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Free limited time download of The Brothers Groove first set at Northern Lights Lounge

Free limited time download of The Brothers Groove first set at Northern Lights Lounge

I’m really happy to be performing with my band The Brothers Groove again. We’ve started a weekly residency at Northern Lights Lounge in Detroit. This show features myself on keys and vocals, Skeeto Valdez on drums and James Simonson on bass. If you’re in the Detroit area on a Thursday night please drop by and see us. There’s no cover charge. It’s located at 660 W. Baltimore Detroit, MI 48203.


I can hear the difference

I can hear it when it’s a fake organ, or a fake wurlitzer or Rhodes or whatever. It’s not the same thing. I can hear the non-Hammond percussion tone generator by Trek in my Hammond C2 and I can tell it’s not the same as a classic B3 hammond designed and installed percussion generator. I wish it was. It’s subtle and it bothers me.  It’s passable and most people think it sounds really good. But I can hear the difference.It detracts from my enjoyment of playing the instrument.

I’ve been overtly critical of recordings with bad organ sounds. It’s hard not to, they just sound really bad.  I’m kind of a nut when it comes to really listening to something. That’s how you learn to become a better musician and it even seems a better human. You really listen. 

I can hear the piano sample fart out in most keyboards while I’m playing. And sometimes I can’t hear the notes at all like in the mid to high octave of the Yamaha piano sample on my Nord Stage 88 a keyboard that I’ve owned for about five years. “Where does the note go?” I often think while I’m playing it. I’ve got a good line and the note disappears in the fray of sound around me. It doesn’t cut through and it takes me out of the moment of creating because I can’t hear myself and it’s made me think of something other than the music I’m making. 

Over the last week I was able to play two really fine Steinway pianos at both Cliff Bell’s and at the Dirty Dog Jazz Cafe. As a keyboard player most of the time I soldier away at my role in the music business war on either my Nord Stage 88 or Yamaha Motif ES7. I play emulation of keyboards I own like the Fender Rhodes, Wurlitzer, Hammond, Piano, etc. and some basic meat and potato synth stuff. But I rarely get to play a fine piano. I’m fortunate enough to have an early 20th Century Chickering to practice on at home and it’s decent but it ain’t a Steinway. It made a huge difference in my performance and enjoyment. I can hear the difference. I just with I could afford the difference.

I can hear it when a guys been practicing a lot. I dare say I can hear it when a guy’s been practicing too much and I can hear it when they ain’t been playing at all. There’s a time to step away from the instrument and have some life experience’s too. Maintain and develop your chops but don’t close yourself off to non-musical human contact and relationships. Go ride a bike or take a walk once in awhile. Read a book. Hug somebody. Listen to what someone else has to say for a moment. Especially someone older and more experienced. Time and time again it seems that the people who I really enjoy listening to are also very genuine, diversely educated, warm and engaging and this often comes through in their music and even beyond that in their personal presence. You could say I enjoy those who have cultivated their human side and allow it to permeate their music. 

I dread being in the audience or worse onstage and witnessing a musician continuously display chops (scales, patterns, licks, etc.) and very little in the way of emotion, development, interaction, timing, restraint, and space in chorus after chorus on every tune. They showboat forever never noticing that they’ve lost the audience and perhaps their fellow musician’s with their extended trip to solo heaven. Get in get out and get on with it.

The best improvisers, performers and entertainers are those who actually take the music somewhere and thereby bring the band and the audience with them. 

That’s what I believe we need to be striving for as musicians and performers. Engaging the music, your band members, the audience, and the space you’re in at the moment. Can you hear the difference? Have you listened? 

….and on that note I’ll be discussing the merit’s of taping oneself in an upcoming post.

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What’s been up….

It’s been a while since my last blog update and there’s been a lot going on. So here’s a little overview of what’s happening in my world.

I’ve got another article with practice tips and a rant about the state of jam sessions in the works, so sign up as a follower at the bottom of the page if you like what you’re reading. I hope to have them posted this week. If you’re looking to catch me perform in the metro Detroit area click here.

New Johnnie Bassett CD coming out this summer!

I’m excited to announce that Johnnie Bassett’s newest album will be coming out this summer on Sly Dog Records. I don’t want to give away too many details and spoil the surprise but I’m looking forward to getting this music to the public. This is the second album we’ve done for the label and once again we used John Smerek at the board,  The Brothers Groove, The Motor City Horns, Thornetta Davis, Brett Lucas, Dwight Adams and Jim “Moose” Brown (with who I co-wrote the title track “I Can Make That Happen.”) We recorded it at Rustbelt Studios in Royal Oak August 2011-October 2011.

Ronnie Foster visits Detroit.

I got to meet and hang out with legendary keyboard player Ronnie Foster. He was in town performing on keys at the Fisher Theatre with the group Human Nature. He popped in Thursday March 22nd at our weekly gig at Northern Lights and then again on Saturday at Dylan’s Raw Bar in Grosse Pointe Park. Ronnie is a keyboard hero of mine. I was just listening to him on my iPhone a few day before playing Hammond Organ with Grant Green on a Blue Note album recorded in the 1970’s at Watt’s Mozambique club in Detroit. He’s also playing onGeorge Benson’s big breakthrough record ‘Breezin.’ He’s a monster player and a very nice guy. It was a real pleasure to meet him.

While looking over taxes (I usually wait until the bitter end) I realized that last August I played with Roy Ayers and Kenny G. in the same week. Whoa…

Recording, Relaxing, Reviewing.

I recorded a track for Amy Gore at with Jackson Smith and Al Stutton at the boards Rustbelt Studio in Royal Oak last month, you can find out more about the project here.  I’m supposed to be recording some keyboard tracks for Kenny Tudrick’s new project next week and I’m excited about that. John Smerek is again behind the boards for this one. I also provided keyboard tracks for a new song by my friend Jess Domain a singer songwriter from Detroit now living in NYC who’s music is being featured in the new Cinemax series Girls Guide.

I’ve been working hard on my recording/rehearsal space downtown and will be doing more recording and rehearsing there soon. I’ve spent a number of hours cleaning up and rearranging and I think it’s the best incarnation yet.  I recently recorded a few Hammond organ tracks there for both Colton P. Weatherston and Ben Keller and the 500 Club of which my friend David Dionese a member. I used my Shure SM81 on the top rotor and got a great tone. I’m using a Senheiser e602 for the bottom rotor.

I attended the birthday party of drummer vocalist Terry Thunder at his west side Detroit home and enjoyed one heck of a good time. That was a “real party” that was full of folks who knew how to have fun and respect one another at the same time. There ain’t no party like a Detroit party. I heard they went until 6am. I left before that. Terry Thunder is the man!

I’m really interested in checkin these out. It’s a problem I face as a keyboard player. I’ve also been taking a close look at the Korg Kronos. It’s the first new keyboard that’s raised my interest in awhile. I need to sit down and play it for awhile. I’m also looking forward to trying out the new dual manual Nord organ clone which now includes drawbars.

I’m glad it’s getting warmer out and I’m looking forward to a nice spring/summer collection of performances and projects. My weekend recommendation is that you check out Bill Heid this Saturday afternoon at the Scarab Club in Detroit. He’s one of my favorites. He’ll be at Cliff Bell’s playing Hammond Organ Friday April 20th. That’s all for now…


‘Concert of Colors’ performance by The Brothers Groove video now available on the web!

On Saturday July 17, 2011 James Simonson, Skeeto Valdez and myself (better known as The Brothers Groove) along with special guest Dino Lewis on percussion performed at Orchestra Hall in Detroit Michigan as part of the ‘Concert of Colors’ produced in part by Don Was.  I was pleased to be asked to participate in the event and it was a rare treat and an honor for me to perform on the stage of such a beautiful and historic venue. The feeling of walking out on stage to perform that night was really special. That room has some serious “vibe” and the crowd was definitely showing us some love. It took a few moments for us to settle into our groove because the onstage mix was not what we were expecting. We did not get a soundcheck so each us had to deal with a less than ideal monitoring situation. We quickly adjusted our attitudes and focused on ‘doin’ the thing.’

The video of our performance just became available today on Don’s channel and the audio and video are top notch. It’s definitely one of the best looking/sounding live performances of The Brothers Groove that has been captured and made available to the public at large. We’re doing a song wrote a few years ago entitled “unavoidable.” I’ve been a fan of the band ‘Was not Was’ since my teens especially their weirder stuff  like “Dad I’m in Jail” (plus there’s a lot of Detroit talent on those records.) I also love Don’s production work with the B-52’s, Dylan and the Rolling Stones. It was a great treat to be able to meet him and perform for him.  I also look forward to seeing what he’ll be doing at Blue Note records. I know a group or two that he should check out…

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Trip to France: Day 1

I’m on tour right now with not only a great group of musicians but some of my closest friends. It’s a veritable “super group” of Detroit based musicians including Johnnie Bassett , Thornetta Davis-Anderson and her husband James Anderson, Keith Kaminski, Mark Byerly, John Rutherford, Skeeto Valdez and James Simonson. I’ve been making music with these folks for many years and it’s a rare treat to be on the road with what I consider to be my musical family.

We left Detroit on Thursday September 22nd via US Airways and flew to North Carolina where we had a few hour layover. Our flight to Paris left around 4:50 pm. I passed the time by watching “Thor” and playing Bejeweled on the in-flight entertainment center. The six hour flight actually passed by pretty quickly. I’ve found that if I can keep myself distracted and not looking at the clock constantly I’m less anxious to get out of “the flying jail cell.” I also enjoyed a nice glass of Cognac after dinner which put me in a nice mellow mood.

The plane touched down in the darkness and I breathed a sigh of relief. We got through customs and picked up all of our luggage without incident. We had a brief moment of anxiety when we did not see anyone holding up a sign with our names on it after walking out of the baggage claim. It turns out our drivers had gone to the wrong terminal. After a quick phone call we were assured they were on there way and they found us shortly thereafter and loaded us and our luggage into two mini vans and station wagon. We drove about three hours to the town of Grand-Synthe near Dunkirk where we are to stay two nights and play at the Bay-Carr Blues Festival.

We arrived at our hotel tired and ready to get some rest. I checked into my very small but comfortable room and after spending a few minutes trying to figure out how to get the storm shutter to close to facilitate darkness I got some much needed sleep. I awoke around 6:30pm and got ready to go the venue where we to play the next night to get some dinner and hear some music.

We were served a delicious meal including a baked potato and chili con carne with some excellent French bread with some delicious beer and wine (in a box!) I sat with Johnnie, Thornetta and her husband James and our contact Didier and enjoyed Johnnie’s stories about playing in Detroit in the old days. After dinner we went to check out the venue. It’s a very large building with many rooms and it host many different events and activities. There was a belly-dancing class going on next door to the dining room area. The main room with the stage was very large and sounded surprisingly good, I’m sure in part due to the extremely large curtain that covered one of the sides of the room. It really cut down on the sound reflections. The first band we saw was the James Hunter band and they sound really good. I was glad to see they had a chopped Hammond C3 with Leslie and a Nord StageEX on stage. After they finished we watched Preston Shannon do his thing with the guitar backed by a group of French musicians. They opened up their show with the classic “Sissy Strut.” It’s good to know that some things never change….

We were considering going to a late night jam session but decided to head back to the hotel and get some rest. But you know the saying “There ain’t no party like a Detroit party…” and after we learned that the hotel bar was closed we decided to hang out in John Rutherford’s room (he got the suite) which had a window which opened out to a small terrace. We climbed out the window and enjoyed the cool night air while James Simonson played us groovy tunes from his iPhone through a small pair of speakers. Life is good.

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