While you would notice a large selection of varied music on my CD racks (and piles and stacks) as of late, the guitar / bass / drums trios have been finding their way onto my car’s CD player. (If you recall from previous posts, the driver’s seat is the…
Well, it seems I’ve survived my first flu bout in seven years— I did follow my son’s week-long lethargy with five days of my own sleepiness and general misery. Strangely, it began as a cold (another rare malady for me), progressed to real flu symptoms the…
… at Philly’s regional performing arts center (the Kimmel Center) I can’t help feeling very satisfied and inspired. The group sounded and played great and I had the best guitar sound I’ve ever had. My compliments and appreciation to the staff at the Kimmel (especially Megan, Vanessa and Bob) for making this go so smoothly. I’d be glad to do this every week, though in all fairness there are other artists who deserve to get their turn on this stage.
For the guitar aficionados — I used my mid-70s Hagstrom Viking with John Pearse nickel electric strings (.011 set), through a pedalboard (yes, a new one exists) and into the Lab L3 (newly cobbled together after the FedEx mishap). The guitar and amp are a fantastic combination - the amp has the most tube-like sound with a mid-range richness that I can’t describe…. the pedals included an Arion Tubulator (yes, that’s right), Boss flanger, Boss volume, Boss DD2 and RV2. This Tubulator, I’ve been told, has a clone of the original Ibanez Tube Screamer circuit and I believe it.
What really counted was the performance - Adrian and Chris have the best interactive dynamic I’ve ever been a part of. They are the text-book example of a bassist and drummer who really connect on every level… and they’re great guys to work with. I did press Record on my DR1 at the beginning of the set and actually got a fairly clean recording on the stage. Maybe I’ll send out a bonus track for the holidays……
I’m getting deep into Ted Greene’s Chord Chemistry book — what a brilliant musician. I’m pondering ideas and clearing a lot of cobwebs out of my mind — it’s shocking how habits get so ingrained but it’s good to give them a hard shake-up now…
It’s been a busy family day and I still didn’t finish painting the porch. (Luckily it’s just some touch-ups.) I’ll be posting again soon…
…steadily, though not as quickly as I prefer. The group was even better at the private date in Woodbridge NJ (which took place in a Knights of Columbus hall with, believe it or not, great acoustics!). There was no way to get the Tascam up and running as we were on a stage facing the audience. We almost didn’t need amplification…. I did play the Hagstrom Viking and fell in love with it once again. (I guess my mid-life crisis with guitars is better than a crisis with fashion models and I’m sure my wife agrees….)
I am in the planning stages of putting together instructional videos — armed with my trusty Kodak Zi8 I am actually trying to plan these things out and have my son do the behind/next-to the camera work. I will send out email blasts (If you’re not on the list go to http://MattRichardsMusic.net and sign up!).
I’m not a great fan of Verizon — while there are the political reasons (they did allow the Bush adm to access private phone records at their leisure) their service is pretty miserable. We’ve had intermittent service since we moved in July. You pick up the phone and more than 75% of thee time it’s static in the receiver. After no fewer than six calls and ‘on-site’ service they determined the problem was in an old line about one block away and switched the wires over to another relay. In the meantime I’ve had some up-and-down time with the DSL and a number of emails have been tucked away by when they couldn’t be sent. Of course, I just discovered them and now have to re-send and apologize with the ‘Verizon excuse’. (Interestingly, one of the parties who received a follow-up told me he had no internet service due to phone line problems with the big V and my apologetic email was the first he’d gotten in two days!)
…but it seems I’m posting everywhere most days and, in the end, something gets overlooked. When I’m expressing myself in a more personal way my tendency is to get the professional items out of the way first (contracts, press releases, etc.) — to be honest these things are easier to do. While I generally drive myself a bit crazy whenever I write something, I’ve gotten the ‘promotional approach’ together and can minimize the anxiety for the most part. Writing a first-person account of my activities is another thing….
Well, several performances have come and gone; the most visible was the Taste of Woodbridge with the group last Friday evening. This is an annual event which we been featured on for the past three years and it’s great. It seems the township of Woodbridge wants us to play the way we prefer to play with the energy and complexity that (I hope) is our trademark. My son did shoot some video footage, but the ever-moving crowd of attendees walked in front of the camera too often and, while that’s a professional hazard in these sort of gigs, it does get tedious. We’re going through the footage, nevertheless, and may post at least one tune. The group sounds exceptional (in my humble and un-biased opinion) and we’ll be working on live sound and video recordings as much as possible. In addition to a private event in Woodbridge NJ next week the group will be at the Kimmel Center on November 12th for a free performance on the ground floor lobby. I had the opportunity to perform last year as a solo on the same bill as Flamenco virtuoso Paco Pena — I am so glad to be able to bring the group in this time. The Kimmel is Philly’s Regional Performing Arts Center and, in addition to being physically impressive, it’s a great venue with a great staff.
My favorite solo venue Avril is still on hold — I’m hoping we’ll have that moving forward again soon.While it’s become a catch-all phrase, the economy is strangling a lot of small and not- so-small businesses. Christian and April are working very diligently to establish their restaurant and, being a small-business proprietor, I do understand. I’ve lost quite a few festival dates this year due to reduced or non-existent budgets.
The almost-CD is still in post production — I’m having problems with the sonic integrity of my studio environment (Professional-sounding, yes?) and it’s almost impossible to EQ and tweak and do all the necessary things when your listening space isn’t just right. I know I’m famous for laboring over the albums for weeks beyond reason…. One weekend I’ll just sit down and get it done.
Also, in the event that the Lab L3 is still of interest to anyone (if you recall, Matt had achieved one of his dreams by locating a pristine single-speaker version of his much-loved Lab amplifiers — however, the evil powers at FedEx intervened and dashed our hero’s dreams by dropping the well-packed container containing the magical amp from a fantastic height and literally cracking the front panel allowing the speaker to become a free and unattached party in this fiasco). I’ve disassembled the amp and rebuilt the front panel with cross-beam style reinforcements (Lowe’s employees are now my friends) and will, hopefully, screw and glue everything in place this weekend and power it up, It actually sounds great with the speaker connected lying on the floor, so I can only imagine what the end result will be….
Man, am I long-winded? I’ll post more a bit later.
… a lot during the past two nights, really pushing Summer out quickly. That season seemed a lot longer when I was younger, plenty of time to get things done. Maybe I was doing less (?)
Nevertheless, it looks like Avril is coming back on the schedule. In addition to being too short on time, Summer is always too short on business, especially in Philly. Being a very new business, the restaurant struggled thru the warm season and the owners are looking forward to bringing things back to speed for the Fall. I’ll probably be returning for my solo Saturday evenings beginning 9/25. It’s not listening room, unfortunately, as it seats about 40 in total and it’s BYOB — but Christian has a great menu and knows how to prepare it. The food is French bistro-style with a hint of northern Italian and the room is small, relaxed and friendly. Check it out: http://AvrilBYOB.com. Worth the trip even if I’m not playing….
Looking forward to seeing Preston Reed this Saturday at PSALM in the Overbrook section of Philly. Since he’s moved to the UK he doesn’t show up stateside much so this is rare. I’ll be on my way up from a gig in Delaware so I may be a bit overdressed….
We did have a great gig at Witherspoon Grilll in Princeton — a bit light in attendance (post-holiday, after all) we kept pushing the music throughout the night. I am getting very comfortable with the Cort-Steinberger on the group gigs. It may not be what comes to mind for a jazz musician to use but it plays easy and sounds just like my Hagstroms….! Still dealing with mid-life guitar crisis.
About time I slept. Actually indulged in some TV programs via DVD, namely Moonlight — great series with great storylines and acting. I’m not a vampire fan but this was an intelligent, well-produced show. Canceled after less than one season, I believe, which puts it up there with Firefly, Invasion, Jericho…. rare TV shows that weren’t homogenized templates week after week. I guess reality TV has an impact and numbers (of viewers) speak louder than quality……
… you’re probably saying as you see this long-absent blog posting. Quite honestly, a lot of things have been foremost in my consideration. I can, however, put some blame for my usual delay in doing these on Verizon - it seems that our phone line has gone screwy five times in two months. We get this miserable loud hum on the line, cannot hear a thing and the DSL works intermittently. (There’s always some mystery as to how it starts working again - they just say “The problem has cleared up. Call us if it happens again.” While my timeliness is suffering in terms of my communications, I have managed to catch up on the long-neglected bookwork (as in ledgers and figures and receipts) and house maintenance.
Dates are falling into the calendar as I speak; I’m doing several private gigs during September and the Group is back at Witherspoon Grill. October gets a bit more in the swing with two Group dates in Woodbridge NJ (our favorite city on the east coast). Of course, I will be at NAMM again in January 2011 - last year was a blast and my son has agreed to travel along (no arm twisting needed). He’s going to be my official videographer for the trip — last year I was always too early or too late to get recorded during a performance. (Of course, he may end up chronicling the USA Bikini Team when they march through the main hall….)
The live recordings are sitting happily on/in a hard drive - I’m not getting the optimum conditions to do the EQ and post-production in terms of sound. Then again, it may be a convenient excuse…. I always suffer through production and post-production of my CDs. In the studio the clock is ticking and the cash is flowing so I reluctantly push myself forward. At home, however, it’s a different matter, thought he productions costs are much lower.
On the technical end I’ve just procured a long-sought-after Lab L3 amplifier (1X12, 60W) via Ebay. I’ve pursued several during the last few months and always have some sly fox flip an outrageous bid in at the last 15 seconds. Last night was different. I’ve used the L5 (2X12, 100W) since they first came out and currently have two. With the smaller venues I’m currently playing the single 12” speaker version is perfect. Interestingly, the Lab amps, which were designed and manufactured my Moog Industries, are always undervalued in terms of wattage. The older L5 clocks in around 150W. (That’s also the one that flipped out of a van and end-over-end right before we opened for National Health - it worked perfectly at the gig and only needed the reverb tank replaced about five years later.)
I’m also hitting some of the local jam sessions here in Philly. It’s the first time in about ten years and I’m enjoying it, especially finding the songs I still need to learn.
… letting time slip by between postings. But it has been pretty busy in general: I’m wrapping up another homeschool year with my son and preparing to move and performing with student concerts and practicing with the classical guitar — in fact, I actually played it on my gig at Avril this past Saturday. Amazingly, I received more compliments and more resounding applause than ever before (FYI, this is while people are eating their dinner) and I can honestly say that both the guitar and my playing chops came together Saturday evening.
I’ve been a bit hesitant to approach this instrument with confidence, especially since I’m so acclimated to the Lowden steel-string. The LaPatrie guitars are a bit stiff-feeling acoustically, but that seems to work out once they’re plugged in. Most classical instruments that I’ve played change in dynamics when you use their piezo pickups. In fact, when I first used this LaPatrie live I used a mic and a tube preamp and got a fantastic live sound. However, using a mic in a small setting carries its own list of problems…. sometimes a compromise must be reached.
While I used high tension Savarez Corum/Cristal strings for Saturday I just restrung with a set of LaBella high tension 2001s and the guitar really seems to be waking up. Then again, this is probably all just a phase I’m going through — mid-life guitar crisis(?) I do appreciate the assistance I received from Godin in getting this guitar for what was a one-time performance. I admit I was tempted to go with a Godin ACS or Duet, but I figured I needed a full acoustic to play Recuerdos de la Alhambra and some of the pieces I contracted to do for that performance. I can’t handle the very strict classical material with a steel string so….. perhaps I just had to have a new guitar to make myself feel better (?) Whatever the reason I am enjoying the detour for the time-being but I do miss the steel string dynamics…..
With the preparations to move foremost in my consideration I need to put the new CD on hold for several weeks. I’m planning on just sinking my teeth into it once we’re settled in and surprising everyone with a speedy release (Famous last words uttered many times before!).
..since I sat down to post something. Things have been moving along rather steadily and between reviewing over fifty tracks from the Crossroads Cafe gigs in March and re-learning my classical repertoire for a private booking (Recuerdos de la Alhambra anyone?) I’ve been short on time and focus to record my thoughts and observations.
The live tracks are coming along — I followed my habit of letting new recordings sit a while before listening. I am amazed by the recording quality of the Tascam DR-1. Two of the dates were recorded with the internal mics and two with one condenser mic (MXL 991). Talk about quality! I am very impressed with these recordings — the only down-side is the espresso machine that kicks in during quieter moments. In several places I need to decide if it detracts from the end result or if it adds authenticity to the live setting.
I also ended up using the same MXL mic for the private wedding booking Saturday evening. The pickup in my new LaPatrie is being temperamental in balance and overall sound, so I braved using a mic and preamp and it worked. In fact it was the best classical sound I’ve ever had. (Though this doesn’t mean I’ll be playing more classical guitar in the future.)
I’m heading in to the Witherspoon Grill with the Group Tuesday with Chris Lough on bass along with Adrian Valosin on drums. This one’s always worth the trip to Princeton NJ as the WG is a great place for food and drink (as well as music). They really support live jazz every Tuesday and we get some serious playing in, to be sure. I may play a solidbody guitar again (which is getting to be a habit now….).
Of course I’ll return to Avril this Saturday, 5/22, for my weekly solo guitar feature. This is a wonderful restaurant - small, relaxed dining room with great food and ambiance. And I’ll be playing the Lowden…..
Except for a very occasional loss of traction, I keep making progress and keep my determination revitalized every day. I hope you’ll get the chance to stop by in person or on the website.
I don’t do a lot of solo restaurant dates anymore — even the most elegant settings prove to be noisy and few are interested in featuring anything other than lounge-esque renditions of standards and old pop tunes (think 80’s). Perhaps I’ve just had some bad experiences…
Avril is different — the husband and wife owners are both artistically-driven and interested in bringing something different to their patrons. The relaxed atmosphere and easy feel of the room proves a great fit for my playing. While I do turn it down just a bit from my concert-level intensity, I still approach with the inventiveness that I want to bring to my playing. The response from the dining audience was amazing — I had more compliments throughout the evening than I’ve ever gotten in a dinner setting. I will be returning next week with consideration for additional dates in the upcoming months.
Check out the website: http://avrilbyob.com. The menu is French and a la carte and it’s BYOB — it’s the perfect place for a special celebration where you can bring your own wine/beverage of choice.
In the broader view I’m still combing through the tracks from Crossroads, dealing with many hours and several versions of a tune. The improvs are easy, though, as they’re different each time and either good or bad. I’ll probably get tose done first and post them int he next week or so. I always feel like I’m giving birth to a new lifeform when I work on recordings. In a way, I guess I am (or I’m reading way too much sci-fi….).
I played the last of my month-long Sunday afternoon gigs at Crossroads Cafe in Philly today. No, it wasn’t a pace-setting big ticket booking (I knew that when I booked it) but it gave me a unique opportunity to bring my music out to the same environment each week and tweak it and take chances with it that I usually won’t do. I also recorded each date which gives me a lot of music to review, consider and sweat over. I would like to release a live solo CD and this has worked exactly as I wished.
This is a great setting for acoustic-based music — singer/songwriters are usually featured, so I did manage to change the pace a bit. The staff is very accommodating and they have a great menu and superb dark roast coffee (Forbidden Drive Dark, named after an actual stretch of graveled footpath along the Wissahickon Creek). I would like to book there again, possibly in May for another month of Sundays. These are sort of opportunities that Philly sorely lacks and I’d like to cultivate this (and others) not only for myself but for other solo instrumental players so the listening public can be further acquainted with the capabilities of solo guitar.
Now I get to shift gears a bit and PLUG IN for my show with the Matt Richards Group at Chris’ Jazz Cafe on April 5th. Yes, I did type PLUG IN….. it’s time for another step in the development of this trio. The archtop will be at home….
True to form, whenever I decide to post on a regular basis something always intercedes…. basically, everyday life coupled with a nasty bout of pollen allergy. Still, I’m putting this up right now…..
I had a great gig Tuesday with my trio at Witherspoon Grill. This is a real anomaly in this section of the universe: a upscale restaurant that isn’t cheap but is always packed on Tuesday nights. I’ve been fortunate to be onto the second year of bookings here with the trio. While your first impression is Lounge Gig you find out you’re seriously mistaken — we play with our usual intensity, energy and complexity and it goes over tremendously. Waiters come up between tunes to ask that I announce the name of the trio as dining patrons want to know who we are! This was also a first for me as I played a solid-bodied guitar for the entire night… with great results. I brought the Cort-Steinberger out for the gig with a bit of trepidation — I didn’t know if I could stick with it for the entire night and play meaningful jazz. Needless to say it worked — I played ideas and lines and went in directions that were pretty fresh and different. Adrian and Dave liked it. The patrons liked it. And I was exhausted afterward — I actually overslept Wednesday morning.
Thanks to my friend (and bassist extraordinaire) Bill Zola I’ve been immersing myself in the more electric side of guitar music, watching DVDs from Jeff Beck, Alan Holdsworth, Eric Johnson…. there’s a shifting of ideas taking place in the way I’m thinking about playing so it’s time to follow the muse!
It seems this week has slipped by quickly — still plenty of calls to make, emails to follow-up….. and ideas to practice. Oh, and taxes….
The brunch at Crossroads Coffeehouse last Sunday went well, if a bit sedate. I’m not used to that quiet a reception. I did try out the DR-1 and recorded most of the gig. The natural amplification in the room makes people’s voices carry from the front of the shop to the back and sound as of they’re sitting next to you. I used the built-in mics and, along with a very good acoustic guitar sound, I have conversations about car insurance, a class project and a party being planned. (Thinking of the eavesdropping possibilities, maybe the Bush admin would have hired me….. enough!).
While I have considered going direct into the Tascam there is something about real acoustic sound that piezos and magnets don’t capture…. I may try a small capsule mic set close to the body of the Lowden. Hopefully it will minimize the (literally) conversational nature of my first recording.
I’m trying to recall how long it’s been since I’ve managed to play a regular date each week at the same venue…. it was about ten years ago at a Manayunk-area cafe that has since gone through at least three different owners. Since I’ve avoided the lounge-band gigs (on the last one in the dim past I had to turn down and 'not play so many notes') regular gigs at one place are just not there.
The Crossroads is an exception — apparently they feature one artist at every Sunday brunch throughout the entire month. Some advantages abound: both you and the venue can build a following/reputation, listeners can see/hear me perform more than once in a month, I can bring in new material/ideas each week (though I don’t have that much new stuff, I will stretch the musical limits of what I do).
I am planning on recording the dates as well, utilizing my newly-acquired Tascam DR-1 for a ‘Live at Crossroads’ release (?) — we’ll see how that turns out. I am glad to have the opportunity to play locally and fulfill what has been an ongoing wish for many Philadelphia-area folks to hear me in an easy-to-get-to intimate setting. I will be putting the Lowden through the paces for these dates and pushing the musicality a bit further each week.
It’s time to get the day underway. Hope you have a great one.
With the truly awful weather just on the other side of my windows it’s hard to fight off the desire that goes back to my grade school days when snow-days meant just shirking responsibility and hanging out at home. Well, there was the ‘in-the-snow’ thing that has pretty much worn off in the ensuing years….
I actually went out to clean the car (as if I have to rush away tomorrow in the am). ‘Why?’ was the operative word as soon as I emerged into the heavy wind-swept snow. But, I was there so….. I watched the snow immediate conceal the short-lived exposure of silvery sheet metal and plastic. Fifteen minutes were enough! (Ten of those were spent sitting in the car listening to Alan Holdsworth.)
Of course I need to conquer those childhood memories of jeopardized responsibility and get some calls and emails in — after all there are places without snow where people will actually be in their offices.
Musically, I’ve gotten back to those transcriptions of Satie’s Gymnopedies #2 and #3 as well as the Broadway-based If I Loved You and some newer pieces like the NAMM bossa nova. The Lowden feels and sounds great and brings out all the subtlety in the voicings I am working with. Gymnopedies #2 is a strange sort of piece, rather static compared to the other two and a real challenge to spike up a bit without sacrificing the original intention and feeling.
Now if I can avoid the rerunning reruns of Criminal Minds I may get something done…
I look forward to bringing some new music to the proceedings. Stay inside unless it’s over 60F in your neighborhood.
As usual I start with profound apologies for my delay in posting since the turn of the year. I have had to pay extra attention to some family issues. I am glad that my Buddhist practice helps me renew myself each day and keep me centered.
The grandest event thus far has been the winter NAMM show in Anaheim CA. I attended through the graciousness of master guitar maker George Lowden who included me with his entourage after the official deadline for passes and such had passed. George and his wife Florence made me feel immediately ‘at home’ in the midst of the tumult of this massive extravaganza of music, gear and sales reps. After playing one of George’s guitars for the past twenty or so years it was a blast to play all of the new models, essentially the ‘next generation’ after mine. Despite wood differences and design developments George’s guitars all have a common aspect to them — I could identify a Lowden even blindfolded (yeah, that’s corny but true). There’s an immediacy to the feel and sound even though each model is different. I actually wrote a new bossa nova after playing the small-bodied model. Additionally, I had the opportunity to meet up with Richard Thompson and become re-acquainted with Alex DiGrassi at George’s booth.
Of course, I spent a great deal of time in the Godin room playing countless nylon-strung Duet and Ambience models, the fabulous Multiac Jazz (I could have happily taken this one home) and the amazing solid-body Passion (Orange amp cranked into overdrive, obviously). Robert Godin has really created the standard for production instruments. I have my endorsement with them because of the quality and the way they handle things — Fred DiSanto (and Mario Biferreli before him) have always worked with me on a personal basis and Robert himself is one of the nicest people in the business, a genuine guitar fanatic who will crawl around on his hands and knees to adjust a sound system while you play so things feel and sound right.
I also spent time at Ibanez, playing catch-up with long-time friends (as well as getting an autograph from Slipknot’s Mick Thompson for my son), checked out LR Baggs new acoustic pickup, brought my regards to Mary at John Pearse Strings….. well, the weekend kept going. Needless to say it was a great way to spend the weekend, though not exactly a vacation (Disneyland’s not my style anyway) it was great to step into a music-intensive environment , albeit a business-oriented one, and do what I do. I don’t know if any of the video footage of me makes it to YouTube — I’m not quite the international celebrity that demands posting online as I tune up and pass along silly remarks. I did meet a lot of attendees who took the time to ask about my playing and my future touring and my website etc. It’s all good….
I’ll be posting some more this week — absolutely.
I hope all is well and no one was truly snowed-in this weekend.
Great solo set at Harvest Festival in Princeton NJ
This afternoon was very invigorating at the Harvest Festival in Princeton NJ. Situated in the courtyard outside the Witherspoon Grill I followed a vocal-based quartet onto the performance area that was sitting ground-level in front of the crowd. The old ‘one man all alone with a guitar’ syndrome almost took over until I realized I had to turn it to an advantage — which I did! The energy really flowed and I played some of my best solo work in a while. (I guess I need to get a portable recorder and chronicle these gigs….) I must comment on my Lowden guitar (which came out of hiding last week for the Kimmel Center gig) which is the standard by which all other guitars should be judged…..! I’ll post some shots from the show.
Following an energized booking with my trio at Taste of Woodbridge, I journeyed to Wilmington DE to play one song for a private event. (Gee, now I know how it feels to be on the Tonight Show…) Sunday finds me in a solo set at Witherspoon Grill in Princeton NJ for the Harvest Music & Art Festival / fund raiser.
Of course I did play the Kimmel RPAC here in Philadelphia last Saturday (opening for Paco Pena’s fabulous group) which followed another solo at a private dinner (this time classical!). It’s nice to have a run of gigs close to home for a change. Next week I play Jazz By Night series in Media PA on 10/17 with Dave Kaczorowski in an acoustic guitar/upright bass duo. (Looking forward to this….)
Guitarists: I’ve gotten my Lowden out of the closet again. It’s been too long since I last played it publicly. It is the guitar by which all others are measured.