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J'aiBeaux / Blog

First Vocal Gig at Takara

Last night was our first mostly vocal show at Takara and the the response was great. We had a 5 piece, with vocals, sax, guitar bass and drums, all played quietly enough that normal conversation was easy even just a few feet away. (I know because I asked...) The evening went very rapidly and we all felt very good about the whole thing.

One kind of stratifying aspect of jazz, or even music in general is whether or not there are words that you can listen to in addition to the melodic or harmonic components of a tune. Some people strongly prefer instrumentals over vocals. With an instrumental there's never any chance of really missing anyone who's listening since the listener provides their own interpretation and feeling to what they are hearing without any need to have that response be consistent with the lyrics of the moment. For example any song about working with a cement mixer and pouring concrete is going to be a hard sell for me since I have so much aversion to that particular kind of work. An instrumental "about mixing cement" is no problem for me, because my natural defenses can blissfully ignore my back breaking past in front of a mixer. On the other hand if you're performing a vocal tune that is in harmony with a listener's life experience that can be extremely compelling and ultimately you get a stronger connection with people, which is what it's all about anyway.

So that all happened and it was great and I'm hoping we can add "Masquerade" and "I Thought About You" to the vocal setlist for the next show since speaking as a selfish person, I really like them. Next vocal show is on 22 June 2012.

Another Great Gig Last Night - Jazz and Great Food

Well we played at Takara in Cedar Park again last night and it went really well.

We played tunes, we soloed, we didn't get lost and it was all just like music. Just as a note to my friends that are considering coming out and don't really know what all this jazz stuff is I'm going to explain some of it here. I'm also going to make a strong recommendation for the food at Takara, because until recently there just hasn't been much in the way of exciting places to eat in Cedar Park.

Jazz music means basically you play a tune (melody) everybody knows and agrees on (or at least everyone who was paying attention when you said what gets played next) and then everyone that wants to in the group takes a turn playing a completely improvised on the spot solo while the rest of the group plays accompaniment. After everyone is finished saying what they want to the lead instrument will again play the original tune (melody) and the song is over. When a tune is called the group will typically agree on a way to start and end the thing and depending on how this all works out the audience will think the players are either genius people or drooling idiots - Usually someplace in between I expect.

The group also will decide a style for the tune and a tempo, and these are often varied depending on the mood of whoever is on the bandstand. Many tunes for example can be played in a Swing, Bossa Nova, Samba, or Funk style, to mention a few. Changing the style makes the tune a truly different thing which adds variety to the mix as we say.

A particular tune is characterized by it's melody and the harmony, or chords. When the melody is played, or when someone is playing a solo, the same basic chords are being played in accompaniment, even thought the soloist is playing their own impromptu melody for their solo pass.

With this structure you can see that there's enough to know where everyone is at all times, and still allow a great deal of freedom to invent and play a new tune right then and there.

If you haven't been exposed to this kind of music I encourage you to come on down and enjoy a no-cover show while you eat.

On the topic of eating, that's the other really cool thing you can do if you come out. I say this as an unsolicited but very well considered recommendation. We play at this place because after having many meals there and being of a musical disposition, we felt it would be a great thing to be able to sit around with friends and family and have a really nice meal and listen to tunes, and unlike the typical club scene to do so without having to shout to be heard. In terms of an opinion from a disinterested party that's not us - we are an enthusiastic party that has gone to great lengths to find such a place and we're very proud to be part of it. We were eating there before we were playing there and we'll be eating there after as well.

As for the food, there's a wide variety of things and the place is really serious about presentation, sauces, variety and above all quality. I could go on but talking about food is just as foolish as talking about music - the only way to really get it is to try it. I would say that personally I really enjoy just sitting back for a moment when the food arrives and taking in the whole look of the dish. This is a place where that's worth it each and every time. Finally I should say that if you're not keen on raw fish that's not a problem at all, as you can just ask the server what's cooked and what's not. That's what we do because we are pretty basic people that really like music and eating. Don't like TV really, but that's for another time...

Questions for Live Music Players

Here is a very short list of some of the questions I have been asked while on the bandstand. No, I really mean while playing on the bandstand. No I really mean while playing a solo on the bandstand. None of these are recent by the way - I'm currently playing in much more genteel settings.

1. Where are we?

2. Where are you?

3. Where is the bathroom?

4. That's a nice instrument.

5. Hi, I just got here.

You might think that items 4 and 5 are not questions but rest assured that any player experiences these exactly as "Wouldn't you like to squash my nose with your fist?" so they certainly qualify as questions, even though the answer is always almost analytically "yes".

Let's discuss these questions a bit. First I have to say that you may be thinking "I've been to live music and I couldn't have heard a bomb go off even if I didn't have the earplugs in.", and that's a valid point. In my world with a 4 piece group including drums the volume level is so low nobody wears earplugs and the volume levels are such that you can very clearly hear conversations at tables 8 to 10 meters away. Hence it's no trick at all to hear what one of these nice people is saying if they are standing beside you tugging on your sleeve.

One Trip to the Car

The holy grail for live music players is one trip to the car. You drive up, take all your gear and walk a short distance to the club and set up. At the end of the gig you do the reverse.

Now if you don't have OT3C down something like this happens. You drive up and there's not anything at all like a place to park nearby so depending on the generosity of the local traffic authority you put on the flashers as if that means "hey I can park here blocking in three other cars because I remembered to put on my flashers" (I once moved a semi that stupidly parked me in with his annoying flashers on and the engine running. You have to know something about air brakes for that one...) So then you take from one quarter (drummers) to one half (guitarists) of your gear and make the first trip into the gig. If you're lucky (not drummers) all your cases will fit someplace near the stage and you don't have to partially setup and then move everything back to the car which you will eventually have to cruise around and find parking for. Another matter of luck is that you don't have any of your gear lifted at any point of this evolution.

Most (but certainly not all) horn players have this pretty much down. A case or two slung over the shoulder and a brief stroll. Pretty much everyone else has a real struggle, including singers, who have to deal with high heels.