Thursday, September 27, 2007

Renaud Garcia Fons - bass master

Incredible "crossover" bass mastery. HOW can I not have heard of this guy before today???

He was a student of Francois Rabbath. His bass has a high "C" string, which is one reason he's able to play those lyrical melodies. But what great bow chops and killer intonation, not to mention a fresh musical concept and lovely tunes!

Excuse me, I have to go out to the woodshed now.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Music Promo Maven Bob Baker in Chicago

I read Bob Baker's book, Guerilla Music Marketing, and the guy knows his stuff. I've gotten a lot of great promo ideas from him. If you have a band or music business of any kind and are operating on a low budget (like me!) you'll glean a lot from the book. Unless I have a gig, I'll be at this seminar. I know it will be informative and entertaining.

Monday, September 24, 2007 Releases New Tracks

I thought you should know that I just did a comprehensive new release of jazz standards play along tracks on my website

I'm especially proud of the innovative tracks we've created especially for jazz vocalists. I've also added a bunch of new stuff for bass players, horn players, pianists and guitarists and drummers.

Please check it out and let me know what you think.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Walking Bass Lines: "Rhythm Changes" VIDEO

Just posted another instructional video on YouTube. This ones demonstrates some substitute chord choices for the ever-popular "I Got Rhythm" chord progression.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Making A Living

I'm a musician. You know - a man with no marketable skills. Civilians sometimes ask me what I do for a living; musicians I run into often ask me what kind of stuff I've been doing lately. These questions always leave me tongue-tied. What on earth DO I do to make ends meet? Sure, I play gigs, I teach, I run my jazz education website. I do Finale copy work... But what does it all amount to and how can I succinctly answer these quesions? After all, if you ask someone in "normal" life what they do they'll say something like "I sell shoes" or "I teach fifth grade" or "I'm a bartender". I have no such pithy response.

My wise friend Sarah says that we belong to the "artist class"; we're not blue collar workers because most of us are highly educated and "professional" yet we're not really white collar either since we don't get a regular paycheck and most of us do not earn six figures (0r anything close to that!). So we occupy some subversive nether world; we have the freedom of a freelance schedule but the burdens of an irregular income, no paid vacations and having to fork over large wads of cash every month if we want to have health insurance.

When I examine the work I do as an instrumentalist I have to laugh. One night I'm playing Louie, Louie with a metaphorical paper bag over my head at someone's wedding; the next night I'm playing a jazz festival. One week I'm subbing on Wicked and earning serious dollars; the next I'm looking for spare change under my rug to buy a cup of coffee. Unless one has a day gig or some kind of steady job (in an orchestra, say, or touring with a name act), this is our reality.

I earn about 20% of my income teaching. Again, though I really enjoy the process and most of my students, it can be very hit or miss. I'll have a week where everyone shows up for their allotted time, followed by two where half my students cancel. There's also a wide variance in both skill and talent level, not to mention the amount of practice time people put in from lesson to lesson.

So, I ask my fellow freelance musicians: What do you do for a living?

Saturday, September 8, 2007

The Practice Vibe

I feel somewhat sheepish posting this great clip of one of my bass heroes...but I'm doing it anyway. It's awkward to post because I've just posted humble videos of me teaching a simple bass lesson. And Dave Holland is so in another league entirely.

The good news is that watching this video and the one from the same solo bass concert (!) where he plays Mingus' Goodbye Porkpie Hat got me up and cracking to my own bass to practice some stuff I haven't worked on in a long while. So that's the good news.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Walking Bass Line Transitions VIDEO

I've just uploaded my first instructional video to you tube. In it I explain how to connect one chord change to the next when you are playing a walking bass line. I use the lessons I've learned from the greats: Ray Brown, Paul Chambers, Charles Mingus, Ron Carter et al. The techniques I discuss are ones I've used with great success with my students over the years. Please check it out:

Here's the same lesson on electric bass:

Sunday, September 2, 2007


Just when you thought it was safe to read this blog, yet another post about jazz singers comes hurtling at you:

In addition to the points I've made previously primarily (but not exclusively) about jazz singers I must add a further conclusion that I was reminded of earlier today. It concerns the inverse relationship between ability and the need to control. It has been my experience that the less competent the performer the more she has to take charge, direct and control the musical situation (and sometimes all the business surrounding the performance as well).

Earlier today I worked with a mediocre singer who can, on occasion, sound pretty good. Today was not one of those times. She brought in new material which was not so impressive to begin with and then tried to premiere it in front of an audience before the tunes were really finished and long before she was comfortable with the music. (We'll leave aside the less than helpful or accurate charts for the time being as that is a subject for another tirade.)

This singer found it necessary to read the charts aloud for the trio. It was rather like a teacher reading aloud from a textbook which one could easily read without help. She didn't offer anything helpful and it turned out that she didn't quite follow what she had written down for us anyway. Then, during the performance she did a couple of embarrassing things like over direct us at cues and make a big deal about a repeat she needed to add. We even had to stop and go back to a section in one of the songs because she fouled up the words (like anyone else KNEW!). It was truly a bag over the head situation.

On the flip side, when a top notch singer comes to a gig, she hands out the book (if there IS a book), counts off the tune and sings. If there is some important fact we need to know it will be either spelled out in the chart or indicated in a subtle MUSICAL way from the singer. People who are competent at their craft don't find it necessary to over-explain or hover over you while you do your job. Miles was notoriously cryptic with his sidemen over the years and just listen to the performances he coaxed out of his bands by saying next to nothing and leading by example.

There are a number of fabulous singers it has been my pleasure to work with who perform, act and communicate like they are IN the band. In fact, it is almost always true that the better the singer, the easier time one has playing with them and the less they feel it is necessary for them to direct. The control freak divas are, for the most part, in the realm of the poseur or, at best, the mediocre.