Category Archives: New Music/Ideas

Expanding on the Jazz vs. Classical Worlds

Duke Ellington

Ludwig von Beethoven

Beethoven

I hope the title above doesn’t sound contentious. I truly don’t believe that there is a battle between the jazz and classical worlds. However, I believe that many musicians do believe that one must make a choice between playing jazz or classical.

Let’s make it very clear here that playing jazz and classical well takes years of practice and devotion. One is not easier than the other and just because a musician can play jazz doesn’t mean they can also play classical and vice-verse. I have one foot firmly placed in the jazz world (I do have a Masters degree in Jazz Studies) and my other foot firmly placed in the classical world (I sub quite often in the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra) and I work hard maintaining a high playing level in both fields and I never take that for granted.

As I have been traveling down both paths, the more I realize how similar the paths are. When I think about how I want to play jazz, this is what I think about:

1. Playing with a good sound (ALWAYS!!)
2. Playing with good time
3. Playing stylistically correct
4. Playing with good technique
5. Playing with good and clear articulations
6. Playing with a studied knowledge of the music
7. Being a nice person to those around me (so I get hired again!)

The above list are the exact points I think about when I’m playing classical music! So, yes, there are differences between jazz and classical styles, but there are more similarities and those similarities are what I have been working on. And that work has paid off. I do several gigs a month with one of my various jazz groups (Standard(ish) Jazz Trio, Trombononymous, Elevator Up!) and I have won a bass trombone position with the Sinfonia da Camera orchestra in Urbana Illinois.

In future blogs, I will go into detail of what I am practicing for each classical, jazz, bass trombone and tenor trombone. These topics can be useful to musicians on any instrument that want to make themselves as marketable as possible to work as much as possible in these hard economic times.

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The Current Relationship Between Jazz and Classical

So this is nothing new at all.  This has been happening for a very long time.  If you want a history lesson, I will let RBD give the history lesson.  He would be better at that than myself right now.  What am I talking about?  Well that would be musicians crossing over between jazz and classical.  Again, it has happened and will continue to happen.  Heck, RBD does it all the time!

However, I want to touch upon one young composer and jazz musician.  Steve Lehamn.  He, like other young composers, have begun really looking at more of the ‘avant garde’ side of each discipline and how to connect them.  *note: I am not always a fan of the term ‘avant garde’ and yet I find myself using it quite a bit.  Too late to change now…*

And yet, I feel Lehman’s music is still very accessible for people.  There is still an underlying ease of groove, for lack of a better word, whether you are listening to his jazz compositions or contemporary compositions.  It’s people like Steve Lehman that still gets me excited about new music.  Granted, it’s not hard to get me excited when it comes to new music pushing the boundaries of the jazz or classical world; however, this music is even better.  That’s how I have always been, whether we are talking about music, art or literature.

The first video will give you insight into Lehman’s work within the contemporary classical world.  Four great compositions by Steve Lehman. The second video gives you insight into Steve’s compositional process and his work within the jazz world.  I will put in a plug and strongly urge you to check out his album Steve Lehman Octet: Travail, Transformation and Flow (the second video is a live show of music from that album).  It truly is a great album to listen to and feels just as fresh today as it did when released in 2009.

ICElab at LPR | Impossible Flow: Music of Steve Lehman from ICE on Vimeo.

Jazzlink# 8 : Steve Lehman from Josselin Carré on Vimeo.

So take the step and check out some of this new music.  Find these musicians who are pushing the boundaries and making new things.  It really is exciting and there is so much to take in.  It shows that the arts, although not supported like it should be, is still trying to move forward and be a force within humanity.  If enough of us check it out and support it, maybe things will change.

~mda

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How to Succeed in the Arts Without Really Trying

How does one succeed in the arts world without really trying?

1. Have a trust fund that can support you until you die.
2. Pick another career path.

Frustrating huh? What I’m trying to say is that it is NOT easy to succeed in the Arts, but it IS possible.

Far too often, people come up to me and say:  “Man, you’re so lucky! You have so many gigs and  it seems like you’re working all the time! How do you do it?”

My response goes something like this: “Luck equals preparation meeting opportunity! I’m not lucky, I just work hard and take advantage of the opportunities that are presented to me.”

Then they leave me alone. (Job well done.)

Seriously though, luck has nothing to do with my success. And anyway, what is success?

First:
You must define what success means to you.

Success is defined like this in the dictionary:
SUCCESS:
1.the favorable or prosperous termination of attempts or endeavors
2. the attainment of wealth, position, honors, or the like
3. a successful performance or achievement
4. a person or thing that is successful

So what does success mean to you? How do you define success?

Do you want to play every night?
Do you want to travel?
Do you want to write/arrange?

Do you want to teach?
Do you want to simply play your instrument?
Do you want to work a day-job?
Do you NOT want to work a day-job?
Do you want to play in an orchestra?
Do you want to play in a big band?
Do you want to play the best music all the time no matter what the cost?

Are you willing to make sacrifices in your life to achieve these goals?

As soon as you can define what success means to you, you can begin achieving it.

Have a general idea of what your life will look like. It doesn’t have to be set in stone. It should be malleable, yet set firmly in reality. For example, I will not define success for me like this:

I want to be the best trombone player in the history and future of the entire world. I would also like an island, shaped like a trombone named after me.

Ain’t gonna happen. But my actual general idea of what I want my life to look like goes something like this:

I want to play great music.
I want to play great music with incredible musicians.
I want to play great music with incredible musicians and be able to pay bills and life comfortably.

If I can achieve 2 out the 3 above, I consider that a success.

So, set goals and work a little everyday to achieve them.

How do you do that?

Networking:

“It’s not WHAT you know, it’s WHO you know.”

-Who you know will get you in the door and what you know will keep you there!

Networking is now a 24/7 endeavor! Through Social Media, you have the potential to connect/interact with your fans and your potential fans at any time and they have access to YOU.

So, how does Social Media fit into all this?

A simple question with a simple yet very complicated answer:

Create and maintain an online presence

Social Media is a place to share your views and thoughts, not just for promotional use.

  • Engage with your audience/fans
  • Make sure you’re in a two-way conversation with people consistently
  • Leave comments, don’t just ‘Like’, interact
  • Drive web traffic to one place of your choosing based on your goals.

All the above is your new ‘day-job’.

But…”My music should speak for itself”. That’s just great and I’m happy for you and your music SHOULD represent you, but if no one is there to hear it, then the music is speaking only to itself and not potential paying fans.

TIPS and THOUGHTS:

–  Tell people WHEN and WHERE you are playing!
– Go out and meet fellow artists, get to know them
– Pass out business cards as you collect them. Email your new ‘acquaintances’, be polite
– Social Media doesn’t replace the ‘old’ marketing/networking, it enhances
– Shut up and LISTEN!
– Ask Questions
– Read blogs! Check these out:

Music Think Tank
One Working Musician
Indianapolis Social Media
Owl Studios Blog
Createquity
The Jazz Artist Survival Guide
NPR: A Blog Supreme

In conclusion:

There is no fool-proof method to promotion. Don’t let the non-music activities interfere with the musical activities. Find a good balance, take chances. If something doesn’t work, stop doing it, but be patient. This is a slow developing business. Eventually, if you keep at it, with a consistent presence on-line, you will begin to see a nice Return On Investment (ROI) and you will meet or exceed your original goals!

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Looking for Live Music

Bachtrack logo

Looking for a way to find live Classical music around the world?  How about Bachtrack.  I was just told about this site and am still looking through much of it, but it seems to be a really cool thing.  I will continue searching through it and will try to give a report on the good and bad of the website.  So far, though, it seems like if organizations will use the site and upload concert calendars, we may have a hit.  I know RBD and I have always discussed how Indy could really use an all-inclusive site where the city’s performing arts organizations would have a calendar of events updated regularly.  Maybe something to work on this year…

-mda

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Money For Nothing…

Money bags!

The RBI blog has unfortunately not been very active as of late.  Our apologies.  Do we have a good excuse?  Not really, so we will just move straight in to the topic of today.  And that topic?  City money and where it is being spent. What’s the Dire Straits song?  ‘Money for nothin’ and your chicks for free.’  Well that is what has pretty much happened in Indy…

As many Indianapolis residents know the city and state has had major cutbacks in various areas, including cutting the arts budget by 50%.  Now I understand the need to cut back certain areas to save money.  In these trying times, everyone needs to ‘tighten their belts’ and ride the wave through the mess that has been created.  However, why should the education and the arts suffer so greatly in the city when others are allowed to prosper with government funding when they obviously don’t need it.  What am I talking about?  Read this July 12 article from the Indy Star.

This is something that really doesn’t make sense to me.  I am a fan of many sports, as RBD is.  However, how can the city really afford to give the Indiana Pacers $33.5 million dollars for the next 3 years to keep them in the city?  The Indiana Pacers, which is owned by a billionaire; plays in a building that was built for them with taxpayer money and they pay no rent; and they also keep part of the revenue for non-Pacers related programs and shows that happen at Conseco Fieldhouse.  Could that $33.5 million have been spent a better way?  YES!  One of the reasons given by the local government is that the Pacers bring in revenue with their home games and present Indianapolis as a destination spot for businesses and vacationers because it shows Indy as a city with multiple professional sports attractions.  Yes that may be true and I am sure it does help the downtown scene.  But, do you know what else would make Indianapolis an attractive destination spot and revitalize the area?  That’s right….the Arts.

Could you imagine what could have been accomplished if that 33.5 million was put aside to fund current and new arts programs, green initiatives and education of our youth in Indy?  This city would absolutely transform to one of best cities in the region, if not the nation.  This is the truth!  So why couldn’t this money be used in better ways.  The owner of the Pacers has money to use and spend on his team.  Why does he need a bailout from the city?  We should be supporting our artists, dancers and musicians to create something beautiful and worthwhile.  Look what local and/or government support has done for other cities that is close in size to Indianapolis: Austin, San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, Minneapolis-St. Paul and the list could continue.  They are generally listed as some of the best places to live for a reason….and I believe a lot of it is because each city gives their support for the Arts.  They understand for a city to continue to grow and become a destination, it needs an identity.  That identity should be something that expands the mind (the Arts) and not just a professional sports team that continues to struggle each and every year.

Just a thought.  What do you guys think?  Am I looking at this completely wrong?  Give us your comments and let’s start a discussion!

-mda

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The Nature of Reviews

RBD: Recently, as employees of an small jazz record label, we have noticed a couple of interesting things that have turned up in reviews. Now, not everybody knows this, we love getting reviews of the albums we release. The reviews usually gauge the importance and popularity of the album before it is officially released. I will let mda talk more about the process of sending out the albums and gathering the reviews. Anyway, with the release that gets sent out, a bio or a description goes along with the album (sort of a detailed explanation about who is playing: what where and when). If the reviewer takes, say 3 minutes, to read the description of the album, then listens to the album, then writes the review, there really should be no errors in who is playing what when and where on the album. That however, doesn’t always seem to be the case.

mda: I agree it seems like it should be quite easy to read the accompanying material and go from there.  However, I am going to play devil’s advocate for a second.  I am sure these reviews receive 20-50 albums in the mail every week…if not every day.  And then the publicists are calling and/or emailing wondering if the reviewer will publish a review of the album.  I would assume they think they do not have the time to read and then listen to the entire album.  This should not be an excuse! I would think that publicists would want to do the best possible job day in and day out, which would mean reading and listening to all material.

RBD: I agree with your devil’s avocado argument mda. I can see that reviews do have a TON of albums to review each and every day, but at what point does their lack of time listening to the album, or reading about the album begin to effect the quality of the review? When you consider how much the artists, not to mention, the record labels rely on honest reflections and reviews of their products, when does this lack of attention start to hurt the product? Is their a happy medium? Less reviews for more money? (do reviewers get paid to publish reviews?)

mda: I actually do not know.  I think there are two different types of reviewers now: the traditional newspaper/magazine reviewers who get paid for their words each and every day; and the internet/blog/webzine reviewers who generally do it because they enjoy music and care about educating the public about new, exciting music.  These people might get some piddly compensation if it is a large enough blog that is supported by another entity, but I believe they mainly do this on their own.  And have you noticed a difference between these two reviewers?

RBD: Well, actually no. I’m not sure where I stand. As we’ve had reviews coming in, some of our artists have gotten upset and asked why more musicians are not doing the reviews. My answer has been that either a musician is to busy practicing/gigging to do reviews, or too bitter for not practicing/gigging that

Greg Osby

you don’t want them to do a review! All this discussion comes to me from a blog written by Greg Osby. His band was touring in Italy and they received a poor review. He argues that perhaps the reviewer needs to walk a mile in the musicians shoes. The writer commented that the band sounded somewhat uninspired and misdirected. Osby agreed, but thought that had the reviewer known that the band had been traveling and performing for weeks on end, there could be a benefit-of-the-doubt given. I don’t know if that’s right, wrong or not important, but ultimately I want reviews, of concerts and albums, to be honest, but with some insight, some appreciation for HOW the music comes together! (especially if they get a sheet that tells them how the music came together!!)

mda: I agree and I think unfortunately only 60% really do that.  Oh well, I don’t think it can actually be changed.  People are going to do what they do no matter what.  What do you think would have happened if, say Robert Schumann or Hector Berlioz (both well known reviewers/writers during their time) didn’t really pay attention to the concert and wrote some nonsensical review?  They would have been laughed at.  The world isn’t like that anymore…such a shame.

RBD: I guess you’re right and it is a shame. What do you think? Should we start accepting albums for review? Or should we just stand on the sideline and criticize the critics?

mda: I will gladly accept albums to review.  I love listening to new music and educating others on the wonderful new music.

RBD: Well that settles it. No reviews. Sorry.

(OK, we are indeed up for doing reviews if you want to send us anything! Just email us at chamber.indy@gmail.com and we’ll send you our address so you can send us your music!)

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Spring Training 2010 Trip #1

Spring Training Baseball!!

Travel Day, March 6th, Indianapolis, IN to Tampa, FL

3/6/10
Indy to Tampa, Florida

DAY 1:
After ingesting fried seafood accompanied with sweet tea in Southern Georgia, our  trip to Spring Training baseball has truly begun. Having traveled for a little over 12 hours, 700 miles and only being 3 hours from our destination, blogging seems the only possible course of action to subdue the tremblings of our bowels and strain on our hearts.

RBD: So far this trip has been fairly uneventful. Being too excited to sleep and waiting for laundry to finish, I didn’t really fall asleep until after 3am. 7:30 am rolls around and mda pulls into my driveway. We load the car and hit the road. Then I receive a text from my great friend, jazz trombone playing brother and in demand around the world as a jazz composer and arranger Brent Wallarab. This text said simply, ‘Did you get a chance to send me those trumpet solo parts for the overdub session?’ Simply stated…no I did not. So, mda and I drive around downtown Indy looking for free wireless (remember it’s 7:30am) We found a hot-spot, I converted the parts into pdf’s and while in the car emailed said parts to Brent. Crisis diverted.

Stop eating that cookie mda!!!

Red Bull

mda: After a quick grocery store stop, RBD informs me that we would NOT be living on Red Bull, Oreo’s and Doritos for the entire week.  Instead we loaded up on veggies, fruit, hummus and sandwich fixins’ (southern drawl). Finally around 8:30 am, we hit Interstate 65 pointed south. After reaching our cruising altitude and speed we played one of our new favorite albums, ABACUS by Frank Glover. This is a complete masterpiece and when it is finally released to the general public in May of 2010, every person should purchase, love and enjoy loving this incredible album! ABACUS pretty much got us to Louisville KY, where

Doritos...mmmm

we switched to Vince Mendoza. While passing through Louisville, KY, we began discussing the arts scene there and compared it to the scene in Indianapolis. It seems to us that the jazz scene in Louisville is having the same trouble the Indy scene is having. Having no way to fix anything, we pressed on.

RBD: I must have dozed off, because I woke up and we were through Kentucky and getting close to Nashville

Rich's white knuckles through Atlanta

TN, where we hooked up with Interstate 24. This is where I took over the driving. Little did I know that we would soon be hitting the mountains, the state of Georgia and Atlanta. Let me say this with all due respect to anybody affiliated with Georgia and Atlanta: LEARN TO FU*%)N@ DRIVE! Ouch, sorry, I mean really! I don’t like to speed too much, so I had the cruise control set conservatively at 76 when the Speed Limit was 70. And 72 when the Speed Limit was 65. I had people passing us easily going 80-90+ miles per hour. Then the same people would pass us again and again. “Why was that?”, we thought. The speeds that people were driving fluctuated so much that they would jolt up to a high rate of speed, pass you, then pull over in front of you and slow down to below the speed limit. OVER and OVER this happened! I got cut off so many times it started to seem like a natural occurence in my life. Not ONE person would slow down to let me into their lane. No, they would SPEED UP!! DAMN! Needless to say, I white knuckled the steering wheel, took off the cruise control and proceeded to go as fast as it was possible to go. The only thing to settle the nerves was to put on some awesome music. What did we listen to mda? I remember having music on, but I was too busy cursing the damn Georgia drivers. Fill me in.

Bjork: Verspertine

mda: Well, that awesome music would be Bjork! We listened to Vespertine, Medulla and Post.

RBD: Oh yeah! I remember Bjork! I’m really starting to get into her music. What was the vocal album we listened too?

Bjork: Medulla

mda: That was Medulla. Every sound on this album was created by the human voice…well 98%, they used a piano on that one track and an electronic sound on another track. Everything else, is vocal based. From the low, low bass notes, bass drums, cymbal crashes and everything in between. If I remember correctly, she used the Paul Hillier Vocal Ensemble. He is famous for teaching at the IU School of Music and his ensemble’s interpretation of Renaissance Music.

RBD: Yeah, that was truly a beautiful album. I only have one Bjork album and that is Verspertine. Zach Lapidus turned me on to that album. I’ll soon be picking up Medulla too.

mda: Then, once your nerves settled and we cleared Atlanta, we listened to a couple of episodes/podcasts of WNYC’s incredible radio show, Radiolab. We listened to an episode about the Musical Language which was specifically interesting.

RBD: I agree, very interesting. RadioLab always gets me thinking.

mda: Yup, me too.  After that was a very bad dinner at Tifton, Georgia.  I have personally banished myself from making any other choices on where we will eat for the rest of the week.  So Rich you will either make all the decisions for restaurants or we will be going back to Red Bull, Doritos, and Oreo’s.  Whatcha think o’ that boyo?

RBD: I will make the decisions necessary so that we don’t gain 50 pounds in a single week. We are going to have fun, but be responsible about it. Deal?

mda: yes, sir….

~RBD
-mda

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