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Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Influences and inspirations part 2. (Ed Bickert)

In my last post I talked about Pat Metheny being an influence and an inspiration musically for me. He is just one of many. I will be doing a series of these posts in the coming weeks and again in no particular order of importance or personal discovery.

Ed Bickert is an influence and a musical inspiration and I first discovered him when I was enrolled in my first year of post secondary music study at Mount Royal College in Calgary. First of all, Ed Bickert played a Telecaster rather than the usual hollow body, which fascinated me as I was still a teenager and heavily influenced by rock guitar players.
I was playing a Strat and had just bought a Tele, so I was a fan already. Once I heard his comping chordal ideas, he became a lifelong inspiration to learn more chord voicings!
Ed Bickert has such a beautiful way of playing chords and melody and he is definitely one of the hippest players I have ever heard. His rounded tone and soft touch can sometimes be deceiving and mask his inventiveness on the initial listen. However, with a closer listen, you will be blown away by the complexity of his approach. The same thing happens with pianist Bill Evans. Ed also plays with a combination of fingers and pick which I definitely stole from him and I have been playing that way ever since.

Ed didn't get the same international recognition as Jim Hall, Herb Ellis, Tal Farlow, Joe Pass or Barney Kessell, but he was satisfied to play mostly in Canada. People in the know, certainly rank Ed Bickert up alongside everyone of the previously mentioned guys.

Here is Ed Bickert with Dave Young on bass and Terry Clarke on drums playing "Street of Dreams".
Marvelous trio.

Funny story about Ed regarding his music set up. Most players are pretty savvy at describing what amp they are using and what guitars they play and basically how they get their sound, but not Ed. When asked about how he gets his sound from his amp he responded "I just look for the sounds like shit knob and turn it down". Awesome response!

Ed Bickert is from Toronto and I have had the pleasure of talking to him on many occasions over the years and even hanging out at his house while my daughters swam in his pool. Great guy and fantastic guitarist.

That's all for now.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Influences and inspirations part 1. (Pat Metheny)

Influences and inspirations part 1.

We all have people in your lives that inspire us and help us along our path of discovery and as a musician, there are other musicians that influence our musical knowledge. We listen, transcribe and emulate until it seeps into our musical DNA and hopefully comes out of us as original content. As Tony Bennett says "if you take from one musician it's stealing but if you take from a bunch of musicians it's research". Wise words. I am going to be talking about the players that have influenced and inspired me to date and hopefully explain why. I will be presenting them in no particular order of personal discovery.

Guitarist Pat Metheny has been one of those players for a long time and continues to be an influence. Pat's a guy who never rests. He is always writing, recording, collaborating with other musicians and touring but his playing and his music never gets old or worn out for me. He's one of those players that when he improvises it just flows out of him and in such a musical way. His sense of melody when he improvises has been a huge influence on me. I try to always play melodies when I improvise and not have it sound like a scale and arpeggio exercise. Pat can play over any changes and make it sound melodious and story telling. Listen to "Lakes" from "Water Colors" on ECM for an example of what I'm talking about. "Lakes" is a tough tune but he just soars beautifully through the changes and makes it sound like an easy tune. This record came out in 1977 and had Danny Gottleib on drums, Eberhart Weber on bass and longtime associate Lyle Mays on piano.

Another thing that attracts me to Pat's playing and writing is that his mid west influences come out in his music. The duo record he did with the late bassist Charlie Haden called "Beyond the Missouri Skies" (1997) for instance really imagines that part of the world in both of their playing. They are both from that part of the United States. Charlie Haden was born in Shenandoah, Iowa and Pat was born in Lee's Summit, Missouri.

The music of the southern States has had a huge impact on me and has for a number of years. That music educates and instructs my playing and writing in a big way. Even though I'm known as a jazz guy, I love Country music, Bluegrass, Blues etc., all of which came from that part of the United States. I grew up in Calgary, Alberta for a big part of my informative years (grade 9 through college) and that part of Canada has very strong roots in country music. The Calgary Stampede is the biggest Rodeo in the world and the city is filled with country music for 10 or so days. That definitely seeped into my DNA.

Here is a solo guitar arrangement of "Shenandoah", which is an old folk tune originally credited to "Traditional", played on my PRS 408 through a Fender Tweed Blues Deluxe 40 watt tube amp.

That's all for now.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Moving to a smaller music centre.

Moving to a smaller music centre.

It's been a while since I've blogged (great word) and I look forward to getting back at it regularly.
My wife, youngest daughter and I moved from Toronto to Kelowna BC which is in the Okanagan Valley of interior British Columbia. It's absolutely gorgeous here. My parents live here and I haven't lived anywhere near them for over 27 yrs, so my wife and I thought it would be a nice place to relocate. My wife Marilla took an early retirement from teaching and is now taking wine courses to get into the wine industry out here. Great place for that. I am obviously continuing being a working musician.

It is a bit of an adjustment moving to a smaller music centre from a large music centre like Toronto, where I was based for 25 yrs, but I am surprised how much of a scene there is here. There are some really good players and there are cities of varying sizes near to Kelowna where there are opportunities to play as well. There are over 200 wineries in the Okanangan so there are lots of performing opportunities there. There is also Big White Ski Resort which is just basically up the highway from my house where I have been able to play twice since moving here at the beginning of October. Just played there this past Saturday for The International Wine Summit with a five piece band. I hired a fabulous singer named Kinga Heming, who also moved to Kelowna from Toronto about two yrs ago. Craig Thomson on tenor, who is an important part of the scene here. He is not only a very fine tenor player but he nurtures the young high school students to whom he teaches band and he co-hosts a weekly jam downtown which encourages young players to come up and play with some pros. I also hired Bernie Addington on bass, who is the first call bassist in the Okanagan and a young drummer named Chris Collier, who not only plays well but is getting his PHD in Electrical Engineering at UBCO here in Kelowna.

I have put together a west coast Sean Bray's Peach Trio since moving here and both Bernie Addington and Chris Collier make up the trio. We just played for the Salmon Arm Jazz Society this past Thursday and what a fantastic listening audience. We even received a standing ovation. Salmon Arm is about an hour and a half north of Kelowna in the Shuswap lakes area. We are also playing here in Kelowna on Wednesday at The Minstrel Cafe and Bar which is a great venue. I had played there a couple of years ago with an old friend and fantastic guitarist Loni Moger, who also happens to live in Kelowna. We knew each other years ago in Calgary but hadn't seen each other since I moved to New York and then to Toronto years ago. We ran into each other at Wentworth Music here in Kelowna while I was visiting my parents one summer.

I am proud to announce that I just signed an endorsement deal with PRS Guitars. I am very pleased as they are the best guitars I have played bar none. Brent Mason was a big help in getting the deal as he referred me to the director of artist relations at PRS. I have three PRS guitars. I have a 408 which is such a beautiful and versatile guitar, an SC-245 which is a fantastic guitar as well and uses the Gibson Les Paul as an influence but still very much a Paul Read Smith design and innovation and a Custom 24 which is also very versatile. It has 24 frets instead of the usual 22 for modern guitars and 21 for older designs. A whole two octaves on every string!

I have been listening to:

John Patitucci- "Brooklyn" which is a new recording for the bassist. It's a two guitar, bass and drums quartet. What's not to like right? Adam Rogers and Steve Cardenas on guitars, Patitucci on electric bass and Brian Blade on drums. Nice band!

Rogers and Binney - "R and B". The Rogers is Adam Rogers on guitar and the Binney is David Binney on also sax. Great record! Reuben Rogers (no relation) on bass and Gerald Cleaver on drums.
It diverts from their usual original material, which is great, and includes bebop, ballads and standards by Thelonious Monk, Wayne Shorter, Miles Davis, Freddie Hubbard and Gershwin.

John Scofield "Past Present" reuniting the guitarist's famous and fantastic quartet of the late 80's and early 90's. Joe Lovano on tenor, Bill Stewart on drums and Larry Grenadier replacing the late Dennis Irwin on bass. Fantastic band and such great interplay between Lovano and Scofield with their weaving in and out of each others lines.

That's all for now.