It is no secret that I am a huge fan of Canadian rapper Classified. Here is an MC that writes his own rhymes and music, and collaborates with other established and up-and-coming Canadian artists. On top of that, his verses are clever, relatable, political, patriotic, pointed and/or joyous, depending on the song. It is just smart music.
What this post is really about is one of Classified's songs in particular, "Inspiration" on Self Explanatory (2009) (click the song title to see the video on youtube). I believe Self Explanatory to be a fabulous concept album. Back to the song - Classified is dedicating this song to a man named Phil who purchased a "beat" from him and passed away before he could see it to fruition. This is just another example of what sets Class apart from your typical rapper.
This relates to what I am doing presently, which is finishing a song for Mario Canonico who recently passed away. I am thinking of calling it "I Remember Mario," with a nod to "I Remember Clifford" - although the only similarity would be the title. It will be premiered at the Newmarket Jazz+ Festival.
I went to the viewing of Mario Canonico today and it was a special opportunity to meet his family and learn more about this great man who I have interacted with musically for years. For instance, I learned that he was a barber. Funny, as I have been looking for a decent hair stylist in Newmarket for years. I sat for a while at the funeral home and just took-in the pictures of the family. Sometimes we hurry to the gig and hurry home but Mario's passing made me think that I should take more time to inquire about my colleagues' family, hobbies and dreams.
As a frequent sub, and a band leader who frequently needs subs, I often reflect on the importance of acknowledging the work that these guests do for the ensemble. Sure, you may get section mates that lean over and say "nice work" but unless the leader of the group introduces the new player and thanks them afterwards, the guest may leave with a "bad taste" in his/her mouth. This is also true for situations when the sub knows the leader of the band. Never take the time investment of the "sub" for granted, as that player may be not be as willing to come in the next time you call. Now, to be clear, I have seen this error from both sides. I have noticed old friends/band leaders not acknowledge my presence the entire night and I have kicked myself after my own rehearsal for not introducing the guest player and for not thanking him/her afterwards. It is something that we should all keep in mind.
While everyday is a search for a full-time position faculty position, I must step back and appreciate what I have. I am fully employed, classes split between two colleges and a university, and I am busy as a musician in the broadest sense. My schedule is flexible enough that I can see my kids off to school and then "struggle" with what to tackle on the to-do list - and the list is long. I often reflect on my friends who I went to school with and envy their positions in music faculties across North America. However, they might look at "my lawn" and envy the flexibility and variety in my day-to-day activities. So for now, I will try to remind myself to enjoy the journey, as the destination is a little hazy. I know where I want to go but I may choose the path less taken.
I find it interesting that historically, as far as I can tell, bass players in big bands (and combos) were located in the crook of the piano, between the piano and the drums. This position placed the ride cymbal on the bass's left. In Canada, our bass players are often "stage left" of the drums, beside the high-hat. In my own band, I started the bass player there thinking that the sound of the high hat on 2 and 4 would help establish a groove as the bass often accentuates those beats in swing. In recent months, I have moved the bass player back between the piano and drums. I queried a drummer tonight over dinner. His opinion was that it is merely personal preference, i.e., does the bass player want to focus on the ride or the high hat? Thoughts?
I always stress to my band and my students that a musician must practice consistently. It is better to practice a little each day than twice as much every other day. When things get hectic, I must remember to heed my own advice, as there is nothing more frustrating than playing below your potential.
Dr. Michael Kearns
Musician, educator, husband, father, web designer ... my life is like a mosaic with each piece vying for my attention.