Posts Tagged ‘music’

Riding The Bus

Riding The Bus

Jimmy Cliff singing in my ears

Ruby with a gun in Brixton

Bus shaking as the driver grinds the gears

Every bus ride is a long one

Swinging

Swinging from the strap one handed

Keep looking for your stop and you’re

Freezing

Freezing so the rain don’t fog up the windows

Keep looking for your stop

Catch a glimpse of the gulf every day

Crossing that bridge at Edgewater

Take it all in ’til you get taken away

Riding through the streets of Clearwater

Swinging

Singing in your head little snatches of a song

Now you missed your stop

Ringing

Ringing the bell let me off right here

Cussin and fussin cuz damn I missed my stop

 

words and pictures © Christopher Ward. All rights reserved.

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CP Quinto drum, taken with LG MS770 cell phone/camera, edited with Paper Camera software.

CP Quinto drum, taken with LG MS770 cell phone/camera, edited with Paper Camera software.

So, today I got to play at church again. Good times. I didn’t play that drum, however. I played these:

Meinl Headliner series 10" and 11" quintos, shot with LG MS770 cell phone/camera and edited with Paper Camera software.

Meinl Headliner series 10″ and 11″ quintos, shot with LG MS770 cell phone/camera and edited with Paper Camera software.

When I first learned to play congas, I mean really play them and not just beat them into submission, I was in college. The music department had a pair of worn-out Gon Bops from the ’70s, I think. They were rough on your hands, the shells were cracked and the heads were almost charcoal grey from years of misuse. Getting a decent tone on them was a challenge, even for a pro like my teacher. That’s why he had his own shiny set of LPs. So did another student – a brilliant percussionist who managed to make the most complicated rhythms look like he just stumbled into them. I was a guitar player, infatuated with the fact that drummers got to play drum set one day, xylophone the next, steel pan the day after that, and tympani every other Thursday. When I switched majors to percussion, they gave me these:

Claves. Your music teacher will tell you that they are the glue that holds the whole ensemble together. Yeah, right.

Claves. Your music teacher will tell you that they are the glue that holds the whole ensemble together. Yeah, right.

 

If you can keep a pattern on them, while everyone else is playing quadratic equations and differentials around you, you’re doing good. It’s definitely a Kwai-Chang Kane moment. I couldn’t wait to get my own drums, brand new shiny LPs with glittering chrome hardware and matching bags. I thought I was The Man(tm).

Till I saw this kid with some super – beginner type, no-name brand “X” drums he pulled out of a pair of army surplus duffel bags, and proceeded to play some serious, jaw dropping  grooves.

From that point. I decided to learn to play the hell outtta whatever I had in my hands at any given moment. Drums, tables, books, my girlfriend, whatev.

Anyway, all this is to say that I haven’t been playing my congas in a while; it was very rewarding to play a basic tumbao on them again. (Tumbao is the rhythm you hear congas playing in, oh, “Oye Como Va” or this song (“Viva Cepeda”) It’s a great rhythm to play, feels nice under your hands.

If you’re a drummer, my advice is to Keep Playing.

 

words and pictures © Christopher Ward. All rights reserved

My left thumb is bothering me.

It has been doing this for a while, now. I don’t remember when it started – I think it began sometime after one of the strokes, but I’m not sure which one. Or if it’s related to that at all.

If you play guitar, you may already see this as a bit of a problem. If not, let me explain it to you, and why I’m a bit upset. Just a bit, mind you.

My left hand is the hand I use to fret with. Meaning that I use this hand to press the strings down on the neck of the guitar, allowing me to play chords and such. When I play a chord on the guitar, I use my left thumb as part of the, well, I don’t remember the engineering term for it, but “clamp” works – part of the clamp that holds the strings. My left thumb fatigues after a while.

How long is a while?

It’s been getting shorter and shorter.

Yesterday when I was rehearsing with Rob, I couldn’t play through an entire song. This song, the one formerly called “The Artist”. It has really lovely jazzy chords all through it that really fit the lyrics. It is currently my favorite song to play (that I wrote, at least). I wrote it on the guitar in the picture.

Betty Brown is a Gretsch Electromatic archtop acoustic guitar. Picture taken with LG Motion camera and augmented via Shotwell program on my computer. So there.

This guitar is one that I picked up from Louisville, KY. When I was in the shop, it just called out to me, if such a thing can be believed. Yes, of course, it’s nothing but a collection of wood and metal and plastic cranked out in a factory in Korea someplace. It is just one of thousands of other guitars that rolled off the production line that day. Somebody probably put the last string on it, passed it off to the QC guy, and went to lunch. Didn’t think any more about it. It’s an inanimate object.

Doesn’t mean I don’t, well, I guess, love her.

It’s a she, of course. How could she not be? Look at those graceful curves. If you could hear her voice; clear, ringing like bells, even when someone like me with Drummer Fingers(tm) plays her. You’d know she was a she.

And, when I hold her in my arms, she reminds me of someone. Hence, the song.

Yesterday, I couldn’t even play her.

Getting old’s a bitch.

words  and pictures © Christopher Ward. All rights reserved.

Part 11 of Allosaurus. Bet you were wondering what happened to the band, huh? Or look at last week, or start over. Whatevs.

“Good morning! What can I get started for you today?”

On the other side of the counter from Fran, the woman with the fastidious pixie hair-do furrowed her brow in thought. Her daughter, a teen with a shock of pink hair covering one of her heavily mascara’ed eyes, looked as embarrassed and as put upon as only a teenager could. She sighed in impatience as her mother decided.

“We-e-ell,” the mother began, “can I have a short, double, half decaf soy mocha, very wet – wait, is your cocoa cruelty free?”

“Mo-o-om!” the daughter sighed, turning “mom” into a five syllable word full of exasperation.

Fran made a face. “You know, ma’am, I’m not really sure – ”

“That’s okay,” the mother interrupted. “Better make it into a latte, then. A double, short, half decaf soy latte, very wet … do you have hazelnut? Sugar free?”

“Yes, ma’am,” Fran nodded.

“Okay. Sugar free hazelnut. And vanilla. Make sure the hazelnut’s sugar free, but not the vanilla. Just one pump of each, please.”

“And your name?” Fran asked.

“Bonnie.”

Fran turned to the guy at the espresso machine. “Gimme a number 3 for Bonnie, Billy,” she called. Billy nodded nonchalantly.

~~~

The shift was finally at an end. Fran was coated in spent espresso grounds, her hands sticky with syrup residue, and there was now a steam burn on her arm from the frother wand. She counted her share from the tip jar: eight dollars apiece between her and Billy.

“Sweet,” Billy uttered unconvincingly. “I can get a couple gallons of gas.” He looked at Fran. “Goin’ to the fake Irish bar with the Jens. Wanna come?”

Fran shook her head. The “Jens” were three other girls that worked at the coffee shop, all college students, all with “Jennifer” somewhere in their name. Fran found them to be annoying; just the type that she’d have to rescue from a mugger or something, sooner or later.

Strike that.

Would’ve had to rescue, but not anymore. Fran hadn’t been on patrol for a while, now.

She didn’t miss it, at all.

Really.

She never thought about it.

Not even once.

“No, thanks,” she replied at last. “I, um, I’ve got a rehearsal tonight.”

“A rehearsal?” Billy actually seemed to perk up. That would be the only time he ever appeared to be interested in anything, Fran would later realize. “For what?”

“I’m in a band,” Fran answered. Then she thought about it. I’m in a band. I’m really in a band. Wow. “I play trumpet.” Or, I used to play trumpet. I haven’t picked it back up yet, but … “Yeah. Trumpet.” She nodded, as if to convince herself that that was really the truth of things. In her head, she could see the case, black leather with gleaming brass latches. She could feel them as she opened it up, lifted aside the blue velvet cover, pulled out the silver mouthpiece.

The strangest thing happened.

Fran …

grinned.

She immediately covered her mouth with a hand.

Billy nodded. “Cool. You guys play out much?”

“Well, we used to play at the Midnight Moon, but – ” And with that, Fran froze.

The Midnight Moon.

Two years ago.

She closed her eyes, took a deep breath. Rubbed her jaw. Opened her eyes.

“We haven’t played out for a while,” she finished.

Billy took no notice of the personal flashback Fran was having. He merely nodded. “Yeah, I hear ya. I used to deejay sometimes. Then my ex-roommate stole my stuff. You know how that is.”

“Huh? Oh. Yeah.” Fran looked down at her hands. They were tightly balled into fists. They were stiff, unclenching them was a conscious effort. She looked back up at Billy. “Well, so, anyway, gotta go. Have fun with the Jens.” She hurried off to the bus stop, not looking back.

~~~

“You sure you wanna do this?” Cheryl asked. She wrestled Brunhilde into the back of her red hatchback, huffing. Geez, when’d this thing get so heavy? she thought.

“You been on me for months about this. You trying to talk me out of it now?” Fran replied. The bravado was not entirely real. She wasn’t sure. They climbed in the car. “I … I missed making music with you,” Fran stammered.

Cheryl burst out laughing. “Oh, migawd, that just sounds so, so corny, girl!” She glanced over at Fran, to see an oddly hurt expression.

“Oh, sweetie,” Cheryl sighed, “I didn’t know you were serious – I thought that you -”

“Shut up.” Fran pulled Cheryl’s face close to hers. They kissed.

After what seemed like hours, or mere instants, either one, they came up for air. “So, ah, let’s go make some music!” Cheryl chuckled.

“At the rehearsal,” Fran admonished softly.

“Of course,” Cheryl nodded. “Rehearsal. Yeah.”

words  and pictures © Christopher Ward. All rights reserved.

Allosaurus continues next time in Behind The Music With Project Killswitch.

So.

This week, I’m taking a break from Allosaurus. Doing this for a couple of reasons. Allosaurus is about outsiders, misfits, loners, others, who have been granted abilities to act out their powers in larger-than-life ways. Some of these ways are quite violent, or dark; and the story actually gets darker as it goes on. Because of that, I felt that it was too early to return to that world so soon after the tragedy this past Friday morning in Colorado. I don’t want to talk about the person who did the killing – the focus should be on the people who died, the families, the ones who lived, the ones who sacrificed so that someone else in the theater could live. Point is, the general infotainment sphere can do without blood and terror for a little bit.

The other reason, strangely enough, was that I had planned to take a break this week regardless, because I had planned on seeing The Dark Knight Rises this weekend. While I’ve got a great deal of Allosaurus written in my head, I was concerned that, subconsciously, Christopher Nolan’s world would exert an undue influence on my own. I didn’t go Friday like I planned; that seemed to me at the time to be a bit disrespectful. But I did end up going later on, like a good little dork.

Strangely, I detected in the film a sort of meditation on the futility of violence, of war. Not something you generally expect in a summer blockbuster, and  definitely not what one expects from a superhero flick. Fitting, perhaps.

As I write this, I’m listening to Pandora. Ukulele Lady radio station. Some of the most peaceful music you can listen to, full of ukuleles and slide guitars, slack key tuning and blissed – out yodeling in a language that’s almost all vowels. Playing a lot of uke this weekend. Here’s a picture of Elaine, my tenor:

When I was in rehab, I was able to build up my coordination and finger strength by playing this puppy. In fact, the doctors told me that playing music actually allowed me to get well enough to leave a lot faster than I normally would have, so, yay Elaine.

 

This is Gertie: Gertie's stringsGertie's head stock.The first real uke I got my hands on. Lovely little soprano with a mellow voice. I’m afraid I can’t play either of these things as well as I would like, but the fun of it is in practicing.

As this week progresses, I would urge you to think on those peaceful things in your own life. I like to think about this:

 

 

 

 

 

words  and pictures © Christopher Ward. All rights reserved.

F.R.A.N., for those of you who were wondering what she looks like. Also, it’s been a while since there was a picture with one of these posts.

Continued from “Step 1” , the previous post. Read that one first, if you haven’t already. In which case, shame on you, my friend. Shame.

The practice space was a little storage unit by the bay. Not close enough to see the water; just close enough to smell the seaweed and dead fish whenever there was a red tide. Cheryl’s twin brother Calvin had been the one to suggest the place after his landlord threatened to have him evicted for the noise. The fancy drum kit, for gigs and recording, stayed at his apartment. The old beat-up one he’d had since he was a kid, he kept here. It sat on a rug that was so dirty, no one was sure what color it had originally been. Eyes closed and transfixed, Calvin battered away in his best Tony Williams impersonation. So lost in the moment was he, that Cheryl almost didn’t have the heart to throw that scrunched-up piece of newspaper at him. 

Almost. 

Gah!” Calvin jumped, waving the drumsticks around like imaginary nun-chucks. Then, he fell over backwards while vainly attempting to regain both composure and balance. “Ow! Dammit!” 

When you get up, you wanna help me with the amp?” Cheryl snorted. The amp didn’t really weigh that much; it was just awkward to unload. The bass, though: Cheryl didn’t entrust that to just about anyone. It was ancient, it was hand carved spruce, and it was German. She called it Brunhilda. She laid it on its side. 

How’s Frannie?” Calvin asked as they wheeled the amp in. 

Oh, you know. Still the same.” Cheryl had decided to keep Fran’s night-time activities to herself. The less people that know about all that crazy business, the better. Plausible deniability, she thought. 

Still hasn’t touched her trumpet?” 

Nope. Almost had to beg her not to sell it.” Cheryl plugged her bass in, then picked it up. As she talked, she bowed the strings and reached up to tune them. “I told her that there’s no way her embouchure would get back to normal if she doesn’t play, but …” 

She just folded her arms and pouted?” Calvin asked. 

Huh.” Cheryl nodded. “It’s as if you were there.” 

Right,” Calvin replied. “Which is why I say -” 

Hold it. You’re gonna tell me you found another melody player? Again?” 

Calvin sighed, scowling up at the ceiling for whatever those little helper beings are that everyone seems to look for when they become exasperated. As usual, they didn’t show up, so Calvin forged ahead without them. “Listen. I feel for your girl. I really do. That crap that happened to her really sucked, and it shouldn’t have happened to her, or anybody else, but it did. And it still does. Hell, if you see the news these days, there’s all kindsa people getting beat up and robbed and what not by all these crazy weirdos in Luchadore masks and commando chicks with billy clubs and cattle prods.” Cheryl opened her mouth to begin to protest, but Calvin stopped her with a raised hand. “Scary world. But it’s been, what? Almost two years, now? When’s Frannie gonna start living again?” 

Has it ever happened to you?” Cheryl demanded. “No; of course not. It’s not something you’ve got to worry about. It’s not even something on your radar, really.” Now it was her turn to look up for assistance. Still nothing. She fixed her brother with a pleading stare. “She just needs some time, okay? She just needs to … to work some things out. Cut her some slack, huh?” 

Calvin stared back for a moment. He shrugged. “Whatever.”

Cheryl continued to tune up. Calvin adjusted his snare. Neither spoke for a while.

“Anyway.” Calvin broke the silence. “Dude should be here any minute. And, no, he’s not gonna be a replacement for anybody. We could use some chords.” Cheryl eyed him with suspicion.  “You said so yourself. So, he’s a guitar player named Otis.” 

‘Otis’? Who names a kid ‘Otis’ these days? You find him at the Old Itinerant Bluesman’s Retirement Home?” 

Yeah, as a matter of fact, I did. It’s right next to the ‘Bald-headed Lesbian Bass-Player’s Retirement Villa’ I’m having you shipped off to when you get enfeebled,” smirked Calvin. 

Cheryl allowed herself a tiny smile. “Okay, funnyman. Let’s just warm up till he gets here, okay?”

*     *     *

Fran paused the remote on the Weather Station. All weather, all the time, she mused. A smiling man who looked as though he might as well have been constructed in a lab out of plastic reeled off arcana about fronts and pressure cells.

“… All in all, it looks like it might add up to a doozy of a storm season this year,” Smiler concluded.

Huh, Fran thought. Figures.

words  © Christopher Ward. All rights reserved.

Allosaurus continues next time in Vox Pop, Vox Vulgaris

So, I’m working on becoming Internet Famous(tm). The trio I’ve been recording with for the past year and a half finally accrued enough stuff to make ourselves a Reverb Nation account. The bass player/recording engineer just put it up today. I have often been asked what kind of music we do. Natural enough question, but it leaves me flummoxed.

“Well,” I hem and haw, “it’s kinda like acoustic-y, R ‘n’ B-ish, uh … ?” I end my super informative description with a shrug. Maybe it’s like distortion-free grunge with bongos instead of a drum set, or hard-to-listen-to easy listening? We’re all adults, and we did it recently, so maybe adult contemporary fits. Haven’t a clue. Which is kind of odd, in a way. I’ve been in bands that were:

Afro-Cuban Jazz
Jazz Trios
Punk
Earth, Wind and Fire type of music with a bunch of African drummers instead of a horn section
Reggae/Ska
HipHop
“Alternative”

So, being in something that I can’t readily identify as a “type” or “style” bothers me. Not because I think all music should be categorized into neat little boxes – that was ALWAYS a marketing scam – but because I hate, hate, HATE with the fury of a thousand blue giant suns, that whole “Our music can’t be categorized, man” pretentious bullshit. It’s usually a cop-out, a way to gloss over the fact that you sound like every other bunch of angry teenagers out there, or lonely college kids with fairly whiny lyrics, or jaded grownups who utterly worship Leonard Cohen and anything by Elvis Costello made before 1986. Not that there’s anything wrong with that: I’m pretty sure I’ve been guilty of all of the above and more. It’s just that there are so few bands or musicians who truly don’t sound much like anything else. Nobody sounds like King Crimson, for example. Not even King Crimson. Don’t like an album by them? You will, at some point.

Anyway, the point of all this, is that the bass player put a tag on the Reverb Nation page under the part that says “Sounds like”. Handy feature, that. If you like NIN, or Can, or Jacques Brel, then you’ll like This Band. If you don’t care for Merle Haggard or Tori Amos or The Cramps, then you can safely skip whatever That Band has to offer. It’s an effective weeding system. As the business of marketing music has grown more and more democratic with advances in technology and publishing, errbody and they momma can and is putting out music. You haven’t, you say? Don’t worry. You will. One of you reading this blog right now is probably the next Rebecca Black.

Does any of this have a point? Yes, person in my head that is criticizing this utterly rambling discourse. According to our bass player, we sound like Keb Mo’. I don’t know what to make of that, really. I’ve never heard anything by the guy. Or girl, or band, or whatever. I’ll check him out, and see whether or not I should be cool with that.

“So, what are you guys called?”
“Uh, the Hypothetical Project.”
“What?”
“Hypothetical Project. It could be a band, it could not. It’s like Schroedinger’s Cat.”
… aaand, that’s usually the point where people smile and nod, and begin to back away slowly.

Rob plays guitar on the yard.

 

Rob and Alligators and I.

Anyway, if you like Keb Mo’, go check us out.
Hypothetical Project

 

words and pictures © Christopher Ward. All rights reserved.