Band Evolution

Winter lingers and we endure. It’s March already and there’s still a foot of snow on the ground, and it’s snowing heavily again right now. Apparently this February was the coldest on record in 80 years. Damn global warming. The Left Hook inaugural gig was cancelled due to a snowstorm last Saturday. It’s getting rescheduled for April, so hopefully the weather will be nicer by then.

Young Wolfgang Skywalker announced a few weeks ago he was going to leave the band after the gig, one week after he showed up for rehearsal dead-dog tired and lamenting about being buried under schoolwork. Ah well we knew it was a matter of time, and now’s a good time to make the break. We’re bringing in Ken “Dr. Pluto” on bass. He rehearsed with us last week. Hit fit right in, and already know a bunch of our songs, and knows Gary from the jazz circle. He should have no problem getting the set together in the next five weeks. So cool, onward and upwards.

We’re now starting to look for more gigs in earnest, so we need to put together a web site. I recently updated my music site with links and pages to my current bands Left Hook, 7 Jazz West, and The Day Trippers. I had started this as part of my ongoing wintertime upgrades to my web site, but once I was done, a realized that the new pages, even thought they the requisite band info and links to video and stuff, are pretty plain design-wise. So another round of updates in the offing. Unfortunately, I’m really buried under work for my day job right now, so it may be a while until I can circle back. Meanwhile we’ll be recording our next few rehearsals, so we can get some audio up so people can hear our sound. Watch this space for future updates.

And as luck would have it, The Day Trippers seems to have run it’s course. Between the question whether to add another singer, the logistical difficulty of getting together to rehearse, and the lack of upcoming gigs, this looks like the end, at least for the time being. Still it was a good experience and a lot fun, and gave me a great change to work on my vocals.

As one door closes another opens. I’ve been trying to get a project going to play my originals for some time now. I’d asked Ken to join, but he’d been busy with other projects. Now he has one less project (he was in DT too) and is very interested. Also this cat Charlie from the jazz circle, whom I approached in the fall, came back to me in January saying he now has some time and wants to get together and jam.

Charlie and I got together yesterday with me on piano and him on guitar. I showed him six of my tunes. He picked them right up and was really into them. He got down Checker Cab, Get on Back 2 U, and Ghost in the Machine. We also looked at Heat Wave, Your Dancing Shoes, and (IGBA) Beautiful Day. This is great news cuz a lot of guys can’t handle my songs; you need to be proficient in jazz harmony and odd meters. So hopefully we can get together soon with Ken on bass, and then all we’ll need is a drummer.

Animals out of Paper Live

Last night it went to see the play Animals Out of Paper, to which I contributed a few origami models, and many more of my designs were folded by others for use in the production. The play was really excellent on a number of levels. Animals Out of Paper was written by Rajiv Joseph and this production was directed by Merri Milwe and starred David Beck, Nairoby Otero, and Maneesh Sasikumar. Talo Kawasaki was the origami consultant.

This production was in a funky church on the Upper West Side. Off-Broadway theatre is a bit like bar bands for actors. You have some incredibly talented people working on a very low budget, doing great work without the accompanying fame. In this case the play had only three characters, which means that the writing and the acting have to be very good cuz there’s very little else. The story centers on the relationship between an origami master, her protégé, and her protégé’s math teacher who also happens to be her suitor. The actors really brought there characters to life with energy and charisma. By the end, you really care about them and their situation, which is more than you can for the typical modern movie.

Along the way there’s drama and humor, and a good amount of subtext and symbolism without getting cheesy, and a good deal of exploration of the creative process, particularly with respect to the question of loss and loneliness. Origami is the vehicle for all this, so there’s also a good deal of origami culture, actual technical knowledge, and even some in-jokes. The playwright is not (as far as I know) an origami guy but obviously cares a lot and spent some time at origami conventions and talking to folders, and he really got that stuff right. I have a friend who works at NASA and I was thinking this is how Steve must feel when he watches Star Trek. I mean, it sounds like the actors understand how a spaceship actually works.

Animals Out of Paper is an excellent play, very well written, and this production was brought to life with excellent actors, direction and origami. Unfortunately last night was the end to the run, so you’ll have to wait for another revival to see it.

Paper Galore!

Back around Xmastime Brian Webb of gave me a bunch of paper, to fold a bunch of things. Well this project is now complete (or at least the first batch); all that remains for the weather to clear up so I can get out to the post office. I folded some nice models and discovered some interesting papers along the way. Here’s the rundown.

Bear Hide – This was the first paper I tried, and the first thing I folded, naturally enough, was a Bear. Next was a Moose. The Bear was from an 8” square and the Moose from a 16” square. This paper looks and feels a bit like plain brown paper wrapping paper, except it’s thicker and tough, much link Wyndstone. Very foldable, perfect for models like these. An excellent paper, didn’t even need to wetfold. I’ve already used up my stock; must reorder.

Grainy – this came in a packet of 50cm sheets in a variety of colors. It’s another very nice paper. Bright colors, a bit on thick side, but not super-thick, with a bit of shine and texture on the surface, and springiness in the folds. I folded one of my Roses out of a 8” square. It came out very nice, better than the ones I usually fold out of kami. I also folded a Dragon from a 16” square. It also came out really nice. I had to wetfold a couple spots where the layers built up. Another really excellent, foldable paper.

Thai Duo – this paper is on the soft and thick side, and has a fuzzy texture. One side is either brown or blue, and the other is white (or at least a whiter shade of pale). I’ve been looking for a long time for a good paper for two-colored models, and this quickly became my favorite, at least for brown and blue subjects. I only had one 16” square so I divided it into four 8” squares. I made two foxes and two walruses and they all came out great, even at that small size. Again, no need for wetfolding. Imma order some more of this in brown to make a larger fox and some in blue to make a narwhal. Having finally found the right paper I can put those models to rest.

Rhino Hide – I made an Elephant because I don’t have a design for a rhino and didn’t feel like coming up with one. I used a 12” or 14” square. Rhino hide is another really good paper. A lot like Grainy but maybe a bit thinner, shiny one side.

Lokhu – this was paper I didn’t know before. The paper is thin, with a bit of a fibrous sheen to it, a bit soft, very interesting. I folded a Giant Squid out of 19” sheet. The model has a lot of layers which made it appropriate for thin paper. I had to wetfold it at the end so the tentacles would keep their curl, but it turned out great.

Agua – this is another paper I didn’t know before. It’s very beautiful, and thin but strong, with a texture on one side and kinda waxy on the other, and very crisp to fold; it almost resembles origamido paper. Normally I don’t work in style that requires this kind of paper; my preference runs to the ticker side. So I tried a few models to see what would work. I folded one of my roses, which came out nice enough, but perhaps not as soft and sculptural as I’d have liked. I folded one of my Penflower tessellations. That came out quite striking looking. Getting warmer. Then I tried on of my new Butterflies. These came out absolutely fantastic. Just the right kind of model to take advantage of the thinness and crispness of the paper. The winds are nice and sharp and the texture adds a lot to the appearance. The paper was thin enough to the legs and antennae, even working from a 6” square.

There’s lots of other papers still to explore, so I hope to have an update in the springtime. Meanwhile, thanks Brian!

The Debut of the Left Hook

My rock band, the Left Hook, is playing it’s debut show later this month. This is a really smokin’ group, with a great sound and loads of great material including funk, soul and classic rock. I’m playing sax, piano and singing. We have three strong vocalists and lots of harmonies, plus a slammin’ rhythm section, tasty guitars, everything you need. Here’s the info:

Music with a punch!

Westchester’s newest rock and soul party band appearing live
Saturday February 21 9:00 PM
at The Fisherman’s Net, 129 6th St. Pelham, New York

Animals Out of Paper

I recently completed a new origami commission. It’s a pair of dogs to be used in a revival of the play Animals Out of Paper by Rajiv Joseph. This is my first commission for the legitimate theatre. The dogs are based on my Timber design, although I modified the proportions to give them each an individual character. The paper, provided by Talo Kawasaku, the production’s origami consultant, is 18” Canson in bright red, so the models are large and also quite sturdy.

Animals Out of Paper is playing in February at West Park Church on 86th Street in Mahnattan. You can find out more about the production here.

7JW – Caught on Tape Again

Tonight we’re settling in to wait out a “potentially historic” blizzard. A good time to catch up some random tasks.

Last weekend my jazz septet Seven Jazz West played a return engagement at the Bass Line in Mount Vernon. It was a really good night with a great crowd and the band was really smokin’. Consensus was we sounded tighter, with better energy and better soloing. So here’s a few videos from the show to share with y’all.

Soul Station
My Favorite Things
Tom Thumb
Willow Weep for Me
Joy of Spring
Better Git It in Yer Soul -
Mercy Mercy Mercy
No Room for Squares
The Chicken

New Song: To Be a Rock

You’re probably asking yourself, what’s up with John’s recording project? It’s been a while since we’ve heard anything about it. Well, rest assured it’s still going on. In fact, I completed a demo of my new song, To Be a Rock, back around Thanksgiving. It’s not even that new; I’ve been working on this song off-and-on since the springtime. I started it around the same time as Your Dancing Shoes. In contrast to that one, which is light and upbeat, this one is heavy and anthemic.

The intro is a bass solo which took me a while to be able to play cleanly. Now I have all the basic parts tracked, the piano, bass drums and vocals. But it’s missing something. I’m not quite sure what. Maybe guitars, or synthesizers, or horns, I dunno. But rather than just start slathering on layers I’m gonna let it simmer on the back burner for a while. Looking at my list, I have four or five more half-written songs — enough to complete an album. So I’ll work on fleshing out some of those for a while, and circle back once I have them up to a comparable level of completion. Next up: Plague of Frogs.

Meanwhile, here are the chords and lyrics.

To Be a Rock
by John Szinger

(bass intro) Dm
(chorus) Am (G/B) C Dm (C/E) F Am (G/B) C Dm (C/E) F Gm (F/A) Bb
(verse) AMaj7 FMaj7 EbMaj7 Bm D7#9 AMaj7 FMaj7 EbMaj7 Bm D7#9 E (D/F#) Gm

Man of steel man of stone
But what man can stand alone?
And even as you love them too
The ones you love will one day look to you —
Man of motion holding fast
But what man is built to last?
Like water be, take on the form
To find inside you’re solid to the core —

Dark night of gloom
Red sun of doom
Gotham metropolis
You know I never asked for this
Can you stand the day you stumble?
Can you bend or will you crumble?
Oh, to be a rock!

Every day another trial
How many steps to climb a mile?
Push that stone back up that hill
A thousand labors only to stand still —
Men of stone men of steel
But what kind of man is real?
Man of motion never rests
Each day put your mettle to the test —

Red sun of doom
Dark night of gloom
I never asked for this
Gotham or metropolis
Will you crack the day you stumble?
Can you stand or will you crumble?
Oh, to be a rock!

Day Trippers Video Montages

I’ve been going thru a bunch of video over the winter break. I cut together a couple montages of the last two Day Trippers shows, at the Crossroads back in October and at Lexington in December, to give y’all an idea of the sound in under three minutes. The Day Trippers are John Foote on guitar and vocals, Ken Mathews on bass, Rob Cassels on drums, and Yours Truly on piano and lead vocals. Enjoy!