2009

Happy New Year Y’all. Well,  it’s been seven months since I’ve posted (see a pattern forming?). Busy, busy. Last summer we finished and put out the Urbansol and Bob Parduhn CDs. Both were well received; I did sound for Urbansol on the last nice Saturday of the year at the Bavarian Club. Initially it seemed a little strange to have a hip-hop/R’n’B band playing in such a “European” surrounding, but producer Damion Thompson had enough vision to look beyond that, and as the sun went down and the lights came up, it was pure soul magic.

The Bob Parduhn  Band split a bill with my band Salt Creek at Linneman’s, always one of the best places to play and see live music in Milwaukee…it was great to see so many of Bob’s friends and fans from over the years come out, and take home a great disc. A good time was had by all.

The Torahpalooza CD is finished, just waiting to unleash it on you all…Shabat Shalom!

I had the Cream City Bluegrass Band in not too long ago. The session went great; the initial demo turned into the first third or half of their upcoming album, the band played well and I am loving! the sound of my new gear.

Well, I’ve been playing a lot more recently…Salt Creek is back in action and even working on new material. We have some shows booked, and an all live CD coming out in April. Due to my foresight and insanity, I dragged out my recording rig to four concerts we played; the CD includes the best tracks from those shows, and there is some seriously burning stuff on there. I’ve also started playing bass with Tim Cook and the Riverwesterners. This is a seriously fun band doing classic honky-tonk standards (Ray Price, Merle Haggard, Hank Williams, etc). Tim Cook is a definitely an original, and is a great frontman. The band really cooks too…it’s half of the Uptown Savages, and Milwaukee legend Tim Taylor killing on the lap steel. This is country from the time when country music was still swingin’. I’ve been playing straight ahead jazz with Ben Hans as well, which is good because I started to get real lazy with my bass playing, and when you’re playing with guys like Ben and Roger Brotherhood, they know right away if you’re faking it-you’ve got to be on your game.

I am teaching a free one month beginning guitar class at Fixx Coffeehouse, in St. Francis. This is designed as an introduction to guitar playing and a way to get people to begin to conquer the physicalities of the instrument. If you’re interested get ahold of me through the contact page on this site.

It’s been a long time, but I’ve started to write again, and finish halfway written songs that have languished for years. Next week I have a solo gig in madison; Chris and Mary of the Stellanovas will be backing me up. I recorded their CD, “Cafe Jazz”, and Chris played in Salt Creek for a year and a half… they’re fantastic and I’m looking forward to the show. It’s part of their Tuesday night series Mad Toast, which will be podcast from WORT. Look for more solo shows around the Milwaukee area in 2009.

…Been a while

Well, I really let this site slide for way to long but I’ve had a lot on my plate. Lots of stuff going on with my kids (the most awesomest in the world), and the studio, which has been BUSY in recent months, not to mention a fair amount of gigging. I just did a great gig last Sunday, a tribute concert featuring Joe Aaron, a great clarinet player (for the last 80 years) still doing 10-20 gigs a month. We did some jazz standards as well as traditional eastern European music. I play upright bass with Joe in Torahpalooza, you should hear him.

Torahpalooza is one of the projects (nearly finished) in the studio right now, it’s turning out great! There’s a lot of playing on this CD, which features reknown Cantor David Barash, ‘Lil Rev on mandolin and harmonica, as well as flute, tenor sax, electric and acoustic guitar, percussion, and a choir on several songs.

Also nearing completion is the debut by Urban Sol, Damion Thompson’s joint. US is a large, super high energy soul/hip-hop band playing ‘real’ instruments (including three horns, 4 singers straight outta church, rappers and poets). This CD is a live recording of a concert done in March, and it’s smokin’! Great playing throughout, this band is definitely from the street, but with a fantastically uplifting message and energy.

Also set for release in June is Bob Parduhn’s latest, which features yours truely on electric bass. Bob led the hugely popular Bones of Contention, and this music is in a similar vein, though a bit less jammy and more textural. This has been a lot of fun to play on as well as produce. Hopefully we’ll do a release party later in the summer when keyboardist Matt Meixner has more time.

Randy Newman…

…might not be an artist you’re familiar with unless you remember the song “Short People” from the 70’s, but you’ve probably heard a lot of his music in movie soundtracks. He combines a piano style derived from early jazz, gospel, and classical music combined with an ironic, character-driven populist approach to lyrics. Listening to Newman it’s evident he loves humanity, but doesn’t close his eyes to our dark side either.

Recently on Prairie Home Companion, Newman, in the context of a song, spoke of how fear has permeated our lives. He referred to FDR’s statement that “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself” and that now it’s patriotic to be afraid. We are supposed to be afraid, and what are we supposed to be afraid of? Terror, another word for fear.

Are fearful people less likely to raise a ruckus about the government listening in on their phone calls, or suspending their rights of Habeus Corpus, or sending their kids to war?

Polar Bears

Well this year I finally did it, and it was exhilarating! I’m speaking, of course, about the annual New Year’s Day tradition of taking a dip in Lake Michigan. My 16 year old nephew Eric and I made the trek down to Bradford Beach to find the roads blocked off from the top of St. Mary’s Hill and the bottom of Lake Park so we had to park about a half mile from the beach, which almost put the kabosh on the thing. I expected there to be dozens of people down there but it was hundreds, maybe a thousand. The official plunge is at noon but due to the parking situation (I had foolishly expected to park in the lot or along Lincoln Memorial Dr.) we were about 25 minutes late. No problem, there we’re still people getting in with and after us and cheering us on!

I’ve had some extended New Years Eves over the years. It is the one night when bars never have to shut down and if you’re dedicated you can put yourself in quite a frame of mind by the morning. This, however, was not one of those years. I knew that we were going to FEEL Lake Michigan. Eric and I had our swimsuits on under lots of clothes, cranked the heater in the car, and jogged halfway to the beach, so when we got there we were pretty warm. On the beach we quickly stripped down, dashed out into waist deep water, dove down fully under, and got the hell out! Toweling off and getting dressed was COLD, and as I shook the water from my hair the tiny droplets were ice, but we never got shivering cold. My feet had a cold burn from standing on the frozen sand but that went away. Quickly we were back in our clothes and feeling good. We checked out some crazy revelers in various stages of undress and intoxication (like a Samurai in just a robe and slippers, icicles in his beard, making sexual jestures with his sword) before making our way back to the car. A stop for some hot chocolate brought us back to full recovery.

 I’m going to do this again next year, but I’ll get down there earlier and bring the hot chocolate with me in a thermos.

Huckabee Speaks His Mind

Politics is above all about winning, and that is why Republicans have been so reluctant to criticize President Bush…keep a united front against the enemy (i.e., Democrats). However, conservatives seem to be awakening to the fact that President Bush is only the current leader of the country, not America itself. At what point does “winning” justify a greater losses for America? 

It was interesting and refreshing this week to see Mike Huckabee level some well placed criticism at the foreign policy of the Bush Administration. If more Republicans  had been willing to publically criticize misguided policies during the last seven years we might not be so far up the creek at the moment. I’m speaking first and foremost about the Iraq War, but also the abandonment of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, Guantanamo, extraordinary rendition and secret prisons, and the new arms race stemming from missles in Eastern Europe.

Americans have become so polarized that there seems to be no place left for critical dissent. Its either “Our guy can do no wrong” or “Your one of them so you have NOTHING to say”. This may be part of a slow collapse of our two party system, a system where the parties more different in style than in substance and neither are looking out for middle class America. It offers no real alternatives to the mess we are in. When calls for change are so easily dismissed who wins?

Sharon Jones

Holy cow!!! You’ve got to see Sharon Jones live! All I can say is I showed up with a bad cold and by the time I left I felt great…In this day and age of performers doing the “soulful thing” (Can’t you see how I’m FEELING it by my histrionic hand and facial expressions and overwrought vibrato?) it’s hard to put in words the energy given off by Jones, who not only has something to say and really seems to need to sing it, but is clearly the real deal. While perhaps not possessing the pipes of Aretha or Patty LaBelle, Jones is more down home and totally for real. She is singing out of her own life experience and would have sounded right at home with Otis Redding on any Memphis soul record.

Jones is also one of the most magnetic performers I’ve ever seen, it’s hard to take your eyes off of her once she hits the stage. Her energy kind of reminds me of James Brown; coincidentally, they both hail from Augusta, GA and in a recent interview Jones said that her mother knew Brown. Clearly they’re both coming out of the same culture and their music reflects this.

To top it off, the Dap Kings, Jones’ back-up band is everything you could possibly want from a soul band. Funky and tight, without sounding slick (in a smooth jazz kind of way) they keep the music coming non-stop, one song segueing into another, going 30 or 40 minutes before breaking. The Dap Kings could have backed James Brown any day of the week.