Channeling Ringo

We had a lovely Thanksgiving. Spent the day out on Long Island with Jeannie’s sister and the niblings, playing Jackbox and watching the Bills game. Michelle came home from college, although Lizzy stayed in Buffalo cuz she had work on Friday. We observed Slack Friday, as is our custom, and did no shopping. For someone who doesn’t watch alot of TV, however, there was alot on.

First, we watched the new Cowboy Bebop live action series the weekend before Thanksgiving. I thought it was great, very entertaining, and want to watch it again at Christmastime. John Cho is excellent, as is the whole cast, and they pulled off the trick of staying faithful to the spirit of the original tone, action, humor, and sci-fi world building, while pulling the story arc and characters in into deeper directions. And the music was great.

The internet seems to hate it, but they must all be super picky nerds who do nothing besides wallow in their fandom. After all, it’s a show on a streaming internet service, based on a cartoon from the ’90’s. What do you expect? If you’re at all reasonable, the new Bebop blows them away.

Then we watched the new Peter Jackson remake of the Beatles’ Let It Be. I heard it was long, but was hopeful nonetheless. After all, Jackson’s adaptation of Help! was the original extended trilogy, and remains one of my favorite movies of all time, even at thirteen hours long. In fact, we usually watch it every winter, and since Michelle was home for the long weekend, we viewed the first half.

Granted, Jackson transposed the setting for Help! from 1960’s England to a place called the Shire, and the four young lads are Hobbits rather than Liverpudlians, and as they try and get rid of the ring, they’re being chased by a death cult of Nazgul rather then a death cult of Kali, and they’re trying to get to Mordor rather than the Bahamas. Eleanor Braun is replaced by a CG Gollum and Victor Spinetti by Christopher Lee. They added a few new songs and changed the title, but the basic plot remains the same.

So, was the new Get Back on the level of Lord of the Rings, or more like PJ’s The Hobbit, bloated and stretched thin like butter over too much toast?

Well, I have to tell you I’m a huge Beatles fan, but now I finally feel like they’ve jumped the shark and landed in overrated and self-indulgent territory. It would have been a much better film if it was five or six hours long rather than eight. As a musician who has spent tons of time in rehearsals and recording sessions, I know very well how tedious it can be to write, arrange, rehearse and perfect a set of tunes. I think there was actually a great story in there, and a bit of editing would have moved things along without all the false starts, noodling jams, and endless complaining how they don’t have the material for a movie yet. Eight or sixteen bars would do. As it is, the new film is not really much better than the original, just alot longer. They should have named it The Long and Winding Road.

Ah well, at least Jackson has kept in touch with his horror movie roots. He featured Yoko Ono “singing” (ok, really just screaming) for several minutes, presumably anguished over George quitting the band. Why anyone would let that woman near a microphone is beyond me, even if you’re drug addled, madly in love, and think it’s avant-garde. The look on young Heather McCartney’s face at witnessing the spectacle is priceless though.

In other news, my new jazz album is almost done. I’ve decided on a running order for the tracks, and five of the six songs are fully mixed and mastered. The last one, Sun of the Son, was the first track I did, over a year ago, and I did a three or four rock tracks after that before I decided to make the focus of the album instrumental jazz. So I changed my mastering setup for the newer songs, to give the sound more depth and dynamics. Now I’ve gone back and done the same thing for SotS. Almost there!

New Song: Bluezebub (The Devil You Don’t Know)

Here’s a close-to-finished mix of my new song Bluezebub (The Devil You Don’t Know). This is a last song to complete my new album of computer jazz songs. I’ve already turned to corner to doing final mixes and mastering, and am close to done on three other songs. So more on that soon. But for now let me tell you about Bluezebub.

It’s a rather long and complicated song, but for what it is, it came together pretty quickly and organically. The general vibe is 60’s spy jazz meets prog rock madness.

It started with the drum pattern that introduces the song, which I came up practicing various swing and shuffle beats, and seeing if could make 5/4 time swing. Next came the bass line. I became fascinated by the idea of a 10-bar blues, and that pattern forms the basis of the arrangement. I also came up with 5- and 15-bar blues patterns that are used in different places. Since I don’t have the constraints of playing live, I double tracked the bass part with a synth and fender bass guitar. There’s also a piano part played on fender rhodes to outline the chords and give it some tastiness.

The first part of the song is a slow, easy, kinda groovy mysterioso feel. I brought in the melody on bari sax. The song suggested a building feel, so the next chorus I added a tenor sax, then a lead synth the chorus after that, and before I knew it I had three melodies in a fugue-like interlock over the rhythm section. To bring some resolution from there, I wrote a bridge where the horns and synth all play in harmony, mostly on whole notes, while the bass and piano come forward. Then it’s a restatement of the fugue theme, but elaborated and embellished with drum breaks.

The solo section echoes the structure of the head somewhat. The bari sax has a nice long chance to stretch out, then the tenor and finally the synth, keeping the groove relaxed and building to a simmer.

Then things get crazy. The time shifts from 5/4 to 15/8, with the feel on the triplet. This is superimposed over the old pulse, to there’s a 5-against-6 feel that comes around every few bars. The blues bass line is now sped up, and everyone blows over it, increasingly dissonant and intense, culminating in a climactic burst of silence. This is followed by a skewed, condensed and embellished recapitulation of the head, with the rhythmic tension retained and a bit of Cowboy Bebop style riffing thrown in for good measure.

Believe it or not, there wasn’t alot mixing to do once I dialed in the basic setup, cuz most of the dynamics are in the playing.

I shared a rough with Martin last week, and he called me up to tell me it evoked a story to him, where Bluezebub is this supernatural blue cat demon, identified with the bari sax, and is emceeing some kind of show or parade of friendly monsters, but then it all turns scary and you have to run away. I think that sums it up pretty well.

Anyway here it is. Enjoy!

And as We Wind On Down the Road

Been doing some traveling lately. This was the week we were supposed to go to San Francisco for the Pacific Coast Origami Convention, but that got cancelled due to the pandemic, and so we took some local trips instead.

A week ago Jeannie and I went out to Pennsylvania for a wedding. It was Wiccan/Halloween themed, and alot of fun. Good to catch up with that side of the family. We stayed overnight and had planned on doing some hiking around the Delaware Water Gap the next day, but it was pouring rain, so we had to punt.

One day last week went to visit the Bronx Zoo. We hadn’t been to in a while and of course it’s a world famous zoo. It was a perfect fall day, good for walking around, and the zoo wasn’t crowded at all, so we got to see everything and linger at attractions like the tigers, gorillas, and rhinos. Lots of birds and reptiles too, and of course the elephant (it seems they’re down to just one now) out standing in its field, viewable from the monorail ride.

Then this last weekend we went up to Buffalo to visit the kids as well as my parents. That was a good time. We went out to celebrate Lizzy birthday on Friday, and the next day my mum had everyone over for a big family dinner, with wine and storytelling. Sunday we out to bar in Lizzy’s neighborhood (remember Buffalo is trendy again) to catch the Bills game and try and get some of that energy now that the Bills are hot again too. It was a good time, but unfortunately the Bills weren’t really on their game and lost narrowly in the 4th quarter.

Funny thing, most of the music playing at the places we went was from the 1980’s, even some from the 70’s. My kids seem to know and like alot of that stuff. Lizzy says she listens to 97 Rock alot these days. It’s kinda strange to me that they don’t think of it as oldies. I mean when I was a teenager I wasn’t listening to music from the 1940’s. Well okay I listened to Charlie Parker and Dexter Gordon, and maybe some Duke and Ella, but none of my friends did, and I didn’t listen to pop from that era like Frank Sinatra or Bing Crosby.

While I was up there, my dad gave me a young peach tree which sprouted from a seed in his garden after a peach fell from the main tree. I planted in the back yard this morning. Hopefully it will take root and prosper.

At home I’ve been busy with the Global Jukebox, adding routes and SEO. Also diving into web and mobile 3-D, with three.js and unity. And my song Bluezebub is almost done, down to mixing, which means soon it’ll be on to finishing off the album, mastering, sequencing the tracks, doing the cover art, and publishing it.

Fun fact: Led Zeppelin’s famous fourth album, a.k.a. Zoso, is 50 years old today.