Saturday, February 28, 2009


The Poo Poo Platters handed in their CD at RPM Central (the offices of The Wire newspaper) this afternoon at approximately 3:30 pm. We ran into George on our way in - he had just dropped off his CD. Congrats to George and all the others who completed this year's challenge. I, unfortunately, never found the time to record. I take solace in the fact that I make my living as a musician/educator, so I get to make music every day.

The new CD is titled "Devil's Beat" and the tracks are as follows:
  1. Disco Devil
  2. Knights and Kings
  3. Devil's Beat
  4. The Bird Keeps Crying
  5. Vanity Fair
  6. Brazil
  7. Splat
  8. Flags of the World
  9. Drum Beat
  10. Funkin' It 2000
  11. Shoot Me
  12. August
  13. Jam/Those Girls
  14. Dad Says Homework, I Say Rock

Two of the tracks are up at The boys wrote all of the songs themselves. The only title they didn't come up with on their own is "Dad Says Homework, I Say Rock", which was the winning title in a title contest they had on the RPM website discussion board. It was another amazing February of bonding with the boys and recording their music. Hard to believe this is the third straight year we've done this. Awesome.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Point of It All

I was just reminded of the brilliance of Amanda Palmer and her marketing team.

I had a great day today. Spent the day in Boston with Katie and the boys. The Poo Poo Platters had to check out the guitar collection at the Boston Hard Rock Cafe - their first time there (and actually the first time I'd stepped into a Hard Rock Cafe since the 1980s). Then we walked down Newbury Street, went to visit my sister Lori at her office, got some dessert at the Trident Bookstore/Cafe (another place I hadn't been to since the 1980s), and then some CD shopping at Newbury Comics. Off to Quincy Market for a light dinner, followed by a visit to the Institute of Contemporary Art to see the Shepard Fairey exhibit (hopefully more on that in a future post). Then the short drive back to Portsmouth - a wonderful vacation day since the boys have no school this week. Very cool.

So I arrive home to a ton a e-mail, and there in the middle is notification from Amanda that the Alternate Takes version of her latest CD is ready for me to download. For those who didn't read my posts on Amanda's latest album, look here. This is where the brilliant marketing comes in.

When I bought my advance copy of "Who Killed Amanda Palmer" last September, I paid a higher price than for just the CD. I paid for some cool bonus stuff - some of which came immediately, and some of which I had to wait for. The bonus items included a t-shirt (mailed with the CD), the ability to download the CD a week prior to its release, the actual CD with the case autographed by Amanda, some bonus tracks immediately with the early download, and finally, the promise of another CD, to be downloadable in the future. It was originally promised for November/December, but didn't arrive. I didn't give up, knowing that it is not unusual for these things to take more time than expected - especially with a small outfit, like Amanda's, considering she's been touring almost constantly since the fall.

Well, the bonus CD arrived today and it is an alternate version of the album released in September. Not a fully polished CD, but an interesting take on the material, with different versions of many of the songs, some songs that were never recorded for the CD, and even a song titled "Boyfriend in a Coma" which at first I thought was Smiths cover but turned out to be another original that didn't make the CD (the Smiths tune is actually "Girlfriend in a Coma"). I'd listened to "Who Killed Amanda Palmer" a lot last fall. Went to the Boston show. And have not been listening to it a lot lately, because I've moved on to other recordings. This new CD (I say CD, but really it is just a series of tracks I downloaded to my iPod - I'll most likely never own a hard copy of this one, truly bringing the media into the new age) is reaquainting me with the music, in a fresh and exciting way.

The music I know is different on this CD. Sometimes with different chord changes, sometimes with added sections. It's very cool for a fan to hear this - a snapshot of a particular moment in the music's evolution. As a composer, I love hearing this stuff. Not polished, but in many cases they are works in progress.

Amanda gets it. Why the labels don't, I can't figure out. I'm tired of hearing record producers refer to artists as "products" or "commodities". It's nice to be treated like a music fan, and not a consumer. Thanks, Amanda and friends for making that a reality. Again, very cool.

Some great CD (re)discoveries while populating my iPod

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The New Poo Poo Platters Logos

Here are the new Poo Poo Platters logos. The first logo was designed by Max (age 11 when he designed it) but it was tidied up and made into reality by my sister Ruth. It is based on the initials TPPP. The second logo is a caricature of the boys by Ruth's boyfriend, Lou.

Making the leap to an iPod

I've never owned an iPod, until Katie bought me one this week for my birthday. Don't get me wrong - I've owned mp3 players for the past 5-10 years - mostly Creative Zen media players. I carry my music with me everywhere. But I'd resisted owning an iPod because iTunes does not offer a subscription service. I've been waiting for another company to design a device to rival the iPod, allowing me to purchase a great device and access the Napster To Go subscription library (unlimited downloads to your mp3 player for a small montly fee). Napster To Go has been great for my teaching, since I've been able to download any recording and play them for my students, without having to go out and buy the CD. This is great for teaching jazz tunes, when you want your student to hear ten different versions of "Autumn Leaves" (all of them classics) without having to seek out and purchase ten different CDs. This is where iTunes falls behind, and why I hope it will one day be a subscription service. When that happens, music listening will explode, as people will be able to access millions of recordings for a small monthly fee. That, in my opinion, is the future.

For now, I am going through the wonderful journey of populating my new iPod with my music library. I've been collecting CDs for over 20 years. Since I am a musician by profession, my guess is that my collection is larger than that of the average person - though maybe not as impressive as many music enthusiasts. So far I've loaded about 75 CDs onto my device and I'm just scratching the surface of its memory capabilities. This is a good thing, since I have several hundred more to add.

I find myself rediscovering music. Things I've not listened to in ages. And I'm finding misplaced CDs. The treasure of this morning was discovering Michael Brecker's "Pilgrimage" inside the case for the Debussy and Ravel String Quartets. I've been looking for that CD for over a year! As I type this, I am loading Ornette Coleman's Pulitzer Prize winning CD "Sound Grammar". Next up, Glenn Gould's recording of Bach's "Goldberg Variations" - the 1955 recording. As a music lover, this is downright exciting.

Of course, the newness of the whole deal will pass - but I will, for the very first time, have nearly my entire CD collection in the palm of my hand. This is very cool. I highly recommend it.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

RPM Status Report

It is February 22nd, and the boys are about half-way done with their RPM CD. I have yet to start. It's been a busy month at work, so I'm behind scheudle. But, knock on wood, I've yet to get sick this month, even with the flu begin passed around the school. It is very convenient that this week is school vacation, so my hope is that during these last seven days of February, I can create my RPM CD. The Boys will be done today or tomorrow.

Yesterday Chip and Mickey from Shagbark came to record a tune with the boys. It was a good session, and Mickey is coming back today to finish up the vocal track. My hope is that the boys can lay down another four or five tracks today and almost finish thier CD (they have six of 14 tracks laid down).

It should be a busy week.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Saturday Shuffle

I received an iPod from Katie for my birthday. Believe it or not, I've never owned an iPod. I've had several Creative Zen Media Players, but never the iconic pod. I've been populating the huge drive (120 gig) with my library. As I type this I'm actually ripping the 22 disc Stravinsky collection I recently purchased to iTunes. As I do this, I have the iPod, with the 300 or so tunes I've already synched, playing on shuffle. Here's the random selection my iPod picked out, just for me (listed with song title first, followed by artist):

Coin-Operated Boy - The Dresden Dolls
Stumbleine - The Smashing Pumpkins
Tag Along - Missy Bly
Automatic Husband - The Fiery Furnaces
Cat People (Putting Out Fire) - David Bowie
The Con - Tegan and Sara
Life On Mars? (Live at Fashion Rocks) - Arcade Fire with David Bowie
Panic in Detroit - David Bowie
Five Years (Live at Fashion Rocks) - Arcade Fire with David Bowie
The Family Llama - Missy Bly
Guitar Hero - Amanda Palmer
Radio Free Europe - R.E.M.
The Dreamers - David Bowie
Poor Little Rich Boy - Regina Spektor
Beat's Remark - Branford Marsalis
Dewey Baby - Branford Marsalis
B.O.A.C. - Chris Weisman
Battle for Britain (The Letter) - David Bowie
Muzzle - The Smashing Pumpkins
O.K.O.T.F. - Chris Weisman (fyi - one of my favorite of Chris' songs!)

Noting the obvious: I've only just begun to load my library, and it is currently a bit David Bowie heavy, and has very little jazz or classical. That will change day by day - I hope to have it fully loaded by March 1! Now you know how I'll be spending my evenings this week...

Friday, February 20, 2009


My sister Lori is the co-founder of D2E (Down To Earth), a green, sustainability fair held annually in Boston. Our whole family went down last year to the event to support her. This year we'll be going not because of her, but because it is AMAZING. I got turned on to so many green products from environmentally conscious businesses - not schlock, but practical things that replace what I already know and love with a better, environmenatally friendly alternative. Favorite finds from 2008 - LUSH soaps, Shootflying Hill Sauces (amazing butterscotch ice cream topping!), and 360 Vodka (NOT FOR THE KIDS!). The video below gives a cool overview of the event, which is the first weekend in April. (Go on Saturday or Sunday after attending Friday, April 3rd's Spring Fever for the Arts, benefitting PMAC!)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

It is Radiohead

Several people have asked me about the video I posted last week from the Grammys. The singer is Thom Yorke and the guitarist is Jonny Greenwood, both from Radiohead, performing Radiohead's 15 Step with the USC Marching Band. Katie and I saw Radiohead at the Tweeter Center in Mansfield, MA last August. (Not sure what they will be calling the venue now that Tweeter has gone belly up.) The song is from In_Rainbows Radiohead's late 2007 release that was met with much press when they sold it over the internet without a distributor, and allowed the public to pay whatever they wanted for the album - even nothing if the buyer didn't want to pay. A groundbreaking way to market music in today's evolving market.

To see the AMAZING Grammys video again, click here.

And for my rant on the evolution of the record inductry, go here.

Laura Gibson

I'm not at all familiar with the music of Laura Gibson, so I'm very intrigued by NPR's assertation that her new CD (to be released next week, 2/24), Beasts of Seasons, "is nothing short of a masterpiece, both for its flawless and often haunting execution and for its inspired statements on the human experience." It is a sentiment that I'm running into in various other places on the net - so I'm curious.

On first listening, she reminds me of the incredilby awesome Regina Spektor - and I get worried when an artist sounds so similar to another. But the more I listen, the more I hear Laura Gibson, not a Regina Spektor rip-off. The songs are very touching. NPR is so excited about this release, they are currently streaming the CD in its entirety. You can listen to it here. At just over 39 minutes, its relatively short. Let me know what you think.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

2009 Summer Camps

Be on the lookout for PMAC's 2009 Summer Camp brochures - they are going out in the mail this week.

New this summer:
  • Adult Fiddle Camp with Joyce Anderson
  • One-week Rock and Jazz Camps for teens
  • Camps that combine both Music and Art for young children
  • Adult Dixieland Camp
  • Adult Painting Camp

Also, one of our most popular instructors, Chris Weisman, who moved to Vermont in late August, will be returning this summer to teach all of our Rock camps! Don't miss the opportunity to work with this amazing teacher.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Movie Recommendation

I took Katie out on a Valentine's date this afternoon - lunch and a movie, and a little shopping excursion. We ended up celebrating during the day as opposed to tonight because our regular sitter has a big Valentine's date tonight.

We went to see Slumdog Millionaire out in Newington and really, really enjoyed the movie. A deeply moving story, with a compelling narrative. I'm not sure if it should be the best picture of 2008, but is certainly one of the best of the year. If you haven't seen it, it is definitely worth it.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Remembering Dave

It is always tough losing someone.

I am in awe of what Roy Ernst has created. When he founded the first New Horizons Band at the Eastman School of Music in the late 1980s, his mission was to give adults the opportunity to live. Roy understands that life is about passion. It is about never-ending education, connecting with others and being creative. That is the genius of New Horizons Band. Give adults the opportunity to bring music into their lives and see what happens.

Roy targets senior citizens. He knows that after retirement, life can lose meaning for some people. Children have grown up and begun their independent lives. Your profession carries on without you. Roy's mission was to bring interactive music - ensemble music - into the lives of retirees. Those who played music in their youth and had stopped as adults. Those with a desire to return to their youthful pasttime. And those who never had the opportunity to play. Teach them - it doesn't matter if a person is 9 or 90, they can learn to interact musically with others.

I shared a week with Roy and 200 senior citizens this past September in Chatauqua, NY at the International New Horizons Band Camp. Everyone there was living proof that playing music late in life brings joy and meaning into one's life.

Dave came to us about five years ago, picking up the trombone for the first time since the sixth grade. Having just retired, he had the time to return to a favorite childhood activity. He picked the instrument back up quickly. He practiced like a madman - to the point that he would give my mother, who played euphonium beside him in the band, a hard time for not practicing enough. He dove right in and became a core member of the band.

Dave never stopped learning. It was his goal to constantly explore new musical ideas and improve his skills. He recorded rehearsals on a mini tape recorder so he could practice with the recording at home. He joined the PMAC adult blues band to learn to improvise, and played in our summer big band, soloing from the heart without a shred of music to rely on.

Dave lived. He was always the first to volunteer to come help move equipment. Just last month he was carrying timpani and music stands into the church before our winter concert. First to arrive, last to leave. He constructed Christmas parade floats for the band, took out the PMAC trash and recycling every week, and gave a helping hand wherever needed.

We should all be so lucky to live our lives as fully and completely as Dave. And I am honored to have had him as a friend. Losing Dave yesterday came as a shock to me. It shocked us all. Less than two weeks ago he was playing and recording our band rehearsal. It was Dave's last rehearsal, and I'm proud to say it was a damned good one. He played better than ever, and that's the honest truth.

Thank you, Dave. We'll miss you. And I for one will try to live up to your example.

The following video was taken about two years ago. I found it on my hard drive - a short example from a rehearsal - a mere 45 seconds. Dave is playing the trombone, and yes, that's my mother sitting beside him (and my father is on trumpet behind him).

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

New Poo Poo Platters Video

Last week, when Max and Jake recorded their first RPM Challenge song of 2009, I filmed the session with their Flip Video Camera. Here is a video I put together from the recording sesson. Enjoy!

I'm back

Took me a few days to recover from Jazz Night - two great, packed shows. It's a lot of work, but well worth the effort. Thus, I neglect the blog.

Recommended listening for today:

The Bad Plus - For All I Care

The Fiery Furnaces - Remember (live)

Luminescent Orchestrii - Too Hot To Sleep

Among the many good reasons why iTunes should become a subscription based service, finally allowing me to purchase my first iPod....for now I'll live with Napster.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Tonight's Setlist

For the regular readers of this blog, a little surprise sneak peek at tonight's Jazz Night shows. Here's the set list:

In A Mellow Tone
Atomic Minor (original by Bryan Bergeron-Killough)
So What (celebrating the 50th anniversary of the recording of Kind of Blue)
I've Got You Under My Skin
Springtime Can Really Hang You Up The Most
Blue Skies
You're Welcome (original by Nate Therrien)
Seven Steps to Heaven

Hope to see you at the show - and if you are too far away to attend, be sure to think of us - we'll be thinking of you...

Knights and Kings

The first track of the new Poo Poo Platters album is up on their MySpace Music Page. Check it out.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Tomorrow Night is Jazz Night!

Most of today will be spent getting ready for tomorrow's Jazz Night at the West End Studio Theatre. Two great shows, 7 & 9 pm, with an awesome 8-piece jazz band. Tickets are still available, though the 7 pm show is nearly sold out. Don't miss this awesome event - it only happens once a year. Hope to see you there!

Thursday, February 05, 2009

In the car this morning

On the way to elementary school at 8:30 am - it is very cold and there is still a lot of snow on the ground....

Me: You look cold - where are your gloves?
My 10 year old son: I don't know.
Me: Did you leave them at school?
Son: I don't know.
Me: I guess I'll have to e-mail your teacher and let her know you need to stay inside during recess.
Son: Wait...let me check here (unzips the outer pocket of his backpack)...oh, here they are! (seems genuinely surprised - pretty good acting job)

I'm going to be in big trouble when the things he values most aren't as innocent as elementary school recess...

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

February is already CRAZY!!!

Been oh-so-busy the past few days, without time to post. For those interested in the dymanic duo of Max and Jake (my sons), aka The Poo Poo Platters, check out their latest tune, recorded just this Sunday, Feb. 1, for the RPM Challenge. It is called Knights and Kings and is the first track on their MySpace Music page here.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

RPM Waltz

It seems the link in my last post didn't work. Let's see if this does - let me know if you can hear my piece "RPM Waltz". BTW, I am playing all parts, saxophones and percussion. Enjoy.

The RPM Challenge Begins Today!

Record an album in 28 days - the month of February - a challenge too tempting for any musician to dismiss. I recorded one two years ago, in 2007. Some of that album I love, some of it I hate, but the sense of accomplishment for getting it done in 28 days was significant. Last year I got the flu, and wasn't able to participate. This year I've begun my February with 8.5 hours of sleep (last night), a healthy breakfast, and my vitamins. I WILL NOT GET SICK THIS MONTH.

My sons are a rock duo - The Poo Poo Platters. They have recorded two RPM CDs, 2007's BARR and 2008's A Chinese Dish (I managed to record their album in the first two weeks of February last year before getting sick). I engineer their recordings, but they compose all of the music and perform everything. I keep a healthy distance from the creative aspect of their project, letting them be free to do what they do. Mostly, they're just kids being kids, but sometimes they create a little magic and they've built a significant internet fanbase because of that. Their MySpace page gets way more hits than mine.

This morning, at 9:30 a.m. to be precise, the boys hit the studio to record the first track or two of Devil's Beat, their third RPM CD. They've been hard at work composing and rehearsing their music. This is a big deal for us - a great father/sons bonding experience. We will also sit down today and map out our recording sessions for the remainder of the month.

I, on the other hand, will record late at night, whenever I can find the time. And I'll be composing the music as I go along. I have not yet written a note, lyric, anything for my 2009 RPM album. Yet I know, that in 28 days, I'll have a fully completed CD of new music in my hands. That is very cool.

I will be tracking the progress of both the PPP and I on this blog for the entire month. I will try to post recordings as they become available. To get things started, here is a track from my 2007 RPM CD, Eclecticality. It is a little tune called RPM Waltz. Hope you enjoy listening.