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Entries in new york (4)

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
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.”

 


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!


Monday
Apr232012

E! True Hollywood Story Presents - Sex Drugs and Jazz

We’re overdue for an update on our comedy series Sex Drugs and Jazz, as this project has meandered in and out of consciousness for the past couple years. So what is Sex Drugs and Jazz you ask?

Originally when I went to New York, I had it in my head that I wanted to do a project about Jazz. And I wanted to do comedy. Pretty much my two favorites things, besides Sophia Vergara’s bosoms. So I got to New York, and explored the music and film scenes and the city itself as much as possible.

At first I actually wrote a feature film script for the project, revolving around a piano player who puts a band together in one night to try and save a famous old jazz club. That was around the end of 2009. I can remember it clearly now, as we sat with our investors, right after the financial collapse having cocktails. Laughing is all I remember. Laughing at the thought of investing in independent film in these economic times. “Independent film as we know it is dead my friend,” lamented my producer.

I took a month or so to regroup, and concluded the future would be in tv/web content a la hulu, netflix, and the Youtube’s out there. So I decided to make the Sex Drugs and Jazz project into a comedy series. I took some of my favorite characters from the film and went into production on this comedy show.

The first season of Sex Drugs and Jazz follows the brilliant jazz gypsy guitarist Neptune played by the charismatic Ashley Springer. Neptune is really a super dumb narcissistic stoner, but also one of the most talented jazz guitar players in New York. Neptune finds it hard to make a living as a jazz guitarist in NYC, and gets into the business of marijuana. We follow along as Netpune balances his life, friends, family, musicians, and ladies.

Where the hell are the episodes? Great question. Although we shot the series quickly, post production has been a brutal mofo. It has dragged on and on, not unlike your drunk racist uncle at Thanksgiving. Good things were happening, but at a snails pace.


Thanks to the addition of an additional superstar editor to our team (Big ups to my girl Viva), we are back on track to get all these episodes out throughout this year! The episodes will be coming out on the first of the month each month starting in May, and go until 2013.

I will be writing more in depth about the Sex Drugs and Jazz project as we move along to each episode with pics, anecdotes, and dirty uncensored behind the scenes stories. This week, we’ll release the first single from the soundtrack, the trailer and the Pilot episode. Check it.

Below posted is the lead single from the soundtrack entitled “Sex Drugs and Jazz”. It’s spliced together with clips from the first season. I produced the track along with my brilliant producing partner Taylor Ryan at AM studios. It was written by Rick Russell, Shaun Manley, and Todd Woodward. The emcee on the track is Woodz, and vocals are by Angela Workman.

Enjoy.