ZMP Music Update

A cold and stormy day today, a genuine blizzard.

I updated the music page of my website:

I put up links to the Elixr rough mixes, and updated the links and blurbs for the other groups and projects as well. I realize the Haven Street Quintet needs and new photo cuz we still have our old drummer shown. We ought to be able to take care of that when we get into putting our album together next month.

As mentioned before, my friend Jay has been helping me mix my new Buzzy Tonic record Elixr. Jay is graduate of the Berkelee School of Music and a former professional recording engineer and producer. He came over after jazz the other day.

Unfortunately, as soon as we got underway I discovered one of my studio monitors was fried. I’ve mainly been working with headphones recently so I didn’t notice earlier. I figure it probably happened when I was messing around with my new Moog. Ah well, those speakers were getting on twenty years old. Time for an upgrade.

It was amazing working with Jay. I mean I understand how EQs and compressors work, but Jay is at a level where he can really sculpt the sound, like an artist with light and shadow. He knew what he was after and just dove right in and got to where he wanted it pretty fast. It would have taken me ages of experimentation to get anywhere close. Jay was able to put the instruments into their own space so they were louder and clearer, particularly the bass drum, snare and bass guitar. This set it up so that the rhythm instruments, horns and vocals had more space too.

It took us the whole afternoon to mix one track. The good news is I can apply the set effects to the other tracks and get pretty much in the ballpark. They all use the same drums, bass, and other instruments. Then when Jay comes by next time we can hone right in on balance and arranging.

Meanwhile, I’ve also begun updating my origami site. It’s been two years since the last major upgrade I have over a dozen new models, plus photos for everything my upcoming airplanes and spaceships book. So watch for that soon.

A Merry Little Xmas

We had a most excellent Xmas vacation that included lots of visiting, hosting, gifts, food and entertaining. Good to end the year on a healthy and prosperous note.

On the Friday before xmas my office closed early. We went out for Mexican food and then went to see the the new Star Wars movie. Both very good. Next day I had jazz, then Jeannie’s big family Xmas party out on Long Island. Lizzy had jello shots. I played some pool. On Xmas Eve we went out for sushi, our take on the Italian seven fishes tradition. On xmas day Mary’s came over along with Jeannie’s folks. On boxing day we headed up to Buffalo to see my parents. The next day Martin’s arrived, and that evening we visiting Larry and Jackie and went out to a great dinner at a place in Hamburg. Thursday morning Martin and I planned out the next round of work for the Jukebox, and we drove home later that day. Friday Denis and Sara and their kids came over for a visit. Saturday was jazz again, and then Jay came over the help me mix my record. Finally on New Year’s Eve Nick’s came over, and some of Lizzy’s friends too. Whew! All of it was very nice and a much needed break.

In between we watched most of the original Star Wars trilogy, I went up in weight on my workout, worked on mixing my record, updating my web site, and some new origami ideas, read most of Magnus Chase, and hung around and relaxed.

Well it’s back to work again. It’s been bitter cold the last couple weeks, with no end in sight.

Leave the City Behind

I just got back from a great but fast trip up to the Adirondack mountains. I love it up there and don’t get to visit as often as I’d like. It was my good friend Mark’s fiftieth birthday and his wife Kelly was having a surprise party. I’ve known Mark from high school and college and the early days of my career in multimedia in NYC in the 90’s. So our friends Seth and Cathy and Jeannie and me went up to Seth’s place Friday night and then onto Placid the next morning. A whole weekend of catching up, sitting by the fire sipping whiskey, going out to breakfast, all very nice. It turns out we’re all turning 50 this year. We also had the first snowfall of the year, which was beautiful but not so nice for driving.

The party itself was great. It was also release of the first CD by Mark’s band Crackin’ Foxy. They do banjo-oriented old-timey jazz with tight vocal harmonies, sort of Django Reinhart meets the Andrews Sisters, with an eclectic mix of covers and originals. Great stuff. The party was at the house across the street from Mark. These are old TB cure houses, and they have great flowing floor plans with lots of windows. Both Mark and his neighbor’s are very nicely restored and modernized. Mark’s friends seem largely to be Bohemian expats from NYC and elsewhere. Only problem is it can be hard to make a living up there, so many have to leave after a few years. In fact Mark’s neighbor’s house is for sale. Jeannie and I are toying with the idea of buying and airb’n’b’ing it for a few years until we’re ready to retire. Only problem with that plan is the winters up there are brutal and I don’t really like the cold.

In the Court of the Crimson King

I saw King Crimson Saturday night at the Beacon Theatre in NYC. It was by far the best KC show I’ve seen and this is my fourth one. Just blown away.

One thing that made it a special night is my friends Rich and John were in town to see the show too. Rich was my old college roommate and guitar player for Infingon, and John was the bass player, and also plays violin and several other instruments. Both are still active in music. Rich was the one who originally turned us all on to Crimson back in the day. As Infingon went on we played more an more prog. Our setlist included two Crimson numbers – Great Deceiver and 21st Century Schizoid Man, as well as material from Yes, Rush, ELP, Genesis, UK, Supertramp, Blue Oyster Cult, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, The Who, The Doors, U2, The Police and a handful of others. So it was a great reunion for us.

This tour Crimso was in their so-called seven-headed-monster configuration, even though it’s been expanded now to eight musicians. The most dramatic addition to the lineup was the return of Mel Collins. Mel played every sax and flute they make, but spent most of his time sqwonking on the bari in the altisimo register. Fripp played mellotron as well as guitar, and with another synth player gave their sound alot more range and color. Tony Levin back on bass and stick. Three(!) drummers arrayed across the front of the stage did lots of exciting things with big unison, counterpoint, tonal/rhythmic zones and passing the beat around. Jacco Jascszyk on vocal and guitar had really strong interpretations of Greg Lake and John Wetton songs, and even one from Adrian Belew, literally a unifying voice across a vastly diverse set.

The group was unbelievably tight, yet loose, and had a great sound. Like with Mahavishnu I’m amazed at how good a group this large, loud, and dissonant/arrhythmic can sound. You could really hear everything and there was alot going on. I think live sound reinforcement has really evolved for one thing, and an acoustically good venue helps too. And of course the level of musicianship is out of this world.

The song selection was everything you’d hope for. The show was two sets, three hours. The first set opened with a triple drum solo. Then they did a host songs from In the Wake of Poseidon, Lizard, and Islands, all updated interpretations, and some instrumental jams. Toward the end of the set they did Epitaph, then Starless off of Red, and finished with Indiscipline. Jascszyk sung a melody to replace Belew’s rap, very effective.

The second set opened with another triple drum solo, and some more instrumentals and deep cuts from the pre-Wetton era. They did Moonchild right into The Court of the Crimson King, basically the second side of that record. Wow. Followed by Larks’ Tongues in Aspic, Part Two, then Easy Money, really jamming out. Totally amazing. Each song was opened up, 10 or 15 minutes long. The encore was a roaring rendition of 21st Century Schizoid Man, again opened up for solos. Just unbelievable. Totally satisfying.

After the show we went out to a diner to continue to catch up.

OrigaMIT ‘17

Last weekend I went up to Boston for the OrigaMIT convention. It seems to get a little bigger every year and is always a lot of fun. This year I only taught one class. It was my Oliphaunt, an elephant with extra tusks and a castle on its back. I taught it last June at OUSA and it was very popular, particularly for a supercomplex model. It was popular at MIT too and the class was full. Everyone finished with a fair to really excellent done model. I ran out of 15” foil, since I passed a supply of it around at the start of the class. It’s my go-to paper for experimenting with ideas at this level of complexity, so I need to replenish my stash.

In the week leading up to the convention I began folding an Oliphant out of a sheet of 22” or paper I made by laminating a really nice textured paper I bought a while ago to sheet of gold foil. The textured paper is soft almost like cloth, and has a red and gold pattern, very Indian looking, very beautiful. The foil is for added stiffness and sculptability. I got most of the way through folding it, up to finishing stage, and ran out of time. However I did manage to finish off a mostly-done Oliphaunt out of marble Wyndstone paper that was originally intended for the June convention. That provided something new and nice for my exhibit, along with a selection of airplanes and spaceships from the photoshoot for my book.

When I was setting up my exhibit, at the table next to mine was some kid’s display that featured a whole bunch of models from my book, the Fox, Bear, Narwhal, Turtle, Turkey and a few others, all really nicely folded. It’s a really nice feeling when you’re able to reach people thru your creativity.

There were some interesting lectures. Tom Hull, Erik Demaine and Jason Ku have all been up to some cool stuff. Erik is obsessed with making weird cryptic fonts. Erik and Jason have been working on an origami file format, which is pretty intriguing. It’s something like my proposed OrgamiXML format, but in json a probably bit more in-depth. The intention is to support interoperability between existing origami software packages including Tomahiro’s Origamizer and Robert’s TreeMaker. I really want to check it out and see if I can bring it into Foldinator. It’s been a long time since I worked on Foldinator and at this point I probably ought to start over again in javascript.

There was good hanging out my origami friends, catching up. Someone has always just got back from a convention is some faraway place. Michelle came along this year, telling people about her school robotics club how she’s learning to program. There were a few people there who are also into robots. Now she’s setting her sights on the idea of trying to get into MIT.

Birds of Fire

Lots going on on the music front these days.

First of all Gus, our drummer for LEFT HOOK, has fallen ill. We all wish him a speedy and full recovery, but sadly he’s not gonna be doing much drumming for a little while. We know a few other guys who play drums, and we’ve been having them sit in to see what kind of chemistry we can gin up. We had Dan from HSQ in a couple weeks ago and it went really well. Unfortunately he just started a new job and can’t commit to a second band right now, even as a sub. Meanwhile Ken and I have been looking forward to adding new songs to the set again, but it looks like we’re a long way away from our next gig.

OTOH here’s some good news: the jazz originals group, the Haven Street Quintet, has found a recording studio. Our friend Robert K has a studio in a building behind his house up in Katonah, a former garage or carriage house. It’s pretty much perfect for our needs, which is to record the group live. It’s a professional level studio with a nice live room, big enough for the whole group but still cozy. There’s a beautiful 7′ Steinway B grand piano, a nice bench of mics and preamps, and a proTools rig compatible with mine. (The plan is for Jay and I to mix it at my house.)

In rehearsal we’ve been sharpening our songs. At this point it looks like we’re going to record two of Gary’s songs, one of Jay’s and three of mine. This is about half our songs. At first we were thinking of trying to do one album side, maybe four or five tunes. Then Robert suggested as long as we’re going thru the trouble of setting everything up, we might as well play the whole day and evening. Now I’m thinking of getting a seventh song studio-ready and try and do a whole album in one shot. I must say the energy of the group has been very focused. We’re continuing to hone the compositions and find new things to bring out in the improvisation.

The evening Jay and I went to check out Robert’s studio we went on to see a jazz show: Christian McBride and his trio doing a tribute to legendary jazz bassist Ray Brown at the Ridgefield playhouse. I used to work in Ridgefield but haven’t been there in years and had never seen a show at the playhouse. Turns out it’s a great venue. The music itself was fantastic, mainly standards, very swinging and accessible, but at the same time full of hip and advanced ideas and and surprising mood shifts. The piano player in particular was amazing.

Then this last weekend we saw another show. As it happened it was the night of Lizzy’s 18th birthday. My little girl all grown up. Wow. We were in a celebrating mood.

This one was John McLaughlin at the Capital Theatre in Port Chester. I saw McLaughlin with Chick Corea last winter at the Blue Note, and he was great. I must say the Capitol is one of my favorite places to see a show, great sound and great vibe, and this night was a good one cuz I went with Jay and Gary and Jeannie.

The show itself was totally mind blowing. The opening act was Jimmy Herring, another jazz fusion veteran, whose band included a guy on Hammond organ and Clavinet and another on Fender Rhodes and violin. Great stuff, nice and funky. Next McLaughlin came on with his band, a quartet. The drummer did some tabla-style vocalizing, and the set was pretty Mahavishnuesque. This is McLaughlin’s last US tour so you got the sense it was special for the group.

Then for a third set both groups came out at once and did a whole set of Mahavishnu songs, strange modes, out meters and all. It really brought me back to when I listened heavily to that kind of music. We even used to do some Mahavishnu material in my old grup Event Horizon.

I must say the live performance sounded even better than the records. I always love it when a band has two drummers. It’s so hypnotic when they’re locked in to a groove, and there’s plenty of space for creative soloing. Even more amazing is I’ve never seen a group like this work with two bass players. They sometimes played the same part, sometimes one laid out, and sometimes two completely different parts. At one point they were dual soloing. Amazing.

All the soloists were superb and there was plenty of room to stretch out. The clav player was super groovy outta this world, and violin player great, and I usually don’t like jazz violins. Lots of group dynamics. They really built up a feeling of cosmic vibes. By the end the light show and everything was full on trippy. It was a long show, four hours of music. Wow.

And Then There Were Three

Just got back from another road trip upstate, this time to drop Lizzy off at college. Major life milestone, hurray! The whole thing went pretty smoothly, and all of Lizzy’s planning paid off moving in. She’s off to a good start in the dorms, making friends and learning her way around. Jeannie and I went out with Larry and Jackie and Nick and Lisa after the move-in, so they finally got to meet. Amazingly, they both independently went down south to see the eclipse last week. Both said it was a fantastic experience but the drive home, eleven hours long, sucked. While we were up there we got a visit from my cousin Tom and his family, who were on their way home from New York City. On the way back we stopped by Martin’s. He and Kathleen just ran a 5K race. This is a pretty big deal for Kathleen, who just a year ago broke her leg pretty badly. Their kids are all into Greek mythology these days so we spent some time drawing mythical monsters. I came up with a beast that head seven heads, including those of a bear, antelope, Komodo dragon, giraffe, and two snakes and a chicken as tails!

Overall a relaxing trip and nice weather for driving. Now we’re home again and the house feels large.

Longer Stranger Trippier

I was upstate last week on a visit to Buffalo with a dual purpose. One was to visit my parents and the other to drop of Lizzy for her college orientation. She’s going to UB, entering the business school. Jeannie and myself are UB alumni, along with lots of friends we haven’t seen in a while. It’s getting to the point where thirty years doesn’t seem like a long time ago. I’ve been re-connecting with quite a few people this year, mainly over facebook but in person this spring with my former college roommate Rich, and now on this trip with Danny, who just happened to be in town visiting his parents the same weekend as me.

Danny is literally my oldest friend. He grew up four houses down from the house I lived in until I was ten years old. He’s also one of the smartest people I’ve ever known. We were entering freshmen in the UB honors program together. Danny is responsible for Jeannie and I meeting. His roommate Todd went to Jeannie’s high school, and they had a party one night and Jeannie showed up and we got to talking. After college Danny moved to D.C. while I moved to New York and then California. So there was alot of catching up to do. Danny has has a very interesting career working for the State Department in the foreign service. He’s been all over the world: Egypt, Russia, Brazil, and most recently Afghanistan. I was pretty itinerant for a number of years, but I can’t imagine the level of commitment one must have for this lifestyle. Even now he’s loving learning languages and cultures, passionate about the mission, grateful to be able to do some good in the world. It’s good to know he’s doing well.

We also saw the movie Dunkirk when we were up there. It was very visual, not like a typical Chris Nolan movie. Almost like a tone poem of a war picture. It was also basically a single extended action sequence, like the opening of Saving Private Ryan drawn out to fill the whole movie.

There was a classic car show in my parents’ neighborhood. Over 400 cars they said. Lots of American muscle, Mustangs, GTOs, Cameroes from the 60’s and 70’s. Lots of rebuilt hot rods, and all kinds of more exotic stuff going back to the 30’s. There was a whole parking lot full of Corvettes. Apparently they have this show every year and it was begun by a guy at a local garage who specializes in fixing up classic cars. I wish I’ve know cuz I could’ve gotten his card and talked to him about restoring the Mustang.

Lastly we went to a party at Larry and Jackie’s for their son Joey’s high school graduation. He’ll be entering UB in the fall as well, living in the same dorm as Lizzy. Big wheel keeps on spinning around.

Now back to crazy busy situation at work.

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:

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.

Graduation Time

It’s graduation season and this is a big year for us. Two weeks ago it was Lizzy graduating from high school, and then last weekend Michelle graduated from eighth grade. Lots of ceremonies and parties, and a time of big transitions and moving on. Of course I’ve very proud and happy to see them growing up and doing well. It was a bit poignant for me to say goodbye to ICS, since we’d been there for six years, with both girls going thru and we met and became friends with a lot of other parents. I’ll definitely miss doing the musicals. I was involved with five of them, three with the kids and two with the parents and friends, as well as a couple talent shows. Well they said they’d love to have me back in the orchestra next time the do one, so we’ll see.

Meanwhile both girls are off to new adventures in the fall. So it a time well worth celebrating. One more party coming up this weekend!