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!

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?

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

Track #5, “Target Practice”, In Black and White

Happy New Year! The silly season’s out of the way for another year, the headaches have subsided, and here at Catch and Release HQ we’ve kicked out the squatters and cleaned the stains off the ceiling. And we’re back on the blog!

Tune #5, entitled “Target Practice”, comes out this Thursday! The release date took me by surprise this time, so we’re going to have to cram two weeks worth of blog into about three days. Starting with photos!

We recorded the new one at Smalls last week. Our wonderful and talented photographer, Una, came down with an unexpected bug and had to pull out at the last minute. But as luck would have it, Dan’s younger brother was in town, and happens to be quite the talented shutterbug! Dan called him from the drum stool, and he dropped everything and hied it down to the session. And check out these moody shots! Thanks Avshalom- you saved our bacon!

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A pianistic stab at Tune #4

Tune #4 of Catch and Release comes out Monday! And it features the wonderful Rossano Sportiello at the piano! Sadly we didn’t get any footage of the recording session, so I thought I’d bash out a version so you can hear the tune. Rossano sounds much much much much better than this.

Buy tunes #1-3 at iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/nick-hempton/id449388179

Derailment averted by sporty fellow; delay on track 4.

To follow up on our last post, we’ve made progress! A tune was written, a pianist and an engineer were booked, and a recording session has taken place! Thursday morning I went into Smalls to put down tune 4 of Catch and Release, and I did so with one of my favourite musicians, Rossano Sportiello! An Italian native, Rossano has been based in NY for the last few years, and is one of the world’s leading practitioners of swing-style piano. He’s got a beautifully fluid technique and a gentle swinging touch which, along with his solid left hand, make him great fun to play with in a duo setting. He also, unlike this slob, knows how to dress for a recording session.

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The tune itself is a simple little thing- I wrote it in the style of an old standard, and in fact its chord progression is almost identical to a very famous old tune. I’ll leave it to you to pick which one. We did about four takes, all of them relaxed and enjoyable. It sounds pretty- I think you’ll dig it.

Unfortunately, schedule-wise, we’re in the poo. While the tune is done and dusted, it still needs to be mixed and mastered (I’m going to attempt to explain that baffling process in a future post…), and we can’t get in to the studio until December 1, the intended release date. So I’m afraid I have to push this one back a week: tune 4 will be online Monday December 8. I’ll post some trailers before then- I might even have a stab at playing this one on the piano myself…

While I’ve got you, I wanted to link to an interesting (and extremely long) article about music streaming, specifically Spotify. If you’re curious about the future of digital music distribution, have a quick skim through this. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve come to accept that streaming does seem to be the way forward, but I’m no fan of Spotify. (Sadly my decision not to include Catch and Release in their catalogue didn’t make as many headlines as when Taylor Swift did it.) I understand that this is a business, and its purpose is to make money, but it’s difficult to read about these guys with their suites at the Plaza and their Ferraris, discussing selling art like it’s frozen fish fingers. I don’t have a solution, and it’s nothing new- businessmen having ripping off artists for ever- but I hope something changes. Maybe Spotify’s claim that more subscribers will mean bigger payouts is true. But for those of us in the bottom half of the sales tank, I doubt it will make much difference.

In good news, Amazon is selling loads of jazz albums for 5 bucks! Check ’em out and buy some music!

The Third Degree in moving pictures!

Our third little bundle of jazz is out in the world, and seems to be making friends. It’s quickly become our most popular tune on iTunes, thanks, probably entirely, to the participation of our man Peter Bernstein. Not just one of my favourite musicians, Peter is also a generous, modest, supportive dude. The session was great fun, and Bernstein tore it up take after take. If you haven’t heard The Third Degree, here’s a snippet, with video from the studio. If you dig it, please pick it up from iTunes or Amazon- it’ll only cost you a buck- and tell your friends about it!

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/third-degree-feat.-peter-bernstein/id928690451

Amazon: http://amzn.com/B00OEEZRBU

I’ll start the lead up to tune #4 in November- I’m thinking a scaled-back sound for this next one, maybe duo? I’ll have more for you soon. In the meantime, let me know what you think of the Third Degree, and what kind of thing you’d like to hear next! Cheers, Nick

The Third Degree (feat. Peter Bernstein)

Track #3 is up on the grid! Entitled “The Third Degree”, it features the sterling talents of not only Jeremy Manasia (p), Dave Baron (b), and Dan Aran (d); but also our special guest- guitarist Peter Bernstein!

The groove is sort of a Blue Note-style Bossa Nova- I think you’ll find it groovy and swinging. Have a listen, and if you dig it, buy it- it’ll only cost you one dollar! Enjoy!

Buy it on iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/third-degree-feat.-peter-bernstein/id928690451

Amazon: http://amzn.com/B00OEEZRBU

GooglePlay: http://bit.ly/1oaU4nk

Watch: video outtakes from Recording #3!

As you may know, tune #3 of Catch and Release is done and dusted, and once again we were lucky to have talented photographer/videographer Una Stade on hand at the session. Here are a couple of clips of the band in the studio (Smalls Jazz Club), wasting our energy on what ended up being outtakes…

The tune is called “The Third Degree”, and comes out this Wednesday (Oct 15). Dig!

Session #3 in pics, and our secret guest revealed!

Tune #3 is called “The Third Degree”, and it comes out a week from today! Here are some shots from the recording session, featuring our special guest, guitarist Peter Bernstein! Dig:

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As always, thanks Una Stade for the great pictures!