Monday, December 14, 2009
A Republican in sheep's clothing
Speaking of Republicans, did you know that Joe Lieberman's wife works as a lobbyist for medical insurance companies? WTF?! Why does Harry Reid and his cohorts put up with him. They should strip him of his committees before they are not in a position to do so. (appx 1 year from now if math serves)
Posted at 09:12 pm by commish
Friday, December 11, 2009
The pinnacle (possibly of western civilization) is a record called Only The Lonely. It was made at the height of his career in the mid 50s and he's at the peak of his talent. It was the first concept album - it's all ballads, heavily orchestrated around the theme of lost love. He would repeat this formula with less success with Come Fly With Me. Come Dance With Me and others, although that is like saying a BMW is not as good as a Porsche.
Some words about those that arranged for him. Nelson Riddle, who did Only the Lonely, among many others, was one of the greatest arrangers ever and his sound, combined with Sinatra's basically changed the way that people listened to music, or at least it raised the bar to an extremely high level. This kind of symbiotic relationship between arrnanger (sometimes composer, as in Jimmy Van Huesen) and vocalist had never existed before and it made the Sinatra lexicon special, separating him from the ancillary big-band singers who were mere components of a larger group with no real power. I really believe it was an alignment of the stars between singer, arranger/composer, and musicians that made these records so great -- not just Sinatra.
Posted at 09:19 am by commish
I enjoyed playing tonight. Sometimes with a steady, especially one with a singer, I get into ruts, but today everything seemed light and fresh.
I wanted to ask what do you all think of Sinatra? Most people of our generation only remember him from his tuxedo-wearing, larger than life, arena appearances of his last 2 decades. The kind they would parody on SNL. If you listen to the stuff from the 40s, and especially 50s and 60s you hear an original artist whose concept of phrasing is practically unequalled. The way he sings a ballad -- it's romantic, but more than that there is a kind of vulnerability mixed with raw sexuality. He makes you believe in the song and he makes you feel for him. when you think of it there's a kind of genius in that because think of the man -- he was a powerful man who associated with mobsters, liked to drink and carry on and he was not what you think of as a sensitive guy. Anyhow I'm curious because there is this dichotomy in him that I find fascinating.
Posted at 01:16 am by commish
Wednesday, December 09, 2009
In 2006 the Detroit Tigers won the wildcard and went on to lose to the St Louis Cardinals in the World Series. This was an incredible turnaround from 2005 when they finished 72-90. In 2003 they almost set the record for worst MLB season ever finishing at 43-119. Part of me pities the Yankee fan who will never know that kind of jubilation. Their joy is contrived and they will always have rat bastard Giuliani in the front row with his shit-eating grin as God Bless America plays in perpetuity during the joyless 7th inning stretch.
Posted at 11:42 am by commish
Busy day in the Northeast
I drove to Connecticut to drop off some computers to my brother-in-laws office. Then I came back down and taught two home-schooled Larchmont kids (westchester) piano lessons. Then I drove across Westchester to Yonkers for my regular after-school piano teaching, after which I went back across Westchester and down to the Bronx to visit my best friend. We watched a great documentary on the Baroness Panonica who was a jazz aficionado and took care of Thelonious Monk late in his life when he was sick. Now I'm back in Queens.
Posted at 12:41 am by commish
Tuesday, December 08, 2009
Tonight I watched the movie version of Gypsy starring Rosalind Russell, Karl Malden, and a young Natalie Wood. It wasn't that good of a film -- bloated and overdone -- but the music is outstanding. Julie Styne wrote the music and Steven Sondheim did the lyrics. You may recall that Sondheim also wrote the lyrics to West Side Story. Soon after he would go on to write musicals of his own.
My father has told me about seeing the original cast on Broadway with Ethel Merman and the way he described it it sounded spectacular. I wish I could have seen that. I have seen youtube videos of Merman singing "Some People" and believe me it is incredible. I have the utmost respect for Merman's singing even though she is a far cry from the jazz singers that I listen to. (Dinah Washington, Billie Holiday, Nancy Wilson) She has a natural way of phrasing and of course the built-in megaphone of a voice.
Nevertheless, when you watch a musical, be it a great film such as Oklahoma or the Sound of Music, or flawed efforts such as Guys and Dolls, Carousel, and Gypsy (the films, not the shows) you are going to hear great melodies. Melodies that are so sweet and lyrical that you may cry. I defy you to listen to If I Loved You and hold back the waterworks.
Posted at 12:34 am by commish
Monday, December 07, 2009
Coming back from walking the dog there as a guy coming out the building with a pit bull mix. I could see he was reticent about the dogs passing close to each other so I stepped back so that he could pass. As he passed my dog suddenly broke free and rushed at his dog. I screamed her name and she came back to me but before I could grab the leash she rushed back at the other dog. The guy said "why don't you pick up the leash?" As I was able to grab my dog's leash I screamed at him "Don't you think I would have picked up the leash if I could?!"
Him: Fuck you.
Me: Fuck you
Him: Fuckin' midget
Posted at 01:00 am by commish
Sunday, December 06, 2009
I played the first Christmas gig of the season tonight -- a house party on Long Island. We as musicians have this oddity -- a December repertoir. It's like unpacking this songs out of mothballs. You have to get the dust off of them on that first gig and then you're good to go. Do I like Chestnuts in Eb or F? Where does Let It Snow go on the bridge again? What's that good Charlie Brown song again? Oh yeah, it's Christmas Time is Here. Or is it Wintertime is Here?
Now these tunes are good to go and for the next two and a half weeks we'll be running them into the ground. Then we'll pack them away for another 11 months.
Posted at 01:56 am by commish
Thursday, December 03, 2009
It's amazing the situation Obama finds himself in with regard to the 'war on terror.' If he pulls out of Afghanistan he will be lambasted for the 'cut and run.' If he doubles down with 100,000 troops he's repeating the mistake of Vietnam and alienating his base. So he takes the middle ground -- splits the difference -- with 30,000 troops and a supposed withdrawal date. This effectively pleases nobody. He is still getting lambasted from the right for allowing the Taliban to lay low until we leave. Left wingers such as myself are appalled at the meaningless loss of life and resources over a war we can't hope to win.
This is the genius of Bush/Cheney/Rove's decision to perpetrate an illegal and needless war against Iraq. They knew we would never leave. All they needed from it was to inspire enough jingoism to win them one election in 2004, which it did, After they won the election there was no incentive to get out. Why would they? Look what they left their predecessor. Now the Repubs can effectively campaign against a weakened Obama presidency in 2012.
Simple, yet diabolic.
Posted at 12:34 pm by commish
Wednesday, December 02, 2009
Why there can never be a cost of living increase in jazz.
A warm welcome and a hearty g'day to ya. Crack open a kangaroo beer, put a shrimp on the barbie and...wait, I just remembered -- I'm not Australian. So you found your way here to this blog and by now you're probably wondering, where the hell is the content? What did you expect, pole dances? I'm working on it! Give me time. I'm a pianist, not a blogger, damnit! Did I just curse? We'll edit that out.
What's the deal with musician's salaries? We haven't received a cost of living increase since the beginning of the 20th century. (thank you, TR!) The few times I have had the nerve to ask a club owner for a raise I've been made to feel like Oliver Twist. More?!!
My favorite was 25 years ago - I had this gig in the East Village -- the place was called Princess Pamela's Little Kitchen. Pamela weighed in at about 250 and was a surly blues singer who verbally abused her customers, but since it was the '80s the yuppies who came there loved it. They were like, "Thank you maam, may I have another?"
But I digress. The gig paid $20.00 but since it was 1985 that actually paid for 21 rides on the MTA. I had recently moved to Brooklyn and the commute was considerably longer so I had this idea to ask for a raise. A $5.00 raise. I had to go through channels and I asked the bass player, who was the boyfriend of Pamela. "Let me get back to you on that," he told me after our gig.
Three days later I get a call from him: "We're not working this week." In reality however, it was just me who was not working. That was how they fired me!
But I have since gone on to bigger and better pastures, increasing my average salary by as much as five fold. What a country!
That's it for post number one. Leave me a comment and let me know you're out there and in return I'll keep on supplying you with scintillating content. Good day
Posted at 05:32 pm by commish