November 19, 2008

Les Paul: A Living Legend

Monday night, MB and I joined our friends Kristin and Dave and headed back to the Iridium to see Les Paul. I'm not sure what was better, shaking hands with a pioneer of solid body electric guitar (Fender and Rickenbacher also get credit for the innovation) or watching him stop mid-solo to pose for a picture. Probably the latter. As the middle-aged man in the front row raised up from his chair for a close-up, Les stopped, smiled... and flipped the the most cheerful "bird" I've ever seen.

Les is an old man. Like, really old. 93 years old, to be exact. And yet every Monday, the dude plays two shows, one at 8 and another at 10:30. The shows are a mix of classic jazz numbers like All of Me and Somewhere Over the Rainbow and hilarious, often dirty stories featuring classic characters like Bing Crosby and Bob Hope. And because Les is literally from another generation, he gets away with a level of sexism that plays really well against the sass his female bassist dishes back in his direction. My favorite line from the evening? "I feel like a flagpole sitting on top of a condemned building."

The music/comedy portion of the show lasted a little over an hour and Les often used stories and guests performances to rest between solos. After a short break, he comes back out to meet any audience member who wants to shake hands or get the autograph of a living legend. Several people brought their own Gibson Les Paul guitars to be signed and it even looked like you could buy a guitar on the spot for him to sign. As I gave that concept a few fleeting moments of consideration, I confirmed, yet again, that I'd married the right woman when MB gave the sign of approval should I decide the opportunity was too good to pass up. It was also pretty wonderful when she leaned over and whispered in my ear, "We should catch more live jazz." In the end, I was satisfied with a handshake and a signed ticket.
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November 12, 2008

Back in the Kitchen Again - Prepping for Tomorrow's Risotto

First off, i need to get rid of the "Read More" link at the bottom of these posts --- or I need to figure out how to get them to work.

MB is up in Toronto for the rest of the week but, as fate would have it, her mother and aunt are in town. I'm in the process of prepping the dinner I'll be serving them tomorrow night. They're going to arrive at my apartment around 7:30 so I need to get my act together in under an hour. As I was about to head out the door to Union Market without a plan, I decided to look in my risotto cookbook for something featuring fall ingredients.

I landed on a pumpkin and apple risotto, which should be easy enough since I prepped the pumpkin tonight. Unfortunately, i think I may have over-steamed it but it should still add some nice flavor and color to the dish, regardless. The recipe doesn't call for any spices but I'm thinking of adding a dash of nutmeg and cinnamon to enhance the fall flavors. I'm also going to add a few baby portabellas cause, well, why the hell not?

Before I serve dinner, I'm going to have a cheese platter with some fontina, rustico with red pepper, havarti and some smoked cheddar (if its still any good -- it's been in the fridge for awhile now). I grabbed some crostini and grapes to accompany the cheese. I'm also going to serve a simple salad with romaine, red onion, beets and a red wine vinegar dressing from Stonewall Kitchen. I've never cut my own beets before but I decided why not start now. I love the flavor and texture of beets --- and they definitely go with the fall theme.

As for dessert, I haven't made any decisions yet. I'm thinking I might take the easy way out and just grab something at a bakery on the way home but I'm not entirely sold yet. What do you think?

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November 6, 2008

Drums and Keys

You'd think a guy who's been playing music his whole life would have owned at least one drum but, somehow, it just never came up. That all changed last night.

Paul and I are finally getting around to playing some tunes again and this time we're attempting something a bit more interesting than a pair of acoustic guitars. Our concept is to loop and layer music we record in the live setting. It'll be something between DJing and a regular band. Basically four hands, a pair of computers and as many instruments as we can get our hands on.

Prior to yesterday, the majority of our collection consisted of different types of guitars. That's been the story of my life for the past 3-4 years and it has really limited my ability to produce anything of value. Slowly, over the past few months, things have started to improve. First came the MacBook Pro I'm using to write this post. Obviously, this is the most integral piece of the puzzle but it's not really an "instrument" on its own. Next came an iPhone. Technically, i had this before the computer but I've only recently started to discover a couple of apps I think are going to be really interesting to try in the live setting like BeatMaker and miniSynth.

But yesterday, things really started to roll. Thanks to the incredible used music instrument market that is craigslist, I managed to find a deal on a 61 key Korg Triton LE workstation and a "cocktail" drum set. The former is an older keyboard from 2003 but its a Korg and its certainly going to do what we need it to do. The latter is basically a small set with a kick pedal attached to a 16" tom and a few attached drums and cymbals. I'd never heard of anything like it before but the size was just what Paul and I were looking for --- something we can play around with without spending an arm and a leg or having to worry about lugging around a full set.

So what's left? Not much really. Aside from a few extra mics and cables, really were just looking at a pair of audio interfaces for our computers. Eventually, I'd really like to add a pair of digital turntables to the mix but that's hardly necessary in the short term.

I'll be sure to post pictures once we set up the space. Maybe there's even some tune-age in the near future?
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November 5, 2008

Election Day - Sixpoint Hop Obama

After MB and I left the polls at around 4:45 on Tuesday, we headed over to Miracle Grill for a celebratory drink. As we walked in, we were greeted by Chris Jansing - formerly Chris Kapotosky of WNYT 13 in the Capital Region - who was filling time on MSNBC while the country waited anxiously for the first polls to close at 7. We ponied up to the bar and MB browsed the drink list while I asked the bartender what was on tap. After rattling through the regulars (Brooklyn Brown Ale, Stella, etc.), he paused and looked up at the chalkboard above the bar and said, "Oh, and we have this Sixpoint brew called Hop Obama." Within moments, we had two frothy glasses sitting in front of us.

The Brooklyn brewer came out with its Obama brew back in March and initially intended to produce it for a limited time during the hiatus between the Democratic primaries and the election. According to an interview with brewmaster Shane Welch, the brewery did "not intend [the] beer to be a direct Sixpoint endorsement of Obama," but instead found inspiration in the now president-elect's grassroots campaign. Clearly, the brewery decided to extend production...either that or the management at Miracle decided to hold onto a few kegs for election day. Wise decision.

At 5.2% ABV, the ale was sharp but decidedly drinkable - milder than an IPA with a deeper hue but still packing a similar bite. MB and I liked it enough that we decided to call Bierkraft right from our seats at the bar to see if we could fill up our growlers for the election party we were headed to later that night. Sure enough, Hop Obama was the one Sixpoint they had on tap so off we went. Fast forward about 5 hours and the next thing I know, we're dancing in the street.
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November 3, 2008

Jazz and Drinks with Dan and Heike

Just as I was getting ready to write up the rest of our experiences last weekend with Dan and Heike, I noticed they already posted a on their own blog. You can read it here. In response to their questions, I think it's both excessive and just another night in NY.

This past weekend, our friend Marcus was in town from Atlanta to celebrate Halloween at the Roseland where Armin van Burren was spinning tunes. More details on this event a little later but, safe to say, it was a ridiculous "evening" that started Friday night and ended Sunday morning. Read Full Entry