Brad Spurgeon's Blog

A world of music, auto racing, travel, literature, chess, wining, dining and other crazy thoughts….

Worldwide Open Mic Journey 2014: The Multimedia Consolidation – Paris

December 26, 2014
bradspurgeon

Paris Skyline

Paris Skyline

My worldwide open mic journey began in China in 2008 after the Formula One race in Shanghai, and little did I know that it was a journey that would continue for six more years and cover most of the globe, every continent except Africa (where I once lived and played music in an open mic decades earlier) and Antarctica, and that it would spawn a book, a blog, an album, a documentary film, numerous podcasts, music videos and other multimedia projects.

This year, 2014, I have decided to finish all of the projects and tie them together into a consolidation of multimedia. As part of my personal impetus to gather it all together for myself, but also put it into perspective on this blog, I have decided to create a page for each city I have visited on the journey, tying together samples of the whole multimedia adventure linked to that city.

So here is the page devoted to tying together the pieces of the open mic adventure that I have lived in Paris since I first started.

Worldwide Open Mic Journey 2014: The Multimedia Consolidation – Abu Dhabi

December 10, 2014
bradspurgeon

bait al oud

bait al oud

My worldwide open mic journey began in China in 2008 after the Formula One race in Shanghai, and little did I know that it was a journey that would continue for six more years and cover most of the globe, every continent except Africa (where I once lived and played music in an open mic decades earlier) and Antarctica, and that it would spawn a book, a blog, an album, a documentary film, numerous podcasts, music videos and other multimedia projects.

This year, 2014, I have decided to finish all of the projects and tie them together into a consolidation of multimedia. As part of my personal impetus to gather it all together for myself, but also put it into perspective on this blog, I have decided to create a page for each city I have visited on the journey, tying together samples of the whole multimedia adventure linked to that city.

So here is the page devoted to tying together the pieces of the open mic adventure that I have lived in Abu Dhabi since I first started.

Worldwide Open Mic Journey 2014: The Multimedia Consolidation – Brazil

December 8, 2014
bradspurgeon

Sao Paulo skyline

Sao Paulo skyline

My worldwide open mic journey began in China in 2008 after the Formula One race in Shanghai, and little did I know that it was a journey that would continue for six more years and cover most of the globe, every continent except Africa (where I once lived and played music in an open mic decades earlier) and Antarctica, and that it would spawn a book, a blog, an album, a documentary film, numerous podcasts, music videos and other multimedia projects.

This year, 2014, I have decided to finish all of the projects and tie them together into a consolidation of multimedia. As part of my personal impetus to gather it all together for myself, but also put it into perspective on this blog, I have decided to create a page for each city I have visited on the journey, tying together samples of the whole multimedia adventure linked to that city.

So here is the page devoted to tying together the pieces of the open mic adventure that I have lived in Sao Paulo since I first started.

Worldwide Open Mic Journey 2014: The Multimedia Consolidation – United States

November 9, 2014
bradspurgeon

austin pubMy worldwide open mic journey began in China in 2008 after the Formula One race in Shanghai, and little did I know that it was a journey that would continue for six more years and cover most of the globe, every continent except Africa (where I once lived and played music in an open mic decades earlier) and Antarctica, and that it would spawn a book, a blog, an album, a documentary film, numerous podcasts, music videos and other multimedia projects.

This year, 2014, I have decided to finish all of the projects and tie them together into a consolidation of multimedia. As part of my personal impetus to gather it all together for myself, but also put it into perspective on this blog, I have decided to create a page for each city I have visited on the journey, tying together samples of the whole multimedia adventure linked to that city.

For my U.S. chapter, I divide it up between the two cities I visited for the adventure, New York City and Austin, Texas.

So here is the page devoted to tying together the pieces of the open mic adventure that I have lived in the United States since I first started. At each subsequent Formula One race that I visit this year, I will add a new such page. Keep posted….

Continental Graffiti, the 1948 Epiphone, 1938 amp, and the Aviary in Austin

October 31, 2014
bradspurgeon

The Aviary (Austin)

The Aviary (Austin)

AUSTIN, Texas – The last thing I expected to find within two hours of arriving in Austin, Texas last night was a band with some French musicians playing some pretty cool, and unusual music with old time feel, old time synthesizer, a 1948 Epiphone electric guitar, some vintage speakers – 1938 – and a unique venue called the Aviary, on South Lamar in Austin. And then, wow, actually getting to sit down and play the Epiphone myself….

Where do I start??? It was my friend from France with whom I’m staying in a an Austin suburb who led me to the Aviary for a quick late dinner after the 21-hour total trip from Paris. And there was his friend, Olivier Giraud, who runs a hotrod car business in addition to being a fabulous guitarist and synthesizer player, and leader of the band Continental Graffiti.

Giraud has lived in Austin for nearly three decades, and he has established himself in both of those areas, and last night I was honored to discover his music, and play his guitar. And in what a place! The Aviary is a unique, unusual, venue that calls itself, Austin’s only home decor store and wine bar. In fact, it is also a gallery. It has old films showing on a giant screen… it reminded me of a miniature version of one of those kerts in Budapest, like the Szimpla….

I recorded some of the music, and afterwards spoke to Giraud, and he let me play the Epiphone. I could not believe how good the action was, and how cool it sounded through the 1938 amp, which had a coil and tubes rather than a magnet like what you find in amps today….

I doubt I’ll have the time, but if I do, I’ll drop by his business, the “House of Hotrods,” and see if that guitar is hanging around amongst the grease, oil and chrome for a bit more of a play.

Worldwide Open Mic Journey 2014: The Multimedia Consolidation – Istanbul

October 16, 2014
bradspurgeon

Istanbul

Istanbul

My worldwide open mic journey began in China in 2008 after the Formula One race in Shanghai, and little did I know that it was a journey that would continue for six more years and cover most of the globe, every continent except Africa (where I once lived and played music in an open mic decades earlier) and Antarctica, and that it would spawn a book, a blog, an album, a documentary film, numerous podcasts, music videos and other multimedia projects.

This year, 2014, I have decided to finish all of the projects and tie them together into a consolidation of multimedia. As part of my personal impetus to gather it all together for myself, but also put it into perspective on this blog, I have decided to create a page for each city I have visited on the journey, tying together samples of the whole multimedia adventure linked to that city.

Because the last race that I attended was in Sochi, Russia, and it was the first time that I have been there, I did not have any material aside from my weekend’s experience there there year to constitute a part of the Worldwide open mic multimedia thing. So what I have done instead, is to take a race that used to exist, and where I have a lot of material, and which no longer exists. In that way, I have fit into the multimedia adventure a race location in the place of Sochi, and made use of a major part of the adventure:

So here is the page devoted to tying together the pieces of the open mic adventure that I have lived in Istanbul since I first started. At each subsequent Formula One race that I visit this year, I will add a new such page. Keep posted….

Discovering Another Side of Singapore’s Music Scene: Ernesto Valerio – the Dean Martin of Singapore – and his 51-Year Career in the City State

September 18, 2014
bradspurgeon

Ernesto Valerio

Ernesto Valerio

SINGAPORE – I started out feeling really disappointed when I arrived at the Actors Jam Bar only to discover that it is open now only on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings for the jam sessions, and the rest of the week it is free only to organized private events. It was always a mainstay for me, no matter what night of the week. Unless my memory fails. In any case, that was the disappointment. What turned it all around was that as I was making my way back to the hotel on Mosque Street I saw a bar I had not noticed int the past, and it advertised live music. I could see the stage, it looked very professional, very cool, there was a bass guitar and a semi-acoustic, both in stands, and the music was soon to pick up again.

I had the time to go off and find a desert of ice cream to cool off my burning mouth from the street food I’d just eaten next to the Actors Jam Bar, and then I decided to make my way back up the street to have a whiskey and check out the music in this bar. I walk into the place, and I find a bass player and lead player/singer, onstage, playing beautiful jazz with a light touch, and the lead player, a man in his 60s, greets me, right in the middle of the song. Cool!

I take a seat in front of the stage, and bit by bit my attention is taken deeper into this man’s music, his deft touch on the guitar, the great rhythm between him and the bass player, and finally, most surprisingly, the sudden appearance of his voice. I am not a big fan of deep, worn, whiskey-washed voices – even less interested in such voices that sing blues in bars all over the world and on Tom Waits records. (I love Waits, but mostly the early stuff.) But here I found something I’ve never really seen before: This whiskey washed voice of the man I was to learn is named Ernesto Valerio, a Singaporean musician who has played in bars in the city-state for 51 years, may have its limitations, but his feeling and his ability to temper the voice in all sorts of different keys and needs and sounds, just won me over entirely.

From a soft, pseudo high pitch to its more natural lower zone, the voice expressed an inner love of music that is rare. And his guitar playing, the beautiful fingerpicking and lead stuff and wide spread of jazz and pop and other modes – even Chinese, I learned later – just made him the consummate guitarist. And he is also a showman. I had to speak to the guy afterwards. That’s where I found out that Ernesto has been playing in Singapore for 51 years, and that he is now 67 years old.

“I still just love it,” he said of playing music in front of audiences.

That was clear. And the audience loves it too.

But it was in returning back to the hotel that the story broadened. I just had to do a little search on Ernesto Valerio, now that I had his name. That led me to seeing that he is a well-known local performer, indeed, who has rubbed shoulders with the best of them here, and who has had a nice spread of media attention, who is often called “the Dean Martin of Singapore.” He used to play in a group in the early 60s, but soon went solo because he just didn’t like having to deal with other musicians. (His duet with the bass player is remarkably full sounding, by the way.)

The Malaysian, Paul Ponnudorai, master-studend, student-disciple connection

As I read on, I saw a connection between Ernesto and a guitarist I had met in March of 2012 in Kuala Lumpur: Paul Ponnudorai. I had met this guy Paul, briefly, at a bar venue in Kuala Lumpur where I had played. Paul, I did not know at the time, was an internationally respected guitarist who had played with people like Billy Cobham, Tuck & Patti, and Wynton Marsalis and many others. I had been introduced to Paul after I played a set at Rockafellas and I had no idea what a great guitarist this guy was, and how basic my guitar playing must have looked to him by comparison. But he was a cool, simple, unassuming man. It turned out that Paul Ponnudorai, at 51, had only a few months to live, as he died in the summer of organ failure, and that was the end of a man they called Malaysia’s greatest guitarist, and sometimes, even the world’s greatest….

Ernesto Valerio through a glass

Ernesto Valerio through a glass

The point of this, is that Paul Ponnudorai had at first been trained by this man Ernesto. Some say Ernesto then later became a disciple of Paul! But why I mention all of this on this blog, is because all these links coming together, these meetings with remarkable musicians in KL and Singapore (located on the Malaysian peninsula) have helped me draw a picture in my mind of a fabulously thriving musical scene in this part of the world that only the lack of an adequate publicity machine keeps secret from the rest of the world.

The Malaysia/Singapore musical world is closely tied, and fabulously populated by guitarists, bassists (Andy Peterson) and an a fabulous collection of beautiful vocalists. Looking forward to learning more over the next few days….

Worldwide Open Mic Journey 2014: The Multimedia Consolidation – Belgium

September 6, 2014
bradspurgeon

liege

liege

My worldwide open mic journey began in China in 2008 after the Formula One race in Shanghai, and little did I know that it was a journey that would continue for six more years and cover most of the globe, every continent except Africa (where I once lived and played music in an open mic decades earlier) and Antarctica, and that it would spawn a book, a blog, an album, a documentary film, numerous podcasts, music videos and other multimedia projects.

This year, 2014, I have decided to finish all of the projects and tie them together into a consolidation of multimedia. As part of my personal impetus to gather it all together for myself, but also put it into perspective on this blog, I have decided to create a page for each city I have visited on the journey, tying together samples of the whole multimedia adventure linked to that city.

So here is the page devoted to tying together the pieces of the open mic adventure that I have lived in Belgium since I first started. At each subsequent Formula One race that I visit this year, I will add a new such page. Keep posted….

Yes, yes, for those who are very alert, you might realize that I am writing these words from Monza, Italy, that Belgium was the race I attended two weeks ago. I admit, I am behind schedule on this one by one race – but the Italy section will be done pronto!!!

Worldwide Open Mic Journey 2014: The Multimedia Consolidation – Hungary Edition

August 10, 2014
bradspurgeon

chain bridge budapest

chain bridge budapest

My worldwide open mic journey began in China in 2008 after the Formula One race in Shanghai, and little did I know that it was a journey that would continue for six more years and cover most of the globe, every continent except Africa (where I once lived and played music in an open mic decades earlier) and Antarctica, and that it would spawn a book, a blog, an album, a documentary film, numerous podcasts, music videos and other multimedia projects.

This year, 2014, I have decided to finish all of the projects and tie them together into a consolidation of multimedia. As part of my personal impetus to gather it all together for myself, but also put it into perspective on this blog, I have decided to create a page for each city I have visited on the journey, tying together samples of the whole multimedia adventure linked to that city.

So here is the page devoted to tying together the pieces of the open mic adventure that I have lived in Budapest, Hungary since I first started. At each subsequent Formula One race that I visit this year, I will add a new such page. Keep posted….

In the Recording Studio at Melodium with Félix and Gang….

February 14, 2014
bradspurgeon

Melodium Studios

Melodium Studios

MONTREUIL – There has been a big blank hole on this blog for the past several days as I have just spent four of the best and most important days of my life, rehearsing for a day, and then spending three days in a studio recording five songs, four of mine and a cover. That may sound like hyperbole or exaggeration, but really, I mean it. It was certainly four of the most enriching days I’ve had, and I am hugely impatient to show the results, but I won’t do that until the five tracks are all properly mixed. So in the meantime, just a quick post to say what I was up to.

It was Part II of a project I started nearly four years ago when I went into the studio to record four songs as part of my worldwide open mic and musical adventure, another media aspect to my open mic film, open mic book and this blog – i.e., the music I have written and been singing during this period. My goal is to do a full CD, and I now have nine songs recorded in full band mode, and I will add one or two in solo acoustic and maybe one live from an open mic somewhere…. I will put up links below to the first four recordings, from 2010, which I recorded live in the Point Ephemere in Paris. As soon as I have the mixes to the stuff I did this week, I’ll make that available somehow too!
Melodium Studios
But for the moment, a bit more on this week: Aside from my own guitar playing, singing and songwriting, another one thing that ties together the recording sessions from 2010 and this week is the presence on the tracks of the lead guitar player, Félix Beguin. I have spoken about Félix frequently on this blog, as he is also the lead guitarist of the bands The Burnin’ Jacks and Velvet Veins. These are two fabulous up-and-coming young French bands, the former of which had one of its songs featured on the Rock&Folk compilation CD last month. Raphaëlle – whose video “Mississippi” I put up last week – also contributed chorus and a fabulous vocal part on one of the songs.
setting up the leslie
And anyway, this time, Félix did much, much more than just play lead guitar on my songs as he did three and a half years ago – by the way, we first played together at the Lizard Lounge open mic in November 2008! – as he played lead and keyboards and did some backup vocals, and he engineered, recorded and even basically produced the five songs we did this week, along with Scott Bricklin and Jeremy Norris. Norris is the drummer for both of the aforementioned groups, and Bricklin is an American musician from Philadelphia who has lived in France for a decade now, and who has an illustrious history of making music – he is a multi-instrumentalist, and a singer-songwriter (I have one of his albums on which he plays basically all instruments).
Melodium with 2 Rockers
Working with these three guys was superb in many ways, but not the least interesting aspect to it – which helps in the music – is that they are all used to working not only with each other, but also at the studio where we recorded: Melodium Studios in Montreuil, which is a funky neighborhood located just outside of Paris. Félix and Scott are both regular engineers at the studio, so everyone knew each other and the working environment, and it paid off in the music. In fact, it was three days of bliss in this amazing, spacious cellar studio that has several rooms, some really nice equipment and a warm and highly competent staff.

The Amazing Leslie Speaker at the Melodium Studios in Montreuil

One of the high moments in terms of the equipment was when they pulled out the absolutely wonderful antique Leslie speaker and ran the keyboards through that, and then later ran some vocal chorus stuff through it like the Beatles first did in the mid-60s. The Leslie, devised in the 1930s, uses a rotating fan-like device to distort the sound waves and give it a sound like an organ.


Together, we recorded my songs “Borderline,” “Crazy Lady,” “When You’re Gone Away,” and “If I Only Had You.” For the cover song, we recorded “Mad World,” which I have been playing for a few years, and notably, with Félix for about four years on occasion. But this time, this is a monster of a cover song, unlike any version I know of “Mad World,” and I can’t wait to show it here!
my J-200 and the singing space at the Melodium studios
In the meantime, here are the songs I recorded live at the Point Ephemere nearly four years ago. Believe me, the quality of the new ones is incomparable. (I feel like I’m boasting without showing the result – which is an empty boast – but I’m sooooo excited!)


Lighter, shrimpy, easy to download but less good quality file versions of my 2010 live recordings at the Point Ephemere in Paris. These are NOT the studio recordings of five different songs that I just did at the Melodium, and on these recordings Félix played lead on “Memories” and “Except Her Heart,” while Laurent Zarby played lead on “Let Me Know,” and “Since You Left Me”:

Memories

Except Her Heart

Let Me Know

Since You Left Me

Big, fat, heavy, high bandwidth better quality file versions:

Memories

Except Her Heart

Let Me Know

Since You Left Me

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