Monday, March 30, 2015

#JazzChops - New Jazz Lingo Video Series

The EFP London Jazz Festival (due to start from 13-22 Nov.) have started a new video series called #JazzChops, a set of interviews with top jazz musicians discussing certain jazz jargon.

Here's the first one, being : What does it mean to have "chops"?

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Review: DYI Fender Blacktop Precision Bass

A few months ago I wrote a piece on some news tidbits over the new year, which mentioned I got a new bass.

That bass is my DYI Fender Blacktop Precision Bass. That brings my total Fender bass tally to five!

Here's the review and breakdown of what I think about it: (again excuse the low quality pics, I'm no photographer. Taken at my office.)


First a quick history of the bass: The Fender Blacktop Precision Bass started production a few years ago, and is an affordable P-Bass with two humbucking pickups. These pickups are a huge departure from the standard issue single split-coil pickup of a usual P-Bass. It's made in Mexico.

What I did (to save some money) was to first buy the body on Ebay:


Then, through my friend Mubarak, I got his Classic 70's Precision Bass neck, which is maple and has black binding and blocks, and the 'TV logo' made famous in the 1970's and attached them together:

Under The Hood

Finally, I strung it with DR Black Beauties, to match the overall theme of black.


Monstrous! Those humbuckers are hotrodded with high output and rumbling lows and, surprisingly, clear highs. Of course it's not crispy clear, so don't expect it to be used for fusion, hi-fi sounding music.

I used it for a few gigs for a reggae band, with great results:

The lows were perfect for the bassy dub sound that reggae needs... it's also perfect for rock and punk music.

Overall, a cheap ($ 500) project that adds a new dimension to my arsenal.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Standard of the Week: 'I Can't Quit You Baby'

In 1956, blues legend, bassist, and writer Willie Dixon wrote 'I Can't Quit You Baby', for another blues great Otis Rush, for the Cobra Label. It was a success at the time, reaching #6 on the R&B charts. It also was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1994.

This standard is the subject of a huge scandal with Led Zeppelin; because they recorded it on their debut album, without giving proper credit, which led to a lawsuit by Willie Dixon in the 70's. Eventually his name was on the writing credits on later reissues.

It has been covered many times by dozens of artists, including:





Monday, March 23, 2015

When a Horn Section Doesn't Work with Blues

Muddy's 1966 album Brass & The Blues; our case study

The stereotype for blues art and design is to always include a horn player, most of the time a saxophonist. It somehow emphasizes that a horn section is an integral part of a blues band.

While it not unusual to have a horn section in a blues setting, keep in mind the blues did not come the city; where the music scene is slick and refined. It came from the Mississippi delta, from the cotton fields, where music was learned by listening to others; no formal training or instruction... very 'primitive' and raw. A place where a harmonica was called a "Mississippi Saxophone", where it was about the hardships and not about getting down to the dancefloor.

So even since the dawn of jazz in the early 20th century in New Orleans with Dixieland Jazz, it had an urban flavor to it. And urban centers, such as Chicago and New York City, were very welcoming to this style of music, eventually leading to the Jazz Era of the 1920's, swing era of the 30's, and bebop of the 40's. 

The blues did not gain much popularity in the big cities until the mid-to-late 40's. One of the main Chicago blues pillars is Muddy Waters, whose raw Mississippi sound paired with electric guitars led to an explosion of inner city blues. None of these bands had horn sections. 

But later on, artists such as B.B. King started adding a horn section to their band. It ultimately gave them a more R & B, soul/gospel feel. So now you can hear a difference between several bands; one reason that B.B. King was successful is that he played 'higher class music', per the words of Muddy Waters. Horns always evoke a feeling or aura of sophistication.

Which brings me to the point today; in 1966 Chess Records decided to 'renew' Muddy's sound by adding a horn section to his traditional blues. The results were mixed, but the album sold well enough.

With the addition of horns, the music automatically changed to a more R&B sound. This is not the issue here, but rather it did not mix with the style Muddy was bringing forward. 

So if you ever get in a discussion about blues and horns, site the above example. 

I'll Be Performing at Dubai Design District; Artists Announced

The Dubai Design District is holding a 3 day public festival, from 2-4 April, to celebrate the cultural diversity of the UAE and the region. It will feature design, art and fashion exhibitions, music shows, and food / beverage showcases.

I will be playing the bass for talented Kuwaiti music artist Zahed Sultan, whose eclectic genre of music and visual effects led him to travel and tour the world, from the USA to Japan and everywhere in between. Our segment is on April 3, 7pm.

Other announced music artists include:

1- Mashrou3 Leila
2- Tania Saleh
3- Bei Ru
4- The Narcicyst
5- Qusai & Malikah
6- Autostrad

and many more still to be confirmed. If you are in Dubai you owe it to yourself to attend this free event, and come and say hi to your favorite bluesman (that's me folks).

See full event details and location [here]

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Mother's Day Blues

Leadbelly sings about the hardships of mothers everywhere; give your mom a hug today.

Celebrate Spring With the Blues

Spring is here... sun is shining, birds are singing, flowers start blooming, but you still have the blues. For the blues ain't got no season.


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

'Gangsta's Paradise' - Schmoove 1920's Jazz Version

Imagine you were in some speakeasy, drinking illegal moonshine, got some mobster on your tail; and listening to this version of the insanely popular song by Coolio "Gangsta's Paradise".

Not only is the music pretty much spot on for the Jazz Age of the 20's, but Robyn Adele Anderson and the Post-Modern Jukebox Band look the part as well! The song has gone viral too.

PMJ Website:
Robyn's Instagram account :

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Dan Aykroyd Starts 'Blues Brothers Records'

The face of Elwood Blues, actor Dan Akyroyd, and wife of John Belushi AKA 'Joliet' Jake Blues, have started a music label, appropriately called 'Blues Brothers Records'. It will be run under Capitol Music Group label Blue Note, also appropriate. The purpose of the label is to promote blues and new blues artists.

Aykroyd says:

"The recorded music industry today presents huge challenges but also great opportunities," Aykroyd says. "Judy and I are excited to partner with the master ear for talent Don Was and Blue Note Records in fulfilling the true 'Mission From God' — to find, develop and nurture emerging blues performers. After all, that's where American music began in the first place and now it is in the hands of the next generation." 


Monday, March 16, 2015

'Mean Mistreatin' Mama' - Leroy Carr

Leroy Carr was an old school blues player from the old generation; he was a pianist whose crooning blues style influenced the second wave of blues musicians. He died in 1935 from nephritis, and was a severe alcoholic.

Here's 'Mean Mistreatin Mama' which features Scrapper Blackwell on guitar, from 1934. This song was famously covered by many musicians, including Elmore James in 1965: