NEWS

Remembering Warren Hellman

Posted on February 12, 2012 by tomv2513 in NEWS

As we are heading out to San Francisco this week to play a number of memorial events honoring Warren Hellman, I sit at my computer tonight and reflect on this financially, culturally and musically generous man.   Warren was the creator and financier of the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival. For more information on him – http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/20/business/warren-hellman-dies-at-77-ex-lehman-president-and-music-festival-founder.html Over […]

As we are heading out to San Francisco this week to play a number of memorial events honoring Warren Hellman, I sit at my computer tonight and reflect on this financially, culturally and musically generous man.

 

Warren was the creator and financier of the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival. For more information on him – http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/20/business/warren-hellman-dies-at-77-ex-lehman-president-and-music-festival-founder.html

Over the many years of playing the festival with Robert Earl Keen (I can’t remember a year we didn’t play it – our absolute favorite), Warren became a fan and friend of the band. He always allowed us to close out the Rooster Stage at the festival and always took time to stop by to say hello, swap stories and thank us for performing. A few years back, he flew us out to his place in California to play a party at his “barn”. His band (pre-jimmy Dale Gilmore) the Wronglers were going to open for us. About an hour before they were set to go on, I was wandering around the barn behind the stage and found Warren in one of the stalls with his banjo. Very quickly into our conversation, he admitted he was REALLY nervous about playing that night. I told him that – #1 – everything would be okay and he just needed to have fun and let “the love come out” – the most important thing in a performance. #2 – Not worry about perfection  – which will NEVER happen though we should always strive for it. Finally, I told him, “you’re audience tonight is all of your friends and family – they’ll love you no matter what.” He thanked me for the advice and comforting words and as I walked away (to let him warm-up for his set), it struck me that this uber successful man just asked ME for advice. His openness and humility for someone with his success and standing has always stayed with me and his all encompassing love for music will thankfully live on for years to come through the festival that he began and continues to finance even after his passing.

God Bless, Warren! Thank you for your gifts and generosity and I know you are playing your banjo with some pretty incredible pickers up there!!

 

Covering the Base

Posted on January 3, 2012 by tomv2513 in NEWS

I once had the privilege of hanging out for a week with the great Grady Tate when he was touring with Peggy Lee. He would come into the lounge where I was playing after his show and we would talk on my breaks about drumming and the philosophy of music. Though I never took an […]

I once had the privilege of hanging out for a week with the great Grady Tate when he was touring with Peggy Lee. He would come into the lounge where I was playing after his show and we would talk on my breaks about drumming and the philosophy of music. Though I never took an actual lesson from him, I learned more from him in that week than an entire semester at school. One of the main ideas that is still with me today is his analogy of playing jazz (or improvised music) to defense in baseball.

His theory was in jazz, when a soloist takes off or “takes it out”, it was important for someone to musically “cover the base”. Just as in baseball, when the first baseman is pulled off the bag during a play, the second baseman or pitcher will will cover the base. He said “too often, young players will try to go with the soloist”, either mimicking or answering what the soloist is playing. What is actually needed  at that moment is for some of the rhythm section to musically “cover the bag”. “Someone needs to stay at home, create a solid base so the soloist has something to jump off of and something to land on again”. If not, “everyone is just chasing the ball around the field.”

A modern music example of this is in the Dave Matthews Band. When Jeff or Boyd is soloing, a lot of what Carter Beauford does is to “go with the soloist”, BUT Stephan is covering the bag, holding everything down with his solid bass line. This enables Carter the freedom to “go after the ball”.

If you’ve ever seen a soccer game of little kids, it is just a single mass of humanity running all over the field after the ball. It is amusing and cute, but not efficient or effective. As musicians, it is important to understand our positions and play our roles within the music. Support the soloist/ leader when they get pulled off the bag…. thanks Grady!

PRESS/REVIEWS

Posted on November 16, 2011 by tomv2513 in NEWS

“Keen and company kept things moving both literally and figuratively. Van Schaik pounded out the beat and the country rock thundered.” – Iowa Gazzette   “Keen’s cover of “Flying Shoes” a thumping arrangement that retains the haunting feeling of Townes Van Zandt’s original, and kicks off “Something I Do” with a double-take of a drum […]

“Keen and company kept things moving both literally and figuratively. Van Schaik pounded out the beat and the country rock thundered.”
– Iowa Gazzette

 

Keen’s cover of “Flying Shoes” a thumping arrangement that retains the haunting feeling of Townes Van Zandt’s original, and kicks off “Something I Do” with a double-take of a drum loop that blossoms quickly into one of the record’s best songs.” – No Depression Magazine

 

Every member made contributions as they galloped through a story-filled Texas road atlas of songs. The steel guitar work of Marty Muse and the drumming of Tom Van Schaik were especially outstanding…(playing) seamlessly and with verve…” – Ft Worth Star Telegram

 

“I have a really good road band. They’re entertainers and they can hold their own against most studio guys, too”  – Robert Earl Keen

 

“Musically, Keen and his band are chameleon-like when it comes to musical styles. The rhythm section floats effortlessly between country, rock, jazz and Caribbean time signatures without sounding like an over-caffeinated hotel-bar band. The musical shifts are subtle but substantial enough to keep things interesting. “Ready for Confetti” is a welcome bastion of light in the darkness that currently hangs over contemporary music.” –  Kinston.com

 

“The musicianship on Ready for Confetti is professional and slick, which is basically status-quo … he’s got a longtime band of crack-players who utilize everything from Hammond B3 organs to congas to keep things from getting dusty…. the knee-slapping percussion on “I Gotta Go” is notable.”   – popmatters.com

 

“Keen let his fabulous band carry the musical load. Guitarist Rich Brotherton, pedal steel player Marty Muse, bassist Bill Whitbeck and drummer Tom Van Schaik stayed connected to the songs and each other, and exhibited just the right touch on each one. Every singer-songwriter should be supported so well. Keen went out of his way to show his respect for them, introducing his bandmates before the “Rollin’ By” opener and again later as a group as well as also spotlighting them individually through the night.” – ChicagoConcertGoers.com

 

Among the intriguing notions he and Maines cooked up together was eliminating cymbals from the sound. “Cymbals sometimes compete too much with the vocals. It was a bit of a capricious decision,” Keen admits with a chuckle. “[Drummer] Tom Van Schaik had to play with one hand behind his back, so to speak. But all the musicians moved to a new level of greatness.” – M-Music & Musicians