The Identity Crisis Hip-Hop Blowout @ The Shrine this week!

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The Identity Crisis will be performing in Harlem this Friday, February 25 at 10pm. We’re very excited to have two special guests, the rappers Vision and Akir Plan, joining us for an evening of grooving hip-hop infused jazz. We’ll also be premiering a new song by everyone’s favorite Russian rapper and beatboxer – Krussia!
The Shrine in Harlem is a super funky bar/restaurant and a great place to hear live music, and admission to the show is free. Hope to see you there.

Friday, February 25, 10pm
The Identity Crisis featuring:
Travis Sullivan-Alto Sax
Sean Nowell-Tenor Sax
Jostein Gulbrandsen-Guitar
David Cook-Keys
Chris Tarry-Bass
Joe Abbatantuono-Drums

Special guests:
Akir Plan-Rapper

The Shrine in Harlem
2271 Adam Clayton Powell Blvd.
New York, NY



Week 4 at IAR: Identity Crisis

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Here it is, the final installment of my four sessions at the Institute of Audio Research!  I’m going to miss doing these sessions.  It was a fantastic opportunity to work in the studio with the amazing musicians that agreed to participate in this project.  A special thanks also to “Uncle Rich,” the recording engineer instructor who made this all possible, and kept things moving along smoothly and comfortable.

This last week I brought in the Identity Crisis, which has evolved over the past three years into a jazz/hip-hop fusion tour de force.  I co-lead this band with drummer Joe Abbatantuono, and this recording also includes Identity Crisis regulars Matt Clohesy (who it was great to play with again after nearly 10 months!) on bass, Shayna Steele on vocals, and Sean Nowell on tenor saxophone.  Filling in for keyboardist Dave Cook was Walter Fischbacher, who came in and nailed the material without ever seeing or hearing it before.  We recorded four songs, and here are two of the rough mixes.

Don’t Know – This song grew from the hook in the chorus, which popped into my head one day, lyrics and everything.  It sat as eight bars of melody for about 6 months before I finally wrote the music for the verse, which I wrote in less than an hour because I wanted to hear Shayna sing it! I gave the music to Shayna with some ideas I had in mind for the lyrics, and she went ahead and penned the complete lyrics for the song.  This is the first tune that I’ve ever written in a straight up pop style, and I’m pleased with the results.  Enjoy!

Saxicolous – I had the bass line for this song in my head for about 15 years, and it was finally time to do something about it! Also, the Identity Crisis didn’t have any fast tunes with super snaky lines, so I decided to write a challenging but sensible piece.  The title “Saxicolous” is an actual word that means living in rock or pertaining to rocks.  Since I come from “The Granite State” it only makes sense.  Regardless, this tune rocks! 🙂

Week in review

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I just ran into Henry Threadgill at this little wine/pastry shop next door to my girlfriend’s place in the East Village.  I met him a while back when he was doing one of those workshops at the Jazz Gallery, so I said hello.  He’s a very nice guy! But that’s my geeky jazz celeb sighting for the week.  I just love the East Village.

This week has been a very productive one…I submitted my application for the Swing Space residency program (more about that soon!) and played a gig last night at the legendary 55 Bar in Greenwich Village with my band The Identity Crisis.  It was the first show I’ve played with that band in three years that me and my co-leader Joe Abba didn’t only break even, but actually made some money.  Making money from your music…what a concept! We’re going to be posting some live tracks from the show on our Facebook Page real soon.

I’m also starting to get things going with finding some new students.  Teaching piano mostly but I’m available for teaching saxophone, composition, and improvisation.  I’ve also had a few music copying students recently, teaching them how to use Finale.  I’m trying to get the word out more (which blogs are helpful for I suppose!) so please pass it on if you know of anyone that’s interested in studying with a really cool teacher! 🙂

More of an overview than a “Week in Review,” but hey…I’m a musician not a writer.  Hopefully soon I’ll be writing some more informational blogs though…I have some ideas about writing a piece about ensemble leadership, which I’m bit of an expert at.  I may also write something about arranging for jazz ensembles.  I’m only going to do it though if it’s looking like people are actually reading this blog.  Is anyone reading this blog? Seriously though, if there are any music related topics that you’d like me to expound upon, let me know and I’ll do it to the best of my ability.  I know that Joe Abba really wants me to write a piece about Phil Collins (shout out to my man Joey!).

This is also the first blog in the history of the universe that Henry Threadgill and Phil Collins were mentioned together.  Such is my musical tastes, for better or for worse.

NYFA Boot Camp Redux

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This past weekend I completed the last session of the Artists as Entrepreneurs Boot Camp at the New York Foundation for the Arts.  I learned a lot and make a whole bunch of new friends.  It’s rare these days that I get to interact with artists seriously involved in other artistic disciplines, but this program allowed me to get to know several filmmakers, visual artists, actors, and even a puppeteer and a storyteller.  It was good to find out that there are others out there that have the same concerns as I do about having a career as an artist, and to learn that other people are sometimes just as confused and scared as I sometimes am about navigating finances, marketing, intellectual property issues, and just plain survival in NYC.

There is a lot to talk about here, and I’m sure the impact of what I’ve learned about goal setting and financial management will become evident over the course of the next several months.  I have a book to recommend though…especially if you’re a visual artist but it’s great for anyone who wants to make a living as artist…it’s called The Artist’s Career Guide by Jackie Battenfield.  She was the first speaker at the Boot Camp, and her awesome presentation about setting goals was both impressive and inspiring (and a little ass kicking – she started her talk by saying “This book is full of things that you don’t want to do!”).  We all got a copy of her book too, and I’ve gotten a lot out of it.

Two days to the Identity Crisis gig at the 55 Bar…rehearsing tomorrow and can’t wait!!!

The Triumphant Return of the Identity Crisis!

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Gearing up for a couple of shows this week at The Shrine in Harlem.  Playing there from 6pm-8pm on Wednesday with the Matt Panayides Group, and on Friday at 8pm with the Identity Crisis. 

Matt Panayides is a great guitarist and an old friend from my Manhattan School of Music days.  We played an art gallery opening out in North Jersey this past weekend, and the band was hot hot hot! So please come and check out this free show. 

The Identity Crisis is a hip-hop jazz project that I co-lead with my friend and amazing drummer Joe Abbatantuono (Joe

Trav and Joe getting down yo.

Abba for short).  We’ve been on a little bit of a hiatus recently, and this is out first show in a couple of months.  We played at The Shrine this past fall and had a very fun show there.  This time the lineup is a little different than the usual cohorts: Mike Kammers on tenor sax, Natalie John on vocals, Adam Klipple on keys, and Chris Tarry on bass.  It’s going to be an awesome show – performing many of my originals and a cover or two.  Make the trip out to Harlem if you can.  The Shrine is a great bar/listening room!

Getting my Persian groove on tonight

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Tonight’s the night at Cafe Vivaldi with Rana Farhan! I’m looking forward to this show – I get to flaunt both my piano and saxophone talents with some cool bluesy music sung in Farsi.  If you asked me ten years ago what I’d be doing in NYC, I never would have guessed this! Life is full of surprises.  I’m also looking forward to going to Toronto in March with Rana & friends to do a performance for the Persian New Year.  Last year we had a nice hang in London, so it’ll be good to travel again with this band. 

Check out Rana’s website too to learn more about this unique artist:

Also, in a couple of weeks, the triumphant return of the Identity Crisis with a performance at The Shrine in Harlem.  February 26 – save the date!

Back to Booking…

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Trying to get gigs in NYC is pretty tough.  There are so many musicians here and only so many places to play.  Sure, there are plenty of restaurant gigs and things like that around, but in terms of actual performance spaces where people go to listen to music…there are only so many of those.  Of course, the more popular that they are too, the more competition there is to get your foot in the door.

I’ve actually been a bit lucky over the past few years.  With the Bjorkestra I’ve always had a manager or an agent do all the booking for me.  I’ve booked my own shows here and there, but if you get out of the habit of it like I have, that hustle-muscle that’s necessary in order to gain any sort of momentum in booking shows atrophies quite easily.  Lately I’ve been concentrating more on getting some dates in the books for my other bands, like the Identity Crisis and the Travis Sullivan Quartet, and am experiencing once again what it’s like to be in the trenches (so to speak).

In order to get booked at shows in NYC, it seems that it is very important to make your presence known physically.  Basically, you have to make the hang.  Last night I went to Cornelia St. Cafe for the monthly Artist’s Salon.  It was a nice wine & cheese type of event where artists congregate and schmooze the curators. The music curator, Poul, is a trumpet player and a very nice guy from Denmark…and it was great to meet him again and catch up. I am trying to put a show together at Cornelia St. Cafe with George Garzone.  If it works out I’ll be psyched!!!