Kurt at the Village Vangaurd

It was so cool to see Kurt Rosenwinkel at the Village Vanguard last Friday night. I went with my (wife)(I get to say that now) Bridget and to my suprise, she said it was the best Jazz show she'd ever seen. She went to school as a Jazz vocalist (and is amazing at singing jazz), but still leans more towards singer-songwriters, indie rock and classic jazz as opposed to modern jazz. 

Kurt was phenomenal, and what made it extra special was that he was playing with Mark Turner, with whom he made some of his most seminal albums like "The Next Step", "Enemies of Energy", and of course "The Remedy", which is also live at the Village Vanguard. They also played their older material, which is now (gulp) 15-20 years old!

All of those songs still sound as fresh and cutting edge as they ever have. They are angular, but also shockingly melodic. There is a lot of dense harmony, but it serves as a beautiful foundation and colors that make you go blind. As always, hints of the be-bop tradition are tastefully intertwined. 

It always feels like Kurt is improving as a guitarist. On his early work, he still is prodigous, but you can sense a little fight with the instrument, and his ideas aren't always executed with exact precision. Let's just say that isn't the case anymore. Kurt can play anything he wants to, as could anyone in the band which also featured Marcus Gilmore.

It's always special to see Kurt, and also to go to the Vanguard. It's like a soulful meal that provides comfort and inspiration!

New Grizzly Bear Album

Have been heavily listening to the new Grizzly Bear album "Painted Ruins" for the last month. I've been a fan of them since I discovered them in 2010,  right after I moved to New York City. Their mix of lo-fi sounds, grit, vocal harmony, and jazz harmony really spoke to me, and most of all I appreciated that they were making this music under the pop umbrella.

As with most bands, their production has gotten cleaner with every subsequent album since what I consider their first real one, "Yellow House". From what I can tell, they do a lot of stuff in house, which was a huge influence with all of our work with Glass Elephant. Despite a cleaner sound on their most recent album, I think they are still true to who they are, and even take some new risks.

Two tracks that stand out to me are "Four Cypresses" (there is a great Song Exploder podcast about this song") and also "Systole", which features Chris Taylor (the bassist and producer) on lead vocals. Chris Taylor's voice is very interesting, and it's cool to hear a voice that i'm so used to hearing as part of the classic Grizzly Bear vocal blend out in front.

Overall, I think I would rate this album higher than their previous one "Shields", on par with "Veckatamist" but not quite up to the beginning to end perfection of "Yellow House".

Check it out!

NY so far

This is a new format for me; writing, blogging, sharing thoughts, etc.  I figured the best topic to start with was a summary of my experiences being a musician in New York City so far.  Rarely a month goes by where I don’t get a call, email or just run into someone from my past who is thinking of moving to NYC.  I’ll have been here for 3 years in August, and I have to admit my love for this city grows the longer I am here.  Music aside, the energy in the street is something I feel that I can feed on for years to come.  The food, the people, the art, the grit, the subway, it’s all what I imagined it would be.

The first year, however, was not a walk in the park (not that it is necessarily is now, but i’ll get to that).  Aside from a few personal situations that arrived very quickly after moving here, I had to come to terms with the fact that while I had an undergraduate and master’s degree in music as well as a load of performance/ teaching experience, I really had nothing to distinguish myself from the pack.  Basically, I was qualified to serve coffee at minimum wage, which is what i did for my first 8 months.  Everyone tells you about what a nightmare moving to NYC can be, but actually experiencing that as a reality was humbling to say the least.  

Things got to the point where I seriously questioned my career in music, and if it weren’t for a few opportune phone calls where friends gave my name to some other musicians in the city, I may have moved out of NYC or thought about doing something else as a career.  I feel like that first year is something everyone has to go through; the doubt and uncertainty.  But the thing about New York is when you do taste success, whether its a great show or just having the bread to go out for a nice dinner with friends, it feels like you're on top of the world.

What I realized, over that first year, was that I was not cut out then to be primarily a freelance jazz guitarist for the moment.  It wasn’t because I couldn’t as a guitarist, but because my heart wasn’t in it as much as I thought it would be.  To most people who knew me in Miami, this was a huge shock.  I wanted to follow Pat Metheny and Kurt Rosenwinkel’s footsteps.  I wanted to play Small’s and the Village Vanguard.  However, after meeting many musicians and staying out for late jams, I decided it might be time to try something else.  

I was very fortunate to live with two musicians, who were able to turn me on to other types of music besides from Jazz.  They showed me wonderful indie bands like Grizzly Bear and we went to go see people in the city like Becca Stevens.  There were amazing musicians playing music at such a high level and non-musicians were paying attention.   I still love and play Jazz, but to play different styles has been a huge awakening to me as a musician.  

        I feel so lucky to have fallen into the situation that I currently am in.  Playing and recording with both Bridget Davis and the Viking Kings and Glass Elephant  has been a blast, and the creativity that I have been able to express was makes me feel like i did when I was in my first garage band in high school.   While learning so much in music school, I lost a lot of innocence and sense of discovery that I once had.  I will take the blame for that; I had a very closed mind and my focus may have been slightly too singular.  While still not that that far off from struggling in NYC , I am more excited and motivated than ever to move forward as a musician and to help the groups I am in achieve more success.