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Entries in san francisco (4)


Composing and Arranging for a NOLA Brass Band style album

May 29th 2015


I’ve been in the studio composing for the upcoming album from the SF based, New Orleans style band, Brass Band Mission. I’ve been composing Jazz tunes since I was a young buck, but had never composed specifically for a Second Line style brass band, which has always been some of my favorite music. My favorite aspect of the Second Line brass band beat is the basic visceral feeling you get when you hear this style of music. You hear the hard bass bass drum and riff swinging snare, and you may get up and dance, yell, cry, laugh, or all of the above. The sound of the NOLA Second Line beat is unmistakable, and for me anyway, instantly washes away the stresses of life.


My goal when composing for this album was danceablity and groove. Usually the music I love, and the jazz I love in particular, swings hard as hell. So I wanted to compose something that you can feel, that makes you want to shake your money-maker.


A quick scan of popular brass band NOLA tunes from the past few years shows the variety within the genre. There’s the traditional Jazz almost Dixieland style brass band, modern brass band like Rebirth or New Birth, that mix R&B and Hip Hop with traditional NOLA jazz.


I decided to compose something funky and nasty. A hard groovin tune that would keep folks dancing on Frenchman street. Nasty sousaphone, heart-attack level loudness in the percussion, raunchy horns. Sounds like heaven.


I came up with the name “Busted Key Stomp” one day while arranging this chart. Having listened to my fair share of modern brass band songs, one thing jumped out at me is the fact that almost all Brass Band Music is in the key of B flat, which makes sense, as it’s one of the easiest keys to play in for almost all brass instruments, including trumpet, trombone, and sousaphone. But even cover songs that were on the radio in different keys, brass bands would switch their cover versions to the key of B flat. Not a big deal for your average listener, but this can be grating for me as a musician and producer to hear song after song in the same key (nerd alert).


So I decided to write Busted Key Stomp in one of the worst keys for brass players. I did this because, as a trumpet player, I love a good challenge. The song is in the key of B, which is a half step above B flat. Hence the tune title “Busted” key stomp. Also the key is really horrible for trombone players who have to use the dreaded 7th (furthest out) position on the trombone with extreme frequency.


Brass Band mission got the hang of the tune after a few run throughs, and it started come together like a party on Bourbon street.  


The album was recorded and produced at Hyde Street studios in 2015. You can check out some of the tracks including Busted Key Stomp via bandcamp.



A Good Ol’ Turf War: Oakland vs. SF

Fast Company has just come out with a pretty cool article touting Oakland as an up and coming place to do business. SFist had a lovely and perfectly snarky response.

As a Bay Area born and raised lad, and a lover of comedy, I can’t tell you how much the SF versus Oakland shit talk battle delights. It’s a time honored tradition here in the Bay Area to talk shit about cities and neighborhoods, and the Oakland vs SF fued has been going strong since I can remember - and I feel extremely comfortable making fun of both sides. I was born in SF, grew up down on the peninsula in a beach town called Pacifica, then to the East Bay, then back to San Fran.  I’ve got ghetto love for all of the Bay.

But Oakland vs SF is comedy gold. It’s like New York and New Jersey. You can make a thousand Jersey jokes, and they don’t get old. Jersey-raised Jon Stewart makes some of the harshest and funny jersey jokes I have ever heard. If you’re in LA, it’s kind of like the LA verses “the valley”. Valley jokes just don’t get old.

One of the funniest Oakland jokes recently came when I was walking down the street with the fam. A homeless friend of mine, eyes lit up when he saw me. “Hey brotha!” he yelled. “Guess what?” “what!?” I said, riveted. he pulled out a set of keys from his torn jean pockets. “I got a house!” I smiled. “Awesome!” I think I said. But his face suddenly  wilted. “Yea, but it’s in Oakland,” he said disdainfully.  

Honestly Oakland is an amazing, dangerous yet thriving and misunderstood city. It is true at the moment there are a few more restaurants and bars and hispters and I would love nothing more than for Oakland to become Brooklyn. But until then. Let the jokes fly.

As a good friend poignantly said the other day, “Oakland will always be up and coming.”
This hilarious video from the SF based Sketch Comedy troupe Killing My Lobster will give you a sweet taste of what Oaktown is all about. Oakland!



San Francisco International Film Festival

We’re already a few days into it, but the San Francisco International Film Festival is back for its 53rd year. The festival will run from April 19th to May 3rd, and promises a glorious few days of excellent films.

The film festival provides more than just intriguing films: this year will feature live music, filmmaker salons, master classes for filmmakers, and even classes for college filmmakers in the Bay area.

There are tons of parties and award events; this year’s festival honors Kenneth Branagh with the Founder’s Directing Award.  

The big highlight is the Film Society Awards night, held on Thursday April 26th. If you have an extra $600 to $2000 for a ticket laying around on your couch somewhere, you are good to go and should enjoy this event. I guess I shouldn’t be too snarky since it benefits youth education programs. But $2000 for a ticket? If they had an extra $2000 laying around, most of the filmmakers I know would probably 1: buy a lot of pot and 2: Start there own little film festival with that money. Or just go and shoot something.

Anyhow, I digress. Go check out the festival and support San Francisco and the filmmaking community.



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.