jazz standards

Looking For A Bass Player

I'm looking for another bass player to do some rehearsing with. I have a couple of bass players that I'm able to play with once in a while, but both are also pretty busy and I'm hoping to do some more workshopping of my songs and also some jazz trio playing.

Here are some of the future plans:

  • She Believes - this is actually intended for a trio - me, bass, and drums. I've got a couple of great mp3s of me rehearsing it with a drummer friend, and it sounds great. A good bass part would really fill it out.
  • The Aaaaay Song - I don't have a version of this online yet (still working on the lyrics) but it's a bouncy shuffle that's great fun to play. Again, good for trio - me, bass, and drums.
  • All Aboard - this was originally intended to also have guitar, but with a good bass a drum section, it might work without it - I'm still working on it. It's an older song and not necessarily closely related to my more recent sound, but it's good filler and good to have around.
  • My Favorite Clown - this is probably better for a more produced sound - either solo, or with strings or something - but it would be interesting to have a fairly active upright bass sound to it, especially if bowed. I've got other instrumentalists that would be interested in being part of an ensemble for some of these arrangements.

There are a few other songs in progress. Of course, with a good trio in my back pocket, it motivates me to write faster!

There are also plenty of jazz standards. Ain't Misbehavin', But Beautiful, Desafinado, Have You Met Miss Jones, etc. Recordings available upon request.

I'm basically looking to split time between actually slowly working up a set, but also just using rehearsal time to play around and be a good trio.

I've Got You Under My Skin Video

So, yesterday I thought I would start experimenting with this video stuff. I set up my macbook on a stack of piano books on the corner of my piano, recorded the video (and room sound) through my iSight, recorded the audio through my mixer to my M-Audio microtrack, then used iMovie and Garageband to replace the sound with the mic'd version. Didn't pay much attention to dressing up my set or anything (which I might regret), just pressed record and sang into the mic like normal.

This is me singing I've Got You Under My Skin in my living room. Youtube downsampled the audio so it's in mono (and you can't hear the reverb either), but you can get the full-quality source audio if you're subscribed to my standards podcast.

Trio Rehearsal

First rehearsal of the trio went well. The bassist hosts and has everything set up in his basement, so it's really cushy that way - even the drummer didn't have to haul anything. We worked on Where Or When, Ain't Misbehavin', But Beautiful, Comes Love, Desafinado, I Could Write A Book, and Under My Skin. There's so much I don't know! A few impressions, both from last night, and from listening to the recordings today:

Desafinado sounds really good with just drums, bass, and voice. I brought in the piano after the A section was done and it sounded really good that way.

I feel weirdly more creative in my solos on the latin tunes. (We're doing But Beautiful as a bossa.)

Comes Love has been really hard for me to do solo - just voice and piano - but it's really fun as a trio.

It's tough to find a good tempo for Under My Skin. I wanted it to be more peppy, but it just really wants to lay back the way we're doing it.

I gotta breathe more. When I don't know a tune, I don't breathe as deeply, and then my singing tone is thin and I go sharp.

Overall, really fun - I'm looking forward to the next rehearsal. I think this will inspire me to work on jazz a lot more than my last band did - the smaller combo is better for me, partly because the three of us felt comfortable talking a lot about what it meant to play jazz. Lots of learning opportunity here.

A Little Moonlight

Just uploaded a silly little recording of "What A Little Moonlight Can Do" in the Standards section... have a listen if you have the password.

Starting A Jazz Trio

Looks like the year is starting out right. One of my goals has been to have an outlet for practicing jazz singing and jazz piano in a trio format, and I appear to have that now. I'll be starting regular rehearsals with some good players here in town. The players will be rotating a bit, but I've got the core members in place. First rehearsal is tonight!

I'll probably be regularly creating rehearsal recordings and will be uploading the better ones over in standards. If you want to hear, drop me an email and I can shoot you the password.

Two Christmas Songs

In 2006, I had plans to go home for Christmas. I go to Colorado just about every year to see my parents and my sister's family, including my two nieces.

That year, there was a huge blizzard in Denver that snowed out the airport and canceled all sorts of Denver flights. My flight got canceled before it took off. I never made it to Colorado.

I spent Christmas at home in Portland that year, in an undecorated house and without many backup plans. On Christmas Eve I got the idea to try and work up a couple of recordings of Christmas tunes for my family back home. I hadn't done much recording of myself at that point so I wasn't sure how well it would work.

I found two to work on - one from a fakebook, and one just from scrounging up a guitar tab online. I managed to work up arrangements and learn how to sing and play them and record them and email them off to my family by Christmas morning.

I'm making them available here - I didn't write them, obviously, but I'm not releasing them for commercial purposes. Enjoy.

The Christmas Song

I'll Be Home For Christmas

Cocktail Pianoing

One of the things I have been focusing on lately is my jazz piano skills, particularly in regard to the old songs and standards. I am trying to do more singing too - and so all in all, I'm basically trying to become a cocktail pianist. It feels kind of odd to be aspiring to be a cocktail pianist. I remember before I started getting more into jazz piano, I saw cocktail piano as being a little bit lame. Really! Old people drinking their sorrows away, singing songs no one sings anymore. Now I think it's a really romantic atmosphere, and I kind of like drinking more than I did, too.

I mean, I know how it (theoretically) hooks into my future goals. I learn more jazz piano and I get a richer harmonic palette. I learn more songs and I have more ideas for my own songs. There's a risk, though, to focusing a lot on jazz. A lot of musicians never find their way out.

Nevertheless, I've been happy to have some breakthroughs lately. I was able to sing/play I've Got You Under My Skin at mid-tempo all the way through by myself. What that means is, expanding out all the chords to comping, soloing, turnarounds, bassline, singing... all at once. I'm doing it badly, but I got through it.

And just now, I decided to give myself a recital, which is a step forward. I picked the twelve standards I'm most confident on, and performed them back to back, recording each one. I find it's about an hour of material overall. I'm about to listen to them. Kinda nervous.

By the way, remember that if you're a friend of mine, you can email me to request the username/password to my "Jazz Standards" page. That's where you can hear my jazz recordings, which I post fairly often. I can't make them publicly available because of copyright reasons.

Site Directions

Well, it's been almost four months since I've launched this site. I've wanted the site to become something akin to a framework, workflow, and representation of my efforts as a musician. I think I've succeeded there. Whenever I create or accomplish something musically, I have a place to put it. So now (and perhaps this is partially because of how me having a cold affects my brain), I'm moved to review and think about how it's all working.

"A place to put it" is interesting. Because if I were to merely keep these things in my head, in iTunes, on a scratch piece of staff paper - they'd still exist, I suppose, but it doesn't feel like any of them have life until I put them somewhere where there's a chance other people might experience them, or perhaps enjoy them.

But everything has a home right now. I have a place for my song drafts. A place for my improvised piano pieces. A place for my jazz standards (although a password is needed there). A place where I can write about what I'm doing, a mailing list where people can sign up, which gives an excuse to summarize my own progress to give myself benchmarks.

So far it's a good experiment - all combined, I've interacted with this site in some way every day since then. It kind of gives me something to react to, which helps me take music more seriously in a way that feels natural rather than disciplined. It's having good results too - I thought up, wrote, and learned I Have A Cold in about three hours. It's a stupid silly song, and I was completely punchy - laughing about it while hopped up on cold medicines - the sort of thing where the mood that drove the creation of the song would have passed in a few hours. Six months ago I would not have been able to capture that complete song in time. (Which, in the case of that particular song, might have been a good thing! :) ) But it's a cool feeling to feel that I am starting to have a more direct pipeline into whatever it is that enables us to write cohesive songs.

I've started to look at the site as a marketing vehicle, too. Not that I have anything to sell at this point, but I have liked the idea of the site gradually attracting readership/listenership. I'm going to use a bad word here. I am currently what is known as a "hack". :) The real definition of a hack is someone who gets their support by people already known to them. I'm basically tracking my "hack quotient" by keeping track of who is on my mailing list. Right now, almost everyone on my mailing list is someone that I already know - family and friends. If I divide the number of People I Know by the number of People On The List, then that means I have a "hack quotient" of somewhere between 91.3% and 95.6%. I am hoping that number decreases over time! I do notice that viewership is increasing a bit, which is encouraging. Some from a couple of links I create, like my sig at an unrelated discussion board I frequent, or a couple of comments I've left over at jonathancoulton.com (my unwitting mentor), but I'm also noticing an increasing number of google searches for "curt siffert" and also for Balancing Above The Air.

The question is what to do next. It's fun to think about what level of success one can get just by focusing on the online end, but I really don't want to limit myself to that. There are several challenges and possible directions here.

I'd like to play out. I haven't performed for too many months now, although performing for my recorder does at least help a little. The problem is basically repertoire and instrumentation. I'm not a guitarist, so I am not as flexible as a guitarist singer/songwriter. I now have two songs that I can perform as a solo singer/pianist, but they're both what I like to think of as "contrast songs". I need more meat and potatoes songs. I also have two songs that can be performed as a group with a guitarist, although Together would require some thought on how to arrange it. Basically I just need to create more rep.

I do have an instrumentation - I know both a good drummer and bass player who would be psyched to play out with me once we have material. I love the idea of doing some Jamie Cullum crossed with Ben Folds type stuff. And my band Deja Nu is also interested in performing some three-horn arrangements of my stuff too as I write it. So I've definitely got options. It's basically up to me to come up with material.

There's also the option of me pursuing new age piano stuff, although it doesn't particularly thrill me to consider being a new age live performer. But I am currently in the midst of producing a cd of some of the better tracks. It'll be a short run for now, just to get things up and sellable on iTunes.

Beyond that it's about just creating more songs and seeing what opportunities and brainstorms happen. I'm also thinking about whether it makes sense to keep uploading rough drafts of material here. There's kind of a quality point material needs to be at before you'll start attracting the kind of attention that will lower the "hack quotient". :) But for now, I'm happy with the way things are.

Jazz Standards Podcast

Hot diggity! After much geekery, I have figured out how to restore my recordings of jazz standards to the website.

As you may recall, I ran into problems with having recordings of jazz standards up on this site. Namely, "it's illegal". Since I didn't write them, you know, yada yada.

So, I've figured out how to password-protect that area of the site and only make it available to family and friends. I already had something informal, but it's much, much cooler now. You can stream or download any of the pieces, or even subscribe to a (password-protected) podcast through iTunes so they'll automatically be downloaded to your iTunes or iPod as I record them.

So, if you have your username/password already (some of you already do), come on over. And if you don't, write me if you think I know you well enough to let you in. (And given that it's mostly friends that are reading this site for the time being, odds are I'll agree.)

Recordings of Jazz Standards

I mentioned before that I was having trouble figuring out how to make my recordings of jazz standards available. I can't just put them up on the site for download due to copyright reasons. But still, I should be able to let my friends and family have access to them in an informal manner.

So, if you want to hear or download those mp3s, write me and ask. I've got a password-protected directory on my website that I can give you access to. Right now it's got sixteen songs, most of them of me singing but a couple of piano solo. The way I do it is that when I have a new song, I upload it. And when I come up with a better recording of one of the existing songs, I upload it and overwrite the old one. So it's worth checking back on from time to time.

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© 2007 Curt Siffert. Some audio protected with a Creative Commons license.
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