24th Sep 2012

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


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…! :)

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