Tuesday, May 23, 2017
Sipping Beauty Debuts at #4 in ZMR
In the earlier days of my career, dating back to the 90s, an industry news rag called “Radio and Records” (R&R) kept the main airplay charts for all music genres.
Starting with my 1983 release, Jazz Cat, I had several albums that went to #1 on the R&R charts between 1983 and 1992. It was always very satisfying receive that kind of reception and recognition.
My new CD, Sipping Beauty has debuted at #4 on the Zone Music Reporter chart.
ZMR is the all-encompassing worldwide chart for all New Age titles and all the sub-genres therein: World Beat, Chill, Solo piano, etc.
Suffice to say, I am quite happy about this. It’s especially nice as it’s very early on in the “chart” life of this particular title.
CELEBRATE WITH US TONIGHT!
We’ll have a chance to celebrate tonight at Classic Pianos of Portland on SE Milwaukie, next to the Aladdin Theatre. That’s where I’ll be doing a CD release concert with bass player Dave Captein, and an art show of creations by Mary Garvey.
Mary, my partner, has created the beautiful cover paintings for Sipping Beauty, and my 2 previous CDs.
Tonight there will be wine and snacks…mmmmm. Oh, and a special musical surprise that you’ll have to be there to appreciate. (Shhh, big secret!)
Wednesday, May 10, 2017
CD Release Event
Tuesday, May 23
I’ve been trying to count up the number of albums I’ve released over the years. It’s either 28 or 29. It would be cool if it was 29 because then I’d be breathing down the neck of 30. And we all like those nice even numbers ending in zero. I turned 70 a year and a half ago. Exhilarating! And “why,” you must be saying, “…do you not remember how many record albums you’ve released….?” Because a) I don’t have a copy of every one of my titles, and b) I’m organizationally challenged. Bigly so.
But I do know that I have a new one called Sipping Beauty. And like my last release, The Light Inside My Dream, this new one is definitely in the relaxation mode. There is beautiful guitar work by Kevin Karrack on several tracks. Dave Captein plays bass on 2 tracks and sitar on one. And I play piano on all. I really love this one…and I love the gorgeous cover artwork by my partner Mary Garvey. My last three releases have featured paintings by Mary. They are stunning.
And so we are celebrating our collaboration on Tuesday, May 23 in a concert with me and Dave playing some songs from the album, and beginning with a “meet and greet” featuring Mary’s multi-various art wonders (painted journals, greeting cards, prints as well as a few of her paintings). This all takes place at the most wonderful piano store on earth, Classic Pianos of Portland, in their recital hall. The evening will start with the M&G in the adjoining room to the recital hall. There will be wine and light hors d’oeuvres from Elephant’s Deli.
Tickets available onlin at Brown Paper Tickets.
A WORLD OF SOUND
Thursday, March 23, 2017
Mine is a world of sound.
Whether it’s the ripple of the wind chimes outside the house, which, though lovely, gives me a vague sense of angst about the wind storm they accompany, or the constant din of the traffic coming from highway 217, which is just close enough to our house to give a soothing ocean-like backdrop to the immediate soundscape. In my house, the cozy radiant heating system makes what sometimes sounds like a soft but maniacal drum solo by some crazed percussionist.
Lately, my favorite sounds have been the clickety clack of little feet across the hardwood floor of my studio as I sit working in my control room. Sometimes they are slow and tentative as the owner of those feet just lazily seeks the comfort and loving quiet that this space provides. At other times those clickety-clacks are fast and anxious with the excitement of having just bounded through the doggy door after some happy vocalizing at neighboring creatures.
These are sounds that I won’t hear again. It has been fewer than 48 hours since we said goodbye to our beautiful Golden Retriever, Lola, just a few weeks shy of her 11th birthday. A twice-survivor of cancer, this little powerhouse of a dog was a source of so much beauty and delight that my world has turned eerily silent. Where is the sound of her breathing in the night close to me on the bed. The jangling of her collar and tags as she trots down the hall.
One of our favorite Lola sounds was a kind of guttural one from her throat that early-on, we realized was analogous to a cat’s purr. Recently, my friend David Captein was sitting on the couch in the control room petting Lola when he said, “Whoa…is she growling?” No. She was receiving and returning the love in a way I’ve never heard from any of the six dogs I’ve owned in this life. It was her pleasure sound. (I regret never having recorded this one).
Another favorite was when my partner would have “conversations” with Lola. Although Mary would intone the words of Lola, I grew to almost fully accept that these were the animal’s own words as she said, in a baby-talk kind of voice things like “…oh yes, mommy…today I love you a thousand zillions…”
The music of life goes on. The wind chimes, the sirens, the jabbering of people crowds, the thunder and holiday fireworks (Lola hated these), and the various tonalities that define our lives endure. But the music of our sweet Lola has gone quiet.
Wednesday, November 11, 2016
IMPROVISATION AND COMPOSITION WORKSHOP
December 15-17, 2016
Jodi’s School of Music in Camas WA
Here’s a call out to piano players who are interested in taking the plunge into the world of improvisation and composition. The two processes are closely related and really involve having fun with the piano. And a little grounding in some basic theory is helpful although not required. Improvisation is a process whereby you just make stuff up. Hopefully this ‘stuff’ is pleasant to your ear. And hopefully you can fit it all into a package with some satisfying chords that provide an environment for a melody that you have created. The kind of improvising I’m trying to convey is more related to the Pop, Jazz and New Age genres although there can be some cross-over with classical music.
This will be my second consecutive year of doing this type of a workshop with Jodi’s School of Music in Camas.The workshop has been in existence for a several years and people come from all over the world to attend. It’s a cozy, friendly environment with several pianos set up throughout the facility which is actually Jodi’s home. It will involve some master classes with me, along with some individual instruction, plenty of individual practice and creative time for all the students, and a concert by me on Friday night of the workshop.
I can never emphasize enough how helpful it is to listen to other musicians as a way of learning how to improvise. And copying or imitating what you hear on recordings that you like is a great way to train your “ear” and to figure things out. If you are curious and have any questions about the workshop, the range of issues covered, etc. feel free to contact me at email@example.com.
There are still a few spaces left for the class. If you are curious about it or interested in signing up, please go to http://jodisschoolofmusic.com/events/tomgrant.html and get all the info and sign up if you want to expand your improvisation vocabulary We’d love to have you there.
Friday, November 4, 2016
The below photo, taken by my ex-wife Marianne, captures a baseball in mid-flight from the right hand of Cubs’ ace pitcher, Greg Maddux. We were at a game in the “friendly confines” of Wrigley Field, Chicago. I was a committed Cubs fan ever since the team appeared on cable TV in Portland in the 80’s. I loved the quirky WGN broadcasts with announcers Harry Caray and Steve Stone where the repartee between these lovable announcers and the perennial “foil” for their jokes, producer Arnie Harris, made for classic satisfying sports watching. Rather than the modern, sometimes tiresome “inside baseball” analysis of every pitch, Harry would say things like “here comes the pitch….Holy Cow…made him look ba-a-a-a-d!”
Marianne snapped this photo in 1990 on our trip back from visiting her east coast family. Her daughter Jasmine was with us. This had been our Cubbies team: with heroes like Mark Grace, Ryne Sandberg, and Andre Dawson. That night we had dinner at Harry Caray’s restaurant. I had visited Chicago a couple times prior and had played with my band at the Cubby-Bear Lounge across the street from Wrigley. I spent many a summer day/night in front of the TV with a Cubs game going. It didn’t matter whether the team sucked, or failed to make the playoffs. They would always be our lovable Cubbies.
Recent years have found me somewhat less enthralled with the team as I lost the connection and wasn’t really all that familiar with the new rosters. But as the 2016 team started laying waste to the rest of the National League, my interest was rekindled. The names were unfamiliar…so many new young players. The possibility loomed of not only making the playoffs but the real chance of ending the World Series drought (curse) of 108 years. Well, you know the rest.
In what was described to me as one of the greatest baseball games of all times, the North-Side Chicago baseball Cubs won their first in 108 years World Series championship last night. Described to me…because I didn’t see it. No, I didn’t see the 7th game of a World Series with my Cubs featuring home runs, many bang-bang plays, incredible pitching on both sides, extra innings tension, lead changes, even a 15-minute rain delay… I didn’t see any of it.
Because I was playing a gig at Wilf’s with my friend Ron Steen and beautiful singer Bre Gregg and bassist Dennis Caiazza. Why would I do that instead of watching the “game of the century?” Because that’s what was on my schedule. As they say in the Geico commercials “… it’s what I do.” I don’t call in sick for gigs. I’ve only missed one in my 46-year career. I set the DVR to record it and watched it today. But people in our audience last night were excitedly and loudly keeping tabs on the game with their phones. After the last chord/note of every song, people would yell out the score and what inning we were in. No chance in hell I was going to get home before I heard the refrain of “Cubs Win…Cubs Win!”
And it’s OK. I love what I do. There will be more baseball. I love the irony of the Cubs finally making it to game 7 of the WS while I’m playing music and watching the trains out the window of Union Station. Go Cubs!!
Saturday, October 1, 2016
A JAZZ LIFE
Jessica Rand is an on-air host/producer at KMHD Jazz Radio in Portland. She produces a radio show called A Jazz Life in which she interviews a musician about some episode in his/her life that relates to playing jazz music. Over the years, Jessica has interviewed jazz greats including Billy Childs, Benny Maupin, Nicholas Payton and Charles Lloyd.
Recently, Jessica invited me to the studios at the OPB complex where we talked about my (often harrowing) experiences with the Tony Williams Band back in the late 70’s, early 80’s. Tune in on Oct. 4 at 4:30 p.m. to hear the interview on A Jazz Life on KMHD FM 89.1, It will also be available to hear online at www.kmhd.org/ajazzlife
I can’t wait to see how she edited down my ramblings into a 5 minute program, complete with musical interludes. Jessica is a very skilled editor/producer so I’m confident it will be a cool show! Let me know what you think.
Sept 21, 2016
SEASONAL CHANGE OUT
As fall approaches, we start to let go of that warm embrace that is the hallmark of summer. The sounds of fall…kids in the schoolyard…those miserable leaf blowers (oh…that’s year-round) fill the air. The seasons, the days, the years for sure…go faster than ever. And so it is that Christmas is waiting in the wings as the spoiler, ready to jump out and grab us by the imagination.
So imagine this: a party for your friends, your employees, your neighbors, or your extended family, with lovely food and wine and perhaps some live piano music. And gifts. I have several of my CD titles ready to offer at steep discounts for bulk buys. CDs with titles like Life Is Good, Winter Warm, Santa Claus is Going to Town, and Solo Piano are all waiting for new homes.
Was that a nice pivot from the wistful to the craven? Maybe. But if you are interested in having me play for your holiday event and/or purchasing TG albums in quantity, contact my publicist Rachael Mortensen at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the meantime, wishing you a serene Autumn!
June 29, 2016
SPIRIT OF ’69
In the late 60s, I played in a band called Mercy. You can scroll down to a post titled “The Funniest Ever” to see more info on this band. But in light of a court decision yesterday regarding the copyright infringement lawsuit brought by the estate of Randy Wolfe against Led Zeppelin, i thought I’d talk about our connection to this bit of rock history.
We used to play a lot in a club in Huntington Beach CA called the Golden Bear. We would open for the likes of Arlo Guthrie, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Hoyt Axton, Big Black, and others. Often we would open for a band called Spirit. The lead guitar player was Randy California (Randy Wolfe) and his stepfather, Ed Cassidy was the drummer whose age (some 20 years older than the rest of the band) and visage, with shaved head and all black clothing made for a delightfully striking onstage appearance.
We loved opening for Spirit with their quirky jazzy, rock fusion approach and songs with titles like Fresh Garbage, Mr. Skin, and I Gotta Line on You. The music matched their onstage appearance with jagged, unconventional melody lines and propulsive rock-style grooves.
Randy California had written an instrumental song called Taurus. I’m not sure that we ever heard that one at the Golden Bear. But it was the song that Randy claimed was copied by Led Zeppelin in the iconic guitar intro to their magical mega hit Stairway to Heaven.
I have since listened to Taurus. We’re talking about a guitar cadence of maybe 4 measures with harmonic movement much like something that Bach or Mozart might have constructed.The feeling in both passages is similar, not identical and to my mind, not copyright infringement.
And that’s pretty much how a jury heard it too. This has been an ongoing fight between the two bands for over 40 years. Sadly, Randy died in a swimming accident in 1997 and his heirs will not have the good fortune of sharing in the highly lucrative earnings of “Stairway...” But Spirit leaves behind a huge legacy of innovative , progressive music and an indelible image in my brain of “Mr. Skin” “moon-man” perched knowingly on the drums while his youthful progeny shredded mercilessly, from front of stage to a delighted audience.
So glad we didn’t have to follow them!
CHRISTMAS IN JULY
POSTED: June 23, 2016
Availability for Christmas Parties
It may only be the first week of summer, but I’m already getting inquiries about my availability to play at holiday parties. Despite my Jewish upbringing, I know almost every Christmas song there is. And owing to the forbidden fruit phenomenon, I really like playing holiday music.
I still have some dates available close to Christmas so feel free to contact me about your holiday event: You can email me at email@example.com.
Also, as a consideration for party gifts I’m making some select CD titles of mine available at special quantity rates, some as low as $5/unit. Contact me regarding any of this.
Ho Ho Ho! Let’s PARTY!
THE BACKSTAGE AND BURT REYNOLDS
POSTED: April 21, 2016
This was my band on a break at Burt Reynolds’ club in Jupiter Florida (The Backstage) circa 1988. From l – r Dan Balmer guitar, Jeff Leonard bass, me piano, and Carlton Jackson drums. We toured a lot in those days. And The Backstage was always slotted in for those hellacious rollicking tours where we would pack up a trailer with our gear, and then hitch it to our rental RV. Then we’d traipse across the states from coast to coast and back again, with oh-so-many stops along the way to belt out our own special hybrid melange of jazz/pop/mystery music.
On one of those occasions at the Backstage (we usually did 3 or 4 consecutive days there), I had an opportunity to chat with the owner. Burt and his buddy Tom Selleck were planning a TV pilot that would be set there in Jupiter for which The Backstage would be a kind of backdrop, hangout for the series. A meeting was set up at the club for me and Burt and wife Loni Anderson. The intended purpose of the meeting was to discuss the possibility of our band doing music for the show.
It did not go well. Burt wondered aloud about the possibility of our band performing an afternoon set for him and Selleck. When i used the word “audition” to describe such a set in our conversation, the big guy bristled. Things went way downhill from there. We didn’t get the TV gig, and for that matter, neither did Burt. There never ended up being a Burt Reynolds-Tom Selleck buddy tv series. And the TG Band could continue their afternoons of TV watching and beach-loitering uninterrupted during their stay in Jupiter.
It was on just one of those tours in the late 80’s when we got a call from my manager in New York. He had added a date for us in Minneapolis at a club called First Avenue. Ahh, another club with a celebrity owner. This time the celeb owner was the amazing pop star Prince. I made a private promise to myself that if an opportunity arose for any kind of meeting with this man, I would be on best behavior, exude the utmost respect.
We showed up just in time to set up and play. Played to a near empty house, there was no sign of the awesome owner. I would have no chance to offend him with my un-carefully chosen words. We would almost certainly never play there again.
And now as we all know, there will never be such a chance again on this plane of existence.
POSTED March 4, 2016
This is a view from the front lawn of the Beaverton School District’s Arts and Communication Magnet Academy. I drive by this school nearly every day on my way to grocery stores, yoga class, etc. It’s only a few blocks from my house. Usually this reader board announces happy school events; concerts, picnics, various school happenings.
For the last couple weeks or so it was this: memorializing a 2015 graduate who, while attending her first year of college in Texas, was raped and killed by a deeply troubled person. Haruka had been a star performer in the dance program at ACMA and was on her way to fulfilling her dream of continuing her dance career.
Over the years, i’ve had the pleasure of working with students at ACMA. I worked with Julane Stites the director of the dance program, Terry Brock the tap dancer and teacher (i’ve taken some tap lessons from her), and I know Mike Johnson the principal. I’ve also had the pleasure of working with kids in the music program as my band did a clinic and concert there a few years ago. The school has an amazing performing arts program.
It would be easy to hate the person that committed this horrible act. To be a parent of a child who met with this fate would be excruciating. Unimaginable. Words fail me.
There is a scholarship fund being established by the family in her name, Haruka Weiser.
APRIL CRAZY and MAY MISHIGAHS
POSTED April 11, 2016
Here are some highlights of my April-May schedule for 2016.
I’m doing another show with the Heidi Duckler Dance Theatre Northwest on April 15 and 16. There will be two shows each night at the Centrl Office Building in the Pearl District. (and no that’s not a misspelling, that’s the way they spell “Centrl.”)
The Dance, choreographed by my longtime friend Heidi, is called Table of Contents and is a whimsical tour of an otherwise mundane office space. I accompany the dancers with improvised piano music. Come and see…its crazy fun and visually stunning.
Then on Friday the 22nd i’ll be with one of my favorite singers to do some of my favorite music. The singer is Nancy Curtin and she does songs from Brazil with the warmth and charm those beautiful melodies deserve . The songs of Antonio Carlos Jobim and others in the great pantheon of Bossa Nova composers, are celebrated when she and I get together. This will be at Arrivederci Wine Bar in Milwaukie from 7-10. For those who haven’t been to an Arrivederci show, treat yourself to this friendly little neighborhood bistro.
Dave Anderson was one of the co-hosts of Channel 2’s AM Northwest for the past 9 years. As such, he was revered for his deadpan, and sometimes slightly irreverent humor. Dave passed away recently after a long struggle with pancreatic cancer and I will be playing at his memorial on April 25 at the Rolling Hills Church in Tualatin. Michael Harrison also plays, Margie Boule sings. Memorial starts at 6:30pm.
Exceed Enterprises is a non-profit that helps disabled people find vocational opportunities. I will be playing at their Gala on Saturday, April 30 in the Oregon Ballroom of the Oregon Convention Center. See their website if you are interested in attending. The gala starts at 5pm.
Did I mention May Mishigahs (pronounced: mish-ee-goss) For those who are frantically dialing up their Yiddish Translator, I’ll help you out. Mishigahs translates roughly to “craziness.” The things that Meshuganers (mi-shi-gin-ners) do.
Note: I can’t swear to these spellings because in our household, Yiddish was, among other things, the secret language my parents used to hide the affairs and other bad behavior by our friends and relatives. They didn’t write it down. So spelling was never an issue since Yiddish is actually written using a variation of the Hebrew alphabet.
Now how did I get on this tangent from talking about my May gigs? Oh yeah, in May, aside from the usual Sunday Vancouver jam session and such, I’ll be doing First Wednesday’s at Wilf’s in the Train Station. Here’s a last minute change to the First Wednesday’s format for May 4. Ron Steen who is the usual host on this gig, got called away to play somewhere else and I’ve invited my former drummer from the Cousin’s and Cafe Vivo era, Calrton Jackson, to play with me and Dave Captein on bass. I’m really excited about this TG Band Reunion.
Then a very special event on May 5 playing with the ever-so-sweet Michael Dale at Caffe Umbria in Portland’s Pearl District. Owner Pasquale Madeddu has turned that little street corner place into a beautiful destination spot for Millennials and other art-seeking denizens of “The Pearl.” This will be a one-time First Thursday event for the “Caffe” but then, who knows, we could make a return if you all come out. Michaela is a wonderful singer who specializes in the most beautiful ballads from the Great American Songbook.
Then it’s on to Seattle where I’ll be playing during the second week in May. On May 12 I’ll be performing by myself at Osteria la Spiga Restaurant in the Capitol Hill district. Osteria offers Italian fine dining and live music on the weekends.
Then on Saturday May14 it’s the Seattle version of Ten Grands, with Benayora Hall in downtown being the venue for the Washington version of our little piano caper. Tickets are going fast for the show and we usually sell it out. So get on it Seattle! Chances are, if you haven’t seen one of these concerts, you’ve never seen 10 pianos on one stage with 10 pianists, 100 fingers, and 880 keys. I know…pretty daunting numbers, huh.
We’ll be featuring several of the pianists from Portland Ten Grands like Mac Potts, Colleen Adent, and myself. Add to this some great Seattle players like William Chapman-Nyaho, Shannon Cassady, and several gifted youngsters from the Seattle area and you have a power-packed evening of musical magic.
And there will be a special Mothers’ Day Brunch featuring myself and the incredible jazz singer, Rebecca Hardiman on Sunday May 8. This will be at the friendly confines of Aurora Colony Vineyards from 11am-2pm. For the traditional jazz enthusiasts among you, Rebecca is a must-see/hear; this girl is the real deal.
I’m taking the liberty to reprint a blog that appeared back in 2010…because it made me
laugh. See what you think.
“More Roentgens puhleeeze..”
I was recently on the phone for hours with my friend who helps me with computer stuff. I was pounding away, trying to follow his directions on my computer all the while, snuggling my cell phone between my shoulder and ear. Bye and bye, i started thinking about a recent article in the New York Times that talks about the unsettled controversy over whether cell phones can cause cancer. In the article Randall Stross says that all new smart phones come with a slip of paper that most everybody discards without reading. On that slip of paper is a tiny print warning to not hold the phone directly against your ear.
What?! I thought that’s how they worked.
The article goes on to talk about the exposure to radiation that is emitted by cell phones. Such radiation is suspected of causing tumors and is thought to be more harmful to young people as their skulls tend to be thinner than those of older folks. Great! So the damage done by one of our favorite gadgets in our gadget-culture may not be fully known for years until a there is a full fledged epidemic of brain cancer. Will the cell phone industry of the 21st century turn out to be like the cigarette industry of the late 20th century?
It isn’t like we haven’t been hip to the dangers of radiation. Things have changed markedly since the days of my childhood when we went to the shoe store, and part of trying on the shoes was putting your feet in a slot at the base of a machine which would x-ray your Buster Browns to see how your feet fit in them.
And then there was the fluoroscope in Dr. Himmelfarb’s office. We would stand behind a little screen and the fluoroscope would x-ray your body in real time. Dr. Himmelfarb would let us play with it…my brother sticking his hand behind the screen so that we could see his bones and blood vessels. Neat! Huh? I’m sure that we walked out of the doctor’s office giggling and glowing like Chernobyl.
Well I imagine we took in a survivable number of Roentgen’s in those naïve days. But you sure don’t see x-ray devices in the shoe stores anymore, nor is fluoroscopy used for entertaining youngsters during their doctor visits. But now our little portable entertainment centers that we were so sure were our friends, are suspected of emitting harmful…if not deadly…radiation…right into our brains!
Oh…and you better NOT carry your cell phones around in your pants pockets because, according to this article, you could get cancer of the you-know-what.
Isn’t technology awesome!
What’s New for the New Year you ask? Or maybe you didn’t, but here it is anyway.
FIRST WEDNESDAYS WITH TOM GRANT will start this coming Wednesday January 6, at Wilf’s Restaurant and Bar located at Union Station.. It’s actually Ron Steen’s night at the club as he does every Wednesday, usually featuring a singer. I’ll just be doing the first Wednesdays of every month. Mark your calendars. Start time is 7pm.
Then on Saturday, January 9 I’ll be playing at PEACE FOR PARIS PDX, a concert to aid victims of the recent Paris terrorist attacks. It is being organized by singer/guitarist Eric Kaiser and I will be playing French songs with the lovely singer, Heather Keizur. This all takes place at the very French and sexy Vie De Boheme nightclub on SE 7th Ave near Hawthorne on Portland’s close-in East Side. Concert starts at 6pm.
It’ll be myself with the sparkling Shelly Rudolph on Saturday January 16 at the beautiful HEATHMAN HOTEL. Located in the heart of Portland’s downtown entertainment district, the Heathman adjoins the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall at the south end of Broadway. Literally…there is a passage way that I only discovered about 10 years ago, that links the second floor of the Heathman banquet area to the balcony of the Schnitz. Like something out of a James Bond movie. We play all the favorites from 7-11pm.
On January 22 I’ll be at ARRIVEDERCI WINE BAR in Milwaukie, accompanying the wonderful Nancy Curtin on some of the most gorgeous music ever written: the exquisite songs of Brazil. I love playing that music. The next night I’ll be right across the river at the 503 RESTAURANT in West Linn with another great singer, Mike Winkle. Mike has that velvety voice of a Michael Buble or Chet Baker. A first-rate singer he is, and if you haven’t heard him, this is a “must see.” Both of these start at 7:30pm.
And as always, you can find me and my band every Sunday night at TOMMY O’S PACIFIC RIM BISTRO in downtown Vancouver. We play a set and then throw it open to a rollicking jam session that has lit up downtown Vancouver for the past almost 8 years. AND….it’s a conveniently early gig for you working folk who have to get up early the next a.m. We go 6:30-9:30pm. Try us out; we do everything from TG songs to the Great American Songbook to the Beatles and Jimi Hendrix.
IMPROVISATION WORKSHOP AND SOLO CONCERT
Over the years, I’ve been approached on many occasions by classical pianists. The conversations often go something like this: “yeah..i’ve played for years, and I can sight read anything you put in front of me…but if you ask me to play a song ‘by ear’ or to improvise something, i’m stuck. I don’t know where to begin.” This is a common refrain among the classically trained. People want to improvise but just don’t get how it’s done.
I have only recently realized that the most brilliant piano teacher I ever had was my own father. He was a self-taught pianist who could play nearly any song he ever heard. So the way he got me to be interested in playing was he taught me to play the old Mills Bros. song called “Dinah.” And he had me play it (mostly) all on the black keys. When you just play the black keys on the piano, it’s almost impossible to play anything ugly. It all sounds pretty. Try it sometime. Just play any combination, in any sequence of only the black keys.
To my 4-year-old ears, that was a great sound. To my 4-year-old hands, the black keys were easier to see and access. So that hooked me. I WANTED to play this instrument that made those beautiful sounds when I touched it. So that could be a place to start: just a strong desire to squeeze those gorgeous tones out of a piano. Because if you like what you are hearing, you’ll be that much more motivated to explore the possibilities of creating your own music.
From December 10-13, I am holding an improvisation and composition workshop at Jodi’s School of Music in Camas WA. We will try to convey some of the basic principles of improvising in the jazz and pop realm. We will also spend some time on composition (song writing). I’ve always felt that improvising is a kind of spontaneous composition anyway. In this 4-day workshop, I will try to convey a few tools you can use, work on some concepts and develop some vocabulary for pianists to get them on the road to meaningful improvisation.
For those who sign up for the full course, we will have some large group sessions, plus private lessons. This workshop is open to pianists of all skill levels. Each student gets 2 private lessons. On the Friday night of our workshop, I will be giving a solo concert at Jodi’s. This concert will be open to all those who sign up for the workshop, but there will also be concert-only tickets for those who would just like to attend the concert. Then on Sunday, all the workshop attendees will meet at my recording studio in Portland to talk about and possibly do some simple recordings. We’ll top off the workshop at my weekly gig at Tommy O’s in Vancouver.
We still have a few slots to fill for those who want the Full Workshop. And for those who would just like to attend the Friday concert only, you can do that too. We are also offering a Music Lovers package that includes everything except the private lessons. In any case, go to www.jodisschoolofmusic.com to sign up.
Please hurry. We’ve only got a few spaces left.
The Light Inside my Dream
The Old Church
A different kind of concert this will be. Poets, visual artists, musicians (my band) + Shelly Rudolph) and who knows…we might even slip in a dancer just for an added measure of mystery. It’s a celebration of my newest CD (The Light Inside My Dream). This record features 7 new songs, and 1 from a previous album. And these songs are more in the atmospheric realm; music for relaxation, meditation, massage, a Fall drive thru the gorge, etc.
This CD features a gorgeous painting by my gal Mary Suzanne Garvey. She and her friend and partner in crime, Lori Jo Daniels comprise a dynamic duo who harness their collective aesthetic into a creative unit they call “Muses on the Loose.” Their art and photography will be featured on continuous loop during the course of the concert.
And yes there will be music with my band plus MORE! Kevin Karrick will join us on guitar. An ace musician, Kevin has been a regular recently with my band at the Sunday jam at Tommy O’s in Vancouver. Shelly Rudolph will be there with her singular brand of blues-y-jazzy song.
I met Oregon Poet Laureate Paulann Petersen at a concert I did for the Edwards Center last year. I played piano as background to a poem that she read. At the November concert we will team up again, this time for a poem that she wrote to go with one of my songs on the new album.
Lynn Darroch is a scholar, a writer (his new book, Rhythm In the Rain will be released shortly), and an on-air guy at jazz radio KMHD in Portland. The band will accompany him for one (or two) of his captivating “jazz stories.”
Sophia Mautz is a Lincoln High student who won a Gold Medal for Poetry in a prestigious national Scholastic Art and Writing competition. Sophia is also the founder of an organization called Poeteen that introduces poetry to “at risk” kids. She will read a poem.
The multi-talented Mary Garvey will read one of her poems as will my longtime buddy and beat-poetry stylist, Tim Massmann.
All poems will have live musical accompaniment.
This is an all-ages event, and those of you who have attended events at the Old Church know what a warm and welcoming venue it is for concert goers. The main auditorium seats 300 comfortably, and there is a decent sized reception hall that adjoins. And there we will serve wine and food delicacies prepared by master chef, Marianne Lewis.
Tickets are $15 in advance and $18 the day of the show. For tickets click here.
IMPROVISATION WORKSHOP AND CONCERT….
will be held at Jodi’s School of Music in Camas WA. This will be a four day event starting on Thursday December 10 and going until Sunday evening. There will be
master classes, and individualized instruction highlighting improvisational techniques,
composition in jazz and pop, ear training, and other issues related to improvisation. Vocalists are also welcome to sign up.
In addition to the classes, I will do a solo concert on the Friday evening session. In addition, students will visit my home recording studio on that Sunday with an eye toward doing some rudimentary recording as well as talking about studio issues, techniques in multi track recording, and more. We will close out the session with a dinner at Tommy O’s in Vancouver where my band plays and where we have a slammin’ jam. To sign up for the workshop and/or concert, press here.
TWO IMPORTANT CHRISTMAS CONCERTS
I’ll be doing in December are:
Concert at the Coleman-Scott House in the Irvington district of Northeast Portland. This year Carol has requested that Shelly and I do a Christmas concert at their historic and very cool house on NE 16th. This one lands on December the 12th so I will dash over from my Improv workshop in Camas to get the “yuletidal wave” started. We will include some seasonal sing-alongs in this concert so you all should be in good voice for that one.
Then on December 18th I’ll appear solo at the Dahlia House in Canby (formerly the Canby Wedding Chapel). Marilyn Nash has lovingly transformed the wedding chapel into a really sweet concert venue with beautiful acoustics and a devoted following in Canby.
Check out the appearances page for more of my usual club dates which are still part of the November and December landscape. It’s just that by now, my fingers are tired.
PIANO MADNESS 2015
Twenty one years ago David Utzinger called to ask me to play music for a Christmas “dinner” being held at the downtown YWCA. And it was to be in the daytime. Turns out the host of this dinner was an organization that I’d heard of but never fully understood their mission; Potluck In the Park. PIP had been established only three years prior to this by Sharon Darcy and David, and their avowed purpose was to serve a hot meal once a week (every Sunday without fail, rain or shine) to anybody who showed up. The venue for these weekly meals is O’Bryant Square in downtown Portland. Since Christmas in 1994 fell on a Sunday, they decided to feed people a special meal that day but indoors at the Y, and have done so on every Christmas since.
What I saw when I showed up to play made a huge and lasting impression on me. There was a line of people out the door waiting to get in. Once inside, there was a gathering of people who were to varying degrees, down on their luck. Not necessarily just homeless, although many were. But people of all ages and ethnicities, who for one reason or another weren’t able to provide themselves with basic sustenance. There were some families..parents with kids, some who lived in their car, some with obvious physical and/or hygienic challenges. Most of them just sat quietly, eating the one complete meal they would have all week.
Over the years, I would see a few people at these dinners whom I had known. Some of these even were musicians who had fallen on hard times, turned to substance abuse and wound up on the streets.
Their food for that day was provided by a small army of cheery volunteers. David, with his black sport coat and red Santa hat, was in charge of the goings-on, overseeing the hustling in of each group of clients as another group made their way out of the big gymnasium. Everything was relatively quiet and orderly. There was a Santa and gifts were given out. The most touching moment of the day was an announcement that people who wanted to call relatives anywhere in the country could do so on phones provided for that purpose in one of the adjacent rooms there at the Y. And all the while I’m just playing holiday music, taking it all in, occasionally fighting back tears.
I’ve played every Christmas day dinner since 1994. Many other local musicians have joined in: Patrick Lamb, George Mitchell, Ramsey Embeck, Marilyn Keller, and Laura Cunard to name a few.
Then in 2006, I was about to release a new Christmas record that I had done with the great Rebecca Kilgore. I made a call to David and suggested we do a benefit concert for Potluck. We secured the auditorium in the World Trade Center in downtown Portland. Rebecca joined me to sing and Ron Steen, Shelly Rudolph, David Captein and other luminaries of the local entertainment scene joined us for what was to become an annual series of concerts benefiting Potluck. We called that initial concert Winter Warm as that was the name of our new CD.
That name stuck until last year when we started calling the event Piano Madness. We now have two pianos on stage (courtesy of Classic Pianos of Portland). My friend Michael Allen Harrison joins me again this year for dueling pianos along with the incredible young pianist Mac Potts (and his fiancee…Hey Hey! congratulations) Hailey K. Rowden.
Our singers this year are Valerie Day and Haley Johnsen. Valerie and I made a record of piano/vocal duets in 2005 and will be doing songs from that record called “Side by Side.” I love Valerie’s singing and of course as the lead voice of Nu-Shooz, she might be best- known as a pop singer. But she has a beautiful way with the Jazz standards too, and I’m so looking forward to revisiting these songs with her..
Haley Johnsen is a 2013 American Idol semifinalist who writes gorgeous songs that can be heard on her CD called Through The Blue. We’ll be doing at least one of those this coming Friday. She has a remarkable voice…very beautiful with a huge reservoir of power behind it.
And we ares so very lucky this year to have the incredibly talented journalist, TV and stage star Margie Boule doing the Emcee honors for the night. That’s the proverbial cherry on the top!!
The concert will be this coming Friday, October 23 at The Tiffany Center downtown, in the 2nd floor ballroom. Doors are at 6:30. For more info on this year’s Piano Madness please visit: www.potluckinthepark.org.
Come join us in benefiting an organization of truly enlightened people who, throughout the year give selflessly of their own energies to help the unfortunate among us attain the most basic of human needs for sustenance in a harsh world.
Note: This year and last, the venue for the Christmas day dinner has moved across the street from the Y to the Portland Art Museum.
NEWSLETTER OCTOBER 2015
My newest CD is called The Light Inside My Dream. It is a relaxation-meditation style record featuring a beautiful cover painting by Mary Suzanne Garvey. You can find this little treasure on Amazon, also at tomgrant.com, or any of the usual outlets. Pick up a copy and relax…just breathe! There will be a cool event in November celebrating art, poetry and music and this CD in particular. More on that in a future newsletter.
PIANO MADNESS is what we’re calling the 2015 version of our Potluck In the Park benefit concert. It is taking place on October 23 and again will be on the Second Floor of the Tiffany Center in downtown PDX. This year we’ll be featuring pianists Michael Allen Harrison, Mac Potts, and Hailey K. Rowden. And Tom Grant. Another stellar lineup of vocalists includes the fantastic Nu-Shooz frontwoman Valerie Day, plus Incredible American Idol finalist Haley Johnsen. For more details go to http://www.potluckinthepark.org/ and click on the “Piano Madness” button.
I’ll travel to the Seattle area in the first week of October for a no-holds-barred improvisation workshop sponsored by Classic Pianos of Bellevue. The workshop will take place at 10am on Saturday October 3, and those that attend the morning session can come to my solo concert that night at 7pm. Both events will be at Resonance at Soma Towers located at 288 106th Ave NE, Suite 203, Bellevue WA 98004. (Wasn’t Soma the name of the drug piped in through the vents in Brave New World?) Music students, classical musicians, anybody wanting to think about what it takes to play and improvise in a jazzy musical environment are welcome.
I’ll be doing a couple of the “hotels on Broadway” tour for October. I play at the venerable Benson Hotel on October 30 with the wonderful (and newly-married) Nancy Curtin. She sings those lovely songs from Brazil. 8pm start time. Then on October 17, I team up with the my longtime partner in song and dance, Shelly Rudolph for an evening of songs for lovers and others. That will take place at the beautiful Heathman Hotel in their lobby bar. 7pm start time. Oh btw, sorry to any folks who came to see us last month at the Heathman and were turned away because of the private party. Some people in the front office got their wires seriously crossed.
Thanx to everybody who came out to our art and listening party at Anandi Gefroh’s new shop, Karuna Environmental Living. It was fun to be the clerk for my girl Mary’s sales which outdid mine by about a 4-1 ratio. That’s OK…i’m trying to be really grown up about this.
Anyway, thanx to everyone who stopped by.
I know I’m just becoming an old crank when I hyperventilate over things like air conditioning. But I loved the story in today’s Oregonian reprinted from Kate Murphy’s article in the New York Times. It was all about how businesses, office buildings, theatres, shopping malls, and many indoor spaces are over air-conditioned in the summer.
She makes the point that not only is it freezing cold inside indoor spaces when the temperature isn’t even beyond the 70’s outside, but there seems to be a weird class consciousness associated with this. She says that the more luxury retailers keep it colder than the more “down market” stores and that there is something she calls “cold cachet.”
So cold is cool?
I just think cold is..well…cold. Uncomfortable. Disorienting. Debilitating.
And it poses special problems for a musician…especially of the piano-playing variety. Oftentimes we’re working in a restaurant/lounge situation where the staff people are at full tilt, running back and forth from the kitchen, tending to customers, cleaning up, re-setting tables. So sometimes that puts me at odds with the general staff who are sweating up a storm, while I’m just worried about being able to move my fingers.
But all that is understandable. These people work hard and sometimes I just find the thermostat controls and help myself to a couple degrees F. But to the building managers, theatre operators, etc. Please back off on the AC. You may think that air is “rarified” but it’s really giving me a fucking headache.
We just finished doing our 8th consecutive Ten Grands in Seattle. The Portland one has been going for 15 years. Whew! This year’s show was great, both in Portland and Seattle. Kudos to Michael Allen Harrison for organizing a strong, appealing show.
There were plenty of newbies on the stage in both venues this year. At the Schnitzer Hall in PDX and at Benaroya Hall in Seattle, we had the fiery classical playing of Colleen Adent, a piano teacher and arranger who was not shy about her rearrangement and slight jazzification of a staid classical composition.
Boogie Woogie piano abounded in both venues as Michael Kassehammer wowed the Portland audience, and his friend and stylistic brother from the north, Arthur Migliazza showed his own powerful left hand in the idiom.
JJ Guo demonstrated some monster classical technique in both venues and young Mac Potts showed that when it comes to a command of contemporary pop music on piano and vocals he has no peer. John Nilsen showed off a newly minted original tune (with vocal) that sounded like something from the James Taylor songbook. Really sweet.
But the killer surprise of the Ten Grands season happened last Friday in Seattle when late in the show, Shannon Cassady was introduced to the sold out crowd at Benaroya. She innocently announced the song as “Toccata by Emma Lou Diemer,” a title, mind you, that gave no hint of the musical maelstrom that was to follow. Shannon started her piece with shocking dissonances created by minor-second intervals, hands close together with a fiery intro that announced to the stricken crowd…”this will be no ordinary classical piece.”
Shannon proceeded with more fierce note clusters and breathtaking, percussive non-harmonies in a piece that was unlike anything we’d seen in two iterations of this year’s show. She finished the event with some careful string strumming and manipulations from inside the piano itself. It was brave and wonderful.
I asked her later backstage if that piano string strumming was notated in the music itself and she pulled the sheet music out then and there to show me the strange mystical markings that looked like no music notation i had ever seen. The audience reaction was big, and although some might have been perplexed, one thing is for sure. This was one of the most audacious performances I’ve seen in 15 years of Ten Grands.
And at sixteen years of age, I say you go brave girl!
NOW’S THE TIME TO GET THE NEW CHRISTMAS CD!
I have a new Christmas CD out for this season. It’s called “There’s a Kitty Under the Christmas Tree.” You can read about it at www.tomgrant/store. Lots of new stuff with a few cuts from previous winter albums. It’s available for purchase there at the Store page or you can also find it at Amazon.com. And for those of you who live in Portland and like shopping at Music Millenium (I do) they’ve got it there too. The cuts featuring Rebecca Kilgore are tres delicieux. The album features a cover painting by Mary Suzanne Garvey and it stars our naughty feline friend who is the subject of the title track.
THE SHAFFER GALLERY…is a wonderful art gallery in downtown Portland on the light rail tracks on SW 1st Ave and Oak Street. Proprietor Gail Shaffer has invited renowned and internationally acclaimed artist Michael Flohr to her shop where attendees will be able to meet the artist, watch him paint and talk about his art. This will be a two day event: Saturday November 15 from 6-9pm and Sunday the 16th from 12-3pm. I’ll have copies of my Christmas CD.
I’ll make two rare December appearances at the ALLISON HOTEL in Newberg OR. One is on Monday the 15th with my band. And another is on Christmas Eve…huh? seriously? YES. I’ll be there with the dazzling and delightful Toni Lincoln. It could be a memorable Christmas eve. Come and get a spa treatment, and then head for the lounge!
That next day I will do my usual stint at the POTLUCK IN THE PARK holiday dinner which for the first time ever, will be held at the Portland Art Museum. We’re pretty excited about this switch of venues. It’s only across the street from our old Christmas Day site but it’s a big step forward for Potluck. Besides me we’ll have the usual lineup of great Portland musicians: Patrick Lamb, Michael Allen Harrison, George Mitchell and several others yet to be announced.
On December 26 and 27, I’ll be part of the OREGON PIANO SUMMIT II, starring Mac Potts, Gordon Lee, Ramsey Embick, Phil Baker and Mel Brown. This really big show will be held at the Oxford Hotel in Bend Oregon. Check your not-so-local listings for times, etc. And yes, you can count on it: Mac will be playing behind the back!
Ending the year on a high note, i’ll be part of the OREGON SYMPHONY’S ODE TO JOY concert featuring Esperanza Spaulding and Thara Memory. That one is of course, at the Arlene Schnitzer concert hall and will be two nights; December 30 and 31. Go to the Oregon Symphony website for more details.
Classic Pianos of Portland is the Northwest’s premier piano dealership and owner Maurice Unis, one of the top piano salesmen anywhere, has managed his business into a nationwide enterprise. Here’s a sweet little video depicting life in the Classic “shop.”
Classic Pianos also has a cool little recital hall which will be the site of a concert featuring myself along with two incredible singers, Nancy Curtin and Shira Subotnik. Ron Steen and Dave Captein will be on hand for this one (drums and bass). Nancy will be performing her trademark Brazilian songs and Shira will do some jazz classics. This concert takes place on Saturday September 27 at 7:30pm. Click here to buy tickets online.
This year, the Potluck in the Park concert is coming earlier than in years past. On October 24, we will gather at the Tiffany Center again, but this time on the 2nd floor. And since it is now a fall event, we are not calling it Winter Warm. This year it is titled “Piano Madness” and features myself along with Michael Allen Harrison with two pianos on a stage set up “In the Round.”
It’s still the same wonderful cause for the organization that feeds hungry Portlanders year round, every Sunday without fail. Piano Madness this year will feature three singers: the sultry soulful Shelly Rudolph, Jazz singer Toni Lincoln who’s first-ever CD has charted nationally, and American Idol finalist Haylie Johnsen. potluckinthepark.org
On October 10 i’ll be appearing at the Walters Cultural Center in Hillsboro in a concert featuring Toni Lincoln. We’ll be playing songs from her recent self-titled CD along with Ron Steen on Drums and Dave Captein on bass. For those who didn’t get a chance to catch her incredible CD release party at Jimmy Mak’s this summer, and haven’t seen Toni yet, jump on this chance. The Walters Center sounds great and is a perfect medium size venue with just the right amount of intimacy. https://www.facebook.com/WCACHillsboro
A new Christmas album will hit the streets on October 14. The title of this one is “There’s a Kitty Under the Christmas Tree.” There are 5 “recycled” but slightly altered tracks from previous releases, and the remaining 7 tracks are all new. The colorful cover features a painting by the lovely Mary Suzanne Garvey and this one is loaded with familiar songs along with some slightly obscure seasonal selections.
On October 25, Shelly Rudolph and I will be appearing in a house concert at the Coleman-Scott House in the lovely Irvington neighborhood in NE Portland. This setting has particular resonance for me since I grew up in Irvington. The house was built by members of the Harvey Scott family in the early 20th Century. It’s brimming with early Portland history. It’s current residents Carol Scott Hess and husband Monte Hess have restored it to it’s original grandeur and they initiated a series of in-house jazz concerts last year. For ticket info about this one contact Carol Hess at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can find out more about the CS House at https://www.facebook.com/pages/ColemanScottHouse/108378769215091
On November 7, we will travel to Eugene to feature Toni Lincoln in a concert at The Jazz Station. Ron Steen and Dave Captein will be along for that one as well. The Jazz Station has become a major tour stop for nationally known jazz acts and we’re proud to feature Toni performing some of the songs from her recent CD. For details and info about this venue, go to thejazzstation.org/calendar.
And finally, if you want to see the Tom Grant Band in action, come out to Tommy O’s in Vancouver on any Sunday at 6:30pm. There you will find some of the best Hawaiian food to be had anywhere in the greater Portland area. We do our thing for the first set and then we throw it open to a mega-Jam with some of the area’s finest players, singers, etc. We are celebrating our 6th year of playing at Tommy’s so come out and find out what all the hubbub is about! Try to get there early as it’s always a packed house.
Summer is upon us
Let’s look at the schedule. First of all, it’s noteworthy that my band is into it’s 6th year with our Sunday jam at Tommy O’s in downtown Vancouver. Here’s a link to a video that captures the vibe. I’m not in this particular clip because we usually have people sitting in with us after the first set.
The place is rockin’. Always packed and good food to boot! So give it a try. 8th and Washington in downtown Vancouver. 6:30 start time. Every Sunday without fail.
One of my main projects for this summer is the expansion of my record label called NuWrinkle Records. For 13 years, I’ve just used NWR as my personal vehicle for releasing my own CD’s. Since releasing a pop/rock disc by talented guitarist/singer/songwriter Bart Hafeman, I have been on the lookout for new artists other than myself to release out there to the world. So if you or somebody you know are looking for a label with good distribution (Allegro Media Group), get in touch with me.
And one major project coming up is a CD by a wonderful jazz singer, Toni Lincoln. www.tonilincoln.com. Toni’s self-titled record (produced by me) hits the streets on July 8. The day before the actual street date, Toni and I will play an in-store concert at Portland’s storied “bricks and mortar” record store, Music Millenium. I can’t wait for this one. It’s been years since i’ve played at that great store. That concert is July 7 starting at 6pm. (You can usually catch Toni at our Sunday night jams in Vancouver at Tommy O’s.)
Then on July 18, we’ll do a full-blown CD release party for Toni at Jimmy Mak’s in the Pearl District. It will feature Toni with the rhythm section from her CD; myself on piano, Ron Steen on drums, and David Captein on bass. Toni’s father, the great jazz-blues singing baritone, Sweet Baby James Benton, is scheduled to join us for some tunes.
I love accompanying singers. Another favorite of mine is the wonderful Shelly Rudolph. We’ll be at Wilf’s restaurant on July 11. This is a departure from our regular “First Friday” slot because the first Friday of July is the Fourth. And they’re closing that day. So we switcheroo’d to the 11th. Then we’ll be at the Heathman the following night, Saturday July 12.
On Thursday July 10, I’ll be accompanying two young, up and coming singers at the Camellia Lounge in the Pearl. They are Michaela Dale and Meghan Wilson. The Camellia is in the back of the Tea Zone which is a smart little tea shop on NW 11th near Glisan. The lounge where the music happens sits behind the curtain and is as intimate as they come as far as music venues go. But really sweet with a nice piano and good acoustics, good food and drinks! Can’t go wrong with all that.
For my friends at the Oregon coast, I’ll be playing at the Tillamook County Library on the night of Wednesday July 16. This is part of their adult summer reading program. The library is located in downtown Tillamook. This will be my second appearance at the library as I played there 3 years ago as part of this program. I’ll be playing solo piano + vocals, songs from all conceivable sources.
Just got word of a new venue opening in Vancouver on Fourth Plain Bvd. It’ll be called Byno’s Roadhouse. It has been called Dodge City in the past, and was once The Keg. The new owner is Jim Jeter and his is giving the place a totally new look and new identity. We’re going to give it a test drive on July 25 with my band, Shelly, and perhaps a surprise guest to be named later. This will be a 9-12pm gig with a dance floor and the whole nine yards. And there could be more dates there in coming weeks, months.
On to August, when I’ll be with Shelly again on the first Friday of the month (August 1) at Wilf’s Restaurant in the train station. We go from 7:30-11:30 at this landmark jazz emporium.
On August 12, my band, Jeff Frankel and David Captein with Shelly will appear in a charity event called Concerts for a Cause. This will take place at Camas Meadows Golf Club (in Camas WA) and this particular concert will benefit the Snowman Foundation. We hit the stage at 6:30. This will be an outdoor concert in a beautiful area of the Golf course near the clubhouse that serves as a kind of natural sunken amphitheater. We’ve done this one before and it’s a true summer delight.
The Edwards Center is a fantastic organization which cares for handicapped adults on a lifelong basis. My own cousin has lived there much of her adult life and in the past several years I’ve been involved in events benefiting Edwards. Their beautiful new facility is out in Aloha and I’ll be playing a solo piano set there on August 15 along with superb singer/songwriter and pop icon Gino Vanelli. Also appearing will be poet laureate Paulann Peterson who will read some of her poems.
Shelly and I will be at the Heathman Lobby Lounge on August 16 and then at the Palm Court in the Benson Hotel on August 29. And another fave of mine is Heather Keizur. I’ll accompany her at the Bijou Cafe on August 23. Heather sings a lot of French songs and a variety of American Jazz Classics. She’s great if you haven’t seen her, check it out. The Bijou has been a Portland breakfast and lunch staple for almost a half century. And now they feature live jazz on a regular basis.
On Saturday August 30, I finally get a chance to play with the incredible Peruvian guitarist, Alfredo Muro. We will be in concert at the Milagro Theatre at 525 SE Stark in Portland. We will share the bill with another one of my wonderful singer friends, Nancy Curtin. You can be sure there will be plenty of Brazilian songs in these sets as both Alfredo and myself have a long history of gigs with Nancy who so sweetly interprets the Jobim songbook.
That’s it for now. See you at the gig!
Shown here is a view of SW Broadway around 1958. This is between Alder (not visible) and Washington (down the street where the Union Pacific sign can be seen). The businesses on the left that are visible are (from South to North), Florsheim Shoes, Dan Marx jewelers, Jolly Joan’s restaurant, Van Duyn Candies, Al Grant’s Madrona Records, and Zale’s Jewelers.
Al Grant was my father and he had recently moved his store from it’s old location on the corner of North Broadway and Williams Avenue. On the sign over the shop, the blurry lettering to the left of “RECORDS” is the word Madrona, which had also been the name of the old store on Williams. I love the sharp ’55 or so Ford in the center of the shot, an approx. ’48 Plymouth or Chrysler parked in front of his store, and further down the street, a white ’55 or ’56 Cadillac.
And there were clocks in front of each jewelry store. The Zale’s one (visible on the far left, just to the left of dad’s store in this photo) is still there to this day.
All those businesses are gone. Some lasted longer than others…like Zale’s and Dan Marx (Marx made it into the 21st Century).
My dad had gone into the record business in the late 40’s at his old old location which was a furniture store in the Kenton neighborhood he co-owned with his brother Larry. That was Grant Brothers’ Furniture. To make a serious go of it in the record biz, he opened the Williams avenue shop in around 1950. He specialized in what in those days was called “race music:” Bo Diddley, Muddy Waters, Dinah Washington,Joe Williams, Ray Charles. He also had the biggest jazz collection in the state. People could listen to records right there in the store. And they did. And they danced.
By 1957 he was ready to move across the river to the downtown store. Where the Williams store was functional, the new downtown store was fancy. It was the time of tail fins on cars and dreams of space travel. So the new record store was suitably space-aged with groovy light fixtures that looked like Sputnik, and cheeky displays. The country music section was housed in a small-sized replica of a covered wagon, my dad’s way of winking at his own disdain for the genre. Where the listening record machines at the Williams store were just out in the open contributing to a party atmosphere, the downtown store had private listening booths. For “Long Hair” (classical) music, there were roomy booths in the back that played 331/3 rpm discs. The 13 smaller booths for playing 45’s were along the long south side of the store.
As the downtown store opened, I was a 5th grader. And I was totally into music and the record store. Part of our father-son ritual was going to the store on Sundays when, like all other businesses in town, the shop was closed. I would listen to records for hours while he did paper work. This was in the days before shrink wrap which meant I would just pick out a record and go listen. Sometimes we took records home, listened for a while and then brought them back to the store. It was like a library but more cool.
I listened to Miles Davis and an exciting new saxophonist named John Coltrane. I also liked Clyde McPhatter and Buddy Holly and Huey ‘Piano’ Smith. I would sneak copies of Kermit Schaeffer’s Pardon My Blooper series into the listening booths. This was a several volume series of radio and TV gaffes that were both naughty and funny. Like the famous radio kid’s show host who, after signing off and thinking his microphone was dead, could be heard to say “….that oughta hold the little bastards for a while.”
I remember a stereo sound demonstration that dad hosted in a room in the Benson Hotel. While the deep-voiced narrator intoned “…and now listen to this freight train…etc,” we could hear the train chugging along in the distance which seemed to be far to our left…and then miraculously move closer, getting louder and then roaring along from the left side of the room to the right and then off into the distance. It was breathtaking.
Shortly after that, my dad had a stereophonic components demonstration room set up in a room just above the main part of the store. I couldn’t get enough of freight trains and rockets and big crowds and big music that boomed from two speakers placed 10 feet apart. That was another thing. Compared to the Williams Avenue store, the downtown store was BIG!
An interesting feature sticks in my mind. When you walked into the downtown store, you were greeted by an all-star wall display of Portland’s top radio jocks smiling down at us from their framed countenances. Personalities like KEX’ Barney Keep, Ray Horn (“the horn blows at midnight”), KGW’s Bob McAnulty and my favorite from KPOJ, Dick Novak (“open the door Richard….”). Dick used to host a show live from Amato’s Supper Club on the southwest corner of SW Main and Broadway. When a couple of Borscht Belt comedians toured through Portland, as was customary with us, we had them over for dinner. The following night we went with them to their show at Amato’s and Dick Novak talked to us (my Dad, brother and I) on air!
(Below from right to left, my mom, Johnny Mathis, my dad and Unknown Radio Guy)
My dad always got free tickets to the Norman Granz’ Jazz at the Philharmonic concerts. My mom took me to the Paramount to see Lenny Bruce. The record store and associated culture were a huge part of my life. I spent summer days downtown. I would take the Irvington or Broadway bus, go to a movie, then to Meier & Frank’s to check out the new color tv’s, and then on to dad’s store to hang out until it was time to close and go home. One of those times in 1962, when we were driving up into our driveway, my dad solemnly informed me that he was closing the store. I looked at him bewildered and hurt and couldn’t believe what he was saying. “Why?”
I came to realize long after, that a convergence of market forces were at work against the small retail store. Especially record stores. Fred Meyer, Meier & Frank…even some pharmacies were selling records. Rack jobber middlemen had come into the picture to service these places and were probably offering deals to retail outlets that could place big orders. And Madrona got hit hard by theft from outside and inside. At least one employee stole from us. And some shoppers couldn’t resist the temptation that the privacy of the listening booths offered. One classmate of mine at Grant High School who sat by me in study hall boasted about all the records she pilfered from our store
Dad’s main competition had been Sixth Avenue Records which was right around the corner from our shop. Owners Marvin and Tommye Gribble had rough go of it too but managed to hang on for another 10 years or so.
The closing of the store was a big loss emotionally. It was like a death in the family. I’ll never forget that Spring day in 1962 that we held a going-out-of-business sale. People were lined up around the block. Music freaks and afficionados of all stripes started major collections on that day, some of which turned into future record stores. For me, that event was akin to a funeral. A very sad day.
Madrona Records, R.I.P
The Frank Zappa Experience
I’ve decided to share some reflections about my career that I wrote back in 2002. Here’s the first
October 15, 2002
I once heard an interview with Frank Zappa in which he complained at some length about how members of his bands always ended up in personality clashes that ultimately doomed that particular edition of a FZ band. Zappa, of course, was a bandleader of such prestige that a tour of duty of reasonable length with him was almost certain to launch a decent career. George Duke, Patrick O’Hearn, Vinnie Colaiuta, Jean Luc Ponty, Ian Underwood, Captain Beefheart, Steve Vai are just a few of the Zappa alumni musical giants that went on to make big waves in the worlds of rock and jazz. So it was refreshing to me to hear that this important band leader with a four decades long career was faced with the same crappy little personnel bullshit that has dogged me through several incarnations of my own bands: the “I just can’t play with him anymore” syndrome.
It was always a variation on this same thing. The bass player hated the drummer, or the drummer thought the guitar player was a showoff maniac or the saxophone player thought the trumpet player wasn’t good enough. And when a drummer decides he doesn’t like somebody….it’s easy to make life miserable for that somebody. He just refuses to play behind his solos. Say if the drummer is pissed at the guitar player, instead of following the emotional intensity of the guitar player’s solo, he can just sit there and keep time. Chop wood. Stare blankly into space. Play a big passive/aggressive nothing on the drums. It’s hard for the soloist to soar when there’s no wave on which to ride. Playing in a band is an interpersonal experience. After enough time, a band becomes a family and the leader is the parent. The kids fight and jealousies emerge. Its exasperatingly predictable in the life of a band especially when you’re having a little success and lots of gigs for weeks and months at a time. To hear Zappa talk about this was incredibly satisfying for me. He said that there was always someone saying they couldn’t play with someone else and trying to get that guy fired.
Although not a big fan, I’ve always had huge respect for Zappa. I auditioned for his band in the late seventies and it proved a pivotal, though thoroughly humiliating experience. My friend Patrick O’Hearn had been playing with Frank for several years. Patrick was from Eugene originally and had moved to Portland with his family and started playing jazz bass around the various haunts. He had a masterful touch and beautiful tone on electric and upright bass. He was young, energetic, wildly imaginative and possessed of a thoroughly irreverent sense of humor. He was really funny. It was, therefore, no shock to the locals when Pat got the call to tour with Zappa. It seemed like a perfect fit.
Sometime in 1977 the keyboard “chair” in Frank’s band came open and Patrick lobbied Frank in my behalf. A date was set for an audition and I was excited and extremely nervous. My wife at the time, Candy was unexpectedly enthusiastic about helping me get ready for this venture. ( Like maybe glad to get rid of me for a while.) Patrick had told me to pack for several weeks of rehearsing and touring and so Candy helped me stuff our largest suitcase with both the necessities and the not-so-necessities of life. The day came for the audition and Patrick picked me up at LAX and we rode into town. I think my nervousness had rubbed off on him because he wasn’t quite the buoyant, joking free spirit I had come to know. He had something emotional at stake in this too, having been both my advocate with Frank and a longtime friend of mine.
We arrived at the rehearsal space which was a huge warehouse-like building on the lot of one of the old movie studios right off of Sunset Boulevard. Frank wasn’t there yet but the band set-up was there in the middle of the huge space. Terry Bozzio, the drummer in the band was there along with one of Frank’s crew members. There it was. The band set-up for fucking Frank Zappa, rock legend, folk hero who had burst onto the hippie/rock scene back in the 60’s with stunning boldness and audacity. (One of the legends was that Frank used his advance money from his first record deal to buy up tens of thousands of his own record so as to drive it up the charts.) And now here I was, waiting for the arrival of a god. This was totally big time and I was quietly hyperventilating.
And then Frank appeared. And, after introductions, we quickly got down to business. Now it must be said that Frank’s music is quirky and unique. ( He claims some kind of “Balkan” influences.) The melody lines are jagged and very unconventional, as are the song structures. He and his band mates glory in making up songs in rehearsals and there seems to be a premium placed on the weird and wacky. So we launched into some new band originals that I was asked to read. To this day I’m not a great sight reader but back then, I really stunk. So I proceeded to badly bungle the charts as I tried to join the Frank Zappa band in some roiling broiling musical madness.
In between songs, Frank and the band guys had been talking and laughing about some miserable character who was constantly trying to get the keyboard gig in the band. He had heard about this current opening and had been literally camping out on the management company’s doorstep, waiting to catch sight of anybody who might have enough suck to get him an audition with Frank. I couldn’t laugh.
I was miserable at this. I couldn’t get a hold of that mechanism inside me that could tell me to just “calm down…this is just some stupid life shit to get through the best way possible…don’t take it so seriously! Just get inside it. ” Instead I continued to lurch unsteadily through the audition, sweating and unconvincing. After more of this and some of my attempts at singing, Frank stopped the band. He faced the guitar toward me and played a long, unaccompanied, loud and insane melody line replete with jagged atonalities. After that he looked at me, with those demonic eyes, smoke still curling up from the guitar strings and from out of his ears, and said … “now you play it.”
Of course I could do no such thing. I felt whipped and I’m sure Frank didn’t feel too good about it either because the next thing was him quietly saying to me “ I don’t think this is going to work out.” The final humiliation came from a quite unexpected source: my suitcase. For shortly after that the others were uncomfortably shuffling and fussing with equipment, Frank was dinking around with chords on the keyboard and the crew guy was trying to help me get my stuff collected so as to get me back to the airport, when my suitcase fell open. What fell out in full view of all assembled, was my tennis racket. Candy, bless her heart, had stuck my tennis racket in there at the last minute to sort of round out my new experience. Had I gotten the gig, as Patrick assured me I would, I knew that it would have been more military duty than So Cal vacation. So the image of the tennis racket, so symbolic of a long leisurely stay, juxtaposed against the embarrassing lost opportunity in the giant room now still smoldering from my flameout, seemed unbearably ludicrous.
The Wrong Man
What follows is an email which is fairly typical of ones I’ve been getting for the last 10 or so years.
“i am a kurt cobain fan, and i support your theories! It is a murky situation and whatever i can do to help ill be glad to. i also signed the petition to re-open cobains case. thanks for all you do, its important to me to get justice for kurt.“
Kurt Cobain fan? Huh? What theories?
At first I was dumbfounded and thought that this must just be a one-off mistake. But the emails kept arriving so I had to look into it. The explanation goes like this: There is a Tom Grant who lives in Seattle. For years he has written about the death of Kurt Cobain and how he was murdered (perhaps by his wife) and that there has been a cover-up to keep this story quiet, and on and on.
I’ve never been much of a conspiracy theory buff. As a matter of fact, I’m very cynical about these whether it’s the various 9/11 yarns, or the UFO fantasies, the JFK stuff. I’ll pretty much have none of it, thank you. I’ve always felt real life is odd enough, and filled with enough bewildering wonderment to satisfy my needs.
So when the Cobain-oriented stuff began piling up in my in-box, after merely deleting these, I started to answer. At first I would politely inform the writer that they had the wrong TG and that some further research would turn up the right guy. Probably I was starting to feel resentment that this other TG seemed to have more fans than I did.
But one time I made the mistake of really blowing off some pent-up steam at one of these. It was a woman…probably young…who lived in Germany. And my response to her were words to the effect of “please…get a life.” Well she didn’t take this too casually. Her letter back to me was as condemning as mine was condescending and downright mean.
If you’re out there German lady, I’m SORRY!
And as a side note to all of this, I do have a strange connection to the Cobain world after all. My girl-friend Mary used to live with Courtney Love just before CL met Curt. They were close friends. HA! What a world!
Now where is my tin-foil hat? I seemed to have misplaced it.
Thursday Nights at the Ivories
We’re changing the format of the Thursday night Singers Showcase at Ivorie’s Jazz Lounge. Just slight tinkering, adjustments. Instead of 2 or 3 singers, I will have just one singer who will work the first set with me. That singer will serve as a kind of real-time instructor for the students of jazz- singing that i’m hoping will be in attendance. Because, then we will throw it open to a all-out, no-holds-barred* singers jam. I will invite up any singers who show up on that night to sing 1, 2 or 3 tunes depending on time and how many of you show up.
Once again I would urge anyone who wants to sing in that setting to bring charts of the tunes they want to do. Those charts should be in the correct keys. And that means in the key that the singer sings the song comfortably. Not necessarily in the key in which the song was originally written. And it’s always good practice and most professional for aspiring singers to know their keys for each song that they do.
So if for some reason you can’t find a chart for song X, if you know the key in which you sing it then there’s a chance we can still do it. And if all else fails, you can sing the first line of the song to me where you think it’s comfortable and I’ll help you find your key. ( Yes, right there on stage. ) But the most professional thing is to know your key and to have a music chart.
I am still offering lessons to singers who are trying to get their bearings performing jazz songs. You can contact me about that at email@example.com. There’s a lot to know and it’s been fun guiding the singers through the process. The lessons are at my home and we basically run through songs with ME accompanying YOU and working on the things that are scary and difficult for you; pitch, time, staying with or straying from the written melody, gigs, repertoire, when to come back in, and many more issues that pertain to singing jazz in a gig setting.
We start the new format this coming Thursday night with the great Marilyn Keller being our featured guest singer. So please stop by and check out the scene. 7:30-10:30 at Ivorie’s Jazz Lounge in Portland’s Pearl District. More info at www.ivories-jazz.com/
*an archaic expression from professional wrestling
New Year’s Eve
OK. Many of you are wondering how I can be in two places at once on New Year’s Eve. Here’s how. I’ve been asked to play an early set at the Nines Luxury Hotel from 8-9pm. It’s opening for Nu-Shooz and an incredible band called Hit Machine which will ring in the New Year in rockin’ style.
But I will be long gone at that time, as I am playing with my own band at Ivorie’s Jazz Lounge over in the Pearl district (corner of NW 14th and Flanders). At that venue, i’ll have my regular band with Jeff Frankel drums and Dave Captein bass. Shelly Rudolph will be singing with us.
And while I’m at the Nines, young Mac Potts will play an opening set for us. If you haven’t seen Mac perform, get ready for some startling piano action. He’s truly amazing.
So if you want to ring in the New Year with me, that will take place at Ivorie’s. Go to their website www.ivories-jazz.com and get all the info about our night. It’ll be big fun in the city. Dancing, romancing, all the makings for a memorable party. We’ll do the entire gamut of TG oldies, jazz classics, motown, pop-tunes a-plenty. There will be champagne, party favors, breathless patrons, and music, music, music!
Hope to see you there!
The Funniest Ever
Late in my senior year at the U of Oregon, I suddenly realized that I hadn’t counted my hours toward graduation correctly. Despite good grades, various honors and the dubious social prestige of my fraternity, I wouldn’t be graduating with my class.
So I joined a band.
(photo: from l-r, Frank Nachtman, Tom Grant, Mike Phillips, Patrick Ahern, Kathy Smith, Gene Garrett
They were some Eugene folks that included one of my fraternity brothers who was the leader of a band called The Small Crowd. They had been playing frat parties and other crappy gigs. They did a mix of originals and covers and had a very strikingly pretty lead singer named Kathy Smith. More on her later.
They happily sacked the current keyboardist to make a space for me in the band and we were off to LA to make it big. On that first trip south, we lucked into a spot on amateur night at the Troubador on Santa Monica Bvd. That night, our set grabbed the attention of William E. McEuen who was the manager for the Allman brothers, the Sunshine Company, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and Steve Martin.
It was that easy. We scored. We were IN! Bill McEuen was able to get us a deal with World Pacific Jazz under the direction of Richard Bock who was one of those kingpins who made careers. Ravi Shankar was his product. Despite it’s name, World Pacific Jazz was not really a jazz label. Our sound was like Mama’s and Papa’s, folk rock.
We moved to LA. We rented a house in The Valley with a pool. We all lived in the house. Five guys + Kathy. It was a special kind of hell. Six people in their early twenties trying to have a music career in LA and constantly working out their own individual and collective shit.
Bill marched us down to some Hollywood boutique and outfitted us in the most current and shee shee L.A. pop music finery. (see attached photo). Lots of velveteen, voile, Nehru Jackets and gender confusion.
Bill McEuen had it wired in Orange County. We started playing gigs at the venerable Golden Bear in Huntington Beach along with folk and rock stars of the era: Jackson Browne, Hoyt Axton, Charles Bukowski, Paul Butterfield, Bonnie Raitt, etc. On one of our gigs there, we performed a piece written especially for us by Steve Martin. It was more performance art than music and we were greeted with a rousing chorus of blank stares. It was 1969.
I would soon write my first original song: a cheery little piece called “The Death Song.” I’ve been thinking about reviving it. You know, bringing it ‘back to life.’
By then we had changed the band name to Mercy. The Small Crowd had been too…well….small. Bill McEuen, who was now our manager, said “now you guys will have to live up to that name.” And live up to it we did. We were so “down” and “funky” that we were forced to move out of our Valley home with the pool. Kathy quit the band and soon appeared with Richie Havens at several high profile concerts. (If anybody reading this knows the fate of Kathy Smith, please email me.)
With Kathy gone from the band, we soon realized that she was the main reason we had a record deal. She sounded..and even looked a little like..Linda Ronstadt. She was sultry, lovely and mysterious in a late 60′s sort of way. Kathy was mercurial and emotionally stressed. We were all a little that. But for sure, Kathy had been our main ticket to Stardom. And now, with the record deal gone, the remaining 4 guys (Gene the rhythm guitar player was gone too), moved into a house in Garden Grove with Jeri McEuen, Bill’s mother.
We were sinking fast. Another band called Mercy had come out with a bona fide hit single in 1969 called “Love Can Make You Happy.” We had to change our name again. Quick. We took an album title by the “Nitty Gritty Dirt Band” called Rare Junk. Then, as the newly constituted band with the lovely new name “Rare Junk,” the four of us guys took a gig in an Anaheim slime hole night club called The Inn Crowd.
The gig at the Inn Crowd was several nights a week. People danced. There were drunken brawls, bikers, too much alcohol, drugs and depravity. We played there for the better part of a year.
By day, it was different. We had a nice rehearsal space at Jeri McEuen’s place. Sometimes her other son John…the leader of the Dirt Band and a wonderful 5 string banjo player would come over and we would jam on bluegrass tunes. Jeri was quite generous and tolerant with us. We weren’t the greatest house guests.
But overall, things were becoming dreary. Often, we (the 4 band guys) would go out to lunch together. We’d all climb into one of the cars and head out to one of those unfortunate eateries that made all Of Orange County a gastronomic disaster area. And we just didn’t care. Bob’s Big Boy, Jack’nThe Box, Denny’s; it didn’t matter. We needed each others company. These lunches were 1 part poison, and several parts spiritual salve for the emotionally crippling experience that was our current turn of bad fortune.
On one particular day, we were in the car arguing about which of our usual quick food places we would visit. We settled on Bob’s Big Boy and drove into the lot on Harbor Bvd. in Garden Grove. We jumped out of the car and headed around to the front. We got a few feet from the front door which then flew open. A young guy staggered out in front of us. He fell forward and, onto his hands and knees, began to throw up on the walkway. There it was in front of us plain as could be; a symbolic bit of live poetry in puke. The sum total of our L.A. rock star experience.
We went back to the car, got in and for the next 20 minutes or so drove around Orange County, laughing uncontrollably. All of us. We couldn’t talk. We just laughed until we couldn’t any longer. When laughter would die down, somebody would try to say something about what we had just seen, but we’d just break into fits of laughter all over again.
It was not long after that that I left Southern Cal for good, and went back to Eugene to finish school.
Two years ago in October, I did a benefit for the piano at Grant High School. The instrument is a 9′ concert grand (Steinway) which is older than I am ( and that’s saying something). Today as David Hays from Artisan Piano Services was over here touching up the tuning on my piano, he told me that he is soon taking delivery of the GHS piano in his shop. He will be doing a complete rebuild of the insides of that piano.
I was excited to hear about this because Grant is my alma mater, and that piano was in dire need of serious attention. And such attention involves replacement of strings, hammers, all mechanisms that make the piano go! It’s a huge job and will take weeks and I’m so happy that Artisan got the job. They’re great.
I’m sure that other of Grant’s pianistic alumni have given time to the cause: Thomas Lauderdale (Pink Martini) happens to be a Grant alum and is always very generous with his time. Michael Harrison (Parkrose HS) has also done benefits for Grant.
In these days of hyper-austerity, pianos are getting short shrift. Without naming names, one only needs to take a little tour of local bistros, bars, hotel lounges, etc to see that many do not have pianos. Those that do are hard pressed to keep up on tuning, and you can forget about regulating, voicing, or any other procedures that are a necessary part of the upkeep of pianos.
There are new hybrid electrics that are far better than earlier generations of electric pianos. But they’re still electric. And as the song says, “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing, Baby.”
If anyone out there is looking to buy a piano, used, new or otherwise, feel free to contact me (firstname.lastname@example.org) and i’ll try to point you in a good direction. Or call Peggy Zackary at Classic Pianos Portland, 503 239 9969,.
If you are a follower of this site, you’ve heard me mention my Sunday night Jams at Tommy O’s in downtown Vancouver. These sessions start early (6:30) and feature my band for an hour or so, and then what we hope turns out to be a lively invitation-only jam session with myriad musicians of all stripes, and singers too. We seem to host more singers than instrumentalists for reasons I’ll tackle below.
I’m sure that many of you reading this now have attended these sessions and have been deservedly mystified by the strange goings-on that has musicians coming up to a steaming bandstand to make their contribution. How do they know what they’re doing? how does anyone qualify to jam with these guys? what’s the protocol?
First, what do I mean by invitation only? Don’t people get to just walk up there and start…you know…jammin’? No. If I don’t know you, or talk to you on the break, and have some degree of confidence you know what’s expected of a jammer, i don’t invite you up. And if I do know you and feel that you would kind of know the language, then I will call you up at a time when i think it makes the best sense from the standpoint of who is on stage at the moment, and what combinations will make for interesting music. So please wait to be called up and properly introduced.
The other thing is that since we bill this as a jazz jam, we expect people to have a basic knowledge of chord changes, and the ability to follow the song and know where we are at any given moment. And that includes drummers! I prefer that horn players know the “head” (main melody) to the songs that i would feature them on. I’ll try to give everybody solo time. Please do not play while another person solos. That may be fitting for a New Orleans style jam, but not this one. While another person is playing, give them some space and respect.
And don’t be put off by the “jazz” designation. We often venture into the realm of pop, R&B, and even occasional country tunes. (When Dave Grafe comes by with his beautiful pedal steel guitar, even Cole Porter sounds a little country.)
We have lots of singers for various reasons. For one thing, as a singer your instrument doesn’t cost a thousands, or get ripped off out of your car parked outside the gym. Everybody has a voice. It’s a dangerous thing. Plus there seems to be something glamorous about a career as a singer, a more sure-fire way to stardom than say, blasting out be-bop lines on some twist-y piece of plumbing.
I have rules for singers, although these are sometimes ignored or softened, depending on the exact situation. Singers need to bring in charts (music sheets). These are preferably no more than two pages (one is preferred) and a nice clear notation of at least the chord changes to the song you will sing. You get extra points for having the melody written in; extra extra points for having the lyrics written in. Both of the latter are helpful ways to follow the music for the accompanying musicians (but not required). These charts must be in the key in which you will sing the song.
Now if you you’re not quite sure if you’re ready to sing at a jam like ours, come out some Sunday and check it out. And if you’d like to get together with me to see what it’s like to sing some tunes with accompaniment, I’ll be happy to spend an hour with you for a small fee. I’ve been doing this quite a bit lately and have been able to guide potential singers on ways to use their voice, build their repertoire, improvise, not improvise, and to observe some of the basic rules of jazz music.
A Doggy Tale
Today our Golden Retriever Lola turned 7 years. We had her brother Buddy over for cake, ice cream, presents, birthday song, candles, the works. Buddy lives in the neighborhood.
We don’t know if Lola will have another birthday.
Late last year she was diagnosed with Lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphatic system. We started her on chemotherapy soon after that and she’s been doing fine, great, full of energy and looking really good. She gained back the weight she had lost and then some. But the long term …well there probably is no long term. Even with chemo, dogs may get an extra year…more or less…with this treatment. As the doctor at the Veterinary Cancer Center housed at Dove Lewis Emergency Pet Clinic advised us, the disease is always “in the system.”
We are incredibly sad with this. And so ridiculously in love with our girl that we wouldn’t do anything other than try to extend her life. And so we glory in every day she is with us. She loves the daily or sometimes twice daily trips to the park where she chases the ball like a fiend, and sometimes plays with the other dog friends. She acts like a puppy, has some outrageously bad habits…like jumping on people. She jumps up on total strangers, a few of whom are horrified by the brazen beast. At home she loves to find a sheet of paper, an invoice, a shopping guide, anything that she can get in her mouth. Then she proudly prances and parades around the house with it until we chase her down and wrestle the document away from her.
Lola makes a funny sort of backwards snorty moaning sound when we pet her. For a short time before we detected her disease, these sounds went away. Then after her first chemo treatment, the groaning pleasure sounds that Mary calls “fur-gasms” returned.
I’ve always had dogs. They’re all so very different in ways big and small. Lola is the first to hate the car and hates car travel. But now with her illness, she is habituated to the trips to the doctor. If I say, “..Lola, we’re going to the doctor..”, she dutifully stands at the door while i leash her up and goes out to stand at the back of the car. (She won’t jump in, we have to lift her in).
And so it goes. Each day is a mixture of happy and sad. Always close by are the implements and artifacts that remind us: rectal thermometer, the array of pill bottles, packets and jars of various supplements, her red jacket we got for her when she was skinny and it was so cold. Also close by is our sweet little soul and wondrous being.
Oh no! It’s him.
I was in my hot yoga class, schvitzing* heavily. The teacher mentioned that she was freaked out by the presence in today’s class of her first ever Bikram Yoga teacher. She said that she was overly conscious of every word that came out of her own mouth this day because of the mere presence of someone she respected so much from that realm.
This made me think about some of my own paranoid freakouts. In one of my first big gigs with a major jazz artist, we were playing at a club in the LA area called Concerts By the Sea. It was saxophonist Joe Henderson with me and Ron Steen on drums and David Friesen on bass. I had studied, imitated, and revered my favorite pianists: Errol Garner, Herbie Hancock, Red Garland, Chick Corea, Horace Silver, Keith Jarrett and many others. Suddenly i looked out in the audience only to see Keith Jarrett right near the stage. I was sure it was him; modest afro, pencil thin mustache, big sweater…the exact look that Keith had sported in those days (middle 70′s). Oh no! I was sure it was him.
Suddenly my hands turned to stone. I couldn’t play shit. I was thinking about every note I played. I couldn’t concentrate. I was sure this would be my last ever gig with Joe…he’d have to fire me on the spot. Oh misery.
After this typical JH set of about 3 songs in which Joe sometimes would solo for 20 minutes per, we brought this torture to a close and when the lights came up and the dust had settled, alas this person was not Keith Jarrett at all. This attendee was probably a young striving pianist (like myself) who had skillfully copped the Keith look, and positioned himself right in front of the piano so as to vibe me.
You’d think i would have grown out of this little problem, but just the other day I was playing my regular Thursday night gig at Ivories Lounge, and a guy came in who looked just like Dave Frishberg. In case you don’t know, Dave is a great jazz pianist, singer, and ingenious and clever songwriter who is world renowned and plays often with the great Rebecca Kilgore. And he’s an especially good singer’s accompanist, which is what i’m trying to do at Ivorie’s. I was just getting ready to start my set and I looked at the guy in question from the stage and said “Dave?” He said something cryptic back to me which I didn’t understand at all, but which I took to mean “No, you must be mistaken.” Because that’s what I wanted to believe.
After the set, I went up to the gentleman in question and sure enough, standing before me was the great Dave Frishberg. No doubting it from close up. We had a nice conversation and in a way, I dodged a bullet by having tricked myself into believing that it wasn’t him. So I didn’t have to slog through a set thinking about every phrase and chord voicing. Less thinking makes for better playing for me.
I think many artists might be vulnerable to this problem. Whatever nagging self doubts may be hanging around our psyche, can be triggered by the presence of someone you hold in high esteem. There’s a scene in the Clint Eastwood documentary about Thelonious Monk,Straight No Chaser in which Monk is playing for a 50′s TV show. There are a few cutaway scenes showing the great bandleader Count Basie seated in a chair close to the piano , listening and observing bemusedly like some sort of strange prop. Shortly after, Thelonious can be heard off- camera complaining bitterly about this. What a big baby. Ha!
Interestingly enough, in that same mid-70′s gig at Concerts by the Sea but on another night, Horace Silver was in the audience but I didn’t find out about it until after the show. We met and he was a very lovely man.
I need to get over this.
*please consult your handy Yiddish to English dictionary
I’m taking my time with album number 25.
It’s been 2+ years since my last and 24th record (Delicioso) came out in 2010. The next one will bear a momentous number so i want it to also have momentous content. Therefore I’m taking my sweet time. I’ve recorded a few ideas here and there and have more in the brain chamber.
So i thought it would be good to take a moment to reflect on the albums gone by. My records of the past have a supporting cast of names that read like a virtual “who’s that?” of the music business.
All kidding aside, i’m boastfully proud of my CD’s from the past. And i would like to list the names of players, singers and others who have participated: Joe Henderson, Ron Steen, Rick Laird, Jeff Lorber, Patrice Rushen, Tony Williams, David Captein, Gary Hobbs, Tod Carver, Rob Thomas, Dennis Springer, Richard Burdell, Layne Larson, Glen Holstrom, Lester McFarland, Brad Herrett, Dan Balmer, Jeff Leonard, Carlton Jackson, Phil Baker, Valerie Day, Najee, Sharon Bryant, Omar Hakim, Shelly Rudolph, Rebecca Kilgore, Marilyn Keller, George Howard, Kirk Whalum, Peter White, Paul Jackson Jr., Alec Milstein, Art Porter, Chad Wackerman, Paulinho da Costa, Ray Obiedo, Bruce Carter, Patrick Lamb, Jeff Frankel, Nelson Braxton, Curtis Craft, Mark VanWageningen, Peter Michael Escovedo, Jay Koder, Reinhard Melz, Wayne Brathwait, Danny Schauffler, Diane Garisto, Curtis King, Louis Pain, Paul Mazzio, Tim Ellis, Gregg Williams, Doug Lewis, Dan Faehnle, Aaron Walker, Randy Brecker, Steve Christofferson, Ross Seligman, Chance Hayden, Graham Lear, Scott Wardinski, Richard Titterington, Michael Eliot, Stephanie Schneiderman, Bill Beach, Brad Mersereau, Michael Bard, Nancy Curtin…and the engineer who worked on almost all of the 24, the brilliant Doug Durbrow.
So these are the players it has been my good fortune to hook up with for my recording sessions. If someone knows a name that I’ve left off of this list please let me know. I’ll make the appropriate correction.
I’m thinking #25 might have a couple of my older tunes, maybe some covers from the R&B or pop world, and for sure, a few never released originals. I’m open to suggestions on this topic and would love to hear from YOU.
Let the magic begin.
Sorry for neglecting the blog. I feel as though i haven’t had that much to say. But it must be something deeper than that. I have things in my head, stories, anecdotes; over 45 years of a career stuff. But sometimes i seem unable unwilling to access these. So the only thing to do it seems, is to just start typing.
So here i am.
We played a truly joyous concert last Sunday night at a church in Tacoma. The Marine Drive Presbyterian church has run a series for the last 5 years or so. Once a month a well-regarded NW jazz act does a concert at the church and it’s FREE! The “we” here is my usual band with Dave and Jeff. And Shelly Rudolph was on this one and she stole the show…the little thief. Actually everybody starred on this one. The place was packed and it was one of the best concerts we’ve done in a while just in terms of pace and connecting with an audience. I needed that one.
I’ve been having fun with my Thursday night Singers Showcase at Ivories in NW Portlandia. Lauri Jones was great. A truly gifted singer with tremendous control, great intonation, Lauri lit it up. Then David Watson killed it. David is from Philly and has deep experience in the world of real jazz. He was great with the crowd, involving them and scatting like a fiend and taking it down and bringing it up, etc. He was truly something. Then Julie Collura charmed the crowd with her very understated reading of the Great American Songbook. She has a quiet intensity that had everybody nicely riveted.
Let me know if you have anybody to suggest for this showcase. I have it booked thru April and i’m open for May. I’ve fgot some interesting new faces on the line for April.
The Tommy O’s jam (8th and Washington in Vancouver) has become a phenomenon. Packed every week, this gig just seems to grow. Pretty soon we’re going to have to add a new wing on the bar to accommodate the faithful. The food (Hawaiian fare) is great. Food makes quite a difference in the success of these places. Me and Shelly and Dave played for the first time at Arrivederci in Milwaukie. That place has it wired: great food, incredible wine, nice service AND good music. My experience proves over and over again that just good music alone doesn’t get the job done. A successful music club needs all the elements.
Happy Holiday Season to all of you. Here’s what’s on for December.
Two Christmas concerts with the great Rebecca Kilgore. One is at the commons at Charbonneau near Wilsonville on Friday December 14th. The other will be at the recital hall at Classic Pianos on SE Milwaukie Bvd on Friday the 21st. We are calling that concert “Have Yourself a Soulful Little Solstice.” That one is $20 admission and includes catered snacks and wine. For both concerts, Becky and I will be doing the holiday songs from our CD Winter Warm and Dave Captein will be along to play a whole lot of bass.
Then on December 15, Dave and I will cross the mountains to Bend for Bend Festival Noel. C3 events produces what they call the Holiday Pop Up Shop, taking place at the Athletic Club of Bend on that weekend. The shop consists of over 70 local artists and crafters, as well as a music stage. We will play from 1-2:30.
Promptly at 2:31 we will hop back in the car to make the deranged trip back over the mountains to play at the Heathman Hotel in downtown PDX. The sweet and lovely Shelly Rudolph will join me at the Heathman that night.
On December 22, I will be playing a benefit concert for some students at Newberg High School. Theatre students at NHS have gotten a very prestigious invitation to perform at the American High School Theatre Festival (AHSTF) which is part of the Edinburgh International Fringe Festival in Scotland in August, 2013. This is really a great honor for them as well as all of Oregon. Only 15-20 schools in all of North America are chosen to participate. I will play a selection of solo pieces that evening, and will accompany some student musicians.
And of course we are in our fourth year of hosting a jam session at Tommy O’s in downtown Vancouver WA. Tommy has turned Sundays into an all-day Happy Hour with HH prices on everything. The food there is first class. I think the music is pretty hot on those nights too. As always, 6:30-9:30.
In January, I will start a singers showcase at Ivories Jazz Lounge in the Pearl. It will be every Thursday night at 7:30. We will feature the known and the relatively unknown in the world of vocal jazz in the NW. Solid singers you’ve heard me talk about in this space like Shelly Rudolph, Toni Lincoln, Marilyn Keller, and others will appear. Sometimes with just me on piano and at times with me and my trio. I will also hold an “up&comers night” where new fresh faces in vocal jazz will show up. You’ll be amazed at the incredible talent that is still relatively unknown around here. I’m pretty excited about this new gig and a chance to work with my singing friends.
So go ahead and head out for some live music this week. Stop in and see us at Tommy O’s or wherever.
See you at the gig!
WINTER WARM 6
This year, we will celebrate the 6th consecutive year of Winter Warm, a concert to benefit Potluck in the Park. PIP is a charitable organization devoted to feeding hungry people in Portland, once a week in downtown Portland, every week rain or shine. It’s a BIG commitment from an organization with a BIG heart. I’ve been involved with them for 16 years, having played at their annual Christmas day dinner where they serve over 1000 people a turkey dinner w/ all the fixin’s.
It’s an impressive event, with long lines of hungry citizens, quietly filing into the downtown YMCA dining hall to the sounds of live and jazzy Christmas music from some of Portland’s many generous musicians who happily rotate shifts during this massive feed. The mood in that dining hall is quietly joyful and uplifting, just to know that all these many volunteers and recipients of their generosity are working harmoniously toward a common good.
There are many charities in the world that do positive things for humanity. This one is so basic and to the point that it has always been irresistible to me. It’s important to give scholarships, medical aid to those without access to same, help with housing, etc. But food to the hungry is so basic and vital that we who are able to feed ourselves sometimes forget that there are those out there who simply can’t afford this elemental requirement of all living things.
One of the most touching features of the Christmas Day dinner comes when the guests are invited to go into a room off to the side of the main dining hall where several of the Potluck volunteers have offered their cell phones so that the guests can make phone calls to loved ones wherever in the world they might be.
So that’s what lured me into this endeavor. I proposed the idea of a benefit concert to PIP board member and organizer of the Christmas dinner, David Untzinger. That was the genesis of the first concert which coincided with the release that year of my holiday CD with Rebecca Kilgore. That CD was called, Winter Warm. That name stuck and that has been our concert theme for 6 years.
This year’s Winter Warm concert is slated for the Tiffany Center in downtown Portland. Their Emerald Ballroom on the 4th floor is a beautiful venue with high ceilings, hardwood floors, and impressively crafted details throughout. This year’s concert is on Thursday, November 29 and features a power-packed slate of some of the Northwest’s finest musicians and singers.
There are some new faces in this year’s Winter Warm concert. Craig Irby is a young man who is a fresh new face on the scene. His voice is magic and harkens back to Frank Sinatra and Bobby Darrin. He’s amazing. New this year also is one of the country’s most dazzling jazz singers, Seattle’s Greta Matassa. Other new participants will be the lovely LaRhonda Steele a soulful singer who is a Portland favorite along with the Original Boogie Cat himself, Norman Sylvester.
And for the first time in the short history of the Winter Warm concert, there will be DANCING. There’s plenty of room at the Tiffany Center so we’re taking advantage of it by designating a space for people to shake their collective groove thang.
Coming back this year are some of our favorites, the soulful sultry songstress Shelly Rudolph; the magic voice of Toni Lincoln and my regular band mates Mr. Bass himself, David Captein, fantastic drummer Jeff Frankel, and a special appearance on drums by the great Ron Steen.
Hope to see you all there. It’s a soulful, heartful event for a wonderful cause. For more details go to: http://www.potluckinthepark.org/
Baseball Oct 2012
Baseball Oct 2012
Warning: this blog contains virtually no info on my career, my music or any of the usual things I blog about. It’s about baseball.
Just some thoughts about the post season. My favorite teams, Cubs and Mariners, couldn’t have been any further from championship action in the post season. So i play silly games with myself to find a favorite to root for. A lot of times i just go for the home team (they, the ones in the white uniforms). That way i’m rooting right along with about 40,000 fans. A little more fun maybe than being with the grey uniforms and having only a smattering of fans in the TV joining in on the noise generated by a home run, or a bang-bang play, or a spectacular catch.
But it just doesn’t matter all that much. Growing up in a minor league town (Portland), it’s a bit of a stretch to go all out for a team in the “bigs.” But when cable TV came to town in the early 80′s, with it came the Cubs and the Braves on those superstations. Somehow i gravitated to the cute little Cubbies. Couldn’t abide Atlanta with their offensive tomahawk chop and accompanying chant. . And since Harry Carey died and Steve Stone went to announce for the White Sox, and Andre Dawson and Ryne Sandberg have retired, i haven’t really been able to sustain the Cubby interest.
So tonight i’m watching the NLCS game. St. Louis vs the SanFrancisco Giants. I broke my own rule by rooting for the Giants, even though the game was in St. Louis. How could you not love SanFrancisco? But one thing i noticed, and this techniqe seems little used in the Big Leagues yet. I love the way the center field camera is positioned, and maybe it’s the kind of lens used, that makes the distance between the mound and the batter seem more real. The depth factor is more realistic and give you a truer sense of just how fast that ball is moving.
Ever since they started broadcasting baseball in the mid 50′s, the center field camera was the main eye for seeing the pitcher, catcher, batter and umpire. And for some technical reason that maybe someone in the business (TV business, that is) could explain to me, it always looked like the pitcher was only a few feet away from the batter. Maybe the lens, maybe the camera angle, but it had the effect of making the ball seem like it was just floating up, taking it’s oh so sweet time to get to the batter.
I would look at the pitches and say to myself, “hey, i could hit that!” Well now, it seems that a few
ballparks have set things up for the more realistic camera view of the “battery” (baseball talk for the pitcher/catcher combination). I really like that because it gives a more true-to-life image of just how dangerous it can be to stand in there and face major league pitching. George Will, the political pundit and baseball aficionado talked about this in his book Men At Work. He makes the point that fear is a component in baseball to a degree that it is in no other sport.
Standing in the batter’s box waiting for a 90+mph fastball that could actually kill a man, must be unnerving, to say the least. Miraculously, only one player in major league history has ever died from being hit by a pitch. He was Ray Chapman of the Cleveland Indians who was hit in a game with the New York Yankees in 1920 and died 12 hours later. But there have been many cases of players hit by pitches suffering severe head injury, and permanent damage.
So have you noticed how the arc of my blog has gone from a cheery little fluff piece about the Great American Pastime to a depressing story of how you don’t ever want to get hit by a baseball traveling at 95mph? Because..brain damage!
Anyway, go Giants. I think either the Giants or Cardinals will have their hands full going up against the Detroit Tigers, who just did knock out the great New York Yankees in 4 straight.