Monthly Archives: January 2011

Sometimes I feel like a Motherless child…


Richie Havens at Woodstock 1969

I am now a Motherless child. My Mother died December 22, 2010 in Lubbock Texas. She was sick with cancer for a long time but it doesn’t make it any easier to have lost her. She was as good a Mother as a child could ever have. She helped make me who I am today. She could do anything she had to. She never saw roadblocks. She was talented and creative. She loved music and art and crafts.

Her memorial service was held in Lubbock on January 15th, 2011. For most of her life she was a Ministers Wife. So she spent her life in service to others. Because my Mom and Dad were in a religion called “The Church of Christ”, there was only “Acapella” singing at the service. This is a core belief of ‘The Church of Christ”: No musical instruments in the church building. Acapella is Italian for “in the manner of the Chapel”. In the earliest known history of organized religion all singing was vocal only. They sang without instruments. It really can be quite beautiful. The vocal singing at my Mother’s service was not the best I’ve ever heard, but the feelings were very strong and very real. Here’s a list of the gospel songs that were sung at my Mom’s memorial service:

“How Beautiful Heaven must Be”

“Earth Holds No Treasure”

“The Lord’s Prayer”

“In the Sweet By and By”

The service was a great tribute to an amazing person. My Mother had a difficult life and had to overcome a lot of adversity. Some of the things she had to overcome would have easily defeated the average person. Even though her life was hard, she always remained positive and always figured out how to move forward. She is an inspiration to me. I think it’s odd that she died on 12-22-10. It’s almost like a binary code. I’ve thought about translating the numbers into notes and building a musical composition from it. It makes for an interesting motif.

I spent the afternoon after the service with my family and my relatives. Later that night some of us went out to eat. It was a Saturday night and the restaurant was busy. We had to wait a long time for a table. By the time Pam and I got back to the hotel it was very late. I really needed to unwind so I made myself a Vodka Soda and turned on my i Pod. I have a running joke with my wife that the i Pod has mental telepathy and can read our thoughts and pick music that fits the moment. The very first song that played was “Hard Times (Who Knows Better Than I).” The performance was by Eric Clapton from the album “Journeyman.” The song was actually written and recorded by Ray Charles and Mitch Mitchell in 1961. (I’m not sure this is the same Mitch Mitchell that played drums in the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Does anybody out there know? Ray Charles got his musical start in Seattle Washington where Hendrix was born. Hmmm….) It sounds like it could be much, much older. Who knows? Here’s the lyrics and here’s the song covered by Eric Clapton:

Hard Times (Who Knows Better Than I?)

My mother told me
‘Fore she passed away
Said son when I’m gone
Don’t forget to pray

‘Cause there’ll be hard times
Lord those hard times
Who knows better than I?

Well I soon found out
Just what she meant
When I had to pawn my clothes
Just to pay the rent

Talkin’ ’bout hard times
Lord those hard times
Who knows better than I?

I had a woman
Who was always around
But when I lost my money
She put me down

Talkin’ ’bout hard times
Hard times
Yeah, yeah, who knows better than I?

Lord, one of these days
There’ll be no more sorrow
When I pass away

And no more hard times
No more hard times
Yeah, yeah, who knows better than I?

05 Hard Times

I talk to my friend Jim last night. He asked about my mom’s service. I told him all about it. I told the i Pod story. He had a much better explanation for the irony of the song choice the i Pod made. Jim said ‘It was just your Mother talking to you.” Thank you Jim.

Thank you Mom. I will always love you.

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A new opportunity presents itself…

Well, the blog has only been up two weeks and it has already led to an interesting new opportunity. My friend Kim told the Executive Director of the Plano Symphony Orchestra about me and my blog and she really wanted to meet me. I had coffee with Kim and and the Exec Alice Hobbs. She has two interesting projects I am considering working on. The first is a circa 1870’s grand piano (7’4″) they would like to sell. The second project she wants my help with is an LP record collection.  A Patron of the Plano Sympony gifted her classical LP collection to the symphony when she died recently. They have no idea what to do with it or even if it’s worth anything. I am going to go see the piano and the collection next week. Stay tuned for more details. This could be very interesting!

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Solo Jazz Piano a Diversion?

In this months edition of ” The Absolute Sound” (February 2011-issue 210, pages 120-121) there is an article called “New Jazz on Ten Fingers” by Jeff Wilson.  Being a pianist myself, I was very interested in reading this article.  First Jeff gets high marks for a very interesting and deep subject.  Second, he gets high marks for introducing new solo jazz piano discs.  I don’t want to nit pick his article, but I do want to add to this discussion. 

Jeff makes the point that it seems that most jazz pianists only do solo recordings as a diversion. He also states that there are many jazz pianists that have never recorded a solo album.  I could be wrong but it seemed to me there was an implication that maybe some of these pianists were reluctant to play solo while others excelled at it.  What I  believe is that many of them would have recorded solo works but record labels are concerned with how marketable solo piano is.  Jeff’s reference to Keith Jarrett and the legendary LP “The Koln Concert” is great.  Here is living proof that solo piano music has a market.  Everybody went out and bought that record.  It was hip.  It was cool.






I ‘d really like to hear Lenny Tristano’s “The New Tristano” (1962 LP) and I will go on the hunt for it on vinyl. Also, McCoy Tyner’s “Solo”.    Here are a couple of samples of the other discs Jeff discussed.  First “Fred Hersch plays Jobim”


01. Por Toda Minha Vida 








Next Vijay Iyer Solo:









 The Piano is the ultimate instrument.  It is really the only insturment that does not require any other accompanyment.  In some ways it is kind of strange to discuss the uniqueness of solo piano performances.  Beethoven would find it hilarious.  Solo piano was the norm not the exception thoughout music history.  To me there is nothing quite like seeing solo piano performances live.  It is the acid test, the ultimate.  I bet even the jazz pianist that never recorded solo work would have loved to release solo performances, but couldn’t get past the A&R man at record company.    So here are a few nuggets from the past that did not get mentioned in Mr. Wilson’s article:

Bill Evans “Alone”.

No discussion of Jazz on Ten Fingers could be complete without the mention of the great Bill Evans.  Here is the play list from this great LP:

1.  Here’s That Rainy Day

2.  A Time For Love

3.  Midnight Mood

4.  On A Clear Day4 On A Clear Day

5.  Never Let Me Go

I wish I had room to upload “Never Let Me Go”.  This is 14 minutes of magic.  It rivals John Coltraine’s “My Favorite Things.”  This is a must have Bill Evans Recording. Thank you to Jimmy Joe for my copy of this amazing LP!

Next:  Teddy Wilson -Solo:

Solo Piano: Keystone Transcriptions 1939-1940

Teddy Wilson – 01 – Get out of town

2.  Just One Of Those Things

3.  I Get A Kick Out Of You

4.  I Love You

5.  It’s All Right With Me

6.  Love For Sale

7.  Too Darn Blue

8.  Blue Turning Grey Over You

9.  Aint’ Cha’ Glad?

10.  I’ve Got A Feeling I’m Falling

11.  Zomky

12.  Black And Black

13.  Ain’t Misbehavin’

14.  Honeysuckle Rose

Last, check out Ellis Marsalis. (The Father of Winton Marsalis)  He has some great Jazz solo piano discs.  I really love the one he did of Duke Ellington songs. (Duke In Blue)  This is a must have!

Duke in Blue

This only scratches the surface of solo jazz piano performances.  What do you think?  Any comments?

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Posted in CD Picks | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Listening to Aretha Franklin on New Year’s Eve

I am very saddened to hear that Aretha Franklin,
The Queen Of Soul; may have Pancreatic cancer. She is a national treasure.
It’s just one more crappy thing that happened in 2010 if it’s true. One
of my best friends was diagnosed with Pancreatic cancer in
September of 2009. He is still fighting with all his might
and I hope Aretha will follow his example. So it seemed
appropriate to listen to a couple of Aretha’s LPs this new year’s
eve. The two LPs were “Aretha’s Greatest Hits” (Atlantic SD-8295)
copyright 1971, and “Aretha” (Arista Records AL8442) copyright
1986. I listened to them in chronological order. Very
interesting to listen to two records back to back that were
recorded 15 years apart by the same artist. First the greatest
hits. I know what you’re thinking…”How many times can you
listen to Aretha sing “Respect?” Right? The answer for me is
there is no limit! The LP was in very good shape after
cleaning. I was surprised because the record was not in a
liner sleeve. Here is the song order for Side one:

1.  Spanish Harlem

2.  Chain of Fool

3.  Don’t Play That Song

4.  I say A Little Prayer

5.  Dr.Feelgood:  Dr. Feelgood

6.  Let It Be

7.  Do Right Woman – Do Right Man

Side 2:

  1. Bridge Over Troubled Water:   Bridge Over Troubled Water
  2. Respect
  3. Baby I Love You:  Baby I Love You
  4. (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman
  5. I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You)
  6. You’re All I Need To Get By
  7. Call Me

The cuts that seem to stand out the most
were the ones that were produced by Jerry Wexler alone.
Jerry seemed to stay the truest to the soul sound that I love when
I listen to Aretha. Dr. Feel Good and Baby I Love You are
real stand outs. If I could sing a song to Aretha I’d sing that
opening chorus arrangement of “Bridge Over Troubled Water”
“…Don’t trouble the water why don’t cha, why don’t cha Let It Be?
Still waters Run Deep… Like a Bridge over troubled water I
will lay me down” She turns the song inside out and makes it her
own. Tough thing to do with a song that familiar. There’s not
that much more to say about this album. It is classic
Atlantic R & B Soul.   The cut “Don’t Play That Song” was actually written by the founder of Atlantic Records and Rock-nRoll Hall Of Famer Amet Ertegun along with Betty Nelson.  Also, many don’t know that “Respect” was written and performed first by the great Otis Redding.  If you haven’t heard the original you really should check it out.

“Aretha” is another matter all
together. Here are the cuts in order: Side1:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

  1. Jimmy Lee
  2. I Knew You Were Waiting
    (For Me) (Duet with George Michael)
  3. Do You
    Still Remember
  4. Jumpin’ Jack Flash (Produced by
    Keith Richards):  Jumpin’ Jack Flash


Side 2

  1. Rock-A-Little
  2. An Angel’s
  3. He’ll Come Along (Produced by Aretha
    Franklin):  He’ll Come Along
  4. If You Need My Love Tonight (Duet
    with Larry Graham)
  5. Look To The Rainbow
    (Produced by Aretha Franklin)

This is one of
those attempts to update a sound that doesn’t need updating.
There is a very bad duet with George Michael “I Knew You Were
Waiting (For Me). Also a duet with Larry Graham “If You Need
My Love Tonight” Equally 80’s boring. The band is a who’s who type
of line up that includes Kenny G., and Randy Jackson (American
Idol) as well as Chuck Leavell, Ron Wood and Keith Richards, and
Steve Jordan. Chuck has played with everyone from the Almond
Brothers to Eric Clapton and the Rolling Stones. Steve Jordan
has played in Keith Richards band “The X-pensive Wino’s as well as
Ron Wood’s solo album ‘Slide on This” This album becomes the Disco
Future vs. The R & B past. Aretha produces two
cuts. One of the Aretha produced cuts is “He’ll Come
Along”. She learned a lot from Jerry Wexler.
This is classic Atlantic R & B sound. The stand out gem of
the record is the Keith Richards produced cut of the Rolling
Stone tune “Jumping Jack Flash.” Aretha plays the piano
and does the vocal. This is an awesome performance! One
last thing about this album: It had hardly been played.
It was in almost perfect condition.

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Posted in Vinyl | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments