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!