Thursday, January 24, 2019

Winter 2019 news

It's a new year! Here's a few things that have been going on and are coming up.

  • No Static, after a bunch of summer and autumn gigs, tapered off a little around the holiday season, but now our calendar is "filling up" again, with a date at the Vinyl Room in Burlingame on January 11 to start us off, two in February and three in March...
  • The erstwhile jamming entity consisting of guitarist Jeff Kamil, the bassist know to some as PJ, and drummer Tom DeFiglio, are going to get together in early March for our first throwdown of 2019.
  • No updates on Lea & Co., we fell into a long hiatus around the holidays.
  • My infrequent appearances at Stan Erhart's weekly jam session at the American Legion Coastside Post 474 in Princeton-by-the-Sea continue to be pretty infrequent, about once every six or seven weeks. But I always have a good time, sometimes a great time... I really should go more frequently.
  • I've been slowly but surely working my way through some of the gigantic mountain of educational material I have. Really enjoying some of the videos I got from TrueFire.
  • Still nothing new to announce re recording projects, dammit.

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

Spring & summer update

Busy few months gone by there! Here's a summary (or summer-ry, if you will):

  • No Static, after a couple of gigs in June (San Mateo County Fair and the American Legion Coastside Post 474 in Princeton-by-the-Sea), had a very full August with six gigs – Pedro Point Brewing in Pacifica, Freewheel Brewery & Pub in Redwood City, the Burlingame On the Avenue street fair, the Wine Room in Moss Beach, Winters Tavern in Pacifica, and Scopo Divino in San Francisco.
  • In addition, in August I played a wedding with the terrific singer Le Perez and Jeff Moles on upright bass, and a gig with Jon Rubin at the Cigar Bar & Grill in San Francisco.
  • Sharon Lea has emerged from her hiatus and expressed interest in re-estblishing Lea & Co., as a duo again, so we've started to shake off the dust and we've scheduled an afternoon soon to record a few demos.
  • The erstwhile jamming entity consisting of Jeff Kamil, the bassist know to some as PJ, Tom DeFiglio, and myself managed to play together one Sunday in early July. I recorded it, and there were some nice moments, so I might go through and cull out a few clips to post on my SoundCloud page.
  • I had a lovely jamming session with bassist Scot Larsen and drummer Jesse Van Hiller in May; hope to do it again soon, but it's hard to find a time that works for us all.
  • Speaking of jamming, my infrequent appearances at Stan Erhart's weekly jam session at the American Legion Coastside Post 474 in Princeton-by-the-Sea continue to be pretty infrequent, about once every six or seven weeks. But I always have a good time, sometimes a great time... I really should go more frequently.
  • Aside from a small burst of recording several practice tracks in May for a planned playing party with my drumming friend Jeff O'Rourke that still has not taken place, I've done precious little recording. I've taken to watching too many Yankees baseball games since accidentally re-upping for MLB TV for the 2018 season.  Come October I'll have no such excuse until next March... But there are a couple of things I've been working up, maybe I'll get to them a bit. I have a solo arrangement of Jaco Pastorius' "Continuum" and a couple of other pieces with backing tracks, including Wayne Shorter's "Palladium," which I've been working on. 
  • Finally, in the Sound Toys department...
    • my most recent doohickey is the Electro-Harmonix Freeze Sound Retainer pedal, which allows you to record an instant slice of sound – for example, the initial strike of a chord – and have it continue as long as desired. It will take me some time and practice to become adept at using it, but it promises to be a helpful thing for playing solo guitar. I can, for example, play a harmony at the top of a section and then let it hang in the air as I improvise over it, and then drop that one and grab another moment as the chords change...
    • I have also tried to start actually learning how to use my Digitech JamMan Stereo looper that I've had for some time now. I've been interested in the possibilities of looping for some time but the learning curve has kept me at the threshold, never getting past the "quick start" section of the manual. To inspire me, I got a video course from TrueFire called "The Creative Looping Handbook," presented by Robbie Calvo, which I've been working my way through.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

A new year

It's the middle of January 2018... days are starting to get longer as we slouch toward spring. Latest music stuff:
  • No Static played a Sunday late afternoon gig at Winters Tavern in Pacifica. We hope to get a bunch more soon. I finished mixing one remaining leftover track from the August recording session, the Steely Dan tune "Black Cow," and added it to our SoundCloud playlist.
  • Lea & Co. played a private Christmas party in early December, but Sharon has decided to put it on the shelf for the moment for personal reasons. Hopefully we'll be back before too long.

Saturday, October 07, 2017

Autumn leaves

It's early October... you would hardly know it outside right now (an early Saturday afternoon), it's in the mid-seventies, but lately there's been more of a morning chill, and the light at dusk is beginning to get that fall thing going on...

Recent music stuff:
  • the Scott Goldstone band project, now called No Static, recorded some demos (mixed by moi) and popped up a website. We had a nice gig two weeks ago at the San Benito House in Half Moon Bay, and we have two more on the calendar in the next couple of months.
  • Demos for Lea & Co. are up on the website, but we've been on a bit of a hiatus, as one of us had sadly had a death in the family. We should be getting back to business soon.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Midsummer update

Lots going on this year so far...

First off, I'm still accompanying vocalist Sharon Lea, but the Sharon Lea Duo has morphed into Lea & Co. with the addition of bassist Jeff Moles. We're folding Jeff in to our repertoire and it's going very nicely. The cool thing for me is that when I do my instrumental improv sections in the tunes, I don't have to keep the whole ball of wax in the air – I can rely on the rhythm and the bass line being there and I can play more freely, which is both more fun for me and sounds better. Our website will soon be available and there will be a few demo recordings, which we laid down about a week and a half ago and which I am currently mixing. I'm looking forward to getting out there and playing with this ensemble.

Secondly, the Scott Goldstone Band has been in a little bit of a hovering state, as several of us have had summer vacations that have interrupted our usual rehearsal schedule a bit. But we've continued to learn some new material, and it looks like we have found a sax player to augment the band. Last week we recorded some raw demos and we're going to clean them up and get them mixed after Scott returns from his overseas vacation. We also hope to settle on a name and get a website together by the end of August, get back on track, and take it to the street. I'm very excited about this group and I look forward to the autumn.

The guitar duo with Jeff Kamil has had two gigs so far this year, with another couple likely coming up at the Madrigal Family Sausalito Wine Tasting Salon & Gallery. We haven't attempted to find other places to play, and with the other projects I have going on there's very little opportunity for us to rehearse at all or think about it much. But we'll see... there's definitely potential there.

Finally, I have played a couple of Bread 𝄞 Roses gigs with acoustic finger-style guitarist Jon Rubin. He's also invited me to two gigs coming up soon, which are on my calendar at my website.

One thing that I've learned for sure over the last couple of months – when you have a full-time day job and then you add not one band but three or four, the paucity of time you can devote to the music becomes jarringly obvious! But I'm not complaining! (Yet...)

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Allan Holdsworth 1946-2017

On a Sunday morning in mid-April I was looking at Facebook and was appalled to see a message from Allan Holdsworth's family that the great guitarist had passed away at the age of 70.
Allan Holdsworth performing with the band UK in Central Park, NYC in 1978 – I was at this show!
It hit me like a ton of bricks. He was one of my all-time favorites. (If you don't know anything about Holdsworth, read this excellent obituary from the NY Times.)
I don't want to write another huge essay about his entire career, so I'll restrict this to the early part of his career up until the late seventies.
I've been a devout fan of his since the early seventies, when I first picked up an album by the British rock band Tempest, curious about what drummer Jon Hiseman's new project was like. I put it on the turntable... and by the time it was over I was enthralled.
Here's the tune that really grabbed me – in his solos and fills, Holdsworth played without cliches – notes that no one else would have chosen, interval leaps that no one else could have conceived – all with an astonishing melodicism, speed and fluidity that was way beyond any guitar player I had ever heard:
He was also a violin player at this point in his career, and the intro on the last track of the Tempest album was a thing of beauty:
The first time I saw Allan play was a sheer accident — I went with some friends to see Renaissance, a mostly-forgotten British progressive rock band, at the old Academy of Music in NYC. The opening act was Soft Machine. We arrived a little late and the lights were down and the band had already started playing. As the usher flashlighted us to out seats, the guitar player started a solo, and I stopped dead in my tracks with my jaw dropping... "Wow! Who is the guy?" I thought. At the time I wondered if it could be Ollie Halsall, another fantastic British guitarist who I was aware of. In retrospect I'm amazed that I didn't guess that it could be Holdsworth. A few days later I found an import copy of Soft Machine's new album Bundles at a record store, and the guitarist's identify became known to me. Of course I bought it immediately. Here's the two tracks that feature Allan most prominently:
Just a few months later, Allan's profile was raised when he joined the great drummer Tony Williams in his New Lifetime band in 1975. They recorded their first album, Believe It! One of Allan's compositions that appears on the album remains for me one of the best examples of almost everything about him, with the exception of the signature chordal passages he was noted for in his solo bands later in his career. It's called "Fred."
I saw that band perform twice – or was it three times?
Some of Holdsworth's best recorded performances were as a sideman. Here's a Jean-Luc Ponty tune from his 1977 album Enigmatic Ocean, which features a beautifully-constructed guitar solo starting at right about the 3:00 mark:
In 1977 Holdsworth also joined drummer Bill Bruford's band and recorded the album Feels Good to Me:
Bruford and Holdsworth then teamed up with bassist John Wetton and violinist/keyboardist Eddie Jobson to form the band UK. I saw that band perform at the Schaefer Music Festival in Central Park in Manhattan in the summer of '78, shortly before leaving NY to move out to California. Check out his beautiful solo in the song "In the Dead of Night" starting at about 3:08:
Feeling constrained by UK (it was reported that Wetton and Jobson wanted him to replay his improvised solos from the album note-for-note in their concerts), he left after that tour, and in 1979 he appeared on a second Bill Bruford album, One of a Kind. Check out this his solo in the final section of the great tune "The Sahara of Snow" starting around 5:22:
Over the next few years, Allan started leading his own bands and recording albums under his own name. I saw him several times in the years since. One of those shows was a Tony Williams tribute project that reunited him with keyboardist Alan Pasqua from the Tony Williams Lifetime days. A double CD and a DVD of their performance at Yoshi's in Oakland was released in 2008. You can find video on Youtube:
The last time I saw him was again at Yoshi's, in a trio format with bassist Jimmy Haslip and drummer Virgil Donati. Early this year I'd heard he was doing some performing again and I was hoping to see him up here again soon. Alas, that was not to be.
I've gone on too long so I'll wrap this up here. If any of you that have stumbled on this and were not aware of Holdsworth, I hope maybe some of these links have been inspirational and made you want to find out more.
Requiescat in pace, Allan, and thank you for the music.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Another music project

I also should mention that I'm playing from time to time in a duo with my guitar-playing friend Jeffrey Kamil, doing some jazz standards. We have played two gigs so far this year, both at the artist receptions at the Madrigal Family Winery Sausalito Tasting Salon & Gallery. The two of us also sometimes get together with our friends Tom DeFiglio on drums and PJ on bass and play some similar material just for fun.

Upcoming gig – Friday, May 12 at The Wine Bar in Moss Beach

The still-unnamed cover band I joined recently will be playing our first gig on Friday, May 12 at the The Wine Room in Moss Beach, just a little north of the Half Moon Bay Airport, one block to the east of Highway 1,  from 7-9pm.

Fronted by Scott Goldstone, a fantastic keyboardist and vocalist, we'll be doing  R&B-flavored material like "Ain't No Woman (Like the One I've Got)" by the Four Tops, "I Can't Go For That" by Hall & Oates, "Freddie's Dead" by Curtis Mayfield, "Trouble Man" by Marvin Gaye, "Home At Last" and "Black Cow" by Steely Dan, and many more. Tom Josa on bass and Dennis O'Keefe on drums round out the personnel. Come check us out if you are in the area!