New Recording: Black Swan

Here’s a rough mix of my new song, Black Swan.

I’m really happy with the way it turned out, a sort or Steely-Crimso vibe and pre-postapocalyptic sentiment. I realize it’s been over a year since I posted any new mixes because I’ve been busy with other things including finishing my book and joining a working band. Enough time has gone by that I need to take stock of the record as its shaping up. Some of the stuff I have is going to be moved into the bonus tracks stack. I still have a pretty big backlog of partially written songs, plus at least one all-new number I wrote just recently. In any event it’s good to be moving again. Look for updates soon to the BZ3 page.

Pickin’ and a-Grinnin’

After the last gig, the focus of the band is on learning more tunes and booking more gigs. On the learning more tunes front, we’ve been tossing around lots of ideas, and it’s been fun. Everyone has songs and bands they love, and songs and groups they hate, or at least don’t want to play for one reason or another. And then there’s the question of what makes a great song vs. what’s a good song to do in a bar vs. what’s a good fit for us. Last practice we learned Long Train Running and China Grove by the Doobie Brothers. These were both suggestions from Mike our bass player. Everyone dug these songs and they came together fast, and we pretty much nailed it. Also looked at I Can’t Help Myself and Devil with the Blue Dress. I got a couple songs on the slate, including Touch Me by The Doors, which I picked party for the sax and drum thing at the end, and Domino by Van Morrison (who it turns out is some kind of distant cousin of Jim Morrison). But I didn’t get any support for any Steely and the Dans, so I’m gonna have to keep campaigning on that front.

Meanwhile, I put together an edit of highlights from our list show to try and help us get more gigs. Enjoy!

Third Annual OrigaMIT Convention

This weekend I attended the 3rd annual OrigaMIT convention at the venerable Massachusetts Institute of Technology. I had such a good time last year that this year Jeannie decided to come up with me. It was a great hang. I exhibited some models, taught two classes, and hung out with a lot of origami friends including Jason, Brian, Erik Gherde, Sipo, Ben, Mark, Anne, and others. My exhibit this year was smaller, with mostly new stuff: my Stellated Dodecahedron, Great Dodecahedron, and Penfractal Dodecahedron, my Penrose Tiles I-III, my Dog Timber and Cat Sophie, and to round things out my Moose, Armidillo and Cuttlefish from the book.

In the morning my class was Timber and Sophie. I was pretty impressed with the level of folders. They got thru both models in an hour. At OUSA in June they took an hour for each model. I guess maybe teaching it the second time I’m getting better at communicating the nuances effectively.

At lunchtime Jeannie and took a walk along the Charles river. There was a big rowing race going on, which was pretty cool, and towards the end a whole flurry of sailboats got out on the water.

After lunch I attended a lecture by Erik Demaine on the work of David Huffman. Huffman is more widely known for his work in computer science, having invented the encoding algorithm that’s at the heart of modern media codecs like jpg and mp3. But he was a pioneering origami guy as well, particularly with curved folding and tessellations. Erik is in the process of putting together a book about Huffman and his origami, and had slides of a lot of cool works I’d never seen before.

My second class was my Penrose Tessellations. I was expecting only a few people since the model is pretty advanced and rather esoteric, but the class was full and included a good handful of kids. Good thing I brought extra CP’s and paper. Kathy Stevick donated some pre-cut pentagon paper, which was a big time saver. Even so, teaching this class was harder than I expected. Most people aren’t used to folding in pentagonal geometry, so I had explain everything in more detail. Plus there was a lot of precreasing. The class was in fact for a system for folding tessellations of any number of cells. I had them start out making a 10-cell model out of small paper, and then start in on the 30-cell out of large paper. I figured the 10-cell would take about half the class, but it took more like 90 minutes. Still everyone hung in there and most folded a successful model. Those who were interested got enough to get going on the 30-cell one.

That evening there was a giant folding competition in the main room, and Jason asked me to participate, and Jeannie was my partner. We folded a giant version of Timber out a five- or six-foot square of white paper. I was concerned it might not stand up cuz the giant paper tends to be floppy, but somehow it worked. When it was done I called it a Dire Wolf. It was the crowd favorite, and Jeannie and I won first place. I got a copy of the proceedings of 5OSME and Jeannie got an OrigaMIT shirt.

Later that night Ben demoed his KNK Zing cutter. It’s basically the same thing a craft robo, but apparently better, cuz it can take wider stock and it has better software. It was pretty cool seeing one in action, and see how scoring the paper can save a lot of time and help with the folding. I’ve been thinking of getting one, although I delayed the purchase in favor of amps on other music gear. If I do, it’s good to know this is a good piece of gear.

As we left MIT we saw the lights of Fenway Park across the Charles. It was the last game of the pennant race. We got back to our hotel room just in time to catch the replay of a grand slam that turned the tide of the game in Boston’s favor and led the Red Sox to victory. On the drive home Sunday morning it was a perfect fall day for watching the foliage change color. The leaves were peaking red, yellow, crimson and orange. It seems like every few miles we’d round a curve and the view was just breathtaking.

From Zero to Rock’n’Roll in Sixty Days

Saturday was my first gig with the Relix, and it was a lot of fun and a big success for a number of reasons. For me it was my first paying gig with a rock band at a bar since Lizzy was a baby. Not only that, it was my first gig ever where they had valet parking once I unloaded my car. It was a nice place and a big room, and a good crowd, right in downtown White Plains.

I suppose now is a good time to mention the lineup of the band. On lead vocals is Paul, who is also a wicked harmonica a player. The rhythm section is Mike on bass and Gus on drums. Both are really solid and also sing backup. We have two guitarists. Frank is more straight-ahead rock and solos on the heavier stuff. Lee has more of a twangy sound and plays either a hollowbody or a twelve-string.

As mentioned before I was playing sax and keyboards and singing. For me it was a drastic improvement from nothing at all back in August. For the band it was an incremental improvement, but the consensus was that I brought the whole thing up a notch with my contribution. It seemed to go over well. Indeed, three different chicks offered to buy me a drink.

We did three sets that spanned a diverse range of material. First was a lot of classic soul by artists like Sam and Dave, Otis Redding, Wilson Picket, The Temptations, Marvin Gaye, and Martha Reeves. These were mainly sax tunes for me. Then there was classic rock by groups like The Zombies, The Doors, Deep Purple, Traffic, Ten Years After, and Creedence. These were mainly organ and Rhodes tunes. Got a few nice organ solos in on Light My Fire, Hush, and Give Me Some Lovin’. We had some eighties stuff like Tom Petty, Greg Kihn, Tommy Tutone, John Cougar and the Romantics. Not stuff I would have picked, but they’re fun to play and go over well with the crowd, and I got to sing a couple of these. Then there’s a bunch of surf stuff from the likes of the Venutres and Johnny Rivers. For this I played alot of sax to try and give it a Tequila/Comanche sound.

The set was not perfect, but I was pretty satisfied overall. The energy was there and the crowd response was really good, and there were some excellent musical moments. The parts that I was worried about seemed to pass as barely noticeable from a audience perspective. For the most part it was hesitation over segues in some of the medleys, but that can be fixed with some more practice. For my own part, up until now I was mainly concerned with learning all the music. I had to learn fifty songs in two months! I only stopped using sheet music the last rehearsal before the show. I got thru the show without forgetting any parts or getting lost, although there were a few clams here and there. From here on I can concentrate more on performing the songs, listening to band and really taking it to the next level.

Nowhere is this more true than the songs where I was singing lead. I sang lead on four songs, and got thru them all without forgetting any of the lyrics. Now I need to focus more on connecting with the audience, being loud and clear and not looking down at my hands as I play. It’s good to have a chance to improve my singing and performing. From here things can only get better.

Stand in the Place Where You Live

Been busy on the music front. First off, I’m almost ready to drop a rough mix of my new song Black Swan. Bet you thought I’d never get that one finished. Well the last few weeks I’ve been getting back into working in the studio once a week. Since you last heard it I added a guitar part and synth solo, completing the tracking. I also cut about 45 seconds from the tune. It seems to flow much better now. I did lots of tweaks to the timing of the transitions and ending, and tweaks to the drums, horns, etc., to make it flow better, and I started fine-tuning some of the channel effects.

In other news, my first gig with the classic rock and soul band The Relix is next weekend. I spent a good chunk of the weekend practicing. Singing, piano, organ and sax, it’s alot to do, and there’s three sets. But it’s coming together. Hope to see you all there!

I’m playing keys standing up in this band, so I needed a new keyboard stand. At rehearsal I’m putting my board on the top tier of the stand in the rehearsal space, but my stand at home doesn’t have a second tier. I went to the Sam Ash on 33rd street one day last week. They used to be on 48 street and were much better. It was Musician’s row before Sam Ash bought up half the block and then moved out. Anyway, I didn’t like any of the stands they had there. The staff in the keyboard and PA department are a bunch of arrogant bullshitters, imagining they can just recommend whatever they have in stock, which is much less since the move.

So I looked online and found a stand called Standtastic ( It’s basically the exact same thing as one I designed and built in one of my industrial design classes in college, except theirs is professionally manufactured and not just a prototype. Oh, and mine was aluminum and this one is steel. The main design goals were to be really solid, really quick to set up and tear down, and high enough to play standing and stack two keyboards. It almost makes me wonder if they ripped off my design, but I can’t imagine how. They must’ve thought thru the problem and come to the same conclusion I did.

The stand arrived today, and it sets up lickety-split and is quite solid. A couple little details about the hardware seem a bit sketchy: it could use some rubber grips on the keyboard skids and some bigger washers here and there, and maybe turn around some bolts so the wing nuts are inside, but that’s all stuff I can take care of. I even have some parts from my old stand I could probably swap out.

Meanwhile in jazzland I mentioned that I have some originals and they said bring ’em in. So I picked out three to start. One is (I Miss My) Baby in Bb, a song that I wrote in the 80’s for my group Event Horizon. Don’t be fooled by the title though, the song is in F. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard the others. One is called King’s Hex, and it’s a fast jazz waltz with a whole-tone polyrhythm thing going on in the main section. The last one is called Buzzy Blue, and it’s a kinda Miles style modal blues. I dusted it off recently to see if it’d fit with my current work-in-progress album, but I don’t have a lyric. Both songs are from the 90’s and I think I did them with Erik and Flip Hippo back in the day. All I have now is some MIDI demos.

I’m trying to write out some basic charts. It’s sort of a pain in the ass doing it by hand, especially cuz I have to write it out in three keys. But the alternative is to get some notating software and learn how to use it, which probably will take even longer. I did import my midi demos into protools, just to see if something can be done with them. Now I’m thinking of, well, making better demos out of them.