Scotty Mills: MidiOrleans

[I love the MIDI orchestral arrangements Scott Hill shares with as at Macjams. They show elegance and a growing command of how to get the most out of software orchestral instruments. I also enjoy his choice of music. In fact, I have begun a long term collaboration with him that might result in an original piano concerto. I was very pleased to see that mark Holbrook interview Scott during my absence last autumn.

This is a reprint of an interview by Mark Holbrook for the Macjammers Blog. For comments attached to the original blog, please go here.]

One of the things I am enjoying about doing the MacJammer inteviews is getting to know more about the various artists present on MacJams. It is easy to hit refresh and see the list of music and artists on MacJams but what do you really know about their backgrounds, their motivations?

The names (tags) we pick for our artist names on MacJams often obscure what is really happening with a particular artist. In the case of Scotty, also known as MidiOrleans, at first glance one would guess that he is a guy that tinkers with MIDI and lives in New Orleans. Even that last part can be tricky these days. For all you know he could be somewhere overseas.

It wasn’t until I received his answers to my standard set of questions that I learned what an amazingly rich background Scotty has. I think I’d give a few of my fingers and toes to experience even a little of what Scotty has done in his musical background.

So with out further delay, it is my extreme pleasure to bring you an interview with Scotty, (aka MidiOrleans).

streetjazzjpg

Let’s start with a little bit about yourself. Give as much information as you feel comfortable giving:

I was born and grew up in New Orleans. Many genres of music can be found here. We have a very fine Symphony and Opera, as well as contemporary jazz, gospel, blues, funky, rock, Cajun, Zydeco and of course traditional jazz. There are many clubs for performance of music. I currently perform some nights at Preservation Hall. It is a landmark that is more known of in Europe and Japan. We perform traditional New Orleans jazz with some fresh touches here and there to keep the music alive. The musicians usually are from here and can play other styles of music and contemporary jazz extremely well but have a respect and a love for the legacy and history of jazz. They have fun playing traditional jazz not to be confused with commercial “Dixieland” which has its place. It is music with rhythms and harmonies that originated here. Music created by Creole, French, Spanish, Caribbean connections and Africa. Just like our Gumbo, the jazz here has something for all and for it to be the best the more diverse cultures coming together and culminating in harmony usually the better!

Places I have performed have included the Montreal Jazz Festival, Kennedy Center Washington D.C, the cities of Augsburg Germany, Rio de Janeiro, Edinburgh Scotland, York in England, and Cardiff in Wales. Other tours have included La Rochelle and Paris France, Andorra, Quito Ecuador and that tour also brought us to the Galapagos Islands.

I have been fortunate to perform for the shows of the Four Tops, Dionne Warwick, Pearl Bailey, Julie London, Roger Miller, Jack Jones, Dr. John and two wonderful weeks with Ella Fitzgerald and the Tommy Flanagan Trio. As well I recorded with my band the French Market Jazz Band for FlyingDutchman/RCA produced by Bob Thiele. Bob had produced, to name a few, John Coltrane, Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong’s “What A Wonderful World.” Also, I did a recording session with the legendary Louis Jordan, a pioneer of R&B, that came out real nice. My band was featured with photographs in National Geographic and Time magazines, and was reviewed by Nat Hentoff and also the UPI.

nationalgeographic

Below is a link for more information about Scotty and the French Market Jazz Band
http://home.earthlink.net/~marketjazz/

Here is Scotty and Eubie Blake:

scotty

Scotty at a Jazz Festival:

jazzfest

Tell us about your musical background. Did you study music? If so tell us about your experience.

I graduated from, the College of Music, Loyola University in New Orleans. As well, I hung out at jazz places as much as I could with various types of jazz especially to listen to the older swing and traditional musicians who were generous with their time and support. I had and still do have a family like relationship with many of them. Some jazz pioneers were still around back then that had worked with the likes of Jelly Roll Morton, King Oliver and Louis Armstrong. I had the best of both worlds, studying for four years with Bob Gillespie, first trombonist of the New Orleans Symphony, formerly first trombonist with the Metropolitan Opera. Performing street music in San Francisco and at home were great times providing a good life with fun and lessons on audiences and reactions of people on the street.

Wow… That is quite a musical background. You play the trombone. Was this your instrument of choice?

I chose the trombone because it is a beautiful, interesting and ancient instrument. Like with strings or the human voice it can sound all of the tones between the notes of our western twelve tone scale. The trombone has hardly been upgraded in about 700 years!

Do you play other instruments?

I play enough keyboard to suit my needs of composing and arranging at this point in time. I also have jammed with rhythm sections on tambourine, cowbell or maracas etc.

Tell us how you go about creating music.

That is a great question. Sometimes improvising in jazz we all have had our moments when after a solo we wonder “how did I play that?” It just happened and even if you try you can’t repeat it.

Leonard Bernstein in his book “The Infinite Varieties of Music” declares that creativity comes about in a kind of trance like state or twilight zone, the times when you are not fully asleep when fantasies may happen. He also said some use drugs like peyote and such to induce this state. I don’t advise the drug route and neither did he. I just plain get high on clear pure music then hope to have a creative day which is not everyday for composition or arranging. Most importantly many here know that to create music you need spirit. Whatever religion we are, or not, we must have a spirit to create music of substance and that goes from the barroom blues to the great symphonic halls of the world or in a forest or on a street corner, wherever. Sometimes melodies or ideas come to you when taking a walk or at odd times of the day anywhere. It is well known that the classical and romantic composers often walked into the woods and were around nature to to help create with compositions.

I basically have two instruments or musical tools to work with. The trombone, which has hardly changed in the past 700 years and the computer which is always changing.

Tell us a little about your music setup both software and hardware.

Like most it keeps growing but I try to be a “less is more” person so currently I have an iMac G5 and before too long I hope to get a new iMac. As most everyone, I have GarageBand. Now I have Logic Studio and it is so much fun and vast without the horrors and intense frustration of Logic 7 that I and many experienced. I have Amadeus II for editing, Sennheiser HD 280 headphones. My speakers are Logitech Z-5500 Surround 5.1 with DTS and Dolby Logic Pro II decoding. I totally enjoy the speakers and recommend them highly. You can cut them back to simple stereo to monitor and that seems to work for me at this time. I have an AKG Perception condenser microphone which is a clear full bodied mic as well as a few dynamics and an old vintage Sony stereo mic. As well I have an M-Audio 49e MIDI Keystation that works well for me. In an accident it crashed to the floor with some thunder and still works very well. Last but not least my King 2B Trombone which I hope to start blending in with the computer music.

You have obviously played lots of live music. What differences do you see when playing “live” with other band members and recording track by track in say GarageBand or Logic?

I come from a background of mostly acoustic music. My friends were rock players with all sorts of electrical gear. I had to purchase an amp for a gig once for vocals and announcements and did not like the idea. I still prefer the pure sound of the trombone and not an electrified version. Along came GarageBand and my musical life, just like with so many others, changed. I still love acoustic music but sometimes I can’t wait to get off of a gig and back home to Logic Studio. The live performance is the most historic, original branch of the tree of music of course and computer music is another new branch. Seems that many struggle with the term and acceptance of computer music as being the real deal. When tweaked properly the brass section in the symphony Jam Pack is excellent!

Photography was once not considered an art. When the early Moog synthesizer first came out by many it was considered artificial music but, in time, it was accepted as a valid instrument. Often it is said that it would be so cool to hear your piece done by a real orchestra, after all of that work! My virtual orchestra is real to me and it is difficult to compare the two. Rather than “real” I prefer the term live, but then again I am live when I create in Logic.

Which do you prefer? Jamming live, or recording and why?

I now enjoy both experiences equally well. There was (and still is) a time when you went to the studio did your best and that was final unless you went further with mastering. Now the computer is in our presence and we can go back and change things and that can be very good or can lead to excess of changing things. They once asked the great composer/pianist Erroll Garner, “Why do you seem to perform a song so differently from time to time?” His answer was “because I have different feelings every day.”

Speaking of recording, I must mention a friend who was a pioneer recording engineer of some of the first R&B, Rock & Roll ever recorded, Cosimo Matassa, who had a studio located just one block in the French Quarter from where I now live. There he recorded Little Richard, Fats Domino and Ray Charles and others in the late 40s and all through the 50s. Cosimo was and is a master. Listen to Little Richard and the balance and clarity is amazing using only one microphone! You can hear each and every instrument as well as a clear and defined bass. There is a lot to be learned from him, as in GarageBand or Logic we can often get carried away with all of the fancy plugins that we now have, for the good or bad.

matassastudiox

How do you mix/master your music? What do you listen for?

I listen to what most do or should be listening for, pitch, clarity, imaging, dynamics and rhythm. I try to teach my iMac to swing and get jazzy and it is a good student it seems to sometimes jam with my help. More than ever before, I listen to subtle nuances that are very important. The play between the bombastic and delicate and all in between. I love the music of Gustav Holst and the Planets Suite with Mars the Bringer of War. In the second movement he goes to the calm and tranquil Venus the Bringer of Peace. I enjoy working with Sound Designer and listen to reverb and how it affects the tone, imaging and definition of music.

Do you have any hints to give newbies on composing, recording and publishing their music?

Take your time and have confidence then enjoy the adventure. Beware of the word professional. I have heard some warm and wonderful music coming from self described hobby folks. Some professionals may not be all that inspired, creative or talented to begin with. I have heard artists here on MacJams that just have that extra something special of talent.

The pianist Jelly Roll Morton once said “if you fill a glass full of water there is no room for any more water.” He meant that in reference to performance or composing with dynamics and intensity of music. If you are loud all of the time music becomes boring. It is like with too much compression these days in the audio sound war. Music needs room to breathe, playing hot against cold and all of what is in between.

What are your musical aspirations?

My aspirations have always been to produce music both interesting and fun, as possible, without concentrating so much on the money reward. Most of my life I have tried to give music going back to my street music days in San Francisco. The good life will follow from the karma of that giving. One day I was standing with my band on a street corner in the French Quarter performing for tips and the next week I find myself in some big studio with my jazz band in Manhattan that had letters on a tall building, RCA. That’s what I mean about giving of yourself as the reward will come to you when you least expect it!

As far as future plans they are, just to keep on keepin’ on with music in general.

Tell us about your musical inspirations?

I have been blessed to know many people through the years who have inspired me. There are two people that first come to mind out of many. Eubie Blake, who composed his first Ragtime piece in 1899, was kind enough to send me two handwritten letters at the age of almost 100! That made me aware that even big time legends had time for the little man. Then there was the experience of performing two shows a night for two weeks with Ella Fitzgerald. Ella was a teacher of being kind and humble. These were artists who had reached the top but the music and audience were most important as were the musicians who worked with them. On the final night Ella gave each musician solid gold cuff links, personally initialed with a card simply stating “Thank You, signed Ella” and that was for a 14 piece big band.

Do you think that the age of the internet and digital music has helped you with respect to creating music? If so why?

The internet has helped a great deal bringing together kind people that enjoy and support you. I am still blown away that we can post a song and within minutes get a comment of goodwill from anywhere in the world!

With jazz we must compose on the spot by improvising but with the digital revolution and home studios we have so many options and tools with which to arrange and compose in new ways that can lead to such wonderful adventures and peace of mind in the comfort of our homes.

Tell us your thoughts on MacJams. Are there anythings you would like to see done differently?

I think MacJams is doing just fine. I never did get comfortable with the voting rating thing. I figured after my years in music school that was enough of grades and ratings on music. Music is far too spiritual to put ratings or price tags on, but we do have the option to not have voting. I guess that is the American way as we vote for so many things. Music often becomes quiet fast here at MacJams. Good music of all genres will always keep and be valuable as opposed to some contrived trendy fast buck music. It seems that the music has a short shelf life when actually it still remains something special and available to listen to. There must be some way to dig up old treasures and feature them more. Not just the ones that received high votes or ratings either. Somebody may have an idea on this one.

Are there any MacJams secrets that you would like to share? Like how to get along, find artists, chat window short cuts?

I most often let my ears guide me.


Any final comments that you would like to add?

Yes.

As musicians we should keep in touch with the history of world music. We live in a disposable age. You don’t have to study long or hard to seek inspiration from the great music of the past. History for me is inspiring and that inspiration can help when composing something new. We seem for the most part so preoccupied with the cutting edge that dusty history is far too often neglected. The music history of the world and the United States is fascinating and I can offer a link so we can understand where some of the American music of the 21st century came from for those interested. Some may ask, what does that old historic stuff have to do with my newest invention? The answer is simple. All music is one big family new and old. An understanding of history can only enrich your new compositions with more depth and color and a solid foundation for the music.

Some may have wondered, or be interested in knowing, who the first world famous musician from the United States was. He was a success especially in Europe, Cuba and South America. Here is the link:

http://www.louismoreaugottschalk.com/

I thank all of the friends at MacJams for giving me feedback, fun, friendship and confidence on this site. Thank you Mark for hosting this great project.

http://home.earthlink.net/~marketjazz/

Could you please provide the artist names for a few MacJams artists that you would recommend to a newcomer?

I would recommend Parichayaka’s compositions. Then there is Diregent who is eclectic, colorful and very enjoyable. As always thetiler is classic, pure and clear. As well, I also enjoy Cori Ander, Ibstrat, Enrique Gil, Davajonah, Bowman, Mystified, Composerclark, Guitapick, Kristyjo, Feter who has some nice neo-Renaissance music and the rascal Drakonis is always interesting. There are so many more that I enjoy but these are enough for any newcomer or oldcomer to tune into, to get started or review what they maybe missed. I just did tune into you Mark and thoroughly enjoyed your music.

Could you please select and provide the MacJams link to three of your tunes that you’d like to ask readers to listen to?

Chaahk Mayan God
La Catedral Preludio
Carmen Entr’acte III
[display_podcast]

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  40. "thetiler" / Bill Says:

    I am amazed at how multi talented scotty is when it comes to music.

    What I find so incredible is that I don’t think I’ve ever heard him play trombone and he does that for a living. I can’t imagine how good he must be. Because he so fantastic at his composition here at Macjams.

    I LOVE that mystery, leaving that incredible trombone skill and I have not heard it.

    Almost kind a like the curiosity photos of mars. You know cool stuff is up there but I have not seen it in person!

    Again, I highly recommend Scotty’s music here. I have sure received a lot of enjoyment from listening to his wonderful orchestral compositions! Truly inspiring!

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    I backup Bill’s comment. Scotty’s work is awesome and it freaks me out you can go so long with your head in the sand sometimes. Thanks for posting this – it was a real eye-opener (ear opener?) for me.
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