Monday, August 2, 2021

Lunar Octet Interview on "Alternative Venues for Jazz"

Our jazz/latin band, the Lunar Octet, was recently invited to be on Alternative Venues for Jazz, a facebook group started by Gail Boyd. Gail's a manager of artists, and each day she features jazz artists who talk about their lives and recent recordings. It's a great program and we were thrilled to be invited on. Drummer Jon Krosnick, bassist Jeff Dalton, and I spoke about our lives and the recent release of our album, Convergence, which is getting positive reviews and airplay around the world. 

During our 30 minute self-interview, Jon and Jeff asked me to talk about the genesis of my life as a jazz musician and composer. To have a listen to all or part, click on the link above, not the photo.

3:14 -- How I began composing music
14:18 -- How I started to improvise

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Our Lunar Octet "Convergence" CD Reviewed in Downbeat!

We were thrilled to see our newly released Lunar Octet recording reviewed in Downbeat Magazine. It's also been praised in Jazz Is, Jazz Thing, JazzWise, Jazz Weekly, El Chino, PhilsPicks, and in publications in Germany, France, and Japan. There are some nice quotes, like in Downbeat how the compositions "spur the impulse to dance and encourage intellectual engagement at the same time." That's definitely what we're going for. ​A review in German starts by saying, in translation, "Great stuff that we seldom get to hear these days. Perhaps because music that is not cutting edge is undervalued?" That's another characteristic of the band. Our compositions and performances go by Ellington's mantra: "If it sounds good and feels good, then it IS good." 

CDs and downloads can be purchased on the Summit Records site, at Amazon, and elsewhere. Quick listens and streaming are available at Spotify and elsewhere.

Saturday, March 13, 2021

My Piano Talk Videos on Youtube

Over the years, I've written hundreds of small compositions for piano. Some I used in my teaching of kids and adults, others have sat patiently in files over the decades, awaiting some time in the sun. In these recordings on a piano with a special history, I play the compositions and talk about their personal, musical and sometimes political meaning. 

The videos are gathered on this playlist on youtube, with names like "Why am I so happy?," "Carefree in Three," "Con-tin-u-ing," "Palindrome," and "Steve's Delight."

Friday, November 6, 2020

Piano Talk: Palindrome

Another of my short piano pieces, performed and discussed, coming to you from my musical man cave. This one feels like a salve for our torn times. The series of palindromes in the baseline were discovered after it was composed. What's a palindrome? I had to look it up to remember. The tune reflects something many of us are feeling now, post-election, that maybe there's some order and sense in the world after all. 

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

The Daughter's Song

An at-home rendition of an original composition from 2019, "The Daughter's Song" is conceived as part of a play in which a family grapples with what it means to be part of a time and a culture that is changing the planet's climate forever.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

A Gig! With Trees Providing the Reverb

On June 24, the Sustainable Jazz duo provided a battery-powered performance for the birthday of Oswald Veblen, his legacy still going strong after 140 years. Talk about sustainability!

I found myself identifying the surrounding vegetation inbetween solos, and marveling at the acoustical richness a forest provides, as each tree sends back its own echo.

The event was an experiment in distanced gathering, with the Veblen House standing by and tables freshly hewn and fashioned from a fallen red maple on the grounds. This was an off the grid celebration with candles and homemade bouquets, and perfect weather. The trees demonstrated social distancing, and a visual encore of fireflies added to the magic.

Phil and I played originals along with requests for Take the A Train and Over the Rainbow, both of which take on new meaning in COVID times.

I've always wanted to be part of a "house band," and this is as close as I've gotten thus far. Until the Veblen House is made useable and the pandemic sent packing, we're calling ourselves the "near the house" band. 

Monday, February 3, 2020

Sustainable Jazz at the Hopewell Valley Bistro, March 26

I'm back to composing in my man cave, so we'll be debuting some new original material along with favorites from our CD "Until I Find the Words", March 26, 6-9 at the Hopewell Valley Bistro. Guest artist Sean Dixon will join us on drums, fresh from a gig at Harry Belafonte's 93rd birthday. Part of the popular Thursday night series in downtown Hopewell, hosted by the "Orrsome" pianist and impresario, Phil Orr. 15 East Broad Street, Hopewell, NJ

More on Phil's jazz series in Hopewell, NJ can be found at Music runs, walks, and grooves from 6-9pm.

Graphic by Phil Orr

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Lunar Octet Performance at the Blue Llama Jazz Club in Ann Arbor

There's a great new jazz club in Ann Arbor, MI called the Blue Llama. When our group, in its 36th year of performing original jazz/latin music, played there for brunch a couple weeks back,  I knew from the moment I walked in the door that it would be a special experience. Beautifully designed for jazz and world music, it's the kind of space that makes you feel good just being there.

The place has an art deco feel, and the acoustics were designed by the same team that did Dizzy's Club in New York.

Here's conguero and composer Aron Kaufman, playing a solo on my composition, Mambossa. In the background is drummer Jon Krosnick, prime mover in getting our group playing again after a hiatus in the aughts, or however you describe a century's first decade, lost from history, or at least from conversation, for lack of a good name.

The ceiling lighting gives our pianist Keaton Royer multiple halos.

Bassist Jeff Dalton took out his acoustic bass for Jon Krosnick's gorgeous ballad, A Smile of Love.

A great gig in a great venue. Check out the Blue Llama if you're ever in Ann Arbor, and you can find our music at Our new CD will be released early in 2020.

Thanks to Chuck Anderson for the photo that captured the whole band.

Friday, October 18, 2019

Sustainable Jazz to Perform for Women and Wildlife Awards Event

Keith Franklin and bassist Jerry D'Anna will be joining me for a jaunt to Duke Farms as Sustainable Jazz performs again this year at the annual Women and Wildlife awards event, a fundraiser for the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of NJ.

The reception is on Nov. 13 at 6pm, and includes a silent auction with some tasty hors d’oeuvres, and some tastefully short but inspiring speeches.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

New CD With the Lunar Octet

An Ann Arbor-based band I've been in since the 1980s came out with a new recording this summer. The group began as a composers' workshop that soon began performing its all original repertoire at clubs and festivals in Michigan and elsewhere. The drummer, Jon Krosnick, a professor at Stanford, organized a tour for us in California two summers ago, and this past July we received a standing ovation for our debut performance of the CD at the Ark in Ann Arbor.

I've long played the role of musical director for the group, composing and arranging much of the material. More info about the band, and some past recordings to listen to, can be found at

Friday, May 10, 2019

Performing at Princeton Community Housing Gala

The Sustainable Jazz duo will perform at the Home Springs Eternal Gala this Saturday, May 11. The gala celebrates Princeton Community Housing's 52 years of building community in Princeton, and honors the work of Carol Golden and Lance Liverman.

Friday, March 8, 2019

March 28 Performance at Jazz On Broad - March 28

We're headin' to Hopewell, NJ Thursday, March 28 to be part of the Jazz On Broad series. Phil on piano, myself on sax and clarinet, playing original compositions from our new CD, Until I Find the Words.

The Hopewell Valley Bistro has good food and drink, and a comfortable space for checking out some jazz. Join us from 6-9pm.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Sustainable Jazz CD Available: "Until I Find the Words"

After years of playing, composing, and cogitating, Sustainable Jazz has given birth to a recording, and it's a sweetheart. Each tune has its own special feel, from ballad to bounce, tango to swing. These are the tunes Phil and I have been performing at parties and concerts, recorded in a studio with a gorgeous piano sound. Photographs are of my own taking, with bubbles trapped in ice on the cover, and the liquid mysteries of a vernal pool on the inside.

The music is available on spotify and other stream services, on Amazon music, or watch on youtube.

Monday, December 17, 2018

A Sustainable Jazz Interview on TV!

What a great pleasure it was to be interviewed on pianist Eric Mintel's TV show, "Talking Jazz!" In addition to being an excellent jazz pianist and highly successful bandleader, Eric is a gifted host and interviewer. His life's work is to sustain not only his own group but to promote jazz as an art form, and to that end he has undertaken to interview musicians like myself to document our lives and music. In a half hour, he had me telling not only of my life in jazz but also of my environmental work through my writings, nature walks, and the two nonprofits I founded. Thanks to Eric for this opportunity, and to the show's director Chuck McEnroe of Princeton Community TV for making Eric aware of Sustainable Jazz.

Talking Jazz, 17.18 from Princeton Community Television on Vimeo.

Check out other interviews on Talking Jazz.

Roundup of Recent Gigs for Environmental Nonprofits

Autumn leaves us with some good memories lending positive energy to events hosted by some of New Jersey's leading environmental nonprofits.

We played again for the Women in Wildlife Awards event put on each year by Conserve Wildlife Foundation,

a Black Friday event hosted by FOPOS in the wonderfully resonate living room of Mountain Lakes House in Princeton,

and a masquerade ball hosted by DR Greenway.

Then this past Sunday it was back to Mountain Lakes for another Friends of Princeton Open Space event, where we had a ball playing holiday music for kids from 1 to 92. I know how hard these organizations work to make the world a better place, and it's a great pleasure to be part of their gatherings together to celebrate.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Upcoming Performances for Conservation Organizations

One of our favorite things to do is to perform at events hosted by environmental organizations in the area. It's a chance to participate in the giving back to nature, whose endless beauty and creativity is a central inspiration for our music. Join us at these upcoming events. The first two are fundraising events; the third is an open house. More info at the links.

Saturday, October 27, 6-11pm: DR Greenway Masquerade Ball , Deer Run Farm in Pennington. Phil and I will perform from 6-8pm.

Wednesday, November 7, 6-8:30: Conserve Wildlife Foundation's 2018 Women in Wildlife Awards and Silent Auction, Duke Farms in Hillsborough

Friday, Nov. 23, 1-3pm: Friends of Princeton Open Space--open house at Mountain Lakes House. (not posted on their website yet, but this will be a free and informal event for people to stop in while taking a walk at Mountain Lakes in Princeton)

Monday, September 24, 2018

Sustainable Jazz Comes to South Brunswick October 5, 8-10

Graphic by Phil Orr

We're playing a two hour show of all original compositions this Friday, October 5, 15 minutes from Princeton, at the South Brunswick Municipal Complex. For those unfamiliar with South Brunswick, there's an address below, but here's a musical version of directions based on some of my compositions: It's not Lejos de Aqui (Far From Here) at all. Just take the Princetonian Thoroughfare over the Funky River (and Route 1), and you'll find yourself In the Company of Friends, with lots of Ruum to Rumba. For videos of Phil and me performing, one of my favorites is Cheery in Theory, along with Funky River.

Our duo of Phil Orr on keyboards and myself on sax and clarinet will have the added dimension of Lars Wendt, with his big sound on trumpet and trombone, and Jason Harris on upright bass. Should be a fun show featuring our newly recorded original jazz, latin, funk, tango, and a rumba thrown in for good measure. Copies of a new recording, Until I Find the Words, will be available at the performance.

Details: Friday, October 5, 8-10pm, South Brunswick Municipal Complex
540 Route 522, Monmouth Junction

Admission $6 at the door - Light refreshments included
Doors open 7:30pm – No reservations, no advance ticket sales

Saturday, August 4, 2018

A California Tour

Love you, California. This past week, some of my compositions flew with me out to California and landed in the Portola Valley Vineyard, performed by a band I've been in for 35 years, the Lunar Octet. The group started as a composers' workshop and became a working band. Inspired by Aron Kaufman, Dan Ladizinski and other player/composers in the group, I began contributing tunes around 1984 and have been writing ever since. One thing learned: if the musicians love playing a tune, chances are the audience will love it as well.

The night before, our 9-piece group was packed onto the stage of a jazz club, the Cafe Pink House. If anyone asked why an Octet had 9 players, I explained that we're making up for all those times we only had 7. Here are the three percussionists in the band--congas, drums, and timbales--what I call "the joy factory."
Being a botanist, I took an interest in the trees framing the vineyard performance. There were redwoods in the background, and in the foreground, a massive stump where a bay tree with a tree house had stood. The tree's gone, but I bet there are a lot of kids who will carry memories all their lives of listening to music from up in a treehouse. Afterwards, the hosts treated us to a selection of wines grown at the vineyard. Incredible for an easterner, the summer weather is everyday the same, with cool nights and warm days, and never any rain. The trees must find water deep underground.

Our third performance was at Sol Treasures, a play on the words "soul" and "sol", the spanish word for sun. Their nonprofit came into being ten years ago, to teach music and art to kids after California stopped funding arts and music in the schools. California, we love you, but how could you? We received a standing ovation from people who treasure their kids and want them to learn art and music. That was a good feeling.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Free Performance at Princeton Public Library, June 17, 2pm

There was lots of confusion about the time of the gig, but it's settled. We'll be playing for an hour from 2-3pm, Sunday, June 17, either on Hinds Plaza or in the Community Room at the Princeton Public Library.

Phil Orr and I will play selections from our upcoming CD. Sax, clarinet, and keyboard. Come join us, and tell your friends.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Performing for a DR Greenway Feting of Ted Thomas

Note: Come by the Princeton Public Library on Sunday, June 17 at 2pm to hear Sustainable Jazz.

Recent doings include playing background music for a DR Greenway event in honor of Ted Thomas, one of the great local volunteers who has done so much to build and maintain trails in the Princeton area, while supporting open space in many other ways as well. I know Ted from my days working for Friends of Princeton Open Space, where he has been a longtime board member and leader of the trail committee.

Ted gave a speech with his accustomed soft-spoken charm. He grew up in Elizabeth, NJ, where there was very little open space and towns merged one into the other, then gained a love of the outdoors at summer camp in Vermont. Later, in Idaho, he learned trail construction techniques he has since applied to Princeton's open space, and worked to preserve a valley in the Rockies dear to his heart--an effort that ultimately achieved success during the Obama years.

Somebody must have known Ted was coming, because they baked him a cake.

Playing for this event was a kind of heaven, performing for people who love both nature and music. We played mostly my jazz and latin originals, but there were also some standards like All the Things You Are--one of Ted's favorites--and an impromptu jazz version of On the Trail, from Ferde Grofe's Grand Canyon Suite.