I did a session yesterday for a producer I’ve worked with before.  The gig was one song from the soundtrack for a film set in Turkey.  It was a pretty interesting session.

The thing I really like about middle eastern music is how fervent it is.  The vocalists put a lot of expressive ornamentation on the notes, and the players do a lot of playing.  The producer told me that he wanted me to play very bluesy stuff, because to the Turkish audience that will be much more exotic than harmonica playing Turkish melodies.  I, on the other hand, wanted to play Turkish kinds of things, because that would be new and different for me. 

As it happens, I think we both got what we wanted.  I was able to adopt some of the rhythms of the Turkish guitarist on the session, and I played an extended solo that was very bluesy in an uptempo Turkish kind of way (meaning that the rhythms were generally about straight 16ths rather than triplets).  It was certainly fervent.

The work process was interesting on this piece.  I did seven straight passes all the way through, which to me felt like a lot, because the entire piece was about 150 measures at about 120 beats per minute, and for roughly the last half of it I was soloing with a lot of energy.   Like I said, it felt like a lot. 

With those seven passes completed, I did something like a dozen punch-ins on specific phrases.   Then the producer “comped” the tracks together, meaning he chose his favorite phrases from each pass to make one continuous harmonica track.  The long harmonica solo that ends the track ended up being used almost complete as is from the 5th take.

I really enjoyed this session, and for once I didn’t have to read anything–I just worked off rough notes about the structure.  Nice not to have to try to use the left and right brains at the same time.  This was definitely a night for the right brain.

It was also a night to reflect on the virtues of practice.  I found one melodic phrase to be very demanding, and in the course of playing it over and over I reached the point where my mouth wore out.  I had to take a break to get my lips and tongue working again.  At some point, your mind will never forget how to make a certain sound, but your stamina can go anytime if you stop working at it.  Fortunately, you can get it back.