Everything about A Day in the Docks should induce sheer excitement for Umphreaks. While almost all of the band members host some sort of tutoring through the LiveLessonMasters platform, many of the band members have also crafted extra-curricular offerings. Joel Cummins has taken up a weekly Wednesday night slot and started soliciting for curbside concerts, Brendan Bayliss has his occasional #WineNot Friday night sessions, Ryan has sporadic drunken fanhangs, occasionally alongside Bayliss. Jake Cinninger, the stunt guitarist whose shred speed could tear paint from an airplane, has been relatively quiet throughout Covid Times, but don't mistake that discreetness for idleness. A Day in the Docks is full of unreleased new tunes, some of the most thoughtful and well developed music we've heard since the start of the pandemic.
The video opens with Jake briefly introducing us to Boondocks Studios, a humble studio in Niles, Michigan where Jake has found creative inspiration throughout the decades, and a new composition, Covid 5. Framed by a simple, mellow pace, Jake's style is pretty and energetic, bringing us through powerful chord bursts and easy flowing hammer-ons that strongly hints at Spanish Classical Guitar. The arrangement is enchanting and while it's always impressive how many notes Jake can juggle at once on one instrument, here it is unbelievably fun to watch.
Afterwards, we are treated to a unique experiment in which Jake crafts three sections of a song right before our eyes, layering tracks - first synthesizer, then drums and finally bass. The disjointed tune, Drumazoid, has some portions which are insanely fun, and it is amazing how all of the sections do eventually tie into each other - especially once you add the bass. Ultimately, the song is itself might be too discombobulated to take for a walk outside of the studio.
This is followed by a more organic sounding improvisation where Jake pulls a stool up to the piano. After giving praise to the improvisation gods, Cinninger creates a deep and hypnotizing tone by repeatedly strumming on the exposed piano strings with a guitar pick. The refrain frames the entire work hauntingly while the chords play in the grey area between frightening and beautiful. Cinematic like a movie score, it is amazing that and extemporized piece can have the emotional depth that conductors work years to obtain.
Covid 10 is the most complete composition created during covid times that Jake unveils. Described as a more Progressively based arrangement, Jake introduces us to a very stripped down, delayered mix of the song and walks us through each element of the track, from choosing a time signature, to how the drum sections might sound, to potential inspirations for future solos. It’s extremely informative and is essential watching for anyone interested in Cinninger’s songwriting process and is excellent foreshadowing for when, moments later, Jake busts out a guitar plays the track again, this time accompanied by fully fleshed out riffs and Floyd inspired solos. It seems near certain that we are getting an early glimpse at a future Umphrey's track.
Relatively standard renditions of Women, Wine & Song and Bad Poker follow and are beautifully done, but are overshadowed by an acoustic 40s Theme that is delightful. Jake seems surprised by the challenge to play the track acoustically, and it is fantastic to watch his fingers set fire to the fretboard as they tear through the song’s opening sections.
Those who purchase the documentary also receive access to Jake covering Romanza, originally written by Mauro Malavasi and recorded by Andrea Bocelli. Short and beautiful, the song may lend a hint into Jake's influences during the pandemic started, especially on the aforementioned Covid 5.
Jake’s mini-documentary format pays off in spades. It was easy to purchase and easy to access without The fact that the video is available for purchase at a reasonable price and can be replayed as long as your heart desires adds great value. While there is something exciting and fun about seeing jams crafted live before your eyes (even via livestream), this prerecorded composition is more captivating than most streams we've seen this pandemic because the musical content is more well developed, fresh and innovative. We guarantee you'll watch it more than once.