Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Songs with (unsung) Lyrics

Songs with (unsung) lyrics

Just got back to Brooklyn from spending a week in PA for Thanksgiving.  It was nice to relax a bit and just be out of the city for a while.  If you've been a frequent visitor of this blog you may have noticed that I haven't been writing entries as much these days.  If you've been reading for a while you've also probably noticed how often in years pasts my blogs were just ranting complaints about the Jazz world, musicians, the scene etc.  So my more sparce entries these days have a bit to do with not trying to write those sort of posts too often, not that my feelings towards those things have changed at all.  I could just as easily write another post about how I feel Jazz musicians THINK they are the most creative musicians on the planet, while in fact most are happy imitating styles past and regurgitating cliches....but i'm not going to write about that :)

What I will share, is that I've been practicing as hard as ever and writing more and more music.  Something interesting that's happening in my song-writing, is a more alternative rock vocabulary is really coming through and is now affecting my improvisational vocabulary too.  It is easy to brush off different rock or pop styles as just 'simple' but they have their own classic phrases, resolutions etc just as bebop (or even avant garde music).  One thing that I've tried to do recently with newer compositions is to write "songs" using almost 'chorus-verse' forms(though I do also like to experiment with those forms and structures too, and never play them just straight down).  I've thought about writing lyrics for several years now, but I've never really been great about expressing feelings or stories in song-form.  Instead, I've always preferred to title music after a feeling or specific event or moment in my life and then try to express those feelings just with music.  With many of my newer tunes I've started to write melodies that would be singable and develop as if there WERE lyrics, IE I will have a melody develop and make add an extra note to account for another syllable in a vocal line....a syllable to a lyric that is never written.  So in a way I'm writing music with Lyrics, but just not every writing any lyrics.  This may sound weird.  I've thought about maybe going back to some of these songs and writing lyrics, which wouldn't be too hard, considering I know what all these songs are about and their titles illustrate a story or topic already.  That said, writing lyrics is still a pretty daunting and self-exposing task.  Maybe I'll write lyrics to these songs and then just never share them.

If you want an example check out this song:

More on the way!

New shows Added:
Fri Dec 7th @ The Crow's Nest (House Show), Brooklyn
Thurs Dec 20th @ Sycamore Bar and Flowershop, Brooklyn

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Next Level

Want to get good at anything?  Get ready to get your ass kicked over and over.

I've been thinking a lot about this over the last few days and I just keep coming back to this thought.  If you want to get good at anything, you need to take a whooping first.  Let me explain:

This weekend I ran my first half-marathon(13 miles) in Central Park, NYC.  It was intense, painful and probably the hardest thing physically I've ever had to do.  To give you some perspective, I started running a little more than 2 years ago from doing no physical exercise at all.  As I got more and more into running I would do more runs per week and increase my distances.  By January I was doing a 3 mile run Monday, Wednesday and Fri.  Occasionally I'd do a 5 and I remember the Thanksgiving before I did an 8 mile run (my longest to date at the time). 

I decided to enter my first race, the broad street run in Philadelphia, May of of this year.  It was a 10 mile race down broad street; straight and flat.  I worked myself up to pretty much 3 5 mile runs per week before the race, occasionally testing the waters up to 7/8.  Broad Street was pretty hard, by the end I remember my knees hurting and being pretty tired, but getting across the finish line at pretty good pace.  In fact I spent most of the race passing people.  This was my first time running 10 miles and i remember thinking: now I know what running 10 miles feels like, I probably could have actually run a little faster and been alright, and I know where my training and performance meet.

This weekend's Half-Marathon was a totally different story.  As I said before, physically it was the hardest thing I've ever done.  First of all, the course wasn't flat, it was VERY hilly and as someone with long skinny legs, I've always struggled with hills.  As I finished mile 9 and moved towards 10 I thought: This is somewhere I've been before and its somewhere I know.  Even though the course was way harder, I'd run a 10 mile race and after running it, I discovered that there was a level of being in-shape beyond what I knew at the time.  As I passed mile 10 I moved into uncharted territory.  My legs felt like I was in quicksand, they just wouldn't move like I wanted them too, and the course seemed to be ALL uphill.  By mile 11 I really wanted to stop, I felt like I was just shuffling along, my thighs becoming stiffer, getting passed by person after person, which added to my frustration and desire to quit.  But I promised myself I wouldn't stop, walk or slow, so I kept moving.  I knew I wouldn't be able to run more than the 13, so i made a deal with myself.  I just kept saying: just 2 more miles and then you can stop, you can do 2 miles, Finish it.  Which I did with a time of 1 hour and 54 minutes.(which is actually pretty good)

But I learned a lot, mostly what I learned is that when you get your ass kicked, you realize what other levels exist beyond what you knew and then you work harder to achieve those.  I thought I was in shape, and I guess I am in pretty good shape, but i finished that race by sheer will.  At my level now, Broad Street would have been a piece of cake and now I know what a hard half-marathon feels like.  I know I'm going to need to push myself more, train harder, work myself up to longer runs if I plan to do that kind of distance(or more).  Frankly, I plan to work harder and I'm sure at some point I'll look back and laugh at how hard those 13 miles felt, but as of last weekend: that was my limit.

I've heard the old adage a lot that you learn more from your losses than your victories, and I know they say fighters get better from losses.  I think this is because they realize that there is a level beyond what they knew, and the fighter that beats them is better and is on the next level.

The same can be said for music.  You might think you're a great trumpet player, musician or composer until your face to face with someone who is on another level, at which point you realize what else exists.  You take your licks, you go home, practice and you come back stronger.  So I cherish those ass-kickings, they make you stronger and better if you can take them the right way; as motivation and knowledge.

You gotta lose a lot, before you can win.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Recent Shows

A photo of the show at World Cafe Live(philly) courtesy of Alex Feldman

Blog # 103: Recent Shows

Okay okay...I'm sorry I haven't been updating this blog so much recently, I've been a little busy with a bunch of gigs, booking shows, teaching, writing music, practicing like crazy and training for a half-marathon I'm running in a few weeks.

I guess I'll give a little recap of the past few weeks.  First I played a show with my band 'Heart of Darkness' at Sycamore Bar and Flowershop in Brooklyn on August 23rd.  This is my favorite place to play in the world, and I love playing with this project 'Heart of Darkness', which is really all about energy.  The pieces feel so colorful and emotional and the band just really gives their all, I know by the last song I have nothing left and that feels good.  This was kind of a funny gig though.  First, I showed up and Brad had forgotten his keyboard stand.  So he had borrowed 2 kegs to use as a stand, which was pretty funny looking.  The band argued a bit about who was going to stand where on the stage(of which I stayed out of...I feel most comfortable playing in the dark anyway).  John showed up last because the subway was messed up, but he threw together his sax in about 2 seconds and was ready to go.  We had about 15-20 people there, which felt perfect for the small basement space and we started playing our set. 

The first song begins with a rhythm section building on this repeated figure, though about 2 minutes in, Brad's keyboard starts making incredibly distorted feedback.  I just kept my eyes closed and let them build and correct themselves.  When Brad failed to get it back and reboot his computer(he uses it for effects), I whispered to him "Just play the fuckin' keyboard" and we were off and running.  After that first short intro piece we go into a trumpet/piano duo section, I was curious as to if Brad was going to get the keyboard working again in time....and was preparing myself to play SOLO trumpet, but Brad got it working and it was all good.  He ended up using just a piano sound for the rest of the night, which gave the gig a different flavor.  You can listen to the entire show HERE: http://joncrowleymusic.bandcamp.com/album/live-at-sycamore-8-23-12

Halfway into that duo piece, I opened my eyes and there were 4 police with flashlights looking around the small room we were playing in...acting like they were looking for an escaped Con.  I tried not to let it throw me off, shut my eyes and just tried to stay in the moment.  The rest of the show went smoothly, and I was happy listening to the recording I made, it was really a challenge to stay focused despite those issues and everyone seemed to like the show.

Then, last week I did a show in Philly at World Cafe Live.  I did everything I could think of to bring out as many people as possible.  Email, Facebook event, had the show listed in different newspapers in Philly, sent fliers to the venue, mailed fliers to friends in philly to put up and hand out to friends, and even texted a few friends.  Despite my efforts it was a pretty light turnout gig: about 15 people(which felt like a lot less because the room was so quiet between songs).  What are you gonna do? You can't win 'em all.  But I was happy and appreciative of all the people that came.  The venue was awesome and I hope to play there again, maybe get a few different bands to play on the same bill(their suggestion), since it was just us that night.  There's a clip of the show HERE: http://soundcloud.com/joncrowleymusic/in-dreams

Other than that I've been trying to write a lot of new music, and just thinking a lot about where to play and how to approach doing shows in the future to make them as exciting as they can be.  In a few weeks I'm playing at Smalls Jazz Club in the village with the FONT festival, hopefully we can turn some heads and win some new fans with our music.  Jordan Perlson is going to be subbing on drums on this one.  Smalls probably wouldn't normally book this group because we're not "straight-ahead" enough, but I don't give a fuck and am going in there to just throw down and do my thing.  If they hate me and ban me, than that's how it goes.  I just don't give a shit any more.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Don't call it a comeback!...nevermind, you can call it a comeback

Blog # 102: Don't call it a comeback...nevermind, you can call it a comeback.

I got back to my apartment in Brooklyn about a week ago.  I had been in PA for the entire month of July working at a camp and staying at my parents house for those 5 weeks.  I've worked at the camp(@ Benchmark School) for the past 13 years, with the exception of 2 years I took off while I was in grad school at NYU.  Its pretty much a normal recreation camp, with games like kickball, bombardment etc, as well as a high-ropes course, climbing and a zipline.  I actually really enjoy working there and it offers a nice break from my New York City life.  I have a lot of fun playing with the kids and getting to be outside all day.  It also pays very well, which helps me continue my lifestyle here in NYC without getting any sort of day-job, so I'm free to practice all day and do rehearsals, sessions and gigs.  While I'm in PA for that month, I'm pretty much in survival mode when it comes to the trumpet, since I leave my house every morning at 7 and get home at 4:30.  When I come home, i pretty much shower, clean up, eat something and get started practicing....which I do pretty much until I fall asleep each night.  This means I usually get in 2-3 hours a day, which is pretty light for me. 

Anyway, just got back a week ago, jumped back into my heavier practice schedule, arranged some sessions and rehearsals and am preparing for some gigs coming up.  If you've been keeping track of my blog or activities for a while you might remember I decided to take some time off from performing because I just felt exhausted from the constant battle of scheduling rehearsals, dealing with club owners/booking agents, and just the general feeling of working so hard just to feel like no one really cares.(I have been practicing and playing with friends more so than ever though).  You can read back to hear more about that.  But in a few weeks I'll be playing my first show since March.  The last show was at Sycamore Bar and Flowershop in Brooklyn and this comeback show is there too, which seems fitting.(Aug 23rd).  Sycamore is my favorite place to play and hear music, great small basement space and the people that run the place couldn't be nicer, they just let you do your thing.  I've got a bunch of new music I'm excited to share with everyone and am now just doing everything I can think of to advertise and let everyone know this gig is coming up.  Also, I booked a show at World Cafe Live in philly, which will be my first show back in town since last August.  I played at another venue down there for a long time, and just felt my music would be better suited for a different spot, so I'm excited to be comin' home to Philly soon!(Sept 9th).  Lastly, at the end of next month, i'll be performing as part of FONT(Festival of New Trumpet Music), which happens all around NYC and is a festival started and run by Dave Douglas.  My band 'Heart of Darkness' will play at Smalls at Midnight on Weds Sept 26th(or very early thurs morning depending on how you look at it).  I got a little screwed on the time-slot at the last minute, which I wasn't too psyched about....but what are you going to do?  That's what happens, its all part of that shit which had me burnout and not performing for the past 4 months...but I'm trying to make lemonade out of lemons.  Hopefully they'll be someone in the room that night that late...

Its good to have some gigs on the calendar again, and playing and writing music will always be enjoyable, its usually just all that extra stuff that bothers me.  My new goal is to play out of the city more, I'm working on finding the right venues that would fit my group in Boston, and DC next.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

New York Scene: Living the Dream

Blog # 10: New York Scene: Living the Dream

I had a moment the other day where I was talking after a session to a new drummer friend that just moved to town where I really felt a sense of things coming full-circle.  The way he was talking about moving to NYC really just brought me back to a time when I was 22 years old, in college in Allentown and dreaming of moving to New York City one day and hoping to make it in the Jazz scene.  Back then Branford Marsalis had a forum on his website and it seemed EVERYONE was there talking about music, jazz and the scene.  People were sharing their opinions and mingling without divides.(there was also a lot of shit-talking and ridiculousness that was fairly entertaining).  I remember thinking 'God, some of these guys that have made it seem SO jaded and dark about the scene'.  I thought that: they are playing gigs at these well-known venues I've heard about with other famous musicians; they must be making money and living the dream.  What is there to complain about?!!  If I'd heard of them(as a 22 yr old kid in Allentown) surely they were a big name and could get a gig ANYWHERE, pack the house and have people just loving their music.  I remember hearing about 'The Up and Over Cafe' and it sounded like all the young people to watch were playing there, their futures as 'jazz stars' were secured.  I even had bootleg recordings of Jaleel Shaw and Marcus Strickland performing at the Cafe.

I was so wrong.  Just cause you've heard of someone doesn't mean they were landing gigs easily, and reaping the rewards of their talent.  Anyway you slice it, its a hard life being a musician in New York City.  I know in the neighborhood I live in now there a tons of musicians who are far more established and well known them me, and if they're living here, they're not doing that great.  Its so weird when you realize you can be incredibly respected and famous in the jazz world and STILL be fighting for gigs at even mid and low level places in the city.(a lot of these places you might think are cool, you'll be playing for FREE and treated like SHIT). 

I now play with a many musicians that I was hearing about before I moved to the city, and realize they are pretty much in the same boat as me.  Playing some gigs here and there and either working a day job or doing a lot of teaching to make sure they can make enough money to pay rent.  Another thing I've realized is how many musicians there are; great ones you've never even heard of.  Those levels that you thought existed between the guys that are heavily hyped and everyone else don't really exist.  I like to tell the joke: "Q: What's the difference between a good jazz musician and a great jazz musician?  A: a publicist."  I know personally I'd rather see someone doing something very different or original than just shredding some crazy technique, because EVERYONE in this city is a virtuoso.

I dunno, its weird.  In a way, I feel like I'm now in the position of the guys I used to hear about, which isn't to say people know who I am or are talking about me or whatever.  But I feel like I've come full circle and those guys that I used to think were just super dark and jaded, were really just frustrated because you can be playing gigs and appear to be 'going place' and are really just spinning your wheels in the mud, making no money and playing half-empty rooms.  Labels that you thought were legit, where you pay for your own recording.  There's a big difference between what you think is happening and what REALLY is happening.  This shit ain't easy, and I don't think it ever was or ever will be.

Friday, June 15, 2012

FONT (Festival of New Trumpet Music)

Very Excited to announce that I've been asked to play at FONT this year(Festival of New Trumpet music).  For those that don't know, its a festival started by Dave Douglas to feature new music for trumpet and is held in various venues around NYC.  Past performers have included: Ingrid Jensen, Jeremy Pelt, Peter Evans, Dave Douglas, Ambrose Akinmusire, Nadje Noordhuis, Kenny Wheeler etc.  I will be playing with my group 'Heart of Darkness' on Sept 26th at Smalls Jazz Club.  There will also be several other great groups performing that evening(including the great Dave Chisolm; looking forward to finally hearing him in person).  Make your calendars!  To here Heart of Darkness check out our bandcamp.com page: here

Friday, June 8, 2012

My new Lawler Trumpet

Blog # 102: My new Lawler trumpet

After 10 years of playing the same trumpet, I finally started playing a different horn.  Months ago i ordered one of Roy Lawler's trumpets: a C7 with a #4 bell.  Essentially the horn is a copy of a large bore Martin Committee but with modern(better) intonation. These were the horns played by Miles Davis, Chet Baker, Dizzy Gillespie, Blue Mitchell, Art Farmer etc.  I'd read a bunch of reviews and hear people talk and everyone was saying great things about Roy's horns and how he'd really perfected them recently.  So I decided to bite the bullet and placed an order for one with a large 5" # 4 bell, Large bore, 1A leadpipe and had the bell engraved.  It arrived 1 week ago.  The horn is currently in raw brass, and i'm in a trial period, where I play the horn for however long, and then can send it back to Roy to tweak for whatever feature I want the horn to play more like.  Already, I can say its a beautiful dark sounding horn and it feels a lot easier to get my personal sound out of the instrument.  I haven't really been playing Flugelhorn for the past year or so, and this horn can definitely get that darker sound as well as bright high stuff too.  My complaints with my old horn(a bach 43) was that I was fighting the very nature of the instrument to produce my sound.  Anyway, I'm very excited and have very much been enjoying my new Lawler C7-4.  Still getting used to the step-bore and the fact that I'm using a Monette B5 mouthpiece with such a large bore instrument, but I will adjust in time.  Can't wait to play some shows with my new horn.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

NEW Website

I FINALLY have my own website up and running.  http://www.joncrowleymusic.com
I've owned the site name for a while(4 yrs), but just never got it together and made an actual website.  So I spent all this last week designing it myself, uploading photos and audio, bios, band info, gigs; past and present, email contact info etc.  Opened up an online store to sell my CD's, including handmade bootlegs of some live shows this year.  I linked my existing pages(bandcamp and blogspot) to my main website too.  This is all an attempt for me to get my shit together, get organized and get my music out there more.  I'd like to do more performing of my original music and I think this website will help people connect with me more directly.  My email and contact info is on the site, feel free to email me questions, comments, love letters or hate mail.  I accept it all with a smile.

Anyway, please check out my website, let me know what you think, i'll be refining it over the next few weeks


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Trumpet and Getting back on Track

Blog #101: Trumpet and Getting back on Track

Its hard to explain to non-trumpets the daily upkeep that goes into maintaining your sound and technique.  Even musicians of other instruments will never fully understand what it takes just to keep your trumpet playing together.  To give you a little perspective, every other day I do 2 hours of exercises, drills and whatnot just to maintain my chops before moving on to actual music(and on the other days I still do an hour of this sort of stuff before moving on).

The way I always explain to non-musicians the need to constantly practice trumpet is like this:  Blood flow in your mouth and lips is the second most active place in your body, your brain is #1(look up these facts if you like).  If you get a cut on your arm, it takes a while to heal, sometimes a week or even two, yet if you bite your lip, or cut somewhere inside your mouth, within two days its back to new.  This is all due to blood flow.  So if you're trying to maintain your muscles in your face, and the grooves on the inside of your lips from your teeth and where the mouthpiece makes contact to your lips, you need to keep doing that so that it doesn't revert.(or at least is my explanation).  I remember in high school when my practice habits were more sporadic, if i'd take a few days off the inside of my lip would feel uncomfortably smooth inside....and sure enough my technical ability on the instrument would have greatly deteriorated.

With things in a constant state of flux, it can be assumed that things will occasionally get 'off', sometimes your lips and embouchure just won't feel right(even with daily practice), or you might have a hard loud gig that distorts your sound the next day and leaves your lips feeling beat-up.  Sometimes your embouchure will feel fine, but sound like crap, other times it will feel like crap and sound fine.  If you have enough records by any trumpet player, you can tell when they're really 'on'.  For me the key to doing my daily exercises is to bring some sort of order to the chaos, and I feel very stable and consistent as a result.

I know for the past few days i've felt off, and I've been playing long enough to know exactly why.  One thing I really avoid when I'm practicing is playing high and loud, mainly because I'm not super into that high brassy sound that most people associate with the trumpet.  Its important to practice all sorts of things as an improvisor so your mind can take you anywhere without the limitations of the body.  For me this means practicing the stuff I don't necessarily like to practice: playing high and loud.  So I pushed pretty hard this weekend and then for the past 2 days felt a bit off.  To quantify what I mean by 'off', for me it means my sound feels a little spread and I get a little distortion in my tone usually around A in the staff, and my high register feels like more work.  No one around me seems to be able to hear it, but I can.  It can make me miss things that I'm trying to play, or just feel like I'm not playing as smoothly as I'd like.(once again, no one can seem to tell when i'm 'off' but me which is good).  Man, trumpet is WEIRD!

Anyway, studying with Laurie Frink and being observant of what will put my chops out of wack has really helped me learn how to get back on track.  Laurie gave me some stuff a while back, mostly playing chromatic scales very quietly, that will put everything back together and in no time, my sound feels back the way I like it.  Today for instance, knowing that I felt off the past 2 days, I played 30 min of chromatic scales very quietly with low F#'s also super quiet, took a break, then played chromatic scales and a mild volume, for 20 min, took a break, then played major scales at a mild volume for 20 min.  By the end of this, everything was really starting to feel and sound great again.

I guess what I'm saying is: its important to know what will get you off track and what will put you back on track.  Its a reality that we're all going to get off track from time to time, on our instruments or in our life and its important to know what to do to fix this.


PS: My last blog was #100!!! Isn't anybody going to Congratulate me!!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

New Ideas, Free Music and Bootlegs

Blog #100:  New Ideas, Free Music, Bootleg Recordings

For those unaware, I have another website where I put up free live recordings of gigs I've played. ( www.JonCrowleyMusic.bandcamp ).  I make all the music available to stream and for Free download.  However, at the end of this week the music will no long be available to download(free or otherwise), you will still be able to listen to it streaming though.


Earlier this week, I was talking to a friend of mine on the phone about the new music I was writing and I decided to send him 2 recent shows I recorded.  I used a flyer from the most recent show(@ Sycamore) for the cover, taped it up all nice and then really liked the way it looked.  So I pulled an image i liked for the second live show(@ Freddy's), and taped it all up too.  I liked the way they looked so much, and the nice handmade-ness too them that I made a bunch with the remaining flyers and had the idea to give one away with each purchase of one of my studio albums when I play shows in the future.  That way people will essentially be getting 2 CD's for just 10 Dollars. (or they can buy just the bootleg live shows for $2).  I also bought Labels for the actual CD's and made those too.  It was a lot of fun, and it felt like the CD's i used to buy at punk rock shows when I was in high school.  I have a certain nostalgia for the black and white xerox covers and the uneven cuttings that were done by hand.  I hope to make my live recordings available on a website in the future too. (though you can always order one from me directly for $5 ($2 + $3 for shipping). Paypal me @ DizzyJonC@aol.com

Thursday, April 12, 2012

what's up

Blog # 99: What's up

Hey readers and lurkers. Haven't written a blog in a while, you might be wondering what I've been up to if you give a fuck, and thank you if you do give a fuck. Changed things up again, I think its important to do that. Sometimes life does that for you. After spending most of 2011 just playing with my now former band 'Red Light Growler' (Hash-tag 'shit happens'), I've been back into the jazz way of things, kind of. Been writing a lot of music for my new group 'Heart of Darkness'. As I've stated in some earlier blogs, I've decided I want to perform less, turn down shitty gigs or gigs that I don't feel are 'artistic'. IE I'm finding it less and less appealing to do gigs playing standards, I just want to be more original than that and think that's kind of an artistic cop-out. While I am intentionally performing less, I assure you, I'm practicing just as much, and composing music like a man possessed. Playing and composing wise I don't think I've ever been better, and I don't think I've ever written so much either. Usually at night I sit at the piano and noodle until I find something. If I do, I record it with my Flip Video under the notion that I will go back and explore the ideas later. Today I uploaded all that material on my computer; which was 70+ videos. That's a lot of material. I went through, deleted the ideas that have already become tunes and i'm left with a solid 30 potential song fragments. I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed right now. I gotta go through, notate the stuff and see what I can create with all this material. Some pieces will go together and some won't.

If I haven't expressed it before, I love writing music. It is literally my favorite thing in the world. Above playing, practice, and performing(all of which I love), is my love of writing. I just love the idea of creating something new and different. Its almost like being an architect of an imaginary world. Setting something up in which real people can function, create and explore. Anyway, I have a lot of sketches to go through, and I've been writing a lot. I've got three new songs for my next performance already. This is bigger than it sounds when you consider that I'm not writing leadsheet pieces anymore: all my songs are now through composed which means its not just writing 16 bars or whatever. Its writing a 5 page suite, that evolves with different solo sections, melodies, grooves etc. I would love someday to be in the position to present so much music(record or perform), but I'd rather do fewer performances and make sure I bring people out or make sure they're special than just do a bunch of shitty gigs that no one cares about.

I have been playing a lot of sessions recently though. I have a drum set and keyboard at my one room studio, so I've been having a lot of sessions and rehearsals here. Meeting a lot of new musicians. Some good sessions. Some terrible ones with conflicting music personalities. But its only refined my concept of what I what to do and what I don't want to do. I really like the idea of musical experiments, i like to combine people in different arrangements and see what happens.

I've been teaching and loving that. Got some students around Brooklyn and have now been teaching on Skype too. Its been awesome. I've also been working at Lincoln Center as part of their Webop program working with young kids, playing jazz and introducing them to music. I enjoy this program too. I think the kids really love it.

So yeah, that's what I've been up to. Haven't disappeared. Reevaluating. Doing my thing. Practicing more than ever. Playing better than ever. But flying lower under the radar.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Thoughts Arranging and Orchestration

Blog # 98: Arranging and Orchestration

I think the modern Jazz Quintet is one of the most underutilized groups around from an arranging point of view. Many musicians seem to fall into certain obvious roles: IE we'll write a melody for the sax/trumpet/guitar to double in unison while the piano player comps over chord symbols on the chart, and the bass and drums accompany that. We all the the melody, then take turns soloing, then the melody again to end. Everyone always playing at all times. Pretty generic. I've worked with Rock, Folk and Pop musicians over the last year and they are MUCH better than Jazz musicians at thinking about the arrangement and orchestration.

I've been thinking more and more of any group I'm playing in like its an orchestra. There are many many instruments in such a group: Trumpets, violins, cellos, bass, Oboes, Clarinets, French horns, bassons, flutes, various drums and percussion, and there are very few times all these instruments are playing at the same time. Combining them in different ways is what can make each piece different from the one before or after it. Also, the structure of the piece in classical music greatly varies too. Some piece bring back the main theme stated exactly as it was in the beginning, but many more use some sort of variation or end in a completely different way.

Lets start applying this thinking to a Jazz Quintet(trumpet, sax, piano, bass. drums). At any moment any combination of those instruments can play or NOT play; which is also a very interesting musical choice and can lead to some different textures and more variety in the music.

For example, here are some options, just dealing with Trumpet:

Trumpet + Piano + Bass + Drums

Trumpet + Piano

Trumpet + Bass

Trumpet + Drums

Trumpet Alone

Trumpet + Piano + Bass

Trumpet + Piano + Drums

Trumpet + Bass + Drums


You see the point I'm making, and how many different combinations there are with each instrument, by subtracting. Everyone doesn't have to play at every moment, whether that's during the head or during a solo. Add to that varied Dynamics, different comping patterns, forms, playing in the high or low register etc and there is a lot being underutilized within a jazz group. Sometimes these things are spontaneous, but there is also nothing wrong with planning things out too. Having specific events written into tunes can really make them special, different or provide some drama or excitement, after all isn't that what its all about?

Check out this tune of mine from a recent show. Notice how the instruments are combined in different ways, when things are doubled, when there are harmonies. I spend a lot of time thinking about form and ways that I can make each piece special or different.


Here are some other ideas I've used on tunes recently to mix things up a little:

1)Have the piano and bass double the melody and the horns play a supporting role

2)Have the piano solo start alone with an improvisation based on a two line counterpoint figure

3)Write a full section for solo piano before the melody starts and the band comes in

4)Start a song with a Rubato statement of a melody variation before the real melody is fully stated

5)Have a song with no solos from horns, piano, or bass and just a drum solo built into the form

6) Write a left hand figure for the piano, but let them comp with the right hand

7)Have each of the horns take turns stating part of the melody like a call and response

8) Use the same chord progression but write a different melody for the 2nd time

9) No solos in the form, all composed material.


Just some thoughts and ideas on Arranging your music to make it more interesting. Think outside the box. Try to be more creative.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

FREE Download of Sycamore Show

Blog #98: FREE Download

Here's a live show I did with my band last Thurs @ Sycamore in Brooklyn. Sycamore is a a bar(and Flowershop during the day), that has a basement space where they put on shows of all different kinds of music. It is a really small room, which bench seating, that feels like a dark wine cellar. The show was really intimate: probably on 15 people and mostly just close friends. I know when I was playing it felt like I was doing something directly for those people who have supported me, and I really tried to dig deep and give them something special.

I think the show came off that way. There was a lot of energy, passion and also some very personal quiet musical moments too.

I thought my new song 'Gotta Get outta Here' came off particularly well: http://joncrowleymusic.bandcamp.com/track/gotta-get-out-of-here

Here is the full show: http://joncrowleymusic.bandcamp.com/album/live-sycamore-3-8-12

You can listen or Download the whole show for FREE.

Heart of Darkness:

Jon Crowley - Trumpet, Compositions

John Beaty- Alto Sax

Brad Whiteley- Keyboard, laptop

Julian Smith- Bass

Nick Anderson - Drums

Monday, March 12, 2012

Escape from NYC, Sycamore Gig, What's Next

Blog #97: Escape from NYC, Sycamore Gig, What's next

I'm in PA at the moment. I took a train here this afternoon, been feeling a bit burned out and tired from the constant struggle that is New York City, and I haven't written a blog entry in a while because of it. Sometimes I feel like its a constant uphill battle being a musician. You put so much work in; so many hours of practicing, writing music, rehearsing bands, scheduling, booking gigs; its exhausting. Sometimes you can bring some people out to shows, and sometimes you play some pretty empty depressing gigs. I even find dealing with other musicians pretty tiring(or maybe that's all people). When I get a text or email these days my first thought is 'ugh, I'm sure this person is just trying to cancel or reschedule', and when one person tries to move a rehearsal, it usually means I have to make a lot of phone calls, or send a bunch of emails and coordinate a bunch of schedules that will never fit together. On top of all that, it seems like so many musicians I know have issues with each other. They are always saying "you should get this guy, don't use this guy" or "I don't want to do a session with him, he's a dick" or "I'm mad at that guy". Trust me, I'm not excluded from that drama by any means: there are plenty of people around that really hate my guts. Add in the fact that we're all hustling for a small number of gigs around NYC, trying to bring out friends and win over fans. Its just totally exhausting and at some point you need a break.

I needed a break, so I headed for my parent's house in rural PA. They live about 40 min outside of philadelphia. I got in this afternoon by train, did a few hours of trumpet playing and then went for a nice drive on the windy back roads. It was nice out, so I had my windows down, blasting some Miles Davis(Cannonball Adderley's Something Else). I feel a bit more relaxed already. I did some errands, went to the market and bought some cereal and milk: people seem a lot friendlier outside of New York, even just the little exchanges with the cashier. NYC can be such a hostile place, and it feels like everyone is just looking out for themselves and ready to cut the throats of strangers.

Before leaving, I played a gig this past week with my new band 'Heart of Darkness' @ Sycamore in Brooklyn.(with John Beaty-sax, Brad Whiteley-keyboard, effects, Julian Smith-bass, Nick Anderson-drums), all original music by me. I booked this show as "Jon Crowley Presents: Heart of Darkness". I like the idea of presenting groups like that, that way it can be me doing whatever project I'm working on at the moment, and frees me up to do a lot of different stuff. I don't think I've ever worked so hard as I I did to promote this gig and to bring people out. I made a Facebook Event, I sent an email, I listed the gig on AllaboutJazz.com, Trumpetherald.com and HotHouse, I made a bunch of fliers and put them around Brooklyn, dropped some off at the venue and even sent some live recordings to DJ Linus at Breakthrough Radio, who did a nice special on me. (Thanks Linus! http://www.breakthruradio.com/#/post/?dj=djlinus&post=735&blog=29&autoplay=1)

Anyway, the show went really well. We had a pretty small audience: probably just 15 people and they were pretty much all close friends of mine. The show felt like I was just giving back to the people who I care about, which was nice. The band and I really gave our all and I was happy with the music, which had a lot of energy and passion. Felt like I got out a lot of what's been brooding inside me. We only rehearsed that day, several hours before the show and the last rehearsal was right before our last show back in January (although we had a different drummer on this one: Nick Anderson: who sounded AMAZING). I recorded the show and will put it up for free download/listen on my bandcamp site in the next few days. (www.JonCrowleyMusic.bandcamp.com). Lastly, the one person I didn't know at the show came over and introduced himself, signed my maiilng list and bought a CD. He told me he loved the music and wanted to see us play again...I told him I have no gigs scheduled at the moment. He also said that our show made his day and that he had come down stairs to see some music purely by coincidence. The fact that he liked the music so much made my day. It feels good to win people over with musical honesty and emotional sincerity.

Sycamore was a great venue: it was in the basement and felt like a wine cellar. The room was very warm and sounded great. I'd love to play there again. I've been thinking a lot recently about where I want to go next with my music. I've played at all the big venues around the city: The Blue Note, 55 Bar, Fat Cat, and Lincoln Center. While I'd play at some of those places again, I'm not rushing back to most of them. There's so much stress and BS politics involved that I just don't want to deal with. Hoops to jump through, asses to kiss. I don't want to play those games anymore. I think in the future I'd be more interested in playing smaller shows(less frequently) for people that are really there to hear music, relax and have a good time. I don't like the separation that exists in playing club dates. I'd like to play more house shows, art galleries and other random alternative spaces. Playing this show at Sycamore for people I care about made me feel that direct connection with the audience even more, and that's what I want to do more now.

SO, if you live somewhere on the east coast, like my music, and want to have a party or do a house show and have a bunch of friends over, and would like to have my group come play a set, I'd be down. If everyone that came out could just throw in $5 or $10 dollars, we could probably make it work. I want to bring music directly to the people and am looking for that honest and direct connection with people. Send me an email, let's make it work. JonCrowleyMusic@gmail.com

Other than that, I'm going to chill out in PA for few days, rest, get away from all the NYC drama for a while, refocus, and practice. I bought a one-way ticket, so I will be here as long as it takes to do that. I am single and don't work a steady job, so I can get away with that. I just want to reflect on everything that has happened personally in the past few months with the end of my old band 'Red Light Growler', other personal things that have happened and where I want things to go from here.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Heart of Darkness @ Sycamore

Usually don't plug gigs on here, but I'm playing at Sycamore in Brooklyn Thurs March 8th 9-10. Really trying hard to bring people out to the show, wrote a lot of great new music and made some fliers too. This may be my last show in a while(which I'll explain in my next blog)

Here's the Description:

I hope you'll join me for "Jon Crowley presents: Heart of Darkness @ Sycamore" on Thurs March 8th.

Very excited to be presenting this night of original music with this great band. 'Heart of Darkness' features all original music of mine that conjures the influences of Classical music from the Romantic Period(Chopin, Scriabin) and sets it in a Quintet format with 2 horns with improvisation against an Indie-Rock backdrop. Much of the music is written, including most of the piano left-hand parts, bass figures and horn harmonies. All the songs are through-composed, so they unfold like stories with definitive beginning, middle and ends, instead of the antiquated 'melody-solo-melody' format. For this reason, The music has been described as 'Aurally cinemagraphic".

You can hear some samples from our last show here:

I want to make sure we bring a lot of people out for this event, our first at Sycamore, so I've set the cover low at just $5(!)

Come join us,


Jon Crowley- Trumpet, Compositions
John Beaty- Alto Sax
Brad Whiteley- Keyboard, Laptop
Julian Smith - Bass
Nick Anderson - Drums

Thurs March 8th
1 set: 9-10:00
1118 Cortelyou Rd, Brooklyn
(Q train to Cortelyou Stop)


Sunday, February 12, 2012

Interview on Jazzbrew.com

Wanted to share an audio interview I did with Eric from JazzBrew.com I had a great time talking about music, trumpet, composing, my 2 records, the scene and the biz.


Monday, January 16, 2012

FREE Download

Blog #96: 'Heart of Darkness' live @ Freddy's Bar and Backroom; Brooklyn

Just played a show this past Friday night with a new band of mine called 'Heart of Darkness'.(or Jon Crowley's Heart of Darkness). Pretty amazing, we rehearsed for the first time that afternoon, it was the first time even I played a few of the tunes since they were brand new, all originals of mine. Also, most of the guys in the band had even met before. Wow: Jazz is pretty amazing sometimes. We made some mistakes on the melodies, but the energy and vibe were awesome.

Jon Crowley- Trumpet
John Beaty- Alto Sax
Brad Whiteley- Keyboard
Julian Smith- Bass
George Mel- Drums


You can listen or Download the show for FREE:


Monday, January 9, 2012

How things have changed

Blog #95: How things have changed

This week was a big one for Jazz in New York(yes I'm still calling it Jazz). First there was an all day event sponsored by JazzTimes that was a 'Do it yourself Crash Course' in promotion and 'the industry' on Thursday, then a series of APAP workshops/panels/speakers from Friday to Monday. Add in the fact that WinterFest was going on Fri and Saturday: it was a big week for Jazz.

I attended the thurs 'DIY' event and one of the panels on Sunday, I just didn't have the time to go to 4 full days worth of panels, the trumpet needs more attention than that, but I got a lot out of what I saw. Got some ideas for new ways to get my recent album out there more and really enjoyed Michael Ricci's ideas and presentation on his website and a future one he will launch as well. Props to Michael for being someone who is working hard to find new solutions and approaches to this music world we live in, and for having the balls to publish my friend John Beaty's controversial articles.

Going back to the 'DIY Crash Course' event, I had some strong reactions to what audience members were saying. People seemed to break down into 2 camps; Those that realize the music world has changed due to all the new technology and those who think the ways which they succeeded 30 years ago will continue to work.(These ones seem to me to be shoving a square peg in a round whole).

I just wanted to take a second and talk about how much things have changed in the past 10 years(which really isn't a long time)

First, when I was in high school AIM was HUGE. 'Instant Messenger' was a program on 'America Online(AOL)' where you could chat with your friends. It was the precursor to 'Gchat' on Gmail. When I'd get home from school I'd sign on(which consisted of 'Dialing up' using the phone line) and talk to my friends. You could surf the web too, but I don't remember there being much that interested me....outside of Napster(where i pirated incredible amounts of music for free). After a while my mom would yell at me, because i was tying up the phone line and we couldn't receive phone calls while I was using the internet. I also remember fondly that crazy noise the computer made when you were dialing up.(weird buzzes and hisses)

When I got to college, my school had a network, so I could ALWAYS be signed on. I left up an 'Away Message' most of the time, but when I came back from class I'd see a message on my computer from a friend that would say 'You around? Gonna go to the Cafeteria'. You could even chat with the guy across the hall via AIM.

Somewhere in there I totally abandoned AIM(maybe everyone did), and somewhere in there Facebook crept in. People could post about what they were up to, yada yada. AND Texting seemed to appear out of no where. Texting is basically AIM on the go; because you don't need to be stuck at your computer to type. Quick communication without having to actually pick up the phone.(big fan of texting)






The reason I mention all this is to illustrate how much things have changed and how fast its happened. Who would have seen any of these things coming? But one thing is clear, the world is different. People listen to music differently, and people buy/find out about music differently. It seemed like a lot of people I heard speak(some audience, some panel) had the attitude of: "I know how to do things, I sold tons of records back in the day". They seem to refuse to accept that their methods won't continue to work because the world is different. And there's one thing that's stopping them: their own ego. They need to accept that they don't know everything, and be open to trying new things if they are going to have any success.