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 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.