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For 25 years John Armato has played jazz and commercial music in Kansas City, New York City, and now, Northern California. From concerts and shows to night clubs and private parties, from recording sessions and Russian tours to polka festivals and police circuses, from river boats and churches to -- of course -- weddings and bar mitzvahs, he's been there and played that. Known for his taste and sensitivity on ballads as well as his strong sense of swing, Armato is in his  element on standards, straight-ahead jazz, Basie-style big band charts, and light Latin styles. Armato is based in Sacramento and is available for gigs ithroughout Northern California. Follow Armato on Facebook and Twitter. Read his full bio ...

Friday
Jun222012

My "Tech Tree"

In case other drummers are evolving their tech or looking for ideas on how to organize what they have, I'm sharing what I've recently developed. Until the past year or two all I've had to worry about is toting, setting up, and playing a basic acoustic set of drums. As I've gotten involved in a few smooth jazz gigs I've had to get into the world of mics, mixers, background tracks, etc. Here's what I've put together ...

That's a standard Yamaha cymbal stand with a Gilbralter small accessory table (roughly 12 x 12) mounted low to hold my mixer. The mixer is a Yamaha MG102C 10-channel stereo mixer with compression. Above it is an "iKlip" iPad holder that's designed for mic stands. (Not bad, but not really heavy duty. You might want to look for something a little sturdier.) Then coming off the threads for the cymbal stand is my DB-90 metronome.

I'm using the iPad to drive performance (background) tracks. The group I've been playing with and the headliners we backed on a recent gig all have supplemental tracks with click that they sync to on stage (percussion, backing vocals, strings, horn sections, you name it -- anything too complex or expensive to put on stage live). I load them into an app called "Set List Maker" (which is great and lets you also load in PDFs of your charts). Performance tracks have two channels. I run the music channel through my mixer to the Front of House sound system and the click channel just to me. Every track has a two-bar count-off. The first bar is for me, then I use the second to count in the band.

Originally I was going to use my iPod for performance tracks, but the iPod auto advances to the next tune, which can be a really bad thing if you forget and the next track suddenly starts playing in the middle of the wrong tune. Plus navigating the small screen of an iPod on stage gave me too much room for error. The tunes in the iPad App are listed in HUGE type and make an easy target, and they don't autoplay. A lot of players just use a laptop, but the iPad works really well for me. JUST REMEMBER TO TURN IT TO AIRPLANE MODE during performance, otherwise every email, Facebook, or other notification sound that comes through will play for the entire audience! (Fortunately, I learned this in a rehearsal, not during a live show :-)

The Dr. Beat is for when I want a tempo reference before a tune, or if I want to have a click throughout a tune that doesn't have a performance track. I can just dial it in. It's for my board only and goes straight to my headphones.

Originally I bought a set of dual drive Shure in-ears, but there was too much isolation and I haven't had the option of figuring out an ambient mic for the stage set-up yet, so these first few gigs with my new "tech tree" I've just been using a basic set of Bose consumer-model headphones and cheating/leaking the left ear cup for the room sound. I don't love it, but it's a start.

Here's a shot of the "tech tree" with the full set-up:


Friday
Jun222012

A Month of Headliners

June's been a busy A-list month. As a member of Cecil Ramirez's quartet I played the opening night party for Brian Culbertson's first-ever Napa Valley Jazz Getaway. Then a week later we served as the house band for chart-toppers Paul Brown, Darren Rahn and Steve Oliver at a benefit performance at Young's Winery.

 

Yours truly, Dave Kirkendall (bass), Steve Oliver (smooth jazz recording artist and master guitarist), Cecil Ramirez (keys and fearless leader), Lance Taber (bass), in the green room before the show. Steve was a delight to work with.

 

After the show with smooth jazz artist Paul Brown, and bandmate and bassist Dave Kirkendall. The day of the show Paul had the number one hit on Billboard's Smooth Jazz charts.

 

In performance with "The Producers" -- Paul Brown and Darren Rahn. On the day of the show Darren had the number two hit!

 

The quartet played a set before Paul, Darren and Steve took the stage.

 

Thursday
Jul072011

Taye Collective Artist Program

Kind of fun -- I'm featured (for now anyway) on Taye Drums new "Taye Collective Artist Program." It's not an endorsement, but rather a way for Taye to feature everyday players who use their instruments. I play a Taye GoKit for jazz gigs, rehearsals and quick jobs. It really is a terrific instrument: half-depth shells, birch/basswood construction for enhanced tone and low-end, easy in-and-out with the whole kit fitting in three manageable gigbags. It looks to some like a toy, but it really sounds amazingly full. In fact, I've even recorded with it. Check out excerpts from "Claudette."