May Happenings

Spring continues in fits of rain and storms amidst a nice day here and there.  I’ve been trying to shake off a cold for the last week.  It feels strange having a cold when it’s eighty-five degrees outside.  Now it seems I’m finally mostly better.  I had a good workout today and hope to get back on my bike tomorrow, and get caught up on the yardwork over the next few days.

Still been doing stuff.  Last weekend Jeannie and I took a fun day to go into the city.  We started with a stroll thru Central Park, and it was a lovely day for it, sunny if a bit brisk and breezy.  The main attraction of the afternoon was the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which I haven’t been to since before the pandemic.  Spent most of our time in the Ancient Greek and Roman collections, as well as the Middle East and Asia, the modern wing, and of course the musical instruments and arms and armor galleries.  Afterwards we crossed thru the park again and had dinner at a very nice Italian restaurant, in part to celebrate Jeannie’s recent promotion at her job!

That evening we saw Kamasi Washington at the Beacon Theater.  He put on a great show.  His sound continues to evolve, now incorporating a DJ and some dancers into his large, sci-fi band.  It’s a great sound with two drummers, a standup bass with effects, piano and synth, trombone, vocalist, and Kamasi’s tenor sax over everything.  Lots of big extended-jam pieces with great rises in energy.  Lots of fun.

Then I was back in the city Thursday and Friday for an onsite for my job, with a bunch of people coming in from out of town including my friend Annmarie from Chicago and Sukhi from D.C..  Thursday night we all went out to dinner and afterwards ended up at the rooftop bar of the Harvard Club (my boss Ginny is an alum) until closing time.  Lots of fun, much more open and enjoyable than your typical work social function.  Sincerely good people.  Or maybe it’s just that since we all mainly work remote, it just feels like a special occasion when we get together.  In any event Friday I gave a demo of my current R&D project, which integrating the Data Rights Protocol into Permission Slip, our privacy app.  Been making good progress and this is a key milestone for wider adoption of the protocol among industry partners.

Friday Lizzy came home for a visit with her boyfriend Josh.  They came up from Philly, where they did a little trip see a ball game and some museums and the zoo.  Saturday her grandparents came up for a visit and we had the first barbecue of the season.  Again it was a bit chilly our, so I made a fire in our firepit, which was very nice. 

The mixing of the Spacecats record is nearly complete, and I must say it sounds quite good.  Gavin came by for a mixing session a couple weeks ago, so I got the benefits of his ears and skills.  Now I’m basically up to final mastering.  The next step is to come up with an album cover, and then I can get CD’s made and get it place on the streaming services.  The band wants to try and do a group picture, but unfortunately some of our our out of town the next few weeks, so it may be a while before we can get that together.  Ah well, I can work on an illustration and  rest of the text and graphics in the meantime.

Weekend Warrior

Spring continues to arrive.  Everything is turning green, sprouting and blooming.  Today we had our first actually hot day.  And it’s about time.  Did a ton of yardwork over the weekend.  Mowed the lawn for the first time, plus weeding and edging to get everything looking nice for hanging out outside.  Next step is put down the mulch under the hedges and trim a couple trees.

Been getting on my bike the last couple of weeks, five or six times now.  Nice to get back into that.  I still have yet to do a big long ride on the rail trail near my house, but that will come soon enough.

The big fun this weekend was I went into the city to see my old friend Jim Wynne from Buffalo, playing bass with the band Tripi and the Mother Truckers, who are touring around the northeast these days. Tony Tripi is a singer-songwriter with songs that are fun and earnest, and the group is a power trio with a backup singer for high harmony. Great sound and energy.

I haven’t seen Jim in many years, so it was great to catch up.  It brought back a bunch of memories.  We were in a bunch of bands together back in the day, including Automatic Man and The Purple Connection, and he was the bassist for the last incarnation of my jazz fusion group Event Horizon. Jim is a phenomenal talent on bass, with an imaginative and adventurous technique that he developed after someone lent him a chapman stick for a few months, but then he had to give it back, equally at home in jazz, rock, funk or dance music.  I’d compare him to Les Claypool, Billy Sheehan, or Tony Levin, with a bit of Joco thrown in, but he really has his own thing going.

Automatic Man used to play every Monday night at Broadway Joe’s for a year or two, except when the Bills were on Monday night football.  The group featured Jim on bass, Pete D. on guitar, Pat O. on drums and me on sax.  We did alot of Jeff Beck and Mike Stern, and adaptation of rock songs.  We used to end the set with the Beatle’s Abbey Road medley, with Pete and I playing most of the vocal parts on our instruments and Jim covering pretty much everything else in the arrangement on bass.  It was a great crowd pleaser, and people used to sing along to Carry that Weight and The End.

The Purple Connection also featured Jim and Pat and myself, and Craig H. on guitar.  We had a Sunday afternoon gig at a place called The Inn on the River, a bar where people would pull up to a dock in their boats.  The set leaned more toward smooth jazz, with things like George Benson and Steely in our repertoire.

Around that time I was in a different group making an album and the studio we used had a summer picnic with a raffle, and Jeannie won 10 hours of studio time.  I thought I could make a record in ten hours, so re-formed my group Event Horizon, with Jim on bass, and we went in and recorded an hour of music – four songs – after just one rehearsal.

So like I said, I haven’t seen my friend in many years.  Amazing props that he’s been making his living doing music this whole time and found success at it.  He told me I inspired him to get into digital audio production, and he also teaches now, and even tunes pianos!  His style of playing has evolved too.  A little less flamboyant but better integrated.  Jim now has a seven-string bass guitar, believe it or not, with a really broad neck and lots of room for higher and denser chord voicings and bigger excursions into the treble range.  And he plays it like a mother trucker!

Fire and Rain

We went for a camping trip this weekend up in Mongaup Pond in the Catskills, with Martin and his family.  We haven’t really done a camping trip since before the pandemic, so it felt really good to be back.  We went up on Friday.  The whole packing and loading in went smoothly, except that we forgot to pack lawn chairs, so we stopped at a Target on the way.  And traffic was really heavy. What’s normally a two-hour trip took almost four hours. Anyway we got there and got set up and the weather was fine.  Grilled some meat and drinks some beers and stayed up talking around the fire into the night.

Martin’s kids are at and age where they’re lots of fun to hang out with.  They were into pulling a prank where they’d jump out of the woods and attempt to scare you and tell you you’re being mugged. First time they tried it, Alley and Matthew set it up with a story about how the woods were full of robbers and muggers, and we were walking on the sketchy trail.  I was confused, but when they sprung the trap it was hilarious.  The second time they actually got me, and I hollered out in shock and surprise. They’re also pretty helpful and can build a campfire and keep it going.

In the morning we hung out and had coffee and Martin and I played guitars.  Surprisingly, we don’t know that many of the same songs, so mostly we were showing each other different tunes. Today I put more time and focus into my guitar practice than I usually do.  In the afternoon we went down to the pond and the kids swam, and later went for some walks or maybe light hikes.  We felt a drop of rain in the afternoon and so set up the shelter just in case.

In the evening, when were just about the start making supper, the skies turned dark and ominous, the thunder began to rumble. Soon it began to rain.  Right at the start, I made a good fire, put on alot of wood, and Jeannie put tinfoil on the grate to keep it dry.  It poured for a good hour, and we sat under the shelter and played an epic game of Fluxx.  The rain finally subsided, and we started thinking about cooking again, and that it would be getting dark soon. But the respite didn’t last and soon it was pouring once more. We had heard from the park rangers it was going to continue rain much of the night. Kathleen and Martin decided it would be better to break camp, and Jeannie agreed.  We did our best to stay dry as we packed down, but finally we had to take down the tent and the shelter, and it became futile.  Ah well, at least the car was fairly organized with the wet stuff all being in one place.  And we could run the heat together with the air conditioning on the drive home to dry out. 

Amazingly, the fire was still burning strong as we finally pulled out of the campsite.  It was probably the worst rains storm I can remember on a camping trip, which was a bit funny, because before we left the forecast was for a thirty percent chance of scattered thundershowers.  When we got out of the park and had cel phone service, we learned there was a tornado warning for the sight that night, so it’s just as well we didn’t try and ride it out.  It rained most of the way home too.  We got home Saturday night and Michelle was surprised to see us and that we threw in the towel.  “I wasn’t even aware it was an option,” she said.

We got what we wanted out of the trip.  It was a great time despite the rain. It would have been nice if it lasted longer, but we would’ve just gotten up Sunday morning and packed in the rain then. Sunday we put all the wet stuff out in the driveway, the shelter, the tent and the tarps. Also we didn’t cook alot of the food we brought so we had steak yesterday for dinner and we’ll have burgers tomorrow.

Summer Time

And the livin’ is easy.  Moving right on from the OUSA convention to the next adventure, with barely time to put down our bags.  We just got back from a trip up to Buffalo to visit family and friends.  Drank some beer, grilled some steaks and dogs and burgers, took some walks in the park, watched some fireworks.  Very languid, very relaxing.  I feel like it’s been one continuous spell of focus and getting things done since the new year, so it was a welcome stretching out of time.

On the trip up we stopped by Watkins Glen and hiked the trail up the canyon overlooking the river and rapids and waterfalls.  Very scenic, very impressive.  The next day we got together for a fancy dinner at a restaurant downtown with Lizzy, and with Larry and Jackie and three of their kids and Timothy’s girlfriend.  A great time, lots of catching up and storytelling.  After dinner we went to the bar around the corner where Lizzy plays trivia, and continued, and after that even lingered in the parking lot as everyone tried to get in one last story about camping and bears.  On the third Martin and his family came down and stayed for the fourth.  Beers, birthday cake, hanging out, rollerblading, fireworks.  Did I mention it was languid and relaxing?

On the way up there my car started having problems with the air conditioner.  This seemed to fix itself, but then there was a leak in the power steering.  On top of this, the car seems to have mysteriously acquired some scratches sometime in the last few weeks.  Ah well, I guess it’s getting to be kind of old.

Saturday we went to the Pleasantville Music Festival, a local outdoor rock show a few towns up from us.  We’ve been meaning to go and check it out for years.  It was a fun time, and the venue was very well run.  The festival featured a beer tent and food and a bunch of pretty good if rather low-imagination pop-punk bands on the secondary stage.  On the main stage we saw the Allman-Betts band, an Allman Brothers tribute band by two of the sons of members of the original group.  They played about half originals and half Allman Brothers classics, all very good.  There were some old guys in the band on Hammond organ and slide guitar, that were probably the glue holding the thing together.

The headliner was They Might Be Giants.  I haven’t seen them live in probably twenty years, last time being at a bandshell in Prospect Park in Brooklyn.  They put on a great show, having fun and mixing it up.  Their new songs sound great, and there’s always a twist on their classic hits.  The current touring lineup has a horn section of a trombone, tenor sax and trumpet, all also doubling on other horns such as the euphonium, bari sax and pocket trumpet.  Each of the them had an excellent featured solo.  The trumpet player in particular was amazing, and used to be part of Conon O’Brien’s TV show band.

Also this weekend we got back to doing bike rides.  Sunday I went for sixteen miles, and the girls for ten along the local trail.  On the return half of the ride, suddenly the sky opened up and we got drenched in the pouring rain.  Nothing for it but to keep on riding.  By the end of the trip the sun was coming out again.  We got home, only a ten-minute car ride away, and it hadn’t rained here at all.

While I was upstate, I came up with an album cover for my upcoming record Plutonium Dirigible, and a new web page to go with it, with the latest links to all the songs, as well as the lyrics and stories about writing and recording the various songs.  This led to an update of my whole music site, which will be finished soon.   Enjoy.

Bunny Hop

We just got back from a fun trip upstate, a mini vacation to visit friends and family for Easter.  Our first stop was in Watkins Glen to do some hiking.  We drove up the night before and stayed right on the lake.  I’d never been there before, and it was a cool hike and a gorgeous gorge full of waterfalls.  Unfortunately, the trial that goes right up the bottom of the gorge was not yet open for the season; I guess they have to make sure it’s in good repair after the snow melts and there’s no danger of falling rocks.  So we stayed on the rim trails, which still provided plenty of views and scenic overlooks, a few bridges and the occasional side path down into the gorge. Still we want to go back in season when the gorge trail is open cuz it’s pretty spectacular.

When we were done our hike we drove the rest of the way up to Buffalo.  We stayed with my mum and dad, and Lizzy and Michelle came down for dinner and to hang out.  Played some board games, drank some wine, did some story telling.  Next day we went to see the Sabres play.  I hadn’t been to a hockey game in many years, and it was alot of fun.  Our friends Larry and Jackie met us as the arena, and just by coincidence their son and some of his friends had seats in the row behind us.  It was a good game, fast and exciting, and the Sabres won by one goal.  Now they’re hanging on to playoff hopes if they win more than two or their last few games. Afterwards we went out to dinner at a local craft brewery, which was alot of fun.  I hadn’t been walking around that part of downtown Buffalo in a long time, and it’s good to see it all cleaned up and full of restaurants and other businesses.

Sunday was Easter.  Jeannie and I went for a long walk around my parent’s neighborhood in the morning.  We ran into Lizzy, who is training to run a half marathon and came over early to do a run around the ‘hood as well. My uncle Ron and aunt Emöke came over for Easter dinner.  I hadn’t seen them since my dad’s ninetieth birthday party before the pandemic, so that was really nice.  Lots more storytelling and wine, and finding out what all my numerous relations are up to.

Now we’re home and the weather here is just gorgeous. Even got out on my bike today for a short ride. Hoping to have a chance to do some yardwork before the weekend.

Don’t Ask Me Why

It’s January.  The darkest darkness has passed, and days are getting longer again.  At five o’clock there’s still some daylight.  We’ve had alot of rainy and overcast days too since the new year.  Up in Buffalo all the snow from the big Christmas blizzard has melted.  It’s been colder here again recently, and we even had a snow flurry or two over the weekend, which puts me in the mind of skiing.

Of course with the holidays over it’s back to work.  Things are off to a good start with both my main gig and The Global Jukebox, moving to grand strategy to operational tactics to writing and and deploying code.

With Michelle home on winter break for another couple weeks, we’ve been playing lots of board games, and as is tradition, watched entire extended edition of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings, about four lads from Liverpool, er, The Shire, who have come into possession of a ring they want to get rid of, while singing songs and being chased by bad guys all over the world, er, Middle Earth to the Bahamas, er, Mordor.

Lizzy came for a visit last weekend, since she didn’t make it home at Christmastime.  We all had a fun weekend which started with going to Billy Joel at the Garden Friday night.  He still puts on a great show, has a great band, and does a fantastic job of mixing up the set list and keeping things fresh.  This night his band did two songs by Jeff Beck, including a stirring rendition of People Get Ready and an impromptu jam of I’m Going Down after the last encore.

The next night we went out to Long Island to Mary and her family, since we didn’t see them at all over the holidays.  We went to Benihana for fancy cook-at-the-table hibachi seafood, which was most excellent.  Haven’t been to one of those in years.  Sunday we watched the Bills game.  They made the playoffs and one the first round.  Two more to go to get to the Super Bowl.

I printed out a bunch of lead sheets for some Billy Joel songs to practice on piano.  Surprisingly, these can take some time to prepare, since chords found on the internet are often not accurate, and the charts always need formatting.  I want the song to fit on one page from start to finish and be as clearly readable as possible.

Lots more going on with music, origami, and other creative and artistic endeavors, but it’s all a work in progress right now.  Will share when the time is right.

She’s Leaving Home

We just got back from another road trip. This one was up to Buffalo to drop Michelle off at college. Yep, she’s a freshman at SUNY at Buffalo, majoring in aerospace engineering. Jeannie and I are officially empty nesters.

The week before was a hectic one, full of Michelle packing and getting organized, and getting ready mentally for a big change in her life. She was mostly looking forward to it, but a little bit nervous too. Lizzy, on the other hand, was psyched to have her sister coming to town. Last Saturday and Sunday it rained all day, so we didn’t have a change to pre-load the car. Monday morning we got up early and the rain stopped just as we started to load in, so it all went pretty smoothly and everything fit.

Monday night Lizzy invited us to join her and her friends for trivia night at a local bar where they have a regular team, because I know all kinds of useless facts. I used to wonder about whether we’re turning into our parents, but she’s already turning into us. I recently asked her what new music I should listen to, and she said she’s listening to alot of classic rock these day cuz it’s always a topic for trivia. Anyway, it was a fun night and downtown Buffalo continues to be hip and trendy. We came in 3rd place, which is much better than they usually do, because I knew things like Alice Cooper’s real name, who the programming language PASCAL was named after, and the height of Mount Everest. We would have done better if they’d listened to Michelle when she correctly identified the Australian flag, instead of guessing New Zealand.

Tuesday we moved Michelle in. It went smoothly enough, except it was unusually hot the whole week we were up there, and her dorm does not have air conditioning. Her rooms is on the third floor, so it was alot of trips up and down the stairs. As we were moving in we met Michelle’s roommate and her family, who are from Long Island, and like Jeannie and me are UB graduates. After we unloaded everything we took Michelle shopping for all the stuff that we didn’t bring up with us. After that we went up to North Tonawanda to meet Lizzy at her work because Michelle was inheriting the fridge we bought for Lizzy when she lived in the dorms. Later that evening we all went out for dinner a burger place on Maple Road.

Wednesday Jeannie and I mostly hung around my parents’ house. We went for an epic walk in the morning, but by the time we returned it was already pretty hot. We had BLT sandwiches for lunch, with fresh tomatoes from their garden. It’s tomato and peaches season right now, and they’re having a bumper crop this year, so we ate lots of both every day. Brought some home too. Yum!

It seems like every time I go on vacation it aligns with a mini-crisis on the Global Jukebox, and this trip was no exception. There was a deadline with lots of last-minute design changes, so I ended up working that day and evening and doing a push to the live site the next morning. I had a chance to practice guitar too, and learned the Beatles song She’s Leaving Home, which Jeannie found very annoying for some reason.

Thursday I went rollerblading in the morning. My parents’ neighborhood is nice and flat, with smooth streets and very little traffic, so it’s perfect. I did two whole laps of the neighborhood, and found one street that was unusually smooth, so I went back and forth on it three times. In the afternoon we visited the Buffalo Museum of Science, which I had not been to for at least thirty years, and had been heavily remodeled. It made a big impression on me as a kid, and I was happy that my three favorite artifacts were still around: the skeletons of a triceratops and and allosaurus, and a giant globe with the ocean floors shown in relief, although they’d all been moved to different halls. There was also a hall of taxidemified animals and anthological stuff, like a mini version of the New York Museum of Natural History. Some of the upper floors were filled with newer, interactive learning exhibits, but it’s really the artifacts that interest me. Oh, and a Mastodon skeleton that I’d forgotten all about. Western New York is one of the world’s premiere sites for mastodon fossils, and, unlike Wooly Mammoths, they’ve never found a preserved specimen with its skin, so they don’t know if it was furry like a mammoth or bare like an elephant. They also had a pretty cool exhibit about the history of guitars, with lots of historic examples including centuries-old proto-guitars of various kinds, and lots of modern acoustic and electric examples.

That evening Jeannie and I took my parents, Lizzy, and Michelle to the Buffalo Hofbrau Haus, a big new biergarten right downtown, brought to you by the Munich Hofbrau brewing company. Lizzy had been there a few times before and thought my parents might enjoy it, since they were members of the local German club for years before it closed. Michelle was beginning to settle into her new situation, doing orientation stuff, making friends and all, although the weather was still unusually hot. The Hofbrau Haus was a good time, and pretty authentic, with live music featuring accordion, clarinet, cowbells, and lots of polkas. The food was Wiener schnitzel and bratwurst, and of course beer. It was alot of fun. Apparently the place gets pretty packed and raucous on the weekends.

Friday we had lunch with Larry and Jackie at a pub in Hamburg, and just talked for hours. What’s going on with all the kids, camping and bear stories, drumming, music, everything. Everyone is encouraging me to move back to Buffalo now, but Larry says the jazz scene is pretty small and there aren’t alot of really good players. It got me thinking about my old musician friends from the area, if any of them are still around and into prog rock.

Friday night was the King Crimson concert, the reason we stuck around a couple extra days. They’d played SPAC in Saratoga near Albany on Monday. Martin saw them there, and so did Mark from the Adirondacks. They played Bethel Woods near Yasgur’s farm on Wednesday, but at the time we were planning our trip we expected Wednesday to be move-in day for Michelle, so that wouldn’t have worked either. Anyway it turned out be a the right move. The venue was Artpark, which is semi-open theatre with lawn seating behind it, right on the shores of the Niagara River, between the Falls and Lake Ontario. I think the last show I saw there was Monsters of Jazz featuring Herbie Hancock, Pat Metheny, Jack DeJohnnette and (I think) Dave Holland in 1991 or so.

Unbeknownst to us until the day of the show, they’d closed the theater for the pandemic and built a new, smaller, all-outdoor venue on a hillside next to it, so we had to borrow some lawn chairs from my parents. It turned out to be a beautiful scene, a perfect summer evening with a view of the river, and idyllic ambient music of gamalan-like chimes and tones and the sweet smell of reefer wafting in the air as the venue filled up. We found a spot and Jeannie mentioned that there may well be someone we know was at the concert. A minute or so later I heard someone calling my name out of the blue.

It was my old friend Joe Q. At first I didn’t recognize him; it’s been twenty-nine years since I’d last seen Joe and he doesn’t look the same. But then I heard his laugh and it all came back to me. Joe was the bass player in the Cheshire Cat, probably the best band back in the late 80’s and early 90’s, when there was an incredible amount of talent on the local music scene. I fist met Joe when I was in tenth or eleventh grade, as part of the combined Kenmore East and West High Schools marching band, formed for the purpose of playing Buffalo Bills halftime shows, where we were both in the sax section. After high school, Joe and I were in a couple of bands together including Tafari, a mostly-reggae-with-some-Steely-Dan band with a horn section. I played the solo for Home at Last on the EWI. That band had half of Kenmore in it. Amazingly Joe is still playing music for a living. Rock on!

A few other people from Kenmore were three too. One was Mike M., the guitarist from Cheshire Cat. Apparently he got a bunch of free tickets because he and the drummer from the opening band were friends from Berklee School of Music. Another was Pete D., who was guitarist for the Automatic Man. Automatic Man were a jazz fusion band with Mike, Pat O. on drums, Jim W. on bass and myself on sax. We played every Monday night at Broadway Joe’s for about two years, unless there was a Bills game, and this group begat The Purple Connection which played every Sunday at the Inn on the River in North Tonawanda in the summertime. We did alot Mike Stern and Jeff Beck type stuff, plus the entire second side of the Abbey Road as an instrumental, although often the crowd would sing along to Carry That Weight.

Anyway, Pete was an excellent guitarist, one of the best in Buffalo. About halfway thru our stint he left the band and moved to New York City to try and make it on the music scene here. I moved to to NYC less than a year after that, and tried to find him but never connected. He told me he eventually returned to Bflo and hasn’t played guitar in many years. I thought that was too bad, since he was so good, so I told him about how I took a bunch of years of playing when my kids were little, but I’m really glad I returned to music. Then the show started, so our conversation was cut short.

The opening act was The Zappa Band. I’m not sure what connection they have to FZ, but they were at the least a flawless tribute band, possibly with some alumni from his groups. I thought I knew alot of Zappa songs, but I only recognized about a third of what they played.

King Crimson themselves were amazing. It’s the seven-headed monster lineup with three drummers in the front line, and back row consisting of Mel Collins on saxes, Tony Levin on bass and stick, Jacko on vocals and guitar, and Fripp on guitar and mellotron. It was pretty much the same act as four of five years ago when I last saw them: three songs off the first album, three off of Red, and smattering of songs from all the records in between, plus some later stuff too, and some epic drum solos. All very well done of course, often going well beyond what was on the original record, especially the stuff from the interregnum period. There were moments when the complexity of the various interlocking polyrhythms was just staggering. And I think the best Tony Levin is when he’s channeling Greg Lake.

Afterwards we went up the falls and walked around. Now we’re back home, making plans in our empty nest, hoping Michelle is doing well.

Life in a Northern Town

We just got back from a fun road trip, another mini-vacation. This time we went north instead of south, to the town of Saranac Lake, to visit our friends Mark and Kelly. Although we’ve been up to the Adirondacks plenty of times, we haven’t been up since before the pandemic, so it was great to see our friends and catch up. This trip was also a first in that Michelle stayed home cuz she had to work.

We drove up Friday night after work. It was a pretty easy and mellow drive, although the number of blatantly reckless drivers, as well as obnoxiously blaring extra-bright headlights, has definitely increased over the last few years. Still, that all tapered off as we got away from New York City. Once we arrived, we all stayed up late into the night talking.

Saturday we went hiking. In the morning we went up Mt. Baker, and in the afternoon some mellow walking around some ponds and lakes. Later got some local soft-serve ice cream, went out to dinner, then back to Mark’s place to build a fire and more hanging out. It’s interesting to see how the town has changed since last time we were up there. Some places have gone out of business, and some new ones have opened up.

Sunday we went for an epic canoe ride. Jeannie and I rented a canoe from a place right on the waterfront, a really nice kevlar boat, very light and fast. Mark has his own one-man canoe. The trip was about six hours, through a series of lakes and channels, and even a lock. It was a perfect day, warm and sunny, but not too hot, with very little wind. The journey was very scenic, with some shores dotted with cottages, others full of woods or swamps, all with the mountains in the background. We saw a couple of loons close up – surprisingly large birds – as well as a great blue heron, a bald eagle, and lots of other wildlife.

On the way, Jeannie accidentally capsized our canoe. We were crossing thru the wake of a motorboat, and as we rocked back and forth, she leaned too far the wrong way. When the boat rocked back the other way she was off balance and fell out, tipping the whole thing. We got wet, but it was a warm day, and our stuff was in a dry pack, so no real problem. We pushed the boat to a shallow spot near the shore, poured out the water in the bottom and were on our way. Believe or not, this is first time in 30 years of canoeing together that either one of us has tipped a boat.

Our destination was an island with a picnic area, where we had our lunch. The whole lake (and the greater area) is full of campsites and day use spots. We sunned ourselves on a rock and dried out or stuff for a while, then headed back. The way back was easier cuz it was downstream, but we were starting to get tired, and it didn’t help that a headwind came up as we were crossing a couple long expanses of deep, open water. That night we all went to bed early cuz we were tired from rowing all day.

Monday we drove home, stopping for lunch at Lake George, where they have some restaurants with patios looking over the lake, and watched the scene. Very nice. I bought some new sunglasses, since I lost my old ones when our canue capsized. When we got home, Michelle was waiting to greet us with freshly baked cupcakes.

On with the Show

Another low key fun summer week. Jeannie and I went to the beach Saturday morning. I can’t remember the last time I got out to the beach more than once in a summer, so that was really nice. The waves and weather were quite moderate.

Sunday I took a bike ride in the local Nature Study Woods, and it started raining when I was out there. I didn’t notice it much under the trees, but got totally soaked the last few block coming home.

Saturday night we went out to see my friend’s band at a sort of street fest up in Hastings. It was the first time we we’ve gone out on a Saturday night in a long time. The scene was pretty empty, but at least there was a restaurant across the street where we could sit and have a drink while we listened. The group was a jazz quartet led by Erik P. from my old group Haven street. This was actually first live music I’d seen since my last gig before the pandemic, on February 28 of 2020. The group also featured Rich P. from my old group on piano, and Rich W. on alto sax. Rich W. is a friend who sits in from time to time in the Wednesday jazz circle, and is one of the best sax players I know. I used to think he was way better then me, but I’ve leveled up a couple times over the last few years, so it’s probably pretty close now. Anyway, an inspiring musician. A standup bass completed the lineup. The sound was traditional acoustic jazz, alot of it out of the real book, very well done, with well honed arrangements. Only problem with a group led by a drummer is every second song has a drum solo. 🙂

Before the gig I was feeling a little down, remembering how the old group broke up abruptly, and lamenting that my new group got off the ground too late to get any gigs this summer. Ah well, so it goes. The fault line in the old group was pretty much that Erik and Rich wanted to do more traditional jazz, and Gary and I were writing originals and exploring new sounds. My new group has electric bass and synthesizers, and funk fusion in the mix, and it lets me push my writing in the direction. Meanwhile they’re doing their thing and everyone is happy. Anyway it was great to see those guys and catch up, and shocking to realize it’s been a year and a half.

Lots going on with work, and hardware and software updates to support mobile dev and deploy. More on that in another post.

The Man with the Horn

I had to put my old horn in the shop. It got knocked over at a gig a while back and the main tube was bent. It’s an old Selmer Mark VII tenor from the early 1970’s, a pure classic and in excellent shape, the damage notwithstanding. Around that time I acquired a used (but much, much newer) Selmer Reference 54, and that became my main horn. But the time had come to get the old horn back in shape.

My new repair guy is Chuck Pomeroy and he’s out in New Milford, Connecticut, famous for it’s new milfs. Chuck was recommended to me by Rich, the alto player in my Wednesday group, and Charlie Lagond, the owner of the studio where we rehearse. Charlie has on old Selmer Balanced Action tenor from the 1930’s, the first modern designed horn, almost ninety years old, virtually priceless. He got it completely rebuilt, and Chuck did the work. New silver plating and everything. It’s totally beautiful, totally amazing. So I was inspired to get off my lazy ass and get my own vintage Selmer fixed up.

Chuck, as it turns out, is a really nice guy, and not too surprisingly really into saxophones. He’s also an excellent guitar player in the Joe Pass style. We, uh, talked shop for a little while, after I told him used to work repairing saxes and other band instruments when I was a teenager. I learned the basics and turned around the school rentals at my local music store. I can spot a leak, replace a pad or cork or piece of felt, and that kind of thing, and have generally maintained my own horns. But there’s lots more advanced work I never touched. Like, for example, straightening out a bent body.

So Chuck showed me some amazing vintage horns he was working on, including a very old curved soprano. And he had pics of Charlie’s horn all taken apart. He told me an amazing thing, that this is the second time he’s rebuilt that horn. The first time was in the 1970’s almost 50 years ago!

Anyway, a few days went by and I drove back to New Milford to pick up my horn. In addition to straightening it out, he put new pads and corks on pretty much the whole upper stack, and replaced a few choice pads on the big low notes around the bow too. I gave the horn a quick toot, thanked him and was on my way. I must say, he gave me a great price for all that work. In fact, it was so low he asked me not the tell anyone how much he charged me!

After that I drove upstate to visit my brother Martin. I hadn’t been up to his place in almost a year, and it was great to see him. He has a new pool but right around the time we started talking about taking a swim, the weather turned cloudy and soon it was pouring rain. Anyway it was a great hang. We talked music and played a really fun board game called Labyrinth. His kids are all very smart and good-natured, with a sharp sense of humor. Lots of fun. Drove home in a rainstorm, which was … let’s say it was an adventure.

So this week I played my horn at the rehearsal band Wednesday and with my own group on Thursday. And, wow! Not only did Chuck fix it, but it plays better than ever. The action is adjusted, and everything is tight, and it’s literally faster. You can blow softly and easily and get a huge sound, and especially on the low notes. And the tone! The sound is a bit less edgy than my 54, especially in the upper register, but overall more focused, with a particular warmth in the lower register. One of the songs we did Wednesday was ‘Round Midnight, and well, let’s just say I’m gonna use this as my main horn for a little while.

Now that I have two excellent working tenor saxes, I think I should get a second mouthpiece so I can have one for each horn. My current main mouthpiece is a Dukoff D9, a big bore metal for a huge, edgy tone good for rock or jazz. Think Clarence Clemons meets John Coltrane. I’ve also played am Otto Link, Berg Larson and some others. I wonder what the cool kids are playing these days. Someone at my studio mentioned a Jodi Jazz. Might check that one out.

Meanwhile my Thursday quartet continues to improve, both expanding and focusing our sound. I’ve started to reach out to some local jazz joints to try and get a gig, although we’re probably too late for the summer, and once the weather gets cold it’s not clear if these places will be able to continue doing music indoors. In any event, we’re working up some of our set to the point where we can record a rehearsal and have a really good performance. Tonight I was fooling around on some blues riffs between songs, and this led to a spontaneous rendition of Led Zeppelin’s Moby Dick, played in a funk jazz style reminiscent of The Dream of the Blue Turtles. It was really cool, and instantly became part of our repertoire.