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 for digital download. Check out the snippets of each tune.

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.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Free Performance: Princeton's Communiversity, 1:40-2:10pm

Please note: Corrected time is 1:40 to 2:10pm

Sustainable Jazz takes to the street this coming Sunday, April 29, for a performance at the Arts Council of Princeton's Communiversity. As in previous years, we'll be on Witherspoon Street next to the public library.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Performance Dates: April 12 and 19, Hopewell Valley Bistro

Stop by the Hopewell Valley Bistro to hear the Sustainable Jazz trio perform our original jazz on April 12 and 19. Hopewell pianist Phil Orr has been hosting a Thursday night Jazz On Broad series at the Bistro that's been drawing crowds and filling a major gap in local jazz. Music's from 6-9 with food and drink served throughout. Phil on piano, Colt Morris on bass, and myself on sax/clarinet and compositions.

Scroll down for some sample videos.

The series of late has included some jazz greats like Houston Person and Warren Vache.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Funky River

This was our encore at a home concert. Though I wrote the tune, Phil Orr brings it to life with that funky feel on piano. Thanks to Princeton University's Keller Center for originally commissioning the piece. They used it as a theme for their educational videos.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Cheery in Theory

A fun name, loosely associated with invasive species, which can be very pretty until they start taking over your yard or your local nature preserve. Some of the musical motifs in the piece appear in shifting settings, from attractive to more tumultuous, but, spoiler alert, cheer wins out in the end. Recorded at a home concert.

Friday, November 24, 2017

SJE Helps Celebrate Women's Environmental Work

Music, artwork, nature and people gathered at the Duke Farms carriage house for the annual award ceremony and fundraiser hosted by Conserve Wildlife Foundation of NJ.

Our Sustainable Jazz trio, this time with Keith Lesnik on piano and Scott Hornick on bass.

Four women were honored for their gallant wildlife work, former governor Tom Kean spoke,

while murals above spoke of gallant days past.

A peregrine falcon made the trip from the Mercer County Wildlife Center, where it was nursed back to health from an injury that won't allow it to return to the wild.

The falcon's handler was still good-humored after two hours of posing for photos. She explained that the falcon's approach to hunting involves dive bombing a flying duck at 200 miles per hour. The duck, jarred by the blow, is killed instantly, falling to the ground, where it becomes the falcon's dinner. My trip to the grocery store started looking pretty tame by comparison.

It was a great pleasure to play for this spirited occasion, and hear about the dedicated environmental work that might otherwise go unsung.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Video of In the Company of Friends

An original composition of straight ahead jazz performed July 21, 2017 at the 1867 Sanctuary, a beautifully restored church in Ewing, NJ. Steve Hiltner on tenor sax, Phil Orr on piano. Composed by Stephen K. Hiltner. The performance was part of the Climate Cabaret, which mixes music and theater.

Video of Funky River at the 1867 Sanctuary

Performed July 21, 2017 at the 1867 Sanctuary, a beautifully restored church in Ewing, NJ. The composition was originally commissioned by the Keller Center at Princeton University, for use as the theme song for their videos.


Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Garden Party Season!

The Sustainable Jazz Ensemble landed in the backyard for a wedding anniversary garden party, playing a mix of jazz standards and originals.

Lars Wendt, who also performs with the Princeton Symphony Orchestra, is a one-man brass ensemble, here workin' the mute on a flugelhorn.

In the video below, Phil Orr gets down with his bad self on an original of mine, Funky River. Later, the hostess came up and proved a natural, knocking us all out with her vocal rendition of The Man I Love.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Mardi Gras Party Video

Iko, Iko! A Mardi Gras party in Princeton, NJ, Feb. 28, 2017, with members of the Sustainable Jazz Ensemble. Phil Orr on piano, Lars Wendt on trombone, Steve Hiltner on saxophone. Sitting in are Jeff Whetstone on harmonica and neighbor J.D. on cajon (literally). J.D. grew up in New Orleans.


Lars Wendt on brass of many tonal colors, and the orrsome Phil Orr on the keys.

Surprise! Our next door neighbor, June, plays a soulful violin, adding feeling of deep Americana to the festivities.