Friday night I got to do one of my favorite things. I played with Technicolor Motor Home at Ram’s Head On Stage in Annapolis. It’s the second time we’ve been there and the second time we’ve sold the place out. It’s not a huge venue but it has a great vibe and thee have been some amazing acts on that stage so it just feels great to be up there. It’s always a great time when I play with these guys especially playing with my partners in horn section crime, Dave Makowiecki and Jim McFalls. It was a great night and here are some samples:
Last song of the night after over 2 hours of playing..still a lot of energy going on:
A little EWI action on this one. The chromatic harmonica patch was a free download from EWI Reason Sounds. It was a melodica on the original recording but this gets the job done.
Some horn section goodness and some wonderful guitar work by Ben Sherman:
I played the Cannonball Raven on this gig with my Phil Barone Super New York mouthpiece and Rigotti Gold 3 1/2 M reeds. It was a struggle because I was still having a devil of a time with the G# key sticking. I made it through the night but it drove me crazy the whole time and I had a really hard time feeling settled. I took the horn to L&L Music in Gaithersburg where I bought it and they are looking it over and adjusting it as a warranty repair so I’m hopeful that it will be great when I get it back. With the exception of the sticking key (which could be attributed to a bunch of things) the horn felt absolutely awesome…very tight and punchy and it just looks awesome.
This week I’m playing a LOT of bari in a big band setting. Every year a local private high school called Archbishop Curley has a night of jazz featuring their students and an alumni band along with a guest act. I didn’t go to Curley but I have a few friends there and I’ve subbed with the alumni band numerous times including every chair in the sax section at one time or another. I think this will be my third concert with them and the first for me on bari. We had a rather long rehearsal this evening and we will have two more before the concert on Saturday night. I’m playing on my Selmer bari with my Lawton 8*B mouthpiece and it’s really starting to feel a lot more comfortable…maybe I don’t need to get some mouthpieces refaced after all. Oh well, I already sent one off to Mojo (Keith Bradbury) so it’s a done deal anyway. I’m also using an inexpensive reed alternative – Woodwind brand from the Woodwind and the Brasswind. I ordered the jazz cut in a 3 and they are playing really well for me right now. I also have some La Voz MH that I have prepared in the rotation as well. We’re only doing 5 tunes for the concert but it looks like it will be a lot of fun. I think there are a few tickets available for “All That Curley Jazz” but it appears to be another sellout this week. 🙂
I played a great gig Saturday night in Falls Church, VA with Jr. Cline and the Recliners. I had played with them on tenor before Christmas but this time I was playing bari as Daryl (Jr.) was trying a few things with the horn section. It was a much easier gig on tenor for a couple reasons. First, the book is a Bb book so I was trying to sight transpose everything…sometimes it felt easy and natural and other times it felt like calculus…mostly calculus. Second, the club is tiny (same club as the last gig I did with them) but this time we had three guys on the tiny stage instead of two. Finally, there were no monitors and the bari is much harder to pick out acoustically than tenor so I was never really settled with regards to pitch or blend. On the other hand, the section from last time was augmented by a wonderful guy and great sax player named Al Williams on tenor. Al has been a Washington area legend for years and previously toured with both Stanley Clarke and Mongo Santamaria so it was an honor to share the stage with him and blend in the section along with trumpeter Chris Hutton. I’m hoping there will be more work with this section and this band in the near future.
I took my son (who plays string bass in high school) to the All-County Solo and Ensemble Festival on Saturday. He was playing with a trio that ended up getting a top grade but that’s beside the point. 🙂 While we were there in the warm-up area I saw not one, not, two, but three sax players that had Rovner ligatures on upside down. I really wanted to go say something but I figured the last thing they needed was someone messing with their setup before they play so I must content myself with posting this thought here. It’s pretty simple really. The ligature screw always goes on the right unless you have doe something special to put it on the other side so that gives you a clue as to how the ligature should be applied. It’s not a matter of the vast majority of people in the world being right handed, it’s actually much simpler and aplicable than that. Having it on the right allows you to be able to play some notes with your left hand while possibly adjusting the tension with your right. If you reverse this then there is only one note that will sound…C#. Also, in the case of the Rovner ligature, if you put it on upside down you are losing the whole point of why you would by a Rovner in the first place. So think about it and make sure you’re using the ligature you bought the way it was intended to be used.
Bari Mouthpiece Work
Now that I have more bari work coming in, I’m starting to mess around with my setup a little bit. I have a mouthpiece that I love (Lawton 8*B – you can see it pretty clearly in the pictures above) but it’s been a little tougher to play since I haven’t been playing as much bari and I’m not 25 anymore so I was hoping for something a little easier to play. One possible solution is that I have an Otto Link Tone Edge (Hard Rubber) out with a mouthpiece guy named Phil Barone and he’s giving it something I refer to as the “Ronnie Cuber Treatment”. It’s a series of modifications he did for Ronnie years ago (Ronnie is one of my favorite bari players). I’m thinking it’s going to be easier to honk out low notes and it should be freer blowing than the Lawton. Unfortunately it has taken quite a while to get those modifications but I’m hopeful it will be coming soon. I have also contacted another mouthpiece refacer who specializes in bari mouthpieces although he works on all types. His name is Keith Bradbury but he goes by the name MojoBari or simply Mojo on forums. I have a couple of mouthpieces that I want to send to him for refacing and I’m going to start with an old hard rubber Berg Larsen 115/1. It’s got a couple things I like (honking low end and easy to blow) and a couple things I hate (stuffy upper register) so I’m hopeful Keith can straighten it out for me. He’s a little backed up so it will probably be a month before I get it back but I can definitely gig on my Lawton for a while longer and, who knows, maybe I’ll just get comfortable on it again from all of the work I’m hoping to get and it won’t feel too big anymore. Stay tuned for updates.
I had a rehearsal on Saturday and I was having a devil of a time with a sticky G# key. I’ve had similar issues over the years but never to the extent I had on Saturday. It definitely didn’t help that it was the Steely Dan tribute band I play in and all of the songs practically required a G#…especially the ones I solo in. Even when it was opening it was delayed so it was very trying. None of the tricks I have used in the past worked so I learned a few new ones that I will explain here.
In the past, I have always had luck using the “dollar bill trick”. You take a dollar bill and place it between the pad and the tone hole, apply gentle pressure on the pad cup and then slide the bill out. The paper of the bill helps soak up moisture and clean the parts and the oils of all of the people’s hands that have handled the bill (GROSS!) helps keep it from being sticky. The problem was, I really couldn’t get in there with the bill to clean it.
What I have done instead is clean the pad and tone hole more completely. I asked several repair guys including my regular guy Lee Lachman and my internet acquaintance Stephen Howard. Both had similar solutions involving the use of a mild solvent. Lee suggested a product called Goo Gone that he’s had a lot of luck with and Stephen suggested simple lighter fluid like you would use in a Zippo lighter. I think the key is a light solvent that doesn’t have a lot of other stuff mixed in to muck things up. I ended up finding the lighter fluid quicker (at a local drug store next the the Chinese restaurant where I was getting take out) and it was pretty inexpensive so I gave it a try. I put a little bit on the end of a Q-tip and lightly scrubbed all around the areas where the pad and tone hole come into contact. The effect was immediate. No more sticky pad.
I also learned a trick that’s been around for years, but had somehow eluded me, for letting the pads dry out without contacting the tone hole. If you take a business card or a lightly folded piece of paper and stick it under the low C# key it also slightly opens the G# key. In this fashion the G# pad can dry out without creating a seal. It seems to work like a charm and I believe it’s perfectly safe.
Of course, I also swab the horn every time I use it and I use a pad saver as well. One thing I also learned in the last year is to open the case and leave it open overnight after getting home from a gig (removing the pad saver). It seems like a lot of moisture remains trapped in the case even after swabbing if you don’t do this.
I mentioned before there are numerous hardware choices. Everything from using the smart phone you carry around to dedicated multitrack recorders to your computer. Today I’m going to talk about software for your computer. No matter what platform you prefer there are numerous options and something for every budget. I’m not a huge expert on Linux but I know at least one recorder, Audacity, is available for that platform. Pretty much everything else I will discuss here is available for both Mac and Windows PCs.
I already mentioned Audacity and it’s special because it’s both open-source and free. It’s also only an audio recording and editing package whereas the other products I am talking about here are Digital Audio Workstations (DAW). The difference with the other packages is they also have virtual instruments built in so they are complete music creation packages with sequencing, synths, drums, loops, and effects. That said, I actually use Audacity for lots of things like quick recording and file conversion. It’s a great starting off point if you just want to get some ideas down or listen to yourself.
Reaper is not free but it’s crazy cheap for the amount of stuff it does. Reaper is super powerful and has a ton of features but it can be a little tough to figure out especially if you’re new to DAW software. If you know what you’re doing and you don’t mind wading through a rather arcane interface you will find something lightning fast, powerful, and deep. I know of at least two recording professionals (friends) that switched from their Pro Tools rigs to Reaper and they don’t seem to be looking back.
Another free option is to find package deals with audio interfaces as many ship with software so you can easily get started. For instance, you can get Pro Tools Express with the purchase of MBOX products, you can get Reason Essentials with the purchase of Balance, and there are several other similar deals out there. Odds are you will want an audio/MIDI interface for your computer so if you can get the software thrown in for free that’s a great deal.
Another inexpensive option that is only available to Mac users is Garage Band. Garage Band is basically the light version of Logic Pro – in fact you can open up Garage Band projects in Logic Pro and instantly gain access to the increased features without any conversion. I think I paid 15 dollars for the latest upgrade (maybe it was 20 – can’t remember) and the original version came free with iLife when I bought this laptop. GB errs on the easy and simple side but it hides a lot of power if you dig just a little bit. It’s very easy to learn and also has some cool features to help you learn guitar or piano or to quickly generate tracks to jam along with. If you’re a Mac guy then this is definitely a great way to start and unfortunately there’s nothing quite like it for Windows but there are some powerful combinations that could get you close and that’s possibly a story for another day.
These are all great ways to get started but the sky is the limit with this stuff. Later on I’ll post about some of the pricier and more powerful options out there. For now, grab one of these free or inexpensive packages and get going.