Sunday, July 16, 2006

Olivia's Piano Recital

My youngest started piano lessons last February and has been doing great. She loves it! Her first piano recital was June, 17th, in which she played "Sugarfoot Rag" as a duet with her teacher. About half way through the piece she lost her place and tried to pick up where she left off, but thankfully her teacher suggested they start over. She made it through the piece beautifully, took her bow to thunderous applause and Tammy and I were able to resume our breathing.

Here is a video of her performance. The MPEG is just over 15 meg, so you might not want to retrieve it using dial-up.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006


The Great Javelin Experiment is complete and we have a new song: Fly (click to download). This song started with Matt Butler recording some guitar and passing it on to me. I added bass and forwarded it to Jeff Thinschmidt who worked his magic by completely rearranging the song and adding a drum track. Dennis Haberkern added guitar, Matt added some synth guitar, Mel Scott added vocals with Jeff and Matt providing back-ups along with a female barbershop quartet doing harmony. Then, after many painstaking hours spent by Jeff mixing the song, we have the finish product.

This was really an interesting experiment in that, once each of us were done with our piece, we passed it on and didn't have any more input until the end, so each of us built on what the person before us provided. And all of this was done without any of us being in the same room at any given time. Pretty cool.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Van Howard

My youngest, Olivia, has always wanted to play drums. We convinced her that it would be better for her to take piano lessons first, as piano would give her a good all-around understanding of music.

Well, she's been playing piano for about 4 months now and is doing very well. We never have to remind her to practice and she really enjoys it. But she still would talk about how much she wanted to play the drums. This talk was fueled by the fact that a local music store where Lea takes guitar lessons had a used Pearl set for sale.

After some discussion, we told her we'd meet her 1/2 way on the purchase of the drum set. Little did we know she already had enough saved up to pay her portion. So now she is taking drum lessons in addition to piano lessons and our "music" room no longer has space for seating.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

First Lesson

Well, I had my first double bass lesson yesterday. My instructor's name is Doug Richeson (for those interested, here's his bio).

I was very nervous before my lesson. I haven't been in a lesson situation for probably 20 years! I had my bass packed and ready to go a full 3 hours before my lesson, just in case (of what, I don't know).

The lesson took place in his studio at Denison University. There was a soap-box derby race going on in front of the building, so they had the street blocked off. As such, I had to park a block and a half away. My first lesson - even though the bass is hollow, it's heavy!

Doug was very cool. We spent the first 15 minutes going over my left hand technique (wrong!) and my right hand pizzicato (plucking) technique (also wrong!). Then we immediately started talking about theory and improvising walking bass lines. I've never been good at walking bass lines - I just can't seem to think fast enough - but I remind myself that's why I'm taking lessons. And if I want to play jazz, I'd better learn.

My first big test came when he placed a chord chart in front of me for a standard 12 bar blues and put on a play-along CD. I had to try to play a walking line with chord tones, using leading and passing tones on the fourth beat of every measure. When it was over, I had old B&W movie footage of a war-time plane, flames shooting out of the tail, spinning wildly as it crashed into the ocean, going through my head. Then my instructor said "Good. You'll get this in no time." That's when I noticed the pilot floating gently down with his parachute.

After we talked about theory some more and he outlined my study material, we talked about my right hand arco (bowing) technique (wrong!).

Needless to say, I have a lot of work ahead of me. But it's good work. And I feel good about it. I went into my lesson wondering if this is something I'd be able to pull off, or if I was just wasting my time...too old and too set in my ways to learn something new. Now my only concern is finding enough time to practice.

An interesting sidenote: when he asked me to name some of my favorite bassists, two at the top of my list were Charles Mingus and Paul Chambers...and unbeknownst to me, yesterday was their birthday.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Now THIS is a Bass!

I've always wanted one of these, but never had a real reason to get one. But I've found myself listening to a lot of traditional jazz the last couple of years, and so I thought I'd give it a shot.

It's quite a different animal from the bass guitar, even the fretless. But I'm enjoying myself a great deal as I work around the fingerboard, trying to find my notes. I got a bow with it, and I am trying to work with that too, but it still sounds very much like a sick cow when I use it.

Right now I'm working with a book that I used to use during bass lessons in the 80's - The Evolving Bassist by Rufus Reid. It's a very good book, and he included fingering and bowing instructions with the excersizes. Still I may have to spring for lessons to make sure I'm doing it right. I wouldn't hurt to have some direction too.

My plan is to keep renting this for a while until I decide it's for me. The shop I'm renting it from has a nice policy where 100% of the rental fee gets applied to purchase should I decide to buy one later. I'd like to get a hybrid (solid top, ply sides) or, if I can afford one, a carved bass. But that's in the future. Right now I just need to figure out how to play in tune.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

New Guitar in the Family

My oldest daughter Lea saved up her own money and bought herself a guitar. It's a Squire Stratocaster. She named it Bebe.

She's really quite proud of it, and I'm proud of her for saving enough money to purchase it. I didn't want her to buy the first one she saw...I wanted to make sure she got one that wouldn't be an exercise in frustration every time she played it. I think she made a good choice.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Fayde - Part 2

Exit Zack Bocelle, enter Wayne Camp.

I had worked with Wayne in Rekkless for a couple of years, so he and I were already pretty good friends. And again we went to a pretty serious practice schedule, getting together 4 or 5 nights a week for a minimum of 3 hours each night. Most of these sessions were fueled by gallon jugs of Earnest & Julio Gallo Chablis.

After a good bit of practice, we were finally able to play out. Most of our shows were at Reds in Margate, NJ and we managed to gather a decent following. We also sponsored our own show at the Music Pier in Ocean City, NJ. We picked a charity for the proceeds, printed the tickets and sold them ourselves. We also built a pretty cool stage, with ramps on both sides of the drum riser going up to a platform that ran behind the drummer. The show was a great success, with every seat being occupied. The show went off without a hitch as well, which was pretty cool seeing as we were still building the drum riser two hours before the show.

As things progressed with the band, we started talking about taking things to the next level. We went back to the studio and recorded two more songs with Wayne on vocals (Turn Me Loose and Shoot You) and made plans to move the band to the west coast.

Each of us left at different times, with plans to meet in Los Angeles. Jim went out early and arranged for apartments for us in a building that was currently being built just off of Hollywood Boulevard. Pete Manno and I were going to be living together, so I sent money ahead to hold the apartment for us. And then I rented a U-Haul trailer, packed up all my belongings, set on my way.

Unfortunately, the band was pretty much broken up before I even got out there. There were arguments and broken property and that was it. Of course, I couldn't turn around and go back, so I arrived in L.A. on September 31, 1987. The apartment wasn't finished yet, so I rented a room in a motel right next door and settled in.

The next morning, as I was moving my truck from one side of the street to the other, I noticed the glass front of the motel start to wobble, followed by some very loud and very scary rumblings. My first 24 hours in L.A. were greeted by an earthquake measuring 5.9.

I didn't turn around right away, though the aftershocks were a good bit less than fun. But, unable to find a job and with no band to keep me there, I left about a month later. I didn't have the funds to rent another trailer to take my stuff back, so I had to pare everything down to whatever would fit in the back of the pick-up.