Playing Jazz in the Springtime

tad_garrett_cropped_500Check out my jazz duo, Moonlight In New Hampshire! I’ve created a page on the website here with some audio demos, pictures, and a description of what we do.

Before we talk more about that, let’s pause to consider the present moment. Spring is here! I’m refilling the bird feeder every other day. Our strawberry plants are coming back. The hardy cactus, lying flat all winter under the snow, is raggedly returning to its feet.

My teaching schedule has been really busy, between private one-on-one lessons in Keene NH, weekly online lessons with students in Canada, France, and various US states, and my new position as music teacher for grades 5-8 at The Well School, in Peterborough NH.

My fiddle tune life has lately been limited to the Monday night contra dance in Nelson NH and the first Saturday dance in Peterborough, but the jazz side of things is flourishing.

First, I just finished participating in the spring session of the Early Jazz Ensemble at the Vermont Jazz Center, led by Anna Patton. Second, I’ve been getting out every other week or so to the same location for the weekly jazz jam. And finally, my jazz duo with Garrett Cameron is starting to really get into gear.

We call ourselves Moonlight In New Hampshire, the name being a play on the old song title “Moonlight In Vermont.” I like to say that we’re the duo that sounds like a 5-piece, because we’re both multi-instrumentalists. Garrett plays drums and sax, and I play guitar and diatonic harmonica, and I sing. You might say we sound like a sextet, actually, because I run my guitar through an octave effect for basslines, and then sample my guitar backgrounds.

Here’s my approach to jazz guitar looping – usually, the first time through the song form, I’ll sing or Garrett will play the lead on sax. During that run-through, I’ll be recording the guitar accompaniment. At the end of the first AABA, I step on the pedal again and play back the looped guitar accompaniment. At that point, I’ll overdub a walking bassline, or begin improvising on guitar or harmonica.

A note here about what Garrett does: like I said, he’ll often start on sax, then switch to drums during my solos. At that point, we’ve got a full jazz trio sound, with live drums, live soloist, and looped guitar/bass. Crazy as it sounds, Garrett will sometimes also add one-handed saxophone while continuing to play the drums with his other limbs. On other songs, to vary things up, we’ll leave out the drums and guitar loops, and Garrett plays chord tones on sax behind me during my solos. Did I mention this guy also plays Celtic music and studied composition in undergrad? Garrett Cameron is kinda badass.

For some songs, I’ll walk the bass while singing, and then add guitar chords after. Or play a fingerstyle bass+chords type of accompaniment, with pure guitar, no octave bass. I’d like to incorporate more simultaneous guitar and harmonica, sort of like a futuristic Bob Dylan, but right now I find I play better if I give each one its own turn.

I’ve begun playing some of our jazz standard repertoire in my solo gigs, and am looking forward to sharing the jazz duo sound of Moonlight In New Hampshire with audiences around New England. Enjoy the late spring and we’ll see you out there this summer. Cheers!

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