Life Lessons.

WHOAH! Some months the universe just vibrates around you and throws you some intense lessons.

Let me start with a happy lesson, or rather one that I learned from a happy event.

My childhood friend and baddass drummer Lenny Herman, texted me, letting me know that Brian Blade (drummer extraordinaire) was playing with his Fellowship band at the Blue Whale – a really bad-ass club in downtown LA; somewhere you can actually observe and learn from the artists…) The last time I went out of town to watch a great drummer was Peter Erskine playing with a trio. It unquestionably pushed me in a few new directions, Peter is brilliant and thoughtful.

Brian+Blade+Brian_Blade_smilingArriving, I saw that it was booked, 2 long lines. Fortunately Lenny was in the front of the presale line and I walked right in with him, leaving my buddy Mark Portmann to try to get a ticket (should have bought him one ahead!) I got the best seat in the house to observe.

Cutting to the chase – Brian looked just as I remembered him, just a normal cat. But the second he began to play – it was like the portal of ultimate happiness had opened up in his third eye- hahaha. In other words, he looked like a 6-year old that was just given a bucket of GI-Joes; Utterly blissful and appreciative. I watched carefully, finding myself yelling out at moments where the suspense of his drumming captivated me. And I was able to understand the ideas as I watched with both appreciation and maximum absorption.

The next morning, I was having breakfast with Mark, (another musical guru who lives downtown and let me crash on his couch), and as I described what I saw to him he said:
“You have to approach every gig like it’s the first time you have ever heard music – your instrument, anyone’s.”
He was so spot on. That’s what Brian was doing.

As I practiced later that week, I observed my body reacting to my expressions – if I acted unbelievably happy, my body relaxed and became more nimble. If I acted angry, my body played aggressive and with more impact. And, at my weekly jazz gig with George Mamalakis , as I listened to the piano player as though I had never heard piano, I could not help but smile and play blissfully, listening carefully with appreciation.  Wow, mind blown, it felt like my playing was blown wide open and set free.

Now lets get on to the sad news. My friend from college Zain Musa had died suddenly – seemingly far before his time.

zanemusaZane was the most extraordinary sax player I could image anyone being. When he was 18 I would watch him go into a trance as he played, rocking back and forward as he channeled musical passion and grace. After a solo, he would wipe off his face and peer into the room as if for the first time. But his playing never left the room, it was spot on and thoughtful. I’m so grateful to have learned from him.

The thing about this, the lesson I learned in his passing was about how to show appreciation for the person that is gone. A common feeling people have is that they must feel or solve the pain the person went through in passing in order to be sympathetic. But I was filled with sadness that I could not express myself with him anymore. At first that made me feel guilty, but I realized that its actually the main reason to mourn – that you cant go have fun with them anymore. And let me take this one step further. I believe there is no better way to show someone that you love the lessons they taught then to apply them to your art right now. So when I feel sad that I can’t play and have fun with Zane, Ill go play or practice and use what I learned from him.

My album is out! More on that later…

Change is beautiful.

As I played jazz tonight, I observed myself having learned from watching Brian Blade. With combination of what I had witnessed in Brian and a deep conversation with one of my musical gurus and great friend Mark Portmann, I began to listen to each note of the soloist like it was the first time I had ever heard music, while smiling brightly. Wow. That really adds beauty to everyone’s efforts. Everyone want’s to be appreciated, and everyone deserves it for trying to express themselves alone – how can that not be beautiful? Not only does it bypass judgement, it creates so much beauty that judging is absurd.

And on another note.. drum roll please….
I just sent off my first album for printing. As soon as I finish with the publishing details Ill upload it to iTunes etc. So exciting! If you are not aware, this album has been my main focus for the last 4 years. Making this album has been my dream. And I finally fricken made it happen! So grateful to all of the people that gave themselves to this. The truth is, if you believe in yourself, and are willing to accept weaknesses about your artistry and improve/reinvent it on a daily basis, nothing can hold you back. Regardless of anyone’s reaction to my art, I did it with authenticity and am speechless with gratitude when I listen to it.

Thank you for being part of this!

Shaun

Gratitude

I was just singing songs from my upcoming album on my wife’s piano (currently residing in her parent’s garage). At the end of my self-serenade I was struck with a unique sense of gratitude. Ask yourself this: at the time that the majority of books on wisdom, faith, magic, and idealism were written, how many of the things you can now observe (RIGHT NOW IN YOUR ROOM) would have been considered miracles? The phone? The computer? Your house? Light? Heat? Your teeth? Your glasses? Your refrigerator? Your toilet? Your shower? I can keep going all day. Point being, you are surrounded by fricking miracles. IMG_0398

I was reading news this morning and it was basically saying that everyone on the planet is unhappy. Nowhere is safe, everyone is corrupt, and the planet is going to eat us for breakfast. Everyone has something you want and will never get unless you are ruthless.

Which viewpoint do you think will serve life, spirituality, and the organism known as the Earth? That? Or that we are surrounded by miracles and can use gratitude to increase our compassion for all of life? I don’t want to blame or persecute anyone anymore, I want to remind them that we are surrounded with miracles and watch the unhappiness that fuels them fade away.

Hello VIP!

Welcome to my VIP Blog. Here is where you will find my innermost ramblings about music, life, cooking, art, science, etc..

Let’s start off the conversation with a reflection on today’s formula for music sales.

In the past (before iTunes etc.), there was a whole massive team of people required to produce a physical record. From design, to packaging, to distribution, etc.

One could almost say the record companies had a significant job to do to “justify” their taking most of the profit from the artists.

But now, none of that happens. For the actual product, they have absolutely nothing unique to offer – just marketing and promotion. iTunes is just a server – a hard drive sitting in space making free money off of us. It serves no complex service other than a marketing platform. When a customer buys an artists’ album, iTunes takes the contact info, a cut of the money, and shares only what they want.

Does this seem right in today’s modern age? HELL NO! Mind you a premium for marketing is one thing, but stealing access to communicate directly with your customers? That’s no longer justified.

I WILL put my album on iTunes, etc. But It will be full price and missing key songs. Songs that will always be here on my site, for free, with the rest of the album.

My hope is that this will encourage people to support artists directly.

 

-Shaun