Brett Jolly’s Daily Thought (Topic: “More stories of how perfect pitch has helped me”)

Brett Jolly’s Daily Thought (Topic: “More stories of how perfect pitch has helped me”).

Brett Jolly’s Daily Thought (Topic: “More stories of how perfect pitch has helped me”)

Yesterday I wrote on  the necessity of learning how to read music. I mentioned that even though I don’t know how to read music, my perfect pitch has gotten me to where I am today. Well, I received a message asking me to expound on how “perfect pitch” has worked for me, and what it has helped me to accomplish. Well, to start, if I don’t have a tuner for my guitar, then it won’t matter, because I can actually tune it using my own “natural ear.” I still like to use a tuner whenever possible because it is more precise, so I won’t have to concentrate so hard on tuning the note “precisely.” Do you remember those older “touch tone” phones? The ones where if you pushed a button there would be a “corresponding note” to each individual one? Well, if I heard anyone press the password on their phone, I could figure out the code based on the note associated with it. I  helped one lady at my job break the code of her boyfriend’s phone by using my perfect pitch and she managed to hear all of his personal messages to other women. Also, if someone is waiting outside in his or her car and blows the horn, I can tell from the note associated with the horn just who it is. Even though most horns are usually somewhere around the note “f sharp,” there are still differences in the tone quality and a slight difference in pitch in some cars. My own car’s horn is actually in b flat, so I can always tell if it is my car alarm that is going off and not the alarm  of someone else. Also, perfect pitch has benefited me in other ways. Unless the song itself is “extremely intricate” I can usually pick it up from just listening to it without picking up my instrument. I remember a studio session I had with Kenny Gamble (The great music producer for Philly International Records along with Leon Huff). I was brought into the studio to play a bass line for this symphonic piece that was actually recorded “live.” When the song was recorded, the orchestra leader did a “silent count” so I had to figure out on my own when to actually start playing. I heard the song play “once.” The engineer asked me if I needed him to play it a “couple of times” so that I could figure it out. I told him, “No, and you can start recording me now.” He looked at Kenny who in turn looked back at him, because they had not seen me practice “one” note to this song.  I was plugged into the console,  and he rolled tape. I caught the beginning on the “very first time” and played the song “all the way through”…. on the very “first” take. Kenny said that in all his years of recording he had never seen anything like that before. He gave me my check for $300 and I left (I  had not been there any longer that 20 minutes). There is also my story with the legendary jazz vocalist Angela Bofill. On a Sunday morning I had gotten in from playing a gig in Rehoboth Beach. I made it home and to bed by 4:00 am and got a call at 6:30 am from one of Angela’s people saying that she needed me to play an afternoon gig in Atlantic City. I was too sleepy to even ask for the particulars, but needless to say when I made it to AC there was “no time” to do a rehearsal, but she had a recorded tape of her show which I checked out in her hotel room. With my perfect pitch, I just listened to it, and when the time came I went out and “played the show.” There have also been times when I would learn an act’s  show “on the plane ride” to the gig, which is what I had to do for the Chiffons and Gary US Bonds for a gig in Florida. By the time the plane touched down, I was ready. Finally, my last story is one in which I got the gig for my “favorite artist to play for,” and that was none other than the legendary Teddy Pendergrass. Teddy  had already had a bass player, but he canceled out on Teddy with 2 days to go before a major music fest in Mobile, Alabama. They called me in for an “emergency” rehearsal of his tunes. Most of his stuff I had heard on the radio, but had not necessarily played. I “eased” through the rehearsal with no problems whatsoever. After it was over, Teddy said, “You came in here with no advance preparation and actually played my show better than my bass player. Would you like to have this job?” I just looked back at him and said, “For you, man? No problem. Let’s hit it.” Well, there are obviously more stories, but I will leave it alone for here. I thank you for checking out my Daily Thought for today and wish you the very “best” that life has to offer. Have a great one.

Kenny Gamble (receiving award) and Brett Jolly

Kenny Gamble and Brett Jolly

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Brett Jolly’s Daily Thought (Topic: “How important is it to read music?”)

Today’s topic will probably tick a lot of music theorists off. The fundamentals of music that were imposed on me as a little child will be severely challenged here. When I first started playing piano as a little boy, my mother “immediately” pushed me into “piano lessons.” The main focus of those lessons was to teach me how to properly “read”  music and play it on sight. I was really young and I loved playing music. However, I was not fond of “reading it” from a chart. Each week I would have piano lessons, and I can honestly say that I “hated it.” Every time I was given a lesson on a chart to learn, and when I returned the next week I was supposed to be ready to play it. Well, this never worked out for me, and because of my selfishness I never learned how to read music to this day. However, I will tell you a little story. One week, I was given the assignment of learning an old classic entitled “Home on the Range.” It was a song that I had already  heard “many” times in my life so as usual, I didn’t study the chart “at all.” When it came to our next lesson, something  strange happened. My teacher put the chart in front of me and I played the song in its entirety without error. She was amazed and complimented me on how well I did picking up the notes off the chart. I had to inform her that I wasn’t reading the chart, but somehow I just instinctively “knew” how to play the song. I believe this was my first official discovery of something called “perfect pitch.” I heard that 1 in 10,000 people have it, and I guess I am one of the blessed ones. Subsequently my mother withdrew me from piano lessons, and I laid off it for years to concentrate on playing basketball, but  the  ability to play never “left me.” Throughout the years I actually got even “better” at music. Along my musical journey I came across a lot of musical opportunities. I can honestly say that my “inability” to read music actually got me fired “twice” in my career. For one group, I openly admitted that I couldn’t read music, so they didn’t even give me the chance to play the song before deciding not to go in my direction. Years later, the leader of this group came up to me and “formally apologized” because he had heard so many great things about me, and he admitted that  he had made a big mistake in his assessment of me. The second time was with a wedding band where they did give  me a chart to read, but the charts were written “wrong.” I actually “knew” the songs that we were playing, but I didn’t play them the way the piano player wanted me to, so I got fired. Interestingly enough, one day I did a gig at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center with the New Jersey Orchestra, and they placed a chart in front of me to read. Since I was already onstage, I had “no intention” of telling them that I could not read  music. When we performed the song, I pretended to stare at the chart, and used my musical ear to pick up the song “on the fly.” Well, it “worked.” The other professional musicians told me I was great, and they complimented me on how well I played the tunes. The purpose of today’s Daily Thought is not to demean the concept of learning how to read music. I is extremely beneficial for “certain types” of music and musical situations. I  have personally performed for some of the world’s biggest artists successfully “without” needing the ability to “read music.” You can check out some of my “highlights” at my web site WWW.Brettjolly.com.  It might be considered unfair because I have perfect pitch, but hopefully that still doesn’t lesson my accomplishments. Learning how to read music depends on the “direction” you want to go musically. If you are to be an orchestral player, it should be “imperative” for you to read from a chart. However, I gig a lot more than most orchestra people do, and my career has been just fine. Reading music definitely has its benefits, but to me “having a great ear” has taken me “much further.” I do apologize for those music theorists who say “otherwise” and I wish everyone a great and awesome day.

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email: brettjolly@aol.com

Skype: Brettjolly1

 

Billy Paul and Brett Jolly performing in concert in Tunisia

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Brett Jolly’s Daily Thought (Topic: “Bad singers who just don’t realize it”)

Being a musician, I quite often find it amusing when the band encounters a “sub par” singer, only to have that singer “blame it on the band” whenever his or her voice goes off pitch. Don’t get me wrong, I can “fully” understand it if the band plays too loud or if the band is actually playing the song “wrong.” I remember one time when a lady sang a Billie Holiday tune, and we played it for her onstage. She did well up until the middle of the song, and then she began struggling with her notes and going “off key,” so she then “stopped” the song and said in the microphone that the band “changed her key.” Well, normally bands don’t change keys in the “middle” of the song unless the song actually “calls for it” or the singer “requests” it.  This woman talked into the microphone and blamed us directly for the notes she couldn’t hit vocally. I then told her to start off in her “own” key and we would just “catch” her. Lo and behold, she started the song off again… in the “very same exact key” that she originally did it in. I smiled at the guys onstage and put my finger up to my mouth as though to tell them “Don’t let her know that we are playing it in the same key.” She started the song off this time and said “That’s better.” She got a little further in the song this time before her vocals began to sound “jacked up” again. She then said something else detrimental about the band into the microphone and blamed us again for getting her song wrong. After yet one “more” attempt of “trial and error” she began to get frustrated and left the stage to go sit down. I think she got more applause for that moment than when she sang. When I had a break I told her that “each and every” time she tried to sing the song on  her own she went back to her same original key. She was shocked to hear that, and then apologized to me for faulting us. If you like live  music enough, then chances are you will at some point encounter a “vocally challenged singer.” In church they will be the ones who sing while making all these hard facial expressions with that big vein popping out the neck while singing. You will always recognize the final note when  the congregation claps “real lightly” while their eyes go from side to side barely looking at each other saying softly “Amen.” Bad singers cannot tell that they are horrible, so they continue to get even more into the song while each note gets even worse. I have a nickname title for truly bad singers. I refer to them as the “LAW.” In case you are wondering what that stands for, it is “LOUD…. And WRONG!” I will often let bad singers know that they are not really that bad. Instead I just let them know that I think people are just “listening to them wrong.” Society needs bad singers, because bad singers do bring entertainment. They give us something humerus to talk about on the drive home. If you are a bad singer, never worry about it. Just don’t get up onstage (smile). I apologize if I offended anyone today, but I would like to say this for bad singers. There are a lot more of them out there than you think. Enjoy your day, and hope that it is a great one.

 

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Brett Jolly’s Daily thought (Topic: “Jealousy… is it worth the energy?”)

“Jealousy… Is it worth the energy?” Just imagine meeting someone new that you really like only to find that he or  she likes someone else. Should you feel jealous about that situation? People have been known to do the most “foolish” things out of jealousy. People will lie, get desperate, and even commit crazy acts just because they can’t handle their own jealousies. Normally, when someone is jealous, it is paramount to thinking that “someone else is in a better situation than you” when that might “not” be the case at all. If your coworker hits the Powerball Lotto after you both played it, it doesn’t  mean that he or she was a better person than you. It just means that for “this” particular circumstance your coworker was “luckier” than you. Chances are this will not always be the case. Sometimes we envy the rich when often they have more problems than “we” do. Mike Tyson, Allen Iverson and MC Hammer manged to waste “millions of dollars” because they couldn’t properly handle the new responsibilities that come with becoming rich. We envy those with a higher status because we would like to have their circumstances. I can honestly say that when I was much  younger, I used to envy Michael Jackson. Here he was  this young little boy with great looks who could sing  his tail off. He was famous, great looking, loved by all the girls and so talented. As the years went by, Michael became more famous and more rich (and he even changed his good looks through plastic surgery), but his problems became much greater too. He had those accusations of being a child molester.  He also felt he had a family that was trying to sponge off of him and  he died a drug addict. Now my life seems a lot more rosier compared to what he went through. I have seen people admit that they are not jealous when they really were. You might be able to hide how you feel from others, but you can never hide what you feel from yourself. I say that if you are jealous of someone, then let that be the motivating factor for you to “improve yourself.” Channel that energy into what “hopefully” will turn out to be a “positive outcome.” There should be no limit as to how great you can become if you only apply yourself properly. Also, it should be important to note that no matter how great you are at something, there will “always” someone else out there in this world who is “greater.”  You may not have met him or her yet, but that doesn’t mean that this person doesn’t exist. Be humble, be respectful and give those people their props when they deserve it. Above all, still love yourself, even when you might possibly just be “second best.” Thank you and I hope you have a great day today.

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Email: Brettjolly@aol.com

Skype: Brettjolly1