Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Dan Peek Dies; Co-Founded Rock Band "America"

Dan Peek Is On Left
Dan Peek has died at age 60.  He co-founded the band "America," that played such hits as "Sister Golden Hair," "A Horse With No Name" and "Ventura Highway."

A news report said:
Peek, whose father was in the U.S. Air Force, had met the two other members of America — Dewey Bunnell and Gerry Beckley — while attending high school in London. After signing a record contract, America was an almost instant sensation with songs featuring tight harmonies over catchy tunes. All told, America had three platinum and three gold albums, along with eight Top 40 hits, from 1971 through 1975.

"It was a joyous time for the three of us, full of excitement and laughter," Bunnell wrote on the band's website after learning of Peek's death. "We created lasting music together and experienced a life that we could never have imagined."
Read more:Anniston Star - Dan Peek founding member of band America dies

Lots of people start bands, and a few of those bands attain greatness.  RIP, Dan Peek.

Enjoy my favorite "America" tune in the video embedded below.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Rattlesnake Ridge Band, Blues Medley

Here's a blues medley from some friends of ours, the Rattlesnake Ridge Band. Pretty hot!

Click to play.

Ted Plays "Autumn Leaves," Jazz Style; Sue Sings "Summertime"

Bro tries his hand at jazz piano, with "Autumn Leaves."

Not bad, big brother. Have a listen below.

The fairer part of the act (Sue) sings "Summertime" and does a record-quality job of it.
Listen below.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Long Ago and Far Away: Remembering Janis Joplin

Janis Joplin in 1968, Palace of Fine Arts, San Francisco
My band practices in the music room of our guitar player's house in San Jose.  Bill, the guitar player, has a lot of music memorabilia hanging on the walls.  He has a framed photo of Janis Joplin, sitting on the hood of a psychedelic 1965 Porsche, parked right in front of the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco.  That's the photo on the right.

The photograph was taken in 1968 but the Palace of Fine Arts, built in 1915 for the Panama-Pacific Exposition, looks exactly the same today.  (It is located at 3301 Lyon Street, SF 94123).  In the early 70's I sometimes wandered the grounds and structures at night with my pal, Gary Potts, fellow accountant, after getting blasted at Henry Africa's.  I remember looking up at the high ceiling of the dome from inside and feeling frightened by the height.

Later, I took my girlfriend there during the day for a romantic walk, and we later married (and still are married).

In any case, a lot of memories came to life in viewing this old photo of Janis Joplin.  During the days of  1966 - 1968, my father owned a music store in San Jose and sold guitars, amplifiers and speaker columns to members of famous bands.   Janis Joplin's band, Big Brother and the Holding Company, rented some speaker columns from us.  I saw Janis Joplin perform, up close and personal, at the Loser's South (now the Italian Gardens) nightclub in San Jose, where she wandered through the customers' tables, stopping and singing in the midst of us.  I thought she screamed her songs too much and found her appearance plain (no makeup at all) and rather dowdy.  Janis was never one for sartorial splendor I guess.  She could, however, be pretty and sexy when she wanted to.

The Jefferson Airplane was there that night, too, and at break I was sitting a few feet away from Airplane guitarist Jorma Kaukonen, who compared musician union membership cards with two very-long-haired members of Big Brother.  The Big Brother guys informed Kaukonen that they had joined the Seattle union instead of the San Francisco union, as they got a better deal on dues.  Funny, it was just a mundane conversation but I still remember the gist of it forty years later.  (Continued below the break)

Jerry Ragovoy, Writer of Soulful Ballads, Dies at 80

Great song writer dies:
Jerry Ragovoy, who wrote or collaborated on some of the most soulful ballads of the 1960s, including the Rolling Stones hit “Time Is on My Side” and the Janis Joplin signatures “Piece of My Heart,” “Cry Baby” and “Try (Just a Little Bit Harder),” died on Wednesday in Manhattan. He was 80.
Read it all here.

We all gotta go and none of us are getting any younger.  Practice baby, practice, practice, practice.  Gig, gig, gig.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Decoding the Upright Bass: Voice Leading

A few years ago I became very interested in how a computer works, so studied various programming languages, i.e. machine language, Basic and C.  I wrote programs and debugged them, and figured out how to do things.  It was very instructional and also very intuitive.

Now I want to figure out how an upright bass works, and the program that I need to learn and apply is music theory.  Right now I am studying "voice leading," which is moving from one chord to the next, but since bassists play one note at a time, you must play the appropriate note in the "next" chord.  Specifically, you must play the closest note in the following chord to keep the intervals as small as possible.  This results in a smooth, fluid bass line.

For example, if you play F7 chord and then Bb7 chord, you could just play the straight arpeggios in order:

F7   = F, A, C, Eb
Bb7 = Bb, D, F, Ab

It would sound right but not very cool or fluid.  Instead, you might play Bb7 this way:
D, F, Ab, Bb (on the second and first stings)

Or also like this:
D, Bb, Ab, F (open D and then on the third and fourth strings)

With "voice leading" you play the nearest note in the next chord, which in this case is third of Bb, or D, as above.  Voice leading is the key to constructing professional, smooth sounding bass lines, by stringing the chords together in a fluid line.

The only way to learn to play "voice leading" chords in a bass line is to figure them out.  Take all the chord changes in the key of F (a blues key), figure out the voice leading note (or transition note), then play all the chords as a bass line.  Memorize the changes, play them like scales to instill them into your subconscious.

Shane Allessio, an accomplished upright bassist, discusses voice leading at the following link.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

"Legends" Band Performs Over Hot Weekend and Holiday

Gig at a Private Party
Our band, "Legends in Their Own Minds" performed at a private party on Saturday, July 2nd, in San Jose, California.  Although they day was very hot, we enjoyed the gig, playing in a large backyard in the hills overlooking San Jose.  We were covered by a canvas canopy, and that helped, but it was like playing in a sauna until a breeze finally kicked in.

On July 4th, we played for veterans at the Veteran's Administration facility in Menlo Park, California.   The weather was much cooler than on Saturday, and we enjoyed ourselves as we played for a large crowd of festive vets and their families.  We shared the gig with some band friends, the Rattlesnake Ridge band.  They opened the entertainment, we played after them, and they closed the show.  We were very happy with the favorable reaction we received; several people came up to the bandstand to express their appreciation and enjoyment.

We all felt the band is reaching some kind of turning point, where our performance is moving up a notch.  I felt very comfortable with my bass playing, enjoying the thrill of having my subconscious serve up new riffs and runs that I hadn't played before, trying new things on the fly and having them work.  I am big on improvisation, as opposed to merely playing memorized bass lines, but only for songs where such improvisation is appropriate, e.g. jazz, standards, etc.  For classic rock you need to play the signature riffs that the audience loves and expects.

After this weekend of heavy gigging, we are postponing any further practices until Sunday, to recuperate from the heat and the physical activity.  It takes a lot of effort to run a band, and not just from practicing and playing.  Loading and unloading equipment, setting up speaker systems, plugging in and testing the microphones, arranging the systems, then the breaking down and carrying it all back home again...many folks don't understand how much effort is involved.  That's why bands should be paid something for their performances, at least enough to reimburse for gas and costs.  (We were paid for the Saturday gig but the July 4th gig is our charitable contribution to our veterans, which we were happy to provide.)

After the July 4th gig, we retired to our drummer's home in Palo Alto to eat and relax, and talk about a new song list for future performances.  It was a satisfying three-day weekend.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Hot Act From Fallon, Nevada!

Dynamic Duo, Ted and Sue
Here's a hot act from Fallon, Nevada, featuring my older brother Ted and his singer, Sue!

In this Carpenters' tune, Ted plays keys while Sue sings very well.  Have a listen.