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The Brothers Zing is the debut record album by Buzzy Tonic, on sale at CD Baby, iTunes and Amazon. Featuring driving rhythms, tasty jazz chords, out meters, and a sonic pallete of guitars, saxes and synths.

The project is concentrated on studio recording of original songs. I've been in a number of bands over the years, made a few records, and done alot of live jazz and rock, funk and soul, having played many nights in bars and other venues. For a time I was very involved in studio electronica, multimedia and digital audio and did a bunch of sound and music work for that industry. I was in a sort of musical hiatus and looking to do something new when Martin approached me about a collaboration. It seemed like a good match to where I wanted to go, and put a bunch of ideas and skills together.

It was mainly a virtual collaboration. We both have matching PC-based recording studio setups, and we send files back and forth, building up a song track by track, changing things around and refining them collaboratively. We wrote, arranged, preformed and produced eight original songs in a period of about a year. For the first time I'm recoding songs with a lyric, and freely mixing voice, live, and electronic instruments in a way that was not previously possible. I also learned how to play the bass along the way. I really like all of these songs, and am quite happy with the recordings. I'd like the thank Martin for inspiring me to a new creative level, and collaborating with me every step of the way.


Checker Cab

Lyrics and music by John Szinger, 1996

John:  Lead and backing vocals, alto sax, rhodes, drum programming.
Martin:  Backing vocals, electric guitar, bass guitar.

John sez:  This was the song we used to get the recording project off the ground, since it was already largely written and we could concentrate on the recoding side of things. I had previously done a jazz instrumental version of the song with Flip Hippo, but never recorded it with the lyric. Of course as we got into it, we got into it, and it was actually the last song completed. Harmonically, the song is a minor key, but emphasizes the jazz altered (7#9) chord to create a dark modality. The lyric came to me all at once while sitting in traffic on the 59th street bridge on my way into work one Saturday morning.

Martin sez:  I was thinking 'Red' era King Crimson all along. Except the bridge, which was Steely Dan!


Give Yourself Away

Lyrics and music by Martin Szinger, 2004

Martin:  Lead vocals, tenor sax, electric guitar, bass guitar, synthesizer, drum programming.
John:  Backing vocals, rhodes

Martin Sez:  This song merges the aesthetic of a modern up-tempo rock anthem with a very idiosyncratic lyric. My inspiration at the time of writing was Quicksilver, the first book of Neal Stephenson's Baroque Cycle trilogy. Without making specific reference to that narrative or charatcers, the words paint an image of upheaval and conflict, as the superstitious and corrupt systems of old crumble in the face of newer, more humanistic thinking. The consequences? - always a crap shoot, but the chorus serves as an anchor amidst that uncertainty, that in being true to your own self and your own ideals, you will find a valid path forward in life.

This is a newer, slower, better-arranged and overall much-improved recording of the song, which I first did in 2004. The bridge is all-new and, in my opinion, sets up the outro build quite nicely.

John Sez:  I had fun on this one, laying down a rollicking electric piano part. Martin plays sax, which is something I like cuz his style is different than mine and it's always illumination to hear his approach.


Get On Back 2 U

Lyrics and music by John Szinger, 1996

John:  Lead vocals, soprano, alto and tenor saxes, rhodes, bass guitar, drum programming.
Martin:  Backing vocals, bari sax, electric guitar.

John sez:  I wrote this song sitting at the piano in my friend David's house, in Palo Alto, California. He had a beautiful garden in the back yard. I was staying with him while working as a consultant, flying back and forth from the east coast, and found myself thinking about my life swirling around me, a moment of calm in a peaceful spot.

The horn section feature is a new idea for this project, and the middle section is all-new too, with its out meter and phase patterns. I wanted to do a horn section arrangement as part of this project from the start, since it was really the first time I had resources to do it. This song really seemed to lend itself to that kind of arrangement. Lastly, the song plays with the whole-tone scale by relating it to the dominant 7th chord as a pivot for modulations.

Martin Sez:  John's story of coping with East Coast/West Coast life and travel blues... the full 4-piece live horn section is very, very cool.


Ghost In The Machine

Lyrics and music by John Szinger, 2005

John:  Vocal, soprano sax, rhodes, bass guitar, drum programming.
Martin:  Electric guitar.

John sez:  This was the first all-new song written for this project, and was a good'n as far as getting back into song writing. I'd had been spending the last few years writing software in the so-called "Artificial Intelligence" field. One of things that has always appealed to me about programming, is like music, you can make something out of nothing but imagination. And then of course, once it exists, there is the existential question of in what sense is it real? It's clear that the software itself was dumb as paint, but somehow there's a mystery about it, even if you know how it works.

I imagined myself as a sort of latter-day Doctor Frankenstein figure, a mad scientist on a lonely quest to bring a new life form out of the lab, conjured out of nothing but some math. I had a rough idea for the lyric which I fashioned and refined over a week or two, going back and forth with Martin, and then basically sat down an wrote the music and tracked the core parts in one day. The sax part you hear I just laid down as scratch, intended as a guide for a later, real part, but once I started listening to it I realized there was no need to change it. The guitar part, which came last, is I nice touch that perfectly emphasizes the spooky, airy mood of the song.

Martin Sez:  Code ruminations from John. There's a definite mid-80's Police/Rush vibe on this one, and I thought that the shimmery guitar part fit really nicely with that direction.


It's Gonna Be a Beautiful Day

Lyrics and music by John Szinger with Elizabeth Szinger, 2005

John:  Lead vocals, soprano, alto and tenor saxes, rhodes, bass guitar, drum programming.
Martin:  Vocals, bari sax, electric guitar.
Elizabeth:  Vocals.

John sez:  My daughter, Elizabeth, made up the line the forms the basis of the chorus. She used to just go around the house singing it at the top of her lungs, "It's gonna be, it's gonna be-eeeee, it's gonna be-EEEEEEEE!" Ah the eternal optimism of a five-year old. So naturally I though this was a nice thought and I could put together a song around it. The time signature moves around a lot, and I went through several versions of it before I decided it worked best mainly moving between 5/8 and 4/4. I consciously tried to get away from jazz chords on this one, and instead explored using split chords with a rising pedal-point bass, although there is a subliminal whole-tone scale in there when the progression moves from G to A.

Martin Sez:  This is a very pretty song! The high point for me was adding the harmony vocals in verse two, which sounds like we're channeling Camel. I had a lot of fun coming up with that winding guitar melody in the head, as well as the "Big Ben" chorus parts.


Wake Up Yourself

Lyrics and music by Martin Szinger, 2005

Martin:  Lead and backing vocals, electric guitar, bass guitar, bari sax, drum programming.
John:  Rhodes, synthesizer, soprano, alto and tenor saxes.

Martin Sez:  An all-new song I wrote for this project. The tone is one of inspiration in the face of fear and uncertainty, which is something I think we all feel at one time or another. Written near the end of a bitterly cold January, it has a real "winter vibe" to me, which I suppose is hinted at by the "midnight clear" lyric. I generally keep far away from "angel" imagery, but it seemed to be appropriate in this context.

This song shuffled through a couple different arrangements before it settled down. The intro used to be very abrupt and jarring, and John made some good contributions to find a new way in. That plinky guitar part that ends each verse is was a very late addition to the song, but I think it lends just the right sort of character to it. As with all of our songs that have the horn section going, finding a good balance for the mix is simply that much harder, so it's gratifying to hear it all come together in the end.

John sez:  This is a rousing, even anthemic, guitar-driven rock number. The horn arrangement is mainly backing and reinforcement. I was going for a ska kind of feel in the chorus, but the song has a number of moods and changes, so there's a few things going on by the time all is said and done.


The Beat Is Red

Lyrics and music by John Szinger with Martin Szinger, 2005

John:  Vocals, tenor and soprano saxes, rhodes, drum programming.
Martin:  Vocals, electric guitar, bass guitar.

John sez:  I had the basic riff in my bag of ideas for a long time, and we were getting to the point where we needed one more song to round out the set. So I thought I'd dust it off and see if I could do something with it. After working on The Long Now, I wanted something a little less gloomy, so I went for an unabashedly uplifting theme of love enduring and returning. Or maybe it's inwardly gloomy too. In any event, Martin seemed to get it immediately, and laid down the bass and guitar parts fairly quickly. Both added considerably to song, and brought to a level I hadn't expected. It really is a good jam.

Martin sez:  Back in the day, if we were ever in a band that had to knock out a B-side single for the record company in 4 hours or less, this is just the sort of thing we might come up with! Part of the charm of it coming together so quickly - and in our discipline of keeping it short and to the point - is that we were able to hold on the a lot of the initial energy that is present at the moment of creation.


The Long Now

Lyrics and music by Martin Szinger with John Szinger, 2005

Martin:  Lead vocals, tenor sax, electric guitar, drum programming.
John:  Backing vocals, rhodes, bass guitar, drum programming.

Martin sez:  This thing has been a battle since Day 1. I worked out the main piano patterns last January, it simmered for a half year, when John and I got together in June and hammered the whole thing into a workable arrangement. Somewhere around that time I got the idea for the lyrical direction, but it took another three months to pull all the right ideas together. Finally, I got all the lyrics down in about two days of creative surge; two days at the end of nine months of gestation, I guess.

The lyrics represent a collision of two unrelated ideas. The first idea is The Long Now itself (see www.longnow.org), as taken here to be a general concern about very long time cycles and the long term thinking that goes with it, and what it means to humans and societies. The second idea is a quick picture of Christian theology painted with a broad brush, inspired particularly from Martin Luther's ideas on the matter. From a personal point of view, this all comes together in the two trips I made out west this year to climb Pike's Peak with my pastor friend, and infused with reflections on the book I read about Luther's theology that I read on the plane ride home from the second trip...

John sez:  This song came fairly late in the process, and was the most collaborative in terms of the writing. It's about the instantaneous versus the eternal, struggle and resolution. 'Wind up that lonely mountain' is I think my only contribution to the lyrics that made the final cut. The image of landscape as a clock. I don't really know about the crypto-Lutheran aspect, but see other meanings in there as well. To me alot of the imagery is almost Buddhist.

Martin adds:  I think we were trying to cop two different Steely Dan songs at once, with a dash of Supertramp thrown in for flavor.


Bonus Tracks

A Minute of Silence mastered at 24 bit for highest quality!
Lizzy Intro To It's Gonna Be A Beautiful Day
Horn Outtakes


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Musical compositions and audio recordings ©John Szinger. Published by Zing-Man Music, all rights reserved. Unauthorized reproduction and distribution for commercial purposes is prohibited.