My good friend Jay Bailey (who sang lead on the majority of my "Great Beyond" CD) had been telling me for a while about a new tune he had an idea for. Naturally it got postponed several times since we're no longer kids, not independently wealthy rock stars, and life in general tends to get in the way of anything you really want to do. Lo and behold, in the end of August Jay got together with producer/engineer John Haikara at John's Clearwater, Florida studio. After mapping out the track acoustically, I received a rough draft via email. John had some editing to do before I would receive a second version -- on the day I was slated to go in and lay down a bass track. This obviously meant I didn't have sufficient time to really get 'inside' of the song. Rather, I had just enough time to figure out the chords and what scales would be 'user friendly.' How I had not met John prior remains a bit baffling to me. He's an old friend of the entire Savatage clique, which means we traveled in the same circles many moons ago. But suffice it to say: better late than never. Since I wasn't very familiar with the piece musically, I did numerous takes. On some of them I played more 'pocket' stuff in order to fatten up or bolster the chord structure. On other takes, I played more melodic passages throughout. By the time we parted company after about a four hour session, John had cobbled together a very coherent bass track from my various takes. I personally was very pleased, because I had to work fast during the session. John worked equally as fast in producing his rough draft of the night's work, proving that he has 'very big ears.' The fellows still have much more to do before anything is finalized, but we got a solid foundation in a short period of time. The fun, for me, lies in situations like this where I get to meet someone and get straight to work. Everyone was on top of their game, and those efforts will show themselves in the final product!
Things sure have changed over the course of the last seven years on the live music scene in Tampa Bay. Once upon a pre-recession time, there were lots of venues and lots of bands. There was diversity and variety. Post-recession, the influx of karaoke and dismal DJ bullshit has made it next to impossible to treat playing music as a viable livelihood. Sure, there are still a few good rooms left to play -- and a few good bands playing them. But even the most popular bands here can't fill a calendar like in days of yore. I find myself feeling lucky if I have 5 to 7 gigs in any given month. This is a far cry from the 20+ dates I would have had booked less than a decade ago. Hell, 20 years ago I did 70 nights in row and never had to leave the Gulf Beaches to do it. The solo/duo live acts out there seem to be the ones that thrive around here in the present age. This effectively cancels any participation from me as a bassist who doesn't sing. But that's my fault, or problem, since singing was never in the cards for me. The musical tide has turned as well. Most bands that profess to play rock music have succumbed to covering the generic pap that's been offered up by the big Clear Channel cookie cutter recycling formula bands. Others have taken the crossover route, adding contemporary country (a confused market that can't seem to sort out whether they're playing rock and roll with a twang and a fiddle, or simply insipid and corny pop tunes). The original scene is still out there in some small fashion -- for those diehards and hobbyists who want to present their tunes to a handful of people and generally not get paid. And then there's the jam session brigade. I could always head that way, burning my gas and spending money that I don't have -- just to potentially get stuck on stage with musicians that I have no common tether to. I may head there with the notion in mind that I'm keeping my chops up, but that's a fantasy. Occasionally I will take that leap of faith. Most of these jams occur at venues that don't book the two acts I'm in currently, and even though I may purchase an overpriced beer or three, they still look at me like I'm a shitbag for not tipping. Fuck them -- if you want a tip, employ me. Otherwise, just give me my fucking beer. I have lots of friends who tend bar and I have no problem with the concept of tipping for good service. But frankly it doesn't take a great deal of talent to grab a beer out of a cooler. That's just a matter of fact. All good things do eventually come to an end; empires and civilizations die off. Maybe that is truly what is happening here. I've felt it coming for a long time, but I'm generally too stubborn to ever admit defeat. That said, I'll continue clinging to my hope that there will be some miraculous turnaround -- after all, we lifers in the biz have some pretty thick skin when it comes to rejection. But I don't think I'll hold my breath. I've been a musician for over 40 years, and I'll be one till the day I die. I just have to learn to adapt to the new climate while being put out to pasture. So, I'll just stay at home and play along with songs that I enjoy on YouTube until or unless something comes along that piques my interest. Besides, the beer is much cheaper -- and colder -- here.
I finally did something with my "Sound Cloud" account. You can find the tracks to the "Great Beyond" CD here, as well as the tracks to its predecessor, which was tentatively titled "Near Life Experience." https://soundcloud.com/jasongjennings
My poor RN page is suffering from neglect. Sure, I get over here on occasion to post upcoming gigs. But in all sincerity, FB has drained my will when it comes to the interactive world. In fact, I deleted my secondary 'music' page and the Doobius Arbuckle page over a month ago. I'll be working on a website for Doobius in the weeks upcoming -- one that doesn't revolve around stupid political posts or religious perspectives or any opinion polls on rebel flags. Musically, Doobius is still waiting on post-production for the upcoming CD release. Meanwhile, during the slow summer months in Tampa Bay entertainment, the rhythm section continues pulling double-duty whenever and wherever they can. Pat Buffo and I have more dates to play with Tripp4. Other than that, we continue seeking work wherever we can find it -- in tandem or separately. And while the phone doesn't ring around here quite like it used to, I'm still sitting next to it and waiting for that magic call. That's show biz!
'Twas January 31st when Jerry Outlaw rang me up; he had been tapped to open a show at the State Theatre in St. Petersburg, FL for the New York City band Living Colour, and he offered me the bass player slot with Jerry Outlaw & Friends (members Rick Olson and Matt Cowley also perform in the stellar Frank Zappa tribute act, Bogus Pomp). Naturally, I was thrilled by the opportunity...it was a chance to dig down deep and push myself a little harder as a musician since the set would be fusion-oriented and consisted of songs by Jeff Beck, Billy Cobham, Santana, and Zappa). Since I only had a week to prepare, I had to be methodical with my time management. The first step was to acquire whatever reference tracks Jerry could provide me with. Step two was to set up a Word Document of the set list and paste You Tube links into it for quicker access. The bulk of my study, as you might guess, required hours of jamming on the tunes in my office/studio. Some of the sections in these songs were long and repetitious (to allow for the killer guitar and keyboard solos rovided by Jerry and Rick)--therefore my stamina and 'muscle memory' needed to be built up. We got together for a couple of rehearsals just to make certain we were all on the same page--this was also highly necessary because Matt and I had never met before. To say I was a little nervous would be an understatement, I confess. But I pride myself on being a fairly smart player, so the combination of homework, rehearsal, and above all else--paying attention on stage--paid off. Our set went off without a hitch, and in the "court of public opinion" (i.e., social media sites), we've received some very flattering praise. The following morning, I felt a huge sense of both relief and accomplishment. And now, with a heavy sigh, I'm just waiting for the phone to ring again with my next challenge!
I headed down to Deg Entertainment's recording facility yesterday so I could 'invade' the session. I recorded my preliminary tracks on bass last week, but since Larry McCray had made the trek from Michigan and both Jon Oliva and Arty Artymiw were slated to record, I thought: what's missing? It dawned on me that nobody had been chronicling the sessions with a camera. Suffice it to say, that became my self-appointed duty. Having the good fortune to be involved with musicians of superior talent in such a diversified ensemble is in and of itself a major reward. But to have no photographic record of it would be, to my way of thinking, a criminal offense. For public consumption, the photos were posted to my Facebook page. Where these sessions will lead is anyone's guess at this point. But what I really love about the process is the actual art of kindred spirits coming together and saying "What if we--?" or "Let's try this." That, ladies and gents is the 'art for art's sake' credo. It's a secret spice that livens up the flavor of the gumbo, and in my estimation, it's the road less traveled in the music industry at this point in history. Everyone else seems content to play it safe, and churn out the cookie cutter, often formulaic (and as a result, often exceptionally generic) music that bores most people still capable of independent thought totally shitless. Stay tuned...as you well know by now, there's always more to follow. Cheers, everyone!
Emitted from the speaker on my answering machine, the news of Tim Drummond's passing made me reel. I had just returned from a doctor's appointment for a herniated disc in my back and was in a great deal of pain, in spite of having been popped back into place by my chiropractor. As I listened to the message from Sterlene (Tim's daughter), my pain seemed insignificant compared to the family's loss. I returned her call this morning, and we spoke for about half an hour. The Drummond family members are scattered around the states; several of them were caught unaware of Tim's passing until they read about it through social media. This is the kind of world we live in now. News travels fast; bad news travels faster. I was very fortunate to know the man. When I was working on my first collection of recordings over ten years ago, I was full of uncertainty. Tim took the time to give me the benefit of his experience and advised me on many aspects of writing, recording, copyright, and publishing. He never once treated me as his inferior or as a novice (which I assuredly was) -- in fact, I think he got a big kick out of the entire bit. For several years we kept in touch via birthday cards and the occasional phone call, but eventually we resigned ourselves to passing messages back and forth through our mutual contact with Sterlene. He had stopped performing on bass and recording, preferring the producer's chair during his last decade. But that, too, lost its sparkle and he quietly retired. I am grateful to him for giving me the courage and confidence to continue writing and recording. After I toured Europe with Jon Oliva in 2012, I was told that Tim was proud of that achievement, and I remain flattered by that. When I started performing as a teen in the 1970s, I played many of Neil Young's songs and tried to cover the bass parts faithfully. To have the good fortune of actually knowing the man responsible for those parts was a true blessing. Rest easy, Tim. Thank you for all of your inspiration--I'll try to do you proud.
Now that the holidays have finally blown past and I find my self already embedded in 2015, it's time to get back to work on the studio track ideas that we started kicking around back in October. We'll have several musicians traveling to Florida from the north (no doubt, they're thrilled to escape the winter weather) to contribute parts. Jon Oliva was in session whilst I was there at DEG Entertainment Studios yesterday; Jon cut drums, bass, acoustic guitar, and vocals (all scratch tracks), and a keyboard track. Plans are for me to go back and re-cut the bass with my fretless, using Jon's track as my 'road map.' The entire project at this point (naturally, subject to change) consists of these imperial potentates: Lance Quinn, producer/ lead & rhythm guitar - Dana Piper, talent coordinator/lead guitar - Dana Walsh, audio engineer/video engineer - Larry McCray, lead & rhythm guitar/vocals/songs - Steve McCray, drums - Damon Fowler, lead & rhythm guitar - Pat Buffo, multi-instrumentalist/songs - Jason Jennings, bass/rhythm guitar/songs - Jon Oliva, keys/vocals/songs - Arty Artymiw, violin - Steve Delaportas, vibes - David Vanlanding, vocals - Brian Baxter, vocals/production - Justin Headley, drums - Many more tracking sessions will be happening over the next few weeks--there's going to be a whirlwind of activity at Mr. Walsh's facility!
As I pessimistically stumble forward into the holiday season licking my wounds from the worst year I've ever had in the Tampa Bay regional entertainment market, I must acknowledge several things that I am, in fact, truly grateful for. Topping that list is the unwavering support of my wife, Tara. As a veteran music biz entrepreneur, she understands that there are peaks and valleys aplenty in this racket and she is always there to bolster my confidence whenever the chips appear to be down. I'm extremely grateful to my musical colleagues in both Doobius and Band O'Frenz for the good times we share on stages in the local market--which is some severely shark-infested water since there are too many bands and not enough venues to support them. I'm grateful to my band and crew family in Jon Oliva's Pain, for those real glimpses of sunshine from the stages of larger venues when those opportunities present themselves and Mr. Oliva's obligations to the little act known as the Trans-Siberian Orchestra actually allow us to get out there and "do it to it." Those moments are the cherries on my musical sundae. As 2015 looms on the horizon, I'm really looking forward to a more productive year--with the aid of Felonius Piper, Pat Buffo, Dana Walsh, Larry & Steve McCray, Lance Quinn, and Jon Oliva. Our new recording project will be hitting the studio this month and proceeding at a gallop. Working with these talented individuals is a dream sequence for me, and after all--getting involved in music as a teenager was a dream from the 'git-go.' That spark has never burned out, and that dream is still alive and well. Cheers, folks!
I had the opportunity to go to Dana Walsh's studio yesterday evening and work on a new track for a project that's being spear-headed by Felonius Piper (I've already dubbed it the "Trans-Piperian Orchestra"). I can't disclose too much about it at this point, but there will definitely be some heavy hitters involved with this. The real gist of this blog is to note that it was my first opportunity to take my newly customized Fender P-J bass in my session and give it a whirl. Courtesy of Granville Guitars, the bass (known affectionately as 'Red') was just loaded with new EMG pick ups, new wiring, and an 18 volt battery pack. Between Mr. Walsh and myself, we were amazed at how beautifully Red recorded. Essentially, I just opened up both pick ups and the tone knob, and Dana set the predominantly EQ flat. The tone of this bass is just fantastic! I hadn't heard any advance demos of the track itself (a new composition by Pat Buffo), but by "steam rolling" through the tune I had the arrangement down and the bass track within an hour of arriving. This left enough session time for Pat to hit the booth for vocal takes. All in all, we managed to get a lot of work done in a relatively short period of time--in spite of some electrical storm action that hindered us for the better part of an hour. I'm looking forward to the next round of recording; it's always a pleasure to work with pros of this caliber and exciting to put some fresh grooves down. Cheers!