Holiday Cheer

It’s been a busy holidays so far. Our jazz gig last week went really well. The place was packed and the audience included Jeannie and the girls, as well as a whole bunch of friends of our piano player Rich. The place is normally a lunch café, but they did a special five-course dinner. The food looked really great. I had some cake and it was delish.

Musically, we did a bunch of new material including Ornithology and some other standards, as well as some Christmas songs. Probably my favorite was our version of We Three Kings in the style of John Coltrane’s My Favorite Things. All in all a great time. I wish we’d recorded it.

Lots of family and visiting and cooking and baking. The day after the gig we went out to Long Island for a party for Jeannie’s extended family. Then we had a bunch of people over for Christmas Day from Jeannie’s side, and we have another bunch coming for New Year’s. Mostly I’ve just been enjoying slowing down for a little while.

We went upstate to visit my parents after Xmas. My Dad just turned ninety years old, so my Mum had a party for him with lots of great food. They’re both still going strong in mind and body and soul. Wow, just fantastic.

My brother Jim and his family were in town for the occasion. That was really nice because they live in New Mexico and we don’t get to see them that often. My nephew Will has really grown. He’s now fifteen and comfortable hanging and conversing with the grownups.

Martin and his family were there too. His oldest, Charlie, is now eleven and is into origami and folding at a solid intermediate level. He’s also learning saxophone. He and Martin played a few Christmas songs as duets for us, with Charlie on alto and Martin on tenor. He’s sounding really good. Charlie also got a really cool Hot Wheels Mario Cart racing toy/game from Santa and brought it over a set it up.

Some of my uncles and aunts were over from Canada too, whom I haven’t seen in a long time. Good to catch up. I printed out a few copies of a picture to give to my brothers. I took it Hungary and it was a snapshot of a picture that my dad’s cousin Rózsi had. The original picture was of me and my brothers as little kids; I was about five. Rózsi had a whole pile of pictures my grandmother had sent her over the years.

Lizzy came from school the week before Xmas. She has a trial month of Disney Plus, so as part of our program of slacking off we’ve been working our way thru the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe cannon. I’d seen maybe a third of them, and my general impression is that they’re mostly pretty entertaining, particularly the ones with Thor, but kinda silly and overly full of explosions and CG set pieces, and that while any given movie plot is pretty predicable, the overall story arc is nevertheless disjointed and full of plot holes. And of course the obvious problem that they make so many of these movies and they have such huge budgets, that there’s lots of other potentially amazing non-franchise movies out there that never get made. Ah well. If you keep in mind that they’re adaptations of comic books it’s easier to enjoy them on their own terms, including the multi-story sprawl that’s been going on for well over fifty years. And seeing the movies in order makes much more sense.

European Vacation Fotoz, Part IV

Here’s the fourth and final installment of pictures from our vacation to Europe over the summer. Includes the rest of Budapest and Mór, plus a bonus album of pics from Jeannie’s phone. Whew, that was a whole lot of pictures to go thru. Now it’s time to start thinking about our next trip. Enjoy!

Feelin’ Alright

Well the season of darkness and cold is closing in upon us. The end of the year, the end of the decade. Lots of changes are happening, and more coming soon. I’ve been trying finish off a bunch of old things, and move forward with a some new things. Rolling with the changes, the dude abides.

One nice thing is that the gang all got together Thanksgiving weekend to play D&D. This time Michelle is DM’ing, and wrote an original dungeon for us to play, in which a local prince was kidnapped by a gang of orcs and ogres and the party went off to rescue him in some caves in the hills. It was definitely a success and we all had alot of fun, and the plan is to play again over Christmas break.

About half the party continued with the characters from my campaign and the rest created new ones. Lou and Valerie are still a pair of Dwarves, one a fighter and on a Paladin, both lawful good, so that makes for lots of melee might and some interesting roleplay. Katie is now kleptomaniac Hobbit Druid, and Phil is some kind of Gnome prankster, while Addie is a demo-ogre Barbarian, lots mayhem and fun. Michelle had a really cool cleric, an acolyte of Thor, who even had a magic hammer, and another, a halfling thief, who converted to Posidenism so she could wield a magic trident.

I thought of taking over one of these, but instead I brought back one of my previous characters, Hiro, a half-Elf Sorcerer/Monk. The idea with this combination was that he’d be a potent innate spellcaster, while his monk training would let him attack with a staff and open-handed strikes: a formidable fighter without needed swords or armor, which hinder the use of magic. In our old campaign he was a very high-level character, but I had to wind him all the way back to 6th level. This makes him third level in each of his classes. Not powerful enough for massive fists-of-fury kung fu attacks, nor advanced enough for third level spells like Fireball and Lightning Bolt. And Michelle would not allow me to bring in a really powerful staff from my previous campaign, so he didn’t have much in the way of magic weapons. In fact he’s not at all a badass, and after a couple encounters that consisted of getting seriously wounded and running away, I had to figure out a new way to play the character. It turned out my best option alot the time was throwing stars!

As far as the recording project goes, I must admit I’ve been hung up on getting together the cover art for the release of Sun of the Son. I did in fact find an old cassette of the original version, but the art is a halftone screen print an well nigh unusable. So now I’m just meditating on the question of what direction to take, waiting for an image to suggest itself. Maybe I could use some photos of some origami dragons or something.

Nevertheless I’m going ahead starting in on some new recordings. I’m have a set of half-developed originals I’m gonna save to see if I can develop them with the new group, if it gets off the ground. I have a set of players who are all into the idea of doing an originals project. Now it’s a matter of finding a day when everyone can get together.

So for now I’m circling back to do a couple covers from my past, both dating from around the same time as Sun.

One is the Story Lies, one of my favorite songs written by Martin. He’s done a couple versions of it, one with sax and one without. Mine is gonna take the sax version even further and make it funkier and clavinet-oriented. For now I’ve just been studying the song, learning the correct chords and form, and to sing and play it at the same time without having to think about it. They chord changes are really frickin’ cool I must say, with a rather killer-sounding unusual modulation as the backbone of the song. I’m thinking of figuring out the guitar part, just so I can have some of that heavy crunchiness. At Martin’s writing used alot of patterns that he’d shift around the fretboard in clever ways, while taking advantage of open strings. He might have even showed me once. Plus I’ll get a chance to use my new stomp box.

The other song is Who Speaks on Your Behalf by The Cheshire Cat, a great band out of Buffalo from back in the day. This one is a fairly complicated prog-pop number with heavy synthesizer riffs, and bombastic drumming by Ryan Boyle. I’ll probably change around the instrumentation to be closer to my current favored palette while keeping in mind the spirit of the original. Again I’m at the point where I’m learning to sing and play it. This one is a little more work.

In other news, the jazz group Haven Street has a gig coming up at Hayfields Cafe in North Salem on Fri Dec 20 at 7pm. Sort of a dinner gig. So in addition to our usual set of mostly originals sprinkled with a few covers, we’ve worked up a bunch of Christmas songs. This has been tons of fun, taking songs that everyone knows and making them our own by changing the groove and the harmonies. Probably my favorite is We Three Kings, done sort of in the style of John Coltrane’s My Favorite Things.