About Me

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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.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

You and the Night Prep

A few days ago, I finished writing the last arrangement for an upcoming recording session for Godfrey and Guy's You and the Night album. Now that I've finished the arrangements, I've been learning my own parts. We perform most often as a voice/guitar duo, so there's usually not much for me to keep track of, but this album will include bass, drums, trumpet, and tenor sax.

The more I play this music, the more pleased I am with what I wrote. (This isn't always the case!) Most of my guitar parts involve simple comping, but I've written sections where the trumpet, sax, and guitar play unison and harmonized lines together. After literally getting up to speed on my own parts, I began playing them with a MIDI file that I created as a practice tool. The MIDI playback sounds very stiff compared with the way live musicians would play, but it's a great way of getting a sense of how it will feel to play my part with the full ensemble.

I'm having fun playing with the robotic MIDI file, and I can't wait to put this together with live musicians! Tomorrow I'm working with Lori and our bass player, Mark. We'll use this time for Lori to get used to the arrangements while Mark and I work out good grooves for each song. If the rhythm section is strong, we'll have a better chance of having a smooth rehearsal with the horn players.

This is such an exciting project! We'll rehearse with the full group in just over a week, and then we'll hit the studio a week after that. In writing the arrangements, the music was all in my head, but it's about to get real!

Saturday, December 26, 2015

G&G Recording Dates: Getting Ready

800 East Studios, where Godfrey and Guy
will record their first album.
In January, Godfrey and Guy will be recording their first album. I'm excited about this project, and also nervous. I've played for a few recording sessions, but this is the first one for which I'm responsible. Lori and I are sharing the financial burden, but I'm doing the organizational work, including booking studio time, hiring musicians, planning the recording sessions, and scheduling rehearsals. Additionally, I've written the arrangements and am learning about mechanical licensing. There's a lot to do!

So far, the most enjoyable part of the process has been writing the arrangements. We plan on recording eleven songs. Four of those songs are "head charts," in which we'll all just be playing from the same lead sheet. We have a general direction we'd like to go with each of these, but the performance will be loose and mostly improvised.

I have written arrangements for the other seven songs. The instrumentation is voice, trumpet, tenor sax, guitar, bass, and drums. I've never written for a jazz group, and it was challenging and fun to come up with background horn lines. I also wrote several horn soli sections, where the trumpet, sax, and guitar (as 3rd "horn") are playing harmonized bebop-ish lines. One of my personal challenges is to learn the parts I wrote for myself!

Here's our song list:
  • No Moon at All
  • You and the Night and the Music
  • Night and Day
  • Angel Eyes
  • Dream a Little Dream of Me
  • In the Wee, Small Hours of the Morning
  • Tenderly
  • Whisper Not
  • How High the Moon
  • A Night in Tunisia
  • 'Round Midnight
The arrangements are complete. Studio time is lined up. Licensing is in process. Rehearsal is scheduled. Our first session is scheduled for January 16. I think we'll be ready to roll!

Monday, December 21, 2015

Background Stories

Background gig at the Georgia Aquarium.
Playing for the fish.
I recently changed the name of my blog to "Background Stories." It seemed more fitting. Except for my part-time music director job at NWUUC, I make much of my living under the radar playing background music and teaching private students. Even my music engraving, which is still a small part of what I do, is background sort of work.

Unlike many musicians, I actually enjoy playing background music. As a matter of fact, I prefer it. Yes, I like applause, and it's nice to play the occasional show, but I really like gliding into a restaurant or a corporate event, playing and singing some of my favorite songs, collecting a check, and then gliding out.

I find that I am especially well suited for background music, both as a musician and as a person. I'm a low key individual with the personality of a sideman. My musical style is also pretty calm. I prefer to perform and listen to relaxing music. I don't have to tone it down for a background gig. "Toned down" is my default setting.

Playing background music also affords me an opportunity to essentially "practice" in public. I am always working on new things. Sometimes it's a new song, but more often, I'm working on new musical concepts and trying to find places to play licks that I'm learning. When I'm playing in a restaurant, I feel comfortable enough to explore a bit and try some new ideas without feeling like the whole room is paying attention. My weekly gigs at Noosh Kitchen and L'Thai are my own learning laboratories. I am helping to create a pleasant environment for the customers, but at the same time, I'm in my own little musical bubble, enjoying the puzzle that jazz guitar presents.

I really enjoy my low key musical life. Not everyone is cut out for the bright lights, but there's something to be said for making a quiet living doing what you love.