24th: Here I am, preparing to release my 19th CD and knowing that this is my very best work so far. I am so grateful to you all for following my music, some of you since the very beginning with "The River Flows" back in 1990. The musical journey continues for me and I hope for you too and I can't express the joy of sharing my brand new music with you and my heartfelt thanks for your support, support which allows me to continue to create what I feel is important, soulful, deep music, music which I hope is a part of what makes life worth living and music which is not dictated by any record company executive or radio station conglomerate. Pure music, thanks to your support.
My new CD has been shipped to the manufacturing plant! The new CD is called "Dreaming of Trains" and features 9 new compositions and runs for a total of 51 minutes. This is what they had to say on Amazon.com about the new music -
"This is Ken Navarro's 19th CD release and is the follow up to his breakthrough release of 2008, The Grace of Summer Light which was named the #1 Contemporary Jazz CD of 2008 by Jazz Times magazine. Featured musicians include Jay Rowe from Special EFX and the Marion Meadows band, Tom Kennedy from the Al Dimeola band and the Mike Stern band and Joel Rosenblatt from Spyro Gyra. These 9 new recordings are built around strong melodic themes which flow perfectly within each composition. The reason a group of songs with this level of complexity can be so accessible is because they are beautiful, diverse, and there isn't the dissonance that is often the hallmark of progressive and fusion projects. Complex solos, arrangements and rhythms? Yes. Self serving edginess? No."
And here is the song list -
1. Dream So Real 2. Self Propelled 3.True Stories 4. Dreaming of Trains 5. The Buzz 6. Shared Air 7.Everything Being is Dancing 8. The Stars, The Snow, The Fire 9. Gymnopedie No 1
We will begin to take your pre-orders here at www.kennavarro.com/CDs/dreamingoftrains on January 1st and begin shipping those pre-orders to you by January 16. The new CD will not be released in stores until March 16 but you, my loyal fans and followers of my music, will be able to receive it two months before the official release date.
Happy Holidays and a very Happy New Year!
24th: Jay and I finished up recording all of the new keyboard parts on Thursday. The last thing we recorded was a duet version of Erik Satie's piece "Gymnopedie #1" with Jay playing acoustic piano and me playing the classical guitar. It will close out the new CD on a beautiful, pure note. Now I am preparing for a full week of recording all of my new guitar parts of which there will be many. A good deal of my original guitar parts on the demos are quite good so maybe some of them will make it onto the final CD version. But either way, I will be spending all of next week playing and recording my guitars - the nylon string, the steel string and my electric too. I am certainly looking forward to playing to all of the fantastic parts which drummer Joel Rosenblatt, bassist Tom Kennedy and Jay have created for my new compositions. As happy as I am with the compositions from my last CD "The Grace of Summer Light", I feel even more excited about these new 9 pieces and so I am quite looking forward to playing as well as I can on them.
In the meantime, I continue to do my daily radio show. It's a challenge to keep it going but I am. Have you been listening? Hope so!
20th: This week I am in the midst of recording the final acoustic pianos and keyboards for the upcoming CD. Jay Rowe got into Baltimore from Connecticut on Saturday and we have been working ever since then. We plan on finishing on Thursday. Jay is playing great stuff as usual and even though we had already recorded tons of great pre-production keyboards back in September, Jay is adding many new and wonderful parts now that both Joel Rosenblatt's drums and Tom Kennedy basses are all recorded. You see when Jay added keyboards in September, he played to my demos where I played all the instruments. Now that the real drums and basses have replaced my basses and drums on all of the new songs, Jay is reacting in many exciting and dynamic ways, ways that he can only do with Joel and Tom's parts added. Jay and I are working very hard this week but the results are well worth the sweat.
Speaking of Joe Rosenblatt - I travelled to Joel's fantastic recording studio in NY at the end of September and spent 3 full days recording Joel's letter perfect drum work. I am so pleased with the parts Joel played and my new compositions were given a new dimension by Joel's tremendous dynamic power and the wonderfully wide range of colors he can produce with his playing and his understanding of cymbals and tone. The following week, after returning to my studio in Baltimore, Tom Kennedy arrived from NYC via LA (where he had just been working with the great drummer Dave Weckl on his own solo album) to record his acoustic bass, fretless bass and fretted bass. Tom is a well known and much respected virtuoso on both the acoustic and electric basses. He totally "got" my new music and breathed so much new spirit and energy into it. Plus Tom has a seemingly unlimited ability to play anything I compose, no matter how difficult and there was some challenging music I needed him to not just play but nail - and he did it everytime.
I am writing this blog entry at midnight so I need to get some sleep as Jay and I will begin recording again tomorrow morning. Thanks for following my blog and I promise to write again soon.
3rd: Wow, it's been quite awhile since I wrote one of these blog entries. I have been busy and this summer has been a time of playing numerous shows around the USA and continuing to compose and record the music for my next CD. For example, I have spent the last 3 weeks working everyday with my keyboardist, the wonderful Jay Rowe, adding new parts to my 9 demos. Because the demos were pretty full and polished before I sent them to Jay, some people might think I could release these demos and call it an album and I guess I could. But Jay and I are determined to take it to a higher place. And of course I will be recording Joel Rosenblatt's drums and Tom Kennedy's acoustic and electric bass work in late September/early October and then the music will take on a totally new dimension when those fine, world class players add their creative magic to the fire.
It's seems odd to me that most of the stuff that is passed off as new "smooth jazz" (with some exceptions) knows little of the kind of extensive work and attention to detail that goes into the making of a record like this or my last CD "The Grace of Summer Light". Yet, these artists - some of whom I have great respect for as players - continue to turn out mediocre music as if it was just so much product. I am thankful that I have a fan base who is interested in what I am humbly trying to achieve, people whose ears and hearts and dare I say souls want more, need much more.
Music is so vital to my life - it is nothing less than a spiritual pursuit and although I try to be sympathetic to the financial reasons why mediocre music is created, I ultimately must make the best music I know how, summoning everything from my 56 years of living, composing and performing to do it. Too many smooth jazz musicians and their "management" who advise them, give only what is necessary to make the next buck and to try and score the next temporary radio hit. Not me.
29th: It's been quite awhile since I wrote here last - I have been busy - doing some traveling and concerts but it seems that every free day, hour, & minute have been spent in the studio, composing the music for what will be my next CD, my 19th. I have now finished 8 new pieces plus an arrangement of an Eric Satie piece for piano and guitar. I am very excited about the new music as I continue to take what I feel are large steps down the path I began with last year's "The Grace of Summer Light". I can tell you that there are a number of linear compositions which continue to explore and re-define the possibilities of combining warm, melodic music with sophisticated harmony, fresh rhythms and long form compositions. There are also pieces which are song-like and focus on exploring more deeply those possibilities. There is one song which I guess some may even call "smooth" jazz but it's just me writing and playing in a groove I love and play well. Finally, the CD will conclude with my long time pianist Jay Rowe and I playing a duet version of Erik Satie's famous Gymnopedie #1. It was featured recently in the documentary "Man On Wire" and hearing it reminded me of how much I love it and how beautiful it would sound at the end of this new record. I can also tell you that the recording sessions have been scheduled in October. I am happy to tell you that the same band who worked with me so well on "Grace" will be continuing this musical journey with me. Joel Rosenblatt will be playing drums and Tom Kennedy will be playing acoustic and electric bass plus fretless bass. And of course Jay Rowe will be on keyboards. There may also be a guest musician or two but I am not sure yet. I expect to release the CD in the first few months of 2010. Stay tuned here at my web site for many previews of the new music. I also hope to be able to share one of the demos with you very soon.
FYI - New Books that I am currently reading -
"The Big Picture" by Tom Reilly - essays on the art of film making from a consumate pro. Incredible behind the scenes nuts and bolts stuff.
"Grand Obsession" by Perri Knize - quest for finding the perfect piano and a search for the sublime and joy in life.
Music I am currently listening to -
"Talking Book" by Stevie Wonder. My father's day present from Eric and a classic CD. Smart son!
"River" by Herbie Hancock. Wonderful interpretation of Joni Mitchell's music.
"Have A Little Faith" by Bill Frisell. This 1992 release from a master American guitarist never fails to inspire me and make me smile.
A movie I just saw - "Departures". A Japanese film about a cellist whose orchestra is disbanded due to lack of funding. He takes up a new and unexpected career. A slightly flawed but uncommonly touching and absorbing movie.
9th: The writing is flowing now - I just finished composing and demoing the 3rd piece for the next CD. I am in a very different place now than I was when I wrote my last blog entry almost 3 weeks ago. This always happens - I don't know why I worry so much about starting the writing of each new CD. It feels good working in the studio every day and the new music is a very logical next step forward after the success of "The Grace of Summer Light". Pretty soon I just may share one of the new demos with you faithful readers!
I'm looking forward to my upcoming shows in CT, Canada and FL in the next few weeks. Jay Rowe's annual Smooth Jazz For Scholars show is up next on May 16. If you are anywhere near Milford, CT you gotta check out me with Chieli Minucci, Nelson Rangell and Marion Meadows and of course the man himself, Jay Rowe. The rhythm section ain't nothing to sneeze at either - the amazing Dave Livolsi on bass and the fantastic Trever Somerville on drums. Gonna be another great one. I am going to play "Daddy-O" and "Try Again" with the band and Jay and I are going to do an acoustic duo version of "Some Other Time". Hope to see you there supporting this great cause for the public school music departments of Milford, CT.
20th: Well, it took 3 weeks but we made it! - we are all moved into our new home now and I am working away in my recording studio these days, writing the music for the next CD. I am still in the very early stages and as usual, it's really hard work to get this ball rolling. Especially after "The Grace of Summer Light", I feel as if I have to raise the bar even higher. So I am working hard everyday, and even though it feels as if it is more struggle than success at the moment, I have been through this first phase of a new project many times. And so I am trying to be patient with myself and accept that as long as there is some progress everyday, I am moving forward. Folks, it's very hard to compose new music, especially music that is deep and complex yet pure and melodic and memorable, all at the same time. Believe me, I try my very best to create new music which will be the best I can do. The new studio is full of light and has a beautiful view and man, that definitely helps. After years of working in a basement recording studio, this "lightness" is a much welcome change.
The move was intense - every muscle in my body was sore for awhile - and in the middle of it all, I flew to Reno, Nevada to play a show there. It was actually a good break from the moving in going on here at home and I was energized again by the time I returned home. I think the hardest part of the move was putting my recording studio back together again. After 19 years of "growing" the studio in one location, it wasn't easy to remember how I had wired everything. But my brain managed to reconstruct it all properly and I actually have things running more smoothly than ever.
I love the new house - and there are many interesting places to hang out in - for example, I am writing this blog from our sun room. It's been pouring rain all day so not much sun today but it's still a nice place to have my coffee in the mornings. I also enjoy spending some time in the late afternoons answering my emails and updating my blog and website as well as my facebook and myspace pages after the composing and guitar practicing is done for the day.
9th: Kristin and I are now less than 2 weeks away from moving from our house of almost 19 years to a new house. We have been working towards this move for over a year now and we are very excited about the new house - it is a fantastic home with a great floor plan and a wonderful space for my studio. There is also a tennis court right across the street! (now I have no excuse for not playing everyday). We aren't going too far - only a few miles - but the change is substantial and now that it is only days away, I am reflecting on all of the life my family and I have lived in this house. We raised our daughter from birth through high school here and our son from a toddler to a college graduate. I recorded 17 CDs of my own music here and produced dozens of others for other artists right here in my studio. I also started Positive Music Records here some 19 years ago and numerous hard working and talented people have worked here with me to create many top 10 CDs. When not on tour, I have spent most of my time in this house and so I feel as though I have lived the equivalent of 50 years here! However, change is important for all of us, and as a person who is constantly striving to grow as a musican and as a person, a fresh perspective, outlook and a new physical space are imperative for me to continue to create new music and to grow. I will talk to you again on the other side.... now back to packing boxes (ugh).
19th: Happy New Year & Happy Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. day!
For starters, I am glad to say that it's finally 2009 and we are now just hours away from our new President taking the oath of office. We are very excited here in the Navarro household.
Yesterday, my wife and I went to a fantastic Barack Obama inauguration party thrown by our old friends Kip and Peg Laramie. It was so much fun and a true celebration. Great people including family and friends and so much enthusiasm and HOPE for what is to come. (and Kip and Peg's wonderful cooking as a sweet bonus). And...I won the lottery drawing for the Obama souvenir necktie which I proudly wore for the remainder of the party!
Here's to our new President and a new era of peace, love, understanding and hope. YES WE DID.
10th: I am a longtime fan of the old TV show "Leave It To Beaver" and so today when I read a great article by writer and recovering cancer patient Jeff Obermiller called "Solace In a World Uncolored By Pain", I just had to pass the link for the article onto you all.
7th: It has now been 3 days since America elected Barack Obama as our new president yet I am still feeling the glow. As a child of the 50's and 60's, the election of an African-American to the highest office in the country is monumental. There have been many moments in the last few days when my emotions get the better of me - I think of all the struggle and suffering that has preceeded this moment in time and it moves me beyond words.
And then there is the man - Barack Obama. I believe that he will be one of the best presidents we have ever had. His wisdom, intelligence and leadership are exactly what we need at this time. This is a human being who knows himself (read his autobiography "Dreams From My Father") and his measured nature and maturity beyond his years will serve us all well in what are clearly going to be the most challenging of times ahead.
28th: This past weekend I had the pleasure of being a part of WGRV/Melbourne, Florida's Space Coast Jazz "Smooth Jazz Cares" Benefit Concert. It was a 2 day event and I performed on Saturday afternoon. All proceeds benefited the Builders Care Tropical Storm Fay Flood Victims Relief Fund. WGRV program director Randy Bennett and his wife Jan as well as WGRV's great staff and volunteers did an absolutely amazing job of putting over 20 national acts and 2 very full days of entertainment together in less than 6 weeks. The organization necessary to pull something like this off is massive and Randy did it beautifully. I was happy to be a part of this fine event. It was also very nice to meet so many musicians whose music I knew but whom I had never met. And I got to hang with so many musicians who are old friends as well. It was a good weekend all around.
21st: I just returned from a wonderful 9 days of travel in October - a week of travel with my wife through New England, culminating with a concert in Manchester, CT at the Manchester Community College Theater. The show was put on by Jumpstart Jazz Productions, lead by Kevin McCabe. Here is a link to their website. The show was a double bill with my old friend Eric Darius. I produced Eric's first nationally released CD back in 2003 and it has been quite nice to watch his growth as a musician and his success.
My band and I played 9 songs including "Daddy-O" and "On My Way To Somewhere" from my new CD - The Grace of Summer Light. It felt GREAT to play and my fantastic band - keyboardist Jay Rowe, Bassist Tom Kennedy and Drummer Trever Somerville were all so inspiring.
Jumpstart Jazz is simply put, a premier promoter of contemporary jazz in the USA. Kevin McCabe's obvious love of the music itself clearly drives him and his top drawer staff to put on one perfect show after another. As an artist, I so appreciate this committment to the music and to the performers. The integrity of Kevin and Jumpstart Jazz's work with and for jazz is a beautiful thing to see and to be involved with. There are so many great people who volunteer to make these concert events successful - and I also love hanging out with so many of these folks and and I want to take a moment to mention as many of them as I can. So, a very heartful THANK YOU!! to -
Michel, Kat, Jackie, Meg, Gayle, Barb, Jen, Maureen, Sarah, Paul, Frank, G. Byron, DeWayne, Lee, Glenn, Steve, Carl, Jeff, Eric, Walter, Matt, Pat, Mike and of course, Kevin. I really look forward to seeing you all again.
10th: My last blog entry seems so dated now. Since that entry just 1 short month ago, the world economy and the US economy in particular have fallen into turmoil and uncharted waters. Now there is no room for popularity contests and talk about "joe six pack". Yet the presidential campaign has become even more negative and the anger and desperation are obvious. A candidate that focus on trying to trash talk their opponent instead of explaining to the American people what has happened and what we can and need to do about it, is really telling you that they are bankrupt.
As bad as things are with the economy, there is an opportunity here to change our economic model from a non-producing one that rewards selfish, unethical behavior into one that creates new and necessary things for it's citizens. Instead of taking profit from the buying and selling of things (worthless things apparently), we now have an new opportunity to see an economy that works because we all win, not just the CEOs and parasites and their backers/enablers in the present administration and the congress.
And in my opinion, it begins with the issue of energy. We begin by conserving in our homes and in our day to day lives. And the American automobile industry will lead the way by creating cars which get 50+ miles to the gallon. And our government must create a new economy based around jobs and businesses devoted to the pursuit of alternative energy.
11th: Our country is at a truly critical crossroads. And so I can't believe that the news is full of lipstick and pigs and Alaskan hockey moms. The current election process is feeling more like American Idol, it's infotainment for the nation. The economy is in terrible shape and our future energy resources and global warming should have been addressed years ago. And we are fighting a war in Iraq that is costing us 300 million dollars a day.
If we as a country allow ourselves to be manipulated again by either of the political parties or the media into caring more about so called "cultural" values and personalities, then we are going to get what we deserve. We need to make the right choice or face the real economic and environmental consequences. I hope the debates will set this process straight.
17th: There is a new documentary film showing at film festivals around the US and the world called "The Wrecking Crew". Created by film maker and director Denny Tedesco, the son of the godfather of LA studio guitar Tommy Tedesco, the film documents a group of studio musicians in Los Angeles in the 1960s who played on countless hits for the Beach Boys, Frank Sinatra, Nancy Sinatra, Sonny and Cher, Jan & Dean, The Monkees, The Byrds, Gary Lewis and the Playboys, Mamas and Papas, Tijuana Brass, Ricky Nelson, Johnny Rivers and were Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound. Simply put, the amount of work that they were involved in was tremendous. Like their Motown counterparts in Detroit "The Funk Brothers", these top notch jazz musicians were the unsung heroes of the great pop music scene of the 60's. Guitarist Tommy Tedesco, drummer Hal Blaine, bassist Carol Kaye, keyboardist Don Randi - these were just some of the people who comprised the heart and soul of the Wrecking Crew. Reading about the film at Denny's web page reminded me of a story I have told many musicians but have never recounted at my blog. So here is L.A. Story #2...
It was September of 1982 and I had been in Los Angeles for not much more than 2 months. I was playing some gigs and meeting people and phoning anyone I thought might be willing to help a new kid in town. I called many established studio musicians and though a few of them called me back (I guess they thought I might be offering them work!) only one person returned my call and actually spent some time speaking with me. That of course was the one and only Tommy Tedesco. After a brief conversation, Tommy offered me the opportunity to visit a recording session (a pre-record for the Emmys) that he was doing the next day. As someone who had devoured all of Tommy's books and columns about studio work (they were the bible as far as I was concerned), to have the man himself allow me to watch him work was just beyond my wildest dreams. So the next day I found my way to the studio in Hollywood where he was working. Though he was fighting a cold, he was gracious, greeting me by name and shaking my hand. Though there was a large orchestra and conductor in the main room, Tommy, a drummer, a bassist and percussionist Joe Porcaro were situated in a smaller insolation booth with a wall of glass so that the conductor could see in and the musicians could see out. The session began and it was clear that this was a group of men who had worked together many times and knew each other well. The conductor and composer, the acclaimed Jack Elliott, clearly had worked with everyone as well and most likely it was at his request that they were all hired for this session as that was/is typically how the studio scene works. Tommy played one cue after another (short and not so short musical pieces), each one beautifully. I watched as he sight read everything perfectly, yet always embellishing and making the cues his own, as if he had written them. Sometimes the written notes on the page were actually incorrect and unplayable for the guitar. This happens more often than not when people, even talented composers, write for the guitar. Tommy seamlessly "corrected" these mistakes while he sight read, never once hesitating or asking for special credit for this ability. I began to undersand that this was one of the keys to his success. I never again simply read music that was put in front of me. I always interpreted it and tried to add to it and give it life. As Tommy told me, "if they want you to play it exactly as they wrote it, they'll tell you and you can always do that". The reality is that a composer will almost always prefer you to make it as musicial as possible and sometimes they won't even realize that you are adding to what they wrote. If it makes them sound good, they are happy and most importantly, as Tommy taught me, they will hire you again and again. If you just read the music as it's written, well, there are a dozen guys withing a 5 mile radius of any recording studio in LA who can do that. So anyway, they were all recording many different cues to be used during the Emmy Awards TV presentation to be aired the following week. Besides being a great guitarist and musician, Tommy Tedesco was a very funny, smart and mischievious man. There were so many memorable things he did that day but the first one that comes to mind was a cue that caused the drummer (let's call him "Jerry") to almost have an anxiety attack and the conductor to almost fire him on the spot! The cue involved Jerry waiting for 20 bars before making his entrance. Those 20 bars were not in 4/4 time or even in one consistent tempo. Instead, the tempo fluctuated and the time signature was constantly shifting. What this meant for the drummer/Jerry was that he needed to count and closely watch the conductor. Well, the cue begins and 2 bars into it, Tommy starts talking and telling a joke. Jerry is distracted and sure enough, he fails to come in at the appropriate time. Jack turns towards our booth and says "hey, what's the problem Jerry?" Jerry sheepishly says it's no problem, I got it, one more time please. So the orchestra begins the cue again and Tommy launches into his joke right where he left off and now Jerry is noticeably nervous. Sure enough, he botches his entrance again but this time he actually plays some half hearted fill and now Jack angrily stops the entire 80 piece orchestra and yells at the booth "what the f... is wrong with you Jerry?!!". Woah - now this is more education than I had expected. So they begin the cue for the third time and Tommy just goes right back to telling his joke with renewed vitality. Jerry is freaking out and when they are 4 bars from his entrance, Tommy calmly stops his joke, looks right at Jerry and counts him in perfectly for his entrance in the cue. Tommy knew EXACTLY where they were and this time Jerry made the entrance perfectly. We all breathed a sigh of relief and the session moved on. At another point, the conductor decided to cut bars 66 through 82 out of a cue. Tommy looked at me and grinned and proceeded to carefully rip bars 66 - 82 out of his music and tossed them on the ground. Naturally, 5 minutes later the conductor decided to put the bars back in. Tommy turned to me and begged me to help him find the missing bars on the ground while he continued to play the cue. I know he wasn't really worried - in fact, I think he might have ripped those bars out just so he could call me into service. Finally, at the end of the session, they did a version of "Stars and Stripes Forever". Tommy had nothing to play for the last 24 bars so he took advantage of that free time to turn his score into tiny confetti and upon the orchestras's last note for the day, showered all of us in the booth with a patriotic flourish of paper notes. Before I left, Tommy and I talked about equipment and pedal boards and he proudly showed me the cigarette lighter he had installed on the face plate of his Fender Twin amp.
Tommy had a heart of gold and my experience with him was hardly unique as he helped literally hundreds of guitar players to pursue their dream. Denny, I can't wait to see the film and please know that your dad has a special place in my heart.
14th: Today I switched my website to a new web host. For anyone who was trying to visit my site earlier today, I apologize for the inconvenience.
28th: Random Notes - Books I just finished reading include "The Importance of Music To Girls", a memoir from English writer, Lavinia Greenlaw about growing up in England in the 70s and the role that music played in her life and "The Last Lecture" by Randy Pausch. The messages in this book are simple, yet very powerful. Music I've been listening to includes Dylan's "Blonde On Blonde" on CD (a birthday present), Keith Jarrett's solo piano album "Facing You" on vinyl and the new CD on my ipod by Fleet Foxes, a new band on the Sub Pop label. George Carlin's death this week prompted me to watch some of the HBO specials he did. A lover of language and a fearless comedian. And incredibly prolific, working and creating right to the end.
4th: Last night was history. America now has a presidential candidate who fills so many of us with hope for our future and a renewed pride in our country and it's promise of equality. The principle that all men and women are created equal has been an elusive one in my lifetime. With the Democratic nomination finally in Barack Obama's grasp, that ideal is no longer relegated to someday. Someday is now!
1st: For quite a long time now, I have been practicing the art of balancing self expression and art with commerce and popularity. I must confide in you dear reader that the challenges of this dance are not my favorite part of being a composer and guitarist. Yet I have continued to follow the path of pursuing self expression and the creation of art first and foremost and then figured out the commerce part of the deal -or put another way - make sure I have enough popularity to continue to support the art. But nothing has challenged me quite like my upcoming CD "The Grace of Summer Light".
You see, when I was composing this music for 3 months and recording it for 4 more months, all that mattered to me was the music itself. I challenged myself to rise to a place that I had never been before and to stay there for every single new note of the music as I wrote, played and recorded it. I was determined and dedicated and driven to make the most soulful, meaningful music of my life. It is no exaggeration to say that I have worked my whole life to be able to create "The Grace of Summer Light".
So once the final recordings were finally sent to the manufacturer, I was able to relax - for about one week. But before I knew it, the commerce phase was upon me. It was time to fire up the retail distribution, web and print marketing campaigns and begin doing the radio promotion, to make sure that as many people as possible knew about my new creation. I won't bore you with the many non-musical skills I have developed over the course of the last 25 years related to to marketing and promotion but suffice it to say that they are substantial. So I am in that phase now, working hard and hoping that you - my loyal longtime fans as well as the new visitors to my music - will "get" what I have accomplished with "The Grace of Summer Light" and support me as I continue on this journey with you and for the music. Here is a link to the very first review of "Grace" - it's a great one!
1st: Hopefully you have noticed that I have done something pretty unique in contemporary jazz - I am making it possible for folks to listen to my entire upcoming CD "The Grace of Summer Light", 7 weeks before the official retail release date of June 17. Here is the link if you haven't been there already - "The Grace of Summer Light" streaming audio. I am doing this because I want as many people as possible to experience this work in it's entirety. I am confident that once they do, they will want to own it and make it their own. I am getting an off the chart wonderful response to the new CD and am humbled by this. Here is a link to one of the forums where people are talking about it - People Are Talking About "Grace". I am also happy that so many people have already purchasd a CD or a download and are telling other folks about this. Thank you and I hope to meet each and every one of you when I am out there playing shows in 2008.
30th: As promised, I wanted to follow up my last post and let you know what a wonderful show and time was had by all last Saturday in Milford, CT at Jay Rowe's 6th annual Smooth Jazz For Scholars concert. There were between 800 - 1000 folks in attendance. Everyone played so well, together and on their own, and it was a pleasure seeing and performing with Joyce, Eric, Chieli, Kim, Jay, Dave, Rohn, Steve, Trever and Caitlin again. For a very well done photo summary of the netire show, visit Mike Chimeri's blog. Thanks for doing a great job, Jay and for asking me to be a part of such a fine event. And thanks to Kat, Kevin, Dwayne and all the wonderful folks with Jump Street Jazz who do so much for music in CT.
25th: I am taking an early morning flight tomorrow morning in order to play a special concert in Connecticut on Saturday night, April 26 - Jay Rowe's 6th Annual Smooth Jazz for Scholars show. This year's lineup includes me, Chieli Minucci, Jay, Joyce Cooling, Kim Waters, and Eric Mariental as well as a great rhythm section - Dave Livosi on bass, Trever Somerville on drums and Rohn Lawrence on guitar. Should be fun. I will try to make some time next week to write about it here at my blog.
The new CD arrived this week and it's been great being able to fill the many pre-orders we had - the orders started coming in January. I really can't wait for people to hear this new music so the day after our first shipment arrived, we began shipping the orders. This new music opens up a whole new world for me and as my friend and musical compatriot Jay Rowe said - "this is a life changing album". Well, it is for me and I hope the impact of what I am composing and playing on "The Grace of Summer Light" is felt by anyone who hears it. It's been an exciting week as I guess you can tell.
It's 9 pm and I am off to bed. No, I'm not getting old (ha!), I just know I need to get up at 4:30 am in the morning and I have a long Saturday ahead of me. Good night!
2nd: My old friend and former keyboardist Dan LaMaestra recently sent me this photo from 1988.
Dan found this photo through his wife Patty (seen here just to the right of Glen Campbell). Patty was a member of the LA Jazz Choir, who along with me were hired to be a part of a TV music show for a German television producer. This was taken outside of Los Angeles, in the desert. Yes, that's Glen's famous Ovation guitar which I am holding. Man, I look so young - I think I was 34 years old when this photo was taken. It is a truly a small world - I did not meet Dan until 1998 and Dan did not met Patty until sometime in the 1990s. Yet here is this picture. (FYI - I did not introduce Dan to Patty - he found her all on his own....wise man!)
19th: As I wait this morning for keyboardist Jay Rowe to email me the latest pre-production midi keyboard parts for one of my new songs from the upcoming CD, I thought it would be a good time to make a new blog entry, my first for 2008. It's pretty cold here in Maryland today and getting colder tomorrow. I am preparing to take a trip out west to play a show in Reno, NV next week. It is even colder there! We had some snow this week. The week before that we had temperatures of 70 degrees. I knew that couldn't last - I am making my peace with settling in for a few more months of winter now.
Pre-production on the new CD is in full swing. This week, Jay Rowe and I continue to work on new keyboard parts for 4 of the songs. This has been an integral part of my process with new music for many years and CDs but this time, it is more challenging. My demos for this new music are already quite detailed and so Jay has been digging deep to find just the right parts and sounds to complement what I have already created. As usual, Jay is coming up with brilliant stuff and creating yet another dimension to my music. Since Jay lives in CT, we work by email and the internet, sending midi data and audio files. I expect to work this way with Jay right up until the recording sessions begin on February 11. That's the day I begin recording with drummer Joel Rosenblatt.
I also spent a good deal of time this week transcribing (writing down) all of the many guitar parts for the new compositions. Some of the songs have 10 different guitar parts so it's no small task to remember and re-learn what I played on the demos and then put it all down neatly on manuscript paper. This is not something I usually do but the complexity of this project has caused me to take a deep breath and go to this extra work. I know that when I begin re-recording all of my guitar parts in February, I will be very glad I took the time to be completely prepared.
Other than the new music and keeping up with the daily business of running my record label Positive Music Records, I have been reading when I get a moment. I received a new book in the mail last week from my old friend, Doug Thorpe. Doug is an author and professor of literature and writing at Seattle Pacific University. He graciously sent me a copy of latest book "Rapture of The Deep". As one reviewer said "We have tamed too much of our world, too much of our mind, too much of our soul. Doug Thorpe helps us understand what Thoreau really meant when he said that in wildness is the preservation of the world". Doug writes with a depth and clarity that is inspirational. And his warm glow and spirit are in every word. You can find this important new book at Amazon and/or your local bookstore.
My son bought me a couple of excellent music DVDs for Christmas. One was from the Jazz Icon series, featuring John Coltrane from 3 different concerts taken from footage in 1960, 1961 and 1965. The 1965 footage is with the classic quartet of McCoy Tyner, Elvin Jones and Jimmy Garrison and they are at the height of their powers. It is downright telepathic what is going on in these performances. There is a 21 minute version of "My Favorite Things" from the 1965 concert in which some of the most moving, deeply spiritual and technically amazing music I have ever seen or heard - in any style, from any period of time or band - is created. This is wonderful for me to experience and draw inspirationn from as I work on what I hope will be my most important and lasting work so far.
10th: I am happy to tell you that the recording sessions for my new CD, tentatively set for worldwide release in June 2008, have been scheduled for early 2008 (see my calendar). The demos for all of my new compositions are now finished and I have booked the recording sessions with some of the best contemporary jazz musicians in the world for this new CD. Joel Rosenblatt will be playing drums and I believe he is the perfect fit for this new music of mine. Joel has played with many great musicians including Michael Brecker and Steve Kahn and he is probably best known for his great work as Spyro Gyra's drummer for many years. On acoustic bass and electric basses will be the amazing Tom Kennedy. Tom also has a very impressive resume including recording and touring work with Al DiMeola, Steve Gadd and Michael Brecker but he is probably best known for his recording and touring work with drummer extraordinaire Dave Weckl. On acoustic piano and keyboards will be my longtime keyboardist and musical associate Jay Rowe. Jay and I are already doing some pre-production work on the keyboard parts and his input on this new music will be very important. Percussionist Kevin Prince will be making his invaluable contribution to the new recordings as well. And...... (drum roll) I will be sharing one of my demos with you very soon....
13th: File this blog entry under the heading "better late than never". I know that I promised to write a new blog entry promptly upon my return home from my Florida concerts but from the moment I returned to my recording studio, I began work on a new composition and quickly became immersed in the work. I spent all of last week composing a brand new piece and recording the demo and I think that this one may very well be the first song on the new CD. Like most of the pieces I have written in the last 10 weeks, this one started with a musical question and led to another and another... and you get the idea. At any rate, I never got to my blog until today so let me tell you about how my shows and trip to Florida went.
I left Baltimore very, very early on Saturday morning (Nov 3rd), flying out of BWI to Orlando on Southwest Airlines, my airline of choice. I flew with my bassist James Waters (Kim's brother) and we met up with my longtime keyboardist Jay Rowe and drummer Trever Somerville at the Orlando airport. From there we were driven to our hotel and we had a few hours to settle in and have some lunch. I also had a chance to play Jay some of my new music on my iPod. Then we were driven to the concert site for our sound check and then back to the hotel to change clothes before returning to the venue for dinner and the concert. The event was a benefit for a great cause - Children's Home Society. It was a pricey ticket - $100 per person - but well worth it for the cause, the incredible food and a strong show from me and my band. It had been a couple of months since the four of us had worked together and it felt great to make music together again. By the end of our show the audience were on their feet and and it felt great to have connected with the great Orlando smooth jazz audience again. I have been performing in Orlando since 1993 and even recorded my live CD there in 1998 so I have been fortunate to have had a long, deep relationship with the city and the radio station WLOQ. My thanks again to WLOQ and Kim Mcfadden, John Gross, Paul Cross, Sonny Abelardo and Patricia James and everyone at Mercedes/Winter Park and all of the truly great folks w/Children's Home Society in Orlando. And a big "thank you" of course to all of the great folks who came out to hear us and to support the Children's Home Society of Orlando and their vital work. After the show, we returned to our hotel and all of us went to sleep early, knowing that we had an early morning and a 2-3 hour drive ahead of us in the morning for our show in Sarasota.
I got up at about 7 am and had some breakfast with Trever and Jay and we enjoyed the extra hour due to the time change (daylight savings time). We were driven to the airport where we rented a van to make the drive to Sarasota. The drive was nice and relaxed since it was a Sunday morning and we arrived in Sarasota around 12 noon. We checked into our hotel and had some lunch. Then we headed to the venue, the Sarasota Polo Club where we were headlining a Jazz Festival called Jazz at the Ranch. This is a wonderful festival which I was looking forward to doing for the first time. The festival organizer, Bill Iber, is a great guy and he and his staff took very good care of us. The sound company was not as good as you would expect at such a well organized festival but we did our best and I was proud of my band for playing well in spite of some of the sonic distractions. After the show, we had a very nice time having a great Italian dinner with some fans and friends from Indianapolis who had flown in from there just for our show. It was a very relaxing way to end the long and busy weekend. On Monday morning we were up at 5:30 am and driving to the Orlando airport to make our morning flights. We made it on time and I was back in my studio by 2 pm on Monday, writing a new piece!
FYI - I am working on a way to share one of the new demos with you soon. Please stay tuned!
1st: The composing for the next CD is going great! I have now written 7 new compositions, approximately 45 minutes of music. I have also recorded elaborate demos of each piece in my studio with me playing all of the parts. I am still very much in the writing mode and plan to write at least a couple more things. I have a pair of shows in Florida this weekend so I am also preparing for those performances and that journey this week as well. Preparation for the trip has provided me with an opportunity to take a breath from the writing process and get a bit of perspective on what I have created so far. I spoke in a previous entry about the extended piece I was writing which was based on 26/8 time. I have written another new linear composition which is comprised of 3 different sections - the first a kalidescope kind of rhythm in 7/4 which employs a good deal of percussion and vocalese, the second section is more orchestral in nature with flute, french horn and cello meshed with ambient sounds and acoustic guitar and harmonica on top, and the third section breaks out into a nylon string guitar feature over a flowing chord pattern created by strumming guitars, acoustic piano, upright bass and percussion. And that's just 1 song! I have written another piece for 10 guitars - 8 electrics and 2 acoustics. That one has more of a song quality but the presentation is unlike anything you have heard me record before. I am quite excited about how the new music is coming out and if I can find a good way to do it, I hope to share some of my demos with you.
Well, time to pack for Florida and put in some serious guitar practice today, reviewing some of my older songs which we will be playing in Orlando on Saturday and then in Sarasota on Sunday. I promise to blog about those shows next week.
15th: As I begin a new week of composing music in the studio and continuing my studies of a couple of new solo guitar pieces as well as my ongoing work with ear training and improvisation, I thought I would share with you some new music I am listening to. I am enjoying (and studying) a broad palette of different things from the Bartok String Quartets (the Emerson String Quartet recordings) to John Coltrane's "Afro Blue" to Jason Vieaux's excellent solo classical guitar recording of Pat Metheny songs called "Images of Metheny". But the most interesting and moving work for me has been a recording from 1989, Steve Reich's "Different Trains" for 4 string quartets, pre-recorded train sounds and voice narration fragments. For lack of a better description, Reich composes modern classical music which is completely original, compelling and inviting.
From writer Al Filreis site - "The 'Different Trains' theme originates from Reich's childhood, several wartime years spent travelling with his governess between his estranged parents, his mother in Los Angeles and his father in New York. Exciting, romantic trips, full of adventure for the young Reich but many years later, it dawned on him that, had he been in Germany during the ethnic cleansing by the Nazis, his Jewish background would have ensured that the trains he would have been riding on would have been very 'different trains.' He set about collecting recordings to effectively recreate and document the atmosphere of his travels to contrast with those of the unfortunate refugees. By combining the sound of train whistles, pistons and the scream of brakes with extracts of speech by porter Lawrence Davis, who took the same rides as Reich between the big apple and Los Angeles, governess Virginia and three holocaust survivors (Paul, Rachel and Rachella), Reich creates music of great intensity and feeling. The rhythmic patterns and pitch of the voices establishes the phrases and course of the music heard in the string quartets: 'crack train from New York,' and '1939' for example, heard in the invigorating, steam-driven opening movement, America-Before The War. The slow, middle section, Europe-During The War, finds the refugees in the midst of their nightmare, 'no more school' and being herded into the cattle wagons. 'They shaved us, They tatooed a number on our arm, Flames going up to the sky- it was smoking.' Sirens from the Kronos help to convey the despair and confusion of the Jewish plight. Reconciliation is achieved in part three, After The War, where Paul, Rachel and Rachella are transported to live in America. There is an incredibly poignant moment when Paul proclaims '… the war was over,' Rachella, in sheer, fragile disbelief, asks 'Are you sure?.' The New York Times hailed Different Trains as 'a work of… astonishing originality' and the piece was subsequently awarded a Grammy in 1989 for Best Contemporary Compostion."
5th: Even though the recording of my next CD will not begin until mid 2008, I am hard at work these days in my studio, composing new music. I am writing music which emphasizes warmth, melody and soul but is also quite intricate and complex and intellectually stimulating as well as being (hopefully) stimulating to the soul. If I am successful at creating the CD I have in mind, it will take the new musical journey I began in the "The Meeting Place" to a much higher level. For example, for the last 2 weeks, I have been working on an extended composition, based primarily in 26/8 time which is linear by design. That is, it starts in one place, goes to another, then another, then another, telling a story without repeating sections. It is a challenging way to compose - it's like writing 6 songs in one song! - but so worth the hard work and soul searching necessary to come up with just the right melodies, harmonies and rhythms to realize this ambition and these emotions. I'll keep you posted as the process unfolds.....
18th: I just returned from playing a show in Charlotte, NC - what a great southern city and what great folks make their home there! The up and coming jazz presenter/promoter Tammy Greene (GEG Events) brought me in to Charlotte to perform a few songs at an event on the rooftop of a hotel in downtown Charlotte this past Sunday night. It was a gorgeous night and folks from Charlotte and suurounding areas (as well as a large group of people from Columbia, SC) came out to meet me and hear me play a few of my songs with a great Charlotte band called Innertwyned. They did a fantastic job of quickly learning some of my songs ("Smooth Sensation", "In My Wildest Dreams", "The Meeting Place") and we had a great time playing together under the stars. Tammy is a gem and she and her crew did an excellent job of creating a special evening for the capacity crowd that attended and in making me feel very comfortable and welcome. Before I performed, I had the pleasure of meeting many of the people who supported the event, including Harvey Cline from smoothviews.com (look for his review of the show in their October online edition) and my good friends Fred & Mary Whitfield. It was a special night and I hope to return to Charlotte and NC and SC in general very soon. Here are some photos from Sunday night's Jazz Under The Stars in Charlotte.
15th: Composer, keyboardist and jazz pioneer Joe Zawinul died this week. Those who know about Zawinul and his incredible history don't need to hear me reiterate it here. For those who don't know of his deep contributions to contemporary jazz, please click on this link and listen to Elizabeth Blair's remembrance and the samples of Joe's music which span 45 years of modern jazz history. My favorite Zawinul song? - "A Remark You Made".
4th: This month marks the 50th anniversary of the integration of Central High in Little Rock, Arkansas. On the morning of September 23, 1957 nine African-American teenagers stood up to an angry crowd protesting integration in front of Little Rock's Central High as they entered the school for the first time. This event, broadcast around the world, made Little Rock the site of the first important test of the U.S. Supreme Court’s historic Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka decision. We all owe so much to these 9 American heroes. Here is a brief glimpse of these former students.
In 1958, he became the first black student to graduate from Central High School. He graduated from Michigan State University and served as Assistant Secretary of Housing and Urban Affairs under President Jimmy Carter. He currently is a managing partner and vice president of Lehman Brothers in Washington, D.C.
The only one of the nine still living in Little Rock, Elizabeth made a career of the U.S. Army that included work as a journalist. In 1974, she returned to the home in which she grew up and is now a part-time social worker and mother of two sons.
He graduated from Central in 1960, following a year in which Little Rock's public high schools were ordered closed by the legislature to prevent desegregation. Today, he is an accountant with the U.S. Department of Defense and lives in Anaheim, Calif.
Dr. Terrence Roberts
Following the historic year at Central, his family moved to Los Angeles where he completed high school. He earned a doctorate degree and teaches at the University of California at Los Angeles and Antioc College. He also is a clinical psychologist.
Carlotta Walls Lanier
One of only three of the nine who eventually graduated from Central, she and Jefferson Thomas returned for their senior year in 1959. She graduated from Michigan State University and presently lives in Englewood, Colorado, where she is in real estate.
Minnijean Brown Trickey
She was expelled from Central High in February, 1958, after several incidents, including her dumping a bowl of chili on one of her antagonists in the school cafeteria. She moved with her husband to Canada during the Vietnam War protests of the 1960s and today is a writer and social worker in Ontario.
Gloria Ray Karlmark
She graduated from Illinois Technical College and received a post-graduate degree in Stockholm, Sweden. She was a prolific computer science writer and at one time successfully published magazines in 39 countries. Now retired, she divides her time between homes in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, and Stockholm, where her husband's family lives.
She graduated from college, then made a career of teaching. She lives in Belleville, Illinois, where she is a volunteer in a program for abused women.
Melba Pattillo Beals
She is an author and former journalist for People magazine and NBC and lives in San Francisco.
30th: Yesterday was the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and President Bush made yet another of his self serving, symbolic visits to New Orleans, saying (I am paraphrasing here) "you can see the progress we have made more clearly from a distance". In other words, the people who live in New Orleans can't appreciate the minimal progress made during the last 2 years because they are too close to it. But Bush says that he can because he doesn't have to live there. What an insensitive dope! It's no wonder that the status of New Orleans did not even rate a mention in this year's State of the Union speech. I know that Bush is not very bright, but does he think the rest of us are idiots?
Here's a dose of reality for Mr. Bush and what's left of his administration - Much of New Orleans still looks like a wasteland, with businesses closed and houses abandoned. Basic services such as schools, libraries, public transportation and childcare are at half their original levels and only two-thirds of the region's licensed hospitals are open. Workers are often scarce. Rents have skyrocketed. Crime is rampant. Is that the Bush administration's idea of "progress"?
24th: Have you heard about a new book called "Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light" ? The book consists primarily of letters Mother Teresa wrote to her superiors over a period of 65 years. The book's inconspicuous title belies the major revelation of the book which is that during the last 50 years of her life, Mother Teresa felt virtually no presence of God. The depths of the pain her spiritual doubts and struggles caused her were intense and apparently lasted until her death. Shortly after beginning her work in the slums of Calcutta, she wrote: “Where is my faith? Even deep down there is nothing but emptiness and darkness. If there be a God — please forgive me.”
For many people, this will be an extremely disturbing book as it seems to contradict everything Mother Teresa's life and work stood for. But, for me, these insights into her difficult spiritual road only serve to further my respect for her.
The Rev. James Martin, an editor at the Jesuit magazine America, sums up my feelings quite well. He calls the book "a new ministry for Mother Teresa, a written ministry of her interior life," and says, "It may be remembered as just as important as her ministry to the poor. It would be a ministry to people who had experienced some doubt, some absence of God in their lives. And you know who that is? Everybody. Atheists, doubters, seekers, believers, everyone."
I do not think it is coincidental that Mother Teresa's doubts intensified at the time she began tending to the poor and dying people of Calcutta. How can a human being look so deeply into the abyss and not doubt the existence of a God? And for the rest of us who are not quite as saintly as Mother Teresa, I ask - if she could carry on for a half-century without God in her head or heart, then maybe the rest of us can cope with less extreme versions of the same challenge.
21st: I have recorded and posted a new podcast today, my first new podcast in months. In this new podcast, I discuss the different methods and means my record company Positive Music Records is using to distribute my new CD "The Meeting Place"in the United States and around the world. I hope you'll take a listen.
17th: This is a week where I am listening to music more than I am playing it. I am getting inspired before I begin to begin to compose again. Today I listened to Wayne Shorter's great album from 1974 called "Native Dancer". He is joined by Herbie Hancock and Brazilian musician Milton Nascimento to create ground breaking new music which is still fresh today. Check it out!
13th: I listened to a couple of older Brian Wilson/Beach Boy LPs today - The Beach Boys Today and Summer Days & Summer Nights - what beautiful, innocent, sad stuff. Two quotes stick with me - "Can't remember what we fought about...but I remember when we thought it out, we both had a broken heart" and "Our love's like the warmth of the sun, it won't ever die."
12th: Happy Birthday to Pat Metheny! A great composer, guitarist and band leader and a never ending inspiration for me and countless other musicians. Thank you Pat and hope you have a great birthday today.
7th: Today is Tuesday and I just received some photos via email of my show this past Friday at Penn's Landing in Philadelphia. Here is a link to see the photos. My special guest that night was saxophonist Jeff Kashiwa who took a night off from the Rippingtons' tour to perform with me and my band. We played a lot of music together including many songs from both of our respective new CDs. The audience was huge - at least 3000, maybe more - and they were so into the music. It felt really great to play for them and to get such a good response. At one point, Jeff and I both went out into the audience and played and it was pretty intense! Later on in the show, I went into the audience again for my song "Try Again" and it was even more dramatic. I really can't explain what it's like to play up close to people and have them hang on every note - it really makes me dig deep inside my soul to play the most honest and hearfelt music I can. Thank you to Keeya Branson-Davis for asking me to be a part of the 10th anniversary Penn's Landing Smooth Jazz Summer Nights series and thank you to her staff and crew for doing a terrific job. And thanks to Michael Tozzi & Frank Childs from WJJZ for bringing me on stage and for their great support.
On Saturday, I travelled fairly close to home to play a show at The Rams Head On Stage, a great concert venue in Annapolis, MD. I was pleased to learn prior to my show that it had sold out! Knowing that the venue would be packed made me anticipate having a great night and so even though I did not finish up until late in Philly the night before, I got up early on Saturday and spent the morning practicing and reviewing my performance from the night before in Philly to work on a few things. I got to the Rams Head at 3 pm and my band and I set up and did a sound check until 5 pm. We had an excellent young man named Ryan doing sound for us and we got an excellent sound happening both on stage and "in the house" after a couple of hours of work. We hit the stage at about 7:10 and we're greeted with applause before we were even introduced! We began with "In My Wildest Dreams" and drummer Jay Williams, who was playing his very first show with me, came on strong and rock solid. I knew I was going to have a blast playing with him and for all the wonderful Baltimore and Washington DC fans who had come out. Among the highlights of the show for me were "Eric's Dream", "Smooth Sensation", "Breathe" and "The Challenge", where it felt like we were literally going to take off, the energy was so high and electric. All through the show the response from the audience, which started pretty high, just grew and grew and it made me and my band - Jay Rowe on keyboards, James Waters on bass and Jay Williams on drums - go to that other level of playing where you forget your ego and let something else play the music. After our last song "The Blues", we left the stage and the audience demanded an encore. Normally, I don't wait too long to respond to cries of encore but since we had played for 90 minutes and exhausted the songs which Jay Williams knew of mine, I was reluctant to go back out unless this audience was serious! Well, they were as the applause and yells continued for 3 minutes. We went back out and did a super charged version of "In My Wildest Dreams". I want to thank the incredible audience who came to see me at The Rams Head - you guys were great and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your support. And thank you to Kris Stevens and the first rate staff of the Rams Head - you all really know how to run a concert club. I sincerely look forward to getting back to the Rams Head again soon. And here is my set list from the show.
31st: Tom Snyder passed away this past Sunday. He was a true original and television could sure use a lot more of his combination of intelligence, curiousity and joy. I loved watching him and the guests that only he could get. (imagine a whole hour late at night with John Lennon!) I think I'm going to stay up late tonight, watch some of Snyder's best interviews on YouTube and take Tom's advice - "Fire up a colortini, sit back, relax, and watch the pictures, now, as they fly through the air."
21st: I just returned tonight from a show I did this afternoon in Detroit, the city of Birmingham, Michigan's 2007 JazzFest. This was a 3 day affair with many great musicians including Terence Blanchard, Joyce Cooling, Alexander Zonjic and myself to name just a few. I was very happy to be a part of it and it was a great afternoon show for us. The weather was perfect - 80 degrees and sunny with a breeze and the crowd was large and wonderful. I love playing in the Detroit area and today was especially fun. Thanks to the great staff of volunteers who put this special festival on year after year - and also to Suzanne Belanger from WVMV and Alexander Zonjic, the producer of this and many other festivals in the Detroit area.
9th: OK, there is a lot I want to share with you all! First, I had a wonderful show in Asbury Park, NJ on Saturday June 30th. The jazz promoter Chico Rouse put on a great festival which featured myself, Stanley Jordan and Phillipe Saisse to name a few. Asbury Park Mayor Kevin G. Sanders spent some time speaking with me before my show, telling me all about the history of his family and Asbury Park. It was a perfect introduction before performing for the large crowd at the festival. We had a very strong show and my band and I had a great time playing and interacting with the crowd. The audience was inspiring to play for and after the show I signed CDs for almost an hour. I sold almost every CD I brought to the show, close to 100. I really look forward to getting back to Asbury Park soon, maybe to the new jazz club which Chico Rouse is opening there this coming fall. Next up, I had a birthday in June and so my present from my son was lunch out and a movie, Michael Moore's new move "Sicko" to be specific. So on July 4, he took me in his new Nissan Versa to our local cineplex and we found a showtime. I think "Sicko" is Moore's best work so far. Our health care system here in the US is clearly flawed and simply does not work well, even for those of us who can afford health care. As a self employed musician, I have been purchasing my familys' health care for almost 20 years now and it is very expensive and getting more costly all the time. I won't go on and on about the movie but I urge you to see it for yourself. I believe that the 2008 elections will give us all a fresh opportunity to let our elected officials and candidates know that health care is a vital issue which needs to be moved up to the top of our national "must do" list now. Finally, speaking of health care, I had to have some oral surgery last week. Trust me, you don't want to know the details but suffice it so say that it was painful and it took me the better part of last week to recover. My fourth of July was pretty quiet and so I was glad to have the distraction of the time with my son to have a lunch and see a movie (although my lunch consisted solely of a smoothie which I ate very slowly with a small spoon!). So now I am back to work again, preparing for a show in Detroit, MI on Saturday July 21 followed by shows in early August in Philadelphia PA, Annapolis MD and Richmond VA. The show in Detroit will be with my regular band of Jay Rowe on keyboards, James Waters on bass and Trever Somerville on drums. We go on at 4 pm (the festival in Birmingham, MI will run all day and night) and it's going to be a slammin' show. I have a great set list prepared. You want to see it? OK, here is the show I've got planned...
In My Wildest Dreams
Skating On The C&O Canal
The Meeting Place
Can’t Get Enough
Blues in G
We just might also play "You Are Everything" if we have the time. On August 3rd I have a show at Penn's Landing in Philadelphia and I am really looking forward to it cause one of my favorite saxophonists Jeff Kashiwa from the Rippingtons will be my special guest. I love Jeff's playing and we are going to have a great time and make some unique music together that night. I am learning a bunch of Jeff's music in the next few weeks and he is learning some of mine. It's going to be a special night. Then on August 4, I will perform at the Rams Head in Annapolis, MD. This show is getting close to selling out so please get your Rams Head tickets soon.
See you soon...
25th: I just returned from a few days of work in Central Florida. It was a pretty grueling schedule but well worth the extra effort and the two very early mornings necessary to make it all come together. On Friday morning, I rose at 3:45 am (who says musicians don't get up early?) to make a 6:30 am flight to Orlando. I had to take such an early flight because I was scheduled to deliver a presentation at Full Sail, the world renowned school of entertainment media industry, at 10 am so I needed to catch the first flight to Orlando on Southwest Airlines, the only way to fly. I got to Orlando right on time and was met at the airport by Tim Gregory, the Program Director for the Music Business Department. After a short drive, we arrived at Full Sail. After a cup of coffee, Tim took me on a quick tour of a part of their very impressive campus. I saw the back lot of the film department, complete with facades of New York City, Venice and countless other backdrops. Full Sail, which started as a premier school for the recording arts, has quickly blossomed into a full scale entertainment media school with a highly regarded film department, a game degree department, a computer animation department and a music business department as well as a master's degree program in entertainment business. And of course their recording arts department is second to none. I was speaking to a Masters class of 23 students called "Executive Leadership". The professor, Jeff Whiting, invited me to speak to his class. It was through one of my oldest Orlando friends, the powerhouse Linda Schiffer, that Jeff was referred to me. I spoke for about 90 minutes and answered questions afterwards. I discussed the independent record business and all the facets of it - from manufacturing to distribution to radio to promotion to touring, weaving in many experiences I have had with executives and leaders (good and not so good) along the way. The students were extremely engaged and responsive and I enjoyed speaking to them and with them very much. The experience reminded me of how much I enjoy teaching and working with young people. After the class, Tim, Jeff and Ron (another teacher at Full Sail) and I had a relaxing lunch near the campus and got to know each other better. Then Tim took me on a more complete tour of the campus. It was amazing and Tim is an excellent guide and person. The recording facilities alone were stunning - 48 state of the art dedicated mixing rooms plus a number of beautifully equipped full service studios. And the film, computer animation and game development departments were just as impressive. I have never seen anything like this school. They are completely doing it right and expanding every year. After Tim's tour, I was driven to Cocoa (about an hour from Orlando) to the hotel near where my Saturday night concert was to be held. I had a relaxing evening and did some practicing. On Saturday morning, I took a long walk and did some more practicing. Around 1 p.m. I went to the venue and did a rehearsal and sound check with the special band put together just for the evening's show. On keyboards was Dan Siegel, on saxophone Michael Paulo, on bass Smitty Smith and on drums Will Kennedy. The show was my first time playing in Cocoa in almost 10 years. The promoter was the great Roland Guilarte. He is one of the best smooth jazz promoters in the business. And this was a special show both musically and because of the nature of the event. This was a show for the benefit of Children with Disabilities and so we were all very pleased to be a part of such an important evening. The show went great with what appeared to be a sell out crowd and it was an exciting night for both the band and the audience and I hope Roland too! I had the opportunity to play with some great players that I had never worked with before and got to see and spend some time with Roland again as well as his wonderful son Justin (Justin, you are a great kid!) and also Roland's parents who I had not seen for 10 years. I had a 4:15 am ride to the airport to make yet another early flight back to Baltimore on Sunday morning so by the time I got home, I was tired but ready for a full day of Sunday activity back home in Baltimore. Thank you to all the great folks who came out to the show and helped benefit children with disabilities and Roland and his excellent crew for bringing me back to Cocoa. And thanks to Linda Schiffer, Tim Gregory, Jeff Whiting, Danielle Dawson, my driver Mike and Full Sail for bringing me to Orlando and Full Sail. It was an intense and very satisfying 50 hours!
11th: Regarding the controversial ending to the final episode of the Sopranos - I loved it. A viewer named Bob in Palisades Park, NJ summed it up perfectly. "David Chase did what so many other writers have not been able to do - challenge an audience. We are being spoon fed everything in the media from sitcoms to the endless parade of cookie cutter films. Any frustration anyone is feeling is your mind waking up. He is asking us to do what we are so sorely unable to do anymore - use our imaginations."
1st: It's very hot here in Maryland today - 88 degrees. And our electric company - BGE (Baltimore Gas & Electric) - effective today, raised our rates for electricity by 50%. So much for the consumer advantages of de-regulation. So if your current bill was $300 a month, it just jumped to $450 a month for the same amount of electricity. My family's solution is simple - no more air conditioning unless the outside temperature goes above 90 degrees. Any you know what? We like having the windows open and we have quickly become accustomed to a temperature in the house of 80 to 85 degrees. We started this no air conditioning policy a week or so ago and I was surprised how quickly we all became acclimated to it. In fact, when we visited with friends earlier this week in their air conditioned home, I became aware that I wanted to sit on their deck and feel the early summer air, smell the outdoors and hear the sounds of something other than the whirring of ac. Call me nuts, but I spend enough of my time in a windowless, sound proof recording studio.
18th: I just finished reading a couple of relatively new books. They were both bios but not your conventional autobiographies. The first was Tavis Smiley's latest called "What I Know for Sure: My Story of Growing Up in America". This open and honest book about growing up poor in America is a moving success story. As a fan of Tavis Smiley's interview style and the intelligent approach he takes with his guests, this new book only added to my appreciation of his many talents. I have even more respect for Mr. Smiley now - he is truly an inspiration.
The other autobiography I just finished was by Rain Pryor, "Jokes My Father Never Taught Me: Life, Love, and Loss with Richard Pryor". This was a more disturbing read. Disturbing in part because it is upsetting to read about a child who did not receive the time and attention from her father that any child deserves. And also painful because, like so many people of my generation, I loved Richard Pryor. He was much more to me than just a comedian. He broke through everything - class, race, you name it. But he was a deeply flawed man, more so than I realized. While that only broadens my understanding of his genius, it's still hard to accept. Yet I'm glad I read this book. It's ultimately the story of Rain Pryor, a multi talented young woman. And I hear she recently moved to Baltimore! Hope to meet her one of these days ....
15th: It's official - I have picked the new single for smooth jazz radio airplay from my new CD "The Meeting Place". It is "My Beautiful Girls", track # 5 from the full CD. I did a special edit for radio to bring the song down to a 3:24 length. It really sounds tight now and though I will always think of the 4:38 version as the original, this new edit is very appealing to me and I look forward to hopefully hearing it on the radio. The smooth jazz stations throughout the country have to like it enough to add it to their playlists. The first "add date" is Monday, June 4. That is the first date that I am requesting smooth jazz stations around the country add it to their playlists. I have already heard from a couple of music and program directors who love it so that is a very good sign! I did something a little different with this one. First, I emailed a high quality MP3 file to each station. Then, a few days later, I followed the email up with a US postal service mailing of the special edit on a CD-R. Click here if you would like to hear a sample of "My Beautiful Girls". Wish me luck and please call your local smooth jazz station and ask them to play "My Beautiful Girls".
3rd: Last night on PBS, I caught the latest episode of the excellent "American Masters" series. Ahmet Ertegun was the subject of last nights' show. Ertegun’s biography and the story of some of the greatest jazz and pop musicians of the 20th century — on “Atlantic Records: The House That Ahmet Built" including those of John Coltrane, Otis Redding, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Eric Clapton, Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones, was well worth seeing .... and hearing. This son of a Turkish diplomat who loved jazz and black american music in general, built a record label whose artists are a history of popular music in the second half of the 20th century. The interviews of Ertegun, conducted by the likes of Phil Collins, David Geffen, Ray Charles, Robert Plant and Mick Jagger (to mention just a few) are more like conversations that we as the viewer have the opportunity to listen in on. It's fascinating stuff and I recommend you check out your local PBS station for information on when they will be airing it again. It will give you a big, wonderful taste of what it was like when folks like Ahmet Ertegun, people who LOVED music and lived it, ran the record business. PBS American Masters
28th: I just returned from playing a concert which benefited the music departments of the schools of Milford, Connecticut with and for my friend Jay Rowe plus a number of other contemporary and smooth jazz musicians. Jay has a very big heart and for 5 years running he has organized a concert which raises funds for his hometown school system. Among other things, Jay's concerts have helped to purchase a grand piano and provided many other new instruments for the schools of Milford. It's amazing what he has accomplished. I also presented a workshop to 600 students the day before the concert and that was a real pleasure for me to do. The kids were great as were their teachers - they really appreciated what I had to offer them. The concert was a success with a close to sell out crowd in the 1000 seat hall. In spite of some unfortunate sound issues, all of the performances came off well. And what else can you do but push through and remember that you are there to support a good cause and give your best effort.
10th: Enough is enough - Don Imus and his producers should be removed from the airwaves. As despicable and hateful as Imus' latest racist assault is, his show's history of sexism is even worse. The only prostitutes in Imus' radio/tv show are guests like John McCain and Tim Russert who promote their books and campaigns, turning a deaf ear to the bigotry expressed daily and lending a seal of approval and respectability to Imus' rants. If the powers that be will not remove this show permanently, then we need to remove our support from the guests and advertisers who sponsor it.
7th: It's been quite awhile since my last entry so I'll start where I left off. After my show in Atlantic City, I travelled to Philadelphia for 2 nights of shows at Zanzibar Blue. Then it was on to Detroit for a memorable benefit concert for Angela Bofill who suffered a stroke a year ago. I performed with Najee, Kem, Jeff Lorber, Marion Meadows, James Lloyd from Pieces of a Dream, Alexander Zonjic, Maysa and Dave McMurray to name a few. Then on to St. Petersburg, Florida for a concert with my good friends at the amazing radio station WSJT at the historic Vinoy Reniassance Hotel. Then back home for a week of practice and business and then back to Florida for a short spring vacation with my wife and daughter. I returned home to Baltimore just in time for a temperature inversion - when we left Florida it was 73 degress and when we touched down in Baltimore it was 37 degrees!
My next shows are not until April 27 and 28 when I do a workshop and then appear in concert with Jay Rowe, Chieli Minucci, Marion Meadows and Nelson Rangell for Jay's annual Smooth Jazz for Scholar's show. So I am using this time to perfect new techiques on the guitar and explore some new improvisation concepts. And the new CD is doing very well - it is my fastest selling CD ever! - and so I am keeping up with the purchase orders from my national distributor, packing and shipping cartons of CDs. In addition, I just closed new international distribution deals for Germany, Austria and Switzerland. I am also working with a company regarding a licensing deal for the new CD as well as some of my older CDs in Taiwan. So I am staying busy. Oh, and Borders is doing a major promotion here in the U.S. of "The Meeting Place" in all of it's stores nationwide in the months of April and May!
In my spare time, I am also doing some reading - "Something In The Air" by Marc Fisher - a fascinating look at the evolution of radio and "My Father Before Me" - a book about how fathers and sons influence each other throughout their lives. I read non-fiction almost exclusively and these are 2 new books I highly recommend.
11th: This morning I took a drive to downtown Philadelphia to do an in depth "live on the air" interview with Philly smooth jazz radio station WJJZ and it's great program director/air personality and old friend Michael Tozzi. I have known Michael since 1996. He is one of the original smooth jazz programmers and one of the most musical and music driven people I know. He has great ears and knows contemporary jazz and its history pretty much top to bottom. And so our interview was fresh and different and we talked about everything from how I recorded "The Meeting Place" to teaching our respective kids how to drive to how my wife constructively listens to and effects (positively!) my recordings. I had a great time and I hope Michael did too. Plus the show is broadcast live from Zanzibar Blue's Sunday brunch, the club I am performing at next Friday and Saturday, March 16 & 17, and so I had a great breakfast and got to see the St Patrick's Day parade which was going on right outside the club. A nice way to spend a Sunday morning and early afternoon.
8th: Things are very busy at the moment with new shows being booked almost every week by my "super agent" Bruce Nichols at Central Entertainment including new shows in Asbury Park, NJ and Annapolis, MD. And sales of my new CD "The Meeting Place" are going very well and since I run my own record label, I am the head of the shipping department which supplies our distributor and the chains and stores around the country with my CDs. So this week I just shipped a couple thousand "The Meeting Place" CDs to Borders for a special promotion which begins in April and runs to the middle of June. I also just closed a new distribution deal for "The Meeting Place" in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. I am also preparing for five (5) upcoming shows in the next 14 days - Atlantic City, Philadelphia (2 nights), Detroit and Tampa. I am practicing quite a bit, preparing to play 3 new songs from the new CD - "Lakes", "The Challenge" and "The Meeting Place". I have a rehearsal with the band this coming Monday as well. I'm also learning some new music for the Angela Bofill benefit show that I am doing in Detroit w/Alexander Zonjic, Jeff Lorber, Kem, Najee and many others. I'm staying busy, the way I like it.
24th: I had a really fun show with Baltimore's great smooth jazz station WSMJ this past Thursday night at the local Baltimore venue Piv's Pub. They had a full house for my show and I also must have signed my CDs for at least an hour after the show. Baltimore audiences are the warmest I have ever played for and the many people who came with their "The Meeting Place" CD or bought a copy of my new CD at the show made me feel so good. A big thank you to Lori Lewis, the program director of WSMJ, Annie Sandor the promotions director, Angela Belton and her first rate crew, especially Ashley who handled my CD sales, morning man Randy Dennis for a great job bringing me on and air personality Trish Hennessey for the very nice hang and conversation after the show. And finally thanks to all of my fans and WSMJ listeners who came and supported my music and our special hometown jazz station, WSMJ.
16th: When I first moved from Los Angeles to the Baltimore area in 1990, it took me some time to get acclimated to being on the east coast again. Having grown up in the Washington, DC area, Baltimore was a neighboring city, but one which was more or less an unknown quantity to me. One morning I stumbled upon an early morning TV show on local CBS affiliate WJZ (channel 13) with two broadcasters who were completely different from anything I had ever seen in LA or anywhere else for that matter. The hosts - Marty Bass & Don Scott - were simply being themselves and they exuded all of the down to earth charm, humor and history that is Baltimore. This show made me finally feel like I lived in Baltimore and that I was some how becoming a part of the city, just by watching these two "friends" tell me about it each morning. So imagine how pleased I am to have now appeared on the show 3 times (and two additional times on another WJZ show with my other friend at the station, Tim Williams). Most recently, I did an appearance yesterday morning when I made the semi-treacherous drive in the snow/ice to their studios on Television Hill in Baltimore to tape a "Coffee With" interview and performance segment with them. An interview with Don and Marty is very different than the other TV appearances I have done over the years. Marty and Don ask very different questions, questions that don't come from just reading my official bio. Like yesterday, Marty asked about my use of iPods when I'm recording a new CD and Don wanted to know what happens to my hands in the winter and how it affects my playing. No one asks me questions like that! It's no wonder that everyone from Ed McMahon to Cal Ripken Jr. to Al Jarreau make appearances on "Coffee With" whenever they are in town. These guys are the very best and the producers and the technical crew are top-drawer. If you live in the Baltimore area, they expect to air the segment on February 22, Thursday morning at around 6:45 am. And I also performed the opening song from my new CD, "Lucky". Check it out and I will post a link to the segment when they post it at the WJZ website.
6th: Ah, another Super Bowl, another display of endless promotion to the tune of 2.6 million per half minute. The game was a good one but Billy Joel was a non-event singing the national anthem - he gave what must be the most lackluster, flat performance in Super Bowl history. However, Prince was a vast improvement over last year's musical entertainment (the Rolling Stones) and he gave a great performance in a rainstorm no less, playing one burning guitar solo after another. He got his 15-minute party started by ripping into "Let’s Go Crazy," and playing awesome guitar. After shrieking implicit tribute to Little Richard and the late James Brown, he careened into an unexpected medley of "Proud Mary" and a Hendrix-challenging version of "All Along the Watchtower," before doing the Foo Fighters’ "Best of You" better than the Foo Fighters. A real highlight came when Florida A&M University's famed Marching 100 band from Tallahassee joined Prince. I don't know how Prince stayed safe playing an electric guitar in the pouring rain and I worried about all of the marching band's instruments getting soaked and ruined. But in spite of the storm, Prince displayed once again - this time for the whole world to see - what happens when you put the music first.
31st: "There are two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle." Albert Einstein
29th: Just saw the movie "The Departed". Save your money. Why this movie received an Academy Award nomination for best picture is beyond me. This shallow, highly improbable story about people you have no connection with in your real life is hardly justification for Martin Scorcese's obscene use of violence. Go see another best picture nominee, "Little Miss Sunshine". This consistently funny and entertaining road movie looks at the all-American obsession with winning and laughs darkly. And you come out of the movie wanting to give your family a hug.
New music - the beautiful duet CD by Pat Metheny and Brad Mehldau is simply superb. And don't forget the Beatles "Love" CD. Its remixes and brilliant mashups are even more astounding in 5.1 surround sound.
13th: LA STORY#3 - I moved to Los Angeles in the summer of 1982 and was fortunate to begin playing gigs within a week of my arrival. By Christmas time, I was pretty busy, playing about 4-5 gigs a week and working with a lot of different musicians. On a Friday night just before Christmas, I had a private party gig with a band on the Queen Mary in Long Beach. The band, like most of the bands that played private parties in the LA area, was a hodge podge of different players, joined together for one night to play a particular function, in this case some corporation's holiday bash. It seemed that every musician in LA played these gigs we called "casuals" and so it was a great way to meet excellent musicians of all types. This was an especially interesting night because of the very different types of musicians who played together at this gig. The drummer was from the then quite popular new wave band Oingo Boingo, the pianist was from The Pointer Sisters road band and the bass player was some unknown guy named John. We played everything from Jobim to Ellington to the current rock radio hits of 1982. The band sounded amazing and even though we had never played together before (we had never even met each other before!), it just seemd like there was excellent chemistry and give and take between the 4 musicians. The bassist in particular was astounding - supportive but a virtuoso and clearly someone to stay in touch with as I made my way through the LA scene. During a break, the other players were singing John's praises and talking about all the stuff he was doing in town. At the end of the night, we all shook hands and John and I exchanged warm compliments and business cards. It was only a few years later that everybody in jazz knew who John Patitucci was. I ran into John many other times during my 8 years in LA and I even saw him at the BET studios in Washington DC in 1998 when we were both there to do interviews about our respective new CDs of the time. I just heard John on XM radio yesterday and it reminded me of my gig 24 years ago on the Queen Mary with him. I will remember that remarkable night and the opportunity to make music with a truly great bassist in the making. I will continue to add LA stories to my blog as they come to mind. Stay tuned.....
11th: America has a serious problem in Iraq. Now more than ever we need a president we can trust to tell us the truth (Beginning with non-existent weapons of mass destruction, we have been misinformed as to the reasons for this war). However, what we got last night was another pep talk, an academic reading of the situation virtually devoid of an honest and forthright represention of the reality in Iraq. From the beginning, the American military has performed in a first rate manner and they and their families have paid the price for the profoundly flawed policy and strategy of this president. Bush has bet his presidency on this war and last night he doubled his bet. Our military, our country and the citizens of Iraq deserve much more than this kind of 11th hour gambling.
4th: Today was a truly historic day for our country - the very first woman EVER, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, became the nation's first female House speaker. Ms. Pelosi is orignally from Baltimore, my hometown, so it is especially sweet. Today is a day to celebrate our unique democracy and it's special place in the history of the world. The sky's the limit for women in higher office now and so let's look to 2008 for our first women President.
1st: "Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain't all sunshine and rainbows. It's a very mean, and nasty place and no matter how tough you think you are, it'll always beat you if you let it. It ain't about how hard you hit, it's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward, how much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done! If you know what you're worth, then go out and get what you're worth. But you gotta be willing to take the hits and not pointing fingers saying you ain’t where you wanna be because of him, or her, or anybody! Cowards do that, and that ain’t you! You’re better than that!" A 60 year old Rocky Balboa's words of advice to his 20 something son.
A good movie to see on New Years Day. The sixth and final film in the Rocky series - which began with the Oscar-winning Rocky thirty years earlier in 1976 - is a worthy finale. Happy New Year!
22nd: Things are really busy around my house as we begin the final preparations for Christmas Eve dinner - I'm cooking! - and I prepare to travel on Christmas Day to Orlando, Florida where I will be performing 2 shows at Sea World on December 26. This is always a hectic time in my household and so with me traveling over the holidays, it's a bit intense around here. We'll have Christmas Eve and Christmas Day together before I leave on a 6 p.m. flight out of Baltimore. My first show at Sea World on the 26th is early in the afternoon so my band and I need to leave the evening before. I am really looking forward to playing again with Jay Rowe, James Waters and Trever Somerville and the venue at Sea World looks great with a full crowd expected for each show (2000 seats per show). I have been practicing the guitar a lot in the midst of everything else going on and so I sure feel like playing!
Happy Holidays to everyone reading this and "may your days be merry and bright" and full of wonderful time with your family and friends. Talk to you again in 2007!
15th: Well, I survived my daughter's sweet 16 birthday party at our house - a lot of cleaning afterwards but no harm done and she and her friends had a terrific time. The DJ was quite good and there was a lot of dancing. My custom White Castle burgers were a big hit too. And apparently, we are now considered "the coolest" parents. Imagine how proud I am?? Seriously, my wife and I were happy to give her this party and even happier that's it's over... phew.....
Yesterday I shipped the first single from "The Meeting Place" to smooth jazz radio stations around the US. I selected the opening track "Lucky" because I think it's a fresh and unique song. The first day that airplay should begin is January 8th. Please email and call your local smooth jazz station and request that they add the first single "Lucky" to their playlist. Let them know you want to hear it! - your emails and calls definitely have an impact on what the stations play.
2nd: Today we are hosting my daughter's 16th birthday party with a DJ and 50+ teenagers. Have I lost my mind? Well, not yet but get back to me tomorrow morning and we'll see if I am under the care of a team of specialists yet. Seriously, a girl's 16th b'day is a significant day and I am looking forward to a nice time for all tonight. Today will be spent preparing the food, the cake and the house!
Have you heard the new Beatles CD "Love"? It is the soundtrack for Cirque Du Soleil's new show about the Beatles called appropriately "Love" but the new CD and the music contained within it are much more. Between the wonderful, clear remixes and the mashup versions of many of the songs, it is a dizzying, dare I say mind blowing experience. A must for all Beatles' fans.
I saw a new TV show last week on the Sundance cable channel called "Iconoclasts". It is a series where a pair of well know entertainers are profiled together. The first one I saw featured Lorne Michaels of SNL fame and Paul Simon. The two have been old friends and share a remarkable history apart and together. The second show I saw in the series was even more remarkable. It featured poet Maya Angelou and comedian Dave Chappelle. They had never met before but their documented time together was wonderful to watch. It was a teacher/student type of relationship and beautiful to see. They spent a day together at her home in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where they discussed how poetry and comedy can bridge both genders and generations. Look for it if you get the Sundance channel on your cable.
Lastly, I am getting such wonderful reviews and feedback from fans regarding my new CD "The Meeting Place". I will be posting links to the many stories and reviews and interviews for the new CD as they appear and thank you so much for all of the truly wonderful emails I have received from fans about the new CD. I am so happy that you all are enjoying the CD as much as I hoped you would.
16th: I am writing to you from Reno, NV very early this morning. I played a show last night for the radio station KJZS here in Reno at the Nugget Casino Hotel. It was quite a long day for me but a good one. It started quite early - I was awake at home in Baltimore about 4 am, in time to make a 7 am flight from BWI airport in Baltimore. I got into Reno around 12 noon (Reno time), in time to check into the Nugget Hotel, have some lunch and make the 2 o'clock sound check. I was very pleased to find a great sound tech handling everything for me, Glenn Defebaugh. He had my stage setup perfectly covered and he got a great sound on me and my tracks. For those unfamiliar with a "tracking" show, this is when an artist performs by playing with pre-recorded tracks, tracks which are missing his/her part. Many radio stations ask artists to do this and I have also done many television appearances this way. It's harder for me because there are no other musicians to play off of but in one way it's nice - I get to play some songs of mine which I normally can't because my band doesn't know them. After 17 CDs, I have a large body of music I have composed and it's nice to pull out some of the ones I usually don't get to perform. Anyway, the show went great, the KJZS listeners were very warm and receptive and the KJZS folks - the very personable program director Robert Dees and morning drive man Don Murray, did a great job as well. Between my two sets, Robert and I took questions from the audience about my music and it really was a lot of fun. After the show, Don and I went out to dinner, as we have everytime I have performed here and along with fellow musican Marina V, we had a great dinner and hang. Don is a storied radio man whose career has taken him to many amazing places and I love hearing his stories about the business and his life. Marina is a wonderful vocalist/pianist/composer who emigrated from Russia and now lives in Los Angeles. She is definitely a new talent to follow. It is 5 am now (8 am east coast time) as I write this. I will be flying out of Reno early today and be back home in time for a late dinner with my wife and daughter. These are long days sometimes but well worth the effort. Thanks to Robert, Don and KJZS and the great smooth jazz fans of Reno.
9th: I returned to Baltimore last Sunday after traveling to Charlotte, North Carolina. I was asked to play the National Anthem at the NBA game between the Charlotte Bobcats and the Cleveland Cavaliers. The game was sold out so there were 20,000 people there. I had prepared a solo guitar arrangement of the anthem which was very jazz influenced but faithful to the song as well as to my guitar style and sound. I wasn't really sure what to expect from the crowd. I figured that by the time I got to the "land of the free" part, they would be screaming so I was surprised when you could hear a pin drop. So I made a huge moment out of it and I think people really got it. It was a special "gig" and one that was over all too fast. The sound was incredible and the Bobcats Arena crew were top drawer. We sat right behind the Charlotte Bobcats team for the game and what a game and vantage point it was. The Bobcats came back and won it in the last minutes! And we could hear the coach talking to the players and yelling at the refs and we could practically touch super star LeBron James of the Cavaliers! My daughter and wife travelled to Charlotte with me and my daughter was so excited and happy to be there. You can watch me playing a part of the anthem in a short video my daughter took (it's kind of shakey but check it out if you like). I have a friend and fan who is the president and chief operating officer of the Charlotte Bobcats organization, the amazing Fred Whitfield, and I also played at Fred's birthday bash at a private club after the game. I was very happy to be a part of Fred's birthday and to share in the celebration. It was a wonderful evening. Plus, I got to sit with Charles Whitfield, Fred's brother, at the game. Charles is the head of A&R for the super successful record label Hidden Beach, the company who has released many important records including Jill Scott's "Who Is Jill Scott". A very interesting man whose love of music drives his success and being around him was inspiring. Thank you to the talented (and very pretty) Liz Clagon for setting it all up and taking such good care of me and my family. Well folks, now I have a beautiful arrangement of the Star Spangled Banner - when will I get another chance to play it?!
23rd: It's obviously been awhile since I made a blog entry and this is because I have been working long hours, days and weeks in the recording studio recording my upcoming CD "The Meeting Place". I am still reading the newspaper and seeing the tv news occasionally so I can't help but notice the sorry state the current administration and congress are in. One can only hope that the American people will see the failures and ineptitude and go to the voting booth on November 7 and make some changes. Voting is not just a right, it's a responsibility so even though we all have busy lives, trying to make ends meet and provide for our families, make sure to take a little time out of your day on Tuesday, November 7 and vote.
17th: If you have been following my diary on the creation of the new CD "The Meeting Place" you know how busy I have been recording all the new music the last 3 weeks. I will be working intensely like this until mid-November when the CD is completed. Sometimes it feels as if my life exists only in the recording studio these days but fortunately I am able to escape occasionally! Recently I travelled to the Detroit area for another guest appearance with Alexander Zonjic. We had a great time performing and I also met a number of very good people and feel like I made some new friends. My schedule necessitated that I fly back home to Baltimore on 9/11 which was a little unnerving. I also recently did a couple of successful shows in Indianapolis, my first time ever performing in Indiana, the state of my birth. Again, a lot of new folks came to the show and it was very satisfying to receive such a warm and energetic reception from so many new fans. I also made a trip to North Carolina a few weeks ago to help my son move back to college for his junior year. And my daughter has begun her junior year in high school and is off to an excellent start.
Making a new CD is very intense and stressful at times and so I am thankful for all of the blessings in my life. They serve to remind me how lucky I am and why I continue to strive to make the best new music I can.
13th: My family and I returned from our summer vacation last week and the following day I immediately jumped back into the fray, traveling to Philadelphia to play a concert there at Penn's Landing. It was a beautiful Friday evening with a temperature of 75 degrees and a gentle breeze coming off of the water, the opposite of the heat and humidity I have performed in many, many times at outdoor summer concerts. We had a huge turnout - approximately 3000 to 4000 people and they were an excellent audience. And I have to say that I had a very good night. I came ready to play and between my preparation, an energized audience, beautiful weather, a great sound and tech crew and an excellent band, I was in the "zone" for almost all of our 90 minute show. My son Eric made the trip with me and handled my CD sales. He did a great job. We sold every CD we brought with us - over 200 CDs - and so Eric was quite busy! It was a special night and I am very appreciative of the Penn's Landing staff led by Keeya Branson-Davis, my great band of Jay Rowe (you were amazing, Jay!), Trever Somerville (great job Trever - I had SO much fun playing with you) and James Waters (we HAVE to find another opportunity to work together soon, James - you are a fabulous musician) and finally a wonderful Philly audience that made me want to give my all. Thank You!!
For our vacation, my family returned to Kelleys Island. Kelleys Island is a small island (3 miles wide and 2 miles long) approximately a mile and a half south of Canada. It is officially in Ohio and you must take a ferry to get there from the shores of Ohio. It is a quiet, beautiful place where bikes and golf carts dominate the small roads. All the restaurants and shops are mom and pop operations and there are so many nice, unique places to visit on the island. We stayed in a fairly remote part of the island at The Morning Glory Inn, a beautiful bed and breakfast retreat where we rented the two halves of the house, one half for my wife and I and the other half for our son Eric, my daughter Melissa and her friend Brittany. One of the features of the house is that you have your own private stretch of beach and it is wonderful to have a glass of wine from the Kelleys Island Winery located down the street while you sit on the shore of Lake Erie. We all did a lot of bike riding all over the island and I slept like a baby every night, no doubt due to the exercise, fresh air and serenity of the island. Maybe the wine helped too! Every morning I got up early and practiced the guitar for 2 hours and prepared for the Philly show. On this visit, I learned quite a bit about the storied history of the island and the families who have lived there for 150 + years. It is a beautiful, fascinating place and I look forward to our next visit there.
1st: August is here and it is seriously hot right now on the east coast with temperatures reaching 100 degrees the last few days. I have an outdoor show coming up in 10 days in Philadelphia at Penn's Landing so I hope it doesn't stay like this for too long. Playing in very hot and humid east coast weather is tough on a guitar. Talk about slipping and sliding around the fretboard... even though I practice a great deal these days and try to stay in good physical shape, performing in 95 -100 degree weather will zap your energy fast if you don't pace yourself. However, the main thing that inspires me in a hot outdoor concert setting is to look out at the audience and see that in spite of the heat, they are there to see me do my best and make it worth their while to be there in the heat and humidity. And so I give it my all and recover afterwards with a gallon of drinking water and a shower! See you all in Philly on Friday, August 11.
21st: Here's a nice photo I just received from a fan in Detroit. It is of Alexander Zonjic and me doing a rare 2 guitar song a few years ago. Alex will sometimes put down his flute and pull out his old Gibson for a song at the end of our shows together. I think the looks on our faces says it all! I'll be back in Detroit again on September 10 to play a show with Alexander and his band at Jazz On The Lake. See you there...
14th: I spent yesterday afternoon working in the recording studio on the music for my new CD with saxophonist Rob Holmes. It has become part of my arranging process to have Rob come to my studio and try out different ideas and approaches to the songs before the actual recording sessions begin in September. I have already created fairly elaborate demos of the 11 songs I've chosen to record for the new CD and those are the versions Rob and I worked with yesterday. Rob is a very lyrcial player with a beautiful tone on both the soprano and tenor saxophones. He has the tone of a contemporary player coupled with the melodic and harmonic depth of a seasoned jazz player. It is a great combination, particularly for my music. Rob and I came up with many parts and ideas for how his saxophone work can contribute to a number of the new songs. I will now listen and work with the tracks we recorded yesterday, making decisions and getting new ideas and inspiration from what we've done so far. Then, when Rob returns in September for the "real" sessions, we will know exactly what we're going to do with each song. The process of composing, arranging, recording, mixing and finally mastering a new CD is long but enjoyable.
On another note, I am very close to a final decision on the CD title. As soon as I finalize it, I will begin a new page on this website, dedicated solely to following the progress of the new CD. Stay tuned - coming very soon...
1st: Ah, July is here! Last night the fireflies were out, right on time. And the rain finally stopped here in the Northeast. We really needed the rain but certainly not all at once and accompanied by violent electrical storms. Our area was not hit as bad as some other parts of the east coast, so we were lucky.
I am taking the month of July to finalize all of the compositions and arrangements for the new CD before mailing the finished demos off to each of the musicians who will be performing on the CD. I'm also adding some new recording equipment to my studio and also taking advantage of this time to have my guitars worked on and ready for the recording sessions and all of the live shows coming up. I am also nearing a decision on the title of the new CD as well as the creation of a special new page here at www.kennavarro.com, a gateway where you will be able to follow the creation of the new CD through video clips of the recording sessions, audio previews of the music and regularly updated Podcasts chronicling the progress of the CD.
So enjoy the first day of July and spend some time outside! Take a long walk and soak it in. It's good to be alive in the summer of 2006.
19th: After a flurry of blog entries earlier this month, I have been quiet so I thought I would take a moment to write a quick one. I played a very successful show with my band in Jacksonville Beach, FL last week at the large outdoor venue known as the Sea Walk Pavilion. What a great contemporary jazz series Marilyn, Nicole, Dennis, Sean and the entire city of Jacksonville Beach jazz concert series staff put on! I have never been treated better or had a better production put on. Thank you all and I truly look forward to seeing you all again! Thank you also to Lyndah and the Jazz Abyss staff for handling my merchandise sales so well and for putting out an excellent magazine month after month.
I have a new Podcast!! It is called the KenNavarro.com - Podcast Series and it is available for free from iTunes as well as many other podcast sites. There are currently 3 episodes available and many more will follow. In particular, I will use my new Podcast Series as an outlet for numerous updates regarding my upcoming CD. As I record and mix the CD this September, October and November, I will publish many episodes covering the progress of the new CD at the Podcast Series. So subscribe now and be automatically updated as soon as a new episode is available.
I am preparing this week for a big concert in Detroit this coming Saturday, June 24. I will be the featured special guest of Alexander Zonjic and his band at the V98.7/WVMV 8th Annual Smooth Jazz Fest. This is THE jazz event of the summer in Detroit and I am really looking forward to playing for so many people and to making music with Alexander again. See you there...
3rd: The Elijah's Rainbow concert went so well, I couldn't have been more pleased. The band and I sounded very strong and we all had a great time. The place was packed, the audience was so into it and a good deal of money was raised for the Elijah's Rainbow Foundation. There are so many people to thank for this success - bassist and organizer Vernon Barbary for making it ALL happen, his lovely wife Lynn and their beautiful (and smart as a whip) son Marcus Elijah, keyboardist Robert McDaniel, drummer Terell Martin, KJCD personality, the bright, beautiful and sweet Becky Taylor, everyone at KJCD especially Michael Fischer and Kenny Cortes, everyone at Jazz @ Jack's especially the owner Sondra and sound technician Brent, all of the foundation volunteers and sponsors including my favorite airline Southwest, and last but not least, the special audience and fans of my music who made it such a wonderful and special night. I can't wait to get back to Denver, maybe sooner than later I hope! And here's a link to some photos from the show.
1st: As promised, I am writing a short blog entry between the soundcheck here in Denver and the show tonight. It's 3 pm Denver time (5 pm back at home in Baltimore) and after a morning of interviews and practicing and an afternoon of soundcheck and rehearsal at the venue, I am back at my hotel waiting on some room service and then a short rest before reviewing my notes on the rehearsal and some pre-show preparation and practice. The soundcheck/rehearsal went very well with "You Are Everything" and "Breathe" sounding particularly strong. The band here with me in Denver - Vernon Barbary, Terell Martin and Robert McDaniel came ready to roll (they are great musicians and really prepare for my show) and most of the rehearsal was spent playing my music rather than correcting mistakes. There is simply no substitute for doing your homework kids! We did have to review the ending for "In My Wildest Dreams" but with the exception of my regular first call band in Baltimore/DC, everyone who plays that song with me, no matter how good they are and how prepared they are, seems to need an explanation and a few run throughs of the ending. It is tricky! Brent, our tech person, is getting an excellent sound in the venue (Jazz at Jack's) and that makes me very happy and confident that the audience will get a great representation of what we play tonight. OK, room service is knocking.....got to go. Talk to you when I'm back in Baltimore.
31st: I've been up since 6 am this morning, practicing, packing and generally getting ready to take an afternoon flight to Denver, CO today. I am playing a special concert for the Elijah's Rainbow foundation at one of Denver's coolest clubs, Jazz at Jack's. I will get in to Denver late tonight and have a long day tomorrow of radio interviews, rehearsals and finally the show. I'm really looking forward to playing in Denver again. I have had some memorable shows there in the past 10 years and I have a feeling that this is going to be a very special one. I love Denver a
udiences - very expressive and vocal. And I like that. Plus I'm looking forward to working with "my Denver band" again - Vernon Barbary, Robert McDaniel and Terell Martin. These guys are awesome! I will try to write a blog entry between the rehearsal and the show if I have a few minutes by myself. You know, give you some juicy (or not so juicy) backstage details/dirt.
I have now assembled 16 new demo compositions to choose from for the new CD. I think I will be able to get it down to 11 songs. I am getting close to my final decisions. It's not easy but the good thing is that I love all of these songs and that is a good problem to have indeed. I just wrote a brand new song last week which I am very excited about and I have also come up with a contemporary arrangement of a Pat Metheny song called "Lakes" which I have always wanted to record. It's a REALLY hard song to improvise on but it is well worth the extra effort and so I am considering including my take on this great song on the new CD as well. Pretty soon, I will create a new page at www.kennavarro.com dedicated solely to following the process (and progress) of creating the new CD. I will include video, audio previews and descriptions of the recording process as it happens. More on that soon...
15th: I just returned from Detroit/Windsor (Canada) where I was part of a big concert at the beautiful Capital Theatre. With Alexander Zonjic and Thornetta Davis, I did a very successful show to benefit the Downtown Mission of Windsor. This was my first time performing for a predominately Canadian audience and what a wonderful audience they were. I played 3 of my songs backed by Alexander's great band (thank you again Chris, Wayne, Mike and Kenny!) - "Delicioso", "You Are Everything" and "Smooth Sensation". I also played 3 of Alexander's songs - "Leave It With Me", "Isabella" and "People Make The World Go Round " plus a hot blues song with Thornetta. Thornetta is an incredible singer and her blues singing in particular is very powerful. We all had a lot of fun playing together. Once again, Alexander Zonjic amazed me with his sophisticated musicality and complete command of the flute. Plus he plays a mean blues guitar! Alexander is one of the top 3 jazz flautists in the world and one of my best friends in the music business so any time I get a chance to work with him, I jump at the opportunity. When he asked me to participate in this important benefit, it took me all of 5 seconds to say "I'm there". I arrived on Friday afternoon and was met at the Detroit airport by Alexander's excellent assistant Michael Belcher. After meeting up with Alexander at his downtown Detroit office, we headed over to the quaint Detroit suburb of Birmingham for a concert series that the great smooth jazz station WVMV and Audi are sponsoring at the five star Townsend Hotel. There I spoke with many, many Detroit smooth jazz fans and checked out the featured artist of the night, Tim Bowman. I also had the opportunity to hang with my friend Suzanne Belanger, promotions and marketing director of WVMV and to catch up a bit with the goings on at the station. After the event ended, Alexander and I went to dinner at Seldom Blues, THE place to dine and to be seen in Detroit. Alex is a co-owner and handles the booking of all the entertainment (there is live music 7 nights a week at Seldom Blues). We had a fabulous dinner, overlooking the river between the US and Canada and we talked about music, musicians and great food. Talking music and trading stories and jokes with Alexander is almost as much fun as making music with him! I checked in to my hotel in Windsor around midnight and quickly went to sleep. Saturday morning was spent practicing in my room for 3 hours. The afternoon was spent at the theatre doing a sound check and rehearsal with the band and then of course the concert on Saturday night followed by a reception. After packing up all my stuff, I finally made it back to the hotel at 1 am. I was up at 6:30 am to get to the airport for an early flight so that I could spend Sunday celebrating Mother's Day with my wife and mother as well as my daughter, father and youngest brother. We all went out for a great meal of Italian food at "Umberto's" in Potomac, Maryland. All in all, a very full & satisfying weekend. This week I am back in the recording studio, finishing up the composing of the new music for the next CD. I will also be making a trip to North Carolina to pick up my son at college and all of his stuff. He will be living and working at home for the summer. I am looking forward to having him home again! My next concert is in Denver on June 1.
2nd: Today's blog entry is not music related but it is something I feel a need to express. As the grandson of Italian and Lithuanian immigrants, yesterday was a day which made me feel especially proud to be an American. It reminded me of just what our country is all about.
The message from yesterday's "A Day Without Immigrants" was clear - "We are America and we want to join you". Though this messgae was aimed at Washington, it is a message our whole country needs to hear. In the huge, peaceful rallies in LA, Chicago, NYC, Atlanta and many, many other cities, I saw millions of regular people and families, the same types of assimilation-minded fathers and mothers and children our country was built on. It's time for our lawmakers to stop playing politics, accept reality and begin the process of creating and enacting comprehensive immigration reform which allows these immigrants something basic - an opportunity to work to become citizens, with all the opportunities and obligations that go with it.
1st: I just finished co-writing a new song with my old friend, composer Jonathan Merrill. I met and worked with many, many talented musicians during the 8 years I lived in Los Angeles but my favorite composer to work with was Jonathan. So I am very pleased that we have written a new song together for my upcoming CD. And man, it came out terrific! We wrote this piece while Jonathan was in his LA studio and I was working here in my Baltimore studio. Through the use of digital audio technology, MP3s and email, we traded ideas back and forth between our respective recording studios and created a wonderful new song that I am sure neither of us would have done the same way on our own. I just love technology when it allows me to do something like this! Anyway, my new CD is shaping up to be a very up affair and even though the first recording dates are months away, I am already anticipating how much fun this one is going to be to produce and listen to. I now have 10 songs which I feel strongly about. But there are still a couple of songs I am considering before making my final decision. It's a good place to be and I sure am glad that I "kept on going".