Song for Ferguson

I'll make a separate post at a later date talking about some of the other dates I've got coming up, now that I've finally updated my calendar. There's a lot good to look forward to, but that's not what this post is about.

I'm hurt, and pissed, about the Grand Jury's recent decision regarding the murder of Michael Brown, Jr. on August 9th of 2014. Other people will be more capable of giving an eloquent rundown of why the situation there since that day has been cause for outrage; mine would include a lot more swearing than I feel comfortable typing out right now.

I wrote a song in the hours following this news, and did a home recording of it just two days later. I've chosen to release it today, on what is known as Black Friday, because a lot of protest movements are organizing around a boycott of commercial/retail businesses on a day that is normally a shopping frenzy. The song is very direct, and personal, and, to quote the great Nina Simone, "I mean every word of it." You can stream the track below, as well as a version of 'Strange Fruit' that I recorded for this release -  but read on to find out why you should consider donating for it:

Here's a statement I wrote earlier, which you can find on my Bandcamp page, going into some more detail:
This album is released as a Pay-What-You-Can download. All proceeds from the sale of this release will be donated to the St. Louis Area Foodbank, which has been helping to address the food desert conditions of Ferguson, MO in the last several months.
I began writing this song on Monday night after the grand jury decision was announced. Like many, I was overwhelmed by anger and pain, but in my heart I knew I was expecting this, despite the valiant efforts of protestors in Ferguson and many on the Internet trying to keep attention on the story and expose the corruption of the Ferguson police department and the legal apparatus that led us to this point. 
This keeps happening, and with increasing frequency, and there continues to be no accountability in this. As a light-skinned black man I am relatively lucky to have avoided a lot of the harassment and violence that has left us with so many dead Black children, women and men - victims both of police aggression and of vigilantism that refuses to recognize the humanity of Black Americans across this country. The murder of Michael Brown is only an exception with regards to media coverage, the way Travyon Martin's murder was - and even still, most coverage is slanted against the victims and against the people rallying in their memory. So many more murders like this go completely uncovered and forgotten by the media - and even more so when you factor in intersections of identity, as with the many stomach-turning cases of violence against Black transgender women. This is not just a Southern issue or a Midwestern issue, as many people believe in various places I've lived in the Northeastern US. I wrote this song to reflect on this situation and my position in it, and I've posted the lyrics in the individual song page to be 100% clear on what I mean. 
The album also includes a cover of "Strange Fruit", penned by Abel Meeropol and made famous with versions by Billie Holiday and Nina Simone. The song was written in reaction to the climate of lynching of Black Americans in the 1930s, and continues to be relevant today - it is hard not to draw parallels between the lynchings of the Jim Crow era, and the extrajudicial murders of Black Americans in the present day. The statistics are indicating that they happen at about the same rate, and are punished about as infrequently.

I will post updates to keep a record of how much is earned from the sale of this single, and in turn to provide evidence of the donations.

Thank you for reading and listening.


A brief update

As the school year (and my teaching hours) get settled and underway, I'm realizing that this fall will be an extremely busy one. But once again, I find myself excited for what's to come, including some things that are too early to announce. In the mean time, there are a few gigs in the next two weeks worth mentioning:

on Friday, September 19th, An Historic will be performing a solo set at Willimantic Records alongside George Hakkila and Jorge Verde. The show begins at 7PM, and I'm really happy to be playing at Willimantic Records again. My wallet might not be - the selection was amazing last time and everything I made on tape sales got turned right back around into their cash register.

Later that night, An Historic is doing a full band set at Three Sheets, in New Haven. The touring artist is Joshua Burnside, and local guitarist Michael Kusek is opening with a solo set. It'll be the first full band An Historic show since March, and I'm excited for you all to hear some of the new material I've been working on in this format. The following day, Dr. Caterwaul's returns to the Milford Farmer's Market. 10AM to 1PM. Come on down if you're in the area and help us keep the vendors entertained!

Finally next Thursday, September 25th, I'm part of a truly diverse ensembled cultivated by Ras Moshe, performing "Music for John Coltrane and an Imagined Revolutionary Film." The playing I've done with Ras Moshe over the last year and a half has been really revelatory, and I'll be excited to meet with him again amid this sextet lineup.

That's all for now. More as it breaks.


Summer Shows

As with last year, this summer threatens to be too busy but so far has been manageable, between my own work and various commitments and jobs and the like. Besides the aforementioned shows with Mario Pavone (the first of which, on June 19th, was a blast and gave me a lot of hope for the rest of them), I've got a few other dates of note on the horizon:

June 30th - (hey that's tomorrow!) An Historic solo, with Jordaan Mason, S. Ayton and Guilt Mountain. This is at Three Sheets in New Haven, starting at 9PM, and is free. I've actually not been to this bar since it changed from being the Elm Bar (it will probably always be called "Old Rudy's" to some New Haveners), but I've been hearing great things from folks that have done shows there, and I have always loved the room no matter what name it was under. All the touring folks have either just released or are gearing up to release killer EPs and I have been enjoying listening to all of them. I'll do some new songs, too.

July 19th - Dr. Caterwauls performs at a block party in partial celebration of Mark Oppenheimer's 40th birthday. Mark is an editor of the New Haven Review, which is, well, kind of the literary version of Dr. Caterwauls if you wanted to really simplify it, and we're glad to be helping him bring in his 4th decade. It's in the Westville neighborhood of New Haven, starting around 6:30ish.

July 23rd - Broadcloth is performing! We'll be glad to see Nathan at least once this year and get this opportunity to play as Broadcloth. The amazing vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Jen Shyu is also on the bill, doing a solo set of her music, which is always amazing and multifaceted in terms of linguistic and musical influences. The show will be happening at The Big Room in New Haven, at 319 Peck St. Time TBA, and more info as the show approaches.

see you at one or all of them!



I don't believe in this spring. I want to offer it words of encouragement so the season can get its act together and we can all go on sneezing in a pollen vortex but I suspect it's not quite that simple.

Nevertheless, the cold, while toying with my emotions, has been good for creativity, and I've written a bunch of songs recently. See them at an An Historic set soon, like on April 23rd at the Way Station in Brooklyn, or April 28th at Cafe Nine in New Haven. The former show is a Tripeg Lobo production, where songwriters are invited to cover a song from the first record they ever bought, and then write songs connected to the record or the experience in some way. For me, the record is Seal's second self-titled album from 1994, and I realized at some point that there are several tunes I've written which have had some connection to this album lyrically and musically, so referencing the thing was not difficult. The second is in support of Woody Pines, a rootsy trio playing original songs with influences from early country and folk. An Historic will be a full band for this date.

Also, I've been continuing work on improvisation and composition with guitarist Chris Cretella, with whom I work in Dr. Caterwaul's. Playing with him is always fun and the recent effort has been towards a set that hints at both of our long-standing interests in metal (especially, for him, Thrash, and for me, black metal). We'll be playing as a duo on April 22nd in support of Keir Neuringer, and cannibalizing those efforts in trio format with drummer Dave Parmalee on May 13th in support of the Ava Mendoza Trio. See the sidebar for more info.

Keir has put out an amazing solo record recently, and the April 22nd show is the first night of his tour in support. The album, Ceremonies Out of the Air, is amazing, and you can hear a preview track HERE.

Finally I have to announce that on May 5th, the An Historic "Sings Peter Hammill" will be available for free download. Made as a labo(u)r of love between January 27th-30th and April 16th-19th of 2014, the EP contains renditions of 6 songs spanning Hammill's solo catalog. Stay tuned for further info regarding that release as it approaches.
It is warmer now than it was when I began writing this post.


Xenia Rubinos

is amazing. I've been in love with her songwriting since a friend introduced me to her a year and a half ago. Powerful vox, overdriven organ/electric piano sounds, sometimes looped, and drums. That's it.

And I'm extremely excited that An Historic (as a band) will be opening for her in New Haven on March 15th at Cafe Nine! You can purchase advance tickets AT THE MANIC PRODUCTIONS WEBSITE, and take a listen to a few tracks from her album "Magic Trix" on her Bandcamp page, below:

See what I mean?

For what it's worth, I covered one of her songs a while ago, which you can listen to here. It's a rough, low-fi recording but I was under the spell of this particular tune, Hair Receding, and jumped to document it before I could forget it. This concert will be amazing, and there are a ton of new An Historic tunes/arrangements that we've been polishing up throughout the last few months for just such an occasion. Don't miss it!


In other news - Red Giant was amazing! Rhymes with Opera is a joy to work with, and their production team did a marvelous job staging the work, making it breath as much as the singers and orchestra did. Consider supporting them, or signing up for their mailing list, or both. I said in my program notes for the piece that if opera has any future as a medium, it will be due to small companies like RWO, and I mean every word of that, both out of admiration for their work as well out of concern for the future of this historically very expensive and cost-prohibitive medium.

Also, tomorrow night (February 11th) is an An Historic solo set as part of the DrinkDeeply Funhouse at Cafe Nine. Events begin at 8:00 - there will be games, prizes, and music from myself, and a new project featuring members of Milksop:Unsung and Elison Jackson. You want to be there. I'll be back at Cafe Nine with TWO BRAND NEW SONGS on March 22nd - the rescheduled date for "All I've Got is a Photograph," which was snowed out last December. This will be your only opportunity to hear these songs with the photos that inspired them projected on me - after which, you'll just have to ask me nicely to see them, I guess?

Finally, this Saturday (February 15th) is Slavs, Klez and Friends, an annual tradition of great renown. It's a concert primarily focused on the rep of the world famous Yale Slavic Women's Chorus (only slightly less mysterious than the Bulgarian state choir) with assistance from various tenors and basses, and the Yale Klezmer Band, of which I am a part. It's a great way to forget what the hell winter is all about for a couple of hours.


Happy New Year!

This blog update is much belated,  but the New Year seemed a fine time to get around to it.

2014 begins with a bang for me - In just two days, Rhymes with Opera's staged production of my opera Red Giant premieres in Baltimore. It's running in Baltimore at the Windup Spaceon January 11th at 9PM and January 12th at 2PM. Links provided are to RWO's online ticket outlet, and tickets are selling fast. (Plus, if you buy them ahead you get a $5 discount.) The run continues the following weekend, in Brooklyn at The Great Room at South Oxford Space, on January 18th at 8PM, and closes with a 2PM matinee on January 19th at the Barrow Mansion in Jersey City. Also on the bill is Erik Spangler's Damascus Mix. Erik is a talented turntablist and multi-instrumentalist,

There are a few supplemental links to pass along: Librettist Brian Slattery interviewed me for science fiction publisher Tor.com's blog. It gets nerdy really quickly, which should surprise no one. Finally, I did a podcast interview with Rhymes with Opera's George Lam, which you can stream below:

So this production and getting everything ready for it is what happened to me at the end of last year, and has been the focus of a lot of my attention over the last few months. There are a few other things on the calendar for this early part of the year, but look for a separate post detailing some of those.

Hope to see you for one of these performances! RWO and their production team have put a ton of work into this production and I'm extremely excited to see their vision of Red Giant.