Initial review of the site?

This post, and its comments, are intended to serve as a means of collecting some feedback, mostly from a few targeted invitees but certainly open to any passersby willing to contribute constructively, about the site itself.  I still consider it “under construction”, but there is enough there now to make this a potentially useful exercise.

What I’m looking for are things like this:

  • Is the navigation and layout logical to you?
  • Is the user experience smooth on all clients? (i.e., desktop, tablet, phone…)
  • Is there anything glaringly missing?
  • What one thing would you improve first?
  • Is the Instruction navigational section appropriate for a prospective student?
  • Is the About navigational section appropriate for its stated purpose?
  • Is the use of links, tags, and categories in the written content reasonably consistent?
  • Is the written content itself effective, or detracting?
  • Is the use of media (e.g., images and video) effective?

And of course other things you think I should know.

You can leave comments publicly, or just ping me back directly if you prefer–whatever works for you.  I’d just love to get some good feedback now that the written content is mostly done, and get things in good enough shape to move more into the “working” mode, rather than the deliberate “construction” mode.  🙂

Thank you for what you are willing to offer!

– Kevin W.


Seven-headed Crim: ‘Starless’.

This needs a bookmark.  Another teaser from the 2015 tour of the “Seven-headed beast of Crim”;  this one the ’70s-era staple “Starless”.

Most previous observations still apply, at least at first viewing of this second clip.  I found I wanted Collins to be much louder in the mix here, as his presence on the original ’74 recording is just breathtaking.  It was cool to see the drum parts scattered among the frontline, especially including Rieflin, who is also the keyboardist.  And it was a treat to watch the “circulated” pivot notes between the two guitarists late in the 13/8 windup.

But man, check out Robert Unrestrained from 10:45 – 11:10, especially that top-of-the-neck harmonization at 11:00.  Holy smokes!

Like I said–this needs a bookmark.  🙂

King Crimson, ‘Sartori in Tangier’.

Because YouTube.

I gushed a bit about this one a while back on the Blogspot blog, and wanted to have it documented here too.  Because seriously, who else sounds even remotely like Robert, as a player?  One doesn’t even have to like his playing style, to acknowledge that it is like no other.

Dang.  Just–dang.

New old Crimson…wait, what?

A sneak preview of the 2016 incarnation of King Crimson, playing…”Easy Money“.

Wait, what?  King Crimson doesn’t usually repeat itself.

But the way I’m understanding it, this new Crim is indeed “reimagining” some of the older tunes.  That seems to be at least part of the point.  Okay, does that somehow mean that Robert’s gone soft all of a sudden?

I suppose we’ll see, but somehow, I doubt it.  In my book at least, he’s earned a lot of trust in that regard.  And who knows, maybe it’s me that’s gone soft, because at least on first listen, I enjoyed this a great deal:

Cry fanboy if you must–guilty as charged–but there is a lot in here to like.  Based on this performance alone, I’m not entirely convinced on Jakko as frontman, but he does seem both reasonably precise and endearingly earnest, and I look forward to seeing more before making a real judgment.  In a similar vein, given the use of the word “reimagining” to describe this edition of KC, I was a little surprised at how canonical and straight-up this edition of “Easy Money” seemed to be.  Again, I don’t know how indicative it may be, and I ain’t castin’ a judgment until I’ve seen more.  (Besides, it’s a great song, and as much as I have loved KC’s long insistence on new music over old, I’m in no way above the idea of re-Crim-inating some of the catalog;  if that’s what the muse is interested in doing now, I’m happy to go along.  Again, the trust has more than been earned.)

And boy, do I hear some treats in there.  It is always a pleasure to hear T-Lev in a Crimson group, and the return of reedman Mel Collins holds a lot of promise.  Watching and listening to Robert, it is obvious that he is playing the old piece with all the context of his subsequent work, and that is just a-okay by me;  it’s also quite a charge to see him smile like that!

Finally, there is that triple-drummer frontline, and wow, does that sound fantastic.  The stories of Mastelotto, Rieflin, and Harrison focusing on being a single drummer with one brain and six available hands–yeah, I’m believing that.  The interplay here is magnificent, and true to intention, there really is no overplaying that I can hear, just a solid, collaborative percussion line that demonstrates much of the richness that Jamie Muir brought to the ’72 Crimson.

Yes, please, more of that!  I do look forward to seeing what else they have in mind.

Bobby McFerrin, just killin’ the point.

I have long felt that just about everybody “knows” basic music theory, even if they don’t have fancy names to go with the concepts.  Some things in life just tap directly into the human hindbrain.  I try to describe it, usually along these lines:  “Look, I could sit down and play a simple sequence of chords in a room full of ‘tone-deaf noobs’ , and yet everyone in that room will know–know–if I end the sequence ‘correctly’, or if I botch it.”  Seems to make sense to me, but I still get blank stares.

Well.  Perhaps my problem is that I use too many words* to try and make that point.  Behold the glorious gift of nature that is Bobby McFerrin, who needs no words at all to demonstrate what I would argue is very nearly the same idea.

Wow.  Just–wow.  It’s almost impossible for me, as an instructor and an advocate, not to get juiced when the audience responds perfectly to each successive, unannounced note.

I’m delighted to be able to point to such a great example of the “everyone understands already” idea, but hell, part of it is just the joy of watching a true master at work.  And McFerrin is at least that.  I recall vividly the first time I got to see him live;  he had a set at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival in 2005, which was awesome enough on its own (at that time I had some–some–idea of what he could do), but it was the usual TBF cross-pollinations that really took it beyond the planet.  When he came out and sat in with the trio of Béla Fleck, Jean-Luc Ponty, and Stanley Clarke (!!!), I figured it would be something spectacular, and it most certainly was!  But the actual high point, believe it or not, was when he guested on Alison Krauss’ set;  he said he wanted her to sing a particular tune of hers (don’t recall now what it was), and she agreed…and then Union Station (Krauss’ backing band, one of the most accomplished in the genre), clearly in on whatever this deal was, left the stage.  She seemed both giddy, to be singing with one of her heroes, and also a bit terrified, not to have her usual crew behind her, and not quite sure what was going to happen…but she took a deep breath and started singing…

And McFerrin “played” all the band’s parts, with his voice, at the same time, against Krauss’ vocal.  It was absolutely stunning;  I have never seen anything remotely like it.

So, by all means take the point from Bobby McFerrin, instead of from me.  Believe me, I don’t mind that a bit.  🙂

* No snickering, now.

Steve Ball’s Airport Exercise.

Long-time Gaucho and general ace Crafty Steve Ball demonstrates his workhorse Airport Exercise, designed to stretch the fingers and otherwise provide a calisthenic challenge within a simple form.  Here, the brilliant addition of the moving bass line is a good reminder that exercises can also be musical, if we listen for it and respond in kind.

The tuning in the video is the Guitar Craft standard tuning, C2-G2-D3-A3-E4-G4, but obviously the core idea could be extended to any tuning with reasonably minor arrangement.

The exercise can be as simple as the core five-note pattern, which systematically stretches the fingers and provides a basic alternate picking challenge (the “1” alternates between an upstroke and downstroke), or as rich as what you see Steve doing here, adding parts, playing with muting, staccato vs. ringing notes, and having the exercise move against ensemble parts like Tony Levin’s added bass.

Bookmarked here for easy reference!

Stuck in my head: “Song for Sonny Liston” by Mark Knopfler.

So I’ve got this love-hate relationship with the blues, as a genre.  Really I think that it’s a simple matter of having been bludgeoned with it so heavily, for so many years, that it just invokes the overkill reaction automatically.  In the public eye, at least, the amount of attention paid to blues and blues-derived rock can get pretty absurd.  In my lifetime, nothing else has been pushed in my face anywhere nearly as much.  Just consider, as but one example, all the different “Top [N] Guitarists Of All Time” articles you’ve seen in the big music rags over the years.  Isn’t it absolutely astonishing how many of them turn out to be blues-rock players from acts wildly popular with American audiences?  Gosh, whatever should I infer from this?

And yet fresh music still happens within every genre, and I am still sometimes reminded of how powerful blues can be.  As one recent example, via the unlikely vehicle of commentator William Norman Grigg’s repeated insistence within Facebook posts, I first became aware of Derek Trucks’ truly unique and quite stunning guitar voice.  Wow!  Another example, via Pandora online radio and the…interesting adventures of navigating their classification taxonomy, was when I came to be aware of the not-exactly-recent John Fahey, who either wasn’t or most certainly was “blues”, depending on who you ask, and there is a whole genre’s worth of authentic music there as well!

And then there’s the ongoing enigma of Mark Knopfler, who seems to be able both to move across genres, while retaining something that is always identifiably him.  I appreciate that in an artist, and over time, Knopfler has delivered pretty reliably.  Reliably enough, in fact, that I chose to chase a somewhat arbitrary link to him playing “Song For Sonny Liston”…and now I can’t get it out of my head.

To be sure, there’s nothing extraordinary about the tune, except just maybe the totality of it.  Simple music, beautifully played, in support of a deeply non-trivial lyric observation of the enigmatic and tragic life of a somewhat unusual subject.

Curiously, I had been thinking about Liston somewhat recently anyway, after the death of Muhammad Ali;  perhaps there is a little of that fascination at work as well.  Or maybe it’s just all of the implications in all of the unusual things that happened during an unusual man’s unusual life.

Whatever it is, it’s strangely compelling, and worth bookmarking here.