I’ve been working for the past year or so as the Musical Director for celebrated poet and playwright Cornelius Eady’s musical project- Rough Magic. I love playing in this band and I’m really proud of our first EP which I play bass on and contribute some background vocals as well. Check it out:

check out new sounds on the Captain bandcamp page!

ImageOn March 25, 2012, Friends and colleagues of Jonathan “JP” Nocera will gather at Cameo Gallery in Williamsburg, Brooklyn from 7PM to Midnight to celebrate his life and legacy. Featured performers include The London Souls, Erica Lindsay, Sticklips, Captain for Dark Mornings, and Squiggle, with artwork by Charles Sainty. 

Jonathan Nocera (March 25, 1985- July 3, 2011) spent his life in New York creating and supporting experimental music. He died at the age of 26 after a courageous battle with brain cancer. During his life, Jonathan was a visionary artist– he was sought after by a wide range of musicians for his personal sound as a guitarist and composer. His collaborations include experimental folk group Sticklips, avant jazz project Scrap Relation, reggae band Konga I, and electronic noise project Squiggle. 

Jonathan was not only a fierce musician but a deep thinker whose drive and intellect put him in a unique position to lay the ground for the kind of music industry he believed in. In 2008, JP created Proliferate Music, a record label espousing “independent music for the fringe.” In the label’s mission, he wrote, “It is our belief that the so-called ‘mainstream’ has finally gotten sick of the assembly line formula championed by majors for so long, and that given this climate, the so-called ‘avant-garde’ might be more accessible than once imagined.”

A native New Yorker and a graduate of Bard College, Jonathan Nocera leaves behind a living, breathing legacy of young musicians who have deep, continued gratitude for their collaborations and conversations with Jonathan. His parting words to many friends was to “keep it weird.” On March 25th, a group of Jonathan’s near-and-dear musical co-conspirators will do just that! This is an opportunity for those who knew JP to celebrate him, and for those who did not to get to know an incredible spirit.

As per Jonathan’s family’s request, all ticket sales benefit NYU Langone Medical Center Cancer Research. Admission is $10-20 sliding scale.

Featured Performers:

The London Souls are rock’n’roll, straight up with the slightest twist of soul and a little dash of the blues. They play loud, they play raucous and they play with every bit of their bodies, as any good rock musician should; but perhaps the even better news is that unlike a lot of what passes for rock these days, they haven’t lost sight of what good music sounds like, no matter how loud it is. (Derek Evers, thetripwire.com) Their debut full-length record was recorded with producer Ethan Johns at London’s Abbey Road Studios, and was released in 2011. Their song She’s So Mad has received airplay on FOX TV’s show Fearless Music. Also, their song I Think I Like It was used in a commercial advertising NBA star Derrick Rose’s line of shoes by adidas.http://thelondonsouls.com/

Erica Lindsay is a tenor saxophonist and composer. She currently leads her own quartet featuring Francesca Tanksley on piano, and co-leads a quartet with pianist Sumi Tonooka that features Bob Braye and Rufus Reid. She also currently performs with the Oliver Lake Big Band, the Baikida Carroll Quintet, the Howard Johnson Hojo5 Quintet, the Jeff Seigel Quartet and the San Francisco-based group, Trace Elements. Nat Hentoff states, “Erica Lindsay plays with such emotional spontaneity that she is very much in the tradition of those jazz makers who were so evidently taking joy in surprising themselves each night, each song, each bar. She has a distinctive clarity and fullness of sound as well as an acute sense of dynamics. Her compositions are also characterized by an invigorating clarity of form and direction.” Erica has worked with Frank Zappa, Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, Melba Liston, Dizzy Gillespie, Joe Williams, Mary Lou Williams, McCoy Tyner, Clifford Jordan, Reggie Workman, Amiri Baraka, and Carl Hancock-Rux. She currently resides in Woodstock and is on the music faculty at Bard College. http://ericalindsay.com/

Sticklips is an experimental folk project co-founded by Jonathan Nocera and songwriter Johanna Warren, whose haunting melodies and exquisite finger-picking are shrouded in a forest of eclectic sounds by Jim Bertini (drums), Chris St. Hillaire (electric guitar) and Eli Walker (bass). Sticklips cultivates a diverse garden of musical influences, from indie rock to acid pop to Nigerian High Life, resulting in a listening experience that is “at once ear-bendingly strange and singably familiar” (Akie Bermiss, The Busy Signal).

Captain for Dark Mornings is a fresh and unconventional trio led by upright bassist/ vocalist, Emma Alabaster. A Brooklyn native, Alabaster tells stories of home through a surprising communing of cacophonous and catchy sounds. The result is a bluesy, chaotic protest cabaret delivered with Betty Carter-esque phrasing. This avant-jazz songstress has assembled a killer band of big-eared baby-tamers; with Charlie Rauh on guitar and Zach Dunham on drums. Chronogram Magazine’s Sharon Nichols writes of Alabaster’s debut album, “This musical memory collage is for the fearless poet, the judicious savant, or, simply, the inquisitive listener who is ready for the next unorthodox musical journey.” https://emmaalabaster.com/

Squiggle is left field electronics and digital experimentation. Menacing and childlike bliss noise. http://www.myspace.com/squigglesound

Charles Sainty has exhibited in The Chelsea Art Museum and sold work through Daniel Cooney Fine Art as well as fairs in New York and Miami, and a recent solo show at Marymount Manhattan College, where he will receive his degree in photography later this Spring. His work is part of international collections, including a permanent installation at One Hanson Place. Charles explains: “In my work, I emphasize the things that photographers usually work to conceal (improper exposures, inkjet errors, pixelation, dust, etc) so that the subjects are partially destroyed as they are put through the process of being created. I want to draw a parallel between the fundamental, physical forces responsible for the creation and destruction of the photographs and those responsible for the life and death of its subjects. In that sense, I use distortion in photography to address this shared vulnerability, to account for those aspects of life beyond our knowledge and control.” http://charlessainty.com/

To learn more about JP:

Brand new trio is up and running!  Captain for Dark Mornings is: Emma Alabaster- bass/ voice/ compositions, Zach Dunham- drums, Charlie Rauh- guitar.  Time Out New York explained, “You might term tough-to-classify bassist Emma Alabaster as an avant-jazz singer-songwriter. Here she presents her sharp, evocative compositions in a trio format.”

a million thank yous to all of you who packed Sycamore for our inaugural show last month!  more shows are up and coming- check the “Gig Calendar.”  and here’s a little peek of what we’ve been up to:

new sights and sounds

The last post I wrote on here was about my dear friend Jonathan Nocera.  Last time I saw JP, he was, as always, incredibly encouraging about my writing, my own projects.  It’s with his spirit guiding me that I finally dove back into such things.  And I’m excited to have some upcoming places to show what i’m working on!


I’ve been pretty excited by all the energy around Occupy Everywhere, and involving myself in ways that i can.  And there’s already some exciting art coming out of the movement.  My buddy, Rachel Schragis made this incredible Flow Chart of The Occupation of NYC that’s received some amazing press.  Also, fabulous artist, Cristy C. Road has made some dope prints.  Both artists and more will be featured in an exhibit at Bluestockings Bookstore and i’m honored to be playing a few songs solo at the opening night.

OCCUPIED:  AN OCCUPY MOVEMENT GROUP SHOW, Come out to BLUESTOCKINGS this MON NOV 14th @ 7PM to celebrate the opening night of OCCUPIED featuring artwork inspired by, and from artists working with the Occupy Wall Street Movement. Tonight’s program also includes performance, music, food, drink and discussion. The exhibition will be up through Thursday, December 8th.  Bluestockings: 172 Allen St, NYC, NY (1 blk south of Houston St @ Stanton, 2nd Ave stop on the F train)


I’ve gathered up a dynamic duo of Zach Dunham on drums and Charlie Rauh on guitar to grow some of my new songs and re-envision a couple of old originals.  We’re playing the day after Thanksgiving at Sycamore– a cozy spot in my neighborhood, and the perfect place to bring new sounds out of hiding to (hopefully) full-bellied, open-eared YOU!

Emma Alabaster’s Home Turf Post-Tryptophan Sound Feast!  Friday, Nov. 25th, 9PM  at Sycamore, Brooklyn


Jonathan Nocera 1985-2011

i lost a dear dear friend and primary musical co-conspirator almost two weeks ago.  Jonathan Nocera, known to most of us as JP, spent over a year battling brain cancer.  i’m extraordinarily grateful that I saw him two days before he passed.  and he knew what was coming, so we got to say our goodbyes.  he left gracefully, peacefully, bravely.  and on that last visit, he was still cracking me up, schooling me about music and offering up heavy encouragement, love and support.

i don’t know where to begin.  JP and i met in college.  he’s the deepest musician with the biggest ears of anyone i’ve ever met.  drummer/ sound engineer, Jim Bertini (our friend, the drummer on my album and JP’s platonic other half) said, at the memorial something along the lines of this– he knew how to be your voice, to musically say exactly what you wanted.  JP’s the one who convinced me to release my album for real, and it was the first release on his independent label, Proliferate Music.  he also played guitar on it, on everything else i could get him to play on.  seriously, any project i could imagine doing, of any genre, he’d be the right guy.

signing the record contract!

he spent many nights in school upstate crashing on my couch off-campus, and i spent many nights in the city crashing on his parents’ couch in greenwich village.  we’d stay up all night talking and deep deep listening to music until the sun came up.

we went to see Ornette Coleman together.  and John Zorn’s Cobra.  he introduced me to an absurd amount of music, and knew how to play just the right track at just the right moment to hook me in.  Acid Mother’s Temple, Sonic Youth, Radiohead, Black Sabbath, Derek Bailey, Steve Lacy, all kinds of Japanese noise music, dub reggae, and high life…  i think at least half of my itunes library is from him.

soon after he was diagnosed (and was already having a hard time playing,) he invited Scrap Relation over to his place.  (that’s the band i played in with him most and most recently– with Zach Dunham on drums and Alex Carter on sax.)  he made us him famous spicy and perfectly aldente pasta with tomato sauce and mushrooms (one of two things he could cook,) and schooled us on noise music.  i just found his email inviting us over which says: “I’ve even fashioned a 2 CD noise mix designed to provide context (ALEX!!!!) of the various scenes, from academic to primitive, analog to digital, rock to jazz, ambient to downright hateful.”  i love this because it’s so perfectly JP.  he could rage so hard- stay up all night drinking and smoking and he came up on Black Sabbath.  and he was also an intellectual, philosopher, a self-taught and down-to-earth musical academic.  and, as i reminded him, one of the few people who could successfully interrupt me in a debate!

Scrap Relation at our last gig together

JP taught me a lot about how to take yourself seriously (but not too seriously!)  how to be brave and calm and open.  and when i played music with JP, i did things i didn’t know i was capable of.  and when he played my music, it became something much larger than my wildest dreams.  when i saw him before he left i said– look, the past year you haven’t been able to play and it’s been so hard for me to write music without you.  “write for me anyway,” he said, “and you’ll find people to play it.”

i spoke to one of our mentors, pianist/ composer John Esposito on the phone after JP died.  John also lost a dear friend and musical inspiration when he was young, Arthur Rhames.  and in classes with John, he always made sure we knew about Arthur, heard his music.  John’s constant tribute to Arthur, decades after his death, is a reminder of what i can and will do.  i hope John doesn’t mind if i share this, it’s from an email he sent me, he writes:

“You don’t get over the loss of people like JP or Arthur. They have a big impact on our lives not so much because they teach us but because they give us the opportunity to find the best in ourselves when we aspire to work at their level. Once you’ve done that you know how to do it forever and you don’t need them to do it with but you sure do miss them and their spirit. But then its on us to have that kind of spirit and that’s the part of them that stays alive in the world, even more than the CDs and written compositions.”

right now, i’m walking around with a deep sadness in my body.  because it never occurred to me that JP would stop physically being here to guide me, interrupt me and listen so hard.  because i wanted to hear all the new shit he was going to make.  but i know John’s right too, that JP’s spirit is something i will never ever shake, something i will continue to turn to for inspiration, guidance and that push to be better than i knew i was capable of being.

i could say so much about JP.  there are so many stories.  and i’m fixating on the strangest things right now.  like the crazy shit he’d order at a diner– fries with onions, a layer of mozzarella on top, then a fried egg, and a layer of swiss, all piled high.  or his hilariously on-point Pearl Jam impressions.  or this big debate we got into about the politics of relief work in New Orleans when we were just getting to know each other.  or a text he sent me while i was on tour about how i was living the dream and he couldn’t wait for me to come home so he could show me that he found out-of-print albums where Derek Bailey and Steve Lacy played together…

but the last advice he gave me, and the other visitors who got to see him as he was saying goodbyes his last week or so, was to “Keep it weird.”

and he left behind some amazing, weird sounds.  he knew it too; when i saw him last he told me he was proud of the music he’d made.  so, enough words for now.  just listen.  JP left us with so much.  here’s the smallest bit of it.

Scrap Relation playing Ornette Coleman’s WRU:

Scrap Relation again, this piece is called Transubstantiation in Small Town America.  JP wrote it after having an epically creepy dream:

this is from a project the 2 of us did with Daniel Fishkin, who plays daxophone.  it was our own version of John Zorn, George Lewis and Bill Frisell’s News for Lulu album.  “Lotus Blossom” by Kenny Dorham:

here’s an improv that Zach Dunham and i did with JP.  Zach and i can’t stop listening to this one:

i am a huge fan of StickLips, a band that JP co-founded.  he put so much into this album, if you haven’t heard it, you should:

okay, i’m going to put this here because i don’t know where else to put it.  JP was making music until the very end.  the last few weeks, Jim came over a couple times and JP was telling him things to put into the music notation program, Sibelius.  that kind of blows my mind.  and months earlier, in the thick of his battle with cancer, JP invited myself, Zach and Monroe Street to come over and improvise with him.  it was when he still had a little use of his hands.  not enough to play guitar, but he was making some electronic music (which he’d always done anyway.)  he had just come out of a shitty stay in the hospital’s ICU and when he got home, he prepared some sounds that reminded him of what he’d heard while stuck there.  so he sat at the computer and the three of us came with a guitar, and some percussion objects (i got particularly attached to the metal bowl) and he asked us to make sounds with him about what he was going through.  it was an honor and a cathartic experience for sure.  unsurprisingly, what came out is intense, so be forewarned.  here’s some of what happened:

when i saw JP last, we talked about my record.  the way he believed in it means so much to me.  he impressed to me, not for the first time, that his favorite track was “More Like Us.”  which always surprised and pleased me.  it’s the piece i’m still most nervous about.  it feels deeply personal, controversial, confessional.  it’s my attempt to make music about race, and specifically whiteness, which feels daunting and urgent, still.  i love that he loved this piece.  it makes me think a lot about the kind of bravery i want to have as a performer, and the way JP understood that.  so here’s video from my cd release concert of us performing that piece.  obviously the cd has better sound-quality.  but i want there to be a moving, breathing JP represented in this post.  i love the small, perfect solo he takes at the end, make sure you hear that.  here’s the footage, in 2 parts:

JP left instructions that his memorial be on a boat with a New Orleans-style brass band and an open bar!  He clearly wanted us to celebrate his life, rather than mourn it.  this is just a start.  there will be many many more tributes to JP.  honoring him is an everyday practice.

Zach, me and JP in 2007

annnnd here’s what’s coming up!

#1: honored and excited to work with sound, movement and text on this piece under the direction of the amazing Megan Hanley.  here’s the info:

Dixon Place presents
Ejercicios de Belleza/Beauty Exercises
Wednesday, June 29
7:30 PM at Dixon Place- 161A Chrystie Street
Part of the 20th Annual HOT! Festival (http://hotfestival.org/)

Pre-sale tickets ($15/$12) available at: https://www.ovationtix.com/trs/pe/9064405

WHAT IT IS: The second part in an ongoing international, interdisciplinary performance about gender, nationality, the body, and dress-up. This piece is created in collaboration with our friends at elgalpon.espacio in Lima, Peru.

WHO IT IS: Video performance by Jorge Baldeón, Liliana Albornoz, and Megan Hanley

Collaboratively-developed live performance by Emma Alabaster, Katrina De Wees, Mieke Duffly, Beth Given, Megan Hanley, Yanghee Lee, Lily Mengesha, and Amapola Prada

#2:  playing upright with Eric Alabaster’s Loco Love Band as part of Teatro IATI’s Performing Arts Marathon.  here’s the story:

Sunday, July 31st, 7:00


“Eclectic music to spark your imagination ” Jimmy Heath

Duane Eubanks, trumpet. Anjana Roy, sitar. Khabu Doug Young, guitar. Elena Camerin, voice.  Emma Alabaster, upright bass. Sean Sonderegger, tenor saxophone. Eric Alabaster, drums and tabla.

Baruch Performing Arts Center
55 Lexington Avenue
(Enter E 25th btw Lex & 3rd)