I'm Tony Miceli, and I'm a vibe player in Philadelphia, Pa. I play, teach and I run

Sunday, January 28, 2007

How to Sing the Blues

This first made the internet circuit a few years back, but it still cracks me up:

How to Sing the Blues - A Primer for Beginners

1. Most blues begin with "Woke up this mornin'." It is usually bad to start the Blues with "I got a good woman" unless you stick something mean in the next line.

Example: "I got a good woman with the meanest dog in town."

2. Blues are simple. After you have the first line right, repeat it. Then find something else that rhymes. Sort of.

Example: "Got me a good woman with the meanest dog in town...oh, yeah!...Got me a good woman with the meanest dog in town. He got teeth like Margaret Thatcher, and he weigh 'bout 500 pound."

3. Blues cars are Chevys, Cadillacs, and broke down trucks circa 1957. Other acceptable Blues transportation are a Greyhound bus or a "southbound train." Note: A BMW, Lexus, Mercedes, mini-van, or sport utility vehicle is NOT a Blues car.

4. "Walkin'" plays a major part in the Blues lifestyle. So does "fixin' to die" and "findin' a good woman."

5. Teenagers can't sing the Blues. Only adults sing the Blues. Adulthood, when it comes to the Blues, means old enough to get the electric chair if you shoot a man in Memphis.

6. You can have the Blues in New York City or Los Angeles but not in New Haven or Phoenix. Hard times in Vermont or North Dakota are just a minor depression. Chicago, St. Louis, and Kansas City are still the best places to have the Blues, but Abilene, Mobile, and New Orleans are ok in a pinch.

7. The following colors do NOT belong in the Blues: antique violet, champagne, mauve, taupe and peach.

8. Blues is not a matter of color, however. Tiger Woods can't sing the blues; Sonny Liston can.

9. You can't have the Blues in an office building or a shopping mall; the lighting is all wrong. Other bad places for the Blues: Kmart, gallery openings, and the supermarket. Good places for the Blues: a jail house, your mama's back porch, beside the highway, bottom of a rot-gut whiskey glass, or a solitary room in a fleabag hotel.

10. No one will believe it's the Blues if you wear a suit or anything by Ralph Lauren.

11. Do you have the right to sing the Blues?

Yes, if:
• your first name is a southern state. Example: Georgia
• you're blind
• you shot a man in Memphis.

No, if:
• you're deaf
• anyone in your family drives a Lotus
• you have a trust fund.

Yanni, Julio Iglesias, and Barbara Streisand may not sing the Blues. Ever.

12. If you ask for water and your baby gives you gasoline, it's the Blues. Other Blues beverages are:
• malt liquor
• Irish whiskey
• muddy water
• Thunderbird wine
• one bourbon, one scotch, and one beer. At the same time.

Blues beverages are NOT:
• a mai-tai
• a glass of Chardonnay
• a Yoo Hoo (all flavors)

13. If it occurs in a cheap motel or a shotgun shack, it's a Blues death. Stabbed in the back by a jealous lover is also a Blues way to die. So is the electric chair, substance abuse, or being denied treatment in an emergency room. It is NOT a Blues death if you die during a liposuction treatment.

14. Some Blues Names for women: Sadie, Louise, Bessie, and Baby.
Women's names which are NOT Blues names: Heather, Jennifer, Emily, and Alexandra.

Some Blues Names for men: Joe, Willie, Joe Willie, Hank, and Po' Boy.
Men's names which are NOT Blues names: Geoffrey, Damian, and Keith.

Persons with names like Sierra or Sequoia will NOT be permitted to sing the Blues, no matter how many men they shoot in Memphis.

Need a Blues Name? Try this mix and match starter kit:
• name of physical infirmity (Blind, Asthmatic, etc.) or character flaw (Dishonest, Low Down, etc.)
• or substitute name of a fruit (Lemon, Fig, Persimmon); or use first -and- fruit names
• finish with the last name of President (Jefferson, Johnson, Fillmore, etc.)
Examples: Low Down Persimmon Johnson; One-Handed Fig Fillmore.

15. Need a Blues instrument? Play one or more of the following & alternate with husky voice riffs:
• harmonica
• gih-tar
• fiddle
• sax
• pie-anner (in need of tuning)

16. Now, you're ready to sing the Blues... unless you own a computer.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Philadelphia's history of musical instrument making

If you're a local and like history, you might want to tune into Antiques Roadshow next Monday night to pick up some music-related trivia:

Antiques Roadshow "Philadelphia"
Monday, January 29 at 8 p.m. on WHYY TV (Channel 12)

The Roadshow's visit to the City of Brotherly Love continues as host Mark Walberg stops by the Philadelphia shop and museum of appraiser Fred Oster to view his impressive collection of instruments and learn more about the city's long history as a center for musical instrument makers. Back at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, more than 70 experts orchestrate a symphony of appraisals, including an Alexander Calder maquette (scale model) for a large sculpture commissioned for the 1958 Brussels Worlds Fair; a stunning collection of Camera Work magazines; and a rare handcrafted chair by master Arts and Crafts furniture maker Charles Rohlf.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Roll with the Chord Wheel

Take a look at this thing. It might be a useful tool, whether for you or your music students. They claim it can help with composition, improvisation, music education and transposing. Once I had something like this that conjugated French verbs very nicely....

Show me the Chord Wheel.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Open Pandora

If you enjoy the free music discovery service (and if you haven't checked it out, you should - it's great!), I think you'll really like this. I just ran across this site where you can download Open Pandora, an open source windows desktop application that exposes Pandora. Below is a description I found on another site:

"Pandora itself is designed to function in your browser making it rather uncomfortable to listen to the music. Enter Open Pandora:

The tool adds functionality to Pandora like the ability to minimize Pandora to the tray with the tray icon tooltip displaying the currently played song. It offers full control from the tray or an multimedia keyboard (play, pause or skip). It has some rather unique features as well, namely the ability to send song information to, Microsoft messenger or xfire.

Last but not least global shortcuts make it easier to use Pandora. You can change stations, hide and unhide the window or change the station to quickmix with them. Oh, one thing that I almost forgot to mention - it is able to display the songs lyrics in an external window."

Someone try this...and tell us how it works!

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Free Online Jazz Radio Toolbar

Hey this looks cool. Someone try it out: Free online jazz radio toolbar.

You can listen to over 100 jazz radio stations broadcasting worldwide, plus add your own stations. You can also access music reviews, new albums, news, jazz clubs, festivals and events around the world, tickets, and more content updates weekly.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Billy Strayhorn's Four Freedoms

On Monday, January 15, Americans have a national holiday to honor the birthday of the late civil rights leader, Martin Luther King, Jr. It seems like a good time to reflect on the credo by which Duke Ellington said his composing partner Billy Strayhorn lived his life:

"Freedom from hate, unconditionally; freedom from self-pity; freedom from the fear of doing something that would help someone else more than it does me; freedom from the kind of pride that makes me feel I am better than my brother."

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Check out this argument!

You too can have perfect pitch!

So says pianist Kirk Whipple, who posits that "what our culture collectively — and erroneously — labels as a talent, "perfect pitch" is actually a learnable — and teachable — skill."

Check out his theory and tips at his site on "The Myth of Perfect Pitch and How to Get It."

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Take note - new music notation systems

Here's an interesting site of the Music Notation Modernization Association.

When you think about it (as they prompted me to do), the way we currently notate music in the west is crazy. All those sharps, flats, naturals....staves that look identical but for the clef sign, yet represent different notes....interval relationships that are obscured (such as how half and whole steps look the same). (Suddenly I feel better about my lame sight-reading!)

Check out some of their alternative solutions.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Listen to 1001 albums for free!

That pretty much sums it up. Browse the decades or do a search for what you want. Try it here.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

"Just Intonation" tuning system

Just Intonation....what the heck is that?

The Just Intonation Network says it's "any system of tuning in which all of the intervals can be represented by ratios of whole numbers, with a strongly-implied preference for the smallest numbers compatible with a given musical purpose."

Okay....right. Basically, it ain't the Western 12-tone equal temperment system we know and love.

You can read a lot more at their web site, but the cool thing is you can listen to interval and chord comparisons of the two systems. Some of them sound quite similar at first, but then they get pretty weird. I think I hear fewer vibrations in the Just Intonation samples, which I guess is the point. (At the site, click on "What Does Just Intonation Sound Like?" to hear the samples.)

Anyone had any experience with Just Intonation?

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Metheny & Mehldau Interview

Here's an interview with Pat Metheny (guitar) and Brad Mehldau (piano) talking about the CD they came out with in September 2006, aptly titled "Metheny Mehldau."

Don't ever let Mehldau hear his name in the same sentence with Bill Evans. Listen to him get salty once again about this comparison. Here's the interview.

I've got a lot of Mehldau, but I haven't heard this CD. Feedback on it, anyone?

Charles Mingus Cat Toilet Training Program

No joke! This cracked me up. I couldn't resist posting it. Check it out.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Mingus Song Titles

Happy New Year! I just ran across these explanations Charles Mingus gave for some of his song titles and thought they were interesting.

Mingus Fingers: "I wrote it for Lionel Hampton's band when he had two bass players, me and another bass player names Charles. I think "One Bass Hit" was out. Or either "Jack the Bear." Anyway, Lionel cancelled the other bass player and told me to record by myself."

Ysabel's Table Dance: "It was really conceived in Mexico in one of those night clubs where they have chicks that dance and take off their clothes. And the more you tip them, the more they take off. I was amazed. I also wrote my own version of "Flamingo" on the same trip. I wrote completely different changes in the key of E just to see what kind of guys would play it. But it's completely different from what Duke did, other than the melody. "Los Mariachis" was another piece. They are the street musicians. They play completely different from the guys inside the clubs. More natural. They're not affected. I don't know if they make as much money. There's seven or eight guys walking around, playing tunes in the street for people. I've always liked Mexican music and Spanish music because that's jazz in a way-- people's music."

Tensions: "It's a technically involved composition. I called it that because the guys were tense playing it."

Bird Calls: "It wasn't supposed to sound like Charlie Parker. It was supposed to sound like birds-- the first part."

Gunslinging Bird: "The subtitle was "If Charlie Parker was a gunslinger, there'd be a whole lot of dead copycats." I was just feeling crazy and thought that if Bird was a gunslinger instead of a musician in those early days, there'd have been a lot of guys getting killed."

Prayer for Passive Resistance: "That was made up on a date with Yusef Lateef on a pattern I set. I set up a pattern with Dannie, and Yusef just played the blues. That was a pure, spontaneous date that day-- not everything, but it was done on the same date as "Half -Mast Inhibition." The title is signifying. I was always signifying."

Strollin': "I taught that to the guys in one second. I just hummed the parts and told Dannie how to break up the rhythms-- how we suggest the beat rather than play the beat all the way through. I'd play two or three bars by myself, then Dannie would play two or three by himself. We didn't have any piano. It's called "Strollin'" because everybody would stroll and accompany the soloist. Like sometimes Eric Dolphy would play and accompany Ted Curson. Later on I called it "Nostalgia in Times Square.""