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


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!!!