Introducing Blue Innuendo


A Quiz Question -- "Blue Innuendo" is:

A) an album

B) a band

C) a song

D) a feeling

E) All of the above  (CORRECT ANSWER)

Blue Innuendo is a new album named after a band named after a song named after a feeling.


I had written several original songs I thought would sound great with a group of sax, guitar, organ and drums. I wrote a few more specifically for this group and added a song by friend Devin Lowe, and then it was time to rehearse and record!  I've was fortunate to get some great musicians to play the music...


I'm excited to present the Blue Innuendo band, with

  • Tom Guarna on Guitar
  • Pat Bianchi on Hammond organ
  • Matt Wilson on drums

(I play tenor and soprano saxophones on the project).  I've always been a fan of the sax-guitar-organ-drums format, and of jazz organ groups in general. As a group we bring this sound into the present while also paying homage to its classic past... 


Blue Innuendo is also the title of an original song I've dedicated to jazz organ master Joey D'Francesco. Joey has captured the history and sound of the organ in his playing and plays so beautifully. Once I heard Joey at the Blue Note in New York, and the music felt so good, I could feel it in my body the next day!  Blue Innuendo the song features the organ and pays tribute to this type of feeling possible in a jazz organ group...


When I think of the feeling of Blue Innuendo -- the blues inflection that comes with adding the organ to a jazz group -- I remember recordings that are not blues songs, but are played with a blues inflection by master musicians. The Hammond B3 had a way of bringing the blues wail -- at least a hint of it -- to any song, even if that song is a ballad or a bossa. I'll blog some more about that soon... 

In the meantime, enjoy Blue Innuendo!  You'll find links to purchase the album on the homepage.


Thank you to all the people who helped make this project possible, including: Pat, Tom, Matt and Devin, the folks at Systems Two Recording Studios, Scott Anderson, Ross Nyberg, Dr. James Noyes, Cheryl Hooper, Devin Lowe, Michiko Studios, Eric Halvorson, Phil Stewart, Tim Lancaster, Scott Thornton, Bill Singer, Doug Bambrick, Bob Anderson and Ilana Judah!







    Embed "Blue Innuendo" concert on your website

    We're excited to be live streaming the Blue Innuendo album release concert in cooperation with Michiko Studios.  

    Feel free to embed video of the show (April 28, 8:00 pm EST) on your own website by adding the following YouTube Embed code:

    <iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

    Thanks for your help sharing the music!  To simply watch the show you can go here at the appointed time.

    Announcing LABEL1

    Thanks Cheryl Hooper for an inspired logo design!

    Thanks Cheryl Hooper for an inspired logo design!

    I'm excited to announce the launch of LABEL1.  For a long time I've wanted to have a label to put out my own recordings and have both musical and promotional control over the projects.

    Since it's a challenging time for both the recording industry and jazz musicians, one might ask, isn't having a jazz label just combining the two worst ways to make money? Perhaps, but it's also a chance to try some new ideas to promote music and musicians. With Blue Innuendo, LABEL1's first release, we'll try some of these new ideas.

    Visual Experience

    Recorded music is trying to compete with streaming video, video games, and an increasingly multi-sensory internet, yet jazz has been marginalized to present itself as an audio-only experience. The album art of the past has been reduced to a thumbnail on a phone. Jazz video experiences are less common than in other genres and are often substandard. Blue Innuendo will come with a free digital booklet (on Bandcamp, on iTunes, or anyone can download from this site). The April 28 release concert in New York will be live-streamed on YouTube so anyone in the world with an Internet connection can watch the show, or embed it on their own website.

    "Open Source" Songs

    Artists often see limited revenue from publishing their compositions, because business practices are shackled by copyright. A law that was supposed to protect composers' income has likely reduced potential income all but the most famous composers by preventing their songs from circulating. Really -- in this digital age artists' compositions can't be shared because it might jeopardize their future printed sheet music income?! My original songs on Blue Innuendo are available as free sheet music PDFs to be freely copied, shared or redistributed for non-commercial purposes with a Creative Commons license.

    Playing with the Cats

    People can play Guitar Hero with their favorite bands, but not if it's a jazz band. Sure, there are play along records (e.g. Jamey Aebersold), but if musicians want to play along with their favorite recordings they'll always have to "play over" another soloist. "The Phantom" from Blue Innuendo is available as a free play along MP3 with sheet music minus the saxophone tracks, so that student, amateur -- or pro -- musicians can play the studio version of the song with Hammond B3 organist Pat Bianchi, guitarist Tom Guarna and drummer Matt Wilson. Now those are some cats!

    We'll blog some more about these topics in the days ahead. 

    It will be fun to try these ideas and share them with the music community and to share the new music on Blue Innuendo. The "cats" played great and it's exciting to capture them together playing this music.

    Ghosts of Systems Two

    "Do you want to try the Coltrane mic?"

    ...asked one of the engineers at Systems Two studios in Brooklyn. "Don't point that thing at me!" I wanted to say.

    Recording my first New York album with terrific musicians was enough excitement for the day, I didn't need distraction by any thoughts of John Coltrane's huge legacy. The microphone in question was an RCA "ribbon" mic owned and used by John Coltrane, later passed to Systems Two by Ravi Coltrane. We actually did end up using it as one of a few sax mics in the final mix.

    Coltrane was one of several "ghosts" to be found at the Systems Two: great musicians who have used the studio or its gear to capture classic sound. We used Marvin "Smitty" Smith's old drum set which is standard gear at Systems.  

    The Hammond C3 (just like a B3 but with a full body instead of legs)

    The Hammond C3 (just like a B3 but with a full body instead of legs)

    System's Hammond C3 organ once lived at Long Island's Ultrasonic Recording studios where it was used by artists including Billy Joel, and on the 60s hit song "In a Gadda Da Vida." Around the same time we were in the studio, organ master Dr. Lonnie Smith was there recording his recent Blue Note album Evolution with Joe Lovano and Robert Glasper. 

    Engineer Mike Marciano and organist Pat Bianchi check the Hammond C3 sound (that's not a ghost behind the control room glass, it's ambling drummer Matt Wilson)

    It's pretty common to cross paths with famous gear or musical legacies in the recording studio, but it's important to not let it mess with your head. I'm really pleased with how the (soon to be released) Blue Innuendo album turned out, so I guess we kept the ghosts at bay. 

    Here are some of my personal favorites albums recorded at Systems Two:

    Notes about the Songs on "Blue Innuendo"

    The "Two-Tone" building in Brooklyn.

    The "Two-Tone" building in Brooklyn.

    One of the big reasons I make albums is because of songs.  I assemble a collection of compositions that all seem to be pointing in a similar direction, and that collection becomes the material for an album. Here are some notes on the songs that will appear on Blue Innuendo:

    1. "Urban Dilemma" was written specifically for the album. I wanted to combine some characteristics of the Larry Goldings Trio -- really well-arranged organ grooves -- with a snaky soprano/guitar melody like our guitarist Tom Guarna's uses in some of his music. The title is a reference to the ongoing gentrification in NYC which is truly a dilemma: some things get better for some people, while other things get worse for others. 
    2. "22 Doors" was composed by a friend, Devin Lowe who is the bass player on my Trio Real album. We had this tune in the book for that group but never recorded it, and I really wanted to hear these guys play it.  And play it they did! Thanks to Devin...
    3. "12 Step Blues" is a minor blues that uses all 12 "steps" of the chromatic scale, but is not actually a "12-tone" tune because some of the notes are repeated.
    4. "Parallel Present" comes from a place of reminiscence.  Like in the movie Sliding Doors, what if there were another life out there being lived by a parallel self who had made different choices?
    5. "Genealogy" is based on the standard song "I Got Rhythm," but the form omits large chunks of the original while maintaining parts of its essence. I had been doing some family genealogy research and thought it would be cool to write a boppish tune and name it "Genealogy," like some of the Charlie Parker heads that were named after different "-ologies" like "Ornithology" and "Anthropology." Mirroring old bop arrangements, the roles of the sax and guitar are reversed between the "in-head" and the "out-head."
    6. "Stuck" is based on the feeling of times when we can't seem to change our situation or alter our patterns in life. Sometimes when we do experience change it's after a period of feeling stuck.
    7. "The Phantom" is something I wrote many years ago but haven't performed until recently -- thanks to my friend Dr. James Noyes for persuading me to have this on the album. The song is dedicated to the great tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson because the melody sounds like something he might have played. His originality as a player and composer has always been inspiring (Joe was nicknamed "The Phantom" for his supposed knack for disappearing from a room without anyone noticing). 
    8. "Two-tone Tune" was written for our great drummer Matt Wilson. There's a building in my neighborhood that has two colors on its outer surface: two-tone. One day I looked at it and said "I'm going write a feature for Matt where every instrument gets just two notes (tones) to play for starters." The form of the song also has two main sections, the second with very optimistic, positive sounding chords that remind me of Matt's enormous, infectious enthusiasm.
    9. "Blue Innuendo" is dedicated to Joey DeFrancesco, a tribute to the organ master's ability to reach across generations to bring the good feelings of swinging music to present-day audiences, as this tune tries to do. The title references the ability of the Hammond B3 organ to pull any music towards the blues. No matter the style of music, adding a Hammond organ seems to put a "blue innuendo" in there.
    10. "Redeye" was written at a time I was traveling a lot between the West and East Coasts and life was becoming frenetic. One morning I arrived home in New York (after a "redeye" overnight flight), sat at the piano and wrote this tune. Interestingly, when this song -- which is built on "4th" intervals -- is played on the organ, it reminds me of the great organist Larry Young who played 4ths as a trademark.

    It was fun pulling together this collection of original songs.  I hope you enjoy Blue Innuendo!

    Making your own promo CDs

    A fistful of DIY promo CDs

    A fistful of DIY promo CDs

    I recently "made" my own promo CDs for a publicity mailing, and wanted to share my method with other do-it-yourself (DIY) musicians out there.

    In "the old days" of the recording industry, labels simply asked their distributor to make a set of promos and ship them to their publicist.  Someone at the distributor would use a table saw or other cutting tool to slice through a box of CDs at a time, cutting a notch directly through the barcode, marking them universally as promotional inventory.  I remember making the call when I worked for CTI records, "Make us 500 promos of the new Larry Coryell record."

    I was surprised to learn that musician-friendly services like Discmakers/CD-baby don't offer this service.  I was told that I could make a separate "promo" album design with altered barcode, etc., but by producing a separate lot of inventory -- and missing a price break on my CD quantity -- this would cost me several hundred dollars plus professional design time.

    Is promotional inventory still even necessary?  

    I would say absolutely.  I've had the prior experience of putting out an album only to have used "promos" flood Amazon and cannibalize sales of a new release.  Whether you're mailing to radio or media, someone on the list will be tempted to monetize the inventory you bought and paid to create.  Creating promo inventory not only curtails this, it also gets more of your promos reviewed and played on the radio because they're not being sold as used records.

    How I made my own promo CDs.

    Custom label interface on Vistaprint

    Custom label interface on Vistaprint

    1. I made custom stickers at Vistaprint, and ordered enough sheets for my promo run.
    2. I shipped CDs from my manufacturer to my apartment.
    3. I drilled through the barcode from the back of the package with a household power drill, 5 CDs at a time.  First, practice on CDs from your collection that you dislike!
    4. I affixed the "Promo CD only" sticker to the shrink wrap of each CD.
    5. I then shipped the promo inventory to my publicist.
    drilling promo CDs

    All told, this took a few hours and saved several hundred dollars.