Category Archives: Interview

Stephan Jenkins reflects on free-range chicken and 20 years of Third Eye Blind

The enduring San Francisco band hits the Capitol Theatre in Port Chester on Saturday, Oct. 7.

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When you’re in a rock band that tours as much as Third Eye Blind, little things sometimes loom large.

On a mid-September afternoon, front man Stephan Jenkins is having a bite to eat while he chats with The Journal News by phone from the Elmwood Park Amphitheater in downtown Roanoke, Virginia.

“I’m enjoying a chicken Caesar here,” the California native says. “They’ve got free range organic chicken in Roanoke, Virginia. How about that?”

After kicking off Oct. 5  in Providence, Rhode Island, the tour takes the band to Hampton Beach, New Hampshire, and to Port Chester’s Capitol Theatre on Oct. 7.

Looking back on the songs from Third Eye Blind’s self-titled debut album, released 20 years ago, Jenkins remains proud of the work that first brought him fame. The work has endured, he says, even if it means something different now.

“I’m not the same person I was,” he explains. “It’s funny, I can revisit that person, and know that person and have more affection and appreciation for that person than I did when I was that person.”

He describes the person who wrote and recorded that album as “somebody who was very flawed.”

“There was a real drive,” he recalls. “That person had a real rage to live and a drive that was impressive. And, so yeah, I like that person.”

He resists describing how he sees himself today.

“I don’t know, I’ll tell you in 20 years. I’m not gifted with self- knowledge.

CLICK HERE to read more of Jenkins’ insights in the full interview on lohud.com.

 

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How Ron Wasserman’s visit with Fred Hellerman, the last living member of The Weavers folk quartet, resulted in a world premiere

Ron Wasserman, front left, with the New York Jazzharmonic. (Mihyun Kang)

Ron Wasserman, front left, with the New York Jazzharmonic. (Mihyun Kang)

Fred Hellerman, the sole surviving member of the famous 1950s folk quartet the Weavers until his death on Sept. 1 at the age of 89, wanted to be more than just a folkie, his son, Caleb Hellerman told The Washington Post.

The quartet – which Hellerman founded with Pete Seeger, Ronnie Gilbert, and Lee Hays — was immensely popular for its vocal harmonies and faux naïve guitar-and-banjo versions of songs like Lead Belly’s “Goodnight, Irene,” other now-standard folk songs including “On Top of Old Smoky” and “The Hammer Song.”

Hellerman, the son of a poor immigrant couple, taught himself to play the guitar while serving in the Coast Guard during World War II and never studied music.

As a result, he longed to be taken seriously as a musician, and was always self-conscious about his lack of musical education, his son said. “He wanted to be seen as a serious musician and composer,” he said.

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On June 28, just two months before Hellerman died, the New York Jazzharmonic gave him just the boost he wanted by giving one of Hellerman composition’s, “Fourths of July,” its world premiere at the Washington Square Music Festival.

It was almost by chance that Ron Wasserman of New City, the Jazzharmonic’s artistic director, found out about the piece a year ago and began the process of bringing it to the world.

“When I started talking about this with him, it was really kind of thrilling, because I felt like I’d made a discovery,” Wasserman explains.

Hellerman was old friends with Wasserman’s mother, retired singer Joan Wile.

“She sang with him in another group he had after the Weavers, called the Neighbors. The Weavers were blacklisted for a while, so he formed the Neighbors, and my mother was in that group.”

Hellerman and Wile had fallen out of touch, but reconnected in the last several years, says Wasserman, who soon learned that Hellerman possessed some demo recordings he had produced for Wile.

Hellerman wasn’t able to email digital copies of the recordings, so Wasserman paid the elderly musician a visit.

“I went over to his house and got the recordings, which are actually really good, some of the best recordings I’ve heard of my mother singing back in the day.”

Hellerman was intent on getting Wasserman’s attention for something else.

“He was like, ‘I’ve got to play you this piece I wrote,'” Wasserman says. “He had a MIDI computer realization of the piece. He says, ‘I wrote this 30 years ago and nobody’s played it…

“It was a good piece, it was a patriotic kind of piece that the Boston Pops would play, sort of like a theme and variations on ‘Yankee Doodle Dandy.’ So I was like, yeah, I’m gonna do the piece,” Wasserman says.

Wasserman learned that the germ of Hellerman’s idea came from his son, Caleb, who was then an infant.

“When his son was a baby in the crib, he used to scream. In the morning he would wake up like an alarm clock screaming out ‘Yankee Doodle Dandy,'” explains Wasserman. Hellerman learned to turn the noisy distraction into something productive by composing countermelodies in his head. “Eventually, a number of years later, the piece had stuck with him, and that’s how he wrote it. So he dedicated it to his son.”

Because it was written for conventional string orchestra, Wasserman had to recorchestrate it for his 17-piece jazz band.

Over the months between Wasserman’s initial discussions with Hellerman and the June concert date, Hellerman’s health deteriorated. He was too frail to attend the premiere at New York University’s Frederick Loewe Theatre.

“That’s the great irony, the irony of ironies. But his family was there, and they had a great time,” Wasserman says.

Though Hellerman couldn’t attend the premiere, Wasserman found the Washington Square Music Festival audience was very aware of its composer.

“I said to the crowd, ‘You guys remember Fred Hellerman?’ And of course, down there in the Village everybody remembered Fred Hellerman.”

Sufi rocker Salman Ahmad fights polio and oppression with music

Salman Ahmad (Photo by Chris Ramirez)

Salman Ahmad (Photo by Chris Ramirez)

Salman Ahmad was born in Pakistan, but he developed his love of rock and roll during the formative teen years he spent in Tappan, New York, a town in southern Rockland County.

Today, a quarter century after founding the multi-million selling band Junoon in Pakistan, where he returned in his late teens, he’s still making music. Now, more than ever, it’s in service to his humanitarian spirit as much as to his Rockland-born rock and roll heart.

I had the chance to speak with Ahmad by Skype the other day about his life and work.

Though music is his life, he’s also a trained physician. Right now, he’s back in Pakistan, using his celebrity, and a bit of his medial savvy, in the battle to eradicate polio there.

But all the while, he’s looking over his shoulder, because, while he’s a Muslim like most in his homeland, he’s a known target for extremists who don’t like the Western influence he brings with him.

Go here.to read the whole interview, done for The Journal News/lohud.com.

 

 

UPDATE: ‘The Little Prince’ gets special screening with the director in Yonkers Sunday, along with theatrical run and Netflix premiere (Video)

Mark Osborne.jpg

Mark Osborne

It had to be at least a little demoralizing for Mark Osborne, the veteran “Kung Fu Panda” director from Hastings-on-Hudson, to see his lyrical take on classic children’s book “The Little Prince” get pulled from the Paramount Pictures release schedule just a week before its U.S. premiere this spring.

The Little Prince

“The Little Prince”

After all, it was a film he felt “destined” to make, he told me in an interview for The Journal News/lohud, because he was introduced to Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s beloved 1943 illustrated novella by the woman who is now his wife.

“She gave me her copy of the book when we were going to have to separate” when he decided to transfer to the West Coast for college. She wanted “to keep us connected,” he said “She would quote from the book in letters to me.”

Story continues below trailer.

He did get a chance to see it on the big screen in special one-off sneak preview at the Jacob Burns Film Center in Pleasantville just days before Paramount pulled the plug.  img_0220

Although, Netflix stepped in and picked up the film almost immediately, it appeared that the lovely film would be for streaming only, and not generally available in a theater.

While streaming is probably the method many families would prefer to use to watch the family flick, there’s something sad about the idea that Osborne’s gorgeous creation would not be available on a bigger screen as a communal moviegoing experience.

Luckily for film buffs of all ages, the “Netflix Exclusive” is scheduled for a theatrical run that begins Friday, the same day it’s available for streaming. The IFC Center in Manhattan’s West Village has the exclusive, which was announced in a splashy full-page ad in Sunday’s New York Times.

For a real treat, see this one in the theater.

The IFC Center is at 323 Sixth Ave. (at Third Street) in Manhattan. Go here for showtimes and tickets.

NEW:  You’ll also have one chance to see the movie on a big screen without making the trip into Manhattan. There’s a special screening with the director at 6:30 p.m. Sunday Aug. 7 at Alamo Drafthouse, 2548 Central Park Avenue in Yonkers. GO HERE to buy tickets at $13.25

 

 

 

 

 

Rockland County’s Martha Mooke performs music from ‘No Ordinary Window’ on Sunday

martha-mookeNyack composer and electro-acoustic violist Martha Mooke brings her spectacular sounds to ArtsRock‘s Music at Union Arts Center series this Sunday afternoon.

She’s a spectacular violist, and her compositions on her latest album, “No Ordinary Window,” are beautiful, boundary-busting windows into her own sonic imagination.

“I slip through the cracks of defined boundaries,” she told me in a recent interview.  “I keep re-creating my way…. I try to take on challenges.”

Read my recent interview with Mooke for The Journal News/lohud.com by going here, and then grab some tickets for Sunday afternoon’s show.

IF YOU GO

When:  2 p.m., Sunday, April 3.

Where: Union Arts Center, 2 Union St, Sparkill, New York

Tickets: $20 in advance/$25 at door/$10 students, available online by going here.

 

First-time novelist Jessica Tom finds the way to Hollywood’s heart is through its stomach, too

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Novelist Jessica Tom on the cover of the Life & Style section of the March 10, 2016, issue of The Journal News

Jessica Tom, a Brooklyn-based writer and foodie who grew up in the Hudson Valley town of Pleasantville, is a skilled writer, but her provocatively titled debut novel, “Food Whore,” has benefited from a large dose of good luck, too.

It took the Yale-trained writer five years of hard works to get her first novel published. But the luck kicked in even before the book came out. She was lucky to get a bonus that most novelists — first-timers and veterans alike —  can only dream of: Hollywood’s DreamWorks studio bought an option on her New York City-centric tale of food and intrigue.

I had a chance to chat with Tom about growing up in Westchester County and the process of writing “Food Whore,” in an interview published Thursday in The Journal News.

GO HERE to read the full interview on lohud.com.

 

‘The Little Prince’ makes USA Today

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I’m not given to bragging here, but I have to share the news that my feature for The Journal News/lohud.com got picked up by USA Today. It made the Life hompage. Check it out by going here.