Saturday, November 26, 2011

Changing it up

(I always have fun picking the images for these blogs)



Blog # 93: Changing it up



I think its important to keep things fresh, new and to change things up from time to time. I think as human beings we can all get into our certain patterns that we do day to day; maybe its the same breakfast or lunch, maybe its the same exercise schedule, or the same practice routine(seems like a lot of musicians get stuck playing the same stuff). It is easy to get comfortable doing the same thing and the next thing you know, you blink and maybe 10 years have passed and you're still doing the same thing! Sometimes big changes are hard, but little changes are much more manageable.


I definitely felt like I had a certain pattern to my life from when I graduated NYU in spring 2007 until 2009 and then a different pattern from then until the end of 2010. This year has been great though, I've met a lot of new people who bring a totally different energy to my life, I moved out the apartment I had been living in for 5 yrs, I've been listening to different music and playing music with a more varied group of musicians, genre-wise. I got pretty into running this year, trying to go for an hour run, 3 days a week, and I've been getting more and more into eating healthy too. I actually feel younger now than I have in years, maybe its surrounding myself with younger, hungrier people too. Its also interesting how certain friends I've gotten closer to, and others have drifted away. I guess that's just the nature of life, and I accept this.


But its never enough, there is only forward to the next thing. With 2012 just a month away, I've been thinking about what a big year 2011 has been for me. Its been a year of progress and a year of remembering. Its been a year of intense feelings too. I feel like I just woke up from a long sleep, and everything is now in bright colors(like when Dorothy wakes up in Oz). Even though a year is just an abitrary start to a new cycle, its good to have a marker. It makes it easier to remember the distinct feel of each year and I want 2012 to be the biggest yet. I'm looking forward to a rebirth and re-invention.


I'm welcoming change and I already have one thing I plan on doing different in the new year: my practice journal. Since 2002 I have kept a daily journal of my practice habits. Each day I record how long I practice, if I had a gig, or a rehearsal and even details on if my chops felt weird etc. Its been cool to see how when I started these journals I could only play 2-3 hours a day before getting tired, and since moving to New York(and studying with Laurie Frink), I've done 5-6 hours per day, every day. If the journals were started to keep myself accountable they've succeeded. I've only taken 3 days off since 2002: one when I got mono sophomore yr of college and my throat swelled shut and had to go to the emergency room, and 2 days off when I got my wisdom teeth out(I actually started back playing again too quickly and ended up getting them infected; woops!)


If the purpose of the journal was to monitor my playing and make sure I wasn't slacking, I think I've established that I'm not that guy, so I've decided I'm going to stop the journals on Jan 1st 2012. Maybe they just became a compulsive habit, but in getting busier over the last few months I've noticed that I can get hours of practice in during different times of the day and still keep my ability up, whereas for the longest time I forced myself to play 11-1pm, 4-6pm, and 8-9:30(regardless as to how I felt). I still like playing those hours, but I am more flexibly now. If a friend calls and wants to hang randomly one afternoon, I can take an afternoon off and its not the end of the world. This may not seem like a big deal, but it took me a long time to get here. I was just so tunnel vision on trumpet that I forgot about a lot of other great stuff that is out there in this world. I'm more relaxed about life now. I still want to be the best trumpeter I can be. I still want to practice insane amounts, and I'm still not going to take a day off, but I'm a human being too...and I get that now. It took me a long time.


I'm also entertaining the idea of checking out a new trumpet. I've played the same Bach 43 trumpet for the past 10 years too. I've been curious about Martin Committees for a while, but have heard horror stories about finding a good one and their intonation issues. I've heard Lawler makes a great modern version of the Committee, so i'm curious. We'll see what happens. Gotta do some more homework on the subject, but the idea of shopping for a new horn is intimidating, especially with all the leadpipe, bell, and bore variations. I don't even know where to start.


Looking forward to some big moves in 2012


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Petition

Blog # 93: The Petition

So my good friend John Beaty wrote this petition to support this new movement relating to Jazz he's creating called "Stretch". John also makes some great points about the current music scene and hopes of reforming it. Here's the petition. or go to www.Mymomthingsimgreat.com

To My Fellow Jazz Musicians and Music Lovers,

I am a saxophonist living in New York City. I have lived here for the past ten years, attended and graduated from some of the best music schools in the world. I have toured and played with many of my jazz heroes including Dafnis Prieto, Jean-Michel Pilc, Chris Potter and Richard Bona, and have been a working musician on the scene. I now find myself looking at a broken, antiquated system—a system that no longer serves us and is no longer self-sustaining. The jazz system sends young hopefuls through music schools, charges them upwards of $150,000 and then spits them out into a world where it is almost impossible to obtain the most basic sustenance. We're not talking about low-level products; these are amazing and virtuosic musicians who are struggling for work. How did jazz arrive at this current state?

Until the 20th century, virtuoso classical instrumentalists were often considered the most highly regarded entertainers in the world. With the emergence of jazz, Coleman Hawkins, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Glenn Miller, and the Dorsey Brothers were immensely popular. Coupled with the advent of recorded music, musicians were able to reach larger audiences and make more money as well. They were entertainers as well as great instrumentalists. Next came Bebop in the 1940's. Unfortunately, with the increased musical complexity the American public forced these musicians to make a difficult decision: stay true to their art or water down their music for the sake of entertainment and record sales. This moment was quintessential for the evolution of Jazz; leaving the realm of strict entertainment and becoming an art form. Musicians like Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie were not only virtuosos, they were innovators. These two founders and the Bebop movement demanded respect. The unfortunate consequence of this decision of art over entertainment was that it often lead to fewer record sales. As hard bop, cool jazz, and later modal jazz developed there was still a small but devote audience for the music. In 1959 Colombia Records released Dave Brubeck's album 'Time Out'; an album that would go on to become one of the best-selling instrumental records of all time. However, in its first year, it sold a mere 50,000 copies. If 'Time Out' had been released today, Brubeck would have been cut and searching for a new label. Miles Davis' masterpiece 'Kind of Blue' (also recorded in 1959) was classified quadruple platinum in 2008. It took nearly 50 years, and Miles had long since passed away.

To compete with the increasing popularity of Rock music, Miles Davis and other jazz instrumentalists sought to reach wider audiences. They combined their music with rock and other popular styles. Stanley Turrentine, Wayne Shorter's Weather Report, Herbie Hancock, Grover Washington Jr. and George Benson were amongst those who achieved commercial success. Then someone came along who took things even further in that direction: Kenny G arrived on the scene and released his first album in 1982. Despite the opinion of many jazz musicians, Kenny G's success actually created a new market called smooth jazz. His music became wildly popular throughout the 80’s. In fact, his Christmas album has sold more copies than any other holiday album in recorded history (outselling Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, Sting and Nat King Cole). For the first time in a long time, an instrumental musician was selling millions of records. Also During the early 80's, Wynton Marsalis emerged on the scene. On his arrival, he was viewed by many as a savior of Jazz; someone that could bring the music back to the mainstream. Record labels started to change their view of jazz after Wynton's success. Due to his popularity and the "Young lions" movement heating up in the late 80's and 90's, labels tried to find the next Wynton Marsalis. By the mid 90's he had established Jazz at Lincoln Center and Jazz Education had become a staple of "The Jazz system."

This system seemed to work effortlessly. Jazz musicians were able to make more money than ever before, recording whatever music they chose. Jazz was now in the school system too, all the way up to the university level. When musicians weren't touring they could teach and generate income that way as well. The system worked great until the early 2000's, when the American economy began a slow decline. As America began unraveling financially, so did the Jazz Community. Downloading became the new way people acquired music, with less and less emphasis on physical CD sales. This eventually led to the demise of the record label as we knew it. As the economy slowed over the last 10 years, there were also fewer and fewer opportunities for new jazz musicians coming out of schools; fewer record deals, fewer gigs and fewer teaching positions.

I was a product of this failed jazz system. I studied at The New School and even graduated with a Masters Degree in Jazz from NYU in 2007. Throughout my entire schooling, I believed the propaganda I heard. I watched the "Young lions" get paid to play standards. I vehemently supported Wynton Marsalis and looked down on Kenny G as a sellout. I discredited all other forms of jazz and believed in staying true to the tradition of this music. I studied and learned everything that was asked of me by all of my teachers, but I was blind to the reality of the situation we now all find ourselves in. We overpaid for an education that feeds us into a Jazz system that has no hope of supporting all of our talent. We are the most gifted musicians in the world. We understand theory and function on a level other musicians can't even dream of. Compared to the worlds of Hip-Hop, Rock, Country, and even Classical, we have the most inspiring blend of sophistication, musicianship, and feeling. Though we once believed Wynton Marsalis' success had saved us, it really set us up for a greater failure: the position we are all now in. By recording music in every meter but 4/4 and playing songs that go on for more than 20 minutes we've created a greater distance between performer and audience than ever before. Even the current model for Jazz Clubs is flawed. By setting up performances with such steep entrance fees and food and beverage minimums, the younger audience can no longer afford to see this live music. This is absurd when you consider the fact that young musicians and students are not only the talent but the main financial source of income behind the current Jazz System. We need to find a way to get the music back to the people.

There is so much wrong with the Jazz community, Jazz clubs, and Jazz education. I offer this solution: we split away from this failed Jazz System and start a new genre. I suggest we do a mass re-branding and call the new genre “Stretch.” We can stretch music in ways no other genre has the capacity to do. "Stretch" is a form of instrumental rock/hip hop that is predominantly in 4/4 or 3/4. We have shortened the length of our songs from the 20 minute self-indulgence of Jazz to around 4-5 minutes. We think about what the listener wants to hear. We think about being entertainers again. If we can play 3,000 standards from memory, I strongly believe we can come up with a new form of music that people in their 20's can be fans of. I am not talking about selling out. Part of the jazz lie that we have been fed is this idea that we can't play music that can be both popular and artistically fulfilling. I believe we can, but we have to meet our listeners half-way.

We all are a part of a special time in American history. It is time to be an active part of the change that is happening in America. We have a chance now for a new beginning. Though we will always point to our jazz heroes as inspiration, we have to change something for the sake of our futures. We owe our predecessors respect, but we do not have to live lives of poverty to show it. Sign this petition if you are willing to join in building the "Stretch" genre. Sign this petition if you believe re-branding will save our community. Sign this petition if you believe change is needed. Sign this petition if you are tired of getting paid less than you deserve to make money for artists in other genres. Sign this petition if you believe you deserve something greater than what the Jazz System offers us. I offer this website as a starting ground. I will keep the blog up-to-date. I want to hear your suggestions too, and will post them on the blog and start forums for us to open a dialogue on the subject. I encourage you to get involved in any way you can. Felix Pastorius, Chris Ward and myself are already working to establish a record label to support this new music. Below is a list of musicians who have already joined us. Musicians I know who have the talent to be at the vanguard of the "Stretch" genre. My name is John Beaty, please join us by signing this petition.

As author of this petition, count my name as first to sign,
John Beaty

Monday, November 7, 2011

First Days in NYC



Blog # 92: My first Days in NYC


For some reason I thought about my first days in New York today. I moved to the City in the fall of 2005 to attend NYU. I spent my first academic year living in a dorm on 26th street, where I shared a kitchen and bathroom with a Korean Dental student(sadly, I can't even remember his name now!)


After I moved my stuff into to the building, said goodbye to my parents and settled in, the next day I had to go down and take my placement exams. These are tests all grad students take to make sure their knowledge of Music Theory, Music History and Aural Comprehension is up to par. So, the day after I moved in I had to get down to NYU(4th Street) and take these tests, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Between the big buildings, the fast pace and the new environment, I decided it'd be best not to trust the subways(I didn't know how often they ran) and decided just walk down to 4th street. So, I walked down, took the first test, walked back to 26th street, ate lunch and then walked back down to 4th street again, took the second test and then walked back to my Apt one final time. These trips back and forth added up to about 7 miles total....all because I didn't trust the NY subway system yet and wanted to make sure I didn't miss these tests :)


Its funny to think about to my first days in New York City...


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Pace




Blog # 91: Pace


A few days ago I was running at the gym. I really enjoying running on a treadmill because I can control the speed, see how far I've run, make sure I'm not slacking and keep a good pace. Somedays I seem to have an easy time and somedays just ten minutes into the run I know it'll be a tough one. This alone is interesting considering I run regularly, so its not like there is a lot of downtime and slacking between runs(I go Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays). Maybe it has something to do with what I eat before the run, or how much I sleep the night before, or maybe its just my emotional state. Regardless, I run at least 4 miles and don't let myself take the easy way out. Monday I was running, slowly increasing my speed and got to the point where I felt at a certain pace I could have run all day. The timing between my footsteps and my breathing was perfectly in sync. At this pace, I would never get tired.(Monday it was at 6.5 miles/hr)


This feeling surprisingly reminded me of playing on tour this summer with Red Light Growler. After playing 4 shows in a row, on the same material with the same band, I felt I had found my pace. I knew how much space I could leave, when I could increase my volume and intensity and building a solo with the band became a lot easier, almost effortless.


Strangely enough, these thoughts on 'Pace' reminded me of something UFC welter-weight champ Georges St-Pierre said in an interview once. The reporter asked him how much cardio work he did, because he never got tired in any of his fights. St-Pierre's response was that he didn't really do that much cardio work, but he just forced all of his opponents to fight his pace. Whether it was faster or slower than his rivals, it brought them out of their zone, made them uncomfortable and threw them off their game. St-Pierre said, once he finds his pace in a fight he's unstoppable.


Running, Fighting, Improvising music: I love finding the similarities between seemingly different things and I think there is a lot in common. This Idea of 'finding your pace' is an important feeling and idea I'll be thinking more about. Ideally, I'd like to be able to find my pace whenever, where ever and whatever the musical circumstances.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Charts












Just to give an example of what I was saying with my last entry about leadsheets vs arrangements, I included a chart from my most recent album 'At the Edge', just to show how much is written vs how much is improvised.


Monday, October 10, 2011

Standards



Blog # 90: Standards


I have mixed feelings about jazz standards and the tradition. I, like everyone else, listened religiously to Miles Davis, Chet Baker, Clifford Brown, Horace Silver, Woody Shaw, Joe Henderson etc. I learned standards in school, transcribed solos from my favorite performers, practiced licks in all 12 keys and absorbed the tradition. Then I started to write my own music. First composing leadsheets(melodies with chord changes) and then got more into writing out bass lines, piano figures and getting more into creating a specific texture outside of just "I'll play the melody, you playing a walking bass line, you ride the cymbal and you comp". There comes a point where, as a composer, you get bored with just writing a melody with chord changes. You want to do something more. You start thinking outside the limitations of that format. Maybe you want to combine different influences, styles and genres you like. Now once you come up with something that isn't just 'standard straight-ahead jazz' you are forced to rationalize 'your style' with the tradition and the idea of standards. Are you still going to play your new music and standards on the same gig? Will it be weird switching between styles?


I actually really love playing standards and they are an amazing tool to use when you're playing a gig with no rehearsal. They are a common language that enables you to play with people you've never even met before, but I wonder how much you can play JUST standards your whole career and develop your own identity. I know personally, I feel like my composing is very linked to my musical identity. I just don't know what the future is in playing standards forever and I feel like I want to create something different. I also don't feel like playing nothing but standards is that original. And while we're on the topic, there have been enough tribute albums made covering Coltrane or Monk's music.(Seriously, record labels, STOP WITH THE TRIBUTE ALBUMS!!) Our Jazz heros were playing their original stuff and the best tribute to our jazz hero's is to continue to compose our own new original music. I go back and forth on if I even want to play standards publicly again. But I have no answer or conclusion. These are just more things I think about...


Monday, October 3, 2011

Sound Quality




Blog # 89: Sound Quality


One thing I've been thinking a lot about recently about is sound quality. I know when I was in school I would always hear "Oh my god, have you heard _____?, he has the biggest sound." or "I saw ____, last night, what a HUGE sound!".


Recently I've been thinking about this, and I'm just over the cliche of having a 'big sound'. I've come to the conclusion that I'd rather have a 'beautiful sound' than a 'big sound'. In fact, I've heard stories that Joe Henderson's sound on saxophone wasn't particularly big. He played pretty light reeds and usually hugged the mic. Towards the end of his career Chet Baker used to put the microphone all the way into the bell of his horn. And lastly, Ron carter has been documented as saying Miles Davis' sound wasn't big, but it was 'focused'. Isn't Miles the best example of how much focus, intensity and quality can overcome having a big sound? When Miles played a note, everyone would lean forward and anticipate the next one. Plus, he's arguably the greatest Jazz Musician of all time.


Anyway, I'm over it. I've been spending a lot of time just trying to get my tone the exact way i want it over the past several months and I've come to the conclusion that I'd rather have a beautiful, perfect tone than a big one. If the sound is the quality I want it, I don't care if its big, small or in between. I've been obsessing with the details of every interval, and every nuance of a note. You really can play every note an infinite number of ways. The fewer notes you play, the more you can obsess about the details of just one note.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

AllAboutJazz.com Feature



This week a track from my new album is featured on the AllAboutJazz.com website. You can download the track for FREE here:

If you like what you hear, go buy the full album on Itunes, Amazon, or CDbaby. I've already gotten a lot of great feedback.

The Editor of AllaboutJazz had this to say:
This is the first I've heard of Jon's music, and it's an introduction I'm thrilled to make. His sound on trumpet is ethereal, like a strong gust of wind that can be felt but not seen. Wonderful tune. Should appeal to fans of Brian Blade and Taylor Haskins. Jazz from NYC.

thanks,

-JC

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Playing Gigs



Blog # 88: Gigs


Okay, I'd like to say something that may surprise you. I never really enjoyed playing gigs until recently. I know this may sound weird, considering I've been doing shows with various bands for about 10 years now, so let me clarify that statement: I've always enjoyed playing music, but I've always felt kind of indifferent about performing for people. It wasn't that I disliked performing. I liked it okay, but gigs were more something I felt like I should be doing, because the goal was always just 'to get better'. My goal was to become a great trumpet player and musician. Gigs were a way to play with different people that I wanted to play with. Don't let this confuse the issue though, I love music. I love practicing. I love rehearsing and hanging with the band. I really love playing music with the band(whether its on the stage or not). I live to compose. I love exploring emotional territory through improvisation. Gigs were gigs; just a measuring stick to see where I was at musically, and to see what I needed to work on more in the practice room. If there were people there who enjoyed the music; cool. If they didn't like it; who cares. If it was a light audience: whatever...I was usually more disappointed that this meant less pay.



But this has really changed over the last year. I actually really enjoying playing gigs now. I really like getting up there and trying to tap into something emotional and really actually like playing for people for the first time(maybe ever). I've had more and more interactions with audience members after we play and its been really awesome to talk to them about our music, music in general or just life. I also think having more technical ability on the instrument has freed me up too, so now I can express myself better, which makes performing more fun. I'm also performing music that I like more and playing with people that I'm closer too and this all makes gigs a lot more fun. The gig is now; the rehearsal, the performance and the after-gig hang.(I used to leave quickly after playing before). I had a great time doing a couple tours this year, and I've decided I'd like to do a lot more touring. Excited about the future and where music will take me next.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

'At the Edge' Pre-Release


Blog # 87: CD OUT TODAY


I just wanted to let everyone know that today my new album, 'At the Edge' come out Pre-Release on Itunes, Amazon.com(download only) and CDbaby.com(download and physical copies available). You can also buy it directly from me if you want a physical copy($15). Just email me: JonCrowleyMusic@gmail.com By the end of the month the album will be available on Amazon.com(physical copies) and everywhere else wide-release.


Really excited to share this music with you. It has some amazing NYC musicians on it. Jeremy Udden is on Alto Sax. He has a few albums out on FreshSound and SunnySide, I love his playing, always melodic and tasteful. He's a real improvisor. Ziv Ravitz is on Drums, he plays with everyone and has been touring with Lee Konitz for the past 5 years. Julian Pollack is on Rhodes and Piano, he's someone you'll be hearing about very soon. Julian Smith is on bass. This guy has the thickest, real bass sound. Great player.


The record combines elements of classical minimalism, Indie Rock and Jazz. All originals by me. My favorite part of the record is how all the tracks flow into each other without space between, so its like one long piece of music. I really tried to make a concept album with a distinct vibe to it, not just another jazz record. I think I pulled it off.



Itunes

Buy it Here on CDbaby

Buy it here on Amazon


Check it out!


Thanks


-Jon




I'll write a little more about the music of 'At the Edge' in my next entry.


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

RLG Tour pt 2


The band shares a laugh as we set up @ The Garage, Charlottesville


Blog # 86: RLG TOUR PT 2


Friday morning we woke up and found out that our gig in DC at Gin and Tonic had been cancelled. Apparently they had to do some 'emergency renovations'. This meant we had saturday off. We had a quick breakfast and drove to Charlottesville, VA; hometown of our singer Katie Vogel. This drive took a while cause we hit some serious traffic around Baltimore and DC. I did all the driving for the tour, with Deric sitting shotgun and Katie, Noah and Ross sitting nice and close in the back seat. It was amazing that we fit 5 people, plus gear in my Jeep Liberty. I still think there was some magic involved in squeezing all that stuff in. We ended up arriving at 'The Garage'(Charlottesville VA) just 30 min before we were set to play. A quick set up, 15 min trumpet warmup and a CVS 'Redbull' energy drink run and I was ready to play the gig.


This was the one I was most worried about for the tour. 'The garage' is that; a one car garage turned into a performance stage, with a hill across the street where people passing by can sit and check out some music. I thought that it would be a glorified street performance, but that wasn't the case. A lot of people turned up and seemed to really like our music. I even sold 7 CD's there. One funny moment happened when someone wanted to buy a CD between songs during the performance. I sold one this way, and when more people approached I had to tell them to wait til we finished playing. I felt the music was received well and that 'The Garage' was an awesome venue. We even did pretty well with the 'tip jar' that was passed around. I hope to play there again next time I come through Charlottesville. Afterwards the band and Katie's sister Brittany hung out and had some beer and pizza. Then we headed back to Katie's mom's apt to crash.


Saturday we had the day off since our DC gig had been cancelled. We got a big breakfast from Katie's favorite Charlottesville spot(ate some serious biscuits and gravy). Then we went to the vinyard where Brittany works and had a wine tasting. I wish I could have had more, but I was still doing all the driving. Next we headed further out of charlottesville to 'the swimming-hole', to hang out and swim. It was nice to do a little hiking on a trail before arriving at the actual swimming-hole, which was a pool of water surrounded by rocks. I really like being out in nature and feel like it clears my mind and relaxes me. Everyone was having a good time swinging on a rope swing into the water while I snuck off into the woods to practice a little bit. As I snuck away I took a bad step barefoot and broke my third toe, it later turned completely black and hurt pretty bad. When we finished at the Swimming hole, we hiked back to the car and drove back to Charlottesville to get dinner and a beer, by this point I was starting to really have trouble walking: my toe was throbbing. After dinner we went back to Katie's mom's apt, had some more drinks and hung out. Brittany was nice enough to put ice on my mangled foot and take care of me.


Sunday we got up, got a quick breakfast to-go and drove to Baltimore. We arrived at 'Birkfest'; a house-show of many musicians each playing hour sets of music. Heard some great avant-garde stuff, snuck away to get some food and then played 10 minutes in my car before it was time for our band to play. I was finding the toughest thing about touring was practicing. Trumpet definitely requires some daily maintenance, and I was hard to sneak off and get a few hours in when everyone in the band wanted to hang and do stuff.

'Birkfest' was in Ross' friend's house and it was H-O-T. Probably the hottest place I've ever played. I was SO close to just taking my shirt off and playing shirtless for our set because it was so hot. I liked the space though and thought the whole things was a cool idea. After we played, we had to jet, because I promised Katie I'd get her back to NYC at a decent hour because she had work Monday morning. Thanks impart to my 'motivated' driving, we got back to NYC not too late. I couldn't find parking near my new neighborhood so I parked far away and took a subway to my apt, arriving home around 2:00am. Sleeping wasn't a problem that night.


I had a really great time on tour. I am really good friends with everyone in the band, but in spending 24 hours a day with them I got to know them even more and in different ways. For example I found out Ross is even goofier than I thought and loves to sing constantly. Noah really loves traveling and checking out everything in each town we visit. It was a lot of fun grossing out Katie in the car with our inappropriate talks and Deric makes sure we're organized and together, plus he's also super funny. Anyway, it was a blast, and I hope to take 'Red Light Growler' on the road again soon. Thanks to everyone that came out and saw us play.


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

RLG Tour pt 1

From our Gig @ Milkboy, Ardmore PA
Sleeping arrangements in Malvern, PA



Blog # 85: Red Light Growler Tour pt 1


Got back late last night from our first tour with Red Light Growler. It was a lot of fun playin', hangin' and meetin' new people. I'll give a quick recap:


First off, before we even left, the band finished a rehearsal tuesday night and I headed home. Being slightly paranoid by nature, I made sure I walked by my car before I went in my apartment. Unfortunately my car wasn't there and I came to the quick realization that it had been towed because I'd parked in a 'no standing' area. (I had naively thought "no standing" meant "no loitering" because I'd never seen a sign like that, I had just moved to this new neighborhood). I headed to the brooklyn navel yard to get it back. I was there for 3 hours and almost didn't get my car back because the insurance card in my glove compartment was out of state(PA) and expired. I spent a few hours on the phone with my the insurance co. and my parents and was eventually able to get them to fax an updated insurance card to the Brooklyn Police. Getting my car back just hours before we headed out for the tour. (and spending $340 in the process). I Didn't sleep so great that night because I was pretty wound up from the ordeal.


Wednesday I woke up, practiced and then met up with Katie(voice) and Ross(keyboard) and drove down to my parents house in the suburbs of philly. We met Deric(drums) and Noah(bass) there, ditched some of our stuff and headed to Milkboy Coffeehouse in Ardmore PA. Upon arriving I was pretty nervous. The place looked totally empty and I was thinking we were going to have an lame first gig playing to an empty room. But 5 minutes before the first band started playing a ton of super young looking college kids(or at least they said they were in college) showed up. We later found out they were there to see the band that opened for us. I wasn't really into the band that opened for us, but there were young and hopefully if they keep at it and get better. They were a jam band and played 30 minute songs: not really my thing. Even though we were on the schedule as playing at 8 pm, they put us on at 10:00(pretty late to start on a Wednesday night). This is standard Bullshit you put up with when going on tour. I thought my band, Red Light Growler, played pretty well and musically I was happy with the gig. I also talked to some people after the gig that seemed to like the music and I sold a few CD's. We headed back to my parents house, had a few beers and talked until 3am.


Thurs the band chilled at my parents house. I practiced up in my room. We swam in the pool and got cheese-steakes for everyone(they wanted some real philly cuisine). Afterwards we headed to Philly to play at Chris' Jazz Cafe. I play at Chris' every 3-4 months, so I was looking forward to doing this gig, however upon arriving found out that Chris' Air conditioner had broken several months before and they just had a series of portable AC units and fans. I think this hurt our turn-out a bit. Usual there is some sort of build in audience at Chris', which is great to win over new fans, but our audience was a bit small this time(probably only 20 or so people). I was really happy to see my boss/friend there as well as grandparents who came out too. This gig felt a little random, because we played a few jazz standards with Katie singing lyrics along side Red Light Growler tunes(which are more rock songs). We didn't have enough 'Red Light Growler' music for a 3 hour gig so we threw in a few other songs. Genre switching felt a little weird, but I think it worked.


NEXT PT 2....

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Red Light Growler Tour Schedule (REVISED)



Blog # 84: Red Light Growler August Tour




My band Red Light Growler is hittin' the road in August! A nice little week tour, hopefully coming to a city near you. Here's the schedule. Check the websites for accurate show times and prices, hope to see you soon...



Weds Aug 17th: Milkboy Coffeehouse, Ardmore PA 8pm

www.milkboycoffee.com

2 East Lancaster Ave

Ardmore PA 19003


Thurs Aug 18th: Chris' Jazz Cafe, Philly PA 7-10pm

www.ChrisJazzCafe.com

1421 Sansom St

Philadelphia PA 19102


Fri Aug 19th: The Garage, Charlottesville, VA

www.thegarage-cville.com

250 1st St N

Charlottesville, VA 22902


Sat Aug 20th: Gin and Tonic, DC

www.ginandtonictavern.com

2408 Wisconsin Ave NW

Washington DC 20007


Sun Aug 21st: Baltimore House Show (afternoon show)

3030 Abell ave

Baltimore MD 21218



Tuesday, July 26, 2011

On the Porch



Blog # 83: On the Porch


I am sitting on the porch of my parents house in the suburbs of Philadelphia, though it could be the suburbs of any town. I am dwarfed by trees on all sides. The sun set hours ago, and it is raining. The storm has knocked out the power to the neighborhood. I've found a seat alone on a bench on the front porch. The light from my laptop screen is the only light I can see from where i'm at, with the exception of the very dim sky backlite against the trees. I hear only rain spattering on leaves and a few angry crickets. The mosquitos seem to want to make friends with my computer screen. In the morning I'm sure I will have inchy bumps on my ankles and feet. I don't care.


I can't help but think about all the events and circumstances that have brought me here. All of them meaningful and pointless. I have been staying at my parents house for this entire month of July, working a camp job I've done for years. It is the only steady job I've worked consistantly and it feels like I'm doing something good in giving the kids a fun 5 weeks. Giving them someone who will listen to them. I like to think I can make their lives just a little better, but that's probably not true. My boss is now my friend and my desire to help him with the camp is an equal motivation, though this year will most likely be my last. In a few years the kids will forget me and the small lessons I've tried to teach them. It is okay; that's what happens. None of it matters and that's okay. Though, when I look back and think about when I was 6 years old at this same camp, it mattered to me. People treating each other well feels like the only thing that is important now.


Upstairs in the darkened power-less house sit 6 boxes of my new CD. Months of work. Time. Money that will never be made back. Few people will ever hear this recording, but I think it is good. I value this music and that is enough. It doesn't matter at all, and it feels like the most important thing I've ever done. It is weird to care and believe in something that no one else feels the same about. It makes you alone, different and separate in the universe.


In two weeks I will be back in New York City. I'll start working on making the new CD available on itunes, amazon, CD baby etc. It is called 'At the Edge' and I am very proud of it. I will be booking shows and back to my New York life. Trying to get anyone who will listen to hear this new music. There will be a moment when I'm sitting alone in my apartment on another rainy night, thinking back to this night on the porch. How I got here. Questioning the meaning of everything. The people that I've lost touch with. How many choices and decisions lead to this version of my life and all the other different versions that could have been. Lives I could have had. This is the one I have though. It is mine, it is as good as the next. No better or worse.


Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Mastered



Blog #83: Mastered


So, we did it. Finished the mixing touch-ups and mastering yesterday. The CD sounds beautiful. Mike Marciano did an awesome job mixing and mastering. I finally got the track lengths and emailed them to my artist Julio. He'll add those the the CD design, I'll listen over the the master a few (hundred) times just to be sure there are no mistakes or imperfections and then we ship it off to get printed up.


I felt a lot more involved this time around for some reason, even though it was pretty much the same process. I guess I just have a deeper understanding of the different parts that go into making a CD. I also know more what can be done in the studio, and that changed my writing process a bit. Mixing is okay, but I like mastering. In mastering you get to actually make the CD and put the tracks together, including how much space is between them. On this record I wrote the music so each track would flow into the next, this made the mastering process really fun. There is no space between tracks. I finally got to hear the concept I came up with months and months ago come to life. This album sounds like one long, flowing piece of music, not just a bunch of tracks. This is the way this music would ideally be performed, but with minimal rehearsal time, and not of lot of gigs in a row, its hard to get a band to play the music like that live. Once I send the CD off to get printed up, I pretty much wait, and then the next part will be promoting, getting reviews, and setting up some shows with this band.


AND writing new music for some new projects, this is what I'm really excited about. Its always about the next project.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Mixed




Blog # 82: Mixed


Friday I went back to Systems 2 studios and worked with Mike Marciano on the mixing for my upcoming album. It was a long day: 11-7pm. Mike is a magician with this kinda stuff, and I'm just there to give the thumbs up or thumbs down on what he does. Mixing is not my favorite part in the process of recording and releasing a CD, in fact, it may be my least favorite part. Listening to any one album for 8 hours straight is pretty tough(though Mike seems to love it), I get sick of hearing the same solos over and over again(even if I really love them). Its such a detailed process, Mike goes through and adjusts everything down to the detailed nuances of the bass drum or snare sound to get them just right. I have trouble hearing the differences when these things are isolated, but when I hear a full finished CD and it isn't mixed right, it can be VERY distracting. A poorly mixed album can really take you out of the moment and enjoyment of the music.


Now I've been back at my apartment listening to the mixes over and over, seeing if there is any last minute tweaks or changes that need to be done before mastering. I've made a couple notes and on Tuesday I go back to the studio to finish mixing and hopefully do(and finish) the mastering too. I'm going to be going out of town for a month, so I was hoping to finish all of this and mail it off to get the CD's printed while I was gone. If I'm able to finish everything tuesday, I could have the CD's printed and in hand as early as August 1st, however, if we don't finish, the date will probably be more like October 1st.


Trying not to rush things, but I got my fingers crossed that we can pull it all off tuesday.


Other than that, I'm looking forward to getting out of NYC for a while. Its funny, whenever I'm in New York, I can't wait to get away, then whenever I leave, I get bored quickly and can't wait to get back. I gotta figure out how i can change this feeling. My band Red Light Growler is still in the process of booking our short tour for August. Its proven surprisingly difficult. Our band doesn't really fall into specific genre's cleanly. Its kind of a rock band, and has a singer, but no lyrics, but then it has trumpet solos, but its not really jazz. This all makes it tough to book. We've got a few dates so far, trying to get a solid week of 8 gigs locked in. Lastly, my lease runs out on Sept 1st and I'll be moving. I'm really looking forward to a fresh start. I'm going to get my own place. The past few months have been a bit difficult with the schedules of my other two roommates. I like to write music everyday and have a piano in the living room which I use, but because of our schedules, I haven't been able to use it, so I haven't been writing as much, which is frustrating. In my next place, I'll be living alone. I can see myself being really productive. I can't wait~


Friday, June 17, 2011

Going Against what you know



Blog # 81: Going against what you know


Last night I played up in Harlem at Shrine. It has a mixed reputation amongst musicians, I think mainly because its a 'tips only' gig. Shrine has lots of different styles of music booked in hour slots all night, every day. I actually think this is a great idea because people are exposed to music they wouldn't normally go see. There also seems to be some sort of built in crowd of people that just come hang, enjoy a drink etc. So, I actually enjoy playing there. I usually go in with a band that is unrehearsed(or has never played together) and just try to hit as hard as possible for our hour slot(no need to pace yourself when you know its just an hour). Its a certain music experience and can be a lot of fun. Low(to no) pressure environment.


This gig I went into with a real goal in mind. I wanted to play differently. I know that's kind of vague, but what I mean is that I wanted to do things that I wouldn't normally do. I really wanted to be unpredictable and I wanted to play not like me. The anti-Crowley.


Back up to the week before, I was house-sitting for my parents for 7 days while there were out of town. They have a nice house in the suburbs, and there wasn't much to do but practice and take care of the animals. Just a lot of time to think. I tend to just take a song and practice one all day, trying to come up with different ways to approach it, different soloing ideas. I was working on 'Freight-Trane' one day(a blues for Alice type tune in Ab). I guess I was having an uninspired day and just felt like everything I was playing I'd played before at some point. I don't know about other musicians, but somethings I just don't know what to play. After working on the tune for 4 hours or so I started to really think about my note options. Granted on any given chord you've got 7 diatonic notes, and 5 that are 'outside'. I started really spending time trying to figure out what those 5 notes were and how they related to any given chord. So for a major chord those notes are, b9, minor 3rd, #11, b6, and b7. Each of this pitches has a feel, direction(pull towards a chord tone) etc over that chord. #11 is the most obvious and consonant, b9 has a certain pull towards the root etc. (I wasn't trying to rationalize them as a tritone sub or anything like that, purely as stand-alone pitches).


I've never been a licks/patterns player(something I pride myself on), never got into playing ideas in all 12 keys(or songs for that matter, sorry teachers!!), but there are still approaches that have, things that are in my DNA as to where I like to phrase, where I usually end ideas within a bar etc. And I wanted to go against that. All this was just an attempt to find something different. New. Something I wouldn't normally play. I had a week to think about this gig coming up and was committed to fighting my normal impulses. If I felt like I should play here, stop and play in a different place. If I felt like I should play this phrase, play the opposite. I was committed to change, even if it meant sounding like shit.


Anyway, the gig was fun, short and sweet, and I felt like I accomplished my goal to a degree. Its pretty hard to just change your style in a week or one gig. But I had moments where I felt myself caught up in the music and I pulled myself out, to fight my natural urges/tendencies. It was a good experiment, and I'm going to keep trying it, looking for new approaches, questioning every note or phrase, striving to find something new. That's what its always been about for me since day 1, and that's what its still about. Growth and progress.


Sunday, June 12, 2011

Update and 'Lonely Crow Records'


First Draft for the actual CD





Blog 80: Update and 'Lonely Crow Records'


Sorry its been a while, but here's the update. Finally scheduled two days to do all the mixing and mastering with systems 2 studios. I'll be heading in June 24th and 28th. I've got 8 hours scheduled both days, so I'm hoping to bang it all out. I've also been emailing back and forth with my graphic designer Julio Jimenez. He worked on my first album. I love working with this guy, he always does a bunch of variations for me to choose from and I pick and choose what I like. I tend to do the same thing when I write songs, write a few versions and then pick one. We're refining the concept, but everything is looking good. If all goes as planned I'll send the art and the final recording off to Discmakers to be printed up July 1st.(and 4-5 weeks later I'll have the record in hand).


Lastly, I've decided to start my own record label: 'Lonely Crow Records'. I plan on releasing all my future projects on my own label and the upcoming album 'At the Edge' will be the first release. I'm hoping to have it out by Sept 1st at the latest. Looking forward to getting more into promoting and distributing the album, making contacts and this new frontier. If it goes well, maybe I'll even try to release other people's projects that I like. The decision to start my own label came after hearing how shitty the distribution deals are currently within the jazz world. I'm not sure if anyone knows this, and I'll probably burn some bridges saying this, but most of the jazz labels offer a deal that is: You pay out of pocket for your recording, and all the musicians, then they give you $800-$1000 bucks for the music, they own your music and they give you back 200 CD's for you to sell at your live shows. Just to give you some perspective the best jazz recording studios charge between $175 and $200 per hour to record. So add up two days of recording, plus paying the band...you're several thousand dollars in the hole, before even mixing or mastering. Most recordings cost between $6000-10,000. At least with self-releasing you have the chance of earning your money back.


I'd also like to explore cheaper ways of recording, because I'd like to record more often, and document some of the different projects and ideas I've been working on. We'll see...


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Progress


Blog 79: Progress


I've been working on the Album a lot since my last entry. Listened to all the tracks a billions times, decided what tunes needed splices and figured out a track order for the CD. I went into the studio Friday and finished all the splicing and edits. Pretty painless and a lot easier than my last album. Now I'm just waiting to hear back from the studio as to when they have some time open for me to come in and work with them on the mixing and mastering. I'll be out of town in July so I'm trying to take care of all this before I leave.

I just emailed my graphic designer(the one that did my last album) with some ideas as to what I want this one to look like. So I'm getting that ball rollin' too. I also took care of all my publishing with ASCAP today. Probably my least favorite part of the process, but good to get it out of the way. Its just a lot of filling out of forms and usually involves me calling the help-line because I can't find my 'user ID #' or 'registration #' or I'm confused about which is which. I think they make it so complicated just to dissuade people from doing it often.

Discmakers(the guys that print up the actual CDs) usually takes about a month to duplicate them so the new record could be available as early as late August(most likely September though). I'm excited about this record, it is just a much more mature musical statement than my last one and I can't wait to get it out there for people to listen to. It is not your typical jazz record, which I'm happy about. It is going to be called: 'At the Edge'. I will explain this title more later.


Sunday, May 22, 2011

Album Sneak Peek


So I decided to put a link up on my bandcamp site with some samples of the recording I did last month. I'm hoping to get this album out by October/November.

Enjoy the preview,

-Jon