JULY 8, 2020
Like many musicians, when the coronavirus hit in March I lost all my work in a matter of days. I had a complicated schedule for March and April, filled with tours, festivals, and local concerts, and it all evaporated very fast. Along with losing all my paying work, I was left with the question, what about the work of art? Something tells me art will be fine, even though humans are in trouble at the moment. But right now art is precluded from its important work of gathering us together. So musicians are in a weird situation. In the initial shock my thought was, I don't know what to do but I can record music at home. So on March 19 I began recording a new song every day. The songs are uploaded day by day to a Bandcamp album called PLAGUE DIARY
. The philosophy is "use what you've got" (is there ever another option?) -- for me that means clarinets, a synthesizer I can't figure out, and rudimentary recording ability. Because it's a diary I am trying to use the recording process as a sketchbook, and an opportunity to mess around. ("Don't forget to mess around." -- Steve Lacy) As of this writing there are currently more than 100 tracks on the album.
The music of PLAGUE DIARY
is offered free of charge in hopes of helping people at this time. However, donations are accepted.
John Shifflett passed away April 28, 2017. You can read Andy Gilbert's obituary in the San Jose Mercury News here. Below are some thoughts I wrote down when I heard the news.
John Shifflett's passing has left a great big hole in my life.
John was a wonderful person -- funny, generous, humble, an astute observer of life's details. He was a hell of a musician. Big Sid Catlett said "I can swing seventeen men with one wire brush and a phone book." You got the feeling John could swing an entire band by just standing still. In a funny way, I didn't really think of John as a bass player; he was just John Shifflett. Sometimes you needed a bass player and sometimes you needed John Shifflett.
He was a master of contrapuntal groove. The melodies he created on the bass were carved out of metal, they were functional objects. You'd be playing a song and you'd be astonished by John's lines -- he had found the inner shape and substance of the song, it sounded perfectly obvious when he played it but you had never known it was there.
I regret John's passing but one thing I don't regret is that whenever we played I tried to tell him all of this, that I loved him and that I learned something new from him every time.
We will really miss John Shifflett.