My Old Kentucky Home, Ben Sollee

May 6, 2016

Yes, it’s a form of advertisement, for Woodford Reserve. But it’s timely, with the 2016 Kentucky Derby just hours away.

And, it’s beautiful. Ben Sollee’s arrangement of this old chesnut of a tune is wonderful, performed with elan on a cello, which is hardly a folk staple. The video appears to have been shot in ambient light (check the reflections on Ben’s glasses).

Just, wow. Give a listen!

Found it on Twitter.

Tip of the old scrub brush to Joan Combs Durso.

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Ben Sollee captured by photographer Kory Johnson in a very special moment at a house concert in 2011.

Ben Sollee captured by photographer Kory Johnson in a very special moment at a house concert in 2011.

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Quote of the Moment – Pete Seeger: Not singing is a big mistake

January 18, 2016

I don’t have a citation for where Pete Seeger said this, but it’s wholly within his character and mission. Anyone got a cite?

@Area9Handbells said:  Pete Seeger got it right with the exception of one word –

A Tweet from @Area9Handbells: Pete Seeger got it right with the exception of one word – “sing.” We think he meant “ring.”

“The easiest way to avoid wrong notes is to never open your mouth and sing. What a mistake that would be.”

∇ Pete Seeger

I’ve asked for a citation, for accuracy and to keep the anti-plagiarism and accuracy mavens happy, but don’t have one yet. Nor do I know to whom goes credit for the poster and photo. Can you help?


Great jingle bell jazz, from Wynton Marsalis and the JLCO

December 30, 2015

Image from Avi Ofer's film,

Image from Avi Ofer’s film, “Jingle Bells,” with the JLCO. Image from Jazz Blog

Great animation, great orchestra, great arrangement, great song!

YouTube description and details:

Make the Yuletide swing with Jingle Bells from the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis! Jingle Bells is featured on BIG BAND HOLIDAYS, their new album out now on Blue Engine Records.

Produced by Jazz at Lincoln Center and 1504
Animation by Avi Ofer

Buy BIG BAND HOLIDAYS: http://ow.ly/UlULZ

BIG BAND HOLIDAYS is the first holiday album ever released by DownBeat Readers Poll’s Best Big Band of 2013 & 2014, Big Band Holidays features original big band arrangements of timeless favorites including Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, We Three Kings, and White Christmas. Nine-time GRAMMY Award winner and Pulitzer Prize winner Wynton Marsalis and the JLCO are joined by special guest vocalists Cécile McLorin Salvant, Gregory Porter, and René Marie on what’s sure to become a holiday classic.

Subscribe to our channel: http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCP108…

To learn more about Jazz at Lincoln Center, visit us at http://www.jazz.org

Especially with two or three FM stations in Dallas running Christmas music nonstop from Thanksgiving to Christmas, I grow weary of the same, hoary old arrangements. Nor can I live forever on the great choral stuff from the classical station.

Jazz at Christmas puts me at ease, and into the spirit.

So it is that every Christmas, after the actual holiday, I go shopping for deals on Christmas jazz. This new album from Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra (JLCO) is good enough, it may not be discounted. Marketers will hold it until next year. When we buy from Blue Engine Records, profits probably support Jazz at Lincoln Center.

But you can listen to it now, with the wonderful Avi Ofer animation above.

Or, listen to every song from the album performed live just a few weeks ago:


Happy birthday, Beethoven! Google has a special gift

December 17, 2015

Beethoven takes an unplanned swim in his rush to the concert hall in Google's Doodle honoring the composer's 245th year. Image from Google, via Washington Post

Beethoven takes an unplanned swim in his rush to the concert hall in Google’s Doodle honoring the composer’s 245th year. Image from Google, via Washington Post

Maybe we should say “happy baptism.” The infant Ludwig von Beethoven was baptized on December 17, 1770; he was born the previous day, perhaps (some historians disagree).

But the point is, Google honors Beethoven with an interactive Google Doodle, one of the best they’ve ever done. The Doodle features the composer finishing scores and heading to the concert hall — with a series of mishaps along the way that scatter his musical scores and leaves them torn up, speared and generally out of order.

Then you, Dear Reader, get a chance to re-arrange the score in order. When you do that, it plays. Finally Beethoven gets to the concert hall.

It’s a great learning device, really. Can Google do this for history? Can we figure out a way to create these for use in our classrooms?

Here is the intro to the piece (I’m not skilled enough to embed the entire quiz). Click to Google for the entire piece, with the quizzes.

Now that you’ve finished the quizzes, relax for 42 minutes with Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6, The Pastorale, performed by the Bremen symphonie, directed by Paavo Jarvi.

Information:

Beethoven: Symphony No.6 in F, “Pastorale”, Op.68
Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen
Paavo Jarvi, dir.

 


Pat Metheny’s 42-string guitar, in action

May 16, 2015

Before I new much about him, back in the late 1970s I fell into tickets to see Pat Metheney and his band (with Lyle Mays) at the old Cellar Door in Washington, D.C. (If I recall correctly; anyone know better?)

The amplifier lineup, as I recall, was most impressive, long before the musicians got on stage.  There were two massive pillars of speakers that reminded me much of Blue Cheer and their claim to be the loudest band ever.  When Metheny opened up, it was by far the loudest concert I’d ever heard (no, I never did make it to hear Blue Cheer).

I was hooked.  It’s been fun watching his journey through many incarnations of his own band, and working with others including Joni Mitchell on the Shadows and Light Tour.  I can’t keep up with every release of bands I like, but we have several Metheny discs in vinyl and CD.

I’d heard he has some custom-built instruments, including a 42-string monstrosity.  But today on ran into a photo of the beast on Pinterest.

Pat Metheny's 42-string harp guitar, called a Pikasso guitar (I don't know why).

Pat Metheny’s 42-string harp guitar, called a Pikasso guitar (I don’t know why).

That made me curious, so I nosed around and found this video of Metheny and a band in performance, in which he plays this thing.  From a 2007 concert, Jazzaldia; the piece is called “The Sound of Water”:

In the video you can see a cord coming out of the instrument. How are the pickups set, and what kind does it use?

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Encore: Campaigning Obama visited the Dubliner on St. Patrick’s Day, 2012

March 17, 2015

(This is a slightly-edited encore post, for St. Patrick’s Day — I like the Corrigan Brothers’ droll tune.)

I’d forgotten about the birthers’ greatest nightmare — Obama’s got Irish blood in him!

Democratic Underground features a series of photos of President Obama with an Irish cousin at one of my favorite old haunts in Washington, the Dubliner.

President Barack Obama drinks a Guinness with his ancestral cousin from Moneygall Ireland Henry Healy, center, and the owner of the pub in Moneygall Ireland, Ollie Hayes, right, at The Dubliner Restaurant and Pub and Restaurant on St. Patrick's Day, Saturday, March 17, 2012, in Washington (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama drinks a Guinness with his ancestral cousin from Moneygall Ireland Henry Healy, center, and the owner of the pub in Moneygall Ireland, Ollie Hayes, right, at The Dubliner Restaurant and Pub and Restaurant on St. Patrick’s Day, Saturday, March 17, 2012, in Washington (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Many great memories of the Dubliner, including its own great business success.

In 1974, when I interned at the Senate, the Dubliner was just a small bar on the first floor of the Commodore Hotel.  Rocky Johnson of Sen. Mike Gravel‘s office, one of my roommates, introduced me to Guinness.  The Dubliner was the most reliable source in D.C. at the time.  The bartender was a guy named Paddy.  It was never crowded — and they had good fish and chips with a fine, imported malt vinegar. I wasn’t exactly a regular, but I made several a lot of visits.

Ironically, for my summer job later that year with the Louis August Jonas Foundation, we had a trip to D.C. planned with about 16 “boys from abroad” and the designated hotel was the Commodore — it was cheap and met our needs, being close to the Capitol.  I was asked to chaperone, and happily went.   So Freddy Jonas, the great benefactor of the foundation and Camp Rising Sun, and I could sneak down to the Dubliner for a nightcap after the boys were asleep.  Michael Greene, the foundation’s executive director at the time, warned me that Freddy would always ask if you wanted a second drink, but Freddy would not take one himself — and so, of course, neither should staffers.

One night while Freddy and I were capping off the evening we ran into a friend from my interning, Avis Ortner, a former rodeo barrel rider who had starred in a Kodak commercial series, and who worked in a Washington law firm.  She and Freddy struck it off very nicely.  I was surprised at how much Freddy knew about horses, and the questions he had about rodeo riding.  At some point in the evening he asked me if I were going to have a second drink, and of course I declined.  “Well, you only live once.  Avis and I are having a second one, and you should join us.”  People who knew Freddy well still don’t believe me when I tell them the story.  But it’s true.  It’s the magic of the Dubliner.  [Is Avis still cleaning up at bridge in D.C.? [Yes!]]

I was back in D.C. in 1975, again with the Jonas Foundation bunch, and again at the Commodore.  The Dubliner had a successful year, and had taken over the small cafe/dining room next door to bar.

In 1976 I visited again, and after a very successful year the Dubliner kicked out the gift shop of the hotel and opened a second bar there.  It was crowded on weekends.

In 1979 I moved to D.C.  Within a couple of years the Dubliner bought out the Commodore.  You couldn’t get a seat at the bar most nights.  St. Patrick’s Day 1980 the line wrapped around the block, and though the place never had a great or large stage, the live act was the Clancy Brothers with Tommy Makem, if I recall correctly.

Reconstruction and massive redecorating made the hotel into a great stop, and a sometimes pricey room.  Eventually the bar company sold the hotel, but kept the location for the bar.  After Kathryn and I got married, we’d walk over to the Dubliner for lunch at least a couple of times a month, and the fish and chips at the Dubliner got better.  I may have done in half the cod from the Grand Banks all by myself.

We’ve been in Texas now since 1987.  I miss the Dubliner.  Have been able to make it back only a couple of times.  Obama’s lucky he could get in, on St. Patrick’s Day.  I hope he appreciates his luck.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post.  Fighting ignorance requires patience.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.


Chess games of the rich and Famous: Marcel Duchamp and John Cage make music together

March 11, 2015

Duchamp was a chess-playing fool.

John Cage plays white, Marcel Duchamps plays black, on a chessboard modified to generate tones depending on where the chess pieces are.

Marcel Duchamp plays white, John Cage plays black, on a chessboard modified to generate tones depending on where the chess pieces are. Toronto, 1968. Teeny Duchamp at far left, camerman in the background.  This was a performance.

Composer John Cage sought him out in Duchamp’s last years, and made a point of meeting with the artist at least once a week. Cage experimented with a chessboard designed to generate music depending on the positions of the chess pieces on the board (hence, the wires).  This photo came from a performance at a festival in Toronto in 1968.

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