365 Day Music Journey: Week 4
Another great week of music, both in my listening adventures and live! I had a solid week of music work playing a lot of different roles and styles. It's always fun to see where music will take me week to week, and this week kept me working!
To quickly list what I did:
- recorded more songs for the upcoming DidyMo release
- performed with a jazz trio at the Chemical Bank ArtPrize event dinner
- accompanied Hannah Rose Graves at ArtPrize
- played the first of my ArtPrize Public Piano concert series sessions
- helped run parts/rehearse music at the AHS Chamber Choir retreat
- performed at an indie venue with MOTH, Those Willows, and Kyle Indigo
So much fun! And as varied as the music was for me this week, my listening once again gravitated mainly towards jazz, but not without it's deviations! There's a rockabilly band, a metal fusion act, and some soulful funk to add to the list. Hope you enjoy!
Dead Man Walking by Jesse Ray and the Carolina Catfish
Earlier this month, I was happy to join Hannah Rose and The GravesTones to support Jesse Ray and the Carolina Catfish at their September 3rd show at the Tip Top Deluxe near downtown Grand Rapids. There was a good sized crowd for the cozy venue, all energetic and eagerly awaiting the Jesse Ray’s performance of new music at their album release show. Their album, “Dead Man Walking,” is a testament to their sound and live presence, giving 200% of themselves with each guitar strum and hit of the drum.
It’s always nice to experience a West Michigan staple band like the Carolina Catfish firsthand by meeting them through the show. I like to see artists in their element before hearing the rehearsed, polished product that usually comes out of an album. However, with this group, it’s clear that they leave a level of transparency to the listener when it comes to showcasing their recorded sound vs. their live sound. Each track on their new album hits hard with rockabilly swagger, digging deep into their roots and baring their souls for the world to see. Each tune tells a story that can connect with us all, talking of life and the many struggles that come with it.
I would definitely recommend listening to them if you want another cool act to add to your list of local bands. Their album captures their live sound while boosting some elements I felt that certain songs lacked on the live stage (mainly that low end the bass guitar provides, which Rick Johnson provides in addition to keys on the album). However, Jesse Ray and Josh Worsham have proven they can captivate an audience simply by playing real, unfiltered music that resonates with the hard working, Michigan attitude we all know.
Two (Live) by Chick Corea and Bela Fleck
This album is bananas, like seriously. Two giants in music collaborating on a live performance with such variety, virtuosity, and artistry that blows away any doubts that the music would be limited in any capacity with just a piano and banjo duo.
Touching on Spanish, French, South American, and certain European styles, the concert attendees were treated to a great program! Such command of different styles in addition to full confidence in their sound and creativity, these two artists deserve a place in music history. Winding solo passages, dense harmonies, a range of extended techniques on both instruments (ex. Harmonics, muting piano strings, etc), and a spirited conversation between each performer gives me such delight as a listener. It’s not holding back, it’s true expression and joy rather than going through the motions, it’s taking risks with the audience on the edge of their seats!
I really enjoyed listening to this album, because it confirms two things about these masters that helps fuel my fire as a musician: they never stop learning, the delight in approaching things in a different way, and they make sure to ground the concert experience in the simple joys that come with playing music. There is always time after the fact to analyze parts, transcribe solos, and take in harmonic construction of each piece, but for a first time listen, take in the masterful playing of two titans of music history. They work so well together, effortlessly flowing through music with true abandon. It's so great to listen to them, and it gives me hope that when I am aged that I can have the same spirited and joyful approach to music that these virtuoso musicians have.
Stretch Music by Christian Scott
The New Orleans born horn player makes a statement as bold as his fashion and his unique variations on the trumpet. Right away, the music takes you into a different realm, one that elements of classical instrumentation with extended techniques (placing items for a buzz on the piano strings), digital drumming instrumentation, and a hip hop groove can coexist. It grabs you as a listener immediately, never letting go until the last note has faded.
This release is just phenomenal, and shows just how much genre breaking the jazz world is trying to do with how artists can create music. The harmonies are there, the tradition of improvised soloing is very present (with plenty of guest artists), but the tone is fresh and modern, unyielding in just what instrumentation can be used to create unique music templates. Echoing guitars and Rhodes, a blend of acoustic and digital sounds, and powerful, focused tone that blends perfectly with each statement. Musicians like Christian Scott stay true to their craft, thriving in success without losing sense of their creative direction. There are hints of Latin America, blues, rock, post rock, minimalism, and ambient electronic music all combined easily within the malleable medium of jazz. The more artists like Scott take advantage of this style’s flexibility, the greater impact jazz will continue to have on American culture.
Also, for $10, you get the "Stretch Music App," which gives you the ability to control the mix levels of the recorded band so you can rehearse with this group and practice soloing/melodies. It also has charts for every single part! Seriously changing the game right there.
Your Drunken Soundtrack by Max Ox
So me being the dumb person I am sometimes, I did not do two things regarding this group:
1. Make the connection that Jacob Mann is the same guy who does the “One Minute Jazz” series videos on Youtube
2. Listen to this awesome release in full!
I had sampled a track from this album, really dug it, and meant to come back to it. For whatever reason, even with my fellow musician friends around me singing this album’s praises, it took me a good while to around to listening to the full album. I don’t know what brought about the time delay, but I am glad to have listened to this release in full.
Right away this group sounds great, blending some great harmonies, grooving hard to some funky beats, and showing that they have a great deal of fun putting the music together with their song structure and choice of instrument sounds (especially the synth, which is amazing throughout). It’s like of a video game synth led a funky/hip hop jazz trio, with plenty of surprises placed in each track. Honestly, I am going to let this release speak for itself, if you love groups like Thundercat, you’ll really be into this release!
Maz by Maz
This debut release is the side-project from singer/songwriter Mike “Maz” Maher, who is an accomplished trumpeter for the Grammy winning band Snarky Puppy. Combining his roots as a singer with adesire to create soulful, catchy music, this project was born, funded through Kickstarter, and includes a variety of great collaborating artists, including many great musicians who have collaborated in/with Snarky Puppy and can be seen elsewhere as members of the current Late Show house band with Jon Batiste (like Louis Cato is for example).
It’s a great blend of funky grooves, smooth lyrics and melodies, and solid musicianship all around. So much tasteful songwriting also likens the album to the music of Stevie Wonder, blending different instrument sounds, grabbing your ears with catchy hooks and beats, and showcasing musicians through great solo moments! I’m glad I finally heard this side project, because it shows that musicians can and should explore a variety styles and different projects when results as good as this can come to fruition. If you need a groove to get you going on your work commute or something to celebrate a great weekend, this is what you need to groove to during your day!
Novallo II by Novallo
In September of 2012, this group came onto the metal scene with a unique offering: an album that playfully blended video game sounding synths, elements of pop and jazz, with crushing metal breakdowns and weaving guitar lines to carve out their distinct sound. It doesn’t hold back in technical aspects but forgoes the assumption that mindless shredding will equate to metal album sales. It has a sense of direction, with each track sculpted to reflect the group’s desire to stand out from the herd and have fun combining their differing musical influences.
This album allows for the metalhead to have headbang material as much as it does for the modern rock/metal songwriting artist to have reference material for how to pull off combining genre elements without sounding hokey. The syncopated riffs mirror many metal acts out there (ex. Periphery, Tesseract, etc) but add in elements of funk that sit comfortably in a groove pocket. There is a plethora of instrument sounds, from beefy guitar tones to spacey synth leads, delivering a tasty, bite-sized album of musical treats to sample. Like one commenter on the site noted, it was “So worth the wait.” Three years of internet silence have rewarded fans with the next phase in this group’s sound and a strong addition to their catalog.
Tinks by Peter Schlamb
A last year, I had the great privilege of performing a house show with the Hermon Mehari Quartet, a group that contained Hermon Mehari (trumpet), Peter Schlamb (vibes), Karl McComas-Reichl (bass), and John Kizilarmut (drums). This group was way too good, showcasing a variety of great jazz talent with a direction that is grounded in tradition but challenging the genre through inventive songwriting. One tune from the concert, “Stacy Hill” off of Peter Schlamb’s release, was performed and definitely stuck in my head. It was a catchy tune with an infectious groove and some great harmonies that laid a solid foundation for solos. Clearly, these guys were on another level, and I learned a bunch by watching them perform and interact on stage that night back in March of 2014.
Peter Schlamb is one of the few vibraphone players I know on the scene, which is surprising because you think any instrument close enough to a piano would capture my attention. Studying with the likes of Stefon Harris (fellow vibes player), Aaron Parks, Nasheet Waits, Ben Street, and Aaron Goldberg whilst attending New School University in NYC, Peter Schlamb carved out a name for himself in the east coast jazz scene. He has performed with fantastic artists like Mike Moreno, David Binney, and Logan Richardson to name a few. It’s moments like last year where you appreciate working so hard as a musician to develop your sound and collaborate with others, because who knew such a rock star lineup of musicians would literally play in my quartet leader’s living room one muggy winter evening. You’ll definitely want to check out this album, it’s got some great tunes, some cool instrument features (vibes and distorted Rhodes), and a great lineup of players.