More Vibraphone Music?
There are many reasons to record an album of vibraphone music… and many reasons not to.
(Liner notes below)
For me, the not-to list has always won.
But, at last, I decided to join the ranks of vibraphonists around the world (all 38 of us) and record an album of original vibraphone music.
When asked “Do we really need more vibraphone music?”… I can only speak for me.
Yes. I believe we do.
But, I have deep motivations for my answer.
First, I have a love/hate relationship with the vibraphone.
My response to the shiny, sparkling, no- growl, zero distortion and “good vibes” electric xylophone is often frustration and angst.
Yes, I know the vibrato is unique and mesmerizing. Yes, I know it’s angellic with the little spinning thing that goes “wa-wa-wa-wa-wa-wa-wa…”
Still, it can be a frustrating gig.
I can’t growl, bend, distort, get down low, or go extremely high… and once you attack the note, it’s done. Rings yes – but that’s it.
For years I had a pick-up system on my Deagan vibraphone and could add chorus, delay, overdrive, harmonizer, play in high-volume situations, and affect my sound considerably.
Yes, it was fun. I pissed off the purists and rattled a few conventional expectations.
But alas – it was not a long-term answer.
Second, My taste in vibraphone music.
Neither academic vibraphone music (school & university literature) or modern contemporary compositions connect with me.
I’d rather hear one meaningful, soulful, bluesy and balls-to-the-wall phrase – than a 1000 attempts at so-called serious vibraphone music.
I am a full-blown, American Musical Mutt – with a Masters of Music in Orchestral Percussion, a long stint in a funk band, lots of traditional Jazz and extensive exposure to the Broadway songbook, with large amounts of Motown, Beatles and more mixed in… I love it all.
How does vibraphone music fit into that?
I’m always screaming, bending notes, and peeling the paint with the hugeness of my sound( At least, in my mind) – hoping to escape the confines of 3 octaves of metal bars suspended on 2 strings.
But, music written for vibraphone seems to be a polite tinkle, tinkle…
Write vibraphone music?
What choice do I have? To express myself, I had to write my own.
Is that reason enough for a full CD?
Luckily, compared to life or death questions concerning cancer and war… who cares?
Well, I do, because I needed a bond between the vibraphone, and the music I performed on it.
I had, after all, paid dues and bills as a vibraphonist for many years. It was a huge part of my identity for most of my life.
How many people can say that?
For better or worse, 30+ years, 1000’s of gigs, countless venues and touring in several countries played a big role in who I am.
I’m a husband, a father of three, a son, a friend, a neighbor – and a guy that happens to play an odd instrument for income.
The people, the places, the musical and personal experiences… that is what vibraphone music is for me.
Life – expressed on metal bars, 2 strings and a pedal… good vibes indeed.
So, while a recital etude may have inspired passion in college, it just doesn’t touch my heart today.
Vibraphone music for Whom?
Other than a few exceptions, most so-called standard literature doesn’t have a place in my world.
I’m sure it’s just me.
I don’t want to record Bach transcriptions. I love Bach, but that’s not the point.
I don’t want to record music adapted for the vibraphone. Nothing wrong with it – it’s just not for me.
I no longer feel drawn to a jazz quartet or need to prove how “out” I can play.
Again, it’s not a judgement for or against, it’s just me.
I love all the jazz players – from old-school Red Norvo, LionelHampton and Milt Jackson to the modern players of today. They all play great!
I love Gary Burtons’ work, Mike Manieri, Roy Ayers, Joe Locke, Dave Samuels and David Friedman, Stefon Harris… There’s no point in trying to show my respect for everybody. I’ll leave too many out and offend someone, yada, yada…
And besides, other vibraphonists have likely felt some of my frustrations too. But I can only talk about me. My feelings. My Vibe.
Motivation number 3…
I found myself stuck – missing the music of my past, but unable to abandon it and move forward.
That’s a serious problem for artists.
You can’t be who you want to be if you’re stuck in who you used to be.
The answer finally came: I had to record these songs
It wasn’t for a label, a demand from fans, or for money.
It was solely for me to revisit them, produce them, and perform them – for no other reason but I wanted to.
The vibraphone music on this cd helped create my story.
Without it – The bands, era, influences and musical tapestry they represent, I wouldn’t be who I am toda
Musical closure was needed. The only way to achieve that closure was to record them.
I owed them their 15 minutes of fame, to help them grow up, mature and leave the nest.
Record A CD
But who did I want to involve in recording this music with me?
Having spent too much time in my own project studio, I wanted real faces and instruments to help me. That’s when the good stuff happens… that’s when music gets made.
I called my A-team.
And here is the fourth reason to record more vibraphone music.
You can get all your friends together.
Admittedly, I am blessed to work with great musicians.
Just click on their links to read a little about them. They are all unassuming, busy and barely keep a web presence because they don’t have to.
Tony Creasman – Drums. Great player and my first-call drummer. People often ask why I didn’t play drums. My response – “why would I if Tony can do it?” Thanks bro!
Mike Barnes – Guitar. Tasty excellence all the time. Love playing music with him. He’s well-versed in so many styles and a wonderful guy to know.
Eliot Wadopian – Bass. Laughing & silliness cause’ we got stories older than everybody. Had our first jazz quartet playing in downtown Asheville, NC when I was 17… Dribble down, Scunyun!
Grant Cuthbertson – Bass. Solid funky groove. Love playing drums with Grant because he’s no nonsense, takin’ care of business bass. Love you man, and thanks for helping out!
Rich Willie – Trumpet/Flugelhorn. Beautiful tone and big sound – just like his heart. Love to play with Rich and hear him blow. We muted the vibes on one song and just told him to play. Rich always finds the sweet notes!
Bruce Lang – Bass/Mandolin. Best guy to play any gig with, especially Beatles. Bruce is the ultimate working muzo you can always depend on. Great attitude and player. Thanks Bruce!
Ozzie Orengo – Afro-Cuban Percussion. Such an authentic vibe. Always a joy to play with – His rhythms just make the house move and dance, but without over-playing. Thank you, Ozzie!
They made it happen.
That’s what friends and great musicians do.
Of course they play great, but they bring their unique heart and voice to the music.
There were many stops and starts, scheduling breakdowns and computer issues. Eventually, recording was complete.
But the 5th and final motivation was just around the corner. .
Hank Lueck, the project engineer, studio-owner and co-producer was diagnosed with cancer.
No more vibraphone music.
As you probably know, cancer is scary.
Music no longer matters. When your friend is deathly sick… who cares about a cd anymore?
Hank began the long journey of chemo treatments: sick, weak, unable to work or do much of anything.
But he had a secret.
Without telling us, when he should have been resting, Hank was slowly but steadily mixing our songs.
He was sifting through my vibraphone music and doing what engineers do, despite being sick.
For him, it was a place of sanity… doing what he loved, when everything else fell apart.
The power and inspiration of music is magical – especially in our darkest moments.
I had no idea this vibraphone music would help Hank walk through one of life’s hardest battles.
Since that time, other letters and emails arrived from people finding comfort and hope in the music of “My Vibe”. I still don’t know how to respond to that.
Yes, even vibraphone music can do something mystical and spiritual.
To be honest, I think music is God’s playground.
It creates an atmosphere that is heavenly and transformative – inspiring and healing.
All this… from vibraphone music? Really?
But there you have it – my 5 motivations for the songs of My Vibe.
There is, of course, a personal story behind each song.
But that’s for another day.
Maybe we’ll discuss and analyze all the subconscious imagery, or melodic motif motivational meta-data and other over-reaching academic nonsense – but not today.
This vibraphone music now will fly or flop on its own.
I’ve done my part. The musicians, and engineers did theirs. And you will do yours.
Remember, it’s just metal bars, 2 strings and a pedal. But hopefully, something in the music will speak to you beyond the technical limitations of the instrument and the frustrations of the player.
That’s what music can do.
That’s what music should do. Even vibraphone music. Cheers!
PS Occasionally I am asked if the charts and play-along tracks from My Vibe are available. If you’re interested, contact me. No promises – but we’ll see.