Serge Hochar of Musar will be sorely missed

best photo of serge hocharThere’s not a lot that I can add to the many wonderful tributes that have been published since Lebanese winemaker Serge Hochar (above) died last week in Mexico.

See Eric Asimov’s obituary for the New York Times.

See also Jancis Robinson’s post, where she describes a visit to Musar in September of 1980 at the height of the Lebanese civil war.

I had the good fortune to meet Serge on a number of occasions, including our first encounter at Aspen Food & Wine back in 2008, where I was writing a story for a trade publication.

The photo above was taken at a party in a suite at the Ritz Carlton Aspen reserved by importer Domaine Select who represented the wines in the U.S. [Broadbent is the U.S. importer, I’ve been told since I posted this.]

It’s not the greatest photo but it does capture his ability to command a room’s attention to the convivial delight of all those present.

You can read about his unrivaled charisma, his indefatigable presence on the international wine scene, and his (inmho) superb wines in the myriad profiles published since news of his passing broke (just Google him).

But the one thing that many have overlooked is the fact that Serge didn’t just travel to top markets to sell his wines.

As early as 2011, before Texas and the Texsom conference had established themselves as mandatory stops on the wine sales routes, he was here, working the marketing and the crowds with the ease and grace that only he could muster so readily. (See this post by Alfonso Cevola on his Texsom tasting.)

I’ll never forget when, in 2012, Master Sommlier Drew Hendricks, then wine director for the swank petroleum-crowd Pappas Bros. Steakhouse in Houston, added a vertical of Musar to his list. Stretching back to 1967, it was an unlikely addition to the otherwise big-hitter, mostly Napa Cab and Bordeaux selection there.

I wrote about it for the Houston Press here.

And that’s the thing about Serge that I’d like to add here.

When he visited places like Texas, he didn’t come solely to sell his wines (and in fact, his wines didn’t really sell that well at Pappas, at least according to one young sommelier I spoke to at the time).

He came to make young wine professionals feel special and to help them understand that they were members of a greater, broader, and wonderfully dynamic international wine community.

He taught young people that wine was a gateway to a deeper awareness of the world and that it can bring them into contact with people, like Serge, who will enrich their lives not just through wine but by means of culture and knowledge. After all, that’s the greatest thing, to my mind, about working in and with wine.

Sit tibi terra levis Sergie.

In other sad news…

Today, the sensuous world also mourns the loss of another larger-than-life figure, Pino Daniele, the great Neapolitan guitar player and songwriter, who fused Campanian music with jazz, blues, and Latin rhythms.

He shaped a generation of Italian rock, jazz, and pop musicians. And he was one of the most influential Italian artists to crossover into the international music scene in the latter half of the twentieth century.

I really love his music and know he will be missed by so many of my friends in Italy, in Campania and beyond.

My good friend Anna Cortese, who was born and raised on the island of Ischia (Naples province), posted the below photo on her Facebook this morning.

pino daniele concert

Song of mine on Guillermo del Toro’s new show “The Strain” this Sunday

les sans culottesWord from my agent in LA arrived yesterday afternoon: a song I co-wrote and co-produced, “Sa Sabine,” will appear this Sunday on the pilot for a new show, “The Strain,” written and directed by Guillermo del Toro for FX.

I wrote the music for the song (one of my favorites) back when I was living in Brooklyn and gigging with my then-band, Les Sans Culottes (above). It came out on our album, “Faux Realism,” in 2002 (Aeronaut).

At the time, our breakthrough song hadn’t happened yet. In 2003, we sold a song from an earlier recording to a major ad campaign by Hewlett Packard. The spot — played in primetime during the World Series that year and beyond — gave us the bandwidth and exposure that made us a nationally known act.

We were a Brooklyn favorite and we headlined regularly at venues like the Bowery Ballroom in Manhattan.

It was a crazy and crazy-fun time in my life: I had been working in New York as a freelance writer and copywriter for a few years by then and I was writing, playing, and recording music by night (and not just with the French band).

I can’t share the song here because of copyright issues. But if you want to check out the original recording (which was made on two-inch tape — yes! — in a studio in pre-gentrification Bushwick), you’ll find it on all the usual platforms (iTunes, Amazon, etc.).

When we mixed it, we used a technique developed by engineer Eddie Kramer on Jimi Hendrix’s “Axis: Bold as Love.”

After we made an initial mix of the track, we played part of it back slightly out of sync with the original, thus creating a “phaser” effect that gives that section of the song an otherworldly sound (otherwise known as the “spaceship” or “doobie” effect).

I make a decent living by writing about Italian gastronomy and culture and have nothing to complain about. Life’s been good to me so far (je suis j’étais un rock star).

But selling one of my songs and knowing that my music is still out there is one of the greatest rewards of my professional life.

Thanks for listening.

The pilot for “The Strain” airs Sunday night at 10 p.m. EST on FX.

Scenes from the “Pasolini in Rome” show at the Cinémathèque Française

Comrade Howard graciously sent me these images from the current “Pasolini in Rome” exhibition at the Cinémathèque Française where he toured the show last week with the museum’s director.

It runs through January 26.

La poésie, la politique, le sexe, l’amitié, le cinéma… The stuff that life is made of.

The track “Pasolini” in the slideshow comes from my band Nous Non Plus’ release Le sexe et la politique (Terrible Kids Music 2012).

pasolini

Fascinated by Neapolitan music

pulcinella orchestra

Above: A Pulcinella orchestra. Image via ho visto nina volare.

Gearing up for my friend and client Tony Vallone’s sold-out Neapolitan event this week, I’ve been studying Neapolitan music and writing my own compositions.

It’s become a bit of a rabbit hole: once I started listening carefully to traditional songs from Naples, I became fascinated with the melodies and rhythms. But the thing that really grabbed me was how the arrangements always surprise the listener.

Just when you’ve settled into one phrase, the song leaps to another, unexpected place.

Here are some songs I’ve been working on at Baby P studios… Tracie P, who lived between Ischia and Naples for nearly five years, has been teasing me that my Neapolitan songs “still sound Jewish.” But I’ve been having fun with it.

One could spend a lifetime studying Italian culture, art, and history and never satiate her/his curiosity…

Un Dimanche: new & different music of mine

All the great songwriters and musicians I’ve ever met say the same thing: make the music because you love to, because you have to.

The main focus of my musical life over the last fifteen years has been our band Nous Non Plus and I’ve been overjoyed by the success we’ve had in performing live and in selling our songs to film and television.

But there’s so much more music that I love and make.

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Wagoneers at the Continental Club #honktonking #atx

wagoneers continental club

Sugaroo, the agency that represents my music in film and television, also represents the alt-country americana legends the Wagoneers, who are now in Sunday-evening residence at the Continental Club here in Austin (one of our favorite honkytonks).

Sugaroo’s founder/owner and my very old and dear friend, Michael, was in Texas this weekend for meetings and he and I caught the show last night.

It was pretty amazing: they played their first record (1988, a landmark release that launched alt-country in the U.S.) in its entirety, in sequence, and then played their new as-of-yet unreleased record in its entirety. What a show!

Michael told me that he hopes to see the new disk out sometime in 2014.

In the meantime, here’s their site.

they’re with the band

From the department of “good girls go to heaven and bad girls go to Italy”…

hot band wives

Just had to share this photo, sent by one of my best friends, of the “band wives” on the night of the first of two shows that my band “the Americani” played earlier this month in the village of Cison di Valmarino in the province of Treviso (Veneto).

That’s Tracie P, second from right.

Now do you see why guys like me learn how to play guitar? ;)