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.

The Cheshire Cat

The Cheshire Cat – Buffalo, NY 1992
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sVoOdkggtlo&feature=youtu.be

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!

RocketToTheMoon56
SeaOfTranquility32
IsItSafe44a.mp3
NowAndForever35.mp3
BlackSwan74.mp3
YourDancingShoes23.mp3
ToBeaRock40.mp3 (rough mix)

Steppin’ into Spring

It looks like spring may be just around the corner. It’s been warm and sunny lately, at least for February, and the day are getting longer. It used to bother me all winter to have to get up before the sunrise but this year it seemed okay. I’ve gotten into the habit of working out early mornings, so when the sun comes up it’s sometime in my workout, a little earlier each day. I had had a rather bad foot injury over the winter, but it looks like it’s pretty much better. I’m taking longer and longer walks and I’m back to doing my full workout in the mornings, which feels good.

I worked from home quite a few days while I was recovering but now I’m back to going into the office every day. At work we’re at the top end of a big push for improving our code quality, which I’ve been pushing for, as we make the transition from a startup to a more mature company. We set up a unit testing framework for our front-end javascript project and have been going to town writing unit tests and getting our coverage up. Fun fun fun.

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.

Happy New Year

Happy new year everyone! 2016 was a great year full of all kinds of adventure and accomplishments. Kids growing up, a new day job, the Global Juke Box now feature-complete and on its way to release, a good number of jazz and rock gigs, a new piano and sax. The holidays came at us fast, amid a flurry of work deadlines. By the end I definitely needed a break. Among other events, we hosted Jeannie’s family’s big holiday party, which rotates around among the cousins so it’s our turn every seven years.

Lots of good stuff for Christmas. I got Michelle and acoustic/electric ukulele since she’s now playing in a band, and Jeannie a 3-D printer. She and Michelle have been having a great time learning how to use it, pulling files for models off the net. I must say it’s a pretty cool piece of technology! We went upstate to visit by parents and brother and his family which was very nice, and had Jeannie’s brother’s family down for New Year’s.

Only downside was right after Xmas I started having problems with pain in my foot and ankle. It got pretty bad to the point where I had to stay off my feet for a few days. Luckily Jeannie got me a book for Xmas – Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography. It’s very well written and you can tell you doesn’t use a ghostwriter. However, like his records, the early part of the story, up to the early 80’s is much more interesting the second half, in which rides out a comfortable plateau of superstardom. (Even thought I really dug it at the time, I still don’t feel like hearing anything off Born in the U.S.A. again, although I still enjoy the E Street Shuffle.) In any event my foot is starting to get better now, so hopefully I’ll be back to my usual self soon.

Here’s looking forward to a mellow and prosperous 2017. Lots more changes ahead.

BTW, this January marks the ten year anniversary of my blog. Thanks to all who’ve been reading. Might be fun to page back thru the archives and see how things have changed in that time.