This pic(courtesy of Valarie)is from a performance at Robbie's just yesterday. My regular trio(Bill Schlipf, bass; Don Cochran, drums)plus Frank Parker on trumpet and Mark Russillo on harmonica and vocals.
The music was 'spot on', both us 3 and with our sitters-in.
And for once, the weather/competing events downtown/position of the stars all complied with us and we had a pretty much capacity crowd from the get-go(we've all-too-frequently had excellent music nights but sparsely attended, so it's nice to get both).
So I am now enjoying 9 consecutive days free from the rigors of daygig, aka vacation. A gig like this is a wonderful way to kick it off, and I try to schedule both my gigs and vacation time so that happens.
This front line of Mark and myself and Frank is something we've had at least twice now, which I call the men under 5'8"(Mark is I think 5'6", I'm 5'4", and Frank is I think 5'2"). I might just take it a step further and put a ceiling on the height of the people sitting in, so that no one over 5'8" gets in and wrecks our nice even line..
At this moment, I'm on day one of my vacation, still de-compressing, still shaking off the stress of the daygig, but with the memory of a very nice gig. Here's to many more.
If an Opiate is a drug that turns its user into Ronny Howard, then what causes Pink Floyd? Well, we can plainly see the symptoms right here: it turns the complexion a bright pink, and gives the afflicted party an increasing resemblance to Howard McNear. In its advanced stages, a sort of cooing takes place: "ooh ooh ooh Annnndy.."
But seriously folks. This hilarious picture was circulating around Facebook over the past few days. It made me laugh right off, and of course I posted it myself. And then it got me thinking. (This is always dangerous..)
These so-called minor characters sometimes being a lot of craft to their roles. In the case of Howard McNear, playing Floyd Lawson the barber, it was a curious mix of excitement and confusion. This was also employed(in a different voice of course, but a similar basic mix)by Alice Ghostley, who played Aunt Clara on Bewitched; and by Bill Daily, who played Major Roger Healey on I Dream of Jeannie and Howard Borden on The Bob Newhart Show. Daily also brought a certain intensity, and McNear a sweetness to their respective characters, but I did notice a common basic approach. Excitement and confusion.
Interesting to find parallels between the world of acting and that of music--particularly improvised music. An actor, like an improvising musician, has his/her repertoire of expressive devices, their 'bag of tricks'. It doesn't always follow in music--usually if I buy a Bill Evans album it's to hear Bill Evans first--but as far as acting ensembles, be they comedies or dramas, I'm usually more partial to one or two interesting side characters(like Floyd or Aunt Clara or Howard/Roger)than the headliner. My favorite character is usually a 'minor' one who's occasionally featured, particularly in the world of sitcoms.
I Dream of Jeannie: Maj Roger Healey;
Barney Miller: Inspector Luger
Green Acres: Mr Kimball
Cheers: Cliff Clavin
The Bob Newhart Show: Howard Borden
Caddyshack: Judge Smails
The Mary Tyler Moore Show: Ted Baxter
The Dick Van Dyke Show: Buddy Sorrell
I gotta admit, though. On the old Andy Griffith Show, Barney stole the show(Don Knotts got at least three Emmy awards for that one), but if not for him, my award would've gone to Floyd the barber. I don't know what kind of haircut he gave, but certainly a crafty performance as Floyd.
Optional trivia: Apparently the character of Floyd the barber is based on a real character back in Mt Airy North Carolina where Andy Griffith grew up. Russell Hiatt, who reportedly still cuts hair at the same spot, right next to the Snappy Lunch Diner.
This was supposed to just be one blog, about gigging- that is, playing musical engagements, hopefully for money. Gigging, as it stands, is really one of three threads making up my musical personality, the other two being Teaching and Writing/Recording. A little blog mitosis going on I guess, with one blog becoming two and then three. Writing/recording is hands-down my favorite of the three basic things I do as musician. I got the writing bug fairly early, around Senior Year of High School, when I tried my hand at some quasi-Baroque things on piano. Haven't stopped writing since.
Like I said earlier, we all start out wanting to be players, and I've always been very performance-oriented, playing guitar and bass and piano myself. But the urge, the burning desire to be a composer definitely came into play around age 17. My major in school was pretty much always music composition, and that's where the bulk of my formal training as musician lies, having had 3 different teachers for musical composition. As a guitarist, I had a few years of lessons in High School, then 2 at SIU Edwardsville, 1 in New York, and that's been it.
Over the years(about 30 of 'em at this point!), I've turned out a goodly number of compositions and recordings. Well, okay, an insane number of compositions- and a lot of recordings. In the previous two blogs I talk about 30 years worth of gigging and teaching, which, if tended regularly year after year is gonna yield an astronomical number of both gigs and students. So it is with writing.
As a musician-with-a-dayjob, I remember looking at Charles Ives( American composer, 1874-1954) as a bit of a mentor in this respect, and remember reading someplace a comment he'd made about how his business and musical sides helped one another. He did reportedly make some innovations in the area of Estate Planning through his Insurance Company(Ives &Myrick, not to be confused with Currier & Ives) as well as- of course- some innovative musical compositions . For me, my dayjob and musical pursuits together have been anything but symbiotic(even though my daygig has helped fund my musical pursuits).They've clashed, to a large extent, but I do find a parallel between my "musical" personality and that at my workplace.
In both instances, I'm a basically backline individual: back in the office away from the front lines; back in the 'music laboratory', away from the crowds at a club; but one who can(under duress) do frontline work: play gigs, meet and greet the public there and at the office(Roger U Roundly- damn glad t' meet'cha!). I love people but am not necessarily a people person, as I need to get the hell away from them after awhile. So I'll get out and play for awhile, and then hide in my laboratory for awhile.
These two things, the playing out and staying in, are symbiotic for me. They seem to be mutually beneficial as far as keeping me in tune. But for the most part, I tend to favor the quiet peaceful atmosphere of my music room for my activities, hopefully coming up with new "discoveries" therein to share with you the listener. Almost a Shamanistic process, tapping into the creative unconscious and bringing back whatever you find.
I love playing, and teaching, but writing I'm probably most in the Zone.
Like I said, we as musicians all start out wanting to be performers. All teachers are performers to some extent, but not all performers are teachers. Not good ones anyway. A can equal B, but B doesn't always equal A.
Teaching wasn't something I naturally aspired to, but rather more something I fell into because they needed 'em(many bass players are made this way). This was at a local Music Store, the very same in which I got my start with guitar lessons at the ripe old age of 11. Once there as a teacher, though, I found it was something I enjoyed doing, at least on a part-time basis.
Much of this enjoyment, at least for me, comes from the student's input: how motivated they are, whether necessarily in the area(s)I might be leading them or not. If they're in there to learn and improve their guitar skills, it's a lot of fun for me as teacher, endeavoring to help them. But I've gotta have good students, at least students making a good effort.
My experience( except for a few students I can trust in my house) has mainly been in the local Music Store, but I did teach at a College--Lincoln College in Lincoln, IL--for one semester back in 1984(among my distinguished students there were two who called themselves Johnny Void and Sid Destructo--contrary to their names, they were actually very well-mannered..) And in 1980 I gave some group guitar lessons at a local High School, and taught a class in Music Theory at a local community music school(even wore my herringbone jacket for that one, looking all Professorial..).
Pretty small potatoes, my teaching background. But then, limited as it may be, at least in scope, I've given a lot of guitar lessons. At a gig I had last night, I was joking with the bandleader that at least between us, we've played in every building in town. Likewise, I've taught just about everybody in town, at least for a lesson or two. Now in saying that, I'm not proclaiming myself any kind of top guitar dog--there are a few pickers here who could easily show me a thing or two--but in this relative world, I'm still a decent player, one who has a thing or two himself to show.
And, I hope, am a decent teacher. As I said, it's something I've done over the years, off and on. As I get a few whiskers on me, nearing retirement age and all, I'm starting to pick it back up with 4 students currently on the books(when I retire I hope to expand that to 10 or so). So as well as my current 4, here's to all the folks who've taken a lesson or two with me over the years. I'm sure it's quite a number..
Way back in my college days(Peabody Conservatory, the latter 70's), one of my music professors, one Moshe Morris Cotel, was quoted as saying that Music and Judaism were the pillars of his life. I always liked that remark, the resoluteness behind it, the teleological certainty. Having one's life grounded in one's Faith and one's Art, and knowing that they'll both take you, someday, to a 'higher place'.
Not being a religious person myself(I almost added 'let's hope' to that last sentence), at least in the denominational sense, I don't have that leg to stand on. Well actually I do have some beliefs along that line, but they're what might be considered a bit eclectic--what Catholic Theologian Peter Kreeft described as " a trip to the Salad Bar"(well not me personally, but his writing spoke to me in particular at that moment). 'Nother time, 'nother blog..
For the purposes of this blog, I could say that the pillars of my musical life are gigging, teaching and writing/recording. Over time, I've become most partial to the writing/recording side of things, but have enjoyed and do enjoy teaching and gigging and like to keep my hand in all three pursuits.
But wherever we end up as musicians, gigging is the one we all do at one time, the one Universal. Most everybody at least starts off wanting to be a player, and in those youthful dreams the audience is often a teeming throng of fans.
For me, the first 'gigs' I ever did were age 12 and 13. My first paying gigs happened when I was 14(see the blog titled Beginnings). I'm now 57, turning 58 in August. That's a lot of gigs, the biggest concentration of which are all the ones you do in your youth, to get the experience--some Saturdays I'd play 3 in the day! At this juncture, I'm doing one or two just about every month, which averages out to 15-16 dates a year, but in those days it was usually over 100.
One thing that slows down this process is that at some point, unfortunately, you usually have to go out and get some kind of dayjob just to make ends meet. I was 32 at this point, but obviously still young enough to put in a full week at the dayjob and proceed unimpeded into the weekend's gigs. Worked Monday through Friday(and half-Saturdays, way back when I was a Bank Teller--'86-91)and still played every Friday and Saturday nights, plus a fair amount of Thursdays and Sundays. Didn't even blink.
Actually it wasn't until I hit 50, in 2004, that I started to get just a little bit crabbier about my schedule- or should I say schedules? The gigs themselves were still enjoyable, but afforded me less weekend coolit time(something I never missed before), particularly a Saturday out-of-town gig which- even if early- takes your whole day. So I started cutting back, but still tried(and do try)to at least keep my hand in there.
There are folks my age or thereabouts, who've been playing gigs since they were 12 or 13, and unlike me, are still playing most every Friday and Saturday night in addition to working their daygig. I think that's great. And there are a few who cut back for awhile and are now making a comeback. Again, I think that's great. For them.
For me, gigging is the one ball, musically speaking, out of the three I juggle, toward which I have the most ambivalence. I unequivocally love writing/recording, ardently enjoy teaching, but gigging is a love/hate thing.
Playing a gig just last night got me thinking along these lines, because I was experiencing both the things I love and those I hate about the whole process of gigging. I decided to break it down a bit:
The Things I Love about Gigging
playing itself is fun
playing with other like-minded(or at least compatible)musicians
jocularity and camaraderie with musicians on gig
same with some folks in the crowd
communicating one's music to an appreciative soul or two, or at least feeling like you did
food if applicable
possibility of meeting women(or at least one good one)
The Things I Hate about Gigging
feeling of being "on display"
being expected to "perform" or at least "be in the house" when you go hear somebody
local scene can become a hotbed of egos, in-groups, and stoopid intrigues
hearing your name added in to said stoopid intrigues
not meeting women
So I concluded from all this that so long as your reasons for doing something include a basic love for the doing of it(and your ass is getting paid for it!), you're probably on a good track. Well okay, it helps to get fed too- but now we're getting into the optional stuff. I basically love to play--well, improvised music anyway, or that with the possibility of my getting to improvise, and as long as that's going on, I can hopefully weather some of those other ancillary issues.
Like parking. And not meeting women. Well, maybe I just haven't met her yet...
I'm pretty sure I've put something up here about my own group, a gtr/bs/dr trio, and I just posted something about the very first jazz band I ever played with. Which leaves this one to cover.
Like any semi-working musician worth his or her salt, I've played with all the bands who'd have me--especially at first, when you're trying to get the experience. After awhile, at least if you're a local musician, you develop your circle of folks you work with regularly, or at least semi-regularly. You're comfortable with them, and they're comfortable with you. And maybe you even have fun playing music together.
And so it is with Dan and Wayne, pictured here. I've been a semi-regular sub for the Dan Rivero Trio since I can't remember when. Many gigs across the years. Getting a picture of us for one(or more)of my sites is something I'd long intended to do, so finally here we go. Dan on drums, Wayne Carter on keyboards and vocals, and on this occasion, myself on guitar. Here's to many more!
This is the first jazz group I ever played in.
The Bob Graham Quartet, from maybe 1968-71(I am the shy young man of 15-or-so holding the bass), with Bob on Tenor Saxophone and Clarinet; Ben Drake, piano; and Bill Waldmire, drums. (Robert "Hoppy" Johnson was the original drummer, and is featured in the Gallery on my "regular musician" site). Ben, who played guitar and bass as well as piano, was my teacher for some years at a local music store. I was originally a guitar student, but also played electric bass, and Ben encouraged me to take up string bass and play in his group.
It was a wonderful experience musically, and I learned a great deal in those three years. We had a running gig for some time at a local restaurant every Friday and Saturday evening, and afterwards I'd stay up all night listening to jazz on the radio(KSD in St Louis!). As a kid living at home, I had no overhead, so all the money I made was spent on jazz albums. Stacks and stacks of jazz albums,by all kinds of artists. Between that, and my Dad's albums, I did quite a bit of listening.
So. This is where it all started for me. Thanks again to Ben, and Hoppy, and Bobby and Bill, for giving me this opportunity.
Yep. Those strings go all the way up to Heaven. That's why I couldn't get 'em all in the picture. Well, that and my pisspoor photography.
This is a bass I've had since--the year escapes me but it'd have to be prior to 2006, probably '02 or '03. Ibanez 5-string. I inherited it from who was then the bassist in my quartet, as he'd moved on to a 6-string bass at that juncture.(Kinda half-figured I'd hear from him at some future point, when he would be ready to make that jump from 6 strings to 8. Or 10).
Okay. I'm kidding. Kevin, hope the 6-string is still serving you well. I used to do much bouncing back and forth between the 4-strings and 6(that is, guitar)--actually a preponderance of bass gigs. Though of some Irish extraction, I don't do much dublin as an instrumentalist these days, keeping it pretty much all on guitar. I have played a few gigs on this instrument, though, and it does play well.
I plan on using this bass for my home recording efforts, where applicable. The left-hand bass patches on my Ensoniq have their moments, but sometimes you need the real deal, Neil. So I got this instrument "restored" just today.
Being a dreadful handyman, I revel in every little bit of knowledge or expertise I have. So...took a look at the situation with the bass. No sound. Probably a battery problem, but I can't take the back off, as it requires a special screwdriver. Hmmm. I think they call those Phillips head screwdrivers. Sooo, headed to Wal-Mart for a Phillips head screwdriver(around $2.58)and 2 9-volt batteries(around $3.40). Got the back popped off, changed the battery and- voila!- the bass is once again jammin'.
So I'm looking forward to re-employing the bass on my home recordings. It'd been sitting there dormant for the longest damn time. Until today.
ps Sorry for the groaner awhile back...