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Saturday, February 23, 2013

Perfect Mid-Winter Musical Break

Being compulsively punctual, anytime I have to fly somewhere I leave for the airport ridiculously early, knowing full well that the odds heavily favor the outbound flight being delayed. After all, it's mid-January, when late arriving planes and de-icing procedures spark flight delays and missed connections. I know, I do this every year.

Ah, but this year was different, and while airlines are great fill for a spam sandwich, I had no complaints with Delta this time around. When I left Central New York, it was dark, windy and cold enough to brittle your bones. Arthur Mometer said it was 7°, and that was pretty optimistic. Landing at LAX, a short seven hours later, the merc was a full ten fold higher, with a pleasant breeze and blue skies.

Next stop, Anaheim, just an hour or so away by shuttle. I have nothing against taxis or limos and town cars rock, but it's so much cheaper to take a shuttle. So, as I accepted my role as tired body #9 in an 8 tired body conveyance, I reassured myself that, yes, it be uncomfortable, and it would not be pleasant, but it would be over in a short time.

Once the shuttle was safely (huh?) on the freeway, the usual patter among van mates began with "Where are you from? When did you leave? How was your flight? Who are you with? They had all journeyed much further than I, and each had a weary traveler's tale tell. So I just stayed quiet (mostly because the seat belt for the passenger in front of me was wrapped around my neck) and listened. While we had all gathered from various parts of Asia, Europe and North America, our destination was the same: The 2013 NAMM Show.

Leave it be said then that for those of us who are musically obsessed, NAMM is Nirvana—an annual pilgrimage to a musical mecca far away from the chilly reality of a New York winter. If you would like to know what the acronym stands for, and what the organization does, click here. In a nutshell, it's the largest trade show in North America for builders and buyers of musical instruments, audio gear and associated accoutrements. As such, it attracts manufacturers, dealers and distributors from all points internationally. Major recording artists are there as well, often times blending right in with the crowd, stopping to pick a few notes on a hot new guitar, blow some cool from a new sax or riff on a keyboard. And then there are the humble members of the audio press corp, such as yours truly. Our job is to filter through the hype in search of the true game changers.

Upon my return to the frozen state of NY, friends often ask "How was the show? What did you see? What's NAMM?" Some folks ask to be polite while others are truly interested in all the technological developments on display. This year, thanks to Yamaha, I was able to share something that almost everyone could embrace. It's called Disklavier (see TECH NOTE), and in simplest terms, it's the player piano brought into modern times. Using the Internet and MIDI any piano with this feature is capable of being played, remotely, from virtually anywhere.
To publicize this new development, Yamaha invited their dealers and a few select members of the press (thank you, very much) to a grand concert featuring top artists from their roster of endorsers (1/25/13-Hyperion Theater). I've posted a complete review over on the Live2PlayNetwork, but here's a list of the artists who appeared during the three+ hour show, along with additional images (shot from an iPhone—here are  by a pro) and a video of the last act of the evening, Sir Elton John. As Captain Fantastic played live on the stage in Anaheim, the keys on pianos all over the world (with Disklavier) were playing in unison. That's pretty cool.

Earth, Wind & Fire

The US Marching band, performing Tusk

Chaka Kahn

Amy Grant


David Foster & Dave Koz


Michael McDonald

Sarah McLachlan

Sir Elton John

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