Author Archives: JTV

Consistency is key…

Back in March a wonderful human being by the name of Ben Dicke asked me to Music Direct a show he was working on producing later in the year. His vote of confidence in me was seconded by another amazing human, Piper Arpan. I was hesitant purely out of insecurity and I told him I would consider it and could I get a recording. The show was Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson, which at this point in Denver’s theatrical community, is the stuff of Legend (for more on this and the origins of the show check out the following links: 1) Numero Uno2) Numero Dos aka “WTF?”3) Phew!4) It’s on, bitches.

As I continuously listened to the CD in my car, driving to and fro to gigs, etc. I became acutely aware of a desire to take this show on that overshadowed my own bullshit to the point that I was able to say yes to this undertaking. And that’s where the adventure began, starting with 2 intimate performances a week apart at the gracious Cap City Tavern at 13th and Bannock in downtown Denver that consisted of 2-3 numbers from the show, performed by my friends as I accompanied them on guitar, followed by to-the-point dialogues about the show, it’s origins, Ben’s desire to produce it and why, and a hope of personal investment from those that patronized the Tavern that night as well as online via our Kickstarter. After this came a 24-hour treadmill run by Ben on the 16th St. Mall which, when completed, had put us over the projected goal and gave us the funds to start production.

We held auditions. Deliberated for days on the cast and who would be cast as the lead. Cast our show and then played a rather stressful game of put-the-pieces-together as we lost actors, found actors, lost actors, etc. and eventually came in to what I can only describe as OUR cast. A group of people that were for the vision of the show, for Ben, for me as an MD and we swiftly became family. The rehearsal process was fierce and full of swift creativity, memorization and moments of sheer awareness of character and choice as Ben assumed the role of Director/Lead actor. As we neared completion of rehearsals, with all of our lights programmed and our Stage Manager taking the reigns there was a since of awesome awareness that we had worked on and completed something amazing in our 3 weeks of rehearsal. And then, 2 hours before the house was to open, Ben fell down an open trap door and the energy slammed in to a brick wall of shock, worry and frustration. Executive decisions were made for that evening and we carried on with our night in complete disarray. I saw Ben in the hospital and more than anything just wanted my friend to be okay. In the end, he was (is) and we rescheduled the opening of the show and we carry on with rehearsals as I compose this.

In my mind, what has made all of this possible, other than the unwavering support of all those involved, which includes the Facebook posts and messages to Ben during his Hospital stay, was the consistent awareness of the cast and crew that we had something wonderful that needed to be shared. Not just for the greater Denver/Metro area, but for themselves. In the situation we encountered a week ago it would be hard to be selfish given the circumstances, but as the decision was made to carry on with Ben as our lead(er), with everyone in their original roles, I was justified in the feeling that we all needed to do this show for us as much as anyone else. Rarely do I find myself in a mind set such as this, but it was the truth. The time has come to share this story with our friends, family, and the general public. We are past due for the birthing of this artistic creation. It is time to take the overwhelming consistency and love that this cast has for its show, its director and its crew and show this city that we are not idle and never have been since day one.

-JTV posts used with permission

John Mayer – Where the Light Is: Live in Los Angeles

Since John Mayer came on the scene as the pre-coital soundtrack to the sorority and fraternity life in 2001, he’s progressed from purely bubblegum radio pop to thick bluesy mojo to bluesy mojo radio pop. A not-so-subtle transition for some who have claimed him as their ‘wonderland’ or have wanted to lay beside him in bed whilst “Daughters” plays in the background and he ‘completes’ them. The issue with being a serious artist after having found a niche in the hearts of the collegiate femine is that it’s hard to be taken seriously when what you’re really passionate about as a musician begins to move you into a new musical direction. But he seems to have suffered no fan loss for his movement towards the bluesy side of things, which is some thing to be grateful for when we’re on the verge of losing one of the greatest expressions of music on earth.Hints of Mayer’s love of the blues seeps through in live albums like Any Given Thursday released back in 2003. While not overtly heavy in the blues arena his inclinations and leanings musically towards this genre come through in his live improvisational arrangements of his more popular and less radioed tunes, like “Neon”.Mayer’s growth as a producer, arranger and songwriter was evident in 2006’s Continuum. The highly Motown and R & B influenced tracks are a foot-tapping accomaniment to his romantic and deeply personal lyrics with the occasional politcal footnote (listen to the head-bobbing, yet slightly passive “Waiting on the World to Change”. But where Mayer has always shined as a musician, performer, songwriter, guitarist and arranger is in his live performances.

With 3 previous live endeavors under his belt, two of which boast two discs each, Mayer has proven that the library of music he has to pull from, both as an artist and from the public domain, has thrust him into the category of “Consument Performer”. Highly entertaining both in banter and it artistry, Mayer’s live shows are what they should be, entertaining. I haven’t yet been able to experience a live show, but I enjoy listening almost as much as if I were there and he personalizes each song to the point of being able to ‘see’ what he means musically without having to be there. Where the Light Is: Live in Los Angeles is no exception.
Thoughtful and reminiscent of his more poppy days the first half of the first disc has a VH1 ‘Storytellers’ vibe to it, without any storytelling. Not overly flashy in the playing deptarment it’s a nice introduction to the evening that progresses both sonically and in the number of musicians involved. I do however find the cover of Petty’s “Free Fallin'” to be a little contrived and it feels like he was practicing it before he went on stage and decided to throw it in for the hell of it.
The second half of Disc 1 is the “John Mayer Trio” made up of Berklee College buddies’ of Mayer, Pino Palladino and Steve Jordan. Jordan also helped with the production of Continuum. Mayer’s Trio released a live album back in ’05 and while a vast majority of that album made it onto this live performance some tracks lack the conviction and tightness that Try! conveyed. Live in LA boasts some tasteful forays into the Band of Gypsys camp of 69/70 Hendrix. Particularly at the end of “Who Did You Think I Was” when they rip into “Power of Love”. The ‘Trio’ portion of the album is energetic with some musical risks that, whether planned or not, take away from the prescence that the band has and the sound that they have the ability to produce. Purchase Try! if you’d like to hear them at their sonic best. Take particular note of “Vultures”, “Out of My Mind”, “Come When I Call”, and Hendrix’s epic ballad “Bold as Love” on Live in LA.

Disc 2 really shows off Mayer’s prowess as a guitarist. With a full R & B band + more vocalists and another guitarist, Mayer is free to explore musical regions of the map that the previous two sets limit. Of particular note are the solo sections on two of his more prominent ballads “Slow Dancing in a Burning Room” and the epically beautiful “Gravity”, reworked with a more blues saavy ending than on the Trio’s Try! album. It is really exquisite. This sort of electric ballad was touched on in 03’s Heavier Things with the track “Come Back to Bed”.

Tonally the second disc lends itself to Mayer’s understanding of the guitar as an amplified instrument moreso than the previous Trio set. Use of octave pedals, delay and univbe/leslie cab simulators add a depth to the music that is enhanced by the sound of a full band. Musically this set is a lot tighter as well. A good example of this is “I Don’t Need No Doctor” where after the double-time solo section there’s a nifty unison guitar hook that both Mayer and the rhythm guitarist, with Mayer occupying the higher octave.

John Mayer has brought a revival to the Blues, regardless of what your personal opinions of him are, and that alone has won me over as a fan and a musician. Thanks are due him, oh ye faithful.

Also Check Out:
Try! Live, The John Mayer Trio

Application Process

I am in the very basic stages of coming up with a guitar chord/scale app for the mobile markets. I have downloaded/purchased a few in the past that have been helpful to an extent and then leave me wanting more when I come to a fork in the road in my creative/learning process on my instrument. A lot of the apps out there cater to the beginner and intermediate markets, of which there are many, but my idea is to incorporate those beginner and intermediate ideas in to a more comprehensive app.

The motivation behind this is my awareness of how deep an instrument the guitar is. A lot of times it is considered a fast track to stardom or the constant comment I get is “Well, doesn’t everybody play guitar? Aren’t you going up against hundreds, if not thousands of people who pick up this instrument and go out and make records?” My answer is no, because I feel that a vast majority (though, not all) of people who pick up the guitar don’t have it in mind to pursue the instrument as a lifestyle. The guitar is a wonderful instrument. It’s portable, a great creative outlet, and can be picked up very easily. My purpose in creating this app is to further the desire to know the instrument and not just play the instrument. Styles of playing and music are varied and it doesn’t matter who you are or what you like to play or listen to, the awareness of all genres can deepen your knowledge of the instrument. Studying Wes Montgomery is equally as deep as studying Yngwie Malmsteen regardless of the style of music you play on the instrument.

Here is a general list of concepts for the app. 1) Chord positions/inversions/extensions in multiple places on the fretboard. 2) Arpeggio positions/inversions/extensions in multiple places on the fretboard. 3) Scales, in multiple variations in various places on the fretboard. 4) Scalar relationships to chords and the suggested scales to use over a particular chord (this is a Jazz Theory element that pushes the knowledge of the instrument past the beginner/intermediate moniker). 5) Suggested practices/use of time.

If you have any ideas or would like to see something in this app that maybe doesn’t exist in something else you’ve tried before, email me or get in touch via Facebook and I will attempt to incorporate them in versions to come.


For Those of You Wondering…

Hey Dear Frends,

I know that some of you have been bombarded with fundraising posts from me on Facebook about the show I’m Music Directing with Ben Dicke in the Fall. A lot of you have been curious about what the show is actually ABOUT, seeing as how it’s fairly new and all that.

Below is a Synopsis of the show and a little bit about Ben since some of you may not be familiar with him. I had the sincere pleasure of working with him as the guitarist for The Wedding Singer at the Aurora Fox last year and to be involved in his Direction/Vision of the show Xanadu at the Aurora Fox this Spring. Please forward this link to friends, co-workers, artists, etc. that you think would be interested in financially supporting this project. It only takes $1. We will also be doing a short concert fundraiser at Cap City Bar at 13th and Bannock in Denver on Monday, April 23rd.

“BLOODY BLOODY ANDREW JACKSON tells the story of America’s first political maverick. A.J. kicked British butt, shafted the Indians and smacked down the Spaniards all in the name of these United States–who cares if he didn’t have permission?

An exhilarating and white-knuckled look at one of our nation’s founding rock stars, BLOODY BLOODY ANDREW JACKSON recreates and reinvents the life of “Old Hickory,” from his humble beginnings on the Tennessee frontier to his days as our seventh Commander-in-Chief. It also asks the question, is wanting to have a beer with someone reason enough to elect him? What if he’s really, really hot?”

The show is set up in three parts-the first being a nearly melodramatic look at 19th Century frontier life and Jackson’s part in it. His family dead from cholera and Indian attacks, Jackson decides to take on a larger role in the greater world around him. He meets his wife Rachel and soon becomes the War hero who would begin to sculpt the outlook of a nation.

Part two takes the audience on the road to the White House, replete with a back-door scandal that keeps our hero from his first stab at the Oval Office. Jackson, undaunted, returns to defeat the “elitist political machine” that controls Washington to become the first President not directly connected to any of the founding fathers.

In the third and final part of the show, we find AJ surrounded by his “Populist” followers who, though initially filled with deep admiration for his democratic style, are soon resentful of their involvement in so much decision-making. Jackson is overwhelmed by the apathy of the American populous and sets the US on a course for “Manifest Destiny.”

Though the characters and structure of the show are all-at-once shocking, endearing, horrifying and hysterical, it’s the searing and often moving emo-rock score that truly gives this show it’s voice. An amazing show straight from Broadway, this Rocky Mountain Regional Premiere is sure to take Denver by storm.

BLOODY BLOODY ANDREW JACKSON is slated to run at the Aurora Fox Studio Space from September 7-October 28. The kickstarter for the project ends May 1.

Join me in making history.

Ben Dicke started playing around in theatre in grade school at his Church. If he would have made the basketball team in 7th grade, he probably would not have made theatre his life’s passion. His first directorial gig was his high school’s production of THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK. Since then he has helmed dozens of productions from middle school musicals to Shakespeare, from large-scale union projects, to intimate environmental works. Some of his favorite directorial and co-directorial projects include I, OEDIPUS, XANADU, BRIGHTON BEACH MEMOIRS, A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM, BYE BYE BIRDIE, HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS…, THE BALD SOPRANO, HAMLET, GROUCHO: A LIFE IN REVUE, and THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST. His contacts both regionally and nationally not only include Broadway and Off-Broadway but also television and film as well as staff and talent at some of the best Regional Houses in the country.

Swing Line

The difficulty in swinging isn’t the emphasis of swing.  The bawdy way in which the 8th note turns into something lazy and Mark Twainish.  It’s the fact that not everybody plays the same bloody quarter note length.  You can put emphasis on any of the beats in a measure you want, but if they’re not the same duration, then what’s the point?  It’s like everybody is in their own world and that’s not really a huge deal as long as we can all agree on one thing: The Duration of the Quarter Note.  Then we can wander in to whatever realms we need to exist in.  I love swinging, but rhythm is key.  Keep it simple, keep it tight and we all arrive on the same shore together in the same boat.