The Global Jukebox 2.1 is Live

I’m happy to announce that The Global Jukebox 2.1 is now live. Go ahead and check it out at:

This rev culminates many months of work, and contains quite a new features including an all-new Wheel View, an updated world culture and song taxonomy, and numerous enhancements to the content and functionality.

The Association for Cultural Equity, the organization behind The Global Jukebox is a non-profit foundation. Our funding is way down this year due to the worldwide pandemic. If you care about world folk music and its legacy, please consider making a donation so we can keep adding new content, features and improvements.

Romantic Warriors

Well the big news this weekend is that we went downhill skiing. It’s been seven years since the last time we went, for a variety of reasons. This year the stars aligned: I have no band and no gigs, Michelle had no robotics competitions, everyone is feeling healthy, and most of all, we had three or four good snowfalls in the last few weeks; it’s the first traditional winter we’ve had in a long time.

We all need some new kit. My old ski boots no long fit, so I got some new boots. They’re lighter and more comfortable too. As it turns out my skis are so old that the ski shop refused to service the bindings and set them up for my new boots. I didn’t know that was a thing.

Meanwhile Jeannie sent her ski pants, gloves and goggles up to Lizzy, who told us she was going skiing before we started to make our own plans, and asked if we had any equipment she could borrow. So Jeannie got new ski pants, gloves and goggles, and while she was at it, she decided to get a helmet. Luckily her boots still fit and her skis are in good shape. Last time Michelle went skiing she was maybe fifth grade, so she needed a new ski jacket, pants and gloves and goggles too. We decided to rent skis and boots for her on the mountain.

We went up to Catamount in the Berkshires, a mountain about two hours from here that we know well. Our friend Seth, who has a house nearby met us there. We decided to go night skiing cuz the tickets were much cheaper and we didn’t really know how it would go or how long we’d last. Plus we didn’t want to have to get up early and drive. It turned out to be the right call. We got there in time to get the first two or three runs in in daylight. We were all kinda wobbly and unsure but soon found our stride and gained some confidence. The conditions were great and by nightfall there were virtually no lines at the lifts.

I decided to demo skis at the mountain. It turns out skis have evolved in the time we were away. I still think of my old skis as my new skis, even though they’re at least fifteen years old. They’re parabolic, from when that was in fashion, and replaced a pair of much longer and straighter skis from the late 1980’s or early 1990’s. Modern skis are still kinda parabolic, but wider in the middle and wider overall, with rounder tips. The skis are almost like two narrow snowboards. I’m told they’re designed for stability and I must say I was really impressed with how they handled. Once I got used to them I found I was able to carve and hold my turns with less effort and energy than my old skis; I could just lean and let them do the work. Also they’re much more consistent in how they handle across moving from deep snow to the occasional icy patch. So yeah, looking at getting new skis now.

We ended up skiing 12 runs and stayed on the mountain for over four hours. Alot of these were spent a nice wide gentle run where we could practice and gain confidence. After a few of these I was basically pointing my skis straight down the mountain and going for it. We ended the last run going all the way up top and coming down some blue runs.

Couldn’t’ve asked for a better time. And now that we got all new kit we’re hoping to go again before the end of the season. Lizzy went skiing the same night as us, up at Holiday Valley. The package Jeannie sent arrived today.

On the drive up and home, we listened to a bunch of records by Return to Forever, the seminal jazz fusion group led by Chick Corea, the groundbreaking jazz piano and keyboard player who passed away last week. Chick is one of my big influences, and I’ve seen him live a few times, including with his Electrik Band, doing a Mahavishnu crossover with John McLaughlin, and in acoustic trio setting. He has over 100 albums across all styles of jazz from the 1960’s to last year, and has tons of stuff I’ve never heard. Of course he has lots of stuff I know really well. I decided to focus on Return to Forever cuz I only own one of his albums, although I used to have a few on cassette as well. I haven’t listened to it in a long time. It’s great stuff, really holds up. Lots of mind-blowing synthesizers, and the other players, Stanley Clarke, Lenny White and Al Di Meola are total monsters. They’re capable of a wide variety of expressive styles individually, and as a group come together as a singular force. At times it’s more prog rock than jazz, but without lyrics.

Bring on the Night

Winter continues. Cold and dark, but at least we made it thru January. Too bad the Bills did not win the AFC championship game, but KC and Mahomes were just really so good. We did enjoy watching a few games with wings and nachos and beers. Josh Allen is young and the Bills are up-and-coming, and at least they’ll avoid renewing the Super Bowl curse.

Meanwhile, we had an epic snowstorm the last two days. A good eighteen inches, maybe two feet, the biggest snow in probably five years. I went out yesterday around noon to shovel and there was already a good foot on the ground, but light and fluffy. By the time I was done another inch had fallen. Today the snow stopped and we went out to shovel again, and it was all wet and heavy. Ah well, it’s done.

In preparation for the storm we watched the classic 1982 John Carpenter movie The Thing. Still a great movie after all this time. Great soundtrack too.

We’ve reformulated our Thursday jazz group with a new piano player Josh. He used to be in a group with Ken and the old drummer from Haven Street, Dan. He fits in quite well in terms of playing, vibe and temperament. In addition to standards we’re doing jazz adaptations of rock and pop songs. So far we’ve hit You Can’t Get What You Want (Till You Know What You Want), by Joe Jackson, which is a favorite that we used to do in a couple rock bands. Also Walking on the The Moon, which works great and turns into something dreamy and ethereal, and Peg by Steely Dan, which also works great, bouncy and bluesy. Next week we’re gonna try Some Skunk Funk by the Brecker Brothers. I went back and listened to the record Heavy Metal Bebop, which I haven’t put on in quite some time, and it just blew my mind, just how far ahead of its time it was. I also forgot that the drummer was Terry Bozio, before he joined Zappa.

In home studio land, I finished my guitar-driven rock song, Why Not Zed, back around Xmastime, and started recording another, All of the Above. I also hashed out the first few minutes, from the intro thru the verse and chorus and into the solo section, of the prog epic Plague of Frogs. But I put these all aside for a while to work on another jazz number. Lift Off was a song I wrote for Haven Street, inspired by John Coltrane’s Countdown, and featuring lots of half-step modulation inside ii-V’s superimposed on a harmonic structure borrowing tonal ideas from the standards Have You Met Miss Jones? and A Foggy Day. Gary brought his Wes Montgomery mojo, which fit the song perfectly and helped sharpen the arrangement.

For the studio version I’m recasting it for tenor sax and organ, with a typical rhythm section of piano, bass and drums. For bass I used an 80’s-sounding synth bass, just as scratch part, but then I like the sound of it and may very well end up keeping it. The tempo of the song is 210 bpm and I don’t know if I can walk that fast on the fender bass anyway. I’ve been experimenting with two bass parts (synth and bass guitar) for alot of this record, so I’ll come up with something else to do on the fender: counterpoint, accents and embellishments. Meanwhile I put down the piano track, which I really played. There’s an arrangement behind the head, then many choruses of comping, and a solo. I laid down the solo last night, and it came out well. even playing at the real tempo. Next comes the organ, which is key to the arrangement. I might end up swapping some parts between the piano and organ; we’ll see how it sounds. Then there’ll be a pass tweaking the bass and drums to give them more dynamics. There’s a drum solo in there too, trading fours with the sax and then just horn and drums for a chorus. Might add in a layer of live drums. Lastly, I’m really psyched to lay down the sax part. I feel like my playing has gotten alot better over the last year and I can really slay an uptempo bebop number.

At my new job I’ve been learning the Google Firebase platform. This is a so-called “serverless” suite of infrastructure components to run the backend of web and mobile applications. It seems to be just the thing we need, and includes services for hosting, auth, file storage, database, backend logic, and analytics. Saves us from having to spin up our own servers and databases and build it all ourselves. So far it all seems to be pretty good. There’s lots of admin controls and vast documentation; not surprisingly there’s alot to know to come up to speed. Still, after less than two weeks starting from zero I have a site with auth and file storage working end to end, and I hope to be talking to the DB tomorrow. Hopefully next week I’ll turn the corner into actual application development and figuring out how my piece fits in with our other products. I guess if there’s one thing Google is good at, it’s writing software. Nevertheless, it feels a bit like a deal with the devil you don’t know. They have their tentacles in so many pies, and the days of “don’t be evil” are long gone. Just this week I read about how they wiped out something like 100,000 negative reviews of the Robinhood app after it locked its users out from buying shares of some stocks, in order to protect some greedy hedge fund guys who way overreached. Interesting times, one thing for sure is they keep on a-changin’.