The Day It All Went Right

Whisperings Radio

Whisperings Radio

July 1st, 2009. To me, this was the day everything went right.  I awake at 6:45 this morning to the alarm on my blackberry (I know, it’s a CrackBerry.  I’m an addict to technology).  Laying in bed, trying to come to, I generally scroll through the emails, tweets & then if I’m really, REALLY procrastinating, I’ll check out the ole Facebook too.

Much to my surprise, my amazement, my astonishment! an email saying that I had been selected as part of the incredible roster of pianist on Whisperings Solo Piano Radio.  David Lanz, David Nevue, Wayne Gratz, I mean C’MON! And THEN, AND THEN I get notice that my new album Set on a Hill was nominated for album of the year!! WHAT! This is before my feet have even hit the floor! And it’s a probably good thing because I would have had to promptly sit down after reading that!

I then proceed with my morning run (with the pooch, Golden Retriever) and then head to a recording session to play on a GREAT singer/songwriter’s new album Jeremy Current.  The guy is killin’! His voice is JUST incredible.  Sitting next to him on the sofa and listening to him, it was very surreal.  No mic, no fancy tricks, nothing.  Just raw voice.  The session goes GREAT (he’s a great guy to work with, do keep your eye out for him in the following months).

And THEN as we’re wrapping the session, I get an email (thank you Mr. Blackberry) from a music supervisor friend of mine at a large, large movie company in a disclosed location.  He needed a loose ‘Bill Evans sound-alike’ of Round Midnight.  A jazz standard.  But needed it to be kind of like Bill Evans, except just kinda dirty, gritty, not really pretty.  And he needed it NOW! I RUSHED over to the piano as the engineer was pulling up a new session and recorded this first take on the fly.  Only because he needed it so quick.

At the upright piano.  This was the first take, the ONLY take.  Honestly, from the moment I got the email to the moment HE got my email back, was probably 7 minutes flat. Give or take half a second on either side you prefer. It was just a blast to try to be the first one that responded out of the other 30 that got the email.  There’s mistakes, I wasn’t trying to be perfect.  A cross of Bill & Monk to a degree.  Lord knows I would never try to imitate them.  They’re masters.  But, this is what came out.  So, why not share it!?! –> Round Midnight <–Click here if you want to hear it.  I mean, you don’t HAVE to if you don’t WANT to. No idea if it’ll ever be used.  It really matters not.  I just had a blast with the quick experience.

And then (finally) the house that my wife & I have wanted to rent didn’t want our dog (a big ole mean Golden Retriever.  We all know how vicious those dogs are! Lol).  So, I made one more pley and they AGREED! C’MON! I was just grateful for all of the amazing opportunities that I had been blessed with that day.  It’s like God was saying “you know, I love you and today is going to be your day.  Even though I made it.” and He did.  God just blessed me so richly today it was amazing.  I just had to share it. Tomorrow……who knows.  I think I’ll go to bed early just to see!

cheers

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5 Dream Gigs

On tour w/Julio Iglesias

On tour w/Julio Iglesias

Every musician/artist has their own mindset of what they would like to be doing or perhaps where they would like to be.  For some, it happens right outta the womb.  Maybe their parents were really known in the music industry and it was simply inherited.  Or, there are those who struggle their entire life and finally get there break say…around 5o.  It wasn’t until Sting was 30 before receiving his first Grammy.  Prior to that, he was a school teacher but always knew music was his heart.

I’ve loved every moment of my piano trio experiences.  Al & Zack are absolutely the greatest musicians and even more so friends.  Plus, the experience of recording a solo piano album with Will Ackerman and Corin Nelsen is something I’ll never forget and hope to do again very soon.  And of course, performing behind Julio Iglesias in front of thousands and thousands of people was a highlight to experience.

Sometimes, it’s not about carrying your own name or seeing yourself in the spotlights.  The simple reward is to sit on the stage with a group and just share each one’s talent.  So, in doing so here is my list of my top five dream gigs.  Gigs that I would truly love to sit on the stage and play with.  Where each individual brings their one part to make a whole.  So, if you know anyone 😉 …….

1. James Taylor – I know, I know.  Kind of odd, I know.  In high school a friend turned me onto his music and I knew that was the first gig I ever really wanted.  I even told him that once.  I was taking a class from Livingston Taylor and James walks in one day.  “I’m going to play with you some day.” I told him.  This was when the legendary Don Grolnick was still alive and playing with him.  So, my chances weren’t the best at the time (to say the least).  He smiled, nodded his head and said what any professional has probably said a million times over “I’m looking forward to it.” A very kind, respectful way of saying “uh……who are you?”. Lol.  I respect that.

2. Peter Gabriel – Really? Really? Do I NEED to explain why? Go do your homework!

3. Alison Krauss – I was first hooked on Alison from love at first note.  Everytime You Say Goodbye (1992) was the album.  Her voice haunting, chilling, plus she is  ridiculous on the fiddle (country for violin).  As with all of these artist that I’m mentioning, it’s all about one thing.  The song.  Not the art of the virtuoso, or the art of entertainment, but the most.  A good song, is a good song.  And Alison, has always been one to craft a good song.  Regardless if she inked it or not.  What I would give to play on stage with her.

4. Van Morrison – Everyone likes Van Morrison.  I mean, c’mon it’s Van Morrison.  I’ve always liked him, at an arms reach.  However I’ve never been enthralled with the guy.  Great talent, amazing writer.  But it wasn’t until I saw a rebroadcast of his performance on Austin City Limits that made me say “Wow, that would be so much fun.” Didn’t dance, didn’t have to be dramatic, just closed his eyes and owned the room.  His band was great and everyone stayed exactly where they needed to, together and in the pocket.  No one out shined the other, and no one really cared if they did or didn’t.  Again, it was about the music.  The foundation of a really good song.  His rendition of “I Can’t Stop Loving You” gave me chills. The show aired November 11th, 2006 if you wanna try to find it on youtube or something.

5. Michael Jackson – In light of his recent passing, I know that it sounds like I’m jumping on the wagon.  But the fact of the matter is, I’ve been on the Jackson train for a long time.  So, nay I say to you!!  I’ll never forget the night when HBO broadcasted Live from Bucharest: The Dangerous Tour.  It was 1992.  I was at Ricky Rodriquez’s house.  Everyone else seemed to be outside hanging out, and I couldn’t pull myself away from what I was watching.  It was spectacular!  With the design of the stage, the musicians were pretty much in the back so they were relatively out of view.  Giving the full stage to Michael, his dancers and most importantly the spotlight on energy.  Everything was so “on”.  Each note, each movement, it was like watching a Russian ballet almost.  Without the pink dancing slippers.  I was later reading an article in Keyboard magazing at the time with his keyboardist(s) and I just remember “They must be some bada** players” And from that point on, I became a fan. Not as much of him as a person, but as a musician.  I didn’t necessarily want to have the gig with Michael because it was Michael, but because his band was so ridiculous, so above the par.  They were the creme, and that’s what I’ve always wanted to be.  It was more of a dream to perform at that level in my mind, instead of just being a musician in some band of a unique talent.  We’ll miss him.  The the impact that he placed on everyone has been evident of the celebration of his music.  I wonder what his band is up to now?

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Charlotte Talks Radio Interview/Link

Mike Collins of WFAE

Mike Collins of WFAE

I had the great opportunity to appear on WFAE’s Charlotte Talks this morning.  The show is hosted by Charlotte’s staple Mike Collins who has been an amazing asset to the city.  Although I sincerely enjoyed the interview and being on the radio with him, it was the time spent away from the microphone that I enjoyed the most.  Regardless of which town you reside, there are more people with great talent sitting next to you than you realize.  Almost weekly I’m learning that not everyone with exceptional skill only reside in nyc or la.  And although I miss the crazy hub-bub of the city, there is a quality of clarity to the medium pace.  Of sitting still and hearing your heart.  The old adage of less being more can ring ever so true. As long as apathy doesn’t mapquest your address.

I found that exceptional talent in Mike Collins.  And I am ever so grateful to have sat under his influence for the hour.  I hope Charlotte is happy to have him.

You can listen to the interview by clicking _–> here <– See you Sunday at the Jazz Vesper.  6pm, free jazz, free coffee, free joy. Click on my “Live” link for info. Cheerio.

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My Top 5 for May

So here are the top 5 of what I’m listening to this month, the merry month of May.  Shoot me an email & let me know what you think.  OR, your favorite five of the month.  I always love finding new music.

Sigur Rós - Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust

Sigur Rós - Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust

I’ve been a fan of Sigur Rós for a long time. Every new album continues to show what an amazing ‘group’ they are.  Track 7, I could literally listen to 1,000 times.

The Bad Plus - Prog

The Bad Plus - Prog

This is actually the only Bad Plus album that I have ever owned. I’ve always known they were a ground breaking band, not to mention just stupid crazy good musicians.  I didn’t want to be influenced by their sound (so unique) while I was writing for the trio.  But with this album, I just can’t seem to put it down.  Some really amazing playing!!

Cleveland Quartet - Beethoven String Quartets Opus 18 Numbers 1,2,3

Cleveland Quartet - Beethoven String Quartets Opus 18 Numbers 1,2,3

I love Beethoven. His harmonic structure has always been so inspiring. I found this album at the local library and have just fallen in love with it. I find that listening to four part harmonies is just mesmerizing in how each voice can create such harmonies mastery (when done right, of course).

Joshua Redman - Compass

Joshua Redman - Compass

Whenever I want to write, I listen to 2 things. Classical & Joshua Redman. I can’t put a finger on the latter but I also become so centered in writing after focusing on Joshua’s albums. He breaks the mold by having 2 drummers & 2 bass players on many tracks. Brilliant!

Modest Mouse - We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank

Modest Mouse - We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank

Man I love this album! I know it’s been out for a while. So what!? I wore the previous MM album out, and when this when came out it hasn’t left either the iPod or the disc changer. So raw and just full of energy. I could probably listen to Dashboard a million times over!

Well, there ya have it.  My top 5 of what I am listening to for May.  I’d be curious to hear what you think. Not to mention, I’m ALWAYS open to suggestions to new music.

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Jeff Buckley Gives Me Chills

Jeff Buckley

Jeff Buckley

I like coffee.  Love wine.  A self-proclaimed wine ‘enjoyer’.  I would say connoisseur but thats such a word that….well, connoisseurs use.  So pooy on that.  As with everything in life I still have a lot to learn.  But, that comes with living.  So why anyone would consider themselves a connoisseur of anything is puzzling to me.  And if I WERE to be a connoisseur of something, wouldn’t you want it to be something bizarrely interesting like duct-tape art, or scouring yard-sales for that perfect grizzly bear?  “I remember a stoop-sale in ’98 over by Park Slope.  A grizzly the size of…well, a GRIZZLY!  No idea where they had put it in their studio apartment the thing was so big! Darn near had it ‘til some little brat wanted it for his birthday. What the heck is a 9 year old gonna do with a stuffed grizzly!?!? Sigh, the one that got away.”  (Ok, that never happened. Just so we’re clear.  That NEVER happened.  Besides, what 9 year old….or 34 year old for that matter, doesn’t want a big ole grizzly bear in his living room?). Where was I going with this blahg?

Oh ya, coffee.  I do a lot of work in coffee shops.  I have wifi at home, a great back porch overlooking woods, huge ferns hanging from the porch that I am UBER proud of (lots and lots of water people, though my wife isn’t so convinced) and a golden retriever at my feet.  But there is something about coffee shops that I enjoy.  A lot of it has to deal with the random selection of music that they play.  Some good, some not so much. But like now, Waltz for Debby by Bill Evans just came on.  I have this album, but would have never thought to play it in the background on the porch.  I’m a huge Bill Evans fan, but with all the music I have at home, who knows what to play anymore.  Maybe that’s why I’m here, to rid myself of the daunting responsibility in what to listen to.

Occasionally a song comes on that just stops me completely.  One of them was a Jeff Buckley song ‘Lilac Wine’.  I had to stop what I was doing and just listen.  I’ve had this album, Grace, for years.  Know every lyric and beat of it.  And even after hearing it a zillion times, I still get almost weepy when I hear his voice. There is something about Jeff Buckley that is so sincere.  So raw, unadulterated ‘here it is, take it or leave it’ mindset.  He never tried to be anyone but himself.  Sure, he had influences just like all other musicians.  But instead of trying to sound like any of them, he gives a nod as to say “I learned this from you, but I’m not trying to be you.” In jazz, there are many ways of learning the language.  Some people are adamant in transcribing solos of the fathers of jazz, while some strongly say to create your own voice. Either way, there comes of time of finding your own voice.  It’s a life long pursuit and can either be freeing or a ball and chain in trying to find it.  But Buckley, he found it early on in my opinion.

There is another singer who is well known that released an album few years back with a song imitating Buckley’s voice to great degree.  I then read an article about his recording this song and the similarity of the voices.  To sum it up, the artist said during the recording he felt his singing was that of Buckley and was proud how the song turned out.  I’ve never liked said artist since.  Maybe this artist is a great singer, maybe not.  But to compare his-self to that of Jeff Buckley is blasphemy in my book.  How about saying “You know, Buckley had a really big influence on me and I wanted to pay my respect.” Not, “Ya, I can do Buckley.” (Sonny Clark’s Softly as a Morning Sunrise just came on.  Great piano solo.  Paul Chambers & Philly Joe Jones).

Instead of rambling on as I have, I’m going to create my next blahg of what songs give me chills.  Stay posted, I’ll do my best to get this up soon.

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Chad Lawson Trio XM/Sirius Radio

I love XM radio.  I got it as a gift goodness…..back in 2004? 2003? It was right when they came out.  The BIG decision was trying to decide if I should do XM or Sirius.  Today, they make it easy on you.  They’re now one. Yippee!

I received an email this morning from the producer of the Bob Edward Show hosted on XM/Sirius.  You can also hear the show on the weekends on most NPR radio stations.  At least, I hear it here in Charlotte, NC.

Imagine my surprise when the email said that Past Reference (Unforeseen by Chad Lawson Trio) was going to be used today on a feature of Arthur Phillip’s latest novel The Song is You. Now I wish that I could say that I was a huge fan or Mr. Phillip’s creative works.  How he’ll woo and dictate imagery only rivaled by the greatest Kandinsky paintings.  But, I can’t.  However I will find the book though (Humm…last blog…library….).  The producer wanted to create an identity, if you will, with a character by the name of Dean Villerman.  “It sounds like the kind of song The Dean Villerman Trio might play, if the musician wasn’t fictitious.” the producer of the program states.  Thanks Chad! (ahem….that’s HIS name, I’m not merely talking to myself.  And even if I were, would I really write about it here on my blahg?”)

All this to say, you can read Chad’s blog at the Bob Edwards Radio blog site here (<— click that word).  If you like it, email Chad and tell him thanks.  I have.  Cheers.

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The Jazz Ear

I venture to the local library relatively often to see what cds they have to offer the tax payer’s pleasure.  Sometimes it’s a hit, sometimes it’s a miss.  The great thing is picking up something completely random that you know nothing about it, liking it, then digging deeper into the artist’s repertoire.  And if it’s a miss, well the only cost was that of getting to the library & maybe 20 minutes of your time.  So, no hard loss for the most part. Besides, who doesn’t like to walk through the library.  I mean, you just FEEL intelligent, right?

The other day I was there and must confess I really don’t look to often at the book category (yes, I realize it’s a library we’re talking about here).  But on my way to the selections of a collection of Traditional Irish Jigs or perhaps the only remaining copy of George Duke’s 1976 Solo Keyboard Album (actual title fyi), a book caught my eye. The Jazz Ear, Conversations Over Music. It was written by Ben Ratliff who has been the jazz critic at The New York Times since ’96 and has also written other books about Coltrane, so on and so forth.  I flipped through the book and surprisingly took a great interest in it.  Although I am an avid reader, I’ve never been the biggest fan of those who claim to be as a ‘critic’.  Can one person REALLY speak for all in terms of personal selection?

Anyway, To sum it up, he sat down with 15 individual artist and asked to listen to 5 of their favorite picks of music.  The book opens with his time with Wayne Shorter, then on to Pat Metheny and then everyone from Andrew Hill to Maria Schneider, Branford, etc.  It’s a phenomenal read because it’s basically seeing what inspires these great talents and makes them tick.  How they not only approach music, but even how they listen to, or in some cases not listen to anything.  It’s especially fascinating to learn the influences of these artist are nothing I would have ever imagined.  Again, some really beautiful words of wisdom for any musician or any person that loves the arts.

If you have the time, stop by and pick it up from your library.  Some amazing words of wisdom from these artist.

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