Monthly Archives: August 2013

Back to the MUSIC!

Her antics are not even worth talking about…

 

In fact, I delayed this blog post by one day to let all the nonsense die down (a little), although I made sure I did talk to my two youngest daughters, especially my 13 year old, who as a singer, songwriter and actress, has her sight firmly set on the entertainment industry.

 

We talked about the huge importance of maintaining Christ-like values and Godly principles and upholding the expectations of your parents, family, fellow believers and even of those coming behind you, most of whom may regard you as a role model when your star shines.

 

True Artists recognize this responsibility and most are keenly aware that they NEVER have to take their clothes off or oversexualize anything to gain (or keep) an audience, if their artistry is pure.

 

I remember MTV’s debut. I was young enough to see it as an extension of every artist’s expression, but wise enough to view it as a means of robbing me of my own interpretation and experiences that merely ‘listening’ to the song brought about. I gladly championed MJ, Rick James and Prince as they burst onto a blatantly white playlist and I felt instinctively that Madonna’s ‘sinfamous church‘ scene meant things would only get worse.

 

And worse also included the plunge into ‘Aesthetics Only’ Artistry, where video budgets skyrocketed and as a result, there HAD to be video awards shows that celebrated directors and creative concepts.

The music no longer mattered.

 

Would India Arie alone be able to free us from a mu-sick business steeped in Beautiful Faces & Hot Bods addicted to Auto Tune? Rob Pilatus would take his life because the myth of singing on his own record could not stand up against the weight of a public who celebrated “the look” but scorned the dirty truth their own appetites created.

 

So one by one they undress. All of them. The Once Innocent surrenders to Indecency – which eventually warps into a burgeoning rage of total desecration. On Camera. In front of the Children.

It’s not about the music anymore…at least not on the big stage.

 

The real truth is that Music IS Alive & Well! There are hundreds of thousands of wonderfully unsung musicians and artists who love and marvelously express their art in every nook and cranny of every city throughout the world. Our responsibility is to seek them out. Support Them. Encourage Them. Buy Their Music. Attend Their Concerts and by doing so, show the gatekeepers that it’s the music that matters most of all. 

 

It’s the Music.

Your Comments are ALWAYS Welcome!

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Are You ALIVE???!!

On the surface, the answer seems quite obvious, “Why yes, by virtue of the fact that I can view this post, hear sounds about me and breathe consistently naturally validates my existence today!”

But my question, especially for Creative People & EntreMusicians really begs a deeper, more thoughtful investigation. At the heart of the query lies the vast reservoir that contrasts our beating hearts with our being truly ALIVE! To thoroughly engage such a proposal means you must probe a few serious issues:

Are You continually walking in Your Calling & Purpose or have you compromised the desire of your heart for less than fulfilling endeavors?

OK, maybe that was tooooo deep…let’s try and simplify.

When You awake and Your feet hit the floor, are you excited to begin your day?

Does Your Heart beat regularly with Anticipation or Anxiety?

Is there a Twinkle in Your Eye as you move forward in your creative endeavor?

Are You Excited or Agitated about the necessary risks involved in taking Your Show to the Big Stage?

Do you navigate through Your day with Confidence and Calm Authority?

Can You consider Your Life & Your Work ‘Blessed to be a Blessing’ to Others?

Are You Smiling Right Now???

As Creative People, this is the interrogative process we must periodically explore, because many of us must hold down a “day job” while balancing family and other obligations – often before we make time to explore the true declarations that define us. For the EntreMusician, It can get really rough, so much so that the lack of joy spills over into our music, and instead of being a source of inspiration to our audiences, we just want to get through the set list!

So, I want to encourage you to take the next 30 days to explore becoming completely ALIVE again!!! A Vibrant, Life Loving, Fruit Bearing, Exhilarating, Soulful Artist!

Too Deep?? Well Maybe, but who cares?!?!

When You’re ALIVE, Everything and Everyone Around comes to Life!

Here’s my tip: As I often do toward the end of summer, I begin to realign my “Life Plan” for the coming year.

Here’s a very cool link from a brother I admire, Michael Hyatt. He’s like my ‘Online Mentor.’ I follow his blogs and listen to his podcasts often. I trust you will check him out too at http://michaelhyatt.com/. The link to his incredible Creating Your Personal Life Plan e-Book is http://bit.ly/1bPndda – you will thank me (and make sure you sign up for his newsletter and thank him!)

After you’ve downloaded Michael’s link, come back and comment on this post and share YOUR Life Plan! What are Your Thoughts and Strategies for Living a More Prosperous Life? I would Absolutely Love to Connect with You!

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THE MEANING OF LIFE (Part 2)

As I personally reflected on the Music & Magic of the incredible George Duke in my last post, I listed elements I routinely observed in each project, be it a solo album or his production of another artist. Remaining equally personal here, in that I was weaned on and grew up cherishing his approach, I wish to convey how these elements have helped to shape me as a man, a songwriter and producer. For those of you familiar with SounDoctrine music, you may have noticed similarities in what we were trying to accomplish (In fact, I was really trying to model “Follow The Rainbow” on our debut, “Perseverance.”) You can bet that my future projects will be more definitely based upon the Duke standard that a generation of musicians have relied upon for inspiration!

Total Freedom

Absolute Exploration

Continual Growth

Regal Generosity

Eager Inspiration

Leaving a Lifetime Legacy

George Duke was a Free Man! You heard it in his soaring falsetto. You lived it in his lilting solos. He dwelt in a continuum that defied description. Radio formats could not contain him. Categorization refused to define him. His ability to simultaneously produce pop, rock, funk hip hop, soul, jazz and in some cases, classical, on put them on the same album was legendary. You never missed a beat! It was sheer ingenuity to release “Sweet Baby” as a single on the first Clarke/Duke Project, when we ALL were expecting the entire album to be saturated with funk soaked fusion, sweat and spit. The duos choosing to put a blistering counter melody line underneath the party chant on “Oh Oh” (Clarke/Duke 3) gave both the die hard musician and the general audience all they needed. Of course, George had long perfected this technique on his ultra anthem “Reach For It” as Byron Miller blew the doors off the party with that “funkay-ace” bass solo. And who, other than Uncle George would name a magical wonderland of a song, “Stupid Is As Stupid Does” ??  Total Freedom!

The Fearless Exploration that Duke brought to a project begins with the first note. His intros were an invitation to strap in for the ride. This album was going to take off and you should join us! The interludes and outros are reminders that this album was an experience, not just a few grooves chained together! The previous  – or next – album in your line up could be Stevie, EWF or even Herbie (geniuses all) but Duke’s album would maintain a respectful distance with the appropriate understanding that you would soon be back for another romp.

As a synthesist, The George Duke approach, founded in Moogs & Arp Oddeseys, were excursions into zones we still cannot explain. I have heard many GREAT keyboardists mimic and play Duke solos “note for note,” but ‘something’ was always missing. It was his explorative spirit that moved you, as he bent, twisted and blended notes…always reaching…

…Always Growing. The outstanding Eric Zobler, who is as essential to the Duke sound as any musician, helped create the sonic space for George to soar. The commitment to the technology, the advanced precision and complete unorthodox thinking propelled the mastermind. George wasn’t content to release a “cookie cutter” album. His DNA and composite formula remained intact, but his expression would always exceed our expectations. You could literally ‘feel’ his growth in each experience. He’d never sit on his laurels in spite increasing success. The last project was yesterday’s news, Check THIS Out!

Duke didn’t blow a horn about giving. He simply gave. Of himself. His resources. His time. His spirit. A total extrovert on stage, George was quite the private soul elsewhere, but there are countless testimonies from musicians, artists and fans who stated that he routinely went above and beyond into pouring into them exactly what they needed in that moment, whether spiritually, emotionally or otherwise. Mr. Duke was Royalty personified.

If you listened, you learned. As you learned, you were stretched, confronted, overwhelmed…eagerly inspired. How could you possibly be the same after digesting “No Rhyme, No Reason,” “The Alien Succumbs to The Macho Intergalactic Funkativity of The Funkblasters,” “Pluck,” “In Between The Heartaches,” “Change The World” or “Trust” – Answer Me!!! How could you be the same?? And You Know I could go on and on, song after song.

I commented on the sheer output of his music in 40+ years and only time will reveal the music yet to be released. Like Ellington, Miles, Monk, Coltrane and so many others that jazz holds dear, George Duke’s life will continue to mystify us and cause us to probe deeper into all he said, sang and played. He was leading us, surely and steadily, as he journeyed along. The inclusion of “Trippin” (and listen to the lyrics of “Marin City” right before you play that), “Missing You” &  “Happy Trails” on “Dreamweaver” explained it all. He too would be leaving soon – and if we ever got lonely for him, he advised we put on one of our favorite GD CDs and there he’d be, just as he’d always was.

My “Duke-A-Thon” continues…Image

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THE MEANING OF LIFE (PART 1)

Reality has finally set in.

George is gone and although I will be reliving a lifetime of memories during my all out Vinyl and CD “Duke-A-Thon,” the fact remains that I am now forced to mention him in the past tense.

I called several people and several others called me, just to check on each other and to see, if possibly, we were overreacting in our emotions – but we are sincerely grieving. Mourning as if we’ve lost a close member of our own family, praying for his and wondering how Stanley Clarke is holding up. Thoughts. Tears. Silence. Disbelief. Music.

This post is not meant to be morbid. But it will be deep. You may not understand, unless you experienced your first honest to goodness wet kiss as a 14 year old male, while squeaking your awful falsetto to “Say That You Will” or experiencing near paranoia and looking over your shoulder every other minute hoping Craig’s big brother Marty wouldn’t catch the two of you in his record collection, putting adolescent finger prints all over “The Aura Will Prevail” for the 50th time. Chris remembers being locked in my bedroom for hours on end studying every single measure, note, beat and rhythm of “Reach For It,” “Don’t Let Go” & “Follow The Rainbow” – lifting the needle over and over again to dissect our favorite parts. Why, I can recall my own uncle doing the same thing to “I Love The Blues, She Heard My Cry” while I watched as a small nine year old (which is what I’m listening to as I write this.) Deep Indeed!

I simply cannot overstate the importance Duke and his music has played in my life. From my earliest recollections, to some of my most important experiences, like blasting his music in my first car to high school graduation to getting married and introducing my daughters to ‘the truth’, George’s groove has always been somewhere in the background. God granted me the unexpected opportunity to speak with him this past June via a radio interview as I was preparing the Youngstown Jazz Fest. The hosts were gracious enough to allow me several minutes with the icon. If I’d known this would be one of his last interviews, I would have asked 1000 more questions. 

I feel for Trish, who was scheduled to interview George on Tuesday, but had to post his transition on her Facebook page instead. 

I can’t remember how many actual times I have seen the Duke live, but all were too few and infrequent. One instance in particular stood out. 16 Years Old. Front Row Theatre, Cleveland Ohio. The Duke/Clarke Project!!  I was sure I was supposed to be breathing, but all of the excitement prohibited me. Chris & Craig were there too. Marty brought us! They couldn’t breathe either. Our heroes were holding court and the Funk STANK!!! Then all of a sudden, toward the end of the show, they opened up the stage and let members of the audience jam on their instruments!!! For REAL??? We each chickened out. However, one dude ripped Duke’s piano apart – absolute blazing! Year’s later, my brother-n-law, Phil The Beat & I saw Stanley at Peabody’s in Cleveland (circa 2005) and guess who his keyboardist was?? Yup Same dude! Clarke recounted the story. I cried joyfully. Dreams Do Come True!

When You Think George Duke, You Immediately Think The Funkiest Funk, The Jazziest Jazz, The Classiest Classical, The Most Soulful Soul, Most Fused Out Fusion, Completely Serious Silliness, Profound Lyrics and Absolutely Everything in Between!

His Music sticks to your ribs like grits. You can’t soon shake his approach. Happy, Joyful, Sublime. You don’t want to disrespect women or shoot anyone after a George Duke album. In fact, I was more apt to want to cut Mrs. McDonald’s grass while listening (as long as the batteries in my Walkman held out). Feel REALLY Good Music!!  

And his astounding output! – 30 plus solo albums??? Not to mention the duos! (Duke & Cobham, anyone?!?)

And well before Jam & Lewis, LA & Babyface and other ‘production teams’ laid claim to the industry, George had already produced EVERYBODY!! The Soul Train Awards Music Director, Scoring Soundtracks, composing the Muir Woods Suite! His body of work looms larger and more prominent than his contemporaries, many of which have stopped recording (with the obvious exception of Herbie & Chick – who’s new album is just out).

That ever bending “Waop” of his ultra funky synth immediately defined moments. Time stood still. His homage to snappy, finger plucking bassists, from Byron to Christian to Marcus to Kimpel and his stalwart Stanley is legendary – the only way to mellow you out is to turn to his silky piano for a song or two and it’s back to the mayhem of twisting time signatures and tactfully terrorizing drum solos!! We have been touched with genius.

The Lessons I have learned from Uncle George’s spirit in the few 48 years I have been on the planet will be further explained in my next post as I continue to pursue this calling of music, but I will sum it up here:

GEORGE DUKE:

Total Freedom

Absolute Exploration

Continual Growth

Regal Generosity

Eager Inspiration

Leaving a Lifetime Legacy

I’m still listening & learning.

Tell Your favorite George Duke Story or List Your Favorite Album here. Let’s Celebrate His Life.  

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First Sign The Contract – THEN Do The Work!!

Before I begin, I feel I should apologize for staying away so long…
I knew I had projects approaching which would keep me off the grid for a couple of weeks, but it was never my intention to be out of the loop for more than four months. I do appreciate the opportunity you’ve given me to dialogue with you here and my intention is to create consistency and dependability.
I dropped the blogging ball, big time… I will do better.
While I am profusely apologizing, I should also include the fact that I decided to change the name of this blog. In upcoming posts, I will be sharing links to some major podcasts, blogs and books I have been thoroughly enjoying – one in particularly is Dave Ramsey’s “EntreLeadership” series which has been blowing my mind. Totally Amazing! To show my respect for the many lessons I have learned, I’ve decided to pay the dude honor and build upon the term “EntreMusician!” I don’t think I can get sued for that, but will blog about it if I do…
Well to begin with, I have learned so much in these last 90 days or so that I should never run out of material! It’s been like THAT and More!!! So don’t worry, I’m going to share ALL of my mistakes, challenges and small victories that keep us pressing toward the goal! Hopefully you can benefit from my ‘bloggles’.
Let me start off with a HUGE Mistake I made just a few weeks ago – A BUTT Sized One that my team and I are still reeling from. I’m going to omit the names of the guilty parties, cause I really don’t want to go there, but at the end of the day, when I look in the mirror, it’s me who should’ve known better.
I think I should also omit the actual event as well. Although very well publicized and wonderfully attended and featured a Major, Major Star, its best to not mention it, because the lesson can apply in any situation. Besides, our team decided it best that we maintain our integrity by going through with the event for the best sake of the community, rather than alienate our friendship base and defame our brand.
So here goes: A person with whom I have produced some great events for in the past several years – someone whom I regarded as a good, personal friend, pitches a wonderful idea to me. They have the resources to bring the event to life and based upon our past experiences, although a few elements have changed, we can still have a successful venture. All I have to do is secure the Star and the deal is done.
I can secure the Star, no prob, but will need residuals upfront to seal everything. They suggest a Third Party who can put up the initial finances and agrees to pay said 3P back. No Problem – Let’s Do It – It Get’s Done and we are off to the races. My responsibilities, as in past events, is to produce and promote. My Team is like a band of systemic, obsessive diamond minors who get to work at the drop of the notion. Everyone knows what’s expected and we begin digging the ditches without oxygen masks. Hard Core.
Meanwhile, The Third Party, who was only supposed to put up the first finances, get repaid and disappear is becoming more and more vocal. When I ask “My Friend” what’s up with 3P, I am assured everything is OK. By the way, it’s safe to tell you here that I am working without a written agreement – because, you know, we ARE Friends – AND – we’ve done all of this stuff in the past – AND – the contract IS forthcoming, so you know – it’s all good…right??
Weeellllll. As time goes on, it turns out that “My Friend” and 3P have another agenda. I was informed about the change in protocol just 30 days before showtime in a very strange, vague and confusing email filled with obfuscating euphemisms (I always wanted to use that phrase in honor of Dr. F.C. Wellsing) that blend friendship and business.
Bottom Line: Jere, you’re screwed, unless you enter into a written agreement with 3P – who, by the way is now producing the show – and is now calling the shots. “Say, How Much were you asking for again? Well Let’s Negotiate All of That!”
Meanwhile, the website is done. Radio, TV, Social Media, Print ads and interviews are done – by our team. Tickets are selling. The agencies reporting the strongest sales? Our Team.
There was still no written agreement. My manager had to keep drafting them. Three Drafts. 3P keeps making changes and modifications – all of which insulates “My Friend” and causes me to have to make concession after concession. “Say, How Many Slices of Pie Do You Have to Give Up to Still Define it as a Pie?”
Well, we were getting ‘the royal’ and thankfully through much prayer, wise counsel, our stance on integrity and even a great conversation with the Star’s manager all provided the wherewithal that got us paid, the ability to put on a great show without the public being aware of the drama and additional opps to work with this Star in the future. Whew!  A Bruise here and there but mostly unscathed!
Lesson Learned.
NEVER…EVER… BEGIN – ANY – WORK WITHOUT THE BENEFIT OF A WRITTEN, LEGAL BINDING AGREEMENT!!
AFTER YOU GET THE SIGNATURE – THEN YOU MAY BEGIN.
Feel Free to Share Your Bloggles & Blunders!
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