I enjoyed three fantastic years collaborating with others to make music on Bandhub, until its recent sad demise. For the uninitiated, Bandhub was an online music collaboration community where I made > 400 recordings, making music with people from across the planet. After my early days of hanging out there, initially assessing the lay of the land and understanding potential, I did my very best to test the boundaries of Bandhub by organizing and creating collabs that I thought would be “epic”. My quest to engineer epic collabs had me trying to record performances that differentiated themselves from others.
Here’s a collection of the collabs I organized that I’m the proudest of because:
- They were truly unlike others on Bandhub;
- My wonderful Bandhub buddies and co-conspirators trusted me and totally bought into my unusual ideas, with lots of feel-good moments; and
- Most of these collabs were transcribed by me. I’m relieved to say that charts were available for the others, so transcribing wasn’t always necessary.
We recreated the original 1976 Hollywood recording, doing our very best to capture the energy and excitement of that ground-breaking soundtrack. The transcribing, arranging, and project management consumed an entire Xmas break for me. Bringing the team together and seeing the adrenaline rush of excitement as this built, was truly special.
My tribute to my musical hero, Chuck Mangione. I love this one because it was challenging to transcribe Chuck’s solo by ear, and even more challenging to play it in the flugelhorn high register. But I really tip my hat to my good buddy James Wilkas for his magnificent tenor sax solo, incorporating much of Chris Vadala’s fine work into his own.
I’d never known anyone to cover this tune before, so it felt like a rare, untapped opportunity. To top it off, I was honored to learn from Chuck’s niece that Chuck himself saw and heard the video!
Our careful recreation of Joe Cocker’s live performance, at a time when we had all the right people at the right time to pull it off. This is super-tight!
A beautiful memory too of our superb backing vocalist Gea, who we tragically lost recently. This song and recording will always remind me of her. I loved it before, and I love it even more now.
There’s a recurring theme of dumb ideas taking hold and blossoming into something big. This one came about, not surprisingly, while enjoying the Life of Brian opening cartoon sequence and admiring the trumpets in this Goldfinger parody. Then, after convincing Claire she should sing and perform the unorthodox lyrics, she absolutely stole the show!
Shirley Bassey – Goldfinger
Hot on the heels of Life of Brian, we found momentum and enthusiasm to stretch things further and pull together the original theme song that inspired it. We stretched to bring in French horns and even real timpani. Leveraging Brendan Champion’s Free Horn Charts, the amazing Ynping tweaked the string orchestrations to create an epic string section. Finally, Claire once more dug deep to pull off the most extraordinary Shirley Bassey-esque performance. Very proud of this one!
Given that I’d rarely ever played with strings before a few years ago, it sure says something about the talent of my friends to see violins feature so heavily in my Epic Collab Collection. This time, my very good friend Amanda Tse plays some truly beautiful, heartfelt violin lines as we play this stripped-back Australian rock ballad.
Grimethorpe Colliery Band – The Floral Dance
Yeah, this is where it started to get silly and included fancy dress. I had this idea that we could pull off a full brass band performance in the British style with just four people. Ably assisted by my very good friends Craig Catarinich, Andrew Mayes, and Ross MacDonald, we made a very good attempt at it. Sadly, we ran out of time and the opportunity to fill out the lower brass instruments, but there’s enough here to show that it could be done.
Cheesy late-70s funky disco taken too seriously; this piece was just itching to be hammed up and some trumpet ego exercised. But there certainly are some jazzy chords and dramatic accents to capture attention.
What I liked the most about this collab was that none of my collaborators were even the slightest bit aware of this stuff, but took a leap of faith and trusted me with it anyway. The result far exceeded my expectations.
Too silly? Naah. Australian ska band No Nonsense released a vinyl EP entitled Around Tuit, late in the 1980s. This unique arrangement of the Hawaii Five-0 theme was on the B-side. This was a chance to have some fun with friends on a theme…
Woody Herman – The Golden Wedding
I traveled interstate with my webcam and recording equipment to record my Dad playing this clarinet solo as well as the rest of the reed section. The one and only recording of Dad and I playing together, so we did it in style as a full big band.
A very special memory, with an exclamation point at the end when Dad nails the last note of his clarinet solo and then turns to me with a look of surprise as if to say “Please tell me you got that!”
A moment in time when I knew that we had the right people to capture a credible version of this, one of my favorite Sting songs, closing out his 1985 album Dream of the Blue Turtles. Except, of course, that Branford Marsalis’ brilliant soprano sax parts are played by me on trumpet, as best I was able.
Wonderful hints of Sting can be heard in vocalist Jason Osborne’s performance, while the sound of the original recording was totally nailed by Chris Carli (guitar), Neil Davidson (keys), Ross MacDonald (drums), and Luciano Baêta (bass and video production).
Transcribing and recording this complex beast had long sat in the too-hard basket. But I felt that if I could untangle the tightly woven horn parts then I stood a good chance of the other musicians being able to nail the rhythm section parts. As it turned out, once on paper the horn parts weren’t that complex after all! Too many good things to say about this one…
Cantina Band – Star Wars (Jazz Edition)
I heard this on YouTube and simply had to copy it. Who else do you know who has attempted a serious recording of this tune?
Village People – Y.M.C.A.
The beauty of the Bandhub community was that it was just that; a community of people. I pulled together 25 of my favorite people to help me celebrate my 400th Bandhub collab, just weeks before the kiss of death was put on Bandhub. This is a pretty fine level of community participation!
A unique jazz-influenced arrangement of John Williams’ classic theme as recorded by trumpet virtuoso Don Ellis. I pulled together a 34-piece Bandhub orchestra to play charts that I transcribed by ear. I love the way that this arrangement builds from very little to a major musical climax, before quietly slipping away into a galaxy far away. Too many musical highlights here for me to single out any one of them over another.
A practical joke backfired on me, and before I could blink my good friends made a meal of this cheesy jingle. But it caused us to consider, and really pay homage to, the studio musicians who are called upon to play silly ditties but do so with complete professionalism. So as we played, this was another case of “ridiculousness, taken seriously”.
I’ve never had the slightest interest in the Carpenters and their music, although that sometimes puts me at odds with other people (including one I’m married to!). But when my friend Ynping was interested in singing the lead vocals and transcribing strings, this was an opportunity not to be passed up. French horns became flugelhorns, and an oboe became a soprano sax. But we were still able to blend the instruments and vocals (lead and backing) beautifully to closely mirror the Carpenters’ original.
Happy Birthday, MzMieux
I saved this one until the end of my Epic Collab list. It’s like no other collab, and it serves as a reminder that it was the people that made Bandhub so special. Knowing that Claire’s birthday was on the horizon and that she has so many warm friendships across the planet, I organized this surprise party for her. Bandhub allowed “unlisted” collabs so I was able to track down a bunch of special people and record this secretly for weeks in readiness for the big day. Then, overnight on the morning of her birthday, I published it.
“Surprise” would be an understatement. “Shock” and “disbelief” were more accurate after Claire casually logged on around 4:30am and was hit with that. 🙂