The Methodist Bells – “Esso” – World Famous Moletrax Studios, 19-20 March 2016

Posted in its entirety for your listening pleasure at bandcamp.com and embedded below. For additional context, check out the other, later-later studio session – Sub Rosa Session #32 at Subcat Studios on 21 August 2016, as well as the interview Clem did with the Daily Orange, which goes into some of the details of the history of the session (and the origin of the name, Esso). From the article:

The title of the album, “Esso,” is a reference to the Exxon Mobil Corporation. Besides just liking the way the word sounds, Coleman says that he also likes the way that gas stations have a nostalgic feel to them, especially the way they look in old photographs.

“I like the thought that there’s an old liter of gasoline out there in some rusting tractor that was sold as Esso gasoline but that it still might power up and engine and make it run for a few minutes.” – Clem Coleman

* Recorded at the World Famous Moletrax Studios in Syracuse, NY. For the record (no pun intended), Jeff Moleski made Grove Havener at the Liverpool Limp Lizard sound like Pink Floyd at Pompeii. Twice.

* Find The Methodist Bells on Facebook, Myspace (no kidding!), and Bandcamp. Then, when in Syracuse, go see’em.

* Like it? Go ahead and buy it. All proceeds go to reminding musicians that their efforts matter.

Pearls Of Wisdom

As a random aside, a few things I learned from nearly two full days of recording 12 tracks in, mostly, one take:

1. Tune For Attack – Long, pure tones may be great at the gig when you want them heard beyond the bandstand – and jazzers know that the higher tuning gets your out of the register of the main melodic/harmonic instruments (think piccolo in Stars & Stripes Forever). When the mic is “right there,” tone and sustain can be overkill, esp. when you intend on playing a lot of notes. Get yourself a sharp attack and let the mic pick up the rest, else keep those fills simple.

First day at the office.

2. Limit The Variables By Limiting Your Choices – There is one obvious spot in one song where I wanted a different sound and, in a mad hurry, hit a flat ride where a crash would have been more appropriate – and I didn’t use the flat ride in that particular tune otherwise. You’re welcome to listen intently to see if you can pick it out.

Photographing the reporting of the recording.

3. Got Limited Time? Percussion = Later-Later – Every sound source above and beyond what the song needs is another chance to butcher the smooth consistency of the other drums and cymbals. Shooting for 1st or 2nd take? Keep it simple.

Mole is out of his mind – and knows what he’s doing.

4. Limit Your Range Of Dynamics – I was happy to have this validated by Matt Johnson in his drumeo lesson recently (If good enough for Jeff Buckley…). You get more tone – and more control over what you hear – when you play to the tuning of the drum (and more so the cymbal).

Adam about to get punched by Mole.

5. Play The Song, Stupid – Have a good idea that might make something sound really new and spiffy? If you’ve got two days to track, four other people playing, and haven’t played it before, then try it at the next gig instead. See #2 above.

Clem sez it’s good.

6. Don’t Forget The Songs – Other instruments can be punched in later if wrong notes and the like happen. Drumming? In this kind of a recording environment, not so much. The solution is simple – know how to play the entire song from memory and be ready to do so as if no one else is playing with you. If all else fails, there are far worse things than just laying down a drum track and moving on.

One day there…

7. Washy Cymbals – In retrospect, I would have left the A Customs at home and picked something with a sharper attack and less sustain. My mistake for not having spent more time listening to how they record with close mics and warm drums.

…the next day gone.

Jam Factory Induction Into The Syracuse Area Music Awards (“The SAMMYS”) Hall Of Fame, 3-4 March 2016

SAMMYS 2016 - Jam Factory plus members of the Hoffman family

Before the year passes completely… I had the distinct pleasure of subbing for Joe English earlier this year thanks to a kind offer from local CNY great Mark Hoffmann and his funky-as-hell son Gustavioso. The equally formidable Syracuse band Jam Factory was inducted into the 2016 SAMMYS (Syracuse Area Music Awards) Hall of Fame, joining the likes of 805, Bill Knowlton, Calvin Custer, and Benny Mardones (now that’s eclectic).

A snippet from Walt Shepperd’s Syracuse New Times article:

The mythology of the time had band manager, the late Joe Leonard, signing the contract while relaxing in a bathtub after Jam Factory had opened to a standing ovation when they appeared with Hot Tuna at the Fillmore East. Word was Columbia saw Jam Factory as a threat to the genre Sly and the Family Stone was establishing, and wanted to stash them away on the vinyl shelf.

And this was how hip The Today Show was back in the late 60’s/early 70’s.

Reposted youtube comment from Larry G:

A Syracuse Music History Moment: JAM FACTORY plays the Today Show Special “From Ragtime to Rock: A History of American Music” broadcast live January 13, 1970. The vinyl album liner notes tout Jam Factory thusly: “This driving rock group brings us right up to date with what’s happening in American music.” – – Heartfelt thanks to my friend Earl V Ford Jr. for posting this to my timeline. That’s Earl showing off his new purple polyester threads (and well before PRINCE learned to zip up his pants mind you) with git-picker Mark Hoffman in “the fringe”!  Gracing the Hammond B-3 is Gene McCormick – so in the groove at the finale he nearly shakes his head off his shoulders. On the skins is Joe English who displays true matched-grip sensibilities (when he can hold on to his sticks!) and awesome high vocal range. Not trying to miss the count on cornet is Steve Marcone and holding it all down is the late great Kent Defelice on bass. Awesome, Awesome, Awesome.

With nearly a full rehearsal (my inner solipsist barely coming to grips with all the reminiscing going on about events before the mid-1970’s) and partial soundcheck under our belts, the majority of the original ensemble took the stage as the closing music for the 2016 SAMMYS festivities on March 4th.

* Mark Hoffmann as himself (guitar, vocals)
* Gene McCormick as himself (keyboards, vocals)
* Earl Ford Jr. as himself (trombone)
* Steve Marcone as himself (trumpet)
* Gus Hoffmann (bass, vocals) as Kent DeFelice (who had a scheduling conflict with that big funk band in the sky)
* Anna Hoffmann (more vocals)
* Damian Allis as Joe English (well, at least they got the lefty player right)

The tininess of this planet Earth is highlighted by my older brother being Denny Laine’s touring drummer – making us both now one degree from the 1975–1977 Wings line-up. This begs the question – when Chris is mid-performance, does he think “Denny Laine… is in my ears… and in my eyes…”?

For interested parties, the gig was recorded for posterity and posted to youtube – one snippet from local music writer Mark Bialczak

The other three posted by Lori Newcomb…

* www.youtube.com/watch?v=QxLlYc6mN9Y – Tight-Knit Group

* www.youtube.com/watch?v=7gcjkBV0nA0 – Talk Is Cheap

* www.youtube.com/watch?v=vzC9ukNkA0U – You Better Listen

They weren’t my drums (but I certainly know the model and finish), so I should have hit them harder (but “eh”). For completeness, I included an impromptu homage to Joe English by stick-dropping during Tight-Knit Group (instead of You Better Listen, as per the Today Show vid above).

2016nov1_jamfactory_behindthekit

Several write-ups from the event are linked below from the Syracuse New Times:

* www.syracusenewtimes.com/jam-factory-recalling-a-tight-knit-group/

* www.syracusenewtimes.com/sammys-shebangs-shook-rattled-and-rolled/

* www.syracusenewtimes.com/syracuse-area-music-awards-photo-gallery/

Other highlights of the night itself included hearing Ohne-ká and the Burning River for the first time – as a big Keretta fan, I thoroughly enjoyed their mid-SAMMY set. Highlight of the awards dinner at the Dino BBQ the night before was being present for Mark Copani’s Music Educator award (snippet of an audio interview HERE).

2016nov1_jamfactory_gus

Fast-forward to my Rochester relocation – I walk into Bop Shop Records for my first proper free jazz show since my many, many memorable nights at the Metropolis Book Shoppe in Syracuse, and what do I see staring right at me, priced just right for an impulse buy?

2016nov1_jamfactory_album

The Methodist Bells And Colin Phils – Highlights Of Sub Rosa Session #32 At Subcat Studios, 21 August 2016

Posting for historical purposes, given the great recording and video that came from the session.

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The Methodist Bells (bandcamp facebook) had the pleasure of performing a 3/4 set on Sunday, August 21st at (my first drum teacher, Ron Keck’s) Subcat Studios for Sub Rosa Session #32. Closing for the Bells (well, I think it’s funny) was recently-US-returned-and-immediately-thereafter-Binghamton-bound Colin Phils (bandcamp facebook), who put on a fantastic trio show (and, with one of the wooden USBs in tow, I can say that their previous two albums are excellent as well).

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“The band. The band. THE BAND!” Adam, me, Leah, Clem, Jeremy, et Maurice.

Alice In The Sky, featuring an Allis On The Ground

With thanks to Amanda Rogers for organizing, Subcat, The Rebel 105.9 (we don’t get it in Rochester, though), The Syracuse New Times, D.I.T. Records, and my current contributing writer hosters at syracuse.com for making the session and recording possible, a video work-up of “Alice In The Sky” is provided below for your viewing and listening pleasure (courtesy youtube.com).

On day two of an 11-hour jet lag, hadn’t played in a month, stuck behind a poorly-left-ified kit, and still sound good.

The Colin Phils tune “Don Cabs” is included below. I was (admittedly) ready to sneak out early, but ended up staying for the whole set (that’s musician-speak for “great show”).

BONUS MATERIAL

Our fearless leader Clem Coleman (twitter facebook) was featured in a recent Daily Orange article, in which I make my third (known) appearance in the DO ever since starting at SU in 1994.

Link: dailyorange.com/…/otro-cinco-chef-creates-vintage-inspired-music…

PDF (local, for posterity): 2016sept7_methodistbells_dailyorange.pdf