Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Obituary interview

The only reason that I'm still subscribed to the Rolling Stone magazine's Two-time-a-day newsletter is because once in a very long while they would write about music I'm interested in (most of the other times they just trash DT) Today they published an interview of Obituary, about their three decades of history and the upcoming new album, which is supposed to sound like 1990's Cause of Death (my all-time-favorite) I am surprised the Tardy brothers were influenced by Southern rock/blues back in the days! These days they are recording at their own studio, which is also a "man-cave" with pool table and TVs. Yeah, that's the dream of every male musician!

Wednesday, February 01, 2017


Like most kids from my generation, we learned the recorder from school music classes. I also took Chinese music lessons after school learning dizi and erhu, on which I could barely play a few tunes. And my mom bought me a harmonica which I enjoy its sound a lot. However, bass guitar is the first instrument that opened the door for me to play some "serious stuff", especially with other friends, and in a rock band setting. Compared to other years in high school, the last year was a relaxing one and I got to spend quite some time to have fun outside of studying. And nothing was cooler than starting a band with my buddies. I started out as a drummer which was a struggle for me. And our bassist bailed on us a lot so I was encouraged to sub for him: "it's so easy to pickup" (which was partially true as I got by with always playing the root of each chord as 8th notes for all songs!) I was already a metal head at that point and had quite a few favorite bands and their guitarists as my heroes. After starting to play bass, I felt that I have joined an even more exclusive "club", bass hero worshipers! The most heralded bass players at that time included Steve Harris from Iron Maiden. However, I got curious about the two guys who won all those magazine polls as best bass players: Billy Sheehan and Stu Hamm. Sheehan's live recording with his old band, Talas Years, was so hard to buy but I eventually get to listen to his highly regarded bass solo masterpiece: NV4 3345. And Stu Hamm's "King of Sleep" was one of the first cassettes I bought after I entered college. I dug his jazz fusion style very much. And surprisingly, at this point I still hadn't listen to any music of Jaco Pastorius, who had of course influenced most bass players after him, including Sheehan and Hamm (he mentioned how impressed he was after seeing Jaco's performance) As I became of jazz fan, it become inevitable for me to hear some cover version of Jaco's tunes, e.g. Portrait of Tracy, and then a whole tribute album. Still, to be honest, I never really tried listening to his albums, like his ground-breaking self-titled album from 1976 or "Word of Mouth" from 1981. I guess my taste is too conservative for his music. I am most familiar with his playing on Pat Metheny's debut album "Bright Size Life". And I did enjoy the playing of his son, Felix, on his lone recording with the jazz fusion group Yellowjackets. These days I am going through Jaco's live recordings with the Weather Report.

To appreciate his genius, I strongly recommend watching his biopic "Jaco" (produced by a huge fan of Jaco and former Metallica bassist Robert Trujillo) It went through his years as a talented kid to joining famed fusion group "Weather Report" to becoming one of the most highly regarded musicians  in the jazz/rock/fusion circle to his demise. Now I understood why he was considered to be the bass equivalent of Jimi Hendrix: he completely reinvented how music could be played on this instrument.

The outro of the movie included his tune "Continuum" covered by another favorite group of mine: Rodrigo Y Gabriela. I was so inspired that I had the urge to play some music (for some reason I picked up my soprano sax first probably influenced by the footages of him and his Weather Report bandmate Wayne Shorter) I found a good tab on "Continuum" here.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

我的結他雜記:Play jazz like Jim Hall

差不多廿年前住在Manhattan的時候去jazz club識了一個朋友(一生人僅止一次!)Ken, 我們都是爵士結他發燒友,當然他的認識比我深得多(我才剛開始彈結他,對爵士樂理認識等於零)他告訴我他最欣賞的結他大師是Jim Hall(我一直最欣賞的則是Pat Martino),所以我不時會找些Jim Hall的唱片來聽聽;在雜誌Premier Guitar的newsletter介紹下讀了一篇關於Jim Hall的演奏手法的文章,十分值得推薦給各位爵士友。五個例子展示Jim Hall如何用chord tone來solo或comping,還有從一條弦到兩弦之外(略過中間一弦)的單音solo,以及chord melody soloing(想提一下:雖然flash player播放該頁的音樂有點問題,更方便的是下載該頁上連結的zip檔案,有齊tab及錄音)

Friday, December 23, 2016

Akai EWI-USB Experience...... on a Mac

This post is more about computer than music. Call this my endorsement of Mac if you will. So I wrote about setting up my Akai EWI-USB on PC 1.5 years ago. Basically it worked out of the box but not that well (sound came out too late with the standard audio driver so I needed to download and installed ASIO4ALL) And to play an additional audio track from the computer (usually a backing track) I will have to use another sound card (like an external USB one) so the audio will come out from 2 different outputs, which I can live with but not ideal.

When I got my Macbook Air, this is one of the first peripherals I tried. Basically it worked out of the box. Really, no delay and additional driver/sound card is not necessary. It can play my backing track at the same time.

No wonder artists and musicians like Mac (We already knew many software developers like Mac 'coz it's running a flavor of Unix under the cover)

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

2016 Ten Best Music Books

This is the list according to the Rolling Stone Magazine. Too bad I am not interested in any of them, except maybe Slim Harpo, the blues singer and harp player. He is among one of the influences of the Rolling Stones (band) whose latest release this year is a blues cover album, which I enjoy quite a bit.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Opera: L'Amour de Loin

自從上次聽完紅樓夢,已有一排無聽歌劇,幸好本地古典電台每逢週六中午會播放紐約大都會歌劇院演出的曲目,這天開車南下辦事途中聽到播出芬蘭作曲家Kaija Saariaho的作品L’Amour de Loin(英文解作Love from Afar, 我姑且譯為遙遠的他:) 和紅樓夢一樣這首算是當代作品,首演於2000年薩爾斯堡音樂節,今個月則是首次在大都會演出,好評如潮,似乎被三位女士搶了不少鏡頭,除了作曲家Saariaho,還有指揮家Susanna Mälkki及也是Susanna的女主角女高音Philips;「男子組」方面要提提黎巴嫩填詞人Amin Maalouf,本劇完整歌詞(法文原文及英文譯本)可見於此網站。對我來講本劇有以下特色:

  1. 角色數目極少。基本上只有遊吟詩人王子,他素未謀面卻慕名愛上的遙遠公主,穿梭兩者的朝聖者(女中高音),及一眾市民(合唱團)
  2. 敲擊樂被大量及出色地運用。
  3. 以法文唱出的詞。我從少就被灌輸一種想法:法文是唱歌劇最好聽的語言,更甚於意大利文,亦當然勝於「岩岩巉巉」的德語;故事背景卻是中東!
不妨試試一邊聽(Spotify link)一邊讀歌詞,相當過癮。

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Rediscovering Shoutcast

還記得多年前常常聽Shoutcast.com的不同音樂種類streaming,近幾年卻轉為從Podcast網評或雜誌認識新碟後再上Pandora,Rhapsody或Spotify聽,其實也有時覺得聽得太狹窄,上星期又想起Shoutcast這個source,除了近年聽得最多的爵士樂(包括smooth jazz),特地找點其他種類聽聽,例如Electric blues及Flamenco,以下幾個台值得推介:
今天認識了David Cobo, Eric Hansen幾位Flamenco樂手,待會上Spotify/Youtube再欣賞欣賞!