Thursday morning, January 29, 2004Through some fluke of somebody knowing somebody, Birdbrain was invited to guest on the nationally syndicated Joey Reynolds Show. At 2 a.m., the group was ushered into a WOR radio studio, high above Times Square, and seated at a half-moon table across from Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, Joey "Rats in my Room" Reynolds. At 2:20, the engineer turned on the Birdbrain microphones.
JOEY: I just gave my political views off the air, and everybody in the room just screamed.
PAUL: Got sick of you.
JOEY: Yeah, y'know. Paul DiVere is here. Paul's gonna be with Soupy Sales tomorrow night in Toledo, Ohio. Friday night. He's gonna pack tomorrow. Takes a whole night to pack.
PAUL: I'm packing right now.
JOEY: Yeah, a gun. And we have Kenny Asher here, who is a famous composer.
PAUL: He's a great composer.
JOEY: Co-author with Paul Williams on a lotta things.
PAUL: Many hits.
JOEY: Also on his own with some neat things, and being modest, he didn't bring any music.
KENNY: Didn't bring any music. Just enjoying the conversation. It's a nice night, a good night.
JOEY: Duller than doggy doo. Anyway, it's really good to have you here, and, uh... then we have a band here. Did you notice?
PAUL: We got a band. I noticed we got some players here.
JOEY: Yeah. Kenny, this should be...
KENNY: I see brass. I see saxophones.
JOEY: They don't know, they don't know you.
PAUL: They know him!
JOEY: The Birdland... The Birdbrain band, it's called.
PAUL: Oh, cool.
JOEY: Yvette Per... Per... Perez. I don't know them. Y'know, I don't know. I never saw 'em work.
PAUL: Really? How'd they get on the show?
JOEY: I don't know. They were...
DON: That's a mystery.
JOEY: Hanging around the Port Authority.
PAUL: Well, we've met some nice people there.
JOEY: There are people in the subway who play free.
YVETTE: Remember you put a quarter in our cup?
PAUL: If you're good.
JOEY: No. I'd never do that, honey, because I'm too cheap.
PAUL: He waits for you to turn your back, he takes your cup.
JOEY: No. I'm joking. I love you guys. I'm glad you're here. Yvette Perez is here and the Birdbrain band.
PAUL: Birdbrain band.
JOEY: They're a quartet, pop and jazz. They're performing at the Candy Store in Brooklyn.
JOEY: Now, that's Pete's Candy Store. Right?
PAUL: It is.
JOEY: Now, the Candy Store is, uh... That whole area in Brooklyn is very wonderfully rejuvenated now. There's a place under the bridge that's called DUMBO.
YVETTE: Right. Yeah.
JOEY: And it's Down Under Metro... What is it? Down Under the...
YVETTE: The Manhattan Bridge.
JOEY: The Manhattan Bridge.
JOEY: Overpass. Yeah. D. U. M. B. O. DUMBO.
PAUL: Is that near Peter Luger's [steakhouse]?
JOEY: No, no, no, no, no!
DON: Different bridge!
YVETTE: Different bridge.
PAUL: Alright. I'm sorry. Don't turn on me!
JOEY: No, no. I mean, well, don't confuse...
PAUL: I don't want it anyway. It's mad cow. Forget it.
JOEY: No. That's not the area where they're redeveloping.
JOEY: The area is Williamsburg, which is on this side.
JOEY: On the Manhattan side. And when you go over the bridge, and when you go under there, you'll find all these neat stores. And people are... Y'know, we had to get outta here to pay rent. You can't pay rent here. See, what happened was, simply put, in the '70's, this city was in the toilet. And the reason it was in the toilet is it was filled with drugs and, uh, and no industry anymore. It left. Y'know, we went into a high-tech mode as a nation, and lots of the industry left, so we were not diversified. And what happened was, uh... This is the money capital of the world, Wall Street, and we real quick caught up with the world with technical advancements. And we got into the high-tech.
PAUL: Everyplace except this studio.
JOEY: Yeah, well, no, no. We're in it, too. We're a satellite show.
JOEY: And we're the first digital station in the country.
YVETTE: Oh, it is?
JOEY: Yes. We're the first digital AM station in the country, WOR in New York.
PAUL: How about that!
JOEY: Nobody's got a set to receive it.
PAUL: No. We can't hear it, but imagine!
JOEY: But, you know, it's like my marriage. We're putting out!
PAUL: We got high definition TV. Nobody's got a set.
JOEY: So what's happening now is this whole development area in Harlem, where I live, and Williamsburg, and we're finding other pockets down in Alphabet City. These are old drug neighborhoods. Y'know, all those guys got old.
PAUL: I don't know that.
JOEY: They were in recovery, twelve-step programs, and we're, y'know, we're minding our own business and trying to find some more modest means of support and rent. So we've had to go to other places where they used to be called slums and drug areas. And, y'know, because none of us here... I remember this happen. I'm jumping, but I remember in the '70's, when I was in L.A., uh, most of the people from the record business could not come to Los Angeles. It was... The music center of the world was New York. And when I was there, I had a head start, not because I had a vision, but I was there, and I saw little things begin.
Billboard Magazine moved to the 9000 Building on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles. And the trade papers, the Bob Hamilton Report came there, and the Gavin thing was in San Francisco already, so that didn't count, but, y'know, we had a movement to L.A., and when they came to L.A., the movie community was Beverly Hills, and Hollywood was old and decrepit, like our old neighborhoods here. And so they, they redid the San Fernando Valley, which... It was more modest rent. And the record people came out, and they started to develop the Valley, and they did the Studio City, y'know, just like we're doing here now.
So we're doing the same thing here. What happens is the established people have the big apartments here in New York City. They have the long-time rentals. Y'know, the real money people have the Trump stuff and, uh... And the AOL Building guy bought a thirty-million dollar apartment, if you can imagine that. But you can imagine it because there are people who do steal a lot. But there are those who actually have a lot.
PAUL: I'm trying to follow this. Are you saying that...
JOEY: I'm saying that...
PAUL: We move because of what???
JOEY: This is a money city.
JOEY: And all of us who are struggling and have regular people regular jobs cannot afford to play the game.
JOEY: So we live five, six people in an apartment. Y'know, we bunk together. We find other places to live. That's what I'm saying.
JOEY: And, and we've had to develop our own...
PAUL: Kenny, give him five dollars.
KENNY: Glad to do it.
JOEY: Alright. So this band is gonna play tonight. Right? You guys gonna play?
JOEY: So, so what's the gist of... Who writes the stuff in the band? Is this original material?
YVETTE: It is. It's original. I write most of the material, all the music.
PAUL: Oh, you do?
YVETTE: Tim and I collaborate on lyrics.
JOEY: Tim who? What's Tim's last name? Introduce everybody, so we get the names out there. Let's have a shout-out.
PAUL: Who've we got here tonight?
YVETTE: We have Timothy Noe on tenor sax. We have Don Trubey on alto sax. Peter Zummo on trombone.
JOEY: Peter's awake! You gotta wake him up.
YVETTE: Good m-o-r-ning. And we have Michael Evans on percussion. He's back there in the corner.
PAUL: Hey, Michael.
YVETTE: Silent as a mouse, very unusual.
JOEY: Well, that's a percussionist for you, waiting for the tinkle.
PAUL: He'll make a lotta noise when he bangs.
JOEY: So what're you gonna sing?
YVETTE: I'm gonna sing... Let's see, our first song we're gonna do is called "Heat."
JOEY: First song?
YVETTE: First song. We got a few songs for you.
JOEY: How do you know you're gonna do two?
YVETTE: I don't know. You think we might do two?
JOEY: You got eight minutes to go! Get outta here. We don't have that kind of money in our budget.
PAUL: One presumes.
JOEY: So you're gonna do "Heat"? This is called "Heat"?
YVETTE: Yeah, we're gonna do a song called "Heat."
JOEY: Why don't you come do this at my apartment after we leave here?
PAUL: Yeah, he needs heat!
YVETTE: Yeah, y'know, it'll keep you warm.
PAUL: He doesn't have real heat. He'll just have you playing there. And he'll be in heat if you show up, so either way, it's covered.
JOEY: I sleep with gloves.
PAUL: It's a sad story.
JOEY: I know.
YVETTE: It is.
JOEY: Are you ready?
YVETTE: Yeah. Are we ready?
JOEY: Now the percussionist goes to his instrument to pick it up. This is not the time to unload! You gotta start playing!
PAUL: That's a regular drummer, man.
JOEY: Yvette Perez and the Birdbrain band.
YVETTE: We're just so excited to be here. Took us a minute...
YVETTE: To collect ourselves.
JOEY: Yeah, I know.
JOEY: He's got the instrument between his legs.
DON: Uh, yeah.
JOEY: That doesn't sound right.
PAUL: He really does! He's got a drum hanging from his crotch.
JOEY: That wasn't exactly what I meant to say.
PAUL: Not what you meant to see, either.
TIM: Like a cashew.
MICHAEL: You gotta watch that you don't wear shiny pants.
JOEY: You can't wear shiny pants, or the drum will fall.
PAUL: You rip it, it's seven years bad luck.
JOEY: Alright, you guys. Play.
birdbrain plays "heat" live in the studioJOEY: That's It? Whoa! That's jazz.
JOEY: Now, y'know, Lew Anderson has a big band. He was the last Clarabell, and he plays at Birdland every Friday, only two shows, 5:30 and 6:30, two sets.
PAUL: The last Clarabell on Howdy Doody, you have to say.
JOEY: And Kenny, Kenny Asher plays with him because, once in a while, y'know, anybody can sit in of this caliber.
KENNY: Practically every Friday.
KENNY: Yeah. It's nice.
JOEY: And the guys are in Broadway shows, so they have to go to work. That's why they leave there... Y'know, they do one set and go home.
PAUL: Are they here?
JOEY: No. We didn't bring them.
PAUL: I thought you were giving a plug to them. I thought they were gonna come in in five minutes.
JOEY: No. But this kind of, this kind of jazz... Y'know, everybody writes charts like this.
PAUL: Well, there's a little difference.
JOEY: The dissonance and horns... what... a twenty-six piece band, c'mon.
PAUL: This is different. This is different. This is kind of a fresh approach to the sound, I thought. I thought it was very interesting.
JOEY: Yeah. This is alternative.
YVETTE: Well, thankyou.
JOEY: You like that?
YVETTE: We call it avant-pop.
KENNY: That's a good word for it.
JOEY: So you're gonna do one more and get outta here.
YVETTE: Oh. We're gonna do one more and get outta here.
JOEY: So hurry it up because I'm already bored.
YVETTE: Oh my god.
PAUL: He's just kidding. That's a joke.
DON: We love you, Joey!
PAUL: That's a good thing to say.
JOEY: I'm just going by Peter's face.
YVETTE: Will this get us another few minutes? We brought you a little gift.
JOEY: Parakeet. You brought a parakeet.
DON: Awww. That's sweet.
JOEY: Good. This goes with the doves I have out my window.
PAUL: It goes with the gloves in your bed is what it does. Now you got a bird.
JOEY: I have one already.
PAUL: You need a real bird now.
JOEY: That's why I have the glove.
PAUL: I know.
JOEY: Alright. So we're gonna do this thing now, huh?
PAUL: The engineer's looking like, "really?"
JOEY: He's trying to mic the parakeet.
PAUL: No. We're gonna play another song.
JOEY: Alright. You ready?
YVETTE: Yeah, we're ready.
JOEY: What is this now?
PAUL: How's it go?
YVETTE: How's it go? Well, let's see. We're gonna do a song here. We kind of mashed two songs together on this. We're gonna do a song about one of our favorite animals: manitee. It's called "Sea Cow," and it's gonna go right into another song called "Mehran," which is about a...
JOEY: It can't be too long.
YVETTE: It's not too long.
JOEY: Alright. Good.
YVETTE: It's about the Iranian guy that's in the Paris airport.
JOEY: Oh yeah?
YVETTE: Living there for ten years.
JOEY: Alright. So I can kill the bird anytime I want?
JOEY: Thankyou. How do you turn this off?
YVETTE: There's a little button on the side, right there.
JOEY: Oh yeah. I see. Good. Thanks.
JOEY: Shoo! Making me crazy.
birdbrain plays "sea cow / mehran"JOEY: Rose? That's very different, honey.
JOEY: I don't get the lyrics.
YVETTE: You want me to tell you?
JOEY: Were you complaining about something?
DON: It's a protest song.
YVETTE: Y'know, I could complain all night.
JOEY: This fits my new format of being an anger-based jock. Big numbers! My numbers are gonna go through the roof now. This is good. Now I could probably be right next to Rush in browsing. Right? Just a notch below, uh, yeah, Bill O'Neil. Bill what's his name?
JOEY: O'Reilly. I don't know. One of those...
DON: Oh really?
YVETTE: Oh really?
JOEY: I don't listen to those old drunks doing talk shows. We'll be right back on the Joey Reynolds Show, live from New York.
station breakJOEY: We're on the air, live from New York City, and, uh... What'd you say, Lindley? I loved her so much I should have her back? Yeah, but she's gotta leave the band home. She sounds like she's in a traffic jam with all those horns. I was thinking, in the afternoon drive, and we played this? If we had this band in here during afternoon drive, people wouldn't know the difference in Jersey. Y'know, they'd be listening to this, thinking it was something coming out of the Lincoln Tunnel.
YVETTE: You know, I live by the BQE. Maybe that has something to do with it.
JOEY: Now, what is this? What are you trying to do? So that you can verbalize it a little.
YVETTE: Let's see. What am I trying to do?
JOEY: This is not a put-down. It's only...
YVETTE: Oh, no, no.
JOEY: Only a question, an artistic question.
YVETTE: Well, you know, the band kind of evolved out of the idea that, you know, I was playing in rock bands, and I got kind of tired of...
JOEY: Name one.
YVETTE: Name one? Well, let's see. I was playing in a New York band called Spoiler.
JOEY: Did you ever play at CBGB?
YVETTE: Yeah. Played CBGB.
JOEY: Play at Arlene's Grocery Store?
YVETTE: No. That wasn't open.
JOEY: Mercury Lounge?
JOEY: I wanna see where you're at. That's why I'm getting a little feel for you here, if you'll pardon the pun.
YVETTE: Yeah, yeah. Well, this group, we played at the Knitting Factory. We played at the new Sin-é that's downtown.
JOEY: Alright. So this is jazz. This is R&B jazz.
YVETTE: Well... Y'know, we played on some jazz bills, like we played at the CB's Underground, where they have the jazz nights. Y'know, we're kind of in-between.
JOEY: Now, do you find a crowd that follows your kind of music, and they have a hard time with things like country music?
YVETTE: Oh, you know, I feel like the people that follow us have kind of an open mind.
DON: Pretty eclectic.
YVETTE: Yeah. Real eclectic styles, so I think it would involve a little more broadmindedness.
JOEY: I think good comics are smart, and I think jazz musicians are smart. I think you have to be intelligent. Otherwise, you can't make fun of something if you don't know it already.
JOEY: And you have to, you have to learn what you're doing, and then you can play with it. So, y'know, you're playing right now. I mean, this, all this stuff you're just doing here, this is all... You're just, you're playing with us.
YVETTE: We were playing with you?
JOEY: Oh yeah. You're moving notes around and putting them in places that are not conventional.
JOEY: You're not doing the sequence of melody and the... I mean, it's not really going in the direction of what hit records, as we grew up with... Am I saying this right?
YVETTE: Oh yeah.
JOEY: Every once in a while, there'll be something offbeat, like "Napoleon's Retreat" or...
KENNY: You're not doing "Hotel California."
YVETTE: No, no, no. Y'know, we're not trying to make hit records. We're just trying to make some, you know, kinda crazy music that's...
PETER: Are there hit records?
JOEY: Well, y'know...
DON: I downloaded some yesterday.
JOEY: There are hit records, and you know the list is... They're done by, uh, y'know, the flavor of the month. It's Norah Jones and, y'know, that kind of stuff. Yeah, there's hit records. They get Grammies. They give Grammy awards. And now, y'know, Kenny Asher's here, and you're in a jazz band often.
JOEY: You're in all kinds of music.
JOEY: So what do you think about the efforts here? Y'know, I'm just...
KENNY: Well, it's very creative. It's just something that takes me, like... I've never heard anything like it. That's for sure.
JOEY: Yeah. It's strange, isn't it?
KENNY: Well, it's strange for me...
JOEY: To the ears.
KENNY: Yeah, because it's just something that, all of a sudden, I went: "Wait. Wait a minute." And there's no bass player, and I'm going: "Well, I was in a band years ago with no bass player." Rock and roll bands in high school, we didn't have bass players in those days. We got three guitar players: one who played bass-rhythm, middle-rhythm, and lead guitar. And I didn't hear a note I played for three years because I... In those days, they didn't have amplification. We used to drop a mic inside the piano, and it would come out of a mono speaker, and it would just sound terrible, you know. But I couldn't hear it 'cause it was facing the dancers, you know. But, uh, this is a very creative group. I mean, it's just like, you know... It's unusual.
JOEY: Like Maynard Ferguson was at one time and Sauter-Finnegan and, uh, Stan Kenton. I mean, y'know, they were all... they were offbeat.
KENNY: Well, especially some of Stan's stuff, sure, absolutely.
JOEY: And these days, now you're hearing, uh, I don't know what. There's not just one kind of music anymore.
KENNY: But that's, that's actually very good, I think. That's a good thing. A lotta different...
JOEY: It's gonna be hard to download.
TIM: Short, though.
DON: Yeah, they're short.
JOEY: And I love that about your songs. They're short. That is a good point. But you're talking to a guy, here, who writes with Paul Williams, who is short.
TIM: Connect the dots.
YVETTE: How tall is he?
KENNY: Well, a little over five. And he once wrote a, uh, we wrote a song called "You Know Me, Girl," and he said, "Let's write a verse." So he starts the verse: "Sentimental fellow, sometimes overmellow, writing verses no one plans to do," 'cause nobody does verses anymore. "I know I'm no Cole Porter. I'm noticeably shorter. Do I deserve to have a girl like you?"
DON: That's great.
JOEY: See? He went for the sympathy vote.
JOEY: He was here for the Saint Patrick's Day parade last year, and it was my job to hold him up, so he could see the parade.
KENNY: Oh, man.
JOEY: I was just praying that dwarf wouldn't barf on my shoes, like all the other leprechauns in town. Alright. We gotta get outta here. Rosie Perez, right?
YVETTE: Yvette Perez.
YVETTE: Oh, geez.
JOEY: Well, Rosie's your friend. I get everything wrong. I'm the Ed Sullivan of the generation here.
KENNY: Right here, on our show...
JOEY: Let me get this right. Yvette Perez, playing over at Pete's Candy Store. Right?
YVETTE: Yep. Birdbrain... at Pete's Candy Store, February 13th.
JOEY: Alright. And thankyou, Kenny Asher.
KENNY: You're very welcome.
JOEY: Come back anytime. Alright?
JOEY: Get this bird outta here, will ya? God, this is annoying.