Monthly Archives: January 2006

Jason, a jazz guitarist in graduate school

Found this on rec.music.makers.guitar.jazz – a graduate student in jazz guitar is blogging on his experiences at Improvisations on a Theme. It’s in the extremely early stages but just might offer some valuable insight into what’s going on at the university level in jazz studies.

I plan to keep an eye on it, and it’s going on the blogroll here in case you (or I) need to find it.

Jody Fisher and "The Art of Solo Guitar"


On my to-buy list is Jody Fisher‘s “Impromptu,” samples of which are available here. Jody has quite a career writing instruction books for Alfred Publishing, and his jazz methods are some of the best around (and I make that claim about very few of the books I see).

While Jody is a prolific teacher and author, he also sounds fantastic. He lives somewhere in Southern California’s desert and gigs a lot in the Palm Springs and Lake Arrowhead area. He’s the closest player out there to the sound of Ted Greene in terms of great chordal voice leading, strong melody and use of artificial harmonics (which Ted took from Chet Atkins, Tal Farlow and Lenny Breau and refined).

I’ve never worked out of Jody’s books before, but he has a new two-volume series, available from his Web site as well as Jamey Aebersold’s site, called “The Art of Solo Guitar,” which aims to teach the skills to IMPROVISE as solo guitarist, creating arrangements and playing over changes on the fly (as opposed to performing a previously written-out, unchanging version).

While there are hundreds of books devoted to teaching single-line improvisation, both specific to the guitar and for other (or all) instruments and perhaps a dozen on how to play solo guitar, there are very few that bring solo guitar and improvisation together. It’s like the old analogy about giving a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day, but give him a fishing pole (and a supply of hooks, bait and fishing line) and he’ll eat for a lifetime. I think there’s value in both the fish and the pole. You can still get a lot out of an arrangement of a standard tune and derive ideas and approaches that will work with other songs, and that way at least you have something to play for people.

But building the nuts and bolts of a technique that can be applied to every tune you see, man that is one hell of a fishing pole.

Does Blogger’s Dashboard work with Internet Explorer 6.0?

Not so well. I don’t think the problem is in the composing of blog posts but in the reading of them via IE 6.0.

Trying to center type or do block quotes in the “compose” mode is an exercise in frustration, and photos that appear at the top of a post often obscure the headline below. It might look OK to users of other browsers, but it looks like hell on IE 6.0.

And type is occasionally not appearing but does show up when you screw with the window a bit.

NONE of these problems happen on the Mac with Safari (which doesn’t support full Blogger functionality). Guess I’ll have to go back to Firefox, even though the Blogger help pages insist that IE 6.0 works just fine (although the Blogger people all use Firefox, so you know which browser gets all the love).

Maybe I’m missing an IE update.

The troubles of KCRW

Chris Douridas, above, from his Web site.

Famous Van Nuys resident Sandra Tsing Loh guest-blogs for Cathy Seipp on the trouble, past and present, of KCRW-FM, touching on her own firing for the expletive that indadvertently reached the air, but centering on the current controversy surrounding Chris Douridas, who is under suspicion of attempted kidnapping and drugging a teenage girl at a Santa Monica bar. (Note to all: L.A. Times is requiring registration these days, but you don’t have to be a subscriber to do it). Sandra’s comment was prompted by the break in the media silence by L.A. Times columnist Megan Daum, who I think was pretty darn kind to all concerned. At one insipid point, this happens in Daum’s piece:

Others, though, are nearly choking on the drool of their schadenfreude. When the news of Douridas’ arrest broke, even the fact that it was buried on page B3 didn’t keep people from circulating e-mails filled with catty conjectures about who might be next. What if Daniel Schorr was caught shoplifting at Wal-Mart? Imagine if Terry Gross was nabbed on Sunset Boulevard in a compromising position with Divine Brown. Imagine!

Is she outing Terry Gross here? That aside, the whole paragraph trivializes a serious matter — potential kidnapping and rape of a child. If I was her editor (and I am not), I would kick that one right back with a “What are you thinking?” note.

However, Sandra hits it right:

KCRW, of course, has a long history of removing people from the air any time for any reason. After (was it?) 10 years, Ruth (Seymour, who runs the station)
recently thought afternoon announcer Cindi Burke’s voice suddenly sounded funny — gone. Joe Frank has a horrific story to tell about being fired by Ruth just before his new series was scheduled to start, with the twist that KCRW then issued a statement that Joe had decided to take a voluntary leave for health reasons. . .

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere (aka: in LA Times), I came of age in a time when KCRW’s signature broadcaster was Joe Frank, a writer who spoke openly to us, across the ether, about our deepest, darkest, weirdest, most embarrassing, and at times most hilarious predilections. When he satirized KCRW’s own pledge drives (“Do you enjoy long moonlit walks on the beach in Bali? Do you. . . ? Do you. . . ? Sorry–in fact no, you DIDN’T win the Bali sweepstakes”), it was the break in the sonic wash that gave KCRW, for me, a kind of. . . call it a kind of three-dimensional personality. It was something recognizably human.

My “relationship” with public radio in general, and KCRW in particular, is, for want of a better word, fragmented. I do listen to a lot of public radio, but my listening time is divided between KCRW, KPCC, KKJZ and KCSN, and I’m mostly trying to catch NPR news and jazz or classical music (the latter two of which barely appear on KCRW and are nonexistent on the mostly talk KPCC). So I was happy to see Sandra’s commentaries picked up by KPCC, including the new “Loh Down on Science” (am I spelling that right?), produced by Loh’s alma mater Caltech and which airs at 9:20 a.m. weekdays in the middle of “Day to Day” on 89.3.

I’ve blogged recently on the salaries of top public radio on-air talent, and I don’t know where Douridas falls in this spectrum. But he went from host of the daily “Morning Becomes Eclectic” to a much-lower-profile weekend shift, supplementing his income all the while by doing soundtrack supervising and other record-company work. While not disturbing as alleged kidnapping, the fact that most of the big KCRW DJs (including Nic Harcourt and Tom Schanbel) have outside jobs in the record industry is a giant red flag (as in conflict of interest). Especially if you’re dragging in $100k from the station, do you really need to be supervising soundtracks or doing A&R?

I don’t know Ruth Seymour or any other KCRW employees for that matter, but it’s pretty clear from listening to the station and reading about it that the whole operation is basically Seymour’s personal fiefdom. It may be a “public” station, it may be housed at Santa Monica College, but Seymour is firmly in control of it. One thing’s for sure, the station’s profile has risen tremendously under her tenure. It’s a big business that drags in a lot of money from listeners and corporations. I don’t know if this is good or bad, and I don’t really doubt that the public interest is being served to some extent, but I sure do miss Cindi Burke and Joe Frank.

I also miss the great jazz shows I remember from the ’80s — “Smoke Rings,” and “Straight, No Chaser” (although I can’t for the life of me remember which one aired on KCRW and which was on KPFK). I also think it’s a crime that Marian McPartland’s excellent “Piano Jazz” has no L.A. outlet.

But it all comes down to this. I don’t have cable TV, so for news it’s all about NPR in the car. As long as the “Morning Edition,” “All Things Considered” and “Day to Day” keep flowing, I’m reasonably happy.

Other things I love about public radio: Chuck Cecil’s “The Swingin’ Years,” on KKJZ and KCSN (no, I’m not 80, I just act like it), KPCC’s Larry Mantle (he deserves his $100K) and Kitty Felde, Les Perry’s “British Invasion” show on KCSN, Chuck Southcott’s KKJZ bop program on weekend mornings and afternoons, those “Car Talk” guys, Terry Gross (gay or not) and “Fresh Air,” the fact that “Day to Day” is produced in Los Angeles (or is it Culver City?), the entire KPCC news team, KCRW’s “Left, Right and Center” (so that’s where I know Robert Scheer from).

Modular, baby

Andrew at Here in Van Nuys has this ultra-cool Van Nuys-manufactured KitHaus entry. These prefab structures are so freakin’ cool, it hurts — you can make lots of different dwelling configurations and bolt them together. A bit pricey though, the free-standing one-module model is $59,500, and that doesn’t include all the work you have to do to get electrical and plumbing in there.

I’ll see YOU over on the couch


I turned on the charm, laid back these flappy ears and wagged my tail, and damn if someone didn’t spring me from the joint! It’s very exciting. I hope they have a decent couch, or at least sprung for an Isaac Mizrahi dog bed from Target. Funny thing, though, I went to lick my nuts this morning and they’re gone! What do you make of that? Oh well. I have to concentrate my efforts on finding someone’s bed to sleep in at night, and endearing myself into some really expensive chow, or even better, table scraps. Then I can go look for my nuts. See ya!

Get me outta here!


I’m at the East Valley Shelter, ID #A771906, and you can find me at http://www.petharbor.com, East Valley Shelter site. I will be ready for adoption in 2 days. TWO long days. I was found with no tags, and despite signs no one has come for me.

I’m part Chihuahua, part dachsund and maybe some mini-pinscher, which accounts for my outstanding good looks.

I have my jingle bells, they need to come off because at the moment I would hump absolutely anything. The shelter will be taking care of that. I love everyone though. Well, except cats, and birds, and well, the idiots who found me weren’t pleased that I tried to chase and eat their pets. They won’t let anything bad happen to me and are monitoring me, but who needs them anyway, they can keep their overgrown bastard of a cat and little yellow bird. Take me home, feed me something, hold me because I like that, and I will be your best buddy. I am housetrained, very well mannered and love every person I meet. Look at this face, would I lie?

How badly do you want to play that tune?

That’s the question I’m asking myself regarding the two posts below on chord-melody arrangements. I’m at the point where I don’t want to put time into learning tunes that I’m not excited about. So that makes me less than excited about putting work into the pre-written arrangements I mentioned earlier. Forgetting transposition into other keys, I want to at least begin by playing in the songs’ original keys. So I need to keep working on “How High the Moon,” and think of some modern tunes that could be done solo on the guitar. I’m looking through a fake book now for candidates and trying to pick things that don’t modulate so much.

In other news, I pulled all the guitars out last night to see how they’re doing physically. Is anything falling apart more now than before? The Goya classical’s back is still coming off near the bottom, but that’s pretty much status quo. Everything else checks out. The ES-175 bridge is still tilting slightly (turns out that string pull can do that with a floating rosewood archtop bridge), so I’ll have to loosen the strings and straighten it out. I want to measure first so I have a snowball’s chance of getting the intonation set right, since that guitar is surprisingly flawless in that regard (unusual for a fixed, compensated bridge).

Ilene is here

Thanks to Ilene, my much better half, for writing about Vista Ford and the Woodland Hills area way back when. Anything past Encino seemed like a foreign country to me in the 1970s, and there were certainly no pastures of any kind in Van Nuys and North Hollywood at that time.

Look for Ilene’s other blogs, Drawerspace in a Cluttered Mind and Food Smack for more good writing, including her master’s thesis on antioxidants in rooibos tea, a noncaffeinated beverage from South Africa. (Nothing is perfect, unless you don’t like caffeine — and in that case, what’s wrong with you?) Rooibos is surprisingly good-tasting, especially the unfermented or “green” kind. Since rooibos means red bush (at this rate I’ll be speaking Afrikaans by morning), green red-bush tea, as a beverage name, would seem to pose a marketing problem. I also say this because we can only find one kind of green rooibos on the shelves, and that is a rooibos-honeybush blend made by Numi that Whole Foods carries. Try it — it’s probably one of the best herbal teas out there.