I couldn’t think of any better way to get backing into blogging then to share a recent project that I think is way cool and unique. Daniel J. Bowen is a guy that I pretty much grew up with. We used to play music in high school for various talent shows, basketball games, and other such high school type opportunities. He’s one of those guys that has always made me turn my head to hear what he’s playing, not to mention pushing me to be a better musician. Since then, we’ve kept in touch intermittently. Every few months he’ll give me a call to get my take or advice on something, and it’s a call I always take. Daniel is just one of those guys you want to be around, and one of those guys I always want to help if I can. For this record, I was so happy to be involved and facilitate such an enriching project.
Imagine my surprise when I guy I’ve known primarily for playing gospel, R’n’B, and jazz, shows up with full sized orchestral scores. Daniel was inspired by the Blood Moon, a celestial event that has had much historical and religious significance. I helped Daniel contract several orchestral players for this project, and engineered the strings, horns, and voice. Daniel, the ever evolving and super talented guy that he is, mixed the project and is working on a documentary about the experience.
This music is haunting, introspective, and beautiful. Check it out.
It happened. After over two years of work (just on my end, not including the years of work done by Minas prior to my involvement), Symphony in Bossa has been released to the world. The record release at World Cafe Live went spectacularly well. If there was anyone in the room who wasn’t overwhelmed by the warmth, love, and beauty in the music, then I certainly didn’t speak with them. From my vantage point, the sold out crowd was in it from the first to the last note. I can’t say enough how much of a pleasure it was to work on this project, and to work with such graceful artists as Patricia and Orlando. For all of that work to culminate into such an emotionally moving evening, well, it just doesn’t get much better.
I started working with Eric Levy on his Sound Healing record in the spring of last year. I don’t really like the term, “concept album,” because I think that every record has a concept. So I suppose a better way of putting it is that this project had a well defined and unifying concept.
Eric is a musician, songwriter, and a sound healing practitioner. He does reiki and workshops incorporating singing bowls. This project incorporates all of that. The album is 7 songs, with one song dedicated to each chakra in the body. Each song begins with a toning exercise, using singing bowls and other droning type instruments. Additionally, the chakras start low and move up in the body, so sonically we had to make everything feel like it was running the continuum of starting heavy and gradually getting lighter. We used several production techniques to achieve this, both in the recording and mixing stages.
It’s been a rewarding experience, and it’s nice that the record is in its finishing stages. In addition to producing and mixing the record, I also played bass and keyboards. Eric just released a video for one of the songs here. And if you are so inclined, he’s raising some funds to finish the project here.
Looks like I’ve slipped a little with the updates to the blog. Here’s some recent happenings with me, in no particular order:
We’re hosting an in-studio concert with Dylan Taylor, Larry Coryell, & Mike Clark (from the Headhunters). There will be some serious sounds coming from the A room at this show. I’m thrilled to be producing and co-engineering the concert. More info here.
Symphony in Bossa, the record I’ve been working on for two years, will be released on Pi Day, March 14th at World Cafe Live. Minas will be joined by the Univ. of Delaware big band and strings. I’m really excited for this record to go forth into the world.
My alma mater, LVC, asked me to teach a course on Sound Design. It’s been a really fun experience so far, and I look forward to what the students come up with each week. It’s also completely online, which has been an interesting experience.
I got a call from the Wells Fargo Center the other week. After some meetings and shadowing, I can now announce that I’ll be working the music chair for the Flyers and Sixers on an occasional basis. It’s a nice facility, and certainly a different show than what I’m used to with the Union.
Last fall, I started working on a new music video for AlyCat. This one will be completely different from anything we’ve done so far (no puppets this time), and includes the talents of over a dozen guest artists. More on that soon.
I feel very fortunate to have these opportunities, and am constantly thankful to be able to do this stuff. Thanks for reading.
I’ve been working with Minas pretty intensely on the Symphony in Bossa project for over a year now, so it was interesting to take a creative detour with them this past summer. Patricia King of Minas has written a new work: La Giara, an operetta that’s based on her family history. It has all of the juicy elements that make for great drama – unbalanced personalities mixed with narcissism, oppression, racial identity, love, family, and longing for the past. Take those themes and set them to some catchy tunes that mix Italian folk music, bossa nova, choro, classical music, and jazz, and it makes for a diverse and entertaining production.
I helped Patricia with the visual elements of the show. We collaborated on the video design that was projected behind the performers to enhance and heighten the story being told. It was great fun to make and I think it was pretty effective. I also recorded the audio for the entire show and we did a multi-camera shoot of the performance, which I’ve edited together for a short promo piece below. Many thanks to Les Rivera for filming and doing the big edit between all cameras.
I’ve been doing a lot of stuff over at Forge lately, and am really excited to coordinate a new event happening at the studio. I thought it would be cool for many people, mostly those unfamiliar with professional recording studios, to experience a concert in the studio environment. It’s such a different vibe and atmosphere as compared to a live venue, and everything is under the microscope.
So, Forge be opening up the studio for the public to sit in on a real session. Audience members can either sit in the control room, behind the large mixing console, or in the live room with the musicians. Those in the live room will have the option to be on headphones during the performance, where they will actually be able to mix their own version of the show. Live. Not only that, but everyone in attendance gets a digital download of the concert.
Our first in-studio concert will be with the great Steve Giordano and his Organic Trio. We’ll be able to utilize the excellent Hammond Organ and Leslie already at the studio. I can’t wait to hear what the trio does in the space.
As previously mentioned, I really enjoy the EPK format. Getting the opportunity to produce one for longtime collaborator, Dylan Taylor, was a special treat. I tried to cover many aspects of his career, while allowing Dylan to be the central element to narrative. The video ended up being longer than anticipated, but I thought it was important to include sections about his musical background, coming full circle when he got the chance to play with Larry Coryell, and lots of info about the production of his record, “Sweeter for the Struggle.” I hope you enjoy.
Also, the AlyCat tour was a success. I have lots of other projects cooking at the moment, and will share more when the time is right. Additionally, I’ll be riding 100 miles for the National MS Society at the end of September. If anyone would like to donate to my ride, you can do so here. Many thanks.
This won’t be a proper post, but I wanted to give a quick update as I’ll be gone for a couple of weeks. AlyCat heads out for another run down South, and I’m looking forward to it. To support this tour, I recently finished a few new tracks of ours. Please stream below.
I wanted to drop in a quick update here to let everyone know about an event happening this Friday. I do a lot of work with Minas, a husband and wife duo who play Brazilian jazz, bossa nova, and samba. They are wonderful people who make lovely music. Patricia King of Minas has spent the last 5 years writing a book about her family’s history. She has now taken the book and adapted it into an operetta, with tuneful songs that dip into Italian folk music, opera, Choro, and jazz. La Giara premieres this Friday at World Cafe Live.
My part in this production involves live video projections to go along with the music. This is a new role for me, so tackling it’s unique challenges has been a lot of fun, and a great learning experience. The visuals have to be meaningful without being distracting, heightening the story and music without being over the top.
I’m looking forward to being a part of the premiere on Friday, and perhaps will see you there. I even connected Patricia to Joe Soprani, who will be playing accordion that night. Here’s a little promo video that I made to give everyone an idea of what to expect.
It hasn’t even been a month since the premiere event for our film, “Dizzy Fingers: the Life of Joe Soprani,” yet in some ways I’m still recovering. It was a magical night for me. I’ve never sold anything out before, and this show sold out days beforehand. They were turning people away at the door, and I had the house manager getting irritated with me for trying to get just a few extra people in. These are good problems to have.
Joe and the band sounded great. He was just beaming up there, leading the guys through a varied and interesting program that brought the audience with him from the first to the last note.
And people seemed to really enjoy the documentary (check out a nice review here). It was so rewarding to make this film, and certainly Joe deserved the spotlight and for his stories to be shared. It’s been a really incredible journey with him – I never thought that making this film would take me on a year long trip that included a visit to Bon Jovi’s house, an interview on NPR, and hosting a sold out show at one of my favorite venues in Philly.
I’m getting a lot of friends asking, “what next?” Well, we’re sending the film around to the festival circuit now. We’ll see how it does with that, since festival screenings can often lead to some really great connections and other opportunities. I’ll also be pursuing broadcast outlets for the documentary, since it seems like the sort of thing that public television and other stations with arts-centric programming might pick up.
We’ll also be taking Dizzy Fingers “on the road.” This past Sunday, I was invited to speak at the American Accordion Association’s meeting up in North Jersey. I talked about making the documentary, and we screened the film. I’ll be doing more appearances like this, and some will include Joe speaking and playing, and for even bigger venues, we’ll bring the band.
Until then, we’ve cut together a trailer for the film and excerpts from Joe’s performance at World Cafe Live. Check them out below.