Category: Piano Playin’


HAVING A GREAT TIME AT SXSW!

What a great town, what a great scene, what great music! Kudos to Music Think Tank

HOW TO GET ALL THE CRED OF PLAYING AT SXSW WITHOUT THE TIME AND EXPENSE

We’re No Longer Puzzled

Christopher Kent

Chris Kent has finally made it to YouTube!

For a number of years I’ve been recording piano tracks for various artists at Bill Filer’s studio, and one guy who’s given me a lot of work and credit, and has always been a pleasure to record with is Chris Kent.
Who is this guy?
His songs are intelligent and humorous, and his meticulous attention to detail is always guarantees a great recording. For this project he pulled out all the stops, enlisting some of State College’s top musicians to get everything right – which you can hear in the recording.

There’s jazzman Steve Bowman on saxophone, smooth-as-silk Pete Jogo on bass, Grammy-nominated Jack Wilkinson on drums, and the legendary Andrew Jackson on congas.
Plus, Chris called up some of the best voices in the area to be his choir: Kate Twoey, Trace Baker, David Whitmer, Stacy Tibbets, Ray Najjar, Morgan and Margaret Higgins, Linsdey Lane Lorefice, and Lynn Yost.

The song/video “Piece Of The Puzzle” is actually just one part of a larger project which ties together a 12-song CD and a book, “Staying Off The Wheel Of Misfortune.” The book’s pretty cool, nicely written and full of great advice that’s hopefully going to help keep me away from a bad ride.

Find all you need to know at ChristopherKent.com

Dancing With The Stars fires Longtime Band
Apparently a well-directed group of highly-trained musicians is not cool or hip enough for today’s younger TV viewers, who, according to highly-crunched data, polling algorithms, and ABC executive Lisa Berger, prefer machine-made dance music and DJs spinning mp3s. And there was also something about an 18-piece big band not being able to adequately cover songs by that ballroom dancing favorite, The Clash.

DWTS Will Sound Different in 2014
Trouble: Big Band Arrangements of Pop Tunes

Of course, I’m showing my age by using words like “cool” and “hip,” so the DWTS bean counters aren’t worried about my demographic anyhow. OK, so I never really watched the show, but I don’t like it when fellow players lose a gig for any reason other than doing boneheaded musician things.

Perhaps this is just an extension of today’s prevalent attitude that music should be free, that musicians don’t need to be paid to perform. Just give away the recordings, and we’ll buy the t-shirt. (Throw in a free sticker, too).

2013 >>> 2014

Of course I’m playing for New Year’s Eve!
This will be the 5th year in a row that I’ve had the pleasure of ringing in the New Year with Maxwell Strait and all our Phyrst Phriends. It’s been a real honor to share the stage with my amazingly talented bandmates: Molly Countermine, Rene Witzke, Ted Mccloskey, and Jack Wilkinson. Thanks so much for all the great music and great friendship. See y’all tonight!
Maxwell Strait's photo.

Drawbar Organ Voicings

OK, this post is just for me so I can easily find this webpage again. But if you’re curious, “drawbars” are the sliders on a Hammond B3 organ (or a Korg CX3 in my case) that you pull out or push in to mix the sound. Each drawbar corresponds to a particular tone or overtone, similar to a pipe organ. Most electric organs have 9 drawbars, and by pulling them out to different lengths you can create many different sounds.

The webpage I’m linking to has a list of many popular settings, such as the one used by Booker T for playing “Green Onions.”

Drawbar organ voice setting library provided by Keyboard Service.

The History of New Orleans Piano in 8 Minutes

This guy! Jon Cleary is the heir apparent to Dr. John, in my opinion, and this video demonstrates why. He effortlessly runs through a litany of piano styles, showing an easy mastery of each. I’ve been fortunate enough to have seen him several times on the Bluescruise, and he is truly amazing. There are so many things in this video that I try to emulate in my playing, but I still have a long way to go. Click and enjoy!

Just Another Sunday…

Sunday’s jam got CRAAZY! I knew it was going to be good when I walked in just in time to see the Steelers roast the Ravens. And there was more heat when John Guyer brought his funky guitar to the stage, along with his harp-blowing-guitar-ripping friend Dave. Trevor twanged out some sweet riffs, and Anthony tore up the eight wires on his Schecter for maybe(?) the last time before he ships back Down Under. Jon and Nate thumbed some serious four-string bottomness while Joel & Josh & Arup kept a steady Mojo working.

But the joint really got to jumping when Natascha & Jackie & Joy & Eric put their voices to the microphones, powered by Cheech taking out his Ravenous frustrations on Stubby’s skins.

Of course, we couldn’t do it without Nolan keeping our glasses filled along with Phil’s tasty concoctions sliding out of the kitchen.  Sure beats sitting on the the couch tube-watching.

Just Another Week in Happy Valley

Rolling along, watching the leaves change, and playing music. Already have one rehearsal and two piano lessons out of the way, now it’s time for gigs.
Happy Valley Sunflowers
Thursday @ The Governors’ Pub in Bellefonte, 6:30-9:00. Stop in after the BHS Homecoming Parade; be sure and wave Hi to Grand Marshall Patti Hilliard, a fellow classmate.
Also Thursday @ The Phyrst w/Maxwell Strait, 10:30-2:00. Laying down the grooves w/Molly Countermine, Ted McCloskey, Rene Witzke, and Jack Wilkinson. Yes, we will rock you.

Friday @ Zeno’s w/The Triple A Blues Band, 7:00-9:00 – Serenading the PSU Homecoming Parade. If I wasn’t playing I’d be marching with fellow alumni in the Penn State Glee Club, along with Bill Besecker.

Saturday, PSU Homecoming – and I don’t have a gig. Really. What the hell am I going to do? Anybody need a piano player this Saturday?

Sunday we’re Jammin’, Jammin’, Jammin’ at the Darkhorse Tavern, 8:30-11:30. Bring your axe, sign in, and play some tunes. we welcome anyone willing to get up on stage. PA and backline (drums, keyboards, guitar and bass amps) all ready to go.

Thanks to WPSU for featuring my essay on “This I Believe”.
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Like most people, I get to feeling bad from time to time about one thing or another. Things don’t always go my way, and the march of daily disappointments often leaves me in the dumps.

But what gets me through the blues is music — music simply called “The Blues.” Blues music emanates from the roots of our difficulties. It’s music that has its genesis in the blood and sweat and toil of men and women who worked hard in the dirt and the dust and the mud and the grime of fields and forests long ago; men and women for whom music was one of their few salvations.

Some people still work like that, but many more of us in this day and age do our work sitting on our butts, talking on the phone, staring at a screen, pecking away at a keyboard. Now, I happen to love my work – pecking away at a piano keyboard. It’s not backbreaking hard labor. But I still get the blues, and playing blues music helps me deal with the bad stuff that inevitably happens.

The rhythms and chords and scales of the Blues may seem simple, but to me the sound of the Blues is as complex and contradictory as our lives. Minor melodies of experience play against major chords of desire, over a groove that pushes fast and pulls slow, creating a harmonic richness full of dissonance and resolution. I find great joy and satisfaction in hearing and playing through these moods of the Blues.

The stories this music tells are those of the human experience: our woes and sorrows, our joys and triumphs. When I play the Blues, the music has a way of distilling complicated troubles. It addresses the thing that’s really getting me down and brings it to light, allowing me to sing and dance in its face. When BB King cries “The Thrill is Gone,” Charles Brown warns about “Bad Bad Whiskey,” and Otis Spann proclaims “It Must’ve Been the Devil,” I know I’m not alone. Someone else has suffered just as I have.

The Blues also brings me together with a community that is not distinctly liberal, conservative, religious or secular. Rather, it is all those things. It is universal – everybody gets the Blues. There are Blues lovers and musicians all over the world who support live performers, listen to Blues radio stations, go to Blues festivals, form Blues Societies. They publish magazines, create podcasts, sponsor competitions, and present awards.

They do this because the Blues means something to them and the music speaks to their soul – just like it speaks to mine.

So whenever something gets me down, I get down to the roots of American music and rejoice in the immortal words of Little Milton who sang, “Hey Hey – the Blues is all right, Hey Hey – the Blues is all right.”

So yes – I believe in the Blues.

Jammin’

I play some really cool gigs every week, and hosting the music jam at the Darkhorse Tavern on Sunday nights has become one of the coolest, because of all the great folks who come to play. And also, because a lot of music lovers come out just to see and hear their friends play.

We start each gig playing 2 or 3 tunes as the house band, (keyboards, drums, and bass), then other musicians are called up to join us, or to take over one of our instruments.

Sometimes other pro players come up to play, often its someone’s first time on stage, mostly it’s just folks trying to have some fun playing music onstage in front of a crowd.

We call it a Music Jam because anybody can come up and play what they know, be it jazz, country, pop, rock – whatever they enjoy, whatever they feel comfortable with. But mostly we jam on the Blues because 1) that’s what I like to play, 2) the house band IS a Blues band, and 3) the Blues has a framework that’s generally easy to follow even if you don’t know the song.

John Wise jams at the Darkhorse Tavern, July 28, 2013.
Last Sunday’s Jam had a great turnout as usual, but I’m sorry to say it was the last jam with John Wise, piano player with The Gill Street Band, The Project, and many other great groups. He’s leaving to take a job in upstate NY, and will be sorely missed here, not just because he’s a good piano player, but he could get up and run the Jam himself, giving me a little break. I know he’ll find some good musicians at his new home, so the music won’t stop. And, he’ll be welcome back here in the piano chair anytime.