November 8, 2011

Mariah Carey: Closet Jazz Singer? Pop singers go jazzy on us and do a damn good job!

Mariah sings beautiful on this very short duet with Tony Bennett. I also love the sections where she rounds out Tony's tone in the upper register when they sing together. Yes there is the R&B flavoring but so what. Good singing is good singing!


Mariah surprised me as well as a few other pop vocalists on Duets II album. The real standout on the album was Amy Winehouse's Body and Soul though. She was channeling Dinah and Billie on this. Given it was her very last recording, very poignant as well.

November 4, 2011

Listen to this not that...

In the spirit of the famous dietary advice with that tagline, I propose this installment for musicians
Listen to this...not that

Listen to this:


A Song for You
Donny Hathaway


NOT That:


A Song for You
Christina Aguilera with Herbie Hancock



Sorry Herbie not into it. You're a genius but this ain't happening for me.

Obviously Christina used Donny's version as the basis for her own interpretation but somewhere in the middle it just became overwrought and tiresome. IMHO Herbie's sophisticated dense jazz chords and jazz fills just sound colorless in this context. In terms of singing, for me generally, the current generation of soul based artists really need to take a lesson in restraint and taste in regards to R&B embellishment. Donny shows how to do it. Listen to it with headphones. It will go right through you.

October 30, 2011

The computer and book battle rages on

My old Dell laptop was pretty much on last legs by the end of August. With one available usb port and basically a non-working mousepad it was becoming impossible to work, not to mention a few close calls with crashes and reviving my computer from the dead putting my book project at risk. Having enough I got a new Mac Quickbook. (I hate the vista, windows 7 family of products). In order to continue my book work I basically needed to upgrade to Sibelius 7. I figured I'd start cooking pretty good after that. A bit of new mac user learning curve but a good one and trading in a lot of processing sludge for new speed.

Not quite. My battles over the problematic Sibelius 7 for Mac are now public knowledge (see Sibelius forums. You can actually find me easily at top of a search by googling on "unhappy with Sibelius and my name" ). A replacement CD set later, I'm still struggling with things but basically the very necessary things- being able to save my work seems to be solved by downgrading my sound set while writing and saving. I respect Sibelius in many ways and wouldn't go back to Finale but Sib7 is a work in progress unfortunately.

Other things are Mac related. I'm really discovering what a PC dominated world it is in terms of finding Mac equivalent software. Video upload and creation software like I used with my PC (despite Mac users extolling the virtues of equivalent products like Handbrake and some others) just don't work right. I use my wife's PC for that. For the most part you have to pay for stuff - that's the bottom line. Something I'm not used to with the frequent freebee and open source available for PCs.

I managed to figure out how to use my prized MS Word 2007 (that I created my book in) in Mac via programs called X11 and Wine Bottler. Sun Microsystems product, Open Office just makes a mess of my work when I import it- especially images and none of the equivalent out of the box font theme styles are available. Figuring out the Mac directory system is a job and a half but I've managed to bookmark my last saved locations so I don't have to think about it. X11 gives you a virtual MS view but file directory locations are a bit virtual as well - where "my desktop" is not really "my desktop".

Anyway... currently focusing on the bolded areas. Other areas of the book are continually augmented with new extra examples that occur to me (and old ones haves to be revised because of fig X.X numbering.) Another solo transcription is in the list as well

  • Chapter 8: The Essential Elements of Jimmy Raney's phrases

  • - II-V "go-to" licks
    - Inverted chord lines
    - auxilliary tones (PT, NT, and turns)
    - Exercises 8A-C (based on above 3 sections)
    - Major Chord concepts
    - Minor chord concepts
    - Dominant chord concepts

    - Exercises 8D-F (based on above 3 sections)
    (Status: 80-90% done. Needed: minor, dominant concepts sections, Exercises 8D-F



  • Chapter 12: Transcribed Solos

  • - Jim's Tune
    - Cross Your Heart
    - Isn't It Romantic
    - Motion
    - Signal
    - Just One of Those Things (Norvo)
    - No Male for Me
    - Pennies from Heaven
    - The Flag is Up
    - Stella By Starlight (3) ...Tokyo, w/ Phil Woods, Strings & Swings
    - Anthropology
    - The Song is You (Birdland '52)
    - Anthropology
    - Strike Up the Band


    Cheers

    Jon

    September 6, 2011

    Doug Raney on Jazz Guitar part 1

    I had originally scheduled this for Doug's Birthday, Aug 29th. Unfortunately limitations of video conversion via my new Mac computer made it - well impossible(via Imovie and Handbrake - they're crap IMO). So I reverted back to my limping PC and Windows Moviemaker and Any-Video-Converter (best free one around) and it came out fine as always. Anyway here it is! Enjoy. It's a European documentary from 1985 that Doug did when touring with Thorgeir Stubo

    Happy (belated) birthday Doug!



    You can also watch it on youtube here

    August 21, 2011

    New Jimmy Raney video

    As promised, a new video segment from Jimmy Raney/Cal Collins videotape on the tune, Autumn Leaves. Although Jimmy looks slightly uncomfortable in spots (shifting his seat, flexing his arm, etc) he's still one of the most fluid jazz guitarists who ever walked the planet. Tyrone and Bruce are getting a good groove here and Jimmy is just flying over the top

    Enjoy!





    Or click here to watch the video on youtube

    August 20, 2011

    Now on to the other (book) stuff..

    For those of you who know me, corresponded with me or read my blog or my forum, Dad's birthday this year was my projected target date for the release of Jimmy Raney's unfinished book. Alas it's still not done. It's painful to have to say that. Project management on self-produced work is a bitch. I can tell you it's getting close though and I've been putting in late nights to 2am after my day job and even teaching myself guitar. Sometimes, the reality is that the only time you can get work done is when you think you are going to run out of time.

    So at least 2 weeks ago, I knew I would never make it, given the project scope I set out. So I just decided to approach it as if I had 2 months more. What could I do? I actually took the time away from feverish mania to finish the book(without hope) to write this post ahead of time. One of the pitfalls Internet and blogging is getting an inflated sense of self-importance. Perhaps few will notice. But this post is really for those who do notice. And given this project's announcment years ago, it's frankly a source of embarrassment for me. The book is not a fiction. It's reality. 10 Chapters long and 94 solid MS Word pages(projected to be 13 with final conclusion) And (At least I think) phenomenal in its fundamental premise. The issue is that the original work by Dad is only about 10% and the rest is by me. And my part needs to be at his requisite level. I've had several years to contemplate what people would want out of a book by and about Jimmy. That alone is the issue and the problem. I am the son of Jimmy Raney. I cannot put out common crap. It would be insult to Dad. It is NOT another book of transcriptions although there would be quite a few within it. It has chapters devoted to the principles of his style in detail with exercises.

    Recently however, I have gained a realization that I was ignoring his primary audience, guitar players. Now in his "Scales?..." Youtube video, Jimmy states that "...he is a musician first and that being a guitar player is an accident". But this ignores the fact that guitar players are the ones that want to emulate him! So I started really examining his videos. Unfortunately there are very few videos and even fewer that show his picking hand clearly as well.This was in preparation to make a full tab and score chart with picking and fingering. I had to learn the neck of the guitar. But it's really catching a tiger by the tail and videos are not quite in sync if you slow them down. I now have an even greater appreciation for his art. He had PHENEMONAL technique and made it seem easy.

    "Blah, blah, blah. So where is it at man??"

    In the interest of full disclosure, let's just put the cards on the table. Instead of offering you new project dates let's take this approach. The original definition of "blog" was "weblog diary". Let me use this medium to tell you exactly what the book is, how much is there, and what needs to be finished "as it is happening". Below is the full outline plan. You should be able to see the progress as it happens on subsequen posts.

    • Introduction: He wrote one. Will use it (Status: finished, untyped)

    • My Introduction: Saving that for last once he whole thing (Status: not done)

    • Table of Contents: Saving that for last once he whole thing (Status: not done)

    • SECTION I:

    • Jimmy Raney's Improvised Line, Edited & Updated
      Background/History
      Concepts in Recording

    • Chapter 1: Consructing and Editing Jazz Lines
    • (Status: done)
    • Chapter 2: Refining/Enhancing Lines with Rhythmic Devices
    • (Status: done)
      The first 2 chapters are essentially Dad's original work with some section titling an organizing added and "Things to Think About" (referred to later as TTTA) to end them (aft
    • Chapter 3: Sequnce & Development of Line (Status: done except for TTTA)
      This is the first chapter that starts to integrate his original work with some of my adds.

    • Chapter 4: Intervallic and Direction Variety in Line
    • (Status: done except TTTA)
    • Chapter 5: Jimmy Raney's Polyrhythmic Devices in Recordings

    • -background/history
      -polyrhythmic scale patterns
      -polyrhythmic arpeggio patterns
      -polyrhythmic phrase patterns
      -polythythmic blues lick patterns
      (Status: Mostly done. Needed: 4 needed music examples with accompanying verbiage, TTTA other small adds always possible but not crucial)

      This is the first complete addition on my part. His original section on "Wrong and Right" changes was unfinished and therefore omitted. His other parts with exercises and sample solos will be integrated into later sections near end.

    • Chapter 6: Jimmy Raney's Displacement Concepts in Recordings

    • -harmonic dislocation
      -add/subtract concepts
      -free/unresolved displacement
      (Status: done. needs TTTA)

    • Chapter 7: Jimmy Raney's Advanced Asymmetry and Polymetrics in Recordings

    • -concepts in practice
      -Parker's influence
      -more advanced exmaples
      (Statis: done. needs TTTA)
      I'm particularly proud of this one showing a crucial link between Parker and Jimmy

    • SECTION II:

    • the Jimmy Raney Workbook:
      Primer and Practice Tips on the Elements of Jimmy Raney's Language

      This was sort of my "rebirth section" after writer's block hit from 2009-2010

    • Chapter 8: The Essential Elements of Jimmy Raney's phrases

    • - II-V "go-to" licks
      - Inverted chord lines
      - auxilliary tones (PT, NT, and turns)
      - Exercises 8A-C (based on above 3 sections)
      - Major Chord concepts
      - Minor chord concepts
      - Dominant chord concepts
      - Exercises 8D-F (based on above 3 sections)
      (Status: 80-90% done. Needed: minor, dominant concepts sections, Exercises 8D-F

      I stopped here and skipped to later chapters to prevent writer's block again. Pretty clear what I want to do. Some creative work is necessary though

    • Chapter 9: Compositional, Development and Phrasing Concepts

    • - diminution
      - set-up phrases
      - asymmetrical joins
      - Exercises 9A-C
      - sequence linked expansion
      - thematic contrasts & repetition
      - the undercurrent of "three"
      - Exercises 9D-F
      - question and answer
      - "drawing the harmony"
      - weakbeat emphasis
      - Exercises 9G-I
      (Status: ~85% done. Needed: weakbeat emphasis incomplete. Exs 9D-F, 9G-I

    • Chapter 10: The Raney Approach - Creating a Complete solo

    • - Ex 10-1 "Lady is a Tramp" Raney style solo
      - Ex 10-2 "Star Eyes" Raney "influenced" contemporary solo
      - Jimmy Raney's original book solos

      (Status: -90% done. Needed: transcribe Jimmy's orig. solos to music writer software

    • Chapter 11: Technical Stuff

    • - Transcribed solo(s?) with tabs, fingering, picking (where available)
      - Jimmy's original technical exercises

      (Status: `30-40% done(?). Needed: finish solo transcription #1, other vid solos ?(2,3?). Transcribe Jimmy's exercises to software. basic verbiage

    • Chapter 12: Transcribed Solos

    • - Jim's Tune
      - Cross Your Heart
      - Isn't It Romantic
      - Motion
      - Signal
      - Just One of Those Things (Norvo)
      - No Male for Me
      - Pennies from Heaven
      - The Flag is Up
      - Stella By Starlight (3) ...Tokyo, w/ Phil Woods, Strings & Swings
      - Anthropology
      - The Song is You (Birdland '52)
      - Anthropology

      95-98% done. I have other snippets of solos for book that I could turn into full transcriptions. probably will start offering online for donations though.

    • Final Thoughts
      (Status: 0%. concepts open)

      Beyond this.

      There are really important production issues that are uncharted waters for me.

      E-Book vs. printed copy. Both? One or other? not even dealt with yet
      Very complicated and some of has to do with time and money. Cd Baby's "Book Baby" program is an interesting option. Ironically the more sophisticated product might be the easiest and most secure way to produce. But regardless I will probably have to create (re-create) normalize for e-book:
      t-ext files,
      -music snippet graphics
      -music sound samples

      Then decide what is the best way to secure and produce print only copy. Separate production? Or have users click print on their e-book?

      Security. copyright issues (including my rights to use certain music?)

      Editorial review. I will be entrusting close friends to review work. This is standard for any book review process when you were previously the only editor. I'm hoping for the best here :)

      And maybe a slightly crucial point - WTF do I charge?

      As compensation for all of you dedicated followers begging me for the book and leaving empty handed, I am contemplating the following. I will probably offer teasers of some sort on certain chapters in the coming month (depending on progress). The likely offering will be e-book link style which would be an added enhancement of music samples. But if I outsource production I may let loose simple pdfs of partial chapters. TBD

      As an ongoing process, I will be offering transcriptions and later asking for donations to the Jimmy Raney via Paypal. The main hub will be Jimmyraney.com. It's in beta stage, but there are 2 solos there already (they are referenced above as well)

      So I hope his sits well with everyone. This weekend I will be adding a new Jimmy Raney video from Cal Collins gig that has never been seen.

      Cheers

      Jon

    August 19, 2011

    Happy Birthday Jimmy Raney and ... other stuff

    Today, August 20th is Jimmy Raney's birthday. Dad would've been 84. Let us celebrate the legacy of his genius once again by listening as much as possible to this underappreciated genius - and anyone else for that matter - deserving of attention that the general listening public doesn't seem to give enough to. Maybe even WBGO will play a cut or two, who knows (hopefully before Brian Delp's 3am slot)...

    Yesterday, I took a stoll through the park with my dog, BJ while tuned in to the local jazz station WKCR (89.9 FM) listening to serial music without knowing who or what it was. And I thought, wow, is that some experimental jazz or something? It was just wonderful. I had no preconceptions or expectations. I had the sense it was pushing the limits yet I could still follow it. The goal was to not be grounded to the prior tonality while still being musical. Why don't all experimental jazzers follow this approach? Why must they unrelentingly bury their hands in tons of notes with their fists? Does pushing the limits mean this intolerable density? The sparse #9 and other dark chords. Then I listened more and realized it not improvised and that it must be Anton Webern (Although half a me expected to hear it was some cutting edge jazz artist that escaped my attention).

    My thoughts then turned to Dad. I recalled the record collection he left behind. In addition to all the original scratched jazz classics, Parker, Konitz, Getz and his own records as a leader and a sideman, he also had a great classical collection with Webern, Bartok, Bach, Ravel, Mozart and Beethoven with some of the finest performers like Robert Casadesus, János Starker, Walter Gieseking, Frederic Goulda and the Julliard Quartet just to name a few. I thought about his own Bartokian Suite for Guitar Quintet. I also recalled the months I spent with him in 1985 in Louisville. He rarely listened to jazz. He mostly listened to classical, in particular Beethoven. And he had a book of scores that he would look at while listening. He had a retiring life style but he was still tuned in to things that mattered. We often discussed music during that time. And one of the topics was the universality of Beethoven's music. How it didn't seem confined to the period of music it was in. It didn't seem like when we listened to Beethoven we were listening to the "past" or a "style" (i.e. classical period composers, as defined by Haydn, C.P.E. Bach, Clementi et al).

    I then thought about how this universality relates to Dad's legacy, thinking about my recent viewing of the video from 1987 with Cal Collins. They were playing on "Billie's Bounce" tranposed (by Cal Collins request) to the key of G. Dad had the first solo. There was some blues phrases and stylings. But it was through his unique prism and them there was these chromatic phrases, the harmonic sidesteps and his general staunch commitment to pushing the harmonic and rhytbmic limits of the style. Starting a phrase on the "and" of two when you think it should be the "and" of four, or his characteristic polyrhythms and long lines. I recalled recent board conversations I had where I had to defend my father's style. Some dumbass posters had the audacity to condemn Jimmy's approach as not being bluesy enough or having bad time or put other players at or above his level. Dad didn't play clichés. If you wanted your requisite blues licks you needed to listen to someone else. He didn't see the need to play blues licks that everyone else was playing or do idiomatic tricks to satisfy the musical Nazis that required certain ideas as "required" to be playing the song. The dumb thing is that people view the omission of these ideas as inability to hear or play such things. C'mon. Get real. Nothing could be easier than to imitate common ideas at Jimmy's technical level. Dad used the forms of the music as a vehicle to define it in his own way. This is the mark of any great artist. They create a system around themselves and make it seem like "that" is the way to play. And makes anybody else near them question their own fundamental understanding of what it is to play on the tune they're playing (at least if they were honest with themselves). He heard himself over the vehicle. Many good 'ol boy artists do what's required or what will get a "yeah" out of those easily pleased. The "yeahs" he would get were of a different order. He used the commonality with existing players to keep with the listeners but he built his own system. There are many good players out there. But Jimmy was something of a completely different order. And I fear that very few people understand the vast difference between him and other guitarists deemed to sound similar to him. I run into the same type of arguments about Bill Evans. People just don't get when they are listening to a poet. They get the surface but not the substance.

    and now on to the other stuff...