The Day Trippers

If you’re free this weekend and want to check out some live music come on down to Heights Fest in Berkeley Heights, NJ (http://heightsfest.com/). My band, The Day Trippers is kicking off the show at 4:00. It’s a fitting name since it’s a one-show-only Beatles tribute band. I was recruited to sing and play keyboards by my friend Ken, a.k.a Dr. Pluto, who is the bass player in my jazz combo. Ken is old friends with John, lead guitarist and mastermind, and his drummer Rob, who both live in NJ. We had one rehearsal over the weekend, and we all hit it off and the music came together really well. I was a bit surprised cuz I was singing lead and some of those Paul songs are pretty high; I figured my voice would be shot by the end but it got better as we went on. I could even hit the high notes in Band on the Run.

And So It Goes

It’s August now. Been busy with camping trips, seeing more family and friends, and getting things done at home. Work is still pretty busy too. I just finished a little skunkworks demo for my boss’s boss. My boss dropped it on me as she was headed out the door for vacation. Nice. Along the way I learned angularjs. It’s been a while since I’ve been deep in the javascript world, but angularjs seems like a nice framework, very helpful in writing logical, organized code. Or maybe my demo just happened to be in the sweet spot of what angularjs is good at.

Lots of churn on the band front. Right after my last post on the topic, our bass player and my good friend Mike quit the group. We got a new bass player now, who I found quite by accident. My friend Charlie guitar asked me to sit in one evening with his jazz group. I was unable to commit, but didn’t want to say no because we were scheduled to rock rehearsal that night, but with no bass I wasn’t sure it was on. I hit reply to all instead of just replying to Charlie, and one of the other guys in the jazz band said he’d be into playing bass with a rock group. This really confused me at first cuz the guy, Rob, plays piano in the bebop group. So he came down and it turns out he can jam on bass. He plays a fretless, which is pretty interesting.

Now the challenge moves to building up a set, getting more tunes and getting them tight. Our guitarist Jeff favors basic 70’s guitar rock and is reluctant to learn new material outside of his comfort zone. I like some of that stuff, but too much is not very interesting on the piano. So I’m trying to broaden the palette and some Steely Dan, Billy Joel, Stevie Wonder, maybe some Rush and Genesis and some other piano-oriented songs, as well as some more funk, ska, soul, new wave, etc. Should be interesting to see where it goes.

Meanwhile I have several other irons in the fire. I answered an ad for a group looking for a keyboard player in a Ronnie James Dio tribute band. They have some gigs lined up, so that could be fun. I also got an invitation to sit in with a group doing Beatles songs at some fair in New Jersey in a couple weeks, singing and playing piano with Dr. Pluto on bass. And lastly I’m trying to get Buzzy Tonic Live off the ground. Asking around to line up musicians. More on that as it progresses.

New Recording: Your Dancing Shoes

Here’s a rough mix of my new song Your Dancing Shoes. My friend Lee was supposed to come an lay down a guitar part, but we were never able to work out a time, so I did the guitar part myself. I used the Stratocaster thru my Roland JC amp. I had never really dug the strat before but this turned out to be just the right sound for the song. My part is pretty much straightforward rhythm. I had envisioned having a riffing lead guitar toward the end of the song, but since I don’t solo of guitar I did that on sax. I’m sure now if the song gets too saxophone-y by then, but it’s pretty slammin’. So yeah, go ahead and enjoy.

Next up: To Be a Rock

New Song: Your Dancing Shoes

I’m close to finished song I’ve been working on lately. One feature of this song, which I’ve wanted to write for a long time, is a horn section break in the mode of Domino, Spain or Sir Duke. Last night I laid down the horn section tracks. All that’s left is some percussion and maybe rhythm guitar, and then onto mixing. I’ve been focusing on simplicity in my songwriting, at least in certain aspects. This one has a eight-bar chord progression that changes every two beats and loops over and over the whole song, nice and soulful.

Bb Eb C7 F7 Bb Eb C7 Bb
Bb Eb D7 G7 Eb C7 F7 Bb

The finished track should be ready soon. Meanwhile, here’s the lyrics. Not the deepest thing ever, but lively and fun.

Your Dancing Shoes
by John Szinger

Put on your dancin’ shoes
Don’t wanna hear about no bad news
I spent my nine to five just payin’ dues
So put on your dancing shoes

Throw down your safety vest
Kick off your working boots and give it a rest
Don’t wanna hear about what’s worse or best
Just wanna see you in that party dress

I’ll loosen up my power tie
Put down my thinking cap and let it all slide
Been payin’ dues yeah since the nine to five
Now all I wanna do is catch your eye

So put on your dancin’ shoes
Ain’t got time tonight to sing the blues
Yeah spent my nine to five just payin’ dues
So put on your dancin’ shoes

(horn break)

Now your decoding ring
And your utility belt don’t mean thing
My smoking jacket and my fancy pants
Now all I wanna do is see you dance

So put on your dancin’ shoes
Don’t wanna hear about bout no bad news
Ain’t got time tonight to sing them blues
Just put on your dancin’ shoes
Yeah put on your dancin’ shoes

(horn break and out)

Rock and Jazz

The summer’s been buzzing along nicely. I took some time off after OUSA and did some traveling, lots of seeing family and friends. Today we went to the beach, which was nice even though the sun never came out and eventually is started raining. Still we got a good swim in the ocean. All back home now. Tomorrow it’s back to work for the first full week in a while. Still lots of other fun stuff coming up this summer.

In origamiland I’ve gotten back all the models from my various exhibits, and am preparing a new round of exhibits. These will both be sent out by mail. One is Centerfold in Ohio, at the end of July, It’s the biggest origami convention in the Midwest. I wish I could go this year, but the logistics are too much. The other is for a bookstore in Lake Placid. They contacted my asking if I could do an event there. It doesn’t look like I’ll be able to make the trip this summer, but I figure since they were nice enough to reach out to me, and several of the chapters of my book are Adirondack themed, it might be a fun idea to send them a box of models to display and promote the book.

The third thing is I’m now starting work on the ebook version of my book for Tuttle. This ought to be fairly straightforward. They’re doing the actual production. I’m providing guidance and approval on the layout and format as necessary, and re-rendering any art assets that need t be scaled. Lastly, updating all the photo galleries on my website to use lightbox for slideshows has been in the offing for a long time and is inching closer to reality.

But this blog post is about how things are going with my bands. I’m happy to say it’s all going great. My jazz band seems to have solidified around the time I became a regular member, with a new bass player and piano player too. Things are now getting really smoking, with an ever-expanding set of material, played at a higher level of musicianship. One night when I came in I warmed up on the intro to Liberty City. The bass player Ken jumped right in, and so I found out he’s a big Joco Pastorius head. Now we’re doing The Chicken with Joco’s Soul Intro, and I get to do all the wailin’ Michael Brecker tenor parts, which is tons of fun. Last week we had another really amazing cat sit on alto, and I feel like my playing rose up a to meet him.

In the rock’n’roll realm it looks like the new group is going to work out, and sound better than the old group. The two guys that came in are Jeff on guitar and Mike on Vocals. At this point we’ve rehearsed three times and have about thirty songs. We’ve pretty much combined the best of our set list with the best of theirs, and started adding new material. Among the new songs I’ve learned are: We’re an American Band, Them Changes, (Ain’t Nothin’ But a) House Party, I Got You (I Feel Good), Dancing Days, Godzilla, Love Me Two Times, Can’t You Hear me Knocking, Brown Sugar, Honky Tonk Woman, Come Together, Miami 2017 and Dear Mr. Fantasy.

I’m singing lead on the Stones songs. Mike says he’s sick to death of singing these songs, but they’re a lot of fun for me. You don’t need a lot of range, you just belt it out. These are all saxophone songs too, so I need to manage switching between singing and playing the horn. We’ve also jammed a few others like The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys, Money and some other Pink Floyd, but these seem a bit sprawling for a bar set. The consensus is we need forty songs before we’re ready to gig out. And of course we need to get the ones we have tight, but that’ll come naturally.

The big thing now is we need to come up with a name for the band before we can start booking gigs. We’ve been brainstorming and tossing around ideas. So far the one to beat is The Strolling Jones.

Single-sheet Dual Cube with Color Change

I came up with a few new models for convention this year. First, since I’d loaned my Stellated Dodecahedron to Uyen for her exhibit, I folded a new one for my OUSA exhibit. This turned out to be harder than I expected and took over a month to finish. While was in the middle of it I got sidetracked and created a Dimpled Dodecahedron. Now I think I’m finally done with pentagon ideas.

One long-standing idea I’ve had was to do a single-sheet Dual Cube with a color change. This turned out the be fairly quick and easy because I was back to working in square geometry. I’d folded a single-color version of this shape previously. It’s two intersecting cubes, and the idea of the color change is to make each one of the cubes a different color. This means that the color changes need to alternate in a checker or zigzag pattern. The model begins with a 7×9 rectangle. It could be folded from a square, but then the first step is to fold under two edges. That’s how I did my test models, but this way I was able to use a larger sheet.

The sequence of drawings showing the development of the crease pattern. The last drawing shows the parts that are exposed in the final model as highlighted. From there join the two opposite ends of the paper to form a ring, then collapse the belt along the center. This results in a thick, zigzagged ridge on the inside. Finally you tuck in the tabs on ends in a pinwheel lock. I wetfolded my model by spraying a puff of water in from each end before I closed it up, then covering it with tape and string for 24 hours. When it was dry it held its shape quite nicely.

Origami Weekend

Just got back from another OUSA convention. This one was extra special because my book, Origami Animal Sculpture, made it’s debut for advanced sale at the Source and at Kinokuniya. It looks like the book is a hit among the OUSA crowd, and maybe even in the wider world. Friday I folded most of the day, and got my exhibit together. I finished my American Turkey with color change, folded from a sheet of Wyndstone laminated on side with red tissue. I started this model around the time I was doing the photography for my book but didn’t finish it in time, so it’s been sitting in a box. All that was really left to do was the final sculpting, which went just fine once I started it. I also finished the design for my Butterfly Mark II and folded a small flock of them.

Once I got to the convention and set up my exhibit I went straight to the Source to get a copy of my book. I’m pretty sure the advanced copies sold out over the weekend, based on the number of people who came up to me to ask me sign theirs. I think people really respond to the wildlife theme, and to the fact that the models have a lot of character and detail but are not too complex to fold. It was really fun and nice, all the support and positive vibe from my origami colleagues.

Saturday I did the book signing event at Kinokuniya. I actually got a pretty good sized crowd and informally taught models out of the book the whole time, held and audience, and even signed and sold a few books. These are intermediate level models for a general audience, so I’m glad they went over. Bob my photographer was there, and so was Jon my publisher and they met for the first time, and afterwards we went to lunch. It was a very interesting discussion covering various aspects of publishing and printing and the book biz. Jon stressed the importance for getting some social media buzz going to try and ignite online sales. We also talked about potential themes for a second book, and he mentioned the idea of simple models to appeal to a wide audience outside the origami community.

My Saturday class was my Foxy Fox, and it was very full. I’m told it was the first class to sell out Saturday. I sometimes teach from diagrams, but this time I just demo-folded and used the class as an opportunity to hawk my book. Everyone finished and thought it was a wonderful model. I skipped a few of the fussy details, but this got me thinking more about how to simplify my models.

Saturday night I got into a long conversation with the master John Montroll on the subject of folding simpler models. My premise is that it’d be worth exploring but the models would still have to be interesting and have something to say, not just the some old traditional and/or crappy folds you’d find in say a desk calendar. And that would actually be a really good challenge. Always one step ahead, John said he’d working on a book of simple models and pulled out a stack of diagrams. The average model was maybe 8 or 10 steps and the longest was maybe 16. Very nice models too, the Bald Eagle in particular. Wow!

Sunday I taught my Adirondack Moose, again by live demo to promote the book. Again the class was pretty full, and this time it had critical mass of short-attention-span kids, who I had to tell several times to quit interrupting and just wait for the next step. This model was closer to complex than intermediate, but again they all finished and a few stayed after to work on the finer points of the sculpting.

Monday I went downtown and saw Uyen’s Surface to Structure exhibit at Cooper Union. I was really blown away at the whole thing. First of all, the space and presentation were just fantastic. It was a well lit gallery space, very open, very white, and the models were all displayed on simple stands, very minimalist. And second, the collection of models was the finest you’ll see anywhere, and quite a broad range at that. I feel honored to be included in an exhibition with classic Yoshizawa and all that other stuff. My stuff was well presented along with everything else, but when I got there I thought one of the models was a little off, so I waited until the guard started playing with his phone and the nudged it a little to one side. Far and away the best origami exhibition I’ve seen, and think Uyen definitely did the world a service by really raising origami to the level of fine art in the public eye. She also gave me a copy of the program, which was very nice too. Just as beautiful as the exhibition.

Monday afternoon I had some free time and started coming up with some simple models. It seems like a good direction to explore right now. At the very least I can come up with lots of models quickly, which is refreshing after spending weeks or even months on a single idea with the single-sheet polyhedra and tessellations. I did a version of my Butterfly II without legs that was about ten steps. Then I did a variation and it became a hawk. Now the trouble became every time I finish a design, I think maybe I’ve seen it somewhere before. So I took advantage of the opportunity to ask around. These two at least seemed to be truly new and original.

All in all another great convention. I always come away with my creative energy charged up with a bunch of new ideas. It’ll be interesting to see what develops in the coming year.

Kinokuniya Exhibit

It’s on! Today I went over to Kinokuniya to set up my exhibit there. While I was there I saw a physical copy of my book for the first time. Very exciting! They gave me a good amount of display space, including half the front window and a set of shelves up the escalator. The models are all from my book, and many of them are the ones I folded to do the photos for the book. This is a great opportunity display them as a set. Even before I left I heard people comment favorably on them. Hopefully the exhibit will be seen by lots of people and help promote the book. The people there are all really nice and I want to give them a big thank-you, especially John Fuller. It’ll be on display thru July 9 or so.

This works out really nicely because I have lots of new stuff I want to display for OUSA and I only have one table. I finished my Two Intersecting Cubes with a Color Change from a single sheet using some fancy, soft paper I got a few years ago. It’s white on one side and patterned on the other. It’s a 17.5” x 22.5” rectangle, which is a bit of break with tradition for me, but I figured eventually I’d come up with a model where an arbitrary rectangle is justified. (I could have used a square but then the first step is just to fold two edges underneath.) Finishing the lock was a real challenge. I wetfolded the final model, and you never really know how that’s going to turn out until you take off the tape and string and paperclips. This one came out really nice and will debut this weekend.

I have some time off from work starting tomorrow and still a few days before the convention. Trying to decide what subject to tackle next. My next geometric idea is Two Intersecting Tetrahedra with a Color Change from a single sheet (a.k.a Stellated Octahedron). I’ve tried this one several times without success, but now I have an idea for a new approach. The other ideas I have are for insects, including a Ladybug and Butterfly Mark II. I’m also trying to think of some good animals. Maybe some more dogs and cats and pets, since people responded to Timber and Sophie so well.

Origami Animal Sculpture at Kinokuniya and OUSA

It’s on! Advanced copies of my book Origami Animal Sculpture will be on sale at the OUSA convention at the end of June in NYC and at Kinokuniya bookstore in Manhattan. Trying to get some buzz going. At the convention I’ll be teaching models from the book: the Moose, the Fox, maybe some others, and at Kinokuniya I’ll be doing a book signing event on Saturday June 28 at noon. This is during the convention but not at a time when there are classes or other activities, so I hope I get a good turnout. The good people at Kino are also making available some exhibit space. So watch this blog for further announcements.