Michael Mull Octet

Michael Mull Octet

Monday, December 6, 2010

Original Music this Sunday

It's December, and you know what that means...shopping. Take a break for some great original music at a great price this Sunday. More Art Inc. is a listening room and gallery space in Granada Hills dedicated to bringing enlightening music and arts to the surrounding community. I will have the privilege of playing there with the Juanma Trujillo Quartet, and sharing the bill with talented saxman/woodwind player Josiah Boornazian and his trio. Rehearsing with Juanma's group yesterday, we've got some fun, interesting and brand new music to deliver (I've gotta go practice it!), and Josiah always delivers something to turn on your ears.

Perhaps the best part is that you Valley folks don't have to drive down to Hollywood or Downtown or wherever for a great live music experience; it's right up the street in Granada Hills. Here's the event on facebook, and make sure and get your tickets presale (click "donate" via paypal in the upper right), 5 bucks cheaper than the already low door price. See you at More Art this Sunday, Frank Sinatra's birthday!!

Juanma Trujillo/Josiah Boornazian Groups @ More Art
Sunday, December 12th
$10 presale, $15 at the door

More Art Inc
10667 White Oak Ave
Granada Hills, CA

4:30pm: Juanma Trujillo Quartet
Juanma Trujillo - Guitar, Michael Mull - Saxophones/Bass Clarinet, Emilio Terranova - Bass, Cameron Hicks - Drums

5:30pm: Josiah Boornazian Trio + Special Guests
Josiah Boornazian - Saxophones
Mike Alvidrez - Bass
Brijesh Pandya - Drums

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Peace Yoga on Friday

I'm playing a gig on Friday night with Mahadev, a newly formed group led by guitarist/singer/composer Dave Cipriani. Tunes from this group (guitar/indian guitar, sax/clarinet, bass, hand percussion) will be mixed with various permutations of Dave's other groups, including vocals, drumset, lap steel guitar, tabla, and more. This will be a really fun mix of Indian, Eastern European, blues, rock, and jazz music at a really fun, no-hassle spot downtown, Peace Yoga Studio. Suggested donation of $10-15, but even if you've only got a buck to spare, come listen! It's most important to us to have you there and enjoying the music! You can check out the event on facebook, or just check the details below.

Dave Cipriani and Friends!
Friday, December 3rd

Peace Yoga
903 S. Main St
Los Angeles, CA
Sugg. Donation $10-15 (or whatever)

Also, look out for more details on a quartet gig Dec. 12th with Juan Trujillo, Emilio Terranova and Cameron Hicks, coming soon! Did you check out the Michael Mull Trio album sampler yet?

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Trio Sampler

Good evening, hope you are all enjoying the rest of Turkey-weekend. I'm pleased to announce that several hours work has yielded me a larger "web-presence" in the form of youtube videos and a reverbnation page, as well as a sampler track for my upcoming debut album with my trio. Let the links begin.

First, the SAMPLER! I'm excited to give you all a small taste of each track off the upcoming album, due for release January 2011. You can view it in video form HERE, or just listen (with the option of downloading) at reverbnation.com/michaelmull. Spread the word, if you please, and keep your eyes right here for a CD release show...

Secondly, I gave our trio facebook page a facelift, including cross-posted videos from a new youtube account with some older (but delicious) trio footage.

Finally, I am sick of myspace. Slow, unclear, not something I want to burden listeners with any longer. To help me make the switch to a much slicker, detailed, and intuitive site, visit reverbnation.com/michaelmull and take a listen to the sampler track, look around the site if you haven't been before (some great features for actually listening to music, imagine), and become a fan if you so desire.

After all this web-stuff, I'm hoping to post a LIVE trio gig soon; don't go far, and enjoy the new media!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Giving Thanks

A day late yes, but nonetheless sincere. Also, I'll see you all tonight at Rusty's for Orkestar MEZE, I hope! And now a musical thanksgiving list.

I'm thankful for the mysterious existence of music.
I'm thankful for the blessing to enjoy hearing and playing music.
I'm thankful for music that makes me move.
I'm thankful for music that makes me stop everything I'm doing and listen.
I'm thankful for music that burns my heart up.
I'm thankful for music that cradles me in warmth.
I'm thankful for the people I have the pleasure of knowing through music.
I'm thankful for the places music has taken me and will take me.
I'm thankful for the amazing artists of the past who have brought us their music.
I'm thankful for the future generations who will come up with sounds we cannot imagine.
I'm thankful that music will live as long as the human race, and perhaps longer.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Night of Peasantgiving with Orkestar MEZE

This Friday night (evening after Thanksgiving), Orkestar MEZE is going to rock Rusty's once again on the Santa Monica pier, this time with two full sets of Balkan gypsy peasant funk! Come and dance off some of that turkey. If you haven't heard/seen MEZE, here's an idea of what you're in for.

Rusty's Surf Ranch
Santa Monica Pier
November 26, 2010
All ages show!
$7 - 21+
$12 for under 21 without parent/guardian

Photo by http://estnyboer.com/

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Keeping Busy (bite-sized news)

Happy Saturday evening...I'm taking this one off and hanging at home! Checking out some music by Goran Bregovic in preparation for the upcoming Orkestar MEZE Night of Peasantgiving! We will be triumphantly returning to Rusty's in Santa Monica on Friday, November 26th (the night after Thanksgiving), to "tvist" and boogie peasant style. Come work off some of that turkey with some Balkan Gypsy Funk! Details coming soon...

Another event earlier next week: one of my favorite bands, Chord Four, will be returning to LA and polishing off their CD release tour with a live recording session at California Institute of the Arts. This is going to take place Monday night, November 22nd, at 11pm in the Roy O. Disney Hall on campus. Very inexpensive (FREE), very musical, and you can be a part of the next record just by being there and showing your enthusiasm! I'll be posting a review of their new album soon (something I'll try to do pretty regularly from now on).

Finally had the first rehearsal today with my new octet, and I couldn't be happier. I've got a fantastic group of musicians, and I can tell by the intense progress we made in one short rehearsal that we'll be ready to perform early next year. I've got to write some more music!

Artwork for the Michael Mull Trio album featuring Ben Shepherd and Cameron Hicks is off to an amazing start, thanks to my artistic cohort and long-time friend, Derek Schultz. By the way, we had an awesome time playing for the Ludes and Lullabies music series on Monday, what a fun crowd and great place to hang! We'll defnitely be back.

I also have a couple of gigs coming up near the end of November/beginning of December with a group of fellow-former CalArtians, guitarist Dave Cipriani, percussionist Aaron Chavez, and guitarist/bassist/saw-player etc. Eric Klerks. It will be a mix of Indian and Eastern-European traditional songs and inspired original tunes, at the Garter in Venice Nov. 29th and Peace Yoga Studio downtown Dec. 3rd. Again, details to come later.

Have a great Thanksgiving week everyone, I'll post details for the MEZE gig on Monday or Tuesday, and I'll see you there!!!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Ludes & Lullabies

Trio gig tomorrow night at the Ludes and Lullabies acoustic music series. Check it out on Facebook. I was checking out the Garter's website, and this place has a great look, I may be there a bit early for a drink. The set is late, I know, but no cover and you know what's even better? Seeing my trio.

Me - Saxes/Bass Clarinet, Ben Shepherd - Bass, Cameron Hicks - Drums.

The Garter
2536 Lincoln Blvd.
Venice, CA (map)

Monday, November 15th
...but it is a bar, so 21+ only, sorry

Friday, November 5, 2010

A Couple Trio Sets + Chord Four

It's been a bit since I've posted, so we'll get caught up here.

I have a couple trio gigs coming up, the first tomorrow morning (November 6th 10-11am) to open the Granada Hills Charter High School Community Festival, celebrating the school's 50th anniversary. Live music, entertainment, food all day Saturday and Sunday. Schedule, directions and details can be found HERE. The second gig will be for a new eclectic, acoustic music series called Ludes and Lullabies at the Garter in Venice, CA. It will take place around 11pm on Monday night, November 15th, more details to be posted soon. Both of these gigs will be with bassist Ben Shepherd and drummer Cameron Hicks, and we're excited to be playing some more as the album release gets closer and closer!

If you go to one event next week, make it Chord Four at the Industry Cafe and Jazz in Culver City. This is one of my all-time favorite bands, and I'm lucky to know them and have played with them all. Chord Four is kicking off an album release tour on Wednesday, November 10th at 7:30pm, and with their trumpeter Brandon Sherman now a New Jersey resident, opportunities to see them are to be taken advantage of. Industry Cafe boasts some amazing Ethiopian cuisine and a laid-back atmosphere, so come out for some enlightening music and grab a copy of what I anticipate will be an amazing album.

Aside from that, I've finished my first composition for my new octet, entitled "The People Who Raised Us", and I'm looking forward to our first rehearsal in a couple of weeks. I already feel the "stretch" writing for this group; this first piece was a unique challenge orchestrationally (getting used to this new instrumentation) as well as artistically, as I am taking particular care to address some personal aesthetics I'd like to manifest in the octet's music and group sound. I'm so excited to get this thing rolling, and the debut trio album (still unnamed) is slated for a January 2011 release --- a lot to look forward to.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Sammy Nestico Award

I just mailed off my submission for this year's Sammy Nestico Award, a big-band composition competition put on by the US Air Force Airmen of Note big band in Washington, D.C. The winner has his/her work performed at the 2011 Jazz Heritage Series in D.C. and is flown out to attend, with a possibility of a second comission.

I submitted a chart called "Enigmatism" that I wrote for the CSU Northridge "A" Band, during the 2007-08 school year. It is probably my most complex (and therefore difficult) piece for big-band so far, with themes revolving around 9-beat and 7-beat cycles, dense harmonies, woodwind doubles, and even a little bit of group improvisation. I'm proud of this piece and it's ability to go a few different places while staying connected to itself.

The CSUN "A" Band only ended up performing it once, with drum faculty Dick Weller sitting in, as well as the great Brian Kilgore deriving an amazing percussion part from the drumset chart. Soloists are Will Wulfeck (tbn) and Phil Fiorio (tpt), with Erick Jovel on lead trumpet.

Luckily, the performance was recorded. You can listen to it HERE.

Wish me luck in the competition!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

This Weekend

I've got two gigs this weekend that I'd like to share.

First, I'm playing with drummer Alex Smith for his official CD release concert. The concert will feature Alex, myself, Tim Fischer (guitar), Paul Krueger (piano), and Emilio Terranova in various configurations from trio to quintet. You can expect a mixture of standards, arrangements, and originals, and a lot of swinging.

Saturday, October 16th
$10 suggested donation

Trinity Lutheran Church
4783 W 130th Street (Corner of Inglewood and 130th)
Hawthorne, CA 90250

Second, I am jamming a short set with Orkestar MÉZÉ at the Bulgarian Festival in Griffith Park on Sunday. Free admission, free parking, kid friendly, and lots of great Bulgarian food, music, and culture. The festival runs 10:30am-5:30pm, we play at 1:30 for about 45 minutes. Come by if you are around and want to get a little Bulgaria in your life!

Orkestar MÉZÉ @ BG Fest
Sunday, October 17th
1:30-2:15pm (Festival from 10:30am-5:30pm)
Free admission/parking

Griffith Park (Crystal Springs Picnic Area)
4730 Crystal Springs Dr
Los Angeles, CA 90027

Hope to play for you this weekend!

Thursday, October 7, 2010


Plans have been set in motion for a new group, an octet. I'm very excited about the people to be involved, and I've begun writing a piece and forming the concepts for the group in my head. With this group, I will be reaching deep into my influences and aesthetics, and trying to push a little farther, to more extremes, than I have previously. In other words, I will be avoiding any sort of "stylistic editing", trying to adopt an "anything goes" attitude when I get an idea, and follow the music to wherever it wants to be.

The instrumentation will be 2 woodwinds, 2 trombones, 2 guitars, upright bass, drumset. More info to follow!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

CAP Show and More

The "IN" show at Complete Actors Place is coming up on Friday, Oct. 1st. The three-hour show/hang includes a short set by my trio with Ben Shepherd and Cameron Hicks, as well as a complimentary bar and snacks. Contact me for presale tickets ($5 less than at the door).

Imagine Nation Entertainment presents: The IN Inaugural Show
Friday, October 1st, 8-11pm
Open Bar 7:30-9pm
$20 presale ($25 at the door)

Complete Actor's Place
13752 Ventura Blvd
Sherman Oaks, CA 91423-3067
(818) 990-2001

In other Michael news, the Orkestar MÉZÉ gig at Bordello Bar was amazing! Such an energetic, dancing, and PEASANT crowd! Thanks to Malabomba for putting the show together, can't wait to return and rock it again.

Making baby steps toward finishing the album; with some great input from my wife, I have managed to finalize the order of the pieces for the trio album. Normally, putting together a set list is just short of agonizing for me, so I knew this was going to be tough. To be fair to myself, however, I feel this collection of tunes was particularly difficult to arrange in a flowing and pleasing (but still interesting) order. I'll be going back to the studio one last time now to finalize the tracks, including the time between the end of one track to the beginning of the next.

Although I am getting a little sick of hearing myself so many times, Ben and Cameron sound so solid and energetic on the recordings, and I am so excited to put this thing out! In the meantime, I've been scheming about starting up an octet to flex my larger-ensemble-composing-and-arranging muscles (which haven't been flexed very often in the past couple of years). I'm still solidifying the instrumentation and direction in my mind, but I'm thinking layered, textural, rhythmic, spacious, with a lot of room to breathe --- I'll keep you posted.

Goodnight for now...jamming out to my old metal friends Darkane.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Orkestar MÉZÉ at the Bordello Bar!

Another killing MÉZÉ gig on Thursday, September 23rd...we've got some new tunes and are ready to groove! Here's a little endorsement from our hosts, Malabomba!

"On September 23rd MALABOMBA! orchestrates a peasant uprising! We’re proud to present the down and dirty proletarian sounds of ORKESTAR MÉZÉ at the Bordello Bar on Thursday, September 23. This ensemble features 10 hot dudes and 1 hot chick from five different countries, all united in their love of Balkan brass music and... funky rhythms that liberate the asses of the workers.

ORKESTAR MÉZÉ plays “peasant funk,” a musical goulash of their own creation. Bandleader Milen Kirov knows that the best music comes from the salt of the earth folks from all over the world, so he draws on the folk and pop music of his native Bulgaria and mixes it with Eastern European brass band music, American soul and a splash of low-down funk to create a uniquely danceable urban turbo-folk sound. When ORKESTAR MÉZÉ strikes up a crooked dance in their insane Boban Markovic-meets-the Meters style, it’s enough to make the peasants of the field and the peasants of the cubicle throw off the shackles of oppression and shake it!

MALABOMBA! beat-chefs DJ Jason Savvy and DJ Cat Hair will be on the decks all night, serving up their spicy blends of tasty international cuts for the dance floor. Balkan beats, Romany rock, Turkish garage, Soviet disco, Bollywood funk, and more... they've been slaving away in the backwater kitchens of the world cooking up mixes of the best music you've never heard and will be dishing it up it as hot as ever! In your face!"

Thursday September 23rd, 9 PM until last call

Bordello Bar, 901 E 1st St, LA 90012

$5 admission; FREE before 9:30 PM. *NEW* $5 drink specials until 10 PM!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Show at CAP, 10/1/10

I wanted to let you all know about an exciting new show on October 1st that my trio (Ben Shepherd, bass; Cameron Hicks, drums) will be taking part in. This will be the first show put on by Imagine Nation Entertainment, a new entertainment company that is trying to, in the words of my contact Kelly, "put on shows that eliminate everything that sucks about shows." Following this philosophy, it will be at the Complete Actor's Place in Sherman Oaks, an interesting venue that doesn't follow the typical club or bar formula. For a $20 ticket ($25 at the door), patrons enjoy a 3-hour show of non-stop entertainment, music, drama, and comedy, facilitated by the next act setting up to the side while the others are performing. Included in that ticket price is an open bar for an hour and a half, and some snacks and finger foods; for what you would pay for a drink/food minimum at most "high-end" LA clubs, you get the whole deal.

A website with more detailed info is to launch soon, but you can preview it here for now, and follow on facebook here. If you want to buy tickets, contact me and I will make sure to get them to you.

Imagine Nation Entertainment presents: The IN Inaugural Show
Friday, October 1st, 8-11pm
Open Bar 7:30-9pm
$20 presale ($25 at the door)

Complete Actor's Place
13752 Ventura Blvd
Sherman Oaks, CA 91423-3067
(818) 990-2001

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Listening and Looking Ahead

Good afternoon, music fans.

I'm pleased to be listening to freshly mixed and mastered tracks of the Michael Mull Trio at home right now. Over the next week, I'll be listening to them on as many sound systems as I can, to note any last adjustments that need to be made. While I do this, I'll also be working on an effective order for the songs to appear on the album, as well as naming one composition we recorded that is currently untitled.

I have to say, I am incredibly excited to move forward on this project. Engineer John Aspinall has done an impressive job on both the mixing and mastering of this material, and I am going to be very proud to officially debut my playing and writing, as well as showcase my band and John's talents, with this project. The recordings really sound and feel like a live performance; there is a rawness and front-loaded energy apparent in each track, and I feel it is representative of the trio's group sound. It sounds real.

Next up, we will be shooting photos for use on the album and other media, and I'll be dropping the recordings off for artist Derek Schultz to start perusing and developing some album artwork. More updates as they come...

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Tim Fischer Quartet in Santa Barbara 9/9/10

Sorry about the late notice folks, I've been busy with all manner of different activities the past week. I'm playing tomorrow night in Muddy Waters Cafe for the Santa Barbara New Music Series hosted by Colter Frazier. I'm performing in a group led by my good friend Tim Fischer, playing all his original music in a very spacious, agile group made up of Tim on guitar, myself on alto sax, Emilio Terranova on bass, and Andrew Lessman on drums. Here's a description of the group via Tim that I think nails it down pretty well:

"The Tim Fischer Quartet's sound is heavily dictated by the improvisations and interpretations of its members yet remains unified by Tim's original compositions, which are influenced as much by classical and world music as they are by the traditional jazz practice. The group's goal is to convert the standard jazz instrumentation of horn + rhythm section into a modern chamber group, where each member is allowed equal billing and contribution in shaping every performance."

Tim Fischer Quartet at Santa Barbara New Music Series
$8 for both groups (8pm Motoko Honda, 9pm Tim Fischer Quartet)
Muddy Waters Cafe
508 E. Haley St.
Santa Barbara, CA

Monday, August 30, 2010

Orkestar MÉZÉ at Club Good Hurt

Did you miss us at Rusty's? Did you see us at Rusty's and realize you needed MORE MÉZÉ? This band is getting better and better, tighter and funkier, every show, and the fun we all have playing definitely rubs off on the audience. Come out to Club Good Hurt in Santa Monica this Saturday, September 4th at 8:30pm to catch Orkestar MÉZÉ featuring a very special guest, Todor Kirov on the traditional Bulgarian gadulka. Todor Kirov is the father of Milen Kirov, MÉZÉ's own keyboardist/singer/lead peasant, and this is sure to be a night to remember. I used to play at Good Hurt a lot with Jazz Thunder, it's a really fun club with a great staff, free parking everywhere! Gig details below, I hope to see you there!

Orkestar MÉZÉ @ Club Good Hurt
Saturday, 9/4/10


Thursday, August 26, 2010

New Tune

Happy Thursday...

Started writing a new tune for my trio yesterday and actually finished it today. It's a happy, grooving, and slightly quirky tune with a lot of interesting rhythmic points. I am calling it "Rompus In The Pampas" for my dog Booner (who lives with my parents in Los Osos, CA), who loves to scratch his back by running around, over, and often through the pampas grass on his walks. The trio is resuming rehearsals tomorrow afternoon, so I'll have the opportunity to hear it right away.

Otherwise, I've been enjoying listening to some "Mingus Moves" this afternoon. I came across an amazing video of the Charles Mingus quintet in the studio with Eric Dolphy (flute and bass clarinet), Clifford Jordan (tenor sax), Jaki Byard (piano), and Dannie Richmond (drums) performing "Meditations On Integration". This piece is a superb example of Mingus' resourcefulness as a composer/orchestrator. With a pretty standard quintet line up (two horns and a rhythm section), Mingus acheives an enormous range of textures within this masterfully crafted piece. Not to mention Eric Dolphy is on fire...

The piece spans two videos:
Charles Mingus - Meditations On Integration (Part 1)
Charles Mingus - Meditations On Integration (Part 2)


Thursday, August 19, 2010

Back in action

Getting back in the swing of things after a fantastic tour with the Fatum Brothers Jazz Orchestra. Thank you so much to everyone who came out to see us play, who bought a CD, who hosted us, who helped in any way at all. We had appreciative crowds at every stop, and not one show could be called anything but a success. I was even lucky enough to hear Bob Mintzer play my arrangement of "On Green Dolphin Street". My hat is off to the Fatums; that a big band tour happened at all is impressive, much less an organized and successful one! I had a such a great time meeting and playing with such fun and accomplished young musicians, I'm really rooting for them to do it again next year.

Feeling antsy? Gotta vent some frustrations? Or are you just happy tomorrow is Friday? Come out to Rusty's Surf Ranch right on the pier in Santa Monica this Friday night to check out Orkestar MEZE, LA's Balkan funk band. We're headlining with some brand new tunes to groove on, and it's gonna be one big peasant party! There are a few bands before us, but if you get there early, make sure and tell them you're here to see MEZE.

Orkestar MEZE at Rusty's Surf Ranch
256 Santa Monica Pier
Santa Monica, CA 90401-3126
$7 gets you in ($12 if under 21, sorry)

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Fatum Brothers Jazz Orchestra Tour Dates

Here's a rough tour date list for the tour I embark on in a matter of days. It will be with the Fatum Brothers Jazz Orchestra from Chicago, and I'm very excited to play with these great young players and hit some cool venues I've never played. If you are in town and ready for some big-band (or if you're not ready, whatever), come see us on tour!

Aug. 5th: Dizzy's Jazz Club (San Diego) --- 8pm, $15 ($10 students)
Aug. 6th: Day off
Aug. 7th: Travel and rehearsal in LA
Aug. 8th: Thousand Oaks Gardens of the World Summer Concert Series with guest artist Ira Nepus (Thousand Oaks) 5pm-8pm
Aug. 9th: Catalina's Jazz Club (LA) with BOB MINTZER (Grammy Award Winning Saxophonist & Composer) 8pm
Aug. 10th: SOHO Music Club (Santa Barbara)
Aug. 11th: Travel Day
Aug. 12th: NPR Radio Interview & In Studio Performance (Sacramento)
Aug. 13th: 24th Street Theatre CD Release Party (Sacramento)
Aug. 14th: San Jose Jazz Festival

I'll update the schedule as I get more specific details, and if you're on facebook, follow the tour here.

Friday, July 30, 2010


Gearing up for some fun times in August...

First, I'd like to thank the audience and the people at Liquid Zoo for a great time last weekend! I had a blast playing with Brandon Sherman, Derek Beach and John Shebalin, and the audience was one of the more receptive groups in recent memory. I feel that the average person is quite open to different and new types of music, but it is often a question of exposure to said styles. I hope to get back to the Liquid Zoo in Van Nuys soon and continue to spread the word of creative music.

If you didn't catch our set at Liquid Zoo (or couldn't get enough), the same quartet will be playing this Sunday evening, August 1st at the last Jazz and Improvisational Music Series at 2nd Street Jazz in Little Tokyo. Three bands from 9-midnight, one charge of $10 ($5 for a drink ticket, and $5 directly to the bands). Here is the info:

2nd Street Jazz
366 E 2nd Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Sunday, August 1st
$10 gets you admission and a drink

In other news, mixing has been going fantastic for the upcoming trio album. Engineer John Aspinall and I are making speedy progress each meeting, and the sounds are incredible! The sound is pure, clean and raw, and places you right in front of the trio. More news as the project develops.

I will be travelling up and down California for the first two weeks of August with the Fatum Brothers Jazz Orchestra on their CD release tour. We are starting in San Diego at Dizzy's and going as far north as Sacramento, but Los Angelinos should keep their eyes open for our gig at Catalina Bar and Grill, as it will feature tenor legend Bob Mintzer sitting in! I will post all of the dates and venues here very soon.

Lastly, I am playing with the Alex Smith trio at the farmers market in Torrance this Saturday morning from 9am-1pm, for those in the south bay area. This is a special gig as one set will feature a brand new duo project my wife Ami Mull has put together with guitarist Joel Mankey. Alex will sit in on percussion on a few tunes, and they are gearing up for a performance at Cafe Metropol later in August. Check out some of their tunes HERE.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Two Gigs This Week

Good afternoon! I wanted to let you all know about a couple of gigs this week.

Friday night (7/23) I am playing a solo saxophone set 7-9pm at the Novel Cafe in Koreatown. It is a "trial gig" of sorts for me, and hopefully will turn into a weekly gig of either solo saxophone, guitar/saxophone duo, or possibly trio playing. If you would like to come out, the food looks tasty and pretty reasonably priced, as well as a full bar and desserts/coffee for later crowds.

The Novel Cafe
3760 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90010

Sunday night (7/25) at 8:30pm, you can find me at the Liquid Zoo bar in Van Nuys in the company of a new assemblage of great young musicians. The gig will feature Brandon Sherman on trumpet, Derek Beach on bass, and John Shebalin on drumset. I will be premiering two brand new compositions penned for this group, a contrafact by Brandon, and two tunes from great altoists Charlie Parker and Ornette Coleman. Brandon is leaving town for New York in less than two weeks, so catch him while you can! We're playing one set only, and there is NO COVER, so come grab a drink and hear some brand new music by a brand new band.

Liquid Zoo
7214 Sepulveda Blvd.
Van Nuys, CA 91405

Monday, July 19, 2010

Bjork Videos

I love Bjork! Check out the wonderful combination of instruments on this video:


Upright bass, tabla, synth, flute, turntables/samples, and wine glasses (harpsichord too?). Yet it is put together so naturally, and it feels "normal" and relaxed, not to mention it is a beautiful song on it's own. How about two classical/flameno style guitars and wrenching, phone-filtered vocals? You got it!


Reminds us not to be afraid of sparseness, and of simple elements. The quality of the performance and composition will carry many, many orchestrational possibilities.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Hammer Museum

Good Sunday to you. I had a great time yesterday going to the Hammer Museum to check out the artwork, as well as some musical happenings. Musical curator Chris Kallmyer provided a joyful atmosphere by encouraging each visitor to wear a bell around his or her neck, the instructions being simply "consider your surroundings". I felt that this lightened the mood of what can sometimes be an awkwardly quiet museum atmosphere in the galleries, and simply made me relax and smile walking the grounds.

The main attraction, as far as my wife and I were concerned, was a solo performance by Colin Woodford on a single cymbal. The cymbal was close-miced from below, allowing overtones/undertones and other intricacies of sound to emerge that a listener would never (or barely) hear otherwise. These intricacies could be highlighted or dampened with a volume pedal. Although Colin improvised the material for a cool 45 minutes, it was apparent that this was not an experiment taking place; the exploration was musical, not physical, and the performance was permeated by sensitivity and intent. Tones were treated with care, themes were stated and developed, and each phase of the performance seemed a comfortable length. All this, coupled with the sound of bells and the surrounding environment of people, made for a sublime experience that crossed intense musical listening with a light-hearted enjoyment of just being.

Keep an eye out for further installations at the Hammer, and I will definitely post about any further Colin Woodford solo excursions. I've got a gig with a new assemblage of musicians a week from tonight, so look for more details tomorrow or Tuesday in the form of a post......it will be FREE (the gig, not the post. Well, the post too).

Friday, July 16, 2010

Mixing and Orkestar MÉZÉ

Hello everyone! Keeping cool? .....me neither.

I've begun mixing for my debut trio album (to feature Ben Shepherd and Cameron Hicks) with engineer John Aspinall, and I'm pleased with the results so far. I've picked takes, and we've got a great rough mix on "Dirty Sugar". Tonight we will apply that general mix to some other tracks and start picking through the details and nuances of each song. This is my first top-to-bottom, self-produced, full-length (and other hyphenated phrases) project, and I am already having a blast putting it together. Make sure to check back here for updates on the album.

For about six months, I have been a part of an incredibly fun band, Orkestar MÉZÉ. Headed by pianist/keyboardist/composer Milen Kirov, Orkestar MÉZÉ is LA's only Balkan Brass Gypsy Funk Band, delivering infectiously groovy tunes from Bulgaria, Serbia, Macedonia and Romania with a healthy dose of funk. We had a great gig a few weeks ago at the Bootleg Theater, the crowd was digging it, and some video was captured...check these out!

Orkestar MÉZÉ at the Bootleg Theater 1

Orkestar MÉZÉ at the Bootleg Theater 2

Orkestar MÉZÉ at the Bootleg Theater 3
(yes, that's Ben Shepherd on the electric bass)

One more video of the band at CalArts this Spring:

Orkestar MÉZÉ playing "Sandokan" at the Wild Beast

There is a recording being planned for Orkestar MÉZÉ; more details as I get them. Until then, I'll post any gigs we have here. Bring out your inner peasant!

Friday, July 2, 2010

A few gigs and a project

Happy 4th of July weekend to you all. I'm playing a quartet gig at a party tonight with Milen Kirov, a great composer/keyboardist. We're playing some killer Bulgarian and Macedonian funk jams, ornaments and odd time signatures, but always funky. If any of you are going to be in the South Bay tomorrow morning (Saturday), come check out the Alex Smith Trio featuring Alex Smith on drums, Emilio Terranova on bass, and myself on saxophones. Yes, this is JAZZ THUNDER under the leadership of Alex!

Close friends of mine know that I have been a long-time fan of Meshuggah, a metal band whose music centers around intricate, "over-the-barline" rhythms set over a deep groove. Meshuggah holds various points of interest for me, but I am finally getting to a little project of transcribing some of the incredible guitar solos by lead guitarist Fredrik Thordendal. I've only got one down so far, but several more planned for the coming weeks. His solos are both frantic and skillfully constructed, and each solo yeilds a different, highly creative approach, something not often found in the rock/metal world. I will post some pdf files here for reference and (hopefully) discussion once I've compiled a few solos. In the meantime, if you haven't checked out Meshuggah yet, DO IT!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Music vs. Title Survey

A Happy Father's Day to all you awesome pops out there!

I was talking about composition with my friend
Steve Blum a month or two back, and the topic of titles came up. Turns out, Steve often starts with a title, whereas I rarely produce a title until near the end of the composition process. Everyone approaches composition a different way, and that includes the use of a title. I thought it would be interesting and enlightening to send off emails to some of my favorite composers in the jazz world asking them about this topic, and compile the answers here for y'all. I'd like to thank everyone listed for their time and great responses!

The question was:
"When you write a piece of music, what usually comes first, the music or the title?"

Here are the answers I received:

"Usually the music comes first in m
y case. The best titles for me do come when I'm at the beginning of the writing process however and am still feeling that initial inspiration. It's harder after the tune is complete to go back and find a title that fits the initial feeling for me."
Donny McCaslin, saxophone 

"I almost always conceive the music first and titles comes later."

Edward Simon, piano

"Without hesitation the music comes first. Some titles come soon after finishing work on a tune, but many don't happen until I'm forced to come up with names of tunes for a record. I'll occasionally come up with a title I like separate from writing music. Then I'll add it to a list of potential tune titles that I'll reference if I'm not coming up with anything for a particular tune. Just like a lot of things, it either comes easily or it takes a while."

Steve Cardenas,

"For me a mood will come to me when composing and usually a title will follow. Other times a composition will surface at roughly the same time an event of notice occurs in my life."
John Fumo, trumpet

"The title either comes first or during the process....it usually helps me maintain a direction in the writing."
John Hollenbeck, drums

"Almost exclusively, the music happens first but sometimes on rare occasions a word or image will spark something to happen. I remember reading about Mathew Sheppard and that was one of those rare moments where I started working on lyrics and the music followed."
Alphonso Johnson, bass

"I don't think I've ever written a tune to fit with a title, although that might change with a few potential commissions coming up. What I do have is a list of potenital titles for tunes that I can match with new pieces, but only after I've written the music. So I guess technically sometime I do have the title before the music, but it's usually correlation rather than causation."
Gary Fukushima, piano

"The music almost always comes first. The only exceptions are when I come up with what I think is a clever title and I need to write a tune as an excuse to use it, but that usually doesn't work. I don't often write tunes based on specific places or events - they are mostly just explorations of musical ideas, so titles are sometimes hard to come by."
Ben Monder, guitar

"The music comes first."
Darek "Oles" Oleszkiewicz, bass

"For me, it's usually the music first but occasionally a title will inspire the direction. 'Boxer Rebellion', inspired by our 2 dogs, is an example of a 'title first' composition of mine. More often, I will have a person in mind, which I find more inspiring. This was the case with 'Message From Art' (Art Blakey), 'Kind of Bill' (Bill Evans), 'Bella Luce' (Conte Candoli) and 'For Gillian' (my wife). 'Sixth Sense' was inspired by an exercise on the drum set and 'Native Land' is a homage to planet earth. In each of those tunes, the music came first."
Joe LaBarbera, drums

"The very first thing that comes to mind is who is the music for, then sometimes the title comes first and the music is written but often what i write is concieved for a group or individuals and then the title is added, so I would say...maybe its 30 percent title first, and 70 percent music, then title. That said, I do keep a bag or lists of titles for every occasion."
Vinny Golia, multi-woodwinds

"It's very rare that I have a title before I write. Most often, I have to think of a title at the last minute when a recording is about to be released! Usually I start composing with a mood in mind, but since music is expressive in a way for me that's beyond words, often it's hard for me to think of a specific title that accurately captures that mood."
Chris Potter, saxophone

"To me, the title is important - it conveys a feeling and intention about the music before a listener even hears the first note. I often write the title BEFORE I discover the musical ideas. It is one of the many parameters that I use to get started writing, and can bring a sense of unity and focus to a composition.
"The relationship between a title and the composition can be very abstract and hard to define, or it can be more literal and even programmatic. But there are many compositions that first attract a performer's or listener's attention because of an effective title. If I complete a composition without a title, it can be difficult to find a title that is 'as good as' the music, and sometimes feels like a compromise (which is disappointing...). The goal is to complete a composition that tells one focused story, and the title can be very helpful in communicating that story."
David Roitstein, piano

"It is not a matter of a title or the music coming first, as both processes happen, as well as co-created titles and pieces that come together simultaneously.
"Some examples would be pieces of mine such as 'Frozen Ropes', 'Drifter', and 'Ceilings' where an entire piece had been completed and needed to be titled. Therefore, whatever popped into my mind--that evidently reflected current circumstances or situations I was immersed in--became the titles.
"Another avenue of construction is exemplified by pieces such as 'Dresden Moods', 'A Tree Frog Tonality', and 'Hydrofoil', where the titles came first and informed the content of the musical composition amply--in these particular cases, an historical event and its aftermath, the inspiration of nature's fine non-human musicians, and a dedication to the spirit of the late Fred Hopkins.
"Lastly the co-created dynamic where a title arises as the music is written. An example of this amongst my works would be 'Nature, Time, Patience'. I realized around half-way through composing the commissioned work, that the aforementioned three elements were going to be essential to the success of the piece, so I simply titled it that."
John Lindberg, bass

"When I write music the music always comes first. It starts as a small impulse and melody is almost always the generator. Melody contains so many elements in microcosm (it implies harmony, form, phrases, meter, etc.) and it also has a forward momentum through its storytelling. I just need to get my self out of the way and find what is contained or implied by that first impulse (more and more I'm convinced it contains all the information including the ultimate length of a piece). The title comes much later for me. I think the process would be less abstract and more stilted if I had word associations from the beginning."
Larry Koonse, guitar

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Osby and Turner

Hello again,

I'm back from a 5-day trip to Maui with my wife. It was a fantastic trip in a beautiful place, and I'm sure I'll be writing some music reflecting on my experiences. Fish, urchins, sea turtles, hiking, volcanoes, and tons of great food!

Youtubing this morning - I thought I would share a few videos and a few thoughts. First, check this one out: Franco Ambrosetti Sextet playing "Sidewinder" by Lee Morgan. Swiss trumpeter Franco Ambrosetti is sounding great here, and surrounds himself with a killing band: Greg Osby on alto, Mark Turner on tenor, Jason Moran on piano, Lonnie Plaxico on bass, and Billy Drummond on drums.

I want to focus on the former two sidemen, Osby and Turner. In my opinion, these are two of the most important saxophonists on the current scene. Both have an amazing technical mastery of the instrument and have developed personal, beautiful tones. Their approaches to improvising on the saxophone, however, are what I feel makes them such important figures in jazz today. Nobody else sounds like Greg Osby; he has found a way to filter the often angular melodic, rhythmic and harmonic content of 20th-century classical music through the jazz tradition. Like Eric Dolphy's playing, one can always hear a deep underpinning of "the blues" in Osby's improvisations, despite the far-reaching harmonic implications and often fragmented rhythmic phrasing. Similarly, Mark Turner's even-toned explorations hold a solid footing in the "feeling" of jazz, without using old material. Turner, a Tristano/Marsh/Konitz enthusiast, is a masterful architect, building an improvisation one step at a time and treating each note with care. His expansive range, balance of wide and close intervals, and extraoardinary use of space are unlike any other player.

I find it revealing and exciting to listen to these players in the context of jazz standards. While both of these saxophonists are notable composers as well, standards serve as a more immediate reference point to the listener and help us to more easily identify some of the players stylistic nuances. This is one reason I particularly enjoy the "Sidewinder" video posted above; listeners don't often get to hear Osby or Turner play this tune!

Here are a couple more examples of these masters playing standard tunes. Enjoy!

Greg Osby playing "Jitterbug Waltz"

Mark Turner playing "All The Things You Are"

Monday, May 31, 2010

Quick update and a video

Happy Memorial Day everyone. I beat the traffic today and mostly relaxed at home aside from teaching a saxophone lesson (plus some frisbee and a great meal at home with my wife).

Just some short, no-particular-order items in the Mull section of your news:

I've got a new-used Bb clarinet on the way via ebay; I've had pretty good luck on there before with instruments, so let's keep our fingers crossed please! Been catching up on quite a few things this past week, so not a whole lot new for gigs or the trio album (currently deciding who to mix with). I've spent some time reviewing my trombone quartet, first performed on my graduate recital, and started some revisions; I am planning on working on this composition a great deal and expanding it to get some more detail and narrative out of the material. I'll be starting Rosetta Stone very soon to learn Japanese. Bela Bartok's second string quartet has been playing on my ipod a lot, as well as Dave Binney's "Cities and Desire" album (a personal favorite), and a newly discovered (for me) Sam Rivers album called "Contours" (Herbie Hancock sounds unbelievable on here!).

Lastly, I came across this video today; the tiniest bit sappy, but very sweet and an extremely cool idea very successfully communicated. It's called World Builder:

Enjoy the rest of the evening, and check back soon. Cheers and Kanpai!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Walk and Talk

From wikipedia.org:

"Walk and talk is a distinctive storytelling-technique used in film and television in which a number of characters have a conversation en route. The most basic form of walk and talk involves a walking character that is then joined by another character. On their way to their destinations, the two talk. Variations include interruptions from other characters and walk and talk relay races, in which new characters join the group and one of the original characters leaves the conversation, while the remaining characters continue the walking and talking."

I've been spending a lot of time thinking the past few days about different processes and/or means of composing for and playing with improvisational ensembles. An opportunity has arisen to start a new project with drummer Colin Woodford and bassist Emilio Terranova (and perhaps another horn or two?), and certain leanings of my good friend Colin toward the integration of language into music got me thinking: what if the driving force behind each composition and subsequent improvisation was generated by some manner of language? Pianist Jason Moran has produced some amazing work using pre-recorded voice in conjunction with his live trio (my favorite utilizes one side of a phone conversation), and Colin has put together several extremely entertaining "storytelling" pieces performed on his graduation recital this Spring at Calarts. My initial concept involves a little more distillation of the "language material", so that none of the original words or sound will actually overtly appear in the performance.

I've been toying with ideas of varied complexity: I would like most of the material to be concise in length and concept, to be developed mainly by the musicians in the group during performance. A piece could be written based upon something as simple as one word, or as complex as a paragraph from a novel or exerpt from a speech. Cool Hand Luke, anyone? For audio clips, the delivery will definitely be a focus in shaping a musical interpretation. For words written on a page, I am imagining creating grooves or textures based on the word choices, creating tone poems ("setting" the text without actually using it in performance), or a combination of both.

The wikipedia definition as it pertains to film and television shakes up some ideas as well; my flavor of improvisational music is definitely coming from a conversational place, and often times could be viewed as a "journey". Individual characters conversing as they travel through space and time to get from one place to another? Sounds like quite a concept to tackle in a musical arena, but the kind of challenge I could really wrap my brain around.

If anyone has ideas and suggestions, this early stage is a most welcome time to hear them. Additionally, I would love links to great quotes, passages, movie clips, etc. that make you feel something. Keep an eye/ear/(foot?) out for Walk and Talk stuff; I'll likely be using this blog as a notebook for ideas as well as a forum for suggestions, so pass this along to anyone who might be interested.

Saturday, May 22, 2010


Well, that's it.

I received my Master of Fine Arts Degree from Calarts yesterday, and school's out for the summer...and then some. I had an incredible time these past two years, meeting some of the most inspiring musicians and people, getting to play with them, talk to them, share ideas and experiences. I formed my trio, soon to put out my debut album as a leader, with fellow students at Calarts. I played with and learned from musical legends like Charlie Haden, Wadada Leo Smith, Joe LaBarbera, Darek Oles, Swapan Chaudhuri and Morton Subotnick. While perhaps not as notorious as the aforementioned musicians, every faculty member at Calarts with whom I interacted had a distinct and positive impact on me, something I am sure very few schools could have accomplished. If you have an opportunity to spend some time at Calarts, please do so; it is a haven for the arts and there really is no other place like it.

I'm ready for a bit of rest and recovery after a harrowing but productive two years, but also excited to get to work immediately and dive into my career with complete focus. I began to realize today how much I have been waiting for this time, when I can push forward and dedicate all of my energy to my art, life, and career.

Thank you to all who have helped me up to this point, whether you know it or not. And, especially thank you to my wonderful wife Ami and my truly supportive family.

Well, that's it - for this chapter. Forward, onward, upward and all the other -wards that I can get my hands on. Good night.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Debut Album in the Works!

Greetings friends,

I settled in for a long night in the Roy O. Disney Hall at CalArts on Monday to record what will soon become my debut album. It will feature all original compositions by yours truly and be brought to life by my fantastic trio buddies, Ben Shepherd on bass and Cameron Hicks on drums. The session went smoothly and with the help of engineer John Aspinall, we were able to lay down nine tunes in the space of about five-and-a-half hours. We've been playing much of this material for half a year or more, and Ben and Cameron catch on so quickly that eyelids weren't even batted at the newer tunes. There was a great energy throughout the night (despite the fact that we finished up around 4:30 am), and I feel confident that once I get back into the studio to start picking takes and mixing, I'll be hearing some beautiful moments.

I am also excited to announce that my long-time friend and artistic/musical co-conspirator Derek Schultz will be working on the album artwork! Derek is an incredible artist in every sense of the word, excelling in painting, drawing, multi-media, music and poetry as well as a host of other mind-numbing skills, and I have been continually inspired by his work since our elementary school days of drawing comic books together. Please check out his website, www.staralchemy.org, to get a small taste of what Derek is about.

On a side note, I had the unique opportunity and pleasure to have lunch with Wadada Leo Smith and Billy Childs today, two incomparable artists who are also warm, welcoming people. I was invited to tag along with a few other students after Billy Childs gave a brief but decidedly inspiring lecture at CalArts, and experience more of these artists in a different context. As Wadada put it, what happens at the lectures is "only part of it; the rest of it happens right here." If you are unfamiliar with the work of either of these men, I urge you to do a little listening and looking and you will undoubtedly find something new.

That's it for now; I've got to get some sleep! Still reeling from the session that lasted into the wee small hours. Please keep an eye on my blog to stay updated on the creation of my debut album, and get excited about music (or, stay excited about music)! There is so much beauty out there.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

SlumGum with Strings

Hi everyone,

Countdown to my graduation with a Master's degree from California Institute of the Arts! A week from tomorrow, and I'm quite excited and quite nervous. Trying to finish up a few projects, and start some new ones, as this semester draws to a close. But there's always time for some great live music:

I just got word of a show that will be taking place next Wednesday, May 19th that I would highly recommend. One of the most creative and interesting bands in Los Angeles, Slumgum, will be playing in collaboration with a string quartet comprised of Andrew Macintosh, Melinda Rice, Yvette Holzwarth, and Chris Votek. Every musician involved is a contributing composer as well, so expect variety of the most sublime variety.

Wednesday May 19th, 7:00-9:00pm
Pasadena Public Library
285 East Walnut St.
Pasadena, CA

View the event on facebook.com
Slumgum on myspace.com

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Ligeti Trio for Violin, Horn and Piano

I have been a fan of all of Gyorgi Ligeti's music that I have heard thus far (which, admittedly has not been a lot), particularly his orchestral work Atmospheres that involves "micro-polyphony"; a hyper-intensified form of counterpoint that involves so many independent lines that an overall sound texture is acheived and the melody of the lines is practically lost. It was a life-changing experience to hear a recording of this piece for the first time; Ligeti created sounds I would have never imagined could come from an orchestra.

Fast-forward a few years to this afternoon. I don't remember how I came to think of it, but I felt the urge to look up some Ligeti on youtube, next remembering that my composition professor at Cal State Northridge, Liviu Marinescu, had mentioned Ligeti's horn trio as being "essential". I found an amazing recording of the four-movement piece on youtube. The most amazing horn playing I've ever heard, and an intriguing composition all around. I was particularly taken by the fragile and dynamic fourth movement, and the rhythmic "groove" of the second movement, though I would urge you to hear it in full. Links posted below.

Ligeti Trio for Violin, Horn and Piano: I. Andantino con tenerezz
Ligeti Trio for Violin, Horn and Piano: II. Vivacissimo molto ritmico
Ligeti Trio for Violin, Horn and Piano: III. Alla Marcia
Ligeti Trio for Violin, Horn and Piano: IV. Lamento-Adagio

Hearing music like this is lighting a fire beneath me to do a lot more listening in this area, along with some intense score study. I will be finishing my Master's Degree in a matter of weeks, but by no means will that mean my studies have come to an end; I mean to compose much more heavily in the area of chamber music in the coming years, and I am looking forward to learning much from Ligeti and others as I learn and refine my own craft of composition and orchestration.

Friday, April 23, 2010


I played a short duo gig with my friend Brice Albert today at Cal State Northridge. It was a small outdoor reception for the Microbiology Student's Association, with some tasty catered food and nice weather. While Brice chunked away on guitar (no power for us!) and I played some quiet alto sax, I came to a realization: being a musician has allowed me to be a part of many celebrations. From something as simple as a school reception to my good friend's wedding, I've witnessed a great deal of ceremony and smiles and had the opportunity to be a part of it all, to add something to the occasion. And very rarely has my presence gone unappreciated; people love good music, even if they aren't listening all the time, even if they don't realize I slipped in a chromatic ii-V7, there will always be a few people to thank us for the music or to offer us a drink or some conversation.

As was the case today, it's nice sometimes to play these gigs that, at first thought, might seem silly or random, but then they remind us how fortunate we musicians are to be doing what we love and bringing a touch of something happy or new into others' lives. It can be a struggle as a creative musician to remember that not everything we do has to be groundbreaking, or technically dazzling, or deeply thought-out. While we should all push ourselves, it's also okay to just make good music, whatever that means to you and your ears.

Played Take The "A" Train before? Good. Let's play it again.

Hello World

Hi all,

My first step into the blogging world...aren't you glad to be a part of this monumental moment in internet history? In all seriousness (or at least part seriousness), I'm excited to begin sharing and documenting my thoughts on music and life. I'll also be posting about my new and ongoing musical/artistic/professional/what-have-you projects and endeavors, and sharing links to things that make me happy. For example, this video of the master Sonny Rollins cruising on Oleo.

Please feel free to interact, leave comments, ask questions, share thoughts and items of your own. Part of the reason for creating this blog is to try to take advantage of the extraordinary resource that is the internet; there are so many great people and minds and works out there, and we should all seek interaction with one another for friendship and inspiration.

Thanks for taking the time to read my blog debut. I hope you will check back regularly, and if you wish to receive emails when I post, let me know...there's some way to do that.

I'm off to read Steppenwolf and get some sleep. Goodnight and good luck.