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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.

A Moment, With Rain

A moment, with rain. Cue Music: “Story From A Stranger”, by Pat Metheny. I’m home… it’s raining. My cat is curled up by my side, next to the laptop on my desk. Very different then the day that was supposed to be. But, we all know (or should) – that change is the way.

I’m gonna keep this short, because I’ve enough to do with emails, etc – and an unexpected free day.

I was supposed to get on an 8:30 am train to NYC this morning, to do a performance called “Available Space”. This show is up all this week (expect thursday) at 12:30, and next week (sat-sun-mon) at 8 pm. Choreographed by Ofelia Loret de Mola, it is a fantastic conglomeration of dance, live music, spoken word, and more. It’s a little hard to describe; check out the Danscores website for more info. We spent about a month making the music, after the original musicians had to cancel last minute.

It gets more complicated….

This is about the spider web – the “web of connections”, remarkable and otherwise, in which we are all entangled to some degree. The amount of connections that have shown up in my life recently borders on staggering. I’m still reeling a little from the last few weeks of people coming together, people from radically different points/times of my life, some of whom are connected in other surprising ways. It spirals around and around, a veritable vortex of people and events. Perhaps I should assemble a time line, to track just how convoluted and interesting this has become. I ‘ll work on that. But for now….

The “Available Space” performance is all consuming; it’s long hours, but great work; no money, but great satisfaction and “visibility”. In addition, when I got the call I was busy with another project. The opportunity arose for Nita Rae, my wonderful wife, to write the music (I was asked for punk/alternative – something Nita does quite naturally, have played in the NY scene for years prior to when we first met in 1985). She would write the music, and I would put the band together to perform it live with the dancers.

Even with the lack of pay, the opportunity was a good one, for both of us. It’s a well publicized event, covered by the NY Times, Village Voice, etc. Cool. I called our old friend and guitarist Jesse Martin, whom I used to jam with all the freakin’ time and whom I have not played with in years at this point, to play guitar. Our drummer is Emily Willis, the 21 year old daughter of Mary Stark, who also has a daughter named Sharon – one of my daughter Rebecca’s best friends.

This is where it starts to get interesting…. because Sharon (and her twin brother Michael) went to a school run by Barbara Sarbin, the wife of my long long longtime former bass player, Conrad De La Cruz (from my first and longest running band, “A. Animal”).

From here it begins to spiral out of control. Available Space is part of a festival called “Celebrate Mexico Now“. It so happens that the director of this festival is someone else I used to know – Claudia Nicolau, the wife of Carlo Nicolau, an incredible violinist and composer I used to hang out with 12 years ago – and haven’t seen in at least a decade. She showed up yesterday to see if the Neil Alexander in the program was the person she used to know.

Why are all these things coming together now?

Why ask why?

At a recent dinner at Mary’s house, with Nita, myself, Conrad and Barbara, a spider began building a web on my head (we were eating outside). Mary referenced this to an animal totem, and found this quote:

Spiders are very delicate creatures that play an important role in the myths and lore of many peoples as the teacher of balance between the past and future, the physical and spiritual. To the Native Americans, Spider is Grandmother, the link to the past and future. In India it’s associated with Maya, the weaver of illusions.

With its gentle strength, Spider spins together the threads of life with intricate webs. Spider knows that the past affects the future and vise versa. It calls us to make use of our creativity and weave our dreams into our destiny.

For many Native Americans, “spider woman” stories are important creation mythologies. One of the common feature of those are wisdom symbolized with spiders’ webs (for example, she taught the human how to weave). Also generally accepted are the ideas that her “thread” connects the human world and the world of spirits or the “above world” and the “below world”. Spider Woman also weaves the “relationship” of the Web of Life and all beings.

“In the beginning, there was the dark purple light at the dawn of being. Spider Woman spun a line to form the east, west, north, and south. Breath entered man at the time of the yellow light. At the time of the red light, man proudly faced his creator. Spider Woman used the clay of the earth, red, yellow, white, and black, to create people. To each she attached a thread of her web which came from the doorway at the top of her head. This thread was the gift of creative wisdom. Three times she sent a great flood to destroy those who had forgotten the gift of her thread. Those who remembered floated to the new world and climbed to safety through the Sipapu Pole the womb of Mother Earth.”

Um, ok.

Perhaps related, or perhaps not, I am going to take a moment to commemorate the 20th anniversary of my father’s death. I get the feeling he’s had a hand in all this, or is at least enjoying it. I miss you, dad. I’d like to think you’d be proud of me.

Love ya all –

the NAIL

  • Available Space flyer front
  • Available Space flyer front
  • Mahavishnu Project at Trinumeral Festival

    Just a quickie post – here’s a vid clip I came across on YouTube of the Mahavishnu Project – with yours truly on keys – at the Trinumeral Festival out of Ashville NC, on 8/8/08. Crazy scene, but big fun! It’s a short clip, but ties in to the whirlwind life I’ve been living for the past few months. So much going on – here’s a little glimpse into the madness….

    Gregg Bendian – drums;

    Jonathan Kreisberg – guitar;

    Brad Jones, Bass;

    Zach Brock – violin;

    Neil Alexander – keys

    Enjoy –

    Love ya!

    httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VUeelB2e-N0

    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!

    Spring is here…

    “Spring is here….” so the song goes. “Why is my heart not filled with gladness?” Well, in fact it is. I know it’s in there somewhere. Trying to stay on the positive sometimes seems more difficult than it feels like it should be. Truth is, with gas prices, a lack of work in the early part of this year (leading to a sort of financial “crisis” for me and my fam) and the molasses-like  progress of NAIL, it’s been rather hard to stay upbeat. A challenge, to say the least. I find the “patience” thing to be a big part of it. But – it is a MOST beautiful spring day. I will be going outside today (even though I have more than enough work to keep me in the studio for days on end) to enjoy a little self enforced downtime.

    In reality, things are still moving. I just picked up a gig for the “Art Along The Hudson” kickoff event. This 2 hour party takes place at DIA Beacon, one the most fantastic modern art museums on the east coast (and just across the river from me). It’s like performing at MOMA, a coveted gig under any circumstances. I had to do some serious wrangling of schedules tomake it happen – but I was successful. Special thannks to our good friend Kippy Boyle, who put the right word in the right ear at the right time…..!

    Also, our very good friend George Dubose, one of the great NYC Rock ‘n Roll photographers, just shot a whole new series of press pics for NAIL (and a few solo shots, too). So even though I don’t have the time or the money to really do NAIL’s press the right way, it still goes forward.

    I had to push myself into writing today; it’s been too long. I am going to stop here, however. as I have no intention of spending all day at this computer I would advise you all to take similar action: go outside. Get some fresh air. Take 5.

    You dig?

    Love ya all –

    NAIL

    One of George Dubose\'s new pictures.

    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.

    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.