New Song: Lift Off

Here’s a pretty-close-to-finished mix of my song Lift Off. It’s the fifth of six songs on my forthcoming computer jazz album, and the most straight-ahead bebop number of the bunch.

This song was originally developed for my pre-pandemic jazz group as a vehicle for some uptempo tenor sax shredding, inspired in part by John Coltrane’s Countdown and Steely Dan’s Bodhisattva. The changes are in the mode of standards like Have You Met Miss Jones? and A Foggy Day, but with a half-step modulation inside the ii-V’s, a streamlined version of the Giant Steps trick (i.e. ii-bii-bVi-V). It’s pretty challenging to solo over, but even with the constant modulation and implied dissonance, it’s pretty smooth to listen to.

Like other songs that I’ve previously played live, it’s hard to completely unwind the arrangement, so the live version was used as a starting point. It’s a tenor sax backed by a rhythm section of piano bass and drums. I introduced an organ in lieu of a guitar, and then the organ is sometimes doubled by a synth for emphasis.

There’s actually two bass parts. One is a bass guitar played fairly softly and EQ’d with much of the middle scooped out to make is sound more jazzier. The other is a synth bass, and the patch is layered with an organ to suggest the organ player is doing it with his left hand (which is actually true, I guess). They double for much of the song, but in the solos when it goes to a walking quarter note pattern the bass guitar just outlines the chords, and the synth takes over. I can’t walk on those changes on a bass guitar at 200 bpm!

I put alot of effort into the dynamics and the drums to make it swing. I’m using mainly sequenced drums here, again because of my limitations playing jazz drums at that tempo and doing it justice. So something resembling human feel and interaction was important. Alot of the song is carried on just the ride cymbal and hi-hat with the snare and kick drum doing accents. I practiced and developed a few patterns out of the bebop drumming book to really get what I wanted to program.

There’s a section where drums and sax are trading fours. I tried a few different ideas for this. I was inspired by Mahavishnu orchestra and their vocalized drum solos, and went with something kinda like that, but doubled on snare and toms and with a heavy flange effect. I think it sound cool and works pretty well.

Got a Drink in my Hand, Got my Toes in the Sand

We finished out our summer vacay this year with a trip to Ocean City, MD. We used to go there pretty much every year when the kids were little, but there’s been lots of other stuff to do the last few years, so it’s been a while. This is first time Jeannie and I went by ourselves. It was fun and relaxing, very mellow. We know the place pretty well and have a few favorites, also explored some new stuff. The weather was great the whole time and we were able to eat outdoors.

We drove up Friday afternoon. The drive was pretty relaxing, even though there was a good deal of traffic. We walked around Friday evening, dipped our toes in the ocean, and went to dinner at Mackie’s on the bay, one of our perennial favorites. Yummy frozen drinks and seafood dishes. Stopped by Anthony’s deli on the way back to the hotel. Saturday was a beautiful day and we lounged on the balcony taking in the ocean view over our morning coffee, then went swimming in the ocean for a good long while. In the late afternoon we walked down the boardwalk toward the amusement pier, stopping at Shenanigans, another favorite hangout, for drinks and snacks. The evening we went on a cruise around the harbor and out into the ocean along the beach and back, giving us wonderful views of the sunset. Afterwards was ate at Anglers place on the bay right downtown, very nice. Sunday we went out to Assateague Island and did a bunch of hikes, including the swamp walk and a dunes walk. We wanted to rent a canoe but it was too windy. We came back in the afternoon and went for a swim in the ocean, but it was too rough to stay out a long time. Ate dinner on the boardwalk at a place called the Taphouse, that had many kinds of beer. I had a huge burger with the works and an egg on top. Drove home Monday after breakfast at the Marlin Moon, in our old favorite hotel, just a couple blocks from our new hotel.

Now it’s back to school time, but there’s no kids to go back to school, so it’s more like getting our heads in gear to get stuff in the fall and to the end of the year. I’m looking forward to working more on music and origami, finishing my current computer jazz record and my third origami book, and possibly some new music and origami software development, in addition to the Global Jukebox and other consulting gigs. Also doing more hiking as the weather gets cool.