New Song: Kings Hex

Big wheel keeps on moving along. Jeannie and I just got back from quick but very fun and relaxing camping trip with our friends Erik and Jen and Jerry and Rose. This trip we didn’t bring the girls cuz they just got back from a trip of their own, going to camp for a week with their theatre group YAA. I must say the house is really quiet without the kids around, but OTOH it’s not hard to get used to. Jeannie and got to go out on out own a few times. Friday we went to downtown Yonkers and had dinner on the waterfront with some jazz group playing right across the square.

Last week was big deadline for work. Working at a startup, my company is running at a pretty hot pace, pretty much the limit of how fast you can write software without it becoming total chaos. This weekend the company is at a big trade show in Vegas giving our customers and prospects a preview of the new software I’ve been working on. (My boss is one of the crew going out there and doing demos. I offered to teach him the MIT card-counting system for blackjack, which I learned from some MIT guys when I was out in Silicon Valley in the ‘90’s. He thought he’d be too busy to have much time for casinos.)

So it’s the end of the summer and I’ve been working hard and getting a little fried, working late into the nite to get everything in for the code freeze. But I figure it’s August to I took a couple of well-deserved days off mainly to catch up on random tasks and some rest.

The camping trip itself was very nice. Got to hang out with friends, cook over a fire, swim the lake, play some guitars, everything you want. I must say, as much as I enjoy it all I was thinking I might be done with camping after the July trip. It’s just alot of work. And next year we and all our friends have kids going off to college, so the situation is changing and the opportunities for family vacations are numbered. Maybe better to rent a lake house or beach house or something. But then it turned out that with just the two of us it’s alot easier, alot less gear and food and everything, like in the before times when we used to travel light. So now I’m back into camping again.

If you’ve stuck with this rambling post this long, we get to the payoff. In my downtime I finished off another jazz demo. This one is called King’s Hex. It’s a development of an idea I’ve been kicking around for a long time. The basic groove started as an attempt to write a song for my prog rock group Infinigon, but I didn’t have a lyric. Some of those ideas eventually found their into the song Angel or Alien of the second Buzzy Tonic record Face the Heat. Meanwhile I wrote an instrumental version – which by this time was a completely different song – for Flip|Hippo, the acid jazz duo I had with Erik for a time in the 90’s, but the melody was very challenging to play, and we never really got it together.

So I figured I’d dust if off and tighten up the arrangement for my new jazz group since I finally have a group players that can handle a song like this. I actually had to practice the sax part a few times to get it right. Now here you go:

Dog Days

Moving into the long backstretch of summer. The political conventions are over and the Olympics are on TV now. Believe it or not we’ve had two low-key weekends at home in a row, but we’ve been so busy it’s been a nice break.

Last weekend I went rollerblading, which turned out not to be such a great idea cuz the streets around here are hilly and roads have grown bumpier, and I don’t tolerate bad pavement as well as I used to. Still, good fun. This weekend it worked out that both the kids were out of the house Friday and Saturday nite, so Jeannie and I got to go out to dinner two nights in a row.

Work has been fun and exciting and so has the Global Jukebox. I hope to devote a full post to each of those soon.

Been working on music. People have been on vacation so we haven’t been doing full rehearsal what we can. Left Hook is on hiatus all of August so we’ve been doing unplugged sessions and vocal sectional. I have a new jazz demo in the offing called King’s Hex; hope to debut it soon.

I had a random origami commission, a dude in Texas wanted one of turtles as a gift for his wife. He had in mind to put in some glass dome, so I had to make it a but smaller than usual, but it turned out very nice. I used at 10.5” sheet of green Rhino Hide. The final model was a little over five inches long. Totally forgot to take pictures before I sent it out. As an experiment I also folded one out of an 8.5” sheet of some kind of blue sparkly paper that’s alot like Elephant Hide. That one came out pretty well too, but the detail on the toes was a bit sloppy. Really at the limit of foldability.
The weather was really nice in late July into early August, but then it turned really hot. It’s been 100 degrees here the last few days, and very humid. I had to get up and go out early to do the yardwork so I could be in before the full heat of midday. Even so by 11 it was well over 90. There’ve been flash thunderstorms almost every day. There’s violent lighting out right now. It’ll probably pass in ten minutes.

Lizzy is going to take her road test for her driver’s licensee this week Good luck!

Jazz in the Park, Indoors

So the jazz concert last week came and went, and it was a really fun time and a good show. A few friends showed up, which is great for a Monday. The only downside was that it rained, so the show was moved to the local community center. The outdoor venue was apparently right near the train station, so we would have gotten a good crowd of passers-by. Ah well.

The music itself was really great. Great group, great selection of tunes. I felt like my playing was really on, and it was good to have a good group of players to bounce ideas off of. As I mentioned before the show was put together by Lucas, a.k.a young Wolfgang Skywalker, from the LEFT HOOK. He’s eighteen now and going to college for jazz bass in the fall, and his playing has gotten better. His soling in particular has more purpose and melody.

The piano player was his friend Gabe, who’s also starting college in the fall for jazz. The two of them play really well together and have a great rapport and interaction. Gabe is heavily influenced by Bill Evans and Herbie Hancock, to give you an idea of his sound. The drummer was this dude Ed, who’s about my age, and playing and teaching drums is his day job too, so he’s really excellent. Great, fluid sense of time, groove and pocket, plus really creative sense of sound and alot of dynamics and even melodic ideas stirred in there all at once. Plus a really cool cat too. Rounding out the group was Ava, a singer who’s a friend of Lucas and Gabe with a sweet and strong voice.

We only rehearsed twice, and neither time with the full group, so when we got on the stand there was alot of spontaneity. The songs in the set were of three kinds: Bird, Miles and standards. We opened with Cherokee at a suitably brisk tempo, with Ava singing the vocal. This was a really fun one to solo over, and the rhythm section really kept it together. On the reprise of the head Lucas and Ed did a cool half time thing. Next up was Billie’s Bounce, which I knew a long time ago on alto, but don’t think I’ve ever played on tenor. We’d never rehearsed this one and it was a complete surprise when Lucas called it, but still I was able to fake my way thru it no problem.

We did In a Sentimental Mood as a funk song, with vocal, and it worked surprisingly well. Ava stretched out more on this than any other of her numbers. I had to learn it in F (it’s usually in D) to accommodate the singer. We did a pretty straight rendition of There Will Never Be Another You, which also came out quite nice and is right in her zone. We closed the first set with Nardis, which got suitably out-there.

We continued in the vein in the second set, playing Footprints with a bunch of embellishments to the arrangement by Lucas, including a drum solo over an ostinato that lead back into the reprise of the head. Very cool. We did Blue In Green, a beautiful ballad which Gabe and Lucas knew well, but I’d never played or studied before, even though I’ve listened to Kind of Blue a million times. It’s a surprising subtle and deep song.

Switching gears again Ava came back on for Misty. I haven’t played this song in many years, but it felt great and I played a whole chorus for the solo. After the show someone in the audience told me I sound like Coleman Hawkins, which is high praise indeed.

We finished with Donna Lee, another fast bop number which I learned once on alto. At least for this on I had the music, although once more it was unrehearsed. Lucas started playing the head Joco style and then into solo, and we went on from there. Ed took a really good solo too. We played the out head in unison.

So all in all a great show. When it was over and we were leaving, a huge rainbow appeared in the parking lot, from horizon to horizon. Hopefully we’ll get a chance to play another gig this summer.

What a Long Strange Trip It’s Been

We’re about halfway thru the summer now, and finally have a chance to pause and catch our breath. Michelle is done with her summer school and Lizzy has only a couple day’s left of driving school. Work for me is busier than ever and the weather has been really hot the last few weeks. We’ve been on some good adventures.

A couple weekends ago we went down to Jones Beach on Long Island. We went early on a Sunday morning, the best time to go, before it gets too hot and two crowded. The waves were just perfect, the ocean was calm and beautiful, and the sky was warm and sunny. Mary and her kids came out too; they live only a few minutes from the beach. We decided to go back to her house for lunch, which was a lucky thing cuz on the way I got a flat tire and it wouldn’t been bad news if I’d stayed on the highway much longer. As it was, AAA came out and changed the tire, and we were able to find a place nearby that was open on a Sunday and could fix it. Not too bad.

This last weekend we went camping with Nick’s. It was another really excellent time. The weather was great, and Martin’s came out to spend Saturday. I went on a long, hilly, rocky hike, which is something I haven’t done in a few years cuz of my ankle, but this year it felt good, strong and healthy. So I went and had no problems. Great views down both sides of the mountain, out over the escarpment into the Hudson Valley and back onto the lakes. Afterwards we went to the beach on the lake, jammed on guitars and had an excellent barbeque. All in all a mellow and peaceful time. This could be the end of an era. We’ve been camping together since before Michelle and Marco were born. Next year both families will have a kid graduating high school and entering college. We’re thinking of maybe shifting gears and renting a house on Lake George next year.

To top it all off last night I played a fantastic jazz gig. More on that soon.

Jazz on the Waterfront

Announcing a Jazz Concert:

Mon July 25 6:30 PM
Henry Gourdine park at the Ossining waterfront

Featuring yours truly on tenor sax, Lucas Saur on bass,
Gabe Faden piano, Ed Bettinelli drums, and Ava Bradlow vocals

We got together last night to rehearse and sounded great. Doing some Miles, Wayne Shorter and a bunch of other stuff. Ed is a great drummer and young Lucas has a ton of ideas.

Should be a great time, hope you can come out and see it.

Haven July Jam

Meanwhile back in jazzland it’s summertime so being able to rehearse on Saturdays is becoming less reliable. Might have to move back to Wednesdays, which would mean clobbering the Wednesday band or somehow merging the two groups.

We recorded last week’s rehearsal, including takes of my compositions Dark Skies and Your Dancing Shoes. The came out quite good, and I think I can edit them up into a decent demo. Meanwhile you can listen to them here:

Oh and one more thing. It looks like I have a gig come up, some bandshell in the park kind of thing on Monday July 25, courtesy of Young Skywalker. I’ll let you know more details when I find out.

Every Day’s the Fourth of July

After five weekends in a row of nonstop running around we finally have a day of rest. Most recently we were upstate visiting family and friends for a few days around the 4th. My friend Larry had a graduation party for his daughter. Meanwhile his oldest son is now twenty and looks just like he did at that age. Amazing. Larry also got a dart board and a pool table and some very nice bourbon and made a game room, so that was alot of fun. I went rollerblading for the first time this season. I’ve come to realize the streets around here are hilly and bumpy, while in my parents’ neighborhood they’re flat and smooth. Much nicer. Went up to the falls, with my kids and my mom. Martin came to town with all his kids too. We had a barbeque, saw the fireworks, had a great time. Lizzy drove home partway, for a good hour thru the hilliest part of the trip. She did a cool 55 while I usually like to go 80 when I can, but it was totally fine.

Before we left and again since we’ve been back the weather has been super hot, but the last few days we’ve had some rain, which is a welcome relief. I’ve been super busy with work – went into the city all but one day last week – but even so I’ve really been enjoying the summer. I just really like this time of year.

We had jazz today with the full group for the first time in what feels like ages. Made some recording of a few songs including a couple of my originals. Hopefully they’ll come out. Last time we tried something was wrong with the balance and you couldn’t hear the bass. I also introduced a new tune but we didn’t have much chance to work on it.

This summer is a bit mellower than the last few for travelling. For one thing I’ve started a new job recently, and also the kids are busy. Michelle is taking a high school prep summer school program, and meanwhile Lizzy is taking driver’s ed and has a job at a local pool. I’d like to the beach sometime, and we have a camping weekend coming up, but that’s mostly it for a while. Hopefully we can continue to get things done and at the same time enjoy ourselves.

Origami USA 2016

Another Origami USA convention has come and gone. A great time as usual folding and hanging with my origami friends. John, Brian, Beth, Paul, Sri, Jason, Robert, everyone was there. I also had a meeting with my publisher and finally have a contract in hand for my next book. Just gotta get a few fine points in the rider and we should be all squared away.

The venue for this year was St. John’s University in Queens, and it turned out to be a very nice place. Beautiful campus, and everything was in two buildings close together. Free parking too. There were a few good restaurants in the neighborhood, including a Mexican place that served a drink that was a margarita with an upside-down beer in it, attached to the rim of the glass by a special adapter.

One really nice thing was that the gallery this year was in a hall with great natural lighting, so everything looked much better than it used to at FIT.

I had a whole bunch of new models for my exhibit. The main thing was something I’m calling Flower Balls. The idea is to create a flower-like tessellation and then fold it into a polyhedron to create the effect that people like to do out of modulars, but with a single sheet of paper. I got inspired and started with it last summer in Ohio, and by MIT in the fall I had a Cube and Dodecahedron Flowerball, along with 4- and 5-petal flower tessellation units. In the last month or so I extended the approach to create 6- and 8-petal flowers, and combined them to form a bunch of Archimedean solids, namely a Truncated Tetrahedron, Cuboctahedron, Truncated Octahedron and Truncated Cube. Only downside is people don’t always get that it’s a single sheet.

I taught a couple classes. One was Airplanes and Spaceships II – intermediate level models from the upcoming book. Went over well, go thru five of them in a 105 minute class. The other was the Flowerballs, and this time I had crease patterns to use a guide while I laid out the concept and some examples. On Monday John Montroll did a rare class, on the topic of diagramming on the computer.

All in all a great, fun convention. I’m guessing OUSA will want to go back to St. John’s next year.

No Bidniz Like Show Bidniz

Lots going on around here. Really enjoying the summertime.

Last weekend was full of shows from the kids. Friday evening Lizzy’s choral group gave their spring concert at their church. I think I mentioned this before when I saw them do Lessons and Carols back around Xmastime, but it’s a proffessional-level singing group (and indeed the memebers make more than I do with my rock band). The group is twenty singers, four each of bass, tenor, alto, soprano I and soprano II. The church itself is a medievalesque stone building with amazing reverb. You can listen to them blend or focus in and pick out an individual singer. Particaluarty the lead soprano and the basso profundo. Their voceis can really fill the hall.

The program was largely classical choral works, Handel and that sort of thing, with a few lighter works and feature for the organist and the great big pipe organ as well. Thier conductor and music director is also a serious choral composer, from London and apparently of some repute, and they did three of his works. Lizzy says its her favorite stuff in their repetoire.

All of it was very good. Lots of great supsensions and movement in the inner voicings. Just gives you chills. Really a great show.

The next two nights, down in the chuch basement, the kids theatre group put on their production of You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown. They actually did two complete productions with different casts, one for the middle school kids on Saturday and one for the high schoolers on SUnday. Michelle was in the younger group as Charlie Brown. They split all the roles among two or three (or sometimes more) kids so everyone would have at least one featured scene or song. The show worked quite well in that format. Michelle had a bunch of scenes, and is getting to be quite a good singer, lound and clear.

The high school version was at a whole ‘nuther level. There was just one kid for each role, and much more coherence, chemestry and commedy. Lizzy played Lucy, and she and the girl who played Sally stole the show. Afterwards I said to Lizzy “I knew you could sing but I didn’t know you could act!”

Bigger Gigger

Just got done playing two back-to-back amazing gigs. Friday I had a rare jazz gig, at the Carl Jung center in Manhattan. Believe it or not this was my first gig in Manhattan since I’ve come back from California. Luckily, as a jazz gig all I had to bring was my horn, some charts and a stand. I worked in the NYC office that day and walked to the gig. The rest of the guys had to drive in, unload and worry about parking.

The gig was organized by my friend Gary Trossclaire, a trumpet player and Jungian analyst. It was a wine-and-cheese fundraiser event, and the format was first Gary gave a lecture/seminar on the The Dionysian Dynamics of Jazz, then we jammed for a half hour or so. The seminar itself was very good and Gary touched on alot of topics including Dionysius, the Greek god of wine, song and extasy, the historic roots of jazz, a bit about psychotherapy, the relationship between creativity and substance abuse, how it all relates to Jung, and even a bit of music theory. For such a diverse range it was very well delivered and woven together. My favorite bit of knowledge in the whole thing: Jung didn’t dig jazz.

Next came the concert. The group consisted of Gary T. on Trumpet, Gary B. and Jay from the Haven Street Five on guitar and bass, this dude K. C. on drums, and myself on tenor sax. We’d gotten together twice to rehearse, in the music building of SUNY Purchase, where K.C. is on the factuality. It’s actually a great place to rehearse, with high ceilings and great acoustics. The set included a bunch of standards, all great songs: Bohemia After Dark, Mercy Mercy Mercy, Willow Weep for Me, I Mean You, Straight No Chaser and Second Line. We ran thru the set before the show, and it all really came together for the performance with great energy and spontaneity. K.C. in particular had alot of feel, ideas and dynamics. Hope to be able to play with him again. The crowd and the Jung Center people loved it and sent each of the musicians home with a bottle of wine.

Next day LEFT HOOK played for our bassist Ken and his wife Kate’s 125 party. It was his 50th birthday, and hers as well, and their 25th wedding anniversary. 50 + 50 + 25 = 125. So it was a big todo with lots of their friends and relatives, great food, cake and all. The venue was a lodge house in Croton Point State Park. Very nice but also very hot and muggy. We played one set, a little over and hour, all our best stuff. I must say it sounded great and went over well although by the end people were drifting out cuz it was much cooler and breezier outside. All in all a great time. Congratulations Ken and Kate!

The last LEFT HOOK gig before that was three weeks ago. Musically the group keeps getting better and our songlist keeps expanding. The Bowie was a hit among the young hipsters in the crowd as well as the old timers.

But we’re growing dissatisfied with the same old dive bars and the same old crowds, so we’ve stepped up our quest for better gigs. It’s an uphill climb. We’ve started calling and visiting bars and other venues. We recorded the audio from that show and I’ll be putting together a new demo reel as soon as I’m able. Now with the gigs from Ken’s party and the audio from the Burke’s gig I have three shows worth of material to draw from. Just sifting thru it all will be a major task. At the same time we’re focusing on tightening up our arrangements and vocal harmonies and looking strategically towards picking new songs.