Before I get to the new recordings, I have an upcoming show to plug. I’ll be at Adelle’s (1060 College Ave. in Wheaton) on Thursday, April 30th. I’ll be playing in a duo format with bassist Patrick Williams and we play from 7:00 to 10:00 pm. We’ll play a lot of my original material with some jazz standards blended in to fit with the restaurant’s “jazz night” theme. The restaurant has very good food – I know because it’s one of the rare places that feeds the musicians – so come and eat and listen. There is also a bar area right in front of the musicians so if you just want to come and just have a drink you’ll have a perfect seat for the music.
I’ve been recording an awful lot lately. I started with three sessions in Mexico, the most extensive being with Armando López Valdivia, the early music specialist from Guanajuato that I play with frequently. On the trip to Mexico I brought my portable recording rig which consists of a digidesign Mbox, a laptop and a pair of mics.
Armando playing the bass viola de gamba
Armando and I recorded two hours of music which I edited and mixed when I arrived home. It really turned out beautifully and I suspect we may press the results into a CD. Armando played viola de gamba, treble viol, bass viol, recorder, zamfona, bodhran and guitar and I played guitar, dulcimer and vihuela. Here is one of the pieces to hopefully pique your interest: http://www.michaelkentsmith.
In Mexico City I recorded with drummer/percussionist Javier Sosa. Javier played a plethora of drums and percussion instruments and I played guitar, dulcimer and bass. We recorded everything but the bass at Javier’s house and I brought the tracks home to overdub bass and then mix it all. The results are clearly what you would have to call world music and have a lot of influence from Africa. I’m sure that is because Javier and I played together on the Africa tour and heard a lot of great African music that impacted us both. Javier was already quite well versed in African music before the tour where I knew relatively little. What we saw and heard deepened his knowledege and inspired me to learn more. Here’s a sample track that is an afrolatin-hillbilly mix: http://www.michaelkentsmith.
While I was in Mexico City I also recorded some solos by Eduardo Garavito, an excellent African percussionist who also was on the Africa tour. I recorded him solo and I will edit his tracks to become accompaniments for a series of guitar/percussion duets that I will compose. Unfortunately, I haven’t had time to write the guitar parts yet since I’ve been so busy with all these other recording projects. By the next Newsletter, I’ll have the guitar music composed. I also went into the studio with Eduardo and three other musicians to record a track for his upcoming CD. After sorting out some technical difficulties the session went well and I look forward to hearing the end result.
Immediately after returning to Chicago I did a session with R&B/Jazz vocalist Jazmín Sky. She recently moved to Chicago from the Bay area and we have started playing as a vocal/acoustic guitar duo. We wanted to make a demo to get some gigs so we recorded four songs and I’ve included our version of “God Bless the Child” here so you can get a taste: http://www.michaelkentsmith.
Now to the new toy. I asked Mexican guitar builder Salvador Castillo from Paracho, Michoacan to make me a custom classical guitar. I had gotten to know him on my previous visits to Paracho and really liked his approach to building guitars. He built me a beautiful instrument of Brazilian Rosewood with a European Spruce top.
I played it on the recordings with Armando a mere two days after buying it but I had very little time to play it besides that. I was looking forward to getting it home and really exploring its possibilities. However, when I arrived at O’hare airport at the end of the trip there was no guitar at baggage claim. They had made me check the instrument instead of letting me carry it on board, which they sometimes do. When I finally found a representative to help me (this was at 2:30 am) she asked me for my claim ticket which I realized I had left it on the plane. She called the crew on the plane and they told her that they had already cleaned the plane and thrown everything away. I was told that without the ticket I would have no claim against them if the instrument was lost. I thought that it was gone for sure. She gave me a phone number to call the next day and I took a cab home in a rather dejected state. I called the next day and, lo and behold, they had found the guitar! They offered to bring it to my house but I said that I’d be right there to pick it up. When I arrived at the airport they handed me the instrument and I opened the case (it was in a hardshell case with a padded case around that) to check it out. At first it looked O.K. but then I saw that the heel block had cracked all the way through. They must have dropped it from a substantial height to make it break like that. I was given a number to call to initiate a claim and I’m still fighting with the airline to see what they will do about it. I’ll keep the airline anonymous for now but if they don’t come through, believe me, I’ll make sure everyone knows which airline it was! The next day I brought the guitar to luthier R.E. Brune in Evanston and he did a fantastic job of repairing the damage and I now have the guitar back in my posession and I’m enjoying it immensely.