Seven Jazz West

Switching gears completely, my jazz group has booked it’s first gig. We’re playing Friday November 14 at the Bassline Jazz Club in Mount Vernon, starting at 9:00. The address is:

The Bassline
130 E 1st St, Mt Vernon, NY 10550
(914) 433-1052

For those of you who don’t know, we play a good variety of modern jazz, straight-ahead, hard bop, latin, and funk, from cats like Miles, Monk, Mingus, Joco, Horace Silver, Wayne Shorter, Hank Mobley, Clifford Brown, Joe Zawinul, the list goes on.

Rehearsal have gotten a bit less relaxed now, as we want to get everything tight for the show: beginnings and endings, transitions, who’s soloing when and all that. Should be no problem, but we have a half-dozen or so new tunes in addition the ones we already know well. We actually have enough material for two shows, so if the first show goes well we’ll do another.

Now we need to come up with a name for the band. The top contender right now is the Seven West Jazz Band, or some variation on that, because there are seven of us and we rehearse in Westchester, and it’s short and easy to say. There are other ideas floating around. We’ll see where it ends up.

Night Trippin’

Last night’s Day Tripper gig at the Crossroads went quite well. The Crossroads is a really nice place for bands, with a good stage and sounds system, pretty large and pretty full of people. There were two other bands opening for us, and both sounded really good. By the time we got on stage it was almost 11. We did seventeen songs, just over an hour. If we had more songs we could have gone on longer, but that was all we had.

Musically most songs were right there. Good response from the crowd, and we had new people coming in throughout the show. A couple minor issues, coming out of the bridge of Here Comes the Sun, the ending of Lady Madonna, and on the last couple songs energy level seemed to be flagging a bit. We did some of the real high screamers early in the set – Don’t Let Me Down, Band on the Run and I Want You (She’s So Heavy), but my voice stayed strong the thru the end of the set, and I felt I delivered a good performance. My voice continues getting stronger in terms of range, endurance, control and expressiveness. Woo-hoo!

In fact we’re getting good enough now that I feel we need to work on taking it to the next level. Really tighten and polish the arrangements and vocal harmonies, string together the songs in threes or fours without a pause, work on our between-song banter, and generally keep the flow of the show going. As a singer I know the songs well enough now to focus more on performing them at an emotional rather than technical level. Plus we need to learn a bunch more songs. We seem to be learning about 8 to 10 per show, so for the next one we want to get up to the 25 to 30 range.

So I guess we’ll see when the next gig comes up and take it from there. Meanwhile the Crossroads also has jazz, so we may get a gig there with our jazz group.

Origami Animal Sculpture Reviewed at Gilad Origami

My book Origami Animal Sculpture has been reviewed by Gilad over at Gilad’s Origami Page ( For those of you who don’t know, Gilad has a pretty comprehensive origami site with lots of reviews and galleries and an expansive database of lots of different models (by subject) telling you where you can find diagrams to fold such a thing.

He says of my book: “John Szinger has a knack for creating complex-looking designs with ample attention to details, which are actually not incredibly complex to fold. The models … using an innovative array of folding sequences, are well-designed, maximizing the surface of the paper and making them suitable for folding from almost any type of paper.”

I consider this great praise, as that’s pretty much what I’m going for. You can read the full article here:

Gilad has also folded and photographed several models from the book. I particularly like his rendition of my Brown Bear. It has a really nice snuffling quality.

Every Which Way But Loose

Everything looks bright and shiny on the band front these days. First, the Day Trippers have gig coming up (see my previous post) and we’ve been learning a bunch of new material, including Rain, Lady Madonna, Hello Goodbye, Dear Prudence, I Want You (She’s So Heavy), Here Comes the Sun and a few others. Hope we have time for all of them. I played an Abbey Road medley – from She Came in Through the Bathroom Window on – for the guys in the band. While they all agreed it sounded great and was a great idea, they also thought it was too much material to learn for this show, so it’s on the slate for the next one.

Second, my jazz project may actually be getting some gigs. Our drummer and leader Mike is booking us into a place called The Baseline in Mount Vernon. After a year of rehearsing we’ve gotten to the point where we sound pretty damn good, and I feel like people are missing out not hearing us. Personally I feel like my sax playing has gotten back to the point where it’s as good as or better than it’s ever been, and that’s saying something looking back at the days of Event Horizon. My tone is really great, and my sense of time has improved, and I can even slalom those bebop changes. But now I’m much more relaxed, focused on melody and phrasing and dynamics and expressiveness. On songs we’ve done a few times I know I can forget about the chords and just blow, and really tell the story. Now the challenge moves on to having something fresh to say each time. On top of that it’s a really good group and all the players are really strong. I particularly dig Rich, Mike and Ken on piano, bass and drums. So I hope this gig comes through. I’ll let you know when we have a date set.

Third, the rock band has reformed and it looks extremely promising. Two weeks ago I brought in young Wolfgang Skywalker on bass to meet Gus and Jefferson. Gus is our drummer, and he’s pretty tough on bass players he can’t groove with. But he fell right in love with Youngblood within sixteen bars of the first song. Even without a guitar it was an excellent rehearsal. The whole things sounded more solid and energetic. One of the songs we were considering dropping was Long Train Running, but with the new bassist the song had a whole lot more energy and was suddenly a keeper. And the group is moving in much more of a funk and soul direction, which I really like. At the end of the session we decided to add another James Brown song and another Sly Stone number. Also Youngblood amazed us all even more revealing he’d only been playing bass for two years (switched from cello) and is taking lessons with John Pattitucchi.

The next week were joined by Gary Guitar. He fit in really well. Like Gus and myself he’s a seasoned pro and knows tons of songs. He favors a clear jazzy tone that fits right in with the direction of the group. So now all we need to do is learn a bunch of songs and think of a name for the group and then we can start booking gigs. I’m expecting we’ll be ready around the new year.

Only thing I’ve been neglecting is my home recording situation. Well not exactly neglecting. I’m working on a new song, To Be a Rock, and it’s been slow going. I haven’t had a really big block of free time in a while, so it’s bit by bit. I had put down a scratch piano and drum track to lay out the time, chords and structure. Then I got to work on the bass line. The song begins with a bass solo, which is fairly hard to play, at least for me, so I had to practice it a while, and it took me several attempts at recording it to really nail it. So that’s in the can now, and it’s time work on the other parts. Listening back, neither the drums nor the piano sound very good to me, so I’m looking at having to tear them down and basically start over. Ah well. Should be worth it in the end.

Down to the Crossroads

My Beatles tribute band, the Day Trippers, will playing Saturday night, October 25 a place called Crossroads in New Jersey. It looks like a pretty cool place. Recently had Stanley Jordan on the bill. The address is:

78 North Ave Garwood, NJ 07027
(908) 232-5666

Oddly, they’re in the middle of a block. Also, our guitarist John put up a facebook page for the band, featuring some photos and videos of our earlier gig:

So come on out and have a good time. Hope to see y’all there.