I’m trying really hard to get back into the swing of posting here. I really miss it but we received some rather catastrophic health news about my wife and I’ve been dealing with that since back in July (and dealing with the symptoms since possibly as far back as February). I’ll post more about the situation as I feel more comfortable about talking about it.
Music has been one of the things that has kept me sane and engaged during this ordeal and I’m blessed that my family and friends recognized early on how therpeutic it is for me. They’ve been dedicated to making sure I can get out to play gigs along with all of the other help they’ve been giving with helping care for my wife and our two boys. Having a wonderful, amazing group of family and friends has been a huge difference maker for me. Music has been helpful as I mentioned and exercise (especially yoga) has also been very important to help me cope with a terrible situation.
I’ve been playing with Technicolor Motor Home and Jr. Cline and the Recliners (where I am now the tenor player instead of alto/bari) and I’ve also been subbing with other bands like Rollex and Bobby and the Believers.
Here’s an audio clip of the last gig I did with TMH a couple weeks ago. It’s a version of Aja we did live without ever rehearsing it together. Everyone learned their parts (from a live version we found on You Tube) and we just threw it together on the spot. It’s not perfect but I’m really happy with the way it turned out under the circumstances. Hope you like it:
Yesterday was a crazy day not just because I had two gigs. Also not just because the time in between then was supposed to be one hour and they were an hour apart not counting tear down and set up time. In addition to these things I also had to take a ton of gear as it was two different bands. The first gig required tenor and EWI along with my rack that has my hardware synth rig, a mixer, and my in-ears as well as stands, and my iPad for reading music. The second gig was alto and bari along with stands, a change of clothes, and again my trusty iPad. In between, I also brought a cooler with some food since I wasn’t going to have time to eat dinner except in the car. It was a lot to deal with in one day and I’m lucky I remembered to pack everything and didn’t lose anything in the process. I actually used an app called Wunderlist (task tracking software) to make lists so that I grabbed everything I needed.
The Cat Stayed Home
The first gig was with Technicolor Motor Home at the Dundalk Heritage Fair opening up for Three Dog Night. This was a great show for us because we played for a very large and appreciative crowd. The weather was absolutely gorgeous. We also played the gig with 4 subs (out of ten pieces) but you would have never known it because everyone was so well prepared. The sound company did a great job and the logistics of everything were like butter. I even got a special parking space since the crew knew that two of us had to leave early to get to our next gig. All in all it was pretty much the epitome of the perfect gig.
View From the Stage at the Dundalk Heritage Fair
The next gig was all the way down in Bethesda, MD playing with another ten-piece band in Jr’ Cline and the Recliners. As I mentioned above there was only an hour for turnaround as the first gig ended at 7 and the second gig started at 8. Of course that’s not possible unless I were to really take my life (as well as those around me) in my own hands and I am not willing to drive that crazy. Luckily, the band was able to move the start time back until 8:15 and they played the first two songs without the two of us who were “coming in hot”. The first gig I thought went really well for me personally, the second gig wasn’t as great for me. I played the section stuff well but I just couldn’t get on track from a solo perspective. Part of it is playing Eb instruments with a rock and blues band so I end up playing in C# a lot (that’s like kryptonite for me) but I also just never felt settled in the second gig and that’s a shame because the band was roaring. I mentioned before about the Bethesda Blues and Jazz Supper Club being a great venue and it was just as amazing this time. They treated us like gold and we had a really nice crowd there. I’m going to have to really shed C# blues before the next gig to get it under my fingers so I fell better about myself when it’s all over. It’s funny because I’m so used to playing in F# because I usually play tenor on these jobs. You would think it wouldn’t be that hard a transition but it seems like nothing IO play sounds the way I want it to. Oh well, I’ll make it work.
Jr. Cline and the Recliners (taken after the show)
Bethesda Blues and Jazz Supper Club – Wisconsin Ave. Bethesda, MD
I played Friday night at the new Bethesda Blues and Jazz Supper Club in Bethesda, MD with Jr. Cline and the Recliners. I was playing the third horn chair (they usually only use two but add a third for the bigger gigs) so I was on alto and bari for this gig. It was a great show for quite a few reasons. First and foremost, we had the addition of Julia Nixon on vocals. Julia is a top notch singer who was a mainstay in the DC area for years although I believe she lives in North Carolina these days. Having her on stage really made a special night even better. The gig was also special for me because it was my first one with the ten-piece show version of the band. It went very well in spite of only one rehearsal with the full band (actually no rehearsals with Julia although most of the guys have worked with her before).
What a Beautiful Room!
The club is absolutely gorgeous and is set up perfectly for concerts. It seats a few hundred people at dining tables, has a large area available as a dance floor, and has house PA and lights. The stage is plenty big and the acoustics of both the stage and the room in general are excellent. The food is excellent although maybe a little pricey but the band can order whatever they want for half price. In addition, everyone we dealt with was very nice and supportive of the band and our efforts.
It’s often said that the things that burn the hottest burn out the quickest and, much like the Tally Ho where I played a couple weeks ago, it takes a lot of support to keep them great. This is the kind of place we need to have around both for fans to have a nice place to go as well as for bands to have accommodating places to play. If you’re interested in seeing great bands in a great environment then make sure to frequent places like this to make sure they stay around.
One last thing. I finally managed to get a Jazzlab Sax Holder and it arrived just in time for the gig. I actually tried it out for the first time on stage. I will post a full review very soon but I’ll say this (Spoiler alert!) I think it’s a keeper.
Last night the Crack Pack horns (same as the Retox Horns – Dave Makowiecki, Jim McFalls, and me) played with Crack the Sky at Ram’s Head Live in Baltimore. The place was absolutely packed and we had a great time. We played two of the songs we recorded for the most recent CD, Ostrich, as well as the “usual suspects” of Skin Deep, She’s a Dancer, Mind Baby, and I Am the Walrus from the Beatles (always the closer). I once again played the Cannonball Raven tenor because it’s really tight and the intonation is pretty well locked in. I am still having trouble with a sticky G# key that is really getting on my nerves but I’m getting better at prepping the horn to limit it as much as possible. I’m mostly annoyed because I took it back where I bought it to have them look at it, it took them ten days to get it done, and it’s still exactly the way it was. I’m going to take it to my regular tech soon.
I’m also getting ready to play some high-profile gigs with Jr. Cline and the Recliners. The first one is in two weeks at the Bethesda Jazz and Blues Supper Club in Bethesda, MD. I’ve played with Daryl before but it was with the smaller club band, This gig is the first of a series with a ten-piece group (three horns) and I’ll most likely be playing alto and bari (bari for sure but it looks like alto will be a double). I’m pretty much caught up to where I was years ago on the bari with the possible exception of some endurance but I’ve been practicing a decent amount on alto to make sure that’s up to speed as well. I was playing alto in New Monopoly but only on a couple of tunes a night. I’m liking it more and more. I just had my horn (Buffet 400) in to the shop for some adjustment and it feels awesome. I’m also really happy with the Phil-Tone Custom (now called an Aurora) that has been my main piece for a couple of years.
I have been writing a lot of charts to get ready for the gig because there is no Eb book and it’s just too mind-bendingly hard to sight transpose the Bb book for me. I am still using Muse Score for this because it’s both free and (at least for me) very easy to use. I like the fact that I can enter everything need with the computer keyboard and a mouse so I can work on charts wherever I have access to a computer. I’ve achieved a great comfort level with this entry method and can get through several tunes an hour if I’m not too distracted. I don’t even bother printing them out because I read everything from my iPad these days. I just export as a PDF, upload them to my Dropbox folder as a backup and then grab them from the pad. If I was doing more charts I would probably consider going for Sibelius but for my purposes, this free program does everything I need.
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.