As a kid, there was always some great music playing on the radio and I got to appreciate a lot of jazz and commit those melodies to memory even more than my parents. I followed the trends in music and became interested in only rock music for a number of years, but when someone played for me Coltrane’s “Favorite Things”, it rekindled an appreciation for Jazz music. It also helped that one of my favorite singers, Joni Mitchell stopped just singing folk and light rock and entered the world of jazz.
On September 11, 2001 I was living in Maspeth, a small section of Queens New York that had a great view of the Manhattan skyline. The minute the North Tower was hit my friend called me and told me to turn on the news. I told him I was watching something and would turn it on in a few minutes and I knew that at one time the Empire State Building was hit and it didn’t cause any major damage. When my favorite morning show paused for commercial break, I flipped on the news and was shocked to see how much smoke was billowing out of the Tower; it was but a few moments later that the second plane was visible and crashing into the South Tower. Now, there was no doubt that this was no accident and I rushed down my street and over one block. I was now standing next to an overpass of the Long Island Expressway and the entire New York Skyline was visible, from the tip of Manhattan to beyond the Citicorp Building on 53rd street.
“Have I been living under a rock” – that was my first thought 8 ½ years ago, when I was flipping channels and saw a guy sitting down to play a beat up guitar; within a few seconds my jaw dropped, because the guitarist Tommy Emmanuel was “a force of nature”. If you have never seen Tommy or at the very least heard him, you should correct that immediately.
The CBS plaza has never drawn as many as NBC, probably because there are so many things to see at Rockefeller Center, but it was a place I enjoyed visiting often when I lived in New York. One afternoon, I was sitting at the far end of the plaza and I spotted Katarina Witt leaving CBS with a friend and she happened to look over in my direction and although I never met her before, somehow I took the initiative and I shrugged my shoulders as if to say “what are you doing here”; somehow as silly as it may seem, Katarina and her friend turned around and walked all the way over to me.
Sometimes, you get a surprising musical boost from a direction that you would never expect to. That’s what I got a week ago and in both its cuteness and innocence, it puts a real smile on my face. I actually received 2 links, one to a Japanese movie with sub-titles; it’s all about these girls that inadvertently poison the food of the band members in their High School Band.
While the band needs a while to recuperate, the girls begin to learn the instruments to fill in for the Band, but of course no one learns how to play within a week or two. However, these girls have talent and within a relatively short time, they get good enough to enter a contest against other school bands. It’s a fun movie with some really quirky and amusing parts. If you want to see “Swing Girls”, it is in 11 parts on youTube.
In the summer of 2002, I was walking in Washington Square and I stopped and turned because I heard someone playing the guitar unlike anyone else I’d ever heard in the Park. I sat down for what I expected would be 15 minutes; it was 6 hours later that I finally got up and left, but not without getting to talk to Scott and ask if he played there regularly. I was surprised to find out that Scott had been playing there for a few years and somehow I had been coming at the wrong time and missed him. I made sure I changed my schedule for when I came to Washington Square.
I’ve mentioned in several of my postings that I drove Joe Pass around quite a bit when he was visiting the New York area or wanted to go some place near New York. Well, he was part of Oscar Peterson’s band on and off for a few years and I would pick up Joe and sometimes some of the other players in the band, just not Oscar himself. The other musicians were Martin Drew and Niels Henning-Orsted Pedersen.
One day when I was driving the guys from uptown to the Blue Note in NYC, I asked what major difference was there between Ron Carter and Ray Brown; the guys laughed at my ignorance and gave me their views. From what I got out of that was that Ron Carter added color to a song, but Ray Brown was such a power house that when he played, Marching bands formed and never missed a step. Niels said “Ray Brown is so precise, you could set your watch by him” and then in stereo they all said at once “And we often do!”
These guys always showed appreciation for other players that earned that respect. One day when the guys were playing the Blue Note, just before going on, someone was close to the window and noticed Toots Thielemans down the street and they jumped from their seats to welcome him. They greeted Toots and walked him inside. You could tell the mutual admiration these guys had for Toots and for each other.
Joe Pass, Martin Drew and Niels Henning-Orsted Pedersen were all class acts and each could be called a musician’s musician.
You can learn more about jazz, see pictures or take quizzes at Jazzipedia. The jazz site that’s growing!
I was fortunate enough to hang out with Joe Pass for close to a dozen years. When he was in New York, I was one of a few people that Joe would meet up with, have lunch with, and would look to get a ride from to his gig. Whether or not I drove Joe or someone else did, he put all our names on the guest list; Joe was extremely generous that way! So, we often were regular guests at Fat Tuesdays or a few years later at the Blue Note.
One night when Joe was playing a solo gig, my former guitar teacher, Leni Stern came to hear Joe. Leni has been called “Little Pat Metheny”, because of her tone as well as her picking style. Leni stayed till the end of the second show and till Joe was packing up his guitar. I was giving Joe his ride uptown that night and so I asked Leni , since she was on the way, if she wanted a ride as well.
Leni Stern was not only an excellent guitarist and writer, but she was also married to the gifted, silky smooth and blindingly speedy jazz guitarist, Mike Stern. As we drove uptown, Leni said to Joe that he should come over for breakfast the next morning and then have some fun playing with her husband, Mike. Leni felt that she convinced Joe and said, “see you tomorrow” as she got out of the car.
As I started to drive off, Joe looked at me and said, “You know I’m not going tomorrow, don’t you?” Actually, I didn’t know that at all; I asked him why he didn’t want to go. Joe had gotten so used to hot shot players wanting to jam with him and for the most part, he didn’t have fun at all. Fortunately, I knew Mike just enough to have heard him play a number of times at the 55 Bar in Greenwich Village, I had seen Mike when he was a member of Miles Davis’ band and also, I had been told by Leni, that Mike had transcribed many of Joe’s solo’s by hand and learned how to play them. So, Mike not only had his own style, but he was totally familiar with Joe’s and I told Joe what I had known and that he should go, because in my opinion, he was going to have a great time.
The next night I heard that Joe indeed had gone to visit the Sterns and brought the Bagels and Cream Cheese and played for quite a while with Mike. He told me that he had a great time!
It is disappointing that I wasn’t there to hear Joe and Mike that day, but it was satisfying to know that I said something that made for a memorable musical time to two people that I admired. I did help another excellent guitarist, Emily Remler get to the Blue Note one day and jam with Joe, but that of course is another story.
To get familiar with both of their styles, here are links to each of them:
Over the years, I’ve been privileged to have either seen or met many celebrities. I was always happy to meet a celebrity, it never made me feel uncomfortable or at a loss for words; never that is until I saw the one man that had been “The Voice of Reason”, considered for a long time as “The Most Trusted Man in America.” Here he was standing right in front of my workplace. I walked right up and said are you…and then it hit, I had a brain freeze, but this bigger than life man, in his booming voice said “Yes, I am.” It was Walter Cronkite.
Yes, here was the man that made the news come to life, yet had to bear the burden of John Kennedy’s death to a nation; this was the man who shared his joy with this country when it came to the landing on the moon. It was funny to me that I should see him standing in front of my workplace on 52nd street, because I had been a courier for my uncle, often delivering to CBS 60 Minutes. ’60 Minutes’ was my uncle’s biggest client and I always kept my eyes open for Walter at his own office building, but of course I never saw him there.
My uncle produced a map that was used by all three major TV stations. This map was put to use when Astronaut Alan Shepard made his flight around the earth. Mr. Cronkite was in Florida in 1961 for the launch of Alan Shepard and since my uncle was working with the reporters and hanging around for several months while that flight was delayed several times. My Uncle Ed got to spend some time with Mr. Cronkite, so I took the occasion to remind him of that time.
Our meeting was short, but a memorable one and I can still hear him say, with that powerful voice, “Yes, I am.”
Posted by admin | Posted in Other Writers | Posted on 21-01-2010
One can never know what to expect from progressive rock side projects. Sometimes you hit a golden era in music, such as Bill Bruford’s (King Crimson, Yes) sensational fusion band, “Bruford.” Sometimes, you get a project like Liquid Tension Experiment (Dream Theater, King Crimson) whose fan base is limited to the die-hard fans of the bands it spawned from. Sometimes you get just a halfway decent set of output from musicians you appreciate, as is the case with A Perfect Circle (Tool, Primus), or Les Claypool’s Fearless Flying Frog Brigade, which although decent, doesn’t match the excellence of Les’ beloved brainchild.
There is one thing we can count on. If Allan Holdsworth gets hired, everyone gets excited.
Allan Holdsworth, one of the most underplayed guitar sensations in the world, has teamed up with Terry Bozzio (Frank Zappa), Pat Mastelotto (King Crimson, Mr. Mister), and Tony Levin (King Crimson, Peter Gabriel) for an improvisational tour which began last month.
“So you know, we were [on stage] completely unprepared, and just played whatever came to us. That’s why you probably didn’t get it.”