2016: A Spice Odyssey

Hey folks

Welcome back. I know it's been a good long while since I last updated my website, but know that it's been on my mind for quite some time now. A lot has happened in the past few months that I need to share with you all.

Musically, I feel like I'm just beginning to hit the state where I'm able to have some really intense conversation with the other musicians in my quartet. It's getting to the place where things feel comfortable; that I can lean on everyone in the group without fear of falling apart. And that's made a huge difference on my playing. For those of you who haven't heard my quartet before, I've been playing, for the last few months, with Shi Yuji on tenor sax, Zhang Ke and Jared Beckstead alternatively, on bass, and Anthony Vanacore on the drums. It's been a wonderful experience playing tunes with these guys, and getting to explore new directions with them.

I've also been doing a considerable amount of arranging and pop work: while this has been the bread and butter of my existence for a while, I've also started to take a larger role in the production and management side of the horn line. Recently, I did an album for a singer who I can't name quite yet, and I did the entire set of horn arrangements for her album. It's a great sign because it means that live horns are coming back into the pop music scene, and that we are doing a good enough job that other singers are now wanting horns on their stuff.

I also finally received my new custom horn from BAC Best American Craftsmen. It's a real piece of beauty, with a hand engraved bell design by their good folks at BAC.

My new horn from BAC

With Mike Corrigan, Master Craftsman at BAC

Trying the new axe at East Shore

Finally, my project The Spice Cabinet has been taking off. We just won Band of the Year Editor's Pick from City Weekend this past Monday and I'm really happy. As a project that's been a existence for a while, but in its current form, less than a year, I'm really happy to see that instrumental jazz music is able to find a place as vibrant and hip as Beijing. I've been arranging like crazy for the band. The vibe is this: deconstructed Top 40 hits made instrumental, improvisational, performed live and simultaneously danceable. In a world where the dancing happens mostly to DJ's who are able to craft perfectly molded beats and electronic drops, this seems like a gargantuan task. But somehow the guys are able to take the tunes that I've envisioned and turn them into masterpieces-- they're somehow spontaneous, improvisational, hip and definitely danceable. I've arranged tunes like Kill Bill theme (Battle without honor or humanity), a large selection of Katy Perry hits, the Sonic the Hedgehog Chemical Plant Zone Theme, the Pokemon Theme Song, and a variety of other tunes that millennia of all backgrounds recognize from their youth. The crowds have been growing and so has the band. We started with a handful of people checking out my trombone/guitar/drum/bass arrangements and have now grown into an 8 piece band playing for a horde of listeners. Anthony on drums, Ma Kai and Dan Zylinski alternatively, on bass, Gabriel Beaudoin and Butch Ford, alternatively, on guitar, Song Lai and He Haocheng on trumpets, Xiao Ji and Kevin Sun and Nathaniel Gao on saxes and myself on keys.

Who's a happy baby?

I've got a lot of stuff coming up. For now, that's all. More about Spice Cabinet in my next post!

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