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November 22, 2010

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Brian Blade and the Fellowship Band at Zipper Concert Hall 11/12/10

November 17, 2010

I don’t see enough music … well, music that I’m not directly involved in that is. Music (and I’m sure this is the same for any arts discipline) can feel so vocational to me; I don’t pursue seeing live music as much as I should. Its like I tell myself  “if I have some free time I don’t want sit and think critically about music for a couple of hours” when in reality a strong live performance can be the perfect antidote for thinking too vocationally about music. Such was the case last Friday when me and a friend saw Brian Blade and the Fellowship Band. The concert was held in a gorgeous concert hall at the Colburn School, a private school for performing arts in downtown L.A.

The Fellowship is one of my favorite bands of all time; its jazz with a folk/Americana angle, very melodic, moody, … very unique but at the same time very accessible, even comforting. You’re not going to see a typical jazz show with the Fellowship, virtuosic instrumental showmanship over traditional swing feels have no place with this band. Don’t get me wrong, these musicians are on the highest level and the band gets to flex their musicianship, but it all serves the composition and the group concept. Brian Blade is arguably one of the top 5 drummers on the planet, Christopher Thomas is a solid bassist who used to be in Joshua Redman’s band, John Cowherd is a terrifically musical pianist who also writes quite a bit for the group, Melvin Butler is soulful tenor/soprano saxist, and Myron Walden is one of the most unique alto sax players around who also plays bass clarinet in the band. The Fellowship usually features the great Kurt Rosenwinkle on guitar but he wasn’t a part of this performance, he keep quite busy as a bandleader himself; Jeff Parker of the Chicago Post-Rock band Tortoise played guitar.

I really don’t know what to say about the concert. It was just phenomenal. The band plays so well together. The music is intense but rarely aggressive. Every composition sets a different mood even if they similar in tempo or groove. And Brian Blade is amazing to watch, he plays with such joy and lights a fire under everything.  It was an inspiring evening. Here’s “Stoner Hill” from the band’s latest release:

I learned my lesson that night. More live music.

 

And Featuring Yours Truly on the Bass …

November 9, 2010

October Media Review

November 5, 2010

A monthly review of the best in media/culture I have been digging for the past four weeks


TV
With October being “sweeps” month and all I’m pretty far behind on my DVR, I haven’t even watched the final two episodes of Mad Men yet! I thought after last season, the show might be on the decline but this season was perhaps the strongest yet. The acting is on another level and it deserves every award it gets. And if there is a show that can rival Mad Men in historical set design/costumes it is Boardwalk Empire, the best new show of the year. Two of the most unique and creatively written comedies I’ve ever seen started strong second seasons this month as well; Community and Bored to Death. Both are terrifically underrated. Eastbound and Down is really funny as well but doesn’t belong in the same class as the other two; Community and Bored to Death have terrific ensemble casts and clever dialogue, Eastbound is basically Danny McBride riffing off a script and coming up with some really hilarious stuff. The Office is better than I thought it would be but continues to be hit-or-miss in the twilight of the series; and 30 Rock remains the standard-bearer for network sitcoms.

 

Movies
I actually saw not one but two movies in theaters this month, I think this is a record since my son was born. The Town was fantastic. Sure it had the cliche’d “criminal with a good heart who wants out of the business after he falls in love much to the dismay of his violent, loose-cannon friend” premise, but that didn’t take away from the story or intrigue. Ben Affleck does a great job directing and acting. But the best movie I’ve seen this year is The Social Network. It’s not a movie about Facebook, its a movie about modern human relationships. It’s funny, dramatic, and thoroughly engrossing. And the score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross is phenomenal.

we have a new addition to "The List"

I finally saw Up in the Air when it started airing on HBO this month. I love this movie. I remember hearing from some friends that it didn’t deserve the Oscar hype it received last year, but I couldn’t disagree more.. Maybe its because I spend so much time on airplanes but I really think its message about relationships “weighing you down” is a powerful one. Not much you can say about Clooney, the guy is just solid in every movie he stars in. And Anna Kendrick is my new movies star crush … *swoon*

 

 

 

Music
Big Boi’s Sir Luscious Leftfoot … The Son of Chico Destiny was recommended to me by a friend whose tastes I trust but for some reason I drug my feet picking it up. It is really good, more creative southern hip-hop by Big Boi, almost makes your forget that Outkast probably won’t ever release another great record. At the other end of the rap spectrum we have Tyler the Creator- Bastard. I read this article about the young L.A. collective Odd Futures Wolf Gang Kill Them All (of which Tyler the Creator is the frontman) and was intrigued. Pitchfork is way too heady and hipster-ly intellectual most of the time and I figured that was the case with Tyler the Creator and that was the case a little. But make no mistake, this is something truly new happening in music right now, call it “lo-fi shock rap”? Its like 4chan spawned a rap group, kids with no taboos, no censors. And I must say, the beats are good too.

I’ve been a huge fan of Margot and the Nuclear So & So’s since their debut The Dust of Retreat only partially because an old college friend of mine played trumpet for them. I think Dust … is one of the best records of the past 20 years; their follow up Animal/Not Animal was good but a few notches below the predecessor. Recently the band’s personnel changed quite a bit and about half of the group (including my friend) left. I was skeptical that their new release Buzzard would suffer because of it but it is quite good, probably better than Animal. Richard Edward is the groups singer and songwriter and his songs remain strong with quality lyrics (and I’m not typically the type to pay attention to lyrics).

Amazon has a monthly “100 MP3 albums for $5” program. Its perfect for purchases like Social Distortion’s Greatest Hits. Check it out.

 

Print

The Invisibles v.2 Apocalipstick

I read more comic books than any sane 34-year-old  professional male should. And as far as the printed word goes, that’s prettymuch all I read this month. Daredevil’s books are pretty good right now as are Batman’s as Bruce Wayne returns “from the dead” under the skilled pen of my favorite writers Grant Morrison. I also started vol. 2 of Morrison’s incredible graphic novel series The Invisibles, post-modern, meta, disgusting, heart-breaking, it is regarded by some as one of the greatest comic series of all-time. I’ll be the judge of that.

What have you been digging on?


A Weekend In The Life

October 19, 2010

Most folks leave their weekends open for their family or social life. My weekends usually involve work. Here’s my itinerary of last weekend and a typical example of how I juggle all three.

Friday: wake up, make my way to my engineer friend’s studio where we listen to and discuss the audio mix for a record that I’m producing, lunch with said friend, pick up the little man from daycare, shower and get ready for a night out with my wife, brief the babysitter, dinner with friends, drinks, dessert with friends, drinks, bed

Saturday: wake up, avoid bright light and replenish fluids, take the fam to the Pumpkin Patch where we meet friends and pick out pumpkin, go home to find the pumpkin’s tough skin un-carveable, drive an hour+ to an early-evening gig, arrive at gig early, hit the local record shop and make purchases, go to the gig, drive home, meet old friend at home and catch up, we hit up a jazz club where friends are playing, sit in on their gig and have a good ol’ time, hit a pub for a nightcap, bed

Sunday: wake up, shower, go to my weekly sports bar to watch football, scour two different grocery stores to find a more carveable pumpkin, go home and carve said pumpkin much to the delight of the little man, clean up the house, meet friends at another sports bar to watch the Colts play the night game, back to friend’s place to change and watch Boardwalk Empire, head to my weekly gig co-hosting a late-night jam session, home by 3AM, bed

Fascinating, right? Well, maybe not. If you don’t think so click the image and be fascinated by this AMAZING video:

Flying Lotus "Kill Your Co-Workers"

October 11, 2010

Kurt Vonnegut

Autobiography by Band

September 28, 2010

I picked up my first electric bass when I was 13, less than a year later I was playing in my first band and have been playing in bands ever since. Being a jazz musician I haven’t really played as many bands (in the traditional sense of the word) as other musicians. (Jazz musicians just hire other guys who they feel like playing with or for who they think is best suited for a certain venue, style of music they’ve been writing, etc. A regular, rehearsing band is kind of rare in that world). But I’ve played in my fair share. I was looking at some old fliers on FB of Indianapolis bands from my youth and I started reminiscing about all of the groups I’ve played with. I thought making a chronological list of all the bands I’ve been a part of would be fun. So here we go:

Rattletrap

Style: Hard Rock/Metal
Instrumentation: bass, drums, lead guitar, rhythm guitar/vocals
Sample Covers: “Tattoo” Faster Pussycat, “Bad Boy” The Beatles, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” Nirvana, “Livin Lovin’ Maid” Led Zepplin

Bio: Exactly what you would expect from a middle school garage band in the late 80s/early 90s, we grew our hair long, we worshiped Guns N Roses, we would practice for hours in a hot, stuffy garage, go swim in the above ground pool, then practice some more until the drummer had to leave to have dinner with his parents. I like to think we were above average for a bunch of thirteen-year-olds. For as much as we practiced, we didn’t have very many gigs: a friend’s 13th birthday party, the clubhouse of a trailer park (not joking, and there is VHS evidence of this somewhere), and a Battle of the Bands sponsored by a local record shop where we were horribly outclassed. By the time we got to high school the band was no more.

Outward Bound

Style: 90’s Alt. Rock
Instrumentation: bass, drums, 2 rhythm guitar, vocal
Sample Covers: “Skulls” The Misfits, “Would” Alice In Chains, “State of Love and Trust” Pearl Jam, “Rain King” Counting Crows

Bio: Looking back I have to say that Indianapolis had a very healthy indie music scene for kids in the early 90s. We would hold shows in kids backyards, community centers, and hole-in-the-wall clubs. There was a great amalgamation of music; everybody loved Jane’s Addiction, Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Cure, Sonic Youth, and Slayer equally. Everything had this melodic hardcore sound Straight Edge and Emo was huge (in my day kiddies Emo was a term used to describe melodic and moody straight-edge hardcore music, not teenagers with eyeliner and Pro Tools). One the bands on the scene actually became pretty well-known in underground hardcore circles; Split Lip (later changed their name to Chamberlain). Anyway, Outward Bound was a lot of fun. We would try to cram all different sorts of music together into one heavy sound. Our singer Josh (who was also the singer for Rattletrap) was amazing, he and I were the only constants, the band went through quite a few different lineups until I went off to college and had to quit. But I had so much fun at those shows and practicing with those guys, probably my favorite band experience. Check out the FB page of this local club we often played, there are some great pictures and fliers posted: The Sitcom

Noodleboy Stout

Style: Funk, Rock
Instrumentation: bass, drums, guitar, alto sax, tenor sax, trombone
Sample Covers: “Pass the Peas” Maceo Parker, “Cissy Strut” The Meters, “Go Down Gamblin'” Blood, Sweat, and Tears

When I got to college I quickly discovered jazz and funk and was lucky enough to fall in with a group of fellow music majors who were like-minded. There was a bar in my college town of Muncie, IN where all of the good regional bands played and we were lucky enough to score a gig playing there on Sunday nights. A local singer/songwriter started sitting in with us and we started doing some rock covers as well. This caused a rift in the band between the guys who wanted to play more jazz and the guys who wanted to rock out. I was only in the band for a few months as I was soon asked to join local Jam heroes Cootie Brown.

Cootie Brown

Style: Jam Band
Instrumentation: bass, drums, guitar/vocal, Rhodes/harmonica
Sample Covers: “You Enjoy Myself” Phish, “Cosmic Debris” Frank Zappa, “Pow” Beastie Boys, various Grateful Dead

I’d never listened to the Grateful Dead or Phish let alone play in a jam band, so when I was asked to audition for Cootie Brown I didn’t know what to expect, but after our first rehearsal I was hooked. I was already a big jazz fan and now I was in a band that was 50% improvisation but without all of the restrictive chords in jazz (of course, jazz harmony isn’t really restrictive, just seems that way to a novice musician). I had a blast in Cootie Brown. I was kind of in awe when I first joined, the guys had gigs booked at some of the biggest venues in Indianapolis, places I had dreamed about playing when I was a kid. (I’ll always remember in one of my first gigs at The Vogue in Indianapolis I got physically thrown out for drinking since I was only 20 at the time, it was crazy. Luckily we would play there again.) We recorded a demo (I have still have that cassette tape) and had a large following around Ball State University. Soon we were traveling regionally playing frat parties all over Indiana and clubs in Chicago and Ohio. Things got ugly for a bit when we kicked out our rhythm guitar player/singer. He stunk but was very popular and a lot of our fans didn’t come see us play anymore. We bought a large P.A. with a loan from his parents and he broke into some of the guys’ home and stole it after he was kicked out. We got served with a lawsuit for the remainder of the loan. Luckily everything was worked out with letters between lawyers and it never went to trial, all we had to part with was a mic and mic stand for the departed member. But we foraged on and continued to play all over. Some gigs stand out: a marijuana festival, “Heavy Metal Night” at a bar in Ft. Wayne where despite our best efforts to play old Rush covers and our heavier stuff we were hated and booed, playing an outdoor music festival where I saw two girls make out for the first time, and opening for The Why store a jam band from Indy who were actually signed to Atlantic. If you’ve ever heard my “hanging out and jamming with George Clinton” story, it was with these guys. Alas, I got my degree and headed to grad school in Michigan and my days as a Cootie were over.

The Butterfat Trio

Style: Funk/Jazz
Instrumentation: bass, drums, organ (and various vintage keyboards)
Sample Covers: “Full House” Wes Montgomery, “Here, There, and Everywhere” The Beatles, “Loo-Ka Py Py” The Meters

After moving to Kalamazoo, MI I quickly got a weekly jazz gig playing at a local dive bar where I met my good friend and keyboard player Rob. Soon after Rob introduced me to Jeff and we formed one of the most fun bands I’ve been a part of. We would play MMW style funk, jazz standards, whatever. We had enough energy (and volume) to play rock clubs but could also play dinner music at local restaurants. It was great, so much fun personally and musically. Once again, I graduated and moved away this time to Los Angeles and had to quit the band. They got another bass player and continued to play. About a year and a half after I moved they recorded a CD and asked me to play on half of it. Even though that was about eight years ago it remains one of my favorite recordings I’ve been a part of, there are a lot of great original compositions and tons of vintage keyboards. Great sound, great record, great memories.

Lyman Medeiros Bossa Nova Project

Style: uh, Bossa Nova
Instrumentation: bass, drums, guitar, piano, vocal
Sample Covers: “Flor de Lis” Djavan, “So Tina de Ser Com Voce” Jobim, “Samba do Brande Amour” Jobim

Me and my guitar player friend Steve both have a love of Bossa Nova. We know this fantastic singer that speaks Portuguese and decided to form a band. We recorded a demo and were working pretty regularly. But when it comes to the business side of being a bandleader, I’m pretty unmotivated. I still love playing this music and hope to work more with the band in the future.

Gerry Gibbs and the Thrasher Band

Style: Jazz
Instrumentation: bass, drums, piano/keyboards, 3 saxophone/mulit-instrumentalist
Sample Covers: “Giant Steps” (in 7/8 time) John Coltrane, “Festival in Bahia” McCoy Tyner, “Don’t You Worry Bout A Thing” Stevie Wonder

My good friend Gerry is a phenomenal musician with a wonderful free jazz aesthetic. As his second record with the band was being released he asked me to join and we did quite a few gigs around L.A. that year. Unfortunately the band never quite developed the following it deserved and Gerry moved to NYC.

Chloroform Days

Style: Electronic Folk
Instrumentation: bass, DJ, guitar/vocal
Sample Covers: “Sea of Love” Phil Phillips

My good friend Cory’s project and the first ‘rock band’ I’ve been a part of in a long time. Good songs, funky beats. Hopefully many more shows to follow.