The World According to Keitho

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Posts Tagged ‘Queens’

Dr Seinfeld

Posted by keithosaunders on February 12, 2016


This morning I read a post over at Verdon’s blog which reminded me of a story that my Dad used to tell my brother and I  — this was one of his classics and we always loved when he would retell it.

When my father was a teenager and young man living in Forest Hills, Queens, his family had this dentist named Matty Seinfeld whose office was on the ground floor of the building they lived.  Dr Seinfeld, no relation to Jerry,  was a yuge (in the spirit of Trump) NY Giants fan, while my Dad was a died in the wool Brooklyn Dodgers fan.

Dr Seinfeld would have my Dad’s mouth full of instruments while maintaining a running commentary on the greatness of the Giants.  My Dad would have us in hysterics as he imitated Seinfled using this nasally, high-pitched, whiny voice:  “Goahdon, Tauhmson, Mize, wow what powah!”   All this while my Dad was splayed nervously in the chair praying that Dr Seinfeld wouldn’t remember that he was a Dodgers fan and ‘accidentally’ slip.



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Posted by keithosaunders on January 27, 2016

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It must be pretty amazing to be Donald Trump right about now.  It’s not enough that he has more money than God, he had to become a reality-TV presidential candidate too?  On paper this shouldn’t be happening.  He’s not particularly intelligent and he’s certainly not well spoken — he sounds like a thug from Queens – and he’s not even that attractive.  Yet here he is on the eve of the primaries leading the Republican field.

Once the primaries kick into full swing in a couple of weeks Trump may be singing a different tune, but for now whatever he does or says pays off in spades.  Build a wall to keep Mexican immigrants out of the USA?  Why not?! Refer to Megyn Kelly as a slut?  Whoops, there go the poll numbers…through the roof!  Skip a debate days before the Iowa Caucus?  Shrewd move.

Everything Trump touches turns to gold.  He’s like that guy in the twilight zone in the Vegas casino who wins no matter what number he plays.  I, for one, am looking forward to an entertaining primary season.   Go American people!


Posted in Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

To every gig there is an end

Posted by keithosaunders on December 12, 2015

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Being a musician and trying to maintain a career gigging is akin to Charlie Brown trying to kick that football.  Just when things are going well a club owner pulls it away.

On one hand the job rarely gets boring.  I play in a different place with different people most every night of the week.  If I have a bad night I can go home, practice the next day, wipe the slate clean and start over the next night.

The flip side is there is no job security.  I have roughly a half dozen steady gigs, some of which are once a week, some twice a month, and others once a month.  Any one of these gigs can end with hours notice.  There are no contracts, no year-end bonuses, and certainly no severance pay.  One year a dive bar back east in Queens called Brandy’s, where I had a steady Thursday, gave us a Christmas bonus of $20.00.  It was about 15 years ago but I remember it distinctly because it was the only time it ever happened!

This particular subject is top of mind because my favorite gig – a jazz quintet at a bar in Haight Ashbury called Club Deluxe – is being cut back from twice a month to once a month.  The gig is with some of my favorite Bay Area musicians and it’s a place that we can throw down hard in front of appreciative crowds.  It was always a somewhat lucrative night — they charge a cover at the door and the place is usually packed.

Due to a strange twist of fate, however, our pay has recently risen by approximately 30%.  The club fired the old doorman and it turned out he had been skimming off of the band.  For years we went home from that gig thinking it had been a good night monetarily.  Little did we know they should have been great nights.  So here we are with a defacto raise – something that happens to mus

icians with the regularity of alternate leap years –  and *now* they cut us back?!  COME ON!  But that’s the way it goes in the Charlie Brown-esque world of the jazz musician.  Gigs come and go.  Somehow the music preservers.


Posted in jazz, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Four more days

Posted by keithosaunders on August 3, 2010

There’s very little time left for me in New York City before moving to the Bay Area.  On the outside I am calm but inside is a different story.  Almost everywhere I go is for the last time — every friend and acquaintance that I see is someone I may never see again.  I have no words that are profound enough for goodbye so I just give them an extra hug.  Tears come at strange times — almost never around people.  I just hold it in.  Bottle it up.

This morning I decided at the spur of the moment to go to the Jewish cemetary in Ridgewood, Queens to visit my grandfather and grandmother, my father’s parents.  I never knew either of them — they both passed away early in life due to heart disease.  Before going I called my father asking him for some details on how to locate the graves.  He said “Don’t tell my Dad that I no longer root for the Dodgers.” 

 I took my two younger children, and thanks to a helpful cemetary worker we were able to locate the plots.  Somehow seeing these two graves made me feel connected to an earlier New York — the New York of my father’s childhood.  He grew up in Brooklyn and Queens, and in 1964 took his family west to California where there was more work and an easier lifestyle.  Standing in that cemetary with my son and daughter, thinking of my Dad and his parents, I realized that except for the 20 years between 1964 and 1984, my family has been represented here since the beginning of the 20th century. 

Somehow it felt right to be in a cemetary during my final week, thinking about the past, while nervously looking ahead to the future.  People of that generation, for the most part, lived their entire lives in their home town.  Starting with my Dad’s generation that began to change.  I should feel lucky that I’ve been able to live here as long as I did.  New York is not an easy place to move to, but it’s an even harder place to move away from.

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So you want to be in show business?

Posted by keithosaunders on May 8, 2010

Last night’s gig is a good example of life in the trenches as a musician.  Every six months or so my trio plays at a restaurant on Long Island that has jazz.  The place has great acoustics, serves us a nice meal, and is generally offer a pleasant experience.  The problem is that getting there involves a 40 mile drive into the teeth of Friday rush hour traffic. 

I had a double on the Island yesterday; a lunchtime gig with a singer in the afternoon saw to it that I didn’t have to deal with the traffic.   The bass player and drummer, however,  rode together and experienced the usual Expressway slog and arrived 15 minutes before gig time.  There isn’t much parking on the street but for years we have parked in an adjacent post office lot with no problems. 

You can probably already tell where this is going, but on the first break we discovered that there was a padlocked gate on the post office lot.  The drummer’s car had been locked in!  Fortunately I had parked on the street otherwise we all would have had to sleep in our cars. 

Needless to say this put a damper on the rest of the evening.  The poor drummer had to deal with the stress of not knowing whether or not his car would still be there  the following day.  If the car was indeed towed there would almost certainly be an accompanying ticket.  It doesn’t take a math major to factor in our paltry salary versus a steep towing fine and ticket.  As usual, the jazz economics are bleak.

After the gig  — a  good one,  all things considered — I gave the bass player and drummer rides home to Manhattan and Brooklyn respectively, before returning to my apartment in Queens.  I managed to get four hours of sleep before picking the drummer up and driving back to the Long Island post office.   The good news is twofold:  First of all, and most important, we were able to retrieve the drummer’s car with no more trouble than a stern talking to from the post office manager.  Finally:  We now have conclusive evidence that it is possible to drive 40 miles into Long Island in 40 minutes.  As long as you leave at 7:30AM.  
   Now I have to drive two hours upstate.  Why did I have to go into show business?

Posted in jazz, New York City | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Leaving New York

Posted by keithosaunders on April 27, 2010

I never thought it would ever happen.  I figured I would live here the rest of my life.   A friend of mine  told me that once you make it past the five-year mark you become an official New Yorker.  I made it past the first five years.  In that span I endured two muggings, vandalism, theft, threats from roommates, a fair amount of vibing from fellow musicians, and the non-stop mishagos that comes with living in the big town. 

And it was great.

I played with some of the best musicians in the world, and I met some of its great characters.  I hung out until all hours of the night.  Got drunk at the West End trying to meet college co-eds, invariably failing and staggering home.  There I saw Bob Berg play an electrifying sax solo and not get paid at the end of the gig.  I saw Benny Green execute one of the coolest sit-ins ever at Sweet Basil when in mid-tune he replaced Larry Willis.  I saw Woody Shaw at the old Star Cafe almost deck a guitar player who was pestering him.   I saw Elvin Jones at Fat Tuesdays play John Bonham licks.

I lived in Manhattan in a room a little larger than a walk in closet.  I lived in Brooklyn in a house with four roommates, one of whom stole from me and threatened to beat me to a pulp.  A few years later I would move back to Manhattan’s Upper West Side where I lived in an apartment nicknamed “the dungeon” by my first cousin for the amount of direct sunlight it received:  two minutes a day. 

I played at great venues and I played at dives.  In the early years I gigged at a McDonald’s where I had to climb over a steel railing to get to a piano that was encased in a loft suspended 15 feet above the restaurant.  I worked at Princess Pamela’s Little Kitchen when the East Village was still dangerous.  I accompanied a blues singer who would verbally abuse her yuppie clientele.  I was fired for asking for a five dollar raise. 

I worked at the Empire Diner on 10th avenue from 11PM-3Am on Saturday nights where I would meet my future wife.  A few months after we began dating we drove across country in a Nissan Stanza that had a sun roof which we nicknamed the Stanzaterium; a drive we will reprise this August.

I played at the Village Vanguard, The Blue Note, The Village Gate, Sweet Basil, Fat Tuesdays, Birdland, Lincoln Center, and Smalls.  I never played at Carnegie Hall.  Didn’t practice enough. 

I met my best friend in the upper deck of Shea Stadium between games of a Mets/Cubs double-header.  Together we attended a myriad of sporting events.  We saw game I of the 1996 World Series, a game which the Yankees lost by 11 runs to the Atlanta Braves.  Little did we know that game would be one of only three Series games that the Yankees would lose in the next six years. 

While I lived here the Mets won one World Series and played in another.  The football Giants won three Super Bowls (!) and the Knicks, though they made the playoffs almost every year in the 1990’s, made the finals only once, losing to the Houston Rockets in seven games.  Most improbably, in 1994 a few days after my first-born arrived, the Rangers won their first Stanley Cup in 44 years.

My three children, unlike me, are native New Yorkers.  Just as I did, they will have started out on one coast only to emerge on another.  Unlike me, however, they carry the cache of being from New York.  They are savvy city kids who will not be easily rattled and are much greater equipped than I to deal with this move.

Now I find myself in the unenviable position of starting over.  This fall, and for the foreseeable future I will be living somewhere in the Bay Area.  I do not know any musicians there and I have no gigs.  Part of me is relishing this new challenge.  After all, I knew only one musician when I moved to New York 26 years ago.  All I ask is for a good bassist and drummer, a few laughs,  and the occasional gig to get me started.  I know it can work — there are great musicians all over the world.  There will be some where I’m going.  Just got to find them.

Posted in jazz, music, New York City | Tagged: , , , , , , | 12 Comments »

Lost in Queens: The CD that refuses to ask for directions.

Posted by keithosaunders on April 15, 2010


Since the dawn of the automobile man has been imbued with a sense of exploration — to seek out new locales, to drive to them, and to return to his abode of residence.  In New York City, directly to the east of Island of Manhattan there exists a borough whose roads are so poorly designed that the Romans themselves dared not traverse them.  

I give you….Queens.

Let the driver who dares venture off Queens main artery, the Long Island Expressway, possess a will of iron, for it is he who embarks on a collision course with his destiny: eternal damnation.  

Presenting a jazz CD inspired by the feeling of free-fall ensued during this doomsday day trip.  Its compositions and arrangements, forged by pianist Keith Saunders, out of a thousand left turns onto one-way streets going THE WRONG WAY.  Out of the awareness that he traversed roads that would have challenged Sacajawea, comes art personified.  Swingin’.

I invite you to listen to the samples from Lost In Queens.  It is a work of angst and a labor of love.  But for the love of Robert Moses, stay the hell on the expressway.

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The Group

Posted by keithosaunders on February 11, 2010

My trio CD, Lost In Queens, is coming out this April and I thought I would preview one of the tracks on this blog. The song is called The Group and it’s a fast, hard-driving minor tune featuring a cavalcade of B flat minor. I am extremely proud of the take, and, in fact, I am very happy with the entire CD.

Those of you familiar with Queens, New York City’s largest borough will know that we have some of the most confusing set of streets in the metro area. For instance, you have 44th, Ave, 44th, Rd, and 44th Dr, all running parallel to each other, and any one of them is liable to intersect with 44th st. One of the compositions, In Search of the Lost Camel Paths of Maspeth, evokes my continuing struggle to find an alternative route to the Long Island Expressway during rush hour. Suffice to say there is no happy ending.

Here is a link to the sound files. Feel free to purchase the CD if you like what you hear. (I guess I should clarify at this time that the CD is not free)

Lost in Queens — The Keith Saunders Trio

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