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.