I bought tickets for my sister and kids to see Stomp this afternoon (I have to play my own show, plus I’ve seen it already. Stomp is a MUST see show, especially if you are a drummer or love dance, rhythm and incredible creativity).
As I dropped them off I noticed how St. Marks Place has retained some of it’s uniqueness. I’m glad at least one section of NYC hasn’t been taken over by big box stores, at least not yet.

I bought tickets for my sister and kids to see Stomp this afternoon (I have to play my own show, plus I’ve seen it already. Stomp is a MUST see show, especially if you are a drummer or love dance, rhythm and incredible creativity).
As I dropped them off I noticed how St. Marks Place has retained some of it’s uniqueness. I’m glad at least one section of NYC hasn’t been taken over by big box stores, at least not yet.

Snarky Puppy - What About Me
From the live DVD “We Like It Here” (available at http://snarkypuppy.ropeadope.com/albu…)

Recorded and filmed live (free of overdubs) from October 7-10 at Kytopia Studios in Utrecht, the Netherlands, for GroundUP Music. For more information and upcoming tour dates, please visit http://groundup.ropeadope.com or http://www.snarkypuppy.com.

Written, arranged, and produced by Michael League.

Personnel:
Michael League - bass
Shaun Martin - keyboards
Bill Laurance - Fender Rhodes
Cory Henry - keyboards
Justin Stanton - trumpet
Mark Lettieri - guitar
Bob Lanzetti - guitar (solo)
Chris McQueen - guitar
Nate Werth - percussion
Larnell Lewis - drums (solo)
Mike Maher - trumpet
Chris Bullock - sax
Bob Reynolds - sax
Jay Jennings - trumpet


Engineered by Eric Hartman, Roy Van Rosendaal, Mike Harrison, & Colin Benders.
Filmed by Andy LaViolette, Brad Holt, Emily Schwarting, Joseph Lafond, and Christi LaViolette.
Mixed by Eric Hartman in Dallas, Texas.
Mastered by Scott Hull at Masterdisk New York, NY.

Holler If Ya Hear Me, the Tupac Shakur-inspired musical directed by Kenny Leon and starring Saul Williams, was forced to close Sunday after one month and only 55 performances. Last week, producer Eric Gold blamed the “financial burdens of Broadway” on the musical’s demise, which starred Williams as an ex-con in a midwestern city trying to right his life.

Tupac’s Final Words Revealed by Police Officer on Scene of Murder

Despite the musical’s untimely end, Williams remains optimistic about the show and the future of hip-hop-themed musicals in general. “I just hope more people find the way to bring it back because it was the shit,” Williams tells Rolling Stone.

The multi-hyphenate performer has already moved on to Dreamstates, an upcoming feature film about two people who meet in a dream before they meet in real life. Shot on two iPhones and edited by Jean-Marie Legelles (Blue Is the Warmest Color), the film is currently in post-production. For now, though, Williams spoke to Rolling Stone about what went right and wrong with Holler If Ya Hear Me.

Could you foresee at all that Holler If Ya Hear Me would close this early or was it a surprise?
We’ve known what was going on all along. Every day at rehearsal, Kenny Leon was saying, “Let’s be very clear with the fact that this play is probably going to be hated coming out the gates.” We see how full or empty the house is every night. Twenty-six thousand people have seen the play and, of those people, we’ve had fucking standing ovations every night and tremendous support from the people that have seen it. But the producer, Eric Gold, said to me, “We expect that the first two months are going to be really difficult.”

Why do you think more people didn’t come out to see it?
One of our producers came in really angry because he had spoken to one of the TKTS people [who man Broadway ticket-selling booths] — not saying she was a producer — and asked them, “What about Holler? Should I see that?” And the response of the person who is supposed to guide tourists to plays was like, “It’s a bit of a downer. It’s not necessarily as fun as” whatever other play they mentioned. Then she approached another one and that person was like, “Oh, it got really bad reviews.” We started a street team at the last minute to counter those TKTS people who are really supposed to be promoting everything on Broadway. I also cannot go without saying that there was something deeply embedded in a lot of the reviews that went deeper than just a dislike of the play.

What do you mean by that?
The idea of having a play that centers around, How do you stop the cycles of gun violence in our community? It’s weird to hear someone feel like the story is generic when it’s the front page of every fucking paper to date. And when you look at the reviews and compare them to everything from Do the Right Thing to Menace II Society, it’s always the same fucking review. There’s actually a generic response when I don’t think critics realize they’re playing into the hands of something that runs deeper than how this made you feel. I am speaking to that American race psyche; that thing that Harry Belafonte said to me after he saw the play, which is, “You took an afrocentric-themed play and placed it on a eurocentric stage. The problems you’ll face are larger than you think.”

Do you think the subject matter played any role in the lack of attendance?
We knew that we were entering a zone where entertainment had been fully aligned with escapism. Broadway or America prefers their stories packaged like Rocky at this point. So when we’re onstage with this thing, we knew that it was going to be a struggle and an uphill battle going into it.

Your producer also blamed it, in part, on the “financial burdens of Broadway.”
Yeah, but everyone knows you can’t come to Broadway with short money [Laughs]. In the email he sent me a few days ago, Eric said, “Look, you’ve done every fucking outlet and have had every type of review and all the media behind us in particular ways and I don’t get it. Basically, I’m starting to think that there’s some deeper sociological reasoning behind this.” And that’s where I am. I think it’s something deeper. There is no disconnect between this and Iggy Azalea, an Australian girl rapping with a southern accent, being Number One on the charts. It’s all related to where we are right now as a culture and within the culture of the arts.

With the musical closing after one month, is there a future for other hip-hop musicals?
Who are we fooling? More hip-hop musicals are inevitable if Broadway wishes to survive. Broadway may sleep. Most people I saw were like, “Yo Holler, I’ve heard about it, man. I’m going to come check it out in August or September.” They just had that thought that it was going to be there and didn’t move soon enough. But I didn’t really experience hate. It was just that sense of “Oh, it’s there; it’ll be there.” People don’t necessarily realize that actual support is needed at the beginning of a new idea.

Can you imagine a future for Holler If Ya Hear Me in a different form?
It’s clear that Tupac is never going to die. I have no idea what Eric is up to, but they went into this knowing that they could have started with a tour before Broadway, but they wanted that Broadway stamp and this is the cost of that stamp. Anything that involves struggle involves finance. America’s been on the wrong side of history lots of times. We were allies with Germany until Charlie Chaplin came out with The Great Dictator and then we were like, “Holy fuck” and we switched sides. When you do something fresh and new, you’re going to face obstacles and I promise you this story isn’t over.

Beneath the stage of Broadway’s Al Hirschfeld Theater lies a dark space with a low ceiling — a cross between a suburban rec room and a submarine. Shortly before each performance of “Kinky Boots,” 13 black-clad musicians file to their battle stations, each illuminated by a small light attached to a music stand. The expectant buzz of the audience filters down from a narrow opening at the edge of the stage.

As at any Broadway show, the musicians in the “Kinky Boots” pit are expected to play flawlessly for two-plus hours — even those who are sitting in for what may be the first time. During a recent Sunday matinee of the hit show, for instance, four of the musicians were substitutes, called in and asked to unobtrusively join a band grooving at the top of its game. After all, even Broadway musicians may want to take vacations, or spend the summer touring with Sting or the Rolling Stones.

“Subbing is a bit nerve-racking,” said Ann Klein, 52, who replaced Michael Aarons, the regular “Kinky Boots” guitarist, twice in July. Ms. Klein has worked as a replacement on Broadway for five years, in five different shows. She has a career as a singer-songwriter and will pick up work on tour with other artists. But substituting on Broadway pays pretty well — like regulars, subs earn union scale, $227.42 per performance — if you can deal with the high stakes. “You don’t have the luxury of rehearsing with the band,” Ms. Klein said. “So it’s scary.”

Brian Usifer, the music director and first keyboardist for “Kinky Boots,” conducting during a recent Sunday matinee performance at the Al Hirschfeld Theater. Credit Emon Hassan for The New York Times
“Once,” Jeff Schiller, another “Kinky Boots” sub, recalled, “I got a call half an hour into a show, when a regular was experiencing incredible kidney stone pain.” Luckily, Mr. Schiller, who goes by the nickname Houndog, lives near the theater district. He swapped in between numbers in the middle of Act One.

Thankfully, this kind of quick-change routine is rare. Most subs get some notice before they have to step in.

Mr. Schiller, 55, has filled in on more than 40 Broadway shows, including “Phantom of the Opera” and “The Book of Mormon,” and he says that most productions follow a similar system. Each regular musician is required to name five possible substitutes, who learn their parts through a process called “watching the book.”

“If there’s room,” Mr. Schiller said, “you go in and sit in the pit and make a recording of the regular.” Then the subs go home and play along.

A regular works eight performances a week, but subs can do more if they’re playing in more than one show at a time. Indeed, Mr. Schiller has had 10-performance weeks. Part of what puts him in such demand is that he’s proficient on saxophone, flute, clarinet and a raft of other instruments. This flexibility, known as doubling, opens him to a wider range of work — not to mention extra pay.

Unfortunately, there’s a major downside to the sub lifestyle: There’s no guarantee of when you’ll play next. Mr. Schiller averages two or three jobs a week, but there are weeks when he gets none. That’s why he and Ms. Klein would love to receive regular chairs.

As recently as the late 1980s, playing in a Broadway musical was not considered the most desirable gig for a musician. Most professionals sought better-paying work in jingles and recording sessions. But as that work dried up, due in part to samplers and digital-audio software, the ace musicians gravitated toward theaters near Times Square.

Substituting in the orchestra that afternoon was Gary Adler, on keyboard. Credit Emon Hassan for The New York Times

But just as the competition for spots in a live Broadway orchestra has increased, the pit itself has contracted.

“The average number of full-timers per show has gone down by half since the 1950s and ’60s,” said Robert Meffe, director of music at San Diego State University, the author of a paper on the shrinking pit orchestra and himself a former sub.

According to Local 802 of the American Federation of Musicians, there are only 349 full-time players on Broadway now. That means that all players — regulars and subs alike — must be in top form. “There’s a lot of pressure,” Martha Hyde, a frequent substitute, acknowledged.

“I subbed on ‘Matilda’ today — mostly flute,” said Ms. Hyde, who has been doing this work since 1988. “Tomorrow I’m playing second clarinet and second flute on ‘Phantom,’ and the next evening I’m playing alto sax and lots of clarinet solos on ‘Chicago.’ ”

“It’s a little bit like landing an F-14,” she added.

“But your job is not to stick out or make a big statement. You emulate the regular; you have to be willing to be a chameleon.”

Brian Usifer, 33, the music director, conductor and first keyboardist for “Kinky Boots,” makes sure his subs fit in. Every replacement starts in an audition phase. On a sub’s first night, though, he tends to allow the occasional error to pass. “It’s O.K. if a few mistakes happen early,” he said. “It breaks the tension.”

Photo

Also substituting in the orchestra that afternoon was Ann Klein, on guitar. “Subbing is a bit nerve-racking,” Ms. Klein said. “You don’t have the luxury of rehearsing with the band.” Credit Emon Hassan for The New York Times
Both cast and orchestra can see him in the video monitors, he noted, saying: “I try not to show it in my face if something goes wrong. But when you have a sub who is good and who everybody likes, I don’t have to worry about them.”

Though the pressure and lack of job security are challenging, Ms. Hyde sees some advantages to subbing. “It forces you to keep your skills razor sharp,” she said, “and you play with more people.” That can mean more contacts for future jobs.

Even so, most subs supplement their Broadway stints with other work. Mr. Schiller has worked as a composer, arranger, touring musician, copyist and instructor. Ms. Hyde is a member of a chamber trio called the New River Ensemble, which sometimes plays live to silent films by Charlie Chaplin or Buster Keaton.

The route to a regular gig is not predictable, as seniority does not necessarily determine who gets those jobs. Contractors, hired by producers to put together orchestras in tandem with music directors, make those decisions, and personal connections can trump other factors.

Despite the competition, Ms. Hyde says that she has found much camaraderie on Broadway. She has been a regular four times, in shows including “Kiss of the Spider Woman” and “1776.” Whenever she gets a chair, she hands out sub slots to musicians who have helped her in the past, but also makes an effort to aid hopefuls. “If no one gives the new people a chance,” she said, “they can’t break in.”

Tino Gagliardi certainly broke in: He played trumpet in and out of Broadway pits for 30 years, as a sub and as a regular, and now he’s president of Local 802. “Being a sub is far more difficult than being a regular,” Mr. Gagliardi said. “Regulars only have to know one book.”

“Once,” he said, “I was subbing on five different shows and was so busy that I actually walked into the wrong theater. It’s a very hard way to make a living.”

But those F-14s still need replacement pilots. The goal, as Ms. Hyde put it, is “to make it as seamless as possible.”

“If the other musicians across the pit don’t notice that there’s someone different playing the part,” she said, “you’ve done your job.”

PS Classics’ two-disc, live original Broadway cast album of Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill, starring six-time Tony Award-winning actress Audra McDonald as late singer Billie Holiday, took the #1 slot in four Billboard charts in its first week of release.

The album placed #1 in Cast Albums, #1 in Jazz, #1 in Traditional Jazz and #1 in Heatseekers. It also marks McDonald’s highest-charting solo release ever, according to Billboard.

"Whiplash" follows Andrew (Teller), a first-year college student as he begins his quest to become the core drummer of the top jazz orchestra in the country. Under the direction of a prestigious but borderline abusive instructor named Fletcher (J.K. Simmons), Andrew would do anything to become a famous musician. His commitment is put to the ultimate test when the unrelenting and eccentric band professor all but drives him to madness. Fletcher’s extreme teaching methods rattle Andrew’s faith in drumming…and in himself. In the end, the struggle is only worthwhile if Andrew is really the one-in-a-million talent that Fletcher believes him to be.