Sunday, February 27, 2005

Wind, Steel, and 1200 Girlscouts

Hello,

I am really starting to like this Sunday evening blogging ritual. I would like to blog a little more often, but I will take what I can get in these very busy times. This week I had 2 shows, one with the UM-Flint Wind Symphony and one with Gratitude. The Wind Symph. played on Wednesday in the theater at school. It was a good show. After 2 years of playing together, the group is really starting to listen and bring the music to the next level. There are still some holes in the boat, but at least now we stay afloat. The percussion section had a very cool part in a piece called 'Incantation and Dance' by Chance. I was on the claves. I like being a part of a big musical monster, but it still does not give me that same feeling as small ensemble playing, where the performer is as much a part of the music as the notes they play. In a small ensemble, elements like improvising, grooving, and communicating with the other musicians are all right on the surface ready for the taking. Those elements are much harder to find in a symphony. Speaking of a smaller ensemble, on Saturday I played with the Gratitude Steel Band at at mall in Taylor Michigan. The gig was from Midnight-3 a.m.! It was called the 'Mall'ticultural Girl Scout Gala, or something like that. Let me try to sum it up....1200 girlscouts, 200 very tired, highly caffeinated mothers, tons of candy, soda, and an inflatible obstical coarse. I am so glad I remembered my earplugs!

Thanks for reading,

John

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Video, Mom, Inspiration

On Tuesday I shot a promotional video for the Gratitude Steel Band. The studio was called the Church, it was somewhere near Livonia. It was and actual church redone into a very cool studio. I have never seen so much nice equipment. We recorded a couple of tracks for audio only, then they played back the tape and rolled the cameras as we went crazy on stage. After that, we did some interviews and that was it. It was a lot of fun. Friday I was at Cafe Felix again with Deep Blue. My Mom was in town for a convention, so she got to come by and check out a set. It is always great to play for my biggest fan :) Then, to top off the weekend my wife Jody and I got to go see the Jack Dejonette Latin Project at Hill Auditorium in Ann Arbor. Giovanni Hidalgo was on the congas. Wow. It was inspiring to see such good musicians having a great time on stage. I can't wait to get behind the kit again.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Long one

Hello,
On Tuesday I played the longest gig of my life. Steel band again. We started off at the MGM Grand in Detroit, playing from 5-9. It was an easy start for me, they had an in house drumset. It sounded nice, I think it was an Evans set. The drum throne was hard as a rock though. The band was sounding good. The sound guy didn't show up until the second set, so we started the night off playing acoustic, which is so great when you are in a steel band. When it comes down to it, it is a band full of drummers, so it can really be powerful in an acoustic setting. Anyway, we got sound eventually, and added some vocals to the mix, which really gets the party started. At nine it was time to pack up and head 2000 feet down the road to the Greektown Casino where we set up in the VIP entrance lobby where we were to play for all the high rollers as they came to gamble. That gig was from 10-2 a.m. The lobby was all tile and marble, so we had to play very softly. It was challenging, but we were able to pull it together and find a nice groove. We got a lot of compliments too. When one oclock rolled around, one of the casino managers came by to tell us that they want all bands to stop at 1. It was nice to have a bit of an early end to such a long night. I packed up, and headed back to Linden to get as much sleep as possible before my 8 a.m. class the next morning. I made it, but it sure made for a long week.

thanks for reading,

-John

Sunday, February 06, 2005

A Good Week

Hello,

It is Superbowl Sunday today!! What an event. I heard earlier this week that somthing like 80 million people watch the superbowl. Talk about pressure to perform. Anyway, I had a good week. It started off with a great hand drum workshop. I have been hosting these workshops every week for two years, and each week has been a unique experience. Lately we have been working on composing an original piece using Indian Sokatu, which is basically a way to vocalize rhythm and turn it into a language. (Ta Ka Di Mi Thom - Thom - , etc.) It is so wonderful when everyone really gets into it. I am hoping to have the piece completed in time to perform it at an upcoming larger scale workshop I am doing in March. It is called "A Vision of East Meets West, a Western Approach to Indian Classical Music". The purpose is to introduce people to Indian Classical music by showcasing the various styles, ideas, and ediquitte behind an Indian Classical performance. Also, I want to show the possibilities of mixing Indian and Western musical ideas, hence the hand drum piece.
Speaking of fusing the two styles....on Tuesday I met with Chris Leers and Meeta Banerjee about a collaboration with the Ann Arbor Pops Orchestera in April. We talked about orchestrating an Indian Rag for Tabla, Sitar, and a 75 peice orchestra! I am so excited about this. I am not sure of the details, it is still in the early stages, but I will definitely keep you posted. All I know right now is that it is in early April, and it is at the Michigan Theater.
On Friday I played at Cafe Felix again with Deep Blue. Having a regular gig at a place is such a wonderful thing for a musician. After the first month or so, all the little details about loading equipment, parking, setting up, etc. become ironed out and it allows you to focus more on the music. I try every time I play there to get something new out of it. This last time we played it was packed, and we got applause after almost every peice. People were also coming up with requests, which means they are interested. I guess that matters, although it really shouldn't. There is something about the confirmation that someone is listening that helps me to dig a little deeper and focus on making each song a unique and pleasant experience. Now that I think of it, when the place is empty, I like to experiment with different feels, wilder drum solos, and different interactions with Scott and Paul. I guess that is a different kind of digging in. Exploration.
Saturday was packed with lessons, 9:30-5:30 with just one 1/2 hour break. I love it though. I feel very fortunate to have the students I have. The day is also broken up by different kinds of lessons. Drumset, frame drum, tabla, guitar, concert snare, bells, and even a music theory lesson. I love it. On my way home I remembered hearing that the Jazz band from school was getting together at my friend Ben's house to rehearse for an upcoming show, so I decided to stop by and check it out. I sat down with my Djembe and played with them as they ran their peices. Once that was over we were all trading instruments and playing away for hours. When I got home I was tired, but very satisfied.

Thanks for reading,

John

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