Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Once again.

Since my last entry I've graduated high school, finished my first year at Tufts University and the New England Conservatory dual degree program, got home, unpacked, and drove to New Jersey, which is where I am now. It's been nothing and everything like I expected it to be. First off, it's hot. Like, really hot and humid, which would suck more if my day job wasn't working on the beach as a guy who rents out umbrellas, chairs, and boogie boards. I also had a brief stint as one of those people who holds a giant sign on the side of the road. This one was for a liquor store, and after four hours I had found a new respect for anyone who does something similar. The thing about it is that while you're standing with the sign, you're protected by the first amendment's right to free speech, but if you sit, people can tell you to vacate the premises. You've got to have super strong legs to keep it up, since you're the only one there. It also takes a pretty strong bladder, since there are no bathrooms in sight over a normally six hour shift. It pays well, but I prefer the beach. As for music, I was introduced to a local band called Shorty Long and the Jersey Horns. The band gets its name from its frontman, keyboardist, and singer nicknamed "Shorty", along with its three-part horn section. Playing covers ranging from rock and pop to soul and R&B, the band is billed as the "World's #1 Party Band". And rightly so, may I add, they're a great time. After meeting their bass player through the people I'm living with, I found myself sitting in with the band the very next night, both hauling equipment and playing. The venue was a bar called the Beachcomber, which was situated right on the Seaside Heights boardwalk. The gig ran from 10pm - 2am, and by the end I was exhausted, but full of energy at the same time. I ended up getting home at 5am, much to the surprise of my hosts. My adventures with Shorty Long were continued two days later (This past Saturday), when I played with them at the pre game festivities for the second game of the Stanley Cup Finals (The New Jersey Devils are one of the teams competing). It turned out that we were billed to perform with Darryl from Run DMC, playing "Walk This Way". It was awesome to say the least. I should mention that I am being hosted by Jean, my mom's best friend from college, who lives in South Tom's River, New Jersey. I've had a wonderful time staying so far, and have had a great opportunity to hang out with her four children, all of whom are like cousins to me. I've even made dinner a few times, and I feel like my culinary skills have improved drastically. It's a nice atmosphere, and should be a great hang for the rest of the month, up until I go home on July 6th. Tomorrow I head for New York, where I'll spend a few days hanging out before a Saturday gig with the Ron McClure quartet. It's in Riverside Park if any of you readers are in the area...7pm. The band will be myself on violin, Chad Brown on tenor sax, Shareef Taher on drums and, of course, Ron McClure on bass. It should be a good time, and a great outdoor jazz concert for your summer. So thats it up to this point...may try to catch a show while in NY since I got directed to this awesome service to get discount tickets for shows. I hear Godspell is amazing, and at $41 a ticket, I might have to check it out. This should work out just fine.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Im Back!

Im picking my blog back up as I am in the thick of college applications and auditions. I went this past weekend to NYU and met an amazing bass player, Ron McClure (http://www.ronmcclure.com/). He was the nicest, most welcoming person I met while I was there, definitely check him out!

Last night, I had the good fortune to see The Hot Club of San Francisco, an amazing gypsy jazz band. As they played, black and white silent movies were shown behind them, making for a very surreal atmosphere. The films ranged from comedy to horror to heartwarming, plus they were accompanied by some of the best gypsy jazz I've ever heard!

I am channeling Andrew Bird this weekend as I will be playing solo with a looping pedal at Bard Coffee from 10-12pm this Sunday, Nov. 21. Hope you can come!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

From Then Till Now: A Catchup

So when I last left off my blog in August, I had returned from Acton and was prepping for the DysFunktional Mayhem reunion concert at SPACE Gallery. DFM, by the way, is the funk band that I have played with since I was a freshman. We had broken up for a year because our bass player had gone to college, but with him back for the summer, we decided to do one last hurrah and have a reunion show exactly one year after our "last" show in 2009, which was also at SPACE gallery. We pulled a crowd of probably 80-90 people for this gig. With that much support and a great vibe going, the show was excellent. What was also great was that our friend Alex took some unbelievable pictures of the concert, some of which I have posted. Helps to have a friend who's a photographer!

My next gig was on Saturday, where I played music for my grandparent's 50th wedding anniversary...plus I was my grandfather's best man in their re commitment ceremony/mass. I also had to make a toast at their reception, and my toast glass was filled with Shirley Temple, since the staff had whisked away the champagne as soon as I sat down! Despite this setback, the toast was fine, and the music, provided by my dad and myself, was fine as well. That night, my dad and I headed back to Maine, leaving my mom and siblings back in RI.

After the drive, I was lucky enough to go up to Bar Harbor, Maine to play with my school music teacher and an amazing saxophonist, John Cooper, at the Bar Harbor Jazz Festival. Honestly, I didn't expect a small coastal town like that to have a jazz festival, but it was a great time nonetheless, plus there was actually a decent turnout on the village green! After spending the night in Ellsworth, I made my way back home, where I prepared to start my senior year of high school.

And so that's what I've been doing from early September until now...school. But it's not even the classes that are giving me the hardest time, it's the college applications. I can barely keep up with the sheer volume of work I have to do to keep up with school, colleges, and music (I don't know how I will get through this year with my sanity still intact!), but once January hits, and all the college madness ends, I'm sure it will be ok. But all that coupled with auditions for schools makes me very, very tired.

I haven't not done any playing since I've started school. I started taking a music class at USM with Trent Austin, an amazing trumpet player. I'm taking the class along with my friend Will Maxwell, and I think it's safe to say that we've both gotten a lot better! One of the most exciting times was when I went to NYC recently on a college visit to NYU (Top choice btw) and sat in with my teacher, Rob Thomas, at a Sunday Brunch in the city. But what was really great was that I got to meet another kid jazz violinist, Ben Suttin. He is also a student of Rob's, and it was amazing to play wit another kid who played my same instrument! It was a dream situation. One of the best parts about this city visit for me was going to NYU and meeting some awesome people, including bass player Ron McClure who is on the faculty. He was such a warm and welcoming presence, and really made me feel at home where I was. Overall, the isit was a smashing success.

So that's where I'll leave off, now that I'm all caught up. More to come soon!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

End of Berklee, Back to Life

So where I last left off, I had just finished up a whirlwind of a gig with the Middle Eastern ensemble, which went amazingly well, plus I got the recordings of the set, so I'll see if I can upload them.

After a short, two song set with another ensemble on Tuesday, real work began for the workshop concert on that Thursday. What was truly stressful about this whole thing was that a number of songs we were going to be doing on Tuesday were just being put in front of us! Nevertheless, we managed to pull three new songs together for our show on Thursday, which had five total tunes in the set. Overall, the concert was a great success, and I felt that I and everyone else played great! What was also great was that my whole family was able to come...it was great to see all of them, plus I got a free dinner out of it :)

I had originally planned to stay and watch the other workshop, but I had to run over to the BPC in time for the Instrumental Showcase concert, which included the Funk/Fusion all stars, of which I was a part. I arrived in time, and when I walked out on stage, I couldn't believe the number of people in the crowd...I dont think I had ever played in front of that many people before in my life! But no time for nerves...this was showtime. From the first beat to the last, there was nothing but pure energy, music, fun and soul...it was unbelievable to play with so many amazing people. After such a great gig, there was only one place left to go: Teriyaki House!!!!!!!!! After a bunch of us ate, those of us in the workshop called Terri Lynne, our teacher, just to thank her for all the great work. What a great night!

After a lazy Friday in which I mostly said goodbyes and bought records, I left the Berklee 5 week program on a bus headed for Portland. Once home, I had only a day of rest before I started on my next project: rehearsing with my old band, DysFunktional Mayhem, for our upcoming one -year reunion show at SPACE Gallery in Portland. As I am writing this post, I have just gotten back from a two day marathon rehearsal at out keyboard player's house in Acton, Maine (Oh yeah Massachusetts, you thought you had the only Acton...hah!), which although beautiful, was extremely out of the way and took over an hour to get to. What was also great about the trip is that I actually did all the driving, which had never happened with our crew, and the role reversal was not lost on anyone!

In closing, what can I say about Berklee except that it was one of the greatest and most incredible experiences that I've ever had. Ive definitely gotten better from it, in large part because I got to play with incredible musicians and benefit from their experiences as well as learning more about myself and what I can/need to do on my instrument.

Im positive all that will come in handy when I take the stage this Wednesday (tomorrow!!) with DysFunktional Mayhem at Space Gallery at 8pm in Portland. Will Gattis opens up the show, and then DFM will be rocking and funking up the house! Hope you can make it...its FREE!!!!

More to come...

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Middle Eastern mayhem

So heres what happened Monday night:

I was super pumped for the middle eastern ensemble's performance at the BPC, so excited, it would seem, that I clean snapped my E string during the sound check. So here I was, out a string with 30 minutes until showtime. What's a violin player to do?

First thing I did was look for another violin player to bum a string off of. None in sight. Once I shared this news with my friend from the ensemble, he immediately lent me $20 to buy strings. What a guy! On to plan B.

Plan B-Run down to Rutman's violin shop to get a single E string to replace my snapped one. Guess who decided to close early that day? Now all I was left with was the last resort-see if Daddy's music store sold strings.

So I run back and into Daddys and, out of breath, asked the clerk if the store sold violin strings. He answered that they did, but only in sets, not individual strings. With no other options, I agreed to buy the strings, terrible quality as they were. Remember that the only money I had was $20 from my friend. The clerk rings up the bill, and the total comes to $21.50. Damn.

I manage to scrounge up 50 cents from my wallet, but I was still a dollar short. I pleaded with the clerk, telling him that I was supposed to play in 20 minutes, but I received no help, the clerk just stood there with a sympathetic look on his face and told me that he was sorry, but he could not help me. Desperate, I pleaded to the other customers for help, to just give me $1, but all I got were blank faces.

Now angry on top of frantic, I ran outside hoping to find someone who would give me a dollar. To my luck, my roommate Dave was standing on the corner, and I told him of my predicament and pleaded with him for the dollar. Keeping an eye on the clock, it was now 10 minutes from showtime. Dave, as great as he is, was this time hesitant to give me a dollar, saying he needed it for his laundry. I then proceeded to tell him (please cover your children's ears) that I didn't care about his f****** laundry and that this was a huge emergency. I finally convinced him to lend me the money, and I ran back to Daddy's and bought the strings. I now had 7 minutes.

Now thoroughly sweaty, I ran back to the concert hall and put on the string while my bandmates cheered at my arrival and the good news...I couldn't have asked to be put with a better group of people. With the string on, and frequently going out of tune, we went up to perform to a large crowd at the BPC. With what I had just been through, I really didn't care about being nervous anymore, it was showtime.

Once we were set on stage, the lights were extremely hot and I could barely see the crowd, but I could see well enough to see that the jazz workshop had come out to support me! I couldnt believe it, what a great surprise. The intros were made, and we started playing, and let me tell you, it was some of the most fun I've ever had playing in a band. Everyone was on in their playing, the groove was tight and the thing was killin! Not to mention that my tone was really well mixed by the soundguys...how awesome is that!

After the show, we all went backstage to take pictures. As we packed up afterward, a girl came over to me and asked if I would marry her...jokingly of course (she was attractive too...double win!). By the time I got back to the dorm and collapsed on my bed, I knew I must have done something right. Disaster averted, plus a killin show, what more could a guy ask for?

Now it's all about rehearsing for Thursday...hope some people can come! More later...

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Last Week...here we go

Ok, so after a restful weekend, its now time for concerts. For those of you who do want to come down to see any of them, here is a complete schedule:

Monday, 8/9 at 8:15-Playing with the Middle Eastern Ensemble at the Berklee Performance Center (BPC) It's part of the larger "Singer's Showcase" concert, so if you like vocal music, this is the one for you. Ill be playing in the first two songs. No tickets required. FREE

Tuesday, 8/10 at 4pm-Playing with Bruce Gertz's ensemble in room 1W in the 1140 Boylston st building. Will be playing for two tunes with some great players including my jazz workshop drummer and our trumpet player who also plays EWI. Smaller, shorter concert. No tickets required. FREE

Now heres the day I recommend coming:

Thursday, 8/12 at 6:30-Playing with the Jazz Workshop at the David Friend Recital Hall in the 921 Boylston st building. Will be about an hour concert, with great music and players including jazz harmonica! A must-see! No tickets required. FREE


Thursday, 8/12 at 8:15-Playing with the Funk/Fusion all star band at the BPC...Some of the best players at Berklee put together into one amazing funk band, including violin, trumpet, tenor, guitar, bass and drums. Another must see! Part of the larger "Instrumental Showcase" concert, including jazz and rock showcases as well. No tickets required. FREE

Hope something fits into your schedule...Alright concerts, here we go!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Time to prepare

So on my last post, i mentioned that it was half price cheesecake day at Cheesecake Factory...which was delicious. Just to let you know. In other news...

Since the concert, workshop has been cruising. Our next big event is recording in a Berklee studio this Friday!!!! Very few ensembles get to do this, so this is really something huge to prepare for...we basically get to cut a CD and have some dope music to keep for ourselves/give to friends! This being said, in order for anything to be dope, it needs to be really practiced, so workshop has been even more intense than usual for the past couple of days. Right now, rehearsing tunes/practicing/getting our stuff together is the name of the game in preparation for Friday...hopefully it will turn out great.

Another event from the past while...Andrew Bird came to Berklee, and I saw and met him! This guy is unbelievable, and is really revolutionizing the way people look at and play the violin...he was using dual loop pedals, one for bow, one for plucking, and the bow one was put through a spinning victrola horn, which made the sound morph around the room and sound super cool. While his music was amazing, he, on the other hand, seemed extremely detached and disoriented, and was aloof in his Q&A session with the Berklee audience. But this didnt stop me, and I found out that he would be around at the back door of the performance center, so I went to go see if I could go meet him. Once I got there, there were about twenty people present, and I had to wait as fan girls crowded him for pics and autographs. Then, it was my turn, and I asked him about violin pickups and gear, and told him that I, like him, did violin loops. Instead of seeming happy to meet another of his kind, he kept the disoriented meter up to 11, and semi answered my questions in a drab and tired tone of voice. By the end of the day, I had reached two conclusions about his behavior...either he had not slept for a week and was resentful at Berklee for interrupting his schedule, or he was just hooked on several different substances...I'm not sure which one. But hey, he's a great musician, so that part of it was good.

That was on Monday. Since then, it's been back to the same routine of practicing and playing with people. Even more rehearsals have been added to my schedule now, since Im participating in the instrumental showcase Funk/Fusion ensemble, which is awesome! But yes, just the norm, except for one thing


This has become the new obsession of the workshop...you'll know why once you see the sax player. Dave showed it to me and boy, I cant get it out of my head for a minute. This makes me want a white pair of Raybans for this summer. You got saxrolled!

Oh, and tonight Im going to the singer/songwriter showcase at the BPC...with someone :)

More to come!