Saturday, June 25, 2005

For the Locals

(Copied and pasted from our local mailing list)

[Industrial Jazz] We're back!

That’s right, we survived our east coast tour… despite technical mishaps, eleventh hour gig cancellations, triple digit heat, and even being shot at.

I’ll be writing up a reflective piece on the sordid details of the experience, which I’ll post to the blog sometime in the next week or two… but in the meantime I wanted to alert you to the fact that, like a bad fad, we’re actually not done! That’s right, we have one more performance before we all retire to our Martha’s Vineyard mansions for the summer. (Yeah, there’s a little community of wealthy jazz musicians up there. Wait—why are you laughing?!)

Anyway, here are the details: we’ll be appearing at Club Tropical next Thursday, June 30, at 8 pm. Club Tropical is located at 8641 W. Washington Blvd. in Culver City—just blocks from the Jazz Bakery (probably the closest we’ll ever get to playing in that particular establishment). Admission is $10, and we’ll be doing two sets. (More info:; big thanks to them for having us back.)

The freakin’ incredible Salvadoran food they make at Club Tropical will surely distract you from the crushing boredom of our show. But if the food doesn’t do the trick, check out the disco ball (sorry if I’ve mentioned that before, I just think it’s really cool). If the ball doesn’t do the trick, check out our special guest: vocalist / old friend Jill Knapp, flying in from the east coast for this gig. With the addition of Jill, we’ll finally have the air of respectability we so desperately crave, so let me take this opportunity to personally *thank her*.

The rest of the group:

Saxes: Kelly Corbin, Dan Boissy, Matt Otto, Ron Dzuibla
Brass: Phil Rodriguez, Dan Rosenboom, Shaunte Palmer
Rhythm: Dan Schnelle, Aaron Kohen, Robert Jacobson, Andrew Durkin

Oh, yeah, and for some reason I don’t quite understand, the LA Weekly decided to designate this performance as their “Jazz Pick of the Week” this week. You can read about it here:

Let me know if you can make any sense out of *that*.

Anyway, hope to see you all soon. Thanks as always for your support.


PS. Special thanks department: once again, our undying gratitude goes out to the people and organizations--specifically the members of this list and the American Composers Forum of LA--for supporting our tour. Thank You!

Friday, June 24, 2005

For what it's worth...

Posted in response to a dilemma faced by a fellow traveler:

Okay, hopefully it won’t be too forward of me to add to this discussion. I think (nay, I know) I’ve been where you’re at, Joe, so maybe I can help.

Egomaniac that I am, I’m going to start by talking about myself, but bear with me, as there’s a larger point I’m trying to make. Check it out: if you had told me, six years ago or so, that I would be doing what I am doing now (i.e., leading the IJG), I would never have believed you. I would probably have thought you were nuts. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always loved “jazz,” and instrumental music, but from the start I had always been convinced that “my thing” was writing songs and working primarily with vocalists, period. That had been the focus of my creative output for my entire musical career up until 1999.

What changed? Simply put, in that same year (99) I found myself more frustrated artistically than I had ever been. For one thing, I was writing a lot of songs that had no real outlet. Jill had by then moved far away (or else she was in the process of doing same, I don't remember the exact sequence of events), and all the LA singers I got to know were difficult to work with for various reasons. More importantly, I was not feeling particularly excited about the stuff I was writing. I felt like I had exhausted all of my possibilities as a musician (perhaps unfairly to myself, I didn’t see the point in continuing to churn out more of the kinds of songs I already knew I could write--how many Job Songs does the world really need, for fuck's sake?). The fact that LA is overflowing with mediocre songwriters just made the situation worse. I found I had very little tolerance for the stuff I heard from my peers, but I was even more afraid of my own potential for mediocrity.

And then I read this book called Dianetics. (Kidding!--I hate that crap.) No, what happened I think was that I got to this very Zen place where, for whatever reason, I stopped trying so hard and opened myself up to whatever possibilities happened to come my way. I joined bands for the hell of it, just to see what happened. I met a lot of musicians. I put myself into aesthetically uncomfortable situations. I played a lot of bad music (much of it mine), and some good music too. I did a lot of listening, a lot of transcribing, a lot of reading, a lot of learning. I followed my gut, but I also ignored my gut because I wanted to find out for sure what kind of things it could reliably help me with. And somehow out of that messy period the IJG emerged.

I use the word “emerged” very deliberately, because in retrospect I realize that the IJG is basically an accident that I allowed to happen. I didn’t go into it intentionally. I never sat down and said: “Hmmm, you know what? I should really create a jazz group.” I just sort of fell in with a certain community of musicians, started writing music for them, almost as a joke, not having any expectations whatsoever, and before I knew it the project had taken on a life of its own. And, just as with the Evelyn Situation all those years ago, I felt an unidentifiable “something” click somewhere, and I knew I was in the right place at that moment. I sat up and basically said, “Wow. So I guess I’m going to be a jazz composer for a little while. Who knew?”

Out of more than twenty years as an aspiring professional composer, Evelyn and the IJG are the only two bands of mine that I’ve been deeply proud of--that’s a total of, maybe, seven years of “getting it right” (aesthetically, if not commercially) and thirteen years of drifting. (Other projects, like Jay’s Booming Hat, have been fun, but never really clicked in the same way.) In other words, I was in the ballpark less than half of the time. I have no idea how long the IJG will last, and if it does last, how long it will resemble the band it is now (which is markedly different from the band it was even two years ago). All I know--and I know this better now than ever before--is that I will always want to write music that challenges me, makes me laugh, makes me happy to be alive. And it's actually easier for me to write now that I’ve realized that the specifics of how the music will get made (i.e., what band will play it) don’t matter too much, because I know I’ll figure them out when I get there.

I’m not trying to make the process of getting out of an artistic funk sound easy, because it’s not. My point is that it’s a question of mindset as much as anything else. As far as I can tell, you don’t have to worry about the talent part of the equation--of course, I don’t know you or your music too well, but Jill has all kinds of great things to say about both, and I have a lot of respect for her judgment. In my opinion, it’s not really a matter of what music you do or don’t like, or what you call yourself (rocker? jazzer? singer-songwriter?), because those things are so temporal, and will probably change and grow over time, and anyway are partly determined by forces beyond your control: the moment you’re living in, the world around you, the people you’re with, the language you speak, your background, and so on.

The key to finding your musical identity, I think, is to be and remain open. You may already be aware of this, and in fact you may already be doing it, at least to some extent. But let me stress the point. Be open to changing your mind--or to not changing your mind. Be open to failure as much as you're open to success. Be open to boredom (ironically, that can be one of the greatest motivators toward excellence). Recognize that sometimes your inner ear just needs to coast for a while--it’s a way of clearing aside the detritus and nonsense that dances on the surface of your consciousness (we're all affected by this--the Zen monks call it “roof chatter”) and getting to what really matters for you as a musician. As with love, you’ll just know when something clicks. There’s no point in rushing it before it happens, or analyzing it after. Just let it be.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Good Advice

Whatever you think of Steve Jobs, he had some interesting things to say in a recent commencement address.

And we're back...


Made it back from the tour in one piece. I'm still processing the experience, and writing up my reflections for posting here. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, get a load of this site. It's hilarious. (Be sure to order your "What Would Jesus Do?" thong while supplies last.)

More soon...

Monday, June 06, 2005

As Slimy as They Wanna Be

Another radio story: this one about Clear Channel's attempt to masquerade as a pirate radio station.

I wonder what it takes to get people to think in these terms? Is it a brazen realization? ("Hmmm. At long last, I guess I really don't have any sense of decency!") Or is it total and complete denial?

Anyway, I copy the article here because of the New York Times' registration policy:

Clear Channel in a Stealth Promotional Campaign

Published: May 30, 2005

To the average listener, Radio Free Ohio has all the earmarks of pirate radio. For weeks, it sounded as if amateurs had been bleeding their voices into the broadcasts of stations in Akron, Ohio, owned by Clear Channel, the corporate radio giant. At the Web site, there was a manifesto about "corporate-controlled music playlists" that took potshots at several local Clear Channel stations. But there was no information about who had posted the screed, or what exactly Radio Free Ohio was.

But last week it came out that Radio Free Ohio was not a prank on Clear Channel but in fact a prank by Clear Channel. Tomorrow, an AM station the company owns in Akron will switch formats from sports talk to progressive talk, and Clear Channel would very much like anyone suspicious of corporate media to tune in.

"Once we determined we were going to change the format, we tried to get into the mindset of people who would listen to this new station," said Dan Lankford, vice president and market manager for Clear Channel in Akron. That mindset may involve a suspicion of Clear Channel itself, which has used loosened rules on media ownership to build a radio empire.

That Clear Channel owned the www.radiofreeohioorg Web site was revealed on, a magazine and blog about advertising and popular culture. Stay Free's editor, Carrie McLaren, said that she had learned the information from someone who had seen it on an Akron Web site. "In a way it's the heart of the problem with Clear Channel," Ms. McLaren said of the manifesto. " 'We're this huge corporation and we do everything to fake being local.' "

Naturally, Clear Channel disagrees. "Clear Channel, as I see it, is dedicated to entertaining radio and to getting results for our advertisers," Mr. Lankford said, noting that the company owns both conservative and progressive talk radio stations. "There's a hole in the market here and we're going to fill it."

Friday, June 03, 2005


For fans of weather, check out the weather pixie.

(I once wrote a cheesy jazz "number" called "Waltz for Wanda," which was deemed worthy for the Weather Channel by all who heard it, and especially by my friend Jill, who retitled it "Waltz for Weather." Strangely, that piece will be resuscitated as a little comic interlude for the last two nights on our upcoming tour.)

And then there's this stupid Snoop Dogg thing. Honestly, I don't get the appeal of this guy (alright, already, add "izzle" to everything, I get it), but I know there are lots of people do, so here you go.