For Round 2 of our new series, Richmond musicians really stepped up. It’s a snapshot of jazz and creative music in our city at this very moment. It’s Drop the Needle.
Editor’s note: For Round 2 of our Drop the Needle series, people really stepped up. Our intrepid judge, Bob Hallahan, also stepped up, whittling a whopping 42 submissions down to 19. It’s a snapshot of jazz and creative music in Richmond at this very moment. For this round, we’re also introducing DTN in podcast form. If you need, refresh yourself on the rules, otherwise read (and listen) on!
So much music! Thanks everyone for your submissions, and for a great musical send-off as I get ready to pull up stakes and re-locate to Harrisonburg and JMU. Hope you like the comments and that I don’t come across like some kind of Simon Cowell — I tried to find something I liked about every track, which was pretty easy to do in most cases.
I’m really impressed with all the creative music-making going on in this town. Everything from bedroom/basement/garage band recordings to big bands. I’m looking forward to finding out exactly who I’ve been listening to on these tracks. It makes me a little sad to be leaving, but I’ll only be a couple of hours away, so you’ve not seen (or heard) the last of me! When I moved here 31 years ago, jazz was having a bit of a heyday, and it’s had its ups and downs here since. But it’s definitely in many pairs of good hands at this point.
Speaking of 31 years ago, the reason I moved here in the first place was to play in a band with Skip Gailes, who I knew from when we were both playing in different jazz groups in D.C. (this band was before either of us began teaching at VCU). So here’s a shout out to my man Skip, who might be a good candidate for presiding over a drop the needle session sometime. Yeah, I know he’d be yet another piano player after Daniel and me, but as you know, he was a killer tenor player first! Hasta la vista…
1. “#1” — Toby Whitaker
BH says: Nice big band arrangement – the arranger knows how to write for the ensemble and has some good ideas. There’s a cool phlangey kind of effect in one of the bone parts (or maybe tuba?) at 3:02. I wonder if this is the Richmond Jazz Collective, who I have not yet heard.
The artist says: Rehearsed and recorded in one day at Minimum Wage Studios by Lance Koehler. #1 is a good example of bad writing, in that it’s more of a compilation of ideas that came about independently of each other, and then were thrown together. Then the ending is pretty much an Ellington rip off/homage. I typically try not to write this way but I still like the way it sounds so what are you going to do.
The musicians: Trumpets: Bob Miller, Taylor Barnett (solo), Mark Ingraham, Marcus Tenney. Reeds: Jason Scott, John Lilley, David Hood. Trombones: Bryan Hooten, Reggie Pace (solo), Stefan Demetriadis, Reggie Chapman, Toby Whitaker. Piano: Marlysse Simmons. Bass: Cameron Ralston. Drums: Pinson Chanselle.
2. “New Infest” — Jason Scott
BH says: Take it out! I dug the trumpet solo, the tenor solo, too. Marcus Tenney and Jason Scott perhaps?
The musicians: Jason Scott (tenor sax), Bob Miller (trumpet), Scott Burton (guitar), Randall Pharr (bass), Pinson Chanselle (drums).
http://rvanews.net/sounds/Jazz/droptheneedle2/03%20New%20Infest.mp3|titles=New Infest|artists=Jason Scott]
3. “Too On The Scene” — Devonne Harris
BH says: Nice open tune for blowing from this piano trio. I wouldn’t have minded hearing some more stretching out and the theme again at the end.
The artist says: It’s me on everything. I just really wanted to capture my newer compositions in a recording style similar to Rudy Van Gelder, the engineer for Blue Note, Impulse, and other jazz labels of the 60s.
The musician: Devonne Harris (keyboard, bass, drums).
http://rvanews.net/sounds/Jazz/droptheneedle2/07%20Too%20On%20The%20Scene.mp3|titles=Too On The Scene|artists=Devonne Harris]
4. “(RVA) Lemme Know” — The GetDowns
BH says: Ode to the 804 music scene, almost like a hip-hop commercial for some of the hip establishments in River City – this is a fun track. I’ll listen to it when I’m homesick for Richmond in H’burg.
The musicians: Reggie Pace, Lauren Serpa.
http://rvanews.net/sounds/Jazz/droptheneedle2/lemme%20know.mp3|titles=(RVA) Lemme Know|artists=The GetDowns]
5. “Number 10” — Red Table Tennis Society
BH says: Dig this groove in 5, with the harmonium sound fading in and out. Basically just a percussion groove, but with enough different and changing or contrasting elements to keep the ear engaged.
The artist says: Recorded on a Boss Loop Station with various percussion instruments
The musician: Scott Clark.
http://rvanews.net/sounds/Jazz/droptheneedle2/Number%2010%20mp%203%203.mp3|titles=Number 10|artists=Red Table Tennis Society]
6. “Dixie Shuffle” — Dean Christesen
BH says: Nice guitar solo – good player! And a spare but cool arrangement of the melody, well-played – the combination of all that makes me think of Anthony Wilson. I enjoyed the melodic drum solo, too. Love a shuffle!
The artist says: This piece was written for and performed at my senior recital at VCU in May and is a huge feature for Karl, who blew me away with what he played.
The musicians: Dean Christesen (drums), Karl Morse (guitar), Andrew Randazzo (bass), Jonathan Gibson (tenor sax), Bryan Hooten (trombone).
http://rvanews.net/sounds/Jazz/droptheneedle2/Dixie%20Shuffle.mp3|titles=Dixie Shuffle|artists=Dean Christesen]
7. “Be Again” — Marcus Tenney Trio
BH says: State of the tenor! I like the afro feel in the bass and drums, and there’s some strong blowing on the sax solo. I’d like to hear this trio interpret a standard.
The musicians: Marcus Tenney (tenor saxophone), Devonne Harris (drums), Andrew Randazzo (bass).
http://rvanews.net/sounds/Jazz/droptheneedle2/01%20Be%20Again.mp3|titles=Be Again|artists=Marcus Tenney Trio]
8. “#3” — Toby Whitaker
BH says: Shades of Steve Reich! I’m betting this Fight the Big Bull, with Jason Scott soloing on clarinet, and Bryan Hooten on bone. But does FTBB usually have a piano player?
The artist says: #3 is the most recent big band piece I’ve written. I feel like I ripped off the quarter note intro from some Michael Nyman soundtrack stuff I was listening to but it was more just a starting point. I thought it was funny that, during the recording the saxes really hated playing those quarter notes over and over again whereas the trombonists thoroughly enjoyed them. I generally feel like most of my writing would work better as a soundtrack to something.
The musicians: Personnel same as above. Soloists: Jason Scott, Toby Whitaker, Marlysse Simmons.
9. “Filler” — Brian Mahne
BH says: That’s pretty skanky (in a good way). More than just a groove, there’s some texture to it.
The artist says: It is a recording I did at Lance’s about a year and a half ago.
The musicians: Brian Mahne (Nord Electro 2, Roland keyboards), Alan Parker (guitar), Dusty Simmons (drums).
10. “ACT II” — Jason Scott
BH says: Sounds like the trumpet player has been listening to Dave Douglas. The band gets a cool Ornette texture going before the saxophone solo. The tenor player has a strong upper register and some fleet fingers.
The musicians: Personnel same as above.
http://rvanews.net/sounds/Jazz/droptheneedle2/04%20ACT%20II.mp3|titles=ACT II|artists=Jason Scott]
11. “Unison” — Lucas Fritz & Richmond Jazz Collective
BH says: Big band Americana – I’m seeing open sky and road, and hearing a Dave Douglas or Maria Schneider influence. Is this a Lucas Fritz arrangement by chance? Might be him soloing on trumpet, too.
The artist says: This is a tune by Bjork also done by Dave Douglas on his album, The Infinite. When I heard Dave was coming, I decided that I would write an arrangement of one of his tunes, hopefully for him to play on. He did not play on it, but we performed it for him. This recording is of the Richmond Jazz Collective playing on my junior recital. Alto solo is Suzi Fischer.
The musicians: Lucas Fritz (trumpet) with Richmond Jazz Collective.
http://rvanews.net/sounds/Jazz/droptheneedle2/Unison.mp3|titles=Unison|artists=Lucas Fritz & Richmond Jazz Collective]
12. “Shade of Jade” — Marcus Tenney Trio
BH says: Tough head to pull off with a horn trio – I miss the harmony and horn voicings on Joe Henderson’s original recording, but these guys make it happen. And once into the blowing, it gets right into something on the solos.
The musicians: Same personnel as above.
http://rvanews.net/sounds/Jazz/droptheneedle2/05%20Shade%20of%20Jade.mp3|titles=Shade of Jade|artists=Marcus Tenney Trio]
13. “#2” — Toby Whitaker
BH says: Sounds like the band from [Track 1]. Some good writing again, nice variety of texture, color, rhythm and groove. Love a bari solo!
The artist says: #2 was originally supposed to be for an all brass orchestra but then I realized that I didn’t really know any french horn players so I replaced them with saxophones making it the typical big band. It required some slight reworking but for the most part very little changed. The intro actually came about when I was trying to make a weird arrangement of “Someone to watch over me.” I never really finished the chart but I wanted to use the intro so I just started over with it.
The musicians: Personnel same as above. Soloists: David Hood, Marlysse Simmons.
14. “To Others” — Taylor Barnett
BH says: This is really pretty, and some soulful trumpet playing. Is it Taylor Barnett? It’s great to hear chord changes with some direction to them.
The artist says: I recorded this in my home on my iMac using GarageBand, a PreSonus Firebox interface, an Audio Technica Mic, a trumpet, and my wits. I laid down the rhythm parts first and then the trumpet part. I spent a while tweaking the midi parts after I recorded the solo to create interplay between my improvised part and the rhythm section.
The musician: Taylor Barnett.
http://rvanews.net/sounds/Jazz/droptheneedle2/To%20Others.mp3|titles=To Others|artists=Taylor Barnett]
15. “A.N.A.” — Jason Scott
BH says: Good sense of rubato phrasing in the horns, and excellent bass fills – could that be Cameron Ralston playing bass? I like the way things build toward the end, not just in energy but also in melodic texture.
The musicians: Personnel same as above.
16. “Megatron Wants What’s In My Mind” — Ombak
BH says: Love the bass sound, feel and solo. I’d pay money to hear these guys – they are really listening to and feeling each other, shifting tempos, stopping on a dime on the bone and guitar solos (both killin’, by the way). Tight ending – yeah!
The artist says: This tune is really just a couple of rhythmic figures I sketched out immediately before one of our Cous Cous gigs. The rest of the tune, including note choices, is improvised. The performance is from our set at RVAJazz Fest 2010 last February. This is Lance’s rough mix from the board in all its raw glory.
The musicians: Bryan Hooten (trombone), Trey Pollard (guitar), Cameron Ralston (acoustic bass), Brian Jones (drum set), Lance Koehler (recording).
http://rvanews.net/sounds/Jazz/droptheneedle2/Megatron%20Wants%20What’s%20In%20My%20Mind.mp3|titles=Megatron Wants What’s In My Mind|artists=Ombak]
17. “Rumrunner” — Dean Christesen
BH says: A groovy, down-home kind of tune. I like the way the guitar solo goes through some feel changes. Dug the drum solo, too, and the way it rises and falls. From the sound of the hall, this may have been a VCU jazz recital, but the level of playing sounds higher than that.
The artist says: This tune was also written for and performed at my senior recital in May. The beat is highly influenced by Brian Jones, with whom I studied at VCU. The shuffle thing (somewhat a la Jeff Porcaro on Toto’s “Rosanna”, i.e. the baddest recorded half-time shuffle of all time) is implied in most of the tune, as well as a 12/8 Afro-Cuban thing. These three guys are some of my favorite to play with in Richmond.
The musicians: Dean Christesen (drums), Karl Morse (guitar), Jonathan Gibson (tenor saxophone) Andrew Randazzo (bass).
18. “Untitled 2” — Marcus Tenney Trio
BH says: These cats are players – good feel, good solos, and a nice open tune to set up the blowing. What time’s the next hit? I’ll be there! Need a piano player?
The musicians: Same personnel as above.
http://rvanews.net/sounds/Jazz/droptheneedle2/04%20Untitled%202.mp3|titles=Untitled 2|artists=Marcus Tenney Trio]
19. “New Baby” — Bryce McCormick
BH says: Interesting writing and plenty of it – backgrounds, tutti sections between solos and more. You never really know where beat one is on the head, but it grooves nonetheless. The clarinet and bass clarinet are used to good effect. Sounds like Marcus Tenney on trumpet – his group, maybe?
The artist says: This angular, straight feel 12 bar blues was recorded over a three day period. I would have loved to record the whole thing in one shot, but tracking separately(which I’m not opposed to with jazz) gave me some creative choices with the mixing. I tried not to overdo it, but there are a few subtle effects throughout the mix. I used very little eq and compression.
Drums, bass, and tenor solo were tracked first (all at once). Jason, Marcus, and JC then went back and tracked the tenor, clarinet, trumpet and bass clarinet parts separately. For the soli section, we recorded trumpet and clarinet together and then layered that with another take of trumpet and tenor. Bass clarinet was the only instrument tracked 100% separately.
Other than the trumpet solo, Marcus tracked everything twice. We did this so I could later choose the best take. However, when we played the 2 tracks together they lined up perfectly. I didn’t plan on having 2 unison trumpet parts, but I liked the sound.
The musicians: Marcus Tenney (trumpet), Jason Scott (clarinet, tenor saxophone), JC Kuhl (bass clarinet), Andrew Randazzo (bass), Devonne Harris (drums).
http://rvanews.net/sounds/Jazz/droptheneedle2/New%20Baby.mp3|titles=New Baby|artists=Bryce McCormick]