Genius: The Modern View

Posted by: Michael Bates on May 4, 2009 @ 7:46 am
Filed under: Michael Bates (Artist Thoughts), Michael Bates (Updates)

As someone whose talent falls very clearly into the category of only mere-mortal, I was heartened by David Brooks recent article in the New York Times where he writes about what separates genius from the very accomplished:

“The latest research suggests a more prosaic, democratic, even puritanical view of the world. The key factor separating geniuses from the merely accomplished is not a divine spark. It’s not I.Q., a generally bad predictor of success, even in realms like chess. Instead, it’s deliberate practice. Top performers spend more hours (many more hours) rigorously practicing their craft.”

Another fascinating quote from the same article:

“….The mind wants to turn deliberate, newly learned skills into unconscious, automatically performed skills. But the mind is sloppy and will settle for good enough. By practicing slowly, by breaking skills down into tiny parts and repeating, the strenuous student forces the brain to internalize a better pattern of performance.”

There may be hope yet….


MBOS // Record Release

Posted by: admin on April 24, 2009 @ 1:19 pm
Filed under: Events, Michael Bates (Artist Thoughts), Michael Bates (Updates)

Michael Bates has been a busy dude these past couple months.  From the release of Clockwise last fall to the release of his latest title, Live in New York [GRE-P-04] as part of our Paperback Series, he and his band have been spreading the word around the US, Canada, and Europe.

As a celebration of the most recent Paperback entry, those in NYC can catch this band in their element at Cornelia Street Cafe — where the live album was captured.

Saturday, April 25 at the Cornelia Street Cafe
Michael Bates’ Outside Sources with
Russ Johnson-trumpet
Quinsin Nachoff-saxophone and clarinet
Jeff Davis-drums
Michael Bates-bass

29 Cornelia Street
NYC, NY // 8:30pm

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Clockwise sheet music

Posted by: Michael Bates on February 20, 2009 @ 10:17 am
Filed under: Greenleaf Music News, Michael Bates (Artist Thoughts)

In case you’re interested, the good folks here at Greenleaf Music just made the sheet music for my cd “Clockwise” charts available over at the store. While we cleaned them up a bit, for the most part they are exactly what we were using when the recording was made.

As a composer, I feel it’s important that everyone in the band is able to reference the same information, especially when it comes to improvising on this music. With that in mind, I often write in “piano grand staff” and that way, everyone is on the same page..literally (bad pun-sorry about that…). Incidentally, this is something I learned from Dave D back when when I was a student at the Banff Centre.

I thought I’d offer up a sample of what one of my charts looks like. This piece, “Machinery”, goes through several time zones and meters but really was just built off of a couple of contrasting themes. A big inspiration while writing this piece was the desire to compose music that blurred what was composed and improvised. On top of that, I wanted to create a piece that allowed the guys in the band to really shape the outcome while maintaining the character of the composition. You can listen to a sample of Machinery here and just click on “Machinery PDF” below to download the chart as well…(FYI, the written material starts about 53 seconds into the track). This post is open for comments so let me know what you think. Thanks.

Machinery PDF

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The Discovery of Slowness

Posted by: Michael Bates on February 10, 2009 @ 8:42 am
Filed under: Michael Bates (Artist Thoughts)

Here’s a small cut out of a fascinating piece “As Slow as Possible” by composer John Cage.


It’s currently being performed in Halberstadt, Germany and lasts an incredible 639 years.

When checking out the score consider this: the smallest unit is one month. Each determined tone change takes place on the 5th day of the relevant month. ***Recommendation: quarter-note staccato: length 2 months, quarter-note without staccato: length 4 months.***

Equally fascinating is how this piece has generated so much attention. Apparently, back in 2006, thousands came to the city to witness a scheduled note change. I love it.

To read more, click here

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Security Check Point

Posted by: Michael Bates on February 7, 2009 @ 10:36 am
Filed under: Michael Bates (Artist Thoughts)

I normally try to keep my blog topics somewhat music related but needed to direct your attention to this apparently genuine toy made by Playmobil. Check out the comments at the bottom of the page too. Wow.


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Recommended Tools: Bass Methods

Posted by: Michael Bates on January 9, 2009 @ 10:12 am
Filed under: Michael Bates (Artist Thoughts)

Some time off over the holidays afforded me a much needed opportunity to re-evaluate my approach to practicing in terms of how and what I’ve been working on. While often kept busy learning new music for different projects, I also wanted to get back to checking out the history of the greats on my instrument and get geeky with some bass-related stuff. To take a hard look at ways to expand and solidify my musical language, I spent most of the holiday practicing and doing investigative listening. In working on this, I stumbled across two books that might be of some interest.

John Goldsby’s book “The Jazz Bass Book, Technique and Tradition”
published by Backbeat Books is obviously geared towards bass players. It’s an excellent compendium that explores the styles and techniques of 70 or so bass players. The first half of the book looks at early guys like John Kirby and Walter Page all the way up to modern masters like Dave Holland and Peter Ind. Not only does John write about each player, he also includes many transcriptions and key stylistic aspects of what they brought or bring to the music. I’ve been taking a lot of these lines through 12 keys in order to really get them down.

The second part looks at technique and vocabulary. There are many excellent bass lines and perspectives throughout. Some examine the way certain players approach common chord progressions and others are suggestions on how to work on chord/scale relationships. Great stuff and I’ve been hitting this section hardŠ and I also spent one evening compiling a playlist on my computer that included all the recordings and solos mentioned in the book. With it playing constantly around the house, I’ve been revisiting several Paul Chambers, Ray Brown, Red Mitchell, Isreal Crosby and Marc Johnson bass lines and solos I transcribed years ago and finding many other “new” solos too.


The other book I found over the holidays was David Berkman’s “The Jazz Musician’s Guide to Creative Practicing” published by Sher Music. This is a very funny and insightful book that covers a very wide scope: everything from spelling chord changes through thoughts on playing fast, playing what you hear, deepening your groove, playing on Giant Steps, playing hard keys and dozens of other ideas for improvising. It’s incredibly complete and offers some concrete and clear methods for practicing. David has found a very cool method to get into things on a microscopic level and then applying it in a bigger picture sort of way. ..and while I’m getting a lot out of it now, this is a book that would have saved me a lot of time 10 years ago too. Kudos to David Berkman. This is a keeper.


Happy practicing everyone!.

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Brass Ecstasy

Posted by: Michael Bates on December 9, 2008 @ 11:47 pm
Filed under: Michael Bates (Artist Thoughts)

I just got back from the NYC premier of Dave Douglas’ new band Brass Ecstasy. It was a great night. From the minute I got there, I could tell something special was going to happen: standing room only, the audience clapping in anticipation of the music and a bunch of familiar faces in the audience waiting to check out Dave’s latest project. I’m not generally one to sit down and write a review of the concert, but let me just say how thrilling it was to have heard this music and watch Dave lead a band of such incredible players. Among many highlights, a suite entitled “Chicago Calling” and the tune “Rava” were especially stunning. I can’t wait to hear this music once it gets recorded next week. It’s going to be a great record.

Thanks Dave for such an inspiring night….

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Holiday Gift Guide

Posted by: Michael Bates on November 28, 2008 @ 8:39 am
Filed under: Michael Bates (Artist Thoughts)


I got up this morning and saw that that the New York Times has a holiday gift guide recommending among others: Anthony Braxton’s complete Arista box set, Elliott Carter’s piano works with Ursula Oppens (Cedille), the Orion String Quartet playing Leon Kirchner’s string quartets (Albany) and Messian’s piano works with Pierre-Laurent Aimard (Deutsche Grammophon).

Somehow seeing the local paper include all of those gave me a “glad to be a New Yorker” moment….gotta love it…

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This just in….

Posted by: Michael Bates on October 27, 2008 @ 10:25 pm
Filed under: Michael Bates (Artist Thoughts)


I just saw that Jon Irabagon won the Thelonious Monk Competition. Way to go Jon! For those of you who don’t know him, this is one creative and fantastic saxophone player. It couldn’t have happened to a better guy. Very pysched!

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Top Ten List….

Posted by: Michael Bates on October 12, 2008 @ 9:57 am
Filed under: Michael Bates (Artist Thoughts)

Tomorrow I fly home after nearly four weeks on the road in the US, Canada and Europe. Looking forward to that!

After my last post, I got an email from Dave Douglas asking me to put together a list: “top ten little things that a scruffy tour manager/band leader/bassist/travel agent needs to know to lead a band around Europe”. Scruffy? …guilty as charged.

Here’s what I came up with. Some obvious things like “hire musicians you get along with” and “don’t work for jerks” were omitted and I’ve left the bottom of the post open for comments so please feel free to add to the list.

So in no particular order, here is my non-exclusive, non-comprehensive list of things that a “scruffy tour manager/band leader/bassist/travel agent needs to know to lead a band around Europe”.

10-Make lists. Lots of them. Commit as much to memory as possible. Include: projected incomes and expenses, a complete tour itinerary, tour budget, contacts, travel days with estimated trip durations, days off, club/hotel addresses and travel documents. ***Make sure to carry hard copies with you, on your computer and also email them to yourself.

9-Invest in a GPS….and depending on the distance, add 1 or 2 hours to your travel time.

8-Get a contract. Be clear with club owners, promoters and your band about fees, dates, responsibilities, visas, riders, meals, pick up and departure times etc etc.

7-Rest is a weapon/food is a weapon. A good night’s sleep and eating properly will drastically increase your tolerance for any unforseen challenges on the road. (***This might be the most important tip I can offer!)

6-As the leader, be flexible. It’s your attitude that sets the tone for the tour. Be prepared to take a hit for the team. It shows you’ll do what you can to keep the band happy (and buying the band a nice meal every once in while can go a long way towards that too.).

5-Promote the gigs/tour to the best of your ability and don’t rely on clubs to do it for you. Be sure to send out posters and press releases to newspapers, magazines, journalists, fellow musicians and anyone else you can think of. Also, post bulletins on Myspace, Facebook, All About Jazz and every other source you can find.

4-Community. Use your contacts! Friends in other cities make all the difference. I often think that if I hadn’t taken part in the Banff Jazz Workshop, I would never have gotten any tour of the ground.

3-Personal space. Respect it as much as possible and always get individual hotel rooms…even on days off. Don’t underestimate this. If you need to do a homestay once in a while it’s ok but don’t push it. Also do what you can to have the hotel as close to the venue as possible. That way everyone in the band can choose what they want to do after the gig.

2-Book flights through a travel agent. It can save you HOURS-trust me because I know first hand. Also, travel agents can find tickets for the same price as most websites and often they can book flights that you can change for a fee. Sites like Expedia don’t often allow this and there can be real consequences as tours can change in the blink of an eye.

1-Think big picture. Remember that touring is an investment in the future. Keep in mind that everyone in this industry is somehow connected. I always work on the premise that I want to come back to play for the next 20 years. So make a good impression: Play your heart out every night, have good manners, thank the promoter, thank the audience, be kind, be honest, be patient, stand up for yourself when necessary but choose your battles.

…oh yes….and we all must remember number eleven:

the music is why we all do this…can’t forget that.


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