Saturday, September 18, 2010

Reading sheet music

One of the biggest downfalls of the majority of guitar and bass guitar players is the inability to read sheet music. With the notation form known as tab (short for tablature) many songs can be learned quite easily. The one major downfall is , however, that rhythms are neigh impossible unless you know the song. Even with some of the more advanced tabs, the rhythms are still challenging to read and would make sight reading nearly not doable. This is one of the reasons why reading is important. Of course there are many famous rock/pop musicians who probably couldn't read one note of sheet music, yet are highly successful. However, why should you cripple your self musically? I suggest ,if your a player who can't read, to start reading today. Get a beginners book on bass with only bass clef, no matter how advanced you are. At first it will be hard, but then you'll eventually get used to it and be able to sight read, putting you one step ahead of the other guy!
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Thursday, September 2, 2010

Keep your ears open!

As a musician, you want to listen to and learn how to play/sing in as many different styles of music as you can. Even genres you may not like as much, because it expands your horizons and allows you to think in a different way then normally allowed. Its not even necessary per say to have to play that style, just listen to and study what's going on. This is especially imperative if you want to be a session musician (which is one of the few things I'd love to do for a living) because you never know what style of music you'll be playing that gig. For composers this is also great because it may give you new ideas to try out and fuse into your writing style. The best way to make sure you never copy another artist is by having extremely diversified influences! If you get only one thing from this article it is that to listen to as much music as you can and don't be so quick to change music you don't like so much, you may learn something great!
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Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Red Clay by Freddie Hubbard (album review)

By: Dan Lungaro

First off, when you see the members who were part of creating this album, you know you cant go wrong. Freddie Hubbard hitting those ridiculous high notes on trumpet, Joe Henderson sailing away on saxophone, Herbie Hancock grooving along on electronic keys (an organ in one song), Lenny White embellishing the tunes with some solid grooves and swinging playing, which is all held together by the extremely tight bass player Ron Carter (who ventured on electric bass for a few tracks, really help bringing the album into the fusion scene). The album was released in 1970, towards the beginning of the worlds of rock and jazz combining into what we know today as jazz fusion. Red clay is one of these such albums of the collision of jazz and rock, although heavily rooted in jazz more than anything else. The album starts with bombastic free opening of the now standard jazz tune, Red Clay. After the intro, it swings into a drum beat, which bass and keys comfortable fit into. The ascending melody perfectly compliments the rhythm section. It then goes into a very long solo section where nearly every member solos (Ron Carter’s solo is the only solo which is not on par with the players skills, but is by no means bad). It then ends with the head leading into a slow down to which the whole band solos on the home chord. This song is one of the mainstays for fusion, and was even sampled by the rap band A Tribe Called Quest. Delphia, the second tune on the album, switches between a bittersweet; solemn tune, into a cheerful blues quite grandly. This is the one song on the album that could’ve come close to being unoriginal, due to it having a tinge of blues, but the song is incredibly beautiful and fun at the same time. It is the one song where Herbie uses a rock organ, perhaps to head in a more rock sound. Joe Henderson also utilizes a flute in this song, which lends a nice timbre to the tune. Herbie takes a very funky and blues solo on this tune. The song ends with all the instruments coming in after Freddie plays a acapella trumpet motif. Suite Sioux starts with the rhythm section locking into a set of really fusion-esque chords to which the horn section seems to have a call and response to. It then goes into a very fast hard-bop style melody. The Horns and keys solo over this ABAB form. In this song, Lenny gets to show off his chops with a drum solo and shows off some fancy foot work with the bass drum, and he takes the rhythm section back by banging out the beginning rhythm on his ride cymbal. Ron Carters different choice of roots under the electric piano chords and fast walking bass lines bring him out as a really tight bass player on this song, Ron and Herbie jam out, while Lenny seriously messes with the beat of the song with his ride cymbal, this cool jam is unfortunately cut short by a fadeout in the song. The Intrepid Fox is possibly the most hard-bop song on the record, starting with a strong, loud, and boisterous dissonant intro riff, which is then lead into a bit of a drum interlude which leads into the rhythm section jamming out on the beginning chord. The rhythm section rests for a blazing riff played simultaneously by Freddie and Joe, into which a very Bop Form is played. The head is played in a AABA form in which a blues/medieval riff is played on the B section. The chorus in which the solos are performed are in a strange sequence of 6 measures per chord except the last chord which is 4. This leads into great respect for the musicians at hand, because they play expertly despite the curious situation. Horns and Keys get a very long solo section (this album may not have many songs, but each song is very long, which is good!) to which Lenny does some of his most lively drumming throughout the whole album, playing on the snare a lot and messing around with where one is. Although all the songs on the album are great, this along with Red Clay are my personal favorites. The final song is unfortunately my least favorite. It is a cover of John Lennon’s cold turkey, which admittedly I didn’t even know it was a cover until I looked up the facts of the album (I had a hard time believing Freddie Hubbard wrote it!) All though the song itself isn’t bad, its nowhere up to par of Freddie excellent composition skills, and in fact the song is the most interesting when the musicians improvise over it. In my personal opinion, this song should have never been placed as a closer, as every other song on the album is much stronger. This by no means, makes the song weak, its just worse in comparison to the rest of the album. Besides my one gripe with cold turkey, this is one of my all time favorite jazz records. The only other problem with it is production wise, as the horns are sometimes way louder then the rhythm section (particularly the bass in certain parts, they should’ve definitely turned Carter up). There is also a live version of Red Clay on the newer cd’s which is pretty good, and is nice to have a “alternate version” as they call it on the album. Red Clay is one of the pioneering records of jazz fusion and has some amazing compositions and musicality on it. It is definitely worth adding to your collection if you enjoy jazz or jazz fusion at all.