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August 28th 2013

30th Aug 2013

Well, well, well… Another late news update. By roughly eight months. What’s my excuse? I suppose the best I can come up with (and is almost entirely accurate) is, as New Yorkers habitually say, “it’s been a busy time”.

Let me start around roughly April time. I had the privilege to journey across to the continent and stay in Berlin and Cologne for a session, working on a project with James Ingram (as mentioned before). It’s been an independent process for him yet despite the odd trial here and there, the results are looking promising! Admittedly, I’ve been a little off the radar with a slew of other projects at hand, but the end goal is an exciting one. My time in Berlin was also an invigorating one, with so much art and culture in the air that I was intoxicated with the place. As well as being open-minded in many regards today, the orderliness of transportation and business made it an incredibly relaxing and easy experience. I cannot wait to go back, and I’m pretty positive it will be soon…!

After my trip to Germany, it was back to the grind as a very special project was to take place in the month of July with friend and trumpet player, Kim Macari. We had been discussing for months about performing together again (after around eight-plus years of being in different parts of the world, studying, making our own paths through life), so we organized a Sextet (called LOCUS) of musicians from up and down the UK, who were willing and enthusiastic to go on a tour. We managed to patch together six dates, in Brighton, Edinburgh (Jazz Festival), Sheffield, London, Leeds and Manchester (Jazz Festival). Much of the credit for organizing and promoting the tour and project goes to Kim, whilst I set to work composing two sets’ worth of material for the band to play. For me, I was excited about writing for a sextet, as I hadn’t really ever had the experience of doing so in a real-gig setting. There was certainly apprehension over the material: would the band enjoy playing the music? Would it even make any sense (as often I like to experiment with different approaches, some being a little less orthodox than others…)? I also hadn’t met any of the band members before heading to the UK for that month: there is always anxiousness as to whether or not the group will get along with each other especially if you’re touring together…!

I can wholeheartedly say, LOCUS has been one of the best experiences in the “Jazz” world I’ve had yet. Not only were all musicians involved phenomenal, they were also exceptional people. As the tour went on, our unit became stronger, the music flowed and the energy just kept getting better and better.
We had no financial backing for the tour. As any independent artist or project will know, this makes touring exceptionally difficult. Our biggest cost was in renting a tour van, but we didn’t lose any money: we didn’t even just break even, we each earned a little after all was said and done! With all members on board, our aim was to make great music but also prove to ourselves that we could organize the tour professionally and manage it in a way that (should a time come in the future that we can get sponsorship or a grant), that it will not go to waste.

Reviews from the tour dates were extremely positive, especially with a mention in JazzWise Magazine for our last gig (and probably the highlight of the tour) at the Manchester Jazz Festival. No doubt, we will be working together again summer 2014 and recording the material (and perhaps more) at a studio. I personally hope so because I don’t want to let those musicians go from my stratosphere any time soon… :)

I am now back in NYC, having returned a couple of weeks ago and have managed to descend back into the plethora of gigs, projects, creativity (and even some fun activities) that I’d left aside for that month in July. Gigs at La Flor Bakery & Restaurant are back in the books on Mondays and Wednesdays with Noah MacNeil on piano and, recently, also Koji Yoneyama on guitar; Human Equivalent will be making a couple of hits in October, at LIC Bar and Somethin’ Jazz Club – our next album will be out in the not-too-distant future, so keep those eyes peeled; The WIG has returned from a months’ tour in Japan this past summer, we’ve had another release with Greece’s USessions Records in July and we have another coming out next month (September) with San Francisco-based record label LTHM.
Work with The WIG is taking off and I’ve had the pleasure of performing alongside him at his most recent NYC-based shows, on saxophone and EWI. As we work on our material over the next couple of months, we’re aiming to have a live show up and running with all original material: it shouldn’t be too long now… :)

That’s all for this round! Look out for the next New update soon – it may not be another eight months for it to come around… ;)

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January 22nd 2013

23rd Jan 2013

The year of the Dragon finishes next month: a whole year of my sun-sign! As ever, I am terrible with website updates, and over the last few months I have been especially busy and had no time to sit down to write any concise overview of the events that have taken place. I looked back to a draft I’d written around Halloween, a few days after (if not the day of) the hurricane, and promptly deleted it because it was verifiably out-dated and I couldn’t even use any material from it to write this one.

Today seems like an appropriate time to write a website update. I’m in my warm, cosy 8×8 room in Astoria as the temperatures outside plummet to -4 degrees C, still morning time, up for a few hours due to the spacey bubble jet-lag has left me in after a month in Japan. Seems like the best time to get my website updated… at least where the news is concerned!

My band, Human Equivalent, finally recorded our follow-up material earlier this month, seven tracks brimming with color and energy that we managed to lay down in audio during a day at Bushwick Studio. I think what sealed the deal with this session and experience was working with the owner and engineer Josh Kessler: I instantly clicked with this man’s approach and personality. (Note to self: always work with people with a wonderful sense of humor.) We are looking to get the remaining mixing and mastering work completed next month, in February! I have the album name already at the back of my mind, so it shouldn’t be too long before the record is ready to roll! Otherwise, I’m looking forward to getting back in action with this band in 2013!

I’ve also had the pleasure of performing with Allegra Levy and her project again, through November and December, at various locations in Brooklyn and Manhattan, as well as Emily Wolf in the Lower East Side area, and have been recording some of Rodrigo Bonelli’s music (when we’re all able to get together on the same day) at an audio recording school in the Manhattan area. Another project is slowly coming together with pianist Sean McCluskey, that will include original material in a Jazz-Celtic crossover vein. Rehearsals are to start very soon!

Work, writing and producing music with The Wig, has been steady, and yielding amazing results, and as time goes on I’m finding new techniques and approaches to using the software to help take our music to the “next level” (or some-such phrase). Ultimately, I thoroughly enjoy the whole process and get a great kick out of working in the electronic genre. Having the balance between electronic and acoustic feels natural for me right now. We are laying down the last foundations for Usessions Records, who are signing three of our Emotional House tracks for our upcoming EP ‘Viisions’ (UR019). This is an exciting step for us, as we’ve been working hard together on developing our material for the past ten months, with more paths emerging as we go.

Twice-weekly performances with Noah MacNeil at La Flor Bakery & Restaurant in Queens have been a continued success and, as always, the best opportunity to perform with a great friend and keep the jazz chops in shape.

2012 was mostly a year of “ups” but November, with its relatively quite spells gig-wise, brought a more devastating event in the form of Hurricane Sandy. The area in which I live, Astoria in Queens, was unscathed for the most part, save for the odd tree or two that had tumbled or uprooted into the streets and onto people’s cars. Because most of us were O.K. in the northern area of the city, it took us a few days to realize that elsewhere in the city, there was major chaos. Personally, from my own standpoint, I felt it was hard to get a sense of what had happened because much of the public transportation system was a jumble, severing us from Brooklyn and Lower Manhattan. I know that when I lived in Williamsburg and the ‘L’ was out for a weekend, we all took it for granted that we wouldn’t be going anywhere, so stayed inside. It wasn’t until I saw updates from people that I know generally to be self-sufficient and “strong”, calling out on FB from wifi they had managed to snag from elsewhere, that I realized there was something wrong. I don’t watch the news in the US, and BBC online is obviously selective with its material, but with events as quick as this and a city in hysteria it’s hard to gauge how far the damage extends. I live almost on the other side of town from where a friend and her community needed a hand in the clear-up, but everything is close by in our modern world, so I went down to help. If there are questions being raised in our modern world about “helping” people out as too risky, or as an unwanted expense to your time and (jeeze, I will even go there) ego, then, of course, this isn’t news for us human beings. But I hope for most people it does become old news soon…

Okay, so that’s one of my end-of-2012 two cents’ worth but, ultimately, November spent in New York was both an experience of people at their best and at their worst, going to areas in Brooklyn and Rockaway Beach to help with the clean-up. Ultimately, you can’t give up: you have to do what needs to be done. I haven’t much more to talk about on the events, I just went to help.

The beginning of December was intensely busy and by the 18th, I was flying to Japan. The main purpose for the trip was to perform with fellow Berklee-Alum and one of my best friends, pianist Alan Benzie, under a duo project called BG-C Duo (I know, not the most creative name, but it was something we had to whip up on the spur of the moment…!). My first week there was spent at the Naeba Prince Hotel, in the Niigata prefecture of Japan: lots of mountains, fresh air, snow and sports. We played each day there, a few sets per day over the Xmas season at the hotel’s lounge area. It was restful and a wonderful way to spend the Christmas Day: playing music and sharing it with good friends. I want to thank our director for the opportunity, Yasuko Sato, for the event and look forward to (hopefully!) working with her again in the future.

On the 26th, we Shinkansen’d off to Tokyo, where I spent the next 3 weeks. There I reconnected with a childhood friend, Zach Thomas, and was invited to sit in with his band The Deadlines for a couple of sessions. Made up entirely of Bloomberg employees at the Tokyo Office, they put together the group to hone their creative energies outside of work (which, in Tokyo, is a luxury amidst the workaholic lifestyle there) and, to tell the truth, they play some mean music. I had a blast with them!

Another highlight in Tokyo was the BG-C Duo’s performance at the city’s Somethin’ Jazz Club. The club’s name is familiar: it is the partner venue to the SJC in New York and is an equally great hub for live music and various artists from all across the nation (and globe!). We had a great turn-out, playing on Saturday 5th January and it reminded the Alan and I that we will play again and retain that musical connection, despite living in different countries and continents for the time-being.

Otherwise, I actually spent the majority of my time in Tokyo completely by myself, without a useable phone and with no internet connection, save for Starbucks Coffee a few blocks away. I can barely speak any Japanese and I only began reading the most basic of Hiragana whilst being there. For days at a time, walking the streets of Tokyo, speaking only “thank-you’s” now again, I don’t think I have ever placed myself in such a solitary position. I had no street map (I hadn’t thought to buy one before heading East), my only connection to contacts I had was through pay phones at stations (that you sometimes spent 10 minutes trying to find) and I had little knowledge of what the society and customs of Tokyo entailed. But, I walked every length of central Tokyo with the help of a basic subway map, explored many back-alleys, parks and museums, and probably visited close to every temple and shrine in Tokyo. I also took the train south to Kamakura for a couple of days, to explore the hiking trails of the old Capital, one of the most intensely spiritual areas I’ve been to.

The experience I had in Tokyo taught me a lot about a society and culture I knew bits and pieces about, through pop culture, movies and second-hand knowledge. Having little connection with the outside world, it was what I had hoped for. One passion of mine is to observe and experience things first hand. It helps a tremendous amount to have someone to translate and show you around (which I did have, sporadically), but you see very different sides and perspectives of the coin when you’re completely alone. I learnt a lot from being there, related a lot to the society and culture they hold there and came away with personal treasures and images that have added another page to my life’s book, little pieces as a tourist but most of it without any icing or pretty bow on top. The raw thing. And I would do the whole experience all over again in a heartbeat: I’m already planning on it.

So, here’s to 2013. It is going to be an eventful one and I hope to keep things up to date here more often. I already know I am heading to Berlin, Germany, for a week in April, to work on internet music software being developed by James Ingram, a former assistant to the late Karlheinz Stockhausen. We will be using my Electronic Wind Instrument to test out and experiment with this program James is working on for the World Wide Web. Then, in July, I will be working with a UK sextet, LOCUS, on more original material of mine for a short UK tour. More information to come very soon on that!

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NEWS UPDATE: SEPTEMBER 22nd 2012

24th Sep 2012

From mid-June to September, I spent the summer season back in the UK.


PANOOC at WSCXVI

It was an incredibly fast turn-around from receiving my news on the visa approval and having to jet back to Scotland for the 16th World Saxophone Congress in St. Andrews, where I would be presenting a 20 minute set of electro-acoustic compositions & performance. The congress as a whole was incredible: both inspiring and insightful, it was amazing to see so many saxophonists of different genres and backgrounds presenting what they do and enjoy most. I have to give a big thank-you to Richard Ingham, Sue MacKenzie, Michael Brogan and Margaret Douglass. They made the whole event a very special one, especially welcoming to all participating!

Thereafter, I spent the first month catching up with fellow musicians and friends whom I hadn’t seen in a year or more (and might not see for the same amount of time again). I travelled to London a couple of times, the first visit to perform with great friend and guitarist Ant Law, at the Bull’s Head Tavern in Barnes, for a great night of off-the-beaten-track jazz standards. 2012 in London also meant Olympics, so it was actually a lot of fun walking around the center of the city, soaking in the atmosphere and observing the many tourists that had flocked over from afar for the occasion. I watched much of the Olympics this year, and despite the constant griping from people about the pros and cons of the whole season, I found much of it totally inspiring, really getting into the support of the athletes involved (I also managed to catch the end of Le Tour De France, which had myself and my oldest brother jumping on our bikes to try our hands at a small yet treacherous 7 mile cross-country trek close to his home).
The side of keeping fit and healthy day to day is extremely important for me, not because of its obvious benefits, but I’m starting to believe that over time and with patience, it becomes like practicing music everyday, good for the soul and mind. My main mode of exercise is just to walk fast and usually for 5 miles each session ;) I stick on some music and ponder a lot of things, problem solve a lot of issues.

Back to the 2 months: it’s very complicated to write and explain how the whole visa process actually works, but basically, there was a small timing hitch for me that I hadn’t planned for and I ended up having to wait longer in the UK than I had hoped. Many people asked me “Do you have any gigs booked for yourself whilst you’re back?”. The answer was no: I didn’t think I was going to be back as long as I was and it was festival season, so booking gigs last minute is not always going to be an option. So, I decided to spend much of the time with my family (my sister was due her second child, my ninth niece/nephew), not entirely sure whether my presence towards the end of the second month was becoming over-bearing for all involved, but I spent most days out in the hills and fields walking and appreciating my very different (stark) surroundings. Not sure ‘climbing the walls’ is the correct turn of phrase, but mostly just feeling in limbo again, not completely seeing the long view in my life (which is never a nice place to be in). I’m not entirely sure if it was because my energy levels needed replenished or the heavy weight of being stationary was so paralyzing, but I did very little musical practice. I just vanished within myself for a little time, I suppose…

So, it wasn’t until I got back to NYC on September 5th that I really started to feel liberated and the master of my own destiny again. It’s not NYC: I could have moved somewhere else, it’s just that feeling of moving forth that is the essential key to it all.

My new house is in Astoria, Queens! I love this area a lot, mainly because it is incredibly diverse, with a Latin, Greek, Egyptian, Lebanese and Irish community all intertwined as a town right across from Manhattan. I’m already getting to know some of the locals in the Queens area and, at the moment, much of my work and gigging has been here, which is really convenient. I still gig a lot in Manhattan with my other bands, but the consistent work is certainly here. I play twice a week at a restaurant in Woodside, Queens with my good friend Noah MacNeil and it’s a good way to keep the “chops” in order, so to speak, playing mostly jazz standards and any duo material we both feel like composing.

Otherwise, what’s on the horizon? I just finished overdubbing saxophone for singer Emily Wolf’s upcoming album, have been helping her out with a teeny tiny bit of the production work, so this coming weekend we’ll be wrapping up some mixing elements to the material and polishing a few more bits here and there. It’s going to be a really great album: stylistically, there is so much going on and her songwriting abilities come out full-flourish. I can’t wait to hear the end product and progressions from then on! :)

Saturday 22nd September saw the NYC premier show for ToUch Performance Art’s Acoustica-Electronica at (le) poisson rouge, West Village, that combines both theatrical dance & performance with what is essentially a dance party. Previously the team and show had successful monthly runs in the Spring and this past August at Club Oberon, in Boston. I had been helping to work on a track for the show with the house DJ The Wig, and had really processed its part in the entire show until I went on the 22nd. Suffice to say, I was blown away by the whole thing…again (I had seen it in the Spring session, too). I suppose, more honestly, I was really proud and inspired by the whole thing, and the show should be returning to NYC again very soon. It looks like another track will be on its way for the show, too… ;)
Otherwise, we’re back to working weekly on creating more tracks towards more projects: watch this space on more info there!

Next month is looking pretty busy, gig-wise. I’ll be performing with Allegra Levy’s Group, Rodrigo Bonelli’s band and Human Equivalent NYC have 2 dates, followed by a recording session to get many of the compositions we’ve been working on finally cemented in time! We’re aiming for November, but playing it cool due to everyone’s schedules (one of the banes of a musician and band leader’s management, he!).

Anything else? I’ve gotten back into reading! ;) A few novels, but I usually gravitate towards non-fiction and if I have a spare moment (but little mental or ear capacity for solid work), I’ll hop to taking my eyes off the computer screen and plow through a few chapters.

Until next time…! :)

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PANOOC downloads

12th Jul 2012

The 7-track EP ‘Re_Generative’ by PANOOC has now gone live and available for purchase on itunes & amazon (as well as floating about on Spotify & Pandora… You can collect all 7 of ‘em or maybe just one or two that you like the sound of! Every little helps, spread the word around and feel free to share the colorful sounds around!
Re-Generative, Panooc
Panooc - Re-Generative
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PANOOC

03rd Jul 2012

For PANOOC wristband contents/disclaimer, click here

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  1. MP3: Future Pop ('Future Pop')
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  2. MP3: Leaf Blower ('Future Pop')
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  3. MP3: On the Other Side
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  4. MP3: From the Ash (live at Bar East)
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