Saturday, July 13, 2013

Mid-year update

It's the early days of summer now, about a week after the 4th of July, coming up on the All-Star break in major league baseball. I've been pretty busy since the year began. I've been working on spinning up a trio with bassist and vocalist Adrian McMahon. We've found a drummer who seems to be working out, we've been working out repertoire, and we're starting to sound pretty good. For the first time I am doing a significant amount of vocalizing, which is something I have been successfully avoiding for most of my life, ever since someone told me many, many years ago that I shouldn't try to sing - that I should just stick with the guitar playing. That really stuck in my gut and every time I've tried to push past it over the years, I always fell short and backed off from it. So it feels gratifying to have it start coming together, finally. I am singing pretty simple backing parts on a number of songs, and singing lead on one so far, a couple more pretty soon.

I have also been trying to put together a workable jazz trio. It's been hard to get off the ground but I have a bass player and a drummer interested. My notion is to play together and record it, and from that come up with a demo that I can use to shop it around and find some gigs. Ideally I'd prefer a classic organ trio format, where the organist can play bass, chords and melodies and solo as well. Guitar/bass/drums is cool but it leaves me having to work a lot harder.

Meanwhile, SNUG has not had much action this year, alas. There was a private party in June, and another benefit show coming up in August, but so far that's it.

On the recording front, I continue to have several things hovering in varying degrees of completion, including a couple of Weather Report tunes. One is "Cucumber Slumber," on which my son David plays drums. We recorded the basic tracks a year ago when he was home from school for the summer and we still had his uncle Ted's drum set in the house. I've overdubbed bass and a few guitar parts, and it's close to being ready if I could only find the time to finish it. The other two are "Mysterious Traveler" (which I've been threatening for years to work up as half of a medley combined with the Meters' "Cissy Strut"), and "Black Market," which I've wanted to learn for many years and finally have.

All this, along with working on solo playing and trying to find some cycles to also write some material of my own, leaves me with an overly-full plate, considering I'm trying to keep all these balls rolling while also working about 45-50 hours a week at my new (as of April 1st) day job.

There was a fun jam that Stan Erhart had going in a bar in San Mateo, just a little over a mile away from home, on Sunday nights, but after several months, the bar pulled the plug on it in late June. I attend the Wednesday night jam at the Club Fox only once in a great while, and so far have still not made it back this year to the Sunday early-evening jam at the Pioneer in Woodside and some of the other jams that I have been to only once or twice (especially the Thursday Grand Dell jam in Cupertino, which has turned out to be a pretty big deal). Jamming is sometimes a lot of fun and sometimes not, but it is time-consuming, too, and the other stuff I outlined above is more important to me.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Jamming at the Fenix Supper Club

There's an interesting new venue up in San Rafael that opened earlier this year. It's a somewhat upscale supper club with live music. On Wednesdays they have a "Pro Blues Jam." My friend, bassist extraordinaire Michael Oliver Warren, is in the house band, and told me I should check it out sometime. Being so far way, and on school night, I hadn't yet taken the opportunity to do so. But then the first week of July arrived. Wednesday night was the 3rd, so the next day was a holiday. So I took the opportunity to throw a guitar in the car, pick up my fellow jam-hound Jeff Kamil, and drive north across the Golden Gate to see what was happening there at the Fenix Supper Club.

It was a bit of a strange experience. The music room is the dining room and it was completely full of people with reservations eating dinner. We had to wait in the bar, where at least we could see the band via the same camera feeds that were streaming the video over the ‘net. (Yes, it turns out they stream the shows at the Fenix and archive them after the performance. Here's the video with me in it, singing and playing on Bill Wither's song "Use Me." My appearance starts about 10:20 after the beginning of the video.) We each had a burger, a good one, if rather pricey, had a beer, and watched. Later we managed to be able to sit at the far back of the dining room, and that was an improvement.

The house band started about 8:15 (the Fenix website says 7:30). They have a “theme” each week. This one was “Stevie Ray Vaughan Night,” which I presumed meant the host band’s set this night would be culled from material associated with Stevie Ray Vaughan, as indeed it was.

The host band played about an hour, then opened the second set with an instrumental by the guitarist. Then they called up me and a drummer. (You can see the drummer in that video shortly before we started to play, expressing some consternation that we weren’t about to do a SRV song. I guess he thought the jammers were restricted to calling SRV tunes, which was reasonable based on the information provided.)

After that song, I left, the drummer remained, and Jeff got called up. He got one song too. Later there was a young woman that sang three jazz standards, followed by older gentleman that sang three soul songs. We left around then, it was something like 11:30. Not sure how much longer it went on.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Never clone alone

Early this year I finally got a really nice guitar amp again (after selling my wonderful old 1967 Fender Deluxe Reverb a couple of years ago). It’s a clone of a 60’s blackface Fender Vibrolux Reverb, crafted by King Amplification of Santa Clara. They didn’t just copy the circuit with the nominally-specified component values, they measured the actual values from a particularly sterling, great-sounding, actual 60's Vibrolux and used that as a baseline. (Values of those cheap resistors and caps and such typically had something like a 15% variation in actual measured value, plus they would change over time. So some of those amps sounded particularly sweet sort of by accident.) In building the clone they used better-grade components that have much tighter tolerances and won’t change much over time, so the amp came to life sounding killer and should stay that way.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

OMG, it's 2013 already!

Yipes, once again time bunched up under me and then popped forward to now, and suddenly it's nearly six months since I wrote anything here... A lot has gone by.

Concerts: I saw Gretchen Parlato at Stanford on August 1st, shortly after the Lionel Loueke show described in my last post... I saw the Tedeschi Trucks Band at the Mountain Winery (I'll post links soon to a couple of videos I took and put up on YouTube)... I saw Wayne Krantz again, finally, at Yoshi's in San Francisco on October 7th... am I forgetting another show or two?

My own playing: SNUG played a gig on July 28th and another on December 1st... I also played a solo gig at a private event using the Godin nylon-string and it went very nicely... I did some recording again with my son David on drums over the summer, the Weather Report tune "Cucumber Slumber," I'm still working on overdubbing all my parts (electric bass and guitars)... I'll post it on SoundCloud as soon as it's ready... and, since late in the year, I've started what hopefully will turn out to be a fun new project. Also late in the year, Stan Erhart started a new jam session on Sunday nights right in my home town at McGovern's Bar. Hopefully it will last because it's so convenient, and I often get to play with some really good rhythm section players...

More anon as soon as I get a chance. I'm hoping 2013 will provide more chances for me to get out and play...