New album and upcoming gigs

Remember when I took the audio from all my YouTube videos and made an album? 

Well, I’ve taken the audio from all my YouTube videos since then and assembled another album, Solo Jazz Guitar. It’ll be available for free download on my website starting June 14. 

In order to license the songs for free download, I had to research who wrote them. One thing I was surprised to learn was that, during the Big Band era, music and lyrics were two separate jobs to be done by two different people. For example, 

“I’ll See You in My Dreams” 

(music: Isham Jones, lyrics: Gus Kahn) 

“How High the Moon” 

(music: Morgan Lewis, lyrics: Nancy Hamilton) 

“Polka Dots and Moonbeams” 

(music: Jimmy Van Heusen, lyrics: Johnny Burke) 

A few people did both (e.g. Hoagy Carmichael, Cole Porter), but, by and large, music and lyrics were considered two separate jobs. It wasn’t until the rock era that the idea of a solo songwriter (e.g. Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder) came into vogue. 

So, you can imagine my surprise to learn that pop songs today have as many as eight different composers! What gives? 

Take Bruno Mars’ Grammy-winning “That’s What I Like”, for example. Apparently, the recording Mars had done originally wasn’t deemed sufficiently funky. So, Mars brought in the Stereotypes – a production team consisting of four members – to lay down a different drum track. The new rhythm changed the overall feel of the song, so each of the Stereotypes was awarded a songwriting credit. A magnanimous gesture on the part of Mr. Mars, but one that gives a distorted view of the songwriting process. 

But let’s get the focus back where it belongs… on me. Once the new album is out, I’d like to promote it with some live gigs. When American Proust – my last “songwriting” album – was released in 2015, none of the venues in the area were willing to book me, and the album only sold about 20 copies. 

Turns out I had it all backwards… Instead of lining up gigs to coincide with the album release, I’m timing the album release to coincide with some gigs I have coming up: 

Fri. June 3, 6 – 8 pm: Duran’s Down Home Days, Waterford Community Fairgrounds (Waterford, Pa) 

Thurs. June 9, 6 – 8 pm: Riverside Brewing Company (Cambridge Springs, PA) 

Sat. June 11, 7 – 9 pm: Meadville Market House (Meadville, PA) 

Finally, I’d like to share a few things I’ve learned on my jazz guitar journey so far: 

1) Not every note needs to have a full chord behind it. If you watch my YouTube videos, there’s a lot of “rootless” chords (and some “chords” consist of only two notes: the root note and the melody), This is okay, because when you do play a full chord, it’ll ring out that much more. 

2) Don’t be afraid to alter the melody a little if it suits your purposes. It’s highly unlikely that Nat King Cole will ever hear your version of “Straighten Up and Fly Right”, so you needn’t worry about offending him. Besides, if the listener always knows what’s coming next, it ain’t jazz. 

3) The great Joe Pass once cautioned against putting everything in the “easy” keys of A, D, and G (to take advantage of the open strings), “or else you’ll put the audience to sleep”. But he didn’t say to never do it. 

4) Jazz guitar is hard! When learning a song, expect to play each bar hundreds of times (literally). Also, without constant practice, you’ll forget the songs as quickly as you learned them. My final piece of advice is, therefore: only learn songs that you love, because you’re going to be playing them a lot! 

As usual, thanks for your support. I used to think I got where I am by hard work. But it was actually hard work and encouragement. Thank you for the latter. 

Rock long and prosper, 


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