Sunday, December 07, 2008

Barak on Meet The Press

Just got done listening to Barak Obama on Meet the Press. This guy is going to be a great president of historic proportions. How nice it is to listen to such an intelligent, focused, articulate man as our president. After the last eight years it is such a refreshing change. He has such a populist message, something we haven't heard in literally decades from the highest office in the land. He even mentioned bringing Jazz music and Poetry into the Whitehouse to promote the arts and culture. God, I love this man.

Read the complete transcript here, or watch video clips here.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Jazz night out

Monthy trip down to NYC. Dinner with Dave followed by set at Smalls Jazz Club. Great club. Literally a whole in the wall. Caught Mark Soskin Quartet featuring Joel Frahm (also Jay Anderson bass, Matt Wilson drums). Claire captured this video of a smokin' Joel Frahm performance.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Another Jazzy NYC weekend

Another night of Jazz and dinner with David Friday night.

At Jazz Standard: Charles McPherson/Tom Harrell Quintet - Charles McPherson AS, Tom Harrell Trp, Ray Drummond Bs, Chuck McPherson Dr, Don't know on Piano (supposed to be Aaron Goldberg).

Sunday night, right here in Hartford at the HJS Dinner at Black Eyed Sally's; Nat Reeves Quintet. Nat on Bass,Tony Reedus, drums, Anthony Wonsey, piano, Jovan Alexandre, saxophone, and Josh Bruneau on trumpet.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Hartford International Jazz Festival 2008

Click here for the complete gallery of pics and videos for the events I attended.

Friday October 10
7:30pm - Spris
Jazz City
Jonathan Chatfield - piano
Jovan Alexander - tenor sax
Stephen King Porter - bass 
Jason Williams - drums

10PM - The Society Room (formerly Jack Blacks)
Badal Roy Quartet and Special Guests:
Badal Roy - Tablas
Kenny Wessel - Guitar
Steve Gorn - Bamboo Flute
Daniel Moreno - Percussion
Special Guests:
Dave Liebman - Sax
Michael Henderson - Bass

Saturday October 11
11:00 PM - Fengs
Mario Pavone Sextet
Mike Di Rubbo - Alto and Soprano Sax
Lauren Sevian - Baritone Sax
Kris Allen - Alto Sax
Michael Musillami - Guitar
Mario Pavone - Bass
Curtis Torian - Drums

Sunday October 12
7:30PM - City Steam
Wallace Roney Quintet
Wallace Roney – Trumpet
Antoine Roney – Saxophones & Bass Clarinet
Rashaan Carter – Bass
Aruan Ortiz – Keyboards
Kush Abadey – Drums

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Live jazz at 55 bar

Monday night Sep 30, on a whim, hopped a train NYC. Met up with son Dave and headed down to the Village to catch one of those great Mike Stern appearances at 55 Bar. How about $15 cover (which includes 2 drinks), and you get to see a world class giant of jazz/fusion guitar, Mike Stern (along with Kim Thompson (d), Tom Kennedy (b)). We were sitting so close to the action, I had to occasionally duck to get out of the way of his guitar. I shot a video and posted it on YT.

also, a few days before Sep 25 caught Conference Call at Willimantic’s beautiful Capitol Theater.. Conference Call is: Gebhard Ullmann (bass clarinet, bass flute, tenor and soprano saxophones); George Schuller (drums); Joe Fonda (bass); and Michael Jefry Stevens (piano).

Monday, September 29, 2008

Bamboozled Bailout

Isn't anyone else skeptical about how this bailout is being jammed down our throats? Has anyone taken the time to analyze the effectiveness of $700 billion dollars of taxpayer money for corporate welfare? It seems to me that the market had already begun to stabilize last week without a bailout. As of this morning though, overnight markets and early trading has resulted in another tumble of the DJIA, despite agreements on a bailout bill. Perhaps the notion that just giving this windfall Xmass gift to the investment banks, will not induce any change in there irresponsible reckless risk-taking, and we are just throwing good money after bad. Isn't it ironic that free-market capitalism is hailed as the engine of economic prosperity, but when it all turns south, those same capitalists right away ask for the government to step in and bail them out with Federal dollars (a socialist move).

And how about the silly notion that taxpayers will actually make money on this deal. The assumption that the treasury siphoning off these risky, sub-prime, poorly secured mortgages will be good investments is ridiculous. If there was money to be made on these lousy mortgages, these investment firms would not be asking us to unload them at taxpayer expense!

Does anyone actually trust Treasury secretary Paulson (ex CEO of Morgan Stanley), or the top management of these investment firms not to repeat the reckless, greedy excesses of the past? What indications are there that they have changed their ways? Their proposal was to fork over $700 billion dollars without any oversight or condition. Any thought of limiting executive pay, or US equity in these firms would 'discourage' participation in this bailout. If that ain't a recipe for letting the foxes guard the hen-house. That is simply the height of arrogance and entitlement, that we should blindly trust these goons that brought us into this mess to also lift us back to prosperity.

How about using half of that $700 billion dollars to directly help Main Street. Can you imagine how $350 billion dollars to create alternative energy related jobs in the US would help our economy and work towards relieving our dependence on foreign oil? What if that money were used to provide government issued small-buisness loans, healthcare subsidies, auto-industy assistance to retool for hybrid car production. Wouldn't that be a shot in the arm for our economy and solve many pressing issues that directly affect Main Street?

I have not heard anything in this bailout bill that contains significant reform to prevent the excesses of the past from continuing in the future. Instead, we are providing more corporate welfare to the greedy irresponsible investment firms that have failed our economy while lining their own pockets with billions.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Live music

Lots of live music lately. I want to start journaling these as to not forget them... in my old age.

Wed, Sep 10
Chris Potter (ts) w/Adam Rogers g, Craig Taborn ep, Nate Smith d - CP Underground. No bass. Regatta bar Boston

Fri Sep 19
Insight featuring Zaccai (p) and Luques (b) Curtis. Also Jovan Alexander ts. at Htfd Polish home.

Sun Sep 21
Dave Holland (b) Sextet with Antonio Hart as, Robin Eubanks tb, Eric Harland d, Alex Sipiagin tp, Steve Nelson vb

Friday, September 12, 2008

Banished from Google

A couple of weeks ago, I noticed that traffic to my Jazz Podcast website had dramatically dropped. I was puzzled as to why this was happening as I hadn't really changed anything on the website. About a week ago, I Googled the page and noticed that no matter what search phrases I used, I could not get a hit to my Podcast home page. It seemed I had been banished from Google. Of course, I freaked out. Over the course of a couple years I had implemented many techniques to improve my organic search rankings. I had improved my positions month after month till I came up second place when 'Jazz Podcast' is searched (only behind My podcast had become one of the most popular Jazz shows on the web. Page hits, podcast subscriptions, downloads and AdWord revenues were on the rise. All of this started to come crashing down in just a couple of weeks.

To try to find some resolution to the problem, I ended right back at Google and found Webmaster Tools. This site has a plethora of great information on how Google views your site, what phrases are returning the highest rankings and tips on improving your positioning.

While it gave me no clue as to why I had disappeared from Google, Webmaster Tools has a 'Reconsideration Form' that can be used to get Google to re-evaluate your site and place it back in the rankings. It took just a couple of days, and sure enough, my site reappeared... right back in second place where it belongs. A huge sigh of relief! I'm posting this info because it might be of help to others that find themselves in this situation.

When it comes to web traffic to your website, Google can giveth and can taketh away!!!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

It ain't always jazz

It was a blast to help out hosting a live broadcast of Desiree Bassett playing on the Fiat Flux, a Saturday morning show on WHUS. While engineering on the mixing board for part of the show, I also shot the little video clip below. This 15 year old girl is a killer rock guitarist, with a real appreciation for the best of the Classic Rockers (Hendrix, Dicky Betts, Satriani). She has good folks and a great teacher, and has surrounded herself with some of the best local area musicians as seen here with David Stoltz (b), and Rob Gottfried (d).

I also worked on my YouTube Channel. Check out my videos and favorites here.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Newport Jazz Festival 2008

Just returned from a few days in Newport. The vacation was highlighted by the JVC Newport Jazz Festival, my first time at the renowned jazz event. I was most struck by the wide breadth of musical styles that jazz has transitioned to. The traditional quartet or quintet setting, playing bebop based compositions was present but very much in the minority. The music that was predominant was heavily influenced by African, Caribbean and Latin rhythms (as in Lionel Loueke, Esperanza Spalding, Sonny Rollins) or progressive hard rock electronics (Herbie Hancock, Chris Potter, Marco Benevento).  Yet it was all progressive, often hard driving and swinging jazz. As long as these artists are not selling themselves out for commercial popular appeal, the variety it brings to jazz music is very refreshing. At least the Sunday line-up that we attended did not have that smooth-jazz influence that has been pervading the genre as of late. Even Herbie's popular selections from River and Possibilities CD's were played in a creative and thoughtful way that you would expect from this master. 

The one quintet that was rooted in the post-modern bop setting was an incredible young group of British musicians, Empirical. They are a quintet of excellent jazz cats that stretched the hard-bop form with complex compositions and free-form solos that could go into space and take it right back home with a funky or swinging beat. Empirical is definitely a group to watch on the jazz scene.

Chris Potter was all over the place playing in about 6 or 7 different combos between Saturday and Sunday. We watched an incredible performance with his own band Underground. His sax playing is heavily influenced by Trane and Brecker, yet in an electric setting with Rhodes piano, a screaming electric guitar, and heavy rock and funk based rhythms (Nate Smith, incredible on drums). This was progressive jazz, not fusion. It was fresh and unique and really, really cooked.

Herbie played a wide range of styles from his classic compositions of the 60's, Headhunters fusion of the 70's, and his incredible arrangements of popular tunes and Joni Mitchell songs from his grammy winning albums. He played with an incredible lineup of Chris Potter (sax), Dave Holland (bass), Lionel Loueke (guitar), Vinny Colaiuta (drums). One of the highlights of his set was during the playing of River. Herbie played a solo that was so beautiful, quiet and compelling, that even in this outdoor setting with thousands present and all the distractions of boats and vendors, the crowd drew absolutely silent, hanging on every gorgeous note that Herbie was playing on the piano. It was breathtaking.

Sonny Rollins closed out the festival late Sunday afternoon. Sonny is a legend and it was a thrill to see him. At 78 years old, this cat can still play with the best of them. Sonny's group consisted of tenor sax, trombone, electric guitar, conga, bass, drums. I don't think he plays with the caliber of musicians he had in the past, and the compositions he performed were not like the classic swinging bop tunes that he did in the peak of his career. The music was heavily African and rhythmically based. The tunes and solos were long, often repetitive ostinatos that went on and on. However, when Sonny took center stage to take his solos, he always brought the music to life, and blew that sax like he was in his twenties. 

It was a great day, and one that I hope to repeat many times in the years to come. My photo gallery of the Newport Jazz Fest is here. (note: if you have additional pictures of the 2008 Newport Jazz Festival, I invite you to upload your photos to the gallery.)

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Jazz the way it should be

The best way to experience jazz music has to be live in a New York City jazz club. It just doesn't get any better. Live, up-close and personal. The Jazz Standard is just one of those places. Get there an hour or so early, and it is easy to grab a table a few short feet from the stage. Sunday evening, June 29 we experienced the George Coleman Quintet with special guest Eric Alexander. These are two killer tenor sax players. Coleman (71 yrs), one of the all-time masters of the tenor, who has played with the greatest jazz artists of all-time, including being a member of the Miles Davis Quintet (with the dubious distinction of being replaced by Wayne Shorter), Jimmy Smith, Dizzy, Lee Morgan, Max Roach, and more. Eric Alexander is one of the great young talents and powerful players on jazz scene today.

Their contrasting styles made for an incredible evening of jazz music. Eric Alexander is a superb technician with amazing chops. He has a powerful, lush sounding horn with which he played perfect solos throughout the evening. George Coleman had a more fluid yet raw playing style, but his ideas stretched the compositions to new directions, taking his solos to places you didn't expect him to go.  I won't soon forget the great piano playing of Harold Mabern, another grand master of his instrument that has graced the jazz scene for 40 years or more. His playing was simply amazing, and he has played with both these gentleman for each of their entire careers.

I even snuck-in a short video clip, though the manager came over and warned me to stop using the camera. Here it is, I hope it gives you a little feel for what the evening was like.

George Coleman ts, Eric Alexander ts, Harold Mabern p, John Webber b, George Coleman Jr. d.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

What you should know about John McCain

Ed. note: This post is part of a conspiracy to link to articles critical of Sen. McCain. The more people link to these articles, the higher will be their Google rankings. Thus when folks Google McCain regarding these issues, they will be more likely to see these critical articles at the top of the list. It's not often I have the opportunity to be part of a conspiracy. I love a good conspiracy!

1--John McCain Votes to Filibuster Minimum Wage Hike - AOL News is highly ranked on John McCain, and the minimum wage increase was incredibly popular. 2--McCain housing policy shaped by lobbyist - This article emphasizes how corporate special interests have formed McCain's economic policy. If it becomes the top ranked MSNBC article, it will appear in the top ten searches for McCain nationwide. 3--Bush, McCain plug Social Security - Seniors are going to be the key swing vote in this election, and they hate Bush's plan to privatize Social Security. This is the best polling message against McCain of all, which isn't surprising since our victory on Social Security is how began to turn the tide against Republicans and conservatives three years ago. The headline alone ties McCain to Bush, and this article already ranks very high on searches for McCain Social Security. 4--McCain blasts Obama's and Clinton's attacks on NAFTA - This is a great article because it not only ties McCain to NAFTA, which is quite unpopular, but it also draws a contrast between McCain and Democrats on the issue. The LA Times is also in the top twenty searches for John McCain5--McCain in NH: Would Be "Fine" To Keep Troops in Iraq for "A Hundred Years" - McCain's "100 years" statement ha damaged him already, and this article has already been significantly optimized on Google. While Mother Jones is not an ideal news source, it is the top article for this quote, and appears in the top thirty searches for John McCain already. 6--McCain: Bush right to veto kids health insurance expansion - This is my personal favorite. The headline just makes McCain look like an asshole, and ties him to Bush. Who is opposed to health insurance for kids? CNN also is in the top ten searches for McCain and John McCain A lot of people will see this one. 7--Senate passes expanded GI bill despite Bush, McCain opposition - While I am not thrilled about using Salon, since it isn't as well known, and since there is an advertising wall that hides the story, the title is damaging enough. McCain's opposition to the GI Bill really hurts him, and tying him to Bush is just as bad. This title does both in a clear, straightforward manner. 8--McCain says overturn the law that legalized abortion - Pretty straightforward, and extremely important. More than half of all women voters think that McCain is pro-choice. This will quickly change their minds. 9--McCain Defends Bush's Iraq Strategy - The classic McCain SEO, that still appears in top thirty searches for McCain and John McCain. It is also proof positive that this campaign will work, because it appears as the second CBS news article, but still on the front page in Google searches just below the CBS election center information on John McCain. That is all we need to do to get it on the front page of searches about McCain--optimize it against other CBS articles. Also, even though this SEO campaign was abandoned fifteen months ago, it still ranks in the top forty in McCain searches. If a fifteen month old campaign is still that effective, imagine what we can do with enough participation in this campaign.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Chop Shop - the movie

Saw Chop Shop opening at Real Art Ways in Hartford. A well crafted movie set at Willett's Point in Queens NY in the shadows of Shea Stadium. It is an area known for seedy auto repair shops, and the home of an underground culture, economy and lifestyle. It is that lifestyle that is portrayed using young non-professional actors playing themselves and filmed entirely on location that gives this film a raw authentic look of a street smart kid's survival and hope for a better life. Even in this most bleak set of circumstances and surroundings this parent-less 12 Year old boy and his sister make some sort of life for themselves, find small pleasures, and have dreams for a better future. Director Rahmin Bahrani's in this, his second film (Man Push Cart) succeeds once more in bringing the viewer intimately into this world. The lack of trained actors is more than compensated by well crafted camera work, film editing and direction which draws you into this culture and makes you hope and care for these children.

Of course I am extremly proud of my son David Laster, involved in a big way as a film editor in this full length motion picture. Surely his editing contribution played an important part in the success of this film.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Please, Hillary...

Just go away, and take your husband with you. The pathetic pandering to your last best hope, white redneck middle america conservative leaning democrats won't get you elected. Watching you throw back shots and a beer, telling hunting stories about shooting of rifles with your Pa, or proposing silly gas tax holidays just makes you look phony and foolish. It's over. Bow out gracefully. Let the real games begin.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Stevie D's birthday jam

I've said this dozens of times now, but it keeps getting better. Hartford is getting to be an incredible Jazz town. Monday night jazz jam at Black Eyed Sallys is a wonderful thing to behold. This week, in celebration of Trombone wizard Steve Davis (Hartford's mentor for aspiring young jazz musicians) birthday, all the great jazz cats turned out. Many coming all the way from NYC. Dig this:
Steve Davis - trombone
Kris Jensen - Tenor (little know outside of Hartford, but as good as any NYC session man)
Mike DiRubo - Alto
Warren Byrd - Piano
Nat Reeves - Bass
Eric McPhereson - Drums

Man, I spend hundreds of dollars each time I go to New York to the jazz clubs to see cats of this caliber play. But its all in Hartford Connecticut... and no cover charge. Plus, these cats jammed for over three hours, joined on the stage by maybe a dozen more local musicians, mostly seriously good students from the Jackie McLean Institute for Jazz (Hartt School of Music). 

How much fun is that? And for the cost of a couple of drinks at the bar. Damn, it just doesn't get any better. If you live near Hartford Connecticut, check out Black Eyed Sallys on Monday nights. I promise you will not regret it.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Nader '08

I got a text message today 10:00AM from David. It simply said "Nader 08". Woa, he's doin' it again. My first reaction... Unless Obama turns out to be a real dope, I don't think I'll be voting for Nader this time around. Then I happen to watch Meet The Press, and there he was speaking to Russert. Single payer healthcare, fighting corporate ownership of American politics, increasing tax rates for speculative investing and tax cuts for working Americans, breaking the stranglehold of our healthcare system, a pollution tax... These are issues that need to be heard, issues that are not being spoken by this crop of presidential candidates.

How will the Dems react. Will they simply try to shut Nader up and denigrate his candidacy as they have done in the past, or will they embrace his message and inject these stands into their own platforms. If they do the former... I might just get on the Nader bandwagon. These are issues that need to be part of the presidential debate.

So right now, this is how I stand (and I reserve the right to change my mind). If Clinton becomes the nominee, it's Go Nader, baby! If it is Obama, we'll have to see where he stands in relation to Nader's Issues and how the Dems treat Naders candidacy.

Right now, it looks like the Dems have a true liberal candidate in Barak Obama. But I have to say, Nader is THE MAN.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Late night Jazz in NYC, with Bob Reynolds

Nothing is more fun then hitting the jazz clubs in the Big Apple. Here is how it went down this Friday evening.
4:00 PM book out of work a little early
5:30PM Board Train from New Haven to Grand Central Station
7:00PM Dinner with Dave
9:00PM Take cab to Greenwich Village.
10:00PM catch 2 late sets with great sax player and friend Bob Reynolds at 55Bar
1:00AM catch cab back to Grand Central Station, and train to Connecticut
3:00AM train arrives in New Haven, stumble into our car to drive home
4:00AM Arrive home
How's that! I can still party all night long like a college kid! Here's the YouTubes, shot by Claire to prove it.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Yes We Can

Yeah, this is cool. I'm not voting based on this, but it is cool.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Can the Clinton's sink any lower?

Have the Clinton's no shame? Bill's role as Hillary's hatchet man is surely unbecoming of an Ex-President. Obviously the strategy goes like this. Obama tends to be the beneficiary of unifying the racial divide of public opinion and has proven his ability to do so by trying hard to keep race out of the campaign. Therefore, Hillary can only gain from injecting race into the campaign and fomenting peoples anxiety over racial fears. However, it would a political disaster for Hillary to overtly do that herself. So, who is the perfect proxy to do this devilish deed? Hubby, Bill!

My friend Ken Blanchard from South Dakota Politics blog made this astute observation:
Obama did try, very hard, to minimize race as a factor in the campaign. And for a while he succeeded. It was the Clintons who, just at the moment their campaign looked to be in crisis, put it back in. Are the Clintons cynically, if very cleverly, using race as a wedge issue to split the Democratic party in their favor? I don't know that for sure. Would the Clintons do so, if they thought they had to to win? About that, there can be no doubt.

And this:
First: the Clintons have succeeded in splitting the Black and White portions of the Democratic party. If Ms. Clinton can hang on to the latter, she will be the nominee. Second, however, is that the Clintons have managed to make themselves look dirtier even than they were before. Mr. Bill explained away the South Carolina results by explicitly linking the Obama victory to those of Jesse Jackson. Everyone now assumes that everything a Clinton says is part of a well considered strategy. White voters may well be hesitant to back a Jackson-like candidate of Black America, but won't they be equally offended to know that they are being played? The Clintons are counting on winning the White vote n a lot of states on Feb. 5th. But by being so transparent, they are running a terrible risk.

Now with the recent endorsement of Democratic party icon Senator Edward Kennedy, it appears that risk has taken a terrible turn for Hillary's chances for the nomination. What goes around comes around.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Study: Bush, aides made 935 false statements in run-up to war

Except from today's CNN:

"In short, the Bush administration led the nation to war on the basis of erroneous information that it methodically propagated and that culminated in military action against Iraq on March 19, 2003,"

The quotes in the study include an August 26, 2002, statement by Cheney to the national convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. "Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction," Cheney said. "There is no doubt he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies, and against us."

Entire article here.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Jazz night NYC Jan 08

Another great night of Jazz in NYC:

Curtis Fuller Septet at Iridium:
shown: Curtis Fuller tbn, Randy Brecker tr, Javon Jackson ts,
not shown: Rufus Reed b, Jacey Falk tr, Carl Allen dr, Luke O'Reilly p.

Early show at Jazz Standard, caught Aaron Goldberg Trio with Mark Turner at Jazz Standard.
Aaron Goldberg p, Rueben Rogers b, Eric Harland d, Mark Turner ts.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Obama had it right in 2002

**Begin quote**
... But I also know that Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States, or to his neighbors, that the Iraqi economy is in shambles, that the Iraqi military a fraction of its former strength, and that in concert with the international community he can be contained until, in the way of all petty dictators, he falls away into the dustbin of history.

I know that even a successful war against Iraq will require a US occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences. I know that an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East, and encourage the worst, rather than best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of al-Qaeda.

I am not opposed to all wars. I’m opposed to dumb wars.
**End Quote**

Obama's Iraq speech is worth reading in its entirety.