The Bass Geek - Words about Music, Circuitry, and New Orleans
The Bass Geek

Charlie Hunter Trio Review, 9-29-07

This weekend was a tough choice for shows. I hated to miss Peelander-Z at the Mel, but it'd been awhile since I'd seen Charlie Hunter, and the Jazz Kitchen is a great venue to see him at.

"But Ryan, he doesn't have a bassist! And you HATE bands that don't have bassists! I've heard what you've said about the White Stripes!"

Nameless Quoted Internet Devil's Advocate, you are correct. Charlie Hunter earns a pass, though. At a guitar workshop lo those many years ago at an Indianapolis studio, he was asked that, if forced to split his trademark guitar/bass style (he plays both on a specially constructed Novak guitar), which instrument he would choose? He replied bass, because it grooves more. He's declared his loyalties, and thus should be respected.

He's traded in the 8-string for a 7-string now, and he's travelling with an organ, so that didn't bode well for the low end. That boding was wrong - he still held down the bass lines and added the chords as necessary. The organ fulfilled more of a melody/pad function, and Hunter kept the groove going. He's travelled away from his organ-like sound to a more precise, agressive guitar tone, but it's still his trademark music that pleased the audience. Hunter may have switched band members and labels multiple times, but he hasn't lost a step. Excellent show, and I highly recommend it.

Just remember, though - if you're going to come through without a bassist, you'd better be as good as he is. I'm watching you.


So the podcast book isn’t QUITE done . . .

There's always some minutiae to take care of before a book goes off to be published, I suppose. And in the world of tech publishing, the ever-shifting content means that small changes and issues are more likely, I suppose. A little list of links is a trivial matter, I suppose. The closing of a prominent site's podcast portal, however, is a larger issue. Luckily, the team caught it in time and all references are being excised. It's a little disconcerting to see Yahoo!'s site go - there are a tremendous amount of podcast services available, from iTunes on through smaller podcatchers, but this major of a player turning tail and leaving doesn't sit right with me. Then again, podcasts are a highly individual and compartmentalized effort. Maybe Yahoo! was too big to fit into millions of tiny boxes.

This weekend promises a few good local show, like Peelander-Z, Charlie Hunter and more - check the IMN Top Ten list for some great suggestions. Fountain Square host Orqestra Bravo! at Radio Radio tonight, and Cognizant Coffee Company has Rivetshack tonight and Anonymous Que Pasa tomorrow.


Meshell’s Future Past

The World Has Made Me The Man Of My Dreams marks Meshell Ndegeocello's return to the more rock- and funk-based music she's known for after the almost-side project of her jazz album, "Dance Of The Infidels." That album was probably the most faithful Ndegeocello has been to any one genre in her recording career, sticking as it did primarily to modern jazz sounds. Before that release (credited mainly to the Spirit Music Jamai), Ndegeocello pushed boundaries and challenged assumptions both about her music and her artistic limits. She returns to form on her latest release, taking her music to new and uncharted territory.

Hints of her new direction were offered in a couple different locations: The previously released Article 3 EP and her version of "National Anthem" from Exit Music, a Radiohead tribute album. The songs in this case feature some of the dub leanings of her previous album, Comfort Woman. While those leanings are indulged, they are stripped of their previous lushness, opting instead for sharp, angular tracks and harder-edged instrumentation. Ndegeocello takes over quite a few of the instruments on this recording, inviting luminaries like Pat Metheny and Robert Glasper onboard for selected tracks. The result is an abstract collage of music that hints at the edges of the songs, rather than fully describe them. It certainly feels different from the denser work of her previous albums (except for the spare nature of her third album, Bitter). There's no loss of strength or passion in the work - it just seems like she's requiring a little more from the listener to follow her.

The album needs to be taken as a whole - while songs like "The Sloganeer: Paradise" and "Shirk" stand on their own, they still meld into the larger work in a much more meaningful way. In a world of singles-or-death, that's a different concept. If you want to get into this album, give yourself a little time. This package should be unwrapped slowly.


Scoring – no, not like that

I had to score a video project this week, and it turned out a little bit harder than I thought. The video in question was a take-off on a soap opera, so I was already at a bit of a loss (the only experience I have are viewing a few episodes of "All My Children," I think, after lunch in my fraternity house - the house mother watched it). I was also separated from my usual MIDI gear. I basically had to toss together some loops and add some effects in Soundtrack Pro with some help from Reason. Most of the music joined one scene to the next, but I inserted some sound effects under the action as well.

It gives me a lot more respect for folks who score television shows week in and out. I realize that some of the jobs have gone to music supervisors that find prerecorded songs to insert into shows (and then find more music to replace the original music on DVD releases), but this is still some hard work. I also couldn't imagine doing this without digital tools like Soundtrack Pro, Sibelius or Reason. I'm sure that if I did this on a more regular basis, it'd be easier to come up with some ideas and plot them out in a better way. Still, I couldn't have gotten by without the sketchpad ability (and the undo function) of these programs.

I REALLY wanted to use some fretless bass on the project - I don't think I heard a cop show or drama in the late 80s and early 90s that didn't have some kind of fretless bass licks underneath the action. A truly inspired era that was.


Amazon’s Music Store

So a lot of the reaction to the new Amazon MP3 store seems to be that it's good, but there's still alot of room for improvement. They like the lack of DRM and the fact that it has more major label content than eMusic (I'll leave it to the reader to make the qualitative judgment there), but the collection still seems a little small (2.3 million never seemed so small, did it?) and you still have to download software to use it (a pet peeve of mine; at least iTunes is a functional media player, not just a download assist widget - eMusic, I'm looking at you, too).

It may seem redundant to mention that the big news is that Amazon has finally entered the fray, but it's worth repeating for one reason - their strong recommendation algorithms. Since Amazon is a trusted name in online sales, it's going to act as one of the portals for people to find out about new music. The blogosphere and Pitchfork and so on and so forth will be there for those willing to do a little searching, but having Amazon there for the "normals" means it maintains its 800-pound gorilla status. Since I already have iTunes and eMusic accounts (and they haven't pissed me off too much yet), I'm not sure how often I'll venture to Amazon. Their inclusion of Righteous Babe songs instead of eMusic is interesting, and it points to recent defections from eMusic due to monetary considerations. It's usually the also-rans that die before the leaders, though, so nothing really exciting is goig to happen until iTunes and Amazon are the only competitors. If and when that happens, it'll be interesting to see what iTunes does with DRM.

Side note: did anybody know that Amazon sells musical instruments? I can't imagine purchasing one from them (these things need be seen and felt in person, from my viewpoint, Stick notwithstanding - that's just an exercise in faith on many levels), but it's good to know I could have a MusicMan bass at my door in priority shipping time.


Just a little behind

I think I got a little too caught up in the book stuff for the past few weeks. It's the only logical reason for me to ignore the new episodes of "Trapped In The Closet" sitting on my DVR for a few weeks, The DVR awaits youand the episode of Metalocalypse from Sunday. It's unforgivable, and I know it. Those matters were rectified this evening - I'm not sure they lived up to the anticipation, although it was good to see Mike Keneally in the vocal credits for a cartoon that allowed a metal band to turned crazed criminals loose on the world after a fireworks-show-cum-execution.

That sounds a little more disturbing once I type it out.

I've also got the new Meshell Ndegeocello disc sitting in my hot little hands, taunting me with unlistened potential. Ndegeocello might be the one artist I'll buy every album from for her entire career - beyond the exceptional musicianship and songwriting, there's an unpredictability to each recording. Click the website link for a quick visual example; you'll never be able to click on her past. From New Jack (Jill?) Swing to funk rock to Mitchell-esque acoustic to hip-hop and go-go to straight-up jazz (and that's just the solo career - don't forget about the math-jazz of Steve Coleman), she's experimented and succeeded with so much. I'll post a more in-depth review tomorrow if I get the chance to give it a good listen. The only thing I know for certain is that I'll be reaching for the bass more often this week - she's that inspiring.


Yep, they’re gone . . .

I did a cursory check around the house and office, and my earplugs are Really and Truly Gone™. Luckily, Dawn at earEverything still has the molds from a few years ago, so I should be able to get a new pair fairly soon. I'm fairly sure my life would be much worse without this little things in it - not only do they help in the traditional loud places like clubs, bars and steel foundries, but they're about the only way to get through the fairly consistent fire alarms at work. Seriously, the alarms are ear-piercing, and I'm fairly sure they'd do more damage to your ears than the normal metal band. Maybe not to your psyche, but certainly your hearing.

Also, the podcast book is done (and on deadline, believe it or not), so look for a November release date - just in time for your intrepid podcaster's holiday list. I mentioned before that this book was a little different in that I had to put together some multimedia work for the book's accompanying disc. The last part was a promo drop for book readers to use in their podcast, and it took me back to the days when I had to put such things together for the student radio station. And since I'm going back to the old alma mater for a football game (and will no doubt tune into the radio station to see if they're still playing that one Ween song), I'd like to take this opportunity to link to WGRE, the student radio station in question. Fire up the Real Player and see what you find.

Finally, I haven't had the chance to watch the new Metalocalypse yet. Don't tell me about it.


Big Day for Fountain Square

While the billions I predicted may not have appeared (I'm hoping the recount comes closer to my earlier estimate), it was still a big day for Fountain Square. The place was littered with artists and musicians trying to find an appropriate place to craft their entries for the Masterpiece in a Day contest, and overall the results were good. It was a bit bizarre to see my elderly pug intimidating a much larger dog and then daring to investigating a solid-looking-yet-totally-docile pit bull. The Fab 4 Less exhbition was good, too, although it was a little weird hanging out in someone else's apartment and trying to explain all of the renovations they did without the artist being there. I didn't even try to sit on the couch or any chairs, for fear that they'd arranged everything with their practiced eye, and I'd be disturbing come carefully crafted balance.

Jennifer walked out of the place with a new purse bearing the spray-painted image of Jim Kelly, which I highly endorse.

There's also another mural behind the house. We've volunteered our fence and garage door for the next effort, which should take place next spring.

I managed to sneak the new bass in for some repairs that hopefully won't take too long. It rested here for such a brief time that I'd like it back as soon as possible. I'd also like my custom earplugs back as soon as possible, but the location of those is a little more fuzzy. I'm going to check around at work, but I fear I'll be calling Dawn at earEverything for a new pair soon. My night out with regular foam plugs just didn't cut it now that I'm used to the custom molds. They cut down the volume without cutting down the balance of the frequencies. Not only does it save the hearing, but it makes the mix anytime I'm playing sound so much better - I just can't live without them, unfortunately. Which is why they enjoyed a position of honor on my keychain. Alas, no more.

Hopefully the Steelers will mollify my pain with a win this afternoon, the new Metalocalypse won't fail to blow me away, and the earth will continue to turn.


Homemade Bass Porn For Today

This time, the bass porn comes from a new addition to my collection. A friend of mine was selling a 70s P-Bass, and I had to give it a good home.The P-Bass before arriving at its new homeIt's not a stock instrument - sharp eyes might notice the active EMG pickup, and there are a few holes to file and a thumb rest to replace. I may even have the neck refretted and get the beast painted black, not sure yet. So it'll never be a collector's item, and that's the way it should be. Instruments are meant to be played, not tossed into a glass case and gazed at. If classical musicians can routinely play shows on instruments worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, you can take your vintage guitar out and pluck around a bit. Collectors, I'm speaking directly to you.

Anyway, I hope to have this one up and playing out soon. It sounded fantastic last night the first time I plugged it in, and that was with gunky strings. Clean it up and change the strings, and I'll have a beauty on my hands.


New Podcast AND This Weekend in Fountain Square

There's a new podcast up at - out 109th weekly episode, to be exact. That makes us Methuselah in the podcasting world, I believe. Subscribe or download directly. There's a hell of a lot of metal in this episode, too. Tr00 and kvlt, to be sure.

From there, I'm off to the most magical weekend in Fountain Square ever. Literally billions of artists congregate in a two-block area (we stack well on the SE side, you know) for the chance to win prize money for their works in Masterpiece In A Day, exhibit their wares at the Fountain Square Art Festival, and get ideas on how to decorate their humble abodes at the Fab 4 Less exhibition at the Wheeler Arts Community. Following the event, they'll probably have some coffee and/or dinner (depending solely on how they did that day in sales/competition) and then proceed to Radio Radio for the Early Day Miners/Marmoset/Creepin' Charley and the Boneyard Orchestra show. Satiated by the day, the billions of artists (stacked slightly looser than earlier in the day, but still manageable) shall shamble back to their appointed part of the world, waiting to return next year (or sooner, should the desire for tasty coffee or falafel or something similar strike them).

I'll be wading my way through the hordes to execute my appointed duties as judge for the MIAD music contest and some kind of volunteer for Fab 4 Less. I probably should have asked what exactly my volunteer duties entail - I ended up in a dunk tank last time.