Quite honestly, there has been no good reason for my lack of posts in the last few months and for those few who actually read this from time to time I do apologize. I mean, it’s not like I haven’t been doing anything. I got a job as a receptionist at a Spanish school despite the fact that I don’t speak a word of the language. That has shenanigans written all over it! I also graduated, which was kind of liberating. Next year I’m headed off to Carleton University to study music, which I’m excited about. So in a kind of preparation for that, one of my goals this summer was to make a decent recording of my playing for me to look back on. Kind of like the little “bootleg” recording I uploaded back in March, but a little bit more professional. The goal was to make it sound just like we do in real life and I think we accomplished that, so I’m happy with how it went. In an effort to preserve spontaneity, we never used more than a second take on a tune. “Menina Flor”, “In A Sentimental Mood” and “Tenderly” are all old standards that I really love, and “Just Because” is my own composition. You can download all of it HERE. It sounds kind of old and I didn’t mean it that way intentionally, but that’s what I feel like I guess and I can’t really help it. AN OLD MAN. What can you do?
1. Menina Flor
2. In a Sentimental Mood
3. Just Because
me – electric guitar
travis graham – electric bass
v. boot·legged, boot·leg·ging, boot·legs
To produce, distribute, or sell without permission or illegally
Unfortunately this isn’t a post on human anatomy, but rather a little notice that I made a little recording of my performance last night. I guess that would make the title a complete lie though, because this recording is in fact, completely authorized by me and doesn’t break any laws. Which is a shame, because it would be pretty cool to say that I have a real bootleg hanging around out there. Sounds much more dangerous, don’t you think?
So, if you’re interested and would like to give it a listen, you can download it here:
Justin Orok & Travis Graham
Live at Gaia Java
All The Things You Should Have Been
Days Of Wine & Roses
Body & Soul
You Don’t Know What Love Is (For Mal Waldron)
Anyways, I’m aware that there are mistakes a-plenty, my guitar is out of tune and such and such, but you know, I guess that’s kind of the point. Because for all that stuff, there’s still a few good moments, and that’s kind of where I sit in terms of my playing right now. Travis (bass) and I haven’t been doing this for too long now, so I’m hoping this won’t be too embarrassing to listen back on in a few years.
If you’re subscribed to me on Youtube, and I know by saying that I narrow my audience down quite a bit, then you’ve probably been shocked and appalled at the amount of videos I’ve uploaded in the past few weeks. But hey, life’s been eventful and I happened to have a video camera, so can you blame me?
In the most business-casual way possible, my mom and I went to Paris for 3 days at the beginning of the month. At first I thought I owed it to myself to preserve every moment on camera, since I was quite awful about taking pictures and such during my last visit to France (see Anouman), but after about a day of that it got to be quite tiresome and the videos weren’t too interesting anyways. So instead, I decided to film my mom taking pictures, which I figured would give me a lot more footage since she took pictures of just about everything in sight. I bet if I strung together all the pictures she took in order, I could probably have one hell of a stop-motion video.
I find myself questioning the grammar in the above picture, but hey, at least the message is good. I could probably post a plethora of pictures from the trip, but I’ll spare you this time around. I’m pretty sure if you don’t know what the Eiffel tower looks like, you’re probably not old enough to be reading this anyways. Aside from making all the usual stops as one does in Paris, I managed to track down a poster store that I visited on my first trip two years ago. This is significant only because I didn’t have the address or even know what the store was called. It was pretty much the equivalent of that time my dad went into CD Warehouse looking for a song by an unknown artist with an unknown title and apparently, an unknown melody. But hey, he found that song eventually, so it wasn’t too shocking that I was able to find the store. The song, by the way, was The Verve’s Bittersweet Symphony, if you care.
If you ever find yourself in Paris and also in possession of a blank wall, here’s how to get to the poster store:
- Take the metro to L’Arc De Triomphe
- Walk away from the arch until you see the Galerie des Champs-Élysées. The store is in the mall directly beside the galerie.
Note that I also leave these directions here for myself as I will no doubt forget them by the time I visit Paris again.
I know I said 2 years ago that I didn’t enjoy Paris that much, but it was much more enjoyable this time around. I mean, it is the most visited place on earth for a reason. If you’re planning a trip there, I can offer you a few simple words of wisdom:
- The answer to “Salmon or chicken?” is always “chicken”. Always.
- Never drink a full bottle of pure pomegranate juice before bed, unless you’re planning on staying up all night.
- You might laugh at the transsexual on the episode of Austrian Idol that you’ll watch on the TV in your hotel room, but really she is quite talented.
As one does during the strange limbo of the Christmas holidays, I’ve reflected a lot on the past year and the changes that came with it. In doing so, I came to realize how much of my life now revolves around music, and more specifically, jazz. During the second half of the year I joined a big band and also started playing in some restaurants and coffee shops around the city with my friend. It’s been great, really, everywhere we’ve played there has been at least a few people who really enjoyed it and thanked us afterward, which is all you can really ask for. If you’re not too hung up on money, playing jazz – in any style, can be a pretty rewarding thing. That sounds conflicting, I know. I’m not too hung up about money, for the time being at least, and hopefully it stays that way for a while. I think one of the main reasons that jazz musicians don’t make a lot of money is because there’s a lot of confusion as to what jazz really is. With so many genres, from swing to bop to fusion and even “acid” jazz, the whole thing becomes pretty unattractive for most people. I mean, I call myself a jazz fan, but quite frankly there’s a lot of music labeled as jazz that I simply can’t stand to listen to. So what is it, really? Although almost all facets of jazz contain at least some improvisation, that can’t be all there is to it. Otherwise, Indian classical music, which is nearly all improvised, would be labeled as jazz as well when clearly there are major differences. I’ve heard some people try to label it as “black music”, and while jazz may have its origins in black communities, it clearly has expanded to something beyond that since then. About a year ago, I was asked to define jazz to a class of elementary students, and at the time all I could think of describing it as was “dinner music”. An appropriate definition in some cases, albeit vague, but I really wouldn’t want to be listening to say, Alan Holdsworth, over dinner. After much consideration it was clear that even I didn’t know how to describe jazz, even though I thought it was something I understood very well, and which I thought about constantly. Until recently, anyways, I really had no idea what it was. I began to feel sorry for organizers of jazz festivals – how can they possibly assemble a lineup of performers in a genre so vague, and still satisfy the audience?
I’ll put it very simply what I’ve come to consider jazz to be, for me at least. I don’t intend it to be a universal definition by any means. Simply put, jazz is the music of the city. Much like country music evokes the mood of the countryside, jazz music evokes the atmosphere of the city and all its nuances. This is why I think the music differs so much between artists and explains the need for so many sub-genres. That is all due to the many environments in which the musicians live and the impressions that they draw from those parts of the city. When I think about it this way, all those sub genres and intellectual aspects of jazz become much less intimidating. Anyways, it’s snowing outside and it’s really quite nice out and I’m just rambling. Happy New Year everyone.
It’s nearly Christmas, and for some that means tacky sweaters and half-assed cards, while for others it means packing a suitcase full of beach-wear and heading off to Florida. I never really understood why anyone would even consider the latter, I mean, Christmas is just about the peak of my winter enjoyment – after boxing day, my enthusiasm just seems to disappear, like external hard-drives on sale at Best Buy. It’s come to my attention that this year will mark the first time that I won’t be spending Christmas with all the members of my family, which is probably why we’re not going anyplace special. My brother’s off on his own in South Korea recording for Sony Music Korea and his Christmas EP was just released last week (Go! Buy it!). You probably already knew that, though. To tell you the truth, I’ve never been a huge fan of family vacations anyways. It’s not that I don’t like spending time with my family, or that I don’t enjoy traveling, there’s just something about a cliché vacation that doesn’t sit well with me. For one, I’m afraid of cameras. Well, maybe not cameras themselves, but I really dislike having my picture taken. It’s a terrible thing to be afraid of, I know. You can imagine my reaction when my mom insists on taking photos next to every conceivable landmark. The other thing is, I have this awful case of acrophobia. Fear of heights, as they say. I can’t even go on the third floor of a mall without getting a little bit nervous. It’s kind of embarrassing, really. Maybe I just have bad luck when it comes to the places my family chooses to visit, but every tourist attraction seems to be some tower or roller coaster or something. Either way, there always seems to be an excuse for tourists to elevate themselves. I remember a few years ago we all went to the Grand Canyon – it was “grand” alright, but it’s terribly hard to enjoy something like that when your fear of falling (or really, fear of landing) is constantly prodding you from all sides. I suppose I don’t really HATE family vacations, but it sure is hard to enjoy yourself when you’re always worried about having your picture taken or falling off someplace high. Maybe next year I’ll convince my family to go to Saskatchewan, I mean, not only is it flat as hell, there are almost NO noteworthy landmarks to take pictures besides. I don’t need beaches or canyons or anything, just a little firm ground for a change.
Over the past few years, I’ve noticed two distinct similarities, recurring themes that seem to surface on my birthday, one of which is common to most people and the other which I sincerely hope is not. The first is something that seems to be present year-round, but even more so on a day like today – the bittersweet feeling of nostalgia. There’s just something about a birthday that forces you to reflect on the past year and all the things you’ve accomplished (or failed to accomplish) in the time that passed between celebrations. For some that reflection is a good thing, while for others it is a reminder of all the things they could have been, or done. I’d like to think that the 16-year-old me would be proud of the now 17-year-old me, but I honestly couldn’t say. I go through so many phases that sometimes I can’t even remember what I was like a few months ago. I’m like a really terrible, non-artistic Picasso or something, and it’s only a matter of time until I reach my “African-influenced period”. Can you compare yourself to Picasso in some way and not be vain about it? Hopefully.
The second, more strange and unfortunate theme that seems to dominate 21/11 every year (at least for the past few years) is V-NECKS. Yeah, you read it right. Long sleeved and t-shirts, white and black, shallow and deep V-NECKS. For whatever reason, all my relatives seem to believe that I have a preference for showing off my neck. Is that a thing? Do people do that? I don’t even know how this all started because until a few years ago I didn’t own a single v-neck. Not the case today! In fact, if I keep receiving these shirts at the increasing rate that I am now, I’ll have amassed 104 v-necks by my 30th birthday! Can you imagine? I might have to have entire rooms devoted to containing shirts I’ve never even worn! Not that I don’t appreciate the generosity of the gift or anything, it’s just strange, the number of these things I’ve gotten over the past few years. At least you can’t tell me, “Don’t complain! There are starving children in Africa!” I mean, there sure as hell are, but would giving them v-necks change any of that?
Then again, maybe I’m just making too big a deal out of a single day. Comes around the same time every year. I don’t feel any different. I don’t know. May all your Vs be deep.