Double Shot

Winter grinds on. We are in the midst of an epic cold snap. High today is 6 degrees F. Lizzy is back in Buffalo enjoying sub-zero temperatures and lake effect blizzards. More on all that later.

Last weekend we had two excellent gigs back to back, one with the jazz group and one with the rock group.

First, Friday night was the the jazz group Haven Street at the Bean Runner Cafe in Peekskill. This turned out to be a great venue. It had a very San Francisco vibe, with good food, coffee, beer and wine, and a sunny, unpretentious and casually put together decor. There a stage with a PA and the owner was also the sound man, made the band sound great. The room in front of the stage was set up like a night club, with two rows of tables going back, and waiter service so the people there were able to stay in their seats and listen to the music. We had a full crowd, and everyone seemed to dig it. My friend Joe from work and his wife Liz came out. Joe and I always talk about music.

I’m still touched at how an audience will applaud after every solo. And I’m kinda of amazed how, even with a really out-there song like King’s Hex, the audience is right there with us. The band’s playing was tight and solid, good grooves and tempos and dynamics. We all had several really good solos, free and spontaneous and musically happening. We played two sets, about two and half hours. By the end of the second set, after we’d played all our originals and were going out with a couple standards, I felt my energy and imagination flagging. I find when I play in front of an audience I’m a little less inclined to take risks, and sometimes end up falling back and wishing I had a larger vocabulary of canned patterns, but ah well. They don’t know about all the things I might have played. All in all a great gig, and they invited us back. The next jazz gig is this Friday at Silvana’s in Harlem at 6:00, happy hour.

Then Saturday night the rock band, G-Force had our debut gig with our new drummer Pete at Fogherty’s in Bronxville, right up the street from my house. Vinny came and helped load the gear before the gig, which was super helpful. When we got there the setup was a little weird cuz the stage is really small and three of us were out in front, but there was also heavy traffic from the waitstaff right there. The drummer was in a corner and couldn’t see half the band. But once we started playing everything was okay. Pete’s drumming lifts the whole band up a level and everything is much more solid and groovin’. He also sings, so we learned a few few songs for this gig including the Grand Funk Railroad classic Some Kind of Wonderful with Pete on lead. I can hardly wait to get him to harmonies on some other songs; having three voices really will take it to the next level. Onward and upward!

Shiny New Year

Ok so, the new year is off to a roaring start.

Two weeks ago we had just returned to work for new year. Coldness and darkness and all that. That weekend Jeannie was putting away the Christmas decorations in the closet under the stairs, a.k.a. the wizard room. Forgetting where she was, she stood up too fast and bumped her head pretty hard on the low ceiling. The next day Jeannie was driving to work and has a headache and started feeling dizzy. It turned out she had a concussion, which took the better part of a week to get over.

Right around that time the pain in my ankle went from kinda bad to really bad, and it was clear that I’d have to seriously and assiduously stay off my feet for a little while.

That same day we got the news Jeannie’s Aunt Mary died. She was 87 years old. A dear sweet lady. I still remember visiting her house in New Jersey way back when I first moved to NYC. I just saw her at Christmas and she seemed to being doing pretty well. The end was pretty fast.

So bang 1-2-3. At least Lizzy was home and was able to give us rides to the doctors and the funeral home. I was able to work from home until I started feeling better, and we got thru all that. I finally went into the office today. It was good to see everyone again.

We managed to get the Honda fixed somewhere in there. The dealer in White Plains where I bought the car was completely useless, lying to us about the scheduling and the work they intended to perform, recommending thousands of dollars in unnecessary repairs, and not addressing the issue we brought it in for in the first place. After multiple visits we had the give up on them. We took it another Honda dealer in Yonkers, and they were no better. We finally took it to the local garage near Jeannie’s work and they fixed it up for a reasonable price. Never got the firmware in the car’s computer updated, but it seems that was probably unnecessary anyway. Yeesh done with the dealers.

On a more upbeat note, the first gig of the new year was with my jazz group Haven Street at the Green Growler in Croton, and it went really well. We played two sets, 10 songs and then 6, with a total of 12 originals and 4 standards. Of the originals, 6 were on our record and 6 are new, destined for record #2. I think the newer songs are all really interesting and some of them really challenging to play, and all offer something new and different compositionally and tonally to solo on, so we’re not just repeating ourselves. The group is at a level where we pretty consistently get into a zone of really good listening/interactivity/spontaneity. A friend of the drummer sat in on trumpet on the standards, and he was quite good, tone phrasing riffs and chops.

Green Growler is a fun and cozy venue. It’s not exactly strictly a bar. They have hundreds of kinds of beer in cans and bottles that you can buy and carry out. It’s right by the Croton train station so there’s alot of walk-in traffic and the bar itself is like a counter. They also have a bunch of beers on tap and you can come in with a jug and have it filled. Then there’s a lounge area across from the bar, where the band plays, and in addition to some chairs and tables they have couches and board games, so it’s a pretty cool hang. They mostly have jazz and alternative music. It’s not very large but the room was full for the first set and still half full at the end, and the people really dug it. There was even dancing, and a guy drawing us the whole show. He showed me the drawings, pretty cool. Captured alot of the improvisational energy.

Our next gig is this Friday at the Bean Runner Cafe in Peekskill. Should be even better.

On the rock’n’roll front, we had to kick out our old drummer. We all felt really bad about it, but we had gone as far as we could with him. Andy was a really great guy, very dedicated and eager to help in every way. Unfortunately he was just not an experienced player. The rest of the group has several decades each of experience in working bands, and Andy had been playing about a year and was still getting the basics together.

So Gina had a friend Pete, who is a former wedding band drummer and has a great sense of time and groove. As soon as he entered it lifted the whole sound of the band. Pete sings too, so now we can do three-part harmonies.

We had a gig last weekend, which we had to cancel due to the threat of a snowstorm. Our guitarist Vinny works as a supervisor of a snowplow crew in the Bronx, so he got called in. As it turned out the storm was mostly just rain. Still it’s just as well. No one would’ve come out on a nasty stormy night. And having another week to get the set together with Pete is good thing. To top it off I wouldn’t’ve been able to hump the PA gear coming off and ankle injury.

So we have our debut gig with the new lineup this Saturday at P. J. Fogherty’s in Bronxville. Conveniently just five minutes from my house.

Face the Heat – 2018 Remaster

Here’s announcing my updated recording Face the Heat (2018 Remaster) is now complete and available for purchase as a CD or digital download at:

Links for iTunes, Amazon and Spotify to follow soon, so watch this space. Meanwhile check out the updated page for the record at:


Wonderful Christmastime

Okay let’s see. Out with the old and in with the new year. 2019 wow. Our troubled world keeps on spinning, weaving its joys and sorrows into the fabric of our lives. We’re back into the groove with the new year, with its new demands and challenges. Things already happening fast. Work has been busy, I guess you could call it a kind of comfortable chaos, the Devil you know. Lizzy had been showing initiative, getting things done during her winter break, painting furniture, redoing her room, throwing away stuff. She told me she wished she could find some kind of work for a few weeks, and Anna said she needs some help with the Global Jukebox. So now she’s interning there.

Rewinding a bit, we had a nice break for the holidays. Christmas Eve mass at Christ Church was absolutely beautiful with the choir doing Lessons and Carols. On Christmas day we visited family on Long Island and watched the classic Christmas movie Die Hard, which doesn’t really hold up well and makes no sense. Jeannie and I watched a few of the old Rankin and Bass holiday specials too, including the one with Heat Miser and the one with Burghermeister Meisterburgher. It turns out the actual animation for a lot of those was done in Japan. One of their last productions made was the 1977 cartoon of the The Hobbit, which was the thing that got me into Tolkien and Middle Earth as a kid. (Compare cartoon Gandalf to the Winter Warlock.) Shortly thereafter the animators founded Studio Ghibli and began production on Nausica: Valley of the Winds.

We went upstate after Xmas to visit my parents. Martin and his family were there too, so it was a really full house. When were unwrapping presents my Mum mixed up my little 3- and 5-year-old nieces names and chaos ensued. Ah, fun times. I got to play chess with Martin and my nephews too. I haven’t played in a long time, wish I could play more.

We met up with Larry and Jackie one night and went out to a restaurant in Hamburg called Grange that had a Cheese Describer to enumerate and describe the cheeses in our appetizer. One was described as “the most adventurous” along with a slew of adjectives. They also had raw scallops and other weird food, all really great! Michelle got a plain pizza. We visited Denis and Sarah while we were up there too, which is nice cuz we haven’t done that in a couple years and their kids are getting bigger.

Unfortunately I’ve been sick off-and-on since the day after Christmas. One thing after another. Shoulder, stomach, back, head cold. Comes and goes. It’s the cold and dark time of year. But you know, emotionally and spiritually okay. Now my feet are hurting again after being basically okay for over a year. Hope it passes soon. I’ve been trying to relax and take it easy. Luckily I had a few days off and I can work from home when I need to.

We had to give up on getting the Honda fixed at the Honda dealer. We took it there three times and they didn’t do anything, and lied about the service they performed, wanted to charge us $600 to change the spark plugs. Bad scene.

After we got back we had Nick and Lisa over one night, good to catch up and good fun. New Year’s Eve was fun too. Jeannie and I went out to dinner with Gina and Andy from the rock band to see our friend’s band Sue and the Fun Ghouls featuring the inimitable Shredder on guitar. I knew Sue, Shredder and the drummer George from ICS. My other friend Mike is gone and they have a new keyboard player, and she’s really good too. They’re one of the best local bar bands in Westchester and they played a great set. Good to see them and it was a great time.

I got my record made and it’s now available online. More on that next post.

Also a reminder my jazz group, Haven Street, is playing this Saturday night at the Green Growler in Croton-on-Hudson. Last rehearsal, first time back in the new year, we put together a set list. Everything sounded great. Not just my playing, the whole group was really on. Jazz is funny cuz improvisation is so central the whole thing. You memorize all this stuff to have at your command just so you can forget about it and be in the moment. When you’re not playing you’re best you get the feeling you’re falling back on canned riffs, and it’s still pretty good. But when you’re really on it’s like magic, taking flight, beautiful and expressive and spontaneous. We’ve been able to hit that level more and more consistently, so I’m expect it’s going to be a good show.