Soprano Sax and Art Opening

I recently bought a new soprano sax. I’ve been looking for one for a long time. You can often get a good deal on a used instrument but you have to be willing to search and to wait.

The horn was from Roberto Winds, just about the last music store in the historic music district in midtown Manhattan. They’re a third-floor walkup and the space also has a bunch of practice rooms. Roberto himself makes beautiful high-end saxophones that are quite reasonably priced, at least compared to Selmers. But they’re still pretty pricey for your second or third horn. Fortunately they also do a brisk trade in used saxes, particularly old Mark VI’s, and they list part of their inventory on their web site.

I tried out about four horns and ended up getting a used intermediate model Yamaha, about ten years old but barely played. Lovely tone, intonation and balance. It’s a one-piece model without a separate neck. I also played one of Roberto’s horns as well as a pro-level Yamaha from the 1980’s. Both were better horns than the one I ended up getting, but were twice the price. For that extra money you get lots of amazing engraving on the bell, plus one level up terms of tone and intonation, that smooth silk-butter-cognac sound like my tenor has.

Ah well, the horn I got still very good, much better than my old soprano. While I was at it I got a new mouthpiece too, and Otto Link.

Only a few days later I got a chance to try it out. I had a gig at an art gallery in Hasting called The Square Peg. It was an opening for a painter named Jerzy Kubina who does these large, bold yet subtle, semi-abstract canvases. Great balance of color and tone, dark and light, very suggestive but not quite figurative, really amazing stuff. The band set up in front of a giant mural in this beautiful bright space, a perfect setting.

The band was my friend Charlie on guitar and Ed from the Ossining gig in July on drums, and this dude Joel on bass. We did a mixture of standards and Charlie’s originals. We were going to do one of my songs too, but we ran out of time. The band sounded really good, everyone’s playing was really on, and the crowd was enthusiastic and appreciative. The gallery owners were really nice people too. I hope to go back sometime.

College Art

This is the time of year when I usually organize my studio, throw out a bunch of old origami, and find a place to put my new origami paper. This year along the way I found a cache of art that I made in college. Having recently visited my Alma Mater, and recalling times there penniless and free, I thought I’d give it a look. Some were graphic design projects for classes, along with album covers and posters for my band, T-shirt designs (Campus Crusade for Cthulhu, UBCon ’90) and things like that. Others were from a drawing course I took, still life subjects, human figures, landscapes and architecture. Some were pretty good, so I wound up photographing a few of them. I might publish a gallery of them eventually. Meanwhile, here’s one, a 10-minute-or-so sketch looking out the window of the Bethune building (which is apparently no longer owned by the university) into the back parking lot on a cold, overcast winter day. You can see the tower of Hayes Hall in the distance thru the trees.

Posted in Art

Springy Thingy

Another spring break come and gone. After working hard all winter, and the bitter cold weather, we really needed this one. Spring came late this year. Two weeks ago there was still snow on the ground. Things have finally just started budding and turning green.

This weekend was the first really nice weather of the year. Sunny and in the 60’s. We washed and waxed Jeannie’s car, and I put a new battery in the Mustang and started it up, and went for the first ride of the season. Woo-hoo!

On Saturday the Left Hook gig got cancelled again. This time due to the bar owner’s wife called the Dept. of Labor over him paying employees off the books, so he’s shut down for the time being. Ah well we have another gig coming up. Jeannie and I went out to Dudley’s Saturday nite, where our next gig is at. Nice place, right on the water in New Rochelle, Long Island Sound. Have a good stage and PA. Also the jazz group has gig the following weekend. So May is getting busy fast.

Rewinding a bit, at the start of spring break I took the girls to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the city. That was a really good time. We hadn’t been in five years or so. Michelle was really interested in the Greco-Roman wing, from having read Percy Jackson, so we spent some time there. We actually saw quite a bit of the place: the Egyptian wing, some modern and art deco paintings and sculptures, some Dutch masters, some medieval and renaissance stuff, some Asian art, the hall of arms and armor, and the hall of musical instruments. This last one was extra fun because they had a special exhibit on Adolph Sax, inventor of the saxophone, the saxhorn, the sarousaphone, the six-valve trombone, and lots of other weird brass and wind instruments that never caught on. The exhibit featured two extreme saxophones built by Sax himself. One was a contra-bass, in the key or Eb, twice as deep as a bari and about 7 feet high, even with all sorts of extra turnbacks. The other was a sopranino, also in Eb and twice as high as an alto.

We spent Easter weekend visiting with family. Martin’s came down on Saturday, and we went to Queens on Sunday to visit Jeannie’s family. Good to catch up and to know that everyone is well.

We’re Back Again

Rewinding a couple weeks, we spent a weekend camping in the Catskills with friends, cooking over fires, swimming in the lake, paddling around in canoes and playing acoustic guitars. After the heavy rain the first night of our trip in July we bought a new, larger shelter that sets up quicker but is bulkier and heavier to transport. Turns out the weather was beautiful and we didn’t need it. The highlight of the trip was a bald eagle circling around the lake one day. Jeannie and I managed to get close to it in the canoe. We drifted right up under the tree where he was perched and watched him spread his wings and take off across the lake. Amazing.

We were back home for a couple of days and the big news is that I got a full proof of the first draft of my book from my editor. For the most part the look is great, the choice of photos and all. One quibble is them doing goofy things with CaPiTaLiZaTioN of the chapters. The bigger issue is they condensed the diagrams to make it all fit into 128 pages. Some of the layouts are too crowded, and the drawings shrunk too much, and the layouts no longer flowing correctly. I’m working thru what to do about all that. I’ve been providing revised layouts that flow better and maximize the size of the drawings while still fitting in the available space. This is a pretty big time suck, taking me away from other projects, but I suppose it had to happen sometime. Now I’m up the most complex models in the back half of the book, and it’s clear they’ll have to come up a few pages. So either we’ll have to take some pages out elsewhere or make the book longer. We’ll see how it goes.

Then we took a long weekend road trip over Labor Day. The first stop was Washington, D.C. We visited the Udvar-Hazy annex to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. This is out by Dulles airport and has a huge collection of huge planes and spacecraft. Among them is B-29 Enola Gay, the Space Shuttle Discovery, a Concorde, a Blackbird, a DC-10, and lots of commercial and military planes and helicopters from small to huge. Also a really cool cutaway of a nine-cylinder rotary engine that really helped me explain to the kids how motors work.

Next day the main thing was the Native American Museum and National Art Gallery in The Mall. The highlight there was a light sculpture installed in the passageway between the east and west galleries. As we moved thru it, I recognized Conway’s Life being played out on the array of LEDs. This reminded me of my friend Leo, an artist how does installations of this kind. Way back in the day I helped him program some controls so he could run Life on a grid of LEDs. Shaw’nuff when we got the end of the passageway the sign said it was Leo’s work. It’s amazing to see his stuff in the same gallery as Rembrandt as Picasso.

The last part of the trip was to the beach in Ocean City. The big downer this year is that our hotel closed its hot tub. We’ll probably have to look for a new hotel next time we go back. Other than that it was great fun and very relaxing. After the first day the weather was hot enough we didn’t even miss the hot tub. We swam in the ocean, went to the water park, went out to dinner and down to the boardwalk, and visited the ponies at Assateague.

Now we’re back home and back to work. Michelle had her first kung fu lesson yesterday. Lizzy had her first day of high school today. Michelle starts school Monday. It’ll be a whole new set of routines this fall.

The Bay Lights

My friend and former colleague Leo Villareal is an artist who works in sculptures of computer-animated light. Over time his work has increased in scale. His new project is lighting up the San Francisco Oakland Bay Bridge. The grand lighting is only a few weeks away. You can learn more about it here.

Lizzy Self Portrait

Here’s a (photo of a) painting that Lizzy made recently in art class. The original was about two feet across. The principal we so impressed she invited us up to go look at it where it’s hanging in the hall. It really does look like her.

Posted in Art

Spring Break

Another mainly rainy week. We’ve been on spring break, such as it is. Took a few days off of work because the kids were off school. Manly catching up on our rest and doing odd jobs. Last Wednesday I worked at home and the kids did art all day. Thursday the rain stopped and I got a bunch of yardwork done. Turned over the garden, laid down cedar mulch under the hedges. Pretty much done with the spring cycle.

We finally retired El Jeppo last week and replaced it with a shiny Pilot in a very attractive shade of blue. Yes, our quest is at an end and good riddance to the whole ordeal. On the way back from negotiating the deal I was say to Jeannie it would have been nice to get a better trade-in price. But then back windshield wiper stopped working and I remembered why I needed to get rid of the old bucket o’ blots, and considered it was probably a fair deal. We named the new car Hoban after the famous starship pilot Hoban Washburne.

Last Friday I took the kids into the city for a visit to the Guggenheim museum. It’s been years since I’d been there, before I moved to California. Lizzy has been getting into abstract and impressionistic art. This was the perfect exhibit for her. It was all about the birth of Modernism, 1910-1918, plus a side exhibit on the Bauhaus. Lots a Picasso, Mondrian, Kandinsky and others all in one place. Modern art’s greatest hits. It’s been a while since I checked in with this stuff and it struck me how deeply the language of modernism has come to permeate every day pop culture, media and industrial design, to the point where it’s almost invisible. It’s always interesting to image a time an place where ideas we now just accept were new and radical and challenging. Plus the gallery itself is a most excellent space, with it’s snail-shell spiral main hall.

Jeannie has been making Lego robots to solve a Rubik’s cube. More on that later.

Stitch Art Insects

When I was back home visiting for the holidays my Mum gave me a couple of pieces or artwork she kept for me. I was probably about 8 or 10 when I made them. At that time I was into drawing as my main art form, and had already begun dabbling in origami, but this was my one and only foray into needle-oriented art. My Mum is an expert at embroidery, needlepoint and cross-stitch, as well as knitting, crocheting and sewing. My kids got a couple arts-and-crafts gifts this year for Xmas, which reminded my Mum she had this art down in the basement.

As I recall she set up my brothers and I with little handmade canvasses that consisted of burlap stretched across cardboard frame. We drew pictures on the burlap and then filled them in using yarn instead of embroidery floss. I made a butterfly and a dragonfly, as you see. I think Martin made a housefly and a caterpillar, and Jim made a turtle and maybe a lizard.

These were hanging on my wall for quite some time as I was growing up, but I hadn’t thought of them in years. Thanks Mum!

Posted in Art