Friday, February 26, 2021

February Stuff

Things are very slow right now in the local music biz, so I haven't much to report. A few livestream concerts have been broadcast--the Yacht Rock Valentine's Day Prom, and also the performance of Hot Dads in Tight Jeans, which you can watch on Facebook and YouTube.

The Prom was a pay-per-view thing, so I can't share the video, but here are some cool pictures from it:

Since then, my time has been focused on recording horns for another Ladies of Soul livestream, cranking out a couple of songs each day. Here's one:

Who's Loving You by the Jackson Five was going to be on the Ladies of Soul show, so I wrote a horn arrangement, and then it ended up getting cut from the setlist. My arrangement didn't really work anyway, so whatever--there's no place to breathe! On a real gig, I/we'd have died. At the very least, we would've needed a time out.

Anyway, I made a video out of it. My original plan had been to to just record the background horn parts and maybe I'd play bass notes on a keyboard just as a pitch reference, but then I thought I'd add a drum loop, except that I couldn't find what I was looking for, so I ended up playing the drum part and the bass part on a MIDI keyboard, and then I decided to add a keyboard part to make it sound a little more conventional, and hell, let's record a tambourine part kind of like the original song, and then if it's gone this far, I might as well play the melody, too. Waaaaaay more than I thought I'd do.

I do like the way the video turned out, though.

Here's a practice thing I recently discovered:  one of the nice things about Instagram (for musicians) is that the clips tend to be a minute long, so if you hear something that you want to investigate, you're not going to have to wade into some twelve minute Coltrane solo to find the lick that caught your ear. I made screen recordings of things I liked, and then dumped the video into the app Transcribe, and wrote out what I heard. For example, here's a Ryan Devlin clip with a lot of modern ideas that I wanted a look at.

Here's another grab, this time of NYC saxophonist Sam Dillon demonstrating some outside playing (note: I think of each melodic idea as its own thing, so not necessarily something you would blaze through as one transcribed solo. I used solid bar lines to demarcate where I think you should breathe and regroup).

Also, here's a random Michael Breaker lick that I saw on the internet the other day and played a hundred times in a row.

See you in March?

Monday, January 25, 2021

January Happenings

Greetings! The music making continues to creep along through January. Here's what I've been up to.

Two weeks ago, Yacht Rock reconvened on stage at the Roxy to record our Valentine's Day Prom show. This one leaned into the 80s a bit more than we might normally go, and it was fun to play some different songs...hell, it was fun just to play a show with a band!

Also check out the light show that James did! This is from soundcheck. The disco ball was used to great effect.


Speaking of playing some different music:  we're coming up on the one year anniversary of the release of Hot Dads in Tight Jeans, so we got together last week and recorded a show of us playing the entire album. Only about half the songs have ever been played live, so it was a fun challenge to learn the other songs, walk in, sit down, and play them with the same intent that we give to Step and Bad Tequila. 

The keyboard "division of labor" (dividing up the multitude of parts on the album) necessitated that I cover one of Mark Bencuya's synth solos on the song Can't Stop while he continued the main part running underneath it. To accomplish this, I chose to take a saxophone solo, but drastically alter the sound using my effects pedal. Here's an example of it:

That show will be broadcast on the Yacht Rock Revue Facebook page in February. 

Around all of these livestream recordings, I was supposed to be preparing to play a concert of the musical Nine at the Lyric Theatre (no acting, just the singing). It was set up as safely as possible with everybody who could wear a mask wearing a mask, lots of distance between each of us, and plexiglass barriers to further separate us. You may recall that I did something similar with The Color Purple a year ago (you can reread it here).  The music was a nice challenge, and I'd been working through the Reed III book for a couple of weeks when the musical director called with the news that the show had been cancelled/indefinitely postponed because too many of the actors had had positive COVID tests! Woah! I'm disappointed that I didn't get to play, but it feels like I dodged a bullet here.

Here are some fun musical moments from the book:

Next month? More of the same! By the looks of the calendar, things won't be headed back to normal until July. In the mean time, I'm trying to post things a little more consistently on my Instagram page and David Freeman Music Facebook page.

Sunday, December 27, 2020

December Gigs

It's been the slowest, weirdest December in my lifetime. Oddly enough, though, I did get several calls for gigs, but almost all of them sounded like bad ideas--a jazz duo (yes!), but in somebody's living room with twenty-five people in attendance (hell no!).  Who's taking a gig like that right now, but also, who's putting together parties like that right now? I declined all of those, reminding myself that it would not be worth it to possibly infect anyone in my family for $200. 

Last Sunday afternoon, I did take an outdoor jazz gig in College Park that was a lot of fun. Louis Heriveaux, Tommy Sauter, and Ben Johnson joined me for a neighborhood Christmas party in somebody's yard. Great fun with a few old friends! Louis wanted to know if I still hated Christmas tunes--it made me think about it, and I guess my problem is that on these gigs, people want you to politely play everything on Charlie Brown Christmas. I, on the other hand, am usually so excited to be playing a jazz gig that I want to play every tune like it's Coltrane's Live at the Village Vanguard

Anyway, 54 degrees was a little chilly, but I am still happy to play some tunes with my friends.

In other news, the Ladies of Soul (Keisha and Kourtney Jackson) put out a livestream concert on Christmas Eve. The backing band was Mark Bencuya, Mark Dannells, Greg Lee, and Zack Albetta, and I wrote and recorded horn arrangements for everything. Big fun for me, and our audio/video ninja Zach Wetzel was able to blend everything together perfectly. Check it out here.

Leading up to the broadcast, I also made some short videos to highlight my parts. Check these out!

One more good thing: I got a call from Steve Augeri (formerly of Journey!) to play on his quarantine project. This song, called If You Want, needed one of those heroic 80s tenor sax solos in the vein of Tim Cappello or Clarence Clemons. Steve sent me the song, I recorded a couple of passes at home, we talked on the phone, I recorded a couple more, and it was done! Recording from home rocks.

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Georgia on my Mind

Saturday afternoon, I began making a video as part of the #GeorgiaOnMyMind campaign to encourage voting in Georgia's upcoming election for the Senate. I wrote the arrangement in an hour or two. My game plan:

1. Feature the different saxophones at different times. The alto has the melody in the first eight measures; the bari has it on the bridge; and the tenor has it for the last eight.

2. Have some sort of big band soli thing where all the voices move with the melody. This is the second eight measures.

3. Lots of rhythm in the supporting voices! I didn't want it to die with a bunch of whole notes under the lead line.

Here's page one of my chart.

On to recording it! One of my quarantine projects has been to try and transition my recording software from Garageband to Logic. I have enough knowledge to know what I'm trying to accomplish, but finding the corresponding button to push in Logic sometimes takes a while. 

The other hurdle on this particular night was transposition. Reading concert pitch charts on Eb alto and Eb bari sax? Difficult, but not impossible. Reading concert pitch charts on tenor? Not too bad. Reading concert pitch charts in bass clef and transposing them to each saxophone? Ahh! Ya got me. I had to put the horn down and rewrite my chart in treble clef in order to save my brain. 

At the same time that I recorded the audio, I also set up the camera and recorded video. 

Anyway, editing took some time; some wrong notes from the whole transposition thing, some sloppy entrances from sight-reading, some "wait, which part am I recording right now?" things. Then I listened and tried to balance everybody's volume, and then listened to it without headphones and balanced it again, and so on.

Next up, I edited the video, trimming off the beginning and end where I am pushing the record button--stuff like that. From there, I dumped it into iMovie (and tried to remember from the last time I used it) how the work flow goes. Getting four shots in one movie was tricky--I put the first video in a quarter of the screen, saved it as a completed project, imported it back into iMovie, added another shot in another corner, saved it as a completed project, imported see what I mean. Plus I experimented with trying to highlight each of the solos while they were happening, and that didn't work, so I had to scrap all that and begin a new edit.

Once I had the four stitched together, I added the recorded audio, as well as the beginning and ending slides. And hello 5 AM! It's finished!

Here's what I did:

The Yacht Rock Revue also recorded a version for this. Check it out, too! I played organ for most of it, and then stood up and blew a little saxophone at the end.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

There Is No Substitute

 The latest 2020 Yacht Rock gig was at the Porsche Experience down by the Atlanta airport, playing three songs for...something...for Porsche. At this point, I don't remember. I think it was something about maybe trying to get people to come check it out, so they used local bands to highlight it.

The setting was pretty cool with the track behind us and the planes passing by, and the weather and the daylight were perfect. We played each of the songs twice for different camera angles--Ride Like the Wind, Hold the Line, and Running on Empty.

Easy gig! Didn't even play any saxophone.

Sunday, November 1, 2020

Status Update

 Sooooo...this shit continues with no end in sight. 

There hasn't been much to write about over the past month or two. Outside of a few potential gigs that never materialized, my performances have been limited to recording a few "livestream" concerts with the Yacht Rock Revue. No one seems to mind that they're not actually live, and it allows our team to edit everything into a better performance. From our side of the production, it's definitely strange; the feeling is much closer to a rehearsal than a show, and it's difficult to overcome the reality that we're playing to an empty room. We're doing it, though. It's all we've got at the moment.

A few weeks ago, we played a corporate convention in Oklahoma City, and it too was a livestream. It was set up more or less as a television show, with several "sets" in different ballrooms. 

On the first night, we set up our gear, sound checked, ate, and waited on a rehearsal that never happened.

Our call for the second day wasn't until 4:30 PM, so most of us wandered around the immediate vicinity to the hotel, which was dominated by a minor league baseball stadium. 

I also ventured over towards the state capital. 

This machine is called a pump jack. It sure is weird to see one installed in the median of a four lane road.

Any... day two was our performance. Here is the monitor showing the multiple cameras throughout the building.

The hosts of the evening (in some other room) managed the evening, passing off the show to us for a few songs, to the comedian Sinbad for a five minute segment, back to us, off to (of all people!) Michael MacDonald at home in California, and back to us. All in all, I think we played around fifteen songs--a very easy night.

Two days later, we were involved in a drive in concert at a parking lot north of Atlanta. The event was sold out (yay!), but it rained--poured!--from soundcheck all the way through load out at the end of the night. It's hard to say how the show went--of the people who showed up (it was a "rain or shine" gig), most were forced to stay in their cars because of the storm. 

We are entering the season where my hands go numb if I'm cold, so I was pretty seriously concerned that it would happen on this night and I wouldn't play well. Fortunately, the temperature stayed high enough (and I wore an extra shirt to try and keep myself warm). Things were sticky though, in the high humidity, and that's my excuse for messing up two measures of the Africa solo. 

This is probably our final public performance of the year, appropriately enough. What a mess this year has been.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Down in Castle Rock

Another gig! This time, we flew to Denver to play an outdoor, socially distanced show at an amphitheater. 

The flight was reeeeaaaaaalllly early--8:15 AM takeoff, which put us in Denver at 9:30 or something. Brutal! My schedule as of late has been nowhere close to this.

Anyway, the van picked us up. Our first stop was a dispensary. Legal weed! Woo! I...stayed outside. Not my thing.

From there, we drove to the city of Castle Rock, where the gig was happening, and would you believe they had an Indian restaurant! I haven't had Indian food since March, so this was a treat. I did eat indoors, which made me a little nervous, but the place was almost empty (one other table in use), so I risked it. Aloo gobi (potatoes and cauliflower).

The amphitheater where we played was at a complex built in a valley. There was zip lining, an obstacle course, a soccer field, mountain bike trails, and a playground. Pretty cool. We were early for setting up gear, so I went for a little run around the trails.

Here's the stage. Very cool looking (though it faced west and got very warm during soundcheck. The fencing around the front kept the audience far enough away from us that we weren't in any danger.

The gig was, overall, really good, and it was nice to play for people again! However, I am not sure how successful the promoters were in keeping people masked and socially distanced. I don't know...maybe it was ok? 

I played pretty well. The gig was only ninety minutes long, which limited the damage I could do. 

I still haven't figured out how anyone plays saxophone in Denver. I brought a few different strengths of reeds to help with the altitude, but I ended up using the same reeds I've been on at home. My horns felt super dead, though. It was fine through a microphone, but bleah...nothing vibrated. There was just about no feedback through the horn.

The next morning, we met up at 6 AM to get back to the airport. Guzzled some coffee, got on the plane, fell asleep, woke up on our initial descent into Atlanta. It was almost normal.


Friday, September 4, 2020

Cape Cod

Another pandemic road trip! This time, Yacht Rock headed up to Cape Cod to play another drive-in show.

Lots of space on the plane to Boston. I am thankful that Delta isn't putting people in the middle seat these days. Keisha went all the way across from me to maximize the distance. Also, I am pleased to report that my mask did not affect my ability to fall asleep!

The guys and the gear met us at the airport and took us to the nearest Chipotle. Then, onward to Cape Cod!

Sooooo, here we go. A true drive in theater in Yarmouth, Massachusetts. Cars drive in, take their parking spots, and tune their radios to a particular frequency in order to hear the band. No PA stacked along the stage, no amps on stage. Without a radio, all you would hear is drums, a little bit of singing, and the occasional saxophone.

How was the gig? Pretty good, all things considered. We recently played a few recorded shows for private events, and those were much more of a grind. This felt a lot closer to a normal show, even with the oddities of cars and no PA. I definitely played better on this one.

As you might expect, there was plenty of horn honking and flashing headlights from the two hundred or so cars. With multiple people in each car, that's actually a solid turnout!

The next day, we flew home. This is the airport in Boston on a Saturday morning. Where is everybody?

About the only thing open in the airport was Dunkin' Donuts. Good thing. Caffeine is an essential part of every morning.

On the flight home, it was announced that our pilot was retiring. I'm guessing maybe it was probably retirement vs. probable furlough? It's not going well for the airline industry, either.

It looks like we're headed to Denver in a week to do another one. I'm glad we can do a few of these while the weather still makes it possible.