Wednesday, April 05, 2006

It's all about control

I've decided to move my blogging to my own personal site. I have even started documenting my progress with the Chapman Stick there as well. New info on Vaylor can be found at

(yes there are RSS and Atom feeds there).

Monday, March 13, 2006


I had hoped that, by now, I would have started my series of articles detailing the transition from guitar to Chapman Stick. I have placed an order from Stick Industries for a refurbished 10 string Stick, and I was told it would take about a week to finish the reconditioning before it was sent to me. Well, that was 3 weeks ago and I'm starting to get a little antsy. I've wanted one of these for a long time and I am very anxious to get started.

Rest assured, though, that I intend to document the process of learning the Stick. Stay tuned.

Monday, January 09, 2006

More challenging exercises

Bonobos Convergence is getting set to do some studio recording relatively soon. We've picked out most of the songs already, and Pete has even written an introduction instrumental piece which will immediately precede "Today" (which was previously posted here). This little overture is called "Former Future" and has some rather interesting characteristics.

The middle section is based upon an 8 note diminished scale and features a unique little run which took some practice to get down just right. I think this is a great exercise, as it uses muscles and finger combinations that you usually don't put together.

At the end of the introduction is a 2 measure 16th note run (with retard) which is equally challenging as it throws in a tritone in a very unusual place. Playing this run cleanly also takes a fair amount of concentration.

(as usual, click on the images for larger versions).

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

EOY Updates

Eric has finished his first round of US, UK, and Canada dates with Fozzy and Stuck Mojo, and all reports are that the shows were great. You can see video of Eric with Fozzy at The Duke's web site.

Bonobos Convergence just completed their first ever "mini-tour" unofficially dubbed "The Dirt Road Tour" or maybe "Bonobos Convergence: Unpaved" - the highlight of which was the first annual Camp Jam 06. On the bill with Vaylor and the rest of BC was Middle Rhythm Section, Shak Nasti, Sonar, Mobius, The Burnin Smyrnans, and Big Meat. The turnout was pretty good (over 600 people) considering the competition for the Jam Band fan looking for something to do on New Year's Eve. I sure hope they do it again next year.

As for Brooks, 3 surgeries and 1 busted guitar later he is back to making music again. Check out his site for updates (if he ever updates it).

Some major announcements are comming soon, so stay tuned all around.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

So Long Brandyhouse

Yet another institution of the Atlanta jam band and improvised music scene is fading away. The Brandyhouse - long time host of the Dunhams live music radio show, residence of acts ranging from Jupiter Coyote to Col. Bruce Hampton and the Fiji Mariners - is closing its doors. Their last show will be new years eve featuring Barry Richman. But, more interesting for you folks, is the fact that Bonobos Convergence will be there just a couple of days before - on Wednesday, December 28. So, come check us out and say one last farewell to what was once "the place to be" for Atlanta's improvsing musicians.

Monday, December 12, 2005

IWNHA Part 1 - Escalator Over The Hill

Today I am starting a new feature I am calling IWNHA (for It Will Never Happen Again). I intend to use these columns to highlight those recordings which, given the culture of music today, could not be repeated. In other words, these are artifacts from a time when, at least on paper, it was possible that a recording could be financed and produced based solely on its artistic merit, rather than on any financial considerations.

I will not attempt here to give any grand thesis on this recording. Instead, it is my intention to introduce Escalator Over the Hill to those of you that might not have heard it before. First some facts about the recording.

Up until very recently, Escalator Over the Hill was the longest jazz album ever released (6 sides - clocking in at just under 160 minutes). The musicians were segregated into several individual bands which were used for various thematic purposes. For example, Jack Bruce, John McLaughlin, and Paul Motian were the heart of a fusion / rock combo used for the more aggressive segments of music, while Carla Bley led a big band featuring everyone from Charlie Hayden to Don Cherry. There were also solo and piano-accompanied vocal pieces featuring vocals from Linda Ronstadt, Jack Bruce, Paul Jones (from Manfred Mann), and even Don Preston (from the Mothers of Invention).

The unifying force behind all of this is the surrealistic libretto composed by Paul Haines, but to a greater extent the musical composition and arrangements by Carla Bley. There is a continuity, in the same sense that there is a continuity to the collected works of David Lynch. In fact, listening to the entire 2 1/2 hour recording in one go is a lot like experiencing a David Lynch film. You're not entirely sure what just happened, but you find yourself deeply affected nonetheless.

This album will change you. It will challenge everything you think you know about jazz - especially about the shape and nature of jazz, and the role of the jazz composer as defined by Ellington and Mingus. No way could something like this happen today.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

New Music from Everyone

As you know, Eric has been on tour with Fozzy and Stuck Mojo, but he is also 2 tracks into a percussion recording. To hear some of Eric Sanders' original percussion music, check out Thelamba.

Brooks has been using his downtime to get into another songwriting / recording groove and has begun work on his next solo project called Blent Fmeh! The first track is titled Dona Nobis Pacem.

Vaylor is playing with a trio called Bonobos Convergence. Their first show is tonight at the Brandyhouse. Here is a demo recording of one of their songs called Today.

Enjoy! More updates soon.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Bonobos Wonder LilyPond

I'd like to walk you through the the process whereby I came to grok in fullness one of the songs in the Bonobos Convergence repitoire. The song is called Wonder and it begins with an up-Latin feel in A minor. The melody line in this section is a series of increasingly more complex runs. The last one being truly insane.

wonder-run.mp3 (1.31MB)

The initial thing was to make sure I had all of the notes down, and Pete and I had several emails back-and-forth to make sure that we were both playing the same thing. After we got that worked out I spent an hour or two figuring out the best position on the fretboard to play it and then practicing it against the recording.

One of the things I really like about playing in this trio (and in Yeti for that matter) is that everyone reads music. So, if you have a question or problem, or need to clarify something, we don't need to spend half an hour trying to explain it - we can just write it down and all questions are answered. Personally, I have always felt that the best way to really learn the ins and outs of a piece of music is to transcribe it. Until very recently, I was using Cakewalk to do all my transcriptions, but it wasn't up to the task this time. I couldn't get the metric information correct. So I tried the free version of Finale. It was better but still not everything I needed.

Happily, I discovered an open source music engraving program called LilyPond. This has been one of the best finds ever. This program is capable of doing just about anything with music you can think of. The one and only downside is that there is no point-and-click interface for the program. LilyPond accepts a specially formatted text file containing a description of the music to be engraved, and can output in a number of formats, including PDF, PNG, and PostScript. For example, the following input:

\score { \layout {raggedright = ##t} \relative c'{c4 d e f g a b c} }

results in the following output:

So, not exactly intuitive, but very powerful. If you have ever done any programming or even HTML, it won't take you long to get the hang of the input language. Within a week I was creating percussion staves, tablature, nested tuplets, and all manner of stuff which would have been impossible in Cakewalk or Finale Notepad.

Now, back to our story. The trick is, I wanted to transpose this tricky run in Wonder. Once I got the power to do the transcription exactly the way it should be, I discovered that there are subtle rhythmic differences in the runs, even though the notes are the same. The one that is played prior to the drum break has the six accent notes played on a rhythm of 2 dotted 8th and an 8th, like this:

while the rhythm after the drum break (the big ornate one) is accented against quarter note triplets, like this:

Armed with this, I could then appropriately transcribe both parts. Here are the results in standard notation and tab. I also included the rhythmic cues so you can see how the groupings are arranged in time. (click for larger versions)

(pre-break version)

(post-break version)

Now some notes on performance. If you look at the tab, you'll see that the run starts on the 16th fret of the E string and proceeds downward to 8th fret. That's quite a stretch. I've found that if you tap the initial G# with the right hand, then play the F E D with the ring, middle, index fingers, you are nicely positioned to start the next group of 4 notes by playing the F E D C with ring, middle, index, then slide the index back 2 frets to the C. The rest of the run can be handled easily from that position.

By the way, this makes a great exercise in left-hand, right-hand coordination. In performances, the tempo is about 144 bpm.


Thursday, November 03, 2005

...big update in the works

Stay tuned. A big update is coming with much music for you to enjoy.


Wednesday, October 12, 2005

The Latest News

Here's a quick update for you Yeti fans out there.

Vaylor is now playing as part of another keyboard / drum / guitar trio called Bonobos Convergance. It features two former members of the Orlando-based Kynda - Pete Orenstein and Frank Registrato. These folks can also be heard as part of Native Immigrants featuring former members of Blueground Undergrass.

Eric has been hired as Rich Ward's drummer. This means he is now the drummer for Fozzy, Stuck Mojo, and The Duke. Tonight is Eric's first gig as a member of Fozzy. For those of you in North / Central UK check them out at a venue called Rios in Bradford. From there, both Fozzy and Stuck Mojo have shows in England, Ireland, Scotland, Canada, and the US.