Category Archives: Reviews

Reviews of products, books, cds, concerts

Perfect Reed?…..Hardly

USA 325Checking my daily email, I received this

“Pays for itself in reeds saved and lasts forever
-Get a new dynamic and smashing sound
– Make extremely accurate adjustments
-No guessing where to shave
-Stop throwing reeds
The Perfect Reed kit is a new ground breaking method to condition your reeds to a professional level.
White-curvatures reveal exactly where adjustments are required. Make extremely accurate corrections.
Reed fibers are relaxed to give a precise and simultaneous contact with the left-right rails and tip.
Don’t work for your instrument – Make it work for you – Freeing you to express your talent.
There are four mouthpiece profiles for alto, tenor, soprano and baritone. Work’s for all tip openings.
Your lower registers will have a powerful and dynamic clarity with strong mid and upper tones.”

Then the eyes rolled back into my head. It’s a white piece of plastic and a razor blade….for $30. It’s not even a reed knife. It’s a razor blade. What happens when that “reed knife” gets dull?

Ok, if you really WANT to mess with a reed with a knife, get a Oboe or Bassoon Reed knife. Then get a flat surface. I personally wouldn’t use white as it is harder to see thickness of the wood. Get something dark, or black to work on. Then google or youtube the innumerable articles and videos on how to modify reeds. Your real investment is a good knife, but you need the right sort of knife rather than the wrong sort of knife (these are for pulling off a lot of wood. You won’t need this).

Skip this “product” people.

Band In A Box 2013 Macintosh

NewImage

PG Music has released the latest greatest version of Band in a Box for Macintosh. This is one of my favorite programs, hands down.

Here are some of the new featuresI like:

  • 31 More Jazz RealTracks, 35 Rock-Pop RealTracks.
  • New Song Form feature.
  • Remembers recent RealTracks that you selected
  • Easy Buttons for Transposing (Display only) to Eb, Bb and other clefs/instruments
  • Woodshed Tempo button

They also have some “SuperMidi” things, to make the midi tracks sound better. The main feature for me in this update was the Woodshed Tempo button. Now, Band in a Box has HAD this function for a while, buried in the preferences somewhere. I believe during the 2012.5 Beta test I suggested it would be a good idea to put it in a button and move it out front. PG Music did just that. The Woodshed button works by you giving it a start tempo, say 120, and then tell it how fast to get to (say 240) and in what increments. It’s very very nice to have. I’m hoping that they add the ability to have the Woodshed stuff be able to be dumped into an audio file at some point. They seemed interested when I made that suggestion. I think it would be VERY useful for making practice for students and stuff.

Some of the new Real Tracks are amazing, and at least one (Euro Dance) is crap. PG Music STILL hasn’t fixed/added a feature I think is essential, the ability to have the Open by Title be able to traverse subdirectories. It is a great feature, Open by Title, that shows the song name, key, tempo, and style for all the files in that directory. BUT if you have a subdirectory, it doesn’t open and do those files. That is stupid. It is easy to have upwards for 5,000 band in a box files (I have something like 12,000) if you download all the free fake book changes and what not freely available on the internet. Does PG Music want us to store everything in ONE directory? Yikes!

I still rate Band in a Box is an ESSENTIAL tool for anyone learning Jazz. Or learning music. Or composing. The ability to pick a key, type a chord progression, pick a tempo, and then a style and go is amazing. And the Real Tracks add to the program. Anyone buying this program needs to pony up for the Real Tracks, or at least the Real Tracks they would be using. Once you start using them, the Midi Stuff is just so 1990s.

Les Misérables 2012

I think most people have heard of Les Misérables (or Les Mis as a lot of people call it). It has epic music. In fact, I HATED musicals until I heard Les Mis on PBS on a rainy Sunday afternoon. It happened to be the 10th Anniversary all star performance. Amazing show, if you have not seen it or heard it. You should.

Now, there seems to be a movie coming out Christmas Day. Now, I haven’t seen the movie obviously, but the soundtrack is out. And it is HORRIBLE. Utterly HORRIBLE. Russell Crowe’s singing is terrible. In fact, I’d say a pig being castrated could carry a tune better than him. Anne Hathaway……I know you are pretty, but it does NOT entitle you to butcher songs left and right. Fucking Sacha Baron Cohen…….this guy’s success in Hollywood is beyond me. He’s performance is shitty….and that is being nice. Hugh Jackman is ok…..like a good community theater OK.

Now, as a movie, it seems to be getting awards left and right even though it is not out yet (how does that work?). But it’s essence is the music. That is what makes Les Misérables the great show it is. Imagine Phantom of the Opera with…..wait, they already did that. Ugh….maybe the visuals will distract me from the amateur singing on display….

Band in a Box 2012.5 for Mac

This week has been amazing. First, on Wednesday, we had Apple announce the iPhone 5. On Friday, PG Music unleashed Band in a Box 2012.5 for Mac. I shudder to think what next week will bring (other than actually receiving an iPhone 5 on Friday!).

Like the iPhone 5, Band in a Box 2012.5 is more tweaking of an already great product. I still am surprised that more musicians do not know of this amazing piece of software. Or maybe still dismiss it as this midi tool (which it was back in the 90s) that uses Quicktime to generate cheesy backgrounds. It is not that. These people also probably still believe we didn’t go to the moon.

Band in a Box, if you read this site, I always rave about. For anyone learning jazz, or just music in general, it is an invaluable tool. You simply type in a chord progression, tempo, key (if you want), and then pick a style. There are sooo many styles. There are quite a few midi only tracks that, depending on your setup, can sound very very good. But the program has really shines in it’s use of “RealTracks”. The software pretty much seemlessly takes real performances and will piece them into the song. So, if you wanted your masterpiece in the key of Db in the style of a Pop song with Electric keyboard, fretless bass, drums, and a Smooth sax soloing….it can do this. And it sounds damn good. Every version of the program, like every revision of the iPhone, tweaks and improves upon what they had before.

New things in this version of Band in a Box:

There were some other tweaks to the program to. There is a simplified saving to M4A or AIFF from the File Menu (though I did want this to be a pop up dialog in the beta test so you could easily select say a DropBox folder to save them to rather than the program just dumping it into folder where the source file exists. Last beta still did it that way :-(). The program does load a little faster than the 2012 as well.

There are still some annoyances. I swear every beta test I am involved with, I complain about the “Open Song By Title” thing, which will display the song title, file name, if it has a melody, and the style. Great tool. Except the Windows version will traverse folders in that folder (nested folders), and the Mac version just does the files in the folder. So the 10,000+ Band in a Box files I have would have to be all in ONE folder instead of sort of organized into subfolders.

Another annoyance, or rather, something they need to bring to the fore in the program is the “Woodshed Tempo” thing. It is buried in Preferences 2 in the program. Basically, what it does is that every time you end a loop of a song, say you get done with the 5 choruses of Giant Steps at 160, it will bump up the next loop of the song by a certain number of beats per minute. So you can practice changes to a song, and start it at say 140, and have it bump up every loop by 10 clicks every time. Amazing for practicing. I keep lobbying for them to make a button for this, or at least make it so it’s not buried in the program. It’s a great tool to use…..and few seem to know it’s there.

So, the verdict. Of course it is a BUY. If you are learning music, and specifically, Jazz (or soloing), you need this tool. And you need to splurge and get ALL the real tracks (or AT LEAST the styles you like). The BEST version to get is the Hard Drive version, which PG Music will send you a hard drive that has lots of extra space, and the program and all the styles and real tracks. And it’s portable, so you can take it between home and the studio, or use it on another computer. The program takes something like 65 gigs to install.

Yes, it is expensive to get the whole thing. But like any good tool, it is an investment. And PG Music’s upgrades are very reasonable (usually the upgrades to all the new real tracks and stuff is $129).

Get this program. Or put it on your Christmas list.

Ditching Pro Tools For Logic

For various reasons, I decided NOT to upgrade my ProTools to the new version. I won a system in 2007 that included a copy of ProTools M-Powered version 7. I upgraded to 8 as well, and mixed a big band album with the gear. I thought about moving to 9, but the upgrade costs were huge. Plus, I had also, in 2007, bought Logic 8 when Steve Jobs issued $200 credits to the first buyers of iPhones (love you Steve!).

Anyhow, when Mac OS X 10.7 Lion came out, the fate of ProTools for me was sealed. Version 8 didn’t run on it. But Logic ran on it. And for $199 I could buy Logic 9 from the App Store. And I did. And I haven’t looked back.

Is there something I miss about ProTools? I think the flow of working with audio is a little better, and the tools are incredibly cool. That is not to say that Logic doesn’t have these tools, but like to put in a Fade in ProTools vs Logic, it seems to be more precise in ProTools. I do miss my McDSP plugins though. I had bought them when they were RTAS, and I do miss them. Especially some of the compressors. Oh well. Oh, and Altiverb 6 sorta works in Logic in 64bit mode but shows up as unsupported. Strange.

I DO however, love the Exporting out of Logic. You don’t have to play the whole thing back. You bounce it, and boom. It is done in mere seconds. Logic also has a wealth of built in plugins.

If you use a Mac, and are sick of ProTools reaming you for upgrades, get Logic.

Band in a Box 2012 for Mac

I recently reviewed version 2011.5 of Band in a Box. Partly because I had to upgrade in order to participate in the Beta for 2012. Now that Band in a Box 2012 is out, lets look at what it offers and what issues it still has to fix.

Off the bat, you get more RealTracks in the new version. That alone is worth it. More Mike LeDonne Organ, Fusion, Jazz Funk styles are included in the update. That alone is worth the $99 upgrade.

A few versions ago, PG Music added a DAW feature where you could generate and drag Midi or Audio tracks to your favorite DAW (Logic, Garageband, ProTools, etc). This version, they added the reverse. You can now import Loops (audio or midi) INTO Band in a Box. It sorta works, and I imagine in future versions it will work better.

Guitar Amp. They worked out some sort of arrangement with AmpliTube to bundle it with Band in a Box. So now you can tweak the guitar sounds coming out of a real track. Kinda cool.

Various other fixes as well such as the “Same but Different” when generating a track so it doesn’t always play the same thing. Seems more natural now. Nothing OMG is introduced in this version other than maybe the ability to add loops into Band in a Box.

Bugs and problems and other things
I’ve participated several times in the Betas Band in a Box. There are TWO long standing issues that I keep mentioning. The first is Open Song by Title. On the windows version, this will show you a great view of all the songs in a Band in a Box folder including if it has a melody, and what style it is using. It also parses through subfolders. On the Mac version, it doesn’t parse through the subfolders. Which is stupid since there are thousands of free band in a box files out there, and putting them all into ONE folder seems stupid.

Second, there is a saving bug that if a song has a long filename, when you Save As you get _BOSORNB demo (140bp#AD7428.SGU

Also, there are various little things like not being able to size windows at all, such as the Open Song by Title window. This is probably due to it being a cross platform program and having more roots in the Windows side than the Mac side (though I think the program started on the Atari ST, cause I remember a version when I was a kid that ran on my Atari ST).

Preferences in Band in a Box are a nightmare. I’d suggest doing preferences sorta like how Finale does preferences (another program that is cross platform).

No full screen for Lion though it runs just fine on Lion (2011 and 2011.5 version did as well). Some windows resize, but a lot don’t. That needs to be fixed to make the program more Mac like.

Buttons. There is NO WAY to customize the buttons in the program.
So you can’t get rid of things you don’t need that are cluttering the display, like the Vid.Help button, or the things that are redundant like having a PGMusic button (which takes you to their website but that is also in the Help menu). It would be nice to be able to get rid of some of the excess buttons if you don’t need them just to un-clutter the interface, especially if you have a MacBook Air (not that I do) and a small screen.

AND there is this great feature in the program called Woodshedding, which is buried in Preferences 2 menu. This feature will include the speed of a song by a certain number up to a certain number. So you could have say 8 bars of a solo you want to shed. You start it at 120, and tell it to increment every loop by 5 up to 220. BUT THERE IS NO BUTTON FOR THIS. Say what? Yup.

That’s a rap
So, is this still a program you should spend $329 (download only) to $399 (hard drive version) or $99 to upgrade to? Yes. If you are going to study jazz, this is a program you should have. If anything, it will play for itself by you NOT having to buy Aebersold play-alongs. You could simply buy a “Real Book” and Band in a Box and save a lot of money and gain the ability to practice Impressions for 40 choruses in a Funk style…..or Bluegrass….or Gypsy Jazz style…..or 12/8 Rock style….and in any key you want at any tempo. The Real Tracks are very convincing, and even the Midi generated tracks can sound great if you put them into something like Garageband.

Yes, this is something you should get. Great company and people making a program that simply does stuff nothing else does. 11 out of 10.

Band In A Box 2011.5

So, it seems I never spoke about the latest and greatest from up north. As in Canada. As in PG Music. The Wizards of the North released back in the fall an update to Band in a Box that tighten things up and brought some fixes for the newer OS X systems.

Hopefully you already know about Band in a Box. I’d rank it an essential piece of software. Sort of like owning a good horn, music stand, and metronome. Lately, the .5 releases of the program don’t add a lot of features but do add a bunch of new styles. Notable fixes and new features include:

  1. improved waltzes (which were good with one chord per bar, but sucked with 2 chords)
  2. Pedal Bass (Finally!)

The real value of the $129 upgrade though are the new styles. 70’s soul, Groovin’ Jazz Funk, Gypsy Jazz Latin, Jazz Guitar with Oliver Gannon and the awesome Mike LeDonne Organ styles are work the price alone. You also get some other styles (Country….not sure I’d ever use those) as well.

Gripes about the program? My long standing issue that the Open By Song Title only finds things at in the root of the folder and does not traverse the folders in the folder. I don’t know if they will ever fix that. Which sucks cause over the years I’ve collected maybe 13,000 band in a box files, and its a pain to find stuff. The Windows version, at least the version I last had on Windows, which I think was 2006, doesn’t have this problem. It finds all files in folders up to like 12,000. AND the interface desperately needs to be “modernized”. Modernized to what, not really sure, but if they made it look more like Garageband or Logic……that would be a start. Floating windows, etc.

In all, this is still an awesome program. The ability to “type” in a chord progression and get a very realistic sounding accompaniment track in pretty much any style (or styles…since you can use multiple styles in a song) with however many choruses in whatever key and tempo you chose…..it’s the best practice tool or play tool I know of. It is well worth the investment. I give it a 10 out of 10.

Seems a friend of mine is going to be involved in a recording session (engineering) involving a pianist and PG Music. Will be interesting to get his view of how they record the stuff.

Synology DS1512+

Years ago, in 2006 I bought a Infrant ReadyNAS NV. The thing has been ROCK SOLID in storing my 2.8 terabytes of archives, music, pdfs, backups. Everything. Love it. Though it is getting long in the tooth. It’s 360mhz processor, lack of software updates, support for just 2 Terrabyte drives, Ext3 filesystem, lack of software support……there is a list of things it doesn’t do that I’d like it to do. Though it has NEVER lost any data. A failed drive? Replace, it rebuilds, and we go on.

So, I decided to upgrade the NV to something new. Not that I plan on getting rid of the NV, but I’d like 2 copies of my stuff. So, I looked into Netgear (who bought Infrant) and their line of NASes. Not really cutting edge. Solid I’m sure. I also looked into Synology. They have a LOT of NASes they sell, and have some amazing software and even iOS apps to monitor the units. SOLD!

So, I get a unit on the 15th of March along with 3 2 terabyte seagate hard drives. Put the drives in, made a volume, updated the Synology software. Everything looked great. Awesome web interface, a speedy 2.1 gigahertz processor, FIVE drive bays. I’m in love.

Next up was to copy my ReadyNAS NV stuff to the Synology unit. I chose to use RSync on the ReadyNAS unit to make sure everything was copied, and that if I did any changes to the NV (cause I was still going to use it while it was backing up) the second pass of Rsync would catch any changes. So, I started the RSync job on Thursdays the 15th.

It finished on Saturday the 24th. It was slow (the ReadyNAS’s fault). The second pass of Rsync took like 20 minutes and caught all the changes I had made. Awesome. Ok, so next up was to power down the ReadyNAS, rename the Synology unit and reboot the Synology unit. Renaming it and rebooting it would make it show up as the old unit on my network and my iTunes share and network paths should, in theory, work without any tweaks.

Disaster…..so, I rebooted the Synology unit. And it never came back. It now blinks a steady BLUE power light. Scanning their support FAQ, if you take the drives out and power it up again, it should blink blue then beep and go solid. It doesn’t. It died. WTF! So, I email their tech support (actually before I did the taking the drives out). Nothing. Seems their tech support doesn’t work weekends…..which I think is unacceptable. I also posted in their forum my plight….seems at least 2 others right now, with newer units, have the same problem. Reboots or power back ons that just hang.

So…..what do I take away from this so far? Synology has shitty tech support. No support on the weekends? At all? Not ONE person in the company can be bothered to check and reply to the emails over the weekend? Terrible. A unit that is a week and 2 days old DIES when you simply reboot it? And I’m supposed to maybe have some sort of reliance on this product?

I would SERIOUSLY, as of right now, NOT RECOMMEND SYNOLOGY PRODUCTS. Go somewhere else. Netgear’s stuff is solid but doesn’t have the bells and whistles of Synology. But at least they have people replying to emails on the weekends and have members of their support staff monitoring and replying to forum posts.

I’m giving this a 0 out of 10 right now. I left a 1 star review on Amazon, and have contacted them through Amazon (still no reply). If it isn’t fixed by Monday, I will be filing a complaint with Amazon to get my money back.

UPDATE 3/29: After several emails with their support, and bitching about it, seems they will ship me another one to replace the unit. I did get the unit up at home on Monday. Passed the self test, and then I powered it down, and put the drives in, and it worked perfectly. So, I powered it down, brought it to my studio….and it did the blinking blue light thing again. I called their support, and they were like “it needs to go back from where you bought it”. And I was like “But I bought it FROM YOU through Amazon”. Ugh. So, after being disgusted on the phone with them, and having the unit completely unplugged again, I plugged it in, and it started working. I powered it down, and put the drives back in, powered it up and it works!

It’s a great little unit when it is working. The software is awesome, including the iOS apps for streaming music. Very cool. And you can remotely stream music as well. VERY COOL. Except that I’m worried about if I have to power it down or turn it off.

So, I’m going to revisit my rating of it. I’m going to give it a 5 out of 10. When the unit runs, it’s awesome. EXT4, awesome web interface, remote access, it’s FAST. However, their quality control seems suspect (a couple of other people on the Synology forums had similar issues with the XX12 series of units) and their tech support leaves a LOT to be desired (no email support over the weekend, no 800 number for support). I’d hold off buying a unit for a few weeks until they figure out what is the matter with these units. I suspect it is some sort of software issue with their DSM4 software.

Review: Just Joe’s Music Saxophone Gel Strap

A saxophonist can never have too many reeds, nor have too many neck straps. Over the years, I have had a plethora of neck straps, ranging from the Ray Hyman strap, to various no-name padded ones, to that newish Rico Strap, various Neotech Straps, and even the Oleg Ergonomic strap.

They all have their good and bad points (well, most of them). For instance, I love the micro-adjustments you can do on the Hyman strap. It’s a great strap for doing Pit work. The Rico strap is great for playing curved soprano (but sorta sucks for tenor), and the Oleg strap is nice, but it gets one’s neck hot and wet and…..that is just not a good thing. The Oleg strap also is a little funky to adjust, and sorta looks like one of those Texas cowboy tie things.

Gelstrap1

Enter the Saxophone Gel Strap. I first heard about it when David Valdez had his Neck Strap Smackdown. And paid a little more attention to it when David supposedly talked about it on SOTW (not a good idea usually) and getting so pissed off that he even did a scientific analysis of how the strap enhances the sound of a saxophone (read both the links to get some background on it) and quit SOTW (bravo sir) in disgust. I guess the arm chair philosophers there will have to find someone else to push around!

Anyhow, so, I finally obtained the fabled strap. Was it like the red sea parting? Rays of light piercing through the clouds? Choirs singing Beethoven’s 9th?

The jury is still out about it’s biblical abilities, but I will say these things so far. First, it is THE MOST COMFORTABLE STRAP EVER. It takes what I hated about the Oleg strap, the lack of padding/adjusting it, and fixed it. Fixed it big time. I mean, the Gel Strap looks nearly identical to the Oleg strap if you have them side by side. But the Gel Strap has an awesome level of padding on it. Plus, it is a lot easier to adjust the Gel Strap than the Oleg one. I think it is the thickness of the cords in the Oleg strap and maybe because mine has a lot of wear on it (it’s probably a decade or more old). But the Oleg Strap has never been a panacea for adjustment. I’ve always hated adjusting the height on it. It was just the most comfortable strap to play tenor with. Well, now the Gel Strap is the strap that is the most comfortable and I’m not bitching about the pain in the butt it is to adjust.

Now, the whole “does it make the saxophone sounds better thing”. I have tried it out for several days now (nearly a week), done a rehearsal on it, taught with it on, and did a gig with it. Did I notice a difference? Yes, I did. Though it is very subtle. For instance, the middle D on my alto seems to ring slightly more than if I played it with the Oleg strap. Or the Neotech strap. In fact, I did have the Oleg and the Gel Strap on at the same time, and switched between them. It is there, that little bit of difference. I think what I really need to do is a recording test of it, to see if it is actually something that is audible or if I am just hearing things.

So, verdict? If you want a really nice strap, and were looking at the Oleg strap (which is great), consider the Gel Strap. They are the same price basically. And get the brass hook version. Actually, if in general you are looking for a strap that is comfortable, won’t make your neck break out like it is in a sauna, then get the Gel Strap. It’s probably double the price of a typical Neotech strap, but it is going to last a long long time, and its way more comfortable. It’s worth the extra money.

Great design, love the padding. The cords and slider for adjusting the strap are vast improvements over the Oleg strap, and the cords are thinner and don’t seem to be made of the stuff like the Oleg one (so maybe they will wear better?). And the brass hook provides a solid, authoritative hold on your horn.

10 out of 10.

Review: EWI Case

Rittercase

I have had an Akai EWI4000S for a while now (5 years? More?) I should probably at some point do a review of it and why you should get the 4000S instead of the crippled USB only version (or maybe that is the review?). But what I can say is that I saw on Amazon the case that I totally love for it, which I had a HELL of a time getting from the Woodwind and Brasswind (backorder hell basically).

 

The Ritter Soprano Saxophone case works great for an EWI. It’s stylish, has enough compartments for your iRig, 1/4″ cable, and power supply. The current cases have a large RITTER logo on them (mine is several years old and doesn’t have that), but the basic design is the same. Check it out.

Ritter Soprano Case 1

Ritter Soprano Case 2

Side note…..if anyone has a line on where to get the clip in battery thing for an EWI 4000S….I need one. Mine is lost.

App Review: Circular Breathing by Walter Beasley

There are a TON of Apps available for iOS. One app, Circular Breathing by Walter Beasley caught my eye after I read about it on a website I subscribe to in my RSS feeds.

Ok, lets get the good stuff out of the way before I start tearing the “App” apart. It’s a fairly good tutorial/demo of how to circular breathe.

Now, the bad stuff. And there is a lot. First, there is this FREAKING ANNOYING intro music for everything. It was cool the first time. But the start of EVERY VIDEO has it. The start of the App has it. Seriously Walter…..it is annoying as all hell.

Second, the App is just basically a shell with some videos that are chapter-ized. The there are three buttons and a “home” icon. The home icon takes you to Walter’s website….how thoughtful. The Video takes you to the videos. The Bio presents you with a scrollable text of Walter’s bio. And the More button takes you to a page where he’s pawning his other “App” Sound Production For Saxophone, his Facebook, Twitter, “Home” (website link) and YouTube videos.

Beasley1

Third, the App does not remember where you were. And it does not orientate. And it doesn’t really support iPad (you have to scale it).

 

So, is it worth the $1.99? I guess….I think Walter should have included higher quality video with it (for iPad). But I think he could have just released this as a paid video for $1.99 instead.

I give it 5/10. You can easily find tutorials about circular breathing on YouTube for free that are as informative if not more. And they don’t have the annoying intro.

Logitech Wireless Boombox

Logitech1

I was in need of a portable speaker for teaching and what not. There are SOO many iPhone/iPod/iPad accessories out there, what one to get?

I decided to get the Logitech Wireless Boombox. It has proven that it performs really really well for me. You can pair it wirelessly (bluetooth) to 8 different devices. In theory that works, but it’s a little flakey in my usage of it. My iOS devices frequently forget or can’t connect to it. Luckily it’s really easy to pair it back up again. Or you can use the included adapter cable to run the audio out of your device into the Boombox. Supposedly the sound isn’t as degraded as it is over bluetooth. I didn’t really notice anything between a wired or wireless audio connection.

The Logitech Wireless Boombox has a built in rechargeable battery. It doesn’t add much weight to the device, and supposedly it lasts about 6 hours. Haven’t tested that. Though the sound quality is quite different when running on the battery. The bass goes away, and the overall sound level drops. When the Boombox is plugged into the AC adapter, it sounds AMAZING for it’s size. Great bass, loud, and generally kicking ass. On battery? Meh….it’s OK…..not great, but do-able.

Could you practice with this? Yes, if it is plugged in. Otherwise, it might not really cut it if you are playing some loud sax or something, but you really want it plugged in all the time because it just sounds a lot better. Almost night and day better.

If you are looking for a portable speaker thing, consider this. The wireless one and the one with the dock are essentially the same thing, except the one with the dock is $20 more (and I think last year’s model).

Mighty Bright Orchestra Light

MightyBright1

 

Inspired by David Valdez’s glowing review of it, I’ll put in my two cents on this light.

If you are looking for a portable, BRIGHT light for your music stand, get this. It is amazing. I’ve been using this for a few months, and I have nothing be good things to say about it. It comes with a case, AC Adapter, and 3 AA batteries. All for about $42 on Amazon.

100,000 hours of life in the LEDs. Comes with batteries, which last something like 20 hours, and a AC adapter with a really long cord. And it’s cheap?

Get it. Now. Click. Buy. Ship. Enjoy.

Top 10 Albums Of 2011

There are a LOT of sites that are posting top 10 albums of the year. I thought I’d post my favorites. In no particular order. There were a lot I left out….:-(

Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band – That’s How We Roll iTunes,amazon. Duh….obviously.

Christian McBride Big Band – The Good Feeling iTunes,amazon. Love that there are more Big Bands starting up and sounding amazing other than the already amazing Gordon Goodwin Big Phat Band.

Alma Adentro: The Puerto Rican Songbook iTunes,amazon. Latin jazz music is awesome, and Miguel is the master of it. Great album.

John Escreet – The Age We Live In iTunes,Amazon Great album with Dave Binney.

Captain Black Big Band – Captain Black Big Band iTunes Another Big Band? Yep.

Tony Bennett – The Best Of The Improv Recordings iTunes,Amazon Haven’t really been a fan of Tony’s. I generally thought his singing was too commercial, to….scripted? Not these recordings. More like Sinatra….which is good.

Omer Avital Quintet – Live at Smalls iTunes,Amazon Great, tight group.

Scott Hamilton & Dusko Goykovich – Tight But Loose iTunes,Amazon I never tire of listening to Scott Hamilton. He is in the top of my favorite tenor players.

Richard Cheese – Live At The Royal Wedding iTunes,Amazon Need a Weird Al jazz person? Except not PC? Then Richard Cheese is your man.

Ken Peplowski – In Search of… iTunes,Amazon Clarinet and saxophone played awesome? Yup. Peplowski is great.

Superscope Elevation (Stay away…..zombies!)

So I get the Jamey Aebersold jazzbooks emails. In their latest “Economic Stimulus Sale!” one, at the bottom something got my interest. Elevation Software play-along offer. Hmm…sounded interesting. So I decided to go to the site, www.superscopetechnologies.com and check it out. Downloaded the demo for Mac…..and then the disappointment happened.

$149 for this piece of crap? That is all I can really think of after using the demo. Let me list the disappointment for you shall I?

1. Drag and Drop works….but not for AAC (m4a files) formatted files. So, anything that you get off of iTunes or perhaps have already ripped into AAC format (which is BETTER than mp3) won’t work with the program.
2. The IMPORT dialogue box is NOT mac like at all. I dunno where they got it, but it looks like a Linux box. So, I don’t have access to my sidebar favorites, nor can I use my Default Folder program to navigate to my files.
3. The program crashes like it is in a demolition derby. I mean, I maybe got it to work twice correctly. And I’m still on 10.6.8.

So, why would I spend this much money when programs like The Amazing Slowdowner, or Transcribe! can do what this program does at half the price. And they don’t CRASH! And support AAC files.

People, avoid this software at all costs. AT ALL COSTS. DO NOT GET IT. STAY AWAY. Imagine it is Zombie-fied and going to eat your brains if you download it.

On a side note, I kind of wish Jamey Aebersold would release his play-alongs in a APP format that includes the books and a way to slowdown/speed up, record, and put the songs in other keys. I think Aebersold is missing and/or has missed the boat in this. Instead of selling physical CDs and books, embrace technology. Make an iPad app that has say volume 1, with the tunes, with a metronome. That perhaps you can drop out the piano and bass or whatever. That you can change the pitch and speed of. That sells for the same price in the App store. You’d sell more, and you would ditch the printing and cd costs. The 30% or something Apple would take is easily less than what it actually costs to make the books, cds, and do the packaging.