Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Tuff Enuff...

...For Sure.

Kim Wilson and the Fabulous Thunderbirds put on a nice show tonight at the Bear's Den in Niagara Falls. Lots of new material with a very young band; Kim was in great voice and his harp work is always spectacular. Bruce, Susan, and I went, and we enjoyed the band and the well-handled sound situation (not too loud, but plenty of lows and high-end sparkle). Also, ticket prices were pretty reasonable, by today's standards, anyway...

Added bonus-- Spotting the Who's Who of Buffalo area Blues musicians, including Joney James, Joe Beard, and members of the Blues Hounds.

It's nice to see another good band play every once in awhile!

God Bless & Good Blues,


Nashville Cats...

...Apparently do play "clean as country water" and "wild as mountain dew." After a rough week and a crazy start to the weekend (a late night gig at Vizzi's on Friday), I took off for Nashville, Tennessee, oblivious to the Bills' presence; I was there all weekend for a conference put on by Chris Mara and his associates at a relatively new studio down there called Welcome to 1979. Wto79 specializes in retro-style recording (2" analog, lots of vintage tube gear and instruments, and a healthy respect for "live" off-the-floor recording). The conference (called the Producers and Engineers Summit) featured a whole weekend's worth of break-out sessions, clinincs and panels on everything from DIY and vintage gear and "found sounds" to basic music business savvy and two live-to-two-track recording sessions (Saturday night's recording group was the Justin Kaulk Orchestra-- check them out on the web; very cool!).

All of the presenters were top-notch pros (engineers, producers, mastering engineers, musicians, and a major mic company rep), and I did enjoy the whole thing (as much as I could on 35 hours with no sleep), but two of my high-lights were meeting Mark Rubel, a producer from Illinois who shares my passion for whacked-out found sounds and vintage lo-fi noise-makers, and meeting and listening to Bob Ohlson, an engineer/producer/mastering engineer with a storied career that started with him as a 17-year old assistant engineer at the legendary Motown/Hitsville studio in Detroit.

If you're into any of this stuff at all, it would be a great idea to get down there next year and attend this event. Just make sure you don't have a gig the night before...

God Bless & Good Blues,


Friday, November 13, 2009

A light went out over Niagara Falls...

...Or at least it should have. That would have been a humble representation of the light that went out this week, one of Western New York's premier musicians, Niagara Fall's own Chu Nero.

Chu distinguished himself over the past four decades as an example of the finest that the Buffalo/WNY area has produced-- a singer, songwriter, sideman, bandleader, pianist, and saxophonist unparalleled in ability and enthusiasm, and as a stage presence, always humbly entertaining. Chu's roots, and perhaps his heart, were in Jazz music, in which he excelled, but he also played the Blues (for the last several years with partner-in-melody Tommy Z), Rock and Pop, Gospel, and Contemporary Christian music, all with an unmistakeable sound and incredible flair. His considerable chops were always in service of the music, and the soul of the moment, never over-used or over-the-top. I had the pleasure of playing and recording with Chu on a number of occassions over the years, and I was always blown-away by his talent and musical humility.

Chu distinguished himself over the decades outside of the music business and the dimly-lit stage-- many do not know of his humanitarian efforts and his attempts to bring the Gospel to life for disadvantaged people throughout the Western New York area. Chu was involved in prison ministry for many years, at times at great expense to himself and his family.

Chu made mistakes, just like the rest of us, and it was hard to find out that a "hero" (in this case, one of mine), was in reality a human just like the rest of us-- clay feet and all. There was a time when we were pretty close friends. Sometimes friends drift apart for different reasons, sometimes maybe people were only meant to come together for a short time. But I have great memories of gigs together, sharing family times with his wife and kids, and of a few times where I might not have made it through without the support of someone who understood. That someone was Chu.

He is survived by the mother of his children, and a true saint, Mary Nero, and his sons Judah and Solomon, and his daughter Julia.

Godspeed Brother, and Straight Ahead.

God Bless & Good Blues,


Friday, November 06, 2009

Early November Update

Hey No-Star Nation;

A few early-November items for you:

1) A couple of important benefit performances are happening in the next few weeks, and we'd love to see those of you that are in the Buffalo/WNY area come out and support these causes.

The first is a fundraiser being put on by our friend and master jazz drummer, Dan Hull, this coming Tuesday night, 11/10 at the new Bobby McGee's (the old Dakota Grill) on Maple Road in Amherst. Danny has been running his weekly star-studded jazz jam session for over 10 years now, and this week's performance's proceeds and any in-coming donations will be to benefit our old aquaintance, and Tommy Z sideman Chu Nero (Blues, Jazz, and Gospel saxophonist, keyboardist, and vocalist extraordinaire). Chu has been battling cancer, is currently undergoing more treatment, and has had to virtually stop working in order to concentrate all of his strength on his fight. Let's face it folks-- full-time musicians don't have a lot in the way of safety nets in this day and age, and Chu has a lot of mounting medical bills as well as daily practical needs to take care of. Chu has been a blessing to many folks through his music for many years; hopefully, we can give some of that back to him in support. Tuesday night at the new Bobby McGee's, at 7:00pm.

Bruce and I will be playing a benefit for a dear friend, vocalist Roseanne Perez, on Sunday the 29th of November in South Buffalo (check your No-Star Update E-mails and our website schedule for upcoming details). Roseanne has been fighting a similar battle as Chu's-- she has been unable to sing or work a day job for months, due to extensive (and expensive!) chemo and radiation treatments. Fortunately for Roseanne, she has some pretty talented friends... Performers at the benefit (besides yours truly and Bruce Rounds) will include Donna Rose, Dolly D, Big Wheelie, Sam Gaurino, Nick Veltrie, Sam Gambino, Jack Civiletto, and many more. Tickets are only $25, and this is going to be quite a show. Stay tuned for more details, and e-mail us directly (Gregg@MightyNoStars.com) if you don't think you can attend, but would still like to make a financial contribution...

2) Look for my byline in this month's issue of Drum! Magazine (issue #162); my debut with the publication as a product reviewer is a feature on the new line of Meinl frame drums, for those of you in a percussive frame of mind (pun intended). Coming soon in an upcoming issue, a review of some very hip, hand-made/boutique djembes and congas from a company called DrumSkull Drums.

3) The band has been laying low lately, dealing with rehearsals and pre-production for our next CD, getting ready for upcoming Christmas shows, and the like. But we've got a gig at Vizzi's next week, Friday the 13th of November. Be there or be extremely square. Vizzi's is always a fun gig (especially if you like sirens). We hope to see you in the crowd (maybe you'll get to dance with Ralph!).

4) Speaking of laying low; not so much! Almost immediately following the gig on Friday, I'm flying down to Nashville for the weekend for a record producer's/engineer's summit at a new retro/analog recording studio called Welcome to 1979. Producers and engineers who have worked with major names in Rock, Pop, R&B, Indie, and yes, of course Country will be there to share experience, tools, and tricks of the trade. We're doing a recording session with a local band on Saturday night (reminds me of the old joke-- How many producers does it take to make the recording session happen? I don't know; what do you think?), and Telefunken is bringing a bunch of microphones that I'll never be able to afford. Sweet! Hopefully, we'll have pictures, annecdotes, and the full skinny for you up on the website when I get back.

Thanks for your attention, and we'll see you at a gig soon.

God Bless & Good Blues,