The Global Jukebox Is Live!

Last week while I was away the Global Jukebox was finally debut. Come check it out at:

I’ve been working on this project for over a year as lead developer, designer and architect, working with Anna Lomax Wood and her research associates Karan and Kathleen, as well as other scholars, statisticians and developers, even bring in Martin the last few months. It’s been alot of fun and very cool piece of work.

For those of you who don’t know, the Global Jukebox is an interactive showcase for a comprehensive library of world folk music and cultural data assembled by music scholar and anthropologist Alan Lomax. Beginning in Texas and Mississippi the 1930’s, Alan went all around the world, from the Caribbean to all over Africa and Europe, the far East, and even Buffalo, NY, building up a comprehensive library of folk music from all different cultures. He then created a scientific framework, called Cantometrics, to compare the characteristics of the music and the relationship between the music and the culture. The results are very revealing about who we are as a species and why humans make music.

The Global Jukebox was the Alan Lomax’s lifelong vision and the culmination of his life’s work and scholarship. He began working on it 1960’s using punch cards, and I first became aware of it in the 1990’s while writing interactive music software at Interval Research. Now, many years later the computer technology finally exists to present it to the world and in interactive resource for educators, researchers and lay people who care about music.

We’ve been getting lots of press, beginning with the New York Times. Looks like we’re over 700,000 page views now. See the links below.–1719827

Dance Hall Days

I’m doing what should be a fun and exciting gig out in New Jersey next week. It’s a ballroom dance band. The leader of the date is my friend Happy Feet Pete. I’ve played with Pete as a jazz bassist, but for this one he’s singing and playing guitar. The sound is maybe something like Brian Setzer Orchestra; the set is swing, some early rock’n’roll and I guess some salsa and cha-cha and tangos and different dances. I don’t know exactly; he has a book of charts. I do know the other horn player is Rich Williams, probably the best sax player I know, an absolute monster especially when it comes to Charlie Parker.

So if you’re into ballroom dancing come on down.

Sunday, April 23
4 PM – 8 PM
American Legion Hall
13 Legion Place
Whippany NJ


My rock band LEFT HOOK recently lost our lead singer. The issue was that he didn’t want to do alot of the material the rest of the group did. We’re trying to cover a pretty broad range of stuff, from the 60’s thru the 80’s and keep it generally on the uptempo and funky side, whereas MJ basically wanted to do obscure songs from the 60’s from band like Spooky Tooth. So rather than let him dictate the set list by veto, Gary and I have been taking on a larger share of the lead vocals, unit MJ had had enough.

So now we’re looking for a new lead vocalist. We’re pretty open about our expectations, but of course they need to be good and have broad taste and fit in personalitywise. Ideally they’d sing high, cuz Gary and I are both baritones. It’d be nice to be able to a song like Carry On Wayward Son in three-part harmony. Also a plus if they play an instrument like harp or congas too.

Meanwhile, we’re carrying on as a quartet. It’s sort of a win-win situation. If we take on a new singer it’s because they lift the band up to another level. As a quartet we’re still quite capable, and we can take some time to explore and refine our sound. We jettisoned about half our set, cuz neither Gary or I wanted to sing them. About half of these are actually great horn songs, but I can’t sing and play sax at the same time. Ah well. So we made up a list of new song to try. We all have no problem with working up a song just to see if it works for us and fits our sound/style/mood, so they probably won’t all be keepers.

This week we learned You Can’t Get What You Want (‘Till You Know What You Want) by Joe Jackson. This was a suggestion by Ken our bass player. I hadn’t listened to the song in ages, but it turns out it’s a killer track, and great for us. Right in my zone singing, great groove, horn part, everything. Definitely a keeper. Next week it’s I Want a New Drug by Huey Lewis and the News.

The Cheshire Cat

The Cheshire Cat – Buffalo, NY 1992

Here’s a video of The Cheshire Cat live in 1992, from their CD release party for their record Balance. The Cat was the best band to come out of Buffalo in the time I lived there and was on the music scene. And that’s saying something cuz there were alot of really good bands out there, including my own, Event Horizon, which had Scoob on synthesizers Mark Colecchia on drums. And mine wasn’t even the most successful jazz fusion band, Gamelon had that honor.

The Cat were friends of ours, and we watched them evolve from a decent stoner-rock bar cover band into a top-flight pop-prog powerhouse. They had a unique sound and songwriting style, with catchy hooks set amid complex instrumental passages, John’s synths on one side balanced by Mike’s metal guitar on the other and a rhythm section of Joe Q and Ryan anchoring the middle. They had three excellent singers and shared the lead vocals and did lots of harmonies. It’d say their influences were mainly bands like Rush, Yes, Genesis and Van Halen, but their sound was completely their own.

Their live act ran from heavy and serious to upbeat and fun. They were great showmen, with alot of energy and new surprises. By the time of this gig they were at their peak, with over a dozen originals, many of which by then were well-known to their fans, and new stuff coming in all the time. They had just finished recording a CD of their newest best stuff, and the level of their playing was getting pretty impressive.

We all thought they were on the cusp of becoming huge nationwide. Unfortunately the music biz is very competitive, and being in Buffalo it was hard to get the necessary attention. Even though their regional success sustained and increased, you’ve probably never heard them on the radio. For me, this show was right around the time I left my hometown for good and moved to New York with a plan to make as a jazz musician or software visionary. So this is a great document of a great show by a great band at a unique moment in time.

Joy Spring

Yesterday we finally got our first nice day of spring. Spent some quality time outdoors, took a long walk around the neighborhood, started the spring yardwork cycle, and got the Mustang out on the road the first time this year. Last weekend I finally finished my main indoor/wintertime home improvement project, which was to paint the doors and trim in the stairway in my house. Just in time for spring.

Last weekend was also the first Left Hook gig in a little while. Back at the Fisherman’s Net in Pelham, which is something of a home base. Debuted some new material, including me singing The Cars, although our lead singer MJ conveniently forgot the lyrics to the new songs he was supposed to do, which evaluate to the ones he doesn’t like. In any event it was a fun gig, and the crowd at the bar definitely thinks we sound good and enjoyed the show. Plus Charlie and Lana from Lagond came down to catch the show. Going forward Gary and myself are going to take on a larger share of the singing to avoid MJ limiting our repertoire. We’re learning some new songs now by Joe Jackson, Huey Lewis, Santana and Grand Funk Railroad. And the search for mo’ better gigs continues. Onward and upward!

Meanwhile in the Wednesday jazz circle we’ve been following a format recently where a different member of the group picks the set list each week. This has unearthed a wealth of rarely-played gems as well as revealing something about everyone’s preferences and style. Only drawback there’s now alot of great songs that we’ve barely scratched the surface, so once the first round is complete we’ll circle back and dig deeper into alot of those songs.

In the Saturday group Gary and I are both continuing to bring in new songs. I really like Gary’s songwriting style, especially as contrasted with mine; make for a really nice diverse set. My most recent contribution is a song called The Sun, a reworking of a number from the Event Horizon days that features grooves in 5/8 and 7/8. I hope our drummer can handle it.

Springin’ in the Slush

March sure came in like a lion this year. After a very mild 2nd half of February it turned cold and we had two major back-to-back snowstorms on Saturday and then Tuesday. Jeannie and the kids ended up missing two days of work/school, while I worked at home in between shovelling out. Now we’re well on the way to having melted away but hey, it’s already the third day of spring. And it’s back to the cold in the days a head.

The kids have been busy with shows and performances. The first weekend of March Lizzy had her school musical called The Boyfriend, in which twenty-first century high school kids pretend to be British thespians from the 1950’s pretending to be French debutantes of the 1920’s. Lots of fun, good cartoon-jazz music and dancing the Charleston.

Next weekend after the Michelle performed in the Lower Westchester Honor Band. Highlights included A Night on Bald Mountain and The Firebird, as well as lots of epicly-titled selections such as Fight Squadron A, Alien Attack, and THe Final Countdown.

And then a couple nights ago both girls sang in the Young at Arts Salon. This is an annual fundraiser in which the people who run the group call in favors from some of their Broadway friends to come and participate. Lizzy had a featured solo alongside the woman who is currently playing Princess Jasmine in Alladin on Broadway. I helped set up the PA the Saturday before.

Now Lizzy is in rehearsals helping out as a ringer with a prodcution of The Hunchback of Notre Dame at another local high school. She’s the only soprano who can hit and sustain the really high notes.

Meanwhile my band LEFT HOOK is playing this Saturday night at Fisherman’s net in Pelham. Lots of exciting new songs including some 80’s Australian power pop as well as all your rock’n’soul favorites.

And my Saturday jazz group is up to 10 originals. Gary keeps writing more bossa novas and latin-oriented stuff, and Jay the bassist contributed a great, slow bluesey number in 5/4 called slope. I have one more song we haven’t even gotten to yet.

The global jukebox is almost, almost, almost done, after sixteen month’s work. Just a few more tweaks and minor bug fixes and final testing. Then we’ll take a couple weeks off and start in on Phase II, which is shaping up to be another year’s work. Very cool stuff, very psyched for the launch.

Meanwhile in my day job we just moved offices to a much larger and nicer space in downtown White Plains. More on that in a future post.

Buzzy Tonic – New Tracks

Here’s a bunch of new mixes for my long-awaited Buzzy Tonic album Elixr. I’ve been focusing on the vocal effects, the bass sound, the balance of instruments in the mix and the overall dynamics. It’s really starting to get there. The biggest changes are to Now and Forever, with a new vocal arrangement, and Your Dancing Shoes, which is finally properly mixed. As a bonus, I changed around the arrangement of To Be a Rock, so it’s now solidly in the ballpark, although there are still some tracks to render and I might add some sax on the outro. Only two songs remaining: Soul on Fire, which is at a rough mix stage, and The City, for which the arrangement is done but still requires some tracking, particularly the lead vocals and sax. Anyway here you go, enjoy!

ToBeaRock40.mp3 (rough mix)

Left Hook Live – Fisherman’s Net March 25

My rock band the LEFT HOOK is back in action. Although we’re still working on climbing up the food chain of gigs, we’re back for a night at our favorite local bar, Fisherman’s Net in Pelham. We’ve added a bunch of new songs as usual, this time mainly upbeat 80’s pop rock for some danceable numbers. Happy to say the new material sounds really good and builds on our existing sound.

So that’s Saturday March 25 at Fisherman’s Net in Pelham. Hope to see you there!

New Year New Music

Here it is, mid-January already. I feel like I missed out on the worst of the post-holiday cold and darkness this year. It’s been a pretty mild winter this year and I’ve spent alot of time indoors, working from home waiting for my foot to get better. Now I’m on the mend and feeling pretty well rested, and the days are beginning to get longer again. Of course there’s still alot of wintertime ahead, but it’s time to start getting going with new projects for the new year.

Both the software I’m writing for my day job and the Global Jukebox are now in beta/big-fix mode, counting down to the inevitable release date. So lots and lots of coding, fixing testing, repeat.

Lizzy had been getting her college acceptance letters and some scholarships. She got into every place she’s applied so far. Meanwhile Michelle has been getting acceptances for high schools and some scholarships as well. So things are good on that front and we have some choices ahead.

The new origami book is coming along. I have 12 or so diagrams done, and I’ve been working with the graphics guy on the patterned paper. The balance of the models are in the offing. Working with the publisher now on page layout and book format issues.

I had some projects I wanted to do over the break in the home improvement sphere that I had to push off. Also it looks like I won’t be skiing this winter. Ah well.

But the main point of this post is to update y’all on the music situation. Music has been coming along too, although at different rates of effectiveness on different fronts.

I’ve had my new tenor sax for a year now and I’m digging it more than ever. Also I’ve had the new piano for almost two months and I’m getting used to playing it, building strength in my fingers. I had it tuned and it sounds killer. Turns out the piano tuner is also and origami fan and we folded some paper airplanes together.

The Left Hook is still keepin’ on. We had a strong run in the early to mid fall, but we didn’t rehearse that much from November thru the end of the year because our singer was working for a political campaign. We did learn a few new songs in the time, mainly funky 80’s stuff.

The challenge remains to find more and better gigs. That was our main goal for 2016 but we we ended up playing the same old bars. Ah well gigs like that are still a good time. Part of the problem is there’s not that much demand, and the same half dozen bar bands are constantly rotating around the best place. Still, now we’re back at it, trying to crack into that circuit and casting a wider net, making a new round of inquiries and dropping off demo tapes, making a fresh list of venues . Onward and upward even if it takes a little more persistence to get up and go the distance.

My recording project, the third Buzzy Tonic album remains unfinished as well. I’m midway thru tracking the last song, City. I’d hoped to work on it over Xmas break but that was among the things I had to push off. Hopefully finish it before the end of the winter.

On the other hand I made great progress with my jazz demos, and that whole thing has taken on a life of its own. I’ve brought seven or eight tunes to the group, five of which are keepers, and I have one more in the offing. I encouraged the other guys in the group to bring in songs as well, and Gary Guitar has started writing too. He says I inspired him, which is great and fun and flattering to hear. So far he’s brought in two songs, both very good and different than mine. It’s good to have another voice and a good spread of styles and moods.

The guys in the band all like learning originals, and like the particular set of tunes, so now the main monkey business is to make a record. This is the Saturday group BTW, the Haven Street Quintet. It’s shaping up to be nine or so originals and probably one standard. Maybe Giant Steps since we have our own arrangement of that.

Now I’m looking into recording studios. The idea is to go in a do the whole thing live, like we did with Event Horizon back in the day, or like pretty much all classic jazz records. So I’m looking for a good live room with a grand piano and a nice sounding mixing board with warm preamps. Once we get the basic tracks down I can bring it into ProTools and Jay the bassist and I can mix and master it, although we’ll need an engineer to run the recording session.

So far though the local studios I’ve seen (via their web sites) seem more geared up for doing overdubs and electronic music production. This is useless to me since I already have a few good mics and an endlessly looptastic effects-o-rama ProTools rig in my basement. To me a real studio implies a real live room. Of course I’m just at the beginning of the research phase so you never know what’ll turn up. I’m toying with the idea of doing it in my living room as a backup plan, since I have an nice piano and a big, acoustically pleasant space.

Lots of Music

It’s the holiday season. We’ve started getting Christmas cards, and we had our first snowfall last night. Got our own cards and we have to sit down and fill them out one night this week. We got the tree up and all the decorations this last weekend, and I got a chance to listen to some of the Bill Evans records I recently bought. The new piano is in the spot where there tree used to go, so the tree is in the spot where the old piano was. Looks very nice.

It’s been quite a week for music. First off, the LEFT HOOK got together last week for a rehearsal for the first time in ages. Our singer was working on the staff of a local state senator who was running for reelection (he won!) and then some other stuff including Thanksgiving so we only had one rehearsal in November. Now we’re back together and learning a bunch of new songs including some fun 80’s power pop numbers that came together quite nicely. This week when we get together the topic will be looking for new gigs.

Sunday Lizzy and Michelle sang Lessons and Carols with their singing group at the local Episcopalian church. Last year I was totally blown away by the level of the music. This year they were just as good, but it wasn’t a shock and surprise. Brilliant church choir (of which Lizzy is a member), backed up by the children’s chorus (of which Michelle is a member), a brass ensemble, timpani (particularly amazing) and pipe organ, all with custom arrangements by their Kapellmeister Phillip Stopford, performed in a cavernous stone hall with marvelous reverb.

A couple days later was the Christmas concert at Lizzy’s high school, and Lizzy was performing in the chorus. They were good, at a typical high school level, but after the Lessons and Carols it sort of paled by comparison. One thing I do like is that the music director is German, so they always have alot of the German composers – Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Handel, Hayden that sort of thing.

But the highlight of the week was seeing Chick Corea at the Blue Note. For those of you who don’t know the Blue Note is New York City’s answer to the Tralfamadore Cafe. For his 75th birthday Chick has taken up residency there, performing for two months with a different band each week. I went with Jeannie and my origami friend Marc, who is also an avid fusion guitarist. Since it was the late show we spent the evening wandering around the village. Bruught back memories of when I used to work in the neighborhood.

The night we saw him it was with guitarist John McLaughlin, drummer Lenny White and bassist Victor Wooton. Chick was playing piano, Fender Rhodes and Moog synthesizer and the material was half Return to Forever and half Mahavishnu Orchestra, with a Miles and a Monk song thrown in for good measure. Needless to say the show was amazing. And we had great seats – I was literally sitting right next to Chick. I could’ve played the high notes on this synthesizer. Funny enough last time I saw Chick at the Blue Note, about twenty years ago, I had the exact same seat, although that time it was just piano trio, no other keyboards, and an upright bass.

Saturday we had jazz, and for a number of reasons, it’s been the first time the whole group has been together for a while. We’re working on getting together a bunch of originals to record an album in the new year. I’ve brought in six or songs that have all been very well received. I told everyone else to contribute on song if they can. Last session Gary came in with a new song, and it’s very good, a hard boppish number in the mode of Wes Montgomery. Fits right in and has something new to say.