"Homegrown" - Music from the Seattle Jazz Scene

Almost immediately after the completion of our last CD, I started to mull over ideas for our next one. Such is the life of the working musician! I came up with a number of ideas, including an album of my compositions, an album of my favorite standards, an album of pop covers. All those would’ve been fun, and will probably happen in the years to come. But I settled on an idea that not only will be fun for us to record but will also shine the light on my peers.

“Homegrown” will feature compositions from my Seattle jazz peers. There are so many amazing jazz musicians in this town and I thought it would be cool to pay tribute to them rather than to a bunch of dead guys or composers I don’t know. I hope that this will bring some much-deserved attention to my peers and the Seattle jazz scene as a whole.

I made a hit list of people I wanted to ask for tunes, and so far every one of them has enthusiastically agreed! Not only that, but when I mentioned the idea on Facebook the other day a few people contacted me and asked if I was accepting submissions! I’m so thrilled with the response I’ve gotten and I’ve already collected a few charts.

Some of the tunes will be brand new and written specifically for this album. Some will be tunes that were previously written but not yet recorded. Some will be tunes that have been recorded before. All of them will be a joy to play!

So far the list of confirmed composers includes:

I still have a few more people to ask, and I wouldn’t turn more submissions away. I hope to record lots of music and then see which tracks make up a cohesive album. Then I’ll have some bonus material to play with as well or include on a later release. Or who knows, maybe we’ll end up with a double-album!

Realistically we won’t be recording until the Fall, but we will be performing all the tunes at our shows between now and then to see how they take shape. I’ll keep you updated on our progress and share live and rough recordings as they become available.

I submitted the first of many grant proposals for the album today…wish me luck!

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I inadvertently stumbled across some comments I wrote back in May of 2011 on a post over at Digital Music News called The Music Industry: It’s Becoming a Third World Country… written by Paul Resnikoff. After reading the original article and the subsequent comments again I realized that the points I made back then (seems like an eternity ago!) crystalize my thinking on the state of music as we launch into 2012. I’ve decided to put my comments together into a blog post as a reminder to myself and others that there has never been a better time to be an independent musician, contrary to what most of the “experts” will tell you.

I hope you enjoy reading this and welcome any comments you may have.

Here’s to a fruitful new year filled with real personal connections, beauty and music!


The music industry is a construct. Musicians are the reality

The music industry has been around only for a blink of an eye. Musicians have been around since the dawn of time. For the majority of civilization, musicians didn’t need an “industry” to prop them up. They relied on either their fans or their patrons to keep them going. The music industry saw that there was money to be made (most of it NOT by the musicians, btw) and jumped in to capitalize on the situation. I do not think that was for the better of music or musicians, only those who controlled the music, i.e. the labels and publishers, and the very few they chose to prop up.

Times of change and upheaval produce the greatest art

The music industry is a construct, and constructs change over time. We are in a period of such change. And it’s times of change and upheaval that produce the greatest art. Musicians will continue to make music, writers will continue to write, painters will continue to paint. And the fans of these artists will continue to search out what they love and support it. No one needs to sell 14 million records or do stadium tours to make a living.

There are fans for everything out there

From bubble-gum pop to the most esoteric music you can envision, somewhere there are fans. And the internet has made it easier than ever before to find those fans. Yes, it takes hard work. But it’s work that we can do ourselves, and there are models of success out there for us to learn from and follow. Check out Steve Lawson, Zoe Keating and Hope and Social, just to name a few.

Fans will buy music

Fans will support artists they develop a relationship with. Fans understand the value of the music TO THEM. The “industry” stopped cultivating fans long ago, instead trying for the biggest buck in the fastest way possible, and telling people who they should like and buy, and how much it should cost. That’s why very few pop stars these days make it past 1 or 2 records. No one gives a shit. But people do give a shit about artists who develop relationships with their fans. If your music resonates, you tell a story that touches people, you don’t need an “industry” to help you be successful. You just need to find your fans and reach out to them.

For artists who develop true fans, and true relationships with those fans, paying is not a problem. My fans are happy to pay me for my music even though I offer all of it on a pay-want-y­ou-feel-its-worth basis. I stopped putting a price on my music last year, and since then have made MORE money on downloads and CD sales at shows.

I’m not concerned with the music industry

So, call me selfish if you want, but I’m not at all concerned with the music industry. I’m concerned with making a living doing what I want to do the way I want to do it. And as I’ve said before, there’s never been a time when that’s been easier. Artists all around the world are doing what artists have done throughout history. Creating great work and finding people who will support it. If you can do that, “piracy” (which is a term that excites emotions but has no real bearing on the situation it is currently being applied to) cannot harm you.

We just don’t need the music “industry” any more

I will continue to be vocal about this, because I believe the best thing that can happen for the music and the musicians is for us to take back the control of our own destinies. We just don’t need the music “industry” any more.

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Fresh on the heals of my highly successful tour with The Jason Parker Quartet, I decided to give a free touring seminar on Ustream today. I had such a great time talking with all sorts of wonderful musicians about what worked and what didn’t. It was an amazing experience to have us all in one place. To have people I know from Seattle talking with people I only know through Twitter and Facebook was heartwarming, and really fostered a sense of community.

With all the negative talk about the industry and the economy, I wanted to show that it can be done. I gave the seminar to share what I learned in the hopes that it can help you have a successful tour as well. With a little planning and some good ideas you too can have a fun, successful and profitable tour! My goal is simply to share what I learned and help you live your dream, as I just lived mine!

I recorded the whole seminar and present it here for your viewing pleasure. It’s about an hour and a half long and there’s all sorts of info in there. Topics covered include:

  • booking
  • creating electronic press kits
  • press releases
  • budgeting
  • marketing & promotion
  • finding transportation and lodging
  • finding non-traditional gigs
  • breakdown of income & expenses
  • social networking
  • “pay-what-you-want” models
  • community building
  • fair wages

…and many more!

Since I couldn’t figure out a way to save a transcript of the chat that went on during the seminar, I wanted to make sure you had all the links that we discussed:

I hope you enjoy the info and use it to help you live your dream!

If you feel you got some valuable information and ideas out of this seminar and would like to show your support, I would truly appreciate you taking a minute to help out in one or more of these ways:

1) Copy this link and send it to your musicians friends who you think could benefit from the info

2) Post the link to your Facebook wall or send it out in a Tweet to your followers

3) If you feel so inclined to show your financial support, click the button below to get to my PayPal account. There you can choose to donate any amount you feel is fair. $1, $5, $25…whatever works for you. As a working musician I appreciate any and all support!






I am looking forward to giving more seminars in the future on a variety of topics that are important to us as working musicians. If you have any suggestions or feedback on this seminar, or requests for future seminar topics, please leave them in the comments below or send me an email.


UPDATE: I did one bit of math incorrectly and wanted to make sure to give you the right numbers. Our Net Revenue from the tour was 35%, not 55% as stated in the video. Still nothing to sneeze at!

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Tonight at 7pm on the World Wide Web

Tonight at 7pm my new band, Tango Ahora!, will make it’s debut live on the internet, thanks to the new technology called the Google Plus Hangout.

Google Plus is the new social networking site from the internet search giant. I hopped on board early, and have found it to be sort of a cross between Facebook, Twitter and instant messaging. One of the most intriguing features is called the Hangout. Hangouts are live, multi-user video chats where up to 10 people can be in a chat room and see and talk to each other. It has far-reaching implications for all sorts of cool applications, including music. I’ve seen “Hangout Concerts” from my friends Rob Michael and Daria Musk, and thought it was a great way to share music.

So tonight, I’m going to share my new band, Tango Ahora!, with the world! This will be our world premiere, as our first official gig is tomorrow night at Vito’s in Seattle. We’ve been rehearsing for that gig and were getting together anyway tonight, so we’re going to debut a few of our songs for the entire world!

There are two ways you can join in our debut Hangout Concert:

  1. If you’re on Google Plus, you can get a “front row seat” by being one of the first nine people to join the Hangout live at 7pm. These people will be able to chat and interact with us as we play.
  2. If you’re not on Google Plus or are not one of the first nine folks to join the Hangout live, you can get a “general admission seat” on a site called Hangout Party.com. These folks have found a way to stream Hangouts live so that those not in the “inner circle” can still check it out. Again, you don’t have to have a Google Plus account to watch this way, but you won’t be able to interact with us, you’ll just be a spectator.

The band consists of 3 of my favorite musicians in Seattle: Beth Fleenor on clarinet, Maria Scherer Wilson on cello and Michael Owcharuk on accordion. We’ve been working up tunes by tango master Astor Piazzolla, other tango favorites, and tango-inspired originals and covers. We’re an improvising tango band and we’re having a great time!

Hope to see you at our world premiere Hangout Concert tonight, either on Google Plus or Hangout Party.com! And if you’re in Seattle, you can see us live and in person tomorrow (Tuesday) night at Vito’s.

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Music-lovers geek-out!

A couple days ago my friend Spekulation posted on Facebook that he was DJ’ing at a site called Turntable.fm. I had never heard of it, but I was intrigued and wanted to find out what he was talking about. So I clicked the link and was thrown down a deep rabbit hole!

Turntable.fm is a site where you can spin your favorite tunes along with friends, old and new. It’s like a cross between Pandora and Facebook. You and up to 4 other people pick tunes to play and then can chat about them as they play. It’s a really cool integration of music sharing and social media, and I’m totally hooked!

Last night, I was in a room called Nextbop NuJazz, devoted to the type of new jazz music that is featured on the great website Nextbop.com. I was there with my good friends Dave Marriott, Donna, and Brad Gibson, along with some other folks we had just met. We were spinning tunes by artists like Aaron Parks, Charnet Moffett, Ambrose Akinmusire, Ben Allison and others and geeking out talking about the tunes.

One feature of the site is that you can click a Twitter button and tweet to all your followers that you are DJ’ing and tell them what you are playing. I did this, and a few minutes later I flipped over to my Twitter stream to see what was going on there and got his tweet:

@ hey. you going to be DJing still in 2-3 hrs? BBC WS radio want someone live DJing on the show to talk to about #turntablefm
@thedailylunge
Jessica Dowse

I was blown away! I replied and ended up chatting with Jessica about the piece they were going to do about the site and agreed to be interviewed about my experience with it. She asked me if I would stay up until 2:45am to be interviewed while DJ’ing in the room! Well, I couldn’t say no. I had only been on the site for a couple of days and all of a sudden I was being interviewed as an “expert”!

The interview was short and sweet, and the host talked more about his music than the music we were playing, but it’s still cool. Here’s audio, thanks to Dave:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Moral of the story: you never know where opportunity is going to come from. I was just minding my own business and having fun with my friends, but because I tweeted about it, I ended up on a broadcast that reaches 241 million people weekly(!) in 27 countries around the world.

Whoa.

This is the power of social media. I know lots of people who think of Twitter and Facebook as burdens, as being somehow “fake”, or as just plain stupid. But if you use these tools merely to enhance what you already do, in a way that is real and genuine, you can make connections that you never dreamed you’d be able to make. All I was doing was having fun, spinning records with my friends and checking out a new and interesting site. And it took me literally 10 seconds to tweet about it. In so doing, I got the attention of the BBC.

That was never my intended goal. But, you never know who’s listening…

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One Working Musician/Daddy!

May 28, 2011

Tweet That’s right…I’m going to be a daddy! My wife and I found out recently that we’re going to have a baby girl. Poppy, as we’ve been calling her (because when we found out we were pregnant, the book said she was the size of a poppy seed), will be joining us in October. Even [...]

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Music From My Students – So Proud!

May 2, 2011

Tweet For the last 6 years I have been teaching Rock Band workshops at the Experience Music Project in Seattle. During the summer, winter and spring school breaks we bring teens together from all over the region and teach them what it means to play in a real rock band. We have between 7-15 students [...]

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Seattle Trumpet Players are Hot Right Now!

April 13, 2011

Tweet I just noticed that as of today, 4 of the top 10 downloads at All About Jazz.com are from Seattle trumpet players! Cuong Vu (#1), Chad McCullough (#3), Thomas Marriott (#6) and I (#9) all have new albums out, and if the AAJ list is any indication, we’re all doing mighty well! Do yourself [...]

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Notes On My New CD Five Leaves Left, Track By Track – 10. “Saturday Sun”

April 8, 2011

Tweet On Tuesday, March 29th, “Five Leaves Left: A Tribute To Nick Drake” by the Jason Parker Quartet was released. Each day thereafter I wrote at length about one of the tracks – how the arrangement came about, what went down in the studio, thoughts about the performances, etc. Click here to read them all. [...]

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Notes On My New CD Five Leaves Left, Track By Track – 9. “Friut Tree”

April 7, 2011

Tweet On Tuesday, March 29th, “Five Leaves Left: A Tribute To Nick Drake” by the Jason Parker Quartet was released. Each day thereafter I wrote at length about one of the tracks – how the arrangement came about, what went down in the studio, thoughts about the performances, etc. Click here to read them all. [...]

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Notes On My New CD Five Leaves Left, Track By Track – 8. “Man In A Shed”

April 6, 2011

Tweet On Tuesday, March 29th, “Five Leaves Left: A Tribute To Nick Drake” by the Jason Parker Quartet was released. Each day thereafter I wrote at length about one of the tracks – how the arrangement came about, what went down in the studio, thoughts about the performances, etc. Click here to read them all. [...]

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