And All That Jazz

The big news here is that this weekend was the ICS cabaret show. This is a big fundraiser for the kids school and I volunteered to play in the band. And I must say it was a smashing success and alot of fun!

It’s a pretty big group, with about 20 singers and 4 in the band, plus a chorus of a dozen or so high school kids who are alumni of the ICS middle school. It’s largely parents and faculty of the school. The core of the group have been together for a long time, and used to do a similar thing at their old church. Lizzy’s math teacher, Michelle, is the show director, and also has 2 kids at the school. She has a powerful, brassy voice like Streisand. Her husband Mike is musical director and plays piano. He’s excellent at that style music. Another couple, Kristen and Brian, are stage manager and artistic director, and both excellent singers too. And yet another couple, Dean and Susan are two more outstanding singers, although I don’t think they have anything to do with the school. In fact there are alot of really good singers in the group, and the general level is quite high. It’s really interesting too, hearing how different everyone’s individual voice and sound and style are, yet how they all blend.

For me it’s totally worked out. I got to dust off my horn and play in a live show, which I haven’t done in years. I got to meet a bunch of parents at the school, and a bunch of local musicians. The band was made up entirely of guys named Mike and John. The drummer (John) and guitar player (Mike), who also plays bass, are both very good, and cool, and want to get together and jam. So I may have found my rhythm section for my rock project with Erik.

Everyone seemed to agree that having a horn in the band raised the whole level of the music, so I’m very happy about that. I made plenty of mistakes to be sure, but mostly they weren’t obvious, and I nailed all my solos. Not bad considering I had to learn 40 tunes in a month, and pretty much put it together all on the stand, and this after having barely played my horn at in ages. Some of the songs I only played for the first time at dress rehearsal. I had a CD and some of the sheet music ahead of time, but the two often didn’t match, and then when I got to rehearsal Mike was doing something altogether different. Keys were changed, parts were skipped or repeated, all the usual stuff. They were all to worried about getting their own parts together to pay much attention to me. Everything I was reading was in concert key, so I had to transpose +2 in addition to whatever transposition Mike did for the singer. I played tenor and soprano sax, and some keyboards too, mainly organ, accordion, and some brass and string sounds. In rehearsals the hall was cold so keeping the horns in tune was an issue too.

The week of the shows we had rehearsals every night. The dress rehearsal on Thursday was the first full run thru with everybody. I took Friday off work to be well rested for the show, but then Thursday I caught a cold walking to work in the rain, so I pretty much stayed in bed the whole day Friday. I was actually pretty under the weather most of the weekend, but I’d take a few Sudafed and a shot of whiskey before showtime and was able to keep my energy up, um, in classic jazz musician style.

Friday was opening night. It went really well. In fact I’m amazed given how rough the dress rehearsal was. I got a standing ovation for my solo on Scenes From and Italian Restaurant. I’m the hero of the hour of Eastchester housewives, who it seems are all big Billy Joel fans. We did another show Friday night and a third Sunday afternoon. In the middle of the first set on Saturday a key on my horn broke, but I was able to fix it with some tape at intermission. Now that it’s all over, it feels like it came and went really fast. It was a great time, but I’m still recovering from my cold. The house full of the sound of the kids singing show tunes, particularly Anything You Can Do and The Song That Goes Like This.

Set 1:

The Nicest Kids in Town (Hairspray) – Brian and Company
Key -1, tenor sax. Lots of key changes and page turning. Brian has a great, booming voice and energy.

Anything You Can Do (Annie Get Your Gun) – Janet and Phil
Tenor sax. Followed the melody and added some extra flourishes.

Goodnight, My Someone (The Music Man) – Jen and Francesca
Ballad, laid out. Francesca is a girl at the school who is a talented pianist.

Seventy-Six Trombones (The Music Man) – Roy
Tenor sax. Followed the melody and added some extra flourishes. Turns out Roy is my neighbor, and my kids know his, but I only got to know him in the course of doing this show. His daughter Jacklyn was part of the Alumni chorus.

Somewhere (West Side Story) – Corrine
Key -2, soprano sax. There was a violin line in the score that I was able to pick up.

New York, New York – Brian, Dean, and Mike D.
Tenor sax. This is Leonard Bernstein song. A challenging part, great fun to play, but lot of page turning and faking it, um, improvising. The three best male singers.

Try To Remember – Bob
Soprano sax, just on the “follow follow” bit.

Tradition (Fiddler on the Roof) – The Papas, Mamas, Sons and Daughters
Soprano sax, mainly Klezmerirific noodling and picking up riffs from the score. Reminded me of the scene in the movie Bird where Charlie Parker was playing at a Jewish wedding. This was a big, fun production number.

If My Friends Could See Me Now (Sweet Charity) – Linda
Key +5, tenor sax. Mainly double the melody, plus an intro part. A nice jazzy number. Linda is a really good singer for this kind of song.

Happiness (You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown) – Alumni
Ballad, laid out.

I’ll Never Fall In Love Again – Julieann
Key -2, soprano sax. There’s a nice intro. Burt Bacharach was a philosopher.

Sit Down You’re Rockin’ the Boat (Guys and Dolls) – Brian and Company
Key -5, tenor sax. Another big fun production number.

Standing on The Corner – Phil and Men
Key +4. This is a great song with a jazzy feel and interesting chord changes and cool counterpoint horn riffs. Unfortunately, the key they picked was for me a tritone away from where the sheet music had it, and it was really awkward to transpose so I ended up basically improvising a new part on the stand. It worked out pretty well.

Morning Glow – Vinny and Company
Ballad, laid out.

Corner of the Sky – Mike D.
Ballad, laid out.

Get Happy/Happy Days – Michelle and Susan
Tenor sax. These are two of the best singers and they really made this slow bluesy duet sizzle. I played on the intro and in the last chorus.

Phantom / Les Miz Medley – Company
I played keyboards on this one. I did the organ for Phantom while Mike held down the piano part. Later on I did some string pads and brass fanfare. This number was long and had alot cuts, and we didn’t rehearse it until near the very end.

Set Two:

Every Story Is a Love Story / Fortune Favors the Brave (Aida) – Susan and Mike
Soprano and Tenor sax. I took a nice intro on ESIALS. That song really grew on me. With FFtB, it turns out Mike can sing as well as play piano.

Belle (Beauty and the Beast) – Kristen and Townsfolk
Key -1, soprano sax. This was another big production number. I thought I might play some keys on this but I mainly laid out again because we didn’t rehearse it until late.

Poor Unfortunate Souls (The Little Mermaid) – Janet
Tenor sax. Janet more preformed than sang the part. I played in a sort of Tim Burton/Danny Elfman style. Worked out really well.

Day By Day (Godspell) – Lisa and Company
Tenor sax. Big ol’ jam at the end.

They Can’t Take That Away From Me – Christina and Roy
Key -2, tenor sax. Jazz standard. Smooth and smokey.

Once Upon a Dream – Jennifer.
Ballad, laid out.

Elaborate Lives (Aida) – Dean and Susan
Played keys in the middle section, not enough time to work out more than a basic comping part. Dean can really sing the hell out of this song.

The Song That Goes Like This (Spamalot) – Brian and Kristen
I played some brass fanfare stuff on keys. Could have used more rehearsal time on this one. It didn’t matter much, though, because Brian and Kristen did an amazing job.

Someone Like You – Corrine
Ballad, laid out.

Age of Aquarius (Hair) – Julianne
Tenor sax – big jam at the end.

I Don’t Know How To Love Him (Jesus Christ Superstar) – Linda
Ballad, played a bit of soprano sax. Not sure why Linda does all the songs where the character is a prostitute.

All That Jazz (Chicago) – Susan
Key -2, tenor sax. This was great fun to play, but it had alot of key changes and page turning, and I’m afraid I messed up somewhere every night. Still the energy was good and Susan brought the house down.

This Is The Moment – Mike D.
Ballad, laid out. It seems like there were alot of ballads in the set, but they were all sung very well and Mike is great at playing them, so I can’t say I’d want to cut any of them. This song in fact I thought was a bit of clunker when I heard the CD, but Mike D. did just such a great job singing it he really won me over.

We Need a Little Christmas (Mame) – Alumni
Key ???, soprano sax. A late substitution, figured this one out by ear.

For Good (Wicked) Michelle and Kristen
Ballad, laid out. Key changed from night to night. Michelle was worried about her voice going, but they did such a great job on this, really moving.

This Night (Movin’ Out) – Dean
Tenor Sax. This was another late substitution, I think cuz they liked my playing on Italian Restaurant. Dean is such a fantastic singer. The sax solo is really hard, mainly cuz it’s very high (I think it was originally done on alto) and in a weird key, and I didn’t have enough time to memorize it. But still I pulled it off.

Scenes from an Italian Restaurant (Movin’ Out) – Mike
All instruments. This was Mike’s big number, singing and playing piano on Billy Joel’s one-and-only long format, multi-part song. It was also a good number for me. And we actually rehearsed it twice and ran down the parts! I played the accordion part behind the vocals, and then there were no less then four sax solos. The second was the dixieland bit, which I did on soprano. The others I did on tenor. The fist and last ones were slow, the interlude and the outro, and they were probably my favorite parts. John the drummer did a really good job too, capturing all the parts from the record. This number went over really well.

You Can’t Stop the Beat – Company
Key -1, tenor sax. A high-energy production number to close the show. Again lots of page turning and key changes, and I blew at least one cue every night. But it still was fantastic.

Now, back to the rock band, which had been on the back burner since Hallowe’en.

Origami Break

Things are okay with me these days. Busy as usual of course, but having a lot of fun too. The weather has been beautiful, up into the 60’s most every day. Drove my Mustang Saturday.

The main thing is I’ve been preparing for this cabaret show. Learned 40 songs in the last few weeks. Most of them on sax but a few on keyboards, adding orchestra, accordion, organ, etc. to compliment the piano. Finally last week they started having full rehearsals with the band, and I was able to see how what I’d prepared works in context. And, as predicted, there are lot of changes, but I think it’s getting there. One of the high points of the set is Scenes From an Italian Restaurant from Moving Out. Great sax part. Now it’s a matter of making the thing tight, but overall the music is coming together.

So if you’re into this kinda thing, come on down, November 18 – 20 at ICS for the Broadway Then and Now cabaret show. Meanwhile, we have rehearsal every night this week. I told my boss this morning I need to leave a 5 sharp each day this week and I’m taking Friday off, and she was cool with all of it.

In other news, I’ve had an intense origami focus the last few days. I finally finished updating the diagrams for my Dragon a few weeks back, and went on to diagramming my Inchworm, a new model. Then John Montroll came into town for a visit, and we hung out Friday night, going out to dinner and staying up late talking origami. He showed me a bunch of new models form his forthcoming book, Origami Math. John is working at such an advanced level these days, it always gives me alot to think about afterwards. His newer stuff is maybe not as hard to fold, but the underlying designs tend to be deeper. John is famous for his animals, although of late he’s been immersed in more geometric subjects. I’m encouraging him to do a book of Modern Animals, revisiting some of his favorite subjects with his current approach.

Sunday was my day to volunteer to teach origami at the AMNH. It went really well. I taught my inchworm and butterfly, and a new butterfly too. All my models were successful for my students. I’m trying to finish my Butterfly II, because it’s so much nicer to fold than my old butterfly. It works great from a rectangle, but if you fold it from a square you get an extra flap of paper that you can use to make legs.

The girls came with me and folded some wreathes. After the session, we found the secret way from the cafeteria to the whale room. We spent a couple hours in the museum, hitting the highlights, and then went for a nice walk thru central park.

I feel like I’ve been doing tons of driving recently, just scooting around town, and into the city and back. Dropped of Lizzy at some bizarre protopostapocolyptic mall in Yonkers for a Birthday party the other day. Blech.

Game On

This last weekend we started our D&D campaign in earnest, with actual adventuring. Still a lot of backstory to fill and NPC’s and world to flesh out, but I think we can do that as we go. This session we did our first actual combat, with our part of two witches and a rogue being waylaid by four goblins on the road. It turned out to be a pretty exciting and well-matched melee, with our heroes killing three of their foes in the end and chasing of the last one. I’m reading the player handbook on the train these days, and only after the session did I review the section on combat, so I see there are a few things I didn’t do correctly, but I’ll get there next time. I kinda winged it thru Lizzy’s Summon Monster I spell, and I forgot that a character can run to double-double their movement rate. Ah well.

My other train reading these days is The Hobbit. I reread LotR a few years back just before the movies came out, but I don’t think I’ve read the Hobbit since high school. I’m happy to say it still holds up, and even thought I remember the story, the telling is full of surprises. The writing style is just great. Witty, gripping and evocative all at once. The nature of magic is much more subtle and nuanced than say Harry Potter. Plus it’s given me a lot of ideas for little things to work into my campaign. I’m also surprised at what a quick read it is because I remember LotR being, well, epic. I started it on Thursday and will finish it tomorrow. My last book before this was a biography of Thelonious Monk, which took over a month.