Tag Archive: russ spiegel

Russ Spiegel

(This is the third and final part of this series)

Getting Ready for the Big Move

My (now ex-) wife and I came to New York from Germany mid-October, 2001.  9/11 had just occurred and New York City was still deeply in shock.  As we were learning our way around, the city seemed hushed as people shuffled about, keeping to themselves with dazed looks on their faces.  American flags flew or were posted everywhere – windows, doors, on cars, even on trees.  The fetishization of the twin towers tragedy had just begun.

Russ Spiegel

Before We Get Started…

When I began writing this column, I had no idea if anyone would ever read it, let alone respond to it. I’m still not sure how often it gets looked at, though Joey over at earbits.com assured me about 50-60 people read “Notes” each week. I hope they are not counting the times I check it myself – that may account for about 30% of those hits! I did take it upon myself to post the link to my writings each week on facebook and a number of friends have responded saying they actually read my stories, which is encouraging. I especially like the response I got from fellow guitarist Sebastian Noelle, who responded with a fairly odd New York experience of his own:

Russ Spiegel

We’ve all heard stories about the darker side of living in New York City – muggings, attacks, cons, and the like. In the pursuit of my music I’ve had my run-ins, some which have left an indelible mark on me.

The Story of Eyeglass Man

Russ Spiegel

If you have ever wondered why jazz musicians flock to a jam session, why they may wait sometimes an hour or more just to play on one or two songs, here’s the skinny: the Jam Session is one of the most important means of learning, developing one’s skills, and making contacts in the jazz world. It’s a place where musicians of all backgrounds and abilities meet and try out their chops in the quest to move up the ranks of established players, a chance to play with different musicians and to hang out with the cats.

It is almost always difficult coming to a session where you don’t know anybody and you yourself are unknown. Jazz musicians are a colorful but skeptical bunch with seemingly contradictory attributes  – extroverted/introverted, ambitious, sensitive, competitive and creative. Especially if no one knows you, you are under pressure to deliver the goods if you want to make an impact and establish connections. The general jam session attitude is: “Impress me. Show me you know what this is all about. Let me see you are familiar with the vocabulary and can express it.” A certain level of technical mastery of the instrument helps, but you’ve got to know the form and you better play in time.

Being that the jam session is such an open podium for all comers, not everyone is up to the task, however. Those who can’t cut it are the bane of any musical get-together: the musician new to jazz, who doesn’t know the music; the amateur who doesn’t have the chops; and the poseur, who acts as if he is God’s gift to music but can’t play a lick. Here’s one story….

Russ Spiegel

There is a natural antipathy amongst quite a few musicians towards singers. If you ever heard or wondered about musicians’ misgivings on this subject, just remember the oft-told joke spoken ‘round the late-night hangs and wherever musicians gravitate:

Q: How do you know a singer is outside your door?
A: She can’t find the key and doesn’t know when to come in.

I was recently reminded of a story of when I first began living in New York City. Years back before I had actually relocated there I had been going to jam sessions and gigs around town and heard this phenomenal guitarist playing these beautiful, lush chords. I introduced myself and got to know Andre Ryabov, who originally hailed from St. Petersburg (aka Leningrad during the times of Soviet Union). It just so happened that Andre and I had some shared acquaintances of musicians who were living in Germany and we hit it off right away. Whenever I was in town, I’d check out where Andre was playing and at some point during the evening he would let me sit in.

Welcome, Gearheads, to the first installment of my new column, Russ Spiegel’s For Gearheads Only, dedicated to taking a look at all those gadgets and doodads we musicians seek out in order to get that special sound for our instruments or recordings.

KTS PR-01 Set replacement bridge with titanium saddles.

Hello from KTS

A couple of weeks ago I received an email from Stan Bobrowski over at KTS Musical Products, Inc., asking me if I would be interested in testing one of their new titanium saddles for Gibson and Fender-type guitars. I of course jumped at the chance, which led to this review. Let’s hope there’s more in the future.

Well, now that you’ve read about one of my brighter musical moments, I wanted to share with you another side of the jazz musician’s life: not exactly horrific, just one of the more bizarre situations I have found myself in. My thanks to Chris Parrello for reminding me of this story, and his particular role in it:

Mr. Moustache

As I was scuffling to find my next topic, Joey here at earbits.com recommended I write about my best, or at least most memorable, gig I ever had. I have to say a number of concerts stick in my mind: the time I led my big band at the 30th Deutsches Jazz Festival in Frankfurt, Germany, in front of thousands of jazz fans (and also shown on German TV), or the week I spent playing at the wonderful jazz club Innere Enge in Bern, Switzerland in quartet with my mentor Gene “Mighty Flea” Conners (more on him in my my most recent blog), maybe the time I played with my quartet Guitar Hell at the club Sunset in Paris, or the concert I did with my Indian-Jazz group Sundar Shor in front of the Gateway of India in Mumbai, India – the list is happily long. One gig though that really sticks in my head was not necessarily the most musically satisfying, but the setting made a deep impression on me.

In Memoriam: Gene “Mighty Flea” Conners 12/28/1930 to 6/10/2010

The author (with hair!) & the Mighty Flea. Leonard Jones on bass, Ralf Heinrich, drums. Frankfurt, Germany, sometime in the mid ‘90s.