If you read my December 2018 Newsletter (it’s here if you haven’t and would like to) you’d have seen my season-to-season recap, with most of the amazing things that happened this year listed chronologically…. and that’s a good way (certainly for me, anyway) to get a good sense of how my year went.
But there’s always more to the story, of course – and so I thought I’d take a moment to recount some really significant moments, and what I think I learned from them. ..Or not! Hey, it’s all relative, right?
/First Things First/
It seems in the last 8 years or so there have been a lot of ‘firsts’ and 2018 was no exception… Local musician and educator Michael Hollis contacted me in August about his new composition, ‘Edge of the Hill’, a chamber music piece scored for string quartet, 2 horns, 2 winds, percussion, piano and electronics. Michael needed a conductor for the premiere performance at the O+ Festival in Kingston and granted me the opportunity. After reading up on the principles of conducting and minimal rehearsal time I did my first performance as….a conductor.
Working as a keyboardist and co-producer on Peter Furlan’s new CD is another first. I’ve made my share of records, but this lets me take all my experience and musicianship and apply it in a new way. As of this writing we’re still in the middle of mixing.
Way back at the beginning of the year a bunch of things all happened at once – I did 2 shows with Mr Gone, a performance at Roulette in Brooklyn with the Sky Music Ensemble, and a gig with “The Machine” – the first in 12 years. This was a 1-2 punch that started the ball rolling down the hill, and it just got more intense from there…
In the spirit of “old business before new business”, in March I finally finished and released “NAIL: Live at the Blue Note NYC” recorded in 2007, and Solo Piano Vol 2 (Darn That Dream Live in LA) recorded in 2013. The solo piano CD features my transcription of Igor Stravinsky’s “Le Sacre” released for the first time. I did some wonderful Jazz/Indian hybrid music in NYC with Bobby Rosario’s ensemble Rudra. In April our house concert series featured the wonderful Charles Shriner. Also in April, I brought an 11 piece version of NAIL (2 guitars, 2 basses, 3 drummers, 3 horn players and me) to the Falcon Underground to play 2 1/2 hours of my favorite music. We blew thru tunes by Jeff Beck, Robert Fripp, John McLaughlin, Weather Report and a ton of old originals waiting to see the light of day again for many years. It was super fun!
In May a tornado touched down in Newburgh leaving us with some damage and taking out our power for a few days. That same week our only child graduated College! In June, performances by NAIL for the 3rd consecutive year at Newburgh Illuminated; Rudra at Drom in NYC; launched into my 15th year playing Ballet classes for the Kaatsbaan International Dance Center summer program; and a radio interview on Rita Ryan’s outstanding “LocalMotion” show from Vassar College. Listen here.
July was mainly “pulling back on the spring”, because August was jam packed – gigs with NAIL, Ray Levier, Premik Russel Tubbs, Peter Furlan, the Flying Obersons and the X Ensemble – all within 2 weeks! The big one for me was my “X Ensemble” performing a site-specific piece I composed for the interactive art festival “Dusklit” titled “Sunset Variation”. The outdoor performance featured a 7 piece ensemble with musicians traversing the grounds of the Seligmann Center with wireless microphones, culminating on stage at the moment of sunset.
Fall 2018 started my “4th Saturday Jazz” (4SJ) residency at the Wherehouse, as well as a “Neil Alexander Presents” series at Dogwood in Beacon.
On top of that, all year long there were ongoing performances with the Monroe Quinn Trio, Peter Furlan’s trio, Thunderhead, Supercluster (with Robert Kopec and Dean Sharp) and a host of others.
My Solo Electronic Music performances continued throughout the year as well:
- At “EEEM”, a small gathering in Rutherford NJ produced by my good friend Gianni Intilli and featuring a lot of the NEEMfest crew
- At the Cosmic Crossings performance series in Washington’s Crossing NJ, guitarist Monroe Quinn and I performed the Pat Metheny/Lyle Mays landmark ambient jazz composition “As Falls Wichita, So Falls Wichita Falls”. What a rush! Watch the Video.?
- Then in September I went back to Homer, NY for 2018 NEEMfest, a big family gathering of sorts without the drama.. !
At the always amazing Ableton LOOP conference in Los Angeles, I ran into fellow EM creator and Ableton Certified Trainer Afro DJ Mac, who set me up for an interview on his Music Production Podcast (listen here). The Ableton Hudson User Group met twice in 2018 year, and will hopefully be increasing our meet ups to 6 times this year.
In December I got a last minute offer to open for the experimental group NOUS at the Linda Theater in Albany NY. The performance will be broadcast in March of 2019.
At some point I made an executive decision to change my solo electronic music performance name from Nailgun to “Nail Jung”, for what seemed like obvious reasons. I’m working on the first Nail Jung CD and hope to have that out by spring. (You can sample a taste of it here.)
/Attitude Adjustment Hour/
One musical situation directly affected by my attitude is “Cloudburst” – a Woodstock based ‘jam band” that has proven to be great fun and a source of joy, just relaxing and enjoying the groove with my friends Mike Colletti and Tony Parker. Not worrying about whether things will go well makes a world of difference, taking our shows to new heights and keeping it a singularly positive experience. Cloudburst did 6 shows in 2018, including the venerable Rosendale Street Festival. I’m constantly trying to improve (or at the least maintain) a more positive attitude, and my success or failure manifests in a variety of ways. I’m just trying to pay attention to that…
I took a much needed leave from SUNY Purchase in the fall, but still involved myself with a handful of choreographers and dance performances over the year, including The Small Plates Choreography Festival right here in Newburgh. Also, Ophra Wolf and I reprised a bit of “Hidden Landscapes/Inner Windows” at a 2nd Wednesday Experimental music night at Quinn’s in Beacon. I guest accompanied with my bro Dean Sharp for a dance class at Bard College, and actually started to miss playing at Purchase a tiny bit… but not the commute.
I think perhaps that’s ENOUGH for this post! There’s more but I’m exhausted just reliving it all. I’m overjoyed that the musical quality & diversity I’ve been cultivating is starting to really flower. In addition to that, the gig pay has been on the increase in surpassing and most welcome ways. And of course none of this would be possible without the love and support of my sweetheart of 30+ years, Nita Rae; and you, the fans and supporters of this magical art called music.
All in all, it’s been a Damn Good Year. Peace and Blessings, and best wishes for all of us in 2019.