Every Day I Write the Book

The jazz gig last weekend went quite nicely. We weren’t sure what to expect, never having played a library before. In fact I can’t remember the last time I played a gig in the daytime. But it was very cool. The space was great, with a high ceiling and good acoustics, set up with tables and chairs, and coffee and cake rather than the usual craft beer and whiskey.

The show was well attended, sixty people or more. I guess a big suburban library is a happening place on a Sunday afternoon in the wintertime. And I saw some familiar faces from some of our other gigs, so thank you all. Musically things went well, and the crowd dug us. After the show some members of the audience came up to and suggested libraries in other towns nearby where they’d like to see us play. Whuda thunk?

The day of the gig was an unusually warm for January, up in the 60’s; it reminded me of California. However the warm spell was not destined to last, and a couple days later it got solidly below freezing and stayed there. Today we get the first real snowfall of the winter.

This week’s jazz rehearsal had to be cancelled, so I’m putting some time into new recordings in the home studio. I’ve completed the piano part — the spine of the track — for both new tunes TSL and WSoYB, and I’m on to programming the drum parts.

On sax I’m working my thru the book Patterns for Jazz by Lenny Neihaus et al., which I last studied in high school. Getting command of all those figures at my fingertips is helping my improvisation immensely.

In other news, I got pretty close to getting a new rock group off the ground before the holidays. I answered an ad in Craigslist from a guitar player with originals looking for a keyboard player to collaborate with. He listed King Crimson and the Del Phonics among his influences, so I said yeah, my kind of weird. I went over to his house to jam and he also had a bass player, and he said he a drummer but the drummer couldn’t make it that night. He had a bunch of riffs and we jammed them out, seemed promising.

A few weeks went by trying to line up another session. Since he couldn’t get his rhythm section together I invited my friends Ken and Steve on bass drums. The idea was we’d do one of my originals and one of his, and spend the rest of the time jamming on new ideas. I dusted off one of my old songs “Ghost in the Machine”. It went over well and we had a fun time with it. Guitar dude declined to bring in one of his old songs, so we spent the rest of the time jamming on some riffs, got maybe halfway there.

I kinda get that. I have about an albums worth of half-written rock/pop songs, and I’d love to develop them in a group context like I do with my jazz songs in the jazz group. In fact at this point I’m kinda saving them for that situation. But bringing a song that’s already written and that you know works lets you focus on playing together and seeing how everyone responds to the sound and finds their place in a musical context. It’s a good way to get things off the ground and into flight.

So despite a fun rehearsal guitar dude bowed out, citing writer’s block. The good news is now Ken is really jazzed about doing an originals band, and he and Steve really groove as a rhythm section. Ken wants to get together and jam as a power trio while we look for a guitarist.

This to me is an interesting idea, but probably too much to sustain on my side as the lead singer and main writer. I can only think of two keyboard-oriented power trios in the history of rock. The first of course is Emerson Lake and Palmer. However I’m no Keith Emerson, and there will never be another. In any event Greg Lake was the singer, and wrote most of the lyrics and melodies, and played guitar as well as bass. A lesser known power trio from the 80’s was Gowen, featuring Larry Gowen on keyboards and vocals, and his brother on Chapman Stick. Great stuff, very underrated. Unfortunately Ken doesn’t play the stick, only the regular bass. I guess a third example is Rush in their peak synthesizer era, and indeed they’re one of my big influences, but Geddy was a bass player first and doubled on keyboards, kinda like John Paul Jones, and the whole band did lots of triggering of samples to make the sound happen live.

For me the model is more Donald Fagen or Billy Joel, Gregg Allman, Stevie Wonder or Paul McCartney. A keyboard player who sings. Having a guitar to round out the group, fill in the rhythm, take solos, and play parts in other sections is critical. And someone who can sing harmonies! In fact my ideal band would be more of a co-lead situation like Pink Floyd, Supertramp, They Might Be Giants, Claypool Lennon Delirium or the Cheshire Cat.

So if you play guitar and sing and are into originals, drop me a line!

Meanwhile back in jazzland here’s a couple clips from the library gig. Don’t let the old people in audience fool you with their lack of perceptible motion, they were digging it. Enjoy!

Ms. Jones . Mobility

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