Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Hubert Sumlin @ B.B.Kings Club....

My buddy Murray Weinstock invited me to join him and his pals for an evening of blues tonight at B.B King's Blues club located on 42nd street in NYC's Times Square.

Times Square is cool. Not as cool as when you could've gotten killed walking through it...but still cool.

I was along for the ride with a couple of his buddies from the old days.

The program was Hubert Sumlin and friends. Hubert Sumlin is known for playing with Howlin' Wolk, and James Cotton.

Sp. Guests

+ A special stage introduction by JANIE HENDRIX

* This show is dedicated to Mitch Mitchell (July 9 1947 – November 12 2008)

As mentioned above, Janie Hendrix, Jimi's sister was there to introduce the band. That was nice. She is somewhat pilloried in the fan community for Hendrix, because of Experience Hendrix' way of doing business. That said, I got a mostly earnest vibe from her.

She talked about how the then younger group of players, including people like Clapton and Hendrix, cited Hubert as a big influence. Also Mitch Mitchell, mentioned above, was Jimi Hendrix' drummer.

The performance itself was quite uneven to me. Here are a few impressions:

BRAD WHITFORD: Killer blues guitar player. Great tone, really overdriven, sort of a Stevie Ray Vaughn sound. He played with an impetuousness which really felt passionate. Best blues player on stage.

JIMMY VIVINO: There were a lot of players from the Conan show there, and Jimmy seemed as though he was leading the band. He spoke the most, gave the intro (other than Janie), said goodnight, sang, gave conducting cues, etc. Great playing. I wasn't totally in love with his tone for this style though.

JOHN SEBASTIAN: I had the pleasure to meet John for a moment before the show. This guy is one of the greats of the 60's and 70's. I wore the groove out on my copy of Woodstock on the cut where he sings "I'll paint rainbows, all over your blues". Murray played piano and sang background on the song "Welcome Back Kotter" for the show in the 70's.

He is a lovely, lovely human being. You get that from speaking 2 sentences with him. One of Murray's friends gave John a publicity shot which he said was an original that was of John's father from the early 60's. John's father played classical music on the harmonica, and I'm told played Carnegie hall.

Tonight John played the harmonica. Really couldn't hear him well. The sound person will be skewered later...

JAMES "The Worm" WORMWORTH : He's the drummer that sometimes sits in with the Conan band when Max is on tour. KILLER!! did I mention KILLER? He was - for me - the treat of the evening. He is really a great drummer. In this evening there would be eventually two drummers. He came out first, and the groove could not be denied, and then....

RICH PAGANO: The second drummer joined in. He seemed, uh, good. Taken together though, I wasn't enjoying it so much.

Let me say this emphatically...from a musical perspective (my own) two drummers playing the same pattern does not work -- it didn't work in the Allman Bros, it doesn't work here. Theoretically, maybe, if they played different things, to form a whole...but two drummers hitting the same 2 & 4 snare...forget it! The good news is that they seemed to be having fun.

BRIAN MITCHELL: Good player. I would have liked to have heard %90 less glissandos though. I been harping on that with Murray, who plays along nicely. Ooo...double pun!

MIKE MERRITT: The bass player from the Conan band. I like this guy. He played a bass guitar that was on a peg like a cello, except he stood up. Solid time, good sound (at least at the beginning) until the sound person started mucking things up. I think he should bring this thing to the Conan show. It could be a topic of conversation for sure...

DAVID JOHANSEN: Yeah I get it....He's a bad boy, he has that ruddy sort of raspy quality. When he strode on stage, I almost thought he was Mick Jagger making a surprise appearance. I can envision a great sound coming from him, but it was not to be this evening. I could put him in front of a nice U87 or 414 through a great preamp and get a nice rich sound, but coming through an SM 58, with this sound person...it made my eardrums bottom out every time he sang a phrase.

The musical selections were the stalwarts of blues songs, Killin' Floor, Sitting on Top of the World, Voodoo Child, all that stuff. Endings were ragged, and it was obvious it was not a well oiled machine. All is forgiven though.

Later on in the evening there were a few more surprises. Some guy, a bluesman who I didn't know [note: Noah tells me in a comment it's Joe Louis Walker, Thanks Noah!] came out to ostensibly sing "Happy Birthday" to Hubert, but after he went on to front the best part of the evening, playing some of the best blues solos and singing his ass off. great work. Also, Brad Whitford's son came out to contribute a solo or two. His solos did not have much maturity, although his tone was good and he'll be someone to look out for. Showbiz families seem to be helpful in the endeavor of getting into show business.

Also Mark Pender, trumpet player from 'Late Night' was spotted on stage during the last tune. He didn't assert himself much, but in other situations he's incredible. There were probably 14 musicians total at the height of the stage's population.

Finally -- open letter to the Club Management of BBKing's -- the sound SUCKED. This is the second show there that I've seen where the sound was awful. My guess is that it's the same person, although I didn't check them out. Maybe it's club policy. Everything was incredibly loud except John Sebastian, who you couldn't hear, it was an orgy of midrange nastiness.

GET YOUR SHIT TOGETHER. When I saw the Tubes with Simon there a year ago, I had to sit with my fingers in my ears all night.

Now look, I know mixing 4 guitars is troublesome. That's a midrange challenge to begin with. On the other hand, it's called 'sound reinforcement' for a reason. Let the band get their sound and then amplify it slightly, that's it. This is blues -- not AC/DC. There's a certain point where sound volume becomes counterproductive.

Through it all, Hubert flowed over the top, never quite soaring, but also handling himself quite nicely. He's 77 years old (this was a birthday celebration), and as he mentioned a few times from the stage, he wasn't feeling well. He was genuinely touched by the loving reception he got from his musical friends, and seemed to leave with a glow from his fans appreciation even if he didn't feel so well.

Good man, many happy returns Hubert!

At the end we all went over to the backstage area. Murray dissappeared into the room for minute, but his friends and I couldn't come. I always feel uncomfortable in those situations. There's a professionally unpleasant person, who's called the "bouncer", telling everyone to get away, and then there are your favorite musicians - who you have a lot of affection for - and who are looking at you like you're a serial killer because you're in this group of people they don't know, and that they don't possibly have time to meet.

Of course, I always feel like I belong in the backstage area, just no one knows it.

It's a lot like dating, some people got game...I'm just not one of them. Debilitating. I think of my friend Danny, who (in the 80's) got backstage at a Billy Joel concert by pretending to interview the drummer Liberty Devito. No press credentials, just by talking...

...and he actually conducted the 'interview'.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Comp tickets!!!!!!!....

One of the great things about being a musician in NYC is the opportunity to go see great shows, sometimes for free...sort of takes the sting out of not buying clothes, taking vacations or having health insurance... :)

Seriously though, my colleagues are very generous, and this has been a good week for generosity!

On Saturday, I caught a matinee of a new musical called "Illyria" staged by the Prospect Players. It was presented in a small black box theater on West 26th street between 8th & 9th Aves. I'm always surprised by all these great little theaters tucked away in the buildings of this city. They're everywhere...

My friend Tom Piercy hooked me up. Tom and I go back all the way to college, which at this point is 30+ years(!). He was always one of the standout musicians where we went. He made an honest man out of himself by going on to a good graduate school (I didn't), and he has been in the NY scene ever since. He is amazingly talented.

Recently, we've had a chance to work together, both on my latest film score, where he played clarinets and bass clarinet, and also on a CD of his, which is for clarinet and classical guitar duets. He and his guitarist came in for a couple of marathon sessions a few months ago, and we're putting the finishing touches on that now. We also did a nice session for Michael Lydon a few months back, him on the clarinet and me behind the mixing board.

"Illyria" is an adaptation of Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night". It was hilarious, and the music was outstanding.

Thanks Tom, I totally enjoyed the show!

Then Monday night, out to NJ, where my good buddy Murray Weinstock took me out to see Steely Dan for their 'Think Fast' tour. We had the whole 9 yards, amazing seats (worth $150 a pop) as well as VIP backstage access:

The band was comprised of 13 pieces. Murray knew several of them. They are as follows:

Tawatha Agee [Backing Vocals:'08]
Keith Carlock [Drums: 03-'08]
Jon Herington [Guitar: '00-'08]
Michael Leonhart [Trumpet, Keys: '00-'08]
Cindy Mizelle [Backing Vocals: '03-'08]
Jim Pugh [Trombone: '00-'08]
Roger Rosenberg [Baritone Saxophone: '06-'08]
Catherine Russell [B. Vocals: various dates '08]
Freddie Washington [Bass: '06-'08]
Walt Weiskopf [Saxophone: '03-'08]
Jeff Young [Keyboards, B. Vocals: '06-'08]

As well as those two other guys....

The show was tight! The familiar songs seemed to come again, and again, and again. You forget how much these guys have done. No "Reelin' in the Years" though. Still, the hits kept coming.

If there was a weak link to the show, it would've had to have been the room itself, which was a little too reflective. One of the techs from the theater asked about it, and I told him the room needs a rug or baffles. The room is I think comparable to Carnegie in size, but this show would've sounded amazing there. It's the room treatment. On the other hand, you can't drink beer in Carnegie, so I realize the rug idea is a nonstarter.

This also was probably not Becker's very best show of all eternity, but the guitarist next to him is so freakin' good that it's hard to keep up I'm sure.

Also, I'd like to implore Jon to give the telecaster a break, or EQ a little of the brightness out of it. It's cool on a record, but a little overpowering in person...I'm just sayin'...

I personally dislike telecasters, soundwise.

Finally, I felt a little like I was channeling Margaret Mead, watching the natives exhibit their mating habits and rituals in their natural habitat (Montclair NJ). It felt like going back to my childhood, when people actually had fun, instead of working all the time. It's not an age thing, it's a New York City vs. other places thing.

Dig the myspace self portrait of Murray and I:

...and Murray with the Front of House mixer, Night Bob, who was responsible for the nice accommodation:

Thanks Night Bob, and happy birthday!

At the end, we hung for a minute, but ended up headed back for the city pretty quickly. As a drunken women wandered over to us to make friends afterward, imploring us to go over to her place, I fantasized I could've stayed for the "festivities". Murray was my ride, and happily married, but a thought did pass through my mind, if not his. Oh, this place where people are out doing the party thing...

...and yet - this night - my inner Mead was not to be indulged...

The dogs of NYC were waiting...literally:

Thanks Murray, really great show!!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Murray Weinstock....

My good buddy of almost 15 years Murray Weinstock was in today for a quick session. I was just giving him some technical help. Seems one of his audio files in a DP session had become corrupt after a crash.

We worked it out. Success is always sweet.

Afterwards we went to lunch, and he told me about this video he did, which I have posted below. It's a lot of fun, and has a great piano solo by Murray.

"Takin' it back with Barack, Jack! (for swing voters)". It's a parody of a Louis Jordan song:

Hate to see the nation being run by a hack
Dig the situation that he dug in Iraq
Half the population wants to give him the sack
And now he's lookin' round for somebody else to attack
We need somebody great to get us back on the track

So we're takin' it back with Barack, Jack!

Choo Choo, Change to believe in
Woo woo, we can achieve it
Choo Choo, Change to believe in
Takin' it back with Barack, Jack!

Now that global warming is a matter of fact
The only real question is just how to react
The new administration needs the guts to enact
Drastic legislation, leave the planet intact
We can't be foolin' round with some Republican Mac

So we're takin' it back with Barack, Jack!

Choo Choo....

He only gets his money from your regular macs
Doesn't take a penny from some whackity PAC's
For bringin' folk together he's the man with the knack
And he'll supply the hope and inspiration we lack
Cause he's the best we got and did I ....mention he's black?

So we're takin' it back with Barack, Jack!

Harmonica, vocal, guitar, lyrics- Will Galison

Piano, vocal- Murray Weinstock

Drums- Wally "Gator" Watson

Bass (sound recording)- Paul Nowinsky

BG vocal (video)- Ilene Kristen

BG vocal (audio) Shije

Flugal Horn- Ryo Sasaki

Tenor Sax- Yaacov Mayman

vocals- Murray Weinstock, Shije Solid, Dean Franzen

Bass (video) Dean Franzen -

On the Net:

"Tales of the City", Murray's latest album

review at amazon.com: "On first look, this seems like a cute novelty record. Not so. This is actually a loving & genuinely remarkable valentine. Murray Weinstock, who has worked with the late, great psychedelic doo wop group Jake & The Family Jewels, not to mention John Sebastian, The Planetones, The Camaros, and Manhattan Transfer, has corralled a bevy of his friends (including Dr John, Phoebe Snow, John Sebastian, members of NRBQ, and many more) to join him in crafting a first class album of self-penned songs about dogs. The overall effect is akin to hearing The Johnny Otis Revue live at an animal shelter. It swings, it sniffs, it wins your heart effortlessly."

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


New York City is a great place -- in my mind truly the greatest city in the world. One of the reasons that I moved here 25 years ago was for the incredible diversity of cultures and ethnicities, and also because I felt like the political and social environment was one that supported my core beliefs. It would be my joy to finish my life in this city I've come to love so much. I count myself lucky daily to be able to live in this booming metropolis. A savvy New Yorker once famously said "I'd rather be a lamppost on a New York City street than mayor of any other town."


...and tonight is one of those moments where I feel like I'm home.

Case in point: at about 11:30 PM last evening from Chicago, Barack Obama gave a stirring, poignant and beautiful speech accepting Sen. McCain's concession in the race for the presidency.

The scene in New York city tonight is filled with an excitement like I've never experienced here before. Sitting in my apartment, it sounds like I'm in the middle of a sports stadium. People are whooping and hollering, cars drive by with horns honking, there are fireworks, and the sounds of celebration are stronger than at any time this evening, even though now it's 1:47 am.

We're all in agreement here in Gotham.....time to celebrate!


I have great hopes for the future now, having lived through the Bush years. Finally, I see a leader that expresses similar values to my own. While I'm sure our previous president had a love for his country, he was, in my opinion, morally bankrupt, intellectually vacuous, and the people he surrounded himself with were beyond contemptible. It was a dysfunctional situation to an extent that was almost surreal.

It's a long nightmare we've lived through, and there is at least a hope that it is actually over, and that we can repair the damage done.

My only fear is seeing how closely our country is split. I think the republican party should have received 0 votes. The fact that they won almost %50 is inconceivable to me. We've still got a long way to go.

Tonight: happiness. Tomorrow, I only hope that there will begin a process in which more of our countrymen and women that will have some sort of epiphany. It's similar to getting women the right to vote, or demanding that all of our citizens be able to sit anywhere in the bus regardless of skin color. It's an opening of minds closed off by fear and intellectual inertia. We've got a lot of work to do.

Big work...

But sitting here tonight in my little piece of New York, I vicariously am reveling with my city...

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Singer Todd Almond comes in.....

Todd Almond was in today for an awesome session. I'm working on a number of pieces for release, and I had him in for some backup vocals. Wonderful man, so easy to work with, incredibly talented, beautiful voice.

Happily, it took my mind off the election, which was just what the doctor ordered.

Watch for his CD with Ellen Mandel coming soon. (see the previous post for my thoughts on their wonderful work.) What I didn't expound upon enough in the previous post was the incredible voice he has, and how much he brought to that project.

I'll have Todd on speed dial from now on!...

Saturday, November 1, 2008

the first of all my dreams...

Multitalented composer Ellen Mandel joined me recently in the studio for the mastering of her gorgeous project, entitled "the first of all my dreams." The project is basically piano and voice, featuring tenor extraordinaire Todd Almond.

This is the second collection of songs for piano and voice from Ellen. The first was exclusively settings of the poet ee cummings. This one includes ee cumming texts, but also some Yeats, and some original Mandel text. On the instumentation side, she stretches out the piano/vocal thing this time out, to include some bass and also a guest vocal or two.

I have been working with her for almost 15 years, and I can say the music is some of her best. Very American sounding in spots, with beautiful introspective moments, as well as exuberance and subtlety. Perfect for its subject matter, tasty, nostalgic, full of sentiment and power, this music will definitely be on my playlist at home in the future. I don't say that about too much stuff that I work on.

The really good thing? She didn't make me turn it up to 11.....

On the net:

Ellen Mandel

Todd Almond