26th: Practice tip #3 - what separates the great players from the good ones is not talent, its elbow grease, determination, persistence and out and out hard work. So stop reading this and dig in! :)) And remember - you can climb 95% up a very tall wall but still not be able to see what's on the other side... and then you climb a little bit more and suddenly you see it all....
8th: Happy New Year and welcome to 2013!
I played quite a few "The Test Of Time" Solo Guitar shows in 2013 including 4 Living Room Concerts. These 4 concerts were literally held in people's living rooms and they were some of my favorite performances - such an intimate setting (50 - 75 people) and such nice folks to share my music with. I hope to do even more of them in 2013 so in order to let more people know about this unique concert opportunity -
Introducing my New Living Room Concert FAQs and Questionnaire. Please check it out!
5th: I am surprised to see that my last blog entry was way back in February... I didn't realize it had been that long!
It has been one thing after another for me since February - a lot of solo guitar shows, many miles of travel and many hours of playing all of my new music for solo guitar from my new CD "The Test Of Time". This year I have played outdoor concerts, jazz clubs, concert venues and several living room concerts as well, loving it all. I am proud to say that my solo guitar show has been very well received and every show has ended with a standing ovation - I am thrilled about that! In the midst of my performances and travel, I also moved my daughter across the country for her new job after she graduated from college in June. I built an apartment worth of Ikea furniture.... and didn't hurt my hands (too much).
I just returned from doing a Living Room Concert in Seattle this past weekend and now I finally have a break in my performance schedule, with my last 2 shows for the year coming up Oct. 20 (Orlando, FL) and Nov. 30 (Milford, CT). In the meantime, my son is getting married in a month - very exciting! So I have some time now to reflect on what I have accomplished this year with my new music and where I want to go next. I know that I want to create some new solo guitar arrangements (thinking about a Prince song and a Stevie Wonder song) and I also want to compose new music of my own for solo guitar. I am dedicated to taking my solo guitar music and career to the next level and so I am planning on just how to do that. I am working towards taking my solo guitar show to Europe and overseas in general. I also want to do more living room concerts as they have been very enjoyable and special.
Here is a photo of the Living Room Concert I did this past weekend in Seattle with Jeff Kashiwa as my special guest. I played songs from my new solo guitar CD "The Test Of Time" and Jeff and I played many songs from our albums as well as many songs together - great time! If you are interested in having me do a living room concert, just email Kristin Leonhard.
1st: A lot is going on here ... the first video for "The Test Of Time" has been released at YouTube, sales of CDs and Downloads here at my site are brisk , I have published a new podcast for "The Test Of Time" at iTunes and we are getting many replies to my new Living Room Concert offer. While "The Test Of Time" has a lot of appeal for my smooth/contemporary jazz fans, it also has appeal to people who love acoustic music and solo guitar. The album does not release nationally until March 20, but you can get your own signed and personalized CD exclusively here until then. I am working hard to share my new music with you and I can't wait to travel and play it all for you live!
10th: Thank you for the wonderful early response to the release of my new CD "The Test Of Time" here at my web site. Even though the national release date with my distributors is not until March 20, it gives me great pleasure to share my new music with my best fans and friends 10 weeks before it will be available in stores and online. And your response has been so strong - thank you again! (You can click on this link to hear samples of each song and receive your copy right now)
Up next, I will be announcing the formation of 2 Street Teams - one to publicize this new recording and the other to help me organize as many Living Room concerts in 2012 as possible. Please stay tuned for more information soon on all of this and in the meantime, if you are interested in participating and receiving special, unique benefits, please contact me at email@example.com.
3rd: Happy New Year Everybody!!
I am particularly happy that 2012 is here because it means the launch of my new album "THE TEST OF TIME". 2011 was the year I devoted to creating "The Test Of Time" and now I get to share it with you!!
The international release date with our distributors here in the USA and overseas is March 20. HOWEVER, I am happy to say that I will be able to make it available for sale EXCLUSIVELY here at my web site beginning JANUARY 3rd and shipping has already begun.
Please click on this link to hear samples of each song and receive your copy right now.
15th: Happy Holidays!
I am now back home from a journey to Osaka, Japan where I performed 2 nights at The Green Note, a jazz club run by Koichi Sugioka. I played wih a great band of Japanese jazz musicians, all of whom are quite well known and respected in Japan. This was one of the most memorable set of gigs I have ever had and I am most grateful to Koichi for bringing me to Japan and for taking such good care of me while I was there. I am also so thankful to all of the musicians who worked diligently to learn my music before I arrived and then performed it so well and with so much feeling in both rehearsals and concerts. Also much thanks to Koichi's beautiful wife Hatsumi for her generous hospitality and to Koichi's and Hatsumi's 19 year old son Hiroki who was also a most generous host and a very nice young man. I feel like they are my Japanese family! Finally a much deserved thank you to Isamu Nozaki for his round the clock work as my translater during my stay in Japan. His excellent work and friendship were much appreciated.
It was amazing to meet so many fans of my music in Japan and to make so many new friends. I can't wait to return and have the opportunity to play in Japan again. Maybe in 2012?
My upcoming CD "The Test of Time"is now at the manufacturer and the official international release date is March 20. However, I now expect to have CDs exclusively for sale at my website by approximately January 10. I plan on taking pre-orders beginning on Monday, January 2nd. I will make an announcement here at my web site as well as on Facebook and there will be a link to a page here at my website where you will be able to place your order and hear samples.
Have a great holiday season ahead!
23rd: My new CD is nearing completion! I spent 2 more weeks finishing the final recordings and then 2 weeks mixing and mastering the tracks. I have also been preparing for my 4 shows in Japan on December 10 and 11. Also, I was hired to record guitar tracks for a new artist and have been involved in that project as well. But back to the new album - the official international retail release date will be March 20, 2012. However, I will be shipping orders placed here at my web site much earlier, beginning in early February. Please stay tuned for more info on that as the time approaches. The new CD, my 20th, will be called "The Test Of Time". For more news about the new music, please read my blog entries below....
17th: Solo Guitar album Update - I have now finished recording the demos of the 12 songs for my upcoming solo guitar album. An important part of the process whenever I create a new album is to record demo versions of each new song. I then live with these demos for a few weeks before recording the final versions. Recording and then listening to these demos gives me a fresh perspective which allows me to tweak the arrangements and performances. Usually the changes I make are relatively small yet I go through this process because it allows me to be a listener for a few weeks and that always give me new ideas and renewed energy. I have also shared these demos with a small, select group of people. The early reaction to these demos has been wonderful for me to hear. One of my favorites was from a musician friend who left a short but sweet message on my voice mail - "Holy Shit! Amazing, amazing, amazing".
Another sent me an email -
"I am honored to hear this recording at this stage in the development of the record and I feel that this is a huge milestone and leap forward in your career. This a record that should be heard by a huge audience. The playing is magical in so many ways."
Another email -
"I just finished listening to your new demo cd from start to finish. It was an extraordinary experience! So many of your selections are personal favorites for me...Dylans' "Just Like a Woman", The Allman Brothers' "Little Martha"...and I have always loved "Witchita Lineman"...also some of my favorite Beatle songs...etc. etc.
However, the point is really that you embraced and fleshed out these pieces and expanded them in such organic but original ways. I kept laughing because I thoroughly enjoyed each piece. Your mastery of different styles, honestly, is just amazing, but not just because you've mastered the style, but because you've infused yourself in it so it isn't a style anymore. It becomes an "original Ken Navarro"....! I will certainly keep listening to it a lot, Ken. It's simply terrific."
Each of these new songs contain the melodies, bass lines, harmonies and even percussion, all played simultaneously on just one (1) guitar... no overdubs allowed. So it has taken a year of dedication and time just to be able to be perform each of these 12 songs. These early responses to my demos makes me feel that my dedication and hard work are paying off and I am excited to now begin the process of recording the final versions of each song for the CD. I should have another update in a few weeks. Stay tuned....
7th: Work continues at an intense but enjoyable pace here in my studio as I continue to arrange and perform songs which will make up the music for my next album. If you have been following my blog, you know that my next CD (my 20th) will be a Solo Guitar album. All of these new songs for the guitar contain the melodies, bass lines, harmonies and even some percussion, all played simultaneously on one (1) guitar... no overdubs allowed.
For example, this week I am working on a new arrangement of two (2) of Bob Dylan's most moving songs for me - "Just Like A Woman" and "Sad Eyed Lady of The Lowlands". I am putting them together in a kind of "mashup" arrangement where the two songs move seamlessly back and forth between each other. I am also perfecting my new solo guitar arrangement of Sting's "Message In A Bottle". Keeping the constant moving guitar and bass lines going while simultaneously playing Sting's great vocal melody is one of the more formidable guitar challenges I have ever faced but well worth the hard work and countless hours of practice necessary.
The new album will most likely contain 11 songs plus a bonus track or two as well. I will be working on the arrangements and my guitar performances for the next 3- 4 months, making sure that every moment of music on this new album is exciting, captivating and soulful. I hope to begin recording in the late fall and to release the new CD in early 2012.
Also for 2012, I will be focusing even more on my living room concert schedule, making it possible for many of my fans to bring me to their town where I can share all of this new solo guitar music with them in an intimate setting. I will be making these concerts as affordable as possible so that I can share the intimacy of my new solo guitar music with as many folks as possible.
Please continue to follow my blog for more updates throughout the summer and fall of 2011.
PS And don't forget to check out the August CD Sale (all CDs only $9.95) and signed to you, your friends and/or family.
9th: My musical journey has transported me to an exciting, challenging place. For many months now, I am spending my days creating new music for solo guitar. I am creating and perfecting arrangements for the guitar which contain the melodies, the bass lines, the harmonies and even percussion. I work between 8 to 12 hours everyday and still feel like I don't have enough time for what I need to do. I am not yet 100% sure, but I believe that I am heading towards the goal of doing a solo guitar album. I feel that I am creating new music which is not easily categorized. At it's best, I think it is simply "Ken Navarro" music. I will be unveiling some of this new music at my upcoming shows this year, beginning with Reno, Nevada on April 13 and Jay Rowe's "Jazz For Scholars" show in Connecticut on April 30.
On another note, the recent 11th hour cancellation of the Oasis Awards show in San Diego is food for thought. This event has become a funeral for smooth jazz - it was nothing more than a revival of circa 1999 smooth jazz with all the usual mediocre "artists" getting the nominations etc. (if the Oscars nominated the same people over and over, why would we watch or care?) Once I realized this fact 2 months ago, I declined to be involved. I had spent a good deal of time with the event promoter Bill Paddock, organizing and putting together a series of great workshops with Eric Marienthal, Jeff Kashiwa, Chieli Minucci, Brian Bromberg, Jay Rowe, Joel Rosenblatt, myself etc. But when I saw the way the main awards show was shaping up - not a new contemporary and progressive jazz event like Paddock said it was going to be - but rather the same "smooth jazz" radio playlist as 11 years ago, I pulled away. IMHO, no self respecting artist should want to be associated with this dead radio format. I am an artist, not a "lifestyle" entertainer.
2nd: Back in October I began to compose music for my next album, which will be my 20th CD. I realized that the new music I wanted to create would benefit from some of my new influences and techniques, both as a composer and as a guitarist. So I began to study and practice a number of new things. I have always loved a particular string quartet composed by the French impressionist composer Maurice Ravel and so I set out to do an extensive study of it. I began by learning and recording all 4 string parts - 2 violins, viola and cello. This allowed me to get inside the music, quite literally, and then once it was all recorded, to analyze the many musical elements that make this such an exciting and gorgeous piece of music. With only 4 instruments, Ravel creates many, many different textures, rhythms and harmonies and that ability to create a lot with just a few instruments is something I wanted to bring into my new music. At the same time, I had the desire to expand my guitar work to incorporate a more contrapuntal approach, one in which my solo guitar could convey and express 2 or 3 or even 4 independent parts at once. So I began to learn a number of new solo guitar pieces, among them a Bach classical guitar prelude as well as a wonderful arrangement for solo classical guitar of Pat Metheny's composition "Letter From Home". I also transcribed many solo guitar pieces by modern guitarists who I feel approach the guitar in this way. I then studied these solo guitar pieces and applied the things I was learning to new arrangements of my own compositions. These past 3 months have been an amazing time for me and I feel like I have been building up a large bank account of new musical ideas, techniques and inspirations, which I am now ready to "spend" as I begin again to compose new music for my 20th album. Here we go.....
6th: Fall is upon us and I am preparing to compose again. This past summer was very good - I played quite a few shows - large festivals, numerous concert clubs, guest appearances with other artists and even a couple of very enjoyable living room concerts. Throughout the summer, I practiced and prepared for each show for many, many hours, learning new songs, working on my guitar technique and most imporantly, many new concepts for improvisation. In the process, I learned a lot of new things about music and harmony in particular. I feel like there is still much for me to work on yet it is satisfying to be able to focus like that on my guitar playing and improvisation and to have had so many opportunities to perform and put it all to goood use. In the midst of all this, my mind never stops thinking and considering what music I am going to write next.
7th: I'm playing and practicing the guitar quite a little bit these days, working on new music from "Dreaming of Trains" and learning some new things. You can teach an old dog new tricks!
I travelled recently to Dallas, TX for a couple of shows last week at a fantastic new place called Jokes and Jazz. In a few weeks, I will be headed to Charlotte, NC with my band for the Uptown Charlotte Jazz Festival on Saturday June 26 where I will be appearing on the same bill with Norman Brown, The Rippingtons, Alex Bugnon, Maysa and Mike Phillips. Then, on Friday, July 2nd, I will be performing at The Rams Head On Stage in Annapolis, MD with my special guest Jeff Kashiwa from The Rippingtons and The Sax Pack. You can purchase your tickets and pick out your custom seats for The Rams Head right here! A week later, on July 9, I will be appearing as part of the Hoop City Jazz & Art Festival in Springfield, MA. Then onto Seattle for a living room concert and then to Boston for a couple of shows at the famed Bostonion jazz club, Scullers on August 27. I hope to see and meet you at one of my upcoming shows this summer.
18th: It's already been almost a month since my last entry here. Time keeps moving quickly as summer is almost upon us and I begin to travel and do quite a few shows. I am rehearsing the songs from "Dreaming of Trains" in expectation of performing some of the songs from the new CD in my upcoming shows.
Speaking of shows, I recently played the Smooth Jazz For Scholars concert in Connecticut with Jay Rowe, Chieli Minucci, Mindi Abair, Nick Colionne and Shilts. There were so many highlights in the show and it may very well have been the best one so far (this was the 8th annual Smooth Jazz For Scholars show!). One of the highlights for me was performing my song "Smooth Sensation" with Mindi Abair guesting on saxophone. I seldom have sax on this song and so it's fun to introduce a new sound into the mix of a song I have played literally hundreds of times. But the real treat was hearing how Mindi found a part within my arrangement which added a new dimension. This was a challenge due to the fact that there was so much music to be rehearsed during the sound check that Mindi and I did not get a chance to rehearse the song with the band (Jay Rowe on keyboards, Dave Livolsi on bass, Trever Somerville on drums and Steve Scales on percussion). So, Mindi and I found a quiet place backstage and I taught her the melody and the form of the song. Mindi is a "let's go for it" musician and I was quite impressed with her ability to quickly absorb the song and her totally positive attitude. Some musicians would have declined to perform a new song without a full rehearsal but not Mindi! She played great on it and took this hit song of mine to a new place.
Another cool moment for me was guesting on Chieli's version of "Cause We Ended As Lovers". I love that song and the way Chieli plays it and we had some special moments together on it. And Chieli returned the favor by guesting on a new song of mine from "Dreaming of Trains" called "The Buzz". And he played wonderfully on it too as we traded melodies and improvised off of each other.
As always, Jay Rowe kept all of the music together for all of the "star" musicians. I don't know how Jay pulls of this magnificent event year after year and my hat is off to Jay. There were close to 1,000 people at the show and much money was raised for the music departments of the schools in Jay's home town of Milford, CT.
My next show is going to be a great one in Charlotte, NC on Saturday June 26 - the first annual Uptown Charlotte Jazz Fest . Besides me, there will also be Maysa with Mike Phillips and his band, Norman Brown, The Rippingtons, and Alex Bugnon. How's that for a killer lineup? You can get tickets here. Hope to see you all there and at another of my shows this year!
22nd: It's been too long since my last blog entry here and now I have so much to say.... where to begin... alright, some news. My brand new CD "Dreaming of Trains" is being received so well by fans and critics alike... I feel grateful and proud. More news... after 7 months of doing a daily radio show at smoothjazznow.com, I recorded my last week of shows yesterday. You can still hear me this week and through Friday April 30 from 3-5 pm est. It was fun but very time consuming and in the end, it was taking me too far into the "smooth" jazz world of radio which is not where I am at these days. John Beaudin, the program director and founder of smoothjazznow, made it as easy as humanly possible for me to do the show but in the end it ended up taking nearly a full day to do it all. John really helped me to spice up the music on my show with all kinds of excellent contemporary jazz and he was very open to including my suggestions for the music as well. I am truly appreciative of John's support and guidance and his understanding that I now need to put my time into composing and performing and touring behind my brand new CD "Dreaming of Trains". Other news - I am getting ready to travel to Connecticut next week to perform with Mindi Abair, Nick Collionne, Chieli Minucci and Jay Rowe at Jay's 8th annual Smooth Jazz For Scholar's Concert. I will be playing my song "Smooth Sensation" with Mindi, a new song of mine called "The Buzz" with Chieli from "Dreaming of Trains" and a tour de force composition of mine "On My Way To Somewhere" from my 2008 CD "The Grace of Summer Light" CD. It's always fun to do this show and this year will no exception. And I'm looking forward to seeing everyone again. I even have some family in Connecticut and so I hope to hang out with them all after the show. Let's see...other news.. Dorothy Height, a great civil rights activist passed away this week and a wonderful appreciation was written for her in the Washington Post. Here's a link. We must never let the passing of a great woman such as Dorothy Height go by without notice. She is one of those special people who never gave up or gave in and in the process, she made each and every one of our lives better.
A beautiful book I just finished - "The Last of His Mind" by John Thorndike.
A couple of excellent movies (documentaries) I recently saw via NetFlix - "The Rutles" and "The Business of Being Born".
Well, that's enough of my yakking! (for those of you who are fans of the movie "Spinal Tap"). And if you haven't picked up a copy of "Dreaming of Trains" yet, please do. Your support means everything to me. And if you have and are enjoying it, thank you! Please let all of your family and friends know too. It's what keeps me going. Thanks for reading my ramblings and talk to you again soon.
16th: Today is the official release day for "Dreaming of Trains". You can still purchase an auotgraphed copy or download right here but you can also pick it up at iTunes, Amazon, Barnes and Noble and many other retail and online stores. There have been many excellent reviews already - many of them calling for a Grammy! - and it is already at #10 on the Contemorary Jazz Radio charts. So many of my fans have already picked up a copy of "Dreaming of Trains" and have been spreading the word. Please tell your fellow contemporary and smooth jazz music friends about my new CD. Word of mouth is so powerful and for me your support is vital. As always, I thank you for allowing me to continue to make this music.
17th: This week I published a new and free podcast, all about the creation and recording of my brand new CD "Dreaming of Trains" and what this new music means to me. Here is the link where you can listen to the podcast . This is the latest in a podcast series I have been doing since 2006. Hope you enjoy and that you all find it interesting to go behind the scenes with me....
13th: Happy New Year! This past Friday, the new CDs arrived here at our Positive Music Records warehouse. Even though I have been through this day many times before ("Dreaming of Trains" is my 19th CD), it is always a very exciting occasion. We immediately began to fill the hundreds of pre-orders which had come in since I announced the upcoming release. So if you already placed your order, you should be receiving your copy any day if you haven't already. I am so excited! Even though the new CD will not be available in retail and online stores until the official release date of March 16, you can purchase it here exclusively RIGHT NOW and we will ship it to you the same day you place your order. And I will sign it to you and I will include a signed 8x10 glossy photo of myself to you as well. Is is really cool to run your own record company when you can connect with people in this immediate way!