JD on the Box II

Sunday, October 26, 2003
Skipped market for the first time yesterday... stayed home sick. But practice time has gotten better now that baseball's over.

Brought back High Level Hornpipe, with a new perspective... doing more with the "rise and fall" of the tune than just variations... there's a bit more of how contest fiddlers handle things like Clarinet Polka... the melody is a framework. The left hand contributes directly to the rise and fall and isn't as locked in to a pattern.

Four-to-the-bar swing stuff is getting more consistent too... "If I Had You", "Sunny Side of the Street" (finally), others. Errol Garner's early stuff has been a big influence, although he got into some rhythmic stereotypes in the melody that are annoying to listen to (this seemed to decline in later recordings). The tune is a framework.

Villa-Lobos Choro #1 and Joplin's New Rag were both heavy practice items, but both remain difficult. I'm looking forward to nailing down a new set of rags this winter. Not much classical the past few weeks. Still listening to Matteo's tunes nearly every day, picking up a few of them playing-while-listening, but without seeing them I don't think I retain them as well... need to map out themes & structure on paper in order to really get it, I think. Found a score for "Palomita Blanca" at TodoTango and it's a great tune... I need to work it for awhile to personalize it.

Reading has been Kenny Hall's tunebook, Nat Cole biography. Really enjoying watching DVDs of older musicians.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003
A breakthrough on four-to-the-bar rhythms... for one session today I finally had the left hand sounding like a guitar, so I could play an in-the-pocket lead on top. I've been trying to get here for awhile, and am not sure I have it consistently yet, but I did reach it, and know it's possible. (The triads stay four-to-the-bar, and the bass usually does 4-to-bar too but can also syncopate... it's like when playing Mickey Baker-style walking chords on guitar, where the bass note can sometimes get an upstroke but the treble rarely does.)

Tenebra Infinita started out the market and also was played early on at the East Bay potluck this weekend. At market I also played Matteo's Automno Senza Te, but am not sure of sections... should have Che Ridere, maybe some others for this weekend. I keep on listening to Matteo, whistling along while walking to work, and although I have the themes I'm not yet solid on the structures... really need to sit down and play completely through the tape, but baseball playoffs lead me to miss the middle session each day. When I've played with Matteo's tape I usually focus on a few tunes... haven't played all the way through yet.

I think I also intro'd Pixinguinha's Descendo A Serra this weekend... have been playing it a lot... on the choros my touch keeps getting lighter, I keep pulling stuff off, which I think is good but it's a contrast from the other playing. I also brought in "If I Had You", but unconvincingly... it's a great tune, and I think I can do well on it, but I wasn't solid behind it this first time. I'm starting to tie the three-part hornpipe "Cuckoo's Nest" (the one in G) to the three-part "Miss Monaghan"... bringing back the hornpipes of Presidents Garfield and Grant too.

I played a set with Lucas of The Wranglers at the market Saturday, as he was waiting for his usual backup... we played some good old tunes like "Under The Double Eagle" and "Golden Slippers", but tempos kept picking up, and there weren't that many spaces between the notes. Stopped by Caffe Trieste again, but no action.

Saturday at East Bay was interesting... led a few tunes early on, before the real sessions started ("Any Old Time", "Barnyard Dance", some others)... I also played some tunes while others were talking and they never listened enough to try to join in on.... ;-) Later a swing session had an unusual lineup, but we succeeded in getting some grooves going on blues and slower tunes... I had a little weed and focused on architecting the arrangement, illustrating the changes and structure... very interesting, I was trying to lay out the tunes as strongly as possible to make it easy for others to follow along. On the ride back I started thinking that this could be a good goal for non-playing listeners too... just lay it out, make it obvious, make it strong.

Listening: mostly Matteo on the iPod, mostly Joe Venuti and Eddie Lang on the CD (surprised by how much it's just plain good music). Watching: Stephane Grappelli and Louis Armstrong DVDs. Reading: Not much... some of Matt Glaser's books on stylistic traits of Venuti and Grappelli... keeping fakebooks open around the house, reviewing lyrics. As soon as the baseball playoffs are over I can go back to three sessions a day.... ;-)

Saturday, October 04, 2003
Only a single 90+ minute set, due to baseball playoffs. Cold and dark today, but lots of people smiling at the music.

Started off with Tenebra Infinita again... it's a nice tune there. Next was Reine du Musette, although I forget the trio changes on the 12-row again. Jeannette had a nice little pop in it. Apanhei-Te Cavaquinho, Pineapple Rag, Miss the Mississippi and You, Detour (for Wesley Tuttle), Lost Highway, Swipesy Cakewalk, Caravane Rabouine, Koal, King of the Road, Waltz Chinois, three sections of Miss Monaghan (shaky, though), Rights Of Man & Golden Eagle Hornpipes, Maiden's Prayer, Bohemienne Waltz, Minute Waltz (nice), Estudiantina. Tried to sound out a Gershwin tune that Hal does, I forget the name (and the bridge), something like "I know... that you know... that he knows... that she knows", gotta look it up. Did "I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive" for the first time publicly and it worked well. Panama had a nice crisp, different rhythm towards the end of the set. Finished with Take Me Out To The Ballgame, with full reeds in 3/4... let's hope the Giants keep playing.

Reading has been a Nat Cole biography. Listening has been Matteo and Nat, with a lot of everything too. Catching the PBS blues series, mixed bag, but fun.

Wednesday, October 01, 2003
Been feeling in a bit of a rut lately... realized there's no sense of surprise in what or how or where I'm playing. Still working, usually three sessions a day, but don't feel like I'm learning new pieces.

New tunes under practice include Humoreske (getting to the point where *I'm* playing the *tune*, rather than someone running through the well-known notes). Have Frieze Britches... pretty much learned the third section of Miss Monaghan's Reel. Been working a lot on Reine du Musette and Bourrasque. I've got Descendo a Serra memorized, but keep forgetting to play Luiz Americano P.R.E #3. Been playing a lot of straight swing, good amount of blues too. Not much vocals, save for when I'm doing a swing tune. Have worked through the full piano score of Strauss's Kaiser Waltz a few times, but am not sure if/when I'll lock it. Rags are in maintainence mode.

At market last week I introduced Matteo's Tenebra Infinite, although I'm still not sure of the running order of the sections (need to map it out). Have played a few times along with his tape. Last week I was listening to him a lot. This week I'm reading about Nat Cole and listening to him heavily (his first transcriptions sounded more like Cats & Fiddle!). Also listened heavy to Forro (Maids & Taxi Drivers) earlier today. Am also spending time watching DVDs of old clips of musicians... Nat Cole, Basie, Merle Travis... have Louis Armstrong, Reinhardt/Grappelli, Chris Strachwitz's stuff in the queue.

After market last week I walked to Caffe Trieste, but there was no action. I'm increasingly feeling the need to find a cafe or restaurant at which to play background music... not sure yet how I'll approach that.

Baseball playoffs are on, and we're still post-launch at the shop, so concentration is fragmented. Still looking at Craig's List each day but am not seeing much of interest. My tack is to work through this phase, keep plugging. The sound is still improving, but the thrill (and surprise) isn't there right now.

Sunday, September 21, 2003
Didn't blog last week... here are some of the rarer tunes I played at the market then:
Rags: Sunflower Slow Drag, The Entertainer
Choro: Vou Vivendo, Tico Tico
Klezmer: Bei Mir Mist du Schoen, Fun von der Khupe
Country: Any Old Time, Always Late, Forever and Always, Nine Pound Hammer
Musette: Alhambra, Mystererieuse, Cascades, Coeur Vagabond, Ca Gaze (first time there)
Classical: Minute Waltz (first time)
Other: Valse clogs, Jesse Polka (first time), Frieze Britches (first time, but I only remembered the first three sections)

Unplayed: Ma Yofus, Estudiantina, Radetzky March, Panama, La Paloma, Whistler's Dog (not ready), any tango, Sensation, Turpin rags, Teddy Bear Picnic, Marie Elena, Pineapple Rag

This past Saturday I did play Radetzky March but didn't have the A section at ready recall... played Sensation smoothly... Teddy Bear Picnic worked well... got all five sections of Frieze Britches... swing tunes like Basin Street Blues, Blues for Dixie, more vocals (Sitting On Top of the World). Both weeks had the normal two-hour first set and another set after breakfast.

The practice these past two weeks has been different... lots of swing tunes (Blue Skies and Honeysuckle Rose particularly)... keep working on El Choclo... Humoreske... much less playing from score. Great attention to getting big fat notes which plop perfectly into place, with distinction made to the duration and envelope of each note. On the classical tunes I've been playing them looser, with more meaning, and have been working on inner voices (supporting notes beneath the melody on the right hand). On the iPod I've been listening to tunes I haven't rated or listened to yet, realizing this eliminates norteno, musette, klezmer.

I've been reading Gunther Schuller on Jelly Roll Morton, but haven't played his material this week... also reading Charlie Parker solos before dropping off to sleep.

Last Sunday was the East Bay potluck, and I played both box and brushes. I led tunes Panhandle Rag, Moonglow and Detour, but held off on more because the rhythm speeded up when some of the guitarists figured out some of the chords.... ;-)

I'm trying to figure out some way to get to Caffe Trieste late Saturday mornings in hopes of catching some of the acoustic players. From Nicola Swinburne's site I learned that Bruce Zweig has some MP3s of Matteo Casserino which I'm downloading this weekend... it's good to hear that tremolo and sense of timing again.

Sunday, September 07, 2003
Got an hour in Golden Gate Park today, but because of amplified events at the east end of the park I went further in to where it was cold and foggy, and I lost it pretty quickly. Did play both Swipesy Cakewalk and Pineapple Rag... Sunny Side Of The Street... Murphy's Hornpipe... Coal... both Alhambra and Adios Sevilla. The sound was a bit odd, in the concrete bench dedicated to the Strybings behind the pool and facing the lake... got some echos, but not full. Ran into Chuck Poling on the way in and they've got family chores, not playing much; good to see him though.

Saturday, September 06, 2003
Two hours inside, one outside, both on the short side. Rarer tunes included:
Klezmer: Coal and Skyliner Khosidl.
Rags: Weeping Willow, Elite Syncopations, Bohemia Rag, Swipesy Cakewalk.
Musette: Mysterieuse, Indifference, a good Waltz Chinois, others
Tin Pan Alley: Ain't Misbehaving, Teddy Bear Picnic, Ace In The Hole.
Choro: Vou Vivendo, Apanhei-Te Cavaquinho
Country: Blackberry Blossom, others
Classical: Radetzky March, Estudiantina, La Paloma
Irish: varied

Listening this week was mostly Klezmer. Practiced Chopin's Minute Waltz, Pryor's "Whistler and his Dog", Russishe Sher (the tritone one), varied Strauss waltzes and pre-1910 Tin Pan Alley.