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.