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)
Well it’s been a weird couple of weeks for me. May was not a very busy month at least for playing gigs. I only had the one gig and that was a pick-up last minute wedding gig. I was supposed to have another one but the club (who shall remain nameless – although they may well be out of business before you get to see this) seems to be falling on hard times and the gig was cancelled at the last minute. I just have a couple of things to post about and an update or two.
Feast or Famine
Why is it that gigs always pile up when you have to choose only one rather than spreading out so you can take them all? This is a phenomenon I have noticed for years and it’s maddening at times. For instance, I thought I had a gig on the 18th but one of the bands I used to play with years ago called me up to sub on the same night. I had to turn them down but then the gig got cancelled so I got right back in touch to see if I could still take it…only to find out the regular guy had gotten his conflict worked out after not being able to find a sub. If I had known that the one gig was going to be cancelled I would have been working that night. Instead I found myself sitting at home with nothing to do. The same is true for this weekend. I’m playing the Crack the Sky show on Saturday night but the leader of one of my absolute favorite bands to sub with, The Junkyard Saints, called me for the same night. Again, if they were spread out instead of all falling on the same night I would be a happier camper…and have more money in my pocket to boot. I’m sure it’s all just a cognitive bias on my part but sometimes it just doesn’t feel fair. 🙂
I have more reviews I want to post in the coming weeks and months but I’m just not quite ready to do it yet. I really like to have time to put a thing through its paces before committing a review to the web. I still need to post a full review of my new Cannonball tenor as well as my take on the Jazzlab Sax Holder. I may be ready on both after this weekend so look for some updates soon. I also want to dig into a couple of reviews on two instructional DVD’s I’ve been checking out. Both are by George Garzone but one is more straight ahead and is very advanced and the other is about playing funky and feels approachable by almost anyone who has a basic knowledge of theory. Finally, I want to post more horn, mouthpiece, and EWI patch reviews and commentary as well.
FINALLY, Some Gigs!
After being idle for the last couple weeks, it looks like June is starting to pick up and that’s a good thing. As I mentioned above I have the Crack the Sky show on Saturday at a place called Blob’s Park in Jessup, MD. This is an all-day festival connected to Dick Gelfman’s Ride Across Maryland which is a charity fundraiser for breast cancer awareness. Crack the Sky is one of the headliners along with Baltimore hard rock mainstay, Kix. On Sunday Technicolor Motor Home will take the stage at the Charles Village Festival near the Baltimore Museum of Art at Wyman Dells. We’ve been playing this festival for several years and before that we used to play it with many of the same people in a band called Expensive Hobby. It’s a great event that is very family friendly. The only issue is whether mother nature will cooperate because they are expecting thunder storms on Sunday in our area.
It’s been a while since I posted and there are quite a few reasons for that. I was in South Korea on a business trip and the jet lag coming home really hit me hard. I was home for a week but I really didn’t feel very well the entire time. I followed that up with another business trip to San Francisco for the Game Developer’s Conference. I got back from that on Saturday morning (the 30th) and had a gig in Leesburg, VA that night and then another one on Sunday afternoon. When that was all done, my family and I went on vacation to Ocean City, MD for a couple days. The end result is I didn’t get a whole lot else done and that definitely included the blog. I’ll try to get back on track starting with this post.
The two gigs were a lot of fun. I played with Technicolor Motor Home in Leesburg, VA at a club called the Tally Ho (here is their FB page). The Tally Ho is a relatively new club that opened in an old movie theater in downtown Leesburg. I think it’s only been open for about 8 months but they are off to a great start. They’ve had (and continue to have) lots of great artists in to play. The staff is incredibly nice and everyone seems to know exactly what to do. The club has its own PA and lights as well so you can travel light to get there. We had a pretty decent crowd considering we were very new to the area and they more than made up for the number with their enthusiasm. We also had a great young singer/songwriter named Andrew Sales (can’t find his web presence anywhere right now) open up for us and he did an outstanding job. One very cool thing was the owner of the venue came up and talked to each of us at the end of the night. He’s a really nice guy and it was a very nice touch that was much appreciated. Here’s a video from the gig but the sound is a little weird because the camera was just picking up some monitors and not the mains:
Also of note for that gig was we had three subs for the gig: one of the guitars and both backup singers. The band still sounded great even though there were a couple of interesting moments. 🙂 It’s a tribute the musicality and professionalism of the whole band but especially to Andy Shriver (guitar), Amber Letters, and Jen Smith (vocals) as they were right there with little or no rehearsal time.
On Easter Sunday we did something a little different. One of the big concert venues in my area, The Recher Theatre, is closing its doors as a concert venue and reopening as a dance club. It is a sad circumstance but many musicians and bands took the opportunity to pay tribute to a great club that had meant tons to our careers and to support charity at the same time. I think there were over 20 bands involved and the festivities started in the early afternoon and went all the way to closing. Many of the Technicolor folks were tied up with it being Easter and all so we created a miniature version of the band that we called Technicolor Mini Van for the event. It was Glenn Workman on keys and lead vocals, Ben Sherman on guitar, Mark St. Pierre on drums, Anthony Setola on bass, and me on tenor. We ended up going on early so we had a little bit more than the usual allotted time (30 minutes) to perform. We were able to cover a lot of ground and it was extra fun because we really opened the solo sections up quite a bit. I don’t know if there is any audio from our portion but I’ll try to find out. As I said, I’m very sad to see this hall go away but I’m thankful for all of the years we had to play there and for the great care they gave us. Special thanks to house sound man Keith Nachodsky for making everything sound great over the years and for spearheading this wonderful event.
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 had a really great night on Friday. I was playing with Technicolor Motor Home at the Recher Theatre in Towson, MD. This band is one of my greatest pleasures right now. First off, it’s a great bunch of musicians and a tremendous bunch of people to hang out with. It’s incredibly gratifying for me to be included in such a wonderful group. Second, the band is a tribute to Steely Dan but rather than trying to go the whole “Beatlemania” route and dressing up in costumes, we are content to be a tribute to the band’s live concerts. That means we are doing arrangements that are in many cases more complex than what was done in the studio recordings and we’re also able to solo much more freely rather than trying to mimic whatever was played on the original recordings…not that there’s anything wrong with Tom Scott, Pete Christlieb, Wayne Shorter, and Chris Potter but Walt Weiskopf and Cornelius Bumpus really pushed the envelope in the live shows. Another great thing is that the fan reaction to the band has been phenomenal. Of course, we don’t get to play together too often since people would get sick of us doing the same music over and over. Also a group of people this talented and sought after in the area (and a large group at that) is very hard to schedule. So it goes without saying that we end up cherishing the time we do spend together.
Playing behind the “mastermind” Glenn Workman.
One more thing, above and beyond all that, this band has probably the finest total package horn section I have ever had the pleasure to work with. The Retox Horns, Dave Makowiecki, Jim McFalls, and I seem to have a rather special bond when we play together as a section and our ability to have fun while hanging out is second to none. We originally started playing together in another band called Expensive Hobby and have been together as a section for at least 5 or 6 years but I think it’s been longer. Currently, we are the section in TMH as well as for a band called Crack the Sky (where we are called the Crack Pack Horns). We’ve also been together in the studio for a few very fun projects recently. I’ll have more on that as details become more available.
We tried to do our soundcheck as quickly as possible because some good buddies of ours were playing a block party type thing right down the street from us and we wanted to check them out. Rumba Club is an outstanding group featuring some of the absolute best jazz and latin players in Maryland if not anywhere. The band is always a great musical experience to see and it’s never less than a blast of a hang. If you ever get the chance to see this band please make sure you do it. We only got to hear a couple songs but it was worth the effort and a couple of the guys came over to see our show when they were done which was very nice of them.
Food was provided by the club…I had a turkey burger. 🙂 In deep rotation in the dad van this week is the new Pat Metheny album called Unity. Pat Metheny and Chris Potter playing together…how can you pass that up?