Thursday, November 01, 2012

And in this corner...

...weighing in at 340 some-odd pages, is Decomposition, version 7.6 (or is it 9.2? I've lost track), helpfully laid out in a codex-like format, and now intensively training for a late-December 2012 rematch with the triple threats of self-doubt, overweening intellectual ambition, and the ever-elusive happy medium between "academic" and "general interest" prose.

Hoping for the knockout punch this time.

Friday, August 24, 2012

How it's done

Irving Berlin's "nine inviolable rules for writing a successful popular song" (c/o David Suisman, originally published in American Magazine in 1920):

1. The melody must musically be within the range of the average voice of the average public singer. . . . 
2. The title, which must be simple and easily remembered, must be "planted" effectively in the song. It must be emphasized, accented again and again, throughout the verse and chorus. . . . 
3. The ideas and the wording must be [appropriate for] either a male or a female singer . . . so that both sexes will want to buy and sing it. . . . 
4. The song should contain heart interest [pathos], even if it is a comic song . . . . 
5. The song must be original . . . . Success is not achieved . . . . by trying to imitate the general idea of the great song hit of the moment. . . . 
6. Your lyric must have to do with ideas, emotions, or objects known to everyone  . . . . 
7. The lyric must be euphonious--written in easily singable words and phrases, in which there are many open vowels . . . . 
8. Your song must be perfectly simple . . . . 
9. The song writer must look upon his work as a business . . . .

And there you have it.

Friday, August 10, 2012

And one more

This is "Brega." (Chart here.)

Book update: so close to being finished that some days I almost can't stand it.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The More You Know

It was an honor to be a part of this year's Cathedral Park Jazz Festival. Major kudos to all the people involved -- the incredible bands, the tireless and dedicated organizers, the enthusiastic and terpsichorean audience. Quite inspiring to witness this important local treasure get a new lease on life.

By the way, this new band of mine (this was our second gig ever) is in the middle of recording an album... and it's gonna be real good. Here's a taste of our Saturday set.

Other updates coming soon.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

3, 2, 1, GO

A friend of mine is fond of reminding me of some words of wisdom a teacher once passed along to him, that in music, as in air travel, what matters most are "takeoffs and landings."

Here is how PROTO-HUMAN, my new group (featuring David Valdez (alto sax), Scott Hall (tenor sax), Justin Morell (guitar), Todd Bishop (drums), Andrew Jones (bass), and yours truly (keyboards and composition)) took off during our debut performance at the Blue Monk a few nights ago.

Big thanks to the IJG's Mary-Sue Tobin for putting this show together. I look forward to seeing where this band goes from here.

(Also: book update coming soon.)

Thursday, January 05, 2012


Happy 2012.

I am still in the home stretch with my book, and in the interest of not allowing this blog to languish in the meantime, I thought I would try something I haven't before: sharing a bit of my written music.

As I mentioned in my last post, most of my time these days is either going toward the book or toward my new band, Proto-human, a six-piece Portland-based ensemble featuring alto and tenor sax, plus a four piece rhythm section (guitar, piano, drums, and bass).

With Proto-human, though I don't wish to analyze the aesthetic too much, I have nevertheless been trying to challenge myself to write using styles and approaches that I kind of got away from in the Industrial Jazz Group. In other words, I'm trying to step out of my comfort zone a bit.

For instance, in the IJG I eventually stopped writing at the piano, or with paper. With Proto-human, most everything I've written so far has been composed at the piano, and most of it has at least been sketched out on paper first.

As another example, most everything I have written for the IJG, and especially in the last five years or so, has been rather heavily and densely arranged, even in the way that improvisation was involved (in my most recent stuff, improvisation was often part of the arrangement, rather than an opportunity to showcase a given soloist). I am proud of the unique sound that resulted, but I knew when I started this new band that I wanted to try to write at least one simple single-page lead sheet type chart, that the group could arrange, and that offered extensive blowing opportunities. Just to hear what would happen.

"Brega" (see below--click to enlarge, and feel free to download) is what I came up with. The word "brega" is Portuguese for "tacky" or "in bad taste." You can decide for yourself whether the tune was aptly named.

If you're in Portland, Oregon, on March 11, 2011, you can hear this tune, and a bunch of my other new pieces, at the Blue Monk, when Scott Hall, David Valdez, Andrew Jones, Justin Morell, Todd Bishop and I premiere them as part of Mary-Sue Tobin's wonderful Sunday Night Jazz Series.

But in any case, by all means feel free to take it for a test drive yourself.