Mostly Froot Loops, A Bit Bran Flakes: C&R So Far…

We’re on the home stretch of this caper, and I thought I’d take a quick look at how things are going so far. When we eventually get to the end, I’ll do a thorough dusting of the crime scene, but for now, here’s where we stand.

Musically, I couldn’t be happier with what we’ve come up with so far. The cats have really outdone themselves- musically outstanding, super supportive of the project, and tolerant of my fluctuating emotional state. And I couldn’t be more thrilled with the generous contribution of our special guests Peter Bernstein, Rossano Sportiello and Bruce Harris- and there are more surprise visitors to come!

It’s not all a bowl of Froot Loops though. The biggest challenge I’ve been facing is fatigue- certainly my own, and quite possibly yours too. I don’t think I really grasped the magnitude of this thing when I started- it’s one thing for a whole freaking year! What was I thinking!? Promotion for a normal project might run for a month, and talking about oneself for that long is exhausting. Now it’s been nine months of trying to think of new things to say, new video ideas, new places to stick that effing plastic fish, all with out making one of us want to beat me senseless. And there’s another three months to go…

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Reception has been mixed. I’ve had a great response from journalists: I think the concept gave them something to write about, and we’ve had articles on at least a dozen websites and blogs. Most notably, the wonderful Something Else! has been on board since the get go, putting their knowledgeable ears to each track as it dropped, and I thank them whole-heartedly for their continued interest. And I was well chuffed with E.J Iannelli’s in-depth profile at All About Jazz. Radio, on the other hand, has not been quite so receptive. With a few notable exceptions (Radio Adelaide, KSDS San Diego), radio stations have been reluctant to jump in. It seems they’re not moving to the digital format as easily as I’d thought. I don’t think it’s a sound issue, because the tracks I send them are higher than CD quality; so it’s either that they’re dragging their feet in the system-upgrade department, or they just think the music stinks.

But response from friends, acquaintances, and passers-by has been wonderful. Folks have been stopping me at gigs to ask how it’s going, when the next track is due, why haven’t I sent them their free track when they signed onto the blog three weeks ago; all signs of actual interest and enthusiasm. And this feedback, this genuine show of curiosity, is what’s going to put the fire into these last couple of installments. And I have a feeling we’re going to finish big. The next track is going to be a change of pace, something on the abstract side; and track #8 is going to see us going out swinging (with the potential aid of a very special guest. I’m going to get nervous, or not,  as soon as he tells me whether he wants to do it. Sizzle!!)

So there we have it, approximately three quarters of the way through, and far more ups than downs. Thank you for being a part of it so far; I hope you’ll stay with us, and tell your friends! Cheers, Nick

“Nordberg Suite”: The Moving Picture!

Here’s a little video to accompany tune #6, “Nordberg Suite”. It features Bruce Harris on the trumpet, Jeremy Manasia at the piano, Dave Baron on the bass, Minnow the Smalls cat, and the Catch and Release robot fish in a jar. Hope you enjoy!

Dig the tune? Buy it for a buck from iTunes or Amazon!

“Nordberg Suite” is here!

Tune #6 is here! It’s called “Nordberg Suite”, and features Jeremy Manasia at the piano, Dave Baron on the bass, and special guest Bruce Harris on the trumpet. It’s a swinging little thing, and I’m sure you’re going to dig it! Have a listen, then buy it for a buck!

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/nordberg-suite-feat.-bruce/id971879096

Amazon: http://amzn.com/B00U27T8CW

“Nordberg Suite” in pictures!

Tune #6 went down on Monday, and again the wonderful and talented Una was there compiling photographic evidence. Some great shots of the band, Minnow the cat, the fish, and our special guest Bruce Harris! Got a favourite?
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This tune comes out Monday March 2. Missed an earlier tune? Grab them all here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/nick-hempton/id449388179

Tinkling Tune #6 All Over The Ivories

Tune #6 is in the can! It’s called “Nordberg Suite”, and will be available Monday! Here’s a quick look from the new Steinway at Mezzrow in NYC!

(Missed one of the earlier tunes? Grab ‘em here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/nick-hempton/id449388179)

A Mad Dash

When we left off last, the fate of tune #6 was in doubt. With no tune written, no band booked, and a much-hyped snow storm on the way, we were right in the poo. And sure enough, poo-bound we remained, as the deadly snowmageddon blew in, burying the city in almost half an inch of snow. The sidewalks were crunchy that day, my friends. We hunkered down under the onslaught, afraid to leave our homes in case our shoes got wet. Schools were closed to prevent learning, and our engineer was trapped in his fortress of solitude in the frosty Bronx. So we had to cancel the recording. Since then, our drummer, Dan, has jetted off to be successful in Eastern Europe, and now we’re nine days from our due date. But we’re not giving up just yet.

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Smalls is booked for Monday. Jeremy and Dave are booked for piano and bass respectively. I tried to convince a certain older, fairly famous drummer to play with us, but according to his manager, the meagre fee I was offering wasn’t sufficient. The sad thing is, he’s a super-nice cat- I’ve chatted with him several times, and played with him once- and I’m sure if I’d caught him in person, he would have said yes. But it wasn’t to be. So I’m trying something different. Piano, bass, saxophone, no drums, and special guest Bruce Harris on the trumpet! Bruce is a killer young trumpeter with whom we’ve played several times in the past- he’s done Smalls gigs with us, and was a guest on our old Smithfield Sunday Session, but we’ve never got him into the studio. So this is going to be brilliant! All I’ve got to do is write a tune…

So, recording Monday, mixing Tuesday, send the tune to press and radio on Wednesday, and up online for you on Monday March 2! The pre-release sizzle- videos, photos, etc.- will all be crammed into the space of a week, but considering the whole thing nearly fell in a heap, I hope you’ll understand.

I should mention that the Catch and Release material is getting a great response when we play it live. We play every other Thursday at Smalls (the adults-only midnight slot. I work blue…), and we’ve been trotting out all five tunes, in various orders, to enthusiastic crowds.  If you’re in the NYC area, come down and hang with us, or if not, watch us on the Smalls live web stream. I’ll talk more about this in a future post, but if you go to the Smalls website and sign up, you can watch everything that happens, live! It’s also a great opportunity to hear jazz musicians, who’ve forgotten about the cameras, engage in some fairly egregious slander. Enjoy!

Righto, that’s it for now. I’ll put up a vid of the new tune as soon as I’ve written it, and photos from the session will be up early next week. Cheers!

A mad scramble, Jay Z, and sun on your bollards

These tunes have a real way of sneaking up on me. Feels like tune #5, Target Practice, just dropped (missed it? Get it here: Target Practice at iTunes ), and suddenly we’re due back in the studio. It also just dawned on me that drummer to the stars (and me), Slammin’ Dan Aran is about to jet off to some unlikely former Eastern bloc country for a month of touring. So I’m now scrambling to organize a studio session for next week, with tune unwritten, and band unbooked. Also we have heading our way one of these snow storms that send both our public transportation systems and our Canadian cousins into hysterics, but for different reasons. This wouldn’t affect our performance (in fact, this band does some of its best work in extreme weather conditions), but our hard working, long suffering engineer, Andrew, lives in one of those far-flung precincts where the subway lines have dragged themselves above ground to feel the sun on their bollards. Come snowfall, he’s stranded. So we’ll see what happens- by hook or by crook, tune #6 will be yours March 1. Probably.

Here are a few articles that have drifted through the transom this week at Catch and Release HQ, the first being a real kick in the arse after my last gloating post on the superiority of vinyl:

LA Weekly: Why CDs may actually sound better than vinyl

And on the topic of streaming music:

Business Insider: Norway has solved the issue of music piracy

The Guardian: Jay Z has bought his own streaming music service

We might have a chat about these in the next one. Cheers, Nick

Analogue Jammin’

My birthday was a few weeks ago. No, it’s ok, really. I wouldn’t have wanted you to make a fuss anyway. I’m fine. Really. But I long ago reached the age where a birthday present is more important for the thought than the item itself. I never really believed my Dad when he’d tell me that all he wanted was a bottle of booze or a book voucher, but that’s me now. If I really want something, I’ll just go and get it myself. And this year, because no one was thoughtful enough to get it for me, I got myself something I’ve been wanting for ages.

Last night, here in the New York area, we were trapped in our homes due to what was being advertised as the blizzard to end all blizzards. Feet of snow and deadly gales were promised. Public transportation was shut down, vehicles were banned from the streets, panicked suckers emptied supermarket shelves, and I got an unexpected night off work. At some point during the evening I decided I should try to be productive with these bonus hours, and set about fiddling with one of the online aids to productivity on which I waste so much time. After a lengthy period of grinding my teeth and shaking my fist threateningly at the screen, I I threw my hands up in theatrical disgust, and gently slammed the computer shut. I needed respite from this maddening technology. It was too snowy to take the penny-farthing out for a spin, so I turned to the next best thing: my new record player.

I couldn’t be happier with this new addition to the Hemmo homestead. And it’s not just sound quality- everything about the experience is enjoyable and satisfying. Shopping for records, pretending I know anything about “vinyl grading”, prissily removing every trace of deadly dust from the disc while wearing the full-body rubber suit the guy at the record store told me I needed. But mostly the fact that listening to an album is now an event: now when I put on music, I sit down and listen to it!

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Not me. Yet.

 However, at some point last night (during Bird with Strings, I believe), I was struck by the irony (or possibly, hypocrisy) of my situation. Here I am, making a big fuss about my fancy digital releases, bemoaning the fact that American jazz radio stations haven’t moved with the times, espousing the virtues of single-track online music distribution, while at home I’m listening to music in almost the oldest way possible. Next year I might upgrade to piano rolls. But really, I don’t think there’s much of a contradiction. Vinyl is fantastic, and I highly recommend it, but I don’t suppose it’s really the way forward. I’ve always thought that digital files and vinyl should be the major players- nothing against CD, but it’s neither the best sounding nor the most portable. Nor is it nerdy enough for me. Anyway I’ve got to run if I want to post this blog before the telegraph office closes.

Who else is getting their vinyl on?

Media-shy musician circulates article about self

My least favorite part of music is trying to sell it and talking about myself. —Nick Hempton

This is the lead quote from a really good write-up we just got in the esteemed All About Jazz. There’s some level of irony in my making a claim like that while giving an extensive interview, and then sharing the story on my BLOG. But nevertheless, it’s a good piece, and share it I’m gonna.

If you’re curious about this project; and the whys and wherefores of not only Catch and Release, but the current music scene, and how musicians are handling the changes, this article gives a lot of info and context. In the next week or so I’m going to give you a round up of the story so far- how the project’s working out, what’s going right, what’s going wrong- but in the meantime, have a look at this! (Click on the picture…)

And if you haven’t picked up tune #5, Target Practice, here’s the iTunes link: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/target-practice-single/id957592753

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Thanks EJ for the story!

Track #5- “Target Practice”- is here!

Here’s track five- on time this time! It’s called Target Practice, and features Dan Aran at the drums, Tadataka Unno on piano, and Dave Baron at the bass. Have a listen and let me know what you think. If you dig the tune, buy it for a dollar! (iTunes link is below)

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/target-practice-single/id957592753

Amazon: http://amzn.com/B00S66GBW6