Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Playing IN

These pictures were taken during my vacation in St Pete Beach, Florida. I'm the guy on the left. We did a ton of playing over my week down there, both guitar and piano duo and with a bassist and drummer. My friend on the piano there has them come over every week for a good 3 hours of musicmaking. There's always a meal, and then down to it. 
The sessions with bass and drums are more along the lines of a rehearsal/reading band. They're there to work on stuff, just for its own sake. Tunes are selected by each musician, in a rotation, so with a quartet you're calling every fourth tune. Each tune is rehearsed in entirety and then for trouble spots, and then recorded. My piano player buddy has a very nice rig which can make studio-quality CDs, even though we're not recording for posterity.. 
This bassist and drummer are full-time musicians- like the Fabulous Baker Boys, never had a dayjob in their lives. "Lifers" as my piano player friend calls them. And as you'd figure, they play very well. The drummer in particular is a seasoned veteran, having been a working musician in New York for some years. 
I got to do two such sessions with them. The playing itself is lots of fun, as they are wonderful players. It's also a bit of a teaching session. They work a lot with the piano player on various things. The drummer will deliberately speed up at times to make him play the songs' melodies faster; and other times bring the tempo down if it starts to rush. 
When you work with a drummer this good, it's hard not to play in rhythm. You just naturally align with what they're doing. I did pick it up just a little on one tune, for which he chided me a bit: "Yeah, ya got frisky". Otherwise, I felt like I kept great time. His time.
For my piano player friend, these weekly sessions are his bread and butter. There aren't too many playing opportunities in the area, and apparently not much of a database of musicians to work with even if there were, so working from home seems to be the elegant solution. Playing in, as it were. 
This gave me food for thought, as far as my activities back here in Illinois. Maybe I can get something similar going myself- at least on a monthly basis if not weekly.

Normally we musicians are out there looking for the perfect place to play, directing our energies outward to whatever local establishments exist(and will still have us). Playing out, as it were. This is usually the goal of any band. The gig: where you finally get to do your stuff in front of a live audience, as opposed to the "synthetic environment" of someone's garage or basement. An important part of any musician's development. 

But what if you can't get a gig you like? Or you still want to play but are sick of the noise and crowds? This latter scenario is mine, and I try and handle it by playing lower-keyed gigs(no pun intended), in smaller places with fewer folks. And, I'm thinking, with home sessions. Playing in. 

I've been feeling this way for awhile now. Leaving the world of daygig, back in mid-2013, I thought I'd want to play all the time. Play out, that is. And at very first it was great. But I soon tired of the noise and crowds and the whole phenomenon of being up in front of folks- even though the playing itself was still very enjoyable. 

So I'm taking another look at playing in. The joy of playing without the hassle of schlepping my equipment into the vehicle, negotiating a place to park, heading into some crowded, noisyass establishment and banging out tunes for people who may or may not be listening. Of course there will still be a few occasions where I'll be out in one of these dives, but for the most part I plan on making music from the comfort of hearth and hame. 

We'll see how this plays out of course, but for now that's the plan. If our sessions here are anywhere close to the ones I got to do in St Pete Beach, we'll really have something! As an end result, I see more recording than anything. But this is all planning. Gotta get there first. 


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