Master Guitar News - 2012
December 13th, 2012: Just found out Ed Cassidy died on Dec 6th. He was the drummer for Spirit (the songs I remember are "1984" and "Nature's Way"). I met Ed Cassidy only once but it was memorable. Sometime during the '80's (I can't remember exactly when) a friend of mine named Rick Chael called me up. Rick plays piano and guitar. We went to high school together and we've played a few gigs together here and there over the years. Anyway, Rick calls me up and asks me if I want to do an acoustic duo and open for Spirit at the Uptown Theater. I thought it was a little weird for an acoustic duo to open for Spirit. They were a rock band. I have no idea how Rick got the gig. I took the gig, we rehearsed a time or two and then played the gig. Randy California, who was the guitar player, lead singer, and the main songwriter of the band (he was also Ed Cassidy's stepson) was the guy I wanted to meet. Turns out he was very dark and withdrawn, he wouldn't make eye contact, and just mumbled stuff I couldn't understand. Ed, on the other hand, was very outgoing, upbeat and talkative. He spent quite a bit of time in our dressing room talking up a storm, beating everything in sight - tables, chairs, the wall, the floor, clothes racks, whatever - with the thickest pair of drumsticks I'd ever seen. He was a bundle of energy. At the time, I thought he was an old guy (uhm...he was probably about the age I am now), he had a shaved head, which was unusual in eighties rock - so he was an old bald guy - too old to be playing rock music, I thought, but it turns out he was just monstrously good. He came back into our dressing room after our set and before Spirit went on and was very complimentary and positive. He made me feel good about my playing and about what we'd done - how we'd gone out in front of a rock crowd with nothing but an acoustic piano and an acoustic guitar and held their attention for 45 minutes or an hour. It's good to be affirmed. RIP Ed Cassidy.
December 11th, 2012: Just booked 1 Sunday a month Dec 2012 thru Aug 2013 solo at the Jazz Kitchen in Legends. That's a nice chunk-o-change. Gig Schedule.
December 3rd, 2012: My friend Dan Miller, the owner of Guitar Dock, has this picture of Jimi Hendrix. He says it was taken outside of a motel room in Kansas City the morning after a concert here. I always liked the picture. As a result of a discussion on Facebook about this picture, I did a little digging. I knew Hendrix had played here in 1968 at Municipal Auditorium. I know because I was at another event at the Music Hall right next door. I sat in the back row with my ear pressed against the adjoining wall and listened as best I could. That was the closest I ever got to Jimi. Anyway, I found the date of the concert and also a picture taken backstage with a local DJ, Humble Harry. Same shirt, same jacket, same hair. The concert was November 1st, 1968. Dan's picture was probably taken the next morning, November 2nd. A little piece of history.
October 21st 2012: Did a session a couple of weeks ago with Steve-O, a DJ for Cumulus Media Group. He writes and records Dubstep music. He wanted some real guitar sounds for a deal he was doing so I went in and did some tracking. Here's his final mix.
August 14th, 2012: The duo with Brian Ruskin at Chaz on the Plaza went as I expected. Wonderful. Brian is a great player, we went in with no rehearsal having never played together and had no problems. We just alternated - he'd pick a tune, I'd pick a tune. We can both play jazz standards, we can both play a huge variety of tunes/styles, and we can both sing. No problemo. The night was actually over before we were ready to quit. We had just been playing, having a great time, and Brian looked at his watch and it was after 10:00 (quitting time)! Whoa! The 4 hours just flew by! We played another song anyway. Someone in the crowd yelled out, "Encore!" I said, "That was the encore! - goodnight!" I hope we can do more gigs, I like it. It's a pretty high quality of musicianship with no work (read; rehearsal) involved. Brian is comfortable flying by the seat of his pants and that's the way I like to do things so it worked out great. He's plugged into a lot of younger players that are real good. I'm wanting to do that, get in with a younger crop of really good players. Brian's dad is Tommy Ruskin, who is a wonderful jazz drummer that I've played with a time or two - one of the best around. Whenever Pat Metheny comes into town and plays with local guys Tommy is always his drummer of choice. Anyway, Brian comes from good stock.
July 30th, 2012: A couple of weeks ago my friend Steve Barrett called me and offered me a ticket to go with him to see James Taylor at Starlight Theater. Are you kidding? Yeah! I love James Taylor! I love his music, his songwriting, his lyrics - everything. He has also evolved a quirky and very personal acoustic guitar style that's been very influential - I hear it everywhere, especially among country singer/songwriters. He has been a very important influence on my own playing and songwriting. I've never seen him live and was very excited to finally get to see and hear him in person. When he first came out and started playing and singing I almost felt like crying - his music has been that important to me over the years - maybe my reaction had something to do with the 6 shots of Jaeger I'd had on my gig earlierJ ya think? Steve and I went straight from the gig to Starlight (don't worry, Steve drove!). After the first few tunes I began to feel conflicted. The reason is because I knew who was on the stage; Steve Gadd, Luis Conti, Jimmy Johnson, Larry Goldings, Lou Marini, Michael Landau - these are all monstrous, monstrous musicians. I found myself thinking, "C'mon James - give the band 10 minutes. Just one song. It would be mind-bogglingly awesome!" Nothing. Not even a drum solo. I didn't really expect anything, after all, it's all about James - and deservedly so. That's why the theater was packed, it was James Taylor. Still, as good as the band was, and the sound was impeccable, it just felt to me like they were playing the parts, the same parts, that they always do when playing James Taylor songs. You have to play the parts, that's what James pays for, that's what's necessary, and these guys are the best that money can buy. I realized that I wouldn't have felt conflicted at all if it was just James Taylor with an acoustic guitar sitting on a stool playing his songs by himself all night long. No band, no back-up singers - just James doing all those wonderful songs of his. I would've loved that, no question.
July 22nd, 2012: So I'm playing this Sunday at The Isle of Capri Casino with a band I've never played with before. I've done this several times recently - Oasis,DeZire, Funk Syndicate, and now with the Uptown Players. In all these cases I'm filling in for an absent guitar player. These are basically dance bands. There's no rehearsal, the bandleader emails me a set list and if I don't know anything on there I get on You Tube and do some homework. In all these cases, I know about 90% of the song list. It's all the stuff I did when I was doing the full-time cover band thing back in the '70's and early '80's. Lots of disco, funk, and R&B - all the stuff I got sick of, playing the same parts night after night after night after night - for years! Now, after so many intervening years, it's kind of fun to go back and revisit some of this material. However, it never fails that there's one freakin' song that I work harder on than all the other songs put together, and it never fails that that one song is a Steely Dan song. How did those guys manage to have all those hits with music that is so good - and difficult? Usually the hit potential is inversely proportional to the complexity of the music. Not in Steely Dan's case. I just spent a couple of hours on Josie. Check out the chart I made. I'm going to have to practice it every day this week to feel secure about pulling it off on Sunday. Shit.
July 16th, 2012: Sliced my left hand pinky and ring finger with a steak knife at my nephew's wedding reception Saturday night. Stupid and a total bummer. I don't have a gig 'till Saturday - hopefully I'll be able to play by then. The ring finger is already usable but the pinky was cut pretty deep. Bled like crazy. Finally put some cayenne pepper on it and bound it up. Cayenne is great stuff - all kinds of healing properties. I taught today (Monday) using two fingers. It's a great object lesson for students to quit their whining. "I can play better than you with two fingers and you've got four! So shut up and play yer guitar!"
On a more positive note Brian Ruskin booked a duo gig for him and me at Chaz on the Plaza for August the 14th. Brian's a great guitar player/singer. Should be a lot of fun, I'm looking forward to it. Hopefully my hand will be totally healed up by then. I'm going to need all four fingers if I'm going to have a chance at keeping up with Brian!
June 26th, 2012: The Woodstock Flashback gig at Zona Rosa was fun. I thought it went well, no one left, we got lots of response, got paid, lots of pictures. Win/win/win. The gig at Cafe Cedar was interesting. It was a pretty slow night but what was interesting is the owner, Jehad. He's an Iranian Muslim married to a Mexican Catholic - and let that be a lesson for everyone! He's extremely passionate about cooking and has a cooking show that films every Monday morning in the club. Cooking with Jehad. He played me a trailer for it and asked me to come up with a soundtrack for it. He also said he eventually wants to have a live band on the show every week.
June 8th, 2012: Gig news: Played a gig as a duo with James Albright last Sunday - that was fun. Me and James are a pretty strong duo. Canceling BB's a few times this summer, Monty Musa will sub for me. Woodstock Flashback will play Zona Rosa's Summer Concert Series on June 16th so I won't play BB's that day.Janet Jameson will be in the band for that gig - should be fun. My friend Chris Foster called me to sub for him at Cafe Cedar on June 23rd. I'm hoping that will go well and maybe I can get into the rotation there. Chris plays it a lot and also I know Brian Ruskin plays there a lot. June the 30th I'm booked with Funk Syndicate - it'll be the first time with those guys. Their drummer, John Hobbs, and I played in a band together in the early eighties. We also had a working jazz trio going at the same time that was fairly significant to my development as a jazz musician. An instrumental guitar/bass/drums trio is a lot of pressure for the guitarist - I remember when we actually started gigging it was a little intimidating to have to come up with four hours worth of chordal arrangements of the heads and be the main soloist as well. No substitute for jumping in the deep end! We recorded a four-song demo of original tunes, two of mine and two written by the bass player, Gary Helm, who now plays percussion for Sons of Brazil. I should try and get those digitized and put up on SoundCloud or something, they were pretty cool. Anyway, I'm looking forward to playing with John again after lo these many years. July 14th I'm canceling BB's because I have a nephew getting married in Columbia.
May 15th, 2012: Finally figured out how to get decent videos with my Nikon Coolpix L1230 that my kids gave me last year for my birthday. I have several videos of me playing solo at Jazz Legends that aren't very good - fuzzy, bad framing, or I took them vertically then had to rotate the video which doesn't look right - I think it was because it was on a wide angle setting so it makes me look wide! The sound is also not very good but the sound will never be good using a little condenser mic on the camera. Anyway, for the first time, I got some reasonably decent looking video of the solo gig last Sunday. It feels rather narcissistic to be dinking around with a camera on the gig, taking movies of myself (I've never denied having a streak of narcissism!). However, one thing I've learned is that one of the keys to success in the music business is shameless self-promotion. Even the crappy videos that have been up on my You Tube channel have actually helped me get gigs. So I've felt it was worth the hassle and embarrassment to try to get some better looking video. Jazz Legends is a good gig to experiment on because you're way up on the balcony level removed from the crowd which generally won't notice the extra 30 seconds you take between one song and another to set up the shot. Those of you who know me know of my interest in taking photographs. I started shooting 35mm color slides on Kodachrome 64 back in '77. Many of the photographs on this site from the late seventies through the '90's are actually scans of slides from my collection. My Dad started shooting Kodachrome in '52. Many of the photos of me as a kid-with-guitar are scans of his slides. I don't consider myself a photographic artist by any means, I just like to document life. For about the last 3 years I've been more aggressive about taking and posting pictures of gigs. When you see the quantity of gig pics up for 2011, for instance, and realize that what's there is not even close to all the gigs, and then multiply that by 40 years, you can get a vague idea of my gig life - which is typical of a working musician on my level. I am blessed to have been able to more or less make a living and raise a family with the guitar, which is something I dearly love to do - just play the guitar. As the inimitable James Taylor said, "Dad loves his work!" Anyway, I'm definitely interested in messing around with videoing more of my gigs. What I need now is a camera that will take a direct line from the mixer so I can get decent sound. It's always something!
April 24th, 2012: Got double-booked on May the 4th. Valentine booked the Knights on a car show from 6-10. I was already booked 9-1 with Jose Hendrix. Don Schmidt from the Clique agreed to fill in for me at Jose's gig 'till I can get there. Thanks Don.
Put up "Purple Haze" from Woodstock Flashback's March 7, 2010 debut show at Bartle Hall on my You Tube channel. This was with Stan Sheldon on bass and Go Go Ray on drums. It was the first time we had played together - no rehearsal. There were some rough spots but overall it kicked ass.
April 19th, 2012: Jose Hendrix asked me to suggest some tunes for him to learn, he wants to broaden his cover repertoire to help us get through these 4-hour gigs we've got booked at Californos (4/20, 5/4, 5/24). With his voice: Michael Jackson, Sting, Train. We rehearsed this week and he sounds great on this stuff! All the original keys too.
April 2nd, 2012: Booked 4 more dates with Jose Hendrix at Californos in Westport. The gig at Nica's 320 went ok, other than a drunk, obnoxious videographer who kept telling me where to stand. Sorry dude, the lighting is your problem, not mine. Some of his "work" from that evening is already up on YouTube (Congo Warrior). There's also a video montage that appeared recently of our last gig with Jose last summer before he returned to Africa. It also includes some rehearsal footage.
I put up my solo version of Fastball's "The Way" on my YouTube channel.
March 27th, 2012: My friend and monster sax player Bill Caldwell has died. Sadness. http://m.kansascity.com/kcstar/db_/contentdetail.htm?contentguid=XJ4yPWgK&full=true#display
March 19th 2012: The Irish gig in Ft Scott Saturday night was one of those gigs that is the reason I do this. The traditional Irish songs I had learned and charted out for the rest of the band sounded great! James Albright wrote out a quick chart for me and did and instrumental version of "Be Thou My Vision". It's an old hymn that's done by a lot of Celtic groups. It was beautiful! Janet Jameson (the fiddle player) got ovation after ovation for her solos. After the gig, the house soundman told me it was the best thing he's seen - he said he was sitting in the balcony behind the board almost in tears. All this considering I'd never played or even tried to play Irish music before, and the band had no rehearsal. Now I've got to focus on relearning Jose Hendrix' tunes for this Saturday at Nica's 320. From Irish to Afro-Latin. That's quite a shift, even for me!
March 12th, 2012: Steve Barrett will be playing drums on the Jose Hendrix gig at Nica's 320 on the 24th. This is good news. I've known Steve since high school. He is an exciting, dynamic drummer and a real showman as well. He's been around the block a few times! The fun potential just went up! Check out the video of him playing The Bottom Line in New York with Bobby Whitlock and Paul Schaffer.
March 7th, 2012: Been learning traditional Irish songs for an Irish band Valentine is putting together to play 3 or 4 gigs a year. Phil Brenner will play flute and pennywhistle, Janet Jameson will play fiddle, James Albright will play upright bass, Kevin Johnson or Ray DeMarchi on drums, Valentine on vocals, guitar, and dirty limericks, and myself on acoustic guitar and vocals. We'll debut at Washburn University in Topeka on Wednesday the 14th, and St Patrick's Day the 17th we'll play the Liberty Theater in Ft. Scott. I bought an Irish hat to wear. The name of the band is Blarney Rubble.
March 5, 2012: Jose Hendrix will be back in the US this month. I've taken a gig with him at Nica's 320 for March 24th. Kelly Myers (Jose's songwriting and business partner here in the US) told me he's been selling popcorn for $3.00 a day in Kinshasa, the city in which he lives in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. I hope this guy makes it - he's a good guy, got a sweet spirit about him, and he's a real good singer. If he ever makes it big, his story will be quite amazing and inspiring. It's already a compelling narrative, and we're still in the middle of it.
February 29, 2012: I have a bunch of recordings, instrumentals mostly, that I've never done anything with. Many of them were submitted to various situations through Taxi. Taxi is an independent A&R company that screens tracks/songs for various clients in the biz for guys like me - unknowns living in fly-over country without access to a lot of music industry infrastructure. I got a couple of placements in production company catalogues out in LA but nothing that's turned into any money to speak of. Anyway, all these tunes have never been released. I've toyed with the idea of compiling them into a CD and releasing it but I'm not really motivated to spend the time, money, and effort it would take to do that. So I thought I'd just put some of them up on Soundcloud.com and see what happens. At least it's putting them out into the world instead of just sitting on them like I have for the last decade and a half or so.
January 22, 2012: Last night Phil Brenner couldn't make the Ticklers gig at Barleys and when I arrived Janet Jameson was there to play with me and Mark Valentine. She plays violin and sings. She's very good and I enjoyed it a lot. She's going to be involved in an Irish band we're putting together called, "Blarney Rubble". Janet's boyfriend was there as well. That's Steve Davis. Here's a pic of the four of us. Steve is a wonderful guitar player that I've known since high school. He happens to be "George" in the Beatles tribute band, "Liverpool". I last saw him a couple of years ago when Woodstock Flashback opened for Liverpool. He sat in, and I had a great time playing with him and talking with him on breaks and hanging out for a little while after the gig. He's been doing a gypsy jazz thing and talked about us getting together and trying out some of that stuff. I would like that.
Friday night I played Ophelia's with Mama Ray, Don Glaza and Alan Monroe. Nine hours later there was already a video up on YouTube.