Friday, February 26, 2010

Review of the Bob Sheppard Quartet at Vitello's, Feb 25, 2010

Last night I caught Bob Sheppard’s quartet upstairs at Vitello’s in Studio City. Bob is one of the best saxophonists in Los Angeles and this was a particularly exciting band; Steve Cardenas on guitar, Jeff D’Angelo on bass, and the remarkable Steve Hass on drums.

Bob is a versatile player with a beautiful, rich and detailed sound. He has absorbed the music of the jazz masters as well as pop styles, and created a strong personal voice. He burns without overwhelming the band, leaving plenty of space for musical conversation. The interaction between these guys was remarkable. It was a pleasure to watch them listening to each other. At times the exchanges between Sheppard and Cardenas were reminiscent of the classic Sonny Rollins - Jim Hall quartet.

Bob pulled up a mix of standards, originals and lesser heard jazz tunes including two delightful Thelonious Monk compositions; “Green Chimneys” and “San Francisco Holiday”. Of particular note was his gorgeous rendition of the Jimmy McHugh ballad, “Say It (Over and Over Again)” perhaps best known as recorded by John Coltrane on the classic “Ballads” album.

I first heard Steve Cardenas many years ago in the San Francisco Bay Area when we were both playing with trumpeter Jeff Beal’s bands. Steve’s playing knocked me out back then and today he has become one of the premier voices in modern jazz guitar, performing with a wide range of artists including: Paul Motian, Norah Jones, John Patitucci and Ben Allison. He is an esteemed educator and is in town for a guest semester at CalArts. Besides his brilliant guitar playing, Steve is an expert on the music of Thelonious Monk. His book, The Thelonious Monk Fakebook is the definitive collection of Monk’s compositions. Steve’s playing is fluid and musical, moving seamlessly from muted two and three note voicings into perfectly voice-lead chords and flowing single note lines. He was always listening, responding to the music around him, developing motifs, and continually surprising with his ideas. His tone was warm with just a bit of edge. He has a slightly bluesy, behind-the-beat time feel which compliments his melodic phrasing and contrapuntal lines.

I had not heard Steve Hass play live before but was immediately enthralled. He has enormous energy, rock solid time, and swings like a master, incorporating Cuban, African and Middle Eastern influences without ever losing the groove. At times he played with his hands, brushes or mallets (in combination), moving back and forth in response to the other musicians. Steve is an exciting inventive player, not afraid to take chances. He grooves hard but never overpowers the rest of the band. He has worked with a myriad of top artists including The Manhattan Transfer, John Scofield, Art Garfunkel, Billy Joel, George Benson and Ravi Coltrane. It was a real treat to discover this fantastic drummer.

Jeff D’Angelo is one of the most sought after bass players in Los Angeles and has a longstanding musical relationship with Bob Sheppard. He sounded particularly good last night, holding down the center of this four-way conversation. His sound was rich and warm, he contributed some excellent solos and really hooked up with Steve Hass.

The folks at Vitello’s have created a comfortable, intimate environment for this great music. They are aggressively booking outstanding musicians and have established several regular events including John Pisano’s Guitar Night and Larry Golding’s Organ Night, both featuring a revolving door of great guest artists. The Tiramisu is good too!

Keep your eyes and ears out for this quartet. If you have a chance, check out Steve Cardenas while he’s in town, and please support Vitello’s and live music in LA.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Sid Jacobs demonstrates Jimmy Wyble's Two Line Improvising techniques

Master guitarist Sid Jacobs demonstrates two line improvisation techniques developed by the late, Jimmy Wyble. Jimmy's contributions to the art of guitar playing have influenced guitarists around the world, but particularly in Los Angeles where he was best known. Sid is a world renowned performer and teacher who has incorporated Jimmy's wisdom into his own amazing style. He will be part of a tribute to Jimmy coming up in April at Vitello's in Studio City.

Look for Sid at upcoming Wirechoir gigs and on the LA club scene. Enjoy!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Part 6: SLGQ Interview - Ken explains 'Parallels' and demos wild and crazy Ebow techniques...

OK, Ebow fans...this is the clip you've been waiting for. At about 1:10 Ken demonstrates the prepared guitar techniques involved in Rob Wannamaker's piece, 'Parallels'...slides, Ebow, hair scrunchies, and BBQ skewers...I love it!

Heading into the clip I had asked Ken about the meter and tempo of the piece. To the listener it appears to have no time; a floating continuous ensemble chord; the inner voices gradually shifting the tonality. Check this one out...

Friday, February 19, 2010

Part 5: Shadow Language Guitar Quartet interview

In Part 5 of our conversation Ken Rosser describes each of the pieces from the Shadow Language Guitar Quartet debut performance...

Follow Me by Paul Lansky
American Thighs by Betsey Biggs
Time Enough by Mick Goodrick
Parallels by Rob Wannamaker
and finally...
Motormouth by Fred Frith

Ken describes the musical character of each composition and the unique challenges presented by the performance techniques.

Part 4: Shadow Language Guitar Quartet interview

In this clip Ken Rosser describes how he picked the program for the Quartet's debut performance...

Part 3: Shadow Language Guitar Quartet interview

In part 3 Ken describes how he came up with the name for the group...

Part 2: Shadow Language Guitar Quartet interview

In this 2nd chapter of my interview with Ken Rosser we discuss the unique requirements of an electric guitar ensemble and the strengths each of the other players brings to this group.

Shadow Language Guitarists:

Ken Lasaine

Kevin Tiernan

Andre LaFosse

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Part 1: Shadow Language Guitar Quartet interview

The Shadow Language Guitar Quartet is an electric guitar ensemble organized by guitarist Ken Rosser. This extraordinary group of musicians recently debuted at the Eagle Rock Center for the Arts in Los Angeles, performing pieces by Paul Lansky, Betsey Biggs, Mick Goodrick, Rob Wannamaker, and Fred Frith.

Electric guitar ensembles are something I have always been involved with. The instrument's iconoclastic nature makes it a versatile tool in the hands of a skilled composer and an exceptional ensemble.

In this chapter Ken discusses his longstanding interest in guitar chamber music and the origins of this group. In the chapters that follow he discusses the other musicians and the repertoire of their debut gig. In the final chapters Ken demonstrates some of the unique techniques involved in Rob Wannamaker's piece and gives us a taste of Mick Goodrick's music.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Dave Holland..a true jazz legend..check out his new website!

Dave Holland, the master jazz bass player, composer, and band leader has a new website:  

Check it out. Take a look around. There is some great stuff here. Extra kudos to Dave for kickin' it on the web and really digging into the power of social networking...

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Ken Rosser's Shadow Language Guitar Quartet

Performing tonight (2-7-10) at The Eagle Rock Center For The Arts...7 pm. Here's a clip of Ken checking out my Ransom Tele at today's Wirechoir rehearsal...

Updated 2-10-2010: The concert was fabulous. Stay tuned for an in-depth video interview with Ken...

Independent Music Publishing: What's Working, What's Ahead?

On Tuesday evening the California Copyright Conference (CCC) hosted a lively panel of independent music publishers discussing the current state of their industry; what’s working, the challenges ahead and opportunities for innovation. The panel was moderated by Eric Polin, Sr. VP, Music Publishing, Universal Pictures, and Jonathan Rosner, President of the CCC and co-President of Bicycle Music.

The panel:

David Hirshland - President, Bug Music
Kathy Spanberger - peermusic, President, Anglo American Region
Kenny MacPherson – President, Chrysalis Music Group
Randall Wixen - President and Founder, Wixen Music Publishing
Ron Sobel - President of North Star Media; Partner at Winogradsky/Sobel; and Chair/Music Business Division, McNally Smith College of Music

The companies represented range in size and manage a mix of established and independent artists. Most are grounded in traditional catalog administration, but North Star Media in particular partners with unknown artists without mechanical or performance royalties and is primarily focused on artist development and leveraging innovative revenue streams and new media opportunities.

The panel felt that this was generally a good time to be an independent publisher. David Hirshland discussed the dangers of complacency and the need to repurpose catalogs and encourage writers to work in new, creative ways. Randall Wixen said that his company is being approached by many new artists who are looking for more attention from publishing partners due to shrinking or non-existent advances from record labels. All the panelists emphasized the importance of quality and focusing on great music. David Hirshland: “It’s still about being moved by what you hear…” Kathy Spanberger discussed the importance of partnering with artists who have a strong work ethic because of the demands of social media and the exploding opportunities provided by the Internet.

The panel discussed “360 deals” and the trend for publishers to expand their services beyond catalog administration. While none of the speakers would consider their services truly “360”, they are all innovating aggressively, seeking out new revenue streams and pushing artist development as mechanical royalties decline.

Ron Sobel threw down the gauntlet (at one point donning a referee’s shirt), opening an energetic discussion on the practice of issuing minimal or “free” synch licenses to build and artist’s brand. He shared the story of an unknown artist who approached him to manage his catalog. Sobel was appalled to see that he had issued a synch license to MTV for $1 until he saw his ASCAP statements which had generated a living wage for eight years and helped the artist build his career. The idea of “free” was discussed quite passionately, particularly by Kenny MacPherson, who was strongly opposed to lowering the bar for synch licensing fees. All the panelists shared a concern for the de-valuation of music catalogs but acknowledge the need to examine each deal on a case by case basis.

Ron Sobel discussed his role as a teacher and asked where this industry will be in 2020. “If we don’t innovate I think we lose.”

For more information on the California Copyright Conference and their monthly panels see their website:

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Mike Clinco Quartet at The Oyster House

I caught guitarist and composer, Mike Clinco with his quartet, at The Oyster House in North Hollywood Monday night. Mike is a fluid, melodic player with a warm, open, sound and a great relaxed feel. He has worked with many extraordinary artists including: Bo Diddley, Bobby McFerrin, Ella Fitzgerald and Henry Mancini. Mike has composed music for film and television, including underscore and source music for ‘Big Shots’, ‘Outer Limits’, and ‘Sex in The City’.

Mike’s group featuring Jeff Driscoll on tenor, Adam Cohen on bass, and Bob Leatherbarrow on drums, played a mix of originals, jazz standards, and tunes by John Abercrombie, Jerry Bergonzi, Vic Juris, and Marc Johnson (“Union Pacific” from The Sound of Summer Running...a great record featuring Pat Metheny, Bill Frisell and Joey Baron). Singer Janelle Sadler and trumpeter Ron King sat in for a couple of tunes adding their magic to the mix.

The sound of the group was conversational, chamber jazz with a swinging groove and a deep pocket thanks to Adam and Bob. The melodic interplay between the guitar and sax was super musical and sensitive. The rhythm section listened hard, provided solid, energizing support and contributed some nice solos.

Mike and I both studied with the late Charlie Banacos, legendary jazz educator. In one way or another, Charlie’s influence touched many of the musicians who were there last night. 

Great players and a wonderful night of music. Thanks Mike! I’m looking forward to the next gig...

Friday, February 5, 2010

Are you ready for Telegigging and Songles?

Computer scientist, musician, and philosopher, Jaron Lanier, has created a fascinating, intelligent, critique of digital collectivism in his new book, You Are Not A Gadget. This is not the cynical rant of a Luddite, but a serious examination of the dehumanizing potential of technology. Mr. Lanier compares the impact of Web 2.0 paradigms on humanism and individuality to the relationship between MIDI and music. He makes convincing arguments questioning the rhetoric of the digital gurus, and proposes several fascinating new approaches to the cultural and financial conundrums presented by the explosion of the Internet into our lives.