gigs since I posted at the beginning of this year: A set a Zannotti's, which is always a great place to play, although it is rather quiet on Tuesday nights. Two shows at the Jazz Lab, one with Jazz Ensemble III and the combo concert last night. The big band will also be playing this upcoming Monday night: March 3rd at 7pm. All four big bands will play that night, so come on out and enjoy the wide selection of tunes by all four bands. I started out solo this past Friday playing at Paramount OKC, on good ole Film Row down West Sheridan in OKC, and was then joined by Melissa on vocals. It was a great show. It can be hit or miss at these smaller venues, but I felt really well about how I played that night.
I have added a couple new students this semester, all of which I am happy about, but adding the fact that I am enrolled in seventeen hours at UCO - it makes for a very long week.
I will try and post more updates in the future. I'll do my best to document the Comin's GCS-1ES when it shows up at my place. There is not a ton of information about these guitars online just yet, so I will give my two cents when it arrives. In the meantime, check out Jesse Van Ruller's album Views, specifically the tune Sway, which I transcribed and the composers combo played last night. Also, a big thanks to Jesse Van Ruller for
It has been one long year, hasn't it? Although there were times where it seemed to fly right by, it seems like 2013 has had a bit of a drag to it over the past couple months. Christmas is still going around here and through this weekend just to make sure we meet up with all of the family. As much as I enjoy it, it serves as a constant reminder to take advantage of the time you have - and to take advantage of the time you get in the practice room.
Melissa Brumfield and I played a fun set at Othello's Italian Restaurant in Norman, OK on Saturday night. It was our first time down there and we had a blast. We didn't get through all of our new tunes, so we'll debut a few new ones on Friday, January 3rd at The Paramount in OKC. We're updating our setlist to feature modern compositions and be friendlier to the non-jazz crowd while still maintaining a few standards. Come on out on Friday!
2013 has seen the fall of several of jazz giants: Yusef Lateef, Jim Hall, Chico Hamilton, Marian McPartland (of NPR fame), George Duke, Donald Byrd, who are just a few of the many who passed on this year. Jim Hall is of particular significance, and influence, to my playing. I first heard Jim playing on Jim Hall: Live! And after listening to the entire album, I knew I wanted to do that for a living. What spoke to me wasn't his "chops", but it was his effortless ability to speak melodically through his instrument. He created melodies and counter melodies in his improvisations similar to classical etudes. He did not "noodle", nor did he play anything too flashy, he was thoughtful, careful, and above all he listened and played only what needed to be played in a given moment. He will be forever known as one of the greatest improvisers of all time.
Now I may be ringing in the New Year with a sinus infection, but I have had a lot of time to sit and listen. Lately I have become a big fan of Jesse van Ruller, a jazz guitarist out of the Netherlands who won the Thelonious Monk Competition several years back. He has such a fluid and lyrical style to his improvisations, meanwhile capturing dynamics and articulations most guitarists skip over. I've been heavily influenced by his playing style on his Live at Murphy's Law recording. There is so much life in his playing, it is not as rigid as a lot of jazz guitarists can be these days. His feel is so free within the music that it is truly inspiring. He is definitely someone everyone should check out!
I am thankful for another New Year and hope it is filled with even more joy and music than 2013!
Right now, I am hunkered down in my house due to the cold weather looking back on all the great playing experiences I have had this year, the people I have met and worked with, and the opportunities that have been offered to me, and one word springs to mind: Blessed. I feel truly blessed to have worked with Lee Rucker since this past summer, and to have met the great saxophonist Eric Alexander, while working in his combo at the Aebersold Jazz Workshop this summer. I'm thankful for those whom I met, and got a chance to create music with, at Aebersold: Hannah (bass), Brian (tenor), Cole (drums), Matt (tenor), Greg (trumpet), Melvin (alto), John (pianist). We shared an amazing experience working together that week, playing the great George Coleman's "Amsterdam after Dark". Sitting in countless masterclasses by Mike DiLiddo, Dave Stryker, Fred Hamilton and Corey Christiansen, who shared their wisdom and techniques, helped to broaden my horizon of what this music is really about.
I'm blessed to be a part of Jazz Ensemble III at UCO this semester, and to be among all the great guitarists at UCO, all of which continue to push each other musically. I am thankful for Taylor Carmona, who spent countless hours texting everyone to set up regular jam sessions all summer long. She's since moved to Kansas City and set up a jam session at UMKC, and it has been a challenge to set up sessions with people since, her influence has been missed. I'm grateful for Danny Vaughan, UCO's guitar instructor, who encouraged me to come sit in at Grand House with the "old cats". He gave me the push necessary to play outside of my comfort zone with the master musicians in OKC.
I feel blessed to be working - whether it is teaching students, playing gigs, or most recently, playing guitar for People's Church OKC campus. A great deal of thanks is in order to Jemar Poteat, for setting me up with such an inspiring group of people to create music for the ultimate purpose.
I really cannot thank Stephen Schultz and Drew Wilson enough for their work on my Junior Recital last month. It was a pleasure to work with them, the ease and finesse they play with took me to another level. It was a joy being able to get together weekly to rehearse, and follow the music where it took us. I look forward to being able to play with those guys again soon.
Looking back at all these experiences, and even those not mentioned here, it is hard not to feel blessed and inspired musically. I look forward to next year, to continue playing at UCO, People's Church, and anywhere else I am needed. I hope to simply follow the music wherever it takes me.
My recital was a success! I got to play tunes with great cats. I could not have asked for a better result from these guys. A big thanks to Stephen Schultz on upright bass and Drew Wilson on drums!
The entire recital was recorded and a few of the tracks are already up on my SoundCloud!
I feel decent about what I put up online already. Segment seems to be a big hit, it has a cool vibe and great melody; plus it is a rarely played Charlie Parker tune. The other tracks I am still deciding whether or not I want to put online. The reason being is that I am trying to get an aural portfolio put together and have to select the best cuts that represent my playing.
Overall though, the entire recital went well and I am pretty happy with how it all turned out. As far as a Junior Recital goes, it went well, but I am trying to push myself even further lately. I have really improved my right hand technique as of late, so now I really need to get back to transcription to get my ear around more jazz vocabulary. Heavy listening is coming up in the future, so hopefully I can get back to posting about recordings I am checking out.
I am tremendously tired as a result of the recital, but I finally have a day off, so hopefully I can crash out awhile - and practice.
Check out the tunes on SoundCloud! Thanks for reading!
October has come and will be gone by the end of this week and my has time flown. I am at a loss of what to say about it all, but I can be thankful for several reasons. First, I passed my recital preview, which means I get to give my recital on November 10th at 7pm in Radke Recital Hall on the main campus at the University of Central Oklahoma. Secondly, I am happy to be playing regularly at People's Church here in Oklahoma City. I did my second week this morning, and truly feel inspired to be working with everyone who volunteers and is on staff at the church. It is a truly diverse and excellent place to be a part of.
Melissa Brumfield and I will be making our Oklahoma City debut a week from Friday on November the 8th at The Paramount; 701 W Sheridan, OKC, OK. Our show starts at 8pm, so come on down for some wine, coffee, and our warm sound on a should-be-chilly-eve. Also, we will make our Norman debut on December 28th at Othello's Italian Restaurant from 9pm to midnight. The ante has been raised and we are working hard for more Oklahoma City metro-based gigs, so look out OKC! We are both excited to be playing a little closer to home than Stillwater. We love our crowd from Stillwater, but our goal in the beginning was to break the ice in a smaller town and work toward playing in our hometown. Do not fear though, we will still be at Zannotti's about once a month for our loving Stillwater family.
I am so thankful and inspired by everyone I am coming in contact with lately. It musically did not work out to where I will be playing at the Sushi Bar in Edmond, but I believe that to be the best for everyone involved. Initially, she came across as a jazz vocalist, but her focus seems more on the popular side of music, and my heart is just not into what she was asking of me. However, I saw how hard I could work balancing my rehearsal and practice of her music, the churches, and my own for my recital - and I now know I can up the ante on my own practice and make myself even better.
I've met with a great yoga instructor at 3rd Street Yoga in Edmond, OK named Nora McColgan. We have only met once so far, but I can already tell that I have a lot to learn from her about becoming more aware of my body. She has terrific energy and I believe she can really help me to improve my overall health and posture while playing.
Come out to my recital if you're in the Oklahoma City metro area on Nov. 10th at 7pm!
It seems like a lot happened last week for having only had classes three days that week. I was asked to play at a local church in Oklahoma City, by an incredible local drummer/bassist Jemar Poteat, and we had our first rehearsal on Tuesday this week. It went well, but it was a long night for four short songs. It took some time to get into the rhythm with everyone and really feel it all out. I have spent most of my life playing in jazz duos, so playing modern church music with a full band is definitely new to me. I haven't had much rock and roll experience in many many years. It was a lot of fun and hopefully will turn into a regular experience. I will be playing this weekend for four services and it promises to be a fun and fulfilling time.
Melissa Brumfield and myself will be at Zannotti's Wine Bar in Stillwater, OK once again on Tuesday, October 22nd from 8-10pm. We are going to add a few new tunes, not simply unfamiliar tunes, but covers of modern music to attempt to reach a newer (younger) audience. In addition, we have a few pending dates set in motion for our Oklahoma City debut. I have contacted several local businesses and restaurants about gigs with a positive response. We are working with them setting up dates and times as we speak. You could hear us live in our hometown as early as next weekend!
I'm also playing with another vocalist out of Edmond at the Sushi Bar. The gig basically fell into my lap via the internet, she posted an ad for a guitarist for upcoming gigs she had already booked. I took a chance and sent her a message, and we had a rehearsal last night. It was pretty productive. It will take a bit to learn all the songs since I am unfamiliar with most of what she does, but I can handle it. It's not very challenging music, but it will be a challenge seeing as I am the only rhythm section instrument. She advertised for a saxophone, and/or trumpet, as well, so we will see what comes of that at our next rehearsal. Our first gig should be October 26th at 9:30pm unless she decides to go another way.
Rehearsal late next Monday for my recital preview next Wednesday. I will hear advice, tips, and complaints from my recital committee at 7:15pm. This is the moment where you find out if you are approved to give your recital or not, and I feel confident in my group and my playing that it will go just fine.
A lot is going on these next few weeks, but I am honestly excited about it. It is good to be busy. It helps put what I want to do in focus and gives me the drive to achieve through practice what I want out of my playing.
Also very inspired by Dutch jazz guitar great, Jesse Van Ruller. He has an album Live at Murphy's Law, which is absolutely astounding. His touch, tone, style, and groove are absolutely remarkable. He's one baaaad dude.
Check out the gig's section next week as I will have added a bunch of dates, hopefully by Monday.
Thanks for reading!
I'm sitting here listening to my newly acquired collection of Smalls Live recordings from Smalls Jazz Club in NYC, NY. A few months ago they had a fundraiser to upgrade their live video feed, get a new piano, and create their musicians' revenue project - to fund the incredible players that make music and get recorded at Smalls. As part of my pledge package, I got a flash drive full of their entire Smalls Live catalog to date. I'm currently checking out the Lage Lund Four recording by the incredible Norwegian guitarist Lage Lund.
In addition to checking out new tunes, a lot has gone on throughout these past few months - so I'll give you a brief overview. I have been having some issues with tendonitis, so I have not been playing as much. I just recently got back to really practicing again this week. It's been great to be on the up and up with it, but dealing with the physicality of being a musician is certainly one of the hardest parts. Since my recital is on November 10th, the timing is not ideal, but I will take the current relief as a good sign.
I've got the set list picked out for my recital and have had a rehearsal already. I'm desperately trying to go against the grain of what is standard around here at UCO. Generally you are required to have another chordal instrument on your recital, but I have rehearsed with the trio and enjoy the sound. I'll find out on October 23rd, if my committee would rather have me add a keyboardist or not. I like the trio element since we can really work hard together to get a good balance and really deliver the tunes our way - plus being able to stretch out improvisationally. Two great local players, Stephen Schultz on bass (but he is also a guitarist/saxophonist/awesomeist) and Drew Wilson on the drums, will be accompanying me on my recital. I'm so thankful for being able to play with such a great group.
I am working toward updating this regularly, but I am becoming increasingly busy as the weeks go on. The next few weeks will truly be a test!
Week One Down!
Auditions are over and I found my way into Jazz Ensemble III. It will be my first big band experience and I am excited to hit our first rehearsal on Tuesday afternoon. I was not selected to be in a combo, but given that I have a recital to prepare for, I am sure the extra time will be beneficial.
My recital should be November 10th at 7pm barring any complications during the following weeks. I have to get a recital committee to sign off to grade my performance and after that I should be good to go. I have asked a bassist and drummer to play on my recital already and hopefully they will both work out. Everyone is trying to solidify their schedule this first week, so hopefully these guys can play the date. The goal is to ask the best players around, so I did!
The semi-hollow Ibanez 335 I purchased was sent back to the seller due to description issues. It was not properly described and pictures did not indicate that it was not the model he claimed. It was a mid-70's Ibanez 2454, but the body was drilled into and modified for a stop tailpiece, instead of the original floating tailpiece that wrapped around the edge. The pictures did not show the drill holes so I shipped it back to him. Once you drill posts for a new bridge into a guitar you cannot undo that damage. I'm glad it is off my chest and hopefully I can get my money back for it soon.
I have been selling a few items on eBay lately too. I got rid of my Pro Co Rat that was modded by Keeley Electronics. It was a cool pedal, but it just did not react well with my guitar. They seemed to fight each other rather than sound any good.
I am working on a Listen Up to focus on Peter Bernstein but I keep getting side tracked, and with school it is almost impossible to complete now. So for sanity's sake check out Bernstein's trio album of Thelonious Monk's music. It is well worth it as he does total justice to those tunes like no one ever has on guitar.
Pedalboard and New Axe
Definitely had a lot go down over the last week so here goes!
I got a new pedalboard built by my father (shown below) and I am very excited to get it set up and going. I have vowed to quit using the on board reverb on my Deluxe Reverb, so the Boss DD-2 has taken over my reverb/delay needs. Also of note, my Pro Co Rat modded by Robert Keeley is available on eBay right now. Here's the listing: Keeley Modded Pro Co Rat
Another excursion and constant battle with jazz guitarist is dealing with feedback. Feedback never fails to rear it's ugly head at some point during a show where you need a lot of volume. The biggest problem seems to be drummers who play too loudly causing us to compete with their volume. Music is not about who is the loudest, but it always seems to come down to dynamics in a given performance; especially on stage volumes.
Since feedback can cause issues, guitarist started to switch over to semi-hollow guitars; namely a crop of NYC jazzers playing Gibson 335 styled instruments - Ben Monder, Adam Rogers, Bruce Saunders to name a few. Yesterday, I won an old Ibanez copy of a Gibson 335 (on eBay) and I am pretty excited about seeing it show up next week. The wiring is not functional right now, but I will rewire it after it shows up and hopefully I won't need new electronics too.
There's nothing wrong with my current rig. In fact if the Ibanez is not life changing I might turn around and sell it after I fix it. I love my Gibson ES-175D. It's like my child. I have played it exclusively since I got it last year - it is hard to put down! I have been interested in a semi-hollow for awhile, so I thought I would give it a shot.
Melissa and I played Zannotti's last week and it went well. She sounded really good, but we fought microphone feedback for awhile until I sorted it out. We are becoming relaxed musically together and our performances reflect it. We will be back at Zannotti's on Tuesday, September 24th at 8pm.
UCO starts up again on Monday. I am really not too worried about anything this semester. I have a lot to work on, and toward, since my recital will be sometime this semester. It's just another gig, but I feel like so many people take it too seriously. I just want to have fun and play some tunes with great players then go home. I have been thinking of a few tunes I would like to do, but I really do not even want to get that far into it. I do not have originals finished yet, so it will largely be standards, and I simply want to call tunes awhile and have fun. Needless to say it is a university, so it will not be that relaxed or simple, but I can dream right?
If you're interested in lessons please contact me soon! I have had a few students come and go this summer, particularly on Saturday, so I have a few available slots. My semester will be pretty well weighted down, so I am only taking a few students this go around.
If you read all of this you're a saint, and if you made it through most of it you're pretty cool too. Keep your eye out for another Listen Up special coming your way in a few days. I have been listening to Peter Bernstein's Monk disc lately so expect plenty on that album.
Keep listening! Thanks for reading!
Listen Up: Paul Chambers and Paul Motian
As promised, trying to keep up with my new series of blog posts about suggested listenings/reviews. This segment features two amazing artists who rarely get their credit for being band leaders: bassist Paul Chambers and drummer Paul Motian.
The former, most famous for playing with John Coltrane, released an incredible album titled 'Whims of Chambers'. The albums features: Donald Byrd, John Coltrane, Kenny Burrell, Horace Silver, and Philly Joe Jones. If that isn't enough incentive to go out and buy the record, I don't know what I can say to help you. Horace Silver and Kenny Burrell work remarkably well together, managing their comping by staying out of each others way. Burrell's guitar tone matches perfectly with Chambers bass on the blues this album is named after. I'm impressed with Chambers bass prowess. He sounds more prominent on this recording than on Miles Davis or Coltrane records. As it should, Chambers' bass takes the limelight of this entire recording, shining brightly through each track. With this recording, Chambers puts the bass on the map as a melodic instrument and paving the way for future bassists like Niels Henning-Orsted Pedersen. As far as albums with all original tunes, recorded in the latter part of the 1950's, this album shines brightly against them all.
Another original voice, Paul Motian, recorded an album entitled 'Garden of Eden' in 2004; which was released in 2006. The album features an interesting lineup of two saxophones, two (or three) guitars, a bassist and drummer. It's difficult to sense how many guitarists play on each track, because of the layered texture of each piece, but it features: Steve Cardenas, Jakob Bro, and the incredible Ben Monder. Motian creates an incredible sound palette with this instrumentation without having a frontman as traditional jazz ensembles can tend to have. Guitars and saxophones intertwine creating a seamless melodic line, while bassist Jerome Harris lays an expansive foundation of deep bass. There is a high level of reverence amongst these musicians as they play only what is absolutely necessary for a given piece. Motian is nothing but flawless on everything I have heard him play on and this recording is nothing short of flawless. However, it is not his drumming prowess that takes the limelight - it is the overall compositional texture that keeps you guessing at every turn. It is a beautiful album I highly recommend; along with Motian's recording with Bill Frisell and Ron Carter.
This will be a short post as it has been a busy week of practicing, tune memorization, and amplifier issues that have really worn me out. Watch out for another post in the next day or two about current projects and school.
Thanks for reading! Keep listening!