Tag Archives: TV on the Radio

My friend Eric Biondo made a masterpiece of recorded music

16 May

Listening to the new Beyondo LP is a great way for me to start this day.  Beyondo is Eric Biondo’s band.  I first met Eric Biondo when he started playing trumpet with Antibalas about 10 years ago.  We played together sometimes in a section, in particular with TV on the Radio, and of course he’s sat in with Rev. Vince Anderson.  He’s a great trumpeter, but when I finally saw a live show by his band Beyondo my mind was blown by his songwriting and arranging; then I got his EP The Gambler which is awesome and thrilled at his song a day songwriting challenge.  I’ve known he’s been working on this album for a while and felt happy for him when he announced it was finally finished and available on his bandcamp page.  But now that I listened to it I feel happy for myself, not only to have discovered a new record to listen to in the summer of 2012, but also to know so many amazing musicians who are a part of this recording … there’s plenty of horn-chic action throughout this record laid down by Stuart Bogie, Alex Hamlin, Miwi La Lupa, John Altieri and Aaron Rockers; there’s also a dazzling array of vocalists and other guest musicians including Meah Pace, Jared Samuel and Luke O’Malley.

Listening to a masterpiece of recorded music featuring performances by some of my friends is a kind of moving experience in itself, but I want to also mention that Siren Science is dedicated to Davy Jones.  Eric Biondo played trumpet and cornet with Davy Jones of The Monkees for 12 years.  I was always intrigued that he had this gig — I loved The Monkees when I was little and thought Eric’s 21st century involvement was a perfect match for his personality.  (Have you seen Head?)  For years I told him I wanted to come and see him play with Davy Jones and finally in February he was able to bring me to a show at BB Kings.  I really loved the show and got a groovy kind of thrill hearing Eric play on songs from my childhood like Daydream Believer, Last Train To Clarksville and Hey Hey We’re The Monkees ….. after the show I met Davy and knew that he and Eric were soul mates who’d found each other.  I think the dedication makes this perfectly awesome album even more completely perfect.  I hope people all over the world will hear it.

Happy Birthday to Aaron Johnson, Micah Gaugh and Michael Kammers

1 Apr

This week 3 of my favorite horn players celebrated their birthdays.  I’ve played with Aaron, Micah and Michael in many projects over the years including Electro Fetus, Rev. Vince Anderson & The Love Choir, TV on the Radio, Mackie Riverside & The Street Pushers and Burnt Sugar .  They’re all amazing fiery players who really shred as well as being great section players.

Micah Gaugh plays alto and a bent soprano sax (sometimes simultaneously, which literally makes women scream) and I play with him in Burnt Sugar; he also plays in Apollo Heights and has a solo project called Puppet. Aaron Johnson plays the hot & steamy trombone you’ve heard in Antibalas, The El Michels Affair and Fela! on Broadway, for which he received a Tony nomination in his role as musical director, and Michael Kammers is a screaming tenor man who has a prolifically self composed for 14 piece big band called MK Groove Orchestra which also plays out in a truncated trio format, the MK Trio, plays sax, farfisa and bass pedals in The Suite Unraveling and sometimes tours with Easy Star All Stars.

As an astrology fancier, I felt like I was in a furnace when I got to simultaneously play in a section with all three first decan Arians around my birthday last June when we played in INDOMITABLE, Burnt Sugar’s tribute to James Brown featuring Brandon Victor Dixon.

Even though all three of these guys have repeatedly, um, blown me away with their soloing prowess over the years, I recommend you find them live in concert, because I couldn’t find video footage to emphasize their awesomeness strongly enough on the http://www.  Real life is still best!

Here’s some examples of what they do respectively:

Micah in his amazing solo project Puppet:

Here’s Aaron with Antibalas playing Elephant …

Michael Kammers released his first solo EP, The Claustrophobic Noise EP, last year which I was honored to play on.

You can listen to it right here:


Subway Saxing

13 Mar

From time to time over the years I’ve been playing bari sax I’ve made forays into the time tested and true world of busking, that is playing in public spaces for donations.  It’s a classic form of performance which dates back centuries and has helped musicians and street performers survive all over the world throughout history. 

The first time I tasted the thrill of putting on a guerrilla style live performance and having money thrown at me was in Melbourne in the late 80s — I was invited to busk with some other girl musicians and some circus performers ate fire and did backflips and other tricks.  It was Christmas Eve (a hot summer night in Australia) and people threw money at us wildly — we made several hundreds of dollars in a couple of hours.  After that myself, the drummer and the tenor sax player decided to go out regularly and do it on Brunswick Street in Fitzroy.  We’d go out in the day time on the weekends and discovered quickly the joy of counting up small change which can add up to large amounts very quickly.  That busking band, which we called Modesty Panel, was the precursor to my nightclub rock act Moisturizer which was born in New York a few years later. 

Since moving to New York in the mid 90s I’ve mainly played in club acts and my experience busking has been fairly limited.  It’s difficult here to play in public spaces without a permit.  After my first few times out in the subway I was told to move on by the cops; I didn’t even get a ticket, but I was discouraged, and feeling that I didn’t want to be having conversations with cops whatsoever, I refrained from going back to the subway platforms.

Meanwhile, over the years I’ve seen & heard many great musicians playing in the subway including two saxophone players I admire enormously, Colin Stetson and Matana Roberts.  There’s a banjo player I love called Morgan who is amazing and plays at the Bedford stop on the L train sometimes.  My late, beautiful friend Gerard Smith used to make his living busking on classical guitar in the subway system before he went on to be in TV on the Radio.  Hypnotic Brass Ensemble took over Union Square many a night and my new friend and collaborator TinaKristina grew up busking in the subway with her whole family — I remember seeing them in the 90s — she was playing the shit out of the bass when she was 13 — her little brother was on drums, her mom on trumpet and her little sister on didgeridoo. 

There is definitely something that the experience of playing downstairs has that no club, theater or festival gig can offer.  The immediacy and closeness of the public and their reactions or non-reactions is completely different than anything that can be experienced in concert.  My favorite part of it is watching the flux of all the people.  Little kids are often transfixed and I’m happy to say most of their parents teach them what to do … put a dollar in the case!  I love seeing who responds to what kind of music, because it’s very often surprising. 

When I go down I play a lot of original music I wrote with Moist Gina in our band Moisturizer, which was an instrumental rock band.  Some of those songs go over very well.  And then I play covers — usually some Diana Ross & The Supremes, Lou Reed, Patsy Cline, King Curtis and The Beatles material.  It’s fun to just start playing and see what comes out. 

I made a pact with myself recently to go and play in the subway on all my days off, so I’ll see how long I keep it up. If they give me one of those Music Under New York banners you may see me out there all year!

Here’s an interesting article I found about the history of busking.  I particularly like the term “jongleur” and may start referring to myself accordingly from now on when I go.