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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Improvising over a 12-bar blues with jazz changes

Sorry for my long absence between postings. I've been busy, which in this business is a good thing.
I've had a few nice recording sessions and some nice gigs with a variety of people. Played with vocalists Tracey Dey and Vincent Wolfe as well as the Bob Cary Big Band just to name a few.

I've transcribed 12 bars of a blues solo that I played and will discuss a few points about it. The music and video are below.

One approach that works very well is to use the #4 or b5 over a 7th chord. If you use it on an offbeat it helps add spice and chromaticism to your lines. If you notice in bar 1 I use the E natural which is the #4 or b5 of Bb. I place it on the and of 1 which creates a nice spring board for the rest of the line. I also use the b7th of Bb to the b7th of Eb going into the second bar which helps establish the new chord.
*note the E played on beat 4 of the first bar should be an Eb.....sorry about the copy error.
Another approach that works well over minor 7th chords is to use the maj 7th on an offbeat again adding spice and chromaticism. That's part of the minor bebop scale anyway but we'll talk about that a bit later.

Play through the 12 bars at a slow tempo and then when you feel comfortable try playing along with the video. Always use a metronome!!!

*click on sheet music once to enlarge.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Big Bands etc

Sorry for the long spell between posts. Been busy, which in this industry is good. I have recently been playing in a big band in addition to the other projects I play in and it's been a lot of fun to say the least. Playing in a group as large as this requires a different set of musical approaches. First of all it's a good butt kicker because of the reading involved. Secondly it's always somewhat loud to really loud and fitting in without being too loud yourself can be tricky. I find it advantageous to always have a bit of headroom on my guitar volume so that I can always kick it up a notch if needed. Third thing is when you get a solo there is no time to relax and develop your solo like you would in a small ensemble setting. It's more like playing behind a singer or on a pop session. Nothing better or worse about it but it's just different. You have to get to the point quickly with a lot of sound behind you. I highly recommend going out and seeing a big band play as it's something to see.

I've been listening to:

"Barney Kessel, Ray Brown and Shelley Manne - The Poll Winners"
Great record with guitarist Barney Kessel leading the trio through 40 minutes of beautifully played trio jazz. Bassist Ray Brown is definitely one of the most celebrated and respected bassist in jazz and Shelley Manne was a fantastic drummer who has played with everybody from Coleman Hawkins to and Woody Herman to playing on lots of film scores and even acted in "The Man With Golden Arm" with Frank Sinatra. This recording is full of interplay and tight trio playing. Tunes like Duke Jordan's "Jordu, "It Could Happen To You", "Green Dolphin Street", Satin Doll and more. Worth getting

That's all for now.

Here's some of the great Barney Kessel.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Harmonizing Scales to fill out your single note lines

Sorry it's been a while since my last post. Busy summer. Lots of teaching and gigs plus the family took a nice vacation out west to Alberta and BC where we also took my daughter Michaela to start her first year of university. She decided to go west for university.

I have attached a video where I talk about and demonstrate harmonizing a scale to fill out your single note lines. It's not the conventional way of thinking about it where you play your single note line and then add a chord and then repeat. This is taking a scale like C dorian (b3rd and b7th) and playing two or more notes of that scale to fill out your lines. I find using two or three is usually best as you can grab them quickly without interrupting your single note line. I find if you are very specific as to where you practise these you will get a lot more out of it. For example practise harmonizing the scale within open and fret 5. Try different string combinations etc plus different rhythmic groupings like whole notes, half notes, etc.

I've been listening to:

Bill Evans "You Must Believe in Spring" with Eddie Gomez on bass and Eliot Zigmund on drums. Came out in 1977 and is a beautiful record. Great interplay within the trio and they play the Theme from MASH which is cool. Great song. 

Lyle Mays "Fictionary". Pianist Lyle Mays might be the most under celebrated piano player around and it baffles me why. Among musicians he is extremely well thought of and well known as Pat Metheny's right (and left) hand man in the Pat Metheny Group but to the general jazz audience not so much. Lyle Mays is a great player with lots of depth and imagination. This record is with Jack DeJohnette on drums and Marc Johnson on bass. Great straight ahead acoustic jazz record. Highly recommend it.

That's all for now!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Transcribing solos

It's been a busy summer thus far. I moved, which is always stressful and time consuming, plus my wife and I went to New York for a quick three day getaway. We love our new house I have a great office/studio which I am enjoying a lot. New York was great. I absolutely love that city. I always get re-energized when I go there and the city always re-comfirms my reasons for pursuing music as a life long journey. Music is a hard pursuit if done as a means to make a living but it is very satisfying and I think worthwhile endeavour.

In New York we saw some great music and some great jazz clubs. Smoke is a fantastic club on 103rd and Broadway and used to be called Augies when I lived in New York over twenty years ago. We saw organists Mike LeDonne's quartet with Vincent Herring on alto sax, Paul Bollenbeck on guitar and Joe Farnsworth on drums. Smokin' pun intended. Paul Bollenbeck plays his ass off and was a really cool guy when I spoke with him after the gig. We also saw the Christian McBride Big Band at Dizzy's at Lincoln Center. What a great band and the venue is beautiful. It overlooks Columbus Circle and Central park. Good acoustics too. I also got a chance to hang out and play with Adam Rogers for a couple of hours. Really nice guy plus he's a fantastic guitar player.

I used to transcribe solos  a lot and found that to be a great way to learn how someone like Wes Montgomery or Jimmy Raney or John Coltrane......constructed a solo. I have started to introduce transcribed solos to my lessons and am having the students learn them. Maybe not the whole thing but at least a chorus or two. It's a great way to not only learn the melody to harmony relationship that's possible in improvising but as importantly the phrasing and rhythm of the lines.

If any of you live in Toronto or plan on being here for three months in the fall I am conducting a jazz guitar improv and ensemble course starting in September.

Jazz guitar improv and ensemble classes

Jazz guitarist Sean Bray will be offering classes in jazz guitar techniques. Improvisation, chord analyses, comping techniques and repertoire will be discussed in an ensemble setting. Transcribed jazz solos will be looked at and learned to give further insight into jazz improvisation.

Classes run for 14 weeks starting in mid September until mid December. Classes are two hours each and students will have an opportunity to play their repertoire with a professional bass player and drummer during their final class.

For more info including start date and fees contact Sean at

I've been listening to:
Kenny Burrell and John Coltrane released in 1963 but recorded in 1958 at Van Gelder Studios in Hackensack New Jersey by the famous audio engineer Rudy Van Gelder. Man he knew how to record jazz. Great record with Paul Chambers on bass, Tommy Flanagan on piano and Jimmy Cobb on drums.  
Kenny Burrell is such a great guitarist with great, fat, swinging time and that full but discernible arch top tone. He plays very well with John Coltrane who was and will always be one of the most important  figures in jazz. Tenor saxophonists are still influenced heavily by his tone, phrasing and improvising. 

Nat Adderley - Work Song was recorded at Reeves Sound Studio in New York and released in 1960 on the Riverside label. Nat Adderley on cornet along with Wes Montgomery on guitar, Bobby Timmons on piano, Sam Jones, Percy Heath and Keter Betts on bass and Louis Hayes on drums. Another great jazz record on the Riverside label. The Work Song starts off the recording and what a great tune. Wes plays amazing as always and Nat really plays great on this record. Rhythm section is top drawer as well. Check it out for sure.

That's all for now.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Parallel Processing

Here is a Pro Tools tip that I use a lot and is really effective. It's called parallel processing. The theory applies to any music software program, I just happen to use Pro Tools. When using a plug-in like reverb for instance, you can access that plug in from multiple tracks. This accomplishes two big things. The first is that you are saving DSP (Digital Signal Processing) because you don't have multiple plug-ins open and draining your processing power. The second is that you are placing your tracks in the same environment (reverb) which is the way I like to mix. You can then alter how much of the effect is applied to the individual track. It sounds like all the tracks are in the same room but some are closer than others.

1. Choose which tracks you want to access the plug in.

2. Open up an Aux (auxiliary track) and in the insert section insert a reverb plug-in.

3. In the send section of the audio tracks that you want to access the reverb send the tracks on a bus. Make it the first available bus and a mono bus as the tracks are mono.

4. Have the input of the Aux track be the same bus used in the send sections of the audio tracks. Here I have used bus 1
and am sending the Gtr 1 track and Audio 2 track to the reverb.

5. By placing the cursor on the send box and pressing Apple or command (Mac) or Control (PC) the little send fader will appear. By moving the fader up you will be allowing more signal from that track to be sent to the reverb.

6. You are splitting the signal hence the name parallel processing. Think of it as 10 people are walking in the forest. 4 go one way and 6 go another way but will end up at the same location at the same time. The 4 that took the alternate route get rained on (reverb wet signal).

7. Make sure all the outputs on all the tracks are going to the Master Fader. Out 1&2.

This is an effective way to have a lot of control of your tracks and by varying the amount of send fader you are sending to the reverb, you are placing the track exactly where you want it. Closer (less reverb). Farther away (more reverb). Then by using the pan control you can place the track horizontally giving you even more control of your mix.

Still mixing the "Sean Bray's Peach Trio" double live recording and it's sounding fantastic. I will let you know when it will be available.

Listening to:

Michael Brecker's "Two Blocks From the Edge"
Tenor saxophonist Michael Brecker is the continuation of John Coltrane. Period. He unfortunately died very prematurely from a rare form of leukemia at age 57. This recording features the great Jeff "Tain" Watts on drums (one of my favourite drummers) who plays his ass off, Joey Calderazzo on piano, James Genus on acoustic bass (know more for his electric playing) and Don Alias on percussion. This band just cooks and the interplay is amazing. Add Brecker to the mix and it's a fantastic recording. This recording features three songs by Joey Calderazzo which are great. I saw Joey when he first joined Brecker's band when he was just 22 yrs. old. He has always played with lots of fire and imagination. Out of the McCoy Tyner/Herbie Hancock school of playing. Brecker is missed very much. I met him a few times and he was the most humble and personable guy. You would never know he was one of the most influential saxophonists in the history of jazz by meeting him. Buy this recording!!!

That's all for now.
Check out the new website.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Social media and your music career

This is such a different time for being a professional musician. When I first started my career back in 1984 when I was 18 there wasn't internet and blogs and facebook etc. There was the old fashioned telephone and not cell phone but home phone. Promoting yourself was hard and putting out a recording independently was almost impossible.

We now live in a time where everybody is on some sort of social media site. MySpace was the first big social networking site and was great for musicians because you could have a band site which had a music player and it was super easy to make and update yourself. The DYI web site. Facebook came along and for a while MySpace still offered a great alternative to having to have a web site but it eventually became really hard to update because they were always changing it and it is now basically obsolete. Facebook has band pages which now also have music players and it works well. Reverbnation is the new DYI web site for musicians and is pretty good but it seems more about being popular than being good. Actually that pretty well sums up social media for that matter. How many friends do you have? Really, are they friends?

Having a presence on social media sites I think is very important for a professional musician. Why? Everybody is on it. You get seen and it keeps your name out there. Do I like facebook etc? No. I think it is very superficial for the most part but as a musician I feel I am missing out on the exposure and the social hang if I'm not on it. I have a Sean Bray's Peach Trio facebook page and it's great for updating my "likes" or "followers" or whatever they are called, as to what the band is up to. We'll call them music fans.

I have a new website so please pay a visit. Tracey Dey designed it. I will have information on the soon-to-be released Sean Bray's Peach Trio - Live. This will be a double CD and also available on i-Tunes and the like. Trio is made up of Mark Dunn on bass and Dave MacDougall on drums. The recording turned out really well. I can't wait for everyone to hear it.

I've been listening to:

Wes Montgomery's So Much Guitar on Riverside. (1961)
I love this record and Wes plays so beautifully and with such lyricism. Ron Carter is also on the record and plays bass like no one else. Two notes from either Wes or Ron and I instantly know it's them. The great Hank Jones is on piano as well as Lex Humphries on drums and Ray Barretto on congas. Burning version of CottonTail on this record. Great record!!

That's all for now.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Nashville - Music City

Just got back from Nashville Tennessee and man what a city. Loved it. So much music happening there and it seems like a lot of musicians have moved there from Los Angeles. Great studio scene in Nashville and while I was there I met with studio ace Brent Mason and we played for a couple of hours. What an amazing player and a great guy. Brent has been the first call session guitarist in Nashville since the late 80's and I can see why.

I also got a private tour of the Gibson Custom Shop, which is a separate division of Gibson, and it was great to see every step involved in the building a guitar. Very talented people working. There are only about a hundred people working there, which is small for a factory, and each person has a very specific job. There were finishes that I had never seen before and that aren't available in the Gibson catalogue. I was told that Japan is a huge client and scoops up a lot of these guitars before they even hit the ground. I saw the two Les Pauls that Joe Perry is having built for the upcoming Aerosmith tour, the Beano guitar (black Les Paul that Clapton played on the John Mayal and the Bluesbreakers record) that Gibson is issuing in a small run and I also got to see Jimmy Page's '59 Les paul re-issue and Kirk Hammett's Exployer that are also being issued in a very small run. These are aged exactly as the original. Every cigarette burn, wear mark, scuff and scratch identical to the original. Thanks to Steve Christmas at Gibson Custom for the 2 hr tour and to Brad Fillatre at Gibson Canada for setting that up.

Here is a television interview I conducted in March.

That's all for now.

Thursday, April 19, 2012


I used to love travelling and especially air travel but I got to tell you, I really don't like flying anymore. I travel a fair bit and it gets worse every time. First off they charge you for everything! Charging for blanket...really? New planes seem to be smaller so they can fit more people in so you are cramped the whole trip plus it takes longer to get off the plane if you are stuck in the middle or back of the plane.

I always carry on my guitar because I don't want the baggage handlers to destroy or lose my guitar which has happened, luckily not to me although I did have a beautiful Mesa Boogie amp destroyed on a flight. I had a Calzone travel case for it too but they found a way I guess. I recently bought a Reunion Blues gig bag which fits all of my electrics which is great. This thing is amazing. It's light but really well padded and is really a flight case but in soft shell form. I always put my guitar above the seats and it ALWAYS fits. The ticket person always expresses concern that it won't fit and I tell them that I do this a lot and it fits every time. It doesn't take up anymore room than a carry on luggage bag, just different dimensions.
I wish train travel would improve and North America would catch up to Japan and Europe. Trains travel at incredible speeds and are clean and modern. Oh well maybe one day.

I've been listening to:

Johnny Cash "Live at Folsom Prison" which came out in 1968. What a great record and great band with Al Casey on guitar, Marshall Grant on bass and W.S. Holland on drums. Al Casey was with Cash from the beginning and later went on to be part of the infamous Wrecking Crew in L.A. which were the session musician A-team in the 60's and into the 70's. This recording really captures Cash's irreverence and bad ass demeanour, which by itself means nothing but he was a also very special artist. He had a way of delivering a song and it's message like no other. If you don't have this recording definitely get it.

Alan Jackson - "What I Do" which came out in 2004. I really like Alan Jackson's voice and his recordings are always filled with great songs except a couple which have really stupid lyrics and story lines. This recording features the Nashville A-team. Brent Mason on electric guitar, Eddie Bayers on drums, Glenn Worf on bass, Matt Rollings on piano, Stuart Duncan on fiddle and Paul Franklin on pedal steel and lap steel plus others. Nice record for sure.

That's all for now.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Live recording

My Peach Trio recorded a live soon to be released CD this past Saturday night. We performed as part of the Jazz Masters series at The Old Mill in Toronto. Great audience for the most part with the exception of two really noisy women that came in about half way through our last song. Can't use that one. Jaymz Bee and the Jazz FM jazz safari came by for a set and were a great audience. The jazz safari is something that Jazz FM offers to donors of a certain amount when the station does it's semi annual pledge drives. Jaymz Bee is a popular Toronto personality and DJ at the station and he takes the group of donors on what they call a jazz safari which is basically a pub crawl for jazz lovers. The safari visits about 4 or 5 clubs in a night.

Live recordings are really a crap shoot because there are so many variables, even beyond the actual performance of each musician. Noisy customers, bar staff and drink making noises etc plus the one take aspect of such a recording.
Having said that I am very pleased with it. The band sounds great and Darrel Moen (audio recorder) did an amazing job really capturing the band and the in the moment energy of the music. Mark Dunn (bass) and Dave MacDougall (drums) played there asses off. Looking forward to mixing it with Darrel and releasing it.

I played my Gibson Es 339 through my ZT Lunch Box and it sounded great. The Lunch Box really surprised me how well it recorded. It sounds big and warm. I ran it through a ART reverb mini rack unit and a Boss DDD1 delay pedal and that's it.

Also played with my good friend and great jazz singer Vincent Wolfe today. Nice time. Daytime gigs are always odd but fun.

I've been listening to:

Willie Nelson - It Always Will Be.
I've always loved Willie. A true original and very talented. He is a good guitar player and a good singer and sounds like no one else. He composed "Crazy" and sold it for $50 and a bottle of Jack Daniels rumour has it. Didn't hurt him that's for sure. He has written a lot of big hits and has been an international star for years. This record features Paul Franklin and Dan Dugmore on pedal steel, Brent Mason and Kenny Greenberg on electric guitar, Eddie Bayers and Shannon Forrest on drums, Michael Rhodes and Glenn Worf on bass and Matt Rollings on piano among others. Nashville A-team for sure. Willie also plays his old Martin nylon string guitar to great success as usual. Really dig this record and definitely recommend it.

John Scofield - Grace Under Pressure
Big Scofield fan and big Bill Frisell fan and they are both on this record along with Charlie Haden on bass and Joey Baron on drums. There is also great horn writing on this recording and features Randy Brecker on trumpet, Jim Pugh on trombone and John Clark on French Horn. I love that horn combination. This is a great CD and shows why Scofield and Frisell are among the worlds most respected jazz guitarists and are both so unique. Two notes and I know who it is. Great recording!!

That's all for now.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Pre-fader compression can be your best friend

Busy week teaching. As well as teaching guitar and theory I also teach Pro Tools and the history of music to film at the Toronto Film School. It's a lot of fun especially since it has to do with music.

Here is a recording technique I like to use which I find very helpful. It's called pre-fader compression. Yes the fader is the volume slider on an inline recording console as well as it's digital counterpart but when talking about recording, it has a different meaning. Think of fader as record. If something is pre-fader, it happens before it is recorded and post-fader is after it's been recorded. In Pro Tools and other digital recording/editing software programs the signal comes into the track, recorded if the track is armed and then deals with the plugins on the track before it goes out to the Master fader or speakers. Understanding this is very important because if you are recording on a track and you insert a plugin on that track that effect won't be printed or recorded on that track. It will be post-fader. You will still hear the effect as your track is still going through the plugin but after it's already been recorded. I find if I am going to record a guitar track that might get loud in spots due to strumming or picking hard I use what is called pre-fader compression.

Pre-fader compression means that I am passing my signal through the plugin (compressor) before I record it. I think of it as a little safety net sort of speak. Remember to keep the threshold around 20- to 24ish and the ratio 2 to 1 or 3 to 1. Anymore you will start to hear the compression in your track and you can't remove compression once recorded. The compressor is meant to catch and gently tame any notes that are a bit loud. You want to have the freedom to close your eyes and really play from the heart and not worry about clipping.

Here are the steps to setting this up.

1. Use an Aux track and have your signal coming into this track.
2. Insert a compressor plugin on the Aux track.
3. Have the input of the aux track be the input that your guitar is plugged into ex. input 1
4. Have the output of the Aux track be on a bus ex. bus 1 mono (important to match mono with mono).
5. Have the input of your audio track be the same bus as the bus output on the Aux track.
6. The output of the audio track will be output 1/2 which is the Master Fader and then to your ears.
7. Record Arm your audio track and you're ready to record with the benefit of pre-fader compression.

I've been listening to:

Jimmy Bryant and Speedy West: Stratosphere Boogie:
An amazing record featuring tele great Jimmy Bryant and steel giant Speedy West plus rhythm section. Recorded in LA from 1951 to '56, this is burning instrumental country music. Jimmy Bryant is one of my favourite guitar players and was Leo Fender's Telecaster test driver. Both Leo and his right hand man George Fullerton were looking for guitar players to test out their new guitar and when they found Jimmy Bryant, it became an amazing partnership. Bryant became known as a Tele player rather than just a guitar player and was the first player to play Fender's new solid body. Jimmy Bryant had a lot of bebop in his playing and added a nice flavour to country guitar playing. Buy this record!!

That's all for now.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Soloing over I IV V chords properly

Had a nice blues gig this past weekend with my co-lead band Echo and Twang. It's amazing how an attentive enthusiastic crowd really makes you play better. You seem to care more about your playing because I guess you think people actually care.

I have students come to me all the time with questions about how to improvise over chord changes. Big question. I start them out with the minor pentatonic scale over the I - IV - V chords ,which is an easy scale to play on guitar plus one that they are familiar with. They all seem to listen to Jimmy Page, David Gilmour, Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Keith Richards, Angus Young etc and they all use that scale to great affect. If you use the minor pentatonic scale (Rt., b3rd, 4th, 5th, b7th) based on the relative minor of the major key you are playing in, the scale will fit over all three chords (I- IV and V). This is a good start as all they have to do is play those five notes and they will all sound pretty good. When they are comfortable with this I take them to the next step.

The next step is adding notes that are in the chord but not in the scale. Let's take the key of C. We would use the A minor pentatonic scale to improvise over the I - IV and V chords. The C chord (I) is made up of C, E and G which are in the A Minor Pentatonic (A, C, D, E, G). The F chord (IV) is made up of an F, A and a C. The root of the IV chord (F) is not in the  A minor pentatonic so you must add it in order to make the chord really sound like it fits. The G chord (V) is made up of a G, B and D. The 3rd (B) is not in the minor pentatonic scale so again you must add it in order to really make the chord fit.

This works in all keys. The IV chord you add the root and the V chord you add the 3rd.

I have been listening to.

Red Garland "Soul Station"
A great jazz record recorded in 1957 at the famous Van Gelder studios in Inglewood New Jersey by Rudy Van Gelder. I love pianist Red Garland's playing. He had such a groove when he played. No superfluous notes, just the one's that are needed and he really swung hard. Red Garland was Mile Davis' pianist from 1955 to 1958 and recorded the famous Smokin', Cookin', Relaxin and Steamin' for the Prestige label. Miles owed the label 4 records but had already recorded Round About Midnight for Columbia but the threat of legal action sent Miles and crew back in the studio to fulfill their obligation to Prestige. The four records were all first takes apparently. Miles even stops the band during Red Garland's piano intro and says "block chords Red". Soul Station features Red Garland on piano, John Coltrane on tenor sax, Art Taylor on drums, Donald Byrd on trumpet and George Joyner on bass. Buy it if you don't have it!!

Merle Haggard - Greatest Hits
Merle Haggard and the Strangers were part of the Bakersfield sound in the '60s along with Buck Owens and the Buckeroos. Guitarist Roy Nichols was a big part of Haggards sound and was a fantastic guitar player. Merle Haggard sings from the heart and you believe every word he says after all he has seen his fair share of life's hard knocks having spent time in San Quentin. Great country troubadour. Teles rule in Haggard country!

That's all for now!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Drugs and music

Well another very talented musician died. Whitney Houston was such an amazing singer, but her life was shortened by drugs. Why do some people get into drugs? The moth flying too close to the flame. There are so many people in the music business that have died from drugs or alcohol directly or inadvertently. Among them, Jimi Hendrix, Chet Baker, Brian Jones, Gram Parsons, Charlie Parker, Janis Joplin, John Bonham, Bon Scott, Mike Bloomfield, Keith Moon and Jaco Pastorius. As a musician, I just don't get it. I have seen drugs and certainly lots of drinking on gigs, sessions and tours, but most musicians I play with have families and take their playing very seriously. You can't be practising constantly and striving to be the best player you can be when your high or hung over. Simple as that. The strange mystique that heroin had back in the 40's when Charlie Parker was shooting and younger players thought they could play like him if they shot heroin like him, doesn't fly today. The players that are actually living that have had serious drug and drinking problems regret it. Just ask Eric Clapton. He even hosts a day long event called Crossroads, an all-star concert which raises money for an addiction rehab clinic of the same name.

The media is making such a huge deal out of Whitney Houston's death. Any death that is premature is a sad thing but when drugs are involved it becomes much less sad for me. She was a grown woman who decided to go down that road. She became a different person and lost that beautiful voice but she decided that fate. Everybody knows that drugs are a descend to hell yet she did it anyway. She was also a mother which makes that decision even more horrible. I don't want to sound cold but are we really surprised at the outcome. Same goes for Amy Winehouse. Waste of talent.

On a better note I had a nice gig with my country group Echo and Twang last Friday. Really enjoy playing country music and have been practising my country chicken pickin'. Listening to guys like Brent Mason, Steve Gibson, Vince Gill, Albert Lee and Danny Gatton.

Listened to:

Ricky Skaggs "Life is a Journey" - A great country recording by the great Ricky Skaggs who is not only a great guitar and mandolin player but also a great singer and songwriter. This recording features Brent Mason on electric guitar, Jerry Douglas on dobro, Stuart Duncan on fiddle and David Hungate (former Toto member and LA session musician) on bass among many others.

Randy Travis "Always and Forever" - Country singer Randy Travis became a huge hit in 1986 when his first record "Storms of Life". He was a breathe of fresh air in the country world and sounded like a modern Lefty Frizzell. This record features Mark o'Connor on fiddle, Brent Mason and Steve Gibson on acoustic and electric guitars, Jerry Douglas on dobro, Paul Franklin on pedal dobro, Doyle Grisham on pedal steel and David Hungate on bass. Fantastic record.

That's all for now.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Recording sessions

I find recording a lot of fun and it gives me the chance to play styles that I don't get to play live or as a leader. I've been doing sessions for quite a long time now and I always find I learn something new every time. The recording scene has changed so much. I do a lot of my guitar tracking in my home studio and then either send the files to the client or artist or bring them to the session at a bigger studio where we then import my parts. I have a Pro Tools rig and am able to record, edit, mix and export right in my own home which I still find remarkable. I will talk with other musicians and we would have been on the same recording but never have been in the same room together. I must say though I do miss the hang that usually happens at a session but being able to record at home is a luxury for sure.

To be a session guitarist, I feel it's very important to have several different sounding guitars. I have a Tele which has been on almost every recording I've done in some capacity since 1995. It's a fantastic guitar and definitely a special one even though it's a factory guitar like all the other Teles of that year. It's a '52 reissue, US built and is the classic butterscotch finish although it's got a lot of road scars. This guitar in indestructible as well and always stays in tune! I also have a beautiful Gibson Les Paul that is about 5yrs old and is chambered which means it doesn't weigh a tonne. It has that beefy Les Paul sound which is great for certain tracks and always adds heft to the song. It also can sound smooth and creamy which again has it's place on certain tracks. I have an American Standard Fender Strat which is from the late 80's and always seems to find a spot on a track. The Stratocaster has such a unique sound and really adds a lot to most tracks. It's funny, I record a lot with the Strat but rarely seem to play it live. I also have a beautiful red Gibson ES-339 which is like a 335 but smaller body shape. Great sounding semi-hollow guitar and offers something sonically that the others don't. I use all of them frequently. I have a very nice Larrivee LV-09 acoustic which is a dreadnought size with a cut away. It always tracks beautifully and has a very rich big tone. I find I almost always add an acoustic rhythm track to a song even if I mix it quite low as I find it warms up the track a lot. I also play mandolin and banjo. I've recorded a lot of mandolin tracks and again much like the acoustic guitar, it really adds a timbre and frequency range to a track that brightens up the sound and makes it sparkle.

As far as amps, I have two great Fender tube amps (Blues Deluxe and Blues Jr.) as well as the ZT Lunch Box which has it's own solid state sound which is different than the tube sounds. Basically the more sounds you can offer the more flexibility you have when recording.

If anyone is interested in having me play guitar, mandolin or banjo on their recordings I do record at home as I was saying. All that you have to do is send me a 2-mix (stereo file) and I lay down my parts and send them back to you to be mixed. e-mail me for more info.

That's all for now!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Three thinking as one

Had a great gig Sunday with my trio "Sean Bray's Peach Trio" at the Rex in Toronto. First off, if you haven't been to the Rex and you live in Toronto then you are really missing out and if you are planning a visit to Toronto, make it a must do. Great club right downtown on Queen Street. Has at least 2 jazz bands per night and is a great venue to really play out. The audience is usually well versed in seeing jazz and improvised bands so they know how to respond to solos etc. Unfortunately the Sunday night we played was a really frigid night and really the first of the winter so attendance wasn't what it would have normally been. That didn't stop the trio from tearing it up and the patrons who did brave the cold really digging it.

I love this trio. Mark Dunn on bass and David MacDougall on drums. I have played with Mark for some years now in various projects including my Peach Trio. He plays great and is really into the trio which shows. Dave is a newer addition and is a really great drummer who also gets inside the music and makes it breath and groove. I love having a band in the rock band sense where the personnel is the same and there are rarely subs. No charts, just close your eyes and play. The material I have written for the trio is a real hybrid of styles which definitely represent my listening habits. There are some roots and folk elements but always with a jazz improv treatment. The trio really thinks like one and is able to move and adjust during the tune, making it a real improvised performance. We rise and fall together dynamically and even hang on a section longer than the time before because it feels right.

We are planning to record this trio in March so I'll keep you posted.

I've been listening to:

Chick Corea & Origin "Change" 
I really dig this band. Chick is such a great writer and of course a fantastic piano player. This recording feature's Chick's sextet "Origin" which is comprised of Chick Corea - piano, marimba and hand claps, Avishai Cohen - acoustic bass, Steve Wilson - soprano and alto sax, flute and clarinet, Bob Sheppard - tenor sax, bass clarinet and flute, Steve Davis - trombone,  and Jeff Ballard - drums and hand claps. Great record.

Chris Potter - Underground
Chris Potter has grown to be probably the finest saxophonist of his generation or at least one of a very small handful. Potter has recorded some fantastic CDs as a leader and has appeared on many others as a sideman. Steely Dan, Dave Holland, John Patitucci to name a few. This recording features Potter on tenor sax, Wayne Krantz on guitar, Craig Taborn on Fender Rhodes, and drummer Nate Smith. Original sound for sure. Kind of a modern take on the bass-less organ quartet without the organ??? Wayne Krantz really shines on this record as he always does. Definitely pick it up!

Here is a video that my daughter Quinn shot at our Rex gig last Sunday. The trio does our version of a few cover tunes as well as originals. Here is Coldplay's "Yellow". Enjoy!

I give lessons in Toronto so if you are planning a visit to Toronto or live here already contact me at Internet lessons coming soon as well.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

New York New York. So nice they named it twice.

Just got back from New York. Man what a great city. I have been there many times before this and lived and studied there but every time seems almost like the first. The culture in that city is staggering. Went to see the stage production of "War Horse" which was playing at the Beaumont Theatre in Lincoln Centre. What a fantastic show. If you get a chance definitely go to see it. You won't be disappointed. I know it's coming to Toronto in February.

Got to see some great music. Caught Mike Stern at the 55 Bar in Greenwich Village. I have seen Stern in this little tiny bar before many times but always a great time. What a guitar player! This time he had Beyonce's drummer Kim Thompson who just plays great and Francois Moutin on bass. Those three were just smokin'. Stern was playing with a slide on one tune which is really new for him. Sounded great and knowing him he practised hours with it. He's known as a practise junkie which is a nice change from his older endeavours as just a junkie. I ran into a friend and fellow guitar player from Toronto named Ted Quinlan at the 55 Bar. Small world. If you get a chance to hear Ted it's worth it. He plays great!

Went to see trumpeter Tom Harrell at the Jazz Standard. He was leading an 8 piece band which was made up of Danny Grissett on piano, Wayne Escoferry on tenor and soprano sax, bassist Ugonna Okegwo, drummer Johnathan Blake as well as violinist Meg Okura, cellist Rubin Kodheli and Dan Block on flute. It was a great hybrid of modern classical and jazz. Debussy, Ravel and Stravinsky meets modern jazz. Great writing by Harrell and his playing was brilliant as always. Tom Harrell suffers from paranoid schizophrenia, a severe mental illness that causes him to hear voices. He is on heavy medication to enable him to function which makes his musical brilliance even more astonishing. If you haven't heard Tom Harrell definitely go out and buy a CD. He's also coming to Toronto on March 16th performing at the Glenn Gould Studio in the CBC building.

I also visited an incredible guitar store called Rudy's Music Soho which is a new store and is a sister store to the Rudy's Music Stop on 48th st. This Soho store is stunning to say the least. I played a PRS acoustic and it was incredible. I didn't know Paul Read Smith even made acoustics but he does in small quantities and they are beautiful. Price tag of $10,500.00 it should be pretty nice. 

New term starting up at the Toronto Film School which will be a busy one. I teach music to film and Pro Tools there. Also have a recording session on Weds. which should be fun.

That's all for now.
My recordings are available on i-Tunes under "sean bray" if interested.

Monday, January 2, 2012

New Year, New Goals.

Well the Christmas season has come and gone and although it's always great seeing family and friends and engaging in Christmas traditions, it's always nice to bring in a new year. New goals and fresh ideas. I plan to finish this guitar method book for sure. I'd like to make a few recordings with different groups I play with as well. My band Sean Bray's Peach Trio has a nice concert gig at the Old Mill in Toronto in March so I'm going to try and record that night. I also want to finish a duo recording of standards with bassist Mark Dunn which we started a while back. I love playing in that configuration. 

I received some nice CDs for Christmas which is always nice. You can never have too much music. One CD that really surprised me was Tony Bennett's Duets 2. I am a big Tony Bennett fan but not a huge fan of duet records with different guests on every track. I find they can be very disjointed to say the least. My other concern was that Tony is in his mid eighties and I have heard him lately on television and he wasn't at his vocal best but on this record he sounds fantastic. 

I've been listening to:

Bill Frisell's John Lennon CD "All We Are Saying". Really dug this. His usual trio of late (Tony Scherr on bass and Kenny Wollesen on drums) augmented by Jenny Scheinman on violin and Greg Liesz on pedal and lap steel. Frisell always keeps it interesting for sure and is such a musical painter. His ensembles always sound great and unique.

Steve Martin's and the Steep Canyon Rangers "Rare Bird Alert". Man, Steve Martin has always been a fantastic comedian, stand-up and movies, but is also a  legit burning banjo player. The liner notes alone are worth the money. He does a bluegrass version of his 70's comedy hit "King Tut". Crack me up! As well as funny liner notes and some humorous lyrics the music is stellar. 

Sonny Rollins "Newk's Time". Sonny's glorious tenor sax sound. Does it get any better? Wynton Kelly on piano, Philly Joe Jones on drums and Doug Watkins on bass. Recorded in September 1957 at the famous Van Gelder Studios, Englewood Cliffs, NJ by Rudy Van Gelder. Van Gelder had a way of recording the musicians and the whole vibe of the room and the spontaneity of the moment. Well worth buying if you don't already have it. A must for any jazz collection.

I'm going to New York tomorrow for three days with my wife. I love that city. I lived there in the late 80's and it changed my life. We are going to see "War Horse" on Broadway which is supposed to be absolutely brilliant. Some critics say it's the best large scale play they have ever seen. We are also going to catch Brad Mehldau's trio at the Village Vanguard. I love that club and I love that group. Should be fun.

My band Sean Bray's Peach Trio will playing at The Rex Hotel and Jazz bar in Toronto on Sunday January 15th. Show starts at 9:30. The band plays mostly originals of mine with a few other well known tunes mixed in but played our way. Mark Dunn is the bass player in that band along with drummer David MacDougall.
Fun group.

That's all for now.