Posts

The Grand Diversity

Another Startling year in music comes to a close (nearly). A quick overview of 2008…
In the Big theater at the PAC for the SUNY Purchase nutcracker warmup class

In the Big theater at the PAC for the SUNY Purchase nutcracker warmup class

What an amazing year it’s been, fer sure. Started with some of my compositions selected for a dance being performed in Singapore, choreographed by one of our Conservatory faculty, Stephanie Tooman. She chose 3 pieces from my back catalog; I edited the tracks together and the piece was performed in May. Around the same time I was called in to do a last minute editing job for another faculty choreographer, the wonderful Kevin Wynn. He was working with music by composer Tania Leon for the Purchase Dance Corps Spring Show, and needed editing. It ended up as a killer 20 minute remix. Tania was thrilled and hired me to do live vocal remixing on an upcoming project (currently on hold due to finances).

In March I also performed in something called “Downtown Cabaret”, which is a live performance/art festival featuring folks from all parts of SUNY Purchase. I wrote music for 2 choreographers, one of which was perfomed live by myself on computer and synth.

Neil's computer rig

Neil's computer rig

The trend of working with choreography students continues – I’ve done quite a few this year alone, probably more than I’ve done in the 17 years I’ve ben there. One of those pieces was a Steve Reich-style composition for 4 marimbas, piano and percussion. I performed it live with a piano, syntheszer and prerecorded tracks.

In July I was hired by Lane Gifford to write and produce original music and remixes for a piece in the Fringe Festival in NYC, which recieved rave reviews. I also got a chance to collaborate with my longtime partner Nita Rae on some punk rock-ish music that she wrote for another choreographer, Ofelia Loret de Mola. This piece (Available Space) was performed in NYC for an entire week, outdoors in City Hall Park across the street from the Brooklyn Bridge. Some very strange coincedental things happened around that performance, to numerous to go into here.

We decided to call it "Kildoza"...

We decided to call it "Kildoza"...

The Dance portion of the program wraps with me being hired again to make music for the Singapore exchange project. This time it’s original music for Piano, Cello, and prerecorded sounds.

In another universe closely intersecting with the one just described, I’ve been doing a ton of jazz gigs. That’s right, the all acoustic “straight ahead” variety, culminating with my being in the house band for the Peekskill Jazz Jam session hosted by Bob Meyer, for 11 weeks in a row. I’ve been playing jazz for a long time, but over 11 weeks I’ve personally reached new and fantastic musical heights I had only dreamed of before, never having the right circumstances to “go the distance” as I knew I could. It’s been extraordinarily wonderful. Bob and bassist John “X” Ray are the real deal, having played with everyone from Woody Herman and Buddy Rich to Joe Lovano and John Abercrombie (to name a few). We’re talking serious shit here, folks.

Also back in March I joined the Mahavishnu Project. I’ve only done 4 shows with them so far, but all tremendously fun, exciting and challenging. Great music & musicians; I”ve written about them in previous posts. There will be more shows in the future.

And of course, NAIL continues. We played fewer shows in 2008, but they were BETTER. The band continues to exceed my expectations. Now with the addition of Markus Payne Management, we’re putting our energies into breaking into the international Jazz Festival Circuit for 09. I’m putting 110% of my energy into this – it will happen.

Current Press Pic by George Dubose
Current Press Pic by George Dubose

Many other things have happened along the way, and continue to happen. Since leaving The Machine, it’s been a slow ramp up and a long time coming – but the flood gates have been opened. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I Love you all – take care of yourselves.

– Neil

Ask Me Again, I’ll tell you the same

From our 9/28/08 show at Keegan Ales in Kingston NY, it’s the first of 3 clips I’ve gotten up on YouTube. This is “Ask Me Again”, a relatively new tune (last 6 months). It crosses the line between rock and jazz in what is to me a very appealing way; the backbeat is strong, even with the many time signature changes, and the harmony is all “post-bop”. In my mind it walks the line between Joe Zawinul and Alan Holdsworth, showing what those two giants have in common. Steller performances from Charlie & Nadav make this a standout. We also had fun hooking up the s-video output of the laptop into the bar’s projector, and viola! Instant light show.

Thanks for watching. I will post some “serious” stuff soon, for real. Lots going on, the big thing of which was spending a month looking for a car (which we found, yesterday). Enjoy, and thanks!

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4tHi_RHoW8M

The stage at last night’s show: 9/27, Benji & Jakes

The stage from Benji & Jakes. I suppose someone should actually take a picture of us PLAYING. That would be novel.

Wonder Wheel

Whirlwind! Working day and night; tons of gigs, etc. Fried. Can’t stop.

Meanwhile…..

Posted an old video…. “Wonder Wheel” from 2005. Seeing as how our old friend and drummer Mike “Leroy” Bram has sorta hit the big time with Jason Mraz, I thought I’d post this clip of him playing…with us.

Here it is:

httpv://youtube.com/watch?v=N5C89mUxw38

Also in this band are Joe Pelletier (bass), Steve Sacco (percussion); and Chris Hanson (turntables). A funk extravaganza. Just picture the giant Ferris Wheel in London. I think there used to be one in Coney Island actually called the “Wonder Wheel”.

More posts soon…really.

Love ya –

– NAIL

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!

Events

Mr Gone Celebrates Headhunters at 50

The Mr Gone Head Hunters tour comes to the United Universalist Church at Washington’s Crossing concert series. Located in Titusville NJ, the UUC is well known for hosting a wide variety of music. Our concert will have a strong visual component as well.

Tickets $25 (link to be posted soon). 50% goes to support the Church.