Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Two kinds of music: Latin and .....

'Hear' I go again. I had the privilege of being asked to play in a salsa band: Timbao Vibe. I have less than three weeks to prepare to become an authentic latino-montuno-eating-timbao-feeling-getting-with-the -complexity of the charts and the groove. I'm going to practise the style and learn these charts: yes-sir!
More than anything, its the brotherhood of intensity. Intensity and absolute drive and conviction and this group will settle for nothing less. I'm hoping the lead singer will be happy and not say: "this is not right." My contact person with the band has sent me a book full of montunos and clave exercises that now, I'd wished I'd been practising for a couple of years. Happily, I have mp3's of the entire show.

I had played with them before and kind of handled the gig and even contributed to the energy and that felt good. So maybe (just Maybe) there is a growing future for this music. If I could only speak Spanish a little, that would help a little! I love the way the singers just seem to spit out the lyrics with such a remarkable emphasis. It's very stirring really. It gets to the 'nub,' i.e. where you live.

Jazz is definitely incorporated into this music and that is fun. To be able to play jazzy chords and reflect the jazz chords in the horn arrangements is a challenge but is also kind of a requirement. OK so here's the thing, I know there are lots of aspects to music and people expressing themselves in each individual way, but if I have a vision (not a tragic one), it will be that there might be '2' kinds of music (I'm  kidding a little here). I'm borrowing from the famous Alberta joke, that for some there is only 2 kinds of music: Country AND Western:). So I'm thinking what with all the great latino players in the city (for which I call for a 'Hallelujah'), that there will be roughly 2 kinds of music that might sustain both instrumentalists, and, singers: Latin/salsa definitely, and, Country/folk musics of all dimensions. Of course there is classical and all kinds of jazz and those are often my first choice in listening (There is something called Rock that is popular too [I like that too]). But people of all walks of life will dance to that mighty committed, 'celebrational,' groove that Latin/Timbao brings to the table. So it is on one hand a sophisticated and complex music and on the other it is (keyword here) Accessable.

Truthfully, as I'm struggling to go through this assignment, I'm finding the Timbao so irrepressible that it merges into the jazzier standards I've been playing. It is just so strong. The Clave, Timbao bass-line, and the ever present montuno create a really joyous and powerful rhythmic urgency that at its best, keeps the players/singers/dancers involvement close to a trance-like state. So is this good! (?), of course it is. Adding to this is the icing on the cake: horns/band shots, and lines, and soloist, and vocals, contribute to this unstoppable beat and ecstatic melody—phrasing, that creates music that truly has a life of its own. Now if I could only play it !!!

I'm always impressed by the horn players in the band. They play shots and lines but also on occasion, play these impressive sounding arpeggio patterns that really move with individual parts that really lays down the chords and the rhythm all at once—it blew my mind when I first heard it.

One of the trepidations I had apart from the sheer challenge of the music, is the volume that this group plays on stage. It's got to be hard-driving but this is a band that plays pretty Loud. Little did I think when I was young, that I could lose my hearing, but it has definitely been damaged over 30 years of ensembles at MacEwan (this is documented). I loved to play drums and rim shots were my 'weapon' :) of choice when trying to get a class full of piano players to play with some authority, but now I don't. The hearing damage was noticeable when I was 50 and now 19 years later it's not getting any better if you know what I mean. So 'hear' I go again. Believe me, I wear custom ear plugs (25% reduction) which save my hearing every time I use them but they are not quite a match for these high decibels. We're playing Teddies in Edmonton on Sunday July 21 @10.00 PM and off to Calgary the next day for some sort of festival. It's going to be intense and I'm going to stick my head (and heart) into the roaring flame emitted by this great Salsa band.

One of these days I will write and seriously advocate that we all play softer. The range of expression that is available takes a quantum leap when we play softer. Each note can be an expression of individuality in a line. Playing softer can bring one's playing to life. So that's a topic for another time, but I am very happy to participate with this group because they really sizzle. Thank you one and all for reading this.


  1. This is wonderful stuff! So interesting...

  2. Charlie, you should invest in an in-ear monitor system and a simple mic. Even if you guys are running monitors, you can set up your own little system with the mic for picking up the band and set your own volume separately, all in isolation from the stage level. The in-ears will cut stage volume almost completely and you can set a nice level for yourself. After playing in a party band with a great but incredibly loud drummer, I made the switch and I wouldn't go back!

  3. Thanks Peter... I will check it out... it seems fairly high tech for me but I will investigate and see if I can't get that happening.. Hearing loss is a critical thing for sure... Thanks again Peter..