Monday, January 11, 2010

New Year Musical Reflections - Business as Usual

Happy new year everyone!  I realize we're deep into the new year already, but as I'm just getting re-acclimated from the holidays, it sort of feels like the start of the new year is just now happening.  I've been away from blogging, tweeting and facebook for so long that I almost feel I'm living in the 90's again

Musically, last year was quite mixed bag - however, even with the economy tanking, nothing really changed for me or my peers when it came to playing gigs, writing, and exploring various forms of musical expression - none of us got paid much at all.  Some venues cut back or closed completely - others opened their doors.  So in other words, business as usual!

Last July I decided to create my own economic stimulus package in the form of my "Sweet Surrender" CD which featured me and more of me.  So if you like "me" (and hey, I like "me"), you're going to love Sweet Surrender as it's chock full of me. Meanwhile, my plans for the next CD are forming and will likely be a return to more of my vocal and lyrical offerings, with a heavy dose of horns and such.  Maybe I can enlist the help of some friends in The Blowholes to break some new ground - or maybe another ensemble will come of it...not sure.  Yep, business as usual.

In the Spring of 2009 I wrote a symphonic work entitled "A New Day" - it featured the Max Planck Big Band from Germany - it was a thrill to get back to some orchestral writing.

My live performances were split between my Sideways Portal collaborations (Flugelhorn and Percussion) and playing in The Svens (Tenor Sax).  These groups are worlds apart in many ways, but in my mind there's a common thread that is hard to explain.  Anyway, the guys in both groups are amazing and such dear friends - and it's just so dang fun.  So look for more business as usual this year in those departments.

I'm in my 7th season of directing the Early Bird Jazz Band at Linus Pauling Middle School.  Although Jazz and 7:45am are not exactly ideal, the kids are amazing and I'm so proud of the work we're doing.  I've seen a very high percentage of my "Early Birders" (at least 90% I'd guess) continue on as successful high school players (and some even in college now as music majors!) so to be a small part of their musical journey and to perhaps have a part in their outlook on music and how it can enhance our lives and the world we live it, well, that pretty much tops all.

In 2009 I did a fair number of "virtual" horn man gigs - that's where other bands or artists find me on the internet and say, "wow, this guy is pretty good - and he's obviously cheap" and so they hire me to lay down horn parts for their own golden parachute productions.  I actually enjoy this process - I can work in my underwear and since I'm a swimmer, that's pretty much the way I like to work anyway.  I get to do my thing (hey, they hired "me" - what else can I do?) and hopefully I can add a bit of edge to their tune.  A notable few of my clients this year included Neal Gladstone, Natasha Urale Baker, Alex Sheridan, and others, including work for various small media productions who need custom horn sounds; mainly things that sound comical and/or fart-like.  Hey, it's what I do.  Business as usual.

As for writing, if I were going to set some goals (and I'd rather remain flexible) I would lean towards integrating more vocals into the ditties I'm writing and balancing those with horn lines and improvisations.  For me personally, I enjoy a story - it can be anything really, but music has to tell a bit of a story, even if it's only embedded in the cryptic title.  But better yet if there's some meat in there - something I can react to (laugh, cry, hurl, whatever).  So I'll be exploring that territory a bit more - nothing new. BAU.

I also have at least one offer to write something for an orchestra again and suppose I'll just go ahead and pursue that since, you know, I'll want to be done with it before the stream of other offers blasts my way.

Yes, it's business as usual at BirdwellMusic.com!

All the best to you and yours - and here's to a musical, happy, healthy and fun new year!


Rob Birdwell
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