January News

Join Rob Ladd, Danny Grewen and me at Irregardless this Friday night.

Later in the month, I’ll be playing with Todd Proctor at C Grace, and performing new original material with Jo Gore at The Rooster’s Wife.

See you there- happy new year!

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The Gentle Rain with Michael Berliner

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December News

December is an busy time for me. Aside from numerous private parties, church services, and Arts in Action classes, I only have two public gigs to share.

Come join Jay Wright and me at the Empress Room as Jay rocks the brand new piano.

If you haven’t made plans for New Years Eve, here’s something awesome: I’m playing with Shana Tucker’s group at CAM Raleigh. The group will also have Beverly Botsford on percussion and Ed Butler on drums.

Happy holidays.

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Video with Michael Berliner

Michael came to my studio the other day to jam, and we ended up recording the Bob Dorough song Small Day Tomorrow.

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The Progress Plateau (Jazz Organ Project 70/250)

The first time I ever played a Hammond organ was at my first lesson at the Brooklyn home studio of organist Ondrej Pivec.

In order to test my knowledge of the keyboard, Ondrej asked me to play an Ab13 chord. I wasn’t sure how to do it, so he showed me. At that moment, my jazz organ knowledge went from zero to ‘something’, an improvement of infinity%.

I seemed to be improving at the speed of light, but then my progress flattened. I had hit a plateau where I ceased to see improvement.

I feel like I have been on this plateau for several years, for a couple of reasons:
1. I’ve gotten pretty good at the ‘basics’ such as scales and arpeggios. The basics are very well defined and are repetitive physical exercises for the most part. The longer phase then becomes how to use the basics to actually make music.
2. As soon as I think I might be getting good at a thing, I’ll realize that there’s some major part of it that needs to be changed.
3. Growth on jazz organ sometimes requires long time-consuming sidetracks into different subjects, e.g. classical technique, pedal technique, sight reading, theory books, etc.
4. Then there’s occasional practice burnout/not having time/having the flu etc. These can really kill my momentum.

Luckily I’ve overcome huge plateaus before. In 2000 I moved to NYC to be a jazz bass player. I was at the absolute bottom of the barrel, and it seemed like I wasn’t getting any better. But I kept at it. By 2008 or so (after playing bass for 18 FRIGGING YEARS), I just woke up one day and I realized that I was good at bass. Folks, that was a long plateau.

Three important things happened:
1. I realized I was on a plateau. As frustrating as that was, I didn’t give up.
2. I didn’t allow myself to be satisfied with my status quo, and I kept working hard.
3. At a certain point, and after years of patience, everything I had been working out clicked into place and I popped up to a much higher plateau.

And now I’m going through this same process with jazz organ. I really want to be better than I am right now. I’m channeling that desire into hard practice. I know that in the future I’ll be great- but I don’t know how long that will take.

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Staying Upbeat (Jazz Organ Project 69/250)

In order to be productive and creative, I need to be in a good mood.

Since I thrive on using lists, I downloaded the Coach.Me app to my Iphone and populated it with a list of things to do each day that reliably get me into a great head space. This list is in no particular order, but I’ll put an * by the five biggies:

*1. Save at least $1 for retirement.
2. Shave
3. Water Pik
4. Affirmations
5. Cold Shower
6. Write a blog post
*7. Floss
*8. Go to the gym
9. Time-restricted eating (usually eat only between noon and 8pm)
10. Meditation
11. Let go of one thing
12. Listen to jazz
13. Make up bed
*14. Practice music
15. Read a book for 30 minutes
*16. Sauna for 30 minutes
17. Take Vitamin D drops
18. Take Turmeric capsules
19. Weigh myself
20. Write one sales email
21. Write in my journal
22. Do pushups

By reading and listening to music, I’m assured that I’ll always be learning. Saving $1 for retirement certainly won’t make me rich, but it keeps financial planning at the top of my mind. You can see that I also want to be conscious of my health and my weight, because I want to feel great and be proud of my body.

I also cherish the daily ritual of sitting down and writing whatever I feel like writing. I dwell on things I’m thankful for. Notably, I find that the thing I’m the most thankful for is my family’s health. One thing I’ve grown to appreciate is that as Americans, we are free to say or write whatever we want, and it always makes me feel good to exercise that in my journal, or here on my blog.

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Four Categories – Learn Jazz Organ Part 5 (Jazz Organ Project 68/250)

Jazz organ skills, as I understand it, can be divided into four main categories:

1. Bebop – characterized by walking left hand bass, with right hand improvising bebop solo ideas.

2. Blues – swing or shuffle beat, left hand bass, soloing and comping more bluesy.

3. Ballad – slow tempo, playing bass line on pedal board, melody and chords with left and right hand, or 2-handed block chords. Check out Jimmy Smith starting at about 1:20- he plays chords with his right hand and melody with his left, while playing bass with his feet:

4. Funk – syncopated bass lines, etc.

In future posts, I’d like to explore what kind of practicing goes into each of these main categories, and what skills are universal to all categories.

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Popsicle Toes video with Michael Berliner

Here’s a video my trio recorded recently with jazz vocalist Michael Berliner.
With Casey Overton on guitar and Donovan Cheatham on drums.

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November News

I’ll be taking a short break from gigging from November 5-25, but there is still plenty to see.

My trio plays at Irregardless Cafe tomorrow night. Other performances include me thumping the doghouse with Peter Lamb and the Wolves, The Roaming Tones, and The Todd Proctor Trio.

I hope to see you there!

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Trust Your Brain (Jazz Organ Project 67/250)

I’ve found that the most time I can spend practicing before I hit a wall is about three hours a day, usually divided into two sessions. If you’re like me, it doesn’t make sense to push beyond a certain amount of time.

But after you finish working on music at your instrument, your brain is still hard at work.

You might not realize it, but your subconscious mind is constantly sorting through the things you played and observed, attempting to assemble everything together into an amazing musical picture.

I’ll often find that something I struggled with one day will be easier the next day. Sometimes I’ll even have a random light bulb moment during the day, when I wasn’t even consciously thinking about music.

Give your mind plenty of time to process your musical efforts. For me, that means I need sleep, exercise, good nutrition, long walks, alone time, a quiet environment, and it always helps to stay away from news and social media.

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