Monday, June 28, 2010

Honkey Tonk Heroes

Seems to me that there is an inordinate number of great musical artists laboring in obscurity here in the Sacramento area. I imagine there are other clusters but this one is pretty damn amazing.
I'm not talking about up and coming rock bands, or the few rock bands to make it big out of here, like the Deftones or Tesla but more the older cats with many years of experience that are still playing like they mean it, with love and intensity. Anyone of these guys, coulda, woulda, shouda been famous, some have been there(I know at least three players in the area that played at Woodstock) but for various reasons it never happened. Sometimes it's a choice, sometimes it's bad luck, sometimes good luck( who can handle rock stardom?)

I think talent is a not a really rare commodity, it takes so much more to be successful. Scott Joss(Dwight Yokum, Merle Haggard), one of the ones who did achieve big time success told me that being a great player is the first step, maybe 5% of the total picture.

All you music lovers out there know this:Any night of the week you can go out to a bar and hear great music, not that much different than what you pay $100 for an OK seat to see. And you can get up close and personal and if you are an aspiring player, ask questions. I spent many a night for many years going out watching the areas best do there thing, it was a big part of my education.

I think from time to time I will profile some of these greats, just as a tip of the hat to these wonderful artists, who I gratefully consider friends.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Zydeco Weekend

Summer is Zydeco season and I spend a good part of it playing festivals, fairs, wineries, park concerts and more with Ron Bombardier and the Bayou Boys. For our kick off weekend we played three days: Friday night we played another in the Amador County Arts Council TGIF concert series at the 49er RV Park in Plymouth(I played the opening concert last week with Wingnut Adams). You got to love these gigs. People of all ages come out with their picnic dinners, just in the mode for some musical fun. Nothing is so inspiring as a good size crowd there for the music. It's so different than your standard bar gig.

First couple of gigs each year serve to shake the rust off, and Friday was no exception. I think the audience could'nt tell but our friends and family kept talking about us needing WD 40, so I did my Tin Man impression: Oil can! Oil Can!

Saturday morning at 7:15 I rolled out of town to make a 10:30 downbeat at the Red Bluff Crawdad Festival. I rendezvoused with RT, our drumbo du jur(subbing for Rat A Tat Pat) by the airport off ramp off I 5 to caravan. Lucky we did that because 30 miles south of our destination sure enough his van lost all it's power and cruised to a stop. After scratching our heads for a bit, we crammed enough drums for the gig into my HHR, RT was holding a floor tom on his lap and made to the gig with 30 minutes to spare.

This festival is called the Isleton Crawdad Festival in Exile. For years they did it in the little delta town of Isleton, but it got more and more out of hand. it had basically become a bike run and at the same time a party for east bay gangbangers. Moved to Red Bluff, it became a Louisiana food and music celebration and a wholesome good time.

We played our 2 sets, hung out with musician friends ate, drank and were merry. When we were done I took Rick back to his van to wait for the tow truck.

We had an option for free lodgings at the R Wild Horse Ranch, the sponsors of the festival. never one to turn down a free room I headed for the ranch, which lies about 35 miles east of Red Bluff. After wandering around the big ranch, I was shown to my cabin, or monks cell. It did have a sink and toilet and 5 beds. Very rustic. Later on some of the other musicians from the fest showed up, and sounds of music and voices filled the barbecue scented air.

I got up early and headed back to the grounds, we played from 1:30 till 3:00 with Pat, our regular drummer, this time on the main stage. Big fun!!!

All and all it was a great time, lots of good friends, good music , good food. A little taste of New Orleans right here in Norcal.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Searching for the Sound

I have read pretty much everything written about the Grateful Dead. It is a quintessential story of American ingenuity, but my favorite is the one written by a guy that can tell the story with authority, someone who was there every step of the way

Phil Lesh took the time to write his story himself, no"as told to" or ghost writing. What comes through is Phil's intelligence, humor and great good will. It is one of my favorite books on the 60's revolution San Francisco style along with Stephen Gaskin's "Haight Ashbury Flashbacks". For those of you too young to remember it is dripping with 60s flavor, you can just FEEL that this is the real deal.

Phil tells the story with great candor, not even sparing himself from the ugly details. He talks at length of the pitfalls of rockstardom Grateful Dead style and the combination of brilliance and disfunction that turned the Acid Test house band into one of the biggest brands in all entertainment.

Ultimately it is a love song for life, music, family and the musical brotherhood.

Long live Phil Lesh.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

And another..........

Another great gig, 2 back to back. I played at Constable Jack's with Mick Martin and the Blues Rockers last night. This version of the Rockers: Mick, Bruce Pressly, Russ Skarsten and Ted Stancliff. This was far from Mick's regular band, we had never all played together. In spite of that we had great chemistry right from beat one and a splendid time was had by all.

What made it so good once again was the ensemble concept of all the players. Everyone listened, blended and grooved. Lots of dynamics, lots of funk. What a joy to play with such great unselfish musicians!!!!!

It's all about ensemble playing, music is a team sport. You are only as good as you are at playing together. Some get that, some don't. These guys get it!!!!!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Another Great Gig

Hardly a week goes by for me without a musical peak experience or 3, isn't that what we are always going for? As the years go by it seems to happen more reliably, magic is almost taken for granted. That's the gig!!!!!!!!!

Last night was no exception. I was playing a gig for the Amador County Arts Council with The Wingnut Adams Band at this small outdoor amphitheater at the Kennedy Mine historical park in Jackson. These foothill arts council gigs always have the best vibe, people of all ages show up with their picnic dinners and an expectation of a musical good time.

The stage was in the process of being turned into a set for a production of Treasure Island. We didn't plan this but we all came out from backstage together from under what is going to be a pirate ship bridge and the people started clapping. What a great appreciative crowd they were for the next 2 hours. Wingnut thrives on a good crowd and he just had a ball. He is a true funkimeister, he certainly brings the funk out of the band(Wingnut, Paris Clayton on guitar, Barry Duncan on tenor sax and me). What he is about is groove, soul, hard work and good vibes.

Next week I will be playing the next show of the series with the Bayou Boys.

I love summer!!!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A Few More

Any bass player that played with Miles: Mike Henderson, Darryl Jones, Benny Rietveld(sp?)
Jimmy Garrison, Paul Samwell-Smith, Oscar Pettiford, Brian Wilson(for his playing and for the parts he wrote for the Wrecking Crew bassies), Bill Wyman, Bob Babbit, Tommy Cogbill, Lewis Steinberg, all the greats that played on the classic blues albums(have ask Johnny Knox who they are)

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

More Bass Heroes- Partial List

Bass influences: James Jamerson, Paul McCartney, Nathan East, Todd Johnson, Paul Chambers, Family Man Barret, Jackie Jackson, Jack Cassidy, Phil Lesh, Rocco Prestia, Bootsy Collins, Duck Dunn, Ray Brown, Ron Carter, Steve Swallow, Larry Graham, Marcus Miller, Noel Redding, Paul Jackson, Chuck Rainey, Jerry Jemmot, Will Lee, Pino Palladino, Sam Jones, Alphonso Johnson, George Porter Jr. Erik Kleven(RIP), Marty Holland, Dave Holland, Charlie Haden, Larry Taylor, Percy Heath, Willie Dixon, John Jones, Christian McBride, Rockette Morton, Robbie Shakespeare and yes Jaco. and 100 more

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Bass Heroes

When someone lists their bass heroes the list usually starts with Jaco, Victor Wooten, Stu Hamm, Billy Sheehan, Marcus Miller ect. People seem to focus on chops, flash and soloing.
Nothing wrong with any of that, but I am much more drawn to bass in service of the music and the song. My pantheon starts with James Jamerson, Paul McCartney, Nathan East and Phil Lesh.

I was lucky enough to hang out with Nathan East(thank you Bob Fogle) at a trade show for bassists called Bass Quake. We sat there listening to a whole line of world class bass virtuosos doing their solo thing, lots of slapping, tapping, looping, thumping. Nathan turned to me and said "I don't know how those guys get that shit out of their bedroom" I mean it was certainly impressive what these guys did with the instrument, but it struck me as musical junk food.
When Nathan's turn came, he set a laptop on a stool and said "this is the first million seller I recorded with Anita Baker" and proceeded to play his killer part along with the track. Ahh!! at long last some musical nutrition.

The bass players I love have great chops and harmonic knowledge but they also think like producers(many bass players end up producing). It's all about the end product, every part makes a contribution. Bass is such a big slice of the musical pie but it's the frame that everything hangs on. My bass heroes use their skills to furthur the songs and to facilitate the creation.

Having said that let me also say there is a time and place for everything, times for the bass player to step out front, be it for a bar or for a 15 minute feature. There is more than one way to skin a monkey, a lot of things work. I think the key is to put the MUSIC first, get in the pocket and listen. If you do that you will do no wrong.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

I love my job

I ain't rich, I ain't famous, but I consider myself a truly blessed person. I love my life and I love my work. Being a sideman totally suits me.

I started out as a guitar player, but I never made much progress. I had friends htat were gobbling up Hendrix tunes and such, but it just wasn't happening for me. I had a bass(Mosritre) an amp(Showman clone made from Air Force surplus parts) and a Webb cabinet and I got an opportunity to join a band as the bass player(more about this later) and it just worked for me.

Turns out it was the best move I ever made!!!!! Seems to me that the ego that drives people to be performers is something that just sabotages rhythm section playing so there is always a lack of good drummers and bass players. I was jamming at the old Torch Club with Johnny Knox and we were just having a hell of a time with the guy on the drums. Played too loud and too much. Johnny said "he needs too much attention to be a drummer." True words for sure.

I think the key to being a real sideman is putting the music and the SONG ahead of anything. Be a facilitator or an enabler if you will. I joke that I make a living by making guitar players feel good about themselves.This might not be the sexiest attitude but it makes for good music. Gotta have a foundation for the house, you gotta have a cake to put the icing on. Bass and drums is the carrier wave everything else rides on. if ain't in the section it won't be there. I can make a singer sound good but a singer can't make me sound good.

I've said before that I am not trying to be the "best"(iffy concept at best) I just want to be the busiest. Bottom line: I get to play with all the great guitar players around here not compete with them.

And as usual: In the words of Tony Dey, if you don't want the gig call me.