You’ve careened onto Peeples Place at KHTS!
DIRK’S WORK IN SPOTLIGHT AT PAC TONIGHT — “The Music of Dirk Fischer,” a special tribute to the musical dynamo who headed the jazz department for 28 years before retiring (sort of) in early 2005 and the age of 81, will be presented by College of the Canyons Music Department at the Santa Clarita Performing Arts Center tonight starting at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are still available at the PAC box office for just $10, or $5 for students and seniors, and the musical value is priceless.the celebrated Studio Jazz Ensemble big band and smaller jazz combos will perform Fischer’s spirited, snappy arrangements under the direction of K.C. Manji, who succeeded Fischer as the department’s director in early 2005. (They’re pictured at the 2006 R.K. Downs Jazz Festival at COC. Photo: Stephen K. Peeples.) the charts Fischer wrote over the decades — both original and non-original material — comprise the core of the big band’s repertoire to this day. “This concert will not program my originals, but will be a tour de force of my treatment of selections from the American songbook,” Fischer said in an email.
“The repertoire will highlight pieces Dirk has arranged since 2005-ish,” Manji wrote in a separate note. “Some examples are ‘Hit the Road, Jack,’ a request from VP Michael Wilding to be played at graduation; ‘Zing went the Strings of My Heart,’ ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow,’ a medley of WWII ballads, ‘Pure Imagination’ from ‘Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,’ a trombone feature called ‘I Donno why,’ and a new arrangement of ‘Londonderry Air (Danny Boy).’ “And we have a guest singer, Katherine Lench, who will join us on ‘Maybe this Time,’ an arrangement Dirk wrote for us when we were doing ‘Cabaret’ at COC,” Manji said.Fischer has indeed remained active since he retired — if one could call it retirement — up to and including this performance. “I’m subbing for K.C. while she directs this year’s COC stage musical, in effect preparing this concert for her,” he wrote.“Since I took over the band, Dirk has continued arranging music for the band and COC,” Manji said. “I often make a request and he has produced great arrangement in as little as a week. a big project involved Dirk arranging an operetta called ‘The three Piggy Beopera’ that was premiered at COC last may. It involved young children as well as professional singers accompanied by our big band and consisted of about 11 pieces of music, classical music themes arranged in various jazz styles. It was a lot of fun.”Dirk Fischer, pictured at COC in 2003, led the Studio Jazz Ensemble for 27 years through early 2005. Photo: Stephen K. Peeples.”My writing has been ‘occupational therapy’ the last six years,” Fischer wrote. but now, he added, “It’s getting older out.” He’s not driving anymore, and not happy he has to rely on a cane and sometimes a walker to get around. Getting to rehearsals isn’t as easy as it once was.
“I really want to celebrate Dirk as much as possible,” Manji said of tonight’s special salute to Fischer. “His music indeed makes up the majority of our COC jazz library, and he’s a wealth of jazz history and information, having not just studied it, but lived it, too. his memory is phenomenal, recalling individual jazzers as well as bands, directors, singers, dancers, touring halls, arrangers, composers, styles and performance practices. He is still working hard supplying music for various ensembles, printing and publishing jazz tunes for publishing companies, and has donated many pieces to our local high school jazz bands and directors.”Fischer is a true local treasure who has imparted the meaning of musicianship and the experience of playing in a band to hundreds of students in the Santa Clarita Valley. I urge everyone who has studied with him, and everyone who loves to hear a big band swing, and all you parents who want to expose your kids to a real jazz band comprised of real musicians to show your love by showing up tonight.
Meanwhile, check out my Dec. 1, 2004 Newsmakers interview with Fischer for SCVTV and the Signal just as he was about to retire, and his June 2011 appearance as my special guest on “House Blend,” where we talked between clips of his arrangements being played by local jazz group off the Record.
LADD TO THE SOUND? — In the week since Jim Ladd got the axe at KLOS-FM/Los Angeles, fans of the last freeform rock DJ have bombarded his Facebook page with well-wishes and suggestions for his next move. Some fans have even created an online petition to urge L.a.’s the Sound to pick him up; several of his former KMET and KLOS colleagues are on the air there, and the format is in his ballpark. Ladd, meanwhile, is apparently in no hurry to jump into anything. Stay tuned…
VOTE FOR THE FEAVER IN SCHOOLJAM USA COMPETITION — Support the local SCV band in its bid to win the national SchoolJam USA competition for high school students. they entered one of their hot originals, “Bleeding Man.” Click here to vote. You can also nominate other favorite bands.
REMINDER: RONNIE MACK’S BARN DANCE HONORS GRIEVOUS ANGEL GRAM PARSONS — L.a. rocker Ronnie Mack hosted the long-running Barn Dance roots music showcases at the Palomino in North Hollywood during the ’70s and ’80s, and has been carrying on the tradition for the last several years at Joe’s Great American Bar & Grill in Burbank, where the Gene Vincent 40th anniversary bash took place a couple of weeks ago. Tomorrow, Saturday, Nov. 5, Mack will host an all-star tribute to Gram Parsons (pictured), celebrating what would have been the late country-rock pioneer’s 65th birthday (he died in September 1973). With International Submarine Band, then the Byrds and the Flying Burrito Brothers, Parsons created songs and a musical legacy that are heard today performed by contemporaries including Emmylou Harris, Chris Hillman and Herb Pedersen.On the bill tomorrow night: Rosie Flores, James Intveld, Carla Olson (with Barry Goldberg and John Yoko), Ronee Blakley, I see Hawks in L.a., Rick Shea, Karen Tobin, Lisa Finnie (host of “The Dylan Hour” on KCSN-FM), Patty Booker and more. Showtime is 7:30. No cover; two drink minimum. big dance floor.Get more info about the Barn Dance showcases at RonnieMacksBarnDance.com. You’ll find Joe’s at 4311 W. Magnolia, Burbank 91505; phone (818) 729-0805.
SPOTLIGHT Q&A: YOUR WISH IS COMMAND’S COMMAND — as noted last week, Command Recording Studios co-owner Robbie Altschuler was one of the guys who stepped up to help local promoter Bret Lieberman book the bands for last Friday’s Sports Complex show, so Bret could be with his family. they were grieving the death of his grandfather after a long battle with cancer.As chief engineer of the SCV’s top professional studio for almost a decade, and as drummer with local rock band Odaal, Altschuler not surprisingly has a few contacts and a few favors he can call in. so to line up his own group and half a dozen others was, as he later put it in typically low-key fashion, “No problem.”"Robbie said he lost his dad to cancer — he could relate,” Lieberman told me later.Altschuler and his Command crew have a history of stepping up; they’ve provided sound for many fundraiser concerts hosted by local nonprofit organizations because those shows give local bands a good gig to play and the cash goes to a good cause. a prime example is yes I Can’s annual Summer Meltdown festival — helmed, not coincidentally, by Lieberman, who heads the yes I can special ed program at Golden Valley High School — going back to the 2004 show.Command Audio in Canyon CountryBack then, Command was known as Command Audio and located in an industrial strip mall on Oak a few blocks off Soledad Canyon Road in Canyon Country. It had been founded by Altschuler’s father, Rick Altschuler, in 2000. Rick had moved to the SCV in the early ’90s, after more than 20 years of music biz experience as a musician, performer, recording artist, studio owner, producer, engineer and lighting tech based in Hollywood.the nascent SCV music scene back then reminded Altschuler of the grass-roots grunge scene blowing up in Seattle at the time, and he thought locals here could use a real recording studio. He envisioned it as a professional-quality studio any major act and their production team would find comfortable and well-managed, but also available to local unsigned artists.It took Altschuler until 2000 and cost him most of his assets, but he realized a dream when he opened Command Audio.
Between paid gigs that paid the bills, Altschuler often made rehearsal space available to young local bands. If he really thought they had potential as singers, musicians and songwriters, he’d work on rehearsals with them and occasionally produce a demo of their original material. in 2001, he partnered with longtime artist manager and promoter Linda Lombardi, and his son Robbie grew into a role at the studio doing sound, engineering, playing percussion, and eventually producing.
a year later, just as the Command Audio/Lombardi Management operation was gaining traction –- even producing a weekend radio series on KHTS designed to showcase and help local artists -– Rick Altschuler was diagnosed with cancer.
Producing the series got to be too much, and Rick signed off. Still, Robbie told me when I first spoke with him for a story in the local paper in spring 2005, “He kept working right up until a few weeks before he died, building stages and setting up sound at the Chicago Club on Soledad in Canyon Country.”
Altschuler had no insurance, and his illness and medical bills consumed most of his son’s and Lombardi’s time and resources in the months before and after his death in summer 2003. “It almost wiped us out,” she told me in ’05.
The Dream LivesIt took a while to recover, but Robbie Altschuler and Lombardi were able to carry on his dad’s original mission of providing a professional environment to all comers, from established bands to unsigned talent.“We don’t want any bands to have to leave Santa Clarita because they feel they can’t make it in the music industry unless they do,” Altschuler said in ’05 (he’s pictured at the board in the big room at the old Canyon Audio on March 30 that year). “There are so many talented bands here. every band that has come to practice at this place, I could hear on the radio more easily than the stuff that’s on the radio right now.”The monthly concerts like last Friday’s featuring local bands at the Sports Complex originated at Command Audio, as Lieberman promoted a series of all-ages shows in one of the large rehearsal rooms converted into a club called Suburbia for an evening or two a week.
Command Audio>>>Command Recording StudiosThe operation continued to grow; by 2008 it was time to relocate. About that time Altschuler partnered with friend and fellow musician Matt DeTwiny and longtime family friend mark Albrent to purchase an existing studio in the Valencia Industrial Center. the trio renovated, upgraded and reopened as Command Recording Studios, offering a state-of-the-art facility to pros and aspiring pros alike.”This place became available, and mark and Matt saw it as an opportunity to get into the business, saw that this community really needs a place like this so artists can be as creative as they want to be right here in Santa Clarita,” Altschuler told me when I interviewed all three principals in January 2009. “Rather than going down to Burbank or Los Angeles, and paying a huge fee, they can come here and pay less, with all the same great equipment.”“There’s so much talent in Santa Clarita that it felt a little bit untapped and underutilized,” DeTwiny said. “There are so many high school kids out here who are into music and are part of the scene, whether they know it or not, and they could use an outlet. Also, personally, Robbie and I are in a band, so we can use it for our own stuff. There was nothing better than having a place to freely explore our own creativity, and at the same time maybe help others out.” Altschuler and DeTwiny are pictured L-R in the Command Recording Studios control room on Jan. 17, 2009, under the watchful gaze of Jimi Hendrix. Albrent, who became acquainted with the Altschulers and Command Audio when Rick was still alive, said two things moved him to partner with Robbie and Matt: “Number one was that Robbie and his dad had a dream for this valley, that they would be able to record bands and give young talent a place to grow, and they did that for many years. “And then Robbie was looking for a new place to do this in, and this place looked state-of-the-art, and I thought it would be a good investment and help Robbie continue along with this dream,” Albrent said. “My second motivating factor was that we needed a place in the valley for young kids to grow and express themselves, and I believe we provided the tools and the facility for the kids to be able to do that.”Command Records SCV Rock StarsIn summer 2008, as online editor and an entertainment reporter for the aforementioned local newspaper, I co-produced a local music competition called SCV Rockstar, in association with Lieberman and his talent booking company Higher Level Productions. Command was a top-tier co-sponsor. Artists uploaded videos to the paper’s website, fans voted, and finalists in amateur and professional categories performed at a live concert in September at the Sports Complex, where a panel of five industry-veteran judges chose the winners. Renfue won the pro division, and John Stratton aka Johnny Strat took the amateur trophy. Both got to record at Command as part of their prize packages. (Renfue would soon implode from internal issues; Stratton now fronts his own band and has come a long way — check them out on “House Blend” in February 2011). “I thought that the SCV Rockstar program was a great idea,” Altschuler said in early ’09. “Again, it gives kids a place to go and a place to express themselves. the show was great, kids had a great time, it was well organized, and it was really a way for us to get involved with these kids. in addition to that, we got a little bit of advertising out of it, and we can connect with these kids, and give them a place to take that talent and take it to a higher level, which is to able to record their music and then preserve it for their life.”(The project was well-received but a new publisher was in place at the paper the next year: “Not our target audience.” right. so instead of an annual event, SCV Rockstar officially became a one-off.) That was then, this is NowFast-forwarding through the time since then, the Command crew has continued to work with local talent while attracting artists and producers who you might figure would record in Hollywood, new York, or some locale far more exotic than Santa Clarita. They’ve also renovated the rooms again and continually upgrade the hardware and software.in the last several months, local clients have included the McGrath Project; bandleader/producer Gary McGrath and lead singer Ann-Marita have also cut tunes for upcoming solo albums at Command. Bridge 22 has recorded tracks at Command recently as well..last spring, Peter Frampton jumped into Command for a four-hour solo session.A few months before that, producer/engineer Fabrizio Grossi helmed sessions at Command for “Unusual Suspects,” the latest album by guitar-slinger Leslie West of Mountain fame, released Sept. 19. (Altschuler and West are pictured above posing with Jimi.) West’s formidable studio band included drummer Kenny Aronoff, who plays with John Mellencamp and is one of rock’s most in-demand session guys. Guest guitarists on the sessions included SCV local Zakk Wylde, session legend (and Toto axeman) Steve Lukather, prodigal son Joe Bonamassa, and, from somewhere in West Texas…Billy Gibbons of Z.Z. Top. Lord, have mercy. He’s bad, he’s nationwide, he’s SCV.”Billy came in a few times and did some guest spots,” Altschuler said Wednesday. (Gibbons is pictured goofing in the Command lobby with Altschuler’s toddler son, Richie, who’s not all that amused.)”Slash also plays on ‘Unusual Suspects,’” Altschuler continued. “We had to go where Slash was, though. He couldn’t make it here, so we had to rent out a studio in L.a. but the album sounds amazing — the production is really, really good.”O-Bla-Di, O-Bla-Odaal Also completed this year at Command: the new album by Altschuler and DeTwiny’s band, Odaal, titled “Rodents of the Moonshine,” out in late October (available on iTunes). the lineup features Matthew D. (DeTwiny’s nom de roque) on lead vocals and rhythm guitar, Lucas Jones on lead guitar and backing vocals, Phil Ellis on bass and Altschuler on drums. Check out the quartet’s self-described “hand-crafted, well-mannered Rattle-pop” live tomorrow (Saturday) night at On the Rox, upstairs from the Roxy on the Sunset Strip; showtime’s 10:30. You can also see the band’s Facebook and ReverbNation pages for more.”We’re actually already starting on our next record,” Altschuler said. “It’s going to be a live thing. We’ll play 14 songs live in front of people and record that.”A Fiber-Optic Future Expanding Command’s reach into film and TV work is on the studio’s slate for the near future. “We should have fiber-optics put in within the next couple of months, and then we’re going to jump fully into the post-production world,” Altschuler said. “We’ll be able to connect with other studios, so instead of having to go all the way into Hollywood (or fly somewhere), voiceover artists near us can just come to us and we’ll hook them up to their studio so they can do whatever they have to do right here.”‘Live from Command Studios’More bandwidth will also allow Command to produce live streaming video and audio, and host podcasts of private sessions and special events at the studio.Gearing up for that, the studio hosted its first Jam Night on Wednesday, inviting local players to bring their guitars and sticks to the studio for a jam session that was recorded for podcast-terity.(Ann-Marita and Gary McGrath are pictured recording at Command in may 2011.) “The band can set up live in the studio, and we can record it in the quality they need, but then we can also stream it live through the Internet,” Altschuler said. “Bands can come here so people (elsewhere) can watch the recording process, or if they just want to play a show for people. We might set it up so we interview the band a little bit, like if they’re either coming into town or about to go out on tour somewhere, or they have a big a show at the Roxy or something like that. then we’ll have the band play, and everything (audio and video) will stream on the Internet. People can message us and ask questions about the artist or the session.”Sounds like a real-time version of “House Blend”!
Streaming sessions and sets live from Command will make it easier for local artists to gain more exposure and potentially connect with a wider audience. “It’s easier than spending a lot of time and effort selling 50 tickets at the Roxy or 100 at the Key Club, and trying to get all their fans to actually drive all the way down there,” Altschuler said. “Artists can just stay in their hometown, send out a mass email — ‘Hey, we’re gonna be playing live’ — and people can watch them play live on the Internet. We can set something up so people can donate some money to the band. hopefully this will be something that will help (local artists) get their name out there.”(A bust of James Brown, Godfather of Soul, watches over every Command session.)
That kind of thing is likely to give Command a lot more exposure in the industry, but the partners plan to maintain the intimacy and privacy that make artists comfortable enough to be their most creative.”It’s a small studio, and we prefer to have it that way,” Altschuler said. “You get more hands-on time with the artists, and you get more of an intimate vibe. It’s one tracking room, one control room, one iso-booth, run by a tight team. It’s a tight ship. If you want top-level recording at an affordable price, come in to Command Recording Studios. You won’t be sorry.”Find Command Recording Studios at 25327 Avenue Stanford #106, Valencia 91355, or online at commandrecording.com. the phone is (661) 702-8933.
SCV LOCAL MUSIC ROUNDUP — for the latest on what’s new and hot in local music, we checked in with our friends at Rock Candy Music & more, the Santa Clarita Valley’s only retail record store, at Bouquet and Plum Canyon in Saugus. Staffer Ryan Corbett gave us the update on what’s new on the shelves.
“There’s a new Florence and the Machine album, ‘Ceremonials.’ It’s like folk-pop,” Corbett said. “And there’s a new Blink-182 album on vinyl, ‘Neighborhoods.’
“We’ve got the Beatles’ ‘Yellow Submarine’ and ‘Abbey Road’ re-releases on vinyl, and ‘Nevermind’ from Nirvana,” he said. “There’s an Iron Maiden ‘Best of…’ 1980-1989 on vinyl, and that’s called ‘Somewhere Back in Time.’ And there’s N.W.a.’s ‘Straight Outta Compton’ reissue on vinyl.”
There have been a lot of reissues during the past couple of weeks. Is there some special occasion?
“I think (the labels) have always been doing it,” Corbett said. “The Beatles is just a reissue, but I know that Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ was an anniversary thing. same with Nirvana — the 20th anniversary of ‘Nevermind.’”
Rock Candy Music & more presents live shows by local artists on most weekend nights; this weekend is music-free, but Dylan Green and Fitzgerald and the Bellafonte will play next Friday, Nov. 11.
SCV MUSIC ON TV: FLAVIA, GUSSIE ENCORE ON ‘HOUSE BLEND’ — “House Blend” hosted by yours truly on SCVTV Saturday night at 10 presents an encore broadcast of our second season’s second show featuring spirited pop/funk/R&B singer, songwriter and producer Gussie Miller and sultry pop/soul/jazz singer/songwriter Flavia Watson & the RedTempt.
Watson, California-born but raised mainly in Ireland and Italy, landed at CalArts to study music a couple of years ago, and started putting together a band. a few iterations later, it now features Chris Pucher (guitar), Nick Baker (drums), Rich Brown (keyboards) and Caroline Cirone (bass). in their first TV appearance, the RedTempt taped their segment of “House Blend” at the SCVTV Media Center in Newhall on Sept. 24, premiering “Too Late to Cry” and “I Wish I Could tell You,” both originals the band’s recorded for their forthcoming debut album, “Girl who Left Town,” due Dec. 3. “Too Late to Cry” is the advance single and is now available as a free download.Miller, whose background includes acting, performing, writing and producing songs for TV, film and stage, is now stepping into the foreground as a solo recording artist with his first album, “Forever Plan,” now in production. With fully produced backing tracks and live accompaniment by keyboardist Ric Mandell and guitarist Brian Price, Miller sang his new single, “What more can I Say,” and “Arms of Love,” both from the forthcoming album and performed for the first time on TV on “House Blend.” Miller and his players also taped their segment Sept. 24 at SCVTV.“House Blend” airs Saturdays and Thursdays at 10 p.m. Pacific Time on SCVTV (Time Warner Cable Channel 20 in the Santa Clarita Valley, and AT&T U-Verse Channel 99 in Los Angeles and Orange counties), and streams live everywhere via the Web at scvtv.com. the show’s archives are also available 24/7 on demand at scvtv.com/html/houseblend-current.html and scvhouseblend.com.Check out the SCVTV website for more local music listings.
MORE SCV MUSIC LIVE — who else is playing in the Santa Clarita Valley this weekend, or spreading the local musical love outside the valley?
TonightMusician and singer/songwriter Melissa Kaye plays free sets every Friday at La Toscana Trattoria Grill in Valencia. Catch her tonight from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
The Helen Wheels Band performs at Valencia Wine co. and Jay Bolan plays at Salt Creek Grille tonight, both starting at 9 p.m.The Resistors, Bad Luck Bandits, Hard 6, Seven 40 Seven and Majorelle rip it up at the Vu on 8th Street in Newhall. the 21-and-older show is free till 9 p.m. and $5 after. Jeff Barber of rockabilly ravers Hard 6 (set for 9:30) promises a “fun and awesome evening…you may even have a laugh or two. We are certifiably stupid good, so you will not be disappointed. Plus, rockabilly shows are great people-watching events.”
SaturdayMeridian plays covers at Las Rocas Bar and Grill in Castaic from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Seating is limited, so call 661-257-6905 to reserve a table.
Jay Bolan plays again from 9 to midnight at Salt Creek Grille.
Thursday, Nov. 10College of the Canyons’ student orchestra will perform works by Haydn, Mozart and others as part of its “Cornerstones of the Age of Enlightenment” concert. the curtain rises at 7 p.m. at the Santa Clarita Performing Arts Center in Valencia. Tickets cost $10 for adults, $5 for students.
Gary McGrath, late of the McGrath Project, will play an all-ages acoustic show at Genghis Cohen on Fairfax Avenue in Los Angeles from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. He’ll play songs from his upcoming solo album.
Thursday Night Metal at Universal Bar and Grill features Los Angeles-based Character Assassins with local bands Hibernation Index and Poet Warrior. the show starts at 9 p.m., and tickets are $5 for ages 21 and older.
Friday, Nov. 11Local bands Hibernation Index, Fight the War, silent Shot, Black Empathy and Samudra play hard rock and metal at the Vu Bar and Lounge starting at 7 p.m. Cover is $5 for ages 21 and up.
The Babylon Social Club — featuring SCV singer Sara Niemietz plus Herman Matthews, Bennett Salvay, Leslie Smith, W.G. “Snuffy” Walden and Terry Wilson — rocks Cafe Cordiale in Sherman Oaks. the show starts at 10 p.m. and it’s free.
Saturday, Nov. 12The Skinny Little Twits play classic rock covers and originals from 8 to 10 p.m. at It’s a Grind on the old Road.