Hurricane, Post Production & Jazz Festival

Irma was the third hurricane that I have directly experienced. It's always a humbling event to witness the power of nature. Luckily, my family fared very well, yet one can't underestimate the importance of preparation.

The recording of Brazilian-inspired music is in the post production phase where I create "comp" (composite) tracks, zoom into wave forms and edit and more. It's tedious, but necessary for polished recordings. I am glad that I spent a couple years seriously learning Pro Tools. Our wonderful flutist (Jose) has provided 4 tracks from his studio located in Cleveland, Tennessee. Our Brazilian guitarists (Diego) will send me his solo and comping tracks in October. He is touring in Europe right now. That's one of the great aspects of digital recording. You can do it from practically any location, then upload your tracks to a server. Of course, it's always better to record the rhythm section as a unit together. That "live" communication inevitably sounds much better. After that, we will add trombone, voice and some hand percussion and it should be complete!

The tenth St. Petersburg Jazz Festival is in February, but as director, I have plenty of work ahead. The lineup includes the original compositions by the Tal Cohen trio, Jeff Rupert Quintet with Veronica Swift, B3 Fury with the Shawn Brown Quintet, The Helios Jazz Orchestra with singers Whitney James & Chuck Wansley and Latin Jazz with the Gabriel Hernandez Trio. All of these jazz artists are world-class!

Here is the 2018 St. Petersburg Jazz Festival website: www.stpetejazzfest.com .

We like to feature Florida jazz artists for a couple reasons. First - we have amazing talent living right here in Florida. Second - that talent is often neglected. There is still a lingering attitude that Florida artists are inconsequential. It probably goes back to a bit of self-loathing and our tourist-driven culture. Every artist from anywhere else is always better than an artist who actually lives here. It's very weird to explain to the uninitiated. I've encountered it many times and I have no patience for it. Luckily, these dinosaur attitudes are finally fading away. I credit Creative Pinellas, the St. Petersburg Arts Alliance, City of St. Petersburg and the former Pinellas County Arts Council for recognizing and supporting our area artists.

If you haven't been to any of the St. Petersburg Jazz Festivals, check it this short video:

The Brazilian Thing

I suppose that I should write about my "unique" approach to composition and performance, but the truth is that my music is influenced by many great musicians and composers. All of these are filtered through my experiences and techniques, in the works that I create.  During the past 15 years, I have been drawn to Brazilian music for its expressiveness and creativity.

In terms of performers, it is difficult for me to imagine a more exciting, risk-taking singer than Brazilian artist Elis Regina. She is known to every Brazilian, but only a small number of music listeners in the U.S.
 

Elis Regina

Elis Regina

She excelled in her interpretations of MPB (Brazilian popular music), and also approached Bossa Nova with a distinctive full voice.  Sadly, she did not live a long life. Here are a couple of my favorite songs:

Upa Neguinho by Edu Lobo - The ginga or groove of this is exceptional.

O Bêbado e a Equilibrista (The Drunk and the Tightrope Walker)

This little samba is a disguised political commentary (composed by Joao Bosco) about the future of Brasil, written during the military dictatorship (1964-1985) when many artists had to flee the country. The circus theme reflects the state of politics. Although it loses a bit in the translation, it seems particularly relevant during these times today. The emotion, drawn out phrasing and direction of the musical line by Elis Regina, are astounding.

Evening fell like a bridge
A drunk wearing a funeral suit reminded me of Chaplin’s tramp
The moon, like a brothel madam
begged from each cold star a rented shine

And clouds, up there in the blotting paper of the sky
sucked on tortured stains, what crazy agony
The drunk wearing a bowler hat was being irreverent
for Brazil’s night, my Brazil
is dreaming of the return of Henfil’s brother
of so many people who left on the tail of a rocket

Our gentle mother country is crying
Marias and Clarices are crying on Brazil’s soil
But I know that pain this sharp won’t be in vain
Hope dances on the tightrope with an umbrella
And with each step on this rope you can hurt yourself
Bad luck, the balancing hope
knows that each artist’s show
must go on

Hermeto Pascoal

Hermeto Pascoal

Another great influence is Hermeto Pascoal, a composer, multi-instrumentalist, experimentalist and musical iconoclast. Todo e Som (all is sound) is one of his approaches to music. An impressive accordionist (sanfona in Portuguese), guitarist, pianist, flutist, percussionist and more, Hermeto also explores the sounds of cooking utensils, scrap metal, tables, lakes, dentist drills and practically anything that he can get his hands on. He is a prolific composer with over 75 recordings of his own work. During 1996-97, he created a new music composition every day as his project Calendario do som (sound calendar). His seemingly effortless synthesis of unique Northeastern Brazilian music styles like forro, frevo, baiao, samba with jazz and sound art, makes him a cultural treasure of Brasil. Miles Davis remarked that Hermeto is "one of the most important musicians on the planet."

There are so many other great Brazilian contemporary performers and composers that I admire including Tom Jobim, Edu Lobo, Clara Nunes, Antonio Adolfo, Mauricio Einhorn, Baden Powell, Emilio Santiago, Ivan Lins, Milton Nascimento, Jovino Santos Neto, Luiz Eca, Raul de Souza, Joao Donato, Chico Buarke, etc. Then you have the early greats like Heitor Villa-Lobos, Pixinguinha, Ernesto Nazareth, Luiz Gonzaga, Noel Rosa, Ary Barroso and more. I am so very fortunate to have presented and performed with Antonio Adolfo, Jovino Santos Neto, Diego Figueiredo, Haroldo Mauro, Jr. and Carlinhos Pandeiro de Ouro. It's a joy to work with this wonderful music!

Here is Hermeto creating a composition based on his "Som da Aura" concept.

Editing

Since the rhythms section was recorded, I am editing various takes to create a composite track for each instrument.  Luckily, the musicians on the sessions (Alejandro Arenas, Jeremy Douglass & Mark Feinman) are exceptional and accurate players.  That greatly reduces the amount of time that I have to spend editing in Pro Tools (the recording platform used). It's still 6 to 8 hours of time to produce a rough mix of the rhythm section.  After that, we will add guitar, flute, saxophone, hand percussion and vocals, before we tackle the next stage of final mix.

There are never enough hours in the day, but that's been the situation for many years.

Musicians Get Paid?

Since I am a composer who also performs as a musician, I am submitting this as a community service.

Musicians Get Paid?

It seems that word-­of-­mouth standards in the music business have disappeared during the past 15 years.  The economic difficulties of 2007-2011 and the free and near-free digitization and distribution of music, have led to a cultural viewpoint that music is cheap... very cheap.

It’s not only my experience. The Tampa Bay Musicians Network, a closed Facebook site with over 1200 members, is a forum for the “good, bad and the ugly” here in the Tampa Bay area.  Besides the good-­spirited bantering of musicians, it is a forum for discussions about the realities of a profession that is often misunderstood. Musician’s scale has been a hot topic recently. Many older musicians complain that they actually made more money performing decades ago (compared to today), even without inflation adjustments.

So what are reasonable rates for musicians? Well, I like to think that musicians should be paid like other skilled, service personnel including hairdressers, specialized nurses, landscapers and masseuses. All of the musicians that I work with have college degrees and years of training.  Most of them do not have health insurance or a pension. They are all talented, reliable and professional musicians, so how much should they be paid?

In a nutshell, professional musicians should make a little less than one-half the hourly rate for plumbers, electricians and similar skilled workers. Playing music can be fun, but it is also a tremendous amount of hard work with hidden time involved. 

Gigs (the musician’s term derived from the Renaissance dance form known as a gigue) can generally be classified as “steady” or “intermittent”. Bars and restaurants tend to employ musicians at lower rates because the work is reoccurring and the atmosphere is often casual.  Steady work for a musician is worth a discounted rate.  

On the other hand, special events, conferences, conventions, weddings and festivals tend to be intermittent and often more demanding in scope. A musician can be 10 minutes late for a bar gig and the world doesn’t end. If that happens at a wedding service, then expect bridal Armageddon!

Making Music Is More Than Playing

Besides performing, there are other elements involved with establishing musician’s rates. All gigs require travel, set up and break down time. That can easily transform a 3-­hour gig to 5-­6 hours of work. Bandleaders also spend a tremendous amount of time planning, marketing, communicating, bookkeeping, organizing and paying musicians. They also tend to provide the sound system, which can be quite expensive and a fair amount of work, to transport.  

The equipment for my six-­piece Brazilian band includes keyboard, double bass, drum set, tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone, flute, trombone, various hand percussion, two combo amps, 2 main speakers, 2 monitors, powered mixer, microphones and cables. The total value of that equipment exceeds $18,000. 

I have to bite my tongue when event presenters call and ask for this group to travel 2 hours each way by car, perform for 3 hours and then they say that "they only have a budget of $300."  That really stings when they work for a multi-million dollar organization, particularly an arts organization.

Rather than concocting an intricate wage system for dozens of musical situations, here is a simple base salary with additions and deductions.

Professional Musician’s Base Scale
(BTW - this scale has been in place since the early 1990s)

Performance -­   $80 first hour and $50 every hour after, per musician

Travel time -­   $30 per hour of driving time, per musician

Wait time -­   $30 per hour per musician (when the band is required to set up their equipment more than 30 minutes before the performance time)

Additions:

Solo act – 20% more than performance scale

Leader of band – 50% more than performance scale

Wedding musicians – 25% more than performance scale

Required liability policy (if required) – additional 10% of total performance cost for group

Deductions:

Steady weekly bar or restaurant gig deduct 25%

Steady weekly church performance – deduct 25%

Series or cluster of guaranteed services -­ deduct 20%

Off night (Monday – Wednesday) – deduct 10%

Daytime performance – deduct 10%

Meals:

If the engagement is longer than 3 hours, the client should provide complimentary meals for the band. If the client has food for their guests, that should be the same food for the band.

 Final Words

Presenters

If you are an event presenter and are truly short of funds for live music, think outside the box. You may have a service or goods that can be bartered into the rate. With a little effort, you might even find an underwriter for your live music. Think twice about planning a big event if it is going to be limited to a “wine and cheese” budget. Seriously -­ if you are spending $5000 on catering or Porta-­Potties, then the music budget should be at least 20% of that amount. Remember that you get what you pay for. If you want excellent music for your guests or clients, then it costs a little more.

Musicians

Please don’t perform for “exposure” unless you are a student gaining experience. It rarely leads to a paying gig and it devalues your profession.

David Manson

 

Recording

Some of the new charts beings recorded...

Some of the new charts beings recorded...

We are at the beginning of recording 15 new compositions for my Brazilian jazz group O Som Do Jazz. The prep work for this kind of project is massive and involves carefully checking chord progressions, form and arrangements. Then, you prepare the printed music so that all of the previous elements are clear to read for the performers. Following that, you must have a few rehearsals to clear up any problems and ultimately make this new music sound comfortable and familiar to the group.  Before the recording sessions, Pro Tools sessions need to be prepared with MIDI realizations (so the rhythm section can follow the form) and click tracks with correct tempos and meters.

At this point, we are recording the rhythm section in two days. When that is finished, I will edit playlist tracks to create composite tracks. When those are solid, we then bring in other musicians to the studio to lay down their tracks, as well as send mp3s to extra musicians in Miami and Rio de Janeiro where they can add their tracks.

Alejandro, Mark and Melissa setting up for a session.

Alejandro, Mark and Melissa setting up for a session.

Amost July....

The Helios Jazz Orchestra concert with Chuck Wansley was a success and on the program, we premiered a composition that I composed in memory of Ray Villadonga. As I mentioned in the previous posting, Ray was musical force in the Tampa Bay area and a very nice cat (as the jazzsters say).  Here is "Samba for Rayzilla" premiered on June 20, 2017:

https://youtu.be/WlhVkJygJLA

Next... we record the rhythm section of my Brazilian group O Som Do Jazz with 15 original compositions that I've written. The styles range from Baiao to samba to MPB to Bossa Nova. The musicians include Mark Feinman (drums), Alejandro Arenas (bass) and Jeremy Douglass (piano). These are top-notch musicians who truly understand and feel the unique Brazilian sound. Mark and Alejandro are colleagues of mine in the MIRA (Music Industry/Recording Arts) program at St. Petersburg College. Jeremy is a former student of mine at SPC. Having taught at a state university (6 years) and then St. Petersburg College, I can honestly say that the SPC music programs are very special.

The pendulum seems to have swung toward more conservative writing for me. 20 years ago, I was working with SuperCollider, Spongefork, AudioMulch & MetaSynth, playing free jazz in SHIM and performing in computer-assisted trombone pieces.

No Earthly Idea - SHIM https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zrpQ0zEs9RA

All Clear Now - Davey Williams & David Manson
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gsoj_ueHpQU

Catorze - David Manson https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bi7oSZc7l-w

Mambo Vinko - Javier Alvarez, David Manson (trombone)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vBoV1pNJwCI

That was interesting, but now I prefer to explore the mysteries of Brazilian music styles, interval symmetry, jazz modes and colorful chords. Perhaps, I just tired of computers and hauling around all of the gear required for electro-acoustic music. That, and very few people in the Tampa Bay area seemed interested in our music then. We move forward...

If you are out and about on July 15, come over to the Iberian Rooster in downtown St. Pete between 9 - 12 PM. The Iberian Rooster is a very hip Portuguese fusion restaurant. O Som Do Jazz will be performing downstairs in Subcentral. It's free!

What is EMIT?

Every year, people ask me "What is EMIT?  I am the founder and director of that music presenter organization, that seems to defy categories in many ways. The "composer-in-a-vacuum" model has never worked for me, so EMIT was created to connect with other composers, performers and the community at large. We've seen good times and hard times, but our wonderful board and supporters have remained determined to keep EMIT active.

This is the 21st season (nearly 400 concerts and activities) of EMIT presenting adventurous music - that is - diverse, often noncommercial programming including new classical, modern jazz, international, improvisation, and interdisciplinary art forms that incorporate sound. We prefer acoustic and near-acoustic volume levels believing that music should be listened to by a participating audience, not forced on people through loudness.

Emerging arts, innovation and virtuosity are important defining elements of the EMIT series. The name EMIT, is not an acronym.  It is Latin for "sending forth" and it is also a term for high energy dispersion.  Initially, we came together to make interesting music available in the Tampa area by tapping into the touring circuit of composer/performers making their way south.  That included the NYC downtown scene artists, as well as international artists. Over the years, we have directed more of our energies toward local artists and creating opportunities for them here in St. Petersburg.

Current major activities of EMIT include management of the annual St. Petersburg Jazz Festival, Recording Arts Program (RAP) with Boys & Girls Club students at the Royal Theater and ongoing EMIT series concerts throughout the year. EMIT also supports the 18-member Helios Jazz Orchestra and MIFU (Mobile Itinerant Funk Unit) as ensembles-in-residence. Educational instruction and workshops with local and visiting artists are also important components of EMIT programming.  Here is a video with highlights of the 2016 St. Petersburg Jazz Festival: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PxFb_X9E20g

EMIT has partnered with dozens of local arts organizations over the years including Gasp!, Salvador Dali Museum, Royal Theater, St. Pete Second Saturday ArtWalk, Studio@620, SPIFFS, Florida Orchestra, NOVA 535, ARTpool, Lights On Tampa, Boys & Girls Club, Gulf Coast Museum of Fine Art, BONK, Gulfport’s City of Imagination, WMNF-FM, Al Downing Tampa Bay Jazz Association, Palladium Theater, Eckerd College, SPIFFS, St. Petersburg College, City of Tampa and several local galleries - to produce concerts and workshops.  We are open to collaborations with other organizations.

EMIT has received four Best of the Bay awards from Creative Loafing for its innovative concert activities.  EMIT is a member of Chamber Music America and was the first recipient of an ASCAP/Chamber Music American “Award for Adventurous Programming” in jazz.  EMIT has received CMA/Doris Duke Charitable Foundation grants to present concerts with the Seattle-based Jovino Santos Neto Quinteto, the New York-based Rudresh Mahanthappa Quartet and The Claudia Quintet.

Some memorable events have included:

Seven concerts with jazz legend Sam Rivers, SWARM! Installation at the Salvador Dali Museum, MacArthur “Genius Award” recipient Ken Vandermark and his trio, Pamela Z with her interactive electronic mesh garment designed by M.I.T. faculty, the first Helios Jazz Orchestra concert, Rob Bernstein Sex Mob, Brazilian jazz pianist Jovino Santos Neto, dynamic bassist/composer John Lindberg, 6 visits with iconoclastic performer Eugene Chadbourne, violist LaDonna Smith, the “Ringing for Healing” performance protest created by Pauline Oliveros and Ione, Moving Current Dance Collective’s first St. Petersburg performance, avant-pianist Matthew Shipp, jazz legend Kevin Mahogany, German bassist Peter Kowald, The Claudia Quintet and dozens of workshops with both local and guest artists for students and the public. Some of our guest artists have left this earth, but their music remains.

EMIT always offers payment to musicians for their services, believing that musicians are rarely in financial positions to donate their services.  It is unlikely that EMIT will ever operate a storefront or performance space, as we prefer to designate most of its budget to artists directly for concerts and workshops.  66% of our total income for the past season, was paid to local musicians.  We pay musicians a decent professional rate and never ask them to perform for free or for unprofessional rates.  That's over $200,000 in the pockets of local musicians and composers, over the past 21 years.

All of the EMIT artists have helped me grow immeasurably as a composer and performer. I would like to think that other artists in the Tampa Bay area might the same. EMIT’s web site is located at www.emitseries.org .

EMIT logo hi-res.jpg

Summer

The summer is finally here and I welcome a slower tempo!  Most of the faculty at St. Petersburg College teach during the summer. I'm not sure how that came to be. Luckily, the teaching load is less and I have time to compose.

At this point, I have two 17-piece jazz big band compositions in progress for the Helios Jazz Orchestra, along with final editing of 12 sextet compositions for the Brazilian music group - O Som Do Jazz. I plan to have the rhythm section for the OSDJ project tracked in a recording session by mid-July.  After that, horns and vocal tracks will be added. This will be the third recording for O Som Do Jazz and all of the selections will be originals.

For one of the big band works, I'm experimenting with some constant structure and intervallic axis ideas. Back in 2000, I was fortunate to work with the great avant-garde pianist/composer Cecil Taylor. This was a three-week artist colony at the Atlantic Center for the Arts. It was an awesome experience to work 6 days a week with Cecil for 4-6 hours per day. At that point, Cecil was working with intervallic axis concepts, although he called them dyads. Cecil coached our ensemble as we worked through his music. He preferred that we learn his music by ear, but on one lunch break we "borrowed" his cryptic dyad notes and made a photocopy. I recall that the notes looked like sketches of cauliflower with positive and negative numbers added. For the ensemble, it took a couple evenings at a keyboard (with plenty of beer) to figure out his system of intervallic dyads.

The other compositions in progress will be a bit more melodic and conservative. No matter what approach is used to compose, the ear has the final word.

 

 

Fall 2017

It’s an honor to be recognized and supported in music composition with an Impact Returns Artist Fellowship from Creative Pinellas and the citizens of Pinellas County. I grew up in Dunedin and like many others, I returned to this area (after working in Cincinnati, Memphis and Indianapolis). The evolution of the arts here has been remarkable!

The last two months have been very busy. Through EMIT (an adventurous music presenter that I direct), we hosted the ninth St. Petersburg Jazz Festival with five evenings of jazz concerts and four educational workshops. The jazz festival lineup included original modern jazz from Robotman, original works by The Martin Bejerano Trio, the Joshua Breakstone Trio, The Helios Jazz Orchestra with guest singers Whitney James & Fred Johnson and L.A. drummer Jason Lee Bruns with the SPC Jazz Profs. Four workshops with our guest artists were given at St. Petersburg College and were free and open to the public. The jazz festival gets larger and better every year!

Recently, EMIT presented amazing Brazilian guitarist Diego Figueiredo with O Som Do Jazz and then co-sponsored musicians for Jazz in the Stacks (a library jazz concert) and Gasp!, the fringe fest at the Tampa Museum of Art.  Four of my compositions were featured, plus several arrangements. The 18-member Helios Jazz Orchestra performed on April 18 at the Palladium Theater Side Door with outstanding area vocalist Sonja Spence. On April 21, our Brazilian trio (Rio Bossa) provides music for a gala event at the St. Petersburg Museum of Art. I get to dust off my alto trombone for a performance of the Mozart Requiem on April 24, at the Palladium Theater. This concert is in memory of Jason Miller, a talented graduate of the music program at St. Petersburg College. He will be missed by many. On April 28, the SPC Jazz Profs will give a workshop at Dixie Hollins High School.

While it wonderful to teach and engage with the community through music performances, I also look forward to having a bit more time during the summer to compose and record. I am working on new compositions for our larger Brazilian group, O Som Do Jazz. The unique rhythms, harmonies, modes and the spirit of the music of Brasil inspire me to work in different directions. When that is completed, I will have a dozen original vocal and instrumental works that can be recorded. I am also composing a new work for the Helios Jazz Orchestra, a collection of the top jazz artists in the Tampa Bay. It’s a busy schedule, but I would not have it any other way!
 

David Manson

David Manson is a composer, trombonist, improviser, presenter, producer and educator with a diverse range of experience in music. His degrees include a doctorate from the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. He began his performance career with positions in the Florida West Coast Symphony Orchestra and the Memphis Symphony Orchestra and taught low brass and jazz studies at Indiana State University before returning to Florida. He is Professor of Music at St. Petersburg College and a founding developer in the MIRA (Music Industry/Recording Arts program). He was awarded the title of Distinguished Faculty at St. Petersburg College in 2015.

He has been soloist and composer with the BONK New Music Festival, Subtropics New Music Festival, Society of Composers and SEAMUS. He has performed and recorded with Cecil Taylor, Sam Rivers, Eugene Chadbourne, John Lindberg, Davey Williams and other music innovators. He has also backed popular artists including Henry Mancini, Johnny Mathis, Burt Bacharach and toured with the Glenn Miller Orchestra.

His solo recordings include "Modern Music for Trombone" (lps 3209) and "Beast" (isospin). Releases as leader, composer/arranger and soloist include "Particle Zoo" with ensemble SHIM, "Fluid Motion" with jazz legend Sam Rivers, "Infinita Bossa" and "A Kiss for Rio" with Brazilian band O Som Do Jazz, as well as "Radiant Forces" with the Helios Jazz Orchestra. He was also trombonist and arranger for Bogus Pomp, a Frank Zappa repertoire band from 1993- 2007.

He is a recipient of two Artist Fellowships in music composition from the Florida Arts Council, a Fulbright-Hays project in Turkey, an artist feature in the Southern Arts Federation’s JazzSouth radio program, and grants from Meet The Composer. His orchestral works have been performed by the Florida Orchestra and others. Recent television credits include "Looking" (HBO), "Grandfathered" (Fox), The Replacement (BBC One) and Riverdale (CW).

He is founder and director the EMIT series (in its 21st season), recipient of awards for programming by Chamber Music America, ASCAP and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. He is former director of the Tampa Bay Composers' Forum (1995-2003). Through EMIT and the Composers Forum, he has presented over 400 concerts and educational workshops of adventurous music in the Tampa Bay area. 

He writes for and leads the Helios Jazz Orchestra, MIFU (Mobile Itinerant Funk Unit), O Som Do Jazz and teaches jazz studies and Pro Tools courses in the MIRA (Music Industry/Recording Arts) program at St. Petersburg College. He is the founder and director of the annual St. Petersburg Jazz Festival, in its 9th season. David served eight years on the board of the Pinellas County Arts Council (1995-2003) and was a composer-in-residence with the Moving Current Dance Collective and federal education project Studiopeace. He directs the Recording Arts Program for Boys & Girls Club students at the Royal Theater in Midtown.

This year, with the Support of Creative Pinellas and the Pinellas County Board of County Commissioners, David will be composing and recording new compositions written for Brazilian jazz group O Som Do Jazz, the 18-piece Helios Jazz Orchestra and an orchestral fanfare.