music

Django Reinhardt "J'attendrai Swing 1939"

This month's theme is "by hand."  Now, here's something: the only video where we actually see Django Reinhardt's hands playing the music we hear on the soundtrack.  Awesome.  And kind of the holy grail of videos for those that play gypsy jazz. Or so my main man and bandmate, Duane Andrews tells me.

You see, I've been working on la pompe for our new band, the FIERCE DREAMERS.  The Fierce Dreamers are Duane and I playing two guitars.  I sing sometimes.  Our music sounds a bit like Bonnie Raitt meets Django with a little Jim Hall and Tina Turner thrown in for good measure.  We are still (obviously) working it out.

In the gypsy jazz tradition, la pompe is how the rhythm guitar plays.  Essentially, it replaces the drum kit.  What you are after is a percussive, swung sound that keeps the music chugging along.  I'll let you go down rabbit hole on this yourself.  If you want to work on your pompe, start listening to Django first and foremost.  If you want a little instruction, I recommend the Gypsy Jazz Guitar School.  These are the best lessons I have found on the web.  But go to the source, young grasshopper.  Watch the vid and weep. 

Do you have a few vids of your favorite gypsy jazz players playing -- hands and music synced up?  Show me!  Leave a link below.

Colin Stranahan

I've been wanting to ask Colin to be a part of the Tenacity series since I first met him, and I first met him through Facebook. 

He came to know my music in some mysterious way (who ever really knows how these things work) and he reached out.  We had a lot of musical friends in common, so it was only a matter of time before we met and played together.

And play together we did at one of the last gigs I had in NYC before my Mom got sick and I took two and a half years off from making music in public.  Colin brought his small kit, crammed himself into a corner at the Gershwin Hotel, and we played a set of tunes.  It was a magical, memorable night.

(This interview is part of the TENACITY series.  Read the FAQ here.)

Damian Erskine

It all comes back around.

Way back when I first started keeping a blog and first conceived of the idea of the TENACITY series, I knew that the first musician I wanted to interview was Damian.

Why?  Because he is an old soul.  I knew it from the first time we met.

Damian is one of my closest friends from my Berklee College of Music days. Now, we only get to hang out when we are recording or touring, but no matter ... I know this fellow has my back.  He's a big brother to me (and I am rich in real big brothers - I have two).  We can (and do) talk about almost anything.  He is open, wise, caring, and real. 

He is also one of the funkiest bass players on planet earth.  Seriously.  His chops are jaw-dropping, but he knows how and when to use 'em.  He's got awesome sauce in his hands and heart and it only comes out at the right time, if you know what I mean. 

In honor of my new blog, I asked Damian to revisit the TENACITY questions from where he is now.  His answers from 2011 are also below.

 

Alan Ferber

Did I ever tell you that the trombone is my favorite instrument?

It's true.  My love of the trombone was instantaneous and forever.  It happened in a dark, sparsely attended memorial concert for the founder of Berklee, Lawrence Berk, during my first semester at Berklee.  Phil Wilson, the legendary trombonist and faculty member (whom I did not know at the time, but would come to know very, very well) got up and played a solo version of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" that literally stopped my heart, stopped time.  Frozen.  The sound coming out of his trombone had color to it.  It was  gold.  I swear.  There was nothing and nobody else in the world except for him, his shining playing, and the moment-by-moment unfolding of this familiar yet suddenly, achingly tragic song.

I was done.  Cooked.  Ever since then, I am a sucker for a trombone every single time.

Jim Hall "Round Midnight"

The legendary guitarist Jim Hall died in early December.

He was a dear friend of mine.  We wrote letters and postcards to each other from one side of Manhattan to another, Nolita to the West Village.  I can't open my dresser drawer without seeing a stack of his letters there, without seeing his crazy, loopy, delicious handwriting. He was a faithful correspondent and he had that rare quality in his writing of always leaving you wanting more: more jokes, more interesting ideas, more turns of phrases.

On April 18, I played as part of his memorial concert at the Blue Note in NYC with Bill Frisell, Julian Lage, Scott Colley and Joey Barron.  We played my tune "If Spring Comes Now."

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I introduced the song with these thoughts:

"I'm not ready to be here tonight. I am not ready to sing this song. I am not ready to say goodbye to Jim.

Are we ever really ready for death?

I cannot remember if we said goodbye, Jim and I.  I certainly wasn't ready for it to be our last goodbye.

I have the last letter Jim wrote to me; I have the first letter Jim wrote to me.

Jim's correspondence was the essence of him: full of humor, full of charm, witty, charismatic, curious, whimsical, effervescent.  All done in a crazy, shaky, giant handwriting that was unmistakable from within the depths of my mailbox.

I have a letter I was writing to Jim in early December.  I am not ready to send it yet. 

There is still so much more I want to tell him."