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~ JANUARY 2015 ~


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.

yeti

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 cafe

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.

yeti


~ 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

yeti

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.

Blueberry Ballet

under the fallen tree
after the chainsaw
they arched their backs

yeti

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.

yeti
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.

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.

PIANO

Everything, nothing---
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.

kim cusack

Kim Cusack

chief black hawk

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.

kim cusack

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.

chief black hawk

Earl Hines

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.

chief black hawk

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.

chief black hawk

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.

ray as a bunny



~ 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.

asparagus


~ 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.

REFLEXOLOGY

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.

campfire


~ 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.

wonderful life


~ 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.

jess stacy

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.

jess stacy

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
to another.

Joseph Conrad

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.

dolceola

Dolceola

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!!!

dolceola

Ray & Bob Mielke

 

To read the News from 2008 - 20014 CLICK HERE.

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