Ryan Welton

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Tag Archives: jazz

Best new contemporary jazz sound comes from sax player Justin Young

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This is a totally self-serving post.

But if you enjoy contemporary jazz or smooth jazz and haven’t given saxophonist Justin Young a listen, do yourself a favor and check out his new album, “Blue Soul.” You’ll get to hear three tunes I wrote as well.

There’s the self-serving part!

Justin is currently based in Seattle, but I got to know him when he and his wife, Rachel, lived in Oklahoma City. She and I worked together at a TV station in town (not the one where I currently work). As soon as I found out that Rachel’s husband played sax, I sought out his music and was blown away — not only by his technical skill but also by his sound, which I found quite compatible with mine. When I write instrumentals, it’s often with a sax lead in mind, and I usually have had players like Dave Koz, Jeff Kashiwa, Steve Cole and many more in mind.

Luckily, I met Justin.

I immediately started combing through all my recordings in hopes of putting together a demo CD for him. The hope was that, maybe, someday, he might record one or two of them. It turned out that he liked many of them, and he and his dad hooked me up with recording equipment to start writing more, some of which you can hear on my SoundCloud channel.

That was an incredible opportunity for me because it allowed me to learn Logic Pro. I got pretty good at it, although I’m not a Mac guy and will probably have to start over with FL Studio soon on my new laptop.

Justin went into the studio, and I knew that he might use one or two of my tunes, but I didn’t know which ones. He ended up picking three, and was pleasantly surprised by two of the three he picked. The one I knew he’d pick was called “Sweet Release,” a tune I first put together about 15 years ago. He did an amazing job with it.

The first version here is the track I put together in Logic Pro, not the original original of this song that I did back in 2003. But I still kind of liked what I did. This was after only a week of tinkering around in Logic.

But then Justin killed it on the album version. Yowsa:

The first of the two tracks that surprised me was a song he ended up calling “Razzmajazz.” I called it “Moment of Indecision” when I wrote it 18 years ago. I’ll put my original up first and then his, and you can see just how much he and his team of musicians and producers livened it up. Wonderful job.

“Moment of Indecision”

“Razzmajazz”

And then the third track he included on the album is the title track, “Blue Soul,” a song I called “Night Things” when I originally put it together in 2000 or so. I wasn’t expecting this one to get picked, but Justin heard something in this composition and again blew it away on the album.

My version of “Night Things” here:

And then what Justin did as he turned it into “Blue Soul.” Amazing.

If you see this post, do me a favor and go follow him on Facebook or pay him a visit at justinyoungsax.com. If you happen to have Sirius XM, you can also hear Justin on Ch. 66, Watercolors.

 

One dude’s opinion: Al Jarreau’s 5 Best Songs

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With the death of Al Jarreau today, another great has left the planet. There were very few male vocalists ever who could match his talent, and there is nobody in today’s music who can. Nobody. Don’t try.

Jarreau knew it, too. I recall watching a YouTube video of a concert he played with Joe Sample where Al called out auto-tuned vocals and three-chord songwriters. He wasn’t mean about it; he just knew that what he was creating was art and that the music business played to the least common denominator.

Al shared his art, too, and was a champion of arts education until the day he died. Heck, his hope was that each individual would find a way to incorporate art into their lives. This section of a much longer statement on jarreau.com summed up that sentiment:

From you, Al asks a favor. Please find any artistic thing that you can do with passion, and do it. With art in your life, you will be a better family member, neighbor, friend, and citizen.

So, in honor of the great Al Jarreau, here are my Top 5 songs from the vocal master:

5. Tell Me What I Gotta Do

4. We’re In This Love Together

3. After All

2. Trouble In Paradise

1. Mornin’

The Weeknd: A smooth jazz interpretation

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Since I re-started posting videos to YouTube late last year on the knowledge that I could once again post cover songs, I’ve been looking for songs to cover. Given that I’m a electronic piano-loving creature of the late 70s and early 80s, finding music from today that could fit my style is tough.

Enter a fellow they call The Weeknd. His real name is Abel Makkonen Tesfaye, and he hails from Canada. But he channels Michael Jackson in all the good ways. Smooth. Easy on the ears. “Off the Wall”-era MJ.

His latest single, “I Feel It Coming,” has been racing up the charts the past few weeks. I’ve been enjoying it on my run for months now, however, and I’ve been struck by how atypical it is for pop music in 2017.

Again: in all the good ways.

So, after I got home from work a few nights ago, I sat down to the keys and figured out the chords and melody. Its foundation is Eb-Ab-Bb with a lot of Gm7-Cm7 in between. Super easy to learn from a technical perspective, but it’s a wee bit trickier to maintain the smooth groove from the record itself.

If you enjoyed my rendition, I hope you’ll stop by my YouTube channel and check out more of my covers and original songs!

PHOTO: Courtesy of “The Come Up Show,” via Flickr’s Creative Commons.

“Take Five,” a lesson in digital patience

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It’s been a long, long time since I could call myself an aspiring blogger. Heck, in the early 2000s, I was on the tip of that movement, writing about reality television and pop culture, fancying myself to be some kind of flyover-state version of Perez Hilton without the snark, interest in fashion or bad taste in music.

Alas, I lost my interest in reality television and, for the most part, I lost most of my interest in all conventional television. I lost interest in my YouTube channel as well, which I had started back in 2006-07 as a way to promote my songwriting interests. I lost interest in that platform because I thought it was probably dead or dying with the advent of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and the like.

I couldn’t have been more wrong about that.

I couldn’t have been more wrong about the demise of blogging.

But I couldn’t have been more right about the need to align those efforts with my interests, and that’s what brings us to today. Well, it takes us to 2013. I started up a little site called thenormanfiles and proceeded to post to it twice. Maybe three times. What was bubbling inside of me relative to interest and passion was met with a complete lack of hustle on the execution side of things.

Enter Gary Vaynerchuk. If you’re in digital, you know who this guy is, and he likely energizes you as he does me. I’d rather watch three hours of whatever he’s doing than I would anything on television these days, and (frankly) I don’t really want to spend three hours doing anything passive.

Gary brings out the hustle in people. Gets them energized.

Enter Dave Brubeck. If you know your music, especially your jazz, you know who he is, and you know who Paul Desmond is, and you know what “Take Five” is — the quintessential jazz song of the 20th Century. It’s also the best-selling jazz song of all time.

Learning to play this song, in all its 5/4 time signature glory, is a lesson in patience. You’ve got to practice it over and over and over and over until you get to where you can just play the notes without messing up. All the hustle in the world won’t help you master the precision required to master this tune.

And I certainly haven’t mastered it. I’ve got the basics down, however.

Ultimately, that’s why I’ve decided to return to the world of blogging. It’s a platform that supports both my need for hustle and my need for patience, a quest to bring together years of musical efforts and digital expertise into one existence propelling me into the next 10 years or so of my own.

Hope you’ll come along for the ride.

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