Monday, December 30, 2013

Last Sunday of the Year

Ah, the last Sunday of the year!  One last squirt of church gigs.

My AM church gig was moved from 9:30 to 11 AM, which meant a little extra sleep (it also means I was a little more awake).  I guess it's the last Christmas gift I will receive.

There's some temporary shuffling going on at the church--the usual song leader is away due to illness, so the bandleader is filling his role.  Sitting in the piano chair this week was none other than John Carrozza.  Nice!  John's a bad ass musician with a very clear and concise Russell Ferante keyboard style.  There's nobody else around here who plays like him.  His wife was along to sing a few--she has a really hip Bonnie Raitt kind of voice.  Very cool people, and quite an impressive duo.

Anyway, the Carrozzas show up with charts for their stuff and roll through the whole rehearsal without a single mistake.  The service was the same thing.  Effortless.  Inspiring.  Totally bad ass.

My PM gig was a bit of a snoozer.  We had a couple Christmas carols and a couple more of those tunes that don't really work well with improvisation--uneven chord changes and phrase lengths.  I feel like I'm in the way on those tunes, so I tend to sit them out.  Not much for me to do.  There were reports about some sort of distortion coming out of the speakers, but everything was clear in my headphones.  Perhaps the powers that be are messing with the amps and EQ beyond where plug the mixer into the floor.  Nothing I fix.  So it goes...

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas Church Gigs

A few more church gigs courtesy of Christmas!

#1:  I played the children's mass at my PM church gig.  I've done this one for several years and it's always crazy.  The little kids act out the birth of Jesus--it's fun to watch.  However, because there are kids involved, people start camping out for seats over an hour before the service begins, which means there will be no rehearsal or soundcheck.  I did figure out that the speakers in the ceiling have a global mute button, new knowledge that abated my great concerns when I couldn't get any sound ten minutes before go time.

#2:  Same location, but just an extra mass--sort of the overflow mass for the main room.  This one was kind of the official location of my PM church gig team (PM church gig priest, ministers, ushers, band).  No sweat.

#3:  I picked up an extra Christmas mass at the church near my house where I used to play regularly a few years ago.  Good to see all my old friends as well as some people from my neighborhood!  The band leader and I really click musically, and this mass was no different, particularly when we did a duet on Oh Holy Night--magical stuff.  I wish I there were more opportunities to play at this church, as I really like the people here, and there's room in the music for me to be creative.

#4:  Christmas Day mass!  One more at the same church as #3.  This one had a few extra instrumentalists to dodge.  No biggie.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Most Holy Dave

I played four--FOUR!--church services yesterday!  I am the the Most Holy Dave!

So…I'm bragging.  Two were back to back.  You could say I only played three.  I will say it was four, and mostly on clarinet, so I'm counting every minute.  Clarinet is hard.

I got a call mid week about playing clarinet for my AM church gig, which was also the location of my afternoon church gig.  It immediately made me think that somebody'd read last week's blog and gotten pissed off at me for complaining, which I guess I was.  Nobody ever said anything about it, so maybe I dodged that bullet.  Maybe they were just being organized.  The head of the music department said to me Sunday, "I don't know why we've never thought to use you in the orchestra before."  That's cool--I'm glad they're realizing it and hopefully will plug me in wherever they can.  I spent a good chunk of this past week's practice time on clarinet.  I found a couple of good reeds, played some etudes, ran through scales--everything I could do to ramp up my playing.  Sunday morning, here I come!

#1:  Because of the two services back to back and then the afternoon service, I was handed a lot of music.  The first service had a couple of things that kicked my ass--some crazy sextuplets at quarter note equals 152 in the key of F#.  Uh…yeah!  I played something there!  Mostly right notes, I hope.  First note and last note in the right place, and the correct shape of the line, for sure.  There was also another piece where the clarinets were doing lots of arpeggios--more tricky stuff.

#2:  The same stuff again, with about twenty minutes of fierce practicing between services.  I certainly didn't nail the sextuplets.  I was better on the arpeggios thing.  Wow.  What's the music for the afternoon look like?  I was kind of stunned from trying to sight read all this stuff, and then there was a folder of things for the afternoon service.

I went home, ate, and practiced all this stuff that freaked me out, plus a bunch of stuff in the manilla folder for an hour and a half before I headed back.

#3:  I showed up more ready to roll.  They passed out the program for the service, and several things I'd spent a lot of time on (the sextuplet thing and some other stuff) was not in this service!  Aggh!!  That would've been good to know.  The arpeggio thing was, and I did a much better job with it.

#3 turned out to be a pretty solid performance because I was awake and had practiced the music!  I was ready to kick ass from the moment I sat down.

Whew!  After all that, I must say it was a GREAT experience.  I haven't been in that kind of situation much at all pretty much since college--those three services were two flutes and two clarinets, trying to blend and play in tune and listen to each other and translate the music on the pages in front of it.  I loved the challenge of it so much!  Even the hang and the discussions between services was something different and fun.  I learned tons about my clarinet playing--the kinds of stuff you can't get from plowing through etudes by yourself at home.  I really really dug it--probably my favorite church gig I've played this year.

#4:  Not a bad way to cap the evening!  Two singers and piano, so the mixing was easy.  Right as the band leader threw me a solo, I blinked and got an eyelash in my contact.  Can you play while someone is poking you in the eyeball with a pencil?  Does my playing seem angry and unfocused?  Ouch.  Naturally, the solo was over one of those weird hymns where the phrases are weird lengths and the chords change in weird spots in order to keep up with the melody, and I couldn't open my eyes because of the pain so I couldn't see any kind of cues as to how long I had to endure this incredible pain.  I continued to wail away like some angry goose in the corner (paging St. Francis of Assisi) for what felt like forever, waiting for the vocals to come back in and put me out of this misery.

That was that.  I was in bed by 11 PM.

Here's a cool picture from our throw and go gig a couple of Saturdays ago at Center Stage:

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Beatles Show

Please Pleaserock Me played a show at Smith's Olde Bar last night to a pretty full room.  Pretty good gig!

We had Rob Opitz joining us on trumpet.  Excellent work and good hang with somebody I've known back from the William Noll days fifteen years ago.

We debuted a couple of songs, my favorite being George Harrison's What is Life--a great song from a great album.  It makes me wonder why it took us so long to add this one!

I got to play the rhodes part at the beginning of Band on the Run, but the amp wasn't loud enough and I didn't hear anything I played.  I'm hoping my guesses were all lucky!  I made it back to the horn section, picked up my tenor and adjusted the microphone with just enough time to see that I was supposed to play bari!  I managed the switch just in time.

I made a quick load out after the gig--around 10 minutes.  It's good to be a horn player!

Next week will be a biggie for church gigs--four services on Sunday, three on Tuesday, and one on Wednesday.  Tis the season!

If you missed the Yacht Rock Revue Holiday Special last weekend at the Variety Playhouse, you can watch the whole thing on YouTube here:

Monday, December 16, 2013


I'm still recovering from the previous week, but I did make it to my church gigs.

My AM church gig was weird.  The orchestra was performing for most of the service;  the only small band song was us backing up the middle schooler choir on a gospel tune.  I ended up sitting through everything and only playing for the one song.  It's confusing to me--if you're paying me to be there, why not use me on everything?  I could have played second flute, third clarinet, bass clarinet, or any of the saxophone parts.

We played two services.  In the second, they brought in a second flutist to play when the only flute player switched to piccolo.  I sat and watched.  Maybe I should add a copy of my diploma to my bag with flute, clarinet, picc, and instrument stands.  Look!  I'm qualified!  It's disappointing to me that they think of me as only being able to do the SNL sax player kind of stuff when I could be contributing in other styles.

Just for the record, I really killed it in the second service.

My PM gig was moved from the cathedral into the parish hall due to some kind of special service or concert.  I wonder why they scheduled it for Sunday night when there was already a mass in that time slot?  Wouldn't it be better if it wasn't competing with something else at the church for people and parking?

Anyway, the parish hall is sounding pretty good these days.  They bumped up the amplifiers for the speakers in the ceiling (so we have enough headroom at the mixer), and now the sound is easier to manage.  It definitely makes me less apprehensive about playing Christmas Eve in there.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Second Guesses

Yacht Rock played our annual holiday show at the Variety Playhouse last night.  I think we had a good show overall, but I had some weird moments, particularly in the first set.

I'm not sure what happened--maybe I had trouble focusing on what we were doing--but I was really unsettled for most of the first set.  The result was a string of weird mistakes, even on familiar tunes.  I really thought a lot more than I usually do on our gigs--second guessing myself constantly.  Even when we laid into Baker Street on the second set, I couldn't remember how many times the sax hook went around before the first verse.  I played it twice (which turned out to be correct), but I couldn't decide if I was right or the band was just following my mistake.  After the show, I checked with Greg to see if I'd messed it up.  In Maneater, I played the chords of the verse in a different inversion than usual, so it wasn't wrong, per se, but again, what the hell am I doing?  It was that kind of night for me.

Anyway, as I look over the first set, maybe it wasn't bad, but feeling unsure of myself for the entire first set made for quite an adventure up there.

Nice job by Nick, Pete, Ether, and Kristen for putting together another excellent evening, and thanks to Kip, Zach, and Farrell for perfect lights and sound!  Also thanks to the Variety and our excellent fans!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Two Gigs, One Building

Yacht Rock pulled a two-fer last night--two gigs in one night, albeit in the same building, with each "gig" consisting of three songs.  Appearance is probably a better description than gig.

Our first event of the evening was at The Loft (at Centerstage in midtown).  We participated in the "Beatles vs. Stones" show benefiting Poverty is Real.  Our set was Jealous Guy, Hey Bulldog, and A Little Help from my Friends.  I had a good solo on Jealous Guy.  At the end of Hey Bulldog, I was anticipating Monkey creating feedback and noise at his amp--maybe I have this confused with the end of Good Morning, Good Morning--anyway, once we hit the outro of Hey Bulldog, something compelled me to just to take the most out, free, squealing, noisy solo I could muster.  Nobody seemed to mind.

After that, we headed out the door and walked into Vinyl (also at Centerstage) to play for Mixtape's "The Nightmare before X Mix" show for the Songs for Kids Foundation.  This set was Donny Hathaway's This Christmas, Springsteen's version of Santa Claus is Coming to Town, and Two Tickets to Paradise.  I could barely hear my saxophone.  Hope it was ok.

If you want to hear more of us, come see us tonight at the Variety Playhouse for the Yacht Rock Holiday Special!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Song of Simeon

I played a really nice gig with a bunch of old friends last night.  Will Scruggs presented his album Song of Simeon in concert last night at the Sandy Springs Christian Church.  Great writing and playing all around!  It was also cool to see several old friends in the band, including Tommy Sauter, Marlon Patton, Kinah Boto, Dan Baraszu, Lester Walker, and Wes Funderburk.  It seems like we don't move in the same circles anymore, so our opportunities are fewer and farther between.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Quartet Gig!

I had a great quartet gig last night.  We played a horse related event--I never fully grasped what it was--but who cares!  A two hour jazz gig with Tyrone Jackson (keyboard), Kevin Smith (bass), and Justin Chesarek (drums).  I couldn't have asked for a better band.  Awesome playing all the way around by some of my favorite musicians in Atlanta.  I feel lucky to share the stage with them.

You should listen here:

In related news, everybody likes my beard.

Monday, December 9, 2013


Even without a Saturday night gig, waking up early on Sunday is tough.  Too many years of training my body clock to go the other way.

My AM church gig was pretty good.  When I got there, they had the stage set for a show with the orchestra that afternoon.  I had no idea where to stand, so I ended up taking a position in between the organ and bass player.

Musically, it was another morning where I didn't contribute much.  I played some tenor and some soprano, and played clarinet (as always) on the last song.  I'm still really enjoying my new soprano mouthpiece, and after breaking in some softer reeds Saturday night, it's really fun now.  The big song for the day had a little bit of space for me to blow in between verses by the choir, so I played soprano on it, which I think fit it better than tenor.

At one point in the service, the pastor mentioned that a dollar bill was backed by gold at the Federal Reserve--I wanted to raise my hand and vehemently disagree!  Then he corrected himself--it was backed by silver.  Wait--what?  What year is it?  President Nixon ended the gold standard in 1971.  Weird stuff.

While we were on break, Wayne Viar walked by--he was playing drums in the contemporary service on the other side of the building.  Always a pleasure!  He was telling us about playing drums on some kind of national tour with somebody from ABBA.  He had to run the backing tracks, too--all on an ADAT machine!

My PM church gig was a bit of a volume war--as in, I set the level so it was audible in the back of the church, and the band leader said it was too loud.  Fine.  I turned it down.  Anybody complains, I know who to blame.

Musically, there wasn't anything that lent itself to my improvisatory noodling, so I didn't add much.  I tried to make up for it with more attentive audio mixing, albeit at a lower volume.


Yacht Rock played a show Friday night at the Mercy Lounge in Nashville.  In spite of the crappy weather, it was beyond sold out--more people than the number they call sold out.  Very cool!

We left Atlanta and the 70 degree weather.  Just north of Chattanooga, it started raining.  We went up and over Monteagle in the pouring rain.  When we arrived in Nashville, it was mid-30s and still raining.  Yuck!

We set up and sound checked as we've done here plenty of times before.  For supper, we met up with the guys from our booking agency for pizza at DeSano.  If you've ever been to Antico in Atlanta, it's the same sort of thing--the DeSano guy purchased the concept/franchising rights from Antico and set up shop in Tennessee.

Anyway, it's soooooo good.  It's kind of embarrassing--this is the kind of place where I will eat right up until I'm about to throw up.  If I had access to pizza like this more often, I would weigh 1,000 pounds.

Back to our gig!  We had a good time and played pretty well.  That stage is always loud, and for me, it takes some time to get comfortable with the volume.  First tune of the night was Greatest American Hero (Believe it Or Not).  This one hasn't been on the set list in over a year.  I did pretty well--the last measure of the bridge has an intimidating sixteenth note run that I can play most of the time.  I think I got it.  I had some other minor flubs on the string part, but it was alright.

My solo on Biggest Part of Me was kind of blah, as was Baker Street.  I couldn't get any kind of epic energy happening in the latter.  On the former, I tried to hold off on the altissimo stuff for as long as possible and try and play something meaningful in the middle of the horn.  I couldn't really get anything going.  My EWI solo on the end of Africa went very well, however, and the flow of my ideas felt logical.

The crowd had kind of a weird vibe--or maybe it was the stage volume/ear plugs thing.  It felt like they were into the first sixty seconds of everything, and then it felt like they wanted us to hurry up and get on to the next song.

Walter Egan made the trip in from Franklin and played Magnet and Steel and Go Your Own Way with us.  It's always a pleasure to hang out with the real guys, and Walter is gracious with his stories of the 70s, and he tolerates me taking pictures of him.

We spent the night in Smyrna.  The next day, it was back over the mountain in the fog.  1, 2, 3 Greg Lee!

No gig Saturday night, but I did get in some good practicing.

This is a crazy week!  I have a quartet gig Monday night, rehearsal Tuesday morning, rehearsal Thursday morning, a gig with Will Scruggs Thursday night, a gig Friday night, and the big Yacht Rock Holiday show at the Variety Playhouse Saturday night!