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Making the final push in the last 4 months of 2019

Dear all,

It’s been about 3 months since my last post. I hope all of you are well, productive, and contented.

I’ve just entered what is likely my third to last semester in my university course. The last semester was a success and I’m very happy with the results I got. I look back with fondness on the pressure I felt during last semester to work even harder especially on the essay assignments. As there were no pre-class quizzes which made up 10% of the overall grade, the essay assignments alone carried 50% of the overall grade. I felt the pressure to really score as well as I could on every single essay assignment. I probably grew a few more white hairs because of this, haha..

That was school. Then came the 2 month break after the exams, which I totally enjoyed. I was getting back into exercise, watching my diet more closely, going to more concerts, movies, and making a list of things I wanted to learn and practice. In that list, I wanted to learn more about Indian Classical rhythmic cycles and appreciate the differences of that between North Indian Classical music and South Indian classical music; work on my vocals as I’m doing quite a bit of singing lately with my new Beatles tribute project. More on that later; brushing up my metric modulation abilities and bass drum technique.I managed to complete almost of all these goals in the list except finding an organization to volunteer in. I’m a little disappointed with myself on that but I’m still working on it.

Now with the Beatles tribute project. I got together with the bass player from another band I played in who is a Beatles fan (or maniac), a guitarist from yet another band I played in who is also a Beatle fan (maniac), and an exceptional guitarist, bassist, and singer from the Philippines who’s working here, and he is a total Beatle maniac than the other three of us combined! It’s a blessing to have him with us and this is just another fun band to be in. I don’t know how long it’ll last, but we’re having fun working the Beatles’ catalogue and trying our very very best to be as close as we can in sound, feel, and standard to the original recordings. A tall order for us considering our individual limitations as singers.

This is our facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/BeatlemaniacsSingapore/.

On behalf of the band, I hope that you like the material. We’re in the midst of securing gigs in future. We just did an open mic session on the 26th of August to test how we sound in front of a live audience and what the latter’s reaction would be. Warts and all in our set, along with technical kinks particularly with one of the guitar amps, we had very positive feedback from the audience! You can see pictures and videos from that performance on the facebook page.

I guess you can infer from what I’m sharing above, that I’m moving towards playing more the music that I want to play with the people I truly enjoy making music with. It started as early as late 2015, and it’s now becoming a reality. I’m very contented and consider myself blessed to be in this position.

Having said that, I also managed to take part in two recording sessions in June! One was for Wong Kah Chun (https://www.facebook.com/kahchun.music/) for an original Rock song he composed with a school helping special needs kids. I helped him assemble the bass, guitar, drums lineup, and we found a keyboardist to complete the rhythm section. Kah Chun recently sent me a rough mix of the song we recorded with a brass section and classical percussion now added. It was amazing!

The other recording session I took part in was for a recording engineer working at Lasalle. He was able to get some studio time from the school’s excellent recording facility, and I laid down drum tracks there for two of his original Rock guitar instrumental compositions to be put out as an EP some time end of this year or early in 2020. That was another very enjoyable experience. The highlight  was I got to use my 2015-acquired pre-serial badge Ludwig Supraphonic snare drum. It just sounded amazing when I heard the playbacks. 16 Beat Drums helped me refurbish it and install new heads, and they did a great job. I just used the drum in the studio as how they set it up. Not a single lug on that drum was touched by a key. Beautiful tone. That’s my snare sound which I found in the Supraphonic. Again, I consider myself blessed that fellow musicians still remember me for recording work. It’s an honour to contribute to their music. Thank you all!

Now that the new school semester has kicked in in late July, I’m driven and determined to do even better than last semester. I love being a student again! Along with that, I haven’t stopped loving the routine of practice and improving my drumming. I do miss  the 3 to 5 hour practice sessions, but I think I gained alot more in terms or organizing and focusing better my practice sessions with much shorter time periods. Besides, I don’t consider myself in competition with any other drummer.

This is all for now. Till the next post, take care!

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Half Year Gone In A Flash…

And just like that, June is here…What has it been like for you in 2019, so far?

For me, it was probably the best first half of the year I had in a long time. Usually the second half the year is where the excitement and bustle take place, but for me, it happened early on in 2019. I just hope the momentum holds steady at least.

In addition to two studio recording sessions I am involved in this month, I made a list of things I wanted to get done during the June/July school break – where some of my drumset students will be on vacation and my next school semester commences at the end of July. These include taking up swimming again after many donkey years – I have returned to physical exercise starting last month, reading Dr. Albert Ellis’ book on his Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT)  which I just got in the mail, studying Talas or Taals which are rhythmic cycles in both Hindustani and Carnatic classical music of India, improving my metric modulation abilities on the drumset in both straight and swung feels, improving my singing technique – greater accuracy in pitch between huge jumps in intervals, better intonation, and harmonization abilities, and some basic left hand chord work and right hand melodic line facility on the piano – I’m currently working on a really simple songs in the keys of C, A, and F, and doing some volunteer work – I am still deciding which organization.

Great plans, so good luck to me fulfilling all of them!

 

 

 

The Gift of Drums..and Time…

Hi all,

This post will be brief.

It is because just a few minutes before I decided to author this post, I had an amazing realization that I have never ever fallen out of love with the drums despite having to juggle work, study, gigs, and some personal matters.

This is actually a time for me to do a complete overhaul assessment of myself, my personality, all of my actions, all of my words, all of my thoughts, and all of my beliefs, hence, the purpose of my going back to school to pursue a degree. It is a time of commencing the slow process of healing the few unresolved past hurts that have caused anger, sadness, and resentment. It is also a time to build a future where my potential expands and is fulfilled beyond what I originally thought I was capable of. That is…beyond music.

Despite having to take on a heavier load, I still have not stopped practising (albeit, it’s usually 30 minutes to 60 minutes these days, ALMOST daily), pushing myself as a performer, maintaining my professionalism, and listening to new music (the new Jazz stuff out there, and obscure British Jazz artists have been catching my ears lately). As a matter of fact, I was quite amazed at some of the stuff I am pulling off these days – whether it is a complex layered funk groove, a fast chop with fast single-pedal double strokes on the bass drum, or a certain Latin groove/feel for ballroom dancing.

I am also amazed at what discipline, organization of personal time, and deep focus can do for you. 24 hours is truly enough…more than enough, in fact.

I am seriously thinking of participating in some group yoga classes in December and seeing if it is really for me. If not, I will hit the road for long brisk walks and the gym for toning up. I am also progressively cutting down my carbohydrate intake in an uphill struggle to lose weight and get back to my army days shape. That dreaded mid-30’s paunch is bugging me immensely.  I recently looked at an old photo of me wearing the “No.1” ceremonial military uniform at the 2006 SAF Day parade and thought to myself, “No way, I look as good with my current shape in that uniform!” It was embarrassing, to say the least.

I look forward to providing more details of my progress (or lack thereof…) in the coming months. Hopefully I can share things like a better physique, better energy levels, a better mood..

 

 

 

 

 

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Progress so far..

Howdy!

How’s everyone doing out there in the real and the virtual and virtual-real world?

This will be a short post, but some interesting things are coming up in the second half of 2018.

By the way, I’ve been thinking about which snare drum to get next. The Rogers brand has been recently resurrected and their legendary Dynasonic snare drum has made a huge comeback at recent music trade shows in the US. The Dynasonic to my ears are as every bit as great as my first love when it comes to snare drums, the Supraphonic by Ludwig (I own a 1969/1970 model bought on eBay.) One great example of just how good the Dynasonic sounds are on Buddy Rich’s recordings in the 1960’s and 1970’s before he moved to Ludwig. Another great example is the “Get Ready” album by Rare Earth. Hear it for yourselves on Spotify or iTunes if you’re interested. General reviews of the new Dynasonics have been very positive, so it’s likely my next investment. It MAY also be the last snare drum I’ll every buy (as we always would say, hahahaha…)

As for practice, I’ve been continuing my focus from last year on traditional grip and both heel-toe and slide techniques for bass drum. Second on the list is also learning how to pull off some fills in quintuplets and septuplets ala Vinnie Colaiuta, but that’s a farther secondary priority.

I’ve relooked recently into my technique again and had to make some changes to how I move around the kit – how hands are positioned from drum to drum – to improve fluidity.

I’m also scrutinizing my timing when I improvise fills – that means I  go for a fill idea spontaneously without having worked it out before. My inspiration for this are players like Ian Paice (Deep Purple) and many great players in the Jazz/Fusion style who can effortlessly whip out fills with superb timing, feel, syncopation, fluency, and fluidity. Their psycho-motor reflex and control are on the highest level possible. One area that I found I could really hone in more is to exhale through my fills so that the time feels better.

So this is it for now. Best wishes for the rest of the year!

Merry Christmas and Happy 2018

Hi all,

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This is a short post to wish all of you compliments of the season and best wishes for the new year.

Thank you for your support on this blog and for engaging my services in Music. I look forward to another fruitful year just as 2017 has been.

I wish that you and your loved ones be blessed abundantly in 2018 and may all your goals be fulfilled.

Rock on,

Jason Cruz.

2017 Updates

Hi all,

I am so glad to be back here with another post since my last one in February. Nope, I have not been under a rock or locked up in an ivory tower all this time. Instead, I have been having a great time accomplishing some stuff I always wanted to accomplish in my music work and in my part-time university studies, which I am about to complete the first year/first semester for.

2017 has been great to me so far, and I am so grateful for the new friendships I have forged through music, through my part-time studies, and through some interesting chance encounters. It has been certainly a more productive year than 2016. I have a good feeling that the new opportunities I have taken on this year will lead me down a richly rewarding path in my life – one that I think will actualize who I really am and what is truly my calling.

Some highlights from this year so far:

  1. Playing some really good gigs with some excellent musicians, most of whom come from overseas. These musicians include: Sean (SG – Gruv Therapy), Kevin (SG – freelance guitarist subbing at Brix. excellent and versatile), Manson (SG – bassist), Gavin (SG – The High Rollers), Paul (SG – The High Rollers), the two Patricks (SG – The High Rollers), Jasmine (SG – Sang with The High Rollers), James (SG – The Revival Band), Ricky (SG – The Revival Band), Martin (SG – The Revival Band), Peter (SG – The Revival Band), Christo (Australia – Stingray Martini), Harley (Canada – Stingray Martini), Daryn (New Zealand – Stingray Martini), Eirik (Norway – bass player I very recently connected with. Great Funk and Rock bassist), Phoenyx (USA – Brix resident band), Tre (USA – Brix resident band), Yendi (USA – Brix resident band), Inga (New Zealand – Brix resident band. Though I only did two gigs with her as she finished her contract after the 2nd gig), Kyle (USA – Brix resident band), Matt (USA – Brix resident band), Mark (Canada – Brix resident band, bandleader),  Jocelyn (SG – actually I started working with her last year. Very good singer and multi-instrumentalist. Check out her work with The Dimension 5). Sadly I have to say goodbye to Fran (Belgium) who has to relocate to Geneva as her husband was recently posted there by his company. I worked with her on a couple of Top40/Rock gigs last year and this year. She was a great singer – versatile, powerful, and soulful – and her professionalism is something I greatly respect. I wish her all the very best.
  2. Part-Time University Studies which started on July 28th 2017. This is one of the best decisions I ever made in my life so far. It was not easy to get there, but I am getting to do it now because of help from so many sources, it is mind-blowing. Thank you!! You know who you are!! I have great lecturers and my fellow schoolmates are generally cool people who come from different professional backgrounds and walks of life to study this course that I am taking.
  3. My last NS Reservist training cycle!! 10 years completed!
  4. Making some important connections for future work.
  5. Some of my drumset students achieving some personal breakthroughs in their drumming studies, namely Paul and Kyan. Paul is a working adult with a young family and Kyan is a primary school student who has been taking lessons for about 2 years now.
  6. Last but not least, The Bellamy Brothers concert that I opened for with The Revival Band (Ricky, James, Martin, Peter)

What I have been practising lately:

  1. Jazz drumming – improving my time and sound on the ride cymbal, developing other comping ideas, soloing, and brush work from time to time.
  2. Basic Metric Modulation
  3. Refining my traditional grip – I was recently able to play clean rim shots with the trad grip in my live work. YES!!! I am now comfortable playing Rolling Stones’ songs for example using the trad grip like Charlie Watts does, and trying to cop his feel – which is not easy.
  4. Stick Control, Accent Control, Odd Subdivisions including Quintuplets, Septuplets, Nine-lets, Ten-lets
  5. Improving my Funk Grooves – mostly listening to some Funk drummers that I am focusing on like Steve Ferrone, David Garibaldi, James Gadson, and Bernard Purdie. I have been listening to alot of Steely Dan also – the whole discography – and have developed a newfound love and appreciation for their early 1970’s work and that of their original drummer, Jim Hodder (R.I.P). He had a heck of a groove.

So there you go!

I will be back soon for some more updates. Till then, take care and keep groovin’…

 

 

 

 

 

 

2016 Updates

Very happy to be back posting on this blog!

I hope your 2016 has been fruitful so far and I wish you the reader more of the best that has yet to come.

2016 so far has been uniquely challenging for me. It seems to be a year where my path is changing course and I am embracing it fully.

Teaching and gigging so far have been ok except for some bad months from March up till May, and then things picked up all of a sudden in August. I realised that those said bad months were really a time of letting go some negative people and negative circumstances, and finding a new direction in which to take my life and my work. I feel more secure now.

2016 was also a year which I unexpectedly lost a dear friend and a relative to illnesses, and I am still coming to terms emotionally with these losses. I do my best not to let it affect my ability to function in my daily tasks. I had learn to develop the strength to carry on a life without them physically around. I am happy and secure however in the faith that they are in a better place.

One highlight though, so far, was PLATE’s album launch for Tear Down This Marketplace on May 23rd. You can go to the “Studio Recordings” tab to find posts documenting my journey through recording one of my favourite album projects of the last 3 years. The band was FINALLY able to launch it rather successfully with a well received and attended launch gig at Hood Bar, and pretty decent sales of the hard copy of the album.

Due to forthcoming circumstances, I will not be able to continue with these guys, hence I got another drummer to replace me. I really hope this band takes off as they can and should. It seems that they are starting to get a few more local gigs in the coming months and I am very happy for them.

The Black Monolith, my hard Rock project, is currently preparing to record our 2nd album which we target to release by May next year. There have been alot of delays due to conflicting schedules, but we are determined to see this project through to completion before said target date.

Happy to say that, in my personal opinion, the songs are an improvement over those on the first album. I still have 2 or 3 favourites off the first album. We are also in the process of locking down the ideal recording studio for tracking the drums, and I will be more involved in the production of this album than I was on the first one. More details will be posted soon.

I also have another highlight coming this month which is a TV gig this for a Channel 5 show. More details to follow soon.

The next few months till the year ends seem to be pretty busy and I look forward to finishing off 2016 on a happier note.

Till my next update, take care.