This is all still coming together and I have some avails left in there and am working to connect the dots -- please contact me asap if you'd like me to come to you to play, teach, or both! firstname.lastname@example.org
a couple of days ago, New Beard went down to philly to rock with our pals the Weird Hot at Philly's Kung Fu Necktie in Fishtown. It was an awesome night and was great to get New Beard out of town! (more photos coming soon!) see New Beard on Facebook!
Gato Loco released official video to the song "Splinter"
Filmed on location in an abandoned bank in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn, this video, edited by Stefan Zeniuk includes audio recorded in Brooklyn and Paris, mixed by Joe Peretore and Clifton Hyde. Music composed by Stefan Zeniuk, arranged by Stefan Zeniuk, Clifton Hyde and Joe Exley.
A few weeks ago, NEW BEARD had our most recent video debuted by MTV (and then repeated by Liquid Television)
The video for our song "Solamente Cloud" off of New Beard City, was animated by Moscow-based artist Deems and features 1001 completely unique faces which sing the song.
New Beard is also featured in the Jan/Feb edition of Relix magazine.
Upon practicing recently, something re-occurred to me. When I was younger, I learned that practicing was largely about seeking out and eliminating the negative, always striving for cleanliness.
You know what I am talking about... the old adage of "Practice makes perfect" ...or even "Perfect Practice makes Perfect."
I am saying this is an inefficient process, and I am also saying this process is downright destructive.
While noble on paper, this approach actually teaches us to "accentuate the negative." This "seek and destroy" method creates an outrageous habit of microfocusing. While the intent on perfection is noble, to worry about perfection is, in my opinion... excruciatingly NON-musical.
Please allow me to digress...
Performance should NEVER be about perfection. Ever. Even the best performances have imperfections in them. Accept and embrace this fact NOW.
One of my strengths as a performer is audience communication. I feel that my singular job as a musician is communicating the intent(s) of the music. The more I play, the more I believe that simply, music is simply a form communication.
I know for a fact if I am concerned singularly with perfection or it being the top priority, the communication is not going to be as effective as it could (or should!) be. I am “in the wrong place” if I am focusing on what is right or wrong.
Am I saying give up mastery and be sloppy? Of course not. We should all naturally strive to maximize the execution of whatever music we are engaged in.
What I am saying is that is Practice Makes PERMANENT.
...meaning the intent you practice with will be the intent you perform with.
When we practice, we not only work out technical issues and train our bodies to execute certain processes, we ALSO (and perhaps more importantly) train our subconscious. In every process we go through in practice, our subconscious not only records what we do, it records how we go about it, it records what we really intend, and it records how we feel doing it.
AND when in the heat of performance, without fail, the subconscious reveals its power! You can't control it and you can't fight it. You must learn to embrace it, as IT is what drives the performance; not our conscious analytical side.
Now without opening a separate can of worms, let me suffice to say that when you practice, you absolutely MUST train your subconscious.
We do this by being honest with our method, and always keeping the "communication of performance" in mind and playing everything with a solid and clear musical opinion.
Practically and literally, I am suggesting the performer start by focusing on what is RIGHT with their playing, not what is wrong. Take what is right, and expand that. Be specific.
I am not suggesting the common pitfall of only working on what you already know... I AM suggesting however that you always try to build on what you do know and already do well... push your limits outward always. Don’t focus on eliminating imperfections themselves, rather focus on a clear vision and the correct organic approach to make the phrase that contains said imperfections. Slow the WHOLE lick down and work it out, all the while NEVER forgetting about where the lick goes and how it relates to other licks. ...this step is CRUCIAL!
Work out imperfections through INTENT. Ask why does this imperfection exist? Often times, you’ll discover that an imperfection exists not because of incorrect technique or execution, but because of malfocused or undefined intent. Give every note meaning.
Shedding a lick is great, but always keep the big "performance" picture going. Where is the music going? What's its intent? Why is it hard for me? Often the music itself will answer the questions.
Our subconscious is (and in my opinion should be) our default in performance.
My best, most memorable, influential, and rewarding performances are without exception, ones where I can calm my conscious mind, so it can be clear and decisive, and open the door to let my subconscious (instinct) support and guide me through it.
It’s not “muscle memory” (I don’t like that term) It’s the opposite actually, where once our instincts are correctly trained, they can guide us, and our conscious mind can execute the required processes without constant reevaluation or judgment.
Train your default to be solid and consistent, train your subconscious to be confident, and your concious to be simple, concise and non-judgmental.
TubaJoe Summer 2012 wrap up and photos. It was an intense summer -- I toured a lot in June through August... I went on the road with 4 different bands in consecutive trips.
The summer started out with some interesting projects around home in NYC Gato Loco de Bajo opened up its weekly residency at the lovely new ZirZamin in SoHo, and New Beard made another (big!) music video. Add that to the Red Hook Ramblers doing another historic Edison recording and the Ja Ja Jas hit the beach in Montauk ...that was in about the span of a week.
After the pre-tour in-town fury, it was then time for me to hit the road. In June, I was honored to be a featured performer in Austria's ‘Heavy Tuba’, an all-low-brass all-star rock/jazz ensemble that evolved as an offshoot of the legendary Vienna Art Orchestra. It was a thrilling experience for me to be amongst such amazing players. Heavy Tuba is a group I've known about for years... way back in Chicago, I managed a CD store and a traveling tuba player from Europe stopped in with his minidisc to play me this cool new stuff going on in Europe.
It was such an honor to just play with these guys, much less to be asked to be a featured soloist. It was an intense trip, mostly of rural Austria which is such beautiful country. Several full days of rehearsal learning new music, then a day of travel across the country, then a show at a folksy brass festival (keep in mind this is rural Austria!) made for an intense trip with no time for jet lag.
After a day in Munich of recovery and practice for my next trip, I had to rush to Canada, via NYC to join Toronto's amazing Saidah Baba Talibah and her kickass band. Saidah is somewhat of a hero in Toronto, with her soul-tinged rock called a cross between Living Color and Erykah Badu, ...with TUBA as her bass. I had to head to Canada twice, first to Toronto for rehearsal, then back to NYC for a few days, then back to Canada, this time to Montreal and to to meet the band for my first show with them.
Making the trip to Toronto from Munich via NYC was a trek. And unfortunately, as happens once in a while, there was a flight delay through London and my tuba didn't make the transfer. I arrived in NYC for my transfer to Toronto sans-tuba. No worries, a kind Canadian tubist lent me his Yamaha CC until I got mine the next day. Fortunately, my horn only missed a rehearsal day and I got done what needed to be done on the loaner. My horn showed up eventually...
The shows with Saidah were fantastic... first a large club gig in Montreal, then back to TO to play the main stage of the Toronto Jazz Festival in support of one of my favorite artists, Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews. The Montreal show was a great induction for me, and TJF show was fantastic. While she is the niece of the legendary Andy Bey (she's the daughter of Salome Bey) her vibe is all her own... soul, blues, funk and hard rock (thats where my heart is too!) She embraces this mix fully in her sex-tinged power show. The first seated, surprised Jazzfest crowd absolutely loved it (not one II-V was played LOL!) and were on their feet screaming by the end of our set.
I got to meet Troy Andrews again (I met him a few years ago at the NoLa Jazzfest) he's not only an incredibly honest and dynamic performer, he's a complete class act as a person. He congratulated Saidah on her ability to kick the crowd in the butt! A good night.
I had a day or two to recover in Toronto (and to continue to shed!) and then we played the main Toronto Canada Day celebration to an estimated 25,000 people. That too was a rocking performance. 3 kickass shows with Saidah under my belt.
Next I had to hi-tail it back to NYC quickly as just a few days later the full 10-piece Gato Loco was due to head to Europe. One quick rehearsal, laundry, and then it was back on the road.
Gato Loco's first destination was 3 shows in Bordeaux, France. We were returning to the place of that band's first 'big gig' and where we recorded our live record; Bordeaux's outdoor Festival du Hauts de Garonne, which is presented by Musique du Nuit.
Arriving back in Bordeaux was an emotional thing, this was the site of my favorite gig I ever played. We instantly had to visit our hangout, the famous fountain, as always with a handful of locals. I had to get a meal of steak tartare and a glass of... bordeaux. Bliss.
The gigs in Bordeaux were cool, albeit a bit weird (one was on a high-rise rooftop covered in mattresses, the others in sculpture parks) but the vibe there is always great. I did get a chance to sneak off to Saint Emillion to get an insider's wine tour and taste some great wines. Bliss again.
We had to leave Bordeaux pretty quickly though, even though we felt like we were just getting started - unlike our previous visit where we stayed for quite a while and made a record. This time the road called.
A long train ride and we were in Italy. I LOVE Italy. A lot. Our first gig was in a rock club in Torino that was literally ON the bank of the (smelly) Po river, in some sort of catacomb-type place underneath the town square. Sorta cool. A quick, loud, rock-style gig, and we then had just a couple of hours to be back on the train. Venice was calling.
We got back in my favorite city of Venice for the second time in 3 months. I like Venice not for it's history or unique situation, but for the fact that it's such a timeless bubble.
And... Venice LOVES Gato Loco. We were to return to the exact site of our first big show there, the beautiful Serra dei Giardini. Again, presented by our good friends from Microclima, our job this time was to provide festivities for after the fireworks of the Redentore. The Redentore is the 'Festival of the Redeemer', it commemorates the end of the second coming of the Bubonic Plague, which hit Venice for a second time in 1575 and they've been celebrating every June ever since 1592. It's one of the city's largest festivals and it was packed to the gills with revelers from all over the world.
On our arrival in Venice, the Gato Loco band was *very* weary by this point, our travels had been tough this trip. We all were trepidatious going into this last show, simply due to exhaustion. However just a few bars into our fast "Coconino #3 "merengue-on-crack" tune towards the beginning of our show, all worries vanquished. The 1000+ crowd instantly turned into a mosh pit and people danced like maniacs for the next two hours. We had to barricade ourselves as people kept falling into the band! ...and we played on and on. It was complete mayhem... just the way we like it to be.
We wrapped up the show at about 2:30am, but the night was far from over. The longstanding tradition is that on the night of the Redentore, after a night of celebration, you sleep on the Lido; Venice's adjacent beach-island. Of course, we went.
The entire beach was partying, but I decided to take a long solemn swim in the warm salty Adriatic Sea. Heavenly.
The sun rose and we left the Lido, boarded the vaporetto (bus boat) and headed back to Venice and slept.
The middle of the next day we had one last gig, an outdoor acoustic performance on the Zattere at one of our favorite Venetian hangs, El Chioschetto. This was great too, quite tiring, but a good Campari Spritz took the edge off.
The following day the rest of the band headed back to NYC, but I stayed as I had more business to attend to. Before I get to that, I want to sum up my night like this: In a turn of events, I ended up cooking pasta for Venetians (talk about pressure) WHILE I fought off bats that had flown into the apartment. That's how I roll. Cooking while battling flying rodents. I didn't end up smacking any of the recording equipment, and the bat finally left. Most importantly, the pasta came out great. Venice.
Anyway... the next morning (more like the middle of the night) I took a boat to a bus to a train to a bus... to go to the other side of the Adriatic Sea, to Pula, Croatia on the Istrian peninsula. I was on my way to visit the Accord Case company, the makers of the finest, highest-end instrument cases in the world.
I have used an Accord Case for almost a year now and it has changed my life. My personal case is an early model in their revolutionary tuba case design, and was due for some adjustments. I have come to rely on this case so heavily that a trek to the factory was warranted since Pula is only about half a day's journey from Venice. After I rode a crowded train to the edge of Italy, then a crowded bus through Slovenia, into Croatia (an adventure for me as I had never been to Eastern Europe before)...and I certainly don't speak the language(s)! I was incredibly sleep deprived and exhausted, as well as a little intimidated by the Eastern European border officials that kept boarding our bus, so I didn't end up taking many photos of this leg of my journey.
Once at the Accord factory, it was wonderful -- a team sized up the wear on my case and did some needed adjustments. What an incredible company (more on that soon...)
After they were done, I headed out for a nice dinner then back to my hotel - a groovy old hotel built when Croatia was ruled by the Austrians, which was adjacent to the colosseum ruins from Roman times. Interesting place.
But again, there was little time for rest, as I had to be up at the crack of dawn to get back to Venice in time to get to my plane back to NYC.
Back on Venice, I said goodbye to my Venetian friends and to that amazing city... I had to head back home.
Once back home, I had a little time to catch up and dive back into the swing of things in NYC, but that was only temporary. I had had two pending, consecutive trips with New Beard - our first touring ever. It was now time for rock tour.
We loaded up in the pouring rain to head upstate to New England. A delightful trip (despite some nausea on the way home from the first one....) We hit Burlington, VT, Northampton, MA, and some little town in between, which I forgot the name of!
That was a good start, but was not the end... just a few days later we had a second trip, this time down to Florida - as part of the Heart of Darkness comedy and rock tour -- it was 3 bands all travelling together. The Heart of Darkness band with comedian Greg Barris, the band Corrupt Autopilot, New Beard, and the soulful Yazan did some solo performances too. It was all presented by the Florida Beer Company. Mmmm beer.
We flew down to Orlando and congregated at the home of our new friend Tierney from the great band The Pauses. Tierney’s house also had a special pet... Garbanzo, the giant tortoise!
Several great shows, Orlando, Boca Raton, and then Ybor City, and we made it out just hours before Hurricane Isaac. A good solid first rock tour.
Ok... that’s enough for now. Many more things coming up....
This is sidestage (raw) video from one of the more memorable shows I've ever done. In April 2012, the full Gato Loco was in Venice, Italy for an outdoor show, which got rained out. Consequently we crammed the entire band's setup, as well as a couple hundred people into a historic greenhouse and rocked the place. I love Venice.
Here it is! Video by Joel Barhamand
This amazing painting (featuring the main boss from the video game DOOM (holding my exact tuba) was done by the incredible Dima Drjuchin to commemorate NEW BEARD's leading track off of the upcoming epic LP release New Beard City which drops this summer. Yes, you guessed it, the song is about playing the game.
You can download New Beard's DOOM here:
Sunday, December 18th, at the Cameo Gallery in Williamsburg Brooklyn, indie-rock-band-with-tuba NEW BEARD will be doing a show to celebrate the release of our EP Moment of Peace. On this bill I'll also play with homeboys Gato Loco de Bajo as it will be a big family affair! ...and on the show our good pals Lavalier will play (with full-sized mics tho... ha ha, that's a joke), as well as the band Toys and Tiny Instruments.
This is exciting for me as the pre-release-release of Moment of Peace has been getting some kickass response! This EP is also to accompany the release of our video to the song "Given" which debuted a few weeks ago on Stereogum.
This is going to be an exciting night -- please join us!!!
This week is packed with some interesting brass music... tonight I got to play an exceptionally eclectic program with the Orchestra of the SEM Ensemble. It was nice to play with them again. I got to do some antiphonal Gabrieli as well as John Cage's Atlas Elipticalis.
Brass players all know to revere every second they get to play Gabrieli's antiphonal brass music (especially in a great space for it!) and Atlas Elipticalis is a work I've known about for some time, but had not, until now, had the chance to perform.
Also, the Paula Cooper Gallery in Chelsea is a great place to perform! It's big but-only-enough echoic space was perfect for both of these works.
Also through the week is some typical holiday brass quintetting. Always a decent time!
And then...tomorrow night I get my ass kicked! I get the pleasure of playing a NY premiere of a work for brass quintet, jazz tenor sax, and drumset, composed by NYC-Toronto sax player Quinsin Nachoff; his 'Pyramid Brass Project.' What a brass quintet to be a part of!! (I'll be shedding this one up until the last second before the gig!) I get to share the stage with brassers Ralph Alessi, Shane Endsley, John Clark, Ryan Keberle, drummer Dan Weiss, and tenorist/composer Qunisin. It's going to be brutal!
The fall is always a marathon, and I now finally have a couple of days to catch my breath. This fall has been a time of constant motion... Have tuba will travel!
Starting in September, New York's notorious Ja Ja Jas kicked off our Oktoberfest tear with shows in New York at our home base of Zum Schneider. It was madness as always; a line down the street to get in (and we heard that someone actually slept in their car to get a good space in line!)
Right after rehearsing in NYC, the Ja Ja Jas immediately hit the road for the south, first down to North Carolina, then up through Virginia, back to NYC for a few shows, then back down to Virginia again.
(here I am with Herbie Abernathy of Valient Thorr -- was at our show!)
Big festival crowds and new friends and great food and... beer. Those shows are a lot of work, but are worth it for the vibe and the crowd!
I took a break from the Ja Ja Jas' constant string of Blaßmusik rocking, to head overseas again with the mighty Gato Loco for our third European trip in just over a year. We brought our "Psycho-Mambo" brand of jazz-rock to headline the Salzburg "Jazz and The City" festival in gorgeous Salzburg, Austria. (original home of W.A. Mozart, who I share a birthday with)
Gato Loco all converged in Munich, from what seemed to be a million different flights. We finally all made it in and got a great afternoon of rehearsal in a gorgeous art loft transformed out of an old post office in Munich's West End.
Here I'll mention that this was the maiden air flight for the famed Accord tuba case. This is the hi-tech carbon flight case which weights only slightly more than a soft gigbag. It worked great - I had to take 2 different airlines to get to Munich and they obviously put the case to the test (scratched the crap out of the outside of it, and beat the bumpers) but the ultralight case held it's own - no tuba damage! It came right out of baggage claim, right up the conveyor with the normal-sized suitcases, and I was able put the horn right on my back and walk right out of the airport and hop on a train. Tuba players will understand what a HUGE deal this is!
We visited this retro place called a CD store and look what we found displayed prominently!
and of course, we hit some bier halls!
The next morning, we got up early and hurriedly headed up the Alps toward Salzburg.
Once in this very pretty town, we got to the hotel and the band quickly befriended the dirndl-laden hotel staff and everyone got a quick nap to chill in our nice digs before soundcheck.
The venue was great - a large ballroom type of venue. The band and house staff got quickly to work putting together our sizable setup of two separate drum setups, two separate bass setups, guitar plus seven different horns.
During our soundcheck, a representative came to our venue in Salzburg from the Accord Case company in Croatia to modify my case for me! (Rockstar treatment! yeah!!) He set me up well!
Between soundcheck we had the pleasure of heading up the mountain to one of the most notorious restaurants in Salzburg which overlooks the entire town. Amazing! There we dined on Deer and got a chance to catch up with our festival-mates Bobby Previte and Steve Swallow, who had just finished their set. We didn't linger long tho... Gato Loco was on the clock and had a job to do!
We started our usual off-stage entrance and quickly surprised the crowd.
The band threw down for the entire extended-length set. The kind Austrian crowd ate it up, got out of their seats and danced the night away. It was a great show.
After the show, per Gato Loco tradition, we joined some of the locals for some reveling on the town.
Upon my return to the Big Apple, there was no time to rest! First, immediately, the De Bajo portion of Gato Loco played at our favorite home base of Barbes in Brooklyn, and New Beard was in rehearsal. I then headed with the Red Hook Ramblers for a quick jaunt to Boston, then rushing back for a show at Lincoln Center in NYC. Right from LC I ran to a CMJ spot with New Beard at Union Hall in Brooklyn. The next morning it was back to the studio with NB and then break and run to play an orchestral gig at Carnegie Hall, all of this within about 3 days time. Whew!
Fortunately this week I have a few days to recover and then in a week it's back to the studio with New Beard, Halloween with Gato Loco de Bajo, then back to Germany for a few more shows with the full Gato Loco.
Lots of things to come... some great media from both New Beard and Gato Loco to be released soon and more shows shows shows with all sorts of bands. Tuba Life is never boring in NYC!
I just finished up playing simultaneously on 3 different records, and I sit down to plan another tomorrow morning, so recording is on my mind! It’s something I do pretty regularly and I have really grown to enjoy it.
Time is always crucial in a recording situation. Following are some things I suggest to make a session (with me!) go smoothly:
1.) Be prepared. Make sure that the engineer has everything setup, at least approximately, BEFORE the musicians arrive. Naturally, there will be some adjustment after they arrive, but have things approximated and *line tested* beforehand. ...this includes a headphone setup. Have a plan in mind beforehand on how you’d like to do things as far as setup, isolation, and tracking order.
2.) Be prepared. Make charts! I know you know your tune, but others trying to learn your tune by rote can be time-consuming and leaves room for mistakes while tracking. Sometimes, only a head chart, or even a basic chord chart with the form of the song is needed...nothing fancy. It's just a matter of having something to visually refer to when needed. This can be the difference of two takes or ten, or getting one tune done in a 3 hour block, or rocking out 4 tunes. Don't worry, having a chart does *not* take any of the vibe or feeling out of it. In this situation, it's merely a tool to help make things go smoothly!
3.) Consult your tuba player on mic selection. MOST engineers (even high-end, very accomplished ones) have little idea on how to make a tuba sound good...or worse, how a tuba should and can actually sound. In the past, I have had wonderful performances completely destroyed by bad recording practices. Nothing is more frustrating and tragic! I now will usually send the setup I prefer ahead of time to help in this process... I also do my best to utilize standard equipment with which most engineers will be comfortable. The mic setup will also affect how I approach the tone. Tuba tone is actually quite delicate and must be dealt with in a fairly specific way. Fortunately, these days with software recording, there are many options available and there is never a reason for a tuba to sound bad, gross, thin or rough!
Above all, realize the ultimate goal is to allow your musicians to communicate your music through their own horns and voices. Encourage and allow them to
communicate. It's easy to get caught up in the process and get bogged down. Put your music in the listener's ears and try to remember why and how they might enjoy your music.
It's really fun to record with the tuba as it has this tendency to really open people's minds. It has this incredibly versatile, yet somewhat unknown sound. It's not abnormal for me to go into a session to play on one song, then after the artist hears the tuba, they end up wanting it on many songs.
One last piece of advice I can give to artists using a tuba on their recordings is to take mixing and mastering seriously (especially the EQ side of it). Mastering is often overlooked in many DIY projects. (it's more than just sending the sound through a compressor plugin) Adequate approach to these steps are crucial in dealing with the unique frequency characteristics of the tuba. I PROMISE it's worth the effort.
The tuba has a beautiful sound, use it wisely, and use it often!! The tuba CAN rock, the tuba CAN swing, the tuba CAN elevate any ensemble to a new level. Do it!
PS - see my recording history here!
Early in the morning on June 25, after a painful night playing out in the Hamptons the night before, I got up at the crack and took the train up to Beacon, NY. Gato Loco was slated to rock the Beacon Riverfest.
It’s an AMAZING train ride upstate to Beacon, NY, which is a little over an hour north of the city. The entire route, from Spuyten Duyvil north, is on the right bank of the Hudson River. I have grown a fondness for the mighty Hudson. The Hudson has a significant place in our family’s history: My wife’s Great Grandfather spent his 30+ year career on the river as Chief Engineer on the SS Alexander Hamilton, a Day-Liner steamship that went up and down the Hudson every single day. It’s been said that riverboat was his first love, and my wife’s Great Grandmother was his second. It’s an awesome river.
Anyway, on to the gig. After a rejuvenating 70 minute train ride, my proximity app on my phone (awesome) alerted me I was near Beacon. I got off the train expecting to head inland to the festival site. To my surprise the festival was to the west of the train, in a park nestled on a tiny peninsula jutting out in the river!
This was one of the rare gigs ever where I am actually the first person there, but I was. I work to help coordinate this behemoth ensemble, so I took it upon myself to get there early to make sure logistics were cool.
I got into the park and even at this early hour, the tented soundstage was already rocking with sounds from Tao Seeger, great grandson of the great Pete Seeger soundchecking. His folk-meets-rock sound with some nice NoLa influenced groovin made for a nice introduction to the festival.
The Gato cars showed up and we got the day underway, a soundcheck, great amp selection, great food and beautiful location made for a nice day. My family even came up from the city! Here’s a photo of my daughter all gussied up in her dress-up accessories to, in her words “look fancy for daddy’s gig” Awww! (photo by Jan Meissner)
Gato took the stage in the late afternoon, and took it we did. I think we startled the folk-loving Beaconites a bit, but we rocked it nonetheless. It was good sound and we sold a big pile of Gato Loco merch. We met a bunch of new friends and it was all good in Beacon. (awesome photo by Jan Meissner)
On June 21, I joined about 20-ish other brass players at the shores of the Central Park lake to create / perform an ambient work set up just for NYC’s Make Music New York. This annual event presents large-scale (and I mean really large, to the point of being environmental) works throughout the city.
This specific mass-brass event was made up of members of and hosted by the new-music-brass collective named TILT which I occasionally play with, peppered with a nice handful of other players.
The day prior we met for a rehearsal at the amazing Seventh Regiment Armory on the Upper East Side. This great old building and sufficed well as we worked out and experimented with our plan for the outdoor concert the next day.
Set up by three Australian “sound artists”, the work was designed to be best heard from rowboats (which are cheap to rent from the city) out in the lake. We were to perform two sequential performances, each about 45 minutes in duration. It was ridiculously humid out, and we were sweating like mad, as well as swatting a mosquito or two or three or four. We pressed on positively.
We were segregated into many trios and were peppered surrounding the lakeshore. We all did our best to reflect our assigned tones off the water and to hurl them out into the midst as best as possible. My trio was the only low/conical trio, two euphoniums and myself on tuba.
The event got a pile of press including coverage by the NYTimes and NPR. Here is one good clip someone posted from a boat itself, I’m quite audible, sort of resembling a bullfrog, but not intentionally.
Logistically, the work was signaled to start via a sent text message to the leader of each trio, which came from the lead sound artist out in the lake. Thank goodness AT&T was behaving that afternoon. Each trio would then wait for a previous trio to start the long sequential pattern and start at an approximate self-counted time length after. The work had three consecutive “movements” per se, each following a specifically dictated row of tones, dynamics, and intent.
One of my trio was a composer / euphoniumist from Boston, Jason Belcher. He was interviewed about the experience here, it captures the event well.
(this page also includes a link to the great work for TILT Brass by Jason’s teacher, Anthony Coleman, which consequently ends with yours truly belting out a screaming *but* melancholy, unanswered tuba solo, recorded on the recent TILT release, which was a joy to record)
This particular event was surprisingly nice and extremely well received. I ended up enjoying it quite a bit.
It’s takes a certain type of energy to create an actual cohesive “vibe” out of tones out across a lake. I think we succeeded.
I am writing about this event after-the-fact as I was so wrapped up in the planning I was not able to do much else beforehand! Last Saturday night, 3 bands (2 of which I am a part of) came together to create a fun event called “Farewell to Normal Scene” this last Saturday night.
This event involved a host of performers: 3 main bands, an acapella ensemble an aerialist, and a cook. It all started about 6 weeks ago, when representatives from New Beard, Yula and the eXtended Family, and Gato Loco, descended on “The Hive”, the Bushwick, Brooklyn lair of my friend Yula Be’eri.
Representatives of each ensemble started to meet about 6 weeks ago and we came up with the concept in a really synergetic way and produced this promotional video.
We booked the show at this beautiful space in Park Slope called Littlefield, and worked it out to rock a Saturday night. The show turned out GREAT. We brought in a great crowd over the course of the night and all 3 bands rocked it. It was a big accomplishment for me as I had not been involved in the production of a big show in quite a while (it's a huge task!)
It was a night of great performances, New Beard emerged from it’s long hiatus with a bang, Yula and her family charmed the crowd, and Gato Loco, was well... Gato Loco! Our aerialist was wonderful, and while we had to squeeze the Bandanna Splits into a different slot, they were charming as well. I thought the whole night really went wonderfully. It was a lot of work, but well worth the effort. Response was great. Special thanks to Andrew Dunn and Stefan Zeniuk for really digging in and doing a lot of the legwork involved... special thanks to Darren Morze for the sound, Dmitry Drjuchin for the poster, and Caroline Craighead of Craighead and Company for publicity.
It's always an exciting day when a new CD that I'm on comes out! I absolutely adore the art of recording.
Recently, I got the pleasure to jam alongside my pal, trumpet monster Al Chez on the leading track of the rock-jazz trumpeter Kiku Collins' new record "Red Light." Kiku, boneman David Gibson, Chez and myself all get to bring it home on the jam-session styled tune called "Blue Patrol".
ps - all you trumpeters can pick up a copy in person, as she'll be at ITG this week
Mia Wolff does some great drawings of Gato Loco as we play. She was there at the abandoned convent last weekend. She captured me looking like a tuba hunchback as I stoop over a bunch of stompbox electronics.
Cool drawings!! Thanks Mia!
See the whole set HERE
While unearthing some archived media, I just discovered a documentary about a studio orchestra recording session I did about a year and a half ago. The video documents the recording of a beautiful and moving work by Kenny Werner entitled "No Beginning, No End". He wrote the piece about the untimely death of his daughter.
At about 2:06 in the video it shows me closely as we work out some of the orchestration and chord voicing.
In New York, anything can work as a venue.
As part of an art show, a trio of Gato Loco de Bajo improvised and played at St. Cecilia's abandoned convent in Brooklyn. Beautiful sounding room. and ghosts.
Photos by the amazing Jan Meissner.
For music it to exist in physical space (outside of our bodies), it must first reside in our heads.
Fortunately, there is a very natural way of communicating this musical opinion; simple and organic.
Singing directly connects and communicates musical opinion from inside the head to outside the head. It makes that connection instantly and in a fail-safe manner. There is no room for error, it is either there or it is not. No variables.
It’s imperative that we SING as a primary step of learning to play a brass instrument, at any level, as singing is the physical result of that development of musical opinion, at its essence. It can lead execution (and is the most efficient path!)
I often consult with groups, and when they don’t know my methods yet, they are confused at first when I spend a lot of the time having the group sing. (wait, that’s not my show music??)
For some reason, in this country, singing is seen as nerdy; as weak. It becomes something to hide… it becomes secondary... which is truly unfortunate.
Singing (and all performance) has to be primary, organic, and have reckless abandon!!
One of the most dynamic people I've ever known was my first tuba teacher in college, Jack Robinson -- a true basso profundo. He loved to sing as much as he loved to play the tuba – and everything had to be in a romantic, profoundly singing style. His powerful singing voice had a huge impact on me.
Some years later I made the pilgrimage to Chicago to study a bit with the Jedi Master of windplaying, tubist Arnold Jacobs. And guess what we did just about the whole first lesson…? you got it, we SANG!! The then aged Mr. Jacobs, too weak to open the lock on his studio door, would powerfully wave his arm and sing with all the grandeur of Ezio Pinza!! He was just brimming with music… and it all flowed directly from within. It was so obvious that his most elemental musical essence dictated absolutely everything.
It took a while for that to sink in through my thick skull – eventually realizing that it was not a theatric thing, it was a specific training regimen and pipline to musical mastery -- making things work in the right order.
Part of Mr. Jacobs' monumental approach to things was also to (re)learn to see things as a child would… as children (from any part of the world) sing ALL the time! Kids love to sing simplisticly - it is completely inherent and instinctual... at its purest and most elemental level.
Inherent melody, Inherent pitch, Inherent idea, Inherent concept, Inherent VIBE. Yes. Singing is the “musical carpe diem”.
When taking a singing approach to things, there is no question as to what the specific mechanics regarding ideas should be, they are just there practically automatically. It is really that simple. Lead with an idea, lead with an opinion.
If you can sing it, it is easy(er) to play it. The converse is also true, if you can’t sing it, chances are you can’t play it.
Lead EVERYTHING with a singing approach… let it be your guide, and let it dictate ALL other aspects!!
The New Beard record was an outrageous process. We started right away, probably a month or two after the first show. We tracked the tuba and the drums directly to tape, right in the heart of indie country, Williamsburg, Brooklyn, USA, 11211.
It was an intense process, it took us a good chunk of a week. Fortunately the studio was very close to a beer hall (just because it's Williamsburg does not mean one has to drink lame PBR!!). We worked like crazy, and it sounded good! We went about it in the traditional *rock* way... doing the drum tracks first, then tracking the bass (in this case, tuba). The drums got the large studio and we tracked the tuba in the un-airconditioned upstairs of the small complex. It was a sweaty process, but that's ok, this is rock after all. We recorded the tuba with a bi-mic setup, which I frequently use in the studio.
Once that was done, they wanted to let the tracks sit for a bit..., but the madness had started! The record grew and grew and Grew and GREW!! This rock band now had an entire orchestra behind it with the arrangements becoming so lush! Tracks were added (all LIVE instruments!) in Brooklyn, Long Island, Yonkers, North Carolina, and later, Sweden! Dunn and Wigler had far outdone themselves! We had also added another member, the backhanded shredder Yazan Shouldertap to fill things out even more.
The sound of the band had grown immensely. Every week more tracks and players were added!! (including some by Gato Loco's Stefan Zeniuk)
This record had turned into a massive project with a massive sound and a honourably massive scope. It became obvious to us all that we needed a set of "outside ears" to unify it.
The Swede Gustav Ejstes and his band Dungen were huge inspirations of New Beard’s basic sound. So, why not just go to the source for this fresh perspective?! Ejstes enthusiastically accepted the band's proposal to mix the record, and not only creatively mixed it, he completely threw himself into the project and even appears on many of the tracks on a host of different instruments. Gustav gave it all a unified sound; a sound which was already organically inferred from the get-go. This full-circle really made it wonderful and only enhanced the heart that Wigler and Dunn, as well as Tony and myself and everyone else had put into it.
Now that the arrangements had metamorphosed to such a size, naturally, the application of the tuba parts had changed a bit. I retracked and retweaked many of the tuba parts right as the record went to mixing, this time with a slightly better bi-mic setup. We tracked it again in Brooklyn, but this time in Carroll Gardens. It was another sweaty process. The results were far better this time around, simply as my role in the band was more defined, my sound better understood, and the songs better ingested.
To add to this great synergy and new energy was the final musical step, the mastering by the legendary Greg Calbi (google it)
On top of the great songs and great vibe of the band, I’m THRILLED about how the tuba sounds! As of recent, on other records with other bands, I’ve had some tragic results with how the tuba tone was mistreated by bumbling engineers post-tracking...once it is officially out of my hands. I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to have the tuba sound so warm and clear, present but with no edge, even when within a large landscape of hoards of different instruments all rocking simultaneously.
It’ll be a little while before this record goes public. I simply cannot wait to play it for you.
Over the last year I've reasserted my real roots; my rock roots. As a kid brought up on radio, then MTV, rock is a huge part of who I am. As a tuba player, it can be a pain in the ass to assert; not in my own playing as it’s always a part of how I do everything, rather the issue becomes how the instrument is viewed and treated by other musicians. It's difficult at times to get taken seriously and to avoid that expected dopey "schtick"; that common road so many tuba players so easily and expectantly slide down.
Enter NEW BEARD. About a year ago, through a common friend, I was introduced to the songwriting team of Ben Wigler and Andrew Dunn, both formerly of the band Arizona.
Singer-songwriters contact me pretty regularly. Usually it is to add tuba the one or two “different" tracks of their record. It's cool, I don't mind doing it, and have done it on probably a dozen or more different records, and with some wonderful, honest folks.
New Beard was different. They actually wanted a tuba player full-time as the bass player of their band. This idea is not necessarily new, there have been a handful of bands that have done it. This specific situation, however, had a unique honesty about it that really intrigued me. They wanted to rock and were serious about it, and wanted the tuba for what it is: a solid, serious and kickass bass instrument!!
New Beard does rock, and to power the band they have a mighty prog-loving drummer with a right foot that's as fast as hell. Tony Waldman of the band Edensong drove and embraced the tuba vibe right from the very first note. (this is crucial, as the drummer is the #1 factor in how a tuba fits into a band riding the bass role)
The band has an incredible commitment to the music. It rules all. Right off the bat, I realized these guys were for real. They welcomed me with open arms, and made a solid commitment to make the tuba sound RIGHT.
We rehearsed our asses off for the band's first show, which we rocked. The vibe worked. They consequently asked me to join the band, and we soon thereafter headed deep into the trenches to make the RECORD.
Here's a clip from New Beard's very first show ever
On to read about the record...
I was sad to leave France after being there less than 24 hours. I slept most of the way back through Belgium into Rotterdam. We got into town and found the venue. We were greeted by our contact Marianne, who right off the bat said: “Would you like to come in for a drink before you unload?” I knew I’d like this place!
A couple of us came in to check out the venue and saw a small room with a tiny stage in the corner. I immediately had that familiar sinking feeling that this was a punier venue than we thought... this is a NORMAL and common feeling in NYC, where many of the venues are the size of a small living room (and smell like a gas station restroom)
We followed Marianne to the back, expecting to find a greenroom or the likes. To our surprise and relief, the curtain on the back wall was concealing a large and glorious venue!!! It turned out to be much better than we had hoped for! This place, Grounds, had glassed in the entire courtyard behind the building and turned it into a gorgeous theater. The balconies of the surrounding buildings which had once overlooked the courtyard now made galleries for the theater... genius! The sound was top-notch as well. Their selection of gear was great as was the sound crew.
We unloaded the van and bid farewell to our kind driver Jonas. The hotel was right across the street and we assembled for soundcheck. We felt like this was going to be a great show, and it was. We started our usual march-in entrance from way up in the galleries and marched all the way down onto the stage, and that was only the beginning. The dancing crowd was awesome and made us feel so welcome.
We rocked the show, but the best was yet to come...
As we hung in the front bar for a bit after the show, the venue called last call. Well, we weren’t done. One of our new Dutch friends read our minds, and suggested what ended up being just perfect. We left Grounds and walked about a mile to a tiny dive bar where they buzzed us in and locked the door behind us. Our caravan of folks piled in... and what sweet music greeted our ears? A Meters B side on vinyl!! YES!! We were home. An amazing DJ and such a great crowd of locals made that night really fantastic. I left the bar at about 6:30am and it was still jumping. I had a gorgeous walk back to the hotel as the sun was coming up and the birds were singing. What a great end to a great night!
On to part VI....
After a much needed snooze, I awoke as we were coming into the famous Paris traffic.
We’d allowed plenty of time, so all was cool. When we got to the venue we were met by our friend Marie of the Banlieues Bleues festival with the exciting news that every band craves to hear: the show was SOLD OUT.
This was a wonderful surprise, as the festival had entrusted in us to open their whole festival, which of course we were thrilled to do.
It felt GREAT to be back in France.
A peculiar circular staircase down accessed the stage door at the venue. Fortunately there was a loading dock with a rickety lift for the gear, and they had a crew to move our stuff for us. (always appreciated as a tuba player!) The band waited on the sidewalk, taking a moment to soak up the Paris sun and to feel like rockstars.
Inside the venue was smoky! A large concert hall filled with smoke? This was France and all, but this was smoky even for them... we realized they were testing the theatrical smoke / fog machines along with a huge light setup -- as they were making a 5 HD camera video of the night, to be broadcast throughout Europe!
We setup and did our soundcheck thing, and all was copasetic. However, let's get our priorities straight -- the most important thing I was looking forward to in France (beyond the sold out show, of course) was the FOOD. Naturally, we were not disappointed. After soundcheck, we ran into our sweet friend from Bordeaux, "Audrey II” Theran who was not there to drive us in her father’s car (inside joke from back in Bordeaux), rather she was there to direct and lead us to dinner!! We were escorted a few blocks down the street to a delightful corner bistro that rocked us with some great grub. And of course, the incomparable Rich Stein provided the appropriate dinnertime entertainment.
I could have sat there all evening. But, we had a show to do, and a festival to kick off! We headed back to the venue and saddled up. We hit it and really hit it hard. The crowd loved it. It felt good to shake off the day of road travel as well as shake off the previous night’s show. The stage felt great and we hit a strong stride.
We were greeted by some more friends after the show. Once the general crowd left, there was a vip reception where we met some presenters of other festivals and interesting folks of all sorts. We desperately wanted to go out out on the town and catch up with our friends, but it was already like 2am and we still had to load out, and our hotel was way on the other side of Paris.
Fortunately, load out was easy. We got back to the hotel -- the same hotel we stayed at when we passed through Paris last summer. This was the place where we watched the finals of the World Cup and listened to neighborhoods howl in celebration or defeat, and watched cheeseballs fly out the window.
In the hotel elevator, I ran into another trombone player from NYC who happened to be in Paris to play with the Spanish Harlem Orchestra. They played the same festival the night after Gato Loco. What was funny is that he and I were just on tour with another band not two days before I came to Europe with Gato Loco. The music world is a small world indeed.
It was then off too bed, the van was leaving for Rotterdam early the next morning.
On to Part V....
So in the van, everyone tightly packed but comfortably snug within the Euro-comfort of their seats, we headed off for Paris through Belgium.
The countryside through Holland and Belgium is FLAT, but nice. I was excited to go through a country I’d not been before, so I didn’t sleep for a while. Holland looked like a giant putt-putt course. Funny. Seriously, I dug all the windmills.
And with regards to windmills, I am always left wondering why don’t we have more in the US? I’m not talking about the old-fashioned drainage ones, but what about the modern power-generating ones that are also all over the place... It’s seems pretty obvious to me...., Power by nothing burned.
I did get some sleep. I’m actually quite good at sleeping while comfortably upright; a valuable skill I learned years ago living on a crowded tour bus for months at a time.
I awoke to stopping in Belgium at one of my fav spots I miss in the USA. AUTOGRILL! (yes folks, it’s even better than Wawa!) Autogrill is a European highway rest stop that ROCKS. Instead of all fast food, it’s actually a grocery store! There's even a lovesick Italian movie called Pane e Tulipani that kicks off in an Autogrill. My wife and I got to really love them driving all over Italy a few years ago.
Now, I’d be remiss if I didn’t write about a Gato Loco excursion without at least a mention of the great Rich Stein.
Rich is unequivocally, the funnest van guy ever. He kept us amazingly entertained, as always. His personality is as infectious as his kick-ass drumming. His riveting and long recounting on an award-winning essay he wrote on a theoretical background of Tolkien’s characters was awesome. I’m not kidding. That and his road stories, like traveling by private jet with Lauryn Hill, were worth the price of admission.
March 10-11, Amsterdam
The next day we awoke at a decent hour, the jet lag and the previous-night's festivities were semi-slept off. We had rehearsal at the hall. Our vehicles picked us up promptly.
The building the Bimhuis space resides in is incredible! The Musiekgebouw aan 't Ij is a gorgeous specimen of Van der Rohe-ish modernity. The Bimhuis space is a hi-tech listening room located in a cantilevered box that juts out over the river. The entire complex is breathtaking... and what's more incredible is that this amazing structure is completely dedicated to modern music!
Inside this impressive place is a rehearsal room and all the gear we could ever want.
We immediately hit the space and started to work off our travel and refresh our minds. The whole band was into it and ready to work.
After rehearsal we hit the stage for soundcheck... and this audiophiles' room took some getting used to... both on our end as well as on the house crew's end. The thing is with Gato Loco is, while we may at first look like a modern jazz outfit, Gato Loco is really a rock band in disguise. And yes, we are LOUD.
We powered through the soundcheck, doing what we could to get used to the sound of the room, as well as our newer, slightly reduced octet compliment.
Then we checked in to the hotel. THE HOTEL. Wow. It was in the same complex, and absolutely stunning. It was the best hotel room I've ever stayed in. Not the largest room, but it was unequivocally the best. Not only were the beds great, my view over the river Ij was unbelievable. This hotel had to have the best views in all of Amsterdam.
I had a few minutes, so broke out the phone, hooked up the WiFi and used this rare tour time-off to do some Face-Time to catch up with the family back home. (Face-Time is AWESOME)
We then headed back to the venue and had a wonderful dinner, and the show started. A nice violin-led fusion-y band started out the night, followed with a great pianist that worked with prepared piano. Then we got our chance to hit, and we did our best to hit it really hard. Sonically it was tough, but we fought through it like brutes. I have no idea how it came off. We were exhausted and missing that post-show adrenaline that we often have. (more on the results of the show later*) We still decided we needed to celebrate this show; being the first show of our second European tour. The whole band hung out on the ferry dock of the Musiekgebouw aan 't Ij and really enjoyed each other's company. That's an amazing thing about this band is that we all get along so well and genuinely enjoy being around each other.
*note - reviews of the show were AWESOME. In Dutch, but awesome nonetheless.
The next morning, after too little sleep in this majestic hotel, we congregated in the hotel's restaurant for the king-of-all-hotel-continental-breakfasts! HOLY CRAP it was amazing! That breakfast is still a topic of conversation.
We then met in the lobby and waited for our new drivers. We hired a company called “Just Like Your Mom” which is a band touring company out of Belgium. They had driven my sister and the band she's in, Nashville Pussy, and their crew, for almost an entire month just prior to us getting there. Our driver Jonas was also NP's driver. He was prompt and professional, and the van was exactly as promised… and everything fit in the back, including the tuba crate, so all was good. The van was packed tight, but everyone seemed comfortable enough.
Next, on the road. Continued in Part III....
March 8/9, NYC to Amsterdam
This was Gato Loco's second trip to Europe - and after the first one, this second one had a lot to live up to!
Our previous trip to Bordeaux last summer was amazing... it was one of those dream touring / travel situations where the group and the environment worked together so harmoniously.
I knew going into this second trip that it would be easy to fall into a pitfall of missed expectations...
Fortunately, we are 2/2. The second trip just a few weeks ago was just as incredible.
Due to logistic reasons, for this trip we decided to take only 8 of us instead of the full 11 that we took before. This was truly a difficult choice for us. The band powered ahead, much because of Stefan's unwavering positive outlook.
On to the tour...
Due to cartage of my tuba, I, and trombonist Ric Becker to keep me company, flew British Airways via Heathrow, while the other 6 flew Delta straight through to Amsterdam.
After the usual prerequisite pre-flight battle at the airlines check-in counter regarding my tuba, the flights were just fine. Pretty much as a rule, airline counter agents do NOT know the current baggage policies of the companies they work for, they tend also to be supplied with outdated information. (just an FYI!)
I had entered this trip practically stepping right off the plane from another trip - a one-nighter from NYC to Tucson and back again for a show with Theolonius Monk Jr. I was starting this trip into my third consecutive day of airtravel. I was exhausted, so it was great to have entire rows of seats to ourselves!
On British Airways, the food is always decent, and I did get to catch up on some sleep. I also watched the Big Lebowski to bide the time. The Dude abides. (The Dude is a personal hero of mine)
Becker stretched out across the seats and made a bed for himself with a conglomeration of blankets and pillows and even disrobed for his nighty-night time. Now there is an experienced tour-er!
After a long-ish layover in London, we got to Amsterdam and the tuba made it too, unscathed. Our driver was waiting for us, card "Gato Loco" in hand (Rockstar!) only to find that the tuba crate would not fit into the fancy Mercedes sedan they'd brought. Fortunately, a station wagon (also a Mercedes) was only a short phone call away. Once in that car Ric wanted to hear some tunes, so the driver took that opportunity to show off his surround sound with the audio from the helicopter scene from Apocolypse now. That was just what I wanted to hear after what seemed like a month on an airplane…..
Holland seems to be a very friendly place, and it seems that the average masses there have a quite high standard of living. It must be all the tulips that make them so cheery. Oh, legal hookers and weed probably don't hurt either.
Our little hotel was fine - was an old mansion adjacent to the Vondelpark... Amsterdam's Central Park. Pretty cool.
There at the hotel, we met up with the rest of the band who had arrived earlier in the day. The rooms were small but clean.
That evening, many of the band went around the corner to go hear the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, but after this, my fourth day of air travel in a row, I couldn't deal with anything that required cognitive thought. …much less Brahms. I went perusing the town with the Gato Loco rhythm section.
To be continued....