Warming Up

Warming Up

Monday, January 31, 2011

Guess The Trumpet Player Winner

The winner of the third installment of the Outside Pants Guess The Trumpet Player contest is……..Ian Carey of the San Francisco Bay Area!  Nice work, Ian. And, the correct answer is…….Ron Miles. 

The name of this tune is “Illuminator” and it comes from Ron’s 2006 double album “Stone/Blossom” (Sterling Circle Records).  I picked this tune specifically because it has a country flavor and, because Ron is a Midwesterner (living in Denver since he was a kid), I thought that this country flavor might help listeners determine that this was not another East Coast or West Coast trumpet player, but perhaps someone in between.  I like Ron Miles’ trumpet playing and music a lot.  I think he is a truly singular artist. The first album of his that I bought was his 1996 (Grammavision) record “My Cruel Heart.”  On first listen I thought it was cool and then put it away for a while.  The next time I played the CD I started to really get into it (love it when that happens with an album – lost but rediscovered!) and then I went out and bought all of his other records as a leader and some where he is a sideman, specifically Bill Frisell’s albums (I’m a big Frisell fan too – another guy who spent time in Denver).

Ron Miles is kind of a weird trumpet player.  He can get a really beautiful and pure trumpet sound and play some really pretty lines.  And he can certainly play straight ahead jazz, swinging and threading changes.  But he also flirts with avant-garde styles and is a master of some of the trumpet’s extended techniques.  The crazy thing is, he might do all of this in the space of one song.  And for my money, I think he can usually pull it off.  His albums as a leader have been pretty varied and I would count him as one of those artists whose music I would buy as soon as it comes out.  That’s high praise from me because I’m cheap :).   

I wrote to Ron Miles a while back and told him that I would love to come to Denver to take a lesson from him.  He wrote back, was very nice, and said yes.  I have an aunt and an uncle in Denver who I’ve wanted to visit for some time now.  Hopefully soon I can get out there, visit with some family, and hook up with Mr. Miles.  I think it would be an awesome trip.

So, thanks to all of you who gave this track a listen.  It seemed as though at first that I had picked a player who is too obscure (one listener really didn’t like the track – and that’s cool.  I appreciated the honesty, for sure).  But Ian nailed it.  I’ll have an easier Guess The Trumpet Player this week so stay tuned.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Guess The Trumpet Player

Hey Readers, it’s time for the third installment of “Guess The Trumpet Player.”  Click the link (it’s safe), click play, listen, guess the trumpet player.  The first person to leave the correct name of this trumpet player in the comments section wins a CD – Outside Pants Vol. 2 – Special Mix (I can’t tell you what it is yet, but it’s good, ok?).  The contest ends with Monday’s post.


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Album Spotlight: John Prine

When I get ready for a gig the last thing I do before I leave the house is to pick a few CDs to listen to during my drive to and from the gig.  Sometimes, I don’t listen to any music when I drive.  I just try to clear my head.  Or maybe I’ll listen to the news.  But usually I listen to music.  Sometimes I want to hear something in the vein of what I’m about to play.  Or maybe something completely different.  On the way to last weekend’s gigs I was listening to Bill Dixon and John Coltrane’s Africa Brass.  Awesome.  Got me ready to play!

But driving home after a gig is a different story altogether.  I’m usually tired.  Physically, mentally, emotionally.  Playing can take a lot out of you, especially if the music is hard and requires a lot of concentration.  After the last few gigs I keep putting on the same album.  I have listened to this album countless times over the years and I have yet to ever get tired of any of the songs as there is always something new that catches my ear and makes me think.  The album is the eponymous debut record by John Prine.  “John Prine” came out on Atlantic Records in 1971.  It’s a badass record.  Simple songs.  Powerful words.  Prine was only 25 when the album came out but he was already deeply in tune with what it means to be human, and maybe more specifically, what it means to be American.  And this is American music about American people.  Prine creates characters and paints pictures about them.  The housewife from Montgomery, Alabama.  Sam Stone, the drug-addicted Vietnam war veteran.  The unlikely couple, Donald and Lydia (were they even a couple?). The old folks in “Hello In There.”  The simple times of childhood that are lost and irreclaimable in “Paradise.”  His words are simple but there’s more meaning there than you think.  He can be political without being overtly political.  Sarcastic without being obvious. He says "Illegal Smile" isn’t about pot.  It isn’t???  “Your Flag Decal Won’t Get You In To Heaven Anymore.”  Take that, you false patriots!

I love Prine’s lyrics and always sing along  – often in some sad attempt at harmonizing.  But the music gets me every time.  Simple, kinda country/kinda Appalachia folk music with a little rock and roll in there too.  These songs have progressions that we’ve all heard a million times.  But who cares.  They’re played so well here (Arif Mardin is the producer so you know the record is gonna sound good) and the music services the lyrics perfectly.  Together, the music and words make me feel happy to be alive.  And happy to be a musician.  Kinda makes me want to play some country trumpet.  It would be so cool to play in John Prine's band!

Check out John Prine.  All of his records are good.  H is voice has sure aged but he’s still playing.  Still kicking ass.  And his music is good to drive to.  

Hey John Prine, Thanks for Caring, Thanks for Sharing.  Hire me.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Random Thoughts On Selling (Giving Away) Music

Ever made your own CD and then sold it online?  How much money did you make?  Enough to pay for the recording, design, and manufacturing?  Did you make enough selling your CD to pay your bills? Here’s an interesting graphic that I first saw a while back while reading the blog of the very talented Bay-area trumpeter Ian Carey.  If the graphic is hard to read, click on this link http://www.informationisbeautiful.net/2010/how-much-do-music-artists-earn-online/  If you are so inclined, see below for my take on this.

I’m not really sure how to feel about this graphic and what it tells us, but I can’t help but feel that it isn’t too encouraging.  Who is making all the money here?  It doesn’t appear to be the musicians.  How are musicians supposed to afford to document their music if they are not going to make enough money to even pay for the recording, let alone attempt to support themselves (most musicians aren’t earning enough income from performances alone to survive)?  And then why should anyone even try?  

I keep sensing a trend lately: more and more, people don’t want to pay for music; they think it should be free.  And honestly, if you really want an album and don’t want to pay for it, you will, with a fairly painless Google search, be able to find that album somewhere and download it for free.  It’s happening everywhere, all the time.  I’ve read some “industry” press recently that is telling me that I should strongly consider just giving away my music because that’s the direction the business is moving in anyway.  They tell me that it’s better to just get your music and your name out there.  But if I can’t count on making any money back on a self-produced album (no ECM or Blue Note contract in my near future) how can I afford to fund this album?  But without that CD how can I get bookings for my group(s), or press?  It’s a tricky situation.  And I don’t know what the solution is. 

Seems like the only solution is to save my money, rehearse an ensemble, pay for the recording and mixing and mastering, pay the musicians, pay for a designer, pay for the manufacturing….and then give it away for free.  Because at least then people will hear it. Hmmm.  That seems kinda shitty.  Oh well.  Guess I better start saving a percentage of my gig money.  And when I do make another album, maybe I’ll do the Radiohead thing and just ask people to pay me (directly – learning my lesson from the above graphic) what they want for it.  Can’t hurt, I guess.  Not trying to be a downer here, but this is something I’ve been thinking about lately.  I’ll have a cheerier, more upbeat post tomorrow!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Guess The Trumpet Player Winner

The winner of the second installment of the Outside Pants Guess The Trumpet Player contest is……..”Anonymous” of Philadelphia, PA (although James Primosch did identify Gil Evans as the arranger).  And the correct answer is…….Johnny Coles. 

The tune is called “Davenport Blues” and it was written by Bix Beiderbecke and arranged here by the great Gil Evans for an amazing 1959 album “Great Jazz Standards.”  “Davenport Blues” was a tune associated with Bix (Bix was born in Davenport, IL), but the great, and mostly forgotten trumpeter Red Nichols also had a hit with the tune in 1939.  Both Bix’s and Red’s

versions are in a fast swing style.  Gil Evans slows it down and arranges it masterfully for the warm sound of Johnny Coles.  Something about Johnny’s style here just really blows me away.  It’s not bravura virtuosity, but there is a virtuoso quality to his phrasing and the way he manipulates his notes.  So much feeling here it’s almost painful.  Listen to his cadenzas.  And listen to how Gil sets up the cadenzas or, even better, how the arrangements “finish” Johnny’s cadenzas.  And Gil’s piano comping when everything drops down is so crazy and pure Gil.  It’s a great study to compare and contrast this album of Gil’s with the ones he was doing (at about the same time) with Miles Davis.  All such amazing music.  And like Gil said, all he was doing was “writing arrangements for great singers of songs.”  And the singer on “Davenport Blues” is Johnny Coles.

If you aren’t familiar with Johnny Coles, or only slightly familiar, you might hear comparisons to Miles Davis.  I don’t really think this is fair.  Sure, both players often had sparser styles than players like Dizzy Gillespie or Clifford Brown.  And neither had that brassy trumpet sound.  And Coles and Davis both sure had the ability to say a whole lot with one note.  But I think the comparisons really end there.  Johnny Coles only sounds like Johnny Coles.  His lines and phrasing can be really strange, almost sneaky.  His articulation can be blunt and almost stuffed up which makes him sound like he’s playing way behind the beat sometimes.  He bends notes in the hippest ways.  His vibrato is absolutely singular.  And he just sings through the horn.  So while Johnny Coles, a guy who spent many years living in Philadelphia, is certainly under the radar for most people, musicians in the know are very aware of what Johnny Coles can do.  Just ask Charles Mingus, or Herbie Hancock, or Duke Ellington, or Art Blakey.  Or Gil Evans. 

So, nice work “Anonymous” – I do know who you are. There’s a copy of Outside Pants Vol. 1 – Old School Players coming your way!  Another Guess the Trumpet Player is coming this Thursday so stay tuned.

Thanks for Caring, Thanks for Sharing.