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I know I say this every year around this time, but it is getting chilly out there. I was hoping sheer denial would make winter go away, but it only worked for a few weeks. Oh well.

November got busier as it got colder. Although I had no gigs planned for the first weekend, I did stop down at Forward Hall for a performance by new original rock band Swerve. This group includes three performers from J.D. and the Sons of Rhythm, Rickie Hopkins, Mike Ohm and Ralph Reitinger. Rickie's dad, J.D., was there, and he and I joined them for an opening improvisational jam, J.D. and Sons style. Our newly released eleventh double-disc CD, Astral Worlds, is now available at CD Baby, and showcases this band's original style in a number of ways.

The following weekend Tony Stefanelli and I joined Basil Ronzitti at the Papermoon for a relaxed evening of standards. This venue brings jazz, art and food together in perfect balance, providing Erie with a unique place to enjoy some of the finest musicians around. We always have a good time playing there, as we did this weekend.

Once we hit Thanksgiving week, things took off. First, One World Tribe took a trip to Buffalo for a late night at Nietzsche's. Like Docksider's in Erie, this club has the home base feel for the Tribe in Buffalo. We'd like to give a special thanks to Ken for always doing such a great job on the sound. After arriving back home at seven in the morning, I had a nice relaxing Thanksgiving day with family and friends, turning in early after a great all-day meal.

Friday the 25th dawned on what we call around here "Lake-Effect Snow", which is another way of saying; sure am glad I have all-wheel drive and all-weather radials. 3bop was scheduled to play at Scotty's with saxophonist and composer Umar Raheem that night, who had to come from Philadelphia to be in Erie. Unfortunately Umar could not make it through the snow storm, so we decided to go ahead with the gig as a quartet (Preach Freedom was already scheduled to join us on congas). On an off chance, leader Steve Trohoske called Cecil Rucker, Jr. in Cleveland, and although he wasn't available, he mentioned that Eddie Baccus Jr. of Pieces of a Dream fame was available and looking for a gig. Eddie kindly joined us that evening, and played incredible saxophone all night. It was a great pleasure getting a chance to play with Eddie, and we hope to do so again! Umar is scheduled to join us in April for Steve's birthday celebration, so stay tuned.

The third Saturday brought us to a JazzErie-sponsored concert featuring recent Julliard graduates Dominick Farinacci (trumpet) and Carmen Intorre (drums). Steve and I filled in the bass and guitar chairs, and had a very enjoyable time with these talented musicians. Farinacci plays a fine trumpet with a broad range of sounds and ideas to draw from, and he was a very clear and easy-to-follow leader. Steve and Carmen really hit it off as a rhythm section, making for very comfortable trio work when it came time for me to take the lead, or when backing Steve during his solos. The arrangements and exchanges that Dom and Carmen guided us through made for an enjoyable evening for the band and the members of JazzErie who joined us for this great event.

It was back to the Papermoon for the last Saturday, where Basil had sent Jim Madden in as a pinch hitter, as he was a bit under the weather. Jim joined Dick Thompson and myself for a fun three sets, pulling tunes out of our hats as we went. It had been a while since Jim and I had a chance to play together, so it was fun catching up as we played. Afterwards, I quickly transported myself to Docksider's, jumping in on the already-in-progress first of two sets of One World Tribe's occasional visit to Erie. Although I had lost my full voice due to whatever germs were being passed around that week, I did grab the mike during the second set for an ol' skool rhyming session with Preach Freedom and D.J. Chilly J. Those two ran through about ten classic funk lyrics before I jumped in with KRS-ONE's Beef from BDP's Edutainment. It's always a gas to play with the Tribe, and flippin' some Hiphop is icing on the cake!

December started out busy, as Steve, Preach Freedom and myself played as 3bop for a private fund-raiser at Matthew's. Preach played traps, keeping a great swing feel with perfect dynamics for a busy restaurant. Steve and I pulled more tunes out of our hats, which seems to be the order of the day around here! All together we had a great time, keeping the jazz flowing for an appreciative audience.

Friday the 9th brings One World Tribe to Niagara Falls High School for an evening performance. This will be a pretty large audience, so I am looking forward to getting to know more new OWT fans. The next day I am back to the Papermoon to play with Tony and Basil (fully recovered, I hope).

The following weekend 3bop does a Friday-Saturday appearance at Billy's Jazz Club in the Avalon Hotel at 10th and Peach in Erie. Billy's is re-opening it's jazz appearances, so join us for the beginning of a good thing for Erie! On Thursday the 22nd, original rock band Too Big Power appears at Sherlock's in Erie. This band includes J.D. and the Sons of Rhythm players Joe Frisina (guitar) and Jayson Hopkins (drums), and their first CD Ride A Wave, due out soon, includes me on bass. I will be playing keyboards with the group at Sherlocks, and their new bassist will be keeping the bottom locked down for us.

December ends with a Wednesday the 28th performance in Erie of saxophonist Joe Lovano. We are all very excited to have this brilliant tenor player visit us, and we're all taking the night off from everything to go see him play.

So, I hope you have a great holiday season, and if you are in the cold belt, I hope you stay warm and beat the heating bills as much as possible! And, since this season is the perfect opportunity to say it, see you next year!

peace - f

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Lots of good music went down in October, making the first weekend of November's time off very welcome. It all starts again next weekend, so let's take the time now to review a fabulous October!

It all started with a rather crazy three-gig day on the first, with piano in Meadville at midday, guitar for a wedding in the afternoon, and bass at the Papermoon at night keeping me moving from place to place and setup to setup - musical calisthenics, which is how most musicians I know stay in shape.

Mike Ohm and I got to play some duets for the Art Museum fundraiser on the fifth. Mike and I always have a great time playing together. He is a superb guitarist and a very fun individual. Mike is part of a new project called Swerve, which also includes Rickie Hopkins and Ralph Reitinger of J.D. and the Sons of Rhythm. I got to see the group at Forward Hall last Friday, and they rocked the house with their pop-rock sound. They even let J.D. and the Sons open with an impromptu jam between Rickie, Ralph, Mike, J.D. and myself. Thanks, Swerve!

Cat's A Bear got out for an exciting romp at Scotty's on the 7th, playing our original brand of Jazz for fans and newcomers. Thanks to all of you who joined us for a great evening! Scotty's also housed 3bop the following weekend, adding Erie Saxophonist Charles Ventrillo and Cleveland Vibraphonist Cecil Rucker, Jr.. Cecil plays an awesome set of vibes; if you are going to be in Cleveland, look around and see if you can find Cecil playing with his group Good Vibes, or with Cleveland saxophonist Eddie Baccus.

Cat's A Bear spent the following weekend with woodwind player and vocalist Valerie Gillespie, a Northwestern Pennsylvania native now located in Tampa, Florida, where her group is the Sunday house band at the Springs Theater. On Friday the 21st, we opened for Maynard Ferguson and his big band at the Erie Shrine Club, a venue that housed over seven hundred for the show. Valerie is a swinging vocalist and saxophonist, highly skilled in both areas with a hard-core jazz sound and approach. Valerie joined Cat's A Bear and pianist Basil Ronzitti for a romp at the Papermoon the next evening, fitting six musicians in a space normally close for three! For more about her music, visit Valerie's website at www.valeriegillespie.com.

The month ended with another aerobic week with One World Tribe. After driving to Buffalo, playing one school, tearing down, driving to the next school, setting up, playing, tearing down, and driving back to Erie for three days in a row, I met up with the Tribe on Friday to van-pool to New Jersey for the Hackettstown gig on Saturday. We arrived at the hotel at 4:30 in the morning, slept it off, and played to a new crowd at the Performing Arts Center, and then drove back to Erie overnight (thanks, Jimmy and Kennedy!!). The only real rough spot in the road was running out of gas ten miles from home. Luckily, one van got gas for the other, and sleep finally came.

So we are back to a week of rest, and celebration of my wife's birthday before the November gigs begin. Next weekend, on the 12th, I am back at the Papermoon with Basil Ronzitti for the usual twice-monthly Saturday gig. On the 19th, also a Saturday, Steve Trohoske of 3bop (bass) and I take part in a JazzErie presentation of trumpeter Dom Farinacci and drummer Carmen Intorre. These two young lions are fresh from Julliard, so look forward to some tight playing. Find out more, including how to get tickets, at www.jazzerie.com.

On Wednesday of Thanksgiving week (the 23rd), One World Tribe returns to Buffalo to play at Neitzsche's for some late-night Funk, Reggae, Hiphop and World Music. After my family and friends Isaac and Diana feast on Thanksgiving dinner, Greek-style (prepared by our guests - thanks!), Steve and I return to Scotty's Friday the 25th with 3bop and special guest saxophonist Umar Raheem. Philadelphia native Raheem has performed with drummer Jimmy Turner, pianist Alfie Pollitt, bassists Donald Mosley and Charles Fambrough, trumpeter / pianist Elmer Gibson and many others, and currently plays with the Arpeggio Jazz and Music Ensemble and his own group, The Renaissance Band.

After Saturday's Papermoon gig on the 26th, I will run down to Docksider's to play the rest of the night with One World Tribe, making this month's harmonic rhythm densest at the end of the measure in classic counterpoint style (busiest at the end for non-composers) - just how I like it! Things are also shaping up for December and for the year to come, including a 3bop gig at Scotty's with saxophonist Greg Osby, so stay tuned.

As for First Art Records activities, another J.D. and the Sons of Rhythm CD is on the way; this project called Astral Worlds. Performers on this two-disc set include three members of Swerve, three members of Potato Battery, three members of Cat's A Bear, and One World Tribe member Preach Freedom. The continuous output of this ensemble of players is athletic and highly skilled, with the players meshing more and more, and finding new ways to incorporate guests into the mix. This release should be available in late November or early December, in plenty of time for the holiday season gift giving rush!

Well, rest period is almost over, so I will sign off for now, wishing everyone a happy last-minute-gift-shopping holiday season. Don't forget to make your gift-giving life easy with CDs from NKP. Take care, and don't forget to set aside a little cheer for those less fortunate than ourselves, in whatever form you can.

peace - f

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 OCTOBER 2005 

As we move into October, let's hope it's an easier month for everyone in the United States, and in the world. The local music scene here will definitely be hopping, so it will be easy to hear good music in Erie, and it's always easy to purchase good local music. Just go to the CDs from NKP page to see what's available currently. More is coming, so stay tuned!

Before we get into the details of what's coming up, a few words about September are in order. Honorable mention for hot sax playing goes to Dave Schiavone, who dropped in from Buffalo to play with 3bop at Scotty's. Dave tore it up, which is understandable considering his background. Performances listed on his resume include Woody Herman, Tommy Dorsey, and Doc Severinson for tours, and the Four Tops, The Temptations, Gladys Knight, Nancy Wilson, Louis Bellson, Natalie Cole, Harry Connick Jr., and the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra for free-lance gigs. Check out these links for more on Dave Schiavone:

Dave's Jazz Quartet | Hidden Treasures CD | Write up on Dave | Buffalo State University

A rollicking jam took place in Woodcock, PA, site of Cootie Harris' birthday celebration. J.D. and the Sons of Rhythm worked their brand of magic for two sets, with Kenny Cornelius and Ralph Reitinger splitting bass duties, and Mark Dewalt on keyboards, which left the guitar-synth chair to myself. Mike Ohm and Joe Frisina filled the guitar chairs, and Dave Callaghan and Phil Papotnik played the saxes, and the music flowed as we enjoyed the perfect weather. Moving Through the Elements, J.D. and Sons' latest release, is currently available, and Astral Worlds, the next double-disc of spontaneous collective improvisation, is on the way.

Since the cold weather is coming, I thought it would be appropriate to give a little plug to my favorite cough drop, ginger root. Two dollars worth of ginger will get you through most colds and flus, and in addition to helping with coughs, sneezes, and congestion, it cuts right through that nasty old post-nasal-drip and the subsequent stomach upset that usually comes with it. More on ginger can be found here.

I also recommend some acupressure in case of the fall and winter symptoms. For sinus congestion and frontal headaches Bladder 2, located on the upper inside corners of the eye sockets, is a good place to start. Apply gentle pressure for up to a minute with your thumbs. Pressing with two fingers on either side of the nostrils is helpful for similar symptoms. Li11 and Li4 are classic cold remedy points (please heed the warning regarding not applying pressure to Li4 on a pregnant woman), and GB20 can ease the pain of fall and winter sicknesses. More on these points and other references with more detail can be found at the Acupressure page. As usual, drink lots of room-temperature filtered water.

I'll be way too busy to get sick this month! The first day of October begins a great month of gigs with three in one day! A private graduation party in Meadville, played on piano, is followed by a private function here in Erie with the Basil Ronzitti group where I will play guitar, and the regular Papermoon gig, where I will play bass for the evening. Later that week, Wednesday the 5th to be specific, I get to play with Mike Ohm and Mark Marchant at the Erie Art Museum fundraiser. More on this can be found here.

Cat's A Bear gets to strut our stuff on Friday the 7th at Scotty's. We will be doing mostly our new originals, with some older originals and one or two covers thrown in for good measure. We look forward to getting our progressive, original sound out of the basement for a day or two! Saturday the 8th is taken up by a private function with 3bop, with guest drummer Joe Dorris filling in for regular Brad Amidon.

3bop does its monthly appearance at Scotty's on the 14th, with guests Cleveland vibraphonist Cecil Ruckers, and Erie's own Charles Ventrillo on sax. This should be another rocking 3bop gig, so don't miss it! The following Friday the 21st Cat's A Bear will back up saxophonist and vocalist Valerie Gillespie to open for Maynard Ferguson's Big Band at the Shrine Club. Valerie will join the Basil Ronzitti Group on Saturday for the regular jam at the Papermoon. We are glad to have her joining us for the weekend - she's quite a musician. You can find out more about Valerie at her Web Site, ValerieGillespie.com.

After a well-deserved rest, One World Tribe hits the school systems in New York for three days, the 26th through the 28th, and leaves for Hackett's Town, NJ for a Saturday performance at their Arts Center at 8pm. If you're in 'Jersey, try to stop by and see us!

Well, after all of that, all I can say is, stay well and enjoy the music, for there'll be lots of it, and don't forget to pick up a CD or two to support the victims of Hurricane Katrina, and to enhance the quality of your life!

NOTE: CD Baby has ended this contribution service, and the funds are no longer re-directed. Thanks to all of you who kindly made purchases during this time.

peace - f

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Proceeds from the following CDs, for sale on CD Baby, will be donated to the Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund for the foreseeable future.

NOTE: CD Baby has ended this contribution service, and the funds are no longer re-directed. Thanks to all of you who kindly made purchases during this time.

Tito In Wonderland |
more info  |  make purchase
Tito: In Search of a Revolution |
more info  |  make purchase
Eye of the Pyramid |
more info  |  make purchase

Generations String Quartet |
more info  |  make purchase

Family Values |
more info  |  make purchase

Skudd |
more info  |  make purchase


August always seems to bring change, both in my own life and in the world. This August certainly changed the entire country in ways we won't completely understand for many months and even years to come. Hurricane Katrina's devastation will mark a turning point for many people and for our times. If you are interested in helping out the victims of Hurricane Katrina and buying some good music, please take note of the CDs above. All the artist profits from each CD sold are being donated directly to the Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund.

On the gig front, One World Tribe started out September with a benefit at the Pepsi Amphitheatre on Bayfront Highway in Erie, donating all the proceeds from the $5 admission and a portion of CD sales for that evening to the Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund. We all encourage you to send whatever you can to the Red Cross. This need will be with us for a long time to come.

Starting this weekend, things get busy for a while. After playing at the Papermoon with Basil Ronzitti, Tony Stefanelli and Tito, I will run down (okay, really I'll drive) to Docksider's to jump into a couple of sets from One World Tribe. Next weekend 3bop makes an appearance at Scotty's Cigar Bar with Tenor Saxophonist Dave Schiavone as the featured guest. 3bop also plays a private function on Tuesday the 27th, so students - don't forget no lessons that evening (after 4pm)!

J.D. and the Sons of Rhythm plays Cootie Harris' annual birthday celebration on Sunday the 18th in Cambridge Springs. There's a chance I will be the bass player for the J.D. and Sons performances, so stay tuned! After playing guitar with the Basil Ronzitti group at Papermoon on the 24th of September, I will also be playing bass with the group on October 1.

Speaking of J.D. and the Sons of Rhythm, the new CD Moving Through the Elements is now available at CD Baby.com, and you can read more on the CD here. This disc combines the spontaneous overdubbed layering found on earlier CDs, and plenty of the vintage live jamming that characterizes the J.D. and Sons style.

I am looking forward to a very busy October, so keep checking that calendar for more information on upcoming gigs. For now, let's help out where we can, and send our thoughts and prayers to those who need it most.

peace - f

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 AUGUST 2005 

Playing music is a great lifestyle. There are challenges, enlightenments, and some interesting perks, like parking on the sidewalk, driving over lawns, and having your own special dialect of English. One such perk is being able to play gigs outside in decent weather.

Traveling to Baltimore to open for War the weekend of the 7th brought One World Tribe to a beautiful outdoor venue, with a large, appreciative crowd and perfect weather. After playing a rockin' set with some Hiphop spice in the mix, OWT stuck around to hear War kick "Friends", "The World is a Ghetto", and other hits by the group and a few other bands, with the hook from "Let Me Take You Higher" featuring predominately at one point. Their rhythm section kicks butt, so if you have a chance to catch them, do it!

We drove back that night to get to another outdoor gig; a private fortieth birthday party. OWT got a little Reggae for the first set, then finished out with Funk, World Beat and Hiphop in the mix for the dancing crowd.

Coming outdoor attractions include the Soldier's and Sailor's home for Cat's A Bear, the Celebrate Erie festival for the Tribe and 3bop, and then another OWT road trip to Sterling, NY for an outdoor event, coming back through Buffalo for a street festival on Elmwood St. the next day. I go indoors for the Papermoon with Basil Ronzitti the second weekend, but otherwise stay out in the August summer weather.

On the CD front, a new release from J.D. and the Sons of Rhythm will be arriving shortly - Moving Through The Elements. This disc combines live collective improvisation with some spontaneous overdubbing to produce music that could be made no other way, and that will never happen the same way again. The disc includes cuts with Cat's A Bear's Phil Papotnik, Joe Dorris and Tito, as well as the regular core group of bass players and guitarists, and drummer, Dan Schwartz, who plays on two cuts. Remember, if you are local to the Erie area, First Art Records can help you with CD production and packaging, as we do for most of the discs for sale here and at www.jdhopkins.com.

My technological life has gone into a holding pattern, but a good one fortunately. My tech, J.P. Jamous, who built the new system for me, is on a vacation in Lebanon. Before he left he took my old tower, now officially named Tower2 but dubbed 'Grandpa' by J.P. in a successful attempt to poke fun at me, and put it through its paces. Upon his return, we will try a new motherboard that will actually handle the hardware requirements of XP Pro, and see how that goes. In the mean time, Tower1 is mighty, with 2 gigs of RAM, a Pentium IV 3 GHz HT processor, and a graphics card with its own dedicated 256 K of RAM. Before the end of the year we will add the other 2 gigs of RAM to complete the 4 gig capacity of the machine. Then I will teach it to do the dishes.

The music side of it is that I am acquiring skill with Reason, the synth/sequencing program, on the new tower, and await my return to hard-disc audio recording with Cubase on Grandpa. Once that is in place, I will begin small-scale home music production in earnest, primarily for original music and commercial production (client-based orders for music). Some ideas for albums are growing slowly, so there will be more activity in the coming months in that arena as well.

A final word to conclude here - August is what I call "change month". There seems to be a pivot in the energies that move life, and that pivot seems to come, at least for me and others that I know, in August. I look forward to seeing what is around the corner for the coming year. Many things are afoot, and it is exciting to think that anything can happen, and usually does!

peace - f

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 JULY 2005 

I just love the summer. The sun is out, the days are long, and music seems to take on a whole different feel, whether you are playing in a club or outdoors. Having recently played with One World Tribe at the Pepsi Amphitheatre on the Erie Bayfront, I was reminded of what a delight it is to play to a crowd on a hillside with the sunset at your back. A special shout out to those who came down to share the show with us!

This weekend Cheryl Hodge joins Cat's A Bear for a show at Scotty's on Friday, and then the whole crew migrates to the Papermoon on Saturday to join regular pianist Basil Ronzitti for another round. Look for some astounding vocals on both nights, and great piano playing as well. On Friday, Cheryl fills the piano chair, and on Saturday Basil will be the keyboardist, leaving Cheryl free to concentrate on the vocalizing. For more on Cheryl Hodge and her music, visit www.jazzboulevard.com.

More great jazz fills the streets of Erie the following week as the JazzErie JazzWalk presents a multitude of jazz and blues bands from the region. I'll be playing with Steve Trohoske's 3bop at Picadillo's Restaurant, beginning at 10 pm. The Saturday evening Papermoon trio with Basil Ronzitti and a gig on Presque Isle on the 29th with One World Tribe will round out the month of July.

One World Tribe will hit the road the first week in August, traveling back to Baltimore, MD, to open for the band War at a day long festival. We are looking forward to playing again for the people of Baltimore, and to seeing War on top if it all! Being on the same stage will be a real experience.

Cat's A Bear stays outside for a show at the PA Soldier's and Sailor's Home in Erie, playing a concert for the residents and anyone who cares to drop in. The shows take place in the Gazebo unless weather forces us inside to the cafeteria (to play, not to eat...).

The third weekend of August brings Celebrate Erie, a local outdoor concert series with local, regional and national acts. One World Tribe plays a show Friday Evening, and Sunday evening 3bop plays some Hard Bop style jazz.

All in all, a great set of excuses to get out into the summer and enjoy good times and good music. I look forward to seeing you there!

peace - f

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 JUNE 2005 

Greetings, visitors, guests, friends!

Some of you may have noticed that I haven't updated the home page for the last month. What you might not know is I have been off-line for all of that time. Happily, I am back, and, as soon as I finish reinstalling myself, better than ever.

It has been quite a saga, I must say. The long and short of it is that 'grandpa', as my tech calls my old computer tower, came to a grinding halt just a bit too early, and the new system wasn't quite ready to take over. Grandpa is with my tech now, being rejuvenated to run Steinberg's Cubase LE and a few other tidbits. The new tower is incredible, and getting better as I get it set up for myself.

I finally got back online yesterday, and after loading the software I needed to work on this site, I regained access to franksinger.com! Please note, this included email for a while, until I found ways of getting to it. If I have been negligent in responding, please understand, and try again.

There is a lot going on, both performance-wise and music-production-wise. I will update all of you on this in the very near future. Some time is required to finish preparing my work environment. In the mean time, please enjoy the website and come back often.

peace - f

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 MAY 2005 

Wow - April was incredible.

Before we move on to May, I'd like to savor the events of the passing month. Gigs were excellent, both ones I played on and those of others here in Erie.

For myself, things began with a night of bass playing at the Papermoon with Basil Ronzitti, Joe Dorris and Tito himself. Playing with these great musicians is always fun, and doing so on the bass is an extra treat. I love the guitar but thinking as a rhythm section player has been a gas ever since I figured out how to do it (avoiding "lead bass", that kind of thing).

Steve Trohoske's birthday at Scotty's with 3bop featured Tony Campbell and Lou Stellute on saxes. Things got a little warm at Scotty's that night, with these two incredible gentlemen taking the music to a whole other level. Joey DeFrancesco also played in Erie that night at Forward Hall, so in spite of the cooler temperatures outside, it was a very hot night in Erie.

While not exactly a gig, four more nights of studio sessions with J.D. and the Sons of Rhythm added in some highly enjoyable playing time. Each of these sessions has a unique character to it, the function of changes in personnel, orchestration, and the intimate nature of the music. This particular set of evenings turned up the heat in Midtown Recording Studios, with a visit from some of One World Tribe's percussionists and drummers on the last and most intense night of all.

Returning to performances, One World Tribe traveled to Utica to pay a visit to the Electric Company. Utica is a very friendly place, and the crowd and workers at EC were wonderful. Jamming with OWT is always a blast, and a little extra Hiphop was added in when Buffalo's Slice the Mic Snatcher jumped on stage for a couple of original lyrics. Getting a full seat in the van made the six hour journey (each way) almost a snap after getting to play so hard with such a great group.

A Monday evening at Scotty's brought together baritone saxophonists Claire Daly and 3bop for an evening of jazz standards and hard bop. Claire has superb tone, technical facility and knowledge of her subject (playing great jazz). Her wealth of ideas and warm spirit led the band in a well-attended performance for a delighted audience, and 3bop and Erie were lucky to share a night with this exceptional jazz artist.

A delightful evening of jazz standards at the Papermoon with Basil Ronzitti and a set at the Docksider's in Erie with One World Tribe rounded out a great month of playing for me.

Other notable events included a free performance and workshop over a two-day period from jazz pianist Marcus Roberts and his rhythm section bassist Roland Guerin and drummer Jason Marsalis at PennState Behrend. These legendary musicians were wonderful to talk to (as they were signing autographs) and are exploring an exciting approach to the totality of jazz music. Back in Erie at the Papermoon, the month ended with a two-night performance with Kenny Blake, joining local greats Joe Dorris, Basil Ronzitti, Tito, and bassist Dick Thompson (Friday) and Tony Stefanelli (Saturday).


We begin this month with Mother's Day Jazz Brunch at the Papermoon on Sunday, May 8, with music from myself on guitar and Phil Papotnik on flute and sax from 11:30 - 2:30. The evening of music with Basil Ronzitti at the Papermoon has been moved to Friday the 13th, and 3bop will make two appearances this month. The first will be at Scotty's on Friday the 20th, and will feature Chris Hemmingway and Allan Zurcher on saxes. Another warm evening is predicted here! On Saturday May 28, Dwayne Dolphin (piccolo bass) and Christian Howes (violin) will join 3bop for jazz with beautiful orchestration and burning playing. The venue is still being worked out, but Steve assures me it will happen. We will try to keep the smoke from catching fire when it does.

Well, aside from the gigs, Mrs. Lincoln....

More studio sessions for J.D. and the Sons of Rhythm on the week of the 23rd, and Cat's A Bear has plans for some sessions in the second and third weeks of May. A new release is around the corner for J.D. and the Sons of Rhythm, and the long trip for One World Tribe looks to be Binghamton, N.Y.. Hope I get a good seat.

I have begun work on my Hiphop album here at home with the audio gear, and so far things are going slow but well. One thing I did remember about working with sequencing and music production is that it is like composition - one measure can take you days to complete, and if you get it right it passes by in an instant, leaving the right effect on the listener, but the workload required is barely noticable. I am also still downloading and cataloging sounds, and expect to expand my work horizons with this aspect of my music very shortly. It's nice to be back.

Well, I don't say this often, but when I do, I really mean it. Spring is around the corner, and I can't wait to shed all this extra clothing! I hope your spring is a good one, and that music fills your life with joy and light. As one of our recent prophets said, "One thing about music - when it hits you, you feel no pain." (Bob Marley)

peace - f

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 APRIL 2005 

April came in with a flourish this year, dumping almost three feet of snow on us here in the Eastern Great Lakes Region. My instincts tell me this is the last big push for the year, and I am not an optimist in this regard. I look forward to removing the thirty pounds of protective clothing that keeps me warm and dry for most of the year around here.

In the midst of our transitional weather, we play it safe travel-wise until One World Tribe's trip to Utica on the 16th. Playing bass once and guitar once with Basil Ronzitti at the Papermoon keeps things interesting, and two shows at Scotty's with 3bop, including one with Koch recording artist Claire Daly (baritone sax) on Monday the 18th, round out the schedule. 3bop leader and bassist Steve Trohoske's birthday bash is on the 9th, and Pittsburgh jazz artists Lou Stellute (tenor sax) and Tony Campbell (alto sax) will come to spread some jazz fire around that evening.

Also - make your reservations now for Mother's Day (Sunday, May 8th) at the Papermoon, as Phil Papotnik will be joining me for the jazz brunch from 11:30am to 2:30pm. As usual, the food will be exquisite.

I am finally up and running on the home recording front. Propellerheads' Reason turns out to be a fantastic program, allowing for an incredibly diverse combination of sounds and virtual instruments. I have begun to settle in to producing sequences in Reason that I mix to a stereo audio wav file (CD format). These can be imported into Cubase LE for additional audio tracks if necessary, although the Hiphop beats seem to be working out fine in Reason. Dance tracks will be available for sale soon at Performance Recordings.biz, and those interested in original Hiphop tracks should contact me regarding pricing. Other styles will be available soon.

J.D. and the Sons of Rhythm have released Beyond Attention and Crossing Oceans of Time. These two discs are a companion set, and represent some of the groups best work to date. The addition of Phil Papotnik on sax has added a new dimension to the sound, and J.D.'s experimentation continues with new mixes of fades, cuts and transitions between tracks on the CD itself, as well as with more overdubbing Imagination Doctors-style. These are classic discs, with catchy riffs and funky grooves, once again taking jazz to a higher level.

April looks to be a great month for jazz in Erie, so if you are here in our local market, please look around, ask around, and check the paper for listings. Papermoon, Scotty's, Forward Hall, and other venues are all presenting excellent jazz offerings this month, so join us as we look forward to spring, or at least a toning down of winter! Whatever you do, have a great April, and remember to support local and independent music everywhere!

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 MARCH 2005 

I was digging out something in the snow-covered driveway the other day, and I found March. I was a bit surprised, as things were pretty much the same as February, but sure enough, there it was! The weather has become much like the stock market - fluctuating for no apparent reason. Luckily, the music is working more like a steady rhythm - moving along at a good pace; a little hard to keep up with, but going in the right direction!

One of those new directions is south on Peach Street to a new venue called the Moonsense Cafe. This wonderful cafe is a great place to see and play music. Steve Trohoske of 3bop and I play a duo there, and then complete the trio with Brad Amidon at Scotty's Cigar Bar. Two Papermoon gigs with Basil Ronzitti and friends round out the month of Saturday jazz. Since I don't have any major traveling to do in March, the weather will probably be nice on the weekends.

On the home recording front, things are definitely looking up! The new gear arrived, and includes the Tascam US-122 hardward interface with Steinberg's Cubase and Propellerhead's Reason. The Mbox came bundled with a version of Reason called Reason Adapted, and that ran great and was real enjoyable for making beats and doing MIDI, so I know I would like the big one. The full-blown Reason is an awesome program limited only by your processing power and RAM and the knowledge of the user (so I'm studying like crazy!).

The preliminary load of the bundled Cubase program was disappointing but a free upgrade offered on the web site included Cubase LE, which ROCKS! This program records audio input through the Tascam US-122 interface (an actual device via USB, not software) and burns it right to the disc, so there is no waiting for processing in the hopes that your computer won't crash before you finish saving the data. You record and get immediate playback - excellent. I am just breaking into all of the possibilities with MIDI and have not really done too much input yet - more of that studying first so I know a bit about what I'm doing. I am already getting satisfying drum tracks and mixes, and recorded some jazz guitar and bass audio recently which worked perfectly. The next solo guitar album will be done this way for sure!

The releases of Beyond Attention and Crossing Oceans of Time from J.D. and the Sons of Rhythm are on their way. Preliminary feedback on the albums is enormously positive, and we are looking forward to getting this music out to the public very soon. More on the albums and the group can be found at www.jdhopkins.com, and once the CDs are released they will be available here as well. Check out the audio samples when they arrive - I think you will like what you hear!

Much more is bubbling beneath the surface, but for now we will just say that boredom won't be a problem. One thing to take note of - Koch Recording Artist Claire Daly, baritone saxophone, will be performing with 3bop at Scotty's Cigar Bar on Monday, April 18 at 7:30. We look forward to a great evening of jazz music. There are some other great shows coming as well, so keep an eye on the Calendar of Events for updates. In the mean time, have a great March wherever you are, and remember to support local and independent music everywhere!

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February: Brrrrr.

That (January) was chilly, and it ain't over yet, most likely. I try not to complain as much as I used to about the weather, and I have adapted over the years (insulation, layers, coverings, and indoor living), but we had quite a streak here next to Lake Erie. Only one day really got to me, when I just couldn't get warm. I think that was a zero degree day with wind chills in the vicinity of minus eleven. It's all a blur, as I needed a few days to thaw out. Our weather people call this the "Lake Effect". Nice.

February is often a little easier to take, since you are now numb and don't feel it anymore. That's good, because it's usually more of the same, and there's a lot of outdoor activities on the horizon. One World Tribe plays in Cleveland and Buffalo this month, 3bop plays at Scotties, I play a solo jazz guitar gig at Giambrones in Mayville, New York at the Mayville Cool Jazz Festival, there are Papermoon jobs, and studio work at Performance Recordings and Midtown Recording Studios. Between all of that and carting my son around, there won't be many days that I won't be out in the outdoor icebox.

On the indoor front, my first foray into midi and digital recording ended as quickly as it began. I tried the Mbox with ProTools software, and once I got everything loaded and setup (no small task in itself), I could record no more than about seven bars of bass before error messages began showing up on a regular basis. I never could get that seven bar phrase to play, except by converting it to a wave file and listening to it on Winamp. As it turns out (after numbing research), I have exactly the wrong setup (processor, chipset, integrated graphics card) to run ProTools. For some reason the Mbox will not work with hyperthreading, and the new system I am assembling will be running a Pentium IV with hyperthreading, so back to Sweetwater's it went! A different product is on the way, and is setup exactly for the computer I am using now. We'll see what happens when the package arrives....

Beyond Attention and Crossing Oceans of Time from J. D. and the Sons of Rhythm should be released in the middle of March. These, even more than Imagination Doctors and Smoke Shadows, seem to work as a set of four sides. The introduction of Phil Papotnik of Cat's A Bear adds a new dimension in a live sax player, and I get my first bass track (Crossing Oceans: track 12) on a CD. I will try to put up some new samples in the Gallery in the next few months from these CDs. The January tracks turned out great according to J.D., and I go back into Midtown Recording for some overdub tracks with him this month, which means at least two more sides will be out at some point, and things seem to be coming in fours, so we will see.

More time will be spent at Performance Recordings Studios as well. Cat's A Bear has begun having its rehearsals there and recording the tunes we've been working on. We are able to work on our sounds and spend time getting things right, so hopefully this will blossom into new CDs for us. I also begin recording the Hiphop dance tracks this month, with J.D. and the Sons of Rhythm's Ricky and Jayson Hopkins. More projects with First Art Records, a full teaching schedule, and fatherhood should all keep me on my toes and moving to fast to feel too much of the cold, and soon enough, March will be here, with great hope for warmer times. I hope your season goes equally as well, whatever it might be.

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 JANUARY 2005 

January restarts the regular routines, and begins new ones as well. With the holidays over, teaching and gigging are back to more predictable schedules. In addition to doing two weekends a month of jazz at the Papermoon, bassist Steve Trohoske has reactivated 3bop, our trio with drummer Brad Amidon (OWT, Dave Stevens Big Band, Erie Philharmonic). The group is performing one night a month at Scotties' Cigar Bar in downtown Erie. This month the trio will add two saxophonists, Bruce Johnstone and Charles Ventrello, in what will certainly be a great evening of music! See the Calendar of Events for more...

Much is happening on the music production front as well. I have begun to assemble my home studio (again - after almost ten years off), adding MIDI and Direct-to-Hard-Disc recording capabilities to my office. This will enable me to compose music and present performers with an actual recording for study and preparation. I will also be creating HipHop dance tracks for Performance Recordings, and mixing and editing other material for various purposes. The new learning curve is daunting, but as all practicing musicians know, exercising your patience is the best way to keep it in shape.

In addition to having two more double-disc CDs being prepared for release, collective improvisation jazz ensemble J.D. and the Sons of Rhythm will be going back into Midtown Recording Studios at the end of January to record more tracks for upcoming CDs. This time various combinations of players will assemble on different evenings, with Phil Papotnik, Tony Stefanelli, Joe Dorris and Tito of Cat's A Bear all joining the regular crew for one or two sessions.

I have also been sending CDs by all of our local artists to radio stations all over the world as part of our ongoing efforts to bring great creative original music to the people. In addition to Bosnia, Brazil and England, we recently added Greece to our list. If you're overseas, listen out for us on the radio! A few of these stations have little or no access to contemporary music due to political and economic upheaval, or little or no budget, and have been grateful for the CDs. We're grateful that our music is being received in so many places. Hello to RadioFEDRA!

Finally, as I write and a deep snow falls outside, I think of the power of nature, and the overwhelming results when that power is unleashed. Many of our brothers and sisters were lost to us in the last few weeks, all due to the force of nature that fell upon them in the form of a tsunami. We can only express our respect to them in whatever ways suit us, but for the ones that remain, their needs will be great for some time to come. If you have trouble finding a reliable place to donate, Google has a list of relief organizations with an outstanding track record. Let all of us be reminded of how precious life is, and share that blessing with those that need it most.

I wish you peace and blessings in 2005.

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December is always crazy. This year was no exception. In addition to teaching and playing jazz at the Papermoon in Erie, I spent the first two weeks in Midtown Recording Studios with Jayson Hopkins and Joe Frisina recording an album of original rock. Jayson and Joe brought me in as a bassist, keyboardist and guest guitar soloist. I just recently began playing bass again after over twenty years off, and this session really made me flex my chops.

After a few weeks of studio work, it was back on the road with One World Tribe. The Tribe presented a series of in-school clinics at various schools in the Mt. Lebanon School District in Pittsburgh, which included performance. One World Tribe was also accepted as a PennPAT member last year, and it has allowed the group to bring the music to more and more of the Eastern Great Lakes Region since then. Upcoming PennPAT trips so far include Cleveland and Baltimore.

I have also begun collaborating with Jeremy Long of Performance Recordings to create music for dance and theatrical performance use, fully licensed. In addition to the more typical dance show material, we will develop a series of Hiphop recordings with various thematic suggestions for concept continuity with other performance music. This work begins in earnest in 2005.

And, of course, there's the holidays. We celebrated Chanukah and Christmas here (it's a long story), and our four-year old loves to party! So I will conclude by wishing everyone a Happy Holiday Season, whatever your persuasion!

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