Monday, March 31, 2008
Singaporean Jazz pianist/composer/educator Jeremy Monteiro and Tama Goh (another drum luminary from Singapore) is down in NYC for a week. JM is to be playing (at time of writing) at the James Moody Scholarship Benefit concert at BB King's on Monday, March 31st. I was hanging out with the both of them the last couple of days.
When they arrived on Wednesday, I met up with them to watch the Endangered Species Big Band, playing the music of Wayne Shorter, at the Iridium. Was nice to see some familiar faces from home region!
Met up with them again on Saturday, with a friend of theirs (who's staying in NY), and we drove upstate to New Paltz, NY, to look around the countryside and meet up with one of NY's finest bass player, Jay Anderson, for lunch. Jeremy have been good friends with Jay for a long while, and the latter last went to Singapore to play the Jimmy Cobb concert at the Esplanade with the former (a show I regretfully missed).
Later that night, we went to check out Joe Locke's band playing Henry Mancini's music, at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola the Jazz @ Lincoln Center. Joe (vibes) was backed by Geoff Keezer (piano), George Mraz (bass), Clarence Penn (drums), and had guest vocalist Kenny Washington (who incidentally are good friends with Jeremy and Tama, they go back over 10 years!). The arrangements of the Mancini tunes (including the well-known Pink Panther theme) were contemporary, and with flawless execution by these powerhouse musicians, it was a real music treat (to say the least!).
Today, I met up with Jeremy and Tama again, and we had a Malaysian lunch at the infamous Penang Restaurant (there are several branches here in NYC), nearby their hotel. After that we went to a rehearsal studio and jammed some tunes for two hours, just the three of us! Man, it was real satisfying, as I haven't played anywhere near that intensity for a few months now, since I got here.
We headed to Jazz @ Lincoln Center after that, as we intended to meet up with trumpeter Marcus Printup (also a powerhouse trumpeter, and longtime LCJO band member). They were rehearsing for an upcoming show at J@LC, and Mr. Wynton Marsalis was conducting the rehearsal. Marcus brought us in, and we stayed and watched the rehearsal until they finished. Wynton then came over to talk to us, and we said HI, and when I told him who I was and when we met a few years back in KL, he immediately remembered! He actually remembered who I was, even after over five years. Man.. that was something! It was really nice to see Wynton after so long, and he was still as warm as we remembered, and he has a great memory too!
We met up again with the friend that took us upstate, and we went to New Jersey for dinner... my first time in New Jersey, too.
Thanks Jeremy and Tama for the great hang!
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
Friday - The Malaysian and Singaporean Tourist
But before that, just a little tourist-y update. PW and I went on Friday to Times Square, and I, not realizing that it was also Good Friday, had to deal with the humongous tourist crowd that gathered in the Big Apple. And when I mean crowded... it was REALLY crowded! If you put a crowd like that in KL, we might assume it's a demonstration! Anyway, we went to Rockefeller Center for breakfast and she bought us combo tickets to go to "The Top of the Rock" (ie. top of the Rockefeller Center), and the Museum of Modern Arts (MoMA).
The "Top" is probably an equivalent of our KL Tower or the top of our Twin Towers. We could see Manhattan, and even Brooklyn and Queens to distance, rooftop view. It was remarkable, to say the least. One of the more interesting aspects of the tour up there, besides the strict security checks, were the small little things:
1) the down-to-the-minute well-planned organization of the queues. The crowd is separated to three rows. And for the duration of the queue, there's big video presentation of the Rockefeller Center, and at the end of each presentation, it tells you which row is to go up next!
2) The moment the elevator door closes when you enter it, another video presentation lights up on the ceiling of the elevator. And the timing is so precise that the presentation ends when you arrive at the destination floor.
3) Strategic placements of certain technical artworks at certain places in various parts of the rooftop.
The rooftop itself has three levels for scenic view, each upper level with floorspace smaller than one below. The first two has glass panels placed all over the edges of the rooftop so that pictures can be taken without any obstruction (if you don't consider the tourists tho!). The topmost level has a slightly higher wall, but no glass panels, so you could see the view of the city the clearest here. But there's one thing you have to try to resist, the cold, strong wind blowing at you. Wind speed was really strong that even I could feel the strong push when it blows.. the kind that wrecks umbrellas like breaking toothpicks.
Dumb thing was I forgot to bring my camera (or so I thought.. I realized later it was in my bag all along! ARGH!), so I took pics with PW's camera. So I might have to wait awhile before I can get them.
After the Rock, I took the opportunity to get some stuff from the music store, and also get my horn adjusted slightly. PW also bought tickets to the musical Legally Blonde, at the Broadway Palace Theatre. After that, we had lunch, and we headed to MoMA.
MoMA was interesting, as it had a lot of different artworks from different periods and styles, from the more traditional works of Picasso, Van Gogh, to modern works of Dali, Warhol, and others. Artworks range from paintings, sculptures, architectural designs to trinkets of various sizes. I'm not so knowledgeable of visual arts, but it was certainly an interesting experience to have seen a whole bunch of different artworks! I have to say, I was intrigued with some and others I didn't really dig a whole lot.
Saturday - Legally Blonde the Musical (LBtM)
Spent most of the day working on my assignment, and only went out to meet both my cousin sisters at the Broadway Palace Theatre to watch LBtM. LBtM was really entertaining, but what was interesting to note was how well produced it was - from the sets to the dance choreography, the music (!), the actors of course (including the two very well-trained dogs!), and the change of scene choreography! The cast were all fantastic singers and dancers, and the overall sound was also very well done (the sound engineers here are amazing!), too.
If you've seen the movie, you probably know what it is about. But to see it done as a musical, was something else. The storyline was simple, at best, but it was extremely entertaining. Read the NYTimes review of the show here. For me, I just enjoyed the show was it was, and being my first musical in the musical capital of the world (at least to some), it was an experience just worth having.
Again, thanks PW for the tickets!
PS: Pics of artwork at MoMA coming soon!
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
Anyway, the Polar RS200 is a cool heart rate monitor, to say the least. I'm having quite a bit of fun with it, and it has many features previously unavailable from my previous S120, and also managed to get it cheaper too, by chance. I'll use it a little while more and I'll probably write a review about it sometime.
Will wait for a little while before I can get the S1 Footpod. That addition is able to sync with my watch and it can keep track of distance and pace of the run. Not that cheap either, it's probably the same price as my watch, or more. Just checked in Malaysia, the prices aren't that much cheaper too. So I will probably get the Footpod here sometime later.
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
They tried to deliver it to my house on Friday, but no one picked up. I was probably still asleep then, and the doorbell probably does not work. I was expecting them to call me, but they did not. Anyway, I called UPS to have them deliver on Monday (today). When I woke up, I expected them to call me again, but they did not. So I went out for my run, and I found the same sticker notice, saying that they tried to deliver the second time! They should really learn to call. The notice stated that they'll try to deliver again tomorrow (Tues).
Anyway, I decided to go for my run. Managed to do 5km from my house, to 37th Ave to 82nd St. Ran north on 82nd St till I reached Astoria Blvd, and then turned right to head back to 94th St and Junction Blvd before turning back to 37th St to my place. It was a nice run, and the weather was slightly cold at first, but I warmed up easily enough after about 10 minutes into the run.
About a few minutes after I started my run, I saw the UPS truck. So I'd thought I'd wait for him and see if the delivery guy was around, but I think he parked and delivered several packages on foot. So I continued my run. But when I finished my run, I saw the truck again! This time he was parked nearer to my place. So I waited a little for him again while cooling down, and the delivery guy, a Afro-American dude, came back. I just said hi and asked him if he had my package. After checking my student ID (somehow I had an instinct that I should bring it along) he passed my package. He asked me, "you been lookin' for me long?". "I went for my run but I saw your truck (but tried my luck again)", I replied. "Yeah, man.. nice job!" he said with a smile. What luck.. haha.
Anyway, here's a pic of it:
Was playing with it when I came back from my run.. and boy, it's definitely much better than my previous watch! I can't wait to get the footpod, then I can really measure distance, speed, pace, etc. This little computer is so much more interesting to play with.. can't wait to use it for my next run!
Monday, March 10, 2008
You all know what I'm talking about. I only pray that it has been for the better, and not for worse.
To paraphrase Raja Petra (as well as my dad while were on Skype talking - yeah my old folks can do Skype, not bad eh?): You work for the rakyat, not the other way round.. we're the boss.. not you. Don't ever forget that.
It shows that desperate times call for desperate measures. The people are desperate, and the Powers That Be (or Was), did not listen. Worse, they IGNORED the people, and not only that... they turned their desperation against them, saying that the people are wrong!! Now you have been punished for it.
My only regret was that I was not able to be there, and even to fulfill my right as a Malaysian.
To the new cats in town, we only hope that you will do right what has been wrong, and to help us improve on that. Empty promises will result in what you all experience on 8308 except the tides turned against you instead! We all have faith in you! We need change!
On a side note: I've been following the news back home feverishly through the Internet, and I think it was a real surprise for me and my Malaysian mates here in NYC. I think we're all glad that the election turned out the way it did. We only hope the new government will do us Malaysians good!
Now I dare proclaim out loud (AND PROUD!)...
Friday, March 07, 2008
Vote for a voice in the Government, says Abdullah
PENANG: Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi reminded the Chinese community that if they gave the DAP their votes, they will end up not having any representation in the Government.
“You have to decide if you want a louder voice in Parliament or representation in the Cabinet where they can be more effective in representing all communities,” the Barisan Nasional chairman said.
He said if the Chinese did not have representation in the Cabinet, their requests would not be heard.
However, Abdullah said the Barisan wanted the Chinese community to be part of the Government.
“We do not want to have a government that does not have representation of all ethnic groups in the Cabinet. We want to be the best and I want to do the best for the rakyat,” he said at a press conference after opening the RM110mil project to upgrade Penang Hospital's heart and surgical unit yesterday.
Abdullah reminded Penangites of the situation after the 1990 general election when the MCA was “paralysed.”
“When the MCA lost its voice, the people felt it. I hope they will think very carefully. This is important in the interest of all races,” he added.
On PKR de facto leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, Abdullah said the former deputy prime minister had changed a lot.
“When he was with the Government, he hit out at the opposition. Now that he is out, he is attacking the Government,” he said.
Abdullah expressed disappointment that Anwar aired Malaysia’s domestic issues to the media in Singapore.
On fuel prices, Abdullah said the Government had taken measures to keep the prices reasonable.
“We are monitoring oil prices in the global market.
“We are taking measures because we do not want the rakyat to be burdened by escalating fuel prices,” he said, adding that the Government was heavily subsiding oil prices to reduce the people’s burden.
Abdullah also said hospital fees were kept low and the Government was monitoring the price of essential goods to ensure they were affordable.
He said there were indications that Barisan would retain Penang and recapture Kelantan,
“Feedback from the ground shows that the people want the Barisan to win,” he added.
Tell me something.. is it me, or is that an outright threat? So, is the government implying, if you're not in BN you won't be heard by the Government at all? Does that sound like democracy to you? Doesn't everyone have an equal right to say or to be heard, opposition or not? Your words contradict your policies, and your supposedly "noble" goals for your people. Even so, what makes you think the Chinese people (or any other ethnic groups for that matter) will be heard, no matter how well represented? What is important to the "government" is that you got more moolah than you need in the pocket at the expense of the people. Sounds to me that's what is implied, don't you think?
What a load of crap!
Thursday, March 06, 2008
But anyway, for those who were interested in my running life (or to those who would be potentially interested), here's something I will share with you.
As you know, being in NY has its perks, especially for runners. Well, being in the US, generally, is a big perk for runners, actually! You could literally just go out and run, and not worry about things like traffic. Well, you would, but not as bad as Malaysia. I mean, back in KL, I would usually have to make scheduled trips to either Lake Gardens, or KLCC park, or it'll be the gym. At home, I'd just run outside, but I'd be running on the highway, which is pretty dangerous. Over here, you can just go and run ANYWHERE.. and at ANYTIME!
There's a fairly healthy running culture here. If you read enough running magazines, I'm sure you would've come across people saying that they go out during their lunchtime break to run, then go back to work. I mean, that will NEVER happen in Malaysia, or extremely rare. Well, the environment here is conducive to do things like that.
In terms of infrastructure, we're having it easy here. It's so easy to run outside. Pavements and walkways are a plenty, it's standard! And we're not even talking about PARKS yet! So far I've only managed to run around the immediate area from my Jackson Heights home. Of course, one drawback is usually the weather. Some days, it's just not conducive to run outside. I've encountered several days when I get psyched up to run, only to be disappointed by strong COLD winds, or snow, or even rain at some days. It would be really uncomfortable. I even began to take solace in checking Yahoo! Weather every day, especially if I plan to run the following morning.
On another note, my Polar S120 heart rate monitor got screwed up over a week ago. I dropped it accidentally, and the display screen screwed up! Talk about bad luck. So I sent it to the nearest Polar service center in NY. The process turned out to be a little more anal (but organized) than I'd like. At home, I would just go to the center (via car of course) and just pass it to somebody there, and if I'm lucky I could have it back the same day! Over here, I had to mail it. That's not before I had go the Polar USA website to register my watch for repair! So mah fan. Anyway, I thought it might have been a simple error to repair, and it wouldn't cost much. When I finally got a reply from them, I found out I was charged US$100 plus for it!!!!!!! CRAZY! But on the other hand, they also offered a Trade-up program, where I just buy another model (newer), at a 30% discount price, and they will keep my previous unit. So, I decided to get a new one. The price they were charging me was even worth a new unit! Anyway I decided on the RS200 model, which is definitely a better upgrade, for what it's worth. So great, I've got a newer, and better heart rate monitor!! (So much for saving money here!). I'm just waiting for it in the mail now.
My running life, however, is still rather slow. But at least I still manage to squeeze in a few runs every week. Max distance has only been 5+ km. That's about 3.5miles... their system of measuring distance. So mah fan. One of the things I've found when I came to NY was this site: MapMyRuns.com. You can search for various run routes at your area. Here's mine:
Well, I can't wait for the weather to spring up.. pun intended. Then I can start wearing my regular shorts and vests, and not have to layer up to run.
That's all for my running so far.
By the way, I would like to extend my congratulations to those who attempted the Ironman Langkawi last month late Feb. Real sports heroes!!
I still hope to be able to do triathlons someday.
Saturday, March 01, 2008
I guess I lied! I said I would be updating this blog more often, but I didn't! Haha.. I guess I won't be as free as I originally thought. Well, I'm definitely much more free-er than when I was back home, but school work's piling up quite a bit. Lots of practicing and learning (duh!) to do. Anyway, I just want to update a little bit about what's been happening in school the past month. I'll try to make it brief, so it won't be an eyeful to read.
Well, school's been pretty interesting, to say the least. Just FYI, classes I'm taking are Jazz Arranging and Composition, Jazz Piano Workshop, Jazz Ensemble, and Private Instruction (sax).
Private lessons have been really interesting, and really grueling, too. I'm trying to work on some Barry Harris bebop playing concepts that AH's given me, and it's quite a new process to digest. Now, it's trying to refine some of the things I already know, and I've always known my playing (at least on the bebop side) has always been rather.. messy. I see this as a good opportunity to polish up my ideas. So in some ways, it's sort of starting at a very basic level again.. learning major scales and arpeggios, etc. But it's also an extension of what I already know, so it's new in that respect too. I'm now trying to use these basic ideas to apply to songs that I have to learn week after week. But to say the least, AH's been crazy on me (and all his students anyway!), so it's all hard work like crazy. But that's expected, and I will probably do as well as I can!
Arranging and Composition is pretty interesting also.. but quite a shitload of information. Although I wasn't sure that it's my level to go in yet, Mike M assured that it's fine. Somedays I still feel like I don't know anything, and I'm b/s-ing my way through. Ok, so how the class is run, is that he'll get us to write a short arranging homework every week, and we have to play them in class. So every week we'll have a bunch of horn players, a pianist, and a bassist, and they'll run through as many students' assignments until time runs out. After that he'll comment and correct, or improve on them. Mike's teaching via a "mentoring" system and not with any textbook, so that itself is interesting! But he's been great, and judging from Mike's arrangements we're playing during ensemble, we know he's on HELL of an arranger and composer.
Jazz Piano Workshop is taught by David Berkman, which I know is also one heck of a killer pianist. And as we also found out, he's a real funny cat, too! He makes everyone feel real comfortable in class. So anyway, we're learning some basics of being able to play some piano in a more jazz context (and possibly even for other music too). We're learning some basic skills such as being able to voice out chords using basic root-based chord voicings, play basic voicings with melody on the top, etc. I've definitely learnt quite a bit already, just from this class. So I've even got myself a keyboard to try to practice at home some of these basic techniques. So I guess the goal here is to be able to play on the piano, although not as good as an actual pianist, but at least for practical usage, such as learning the harmonies to songs, and eventually learn to compose (that's my goal!).
Jazz Ensemble is basically split into two sections - Big Band and Combo. I'm in the Big Band class that Mike M runs, and AH runs the combo. I'm on second alto chair. Basically we play arrangements from Mike M (and some of them are his own compositions), some latin-jazz type arrangements, and student arrangements as well. In addition, we have to learn a standard jazz tune or two every week (usually quite a killer one, too), and sometimes we back up the vocal students. For this semester, we've got one killer sax section.. all the fellas (me probably being the worst one) are so damn good! To say "talented" is a freakin' understatement! But thankfully all of them have been really cool, friendly cats, and pretty down to earth. Quite inspiring to that end. It's always really interesting to listen to them play, if anything, it makes me want to play better, too!
So far, that's what school is. It's probably not half as interesting as working life, but then, it's interesting in a totally different respect. I have to say, I was having a slight tough time to assimilate myself back to having a student life, not having to go to school for the last 7 years. But it's starting to kick in a little now. I still miss home quite a bit. I'm starting to make some friends with my coursemates. But since it's only been a month plus, we'll see what happens along the way. But I do agree with Chern Hwei on one thing, can beat our own Malaysian kaki's lah... can relate more, for sure.
Anyway to leave off, I've got some nice pics of snow that took place about over a week ago. Enjoy. It's snowing again, at the time of writing.