Search

smooth jazz & digital marketing: ryan welton

Life, music and the digital experience from the perspective of an old-school dude

One dude’s opinion: Al Jarreau’s 5 Best Songs

With the death of Al Jarreau today, another great has left the planet. There were very few male vocalists ever who could match his talent, and there is nobody in today’s music who can. Nobody. Don’t try.

Jarreau knew it, too. I recall watching a YouTube video of a concert he played with Joe Sample where Al called out auto-tuned vocals and three-chord songwriters. He wasn’t mean about it; he just knew that what he was creating was art and that the music business played to the least common denominator.

Al shared his art, too, and was a champion of arts education until the day he died. Heck, his hope was that each individual would find a way to incorporate art into their lives. This section of a much longer statement on jarreau.com summed up that sentiment:

From you, Al asks a favor. Please find any artistic thing that you can do with passion, and do it. With art in your life, you will be a better family member, neighbor, friend, and citizen.

So, in honor of the great Al Jarreau, here are my Top 5 songs from the vocal master:

5. Tell Me What I Gotta Do

4. We’re In This Love Together

3. After All

2. Trouble In Paradise

1. Mornin’

Advertisements

One Super Bowl commercial stood out above them all

America is polarized, and never was that more clear than during Super Bowl LI.

There were spots that made political points, and they mostly struck out with me. That’s the danger of such a spot: You’re going to alienate a big chunk of the populous. Sure, very few would disagree with the premise of Audi’s equal pay commercial, except for the fact that it felt super condescending and presumptive. Plus, Audi’s rocking an all-male board of directors.

Probably should have thought about that first before dipping the ol’ toes into the polarized waters of politicized Super Bowl advertising. Besides, the political subject du jour was immigration, and while I’m sure the companies scored points with certain folks, none of the ads did much for me. It’s a topic that’s far more nuanced than either side is considering publicly.

What did pique my interest were three ads from brands that may have caused some consumers to rethink them. The first was from SPAM, a Hormel product made in Minnesota. The spot told viewers to “Don’t Knock It” ’til you’ve fried it, and while on the surface it was just an ad for a processed pork product, I sensed somewhat of a brand’s sticking up for the common man, a sort of ode to a poorer, rural America.

A second ad that caught my fancy was another effort in brand re-imagination. It’s gotten mixed reviews, but I liked it as I am a man who enjoys cleaning. Kidding aside, the spot was an exercise in reinvention, and I think it worked — and I think we’ll see an uptick in men doing chores around the house, at least for the next week or two.

But for me, the hands-down best commercial of the Super Bowl and the one that went miles to alter my perception of the brand was Hyundai’s ad shot from a base in Poland, reuniting U.S. troops with their loved ones via video during the Super Bowl.

How they did it, I have no idea. What struck me, however, was that while several brands were wading into murky political waters with messages that surely wouldn’t resonate with at least 46% of the population, it was a company based in Seoul, South Korea, that understood the football-watching American audience better than anybody.

It was like watching several brands say, “We’re with them,” while Hyundai was saying “We’re with you.” I know there’s more to it than that, but it felt like Hyundai hit the right notes at the right time, and I suspect they won the business of a lot of Americans because of it.

FEATURED PHOTO is courtesy of Flickr contributor RobertG NL.

The Weeknd: A smooth jazz interpretation

Since I re-started posting videos to YouTube late last year on the knowledge that I could once again post cover songs, I’ve been looking for songs to cover. Given that I’m a electronic piano-loving creature of the late 70s and early 80s, finding music from today that could fit my style is tough.

Enter a fellow they call The Weeknd. His real name is Abel Makkonen Tesfaye, and he hails from Canada. But he channels Michael Jackson in all the good ways. Smooth. Easy on the ears. “Off the Wall”-era MJ.

His latest single, “I Feel It Coming,” has been racing up the charts the past few weeks. I’ve been enjoying it on my run for months now, however, and I’ve been struck by how atypical it is for pop music in 2017.

Again: in all the good ways.

So, after I got home from work a few nights ago, I sat down to the keys and figured out the chords and melody. Its foundation is Eb-Ab-Bb with a lot of Gm7-Cm7 in between. Super easy to learn from a technical perspective, but it’s a wee bit trickier to maintain the smooth groove from the record itself.

If you enjoyed my rendition, I hope you’ll stop by my YouTube channel and check out more of my covers and original songs!

PHOTO: Courtesy of “The Come Up Show,” via Flickr’s Creative Commons.

Mary Tyler Moore statue nowhere to be found in Minneapolis

I’m fortunate to be able to travel some for work, and last summer I had a conference in St. Paul, Minnesota. So, I spent the weekend prior to that event in Minneapolis, two months after Prince died.

Big fan of Prince, but I figured out early on that Paisley Park was a bit out of the way for this tourist. Besides, with limited time on my hands, I wanted to explore all I could in downtown Minneapolis and see Mary.

That’s right. I’m talking about the famed Mary Tyler Moore statue somewhere in downtown Minneapolis. It’s the one where she’s tossing her hat into the air, just as she did in the opening credits to her iconic 1970s television series, “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.”

However, the city apparently had decided to move the statue indoors, and while it was possible to see it, it was damned near impossible to find it. Trust me. I walked across every street in downtown Minneapolis the third weekend of June last year. It was muggy and hot, and I even went to a baseball game.

target-field-minneapolis

Enjoyed getting to see Target Field although all the concrete and metal combined with the lack of ballpark shade at 1 p.m. made the experience super uncomfortable because it was a billion degrees. I’m pretty sure I would have enjoyed a night game there or to see the Twins in April or September.

And I enjoyed the hotel where I stayed, the W Minneapolis – The Foshay. Very posh and pink, at least in the lobby.

w-minneapolis-the-foshay

The staff was extraordinarily helpful and courteous, and whoever programs their lobby music introduced me to a bunch of new artists I had never heard before. Plus, there is a bar called The Prohibition Bar at the top of the hotel where they serve 1920s-era cocktails. I had one drink, and it put me to sleep.

I’m 46. My party days are long past.

But I love good food and first experiences at great restaurants. For example, one of our business dinners was at the Butcher & The Boar, and dare I say it had better Southern cuisine than I can find in Oklahoma. Not that we’re true South, but c’mon. This is Minnesota!

Alas, my favorite foodie find was the best French Toast I have ever had and probably ever will have. It was the Cinnamon French Toast at the Keys Cafe, which happened to be right next to my hotel. Of course, I snapped a photo of it. The waiter even told me in advance that I’d want that keepsake. It was that good.

minneapolis-keys-cafe

OMG.

But it was after this feast that I went on my quest to find the Mary Tyler Moore statue. All I wanted was a photo of it and to say I had seen it. As a fan of 1970s culture and as somebody who worked for eight years in a television newsroom, I loved the Mary Tyler Moore Show. My sleuthing led me to Nicollet Mall, a shopping district that looked like merely a street and definitely not like a mall. Add unto all of this that Minneapolis was disassembling and reconstructing every sidewalk and street throughout the downtown area, and I was never able to figure out where the statue resided.

Most of Minneapolis downtown was pretty much abandoned the entire weekend, surprising because the weather was nice but not so surprising given all the construction. Of course, that’s not to say downtown Minneapolis wasn’t delightful. Just under construction with no sign of Mary.

This website indicates that the city decided to put the statue in storage.

Hoping the recent death of Mary Tyler Moore and the outpouring of love for her helps the city understand the significance of her and her TV character on Minneapolis. I guarantee I’m not the only person who’s visited Minneapolis in the past year, who hoped to see the statue but who left without getting to do so.

As a footnote, because I’m a musician, I took a few minutes this Saturday morning and did a quick cover of the theme song to the Mary Tyler Moore Show. Written by Sonny Curtis, this is “Love Is All Around.”

Help kids get access to sports shoes, clothes and equipment

Less than a week into my latest foray into blogging, and I’m already off the beaten path relative to music and jazz and such. In my previous post, I noted that I’m a runner, and I am. However, I’m also on the board of directors for Oklahoma City’s oldest running event, the Redbud Classic.

We’re celebrating our 35th anniversary.

This year, the money all goes to Oklahoma Cleats for Kids, “an Oklahoma City based non-profit that collects and distributes sports shoes, clothes and equipment to kids in need.” The idea is that a lack of money shouldn’t stand in the way of a young person being able to develop healthful habits, such as being active.

And what’s great about the Redbud event is that all proceeds go to the beneficiary. Not 8% or 23% or a dime for every dollar. All of it.

Many of our sponsors for this year’s event, to be held on April 8-9, are already set. However, we do this thing called “Picket Fences,” where 2×4 coroplast signs are posted to a fence with the message of your choice.

The asking price for this advertising is $250, and the money goes right back into the community to help kiddos. You could advertise your business. You could promote your website, your YouTube channel, your new album. You could post a message of your choosing that has nothing to do with a business or enterprise whatsoever.

More than 15,000 people gather at the Redbud finish line each year, not to mention all the traffic that passes by the area (located in northwest Oklahoma City and Nichols Hills) during the days leading up to the event. I’m told the fencing gets installed this year two weeks before the event, so this advertising would cost you $17.86 per day.

All signs will be uniform, one-color 2×4 white coroplast and will be professionally produced. And if you reach out to me to do this, I’ll make sure and tweet the heck out of your sign and even write up a blog post about your business or venture. You can post it to your site, or I can post it to mine. Your choice.

That’s what we call added value.

For the kids.

Kids.

Hit me up via Facebook or Twitter.

Even if you can’t spare $250, consider participating as a bicyclist or runner. You can register here!

 

 

Building your personal brand an ongoing, never-ending lesson

In my professional life, I’m a member of PRSA’s Oklahoma City chapter. During our monthly meeting today, I had the pleasure of meeting a director of placement from the University of Oklahoma and the OU student president of PRSSA.

We discussed a possible opportunity for me to speak on campus in late February, something I’d be honored to do — and I mentioned a possible topic.

Helping public relations professionals build their personal brands.

I believe it’s the most underdeveloped skill in the marketplace, and I’ve been passionate about it since my days in TV news. Frankly, it’s something I’m still learning how to do properly. However, after 22 years in the workplace, post-college, I have a good sense of what my online audience would say about me from consuming my content.

Ryan plays the piano and writes songs. He likes music. Digs jazz, smooth jazz and 80s pop. Loves the Oklahoma Sooners and Texas Rangers and occasionally comments about other teams and sports. Loves the Oklahoma City Thunder. Loves Oklahoma in general. Loves Texas, too.

Loves all-things weather. Storms. Snow. Haboobs! (Not really haboobs.)

Ryan also shows pictures of his food. Constantly. Oh, he runs a lot, too, and will post photos of the occasional beer, just to let you know he knows how to relax.

But the question I find myself asking is: Are those the things that define my brand online? That’s what I’m talking about when I say that professionals need to craft a personal brand and cultivate it.

For example, the running: That’s good. I do try to live a healthful lifestyle. I might be better served by morphing some of my food posts into content documenting how I eat more healthfully or drink lots of water. The point is that living a healthful lifestyle is a characteristic I strongly value.

Take the music part of it. That’s also good. I do write and play and do both at more than just a hobby level some of the time. I want to be taken seriously as a musician, but I also don’t take myself too seriously. I just love music, know music and want that to be part of my brand.

And sports will always be part of my world albeit not as much as it once was. I don’t watch it all the time like I did when I was in my 20s and 30s. However, from a personal brand perspective, I’m not sure that I care for it to be too much a part of me. Oh, sure: I’m not so serious about this process that I’d recommend stopping hot sports tweets to maintain focus on a personal brand, but thinking about these things is a vital part of the process.

Super long story short: The personal brand I’m trying to create can be summed up with a handful of words: Healthful, music, some sports, weather, positive. In reference to the last word there, for as long as I can remember, I’ve made it a point to avoid at all costs online confrontation. I haven’t always been successful, but I go out of my way to not be provocative, controversial or ever purposefully unkind.

Alongside a personal branding effort, I recommend that professionals build an online professional brand through various professional organizations and platforms such as LinkedIn. Connect with everybody (esp. on LinkedIn) and create content establishing yourself as expert in your field. I do great with the connection and am only starting to excel at the content, sharing if not creation.

So, why is any of this important? Can’t you just do your job, keep your head down and be content with that? Why the extra work? Well, a resume can only say so much about a person. We all have a public face, and we all have an opportunity to demonstrate expertise and focus. The content speaks to the expertise, and the branding speaks to the focus.

I struggle with audience development. I only have 1,157 Twitter followers because I neither tweet enough nor do I have enough interesting to say. My Instagram audience is struggling because my photos are mostly about me eating or running (ryanwelton2013), and my Snapchat audience (soonerryan2000) is almost nada because I don’t keep up with it.

I have the theory down. Mastered even. I could explain it and the how-to all day long and will delve deeper into it as my blogging adventures continue.

But relative to an opportunity to speak at OU (maybe, fingers crossed) I wouldn’t only be speaking to a group of young professionals about why it’s important, I would be instructing and re-instructing myself about the how-tos of a process that never, ever, ever ends.

Image courtesy of EdgeThreeSixty TM. Link here.

 

 

A quick tutorial on playing George Michael’s “Careless Whisper”

One of the many tactics I have for driving traffic to my YouTube channel is creating useful content. In the case of a blog about music from a musician, I might as well create some easy, free how-to content.

I might not be able to teach the world to sing, but I could at least teach it how to play a little something.

In this case, I put together a video how-to for the piano basics of George Michael’s classic 1984 tune, “Careless Whisper,” with what is arguably the most famous sax lick ever to be written. I should note that any how-to from me is going to presume some basic piano knowledge and theory. Nothing too crazy.

The idea for this specific blog post came, of course, from Michael’s death on Christmas 2016. One of the most soulful voices ever heard is gone.

Michael’s most famous song is built upon these four chords: Dm9, Gm11, Am7 and a B-flat Major 7. Take a couple minutes and watch the rest of my quick tutorial on YouTube. Not selling anything. Promise.

It helps if you have a buddy who can play the saxophone to make it all sound awesome because the piano itself can’t quite carry it like a sax and Michael’s terrific voice could some 32 years ago. Of course, that didn’t keep me from giving it a try:

Thank you for stopping by my new blog. I appreciate any and all comments and would love it if you’d visit my YouTube channel at http://www.youtube.com/soonerryan2000!

“Take Five,” a lesson in digital patience

It’s been a long, long time since I could call myself an aspiring blogger. Heck, in the early 2000s, I was on the tip of that movement, writing about reality television and pop culture, fancying myself to be some kind of flyover-state version of Perez Hilton without the snark, interest in fashion or bad taste in music.

Alas, I lost my interest in reality television and, for the most part, I lost most of my interest in all conventional television. I lost interest in my YouTube channel as well, which I had started back in 2006-07 as a way to promote my songwriting interests. I lost interest in that platform because I thought it was probably dead or dying with the advent of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and the like.

I couldn’t have been more wrong about that.

I couldn’t have been more wrong about the demise of blogging.

But I couldn’t have been more right about the need to align those efforts with my interests, and that’s what brings us to today. Well, it takes us to 2013. I started up a little site called thenormanfiles and proceeded to post to it twice. Maybe three times. What was bubbling inside of me relative to interest and passion was met with a complete lack of hustle on the execution side of things.

Enter Gary Vaynerchuk. If you’re in digital, you know who this guy is, and he likely energizes you as he does me. I’d rather watch three hours of whatever he’s doing than I would anything on television these days, and (frankly) I don’t really want to spend three hours doing anything passive.

Gary brings out the hustle in people. Gets them energized.

Enter Dave Brubeck. If you know your music, especially your jazz, you know who he is, and you know who Paul Desmond is, and you know what “Take Five” is — the quintessential jazz song of the 20th Century. It’s also the best-selling jazz song of all time.

Learning to play this song, in all its 5/4 time signature glory, is a lesson in patience. You’ve got to practice it over and over and over and over until you get to where you can just play the notes without messing up. All the hustle in the world won’t help you master the precision required to master this tune.

And I certainly haven’t mastered it. I’ve got the basics down, however.

Ultimately, that’s why I’ve decided to return to the world of blogging. It’s a platform that supports both my need for hustle and my need for patience, a quest to bring together years of musical efforts and digital expertise into one existence propelling me into the next 10 years or so of my own.

Hope you’ll come along for the ride.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: