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January 2022 at Lowlands

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As of October 2021, there is music weekly at  Lowlands Bar  (543 3rd Ave.) in Gowanus, Brooklyn. Sets are at  7:30 & 9 PM  each Tuesday, and my friend Dierk Peters is curating Wednesdays at 8 PM ( Our Borough Series , temporarily on hold due to COVID precautions). All shows are suggested donation only ($10 if you can), and we hope you'll join us or spread the word so that this series can continue as a part of the Brooklyn jazz scene ca. fall 2021 and beyond. Many thanks to  KEYED UP !, a program of Jazz Generation, whose  financial support allows us to compensate performers fairly for their work and for us to sustain weekly programming at Lowlands Bar.   Tuesday, January 4, 2022: Happy Trio XVIII Kevin Sun - saxophone David Wong - bass Vinnie Sperrazza - drums The eighteenth iteration of Happy Trio brings together two deeply swinging artists: bassist David Wong and drummer Vinnie Sperrazza. I first heard David with the Heath Brothers band while in high school, and I met and pla

Technical Notes on ♥️ Bird, V

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  More notes on the compositions that appear on  <3 BIRD   (see part 1  here , part 2  here , part 3  here , and part 4 here ). 13. Arc's Peel Arc’s Peel is based on Parker’s studio improvisations on “Scrapple.” "Arc's Peel" is the last of the  compositions originally composed for  The Jazz Gallery's  Lockdown Sessions, Vol. 33  to make it onto <3 Bird. As with "Cheroot" and "Mohawk," the initial strategy was to look at the two studio take solos overlaid and to identify any interesting patterns or musical effects that might suggest a direction for a composition: From my notes, I see that I was interested in playing with the idea of echoes or accumulations, as there are a number of phrases or shapes that seem to be handed off between the two improvisations (marked on the above as "echo"). There are also moments where the directions of lines either criss or diverge (notated in red with arrows), which I wanted to highlight for cont

Technical Notes on ♥️ Bird, IV

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More notes on the compositions that appear on  <3 BIRD   (see part 1  here , part 2  here , and part 3 here ). 10. Sturgis Sturgis is based on Parker’s recorded improvisations on “Mohawk.”  [this and later introductory statements are mine from the liner notes] Like "Cheroot," I composed the miniature "Sturgis" for The Jazz Gallery's Lockdown Sessions, Vol. 33 that premiered in February 2021. The substrate for this short, through-composed line is "Mohawk," specifically Bird's two solo improvisations (the piece was named after the bassist Ted 'Mohawk' Sturgis , hence the title). In this case, I first overlaid the two solos, then tried to trace a path through both lines with the least amount of silence (a maximized solo line merging the two); then, the remainder would be a complementary "negative" solo line. On the original version of "Sturgis" that appeared on the Lockdown Sessions, I took advantage of the remote reco

Technical Notes on ♥️ Bird, III

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More notes on the compositions that appear on  <3 BIRD   (see part 1  here  and part 2 here ). 7. Cheroot Cheroot features the trio in extended dialogue over an accent map drawn from “She Rote.”  [this and later introductory statements are mine from the liner notes] What is an "accent map?" It's my fancy way of describing an extracted sequence of accents taken from an existing phrase (see notes to "Adroitness, Part II" ). As part of my dive into "Synchronic Bird," I also tried overlaying two takes of "She Rote," with the accents of the combined line forming the basis for "Cheroot." As a note, I composed this specifically for The Jazz Gallery's Lockdown Sessions, Vol. 33 back in February 2021, and the "She Rote" portion can be heard here . Below is my drawing of the accent map by looking at the two solos in conjunction and identifying the accents that I wanted to extract for the new melody: Using the above as a sta

Technical Notes on ♥️ Bird, II

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  More notes on the compositions that appear on <3 BIRD (see previous here ). 4. Composite Composite features the drums along a thickening web of melodies derived from four Parker blues compositions. [this and later introductory statements are mine from the liner notes] Lennie Tristano is quoted in Robert Reisner's Bird: The Legend of Charlie Parker  (1962) as saying: The most  complex aspect of bop lies in the ingenuity with which the melodic line was  originated. It was creative. The context of the line breaks up into a large number  of precisely thought-out phrases, each of which is an idea in its own right and may  also be used in conjunction with any of the other phrases , and on any tune whose  chord structure is chromatic or diatonic. This may be compared with a jig-saw puzzle which can be put together in hundreds of ways, each time showing a definite picture which in its general character differs from all the other possible  pictures. [emphasis mine] Taken to an extreme

Technical Notes on ♥️ Bird

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Inspired by the example of musicians like Jacob Shulman and Miles Okazaki  sharing a peek into their compositional approach, I wanted to jot down some notes about <3 BIRD, my tribute to Charlie Parker released earlier this year. 1. Greenlit Greenlit borrows its harmony from Parker’s early pioneering composition “Confirmation” and adds an oscillating metrical form and new melody. [this and other italicized excerpts are my one-sentence summaries from the liner notes] In the course of my studying up on Bird during the pandemic, I was pretty shocked to learn that "Confirmation," which may be the most rhythmically and technically challenging standard bebop melody to learn due to its varied melodic shapes, abrupt changes in subdivision, and limited repetition, was among Bird's earliest-known compositions. He had it prepared to be recorded on a date with Dizzy Gillespie in February 1946, but in accordance with his legendary extra-musical inconsistency, he never made it to th

Hidetaka Miyazaki and Collaborative Game Design

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Hidetaka Miyazaki The 2011 FromSoftware video game Dark Souls  was recently awarded the seemingly hyperbolic title "Ultimate Game of All Time" at the 2021 Golden Joystick Awards , which started in 1983 and is the second-oldest video game award ceremony of its kind. There's no end to the essays and video tributes to the game available online, not to mention endless lore exegesis and detailed design analysis, but having entered the "Soulsborne" universe during the pandemic, I'm thoroughly and continually awed by the immersive design work of mastermind Hidetaka Miyazaki and his colleagues at FromSoft. Digging into the mechanics of these games feels like studying James Joyces's Ulysses  or mid-later period Coltrane; the level of interconnected detail, mystery, and implication is profound. So, how do you come up with and implement a (series of) games that push the mechanical and storytelling boundaries of the medium? There's a central vision, of course,