Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Gypsy Jazz

I have been fascinated with Gypsy Jazz for decades. Doesn't get much better than Django Reinhardt and some of the contemporary players like Birelli Lagrene, Stochelo Rosenberg, Jimmy Rosenberg and Frank Vignola, who keep that style of playing alive.

Learning how to play gypsy jazz was something that was beyond me for a long time. Jazz chords and scales were alien to me. I come from a typical pop/rock background. If you asked me to improvise on a 12 Bar Blues, I can probably do a decent job, since the I, IV V chord progression and years of butchering Clapton and Stevie Ray licks has created some sort of muscle memory there. 

Gypsy Jazz on the other hand requires a different vocabulary altogether. It is more akin to trying to speak a different language. Even the techniques involved are vastly different. However, if you're a decent guitar player and you're willing to put in the work, you might be able to pull off some of it. In the last year or so  have been putting in some time trying to learn it, on and off. 

It has been a massive learning curve for me because I am not a technical guitar player and gypsy jazz requires a lot of technical ability in order to be played properly. Once you get into it however, it can get addictive. You have to enjoy practicing. Once you enjoy practicing, it will come to you slowly, just like with anything. The whole down-strokes only when changing strings is particularly hard to get used to. I usually use economy picking.   

I don't see myself putting out any Gypsy Jazz music in the near future. It is purely for personal enjoyment. Might take lifetime for me to get it to sound decent, anyway. In the meantime, I am enjoying expanding my repertoire and improving the way I play. The journey should be as enjoyable as the destination.  

Monday, February 22, 2016

What are you?

Most of time when you meet someone new, one of the first things they will ask is, "What do you do?", or "What are you?”

I can never get used to that, although most people probably won't bat an eyelid before answering. My first urge is to answer with a quote from Fight Club:

"You're not your job. You're not how much money you have in the bank. You are not the car you drive. You are not the contents of your wallet. You're not your fucking khakis. You're the all singing, all-dancing crap of the world."

What you are and what you do for a living, are two different things. You could be a brilliant math wizard but your day job could be selling insurance or teaching kids. You might be a great writer but instead of writing books, you just write for some local newspaper or an entertainment/lifestyle magazine. Everyone needs a paycheck. Surely, that is not who you are. 

In both instances you are certainly not your job although you might love what you do. Your capabilities far exceed what you do on a daily basis. You could even say you are underemployed. For some people, the only way to utilize your talent is to be self employed. However, how successful you become will still depend on how good a salesman you are. A people person who grabs his chances well and sells himself and his skills in a likable way will always do better than that introvert with artistic integrity, who would rather let his work speak for itself rather than pander to an audience. Musicians have had this problem since the beginning of time. Most have to do what pays the bills versus what they actually love doing. 

So, what am I and what do I do?

Well, I am a full time dreamer who runs a small trading company. It's not an easy task running a business. There are a lot of overheads involved. Hopefully, I can pay off my two mortgages and have enough to send my kid to a decent College when the time comes.  

Continuing to record and put out music occasionally would be a plus. However, these days I just love playing music for the sake of it. Usually, it's late at night after everyone is asleep. I still have hundreds of songs left in me. There has to be more to life than just sales and collections.