Gerald Veasley
Home Vital Data Projects Bass Bootcamp Merchandise Guestbook Links
 

 

Gerald Vesley Signature Bass

News Tour Multimedia Journal Contact

JOURNAL

July 12

Our cats, Coco and Molly, are shedding.

Did I hear you sarcastically utter, “fascinating”? I’m going somewhere with this. Trust me.

I’m not bringing up the subject of shedding because I am a cat person. I am not. I got tricked into having cats. Almost from the day Taylor said her first intelligible sentence, she has been asking me if we could have a pet. I did not know that eventually I would acquiesce out of guilt.

I fought hard.

When prodded by my daughter, I employed all the pet avoidance tactics I could muster. I tried subterfuge - “We’ll see”. I tried distraction, “What flavor ice cream cone do want today?” Even substitution – “Let’s get a hermit crab”. Somewhere, wandering around this house, the ghosts of three lost hermit crabs are searching for their shells.

Coco and I were destined to meet. Taylor caught me on the one day when I couldn’t say no. “Let’s go see the litter”, I said. With those words, my fate was sealed - my cat-less existence was about to end. Cute and small enough to hold in one hand – Coco was the one kitten in the litter that didn’t look so much like a cat. He was the color of Hershey’s unsweetened baker’s chocolate; a dusty brown with no markings at all. And he seemed to not mind the awkward way I cradled him in my arms. “Let’s take this one”, I heard a voice say. It was my own voice.

Two years later, this is Coco’s house. He lets us feed him, pet him, change his litter and pick up his discarded fur. In exchange, he is pretty friendly – actually, spoiled. At least he is not aloof. That is the one thing that I always distrusted in cats – that superior attitude. Coco is a down-to-earth Superstar.

Molly is an Earth-Mother type. She is chilled out, would be totally comfortable in Birkenstocks and enjoys a good meal more than anyone I know. I don’t think she gets high, but she sure has the munchies a lot.

This past winter, Roxanne and Taylor started feeding this stray black long-hair with white feet. (Insert your own punch-line here______) She came to our porch with regularity, at first for a meal, and then for companionship. Like Romeo and Juliet, Molly and Coco would gaze at each other through the front window – Molly perched on a porch chair, Coco on the windowsill - sometimes nose to nose.

When Molly was gone, our little Romeo would pine away for her. During their courtship, Coco was amorous but not honest enough to admit to Molly he was fixed. Men.

This is how Molly came to live in my studio. It was too cold to leave her on the porch and we thought the couple - though they wouldn’t be able to consummate their marriage - would be good company for each other.

However, once Molly moved in, Coco started to reveal his dark side. Either he forgot this was the same girl he longed for, or he was toying with her feelings all along. Of course, now all our cat expert friends tell us that cats are territorial. Thanks. That would have been nice to know before my house became the set of a feline version of “War of the Roses”.

Coco has possession of the entire house except my studio. Molly got the studio.

What do I get? Cat hair. Lots of it. I’m not saying it’s unbearable – it’s natural for cats. But if you’re visiting and you’re wearing white, I’ll meet you outside.

Of course, cats shed because they don’t need all that fur in the summer heat. Here again, cat experts, don’t warn you about shedding, or fur-balls or the never-ending quest for a cat litter that actually works. There is a conspiracy among cat lovers to only speak about cats in the most glowing terms.

Nonetheless, today I think shedding is fascinating. Really. The idea of letting go of something you don’t need anymore.

I’ll elaborate in the next entry. Isn’t this riveting?

July 7
I have been out of sorts today. It's a grey day here and I couldn't seem to get going. At first, I wondered why, then I realized - it's because of the terrible events in London. You try to put that kind of news in a compartment in your daily life - a place where you can just get on with things and not think too much. It's possible - within limits. I've had a full day. Breakfast. Bunches of emails. Practiced. Gave my daughter, T.J., her first guitar lesson. Phone calls. A snack of Graham crackers and peanut butter. Organized files on my computer. More emails. A productive day.

Still, after seeing the reports from London on TV, this morning, I have been in a fog. I tried to read the faces of victims who were interviewed. To me they seemed, more than anything else, confused. I have never been through what these Londoners are experiencing but I think I know that confused feeling. I went white-water rafting once. Just once. Damon, the president of our South African distributing label. thought it might be fun for me. He flew me and one of his bravest employees to Zimbabwe for a day of frolicking on the Zambezi river. I have a video tape of the experience. I'm easy to spot in the video. Look for the person ducking just before the raft hits a big rapid. Often. How big were the rapids? Rivers are graded by the strength of their currents from 1 to 5. The Zambezi is a grade 5. Yipee.

One more thing - I can't swim. In reality, I have taken adult swimming lessons, but have always had to go on tour just before the final test. The first time I dropped out of swim class to go to Hawaii where, believe it or not, I went snorkeling. Maybe I can swim, I'm not terrified of the water, I just don't know my limits. I am also pretty dumb. The Zambezi guides are very thorough in preparing you for white-water rafting. They warn you about everything you can possibly encounter. Like your raft turning over. If you don't catch a rapid with enough velocity and at the right angle, at just the right time, your raft will flip over and you will end up in the Zambezi. Apparently, this is disorienting. First of all, you can't tell up from down, right from left. Secondly, you are swept by a current that has no regard for the fact that you are neither a boat nor a fish. You are confused and not in control. The strategy for dealing with this is to find your arms ("they must be here somewhere"), place them along side your body and wait. Eventually, you will come to the surface (at least your lifejacket will) and you will reach calmer waters. This is how the Londoners looked to me today; like they were disoriented, but anticipating calmer waters. Calmer waters. You have to believe it can't go on like this forever.

7/4 The 4th of July is a big deal in Philadelphia. A really big deal. This is the place where, I'm sure you know, a lot of important events happened to create this idea called America. Declaration of Independance, Constitutional Convention. As an ex-pre-law major, I'm still fascinated by this stuff. Separation of Church and State, System of Checks and Balances, Right to Free Speech - brilliant. The folks that founded this country, people like: Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, James Madison and my personal favorite - Ben Franklin had the kind of forethought that we will never see again. When you're staring up at the sky at a fireworks display it's easy to forget what all the fuss is about. I am forcing myself to remember.

Words. I am intrigued by them. We use two very good words on this holiday: Liberty and Freedom. The problem is we use some words so much that they lose their juice. I had a debate once with a friend of mine who claimed he never told his wife "I love you", because it is so overused in our culture (he is Armenian) that it no longer means anything. I get his point but, I wouldn't try this at home. The other problem is that sometimes the English language doesn't quite capture what we really want to say. Liberty. Freedom. Good words. Patriotism - also nice, but I'm looking for a word that describes "honor in the face of futility". The following story needs that kind of word.

On my recent trip to Cleveland I was in a battle of wits with Continental Airlines, over my bass guitar. Since 9/11, all air travelers have undergone a new level of inconvenience, from having to go through metal detectors shoeless, to having to wake up at 4:00 AM in order to make a 7:30 AM flight. My friend the percussionist, Pablo Batista, has had the misfortune of being profiled incorrectly because he happened to have his passport photo taken while wearing a Kadafi syle scarf. Bad timing. My particular burden is wondering whether an airline employee will let me take my bass onboard or whether it will be taken from me and tagged as though it's a big and durable as a surfboard. I realize that my custom instrument could survive the wrath of overworked baggage handlers, but I hate risking it. Besides, it fits in the overhead bin of almost every aircraft, thank you very much. Do you get the idea that this is important to me? On the flight to Cleveland, I made it past the ticketing agent. I made it past the gate agent. I was flagged by the flight attendant. There was no more room in the overhead bins. I didn't panic, I simply asked if there was room in the first class closet. The flight attendant's response was, "I'll check, but if there's no room, what's your final destination?" This was not reassuring.

Knowing our departure was already delayed, I played the only ace I had. "Please try to find space or I'll have to take a different flight", I said, bluffing just a little. It worked. Obviously the thought of having the flight delayed even further by an irate bass player was enough to motivate the flight attendant to be creative. He found a space for my bass. I gloated over my victory, but it turned out to be hollow in the end. In fact, the pride of winning this battle of wits only lasted as long as took to fly to Cleveland's gate C14. I'll never forget that gate number. When we arrived at Hopkins airport, the pilot announced that there was a Marine on board who was on a special detail and that he was returning from duty in Iraq. There was spontaneous applause. The pilot also asked for our cooperation in allowing the Marine to disembark first. Nobody dared show a hint of impatience. As for me, I was basking in the confident glow that my bass was safe and sound. I closed my eyes and relaxed.

I must have dozed off, because I was surprised to hear the sound of sniffling around me. Two or three people at first, then a chorus of sniffles. I opened my eyes to see the other passengers looking out the windows on the right side of the plane. Moreover, they were focusing on the area below my window. I was not prepared for what I saw next. A throng of ordinary people in street clothes were lined up on the tarmac staring at our plane and next to them, a Marine honor guard. Six Marines in dress uniforms were directly under my window removing a casket which they were draping with the American flag. A brown hearse was waiting to receive it. A voice inside me said "that's somebody's son". It was. Or somebody's daughter, mother, brother, father or friend. The weight of that thought brought tears to my eyes. I also felt the shame of my concern for my wooden instument while all along there had been priceless cargo onboard.

In moments like these, we feel our patriotism and our reverence for liberty - for freedom. These words become less abstract and more real - like the idea of a cake. There's a big difference between reading the recipe for a cake and smelling one coming out of the oven. Everyone on that plane - everyone at gate C14, tasted patriotism and smelled freedom. I thought about all those young men and women sacrificing their lives for the ideal called America. I particularly thought about the ones who are in Iraq. You cannot think about them and not feel bad. They are indeed young and their lives are on the line. They are a world away from their loved ones, the people they left behind to wait - people who brace themselves when there is a news report on television from Iraq. They serve honorably. No matter how you feel about the war, they serve honorably. This is where we need a new word. I don't feel good about our involvement in Iraq and fewer Americans do every day. I do feel good about the soldiers, airmen and sailors who serve in Iraq. Therefore, I'm looking for a word that describes "honor in the face of futility".

Patriotism doesn't seem to say it quite well enough. I don't profess to know how things will turn out in Iraq, but it feels futile. This doesn't diminish the service of these young men and women one bit. In my opinion, it makes it more remarkable. The fact that so many, can sacrifice so much, in the face of so much uncertatinty, only makes me that much prouder of them. It also reminds me of how significant the 4th of July really is and how insignificant our personal battles can be. This year, when the fireworks are blazing in the sky, I will say a prayer for every family who has a loved one serving on the other side of the world - for each family that is watching and waiting.

7/2 You gotta have a gimmick. This is the advice I heard early on in my career and it's still suggested to artists today. Maybe the word "gimmick" is not used, but the concept is the same. Do you remember Kriss Kross? This was a pre-teen rap duo discovered by Jermaine Dupri. They wore their clothes backwards. It created quite a sensation. Many of their fans emulated their ground-breaking fashion sense and the result is hip hop history - sort of.

Some artists have gotten by quite nicely in spite of their lack of gimmickry. Take Luther Vandross, for example. I was fortunate to see him in concert. A Luther Vandross show was, by today's standards, as simple as an egg sandwich. No fancy choreography, no props, no computerized laser light-show. No motorcycles. Just great singing and great songs. Well, actually more than that. Luther had an unfair advantage over many of his R&B counterparts - a buttery voice that he used with a controlled intensity. He also had infallible musical instincts that inspired him to create and re-create R&B classics. What's more, he did all this with class and style. As far as I can tell, he did not wear his clothes backwards. I happened to hear the writer, Nelson George, on the radio yesterday talking about Luther Vandross' contributions. He said something that was right on the mark, "If Luther was in town, and you cared anything about your girl, you took her to the Luther concert". Roxanne and I are driving to Pittsburgh today. It's typically a boring drive, but in the spirit of Nelson George's excellent advice, I'm going to serenade my girl with some Luther.

7/1 Let's face it. It's a DIY world. Do it yourself. From home improvement to building websites, people now have the information, tools and inspiration to rely on themselves rather than the experts. I even think the explosion of reality TV is an extension of the DIY mindset. Why hire a trained, spoiled actor for an expensive sitcom when a telecast of the girl next door eating cow intestines can be just as entertaining? And cheaper. I am gradually becoming like that too. DIY, baby. Got my own band and my own club to put on shows with my own band. In my own way. It's not that I'm not open to doing things with others, it's just that sometimes I need to do things in my own way. Yes, I'm a Leo. I have a narcissistic nature.

At least I admit. There is nothing more intoxicating than seeing your name in print. Gerald Veasley, Gerald Veasley. Try it with your own name. What a buzz! Unfortunately, I can't always count on music journalists to write about me to get my fix. I have a new CD coming out, so that's good for a while. Some journalists administer tough love, however, and will not write about you, no matter what. Take Ben Ratliff, for example. He writes for the New York Times and was given the assignment of reviewing the Portrait of Jaco show at the Beacon Theater. The review was mixed. That is not as important to me as the lack of "Gerald Veasley" in it. I won't quote from the review because I don't want to be sued by the New York Times, although my career could use it. I won't complain either.

Instead, I have decided to write my own reviews, from now on. I know how to do it. This is the format for writing a review of a concert:

1) Write something clever to show you are smart. It is important to do this at the beginning of the article.

2) Foreshadowing. Suggest from the outset that the show might be either great or a flop. However, don't commit until the very end of the piece.

3) Give a few essential facts about the show. Time, place, names of musicians, titles of songs. That's plenty.

4) Use interesting vocabulary - especially adjectives. Ben Ratliff talked about the "astringent strings" on one song. Cool.

5) The Big Finish. You absolutely must write a brilliant ending to the review to wrap it up. Ben came up with a doozy. If you want to read it, it was published June 24.
The New York Times did not cover my CD release concert at the Jazz Base last night. I am not upset. I've written my own review, of my own concert, with my own band, in my own club. Here it is: Brilliant Bassist Shines Bright Once in a century, Haley's comet passes through our solar system in all it's splendid, though ephemeral, glory. How fortunate we are indeed that the bass luminary, Gerald Veasley, can be observed more often. Blah, Blah Blah, etc. Considering the industry hype over Veasley's new CD, At The Jazz Bass, I frankly wondered whether he could deliver in concert. Blah, Blah. Clever Stuff, etc. Last night's show in Reading, PA...Blah, Blah. Jazz Base, Veasley's own club...etc. Greatest band in the universe... the astringent strings on Forever...blah. Chris Farr...salacious saxophone...blah. Gerald Veasley... Gerald.... Veasley, etc. This new century has witnessed two cultural phenomena, The DaVinci Code and Veasley's concert, At The Jazz Base.

Review by Hector Heathcliff Hector is not opposed to assignments from the New York Times, by the way. If you have any connections, please let me know.

June 28
What do you do after a 12 hour trip from St. Kitts to Philadelphia? Moderate a panel discussion, of course.


I like the variety of activities I'm in engaged, but somtimes I think I'm pushing it. In this case, though, it's for a good cause, the Philadelphia Chapter of the Recording Academy.

I've been an elected leader in this organization for ten very rewarding years. Most people know the Recording Academy's signature, the Grammy Award, but most are unaware of the educational, philanthropic and advocacy apects of it's mission. I am honored to take an active role in helping to do some of this work.

Take a moment to visit www.grammy.com. I'll be here when you get back.

See - I told you I'd still be here.

Tonight's event was a free-wheeling discussion about the craft of being a recording and touring musician with panelists, Frank Romano and Matt Cappy. These two young musicians have a wealth of knowledge to share and they were more than willing to share it.

The conversation ranged from getting a break to protecting your business interests. They offered tips that had the whole audience so engaged, that it was hard to stop the Q&A.

Rather than name dropping, a habit I am trying to get under control. "Very addictive, indeed", Robert Downey, Jr. told me.

If you want to get a sense of who Matt Cappy and Frank Romano have worked with, visit www.allmusicguide.com.

As for me, I'm not going to name names.

June 27
There's more than a little name dropping in these journal entries. It's purely accidental, yet embarrasing. As I was telling Quincy Jones the other day, "I can't stand name droppers".

One particular problem with name dropping is that the person you're talking to may not be impressed with the name dropped. Some names are more impressive than others, for sure. Fame, status, wealth - these are all sure fire pre-requisites for a good name reference. However, you also have to know your audience.

If, for example, I mention that I ran into Barry Scheck at 30th St. train station in Philly, you might be fascinated if you're a Court TV junkie.

In case you're wondering, I did run into Barry - we didn't exactly exchange words, but I nearly clobbered him with my bass. If you ask him, he'll probably deny it. Barry (I call him Barry) is more of a laid back guy than you would think, in spite of all the DNA stuff.

I can just tell.

If you are an E! channel fan, you would be more intrigued by my recent sighting of a crumpled Kevin Bacon crossing a Manhattan intersection. I'm not casting aspersions, but he had that kind of "I'm trying to walk straight" walk that usually indicates participation in a contest to decide between "less filling" and "tastes great". If only we had spoken, I could have known for sure. Moreover, a little tete-a-tete with Kevin, would have qualified me as a degree of separation, I think.

Lost opportunities.

Unfortunately, some of my references to people named in this journal may be obscure. This is a problem that must be corrected, especially when it comes to the mention of bass players. So, in the interest of cultural education, I am going to provide a list of bass players you should know.

Feel free to Google their names:

Anthony Jackson
Victor Bailey
Victor Wooten
Steve Bailey
Oteil Burbridge
Oscar Petiford
Francis Rocco Prestia
Jaco Pastorius
Stanley Clarke
Stanley Banks
Chris Squire
Christian McBride
Paul McCartney
Bakithi Kumalo
Ray Brown
Tyrone Brown
Baron Browne
Charles Mingus
Chuck Rainey
Ron Carter
Jimmy Garrison
Matthew Garrison
Larry Graham
Gary King
Bunny Brunel
Bill Laswell
John Pattituci
Gary Willis
Doug Wimbish
Jimmy Haslip
Jeff Berlin
Brian Bromberg
Bob Babbit
James Jamerson
Jerry Jemott
Jimmy Johnson
Willie Weeks
Will Lee
Geddy Lee
John Lee
Carol Kaye
Billy Cox
Billy Sheehan
Stu Hamm
Nathan East
Marcus Miller
Byron Miller
Richard Bona
Carlos Benevant
Andre Gouche
Alex Al
Al Turner
David Dyson
Fred Hammond
Jim Fielder
Aladar Pege
Decibal Badila
Gary Grainger
Lincoln Goines
Andy Gonzalez
Cachao
Sting
Flea
P-nut
Bootsy Collins
Tom Barney
Bob Cranshaw
Monk Montgomery
Michael Manring
Donald "Duck" Dunn
Harvie S
Jamaaladeen Tacuma

If I've let out a name you think I should have included - tough. Make your own list.

Seriously, this is just a list, not a poll and by no means exhaustive. I am writing this on an uneventful flight from Puerto Rico to Philly, relying on nothing but my slowly evaporating memory. You are welcome to add to my list of essential bass players by leaving a message in the Guestbook.

Let's work together.

As I was saying to Oprah at lunch the other day, "we can accomplish amazing things when people join forces for a common goal".

"You're so right, Gerald", she replied, in between bites of her caesar salad.

June 26
From bass heaven to guitar paradise. Today I woke up in St. Kitts. This caribbean island is shaped like a guitar. I went for a hour long walk on the neck of the guitar.

Gorgeous.

If you wanted to design an island you might do it this way. Use the very best ingredients: clear inviting water, sand that's earth-colored but finely textured, lush green mountains and a sun that is hot by 9 AM.

You would inhabit it with friendly and proud people - St. Kitts became independant of Great Britain in 1983 - and for good measure throw in a music festival along with more typical tourist treats.

The St. Kitts Music festival is pretty eclectic. Try topping this: Pieces of a Dream, Ronnie Laws, Atlantic Starr, Wyclef Jean and Kenny Rogers. I'm assuming Motley Crue was unavailable.

Anyway, between this guitar paradise and bass heaven, I was in Cleveland. This is not a punchline.

Heads Up Records hosted an all-star party at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on Friday. The R&R convention, which is one of the must-attend radio events of the year, was held in Cleveland this year, so Dave Love, the president of Heads Up thought it would be a good idea to offer the conventioneers a good time.

Oh, and the public could by tickets as well. Which is smart because, let's face it, radio people have heard and seen it all.

It was a packed house.

Why woudn't it be? Heads Up has quite a contemporary jazz roster to draw from for a concert. Dave called up Walter Beasley, Alexander Zonjic, Marion Meadows, Najee, Pieces and me. The result was a show that won't soon be forgotten. The first jazz show in the Rock and Roll of Fame, ever. Guess what? It rocked.

Good thinking, Dave.

Now, back to my tan.

June 23
Bass Heaven. I borrowed that term from Will Lee. He used it to describe what he saw last September when he pulled up to the Idyllic fields in Tennessee last September where Victor Wooten holds his Bass Nature Camp. He witnessed bass campers walking in the sun-drenched grass with bass cases on their backs. Through the clearing, he could see Chuck Rainey sitting on the porch of a cabin surrounded by basses that are on display. Among them is Stanley Clarke's Alembic bass. Later that day, Stanley shows up in the flesh.

Yep, bass heaven.

I had my own celestial sighting as part of the JVC jazz festival's Portrait of Jaco.

OK. Tribute shows can miss the mark. They can. After all, if the artist being honored is so significant as to warrant being honored, then there is a danger of falling short by not having the honoree present to perform. Sometimes there is no substitute for the real thing.

Jaco did not perform, but his music was present and accounted for:

Will Lee singing and grooving Come On, Come Over,

Felix Pastorius effortlessly coming into his own on Havona,

Matt Garrison tackling and handling the abstract, unrecorded Thoughts on Florida,

Christian McBride swinging hard on Dania,

Victor Wooten and Steve Bailey reinventing Portrait of Tracy,

Oteil Burbridge rendering a sublime version of Three Views of a Secret,

Jeff Berlin blazing through the wickedly difficult Donna Lee,

Richard Bona just being the always brilliant Bona and,

Anthony Jackson hanging out at sound check. The erudite Sir Anthony hanging out?

Yep, bass heaven.

What did I play, I hear you ask? Liberty City, the most joyous Pastorius tune of all.

Thanks Jaco, for bringing us all together.

June 22
Today I'm in bass heaven!

Before I describe what's going on today, I have been remiss in not talking about the June 12 show in Harrisburg with the Heads Up Superband.

We played an evening of the music of Ray Charles, a program we first presented at the Berks Jazz Festival in March

Some of you may know this project featuring Joe McBride on keys and vocals. I always tell the audience "if you're going to play the music of a genius, you better have a genius". That's what Joe McBride is. At one time "genius" was a word that was overused. Now it's a word that's not heard enought. We need to celebrate people who are blessed with enormous talent who share those talents with us.

If ever you get the chance to see Joe do his thing live, take it. He plays any style of music you can think of with conviction. As a pianist, if he has limits, I haven't heard them. Most of all, Joe is known for his soulfulness. He brings all that and more to Ray's unforgettable songbook.

What a songbook it is. The first two syllables of the "old sweet song", Georgia, is enough to transport you to another time and place. Then you've got tunes like Night Time Is the Right Time, our opening number that includes the "Joelettes" the background singers, Tony Lynne, Suzie Ernesto and featuring Veronica Menyweather who does a scorching rendition of the co-lead with Joe.

Kenny Blake is featured througout the set on alto sax and really let's loose on the steamy blues ballad I believe.

The Berks Jazz Fest Horns, Mike Anderson (tenor sax), Rob Diener (trumpet), Bill Miller (trombone) are as tight as usual. What's cool is that they are showcased as soloists too. By the way, the horn arrangements were done by Chis Heslop who joins the horn section on baritone sax. Chris and trade licks on "Hit The Road Jack" - he plays the bass line while I solo and vice versa. Big Fun.

Keith Carlock is one of a kind. I met Keith when he was living in Dallas and playing in Joe's band. He was young and, excuse me for saying it - green. Now he has a resume that most musicians dream about which includes stints with Steely Dan and Sting.

Never mind all that. Keith is just "bad" on the drums. He is the drummer that other drummers talk about.

Keith let's loose on "Unchain My Heart" which has one of those 60's latin boogaloo beats. You have to see Keith solo on that some day.

Put this date on you calendar: October 12, 2005. We're going to playing at the Rehoboth Beach Autumn Jazz Festival in Rehoboth, Delaware. You've got to see the Heads Up Superband - if nothing else, check to see if I'm exaggerating.

I'll tell you about bass heaven tomorrow.


June 16
I'm here, at the club (the Jazz Base, of course) Chuck Loeb is playing with his band. They are tight. Naturally, Chuck is burning on guitar. His solos are always well-crafted yet exciting. I am always impressed with Chuck's music. He is my favorite composer/producer in the smooth jazz genre.

Tonight, he is "smokin" at the Jazz Base with his hot young band.

As I type this, they are playing a very funky piece called Upper Cut, that features a keyboard solo from Matt King. Matt's chilled demeanor belies his ability to play with amazing facility and inventiveness.

Chuck's got a killing drummer, Josh Dion, who is fascinating to watch. He never seems to just strike the drums, it's as though he's coaxing them to speak.

OK, now they're going into a guitar/drum duet, that has got the crowd going!

By the way, why aren't you here? You are missing something special. The atmosphere is great, if I do say so myself. The food is excellent - try the crabcakes. Of course, the music is first-rate.

Back to the music. I am very impressed by Brian Kileen's ability to anchor this band. This young bass player is the epitome of rock-solid.

I am also impressed by how tight the band is. They haven't been with Chuck very long, in fact, the longest tenured member is Josh at a year and a half.

You would never know.

Great show Chuck.

June 16
To those of you who have become accustomed to seeing me perform with Pieces of a Dream, I want to inform you that I won't be touring with the band this summer. After 5 years of working together we have decided to move on. True, I did do shows with them last weekend, and may do an occasional performance, but not many.

Pieces of a Dream and I have a history together that pre-dates the time I spent touring with them. We all worked with Grover Washington at one time or another and that was our common bond. In fact, it was at Grover's funeral that we reconnected and shortly afterwards began playing together. It has been a nice ride.

They are a very talented group of musicians whom I respect and admire. I hate to dissapoint the reader who may be hoping for "Jazz gossip" but, we get along great. I've been fortunate in my career to work with artists who become lifelong friends. The members of Pieces of a Dream are no exception.

June 15
Last weekend was busy. It started with shows with Pieces of a Dream in Omaha and Winona, Ontario. The show in Omaha was a gala for the Urban League. Swanky but funky.

Winona, Ontario is about an hour from Toronto and was the site for a open air smoot jazz festival. One of the headliners was the ubiquitous Dave Koz.

This was the first time I saw his current show with special guests Jeffrey Osborne, Marc Antoine and saxophonist Praful. Excellent performance. Dave is presenting a revue in the tradition of Motown. His concerts, in addition to providing a fix for his fans, serve as primetime showcases for artists that are signed to his label, Rendezvous Records. Wayman Tisdale, Jonathan Butler, and Praful are among the Rendezvous artists that have shared the stage with Dave, resulting in more than marriages of convenience but genuine musical synergy instead.

As for Pieces, the band had a great show in Winona, evidenced by the standing ovation, and also by the disaapointed fans who didn't manage to buy a CD before they were sold out.

A word about theses Canadian fans - devoted. This was a two day fest consisting of about 11 hours per day of music. It was actually held at a fruit farm, which is another story, on two of the hottest days of the summer so far. It had to be 90 degrees in the shade, and there was no shade. No complaints from the fans up north either. These loyal music lovers who paid $117 per day, per ticket may have been entitled to whine just a little. They didn't. Armed with sunscreen and an array of summer headgear, they partied on and on.

June 10
Growing up in the era of LPs, I loved looking at album cover artwork and reading credits. I would imagine what the people were like who contributed to the records I loved. Names of engineers, record execs, managers and, of course, musicians were memorized and discussed among me and my friends and held in high esteem.

I wonder if people are still as fascinated by credits and artwork in this era of miniaturization. Remember those great album covers like Miles' Bitches Brew? Would they have had the same impact as a CD cover?

Anyway, if you've taken the time to the read the credits of my CDs, there are certain names that appear again and again - like Doug White.

Doug is my computer guy; an authorized Apple guru. After trying to get the "best deal" elsewhere, and getting burned, my musician friends eventually all buy their computers from Doug. He is simply the best.

I am somewhat biased. We have been friends since we were in our teens. Though you might not be able to tell from his demeanor, Doug was a wicked drummer.

These days, instead of pounding out funk beats on a chrome-colored drum set, he gets his musical rocks off as an audiophile. Most people know an audiophile or at least someone who is divorced from one. Thankfully, Doug's wife, Celeste is supportive of his sonic desires. It's an expensive hobby.

How expensive? If someone asked Doug to swap his system for, say, a Porsche, they would have to throw in some cash as well. He is constantly upgrading things like cable. His cable expense eclipses the annual budgets of some small countries.

Keep in mind that this is a never ending quest for better, purer sound. True audiophiles are not buying for the sake of conspicuous consumption, they are not even gadget-heads who are in search of the newest toy. They are looking for the Holy Grail - a perfectly simulated concert in their den. In a way, it's like cloning. With the right equipment, you could conceivably bring back John Coltrane. You could close your eyes and your house could become the Village Vanguard. You could hear the sound of Trane taking a breath before unleashing a torrent of soprano saxophone. If you listened really closely, you could hear a bead of his sweat hit Elvin Jone's ride cymbal.

Audiophilia is a madness. I love Doug like a brother, but, he is crazy. I mean no offense, but he is nuts about sound. If Doug was here right now, I'd tell him to his face. "Man, no offense, but you're crazy", I would say.

It's a good thing I'm in Omaha today.

Last night, my crazy friend invited me and a few of our sane friends over to his house to listen to my new CD on his system. By the way, Celeste prepared some food that was sublime. The recipe for her ribs are in a vault somewhere, I'm sure.

It was an eclectic menu of "Texas Caviar" (a delicious bean salad), her homemade salsa, tender roast beef and too many items to mention here. All prepared with love and a pinch of tolerance.

After eating to the point of inebriation, we retired to the listening room. Normally, Doug's room has two recliners in it, perfectly situated for optimum listening. Ever accomodating and creative, he added four additional chairs for the unveiling of my new recording. Six seats (two rows of three). Like the middle section of a passenger plane.

Roxanne and I sat in front - in "first class", of course.

Once seated, you can appreciate the height of the speakers - big. The amp and pre-amp - also big. Is it obvious that I don't know the brand of anything? If you are curious, visit Doug White's website: matrxsystems.com and bug him for that kind of info. The only brand I know is Bose.

I was prepared for a big sound. I would not have been surprised at a clear sound. I wasn't ready, however, for how "true" the musical performance was.

It was as though my band had been freeze-dried, vacuum sealed, brought to Celeste's kitchen, heated on top of her stove and served piping hot in front of us. I'm not saying it was great, I'm saying it was true.

I'll let others tell you how great it was.

I solicited one-word descriptions of "At The Jazz Base" as heard on Doug's Porsche, uh, stereo.

Here's what the critics said:

"Captivating"

"Awesome"

"Moving"

"Sizzling"

"That's my husband"

"Funky"

"Exhuberant"

"Breathless"

"Genius"

"Live"

"Sweet"

Soon coming to a record store near you...

"At The Jazz Base" will play on all audio systems, even Bose.

June 7
I have a great publicist at the Heads Up label. His name is Mike Wilizesky. His job is to make me famous. This is a difficult job. One of things we do is brainstorm about "angles" to pitch to magazines. Magazines have the power to make people care about my music. This is an important role of the free press in America. Especially when it comes to my music.

So, in one of my flashes of brilliance today, I wrote Mike the following email about my soon-to-be released CD. I am trying to make his job easier:

I think this record fills a genre void. There are jam bands, rock bands, smooth jazz, bands, "look at me, Ma" fusion bands, avant garde, Indian reggae bands with a twist of polka! "But ain't no band like mine", he said modestly.

Really, though, the live CD allowed me to show we don't fit neatly into a
genre-specific box.

Admittedly, anyone who is not that savvy about jazz may not get this point.
To some, anything with a saxophone fits in the jazz box. Did you ever see
the Cosby episode where one daughter describes jazz as "music before they
had words"?

I'll keep tryin'

It's all about the angles, all about the angles.

June 2
I am still jet lagged from my recent trip to Hawaii and the previous trip to Germany. Now, I'm not complaining, but 6 hours in one direction on the globe,back home, then 6 hours in the other direction and back home again, can make your body clock protest a bit.

So I'm a little loopy - more than usual. Still, I know what I know. For example, I know I played in one of the best jam sessions in my life.

In Hawaii, I was involved in long Recording Academy (Grammy) trustees meetings during the day, and at night had free time to do other things, such as jam with other trustees.

The following event is the kind of moment you wish you had on tape. I especially wish I had documentation for the non-believers.

Kurt Clayton (aka KC) , quite a funky keyboard player, was on the piano in the hospitality lounge of our hotel in Maui. He was "riffing" - playing a soulful (very soulful) groove befitting his Memphis roots. There were maybe 20 people there, including a few folks around the piano waiting for something to happen. Ducks at the park wait this way - eager but confident - knowing with certainty that somebody passing by has something tasty in a paper bag.

Since I had my bass with me (don't leave home without it), I plugged in and KC and I became a duo. We played through this chord progression that had an element of traditional jazz ("rythym changes" for those who care about jazz theory details).

When we finished, Kurt Elling stepped over and started singing the blues standard "Centerpiece". If you don't know Kurt Elling, he is a Grammy nominated vocalist who is at the very top of his game in terms of style and substance. The man can deliver a jazz vocal performance like nobody around today - period. In this little lounge, Kurt was singing like we were in Carnegie Hall. Serious.

By now, everyone was enjoying these musical morsels - including our trustee from L.A., Dave Koz, who ran to his room and came back with his alto sax. Can you tell this was not an ordinary night?

Dave is known as a modern day smooth jazz renaissance man. What doesn't he do? Recording artist, producer, songwriter, radio personality, record label owner and entertainer. If you've ever seen his show, you instantly know why Dave is so popular. He is a ball of energy and enthusiasm. Dave knows what his audience likes and he gives it to them - in hepas. He is the polar opposite of the self-absorbed jazz artist. The man will work a crowd unlike any instrumentalist since Cab Calloway.

Here's a little known secret, though, Dave can swing - hard. If you don't believe me ask jazz writer Neil Tesser (Grammy trustee from Chicago). He was sitting ringside.

Dave played a burning blues solo that got everyone's attention, even the people you might think are indifferent to jazz. That's one of Dave's secrets to success, though, isn't it?

After the blues, the piano player changed, but the straight ahead jazz intentions didn't. We were joined by another Memphis soul man on piano, Marvell Thomas. Must be something in the water. Marvell took things to another level. He's got an old-school respect for playing the tunes "right". And we did - one jazz standard after another.

Kurt Elling called "Bye Bye Blackbird". Nice choice. Miles Davis' version is a quintessential interpretaion. Here's a weird little sidenote. On the way to Maui, I heard the Miles recording of "Blackbird" in an airport book store. I took special note of how Miles, the master of space and drama, started his solo and sustained tension with very few notes.

Now here's the weird part - Kurt Elling sang the Miles trumpet solo - note for note. You can't plan this stuff.

Meanwhile, Marc Dicciani (former Philly trustee and chair of the Advocacy committee) managed to sneak in a drum set. How do you sneak in a drum set? Somehow, he did and then we (officially) had a band.

If you've ever seen any old movies with the impromptu "jazz jam session" scene, you recognize this story. It was just like that - the gradual entrance of players, the casual nature of it all; not really a performance as much as a good time, and folks gathered around bobbing their heads to the music inciting the musicians to a kind of riot of swing. The only thing missing was cigarette smoke. Modern life.


The jam session ended with a duel between Kurt and Koz. I won't tell you who won. Actually, the real winners were probably the onlookers who got a free glimpse of artists playing for the sheer ecstasy of it.

This all really happened, I think. As I said, I'm a little loopy. If you see Neil Tesser, ask him.

June 1
I'm here at The Jazz Base listening to Meg & the ClifTones. This band performs delicious jazzed-up versions of classic rock tunes. Tonight I've heard Allman Brothers, War, Donavan, Edgar Winter and more.

Imagine a reggae influenced "Groovin'". Everybody in the club was smilin'. Right now they're playing George Harrison's "Here Comes The Sun" - beautiful.

I have to be honest; this approach has the danger of sounding corny. BUT, the Meg and the band are so tasteful and so sincere, that you instantly get caught up in the magic - and it is magic.

The band by the way, are some of my favorite musicians. The project is the brainchild of vibraphonist Tony Miceli who always plays as though possessed. Total focus and energy. As he told me "I've been doing this (playing these rock classics) for 20 years.". It shows. He's found a way to do what many of us jazz musicians seek to do, blend the old with the new - make the unfamiliar familiar.

Tony's joined by Kevin McConnell a virtuoso bassist who never sacrifices the groove for his own pleasure. There's pleasure enough in re-inventiing those signature bass lines.

The drummer, Butch Reed is an old friend of mine. In fact, some folks may know Butch from my CDs. He's force and finesse on the drums. In this setting, Butch's playing is truly inspired. I forgot how musically sensitive he is.

The guitarist, Matt Davis is new to me. A wonderful player who at the age 26 plays with an admirable degree of restraint.

Meg Clifton is a marvelous singer - great phrasing and amazing ability to connect with songs written before she was born. What I really like is how she is respectful of the music without taking herself too seriously. She has a refreshing lightness.

OK. The encore tune is The Beatles' "Come Together". It is rock without the bravado.

Bravo.

May 14
The concert today with The Odean Pope Trio was better than I could have hoped. Sometimes when you want to play well, when you really try to perform your best, the opposite happens. My best performances seem to come when I'm relaxed, not so relaxed that I don't have the energy, but in a state where you don't have the energy to try too hard. I felt free and "in the moment".


The trio had a cohesiveness that you wouldn't necessarily expect after not having played together in 20 years. The preparation didn't hurt. We had 5 rehearsals for this one 90 minute show. I also had to practice quite a bit, because Odean wrote new pieces with very difficult bass parts.

Equally important to practice, however is concept. For a group to work, everyone has to be on the same page musically. There also has to be a high level of mutual trust. Odean Pope is wonderful at providing direction on a conceptual level, then trusting the other musicians to make music. Powerful lesson in leadership.

Thanks to Odean for bringing us back together!

May 13
I'm riding in a van on a highway between Dusseldorf and Moers, Germany and the radio station is playing Snoop Dog. I could be dreaming - it was a long flight from Philly to Frankfurt. But no, it's Snoop.

It's a grey day here which contributes to the dream-like state. This trip is a deja vous experience. I played the Moers Festival years ago with this group, the Odean Pope Trio.

Odean is a legendary saxophonist who has had a huge influence on me. Through working with him, I learned some important things about harmony and freedom of expression.

The trio is rounded out by Cornell Rochester, as dynamic a drummer as you will ever hear. Fluent in many styles, Cornell is a master improviser, who is amazing to watch.

The three of us are back at the "scene of the crime". It's no exaggeration to say this group caused quite a stir when it first took the stage at this avant-garde festival in 1981. It had a furious energy that excited a German audience that was probably used to seeing everything - the cerebral Anthony Braxton, the fiery pianoworks of Cecil Taylor and the inpenetrable man who started it all, Ornette Coleman.

Still, the Odean Pope Trio was something different, a free flowing funk without the funky cliches, a hot swinging affair that conjured Coltrane's sheets of sound, while not being boxed in by a relentless chord progression. Yet, here's the paradox, there was form.

I have to confess, I didn't really know what I was doing, at least not consciously. I could not have explained to someone, say another bass player how to play that music, the way you could explain to someone how to play a jazz standard, a fusion opus, a samba, or a funk groove. It was a sound that had a system, but one that was below our level of understanding.

Back to the present. Today is an off day. Tomorrow, we'll see how much we remember about this music. Certainly, we're prepared after 5 rehearsals; what I mean is I wonder if remember how to deconstruct and reconstruct Odean's material. By the way, he's written all new material for this reunion concert.

I learned so much from Odean Pope - about growing, experimenting, but most of all, about trusting yourself. It will be great to be back in the our old classroom, The Moers Jazz Festival.

 

FacebookRevrb Nation Twitter Wordpress Youtube

All rights reserved | Site design and hosting by Reading Eagle Company Internet Services.