Journal

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.

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.

What Really Matters

handsIt’s been ages since I’ve written anything on my blog.  Rather than say that I’m going to try and do better, I’ll simply apologize for my silence.  I do hope to come here more often to share my thoughts on music and life when the inspiration hits me.  Today is one of those days.

It is around the time of my birthday.  It’s a day that I usually keep a secret because I don’t like a lot of fuss or attention.  Truthfully, I’d be content to be left to my own devices – hidden in the basement exploring music (or video games to blow off steam).  Maybe go to the movie theater to watch a good sci-fi or action flick.  A great meal is always nice.  It’s funny – I don’t mind being spoiled but I certainly won’t ask for it.  Everyday I try to give what I’d like to receive.  I always will.  When someone is special to you, you’ll make them feel special everyday, not just 2 or 3 days out of the year.  If someone wants to do something nice for me – cool.  If not, I know the things I like and have no problem giving to myself if I’m able.  I’m rambling but I bring up my birthday because the thought of getting a year older has brought me into an interesting head space.

I get up around 5:30AM every morning to practice.  I’m not a professional musician but I love music so much and want to play it well that I’m compelled to do it.  5:30AM is the only time I can work on being a better musician without feeling guilty about not spending time with family.  It’s also the best time to have an uninterrupted and focused practice session.  If time permits, I do more after work.  I have a 9-5 that pays my bills and keeps me engaged mentally but when it comes to feeding my spirit and making me feel good, nothing comes remotely close to how I feel in the rare opportunities I’m able to make music with and for others.

Last night a good friend of mine came by and we worked on two tunes for a couple of hours.  During that span of time everything was right with the world.  I mean everything felt – right.  I wasn’t concerned about work, the responsibility of being a husband or father, the health of myself and my family or my fiances.  I was in the moment and the moment felt wonderful.  As I frequently say in my meditation class, I was in my true state.  The euphoria of that short span of time remains in my body now and that was only two hours in a total of 24.  That means something.

I’m always concerned with what people think of my love of music.  I’m 40-50ish, not a pro and yet I spend a tremendous amount of time practicing music, listening to music, studying music and anything that relates to organized sound.  Vibrational communication is what I like to call it.  I  sometimes worry that people would rather see me submerged in a book related to career advancement or something that would lead me to improved finances.  That self imposed mental roadblock will frequently lead me to not take my musical study seriously or not enjoy it as much.  It makes me second guess why I drag myself out of bed at the crack of dawn to bang out scales, chords and rhythms in an effort to create something meaningful.

Music is what I love to do.  For some people that is more than enough reason to pursue a passion but for someone like me who truthfully is a bit low on self esteem, it can be crippling.

As I add another year to my life I’ve begun to realize what is truly important and I’m starting to feel OK about being me.  I know that sounds strange but I remember feeling that way when I was younger.  I was bold and empowered by the freedom of no longer being considered a child.  At some point however, I began to operate based on what others were doing and what I thought others wanted to see in me.  Again, all self imposed but powerfully present none the less.  That type of thinking will lead you down a path that is not your own and if you’re not careful you’ll look up and find yourself on a road that is extremely foreign.

I know a few people think I’m having a mid-life crisis here.  Perhaps, but I prefer the term mid-life awakening.

In a world of constant change, my love for music is probably one of the few consistent things that have been with me my entire life.  Consistency is something you can always grab for stability when everything else is reeling (for better or for worse).  That feeling I got last night playing music confirms it and solidifies it.

No, I’m not thinking of a career change.  I’ve got a family to support and my new bass guitar addiction requires me to stay employed.  I feel blessed for the job that I have and I plan to continue to do the work that I do.  That being said, if it feels right for this long – it probably is.  Full steam ahead.

Mindful Practice, Laurie Frink

Since starting to learn bass guitar I am approaching practice different than before.  A lot of the things I am doing now I should have done when I started playing trumpet.  I would even dare to say these things were suggested to me but I either stopped doing them or dismissed them.  Now that I?ve been working in this new manner for the past few weeks I see tremendous value in it.  As of late, I’ve been amazed at my retention and the quality I’m getting out of my practice sessions.

In the past I would just practice until my chops got tired.  I would play my exercises and work  until I started to feel that familiar burn at which point I would put the horn down.  One thing I never took into account was mental fatigue and focus.  With my new practice routine I play for a maximum of 15 minutes.  I set an egg timer and once it rings ? I put my axe down and wait 5 minutes before I continue.  The important thing is during those 15 minutes I am mindful of what my brain is doing.  If it is not totally and completely engaged in the exercise, time for a break.  A good example would be this:

Practicing major scales descending?.  focusing on tone?.  focusing on the notes and their relation to the chord?  I wonder if I can squeeze in 18 holes of golf Sunday morning?  *What are you doing Eric??  get your head back in the game*?.  Ok, Ok?  Good clear tone?.  When does the new season of Sons of Anarchy start again?

At that point I have completely disconnected from the exercise.  Even if my chops or fingers (when playing bass) feel good ? it?s time to stop.  I give myself another 5 minute break and then I jump back in.  If I were to continue to play while not focusing I would get muscle  benefit but not much else.  Tomorrow I would start in the exact same place that I started.  While a certain lack of concentration is OK for some exercises, most require you to think about technique, feel, tone, etc.  To not be mindful of all aspects of an exercise defeats the purpose.  A lot of times we grind on the same exercises or drills over and over again wondering why they haven?t been completely absorbed.  Sure ? we may be playing the exercise from a physical standpoint but are we 100% engaged?  I can speak for myself and say I was not until recently.

In meditation we call this being mindful – fully and completely engaged with what you’re doing.  I teach a meditation class on Saturdays but in all honesty I never really applied those principals to my music.  Since I have started approaching practice this way I am amazed at my retention and ability to improve.

Try practicing mindfully.  Try to really connect with what your mind/brain is doing during exercises.  If you find it drifting outside of the practice room ? time for a break.  When you come back and make sure that everything is fully engaged in the process ? mind, body and spirit.

Laurie Frink

The trumpet community recently lost one of their shining champions.  Laurie Frink was a teacher who helped so many players develop their command of the instrument.  Ingrid Jensen, Dave Douglas and countless others have all shared tales of how she helped them become one with their horn which opened the door to true expression.  I had the pleasure of studying with her and my current teacher Jon Crowley was a student of hers as well.  Facebook was flooded with stories and tributes to Laurie when she passed.  It was then that I really grasped how much she meant to so many people – not just me.

Curious about how many people she touched?  Do a Google image search for “Laurie Frink trumpet” – you will see a few pictures of Laurie but even more pictures of the countless players she has helped over the years.  She was and always will be a blessing to us all.

Rest in peace Laurie…

Remembering Laurie Frink, The ‘Trumpet Mother’ Of The Jazz Scene