Summer Fun Part Duex

Since I’ve been feeling better the last few weeks I’ve been trying to enjoy what’s left of the summer. Last weekend I took Michelle to the Cradle of Aviation Museum on Long Island. This was the first airplane museum we’ve visited since our trip to Ohio. It’s a pretty cool place, featureing mainly locally built planes from the World War I era and the space race. Not as big as the Smithsonian or Wright-Patterson, but first rate. We met Mary and the cousins there and it was a good time. Michelle still really into seeing and learning about airplanes (and still wants to grow up to design airplanes and spaceships, or videogames).

By coincidence there was a videogame convention going there that day too. At first this seemed a little nerdy even for me, but it turned out to be a really fun bonus. There was a ton of classic videogames, vendors, even coplay babes. Michelle was to see an original Atari condole and play the classic E.T. game. They had an amazing band, called Con-Soul, with a six piece horn section (two trumpets, two trombones, alto and bari sax), a syth mallet player, drums and fender bass. They played all video game music, with the format of doing a horn arrangement of the main themes and going into a funk/jazz jam. Very cool.

Then one night last week Mary’s came up and went with Jeannie and the girls to Rye Playland. I joined them after work mainly for a walk around the park.

I’ve been working really hard the last month or so to meet a deadline at work. Going back to work in the evenings and weekends, and all the while tryng to focus on my health. It’s not easy keeping a huge amount of code in your mind and tends to take over your imagination a little bit. Kinda stressful but I try to be zen about it. Two days ago I finished and made probably the largest single commit since I’ve been writing software, at least 60 files in four different languages, into both the trunk and the release branch. So that’s a huge load off my mind and I can relax a little.

Last night I went to sit in with my friend Charlie’s band. It’s a happy hour gig at a little cafe right on the waterfront in downtown Yonkers where there’s a little park and everything. Great spot to watch the sun go down over river and sip your drink and listen to some jazz. We did some standards like Impressions, Footprints, There Will Never Be Another You, and All of Me. Felt great just to let go and be in the moment.

The Unfinished Work of Alan Lomax’s Global Jukebox

The paper of record, the New York Times, wrote another, pretty in-depth article, about my project The Global Jukebox:

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/11/arts/music/alan-lomax-global-jukebox-digital-archive.html

We just pushed a big upgrade to correspond with this article, and as it points out, the jukebox is a work in progress. It started off as a short-term contract gig for me, but I’ve been involved for over a year now. We have another major upgrade slated for the fall, and beyond that, if we can get funding, the scope is open-ended.

Some Summer Fun

I had to cancel my trip to Europe at the last minute because of an injury and I’ve mostly been sitting around the house getting better. Apparently the Origami Creators Conference was a good time. The next interesting international origami conference for me is the BOS and 7OSME in Oxford in 2018, so Imma try to go to that, and maybe take Michelle with me.

Still I’ve been having a bit of fun and trying to make the most of summer so far. Of course I’ve been really busy with work too. Right at the end of June we went to see Sheryl Crow at the Beacon Theatre. Excellent show, great venue with it’s classic maximal art deco. Great sounding band, including several guitar players, and a pedal steel guitar, Rhodes and organ. Surprisingly Sheryl played bass on a lot of songs.

Last weekend we saw McCoy Tyner at Caramoor Art Center. That was really good too, but a very different kind of show. I can’t believe I’ve live in Westchester for years and never seen a show a Carmoor. It’s like a mini SPAC, full of gardens and an amphitheater under an awning. There were three piano players, the last of which as McCoy, all playing an eight foot Steinway, accompanied by a fantastic rhythm section. I’m amazed at how three different players can get such different sounds from the same piano, down to the sound of a single note.

Sing!

The first day of summer is here! We had a big graduation party for the girls last weekend. Martin came down from Albany, and lots of Jeannie’s cousins from Long Island. Good time. Things are a lot more more mellow around the house now that the kids don’t have to get up for school. Plus I’ve cut back on working out while I bounce back from an injury. Still, lots of stuff coming up including Origami this weekend and a trip to Europe next month.

The quartet format for the rock band seems to be solidifying, and I must say my singing is sounding better and better. Most of the new songs are far enough along that we basically know them, so I can focus on phrasing and performing. And we can get started adding a few more. It’s a pretty big switch to go from singing two or three songs a set to singing most of the time. You’ve got to make your voice last. Which means singing loader and stronger but more relaxed. Which makes you sound better too.

Also I’ve been finding it easier to stay on pitch. The big breakthrough came last fall when I got my new piano. I typically practice with the lid open and I’ve found that when I’m on really right pitch my voice resonates with the open strings, and sounds louder and fuller. This lead to increased microtonal awareness and a cycle of getting the know how the sound of being on pitch feels in my throat, a sort of self-reinforcing feedback thing. Now I find it easier and more natural to get there.

I guess it also helps we’ve been picking songs that are in my vocal range. Next step so to convince the band to do some of my originals. Of course now that it’s the summer all the rehearsal schedules become more erratic as lots of people have vacations and other commitments. Ah well.

Fulsome Foursome

After MJ left as lead singer of LEFT HOOK, we decided to audition a replacement. We’re setting our sights fairly high since Gary and I can already sing, and we want someone who will come in and lift up the group, someone who’s as good on vocals as we are as instrumentalists, i.e. a real musician. Unfortunately it’s hard to find someone like that when you don’t have any gigs lined up.

We got a good handful of responses, and five actual candidates. I called each of them up to pre-screen them. It’s interesting since everyone can now point you to a performance they have on the internet. They were mostly were pretty good, but in the end we decided none of them really brought anything we don’t already have, or else they don’t fit in with the sound we’re going for. One in particular was in a band that just kinda sucked, to the point where the vocals didn’t really matter. Yet somehow they’re getting gigs!

After that exercise we decided to carrying on as a quartet, with Gary and I splitting the lead vocals as well as the harmonies. And so we join the ranks of bands without a frontman and with multiple lead vocalists. This list includes the Beatles, the Grateful Dead, Pink Floyd, Chicago, Supertramp, The Cars, They Might Be Giants, Fishbone, the Cheshire Cat, Run DMC and countless others.

We’ve added five songs in the last few weeks, and we’re finding it’s not hard to find songs that are doable and in our zone. Recent additions that I’m sining include You Can’t Get What You Want (‘Till You Know What You Want) by Joe Jackson and I Want a New Drug by Huey Lewis and the News, both really fun, uptempo numbers with a great sax part.

There are some songs from our old set we can’t do, but we probably have about twenty song right now. Not enough for three sets but maybe two. So the focus is on adding more material and getting the whole set tight. And it’s time to start looking for gigs once more. As the first step I’ve updated out poster. Soon we’ll be making a new demo. Rock on!

On with the Show

Getting towards the end of May already. How time flies! Alot has happened in the last few weeks. Rewinding a bit, Michelle had her Confirmation. My parents came into to town for a visit (and my Mum brought cabbage rolls!). Jeannie’s folks and Mary’s came up for the day. We went out for lunch at a local restaurant and came back here for a party.

Toward the evening my dad got in a storytelling mood. We were watching some horse racing on TV. It began with a story I’d never heard before of him driving a wagon as teenager, and his horses being scared by an exploding shell. It went onto all kinds of memories of growing up in Hungary, the war, the time they spent in Germany, coming to Canada and going to college and the early years of his career. Even though I know the general contours it’s always good to hear because there’s always new details, nuances and connections.

The following weekend it rained. We had lots of stuff planned but instead we stayed indoors and realized how tired we all were.

Lizzy had her spring choir concert last weekend, in the local Episcopalian church with the monster pipe organ and fantastic stone reverb, no mics or electronics. The concert was in the evening, choir and organ, not all liturgical music. Quite a bit of Mozart in fact, plus a few originals by Philip Stopford, the choir director. Lizzy had a solo, really beautiful, and the other highlight for me was the organist did a really modern, modal piece by some French guy from the 1930’s. I wish I could remember his name; it sounded like something Keith Emerson might’ve done.

Now Lizzy is done with classes, writes her last final exam tomorrow, starts her summer job this weekend, and is all gaga over her upcoming prom and graduation. You’ll be happy to know she has a tall guy as her date.

Meanwhile Michelle is closing in the end of her school year too, and the end of middle school. We had a birthday party for last weekend. She and a group of friends went to opening day of Rye Playland. This was a couple weeks late cuz of her Confirmation and then the rain. She got a new Nintendo system.

Last night was her spring band concert. We’ve known Mr. A, the director since Lizzy was in 3rd grade. He’s a really great and the kids all love him, and also happens to be a really excellent jazz drummer. This was Michelle’s last concert, so now that he’s no longer my kid’s teacher I asked him if he’s interested in playing in my jazz quintet.

In between was lot of yard work now that spring is here, a busy release cycle work at my day job – our first major Cloud functionality, getting going on the next round of work on the Global Jukebox, finishing the last of the diagrams and approving the graphics for my new origami book, and lots of action with the rock band and jazz combo. More on that soon as time permits. Looking forward to the long weekend, and then there’s lots more activities in the time ahead.

Jump Jive and Wail

The dance band gig last weekend with Crazy Feet Pete went great and was alot of fun. We started with In The Mood, a song I haven’t played since high school in stage band (hi Kris!), and went on to all kinds of other songs with a tempo between 105 and 115 bpm. I was sight-reading out a book and soloing whenever Pete called for it. It took a couple numbers to get used to it, but everything was fine. A good group of musicians too.

It was fascinating watching these people moving in unison since they know all the steps. It turns out there’s a distinction between East Coast and West Coast Swing. I had no idea. East hews closer to classic big band music, while West favors more rockabilly and bluesy shuffles. Also the east is based on an eight-step pattern while the west is based on a six-step pattern. The dancers definitely appreciated the band and some of them even taught me some steps. It looks like Pete has a pretty solid niche playing this kind of gig so hopefully I’ll do another one sometime.

The Global Jukebox Is Live!

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

http://theglobaljukebox.org/

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.

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/18/arts/music/alan-lomax-recordings-the-global-jukebox-digitized.html

http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/alan-lomax-recordings-digitized-on-innovative-global-jukebox-site-w477625

https://www.grammy.com/news/global-jukebox-a-new-music-website-a-century-in-the-making

http://www.spin.com/2017/04/alan-lomax-recordings-online/

http://googlemapsmania.blogspot.com/2017/04/the-history-of-music-around-world.html

https://lapazgroup.net/2017/04/21/public-domain-cultural-jukebox/

https://utlibrary.wordpress.com/2017/04/20/the-global-jukebox/

https://www.wwoz.org/blog/229581

https://www.damusic.be/telex/the-global-jukebox-van-alan-lomax-vrijgegeven-4748.html

http://m.rozhlas.cz/radiowave/wavenews/_zprava/co-si-zpivaji-baskicke-babky-a-serpove-v-nepalu-vznikl-interaktivni-archiv-folklornich-pisni–1719827

http://razzletazzle.com/music/hear-music-from-1000-cultures-on-massive-alan-lomax-recordings-site/2017/04/19/

http://www.electronicbeats.net/the-feed/explore-the-worlds-folk-songs-with-this-interactive-map/

http://www.openculture.com/2017/04/web-site-puts-online-thousands-of-international-folk-songs-recorded-by-the-great-folklorist-alan-lomax.html

http://www.metafilter.com/166445/Worlds-biggest-jukebox-Alan-Lomax-style-no-quarters-needed

http://www.altafidelidad.org/la-herencia-de-alan-lomax/

http://www.origo.hu/kultura/20170419-tobb-ezer-nepzenei-kincs-egy-interaktiv-honlapon.html

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

LEFT HOOK Reboot

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.