Hark! The Dorothy Heralds Play...

Happy Holidays everyone! I hope you all are having a wonderful holiday season. I know it's not very fashionable to enjoy this time of year, but no one ever accused me of being fashionable.

Item: Short show report[STOP]
The Dorothy Heralds played a show last week with Reason for Leaving and The Optimistic at Madison's The King Club. [STOP]
Fun was had by all.[STOP]
The Optimistic write cool songs.[STOP]
Reason for Leaving rocks.[STOP]
You're sad because you missed it.[STOP]

In other holiday news, I have to mention that I received a copy of the long out-of-print Arcana: Musicians on Music as a gift this year. For those of you who don't know, I'm a huge fan of John Zorn, who compiled and edited this collection of essays. A number of the contributors have been hugely influential players in their respective fields, and not just to me! I was ecstatic to finally have a copy of the book, as I've been trying to track one down for years. I've just started reading and it's already been very challenging and revelatory.

Myra Melford's essay, Aural Architecture: The Confluence of Freedom has already inspired two new compositions. It's also helped me complete a piece that I've been working on for the past six months. The way in which she expresses parallels in her compositional processes with the influence of Frank Lloyd Wright's architecture has given me new faith in my attempt to directly connect my own literary influences with my music. She's also renewed my interest in actually studying Varese's techniques.

Bill Frisell, who is a huge influence on my playing and writing, contributed an essay entitled, An Approach to Guitar Fingering. Over the years Frisell has mentioned in various interviews some of the ideas presented in this essay. However, to have his thoughts collected in one place and presented with exercises and a few short etudes is fascinating. The etudes aren't difficult at first glance, but reveal the depth of his approach to the guitar with just a few attempts. I'm sure these pieces will become an integral part of my own study.

Other essays have been just as revealing. This book will undoubtedly become a constant companion for years to come. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to anyone looking to expand their musicianship. Some of the writing can be pretty dense and may only reveal its value after much meditation, but those that have the desire to uncover its value will be rewarded well.


¡Muy Divertido!

It's finally over! The Dorothy Heralds' release party for our new CD 100 Unnamed Things was last night. We pulled out all the stops for this one. Lights, sound, VIP party and free admission for the first 100 people. Aside from a longer than planned setup time, everything went off without a hitch. Attendance was high as were spirits. We took a lot of chances with this show and I think they paid off well.

We started the night with retooled versions of "Inverno Rosa" and "Now" from our last album Projections. "Inverno Rosa" was made moodier by reducing the instrumentation to piano, guitar and voice. Kevin's keyboard line didn't change much, but the addition of some Frisell-ian swells really ornamented the beauty of the melody. Gary actually sang the high harmony which is still amazing. "Now" was rescued from the noise/improv excesses of the past. Gary and Tim wrote a Medeski, Martin and Wood sounding groove. Kevin and I chose a more minamalistic, Massive Attack style ambience. Then we performed "Angel" by Massive Attack which we combined with our song "I Don't Care" from Projections.

Next came the album in its entirety. Everything was played pretty much the way it is on the CD, with the notable exception of "Play" which we've combined with Björk's "Hyper Ballad". It's one of my favorite pieces to perform. We superimpose "Hyper Ballad" over the bridge of "Play" and then end with the chorus of "Play" being sung over the chorus of "Hyper Ballad". It's an emotionally powerful piece for me, and I think that comes across to the audience.

After performing the songs on the new album, we performed "Interiatic ESP" by The Mars Volta, "Synchronicity II" by the Police and "Sunless Saturday" by Fishbone. Those have to be some of the more challenging and enjoyable covers we've done. It's been a dream of mine for quite a while to perform "Synchronicity II" on stage. We were actually asked to do an encore which was a pleasant surprise. We did "Beautiful" from Projections but improved around it a lot. Thanks to Tim, we've actually gotten to a place where we can improvise as a group. It's so very refreshing!

DJ Anonymous spun some great stuff to close the night. And for those of you that couldn't stick around a spontaneous jam with Anonymous and the band occurred at the end of the night. I really hope that we'll get to work with him more in the future. His remixes of our album sound incredible.

Thanks to everyone who made last night possible and to all the people involved in the production!


New CD Soon!

The new CD is done! The artwork is done! The release party is booked!

Yes, that's right! Just a few months behind schedule, The Dorothy Heralds new album is in the can! Entitled "100 Unnamed Things", the CD is a really good representation of who we are, where we're going, and what we sound like "live". I'm listening to the final masters and they sound great! We'll be going to press by the end of October. The Madison release party will be at the Café Montmartre on December 9th. We're planning something really special. A bit of theater, a lot of music, and maybe a few unnamed things. DJ Anonymous will be spinning. He's in the process of remixing some tracks from "100 Unnamed Things" so you may hear some of that also. I've heard it and am quite impressed!

In other news, I've moved to the east side of Madison yet again. Technically it's Monona, but it's only a twenty minute bike ride to work so I still consider it Madison. (As opposed to the twenty minute drive from Middleton) The place is pretty nice. Living in a place with an actual backyard and a deck certainly is nice. I'm still unpacking some things, but hopefully it'll be all done soon. Biking to work has also been really nice. The weather has been perfect for it!

This week I was finally able to recover some data I thought I'd lost from the hard disk that died earlier this year. I was thankfully able to recover all of my arrangements and scores. This means that I should be able to get my portfolio together on time for CalArts and The New School. I just sat down and went through the recovered scores last night. I was pleasantly surprised to hear some good things. I may actually be able to finish the string quartet project I was writing at the time of the crash before the end of next month.


Principles of Art

Tonight the Dorothy Heralds did an interview for the show Radio Literature on WORT here in Madison. The interview will broadcast this Thursday, September 28th at 7PM Central. For those of you not in the Madison area, you can listen via the Internet here For those of you who don't know, WORT is a community supported radio station here in Madison. No, not "Public Radio" in the PBS, "All Things Considered" sense. It's actually a non-profit, publicly owned radio station. You may be confused about why we'd be spotlighted on a show that focuses on "poetry, fiction, non-fiction and children's literature from Wisconsin". A fan of ours, Keenan, is one of the hosts. The tie-in is that Keenan, who is a writer himself, has a lot of ideas about how work in different disciplines not only influence each other, but how they work from the same universal principles.

He's also a friend and co-conspirator of Jess, a local filmmaker we're working with. Jess is producing (and directing and all that other stuff) a film and has asked us to contribute to the soundtrack. This has, of course, been very exciting for the band as we've always looked to film as one of our main inspirations. To finally be involved in the medium has been a bit of a dream come true for us.

During the interview, we talked about the growth of the band and how we write. One of the ideas that came out was that in the process of developing as an artist, you begin to trust your "instincts" shall we say. You're presented with an idea, or concept, and instead of working out a response, or "solution", by analyzing, you react in something of an emotional way. As time goes by, those responses become more appropriate and poignant. They become the "correct" responses, or the ones that make the whole greater than the sum of the parts. I can't help but think of this as the response to the touch of a lover. Instead of calculating a response, the response is immediate and "true". Almost in a Zen sense.


Ranting Against the Machine...

I'm sick of Madison. More over, I'm sick of the music I hear in Madison. I've become convinced that over 99% of the music performed in Madison is just plain boring. The music that occurs in this town is often the most recycled, mid-life crisis, Blatz-league crap. The musicians in Madison tend to fall into one of the following categories:

  • aging punk trying to relive youthful glory of "sticking it to the establishment"

  • rocker gone country because it's "where my roots are"

  • UW music grad that thinks that playing in a group with his/her professors is the greatest

  • aging metal guys that jump on every 'alt*' bandwagon to come down the pipe

I didn't include the Pabst drinking hipster crowd as they're generally just one of the above in disguise.

As John Cage said, "I'm not scared of new ideas. It's the old ones that scare me." I tend to agree with his statement, at least in principle. It's so frustrating to have to listen to CDs and bootlegs and mp3s to hear any new ideas. Or just to hear some honest-to-goodness art. Something that actually speaks to life and experience today, rather than simply regurgitates the experiences of others from bygone times.

I want to blame the sad state of music here (and most everywhere it would seem) on the accessibility of cheap instruments and promoters/booking agents desire for a quick buck. However, I can't. These seem to be a part of a larger problem in our culture. A problem of product and passivity. A problem that I'm not interested or equipped to address at this point.


Happy Wednesday!

Been pretty busy this past month. Tracking on the Dorothy Heralds' new album has been complete for a while. We're waiting for mixes from Bill Connors up in Minneapolis. Should have them all by the first of September! You can hear a preview of our new song 'Nora' at our MySpace site.

In other news, it looks like I'll be working on a couple of infrastructure projects for DNA Studios. I'm very excited to work with Brian and Mark as they're both very creative and open. I'm still writing material for a CD to be released this year. Hopefully I'll be able to get it done in time to submit for the WI Arts Board Fellowship Grant. All I need is scores and recordings of three pieces. Don't know how I'll be able to do it, but it'll be fun trying.

By the way, the Dorothies are in the MTV2 "On the Rise" competition. Stop by and vote for us by clicking here. I'd like to thank A Planet Named Janet and Dr. John's Fortress for spreading the word about this.

Update: We're at second place locally! Thanks for everyone who's vot(ed)/(ing)!


...and the world keeps turning...

I've received a mix of one tune from The Dorothy Heralds forthcoming studio album. I have to say that I'm very impressed with the job Bill has done. He's really making the song shine. This is the first time on any recording project I've done where I can actually hear everything. All the parts are occupying their own sonic space and it sounds wonderful! I'm anxious to hear more!

It looks like Trinity James has a shot at opening for Bon Jovi at their Pittsburgh show. For those of you who don't know, I've been rehearsing and recording with Trin over the past few months. The band is starting to hit their stride in rehearsals. The Bon Jovi gig is on July 23rd, so that may be this bands first gig! Support us by voting at 101.3 KDWB's website!

Update: I failed to mention that Trinity is listed under the name The Good Ones.


Late Studio Post & Future Plans

So I was able to complete guitars for The Dorothy Heralds' new album a few weeks ago. Since then Katy, our vocalist, has laid a majority of the vocals and everything is sounding great! We just shipped a few tracks off to our friend Bill of All The Way Rider to mix. We're giving him free reign over the mixes, so I'm anxious to hear what he's going to do with them.

In other news, I'm working on some new material for my group Tank! I'm currently reharmonizing "Experiment In Terror" by Herny Mancini to get my feet wet. I hope to bring more of a Naked City aesthetic to the material. I'm also thinking of putting together a smaller group to do some Cuban music. I really miss doing the Cubanos Postizos material, and I figure I might actually get more than one or two gigs with the group.


Good times...

I began tracking guitars for the new Dorothy Heralds album today. We're a little behind schedule right now, but not too badly. I was able to get down four songs completely and half of two others. I'm really excited by both the sounds and the performances we're getting. The best part of it all is that they are really coming together to underscore the moods evoked in the songs. I also have to mention that my one big solo on the album came out perfectly on the first take (see last post re: one takes). It sounds like a cross between Marc Ribot, Django Reinhardt and me.

We were also lucky enough to have Rob Dz come in and lay some rhymes on our tune, "Nora". The tune was inspired by an experience Gary (bassist and spiritual leader of the Dorothies) had at a convenience store. I won't go into the whole story, but the tune is about being dissatisfied with ones life and still being complacent about it. I have to rave about not only Rob's performance, but just how well he captured the essence of the song and enriched it. The tune was great before he came in, but it's 100% better with his perspective added. Gary and I were so giddy by the time he was done. Smiles from ear to ear.

Tomorrow I'll be in again at DNA Studios early. I'm hoping to be done in time to make the Bill Frisell show. I've seen Bill a number of times, but his music has affected my life and who I am as a musician tremendously. I never tire of hearing him. More tomorrow I guess...


That time again...

This Saturday, my group The Dorothy Heralds, is going into the studio for a couple of weeks to record our second full length album. I'm really excited as the material reveals some new directions for the band. We've also experienced some incredible growth as a group over the past two years. You can expect music that explores rhythm and groove a lot more than our past material. And although there's less movement harmonically, it's more thought out and in a sense more complex that where we were previously. Also, for you Musos out there, more solos!

The past two years have seen a lot of changes in this group. We're now a four piece with no permanent drummer. We've been lucky enough to have Robert Schoville of Reptile Palace Orchestra fill in for the new recording. His presence during the writing process has had a big impact on the group. His mastery of percussion and overall aesthetic has been a great boon.

As I'm preparing for my own parts I've come to appreciate the idea that "composition is improvisation slowed down". I always thought of this as something of a truism, but the past few days working on ideas for solos, etc. have begun to reveal the depth of this statement. Of course, I still have a twinge of guilt for working on the parts before hand. I've spent a majority of my musical life championing improvisation in its purest forms, and here I am working out melodic ideas for solos. In fact, I feel at times I'm actually writing them instead of trusting the moment to provide inspiration. I suppose this is what happens when your own money is on the line.

However, I think this will become more a part of my daily routine. Taking changes and writing out lines away from the guitar. Or taking melodies and writing variations. The process allows you to let certain things in and others out. It reminds me somehow of this quote from Stravinsky's The Poetics of Music.

"My freedom thus consists in my moving about within the narrow frame that I have assigned myself for each one of my undertakings. I shall go even further: my freedom will be so much the greater and more meaningful the more narrowly I limit my field of action and the more I surround myself with obstacles. Whatever diminishes constraint, diminishes strength. The more constraints one imposes, the more one frees one's self of the chains that shackle the spirit."

Think of it this way, in space you have no ability to move without something to push against. I wonder what this says about the nature of strength itself. I suppose that's enough for now. I'm going back to writing chord subs and such.


Studio Updates

Spent the weekend recording with Josh Harty at Studio 23 here in Madison. This was the second time I've recorded with Josh, the last time was a humorous disaster one weekend in Minneapolis. Ask me about it sometime. The session went much more smoothly this time around. Mark Hisey of the Selfish Gene and Joe Martinson of Auburn were the rhythm section this time around.

Friday night we all setup late, rehearsed and did a couple of takes of one tune, "One Particular Day In December". These takes were discarded the next day after changing some mics on the drums. Saturday we got a late start due to a flat tire, but we managed to get all the bass and drum takes that day. Josh had a bit of a meltdown when it came to recording his tune, "Which Way I Go". The tune is probably his most commercial, which of course doesn't sit well with him. We tracked two versions, one was a New Orleans-type shuffle, the other a slightly slower reading of the version he does live currently. Otherwise, the Saturday went down without a hitch.

Sunday I tracked both rhythm and lead guitars. Takes went pretty quickly. In fact I was able to do a few in one take which is a bit of an ego trip for musicians. One tune, which I only know by the name "Letter", wound up with a completly different guitar part than the one I've been performing with Josh live. I normally play a baião rhythm for the verses and a Scofield-in-Cuba type solo. What wound up going down was more of a detuned Dick Dale type single note line through the whole tune, including the solo. I'm really excited to hear how it turns out in the mix! Other hightlights were the solo on "Empire Bar" which gave me chills, and the banjo on "One Particular Day In December" (a one-take affair!).

I'm really excited to hear this record once it's done. I think the group did a great job of interpreting Josh's vision for each tune and for the record as a whole. I also have to mention the engineer, Jeff, who was really efficient, laid-back and helpful all around. The studio itself was a joy to work in. It's a very creative space with a buch of old broken down instruments strewn about in a couple of rooms that look like a well used artist's studio. Jeff has a great approach to getting sounds and performances out of people. I think that if I can get Tank! back up and running this summer, I'll probably work with him to record. A great experience all around this weekend.

The record is slated to be released on or before July 1st. Look for it in stores, on the internet, and if Josh remembers, at gigs. It promises to be a great record!


We're making records, that what we're doing! (pt. II)

So, as promised, an update on record making activities this weekend. Unfortunately, there's nothing to report. Sessions have been cancelled (at least I found out yesterday) for the weekend. I may wind up back at Effigy this week for a couple of hours. Apparently the guy from Candlebox will be laying a solo on one of the tunes this Monday.

I can't say that I'm entirely disappointed with the way things have turned out. I definitely had my own ideas about how and what I should play on the session. Jack, the engineer/owner and now producer, had different ideas. So I can't say that I'm surprised that I'm being moved off the session. I just kind of wish people would be straight forward about it.

I definitely learned some good lessons this past week. One, unless you're paying me, I'm going to play it my way. Period. End of story. Actually, unless you have a really good reason and are able to explain that reason to me, AND you're paying me a lot of money, I'm going to play it my way. It's not worth the frustration and time for me to do otherwise. People ask me to play on their records because of who I am. If they want something else they can go find it.

Two, the amount of preproduction on a project should be at least an order of magnitude greater than the amount of time spent in the studio. Of course, this is if you have a limited budget and want a decent outcome. This will be of particular use to me as I prepare for the next Dorothy Heralds album and my planned recordings this summer.

Three, I'll never feel bad about playing someone else's part and not getting it in one take. I guess this kind of goes back to what I was saying above. If I have to read a chart and watch someone for cues and try to cop someone's feel at the same time then I'm already doing more than I should be expected to do. I won't feel bad because if I'm in this situation, then I'm helping someone out of a bind.

In closing, I do want to thank everyone that was involved in the session. Thanks of course to Trin for having me there. Thanks to Bill, Buddo, and Gary, all great guys to play and hang out with. (Bill still intimidates the hell out of me.) Thanks to Perry and Jake at Effigy for their input and hard work. I'll let you all know if anything else happens with this. If not, next on the plate is Josh Harty next weekend. I'll be playing banjo and guitar on that one. I'll also be spending a lot of time finishing up demos for TDH this week.

Have fun!


We're making records, that's what we're doing! (pt. I)

I spent this past weekend at E Multimedia Studios (formerly Effigy) working with Trinity James on what will hopefully become his first full length album. It was definitely interesting to experience what has been hyped to me as "the best drum room" in Madison. Cats on the session were Trinity of course, Buddo of Last Crack fame, Gary Chin from the Dorothy Heralds, and Bill Collins of All The Way Rider.

The session was supposed to be a one day lock-out where we went in, got sounds and hashed out the tunes live in the studio. However, through whims of destiny it became a multi-day session that I hope will be completed this next Sunday. Saturday (Day One) most of us sat around while the engineers were getting sounds. Then suddenly I was recruited to play Trin's guitar parts while he was singing. From there the whole group of us were rounded up to play. Unfortuneately, Bill, Gary and I were all reading charts and a number of mistakes were made. Instead of just fixing the missed notes, etc. We wound up cleaning up the drum tracks and calling it a night.

The next day, Gary laid basses (with a pick!) and I came in for a missing Bill and laid basic rhythm tracks. Trin's going to be in the studio laying vocals this week and Saturday I'm scheduled to go back in to lay fills, color and solos. Hopefully this will all turn into an album by next week. If not, he'll have a pretty decent sounding four to six song demo that he can sell at shows. I'll post again after this weekend with events and thoughts on the whole process. It's the month for studio work. Next week, Trin again. Week after, I'll be recording Josh Harty's new record. Two weeks later, The Dorothy Heralds sessions begin. Whew! (My eighth notes should be pretty damn even by the time I'm done with all this!)


Live TDH, Live!

I played the Klinic in Madison with The Dorothy Heralds last night. It was our first time playing there and I was pleasantly surprised. The sound was okay, but the people really made it worthwhile. The staff were all very nice and accommodating. I have to mention the decor as a stand out attraction. The bar area is done up in this pseudo-fifties style with diamond steel plating all over the place. So it winds up being this sort of weird psychobilly sort of vibe.

Fermata opened the show and they're showing improvement each time I see them. More than anything else I think I like their writing. Yes, they're all individually very talented, but there's something about the songs and arrangements themselves that resonates with me. Hope to see them more in the future.

Spin Spin Coupling were up next and I was duly impressed! I'd never heard them, nor did I know that they ran with not one, but TWO bass players and TWO guitar players! Talk about a wall of sound. Good vocal harmonies and catchy songs with big chorus'. The effect of their six-string bassist doubling guitar lines in the same octave was very cool also. May have to steal that idea... hmmm.

Last night was our first show with Mark Heise, drummer from Madison's The Selfish Gene. We only had three rehearsals with him and he performed brilliantly. The band as a whole had a few rough spots, but nothing that seemed to bother the crowd too much. In fact, we wound up playing until closing time to a fair sized crowd. Since the band knows so many tunes after playing a bunch of cover shows, we started to whip out some old favorites. Songs like "I Want Candy" had people doing the hand jive, but the really interesting story is about "99 Luftballons". Les Crews and his wife were on hand for the show as well as a few friends of theirs. They had just finished judging a battle of the bands at Verona High School and apparently one of the bands covered the Nena hit. So they took our rendition as a sign that they were in the right place . Funny how that happens, two totally unrelated bands in two totally unrelated venues play the same tune on the same night to the same audience. I'm just wondering where the kids at Verona High School heard the song. Considering they couldn't have been more than one or two years old when it came out. Not quite synchronicity really, but close.

Enough about last night, we (TDH) are playing the Hat Trick Lounge with EZ Street West tonight in St. Paul, Minnesota. I'm looking forward to being back in the Land of Ten Thousand Lakes. Just as long as I don't wind up driving back home to Madison after the gig like the last time I was there. (Zornfest @ the Walker Arts Center) For those of you that won't be joining us tonight, Michelle's group Two Timer at the Pitcher's Mound. Check them out if you can, great time and great guitars! (*Yay for guitars!*)


Website goes live... almost...

So thanks to Michelle (Thanks Michelle!!) I finally have an honest to God URL for my website. Some things are still in the works (like the email newsletter). I'll have more lessons posted before the end of May. I'm also hoping to have some audio posted soon.

In other news, The Dorothy Heralds are now in pre-production for our new album. We're still writing a couple of tunes, but we're mostly working on demos and scratch tracks at the moment. For those of you who are interested, we are doing a presale for this album to cover studio costs, etc. Here's a list of packages that we're making available:

$15one (1) personalized copy of the next studio album prior to its release.
$25one (1) personalized copy of the next studio album prior to its release and one (1) TDH t-shirt.
  • One (1) personalized copy of the next studio album prior to its release.
  • One (1) personalized copy of either Projections or The Basement Sessions
  • One (1) TDH t-shirt
  • Your illustrious name in TDH’s liner notes
  • One (1) personalized copy of the next studio album prior to its release.
  • One (1) personalized copy of either Projections or The Basement Sessions
  • One (1) TDH t-shirt
  • Your illustrious name in TDH’s liner notes
  • A place on our guest list for TDH’s August CD Release Party
  • Access to TDH’s VIP section at the CD Release Party (complete with snacks, drinks, and other fun surprises)
  • One (1) personalized copy of the next studio album prior to its release.
  • One (1) personalized copy of either Projections or The Basement Sessions
  • One (1) TDH t-shirt
  • Your illustrious name in TDH’s liner notes
  • A place on our guest list for TDH’s August CD Release Party
  • Access to TDH’s VIP section at the CD Release Party (complete with snacks, drinks, and other fun surprises)
  • An invitation to TDH’s exclusive listening party. We’re renting a room and throwing a party—be among the first to hear the new album in the company of other friends and fans!

If you have any questions, or are interested in purchasing one of these packages please email me.


Little updates

I've been spending a lot of time working on music for the string quartet album I'm planning. The line up is probably going to be two cellos, guitar and violin. I may replace one cello with either trombone or another violin. I think I'm going to title it Alone Is The New Together. Seems appropriate, not only because of the way the music is coming about, but also due to the "new" phenomenon of blogging, IM, etc. It'll be fun. And definitely interesting.

I've been listening to a lot of Tom Waits work lately. (Speaking of which, I should update the "Listening to..." section here) Marc Ribot's contributions to his work will probably stand out in my mind as some of the most inventive in popular music. There's an interview with him at the All About Jazz website where he gives a little insight to his compositional process. It was a very interesting read for me.

Other than this, I'm going to be working on some string arrangements for some other people. Hopefully I'll be able to post them here or at my site when they're done. I'll also be doing some duo work with Josh Harty in the near future. I've also been working through some transcriptions of Django Reinhardt solos and some Mingus tunes (especially, Weird Nightmare). I think it might be fun to do a gypsy jazz type band with more of the punk rock aesthetic. The Mingus charts are incredibly inspiring. You can see Ellington all over his work. Beautiful stuff.


And the winner is...

So my group The Dorothy Heralds were up for a number of Madison Area Music Awards last night. We were nominated in seven categories: Best Electronic Song for 'Beautiful', Best Unique Song for 'Now', Best Classical Song for 'Inverno Rosa', Best Overall Artist, Best Electronic Artist, Best Unique Artist, and Best Classical Artist. Whew, that's a lot of bests.

We were fortunate enough to win for Best Electronic Song and Best Classical Song. It was a complete surprise as the artists in each category are some of the best that Madison has to offer. I feel a little awkward writing about this as we thanked most everyone last night. But I'd still like to mention Robert Schoville, who performed the batucada section of 'Beautiful', Dave Adler, who arranged and produced the strings on 'Inverno Rosa', Biff Blumfumgange, who performed all of the violin parts, and Russ Pollard, who performed the cello parts. It was a real surprise and honor to win last night. Maybe I'll have more to say later...


Electric Masada

So I was lucky enough to have been able to attend Electric Masada's performance at the Walker Arts Center in Minneapolis on February 17th. I have to say that it was one of the most exciting and rewarding musical experiences of my life. Not only was this the first time I was able to see Zorn live, but Marc Ribot, Joey Baron, Cyro Baptista, Ikuo Mori, Trevor Dunn, Kenny Wolleson and Jamie Saft are all part of the group. With the exception of Jamie Saft who I was unfamiliar with at the time, each of these musicians have had an impact on my life and music, either as a member of a different group or individually. Ribot being the most obvious as his solo albums and collaborations with artists such as Tom Waites and Elvis Costello see constant play on my iPod. In fact I'm still working on transcriptions of his solos on the Rain Dogs album.

The night commenced with a talk/QA session with Zorn. I have to admit that I would have driven the four hours just for this. Zorn spoke at length about the importance of community in his work. He also discussed the process he uses for his soundtrack work, which was enlightening. He also spoke of the importance of art in our current situation and how artists actually suffer when commercial concerns enter into the picture. It was also humorous to hear his disdain for the "jazz" label.

After the talk we commenced to the theater for Electric Masada's performance. The band started late due to flight delays, etc. To my surprise the theater was set up amphitheater style and we were in the fourth row! This afforded us a great view of the band. In fact Michelle was delighted to be sitting directly in front of Cyro Baptista. Zorn kicked off the first tune and I was immediately enthralled. Then as he started to direct the improvisation I was struck with utter amazement. I was finally witnessing exactly what I'd contemplated and theorized for years. "How does he do this?" was the question on my lips every time I listened to Naked City or Cobra or any number of his improvising groups. The rest of the show kept me in this state of awe as the band proved itself to be inventive and consistently musical (this is something many small improvising groups can't always maintain, much less eight piece groups!). Absolutely incredible.


Lame song lyric reference here...

I actually decided to write a post this time not about what's going on in my life per se, but about a band that's long dead and gone but whose influence is still reverberating in my daily process as a musician. That band is Naked City, John Zorn's "composition workshop" that was formed in the late 80's. Naked City was a band comprised of some of Downtown New York's brightest stars at the time. John Zorn, Joey Baron, Fred Frith, Bill Frisell, and Wayne Horovitz created some of the most intelligent, humorous, aggressive and beautiful music I've ever heard.

Since the middle of the past century and the birth of rock 'n' roll, few new forms of music have been created or discovered. Hip hop, punk, and so-called "free" jazz are probably the most important. That band proved that despite a lack of novel form in music, there could still be innovation in the context of a traditional rock 'n' roll band, and more importantly a new way to relate to music as a whole. They tried to show us how Ornette Coleman, Ennio Morricone, Henri Mancini, hardcore punk, lounge jazz, blues, surf and an endless list of musical styles were part of the same continuum.

I first heard the band when I was in high school and I have to admit that not only the cover of their debut album, Naked City, but the music especially scared and disturbed me. In fact, it does to this day. But it's only recently that I've realized how much their output has meant to me and influenced what I do as a musician. Just listen to "California" or "Now" on the Dorothy Heralds' last album. Jumping from Nü-Metal trash to McCoy Tyner-inspired country chord melody to Coltrane-type chord cycles in an electronica context? I can't deny that it was Naked City that led me to the mental disorders that make me do what I do musically. Maybe you should try them out also....


There were bells, all around...

The Dorothy Heralds played our fist show in a few months last night at the High Noon Saloon. We debuted a number of new songs that we're hoping to record in June. The band was loose, but the energy was high and the audience seemed to really enjoy the show. Our use of sound clips and instrumental transitions has definitely improved and is really adding a lot to our show. Lots of fun, and a lot of lessons learned. Thanks to everyone that braved the cold to come out last night!

As you may have heard, CTM is closing its doors on their 2006 season due to financial troubles. This really hit me hard as Gary, Kevin and I were set to do the music for at least two more productions. I was able to attend the final show of Stuart Little and was impressed with the overall production. I had some issues with how the work we did was used (underused, actually), but all-in-all a good show. The Isthmus had good things to say in their review. Here's hoping that they're able to work things out and start producing again.

So after a night of being a rockstar I get to go teach others how to do the same. Not too bad... heheh.


A Day In the Life...

Updates, updates...

Stuart Little has done well from what I've heard. The reviews have been critical of the pace of the story and lack of character development. This is really a critique of the script more than anything else. I found one review at Madison.com. Please send me links if you find other reviews.

Next week Thursday, Jan. 19th my group, The Dorothy Heralds will be performing at the High Noon Saloon. It's gearing up to be a really good show. We're starting to incorporate musical and sampled segues between songs. Also, 90% of the set will consist of the material we've been writing the past few months. We're going in some interesting directions. I'm hoping to get someone from Kiki's out to review the show. We're also beginning to incorporate props into our show. Any of you who saw us at the Annex a few months back may understand.

My mother, Janet Nelson, was interviewed at Cupcakes Take The Cake. It's a fun read. I never knew about my mother's secret passion for cupcakes. Also, she's posting a lot of her work on her blog. Check it out...

I think that's it mostly. For now at least...



Just an FYI for those of you who are interested, I just updated my website with a new photo (as some of you have requested) as well as two guitar lessons. Please check them out and let me know what you think.

In other news, CTM's production of Stuart Little opens tonight. All music and incidental sound effects were done by Gary Chin, Kevin Lozada and I. I've seen the production through a couple of stages and it promises to be very good. Check it out!