Saturday, April 20, 2002

Good session this morning, about an hour-and-a-half of just Irish tunes, working through that larger SlowPlayers tunebook. I'm not learning new tunes from there, more like playing through new tunes so I can get them in my ear and recognize them when I hear them from others to pay more attention.

I revisited a set I haven't played for a while, College Groves and Flogging Reel. These two I had over-practiced a few months back, trying to get particular ornamentation and emphasis down. Now I've forgotten them mechanically and can go back and reconstruct them from what I hear internally.

I've got a good amount of work to do this weekend, but really want at least one long session with ragtime tunes. Am also hoping to retune my lap steel from F-Bb-C-E-G-A-C-E (a C6 with extra bass notes) to G-A-C#-E-F#-A-C#-B (an A6, similar intervals, but retaining that b7 in bass and inserting a second degree inside-out on top, like an E13 pedal steel). That A13 tuning will be similar to the G13 for the Dobro, just a whole step higher due to current string gauges. But work will be heavy, and I don't know if I'll be able to get to it yet.

Friday, April 19, 2002

Tired, playing just to keep my hand in... ran slip jigs like "Rocky Road to Dublin" and "The Butterfly", some Irish polkas from memory... played musette "Le Retour des Hirondelles" for the first time in a few months and retained it with crispness but a few flubs... could recall new "Tripping Up The Stairs" and "The Eavesdropper" without problems. Would like to get some good longer sessions this week. An ideal practice day, I guess, would be about five hours.... ;-)

Printed out the consolidated Slow Players' setlist, which is a superset of the San Francisco playlist. These are good lists for people looking for first Irish tunes to focus on... don't rely on the sheets alone, but combine these with listening and use the sheet as a roadmap before throwing it away.

Thursday, April 18, 2002

Small sessions. Tried reels "New Policeman" and "Bunch of Keys", but I can think of multiple ways to play each, so I want to listen again to someone else play each to hear the community standards. Ran over "Glen Road to Carrick" after not playing it for two months and it came back well. "Eight More Miles to Louisville" is fun (when I can remember the words ;-), but I need to work more on the scalar improvisation to bring out what I hear inside.

Wednesday night I went to the Plough & Stars to catch two bluegrass bands, West of Kentucky and Earthquake Country. I enjoyed both, even though I had difficulty hearing the first over a bunch of talkers who sat in next to me. Neither group had a fiddle. Earthquake Country was a bunch of characters... distinct personality. I liked how the Dobro player was always listening and filling in, not just sitting out when he was playing a lick. Bluegrass has its own social dynamics... there's strong pressure to fit in and play a particular part, but I guess when people know each other for awhile they can get looser with each other, have their own unique personality.

Listening to Conjunto Bernal and Charlie Parker, now a disc called "Nashville Dobros" with a bunch of uncredited covers. There's something to fitting in and playing a role well, but there's also something to just saying something unique, arresting, and appropriate to the moment too.

Later: Then again, there's a certain charm to this "Nashville Dobros" CD of 30 tunes like "Streets of Laredo" and "Chicken Reel" and "Casey Jones"... it's *hard* to play melodies cleanly.

Wednesday, April 17, 2002

Continuing on same set of rags, goal is to get a half-dozen to where I can play them without score, then to work them 'til they're smooth, then to leave them to be forgotten, then to bring them back so they're mine. "Tripping Up The Stairs" and "The Eavesdropper" are memorized but not quite smooth yet... did some reading through reels but want to hear things like "Master Crowley" again before relying on the notes too much, so much depends on the accents. I ran that Tin Pan Alley tune "Cocoanut Grove" through three sessions, and by the third it started to get nice and loose, personalized.

That "Last Sessions of Jelly Roll Morton" disc is great... he is who he is. I've done "Winin' Boy" and "Buddy Bolden's Blues" and "Don't You Leave Me Here" for years, but it's solid to hear the originals again, particularly with how much space he can leave inside those tunes he knows so well. I want to learn "The Animule Dance", sounds like a good counter to "The Barnyard Dance" which I learned from Martin, Bogen & Armstrong long ago. His group work is a little stiff, though... makes me wonder how he acted when playing with other musicians.

Tuesday, April 16, 2002

Nothing spectacular, just getting my hours in. Rags over the last two days include Lamb's Sensation and Bohemia Rags, Joplin's Original Rags and Maple Leaf, Marshall's Ham And!, and Turpin's Harlem Rag. Believe I've got two new jigs memorized: Tripping up the Stairs and the Eavesdropper. This morning I had long sessions on two songs I haven't played much, Cocoanut Grove and My Little Rock Candy Baby.

Yesterday James P. Johnson was on the jukebox, today it's the last recording of Jelly Roll Morton, and right now he's playing his take on Original Rags. I think the question on rags isn't so much "Played as written or not?", but more like "I learned it so long ago I hope I remember how it was written".... ;-)

Monday, April 15, 2002

Fun sessions at an East Bay party yesterday... I got in early and left late, about 6.5 hours playing overall. Early on I was just able to play tunes, but later it got locked into genres, "bluegrass" and "swing". (That genre-lock makes sense, because once you get a group of people you've got to find something they can all manage, but it's more fun to just play music.)

Tunes included Aloha Oe, Kentucky, Detour, Maidens Prayer, My Adobe Hacienda, Pennies from Heaven, Steel Guitar Rag. It's hard to sing while leading the progressions on the instrument and signing the chords with the right hand while listening to chords come in at the wrong time, or hearing the tempo changed out from under me, but I'd still like to sing more. I like Jimmie Rodgers tunes but I just can't see them working in such a situation. Vocal projection was good, although it usually took a bit each tune until I figured which timbres I could hit at the level to fill the room.

On the box I had fewer flubs than before. ;-) I was trying to get a particular sound on some tunes and couldn't hit it... a combination of Norteno accordion and Tom Brumley's steel with the Buckaroos, a fairly staccato stream of eight-notes built off octave-range progressions with suspensions. I did manage to get some broken-sixth work across a circle-of-fifths progression but then got lost coming back into the verse.