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December 28, 2006

First rule of blogging

Don't blog about your cat. Instant boredom.

Meet - my cat. Sorry.

On my trip to see the family for the holidays I noticed a few pictures on my parents fridge of my brother's 2 cats and my aunt's dogs.

So naturally - I felt our little feline type being needed to be included. I took this shot when we got back home and e-mailed it to mom & dad. His simulacra now graces the fridge next to his unknown "relative" pets.

Ok . . . boredom off.

News about my CD project next week.

Have a great New Year!

December 19, 2006

Imperfections Curve

This article from blogger Kathy Sierra starts a great conversation (which, incidentally I also had with another person today - more on that in the near future) about where along the axis does perfection begin to ruin a good thing.

She brings up some examples of music - like David Gray's "White Ladder" album sounding really cool and indie - and then his new record sounding all "major label" and slick and has no life to it.

I've found in my own listening habits I tend to prefer recordings and performances that have an edge, a rawness, a sense of danger or are not quite "right". There's an amazing recording I have from 7 string classical guitarist Paul Galbraith - performing Haydn. It's strikingly perfect in almost every detail.

I barely listen to it, instead preferring the boundary pushing, edgy, mistake laden improvisations of Egberto Gismonti. I guess it's more human to me. When I see the juggler I don't want to see an effortless display - I want to see someone on the edge - trying to keep all the balls in the air.

There's something great about humans reaching incredible levels of ability in any endeavor - and there's also something great about keeping the humanity in such efforts. Perfection - while possible - is not always preferable - at least to me.

Thankfully - I don't have to fear being perfect anytime soon! ;-)

Finding the sweet spot where the mistakes don't take away from the performance - but ADD to it.

I've come to the realization that it's the little technical errors and mistakes we all make that are the very things that give our work it's humanity and give each of us our unique voice.

My aim is no longer about driving mistakes out my music or performances - it's about making my mistakes brilliantly!

December 17, 2006

Pre Holiday Solo Bass-y Goodness

Postings ect... will be light for the next few weeks with the holidays - but here's some new stuff to finish out the year.

Video from Solo Bass Night II. Audio is kinda "eh" - but oh well. I'm working on my own "direct live record" set up.

And Episode 5 of the Beautiful Bass Podcast is up.

(DIRECT MP3 DOWNLOAD HERE) It's a biggy - about 40 minutes. (40mb)

I go thru some examples from Artists I discovered & re-discovered in 2006 that had the biggest influence on my current solo bass concept. Plus a new a solo bass improv (which is also on the MySpace player called "Improv on Faith, Force & Fury") I post these improvs up on the MySpace player for a while then I replace them.

Enjoy

Have a great holiday!

December 11, 2006

Blogs to your e-mail

If you're so inclined - you can have these blog entries consolidated and delivered to your e-mail once per day - or -when there's no posts - no e-mail.

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89 Most redundant cliches in music

29. The Guitar Smash
When Townshend or Cobain destroyed their instruments, they meant it. Now, it's mostly macho posturing exhibited by guitarists who can barely play the thing to begin with.

Complete List

SPOILER - NUMBER 1 ON NEXT PAGE

1. Yelling 'Freebird'
The all-time concert constant is the one idiot at every show who thinks requesting 'Freebird' between songs is, like, dude, the funniest sh** ever. It doesn't matter what band is on stage. Hipsters scream it because it's ironic. Metalheads shout it cuz it's obnoxious. And Skynrd fans yell it because, well ... they actually want to hear it. Not even the freakin' Blue Man Group is safe anymore. Musical fads and fashions will change with the times, but 'Freebird' will, unfortunately, live forever

December 10, 2006

Podcasts are Back

I think I forgot to mention on this blog that the Beautiful Bass Podcasts are back.

Subscribe with the link over there - or in iTunes - just search Jeff Schmidt in the podcast section.

GET EPISODE 3 DOWNLOAD HERE This one's about getting back into podcasting and chat on improvisation - and includes an 8 minute improv on Little Sunflower.

GET EPISODE 4 DOWNLOAD HERE This one is instructional based on an audio comment sent to me - it's all about MODES and diatonic harmony yo!

If you have an audio comment or question - drop it as an mp3 file in my e-mail and I'll address it in a future podcast.


Site Re-design time

So I've had this site up since early 06 - time for a re-design.

I still want to keep the blog but I'm thinking overall the site needs a fresh coat of paint.

If you have any ideas for features or aesthetic changes - please drop them in the comments.

word

December 08, 2006

Solo Bass Night II

Solo Bass Night II

I had a great time last night - thanks to Mark Wright @ AccuGroove cabinets for bringing a pair of "El Whappos". I don't think I've ever played solo so loud - it sounded awesome!

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Daniel from the Larkspur Theater for taking a chance on a night of bassists without a band. We had a really good crowd. Seemed like everyone enjoyed themselves!

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Of course the other players - Edo Castro, David Grossman, Jean Baudin - all you guys do your own thing better than anyone else.

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And everyone who came out to the show. Thanks for supporting this music! I know, I know - where's my CD. I only delay because I want you to have the very best. ;-) Keep an eye out here for details.

If you have pics or videos of the show - please let us know. We'd love to share. I also had some video running - we'll see how that came out. All these pics are stills from the video I had taken.

SBNII STILL4.jpg

The always amazing marketing mind that is David Grossman tells me Solo Bass Night III is in the works for mid 2007. Keep an eye out for that. I'll also be playing solo sets around the Bay Area - often at last minute - but keep and eye on this site and at www.myspace.com/jeffschmidtbassist for the details.

December 03, 2006

Improv from the squiggly line

In grade school, one of my favorite things was when the teacher would give us a sheet of paper with a curved or squiggly line on it and told us to make it into anything we wanted.

It was just enough MORE than a blank sheet to give you something to work with and allow for open interpretation - and yet not too much that might lead lots of people to "create" the same thing.

Some kids hated it.

I loved it.

I want to bring that into my music. My performances.

Up till now - I've mostly performed my pieces as I wrote them. Slight changes in tempo and attack notwithstanding - they are mostly the same performance to performance. There's nothing wrong with this - this is the way nearly all pop music is "performed".

I realized what I ultimately seek from my music - is liberation. The freedom to express what's there in the moment.

At the moment of composition a mood or emotion might be present that simply isn't there at the time of performance. Do we go ahead with the piece anyway? I've always thought - yes. Go ahead - play the piece that was written in from a _____ mood or idea - even if you don't particularly feel that way at performance time.

Having a batch of compositions ready to perform is wonderful. But even as new as I am to this- meanign there's still much to be learned - I feel the limitations of performing pieces. There's really no freedom in that. And freedom is what I'm searching for.

The first step is to build into my pieces sections for improvisation. Empty spots - so to speak, which will require me to move from "performing memorized music" to "improvising music on the spot" within the same piece. Having short sections of nothingness in tunes is putting my toe in the water with this idea.

There's certainly much much more to be done in this area. But I'm looking even further out.

If my standard musical sketch results in a largely pre-composed piece within which exists a smaller section set aside for improvisation & interpretation - than my instinct moving forward would be the photographic "negative" of that.

In other words - the majority of the piece is un-composed and would be improvised in performance - leading into smaller sections that are pre-composed. Picture pre-composed islands in an ocean of extemporaneous composition.

This is, in essence, liberation from form, from convention, from the "composition" and since there's only 1 instrument and only 1 musician - it appears to be the unique province of the solo artist.

Conceptually I'm in love with this idea. I wouldn't make entire performances out of it (unless I was amazing at it,-) - but would love to include this approach along with performances of fully composed pieces.

The key is having the musical muscle to pull it off. I've recorded a few attempts and I think there's great promise to this approach. (EDIT: I just posted one of these sample improvs on my Myspace Player at www.myspace.com/jeffschmidtbassist it's called MADURO IMPROV)

It will never be perfect. But that's not the point. Now - I just need the balls to do it live. I think that's what open mics are for. Doing this is a skill that must be developed. First and foremost is the ability to listen intensly to what I am doing - and be able to also listen to what is happening in my head. The key to making these works believeable is to remove the traces of uncertainty and aprehension. Even though it's totally made up on the spot - it has to sound intentional.

That's the goal. That's achieved through practice.

For example, I currently have two themes which, from my conventional compositional vantage point, remain un-finished. A more pedestrian assessment might simply call them "riffs".

Rather than continue waiting around for the "composition ferry" to show up and finish them - turning them into "songs" or "pieces" to be performed largely the same way in perpetuity - I'm turning them over to my new spontaneous composition aesthetic.

1 simple :20 riff or motif that can be used anywhere - but is the only pre-written element.

The musical squiggle on an otherwise blank sheet of paper.

Now, this is not the same as a set of changes over which I'll improv a solo - rather - I'll improvise the entire form - or to put it another way - extemporaneously make a song that uses very little pre-composed material.

This concept feels extremely compelling to me right now - perhaps because I've been spending so much time "writing" and working up definitive pieces.

But also because I think a larger part of the artistry I'm pursuing is about performance. To write solo works and perform them live is a great under-taking.

But to improv and re-make entire pieces in the moment based on that moment . . . that's very exciting for me to consider as a performer.

To date - the only performers I was aware of who do this kind spontaneous composition regularly are Egberto Gismonte and Keith Jarrett.

Coincidence would have it that as I'm thinking about and playing with these themes, and also craving discovery of other artists who are pursing this method one should appear before me in one of the most common places. TV's 60 Minutes.

Tonight they did a piece on a classical pianist named Gabriela Montero.

Besides being a virtuoso - she's a classical musician that can improvise.

Not improv ON changes or forms like Jazz - but the thing I've been craving - she improvises THE FORMS.

She takes a few bars of a classic Bach piece for example - and improvises an entire original piece out of it.

She's completely amazing. And of course the formal Classical World is shocked. Improvisation and sponanteous composition used to be a regular part of Classical Music- but not for over 100 years. What a shame.

I downloaded 2 of Gabriela's releases off iTunes and I'm blown away by what I'm hearing. Classical music - invented on the spot. This is exactly the kind of food my musical soul needs right now.

Incredibly inspiring.

Check her website.

The 60 Minutes piece is online (only part of the video is up)

If you're aware of other artists who have released material like this please drop it in the comments - I'd love to check it out.

December 02, 2006

Point of Reference

I stepped out and played a few solo tunes at a neat place in San Francsico called The Canvas - it's a Bar/Cafe/Local Artist Gallery nestled along the edge of Golden Gate Park in a pretty hip little part of town. Very college crowd.

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Great reception to my stuff . . . I'll be going back to do a full set. Anyway - I'm always facinated by the references people use to make sense out of what I do.

Playing bass shows is one thing - bassists typically have plenty of "bass" references for anything they hear from me.

But pedestrians - non bassists - can have different and even strange points of reference. I was extremely flattered when people told me they heard Michael Hedges and Leo Kottke in my stuff - but then 2 minutes later I was lost when someone else said I obviously listen to Muse.

Who?

December 01, 2006

Jaco

Jaco Pastorius would've turned 55 today. I don't know a single bass player who hasn't been influenced in some way by Jaco's work. There's still a great deal of reverence for him today.

Being a "rock guy" in my high school years - I learned about Jaco from a magazine cover calling him the "greatest bass player ever". It must have been 1984. I went out and bought his album "Jaco Pastorius". I put it on - first track - Donna Lee.

Because I had no context for it - I didn't get it. I thought it was impressive from a technical point of view (he plays so fast) but I didn't get the "song" having never heard the original Charlie Parker version.

But that track started an entire movement of bassists covering the melodies of hard bop tunes. It wasn't long before bassists were blowing on Giant Steps and loads of other "coltrane changes" type tunes. I never got into that whole thing myself, but Jaco clearly started that trend.

In regards to that trend, I once heard a well known bassist leading a master-class express the opinion that the worst thing to happen to bass playing was the Charlie Parker omni book being released in bass clef. I thought that was funny. Especially after going to NAMM. ;-)

While I clearly admit to being taken in by Jaco's "funk/R&B" stuff in my early playing (think Barbary Coast) - I never learned how to play any of the Jaco "right of passage" pieces many bass players feel compelled to learn - Portrait of Tracy - Teen Town - Donna Lee.

Actually - I did try to play Portrait of Tracy at first - but I couldn't get harmonics to sound on my shitty department store bass. Oh well.

I think Michael Manring said it best when he said Jaco gave the electric bass dignity.

As I venture out into the solo bass world, I find my link to Jaco stretched thinner and thinner. That doesn't diminish his impact on me though.

It's important to remember the risks Jaco took with his music made possible a lot of things we take for granted today.

Jaco's boldness, willingness to challenge convention and his spirit of experimentation is - to me - a far more valuable lesson than anything you could learn from coppin Donna Lee or Portrait of Tracy.