Thursday, April 29, 2010

Super Busy!

Fear not, readers, for I am not dead or incarcerated.  I am so busy that I have not had any time to write in my blog.

Monday was a five hour jazz trio gig (and a rehearsal in the morning).

Tuesday was a Yacht Rock roller disco gig at Masquerade.

Wednesday was a Please Pleaserock Me gig (and a rehearsal in the morning).

Thursday through Monday we (Yacht Rock) are on another boat!  This one is the Kid Rock "Chillin' the Most" Cruise.

More consistent blogging will resume next week.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Sailing Up and Down I-75

Yesterday I drove up and down I-75.

Yacht Rock played the Atlanta Steeplechase (which was located in Rome, GA!).  I woke up super early (for me) and drove down I-75 into town to meet up with the rest of the band.  We drove back up I-75 to Rome to play the gig.

The event was in a private tent at the Steeplechase event.  Unfortunately, the weather was terrible--rain and lightning throughout the event.  The band played well and the food was ok (BBQ sandwich with bottled BBQ sauce).  We rumbled through, stopping for each of the races.  Evidently horses don't like music.

First came the "release the hounds!", and then the race horses came through.
It is with great sadness that I must report that my aviators were retired today.  The left lens has popped out a couple of times, and I think it's time that they be recycled.  A sad day for Yacht Rock.

Afterwards, we loaded up (in the rain) and then spent an hour on a farm road inching our way back to the interstate.  We rode down I-75 to the Piedmont Driving Club, where we loaded in and set up for an event that night.  I had time, so when we finished setting up I drove back up I-75 to my house so I could get out of my wet shoes and socks.  I rummaged through the fridge.  I even had time to practice a little!

At 10 PM, I headed back down I-75, back to the Piedmont Driving Club for the gig.  It  was ok.  We were obviously very tired at that point (we started around 11:30 PM), so we staggered through it.  The gig ended at 1 AM.  We loaded out and I headed back up I-75.  215 miles all together.

Good things are happening for me lately.  I've been focusing on a few areas of my performance, and I think each is improving.  First, I've been trying to get my time a little better on the keyboard stuff.  I want everything to sit on the beat a little better.  I am also guilty of rushing within the beat, so my goal there is to keep it all relaxed and smooth, right where Cobb's putting the time.  Second, I've been thinking about my articulation on alto.  That seems to have been corrected just by my being aware of it.  My third goal has been to not tighten up on my tenor altissimo--chomping down on the mouthpiece has choked off some stuff, especially when I start overblowing, so I've been reminding myself to keep my mouth and throat open and let the air go through.  Yesterday was the first time in a while where I didn't miss any high F#'s in Who Can it be Now?.  My fourth area is in the chorus of Rosanna, where I've been only playing EWI on the horn part.  I want to help the chorus to be bigger, so instead of only playing the horn part every few measures, I've kept the organ part going and then used the upper keyboard to supply the brass.  I just started this week doing that, so it's still a little shaky.  In another week or two I should be much more comfortable.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Thin Thursday

Yacht Rock last night at the 10 High was a thin one.  We couldn't have asked for better weather (which lately has meant better crowds), but last night was slim picking.  I was outside on the break, and there was nobody even walking on North Highland.  The entire area was a ghost town.

We played pretty well, particularly in the first set.  The second set descended into boredom, which for us means that we started twisting and pulling on the ends of songs, making them into strange concoctions of noise.  It was a relief to finally get to the end of the set and be done with it.

All of my stuff worked well.  My new laptop gave me no problems--it did exactly what I expected it to do. I did have a few moments of terror, though.  Fifteen minutes before I left home, I set it all up to double check that it would work perfectly, and that's when I found out that my MIDI to USB convertor was not talking to the computer.  AAHHHHHH!  I downloaded a driver from MAudio's website and things were fine (though they didn't have the driver for my OS, but the most recent one they had seems to do the job).   The only other hiccup I've had/am having is that Logic doesn't shut down all the way--I have to force quit it to get it to completely stop.  My feeling is that the program is maybe five years old and the OS is brand new, and they're not totally in sync.  I definitely need to upgrade Logic and get it happening.  For now, I think it'll be fine.

Yacht Rock has a big day tomorrow--a gig in Rome, GA around noon and then a gig back in Atlanta later on that night.  Lots of driving and lots of playing.  There will be lots of sleeping on Sunday.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Macbook Pro

Yesterday I bit the bullet and purchased a new laptop--a Macbook Pro.  I put my old version of Logic on it and brought my "Yacht Rock" sounds into it, and it works.  Success!
My plan is to upgrade Logic later this year to the most current version (with Mainstage).  I am currently using Logic 7 (which predates Mainstage).  What I'll do is get it all set up on my desktop, and then transfer it over once I'm satisfied that it will work on the gig.
Hopefully this means I can breathe easier for the next couple of years!  This year has been a tense one for EWI playing!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Robo Trio

David Ellington (piano), Kevin Smith (bass) and I played a trio for the Robotics convention last night.  It was a very easy hit.

After a string of gigs with really poor saxophone playing (both at my own things and Yacht Rock gigs), I think I was better on this one.  My articulation had gotten very heavy, and it made everything I played sound laborious and slightly out of sync.  Maybe I got lucky, but I tried to be lighter with my tonguing, and that seemed to make it all flow better.  I hope it will translate to my alto playing, which has been the main offender.

We had an Elton John impersonator play two songs in our set.  He was outstanding.  Unfortunately, none of the robo-dorks was around to see him.  He played for us and his handlers!

This recording is definitely better than the past.  I found a group of presets in Waveburner that really works well.  Further evidence that I don't know what I'm doing.  There's some weird distortion that doesn't turn up in the program.  Somewhere in converting it to mp3s it's making a mess.  Ahh, technology.  Dig it:

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Hal and Space Capone

Last night the Yacht Rock Revue kicked off a summer concert series at the Park Tavern.  My laptop felt like this would be a great time to freak out and not work.  I spent an hour and forty-five minutes opening and shutting it, turning it on and off, and popping the battery out and holding down the power button, and praying to Steve Jobs.  Eventually I gave up and started lining up sounds with the thought that I would MIDI into my top keyboard (Korg Triton).  I even borrowed Nick's laptop (with a newer version of Logic) to try and see if I could work with that.

No luck.  I'd given up on it, and as I was packing it up and bitching to another musician, I turned my laptop on one more time and it worked perfectly.  I set it up with the EWI and played the gig with no problems.

Space Capone (from Nashville) opened up for us with a great set of 70s inspired funk.  Great stuff.

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Return of ?Mark

The one and only Mark Cobb came back to the 10 High last night.  He's been on hiatus with the birth of his son.  His playing was inspired.  I love what he brings to the gig.

Greg Lee was out due to the birth of his daughter this week, so Greg Partridge filled in on bass and did a terrific job.  His playing was super smooth--it was like he'd been playing with us for a while.  Ganesh Giri Jaya came by and contributed Greg Lee's vocals.  It never ceases to amaze me how Nick, Pete, Greg (and Ganesh when he's there) are able to reassign harmonies at soundcheck and then remember them at the gig.  Very impessive!

No problems last night.  I fiddled with my alto mouthpiece earlier in the week--it turns out the table was not flat!  That's why the thing would feel different as the reed dried out.  The altissimo, for instance, would be great at the beginning of the gig, but later on it would be really tricky.  I thought I was moving back on the mouthpiece, but I think when I would put a little more in my mouth I was probably helping the reed seal against the table.  Aha!  Anyway, I used a sheet of glass and some sandpaper to try and flatten the table and I think the results are very good.  It's much more consistent.  I sent my backup mouthpiece to Mojobari to have it refaced, and I may send this one next just to have it tweaked.

The band played well last night.  It was a pretty safe night musically, since we didn't want to put any pressure on Partridge while he was helping us out.  Mark Cobb stopped mid-song at the beginning of the second set and had some idiot thrown out.  He was mad because he was not chosen for the "Most Yachtily Dressed" contest so he was booing us.  For a second I thought Cobb was going to go Axl Rose on him.

Greg Lee is back tonight--we're putting the band back together!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The GOP bores us at 8 Traxx

Tuesday night Yacht Rock played a private party for the Georgia Young Republicans at 8 Traxx Disco (formerly Andrews Upstairs).  It was the most boring party we've ever played.  I have no idea how many people were expected to show, but my guess would be that there were maybe 150 people there.  It was brutal.  Too bad, too, because we were actually playing well (until we got bored).  Mark Cobb played with us again (he is officially back) and he was on fire for that first set.  It was everything I've been missing.

The massive embarrassment of the night goes to me for forgetting to play the sax part on Careless Whisper.  I think it was in the third set and I just spaced out...I was mentally plotting out what I needed to play on keyboard and got caught not paying attention.  From the laughter onstage, Nick must have given me some kind of big lead in, but I never heard a word of it.  Good thing there was no one there to witness it.  All night I'd been checking off songs that I'd screwed up the last time we were here--I was doing so well, but my brain just picked a fine time to leave me (Lucille).

This is no surprise to us, but everything was just the way we left it ten days fog juice soaked setlist was still on the stage (see the picture), the mostly empty bottle of vodka and a few of Mark Dannells' guitar picks.  Hell, the bottle of Crown Royal that we opened at the Please PleaseRock Me show March 31 and brought to Andrews--I mean 8 Traxx--was still there (and Dannells took it home!).  I hope that the roaches will help me load out the next time we play there.

A few pictures from soundcheck:

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


Last night I played a quartet gig with Tyrone Jackson, Kevin Smith, and Marlon Patton.  It took me well into the second set before I finally got comfortable--I'm not really sure why.  I warmed up before I left home, but I just had a really difficult time getting my head and hands in sync.  I think that at least part of it was that I was (once again) overblowing, and I got handcuffed by trying to play full-bore from the first note, which left me nowhere to go.  Once we got into the second set, I felt like things calmed down for me and I played a little better (though my reed at that point was indicating its intent to die on me!).  The first set was rough...lots of dumb mistakes.  I tried to read charts that I didn't really need to look at (Song for Bilbao, Turnaround), and I guessed wrong on the endings of a couple (Naima, Punjab).  By the time we stopped for a break, I was beat from my reading miscues, but I'd made so many mistakes I kept looking to the lead sheets for help!

Here are the mp3s...

This gig featured really good banana pudding.  Unfortunately, I did not take a picture of it, but here's some other visual highlights:  is it soup or a dirty pot?, ten golden sliders, part of the dessert layout, and a few pictures of chairs!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Workplace Psychology

Saturday night I was fortunate to pick up a jazz gig for a corporate reception downtown--1,200 industrial-organizational psychologists.  I was informed that they were workplace psychologists--"we study why people are or are not happy in their jobs"--which I thought was kind of funny considering how difficult they'd been at my job!  Let's just say the event was not well run, and for a two hour event there was a good four hours worth of bullshit.

The band tonight was Tyrone Jackson on keyboard and Kevin Smith on bass.  We also had an old man play clarinet with us (who was pretty dang good!), and the former president of the organization sang and played piano (not so good).
We played mostly my tunes, plus a couple of Pat Metheny songs, a Joey Calderazzo thing, and an Ellis Marsalis favorite.  We had a great time playing!

Here are the mp3s:

Leigh was our handler for this event.  She made sure I didn't strangle anyone.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Schooner Invasion!

The Yacht Rock Revue was boarded by the Yacht Rock Schooner last night and held hostage in on own ship.  Ok, maybe it wasn't that bad...Nick, Cobb, and Dannells were out last night, so Kevin Spencer, Ganesh Giri Jaya, and Shannon Pengelly filled in.  It wasn't really that different--Cobb's been out for a while, and I've played the last few Schooner gigs with Kevin and Shannon.

The 10 High changed the start time to 10 PM, which made for happier patrons (who still rolled in around 10:15 PM).  I think it was better for our collective psyche, too, to have some people in the room while we were playing.

We ended up with a pretty solid crowd;  it was pretty much as packed as last week, which is to say it was fairly stuffed, particularly around the bar.  They were definitely rambunctious and fine looking people (women)!

No gear troubles to report, though I think that I should probably move up to some harder alto reeds.  The reeds I am using right now are fine, but when I lean on them (say on Baker Street, or something else where I am really pushing a ton of air into the horn), the reeds are kind of giving out on me.  It's tough to say whether it's because they are overall too soft or just old and getting mushy.  I think I'm going to go up on strength and see how they work.

One funny thing:  Ganesh made the setlist, and he recycled an old Schooner setlist, so ALL the songs with sax and flute were in the first set--it was pretty much one right after another.  The second set was NO saxophone--I should have put my horns away on the break so I could get home a little quicker!  Oops!

I'll be happy to have all the usual guys back next week.  We are back to full strength!

Monday, April 5, 2010

House Live lives at Ventanas

Tonight I did a House Live gig at Ventanas (again!).  Nothing new to report...we ate at Baja Fresh across the street, the weather was nice, the views were great, the gig was about some pictures?
This is what Reggie looked like when I left.  Note the agony in his face.

Here's Wayne and Jeff at Baja Fresh eating chips.  We ate three baskets of chips while we waited thirty minutes for our burritos.

My burrito.

My bowl of salsa.

The chips.

The cup.

Wayne eats.

Jeff eats.

At one point during the gig, a helicopter came in for a landing on the roof.  They might have been giving rides.  I went up there on the break hoping to score a ride, but there was no helicopter.

Weird picture, ain't it?

The Baja Fresh guys were up there providing food...we could have eaten for free!  They were set up right next to us.

The view while I awaited my helicopter ride.

If there'd been a helicopter parked here, I would've been in it.  Maybe next time?