Another Brecker Article

The A.P. has another article about Michael Brecker up.

"Brecker, who gave his last public performance in March, had written and arranged the music for a new small ensemble album before he was sidelined, but that project has been put on hold. He will be returning to Sloan-Kettering next week for a second round of chemotherapy and is taking an anti-inflammatory steroid to relieve his muscle pains."

After reading Lance Armstrong’s book about his fight with cancer, Chemo sounds terrible.

Update: 08/25 19:26 GMT by E :Here is another article. Man, it sounds bad. Hang in there Michael!

RIP Jey Clark

From Steve Goodson:

"Jey Clark, owner of Saxology in Berkeley, Ca, passed away last night after suffering a massive stroke on Sunday. I have no other details at this time, but the information was confirmed this afternoon in a conversation with his friend. Jey was a long time friend, a frequent visitor to my home, played his ass off, and made me laugh. I'll miss him."

Once upon a time I tried out some mouthpieces from him (when he ran Four Winds). I believe I have a vintage Berg Larsen alto mouthpiece I bought from his shop over ten years ago. Good guy to deal with as I remember.

Articulation At Fast Tempos

harry63 writes “In slow and medium swing tempos I understand that “off-beat” articulation is used most often (I know there are times of course, that you don’t use this articulation, but I am generalizing on purpose). With fast tempos this articulation can really make your playing sound heavy and tend to drag. I am curious to know what sort of articulation patterns you all use at break-neck tempos?”

EWI Buying Advice

Professor writes “Advice needed: I am an alto player who would like to buy a MIDI wind controller. I read Scott Wilkinson’s May 2001 Electronic Musician piece, which was helpful but provides no buying advice for the uninitiated (and is out of date). Does anyone know where I can try out and/or buy these various controllers (EWI, WX5 or Softwind Synthophone– or the new EWI Brecker was playing recently). Any advice on which one to buy, where to try it, and where to buy it would be greatly appreciated. (I’m on the East Coast). Thanks.”

From what I can tell, the one Michael Brecker has been playing is current is a prototype from Niles Steiner. The Akai 3020s are being produced, but are still hard to find. And it’s really it’s own instrument, as it requires some practice to get used to and sound good on. The best solution right now seems to be the Yamaha WX5 coupled with the Yamaha VL70m. Some sites to check out are:

Michael Brecker Needs Your Help

I received this from Mel Martin.

FROM: Susan Brecker
SUBJECT: Michael Brecker needs your help.


Dear Family and Friends,


My husband, Michael Brecker, has been diagnosed with MDS
(myelodysplastic syndrome), and its critical that he undergoes a stem
cell transplant. The initial search for a donor (including Michael's
siblings and children) has not yet resulted in a suitable match.
Michael's doctors have told us that we need to immediately explore ALL
possible options. This involves getting as many people of a similar
genetic background to be tested.


There are some important points to understand concerning this process:


1. The screening involves a blood test only. It can be done very
quickly either at a marrow donation center or at a LOCAL LAB. The cost
is anywhere from $40 to $75 and your insurance may cover it. (In NYC,
you can call Frazier, at the NY Blood Bank, at 212-570-3441, and make
an appointment for HLA typing. It costs $40.00.) Check with your
local blood bank, or go to http://www.marrow.org to find the donor
center nearest you.

There is a lot more in the email. Read on for more. Poor Michael. Hang in there man!

Update: 07/29 20:52 GMT by E :I’m planning on visiting one of these centers next week. I need to make a trip out to Berkeley to have my new Oboe looked at (I already put a little crack in it :-()

Here is the WHOLE thing again

FROM: Susan Brecker
SUBJECT: Michael Brecker needs your help.


Dear Family and Friends,


My husband, Michael Brecker, has been diagnosed with MDS
(myelodysplastic syndrome), and its critical that he undergoes a stem
cell transplant. The initial search for a donor (including Michael's
siblings and children) has not yet resulted in a suitable match.
Michael's doctors have told us that we need to immediately explore ALL
possible options. This involves getting as many people of a similar
genetic background to be tested.


There are some important points to understand concerning this process:


1. The screening involves a blood test only. It can be done very
quickly either at a marrow donation center or at a LOCAL LAB. The cost
is anywhere from $40 to $75 and your insurance may cover it. (In NYC,
you can call Frazier, at the NY Blood Bank, at 212-570-3441, and make
an appointment for HLA typing. It costs $40.00.) Check with your
local blood bank, or go to http://www.marrow.org to find the donor
center nearest you.


2. Your blood typing information can be posted on the international
registry, if you choose, where it would also be available to others in
need of a transplant. BEING ON THE REGISTRY DOESN'T MEAN YOU HAVE TO
DONATE, it just means that you may be ASKED to do so. You can take your
name off the registry at any time.


3. Should you be selected as a potential donor for Michael, please
understand that there have been tremendous advances in bone marrow
transplants and the term itself can be misleading. Bone marrow
donation is no more invasive than giving blood. Stem cells are simply
harvested from your blood and then transplanted to Michael.


4. A match for Michael would be most likely to come from those of Eastern
European Jewish descent. If you or anyone you know are in this category
please make a special effort to immediately get tested. Ultimately, you
would be doing something not just for Michael, but for so many more who
are in a similar situation as my husband.


5. You are now part of our internet-based drive for donor testing. If
everyone who receives this can motivate a bunch of their friends to get
tested, and those friends then forward this email to get their friends
to get tested, we will have rapidly expanded the pool of potential
donors. I urge all of you to get tested AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.


Any local blood center/Red Cross center can assist in organizing a
drive for Michael, although it would be desirable if you can get a
large group, e.g. a synagogue, to sponsor it. Should you have any
questions about this, please don't hesitate to get in touch with
Michael's management office at 212.302.9200 or info@michaelbrecker.com.


Thank you so much for your love and support.


We are so grateful.


Susan xo


__________________________________________________ _____________
Michael Brecker is 56 and an internationally renowned jazz musician. As
a result of his harmonic innovations, Michael is among the most studied
contemporary instrumentalists in music schools throughout the world
today. Michael has played on hundreds of albums with artists ranging
from Herbie Hancock to James Taylor, from Paul Simon to Frank Zappa to
Quincy Jones, Chet Baker and Bruce Springsteen---and on and on. As a
leader and co-leader of The Brecker Brothers (with Randy Brecker) and
Directions in Music (with Herbie Hancock and Roy Hargrove), Michael has
received 11 Grammy Awards ,more than any saxophonist, ever. For further
information, go to http://www.michaelbrecker.com


Best Regards;


Mel Martin

Valgon Rings

The latest issue of Flute Talk had an Ad on page 37 for Valgon Rings. No no, this is not a strange Star Trek device, nor is it related to the Vogon’s, whom destroyed Earth in Douglas Adam’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. These rings seem to be a serious thing. To quote the ad:

"The Valgon Rings control and stabilize the oscillating air column on the outside of your instrument, resulting in significant improvement in your instruments response."

The website has a mere two endorsements, one from a Doctor at the University of Florida (flute), and some saxophonist named Colleen Allen who, they say, plays with Molly Johnson (?).

Anyhow, the saxophone version seems to be two “rings”, one that goes around the bell, and one that goes around the neck. Not sure the physics of this. Could it be that these rings are converting a saxophone’s sound to be more direct, and hence a “better” sound?

I think if you wanted to do it right, someone should invent some sort of scoup that runs the length of the saxophone. Something that would take the reflected soundwaves from the pads, and focus them forward. But hey, the easiest solution is to put on a reed and/or a mouthpiece that has more bite to it 😉

Michael Brecker’s Health

I heard on the Wind Controller Group that Michael Brecker is suffering from myelodysplastic syndrome, which is:

"Myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) refers to a heterogeneous group of closely related clonal hematopoietic disorders. All are characterized by a cellular marrow with impaired morphology and maturation (dysmyelopoiesis) and peripheral blood cytopenias, resulting from ineffective blood cell production."

Reading on, it does not sound good. More information is here about the disease.

Louis’s website has more information.

Recover quickly Master Michael. And read Lance Armstrong’s book about his fight with cancer. It is an inspiring account.

Update: 07/03 03:37 GMT by E :Mike Mainieri’s site has some more info.

Update: 07/15 05:19 GMT by E :Michael Brecker’s website is saying that Michael is taking a year off to recover. There is info there to send well-wishes and what not.

Garritan Personal Orchestra

I recently bought the Garritan Personal Orchestra as part of a group buy. If you haven’t heard this program, listen to the demos. Good stuff.

Anyhow, I’ve played with it a while, and I feel I can write a review now of it.

First off, you need a LOT of processing power. The requirements in the manual list this:

  • Mac OS 10.2.6 or higher G4 733Mhz
  • Windows Pentium 4/Athlon 2.8 Ghz or better.

Ok, so, knowing this, my 933Mhz G4 was NOT going to run this program. I already knew this from the get go. I prepared my Athlon 2.5 Gigahertz PC to run it (though it is under specs). Defragged the drives, added more memory, and got a M-Audio card. So, the system has 1 gig of ram, a fast 80 Gig hard drive, and Windows XP service Pack 2.

I decided to try a couple of things with it. I loaded up Kontakt player, and loaded up some patches. I chose a string section consisting of the “wet” versions of Violin 1, Violas, and Cellos on channels 1, 2 and 3. I then loaded up a Trombone Section patch, a French Horn patch, and a Trumpet patch. Not a lot of stuff I thought. I played back an arrangement I was working on.

Sound wise, these patches sound great. The strings are awesome. When I layer them with the Strings on my Roland XV2020 and SC8820, it sounds great. The trumpets sound a LOT better than either module’s trumpet patch. The french horns, layered with the other two modules, sound great, as do the trombones. I was in midi-heaven.

Then, I hit a section where, by my counting, I asked the Garritan program to do something I did not have enough processing power for. 3 notes sounding in the Trombones, 3 in the French Horns, 1 in the Trumpet, and 6 notes total in the strings (2 for each, in octaves). It pretty much brought the processor load to 100%, and effective killed the sound generation until I did a ALL MIDI NOTES OFF command.

What does this mean? It means that I need a faster PC to use this program effective. Pentium 4, 3.6Gigahertz or faster. Dual maybe. Dedicated to JUST sound. No virus crap, nada. Just Windows, and a blank, defragmented drive.

My only gripe is that if you use the Kontakt player as a STAND-ALONE, you can’t save all the instruments you loaded. Hopefully an update will fix this.

This program is great, but you need the power to use it. Horsepower. Don’t try it with a G4. G5 might work great, I don’t have one (yet 😉 ). But if you are looking to augment your setup. To take it to another level, get this. Go to Fry’s or something, throw together a FAST PC, get an M-Audio 4096 or something, and enjoy!

9.5 out of 10. .5 deducted for the stupid stand-alone Kontakt player

Resurrecting Performers Via Computer Performance

The NYT has an article entitled ‘Play It Again, Vladimir (via Computer)’ that discusses efforts to transform old recordings into new, computer played performances, by determining how the previous performer made the sounds and redoing it. Further efforts attempt to distill the ‘style’ of a performer and play other scores with the same style. As can be expected, musicologists argue over whether or not the new musical artifact is really ‘a performance’.

Next up, using the genes of dead artists to make current performers, like NSYNC and all those American Idol persons better.

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The Best Neck Strap

I don’t think this has been brought up here. What exactly is the best neck strap? There are a ton out there. I personally use a Ray Hyman strap. But it tends to hurt after a while if I’m not wearing a shirt with a collar 😉 I sometimes also use BG harness instead. Especially if I have to stand.

Oleg has some straps and harnesses. I’m sure there are a lot of others out there as well.

For me, I basically like how I can really adjust the horn level on the Hyman strap. And the hook has yet to fail me. Plus it makes a great weapon (whipping students and fellow musicians). Just someone needs to put some padding on it.

Podcasting

Two days ago Apple CEO Steve Jobs has announced that iTunes 4.9 will include integrated podcast support. The update will let users browse and download podcasts. This is big news.

What? You haven’t heard of Podcasting? It perhaps is the death of internet “radio”. It perhaps is the latest, greatest way to promote your band or tunes. Whatever it is, it’s going to be big. Podcastingnews is one sight that keeps track of what if going on. Another site, iPodder.org has a list of feeds one can get Podcasts for, including some Jazz ones.

What do you think? Is this going to be something of a hit? On demand content that is organized? Could you imagine subscribing to a Podcast from say KCSM and being able to download what they are playing? There are a lot of possibilities and issues to consider….

Update: 06/05 05:37 GMT by E :Here are some more Podcasting Sites:

Keeping Track Of Your Stuff

Being a musician, one tends to gather a lot of “things”. CDs, books, magazine articles, posters, pictures, autographs, etc, etc, etc. How do you keep track of all them?

If you decided to “rip” all your CDs to a program like iTunes, then you have a nice, easy to use list of what you have. But what if you DO NOT or CAN NOT rip all your CDs. Like you don’t have the space, nor really want to have all your stuff on the computer? And what about books?

One answer on the Macintosh is Delicious Library. Using UPC codes found on most everything, it can easily catalog your “stuff”. However, there are some problems……

First, Delicious Library is not the only product out there that can look up and catalog items. Bookpedia, Media Collector, and probably a myriad of other programs on both the Mac and PC. Most all these use some sort of Database to look up the UPC or ISBN numbers off the book. Delicious Library uses Amazon.com to look them up. Some of the other programs can use other databases to look stuff up. Is it necessary? Perhaps…..

Delicious Library can use a bluetooth (ie: wireless) scanner to scan in UPC codes. This works GREAT. It’s very cool. And a HUGE time saver if you have a lot of “stuff” like I do. To scan 200 DVDs, it took about 15 minutes. To scan a couple hundred CDs (451), about 30 minutes. All wirelessly, all right to the computer. However….

Not everything has a UPC code. And not everything has a UPC code that can be found off Amazon.com. If you are part of BMG Jazz club you get CDs that don’t have a standard UPC code. It has some sort of BMG code on it. Resulting in a failed lookup on Amazon. But if it does have a UPC code, it works very very well. CDs I bought in the 90s work. Delicious Library finds it, adds the album art, and info to your collection. Easy.

Books are a mess. 9 times out of 10 the UPC code failed to find the book. However, ISBN numbers 9 times out of 10 WORKED. But you have to enter the ISBN number manually. That is a pain. But it works usually.

Hal Leonard sucks. Just 90% of the books I have from them, have their own custom UPC or they fail to be looked up properly. Shame on you Hal Leonard. If the book has an ISBN, it seems to work mostly. Oh…..and Warner Brothers. You guys are in the same boat. Get the UPCs happening.

Aebersold. Aebersold does not seem to have UPC codes at all. None of the books I own have a UPC. Books like “Around The Horn”, “The Augmented Jazz Scale”, etc have NOTHING. No ISBN, nada. I do think my latest purchase from Aebersold, Vol. 112 – Cole Porter has a UPC on it. It was not found on Amazon.

I’m not going to mention all the other pieces of Music I have that have nothing on it. All those classical Sonatas for Flute/Clarinet/Sax, etc. These are all manual entry things. Not fun.

For people with a lot of stuff that can be bar code read, programs like Delicious Library rock. However, if you have stuff that is NOT bar-coded nor have ISBN numbers, this program is pretty much useless for you. I think if this program could create a printable bar code and increment it, that would make the program 50 times more useable. Or even if it printed a UPC for items (like Books) where the UPC isn’t found. Then this program would be an elegant, functional organizer.

Pro Tools M-Powered

I came across this yesterday. You can now get Protools if you have M-Audio‘s line of interfaces. This is totally cool. 32 Audio tracks, and it ships with 30 plugins. Wow!Downside, it’s $350. Upside, cheapest M-Audio interface is about $99. Still, for the power of the software, this is a huge value. I’d still like to see Digidesign just offer the software for sale to use with any interface. There are so many excellent interfaces out there, including Mackie, MOTU, and Tascam. I think if Digidesign knocked the price of Protools LE down to $299 and have it work with any interface, they could have something going.

M.I.P.A. Winners

mipa Musikmesse International Press Award 2005 posted its winners. Some of the highlights:

  • Best Innovative Product – Apple GarageBand
  • Best E-Drums – Roland TD-12 V-Drums
  • Sound Libraries – Apple Jam Pack (though I’ve heard Garritan Personal Orchestra, and it’s amazing)
  • Mixing Desk (Project Studio) – Yamaha DM-2000 (beat the Mackie Onyx 1640…interesting, though the Yamaha’s list price is $20K compared to about $1800 for the Onyx 1640)
  • Studio Microphone – AKG-C414 B-XLII
  • Recording Software – Cakewalk Sonar 4 (beating out Logic 7 and Ableton Live 4)
  • Recording I/O Devices – MOTU 828 MkII
  • Recording Hardware – Digidesign Protools HD (no surprise)