The Bleu Note

Happy birthday, Julius Caesar  

I don't know if any famous--or infamous--jazz musicians were born on this day, but back on the 7th we had Joe Zawinul, Hank Mobley and Doc Severinsen, For some damn reason, I can sometimes remember dates, and sort of correlate them with other bits of similarly useless information. For instance, April 29 is the birthdate of Duke Ellington and Toots Theilemans. I have a feeling that someday that's all I'll be able to remember…

Back here in Samland, I'm making do. My digital camera, which I use for my YouTube videos, is on the fritz. It starts to record, and then shuts off by itself after a couple minutes. So I'm able to get clips of everything as opposed to the full track. It's a Canon Powershot, which I've replaced once already. Just gotta get up off some money and get myself a new one. 

My sunburst Epiphone ES-335 is also she's-a- no-work. The metal washer on the jack came loose. Very fixable, but I have to go all the way out to Parkway Pointe to get it repaired. Meanwhile, I've been making do with my sunburst Epiphone Coupe. It's smaller, but packs a good punch with its P-90 pickups. 

In other music news, it looks like we're back in season for jam sessions. They've all been evening hours, which doesn't work so well for me.  But our host for these sessions has retired from his daygig, so he'll now be able to accommodate day hours. So we now have a Tuesday matinee and a Thursday evening. Hopefully this will all work out..

There's a new person taking care of the Arts Council these days. The one who had it for all these years has done a great job--the only difference I would have is to allow people to play both the Artist-on-the-Square gigs and Boone's. You couldn't do both in a year, so I always opted for Boone's. But I'd love to get back in doing the Artist-on-the-Square things. An exhausting hour of solo guitar, but there were always folks around to listen. And quite often it was someone I hadn't seen in years. 

I'm still getting in my daily calisthenics as far as the guitar. Still recording things, but it's getting to be a pain due to the camera always shutting down. Time, like I said, to get off my duff and get something that's going to work. 

I sometimes check the traffic in here, and people do check in. I don't know if they read the blog, but most likely. So here's what I've been up to. Thanks as ever for stopping in and reading. Much love. More later. 

 

 

Picking Stuff 

Greetings, whoever-reads-this! I have a few folks who check in here at Sam.com. And I figure a few of them are guitar players. So here's some Shop Talk. 

This has been my favorite pick for some years now. I used to be able to get them at a local music store, but times change. Everything in the town I live in is moving westward, up to and including music stores. 

I found them on Sweetwater.com. All set. Sweetwater will send you a million follow-up emails after that, but I'm sure I'll use their services again down the road. I like these because they're not much to hold onto, and the orange color is easy to find on a barroom floor. Or any kind of floor, for that matter. 

As far as what kind of picking style you may use, there's no one way to do it. I started out by anchoring my right hand with my pinky, a habit that was broken with two guitar lessons at SIU Edwardsville with a guy named Rick Haydon. This was back in 1986. As I remember, it took about a year to feel right, but I did “liberate” my picking hand. 

So I hold the pick between thumb and index finger, and curl my other fingers up into a ball. I try and angle the pick about 20 degrees to the right, so that the point of the pick catches all the strings. And I tend to play in a downward diagonal line. 

One other thing I could advise, that I work on myself, is keeping the hands loose and relaxed. Seems like the faster the tempo the more relaxed you need to be.

Anyway, that's my two cents on picking. It's not a perfect system, but it's the one that seems to work for me and the hands I've got. As far as showing you, I guess I could add in a video here. These are almost all taken from my practice sessions--the ones that work, at any rate!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4TTRsIhNCPk   And last but not least, here is my usual beverage of choice. It's the only one of these vitamin water drinks that doesn't taste like ass. If you see me playing someplace, or have seen me, you've likely seen the orange pick and the red “healthdrink”. 

So much for my trademarks. Getting ready to strap on the guitar and do some practicing. I do a couple rounds of  calisthenics and then just play. As far as the calisthenics, maybe I could get into that on another blog. 

Thanks as ever for stopping in and reading. Hope it was useful information. Much love. More later. 

 

 

Well it's about damn time  

Greetings, whoever-reads-this! Yes, it's about damn time I wrote something in here. I think the last post I did was back on the 10th. My bad, as it were…

Music news. After a very productive couple of years with the home recordings, things have tapered off. I thought this would be a zero year--I do have them on occasion--, but as it turns out, I still have an album's worth of soundz. Some stuff I always meant to put on a recording of some kind, but just never quite got around to. It needs a title and a cover page, but otherwise we're off to the races. I'm hoping to get the tunes up on the site here, under My Wares. Coming soon!

I'm not a naturally disciplined person, but I have been putting in time every day on guitar calisthenics. Scales and arpeggios and patterns, all up and down the neck--and all with nasty Mr. Metronome keeping my ass in line. The whole thing, repeated three times, and with progressively quicker metronome settings, takes about half an hour. The rest of my time is spent playing tunes. 

Forgetting all that shit, and just playing, as Charlie Parker might've put it. 

Running this stuff every day, you sometimes feel like you're getting nowhere with it. But then you're in a playing situation, and you reach for something you're thinking--and it's there! Your fingers have covered it, thanks to all the scale drudgery. 

Drudgery can be a good thing. I highly recommend it as far as building your muscle memory. 

In other music news, I'm still keeping  the YouTube page current, with a post every couple days. My digital camera is acting up, and turns itself off when I'm trying to record. The good news is that the shorter music clips probably make for better listening. But it is another damn problem to fix..

This has been a bigger year for domestic and family stuff, but I'm still keeping my hand in there as far as music- live music, that is. They're few and far between at the moment--family stuff and my own “old guy” stuff-- but I still leave the house on occasion to play gigs. The last one was back in February, at Farmer's Market; and the next one is November 1st, at Boone's. Buddy Rogers and Ben Taylor will be joining me. 

Well that's my news for now. At least the stuff fit to print. Thanks as ever for stopping in and wading through it. Much love! More later. 

 

 

 

Cat Ballou  

It is truly a beautiful day in the neighborhood. A great day for running errands, especially dreaded ones. 

My dreaded errand today was taking my two cats to the Vet. They both had ear issues, which is partly ear-mites and partly just an accumulation of gunk in there. And there are some eardrops which I'm supposed to administer every 3 days for the next 2 weeks. 

Cats are very low-maintenance pets, except for those trips to the Vet. It's traumatic for them, so they make sure it's a pain in the ass for you as well, meowing all the way there and all the way back. And then there's the matter of administering whatever medication the Vet orders up. Dmitri, my tomcat, literally fought me tooth and nail. I got the drops in on my second attempt, after licking my wounds from the first try. 

On Wednesday I get to give the eardrops to both cats. Hopefully they'll have forgotten by then. I got some helpful hints, and even an offer to hold my cats while I put in the drops. The best time seems to be when they're sleeping. Otherwise, you have to get them calmed down as much as possible, and just do it as quickly as you can. 

Music news. Over the last couple years, I've turned out a lot of stuff. Mostly downloads but a few bona fide CDs in there. COVID was partly responsible, but I think I just hit a vein. It's tapered off over the last year of so, but I find myself kinda working on a new recording project. Some stuff I never got around to sharing which seems sharable. This one is a combination of fusion and weird electronic music, with a bit of neoclassicism thrown in at the end. 

More to come as it happens. 

As far as the guitar, I'm still on it. At least I'm still getting in the more-or-less daily calisthenics. Scales and arpeggios, and sometimes a Clarinet etude or two. Clarinet music has the same written range as guitar music. Otherwise, of course, it's apples and oranges. Some things fall right under the fingers and others involve a major expedition up or down the neck. 

And part of my practicing involves working with playalong recordings. I got in the habit of taping them, which is pretty much the main content of my YouTube page. I do have some guitar/bass duos on there, and a few gig tapes, but most of the content is just the old man in the undershirt playing his guitar. 

So as far as these attempts  I pick the ones with the best feel. People seem to like the stuff. Still getting new subscribers here and there. Up to 494 at the moment.. Another milestone coming up. I don't make any money from the page, but it's just nice to be able to share your playing with whoever is listening out there. 

Well that's all the news I can think of for the moment. Thanks as ever for stopping in and reading. Much love. More later. 

 

 

 

 

 

Guitar Stuff  

What a day I've had! Started off first thing in the morning- around 9- taking my meds. Something in this process gave me a sore throat.  Then the power went out. It was a popping sound, meaning that the transformer is out. It happens a couple times a year, and lasts about an hour at most. This one was more like half an hour. 

 Then a text on my phone from Xfinity telling me telling me the internet and TV service are on the fritz. So when the power did come back on, it took a couple tries to get the internet back up to snuff. I much prefer a morning where everything works, and in which I can ease into my day. But time and several cups of coffee finally turned things right-side-up. 

Music news. I've been getting some new subscribers for the YouTube page. About 20 or so new people in the last week or so.. For me, that's a lot! And some of these folks leave me comments or questions. This is encouraged. I enjoy the communication, and it's cool when I can help somebody with some aspect of their playing. 

For instance, I had someone ask what scale I used for a particular tune. I wrote back that I just used your basic major and minor scales, but approached it more from the standpoint of melody. In other words, inventing my own melodies, which are usually pretty simple, and building on them. 

Actually, I'm more inclined to mix simple declarative musical statements with longer lines, just like you would in your everyday speech. What the old-timers would call telling a story. Using dramatic contrasts. Using space--something I always to well to remember, being more notey by nature. 

There is no one approach to improvising. Pat Martino had a more virtuosic approach to playing, like you'd hear from some of the 19th century piano masters like Chopin or particularly Liszt. His mojo was in those long, convoluted lines and their distinctive shapes.

 On the other hand, Jim Hall, also a great guitarist, had a more purely melodic approach. He didn't have licks, or lines as such, but rather would improvise from the melody of the tune. He also did a lot more chording. His comping, when working with horn players or piano players, is nothing short of amazing. 

I listen to a lot of players, but I think I'd have to say these two are my absolute favorites- and in very different ways! What I try to do as a guitarist is to combine these two approaches- or at least alternate between them in the most musical way I can. Kind of a “best of both worlds” approach..

One player I think has achieved this kind of synthesis is pianist Michel Petrucciani. Oscar Peterson and Bill Evans rolled up into one. Anyway, this is my two cents for the moment. Thanks as ever for stopping in and reading this drivel. Much love. More later. 

 

Finally, another blog  

This used to be a daily thing, writing these blogs. It went with the morning coffee. Somehow I got away from it. The coffee is still there, but blogging has been replaced by an array of computer games: Wordle, then Spelling Bee, and finally Lumosity. 

Wordle is a Facebook thing.  There is a group of us folks who post our daily scores . It's all very sportsmanlike, with none of that one-upsmanship that sometimes rears its ugly head. Back in the days of daygig, I introduced Sudoku to the natives. There was one guy who'd always monogram his games, and leave it in the breakroom for all to see. Oy gevalt. I never got around to telling him I gave everybody different puzzles. 

Music news. This is a time of stuff breaking down. I have a digital camera that's starting to go haywire. It's what I use to make my YouTube videos. When I try to make a video, it shuts down before I'm done. It's a Canon Powershot. Very replaceable, but maybe time to move on. 

The silver lining in this cloud is that shorter videos will probably appeal more to listeners by virtue of the fact that they're now more compact, and don't tie up as much of the listener's time. We'll have to see how that plays out. 

And one of my guitars is now in need of repair. It's an Epiphone ES-335, sunburst. The one I play most these days. Every so often, the jack gets messed up and the bolt and washer have to be reattached. 

 And while I'm there, I have an Ibanez classical electric that needs to be re-strung. It's been sitting around here for years and years. I used to record with it and even play a few gigs. Pretty sure the guitar tech who's fixing my Epiphone ES will be able to re-string a nylon string guitar. 

Looking forward to adding that guitar back to my array of soundz , and maybe even making a couple music videos with it. Not a great picture, but it's all I've got for now. 

A better pic of the ES. Got one in red as well, and even an Epiphone Coupe. I don't have an extensive collection by any means, just a few I've accumulated along the way. I also have a Tele, and a few more ES style guitars, as well as a solidbody or two. Again, they just add up over the years. 

So here, finally, is a new blog. Thanks as always for stopping in and reading. Not much for reading matter, but a few pics of guitars. And something to listen to. I have no idea what that'll be, but something nice. Much love, whoever-reads-this. More later. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Da News  

Greetings, whoever-reads-this! It's a beautiful day here in Samland. Some new stuff on the site, besides this blog, is a new tune from my YouTube page and a gig. The tune is Have You Met Miss Jones

Fun fact: Have You Met Miss Jones was written at a time when Richard Rodgers was studying music theory. John Coltrane was also studying with the same teacher. It explains the bridge. Coltrane rubbed off on him. No other Rodgers & Hart tune that I know of--or for that matter, Rodgers & Hammerstein--has a  bridge that  moves around like that. 

The gig I posted isn't until November, but it'll get here. Another Boone's gig. Myself, Ben Taylor and Buddy Rogers will make up the band. I know we'll have fun. 

One thing about having been retired for awhile is that you settle into your own hours, your own bodyclock. Mine seems to be around the middle of the day. Before COVID, I had a number of gigs at one or two in the afternoon. These were your Nursing Home/Assisted Living affairs, which rarely went past two hours. 

These fit perfectly into the scheme of things. Home in time to watch Jeopardy--which was on at 4:30 back then--and have dinner. Of course, the rest of your band has to be retired as well, to make these hours. 

Still playing in, to some extent. We've had some nice sessions, something that was put on hold for awhile, and which our host is now trying to revive. Tough getting everybody there at the same time--just about every musician on the planet has dealt with the horrors of scheduling! -- but it'll eventually come together.  These will also be fun, once they get going. 

I  seem to be “broadcasting” more and more from here in the Music Lab, from either the YouTube page or this here website. I guess that just goes with advancing geezerhood. Having to find  different ways  to do your thing. So the Base of Operations is right here. But I still leave the house on occasion. That door never completely closes..

Back to this day. I figure it will either be a Spartacus Day--conquering an overgrown backyard and alleyway-- or a guitar day- maybe both. Thanks as ever for stopping in and reading. Much love. More later.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Buddha Blues  

Greetings ,whoever-reads-this.

 It's a nice sunny day in the neighborhood. One of my cats is lounging here on the table, between my keyboard and monitor. Dmitri, my tomcat, is the feline visitor. He likes to spread out, make himself at home. His sister Svetlana also plants herself up here. 

I give them free rein for the very reason that it interrupts--and occasionally disrupts--whatever I'm doing. Finding that with advancing age, life provides more of  these interruptions and disruptions as a matter of course, so it's important to be able to roll with the punches. It's the one you don't see that usually takes you out. 

Music news. A couple of us were supposed to have a get-together tonight and make some music. Being a fairly introverted so-and-so, I'm relieved that I don't have to leave the house, but disappointed that the session didn't happen. Our host had had a finger operated on, and was feeling some discomfort/numbness in his other fingers on the hand. 

He has told me that every time life dumps enough manure in his direction, he starts to contemplate putting together a blues band.. Funny and poignant at the same time. Having had a few setbacks of my own this year, I'm starting to think in that direction myself. 

My brother and I were discussing this, and I made the statement--half-joking but maybe a little bit serious, that the blues is just built into life, as expressed in Buddha's First Noble Truth. (I'm not a Buddhist, or, for that matter, anything else. It was just fun to quote.)

It's commonly stated as All Life is Suffering, but I think that's too simplistic. Better. all life has a certain unsatisfactoriness  to it. Not getting what you want. Getting what you don't want. Even when you get what you want, you're going to lose it eventually. Everything dies. 

Sounds like  fodder for a whole slew of blues songs. Or Country songs, for that matter. Both born from adversity. Similarly cathartic. 

Anyway! Hopefully, we'll all get together next week for a night of music-making and merriment. Strangely enough, after all this talk of adversity, the act of making music is a joyous one- regardless of the actual mood of the music. Miles Davis was quoted as saying, “It's the most fun you can have with your clothes on. ”

And that's what I've got for you for the moment. Thanks as ever for stopping in and wading through all this verbiage. Much love. Bye for now. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oy....   

Greetings, whoever-reads-this! It's been a hell of a day. The news is more domestic, but I'll try to work in some music news at the end. 

This year seems to be a matter of fixing all the stuff I could have but didn't fix last year. 

Last year I got a hole in my roof the size of a basketball. I had some people put up a metal roof, which took care of things until the metal slats started to come loose from the house. So I had to hire another crew this year, who did it right--i.e. removing the existing layers of shingle. Not cheap, but at least I have a roof that's relatively impervious to rain and wind. A roof that will probably outlast me.

Last year my Dentist informed me that some bridgework of mine had to come out. We left it on the back burner , and then it came up today, during a cleaning. I've had a jack o' lantern smile for the past year or so, from a front tooth that came out some time ago(another dental dilemma), so an upper partial would at least give me my smile back. I've felt like a hobo with that missing tooth. Trying to see the positive in what's going to be an adjustment..

And the trifecta in all this is getting a new automobile. I've got an old clunker of a van which  should've been put out to pasture years ago. Past a certain age, it's harder- even impossible- to get parts for your wheels. This will probably be the easiest fix- just a trip out to a car lot like I've always done. And like these other two items, it's something that needs doing. Like sooner rather than later. 

The vicissitudes of life Again trying to stay positive, I've got one out of the three taken care of. And the other two will follow suit. Along with a few bucks..

Music news. There is a jam session on Thursday of this week, with some assorted friends.  It was also supposed to happen tonight, but I figured I wouldn't be much fun, considering the day I had. But considering the day I just had, I'm looking forward to it even more. 

I'm hoping to get back into my makeshift home studio and see what kind of trouble I can get into there. I just need life to settle down for awhile. For now, still on it with the daily practice and the YouTube page. And I've got a few things that I've never put on recordings that I maybe should have. So the wheels are turning..

And that's my news for now. Hope it's more musical and less domestic next time I write one of these. Thanks as ever for stopping in and wading through all this muck. Much love. More later. PS These are two of the ne'er do-wells who will be making music with me on Thursday.

 

Hearth and Hame  

Greetings, whoever-reads-this! It's a dark and rainy Friday here in Samland. A busy week. Work done on my house all day Monday, half of Tuesday, all day Wednesday, and a little bit yesterday. I had a chance to evacuate the premises, but chose to stay in the house. 

Monday and Wednesday, the work started at 7am, which is about 2 hours before I usually get up. So those were crispy days, especially Wednesday. It wasn't all that bad--by this point in life, you've likely seen much worse--but a lot of hammering and Mariachi music. And just these strange presences about the house. No one came inside, but one person gestured that he needed a plug(no English, I guess), so I accommodated him. 

I think the toughest part, though,  was abstaining from playing my guitar, or playing music from the computer. It seemed to me that they had their working music, their tunes, to help keep them going, and I might mess up the flow for them. So maybe my own flow got blocked a little bit in the process. 

So today, I'm feeling the effects of a big week. Not sleep-deprived--got a good 8 hours in last night--but just spent. I can feel my battery starting to recharge, but it's got aways to go. 

And that's my news for now. At least my domestic news. Musically, I'm still putting in practice time on the guitar, and taping a playalong or two with me playing along(I guess that's why they call ém playalongs), and just starting to conceptualize yet another recording project. Also hoping to record some brand new stuff, now that things around here are getting back to nermal. 

Thanks as ever for stopping in and reading. Much love. More later.