Inside: It’s been a long time since I posted a new song on the blog; Apparently I feel like writing; The class musician; Why am I writing a pretentious autobiographical music bio in this entry???
It’s been a long time since I’ve posted any of my music on this blog. Not sure why that is. Well, yes I am. But I really like this one, if I do say so myself, and it’s really close to where I want it to be. I could hear Seal doing this one. It’s kind of Zero 7-ish maybe? (call me)
It’s a Compulsion. I can’t help it. If I wanted to. I wouldn’t help it. Even if I could.
My grades slipped a fair amount in my last year or two of college. It was because the more responsibilities I had and the more work I had to do, the more artistically inspired I became. I used a drum machine, keyboard and guitars to make not-so-good music. Good ideas and some moments but overall — eh.
I had lunch once with Quincy Jones and some CCRMA big whigs (thanks to Denise Coley so much for all of the mentoring, help and support, by the way). Some dudes working at the Stanford restaurant saw him and asked if they could send him a demo tape. He said yes.
I think I had a cassette tape of my stuff in my pocket — computer printed labels, high-speed copied one at a time on a boom box — but I knew. Not ready at all. I just kept mostly quiet and enjoyed the experience. Mr. Jones had some interesting insight into Michael Jackson, by the way. One of a handful of brushes with greatness.
Anyway, I’ve grown a LOT over the years, musically speaking. In every aspect.
I was introduced to jazz by my guitar instructors and in the high school jazz ensemble. Thanks, Jake Sheffer, Jim Pyzgurski, Robert “Wawa” LeGrand, Robert Carnochan. In high school I played trumpet, then very little tuba, then electric bass. Private lessons on guitar outside of school of course. Thanks, Ma.
I think I was actually the Class Musician at the high school prom but I didn’t go to the prom so I didn’t get whatever you get for that. A photo taken? In college the jazz education really took off. Hanging out at UMBC with Lafayette Gilchrist and the UMBC faculty. Doc and Chris Vidala at College Park. Roger Letson at De Anza College. At De Anza, Roger Letson let me grow into upright bass at the expense of some horrific intonation learning curve on a giant fretless neck. Smith Dobson at the Garden City jam session in San Jose.
I actually listened to a lot of smooth jazz in college. Loved that stuff back then. GRP and all that. Pat Metheny is jazz/rock fusion, I guess. Didn’t go to jazz clubs to hear live music until College Park, though. Lyle and Ian would take me into DC to the One Step Down or Blues Alley or to the Twins jam session. I started listening to jazz proper because of those dudes and all the big band playing (I played electric bass but wished I could play trumpet like Eli). It wasn’t until I interned for Apple in California and Denise Coley asked me if I listened to jazz. And I was like, “I really like Larry Coryell. It’s like he plays all the right notes.”
She was patient. Very patient. “Have you heard of Wes Montgomery?” That question changed my head around.
I mean, my jazz chops and usefulness peaked at some point. It was depressing to move back to the east coast circa 2003, chronically unemployed, expecting that the music thing would buoy me up and realizing that I wasn’t ready for prime time (mainly due to my lack of repertoire). That’s okay, though. After playing and gigging for a few decades it got boring to still be playing the same standards. Some people are really into it and thank goodness for them, but it was driving up up the wall for years. Gigging became exhausting and sometimes thankless. Sometimes stressful. There are well written and endless discussions about all of this by the pros and up-and-comers.
And the people who try to make a living off of the music don’t really have the time or inclination to just hang out, work on originals, or rehearse, or just play for the sake of playing. Jazz venues focus less on jazz. Fewer and fewer big names come through the Mid-Atlantic. Now, Yoshi’s in Oakland and San Francisco is a different story.
But through the pursuit of jazz all those years, I met and made music with so many amazing people. Made some of the best friends in life. Had the opportunity to play and tour in France for a few weeks. I still get homesick for France sometimes. Walking the streets of Paris around the Champs-Élysées at 4am. And studying jazz and being immersed in the jazz world for years has made me a better musician, composer and could make me a better performer if I got off my duff and pursued it.
I’m trying to say that the musical voice that I have is because of the jazz world and all of its influences (including especially the people that I know personally and played with).
It’s like eating.
Around 2004 I started getting into making music at home on the computer. Recording and what not. I made some stuff that — you know. Again, had its moments but overall wasn’t great. My singing — meh. That’s the main reason I don’t post music, to be honest with you. But what the hell. Then we all die so … you know. What is there to fear. Besides, I can work on that.
Anyway, some of it was interesting or pretty good. A crap-ton of potential. One day a friend asked, “So you sit around sometimes and listen to your own music?”
I said, “Yes. I do. Obsessively sometimes. The first day or two after I put something together, I can’t stop listening to it.”
He said, “That’s kind of weird.”
I can see how one could see it as a huge ego trip. But it’s not because I think I’m so good. It’s like — um. It’s like cooking. You cook food for yourself and the people you care about. Right? And then you eat it. Right? And sometimes it’s really good because it’s exactly what you were in the mood for and you’ve been looking forward to it and it hits the spot. Ideally, others will feel the same way about what you made.
It’s the same with music for me. I kind of vent or channel stuff into the music. Been trying to tell stories with the lyrics lately.
And then you eat the meal you prepared and offer it to others.
For the longest time as a teenager I didn’t want people to hear me play. Weird. One of my uncles (by marriage) sings and has a musical family. He’s always been really supportive. In fact, he was there when I was born. I don’t think my father was but that’s the kind of stuff my family avoids talking about. Anyway, my uncle came into my room one day — you could find me learning keyboard/piano/guitar parts by ear to many an 80’s song — and listened to some things. Maybe he heard that “Serendipity” cassette I made. He said, “Your mom has been concerned about all the time you spend locked away in your room but if this is what you’re doing…”
During my UMBC days circa 1990 to 1992 during Summer and Winter break I would drive to campus and hole up in the piano rooms. Practicing, writing, recording. Eventually, my family got wise to the fact that I was absconding away until the wee hours of the morning. I got called out. They absolutely did not believe me. They thought I was out carousing or out committing unnatural acts or something. I dunno. I have yet to carouse but I’ll get around to it.
It was frustrating even though it was my own fault. So one night I took my mom and my little sister to a piano room on campus and played the things I had been working on. Like a stride piano version of “Satin Doll” and an arrangement of “But Beautiful”. It was pretty advanced stuff for someone who doesn’t know how to play the piano. Hours and hours of practice.
So now that I actually want people to hear my music, everybody and their evil twin is putting their music out there into the world on the internets and hoping they get attention. Oh well. I ain’t in for the money. The chicks, sure. But not the money. I’d be perfectly happy with both, though.
Anyway, I’m putting the music out there. 2012 is supposed to be my year to finally wrap up a collection of songs and make a CD, i.e. make it available on iTunes and what not.
Down the road apiece.
As time goes by I’ll keep doing my thing. It should keep getting better and hopefully there will be collaborations with more vocalists so that the compositions can live up to their potential. I’ve had a few really good collabs with Karla, Sadie, Janna and of course the “Running: AMOK” play/musical that I composed the music for.
Stay tuned, friends. I’ve got some organic electronic stuff coming up. It’s in the works. Dance-able tracks, too. Well, I keep saying that and then I listen to dance/pop music and … no thanks. We’ll see.
Wait. Here I go talking about me me me again. What have you been working on?