Tuba or not Tubá: an NYC Tuba Blurb.

DanFloor

What about the TUBA? Are our low-end brethren receiving the attention and credit they deserve for providing the bass, our groove, the “oom” to our “pah?”… or is our non-appreciation driving them to madness, burying themselves in tubas searching for answers?… Meet TubaJoe Exley, Dan Peck and Ron Caswell- three NYC musicians who are using the tuba to leave a musical imprint on this city and my own musical journey.

TUBAJOE EXLEY.
TubaJoe Exley was recently dubbed “The Tuba Gunslinger” at a festival in Bordeaux, France. All About Jazz described his tuba playing as “seductive.” Maybe it’s the handlebar mustache, maybe the long hair… but people are loving TubaJoe’s vibe. I was introduced to Exley at a brass quintet gig at Radio City Music Hall. We ended up playing the Bb blues for about 45 minutes. Even at 9:00a.m., it was obvious his playing was unique- he plays with ease, suave precision and a warm, velvety sound which is probably why he can be heard on over sixty recordings and has collaborated with hundreds of artists. Whether touring Europe with NYC’s latin infused jazz/rock band Gato Loco (VIDEO below) or making noise here in the city, Joe and his Miraphone can be found performing somewhere pretty much every night of the week- often in multiple places. TubaJoe performs with the Ja Ja Jas, Red Hook Ramblers, This Ambitious Orchestra, New Beard (new VIDEO recently featured on Sterogum), Gato Loco, Tin Pan, Tuba Love (his own band), just to name a few and he still has time to manage a great looking tuba blog (long live the ipad). One of my favorite facts: he has a tuba case endorsement from Accord Case for all that traveling. That, and that he marched Blue Devils. TubaJoe’s a graduate of University of Northern Colorado and Northwestern University.

J: What project are you currently in the process of completing?
TJ: “There’s never only one thing going on….! Right now I am finishing up an EP and video project with one band, a record with another and working on several international trips with multiple bands. 2012 will be intense.”

J: What has been one of your most memorable musical experiences in NYC?
TJ: “My favorite gig in NYC proper was a few years ago with my own band, Tuba Love. We played a big warehouse party in Brooklyn and the dancing crowd would not let us stop playing. We ended up playing for almost 4 hours straight with no break. The absinthe-fueled crowd started to get naked. It was daylight in the morning when we finally stopped playing. It was totally surreal. My favorite gig outside of NYC (but with a band from NYC) was when Gato Loco played a festival on the steps of an old wine chateau in Bordeaux, France. Instead of starting on stage, we burst out the doors of the old chateau already playing. The band really found itself that night and the show became a rock-concert frenzy with the crowd pounding on the stage for an encore… which we hadn’t prepared for. That was my favorite gig I’ve ever played.”

J: What is the most ridiculous/laughable gig you have worked in NYC?
TJ: “Once upon a time, I tried to do a “Tuba-gram“… a singing telegram, but instead of singing I was gonna play the tuba. I was hired by some woman to play at the midtown corporate office of some guy she liked. The guy ended up being a total douchebag and yelled at me that I was interrupting his workday, so I left without playing. Fortunately I had been prepaid. My guess is that the douchebag didn’t get laid.

Tubas can actually get you laid if you let them play, you know.”

DAN PECK.

Dan Peck- talent, intellect and vision. Beyond proficient at the tuba, Dan initiates some of the most original performances on the planet. I’ve seen him perform onstage in a bathrobe. I’ve also witnessed a zombie burlesque dancer pulling spaghetti brains out of his tuba (and eating them) at Coney Island. Dan is one of the most versatile musicians of his generation and somehow channels his freakish aptitude into the tuba. It would be easier to understand if he were brilliant at new music and simply average at executing the standard rep, but he can play it all. A multi-instrumentalist with an adept sense of timing, he has also proven extremely gifted at performance art. A fantastic classical tubist and a brilliant improviser/composer with a personable sense of humor, it’s no surprise that Dan’s talent is being funneled into a unique and well-deserved career. His tuba-fronted trio just released their debut LP, a doom metal album entitled “Acid Soil”… yep- DOOM METAL. Dan also provides rock-solid basslines in old-timey jazz band Grandpa Musselman and His Syncopators, and is a member of the visionary collective ICE (International Contemporary Ensemble). What does this guy do for a day job, you ask? He is currently the tubist at the Broadway musical “Chicago” (where he doubles on upright bass) and is adjunct-faculty at New Jersey City University.

J: What project are you currently in the process of completing?
DP: “…I just finished recording two new albums with my Trio, which is me on tuba,
Tom Blancarte on bass, and Brian Osborne on percussion. Both albums
are on the shorter side, about 40 minutes each. One is basically a through-composed doom metal/jazz suite, tentatively entitled “Destruction of Darkness.” The other CD is all improvisations, untitled right now. Working on titles! I’ve been checking out a lot of metal in recent months, both recordings and live shows. Some great bands happening right now in NYC are Defeatist, Radiation Blackbody, and Krallice. Non-NYC: Hooded Menace, Swallowed, Fleshpress, Portal, Moss and Dark Castle. Next few weeks, I’ll be playing with Nate Wooley’s quintet, playing/recording with Harris Eisenstadt’s Canada Day Octet, and doing a CD release show in mid-December for Tony Malaby’s Novela recording.”

J:What has been one of your most memorable musical experiences in NYC?
DP: “Definitely not a shortage of these. I remember playing with a smaller incarnation of
Sparks Orchestra, which was with Peter Evans, Tom Blancarte, Okkyung Lee, and Brandon
Seabrook (hope I’m not forgetting someone). This might have been one of the first times I really improvised in public…it was a humbling and eye-opening experience.”

J: What is the most ridiculous/laughable gig you have worked in NYC?
DP: “…with Grandpa Musselman and His Syncopators. What was supposed to be our first
real gig ended up being a non-gig. We showed up to this restaurant, only to find out
that only about 2 of the 6 of us could literally fit into the area they had for performers.
AND the owner wanted us not to be too loud! So we just left.”

So… at this point, I must tell you as the reader- Dan was my roommate for two years in Washington Heights (upper Manhattan). He was one of the greatest roommates of all time. That being said, with Dan came the two-belled euphonium, which you can witness in the video below. That is all I will say about that.

RON CASWELL.
Energy. Talent. Snarl.
Ron Caswell holds down one of the most unique sounds on the tuba in modern music.” It’s true. The amount of energy coming out of his bell with each note is almost frightening. Ron moves with ease and flexibility and if you believe people play like they are, you’ll instantly assume this guy’s a really good time and slightly insane. He’s played in ensembles ranging from the Flying Karamazov Brothers to the New York City Opera. I met him subbing at South Pacific on Broadway. Ron’s recorded and performed with They Might Be Giants, Anthony Braxton’s Tri-Centric Orchestra, the Royal Brass, the American Composers Orchestra and Max Roach. He has influenced the NYC gypsy music scene and beyond. Whether performing with Slavic Soul Party (who I love, see VIDEO below), Romashka, Gogol Bordello, Frank London’s Klezmer Brass All-Stars and Brian Carpenter’s Ghost Train Orchestra,
Ron Caswell delivers the extreme with utmost consistency.

Ron plays tuba in the Stumblebum Brass Band. Have you heard of them?…they were touring in Alaska lately. The thing about this insanely grotesque trio is that they are, for better or worse, too good to ignore. “You guys are not bums, you’re bees, Stum-ble-beeeeeez!” – Bill Cosby. WHAT?! I don’t know… it’s on their website… check it out for yourself. Their most recent album is entitled “F**k you Lady Gaga.” Now for the REAL details: I played a show with these guys with Genghis Barbie at NYC’s Mercury Lounge ON VALENTINE’S DAY. As though that wasn’t funny enough- the lead singer, Smidge Malone, got buck naked during their set, like… birthday suite…minutes before the Barbies took the stage…that was a pivotal moment in Barbie history. Ron is a beast on the tuba. Experience, technique and precision are qualities inherent in his tuba playing that cannot be faked. Go see him play live but be ready for anything (watch out for little Smidge!). That energy in Ron’s sound seems to be contagious.

J: What project are you currently in the process of completing?
RC: “……………………”

J: um…OK. What has been one of your most memorable musical experiences in NYC?
RC: “…………………..”

J: *ahem* What is the most ridiculous/laughable gig you have worked in NYC?
RC: “…………………..”

J: huh.

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“Life is a Cabaret.” Halloween 2011

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What better place to spend Halloween than New York City? and what better place to celebrate than onstage at LPR (le poisson rouge), an icon of NYC nightlife and urban culture. Benjamin Ickies and his Ambitious Orchestra brought “Life is a Cabaret” to life with a dance troupe (Brooklyn’s “Lady Circus”), contortionist, sword-swallower and a large, celebratory audience (who looked fabulous in their costumes, btw). There was something for everyone. The music both revered and mocked the cult-classic “Cabaret.” Honestly, I had never seen the movie until Halloween eve and since then I’ve developed a whole new appreciation for Liza Minnelli- that woman’s got an insane energy about her.
Lisa D. and myself sang “Money” and, as per usual, we had a blast (see video at bottom of blog).

Lady Circus danced their you-know-whats off, choreagraphed by the talented Kathryne Van Assche. These ladies are phenomenal. They perform aerial art, ballet, modern dance, cabaret… skilled body movement. They can be found hanging from the ceiling, dancing at the “House of Yes” in Brooklyn, right off the L train at Grand St. I had the pleasure of rehearsing with them prior to the show. These ladies work hard and dance beautifully.

The evening was part of Oh! You Pretty Things, created and promoted by the legendary Michael T, Shien Lee, Twig the Wonderkid and Benjamin Ickies. Quite the host family. Featured performers included: The Bindlestiff Family Cirkus, Lady Rizo, Isengart, Koko Aviance, Lee Chappell & Matteo, Kae Burke, Pepper Somerset, Lisa D. & Jacquelyn Adams.

NickyDigital.com captured these moments…hundreds of pictures are available at NickyDigital.com.


The next four pictures are courtesy of Coach Mike Pics.




NickyDigital.com again…

Hundreds of pictures available at NickyDigital.com and CoachMikePics.com. If you need a photographer in NYC, here are two… if you can catch them.

WATCH VIDEO. Hit RELOAD if all you see is a giant black space.

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What the hell is a Cimbasso?

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What the hell is a Cimbasso? Ask yourself, confirm that you have no idea and then try to imagine all of the possibilities. Picture a tyrannosaurus rex singing with the lyrical adeptness of Luciano Pavarotti or a powerful yellow bulldozer covered in rose petals, maybe Quasimoto dining at Italy’s finest establishment with his drop-dead gorgeous date for the evening … exactly! getting closer … now relax into the idea of low, soothing tones and the gentle caresses of Italian love songs being performed on the greatest instrument never heard- the Cimbasso.

Andrew Bove recently released Cimbasso D’Amore, the world’s first solo Cimbasso CD. Ever. WHAT?!  Yes! Ingeniously packaged, this ground-breaking collection of Italian songs offers every listener the opportunity to fall in love with cimbasso (honestly, it’s difficult not to be charmed by this ancient predecessor of bass trombone and tuba). Primarily used in the days of Verdi and Puccini, the cimbasso was traditionally delegated to supporting roles in opera orchestras and, more recently, the “felt but not heard” rumblings in the background of movie soundtracks. Not anymore! Carsten Fleck, who photographed Bove with his cimbasso last year, revealed “the instrument has also been featured on Korn’s Unplugged concert with MTV.” What?! I later discovered that Korn employed two cimbassos on that gig- Andrew Bove and Morris Kainuma.

The serene sound that Mr. Bove persuades out of this beastly instrument is absolutely astonishing. The opening track, Caruso, grabbed my attention and quayed my doubts as the music immediately painted images of love, river-walks, cafes, Italy and emotion. This stunningly beautiful song was composed by Lucio Dalla in 1986 and has been made famous by numerous world-renowned operatic tenors such as Luciano Pavarotti, followed by Andrea Bocelli (who sold 16 million copies of this song on his first international album. Listen HERE). Josh Groban also sang it, but we won’t talk about that…

So, is there music written for solo cimbasso? Nope…but given is time of birth, opera aria transcriptions and bel canto-type songs fit the beast perfectly. Cimbasso D’Amore hosts selections from Puccini’s “Turandot” and “La Boheme,” Monteverdi’s “L’incoronazione di Poppea,” and songs that showcase the many sounds of love. Programming familiar music encourages the listener (despite the odd instrumentation) and these specific melodies have been vessels of expression for countless performers. What would a collection Italian songs be without Nessun Dorma? NOTHING! Thankfully, Bove was one step ahead. One of the most popular tenor arias of all-time, Nessun Dorma has proven itself as a cornerstone for many of “the greats” (Pavarotti, among others but his interpretation remains a favorite. Watch HERE). I found myself listening to the CD and waiting for the high notes, thinking, “Will Andy get up there?! Can the Cimbasso do it?!” YES! The strength of the cimbasso orchestrated with violin, cello, string bass and piano lends itself to both beauty and power.

I had to chuckle as O Sole Mio concluded the CD. In my defense, I laugh every time I hear this tune. It reminds me of that movie from the early 90s with the frog, by the pond…but anyways, the track is done to perfection and is a delightful closer. After navigating a journey through sentimental love songs, Bove leaves the listener in good spirits- craving pasta and red wine. Wayne J. du Maine (flugelhorn) butters the bread right up as the musicians perform effortlessly. It is impossible to ignore the level of musicianship and formal musical training attained by the performers involved in the making of this CD (see below).

Listen to the CD and just try not to get lovey-dovey (or hungry), I dare you. Not sure how you will satisfy that hunger but if you need more copies of Cimbasso D’Amore, go to CDBaby or andrewbove.com. Get your cimbasso groove on but if you like it – don’t blame me, blame Bove.

Produced at Bove Audio by: Andrew Bove, Mike Boschen and Sycil Mathai.
Musical arrangements by: Michael Atkinson, Andrew Bove, Christopher Kenniff, Ljova, Brian Mahany and Jason Wingate. Additional music preparation by: Bryan Doughty.
Guest performers include: Elissa Cassini (violin), Ljova (viola), Susannah Chapman (cello), Anthony Scelba (double bass), Alexander Fiterstein (clarinet), Wayne J. du Maine (flugelhorn), Mike Boschen (trombone), Denson Paul Pollard (bass trombone), Christopher Kenniff (guitar) and Allison Brewster Franzetti (piano).
CD Photos by: Purple Critter

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The Greatest Artist Who Ever Lived

beethoven
Portrait Ludwig van Beethoven when composing t...

Beethoven

You are “the greatest artist who ever lived.” Afterall, who isn’t trying to be the greatest artist who ever lived? … and what is an “artist,” anyways? Emerging in today’s all-access internet society means understanding that you can achieve success by promoting yourself, investing in the future and staying ahead of the game. However, trying to get a living-room produced garage band track to measure up to Beethoven‘s 5th symphony is a daunting task (although Beethoven probably created the 5th symphony from his living room, too) and coming up with a high-quality product while trying to cover your bills and rent can be tricky… but why not give it a go? Why not try to be the greatest? After all, you are the “greatest artist who ever lived“… who ever lived your life, that is.

Every piece of bad music that can be written has been written (even before electronic capabilities) and individuals are becoming famous through television, internet and social media for simply being themselves – we have saturated ourselves to the point of being impressed with the unimpressive as skill has turned into self. So why “chase” Beethoven? What makes him a hero, anyways? Some people adore his music, while other music-lovers hear it and immediately dismiss it. Most people have never consciously heard it (listen HERE to one of his greatest hits or watch an electric guitarist encourage Beethoven to roll over in his grave HERE).

Moving forward through various projects and collaborations, more and more I ask myself, “Why do I continue this journey? Why collaborate? Why forge forward alone? Why forego promising endeavors to chase less certain ideas?” I guess it depends on what you are going for, how intensely you believe in where you are going and what is pushing you forward. Most decisions are already mapped out (well, I guess that idea centers around a philosophical discussion concerning fate and pre-ordained destiny). For myself, when I am truly listening to life and following my path, the decisions are usually plain answers just staring me in the face, waiting for an obvious verdict.

I would encourage you to find your “song” without an end goal in mind. Enjoy the process because at the end of the day, week, month, year, life- the process is what makes it your own. Everyone possesses a unique expression- cooking, golfing, swimming, crunching numbers, riding horses, yoga … most of us would explode without it. For some, it’s a thought created by someone else but interpreted a specific way. For others, it means creating something completely unitelligible to the majority of the human race. For my heroes, like Beethoven- it’s a lifestyle.

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A Night of David Bowie

CarlaRhodes

Q: What do a ventriloquist, a janitor, a french horn player, a go-go dancer and a personal trainer all have in common? A: One ridiculously fun night at NYC’s Edison Hotel bar singing DAVID BOWIE. This night could have gone like any other night but these freakishly-talented performers created a tribute performance like no other, a testament to Bowie’s music and NYC’s lifestyle. Australian go-go dancer, Anna Copa Cabanna, arrived in her stars and stripes leotard (naturally, singing Bowie’s “Afraid of Americans”) and she was impossible not to love. Needless to say, tourists were enthralled. I had to laugh as she bopped around in blond bobbing hair, heels and a unitard. An older-couple having dinner at the bar managed to continue staring out the window at street traffic, denying her presence but not wanting to leave.

Carla Rhodes, NYC-based rock ‘n’ roll ventriloquist, comedienne and star of “The Continuing Story Of Carla Rhodes,” busted out her Bowie dummy and the two of them worked through one of Bowie’s lesser known hits, “Rubber Band” (I joined in on this tune with my horn). Carla has an unbeatable vibe about her, killer hair and an obvious obsession with dolls.

Eric Schmalenberger- “actor, boyfriend and janitor” at Brooklyn’s “House of Yes,” graced the crowd with his high-pitched ballads and brought a one-of-a-kind vibe. He’ll tell you first- he gets paid to be himself.

The show was part of the music series “Bespoke 2: The Music of David Bowie” at The Rum House (the Edison Hotel bar) on w 47th in midtown. Curated and lead by Benjamin Ickies, the band played three full sets of music that night- all Bowie tunes. I belted out “Diamond Dogs” and “Queen Bitch” in my military high heels, dog collar choker (literally- found it on the ground when gigging in CT), ripped up tank top and purple leopard pants. I’m learning about night-time dressing in NYC, particularly with the make-up. Next step – applying my own fake eye-lashes.

I was glad to meet Matt James (drummer for “Angelspit“) who provided rock solid beats with Grant Zubritsky playing the bass. Spencer Katzman on guitar. Ashley Monroe (“Ziggy Stardust”), Lisa Dispigno (“Time”) and John Presnell (“Space Oddity”) rocked out, per usual- I’m saving them for future blogs. Ickies was at his all-time best on rock piano (standing, of course – Tori Amos style)… which reminds me: last Sunday Ickies and his Ambitious Orchestra shot an unbelievable music video at Brookyln’s “House of Yes.” Some might say it’s a little over the top; I’d say literally- one scene involves aerial dancing and another involves a chick dancing with fire (swinging ropes around her body that were actually lit on fire), not to mention a hot team of cabaret dancers… keep an eye out for this vid (I’m top right in pic below).

It was an week of NYC style and expression. What can I say?… good to be “Young Americans.”

That being said, I paid my rent today and have like $6 left. Sigh.

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Genghis Barbie.

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Firstly, have you heard the debut CD?

It’s difficult to put a word on what allows a specific collection of musicians to be successful, initially. Sometimes it’s luck, sometimes it’s chemistry, sometimes it’s fate and sometimes the public is simply ready to receive. In the instance of Genghis Barbie, it was all of the above. Our horns blended beautifully at the first rehearsal, as though we had played together for years. Future potential stared us down at our first photo shoot, when we saw ourselves through the eyes and lens of NYC-photographer Spencer Lloyd (it doesn’t hurt that Spencer’s a photo-taking genius).

We made an incredible CD titled “Genghis Barbie,” of which I’m extremely proud – this thing sounds goooood. It’s a one-of-a-kind tribute to horn playing. Support from friends and fans, good tunes, stellar musicianship and sheer fun made this album. Don’t be embarrassed if you haven’t heard of Genghis Barbie or the CD yet! This is all still fairly new, as Genghis Barbie is only in her second year. The music on the album speaks for itself: Toto’s “Africa,” Queen’s “Somebody to Love,” A-ha’s “Take on Me,” Bjork’s “Anchor Song,” Seal’s “Kiss From A Rose” ….

Covering already famous songs is not a new recipe for gaining popularity; however, covering the tunes without a vocalist and on four like-instruments was a feat. People ask who created the arrangements. Danielle Kuhlmann (Velvet Barbie) arranged about half of the tracks on the CD and we were incredibly fortunate to have awesome musicians as family and friends. Michael Atkinson’s energetic version of A-ha’s “Take on Me” has proven a crowd favorite, Brad Kerr Green’s “Africa” by Toto (yeah, you know it…it just takes a minute to recall) has received rave reviews, Velvet’s “Somebody to Love” is perfectly written for four horns and her brother, Evan Kuhlmann, arranged our first single release “Kiss from a Rose.” Two personal favorites are “Sister Rosetta Goes Before Us” (Alison Krauss/Robert Plant version, arranged by James Blachly) and John Glover’s ethereal rendition of Bjork’s “Anchor Song.” Now that I’m talking about it… the whole album’s pretty darn listenable.

We recorded the CD at Dreamflower Studio in Bronxville, NY (twenty min north of NYC on the Metronorth train) with Jeremy Tressler. One of us had previously collaborated with Jeremy and he came highly recommended. The experience was absolutely perfect for four acoustic instruments. Jeremy is insanely gifted at recording, processing, mastering, photography, art, thinking, whatever… a sound engineer that weighs the quality against the highest possible standard. Horn legend John Clark produced three tracks (we recorded one of his original tunes as an interlude) and Brad Kerr Green also produced three tracks. The CD package was designed by Jeff Meininger.

Where can you find the CD? A few places. Each track is available on both CDBaby and iTunes (with previews). Easy cheezy.

It was truly a privilege to be a member of Genghis Barbie and involved in the making of this album. Some highlights from the past year were performing at the International Horn Symposium in San Francisco, placing third in WNYC’s Battle of the Boroughs and meeting tons of amazing musicians, friends and fans. Watch GB’s mockumentary “In a Barbie World: The Rise and Continuous Rise of Genghis Barbie.” Discover the CD and catch Genghis Barbie in concert this year. They’ll be bringing a fierce musical experience as they move forward with their newest fourth member, Electric Barbie.

GENGHIS BARBIE.

~jungle barbie, former Barbie.