Thank you.

Hey everyone, 

Greetings from steamy NYC. Some news to report to you all.

I’m in the planning stages of releasing Aerial Photograph’s next record, which will have a lot of the material from the ‘City of New York, 2013’ series. I’m excited to put this music out there. What a crazy year it was! In all honesty, it was pretty overwhelming. I think when it ended I was so over-the-top saturated with writing new music, promoting shows, logistics, organizing recordings and gigs, connecting with New Yorkers in every possible way, and still maintaining my regular playing and teaching schedule, that I pretty much checked out from Aerial Photograph for a few months to catch my breath. That explains the abrupt halt to any blog updates… 

But I’ve caught my breath and I’m psyched to get back to doing cool things with this group again. We are traveling to South Korea in October this year to perform in the Jarasum International Jazz Festival(!).  I’m also working on getting some other things scheduled closer to home, so stay tuned! 

In the meantime, a few quick links… 

All of the music from the 2013 series is online! It’s all available (36 tracks, and all of the accompanying stories, posters, sheet music and pictures) for a measly $25 here. Pretty great. And if you decide to buy it, please let me know what you think! 

Here is the Aerial Photograph Facebook page. It gets updated pretty regularly with what’s going on in our world. Be our friend! please? 

Thank you a million times over for all of your support! I really appreciate every bit of it. 

Onward and upward,



Meet The Players: Jay Rattman


Jay Rattman is an incredible musician in NYC. I found his answers to these questions very interesting and thought provoking. Thanks a lot Jay for sharing!
When did you start playing music/woodwinds? What got you to start playing?
My folks had and still have a piano in their house, and I made up songs on that from when I was very little. So I started taking lessons when I was in first grade, but that only lasted about 6 months. I think learning to read words at the same time as music might have been more than I could handle at the time, so I was pretty discouraged, but I continued playing piano by ear. I started playing clarinet in 5th grade band, but only because that was required before learning saxophone which I got to a few months after that. I wanted to play saxophone because in the area I grew up, Stroudsburg/Delaware Water Gap, PA I had many opportunities to hear Phil Woods. Specifically, his big band came out with a CD, and played at this local jazz festival he cofounded, and I would listen to that album, “Celebration,” every night as I went to sleep that year, and think, “I’ve got to learn how to play the saxophone.”
Who are some of your biggest influences as a jazz player? As a musician in general? 
In Delaware Water Gap is a fairly well-known club called The Deer Head Inn, and for many decades John Coates Jr. was the house pianist there. People who have heard him know that he’s a genius, really one of the finest pianists anywhere. But for many reasons — he’s always been shy, was content staying put and playing at the Deer Head and writing choral arrangements for Shawnee Press across the street from there, etc. — he never gained that much notoriety outside of the area. Now he lives in California, having rekindled a relationship with his first wife from the early 60s. Keith Jarrett was known to go check him out regularly as a young man, and even sit in with him on drums and soprano saxophone. I’ve played recordings of John from the 60s or 70s for people, and they say, “Oh, so that’s where Keith got it from!” Anyway, many of the best listening experiences of my life so far have been at the Deer Head hearing John from the time I was in Kindergarden or so, up until he moved when I was a couple years into college. I also really love Paul Motian and just about everything he ever did. I can’t count the number of times I must have gone to the Vanguard to see him before he died two years ago. I especially looked forward to the couple weeks at the end of summer each year he did with Bill Frisell and Joe Lovano. I think Motian encompassed all of jazz history in his playing, but with this beautiful irreverence. Nothing was sacred. He edited out every note that wasn’t completely necessary, leaving only the most important ones. And his time was so precise, and his underlying feel so deep, that the notes he did play implied everything that he was leaving out.
Paul Desmond is an influence too in the way he expressed harmony in his lines. A lot of the time, he’s improvising compound lines that imply 2- or 3- or even 4-voiced chorales. And with such clarity of logic. I love improvisors like that! I put Charlie Haden and Coleman Hawkins in a similar circle.
Thelonious Monk, more and more, represents everything I love about jazz: his time feel; the sparseness, but again with the most meaningful notes at the most swinging moments; the experimentalism and modernity, both growing very organically out of an older tradition. Of course, I also love all of the saxophonists who played with him, especially Johnny Griffin and Charlie Rouse. But also, I’ve always loved the way Steve Lacy interpreted Monk’s compositions, among other things.
And I can’t mention Steve Lacy without proclaiming my worship of his and all of our forebear Sidney Bechet. The way Bechet could float over the time and instantaneously snap into the most precisely grooving syncopations and eighth note lines is a thing of wonder. The only other player who comes to my mind who can do that so beautifully is Sonny Rollins.
As obsessed as I am with counterpoint — whenever there’s not music or noise going on, I can’t stop myself from harmonizing little snippets of melodies or parts of scales in my head in 2 or 3 or 4 voices over and over again as a sort of constant and involuntary exercise — I of course worship Bach. As a saxophonist/clarinetist, I am especially drawn to things he wrote for mostly-monophonic instruments, like the cello suites or violin sonatas and partitas, that express many-voiced chorales within a single line — I am sure Paul Desmond had to have spent some time with those. I also love the Trio Sonatas for organ — my girlfriend Janet, who is an organist, and I like to sing through those together at the piano. And of course the Well-Tempered Clavier, The Goldberg Variations, Art of the Fugue, etc. And the Brandenburg Concertos. And the St. Matthew Passion. I think that if I were told I had to choose only one composer to ever hear or play again, it would be Bach. And obviously, he didn’t even write anything for saxophone or clarinet. So that puts me out of a job, but I’m fine with that.
I’ve spent a lot of time listening Bartok. I love his Concerto for Orchestra, with that fugue in the brass in the first movement! And of course the string quartets. From there I got into a lot of Ligeti. I love Messiaen too — I had listened to a bunch of his piano music, and of course the Quartet for the End of Time, but since I started dating Janet, I’ve gotten to hear a lot of his organ music. There’s nothing like hearing that live! One piece we heard at a concert downtown had this “chord of death” in it, symbolizing the crucifixion. It was the most scared I’ve ever been while listening to music. It lasted a good 30 seconds, and you think the world is ending. Every time I closed my eyes while that chord was going on, I had to open them again, it was so frightening. Any composer who can accomplish that must know what he’s doing! Completely apart from that, I love Stravinsky for his cleanness and elegance. “Agon” and “Apollo” are two of my favorite pieces of his, probably because I’ve seen the ballet do them so many times, I can really see what is going on in the music.
I also love the Beatles and Stevie Wonder and Paul Simon. And I guess the Beach Boys too: any time I hear one of these new indie rock bands, as a general rule of thumb, if they sound like the Beach Boys, I’ll probably like them. Like The Fleet Foxes. They’re good in my book for that reason.
When did you get into jazz? Were there any first recordings that really inspired you? 
 I’ve loved jazz for as long as I can remember. I attribute that to my parents taking me to the Deer Head and other concerts from the time I was born. They took me to hear Bob Dorough when I was 10 days old, and they say I was so quiet that they kept taking me to other concerts.
Could you talk a little about your experience growing up near the musically rich Delaware Water Gap? 
Sure. I consider myself incredibly lucky to have grown up there, with the chance to hear so much incredible live music, and in a community small enough that the musicians were all very accessible. Phil Woods and Dave Liebman both mentored me from around middle school age. Another wonderful saxophonist out there named Nelson Hill was my main teacher from when I was in 5th grade until I graduated high school. I took ear training and composition with Caris Visentin, who is married to Dave Liebman, and is a great composer and oboist in her own right. Rick Chamberlain is a trombonist out there, who plays great trad-jazz, plays lead in Phil’s big band, and also is the principal in the New York City Ballet orchestra. He is one of the reasons I got into early jazz, but he also always impressed on me the importance of aspiring to be a solid, versatile, complete musician, who can execute anything on one’s instrument, play stylistically appropriately in different settings, and generally know what’s going on. Pat Dorian taught music at the local university out there, ESU, when I was growing up and he presented a lot of amazing concerts and guest lectures that he made open to the public. And he always made sure the I, and the other young kids out there who were serious about studying jazz got to meet or even get little lessons with visiting artists. Unfortunately with budget cuts coming from the Republicans in Harrisburg, and a new university president who doesn’t seem to get it, there are a lot of changes for the worse going on around there, especially the defunding of the Al Cohn Memorial Jazz Collection in their library, where all of Al’s materials are, along with a lot of other Pocono jazz-related items. Thank goodness the Deer Head is still is a world-class place to check out a band for three sets in a row in a very cool, small-town, mom-and-pop sort of setting. And Bob Dorough is turning 90 on December 12! But you’d never guess it: he’s still singing and playing piano and leading his band and recording and writing witty, hip tunes, and I expect he will continue in this fashion for another couple of decades at this rate. I love him!
Do you have a favorite performance you’ve done in the last few years?
No one thing springs immediately to mind. I enjoy any gig where the musicians are listening carefully to each other, and anything could happen at any moment. I’ve enjoyed the Aerial Photograph gigs for that reason. I try to steer clear of gigs where I know that won’t be the case.
Do you have any specific practicing routine that you work through?  How do you practice?  Also, I know you compose a lot – do you have any particular compositional approach/process?
I’m constantly adjusting and experimenting with things to try to make my practicing as efficient and productive as possible. I’ve heard it said, and couldn’t agree more strongly with the idea that as long you have good control and mastery of your tone and your time, everything else falls right into place. So a big part of my routine on all of my instruments is long-tone exercises: different ones aimed at evenness of timbre from note to note throughout the entire range; smoothness connecting notes of all different intervals; gradual and extreme dynamic contrasts; intonation of every note against every possible interval with a drone; etc. A similar slew of articulation exercises.
And then for time, I incorporate the metronome different ways into various technical things (scales, arpeggios, tonal and chromatic intervalic sequences that I figure out as a sort of ear training), as well as into improvising, which I’ll go into as briefly as I can manage. I typically don’t use the metronome to click on downbeats. Instead I’ll hear the clicks as occurring on a given sixteenth or triplet subdivision, or as occurring every two, three, four, five, six or seven subdivisions, for instance. Now, there are two camps about metronomes. Some folks love them and say you can’t develop steady time without one. Others say that the metronome becomes a crutch and that you never develop an internal, self-sufficient sense of time if you use one. I think both camps are right. So I like these fancy-pants metronomes you can find now, like Metronomics for iPhone where you can program gaps in the clicks, so that it clicks however many times you want before staying silent for however many clicks you want. I figure that way, you get the best of both worlds as you increase the length of the gaps: you’ve got to provide your own groove in your head while the metronome is silent, and then when it eventually comes back in, it will tell you with brutal honesty just how you did.
Very briefly, as far as incorporating the metronome into practicing things that prepare you for improvising, my philosophy is that I want to improvise with my ears, and not my fingers, so I want to train my ears and avoid forming habits in my fingers to the extent that is possible. To me, that means playing notes only at a slow rate. So I’ll practice playing through tunes, or chord progressions of different types with only quarter notes, or dotted quarter notes, or only upbeats, or something along those lines, but with the metronome playing on all sorts of wacky subdivisions, and in various meters, so that I am forced to select only the strongest — or most harmonically meaningful — few notes in any given measure, all while hearing and playing precisely within fast-moving rhythmic subdivisions. This way I am hearing and selecting the most harmonically evocative notes at any given time, over a very precisely subdivided rhythmic framework, all while playing as few notes as possible, so as to avoid developing predictable habits. In a performance, the subconscious is able to fill in the rest of the connecting notes in the rhythmic framework. And when I practice, I’ll put various obstructions on what I’m doing, like limiting myself to certain intervals, or certain chord tones, or keeping one note the same through different chords and harmonizing above or below it, etc.  I hope that all makes sense.
And sometimes, I do none of this. I got mono and strep throat at the same time last winter, and didn’t practice at all for a month or so, but when I came back to it, everything felt better. So I was forced to realize that sometimes, it can be good to step away and come back fresh. I’ve realized that sometimes, maybe even frequently, the best thing you can do is not practice, and just listen extremely closely to some good recordings instead.
As far as my compositional process, I write down little ideas or parts of things, and then come back to them when I’ve got to finish something for a deadline, self-imposed or otherwise. I find that my most successful attempts at composing result from singing melodies, or improvising two-voiced melodies at the piano, and then harmonizing them after the fact. I usually record myself doing these things, and then go back and transcribe and edit and tweak after the fact, so that whatever I write is coming from a spontaneous, improvisatory process to start with. I find that makes a big difference for me in the naturalness of the phrasing, pacing, and rhythm — it’s very hard for me to just write something down that doesn’t sound contrived. But sometimes for melodic material, I’ll start out by musically spelling words or names or numbers that hold some significance or curiosity for me, and then I’ll develop it from there. Usually those things end up so buried or mutated, you’d never know they were there, since ultimately I want the melody to be strong and singable above all other considerations.
What have you been listening to these days? 
The last few days, I’ve been going through Sibelius’s symphonies, because they are beautiful and I feel like I should know them. I don’t believe in any historical inevitability in the progression of music or anything else. For instance, Schoenberg followed a natural progression through Beethoven and Brahms and Wagner and Debussy and all the rest, but what he arrived at, as wonderful as it was, was certainly not the only possible result, despite what he or others might have believed. At any given time, history could have progressed in a different direction, changing everything after it. Sibelius represents to me just another possible direction things could have gone at the end of the 19th century, and the fact that he took that path after the beginning of the 20th had already intervened makes it all the more interesting to me for that reason.
I’ve also been trying to stay more on top of all the cool new jazz out there, especially that of my peers. I love listening to Lucas Pino, especially his nonet, and Jonathan Ragonese, and Alex LoRe, and Anna Webber. And it’s been great to hear Paul Jones throughout the year in your band! There are so many others. Bobby Avey, who I grew up with out in PA is writing some incredible stuff.
Do you have any book recommendations?
My all-time favorite book is John Steinbeck’s “East of Eden.” It’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever read. And it just flies by! I also recommend Thomas Mann’s “Doctor Faustus” and “Magic Mountain.” A day didn’t go by that I didn’t think about something in those books for a good three months after I finished reading each of them. I’m gearing up to read “Buddenbrooks” soon — those books are long and fairly dense, but rewarding.
What are some of your musical goals?
To surprise myself more of the time.

Meet the Players: Eric Lemmon, violist

Eric Lemmon is great violist who has been playing a lot with Aerial Photograph this year.  I really enjoyed his answers to the questions I posed to him. Learn more about his music and musical life at  – Thanks Eric!!!

eric lemmon

When did you start playing music/viola? What got you to start playing? 

I started playing piano when I was seven and picked up the viola when I was 12.  It’s a little fuzzy as to what really precipitated my starting piano, but I think my parents made my brother and I both take piano.  I studied with this amazing old pianist named Mrs. Barnhart.  I think that she was the one who really cultivated my love for music, as she let me write my own pieces, and didn’t kick my ass about boring technical stuff while I was young.  Maybe she was and I just didn’t realize it because she was an exceptional teacher. In 7th grade, I had started doing too many extra curricular activities, so my parents forced me to choose between viola and piano.  I cried my eyes out and then I chose viola because I could play with other people.

Who are some of your biggest influences as a violist? As a musician in general?

As a violist, it’ll have to be my teachers and instructors.  Each one has imparted really different important aspects of technique and musicianship.

As far as who I want to sound like?  It’s funny, I’ve looked up to beautiful aspects of my peers’ playing more than William Primrose, Kim Kashkashian, Roberto Diaz, or any other famous soloist.  In composition, Beethoven is the one who cemented my decision pursue a life in music, wherever that journey may take me.   He represents clarity, brilliance, and most importantly, hard work.


Do you have a favorite performance you’ve done in the last few years?

This is tough.  Maybe Mahler 5 with the Sheep Island Ensemble, or playing as a ringer for the Yamaha Junior Original Concert?  The latter was great, because I got to work and rehearse with some of my students in addition to kids from all over the east coast who wrote pieces for Viola and Piano.

I know you work with a lot of different ensembles that do a wide variety of genres. How do you maintain balance in your music/practicing/scheduling/sanity?  Any specific things you do to keep focused in your musical life?

Balance? What’s that?  Truthfully, I try to always make sure I’m doing something productive with my time.  I fail at this a lot, but whatever I’m doing, it gets me by.

Do you have any specific practicing routine that you work through?  How do you practice?

Currently I’ve been starting by doing scales and arpeggios, moving onto technical exercises and then etudes, and finally rep.  This general structure means that I always build technical elements from the ground up, even within a practice session.  It also helps keep the earlier technical work focused, as technical work inside of a piece can become distracted by having to combine all the elements of the music.

What have you been listening to these days?

I listen to a lot of Minimalist composers in addition to a range of pop/rock, soul and jazz.  Choosing one from each category, I’d say I’m listening to Philip Glass, Rolling Stones, Stevie Wonder, John Coltrane.

Do you have any book recommendations?

The Phantom Tollbooth.  It’s for kids, but it’s a wonderfully profound book in a whimsical way.  There are many allegorical moments in the book.

What are some of your goals for the future?

World domination.

Any additional thoughts? 

Playing with Aerial Photograph has been a ton of fun this year.  The music is great, and the concept can be funny, poignant, sad, and enlightening.  Because of the range of populations that can be surveyed over a year, one really gets the broad range of the human experience here in NYC.  I’m all about opening up ontologies.


This month I am talking with caregivers in NYC.  I am writing music based on some of the incredible stories of selflessness, compassion and love that they have shared with me.  I pulled up some statistics about disabilities and the number of people who require daily assistance from others because of their disability.  I found it really fascinating. These numbers are a little outdated, but still really eye-opening. If you are in NYC this week, this show is Wed. the 20th at the Douglass Street Music Collective in Brooklyn.

As always, thanks for reading – 




Disabilities in America

Info is from from

51.2 million
Number of people who have some level of disability. They represent 18 percent of the population.

32.5 million
Number of people with a severe disability. They represent 12 percent of the population.

Percentage of children ages 6 to 14 who have a disability. This amounts to 4 million children.

Percentage of people 80 and older with disabilities, the highest of any age group.

Percentage of females with a disability, higher than the 17 percent of males. On the other hand, among children under 15, boys were more likely than girls to have a disability (11 percent versus 6 percent).


Using or Needing Assistance

10.7 million
Number of people age 6 and older who need personal assistance with one or more activities of daily living (such as taking a bath or shower) or instrumental activities of daily living (such as using the telephone). This group amounts to 4 percent of people in this age category.

2.7 million
Number of people age 15 and older who use a wheelchair. Another 9.1 million use an ambulatory aid such as a cane, crutches or walker.


Specific Disabilities

1.8 million
Number of people age 15 and older who report being unable to see.

1 million
Number of people age 15 and older who report being unable to hear.

2.6 million
Number of people age 15 and older who have some difficulty having their speech understood by others. Of this number, 610,000 were unable to have their speech understood at all.

14.3 million
Number of people with limitations in cognitive functioning or a mental or emotional illness that interferes with their daily activities. This includes those with Alzheimer’s disease, depression and mental retardation. This group comprises 6 percent of the population.


On the Job

11.8 million
Number of 16- to 64-year-olds who reported the presence of a medical condition that makes it difficult to find a job or remain employed. They comprise 6 percent of the population.

Percentage of people ages 21 to 64 having some type of disability and also employed in the last year. The rate ranged from 82 percent of those with a nonsevere disability to 43 percent with a severe disability. For those without a disability, the rate is 88 percent.

Percentage of people with a nonsevere disability who work full time, year-round. This compares to 53 percent without a disability and 13 percent with a severe disability.


Perceived Health Status

Percentage of people ages 25 to 64 who have a nonsevere disability and report their health as being “very good” or “excellent.” This compares with 13 percent of those with a severe disability and 73 percent of those without a disability.


Income and Poverty

Median earnings for people with a nonsevere disability. This compares to $25,000 for those with no disability and $12,800 for those with a severe disability.

Percentage of people with a nonsevere disability and household incomes of $80,000 or more. By comparison, 26 percent of people without a disability had household incomes of $80,000 or more with the same being true of 9 percent of those with a severe one.

The poverty rate for people ages 25 to 64 with a nonsevere disability. This compares to 26 percent for those with a severe disability and 8 percent of those without a disability.


Living Arrangements

Percentage of people ages 25 to 64 with a nonsevere disability who live in married-couple families. The corresponding rates are 68 percent for those without disabilities and 50 percent for people with severe disabilities.

Percentage of people with a nonsevere disability who live alone or with nonrelatives. This compares with 28 percent of those with a severe disability and 19 percent without a disability.



The percentage of people ages 25 to 64 who had a nonsevere disability and were college graduates. This compares with 43 percent with no disability and 22 percent with a severe disability.


Plugged In

36% and 29%
Percentages of people ages 15 to 64 with a severe disability who use a computer and the Internet at home, respectively. The respective figures for those without a disability are 61 percent and 51 percent.


Serving Our Nation

2.6 million
Number of veterans who received compensation for service-related disabilities as of 2004. Of these vets, 506,000 served in World War II; 237,000 in Korea; 1 million in Vietnam; and 540,000 in the Persian Gulf (the data cover service from August 2, 1990, to September 30, 2004).


Small world

With Veterans Day having just past, I thought I would share an experience I had with a vet I met earlier this year – 

       In April, I was walking downtown near Harold Square towards Chinatown. I noticed a man sitting in an alcove with a cardboard sign saying something like “lost my job, need work boots for a job I was hired for next week, veteran, god bless.” After thinking about it for a minute, I went up to him and asked him if he really just needed boots for a job. He said yes, and then began to tell his stories of woe – bad luck, a bad woman, got mugged, no money… I asked him what war he fought in and he said “Bosnia, ‘94 to ‘97”, and then told me a bunch of stories about his time in the service. Unlike some of the other stuff he said, I could tell he wasn’t making anything up with these stories. I enjoyed talking and listening to him.

      Then it got really surprising… I asked him where he was from and he said Philly. I lived in Philly for 10+ years, so I was surprised and asked him where and when. It turns out that he lived a block away from me in Fishtown on Frankford Ave. in 2008 when I lived there. Crazy right?! He knew people and places that I knew.  He even knew a brother of one of my teachers.  We talked about Philly and all the changes that have happened there in the past few years. We talked for a while longer, I gave him a few bucks and kept walking.  I would never have thought that I had any connection to this guy on the street, but we had a ton of connections and talked for almost 40 minutes. You really never know. What a small world.

I hope he got his boots.

Thanks for reading.


Air Mail




City of New york 2013 – In august I wrote music based on conversations with veterans. I happened to be be at a flea market early in that month and came across someone selling letters that had been sent home from soldiers during WWII, and later.  One of the veterans I spoke with talked about how important it was for him to get mail from home – how it was “euphoric”. I ended up writing a piece called “Air Mail”. Here are some images of the letters/envelopes and an audio clip of a veteran speaking about receiving mail while in Iraq.