What to listen to…..?

Matt’s 7/25 solo performance at the Grand Opera House in Wilmington DE.

I listen to most of my music while driving. At home I’m usually working on bookings and promotions, working with my son on his school work, running errands at strange times… oh yeah, practicing (which I never feel I do enough). I cannot concentrate on contracts and emails if there’s any music distracting me, especially if it’s something good that gets me involved. In the few settings where I sat in  an office an had muzak enveloping me I got very little done unless I really concentrated. Yes, even muzak is a distraction for me.

So, what am I sliding into my auto CD player these days? In no particular order these CDs have been in rotation during my driving time.

Monk Live at Montreux, John McLaughin‘s To The One and Thieves and Poets, Ken Navarro‘s The Test of Time, Soft WorksAbracadabra, Pat Metheny‘s What’s It All About?, and Dave Holland‘s latest sextet release (it was a library loaner and I don’t recall the title).

I’ve been guitar-heavy in my listening preferences as of late and John McLaughlin’s 4th Dimension group really knocked me out. My son actually asked if I had any other CDs when we’d venture out in the car as I played it every day for over a week. I do go through periods of time when I focus on, say, solo guitar recordings. It may be that I am working on my own pieces and gain some ideas; often, I’m not listening for examples of what to do, just listening for inspiration and enjoyment. I may listen to Alan Holdsworth prior to a solo performance, for example, not because I want to play like him on my gig but because of the overall musicality that’s going on.

One of the CDs that gets raised eyebrows from other guitarists is the Ken Navarro album. I’m not a fan of his smooth jazz outings with his group, but this is unaccompanied solo guitar work with a Godin Multiac nylon-string that sounds absolutely fantastic. Similar to Pat Metheny‘s solo release, Ken mines the pop music we were growing up with for his repertoire. While he’s not twisting and stretching the songs out of shape as most jazz players do, he’s playing intelligent and well-played arrangements of Beatles, Dylan and The Police among others. (Metheny is doing essentially the same thing, as well, though with a baritone guitar.) As most listeners know I do play my own arrangements of Beatles, Bob Marley, Neil Young, so it’s interesting to hear what other players are doing in that same general genre.

I no longer learn other players’ arrangements of songs, but I do listen on several levels most of the time. The technical aspect always strikes me, of course, as well as the musicality of the arrangement and performance. The recorded sound also gains my attention. Then, there’s the simple enjoyment of the music. These are always operating at varying degrees and levels, though I rarely get distracted behind the wheel — if that starts to happen the music is switched off or I pull over.

The biggest downside about automotive listening is I rarely know the titles of the tracks. I rarely talk when I drive and I never text when driving so grabbing the CD box and hunting for the title while negotiating traffic patterns is never an option. I do know the numbers of the tracks, though, after several plays and that is how I identify them.

I have a fairly broad range of music, from orchestras to power trios to Paraguyan harpists to Kate Bush. So my playlist, such as it is, can vary from week to week…. or not.

Now tomorrow morning I think I’ll take the rough versions of my new solo material for a listen…. My own version of  ‘making time for me’.

See you next time.



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