Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Golden Rules of Walking

Dear Friends,

Today, like every day, I was walking through New York, attempting to get somewhere quickly, when BAM! Half of the city forgot the mechanics of walking. This is not a unique experience. In a city full of habitual walkers, an epidemic of "stupidity on moving feet" has swept Manhattan. Since my efforts to institute a required walking tutorial in our fine city have been repeatedly denied, these three golden rules of walking (and punishments for breaking them) will have to suffice. Government, if you ever get your priorities straight and create a department of walking (which I've also demanded weekly via strongly worded letters), be sure to include these simple guidelines to ensure a happier walking life.

1. No Stopping in the Middle of the Sidewalk. Ever.

Seems self explanatory right? Well, apparently it isn't. Let's make this clear: If you need to stop, get over to the side. I can only imagine how difficult this may seem while simultaneously looking confused and talking on your phone, but believe me, once you get over the initial fear of getting the fuck out of the way, it can be a very gratifying experience. And by gratifying I mean you're way less likely to get walked into or punched in the face.

Punishment: Previously mentioned fisty-facey, or in extreme cases, the perpetrator will lay in the middle of the street and get stepped on for an hour.

2. The Sidewalk is for Everyone, Not Just Really Slow Walking Couples

It appears our nationwide effort to emphasize sharing in Kindergarten did not include a chapter on "sharing while in motion". Couples are only a part of the problem, as many larger groups share a belief that walking slowly, side by side on a narrow sidewalk is totally okay and not at all annoying.

Punishment: For couples, hands used for holding will be chopped off. Groups will be separated, stripped of cell phones, driven off to random locations, and walk around the city trying to find one another. ALONE. Which is way worse than not having hands.

3. Choose a Side, and Stick with it

When dogs go for walks, they like to see and smell every part of their surroundings, to ensure they don't miss some enticing dog shit or something. Which is totally understandable because, you know, they're dogs. Many walkers in this crowded city treat the sidewalk the same way, wandering from side to side like drunken boxers (and at least half of these people have got to be sober and not boxers). It blocks traffic on both sides, makes passing impossible, and looks really, really stupid.

Punishment: Perpetrators will be walked on a leash through China Town and forced to stop at every area that smells like feces. Rest assured, it will be a long walk.

And there you have it. If any of you fine readers know governmental types or other serious walking advocates, be sure to get these rules into their hands. Your life on the sidewalk depends on it.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

10 Concerts, 17 Days: Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi

Hello People,

Beginning with Derek Trucks this past Saturday and ending with Poppa Chubby on August 3rd, I'll be attending between 8-10 concerts over a 17 day period. So... I'm kinda happy. And by kinda happy I mean I'm in fucking heaven. Luckily for you, I've decided to write short reviews after each show, beginning with Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi this past Saturday at the Paramount Center for the Arts in Peekskill.

I've seen Trucks several times in the past, and he's been nothing less than awesome each time, a borderline guitar genius with a really strong backing band. This time around was no differe... wait... I mean terribly, horrifically, grotesquely different. From beginning to end, the show was a disorganized, disjointed, musically dumbed down mess.

First off, the band had two drummers playing full drum sets at the same time. This is almost never necessary, and is only interesting to me if it's a really percussive group (such as Tool) using two drummers sparingly. Both drummers played together for the entire show, combining to equal less than one decent percussionist. The lineup also included two guitarists (Trucks and Tedeschi), a bassist and a keyboard player. At no point during the show did the group perform as a cohesive unit, instead sounding like six musicians playing by themselves who just happened to be sharing a stage. It was really the Susan Tedeschi show, and it almost felt like Trucks was awkwardly sitting in (which he wasn't, the two have been touring together now for quite some time). I wasn't a huge fan of Tedeschi, more due to stylistic preferences than talent; she has a great voice and plays a decent guitar. However, she should be forbidden from writing lyrics for as long as she lives, as she set the unofficial record for most times using the words "love" and "music" in a lyrical cheesefest.

The utilization of the rest of the bands' abilities was odd to say the least. Since Trucks was the main reason I came to the show, I figured I'd at least enjoy his previously stunning guitar work. But Trucks seemed to lack focus, and most of his meandering solos were aimless and went on for far too long. In fact, all of the musicians' solos were an effort in individual showmanship, with notes being selfishly noodled while the rest of the band looked on. Mike Mattison, the incredibly talented lead singer from Trucks' band, was used sparingly as a backing vocalist up until the encore, where he got to highlight his exceptional and unique singing ability for a grand total of... two songs. The lack of overall musicality was astonishing considering the high level of musicianship Trucks has displayed for years now with his own band, and while touring with Eric Clapton and The Allman Brothers Band. Bad pairing of talents, worse backing band, and a really disappointing show. If you like Derek Trucks, I recommend waiting until he goes back on the road with the Derek Trucks Band to see him live.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Geoff Achison Interview

Hello Friends,

I recently met with Australian blues artist Geoff Achison prior to his only show in New York on his current tour, a solo acoustic gig at Terra Blues. I've been a big fan of Achison ever since discovering him in Melbourne. His live performances showcase Achison's rare verve and passion for music, and are always immensely enjoyable. I'd been looking forward to sitting down with him a while, and our discussion went as follows:

(D: Daniel, G: Geoff)

D: Geoff, let's dig right in. Your playing style is both original and technically proficient. According to your bio, you're a self taught guitarist. Walk us through your growth and development as a guitarist.

G: Oh man... right in 30 seconds? I started playing when I was about ten. I did get some lessons early on, my dad met a guy down at the local pub, his name was Jon McCann. He played a bit of guitar; I went to him for a dollar a lesson, maybe half a dozen times. He showed me how to tune the guitar, what the notes were, and how to form chords, and I took it from there. Somewhere in my mid teens I was playing with my dad's dance band, and that gave me a good grounding with how to play songs with a group, we were doing waltzes and foxtrots at Saturday night dances. I guess I was around sixteen or seventeen when I heard my first blues record and that just... shaped my life from then on, that was the sound. And I grew up in an area where that music was rarely, if ever, heard. So I was a bit of an anomaly, you know being a young lad that wanted to play American blues music rather than the top 40 pop music of the day.

In my early twenties I moved to Melbourne, which is the big city; I was a country lad. That was the town, and it still is, if you want to make a living as a musician. If you want a good live scene and a good variety of music, Melbourne's the place to be. Yeah, so I moved there in my early twenties, and after a bit of a slow start, and a couple of false starts, I eventually landed myself a full time gig as a blues guitar player with a guy called Dutch Tilders. I played in his band for about six years. After that, I just went off out on my own, put my own band together, writing my own material. We did discover that there was very little interest in the record industry for an original roots music act, so we formed our own record label and we just made a habit out of that. After doing the first one or two titles, ever since we just put the money on the table ourselves, and recorded and released them under our own steam. So, I've made a living out of it for a couple of decades. That's really all I wanted to achieve out of it, to make a living being a musician.

D: Seems to be working pretty well for you. I'd imagine you found some benefit to being an independent musician as opposed to joining a label.

G: It's like anything, there's pros and cons. But for somebody in my position, I guess because of the kind of music I play and the approach I've had to it, there's not many record labels that are too interested in doing that. Sometimes I have craved having some sort of professional team to help me out with production and direction and so on. We've just had to figure it out ourselves. But you know, I've made over a dozen records, and they've all sold. Some of the titles we've sold out of, because we're a small label, and once we press a few thousand, 4 or 5 thousand sometimes, we occasionally sell out.

But when you're independent all that money is in your control. The production cost is lower, your overheads are lower, and the number of people you have to disperse that money to is much less. For the most part we manage the money ourselves, a lot of it goes back in so you can create the next title. You have to run it like a small business and be sensible about it; put the money in the bank, do your accounting, know what's gone out and what's coming in and then talk about what you're going to do with it. But for the most part, it's worked out.

D: Great. You said you just took a few lessons briefly right in the beginning. Can you read music?

G: No.

D: Interesting. That brings me to my next question. There are lots of great musicians that can't read music and aren't trained, and lots of great ones that are trained. Do you feel untrained musicians are more creative generally, since they aren't learning from a set of musical "rules", as opposed to trained musicians being stronger technically but less adept on the creative end?

G: I don't agree with that at all. You've either got an aptitude for the instrument or you don't. I think if you're fortunate and you have the right teacher, they'll get the best out of what abilities you have. I know some musicians that have a fantastic comprehension of theory and can read really well, but aren't especially creative. And vice versa. And then I know other musicians, these are the guys I'm really amazed by, who are amazingly creative but also have studied and have great understanding of theory and can read music, guys in my band back home. And they get all the big gigs, TV gigs and theater gigs, and they can do that stuff, but then they love to go to a jazz club or do gigs in my band, where there's a lot of room for self expression. I'm good at being in my band. I'm good at being up there with a guitar and sort of playing what I feel like, but I've really got to work hard if I'm playing somebody else's music and being asked to do a particular role in a band. That's hard work for me. I don't think there's any argument, it's just different parts. It's like saying a guitar player is better than a saxophone player. It just depends on what your aptitude was and how your path went.

D: Cool. I've seen you perform both as an electric guitarist in a full band and in this sort of setting as a solo acoustic player. Did you always do both, always incorporate the solo aspect, or did that grow over time?

G: Um... I guess I have always done both. My first instrument was an acoustic guitar, so for the first five years I played acoustic. I got an electric guitar when I was fifteen, and that was a big deal. For that first five years all I had was this little cheap-ass acoustic guitar. So I put a lot of time in with the box style, and my first experience with electricity was a little pick up that you stuck on the top of the guitar. My parents, they did buy me an amplifier when i was thirteen for Christmas, and then I was searching around under the tree for the electric guitar that went with it, but my folks couldn't afford that. So I had this little ten watt Princeton amp and this little bug. And I guess the guy in guitar shop told them "Well if he gets the amplifier, all he's got to do is stick this on the acoustic guitar and presto! He's got an electric guitar." But once I got the electric guitar, I don't think I touched the acoustic for quite some time. That's really what I wanted, like any teenage kid that's into guitar; you want to rock. You wanna turn it up to 11 and make noise.

I guess I really got serious about acoustic guitar after I saw my old boss Dutch Tilders play. He's an acoustic guitar finger style player, and he was the first guy that I saw play acoustic guitar in a way that I thought was really cool and amazing. And I thought, "Well if I could make an acoustic guitar sound like that, that's what I want to do." So it opened up another side of my playing. Then I got offered some acoustic gigs later down the track... that's the best way to learn anything. If you're offered a gig, just say yes. That's the best advice I give to any young players. Whatever the gig is, say yes. Nobody offers you the gig if they don't think you're capable. Even if you're freaking out inside, just say yes, and you'll figure it out.

D: That's good advice. So I wanted to ask you about your most recent album, One Ticket One Ride. While this album is blues based, it contains some pretty strong elements of jazz and funk. In my opinion, it sounded like you featured these genres more than you had in past albums. Was this a conscious decision?

G: No, not really. Very little of what I've recorded has been a conscious decision to do this or that. It's usually a product of the circumstances I find myself in and the people I'm surrounded by. That album was recorded whilst living in Atlanta and just hanging out with some very funky dudes. And we're all into that kind of thing. I guess we're into... I don't know if roots music is the best term because that to me encompasses all forms of jazz and blues and funk and soul and... just good, funky organic music. I love the music community that I became involved in in Atlanta, there's a lot of cross pollination of musicians sitting in with different bands, I had a lot of different dudes coming and playing with my bands, doing my material. Likewise, I was often being called up and asked "Hey I've got a gig at such and such Friday night, are you free, can you come and be in my band for the night?" So I've gone and played in the bass players band, the guy that'd been my bass player one night, I'd go and play in his band the next week and do his material, and just sit back there and do his stuff. And maybe he was more jazzy than me, but we've still got that common thread.

D: Constant exploration.

G: Yeah, exploration and self expression. And it's just a true exchange of ideas. Yonrico Scott, who I got to know quite well, so he's come and played in my band quite a lot but then as it turned out as he's doing stuff with the Yonrico Scott Band, which has kind of got a floating membership. And this is... I guess a solution to the dilemma that a musician finds themselves in when they're on the road a lot, maybe with some main gig that they've got or a succession of different bands. They've got this personal project going on, but you can't have a band in your hometown just waiting for you to come back. So the solution is that you develop a network of different players that you enjoy working with. In the same way, we'd book a tour and then make the calls to see who was available to put the lineup together. And I was getting calls for that too. Rico's a good examples because so he'd come and do a gig with Geoff and the Souldiggers and do my material, my kind of blues, funk rock. Then a couple of times I've gone and played in Yonrico's band, which is just kind of a freaky ass jazz outfit, which I really enjoy. That was the kind of thing he asked me to do that but inside I'm just going... going out of my mind. How am I gonna play this shit?! But nobody asks you if they don't think you're capable. So you've just gotta turn up and do it.

D: That kind of leads into my next question... As you mentioned, you moved to Georgia to tour the states for what, two years?

G: Yeah, it was two years we lived here.

D: How did you find living and touring in the US compared to doing that in Australia?

G: Believe it or not, I spent a lot more time on the road here. Even though Australia's got a reputation for being a big country with a lot of miles, and that's true, but we've also got a lot fewer places to go so far as people touring as musicians. There's not that many big cities, you can count all the major cities on less than two hands, you don't need all ten fingers to count em. So we would go on tour now and again and do some big miles, but I think we'd maybe organize a month on the road maybe twice a year if we were lucky, and then maybe drive a couple of hours every now and again. But over here, in the states, I was on the road constantly. This is a big country as well, but there's just so many more cities. And I gotta say, it was a great way to see the country, I really enjoyed it. It was like living the dream for me, as a young blues fan from a little country town on the other side of the world, who was crazy about Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf, Ray Charles, all the soul artists. And there I am in my own band driving on the other side of the road visiting all these places down in the south, and we'd drive all the way up to here to New York City... it was like magic land for me. I loved it.

D: Getting to see where everything you had listened to was created.

G: Yeah, nearly every town you go through is a song in your record collection somewhere. It was a big deal.

D: Yeah that's... awesome. You were saying before that you pick up different musicians wherever you go. Who are some of your favorite musicians to play with?

G: Well look, I was very lucky when we started doing the recording sessions, cuz a lot of the guys on the recordings were my A list team. In a lot of ways the rhythm section that recorded a lot of it, Ted Pecchio and Tyler Greenwell, I was really keen to have those two guys in the studio, which is not a slight on any of the other bassists and drummers that I worked with. But it was those two guys as a team, cuz they've played together for so long. I first met them when they were playing together for a band called the Code Talkers, and I opened a show for them in Pittsburgh. I'd never heard of them, I didn't know who these guys were, I just knew I was doing an opening set for a band called the Code Talkers. Then I sat down and they started playing... they just blew my mind, tore me a new asshole. I couldn't even believe it. And it was the interplay between those two guys... they're out of their mind. Crazy, crazy stuff. And then I was fortunate enough to have those two guys in the band, I did a lot of touring with Tyler and another bass player called Charlie Wooten, I've worked with Charlie a lot, we became real good buddies. So I was really keen to get Charlie on there as well and I did, Charlie was able to come in and do a session for me. And I was also a big fan of the band King Johnson out of Atlanta, and I have been for many years.

Just from living in Atlanta I got to meet the guys here and there, and now and again when there were spots available the bass player Chris Long, he did gigs with me, and then I got introduced to Oliver Wood, and we did gigs together. We've actually got a show on this tour that I'm doing with Oliver. I'm still a bit starstruck when I talk to these guys. It was really, really great. Then Marcus Henderson.... all those guys I got to do gigs with here and there. And there's a lot of jam sessions that go on in Atlanta, if someones doing a gig it's like the doors always open, it's like "Hey man, swing by, bring your horn". And I just loved that community feeling. So I was really happy I got a lot of those guys on the record with me.

But there's still a lot of others. Greg Baba, he's a drummer that worked with me a lot, I didn't get him on the recording cuz I ran out of songs. He's another guy... if I start mentioning names I'll just leave somebody out cuz the network, it just grew and grew and grew. But it's something I really have enjoyed. Like I said before, it was a real dilemma when I was getting offers to come over to the states and England. But I just could not afford the cost of bringing my band over from Australia, it makes it prohibitive. So this was the solution to that dilemma. You know, just get myself there and hire some local guys. I wasn't comfortable with it at first, but the more I've done it the more I've realized what a boon this has been because of all these wonderful musicians I've got to meet and work with and create music with... everyone of them that's come in has brought a new take on the material.

D: You get to do your own music differently every time you perform.

G: Yeah that's right, and that makes it fresh. That taught me to really open my ears and not expect to hear the original recording reproduced for me.

D: Cool. Who have you been listening to recently?

G: Well... most recently Jeff Beck came to Melbourne for the second time and... I couldn't go and see it. He's been my favorite electric guitar player ever since the early days. He's enjoying a bit of a resurgence in his career at the moment, he's back on the road and he's making these wonderful records. As a consolation my wife bought me his DVD Live at Ronnie Scott's and his new studio album, so I've really been getting into that and enjoying that immensely. Somebody introduced me to a band called the Cinematic Orchestra last year and I got two of their albums, and I've just played that over and over again. And it's very different to where I've been for the past few years. This is more... I don't know how to describe it. It's almost like... chill music? I don't know if that's the right term, it's almost hypnotic, but it's real instruments, it's organic, lots of double bass laying down the grooves. It's just sort of layering it up, not wild solos, really simple themes. I've really been enjoying that... it's been interesting.

D: That about covers my questions... any last things you wanna say Geoff?

G: Well, I'm just enjoying being on the road at the moment, I still get a huge kick out of traveling and meeting people. I've got friends all over the world now. It really is the greatest way to make a living. We've had a hard couple of days just getting from one end of the world to the next and making sure you're able to bring your gear with you... But it's just the opportunity to play music in different parts of the world.. I still pinch myself that I'm able to do this and that people are happy to see me now and again. It's great.

Achison's performance post interview was great, per usual. The energy he creates in a room with just an acoustic guitar and his voice is stunning. He played a mixture of covers and originals, although the covers' only similarities to their original versions were the lyrics. Some of the standout songs were Whipping Post, Superstition, Apparatus, and Lovin' in My Baby's Eyes. Sadly, his tours in the US are far too infrequent, typically spanning only a few weeks each year. If he does come to your area, don't miss it. I guarantee non-boredom.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Duo of Reviews: Doves and Eddie Vedder

Hey Friends,

So you've probably noticed that many of my reviews cover albums that came out some time ago. In my music discovery process, I often come across records from years ago, whether it be from a friend recommendation, a re-release by the band, or an old download I simply hadn't gotten around to yet. Regardless, it's new to me when I listen to it, and hope it's new to at least some of you when reading it.

On that note, here are two old albums I checked out this past week and my opinions on them:

Eddie Vedder- Into the Wild: Into the Wild is a solo album by Eddie Vedder (lead singer of Pearl Jam), which was written for the movie of the same name. Vedder provides all the instrumentation and vocals on the album. The movie is about Christopher McCandless, a college graduate who decides to give away all his savings and live in solitude in the wilderness. McCandless dies five months later of starvation, inspiring a book and movie about his life. The album, much like the film, portrays hope and inspiration early on, then deep sadness and alienation as it progresses. Vedder's gravely baritone perfectly compliments the combination of loneliness and optimism emanating from his lyrics. The instrumentation is fairly simplistic, but it suits the album well and does an excellent job setting the variety of moods throughout. Consisting primarily of acoustic songs, the album falls somewhere between the folk/rock/roots genres. Even on its own (without the movie), this is a very strong and emotionally provocative album.

Doves- Some Cities: I decided to check out the Doves after hearing comparisons between them and Radiohead. In my opinion, the bands' similarities are vastly overstated. The Doves remind me of a cross between Travis (a melodic, softer rock group) and The Flaming Lips. While this record was good on the surface, I found myself unable to fully enjoy it. The musicianship was very strong, and the group combined atypical sounds with their style of melodic rock very well. However, the songs overall came across like a dull razor: no edge. The band seemed unable to maintain a high level of intensity throughout the entirety of a song, often teasing you with a harrowing section but failing to sustain this sound for long. Some Cities is a decent album, but is definitely missing something.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Freaks and Geeks: Series Review

My Dearest Readers,

Welcome to my first TV series review! I don't plan to do these nearly as often as music related articles, but figured I'd give it a shot today.

For the past few months I've been watching the show Freaks and Geeks (yes I know, it came out ten years ago). I'd heard for a while it was good, so I finally caved and watched. The show ebbs and flows, but by the end of the first season, I was hooked. Of course, the show only aired for one season, so that sucks.

Freaks and Geeks is a high school drama/comedy, done from the perspective of teenagers on the outside of the popular crowd. The main character is Lindsay Weir, a brainiac who begins hanging out with a "bad" crowd (the "freaks" of the high school) after her grandmothers' death. Her brother Sam is a freshman, and for a number of reasons (a few easy ones being that he's about 4 feet tall, weighs 80 pounds, and loves sci-fi) is considered a "geek". The show centers around how the Weir's and their friends fit into the high school dynamic as members of two vastly different alternative crowds (although Lindsay's membership is by choice while Sam's geekhood is unwilling and based on the reality of his social situation). The supporting characters are highly significant and played very well. In many episodes, one or more story arc will revolve around a character besides Lindsay or Sam, and each supporting character spends some time as the focus of an episode.

The first two thirds of the season are largely episodic. Rarely does a plot line carry over from the previous episode beyond the general themes of the show. While nearly all of the episodes are enjoyable, the lack of continuity limits character development and depth. However, towards the end of the season past plot lines are brought back into the picture, and new ones are created and developed. The show really takes off at this point, and I inevitably began feeling empathy, humor, joy, sadness... the whole range of emotions that only the best artistic mediums can bring out of a person.

A major part of what makes Freaks and Geeks so likeable is its relatablity. Nearly everybody in the United States experiences high school and is acutely aware of all of its' groups and cliques. The show finds a way to portray typical high school issues without appearing cliche. Overbearing parents, to have/not have sex, academics vs. peer pressure, the social currency gained by partaking in illegal activities and much more are portrayed in both funny and moving ways. Unlike many TV dramas, the issues are presented in "real life" terms, where difficult decisions are made in an arena of ambiguity beyond right or wrong. The show does a fantastic job creating situations that accurately portray the plethora of pressures all teenagers are burdened with.

Overall, I would say Freaks and Geeks is a very good show with moments of greatness. It really comes into its own towards the end of the season, and it's a shame the show didn't get a longer run. If like me you're also ten years behind in your high school TV viewing, check it out. You won't regret it, and you'll probably even enjoy it.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Jazz Sax Player Nick Myers Interview

Hello Friends,

A few weeks ago I went to 169 Bar in the Lower East Side for a friend's birthday. I was pleasantly surprised to have live jazz hit my ears as soon as I walked in. The music was fun and upbeat, with lots of instrumental jazz covers of classic rock and soul tunes. This was not a bar full of jazz listeners (more drunk hipsters), but the bars' inebriated inhabitants danced throughout the entirety of the set. This horn driven group entranced the crowd with intoxicating solos and irresistible rhythms. While in my drunken state I couldn't give the show a proper review, I did manage to get the contact information of the band leader and saxophone player, Nick Myers. I interviewed him this Monday, and he had some interesting things to say. Here is the transcript of our discussion:

(D: Me, N: Nick)

D: My first question: Is Nickhead your primary group.

N: Yes.

D: What's the background of the group?

N: Well the name "Nickhead" is an umbrella that I use for a number of groups. The group was first created in Italy as a quartet, where I recorded my original compositions. Then when I came to NY, when I was here working, I decided I wanted to expand on the repertoire of the group and the name. So I started doing this weekly gig that you heard at 169 bar. I still advertise under the name Nickhead, but I guess it's a little bit different from the original group.

D: Are you originally from Italy?

N: No, no, no. I'm from Washington state. But I lived there for a little bit, and I recorded an album over there. I go back once or twice a year to perform.

D: Oh, awesome. Tell me a bit about your personal history in music.

N: Well, I started playing piano when I was five years old. Then I switched to saxophone in middle school; my grandpa played piano as well, but he played all by ear. He kinda taught me a lot of old standard material, a lot of old songs. So I picked up the saxophone and started playing with him, and a little bit later I started my own group. I think when I started a group in my hometown and started playing gigs around town, I realized I really enjoyed playing music and wanted to play music for a living.

D: Cool. When I saw you perform at 169 Bar, the music was upbeat, fun, horn driven jazz. I thought it was accessible to everybody, not just jazz lovers. Listening to some of your recordings, it sounds like you also play quite a bit of straight ahead jazz music. Tell me a bit about the different styles you play and what you prefer.

N: I actually enjoy both. I don't enjoy playing strictly one type, I like having a diversity of styles in music. I want to create an environment... I feel like a lot of times when you do a straight ahead jazz gig in New York people don't particularly enjoy the atmosphere. So I wanted to create a vibe where people would feel like they could come out, and didn't feel the music was overly intellectual. I wanted to make the music appear to be very accessible to everyone, but still be able to expand and improvise on the forms. Some of the songs we do we change them every week, it's still very improvised and very jazz based. Sometimes we even make up forms... actually all the times we make up forms; we don't ever play any of those songs the same way twice. It's just a different way to do the same things we enjoy doing. It's definitely more accessible.

D: I agree. I saw on your website that you just came off a tour in Italy and you said earlier that you've recorded with guys in Italy. How did you end up with this Italian connection, and what's it like when you tour over there?

N: Well, I actually did this thing through my college, NYU. I did a study abroad thing, and I hooked up with all these musicians in Italy. I got a record out over there, which allowed me to tour. They really enjoy jazz in Italy, I feel like it's a very different scene. The music is more well attended generally. Not just jazz, they really have an appreciation for all types of music. Not to say here people don't have the same appreciation, you just have to draw it out of them.

D: Interesting. When and why did you move to New York?

N: Well I moved to New York for college, but I just said yes to the first New York college that accepted me. I didn't really care which college I went to, I just wanted to come to New York. That's where jazz and music that I liked was started, and I wanted to go there and see why it was started there.

D: Are you a full time musician?

N: I am. I teach and I play gigs. I also have a little thing that I do where I make videos for other jazz musicians, like promotional videos and that sort of thing. That makes a little extra income but for the most part I am a full time musician.

D: What are some bands you enjoy listening to?

N: Hmmm... Well since I've been doing this gig at 169 Bar, I've been checking out a lot of James Brown. I've always liked James Brown, but I never sat down and transcribed it, and I've been transcribing it. Not so that I can play exactly what James Brown played, just because I want to understand what he played and use that as vehicle for a different sound, different compilation. I always liked... well obviously there's a few inescapable influences on the saxophone that I like; John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, Joe Henderson, all those guys. I studied a lot of saxophone players and a lot of trumpet players too... like Chet Baker. I enjoy listening to it as well as studying it. I also listen to some modern music... I don't really like much modern rap, but I like a lot of early 90's rap music like Wu Tang, Tribe Called Quest. I really like that stuff.

D: Lastly, is there anything else you want people to know about yourself and Nickhead?

N: Well, I want them to know that if they come out to 169 Bar on a Saturday they can boogie down and have a good time. That's what we're trying to do is bring an environment where people can check out live music, and not feel like it's being shoved down their throat.

There you have it. Nickhead is currently playing a Saturday residency at 169 Bar. If this sounds good to you, go check them out!