1. Another Summer Weekend with Black Coffee

    This weekend Black Coffee has another run of shows, which wouldn’t be complete without the hot sun, a trip to Western PA, and a new venue – sandwiches and water too of course!

    with Jim DeVoss at Black Coffee’s 2011 People’s Choice Festival Performance

    This will be my third year at People’s Choice (my second year and show with Black Coffee), and I’ll be continuing the thirst-quenching tradition of drinking a fresh squeezed lemonade before the show. I picked up some new pedal gear last week which I’m hoping to try out Friday night in Clarion, but I may not have time to organize it before the weekend.

    Saturday’s show at Club Cafe will be shared with Ricardo Iamuuri and our friends Aristotle Jones & The Like Minds, whom we met at the HMAC for the Millenium Music Conference this year.  We split the bill with them in Morgantown a few months back and look forward to hanging with these fellas again.

    Fri 7/13 @ Peoples Choice Festival (Boalsburg, PA)
    Fri 7/13 @ Toby Hill Bar & Grill (Clarion, PA)
    Sat 7/14 @ Club Cafe (Pittsburgh, PA)
    Sun 7/15 @ Lions Square (Connellsville, PA)

    Details for these shows and more can be found at the Black Coffee website.

    This post is part of the thread: Black Coffee – an ongoing story on this site. View the thread timeline for more context on this post.

  2. Squier Telecaster Thoughts, 6 Months Later

    It’s been half a year now since I made the purchase on a Squier Classic Vibe Tele.  With my Comanche being my primary road guitar, the Tele with it’s seemingly forever clean strings (by comparison) has been my choice guitar for rehearsals. As so, I’ve spent enough time playing it that I have good feel on how it compares to my G&L Comanche.

    Subtle differences:

    • The first time I gigged with the Tele was with Black Coffee. I immediately noticed that a Tele’s volume knob is a bit out of reach of my little finger for volume fade-ins and fade-outs. Obviously, this isn’t a manufacturing flaw, but it’s a quirk to acclimate to.
    • The neck on my Tele is incredibly similar to the Comanche, but a fast guitar lick in 5th position (Earth Wind & Fire’s “Got To Get You Into My Life”) reveals that the neck is wider up there and the strings are spaced slightly farther apart than what my fingers favor. (It was a bit embarrassing to find this one out during a Hounds rehearsal!)

    Things I’d change:

    • I have yet to add a string retainer to keep the high E string from popping out on string rakes, but it’s still a problem. I’ve adjusted to it by playing this guitar differently. Holding back on the guitar is not cool, so this is still something I need to add!
    • Finally, there is the lacquered neck.  It just doesn’t feel right. My fingers feel like they catch on the lacquer. I’m hesitant to use any fretboard conditioner on the lacquer for fear of a chemical reaction causing damage to it. Yeah, I know – it’s a cheap guitar and I should sand it off. I’ve considered it, but my other guitars have me sold on rosewood fretboards. I’d like to get a new neck that has a rosewood fretboard with a string retainer pre-installed on the headstock.

    Pick-ups, pick-ups, pick-ups. I’ve been playing my Tele through my Barker and my Ampeg Reverberocket. Though, it’s seen more time on the Reverberocket (a helluva versatile amp, I must say! And sadly, as a result, the J12T hasn’t seen much play time lately). At this time, replacing the pick-ups is low on my list of gear priorities. In fact, I’m pretty damn happy with how the stock pick-ups sound! Though, perhaps I am not a *true* gear head? I find that I use the pick-up switch and volume knobs far more often than on the Comanche. With the Telecaster, I spend more time tweaking the tone at the guitar.  With the Comanche, I find myself tone-tweaking at the amp.

    With all of that said, and no regrets, this guitar was everything I hoped it would be!

    This post is part of the thread: Squier Classic Vibe 50’s Telecaster – an ongoing story on this site. View the thread timeline for more context on this post.

  3. Time for a 4 Day Run with Black Coffee

    Black Coffee at the Harrisburg Jazz & Multicultural Festival (2011)

    Today the Coffee crew begins a 4 day run! We’ll be putting on the miles this weekend, as the shows will takes to Pittsburgh, Morgantown, Harrisburg, and back to Chalk Hill (near Somerset, PA) for our second trip to the Christian Klay Winery (where’s the BBQ?!). Not suprisingly, the gigs over the last 14 months have already put 40,000 miles on the Jeep. Before I know it, she’ll need new tires again!

    While all of this weekend’s shows are sure to be blast, I’m very much excited for us to hit the Jazz & Multicultural Festival in Harrisburg again this year, as it’s always good catching up with friends near my old stomping grounds. Joining us on bass for this show will be long time friend David Pfister (whom joined me in our old acoustic project, the Jackdaw Boys).

    Here’s the low down:

    Thurs 6/28 @ The Smiling Moose (Pittsburgh, PA)
    Fri 6/29 @ Morgantown Brewing Company (Morgantown, WV)
    Sat 6/30 @ Harrisburg Jazz & Multicultural Festival (Harrisburg, PA)
    Sun 7/1 @ Christian W. Klay Winery (Chalk Hill, PA)

    This post is part of the thread: Black Coffee – an ongoing story on this site. View the thread timeline for more context on this post.

  4. A Year Later

    'Showtime' (Club Cafe)

    It’s hard to believe that Black Coffee has been cranking for only a year.  To celebrate, we played our anniversary show last night at Club Cafe in Pittsburgh.  I like hanging with the band and friends after the show, but an occasional late night drive home is always nice to reflect.

    It was a pleasure to share the evening with Aabaraki, a band that’s been in my funk/soul rotation for a few months now, who dubs their style as reduction-stutterfunk.  Earlier in the year, a few of us went to see the Tedeschi Trucks Band in New York and winded up catching these fellas at Rockwood Music Hall.  Definitely check them out.

    'Doors at 7' (Altar Bar)

    We also had the opportunity to talk with the sound engineer, Denny, who – as it turns out – used to run sound regularly for Queen Bee and the Blue Hornet Band.  He has been running sound for years, and it was great to have him behind the knobs last night.

    Pittsburgh shows are always special to us.  There are some nice venues down there, great people, and folks just seem to genuinely enjoy seeing live music.  As usual, there were a ton of familiar faces, but it was especially good catch up with the Touch Faster crew and our friends Joe and Monica.  Joe was always among the performers at the Phryst open mic nights we’d hit when we were starting out as a trio.  (Great times, but I don’t miss carrying my Barker through the crowd on our way out.  Though, my Ampeg would fare well in that environment…)

    'Hanging with The Lube' (Flood City Music Festival)

    So we shall see what the year brings.  We’ve played over 65 shows in the last year including a pile of festivals, shared the stage with Lubriphonic and Bettye LaVette in Pittsburgh (not to mention a pile of touring acts at Johnstown’s Flood City Music Festival), met some really great folks along the way, and to say the least:  we are chomping at the bit to hit it hard again this time around.  We have a pile of new tunes in the works, and are truly branching out regionally with shows on the calendar in WV, PA, and NY and others in the works in MD and VA.

    That’s all for now. Be on the lookout for our friend Jay’s recording of last night’s show.  And if you’d like, sign up for our email list in the meantime.

  5. Original Music is indeed a community interest.

    Chad Becks raises the dilemma that many genres of guitar including the jazz and classical varieties are experiencing a lack of growth in comparison to other more popular genres. Though I’ve not observed an actual decline of interest in classical or jazz guitar within the musical community, I can certainly relate his observation to the acceptance and support of musical creativity. Becks’ observation between pop music and jazz or classical guitar differentiates between two vastly different levels of creative complexity within written music, and is analogous to the continually growing popularity of cover-bands versus lesser-supported original music at the local level.

    Having lived in Centre County now for eight years, I can certainly say that musical interest among the general public favors popular music over original music – or at least the typical downtown band line-ups selected by our venues make it appear this way.

    With State College holding a large population of the county, it’s common to hear local musicians blame the venues and their student patrons for this lack of variety. True or not, many naturally relate the demand for sing-along bands to the thirsty student patrons that stimulate the borough’s night life economy. On the contrary, bluegrass – an example far from sing-along pop music – has much local support not only from musicians but more importantly the community. So it is not truly fair to say that State College night life only caters to popular music. Though bluegrass’ local popularity may be largely attributed to its American roots, other roots genres such as blues and jazz do not share the same steady niche that bluegrass holds in and around State College.

    Again using bluegrass as our example – there is another reason for why it is a more successful contender than jazz in a community where pop seems to flourish. Centre County already has numerous popularized gathering circles for bluegrass music. They are hosted on a regular basis by local churches and cafes and offer a free open-to-any-skill-level environment to learn how to play bluegrass music. The circles provide a unique opportunity for musicians to collaborate and meet each other, and it’s my belief that these circles have created an unintended movement over time. The result is a stronger community foundation for bluegrass to thrive in the county. American root genres or not, the same cannot be said for jazz, blues, jamband, and funk, though, some intimate downtown atmospheres such as Zeno’s Pub (and occasionally Bar Bleu) show that there is a consistent interest in such creative music styles.

    For whatever reason, there are not many gatherings in Centre County to bring attention to jazz guitar and much more generally, original music. I too agree with Becks, and generally speaking, I believe that it is up to our musical community to establish localized “cells” of musicians to hold playing circles that encourage growth of original music in the community. Numerous local organizations and venues already exist to thrive on the music and musical relationships generated at such creative music circles. Though, much like the circles that assist the interest in bluegrass among the public and local musicians alike, I believe the original music circles must occur regularly and encourage participation at every skill level to successfully increase awareness that original music is indeed a community interest.

  6. Dirty Superb at the Red Horse Tavern

    Dirty Superb at the Red Horse Tavern
    Dirty Superb, Friday Sept. 4th
    Did you get the memo? Dirty Superb is staging a hostile takeover of your work weary mind. Even though the semester just started, there’s a new CEO in town: Soul Power. Come watch Dirty Superb bring their musical synergy to the stage this Friday.

    Dance grooves and general merriment await you in Pleasant Gap. So make the journey and fill us in on what you did on your summer vacation. Come Monday, you’ll be sure to have some stories to share around the water cooler. But this weekend, loosen your loafers and slip into something on the funky side.

    Dirty Superb will be playing at the Red Horse Tavern in Pleasant Gap this Friday, September 4th. The show is from 9 to 12pm, with no cover charge. Hope to see you there!

  7. A Sunday with Vitamin Funk

    Chris plays ddrums
    Chris plays ddrums
    On Sunday I got together with Vitamin Funk to do some jamming and recording before Chris and Mike headed back to college. We had some room-mic recordings of most of our tunes prior to the weekend, but wanted new takes on some of them with a sax player we recently met.

    In about two hours we ended up laying down five tunes (bear in mind the goal wasn’t a professionally isolated studio recording).

    My SRC Barker
    My SRC Barker
    Three were previously written, and the other two were an upbeat blues song and a reggae beat – both ideas that came up while fooling around earlier in the summer. They were both on file as well, but we wanted a more formal shot at them with more than one mic in the room. The three originals were Off the Wall, Jammy Moe, and Keeping it Funky.

    Sunday was a great time, and I look forward to the next Vitamin Funk show whenever that may be. We’re toying with the idea of setting up a show or two in State College around Thanksgiving. I’ll let you know if that comes to fruition.

  8. WingFest with the Hounds of Soul

    Hounds of Soul - August '09 Flyer
    Hounds of Soul - August '09 Flyer
    This Thursday night at 7:30pm State College’s funk, soul and Motown band Hounds of Soul will be performing live for the first time at Tussey Mountain WingFest. We’ll be playing tunes of the 60s and 70s, and covering songs by Tower of Power, Blood Sweat and Tears, Stevie Wonder, Steely Dan and James Brown to name a few.

    The nine piece band features a four piece horn section and includes members who have performed in State College and Altoona area bands such as Cliff Turner and the Afterburners, Cootie Brown, and SouthWEST.

    If you are into funky music and like wings, come out to Boalsburg to see State College’s funkiest horn section. More information for the event can be found at the Tussey Mountain webpage. The band will also be performing at 8:00pm this Friday night at the Bellefonte Arts and Crafts Fair.

    This post is part of the thread: Jackie Brown & The Gill Street Band – an ongoing story on this site. View the thread timeline for more context on this post.

  9. This August In Music

    Playing with Cootie Brown at 4th Fest
    Playing with Cootie Brown at 4th Fest
    This has been an exciting summer of music…

    On July 4th, Cootie Brown played at Central PA’s 4th Fest, which, come to think of it, was probably the biggest stage I’ve played to date. YouTube has some brief footage of us in front of Beaver Stadium.

    A few weeks ago, I played my first wedding reception with Vitamin Funk. Towards the end of our set, a trombone and sax stood in with us, and we started into a blues instrumental. Also at the reception was The Lovin’ Spoonful’s John Sebastian. During the blues jam, he hopped on stage with us and wailed on the harmonica! I saw him play for the first time last year with David Grisman at the State Theatre, and have been listening to their folk recordings ever since. To say the least, playing music with him was surreal.

    Throughout the summer, Dirty Superb has been playing about once a month at Pleasant Gap’s Red Horse Tavern, and we are going to be doing our first gig at Bar Bleu this week in State College. We are also now playing as backing musicians for Gina Riggio, and will be joining her for a set at the Bar Bleu show.

    And finally, State College’s funk/soul/Motown band, the Hounds of Soul, will be making their debut this week at Tussey Mountain WingFest. If you enjoy the music of the 60’s and 70’s, and are into the powerful horn lines of Tower of Power and Blood Sweat and Tears come check us out!

    Here’s August’s schedule so far:

    • Dirty Superb and Gina Riggio: Monday 8/10 – at Bar Bleu (10:00pm)
    • Hounds of Soul: Thursday 8/13 – Tussey Mountain WingFest (7:30pm)
    • Hounds of Soul: Friday 8/14 – Bellefonte Arts and Crafts Fair (8:00pm)
    • Hounds of Soul: Monday 8/17 – 2009 New York-Penn League All-Star Mountain Bash (7:30pm)
  10. mp3: Where the Ceiling Meets the Floor

    I’ve posted another track recorded by my old band, Ubiquitous Proprietors, called Where the Ceiling Meets the Floor. It may have been the last original we wrote, and was recorded about nine or ten years ago. It’s straight-up funk/rock, and is surely the song to listen to if you want to hear U.P.’s sound.

    For me the song marks a sort-of milestone of where I was in life, reminding me of some extremely fun times, people, and places, all that I’ll never forget. It’s interesting how repeated listening to or playing music can capture memories from a time period.

    Where the Ceiling Meets the Floor can be downloaded from the MP3 Goodness page.