So I couldn’t sleep the other night. Don’t know what it was. Sometimes it’s like that and if I tell my wife I couldn’t sleep, she asks, “Why not?” And my answer is always, “if I knew why I couldn’t sleep I could probably do something about it.” So there are a number of remedies. I can go out on the sofa and read. Sometimes that works and then my wife asks me why I was out on the sofa and I tell her I couldn’t sleep and I didn’t want to bother her with my incessant and repetitive tossing and turning so I went out and for a while. And she asks “you couldn’t sleep, why not?” And I go back to the thing about if I knew, etc. Sometimes I go practice for a while. Then I fall asleep in the studio, and when I come back in the house she asks why I was out there and I tell her and she asks, “you couldn’t sleep, why not?” You get the picture. But, getting back to the other night, I was in my initial stage of tossing and turning and ordering myself to fall asleep, the stage before I go read on the sofa or go practice in the studio and as I was tossing, ordering, etc, I heard two bars of music. Orchestrated. Geez. So sometimes this stuff comes as you’re falling asleep and there’s the admonition to keep a notebook by the bed, which I rarely do, and it’s tough when you’re falling asleeeeeep, but this time I couldn’t sleep. So I went out to the studio and worked on the two bars for a while…have some chicken scratch in a notebook, and I plan on revisiting it and twisting it around until I have a piece of music I can present to people.
So there it was, 2 bars in and out of my head, and then I sketched it out. I heard a story once about Mozart riding in the back of a carriage and zing, just like that, an entire symphony popped into his head, like you might download a music file, and then all he had to do was get to his destination and copy it out. I don’t doubt it, but were did it come from? If you google “where does creativity come from?” you get a Quora quote telling you that creativity comes from the stomach. But whose stomach? Certainly Mozart heard that music in his head. Maybe it came from his wife’s stomach. I wouldn’t put anything past her. Mozart didn’t always have such an easy time creating, think about how that Requiem never got finished, but he did seem to have a direct line to another world of sound. Beethoven had to work things out over and over. As did most guys. Jazz musicians spend hours working on lines and ways to approach a harmonic construct only to cut loose when the mood strikes them. A melding of right brain and left brain. That’s creativity in action. It’s not one side of the head or the other.
So I’m posting this link to a short talk by Eric Kandel. Just something to think about. No big deal. Only the most important attribute of the human race. That, and love. And empathy. And the ability to cook something that tastes really good and is still nutritious. And the ability to get a good night’s sleep. Or sometimes not.
Oral History 1
A friend of mine used to call me Mr. Lucky. It was an exercise in irony. My van would break down: Mr. Lucky. I lost a gig: Mr. Lucky. I could point to a bunch of things that have happened in my life and there you go: Mr. Lucky. I’m sure I’ve got company. But at the same time, I can point to teachers I’ve had, mentors I’ve known, and interactions with a variety of people and I can say, without irony and with conviction, “geez, I’ve been lucky.” And luck has a lot to do with it, I guess. But a big part of the good fortune I’ve had has to do with keeping my eyes and ears open and paying attention when somebody has a story to tell, advice to give, or an experience to share.
So I’m linking up to this video of stories from Teo Macero, the legendary producer. And Teo Macero is a guy who came up during a period of history when cats still had to be able to play and write and perform at a high level. I’m not saying that there aren’t cats out there like that today, because there certainly are, but the fact is that we have artists today making a lot of money who wouldn’t be able to get a fifty cent gig down at the local club back in the day. And we lost Teo Macero back in 2008. We lost most of the people he worked with before that. Those days are gone. But we have the miracle of youtube and can listen to this oral history. Here you go. I’m performing a public service. I can’t force you to listen, but I can tell you that it’s your good fortune that this is out there, a mouse click away, and make of it what you will. Good luck!
It’s Thursday morning. July 5, and I have the day off. Slept in just a little. Made some coffee, thought about some yard work I need to do…is it going to be hot today? Would it be a smart move to get it while the sun is still low in the sky and heat is not much of a factor? Well, yes, that would be a good move, but then again I’m going to be pruning trees and such and sometimes that dings up my hands and I need to practice today after all…sooo, I bring the coffee out to the studio and practice a little first, before the yard work. When I get in some morning practice I usually go for some classical guitar, and there are some pieces that are an ongoing project for me, pieces I’ll probably never play in public because I’m not a bona fide classical guitarist. Still, they serve a purpose. They clean up my phrasing. Make me think about multiple lines, different ways to voice a sonority, and if I’m feeling adventurous I memorize passages, which is good for the old grey matter.
You can get too carried away with this stuff and lose track of your jazz feel, or your funk feel or your rock and roll feel, but it’s not too dangerous. You just have to maintain a balance.
So this morning I’m going through The Guitar Works of Agustin Barrios Mangore - Volume Three. This man was a heck of a guitar player and he didn’t have an easy life. Sometimes, if I have a little down time, I go online and read about how he and Segovia never really connected and how it was mostly on Segovia. Politics. Since day on, baby. Occasionally his stiff seems a little square and some of it is very difficult. His harmonic language is sometimes puzzling, especially when you consider when he was active. But it works and you can’t get distracted by any of that. Just dig in and make some music. It helps your playing immensely and it’s almost like taking a lesson from a Master who has left us and gone on to whatever else he’s gone on to. Today I’m breaking a few things down with the metronome, cleaning up a few melodies with the ring finger while the rest of my right hand arpeggiates away, working on Una limosna, sounding perhaps like I've had too much coffee…painstaking stuff, but worth it.
Maybe after the yardwork I can nurse my hands back through a few Bach Lute Suites.
And then navigate my way though some Giant Steps.
I’ll be laying down the funk soon enough. Love that stuff too. Just saying, today, this morning, before the heat kicks in, it’s Mr Barrios. And that's John Williams playing in the linked video. Not the Star Wars/Indiana Jones/Harry Potter John Williams...this guy...
A friend of mine suggested I keep a journal. I’m not too bad at it, but I’ll admit that sometimes weeks go by with no entries. Often the crush of day to day activities leaves me with no energy for journaling. And I know it’s bad and I know I need to keep at it. And I did today, honest. It’s like anything else, you need to practice. And practicing is something I need to do all the time. And there are times when I’ve got music to write. So, practicing and composing/arranging take up a lot of my time. But with the release of my new CD, “Chillin’ In Zhu Hai” I’m faced with the issue of exposure, getting information out about my new musical adventure. So, I’ve been working on a website, posting things on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. My biggest problem is the time involved in maximizing the effectiveness of web presence. I’m working on it, but so far the results haven’t been what I hoped for. What did I hope for? What do I hope for? I want to make sure that anybody who might be interested in the music knows how to get their hands on it. And how do you make sure that anybody who might be interested even knows it’s out there? Good question. Anyway, I’ve been working at it and will continue to do so, but now that I’ve got the website rebuilt and have things organized, I think the tweaking will take up less time. Like today, I only had to tweak a few things and I’ve been at it for six hours. Time to knock off for today. Eventually I’ll figure this stuff out. But I don’t think I’ll ever be an expert in webbage, which is nothing to be ashamed of. I’m not an expert on roofing, but I did a good job roofing a small structure once. I’m not at expert on gardening but I’ll have tomatoes this summer. I’m not an expert in concrete but I replaced part of my driveway a few years back. The only thing is that once you start in on something of this nature you stumble across a series of issues that you had no idea you’d be exploring. And you have to find your way. So you explore and implement and hope for the best and you have to be honest with yourself when the best is not popping up on your search engine. It’s a journey, but I’d rather be working on music. Or reading a good book. Or practicing Mandarin. Or playing basketball. Or working out. Heck, I’d rather be fixing a nice dinner for my wife. So there you go. All the Dude ever wanted was his rug back.
I took a trip on a train
And I thought about you.
You know who you are. And I wonder if you care about web pages and blogs these days. I don't suppose you do. I don't think I would if I was where you are now. Do you like Jazz now? You used to call me a Jazz Nazi...made me laugh, because I know some serious Jazz Nazis...honest. You don't know anything about Jazz Nazis. And of course the term itself is full of contradictions. Kind of like you and kind of like me too. And I suppose our similarities are what made us bump heads and drive each other to distraction. A couple of taurus, bullheaded personalities going at it. A couple of relentlessly sarcastic unless we were being as sensitive as we could possibly be boneheads.
So I've got a new version of my website up. Something that I can go in and edit whenever I feel like it, which might be too often and then again might not be much at all. And as I was putting the "about" section together I was forced to look at all the people I came up with who aren't kicking it in this plane of existence anymore. And I miss them all, but none of them as much as you and were you there in Chengdu when I was alone and thinking about you and crying like a baby? I mean, it was embarrassing, I promise I won't do it that often. But understand that there are all sorts of people still struggling along down here who are keeping your memory alive and periodically thinking about the time we'll be able to kick it again. Have a few laughs. Have a lot of laughs. In the meantime check up on us once and a while. We'll do our best not to embarrass you too much. Love ya...