the church of jamaaladeen

I’ve been trying to get to Jamaaladeen Tacuma’s Outsider’s Improvised and Creative Music Festival for 3 years. This year, it was looking like I was going to miss it again, so I had to make a real effort to get myself there. Why is it so hard to commit to engagements and show up anymore? That’s probably worthy of another post.

Anyway, this particular installment of the festival featured Jamaaladeen with Marc Ribot on guitar and Will Calhoun on drums. It was clear that there was no real pre-meditated plan here; the three players were to have a conversation and interact musically. I love improvised music, but often feel like some kind of structure can be helpful as a unifying or start and end point (at least for the audience – it’s generally always fun for the musicians to stretch out). But when you have players who are amazing communicators and can fully express their intentions on an instrument, it’s worth going along for the ride.

I’m not a music critic and will not pretend to be one here. All I can say as a takeaway from this music is that it made me feel more alive. To be so in tune and present in the moment while interacting with the talents of others onstage (and for it to be good and entertaining) is not only remarkable, it’s infectious. All of us in the crowd were drawn in for the dialogue.

After about an hour and a half of non-stop music, it seemed that the show was coming to an end. Will Calhoun was playing this hypnotic groove on a synth drum pad, and Jamaaladeen had taken off his bass to watch, as we were, with a smile on his face. But, Will wasn’t done. He smoothly transitioned back to the acoustic kit and starting playing a groove that was reminiscent of James Brown’s Mother Popcorn. Jamaaladeen and Marc hopped right back in. Then, Jamaal went over to the mic and started chanting, “Get me some popcorn!” Unanswered, he finally, plainly, said, “there’s a bag of popcorn and the back, can someone bring it up here?” My friend turns to me and asks, “is he serious?” Immediately, as if Jamaal heard him, says, “I’m serious! Get me that popcorn!”

The popcorn makes its way up to the stage, and Jamaal feeds it to Will and Marc as they play, making a remark about how real they are to eat popcorn on stage. He then hands the bag of popcorn into the crowd and motions for it to be distributed. As the bag made it’s way over to me, I realized that on this particular Easter Sunday, I was taking communion in the church of Jamaaladeen Tacuma.

quiet the noise

Hearing masterful musicians perform live is always a thrill. Being able to record them is a privilege. But when the musicians are communicating at an incredibly high level at an extremely young age, I’m filled with admiration and joy.

The Isaiah J. Thompson Trio joined us for a night of music @exuberance last October. These three young lions are all studying at Juilliard, and the chemistry and dynamic of the trio was truly inspiring. I recorded the show and mixed it for them, and a few tunes are now available.

I’m glad the recording has been released for several reasons. I’m sure it will be the first of many for these talented musicians, and it would be a disservice for anyone not in attendance that night to be denied this music. It’s hard to believe that their best is yet to come when you hear a performance like this.

Secondly, I hope that releases like this will raise awareness for what we are doing @exuberance. The spot is a private residence owned by Matt Yaple, who opens up his home, once or twice a month, to anyone who wants to appreciate the superb series of performers he curates. I don’t believe I have ever met anyone who is as fiercely and singularly driven by a passion and wonder for jazz music as Matt. To that end, there’s really only one rule @exuberance: simply listen. We don’t allow texting, photos, video, or anything else that would detract or distract. It’s a beautiful setting in a great sounding room with an incredible Steinway B available for all players who come through. I record every show as part of the service we offer to the musicians (besides paying them everything that comes through the door minus expenses – profit is not part of the mission).

In this age of endless devices, “multitasking,” and staring at screens, @exuberance offers an alternative. For each show, we quiet the noise and offer a calming respite where some of the best jazz music in Philly can be enjoyed. If you’ve never joined us, I hope you check it out sometime.

behind the sounds feature

I was recently featured on the Philadelphia Jazz Project’s website for a series called “Behind the Sounds.” It includes interviews with a handful of audio engineers who do a lot of work in the local jazz scene. I’m incredibly honored to be included, and have a tremendous amount of respect for the PJP and all that they do. Check out the full interview here.

la giara

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.

live in-studio concert

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.

Tickets are available here.

dylan taylor epk

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.


la giara

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.

lee smith epk

I first met Lee Smith back in November, as we were the first two people to show up to the studio for the Symphony in Bossa sessions (more on that soon). Of course, I knew about Lee Smith. He’s played with so many great musicians, and has been a mainstay in the Philly Jazz Scene for a long time. Plus, his son also happens to be a killer player.

Lee recently contacted me about doing some work together, particularly about producing an EPK. I really like the format of the EPK – it gives you a lot of info about an artist in a short and easily digestible time frame. Plus, it gave me a chance to sit down with Lee and talk about different aspects of his life and thoughts on music. I really enjoyed producing this piece for him, and hope to work with him again soon.

recap from the bride

I recently cut together this video from Dylan Taylor’s CD release party. The event was held at the Painted Bride, which I think is one of the best rooms in the city. Not only that, but it has a very cool, funky vibe, which I thought was the perfect match for Dylan’s musical aesthetic. The lineup was outstanding, which featured nearly everyone who played on the album, including the great Larry Coryell. A last minute add-on was John Swana on EVI/valve trombone, which was such a treat.

I was mixing the show, but also jumped on stage to play Coryell’s “Low-Lee-Tah,” since Dylan switched over to play electric cello on that tune. I haven’t been that nervous on stage in quite a while – the caliber of players was quite intimidating for me. But it was an incredible experience.

The night was a success, and I’m so proud of Dylan for releasing this record. We’ve been working together for about 2 years now, and he is an excellent artist to collaborate with. He’s always very gracious, has good vision, but knows when to lean on me when he’s not sure of something. We also worked on the soundtrack for a foreign film that was premiered at the Tokyo International Film Festival last fall, and I’m excited to see what new projects he has in mind. But for now, I’m still enjoying “Sweeter for the Struggle.”

P.S. Huge thanks to Tom Emmi for filming the concert. You may know his work as producer of the Studio Jams series.