Haven’t posted in a while, too many exciting musical projects. In this picture I am prepping to record the Trombone solo that can be heard on the song “Somewhere in America”. The final take was done on a rare 1960s conn 20H and dialed in with the (music genius and world’s foremost pop/loop/hiphop/younameit producer/engineer) Ken Lewis. The pBone sounded quite good. It excels in getting that “dry jazz” sound, and for the final result we wanted something more “meaty”. The 1951 Conn 20H is one of the last small (shall we say tiny) bore horns made before everyone made the final switch to the medium and large bore horns. The pBone which is made of 99% plastic has a surprisingly good sound!
Twerk, yeah, ugh-huh Twerk, Miley, Miley, Miley Only in America
Los Angeles-based SUNSHINE COLLECTIVE have just released their contribution to the sonic holiday landscape with a new song called “The City That Forgot to Snow.“ and is available on iTunes (get it here). It is a really lightweight bubbly and fun song full of many colors. I really hope people will like it. Multi-Talented songwriter Brian Arbuckle teamed up with wife Stephanie Richards to created a truly magical soundscape. We suppose to start recording but then hurricane Sandy hit. The next day Erin and I decided to go out and see first hand the effects. Although at the time most of the devastated areas were closed, we managed to reach Amity Harbor and see first hand the destruction. Here is a picture of what was left of a beach front house (click to enlarge):
Ron Bertolet recorded the saxes on Thursday night from 1 to 3 a.m. due to gasoline shortage at the time. At Brian’s request we also videoed the session, as he wanted to use it in the video. A few days later a huge Nor’easter struck and lemme tell ya, this city did remember to snow. Making the mandatory snowman with the kids, I had an inspirational moment. My son helped me drag the horns out into the snow, and we shot various snow videos to go along with the song, so check out the video!
Some of you who follow this blog may remember talented Singer/songwrited Laura Jeanne. Laura was discovered by Budweiser last year in the TV show The Big Time. A few weeks ago we started experimenting with an idea she had for a holiday song. Originally intended to voice strings and piano, as a small offering for fans, it matured into a full fledged single named “Bells Ring Out (At Christmas Time)” which is now available through iTunes (get it here). I created the midi track and then recorded live strings and horns. We refined the vocal tracks, and the final tracks and vocals were further mixed and mastered by Mark Bishop of Universal music, UK. I think we captured the song spirit, with transparent strings, and glowing colors complementing Laura’s incredible voice. Visit her fan page on facebook!
Erin took this really snazzy (lets bring that word back) picture of Ron Bertolet blowing his selmer sax while Paul Bennet is sipping. Paul was the bassist of the 1970s English band MAZARIBA which disbanded in the late ’70s and has recently reunited and are working on releasing their reunion album. Although these days Paul lives on Long Island, NY, I hear drinking tea on whilst listening with studio headphones on Skype is a British passtime. Incidentally the saxophone is a rare “Low E” model alto which has a deeper tone due to it’s extra length. Most saxophones have two low note keys, this one has three.
This year my work is featured in four of Kanye West’s Grammy nominations. Getting everything squared away with the Recording Academy’s (i.e. Grammy) Member Services has been an odyssey to say the least, but the paperwork itself feels like an accolade.
I hear this year’s show is going to have a host – LL Cool J – which is something the powers have opted out of for a while. I think the broadcast could use some personality; naturally, the job goes to a New Yorker.
You know how some days are loaded with sequences of interesting events where each one is seemingly set up by the action of a previous one? Once in a blue moon I’ll experience a fully loaded day where unexpected things feel so hyper-precise and arithmetical that sitting quietly the pleasant exhaustion, I feel like I should be able to quantify the chain of events as something – something end-user and macro algorithmic. Thursday was one of those days.
After work we decided to try a cozy, dark little vegetarian restaurant in the East Village charmingly named Caravan of Dreams. Erin had covered 5th and 6th streets on foot while doing some street photography earlier and knew how to get there. I didn’t realize that Caravan was a vegan restaurant until we arrived, which worked out in my favor because
A.) Vegan is not a usual food-thing I would choose
B.) The food was delicious. Really.
I wish I could remember what we ordered – something with citrus, basil and fennel, and something with avocado, olives, mango and pine nuts. Whatever – it was all very good. I would not have said yes to this place had I known it was vegan.
June 15th, 1904
Caravan of Dreams
Anyway, we nearly missed our reservation time at Caravan of Dreams due to the discovery of (yet another) New York historical marker. This one concerned the 1904 fire on the passenger steamboat General Slocum which killed 1,021 congregants of a lower east side Lutheran church. The recent Costa Concordia disaster came to mind while reading how Slocum’s captain mishandled an already atrocious situation. There’s no need to ask why the remaining congregants chose to move their church uptown. Grateful for my life after reading about the Slocum, we headed to dinner and I savored every morsel and counted my blessings – twice.
On the way back we took a look at the former church building and discovered that it was now a local synagogue. There was a small flyer taped to the side door announcing an Avram Pengas concert that evening; the same Avram Pengas I had a chance to perform with at last month’s Zlatne Uste Golden Festival. Back in January my friend Gal called me late in the afternoon asking if I’d like to sit in with Avram & The Noga Group.
This was an invite just for fun – not a paid gig. For that reason I could have declined, but instead I said yes and wound up having a spectacular time. Again, here was another chance to say yes and head inside to the concert. I’m certain our vegan meal was a contributing reason why our energy level was way above average at this time of night. We stepped inside the former-church/present temple. Gal was crisp on the drums and halfway through the concert Pengas called me up from the audience to play. This was wonderful honor! It gave me a chance to make up for the fact that I had wandered in past the doorman without paying admission. Since my trombone wasn’t handy I did my super-nerdy-yet-killer Zamfir thing. I am a master of the Flam-flute. Find out if you must, by clicking here.
Hello 2012! We’re almost 21 days in to the new year. Have you worn out all options for entertainment this coming Saturday? I hear it’s going to be a cold one, and you’re probably going to stay inside. If so, ABC is premiering some top performers on a new show “Bud United Presents: “The Big Time.” This is good stuff.
OK I have a bias, but it’s trustworthy. Viewers of The Big Time will have a chance to sample the dynamic songs of one Laura Jeanne who I had the pleasure of working with on her debut single Coincidence, back in November. In respect to her engaging personal qualities as well as her full-bodied mezzo tone, this is an up-and-coming singer/songwriter you won’t want to miss.
For Laura Jeanne who was chosen as one of 3 finalists, her participation on The Big Time is clearly a labor of love.
ABC has not announced whether this episode will be available to watch on-line later. So dust off your TiVo or have the in-laws take the kids for a few hours.
When I was a wee 5th grade human puppy, my then trombone teacher Shemi Peri invited all of the students to a master class with a dude that had the biggest trombone I had ever seen; It was a bass trombone. Up to that point in my training I had never seen anything so gigantically brass. The dude’s name was Eliezer (Eli) Aharoni and he was there to show the class the latest techniques in breathing and playing trombone. Aharoni had also written some trombone books which impressed all of us. This particular afternoon meeting and listening to Eli Aharoni was the first push towards trombone playing
Eli was the driving force behind the Israeli Trombone Association. Around 1983 he brought the then-presiding president of the International Trombone Association Dr. Erving L. Wagner to give us a master class at the Jerusalem Music Center. The day was the holiday of Purim which is sort of a Jewish Mardi-gras and my hair was colored blue. (I always wonder if Prof Wagner remembers a little boy with blue hair… ). The master class was the first place I ever heard professional trombone playing on the highest level live. What a glorious sound. I knew trombone was the way to go for me.
People were playing duets and asking questions and Professor Wagner was giving advice. Suddenly there was a sudden hush. Someone next to me whispered “Micha is going to play something”, I had no clue who he was talking about. A young 24-year-old giant muscular guy walked in carrying a colossal bass trombone, although in his hands the trombone looked small. Then he played. The sound that came out was the deepest fullest sound I ever heard sort of like a trobonephonium. And I can say that to this day – all over the world – I never heard such a sound. His name was Micha Davis, and in my opinion stands in the front row of bass trombone players in the universe.
Over the years I have played with Micha many times, and we pulled practical jokes and had lots of laughs. But putting aside the jokes and laughs, Micha inspired my playing and keeps on inspiring many others to this day. Eli and Micha’s influence shines on hundreds of talented trombone players and musicians who play in the best orchestras, bands and other music venues worldwide. I have been blessed by the opportunity to play with true giants. I have played and listened to countless trombone players since, some of the finest Orchestras in the world pass through New York, but the control and sound Micha produces is unique. When he plays Grofé’s Grand Canyon Suite the storm section gets a new dimension, the bass trombone gives an 18″ sub-woofer a run for it’s money.
In the video Micha Davis is playing Etude #24 from from Eli Aharoni’s (2009) book “The Non-Classic Bass Trombone” titled “A Weird Balad”. Most players feel like they need an oxygen scuba tank or a pressurized diving bell to get through this fun exercise. Micha plays it with his usual nonchalant demeanor.
Grateful thanks to Diane Drexler and Taylor Hughey at the International Trombone Association Journal for allowing this group of goofballs to grace their pages!
In back from left to right artist & instrument: Shai Nissenboim – Bass Trombone, Nir Erez – Tenor Trombone, Maestro Zubin Mehta – Stick, Yehoshua Pasternak – Tenor Trombone, Shahar Livne – Contrabass Trombone in F, Daniele Morandini – Bass Trumpet Flugelbone, Tal B.R. – Bass Trombone Front: Danny Flam – Alto Trombone, Micha Davis – Bass Trombone.
Meet multi-instrumentalist, UK singer-songwriter Laura Jeanne.
I know what you’re thinking – she really looks like a young Tammy Wynette. And wouldn’t it be great if she had a voice to match? Well fear not music fans– she does, and New York Brass was the lucky crew tasked with brassing-up her debut single Coincidence.
Coincidence is unquestionably indie pop; A romanticized hat-tip to the likes of Tori Amos and Jewel. However, I think you’ll agree that Laura Jeanne offers something very different from the usual twee-below-the-knee aesthetic. Yes you say, different but how? Here at the Brass Works we’ve been scratching our heads trying to identify the ingredient responsible for renovating the indie pop sound she puts out there. This is what we came up with: Laura Jeanne is happy, and her happiness is the spark. Yes – Coincidence is free from the expected later day indie melancholia. And by melancholia, I am referring to the powerfully despondent debut song Shadowboxer from Fiona Apple, Smashing Pumpkin’s 1979 and Belle & Sebastian’s I Want the World to Stop. There are plenty of other examples, but you get the point. We bounced this idea over to her side of the pond and were pleased that she agreed.
"Yes! Music makes me happy and I am a happy person generally.”
As was the case with the brass on Coincidence, first-timer brass customers often amend their original request after hearing the majestic potential of brass loops placed into their mixes. “Wow really?” they’ll say; “You can crank those trombones even more, add some bass trumpet and maybe you know, like, light it on fire?”
Is this loud enough?
Each brass draft on Coincidence generated a request for more layers and on top of that, even more. By the second week we had added a Chicago Hotdog’s worth of French horns, bass trumpet and trombone. Fun! But trying to make multiple brass audio layers work over Laura’s cool voice proved to be a problem. Too many tracks risked making it all sound overly coincidental. (Ha-ha. OK that’s twice.)
Her engineer’s superb final mix did tame these elephants allowing the song to shine. Hear those Kung-Fu grip diminished 7th tremolos at 01:17? Laura is channeling the Peter Buck/Michael Stype energy circa 1987′s The One I Love. Is it country or pop? Both? Or is it just a coincidence? (Three strikes! OK OK I’ll stop.)
Director: Ben Simister
Cameraman: Colin Nuttall
Assistant: Julia Bobbin
Editor: (BAFTA award winner) Stephen Moore
Make-up Artist: Julie Kendrick
Guitarist: Tom Moon
About the video, Laura explained “The director Ben & I came up with the idea together and we shot the ‘Coincidence’ video over 2 full days in central London, at The Cumberland Hotel (Marble Arch), The Hard Rock Cafe, and the famous Wellington Arch. We were able to film in a Cumberland Hotel Suite and also inside London’s Hard Rock Cafe, where I have done a couple of gigs. The whole thing was just incredible – a DIY dream come true.” If you like Coincidence and want to hear more from this admirable lady with the alabaster voice, the best and easiest thing you can do is to simply share this link with your friends and neighbors on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, whatever, and encourage more independent artists to get their stuff out there.
Vibraphone Grandmaster Teddy Charles has been in retirement from jazz recording and performance for more years than he was active. Even so, he remains one of the very best vibraphonists in the world. I have to suppose this is the essence of what it means means to be a legend, and also what it means to be very old which Teddy is at age 86.
But let me back up and explain how I came to meet Teddy Charles. For musician this is hard to admit – I knew very little about Mr. Charles or jazz itself until late last summer.
To be honest I did not know who Teddy Charles was until Steve Witthoft, happened to invite me to a Wednesday night jam at Teddy’s house. I met Steve while playing in a local big band. He is an excellent trombone player and more about him in a future post. If it weren’t for his invitation, I would still be “jazz ignorant” about Teddy.
When I mentioned the name to Bo he flipped out. Turns out Bo heard about Teddy and was a great fan.
The real inspiration for YDKWLI happened when my two sons and I were over at Teddy’s house helping him archive his life’s work.
A job well done!
The original music for The Strut, by composer and saxophonist Benny Golson, who is a year younger than Teddy. The number eventually debuted as “Strut Time” on the 1958 album The Other Side of Benny Golson.
“Unburying the piano” would be another accurate way to describe that afternoon. Anyway, at some point the four of us came upon an unmarked cardboard box. Inside? Pure treasure.
Original folio for 1955 Screen Blues
Now some words about seeing the music in the box, and how holding the original paper and seeing the pencil marks brought you closer to feeling. Closer to understanding the nature of Jazz. You passed your inspiration on in a follow-up phone call to Bo
Jazz Hall of fame vibraphonist Teddy Charles played with Charlie Parker 60 years ago. He wrote the arrangement to Miles Davis’s “Nature Boy”, and the list of people he recorded with sounds like a “who’s-who” of Jazz and Blues hall of fame. Coltrane, Mingus, Roach, Cannonball Adderly… drop a name any name… In 1964 he played with Aretha Franklin on “Unforgettable: A Tribute to Dinah Washington”, that is close to 50 years ago! His biggest album was going to be “Russia Goes Jazz (Teddy Charles)“, United Artists UAL 3365. He hired the best of the best musicians of the time for this project: Zoot Sims, Pepper Adams, Eric Dolphy, Hall Overton to name a few. Alas, in an a unfortunate turn of events an unknown group released its debut album the same day he released this album. Under the same label, no less. Their name? “The beatles” (!)
For many years he was first on call for playing the vibes here in New York. This fell out of favor when synthesizers went big during the late 70’s and early 80’s. He was also busy sailing his historic scooner, the “Mary E” – a 75 foot authentic clipper built in 1906. In 2008 he began a come-back with help from many friends and colleagues including Chris Byars and many others. Apparently he outlived all the people he thought would go before him, such as his manager and many of his friends. I suspect that it is his sense of humor that keeps him going strong at 83 years old.
I have been playing and learning a heck of a lot from him for a while now. While producing “You don’t know what love is” for English blues phenomenon Wily Bo Walker and his quintet, I thought that it would be an opportunity for Teddy to shine again with the magic touch of a true vibraphone master. These with fake B3, fake pianos, fake brass, fake strings, and fake slide whistles, I thought it could really be great if we used a real vibraphone. Bo was excited to play with a true giant, and this turned out as a huge success! As of now (3/2/2011), The track, is now topping the US, UK and Global Jazz download charts on MySpace.com.
For nostalgia’s sake, here is Teddy playing the vibes with Aretha Franklin’s 1964 recording of “Unforgettable”. The song was recorded as part of her tribute to Diana Washington. After the release of this tribute album, Columbia drifted away from their early jazz dreams for Aretha:
The more I listen to him sing You Don’t Know What Love Is, the more I understand the subtle interplay between melancholy and passion, the yin/yang at the heart of this Jazz Standard. Earlier this morning I had been waiting for the kids to come downstairs so I could take them to school. I hit play on You Don’t Know What Love Is while flipping through an old Forbes magazine, and at 1 minute :30, I became aware of having been transported into an intense state of relaxation and mindfulness. Was that me getting all sentimental over a Verizon ad on page 7 featuring a father and son telephone reunion?
That’s what a good song does; it takes over, and the listener welcomes the transcendence.
I hope we’ve been able to bring something new and fresh to Don Raye and Gene De Paul’s masterpiece. You can purchase this track (Wily Bo Walker Quintet/Heartbeat Records) on iTunes and Amazon.com. However, we are offering it on the above downloadable link for a limited time. Right click and downloadYou Don’t Know What Love Is onto your iPod or Zune or whatever you’ve got. Give it a listen. Put it on the mixed tape for your Valentine. ♥ But most importantly, please let us know what you think in the comments section below.
A lot of work went into the melancholy cover art for the Wily Bo Walker Quintet’s “You Don’t Know What Love Is” single. How does it look? Singer Wily Bo Walker, Vibraphone Legend Teddy Charles and I are extremely pleased with the song itself and a link to it will follow in the next blog post.
Sepia goodness …
Most music lovers probably know this standard via Billie Holiday’s 1958 rendition, but the song was actually written in November, 1941 by Don Raye (1909 – 1985) with lyrics by Gene De Paul (1919-1988) for the Abbott and Costello film Keep ‘Em Flying.
Abbott and Costello?!
A soulful duo …
The bombing of Pearl Harbor (December 7, 1941 kids!) occurred in between the film’s start and completion, and I wonder if the attack set the stage to ‘wake up’ the film’s editors to the absurdity of featuring this raw passionate song in a slapstick comedy film. “You Don’t Know What Love Is” was left on the cutting room floor just before Keep ‘Em Flying’s release.
Passionate and Haunting
At the time the actress and singer Carol Bruce (1917-2007) was naturally disappointed. Who can blame her? Here’s a wonderful Carol Bruce YouTube clip showcasing her singing style. Larry Clinton and Carol Bruce. Look closely -you might recognize her from later work on the sitcom WKRP In Cincinnati.
I read somewhere that of all the De Paul and Raye songs and instrumentals, “You Don’t Know What Love Is” remains their most appreciated and most recorded.
Most people, including brass players use the words Sousaphone and Tuba interchangeably. But let’s face it, Sousaphones are just so – epic. They are so large that you have to stand and “wear” it while playing. The care and storage of a Sousaphone can be a challenge for the unprepared. My Sousaphone resides on an old store mannequin at home. This garden hose reel is also a quality choice for break time.
I drove three hours upstate to get my Sousaphone from an exasperated guy who didn’t want it in his garage. “Come up here as fast as possible” he said, “I can’t stand to look at it anymore and it takes up too much room.” When I got there the instrument was lying on its side in the driveway; the first valve had been wound with duct tape. It seemed that this poor guy probably enjoyed playing it at some point in his past. Anyway, I fixed that valve and re-welded a few other trouble spots.
All-in-all this SousaPalooza is holding up very well.
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy – All of the lights
I’ve been under a gag order not to talk about this until the the all-clear signal for the official release date. This has not been an easy task. I’m a gregarous person by nature as it is, but not being able to tell people that I recorded something for Kanye West!
Whoops – cat’s out of the bag. But it’s OK.
Yes, the recording that Tony and I did back in May (featured in thisblog post) was the brass for Kanye West’s “All of the Lights.” This track features Rihanna as well as cameos by John Legend, The-Dream, Fergie, Alicia Keys, Kid Cudi, Elton John (on piano), Ryan Leslie, Charlie Wilson, Tony Williams and La Roux singer Elly Jackson. That’s a whole lot of WOW.
Kanye’s official video can be seen here, and it looks awesome. However, I think this version sounds great too.
I saw Rebirth Brass Band in Chicago recently (10/9/2010). What a night! RBB’s brass wailed with abandon within the framework of the Keith Frazier/ Derrick Tabb tight backline.Before tonight I’d never witnessed a New Orleans rhythm backline doing its thing at a club. Every single person in the place secured their own little bubble of space to stomp and dance.
A couple of weeks ago Erin sent me this article in the New Yorker about a Marsalis CD in production. I was delighted to see some familiar names mentioned, and that Andy Farber was conducting the music on the CD. I have to admit though that I only l i g h t l y skimmed the article the first and on the second times around I saw Andy Farber’s name. Long story short, a phone call to Maestro Farber pointed me in the direction of ticketmaster.com. It was only after I had decided to buy tickets that I discovered we had GREAT seats to see not just a jazz concert, but a new silent film accompanied by Wynton Marsalis, pianist Cecile Licad and a 10-piece all-star jazz ensemble at New York’s famous Apollo Theater. Fantastic! Shot by Academy Award-winning cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond (Deliverance & The Deer Hunter) ‘Louis’ is a semi-fictionalized account of a young Louis Armstrong and his first cornet. It stars a wonderful young actor named Anthony Coleman, who was in the audience that night. (more…)
A few months back I was complaining about the lack of women in brass. It’s true – most professional brass players are dudes. Since the birth of my daughter, I’ve begun to notice these things. This week however, I traveled to Buckinghamshire to work with blues musician Bo Walker on his latest project. The train ride was unseasonably warm, and I was hoping for something to distract me.
Exhibit A: "Is that an alto horn?"
I know what you are thinking – the young woman in Exhibit A caught my eye. Sort of. Look at what she has parked at her feet. I suspected an alto horn case! Its not often you see people traveling with the lesser-played brass instruments (I bet you do not even know what a Alto horn is), and a female brass musician to boot. I am always asked if I my trombone is a bag of golf clubs…
Intrigued, I very politely (this being England) turned and asked her about it. Turns out her name is Wendy, and she was on the way to Chesham to visit family. (more…)
With at least 50 #1 hits under his belt, Ken is great at getting the sound he is looking for, and he needed an extremely fast turnaround time and lots of options. Trumpeter Tony Gorruso accompanied me to Ken’s home studio and the three of us arranged the tracks at top speed, aiming for a deep monster brass sound.
Don Downs, Tony Gorruso and Your Truly recorded for Israel Lamm and Nochi Krohn on Friday aboard the USS Nimitz. Ha-ha. No really, it’s just my studio. We’re sitting in front of two personal mixers which are part of the studio’s really cool personal monitoring system that I’ll blog about in the near future.
We look a little self-conscious here. Maybe it’s because none of us are wearing earphones as we would during an actual recording. I forgot to take a picture until we were nearly done, and said “look natural” on the ten-second dash back to my chair.