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Monday
Jun112012

A Lazy Man’s Tony recap

The 2012 Tony’s happened last night, in case it wasn’t on your calendar. I’ll bypass the usual groaning about how awards shows suck, and how long they are. Heard it a thousand times. Yes, they suck and yes, ratings for the show were horrible. It is what it is. Get over it.

This year’s Tony’s were not too painful. Hosted By Neil Patrick Harris for the 3rd time, the show overall seemed to somewhat keep up the pace.

The opening number “Hello” sung by the book of Mormon cast was one of the strongest tunes of the night. This is a Trey Parker and Matt Stone song if I’ve ever hear it...Check out an earlier south park holiday song they did back in the day. You hear the same sort of rounds, and melody counterpoints, and opposing and they joining melody lines. Brilliant stuff.

NPH was adorable as usual and kept the show light and fun, even if some of the jokes were pretty cheesy. Musicals can be kind of cheesy , so it makes sense. On a side note, although I do like the ladies, I would indeed probably hook up with NPH after I’ve had a couple cocktails. But I digress.

“What if Life Were More Like Theatre” was an appropriate opener for the show. But I felt like with that song, and also the writing in general things could have been punched up or a bit edgier. It all felt very Disney to me. Although I did enjoy “Seize the Day” performed by the cast of Disney’s Newsies.

Well I am gonna say it for the record, I am not the foremost authority on theatre. So I am just going to list all of the winners from last night with no added commentary or blather:

    Winners from the 2012 American Theatre Wing’s Tony Awards, announced    Sunday.
   
           Musical: “Once.”
   
           Play: “Clybourne Park.”
    Revival of a Play: “Death of a Salesman.”
    Revival of a Musical: “The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess.”
    Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play: James Corden, “One Man, Two Guvnors.”
    Performance by an Actress in Leading Role in a Play: Nina Arianda, “Venus in Fur.”
    Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical: Steve Kazee, “Once.”
    Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical: Audra McDonald, “The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess.”
    Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play: Christian Borle, “Peter and the Starcatcher.”
    Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play: Judith Light, “Other Desert Cities.”
    Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical: Michael McGrath, “Nice Work If You Can Get It.”
    Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical: Judy Kaye, “Nice Work If You Can Get It.”
    Book of a Musical: Enda Walsh, “Once”
    Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre: “Newsies.”
    Direction of Play: Mike Nichols, “Death of a Salesman.”
    Direction of a Musical: John Tiffany, “Once.”
    Choreography: Christopher Gattelli, “Newsies.”
    Orchestration: Martin Lowe, “Once.”
    Sound Design of a Play: Darron L. West, “Peter and the Starcatcher.”
    Sound Design of a Musical: Clive Goodwin, “Once.”
    Costume Design of a Play: Paloma Young, “Peter and the Starcatcher.”
    Costume Design of a Musical: Gregg Barnes, “Follies.”
    Scenic Design Play: Donyale Werle, “Peter and the Starcatcher”
    Scenic Design of a Musical: Bob Crowley, “Once.”
    Lighting Design of a Play: Jeff Croiter, “Peter and the Starcatcher.”
    Lighting Design of a Musical: Natasha Katz, “Once”

Thursday
Jun072012

All about Episode 2 - “The Dinner Party”

There are several once-in-a-lifetime events culminating this week. We saw Venus eclipse the sun, which was pretty boring. In other , more globally relevant news, we have finally released episode 2 of Sex Drugs and Jazz, entitled “The Dinner Party”.

As you might remember if you were sober at the end of the Pilot episode, Neptune (Ashley Springer) gets arrested by the NYPD for selling ganja on St Marks street in New York. Episode two opens with Neptune trying to figure out how to get customers for his new weed start up business. Our Jazz musician protagonist is obviously not the sharpest business person, but with the help of his best friend Chris Wang (Trevor Zhou), a plan is hatched to throw a fancy dinner party to entice new high end customers to sell pot to.

Getting ready for the dinner party is a shit show, and the party itself is filled with complications from start to finish. At the dinner party we meet Steve and Ricardo, two flamboyant broadway theatre directors; We meet Metta, the intimidating billionaire oil man, and Eliza the horny cougar who is always has her hands on Neptune’s joint.

I really love this episode so very much, and I love dinner parties. They are one of the best social activities we get to do in our short little lives. Good people, good food, good wine, and I’m in heaven. For episode 2 I thought it would be fun to have all these characters who Neptune would be selling weed to, to gather at Neptune’s house to see him in his own environment as a cook and host. Which - surprise surprise - he’s not very good at.  

The music from Episode 2 features more kick ass tunes from the brilliant Hot Club of San Francisco - the songs Lover’s Leap, Jonesin’, and Yerba Buena bounce from the HCSF. The great funk tune for the massive bong smoking scene is “Camouflage” by Hokum Factory out of NYC.

Will Neptune pull it off, and get enough people to buy pot to start his business? Watch the effen 2nd episode now and find out you lazy slacker.

 

Thursday
May242012

Sex Drugs and Jazz - The Pilot Episode

 


What a ride it has been with this little project of ours, Sex Drugs and Jazz. It all started  - like all series do - with the first episode, “The Chronicles Of Neptune.” When I started putting the script together for the Pilot I knew I wanted to make it a believable musicians story, and include a lot of the places I frequented in New York. I wanted the show to feel like you were actually there with the characters, getting down and dirty on the L.E.S. I based the first season of the show around the genius stoner Neptune, mainly because I thought that he would just be a really fun character to write. Neptune is like a lot of people - seriously gifted in some areas, and just dumb as ass in others.

The story begins as viewers meet Neptune, who has just spent the night with a pretty young thing. We see him scramble to try and play for change so he can take his lady out for brunch, but winds up getting smacked down by another street musician trying to get his corner back. This is one of my favorite openings in the first season because it was really true to my experience - there were plenty of times during our first year living in New York, that we were playing in the streets in the snow for change to get dinner. And I loved every minute of it - well maybe not the freezing my balls off part, but in retrospect, I totally loved it. And there were definitely times our friendly group of musicians were verbally and near physically attacked for being on another musician’s corner. Good times.

In the next scene, we see how Neptune interacts in the real world, at his office job.  It doesn’t end well, another storyline drawn from life as my entire life as a filmmaker and musician has been a battle to balance multiple jobs at once. We meet Neptunes corporate roommate Mitchell Rock played by Sean Hartofilis, who basically is the antithesis of everything Neptune believes in - living together for convenience sake, a very New York experience.

Netpune’s best friend Chris Wang is always there to rescue his bud. Chris is an engineer, scientist, consultant to NASA, and also a major stoner like Neptune. The Pilot episode also introduces us to an intimidating but teddy bear of a drug dealer Dino - another character ripped ripped straight from the streets of New York; there was a pot dealer lots of musicians knew about that was pretty bi-polar. One day he’d be delivering weed smiling laughing, the next day screaming cursing and intimidating. Another funny side note on the role. Originally I hired an actor...Forget his name as we didn’t end up using him as the day of the shoot he didn’t show for call time. Doesn’t answer his phone, nothing. Later I hear the actor I hired to be our drug dealer got arrested.... Oh sweet irony. By happenstance,  working on set that day was great friend and actor Rob W. Miller. He jumped in, grabbed a script, and in about 15 minutes, we had a pitch perfect Dino.

The second to last scene in the Pilot is Neptune meeting his new love interest Julie Danes played by the fantastic Tory Dube. I wanted to shoot this to be in places I frequented. We lived on the border of Chinatown, Financial District, and the Lower East Side. me and the lady used to take lovely walks all up and down the pungent East River where people referred to as Two Bridges. It’s a beautiful area just up from the Southstreet seaport in between the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges. We spent many a days sitting on the benches and staring out over to Brooklyn. I thought it would be great to have Neptune meet his lady here.

On the technical side of things: The Pilot and series was shot by my brother from another mother and brilliant DP Joe Gabriel. Neptune is played by the quirky and delightful Ashley Springer. The Pilot intro was shot in Williamsburg, and the exterior in Chinatown. The Office scene in midtown Manhattan 38th and 8th Ave. Neptunes apartment interior is in Williamsburg Brooklyn at South 9th and Bedford. Dino’s apartment is shot on the Upper East Side on 91st and Lexington. Neptune and Julie’s scene was shot on Catherine St and South Street under the FDR.

Anyhow, I may have out nerded you with all the details, but perhaps some of it will be interesting to you. Furthermore I highly suggest you get up immediately, grab a bottle of something with alcohol, go to our YouTube page, and watch the Pilot episode and see what I am yammering about.

A huge thanks as well as I talk about the Pilot to all of the cast, crew and friends of this project who made this shoot possible. A huge shout out to the Mayor’s Office of Film  and Television of New York.

The above pic was Neptune (Ashley Springer) playing guitar at sunset in Washington Square Park for the intro to the show. Below is the full Pilot episode “The Chronicles of Neptune.”

 


Monday
May212012

We Will Miss You Dearly Kristen!

 

Well we all witnessed the last SNL episode with Kristen Wiig as a feature cast member. They’re losing an unbelievable comedienne with comedy chops for days. She’s one of those performers who just always had that funny spark. First watching her perform was comparable to the first skits I saw with Chris Farley and Will Ferrell - that rare magical moment in comedy where you knew this person was going places.

As with Ferrell and Farley, Wiig was so fucking funny no matter what the size of the roll. One litmus test of comedy brilliance is when someone who only has a line or two, or not even a line maybe just in the background and you can’t take your eyes off them. Wiig did this is countless skits. I always had my eyes on her to bring the funny.

She had some amazingly funny and ridiculous characters at SNL, The “Babe” as one of the two a-holes, the “target lady”, creepy Lawrence Welk performer “Junice Merill,” movie reviewer “Aunt Linda,” “Shana” the sexy and gross siren, “Penelope” the one upper, “Judy Grimes,” the travel writer, and the weirdly lovable “Gilly.” I could go on and one with the great stuff she has done. But I am sure we all have our own favorites.

I will definitely miss her on Saturday nights. But she is one to bigger and better things and we wish her the best. I am sure a new shining star will rise from SNL again. My money so far is on Jay Pharoah, who is probably one of the best impressionists on there since Dana Carvey. He Just needs to find his voice as an sketch actor and performer and he’ll be unstoppable in the next couple years.

I can’t embed from Hulu as NBC and SNL are very protective of their little comedy show. But here is a link to the brilliant Two a-holes.

 

http://www.hulu.com/watch/19272/saturday-night-live-two-a-holes-buying-a-christmas-tree

Wednesday
May162012

Jazz + House Parties = Happy People

Well this is just an awesome bit of news that happened over the past few days. The Undead Music Festival based in NYC thought to do the coolest crap ever, and for one of the days, the festival organized a “Night of the Living DIY” for jazz folks. It was a night of DIY jazz concerts not just at professional venues but at houses and cool spaces all over New York, the US and the globe - taking jazz back to its roots, and I will definitely participate in some way next year.

Jazz began as this kind of music; played in dingy bars, houses and in the streets. Even when it became popular, black jazz players were not allowed into venues, and frequently played house parties and supper clubs until all hours of the night. Or until they ran out of pot. Whichever came first. On a side note about the munchies, let’s talk about how much us darkies love chicken and waffles. It is delicious. This magical combination started out with jazz players, who played at these late night jam sessions at houses. The hosts usually didn’t know whether to make breakfast or dinner at 5am, so they would do chicken and waffles - the best of both worlds.

Another fun fact is that there used to be (and still are)  jazz house parties called “rent parties” where jazz cats would get together to put on a show to help the resident of that house pay the bills.

These jazz house parties still happen, but not even close to as regularly as they did in the 30’s and 40’s - there’s only one I can think of that happens regularly up in Harlem. So it’s pretty unbelievable that there’s a large orchestrated effort to encourage this again. One of my favorite quotes from the article:

“Schatz thinks traditional jazz clubs, with drink minimums and hounding wait staffs, have done as much to harm jazz's popularity as have those clubs' own scarcity. (It's why Search & Restore typically favors standing rock clubs and other alternative venues.)”

I can’t tell you how much truth there is to this. It was heartbreaking for me as a jazz player to finally get to New York to these famous jazz clubs only to be greeted by condescending staff, rude sound guys, asshole club managers, high ticket prices, and a ton of snotty customers. The vibe that some of these so called fun “jazz” places is really atrocious. I also completely agree about the alternative venues, most of the bands and musicians I played with would much rather play at any other venue than a stuck up jazz club. This is all definitely much more so the case in Manhattan, but there is a overall pandemic of the attitude of like, “well we play jazz so you can’t complain or change anything about how we run this club because we are one of the few ones left.” Which I somewhat understand, but as Shatz implies, these actions are self defeating.

Which is why this DIY concert series is so cool. Cut out the middleman. Make more money. Have people at an intimate show who actually care about the music. The end of the post mentions how with social media it is obviously much easier to organize these kind of shows to attract fans. The article also makes the direct connection that jazz players are already kind of outsiders, and house parties fit into the vibe of this wonderful counter culture.

Super cool shit. I’ll see you guys at the next jazz house party!

Here is a video link to the House Party that still goes on every Sunday in Harlem called “Parlor Jazz,” and run by the beautiful Marjorie Eliot. If you ever happen to be up in Harlem on a Sunday between 4 and 6pm please go to her welcoming house and support jazz! The show is free every week too!