Sunday, May 17, 2009

Planet 10. Real Soon...or Look at me look at me.

You 80's geeks should get the title reference. It's from the film " Buckaroo Bonzai-Across the 8th Dimension." I hadn't seen it for years but recently checked it out of the library. I also giddily sat next to Peter Weller (Buckaroo) at a sushi joint in Santa Monica recently. I dig "Buckaroo" way more than "Robocop...." My wife doesn't get it but whatever... Anyhow, reviewing " Buckaroo" helped me to define a concept I've been trying to put some language on for years. In the film, the bad guys/aliens (John Lithgow and Vincent Schiavelli) reside in what is known as the 8th dimension. Essentially a dimension unknown to humans that only exists within rock formations. The aliens' main goal is to get to Planet 10 (somewhere humans can't fathom) REAL SOON.

What strikes me about this is that this "8th dimension" is somewhere musicians are always trying to go. Somewhere beyond the actual instruments, changes, and rhythms that are actually being played. The problem I see, with myself as much as other musicians is that most of the time, players are trying to show other players (as well as the audience) how close they are to that other realm...but mostly by playing all the licks and tricks (look at me look at me look at me) they've just learned. Some of you may shoot me for saying this but I can define this difference most easily by comparing Vinnie Colaiuta with Dave Weckl. I know it's a cliche but bear with me. Honestly, I really dig, and learn a lot from both players. Both players can read flyshit, play many styles, and are SERIOUSLY talented. That said, when I look at Vinnie I can see and hear a guy with his antennae up ALL the time. Always looking at everyone else and trying to interact. With Weckl, I see a guy whose always working hard on HIS new thing and pushing it at the other players. He's come a long way in the other direction lately (and said so himself) and it shows so I'm not discounting what he does by any stretch. It's just that for lack of a better term....Vinnie plays from his balls up and it comes across. When he's on stage, he's shooting for that space where no one is thinking about their own instruments, the changes, or anything else. He says that " I hear rhythms differently than most people." I think he hears them underneath the bigger picture. Even when he's reading he's looking at the players more than the charts. He gets to that magical space (the 8th dimension) more often than anyone I've seen. It's all about interaction among musicians and connecting to the listener. I'm amazed by the technical ability of Marco Minneman, Thomas Lang, Virgil Donati, et al but they play in such a way that everyone on stage has to adjust to them. How many pedals do you need for a groove?

Another example of hitting "the 8th dimension" is this. My wife had a business in Santa Monica so during my time off from Vegas I'd hang out there. There was a great jam session (at Harvelle's on 4th St) where the house drummer was Gerry Brown (Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross, Stanley Clarke, Michael Urbaniak and a million more.) Lots of serious R and B/jazz guys would hang out and sit in. Many great drummers (some of whom are on major tours as we speak) would come sit in. These guys could play a nice groove but they were more interested in trotting out every trick in the book! Crossovers, blistering double bass licks etc. (look at me look at me look at me.) When I first started sitting in there, I was guilty of the same mistake. Now, when Gerry sat down to play a groove, it was DEEPNESS defined. The whole room perked up. He'd play a couple "look at me/check me out" licks just to show the other cats he could do it, and then go right back to the pocket and keep his eyes on the other band members because THAT'S WHAT IT'S ABOUT. Groove. Interaction. You can play a million notes (which I'm very guilty of) but you have to keep the antannae up. I got to know Gerry after a while so I asked him, "dude, why do you bother with this gig?" (it didn't pay much compared to his other work). His short answer? "Keeps the chops up." Chops are not only physical, but MUSICAL as well.

How are your antannae workin? Where should we all be going? Planet 10. REAL SOON!

Thanks Gerry.

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