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Thank You John Coltrane

“May we never forget that in the sunshine of our lives, through the storm and after the rain – it is all with God – in all ways and forever.”
~ John Coltrane (Love Supreme liner notes)

After my last post, I’ve remained in sort of a musical and spiritual funk.  Good days for sure but often my primary mood was more than a little somber.  I have the ability to put on a “happy face” and go about my business but only close family and friends knew the space I was really in.  I prefer it that way as it keeps me from talking about it (except for here which is like therapy for me).  The good news is I feel things changing and as usual, music comes through and creates a positive shift.

Chasing Trane is a documentary about legendary musician John William Coltrane.  The movie speaks of Coltrane’s life, music and how he aspired to use his art to change the world for the better.  While for me it did not offer any new information it did provide excellent insight from many of his peers and people he inspired.  His own words and thoughts are narrated by Denzel Washington and it features comments from Benny Golson, McCoy Tyner, Wayne Shorter, Ravi Coltrane, Dr. Cornel West, Bill Clinton and many others.  There are also many photos and video footage I had never seen before.

More than anything, Coltrane’s story with his body of work as a soundtrack reminded me of why I love all music but jazz specifically.  I appreciate all genres of music but there is something about the instrumental nature of jazz and it’s creative nature that speaks to me very deeply.  I know I’ve said this before (as have many others) but music expresses what is inexpressible.  It speaks directly to that moan writhing inside your soul.  If you listen in the right space and you are open to it, – music can heal.  When I listen to Coltrane’s music it moves me deeply and consistently.  It doesn’t matter what space I’m in.

Since watching the documentary I have been listening to his music almost exclusively.  Thank you John Coltrane for providing that shift.  I read that he wanted his art to provide healing for people.  I can say without a shadow of a doubt that he did that for me.

PBS is streaming Chasing Trane from it’s web site.  I highly recommend that you check it out when you have the time.  This link is good until 11/21/2017 but you should also be able to buy/stream the video on Amazon.

Chasing Trane

 

When You Can’t Hear the Music

When I felt bad in the past I could always, ALWAYS find peace, solitude, love, affirmation — you name it, in music.  Music filled in what was missing.  It was my therapist when the world around me was swirling with change or surrounded by dark clouds.  A simple melody would whisper in my ear that everything is going to be alright, just hang in there.  You’re good.  We (music) got you.

Lately I don’t hear those whispers in music and it frightens me.

As mentioned in my previous post I’ve taken a social media break.  It has been good – no, it’s been great.  Great for getting my head out of my phone and in touch with now, being present, spending time with my family.  I read that when you stare at your phone while in a room full of friends/family, you’re telling them that the people on the phone are more important than they are.  I never thought about that but I don’t want to send that message to my wife or kids.  Studies show that some people actually become depressed when taking breaks from social media.  They were more in touch with how they were actually feeling rather than ignoring / drowning out those thoughts with pictures, videos, likes, emojis and other distractions.  Perhaps that is what I’m dealing with?  Perhaps depression was always there but drowned out by sound?

I haven’t been as motivated to practice.  That is highly unusual for me.  Normally I would literally count the seconds till I could pick up my instrument and explore a sound, melody, technique or just try and create something.  Lately I pick up my bass and while I go through the motions of practicing, the joy just plain isn’t there.  Yes, that frightens me.

It frightens me because I’ve always considered music my 6th sense.  Not because I am great at it but because it is as important to me as sight, hearing (obviously related), touch, taste, and smell.   I love listening to music and I love playing it.  It feels funny to be lost, know what’s missing and yet, can’t get back to it — even though it’s right there in front of you.  Admittedly I have not been getting a lot of rest.  Most days I am up by 4:30AM (or earlier) and usually begin my day just a few short hours afterwards.  Perhaps I’m just tired?  I hope so…

This past weekend brought a glimmer of hope.  I had friends over and we played tunes.  I originally wasn’t as charged up as I normally was.  I only practiced to ensure I would be able to support them and make the music good.  When we started playing, laughing and joking, I felt that joy for the first time in what feels like ages.  It felt wonderful.  I felt good.  I don’t have that same joy now but I am hopeful it is a sign that it hasn’t left me.  It’s still there.  Perhaps it is being quiet so I can deal with something – something that might be keeping me from taking that next big musical step?

Right now however, I’m not thinking about big musical steps.  I just want to hear and feel the music again like I used to.

 

 

Extended Social Media Vacation / Chris Potter is a Monster

I’ve been addicted to social media.

Granted, I don’t think I’m as bad as most but for me a break was required.  The amount of time I spent on Facebook or Instagram mindlessly scrolling through posts or pictures was too high.  This was time that I could spent reading, doing some focused music listening, practicing or more importantly being present with my family.

I have an addictive personality.  I know I can’t simply spend less time on social media.  If you have that ability, you are my hero.  I can’t.  I need to go cold turkey to break the habit.  Once I feel ready, I’ll tip toe back into it and try to develop a more healthy relationship.  Before that happens I need to develop new healthy habits (for me) and then use Facebook / Instagram as the fantastic marketing tool that it is.  Yes, it’s a great way to stay in touch with family and friends but at it’s core – it’s a marketing tool.

I’m on day 5 of the break.  I’ve found that I don’t spend as much time on my phone as I used to which is great – especially when I’m supposed to be spending time with my family, listening to what they are saying or watching a movie together.  I have been guilty of being distracted too many times so it is a huge change and enough of a benefit to keep it going.  Still not sure how long.

If anyone is curious about some of the articles that talk about social media and their effects on our lives – please hit me and I’ll send you some links.  You can also just hit YouTube and perform a few searches.  The info is out there for all.  Thanks to Damian Coccio for sending me really informative stuff.

A great byproduct of this break is I plan to spend more time on this site.  More writing, more posting videos and more development to make it better.  One of the first things I’ve done is setup a subscription option.  You can subscribe to receive updates via the subscription box on the right.  I welcome you to sign up and I thank you in advance.  This also puts a bit more pressure on me to post more regularly.  🙂

Chris Potter is a Monster

I’m a big fan of musician Bob Reynolds and his YouTube Vlog.  One of my favorite posts was a recording of one of his gigs with tenor sax giant Chris Potter.  Bob plays with Snarky Puppy and on one particular gig, Chris Potter agreed to sit in on a tune.  What happened on that stage was truly magical and in my opinion the perfect example of a player who has mastered his instrument and can respond to the sounds heard around him.

Watching this on YouTube gave me goosebumps.  The really cool thing was yesterday morning I had this video playing on TV.  My oldest son Henry walked into the room after waking up and watched the entire performance in silence.  His head moved up and down in response to the rhythm and pulse.  Normally he is a chatter box (like most 5 year old kids) but in this moment he was mesmerized.

So sounds like I need to either practice a lot more or find out if Chris would be interested in baby sitting my kids.  Music is powerful stuff.

Miles Davis – Summertime Transcription

I don’t have a HUGE amount of time to practice right now but when I do I’m trying to hit things that keep me engaged but I also keep it enjoyable.  Music is still a major refuge for me.  Practice has become the therapist who listens to my cares/concerns and tells me everything is going to be OK.  I usually believe her.

Lately I’ve been using small snippets of time to learn solos on bass.  Mile Davis Summertime solo is hands down one of my all time favorites.  Miles using space over a lush Gil Evans arrangement is absolute heaven.  I spent a few minutes to get one chorus down but will probably make time for more.

Trial by Light – Damian Coccio

Trialbylight-smallA well written song can transport you to another place and time.  Every melody, note, space and phrase can take you on a voyage into the past, present or future.  It can become a vacation and escape to be enjoyed and absorbed.  Upon several listenings, Damian Coccio‘s newest recording Trial by Light has provided this and much more.

The bass guitar is a relatively young instrument compared to others.  The first mass produced model was created by Leo Fender in the 1950s which places it at the tender age of about 60+ years.  It is a mere child when compared to it’s big brother the double bass (which dates back to at least the 1500s).  While normally viewed as a supportive instrument it is being pushed to the foreground as a solo instrument by artists like Michael Manring, Steve Lawson and others.  Damian’s Trial by Light is a great example of the evolution of the bass guitar and how very versatile it can be.

While some solo recordings can easily shift into a hey look at how fast I can play affair, Trial by Light makes song writing and aural colors the star.  Each song paints a unique picture by stimulating the ear with singable and memorable melodies.  They create a sense of adventure and mystery without becoming abstract.  “What the Storm Brought” begins the journey with a beautifully chorded introduction accented with harmonics and leads into a mellow groove.  The title track “Trial by Light” shows the ability of the bass to play both the role of support via deep bottom notes and lead with lush ringing chords.  On “Fire Interlude” Damian switches to fretless bass and takes full advantage of it’s beautiful singing characteristics to deliver a hauntingly beautiful melody.  These are just a few examples but each song will truly transport you to another place and time.  The music will actually tell a unique story with each listen.  Damian has an amazing command on the instrument and the tones he coaxes from each (fretted and fretless) are nothing short of beautiful.

If you’re looking for new music to inspire and transport you from where ever you are, Trial by Light will deliver.  It is a great musical start to 2016.  I can’t recommend it enough.

To find out more about Damian visit his web site electrifiedbass.net.  To purchase music visit the links below:

CD Baby
iTunes
BandCamp

Damian also has a host of videos on his Youtube channel that will give you a taste of his music.  Below is one of my personal favorites – “Dawn” from the Waves of Spring release.

Blue Bossa Transcription

Bassist and educator Todd Johnson (my bass teacher) has a great series of videos where he plays through standard tunes. He provides a bass line, solo and even chords to comp. I’ve decided to use this to improve my ear and transcribe lines. The cool thing is it includes a video and written music. I never check the written music until after I finished to compare notes. I also usually only use the audio to figure out what is going on.

Below are my attempts at learning two choruses of his solos on Blue Bossa.

The last video was also my first attempt at using Garageband to record audio and iMovie to handle video. The result is a much better sounding file. I’ll provide recording details later but I may be using this much more in the future.

Darlin, Darlin Baby (O’Jays)

For a few months now I’ve gotten together with a couple of cats to jam. We don’t have any gigs lined up – we’re just trying to improve as musicians and we love music. I have to say I’m liking how things are shaping up even though there is still much work to do. Here is a video of the tune “Darlin, Darlin Baby” by the O’Jays.

Darlin Darlin Baby (O'Jays) from Eric Brewington on Vimeo.

One thing bass guitar has reconnected me with is my love for all types of music. I will admit to being a bit of a jazz snob when I played trumpet exclusively. The bass has kept me in touch with my first love (jazz) while allowing me to further explore Motown, R&B, classic rock and other wonderful genres of music. I believe it is making me a better overall musician. John Coltrane cut his teeth playing in rhythm and blues bands and I’ve read stories of him “honking” while walking on the bar to get the crowd pumped up. I’m not comparing what I do to Coltrane by any stretch but I do see value in playing everything you can.

Hymnology Vol. 1 – The Kash Wright Trio

hymnologyMy first serious connection to music started in the church.  At the age of 5, I was singing in choirs and exposed to the sound of piano delivering rich, spirit inspired melodies.  I don’t believe I’m alone in the regard.  Many vocalists have a similar upbringing and it is immediately apparent when they open their mouths to sing. In his autobiography, Miles Davis spoke of his life in Arkansas and the soulful church music that resonated along the country roads when he visited his grandfather. Miles said those sounds shaped who he became as an artist and sent him on his journey to play music.

No one would ever dispute the direct connection that exists between R&B, jazz and gospel music.  Hymnology Vol. 1 by the Kash Wright Trio embraces this marriage of genres brilliantly.  In gospel music and jazz, the offerings that I appreciate most are those that honor the roots from which the music was born.  From the first tune to the last, Hymnology Vol. 1 provides that and so much more.

The trio includes Kash Wright on piano, Mike Montgomery on bass and Bobby Beall on drums. Hymnology Vol. 1 is their third recording as a group and it shows by how well they play together.  Each member honors the importance of individuality while using their strengths to create a singular swinging unit.  At the risks of making assumptions, it sounds like these guys really enjoy creating music together.

Kash Wright wrote fantastic arrangements of tunes one would regularly hear in church and the trio executes his vision wonderfully.  The beautiful introduction on “There’s A Sweet, Sweet Spirit” yields way to a light bouncing swing that sets the tone for the entire album.  Bobby Beall’s solo drum work on “How Great Thou Art” could have lasted another 10 minutes.  His feel on the kit is expressive and the projected vibe of the trio is pure joy.  The band raises the energy to another level with “Jesus Loves Me, This I Know” which starts out with a playful rendition of melody before diving headfirst into swinging rhythm changes (Mike Montgomery provides a tasty solo here and his playing throughout is impeccable).  Kash’s roots of playing in church become evident when listening to his intro on “What a Fellowship, What a Joy Devine” and is brought home by excellent solos by Mike and Bobby.  “Sing the Wondrous Love of Jesus, When We All Get to Heaven” serves as the perfect benediction.  The transition from burning swing to slow groove works really well.

I could easily go on but some things are best enjoyed for yourself.  I’m already looking forward to Vol. 2, but there is so much good music to digest in this recording.  Use the links below to listen to the samples available on Amazon, CD Baby and iTunes.  Highly recommended to anyone who loves jazz, gospel or is just a fan of good music.  Let the church say Amen and pass the collection plate.

Available on:
iTunes
Amazon
CD Baby

Find out more about the Kash Wright Trio here:
http://www.prakashwright.com/kash-wright-trio