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Author Topic:  Jazz/Rock Lap Steel
Mike Neer


From:
NJ
Post  Posted 12 May 2019 7:28 am    
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Forgive the self-indulgent nature of my post.

I’m pouring my heart and soul into a book that will basically share everything I know and all of my ideas in the idiom of Jazz/Rock or Fusion. I know that this is not something that is even remotely popular among lap steel players but it is something I hope will interest new players one day. I want this to be my legacy. I am still developing a lot of ideas in this idiom but I have a lot to offer now and want to share it.

When I came to develop an interest in the steel, I already many years of guitar playing under my belt and was deeply into jazz and fusion-oriented guitar. I had yet to find my own voice as a player though, and became a little disillusioned by the whole thing. When steel guitar came into my life, I could have never imagined the long journey it would take me on to get from point A to where I am now. Point A at the time was Hawaiian steel, and later stops along the way were western swing and country. That was how I learned HOW to play steel guitar. Later on I found the WHY and that is when all the pieces began to fall into place for me. Lap steel has reconnected me with the music that was so important to me because of the endless possibilities and excitement of playing it.

Are there any fans of this kind of music here? I’m talking Jeff Beck, John Scofield, Miles Davis, Mahavishnu, Jan Hammer, George Duke, Yellowjackets, etc. These cats to me exemplify real mastery of their instruments and adventurousness in their approaches. Maybe someday lap steel players will be able to make a contribution to the music that will enhance the legacy of it.

I was talking with an old friend recently who is a well known guitarist in the fusion realm from its heyday and he encouraged me to keep going with it, saying he thinks there is an audience. I don’t know if I believe that but I follow my heart when it comes to music, audience or not.
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Bill McCloskey


Post  Posted 12 May 2019 11:00 am    
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Go for it Mike. I know I will be first in line. I'm completely in sync with your feelings as I currently battle the 10 and 12 string eharp tuning each day and it is opening up all sorts of directions.
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Jim Fogarty


From:
Phila, Pa, USA
Post  Posted 12 May 2019 2:16 pm    
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Do what's in your heart, and the pull the audience/interest along with you. You'll go nuts trying to figure out what will sell or not, these days.
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Peter Jacobs


From:
Northern Virginia
Post  Posted 12 May 2019 4:26 pm    
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Definitely go for it, Mike. While, fusion isn’t my favorite genre, I’m always impressed by the musicianship needed to do it well. With your skills as a player and a teacher, I’m sure you’ll come up with something that will inspire someone to give it a try, while showing the versatility of these silly planks of wood and wire.
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Bob Watson


From:
Champaign, Illinois, U.S.
Post  Posted 13 May 2019 1:03 am    
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Mike, all of the contributions you have made to the lap steel so far have been excellent! I'm sure this project will be too.
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Andy Volk


From:
Boston, MA
Post  Posted 13 May 2019 1:24 am    
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Mike, you have an underlying restlessness that I can identify with. You don't just stay in one place, musically speaking. I think it's led you to some dead ends but also resulted in some astonishing breakthroughs - like Steelonious and and even cool things you think are throw-aways, like Rock and Roll Hootchie Coo.

Fusion is a style that I admire for technique but has never really appealed to me. If it's the thing that currently floats your boat, follow your muse and see where it leads. You'll light a fire under some people, drag along some, and get shrugs from others but you'll be true to your self and we only get one lifetime.
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Mike Neer


From:
NJ
Post  Posted 13 May 2019 4:51 am    
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Andy Volk wrote:
Mike, you have an underlying restlessness that I can identify with. You don't just stay in one place, musically speaking. I think it's led you to some dead ends but also resulted in some astonishing breakthroughs - like Steelonious and and even cool things you think are throw-aways, like Rock and Roll Hootchie Coo.


I think it’s about coming full circle more than anything. In essence, it’s kind of moving backwards. If I hadn’t made the choice to put the guitar aside for steel, I would have no reason to want to go back down these roads. But since I have made the steel my primary instrument, it’s out of necessity for me.
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David M Brown


From:
California, USA
Post  Posted 13 May 2019 5:45 am     Re: Jazz/Rock Lap Steel
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Mike Neer wrote:

I’m pouring my heart and soul into a book that will basically share everything I know and all of my ideas in the idiom of Jazz/Rock or Fusion. .....


Are there any fans of this kind of music here? I’m talking Jeff Beck, John Scofield, Miles Davis, Mahavishnu, Jan Hammer, George Duke, Yellowjackets, etc. .


I was and still am a fan and greatly influenced by the above musicians, and have a much greater love for and back ground in that music rather than many of the typical steel genres such as country music, Bluegrass, etc.

Particularly John McLaughlin. Also Chick Corea's electric band, Zappa, and the English prog rockers like Steve Howe of Yes.

I'd love to see what you come up with in this area in regards to steel.

Heck,back in the 70's I was in bands that played some of that music, including "And You and I" on lap steel.
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Paul Seager


From:
Augsburg, Germany
Post  Posted 13 May 2019 6:10 am    
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Mike Neer wrote:

Are there any fans of this kind of music here? I’m talking Jeff Beck, John Scofield, Miles Davis, Mahavishnu, Jan Hammer, George Duke, Yellowjackets, etc. These cats to me exemplify real mastery of their instruments and adventurousness in their approaches. Maybe someday lap steel players will be able to make a contribution to the music that will enhance the legacy of it.

Specifically to this point, I'm going to answer "I think it's a musical phase most of us go through". As a young bass player I idolized Jaco Pastorius and saw him with Weather Report. I saw him again later in his career, sadly not at his best but still I went. I recall he had Mike Stern in his band. In the same period I saw Al DiMeola, John McLaughlin, Pat Metheny, Stanley Clark, George Duke and couldn't get enough of that music. Yet now, when I look back at that period, I only listen to those musicians' contributions to artists such as Joni Mitchell. Her songwriting is timeless!

However Fusion moves with the times. Today Fusion applies Jazz to HipHop, eletronic dance. I read a recent article in Mojo magazine about new British Jazz and on listening, I'm dashed if I could identify it as jazz! But it's definitely fusing with new styles.

To your idea I re-emphasize that every musician in love with their instrument goes through a fusion phase and would very likely enjoy a book about it, just acknowledge that the style evolves - then you have a Vol 2 opportunity!

\ paul
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Mike Neer


From:
NJ
Post  Posted 13 May 2019 7:15 am    
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Paul Seager wrote:

Specifically to this point, I'm going to answer "I think it's a musical phase most of us go through". As a young bass player I idolized Jaco Pastorius and saw him with Weather Report. I saw him again later in his career, sadly not at his best but still I went. I recall he had Mike Stern in his band. In the same period I saw Al DiMeola, John McLaughlin, Pat Metheny, Stanley Clark, George Duke and couldn't get enough of that music. Yet now, when I look back at that period, I only listen to those musicians' contributions to artists such as Joni Mitchell. Her songwriting is timeless!


I very much loved Jaco's band and of course Weather Report. Around '85 or so I studied guitar with Mike Stern a little. Incredibly humbling experience.
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Geoff Cline


From:
Southwest France
Post  Posted 13 May 2019 8:19 am    
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I agree with the "go for it" sentiment Mike. I think you are the kind of musician that can and will inspire players to look beyond the "Hawaiian" or "Western Swing" tonality and repertoire of lap steel and get folks to see the instrument with fresh eyes and ears. In fact, even beyond the much loved (and deservedly so) David Lindley-esque rock playing.

You can make this project intriguing, challenging and fun. There is so much to explore (particularly if you delve into pedals/effects)...Look forward to see where this goes.
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Godfrey Arthur


From:
3rd Rock
Post  Posted 13 May 2019 8:53 am    
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You are your own audience!

Always had huge respect for Joni Mitchell.

My brother ran into her at a DUI class some years back. Smile

Wish it was I.

Well, I came upon a child of God

She's still kicking a$$ and taking names.

The lap steel will always be.

Going full circle is what happens with any instrument.

It's like getting up on the right side of the bed when you reconnect with them. Smile
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Christopher Woitach


From:
Portland, Oregon, USA
Post  Posted 13 May 2019 6:39 pm    
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You can probably guess my reply - of course continue!

As far as how steel can fit - particularly in the example of Sco, his record with Frisell, Grace Under Pressure, would be totally playable on steel, plus Frisell practically plays steel on it, as far his approach.

We do the work because it’s in our hearts, and create because that’s what we do. There is no way to predict how someone will benefit from the project but I guarantee someone will, as will you.

I’m so pleased by this post - I love seeing someone as deep as you completely engaged in something wonderful
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Mike Neer


From:
NJ
Post  Posted 14 May 2019 4:34 am    
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Christopher, thanks for your insight and kind words.

My world was turned around in the 80s when I heard John Scofield and Mike Stern. They became my favorite players because I could really relate to what they were doing coming from a rock, blues and soul background. I got to see them so frequently around NYC in many different musical situations. Frisell is another—I started seeing him when he first got to NY. I can remember how cats on the bandstand would crack up when Bill played. It could be uncomfortable at times! Little did they know how dramatically he would impact the guitar world and jazz in particular.

I’m not looking to play insane chops-oriented fusion. But I’d like to really tap into the compositional brilliance of those guys, particularly Sco and Stern, and see what happens. I have some sense of humor in my playing and I want to maybe magnify that a little. After all, it’s lap steel guitar! If you can’t laugh at that....
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Nic Neufeld


From:
Kansas City, Missouri
Post  Posted 14 May 2019 11:40 am    
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My first introduction with steel was the rather atypical playing of Steve Howe with YES. Songs like And You and I as well as the end of the Gates of Delirium suite from Relayer...beautiful playing but not necessarily exceptional, just interesting. Then I later would hear pedal steel played by Skunk Baxter with Steely Dan (Pearl of the Quarter)...didn't even realize it was a steel guitar at the time.

Steel fits in great in a lot of genres, even if it is atypical...it's a lot more than just country and Hawaiian. My jazz influences trend much more modern/funky on bass (Jaco, funk proper ala Bootsy, etc) but on steel guitar what I really love to play right now is the older pop jazz standards, the kind of tunes Frank Sinatra or Bing Crosby might sing. Something about the sonorous sustain of a steel guitar sounds so "vocal", so I have fun with the old tunes.

But that's still a very dated sound (that I happen to love), and I feel that you're taking the lap steel into areas which are much more challenging, and certainly interesting, if less traditional. I look forward to your cover of Birds of Fire! Smile

The only time I've not been a big fan of fusion is when I spent a decade or so studying Hindustani classical music. I'm not opposed to Indian musical fusion (a few examples spring to mind from Pandit Ravi Shankar specifically...East Meets West with Yehudi Menuhin and his sitar concertos with Zubin Mehta...another good one was Towards the Rising Sun with japanese musicians...but in all cases these were classical-to-classical fusions), but the insipid pop / Indian classical fusion attempts, with some grace given to the initial attempts in the 60s, all leave me cold.

But I love experimenting outside of typical genre with the instrument. Tinkering with the old alternative rock tune "Creep" lately just for grins and/or to annoy my wife...
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