Greetings Keyboard readers! Robbie Gennet reporting in from Southern California to bring you some of the latest happenings from around the L.A. area.
Since the last entry, I've seen some amazing shows all over town, starting with a Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger show at Club Nokia in downtown L.A. Hearing Ray Manzarek jamming all of those iconic Doors songs makes you realize what an impact his style has had on all of us keyboard players. And he can still play em all, jamming on an Alesis 61 note keyboard set inside a faux Vox organ shell. It sounded good, but I do yearn to hear him play the real instruments, not samples. After all, he is the kind of legacy player that deserves to have the real deal Vox, Rhodes, and Gibson G-101 at his fingertips. However, though we as keyboard players care deeply about these issues, perhaps the vast majority of the public doesn't know the difference and just wants to rock out to the hits. It's a catch-22, because if Ray made a big deal about playing the original vintage gear, more people would see it, become aware and know the difference. Either way, it's good to hear the music sounding so vibrant and alive!
I was sad to miss Kyle Hollingsworth and Zach Gill co-headlining The Mint here in L.A. on October 8--knowing these two guys as I do, it was a stellar show. I've seen both live with String Cheese Incident and Jack Johnson respectively and know they can pull off the sideman role perfectly. Gill also fronts ALO (Animal Liberation Orchestra), one of the great funky West coast jam bands, and his solo style isn't far removed from the ALO sound, just more of a singer/songwriter piano vibe. I always dug ALO from back when I first heard "Time Is of the Essence," one of my fave cuts from their catalog. Hollingworth has a few solo records under his belt as well. His debut "Never Odd or Even" was a keyboard and synth affair that established him as one of the tastier keyboard players on the jam scene. His sophomore release "Then There's Now" is more song-driven and not as crazy with the funk jams. Either way, fun stuff to hear from both these gents; go catch em live when they hit your town!
Mid-October, I headed down to Florida to record a new album and play a few shows with my funk band Rudy (www.myspace.com/rudymusic). In Rudy, I play primarily Rhodes with a little Clav and Minimoog too and since the band has no guitar player, I have a lot of room to stretch out. These sessions and gigs happened to coincide with my reviewing the new Rhodes Mark 7 electric piano for the upcoming February issue of Keyboard, so I did what any person in my position would: suggested I use the Mark 7 on my sessions and gigs, giving it the ultimate real-world workout so I could review it right. I own seven vintage Rhodes pianos, and have played and teched them for years so I took to the Mark 7 quickly. You can read my full review in the mag in early 2010 but suffice to say, I was truly impressed with the instrument. It sounded killer, held up well in studio and onstage, plus I never broke a tine. Rhodes is back--for-real--and hopefully soon, you can get your hands on one to play for your own review. And when the Rudy album is done and mixed, you can hear the results for yourself.
Also while in Florida, I did a video tour of the massive vintage keyboard collection at Sonic Reality studios with Dave Kerzner which you can see here: http://www.keyboardmag.com/article/vintage-synth-geekfest/November-2009/103381 Their studio is chock full of synths, electric pianos, organs, modulars, even a Baldwin Electric Harpsichord, which is super rare! We played as many of the keyboards as we could on film and ran through some of the iconic songs that were recorded with these keys. That includes the Van Halen 1984 stuff on the Oberheim, Genesis on the CP70, Talking Heads on the Prophet-5 and yes, Aerosmith's "Dream On" and the Beatles' "Because" on the Baldwin Electric Harpsichord! It was a blast and we hope to have many more gear porn adventures in the near future.
Once I got back to L.A., I turned around and drove to Indio, CA to interview Page McConnell and see Phish perform their massive Festival 8 concerts around Halloween. It was to be my first time seeing Phish live and after the whole experience, I know it won't be my last (I already have tickets for the New Year's shows back in Florida!). Since their five-year hiatus, the band has been rejuvenated, playing tight and energetic sets featuring classic tunes as well as songs of their fantastic new album, Joy. If you have not wrapped your brain around Phish, Joy is a great place to start. The songs are strong, which above all makes for a solid record, but 20 years of ESP-like connection has gelled into a cohesive sound and each player is up on their game. The lyrics are poignant and songs like "Backwards Down the Number Line" are reflective of their reunion, especially the chorus: "You decide what it contains, how long it goes, but this remains; the only rule is it begins, happy happy oh my friends." Joy indeed! Live, the new songs fit perfectly alongside early classics like "Fluffhead," "David Bowie" and "Gotta Jibboo," all of which had the capacity crowd on it's feet and grooving. If you are a musician of any caliber, beginner or seasoned pro, you will come away impressed and inspired from a live Phish show. For those with the misconception that Phish are "just a jam band" or are "the new Grateful Dead," you have been greatly misled. Phish could be one of the greatest American rock bands alive right now; miss them at your own peril! Check Phish out at http://www.phish.com or join me down in Miami for one of the four New Years Eve shows!
A few weeks later on November 13, I hit Club Nokia in downtown L.A. and caught the exceptional concert "Playing for Change," which stemmed from an album/documentary where the producer combined the talents of musicians worldwide into a truly global record that raised money to build schools in different countries. The tour had picked some of the best musicians from the sessions and brought them together to play songs from the record. Though he didn't appear on the album, keyboard player Steve Molitz (Particle, Phil Lesh & Friends) was asked to join the tour and what an experience he had! Other musicians came from as far away as Africa, Jamaica, and Nepal, and each of them was a great talent. Molitz had some opportunities to stretch out, though mostly he was supporting the proceedings. He's a great player with seasoned chops and a knack for melody, plus he always looks like he's smiling and enjoying himself up there. Adding to the already impressive proceedings, Ziggy Marley and Toots Hibbard got up and did some classic reggae songs including two of Ziggy's dad's tunes ("Three Little Birds" and "Redemption Song") and most of Toot's and the Maytals hits, including the iconic "Pressure Drop." Having not heard the record or seen the documentary beforehand, we were swept up in the music immediately and joined the crowd in dancing all night long. I believe the tour is headed for Europe but you can still check out the music and the film at www.playingforchange.org
That weekend, I got a call to join Robby Kreiger and friends at the Canyon Club out in Agoura Hills, CA and jam on some tunes, to which I said, "Hell, yes!" It was a fundraiser for the Pat Tillman Foundation, which I had joined last year and sat in with Little Feat. This year, I got word to brush up on the Herbie tune "Chameleon" because the legendary Harvey Mason (Fourplay, Herbie Hancock, etc) was coming to play drums and that was the tune of choice. So instead of relying on just any old keyboard, I brought out my trusty Clavinet and my Vox Big Bad Wah to throw it down. My buddy Nate was playing main keys on the Doors tunes and had an Alesis keyboard with all the preset sounds, which were pretty good. In rehearsal, I wound up jamming along on Clav to a half dozen Doors tunes so when it came time for the show, I got to sit in and rock out to tunes like "Changeling" and "Backdoor Man," the latter which featured Adrian Young (No Doubt) on drums and Billy Duffy (The Cult) joining Krieger and Co on guitar. File that one under 'Massive Jam'! When it came time for "Chameleon," Harvey Mason stepped up on the drum riser, Phil Chen held down the bass and Robby Krieger played guitar; needless to say, it was a pretty epic funk jam that I'll surely never forget. Check out my previous blog entry here for the video.
On Saturday November 21, I joined my pals at the Valley Ragtime Stomp, which is now held at Henri's Restaurant in the Valley. Great location, with a stellar Kawai grand piano and a full service menu featuring great pancakes. How can you go wrong with ragtime and pancakes!? The people who organize the Stomp are passionate and always put on a fun show. (Thanks Randy and Robert! You guys rock.) Though much of the demographic skews older, there is room for anyone who loves to play boogie, blues, ragtime and the like. Check them out at http://valleyragtimestomp.blogspot.com/ and if you're in the San Fernando Valley, stop by the second Saturday of any month from 1-4pm! Henri's is located at 21601 Sherman Way, Canoga Park, CA 818-348-5582
That's it for now~ hope you have a joyous and relaxing holiday season!
Keep rocking the keys~
December 1, 2009
Los Angeles, CA