Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 - The Year That Sorta Was

A year-end recap of my musical 2009:

--Finished one album, Saturation, and began another, to be titled The Structure Creates Itself. The latter album will have to wait until 2010, as I have been in procrastination mode lately. I think the new album will be worth the wait, based on what I have done so far.

--Furthered my commitment to improvised music. The music I recorded this Fall shows clear growth in my ability to create improvised music that doesn't sound so much like random noodling. I'm not the next John Coltrane, but I am growing in my ability to improvise beyond set licks and patterns.

--Wavered in my commitment to abandoning traditional forms of releasing music. When I created this site, my intent was to issue a steady stream of new music, images, and words without regard for how it would fit into album form. However, I remain attached to the album concept. It may be, however, that I need to get beyond the album format, since I do not charge for my music or play live. Or, perhaps, I will just issue new recordings as they are finished and then periodically declare the results to be an "album," for those who care about such things. That, however, is an issue for 2010, not for the present year-end recap.

--Finally got a non-suck guitar sound going, after all these years. Thanks to the Grendel Dead Room isolation speaker cabinet, I can now record real, honest-to-god guitar sounds that don't sound like the cheesy modeling amps on display at Guitar Center. I'm continually getting better at dialing things in, and you'll hear some really cool sounds on The Structure Creates Itself.

--Bought a shit ton of guitars. Frankly, at year's end, I cannot believe how many guitars I now own. It looks like a disheveled guitar store in my little studio. 2010 will be about cutting back the quantity while possibly increasing the quality. Also, we need another car around here at the Military-Industrial Recording Complex, so it would be nice to generate some cash.

--Saw many great concerts. A partial list includes Heaven & Hell, Chick Corea Trio, Stanley Clarke, Corea/McLaughlin, The Mahavishnu Project, Hiromi's Sonicbloom, Airto & Diana Moreira, Larry Coryell, Progressive Nation Tour 2009, Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings, jazz bassist Dave Holland, and Azar Lawrence & Benito Gonzalez. There were more, but my recall is bad at the moment.

All in all, my 2009 was probably better than it had any right to be. Happy New Year, and here's to a very musical 2010 for everyone.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Elegy

My grandmother-in-law, Mabel Carreon, passed away tonight after a period of illness. Upon hearing the news, I needed to record something that would both express my sadness and pay tribute to a lady for whom I had great affection.

Here it is, "Mabel The Cowgirl."




















The title is taken from a gift shop in Cheyenne, Wyoming. My wife and I immediately thought of Grandma Mabel upon seeing it, and I think we might even have gotten her a coffee mug or some such from there with the store's logo on it.

Happy trails, dear Grandma Mabel.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Too close to the fire

"Music is the healing force of the universe."

--Albert Ayler

In answer to a request for jazz listening suggestions on a guitar message board, I recommended Albert Ayler to someone. Talk about diving into the deep end of the pool...

I won't go into the sad, crazy tale of Mr. Ayler here, but his is a story of someone who could not separate art from life. And when the music in question sounds like a New Orleans marching band on acid, living that art all the time must have been overwhelming.

Ayler's music has a funny way of insinuating itself in your brain. A deranged form of joy. I know it is going to appear on my next album, which is amusing in the context of the mega-fusion piece I'm currently preparing.

I am absolutely stoked about where my music is going, and I need to mix up a teaser piece for your listening pleasure. It's all sitting unmixed in the recorder at the moment. I am such an idiot when it comes to self-promotion.


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Inspiration returns

I spent yesterday working on a free-funk improvisation. It's the first real musical work I've done in several weeks. I barely even picked up a guitar over that period.

Why does inspiration come and go so quickly? Some people, like Frank Zappa, seem permanently inspired to play and create. Zappa was notorious for staying awake for days on end doing nothing but writing little musical dots on the page. John Coltrane's recording career lasted only about 12 years, and yet he recorded a ridiculous amount of music. I'm not like that consistently, for whatever reason.

I was starting to feel old and used-up as a musician. When you've been a rock musician for 20+ years, it's hard to watch yourself get older and realize you really can be "too old to rock 'n roll, too young to die," as Jethro Tull memorably put it. That describes me pretty well, now. I've become less fond of all the posturing and bluster of rock music. Can any event where you need earplugs to participate be described as particularly musical?

My transition to quasi-jazz musician has helped, but not completely. Sometimes, I stop and realize that I'm now two years older than Coltrane lived to be. The difference is, I haven't achieved my "Giant Steps" or "A Love Supreme" yet. Hopefully, I'm a late bloomer.

A couple days ago, however, the positivity switch was activated. I finished up everything at my day job by staying late on a Friday night, and I felt a burst of life--I'd have the entire weekend to make music and desperately wanted to do just that. I was on such a high when I got home from work that my wife thought I'd been drinking.

I've been floating ever since. Maybe I'm musically bipolar.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Happy Rocktober!

Council of One is still alive, I can report.

I've gotten away from regular updates, which is unfortunate. There are a fair number of things to report--especially the riduculous amount of guitars and gear coming in the front door of my apartment. Some stuff needs to start going out the door, too. ;)

The great rackmount experiment continues unabated. I've now got a Yamaha T50 rackmounted amp and two new power amps (Peavey Classic 50/50 and Carvin DCM600) to go along with the Mesa Quad/50-50, Peavey Rockmaster and Fractal Audio Axe-FX setups.

No, I am not opening up a gear shop. Some of this stuff is going to go, but I want to try out a bunch of different stuff to go with the isolation cabinet. The Axe-FX has snuck its way back into use as my primary preamp, since it sounds great with the Peavey Classic 50/50 tube power amp. The Carvin DCM600 solid-state power amp doesn't do what I need and will get sold as soon as I get motivated. The Yamaha is my newest acquisition, but it might be a bit too powerful for use with my isolation cabinet. I need to experiment more with it.

Rackmount stuff is so cheap, that you really can afford to try things out without breaking the bank. So, you could say that the boutique amp snobbery of today benefits me indirectly, by making all the cool rack stuff unfashionable and therefore affordable.

On the music front, I am currently working on a new album of improvisations, called The Structure Creates Itself. So far, I've completed two trio pieces, which in my opinion absolutely blow away the stuff on Saturation. I've gotten so much better at free improvisation in the last few months just from practicing and thinking about how to do it, that I'm really excited about the future. I can't wait for people to hear this crazy shit I've got on the way.

The Structure Creates Itself will feature a wider variety of settings than Saturation did, including possibly a few programmed beats here and there. Not purely free-form, I guess, but interesting. The rest should be all free, including the percussion. Expect more textures and unusual sounds. It shouldn't be that long before I have the album finished, actually. I've got a three-day weekend coming up, and that's usually a good time to lock myself in the studio and get to it.

Friday, August 21, 2009

I bring you clips

Ladies and gentleman, I bring you...Guitar Tone! Two clips recorded with my new Mesa Quad/Fifty-Fifty rackmount setup. The only difference between the two is the channel on the Quad that I'm using. The good old Fractal Audio Axe-FX has been sent to the effects loop of my recorder and provides chorus and delay. I'm quite happy with the results so far, though I have more knob-twisting to do on the Quad before I get *that* sound.

Legato Funk v.4:



















Legato Funk v.3:
















Wednesday, August 19, 2009

I've got tone!

I've now gone from a tiny little guitar recording setup to a monster rack! I got a Mesa/Boogie Quad preamp to go along with the 50/50 power amp, and now I've expanded my rackmount setup to include an ART Digital MPA II mic/line preamp. I had to go get a bigger rack to hold it all, including my Axe-FX and Monster power conditioner. And I still have a little further to go with the rack, since I'd like to get an ISP Decimator noise gate. I'll talk more about how my setup works when I'm finished building and configuring it.

I haven't posted any clips of the Quad setup yet, since I'm still working on getting sounds. Working quite hard on it, actually. It's a tricky little bugger to work with, since the controls are all interactive and very sensitive. Minor changes have a big effect on the sound. It's getting there, however.

As for my trip to Portland last week, nothing particularly musical happened. I looked at a whole bunch of guitar gear and CDs and didn't buy a thing. Our little apartment is already too full to handle any more stuff, basically, and I've pretty much got all the guitars I need, though that can change... ;)

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Still workin'

Greetings, Internet. No, I haven't forgotten about you.

It's just, well, I've been busy. I got a Grendel Dead Room isolation cabinet a couple weeks ago and have been madly working on my guitar sounds ever since. For the first time ever, I actually have a decent recordable guitar tone.

Here's the problem. Now I've got all kinds of gear lust for various amplifier setups that I could never use before. Including lots of expensive old Mesa/Boogie gear. I've already got a Mesa 50/50 power amp to go along with my Axe-FX and Peavey Rockmaster preamps. The Rockmaster isn't cutting it, sorry to say, and the Axe-FX is sounding kind of digital--even though it sounds way better through a real power amp and speaker than it did direct into the mixing board.

I'm looking at getting an old Mesa preamp, either a Quad or a Studio, to go along with the 50/50. I'd like to get the Quad, since that has four channels of ungodly tone compared to the Studio's two. However, some folks say that the Studio has a little juicier tone. Tough to say. They are both '80s vintage preamps, essentially just the preamp sections of the legendary Mark IIC and Mark III amps from that decade. Those amps were used by everyone from Larry Carlton and Carlos Santana to Metallica and John Sykes of Whitesnake fame. So you know you can get some great tone.

The challenge is partially finding one in good condition with everything intact, including the unique, non-interchangeable footswitches. They're built like tanks, but gear wears out over time. I've got my eye on one, however.

Check out my SoundClick page, if you haven't done so recently, and you can hear a whole bunch of clips I've made with the Dead Room. I'm really quite happy with it, so far.

In other news, I had a hell of a musical weekend. On Saturday, I went to the Progressive Nation festival, featuring Dream Theater, Zappa Plays Zappa and Queensryche. Lots of proggy metal goodness, in addition to a healthy dose of Zappa music. However, Sunday was the kicker, when I went to see two sets by the great young fusion jazz keyboardist Hiromi Uehara. She is sort of what might happen if Chick Corea's musical spirit were to be transferred to a young Japanese woman. She's a dynamic performer and ridiculously talented. Her band is great, too. On guitar she has Dave Fiuczynski, who's a fusion guru who has been around a while--a master of fretless guitar and all kinds of unusual and difficult phrasing even on normal guitar. Tony Grey played bass, and I was very impressed with his combination of chops, pocket presence and melodicism. That was a great evening of music.

I'm still mulling over what sort of new musical ventures I want to do. Now that I have more solid guitar tones to work with, it's more enticing to do music that is heavier and a little more composed. Maybe a balance of composition of chaos? Whatever the case, I won't get started immediately, since I still have to sort the gear situation out, and I'll be visiting the folks in Portland, Oregon next week. I'll probably file another report from there, since something musical usually happens.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Quickie update

Just a quick note to show that I haven't died or given up the guitar etc.

I went to Bonnaroo a few weeks ago and managed to catch the BonnaFlu that usually goes along with it, so I've been sick and unmotivated for the last couple of weeks.

The highlight of Bonnaroo for me was seeing The Mars Volta live for the first time. I was already a fan of the albums, but holy crap, they are one of the most amazing live bands I've ever seen. I'll try to post more links 'n stuff later.

Since I got back, I managed to acquire a Peavey Rockmaster preamp and Mesa Boogie 50/50 power amp in preparation for getting an isolation speaker cab from Grendel Sound. Grendel doesn't seem to be the fastest-moving small business in the world, so I'm still waiting for it, but hopefully I'll have the cab within the next week or so. I want to get moving on some new musical ideas, and just make a whole bunch of crazy noise!

Monday, June 8, 2009

What's next?

So, now that I've let out my inner experimental Coltrane with "Saturation", where do I go from here? I'm going to pursue four threads:

--Big improvisation. Long-scale improvisations with massive amounts of overdubbage. At the moment, I've conceived of two ideas. The first is an atmospheric improvisation that has many layers but largely lays off the percussion. The second is a zillion layers of percussion with a focused guitar and bass in the top line. I'm not sure yet where this will go.

--Trio improvisation. Sort of like "Saturation", but my Modulus bass guitar gets to join the party. I could knock this out pretty quickly once I get my guitar sounds sorted out (see below).

--'70s blues/jazz/funk rock. Hendrix and Jimmy Page meet John Coltrane. This one will take awhile to happen, but I'm committed.

--'80s rock w/jazz influences. Big '80s hard rock bursting with melody and crunchy guitars, but not mid-scooped double-kick metal. I've been avoiding it for years, but the fact is that, musically speaking, I came of age in the '80s and can no longer deny it. Think Journey or Foreigner with jazz chords and minus the sappy vocals.

Have I committed myself to four albums? Not necessarily. These four threads could merge into a couple larger projects or fall apart entirely. I just wanted to let the readers know where I stand at the moment.

A note on my guitar sound. "Saturation" involves an extreme guitar sound that comes from my Axe FX preamp direct into the mixing board. I've tried the Axe Trak isolation speaker cabinet, and it sounded like ass. However, a company called Grendel Sound makes an isolation cabinet that seems like it might do what I need. I'm going to spend the $$$ to make it happen. If I could get the sound of a real guitar amp into a microphone, I'd be very happy. As an apartment dweller, this is difficult. Perhaps the Grendel Dead Room will do what I need. You'll find out soon. ;)

I'll be off to Bonnaroo next weekend. Don't know if I will post before then, but I'm sure that my experience at Bonnaroo will lead to many new musical insights that I'll be eager to share.

Peace out!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Saturation Time! And the blues, too.

Saturation album cover


Well, it's here. My newest album is finished and online for your listening amusement. You can check it out at my new BandCamp site. It's far from an easy listen, but I think anyone who likes Frank Zappa's guitar playing might be able to get into this.

BandCamp is just a great site for us musicianly types. I was able to upload all three of my albums in full and proper sound quality, and present them in a cohesive and artistically pleasing fashion. This doesn't render my SoundClick site entirely useless, however. I'm reserving BandCamp for completed album projects, while SoundClick will allow me to present oddball stuff and preview tracks before an album is completed. You can download music from my BandCamp site free of charge in both mp3 and FLAC format, which is full 100% original sound quality!

My last week has been quite busy musically. In addition to finishing up "Saturation," I acquired another Heritage Les Paul to go with my existing Heritage Black Beauty. The new one is a mellower sounding instrument, allowing me to get some Gary Moore-style warmth to go with the Black Beauty's metal craziness. Here's a pic of a portion of my guitar family, with my three Heritages up front, the new one on the left, and the Black Beauty in the middle:

Family shot 5-28-09

I'll get around to posting detailed pics and stories about all my guitars, eventually.

With my new bronze beauty and the Black Beauty, I recorded a new blues track to show off the sonic differences between the two guitars that otherwise look similar. Unfortunately, the sounds I used don't do a very good job of that. But I'm happy with the track anyway. It's called "Kalamazoo Blues," after the hometown of Heritage Guitars, which are made by former longtime employees of Gibson Guitars who stayed behind in the old factory in Kalamazoo, Michigan after Gibson moved its operations to Nashville. The Bronze Beauty is in the left channel, while the Black Beauty is screaming away in the right channel. Enjoy!

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Saturation Mix

Well, this time I came through on my promise. I finished four more guitar/drums duets this weekend--enough to round out an album of these. I did the mixdowns this evening and will master and upload them tomorrow.

But, you ask, haven't I abandoned the idea of the album? Isn't that what this very blog is supposed to facilitate? Well, sort of. However, I can't get over the album as a cohesive presentation of music. It's still a very convenient way to frame an hour's worth of music. And the hour of music I just completed is one I'm calling "Saturation", after the ridiculously saturated distortion that drenches the guitar sound on every single track. Way over the top. You've already heard six of the tracks on this site and can tell what I mean, hopefully. It's also "saturation" in the sense of trying to push things to the extreme of free playing. Just press play on the record and go for as long as feel like it. I imposed time limits in a few cases, but on others I just went where my mind would go.

This material will the first on my upcoming bandcamp.com site, which is a music site that allows artists to upload music in high quality, lossless form, with much longer permissible song lengths than SoundClick allows. It's pretty much made for what I do.

I'll have more to say about all this tomorrow.

Friday, May 15, 2009

I'm back, with music!

Hi, Internet! It's been awhile. I've been bad about not posting and not playing for the last month or so. Well, I've played a little bit, but I do need to get my chops going again. I'm hoping to get some more guitar/drums duets recorded this weekend, as well as maybe work on another long-form piece.

Speaking of long-form pieces, I finally got a file-sharing account going so I can share my long pieces with everyone. It's not as good as Music V2 was, but it does the job. Unfortunately, I can't post a link to a central page with all of the long pieces, so I'll have to post individual song links, as well as a streaming player for them. Right now, I only have "One Day in August" going on the site, but that's ok.

Here is the link where you can download One Day in August.

And here is One Day in August in the streaming player:


Wednesday, April 8, 2009

It's gone!

Well, Music V2 is officially a thing of the past now, so you can't download the full 48-minute version of "One Day in August" at the moment. I've been scouting around, and it turns out there are plenty of free file-sharing services available that will allow me to upload my long-form musical monstrosities for you. I've just got to choose the best one. I'll do that tonight, time permitting.

I've been practicing a whole bunch, and I'm starting to feel like a guitar player again. I'm eager to start recording some more music!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

NYC musical weekend

Had quite the musical time of it this past weekend. I went up to NYC to check out two shows by legendary Deep Purple/Trapeze singer and bassist Glenn Hughes. He's been a favorite of mine for many years, but I never got the chance to see him live until now. Simply awesome! While I was in New York, I also managed to catch a set by drummer Johnathan Blake's quintet at The Jazz Gallery. Johnathan is a fantastic jazz drummer who put together a smokin' band including Jaleel Shaw on alto sax, Chris Potter on tenor sax, Robert Glasper on piano, and Joe Martin on bass. All those guys are first-rate players who also lead their own bands. I saw Glasper's band a couple of years ago at Bonnaroo and knew I'd have to check this band out this weekend. Glad I did. The weekend was almost too much music to handle. And I can't forget the trip to the Downtown Music Gallery to pick up a whole bunch of avant-garde CDs. That place is dangerous to the bank account, man!

I haven't played anything myself for over a week now. I've just been feeling a bit hollow musically. Not sure why. Between the music I saw this weekend and reading Bill Bruford's illuminating autobiography, I'm starting to feel the need to create again. Being in NYC for even just a weekend clarified my love of exploratory music and my intense need to be musical. Now I just have to get back in the music room and get my guitar chops back.

In a slight bit of bad news, it looks like Music V2 is apparently going down the drain--that's where I host my long-form pieces that are too big for SoundClick to handle. I'm currently searching for an adequate replacement. My V2 page is still up, and you can still download from there at the moment, but I suspect that won't last long.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Sorry for the radio silence

I was having a bit of a dry spell, there. I've got the intro down for my little rock number that I mentioned last time, but that and the idea to use lots of cowbell throughout are about it. Fortunately, I spent a bit of time in the last few days playing both bass and guitar. The bass playing was inspired by seeing Stanley Clarke in concert this past week. He played acoustic upright bass only, but he might actually be better on that instrument than on electric bass, for which he is better known. His fingers absolutely fly across that big old bass fiddle!

Check this stuff out!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Rock out, man!

I'm starting work on a new rock instrumental. This is the first one of those I've done in a couple of years. I'm sure it'll have some jazzy bits, but I've been getting some of the rock feel back in the last few weeks and have the need to express that. I'm envisioning something fairly lean and mean.

To get myself in the mood, I just listened to a big dose of Kansas on the stereo. Great '70s, man!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

New songs: Millennial Muse Parts 1 & 2

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Millennial Muse Part 1:



















Millennial Muse Part 2:



















Yet more guitar/drums duet stuff. These are the first pieces that I've recorded with my Heritage Millennium DC semi-hollow guitar. I used the same amplifier setting as the other guitar/drums duets, so see if you can tell the difference. Personally, I think the Millennium gives a richer, more lustrous sound, but takes away a little bit of the bite that the Heritage Les Paul adds. Two different voices, and both very cool.

I'll have more to say about the Heritage Millennium, and all of my guitars, in the coming weeks. The weather is finally getting nice enough to do some outdoor photography of all my lovely guitars. I still intend to do a "Guitar of the Day" feature soon. Maybe I'll start tomorrow.

Friday, March 6, 2009

New songs: Prehistoric Fish Parts 1-3

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These are yet more guitar/drums duets, which I recorded last Wednesday but got too lazy to upload and glorify with artwork until tonight. Why call them "Prehistoric Fish"? Why the hell not?

I actually recorded all three guitar parts over the drum performance found on Part 1, but then recorded new drums for Parts 2 & 3, since I liked all three guitar performances and wanted them to shine separately.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

New song: Funkoverture

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I hope you like this one. I recorded most of it months ago but procrastinated on programming and recording the final drums until today. It's got layers of guitars over a mid-tempo funk beat. I recorded the clean rhythm and recurring melody with my parts stratocaster, the lead in the left channel with my Heritage Les Paul, and the lead in the right channel with my KXK 7-string. This was a tougher one to mix down, since there is a lot going on in the same frequency range. I used some funny EQ on the melody part to better distinguish it from the lead parts going over it.

I normally hate the process of programming drums, but this is the first time it didn't seem like pulling teeth. The complicated sequencer in my Yamaha Motif ES-6 keyboard gets easier to deal with as you use it more. I'm starting to think that more of this type of drum programming lies ahead, along with the live drumpad performances that go with my free jazz improvisations.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

What the hell was that?

Do you like how I just dropped off those little audio and visual nuggets on you last night without explanation?

Perhaps I should do a little explaining now. Actually, it's pretty simple. It's guitar. And drums!

I took the concept of the drum/guitar duet from John Coltrane's album Interstellar Space, which was a collection of duets he recorded with drummer Rashied Ali on a single day in February, 1967. I like the idea of having endless freedom on guitar to go wherever my mood takes me. The difficult lies in making the part something more than a bunch of random noodling. Recording this kind of duet requires a lot of thinking on the fly if you want the results to be musical.

The two versions of "Decaffeinated" are simply two different guitar takes that I overdubbed over the same clangorous drum part. The first version I recorded without any prep or forethought. It has a certain inspiration to it and is perhaps the smoother take. The second version introduces a basic melodic theme that recurs at various points, giving it more of a finished feel. The playing is hotter in the second version, also. If I was still doing albums, that would be the version I'd use. But since I'm not limited by the album format, I figured I should throw both versions out there for your amusement.

I call it "Decaffeinated" to celebrate the fact that this is the week I quit caffeine cold turkey. The reasons for doing that aren't germane here, but it did inspire both the title and the artwork--which is just a photo of a coffee cup taken on my dining room table, and then heavily tweezed in Adobe Illustrator. Lots 'o fun!

As a final note, I was just too damned tired this evening to record another duet, but hopefully I will do so tomorrow, and then work on a more developed piece this weekend.

Decaffeinated

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"Decaffeinated I":



















"Decaffeinated II":
















Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Getting ready for the aches and pains

I'm getting ready to do some actual recording tomorrow. I'm starting to feel mentally ready to tackle the challenges of a guitar/drum duet format. The main challenge is to make the guitar solo compelling enough to stand by itself with only drums clattering away in the background. What it really requires is absolute commitment and full attention. Playing a bunch of stock licks won't cut it. I think I'm ready.

I'm also finally starting to feel physically better again. I overplayed this weekend and gave myself a hell of a backache, as well as sore wrists and hands. Playing the way I do is taxing on a 41-year-old body. Add in the fact that I quit caffeine cold turkey yesterday (after several weeks of steadily decreasing my daily "dose"), and I was just a bloody mess yesterday. With the aches and pains, I didn't sleep well last night, so I was too tired to be musically productive tonight, other than an hour or so of getting into 'the zone' with the Les Paul. A nice confidence builder for tomorrow.

I'm going to be recording the Les Paul with a particularly nasty distorted setting on my Axe-FX preamp. Think Zappa at his best/worst. Of course, you the reader have almost no idea what my various guitars look like. To remedy that, I'm planning to start a Guitar of the Day series here with some pics of my babies. Some of which I may be giving up for adoption soon.

Monday, February 16, 2009

new guitar

This weekend I got a Charvel San Dimas II off of eBay. Maple neck, rosewood fretboard, and koa body, with a Wilkinson trem. I've been wanting a shredder with a non-locking trem for awhile, even though I've been playing my Soloist w/Floyd a bit lately. This Charvel has all the features I've been looking for. I'm not sure how long I will keep it--it's a cool guitar but I'm not sure the sound is right for me. Koa is a very "snappy" sounding wood that gives a heavy attack, and I'm more about the legato. I've been playing my Heritage Les Paul and semi-hollow a lot recently, and that seems to be the general direction I'm moving in. It may be that a big purge of guitars is in the offing, and this after I've already sold three in recent weeks. I'm starting to move away from the superstrat as my main type of guitar, and I simply do not need so many of that type.

I've been playing quite a bit recently and getting my chops hopefully into the best shape they've ever been. Right now, I'm toying with the idea of recording a bunch of guitar/drum duet pieces, inspired by John Coltrane's album "Interstellar Space." I just need to get the ball rolling on something. You may have noticed by now that procrastination is a problem for me. ;)

Friday, February 6, 2009

A day off, a day on

I'm taking the day off from work today, hopefully to get some music accomplished. I've got to get the drum stuff on "'Funkoverture" done--if for no other reason than to kick start the sort of "Interstellar Space" type weirdness that's building inside of me. Music for just guitar and drums.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Guitars flying out the door

I managed to sell three guitars on eBay this past week. Nothing near and dear to my heart. An ESP Maverick, an ESP Edwards SG (the one that balances badly), and a 1981 Carvin DC-200.

Why? I don't need the money--at least not imminently. I might end up buying another guitar with the resulting cash. Ok, I almost certainly will end up buying another guitar. It's an addiction. However, my most pressing need is space. I ran out of room in my little studio cave to store 12 guitars. I've still got several that I haven't played in a long time and probably will sell.

Emotionally, this is a good time to sell, since I haven't been in much of a mood to play guitar incessantly for several weeks now. I've still played and kept my chops at a respectable level, but I'm just not getting much inspiration from the muse at the moment. Guess this blows to hell my New Year's resolution to complete a song a day, huh? :)

You can't force creativity.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Wow, two whole weeks of silence...

Cue the sound of birds chirping...

Didn't mean to take off that long from posting. Haven't had too much going on musically until the past few days.

I saw Airto Moreira and his daughter (with his wife Flora Purim) Diana at Blues Alley on Saturday and Sunday. Nice show. Airto can take a tambourine and a microphone and entertain the hell out of you for way too long. He's also a fantastic drummer and good singer, too. Diana is an awesome singer--she teaches voice at some school in L.A. Flora was supposed to be at these shows, but she's taken ill, unfortunately.

I've got three guitars for sale on eBay (more about them soon), with the possibility of buying something fairly expensive to take their place (and at least one other guitar I'm going to sell). I'd like to get a guitar by master builder John Suhr, and there's one on eBay I've got my eye on. Basically a shredder guitar with a non-locking trem so that I can use my wimpy thin strings without snapping the high E string every time I try to tighten the locknut clamps on a Floyd setup. Haven't decided yet, but I could use a high-quality shred guitar for those times when I want to do the smooth Allan Holdsworth-style playing. Basically, an alto voice to the more robust tenor voice of my Heritage Les Paul.

I haven't recorded a damned thing, but I've been keeping my chops in decent shape. I just haven't been feeling all that inspired to get anything done, lately. It will pass. My New Year's resolution may be a bit over-ambitious, however.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

motivation

There are some evenings where I'm just not in the mood to accomplish anything. This is one of them. I think I'll just go noodle around on the Les Paul for a couple of hours. I'm going to have to get those damned drums done on "Funkoverture" one of these days...but not this day.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

The year to come

Perhaps there isn't much point to highlighting what I hope to accomplish musically in 2009, since I've already been talking about what I intend to do with this site--and that is essentially the plan for 2009.

Nevertheless, here are a few things I hope to do:
  • "Improvisation of the day." One of my goals is to record a large number of shorter improvised pieces throughout the year. I certainly won't be able to do one per day, but at least a couple per week should be possible.
  • At least 10 or 12 more composed and/or arranged pieces. These take time, obviously, but ongoing work should allow me to intersperse some cool compositions in amongst the improvised chaos.
  • Get the artwork portion of the project moving. I haven't done anything yet to start creating artwork for my music--of course, there hasn't been any new music yet to work with! My wife is going to buy me Photoshop as a belated Christmas gift, and that will help jumpstart the creative process. Illustrator is cool, but I get "blank page" syndrome trying to create artwork from scratch. Starting from a tweazed photo imported into Illustrator sounds like a hell of a lot of fun, doesn't it?
  • Improve the non-guitar portions of my recordings. I feel like my guitar playing has reached a high level in the past year or two, but my skills on bass, drumpads, and keyboards aren't high enough and are detracting from the guitar work. I don't expect to become an virtuoso bassist or keyboardist in the span of a single year, but I can improve the quality to a level that gets my music where it needs to be.
  • Start proper practice on the drums. My Roland V-Drum kit is the entry-level version and ain't nuthin' to write home about, but it's certainly good enough to start learning with. I've got some instructional materials, and I need to get going both on my snare rudiments and on getting coordinated on the full kit. My goal is to be able to record something useful on drums by the end of the year. This might be the most difficult of my goals to actually accomplish. I know enough right now to be able to play some basic beats, but there's a reason why there are never enough good drummers around...it's tough!
  • Spend a lot more time experiencing live jazz and other experimental music. Frankly, I don't get that big a charge anymore from going to rock concerts. I've seen it all and done it all. To get my fix nowadays, I need to see musicians creating things on stage, and not merely recreating things. Not to say that I will avoid rock shows, but that's not my focus anymore. I also need to spend more time at the Kennedy Center absorbing some classical music. Classical and jazz CDs are great, but the heat from a live performance is a zillion times greater. More so than for rock music, believe it or not. Rock records are so 'produced' that the live experience can often be disappointing by comparison. Obviously there are many exceptions to that rule.
Wow, that's an ambitious schedule, eh? I'm sure there will be many roadblocks and difficulties, but setting high goals isn't a bad thing. I hope everyone out there gets everything they wish for in 2009.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Year-end recap

Normally, one should do a blog recap of the past year on the last day of that year, but somehow I didn't get around to it, so I might as well do it now. Tomorrow I will talk about the year to come.

2008 was a momentous year for me, musically. Here are the highlights:
  • I released a CD, One Week in December, early in the year and later recorded and Web-released another album, One Day in August, as well. Since my entire musical output from 2000 through November, 2007 didn't consist of even an album's worth of material, I'd say that's a dramatic improvement. I mostly attribute the reason for my newfound productivity to the next point:
  • I largely let go of heavy metal, guitar gunslinging and other youthful notions. In the previous three to five years, I underwent an early and gradual midlife crisis by re-embracing metal as my primary musical genre, growing my hair out again, and unsuccessfully trying out for a metal band (albeit a really good one). 2008 was the year I got past all that and found a musical identity that works for me as I enter middle age (see more below). I also mostly got past the need to continually try to demonstrate virtuosity on the guitar. I still like to play complicated stuff, but my new music allows me to create a better sense of melodic line and to play improvised parts that work as music, and not mere demonstration.
  • I let my inner jazzhead out. Embracing jazz as my primary musical inspiration has liberated me. To be honest, this process started a couple of years ago, but 2008 was the year I was able to stop trying to fuse my jazz influence with my earlier musical inclinations, such as metal and prog, and just let it be what it is. That said, I discovered this year that I am NOT a jazz musician, per se. I probably wished to be described that way in 2006-07. However, through research and discussion with jazz-oriented folks, I discovered that I don't think like a proper jazz musician or have that background. Instead, I have appropriated modal-, free- and fusion-jazz concepts in the service of a new and unnamed improvisational musical identity. Maybe in 2009 the name reveals itself.
  • I discovered many new artists to inspire me. Topping the list would have to be Flora Purim (whom I've already written about) and free-jazz saxophonist Sam Rivers. I bought so many damned CDs by my new inspirations in 2008 that I no longer have room to store them all! My collection now has multiple albums by artists like George Duke, Weather Report, Ornette Coleman, Herbie Hancock, and so many others who I didn't know much about before or only barely listened to. The jazz-rock of the 1970s is a much bigger genre than I had previously figured. That's where my heart and soul is, now.
  • My taste in guitars changed dramatically in 2008. One Week in December was recorded mostly with a Jackson Soloist Pro, with minor parts played on two guitars that I no longer own--an Agile Interceptor Pro and a Hamer Echo-Tone. Since about mid-year, my metal-oriented Jacksons and ESPs have mostly been relegated to their cases and been replaced at the center of my universe with more traditional electrics, including my Heritage Black Beauty and semi-hollow, and a homemade parts Stratocaster. These are the guitars (as well as my trusty old ESP Mirage) that I used to record One Day in August. A complete turnaround. I'm even getting into Gibson SGs, a guitar I had disliked for the better part of 20 years.
  • I rethought my way of presenting music to the public. My goal for many years had been to produce a high-quality album for release as a proper CD. I accomplished that at the end of 2007 and early 2008, but found the experience to be dissatisfying. Not only did I sell only two (2) copies, but I discovered that publicizing such personal and genre non-specific music is fruitless. People in the 'industry' want their music in nice, neat little boxes. I need to write more about this in the future. Creating this web site and devoting myself to a continual stream of musical and visual exploration (it's coming, really!) has turned out to be more satisfying. For the first time, I feel like I've broken the emotional chains of trying to play a little walk-on part in the musical 'industry.' I don't need 'em or want 'em.
I could go into even more detail about my musical year of 2008. I didn't even get into the concerts I attended. But I hit all the important points.

I hope everyone has a wonderful and very musically uplifting 2009. Happy New Year!!!

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