AJ Lee and Blue Summit – Don’t Miss this Band!

It is a strange thing that in this information age more people do not know about the band from Santa Cruz, California by the name of AJ Lee and Blue Summit. Last Sunday I went to the show at the Chapel and along with the usual familiar bluegrass community heard a really great line up of bands. It was the  Be Unbroken: Bluegrass Fire Relief Benefit Concert & Auction , a benefit for victims of the recent Butte County fires. On the bill were The T Sisters,  Lost Radio Flyers and Blue Summit. Blue Summit closed out the show and unlike other times I have heard them they were rightfully placed as the headline act.

Even though AJ Lee and Blue Summit are all under twenty five and AJ is just twenty they play and sing with a skill, soul and maturity beyond their years. That they have not been signed to a big record deal is amazing. That they often get called upon to play opening sets for bands way under their level is surprising. That they do not get called upon to play big festivals or even big local festivals like Hardly Strictly Bluegrass is just strange. People in San Francisco into all genres of music should know about this band – they are that good.

Anyway, this post is a big shout out to AJ Lee and Blue Summit. AJ’s singing is steeped in the blues and when she plays the mandolin hold on to your hat because she can really play. When you do see them on some trendy late night show in a few years, just remember that I warned you, but I have been saying that for a few years now.

SEE: https://www.bluesummitmusic.com/

 

 

 

 

 

 

2018 Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival Awards

It is again a great honor and privilege to be able to bestow many of the great musicians and participants of the 2018 Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival with the prestigious Pelican Cafe Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival Awards. We have been giving these awards out for at least the last five years, and this year the committee had a hard time agreeing on some of the winners. So many acts! So little time!

Usually early October in San Francisco has people dialed into a local professional baseball team as the playoff games often conflict with the festival, but not this time. By the time the festival began, the scrappy Oakland A’s had already lost a one game wildcard playoff game to the Yankees, so the baseball distraction was never to be.  The San Francisco Giants season was pretty much over by the All-Star game.

Instead, the mood was rather one of shock as the only score that seemed to matter was the game in the U.S. Senate – it was on many people’s minds.  Brett Kavanaugh, with a 50-48 vote was confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court, and once again the voices of women were disregarded and ignored. The court now has added a very mediocre mind,  accused sexual molester and rapist, conservative partisan ideologue to the court and you can safely say that the “old boys network” is still in charge.  One can only hope that the midterm elections puts more woman and progressives in the upper echelons of government. I am not optimistic. We are an illiterate populous and our media is controlled in such a way that the narrative is often scripted by the wealthy plutocrats and truth is in short supply..

But to take a break from that madness and sorry state of affairs there is the 2018 Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival and what a great time it was.! Music is the best medicine.


BEST WAVES AT OCEAN BEACH: Friday Morning

I always begin the awards with a weather round up. The entire weekend during the festival experienced beautiful weather – sunny skies, and while the wind was strong out at the ocean from the northwest, it was actually not bad at the festival. In terms of surf, Friday morning before the wind came up was the best to be had. The waves were about 6-8 feet and really fun. After that, the wind picked up and it was all about the music.

Ocean Beach on Friday

BEST FESTIVAL DOG: The pleasant female pit bull hanging out on the main lawn at the banjo stage.

Talk about a chill dog and this dog was really fun to hang with. She just chilled on the lawn and nothing phased her at all.  People walking by practically stepping on her, strange smells, food dropping all over the place.  She was at the next blanket over and we enjoyed Dave Alvin, Mavis Staples and Allison Krauss together.  Why does Dave Alvin play blues harmonica in first position, I will never know but it did not even get a howl out of this pooch.

Favorite dog

BEST HORN SECTION: Booker T. and the three guys just nailing the classic tunes

The Booker T.  show on Sunday at the banjo stage was packed with talent. Lead singers nailing the classic R&B tunes. The horn section, seemingly a bunch of youngsters, were never introduced but these guys sounded great and  played with both power and dynamics. At festivals like this it is often the supporting characters that are what elevate the whole experience. The Booker T horn section was outstanding.

Booker T.

BEST SET THAT I ALMOST MISSED: Don Was

I was hanging out with friends on the Gold Stage when I heard this amazing trumpet player. Who could that be? Turned out it was Terrance Blanchard wailing away. I made a b-line to the Swan Stage and caught the set from the road which is a good perch to see what is really going on on stage. Then Bob Weir was invited into the jam and he sang a tune “Days Between.” Very cool!


THE BOB WILLS AWARD: Aki Kumar

Besides being a great harmonica player, Aki puts on a completely entertaining show. His style is what has been called Bollywood Blues and he sings these awesome songs in what I guess is in Hindi. He has the ability to lead a group, play and sing extremely well, communicate with the audience with joy and humor and keep every tune playing back to back just like Bob Wills did it with the Texas Playboys. His band often used the sitar. Talk about some cultural fusion! What is also cool about Aki’s approach is he really lets player take extensive solos.

Paul with Aki Kumar.

BEST BANJO PLAYER AWARD: Tim O’Brien’s Banjo Player

I actually did not hear too many banjo players. The banjo player with Tim O’Brien’s band did not bother me too much. He gets the award.

Tim Obrien

BEST WOMAN TRIO: The Wailin’ Jennys

There seems to be more and more woman trios out there, singing great harmonies and pickin’ some fine mando. The Wailin’ Jennys put on a great set at the Swan Stage. Really good three part harmonies with some modern touches. They did an a capella versions of Paul Simon’s Love Me Like a Rock that was awesome.


ABOUT
The Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in San Francisco is a little like Jazz Fest in New Orleans. Big-name bands, many kinds of music and a festive atmosphere. One of the amazing things about Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival is that even though there are tens of thousands of people, it is always a  peaceful event, and in the end people seem to get along just fine and often make new friends. Everyone seems to pack out the trash pretty well too. Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival. Warren Hellman’s party.  Communal music therapy.

PAST AWARDS

YouTube’s Content ID – A Case Study

How much do artists get paid for YouTube videos? The other night I was going over some fascinating numbers for the 2000 Azabache CD that a few years ago we started selling on CD Baby which then registered the album on all the digital streaming services and affiliates – Amazon, iTunes, Deezer, Spotify… the list goes on. This article is a look, for those who are curious – and I am sure there are many, at what the accounting looks like from just YouTube when you get paid “royalties” though their Content ID system. Do let it be known that the payout to artists entering the program is 30% while YouTube gets 70%.

Below are the plays just on YouTube which for 2017 came to 2,561,994 – that is two and a half million plays for just one year of a CD that is now eighteen years old!

On that CD I co-wrote one of the songs and most of the arrangements. I had a feeling at the time that the music would resonate with people as everyone on the project was in the zone. I choose to not be paid as “work for hire” on this project but wrote up copyright agreements instead. Below are the YouTube royalty statistics for 2017.

Azabache YouTube  Royalties 2017 – $162.52

SONG PAYMENT NUMBER OF PLAYS
Cinco a Diez $9.48 72,473.00
This Moment $51.04 213,489.00
Luna Cha-Cha-Cha $0.01 42.00
Simplemente Complicada $0.63 2,523.00
Surrender $0.00 5.00
Montuno Street $19.71 257,237.00
Batman and Spiderman $70.44 1,982,296.00
Besitos de Coco $10.74 33,216.00
Thanks for the Mambo $0.47 713.00
$162.52 2,561,994.00 Plays

So if you were ever wondering how much the artist gets paid (if anything) when you listen to a song on YouTube it is $0.00006343496 – or around six thousandths of a cent.

1 view pays $0.00006343496
It takes 157 views to make 1 penny
1 dollar is made after 15,764 views

If each time a YouTube video was played it paid the artist a penny it would a different story 2,561,994 * .01 = $25,619.94. When was the last time you bent down to pick up a penny. I do it all the time now.

I do not know the whole story about the woman who stormed YouTube with a gun a few months back but I did hear that it had to do with the meager payouts. Perhaps the general population should be more informed as to these business arrangements as I often am amazed at how little people know about publishing and royalty payments in general – especially in the digital age.

So how did we get to this situation?  The Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 which I believe is against the spirit of the U.S. Constitution.

 [The Congress shall have power] “To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.”

– Article I Section 8 | Clause 8 – Patent and Copyright Clause of the Constitution.

The reason that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act is so flawed is that it is impossible to have your music NOT on a platform. Meaning there is only an opt-in but no opt-out as the DMCA created a “safe harbor” which should now be obvious to anyone was a gift to the tech industry.  If Azabache decided to leave the YouTube program there would be no way to make it so our music would be off the YouTube platform. In what way does that qualify as the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries? There is nothing exclusive in terms of copyright when dealing with YouTube. Perhaps this is one of the many reasons for the huge income disparities in our society.

So each year we split up our meager earnings from this project. Create other works of art and music. Play our gigs. Teach. Do our day jobs. Bring truth and beauty into the world and keep the spirit whole.  Just like before the internet when music publishers screwed over the artists, the artists keep it real and bring the joy.

Below is an extended sample of a song called “This Moment.” I usually do not care for Latin music in English, but love this song and Manny Martinez’s lyrics and rhythm just work. 

This Moment
J.M Martinez/ (5:54)
Arr. Paul Lyons

 

To purchase the album

https://store.cdbaby.com/cd/azabache1

Also see

http://www.pelicancafe.net/blog/azabache-cd-now-available/

 

Michael Watson and Amazing Musicianship

It never ceases to amaze me how many truly phenomenal musicians call New Orleans home. Most of these musicians are unknown to the jazz world and the rest of the world.  I heard Michael Watson  play trombone and sing  in April 2018 at the French Quarter Festival in New Orleans and was blown away.  An incredible trombonist and an extraordinary singer,  it is truly odd that more people do not know of this amazing talent.

We heard him play with Bill Summers and his band Jazalsa. Ben Casey on bass, and one of the many great Batiste family drummers on drums.  The entire band was outstanding.

To get an idea of the breadth of Michael Watson’s musicianship and talent, here are two videos. At the show I heard, his trombone playing was both explosive and extremely sophisticated all at the same time.

I do not understand why these videos have so few views. I must have strange tastes in music.

 

3 Best Music Documentaries on Netflix Streaming – November 2017


I Called Him Morgan

I have watched this documentary two times it was so good. The great trumpet player Lee Morgan lived a life of many ups and downs.  When he was just eighteen, Dizzy Gillespie hired him and Morgan became a featured soloist in Dizzy’s big band.  Before the movie I only knew Lee Morgan from reading album covers and the Blue Note sessions, in particular John Coltrane’s Blue Train. I had heard of a rumor that Morgan was shot in a bar at a young age by his wife. You hear a story like that and your imagination just runs wild with scenarios – all fictitious.

I Called Him Morgan is inspired by a cassette tape interview of Helen Morgan, Lee Morgan’s wife.  Besides the amazing trumpet playing and prolific music-making, what is refreshing about this documentary is that all the people interviewed are black; there are none of the usual erudite white jazz critics.  Just about every person that was on the bandstand the night Morgan died is in the movie and is interviewed. Billy Harper’s and Wayne Shorter’s insights and emotions are particularly illuminating.  The photos of the Blue Note sessions are incredible. In the end it is inspiring to see these incredible musicians all seemingly healthy and vibrant in their seventies and eighties.


The Zen of Bennett

Even if you do not like Tony Bennett, this documentary about the making of one of Tony Bennett’s duet albums is beautiful. The film features Bennett’s recording sessions with Andrea Bocelli, Lady Gaga, Amy Winehouse, John Mayer, Willie Nelson, and others. It is very informative for anyone who wants to live a long life, what are the qualities of the “good life.”


Jaco

Jaco is a 2014 American documentary that depicts the life and death of jazz musician Jaco Pastorius. The film was directed by Paul Marchand and Stephen Kijak and produced by Robert Trujillo of Metallica and John Battsek of Passion Pictures. The film features interviews with Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Sting, Joni Mitchell, Carlos Santana, Jerry Jemmott, Jonas Hellborg, Bootsy Collins, and Flea. (from Wikipedia)

If you are a bass player and do not know who Jaco Pastorius is, you are not a bass player. Jaco redefined the bass. The movie Jaco gives a deeper insight into Jacos’s life, his family life,   great footage of concerts and interviews and his tragic struggles with mental illness.  We all miss this guy.

Two other great Documentaries NOT on Netflix

The reason you are reading this post is that  you have a Netflix streaming account and are looking for movie suggestions, it is raining or snowing outside, and you just cannot get it up to go to church or the corner bar.   Suffice it to say that the greatest music documentary of all time is not a music documentary but a boxing documentary called When We Were Kings about the famous “Rumble in the Jungle” heavyweight championship match in 1974  in Zaire between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman. What happens in the course of that event and the musicians involved is phenomenal.

And then there is the movie  Muscle Shoals about an Alabama city that holds a prominent place in music history and the funky rhythm section that finally gets some recognition. But you are limited. You have Netflix streaming.