Earlier this year, I was asked by the director of Literacy Partners to arrange the theme song of We Speak NYC. It is an online show created to help immigrants and non-native English speakers succeed living in the city and develop literacy in the process. The show is now live!
I am very honored and proud to have been a part.
A special thanks goes out to the indispensable, Jonah Wei-Haas for help with production and handling the mixing and mastering.
I am not a Saxophonist: I am a Musician.
I am not a Musician: I am an Artist.
I am not an Artist: I am a Poet.
I am not a Poet: I am a Philosopher.
I am not a Philosopher: I am a Dude.
I am not a Dude: I am a Human Being.
I am not a Human Being: I am a shard of the Divine.
My body is but a structure for the Infinite, and Art but a structure for Philosophy. Saxophone but a structure for expressing Music, Music but a structure for Poetry, Poetry but a structure for Art.
I've had this idea for a while, and now I've finally made it real.
The logo is a composite of symbols that have special meaning to me and the music I have written and have yet to write.
The infinity loop at the top is a music staff, an original design that I have tattooed on my chest. It is a reminder that through composition anything is possible. The twist in the center also represents the duality of musical intervals as well as a yin-and-yang understanding. It is major and it is minor. The color yellow is divine to me (it is the color of our local god, The Sun, after all) giving the music staff a sacred significance.
The figure in the center is a sphinx. The sphinx is a pale-ish complexioned hairless cat with huge ears. I myself am pale, a cat (a slang term for a jazz artist), pretty much lacking in fur, and gifted with a highly developed aural sense.
The three symbols featured in the sphinx's face are from the Cosmology symbolism that I've used to compose a lot of my works (especially those from my project, Feat Sauce). The yellow nine-pointed star represents God, the red heart represents Life, and the black crescent represents the Void.
The cat has blue eyes just like me.
The glasses represent my firm belief that books will free me from ignorance and help me reach whatever goals I imagine for myself.
An updated version of my personal script is in the works, but for the time being I've decided to use Arial as a nod to the MTA since I make most of my bread playing throughout the subway system.
My most recent work honors the lives of three prominent New York literacy advocates.
Literacy Partners—a charity that I have had the immense fortune of contributing to as a donor, volunteer, and contracted composer/arranger—recently memorialized high-society literacy advocates Liz Smith, Parker Ladd, and Arnold Scaasi.
I had the rare pleasure of composing the original score for the below video that was featured at Literacy Partners gala in their honor. It was tough, but very rewarding and for a great cause.
This is kind of crazy, but I recently was asked to record some sax parts for a comedy sketch on BET's show, The Rundown with Robin Thede. Now it's out there in cyberspace.
My contribution starts at 1:45. Here's the sketch in its entirety:
The arrangement was a collaboration with musician Dave Keener (whose tragicomic songs can be heard here: davekeener.bandcamp.com/track/babe-magnet).
On Monday, Oct. 23rd, I’ll be reviving my project, Feat Sauce, for a show at Silvana in Harlem.
Click to view the Facebook Event Page
This will be my first show as a leader in New York City. I’m really excited.
For over five years, I’ve worked and re-worked these tunes in a variety of contexts: electronic, by myself at a glockenspiel, at the keyboard, at a piano, in concert, in rehearsal, with a full nine-piece band, with octets, trios, etc. etc.
Finally, I’ve come to a point where I just want the people to hear this stuff—it does absolutely zero good being incomplete and stuck in my mind.
So I’m considering the works essentially complete and, with a six-piece band for this occasion, will be performing this nine-movement conceptual cycle of compositions in its entirety for the first time, for a new audience, in a different city, with a new lineup. I’m stoked to say the least.
There's a lot of meaning that I've ascribed to it, but the basic concept is represented by this set of symbols:
The harmony for each movement is derived by excluding one or two of the other pitches. The harmony for I., for example, has C as its tonal center and excludes the pitches F# and B. Movement VI., for example, has B as its tonal center, includes F# in its harmony, and excludes the pitch C. Thus the harmony for each movement is derived.
Stylistically, the music is rooted in Electronic Dance Music. I feel very strongly that jazz bands should be grooving in styles people actually dance to (Swing, for example, is of course great, but any swing feels in the mainstream of the last 10 years sound nothing like Basie and the like. "Latch" by Disclosure, for example, is a Swing feel, but it's wrapped up in a modern guise.)
Each symbol has been ascribed a significance:
Each juxtaposition has been ascribed a significance as well:
So that's the gist of the concept. No telling what may happen on Monday.
Come to the show if you're in New York.
Mark yourself "Going" on the Facebook Event Page
Last October I quit my job as a breakfast cook in a resort hotel.
My job as a breakfast cook in a resort hotel was menial. And somewhat self-degrading, though I did get to wear a costume (however, I couldn't wear earrings which I felt was oppressive--am I a liberal tool for thinking that?).
So I had this job where I worked from 6 A.M. to 2 P.M. five days a week. It was alright, but since I was the new guy, they delegated every tedious and/or prolonged task to me: separating eggs, picking parsley leaves, picking basil leaves, etc. for hours on end.
So I had menial, repetitive tasks going on, and I also had infinite coffee (the Barista station was adjacent the breakfast line). Put the two together, and I'd get in a meditative state. And, in that meditative state I began to hear a good ol' ii-V-I in my head.
Long story short, I borrowed a saxophone, took it into the subway, played whatever I could before my chops would give out, clean out the horn, count my money and bounce.
People were really grateful that I was making music for them.
I was like, "I could play music for people like this everyday and enhance their experience of life in a beautiful way." I started doing it all the time.
After a heartfelt conversation with my former boss in a walk-in refrigerator designated for produce, I realized that if I'm in New York City, I need to do whatever is the greatest service to Humankind possible.
Now I'm not saying I won't if, either I absolutely must or I find something super awesome, but I haven't gone back to work since.