About Me

My photo
Atlanta, GA, United States
When I suffered a lip injury that ended my career as a classical trombonist, I thought my life as a musician was finished, but I fell in love with music all over again when Santa gave me a guitar for Christmas in 2003. Even as I was struggling with my first chords, I was planning a new performance career. As a trombonist, I performed with the Heritage of America Band at Langley Air Force Base, the Ohio Light Opera, and in pick-up bands for touring acts that included Rosemary Clooney, George Burns, and the Manhattan Transfer. Reborn as a jazz guitarist, I sing and play my own solo arrangements of jazz classics, am half of the Godfrey and Guy duo, and hold the guitar chair in the Sentimental Journey Orchestra. I have been a freelance music copyist since 1995 and have been music director at Northwest Unitarian Universalist Congregation since 2011.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Losing It #16: Century Mark

As of today, I've lost 100 pounds. I still have 23 to go before I hit my target weight, but it sure feels good to have made it this far. Some friends have expressed admiration that I've managed to do this alone. The truth is that this has been far from a solitary effort. True, I don't work with a personal trainer or dietician. I'm not a member of a gym, and I haven't joined Weight Watchers or any other weight loss support groups, but I haven't done this alone. In a way, my friends have been with me every step of the way. I've received nothing but support and encouragement from my friends in Atlanta as well as my online Facebook friends, most of whom I haven't even met in person. Regularly reporting my progress on Facebook helps keep me accountable, and the words of encouragement I've received have helped me stay motivated.

Sometimes there's nothing more annoying than the newly converted, but at the risk of sounding preachy, let me say this: If I can do it, you can do it. Aside from my four years in the Air Force, I've been overweight most of my adult life. I shudder to think at the total gallons of Ben and Jerry's I've eaten, and you could probably build a large, delicious hill with the chips and burgers I've consumed. In spite of all that, I've lost 100 pounds in six months, and I've progressed from a 30-minute walk to a regular 3.5 mile run. Recently I signed up for a half marathon. I can't even run 10 miles yet, but I guarantee I'll be able to run 13.1 miles in another 5 months.

So if this former couch potato can get off his large ass and turn it around, I know you can, too. You need to find your motivation, set your goals, plan your diet, and plan your exercise. Finally, find or create a support group. It could be a formal program, a personal trainer, a workout partner, or an informal support group like the one I created for myself on Facebook. I couldn't have made it this far without my Facebook peeps!

It's not going to be easy, that's for sure, but it's doable. If there's any way I can help, please let me know. I'd be happy to be in your cheering section!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Losing It #15: Half Marathon

On April 11, 2010, I weighed 323 pounds and couldn't make it up a flight of stairs without having to catch my breath at the top. Today I weigh 226 pounds and regularly run 3.5 miles with a fast, uphill kick at the end. On March 20, 2011, I'll be running the Georgia Half Marathon.

I have to thank my Tea for Duo duo partner, Lynnette, for planting the idea in my head. Not long after I met her, Lynnette completed a half marathon. I think it might have been her first one. She's running another half in November. Since I've started running again, she's encouraged me now and then to sign up for one. My running strength has increased significantly over the past few weeks, and I started thinking about a half marathon more and more often. I checked out the half marathon training schedule that Lynnette followed for her first one at www.halhigdon.com. After looking it over, I thought the schedule looked quite doable, and today I took the plunge and registered for the race.

The timing of this particular half marathon couldn't be better. It'll be only a couple weeks away from April 11, the day I finally decided to turn my health around for good. It'll be a celebration of a year well spent. Also, to time the 12-week training program to coincide with the race, I will have to start January 2. I can't think of  better way to start off the new year than by starting a brand new training program.

One of my strengths (and sometimes it's a flaw) is that I don't do anything halfway. When I started playing guitar a few years ago, I almost immediately began to see it as a vehicle for restarting some sort of music performance career. The same goes with running. I'm not kidding myself that I'll ever be a top flight runner, but I can set my own personal goals. My first major goal is to complete the half marathon in March. After that, I plan on completing a marathon. If I feel good about my half marathon performance, I'll plan on training for the Georgia Marathon the following year. If it's a major struggle, I'll complete another half marathon or two before tackling the longer distance.

After I complete a marathon, who knows? I'm sure I'll think of something.

Friday, October 22, 2010

No More Cool Side

A couple weeks ago I disbanded my jazz quartet, On the Cool Side. It wasn't an easy decision. Three of us had invested over a year of time, and the fourth had been with us for about nine months. I learned a lot by playing with these guys, and my musicianship improved.

I disbanded the group because of simple economics. I've been fairly successful finding solo jobs here and there, but nobody seems to want to hire a quartet. It just costs too much. On the Cool Side had one good gig at Embassy Suites a few months ago. Aside from that, we've been playing low paying or free gigs. I didn't want to keep stringing everyone along, telling them that a great gig was just around the corner.

Playing and singing isn't my day job yet, but that's my ultimate goal. Since I've had almost no luck finding quartet jobs, I decided to focus my energy on solo and duo jobs, assembling a trio or quartet as needed. One of these days I'd like to have my own regular combo again…maybe after I'm more well established and my stock has risen in Atlanta. Finding work can be frustrating, but I have to keep reminding myself that I'll get there. I've been playing guitar not quite seven years, and I've only been seriously looking for gigs for the past two years.

So I'll be looking for solo and duo gigs for the foreseeable future, with an eye toward leading another combo someday. In the meantime, I'm also very open to joining an established combo if the opportunity arises.

Friday, October 8, 2010

InTown Band Debut Album

I'm pleased to announce that InTown Band has released a self-titled debut mini-album of seven original songs!

A while back, we won an open mic contest at Earthshaking Music. The prize was two free hours in their recording studio. We originally went into the studio thinking that we would claim our two free hours, pay for two more, and record a good demo. We prepared seven songs and figured we would get 3-4 songs that we could use. The session went so well that we ended up recording all seven songs. If we had gone into the studio with the idea that we would lay down the tracks for a mini-album in one session, we probably couldn't have done it. We would have felt the pressure and been too uptight to make it happen. Instead, we had a blast recording. We were joking around, feeling loose, and having fun. We were quite surprised at the end of the session when we realized we had seven good tracks.

We describe our original music as Soul Fusion. It's a blend of rock, jazz, blues, reggae, soul, and whatever else we feel like throwing into the pot. Some of our music is written individually by Thomas Vinton or me. Many of our latest songs are co-written by the entire group. For example, I'm good at writing melodies and harmonies, but I'm not so hot at lyrics. I'll bring a new melody to the group and have the others write lyrics. That's how Cutesy Blues came about. On top of that, the group morphed Cutesy Blues from a cute little swing blues to a "funk blues" with more of an edge. Change Jar is another group song. I sent an email to Thomas Vinton about an idea for a song that would use the change jar as a metaphor. (See my blog about the Change Jar Principle.) He took my rambling email and crafted it into a lyric. Thomas also came up with the guitar lick you hear after the 2nd verse, and I wrote the bass and guitar riff that you hear from beginning to end. When Patricia arrived at rehearsal, we presented her the lyrics and told her to sing the lyrics and make up the melody as she went. That's how Change Jar came to life.

InTown Band is really excited about this first album. We continue to write more music, and we're planning on recording a full length album in the near future.

You can purchase the album by visiting InTown Band's website and clicking "Buy," going directly to CD Baby, or by searching for "InTown Band" at any number of download sites, including iTunes, Amazon MP3, Rhapsody, Zune, and many, many more.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Feeling Blah? Just Start

This is was of those days when I felt blah for no good reason whatsoever. I slept well last night after an easy gig, and then I woke up and had a long, pleasant walk. I'm well rested, and it's a beautiful fall day, but I spent a good part of it moping around, not feeling like doing much of anything.

There are days when I absolutely need a break from everything. Maybe I've played several long gigs in a row, or I'm swamped with music engraving projects or rehearsals. This wasn't one of those days. Sometimes I genuinely need a break, and sometimes I just feel lazy. This was a lazy day, but not the fun kind. Most of it was simply not feeling like doing anything at all, and then feeling sorry for myself because I wasn't feeling motivated to do anything. It's an annoying, circular self pity party.

On days like this, I turn it around by making myself do something useful. I'll pick a project and simply pretend I'm motivated for it, going through the motions until I really feel motivated. Today I finally got the ball rolling when I decided to take the guitar out and practice a little bit. After all, the best musicians in the business didn't get there by only practicing when they felt like it. My main goal was to simply start. Ten or fifteen minutes into it, I was focused on the guitar and not my blahs. It wasn't the longest practice session, but it was productive.

After practicing, the blahs settled in again. Since I didn't feel like moving around or even leaving the apartment, that's precisely what I did. I walked the half mile to the Corner Pub and enjoyed an early dinner. I feel refreshed now, and I'm going to spend the next few hours working on a music engraving project.

I wish I could brag that I always handle the blues successfully, but I don't. Sometimes I succumb to self pity and lethargy and simply waste the day doing absolutely nothing. Other days, like today, I can shake myself out of it by picking a project and faking enthusiasm until I genuinely feel it.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Backing Tracks

This evening I probably set a record for the longest time ever taken to record a backing track. I'll get faster at it. Using recording software is a new skill for me, but one that I'm keen to develop. Once I'm comfortable with it, I'll probably use it to record a solo album. To learn the software (Garage Band), I'm recording backing tracks for myself.

There's some controversy about using backing tracks for professional gigs. The purist says that you should use all live musicians. If you want to play with a group, then hire the musicians. I've felt this way about backing tracks for a long time, but I've recently taken more realistic view.

First, let me say that I prefer playing with other musicians. With a group of live musicians, you get the spontaneity and chemistry that is lacking in prerecorded tracks. Unfortunately, most of my potential clients have been unwilling to pay for a quartet, and so most of my paid gigs are solo gigs. Maybe in the future, as my stock goes up, I'll have more luck convincing people to hire my group, but right now I need to take the gigs that come my way, and that means a lot of solo work.

I enjoy playing solo gigs, but 3 or more hours of solo jazz guitar is rough on the hands. That's where the backing tracks come in. Some people may consider this cheating. I don't. I'm going to be spending hundreds of hours learning the software, recording every single part, and tweaking everything until it's just right. It's an investment of time. When I'm finally ready to use my prerecorded music in public, I'll have a collection of unique backing tracks that I created with my own sweat and creativity.

One unexpected benefit to creating my own tracks is that I'm becoming a better musician. I just finished recording a backing track for Take Five. To help create a good accompaniment, I listened very closely to some recordings, analyzing the bass lines and deconstructing the drum parts, listening to exactly what the drummer was doing with the hi-hat, kick drum, snare, etc. As I continue to record more backing tracks, I'll be sharpening my listening skills and gaining a deeper understanding of jazz and blues.

I'll always prefer playing with other musicians, but once I've recorded a series of tracks, it'll be handy to have another option.