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Nov
18

Battling a Piano All Morning

That’s what I’ve been doing as I recorded all these supposedly easy ‘Inspirational Solo Piano’ pieces. But all it did was show how shot my technique is. It may not be hard to play a 4 note ostinato over and over, but it may be a REAL challenge to do it with the right balance and so that it doesn’t rush at all. Man there is so much to playing this instrument. Even in the simplest song there is so much control you need to exert over the piano, it’s humbling, sobering, frustrating. It can ruin your week, especially if you don’t have a lot of time to actually record and you’re under the gun. And as I write this, I’m out of time again and have to RUSH off to work. Having to hurry to finish up what you’re trying to do to run off to work is the ultimate buzz kill. Not to knock anyone at work, but nobody at work cares or really knows about what I’m trying to do in the hours I’m not at work. They don’t understand that you had to wait for your tracks to bounce down and upload or you had to take your roommate to the airport, or that you’re rushing home to work on music until the second you have to come back again the next day. I wouldn’t expect it any other way, that’s the way it is in life: you handle your business and don’t bring baggage into the work place if you can help it. You show up to work and do a good job at work and apply your mind there. I just wish the music WAS my full time work.

Nov
17

Up Early

I woke up dreaming about finding water. I’d crack open a bottle of water in my dream and drink it, only to find that I was still thirsty. When I woke up I had the driest mouth I’ve had since coming out of my surgery 11 years ago!

I Need to finish this blasted Dancehall track with headphones before heading off to work at 10 AM today. I was shooting for 2 Dancehall tracks, but it looks like I’m only going to be able to get one done.

My huge issue right now is that my car’s iPod connection is damaged, so I only get one channel in the car (the right side) off the iPod, so it’s pretty useless for testing mixes. I have to burn CDs to play in the car, and I hate chewing through CDrs like that, as well as wasting them!

Nov
17

A Monday of Music, More on Paul Smith

Today I worked on pieces for two different listings. At my house in Lomita, soul suckingly situated between a sheet metal shop and a Korean Barbershop, I worked on a Dancehall/reggaeton track. That may seem unusual for those who know me, but the ugly reality is that I probably have more experience tracking that kind of stuff than anything else because of all the hours I’ve logged in Mark Mohr’s studio doing Christafari cuts. I’ve been on every Christafari/Avionblackman/’Imisi/Solomon Jabby album since 2003, playing and creating reggae and dancehall. So now I got a crack at one all my own: a simple instrumental track between 1 and 3 minutes in length.

Then I took a trip over to my mom’s where my piano resides, and continued to pound out light new agey solo piano stuff for a listing that’s asking for ‘inspirational instrumentals’. I started writing some of this on Friday, then continued last night after church, and actually kind of came up with one while playing AT church last night during a time when I was playing background stuff.

These two worlds are obviously very different, and that makes it fun. Whenenver I’m over the inspirational piano stuff, I can go dig in to a bunch of heavy dancehall stuff and vice versa.

Then later on today I headed down to Huntington Beach for Tom Kubis’s big band. I asked him about Paul Smith and he knows him well, and worked with him for years in Steve Allen’s band. He had lots of amazing stories which I may recount later.

He also gave me a compliment on a fill I did before Benny came in with a sax solo. Freaking sweet!!!!

Nov
14

Paul Smith’s House

This Fall my employer Sandra Clay (owner of A-muse music) told Eitan and I that Paul Smith was playing a concert in November at his home and asked us if she’d like her to buy tickets for us all. Two months later I found myself seated in a room he clearly used for performance and practice, with probably 80 chairs setup facing two pianos on a makeshift bandstand. The crowd was mostly Palos Verdes silver tops, and at 28, I was the second youngest person in the house. Annette Smith announced the band, and brought them up one by one: Alex Smith, Paul’s grandson and a classmate of mine from High School on drums; the bass player who was older and who’s name escapes me, and finally Paul Smith, about 6’4″, who lumbered up to the smaller of the two pianos with a bandage on his head and pretty much instantly began the first tune.

Paul Smith at his home, November 13 2009

I immediately noticed that he didn’t dominate the instrument like he once did from a purely technical side, but all his musical instincts and abilities were still there. This was Ella Fitzgerald’s piano player for about 25 years. Reading more about him afterward, I found out that he was born in 1922, which makes him 87! In light of that, this man performed incredibly. He had a feathery touch wherever he wanted to. He played epic intros on lots of the songs, including 2 choruses of ‘Over the Rainbow’ brilliantly reharmonized, and he accompanied his daughter on a couple songs and he shined in what he chose to play behind her. Accompanying is after all how he put food on his table.

So it was a good night of music, despite the fact that his guest artists detracted from the main performance. Alex introduced me to him afterward, and I got to shake that huge mitt of his. Check out this video of him accompanying Ella. Go straight to minute 2:40 to hear him unload. 87 years young! And I was in his house drinking his punch.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wwEsq31wKcI&feature=PlayList&p=DFD38856EB7D13DA&playnext=1&playnext_from=PL&index=5]

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