New Song: Kings Hex

Big wheel keeps on moving along. Jeannie and I just got back from quick but very fun and relaxing camping trip with our friends Erik and Jen and Jerry and Rose. This trip we didn’t bring the girls cuz they just got back from a trip of their own, going to camp for a week with their theatre group YAA. I must say the house is really quiet without the kids around, but OTOH it’s not hard to get used to. Jeannie and got to go out on out own a few times. Friday we went to downtown Yonkers and had dinner on the waterfront with some jazz group playing right across the square.

Last week was big deadline for work. Working at a startup, my company is running at a pretty hot pace, pretty much the limit of how fast you can write software without it becoming total chaos. This weekend the company is at a big trade show in Vegas giving our customers and prospects a preview of the new software I’ve been working on. (My boss is one of the crew going out there and doing demos. I offered to teach him the MIT card-counting system for blackjack, which I learned from some MIT guys when I was out in Silicon Valley in the ‘90’s. He thought he’d be too busy to have much time for casinos.)

So it’s the end of the summer and I’ve been working hard and getting a little fried, working late into the nite to get everything in for the code freeze. But I figure it’s August so I took a couple of well-deserved days off mainly to catch up on random tasks and some rest.

The camping trip itself was very nice. Got to hang out with friends, cook over a fire, swim the lake, play some guitars, everything you want. I must say, as much as I enjoy it all I was thinking I might be done with camping after the July trip. It’s just alot of work. And next year we and all our friends have kids going off to college, so the situation is changing and the opportunities for family vacations are numbered. Maybe better to rent a lake house or beach house or something. But then it turned out that with just the two of us it’s alot easier, alot less gear and food and everything, like in the before times when we used to travel light. So now I’m back into camping again.

If you’ve stuck with this rambling post this long, we get to the payoff. In my downtime I finished off another jazz demo. This one is called King’s Hex. It’s a development of an idea I’ve been kicking around for a long time. The basic groove started as an attempt to write a song for my prog rock group Infinigon, but I didn’t have a lyric. Some of those ideas eventually found their into the song Angel or Alien of the second Buzzy Tonic record Face the Heat. Meanwhile I wrote an instrumental version – which by this time was a completely different song – for Flip|Hippo, the acid jazz duo I had with Erik for a time in the 90’s, but the melody was very challenging to play, and we never really got it together.

So I figured I’d dust if off and tighten up the arrangement for my new jazz group since I finally have a group players that can handle a song like this. I actually had to practice the sax part a few times to get it right. Now here you go:

Dog Days

Moving into the long backstretch of summer. The political conventions are over and the Olympics are on TV now. Believe it or not we’ve had two low-key weekends at home in a row, but we’ve been so busy it’s been a nice break.

The weather was really nice in late July into early August, but then it turned really hot. It’s been 100 degrees here the last few days, and very humid. I had to get up and go out early to do the yardwork so I could be in before the full heat of midday. Even so by 11 it was well over 90. There’ve been flash thunderstorms almost every day. There’s violent lighting out right now. It’ll probably pass in ten minutes.

Last weekend I went rollerblading, which turned out not to be such a great idea cuz the streets around here are hilly and roads have grown bumpier, and I don’t tolerate bad pavement as well as I used to. Still, good fun. This weekend it worked out that both the kids were out of the house Friday and Saturday nite, so Jeannie and I got to go out to dinner two nights in a row.

Work has been fun and exciting and so has the Global Jukebox. I hope to devote a full post to each of those soon.

Been working on music. People have been on vacation so we haven’t been doing full rehearsals. Left Hook is on hiatus all of August so we’ve been doing unplugged sessions and vocal sectional. I have a new jazz demo in the offing called King’s Hex; hope to debut it soon.

I had a random origami commission, a dude in Texas wanted one of turtles as a gift for his wife. He had in mind to put in some glass dome, so I had to make it a but smaller than usual, but it turned out very nice. I used at 10.5” sheet of green Rhino Hide. The final model was a little over five inches long. Totally forgot to take pictures before I sent it out. As an experiment I also folded one out of an 8.5” sheet of some kind of blue sparkly paper that’s alot like Elephant Hide. That one came out pretty well too, but the detail on the toes was a bit sloppy. Really at the limit of foldability.

Lizzy is going to take her road test for her driver’s licensee this week Good luck!

Jazz in the Park, Indoors

So the jazz concert last week came and went, and it was a really fun time and a good show. A few friends showed up, which is great for a Monday. The only downside was that it rained, so the show was moved to the local community center. The outdoor venue was apparently right near the train station, so we would have gotten a good crowd of passers-by. Ah well.

The music itself was really great. Great group, great selection of tunes. I felt like my playing was really on, and it was good to have a good group of players to bounce ideas off of. As I mentioned before the show was put together by Lucas, a.k.a young Wolfgang Skywalker, from the LEFT HOOK. He’s eighteen now and going to college for jazz bass in the fall, and his playing has gotten better. His soling in particular has more purpose and melody.

The piano player was his friend Gabe, who’s also starting college in the fall for jazz. The two of them play really well together and have a great rapport and interaction. Gabe is heavily influenced by Bill Evans and Herbie Hancock, to give you an idea of his sound. The drummer was this dude Ed, who’s about my age, and playing and teaching drums is his day job too, so he’s really excellent. Great, fluid sense of time, groove and pocket, plus really creative sense of sound and alot of dynamics and even melodic ideas stirred in there all at once. Plus a really cool cat too. Rounding out the group was Ava, a singer who’s a friend of Lucas and Gabe with a sweet and strong voice.

We only rehearsed twice, and neither time with the full group, so when we got on the stand there was alot of spontaneity. The songs in the set were of three kinds: Bird, Miles and standards. We opened with Cherokee at a suitably brisk tempo, with Ava singing the vocal. This was a really fun one to solo over, and the rhythm section really kept it together. On the reprise of the head Lucas and Ed did a cool half time thing. Next up was Billie’s Bounce, which I knew a long time ago on alto, but don’t think I’ve ever played on tenor. We’d never rehearsed this one and it was a complete surprise when Lucas called it, but still I was able to fake my way thru it no problem.

We did In a Sentimental Mood as a funk song, with vocal, and it worked surprisingly well. Ava stretched out more on this than any other of her numbers. I had to learn it in F (it’s usually in D) to accommodate the singer. We did a pretty straight rendition of There Will Never Be Another You, which also came out quite nice and is right in her zone. We closed the first set with Nardis, which got suitably out-there.

We continued in the vein in the second set, playing Footprints with a bunch of embellishments to the arrangement by Lucas, including a drum solo over an ostinato that lead back into the reprise of the head. Very cool. We did Blue In Green, a beautiful ballad which Gabe and Lucas knew well, but I’d never played or studied before, even though I’ve listened to Kind of Blue a million times. It’s a surprising subtle and deep song.

Switching gears again Ava came back on for Misty. I haven’t played this song in many years, but it felt great and I played a whole chorus for the solo. After the show someone in the audience told me I sound like Coleman Hawkins, which is high praise indeed.

We finished with Donna Lee, another fast bop number which I learned once on alto. At least for this on I had the music, although once more it was unrehearsed. Lucas started playing the head Joco style and then into solo, and we went on from there. Ed took a really good solo too. We played the out head in unison.

So all in all a great show. When it was over and we were leaving, a huge rainbow appeared in the parking lot, from horizon to horizon. Hopefully we’ll get a chance to play another gig this summer.