THE last time I saw Shannon Barnett playing her trombone was with VIRUS at the Pinnacle Hotel in North Fitzroy. At that gig they were passing around one of those large metal teapots (used by by the Good Ladies of the Parish to transport hot water for tea or coffee at church functions) for tips to help Shannon on her way to New York to further her music studies.
In 2010 she relocated to the Big Apple to undertake a Masters Degree in Music Studies.
On March 5th this year, Michael Steinman of Jazz Lives caught up with Shannon at the Radegast Hall and Biergarten, at 113N 3rd Street, Brooklyn playing with a new band put together by another trombone player, Emily Asher (who co-incidentally sometimes plays with the band BABY SODA which I wrote about a few months ago).
Apparently this was the first time this group had played together – so new that the band didn’t have a name yet, although on Shannon’s website she lists it as “Emily Asher’s Garden Party”.
Here’s a video (by the inestimable Mr Steinman) of the band playing “Mood Indigo”. You’ll note that Emily Asher tells the crowd that there is a Tips Tray for any offerings in appreciation of the music. Shades of the Pinnacle teapot!
Click here to watch the whole of the Jazz Lives post, “Birth of a Band”, which includes six more videos.
Shannon is obviously making her way in the highly competitive music scene in New York. Visit her website to see what gigs she has lined up for the next couple of months.Another Australian musician who is now based in New York and making the most of the many opportunities offered in the very active jazz scene there is Adrian Cunningham, (another sometimes member of BABY SODA).
Viktor Zappner from Burnie, Tasmania has organised a student workshop and concert at the Burnie High School with Adrian Cunningham this month. As part of the publicity for the gig, Adrian has provided this interesting piece of advice for musicians wanting to make a successful musical career in New York:
I have been living in New York for 2 years now.When I moved here I didn’t really know anyone and started again from scratch. In that time I’ve been lucky enough to have played with some of the best musicians in the world, toured Europe twice, as well as the Caribbean, and throughout the USA – performed at the Village Vanguard, 55 Bar, and Smalls, and even INSIDE the Empire State Building.
The most common question I’m asked is – How did you get started as a musician in New York City?”
So I thought I’d divulge for you a simple “how to” making it in New York.
Rule 1 You’ve got to be good, and if you’re not you’d better get good fast or you’re broke and on the next plane home. As soon as you step off the plane you’re competing with the best in the world. These are the guys you grew up listening to!
Rule 2: Check out as much music as you can. If you see a band you like, ask if you can sit in. Now this is IMPORTANT. You’ve got to be confident in your abilities. In a way this is almost more important. You can imagine if you run a band and you have a stranger coming up to you with a saxophone asking to sit in, you need to size him or her up pretty quickly because there’s nothing worse than having a guy up on stage who doesn’t know what they’re doing. So there’s a mild level of intimidation involved and if you know you’re good, so will they. So when sitting in with a band it’s important not to be too flashy or take long solos. Don’t be self-indulgent, nobody likes that. A good bandleader can size you up in the first few bars. If they like you, you’ll probably be allowed to play out the rest of the set with them.
Be polite. At the end, thank them and give them a business card. They may call you. Probably not.
A few weeks later, go and sit in again. No matter how well you played, chances are they won’t remember you. Don’t take this personally. In a town like New York there are so many great musicians it’s hard to keep track of who’s who. So remind them who you are. You may still get a bit of attitude – don’t worry about this, it’s normal. Ask if you can sit in again – if you did a good job last time it should be cool.
Rule 3: Always have plenty of business cards on you. This may seem a bit funny at first but that’s how it’s done there. After two years I’ve collected a pile of other people’s cards that stacks up to my waist – I don’t even know who half of those people are.
Rule #4: Most importantly … follow up on every opportunity. Anytime you meet a muso (muso=musician) and they say ‘come sit in with my band on Wednesday’ or, ‘you should contact this bass player and say “hi”’, then DO IT. New York is full of opportunities. It’s hard work but some wonderful gigs have resulted in following this rule. I take any chance to play I can get (not in the least because I love to play!). There are days when I get up, dash off to Central Park to busk with a jazz group, go to an afternoon rehearsal, do a gig in the evening and then play at a jam session at one of the downtown clubs, most of which don’t start ’til 1am!
Here’s an example of these rules in effect. There is a wonderful Jazz/Blues singer, Sweet Georgia Brown (whom I’m trying to get out to Australia). She’s titled as the last of the Red Hot Mamas, she has played with anyone and everyone. To play with her is a great honour. When I first heard her sing, I absolutely loved her- and next time I saw that she was performing, I went up to her and told her just that. I also said that I played the sax and would love to play a tune with her. (Another rule-ALWAYS have your instrument with you. This is New York!) So I played a tune with her. Long story short, she asked me to join her group; and because of her, I’ve performed at Montreux Jazz festival in Switzerland, I got to shake the hand of Quincy Jones, and countless other amazing gigs.
Finally, Rule #5: There are so many amazing jazz clubs, check them all out! Everybody and every club has its own style of playing, and just because you don’t fit in with the style of one club, doesn’t mean you’re not a great player. You’ll find a venue and musicians who are more akin to your style. But be open minded and versatile.
If you follow these rules and have a bit of luck on your side, then anything is possible!!
Here is Adrian playing with trombonist Wycliffe Gordon and Ehud Asherie on piano in Central Park on 18 August 2012. And I’m advised that the small trombone which Gordon plays during this clip is a soprano trombone or a slide trumpet.