Regular columnist Robbie Gennet has toured with Nick Lachey, Everclear, Wayne Kramer, and Fishbone, plays keyboards in the original funk band Rudy (WARNING: possible explicit lyrics if you click that link), and is generally involved in too many projects for us to keep up with. Drop him a line here.
Greetings fellow keyboard players, welcome back to the Keyboard blog! We've all been recovering from NAMM, which reverberates for weeks after in your brain (and feet!). There seemed to be more people attending than last year, a good sign in this struggling economy. Perhaps people are finding the motivation to create their own change and make things happen out there, or a lot of butts are on the line. Or both. But after more than a dozen NAMM shows in a row, I feel a communal camaraderie that always makes me glad to suffer the sore feet and laryngitis for the people, the gear, and the jams. And boy were there some jams! Arlan brought down "The Booty Bus" filled with great gear including a Hammond and Leslie, old and new Moogs, and a Wurly, all surrounded by a full drum kit, guitar amps and bass amps. Over the course of Friday and Saturday nights, there were many luminaries floating through the open, revolving-door jam sessions, including Blue Oyster Cult guitarist Buck Dharma and former Saigon Kick singer Matt Kramer. Our good buddy Arlan Schierbaum provides such an inspirational musical concoction and it has become legendary in NAMM lore. Here's hoping there are some companies out there who want to make him an honest man and sponsor the bus (and/or ice cream truck--no, really, it's a smaller version of the same idea, an ice cream truck containing a drum kit, backline, and keyboard station) at NAMM in 2011! Check him out here: http://www.myspace.com/arlanoscar One more bonus: I got to see my sisters killer all-girl rock band Riot Brides at the Coffin Case party Friday night and they blew the doors off the place. If you don't mind hot chicks and heavy metal, turn it up! www.riotbrides.com
Of the instruments that piqued my interest at NAMM, there were a few that stood way out. The Mason & Hamlin 9'4" acoustic grand piano was a treat, joined by the Fazioli and Estonia grands as the cream of the crop of acoustics this year. Mason & Hamlin's WNG composite hammer and damper actions are a real breakthrough in piano design and they felt great under the keys. Bruce Clark gave us some insight into just how they work in the video below. (Click here if you can't see it.)
I was also impressed with the new Yamaha CP-1 which had some of the most realistic vintage electric piano sounds that I've heard. The real Rhodes was also in the house, which I review in the February issue, was turning heads and attracting a lot of talent at the booth, such as Jeff Lorber and Greg Phillinganes. The MIDI version of the Rhodes tracks amazingly well, as you can see in our John Novello video here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=LeLyWQ1kovs
The Hammond booth saw some shredding as well; check out the video we caught of Glen Stewart and saxman Mike Phillips jamming out: www.youtube.com/watch?v=wLoJq50ihU0 And don't miss our exclusive vids of American Idol finalist Brandon Rogers and Garaj Mahal keyboardist Eric Levy on the piano floor, posting now at www.youtube.com/keyboardmag1
Since my last blog post was in early December, let me not forget to mention the 2009 holiday season, during which I went to Florida to lay down vocals on the new Rudy record and play a few shows to boot. And since I'd been writing the upcoming story (look for it in the March 2010 issue) on keyboardist Page McConnell of Phish, I decided to see the band again during their New Year's run in Miami. They played four nights, two sets per night, and I managed to see the first three nights in their entirety. As predicted, they jammed and didn't repeat one tune. To see a band three nights in a row play three completely different shows is a pleasure in the world of over-planned spectacles that often pass for rock concerts these days. There were some truly amazing moments where the music and the lights combined to hoist the proceedings to brilliant heights and the crowd really got lifted.
I'm reminded of our Keyboard community, our cabal of like-minded gear geeks that will flip over a tweaked filter and argue over whether the sound in some obscure '70s tune was a Wurly or a Pianet. Or was it a Hohner International? We sometimes feel like a secret society, which is kind of cool; not everyone gets us or what we're about, and that's okay. Truth is, though our club is tight, it is open and we welcome new keyboardists to the fold. It was heartening to see 15-year old piano and synth prodigy Skylar Thomas come hang on our piano rounds and even on the jam bus and kick out some jams of her own. Also cool was seeing Arlan slip effortlessly from instrument to instrument while keeping an orderly flow to the bus jam. Just when you think Arlan's blown your mind, he cranks it up another notch. From the veterans to the new recruits, our Keyboard community is chock full of passionate and dedicated individuals and I'm glad to be a part of this motley group of- dare I say- brilliant and twisted geniuses! (That means you, Dave Bryce )
Lastly, I recently got a super-sneak preview of the new Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey album Stay Gold and man, is it cool! The band's sound has morphed and evolved in a way that past records couldn't predict and their new lineup is making some amazing music that defies easy categorization. Keyboard player Brian Haas is a dynamic force of nature who always bends the ear and mind like a prism of consciousness and this new record is no exception. The title track was a standout and I look forward to hearing it all mastered and finished soon. Keep your ears and mind open and check em out at www.jfjo.com Better yet, see them on tour right now! They're doing a West Coast run in February and a European run in March.
That's all for now~ hope your 2010 is looking bright. Make sure you visit our Youtube page and see exclusive video we shot at NAMM at both keyboardmag.com/community for the official gear demos, and youtube.com/keyboardmag1 for what this roving reporter found.
See you soon~ keep shedding and shredding out there!
February 1, 2009
Los Angeles, CA