Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Blahs

I was really flat last night. Not flat pitch-wise, but just flat energy-wise. It was really hard to get in a groove last night.

Thriller is tonight. It's sold out (actually over-sold by the promoters). It should be fun. I'll be glad to finish it.

Friday, October 30, 2009

"It's all free throws"

One of our regular Yacht Rock fans was so pumped by our performance of a few Michael Jackson songs last night, he told us "it's all free throws now!" to which Nick replied, "What if we're Shaq?"

Last night was a strange one. We had two keyboardists on deck, so I was mostly just playing saxophone solos, as well as a handful of minor synth parts. I was also back in the corner of the stage, so most of what I heard was Mark Bencuya's keyboards, bass, and drums. It's a much different sound than the other side of the stage.
A couple of the guys had off nights, and it affected the vibe on stage more than just "oops." Also, Nick is worried that he might have picked up a cold. He had a doctor's appointment this morning to try and see if he could hold off the plague until Sunday!
Bencuya threw the synth solo for Love Will Keep Us Together at me. It's been a while since I've played that one. I did ok wandering through it, but I didn't get it note for note. Also, Bielenberg didn't know the string part for Don't Go Breakin' my Heart, so I got to go over there and play it on his keyboard (when he finally got out of the way at the end of the first verse!). He has a Roland Fantom. It's really nice! The keys have slightly more weight than my Triton. There's more of a solid feel to what I was playing. Bencuya has one too.
Not much else to report. I tried to study what Bencuya was playing. When I'm the other keyboardist, I need to be familiar with what he's doing, and I can't always hear him clearly. I learned some more stuff last night. He's still awesome, by the way.

I added a new page to my website: equipment! I even included a cell phone picture someone took of me last night.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Wednesday Yachting

Yacht Rock played a "blender" for Juice Studios Wednesday night at Magnolia Hall in Piedmont Park. It was a pretty low key affair--mostly people mingling and networking. We were the band on the other end of the room. It was a really easy gig. No problems (though I think we were all pretty underwhelmed by the sound company). I was standing next to the mains while soloing at the end of Reminiscing, and I checked after the song to see if my microphone was on. It was like that.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Backun Barrel

I upgraded my clarinet yesterday by buying a better barrel for it. It's a ringless Backun barrel. I wasn't looking to change my sound as much as I was trying to expand it, and the better barrel did just that.

I ordered four barrels to try--two by Clark Fobes and two by Backun. I tried the Fobes barrels first and then the Backuns. It was nice, nice, yeah, WOW! This one really seemed to make my clarinet go. I can get more air into it, and yet there's less back pressure. Just what I was looking for.

I'm off on a four day cruise (Yacht Rock).

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Yacht Rock on Ice

Yacht Rock played an event for the University of Virginia alumni last night. Outside. In the cold. In a tent with almost no sides.

We thought we would die. We were sure we would freeze and be left to die in the cold at the horse farm in Buckhead.

But no! Although I did sit in my truck with the heat running for an hour before the gig started, we were ok once we got up and moving. The first couple of songs I was blowing on my hands, but beyond that we might as well have been indoors.

A couple of cold weather problems...both saxophones were pushed in about a quarter inch past usual. Other than that, they felt good. I had no trouble with reeds, and once I got the mouthpiece in the right place, the pitch across the horn was not as way out as I thought it would have been. Even the flute (pushed all the way in) felt normal.
The display on one of my keyboards was very slow in changing. The keyboard itself was fine, but the display lagged behind. Weird.

Kip Conner (soundman for Shawn Mullins) ran sound for us tonight. It was really nice. He did a great job of bumping solos up last night. It you were in Buckhead last night, you probably heard me. I was that loud. It was great.

Ganesh sang with us (Nick was out of town). He did a great job.

Mark Cobb played well. He used his small kit, and he played the hell out of it. I played keyboard facing him. It was fun to watch. I think he set a personal record for "Pat Boone Debbie Boone" on a gig.

Mark Bencuya quoted Rhapsody in Blue in Hey Nineteen, I quoted The Hustle in Lowdown and Baker Street in I Can't Go for That, and Mark Dannells quoted Black Dog in the second solo of Peg.

I played keyboards as well as my usual stuff. No problems to report, other than a wrong chord I played twice (geez! twice?!) in Reminscing. Should have been GMaj7, but I played Bb9 twice. Sorry.

Big week ahead. Thriller as well as some regular Yacht Rock gigs. It will be good, but I will be sleeping next Sunday.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Jazz and Toyotas

I had no gig tonight. No biggie. I played an early afternoon trio gig with Louis Heriveaux (keyboard) and Tommy Sauter (bass) at Stonecrest Toyota in Lithonia. I even drove a Toyota truck to the gig. Here's the audio if you want to check it out:

I clearly had some trouble with my reed in the first couple of songs (the first tune we attempted was I Mean You; the last was Cherokee). Where's the first note? On Turnaround, I will eventually get the end of the head right. I can do it in private, but not in public, evidently. Also, the head on Ladybird? What the hell? I don't know. I bailed on it pretty quick, that's for sure. On the way out I attempted to substitute Half Nelson, but I obviously haven't thought about that one in a while. No dice. While I'm criticizing myself, how about not playing so sharp, Freeman? Are ya deaf?
It is strange to me to hear this trio play. On the gig I want to scream sometimes because the time feels like it goes to hell about an hour into the gig. From there on out, we three do not agree, and it drives me crazy. When I hear the audio, it's never as bad as I remember. My anger is not justified.
T ball, Jack's birthday party, and a Yacht Rock gig await me tomorrow. Time for bed.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Yacht Rock

We cruised through Yacht Rock last night. I would say it sounded pretty good, but I'm biased.

I think I played the piano part to for I'd Really Love to See You Tonight about three and a half hours Thursday afternoon. My fingers were sore, but I got it right at the gig. That and All Out of Love were my two biggies that I needed to spend some time on. All Out of Love got cut, so you can assume I would have nailed it.

We played Thriller as a sneak peak of the Halloween show. It never fails to impress me how many people know all the words to every song. I'm getting to the point where I feels like I don't remember anything, but the people in front of me did everything but the frikin' dance!

The soundcheck for last night consisted of Human Nature and P.Y.T. I think we're in good shape. I don't have much on either one. The last song we need to work on is Lady in my Life. There's talk about tucking a saxophone solo in that one. Sweet! All play and no work for me on that!

We had an excellent night. The crowd was better than it's been in weeks, and we cashed in on the fact that we were a 7 piece (Bielenberg was on assignment). Strangely enough, there was an abundance of parking spaces, which made me think we'd be doomed. It was not true.

The sound man added his pitch shifter (and probably some other effects) to Mark Dannell's solo on Peg (might have been about the fourth song!), and really messed him up mentally. I think he thinks Hans (the sound man) is looking for an opportunity to destroy him. Dannell's was doing well up til then, and it seemed like after that he just wanted to get through it.

What else? We finally played I Keep Forgettin' again, and Nick and Pete (probably Nick) decided to insert Regulate into it. Boo. I hate it when we do that. I get to play the rhodes part (Bencuya on clav), and so I practiced it alot, and then I had to give it up half way through. I will point out that, once again, the crowd knew the words. These people are well rounded.

Oh yeah...did I mention that Dannells wrote a bridge for Happy Birthday? We played it TWICE for our buddy Jim Stapley, celebrating his twenty-fourth birthday last night. Keep up the good work, Jim.

The encore last night was Whole Lotta Love by Led Zeppelin. It got PAINFULLY loud. I could feel myself going deaf.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Thriller on my Mind

Thriller is killing me. I don't want to hear it anymore.

Yacht Rock had a rehearsal for Beat It and Billy Jean Monday night. We also checked a couple of the ones we'd previously worked on.

I spent tonight plowing through what seems like one million sounds looking for the right sound for a three measure solo in Human Nature. Fortunately (for my back and my sanity), I was able to find that obnoxious synth that I need for the chorus of P.Y.T. pretty quickly. I'm interested to hear what Bencuya came up with for the "Alvin" sounding vocoder thing at the end.

Tomorrow night we are doing Yacht Rock as a seven piece--Bielenberg has a gig somewhere else. I'm back on keyboards. I spent some time earlier today going over parts, and I'll do the same tomorrow. The only one I've never played before is the piano part on I'd Really Love to See You Tonight. I feel like I've got it, but I need to play it about 650 more times so I can feel confident about it. You only get one shot at the gig.

Sunday, October 18, 2009


What a weekend!

Thursday was our usual Yacht Rock gig. We added two more songs to our Thriller project, and I think they both went fairly well. It's always hard to tell. You figure out your part ahead of time, but you don't really know if it'll work until you hear in the context of everything else; at that point, you really know if you need to change your sound, volume, or scrap something in favor of another part. With Thriller, it seems like there are more things that two keyboardists and the EWI can physically perform, and so you have to make sure you're grabbing the parts that will be missed the most. That cool part that you had never heard until you really started analyzing the track probably won't be missed as much as the big synth pad.

Friday began waaaaaaaay too early (noon) with a studio call for Yacht Rock. We gathered at Open Sky Studios (in Avatar) to work on a Christmas tune--another mash-up of a Yacht Rock song with a Christmas tune. I don't think I'm at liberty to say what the two tunes are. Also, Dannells wrote a bridge to Happy Birthday. It's in four.
From Open Sky I headed on to Lake Oconee for a gig with Platnumb. A strange corporate gig in a conference room at the Ritz. A weird one for sure. Everyone in the audience was at least 50. We had barely started the first tune (Breezin') when they asked us to turn it down (as in, turn off the P.A.). Then they asked us to stop all together. We returned after they ate, and the gig turned into corporate cabaret. They just sat and stared at us as we paraded song after song before them. At some point in all this, somebody requested Brick House, so we jumped into that, and EVERYBODY got on the dance floor. It was really weird. But, that beat what we were doing, and they stayed out there for the rest of the set. When we came back from the break, there were fourteen people left in the room, and we played for them for another hour.

Saturday morning, Jack had a 10 AM t ball game. It was pretty cold.
When I got home from that, I worked on some stuff for my Yacht Rock gig that night (mostly the strings for All Out of Love by Air Supply). I also pounded on my synth solo for Lido Shuffle (and adjusted my sound for that).
We played in the back of Paris on Ponce in the room called Maison Rouge. It is an extremely neat looks like a nightclub from the thirties. We played one and a half sets. It was super easy. The GREAT news is that I finally NAILED the Lido synth part. I was so pumped I wanted to stop the show and high five everybody in the room. It was so cool!
I think I may have finally won over Bencuya. He's been the main proponent of two keyboards for the gig, while I think everybody else is either on the fence or ok with me doing it. After the gig, Bencuya said he thought we sounded better/just as full as we did two nights earlier with two keyboards. How great is that! That really made my night. His opinion on this subject carries more weight than probably anybody else in the band, so I'm really excited to hear him say that.
Did I mention I nailed the synth solo?
Saxophone-wise, I could hear myself fairly well, and so I had a good night. Good reeds on both horns, though I realize that one of my alto reeds is probably dead. At least, it feels dead compared to the one I played last night.

Tonight is my church gig. I also have to check out some Thriller stuff. It turns out we're only adding two songs tomorrow night for the rehearsal--Beat It and Billy Jean. There probably won't be much for me in either of those.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Busy Beaver

Sorry for the lack of posts. I'm under the gun.

Yacht Rock is playing the entire Thriller album for Halloween, and we're desperately trying to throw the tunes together. Last week we tackled the first two (Wanna Be Startin' Something and Baby Be Mine). This week is The Girl is Mine and Thriller. Even though we have two keyboardists playing multiple keyboards, there are still parts for me on EWI. So...I'm trying to get those together. Mostly it's about getting sounds--writing out my parts is no big deal, but I can spend a long time comparing what I think the sound is to the actual record. It is super tedious.

Friday Yacht Rock is going into the studio to record a Christmas tune, and I need to do some homework to prepare for that. We have to be at the studio at noon, so there's no chance I can learn it tomorrow before the session. From there, I'm leaving to go to a gig at Lake Oconee, so Friday is shot.

This is worth noting because I have a Yacht Rock gig Saturday where I am the second keyboardist, and I have to learn three songs for that. That will take some time, as I am very slow.

In addition to all that, I am missing a Platnumb gig this Saturday, and I need to give my book to John Hancotte on Friday afternoon to take with him. The book has to be ready before I leave for Yacht Rock tonight, because I won't have time to do it before I leave tomorrow morning.

If I make it to Sunday, I'll really need to kick in gear! Monday night, we (Yacht Rock), have a rehearsal where we are going to try Thriller all the way through.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Saturday Night in Commerce

Last night Platnumb played a wedding reception in Commerce, GA (way up I-85). It was actually pretty fun. They hired a full horn section. The biggest news of the night was that I tied my tie a different way--half windsor instead of four in hand.

I gave up on a reed last night. It was a weird one. It felt mushy but it had some resistance. I started working on it by balancing the sides. That improved the response, but it was still mushy. The altissimo was not reliable--it'd do that thing where it would sound like I'd overblown it. I tried taking some wood off the back, but it was about the same so I gave up and threw it out. My next reed is better.

I'm into some reeds that I soaked too long. Lately my reed break in procedure has been to soak reeds for an hour or so, let them dry for a day (maybe play on the a little), soak them again for another hour, let them dry for a day, and then start trying to figure out what I've got. This box of tenor reeds was accidentally left soaking for about twelve hours (I fell asleep). I dried them off and thought I'd let them dry long enough before putting them back in the plastic sleeves, but the next time I pulled them out they were blackened with mold. Oops! I soaked them briefly in Listerine to kill the mold and left them out to dry some more. Hopefully they'll bounce back from all that water and won't start too soft on me.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Three Day Trip

Here's the round up of this past weekend's Yacht Rock trip. I made notes along the way. Here they are.

We brought on Mike Bielenberg tonight as the new second keyboardist. He did very well. I think the band enjoyed hearing all the parts. Between Bencuya and myself, we have to drop parts from time to time (for instance if I'm playing a sax solo), so having the extra hands there keeps them going.

I was back across the stage, tucked in between the bass cabinet and Mark Bencuya's gear. It's such a gift to be able to sit and watch him play. He has great command of the vocabulary of this music. It's awesome. I didn't have nearly as much to do, so I tried to steal anything I could from him.

Mark Cobb had a good night. He was solid as a rock.

I had a problem with the power supply for my MIDI wireless. I solved it with batteries. Trip to Radio Shack!

Jimmy Fallon is having Christopher Cross on his show for a "Yacht Rock Party." We are encouraging fans to contact Fallon through NBC and let him know we're out here doing it already.

In the middle of the first set, the effects pedal that I use for my sax died. I trouble shot it and figured out that the power supply was falling out of the socket. Not enough that the unit got no power, but not enough that it would pass on signal. I would have never guessed it, but while I was checking to make sure everything was plugged all the way in, the menu scrolled, stopped, scrolled, and stopped. I found another spot on the power strip, and I was back in the game.

Friday, I drove around to get a new power supply. I went to the nearby Radio Shack seeking 9 volts and 500 mA, but they didn't have one. They sent me to the Radio Shack by the big Chicken, which they claimed had seven of them. That store had none. He informed me that Radio Shack didn't even carry that power supply. I went to Guitar Center, and the guy at the counter told me the voltage had to be correct, and you had to have at least the number of mA (but you can go over). Evidentally, the mA is how much your thing draws, and so if your power supply can give more, you're ok, but if it can't give it enough power, you're in trouble.
So...I bought one and brought it home, but it didn't fix my problem.

I loaded in to Andrews Upstairs at 7 PM. Nobody else showed up until after 8. I need to adjust that! I was completely set up before I saw anyone else.

We had a good crowd--I think it was probably sold out. We made good money, and the crowd was into it. I think we as a band wonder how long the crowds will continue to come. So far so good!

Bielenberg had a prior commitment, so I played keyboards as well as my other stuff.

Alyssa Olson sang Don't Go Breakin' my Heart, Physical, and Magic with us tonight. She did very well, and the crowd ate it up. Don't Go Breakin' my Heart and Magic have been two of my worst songs (keyboard-wise), and tonight I did well. That was a relief.

I remember at one point playing keyboards and watching Mark Cobb groove it and thinking about how cool it is to play in a band with these guys. Everyone in the band is so good on his instrument, and everyone gels so well. It's really neat to be a part of this.

We came back from the break with Africa, and I screwed up two measures of the solo. I jumped an octave too low, and that threw me off for a couple of seconds. I want a do-over!

My saxes felt really good tonight--good reeds on both horns. Unfortunately, it was not a big sax night.

We've had some issues with the sound at Andrews the past couple of months. Too many effects (too much reverb on a drumset that's supposed to be really dry), and volume (everybody in the audience complains that volume is unbearable). Things were noticeably better this month.

No much else to report. We took pictures of us wearing our boat shoes for Sebago (that's me up above in the blog pic). You can see all the pictures at Mixtape Atlanta.

Saturday night we played a gig for the Chattahoochee River Keepers. It was in the backyard of an expensive house right on the river. What a cool setting! Actually, that turned out to be got cold after the sun went down!

Opening up for us was an R.E.M. tribute band called R.E.M.ake. Wow! They sounded exactly like R.E.M. I played with them on Finest Work Song and Can't Get there from Here. It was all old stuff (Document and earlier)...really took me back to high school! Mark Bencuya played on a couple of tunes--I think South Central Rain and Rockville. He's awesome. It's understood.

Yacht Rock's two sets were solid. Mark Cobb was with family on a trip to Vegas, so Ganesh Giri Jaya played drums with us. He was super solid. Every song felt good. Plus, he helped me load out at the end of the night.

I screwed up the solo in Africa AGAIN! Same spot, but this time the processor on my computer got overloaded, and it sounded like my sound went underwater. My fingers were right, but I'd forgotten to tap the space bar at some point to clear up delay and reverb that might have continued on from another sound. That was crushing. I screw up WAY too much.

Peter asked me to show him the synth thing in Lido Shuffle that I can't quite play. He didn't say it, but I'm guessing he'll practice and eventually take over that part.

We closed out the night with Takin' it to the Streets. One of my favorites.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

September 30 trio

I played a trio gig last Wednesday, September 30 with Louis Heriveaux (keyboard) and Tommy Sauter (bass). For your listening enjoyment, I have spent the past few hours trying to figure out how to post the audio. Here it is. I guess the player picks songs alphabetically--in other words, scroll up above Blue Monk to hear the first couple of songs.

There are a couple of tunes where the sound quality is not as good--I started with my recorder off to the side of the band. After a couple of tunes, I moved it to directly in front of us.
Also, you can hear during Black Narcissus someone requesting Electric Slide or Cha Cha Slide. Seriously...we played a bunch of nasty Joe Henderson tunes (I mean, GEEZ! we played a free tune right before I started recording!), and some lady wanted us to play Electric Slide with no vocals and no drummer. What are we going to do, just play two chords for 5 minutes so that four people out of one hundred fifty can do a dumb dance? I said, "We're a jazz trio," but that didn't solve it. Thus, we played Cold Duck Time and they did their dance. Then, quick as we could, back into Joe tunes.

Thursday, October 1, 2009