It’s a Knockout!

The Left Hook debut show was last night, and it went great! I’m happy that all our planning and hard work is paying off. Everyone in the band is psyched too. It’s a great set, a great sound and a great group of musicians. I handpicked the lineup from the best musicians I know, all seasoned pros. It’s great that they all agreed to join, get along well, and are enthusiastic and onboard.

I’ve been with Gus, our drummer the longest. Really solid drummer, and loves old soul music in particular, just great with groves and pockets. It was just about a year ago The Relix broke up, and we’ve been trying to put together a new group ever since. Gus also has been handling the business side of things, for which I’m grateful, cuz I’ve been focusing on the music and sound side.

Meanwhile Ken came in just at the end of February and learned 40 songs in six weeks. Not too shabby. He was the bassist in the Day Trippers as well as 7 Jazz West, so it this point I’ve played quite a few gigs with him. Also known for his collection of vintage bases.

Mike Jefferson is our lead singer. He’s was in a band with Gus once before and joined us right after the Relix, and stayed on as we went thru a few bass and guitar players. A former heavyweight boxer, born and raised (partway) in England, he has a fondness for prog and folk rock, but can sing really well in a lot of styles. Very powerful voice. Just nails it on the Doors and James Brown, and all the soul stuff. He’s also a music journalist and beats us all hands-down in the music trivia walking encyclopedia department. And in true lead singer rockstar style, he was hitting on the ladies before the end of the first set.

Gary Bruce on guitar came in after sitting in with the jazz circle one day and before he got done with his first eight bars I knew he’d be great for this group. The kind of guitar player who loves Steely Dan and Rush! Right on.

Because this gig got rescheduled twice, we didn’t have alot of our own people come out. In fact it was just Jeannie, who was there to shoot video for us, and our friend Gary the trumpeter from the jazz group. But the place was half-full when we got there, and we had them by the time we finished the sound check.

It was a good test for a lot of things, including my new PA. I learned we need a good hour to set it up and soundcheck. I also learned it works really fucking amazingly. After the disaster Day Trippers gig last December I realized having control of the vocal sound is the most important thing for a club date.

The sound system has two 1000-watt main speakers. I optimized for lightness, since you gotta get ‘em in and out of the car and up onto poles. Then there’s a pair of 300 watt stage monitors. I didn’t know if this would provide enough coverage, especially for the drums in the back, but everyone could hear just fine. I was running the mixer from the stage, but once the soundcheck was over I literally didn’t have to do anything and could just relax and focus on performing. The mixer, BTW, I chose for it’s built-in compressors in the channel preamps, it’s onboard reverb/chorus/delay effects that saved us from having to schlep another piece of gear, and it’s separate monitor buss. All in all it worked great, and we got that fat live vocal sound I was really after.

Once we got underway it was pretty clear the people at the bar were really digging it. Must’ve been the right place for this kind of music. We opened with a couple funk numbers – Them Changes by Buddy Miles and I Got You by James Brown. Good horn tunes, right in our zone. Then it was some classic rock to show off our harmony singing – No Matter What by Badfinger and When I Saw Her Standing There. Next was the Blue Öyster Cult classic Burning for You, with yours truly on lead vocals. Then a couple of organ songs – Hush by Deep Purple and Magic Carpet Ride by Steppenwolf, followed by Gary doing a little SRV Pride and Joy. Then it was back to soul music with Knock on Wood and Get Ready. We ended the set with Can You Hear Me Knocking by the Stones, which turned out to be a real highlight.

The second set opened with We’re An American Band, and on to (Ain’t Nothin’ But a) House Party, and switching to sax for Domino. I sang lead on You May Be Right, and then Drift Away with Gary on lead vocals, and some random chick from the bar who looked and sounded a lot like Katy Perry sitting on background vocals. I guess she’d been hitting on Mike or vice versa, but she really could sing. Then it was Love Me Two Times, which was a bit rough for structure, and Pretzel Logic which was a bit rough for tempo and feel. We closed the set strong with a string of soul numbers – Devil With a Blue Dress/Good Golly, Dance to the Music, Hold on I’m Coming and Soul Man.

The first two sets ran an hour each, so the last set was shortened a bit. Songs included Come Together, Long Train Running with me on lead vocals, Rikki Don’t Loose the Number with Gary on lead vocals, Miami 2017 with me on lead vocals again, then In the Midnight Hour, Mustang Sally, and closing with Roadhouse Blues.

They invited us back to play again, and possibly do a regular gig there. So ya, good feelings all around. And we got it on video so we can put together some material for the web site and to try and get new gigs. Meanwhile we have a show in two weeks at Dudley’s in New Rochelle. Gonna spend the next couple rehearsals tweaking and tightening. Come out and see us on May 9!

Rocket Science

The thing about simplicity in art (or anything else I suppose) is that it’s actually harder than complexity. My natural tendency as a folder is toward the complex. It’s effortless in a way to keep on going, adding more detail, until you have what you want. But I’ve learned a lot from doing my first book, and I want to have enough simple to intermediate models to open it up to a wider appeal. To get to simple, you have to remove and remove until you get to what’s truly essential. Sometimes this involves jettisoning things you think are really important only to find they don’t matter at all.

Today I spent my time experimenting with simple rocket designs. The major insight was to make avoid the puffing-out phase, that is to make an X rather than and O when seen from above. It’s funny cuz I was corresponding with a colleague, explaining my goals for the new book, when a new design approach hit me mid-sentance. Came up with two or three good models that can be folded in 10 minutes or less. Also past the halfway point in model count, so that means to me critical mass.

Origami Biplane

I talked to my publisher this week about doing a second origami book, to follow up Origami Animal Sculpture. I gave them a few concepts and the one they like the best is Origami from Sky and Space. This would include models like my Rocketship, U.F.O., Hot Air Balloon, Zeppelin, and Radio Satellite. Now I need to come up with about a half a book’s worth of models to round it out and give them a formal pitch. So I’ve begun brainstorming and folding.

I think I have a very good list. More models than I need actually, so I can choose the ones that come out the best. I’m particularly keen on coming up with a few simple to low intermediate models for the first section of the book, although I must admit, so far my designs have been leaning toward the complex. I’m going have a chapter of airplanes, and I went for the most challenging one first. I folded a Biplane that I think turned out pretty nicely. The form can be adapted into several other aircraft. By coincidence it uses the same base as the Radio Satellite.

The Return of the Debut of The Return of the Debut of the Left Hook

I forgot to mention, our cancelled gig at the Fisherman’s Net has been rescheduled yet again. Now it’s on for this Saturday, April 25. I guess that means they’re open for business again. I wonder if the bar owner is gonna give the boys in the band a 1099.

So once again, Left Hook remains a really smokin’ group, a real knockout. We have a great sound and loads of great material including funk, soul and classic rock, and are even better rehearsed than before. I’m playing sax, piano and singing. We have three strong vocalists and lots of harmonies, plus a slammin’ rhythm section, tasty guitars, everything you need. And now we have another two weeks rehearsal. Here’s the info:

Music with a punch!

Westchester’s newest classic rock Funk & soul party band appearing live
Saturday April 25, 9:00 PM
at The Fisherman’s Net, 129 6th St. Pelham, New York

and if you can’t make that come see us:

Saturday May 9. 9:00 PM
Dudley’s Bar & Marina
94 Hudson Park Rd. New Rochelle

Springy Thingy

Another spring break come and gone. After working hard all winter, and the bitter cold weather, we really needed this one. Spring came late this year. Two weeks ago there was still snow on the ground. Things have finally just started budding and turning green.

This weekend was the first really nice weather of the year. Sunny and in the 60’s. We washed and waxed Jeannie’s car, and I put a new battery in the Mustang and started it up, and went for the first ride of the season. Woo-hoo!

On Saturday the Left Hook gig got cancelled again. This time due to the bar owner’s wife called the Dept. of Labor over him paying employees off the books, so he’s shut down for the time being. Ah well we have another gig coming up. Jeannie and I went out to Dudley’s Saturday nite, where our next gig is at. Nice place, right on the water in New Rochelle, Long Island Sound. Have a good stage and PA. Also the jazz group has gig the following weekend. So May is getting busy fast.

Rewinding a bit, at the start of spring break I took the girls to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the city. That was a really good time. We hadn’t been in five years or so. Michelle was really interested in the Greco-Roman wing, from having read Percy Jackson, so we spent some time there. We actually saw quite a bit of the place: the Egyptian wing, some modern and art deco paintings and sculptures, some Dutch masters, some medieval and renaissance stuff, some Asian art, the hall of arms and armor, and the hall of musical instruments. This last one was extra fun because they had a special exhibit on Adolph Sax, inventor of the saxophone, the saxhorn, the sarousaphone, the six-valve trombone, and lots of other weird brass and wind instruments that never caught on. The exhibit featured two extreme saxophones built by Sax himself. One was a contra-bass, in the key or Eb, twice as deep as a bari and about 7 feet high, even with all sorts of extra turnbacks. The other was a sopranino, also in Eb and twice as high as an alto.

We spent Easter weekend visiting with family. Martin’s came down on Saturday, and we went to Queens on Sunday to visit Jeannie’s family. Good to catch up and to know that everyone is well.

Tone Row

A few weeks ago Michelle was watching a video online by that girl who does those online videos about Fibonacci numbers and fractal dragons, but this one was about Schoenberg-style tone rows. I was exposed to serailism in college, but never thought it was particularly tuneful or interesting, although I must say the girl did a really haunting Mary Had a Little Lamb based on the idea. Anyway Michelle and I had a good discussion about music theory and composing, and I gave her a few straight triadic ideas to play around with.

Recently I’ve been going updating my web site so the whole thing uses style sheets. This is a long overdue endeavor and I’ve dusted off some old pages I haven’t looked at in a long time. One was about The Perfect Shuffle, so naturally I wrote a tone row based on the perfect shuffle sequence of a twelve-card deck. I kinda always thought all tone rows were more or less the same, but I played this one on the piano and it sounds pretty compelling. It goes like this:

C Db Eb G D F B Bb Ab E A F#

It has the interesting property that the second half of the pattern is the same as the first half, but flipped upside down. It also has the property that the intervals between the notes are pretty varied from narrow to wide. In fact I think just about every interval from a semitone to a Major7 appears once, and a tritone appears twice.

Now I’m thinking about how to use this riff compositionally. One idea is to generate a bunch more patterns based on perfect shuffles of different sized decks, and arrange them into a kind of phase fugue. I wonder how that would be to listen to.

Leftier Hookier

Left Hook is announcing it’s second show coming up on May:

Saturday May 9. 9:00 PM
Dudley’s Bar & Marina
94 Hudson Park Rd. New Rochelle

This is a cool place down by the water, with really good food too. Should be a great time.

Meanwhile here’s a reminder to come see us this Saturday April 11 at The Fisherman’s Net in Pelham.

Also, I’ve updated out web site at and created a new facebook page at so you can go and like us an receive info about upcoming shows.

Buzzy Tonic Unplugged

I was going thru my archives and found some video from a gig Erik and I did at a Froyo place a few years back. This was the first live show I did for an audience in over ten years, and it’s the one the made me want to get back into playing live again. It’s not the best sound, or the best venue, or even the best performance, but it’s still interesting, if for nothing else than to see how things have progressed.

We did two set, each consisting of half covers and half originals. I must say I haven’t thought about Erik’s originals (part 2) in a long time but they’re great songs and it’s great to hear them again.

Part 1 . Part 2 . Part 3 . Part 4