The sad story of Kenny Werner’s new album

Jazz Times reports the news that preceded Kenny Werner’s latest album.

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John Coltrane’s Birthday

Today, John Coltrane (b. 1926) would have been 94 years old. To celebrate, WKCR is playing 24 hours of Mr. Coltrane. Awesome!

By the way, today is also the birthday of Ray Charles (b. 1930).

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Art Pepper’s Birthday

Today (Sept 1) is the birth date of Art Pepper. Yesterday, I was listening to the album Art Pepper Meets the Rhythm Section, one of my favorite albums (mainly because of the playing by Red Garland). I always kind of felt that his playing was a bit under-appreciated, especially on some of his later albums (i.e., post-heroin addiction).

Here’s an excerpt from the film Art Pepper: Notes from the a Jazz Survivor. Unfortunately (and maybe this is why some of his later albums get less attention than they maybe deserve), he seems to be more remembered for his addiction than his music, something he focuses on a lot (too much?) in this movie and his book. Then again, that sells (at least better than albums).

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The Steel Guitar Black Box by Sarno Music Solutions

Way back in 2008, I listened to a podcast from Contrabass Conversations featuring Steve Rodby talking about gear issues faced by double bassists playing with amplification.  One of the things he discussed at length was the problems with impedance faced by bassists. The problem (nicely summarized here) is that many piezo pickups and amplifiers have low (or lower) impedance inputs/outputs. For a bassist, low impedance results in a very thin tone that cannot be effectively corrected using an EQ. Further, if you use any effects (e.g., tuner, volume pedal) the input/output on those effects can further reduce/change the impedance. As a result, even if you have a high impedance pickup, the signal can be influenced by virtually anything in the signal path between your instrument and your amplifier.

Shortly after I heard this podcast, I spoke to a friend about this problem. He suggested I check out the Steel Guitar Black Box by Sarno Music Solutions. The unit is a tube impedance matcher that allows you to vary the impedance using a simply control. The result is a solution to the tone problem created by low impedance. Speaking non-technically, which is all I know, the box allows you to raise the impedance of your instrument as it comes into the amplifier. The result is a thick, rich tone that captures all the subtleties of your playing. I’ve been very impressed with this device. I’ve had particular success with it at rockabilly gigs where I typically have to play at higher volumes and therefore face feedback problems. The box allows me to not have to totally gut my tone in order to eliminate feedback. Rather, I can use my EQ to reduce the offending frequencies and then compensate with the black box to get my tone back.

The unit costs $310USD (plus an additional $10 for shipping) but it totally worth it if you are playing with piezo-based pickups.

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iPhone App review: Just Practice!

I recently switched to the iPhone. While I’m not 100% sure about it yet, I have been trying various apps, particularly one’s related to music.

One of the things I have been looking for is something to help me track my progress and practice routines. This search was in part motivated by this post on suggested items to have in your practice space. It’s also motivated by a desire to keep a better practice journal (something advocated by Esperanza Spalding and others; Sonny Rollins supposedly has 26 volumes of practice journals).

The app I’ve been using is called “Just Practice!” and, so far, I’m happy with it. (Here’s the developer’s blog with information on upcoming features.) It lets you plan your practice time with specific goals and pieces, tracking the time you spend on each and allowing you to insert notes to help you track your progress. It also has a built in metronome. It’s not perfect: I wish it allowed you to edit your goals once you enter them and had a timer to let you know when you’ve reached your intended practice time, but so far it has been working for me. One nice feature of the app is that it allows you to edit and add sessions manually (in case you forget to start the app, as I am prone to do). It also has a feature allowing you to download your practice log, but I’ve yet to get this working (suggestions welcomed).

As a final tip, since the iPhone currently does not allow for simultaneous programs to be running, you may want to put your phone in airplane mode to avoid interruptions (i.e., calls) that will stop the app. This will also give you some uninterrupted practice time away form Facebook alerts, text messages and the rest.

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Nels Cline on the Jazz Session (with Jason Crane)

The most recent episode of Jason Crane’s The Jazz Session podcast features Nels Cline. I’m a big fan of the Nels Cline Singers and found the interview to be insightful regarding the creative process of Nels. Great interview.

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Move to WordPress

So I have moved my blog to WordPress in an attempt to stay on it. I recently got an iPhone and have been using it for more than I imagined. The WordPress app should help me stay on things and keep this blog useful for some people. (At least as useful as a blog can be.) Stay tuned: I have several gear reviews to write plus some amusing gig stories from the past couple of months. Also I will be attending Karr Kamp in July, studying with Gary Karr. Big changes on the way (I hope).

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