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My wife and I went with some friends to the Michael Jackson documentary the other night.  Wow.  It’s great.  Go see it.

I enjoyed the film on a few different levels.  For starters, all the footage was from the prep and production rehearsals for Jackson’s This Is It Tour, which would have been quite a spectacle.  As a professional musician, most of my work takes place in this prep/rehearsal environment.  Any given 90-min gig of mine will often require at least 4-5 hours of personal prep and rehearsal time, and it’s almost impossible to measure how much overhead work goes into a complex show like Jackson’s.  It was really cool to get a first-hand look at everything that goes into staging a show in the big leagues.

Which, leads me to the thing I really took away from the film.  No one made ANY mistakes. In all the footage of instrumental rehearsals and technical run-throughs, I never heard or saw anyone in the band play anything incorrectly.  Everything sounded as great as I imagine the actual performances would have sounded.  Of course, the band often stopped to get instructions from MJ or the producer, but it was always timing and cue issues that needed discussing… never playing issues.  Never.

Everytime MJ would stop the band during a tune to give them directions, he would say “see, this is why we rehearse.”  The thing to notice here is his definition of “rehearsal.”  The musicians in the film are obviously not learning how to play their parts during the rehearsals, as was apparent in their mistake-free playing.  Instead, the band is spending the rehearsal time learning how to perform the show.  There’s a huge difference in those two things.  Learning how to play your part is something you do on your own, with your own time.  That way, when everyone gathers together to work through the songs, you can give your attention and focus to timing issues and the nuances of the performance’s flow.  The details of how the show progresses from song to song are often even more complex than the way you will play your instrument within a song.

A good show hinges on both correct playing and smooth transitions.  The playing part can and should be handled on your own – but the transition part has to be worked out with everyone together.  Therefore, in order to maximize rehearsal time in a group setting, the individual musicians need to be as prepared and precise as possible.  The group rehearsal is simply time when you prove to everyone that you did your homework.

This Is It reminded me again of the importance of adequately prepping for gigs, so that I ALWAYS bring my A-game.

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Interesting music news this week…

This Is It, the documentary of the prep/rehearsals for the late Michael Jackson’s London concert series, will be hitting theaters on October 28.  You can view the trailer here.  A double-disc soundtrack for the film will be released on October 27, and will contain a previously unreleased MJ single also called “This Is It.”  Billboard

– NYC’s Knitting Factory Records is set to release the full 45-album catalog of Nigerian Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti for the first time ever in North America.  Kuti was the main influence in African political liberation art, and his music has always been difficult to find in the US.  The release also coincides with the Broadway debut of a Jay-Z and Will Smith funded musical about Kuti’s life and art.  Pitchfork

– Kids Company, a London charity for convicted minors and “disadvantaged youth,” just received a donation to the tune of 1.5 million dollars from Coldplay.  The band was apparently very moved by the efforts of the organization and stories of their impact.  The band members have even agreed to give music lessons to the Kids Company children.  Regardless of how you feel about Coldplay’s music, you have to dig the walking and not just talking.  NME

– The word is that Justin Timberlake has been cast in the lead role in a film about Facebook called The Social Network.  Timberlake will play Sean Parker, co-founder of Napster and FB’s first President.  Production for the film begins next month.  Allmusic Blog

– Yesterday was Bruce Springsteen’s 60th birthday.  My dad also turned 60 not too long ago, but Steve Sr. has never had a sliding collision with a Super Bowl Halftime Show stage camera.  Rollingstone

– Rapper Eminem is headed to court against the tech giant Apple Inc in a dispute over download permission on iTunes, despite three separate attempts to broker a settlement between the two parties.  Billboard

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