Bill Evans – Peace Piece

It’d been a while since I’d done anything on a Tuesday night, over a year since I’d seen Esther (EMK), and longer still since I’d been to Smalls Jazz Club.

But as we walked down the dusty stairs into the brick-walled bunker, a flood of memories came back to me: the Sunday I discovered Smalls, Johnny O’Neal’s “I’m Your Mailman,” the four-mile bike back to Williamsburg in the rain. I don’t know Smalls’ reputation in the Jazz world, or much about Jazz really, but I have a strong appreciation for the cool, calm, and friendly environment that relieved me during my early adjustment to the chaotic and unsympathetic New York City.

Esther laughed. I was surprised to find out that Esther, who lived in Brussels, had been here before with her mother.

“Yeah. She said the Jazz was terrible!”

We both laughed. Fortunately, this night the Jazz wasn’t terrible. Half a glass of whiskey later, the sedative sounds of the improvised quartet had me entranced.

Whereas electronic music is the work of meticulous planning, Jazz is a mastery over the unexpected. The eye contact between musicians suggests a strong comradery that keeps them in sync despite the rise and fall of sounds and emotions.Their focus is intense, but the musicians convey a sense of ease. At least for me, it’s both jolting and relaxing.

By the end of our glasses, we’re near asleep. We head out.

After we said goodbye at the train station, I immediately put on my “dreams” playlist, a collection I first started when Esther was living in NYC two years ago.

Bill Evans fluttered my ears, a final toast to good whiskey, terrible jazz, and continued adventures with an old friend.


Mount Kimbie – Break Well

It’s the first day of fall. Not technically, but last night a crisp air flooded NYC and turned the leaves in Queens. From the Ridgewood M station platform, the flat roofs give way to the treetops in Highland Park.

Usually, I’ll throw on the headphones and avoid shifting eyes for the 48-minute commute into the city. Today, I actually see the other passengers: a boy running a toy truck along the window, a quiet woman juggling papers, coffee, and a cell phone, a brace-faced teen laughing with her friend while studying for a test.

Between the weather, the view, the unusually serene train ride, and the following song, my mind saves this memory as the mark of a new season.


Sampha – Without


Drake’s “Too Much“, a sultry, brooding number, is all encompassing in its appeal. From red lights in the hood to dorm rooms, its bass rattles.

Some of the mass appeal needs to be attributed to Sampha, a singer, songwriter, producer from South London. It’s his voice in the hook. His sample. Arguably his song.

Sampha’s fame is a rising, lifted by high profile collabs. His work as a producer is omni-present – Kanye, Drake, Frank Ocean – and his beats are organically thought provoking, percussive and warmly ambient. They’re intimate in their simplicity.

But if Sampha wants to arrive at the top, he has one final hurdle. He’s still referred to indirectly, “Watch Drake Collaborator Sampha’s Intense ‘Blood On Me’ Video” (Rolling Stone). After announcing his forthcoming debut LP, Process, it’s clear he’s making a move for something more.


Something for Me



As is often the case, the obvious choice was clear. It was safe. Reliable. Less likely we’d botch a Saturday.

Ocean Beach has a direct line to the Pacific. Highly exposed to South Swells, it picks up the smallest traces of energy. And with its impressive sandbars (two), it amplifies that oceanic power, sometimes opening up passageways for surfers to slip through to some other-worldly place.

OB was the call. It had to be.

At least that’s what the app said. Like most things these days, Surfline’s forecasting tools use data to predict the future. An equation is created, fine-tuned, greased and oiled, until a desired success rate is achieved. The hypothesis matches the outcome. A science teacher shakes with satisfaction.

Screw romantic waxing, adventure ain’t the same! Increased accessibility means more people. More people mean more crowds. And more crowds mean statistically there’s a higher chance of surfing next to an asshole.

So, we went against reason and drove to China Beach, a small sliver of sand East of the Golden Gate Bridge, known more for the elderly Eastern European swimmers that inhabit its frigid waters, than for its surf.

Quietly we slipped into neoprene suits and paddled a hundred feet down the coast. Just out of sight, past black swatches of seaweed, recoiling, swirling, Medusa-like, long and monstrous, was a tiny wave.

It’s a weird wave – the takeoff spot fingertips from the point. You paddle towards barnacles and seaweed, harnessing the tidal energy just before it breaks, swerving left to avoid boils in the water.

At first I was afraid. It didn’t make sense. I was used to the one-dimensional approach of Ocean Beach. I pictured rocks raking out the bottom of my surfboard. But after a few lefts, I began to ease into the routine, moving closer and closer to the point, where the wave first started to break.

Not once did I think about Ocean Beach, which was probably firing amid hoots and hollers from a jacked-up lineup. I’d discovered something far more interesting. Something that was tangibly my own.


Motion in the South

Motion in the South from The Aftermath Music on Vimeo.

‘As little kids we used to catch him staring. Unblinking and wide eyed, he’d watch couples argue at our favorite Chinese restaurant. We ridiculed him for staring, telling him it was weird and unnerving, but years later I’m realizing that even at a young age he was just a keen observer with an eye for critical details.

This same razor-sharpe awareness for people and place is evident in a recent edit he made about his study abroad experience in South Africa, earning him a spot as the Adventure of the Week.’



Always on my mind

Sometimes there are songs that spark something sweet in you for a few days, weeks, months and then are gone in the blink of an eye. You’ll find them again going through an old iTunes folder, or clicking through posts friends made on your Facebook wall years ago. Gleaming gems, a past obsession, a slice of you you’d long forgotten. I hope I find these sparklers again in a few years, and think about the weeks when the weather slipped from summer into fall and I was biking down bumpy cobblestone streets, scraping my knees, staying out late, and thinking I was pretty lucky.