Smoke and Mirrors

In a perfect world . . .

Category: piano

Dreams Redux*

I’ve listened to Robert Glasper for many years. (hip hop, jazz, r&b, rap)
This tune caught my eye/ears for many reasons.
Reharmonization and arrangement, piano (obviously)
Reeves is amazing with her vocal.
Put on some decent phones and LISTEN.
And come see me play this with my duo, NightCap. (with Lisa Wilson Brumby)
It’s going to be a musically unforgettable experience.

Chill 7:40

Grab a coffee, English Breakfast tea, Chai, cognac, scotch, bourbon, water and maybe a smoke,
all depending on where you are in the world of time zones.
Plug in some decent headphones and give yourself 7:40 minutes to just . . .
This is ‘Both Sides Now’,  Herbie Hancock from River: The Joni Letters
Hancock is and has been a jazz piano God to me.
And believe it or not he is 70 years old. (born in 1940)
At any rate, get a drink, perhaps a smoke and just
for 7:40 . . .
Your brain will thank me.
This is musical/cerebral Zen at its finest.


I began reading the new Natalie Goldberg book  ‘Old Friend from Far Away’ a few days ago.
It’s a book custom-tailored for writers of memoir.
So far the book is quite good (like all of her books).
Page 14 has a prompt that I’ve decided to turn into a post.
The chapter is quite short:

Tell me what you will miss when you die.

When I die there will be many things that I will miss.
This list went on for quite a few pages but I’ve chosen an abbreviated version for your perusal.
If I included food you’d be here for a few days.
I mostly chose things from the category ‘matters of the heart’.
Feel free to steal this as a ‘meme’.
For you writers visiting, it’s a wonderful exercise. Do it.
Even if you don’t consider yourself a writer, it’s worth your time.
You can look at some of the things that really make your life worthwhile.
Here I go.

I will miss:

-Whispers in the dark
-Pamela’s eyes, voice, face and beautiful soul
-hearing the phrase, “I love you, Daddy,” whispered in my ear
-my three beautiful girls
-the sound of little footsteps coming down the stairs on Christmas morning
-my sister, my twin, the other part of my very soul
-Caitlin’s smile
-Ryan’s loveable way (and awesome jumpshot)
-Billy’s laugh
-All the people I truly love (if I’ve talked to you in the past year, consider yourself on this list)
-a warm and gentle rain
-the silent beauty of falling snow (yeah, I wrote that)
-the sound of surf at the Cape
-the smell of freshly cut grass in late spring
-stars (especially the constellation Orion, someday possibly the Southern Cross)
-my cats purring
-Cuban cigars
-Guinness (or any fairly decent dark beer like Porter or Stout)
-Makers’ Mark
-writing with a nice fountain pen on some fine quality paper
-the feeling of creating
-entering ‘the Zone’  (artists of all kinds know about this one)
-music (playing and listening)
-my piano
-weekend phone calls to a country far, far away with two incredibly special people
-memories of the Camp
-the aroma of an apple pie baked by my grandmother from summer’s long ago
-Blue Cheese
-Bill Hicks, Denis Leary, Sam Kinnison, George Carlin, Lewis Black and Dave Chapelle
-most importantly, my blog

And yes, I will dearly miss sex and exceptional breasts.
I’m not a freak.
Truthfully, what will you miss?

transcribing patience

I haven’t been around much for a number of reasons.
The biggest is that I’ve been transcribing a vocal arrangement for my daughter Sarah.
(from a recording I did years ago with my sister, Maureen for her wedding in ’83)
Sarah belongs to an ‘a cappella’ group at her college and wanted to do the version of
“When I fall in love” that I sang many years ago.
It’s an SATB arrangement that divides into six parts in some sections.
Yeah, crazy. But really nice in a Manhattan Transfer kind of way.
I can’t find the sheet music I used so I must use my ears to transcribe this Jazz vocal nightmare.
Truth be told, I’m kind of enjoying it.
It will however keep me from doing too much here for now.
Hope you folks don’t mind.
And I pray these girls want to sing on Sunday night.
If not, Mr. Murphy will not be wearing his slappy-dappy-flappy-happy hat.
(I have no idea what kind of hat that would be, but I’m quite sure it’s outrageously ugly)
Cross your fingers for me, folks.

Dirty City

I’ve been something of a Steve Winwood freak for many years.
Probably has something to do with his use of the Prophet-V synthesizer from my dinosaur days.
(I had one as well. Go HERE to YouTube. The instrument doing that neat solo line is a Pro-V)
Winwood has maintained something of a clean career far away from the major spotlight and sounds as good
today as he did years ago with Traffic, Spencer Davis Group and Blind Faith.
His newest album called “Nine Lives” is simply amazing.
Maybe it’s because the man has taken care of himself.
Winwood plays Hammond B-3 and guitar (with some help from E. Clapton)
I am just so damn impressed by this man that still keeps on creating after all these years.
Had to let you guys know about this incredible album.
Please check it out and check out the video above
‘Dirty City’ is a gritty and intensely memorable song to listen to.
That’s all I got for today but if I can turn one person onto this incredible musician,
the post will have done its job.

later folks,

ps. I would have posted the actual video but embedding was disabled. :0(
If you’d rather watch that CLICK HERE
I actually like this better and it’s only 4 minutes versus 8
Your call.

Heart of the Ballad

A little while ago Teeni posted something called her “Tearjerker Song Meme”.
You were asked to post a song that rocked your world emotionally, or upon hearing it would make you cry.
I thought it was an interesting post and chided her for not tagging me.
I know, I hate being tagged but this one seemed pretty cool.
I found the video below of a singer that you may or may not have heard of.
Her name is Eva Cassidy.
She died in 1996 from melanoma.
Gone far too soon.
I’ve always had an emotional attachment to this song for many reasons that elude me.
Maybe it’s because I accompanied my daughter Sarah on piano when she sang this in the fourth grade.
Or maybe it’s the combination of melody and harmony that moves me so.
That said, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” is just one of those songs for me.
The voice of Eva Cassidy singing this doesn’t make me cry but it does give me goosebumps, my internal tears.
If you want do this little “meme”, please feel free.
Just let me know.
What song does it for you?
(the first person that says, Color my World, will be ridiculed unmercifully) :mrgreen:
Watch out, Eva will just rip your heart out . . .

God Sounds

It was approximately 15 years ago that I felt I’d lost my passion for playing music.
It’s pretty much that simple.
I no longer wanted to play professionally and to be honest I had a tough time convincing many people of my said intentions. I prayed that God would somehow intervene and
place the passion back into my life but for unknown reasons
He had a very different plan for me.
It was around that time that I began writing and in my heart, I embraced it from a purely creative standpoint saying ‘goodbye’ to the musical interlude in my life.
It just felt right at the time.
This post, however, is not about writing but the fact that something happened today that made me intrinsically understand that I haven’t lost my passion for music after all.
It’s just been delicately moved to a very private place.

I was telling someone a story about a night many years ago when I was still gigging.
Looking for something to do on my break, I found a dark and empty function room that was quiet (unlike the loud, shitty disco music they were playing on my break).
In the middle of the room there was a candle of a spotlight shining down on an object that I came to discover was a small grand piano. I sat down and played a few favorite chord changes and my mouth unconsciously uttered the words: Oh, My, God.
This was not your basic grand piano.
This was something special.
This was a Twilight Zone moment.
I looked around for a solitary ‘signpost up ahead’ and just began playing.
I became unaware of time and space and the spinning world I was currently sitting upon.
I was ‘in the creative zone’ while on a 20 minute break from my gig.
After the band finished and everyone was ready to go home, I began heading back into the club.

“Where the hell are you going?” the guitar player asked.

“Back to play that piano,” I said.

“You’re nuts, man. It’s two o’ clock in the morning.”

In I went and sat down.
And I played.
And played.
I was lost somewhere between heaven and the belt of Orion.
My heart was almost breaking the sound was so beautiful.
I remember thinking, ‘this must be how God sounds’.
I had no idea what time it was when a voice from the shadows shattered my musical reverie.

“Hey, kid . . . You sound great but I gotta close up. You hungry?”

He sent me home with a huge container of hummus and a bag of fresh Syrian bread.
I felt blessed in so many ways that night.
And damn, I love Lebanese food.

In telling the story today something unexpected happened: I had goose bumps all over my arms.
My passion for music hadn’t died at all it’s grown deeper.
I’m a bit surprised at just how deep.
If you’re curious about what kind of piano I played, it was a Steinway M, in rosewood.
I should have known.
God must have created the damn piano . . .

Heartbreak Hill

When I was younger I spent most of my summer at a place we called ‘the Camp’, a bare bones — no frills house set on a hill deep in the woods of Boylston, Mass.

From the front porch you could see the ripples of the pond below sparkling in the summer sun; it was a pond we swam in, boated in and fished in (all we ever caught were kivers, pickerels and hornpout, hate them, they always swallowed the hooks).

I remember so many damn things about the place.
There was the musty funk that greeted you on that first visit after the eternal New England winter and there was the exposed wooden beams where my mother would hang wicker baskets and ‘past their prime’ life preservers that had changed from a vibrant orange to a washed out Abercrombie & Fitch melon color.
The old upright piano with real ivory keys and the authentic outhouse with a crescent moon cut lovingly into the door added to the ancient décor of the place. (and we used it)

On the screened-in front porch my twin sister and I slept on military style cots covered with the softest and warmest blankets known to man.
At night, the hundreds of bullfrogs on the pond would serenade us to sleep, their throaty calls drifting up the hill on the invisible fingers of the warm, summer wind.

My sister and I would talk of our secret dreams and hopes, the adolescent ramblings of curious children.
Some nights we even had the same dreams. Maybe that’s how it is with twins.

Most weekends were filled with a gathering of family and friends for an all day cook-out followed by a bonfire in the backyard, my personal signal to take out my guitar and sing a few songs.
I remember learning “Little Green Apples”, by Roger Miller to appease the crowd.
It was such a care free and wonderful time in my life that all but disappeared when the place got sold due to extenuating circumstances beyond my control.

Before it was put on the market I happened to be picking apples with the Pamela and the girls at an orchard that was a stone’s throw away from the place.
We left the orchard and took the turn towards the Camp.
They all knew where I was going.
And I just had to see it one last time.

Walking up the hill I caught a glimpse of the long dormant camp on the hill and my heart did a quick stutter-step and it surprised me.
There were so many sentimental moments locked deep inside this innocuous structure that it frightened me, the sacred ghosts of the past welcoming me back in a way I hadn’t expected.

The mind is a funny thing because the only thing I could think at the time was that my mother and father were so happy and healthy here – this was hallowed ground as far as I was concerned for a multitude of reasons.
I got out of the car and took it all in, every fiber of my being moving back in time towards the warm summers of my yesterdays.

It’s all still here, I thought, swallowing hard.

I was silent as I walked around the perimeter of the Camp soaking in all the weeping details; the chipping paint and overgrown weeds intensifying the loneliness and heartbreak of a place I could no longer call my own.

A part of me wanted to somehow embrace the little boy still inside me but I realized I’d grown far too old and jaded in my ways for that simple courtesy.

I asked Pamela to walk down the hill with the girls.
I couldn’t do this with my girls watching.

I stood on the porch where I’d spent so many star-filled nights dreaming about my up and coming wonderful life and I wept; I wept for a life that had turned out quite differently than I’d expected.
I’d lost so very much but then I thought about how much I actually gained.

What surprised me was that there were possibly more happy tears than sad ones.

The Camp was unexpectedly giving me back a precious gift.

I know that now.

I walked down the hill to the car and gave one more glance up the hill where I saw my mother flitting about watering her flowers in the sun and my father turning burgers on the decaying charcoal grill that he always talked about replacing.

He was drinking a can of Bud and laughing it up with old friends, just like old times.
And they were good.

As the billows of smoke from the grill moved past the front of the Camp, I could almost see the silhouette of a little boy on the porch waving goodbye.
In my heart, the Camp will always be there for me.
I only need to close my eyes and remember.




Tickling Ivory

I’m taking a bit of a blogging rest in order to bone up on an upcoming gig.
I desperately need to play some piano.
Instead of blogging I’ll be working on some Real Book stuff.
I may even work up some Scott Joplin for good measure.
I’ll be posting but not with any regularity for the next few weeks or so.
See all of you on the flipside . . .
I’ll leave you with some classic Bill Evans
{and yeah, I play just like that}



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