Ah, one thing I’m thankful for is a moment’s rest this weekend. It feels like we’ve been on the go since the beginning of September. Now we have a much needed long weekend off from work. Lizzy came home from college earlier in the week. We had an excellent Thanksgiving with family. Jeannie made a turkey and everything, and was an excellent time.

Today we did what was likely the major raking of the year: four cans and four more bags full of leaves. Now the branches are mostly bare. It seems a little late this year.

I’ve been spending alot of time this weekend playing and listening to music. We saw the Queen movie last week, which inspired me to go back and listen to some of the early Queen albums I haven’t heard in years. My college roommate Rich was really into them, particularly Brian May’s guitar playing. So I put on Queen II and Sheer Heart Attack. Such great stuff, a unique combination of heavy metal, vocal harmonies, and wonderful weirdness. I’d say I appreciate it more now than back in the day, especially knowing they did it all with analog circuitry and a 16-track tape deck.

I went thru and listened to the entire setlist for my rock band, about three hours of music, just to get it fresh in my head for next week’s gigs, plus a bunch of new songs we’re considering adding to the set. I’m at the point where I know all the songs well enough, and I know about half of them really well. But every time I listen I pick up nuances in the arrangement that we can use to make our version sound better.

I’ve also been listening to more jazz. The guys in my band have been raving about new stuff from Christian McBride, Brian Blade and Joshua Redman among others. I found Joshua’s new record and it was great. Now Spotify is walking me backward thru his entire discography. Each record is more enjoyable than the last. Lots of great ideas in there.

I’ve been writing new music for the jazz group too. For our last gig we had four new originals – Closing the Distance (Gary), Fever Dream (Jay), A Fat Cat (a.k.a. El Gato Gordo, by Rich), and Lift Off (mine), which is roughly enough for half an album. We have a bunch of other songs we’ve been developing. One of mine, Mobility, is coming along nicely. It’s been around for a while but as of late it’s taken on a sort of Raymond-Scott-meets-gypsy-jazz quality. So I reharmonized it to be in the Hungarian minor mode and to emphasize the diminished quality. Also add a heterophonic ensemble jam toward the end.

Another song of mine, Son of the Sun has been slower going. It’s a pretty intricate number that switches meter alot, mainly between 5/8 and 7/8. We started it way back when, but then we didn’t have a regular drummer for a while and it didn’t seem worth it to try and teach every drummer who sat in. When Erik joined full time we were focused mainly on the last gig. Now it’s back to developing new material. Some of the band seem to think it’s a bit to outside of “our sound”. I find this kind of thinking really limiting and frustrating, but it didn’t help that the demo recording I had was from my heavy-metal fusion band from the 90’s. So I think I’ll put together a new demo with a sound closer to what I have in mind for this group.

Meanwhile I have two new jazz numbers I’m writing. One is based on the idea of a four-bar loop, and has a working title of Heavy Water. The other one, which is further along, I’m thinking of as a “melody” song, a midtempo number with the general feel of something like A Foggy Day or Dolphin Dance. The song explores major seventh chords, and has a bright, spacious sound, and a fair amount of modulation. It kinda started with me exploring the middle section of Sun of the Son, trying to make is sound less heavy. But then it quickly developed in an unexpected direction and became something new. It’s almost there, but not quite; I’m still kind of experimenting and exploring. I want to get the turnarounds really working tight. A great melody has a feeling of inevitability about it, like once you hear it you can’t imagine it going any other way.

The big news on the music front is I had to buy a new computer last week. Down in my recording studio I have a Mac workstation that’s a few years old. It’s connected to a MBox Pro III and runs a particular version of ProTools. I should also mention that since the release of the third Buzzy Tonic album, Elixr, I went back have been remixing the previous Buzzy Tonic record, Face the Heat, originally released in 2011. I was never fully happy with the sound of that record, and since then I’ve become much better at mixing so I figured it was worth it. And it’s is been coming along here and there late nights and weekends. I was almost done, seven of nine songs in the can.

A couple of months ago the screen on the computer started flickering and then it froze, and I had to reboot. The problem went away and didn’t come back until last week when it started happening repeatedly, until finally wouldn’t come back at all after rebooting. Luckily I have everything backed up on time machine and only lost about an hour’s work from my last session.

So I was all set to buy a brand new IMac Pro, but then I got to thinking about how it would integrate with the current rig. There’s no obvious upgrade path from my current version of ProTools to one that would run on a new OS. And that’s to say nothing of my numerous plugin, some of which have licenses tied tot the machine I’m pretty sure. It just seemed like a potentially bottomless hassle and expense.

So Jeannie stepped in and helped me out. She found a used/refurb computer of the exact same model as mine on Ebay for like five hundred bucks, about ten percent of the cost of a new one. It arrived just two days after we placed the order. And all we had to do was plug in my Time Machine drive and restore the last backup and Viola! Back in business! The computer was able to launch ProTools and talk to the MBox and I was able to continue with my mixing right where I left off. All the plugins I needed were still valid. It looks like I may have some issues with SampleTank, a software synth/sampler which I’ll need when I get back to tracking. But I’ll cross that bridge later.

For now, I’ve finished my penultimate mixes for all nine tracks. This is basically the final mix before mastering. My workflow nowadays doesn’t really include a mastering phase. I’ll sequence the CD and make sure all the levels match, but all the tracks have a dynamic compressor on the main out, so if I need to make any adjustments I’ll just go back to the track. So I have to listen them all together, and A/B them against the old mixes, and against the newer album. I may end up tweaking the level of a compressor, or raising or lowering something by a dB or so, but that’s about it. I was hoping to get this project done by end of Thanksgiving break, but now the goal is by the end of the year. Then in 2019 I’ll start in on BZIV.

Just a couple random things during my downtime. Michelle and I finished Avatar: The Last Airbender a few weeks ago, and now we’re watching Firefly. She’s hooked. Shiny! And I’ve been reading Robert Lang’s newest magnum opus Origami Twists, Tilings and Tessellations. I’m well over a hundred pages in and only midway thru chapter two.

G! Force Gigs

You may be wondering whatever happened to the rock band since we had to kick out our old guitar player. Well, the new guy Vinny has been jamming with us a few weeks now. He’s really good and is a nice and fun guy too, and has learned the whole set. So it’s all systems go! Next rehearsal we’re gonna start in on some new tunes, mostly Xmas carols. We have a run of gigs coming up between now and the end of the year. Hope to see y’all at one or more:

November 30 – Dudley’s in New Rochelle
December 1 – Victors of Hawthorne
December 8 – Barney Mc Nabb’s in Tuckahoe
December 15 – Chat 19 in Larchmont

Boston and Brooklyn

It’s been another busy week. The change of the seasons is arriving with rapid fury. First off they changed the local timezone settings last weekend. It’s been getting darker and darker but now it’s nighttime before five o’clock. Still getting used to that. I did get the Mustang out one last time, but today we had our first snowstorm. Got maybe 5 inches of wet heavy snow, enough to seriously mess up traffic. Now it’s raining and it’s all supposed to melt. Hopefully the morning won’t be too bad.

We went up MIT last weekend for their annual origami convention. I taught my Dirigible and it went over well. The class was very full and there were a couple people in the class who weren’t quite at the level required, so that slowed things down a bit. Despite my providing diagrams everyone didn’t quite get to the end of the model. I also see I need to explain the collapsing of the nose better in the diagrams.

The other model I folded was my Platypus. I haven’t folded one of these in a while, and it’s not diagrammed, so I did it entirely from memory. It went just fine, and we even finished on time.

This is the most technical of the origami conferences that I regularly attend. Alot of these people were at BOS and 7OSME in Oxford at the end of the summer, and now I kinda wish I could have gone. Ah well.

I did reconnect with Robby from, who is writing origami software in javascript. I want to find a way to collaborate and contribute to the project, despite my being busy with so many other things. Also Adrianne Sack gave a lecture on the parallels between origami tessellations and certain kinds of fabric and textile pleating and folding techniques. Very cool. Of course Jason taught his crazy complex dragon, and despite it being a four-hour class he had to finish up during the evening free-folding.

I saw alot of my origami friends, and it was a good hang, and a bunch of people gave me good advice about planning our trip to Japan next year. Still, these things are always over too soon.

Back at home the next day we were back in Brooklyn, to see Kamasi Washington and his band play at a place called Brooklyn Steel. You may recall we saw Kamasi at the Montreal Jazz Festival back in June and it totally floored me. Well this time we came in knowing what to expect. The show was excellent. And restored my streak: now 8 of the last 9 shows we’ve seen have had a trombone. I think they’ve been touring pretty much continually since the last time we saw them. They did about half the same songs and half different. And some of the songs have evolved. The opening band, Butcher Brown were good too. Only downside was the venue was a cavernous warehouse space suitable for raves, with no seating and the acoustics could have been better, and the drinks very very expensive. Still it was a great concert and a fun time. I even got a t-shirt.

Peak Fall

Driving to work the last few days it’s been peak time for the leaves turning color around here. The local parkways run thru hills of oak and maple forest. Combined with leaden grey clouds and heavy skies the whole landscape was one of striking, eerie beauty. Totally surreal.

Sunday it was a mild a sunny day with bright blue skies, so Jeannie and I went for a hike along the Palisades near the Tappan Zee Bridge (a.k.a. The Mario). Great views of the river, the trees and the surrounding countryside, and we saw lots of hawks and even a family of giant Turkey Vultures hanging out on the cliffs. Way cool.

Last weekend was the first (and last) weekend in a while where we didn’t have a gig with the jazz or rock band, a show to see, or travel plans. But there’s plenty of other stuff going on.

For one thing, over the last several weekends Michelle and I watched Avatar: The Last Airbender. I saw this show out of the corner of my eye with the sound down when it was originally on the air, cuz I worked at Nickelodeon at the time. But watching it for real, well it was just excellent. So much going on, such great characters and conflicts, and such an imaginative story world. I’m still blown away that, like Doctor Markoh from Full Metal Alchemist, the Dragon of the West Iroh has a silent “h” at the end of his name.

For another we finally got the contract signed to get solar power on our roof. This was a big research project and it took a long time to work out all the details. Hopefully we can get the installation finished before the snow comes, but right now we’re waiting on permits from the city.

I’ve been busy with origami. A couple weeks back I made a pair of Cuttlefish for the Origami USA Holiday Tree at the American Museum of Natural History in NYC. This project came and went so fast I didn’t even take pictures! But had a similar pair already folded, shown here. The twist is that the cuttlefish is an animal (not really fish, BTW) that changes it’s body color to blend in with its surroundings, to express it’s emotions and to imitidate other life forms with vibrant displays of color and pattern. To simulate the different moods I folded on out a plain beige sheet, as if blending in on a sandy seafloor. The other I made out of the loudest psychedelic fractal paisley pattern I could find, and posed the tentacles spread as if ready for attack. Way cool!

My other recent origami project was to diagram my Dirigible. I’ll be teaching this at the upcoming OrigaMIT convention, and wanted to submit it for the convention collection. It turned out to be a bit longer than I expected. I had estimated about 30 or 40 steps, but it ended up at 51. Still it’s a great model and well worth getting down. I plan on using it in an upcoming book.