At Stitely Entertainment, music is our business and our lifeblood. Not only do we love using music to ramp up the energy at a wedding or other event, but we also love it in our lives. We had a chance to have a conversation with Jeff Stitely to talk about his knowledge of music and go in-depth about how he and the other Stitely musicians use musical nuances to create different feels for different moments. The key, to start, is a solid rhythm section. The following posts stems from our conversation about how different styles of music elicit different responses:
In a live band, the rhythm section is the backbone. Whether you notice it or not, every band has a core rhythm section, often consisting of bass, keys, drums and guitar. Different styles of music also have different focuses and feels. In jazz, the quarter note is king. The main focus is the bass, playing a walking quarter note bass line. The drummer adds the ride cymbal, also focusing on that quarter note base. The bass and drums have to match up for the groove to come alive. Really, a jazz rhythm section is like a great conversation. You pick a theme, someone makes a statement, and everyone will respond accordingly, adding their own flair to the conversation. When there’s an openness to what’s being discussed and the conversation is flowing, there’s almost a pleasant hum that occurs. In the same way, a jazz rhythm section will flow and hum in a comfortable yet ever-evolving way. The nuances and variations on this key conversation are what make each tune special.
For dance music, that conversation looks totally different. While the rhythm section is still present and important, they definitely have a more scripted part. This is especially true when they are recreating music that’s been played before. For example, the bands that make up Stitely Entertainment are largely playing dance music that is recognizable to the general public. Because of this, they want to make sure they include every lick and detail that the audience is expecting when they hear that song. When playing older jazz tunes, getting a carbon copy isn’t as important—it’s the style and the essence that you want to extract and recreate. You can play variations on the original while still upholding the integrity of the genre and the song itself. But with dance music, you want to follow the song like it’s a map written out before you.
To successfully follow that map, each musician has an important role. They are each responsible for studying their specific part and recreating it to the best of their ability. The meticulous process of writing out an exact drumbeat or strumming pattern that the original artist used can be tedious, but necessary to recreate what the original artist produced. By writing everything out specifically, the musicians are respecting the artist’s original sound and work.
This process can be challenging with contemporary music because much of it is produced in the studio with layers and layers of synthesizers, keyboards, and strings. This can be very hard to replicate in a live setting, and the keyboard player often has the biggest responsibility: to try to recreate the sounds that all the synthesizers in the studio make, prioritizing the layers that are most important to the structure of the song, as well as what will meet the listeners expectations of the what the song is “supposed to sound like.”
Just as both traditional and contemporary styles are structured slightly differently, they also make you want to move differently as a listener. Motown, Classic Rock, Top 40 Pop, and Jazz are all distinctly different in terms of feel and general response from the audience. Knowing the difference in how and when to play all the styles is important, especially at events like weddings when each portion of the night demands a different feel. The differences really come down to the way that the rhythm section structures itself and how successfully them blend into that “conversation” we mentioned earlier.
In summation, music is an emotion, and that musical emotion is expressed differently for each person in the way they move on the dance floor. So whether or not you realize it when you’re cutting a rug on the dance floor, the rhythm section is playing a huge part in manipulating that raw emotion in a way that grooves with the rest of the atmosphere and creates a memorable and energy-filled space that you won’t want to leave.
Stitely Orchestra's talented keyboardist, Chris White is headed to the Birch Creek Music Performance Center to teach lucky students at the Jazz Vocal Camp from August 10th-15th. Birch Creek Music Performance Center on Wisconsin's beautiful Door County peninsula is a young musician's dream. Founded in 1976, Birch Creek is a unique summer music school that provides talented students (typically age 14-19) advanced training as well as the opportunity to perform publicly alongside some of the top music professionals around. The camp offers four 2-week resident summer sessions in Symphony, Percussion & Steelpan, and Jazz. The student-faculty ratio is 2-to-1, ensuring that students receive attentive hands-on mentoring from top music educators and performers.
Chris obtained a B.A. in English from the University of Toronto and then decided to focus his studies entirely on music. In 1997 he attended Indiana University’s prestigious Jacobs School of Music and pursued his Masters degree in Jazz Studies, graduating with a Phi Kappa Lamda award (National Music Honors Society). Gaining valuable experience in Indianapolis, he performed with The Bloomington Symphony Orchestra, David Baker, Jamey Aebersold and Oliver Nelson, Jr. He has studied piano with Luke Gillespie, Lynne Arriale, Joanne Brackeen, Barry Harris and Andy LaVerne. In August 2000 Chris was invited to perform in the Steans Institute for Young Artists at Ravinia hosted by James Moody, Rufus Reid and David Baker. Currently he is an instructor of jazz piano and theory at Lake Forest College, North Park University and North Central College. He is also a combo and theory instructor at Midwest Young Artists in Highwood, IL. Chris has performed at The Jazz Showcase, Andy’s, The House of Blues, Navy Pier, The Peninsula Hotel, the Coq D’or at the Drake Hotel and many more. In 2010 he completed his Doctoral of Musical Arts in Jazz Performance at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Marcus Terell is a vocalist with the Chicago Groove Collective, one of our fantastic bands here at Stitely Entertainment. This Kansas City, Missouri boy’s got soul, and he recently sat down to tell us about his story and endeavors in music. Keep reading to learn more about the talented guy from America’s Got Talent!
Stitely Entertainment: What are the five songs you’re listening to the most right now?
Marcus Terell: Right now I’m rehearsing for my upcoming show at Chicago’s City Winery. So I’m listening to everything from Elvis Presley’s “Heartbreak Hotel,” The Temptations’ “Papa Was A Rolling Stone” to Barrett Strong’s “Money (That’s What I Want)”. Bruno Mars’ “Locked Out Of Heaven” and Beyonce’s “Flaws & All” have been stuck in my head for the past month as well. Good music.
SE: Who or what inspired you to be a professional musician?
MT: Ironically enough the two artists that made me say, “I wanna do that” when I was younger were Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown. I remember seeing the music video for “Greatest Love Of All” and thinking who is this woman?! Bobby Brown’s music video for “Every Little Step” EPIC!! I WILL own a bright yellow suit one these days!!
SE: What’s your craziest event story?
MT: When I competed on NBC’S America’s Got Talent there was a point in the competition where I was completely eliminated. Do not pass go, do not collect $200. The Serenades and I were preparing for a night on the town in Vegas when we got a call an hour later to head back to the studios. Before the night was over, I was in the Top 40. That was pretty crazy!
SE: Do you have any regular gigs?
MT: Yes. I am a vocalist with Chicago Groove Collective under Stitely Entertainment. I am also a lead vocalist with The Alley Cats, an acapella Doo-Wop group.
SE: Do you play in any other groups? Tell us about them.
MT: I also have my own band, Marcus Terell & The Serenades. Collectively we have competed on NBC’S America’s Got Talent, FOX’S American Idol, MTV’S Making The Band 4, The Glee Project, TLC’S RU The Girl, The Missy Elliott Project and TruTV’S Killer Karaoke. We have our own Motown revue entitled, “BACK TO REALITY: A personal and musical journey through the ups and downs of reality TV.” Set to the music of Motown, Classic Rock N’ Roll, and Soul we share our experience of competing on some of the nation’s top televised talent competitions.
SE: How did you become involved with music?
MT: I was raised in the church where gospel music was just a way of life. From there I got more involved with various choirs and ensembles in school. My first professional gig was at Worlds Of Fun, a theme park in my hometown of Kansas City, Missouri.
SE: What was your first concert?
MT: I can’t recall my first concert, however, my all time favorite has to be the most recent. I got to see Prince live in concert for the very first time at City Winery Chicago. It was an unbelievable show. I still can’t believe that I will be performing on the same stage in less than a week! Unreal!!
SE: If you could share the stage with any musician, dead or alive, who would it be?
MT: Whitney Houston hands down. Although I’m not sure that I would remain conscious for the entire endeavor.
SE: You are stuck on a desert island forever. Which three albums do you want with you?
MT: Whitney Houston’s Greatest Hits album. It’s a 2-disc set so I’m kind of cheating there. India Arie’s Testimony: Vol. 1, Life & Relationships. That album can get me through any bad day. Beyonce’s B’Day cause sometimes you just gotta get hype and let the inner diva out!
SE: Beatles or Stones?
Be sure to check out Marcus Terell & The Serenades LIVE at Chicago’s own City Winery Wednesday August 14th @8PM! Tickets are on sale now at www.citywinery.com or 312-733-WINE. You can also read about Marcus featured in the Chicago Sun Times along with Tony Lucca (NBC’S The Voice) and Casey Abrams (FOX’S American Idol).