Afternoon Has Broken, Also Brain: The Price of the Jazz Life

Firstly let me apologise if this post descends into indecipherable drivel. But that’s my writing style, and it’s got me where I am today. Aside from that, I just read a disturbing article informing me that my late-night lifestyle is making me sick and stupid; my ability to form coherent sentences is diminishing, and my days of comprehending simple arithmetic may be numbered. I don’t even understand that last bit!

I spend most of my nights in jazz clubs, and have done so since I was in my late teens. Back in Australia, this wasn’t so bad, as the action would generally wind up by midnight or 1AM (we all had to be up early to feed the wombats). Then I came to New York. On my first trip here in 1996, Smalls Jazz Club was open until 8AM, and often later. I’d get my arse handed to me at the jam session, go to a diner to berate myself over breakfast, and be in bed by noon. These days, I’m older and wiser, and am tucked up by 6AM.

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Conventional wisdom says that we eventually adapt to a change in sleep patterns; that if we keep our hours regular, and turn in at the same time every day, the sleep will be just as beneficial. I even dimly recall reading articles that claimed our most creative work is done after midnight. But recent studies refute all this, and moreover, suggest that staying up all night and sleeping all day, while undeniably awesome, has some pretty serious downsides, namely type-two diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and a “significantly shorter lifespan”. Additionally, these studies show that, “the brains of workers who’d done 10 years of night shifts had aged by an extra 6 1/2 years- they couldn’t remember as much or think so quickly.” And at 4AM, apparently my ability to think is the same as if I was drunk. Of course, I wouldn’t know what that’s like, but it sounds serious and fun.

Anyway, I thought I’d prove all these so-called experts wrong by doing a bit of investigative googling and coming up with some brainy achievers who share my habits. Unfortunately, many people known as “night owls” (Freud, Churchill, Tolstoy, Mozart, Nabokov, Obama, etc) are nodding off at a relatively respectable 1AM. For real day-sleepers, here’s what I came up with: pianist and hypochondriac fusspot Glenn Gould; gloomy ponderers Franz Kafka and Marcel Proust; literary lunatic Hunter S Thompson (check out his insane daily routine), and maniacal dingbats Josef Stalin and Adolf Hitler. The only glimmer of hope is Rolling Stones madman Keith Richards, and it’s looking more and more like he’s not actually human. I’m not in healthy, well-adjusted company.

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The most frustrating part of these reports is that they offer no solution other than doing what every minuscule fibre of my body is desperately pleading with me to do. I want to hear that I can reverse the negative effects of my boogie-loving lifestyle by, I don’t know, eating carrots? Finishing the occasional cryptic crossword? Curbing my consumption of the blood of comely young virgins? But no. It seems I’ll have to resign myself to incremental idiocy and an early demise.

Are you an all-nighter? Someone you know? Want to cheer me up with tales of healthy, alert, intelligent, productive, long-living nocturnalists? Use the comments box below, but not too many big words please. Anyway, got to go- it’s nearly midnight and lunch isn’t going to make itself.

Righto, more soon. Cheers, Nick

What Now?? (Or, Breathing New Life into a Dead Horse)

The Catch and Release Experiment, as it was originally envisioned, has limped over the finish line, exhausted and disoriented, and is now curled up and panting in the nearest bar. It’s finished, and not a moment too soon. And depending on your perspective, it was either a roaring success, or a dismal, soul-crushing failure. Personally, I prefer not to dwell on the more than seven billion people who didn’t download the tracks; or the resounding lack of interest shown by jazz radio stations (aside from a few standout exceptions); and I really try not to think about how much hard-earned coin I’ve thrown at it… Instead, the Hempton Band’s Department of Selective Memory is insisting I focus on eight tracks of good music, some exciting musical collaborations, loads of great press, a devoted handful of satisfied customers, and a bold attempt at something new.

One thing has become clear over the past year. When we started this harebrained scheme, the race for supremacy in the music delivery business was between downloading and streaming; and they seemed about neck-and-neck. And it would seem, to persist with an overused metaphor, that my horse has taken a somewhat philosophical view of the race. Download numbers have dropped dramatically across the board, in all genres, while streaming services are gathering speed (and money) every day. And in just the last few months we’ve seen the launch of two big new streamers: Apple Music and Tidal (hahahahahaha!). And it makes sense: almost unlimited music for a small monthly fee. As soon as they sort out a way to compensate artists in a decent fashion, I’ll probably sign up myself.

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But all this aside, I’m now left with the questions of what to do with this music, and what to do with this blog. Firstly, I’ve decided to take a second run at the wall, and put the music out on CD. As I’ve mentioned before, a lot of radio stations are resistant to playing digital tracks, so if they won’t play the Catch and Release CD, it just means they don’t like the music. Fair enough too, but I reckon we’ll get some airplay- it’s all pretty radio-friendly stuff. Still the best place to sell music is at live shows, so this will give me a chance to hand over some of the new gear to folks who’ve enjoyed a gig (there are all sorts of gimmicky ways of selling digital tracks in person- download cards, little USB drives- but I’ve never seen anyone buy one.) And let’s not forget there are some weirdos who just like CDs.

So the plan is to remaster all the tracks (because they were recorded/mixed/mastered separately, they all sound a bit different, so we need to get a uniform tone for a CD), get some artwork done, write some liner notes, and have a release in November. This brings me to the blog.

This site was set up to have a finite existence (one year) but I’ve enjoyed scribbling my nonsense here, and don’t really feel like giving it up. So here’s the plan: I’ll describe goings-on related to, and leading up to, the release of the Catch and Release CD; but I’m also going to cast the net a bit wider, and have a natter about matters not directly related to the project- gigs, venues, musicians, etc.- all music-related and hopefully interesting.

So that’s it. I hope you’ll stay with me on this thing, and let me know- what kinds of things would you like to read about here?

More soon. Cheers, Nick

Change for a Dollar!

In all the excitement and relief of putting this part of the Catch and Release project to bed, I forgot to put the final installment up on the blog! So here it is- Change for a Dollar, featuring the great Jerry Weldon on tenor. Have a listen, and if you like it, buy it for a buck! iTunes and Amazon links are below, as well as a review from our friends at Something Else Reviews. Hope you dig!

Review at Something Else

Change for a Dollar at iTunes

Change for a Dollar at Amazon

Shifting the Blame

It’s iTunes fault! I swear! Tune #8, the final installment in the, erm, octiligy (?) is due out today, but no sign of it on iTunes or Amazon. I’m sure it’s coming… In the meantime, here’s a video of an outtake from the session- it’s pretty groovy! The tune is called “Change for a Dollar”and our special guest is tenor legend Jerry Weldon! Hope you dig…

A Big Finish: Tune #8 in Pictures

We made it! The last tune in the Catch and Release series is in the can! It’ll be up online next week, and I’ll put up a video outlining the tune tomorrow. But in the meantime, check out some pics from the session (as always, thanks to the brilliant and talented Una)! And we can reveal our special guest for the big finale: the great Jerry Weldon!!

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Hempton Band in Arty Noir Masterpiece!

It’s been action central here at Catch and Release HQ, which should really mean lots of posts on this blog. Unfortunately most of the goings-on are unsuitable for broadcast. So instead we bring you BY FAR the coolest video we’ve ever been a part of.

Our resident videographer, the all-around awesome Una, growing tired of my ham-fisted attempts at music videos, took the tune and her footage from the session, and whipped up this arty little ripper. Thanks Una! Hope you dig it…

Like the tune? Buy it for a buck on iTunes: Catch Up

or Amazon: Catch Up

Get Caught Up With Catch Up!

Tune #7 is entitled “Catch Up”, and it’s now up on the grid! Have a listen to the clip below, and if you dig it, pick it up from iTunes- it’ll cost you a dollar! (And don’t forget to tell your friends…)

iTunes: Catch Up

Amazon: Catch Up

Here’s what the good folks at Something Else Reviews thought: Catch Up

An Internet First: Cat Pictures!!

Tune #7 went down a couple of weeks ago, and as usual, the fabulous Una was on the scene, trusty camera in hand, to show why music is not a visual medium. But Minnow the cat’s a looker isn’t she??

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Tune #7: The Director’s Commentary

Here’s a quick look at the as-yet-untitled Tune #7! Freedom, madness, and a minor blues…

(I don’t know why the video is reversed… Sorry.)

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