As Walter Brennan said in Meet John Doe, “I know the world’s been shaved by a drunken barber.” Well, I can’t argue but I always look forward to all the amazing little things that go on in life. The First Thursday band is embarking on a little adventure at the Royal Room in Seattle. We will be playing the fourth Saturdays for the first four months of the year (Jan. 24, Feb. 28, Mar. 28 and April 25) and hope to keep going if the whole thing is supported by enough jazz community involvement.
We will be playing from 5-7:30, the usual lineup of Steve Wright on horns; Dave Brown, bass; Mike Daugherty, drums; and me. We also agreed to change the band name, and maybe it will stick---we’ll see. We will be Ray Skjelbred and the Yeti Chasers, a name I find appealing and one I used long ago. The Royal Room rightly felt that a group called the First Thursday band that played on the fourth Saturday would just be too confusing. OK. We will be playing at 5000 Rainier Ave. S. and hope to see as many listeners as possible. Tell your friends. Doors open at 4:30.
The Fresno festival returns Feb. 12 – 15. I will be there with Bob Schulz and the Frisco band and my Cubs band will also be there. Good stuff. Also Salty’s is staying positive with three Friday nights in January.
The year 2015 is springing into action and pulling with it all the glory and all the pain of the history of world. There is always the force of the past as we go forward. I am thankful for Jane Addams and Eugene Debs. Franklin Roosevelt and Emily Dickinson, Earl Hines and Mary Lou Williams and all the forces of life that have pulled me/us along this far into an unknown future.
Ray at a café in Delft
~ February 2015 ~
The Royal Room debut of the Yeti Chasers (First Thursday band) was quite a success. We had a packed room, everyone was enthusiastic and we will be back there Feb. 28. Too early to say, but this might turn out to be a good long run setting. It is a good room, good people working there and a good piano and sound system.
Fresno is coming up soon. Bob Schulz and the Frisco Band and my Cubs group. Good music.
At long last I get to play a trombone job, this time at the Hummingbird Saloon with Mike Daugherty, Feb. 17.
The wonderful Ernie Banks has died. When he first rose to prominence as the greatest Chicago Cub ever, I spent almost every day that summer going to the ball park. When ballplayers left the clubhouse, they hurried to their cars and maybe signed a hurried autograph or two on the way. Ernie Banks stood there, surrounded by kids. He kindly talked to every kid who wanted to meet him. He was the Buddha of baseball. I loved watching him. His talent, his quiet, his love of baseball and people.
~ March 2015 ~
Neither music nor baseball can compete with a huge tree, about 120 feet, that crashed through the neighbor's fence and filled my yard. Yes, I am glad it didn't hit me or the house, but the cutting, shredding and hauling are enormous. And due to go on for a few more weeks
The Cubs had a wonderful time in Fresno. I am always thrilled by the sound and I am grateful that so many musicians listen closely to this band. We next play in the bay area: Rossmoor July 9, Borrone's in Menlo Park July 10, The Cline Winery Festival July 11 and the Napa Valley Jazz Society July 12. Beginning with those engagements Jeff Hamilton will be our regular drummer. And we thank Hal Smith for all his great drumming.
The Royal Room in Seattle is planning on my Yeti Chasers band being a permanent monthly experience, with a few bumps along the way for conflicts that were established earlier. We play Feb. 28, March 28. Our April date was supposed to be April 25 but it has been moved up to the 11th. Fourth Saturday of the month is always the target.
Of course my two favorite dates are coming up soon: March 8, the beginning of Daylight Saving Time and April 5, the Chicago Cubs opening game. These events always whisper to me "you have made it to another year."
~ April 2015 ~
With April the world begins. I watch the buds every day to see their growth. Some days I am startled by how much they have changed. When the huge tree fell in the yard our mountain ash and group of blueberry plants were overwhelmed so completely that I didn't even know where they were, or had been, amazing since the Ash is about 15 feet high. But now the tree is gone, with cut up firewood and huge piles of mulch in its place But the blueberries earned a little poem.
under the fallen tree
after the chainsaw
they arched their backs
And it is true. The blueberries, bent under all that weight, did not break, but lifted up when the heavy limbs were pulled away.
And days of going to the lake are starting to happen ---the ducks, eagles, blue herons, kingfishers, geese, swans and good old crows and seagulls.
April 19 on the Puget Sound Jazz Society we have a group called Ray's Friends. If you want to know, it will include Dave Holo, trumpet; Dave Loomis, trombone; Paul Woltz, saxes; Mike Daugherty, drums; Jake Powel, banjo and guitar; Dave Brown, bass. May 8 the Yeti Chasers will play at Third Place Commons, just down the hill from home. I look forward to that. I am there almost every day.
~ May 2015 ~
I look forward to our Yeti Chasers job at the Third Place Commons on May 8. This is really local for me. The commons is a wonderful community place in Lake Forest Park with music, a book store, good food, a stage for various presentations, and many groups, formal and informal that meet at large tables scattered around a comfortable open space. I imagine we will have a good collection of nearby friends for this one.
A note about the Royal Room: The Yeti Chasers will be back on the fourth Saturday of the Month, May 23, but in June we shift to June 20., the third Saturday to avoid conflict with the Lacey festival the following week.
The Royal Room
New things: A new CD sponsored by Earl Scheelar is now in the world. Old tapes from 1971 of Earl on reeds, Jim Goodwin, cornet, Bob Mielke, trombone; Lueder Ohlwein, banjo and guitar and me on piano. The session was recorded in Earl's auto shop in Berkeley. Also, I have been invited to the West Coast Ragtime Festival in Sacramento in November.
And the Chicago Cubs are sailing along. They have many wonderful young players and it is a joy to watch them.
~ June 2015 ~
Mike Duffy was my friend for 55 years. He died Memorial Day weekend. He was a passionate musical listener and bass player and we stayed good friends all this time because he was also a deep person in many other ways. Mike and I shared an abiding involvement in literature, teaching, history, politics and, in general, a linking of cultural connections. Mike was my first friend in jazz, even before I began playing piano and I will miss him forever.
If you check the calendar you will see specifics listed for the tour that my Cubs group is doing in July. I will also be playing at Pier 23 in San Francisco during that time.
The Yeti Chasers in general are scheduled to play the Royal Room in Seattle on the fourth Saturdays of the month but note that it will be the third Saturday in June because three of us will be in Lacey for the festival. playing with the Evergreen Jazz Band and happily adding Katie Cavera as a guest on three sets.
By the way, an extra delight for visitors to Salty's in West Seattle to see the Dave Holo trio (with Matt Weiner on bass and me on piano) is the addition of several parts of the famous old ferry Kalakala.
It was designed in the 1930's as a streamlined and very different looking ferry. Sort of like a rocket ship on water. The pilot house is on the edge of the parking lot overlooking Puget Sound. You can look out the round windows and imagine all you want.
~ July 2015 ~
Here is a tiny poem of mine that was just published in Lilliput, the appropriate poetry magazine.
the keys---I reach into soft soil.
My Cubs band tour is coming up soon---four days in the San Francisco bay area. For the first time I can announce that Kim Cusack comes from Temecula, CA, much closer than Chicago. Details on the calendar page.
Chief Black Hawk
We are at about two years at Salty's on Fridays. They want us to play from 6-9, starting an hour later, but we are not sure yet if that is happening.
I am reading the autobiography of Chief Black Hawk, leader of the Sauk Indians, a courageous character who fought to reclaim native land that was taken unfairly in a treaty signed by people who were not authorized to do so. Good for him. The final battle of the Black Hawk war was fought in Bad Axe, Wisconsin, a tiny place that I have been to. I just saw mild cows. I always trust cows.
~ August 2015 ~
The little California tour of my Cubs band was a wonderful experience. The band seemed to have an inner happiness and outer swing that went together quite comfortably as we played at Rossmoor, Borrone's, Cline Festival and Napa Jazz Club. I will need to start working on this sequence for next year. I hope it happens.
The Cubs perform at the Cline Wine & Jazz Festival
(l - r) Jeff Hamilton, Katie Cavera, Kim Cusack, Clint Baker, & Ray
I also played a solo night at Pier 23 in San Francisco and will be heading there again on August 11 before going on to the Sutter Creek ragtime Festival. Also, I am happy to say the Yeti Chasers will be playing at the Third Place Commons August 28, from 7:30 to 9:30. That is close enough for me to walk to.
I play records and CD's about evenly I guess, but sometimes I pick up a CD of music I already have, just to play in the car. I recently got a Louis Armstrong/ Earl Hines offering and listened, really listened to the Carrol Dickerson Orchestra playing "Savoyager's Stomp." I was stunned by the piano solo, which I had forgotten. I listened to it over and over. The whole big band drops out and Hines solos as if he were a man from another planet. Open space and jagged runs dart about in an asymmetrical way but always gathering a force toward order and beauty. It was one of my greatest listening pleasures. Music as exploration and passion.
~ September 2015 ~
The next couple of months are busy and full of revisions of schedules. So I need to mention that the management of Salty's wants the Holo group to play the last Friday in September. I can't because I will be at the White Rock Festival. So, don't look for us on September 18. We won't be there. Also, the Royal Room has a conflict with our fourth Saturday in October, so we will be playing the third Saturday in October, the 17th. It is always hard to alert the audience to these things, but we will try.
On a bright note I can say that Johnny, Elsa and I will all be featured at the Third Place Commons in Lake Forest Park, and all within a month's time. As August ends the Yeti Chasers play August 28 from 7:30 to 9:30. On September 5 at 6:30 Johnny Skjelbred will be featured as illustrator on a wonderful children's book, Star Dancing Girls, and on September 19,26 and Oct. 3 from 1-3 Elsa will be featured teaching weaving. I think that is pretty amazing.
Check the calendar page. Bob Schulz is coming to Seattle, the Yeti Chasers are going to White Rock and Kalispell and, well, the Chicago Cubs are playing beautifully. How will I be able to play piano if I have to look at playoff games? We'll see.
~ October 2015 ~
Last month at the Puget Sound Jazz Society meeting, our tuba player Mike Walbridge suffered some sort of attack during a break and emergency people came and took him to a hospital. He has what he called "afib" an irregular heart beat. That seems stabilized now, but unfortunately he broke his ankle when he fell and after some time in the hospital he is now in a recovery center at Anderson House, which is very near me. Mike is improving but can't put weight on one foot now. He is getting physical therapy and should be going home soon, we hope.
Although the Yeti Chasers are supposedly playing the fourth Saturday at the Royal Room, we are actually playing the third Saturday in October and we don't have a set date yet in November. That's how it is when one side or another has conflicts. But we are still there and closing in on a year of music in a supportive place.
The Yeti Chasers had a wonderful time at the recent Jazz Band Ball Festival in White Rock, B.C. We were able to supplement our band with Josh Roberts on guitar and the combination seemed perfect. We all pulled together in rhythmic harmony and Josh was a big part of that. We move to the Kalispell Festival in the second week of October. The best part of any festival is seeing friends from different places all pulled together in one spot and seeing and playing with the fine young Canadian musicians.
The Chicago Cubs wild card playoff game is October 7.
~ November 2015 ~
Well, November will be busy. It is my birthday month and election month. Let's keep fighting for fair play, equality and intelligence. Voices of darkness are loud throughout the land.
I will be at the West Coast Ragtime Festival Nov. 20-22 but note that I will play at Pier 23 in San Francisco the Tuesday before. Also I head to San Diego on Thanksgiving to play with Bob Schulz, my Cubs band and Dawn Lambeth and Marc Caparone. Schedules can change but if you peek at the current schedule you will see that Dawn has the first set of regular programming that begins the festival on Friday and the Cubs play immediately after that in the same room. That is exciting. There are many festivals and special events coming up in 2016 but I am not listing them yet. Some details and official business have to be worked out. But I look forward to it. One special thing for sure is that my Cubs band will have a California tour in July. I was worried it might not happen this year. We will be at Borrone's in Menlo Park July 8, Cline Festival in Sonoma July 9 and Napa Jazz Club July 10. There may be more jobs attached, don't know yet, but we are definitely there. Next month I will add other festival and special job activity.
The Yeti Chasers will play Nov. 4 at the Royal Room from 7-9:30. I hate that our schedule has bounced around so much, but jobs were in conflict for November.
Now some fast thoughts about things that make my soul be what it is: fresh asparagus, dogs, Jean Arthur, the Field Museum, Don Redman, kingfishers, prairie grasses, Erroll Garner, Randolph Scott, oatmeal cookies, ducks,Willa Cather, Rod Cless and Charles Coburn.
~ December 2015 ~
November ended with delightful music at the San Diego jazz festival. I played a full schedule with Bob Schulz and two sets each with my Cubs band and with Marc Caparone and Dawn Lambeth. That trio was a first,and Marc is going to look for more opportunities. The sound is a little different than the Cubs---smaller, quieter, but devoted to swing, beauty and surprise. Most of all I like the good company of my friends there. No doubt there will be a variety of youtubes from Rae Ann and Michael Steinman that will reveal some of this music.
The trip home was quite an adventure. My Sunday night plane was delayed about an hour and a half by bad Seattle weather. Then we took off and flew about two hours, enough to be close to Seattle. Then the pilot came on with an announcement that the weather had worsened and we we flying BACK TO SAN DIEGO.I felt a bit lost In San Diego I wandered outside and a shuttle driver asked me where I wanted to go. I told him that I didn't know and he took me to a Motel 6. I felt like I was living a scene from the Marx Brothers Night at the Opera. The brothers, stowaways on a ship, disguise themselves as famous aviators to escape the law. When called upon to explain their transatlantic flying exploits, Chico says the first time they tried to fly they got halfway and ran out gas and had to return. The second time they got within sight of land and ran out of gas and had to go home. Then they made it the third time. I had the feeling we were almost there when we had to turn back.
We are aiming toward the end of the year. I wish I could change some things in the world---get rid of opinions formed by fear, hatred formed by ignorance and loud voices, and violence formed by a gun culture. Maybe I can't but I did the following poem recently and maybe some surprising things can change the world after all.
If you press hard against a certain place
on the tip of your thumb,
your brain will thank you and feel refreshed.
If you apply pressure
to the fourth finger of either hand,
your nerves and tension will slow down.
And if you build a campfire
on the Olympic peninsula,
Republicans in Omaha will suddenly
feel compelled to return overdue library books.
If you lean your forehead against the side of a cow,
drug prices will be reduced.
If you photograph a Komodo dragon,
all the leaf blowers in the world will stop working.
And at night, if bladder problems keep you awake,
just press down on the heel of your palm
and you will sleep the good sleep
of no discomfort or pain,
which will also lower the temperature
at the North Pole.
~ January 2016 ~
I just had a little poem accepted by a little poetry magazine. Lilliput is really small and a great pleasure to read and be part of. The poem this time is:
ORWELL'S SHOOTING AN ELEPHANT
The smallest bug in the world
just landed on page 53
of Kim Addonizio's
"Starlight at the Lucifer."
And because I was reading
I flicked him away
with my little finger
just as I saw
he made a shadow.
It is that time of year when we look ahead or behind at our own lives or the whole world. We use all our senses but most of all we use language. Memory is our greatest force and we use it to absorb all directions at once. The current political campaign made me think back to working at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco, where many customers appeared to be very wealthy. I clearly remember a sense of privilege that went with money. Rich people sometimes expect to get whatever they want because they assume it is theirs for the taking. If you disagree with them you are wrong because you are not on the same level. This attitude is what I see at the top of the Republican list.I also see language turned into jingles and vagueness. It is a most alarming turn of events and the lowest level of political behavior I have ever seen in America.
And that made me think of It's a Wonderful Life, when, during the depression, Jimmy Stewart tries to stop people from taking half the value of their money from Mr. Potter. The people thought he was doing them a favor, but Stewart (George Bailey) says, "Don't you see? Potter's not selling. Potter's buying." He was amassing more wealth by taking advantage of them. It was manipulation. It was a kind of bullying, just as I see it today in politics.
Oh, and there is music. One special note in February is the Bob Schulz appearance at the Fresno Jazz Festival. Otherwise, I continue on with the Yeti Chasers at the Royal Room and with Dave Holo at Salty's.
~ February 2016 ~
I regret that I must mention the passing of another fine musician, Ham Carson, a veteran hot jazz and swing player who has been part of the music scene for a long time. I didn't play with Ham too much, but we did record together along with cornetist Jim Goodwin on the LP Taking a Chance that John Ochs produced. Ham also played in the Great Excelsior Jazz Band, my first group many years ago, though Ham was there during the time after I had moved to California. For many years he led a group at the New Orleans Creole Restaurant in Pioneer Square in Seattle and, I believe his last public performance was a sitting in appearance with the Yeti chasers at the Royal Room a couple of months ago. He was a skilled and expressive player who had a lot of Chicago jazz in his.soul. He will be missed. It seemed he would always be here.
The Yeti Chasers have now been playing at the Royal Room on a monthly basis for the last year. Starting in February we shift to the third Saturday of month and, as usual, the early shift, from 5 to 7:30.Doors open at 4. The Royal Room presents a wide range of music and I will be taking part in a piano series there, I believe during March.
Bob Schulz and the Frisco band will be at the Fresno festival, starting Feb. 11, a Thursday, pre-festival night, then on Friday and Saturday. We do not play on Sunday.
In March I begin what I hope will be some steady work at Capitol Cider on East Pike St. in Seattle. This is Jacob Zimmerman's group and we are joined by bassist Matt Weiner. Jacob is a rising star in many directions in jazz and I am always happy to work with him. For now we are scheduled for the first Sundays in March, April and May.
John Ochs and I are in an early talking stage about making a film where I talk about Chicago style piano, show some of the ways of playing Chicago style and demonstrate how it all came about. Focus would be on Earl Hines, Joe Sullivan and Jess Stacy.
~ March 2016 ~
February turned out to be quite a bit different than I expected. Bob Pelland, the fine pianist and leader of the Grand Dominion Jazz Band had some health issues that were severe enough that I filled in for him at the Fresno festival, and then the recently completed Seaside festival. I have always felt very connected to this group, originally when it had my first music friends, Bob Jackson and Mike Duffy, and now with good friends Clint Baker, Jeff Hamilton, Gerry Green. Bill Dixon, Jim Armstrong and Mike Fay. On the Seaside job, Jeff Hamilton also had some health issues and Clint's son Riley took over on drums. Riley is 15 and knows how to play. And knowing how, means not just skill, but listening, swinging and good taste. I enjoyed both festivals and felt very at home with a group that weaves together a sense of knowledge, swing and passion. Bob and Jeff are both recovering and I hope they are back at it soon.
March 16 is a special piano night at the Royal Room. I will be one of about a dozen piano players who will play a couple of songs each. Should be very interesting. Three nights later, on the 19th, the Yeti Chasers will appear there.
I am hoping the word gets out for Jacob Zimmerman at Capitol Cider. Our first night there is March 6 from 5:30 to 8. Jacob, Matt Weiner on bass and me.
Baseball is coming. And I am ready.
I am writing this the day after the Oscar ceremony where black performers were not considered for awards and it seems a good moment for me to consider some of my favorite actors of color.
Juano Hernandez, who created passionate and intense characters in Intruder in the Dust and The Pawnbroker. Great face and voice. Great belief in his character.
Sabu, who really was an Indian boy who tended elephants. His sweet charm and sense of humor dominate his early films, especially The Thief of Baghdad.
Gary Farmer, a native American who gives his passion in many films, including Pow Wow Highway and Smoke Signals.
Nina Mae McKinney, who appeared in many early black music films, but who also played prominent roles in features Hallelujah and Pinky.
David Gulpilil, one of my favorite actors, an Australian aboriginal who notably appeared in Walkabout and very recently in Charlie's Country, both films where his sweet and kind nature and love of the land is pitted against racist policies and attitudes. Those two films are over 40 years apart, but it is the same guy, young and old, believing the good things about people and culture.
Nina Mae McKinney
~ April 2016 ~
I can see eagles every day, the temperature is starting to get into the comfort zone, baseball is beginning and I get a bit of satisfaction from new poems and songs. I have always loved turning band material into piano solo stuff. It seems like an endless world of untapped exploration. Recently I have been fooling around with Jimmie Noone's El Rado Scuffle and the Mielke's Bearcats song Blue Guaiac Blues.
Just a few days ago I reread Joseph Conrad's End of the Tether, a wonderful tale, full of tumbling irony at the end, and the memorable line, "You begin to see things when you are going blind." There are many kinds of blindness. About 37 to 40 percent of the voting public seems blind to me right now, but I have a poem for it.
THE ART OF POLITICS
Selling exploding cigars
to one man---
selling matches that won't stay lit
I guess I have not mentioned jazz much. The steady jobs go on and my next festival is Olympia in June.
My favorite animals? Dog, cow, duck, wolf, pig. And they all make music that I love.
~ May 2016 ~
In early May we are off to Grand Haven, Michigan to play an anniversary party for Jack and Judy Clapp. They just want piano solo and I am happy to oblige for some really nice people.
Around Seattle I am playing more and more with Jacob Zimmerman,a wonderful reed player and a dedicated student of jazz history and good taste! May 1 we play at Capitol Cider, then a special one night May 3 at the Royal Room with New York guests Emily Asher, trombone; Mike Davis, trumpet; Jay Lepley, drums. And Matt Weiner will be on bass. The trio, Jacob Zimmerman and his Pals will be recording at Jack Straw studio in June and I look forward to that as well.
June brings two special events. On June 18 I will be playing my Dolceola as part of the Lake Forest Park secret garden tour. I set up in a garden and play as people walk by. Also, the Lacey Jazz Festival comes at the end of the month. I will be with Bob Schulz and that is good. It has been a few years since he has had his band there. I will also be happy to see Joep Peeters, a long time Dutch friend of American jazz musicians. He set up my work in The Netherlands two years ago. I hope we get to play together.
I also can't help but mention the Chicago Cubs, who seem to be winning almost all of their games. I kind of like that.
The Yeti Chasers will not be playing at the Royal Room during the summer, though we are expected back in September. They have something else in mind, but we will survive. June 19 will also be the last Puget Sound Traditional Jazz Society meeting until next September. I will be there with the New Orleans Quintet with Jake Powel, Dave Holo, Steve Wright, George Goldsberry and Matt Weiner.
The May trip to Michigan was wonderful. With one night in Chicago I finally got to see Jane Addams' Hull House, one of the most remarkable creations in American history. Name any social cause or a fight for the rights of people, especially the poor and immigrants, and she was there. In her bedroom the museum has a wonderful display with her Nobel Prize on a pedestal next to J. Edgar Hoover's FBI file on her during the time he tried to catch her as an agitator and troublemaker.There was no end to her depth, intelligence and commitment to decent lives for all. I was very moved.
The Lacey festival is at the end of June. I will be glad to play with Bob Schulz again and also have a chance to catch the fine Fat Babies band from Chicago. Then in July the Cubs have their delightful tour of the bay area.
One more big thing. Our dear friend, beautiful trombone player Bob Mielke will be 90 in July!!!
Ray & Bob Mielke
~ July 2016 ~
I happily look forward to the northern California tour with my band The Cubs. You can find more information on the calendar page,but we will be at Rossmoor, Thursday, July 7, the next day at Borrone's in Menlo Park, Saturday at the Cline Winery festival and later in the day an augmented group appearing as the New Berkeley Rhythm at the Bootlegger's Ball in San francisco, and finally at the Napa Traditional Jazz Society in Yountville on Sunday. We are Kim Cusack, clarinet; Katie Cavera, guitar; Clint Baker, bass; Jeff Hamilton, drums; and I will play piano. At the Bootlegger's Ball, a swing dance, Clint will switch to trombone, Marty Eggers will play bass and Marc Caparone will join us on trumpet.
Ray Skjelbred & His Cubs(l-r) Jeff Hamilton, Katie Cavera, Kim Cusack, Clint Baker, and Ray Skjelbred
Sir Charles Thompson has died. He was much loved by many musicians and listeners, yet he traveled through jazz history in a way that was as understated as his playing style. No one ever used open space between the notes the way he did. He was a great inspiration to me and I am glad to report that he was 98 when he died.
I recently did a studio recording/radio program with Jacob Zimmerman and Matt Weiner. It was really lovely. Jacob is a major talent on alto and clarinet and I want the world to know him. Fortunately we have an increasing number of jobs coming up down the road.
The Lacey festival was fun, but laughing with Jeff Hamilton and Marc Caparone was the best part!
~ August 2016 ~
The California tour of my little band called the Cubs was a happy and successful time. A lot of hard work, planning and late hour driving were part of it, but it was satisfying to bring the sound of very real and intimate Chicago jazz out into the world. My thanks to Kim, Katie, Clint, Jeff, Rae Ann, John Plut and all the venue and festival people for making it work.
Ray Skjelbred & His Cubs(l-r) Ray Skjelbred, Clint Baker, Katie Cavera, Jeff Hamilton, and Kim Cusack photo by Barbara Sully
I will be back in California in August for Pier 23 and solo playing at the Sutter Creek Ragtime Festival, including a duet set with Marty Eggers. Labor Day weekend the Cubs will be together again at the Hot Jazz Jubilee in Sacramento.
Here is a recent poem that will be published in the Summer edition of Off the Coast from Maine.
WHAT HAVE YOU DONE
Bits of tan fur pressed into the black road.
Cedar Waxwings eat all the cotoneaster berries
in one afternoon.
Our greatest achievement is that strangers
can sometimes sit quietly next to each other
in public places.
~ September 2016 ~
As I write this, the Labor Day Hot Jazz Jubilee is a few days away and the Cubs have a full seven sets. Katie and Clint will also be seen in other musical settings as well.
September 17-18 Bob Schulz will be visiting Seattle and we will be playing Saturday at the Royal Room and Sunday at the Ballard Elks for the Traditional Jazz Society.
My favorite gig is one I can walk to! The Yeti Chasers play at Third Place Commons in Lake Forest Park September 30.
I have just learned new information about the San Diego Festival. I was always scheduled to play with the Dawn Lambeth trio. It turns out that she, Marc Caparone and I will play three sets, I have three solo sets and two with the Cubs. First I heard of it was a few days ago.
My old friend Bob West has died..I have known him from 1962 and he was a dedicated jazz and blues man. More than that he was generous with his life and time. He gave freely to others. Bob bought my old houseboat on Lake Union and I always stayed with him when I came up from California to play here. I had seen him often recently, and although I knew he was gravely ill, it still stunned me.
I don't know how far ahead a person can plan a life, but I have just marked on my calendar all the dates for the baseball playoffs. I notice that the seventh game of the world series is scheduled on my birthday. I hope that means something good.
~ October 2016 ~
I will be working on a new piano recording in October, leaning toward late 20's Armstrong-Hines things, plus some surprises. It is always a test of something, not necessarily skill. Will the music be accurate? Will it really be me? Those two questions often battle each other.
I am picking up more swing dances with Jacob Zimmerman over the next few months. That is always a good thing.
Looking farther ahead than usual, I can note some festivals down the road. I will be with Bob Schulz at Fresno, and Seaside in February and in Madison in April. I just heard from Tom Jacobus and the Evergreen band has been invited to Lacey. So I will be there too.
Baseball is overwhelming me right now. I want to enjoy it all, but I can't relax with it. Well, I love the Chicago Cubs and that is the whole story.
In another month we will elect a new president. I think it is important to consider things wisely, and after two seconds of thinking,and observing, I knew all I needed to know. Vote and protect us from ignorance, hatred and crudeness.
~ November 2016 ~
On November 2, 2016 I became 76 years old----and the Chicago Cubs won the world series.
~ December 2016 ~
The recently completed San Diego Festival was a delight on many fronts. I had some solo sets, two wonderful sets with The Cubs and Marc Caparone sitting in for Kim Cusack, and three delightful sets with the Dawn Lambeth trio. She sings exactly as I want someone to sing; lovely jazz without trying hard to prove that it is jazz and a sweet no show business stage presence. Dawn chooses rich, lyrical songs that I love to play. And Marc is magnificent on horn. His version of Dear Old Southland was just stunning. It is also looking like we may all be back to do it next year. I hope.
I will have a new CD out in a few days. I can never be sure of these things, but there is a quiet element that emerged on this. I wasn't looking for it, but it took me along for the ride.
There will be new events for the calendar and festival lists for next year and I have some other things that I will probably know more about a little later. One delightful thing just came up. In addition to my work with Bob Schulz at the Seaside Festival, they have asked me to assemble a trio which will include Kim Cusack and Marc Caparone. What could be nicer.
And the Cubs are still world champions.
~ January 2017 ~
It is almost the end of the year as I write, a time when people look back on the year, but I would like to look back on many years during this time period. I played a New Year gig at the Bull Valley Inn in Port Costa for seven or eight years, and four years at the Fairmont with Turk Murphy. There was an interesting time a few years back when I played with a band for an NPR New Year's Eve production of Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me. Most memorable of all was my New Year's Eve with Earl Hines. I played solo and then he followed with a big band. That was 1982, not long before he died.
So here is an interesting plot. A billionaire with many oil interest connections does everything he can to manipulate the enthusiasm of "the people" so that they will elect him as president, a "friend" of the people. But he really is power hungry and wants to feed his ego. His plan is to become an autocratic ruler and not care about "the people" once he is elected. Does this plot sound familiar? Yes, it is the story from the 1941 film Meet John Doe. It also seems to resemble something else going on in the world.
Not much new on the music front but the Yeti Chasers have been asked to move to the second Friday of the month at the Royal Room. We will try it in January and see how it goes. Friday, with terrible rush hour traffic, is a much tougher time than Saturday, our usual day. May 17 I will take part in an evening of Earl Hines and Mary Lou Williams music at the Royal Room. That sounds good.
Let us all stay energized. We are going into dark times in America. Be kind, fair and wise.
~ February 2017 ~
I was very happy to take part in the great march on January 21. Very early in the morning I took the bus downtown. There were only about six people at my stop and by the next stop there were about 200 and most had to be turned away. The spirit of the day was strong, gentle and inspiring. A Native American group with drumming lead the people and I was happy to be part of it and know that the best of America was alive. A layer of hatred, fear and ignorance are always just under the surface and I am glad to see that the people really do exist.and will continue to fight for human rights and decent behavior. One my heroes,poet William Stafford, said he was a "citizen of the world" and rightly so. I hope to stay with all of this energy for the next four years.
And there is jazz. February is very busy. I will be at two festivals (Fresno,Seaside) with Bob Schulz, and Marc Caparone, Kim Cusack and I have a couple of sets at Seaside as well. The weekend of Feb. 17-19 I have six jobs, five with Jacob Zimmerman and I am thrilled that two of my favorite musicians -Meredith Axelrod and Josh Roberts- will be joining us.
Check Michael Steinman's Jazz Lives blog to catch Dear Old Southland a duet that Marc and I did last Thanksgiving in San Diego. Marc's playing is powerful and inspiring jazz at its highest level.
And now for a delicious meal of blueberries and pickled herring.
~ March 2017 ~
My favorite national holiday is coming up---March 12, the start of Daylight Saving Time. Nevertheless, my lovely calendar to benefit Children's Hospital has it listed as savingS time, and there are plenty of news announcers (so dishonest) who will also call it that. Perhaps the concept of a savings account is responsible, but the idea is that you are "saving time." That day is the start of Daylight Saving Time.
February was very busy with Fresno and Seaside festivals and a very full weekend of work with Jacob Zimmerman. Much good music but now I need to talk with my dog more.
I am the son of an immigrant and proud of that. And you can't be too careful. The former Norwegian Prime Minister was recently stopped at the border. Is the current direction of America wicked? Or just silly?
~ April 2017 ~
It has been a long, gray time of life. I hope April brings some needed light. The Yeti Chasers play for the Bellingham Traditional Jazz Society April 1, and Jim Armstrong will be joining us. April 2 the Chicago Cubs begin their new season.
Some other interesting things are going on. I will join Matt Weiner and group at the Edmunds Center for the Arts April 6 to play music before a silent film feature. Dave Loomis will have a band doing Lu Watters arrangements at the Royal Room April 20, And at the end of the month I am off to Wisconsin Rapids and Madison to play concerts with Bob Schulz.
A very interesting evening will be May 17 when I will play piano solo at the Royal Room on a night dedicated to Earl Hines and Mary Lou Williams.
There are some interesting new youtubes. Michael Steinman has some of my solo playing and with Marc Caparone and we have some delightful things with Meredith Axelrod, Josh Roberts, Jacob Zimmerman and Matt Weiner.