Dem Tempos

I’ve had four gigs in three weeks. This last one was the LEFT HOOK at Victor’s in Hawthorne. It went well, definitely better than our gig a couple weeks ago. It was a good crowd too. A group of five younger dudes walked in around midnight, and we were sure they weren’t going to like our music, but they really dug it, particularly the Sam and Dave stuff.

One major change was an intense focus on tempos. We noticed that the songs have crept up over time, to the point where some of them were starting to lose their groove, and at the list gig few were counted off way to fast. So we went and listen the the original cut of every song we do and wrote down the tempo. Next rehearsal counted off each song to a metronome click and concentrated on not speeding up (or slowing down).

It was a total revelation! Everything was alot groovier and funkier, with more room for phrasing. It was like a whole new set. And it carried thru on the stand. One other thing we’re trying to do is string our songs together in groups of three or four within a set. So there was a bit of confusion sometime as to the countoff, but overall it worked. We’re gonna keep using the metronome until it becomes second nature, and that ought to raise or level of musicianship.

Now we’re back to pounding the pavement for some new gigs. Meanwhile we’re gonna learn a few 80’s tunes. So stay tuned.

Soprano Sax and Art Opening

I recently bought a new soprano sax. I’ve been looking for one for a long time. You can often get a good deal on a used instrument but you have to be willing to search and to wait.

The horn was from Roberto Winds, just about the last music store in the historic music district in midtown Manhattan. They’re a third-floor walkup and the space also has a bunch of practice rooms. Roberto himself makes beautiful high-end saxophones that are quite reasonably priced, at least compared to Selmers. But they’re still pretty pricey for your second or third horn. Fortunately they also do a brisk trade in used saxes, particularly old Mark VI’s, and they list part of their inventory on their web site.

I tried out about four horns and ended up getting a used intermediate model Yamaha, about ten years old but barely played. Lovely tone, intonation and balance. It’s a one-piece model without a separate neck. I also played one of Roberto’s horns as well as a pro-level Yamaha from the 1980’s. Both were better horns than the one I ended up getting, but were twice the price. For that extra money you get lots of amazing engraving on the bell, plus one level up terms of tone and intonation, that smooth silk-butter-cognac sound like my tenor has.

Ah well, the horn I got still very good, much better than my old soprano. While I was at it I got a new mouthpiece too, an Otto Link.

Only a few days later I got a chance to try it out. I had a gig at an art gallery in Hasting called The Square Peg. It was an opening for a painter named Jerzy Kubina who does these large, bold yet subtle, semi-abstract canvases. Great balance of color and tone, dark and light, very suggestive but not quite figurative, really amazing stuff. The band set up in front of a giant mural in this beautiful bright space, a perfect setting.

The band was my friend Charlie on guitar and Ed from the Ossining gig in July on drums, and this dude Joel on bass. We did a mixture of standards and Charlie’s originals. We were going to do one of my songs too, but we ran out of time. The band sounded really good, everyone’s playing was really on, and the crowd was enthusiastic and appreciative. The gallery owners were really nice people too. I hope to go back sometime.

LEFT HOOK Returns to Victors of Hawthorne

Fresh from our recent engagement at the Net, LEFT HOOK is back in playing form, and delivering some new funky soul material as well as all you’re favorites. Hope to see you there!

Music with a punch!
Westchester’s classic rock Funk & soul party band

Saturday October 22
8:30 PM
Victors Bar & Grill
500 Commerce St. Hawthorne

Rock and Jazz

Lots happening on the music front these days. My jazz group, the Haven Street Five, has been working on a bunch of my originals. We’re up to five or six of them now. The most recent, King’s Hex, is an uptempo waltz with voicings based on stacked fourths. The chart is four pages long, which is a break from my pattern of only doing songs that fit on a single sheet, and it’s a definite step up in terms of complexity. Still the guys in the band are really digging the material I’m bringing in and happy to put in the work to learn the tunes and make something out of them. In fact last rehearsal Gary suggested we record a CD of my originals and one or two covers.

I had planned on bringing up this idea in the new year when the Juke Box work is substantially done. We only have half an album’s worth of tunes right now. I have three more ready to go, but it takes a time to make demos and write out charts, and more time for the band to really learn the songs. I suggested everyone else in the band write one song each, and if you don’t have idea for a song just take a blues and write a new head. Gary came back and told me he tried that but ended up rewriting a Miles song.

I’ve also been doing some jazz jams with friend Charlie. Last Friday I sat in with his trio at a community center in Yonkers, a combination of his originals and some standards. They’re trying to get some kind of scene happening there, and although it wasn’t heavily attended, I think it has some potential. Charlie says he plays there once a month or so. Next Friday I’m playing with him at an art gallery in Hastings. This time we’re gonna go a rehearsal first, and I’m bringing a couple of my originals too. And the drummer is Ed B. from the bandshell gig I did with Lucas back in the summertime. Should be lots of fun.

I’ve been out seeing some of my friends bands lately too. A few weeks back I saw Sue and Fun Ghouls at a bar up in Mamaroneck. They’re a rock’n’roll bar band like the LEFT HOOK, but they’ve definitely leveled up since the last time I saw them, about a year ago, shortly after Sue and George joined the band on vocals and drums. Now they have a new bass player who also can sing high songs like Bon Jovi and the Outfield. Overall their sets have gotten much tighter, with basically wall-to-wall backbeat the whole time, one number into another, to really keep the crowd moving. Much improved vocal harmonies too.

Another night I saw my friend Jay playing bass backing up a vibes player at a local club Infusion. They’re looking to get some kind of jazz scene going there, so I’m hoping to get a gig with the Haven Street Five.

Saturday nite the LEFT HOOK played at Fisherman’s Net down in Pelham. It was a good show, especially considering we haven’t played for a few months. We had a good crowd and played our full third set since the people stuck around. Still, we’re trying to level up ourselves, get the beginnings and endings tighter, the tempos more consistent, and flow better from one song into the next. Trying to hook up songs into string of three or four to keep people dancing. Last go around we added a few funk/soul numbers like Vehicle and I Just Want to Celebrate. Next round of songs we learn are gonna be some 80’s pop-ish hit by band like INXS, the Fixx and the Cars.

One highlight of the show was, since it was Jeannie’s and my wedding anniversary, and she always likes to come to our gigs, the band learned Thank You by Led Zeppelin, and I sang it to her cuz it was our wedding song. She seemed pretty knocked out, and it went over quite well with the crowd too, especially considering we only rehearsed it once and never even got the whole way thru. Now we have a Zeppelin song in our bag, although probably not the one anyone would expect.