7.31.2013

Bass Trumps Piano...For Now

Last night, I played jazz at the Mason Lounge in Madison WI. Every week I get a little bit better at the songs and improvising over the changes and forms. It can only make me a better bass player. I feel like I am a little better already.

In addition, I have been learning tons of songs for the alt country Americana band I joined. Those songs aren’t especially difficult, although there are some challenging vocal lines, when I have to sing and play at the same time. I am not a good multitasker, generally. However, I am probably better at multitasking musical things than anything else.

The long hours of song learning and practice have had the added benefit of honing my endurance and “chops,” as they say in the vernacular. It’s also helped to toughen up the calluses on my two right hand playing fingers. I know that I can play a four hour show and not have sore fingertips at the end.

For a while there, I was getting a little bit lazy about practice, because the bands I was in were not pushing the song learning agenda and were stagnating. I am glad those days and bands are behind me, although it was a fun period of time, getting to rock without having to invest too much energy in the projects. But because of the lack of investment by the musicians involved, they sort of petered out, not unexpectedly. There are really only two things a band needs to succeed. Everyone involved has to pull their weight and there has to be a collective vision and motivation to prioritize the band and moves things forward. When other priorities trump the band progress, it stagnates, then dies.

On the down side, as a result of my constant bass practice for jazz and Driveway Thriftdwellers (alt country), I have been neglecting my piano practice. One could argue that I am not making enough of an effort to prioritize that endeavor and move things forward there. I actually find myself doing what I despise when other musicians do it. In my mind, I truly desire to push the jazz piano agenda forward and become awesome. But when the chips are down, other priorities trump it. So I can totally understand when other musicians do this, prioritizing their jobs and families before music. But the music can’t survive that, so a decision has to be made. Either prioritize music, or don’t do it at all. It does not have to be mutually exclusive with jobs and families. It just takes some will power and good time management and understanding people in your life.

For instance, I play jazz on Tuesday nights from 9 PM to midnight. After we jam, we have to tear down our gear. Then we usually get a slice or two of pizza at Falbo’s pizzeria next door to the Mason Lounge (jazz club). By the time all is said and done, I am usually getting home at 1:30 AM sometimes. I have to go to work on Wednesdays, but if I get up too early, I am not worth a sh!t at work. I do not party that hard at jazz, so it’s not like I am hungover or anything like that. Those days are far behind me. But I just like sleep and when I don’t get enough of it, that sucks.

So I set my alarm a little bit later on Wednesday mornings, then take it easy when I get up, pound some coffee. Lately, I have been running a lot. Going on a 3.5 mile run when you are tired is hard to do. But I make myself do it, and it energizes me a lot, the combination of natural endorphins and adrenalin. So by the time I get into work about 10 AM, I am feeling pretty effing good, motivated, focused, and even energized. As a result, I easily gain back that lost hour of productivity by the time the Wednesday work day draws to a close. I am not sure that management (THE MAN) is that understanding of my contribution to the cultural arts. But what they do not know does not hurt them, and I would hope that if they did know, they would see that they are vicariously supporting the arts via me.

Another benefit of running and coffee is that it also allows me to produce kickass blog posts like this one. It’s about 10:45 AM on Wednesday right now. I am actually at work, so this can totally be recognized for what it is - goofing off. However, I am still going to rock the socks off my work today and put all my coworkers to shame. And they didn’t even lay down 3 hours of funky-arsed jazz last night for a hipster crowd of awesome school night party animals. Or maybe they did. I don't know or care.

A good day to you.

Joe

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