Monday, December 20, 2010


What makes Synthesizers and sample based instruments sound " thin " up in the high registers ? For really low notes I think sometimes they are better than real instruments if you have a decent sized speaker . Not so for for synths and especially samplers . I wonder if the sampling rates wen't up really high would that help ? I also wonder that when a person tunes a real instrument that something happens when they go higher . My synths sound more out of tune up high too to my ears . It would be an interesting project to build a synth or sampler with a really high sampling rate and then to tune every note and see if it would then compare to a "real" instrument . With "real" instruments the "string tension" or "embouchure" pressure gets much higher is you get really high which changes the sound and makes it "scream" . How would you imitate that with a synthesizer ?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

questions from richard savery , Australian saxophonist

Recently in my own composing I’ve started to feel that allowing the soloist/improviser freedom reduces the freedom of the composer and imposes it's own limitations.
Do you have any advice or thoughts on this?

That's an interesting question which I think about often . Sometimes I write separate solo sections to the "head" of the tune so that complexity in the written music does not get in the way of the soloist .
These days when I write the soloing section I like it to be easily memorizable .
I prefer soloing over 4/4 and 4 bar phrases so usually my solo sections adhere to that .
When improvising I prefer the musicians to be able to add complexity if they wish rather than it being forced on them .
I like to look at the music from the point of reference for a non-musician . I wonder if non-musicians can tell the difference between " 4/4 and 4 bar phrases being adeptly disguised " and a tune with sections written in different time signatures .. I also wonder how aware the casual listener is of the harmonic complexity of the solo section . Most of my beginning students are surprised to find that "so what" only has 2 chords ... they may have listened to it countless times already without noticing that aspect .

Complexity in the written music is fine with me as long as it is not too hard to learn . Often I perform music with no rehearsal due to time/financial constraints ..

There are exceptions of course like "giant steps" or my tune " fried chicken modulation " where complexity is inherent in the concept of the tune and can't be simplified . In those instances the soloist needs to be well prepared . Even "Giant Steps" is structurally simple in that it only has 3 key centers , and four lots of 4 bar phrases which can be memorized fairly easily .
Tunes written within the confines of traditional structures like "blues" or "rhythm changes" can make the task of "keeping the form during the solo " easier for the band . It can be nice to reference the "cliches of american jazz harmony" like a " 2-5-1" in the solo changes which allows the soloist to use techniques he/she may have already devised for dealing with those structures .
In the recording studio sometimes it is fun to have something more challenging and " composed " to work on as the ability to have a few goes at it can take the pressure off .

I sometimes think that it can be too easy to force a soloist in one direction. To this point do you think this is a good/bad thing?
In some ways a good tune is "fun to play" . Perhaps in some ways it has the "imprint of the composer" on it but still allows room for the improviser to do their own thing .

It seems from the a big band composers perspective that improvisation is merely a structural tool within the music. I also know (perhaps as a result?) that many horn players hate having solos - particulary over swing charts - in a big band context because they find it very hard to come across well in such a ‘artificial environment’. Thoughts?

One of the problems of the big band is everyone is separated by larger distances than usual in a small group and maybe be shuffling through lots of paper ... Having very clearly written charts with easy to an easy to navigate " road-map" can make a huge difference . Sometimes that's more important the the music itself . Also having too many cued sections can make life more difficult . Some of the most successful pieces of big band writing have very little soloing at all . Duke Ellington's "Koko" comes to mind as a personal favorite . Personally I like to "solo" over horns playing soft backgrounds that I have written myself. As a pianist in a big band I enjoy playing through someone else's written backgrounds if the chords are pretty . In that situation I want to reiterate the point that its fun as long as I have the liberty of " getting a bit lost" and know that the chart is going to continue even if I can't hear the bass player underneath the horns and lose the downbeat ... What is a nightmare is powering through overly rhythmic backgrounds played too loud and when the band gets lost in doing so ...

Further to that question Darcy James Argue creates highly organised sections for the band members to solo over. In Zeno (not sure if you’ve heard it) it almost comes across as if the whole shape of the solo is already defined - not that I’m against that, I’m really into Darcy’s music.. What do you think of that as an improviser/composer

Thanks for hipping me to that track it's pretty cool . I have checked out Darcy's music before . I met him through Aussie bassist Matt Clohesy who is playing on that Cd . I thought the section before the trombone solo ( 2.10-2.30 ) was particularly interesting and pretty writing . As far as being difficult for the soloist I expect the trombone solo section wasn't too difficult from the point of view of "negotiating the music " . It was pretty easy to follow the beginning being in 6/4 and repeating between 2 chords and then another 2 ( all centered around Ab minor ) . I felt like the soloist had plenty of room to stretch at that point . After some time things got more complicated as the solo finished up , but he had already had plenty of room to move around and " blow " . Sometimes if EVERYTHING is written out then complexity is easier to negotiate . What can be hard is if the drummer or bass player is improvising within a complicated structure and the soloist needs to figure out what they are doing as well as play and get over the backgrounds .
In the end you have to ask yourself whether you liked the results . I am certainly no connoisseur of big band music but I enjoyed hearing that piece . There is something great about humans attempting to play challenging music at this point in history . Thumbs up to them for having the energy to put all of that together ... It's hard to get a trio together in New York these days let alone a big-band with innovative music so hats off to all of them . I wish you had told me in advance that the song was freely downloadable from all about jazz before I gave .99 to the itunes barons .

“Composing, I could reach conceptions that I could never reach in a limited, defined, performing time. I couldn’t reach an equal conceptual excellence in improvisation as in composing. The inadequacy may have been in myself.
Gavin Bryars
Do you have any thoughts about that quote?

Tell him to keep trying not to give up improvising so quickly . I have been at it for 25 years now .. still trying to get it together . Improvising is a useful musical tool perhaps similar to studying Palestrina or Bach . John Lennon learnt to sing and play a bucket load of old rock n roll tunes before he wrote " I am the Walrus " . In the end it's the quality of the music that matters , not the disciplines used to getting there . Once you get into areas of rhythm that are specific to jazz , blues and funk music (eg accents , "groove" , placement , rhythms that "go-against" the pulse etc ) it gets pretty hard to notate and sometimes improvisation allows you to achieve things easily that are very difficult to notate . It's also hard to get very specific about sound/timbre with notated music . Some of Miles Davis' most famous solos are made great by the specific placement of one-note rhythmically with a very specific "sound" .
The advent of recorded music makes recording an improvised event live as long as a piece of written music . That changes the impact of improvised music .... It doesn't however make composed music "less valid " just as inventing a car doesn't make walking useless . If Gavin Bryars doesn't know how to drive a car I would tell him to keep trying and give it a shot as it can really get you to interesting places which could be hard to reach otherwise .

Best regards

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

letter to NY times

I read this article today with interest

I felt compelled to write a letter about it after reading many of the readers comments hoping that " the copyright issue could be put aside so that people could hear the music " . I also hoped reading that someday Australian people will develop a similar attitude to our own jazz history . There must be hours of unheard recordings of deceased Australian musicians like Roger Frampton , Frank Smith , Joe Lane etc that are an invaluable part of our culture .

Here's the letter :

I am a 41 year old jazz musician , record label owner and composer .
I sensed a general tone among the comments left by your readers best
surmised by this comment :
"I am so pleased to read my fellow music lovers comments. In
particular regarding the legal issues which should not hamper the
process of these rare recordings reaching the ears of the public."
In the age of youtube , google etc , streaming mp3 sites like
rhapsody I have sadly watched copyright owners rights to compensation
from royalties "watered down" .
Perhaps the proceeds from the distribution of these historic
recordings can be used to set up an amendment to laws to better
protect the rights of musicians ( and filmakers etc ) still fortunate
to be alive today .
I believe it is what Goodman, Basie , Hawkins et al would have wanted .
Yours Sincerely
Sean Wayland "

Saturday, August 14, 2010

robert mwamba

I get to perform a variety of music here in New York city with a whole range of folks from all over the world . Robert Mwamba is a guitarist from Zambia , Africa who lives in NYC . This video is of us performing one of his original compositions at the sugar bar on 72nd st owned by Ashford and Simpson .
The guitar solo starts 3 minutes in . Robert is so generous I even got to do 2 solos on this one !!!!
At the last gig with Robert his regular bass player Lonnie Plaxico remarked that " we would let an Australian play piano with us but we wouldn't let an Australian play a "groove" instrument like bass or drums in the rhythm section " . To my surprise he was unavailable for this gig and I got my shot at it .
When the sound person took a line out of my amplifier it stopped working . Fortunately radio shack next door was open and had a 2 channel - 1 Channel plug . I managed to get close to my usual "sound" using the house bass amplifier .
My wife lost her job this week so we really need the money that this gig pays ... I will have to do about 5 to 10 of these gigs to pay for my broken amplifier . Luckily the music is reward enough in this situation .

Monday, August 2, 2010

fried chicken chaser august 2010

Completefriedchicken2010 by seanwayland

if you click on the "complete.." link you can listen . soundcloud seems to be having a moment at the moment

Saturday, July 31, 2010

In defense of imperfection


I have had my share of ups and downs in the music business . In terms of finding employment as a pianist/keyboard player , this year has been a bad one . It's hard to pinpoint the reason why . The economy maybe ? An oversupply of great players in town ? Those 2 things certainly are a factor . It's not really the " New York thing to do " to let people know that you are having a rough patch . People I meet here always seem to me to be overenthusiastic about their own lives and careers . There is a tendency to try and hide your own flaws here . Imperfection is frowned upon .

Things had changed drastically enough that I got to asking some of my colleagues for a reason why . Perhaps there was something I could change about my personality , playing or way of thinking that might help things . I got a variety of responses . No-one said I was an arse-hole which surprised me . A few people mentioned my "stylistic differences" with their preferred method of expression . Fair enough . Some people even went as far as telling me I should leave town . That didn't surprise me either . A few others mentioned a perception amongst them and others that I have hired that my gigs and CDs weren't " perfect enough " . They didn't think the idea of a "workshop" happening on the bandstand or in the recording studio was good for my career . I have certainly been guilty of that on more than one occasion .

I think back to my time as a youngster learning classical music which was my first experience playing music . I was the guy who invented my own harmonies during the choir rehearsals and sang them . I used to improvise vocal harmonies to all my favorite pop albums too . Playing the violin , I was always the guy in the orchestra who embellished my own parts . Once someone showed me the blues scale , the last bar of a Bach piano invention always involved a crass bluesy cadenza . At that point in my life I didn't really know anything about jazz but eventually found out a bit about it and learned it was improvised which was pretty impressive .

Australia was a little isolated then before the internet etc and it I was about 21 before I discovered my favorite improvisers who changed my life . Same as most people my age ... Herbie Hancock , Miles Davis , John Coltrane , Allan Holdsworth and Keith Jarrett ( especially " facing you " ) . During my time at jazz school ( 1992,1993) and shortly after I dissected and studied the music that those folks had recorded in depth . I read their writings too trying to figure out how they did it .

What I loved about Miles' bands in particular was the sense that it was very fresh and that anything could happen at any moment . I studied recordings of Miles classic quintet and realised to my surprise that musicans got lost . On some of my favorite CDs of that band it sounds as if they are playing the music for the first time in the recording studio . I remember being impressed by Miles talking about the importance of the band NOT knowing the music too well before it is recorded .

I got deeply into Allan Holdsworth at one point and was trying to figure out how he managed to conceive some of his rhythms in his solos. I asked Chad Wackerman if he thought Allan had used a computer or worked on unusual sub-divisions of the beat at great length . Chad's response was " I don't think so ... Allan is not that sort of guy he just FEELS it I think .

I also loved the "swing" element of jazz . I loved it enough to come to New York to try and figure out how it was done . The thing about swing that is so powerful to me is that it is INEXACT . My favorite groovy piano trios like Herbie , Kenny Kirkland or Wynton Kelly had "that special something " rhythmically that is certainly beyond notation , and a lot to do with interacting with your fellow musicians on the spot I think .

All of those lessons seem to go against the idea of "perfection" in improvising . To me the 2 things shouldn't possibly be able to co-exist . I try and improvise from the basic standpoint of "inspiration" . "Groove" , " the zone " , " inspiration " , "god" ... all those things to me talk about an intangible thing that happens "in the moment" I believe . For me to try and improvise without inspiration would make the whole thing pointless . I wouldn't know what to play . I am someone who at times writes a tune everyday . The act of composing is not different to improvising for me . It takes longer but .. I get " in the zone" and write down what I am inspired to write . It often seems pointless to try and improve a composition further the next day ... Should I come back next week and rewrite this blog ? ? Sometimes at a gig or in the recording studio the most inspiring thing for me to play I wrote the day before . That can be frustrating to my bandmates . The results can be mixed but sometimes the "vibe" is there more than for any other pieces . I think that is what Miles was talking about .

I know it's not the 60's any more . LSD is a thing of the past for most people . I think that that is probably a good thing . Doing a gig is different to "improvising" with your brain using a cocktail of chemicals . I don't know anyone personally who wen't insane after losing the form at Smalls . I don't like to go back to the past and listen to old CDs over and over . I like to know what is happening now . As best I can I try and listen to the new jazz music and get out and hear it which is the best thing about living in New York . Being able to hear great players often is the best reason NOT to leave town . On a great night I still hear music here that is as good as any ever recorded no doubt . On a bad day however , sometimes the music here sounds too "perfect" to me . I miss the looseness .. the "swing" if you will of my favorite old CDs . Sure the "level" of playing is as good as it ever was .. but sometimes it can be a bit like watching paint dry . I like to hear people try and play things that are beyond them or that they don't even know what it is . I remember Miles saying " I pay you to practice on the bandstand" .

If someone calls me to play their music I am usually more conservative than on my own gigs . Often in New York these days the band has never played before and we are all trying to perform difficult music with one rehearsal . Under those conditions it can be stressful for everyone if someone is getting lost or messing up the music . I try and keep things together then , but when I get to be the bandleader I like to give "inspiration" the front seat . I would hate to think that " I pay to to practice on the bandstand" will end up being " I will give you $50 to NAIL this piece of music ...

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

bondi song

sunny days in New York make me homesick ...
I can't win ! If it's snowing I miss the beach ... if it's hot in summer I miss the beach too !

"tricky tiki
steals the first set from you
i'll race you to ramp 3
bob hawke pays our stipend
totally perfect day
time to surf your life away
and I hope this day will never end
scum valley's all around you

tricky tiki
he's got the deal for you
satanic mansions house him and a bunch of bludgers
totally perfect day
time to surf your life away
and I hope this day will never end
scum valley's all around you"

Sunday, April 18, 2010

list of sydney based musicians hired by sean wayland now AWOL from music in Sydney

Jason Cooney ( quit music ? )
Peter Zografakis ( location unknown )
Felix Bloxsom ( location unclear ... probably playing pop music in LA )
Andrew Gander ( Teaching English in Bangladesh )
Nick Mcbride ( playing drums in Asia )
Tim Hopkins ( now in Sydney ... presently absent from the music scene after many years in New Zealand )
Robynne Dunn ( blue mountains )

The stayers ( musicians still working regularly in Sydney )
Phil Slater ( in wollongong )
Simon Barker ( works more in asia than Sydney I think )
Brett hirst ( in Blue mountains )
Carl Dewhurst

Funksters and singers still in Sydney :

Hamish Stuart , Alex Hewetson , Arne Hanna , Lily Dior , Virna Sanzone , Elana Stone

Friday, March 19, 2010

no-jazz becomes drums solo jazz

jazz history continued : after the "no-jazz" era ( where jazz musicians stopped soloing and use repetition or sound effects for interest ) came the "drum solo jazz era " . In "drum solo" jazz the drummer is allowed to display prowess and virtuosity but it is frowned upon by other instrumentalists. Whats next " The cats sitting on the floor meditating ?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

houston we have a problem

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Monday, March 15, 2010

best mechanic in brooklyn

I can heartily recommend Hong Kong Auto repair in park slope . And I thought that Park Slope's only residents were musicians exploiting each other for tips gigs , "organic" dry cleaners and others of questionable ethics .

My car hasn't been going very well lately . Its a circa 2000 mazda . It's still in pretty good condition but recently it hasn't liked morning's or rain very much when it's "performance" resembles that of a fella with brewer's droop .

After struggling to my day gig and back in the bronx today with cars passing me on the west side highway I figured I would pay my chinese mechanic a visit on the way home . My wife and many musician friends were convinced that my previous mechanic was overcharging so she found these guys .

In the grey drizzle I limped my car into the auto shop. I turned off the engine and left the key in the ignition expecting to leave the car and went and looked for a tradesperson .

The mechanic approached and said " what seem to be problem "
I said " the car isn't running so well these days , especially in the rain , I think it may need a tune or new spark plugs "
He said " open the hood and start it up "
I turned the key and it spattered to life .
He took a look under the hood and put his hand on the motor as it was running .
" After a few seconds he look at me and said " engine is running , I dont see a problem "
I said " are you sure ... it used to run better before "
He said " Engine is running now isn't it ? I dont want to rip you off ... if car stop gimme a call " .

Sunday, March 14, 2010

re: email from tom ohalloran about "eenan"

Tom O'Halloran ( esteemed youngish Australian jazz pianist worth checking out!!! ) March 14 at 6:06am
Hey Sean - I'm doing a workshop on jazz composition at the Con in WA and wondered if there was any chance I could utilise Eenan? Would you be into sending me a lead sheet at all? Totally cool if not... and I'll tell them to go buy the album instead! haha. Actually I'll tell em to get it anyway!!!

Just a thought.. no biggie.

Hope you're well man - I'm such a fan too bro!
take care,

hi tom ,
Nice to hear from you . Thanks for the kind words . I am enjoying your music on myspace as a I type .

I posted some files for you up here :

A few things influenced the composition of that tune . I have included the computer demo ( and a bunch i wrote at the time which didnt get released/recorded ) . I was in japan playing with James Muller and his sister on a boat at the time for a couple of months . "eenan" is japanese for good . It is part of my self-congratulatory period of song titles ( many others can be found on my CDs ) . You need confidence in this business.

Shortly before I left for japan Wayne Krantz called me for a gig at the knitting factory which sadly I couldn't make as I was in Sydney . Muller had some of his LTBL scores which I decided to check out in case he rang again . I realised then how much he had written out what was in his head ( I had thought a lot more of it was just improvised ) . I was also influenced by Holdsworth's non-brewed condiment head and the idea of writing out solos for heads which might later infuse your own playing . I realised that Charlie Parker was so good at playing a rhythm changes and a blues because he had already memorised 100's of his own heads on those forms . The repetitive bass figure was somewhat influenced by scofield's tune " we are not alone " from bump which is an early example of that type of bass playing in jazz. Maybe it was Jesse Murphy's idea not Scofield's ... I was also knocked out by the intro melody to "west of hollywood" by Steely Dan . The diatonic melodic pattern in "hollywood" influenced the melody of "eenan" and also "sal" ( another tune of mine written in that period ) . The chord changes and rhythm arrangement of "eenan" where written first and the melody was added later by improvising over the changes at a very slow tempo into the qy70 sequencer that I used at the time . These days I have cubase . As you can see by my influences I am really a jazz fusion musician trying to utilize acoustic instruments also . Say no to the "no-jazz" movement ( jazz with no solos or repetition instead ) . I prefer "acoustic fusion" .

Take care and have fun in perf . Any questions please email me

best Sean Wayland

Thursday, March 11, 2010

organ sale

Greetings earthlings ,

A few changes happening here at chez seed . I have decided to part with my hammond C3 organ and 122R leslie . For those of you not " in the know " , the C3 is the same as a B3 with more timber . So much wood that it is impossible to look at the legs of the organ player during church . The neighbours have been complaining about the noise around here . I tried to convince them that our regular church services where for the good of humankind but they disagree . Consulting various lawyers we attempted to be granted church status and the various tax-breaks it would allow us . If it worked for Chick Corea and Ron Hubbard I figured it would be worth a shot . That turned out to be a dead-end and the landlord is threatening to evict so I have no choice but to sell the beautiful instrument . This organ has low frequencies to die for ( all the way down to negative numbers I believe ) which gives it more than ample penetration . I have attached a video with a recording and photos of the actual instrument .
I am asking a price of $4000 for the old girl which has been well maintained and is in good cosmetic and playing condition .

I am hoping to use the proceeds to purchase a pinball machine and new industrial espresso machine .

There will be no more rehearsals but y"all are cordially invited for an eternal pinball match fired up with the best coffee in brooklyn . If the stress gets too much you can relax with a pie and a lager and a few episode's of "minder" from my complete DVD collection . As Arthur Daley put it best " The world is your lobster "

over and OUT

Saturday, February 13, 2010

ehtan iverson's wayne shorter transcription

amazing solo

happy new chinese year

In mandarin it is " gong xi fa cai " or " xin nian kuai le "
It's new years eve in the Chinese new year today . My chinese wife Qing made dumplings for me . There were 18 for good luck ( only one is left in the photo as they tasted good and I couldn't wait ) . I stole one of my wife's so now I have had 19 . Not sure what that means for my fortunes ...

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

predator drone RPV

fictional story of child whose father works in the airforce fighting the war in Iraq at home on his computer flying drone airplanes ..
dad works from home . the kid really likes video games and thinks his dad's game RPV is the best one he has seen

"my daddy is in the airforce and he showed me a great new game
2 can play ... 3 can play

predator drone unmanned RPV .. it's my favorite game online

after lunch dad gets to work in the study
mommy makes a little extra cash on her cam

insurgent is 50 points
civilian is minus 5 "

Saturday, January 16, 2010

online music

I would humbly posit that 2010 is the year when online recorded music reached the " tipping point " .
There is so much freely available good quality on the internet that "ownership" seems pointless .
My listening habits have greatly changed ... I remember finding a great album like "thrust" by herbie hancock which took years of searching ( back in 1987 or so ) for me . I would listen to that thing constantly until I discovered something else . Back then my jazz teacher John Bostok told me the "kind of blue" was good and it took me a couple of years to find a copy .

Now ....

For example :

I spend hours at this site just LISTENING to music ... I rarely purchase any of the stuff .... I just move on to the next great thing I havent heard before


There is a sea of live "bootlegs" of great jazz concerts recorded in the last 30-40 years on the internet .... You couldnt listen to all of them in a lifetime if you tried .... Many of these sites now stream this stuff which is perfectly legal for the listener .... Its an interesting philosophical/legal argument about the "difference" between streaming a digital file and downloading it listening to it once and then deleting it .

As a result I have posted all of my studio albums here :

If someone can suggest a better " business model" in the current climate I would love to hear it !
The cost of a digital album is going to come WAY DOWN in the next ten years . My bet is that in 2020 a whole CD will cost about $1.50 to buy online as a result ....