Author: Campbell, Bruce

Musical Cuisinart

I love to watch cooking shows on TV. There are a number of shows where up-and-coming chefs are challenged to take a bewildering pile of unexpected ingredients and create a dish that is balanced, pretty and delicious.

The same principle can work in music, too. Iím not sure you could randomly assemble a 40-piece symphonic orchestra with satisfying results, but it definitely works with a folk music like bluegrass. And just like the cooking shows, I enjoy watching the results of the Musical Cuisinart.

In Oakland every Monday, thereís an event called the Taco Jam. It has a long and interesting history. Originally, it was a standard open jam, and it was popular. The venue was a little Mexican restaurant whose owner was (and remains) a music fan. But it became a victim of it own popularity, as the jam grew and pushed out paying patrons. The owner had to pull the plug on the Taco Jam.

A local musician, Tom Lucas offered the owner an alternative - why not refashion the jam as a weekly event with a 5 piece lineup that would vary each week. Tom took on the responsibility of putting together 5 skilled musicians each week, and the Taco Jam was reborn. It works really well - and patrons who stop by the Baja Taqueria on Mondays are likely to hear wonderful bluegrass played by an amazing variety of players.

Another musical cuisinart is the Band Scramble. I have seen this format work really well. I find it interesting to watch musicians quickly form a cohesive musical unit. Itís especially pleasing when good vocal harmonies come from a Scramble band - but it happens more often than youíd think was possible.

Thereís a fairly vocal segment of fans that really donít care for band scrambles, but I never understood why. Maybe the objection is more organizational than musical. If youíre going to put several bands together at random, and put them on a stage one after the other, itís a pretty daunting set of logistics. Youíll have to make some effort to group players of complementary skill levels, herd them into their groups, let them go off and work up a few songs, then get the groups, one by one, on and off the stage. Maybe that can present a less than ideal experience fo audience members.

Anyway, bottom line, I enjoy watching, and participating in, impromptu bands. We get to combine rehearsals and performance into one event!

Postscript: Lost and Found list from the Supergrass Festivals:

1 Red Pick
1 Black Pick
1 glass eye, hazel, medium-sized
63 Red solo cups
39 Blue solo cups
1 white plastic bridge pin
1 Kyser capo
1 Shubb capo
1 Ruby Red slipper

If you believe any of these items are yours, contact me immediately.

Posted:  1/15/2014

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