The Beauty of Ryan Mauer’s “Butterfly”

During a trip to Atlanta a while back, I went for a run. I was in a fairly industrial area north of the airport. The scenery was mostly drab. At one point, however, I noticed a butterfly bounding along side of me. It’s colors contrasted starkly against the pavement and the brown grass. I smiled because it reminded me of one of my favorite Ryan Mauer songs: Butterfly

The particular version of this song I’d like to bring to your attention is from a live outdoor gig that I performed with Ryan as a part of “The Angry Fix.” Ryan deserves special attention if for no other reason than the way he lets go of the music and what his fellow musicians may do with it. He truly holds music out with open hands and is as excited to see what happens as a four-year old boy. I’ve never had a bad gig with Ryan. This song is about what we all have within us. It’s about what we should all be striving to become. It’s about seeing our own true colors.

It’s a beautiful song, and it moves me every time I hear it – and every time I play it.

Enjoy Ryan Mauer’s Butterfly.

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Why Athletes Make Better Musicians

Sports are one of the most frustrating things in the life of a music instructor (I’ve seen your frustrated facebook posts!). The growing spread of club sports, more rigorous practice schedules and overlapping sports seasons makes it harder than ever to work in lessons, let alone concerts and performances.

But involvement in sports has some potentially unexpected musical benefits. Let’s consider a few.

Breathing. Yeah. Breathing. Kids who play sports expand their lung capacity and know how to fill those lungs up. This can make a huge difference in tone and phrasing for wind/brass instruments and certainly for vocalists. Air support is foundational to a great sound.

Physical strength and agility. Many instruments involve some form of dexterity. Percussion instruments can be very physically involved. Students who are fit are better equipped to have consistent strokes and consistent bowing, for example. I’ve also noticed that certain types of running can strengthen the ankle and foot movements necessary for long gigs on the drum set. How about having the simple core strength and balance to sit up properly for extended periods of time?

More advanced athletes will also be able to consider the bio-mechanics involved in playing their instruments. For example, considering how the arm, elbow, wrist and hand work together can help a percussionist improve their overall control on numerous instruments. This same consideration can help them understand when to modify their grip for different contexts.

The idea of building strength and endurance also translates to playing many instruments. For example, brass players need to develop their embouchures and then regularly “exercise” those muscles to enable the highest level of musicianship.

While scheduling conflicts are unlikely to go away anytime soon, it may be worth the extra effort to allow co-existence of both athletics and sports in student life.

The benefits go both ways — It’s not just that athletes make better musicians, but also that musicians make better athletes.

Review of standing mavis’ “Sweeter Days” Performed Live at Jazz@John’s 2011

This song is such a great tune for a night like Jazz@John’s. It’s chilled and perfect for a cool summer night outdoors on the grass. It’s become one of my favorites.

Photo courtesy of Barry Sherbeck

Under Ben’s simple guitar intro, Matt (bass) does some of his typically beautiful color work. Ben begins to sing. The lyrics mention rain and it’s funny (to the veterans of Jazz@John’s anyway). We’ve had many years almost cancelled because of rain. This year we performed mid-summer and got lucky with a spectacularly beautiful night.

At the completion of the first verse/chorus, Matt’s solo starts out soaring. After exploring a few interesting ideas in the upper register, Matt sets up his own pizzicato background loop. He then continues soloing over himself with a melodic sense so strong that you have to remind yourself it’s a bass solo! Ben re-enters at the perfect time and builds nicely back to the vocal.

Speaking of his vocal, I think you’ll really appreciate the tenderness of Ben on this one. He truly shows his heart, which is a big part of what (great) music is about.

The improvisation, flow, and swells within this tune are magical. A welcome gift to us as we’ve had fewer opportunities to play together over the past year.

Imagine yourself lying on the cool summer grass, staring up at a starry sky with some cotton-like clouds floating occasionally by as crickets provide a light bed of late night ambiance. Breathe in deeply, exhale, and press play.

Enjoy.

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