A change is gonna do you good….
So, that’s what they tell me – but why, and how (after years and years)?
With this column, I’ve driven off to the roads of family reunions, amp repair, and music practice stragedies – with life and actually making music, more change is ahead.
Of course, what’s happened to me, and how can it affect you?
Let’s start with the writing thing – I’ve been mulling a conscientious move towards a leaner, less ‘wordy’ style. Avid column readers (plus my missis) have pointed a few areas out that I’ve said, ”Yep, I hear ya. Need to firm up a few things there.” In short, the “Reverend Polich of His Holiness Of Overly-Wordly Hep Church” needs some reigning in – yeah, a bit of a gimmick. But as Miles Davis once paraphrases,” It takes awhile to find YOU in the music”, it’s taken awhile to find ‘me’ in my writing prose. And I’m still working on it, which is half the fun, half the journey……
So, enough of that – what about the music? What ‘fat’ have I taken steps towards cutting away from how I write – lyrically and musically – to change direction?
One process that comes to mind has been my approach to playing jazz standards. As I have said before in these blog backpages, my ‘jazz’ career seems to move in some fashion in spite of myself - everywhere we move, I seem to hook up with someone, or a group, and create some gigs. Obviously, there are far superior players out there in the world , but I like the fact that I’m on a road – and this is important – on a road to discovery, and no worried (at least to a lesser degree) about impressing people ( ya know, REAL jazzers).The whole convergence of making music, at least at this point after 33 years, is see what lies within you for making music you want to make, or can make.
Anyway, my job in the duo (sax/guitar) is to provide chords, bass lines, and some solo arrangements. I’ve never done this before – yeah, I’ve played guitar parts, or have been the bass player in trio formats, but not ALL of it, ALL at once. Daunting, yet I’m up for the task. Given my hand size, I can’t grab these big chord extensions ala Tal Farlow or John McLaughlin – those dudes have got some grip! So, I go for smaller, mid-to-lower voicings – I can pickup the bass lines easier when needed. Also, partial chord voicings come into play, plus I can sub the occasional stacked fourth chord voice (my nod to Larry Young and McCoy Tyner) in there as well. Needless to say, this keeps me busy, and I’ve overturned once again how I learn material, exercises, theory, and sound.
When I approach rock style solos, less is more comes into play (although the old ‘deedle deedle wah wah’ ‘80’s style semi-shred excess pops up on occasion…). I think my vibrato has gotten better – I used to work on that when I was younger because I really intrigued by the blues guys who could wrangled notes out of those Stratocasters and Teles all day. Clapton had, and has, a great vibrato, but the all-time champ in the classic rock realm is Paul Kossoff from the band Free (If playing “All Right Now” was a living, those dudes would have gotten their pension and gold watch long ago). Paul had wonderful vibrato, and marvelous tone!
In keeping with my long – time credo of open mind and open ears, I still explore the possibilities of other styles and how to incorporate them into my life studies and work. But the biggest thing is just listening and enjoying music for the sheer hell out of it – don’t study it, don’t analyze it, don’t wonder what you can get from it other than the sheer fact that’s there’s SOMETHING IN THERE that moves you. I remind myself more of that daily – life’s too short on those maters, ya know? Sometimes you just enjoy something – guilty pleasure or not –just because!
I also edit my recordings with better skill – probably because I have better equipment now than in my twenties. I’ll probably never get thru all the Pro Tools like aspects of my Roland recording work station, but it’s sure fun trying! I had to be dragged into that one, too – “oooh, digital – too brittle, too intimidating, too daunting”. Old Japanese proverb –which opens this column site – says, ”Start at the corners.” So, thusly, that’s what I do.
Oh, there is a lot more involved here - goals to get thru, stuff to do, life style-wise also.
My thing is trying to make some permanent changes, and my approach has been to start small, and attack the ‘little’ goals first (or make them little goals, even if there are a dozen in a row, so that can be deemed attainable).
Less is more, less is more – although there is nothing better to succeed at than excess! Ah yes, the ‘old days’ - that WAS then, this IS now ! Oh, and…..FUN!!! That’s another thing – change can be fun. It’s scary as hee-jeebus, isn’t there an element of fun in moving on to something new? Should be –even when I’m really down, tired, scared, confused when I look at the drum set, the Strat, and the recording gear, and wonder what-next-Cochise – I think about the feeling I got when I was a kid, and all this music stuff was an open book, a landscape to romp on and explore in the nooks, crannies, and caves…..
There will be a few more articles coming this fall before and after my big 5 – 0, addressing some issues, but really, a mental purging and cleansing for me. I hope not too take it too far around the bend, but special thanks to all the guest bloggers, readers, and Jodi Krangle for making this writing adventure fun and accessible!