MutantSpaceBoy at the Soda Bar 4/24/09

Right after seeing Prize Country, I went back to the Soda Bar to check out MutantSpaceBoy’s first show.

Soda Bar 42409© Michael Klayman-033

That’s the best group shot I have, unfortunately. But, it’s Harley Magsino on bass, Gabriel Sundy on Sax and guitar, and two other guys I haven’t met yet.

Soda Bar 42409© Michael Klayman-013

The new album is Gabriel’s multi-year project that has finally come out on CD. Some of the music goes back to 2004, so as might be expected, it sounds very different from what the live band was doing. Half the set was songs from the album, and the other half was improv.

Soda Bar 42409© Michael Klayman-012

The lights here have an incredibly ugly color scheme, so I found myself converting most of them to black and white, leaving just a few with a hint of color. The lighting is very uneven across the stage, but the couple bright spots make it perfect for some experimentation.

Soda Bar 42409© Michael Klayman-027

Soda Bar 42409© Michael Klayman-042

Harley is a sick bassist, and I could just stand there and be mesmerized by his chops and ability to know when to hold back on using them. Since he was standing under the brightest spotlight the whole time, I decided to go for the high-contrast/Blue Note look. He’s got a pretty bass too, one of these days I’m going to have to ask to play it. I’ve got a really funny story about the last time I played a 6-string bass, but I’m not going to tell it here.

Soda Bar 42409© Michael Klayman-008

Nailed it! Catching drummer tricks is hard when it’s your first time seeing him play and you don’t know when they’ll be happening.

Soda Bar 42409© Michael Klayman-006

The music is hard to describe, especially for me. It reminded me most of the Jeff Beck: Wired album, which also had crafty guitar work layered on rock beats played by jazz musicians. It’s four excellent players listening to each other and reacting, so it has some brilliant moments and some uninspired moments but it’s always interesting. They played some songs from the CD and maybe it was just because it was a different lineup but they sounded quite different from the CD.

The crowd loved it.

Soda Bar 42409© Michael Klayman-031

Soda Bar 42409© Michael Klayman-038

Prize Country at the Radio Room 4/25/09

I was shooting a band at the Soda Bar this night, but wasn’t feeling the second band , so I took a stroll down the street to the Radio Room to see what was going on there. Luckily, Prize Country was just getting started.

Radio Room 42409© Michael Klayman-027

I love it when timing works out perfectly like this.

Radio Room 42409© Michael Klayman-002

Since the spotlights seemed brighter than usual, I tried something new, to shoot a set with the idea that I wouldn’t post-process anything, and just present them as they come out of the camera. So for this set of images, there is no exposure, color, or cropping tweaks, this is what I got when I shot it., except for a few with a quick black and white conversion. Getting it right the first time sure saves me a lot of time later on, My total processing time for this set was about 30 minutes, most of which was just going through and deleting the fuzzy/redundant ones.

Radio Room 42409© Michael Klayman-005

I’ve heard good things about this band from the boys in Hostile Combover, and they are a fun band to watch. The lead guitarist and bassist are jumping around the whole time, making for some fun shots.

Radio Room 42409© Michael Klayman-007

I wouldn’t try to beat him in a limbo contest.

Radio Room 42409© Michael Klayman-011

Radio Room 42409© Michael Klayman-020

The music is fast, heavy punk, so it’s not the kind of thing that is super catchy on the first listen, at least for me. But it’s hard not to have fun when the band is clearly enjoying itself so much.

Radio Room 42409© Michael Klayman-026

Radio Room 42409© Michael Klayman-028

Even if you don’t like the style of the music, this is a band to go see just for their on-stage energy and commitment.

Writer, Calico Horse, Menomena at the Casbah 4/18/09

Last Saturday was Record Store Day, so I went down to M-theory to say hi to David who was helping out as a clerk. I wanted to play Menomena in Foosball, but my friends who are good at Foosball don’t like Menomena and vice versa. I checked out a couple of the in-store performances and scavenged the used CD and record bins. I haven’t done that in ages, and it used to be a favorite pastime of mine.

Later on, Heather and I went out for Date Night burgers, then checked out the Tango Del Rey in preparation for Monday’s show. They’re going to start having a weekly jazz jam there, so that should be fun. By the time we got the Casbah, we had just enough time to buy a Menomena T-shirt before Writer started.

Writer at the Casbah 41809© Michael Klayman-001

I’ve seen them a couple times with Swim Party, but they always had guests playing, and a different electric guitarist. This was my first time hearing them in their normal line-up.

Writer at the Casbah 41809© Michael Klayman-006

Not bad, but needs a bass player.

Writer at the Casbah 41809© Michael Klayman-009

Writer at the Casbah 41809© Michael Klayman-010

With a band name like Writer, I’d expect to be blown away by the lyrics. The only recording of theirs I have is one song on a split 7″, and it’s just pretty repetitive lyrically, so maybe I just haven’t heard enough. But, I hope their album is better in that respect so they’re not just some….

Writer at the Casbah 41809© Michael Klayman-012

…faceless band. Ha, I just made that UP! (Sorry, I’ve been watching a lot of  “The Critic” reruns. Great show!)


Calico Horse was up next, and although I’ve heard a lot of buzz about them, I didn’t know a thing about them or their music.


Calico Horse at the Casbah 41809© Michael Klayman-007

The trumpet player only sat in on one or two songs, and I liked what he added to the music.

Calico Horse at the Casbah 41809© Michael Klayman-003

Since it’s been over a week since this show, I’m having a hard time remembering exactly what I thought of this band when I saw them. I can see how both they and Writer were a good match for this bill, especially how these guys (and girl) take a sparse pop sound and add some electronics to get a dreamy, slightly ominous spin on things. That’s not to say that both openers sound the same, I’m just better at hearing similarities than differences.

Calico Horse at the Casbah 41809© Michael Klayman-011

Calico Horse at the Casbah 41809© Michael Klayman-018

While not quite the kind of music that floats my boat, I’d check them out again if they were on a good bill. I know there’s plenty of people  who think this is one of the better local bands right now.


I’m trying to remember how I got into Menomena, and I think it was from seeing Natalie shoot them last time.

Menomena at the Casbah 41809© Michael Klayman-007

And it looks like we stood in just about the same spot too.

Menomena at the Casbah 41809© Michael Klayman-018

This is one of the best, most interesting bands I’ve had a chance to see this year. The songs are perfectly crafted masterpieces which manage to be catchy and strucurally skewed at the same time. They’re full of little twists and turns that add instead of take away from the overall sound. They thanked the crowd for not going to Coachella.

Menomena at the Casbah 41809© Michael Klayman-020

Plus, it was great fun to see how they pull off the songs on the record in a live setting.

Menomena at the Casbah 41809© Michael Klayman-046

Their albums are full of inrticate little sounds, and while they couldn’t do it all, they managed to make them sound even fuller than the albums by changing instruments and using a laptop. All three are strong singers too, and it was fun to hear how they split up the vocal and music duties.

Menomena at the Casbah 41809© Michael Klayman-024

We met Danny, the drummer, when we bought a t-shirt, and he’s a very nice guy, although I guess he’s the worst foosball player in the band since he didn’t make their team. On stage, he’s like Thelonius Monk, constantly getting up and walking around, and looking like he’s kind of not all there, but when he’s at the kit, he knows exactly what to do. At one point, his finger started bleeding, so he rubbed the blood under his eyes. I was stuck on the far side of the stage, so I couldn’t get any decent close-ups of him, but their myspace has a nice polaroid of it.

Menomena at the Casbah 41809© Michael Klayman-027

This guy played the keys, guitar, and xylophone as well as many of the vocal duties. Not the most expressive guy on stage, he basically had the same faint smile on his face the whole time.

Menomena at the Casbah 41809© Michael Klayman-009

The bass duties were handled by this guy, on the P-bass, baritone sax, and Fatar bass pedals. When he hit them, I got a nice rush from the subwoofers that were right in front of us.

Menomena at the Casbah 41809© Michael Klayman-041

Heather thinks they sound like Peter Gabriel, which I don’t see at all, except for maybe the quirky poppiness. This was the most enjoyable set I’ve seen at the Casbah in a long time, and it was a blast getting to share it with a sold-out house. 

Daniel Jackson at Tango Del Rey 4/20/09- Part 3

Finally it was time for the man of the hour, Daniel Jackson.

Daniel Jackson at Tango del Rey 42009© Michael Klayman-1

In Japan, they call him the mysterious Mr. Jackson. He is a soft-spoken man who moves slowly and deliberately. His volume may be low, but the ideas come through loud and clear. To start the set, he and Marshall Hawkins played a piano/sax duet. They played for a few seconds to gauge the sound of the room, and the audience gave them a round of applause just to say that they’ve been waiting to show him some love for a while and didn’t want to wait any longer.

Daniel Jackson at Tango del Rey 42009© Michael Klayman-2

Once the full band came up, there was a surprise.

Daniel Jackson at Tango del Rey 42009© Michael Klayman-4

Yup, two bass players. Marshall Hawkins on the blond bass, and John B. Williams behind Daniel Jackson. Russell Bizzet on drums, Gilbert Castellanos on trumpet, and Joshua White on piano. Needless to say, this is no pickup band. It’s a collection of masters supporting a legend.

Russell’s wife, Carla, sang on some tunes as well.

Daniel Jackson at Tango del Rey 42009© Michael Klayman-6

Mr. Jackson quipped something along the lines of  “We wanted a woman on stage. After all, where would we be without them?”

Daniel Jackson at Tango del Rey 42009© Michael Klayman-8


Daniel Jackson at Tango del Rey 42009© Michael Klayman-14

I’d like to point out that Joshua White is something special. He’s still in his early 20’s, but plays with the musicality and maturity of someone three times his age. Some people are just so talented, it can’t help but show up early and in full force. He wouldn’t be sharing this stage otherwise.

Daniel Jackson at Tango del Rey 42009© Michael Klayman-15

Marshall liked what he heard from Joshua too.

Daniel Jackson at Tango del Rey 42009© Michael Klayman-17

I just hope he remembers me once he’s famous enough to have his choice of photogs to shoot his album covers.

Daniel Jackson at Tango del Rey 42009© Michael Klayman-20

I have a feeling that there wasn’t much time from rehearsal with the full band. Mr. Jackson had to give some on-the-spot instructions a couple times. Once a song started though, it was as if they’d been playing together for months.

Daniel Jackson at Tango del Rey 42009© Michael Klayman-21

Gilbert has called Mr. Jackson a musical inspiration and he was playing with extra fire, even though he was in a supporting role tonight.

Daniel Jackson at Tango del Rey 42009© Michael Klayman-23

Daniel Jackson at Tango del Rey 42009© Michael Klayman-25

Daniel Jackson at Tango del Rey 42009© Michael Klayman-24

It seems that the more I enjoy a particular night of music, the better my photos turn out. That’s definitely the case with this set. I was having a blast just being this close to this group of musicians, even sharing a couple smiles with Marshall during some solo sections.

Daniel Jackson at Tango del Rey 42009© Michael Klayman-37

Daniel Jackson at Tango del Rey 42009© Michael Klayman-35

Of course, everyone was in a jubilant mood.

Daniel Jackson at Tango del Rey 42009© Michael Klayman-39

During her speech earlier in the evening, Karin Carson told a story about how Mr. Jackson once asked her what Jazz is. No one asked me, but here’s my take on it:

Life is hard, especially for people who are considered second-class citizens due to their race or religion. My grandfather was the only holocaust survivor of his entire family and both of my parents were denied entry to college in Ukraine, for no reason other than being Jewish. Injustice and hate can wear people down until nothing is left. But for some, they can take all that cruel treatment and turn it around into something else, something beautiful.

That’s what jazz is to me. Harness all that negative energy and use it create something that can carry the spirit through the troubled times. Use the tools at your disposal, like discarded band instruments left over from the Civil War days, and make music that can articulate both the pain of your current circumstances and the hope that things will get better. And if you can relay those feelings to others through your instrument of choice then you can show them that there is still some hope and joy left in them, even if they can’t see it on their own.

Daniel Jackson at Tango del Rey 42009© Michael Klayman-47

I’m glad that there are some people in this world who can do that.

Jazz 88 All Stars at Tango Del Rey 4/20/09- Part 2

Once a good crowd of people showed up on Monday evening, the Jazz 88 All Stars took the stage at Tango Del Rey.

Jazz 88 All Stars at Tango del Rey 42009© Michael Klayman-1

I was still signing my photo mats once they started playing, so I only saw half their set. Good straightahead jazz, if a little reserved for Heather’s taste. I did enjoy their song selection, especially the Wayne Shorter tune.

Jazz 88 All Stars at Tango del Rey 42009© Michael Klayman-5

The lighting scheme was just a few colored spotlights shining from the balcony, which gave me a lot of freedom in my white balance options. I could set it to render the shirts and sheet music as white, as above, or play warm against cool as below:

Jazz 88 All Stars at Tango del Rey 42009© Michael Klayman-22

Spotlights provide a very directional illumination, which works as a great rim light when shot from the dark side, especially in black and white:

Jazz 88 All Stars at Tango del Rey 42009© Michael Klayman-27

Jazz 88 All Stars at Tango del Rey 42009© Michael Klayman-21

Shooting the lit side gives a classic jazz feel, like what you’d see on countless jazz album covers of the past 60+ years:


Jazz 88 All Stars at Tango del Rey 42009© Michael Klayman-11

Having a balcony on 3 sides gave me lots of fun angles to work with too.

Jazz 88 All Stars at Tango del Rey 42009© Michael Klayman-23

Jazz 88 All Stars at Tango del Rey 42009© Michael Klayman-30

I didn’t get a chance to meet any members of this band and they haven’t checked their myspace page in three months, so if you know them, please send me their email addresses or let them know they can see these photos here. Thanks!

SDJMG show at Tango Del Rey 4/20/09- Part 1

I’ve been working feverishly on photos, and I’m doing some new things starting with this blog post. I changed my galleries link on my website to go to my newly created pro Flickr account, so I’m working on getting all my Picasa galleries up there, which is going to take a while since I have about 200 of them to upload. Instead of uploading the photos to this blog, I’m going to start linking directly to where they live on my Flickr account, which should make it easier to see EXIF data as well as get to the full galleries. If anyone has a nice and easy workflow for this, I’m all ears. I’d much rather shoot and process photos than wrestle with HTML- I’m having trouble configuring Flickr to play with GoDaddy’s Quickblogcast. So if this post gets mangled, this new workflow is why.

Since I don’t want to ruin a full post about Monday night’s festivities, I’ll split it up into bite-size pieces. I’m also going out of order here, since I still have to work on getting Menomena and Zimbeat photos up, but I wanted to get these up first.

Monday was a fun night, with the San Diego Jazz Musician’s Guild show happening. I had a dozen of my jazz photos on display, and I won’t bore you with all the issues I had with getting them to show-ready, but it was a bit of an ordeal. It was over 90 degrees that day, and my mats were bowing and ungluing. I did get everything done by the time people started coming up to see them, so it worked out. People seemed to like the photos and I got a lot of compliments on them, so I’m definitely happy about that!

The show was organized by several people, but Karin Carson was the main lady keeping it all together. This was her first event so it wasn’t 100% smooth, but I think she did great and next time it should go even better. She even found time to sing with the jammers at the end of the night.

Jazz Jam at Tango del Rey 42009© Michael Klayman-3

In between the main bands, she gave a presentation on the Guild and how she got to where she is in the jazz community.

Ted Washington at Tango del Rey 42009© Michael Klayman-8

Just before her speech, Ted Washington gave everyone a taste of his poetry. I took the time to sit down, relax, and chat with some friends who came out to support me, so I got to hear his stuff.

Ted Washington at Tango del Rey 42009© Michael Klayman-1

I think poetry works better on the printed page, but it was interesting to see it delivered visually and verbally. Inflection and body language make up a large part of meaning, and I think my interpretation of his work might be different if I had a chance to read it first. In my excited/nervous/sweaty state of mind, I couldn’t really give him my undivided attention, but I’m sure I’ll catch another reading of his at some point.

Up next will be the posts on the two main bands of the evening, the Jazz 88 All Stars and Daniel Jackson. Stay tuned!

My first photography exhibition is next week!

I have my first photography show taking place on Monday, April 20th, as
part of the San Diego Jazz Musician’s Guild’s inaugural event. The
festivities go from 7-11pm at the Tango Del Rey, and there will be a
set by an all-star jazz band featuring Daniel Jackson on saxophone as
well as an all-ages jazz jam.

For more details on the event, check out

Not only will I be photographing the musical and spoken word
performances, but there will be a dozen of my photographs taken during
the past year of local jazz artists on display and available for
purchase. I am very excited and a bit nervous, since this is my first
time publicly displaying my work in printed form and I pretty much have
no idea what I’m doing. But that’s what makes it fun.

If I have shot your band in the past, please come out and support this free, fun, and worthwhile event and cause.

Thursday Night Jazz Jam at the South Park Bar and Grill 4/9/09

I’m trying to pump out these blog posts quickly to that I can focus on processing more shots from this weekend and being ready for an interesting couple of weeks, including my first photo show! I’ll talk about the details in a separate post, but hopefully you’re free on Monday, April 20th!

In preparation for the photo show, I met up with Karin Carson, who not only presides over the San Diego Jazz Musician’s Guild, but also the Thursday Night Jazz Jam. There are some incredibly talented people in this town who don’t have a band together to showcase their music, so this jam gives them a chance to play with each other. I’ve neglected my jazz side a bit lately, but I’m going to be fixing that.

Other than to say that the singer above is Karin Carson, who runs the jam, I’m not going to name the players. I’m just going to present them as simply as possible, without doing a lot of B&W conversion or crazy color changes. The spirit of this jam is that everyone is equal so as long they can play with at least some level of skill. Anyone, including kids, can share the stage with some top players. This is the sort of thing that nurtures the younger players and motivates them to become great. Plus, I don’t know who most of the players are, so I couldn’t name them anyway.

The kids play first, presumably so they can be up for school the next day.

I’m partial to more neutral skin tones, but South Park Bar and Grill has a great looking warm spotlight setup which contrasts perfectly against the blue neon sign behind the stage.  There are so many ways to shoot this stage, it’s incredible.

Incredible alto sax player. He made the horn giggle, squawk, stutter, and shake- all with the musicality of a seasoned bebop player.

OK, fine, one B&W. I can’t help that this stage works beautifully in black and white too.