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’ve mentioned Chris Vollstadt and EWI Reason Sounds before. I’ve been using Chris’s sounds for my virtual EWI rig for pretty much as long as I’ve been using a virtual rig. I decided to make Reason the main engine for my virtual rig in no small part because of Chris’s patches and wonderful website. I had bought all of his Refills (a bank of patches for Reason) but then he came out with a new concept – a mini Refill for only $9.99. I had to get it and I’m glad I did.
Analog Dreams is a collection of 20 original “Dragon.fly” Combinator patches utilizing samples of vintage synthesizers in the NN19 sampler that is included with Reason. It also includes 30 NN19 patches (used to make the Combinators), some effects patches, and a comprehensive user guide in pdf format. It has sounds reminiscent of old analog synths from Moog, Roland, Oberheim, Sequential Circuits, and others.
I’ve been playing EWI and other wind synths for many years and I have done a lot of acoustic instrument emulations over the years but I’ve always preferred synth sounds for leads and solos because it’s really hard to be super creative and emulative at the same time. Synth patches free me up to just play. Because of that I am really happy with this collection of sounds. Chris’s patches are always very expressive and easy to play and these sounds take that concept to a new level.
Another great thing about the package is that all of the patches are “tweakable” whether it’s changing the filters, adding effects, or adjusting the relative brightness of the patch. Chris sets up each Combinator with knobs and buttons that are readily available and easy to understand. See the picture at the top of the post for an example of what can be tweaked in real time. You can even assign controllers to the knobs and buttons to make it easier to do while playing.
All of the sounds are very usable and there are no “clunkers” in the bunch. Of course, I have some favorites and I made a little recording with 8 or 9 of them below. Chris also has a cool audio demo on the Analog Dreams page of his website. My demo is just a quick and dirty sampling of the sounds with no tweaking at all…the sounds are how they sound as soon as you call them up but there’s a lot of variation available to you. I just used breath swells and other performance controls available on the EWI USB itself for this recording.
If you’re playing a wind synth and using a virtual rig then it’s likely you already have Reason. If not, it’s something you might want to consider because it’s a very powerful engine for both the EWI and for recording in general. If you have Reason then you really owe it to yourself to pick up Analog Dreams. The price is amazing for what you get and there’s tools there to let you create even more sounds on your own. Of course, if you already have Reason you should also check out Chris’s other products like Cyclone and his Rotators. You won’t be sorry.
I’m not quite ready to do a full review on my new Cannonball Big Bell Stone Series tenor but early reports are really good. I would never want to do a full review without first playing it on the gig since for me nothing I do in the practice room is quite like the way I play live. I do have a big band gig this weekend and I have a couple of louder concerts later in the month so I will definitely have some opportunities to put it through it’s paces. I played it in a rehearsal for the big band this past weekend and I tried both necks – fat neck for the first have and the regular neck in the second half. I tend to like the fat neck better but my wife came to my room to listen and she instantly said she liked the regular neck better…we’ll see how this plays out.
I’ve also been playing on Rigotti Gold reeds for a couple months now and I really like them so far. The problem is I’ve only tried one box because of the way I break them in and my rotation system. I would definitely want to check a couple more boxes before being sure about a full review. I was playing Van Doren Java 3 1/2 and I switched to RG 3 1/2 M…so far I think that was the best choice…I got the comparison from a RG reed chart I think. One interesting effect of switching reeds is I’m now firmly back on my Phil-Tone Eclipse HR mouthpiece rather than the Phil Barone Super New York I had been playing for the last year or so.
On the EWI front, I just bought a new Refill from Chris Vollstadt at EWI Reason Sounds called Analog Dreams. I’ve been playing them for a few hours and I’m pretty happy with them so far. The entire Refill (for Propellerhead’s Reason) is comprised of some emulations of vintage synths and they’re all very tweakable. This Refill is also a new approach for Chris containing less sounds at a very reasonable price.
Finally, I just took delivery of a mouthpiece to try from Pete Thomas of “Taming the Saxophone”. It’s a new metal mouthpiece called the PPT he’s been working on and I received it as part of a passaround through Sax on the Web Forum. I’ve signed up for several passarounds in the past and this is the first time I actually got to play the mouthpiece in question…usually the passaround seems to fall apart I guess because someone buys the mouthpiece and that shuts everything down. Since this is a first I’m kind of excited to actually get to try something new and comment on it.
Look for these and other reviews along with some audio recordings in the near future.