Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Onward Christian Assasins?


Now, as a child in Sunday School, learning the song "Onward Christian Soldiers" I was always struck by the oxymoronic nature of this tune. What, exactly, would a Christian "Soldier" be like? "Marching as to war"? I eventually sort of accepted the metaphorical explanation of it. Doing "battle" against "evil". That one needed "strength" and "courage" to be a good, upright, honest person.

I guess Pat Robertson understands something a little different.

Geez, what a jackass. Maybe this will finally be the one to take him and his racket down.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Liner Notes

The recording Saturday went really well. Got to live with the results for a few days/weeks to know what we've really got, but I suspect there will be a CD out in the not too distant future. Playing with Don Braden was a thrill, and has sent me crawling, whimpering back to the woodshed (but in a good way). We recorded 10 tunes, 9 of which we can use. Of these, all but one were written by me, that one having been written by George Coleman, Sr., father of our drummer George Coleman, Jr. Marty Rizek on bass. Came up with a funny idea for liner notes.

"MRC Trio Meets Braden"

Notes on the tunes, by the composer (mostly)

Ikon Tact
Pretentious Vic: The drum intro sets us off wandering through uncharted, wild environs. We come upon a huge monolith, represented by the bass line.The abstract melody line is the icon of the title, engraved upon the monolith. The improvisation represents a search for meaning in hieroglyph, an attempt to translate some ancient lost (or possibly alien) language.

Regular Vic: Pronounced "eye contact", I just thought it looked funny. Funny title for a funny tune.

Pretentious Vic: This is a comment on the de-humanization / objectification of women by men in our increasingly coarse society. As father of a little girl I wanted to send message that she should never be defined by what some man objectifies her as, as some sort of body-image-conscious piece of meat.

Regular Vic: That's a worthwhile message, but not really the point here. If I ever got vanity license plates, I thought it would be funny to get ones that said "NAVL GAZR" (pronounced "navel gazer"). Plus, bossas and sambas make me think about girls in bikinis on the beach in Rio, where I assume some navel gazing goes on. Guess that's a pretty crappy message, huh?

Giant Blues
Pretentious Vic: Here we have a tone poem, where a race of tiny, weak people (played by the guitar) run frantically from an approaching giant(played by tenor).

Regular Vic: This is a minor blues, with some Giant Steps changes on top of it. Hence, "Giant Blues". I soloed first so that I wouldn't embarrass myself after Braden. So, maybe there's some truth to Pretentious Vic's story after all.

There's No Then In Zen
Pretentious Vic: Living with Zen master (my cat, Mr. Kitty), I am constantly being taught important Zen truths. This is meant to express that there is no future, no past. Only the eternal now.

Regular Vic: Umm, that's actually what this one is about. That, and when George first mentioned playing with Don, I wrote this one thinking about his sound and feel.

Pretentious Vic: The title is a guttural, almost unpronounceable sound. Like the earth breaking apart in the beginning of time (think of Stravinsky's "Rite"). The bass line (the earth) breaks apart, releasing small signs of emergent life (the small motives of the melody, heard in varying combinations and lengths). These are combined and re-combined, until they converge into a more fully developed form of life.

Regular Vic: This is a funk tune in (or on) "A". "Funk - A" backwards is"A-KNUF". Plus, since the writing is so minimal, I thought there was barely enough (a-knuf) material for a whole tune.

Why Aren't You Listening?
Pretentious Vic: A lone voice crying out to the universe in search of understanding.

Regular Vic: I don't have anything funny to say about this one. I don't really remember where the name came from, but it's a bluesy tune that's clearly becoming more insistent, trying to get someones attention.

Amsterdam After Dark
Pretentious Vic: I've never been to Amsterdam. But I hear it's lovely.

Regular Vic: A tune by "Big George", we gave it a sort of "Rikki Don't Lose That Number" (by way of Horace Silver) feel. Hope he doesn't mind.

The "Fight or Flight Response" Blues
Pretentious Vic: Confronted by a terrifying object (the unison line at thetop of the tune), our "hero" (the band) has two options - fight or flight (represented by the "head" played twice, transposed up a half step the second time). The rest of the tune is a portrait of the psychological battle between these two instinctive reactions.

Regular Vic: Whenever I have a tricky musical idea I want to try out, I usually do it over a blues, so that there will be minimal musical challenges when it comes time to play the tune. I wanted to write something that would modulate back and forth, but not sound like it was modulating. The title seemed to fit, sort of because of Pretentious Vic's reasons, two sides ofthe same coin.

New, as of yet un-named Ballad
Pretentious Vic: To name a thing of beauty is to destroy it.

Regular Vic: Didn't pick out a name yet. My daughter saw this written on a set list and she asked me "Is that one of your songs?". I said yes. She then asked "Is that what it's called?". I told her of course not, that I just hadn't picked out a name for it yet. She said "You have some pretty weird names, I wouldn't be surprised if you called a song something like that". So, just to bust her chops, I'm sticking with it.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

GREAT Rehearsal, recording coming up this weekend!

Last night had an amazing rehearsal. It's a beautiful experience to hear a great musician bring your music to life. Hearing a world class player take my tunes and make then something "more" - wow, I'm blown away. Looking forward to recording Saturday. May finally do a recording and not think "this came out just ok", or "this sounds good except for...". Finally do one right.

Humbled and inspired to be around a musician so strong. Really makes you want to get your shit together.

After a few bad musical experiences over the last few weeks it felt great to have a really satisfying playing experience.

What's odd is that I haven't been listening to much jazz leading up to this. And almost no jazz guitar at all. If anything I've been listening to lots of Hendrix and Miles (which is what I've been listening to most of the time lately, anyway). I want to absorb their power. That's what I want to feed off of. It's almost like I don't want to pollute my ideas with anyone else's until the recording gets done.

Here's hoping it lives up to my newly heightened expectations. If it's anywhere near as good as the rehearsal, I'm sure it will.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Update to "Top 11"

I've had a little more time to think about my Top 11 list of rock guitar. I'm pretty much satisfied with it as it stands. I did consider adding the fellas from the Eagles (Joe Walsh and the other guy whose name I always forget. Let me look it up - Don Felder. Can never remember that name). Ultimately they stand just outside the list. The one addition, however, that I think I have to make is Mike Campbell from the Heartbreakers.

I spent a long drive listening to TP and the Heartbreakers Greatest Hits and was consitently amazed at the quality of his guitar playing, and at just how important his guitar playing - parts or solos - were to the songs.

George Benson once commented about Kenny Burrell that no one could play finer than he. People could play "better", of differently, but no one could play "finer". Same for Campbell. You couldn't improve on anything he plays. Tone, touch, phrasing, it's all there. And the ideas! You could do something differently, but you couldn't do it any better.

I remember reading Petty talk about how they had recorded "Breakdown" and the line - the "LINE" - only came at the end of the tune, maybe on a fadeout. He played the rough cut for Bruce Springsteen and, as he put it "Bruce got religion" when he heard that line. It was at his insistence that they recut the song making "the LINE" an integral part, not just a throw away idea. That may be Bruce's greatest contribution to music. (I'm not a big Bruce guy).

So, if the list were to be expanded at all, it would be to include Mike Campbell.