Sunday, December 28, 2008

More trailer adventures

I had to build a new cargo box for the small trailer. This, by the way, is a modified Chariot kids trailer, which replaced my dead homebuilt one. It was donated to re-Cycles with the fabric in bad shape - stained and ripped. I did not need the support arms that went overhead to provide a canopy, so they were bent down and other mods done. The box I'd installed was a Rubbermaid container, previously scavenged from a ravine, and it was literally cracking from the workload of the previous winter. The box could also not hold my synth keyboard (the one used for the Propeller Dance classes) properly.

I wanted the new box to be long enough for the snyth, and strong enough to hold the amplifier, which is a fair bit heavier that the one I used last year. So I used plywood for the bottom, but good old coroplast for the sides and top. The pieces were "sewn" together with zipties, a technique I also used on the tailbox for my old recumbent bike.

Here's the trailer, with box removed (in foreground) and plywood bottom in for test-fitting.

Note that I had to notch the wood to fit the two vertical posts.

Test-fitting of the snyth:

Nice red coroplast pieces (again from a scavenging job)...

...stitched together.

And bolted to plywood floor.

And duct tape to cover and strengthen the joints. Instead of heating and bending the 'plast as I did with the tailbox I simply slit it halfway through and then folded it. Still plenty strong.

The inner upright posts are anchored to the outer horizontal ones through the 'plast.

The front frame tube drops, and the plywood was perhaps not going to hold all the weight at the front without bending and cracking, so a support was needed.

Since the wheel axle support bolts poke up through the frame rails I leveled things off a bit with some blue foam.

Loaded for the winter Community Day gig for the dance class. I added some of the same yellow reflecto stuff I used on the sides of the trike's cargo box.

The box works well, and it's nice to finally have a proper cover instead of always using a tarp. The only drawback to using coroplast for the box is that it won't take a lot of abuse in terms of having awkward / ill-fitting items stuffed inside, but of course doing that sort of thing (like transporting the ski-bike) is what cracked the Rubbermaid bin...

The single-sided wheel mounting makes for easy tube and tire change (a plus in the winter), and a few days later I swapped out the crappy no-name tires for a pair of Schwalbe Big Apples that had done five years duty on the cargo trike (now a little too worn for that heavy use, but still perfectly good for a trailer). The great thing about these tires is that you can run them at low psi (for passive suspension) but the sidewalls do not deform and they still roll well.

2009 update: a winter of towing the heavier amplifier has made me realize that it's just a bit too much for some of the hills I have to climb for the dance group gig. So I went back to the lighter, lesser-powered amp and it's fine. Since it's also smaller this allowed me to lop off about four inches of height from the box, which has the added benefit of making it much easier to get the trailer through my basement door. Yay for various small victories...

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

In the news

For the past while I've been musing about quitting the music business, at least in terms of music being my primary source of income. And by December I'd made up my mind, as the Xmas gigs just did not come through for me this year, and have been dwindling steadily over the past decade. And not getting a New Year's Eve. gig for the third year in a row cinched it. (More on all of this at a later date.)

On Wed. the 17th I had a noon-hour gig at the Clarica Centre downtown, and I was looking at it as my last pro gig. And on the morning of I got a phone call from Kate Porter, the Arts reporter with the CBC. She had been referred to me by another CBC employee, Emily Chung, who I know from the HPVOoO cycling gang. Kate was conveniently doing a story on how Xmas gigs for local musicans have been dropping off, and we arranged for her to interview me after the gig. Emily also showed up, and took a photo of me playing in Tom's trio, and that ended up on the CBC website with the story.

Kate also called over a cameraman (the CBC building is across the street from the Clarica Centre) as she wanted to get a video of me loading my drums onto my trailer and cycling off. The guy hustled over and seemed a bit unimpressed that this was "news", but the footage ended up on the TV news that night, though I did not see it. Kate's story ran on the "All in a Day" radio show, though it was only 2 minutes long (I need to learn to talk in soundbites - the poor woman probably spent far too long trying to find a snippet out of our rambling 20-minute chat).

The highlight for me was just after the story, as News Producer Laurence Wall (whom I'd met earlier in the year when he was MC for an IJO performance) chatted with host Adrian Harewood, and described my bike and trailer and how dedicated I was. :) Thanks Laurence!

And Emily just informed me that a photo Kate took of me using Emily's camera ended up in a CBC photo gallery: (photo #23)

Saturday, December 13, 2008

where I work (continuing series)

I haven't posted regarding this series in a while, where I like to show the different places a musician might be asked to perform. Sometimes you get a nice big stage and an attentive audience, and many times you're stuck in a corner and folks are hardly paying any attention.

Last Thursday I performed with the IJO at Dominion-Chalmers church, a beautiful building with lively acoustics, and a pipe organ console right in the middle of the "stage". I took some photos of the empty hall before everyone arrived for soundcheck and the show.
And one photo of the gig, courtesy of photographer Brett Delmage (more at the IJO website).

To get to this gig I used my cargo trike, which got pressed into service even though I had technically put it away for the winter (once salt gets put on the roads). This is because the large trailer, made for a friend who lets me borrow it back in the winter, could not hold this drum kit due to the large sizes of the drums themselves. I may have been able to pile it all in and bungee it up so it looked like the Grinch's sleigh all loaded with Whoville toys, but the roads were mostly bare and dry (meaning no wet slush) and I only had to go about nine blocks, so the trike made sense. I won't get into how it took me 20 minutes to go those nine blocks because of snarled traffic due to a bridge closure...

The next night I played a jazz quartet gig for the local Thai community at a hall off Riverside Drive. It was the 81st birthday of the King of Thailand, and he happens to be a jazz fan (I recall references to him in jazz books when I was younger). We played four of his personal compositions, then some standards. Also on the bill were some traditional Thai dancers, and throughout the hall various samples of food and drink were to be had.

Thai women can be distractingly pretty. ;)
At evening's end they all gathered to sing some birthday wishes to their King, led by the Thai ambassador (who was at the lectern at right):

Young drummers, pay attention to this handy tip: it's always good to set at least one drum level so it can hold food:

The following Sunday was Community Day for Propeller Dance, of which I do accompaniment for their Monday class. It was in a basic rec. hall that had the acoustics of a gymnasium, but fortunately the music did not have to be too loud and did not bounce all over the place. I simply set up near a corner, and then go hunting for a chair or two or table for the keyboard (since I'm traveling via pedal power I like to keep the weight down, so I don't bring a stool or stand with me).

(I should've taken the photo from further away to show perspective with the room, but oh well.)

I have a fourth entry, but it also involved a new way of getting to the gig, so that will get its own post.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Real Hobbitts?

I've always had an interest in anthropology, and a few years ago things were shaken up by the discovery of some controversial bones on a small Indonesian island. They seemed to be of little people that may not have been Homo Sapiens, and they existed up until recent times.

See more at:


A review of the above program:

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

IJO Benny Goodman tribute

This Thursday the Impressions in Jazz Orchestra will once again take the stage at Dominion-Chalmers Church, this time to present our tribute to the famous 1938 Benny Goodman Orchestra concert at Carnegie Hall.

The original concert was the first time "Jazz" was presented in a concert hall, and it was a roaring success. The concert was also recorded, though this fact was forgotten until Goodman found the discs in his house during a move around 1950 or so. The recording was subsequently released and went on to be one of the biggest selling jazz albums of all time.

I discovered this music when I was five years old and leafing through my parents record collection. After I heard Gene Krupa on drums my focus intensified (I had already been banging on pot and pans) and I just about wore that album out. I'm sure my family got sick of hearing it after a while, but not enough so that they didn't get me my first drumset when I was six! :) My drumming really started with this album, so it's quite thrill to be playing this music 40+ yars later with the IJO.

Technical notes: for this music I had to decide as to how authentic I wanted to get in its reproduction. Drum sets in the 1930s didn't have Ride cymbals (the largest of the cymbal family in diameter) for that typical"ding dinga ding" sound one most often hears in jazz. Time was mainly kept using press rolls on the snare drum (coming from that drum's military origins) and a steady 4/4 on the bass drum. The hi-hat did exist and was used, mainly as contrast to the rolls, with a closed dry sound for quiet sections, and a sloshy open sound when the music started to shout.

When I was growing up I saw clips of Gene Krupa (and others) on TV playing these old songs, but of course they kept with modern times and used the ride cymbal. But I also knew the music did not sound quite the same, and it took a while to figure out why. When I later found out the correct style I noted it but still used the ride like everyone else did whenever I played Sing Sing Sing. But when IJO dirctor Adrian Cho told me we'd be recreating much of the 1938 concert I decided to use the correct playing style.

The main issue for me has been to keep the press roll style swinging but also QUIET. It's a fairly busy noise going on, and quite fun to do, but it's really easy to let the volume build, and so I'm trying to behave. ;) If one listens to the original recordings one can hear Krupa snapping off rim shots and other little sticking tricks, which would interrupt the flow if one was playing a ride or the hi-hat, but since one is already grooving on the drum one can add comments to the sound without disturbing the rhythmic flow.

I'm also using thin 7A sticks, the kind I'd normally only use for quiet, small-group jazz gigs, as back in those days that was about the largest available. And that size helps keep the volume down and also reduces mass in the hands for the various sticking tricks. I guess if I wanted total authenticity I'd also use calf heads, but umm, no thanks. They are expensive, and like any natural product they are subject to humidity and temperature fluctuations, and the drums can go out of tune during a show as the room's moisture content changes. Instead I'm using Remo's Fiberskyn heads, which do a pretty good job at emulating calf. (I've used these on my 1966 Rogers kit for all my IJO large-group gigs.)

Probably the main highlight for me on this show is that we will be playing the FULL version of Sing Sing Sing, which means also the Part 2 that is on the recording but not in published sheet music (just about every version you hear of this song by any band will only do Part 1). Part 2 was a Head arrangement, meaning it was put together by the band at rehearals and on gigs without being written down at first. So while I've played this song many times this will be the first with the full version!