Wednesday, November 21, 2012

11.21.2012, FTW

Practicing guitar for the first time in many moons, going back to things I haven't worked on since I was 19. Sometimes I'll get stuck in a loop trying to develop muscle memory. Not sure where this will lead (if anywhere). The last time I tried to do this, I spent a year teaching myself rudimentary harmony and practicing chromatic scales, at the end of which I was laughed out of jams with guys I'd helped learn to play. "You used to be good; now, you suck." So much for self-improvement.

Valderas got me thinking about fusion (the other genre that dare not speak its name, along with prog) for the first time in 30 years. Thinking about how that whole development came out of Miles Davis' electric music, with all of his sidemen going on to lead their own bands and make bank. In the end, it all game down to velocity and starpower. I wonder how Miles felt about that, as dismissive as he was of instrumental facility for its own sake ("I know you can play, now play something I like"). The music he made after he got wise to JB, Jimi, and Sly still stands up, however.

Watching the DVD of Miles at Isle of Wight, and the one of Jeff Beck at Ronnie Scott's. A year after Bitches Brew, the leader's trumpet chops were still at a peak, and the live band had transformed the material. Jack DeJohnette and Dave Holland, who together made an imposing rhythm section, would both go on to be great composer-bandleaders. Chick Corea, who looks so intense here, went on to make cosmic fluff with Return to Forever and introduce two of the worse offenders in the look-how-many-notes-I-can-play stakes. Pete Townshend's fave rave Keith Jarrett, who hated playing electronic keyboards and said he was brought into the band to interject "excitement -- certainly not music," does the Ray Charles/Stevie Wonder head dance.

Like Miles and Ornette, Jeff Beck never changed the way he played; he just changed the setting in which he did his thing. I've been a dyed-in-the-wool fan since I was a snotnose, and have a stack of '68 Beck Group bootlegs to prove it. The Rough and Ready band was my favorite of his; you could take anything he played in that band and stick it one of his post-Blow By Blow albums and it'd still work, something I only recently realized. Sure, he's not much of a writer; since he stopped ripping off Willie Dixon, he's always relied on keyboardists (Max Middleton, Jan Hammer, Tony Hymas, and now Jason Rebello) for the tuneage. He's a master technician, no more, no less. There's more finesse in any one piece he plays than in most guitar-slinger's entahr sets. And it's nice to hear him rip into "Stratus," a Billy Cobham tune I don't believe he ever played back in the day. (I first heard it done by, um, the Good Rats, back when Mickey Marchello was still wearing a kaftan.)

Trying to figure out a way to move my meager technique forward while retaining the penchant for mess and noise I've developed over the last few years.


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