Tag Archives: guitar

Recording with the greats

On Tuesday night I was in my recording/rehearsal studio (a mere mile from Motown Studio A) with two members of the organ jazz lineage of music that I am so fond of, namely Perry Hughes and Gene Dunlap. I’ve been working with both of these gentleman for quite sometime and I’m humbled and honored to be associated with them. Perry Hughes is “the embodiment of Wes Montgomery, Grant Green and George Benson” as described by my mentor and teacher Bill Heid. I first heard Perry on Bill’s “Blues on The Road” record which included a song I still perform entitled “Love Is Nothing  But The Blues” which featured a tasty solo from Mr. Hughes. Then I devoured Bill’s “Bop Rascal” CD which featured some great tunes including “Grantacious” and “Psy Ops” both of which are in my B3 repertoire.  I met Perry years later and I’ve been fortunate enough to play gigs with him since that time. Through Perry I met Harvey Mason and was able to play at the Jarkta Jazz Festival in Indonesia and at the Barbados Jazz Festival through his recommendation. Gene Dunlap has worked and recorded with Grant Green, Earl Klugh, and many others as well as recording under his own name for Columbia records. He’s a master of subtley and taste on the drums and I’ve really grown to appreciate his knowledge on the industry, music, and technology. The fact that I was sitting at the Hammond and recording with both of these gentleman made me very grateful.

I’ve made my first few forays into full band recording using Logic 9 on my Macbook Pro and I’m learning a lot each time. I’m using an Apogee Ensemble and Duet as my audio interfaces. I’m very happy with both of these devices in general and I’m considering getting a symphony system in the future. The Mastero 2 interface is very clear and the sound quality is really good. I had 10 channels to work with. I ended up using nine because the direct line of the organ was buzzing and I knew it was a ground issue but I didn’t have time to chase it down and decided to just go with the three mic set up I had on the Leslie. One of the problems that I face in the room that I record in is that it’s in a building that contains other rehearsal and recording studios. Sometimes this can be a problem. Especially when the death-metal-techno band rehearses and the SVT’s are on 10! But we didn’t seem to encounter much of a problem even though there was another band to rehearsing at the same time.

I just had my dumpster picked Hammond C2 worked on by the amazing B3 Doctor John Doyle. He switched out my vibrato/chorus transistor and made the organ sound like a million bucks. He also gave me the ability to run three tone cabinets! We started the session using only the 21H (with a 122 Amp) and my near mint 145. It sounded good but Gene mentioned that he couldn’t hear my comping so I decided to hook up the Hammond Tone Cabinet I recently acquired. I plugged it in and both Gene and Perry looked up and smiled. They could now hear me and the rest of the takes had a lot more communication between Gene and myself.

I’m lucky to have a fairly large space to record and rehearse with high ceilings and foam padded walls. It’s nice and open and kind of dead. I can get some good sounding tracks d in there. I’m also fortunate enough to be next door to percussion guru Larry Fratangelo who’s worked with Aretha Franklin, Kid Rock, and P-Funk to name a few. We plan on joining forces to record in 2012 so we’ll have three rooms to work with. I transferred the tracks to my desktop yesterday and made a rough mix or two. They’re not too bad. I think we got a few good takes. We recorded three tunes. I’m looking forward to doing lots more recording in the new year. I’d also like to thank Bill’s brother George Heid who talked me through the set up and approach I used for recording. It’s not pristine sound quality but we got a vibe and some good takes. The organ has the character of some of the early McDuff recordings I really like and Perry takes some amazing solos (as per usual.) I’m so glad we finally got in a studio. We’ve been talking about it for years and we finally made it happen. I’m looking forward to doing lots more recording and producing in 2012.

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Part Quatre (my last two days in Paris)

Before leaving Paris I had to see the Eiffel tower in person and set out on Friday afternoon. After consulting my Timeout iphone app  I took a direct but slightly out of the way route. After passing up and downhill through narrow streets lined by five story classic hotels. I passed boutiques and furniture shops as well as a Lamborghini dealership and numerous scooter sales/repair shops that all take up residence on the first level of many of these buildings. I came down a hill and through a park and saw the Eiffel tower through the trees from across the river. It’s really quite impressive to see in person. It ‘towers’ above the landscape. I took shots as I crossed the bridge in the warm afternoon sun and saw hundreds of tourists all taking photos at marveling at this amazing structure. There were little booths selling gellato, sandwiches, and various trinkets as well as beret topped, assault rifle armed, young French men in camouflage making sure everybody was…cool.

I walked under the tower and peered up into the immense iron work and was truly impressed. There were people traveling up and down it’s four legs in elevators, carts, and stairs like ants climbing up and down an immense iron ant-hill. The lines were too long for me so I milled around underneath and around the tower. I listened to some young musicians who were drawing a crowd then walked through the gardens enjoying the afternoon sun and taking the pictures of at least three people who wanted to be captured in front of the tower. I decided to head back to the hotel via the metro and grabbed some dinner before getting ready for the show.

On a side note I highly recommend the timeout guide (even though they slightly poo-pooed the club we played at because they tended to hire too many American musicians…) I sent it to all of the guys in the band who use iOS devices (which is most of them) and they all seemed to find it useful. It contains a great city map that works with your GPS and saves you on roaming and data fees big time. I used it to navigate around the city on the cheap. I could brandish my tech/navigational wand at will which gave me the confidence to navigate the streets assuredly as well as use the metro system effectively. And I speak/read/understand a bit of French so that helps a lot as well. Not like walking around in Russia and trying to decipher the Cyrillic alphabet, but that’s for another blog entry. Here’s a link it’s free in the app store http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/paris-travel-guide-time-out/id403959017?mt=8

Friday’s show was decent but I don’t think we really achieved full lift off until Saturday night. The management had opened up the back wall of the club to allow for the additional seating needed to accommodate the full house that was seated before the stage. Johnnie was feeling a little under the weather and he let me know before we hit the stage. I told him the equivalent of “man let’s just have a good time and play some music” and we did. The crowd was giving us love and we were giving it back to them. The staff told us they enjoyed us and we were all talking about coming back soon. We hit the cafeteria to grab a few last items off of our meal cards before turning them in at the bar. I tried to lay down to get some sleep and was very tired. I flipped through the channels and found some swinging Ella Fitzgerald live in the 60’s. I relaxed and was ready to fall asleep so I turned off the TV because as tired as I was I couldn’t sleep when hearing such good music. I couldn’t fall out and turned the TV on. James Brown was on and the band was cooking. I think it was the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1981? I couldn’t sleep to that so I just made sure I had packed everything and got ready to come back home. We gathered in the lobby and loaded into the two vans which took us through the crowded freeways (On early Sunday morning!) to the airport. Shout out to John Rutherford for stepping in with Johnnie Bassett and the ticket agent with the AFM letter/agreement with the TSA granting musicians the ability to bring an instrument with them as carry on luggage. Be sure to keep your baggage under 40 lbs. to avoid gouging overweight fees. A Sony Playstation 3 was available in the waiting area and I was watching a guy play what appeared to be the latest version of the ‘Burnout’ car racing game series. I got to play a few games and was impressed by the graphics. It helped pass of the time I’d have to wait before I returned home.

The flight was long. It’s always longer coming back home for some reason. For one thing there’s daylight forever. And your less likely to fall asleep or doze off, especially when there are screaming babies on board. There were a few moments during the trans Atlantic flight that I thought I might go stir-crazy and had to remind myself it would be over soon. Being 6’5” and +/- 215lbs I’m not exactly comfortable in a coach seat. Bill Heid was really on to something when he coined it “the flying jail cell.” I did watch the latests installment of the Pirates of The Caribean franchise with Johnny Depp. I really enjoy these films, I think Depp does a great job. Simonon says Depp based his character on Keith Richards. (Which reminds me I want to check out his autobiography soon.)

We arrived in North Carolina and cleared customs without incident. It was clear at this point my ear was blocked. It was painful and I had a slight cold coming on. We got back to DTW, off the plane, picked up our luggage and went off in separate directions to return home. It became apparent that Detroit was a lot colder than Paris had been. When I walked in the door I noticed how cold the house felt and also how happy Freida was to see me. I unpacked slightly and decompressed by watching The Simpsons. I fell asleep about 9pm and woke up around 6am not being able to fall back asleep. I headed to the 9am Bikram Yoga Class to help stretch myself out after sitting for 14 plus hours. It felt good to stretch and sweat. It’s good and strange to be home. It always is.

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Trip to France Part Deux…

PART Deux….

The next afternoon we headed over to the Palais Littoral for our soundcheck. There were some problems with the electrical in the building which caused some bizarre buzzing and forced James Simonson to use the Mark Bass amplifier through the SVT instead of the preferred Ampeg amp. The Hammond they had for me upon closer inspection was a handyman special in a home made case. The key action was very stiff and uneven and the organ made a loud buzzing noise when I changed the volume from normal to soft. The Leslie fast/slow switch was attached to a moveable volume pedal (which we had to tape down) instead of mounted on the left where it normally is. I’m not a fan of this configuration. I’ve played organs a few times that were set up this way and it’s useable if I’m playing bass lines with my left hand or foot but I really prefer to ave the option to change speeds with my left hand. It’s too easy to “foul tip” and change speeds accidentally plus. Later on during a solo one of the notes on the top manual got stuck somehow even though the keys looked normal and I had to play the rest of the show on the bottom manual. Getting a decent back-line Hammond is really a crap shoot. The Nord Stage EX they had for me was the compact model with 76 unweighted keys. This was also a drag because I use this for my piano/Wurlitzer parts and it’s difficult to play blues/boogie piano licks on non-weighted keys because there’s no resistance to work against plus it lacked the full 88 note range. I made it work because that’s what you do as a professional but it looks like I need to make a few updates to the rider. That being said, I’ve definitely been in situations where the back-line has been worse.

Once we finally got all of the technical details out of the way we were able to get a good mix on stage. We had dinner upstairs again and I admit I was disappointed by this meal. It consisted of rice and chicken with a cream sauce and it was marginal at best. I was craving vegetables or a salad because I was quickly approaching  “starch overload”.

We hit the stage at 8:30 pm and were greeted with polite applause. We had a large attentive crowd but it’s certainly a different vibe than playing to an American audience. They were much quieter and reserved than we are used to. I jokingly wondered if they had put glue on the chairs because despite Thornetta’s attempts to get them up and to “dance away their blues” they remained firmly in their seats. We did receive a large round of applause afterward and we were called back for an encore so all in all I think we had a good performance. After we finished there was a band who put on a musical tribute to the late blues rocker Gary Moore.

Most of us (except Bassett and Mark) decided to go to the jam session after the concert. This was held in a small club a few minutes from the venue. There was a band setting up inside when we arrived. It took a long time for the music to get started. Skeeto and I hung outside for awhile because the club was getting packed, hot, and loud. Keith got up and sat in with the band first. Later Thornetta and Simo got up and killed it. I eventually sat in on the keys and it was here I realized that the guitar player had a serious “it’s all about me” attitude, was not gracious, and had no intention of being shown up by any Americans. (He told Keith that one tune they were going to play was in ‘B’ but it was actually in ‘F’…nice.)  It might not be visible to an audience member but there are many subtle (and not so subtle) vibes and cues given off by musicians to each other on stage and this guy was clearly giving off an “ass clown” vibe. We played a shuffle in G and he kept telling us to turn down while he took chorus after chorus of marginal guitar gymnastics. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with some major league guitar talent (Hiram Bullock and Perry Hughes to name two) so it takes more than playing guitar behind your head to impress me. After we finished Rutherford suggested to the guitarist that I sing a tune (We really wanted to play something that wasn’t a ‘I IV V lumpy de lump’) but my microphone was off and he ignored our request and brought up two other guitar players who did (surprise!) a slow blues in A. Once again the spirit of selfishness reared it’s ugly head as they made sure they were the only soloists on the tune.  I had enough at this point and walked off the stage after the tune ended. The experience was disappointing from my point of view and I was glad when we all finally got in the van and headed back to the hotel. I’m not sure whether it was the jet lag, the distasteful behavior of the musicians or the couple of cokes I had late at night but unfortunately I couldn’t fall asleep. I tossed and turned in the small bed (which my feet hung off of) until the sun rose.

We had an 8:15am Lobby call to catch a 9:45 am train to Paris. Mark, Keith, Simo, Bassett and I were in one train car while the rest of the group was with Didier in another. We tried to get some sleep on the way to Paris but it’s hard to rest in an upright seat with little leg room. We finally arrived, exited the train and made our way towards the street. We crowded into two vans set off for the hotel hotel. On the way we passed the Moulin Rouge and a street full of small music stores (one was called “bass maniac”.) We came around the ‘Arc de Triomphe’ and were soon at Le Meridien (our hotel.) The rooms were not ready for us and we had to wait a few hours in the lobby. I had been up for way over 24 hours at and many of the group had only gotten a few hours sleep. We tried to make the best of it but it was not an ideal situation. I finally got into my room about 3:30 pm and laid down. I was much happier with this room because it had a king sized bed and I was able to fully stretch out without hanging off the end. I was exhausted and slept until 10:30 pm. Eventually I got up and met up with Keith, Rutherford and Skeeto and we took a small stroll around the surprisingly quiet streets of Paris. I returned to the room after grabbing a small salad (yes!) in the employee cafeteria, and fell asleep again. I awoke around 7:30 am and headed down to the hotel’s amazing breakfast spread. I had fresh squeezed orange juice, coffee, and a delicious ‘made while you wait’ omelet. I’m going to be enjoying a week of great breakfasts for certain.

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