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Waves Workshop: Steve Lawson & I perform for the first time

So – in the world of awesome gigs I’ve done, this rates pretty damn high. Although I Had never met (my now dear friends) Steve Lawson & Lobelia, our collective musical language intersected on so many levels it could only be awesome. We have quite a bit of video to post from the “Waves Across The Pond” event, but I wanted to post this right away. It’s from the workshop on June 1st, and is actually the very first time Steve & I made noise together. Listening back, it sounds to me like we’re old friends who just hadn’t met yet.

The complete workshop video plus footage from the performances will be up ASAP. Stay tuned!

Lawson & Alexander: Improvisation #1 from Neil Alexander on Vimeo.

Steve Lawson (bass, loops, process) & Neil Alexander (keyboards, synthesizers, loops, Ableton LIVE) peforming a short improvisation at the “Waves Across The Pond” workshop in Montgomery NY on June 1st.

My Musical Life. Reinvented.

So.

Here we are, June 2008 – almost July… that sweet sweet summer air. Wearing shorts – every day. And working – always working. And even a bit – though just a little here and there – of relaxing.

It’s been 2 years and 3 months since I made the conscious choice to rework, to take control of – to reinvent my life. It’s still (and I suspect it will continue to be) a work-in-progress. That’s a good thing. It enables me to roll with changes and adapt to different ways of working, different mindsets. The work situation has really come around (after an abysmal winter/early spring). I have students again, after a long time without; commissions from Choreographers; some session work, lots of acoustic jazz gigs – and of course the main event, Neil Alexander & NAIL. Too few gigs for my taste this summer. All the other work is definitely awesome. But I know how great the band can be. Our gig Thursday at Cafe Mozart in Mamaroneck was nothing short of pure magick for me.

I have been applying myself towards the band’s marketing; trying to come up with a significant tag line and one sentence description that really resonates with me. It continues to elude me for now… but I am spiraling in, I can feel it. Synchronistic events are building around me, around my intention. As is said. where your put your attention, energy follows. I am putting 150% percent into the band, and the energy certainly comes back at least as far as our shows are concerned. I have also been working on my open mindedness; letting go of fear on the bandstand Obviously, I don’t want to “suck”, but for real magic to happen there needs to be a certain level of spontaneity. You can’t rehearse that, but you can be in the right frame of mind. I have a huge sonic arsenal at my disposal, samples, multiple synths, etc. I found I was actually afraid to use them, sticking to my few “primary sounds”. I think this is in part to being nervous about the band – having to cue them, making sure we’re at the same place in the music, the “right” feel (this can change – thats the spontaneity I was referring to), etc. I guess it’s also about me being comfortable on stage, letting my imagination go. BUT NOW – the band is so together, so on the same page. Nadav Zelniker and Charlie Kniceley – the magick really happens with these cats, to an extraordinary degree. I find myself and the group in that ever-so-exciting uncharted territory, where anything can happen musically. It’s a place I think most musicians dream about. I know I sure have. Point is, I was so comfortable on Thursday night I found myself using sounds and samples I hadn’t used in months. And playing things differently – old tunes taking on completely new life, in the most wonderful way. I was ecstatic. The audience could feel it too. We were on fire – breaking new ground, forging and working our truly original sound.

I should mention that for me personally, there are other factors at play. Making a continuous conscious choice to be positive. Staying in the moment (day to day, all the time). And learning finally to believe in myself, in whatever project I’m involved in. It’s really starting to add up.

Another factor is a book I just read. I can’t stress the personal significance of this book for me. It’s not that it’s “so great” (it actually is, but….), but it helped me reconnect with a part of myself that I had all but forgotten. I actually did forget, for many years. When I remembered, I think I only remembered what happened – not how I felt. This book brought me back and helped me reconnect with how I felt at a specific time in my life – a time of infinite possibility and connection.

And then a remarkable event took place in my mind – I was able to connect a lot of dots, of lot of disparate elements of my life, taking a great step towards a cohesive whole. I’d done it with music. Now it’s time to hook up the rest of my experiences. This completeness, along with a new-found level of musical trust and openess, is why I think we excelled on Thursday. It was so happening, I find myself relaxing – even though we don’t have that many shows, I’m less worried. It’s an awesome feeling.

As for the aforementioned book, I’m going to save it’s description, as well as it’s significance for me, for another post… Trust me, I’ll get to it.

For now, a new slogan has emerged: THIS BAND BLOWS MINDS. (A takeoff on Woody Guthrie’s “this machine kills fascists” sticker on his guitar.)

Ok World – NAIL is here.

I love you all – be well!

Found: An unpublished Blog Entry from ’07

I found this in a word doc tucked away in a folder on the laptop. I was going to just delete it, but I decided it was worth posting. It’s from last summer, which was a very busy time for me. So without any further ado, here it is, dated 8/10/07

Here I am, on the road again, out with Marty Balin. He’s one of the founders of the Jefferson Airplane (and later the Starship).It’s an honor to play with him, and he’s a really nice guy too. We’re only doing 4 dates on this particular run. That’s ok, because July was an incredibly busy month (that bled into the 1st 2 weeks of august). Last Tuesday (Aug 7th) I premiered Five Elements, a new group based on an idea I had a few years back. The idea was to use a wide variety of percussion – Afirican, Latin, Brazilian – but no actual drumset. The show featured Percussionists Amarildo Costa (Brazilian), Kazi Oliver (African), as well as jazz vocalist and flutist Judi Silvano and myself on a rather big rig (5 keyboards). Judi was kind enough to record it, so I’ve posted an excerpt from the show HERE. Other stuff I’ve been doing: 3 weeks of Ballet Class work at Kaatsbaan International Dance Center (in Tivoli, NY); The Susan’s Restaurant Jazz Jam Session (hosted by drummer extraodinare Bob Meyer); Robert Kopec’s “Big Bang Jazz Gang”, a big band playing Mingus, Monk, Coltrane, Dizzy and more; MBA, an experimental electronic free jazz project (website going up soon!); a few gigs with Judi Slivano’s jazz Quartet; Gigs with the Scott Weis Band (a great local soul-blues band); Marvin Bu-ga-lu Smith trio; the Neil Alexander Trio (acoustic jazz!) As well as a handful of solo Shows and of Course many NAIL gigs. I’ve got some down time coming (no day or night gigs till sat 8/18). Time to recharge the batteries, slow down a little.
The cool thing about all this is since I’ve left the Machine, I’ve more varied and interesting – and paid – work then I ever have in my life. I’m playing every kind of music imaginable (except country, bluegrass, and a few other things I ain’t interested in). And the sky’s the limit. Playing with Bob Meyer, I getting to meet and play with some of the greatest jazz musicians in the area (and the NY area is nothing to scoff at). I’m getting to the place I have oft dreamt about. The challenges come, and will continue to come; I will continue to work hard and to give my best to the music which I hold so dear.
I love you all, stay in touch.

Bring it on

OK, I think I’ve just about posted that Moogfest video everywhere I could…. I will be posting the second half (with Herb Deutsch) next week (when I get a minute!). Made some site changes; news posted on the NAILMUSIC site. Notice the date calendar in the sidebar here.

I’m trying to get more summer dates for us. Doing that has its own specific challenges, however, as I try to work around the very busy schedules of my two great musicians. (I think) I wish I could offer them so much work they wouldn’t have to do anything else… But even that I’m sure would come with it’s own set of challenges. Only one thing I can say about all that….

“BRING IT ON!!!!!”

peace out –

NAIL

Moogfest 2007

NAIL at Moogfest 2007 (part 1 of 2)
httpv://youtube.com/watch?v=1qhmfp-NPJc

New video uploaded! This proves that this great show was not just my imagination.

A moment to reflect

Hey…..

Gosh, been busy. Here at SUNY Purchase Conservatory of dance, occasionally “nothing” happens, and I get a 90 minute “break in the action”. A chance to write! Anyway, killin weekend; solo show at 2 Alices was a hit from my perspective (meaning technologically). In reality, only about 6 people showed up. But the system works, and with a few refinements I’ll be ready to KICK some SERIOUS ASS Germany in the fall.

NAIL played sunday afternoon at the waterfront for the newburgh Jazz-a-thon. 2 hours – really freakin’ fun!! Played a lot of music, but didn’t get to all the things I wanted to play….

Interesting that, because some tunes we just never get to, even though they’re easy ones. I realized something important about myself – I’m so self conscious and self critical on the bandstand I won’t call a tune I’m not sure about. In short, I tend to play it safe. My gut feeling is that a safe approach doesn’t fully serve the music. I also think I let the fact that it was considered a “jazz” event color my choices of music. Hmmm….. something to work on.

No matter – band sounds better than ever. Chris Vander Essen (DJ Cheshire Cat) and his buddy Mike from Beacon Videotaped/Audio recorded the set; They were very happy about the way it came out. I can’t wait to post it on youtube. I’ll get it up there ASAP; along with the video from Moogfest 2007 which I just recently obtained thanks to VINNIE the Video Guy – friend of Gregg Bendian (Mahavishnu Project Drummer). Vinnie’s an awesome guy, smart and generous, and is seriously into the archive thing.

Things are hopping around here. Major editing jobs have been done and are being done, compositions for dance, new dates added all the time, more solo shows, etc. I am going to compile a list of the the websites we’re on; there’s quite a lot at this time.

Meanwhile, here’s a photo from yesterday (sunday). Picture by Frank Ostrander.
NAIL at the Newburgh Jazz A thon

Thanks to everyone who came out! Great to see you all, glad you enjoyed the music. See you June 26th at Cafe Mozart. Peace, y’all!

Good CD press, April 2008

 This just in, from ROLL MAGAZINE in the Hudson Valley. It’s not on their website yet, and I don’t have th author credit, but here it is:

Neil Alexander & NAIL
Tugging At The Infinite

CD Review From Roll Magazine, April 2008

Proudly proclaiming that there is “No electric guitar on this record”, Neil Alexander strikes a blow for keyboardists everywhere, armed with a rack of synth modules and his trusty hand held controller. With prodigious chops, chordal vocabulary and supple support from local jazz favorites Charlie Kniceley, T Xiques, and Nadav Snir-Zelniker, among others, Alexander’s instrumentals cover considerable ground between 70’s Jeff Beck, Bitches Brew-style jazz jam and John Carpenter movie soundtracks. Plus the inevitable guitar-sound-on-a-keyboard thing. www.nailmusic.com.

Neil Alexander & NAIL with guest Lillie Howard

Neil Alexander & NAIL with guest Lillie Howard

This Showed up in the paper on Monday, with this article:
Times Herald Record Article

Needless to say, I was pretty pleased. Thanks to Barbara Bedrell, and Times Herald Record and special thanks and Kudos to Aquanetta Wright, the self proclaimed “Ferry Godmother” of Newburgh, and the producer of the Newburgh Jazz series. She’s making it happen for us in Newburgh – go Aquanetta!!

Living a Dream

So – for those of you who have wondered what kinds of things I’ve been up to since leaving “the Machine”, I offer the following as a shining example. I’m living a dream: making original cutting edge music 24/7. I’ll focus on the last 10 days as a perfect example.
Wed. April 2nd: The second MAHAVISHNU PROJECT date at the Iridium in NYC was a smash. As an added bonus I got to meet the great writer, Bill Milkowski. The friday and monday following I had rehearsals for an upcoming dance performance (see below); Wednesday April 9th brought a quick jazz gig for the Intermediate school in Goshen NY with bassist Bill Crow and trombonist Eddie Bert, two legends of jazz. Thursday April 10th NAIL performed at an Orange County Press Conference celebrating Jazz Appreciation Month; singer Lillie Howard was a guest (look for YouTube videos to be uploaded soon). Friday April 11th I had a Jazz trio gig at Café Mozart in Mamaroneck NY with Nadav Z and Dave Ruffles. This group has been hitting steady since the beginning of the year, and is really coming along. Then Saturday Night April 12th was the SUNY Purchase Downtown Cabaret; I performed as part of the Dance Conservatory set of 5 pieces, all by different choreographers. I worked with Cori Kresgi, using the “Logical Oscillator” rig (laptop, controllers, synth). Packed house; great response. I should mention that another choreographer for Downtown Cabaret called me Thursday; her musician could not complete the score, and could I give her something? So Friday afternoon in between SUNY classes and a rehearsal for Cori K (about 2 hours) I composed, recorded, edited and mixed to CD an 8 minute original score. Whew! Her piece was performed Friday night. (So I guess I was in 2 places at once….?) I will post both scores at some point, with links in this blog.

 

All in all, 10 days of serious music making in a diversity of styles. That’s all I ever wanted. (Nice to get paid for doing it, too.) More? I say: “Bring it!” Tomorrow I start work on a 20 minute edit for choreographer Kevin Wynn, to be performed at the SUNY Spring Dance Concert (2 weeks!). Time to hit the software.
As always, thanks for listening.

 

– the NAIL

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