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Nine For Nine Retrospective

I’m so proud of myself for having completed my Nine For Nine Series. From April till the end of the year I released a new track on my Soundcloud every month. My primary goal was simply to get the project done. Simply completing the project would be considered a success to me. Since I did just that I’m thrilled with all I accomplished with this project and my musicianship as a whole. Still, some things definitely could’ve gone better. So today I want to break down this project. The highs the lows, the reaction, etc. Let’s jump right into it.

 

I Bit Off More Than I Could Chew

I loved doing this project, but I doubt I will do anything similar to this for a while. Doing a new track every single month was pretty brutal. You are always in recording mode. Either learning the tunes, composing, arranging, recording, editing, promoting, or brainstorming for what’s next. I talked to and read work from others who had similar projects and everyone said to plan ahead and have a couple tracks done if not all the tracks done. I did neither of these things. I had a rough estimation of what I was going to do, I had most of the months planned in advance, but I didn’t have all the details sorted out who was gonna play on the tune; what the instrumentation would be , etc. If I ever do this in the future it will be a shorted project with everything figured out months in advance so I don’t feel like I’m rushing through everything all the time.

Keep It Simple Stupid (Or at least plan for the complex)

I had so many ideas for all this music, but I had to cut out so much because I was on a time crunch and didn’t have everything done. A good example of this is “Stranger Things Theme” I did a good job learning the tune and doing the necessary research on the music, but I had all theses great ideas I had to kill. I wanted to expand the theme, maybe write a string section in or do some more electronics, and maybe do a brass arrangement.  Time got the best of me I kept on changing the original idea and in the end I had to just do a short piano rendition to fulfill the goal. Again Keep It Simple, if you want to do more you better have the idea further along or allot the time you need to actually get it done. Next time I’ll plan ahead or kill that idea earlier so I don’t get frustrated.

 

What I thought Would Happen

Many people have told me that predicting how the general population will react to your work is a difficult things to do and a nearly impossible skill to master. Whether you sell sneakers, bake cookies, or write songs figuring out what you make and how much people will like it is crucial to our success. I’m a new artists with no fan base or data so it was hard to predict what type of audience I would  grow throughout the year and which songs they would like the most. Here were my predictions of most views before all the music was released.

  1. Pyramid Song
  2. And I Love Her
  3. Stranger Things Theme
  4. Legend of Zelda Overworld Theme
  5. Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness
  6. Christmas Song
  7. Of Dreams To Come
  8. Maiden Voyage
  9. Liberating Hoop Villain

 

Here’s What Happened

  1. Pyramid Song
  2. Legend of Zelda Overwold Theme
  3. Liberating Hoop Villain
  4. Of Dreams To Come
  5. Maiden Voyage
  6. And I love Her
  7. Stranger Things Theme
  8. Christmas Song
  9. Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness

As you can see there are significant differences between these two lists. The only thing I got right was “Pyramid Song”. Legend of Zelda was only one spot away, but everything else is far off.  Course people are still listening to this project so perhaps this list will change over time, but as of now it’s quite clear I don’t know what the masses will gravitate towards. Here’s hoping I get better at figuring that out and that more and more people will listen to my music either way.

 

Recording Issues

Albert Amey (guitarist and producer here in Chicago) and I have a ton of stories from recording this project. From great recording sessions to musicians failing us, having to rework our schedules, and other audio malfunctioning fun. Overall I’m so happy Albert Amey was with me every step of the way. Without him this project would have been much harder to finish, and I have no doubt the audio quality would not be as good.  Some have commented that they thought the audio quality could improve,  I’m happy with it. These are essentially home recordings. Also, a lot of times I had to record people remotely or I’d bring Albert just a bunch of different files and he had to mummify it into existence. The time will come when  I will shell out thousands of dollars and do a recording in a big studio, but for now I’m satisfied with what we did.. I’m so grateful Albert puts up with my incompetence.

Closing Thoughts

This project was my baby: my first full fledged project where I had 100% control over everything. People who know me in my personal life understand that I like things my way. Once I have a superior, a boss, or I just disagree with the direction, I become negative and check out. My independence and freedom means more to me than others. This project is truly me. Jazz, rock, and hip hop. This is some of my best work. I love the reworking of strings I did on “Pyramid Song” , the solo and electronic take I had on “Of Dreams To Come” , and the original composition “Liberating Hoop Villain” which ended up as third highest viewed song.

So please listen to my Nine For Nine project. Tell me what you think, what you liked, and even what you didn’t like in the comment section below.  I loved making  this project, and I am just as pumped with the next couple projects I will be announcing in the upcoming weeks. So stay tuned and thank you for your support.

 

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Nine For Nine: Christmas Song

Here it is! The final song from the Nine For Nine series. Let’s breakdown why I chose to perform the “Christmas Song” as my last tune for Nine For Nine.

I knew I wanted to record a holiday song for December, but I wasn’t quite sure which one. After talking to my guitarist we decided “Christmas Song” would be a good tune to do.

Initially we wanted to have it be a bit more complex then it turned out. We wanted to add other instruments and to try different styles and sounds. Unfortunately time ran short on us and the best option to ensure it’d be done was solo piano. Luckily I was up for the challenge.

I really enjoyed the entire process of learning and recording this track. It was fun going through dozens of different holiday songs and thinking about how I’d go about recording them and what they could sound like. Perhaps in the future a Christmas album with a tour could be in the works?

This is the final song in my Nine For Nine. I had a blast recording the music and sharing and talking about it with all of you each month. I hope you’ve enjoyed it and maybe gotten to know me better because of it. I’ll be doing another post this week where I’ll discuss talking the entire process of recording Nine For Nine and that’ll wrap up this project entirely. I’ll talk to you all then. Cheers

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Nine For Nine: Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness

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Last Month I did a cover of The Smashing Pumpkins classic track “Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness”. Today I’d like to share with you the experience I had recording it and why I chose to cover it in the first place.

I was a late bloomer to rock music. I didn’t really start listening to it until I was in my early 20s. I made up for last time very quickly and listened to everything I could get my hands on Radiohead, Beatles, Foo Fighters, etc. It wasn’t long before I listened to the album Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness it immediately became a favorite album of  mine. Within a year a bought every studio album The Smashing Pumpkins released.

I feel The Smashing Pumpkins entire discography doesn’t get enough credit. They consistently released quality albums. Sure they have a specific sound and don’t deviate much from it, but what they do, they do well. When it came time for this project I knew The Smashing Pumpkins would play a role. Being a pianist I couldn’t resist covering the title track of the album that solidified The Smashing Pumpkins as rock legends.

Billy Corgan, guitarist and singer for The Smashing Pumpkins has his issues (he can come off as a douche), but his ability to create great projects as a solo artist and as the lead member of The Smashing Pumpkins since the 90s is impressive. I implore all of you to do a deep dive on the Smashing Pumpkins catalog you won’t be disappointed I assure you.

 

One day I’ll do more covers of The Smashing Pumpkins tracks. I’d love to cover tracks from Adore Pisces Isariot, and Monuments to an Elegy, but for now this cover of “Mellon Collie And The Inifinte Sadness” will have to do. Hope you enjoy listening to it as much as I enjoyed making it.

 

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Nine For Nine: And I love Her 

I recently released a cover of The Beatles classic record “And I Love Her” and today I’d like to share some of my thoughts on this tune. 
I can’t recall the first time I listened to the Beatles or the first time I liked their music. It feels like The Beatles have been with me my whole life. Their impact on music and culture cannot be understated. The landscape of music and society as a whole would be entirely different if The Beatles never existed. 
I choose “And I Love Her” to cover because it’s a beautiful song. It’s one of those Beatles tunes that I neglected early in my life and at some point during college I paid more attention to it and appreciated it more with each listening. I always new I’d do something with the song and I’m glad I was finally able to cover it. 
I hope you enjoy this version of “And I Love Her” it’s the first Beatles song I’ve covered on record, but it certainly won’t be the last. 

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Nine For Nine: Liberating Hoop Villain 

Lately I’ve been obsessed with basketball. During my youth basketball consumed my life. It was one of the first passions I ever had. I loved it so much and I was so focused on becoming the best basketball player I could be. Not only did I love to play I also loved to watch. As a Chicagoan Jordan made them game easy to love, but for anyone going against the Bulls (like the Knicks) Jordan was easy to hate.
As I’ve aged and my passions shifted to music I’ve had times where I didn’t really watch basketball at all. The attention I give the game now ebbs and flows. One thing that has recently fascinated me is how we glorify and vilify these players. What makes someone a hero in your eyes might make them a villain in mine.

 

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Take Kobe and Lebron for example. People just hated Kobe for the MJ comparisons, they hated him because he’s a Laker, they hated him cause him winning means you’re team was losing.

 

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Lebron has similar traits except some people hate his constant movement. “The Decision” was a great day for Miami. It made Lebron a hero. In Cleveland? Not so much. They hated him and burned his jerseys. Still, when he decided to return to Cleveland he was accepted with open arms and a parade.
The latest track of my Nine For Nine was inspired by the idea of the Liberating Hoop Villain. The player usually liberates themselves. They are now millionaires and one of the best technicians in their craft. They are now a hero with an entire city proud and cheering them on with dreams of many years of success. But for fans of other teams they are villains. A star player standing in the way of their teams glory.
So this song is dedicated to the Liberating Hoop Villain. May success in their profession lead to financial stability and championships. Hopefully they will understand that by being glorified by some means they will be vilified by others.

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Nine For Nine: Of Dreams To Come

The first time I listened I ever heard of Robert Glasper was from my composition teacher. He was talking about piano voicings and he asked me if I ever heard of Robert Glasper. I told him I didn’t and he recommended I listen to Double Booked. I was blown away. I loved his style, loved his virtuosity, and I loved how he developed melodies within his solos. As time passed I became more of a fan of Glasper. I listened to every release, loved the Black Radio albums, and saw him live.
I MISS THE OLD ROBERT GLASPER 

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Despite Black Radio 2 being my favorite Glasper album I can’t help but feel that I want the Glasper back. I don’t hear as much of his virtuosity, the burning solos, enough with the auto tune! So I decided to go back and cover one of his classics “Of Dreams to Come” from his album In My Element. I was gonna cover it as a solo piano piece. It didn’t turn out that way.

I started by playing just piano, but the more I played it the more I felt I needed to add to the music. Soon enough I essentially went from a old school Robert Glasper song to one that would fit in with his current style. I guess Glasper was right, it was time to develop a new style. Maybe Glasper went through the same thing I did. He was creating and saw what was lacking in his music and decided to add this new style to his music.

So thank you Robert Glasper. You’re impact on me, jazz, and music as a whole cannot be understated. Keep creating, keep composing, and I’ll keep listening.

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Nine For Nine: Pyramid Song

The first time I listened to Radiohead was life changing. Not because they are the greatest band of all time, not because the album was the best album I’ve ever heard, but because it was my first introduction to rock music as a whole. At the time all I was really exposed to was pop music, rap music, and my Dad’s smooth jazz radio stations. With the help of my friend Albert Amey (who plays guitar on this recording) I was beginning to broaden my musical palate. I told Albert to give me some of the best rock music out there and I’ll listen to it. He gave me Ok Computer.

I still remember those winter days listening to “National Anthem” and being blown away by what I was listening to. By the end of the year I listened to every recording Radiohead had released along with dozens of other rock acts I’ve never heard before. My life has changed forever and for the better.

One album that I felt was often overlooked was “Amnesiac”. There were some fantastic recordings like “Morning bell/Amnesiac” and “Dollars and Cents”, but one that really resonated with me was “Pyramid Song”. As a piano player it was always a bit odd for me when listening to rock music. It always felt like I couldn’t be a part of it, I always had a reduced role or was completely not included in the music. I mean how many rock keyboardist do you know? How many rock songs have the piano as the lead or as a pivotal role in the music? Some, but not many. The moment I heard the opening chords of “Pyramid Song” I thought, “Yes! A role for me!” The chords really resonated with me, it was a hauntingly beautiful song. At the time, I had nowhere near the chops to play it. I tried to play some of the chords, but it was way too hard since I hadn’t even been playing the piano for a year yet. Still, I never forgot about “Pyramid Song” and I always thought in the back of my head that I would eventually go back to it.

Now I finally have! I’ve rearranged the strings which were performed by two wonderful violinist Windy Indy and Erendira Izguerra. The vocals were performed by Courtney Grace and the guitar solo was taken by Amey Albert, the person who introduced me to all of this wonderful music. I hope you enjoy it. I hope this will be considered a wonderful homage to Radiohead, a band that changed my life. So please, enjoy the recording and be sure to check out what I’m working on next month.