Brett Jolly’s Daily Thought (“What you think you may be hearing at some concerts”)

Yes, I am a big fan of the “good old days” when all vocals were performed live onstage. When it comes to the current usage of tape and voice samples it cheapens the authenticity of the show for me. However, I do know that promoters lose money if they have to cancel shows (and the human voice is a fragile instrument… It can wear out from over usage). Background vocals are important, but often they are difficult to match up EQ-wise with the recorded versions of the song. When you hear a recording certain effects are placed on vocals to give it that spice. Trying to add them for live background parts and then trying to subtract them when one of the background singers switches to the lead part can be exasperating for a sound engineer. So welcome to the world of “tape.” As long as the audience cannot tell then “no harm no foul.” Let’s look at an example:

On this particular song ALL lead parts are sung live. You can tell because of the differences and imperfections of some notes. However, the background parts “sound way too perfect” and that is because the backgrounds are “canned.” It may not be very noticeable at first but when you get to the 2 minute 7 second portion of the song you will hear background parts that sound “way too great.” That isn’t because they are singing them that way. That’s because they are lip syncing (or singing along with the track). If these guys tried to actually sing those parts live while moving like that they would probably be close to passing out. A prime example is at the end of the song when they take a bow. They start to bow before the very last note is sung and yet you can still hear the notes “supposedly through the microphones.” Your head can’t be down and yet still be heard perfectly through the microphones. One thing I didn’t like about this song rendition is Michael Bivins’ performance with the guys (He is the one doing the rap in the song). He is talking over the other vocals through certain key parts of the song and to me that is a distraction. Bivins is the one who actually discovered the group (He is from the group New Edition). I am happy for the group’s fame. They have done well and I don’t want to cast any negativity on their show. By no means are they the only group using voice samples. I only used them as an example today because it was easier for me to show what was going on. I have been on programs with these guys before and they “can” sing, so please don’t get the wrong impression from me. Thank you for checking out my Daily Thought and as always I wish you the very best that life has to offer.

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Email: Brettjolly@aol.com

Skype: Brettjolly1

The late Gerald LeVert in concert with Brett Jolly on bass guitar

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Brett Jolly’s Daily Thought (“The categorization of music”)

One of the things that I have learned is that “One man’s music can be another man’s Misery.” This means that while certain people may like certain styles of music there are others who may probably hate on them. Conventional radio stations often play songs that they believe will fit into certain categories. For instance, there are pop, country, reggae, gospel, r&b and oldie stations (just to name a few). While categorizing the music may help the station form its identity can this be harmful in any way? Throughout the years there have been many artists who attempted to “cross over” into other genres. Some of them were successful and some were not. When music is categorized does it impede the listener from hearing different choices? Also, do all artists stand an equal chance of having their music played on the stations they prefer? When you get the chance, check out a lot of the artists who are played on “country radio.” When you actually get to “see” what most of those artists look like, what do you notice? Then check out the artists who are played on “r&b” stations and tell me if you notice any difference there? Without going into detail you should be able to make a determination of your own. I guess I am saying that often our categories of music will reflect that “r” word (you know, the one that rhymes with “face”). A pop station will attract a certain type of audience. The same can be said for a hip hop station. However, if one of these artists decides to “change”their music so that it can fit into another genre (and it is good enough) can they be successful in getting their music played on other stations? A LOT of the African American artists that I have worked for (and I have worked for many) would have “loved” for their music to have been played on pop stations as well. Even though their music may have sold on the r&b charts they might have done even better with a pop audience. Some artists have been able to do so (but not all). Lionel Richie was often labeled a Black entertainer who basically made white sounding music. He got played on both r&b and pop stations during his heyday. Hall and Oates were a white duo that made predominantly black sounding music, so they got played on both stations as well. When they “discovered” Elvis they went “specifically looking” for a white artist who had a black sounding voice. When your  music is categorized to fit into “different genres” you start to make more money (with a more diverse crowd) as an artist. When your music is categorized to fit into “only one” category then of course your earnings will be limited to that particular market. Most radio stations have a certain amount of artists that they fit into their regular rotation, so naturally those artists are the ones you will hear more of on those stations. Basically you hear the same ones that they promote most of the time. If music is universally pleasing, then it should be able to be heard by everyone. The categorization of music can help and hinder the listener (and the artist), because we all should love more choices. Until it gets to the point where we actually “can” hear more choices, we are stuck with what they offer us. There are LOTS of great artists that you will never hear of until you find a way  to search for them. Don’t let the categorization of your music impede you from what you “want” to hear. There are MANY stations online that can possibly fit your tastes. Reach out and you just might be surprised at what you discover… Thank you for checking out my Daily Thought and as always I wish you the very best that life has to offer.

The late r&b artist Gerald Levert in concert with Brett Jolly on basss

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Brett Jolly’s Daily Thought (“A vintage clip of me performing at a star studded affair”)

Years ago I performed at a special event labeled as the IAAA awards (International Association of African American music) and just recently I discovered that someone had actually videoed this occasion. Truth be told, I can’t tell you the names of “all” the people in this lineup but I can at least say a few. “Jazz” from the group Dru Hill, bassist Gerald Veasely, Eve, Angie Stone, Carol Riddick, Queen Latifah, Da Brat, Music Soulchild, and Gerald Levert were just some of the names of stars for this event. In this clip at first I am playing the red bass guitar, but for the last tribute I switched to play the bass synthesizer keyboard while Gerald Veasely played bass (the man singing with the scarf on is Music Soulchild). I hope you enjoy the clip and as always I would like to thank you for checking out my Daily Thought and wish you the very best that life has to offer.

Brett Jolly’s Daily Thought (“The subliminal recycling of the music industry”)

The late Gerald Levert broke out on the music scene years ago with a song that became a huge hit on the R&B charts. Originally the song was done by a 3 man group entitled “Levert.” Gerald was the mastermind of the group and not long after this song became a hit Gerald went solo without the other 2 guys (the funny part is that whenever I listen to the background vocals of this song I only hear Gerald’s voice anyway, so I’m not even sure if the other 2 guys even sang on this track). I then tried to do my own evaluation of the song (which is what I do with every song I hear) and I found out something interesting. First I would like for you to check out the song. Here is Levert’s hit song “Casanova.”

Musically the principle premise of this song is based on 4 music chords (with the exception of the bridge). When examining those 4 chords, I found that if you switch the order of the first 2 with the very last 2 you will find the same musical pattern of another song that was a “huge hit” just before this song was released. In fact, if you “started this song at the 9 second mark and played this other song along with it, you will find amazing similarities. The song that this tune was recycled from was Marvin Gaye’s big hit “Sexual Healing.” When you interchange the chords of Casanova with Sexual Healing it will fit “exactly.” I actually played for Gerald Levert on many occasions, so one day I decided to ask him about it. He just looked at me with a smirk on his face and simply said “Good ear.” While that was not the confirmation I wanted, subliminally  it was the answer I sought. The are times when songs are “resampled” and thrown back on the public. Of course, if the public can’t determine what’s going on then I guess there’s “no harm, no foul.” Either way, this song became a huge R&B hit, and I don’t think he ever got sued in court over it. Maybe it was because no one “figured it out.” Thank you for checking out my Daily Thought and as always I wish you the very best that life has to offer.

WWW.Brettjolly.com

Email: Brettjolly@aol.com

Skype: Brettjolly1

Gerald Levert and Brett Jolly in concert

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Brett Jolly’s Daily Thought (“Next?”)

When it comes to the music world, I am having difficulty understanding how we have been losing so many big name artists at such an early age. Michael Jackson, (who had enough money to afford the greatest of health care) died at the early age of 51. There were reports that he not only wore surgical masks at times to prevent germs but was even photographed sleeping in hyperbaric chambers for his heath. Prince was reportedly a “health nut” who did all he could to stay in shape and in good condition. There are a lot of big name acts that never made it to 60 years of age. Teddy Pendergrass, Rick James, Gerald Levert, Luther Vandross, Barry White, Davy Jones, Frank Zappa, Whitney Houston, and Selena just to name a few. I am not sure if this has any significance at all, but I do know that “now” is the time to start searching for and acknowledging the “stars of tomorrow.” When old stars start fading from view it only makes room for “newer stars to shine.” Prince was a great entertainer, businessman, and songwriter. Who do we know of in the new generation that can match what he brought to the table? Right now the closest one I can think of is “possibly” Bruno Mars, but even with the success he has had he still has not reached the levels that Prince or Michael Jackson achieved. When it comes to Michael I can’t think of anyone from the new generation who comes close to matching his success ratio. Michael worked hard at perfecting his career and he had shows where people would faint just at the more “sight” of him. In all fairness Beyonce has been doing well with her career. I just heard that she has a new CD coming out entitled “Lemonade.” The last time she put out a new CD it initially “broke records” in sales just from the mere mention of it coming out. However once people actually heard the cuts the sales started “leveling out.” Her popularity has been “high” for quite a while now, but as she grows into her “30’s” how much longer can she last? The music world is not as lucrative as it once was. People don’t really buy CD’s anymore, and with the high costs of promotion it is difficult to sustain a marketing plan in music where returns are never guaranteed to exceed investment. The industry is struggling, but can that be because of a lack of decent talent? Did these old stars set the bar so high that the newer generation can’t match it? With so many legends leaving us so early, the time to find out is “now.” It is “NOT” just about the talent. It is the business plan used to promote and market that talent. New artists need to learn the business so that they can make a change in the industry (because right now the industry needs an infusion of new blood). I am waiting to see what happens next… Thank you for checking out my Daily Thought, and as always I wish you the very best that life has to offer.

WWW.Brettjolly.com

Email: Brettjolly.com

Skype: Brettjolly1

Gerald Levert and Brett  Jolly in concert

 

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Brett Jolly’s Daily Thought (“vocally challenged singers”)

I had my Wednesday Night Grand slam “open mic” event last night. It is always fun. I have my live band and people come out to either listen or sing onstage. Usually the talent there is “phenomenal.” However, every once in a while (or maybe every twice in a while) we encounter a singer or musician who “may not be up to standards.” Instead of referring to them as bad singers I just simply say that they are “vocally challenged.” I had a couple of them last night. I try to be supportive as possible but often my own facial expressions give me away. If it is “too awful” I may turn my head back towards the drummer so that the audience won’t see me cracking up onstage. After I finally compose myself the faces of the audience will alert me to the fact that we need to “cut this song short.” No one is perfect, and I applaud anyone who wants to try singing onstage with a live band. Some of them will ask me afterwards how well they did. I will never say that they were awful, however, I will offer constructive criticism and I will make positive suggestions. I am not out to hurt anyone’s feelings. Since I always try a new tune (usually for the very first time) each week I also have my moments where I might not sing perfectly. I always let the audience know beforehand that this is the “very first time” we are attempting to play this song (because with our busy schedules, we never have time to rehearse anything). That helps to “soften the blow” just in case the song does not do so well. If you came across a “vocally challenged singer” how would “you” reply back to him or her? Would you be “brutally honest,” would you try to sugarcoat it or would you just outright lie about it? I always say that lying to someone could be damaging at a later point. I think that being brutally honest could really hurt someone’s feelings. In a case like this, I say “never mention that the singer was truly awful.” Instead just point out a few things that you think the artist might need to work on. I told a lady last night that she just needs to get acclimated to singing with a live band. I told her there is a big difference between singing with a live band and singing with karaoke. I also told her she needed to project more instead of trying to “soft sing” her way through a song. Hopefully she took it in a positive way. Not everyone is musically gifted, but it is important to be humane in how you address other people. I will always continue to stress positive things that will help people rather than bring them down. Hopefully you can see that method as well (because everyone who lives long enough will encounter a “vocally challenged” singer at some point in their lives). Thank you for checking out my Daily Thought today, and as always I wish you the very best that life has to offer.

WWW.Brettjolly.com
Email: Brettjolly@aol.com
Skype: Brettjolly1

The late singer Gerald Levert and Brett Jolly in concert

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Brett Jolly’s Daily Thought (“My experiences with Gerald LeVert”)

I don’t know how many people remember the late great vocalist Gerald Levert. He was the son of Eddie Levert, one of the lead singers of the O’Jays, and he had a string of great R&B  hits, the biggest one being a song called “Casanova” that was big back in the 90’s (I believe). When that song came out, he was paired with 2 other guys in a group called “Levert,” even though that union was not going to last long because Gerald was destined to go out on his own. I played for Gerald about 10 times in my career, and there was one question I never got to ask him before he died. You see,  the song “Casanova” was a song that featured mostly 4  music chords (even though it did have a bridge to it). From a musician’s standpoint, when examining those 4 chords, they happened to be the “exact” same chords used in Marvin Gaye’s hit song  “Sexual Healing.” The difference was that the order of those chords was reversed (and I wonder if many people even knew that). To some extent, I wanted to ask him if he “stole” those chords from Marvin. As it was, I never got the chance to ask him about that. I remember once doing a special tribute to Teddy Pendergrass where Gerald sang the Teddy tunes (along with Christopher Williams) and Gerald “killed it.”  I also have a video of a show where I played behind him and he sang Otis Redding’s “Try a little tenderness.” It was awesome. One day I was performing in Merrylville, Indiana and Gerald’s hotel room was right next door to mine. The cleaning lady had just cleaned his room and then came over to mine, and she talked up a storm. She told me that Gerald’s room was the “worst” she ever had to deal with, and that he had some  serious health issues.  I didn’t ask her for any details, nor did I even want to know them. I just let her sound off until it was time for her to go to another room. That night, we had the performance, and it was awesome. Everyone reconvened to the hotel desk after the show that evening around 11:00 pm. Gerald was mighty hungry then, and he went to the restaurant area and asked the lady behind the counter for some chicken wings. The lady responded by saying, “Sir, we are closed  now. It is 11:00 pm.” Gerald, who  was not to be denied, said, “Listen, you don’t understand. I’ll give you $200 for some chicken wings.” The lady obviously didn’t know who he was, and reported Gerald to the manager, who also had no idea who Gerald was. Gerald then said, “Listen, I’ll give you $300 for some chicken wings.” The manager, thinking Gerald was some crazy guy off the street, called the police. When the police arrived, Gerald was “livid.” He started cursing up a storm and he “dared” the manager to step out from behind the counter. The police knew who Gerald was, but they had a job to do. If Gerald had stepped beyond a certain point, they had “every” intention of “arresting him.” Needless to say, Gerald’s own bodyguard escorted him out of the area and back to  his room for his own safety. Eddie, Gerald’s father, said the next day that he had to send Gerald back home, because he can’t act like that in public. Gerald was a great vocalist, even though I always thought his father Eddie was even greater. Whenever we would have a show, Gerald wanted to practice for a “long time” how he wanted the show to go, and then when it came time for the show, he would often venture off into something different. A truly great talent who is missed, Gerald Levert could have done “so much more.” It was an honor to play for him, and I hope you don’t mind me sharing my stories with you. Thank you and as always, I wish you the very best that life has to offer today.
Skype: Brettjolly1
Gerald LeVert and Brett Jolly in concert
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