Thanks for making your way to my first blog on my (self-made) website. These past few months have been incredible, for music making, and there's a lot of to come. Here, occasionally, I make jokes, and occasionally people might laugh but most of the time, it'll just be about the adventures of a clueless musician "trynna get it, do it right" [sic]. Occasionally I make funny spelling errors too, so if you catch me writing funny stuffinthewrongway, please feel free to reach out to me and digitally slap me for stupid grammar missteaks.
So, as I was saying, the past month has been incredible. I usually take my summers off to return to the States. Usually, I work at a summer camp for Mandarin-learners for a month, but for whatever reason, this year, I didn't do it. I got back to North Carolina, where I'm from, in early June and I went straight to the session at Alley 26, which is kind of a loud and boomy bar, but some of the most swinging musicians in the Raleigh-Durham area (which is to say, NC) play there on the reg. Needless to say, it was great to just be in an environment (despite my honking bouncing off every wall and then back at me) where the swing just flowed like the ack-ee-hawl.
The following week, I played with a quartet at a spot in Durham called Sharp Nine. Sharp Nine is a great place-- it's founded and run by my former teacher, a great tenor player named Dave Finucane. Dave moved down to NC a few years back, from the Northeast and has been dedicated to education and outreach of Jazz music ever since. Dave was one of the people who taught both my brother and I really how to swing. He's a fantastic bebop player, who studied at NEC with Jerry Bergonzi back in the day, and really knows his way around the horn. At any rate, the Sharp Nine gig was great: it featured Russell Favret on guitar, Kenny Phelps-Mckeown on bass andLarry "Q" Draughn on the drums and we performed some of my arrangements of Motown tunes, as well as some standards.
I like arranging Motown heads, because Motown is music that I grew up enjoying (my dad is a huge Smokey Robinson and Al Green fan) and that's what was always on the turntable (along with the Beatles) as a kid. There are some Motown heads that are really fun to dig into, and it's always a fun challenge to try to do something with the arrangements-- I arranged What's Going On, as a groove in 7/4 with a weird Sir Duke like tag at the end of each solo and Superstition (a particularly difficult tune to arrange beyond the funk groove) that melts into 6/8 swing with Giant Steps movements inside the harmony. The idea was to move as far away from Superstition as possible...why not Giant Steps? The band was incredible-- the feel from all the musicians just fit right and I was left wondering why I hadn't played with these guys more when I lived in NC. Probably because I didn't have the chops back then to even begin to comprehend what was going on (booya!).
There was a bit of prancing around the US after that: Seattle with the fam, New York, and briefly NC again.
At the beginning of July I took three weeks to head to Hong Kong. HK is great, although it's not known for its music scene. There's a lot of pop music there, and I've been going there to network for that stuff. This time however, I was fated to hang with some great local musicians who've actually ended up doing some really awesome creative material.
I played a few shows in HK with the likes of great artists, including Nate Wong, (the infamously website-less) Callum McKenzie and Jeff Lehmberg. Nate's a fantastic drummer, because we both have the same concept of what a downbeat is. When you look closely, everyone hits the beat a little bit different-- inside the beat, there's a lot of space where you could possibly hit and be considered "locked": J Dilla kind of exploited this in a lot of his music. It's why you're always being "pulled" back and forth by his beats-- they're not perfectly landing on the beat, but "stretched" so that you feel the pulse, but it's off. Anyways, Nate and I happen to share the exact same concept of where that beat falls. I think that every musician has maybe only one or two other "beat brother" out there who lock up like that. It's pretty cool. I love playing with him, because he's a quiet drummer who grooves hard and swings nicely. Here's a video of us playing my arrangement of "What's Going On" ft. Ricky Wong on Nord, Marcus Ho on bass and Nate on drums.
After Hong Kong, I hit Shanghai to play a show at the JZ Club with Julia Chen, a fantastic pianist and friend. Julia came with me to China in 2011, and man she sounds good. She's got such a unique way of playing the piano that really is awesome to hear. The band featured Li Xiaochuan on trumpet, myself on trombone, Danny Zanker on Bass, Leo Suzi on drums and Julia on piano.
We played again a few days later, at Jianghu bar. Video to come!
Anyways, it's been a really great few months of music, with more to come. I'm excited to join a few new projects, including recording a big band album for Coco Zhao with the JZ Big Band, as well as joining Lawrence Ku's Red Groove Project on trombone for a show in September. Aiming to be a good month ahead-- I hope you've all enjoyed my ranting and raving. It's been a fantastic and formative month and-a-half for music and I hope to continue working with a lot of these guys. That's all for now!