Movie 1? Script 1? Hey. Why not?

So it occurred to me: between changing jobs, changing a lot about my health and life and living in general, and chasing a lot of music…I’ve neglected to update on my books!

That is a remission that must be remedied expeditiously, and my announcement is thusly: In due time, hopefully well before NaNoWriMo 2013, I will have a second edition of my first book, Mages, available in paperback and Kindle formats, as well as its screenplay twin.

Yes, the screenplay will be live as well.

Now, you may ask, “Why a screenplay on sale? Why not just pitch it?”

One step at a time, folks. I am going to pitch the movie version of the entire series, but really, what I want to do is tap a new readers’ market. People love screenplays. They may not want to read a 350-page brick of a novel, but they may not be so fastidious about a movie script that runs through, effectively, everything in the book but in 1/4 of the time. Unfortunately, in today’s go-get-’em digital rush, the speed’s the thing. If the book doesn’t read quickly – and I tend to run on the verbose side of authorship – then it will greatly lose in its audience, which I cannot afford to do.

Moreover, the books for the second arc will take some time in editing, and I have been priding myself on releasing a book per year so far. And you know what, I want to keep that up. Between working on the second arc’s edit and laying down the groundwork for NaNo 2013’s project, which shall be the Origins arc, I want to ensure that I have a continued presence in the publication market. So far, one novel a year has been enough, but this is now a year that I’ve not released a book -YET. That, to me, won’t do.

The interesting thing about it is, I’ve been experimenting with Scrivener for file conversion, and find that the e-book variant is an amazing thing. I can format everything I need perfectly in novel format. Screenwriting on this one is a breeze. 

What I’d like to do, especially in this little experiment, is to marry two readership groups: screenplay fans and sci-fi fans looking for a new story.

What I’m also doing, by systematically releasing the books as screenplays, is also re-branding the series. So far it’s been an arc, but a kind-of-disconnected arc, and it’s in need of some reworking. So this is why the first two books will have new cover art – to be revealed at publication; although if you’re on my Facebook page for the books, you may’ve glimpsed it – and the marketing material will be revised. I think it’s safe to say that the books do have a logo to go with, and it’s time to put that to good use.

Until next time…




Hoo boy. Time to dust of the pissed-off file yet again.

As you know, tonight is Grammy Night. I stopped watching the Grammy Awards after they had butchered the Latin jazz category. Hell, I stopped watching right about when it became clear that performance was all about the skill of the pyrotechnics team and the sound guy, as opposed to the actual talent of the performer. And, considering that I have been lucky to spend the past six years heavily immersed in jazz music, I got a very different exposure to music. I – and a lot of my fellow friends from the jazz world – got to see it all from the inside. And trust me, I have no good reason to watch the Grammys.

But enough about that. Unfortunately, the Grammys are the pinnacle of acknowledgment in the music industry, for far too many people, and I’ve observed a curious thing. A lot of people I have met – Norman Brown, Gerald Albright, Chris Botti – were nominated. And I’m thinking, finally!!! Acclaim for great music!

And then I noticed for what: best instrumental pop album.

Instrumental pop.

Whiskey tango foxtrot?

Seriously, WTF?

Okay. If there’s one thing that infuriates me, it’s when people attempt to reinvent the wheel, especially when things are established and appreciated as they are. It’s contemporary jazz, people. Smooth jazz is a misnomer perpetuated by programmers of radio stations everywhere, who could not keep up with changes to the genre, who resisted introducing the new blood at all costs, who did not at all play the new material by the tried-and-true artists, and as a result, had paid for it with the existence of many of those stations. Conteporary jazz has grown and evolved, and the name smooth jazz has become a byword of what it was. It is no longer what it is, and as people get to know contemporary jazz – the new blood, the fresh, influenced, multifaceted sounds, not Kenny G (sorry Kenny) – they like it.

Jazz is one of the oldest forms of music. At last count, it’s about…what, 108 years old? It’s not just one thing, and never just one sound. It’s not just straight-ahead. It started as big-band swing. It evolved and continued evolving, from Brubeck, Davis and Coltrane to Clarke, Corea, Spyro Gyra. From there on to Grover, Boney James, Rick Braun, The Rippingtons. And now it’s  Dee Lucas, Matt Marshak, Vincent Ingala, JJ Sansaverino. It’s a dynamic, evolving genre. Latin jazz is one of its many, many subsets. And if you recall, Grammy committee people have decimated the jazz category and all but dropped the Latin Jazz segment. This resulted in legal action, and while I’m not fully up on the legal implicatins of this blatant eighty-sixing, there is a lot to be said for disenfranchising an entire subgenre.

Truthfully, regardless of what you think of the Grammy Awards as far as whether or not they’re sales-based, etc., it’s still something that a lot of people take seriously. So the trim-down of categories was a slap in the face for many artists.

But I never in my life thought that I would see contemporary jazz be re-titled as instrumental pop.

Say what?! Give me a damn break. It’s jazz. It’s contemporary jazz. It’s been firmly entrenched in jazz since the early days of Spyro Gyra. It’s been a mainstay with Special EFX. What part of the Rippingtons is instrumental pop? I mean, I can maybe see rock with the way Russ Freeman lets the electric rip. But the fact that they shoehorned Chris Botti (who won it, by the by) into instrumental pop is just an outright insult. I mean, really now. Botti is classically trained with the trumpet. You hear that in his every note. He is pure contemporary jazz, through and through: contemplative, intricate, maybe a little more sedate than some other trumpet gents out there (ahem, Rick Braun for the groove). Why in the ever-loving hell would you shoehorn Botti in anything even resembling pop?

I don’t know what in the world those people are thinking, if they are thinking, but I certainly never in my life thought I’d see a trained jazz instrumentalist be classified as pop in any way, shape, or form.

And you know, maybe it’s just me being a stalwart. Maybe it can be turned around and used as a resurgence for contemp-jazz artists everywhere. But on the other hand, I’m thinking: I have recently made a connection with some amazing vocalists, all of whom are circulate in the world of opera, and if that ever gets reclassified as anything, anything but classical, then by the love of all deities in the world, there will be some serious hell to pay.

…and on yet another hand, I should refrain from tempting Murphy’s Law.


Oh, and notabene: if you ever want to hear what instrumental pop sounds like, here.

“The Look” from Slowing Down The World

A Botti-Ful Way To Start a Year

Despite things happening that I have no control over, I could not start the year without the best thing in my life: music.

Yep, you know what that means. Second day of the year, before the ink was dry on the first 2013 date, the Blue Note has called my name. Actually, it called my name on Black Friday with $25 off for Chris Botti for that date, but let’s not get too technical. It’s a new year. It’s a new jazz schedule, a new lineup, and a new year’s worth of things to hear, remember, and capture with my camera.

Chris Botti. What can I really say about him that you may not have already gathered? He’s been on Caroline Rhea’s show. Rosie O’Donnell’s. Oprah. He’s firmly established in the world of jazz with a reputation for mellow music that stays in your ear and in your head long after the tune is done. He’s classically trained, and this I can tell by ear alone. And he can make you feel.

Part of the reason why I will always prefer instrumental music is that there is still a story to tell, but the interpretation of the story differs. Instead of the lyrics telling the story for you, the interpretation of the unspoken is a variable that has as many versions as there are listeners. Chris Botti is a particular sort of auditory storyteller; melodic but not overbearing, intricate but not confusing, strong but not pushing it. With him, you get a fairly good idea of what he and his trumpet are trying to say without the words involved.

For best example, find Back Into My Heart.

But in live show, complete with an off-the-wall sarcastic remark once in a while, Chris Botti makes for a whole different kind of magic, and that magic can barely – barely! – be captured in photo. There’s something to be said for the way he phrases when he plays; not quite Miles-like, but similar. Miles liked to speak his phrase and let you absorb, and he would waste no note in getting his point across. Botti is gentler, choosing to ride his melody and let the audience follow without much embellishment, but the concept is similar. Don’t go overboard. Say what you want to say,  but keep it simple.

More is to be said for his guest stars. Lisa Fischer being her spectacular self, Botti outdoes himself with the guest violinists. In 2010, it was Aurica Duca, and she was onstage for only one song, Emmanuel. This year, it was Caroline Campbell, and she is a force to be reckoned with. Classical training all over, power and hard-iron control over each swipe of the bow across the strings, she does not waste a second in delivering. So much so that when Chris Botti let her have center stage at the Blue Note, all I could do was put my camera down and keep a solid grip on it; that’s how absorbing her playing is. She injects so much force into the melody that your perception of a classical violin can’t help but change. You wouldn’t think that this is how that instrument is supposed to sound, especially in a solo setting, and especially in what originally, melodically, starts out as a purely classical piece. She all but stole the stage.

And if this was any indication of how my year will go, then bring. it. on.

Photos from the show can be found here:


In Memoriam: Dave Brubeck.

Just a day short of his 92nd birthday.

You may remember my writeup of the time that I had gone to the Blue Note to see him play live. It was not the first time, but until age blurs the details, I will remember that when Dave Brubeck talked, the entire club went absolutely quiet. The bartenders stopped mixing, the guests would stay frozen, all to hear him speak, and tell of the Dwight Eisenhower-endorsed trip to Poland to perform. Think about it. He had traveled the world before some of our parents were a concept in the universe. He was a WWII vet, which is something few people remember. And he was a delight onstage, no matter the age of the audience. People’s grandchildren had been at the Note that night, and I’m certain that they too will remember the energy that he and the band had brought to the stage.

I’ll always remember him smiling. Always making a jest at his own age. But no matter what, he’d play note-perfect and with as much verve and cheer as though the clock had been set back forty years.

He had left everyone with an indelible memory, and he had left the world his music. And his music has inspired and will continue to inspire thousands to foray into the meanders of what we know as jazz.

In Memoriam to a consummate entertainer, and an icon of jazz then and now. You, Joe Morello, and Paul Desmond will be playing the iconic tune at the big jam session in the sky now.


As I said time and again, few things carry a greater feeling with them than being in the air, en route to as far away from your everyday normal as possible.

Yep, I’m on a plane again. :) In part, I’m writing to stave off the soporific effects of being in the air; apparently, I have that little quirk that makes me go zonk regardless of how much coffee I drink beforehand. In another part, I am finally int he great position where I can think about something other than paying my bills, politics, what I’m seeing in the news, etc.

Which is….music!!!

In a twist of…I don’t even know what…I’m seated next to someone who was, at one point, working at the Boston smooth jazz station before it went country. In the ensuing conversation, I started contemplating as to exactly how much things have done a 180 in the past almost 6 years that I’ve been attending shows (the graphic design/photo stuff followed later, but the shows began in college). It’s not a new contemplation. I think on this pretty much on every trip. But the more time passes, the more it dawns on me that I’m probably the luckiest person on the face of the earth to be surrounded by the people that I have gotten to know.

It’s interesting. I may be an atheist, but I don’t believe in coincidences.

It also got me thinking that, now that I’m working somewhere other than the CPA firm (which doesn’t quite eliminate the fact that I will be doing taxes in tax season anyway as a freelancer – taking the RTRP exam this winter, I hope, and then getting enrolled in school), the possibilities for my travel suddenly have opened up. I still remember Berks 2010 with a degree of fondness; it was not my first grand event (having gone to the All Star Cruise 2009 and Jammin’ in Jamaica before), but it was a one-of-a-kind trip. Unfortunately, I’ve not been able to go back since then…until, hopefully, sometime soon.

It’s odd. Not that being an accounting admin had ever stopped me from traveling as I saw fit, but I’ve held off on going to certain events out of sheer courtesy for my employers. Now that the employment has changed, suddenly, there’s more possibilities. More destinations. And who knows where I’m going to end up on my next adventure?

As I’m in the air, I’m also wondering where the genre is heading as a whole. Smooth jazz has always been a niche genre, and now that the radio stations had clutched their pearls and flipped, it’s become even more so. But I notice that the fan base and the listenership base are steady, and not only that, it’s starting to expand as the new artists – younger, fresher, different – are entering the genre. It’s probably always going to be a niche because the focus is on the talent as opposed to showtime special effects, but it is encouraging, to say the least, to see that it’s not going anywhere, and apart from that, there is new growth potential with new artists.

I will confess myself to being a little bit of a stalwart when it comes to some things. Not that I won’t go with the flow, but when it comes to my music, I like seeing certain constants. Certain artists, whom I had grown up with, and whom I enjoyed from my first forays into jazz, I almost require hearing in any station/music medium that I choose. Spyro Gyra, Special EFX, Boney James, Down to the Bone – they are all staples in my collection, and in my Pandora station. Much as I like the fact that the new blood is bringing in a young, fresher crowd – hell, even people my age as they figure out that hey, sometimes relaxing music is a really great thing, and sometimes it’s really not what it seems like – it makes me ask how long it would be before they discover the music that others had grown up on, and music well before their time, and wonder why they didn’t hear it before. And it also makes me wonder, is there an advertiser willing to take that idea and engineer a workable plan out of it?

Because it’s not as though people won’t go for smooth jazz if it were presented by a mass-medium in a positive way. When Boney James’s Contact soared to the top of the Billboard charts, Z-100 made a note of it. And Z-100 is about as far away from contemporary jazz as it can get. I would bet you good money that a chunk of the listeners of Z-100 thought, “Hey, I think I can check this out” and ended up buying the album. And that’s exactly it: a mass medium, in this case a top-40 station, had a positive representation of a niche.

So what’s to say that this can’t be done more? Not enough to take another station away from the format, but enough to shine a spotlight?

Let’s think about that, ladies and gents.


Catching Up, the Music Edition

Man, did I miss writing about music lately. In part because at the moment I’m stuck on an Amtrak train heading home (long story, approx. three more hours to go), and in another part because I am genuinely very busy, I had to pause on all my writing for a while. For an author, no guilt is worse than suddenly being forced to not write.

But, all my current work upheavals aside, there has been music. Lots and lots of it, which I’ll present in no particular order.

Spyro Gyra at the Blue Note, July 2012

You and I, dear readers, both know this: if Spyro is at the Note, there’s a pretty good chance that I’m in the front-row seat, and in this case too, as it were. This time, though, it was without my camera; not that I’m complaining, sometimes I like to not shoot and just immerse myself in a show. And moreover, I wanted to see what the new drummer was like; that is to say, Lee Pearson. Bonny B has not traveled with the band for a while.

For those of you who do not know the back story to this, last year in May, Bonny B had a stroke. This shocked the hell out of me, because only in 2010, I was hanging with him and Scott Ambush at the CapJazz SuperCruise. This was jarring, to say the least. He did the Spirit Cruises in 2010, but I’ve not heard from him since, and in November, I found out that he could no longer travel.


The good news to it is, last of what a friend let me know, Bonny B has relocated and is recovering in a rather beautiful island environment. So I’m only happy to hear it.

So when Spyro was coming to the Note some weeks ago, I didn’t want to pass it up. That and I wanted to see what Lee Pearson could do.

First things first, Spyro Gyra has done it again; there’s a new CD to check out. A Foreign Affairthe latest addition to Jay Beckenstein’s already impressive discography, sought to embody all the locations that the band had visited  over their touring history. And man, did they do it. Jay and the guys changed their usual playlist, and Caribe (which you may’ve heard on Pandora or through your favorite means of getting jazz) is a straightforward introduction to the flavor facet presented in the album. And of course, Jay playing both his alto and soprano saxes simultaneously never fails to shock the crowd.

Lee Pearson, however, stole the show. Right now, writing this, my brain still boggles at how he’s able to keep playing without breaking rhythm when he crossed his arms behind his back. Because seriously, that blows even Bonny B’s impersonation-station out of the water.

Warren Hill, Maysa, Jonathan Butler, and Spirit Cruises overall 

Ah yes, Spirit. The annual Wednesday series of boat rides on the Hudson with a side helping of jazz have returned, and instrumentalist-loving me was a little surprised at the lack of the Rippingtons (whom I generally only ever see on Spirit!), but delighted, I tell you, at the sudden arrival of Warren Hill and Euge, on separate sailings.

Those two… Every time I see them play, anywhere, I immediately flash back to Jammin’ in Jamaica. I’ve written about it at the time that I started the blog, thereabout; the trip was in 2009 and, hands down, had to have been the best adventure I could’ve asked for. Some segment of my heart is still buried in that private strip of beach at the Ritz Montego Bay, and Euge’s Sunday Morning accompanies a mai-tai.

But Euge on Spirit is no Sunday morning and a mai-tai, ladies and gents, and S7ven Large is nothing short of tear-it-up funk. Tower of Power is alive and well in this one, and never mind the storm earlier that day. Choppy surf on the Hudson was not the reason the boat was rocking. Euge knows how to rouse a crowd, and he knows how to rouse a New York crowd. He dominated the stage, the floor, played his way into the audience – nothing

In a separate sailing, Warren shared the stage with Maysa and Jonathan Butler. Gotta love a three-fer.

You know, I don’t see Maysa often. I’m hardly a vocalist fan, but when I saw her on CapJazz in 2010 the first time, I got comfortable and listened in. Her groove is a little old-school, a lot of great R&B/funk, and you may well know her with Incognito. I needn’t say much past Incognito, do I?

Didn’t think so. And I always love Deep Waters.

But Warren…well, Warren is something else. That horn can scream, and Warren has no “hold back” setting on any of what he plays. He takes you into a salsa-style something, slows it down, then gets a blues attack that hits an octave that you wouldn’t think that an alto sax can reach. There is no telling what Warren Hill can do, and that’s one of the best aspects of his shows. Play It Like You Mean It is a classic example, and it’s all Warren: raucous, loud, and energetic.

And of course, where would I be without Norman & Gerald? Officially, this has been one of the best ways to close out Spirit – there is a Regina Belle sailing this week, which I will not be attending, unfortunately – for this season. With a new project out, entitled 24/7, the majority of the set has focused on highlighting the new tracks from that CD (which I recommend, a lot). Norman’s easygoing guitar flow, Gerald’s sharp bite on the horn, August breezes on the water… this, ladies and gentlemen, is why I love this music, these sailings, and these people.

Dave Koz at the Paramount

Right now, without hesitation, let me give massive props to Mikey Cohen and Smooth Jazz Live. If you don’t know about SJL, please check them out. It’s a kickass family affair by Mikey and Jack Cohen, and you cannot deny serious visual talent on those guys.

So one fine day, two or so weeks ago, Mikey gives me a call and says, “Dave Koz is at the Paramount.”

Me: “Do you have to ask?”

Because seriously, when does Dave Koz come to NYC anymore? I’m lucky if I see him annually, and think it a treat more than once. So to the LIRR I go, and to Huntington I hightail, to discover a wonderful thing.

The Paramount of right now…is the IMAC of three years ago. And when I realized that, I cannot tell you how I felt. Surprise, joy, something in between; it was all there. The reason being is that the IMAC, for decades, was a musical stronghold for jazz in the Long Island area. It was a damn near iconic location, and my first – and last – show was a double-header by my two favorite bands: Special EFX and Acoustic Alchemy. But shortly after that, the theatre shut down.

Not anymore. It has been turned over to new management and ownership, who had promptly gutted it and built it up anew, and what it has become is an upgraded version of the very same haven that the IMAC had been once known to be. To have Dave there is not just fitting; it’s Long Island’s own definition of giving jazz music, specifically contemporary jazz, a hearty “welcome home” at where it had flourished once before.

With big thanks to Mikey, I assembled my camera, heeded the warning to shoot only for the first three songs (this meant no shots of BeBe Winans…pity…but them be the breaks), and it. was. on.

The thing about Dave, though, is that no matter what your age is, no matter whether or not you’ve heard his music before, he will make you feel something. When he plays Anything Is Possible, off his latest disc (Hello Tomorrow, strongly recommended), he and his rocker of a guitarist, Randy Jacobs, will make you feel that anything is possible. Together Again, no matter how many times I will hear it, will always make my skin go prickly with goosebumps. And there is no person in the world who won’t crack up at Dave’s theatrics on stage. On a prior show, he gave Andre Berry a kick. Or he’d hand Randy his hat after Randy would dominate his solo…on his back…spinning. He is a consummate showman and doesn’t waste a single move, or a single note.

And yes, he had a mullet in the 80s. I don’t care if I was a zygote then, Dave, album covers live forever, and your odds of living that down…eh, they’re a little low.

Album from these pics can be found at this link.

Part 2 of the grand music recap will come at a later point…too much music, not enough time! Plus, my life is continuing to change very rapidly, and I’m finding it a bit difficult to keep a level head. But worry not; this music is what keeps me steady, day in and day out.


Adapting an adaptation

So, after reading the full Suzanne Collins trilogy, I went to see The Hunger Games on the big screen.

I will admit that the adaptation is pretty solid. It cut out very little, and kept enough of the original story. The camera angles were good, the acting by the cast was superb, and the script had minimal alterations.

This is the thing, though: when you’re adapting a novel for the screen, how do you decide what stays and what goes?

I will be frank: the movie version ending of The Hunger Games was a major deviation. I won’t spoil; if you read the books, you will know what I mean. That’s what disappointed me in the production, but considering that I’m currently standing in the same dilemma, I’m hardly one to judge. As it is, the bits that were cut from the novel were minimal. Except, of course, the ending, because that was completely out of alignment with the book. Same with a very, very key conversation between Haymitch and Katniss.

How does this relate to what I’m doing? As I’m templating Book 1 to adapt to screen, I have to do two very major things:

1. Ad-lib. Most of Book 1 is action, a good bit of contemplation, but not much on dialogue. I’m finding myself re-doing the existing dialogue, and ad-libbing the rest. To say that it’s a challenge would be right about appropriate; I have never realized just how much I’ve under-written in the novel form that I’m now finding that I have to put together in screen form. Minor, minor dialogue – it becomes relevant.

2. Direct. This is iffy. I’ve been told so far, by more than one person, that I should cut the cues and score sounds from the script. And you know what, I will. But before that, I need to finish the script, because it actually holds a pretty solid purpose. The purpose? To guide the adaptation. In novel form, everyone pictures the flow and sequence of scenes differently, but the script and the consequent film put the story forward in only one visible way. That is where the screenwriter’s skill at interpreting one medium into the next comes in.

You’d think it’s easy, if I’m working on the adaptation of my own piece, but that’s actually the most difficult aspect. How would I translate a story that everyone interprets for themselves into something that’s to be represented only one particular way?

3. Trim. And the opposite: insert. Because as I’m seeing now, there has to be a higher emphasis on continuity. I could get away with a highly choppy Book 1 in novel form, because the other books would gel it together. With writing a movie script, you do not have that sort of a flex. You have to trim the excess and add whatever you have to add – however minor or major – to make it gel.

The challenge I’m facing now, towards the end, is how to write/engineer some of the needed special effects needed to make some of the interstitial scenes work. That is, indeed, a pickle, but nothing I can’t work through.

Onward and upwards…just a couple scenes left to Script 1!


I can’t think of an adequate header for this post, because I will start waxing ranty, and fair warning for heated language.

That said, onward we go.

My dear friend and pro percussionist Gary Stanionis posted this recently. If you can’t see it, the best way I can sum it up is that he had an experience with being asked to play…for $100. For his entire group. Yes, venues think nothing of paying their band $100 (for all the guys in the band) for a gig or not paying the band at all, and Gary wrote an analysis of venue/musician relationships, and what that means for both.

I feel for Gary. I really do. Because this happens to musicians of all tiers, from aspiring and talented beginners to seasoned pros, across multiple genres, and it brings up the curious and very disheartening state of how creative services are treated in general

This bit is a slight rehash of Gary’s post, but when a band books at a venue, especially if it’s a restaurant/club-type environment, a large chunk of the crowd that comes in for the night that the band is playing is coming for the band. The venue gets the revenue off the bar and meal sales, but what would it have happening for the other times? And since when is $100 for, say, a five-piece band, an appropriate fee? Let’s be realistic: that barely covers the cable bill. But the club owners will offer that price, with the ever-condescending, “But it gets you exposure” line thrown in for good measure.

To note, exposure leads to frostbite (quote by my beloved friend Bettie, and it’s wickedly on target).

Seriously, what message do those $100 offers for gigs send? It’s eerily similar to having someone publish a writer without paying them for their writing or underpaying them something ridiculous, with the same line about exposure thrown in. It’s patronizing. It’s certainly insulting to the band, because that $100 has to get split between the band members. If that band is playing a two-hour gig at $20 each, the bandmembers would, after the 40% self-employment tax is paid because a large number of musicians are in fact self-employed, be making less than minimum wage per hour. Most importantly, it’s sending the musician that their services aren’t really worth much. Because after all, they’re getting “exposure”, right? That should be enough, right?

No, it bloody well is not enough. Nor is not paying a writer to be published in an anthology, even if it’s a thousand-word short story. Because the time that this short story had taken to get prepped and written was not done with just the love of the craft in mind. If you want to be a writer and make a living off your writing, you write to make money. Same goes with music: if you’re aiming to make your living off your music, then the first thing to do is ensure that you establish a clear minimum for what you and the bandmembers need to make  per gig, and do not back down on it.

But, wait for it… “That’s not how the clubs work!” So tell me please, what do the clubs hope to accomplish by driving away their essential source of revenue? Musicians bring the people in, and in addition to money made through tickets to see them, the additional revenue is from the meals and drinks, which can be equal to or greater than the door cost, provided that every person orders. No music playing = no audience = no revenue. And keeping in mind that, usually, a packed house is packed for the music, rather than the venue, what does this mean for the next night of the club? The same thing has to be done, right? Right. For a club, long-term investment in their entertainment is far more paramount than squeezing the band. Penny wise, pound foolish is the saying.

In other words: invest in the music. The club will have a constant and consistent revenue stream if musicians are 1. playing routinely and 2. treated well routinely. Because guess what: if they’re treated well, they will recommend the venue. Win-win on both parties, yes?

In theory. Practice is another ball game.

I’ll pause here and plug a recommendation: Bob Baldwin, a veteran keyboardist, producer, arranger, and all-around Jack-of-all-trades, wrote a hell of a book on the music world. I’m very lucky to have been the second-edition editor on this project, because apart from editing, this is required reading for anyone in the music world. Not just musicians, but the venues as well. In this very changing music world, where going independent is a very possible and plausible path to success, certain things, like walking a mile in the artist’s shoes, need to be kept in mind. Though I’m no musician, this book was an eye-opener and taught me a thing or two about running my photo/design biz.

I will now restate something that has been said before, both by me and my editor: stop romanticizing independents. This goes for writers and musicians, and not necessarily just independents. I’ll amend the statement: stop romanticizing creative people.

Because this method of business, both in the writing world and in some aspects of music is partly – note, partly, there are many factors that have contributed to this state of affairs and it would take me way too long to hash through them – based on a very unrealistic idealization of what the musicians or writers are living like. They’re seen as doing what they do “for their love of the craft”.  If they’re not in a popular genre, or not popular enough to be on a tabloid cover, then they must not matter, Never mind that they probably took the gig, or the writing assignment, because whatever little revenue they pick up, even if stretched, still pays a bill.

Look: creative work is still work. And it is a metric ton of work. All that 90% of people see is the finished product, and quite a bit of them get the very, very wrong impression is that it must be so easy. It’s not. And in the current climate, there’s a pretty good chance that the musician you see up there playing his/her heart out is taking a financial loss because they’re now trying to recoup the costs of making that new album that you’re hearing. Similarly with authors: you see someone with a new book, and you probably don’t stop to consider that the author may’ve had to shell out money for the cover, for the edit, for the formatting, etc.

Whether in music, writing, sculpture, photography, what-have-you, creativity deserves its dues.


Chasing Music – What’s On The Menu

Whew. It just occurred to me: there hasn’t been a jazz-related post on here for quite a while, and I won’t lie, I missed writing about my favorite music.

In truth, I’ve been pretty busy, both with the day job and writing, but as it is, I have been making every effort to see my music. I’ve taken to photographing the shows more than I write about them, and if you have me on Facebook, whether my personal profile or my business page (which I strongly encourage you like on FB to see some of my shots), then you may’ve seen them.

So far, the notable shows have been Ragan Whiteside at Trumpets, Chuck Loeb going straight-ahead with the Plain ‘n Simple Trip at the Blue Note, and Elan Trotman pairing up with Will Donato at the Houndstooth. Ladies and gentlemen, I take back whatever I said about Koz or Brian Culbertson being hams. You just have not met Will Donato, and you cannot possibly mistake it when you do: chances are, he’s either in your lap or pulling you onstage, and yes, I mean that literally.

For crying out loud, when I met him, he was between me and my coffee! :)

(Will, I know you’re reading this. Hi! Hugs! See you soon!)

May and June will be busy indeed. I have so far:

– Smooth Jazz for Scholars, Connecticut. Nelson Rangell is coming for that gig. Uh…yes. Please.

– Shilts at the Houndstooth for the release of his new CD, All Grown Up.

– Newport Beach, CA, for the jazz festival

– Acoustic Alchemy coming back to the Iridium

– Steve Cole and JJ Sansaverino in Lucille’s Grill at BB King’s

– Spyro Gyra at the Blue Note (in July, I think).

There is much to catch up on far as writing about music goes, and once my brain recuperates from being Swiss-cheesed by tax season, I will happily proceed to do so.


And the Pulitzer Prize for fiction goes to…. *crickets*

No one.

Yes, that’s right, no one. And I am absolutely astounded that the Pulitzer committee wouldn’t award a prize for what is effectively the biggest category in the book market.

The collective *headdesk* from fiction authors and fiction fans was heard around the world, and I was among them. Really? What gives, Pulitzer? You’re giving the widest-read genre out there a kick in the pants. Not a good move.

But you know what this reminds me of? That time when the Grammy Awards cut contemporary jazz out completely, and Latin jazz to a sliver.

I didn’t forget that, and I don’t think anyone who is in the jazz genre has forgotten it either. My music people were and are certainly cheesed off. If you’re not sure what the Grammy move has to do with the Pulitzer, I’ll explain.

What do the Grammy Awards symbolize to the public? Acclaim. Critical reception. Accomplishment. Merit. In other words, all those things that people normally look to in order to determine if something is good. Because you know what? If something’s good, it usually wins awards, right?

Now, we know that that is not necessarily true. After all, plenty of great stories never see an award, and we know a hundred songs that got snubbed needlessly by multiple radio stations.

Why even go so far? Steve Cole’s Spin album is deeply underrated, and I don’t think that many tracks off it had ever been spun on commercial FM radio. And personally? I think that it’s his best CD. It’s bright, strong – hell, happy, even.

Now, the Grammy Awards sliced out the contemp-jazz category. What message does that send to listeners and Grammy fans?

It sends a message that this music is not good. It sends a message that this music is not worth spending money on. That this music is not worth someone’s attention. Even if, very plainly, that is not the case.

But that’s the message. And that’s the parallel, because the message is the same.

The article linked above states that anyone can apply for the Pulitzer for a fee, and everyone did. In other words, the message is that there’s a deluge of fiction out there and none of it is good enough. In all actuality? It probably is good enough, and because it didn’t fall into what’s considered to be “good enough” commercially – which does not necessarily reflect the public tastes – then it gets kicked.

But the fact is, there is good fiction out there.

To play devil’s advocate for a second, though, there is a metric ton – kinda literally – of fiction out there right now, especially now that self-publication opened up better access to seeing work in print. The Pulitzer committee was probably deluged with books, top to bottom. I can well see them getting overwhelmed with submissions, and I can understand that. After all – been there, done that, got the proverbial T-shirt.

As it is, though, the withholding of the prize is sending the same message to both authors and readers as the slicing of the jazz categories sent to the music world and to music listeners alike.

We’ve seen self-published authors take center stage with John Locke, J.A. Konrath, and Amanda Hocking. They’re new, and they put a solid crack into the idea that the only good fiction is trad-pub fiction. We see from author communities that there is both good and bad fiction. And we also see that good self-pub fiction that hasn’t reached the scale of Konrath and Hocking struggles to get acclaim, if it has to still get taken seriously first.

The thing is, while I do understand Pulitzer’s decision to withhold the prize for fiction, I’m amazed that they hadn’t even thought of the impact that this sends to writers and readers. Bad enough that authors get to hear all the BS that comes with self-publishing stereotypes, but now Pulitzer – a major player in the lit world – is reinforcing them.