On the 'tube

Taiwan Trip

1

Did some playing in Taipei, Taiwan back in May; love that city, and had emailed the musicians some charts ahead of time. They showed up at the gig with no rehearsal and played the tunes like they owned them. There was a moment of panic on my part when I realized that they did not print out the charts as I did not bring any. Of course they looked at me like I was from another planet and simply opened their i-pads and read the charts from there.

Anyway, the drummer just sent me some video from the gig so I've posted a couple of tunes on YouTube: Atlantic Blues and one called Taiwan Trip. The sound is not great and the amp was some kind of a Peavey that I hadn't quite figured out. Regardless, it was a fun gig with a good turnout at the club. Taipei is a city with a great subway system and AMAZING street food.

Atlantic Blues: Taiwan Trip

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Back in the day I made a lot of trips into Taiwan.

Street food quite good, my Japanese counter-parts knew all the best stops...

There was a great 3-4 story Dumpling Shop I couldn't get enough of...

Order on 1st Floor, watch a dozen or so folks behind glass making all the different kinds perpetually, pay up, get your Order Number Card, walk upstairs, find a seat, they bring you your tray!

I would stay at the Howard Plaza. More often than not it was a Filipino Band in the Lounge, always very, very good. I remember seeing same group in 3 different Asian cities, odd but true. They had a good Booking Agent I guess.

3

Always great to hear a Gretsch in jazz especially with such tasty playing. Filtertrons sound so much better than the typical humbuckers. Thanks for posting.

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I think I might have seen that same Philipino band when I was over 25 or 30 years ago. That was shortly after Jimmy Carter adopted the 'One China' policy and whatever jazz scene had existed was gone after the Taiwanese government asked all the Americans without visas to leave. About a decade or so ago, Taiwanese musicians started to attend jazz schools in Texas, Boston, Brussels......they returned home and with the support of a few club owners, started a small jazz scene.

Thanks lx, appreciate the compliment. That Annie had TV HTs on it though. I must have gone back and forth between the HTs and Filter'trons 5 or 6 times by now.

5

HiLo's! Wow. They sounded great. I see why you would keep changing.

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Great stuff Journeyman!! Jazz on a Gretsch Annie......take that Gibson snobs!!

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Gibson made some nice guitars in their day Dave, but everything I've played in recent years has felt unresponsive and way too heavy. As someone who played Gibsons for years, I can say by comparison that Gretsch guitars in general are capable of a much wider tonal palette. Some of the old ES175s, L5s, L4Cs, etc. were great, but like a lot of vintage guitars, there was quite a bit of inconsistency.

When Brian Setzer got involved with Gretsch manufacturing, he suggested that the 6120s at that time were built too heavy, unlike the vintage ones that he favored, and Gretsch (Fender?) did make changes in that regard. Considering the tradeoff that lightly built guitars present (very responsive but more prone to feedback and changes in humidity) Gretsch has done a good job at a compromise and indeed, offers a range of 'tightness' with different bracing structures that are suited for almost any type of music. Of course we all know that.

And, of course jazz can be played on any type of guitar, but it would be great if the market was large enough for Gretsch to issue a guitar designed for jazz in their pro line. I know they had the Synchromatics but never mind the floating pickups and controls in the pickguard etc. What most working jazz players want, the ones who still play archtops, is a guitar with a pickup IN the top in the neck position with a volume and tone control mounted in the top. Laminate tops are becoming more common and X bracing is the way to go for even response, sustain and balanced bass response. I use Jim Hall's D'Aquisto (not the old New Yorker on the live recording) as an example of the "best" design: plywood top, X braced, 16" body, pickup and controls in the top. The Sadowsky Jim Hall model is exactly the same and the best archtop that I ever owned was built by Linda Manzer on the same design. Acoustic archtops with floating pickups, etc. sound great in some settings and terrible in others. I've owned a couple of beauties. They are prone to excessive feedback and just not practical for professional playing. Of course there are exceptions, but in general this has been my experience. An X braced single PU Annie with an ebony bridge and tailpiece would do fine. Maybe there are some possibilities for an even lighter trestle bracing; lighter than the ML bracing, but ideas come cheap and reality is, well, expensive. In the meantime I'll stick with what Gretsch has to offer.

8

Very nice, J-man. Fine variety of tones for the application. Whether you'd fully engaged with the amp or not, you respond to it well and make it work. Kind of a textbook study in deploying Hilos in unexpected, unclichéd ways, and skillfully negotiating the landscape from pretty clean to just the right warm overdrive.

I appreciate the way you make clear and distinct use of both the high and low ends of your voicings, seemingly at the same time. Also, I always appreciate spiky, angular motion in lead lines and chord stacks.

Are the tunes your originals?

The piano player comps responsively behind you, but is maybe not quite as fluid a soloist. Was he undermiked? Sounds like he's getting a strident tone, and maybe having to play hard took a toll on smoothness. Not that he's deficient! I like him better when he's grabbing handfuls of dense chords than when running scales and arps. Somehow the chord work is more melodic.

Funny how your guitar sounds bigger than the piano!

Really fluid rhythm section, all kinds of responsive to everything going on. Was it a trio you were sitting (well, standing) in with, or were all the players new to each other? It's remarkable how integrated a unit you all make. Musicianship! It can't be faked. Technique, ears, ideas, dynamics, the balance between composition and improv, execution - it all comes together, and you hear each element.

I don't listen to all posted music all the way through - even if it's beautifully produced and executed, predictability and dull inevitability wear on me quickly. This kept my attention all the way through - and it's not just that it's "jazz." Plenty of jazz is rote and sterile.

Maybe it's that we're hearing four fine musicians with no choice but to have ears wide open and reflexes tuned. Sounds like the channels of communication were wide open. Great vibe!

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Thanks for such supportive and positive comments Tim. To answer your questions, yes they are my own tunes. I had played some gigs about five years ago with the drummer and piano player, although on that tour he played organ. The bass player I had met but only played with him at a jam session, no gigs. He had just come back from school in Texas and while he played good time, hadn't developed a sound on the string bass yet. This time he had a fully developed sound and concept. While not a band per say, they are some of the best jazz players in Taiwan and no doubt play together fairly often. They are just really good, dedicated musicians and I was lucky to have them for the gig.

The balance was actually not bad in the club; the manager does the sound and she has good ears, but the recording makes the piano sound thin and as is usually the case when recording to a single video camera, the bass was way in the back of the mix.

As for the chord voicings, I'm not exactly sure what you mean, but I basically hear voicings as part of a melodic line that just happens to be harmonized with varying density and texture. At this point in time, jazz guitar is starting to incorporate a contrapuntal approach, perhaps beginning in the past with Jim Hall or George Van Eps and continuing with players like Bill Frisell. In that regard I am playing catch up and hope to be able to develop the skill to the point where it can be applied to any type of tune, from a jazz standard to a modal tune to a Hank Williams tune; it never ends.

To bring it back to the OP, I think that it is just wonderful that at this point in history we can travel half way around the world and find really good musicians to play with who are well-versed in American musical traditions. While the music industry sucks big time and political and military hegemony continue to mess things up, music itself seeps through the cracks and flourishes.

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Nice videos Journeyman. And yeah, the street food is amazing – if you like picking out you own live frogs for dinner! But it sounds like it was a great trip, very cool thing to do.

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As for the chord voicings, I'm not exactly sure what you mean, but I basically hear voicings as part of a melodic line that just happens to be harmonized with varying density and texture. At this point in time, jazz guitar is starting to incorporate a contrapuntal approach.

Yes, that comes out. When I mentioned "clear and distinct use of both ends of a voicing," it was partially a comment on how well you're doing those things - but also an observation about your technique, as at moments I heard the direction of both lines almost as distinct instruments. At the same time, the harmonic context established by the rest of the voicing was present without swamping the dominant top and bottom motion.

I find it really hard to promote just a couple of notes in a chord, especially on the fly in the heat of battle.


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