The Pump: Goodbye Radio

I know this is mostly a jazz and improvisation based blog but...

I have a shameless plug today-- a band I'm a sideman in, Uncle Pumpkin has released a new record that I'm proud of.

I play guitar, keyboards and sing backup in the band when we play live and it's one of the most fun gigs I have. We did this record mostly on our own in small rooms, on computers, live, however we could get it down.

Shout out to Dan Grennes (currently on tour with Green Day's American Idiot) who wrote all the songs and put together a hell of a lineup of power pop. He basically got this done single handed. The rest of us just showed up and played. Way to go Dan.

Listen to the whole record for free (!) and download it for only $5.

Even you have to admit that's ridiculous. How much does a coffee at Starbucks cost? This will last longer and has better taste.

Listen, preview and download the record here.

NAMM Day 4

Day 4 was much quieter than the previous three, especially Saturday which was absolutely a madhouse.

I only had a few people I wanted to talk to, specifically the people at Steve Clayton picks and accessories who I endorse, Andy Lund at Taylor Guitars who very kindly got me a pass to the show and I wanted to see if I could talk the Santa Cruz guitar people out of that custom orchestra acoustic I had my eye on. Unfortunately, no such luck.

On the way to the Santa Cruz booth I happened on Stevie Wonder listening to someone playing a hammered dulcimer. You don't see that every day. A buddy of mine got video of him playing a drum kit on Saturday but I didn't expect to see him myself. That's one of the cool things about NAMM.

Everyone told me the show was nuts, loud, and annoying—and that's all true— but it's also a lot of fun.

It was great to catch up with some friends I hadn't seen in a while and fun to meet some new people and some heroes of mine. Not a bad trip.

And if I hadn't gone, I wouldn't have had the opportunity to see this guy. It was all worth it.

NAMM Day 3

I'm quickly going deaf but it's been mostly worth it so far.

I spent some time today in the C.F. Martin booth taking with their rep and checking out some of their guitars. I was particularly taken with the one to the right. Really well balanced, played fantastically and of course is beautiful.

While I was there I ran into Joel Hoekstra, guitar player for Night Ranger, Trans Siberian Orchestra and Rock of Ages on Broadway. Such a killer player and a nice guy too.

Brent Mason
The highlight today though was going to the Paul Reed Smith performance area and checking out Nashville session guitarist Brent Mason do his thing with a pick up band. Unbelievable playing, incredible chops and taste too. I think in my other life I would be a country player. Since I don't have the time to devote to it I just check out guys like Brent and rip off as much as I can. The time-honored tradition.

Later in the day I spent some time at the Santa Cruz guitars booth and got some quality time with one of their reps and about six of their acoustics. The one below—I got a shot of both the guitar and a closeup of the headstock—a custom orchestra was a standout. Absolutely beautiful and it played like a dream. The bird inlay on the headstock was one of the most beautiful inlay jobs I've ever seen on a guitar. Sometimes these things can be too over the top for me but I felt like the maker really balanced the look of the instrument just right.

Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz
Finally, just as I was ready to go and head out the door, my buddy and drummer Adam Fischel spotted Vinnie Colaiuta talking to somebody in the Ibanez guitar booth, of all places. I told Adam that's definitely not Vinnie, Adam insisted, I said no way. Adam approached him and he was right. You can always count on a drummer to spot a drummer.

Just like high school kids, we got our picture taken with him. How could you not? Frank Zappa, Sting, Jeff Beck -- the guy has defined what it means to be the consummate sideman.

I still feel goofy getting my picture taken with these guys when I haven't played with them but what the hell. It's fun to be a fan every now and then.

NAMM Day 2

Janek and Mike
I'm currently at Fodera  watching my buddy Janek Gwizdala tear it up with the equally prodigious Mike Pope in a 2-bass playoff and it's only 12:20pm. Holy cow. Thanks to Fodera basses for making this happen. And who showed up just as they were finishing? Matt Garrison. I think the Earth tilted a little with his arrival. This much heaviness in one place will do that.

About 20 minutes before this I was treated to a snare drum solo by none other than Bernard Purdie who I stumbled on after turning a corner. Not bad for it being so early.

Bernard Purdie
With that said, blogging from your phone sucks. I'm happy to have the app, but man I don't plan on doing this much.


It's been a hell of a day.

At the Gibson exhibition was a Les Paul with one of the most beautiful finishes I've ever seen. Instead of the thick lacquer normally used on them, it looked like the wood had been stained black and you could still see the wood grain underneath. It was stunning. I'm not much of a fan of the newer Les Pauls, once they went to the "Traditional" designation instead of "Standard" but I'd buy this one in a heart beat if only for the looks. This is what NAMM does to you. You see something like that and you quickly convince yourself it's perfectly reasonable to buy a guitar you definitely don't need.

Later I watched my friend and drummer Marko Djordjevic do a performance at the Albert Publishing booth with Jeff Ellwood, Damian Erskine and Matthew Garrison.

I've done a lot of gigs with Marko in New York and watching him play with other musicians really got me fired up to play with him again. He's such a monster and is a great writer as well. A really nice combination in a musician.

I finished up the day by having a conversation with Albert Lee who encouraged me to work on my chicken picking -- if only there was enough time -- and spotting George Benson in a booth signing autographs. Though I'm a huge fan of both of them, I only spoke to Albert. I was surprised how few people were there to see him, the guy is an absolute monster and legend and such a brilliant player. But that was to my advantage because I could be a fan for a moment and get my picture taken with him and actually have a conversation. Such a great guy.

NAMM Day 1

I might have bitten off more than I could chew on day one. I knew NAMM was big, but I really didn't appreciate how big until I had been there for well over two hours and realized I hadn't seen even an eighth of it.

But I soldiered on.

In the afternoon I hooked up with my buddy, LA guitarist and writer Dave Wood who was doing a demo with MOTU on Digital Performer. Dave's a killer player and a great guy who also introduced me to one of my favorite discoveries at NAMM: the Deuce Coup distortion pedal.

The Deuce Coup is a hand-made beauty by Jack Deville who runs Jack Deville Electronics out of Portland, OR.

Jack and Cameron from Jack Deville Electronics spent a lot of time with me and demoed the pedal as well as a few of their other creations. I was blown away.

Incredibly warm sound, transparent and extremely responsive to attack and the volume setting on your guitar. Rolling off the volume on the guitar really cleaned up the sound while rolling it up brought such a big breakup coming out of a little Fender Princeton you'd think it was a cranked, much bigger amp. Just a killer.

I'm going to be picking one of these up when I get back to NY. If you get a chance to play through one of these, do it. I'm guessing you won't be disappointed.

The rest of the day was spent trying in vain to see everything (I really didn't understand just how big the convention center was), not go deaf and make it out of there without wanting to buy every cool thing I saw.

That evening I drove up to LA to hear some music at the Blue Whale jazz club with my friend and drummer Adam Fischel. Bassist Tim Lefebvre recently relocated to LA from NY and has a residence at the club through this week. The show had two outstanding drummers, Gary Novak and Mark Guiliana with Henry Hey on keyboards and electronics filling out the bill. It was great to hear Tim doing his thing out on the West coast.

More from NAMM coming up...