News Archive

To read the News from 2008 - 20014 CLICK HERE.

~ 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.


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.


~ 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.

Blueberry Ballet

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.


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

To read the News from 2008 - 20014 CLICK HERE.