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Monday, April 08, 2013

Did You Bring Me A Monkey?



Unorganized Hancock is back, larger than life, and twice as loud. Amazing to me what the kids have been able to do with a little bit of hardware and software thrown in. I had nothing to do with this, except pressing the big PHD button on the camera. PHD stands for "Push Here, Dummy."

The Spare Heir is trying to get the hang of playing with his sticks held in the traditional grip, instead of the matched grip like a rock drummer. He likes videos of Jo Jones and Joe Morello, so he wanted to give it a try. He's using sticks that resemble a bundle of chopsticks, which make a nifty stand-in for brushes.

The Heir fished out my ancient trombone, which I tried to explain to him before -- that's plumbing, not music, son.  He doesn't listen. He's gotten weary of looking for bass players and learned to play bass pretty passably himself in the last couple months. He's playing my old bass, the one I told you about in this essay -- er, sentence. 

If you've been living under a pop rock for fifty years, and don't recognize the song they're playing, it's So What by Miles Davis. It's one of the most important recordings of any kind ever made. We try to teach our children cultural literacy. Pop music is fine, and it can be sophisticated now and again, or more along the lines of I'm Henry The Eighth I Am, but very little pop music is important musically, lyrically, or culturally. People need peanut butter sandwiches as well as pate, so there's no harm in it, really. But pop musicians that think they're saving the world are absurd, and need to be told so, regularly.

In 1959, Miles Davis, who had been bopping hard up until that time, decided to try something new. He thought that jazz had become too dense, chordally complicated, too filigreed. He switched it up completely, and made a modal jazz record, called Kind of Blue. I'm hard pressed to come up another example groundbreaking  and earthshaking as it was in its time, and after.  Maybe Paul Whiteman playing George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue in New York in the twenties. It's rare that someone is able to turn the musical world on its head.

The Heir painstakingly learned to play the trumpet solo on his guitar. It was the hardest part of this for him to play, though it sounds sort of rudimentary. It's a great education for a player. Guitar players have a tendency to play things that fall under their fingers on their instruments easily. It's human nature. But if you learn music originally played on other instruments, you're playing pure music. Miles was just wandering up and down a scale, followed by another scale, and those scales are superimposed over two chords. That's what modal music is. The bass playing on that record is very fine, and it was a great education for him, too.

The Heir is named Miles, by the way.

[Many thanks to everyone that's supported the boys' efforts over the last year. Your support is paying off, though perhaps that's not for me to say. You decide. There's a tip jar in the right hand column for them if you're so inclined. Links to their video are much appreciated as well]

[Update: Many thanks to Mr. and Mrs. Thud from Old Blighty for supporting the boys!]

[Up-Update: Many thanks to the lovely Julie from Florida for sending the boys some green courage]

Up-Up-Update: Many thanks to Barbara M. from scenic California for helping the boys out. She suggests a mandolin. I'll go along with anything that isn't the bagpipes]

[Updates, the Continuing Saga: Many thanks go to Leslie G. from A Z for supporting the boys!]

[Updates, We Haz Them: Our thanks go out to Kathleen M. from CT for her constant support and encouragement]

[Updates, We Got Updates:David R. from Cal-if-forn-I-A is generous with his wallet and his advice. Many thanks. He wants The Heir to buy a 5-string bass, though, but I think he has too many stings already, and have been thinking of removing the G string. Maybe we should compromise, and have him play a 4-string bass.]

[Updates Roll On: Many thanks to Paul H. from the Lone Star State for helping the boys out, and saying pleasant things, too]

[Right Up-To-Date Update: Melissa K. From Tejas is very generous. Many Thanks! There appear to be a lot of nice people in Texas]

14 comments:

julie said...

Did you hear a distant clapping sound just now? That was me, giving a standing O from way down in Florida.

I love the way Miles carries himself while standing there with the trombone. Looks like he's enjoying being there. And for some reason, it cracks me up to think that during recording, all anybody else must have heard was those two notes, without any context.

Once again, well done!

Leslie said...

Fine plumbing, and the rest is so impressive. The quality of production, of performance, and of course, the music, is staggering. I know you are busting your buttons. I am, and I have never met them!

Sam L. said...

Them teenage triplets must be eatin' you outa house and home! So skinny!

The one with the bone, now, I'm hearing nothin' while he's movin' the tube. I'm jest hearin' the gitfiddle. Looks good doin' it, though. Rest of the boys sound really good.

Shirley Eucantbeserious said...

Every new UH upload surpasses the last. It's so much fun watching the guys grow and progress. I know most of my contemporary musical education came from emulating (read: ripping off) folks who I admired and had gone before. I think it's how most of us grew our chops. With Miles and Brubeck on their song list, they have a very wide horizon indeed. Best wishes.

Pk said...

The older one has an amazing sense of how he looks on camera. Two thirds of our Congress can not do as well.

Anonymous said...

Bagpipes ROCK!

There was a musician (piper?) that stopped at the local mall, leaving his bagpipes in the backseat. Suddenly he remembered, he hadn't locked the doors. In a panic, he ran back out to his car...too late. Someone had already left another set of bagpipes on the seat.

Brad Ervin

Kathleen M said...

Amazing UH video! Talented, smart, and handsome young men.

People....don't dis the bagpipes! True they are of vacuum-cleanerish sound, but they can be fun too. Check out the Red Hot Chilli Pipers..."bagrock". Yup, good!

Anonymous said...

OK, first of all let me say that this is the most amazing thing I've ever seen on the internet. What a triumph!!!
Exceeded even my incredibly high expectations-
Sadly, I used to play this song in college in the jazz band, just not half as good.
I could listen to "Blue in Green" on repeat for the rest of my life and never want for anything else.
D

benjaminthomas said...

I still remember the one where the heir was first (?) allowed to play with you and your old bandmates. The progression has been simply amazing.

And to find two other heirs show up on your doorstep must have been quite a (lovely) surprise!

The spare is marvelous -- not just talented, but some kind of "stage presence" too.

dadofhomeschoolers said...

Donnerwetter that's fine.

DoHS

Sam L. said...

How 'bout them pipes in AC/DC's song "It's a Long Way To The Top (If You Wanna Rock 'n Roll)"?

razorbacker said...

I suppose that you realize, of course, that you're bringing up a two man Wrecking Crew?

Good for you. Good for them.

Just good. For general principles.

Cletus Socrates said...

Just realized Unorganized Hancock is a Maine thing - a place name and not an attitude. Good work kids, btw.

Gringo said...

Playing three instruments. Amazing. Not to mention having the video/recording skills to put them together.

Would that be Herbie Hancock, Butch Hancock, or General Winfield Scott Hancock?