Snarky Puppy destroys the genre of jazz fusion

Posted October 7, 2014 by jermtech
Categories: Uncategorized

league

The genre of jazz fusion has always been controversial. On one extreme you have jazz purists who feel electric instruments are a bastardization of what jazz is all about. On the other side are pioneers who feel that for jazz to progress forward it must embrace technology. This has been debated ever since Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock invented the genre. But if we take a step back and look at the big picture, we can see that this controversy is actually good for music lovers. It creates an environment of self-evaluation where each artist creates it’s own answer to the question, “What is jazz and what role should technology play?” But the answer to that question, it seems, varies from person to person.

If one were to draw a flow chart of jazz fusion, it would obviously include the greats like Miles, Herbie, Weather Report, Pat Metheny, Stanley Clarke, Chick Corea, Mahavishnu Orchestra, and the Yellowjackets. But how far towards mainstream genres can you go before it isn’t jazz anymore? Would that chart include rock bands that lean jazz like Steely Dan, Toto, or Aquarium Rescue Unit? Or pop instrumentalists like George Benson, Chuck Mangione and Kenny G? Does it include R&B jazzers like Stevie Wonder, Al Jarreau, or Marvin Gaye? (“What’s Goin’ On” contains many jazz elements.) Most would agree the line certainly would stop before you get to Yanni and John Tesh, but how far? At what point does it cease to become anything resembling jazz and it just instrumental pop?

It is in the context of this tension and controversy that all jazz fusion artists are evaluated. And the jazz community is relentless is their elitist classifications and dismissals. I, myself, tend to have a very dim view of any new release which sounds heavily sequenced and programmed with MIDI tracks and drum machines, or sounds like it follows the “smooth jazz radio” formula. Although I champion the use of electric instruments and synths, I still want the musicians to play LIVE and with each other – not by themselves and their computers. I am always on the lookout for bands that are true masters of their instruments, have great song ideas, and can play as a real ensemble.

Enter Snarky Puppy.

snarky

In case you’ve been living in a cave the past few years, Snarky Puppy is a Brooklyn-based instrumental fusion band led by Grammy Award-winning bassist, composer and producer Michael League. Formed in Denton, Texas in 2004, the band features a collective of nearly 40 musicians, referred to as “The Fam” on their recordings and tours. The musicians perform on a variety of instruments including guitars,pianos, keyboards, woodwinds, brass, percussion and strings. Many of the current and former band members were once students at the University of North Texas.

And they are increasingly blowing the genre of jazz fusion away. They are going the opposite direction of the established jazz community. They are young. They have a grueling touring schedule based on their belief that live is the best way to enjoy the music. In fact all of their albums are essentially “live” albums recorded all together as a group and mostly with a studio audience. And even though they have a large ensemble with many keyboards and horns they perform old-school without in-ear monitors and without clicktracks. Their fans are a Godin-esque Tribe that is rabidly loyal and evangelistic. They are humble and accessible and utilize social media. They embrace collaborations with other artists in different genres. They are all really good. And the most interesting difference – they always look as if they are having a blast playing music together. They are having FUN onstage. They visibly challenge and surprise each other, which I would suspect is hard to do when you are with each other practically ALL the time when touring.

A great comparison framework that works well for me is Snarky Puppy vs. the Dave Weckl Band. Dave Weckl is a world-class jazz fusion drummer who gained notoriety as the drummer with the Chick Corea Electrik Band. In the 2000’s he created his own jazz fusion band called the Dave Weckl band. The band was a hit among fusion lovers and the band made seven memorable albums 1998-2005. Weckl is the master of a technique called “displacement.” Bassist Tom Kennedy is blazingly fast and is a great match for Dave. Jay Oliver on keys is basically a Chick Corea clone. Guitarists Buzz Feiten and Frank Gambale brought fire and intensity, and Brandon Fields’ light touch on the Soprano saxophone brought great balance. In short the band was full of technical virtuosos who could play anything. But as good as this band was, there was just something… missing. The band lacked heart. It was cold and sterile. It was like watching 5 brain surgeons. It was impressive but it didn’t move your soul. This has always been the danger of the genre, but this particular band is a singular example.

Snarky is the exact opposite. They are fresh. They are innovative. The fall into a groove and let it breathe for a while before someone wails a solo. They are very dynamic. They let songs build intensity naturally. It is organic and free and emotional. It feels GREAT. And everyone in the place knows it is happening. They also challenge the audience, stretching them along for the ride and not just relying on rote repetition. They are employing the best of jazz traditions – improvisation, mastery, collaboration, the cerebral intellectual challenge but also the emotional heart and soul that connects with people.

In summary, they are completely redefining the genre of jazz fusion. Or in the recent words of David Crosby, they are “the most advanced band in the world.” I totally agree.

All Star Band Fantasy Draft

Posted January 11, 2014 by jermtech
Categories: Uncategorized

ALL_STAR_LOGO_11

OK, here’s a fun project for anyone who wants to participate. You are invited to select an All-Star band, which will be made up of the following members:

(2) Drummers
(2) Bass Players
(2) Keyboardists
(2) Guitarists
(2) Horn/Auxillary Instrumentalists
(2) Guest Vocalists

You are drafting a starting lineup and a bench. You may only select one player at a time, and we all take turns. I will moderate the draft, letting you know when it’s time to select again. DO NOT enter your entire band at once. (The point is to have some fun discussion along the way). You can start with any instrument you like. For this edition of the fantasty draft, you must select members who are LIVING. In a future edition, we will do an all-time draft. When you make your selection, give a brief description of why you made your pick.

ROUND EIGHT IS ACTIVE!

Round Seven Complete

Round Seven Complete

Questions after 17 episodes of LOST

Posted January 12, 2013 by jermtech
Categories: Uncategorized

My wife and I recently began watching Lost on Netflix. Here are some of the questions we have 17 episodes in. Please don’t attempt to give me answers – I’m just sharing the experience. If you haven’t seen the show up to episode 17 then I suggest you don’t read further. (Note: I have disabled comments on this post for fear of spoilers.)

  1. Why has no one grown out of control facial hair in a month?
  2. Why has Claire not had her baby yet? Before her incident with Ethan, Jack told her she had about a week to go. That was 3 weeks ago.
  3. How can a man in a wheelchair be walking around after the crash and suddenly be an expert tracker and hunter?
  4. Did the polar bears appear on the island because of the image in the comic book? Did Walt make them happen?
  5. Nearly every character has something in their past which causes them to feel shame. Is this the common link between them? Is the island a type of purgatory? Are they all already dead?
  6. Did Ethan want the baby? Is this what Claire’s psychic foresaw? Why doesn’t Claire remember anything?
  7. When Sun asks Chin for a do-over, he says it’s too late. But the flashback we saw right before that with his father would make you think he’s desperate for a new start with Sun.
  8. Was the man whom Kate both “loved” and “killed” her father?
  9. Locke seems to know what’s going on with the “monster”, based on that little episode with Boone. How does he know that?
  10. If Ethan isn’t with Danielle, then who is he with?

The Return of ‘JermTech’

Posted February 14, 2012 by jermtech
Categories: Uncategorized

I’m excited to announce a job change – in a couple of weeks I will be a Senior Event Technology Specialist at Opryland Hotel!

One of the large meeting rooms inside the hotel.

I will be joining a team of about 60 full and part-time techs who provide Audio-Video-Lighting-Presentation support for business meetings, conventions, banquets, receptions, fundraisers, exhibits, and concerts in their 300,000 square feet of meeting spaces. (I will technically be working for the company PSAV which has the technical contract for all Gaylord owned properties.)

The Atrium inside the Opryland Hotel. This space connects the hotel and the meeting spaces.

In my new position I will be one of three Senior Techs who manages all the other technicians and sets schedules for them.

http://www.psav.com/

Music and Audio Company Consolidation

Posted December 5, 2011 by jermtech
Categories: Uncategorized

HEADLINE (Dec 5 2011): Gibson Acquires KRK, Stanton, and Cerwin-Vega.

I’m not a fan of this. It leads to decreased competition, price controls, and a decrease in innovation. Take a look at the handful of companies that now control a majority of the Music and Pro-Audio world:

HARMAN INTERNATIONAL

  1. AKG microphones
  2. BSS signal processors
  3. Crown amplifiers
  4. dbx signal processors
  5. Digitech guitar products
  6. JBL pro audio
  7. Lexicon digital processing
  8. Soundcraft mixing consoles
  9. Studer mixing consoles

LOUD TECHNOLOGIES

  1. Alvarez guitars
  2. Ampeg bass guiar amps
  3. Crate amplifiers
  4. Blackheart guitar amps
  5. EAW pro audio
  6. Mackie mixing consoles
  7. Martin Audio

FENDER MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS CORPORATION

  1. Charvel
  2. Genz-Benz
  3. Gibralter
  4. Gretsch
  5. Guild
  6. Fender
  7. Hamer
  8. Jackson
  9. LP
  10. Ovation
  11. Sabian
  12. Sunn
  13. SWR
  14. Tacoma
  15. Takamine
  16. Toca

GIBSON GUITAR CORPORATION

  1. Baldwin
  2. Epiphone
  3. Gibson
  4. Kalamazoo
  5. Kramer
  6. Slingerland
  7. Steinberger
  8. Tobias
  9. Valley Arts
  10. Wurlitzer

BOSCH

The Bosch Group is the parent company of Electro-Voice, Telex, Memorex, Dynacord, RTS, and others. It actually has 350 subsidiaries in 60 countries.

NOTEABLE EXCEPTIONS

I salute the following companies, who brave out the free market on their own terms:

  1. Ashly signal processing
  2. Meyer pro audio
  3. DPA microphones
  4. Shure microphones
  5. Radial Engineering

The things I look for in a political candidate

Posted November 15, 2011 by jermtech
Categories: Uncategorized

This upcoming election season is proving to be quite interesting, at least on the Republican side. There are still quite a few candidates that genuinely have a shot at the nomination. I’ve had lots of discussions with a variety of people on both twitter and facebook.

I’ve had the “Paulies” come after me (the overzealous, cult-like Ron Paul supporters who gradually become more forceful until they are nothing but a barrage of insults and name-calling); I’ve had the intellectuals come after me (ivy leaguers, law grads and students, etc.) who pretty much tell me I’m too dumb to understand politics; I’ve had your standard leftists argue with me (journalists, art students, musicians, entertainment industry folks, etc.) who think all Republicans are Satan himself; I’ve been bullied by a few blue-collar union types for siding with the “rich” who have sent our jobs overseas; and I’ve also been attacked from the right by tea partiers and single-issue social conservatives who say my particular brand of politics “isn’t Christian enough” for their taste.

In my experience, when someone just can’t understand why you would choose a particular candidate, they just fall back into saying you’re dumb or that you’re naive, or misguided, or they’ll just call you names and get angry. Wow. So touchy. So much hate going on.

I’m not an ill-informed citizen. I try to stay on top of current events. I actively pursue various sources of news each day (traditional sources, news aggregates, talk radio, and social media). I pay attention to who the candidates are, what their positions are, what their background and experience is, and what their stated plans are. So, I’m sorry internet trolls, but I’m not dumb, naive or ill-informed. You just don’t like my selection. But that’s OK. I probably don’t like yours either.

During one of these discussions, I outlined for someone my priorities for selecting a candidate. I thought it turned out good enough to share here (with a few tweaks) – something I could personally refer back to and also point others to in the future.

  1. Idealogy.
    Currently in my case this means conservative with federalist leanings and an economic libertarian streak… I’m looking for a person who truly understands the Constitution and values the wisdom and heritage the founding fathers left us.
  2. Character
    This doesn’t mean that the candidate has never had a failing. But I’m looking for someone who learns from their mistakes, who can be honest about them, and can move forward in a healthy way.
  3. Leadership
    Does the person actually have the skills to lead and has demonstrated that effectively before in other roles? Or are they just obsessed with power or money? Or are they gifted more as a diplomat, an orator, soldier, manager, professor, or theorist?
  4. Likeability
    This can be a slippery slope, I know. But if you have a gut reaction where you just don’t like someone – I have found that there’s usually a good underlying reason for that feeling.
  5. A Bias Against Career Politicians
    I’m not ashamed to admit that I do not trust long-time politicians. It is an inherently dirty business that tends to corrupt even principled, well-meaning people over time.

This list doesn’t really change from election cycle to election cycle (though its entirely possible my idealogy adapts and grows and changes.) In 2008 I supported Fred Thompson. That is entirely consistent with this list. For 2012, I haven’t fully decided yet, but I’m leaning heavily towards Herman Cain because of this list.

Get To

Posted November 1, 2011 by jermtech
Categories: Uncategorized

There used to be a lot of things I felt I had to do. I had to go to work. I had to attend meetings. I had to produce something. I had to edit something. I had to contribute something on a schedule. I had to design something. I had to play music.

Have To is not a very fun place to be. Have To has an inherent “I’d rather be doing something else” to it. Have To sucks to joy out of the experience.

In the movie, Gladiator, Russell Crowe’s character, Maximus, asks his slave Cicero, “Do you find it hard to do your duty?” Cicero replies, “Sometimes I do what I want to do. The rest of the time, I do what I have to.”

Now, I certainly wouldn’t compare my life to Cicero’s; I have lived a very sheltered and blessed life in the suburban midwest. But I think at some level, we all have felt what Cicero expressed. We pile up obligations and commitments and before you know it – we are a slave to our own schedule.

But in the past few months I’ve experienced the freedom of “Get To.” I Get To play music in a wide variety of formats. I Get To serve at a cool church. I Get To produce things for a solid company. I Get To take side jobs that are interesting and challenging.

Get To is a lot more fulfilling than Have To.

Would I attribute that change to a difference of location? of vocation? or is it mental? I’m still figuring that out. But one thing is clear – life is a lot more fun this way.