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The July Album Challenge: Day 1

Happy July! Today being the first day of the month, I decided to allow myself to begin working on my album challenge. I didn’t waste any time getting started.

All of the material being written and recorded for this album is fresh, new material. I’ve committed myself to using only musical ideas developed this month (ie: no recycling of old material). I had made the decision that I wanted to include a decent amount of acoustic piano in the creation of this album.

The only readily available piano I have is the family upright piano located in our living room on the first floor. This creates many challenges:

1. I’m much more limited in terms of the time spent writing/recording with the piano.
2.  It’s an old upright and doesn’t exactly sound amazing but it has some soul to it that makes it special.
3. The room it resides in is a recording nightmare: square, low ceiling. There is some furniture which helps suck up extra sound. I will certainly be close miking the piano for recording when the time comes.

But challenges are good…right?

I set up my trusty Zoom H4 Handheld Recorder and sat down at the piano to start working on ideas. I soon had some material that was quickly developing. I recorded the ideas as they came and then practiced them. Not being a serious pianist, I tend to write the music and then take twice as long to teach myself how to play it.

I recorded the sum of the ideas and then moved down to the basement studio to start fleshing out a bit of a demo of the idea. I tracked some drums, bass and even some electronic elements. I was quite happy with the resulting sounds. I’m very excited about what the next 30 days will bring.

Day 1 | Recording ideas as soon as they surface

Day 1 | Recording ideas as soon as they surface

A New Musical Project

With July just around the corner, a new musical challenge awaits me. I have decided that, in the interest of challenging my musical mind, I will write and record an album in the month of July. My inspiration comes from the RPM Challenge, a music writing challenge in which participants are challenged to write and record an entire album of either 10 tracks or 35 minutes during the month of February.

Since February is much too far away and I’m typically quite busy with school during February, I have decided to take a stab at this for July. I will be stepping out of my comfort zone, both musically and technically. I plan to use some very experimental recording techniques and unconventional sound sources. The result will hopefully be uniquely enjoyable.

I will be posting regular updates on the process. In an effort to bring you closer to the experience. I plan to include a variety of multimedia tidbits within my posts.

An album in one month. Surely it can be done. Am I crazy for taking on the challenge? Of course. Might I fail to meet my goal? It’s certainly possible, but that’s just how it goes. I can see myself benefiting greatly from this challenge. I look forward to sharing my thoughts along the way!

Revision takes to the road :: Grease powered groove

Most people have heard of cars that run on vegetable oil. More and more people are converting their vehicles to b e able to run on alternative fuels. For about $1,000 you can purchase a conversion kit online that will add a second tank to your car for vegetable oil while the original contains diesel fuel. The diesel fuel is only used to heat the vegetable oil until it can flow freely enough to be used as the primary source.

Revision, a funk/rock trio from Ithaca, NY, travels in a van powered on grease. These guys should receive medals or something. Let’s look at their merits:

1. First off, they’re spreading funky music and good vibes to people wherever they go
2. They travel around in an alternative fuel-powered vehicle
3. There latest album was released on USB thumb drives which can be reused once the content is downloaded off of them

How cool is that? On top of that, they’re good natured, hard working, talented musicians with something to say. Check them out.

Enough Lettuce to feed a family of four + more funk!

I’ve been on total funk overload (TFO, for those you like such things) for the past couple of days. It started with Will Bernard’s group at Nectar’s on Tuesday. That was just the beginning. The following night, Lettuce played a two hour long “evening with” show at Club Metronome.

Lettuce was super tight. Adam Deitch laid down the funky beats like nobody’s business. The highlight for me was Neal Evans on keys though. I’ve been listening to him for a while now and it was great to see the man at work. His organ sounds are so aggressive and catchy. I knew that this was only a preview of what was to follow on Thursday night at the Waterfront Funk Tent.

Gloomy weather couldn’t stop this city from getting its funk on. I parked at an undisclosed (but very free!) location up closer to Church St. (cause I’m a starving college student and I’m not really into the whole “pay money for a parking spot” thing) and hiked down to the waterfront. I was hearing thunder as I made my way down in the rain but my spirits were far from dampened.

I got to the tent and knew that the evening would be one to remember. The stage setup was solid and the lighting was phenomenal. Big Sam’s Funky Nation took the stage at 6pm on the dot, playing for just over an hour. Lettuce followed suit with a slightly longer set which, sadly, resembled the set from the previous night a bit too much. It was still quite enjoyable. Porter, Baptiste, Stoltz took the stage just after 9pm putting on a great show. If it were me, I would have programmed Lettuce as the headliner, just because their following seemed much stronger.

The music went from 6-11pm. The rain stopped sometime during the first set and allowed for people to comfortably walk outside the tent to get some fresh air and stretch their legs. I moved around throughout each of the sets, taking photos as I went and searching for decent sound.

Sadly, I never really found the perfect mix. I can’t imagine that the tent made a great space to run sound in and I can certainly sympathize with sound guys now, having run sound at a club for the past year. Still, I can’t help but think that things could have been made a bit better for each set. At times I wondered if the front of house sound guy just set the faders for the evening and left them until something started to feedback (which it did…). It was still, without a doubt, an awesome evening of music.

Big Sam

Big Sam's Funky Nation | Waterfront Funk Tent 6.11.09

Guitarist takes a solo | Waterfront Funk Tent 6.11.09

Guitarist takes a solo | Waterfront Funk Tent 6.11.09

Neal Evans takes a solo | Waterfront Funk Tent 6.11.09

Neal Evans takes a solo | Waterfront Funk Tent 6.11.09

Nigel Hall hypes the crowd | Waterfront Funk Tent 6.11.09

Nigel Hall hypes the crowd | Waterfront Funk Tent 6.11.09

George Porter lays down some funky lines | Waterfront Funk Tent 6.11.09

George Porter lays down some funky lines | Waterfront Funk Tent 6.11.09

Brian Stoltz | Waterfront Funk Tent 6.11.09

Brian Stoltz | Waterfront Funk Tent 6.11.09

Will Bernard & Friends lay it down at Nectar’s

Will Bernard and his band provided an unforgettable night of music on Tuesday at Nectar’s. Along side Bernard were Tim Luntzel, Robert Walter and one of the funkiest New Orleans drummers ever, Stanton Moore.

It was clear after the first few songs that this show was not meant to be all about Will Bernard. The group played originals by every member of the band over the course of the evening. The musical conversation was always good and even, at times, quite humorous.

The masters of funk played all the way up until 2am, leaving the audience exhausted but entirely satisfied. The musicians were all grateful for the enthusiastic crowd. I finally got my opportunity to meet Stanton Moore, a drummer whom I’ve been listening to and admiring for quite a few  years. He was incredibly kind and more than willing to sign a copy of his album III for me. I took a moment to thank the rest of the band members for the show as well.

Will Bernard | Nectar's 6.9.09

Will Bernard | Nectar's 6.9.09

I also managed to catch James Harvey and Garuda playing at the bottom block of Church St. as part of the Twilight Jazz series earlier in the evening. I can’t remember the last time I saw James Harvey play drums but it was definitely enjoyable. The rest of his ensemble was with him every step of the way, providing a nice period of early evening entertainment.

What I love seeing the most is all the people that show up for these events. The demographic is usually somewhat unpredictable but the turnout has been much higher for such events in the past couple of years. I can remember attending things like the “Meet the Artist” sessions and being one of no more than 10 people in the audience. Now, the Flynn Space gets comfortable full for the educational events on a regular basis.

Looking forward to the first night of Lettuce tonight.

James Harvey & Garuda | Church St. 6.9.09

James Harvey & Garuda | Church St. 6.9.09

A captive audience enjoying the music of the Twilight Jazz Series on Church St.

A captive audience enjoying the music of the Twilight Jazz Series on Church St.

Getting to know Luis Perdomo

I took in another “Meet the Artist” session on Monday afternoon. This time was Venezuelan pianist Luis Perdomo. Perdomo and his band were fresh off a European tour and were looking forward to playing in Burlington again.

Perdomo had visited Burlington on vacation with a friend quite some time ago and had enjoyed the area. For a musician who had grown up in Venezuela, just getting to experience another area must have been very new and interesting.

He talked about his childhood and how his life as a musician took off. He had his first gig at the age of 12. He listened to any music he could get his hands on. His piano teacher would lend him several LP’s (remember, those big black CD things that played on record players? You do remember record players, right?) every week. One of the first was a Cecil Taylor record. He would blare it from his house while his friends were listening to more popular Venezuelan music. Taylor’s music was the catalyst for his interest in becoming at Jazz musician. At the age of 13, he decided that he wanted to be a professional musician.

While studying back in Venezuela, his teacher stressed the importance of studying classical music in addition to Jazz and other popular musical genres. He would study Bach and Beethoven in addition to Cecil Taylor and other prominent Jazz pianists.

After finishing high school, he applied to three colleges and got into one for Biology but decided not to attend. Instead, he tried to get local gigs playing music. Finally he got a gig playing in the most popular Jazz club in Caracas. The band played Jazz from 9pm to 3:30am. The next youngest musician in the band was 38 years old. Perdomo held the gig for four years.

In May of 1989, he made a trip to New York City with some friends, having wanted to see the place where all of the music he was listening too came from. During the trip, he spent all of his money on CD’s and Yankee’s tickets.

He just happened to be in New York when the Manhattan School of Music was holding auditions for the following year and decided to take an audition on a whim. He played a Jazz standard and did some sight reading (reading unprepared music) and that was it. After returning home, he was informed that he had been accepted and offered a sizable scholarship to attend the prestigious school.

While at school, he began to have a greater understanding for the music he had been playing for years. He played in a band with the notable vibraphone player Steffon Harris. Harris got him a lot of his first gigs in New York. Through him, Perdomo met Claudio Acuna and Jason Lindner. When Lindner couldn’t make a gig, Perdomo subbed for him. Soon he was playing with the great Jazz bassist John Pattitucci.

He soon received a call from Ravi Coltrane, son of the great John Coltrane. He played with Ravi for a period of time and soon began playing with alto sax player Miguel Zenon. Though he had his reservations about playing with the Puertro Rican musician, thinking that “he must not play ‘real Jazz,'” he was quite impressed.

Sadly, I was not able to attend the concert on Monday evening but I certainly plan to check out Perdomo’s music. I can tell just from hearing him talk about his experiences and decisions throughout his career that he certainly has something to say musically.

Looking forward to catching some music around town this afternoon, despite the inclement weather. And of course, Will Bernard and his band (Stanton Moore and Robert Walters among them) will be at Nectar’s tonight for a show that is not to be missed.

Meet the Artist with Luis Perdomo | Flynn Space 6.8.09

Meet the Artist with Luis Perdomo | Flynn Space 6.8.09

Sunday Evening Sunset

Couldn’t resist snapping a shot of the beautiful sunset over Lake Champlain and the Adirondack Mountains last night. The colors were spectacular and the clouds actually added to it nicely. I hope to get a few like this downtown in the coming months as well.

Adirondack Sunset | 6.7.09

Adirondack Sunset | 6.7.09


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