Thursday, May 15, 2008

Quick Updates

The 229 Groove Collective is playing this Saturday at Suite 49 (9:30). Come on out and chill with us, or shake your butt, or do whatever our music moves you to do. It's all ages, so bring the family.

SFI is at Blue Moose on Wednesday (10:00).

And the 229 is at Sanders next Friday and Saturday (10:00 both nights).

After that I'm taking a month off because my wife and I are having our second child.

I'm also planning on getting the Jazz Jam restarted, but in a slightly diminished fashion, perhaps on a different night as well. I'll post here when I figure out what's going on, so check back for updates.

Hope to see you at the show!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Alex Skolnick

I have to be honest - I hadn't really heard of this guy before a few months ago; let's just say I'm not the world's biggest thrash-metal afficionado. Alex Skolnick popped up on my radar when my Yamaha sales rep called me up and said that they'd like to put on an acoustic guitar clinic featuring him right here at the store. My part-time guys, Josh and Andy, were floored - they knew of Alex from his days with Testament. Sure, let's do the show.

What happened next surprised me: Josh brought in a CD called Last Day in Paradise by the Alex Skolnick Trio. What surprised was that it was a jazz album that takes a different look at popular songs like Rush's "Tom Sawyer" and Testament's "Practice What You Preach" (the latter done as a Samba, which floored me), as well as a lot of original jazz in a progressive jazz/metal-ish sort of slant. Forgive me, but it's hard to correctly label modern jazz and often such labeling puts the music in a box, which I abhor, but I feel the need to describe it in some way. Now, some folks may have a hard time conceptualizing a mixture of jazz and metal; I know I did, but this clinic was about to alleviate that obstacle.

Alex, along with his support crew of Jamie Medina (our Yamaha sales rep), and Mike Tempesta (Yamaha artist relations, and brother of Testament drummer John Tempesta) arrived at Popplers last Wednesday to put on the clinic. Alex started by quoting some riffs from legendary fusion guitarist Al Di Meola and, in doing so, began to illustrate his mental process of combining jazz and metal. Along the way he recommended the audience read a book called "Effortless Mastery" by Kenny Werner, a jazz pianist. This particular book was gifted to me by a former bandmate and had been collecting dust because, frankly, I've been too afraid to dig into my subconscious musical mind. In actuality, after reading through the first quarter of the book this last week, I'm finding that it's exactly what I needed. I'll blog about that another time; back to the clinic.

Alex then took a riff from one of my favorite jazz albums: Chick Corea and Bobby McFerrin's (yes, the "Don't Worry, be Happy" guy) Play. In that album there is a lick that Chick plays (a Chick Lick?) on his composition entitled "Spain" that has always blown my mind. To my delight, it was this same lick that Alex electronically slowed down and turned into a couple of Metal riffs right on the spot, which was not only cool to hear, but inspiring to boot. Who knew that jazz could influence metal - and that metal could influence jazz. It was a clinic that both inspired me and opened my eyes; I'm now a follower of Skolnick - even if I'm a lowly pianist!

On a side note, we took them to Sanders after the clinic and they throughly enjoyed the food, drinks, and service - this coming from guys who live in New York, LA, and Milwaukee. So some (not surprised) props to the staff there!