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

Monday, June 25, 2007

Observations On a Melody

Anybody my age should remember that show, I think it was called American Bandstand. Anyway, on the show, people from the audience would come up and rate songs. They’d give it a point value and usually say something like: ‘I give it a 9, I liked the song and you can dance to it’. It’s weird but for some reason that phrase came back in my head and I’ve been thinking about it for a few days now.

I get the ‘you can dance to it part’. The music has to move you, if it doesn’t ‘move’ you in some way then it’s ‘bad’ music. Bad music can only in my mind be defined as music that doesn’t ‘move’ you. It can be different from person to person. As I’m writing this I’m listening to the Ray Brown CD ‘Some of My Best Friends Are Sax Players’. I’m tapping all over the place. This music moves me, so it’s good music! It’s relative to the listener. ‘Move’ I would think could mean physically moving or even mentally moving. i. e. the emotional impact of a piece of music.

The other part I’ve been thinking about is the part about ‘I Liked the Song’. That could mean a lot of things. I think in part it means how well the melody is played besides how great the melody and chords are.

So I went playing through my Itunes library, listening to different tracks. I was checking out who was playing the ‘song’ well. It was amazing that when someone did a (in my opinion) great interpretation of a melody that I felt as if that helped the soloists. I realized how much is determined during that first chorus. That gave me a 100 more things to work on. Listening to Joe Lavano, Wynton and Herbie play melodies and play the opening of the tune made me realize that they’re setting up the solos, getting everybody ready in a way. Of course the whole band is doing that, but I was focusing on the melody tonight.

It’s something I take for granted in some ways. I have tons of singers singing standards and I listen to them a lot and listen how they phrase. On instruments we don’t have the words so we have to convey another ‘story’. It might be related to the words but it doesn’t have to be.

So I just sat here for a couple of hours listening to the ‘cats’ play tunes, focusing on the opening melodies.

I wonder if and which musicians put in time just playing melodies over and over. I would learn a melody but up until the last month or 2 I didn’t attach enough weight to the melody. It seems to me like there’s a whole study there in phrasing, rhythm and embellishment that could totally help improvising.

I realize that in a way this is obvious stuff, it’s just I never put it into words until I remembered the old TV show and the audience rating the songs.

Larry Mckenna was talking to me and he said he always has the melody of the tune somewhere in his head. It might be way in the back of his mind but it’s there, and he plays off the melody as much as the chords. I play with him all the time and he plays melodies so beautifully.

I also imagine that if you put time in on the melody of a tune and work with it, that that will help you remember the tune. I learn and forget SO many tunes. I know that the more emotion I put in and get out of learning a tune that the better I will remember it.

Add to this that the bass player I played with today made a joke about how hard it is to solo over Happy Birthday! He didn’t mean the chords were difficult, he meant that he just couldn’t play anything and get any ideas. I remembered thinking that before, also. It’s the melody. I’ve heard it over and over and have played it over and over, and for me it's become a dumb melody. I'm not too happy whenever I have to play it on a gig.

So my thinking is on the melody and what I can get out of really studying a melody and trying to play it well. I wonder what other people think and how and if they practice ‘the melody’.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Great Documentary About Brecker's Last CD

Friday, June 15, 2007

Work Horse

I’m a workhorse. I run from gig to gig. I’m lucky in that they’re all usually really great gigs. Great players, always as challenging as ‘we’ want to make them. What I mean is if we’re a jazz trio playing at some dumb business meeting, then nobody is really listening to us, we’re just ‘atmosphere’. So it’s up to use to decide how ‘deep’ we want to play.

I can say that the jazz musicians around Philly ALWAYS play for the music, so most gigs are great gigs. Even when nobody is listening!

Well tonight was going to be a hard gig. I was playing at a new casino in the Philly area. What a ‘PIT’. It’s a horrible gig. I took 3 of them and can’t do anymore. They stuck us right next to ALL the slot machines. It was unbearable. I committed to 3 of them and tonight was the third and last one.

Well I showed all exhausted but ready to play, and I saw another band there. Oh boy, now dollars are running through my head. If I screwed up that will mean I will have to pay the other 2 guys because I booked the gig! That would suck.

So i called the agent, found out she double booked the gig. She’s a great person and was cool and said ‘Go home, I’ll pay you’.

Well if you’re a workshorse and that happens you know that feeling of joy, especially if you don’t have to play a HARD gig. It was funny because the other 2 guys in the band were cheering when I told them. I was laughing because here is 3 musicians happy because the DON’T have to play music tonight! But one must take this in context.

After a week of gigs, rehearsals and practicing, to get the night off will bring a smile to any work horse! Just go hang out in the ‘field’ and graze. Which is what I plan to do.

Yay, I don’t have to play music tonight!! Sounds weird but tonight I am happy. Tomorrow I will play music. I’ve been playing music for almost 40 years. I love it more than anything, except for tonight!

Have fun on your gigs, I’m going to just hang out and listen to some good music… and maybe practice a little. :-)

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Studying with a Teenager

I met Jonathan Ragonese a year ago at a summer camp at Univ of the Arts for high school kids. I had a group with the top musicians. Man they were killin’. Just because I knew they were young and they had tons of energy. I made them a challenge. That was to play Cherokee at 400 bpm by the end of the first week. Well Friday came and they were there. Cruisin’ at 400 bpm. They all did great but Jon smoked the tune. It was pretty incredible.

We’ve kept in touch during the year. I get text messages every day about what he’s transcribing. He DOESN’T STOP. So I asked him to put licks up on Larrys Improv Page. We call it “Lick of the Day”. And like it sounds everyday there’s a new lick.

I’ve given him another challenge and that’s to put up a years worth of licks by the end of the summer. 350 licks!!!

Each lick has the cd and track title where it’s from. I’ve added an link so you go there and buy it if you want. I want to also add a link to itunes. Just have to figure out how to do that.

It’s funny because the first couple days I just looked at the page. Then finally I printed out the lick of the day, went and bought the Billy Pierce CD (sort of advertising isn’t it) on itunes I’m getting addicted. Sure as webmaster I could go and print out every lick he’s putting in, but that’s not the point! Each day the “Lick of the Day” gets me to my instrument. I practice it in 12 keys and then mess around and try to expand on it. It’s got me thinking about phrasing, and lines. It’s really fun.

It’s a little strange I'm learning froma 17 year old!! How’s that for the ego. But Jon might as well be 40, 50, 30 or 25. He’s sort of ageless as you’ll see if you ever meet him.

I’ve been in a little of a rut this summer, so the “Lick of the Day” is really helping me.

I’ve heard students talk about not wanting to transcribe, or practice licks because they feel it will squash their originality. To me that’s silly. When I’m thinking about music I always compare it to the spoken word. After all we’re trying to communicate when we play. I learned how to talk by imitating adults. It didn’t squash my vocal creativity, it helped. Transcribing solos and playing licks can totally help your playing, as you will learn the language. Speak it how you want! Just learn it first, otherwise you’ll sound like a foreigner

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Billy Pierce Interview

Billy Pierce Interview

I found this interview after checking out Jonathan Ragonese’s lick of the day. I’ve been printing each lick each day, checking out the cd. Today’s lick was a Billy Pierce lick. I didn’t know much about Billy Pierce so I did a google search and found this interview for those who might be interested.

Jazz haiku

Jazz haiku

As told by: Eric Johnson

Many many notes
chord after chord after chord
why does no one like?

Monday, June 11, 2007

I'm working on a great Sonny solo. Moritat from Saxaphone Collossus. What a simple and great solo.