Tag Archives: Skyline Band

band pictures

Looking back, I see I’ve posted a bit about the Skyline College Jazz Band. Zack Bruno, the director, sent out some pictures yesterday from our May concert. This is the one I was pretty steamed at the other guitar player for playing on every number when he was supposed to take turns with me.

Since I’m playing here, he should be just watching . . . but he isn’t. I’ll get over it someday. Actually I was over it until I saw these pictures.

Here’s a picture of the whole band from the same concert.

This semester I’m playing bass at Zack’s request. There’s really no option for multiple bass players. So far the three of us have all taken turns nicely.

more on goals

My follow up session with Linda was scheduled for Wednesday afternoon so I’ve been trying to focus on the idea of ‘goals’ again. All in all I feel pretty good about how the summer went: Jeremy’s move and the Germany trip. The last two weeks I’ve worked a standard 8-5 M-F schedule which is draining in a way but I felt I handled it pretty well.

Now that I’m back, it’s the turn of the other two principals at Davies to get holidays. Arno is leaving Tuesday for his usual driving trip to the Midwest. He’ll be gone five weeks. Jim, after shocking us all last year by cutting his schedule down to a ‘normal’ 40 hour week, announced he’ll be taking the month of October off completely. There are others who can and will step up to help with the shift coverage, but at the moment, it looks like the bulk of it will fall to me.

So I decided my ‘price’ will be a couple of weeks off in November. I will always want to visit Jeremy and Ashley and Rosalie but I also have an unfulfilled promise to visit Peter and Nanci in Spokane. And I like to stop in on my cousins Dan and Nettie also in Spokane.

Is this a goal worthy of discussion? Honestly, I don’t know how Linda would respond to this. I emailed her the other day that I was cancelling the session since I had been scheduled for work at that time. She hasn’t responded. The bereavement group that seemed so promising a few months ago doesn’t hold appeal.

Since I’ve been back I’ve had one day where I had a lot of time to do things and I didn’t and I felt bad about it. All the old thoughts about how I should use my time better and what those uses should be came and went. Then the next day I went to work.

I feel good that I’ve been posting pretty regularly since I got back. I feel good about being in the Skyline band again. (At the request of Zack I’m playing bass this semester.) I feel good that I have a handle on how much work I have in the weeks ahead. It’s more than I would like but if the payoff is two weeks off in November I’ll take it. Jeremy tried unsuccessfully to call me this week two times when I said I was available so I felt bad about that. Then we had a nice Skype session Friday night so I felt better. He’s having a tough time getting a decent job. Ashley is very happy with her new teaching setup but that cuts both ways with Jeremy. I don’t have a magic wand to make it all great. That would cut both ways too, I guess.

my musical weekend

In order to free up my weekend for personal things, I took on work towards the end of last week that ordinarily I would have dodged. Wednesday night on house electric, Thursday all day until midnight with the sound crew for a Disney/Pixar film, then Friday morning for a graduation, followed by house electric duties again in the evening.

Saturday morning I was pooped, but by early afternoon I was ready to go to a benefit party for Sarah’s quartet. Here‘s a link to their website, by the way.

The party was very nice, in a modest home in San Francisco. The quartet played excerpts from their repertoire, most notably from David Ryther’s transcription of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. Even in their opening number, a selection from Vilvaldi’s Four Seasons, it was astonishing how loud 4 acoustic instruments were in a small room. They played in the living room which wasn’t more than about 15′ by 15′ with a normal ceiling.

Hearing a string quartet in such intimate circumstances is one of the best musical experiences I’ve ever had. Saturday afternoon was not one of the best, mostly because excerpts do not allow each piece to develop as it should.

At 5 it was over and I had to run to my own concert. The Skyline Jazz Band’s concert was that evening. We had done a dress rehearsal in the theater Monday and one the last things I heard from my rhythm section mates was that we would do a sectional there at 5 on Saturday. No one seemed to care when I asked if the theater would be open to us then. As it happened, the jazz vocal group was already there and rehearsing so the sectional crumbled. The section is a little chaotic, with three drummers, two bass players and two guitar players.

In theory, charts are assigned so that only one of each plays at a time. It works well, as far as I can tell, with the other players, but my guitar partner doesn’t seem to get it. During rehearsal, throughout the semester, no one is bothered by both of us chunking along, but even one guitar in a big band is arguably too much. Gram is very young, and I am very non-confrontational so I haven’t played the heavy with him. I did complain some weeks ago to Zack, the director. He made some gentle efforts in class to make it all clear. I don’t know what, if anything, he said to Gram in private.

None of it made any impression. Gram just kept playing on every chart! During one that I had been assigned to, in the middle of the concert, Zack came over and indicated (I thought) to Gram that he should stop. Nope.

Oh, well. Zack announced during the concert that Gram is going on to study jazz guitar at SFS State in the fall. I wish him the best, but I’m not going to miss him in the section.

Sunday was Doghouse Blues in Drytown. Steve had graciously smoothed the way for me to have a lesson with Allen Frank. Allen is a good player but not formally educated in music so he’s not a very good teacher. It was mostly do this, try this. Hard to assimilate under the conditions. He’s also the owner of the club so he was a little distracted by some necessities of getting the club ready for a Sunday afternoon crowd. He did let me sit in with the band for three numbers later in front of a nice crowd at the club. Thanks, Allen!

Still, 14 hours and 300 miles driven. That’s a lot for 20 minutes of playing. OK, about an hour including the lesson. I did get to spend some quality time with Steve and Leigh beforehand.

Tonight, I’m back to jazz, sort of. The band is playing in the gymnasium for graduation and tonight is our run through. If past experience is a guide, we’ll play three or four numbers before getting down with P & C for the graduates’ walk in.

catching up

OK, it’s time to catch up on the last few weeks. Every time I think I’ve got some time free, something seems to happen. This week it was the headaches. Last week it was a couple of unexpected days at work.

Whatever. Let’s look back,

SoundBox was really awesome. The young German conductor of the SFS Youth Orchestra, Christian Reif, was the curator. Rather than trying to describe it, I recommend you all just read this review. It is of course a glowing review, but what I especially like about it is how it describes the atmosphere at a SoundBox concert pretty well. A couple of people that I spoke to afterwards who had seen many SoundBoxes were quite moved by this set.

From the technical standpoint, the only difficulty we had was amplifying the instruments in the Black Angels string quartet. I didn’t find out until after the fact that the full title includes the words ‘for Electric String Quartet.’ I had only been given a note that the (acoustic) instruments were to Be mic’d, which we did for the first rehearsal. Everyone seemed to like it expect the players in the quartet who now told us the sound should be distorted and loud ‘like Jimi Hendrix.’

So we talked it over and they agreed that they would bring in their distortion pedals the next day and we would wire them through the overhead speakers.

What they actually brought in was a motley collection of amps, none of which had dedicated distortion circuits. All we could do was overdrive the inputs and hope it worked. After much fiddling – so to speak! – we got something that they professed to be happy with. It wasn’t nearly the overwhelming loudness of Hendrix. Oh well.

A week later was my date with Loose Gravel at the Valencia Club in Penryn. At the last minute, I had traded with Tom singing Dizzy Miss Lizzy for Blue Suede Shoes. That one I had sung back in the April days so I thought it would be straightforward. It turned out to be a problem, though, partly because the vocal starts without any introduction. I ended up in the wrong key. It was only the second song of the afternoon and people were looking at me and the band as if wondering what they were in for.

It got better, though. A few songs later I got to chew on Big Boss Man, which I had actually sung a few times in the intervening years. That went very well.

The second set was the Chuck Berry tribute and I sang Wee Wee Hours and Memphis acceptably. In honor of Chuck I had brought my red ES-335 which I don’t play much. I had bought it from Vince a couple of years ago because he offered me a great deal on it. Afterwards we talked about it. He offered to take it back but ‘didn’t have any money.’ Ha ha, very finny Vince! I don’t dislike it that much.

It’s a beautiful guitar. Here’s a picture of it in front of Allen Frank’s Super Reverb at his Drytown Club right after I bought it.

The next day – Monday night actually – the Skyline band played a ‘Mid-Term Exam’ at the Last Stop Sports Bar in Daly City. They are nice people there, but fitting a big band into the performance space they have is just not happening. We guitars were stuffed in the back next to the drums with all the wind players in front of us and playing in the other direction. It wasn’t too bad until I got to African Skies when I was supposed to be playing a unison line with the tenor sax. I couldn’t hear him at all! The trading twos at the end was a little better because it was just us and Zack was counting and pointing to each of us on our turn.

Here’s a picture of the ES-330 I use for jazz band:

It looks similar but it is really quite different. I won’t bore you with the details unless you ask.

The last SoundBox is upon us. Next week will be the last program for at least 7 months. Whether we get to start it up again in December is up to the Symphony board. It was funded for three years and those three years are done. No one wants to see it go but we all realize it is quite expensive to put it on. Some of the ‘features’ like the lighting and video will be migrated to the main Davies hall but the custom sound system I run won’t be one of them. Stay tuned . . .

Tom’s visit

Tom Kent came down to my house over the weekend. He’s going all around pimping his new CD to radio stations and club owners. Not so incidentally, he’s playing his music for more people than ever.

Yesterday we went to the San Gregorio General Store to see Jay Howlett and Rolfe Wyer play. Actually, Tom had an agreement with Jay to let him play a few of his own songs plus he got to sit in and play some solos with Jay and Rolfe. It all went really well. I hadn’t seen Jay for quite a while even though he lives in Pacifica. We go back to our freshman year in high school and did some catching up yesterday.

Rolfe and Jay both encouraged me to return any time and sit in. They play there the last Sunday of each month so I’ve got that in my calendar now. I would try to learn some of Jay’s songs except he has so many and he follows the Grateful Dead mode of playing what seems right at the moment. Tom did great just listening and filling in so I should be able to do something similar. He’s got self confidence where I have fears, tho’. Another thing to work on.

Saturday night, Tom played me a demo of one of his new songs and we had some good conversation working on ways to improve it.

Not really germane to the story of this weekend, but about my music, is that tonight is the Skyline jazz band rehearsal. Zack (Bruno, the director) has chosen a couple of tunes that feature guitar. There is another guitarist but his skill level is similar to mine so we both are going to have to step up and play some exposed parts. I’m trying to practice more . . .

music

In recent years, when people have asked me about what I might do with my time when I retire, one of the answers I usually give is, ‘Play music.’

For those who don’t know, I was consumed by music as a teenager. I learned to play guitar and played in a band in high school. My local JC, DeAnza College, had a very good jazz program and, rather by accident, I ended up there for three years. My last year was primarily to take advantage of the opportunity I had to play bass with the #1 band. It was a hot band and I was stretched to the max. Many of the musicians in that band went on to careers in music but I decided to work in the theatre and have the freedom to ‘play’ music when and where I wanted.

As it worked out, I played very little music for the ensuing 25 years. Work and family took precedence.

About a dozen years ago I started to come out again, mostly playing rock and roll with Tom Kent and his bands. When I got back to the Bay Area, I enrolled in the jazz band at the local JC, Skyline College. I played bass for two years then guitar the third year.

Then . . . then I had jobs keep coming up on Monday nights so I quit. But last fall I started again. On guitar, on the theory that a missing guitar player in a big band is no loss whereas a missing bass player is more serious.

I needn’t have worried. They had three bass players and another guitar player; they hardly noticed when I’m there.

Actually, everyone was very nice and welcomed me back. Many of the current band members were there for my first go ’round but my contributions this time were minimal.

But what I noticed was that I wasn’t practicing the material. I looked at it and worked at it long enough to get through it, but I didn’t work it to get any better. In fact, the second half of last semester I don’t think I picked up the guitar at all except on Monday night for rehearsal.

I decided to write about this when today, with no need to go to work, I got up and did my laundry and the dishes, then wrote a nice blog post, then  . . . farted around the house: read some, tried to take a nap, ate lunch, read some more, did a crossword, had a cup of tea.

Now I’m writing this. Why don’t I play the guitar? Or the bass? They’re all here, hanging on the wall, begging to be played. I don’t know.I’ve got tons of resources: books, music, backing tracks. It’s making me reassess my stated retirement plans. And wonder about all my motivations.

Well, I signed up for another semester of band so I’ll keep trying. It starts in a couple of weeks.

SoundBox

December SoundBox is over, except for the load out tomorrow morning. I plan on spending some time cleaning up my cue library and making some notes on good practices. I got caught with my pants down last night when I took a cue out of order and a few minutes later another one obliterated it. When Tim rolled the video cue, I got sound, but only out of two or three speakers in one corner of the room instead of all over. Oopsie!

Much of what I learned last year is still in my mental attic, so to speak. Seven months of essentially no time spent on CueStation has left me with cobwebs. I suppose I was over confident and didn’t check what I had carefully.

MTT noticed, and during the intermission the query came through channels to me: ‘What went wrong and is it fixed?’ ‘My bad, Maestro.’

It was an MTT program and, as such, it was tremendously interesting. What threw me, especially since I didn’t prepare properly, was the talking and video roll between every piece. Someone said to me early in the week that MTT was really doing a Lou Harrison seminar. All the music was Harrison’s. There was also an audio only roll (ten seconds of Schoenberg’s music) that I got at 5:30 Friday afternoon with sketchy instructions and no rehearsal. I played it live and at least it came out of the correct speakers . . .

The best part of the week was watching the percussionists playing literally everything including the kitchen sink. Well, there wasn’t a kitchen sink, but there were the ’50s era brake drums. Two of the pieces had no conductor and they had to find and agree on a (n unheard) pulse and maintain it while other instruments were playing something radically different.

I talked to them after the concert. They all were gathered at a table unwinding. They said it was very satisfying but mentally draining. I suppose that goes hand in hand. It was an interesting to contrast what they do with the drummers in the Skyline Band. I played a concert with them yesterday afternoon. Nathaniel and James are very good drummers but I happen to know that at least three of the Symphony percussionists are very good on kit and could probably have sat in and done the concert cold.

My favorite piece of the evening was the Suite for Violin and American Gamelan. Nadya played the violin and Jake, Raymond, Tom, Loren, Artie, and Stan filled out the gamelan. Stan had a thing that had an octave or so worth of metal bars about one foot by two mounted on huge tubes from two to six feet long. The sound just rolled out of them across the room with the violin swimming in it.

Sarah came last night which was nice but I was so twitchy about all my cues that she din’t stay up on the jump with me. She just went down on the floor and hung with her friends. I was able to chat and meet with them after the show which was nice.