Thursday, March 15, 2007

I Love It When A Plan Comes Together

Went into Full Sail today to record for two different classes. For those of you who don't know, Full Sail is a state-of-the-art recording school and facility that educates aspiring audio and video technicians in their respective skill areas. I've been working with Full Sail since 1999 - recording arts in the main studios A and B, live sound reinforcement with video across the street from the main campus, artist sessions on a more intimate scale, lecturing to music business students on the skills of the trade -- I mean like this. Michele Bunker has always hooked me and the various projects of mine up. But this was the first time that I had NEVER played a live note with any of the people involved.

Early this morning at 9 am, I met with Kristi Kief, whom I had met through Bob King, a member of my dulcimer group. She's a world-class drummer and percussionist who also works part time as a gator wrestler at Gatorland. I had lined up a bass player for this session, but it sort of fell through; twice. So, upon a suggestion by Cheech, the manager of Hank El Diablo, I got ahold of Larry Nader, who drove down from Jacksonville to do the double session.

Keeping in mind that I had never played with either of these people before, I wasn't concerned.

We did two songs, "Ring-A-Ding" and "Music." The first being a staple Mohave tune and the second being also a staple, but extracted from the song "The Miner and His Music" which was a mixing of two songs written by myself and Bunky.

I had sent out chord sheets and demos to Larry and Kristi so they could get the hang of the tunes, very simple ones at that. When today rose in the sky, we were there at Full Sail making it happen. I had a peaceful easy feeling about the whole thing, and as it turns out, for a very good reason.

First off, Kristi is on. The girl knows her stuff. Having listened to her demos, I knew she would bring a lot to the session. Something about talking to Larry also put me at ease. He had the ineffable way of someone who has been playing for years in the biz, and a confidence that could not be faked. I knew he would rise to the occasion after talking with him.

We ended up doing two different sessions with two different classes of students, both under the direction of instructor Paul. Kristi played a drum kit for the rockabilly/boogie-woogie hybrid "Ring-A-Ding" while Larry played bass guitar and we knocked out the track in five takes, working through all the changes for the first time ever. It sounded so good, that it was delightful to tell the students at breaktime that we had only met for the first time that morning and had never rehearsed together before.

Afternoon session brought on "Music", with its reggae beats and Kristi's expertise on steel drums. It was a sure sign of success as we tracked the rhythms with the students nodding their heads in time with the music.

Tomorrow, we do some overdubs, having laid down what are known as "bed tracks." They are the foundation for the rest of the recording. Once you've got the drums, bass and main string instrument down (in this case, dulcimer), then you're ready to keep piling on layers until it really begins to erupt.

I did a vocal scratch track, meaning, we weren't planning on keeping it - just as a guide for the live performance of the scratch track. Tomorrow, I'll actually stand alone and record not only the main vocals, but also the secondary harmony and, in the case of "Music", three-part harmony. We're also bringing in my friend Charles Stansell to play harmonica on "Ring-A-Ding" and Kristi will be adding some more percussion to "Music" in the later session.

I found out that Kristi is moving to Australia to be with her boyfriend, who moved there recently for a computer gaming job. I'm happy for her at the same time that I'm frustrated, because it's been a long time coming to find someone so intuitive and talented in rhythms. I wish her well, at the same time that I bemoan the chance to work with her in the near future - not that we won't work together from afar, but damnit! The good ones always get away, don't they?

What can be said about today's session is that it was wonderful, magical, informative, spectacular, eye-opening and jammin' to the highest degree. We're all looking for a way to gig together before Kristi heads off to Brisbane, because it's not very often that three people who have never played together before can come together and create such beautiful music as they did today. There's something special in that kind of inspiration - and as soon as the tracks are delivered to us - I'll share them here.

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