2022 Year in Review
How did it feel to you?
Martin Scian was kind enough to indulge me with volume pricing on mixing as I knocked out an "extended play" record montly in 2022. I just sort of write and record compulsively- it's probably some sort of therapy for my public school career and existential angst. Pacing-wise, it felt fine for me and gave me a sense of purpose, although it did the streaming alogrithms no favors. Sadly, I still have about 36 albums to go, but i'll be slowing down in 2023 as my credit cards are absolutely maxed out. In the new year, I hope to be playing solo and with a trio and perhaps just release a song a month instead of a whole project. There's also this rock musical I've been kicking around. Have a safe holiday. B
“Inappropriate” is now streaming. I’m particularly proud of the way this rocks; Greg Odell and Marco Raaphorst bring the kerrang on drums and guitar. Soft, inner jazzy parts courtesy of Leon Gruenbaum (keys), Kevin Cerovich (trombones), and Emilia Cataldo (backing vocals). We’re running eight tunes reflecting on a sense of emotional claustrophobia courtesy of the then current national political climate as filtered through my role as a public school teacher in a poor neighborhood. Or something like that. I remember writing these tunes on the bass somewhat rapidly. I feel they came out pretty well. I bow down to the musicians and Martin Scian on the knobs. Bob November 2, 2022
The Vertical World
I’ve been working on and off for the NYC DOE for seven years and as with any large organization, there’s a lot to contend with for someone with an artistic bent. I was straight out fired ten years ago; I don’t think I’ve mellowed that much since then, but at 55 years of age, one’s looking over a high cliff at times, employment-wise.
What has always worked for me has been the kids. I’m constantly inspired by them. Although I’m working in one of the poorest neighborhoods in NYC with a difficult age (Does anybody like the 7th grade?), the students keep me going with their energy, interests, and passion.
My biggest challenge, which I feel capable of on days when I’ve had enough sleep, is reconciling their brilliance the dull thud of the demands of a large bureacratic organization. I feel up to this as well, as I’m no careerist and look to them like an artist in front of their public. Inspire. Provoke. Amuse. Challenge. To the sounds of silence from the organization. That’s when I go home and do my art.
A public service announcement from your friendly neighborhood introvert.
O Rio de Janeiro
fica sempre lindo
I keep going and I keep coming back and altough I could never make Brazilian music, it inspires the hell out of me. Three weeks this summer and even as a super gringo extraterrestrial, I've got the hope that some part of the experience sticks with me. Until I can come back. I sacrificed a lot of tanning time to do some writing in Cinelândia and came back with a bounty of new ideas. It was wonderful to see old friends, make new ones, and apparently take my Portuguese up a notch, if my friends are to be believed. Click the button below to check out the art of Patricia Chueke, whom I had the pleasure of meeting and collaborating with.
The world at my place
Andrew McLennan in the Bronx
I took a songwriting workshop with Martin Briley, a man who knows his way around a tune (“Salt in My Tears”). He stressed the importance of the vocal melody, citing I recall, a figure of 90% as a quantifiable amount of importance it has to the success of a tune. I wouldn’t really argue with that, thinking of all the earworms that have borrowed through my skull over the decades (If there’s a heaven, do we get that time back?).
I come from another planet; “Troubadour” where sense often takes precedence over sound in their eternal struggle. Things build up in me like static and can discharge at any time, often not even waiting for the killer melody to strike.
I got to write it out. When I’m feeling lonely, I post it. A bit of a focus group exercise on FaceCrack. For the last two years, Kiwi musician Andrew McLennan has been stalking my verse, sending me audio clips of him putting them to chords with …really strong melodies.
He knows how to work his voice. He knows how to work a melody. My words come back to me in new clothes, shaved, cologned, and ready to hit the town. I mostly don’t recognize them; they become ex-girlfriends after makeovers or cousins on my mom’s side of the family.
Anyways, Andrew has a dream to come to see NYC. Hard to believe this thing I put on when I open the door has his attention, but I guess his place holds the same attraction for me. I meet the guy at the airport. I take him to my place. The night begins. He with guitar. Me with pen. It’s awkward to start. I feel at times he’s normalizing my stuff too much, but that’s the difference between youth and decades of failure. One learns to keep it in the holster.
An approach/process is created. He rounds out the rough edges. He shines. He cuts. He adds. He buffs. He polishes. Is it plastic surgery or engineering-it changes from case to case, but when he’s done, they sound like they’re his. He assures me they’re also mine. I squint and I see a resemblance. It’s nothing he would write. It’s nothing I would write.
Does it work? He sings in full head voice. He strums confidently. Almost everything is mid to fast tempo, reflecting the urgency and transience of two middle aged dudes in a Bronx night. Will it blend? F#ck around and Find out.
I Need Your Attention
With Covid still circulating, I wouldn’t blame you either if you weren’t too enthused about being in a crowded room of strangers just to hear some local music.
Over the winter, I thought I’d write a short set that wouldn’t need much in the way of accompaniment that could give an audience a bit of what I’m about. I wound up writing 30 to get eight to fit together. I don’t know how far the carpentry analogy goes, but I definitely felt like I was putting song pieces together and looking for an overall fit in terms of moods, tone, subject matter, and style. As always, the biggest challenge is searching for the light in dark times and balancing the fluff with the meat. You’ll have to tell me if I succeeded.
Recording acoustic guitar well in a noisy apartment’s not my thing and as I always try to use new voicings and modulations, you’ll have to forgive me if it took a bit of trickery to get these takes. I did practice my butt off a bit, and (mostly) these were done in short order. I hope to play them at some point at a coffee shop or club near you.
“May I please have your attention?” is something as a teacher I say at least a dozen times a day. As an artist, it’s a constant question.
June 26th (one last day of school before summer break), 2022.
Oh the time I swear, I never saw it move...
...I was twenty-seven the last time I looked
-"Ohmyfatherfatherfather" from Obsessives (2019)
Pardon the narcissist, quoting himself. I wrote that a few years back for a song honoring my father’s passing. I still feel it, now that I’m twenty-seven times two. I feel relatively healthy most days, except for the obvious depression at the state of the world, but as I said then, “the rocknroll keeps me hallucinating”.
As I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve got this little problem in that I’ve written and recorded more than forty unreleased albums. And I want them to exist. I’m no Prince; don’t ask me to play a solo. But I write. And I’ve written daily for years. I’ve got energy, a public school teacher’s salary, no car or children that I know of, and a modest belief in the quality of the work I’ve made.
So, forgive me if I’m about to launch a very deluxe sort of pathetic cry for help. Martin Scian, the brilliant mixing engineer is willing to cut me a deal. The plan is to release one of these babies every month for the foreseeable future. There are some neat collaborations with some well-known names and lots of other weird things. What’s the goal? Just to raise my profile enough where I could conceivably tour on my vacations from work and maybe eventually break even.
OK, so mini-albums for everyone. Starting now.
May 8, 2022
(Photo: Jardim Botannico, Curitiba. By Fernanda Burgath)