Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Free Music Downloads

Blog # 38: Free Music Downloads

I just put up some new tracks I recorded from a Session this past weekend. We were all reading(so forgive the mistakes!) some new tunes of mine and my new arrangement of the standard "What is this thing called Love?"

All of this new music explores a new direction that I've been interested in; Minimalist Jazz.

You can listen here:


Listen and Download for FREE on my bandcamp site:

The band is:

Jon Crowley- Trumpet

Julian Pollack- Piano

Peter Schwebs- Bass

Evan Hughes- Drums



Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Emotional and the Analytical

Blog # 37: The Emotional and The Analytical

The best thing about jazz has always been its duality. Good jazz has the ability to engage your mind and emotionally affect your heart. You can listen to a John Coltrane solo and observe his incredible facility, dexterity and articulation OR simply marvel at the beauty in his tone and its emotional impact on you the listener. This duality is one thing that separates it from many other forms of music.

Unfortunately for most of us, school and learning to play is a largely analytical process.

"What scale to I play on a C7#11?"

"What Chords does my diminish pattern work on?"

The current Jazz musician spends so much time working on flawless technique, tone and harmony that he often forgets about that second important part; The emotional. I think the reason its so neglected is that the Analytical side is much easier to teach(and to figure out), because it is the instruction of facts. which scale goes on what chord. The message is: learn this charlie parker solo and Ta-da! Now you can play jazz. Unfortunately, this just isn't true, and it leaves much jazz music cold, sterile and lacking the ability to pull in listeners.

The jazz educational system has neglected 'The Emotional', most likely because it is extremely difficult to teach and each musician needs to sit down and think about what they are trying to convey in a particular song or solo. When I was studying my Undergrad at Muhlenberg I had the pleasure of working with a great bass player and teacher named Charles Fambrough. He went right at the emotional component; I remember working on a certain funk based song and Fambrough telling us to "Play the song like it was a big fat lady crammed in a little dress with her ass hangin' out the back and steaks hanging from her ears instead of ear-rings.'" With this kind of mental image, we brought a lot more character to the song(even though we lacked the 'Analytical side' and had limited knowledge of chords and harmony at the time).

I think here lies the problem. As musicians we need to be able to constantly shift back and forth between these two functions(or maybe even learn to do them simultaneously). I remember playing a song on my stereo for a friend a few weeks ago and he kept saying, "That's a cool use of 3 against 4 in 5/4 time" and "So its two bars of 3 and a bar of 4". After a while I yelled at him, "Stop thinking so much and just enjoy the music!"

At this point in my life I want to be able to turn that 'Analytical side' off and on. The Analytical side has a great place in rehearsal and practice; figuring out the chords, form, things in your own playing you need to improve on, but I think we need to practice the 'Emotional' too. Think about what the tune means and what the feeling is behind the song. And the performance, ideally, is where 'The Emotional' meets 'The Analytical'.

Lastly I will say this: if I'm in the audience, I don't want to think about meters or chords, I just want to enjoy the music.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Internet Promotion in the Digital Age

Blog # 36: Internet Promotion in the Digital Age

I remember when I first moved to New York City back in the fall of '05. Growing up in the suburbs and attending an undergrad college in a suburban area too, I was a bit overwhelmed at first by the hustle and bustle of the city. Visually, there is so much information to take in: loud noises, people hurrying off to their destinations, street vendors, cars honking, and people shouting. Times Square is nothing but billboards, flashing lights, large TV screens and even people on the street talking directly to you trying to invite you to 'comedy shows'.

During this first week in New York, I had my first lesson with Laurie Frink. I went to her apartment studio, sat in the chair and got my horn out. She asked me how I was adapting to life in NYC. I responded that I was still taking it all in. She stated profoundly; "After a while you won't even see the people".

My first days in NYC really have a lot in common with the state of Internet promotion. We are bombarded with so much stimulae that as viewers, we are having trouble sifting through it; THERE'S JUST TOO MUCH! Sites like Amazon, Myspace and Youtube have so much content on them, from different genres, topics, styles; all mixed together. If you type 'Jazz' into youtube you'll get a lot of videos of student musicians playing along to aebersold records, right there along side of videos with amazing cutting edge performances from around the world. You have to look through a LOT of crap to find the real gems, and after a while, it all sounds the same.

After a while, our brains are completely overwhelmed and we just 'turn-off and tune-out'. We watch a clip of 'Chris Potter' or 'Miles Davis' on youtube and we take for granted how amazing it is, because our senses are dulled but the quantity of music(and all information) we're exposed to. Its not our faults, our brains just can't take it.

Another problem arises from having everything at our fingertips. People start getting accustomed to having everything instantly, so when they listen to a new record, song, or clip, they must like it instantly. If they don't, they're one click away from watching or listening to something else. It seems shallow, because it is. I remember when I first listened to 'Giant steps' in high school I hated it! I just couldn't get my ears around it and really thought John Coltrane was just randomly hitting notes on the saxophone. Now years later, I feel it is an amazing song that really defines a period in jazz. I only grew to feel this way after repeat listenings.

I think this situation has some real implications for musicians today trying to get their music out there. People looking to check out new artists are presented with a sea of talented performers of different styles and genres. If you go to jazz media website, there are so many links and ads for different artists being pushed by their (dying) labels. I get the impression that the audience checks out these people because they are seeing and hearing so much of them, not because they necessarily are the best or most original.

Another problem that arises is that because people can listen to so much online for free they feel no obligation to buy a record or attend a show;

"Why go to the show? I can listen for free from the comfort of my living room".

"Why pay when I can get it for free?"

There are some positive things that come from the digital age as well. Artists can put their music out for anyone to see, as long as someone can find their way to your page. That 'instant access' can get a fan to find out about you by following a link. Fans can even connect Artists directly; sharing feedback, giving encouragement or just saying, 'I dig your music'. The problem that remains, how does that fan find their way to your page amongst the BILLONS just like you out there?

-How does that Artist, who's music demands repeat listenings', get that potential fan NOT to click away and move onto something else?

-Why does that fan go to the show when they can listen for FREE from home?

So what's the solution?

-The audience needs to somehow take the time to REALLY listen and check new artists out. Don't just accept that someone is 'Great or innovative' because you've heard this. Judge for yourself.

-Go see live music; This is where artists make their money, and they need it just to live and keep creating more music. If you want to download free music or listen to songs online, go check out their live shows, if you don't that Artist may stop producing music altogether.