We had our long-awaited recording session this weekend. It came off great, without a hitch. Thanks to Robert Kessler for the use of his studio and for doing the session engineering, and to Josh his assistant. The whole process went really smooth and the sound was great. As mentioned before, Robert has a great live room with a Steinway Grand piano, and a deep bench of mics and preamps, an overall comfortable setup, and he really knows what he’s doing. So the group could just relax and focus on the music.

We actually managed to record a whole album of material, nine songs in all. In the end we jettisoned the cover and added two more originals, both from Gary. A Minor Event is a cool hard bop blues kinda of number, and Case DiGozo is very latin, bouncy and piano-driven with a fun drum solo.

We got there around ten and by the time everything was set up and we were rolling tape it was a little after noon. We averaged around forty-five minutes per song. In that time we got at least one good take, and usually two or three, and since we figure we can splice them together we have a few of just the first part or last part of a song. Everyone in the group did a really fantastic job playing. Gary, Dan, Rich and Jay, thank you all.

Next comes the editing and mixing. Jay and I are going to do it in my studio. Fun fun fun.

And just in time too. We’ve all been writing new songs. I have a number called Lift Off, inspired in part by John Coltrane’s Countdown, and particularly the idea of having a sax-and-drums section to lead off a song. However I picture the groove more like Bodhisattva by Steely Dan.

Harmonically I’ve been experimenting with chord substitutions, specifically different ways of embellishing a ii-V by putting another ii-V inside of it. The pattern I’m using for this song is to lift the inner ii-V up a half step, so you get ii-biii-bVI-V. You can loop it into a iii-IV-ii-V and you’re off and running. By the time you get to the bridge it’s kinda whole-toney and Monk-ish. I had envisioned it uptempo, but once I put down a melody and started practicing, I discovered it works great as a ballad too. So we’ll see where it goes. Sometimes songs take on a life of their own.

Wintertime Blues

The weather had been mild the last few days and the snow has melted again. Good thing too, I’ve had as much as I can take.

My mixes are coming along for the new Buzzy Tonic record. I applied the same set of FX Jay put on the first song to the rest. This is mostly EQ and compression on the individual tracks. The most noticeable thing is the kick and snare drums are much clearer, and sound louder, and the bass and cymbals too. The kick went from a thwomp to a thud and the snare has a nice bright snap. Everything is much clearer and in it’s own zone across the spectrum. After that I needed to dial all the balances again. Some things were too loud and all the subtle blends needed to be recreated. Now that’s taken care of and things are sounding really good. Of course I’ve yet to hook up my new studio monitors, so that’ll be the acid test. Hopefully I’ll have Jay come in for one more session and we’ll finish the record.

Meanwhile the jazz group has a date set for our recording session, the 28th. I’m glad now we didn’t record last December cuz the songs are that much better. Looser and tighter. We’re thinking we can record a whole album if all goes smoothly and our energy holds up. Else we’ll just go until we run out of time and get as much as we can. We have three more rehearsals to go. This last weekend I sat down and wrote out the scales to the changes in Gary’s tunes. The set list looks like this.

1. Buzzy Blue (John) – a bossa blues with cool changes on the turnaround, Miles meets Jobim. Nice and easy, a good warmup.

2. Samba Astor (Gary) – Spanish guitar with a Chick Corea vibe. Lotsa chords, not in an easy sax key.

3. King’s Hex (John) – crazy uptempo jazz waltz with a free modal solo section, channeling Coltrane. Tracks 2 and 3 are the complicated ones that we anticipate might take a couple tries to nail.

4. Slope (Jay) – very bluesy ballad, partly in 5/4, with the melody on the bass.

5. D-Bop (Gary) – cool and clever uptempo number with a 3/4 interlude.

6. Dark Skies (John) – minor jazz ballad. Great changes if I say so myself. Needs a better title. The image I have is of a pre- or post-thunderstorm moment when the sun is breaking thru the clouds or covering up. The juxtaposition, the light behind the dark, or inside the dark. I was thinking of Burnished Skies but don’t know if that has a ring to it.

7. Atonement Blues (John) – a joyous and laid back gospel blues, Branford vibe. It’s not strictly a blues because the chords are all dominant 7th chords and it actually hits all twelve of them once each chorus, like a tone row for chords.

8. Have You Met Miss Jones? (Rogers/Hart) – a standard; the bridge is probably the inspiration for Giant Steps.

Origami Heaven

Winter coldness continues. We had a couple days last week where the temperature got well above freezing and everything melted, then it shot right back down again. Snow expected again tomorrow.

This weekend Jeannie and I went to the Origami Heaven convention in Stoney Brook, LI, sponsored by the Long Island Folding Enthusiasts (LIFE). It’s among the smaller conventions, but a really good time. It’s at a nice hotel, so there’s a really good breakfast and a comfy bar on-site. Lunch and dinner is catered by the hotel for the convention, really good food. I only with I had a chance to use the hot tub!

I taught my Monoplane and my Flying Fish. Both of with went over well, and teaching them allowed me to refine both the model and the folding sequence. I took a few classes including Paul Frasco’s Gnome. Inspired by Michael LaFosse’s brass origami squirrel, Paul is teaching himself how to make cast resin sculptures out of his models, and experimenting with materials and techniques. So far he’s made a Duck (naturally!) and a multi-part Lion. It turns out you can mix grains of metal in with the plastic and come out with a material that had some metallic shine and some serious heft.

In other news, I’m in the process of review the comps from my publisher for my Origami Air and Space book. There are a few minor layout an alignment issues, but overall it’s looking really good. The cover is just great!

ZMP Origami Update

We we endured a pretty deep cold snap, with temps down close to zero every day for the last two weeks. Today it finally got up above twenty. Woo-hoo!

In other news I updated the origami page of my website:

It’s been two years since the last major update. I have about a dozen new models, mainly airplanes, spaceships and flowerballs, and of course the flying fish. Alot of the work went into image editing, and while I was at it I updated some of the older models with new pics. Of course there’s always more to do. Next steps include support for multiple images for each model. I hope to get to that sometime this winter.


ZMP Music Update

A cold and stormy day today, a genuine blizzard.

I updated the music page of my website:

I put up links to the Elixr rough mixes, and updated the links and blurbs for the other groups and projects as well. I realize the Haven Street Quintet needs and new photo cuz we still have our old drummer shown. We ought to be able to take care of that when we get into putting our album together next month.

As mentioned before, my friend Jay has been helping me mix my new Buzzy Tonic record Elixr. Jay is graduate of the Berkelee School of Music and a former professional recording engineer and producer. He came over after jazz the other day.

Unfortunately, as soon as we got underway I discovered one of my studio monitors was fried. I’ve mainly been working with headphones recently so I didn’t notice earlier. I figure it probably happened when I was messing around with my new Moog. Ah well, those speakers were getting on twenty years old. Time for an upgrade.

It was amazing working with Jay. I mean I understand how EQs and compressors work, but Jay is at a level where he can really sculpt the sound, like an artist with light and shadow. He knew what he was after and just dove right in and got to where he wanted it pretty fast. It would have taken me ages of experimentation to get anywhere close. Jay was able to put the instruments into their own space so they were louder and clearer, particularly the bass drum, snare and bass guitar. This set it up so that the rhythm instruments, horns and vocals had more space too.

It took us the whole afternoon to mix one track. The good news is I can apply the set effects to the other tracks and get pretty much in the ballpark. They all use the same drums, bass, and other instruments. Then when Jay comes by next time we can hone right in on balance and arranging.

Meanwhile, I’ve also begun updating my origami site. It’s been two years since the last major upgrade I have over a dozen new models, plus photos for everything my upcoming airplanes and spaceships book. So watch for that soon.

A Merry Little Xmas

We had a most excellent Xmas vacation that included lots of visiting, hosting, gifts, food and entertaining. Good to end the year on a healthy and prosperous note.

On the Friday before xmas my office closed early. We went out for Mexican food and then went to see the the new Star Wars movie. Both very good. Next day I had jazz, then Jeannie’s big family Xmas party out on Long Island. Lizzy had jello shots. I played some pool. On Xmas Eve we went out for sushi, our take on the Italian seven fishes tradition. On xmas day Mary’s came over along with Jeannie’s folks. On boxing day we headed up to Buffalo to see my parents. The next day Martin’s arrived, and that evening we visiting Larry and Jackie and went out to a great dinner at a place in Hamburg. Thursday morning Martin and I planned out the next round of work for the Jukebox, and we drove home later that day. Friday Denis and Sara and their kids came over for a visit. Saturday was jazz again, and then Jay came over the help me mix my record. Finally on New Year’s Eve Nick’s came over, and some of Lizzy’s friends too. Whew! All of it was very nice and a much needed break.

In between we watched most of the original Star Wars trilogy, I went up in weight on my workout, worked on mixing my record, updating my web site, and some new origami ideas, read most of Magnus Chase, and hung around and relaxed.

Well it’s back to work again. It’s been bitter cold the last couple weeks, with no end in sight.