Showing posts from November, 2009

Down Time

I'm really enjoying the down time I've had in these few days after Thanksgiving. I have no gigs this weekend, so I'm practicing. Specifically, I am practicing slowly. There are two ways that I am doing this. First: I am playing things slowly and really focusing on getting a good sound and connecting the notes with the air. I'm not worried about maintaining any technique. I want to really think about the sound of the instrument. Second: I am practicing without an end time. Since these few days are pretty wide open, I am taking a slow pace in my work. You can't practice in a hurry--that only works against you. Instead, I am taking my time and enjoying myself.

Turkey Eve

Yacht Rock survived Turkey Eve at Andrews Upstairs last night. The big news was that our old buddy (and second keyboardist) Brandon Still played with us. It was super cool hanging out with him. He's having an awesome time with Blackberry Smoke. They're headed to Europe for twenty dates.We played really well in the first set, but the second set was pretty sluggish. I was glad when it ended. Also, I don't think the saxophone was loud enough in the house. That sort of killed the gig for me.


I played last night at the Earl after I finished teaching. My friend Geoff Melkonian has an amazing R.E.M. tribute band called The R.E.M.akes, and they sound just like R.E.M. The final song of the evening was Can't Get There from Here, which has a saxophone part. It's pretty easy stuff. Following us was the XTC tribute band NWA or Nigels with Attitude. It's a couple of Yacht Rock guys (Mark Bencuya, Mark Cobb, Nick Niespodziani, Kevin Spencer), plus a couple of guys from Sheryl Crow's band (Peter Stroud, Tim Smith). The talent on stage was staggering. I can't say I know anything about XTC (in contrast to the R.E.M. stuff, which I'm all over), but the music seemed really complex in the number of interwoven parts. Those guys nailed it. In particular Mark Cobb might have never played better--the complexity and fire required for this gig are right up his alley, and I think his focus really made the whole thing come together.
We've got Yacht Rock tonight…

White Plains, NY

Yacht Rock had our first ever fly gig this weekend--we traveled to White Plains, NY to play a 40th birthday party. Except for the lack of sleep, it turned out to be a really fun weekend.Our flight up was scheduled for 8:30 AM, and I'd bet nobody in the band got more than five hours of sleep before it (I would know because we were all emailing back and forth right around midnight). I fell asleep before the plane had even left the ground, and finally woke up right before we landed. Nick and Pete rented a van and drove all the equipment up, and we met up with them at the house where we were playing. The set up was in a tent on their back porch. After setting up and checking, we went back to the hotel and crashed for a few hours. Then, back to the gig. The gig itself was pretty good. Nobody got too silly or sloppy. We made a bunch of new friends and got lots of verbal offers to play in the area. I went back to the hotel and slept HARD until 9 AM this morning. We got up, went ba…

Thursday, eh?

Yesterday (Thursday) was another two gig Thursday. The first was a trio at Neiman Marcus in Lenox Square Mall--some sort of private party for big spenders. The trio was myself, David Ellington on piano, and Tommy Sauter on bass, sandwiched in between glass cases of expensive jewelry. Once again, I had a lot of difficulty with the time. It felt to me like it was all over the place, and at times it made playing uncomfortable and frustrating. Here are the mp3s:

I ran from Lenox over to the 10 High for Yacht Rock. In honor of our last night with sub (and favorite Canuck) Kevin Spencer fronting the band, we had Canadian Tuxedo night. Since I was already dressed in a regular tuxedo, I represented for America! (in other words, I didn't change into denim). Dig this fine picture of Gordon Lightfoot, a fine Canadian in his own right, and sporting a damn fine tux. We broke out his tune Sundown last night, and we watched Strange Brew as the warm up. The winner of the Canadian Tux contest won a b…

Keyboard Percussion

Jack on keyboard

MP3s of Quartet Gig

I had an interesting conversation with Mark Cobb yesterday. He has been doing some very creative things to shake up some of the older Yacht Rock tunes. Many songs have been on our setlist for over a year now, and in order to keep them fresh, he has been slightly altering the groove and/or the tempo. His creativity keeps things fun for all of us.
Here's the mp3s from my quartet gig last Thursday night. It was Louis Heriveaux (piano), Tommy Sauter (bass), and Wayne Viar (percussion). We played in the Day Hall at the Botanical Gardens, a room acoustically similar to a high school cafeteria. You can probably hear the difference in saxophone tone in the second song for the out head--the volume was enough of a concern that I stuffed a towel in the bell of my horn and kept it there for the duration of the gig.

Wild Wing

Yacht Rock played the Wild Wing Cafe in Alpharetta last night. It was the smallest stage we've ever boarded. Mark Cobb took the night off, so Ganesh sang and played drums.

Everything that I crashed on last night went well tonight (i.e. Love Will Keep Us Together and Magic). I was also a little more comfortable with the transitions from instrument to instrument on A Lotta Love (I'm playing sax, flute, and keyboard on that one). I even got some strings happening on Lowdown with a little help from a sustain pedal. Yay for me.
Kevin Spencer fronted the band last night, and he was twice as good as the night before (though I guess he wrote down some of his schtick to say in between songs, and he was obviously reading it in some parts!). Ganesh played great--impressive that he can sing lead and play drums at the same time. Mark Dannells played well. He did something really slick in the middle of the second solo on Peg that made me stop in the middle of playing piano--it was …


I did two gigs yesterday.

The first gig was a quartet gig at the Botanical Gardens in Piedmont Park. The band included Louis Heriveaux on keyboard, Tommy Sauter on bass, and Wayne Viar on percussion. We played in the Day Hall, which could easily be mistaken for a high school cafeteria. Acoustically, not a good fit for a musical group and a bunch of people trying to mingle! I played the whole gig with a towel shoved into the bell of my saxophone. The crowd was loud, and we did our best to stay underneath them (and not be able to hear ourselves). Playing-wise things were fine, but it was a bad call to try and put a band in that room.

After that I ran over to the 10 High for Yacht Rock. Nick and Peter are out this week on a business trip--they're investigating a cruise ship thing for the band (like the Simple Man Cruise or The Rock Boat). At the helm we had Kevin Spencer and Ganesh Giri Jaya. They did a great job filling in. We also had Alyssa Olson singing a few with us.
We a…


I had a gig last night with a DJ and percussionist at a place downtown. The building had a helicopter pad. Not something you see every day. We went up and checked it out. Not much to say other than that. It was a pretty easy gig. I see sliders are the exciting event food of the moment, much like the grits bar was a few years back, and the chocolate fountain before that.
Anyway...some pics from my phone.

Tuesday Sextet

I had a sextet gig at the World Congress Center yesterday--a closing reception for somebody. I don't think I've ever had a sextet gig before, but it turned out to be fun. We ended up playing my originals for the entire gig.The band is myself, Dan Baraszu (guitar), Tyrone Jackson (keyboard), Joseph Patrick Moore (bass), Wayne Viar (drums), and Chuck Bithorn (percussion).


Yesterday I did something I have not done in weeks...I warmed up before my church gig. It made a HUGE difference. The forty-five minutes I spent doing my flute stuff and the fifteen minutes on soprano sax completely changed the way I played. Lately it seems like I spend too much time adjusting my pitch as my face settles down through the first half of the gig. This time, I was able to play comfortably from the beginning. I was a completely different

November 5 trio mp3s

Here are the mp3s from my trio gig last Thursday. It's me, Tommy Sauter on bass, and David Ellington on piano. As per Ellington's "suggestion"/throwdown, we ripped into all the Chick Corea tunes I have in my book. It made my head hurt. I think you can hear that.

Atlanta History Center

Yacht Rock played a gig at the Atlanta History Center.
It went ok. I had a difficult time locking into the time last night.
I played keyboard (along with my other crap), and I was a little uncoordinated in moving from part to part. Along with this was the fact that the stage was so small my horns were not on stage, and it kept me permanently out of sorts. At one point, Mark Cobb had already counted off the next song and I was still trying to get back to my spot across the stage.

Kip Conner ran sound again. He had my horn really loud a couple of times. I love that.

The load out of the History Center is pretty miserable if you have to use the loading dock. There's no ramp off the dock, so if you have anything on a cart (like myself), you have to wheel it to the dock, take everything off the cart and set it on the dock, reload your cart and continue. Also, there's always two or three other people (caterers, furniture people) trying to do the same thing, which makes for a mess.…

Doubled Up

I played a trio gig last night in front of the usual Yacht Rock. The gig was a private reception for the Penn State College School of Nursing Alumni (or something like that). The trio consisted of Tommy Sauter on bass and David Ellington on piano (subbing for the injured Louis Heriveaux).
We were a little rough, in my estimation. Ellington made a comment about Chick Corea, and we launched into all the Chick tunes I had with me. Pretty brutal. We also tried Strode Rode (which looks so simple on paper, but frustrated me) and Work (which I used to know, but evidently not as much now). To top it off, the reed I started on felt like it was warped, so I bailed on it and switched to a reed that felt like a 2x4.

I moved over to the 10 High for Yacht Rock. We played a few of our usual tunes, and then reprised Thriller for the people who didn't get to hear us play it on Halloween. I'm not sure how it went. I stand in a back corner of the stage and only hear clearly Mark Bencuya (…

Yacht Rock Christmas

Yacht Rock is doing another Christmas song, and last night was my turn to go in the studio and lay down a solo--this time on EWI. It took a while (with everybody sitting there waiting on me), but we finally got something useable out of it.Nick and Pete went in afterwards and sang the hell out of it. It sounds really good. Mark Dannells recorded his guitar tracks at home. The solo he came up with is AWESOME! It's perfect! I wish I could do something that good. It's so slick and it's so logical, but it still sounds like he's going for it. That's not an easy combination. He nailed it. It's funny with these recordings...when we start, it's hard for me to hear if everything's going to work, and at some point I can finally hear enough of the finished product that it makes sense. We're taking a Christmas song and blending it with a well known Yacht Rock song, and I am impressed by the ability to forecast the final version.
We received pictures from…

Halloween and Beyond

It's been a few days since I last checked in.

Yacht Rock made it through Thriller with no problems. Well...there were problems, but not of the band variety. Hosts of the party Spiral Entertainment oversold the venue by 1,200 people, and then tried to figure out how all those people would be able to hear us play Thriller, and then decided that it was not a concert and if everybody couldn't hear the band that was ok, which is funny because they had originally booked the event at Center Stage, a concert venue.
I didn't have much to do in Thriller, which was good because about halfway into the first song I noticed the red light flashing on my wireless MIDI transmitter. Miraculously, I was able to limp through the gig by turning it off every chance I got.
We ended up playing the album downstairs on the patio, and then we moved through the throng upstairs to the room upstairs to play two sets of Yacht Rock. It was a poor moment for me to lose my earplugs. I ended up stationed…