Doc Robinson / Blog

Inspiration to Begin My Musical Journey

The Flame That Lit My Candle of Humanity, Music and Fine Arts by Marcus Robinson

Prompted by a recent interview question, I have had to reflect and give thanks to the wonderful educators that have touched my life. There are so many to thank including Patrick Mathews (music), Charles Drombore (music), Sheila Taylor (theater; English Language Arts), and most especially Donna Fetterman.

My first recollection of Mrs. Fetterman was on a day that followed a night of tumultuous "ruff-and-tumble" arguments on the home-front. Saddened by the whole experience, I arrived at my 2nd grade class that day to sit in the back of the classroom with my head face-down in the fold of my arms on my desk. It must have been time for "enrichment" specials that day. By mid-day Mrs. Fetterman cheerfully bounced into the classroom with a positive countenance that shined brighter than the noon day Sun at our South Florida elementary school (FC Martin).

The lesson began without me as I was still sitting with my head down on my desk. She wasn't having none of that! She conducted the class while walking slowly to the back of the classroom and approached my desk. Suddenly, the room was dead silent. With a smile and gentle touch, she helped me from my chair, marched me to the front of the room and announced that I was the lucky one who would be her assistant today! She put a mallard and set of bells in my hands and said "just do what you see me do..."

Three Blind Mice rang out from the bells as I began to mimic her playing of the song on the bells. At the end of that class, she told me "I'll be back to check on you later today." And she did. She srtuck a grand bargain with me, "do well in your other classes and I'll make sure to keep you involved in the music programs as her "assistant." So, I did with nearly straight As every marking period. During the course of being in elementary school, she went on to teach me to sing like a bird, as well as play the bells, recorder, melodica, autoharp and ukelele.

When it was time to go on to Jr. High School, she met me there on day-one. She introduced me to the chorus teacher there (Charles Drumbore) and Asst. Principal Coach Williams. She told them about our grand bargain and encouraged us to make a deal too. We did. When it was time to go to high school, Charles Drombore did the same as Donna Fetterman by meeting with me there to introduce me to my high school music teacher, Mr. Patrick Mathews. Patrick was also an adjunct faculty member at the University of Miami's School of Music where I did some of my undergraduate work pursuing one of my life's passion.

The gentle touch of kindness she showed me over forty years ago lit a flame of passion for music, education, and being a positive contribution to others. This flame burns brightly now as the centerpiece of my life here in Chicago. It just goes to show that the smallest gesture of kindness can make a difference in someone's life for a lifetime. Thank you for this invaluable lesson in humanity (another name for music and fine arts) Mrs. Fetterman!!

To whom do you give thanks for lighting the way for you in your earliest steps along your musical journey?

Between A Rock and the Hard Place

Between A Rock and the Hard Space by Marcus Robinson (c) 2014

They say our personal experiences and sacrifices are the mortar and pestle of our creativity; the crucible of our becoming true artists. Surfing my social media streams today I stumbled across an interesting "status" posting by a fellow artist and a pithy meme (a graphic making a point). Both seem to penetrate my psychic shield used for protecting me from all the crap often found littered across the social media landscape. Like a slow bullet from the pages of Dune, they found their mark on the bruised bone of my ego.

The Meme: "I am thankful for the struggle for without it, I couldn't have stumbled across my strength." - Farrah Gray

This short saying put words on my silent yearning; shouting as loud as my soaring guitar leads through a massive Mesa stack flooding the ears of my mind with a realization about being an artist in my complicated situations.

We began the month of February 2014 with an incredible night of searing jazz-funk improvisations to an audience crowded only by the cavernous space between the handful of patrons still present. As the music of the spheres poured through the lyric of our solos, special guest artist Audley Reid (sax) gave a spectacular performance. So intense was the music; so hot was the vibe; I could feel the rage of my tiny club rig groaning under the weight of having to pay A-List players on a totally frosted night in the Windy City. There, lies the rock.

Unyielding in my pursuit of the groove and magic of masterful ensemble play, I continue to pay to perform. An empty venue on gig-night is a bandleader's worst dream. Art costs money; finding enough audience that can help defray that cost and pay for the pure artistic rendering is something of a mystery for me. Having consulted the wizards of radio, the shamans of social media, and grapevines and drumbeats of Word-Of-Mouth marketing, alas a full house in Chicago evades me once again.

We left that gig heading to Benton Harbor, MI for a recording session at 27 Sounds Studio with Grammy-winning producer Dave Carlock. We also had a gig at my fav venue, the Livery Microbrewery that weekend. With barely enough money for food and gas, we hit the road in subzero temps and 70" mounds of snow. The rhythm track session was stellar. While I wrote the general framework (progressions and melodies) for the songs, they were still unfinished sonic material needing to be shaped and molded by the band. Tim Gant (keyboards) volunteered to take the lead. Acting as music director, he took the band through a number of exercises. Like a skilled woodsman making campfire without matches or lighters, we discovered the creative fire – once again for the first time.

Our son, Jason “J.R.O.B.” Robinson took the studio in a wholly new direction with original hip-hop tracks and truth telling stories that grab your head, touch your heart, and moves your azz! More on this in another blog. Our Sol Full Music band went on to play the Livery with special guest artist Bill Tiberio on Saturday night. He is a monster sax player from Rochester, NY and is an alum of my Thornwood Band (2004-2006). The music smoked. The sparse crowds of true hometown fans were thrilled to be in the presence of works we performed.

The Status Update:

"Understand the importance of self-promotion. They won't know, if you don't tell!" #getelevated2014 - Kareemah El Amin

Like another slow bullet to the head, the feelings of guilt for creating so much chatter online about our upcoming gig (Feb 27, Close Up 2 Chicago with Wycliffe Gordon) began to melt away. So, here I sit at my computer with fewer coins in my pocket than a street corner payphone, writing this "hype" blog. Yes, this too is just more wood for the fire needed to generate a heated buzz about what will surely be a spectacular performance. There lies the Hard Place.

Marketing Chops As Important as Music Chops

Two things that get done everyday in my world are practice and more practice. However, my practice is not limited to musical expression, guitar playing and singing. It's become vitally important to learn and practice market and sales chops to get my music play, bought and to perform. As it turns out, market chops don't come quite as natural to me as singing or making music. If fact, sometimes its so counter-intuitive.

When I think I know exactly what to do to promote a concert or club date, I pour my heart into the effort. I play full out. So far, I'm usually disappointed at the turnout. It feels like I;m putting in 10 times the effort for the results created. Worst than that, when I do anything less, the results are even worst. Now I understand what the great Chicago entrepreneur Marshall Fields meant when he said "half the marketing and advertising I do doesn't seem to work. I just don't know which half cut out."

Nowadays, with so little money and true marketing acumen, I rely on the strength of social media, email marketing combine with special guest artist with a larger following than my own to help drive ticket sales. My primary tools are Facebook, Twitter, ReverbNation, youTube, radio, our band website, and my personally generated email list of friends, new acquaintances and family. They say word of mouth is the best advertisement but I am still working to find those supporters who are willing to share our story and push our events.

Your encouragement, word-of-mouth support and cheerful advice is welcome, needed, and wanted.

Doc Robinson

Wycliffe Gordon Joins Sol Full Music in Chicago!

Join Sol Full Music on Feb 27, 8pm in a club date performance with the highly acclaimed trombonist Wycliffe Gordon at Close Up 2 Chicago. An amazing virtuoso was was presented with Jazz Journalists Association Award/Trombonist of the Year – 2013, 2012, 2011, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2002, and 2001. He has performed with the likes of Wynton Marsalis, Dizzy Gillespie, Lionel Hampton, Tommy Flanagan, Shirley Horn, Joe Henderson, Eric Reed, Randy Sandke and Branford Marsalis, plus many top players from the swing and traditional jazz world.

great friends and have enjoyed a history of playing together for years. Says, Marcus: My first experience with [Wycliffe] was in Rochester Contemporary JazzFest in 2006 at the German House. His presence filled the room. The sound of his trombone brought new life and a kind ferocity to blazing funk grooves being laid down by my Thornwood Band. In that moment, we rediscovered the fire of jazz improvisation . . . again, for the first time. Over the years, we’ve made it a staple in our performance calendar – one day each year, when the world stands still once more for this giant, other-worldly talent.

Close Up 2 is a fabulous, relatively intimate venue with a fantastic, soulful vibe. It’s an ideal place to experience Wycliffe’s genius in the most personal way.

Also joining us that evening is Ernie Adams on drums, Will Howard on bass and Tim Gant on keys.

I hope you’re ready for this experience! You won’t forget it, we promise! This evening will bring swinging jazz, urban grooves – a soulful formula full of flava.

Tickets will sell out quickly, so we suggest making a reservation in advance by emailing us at SolFullMusic@GMAIL.com. Preferred seating tickets are $25 each. This insures table seating near the stage.

New Moon Signals Emerging Creativity

We're standing on the threshold of change as today's innovative Aquarius New Moon marks a shift in the cosmic energies. This transformation cycle is beginning with the global Aquarius New Moon (today), inspiring concern with the future of the Earth and its inhabitants. We have a chance to plant the seeds of intention, water them and watch them grow. I am planting the seed of multidimensional being . . .

What seeds of greatness are you planting?

This statement generated so much discussion on facebook, I thought I'd report it here to see what you folks are thinking about.

Doc Robinson's Sol Full Music @Underground Wonder Bar

Sol Full Music Band bring their special blend of jazz, funk, and urban grooves the Underground Wonder Bar in downtown Chicago.

Sol Full Music is one of Chicago's new bands that brings you exactly what your weekend needs. Soulful urban grooves, smooth jazz, exotic drinks, and all kinds of flava. . . Doc Marcus Robinson and Dawn Burns Robinson have pulled together some of baddass cats playing music in the windy City including Ernie Adams on drums, Will Howard on bass and Tim Gant on keys.

The drinks are flowing, the scene is sizzling, the music is banging with Chicago's hottest new band Sol Full Music and the Underground Wonder Bar.

$10 at the door


Guitar Gear!

What are your favorite guitars, amps and processors? Why?

Fail  (about 7 years ago)

Fender Stratocaster, Peavy Tube Amps, Electro-Harmonix Analog Effects, Vox Wah, Dan Echo. I roll old school.

Doc Robinson
Doc Robinson  (about 7 years ago)

Classic gear dude. Gotta love the Strat; its one of everybody's favorite. I played Peaveys for years and truly enjoyed the sound and the price. Your tone gear is phat dawg!

Pure Improvisation

What do you think of my band or others that rely heavily on group and individual improvisation as the core sound of the band?