Voxx

September 1st, 2014

A mere 1 minute walk from the Jazz Alley condos where we musicians get to stay for the 5 nights we’re usually up there, there’s an independent coffee place called Voxx and every time I go there it restores my faith in humanity! The norm here is to enjoy your drink in ceramic, the coffee is delicious (Cappuccino for the win!), seats are comfortable inside and out, and the internet connection is BLAZING fast. The only thing Starbucks has on this place is its food which really is top notch, but otherwise it’s no contest. All in all Seattle really is a smart and well-run town. It’ll be very interesting to see how their $15 per hour minimum wage initiative will pan out, but I suspect it’s going to be a success.

James Gadson

August 31st, 2014

Another item off my bucket list: playing with the one and only James Gadson! Thanks to Jamie Kime I got to play with singer/songwriter Amiena at the House Of Blues Foundation Room and the gig was just awesome. Here’s a true legend of the drums, and man who played on hit record after hit record and he’s still got it!I can’t begin to remember how many times my friends and I watched this Bill Wither live recording of Use Me from 1972 with mister Gadson and a couple of other cats cooler than a cucumber. This is why I left my homeland and came here; feeling beyond blessed……..

I want to take this opportunity to say thanks to all of those that helped me over the years, that believed in me enough to give me a chance, that taught me by example, kept me working: Ibo my first piano teacher, Mark Harmsma, Peter Hallmann, Johan Viswat, Satin Kalpoe, Roy Cruz and all the guys at the Pater, Mouse Johnson, Stan Sargeant and all the guys at Skoby’s, Jonathan Dresel, Dave Karasony, Don Randi, Justin Randi, Scott Grimes, Jay Gore,  Yogi Lonich, Dino Soldo, Mike Faue, Perla Batalla, Ronnie Gutierrez, Rodney Lee, Jeff Robinson, Marc Strommer, Marc Antoine, Chris Standring, Freddy Kluska, Gregg Karukas, Dave Crozier, Andy Najera, Keiko Matsui, Russ Freeman, Jeff Kashiwa, Bill Heller, Stevo Theard, Mindi Abair, Joe Travers, Scheila Gonzalez, Sergio Gonzalez, Peter Torsiello, Chris Haller, Randy Stern, Jamie Kime, John Ziegler, Anita Robles, Fred Horn,  Marcel Smit and so many more I can’t believe it……thank you and I look forward to many more years of music and friendship!

Shark

August 31st, 2014

Nine more days……we only have to wait nine more days before the unveiling of yet another iPhone! Are you as excited as I am? Are all the rumors, the leaks gonna turn out to be true? 4.7″ screen? 5.5″? Near Field Communications? We know there will be support for non-apple keyboards, and also included Swype functionality. Wait, is there anything in there that Android hasn’t had for years already? Thinner body? Faster CPU? I feel another $700 hole developing in many people’s wallet, but for what exactly?

Here’s something that I think will be a great mistake on Apple’s behalf: supposedly iPhone 6 will still only have 1GB of RAM. That’s right, the same amount as my $179 Moto G! Now, some would argue that iOS doesn’t need more and runs more efficiently than Android, and while the latter used to be true it isn’t anymore, but more importantly, even now 1GB is holding us back in some cases. As the web becomes more and more complex, browsers need more and more RAM to properly display websites. What happens when you run out of RAM is that the OS swaps out the data to storage temporarily to free up space for what you’re looking at. Here’s a practical situation in which that really impedes functionality: when you have multiple tabs open in a browser, switching between them can cause one to have to reload the page, even though it was fully loaded when you ‘left’ it. When you’re trying to cut and paste between them the trouble starts! All the data you filled in on the other tab has disappeared and you have to start over! This happens on ALL platforms, and I’ve seen it on the iPhone. Add in the move to 64 bit which increases the memory footprint of apps by 20-30% without any real performance benefit and you’re creating a perfect storm. When even $300 phones come with 1.5-2GB, it’s just incredible that Apple hasn’t gone to 2GB with their ‘premium’ device. If this turns out to be true…….

A lot of people think I want Apple to fail, and that’s really not true. I want their current practices of dumbing down, arbitrarily restricting capabilities and choices to fail. I’m in no way married to Microsoft or any other brand for that matter. In my opinion, loving a brand is idiotic! In the end all these gadgets and machines are disposable tools, let’s not forget that. Even a fancy laptop is NOT like a guitar you can use till you die. You can pretend that it’ll last you 6 years without holding you back, but with the current pace of technology, the cheapest computer you can buy is probably better than the most expensive from 6 years ago! Would you buy napkins made of silk instead of paper? Didn’t think so…… What we need from the Big Fruit is innovation, a true alternative that ‘plays with others’, not the walled garden it is now. I’m getting tired of my own blah-blah……. ;-)

From the Anandtech forums:

“Part of me still doesn’t believe Apple will release an ugly iPhone and that either all the leaks are wrong or maybe the entire package will look better when put together”

 

” My wife’s iPhone 5 stutters more on iOS 7 than on previous versions. It’s not that often, but it happens. As iOS gets more complex I wonder if the 1GB of RAM will be a bad 2 year decision (before next replacement). ”

 

“It’s definitely not unusable by any means, but even my iPhone 5s feels like it needs RAM. Either Safari is RAM starved, or else there is an issue with Safari, but what annoys me is that background tabs need to be reloaded often when you select them again. For example, it makes copying and pasting from other pages to say an AnandTech post really frustrating, because when you go back to the AnandTech page, it reloads, deleting everything you’ve entered before.
It should also be noted that it may be that the 64-bit iOS devices are more RAM starved than the 32-bit iOS devices. The memory footprint is larger for 64-bit. Not doubly larger, but larger nonetheless. ”

 

“My wife is looking forward to the 4.7″ version. Really the only thing she wants is a larger screen (but not very large) and better battery life. While initially pretty good, after 1 year her battery life is pretty bad under moderate use. Even if everything else was the same, she’d be happy.I’m not looking forward to paying $750 + tax for a 32GB phone, but that’s life. I will say I don’t believe the leaks/renders are accurate b/c frankly I think they look terrible. Apple has always had great industrial designs, I can’t see them screwing up here.”

 

“I used to think that the iPhone was the “It just works” phone, until my mom got a 5S (her first smartphone). It did not “just work”, there was quite a bit of hassle and learning and changing settings. That’s obviously not unique to iPhones, for people who aren’t technically inclined all smartphone OSes are the same, in that they each have a slight learning curve to get basic functionality working. Once they understand the basics, they are for the most part good to go. When the phone does something a certain way, it’s not that they prefer it that way, most often they are unaware that they can change it to something more to their liking, and they just assume that’s how it works.

The one thing that is dead simple about the iPhone is the homescreen, and that’s because there are no real options to it, what you see is all you get. ”

 

“The rear ports have nothing to do with the thinness. They’ve always been at the back even with the thick white Intel iMac.
It’s inconvenient, but it definitely looks nicer than stuff sticking out the side.”

Plastic instruments

August 31st, 2014

It’s funny….keyboard players are the only musicians in this day and age who rarely get to play instruments that are not made of plastic. Think about it: even the most expensive Yamaha Motif has keys made of it, and there’s more to it than just the feel. The dynamic range, the range of expression possible on even the finest keybed is not even close to that of the shittiest real piano you can find. Of course there’s more to electronic instruments than that, and the range of sonic possibilities far outruns any traditional ones, but still, the part of the instrument your actually touching, playing is more toy-like than even a Ukelele. It’s something I’ve gotten used to, and the Korg Kronos I’ve been using is the best I’ve found so far, but still, whenever I get to sit behind a grand piano, I’m reminded of how keyboard playing can be!

We’re currently up in Seattle, playing 4 nights at Jazz Alley with Keiko Matsui, and the club always puts us up in a little condo-complex they own. The amazing thing is that the master apartment up top has a real Yamaha C7 grand in it! Even more amazingly, it’s quite in tune, and this 7 foot beast is a beauty! The assignment of condos is of course based on seniority so I’ve never gotten to stay in the top one, but because two guys in the band brought significant others, Jackiem just had a baby and needs privacy, and Keiko is staying in a hotel, Pierre the sound guy and tour manager and I got the primo spot. A perfect situation for recording this bad boy don’t you think? I brought my laptop, my Roland VS-100 and a selection of mics; Pierre showed me how to do this, and lo and behold: it sounds KILLER! There’s a little squeak in the damper pedal, and I don’t have speakers to really listen to the tracks I’ve done, but I sure some of the recordings will actually make it on to my next album. What a sound, even on my cheap-ass mics, in a less than ideal recording environment, the complexity and richness is just incredible. It makes me want to get rid of everything in my apartment, and just put in a piano!

Yamaha C7

Mini vacation

August 30th, 2014

Some of us musicians get paid to travel to all these awesome places, but most of the time we don’t really get to truly enjoy them for very long. There are exceptions, like our trips with Keiko to Indonesia, Malaysia and Japan this year, during which the work/time ratio was low, but generally we’re in and out, with 5AM lobby calls the morning after a show. Last weekend was one like that: our schedule has us arriving in Las  Vegas at 1:30PM on Saturday, show at 8PM, leave for the airport at 5:30 the next morning! Because my buddy Rick Mussalam recently moved there to do a Cirque Du Soleil show I figured I’d check if I could stay a little longer and enjoy myself. Changing my return flight on American Airlines to Monday would cost $150 even though buying a brand new one way on Southwest was only $75, but since frequent flyer miles are one of the great perks of what we do, it set me back only 3700 points, or not even a quarter of the balance I have! This got me a seat on the 4:50PM flight back to LAX, which meant a wide open Sunday and a very relaxing Monday! Yay!

I have to say, it was one of the most perfect vacations of my life! Got to sleep in, checked out at noon and drove over to Rick’s on the west side of town, where I’d never really been. It was surprisingly peaceful everywhere, a very different Vegas than the one I’ve visited so many times. The roads are perfect, not the pothole ridden, third world nightmare we have back home, and people drive in a far more controlled, calm and proper way. In general, everything is very well organized and run there I came to found out. My buddy lives in a sort of resort style apartment complex, in unit twice as big as my horribly maintained one, for less money! We went for lunch to an excellent middle-eastern/Mediterranean restaurant and got stuffed on delicious hummus, Saganaki cheese, kabob and a Caprese Panino (yes, Panini is plural!). Went back to his place, listened to some Chaka Khan on vinyl(!!!!!) and then it was ready for Rick to go to work for the first of two shows.

He got me a ticket for the second show of the day, so we went to the Aria resort where he works, and he showed me around a little until he had to go in. At this point I had 4+ hours to kill, so I decided to scope out the area. It’s really like an enormous mall right there with multiple hotel/casinos attached to each other with various walkways and such. Played a little craps at the fancy Aria until they upped the minimum to $25 which is too rich for my blood. I ended up at the Monte Carlo right next door where they had $10 tables all night long and ended up almost $500 up by the time I had to go! Could this get any better?

curtains at Zarkana

We had gotten my ticket earlier (third row from the stage!) so I could show up at 9:15 for a 9:30 show. This particular one is called Zarkana and it would be my first Cirque Du Soleil experience. I had seen stuff on TV, but let me tell you: the acrobatics are really hard to believe. There was a woman juggling up to eight balls too, bouncing them underneath furniture and everything. The lighting and production values were spectacular, the sheer amount of props and apparati coming on and off the stage lightning fast just beyond belief. At some point all of a sudden there was the “Wheel Of Death”, a giant figure eight, suspended from cables, spun around by two guys, inside and/or outside the circles, like Gerbils! Just crazy……… not sure I would have paid the $180 that my ticket would cost someone without a hookup, but then again I’m relatively poor! It really was a beautiful and inspiring experience.

Chinese Cook

The plan was to go for a fancy steak at “Herbs & Rye” where after midnight all meat is 50% off, but when we got there it was closed! We ended up at BAR (“Born and Raised”) which looked like a semi-swanky bar, but let me tell you: their food was just incredibly good too! Way off the beaten path on the west side, this place served up some of the best Fried Catfish Po’ Boy I’ve ever had, as three sliders no less. Excellent bread, fantastic perfectly fried fish….truly impressive. A great way to end a perfect day, but the best was still to come.

Now, everyone who reads these pages knows I love Pinball. For years and years I had wanted to go to the Pinball Hall Of Fame in Vegas but I never got there, for various reasons. This time I was determined to make it and Rick wanted to see it too. After another nice long sleep, and a quick mini-brunch at the Starbucks on the way, we set out for Valhalla. When we pulled up, honestly it looked terrible: some non-descript boxy building with a cheap banner the only indication of what was inside; even as we opened the door and saw our first glance, I wasn’t excited. But then…..”wait a second”…….”OMG!”……”This is FUCKING awesome!”………..rows and rows of machines, from the 50′s, modern ones…….even some crazy hand-built arcade games………WOW!…….there’s the ACDC machine!……….NUGENT!…….unfortunately we only had less than two hours and time flew by. Rick turned out to be a lot better at it than he told me, but still no match for me. Now I know, I have to get back here one day and spend some SERIOUS time…..wow!

Well, it was time to return the Chevy Impala I got to drive around for a couple of days (pretty damn good car actually) and go home. Man, it’s so much better to get to an airport at 2PM than those early morning rushes. Hertz does it right BTW, especially for a Gold Member like me (“I’m from Holland! Isn’t that weird?”) and I had just enough time to have a great lunch and board the plane. All in all this was just perfect! So much so, I’m already thinking about the next mini-vacation I’m gonna do. Key West perhaps after our Ripps shows in Boca Raton in November? I’m beyond blessed……………

 

Mashed Potatoes

August 18th, 2014

Not many things are equally exciting the second time you do them, but playing at the Hollywood Bowl certainly is! Though not the biggest gig in town, it is just about the desirable place to play. The sound of 14 thousand people coming down at you in an amphitheater like that is crazy, everything is run impeccably and being able to drive right up to the back of the stage instead of doing the usual haul is just icing on the cake. Last night Keiko was kind enough to have me in her band over there; for the second time! I’m blessed beyond words….

JumbotronBowl

The cellist that played on Soul Quest, Cameron Stone, sat in with us and for him it was the first time on that iconic stage. What made it even more special for him was that he was “the only cello”, instead of being part of an orchestra! LOL! I just checked his Allmusic listing and this guy is no amateur: he’s played on many records, from Herbie Hancock to Hanson, but even this man was downright giddy being there. All in all it was a great evening. We went first, then came BWB, with Kirk Whalum, Norman Brown and Rick Braun, with Elliott Yamin as special guest. Then followed by none other than the Ohio Players, kicking the crowd into a freny, with Boney James as the closer, featuring Eric Benet as special guest. I still can hardly believe that I get to be a part of all this…….

John Maynard Keynes to Franklin Roosevelt

August 12th, 2014

“Businessmen have a different set of delusions from politicians, and need, therefore, different handling. They are, however, much milder than politicians, at the same time allured and terrified by the glare of publicity, easily persuaded to be “patriots”, perplexed, bemused, indeed terrified, yet only too anxious to take a cheerful view, vain perhaps but very unsure of themselves, pathetically responsive to a kind word. You could do anything you liked with them, if you would treat them (even the big ones), not as wolves or tigers, but as domestic animals by nature, even though they have been badly brought up and not trained as you would wish. It is a mistake to think that they are more immoral than politicians. If you work them into the surly, obstinate, terrified mood, of which domestic animals, wrongly handled, are so capable, the nation’s burdens will not get carried to market; and in the end public opinion will veer their way.”

Misinformation

August 11th, 2014

Right after I wrote the Sonny Rollins piece the other day, I experienced an example of misinformation so painful I must share it. Waiting in line for a refill of coffee, the woman in front of me, who had a boy with her probably not 10 years old, ordered her drink; immediately the kid said “caffeine free is bad for you!” For a second I thought he was joking, but he wasn’t! He said it at least three more times, before the lady said: “You mean caffeine is bad for you!” The sad part is of course that both statements are nonsense in a clusterfuck of bullshit that could probably tear a hole in the space-time continuum!

Considering the health benefits of caffeine and coffee amazingly the first statement holds more water than the latter amazingly; while there’s probably a an amount of the black gold that can be consumed that can be hazardous, the bottom line is that drinking it regularly is quite beneficial. If only for the fact that it promotes better bowel movements which are ESSENTIAL to good health. It’s one of the things that I wrote about before, something that Midas Dekkers so passionately explained in relation to all the talk about diet: it’s what comes out that needs to examined before we even talk about what goes in, because almost always it shows us what’s wrong.

Here’s another benefit that can be empirically measured: drinking coffee really helps with creating a good balance in your mouth. Most people know that you can tell a lot about that by looking at your tongue: ideally you want no white covering it. There’s a eternal battle going on in there, with good bacteria breaking down sugars and other stuff. The whiter your tongue, the further off from the ideal you are. Eat something sugary and watch it go. Now drink a cup or two of Starbucks drip and check again. Bet you didn’t realize how effective it is, did you? There’s a reason we have the old European tradition of finishing a meal with a cup of joe……

Add in the measured positive effect of staying awake when tired (think driving!) which is proven to save lives, directly and consistently and it’s going to be hard to make a case for caffeine being a net deficit to human health, isn’t it? We need to stop living in fear, of fat, coffee, the sun etc.

Neurosynaptic Chip

August 11th, 2014

“Holistic Computing Intelligence” they call it at IBM, the combination of traditional linear, analytical processing, combined with Neurosynaptic chips adressing senses and pattern recognition. You see, old-fashioned computers use an insane amount of power for tasks that the human brain for instance can do almost effortlessly, like recognizing someone’s face, even when it’s not exactly like you’ve seen it before. Our brains can instantly ‘connect the dots’ if you will, spot the parts that are recognizable, throw away the parts that aren’t and then draw the conclusion. Emulating that process, which takes place in what’s called a “Neural Network” in software has shown great promise, but now we’re moving into an era in which the actual structure, the framework, will be built in hardware.

The SyNAPSE chip which was introduced 08_07_2014 is a major step in that direction; it contains the equivalent of 1 million neurons and 256 million synapses, or as some say, about the complexity of the brain of a bee! That doesn’t sound like much, but as we all know, technology moves fast and increases in complexity exponentially. The craziest part is that at full operational speed it only consumes 70 mW. That’s milli-Watts or 1000th of a Watt! A typical Intel i3 chip can draw as much as 60W, or a thousand times as much, without getting close to being able to simulate that kind of complexity. A human brain contains about 100 billion neurons, so we’re a factor 100,000 away, but when you realize that in 2011 IBM was making chips with only 256 you can imagine where we’re going. A mouse has 71 million and that’s a reasonably complex animal, isn’t it?

There’s so much talk about Artificial Intelligence these days, and a lot of ‘information’ and opinion being spread by people who really have very little if any understanding of the matter. One of the biggest holes in the arguments I often hear is that a machine can never be as complex and unpredictable as a human because everything it does is ‘programmed’; this almost always comes from people who have never even programmed anything, yet they feel very confident in their opinion! The truth seems to be that what we see as such typical biological traits comes from sufficient complexity of just about any system. Think about your PC: does it do always exactly what you tell it to? No way! Sometimes it behaves unexpectedly, due to the synergy of its components, in ways that nobody who designed the individual parts planned, or even could have foreseen. And that’s with traditional linear machines! Imagine what happens if we start building them in electrical versions of the way we’re built. Then comes the question: “will those machines believe in God?” Most asking it will immediately answer it themselves with a resolute “of course not!”, but the answer is actually “quite possibly so!” We’ve already seen complex enough simulations of neural networks exhibiting emotional behavior, and that’s no lie. In addition, we must remember that such systems are not programmed in the traditional sense of the word; a much better description would be that they are taught just like children, which means that sometimes they will not do what they were ‘instructed’ to do.

I don’t think we can overestimate the importance of this development, as I promise it will change our world even more than we can imagine. It’s not simple material, and it requires a really open mind. We MUST hypothesize what will happen if we build a machine that is as complex and capable as a human, and then what happens when it’s 1000 as smart as the smartest human. We MUST speculate on the effects of a conscious machine. And no, Apple will not pre-chew the tech and make it so you can harness it without pondering existential questions!

 

 

Sonny Rollins

August 7th, 2014

Has anybody out there caught this controversy about the New Yorker Article in which Sonny Rollins supposedly discusses Jazz? In it, he says ‘the saxophone sounds horrible’ as do all other instruments, except maybe the drums because they drown out the others! He describes Miles Davis “staring at his horn” “as if it were a poisonous snake”…. it’s pretty funny stuff actually, labeled as humor in its URL (http://www.newyorker.com/humor/daily-shouts/sonny-rollins-words) and with an editor’s not calling it “a work of satire”. So how in the world did this become an issue?

I’ve written about it in these pages before: the spread of mis-information is accelerating, and people’s willingness to believe it fortified by the sheer speed at which it appears everywhere. How anyone in his or her right mind could ever believe that Rollins would write this and/or mean it is completely beyond me. But there it is, and even Sonny can be found describing worry that this piece might hurt young people’s dedication to the art form! This is an innocuous example, but it’s no different from the political nonsense that so many seem to grab on to. We are in danger of increasingly basing our opinions, and thus our actions on false information… and that helps NO ONE! Americans have, in my opinion, destroyed their relationship with food in such a way, and Europeans are not far behind.

Facebook is actually more dangerous than it seems in this story. Simply because of its nature, its members are most likely to see posts from people they already know, or perhaps their friends. That means, a feed of stuff you probably already agree with! Any challenge is met with a quick ‘unfollow’. There’s that feedback loop again! It’s making us even more sensitive to criticism than we already were and that’s very bad. If one piece of satire can sway you from dedicating your life to Jazz, you had no business planning that future in the first place!