Tuesday nights at the Bar Next Door 
Sunday, May 2, 2010, 01:04 AM - Jazz
If you are in New York City on a Tuesday night, and if you like jazz, go to the Bar Next Door at La Lanterna on 129 MacDougal street in Greenwich Village. The sets are from 8:30 to 9:45 and from 10:30 to 11:45, and the cover is $12, even if you stay for both sets. That's hard to beat.

But what's really hard to beat is the quality of the music. On most Tuesdays you will hear Joel Frahm's Trio, with Joe Martin at the bass and Bill Campbell at the drums. Whenever Joel is on tour, you might hear Chris Potter, Bill McHenry, Anat Cohen, or John Ellis. When Joe Martin is on tour, you might hear Omer Avital, or Allan Hampton at the bass.

The acoustic is great, the room is intimate, the people are friendly, and the music is fantastic.

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Ridiculously fast jazz solos on the recorder 
Sunday, May 2, 2010, 12:47 AM - Jazz
Benoît Sauvé Benoît Sauvé is a French virtuoso recorder player who manages to emulate the likes of John Coltrane and Michael Brecker on the alto recorder. In his YouTube videos, he plays Coltrane's solo on "Blue Train" and Mickael Brecker's solo on "Some Skunk Funk" without missing a note.

For all of you, non recorder players, these solos are supposed to be played on a tenor saxophone, which is in B flat, and has lots of keys to make the fingerings easy and the flats and sharps real simple. An alto recorder is in F and has no keys (only holes). This means that playing certain notes (including most flats and sharps) requires very strange and complicated combinations of fingers, sometimes covering half a hole. Playing a jazz tune designed for a tenor sax will invariably involve lots of sharps and flats. Typical transitions between notes will require switching 4 or 5 fingers at the same time. That's why Benoît's performance is so impressive.

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David Berkman at Smoke 
Sunday, November 1, 2009, 02:43 PM - Jazz
My favorite jazz composer/pianist on the New-York scene David Berkman was playing at the uptown club Smoke yesterday and Friday with Antonio Hart on the sax, Ted Poor on drums, and Ed Howard on bass. I went to the last set on Saturday and it was awesome. David has a new CD out entitled Live at Smoke (also on Amazon MP3 downloads), with live performances of some of his fantastic pieces from earlier records, like Weird Knack, which appeared on his amazing 2000 CD Communication Theory (though it was mispelled "Weird Knock" on that CD). Interestingly, David post the scores of many of his compositions on his website (though the links seem dead right now).

In fact, I first heard of David Berkman while listening to the WBGO radio station back in 2000. They played a piece from Communication Theory. I was hooked.

David played on Joel Frahm's first two CDs ("Sorry, No Decaf", and "The Navigator"), and composed some of the pieces on these CD (like "Interesting perhaps, but hardly a fascinating rythm"). It would be awesome if David and Joel could record together again. It would also be awesome if David played more often in NYC, particularly downtown.
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Omer Avital with Joel Frahm and Bill Campbell 
Saturday, October 17, 2009, 09:00 PM - Jazz
This week at the Bar Next Door, Joel Frahm and Bill Campbell were accompanied by bassist Omer Avital (instead of Joe Martin). The second set was particualry energetic, with one of Omer's composition called Flow, which is based on the changes of Giant Steps. I had never heard Joel play giant steps. Pianist/Composer David Berkman says in his book that Joel plays a mean Giant Steps. He is right, despite Joel claim that he hadn't played Giant Steps in while and was a bit rusty.

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Joe Martin's latest album 
Monday, October 12, 2009, 05:25 PM - Jazz
Joe Martin's latest album,'Not By Chance', has been out for about a month now. It features Joe at the Bass, Brad Mehldau on Piano, Chris Potter on Sax, and Marcus Gilmore on Drums. What a nice line-up! Go Joe, go.

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Gadi Lehavi: 13 year-old Jazz piano prodigy 
Monday, October 12, 2009, 12:29 AM - Jazz
Joel Frahm pointed us to a video of this 13 years old Israeli kid, Gadi Lehavi, who has been playing around several NYC Jazz clubs earlier.

His playing is amazing for a boy this age. Actually, it's amazing, Period. He is classically trained, and has been playing Jazz for about a year and a half.

There are more YouTube videos of Gadi here.

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Audio D-Touch: Tangible musical interface from EPFL 
Thursday, August 20, 2009, 12:24 PM - Music
Enrico Costanza from EPFL sent us a heads-up about the release of his tangible interface system for musical applications called Audio D-Touch. The site includes instructions for building your own d-touch system, as well as downloadable code for Windoze, Mac, and Linux (registration required).

Applications include a drum machine and a sequencer.

More videos are available here.

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Joel Frahm the Quotemaster 
Thursday, June 11, 2009, 05:32 PM - Jazz
Tenor sax virtuoso Joel Frahm was playing his regular Tuesday-night gig at La Lanterna in NYC this week, accompanied by Bill Campbell at the drums (as usual), and Johannes Weidenmuller at the bass (replacing Joe Martin). Joel is something of a "quotemaster": his solos are often peppered with snippets from all kinds of things from other jazz pieces, classical music, pop music, and just about anything under the sun.

This Tuesday, Joel was in a particularly playful mood, and his high-flying solos brought an unusally rich harvest of detectable/delectable quotes including such things as Peter and the Wolf, Michel Legrand's "Les moulins de mon cœur" (Windmills of my mind), and (that's got to be a first) a theme from Star Wars!

Over the last 3 months, photographer Jimmy Katz has come to 8 or 10 of Joel's trio sessions at La Lanterna, equipped with a compact digital multi-track recorder. Each session he recorded has about 3 hours of music. Hopefully, these will soom be distilled and made available.

By ze way, the complete collection of Joel's sessions at Small's are available for on-line listening here.
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Bill McHenry at La Lanterna 
Wednesday, April 1, 2009, 12:57 AM - Jazz
Tonight at La Lanterna in NYC tenor sax Bill McHenry was sitting in for Joel Frahm, with bassist Joe Martin and drummer Bill Campbell. They played two of Bill McHenry's new compositions "Violetta" and "Lines" which I thought were particularly interesting.

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Akai EWI 4000s patch editor for Linux 
Sunday, March 1, 2009, 01:52 AM - Misc Music
I just noticed this nice Akai EWI 4000s patch editor/librarian app called EWItool. The best part is that it runs on Linux (as well as on Windoze). There is a pre-compiled debian package too.

It can automagically fetch patches from EWIpatchExchange.

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Akai EWI USB: a quick review 
Friday, December 26, 2008, 08:06 PM - Misc Music
I've been playing with my new Akai's new EWI USB for a couple of weeks now. I have to say, it's a mixed bag. Compared to the more expensive EWI 4000-S, there are pros and cons.
Let's start with the pros: it's a lot cheaper than the EWI 4000-S ($300 versus about $600), it's lighter (no built-in battery, no built-in synth), it's powered through the USB cable, and the breath, lip, pitch-bend, and key sensors are essentially identical to the 4000's, except that they are self-calibrating. Now for the cons: my main gripe is the absence of portamento sensor. The 4000 has a slider on the right side of the octave rollers that, when touched with the left thumb, turns on the portamento (or glissando). I love that feature, but it's absent from the EWI USB.
Second, since the EWI USB doesn't have a built-in synth, it comes with a software synth that runs on PC/Mac. The sounds provided with the soft synth are few and not so great. Many of them do not even react to the EWI sensors (like the pitch bend or breadth control). So, you will need another soft synth if you want decent sounds. I tried to install the soft synth on Linux under wine. The good news is that it runs. The bad runs is that the latency is so high that it's unusable. I'm not sure where the latency comes from, or whether it's fixable.

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Akai EWI USB available 
Saturday, December 6, 2008, 01:02 AM - Misc Music
Akai has announced the availability of the EWI USB, the latest product in their long line of Electronic Wind Instruments. The EWI USB sells for about $300 at Sam Ash, Sweetwater, and other online music instrument stores. It look similar to the EWI 4000S, but has a USB port instead of a MIDI port, and has no built-in sound module. Instead, the EWI USB relies on software synths on PC or Mac to produce sounds. Getting rid of the built-in analog emulation synth allows Akai to bring down the street price from $700 for the EWI 4000S to $300 for the EWI USB.

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Great Jazz Trio every Tuesday in the Village 
Thursday, September 11, 2008, 11:00 PM - Jazz
There is a delightful small jazz club called "The bar next door" at la Lanterna Caffe, on 129 MacDougal St, just south of Washington Square Village in New York City.

Every Tuesday, they host a fantastic trio, led by tenor sax player Joel Frahm, with bassist Joe Martin, and drummer Bill Campbell.

The trio is totally delightful, if you like post-bop/hard-bop straight-ahead jazz. Joel Frahm is an amazing improviser who can play just about everything with gusto.

I have become somewhat of a regular there over the last few months.

You can get Joel's recording at Amazons MP3 download store.

Joel and Joe have both played with one of my favorite composers/pianists on the NYC jazz scene: David Berkman.

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Meta-EWI: enhanced electronic wind instrument 
Wednesday, January 3, 2007, 02:33 AM - Misc Music
Thomas Enrique from the University of Lisbon, is presenting his Meta-EWI (enhanced electronic wind instrument) at Dorkbot NYC tonight. As a fan of electronic wind instruments (Yamaha WX-5, and EZ-TP), I couldn't miss that. Electronic Wind Instruments generally have keys, a breath pressure sensor, and a lip pressure sensor. I have always though that more sensors would make the instrument more "personnal". I remember talking about this topic many years ago with David Wessel, director of Center for New Music and Audio Technologies at UC Berkeley. David says that musicians such as John Coltrane and Miles Davis can be recognized after only a few notes because the sound of their instrument is very special. The conformation of the mouth cavity of the player, the rigidity of the lips and other factors, give a personnal "voice" to wind instruments such as saxophones and trumpet. How could we reproduce this with electronic wind instruments?
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Tim Thompson: uber-geek-artist 
Tuesday, January 2, 2007, 12:42 PM - Misc Music
I stumbled again on the web site of my old pal Tim Thompson (a.k.a. "tjt"). Tim is a hacker and musician (I seem to run into a lot of those people). We met in the late 80's when we were both at Bell Labs in Holmdel, NJ (Tim did some work on our handwriting recognition systems). In the mid 80's, he founded the notorious Mostly Midi Mailing List, in which (mostly AT&T) geek/musisians would exchange tips and ideas about Midi and electronic music. He wrote the ultra cool KeyKit (formerly Keynote) Midi sequencer and composition software, which had a interpreted language front-end (as well as a GUI), and such things as Markov Model for generating melodies (he is a fan of algorithmic composition). Tim is now in California, and seems to be having fun with unusual Music controllers of his own design, real-time video processing, Burning Man contraptions, and such.
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Genesis tribute band concert in New York 
Sunday, November 26, 2006, 09:30 PM - Misc Music
The band The Musical Box played in New York this week-end. TMB is a Genesis look-alike band. They play Genesis music live, re-enacting the live shows of the 70's, down to the costumes, headgears, mannerism, lighthshows, everything. Amazingly enough, the music is more faithful to the studio recordings than Genesis's own live shows. In fact, the original Genesis musicians seem to say that TMB plays Genesis better than Genesis themselves!

I used to love Genesis in my teens and early 20's, so this was a serious nostalgia trip for me. There were quite a few young people in the audience at the Tribeca Performing Art Center, were TMB re-enacted the 1973 "selling England by the pound" show, but most of the audience was about my age....

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