Five Ways To Stay Happy (Jazz Organ Project 58/250)

Jazz careers can be emotionally tough, for many obvious reasons. There are a few simple things I do to help myself stay happy.

I’ll start with the easiest and least expensive things:

1. Exercise – vigorous exercise for about 1 hour four times a week.

2. Diet – plant-based diet. Lately I’ve added ‘intermittent fasting’ which is a fancy word for only eating food between noon and 8pm.

3. Gratitude – I write in a journal about five minutes a day about anything and everything that pops into my head that I’m thankful for. Also, write people thank-you notes.

4. Vitamin D and Turmeric – A big help for me. I do about 4000iu of Vitamin D and about 2 grams of Turmeric powder with black pepper added.

5. Sauna and ice bath – I do 30 minutes in a 170degree sauna, then immediately jump into a bathtub filled with ice water. You have to trust me on this. We have a sauna at home, but I think many gyms have them.

I also have messed around with meditation, and it’s great too, but I haven’t found my stride with it yet.

Good luck fighting the blues!

Posted in The Five-Year Jazz Organ Project | Comments Off on Five Ways To Stay Happy (Jazz Organ Project 58/250)

Learn Jazz Organ Part 1 (Jazz Organ Project 57/250)

My first jazz organ lesson was with Ondrej Pivec in Brooklyn. I learned stock chord voicings, which are your basic no-frill keyboard chords. It’s essential that you know these as you begin jazz organ.

Print out the graphic below, and learn the major and minor 2-5-1 cadences in every key. Be able to play every inversion. Practice this for as long as it takes to memorize them and play them by touch without looking at the keyboard. If it takes you a year, then so be it – don’t rush or cut corners.

Write out cadences in random order on a sheet of paper, mixing major and minor, and try to jump from one voicing to the next with minimal movement. Use your ear to determine which inversions sound good, and which sound too ‘crunchy’, and figure out which octaves on the keyboard sound best when you play them.

These chords are just the tip of the iceberg of beautiful Hammond organ voicings. If you know them inside out, you will be able to participate in a jam session with other musicians.

Congratulations, you’re officially on your way!

Posted in The Five-Year Jazz Organ Project | Comments Off on Learn Jazz Organ Part 1 (Jazz Organ Project 57/250)

Grove Winery Jazz Fest 2017

Thanks to Max Lloyd for this picture, and thanks to Grant Osborne, Andy Trexler, and Chris Hankins for playing with me.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Grove Winery Jazz Fest 2017

Do The Reps(Jazz Organ Project 56/250)

I did a very nice studio session today where I laid down piano tracks for two songs, and also recorded an acoustic bass track. It was relaxed, and I’m proud to say I played really well. My creative juices were flowing and I felt relaxed and connected to my instruments.

I feel comfortable in a recording studio environment, but that was not always the case. Recording studios used to make me super neurotic: every tiny mistake felt like a huge deal, even if nobody else noticed it.

Over the course of hundreds of sessions over many years, finally my sweaty palms and neuroticism gradually faded away.

Musicians, record yourself every day. If you don’t have a smart phone, pick up a cassette recorder at the thrift store and use that. In a way, the worse the sound quality of the recording media the better, because you won’t waste any energy falling in love with the sound of the recording, you’ll just be checking out the playing.

When you listen back to the recording, try to let go and enjoy it. Notice all of the great things about your playing. Let your subconscious mind note all of the things that bug you about how you played- no need to dwell on them. You’ll be happy you did the reps.

Posted in The Five-Year Jazz Organ Project | Comments Off on Do The Reps(Jazz Organ Project 56/250)

August News

My trio has a couple of shows this week. One will be our regular Irregardless gig on Friday, and then Saturday we will be returning to Brice’s Brewing.

I’m honored to be part of a new music collective called The Raleigh Jazz Quartet, and I’m looking forward to playing with them tonight at the ultra-hip Watts and Ward in Raleigh. (Shh… don’t tell any of the guys that I’m from Carrboro!)

Come check out the Tim Smith Band in its full glory at Weaver Street Market! Don’t miss this rare chance to see the entire 7-piece band in action. Also, don’t miss the slightly-less-rare chance to see the Tim Smith 3 at 2nd Wind.

Carolyn Mitchell always puts on an excellent show at Irregardless. I’ll be playing acoustic bass with her and maybe sitting in on a keyboard song or two.

Finally, I’ll be joining the Todd Proctor Trio at C. Grace in Raleigh, where we will bombard our way through some energetic standards and tasty originals.

See you there.

Enter your email to receive our monthly news and we will send you an exclusive live MP3:
Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on August News

Two-Part Episode (Jazz Organ Project 55/250)

Part 1 – Preparing for a gig

Read and understand all communications regarding the gig. Make sure you know all details including, but is not limited to:
1. Exact start and finish times.
2. How much you are going to be paid, how, and when. Will you get a portion of any of the tips? This is important to know in order to avoid any misunderstandings, which often cause hard feelings. E.g., you thought you were going to get cash, but the gig actually pays you a check in the mail 8 weeks later.
3. Exactly what should you wear.
4. Do you need an amplifier, microphone, music stand, stand light, or fakebook?
5. Will there be food and drinks? Will you have to pay for them? Failing all else, will there be a source of drinking water? (Don’t laugh – I played a gig recently where we had to load in to a second floor walk up, then move the band up a flight of stairs to the third floor for another set, and the only beverages available were tiny warm bottles of ginger ale!!)
6. Where should the band park their cars?

I never leave for a gig without the following:
1. Spare audio cable and power cable. Extension cord.
2. Nalgene bottle of ice water
3. Extra clean shirt
4. Black hand towel
5. IPhone with IRealPro installed (basically a fakebook on my smart phone)
6. Custom molded -15dB earplugs

And finally, I’ll leave you with this pro tip: Be very early to every gig and rehearsal. Even if you believe that your load-in time is ridiculously early, be the first person there. Bring a copy of The NY Times, maybe spend some time practicing your putting, but be there early.

Once you get to your gig early and prepared, don’t be nervous. You practice music hard every day, and you are going to give 100% at the gig. Perhaps you might even have a bumpy night musically, but keep on playing through the bumps. 80% of the gig is you being nice to yourself and your band mates. The rest will fall naturally into place.

Part 2 – Will Mr. Ketch ever be ‘Jim’ to me?

When I was a senior in high school, my parents bought me a bass for my birthday. I caught on quickly, and started practicing playing jazz with my friends. I jammed with good musicians at my high school, and I believe I had a modicum of natural talent for jazz bass. During the summer between high school and college, I began to practice scales. At this point, I still didn’t know what I was doing.

That fall, I enrolled at UNC-CH. I had the absolute hubris to audition for the jazz band. Imagine my complete astonishment when I ended up getting placed in the advanced band- after having played the bass for less than a year, and having never touched an upright bass in my life? The direction of my entire life was defined in that moment by Mr. Jim Ketch, the jazz band director.

To this day, the name ‘Mr. Ketch’ is similar to ‘Mom’ or ‘President Reagan’. (Yes, Reagan was president when I went to college). I’d never call my mom Mary Ann, and I’d never walk up to Barack Obama and call him Barack, so I have a hard time calling Mr. Ketch ‘Jim’. I know he prefers to be called ‘Jim’, but it’s tough for me because it feels a bit disrespectful to someone who has been such an iconic and respected teacher to me from when I was 17 years old.

I’ll end this story by saying, Thanks Jim, I enjoyed playing with you last night!

Posted in The Five-Year Jazz Organ Project | Comments Off on Two-Part Episode (Jazz Organ Project 55/250)

Practicing Sight Reading (Jazz Organ Project 54/250)

The more you learn about music, the more you realize you don’t know. But after about 30 years of playing music, I was floored when I realized that I had been doing something wrong the entire time.

I had been practicing sight reading the wrong way.

Up until now, my idea of practicing sight reading on keyboard had been to slowly practice a song measure by measure. Then I would increase the speed until I could play the piece perfectly a tempo.

While that is a decent way to practice a piece of music, it turns out to be a lousy way to practice the skill of sight reading in general. After years of doing it, I found myself not getting any better at sight reading, i.e. looking at a new piece of music and playing it right away.

My friend Grant Osborne helped me realize that the best way to practice sight reading is to read through a new piece of music, probably with a metronome, and catch as many parts of it as you can. The important part is to keep going no matter what.

After three days of practicing this, I saw a big improvement. It felt great to improve after being in a rut for years. Thanks, Grant!

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Practicing Sight Reading (Jazz Organ Project 54/250)

When Will I Be Good (Jazz Organ Project 54/250)

The other day, I sat down to listen to a recording of my trio. I heard myself make tons of mistakes, and my time seemed to always be rushing ahead of the beat.

I wondered, “When am I going to be good? I’ve been practicing this stuff for seven years, and I’m still not there!”

I bet a lot of musicians listen to their gigs an think the same thing. But when you listen to a show, try to look at it from a couple of different perspectives.

1. Did people enjoy the show and get their money’s worth? In the case above where I was feeling critical of my own playing, we had a great show. We sold out of CD’s and got $160 in tips, which is pretty good for a jazz trio playing at a small club. Maybe I thought my playing sucked, but people really liked the band.

2. Jazz is not learned overnight. I watched a video of a great local keyboard player last night. He is a little younger than me, but his skill level is far beyond mine. I was browsing his website and I saw that he had been playing piano since age 4. That means he has been playing keyboards for probably around 35 years. DUH, that’s why he’s way better than me. In another 28(!!!) years, I still might not be as good has him, but I wager that I’ll be pretty dadgum good.

3. Listening to recordings of yourself play is important. When critiquing your own playing, make note of the things you’d like to work on or do differently. If you don’t like what you’re hearing, don’t let it get you down. Get excited about practicing to improve.

Posted in The Five-Year Jazz Organ Project | Comments Off on When Will I Be Good (Jazz Organ Project 54/250)

Practice Magic (Jazz Organ Project 53/250)

It takes a ton of practice to become a great magician. Great magicians often spend years in seclusion practicing magic tricks in order to get them perfect. It’s one of those careers that necessarily has to be about the love of the craft.

Music is similar to magic. Great musicians make performing look so easy that it might be hard to imagine how hard they had to work. But it’s not unusual to find a musician who started playing at age 2, and spent all of their high school and college years locked away in a practice room for many hours a day.

Whatever you are working on, no matter how small, obsess over it and perfect it as if you were mastering a difficult card trick. Don’t settle for anything less than perfection.

Posted in The Five-Year Jazz Organ Project | Comments Off on Practice Magic (Jazz Organ Project 53/250)

Video from 7/6/17 at the Cameo Theater

Thanks to George Johnson of GJ Music Videography for this cool video.

From the Cameo Theater in Fayetteville, NC, with Casey Overton on guitar and Zsolt David on drums.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Video from 7/6/17 at the Cameo Theater