Monday, September 30, 2013

More of the Same

More gigs!  Bryan Lopes tells me that October is the new December (I tend to agree--our October looks great, and December looks bad).  I'd have to say that September has been slammin' too.

Friday:  the final Yacht Rock Park Tavern show of the summer.  We had a great, very appreciative (and not too drunk) crowd of around 800, so it wasn't too out of control.  The band was relaxed and loose, so it made for a fun show.  Plus, we had Kip manning the PA--everything sounded as good as it could.  Even the weather was good.  A nice night for an outdoor gig.  Daniel (of the Schooner) subbed for Mark Cobb on drums.

A video!

Saturday:  Yacht Rock played a wedding in Asheville, NC.  It was on the grounds of the Biltmore, but we were in "the barn," which of course was not a barn…maybe once was a barn?  It was a really pretty space for reception, though I wonder how loud we were out in front.  Kip ran sound for us again, so it's safe to assume that it sounded good.

We did a few tunes we haven't touched in a while:  Sara Smile and Kiss on My List by Hall and Oates, and Nicolette Larson's Lotta Love.  Lotta Love is one of my favorites, as the hook is played on saxophone and then the solo is on flute.  I really dig playing that one, and I think we do a great job on it.  Sara Smile was also fun, though I really had to reach in and pull it out of my ass--I'd forgotten to review it during the week.

The set lists have gotten into a bit of a rut over the past month, so these were nice additions!

Sunday:  we drove home and dispersed.  The afternoon was daddy duty.

My PM church gig was super boring--I tried to force myself to play some different things, only to have one of the vocalists turn around and tell me I sounded tired.  So much for that.

Peyton Manning is playing insanely well.

I'm still on a pretty big high from the Thursday night Sazerac gig, and it's led me back to chasing down Lenny Pickett stuff, who, along with David Sanborn, were two of my first major heroes back in the 80s.  I went so far as to buy a grey fedora, copping the style of Lenny and the SNL Band.

Check out these two from Little Feat's Waiting for Columbus:

Lenny's solo begins at 3:22

Then there's this one with the insane gliss at the end.  He's really doing that--it's no synth or whammy pedal or anything.  Insanity!  He ends on a super high E, almost an octave higher than I can play.

Lenny's solo is at 2:46.

There's also the dancing…

Which he evidently will still do by request…

This is considered perhaps his best solo (beginning at 1:40):

I could go on…he also plays a bad ass flute solo on Sparkling in the Sand (also from the same album).  LP!

The Saturday Night Live stuff is also very important to me.  I'd love to go see a taping of the show just to watch the band.  One of my biggest influences as a saxophonist.

He also has one of the coolest/weirdest websites ever.  Check it out:

The bubbles will play music if you click on them (it takes a second for them to load).

Friday, September 27, 2013

Double Duty!

I was fortunate to have two nice gigs back to back last night.  The first was a corporate jazz gig;  the second was the debut of Sazerac at Smith's Olde Bar.

I think this is probably the fifth or sixth time I've played this particular jazz gig--an awards dinner for Children's Healthcare.  The basic flow is solo piano in the pre function area, twenty minutes of music to get them in the room, thirty minutes of jazz while they eat, walk up music for the award winners, and a tune to play them out.  They even feed us and pay for parking!

Tyrone Jackson (keyboard), Kevin Smith (bass), and Chris Burroughs (drums) rounded out the group.  Good stuff from all four!

Here's the audio.  I moved my recorder from my music stand to Kevin's, so the final three songs sound a bit different (the microphone being behind the saxophone).

Following this gig, I was out the door and on my way down Piedmont (hit every green light!) to Smith's for the first Sazerac show, opening for the Reynolds and Williams Band.

Sazerac is a New Orleans flavored project comprised of several Yacht Rock guys--Greg Lee on bass and vocals, Mark Dannells on guitar, Mark Cobb on drums, Mark Bencuya on keyboard, Ganesh Giri Jaya (from the Schooner) on percussion and vocals, and me.  In a panic that I wouldn't make it to this gig on time, we added Jordan Shalhoup (also from the Schooner) on saxophone as well.  It was a really cool first gig, even though we played to about fifteen people!  I loved it, though.  This music is fun to play--it's Little Feat, Meters, early Robert Palmer (backed by either Little Feat or the Meters).  That kind of stuff.  Here's the first cut off of our upcoming EP:

This is the set list.  We also played Little Feat's Spanish Moon with Reynolds and Williams.  Nick came by and sat in on Sneaking Sally Through the Alley (we also did our Please Pleaserock Me version of John Lennon's Jealous Guy).

I hope we can learn some more songs and play some more gigs.  This stuff is great, and a nice change of pace for me as I get to play alto and tenor saxophone as well as clarinet.  Putting my college degree to good use!

Reynolds and Williams Band was really good.  Rippin' guitar stuff, and Ganesh on drums!

Upcoming gigs:

September 27, Park Tavern (Atlanta, GA) 
October 4, Greystone at Piedmont Park (Atlanta, GA)
October 5, Music City Southern Hot Wing Festival (Nashville, TN)
October 10, State Theatre (Falls Church, VA)
October 11, Gramercy Theatre (New York, NY)
October 12, Rams Head On Stage (Annapolis, MD)
October 13, Visualite Theatre (Charlotte, NC)
October 19, Variety Playhouse (Atlanta, GA)
October 31, Georgia Theater (Athens, GA)
November 1, Music Farm (Charleston, SC)
November 8, Smith's Olde Bar (Atlanta, GA)--Please Pleaserock Me
November 17, House of Blues (San Diego, CA)
November 27, Egyptian Ballroom (Atlanta, GA)
December 14, Variety Playhouse (Atlanta, GA)

Monday, September 23, 2013


Yacht Rock was in Savannah Saturday night for a wedding.  Nothing too exciting…when we loaded in, there was some kind of military school having a formal dance, so there were lots of middle school kids in uniform.  What's the point of a wrist corsage?  Seems like the most annoying thing--"here's a branch that you can tie to your arm."  Gee, thanks.

black dots!

My Sunday PM church gig sounded pretty good.  There was a lady in the front row on her cell phone for a while.  I wondered if maybe she had a bible on her iPhone;  at what point will we see people following along on tablets (and when will that be acceptable)?

Also, no mention of the Pope's baby steps into the twenty-first century this week.

P.S.  Today is John Coltrane's birthday.

Thursday night is the debut of Sazerac (opening for Reynolds-Williams band at Smith's Olde Bar).  Here's the first release from our upcoming EP.  Dig it!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

In Other News...

Wednesday:  My AM church gig held a paid soundcheck so that our new sound guy could get a feel for the room, the system, and the band.  He had the PA pretty cranked--I wonder if he'll be able to do that on Sunday.  I guess I won't know, since I'll be riding home from Savannah...

Friday:  Yacht Rock played the Mito benefit that we've played for the past few years.  Not too bad of a gig, without any kind of hellacious load in, and the sound was provided.  Show up and play for us.  Of course, it's an art gallery with concrete floors and a metal ceiling, so it sounds like we're playing in a parking garage, but the scenery (both on the walls and the dance floor) was very nice.  Ganesh subbed on drums.

We had feedback through almost the entire second set--a B natural.  It fit in well with several of our selections.

Big excitement:  Monkey brought his new guitar, a Gibson 333.  Pretty cool.  He played it for the first half of the first set before switching to his regular Bob Grosh with the P90s, which he claims is currently so well set up (he just had it repaired/set up) that he can hardly play it.

Monday, September 16, 2013

On the Move

Wow…kind of a crazy weekend I just survived.  Following Wednesday night's trio gig, I went home and packed for a Yacht Rock fly date and Yacht Rock road dates.  The travel made this one weird.

Thursday:  we met up at Thunderbox, loaded our new trailer with it and all of our gear, and then headed to the airport.  There, we pulled out our fly date gear for a one-nighter in Orlando.  The van and the remainder of our gear headed on to North Carolina for Friday's event.

We had our first trouble flying with gear.  No big surprise that it was at the Delta counter in Atlanta!  We checked four keyboards, a bass guitar, and my saxophone case.  The rules for musical instruments, according to Delta's own website and confirmed on FIVE separate occasions over the phone with Delta agents:  total linear dimensions (length + width + depth) cannot exceed 115 inches, and total weight cannot exceed 100 pounds.  The four keyboards and the bass were ok, but they challenged the dimensions of my sax case, saying it was oversized.  We even tried to show them the print out from Delta's website (which they refused to look at--the main counter agent gave us the "talk to the hand").  Lots of surly attitude from her and pass-the-buck by her subordinate.  To further delay us, the main person at the counter left us standing at the counter so she could get a tape measure to check my case (which, at a total linear dimension of 84 inches, is well under the 115 limit).  She never came back--I can't decide whether she was trying to delay us more, or if she was saving face.  The subordinate guy finally just put a tag on it and let it go (which they should have done fifteen minutes earlier).   Thanks for the great customer service, Delta.  Is it more frustrating that they don't know their own rules for musical instruments, or that they have such a combative attitude towards customers?

I slept on the plane, as usual.  I woke up when we landed.  Time machine!

After gathering our gear, we took a Disney bus to the resort.  Based on his bizarre commentary the entire way there, I'm guessing he was very high.

We ate lunch and then loaded in for our gig, a corporate party in a hotel ballroom.

This gig was about average for a corporate show, though we did it as a six piece (Peter was on vacation), which caused some shuffling of vocal parts.  We finished around 10 PM, and after loading out and moving our gear back to the hotel (and the mess of trying to have the bellman hold our gear until the next morning), we were in our rooms around midnight, which was good because the lobby call was 3:50 AM.

Friday:  ugh.  3:50 AM and we were on the move again, this time back to Orlando International for our next flight.

We pulled up to the curb.  The Delta agent immediately recognized us a band with gear, and checked everything through without a word.  Give this man a raise!

The first leg of our trip took us back to Atlanta.  I was asleep before we took off and woke when we hit the ground.  Same for the second flight from Atlanta to Greensboro, NC.  We checked into our rooms around noon and slept for around 4 more hours.

Our Friday gig was at the White Oak Amphitheatre, playing for the opening of the Central Carolina Fair.  Great weather, great crew, and a beautiful venue!  Unfortunately, nobody was there to see us.  We played really well, though.  Pete was back for this one.  Monkey debuted his Vertex cable (price tag $130) in his guitar rig.  It looks shark proof.

This gig was really sweet--I can't say enough about how nice everything was.  I'd love to play here again.  Hopefully, we'll have a bigger audience!

Saturday:  we were out the door and on the road to Bluffton, SC, which is basically Hilton Head.  We played a wedding reception at the Inn at Palmetto Bluff resort.  Another beautiful setting, and some more really cool people.  Easy stuff, as most wedding receptions are.


Sunday:  we drove home (listening to some crazy good radio stations!), which gave me a couple of hours to put gear away and get things ready for a gig at Steve's Live Music in Sandy Springs.

I played in a trio with Dustin Cottrell (piano) and Fuji Fujimoto (bass), backing up vocalist Gina Tenore.  Even with the small crowd, it was a fun gig, mostly because I so rarely get called for a gig where I do nothing but play saxophone and orchestrate my own part.  My horn felt great--I was inspired!  Fuji made charts for everything, so everybody was on the same page.  Good stuff.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Trio Gig

I had a nice trio gig at Ventanas tonight with Tyrone Jackson and Kevin Smith.  It's been a while since our last one--almost two months ago.

Here's the audio.  Mid gig, the crowd was really noisy, but the beginning especially was pretty clear as most of the people were on the opposite side of the room.  It always baffles me when businessmen are standing in front of the band, and as soon as we begin, they stand their ground and yell over us rather than move to somewhere else in the room.  Often they are loud enough that I can hear what they are saying while I'm playing.

Monday, September 9, 2013


I did my usual church gigs yesterday.

The AM church gig was a lot of fun.  I got an email earlier in the week saying "bring alto and clarinet," which I assumed meant it I'd be playing the first alto part in the concert band.  When I showed up, though, it was a horn section, and they'd made good charts and everything!  Yay!  I so rarely get to play alto beyond the realm of Yacht Rock, so this was really cool.  It also gave me a chance to practice my concert-pitch-to-alto-sax transposition (major sixth/minor third).  I did really well at it--I'm not sure if my brain has finally learned how to do it, or I just got lucky for ten minutes.

We did two services…extra time on alto!

My PM church gig sounded better than it has in a long time.  We've had vocalists in and out all summer, and I think everybody's back now.  Also, the piano sounded really good--my microphone solution has worked out well.  I was listening to the group play and I had to consciously remind myself that I had headphones on--the piano sounds true.  Yay for that!

I haven't really played flute in almost two weeks, and my flute face was bad news.  Back to work!

Day of the Donkey

Yacht Rock was fortunate to have not one but two gigs yesterday (Saturday).  Yay!

The first gig was an open house for Creative Circus, which is an Atlanta school for graphic designers.  We were on stage behind the building in kind of a spot where you'd expect to be a loading dock (but there was no dock)--just a large open area under a tin roof.  Since you could pull right up to the stage, load in and load out were pretty easy.

If I'm remembering correctly, this gig had four donkeys on the sound crew.

This was a pretty easy, albeit strange, gig.  I guess there were about fifty people back there, and they sat and watched from afar.  We played one set of just over an hour of music.  It was a pretty easy gig.

I got both my main and alto and tenor repaired this week, and Saturday was my first chance to play them (I got them back Friday evening).  In my hurry, I'd swapped the saxophone bodies but kept the necks from both my back up horns.  Guess what?  The octave keys didn't fit the same--I played my entire solo on Taking it to the Streets with the octave key slightly open.  Ugh.  My fault.

The second gig was at the Fox in the Egyptian Ballroom.  Even though we tried to delay our load in so the catering company could finish using the freight elevator, we still sat outside for fifteen minutes while they sent stuff up.  That turned out to be the worst of it, though.

Kip ran sound, and he had two donkeys.

The sound was soooooooooo much better than the last time we were in the Egyptian Ballroom.  I wish we could take Kip with us everywhere.

This gig was a two set affair for a law firm party.  Everybody played well--it was nice, loose gig following the warm up at Creative Circus.  My horns, after the octave key adjustment, played great.  After the weird EWI touch sensitivity thing (which came up again last week in California at the wedding), I am totally scared to death of my EWI.  It was fine on both gigs, but I'm just waiting for it to make me look bad.

Load out was not painful at all.  I was surprised.  We'll be back the night before Thanksgiving, and (assuming Kip is running sound) I'm looking forward to it.

Also, the pay-for-your-parking machine in the AT&T lot did not work, but the call button did.  Whomever answered my call let me out without paying.  Yay for that.

Upcoming shows!

September 13, Greensboro Coliseum (Greensboro, NC)
September 15, Steve's Live Music (Atlanta, GA)--me playing with jazz vocalist Gina Tenore
September 26, Smith's Olde Bar (Atlanta, GA)--Sazerac show
September 27, Park Tavern (Atlanta, GA)
October 5, Music City Southern Hot Wing Festival (Nashville, TN)
October 10, State Theatre (Falls Church, VA)
October 11, Gramercy Theatre (New York, NY)
October 12, Rams Head On Stage (Annapolis, MD)
October 13, Visualite Theatre (Charlotte, NC)
October 19, Variety Playhouse (Atlanta, GA)
October 31, Georgia Theater (Athens, GA)
November 1, Music Farm (Charleston, SC)
November 8, Smith's Olde Bar (Atlanta, GA)--Please Pleaserock Me
November 17, House of Blues (San Diego, CA)
November 27, Egyptian Ballroom (Atlanta, GA)
December 14, Variety Playhouse (Atlanta, GA)

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

West Coast

Yacht Rock just returned from a great trip to Los Angeles--2 House of Blues gigs and a wedding, plus some cool sightseeing.  I had hoped for a celebrity sighting and an earthquake, but neither materialized.

This was our first time flying keyboards--my sax case has made a couple of flights now, but our four keyboards had never taken to the air.  Evidently, the cost to rent two Fantoms and two Nords is insanely high, so in order to make the trip more cost effective, we had to do it.

I think Bencuya was more concerned than I.  Our cases are ATA rated, but you'll never really know until you actually hand them over to the baggage guys.  It looked bad slamming on to the baggage carousel, but all of the gear worked perfectly--no damage whatsoever.  Take a bow, SKB!

Thursday:  we flew out in the morning, landing (due to the time zones) at LAX around lunch time.

we hadn't even checked in to our hotel, and there was already a police chase on the local news

After dumping our gear at the hotel in West Hollywood, we strolled down Santa Monica Blvd to a Mexican restaurant for a late lunch and margaritas.

There was a liquor store pit stop and some record store browsing before we eventually wandered back to the hotel.  Pete made a phone call and got us into the House of Blues on Sunset Strip to see Shuggie Otis.

Another drink (warm tequila), and soon I was hanging out in a restroom stall.

At some point, Nick dragged me out into the parking lot, I projectile vomited three times, and the House of Blues asked us to leave.  Oops.

Friday:  Water, water, water, water, but still quite a hangover.

We swung by SIR and picked up some rental gear.  Fortunately, the House of Blues has some gear available (drums and amps), so we only had to pick up things like keyboard stands and an acoustic guitar.  From there, we headed to Anaheim, a distance of approximately thirty miles down I-5.  It took us three and a half hours!  LA traffic is incredible.  I mean that in the worst way.

The House of Blues in Anaheim is in their Downtown Disney complex, an outdoor mall of gift shops, restaurants, and a movie theatre, all sandwiched between the gates to Disneyland and a Disney hotel.

The gig was pretty good.  The house drum set was in pretty bad condition, and the available guitar amps were not ideal for Monkey, but all in all, it was fine.  There looked to be two or three hundred people in attendance, and they dug it.

We packed up and headed back to Hollywood.  Circumstances dictated that we take all the gear out of the van and bring it up to our hotel rooms.  Definitely no fun at the end of a long day.

Saturday:  we reloaded the van in the afternoon and headed downtown to checkout the Grammy exhibit across the street from the Staples Center.  So awesome!  Lots of cool memorabilia, including an entire floor of Ringo Starr stuff.  Incredible!

Thelonious Monk's hat

Herbie's Grammy speech

sheet music from Miles' Porgy and Bess

Herbie's keytar

photo from Born to Run

Let it Be/Abbey Road kit

Our Saturday night gig was at the scene of the crime--the House of Blues on Sunset Strip.  A much cooler experience than the Anaheim show--better gear, better crew (Jim Croce on monitors!), better location.  On top of that, we had Elliot Lurie, and Peter Beckett, and Ron Moss sit in with us (on Brandy and Baby Come Back).  All of these factors brought forth a really kick ass performance for maybe five hundred people!  Sooooo coooool.  We're definitely playing here again!

with the Led Zepp Riot House across the street!
the scene of the crime

Here are a couple of video clips:

Sunday:  we returned our gear to SIR, ate brunch at a great place called Grub, and headed south to play a wedding reception for some cruise ship friends in the Carlsbad/Vista area.

Sunday afternoon, but still there was traffic.  What the hell?

We loaded in the gear we'd flown (saxes, keyboards, guitars), and the rest was back lined by a nice crew of sound guys (friends of Kip).  No problems.  Other than my EWI freaking out again on a humid night (I guessed correctly on which was to turn the adjustment screw and made it through Africa), it was a relaxed gig--definitely nice to see some of our friends out in California.

The gig was over at 11 PM.  We were on the road around forty-five minutes later for the hundred miles back to Los Angeles.

Monday:  I turned off the TV at 2 AM.  We were in the lobby at 7 to catch the plane home.  Ouch.