All The Lee That's Fit To Print
Mein Kampf notwithstanding, a little reading material never hurt anyone. So I’ve made this Special Edition of The Feldman for my CD Release Show. Which bring up the question: why make something as expensive and labor intensive as a hi-fi CD and put it into an over-saturated music market in a post-compensation society? (For my next edition of The Feldman, by the way I’m thinking of including a maze and crayons for children.)
Lee Feldman & His Problems
I’ve been thinking about what I want to do with my life and one of the things I came up with is that it would be cool to have a series of shows, each show exploring an area of interest. One show might be about Borscht Belt humor, another show might be about death . . . you get the idea. The title and theme of my CD Release show is ”This is My CD Release Show!”
I’m going to distribute hard copies of this edition at my show but since I don’t want to detract too much from the performance on stage, this item will just have a little imagery, and not actual thoughts:
Dentistry & Magic
My great uncle Will was a dentist and an amateur magician. When I was a kid we lived on the Upper West Side of Manhattan and I used to go to Will and Fanny’s rather formal apartment on Riverside Drive on Sundays to get magic lessons from Will. Will was also an amateur painter and his painting is on the cover of my previous CD, I’ve Forgotten Everything. And I’m an amateur dentist, so we’ve come full circle.
More Dentistry Humor
My wife just got a real job and I now have dental insurance. Are Chuckles® vegan?
Music & Magic
There are real connections between the magic world and the music world, especially between pianists and magicians. Pianists and magicians both have to make the audience believe in a linear sequence of events that are, in reality, separate, discrete, practiced motions. But magicians’ assistants are often glamorous whereas page turners tend toward the nondescript. Once I hired a contortionist to turn pages for a concert – supply your own punchline.
Last year when I was making the album, I was late to the strings recording session because a cabdriver mistakenly took me over the Manhattan Bridge. Then at the string rehearsal last week, a cabdriver took me through the Midtown Tunnel and I was late to the rehearsal. The connections we make are strangely strung together and we sometimes don’t have control.
We Formed A Union
I teach piano at The Third Street Music School Settlement in Manhattan. It’s the oldest community music school in the country! I love it there, but a new administration came in and the disparity in pay between the teachers who make the place great and the administrators became troubling. And many of us felt that the changes being implemented were out of our control and that the place was in danger of losing its unique character. So we formed a union: MU-SIC at Third Street. Unions aren’t popular these days. Rachel Ray is popular. Kanye West is popular. Kim Kardashian: popular.
I’ve been living in the same 475 sq. foot apartment on N. 1st Street since 1988. I moved to the block in 1987. My major memory of those days was that the place was desolate. A newspaper blowing down Bedford Avenue. Now it’s different. I was at the playground with Simon, my 4 year old. We were waiting for the big swing, and I got into a confrontation with one of the younger, groovier moms. She told me that there’s a “flow” to the playground, and I wasn’t really understanding that flow. Speaking of flow, I was almost knocked down by a flow of people streaming up out of the L train at 4 p.m., Sunday, Bedford Avenue.
One thing I don’t really like about life is how your mom and stepfather can get old and sick and miserable, and there’s not much you can do to help them, especially when you’re living hundreds of miles away and it’s expensive to visit and hard to get away from the day-to-day schedule of making a living and trying to make something of yourself while the people who have made you what you are are slipping away.
Album No. 4...
I think I’ve really done it this time. It’s not really clear to me why I became a musician. I know that I’m good, but I think that’s because of the 45 years I’ve spent on it, not because of some special talent. Why I’ve been driven to pursue this often difficult line of work is a mystery. Sometimes I think it’s largely out of spite: I’d like to “show” the people who didn’t believe in me that I can actually prevail. But there are satisfactions. One satisfaction is teaching kids how to play the piano. Another is making a great album. Listen on iTunes
This past year I also made an album I’m very proud of, with Noah Hoffeld, a cellist and a friend. The album is Jewish music for cello and piano – mostly classical and Chasidic tunes. Rabbi Joseph Telushkin says it “combines staggering beauty and a sense of sanctity” and believe me, he is not a dude you want to argue with. Listen on iTunes.
CD Release Show
So you should really come to the CD Release Show if you can! It’s at a place a little off the beaten path, a jazz club on the third floor of 212 E. 52nd Street (bet. 2nd & 3rd Ave.). Two sets, 7pm and 9 pm on Wednesday, May 23rd. Me, Byron Isaacs (bass), Bill Dobrow (drums), Greta Gertler and Carol Lipnik (vocals), Pete Galub, Guilherme Monteiro (guitars), Leigh Stuart and Dana Lyn (strings), Mauro Refosco (percussion), Mark Patterson (trombone) . . . Somethin' Jazz Club
All The Lee That's Fit To Print
The constant in my life is the piano. I start every day with Bach, the #1 Composer according to The New York Times. I learn one new line of music a day and am on schedule to have the 2 books of the Well Tempered Clavier in my fingers and mind by 2015. I’ll be giving a concert on Friday, January 6, 2012 at 7:30 p.m. at Third Street Music School Settlement, where I teach piano. Half the program will be Bach and the other half will be jazz standards.
At 3rd Street I give one-on-one lessons to students, mostly kids. I teach some adults too and I enjoy it but I find it a bit easier to relate to the kids. Honestly I get a little bored talking to adults, don’t quite trust them. Kids will surprise you. Last year one of my students thought the dynamic marking mf was pronounced metro forte. Another one called the sustain pedal the “clutch.”
My jazz piano heroes are Bill Evans and Thelonious Monk. I like a lot of different players but those guys really break out of the atmosphere. The air gets clearer. Last year I started taking weekly lessons with Neal Kirkwood, a jazz pianist colleague at Third Street. Practicing those beautiful standards and addressing the deficiencies in my playing is a liberating experience.
Creating a rich piano sound involves the entire body, not just the arms, hands and fingers. Breathing is important! Posture is important! And if you work at it every day, progress is made! Pretty much all I’m interested in these days is the health and welfare of my family and making progress.
I don’t enjoy reading the newspaper much because it doesn’t seem like the world is making progress.
Son Of Starboy
We were in Tucson, AZ for two weeks this summer. We stayed in a roomy house in the desert and heard the coyotes at night. I was there for a theater workshop at Pima Community College. I wrote a sequel to my animated musical “STARBOY” called “SON OF STARBOY.” It was brought to life by 15 high school students. The show incorporates both live action and animation, singing and dancing; it is happy and sad, funny and strange. I’m going back next summer to continue developing it.
I loved working with the kids and they taught me the game “Ninja.” It’s played in a circle, using just your body and hand movements. Everybody bows to start, then strikes a martial arts pose. Then you try to hit each other’s hands. I wasn’t very good, but I felt young again, and accepted by the group of kids. I don’t think that I’ve ever been part of a group before. It was a great feeling.
I Gave A Lecture
As part of the summer workshop, I delivered a lecture that addresses the question “What Makes a Good Song?” I’ve been working on this lecture for a while. The short answer is: freshness and inevitability. I’d like to take this on the road to libraries across the US, in conjunction with a tour to support my new album.
Album No. 4
I’m making a new album! My last album came out over 5 years ago. The new one will be called “Trying to Put the Things Together That Never Been Together Before.” Starting in January I rehearsed for seven Sundays in a row with my band: Bill Dobrow (drums) and Byron Isaacs (bass). I’ve been playing with them for over 10 years now. I wasn’t sure that I had enough material for a new album when we started, but it turned out that I had 15 songs that I wanted to record.
Both of my bandmates know me pretty well by now. Bill and I are pretty wacky people. Byron is more subtly wacky. I wanted everyone to feel creatively empowered and the band feels like a ship that steers a wild and beautiful course between chaos and order; between words and meaning. I love playing with these guys.
We went into the Magic Shop, a top recording studio in NYC, on April 23rd and by the evening of April 27th we had recorded the basic tracks for 15 songs, including “Halo,” “That’s the Way the World Used to Work” and “Subtle Flagellating Pulse Baby in a Christian Fabric Memory Dress.” We also recorded a string section comprised of top NY session players; percussionist Mauro Refosco (he works with David Byrne and Thom Yorke), and my brother David Feldman, who sang a version of “I Remember the Night,” a song about the divorce of our parents. I wrote it almost 25 years ago.
I need help in paying for the album. I need to finish recording it, mix it, master it, and distribute it. It’s expensive. I’ve started a Kickstarter campaign, which is a website
artists use to fund independent projects. The campaign is one month long and we are one week into it. The funny thing about Kickstarter is you have to meet your fundraising goal to get any of the money pledged. The deadline is August 11th. Please go to my website (www.leefeldman.com) and click on the Kickstarter link. For as little as $1, you can purchase a song from the new album. There are interesting rewards for backers. I would greatly appreciate your support, and please forward the link to anyone you think might be interested. Thanks.
Noah And Me
Playing chamber music is another thing I’m starting to do. The most exciting thing is looking closely at a section of the music and trying it different ways with another musician, and listen to it become more dimensional. Cellist Noah Hoffeld and I have been rehearsing Ernst Bloch’s “3 Sketches from Jewish Life” for a while now. We will record it along with arrangements of Chasidic melodies, Jewish folk songs and a few other Semitic selections. Hava Nagila? No thank you, I’m full.
What else can I tell you? We love Governors Island. My boys are so alive and beautiful that they offset the pessimism that I feel every time I read the newspaper. I swim in the excellent City of New York pool right across the street from us. I am thankful for our city’s transportation commissioner who miraculously gave us places to ride our bicycles.
Recently, a Russian friend of mine asked me how I was doing. When I told him I was pretty happy, he said, “Well, enjoy it because it probably won’t get any better.” That’s OK with me.