Baby Naiad (1/5/07 #4)

1:47 minutes

She's there to protect the spring and the lake. She moves smoothly, gracefully, arranges the moss and lilypads just so, makes sure the moonlight glints at the right angle, keeps the water clear. The problem is, she got knocked up. And her daughter, who just hit the terrible twos, is running around trying to "help".

Recent Networking

Fun day today - I went to Tony Starlight's to see The Swing Sisters perform this evening. They had a very short break between sets, and their pianist had just ordered a burger. It got delivered right when the set was about to start, and he wasn't about to abandon his burger.

So I got called up on stage to sit in for a song. I was that guy, the "guest pianist" who gets called up from the audience. That just tickled me, I haven't been in that situation before. So it was a lead sheet I hadn't seen before - wow, I don't even remember the name of the tune. We did the head once, then James took the AA and gave me the BA. The combo was pretty tight and we had some good energy rise and fall later in the piece. It was quite fun. I'm hoping I'll get to do some more combo playing in the future.

I also sat in with Quoting Napoleon the other night. They're looking for a keyboardist, and I'm still considering whether I want to be The Keyboardist, but it's a fun opportunity to consider. They're bass, drums, rhythm guitar, electric guitar, and fabulous lead vocals. They've got a great repertoire put together already and are completely receptive to new song ideas, cowriting, and working up songs of my own. It's a little different than the idea of me creating/forming my own actual band, but then again, I'm still working on building up my own repertoire, so it might be a good fit if it helps motivate me to write my own stuff even faster.

Gig Report - Tony Starlight's, August 9th

We had a great gig tonight at Tony Starlight's.

Deja Nu has been kicking around for a while now. I joined the group (barely knowing jazz piano) about a year and a half ago. We had a good first summer playing down on Alberta for Last Thursdays, but then we started having some personnel changes, and had to relearn a bunch of repertoire.

A year later our personnel was solid again and then it was just a matter of solidifying the rep and finding gig opportunities. We all enjoy doing it for fun and don't relish the idea of landing the backbreaking grunt gigs. I remember months ago I was saying that what I really wanted was just a regular gig at a cushy venue with wonderful people.

Tony Starlight's opened up, and it seemed perfect for us! We went and heard the Bureau Of Standards Big Band. A couple of our members play in that band. We also met and later saw the talented and fetching Swing Sisters - a whole throwback community of show bands is coalescing here in Portland - not quite jazz, but broader - and it's a blast to be a part of.

So after a year of not gigging, save for a warmup charity gig a couple of years ago, it was quite an experience performing on a stage in a classy joint, with a grand piano and lighting. I sang three songs - Mack The Knife, You And Me And The Bottle Makes Three (that song is just crazy and people went nuts), and my favorite was the last song. I've worked up a version of "One For My Baby" - since it's about closing time, I got the privilege of closing out the gig with the song - a lot of people stuck around to the very end. It was me, bass, drums, and sax solo, and there was just a really cool mood in the place at the end of the night - it was late, but also felt full of life. The rhythm section has some good communication and we ended the tune in a way we never have before, completely spontaneously. It was such a cool moment, one I won't forget.

The rest of our songs were sung mostly by Michelle, our true diva/star. She sounded great tonight - she's got a beautiful, broad, trained voice, with amazing versatility. I accompanied Michelle and Tony on a duet of You Don't Bring Me Flowers that was just hilarious - they were both in full Streisand/Diamond costume. Tony also sang Beyond The Sea with us. Other favorite moments were Michelle on Route 66, the ending of Too Darn Hot, and especially Bewitched - I opened the second set just improvising something very distantly related to the tune, while waiting for the other players to come up on stage - we transitioned right into the tune, it built slowly until the end, and just had an amazing feel to it all the way through.

Tony Starlight has a great thing going at his club, and if you're in Portland and haven't checked it out yet, you should. His site (with a hilarious splash page) has a full calendar of events, including his own comedy/music show every Saturday night.

In addition, Deja Nu has already been asked back, and we will be playing there again on September 7th, a Friday night! Make reservations now because our show tonight sold out more than a week in advance!

Tony Starlight's August 9th

I will be playing/singing at Tony Starlight's with Deja Nu on August 9th. Make reservations because they sell out fast.

Here's Tony himself singing about his venue.

I Have A Cold (v3)

2:53 minutes

I wrote "I Have A Cold" in a couple of hours one night when I started coming down with a cold. I was trying to keep a sense of humor about it before it socked me too bad. Of course, the next few days sucked. Since then I've been adding little touches to it and recording better performances. This will be the final version until I either add other instruments or professionally record it. Previous versions available in the Bone Yard.

If you enjoy this song, feel free to download and share, but please sign up for my mailing list. Thanks!


Taking a well-deserved vacation right now. My other job is as a software consultant, and I find that as music revs up, it is harder and harder to go a day without doing something musical. June was horrendously busy with two important client projects - one team-developed project built for uses internal to the client, and another project where the client I was helping was under the gun by a client they were selling to. That was probably the highest priority client work I've had since I've gone into business for myself. As a result, I didn't get to do as much songwriting as I would have liked. I'll be changing things around when I get back from vacation to have some assistants I can subcontract to when things get too busy.

All that said, I Have A Cold has been a big hit out here, especially to my nieces! I've subscribed various family members to my podcasts, and also gnashed my teeth at their choice to use Windows - which showed me there were some funky design things happening with this site on IE - I should have them fixed up now.

I have a few other songs in half-completed state, although I do find it is sometimes more difficult to finish those songs than the songs I start and finish within one sitting. Hopefully July will open some things up for me - pretty soon I hope to have enough repertoire gathered up that I can actually start rehearsing wtih a couple of other musicians. So far I'm thinking of bass and drums definitely, already have people lined up, but I'm also considering adding a good guitarist that can do both acoustic and electric... I'd need a good versatile multi-instrumentalist there to fit in though, and don't have many good leads yet.

Vacation's great and all (and I'm over my cold now!), but there's no piano around here! I almost brought my two-octave USB keyboard but it was too big for my laptop bag. I've thought about buying one of those midi controlled rollup keyboards too, but... oh man, I don't know. I just don't think I could do that.

outPost on Acoustic Conversations

Some of you may remember that one of my side projects is Acoustic Conversations, where we interview gigging musicians and bands and ask them to perform acoustic versions of their songs for us. The latest episode is an interview of outPost, a local band that fuses reggae, hip-hop, and other things - their music is a complete blast to listen to. We've just uploaded some the songs that we recorded over on, and I'm sure the interview will be coming soon. Go on over to check them out and download their tunes.

Site Directions

Well, it's been almost four months since I've launched this site. I've wanted the site to become something akin to a framework, workflow, and representation of my efforts as a musician. I think I've succeeded there. Whenever I create or accomplish something musically, I have a place to put it. So now (and perhaps this is partially because of how me having a cold affects my brain), I'm moved to review and think about how it's all working.

"A place to put it" is interesting. Because if I were to merely keep these things in my head, in iTunes, on a scratch piece of staff paper - they'd still exist, I suppose, but it doesn't feel like any of them have life until I put them somewhere where there's a chance other people might experience them, or perhaps enjoy them.

But everything has a home right now. I have a place for my song drafts. A place for my improvised piano pieces. A place for my jazz standards (although a password is needed there). A place where I can write about what I'm doing, a mailing list where people can sign up, which gives an excuse to summarize my own progress to give myself benchmarks.

So far it's a good experiment - all combined, I've interacted with this site in some way every day since then. It kind of gives me something to react to, which helps me take music more seriously in a way that feels natural rather than disciplined. It's having good results too - I thought up, wrote, and learned I Have A Cold in about three hours. It's a stupid silly song, and I was completely punchy - laughing about it while hopped up on cold medicines - the sort of thing where the mood that drove the creation of the song would have passed in a few hours. Six months ago I would not have been able to capture that complete song in time. (Which, in the case of that particular song, might have been a good thing! :) ) But it's a cool feeling to feel that I am starting to have a more direct pipeline into whatever it is that enables us to write cohesive songs.

I've started to look at the site as a marketing vehicle, too. Not that I have anything to sell at this point, but I have liked the idea of the site gradually attracting readership/listenership. I'm going to use a bad word here. I am currently what is known as a "hack". :) The real definition of a hack is someone who gets their support by people already known to them. I'm basically tracking my "hack quotient" by keeping track of who is on my mailing list. Right now, almost everyone on my mailing list is someone that I already know - family and friends. If I divide the number of People I Know by the number of People On The List, then that means I have a "hack quotient" of somewhere between 91.3% and 95.6%. I am hoping that number decreases over time! I do notice that viewership is increasing a bit, which is encouraging. Some from a couple of links I create, like my sig at an unrelated discussion board I frequent, or a couple of comments I've left over at (my unwitting mentor), but I'm also noticing an increasing number of google searches for "curt siffert" and also for Balancing Above The Air.

The question is what to do next. It's fun to think about what level of success one can get just by focusing on the online end, but I really don't want to limit myself to that. There are several challenges and possible directions here.

I'd like to play out. I haven't performed for too many months now, although performing for my recorder does at least help a little. The problem is basically repertoire and instrumentation. I'm not a guitarist, so I am not as flexible as a guitarist singer/songwriter. I now have two songs that I can perform as a solo singer/pianist, but they're both what I like to think of as "contrast songs". I need more meat and potatoes songs. I also have two songs that can be performed as a group with a guitarist, although Together would require some thought on how to arrange it. Basically I just need to create more rep.

I do have an instrumentation - I know both a good drummer and bass player who would be psyched to play out with me once we have material. I love the idea of doing some Jamie Cullum crossed with Ben Folds type stuff. And my band Deja Nu is also interested in performing some three-horn arrangements of my stuff too as I write it. So I've definitely got options. It's basically up to me to come up with material.

There's also the option of me pursuing new age piano stuff, although it doesn't particularly thrill me to consider being a new age live performer. But I am currently in the midst of producing a cd of some of the better tracks. It'll be a short run for now, just to get things up and sellable on iTunes.

Beyond that it's about just creating more songs and seeing what opportunities and brainstorms happen. I'm also thinking about whether it makes sense to keep uploading rough drafts of material here. There's kind of a quality point material needs to be at before you'll start attracting the kind of attention that will lower the "hack quotient". :) But for now, I'm happy with the way things are.

Google Searches

There seem to be a fair amount of google searches for Balancing Above The Air that land here. I wonder how people are finding the song...

Homeless Ghost (12/6/06 #1)

3:23 minutes

He needs no food and is not rooted to a spot. But he also has no place to go, and cannot enjoy the warmth of the sun or the touch of a stranger. The world's beauty is only an apparition to him.

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© 2007 Curt Siffert. Some audio protected with a Creative Commons license.
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