Dan McKinnon sings

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Instrument abbreviations
(as) - alto sax
(b) - bass
(d) - drums
(f) - flute
(fgh) - flugelhorn
(g) - guitar
(h) - harmonica
(mel) - melodica
(o) - organ
(perc) - percussion
(p) - piano
(ss) - soprano sax
(tb) - trombone
(tr) - trumpet
(ts) - tenor sax
(v) - vocals
(vln) - violin

Saturday, October 9, 2021
We go through our days that begin at morning like unthrown clay upon the potter's wheel, God's wheel, which is already turning when we open our eyes. God adds His surprises and open doors along the day's arc that mix in unexpected ways with the pressure of our thoughts on how the days should go, the tasks and duties and fears, amid some pleasures we hope, a meal or cup of tea as respite for a few moments out of the storm and chaos.

Today we looked at some of Claude Monet's paintings at the soon-departing exhibit at Seattle Art Museum. With transpo, parking, navigating downtown by car and foot, it was a project. It was a most interesting afternoon. I used to work as a METRO bus driver downtown, but the way downtown looks now, the people and conditions mainly, were shocking at times. Walking along 3rd Avenue was like something from a dystopian novel. Groups of mostly young street people in clumps. It looked like some were rotating around drugs consumed and traded. In one alley I saw an old man standing facing away from me, his gray sweatpants pulled down a half foot, exposing his rear end, the pants stained with long brown streaks originating at the seat. A young mixed-race man who also looked like a street person from his clothing and desperation, apparently helping and devoted to the old white man. The poverty and neediness of the two almost knocked me off my feet. This juxtaposed with many apparently affluent people and luxury automobiles driving by looking.

And on to the museum. I had the following reactions and thoughts, some of which apply to music:

  • Some of his paintings were juxtaposed with photographs of the same scenery. I much preferred looking at the art over nature.

  • His work ethic and devotion to his art was almost shocking. Nature would often turn him back from his purposes, storms, wind, and rain. He would have to retreat to his studio, which he didn’t dig.

  • He had a kind of affair with a woman who had kids and watched his with hers after his wife died. She was a married woman whose husband worked in another city.

  • I wondered where these artists were with the Lord. creating such amazing art with no money or acclaim in most cases. There was like a purity there, and yet, were they saved?

  • There were a number of paintings from the same locations. Yet the effect of two finished works painted at the same location upon me and I assume other viewers was altogether different, what the artist chose to change from one to the other, what he focused on. Monet said that what changes are the light and the air. This reminded me of something Bix Beiderbecke said about his solos when hearers wanted him to reprise them from his records. He said he couldn’t. Each time he played a solo he felt different, and thus the solos varied, each unique. (This helps me, as each solo I play is different; I can't seem to do it the same way twice. One time a jazz disc jockey who started locally and became known internationally, Jim Wilke, interviewed a prominent jazz musician. Wilke asked, "Is it true you can’t play a song the same way twice?" The musician answered, "I can’t play a song the same way once.")
And two more. The main thing, his incredible work ethic, despite, like Van Gogh and others, almost no monetary remuneration and little recognition. There was a whole group of these crazy itinerant artists who thought only of the work.

The last one. Sorry, really the main take-away. His self-doubt. I relate to this. The great artist Monet questioned the value of his work. And if anyone has read this far for October 9, 2021, I'll reward you with something that will probably make you sorry your read this far. Show me the Monet!

Friday, September 17, 2021
With so much uncertainty about gathering with others in person these days, broadcast tv (and streaming movies on the tv) garner a lot of attention, at least in our family, and I would suppose others.

We subscribe to Amazon Prime, so aside from the once-yearly financial hit, we get a lot of "free" movies to view, as well as free shipping on many online items we purchase.

The art of movie-making has become quite sophisticated. It is a reality of its own. Some of the best creative, intellectual, and technologically savvy minds in the world collaborate on these works designed to draw people into the stories that mimic and even shape life.

Of the "free" movies available, I will often settle for ones I've already seen. In fact I would rather view a well-done movie I've seen than a new, high-production-value offering whose values I object to, or that I feel is not good. Nevertheless, I often settle for what many might consider humble, aged, or trite fare.

Last night we watched Sleepless in Seattle. Something that was apparent and that I'd missed before was the use of music in it to create powerful moods in the storytelling. In the beginning, during the graveside funeral and afterward at a memorial for the Hank's character's deceased wife, a solo piano plays the verse of Stardust thoughtfully, gently, and with feeling. It creates a palpable but almost subconscious feeling of loss and sadness. But it is a half hour later during a poignant scene with the Hanks character by himself by a lake reminiscing about his wife that we finally hear the chorus of Stardust sung by Nat King Cole. (no it's not in the same key as in the beginning of the movie -- drat!) (Jeopardy answer: Nat King Cole sings Stardust in this key. Question: What is * [see end of today's post for the answer]

But think about that for a minute. The instrumental verse is used quite effectively at the beginning of the film to set a tone. A half hour later that tone is reprised, expanded, and detailed artfully by the rich, gorgeous voice of Cole, both elements, at the beginning and later, associated with the memory of the departed loved one. Some inspired artist crafted this stuff in the film. It wasn't an accident.

{breaking news: my wife just came into the room and asked what I was doing. I said, "Stupie stuff," to report honestly about a voice inside that says what I'm doing is just a waste of time. She asked, "Stupie stuff like what?" I said, "Writing a review of Sleepless in Seattle with an emphasis on the music." She said, "Well, somebody's got to do it," in a way that validated me. What a sweetie!}

Maybe I should run with this for a while. Over the last seven years I've come to know a number of Pacific Northwest musicians. Many are just sublime, more or less dedicating their lives to their art. But they are also hidden and obscure from almost everyone’s view, let alone the limelight. Unacknowledged and unappreciated, they live their lives knowing the beauty of what they possess, though it is hidden from most ears and eyes. They are captured by the music. I've heard it said that they did not choose music, but it chose them. They often bear the mark alone, or in small groups.

At just the right time in the movie, Harry Connick Jr. sings A Wink and a Smile. In my opinion he is a virtuoso pianist and a great, nuanced singer. These are very different talents that nonetheless complement one another, but it's hard for me to say which I think he's better at; he’s just phenomenal at each.

The other singer who's tapped a couple times in the flick is Jimmy Durante. It works.

We enjoyed the film. It has a few things that rub me the wrong way, for example conversations with children that I consider "R" rated, and it has always bothered me how soon after breaking off a sexual relationship with the Bill Pullman character that she finds her soulmate in the Hanks character, but overall not a bad way to spend an hour a half. Much of the film is just beautifully done, especially in regard to music, imho.

If you'd like to hear Nat King Cole sing Stardust (with the verse), click here. (If you'd like to hear a great Willie Nelson version done live—as opposed to the studio— with Branford Marsalis playing one of the greatest sax breaks I've heard, click here.

* Nat King Cole sings Stardust in G. (according to my calculation; I hope I'm right) Hoagy Carmichael published the song in the key of C, according to one Internet source. (I enjoy learning things. Despite my previous feeling that Carmichael was a fuddy-duddy and conservative jazz-wise, I now see that he was progressive and even avante garde, employing truly advanced musicians like Bix Beiderbecke and others. I should have known from his compositions like Stardust how unusual, non-trite, and advanced he was. If you'd like to know more about the jazz standard and masterpiece Stardust, click here, a link to a .pdf on the US Library of Congress site.

Something I wish I did more of, and am just beginning to practice at an advanced age, is to close my eyes in listening to music. It is amazing how three-dimensional, and richer, the music becomes when I do this.

Maybe someday I'll finish this post. But I just keep seeing / hearing things on YT. Michael Bublé and Naturally 7 singing Stardust. I appreciate the sparse accompaniment of the chunking guitar and spare, tasteful piano, the wonderful clarinet solo.

Saturday, September 11, 2021
I don't get many hits on this blog, but I do get some. I know from previous website training that if I don't update the content periodically people will stop coming altogether. So that's one motivating factor for this entry this morning.

But there is also a desire to ruminate and share thoughts in the hope of making a connection with someone. As Karen Carpenter sang, "Loneliness is such a sad affair." For the Christian, though, one is never fully alone. But it sure is nice to feel seen and heard by flesh and blood persons as well as Holy Spirit. The apostle Paul said, “No man stood with me.” (But the Lord stood with me is implied.)

There is almost always music in my mind and emotions along with nonmusical content. In a way I feel a little defensive about writing today in a music blog with no tangible projects going on or even planned. I have been repairing our abode for over a week, chasing dry rot from a previous roof leak that was repaired some time ago. This onerous project has lurked at the back of my consciousness for some time, and I haven’t had the strength or courage to deal with it until recently. (Even presently I don’t have these resources; I just simply dove in one day, knowing it had to be done.) It involved opening up the wall and floor to first see how much damage was there, and then go about repairing it. It could have been worse. (maybe that can always be said about anything :) (As a by-the-way, I picked up my guitar one day and played a bit, and it didn't sound bad. I thought about calling my spontaneous creation "The I Haven't Practiced or Even Played My Guitar in Three Weeks Blues.")

As I worked I listened to music, or sometimes a Mariners game. (Go Mariners; they're one game back from a wild card spot.) I have been listening to, and really appreciating, Toby Mac. Alexa pronounces his two names as one, said rapidly with the accent on the first syllable rather than the last. (I find myself following suit, initially to be comical, but now wondering if this is just not a better way to say it.)

I find his music really good. The lyrics are gospel, the melodies compelling, the arrangements and instrumentation terrific and creative, and the harmonies evoke subtle emotions that transport. I should also say something about the vocals and rap, which are wonderful and extend the multiracial appeal.

Tears come easy for me in this fall / winter season of my life—or at least much easier than they used to considering my stoic, perfectionistic upbringing, whether the tears come as a result of grief or mirth. Both happened yesterday. I was experiencing a YouTube video, the Carpenters singing with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra; the richness of the instrumentation, the sadness of the lyrics and Karen and Richard Carpenters’ lives, thoughts of the obscurity of the 70 or so Royal Philharmonic musicians and conductor who were making such gorgeous music (and even the hidden quality of the personalities of the more pronounced instrument players like drums, bass, and keyboards). I thought of my life in California when I first heard this music decades ago, my departed parents, how my life is mostly over, and the tears came. If you want to see this video, click here.

During this same YouTube viewing experience I also watched some film on the other end of the spectrum, comedy, and was similarly brought to tears. Each video on YouTube has a still picture, often with a label, that one clicks to see the video. A starting screen. The one I clicked showed a person giving the finger to his cat. Or really, just going by the picture, a person, male or female, doing that. The thing that tickled me was that the cat appeared to know full well what was going on, and looked like it was about to retaliate.

Later in that video, it shows a dog searching for fleas in its owner's beard. Dog owners may be familiar with this thing that dogs do; it's pretty hard to describe it accurately for those who've never experienced it, but the dog digs his snout through hair chomping its small front teeth and bigger incisors rapidly in a (sorry and ineffective) attempt to kill incredibly quick, small, clever, and lively fleas. It is really more of a way for the dog to vent anger and frustration at being at the mercy of the little pests, and to give the dog a (false) sense that it can do something against them. Anyhoo, the dog feels it is doing its owner a solid by this act of kindness, but its efforts are lost on the human, who looks quizzical and blasé and rolls his eyes subtly.

I've also discovered a personality on YouTube that intrigues me. His videos are singular and fantastic. The Professor. I had been watching T Jass, a pickup basketball influencer, and found his friend The Professor. I mean this guy is one-of-a-kind. He is quite skilled. He has a sense of humor. He is a Christian. (the links are all videos on YouTube)

I've also seen several specials on the 9/11 terror attacks 20 years ago today on network tv. I think the most meaningful to me was 20 Years Later: The Women of 9/11 on ABC. Tears. Respect.

Sunday, August 22, 2021
Last week I finally got the courage to busk. In case you aren't familiar with that term, it means to "perform music or other entertainment in the street or another public place for monetary donations." The place I chose to perform was on the Edmonds waterfront, which probably won't mean much if you are not familiar with the Pacific Northwest. Edmonds is a picturesque community on a Puget Sound beach north of Seattle. There are many, many boats moored there.

I had been going back and forth on the idea of busking for some time, and God led me into a public performance venue where I heard great musicians in such a spectacular way the day before, I was encouraged to take a shot at performance myself. Busking is about the only audience I have right now, other than YouTube.

It was humbling. Not that many people gathered to listen to me. My wife supported me for a time until a previous engagement called her away. But amidst all that, three people encounters really stood out and made it fun and encouraging.

The first was two women who had a number of young kids with them. The kids were attracted to the music. The women had each of three little girls take a dollar up to my guitar case and drop it in. It was a big deal to them that they will probably remember for a while. I know I will.

The next encounter involved three women who were together and had just gone out to eat on the waterfront. I was beginning to play "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," and at a certain point my mind went blank on the lyrics. They jumped in and saved me, and then we sang the rest of the song together. They were really good, knew the lyrics, and pretty obviously had some public performance experience. All in all, it was much more fun to sing the song together than if I'd perfectly remembered the lyrics and sung by myself. Funny how God can take a mistake and make something good out of it.

The last encounter was the most meaningful to me. A woman was wheeling a little girl in a stroller. But I would estimate the girl's age at four or even five. Both were attracted by the music, but the little girl's reaction was really interesting. While she was shy and somewhat put off by me, an old guy she didn't know, the music absolutely transfixed her in spite of herself.

I'll pause that narrative to interweave another. I wrote a song some years ago named "You Is Me." The title and lyrics have meaning to me, but are possibly a little obscure and mysterious to listeners. I remember a time when I used to perform in clubs, I had planned to sing "You Is Me" one night and thought all day about how to introduce it, and how much of the lyrics' meaning to explain before I sang. I planned to explain at least the origin of the song and a few of the lyrics.

Right before I got up for my turn at the vocal jam to sing the song, I had a picture of John Lennon and Paul McCartney explaining the meaning of "I Am the Walrus" before performing it. The idea was so outlandish that when I got on the stage, I said, "Here's a song I wrote a while back," and left it at that, ditching all my plans. At the time, I thought it was the thing to do.

But aside from the pressure on each performer in a vocal jam to expeditiously perform and then get out of the way of the next performer, I now think that it is better to give some context for the song, at least "You Is Me," if not others as well. This came about recently when I did a gig at a retirement community and explained the song a bit. The audience seemed fascinated by the story, and I sensed it helped them get into the song more than If I'd just started singing it.

The first line is "Gentle Charlotte, small and unloved, weaving her web so wondrously." The first verse is about a spider who spends no small amount of time creating an artistic and functional home, only to have it "swept away in a moment." The next line is "She starts again." (And so it is for us humans, start all over again, if only we can muster the strength and faith.)

So taking a cue from the retirement community gig, I explained a bit of the same song, "You Is Me," before I performed it for the mother and child on the Edmonds waterfront last week. They were all ears for the verbal context and the song. It seemed really meaningful to them. The child's mother told me before they left that they were big fans of Charlotte (from the book Charlotte's Web, which is where the reference in my song comes from).

If you'd like to listen to the song, here it is on YouTube. (The lyrics are written below the video above the comments.)

Saturday, August 14, 2021
My wife and I went walking along the Edmonds waterfront Monday night. At the point we turn around, there were several musician busking along the path under some trees. "Busking" is when one or more musicians play outdoors on the street or in some public place. It is free, but there's often a tip jar or open instrument case for donations.

As we walked to claim one of only a few benches, I saw on the music stand sheet music for a Jobim bossa nova, as though that would be the next song the band played. (It wasn't.)

By the time the band ended, I was in a state of agitation because of many complex issues having to do with me and my music experience primarily, but also the music as presented that night. It was chaotic and driving, and getting more and more that way, mainly because of the songs chosen.

Each band member was very good technically. There were about 10 or 15 people who had paused to listen to them.

Two days later at the same beach but a different outside venue (on the waterfront behind Anthony's Home Port, at a sponsored event), I heard a group of high school music students play jazz again. It started out lyrical and listenable. But again it devolved into what to me sounded like cacophony. Some of this had to do with the musicians not being on the same page, and the difference in playing ability between them, but also the material and the way it was played, especially the vibe and message they sent. During the last song the main sax player, leader of the band, who also doubled on piano, played a long dissonant solo with his back to the audience. I got up to leave before they finished, but paused to look at the view of the water and boats.

The band finally finished and the members began to pack up their instruments. One family I did not know who'd stayed to the end walked by me as they left. Grandpa said emphatically to his family (beyond earshot of the musicians), "They should have packed up a long time before now!"

At the time, it seemed a little harsh, but the more I thought about it, and the more I grieved about the two music performances I heard—and this really bothered me for a couple days—the more I admired the man who'd been brave enough to express his opinion, and the more I agreed with it.

Why were these young men playing music? They were too cool for school. They appeared to detest their audience. It also appeared that they had no use for their audience other than to stoke their egos. There was a weird pecking order between band members, a clear leader who showed little love for some band members, and then down from there.

What a missed opportunity! The families and others who were listening just wanted to hear some music on a sunny summer day at the waterfront.

This complainy post gets better :)

Last night we went down to Port Gardner Bay Winery to catch part of the last set by Java Trio +1. Because of the new mask mandate there were only about ten people in the audience. For me this worked for the good, because it was very quiet and I could hear the band easily. (Other times when the place has been more crowded, I have not been able to hear the band.)

The band played beautifully. Tim Koss played bass and it sounded so awesome. Gregg Robinson played piano accompaniment wonderfully and got in some good solos. Mark Jelsing was on drums and played empathetically with the others. The +1 was Brent Jensen, who may the best musician I've ever heard. Period.

Something needful that was lost earlier in the week musically was restored last night. Thanks guys! You're awesome players.

Saturday, July 24, 2021
This morning I felt impressed to read Psalm 73 out of the blue.

I live a crazy life. Sometimes I do things that from a worldly perspective aren't that wise. Last night I got interested in a number of YouTube videos and stayed up until almost 3 watching them. I'll put the link in below to the one that was the most interesting to me. It is Nick Vujicic speaking at a prison in Texas to the inmates and staff. I have to put aside my natural impressions and feelings at first to really listen to what he's saying. The men in the video had no choice but to sit and listen to him. I encourage you to hang with it though it may be uncomfortable at times. He is a real man and speaks for God and Jesus. Here is the link: Nick Vujicic at Telford State Prison.

Thursday, July 15, 2021
Seems like God might have wanted me to do a blog entry off-the-cuff. (BTW, I got some help from reading the first ten or so verses of Psalm 37 today.)

Vicissitudes are ups and downs. It is surprising how quickly things can change. Don’t tell my doctor (he always has his medical assistant give me a depression test before he sees me, that is, a questionnaire about how many days in the last two weeks I felt depressed and other hard-to-answer questions; in my defense, I often feel the most depressed when I'm feeling chronic pain, which is why I go to the doctor in the first place)

Anyhoo, over the course of a couple weeks I got acquainted with, and then familiar with Curtis Mayfield's song People Get Ready. It is a gospel song. Here are the words.

People get ready, there's a train a-comin'
You don't need no baggage, you just get on board
All you need is faith, to hear the diesels hummin'
Don't need no ticket, you just thank the Lord
Instrumental break four bars
People get ready, for the train to Jordan
Picking up passengers from coast to coast
Faith is the key, open the doors and board 'em
There's room for all, among the saved and lost (Eva Cassidy version)
Full instrumental chorus eight bars (half-step modulation in C. Mayfield version)
Now there ain't no room for the hopeless sinner
Who would hurt all mankind just to save his own
Have pity on those whose chances grow thinner
Cause there's no hiding place against the Kingdom's Throne
So people get ready, there's a train a-comin'
You don't need no baggage, you just get on board!
All you need is faith to hear the diesels humming
Don't need no ticket you just thank the Lord

I worked it out and posted it on YouTube here.

Thursday, July 8, 2021
None of us really know how long we will be on the planet. I have been helped most I think when people are honestly just themselves, even when this exposes vulnerability for them. In light of this, I'll just be frank.

We all have a pandemic experience. Although the worst of it appears to be behind us, in other ways life seems just as topsy-turvy and difficult.

During the pandemic, I needed God's help to make it through. So I prayed pretty often. It seemed appropriate that my music should reflect where my attention was, and where my help came from. As a result, I gravitated toward spiritual music that reflected my faith in Jesus.

But I still like and play some secular music. Today I want to talk about a couple of experiences I had while playing secular songs, Somewhere Over the Rainbow and Moon River. I talked about the Somewhere... experience below, so to save time, please click Saturday, February 6th to go to a previous entry in this blog.

Regarding Moon River, the same thing happened—I sang some lyrics and the image that came to mind and my emotions were so sad that I broke down and couldn't continue: "Two drifters, off to see the world, there's such a lot of world to see..." It's just 14 words, but the poetic image was so powerful, like the essence of a life in just a few seconds. What I saw was a person or persons starting out fresh and hopeful, eager to experience life and the world, usually associated with a youthful perspective. But as I heard myself sing "there's such a lot of world to see..." it was like a life, my life, flashed by in a second, and the whole experience of life was sad and bitter and loss. And one recovers from those experiences, only for it to happen again and again.

What I've just described feels similar to the Carpenters' song "We've Only Just Begun." "So much of life ahead, we'll start out walking and learn to run." Such promise. Such hope.

I've seen the PBS documentary Close to You a number of times. I don't think I've ever made it through to the end without moist eyes. They started off encouraged and shot to fame, well reflected in the song Top of the World. But all along Karen's anorexia nervosa lurked under her life and their success. She died at age 32.

Tuesday, July 6, 2021
Seems like thoughts I'd like to pass on occur to me as I practice. I got another solo gig tomorrow, so am on a roll. I hope these thoughts from my experience are helpful to somebody.

Wherever you are in your music journey is valid. Period.

Don't second guess yourself (this will happen naturally when you fail, which will happen often, so don't worry about it), or find yourself paralyzed by what others—especially others who appear to be more advanced or talented or skillful—may think of you. Just keep plugging along, work and practice, and especially listen. Taking the time to just open yourself up and listen to music is never a waste of time. It is a kind of practicing that is essential.

Tuesday, June 29, 2021
Wow, hot times in the old town tonight. Highs in this area usually around 70 this time of year. Sunday we were in triple digits a lot of the day. The hottest place we went, I believe around Factoria, was supposedly 118.

I happen upon a lot of stuff musically. I am impressed by things that seem "hot" (contemporary), but were from a decade or more ago. I sing and play Moon River and Somewhere Over the Rainbow and was listening to some versions on YouTube. YT has accelerated things quite a bit. Anyone can access for free just about any song by any artist ever recorded.

The first thing I saw was an ad by a music educator named Mark Morley-Fletcher. He was saying that rather than playing an instrument, a musician should think of herself/himself as the instrument. Also that ultimately everyone learns things by ear. And that if you have musical ideas you really want to express, your hands and body will figure out how to play it. I like these ideas.

Looking for versions of Moon River to listen to, I happened upon a performance by Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck. What? It was not rock. Done slow and straight. About the 2nd or 3rd chorus, Clapton sings.

My take is that Clapton wouldn't have achieved anyhere near as much fame as he did without singing. A great understated singer, his voice is the perfect balance for his guitar, and grounds and unifies his performances.

He also has a great sense of timing and keeps things simple. Let's not forget that he employs the best side-persons in the music business, for example Nathan East on bass and vocals.

I listened to him for some time, and it sure worked against what I knew of him from the past. In one concert, he didn't play an electric rock guitar at all for the whole two hours, favoring instead an acoustic Martin and an amplified hollow-body jazz guitar, a Gibson. It really surprised me.

I listened to several songs from his concert in Tokyo, which was 2001. (ERIC CLAPTON Live at Budokan, Tokyo, 2001 (Full Concert)) There wasn't as much rock as I would have thought. Some songs that were rock, he did more acoustically, for example Layla. His guitar accompanist, Andy Fairweather Low, also played acoustic guitars and a hollow-body jazz guitar. Songs featured vocals (as opposed to blazing Clapton electric guitar solos), and were more along the lines of standards and melodic blues. And yet this big change I saw was from 20 years ago. I guess I don't follow Clapton that closely. I should also note that the bass player played an acoustic fretted bass, and nearly all the sidemen sang. It was very interesting to me, very musical and appealing to listen to. They also all sat rather than stood while performing. Just a whole different feel. Tears in Heaven, old-timey jazz blues, Over the Rainbow. There is something believable about the stories he sings.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021
I had it in mind to write an essay on how the guitar has evolved from a chord-chunking once per beat or single-string (or 2-string in the case of Wes Montgomery octaves, or multi-string in the case of chord-melody) horn-like solo instrument to more of a keyboard-like, riffs and runs, occasional 3 or 4 note chord, but double stop or triad-based non-chunking chords (or 3rd / 7th tone instead of triad) style. (a big part of this is the trend toward finger-style guitar)

What precipitated this were several videos I saw on YouTube by Bryan Duncan, a pioneer of Christian Contemporary Music (CCM). In the last couple months, I have listened to him a lot, especially a song he wrote and performs that I've been working on a while and just posted on YT yesterday as a cover, I Love You with My Life. (At one point, I tried to contract out the drum—which I ended up not including in this posting— and bass parts, but due to difficulties and budget ended up doing myself. I played all the instruments and did all the vocals, and recorded, mixed, and mastered it, though frankly I am kind of a hack at all those things; or maybe I should just say that I'm still learning and am in process :)

But people get tired of reading and due to the information age, a picture is worth a thousand words, and a moving picture (video) is worth a million words. So I'll just list some of the videos that have inspired me lately below.

However, I also want to be transparent. Some days are pretty difficult, oppressive, or sad, and God has on those days helped me in simple, small ways that were pretty huge from my perspective. "Little is much if God is in it."

One day I simply read Psalm 37. I could feel God's encouragement in it, and that He was talking personally to me by way of it.

I have had a lot of failure as a person and a parent, and Father's Day is a hard day for me. I told this to someone at church and she said that nevertheless, I have influence in some young lives. I acknowledged that this was true, and the effect of her saying that sentence to me was truly wonderful. It was the very best thing that happened to me that day, and lifted that feeling of failure off of me.

Anyhoo, here's the links. The first two are from Bryan Duncan's "Unplugged" phase, which is now about 8 years old. (This blows my mind, as to me this session is so far ahead of its time, not just for the guitar work, but for the whole team effort and feel of the music; the bass and percussion is simple but those players carry the whole thing and make it possible for the guitar player (Tony Hooper) and vocalists to be free). These videos are on YouTube.

At the risk of TMI, I'll list another, Mel Torme and Frank Wes doing Stardust.

Thursday, June 17, 2021
I'm not sure who my audience is for this blog. For context, I am a Christian who has played secular and religious music. As I get older, I am gravitating more toward spiritual music that directly glorifies Jesus.

But if one is not Christian, I hope that she or he would find on this blog thoughts about music and life that are meaningful and helpful. Christian music, if it is not engaging, skillfully played, and technically valid, may not convey any significant positive message (though it may convey a negative message if it is poorly done).

That is why I keep my ears and mind open, and write here about things that I hope are stimulating and that cause people to consider new ideas and perspectives. I hope my words speak to and help people who want to become better musicians.

As Doc Severinsen, the colorful leader of the Tonight Show Band during the Johnny Carson years says, "When you learn something as a musician, you have an obligation to pass it on to the younger generation."

Last night my wife and I watched a new PBS documentary about him named Never Too Late. I think they chose this fitting title because after the Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson ended in 1992, as Chris Botti says, "Severinsen did not live off his fame, but continued being a musician." Severinsen toured 43 weeks a year and helped younger musicians by performing with them and giving clinics. He continually worked and put himself out there. He did not let age slow him down.

I encourage you no matter what age you are to not give up. Keep at it. Most of what I know about musicianship and performing, as well as singing, I learned after age 55, or even 60.

If you are a musician or singer [that "or" in the phrase "musician or singer" kills me, but this is often how it is stated; I like to think of musicians as singers via a machine, and singers musicians using the machine of their body]. Here is an excerpt of a transcript in which he speaks with music students (predominantly trumpet players).

"Take a deep breath and then use it. And I mean really use it. That’s why I go to the gym. I'm 90 years old and I still go to the gym three days week. That's what it takes to play the trumpet."

Student asks question: "What do you feel makes the best trumpet players of our time the best trumpet players?"

Severinsen: "I think it's what's in you. (gestures to his heart) What do you feel about other people? Are you nice to other people, do you see the best in them? Can you cry when you play a melody that’s so beautiful it deserves every tear you can give? You’re so filled with joy that it comes out in the form of tears that release all the bad things you ever thought about, all the sadness you’ve ever had in your life, it’s gone and you’re joyous. That’s why I play the trumpet. I do it because I love it."

"You gotta have some humor in your life. Get a laugh out of life. And you'll play better."

"The happy people are the lucky people. Be happy."

If you can, see this documentary. I especially encourage it if you are a musician. Chris Botti, Arturo Sandoval, and Questlove (the leader of the band Roots on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon) give significant contributions, insights and thoughts about Doc Severinsen and his relationship to music. You can stream it free if you are a PBS member—which costs as little as $5 a month.

Tuesday, June 8, 2021
I finally saw the Tom Hanks Mr. Rogers film last night, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. Great use of music in it so seamlessly supporting the other content. I had to make an effort to listen for the music and appreciate it on its own merits. (I was disappointed after watching the credits; none of the instrumentalists were listed. The piano and bass players were especially noteworthy.) When one artistic element (music in this case) so powerfully and subtly supports the whole project, I believe it indicates something really remarkable about the music and the team that creates the project.

Fred Rogers was an incredible person, insightful, protective of and nurturing toward children and the inner children in adults. He wrote great songs with powerful lyrics. He made jazz music an integral part of his show Mister Rogers' Neighborhood.

Yesterday was a hard day. I had taken a sleep aide and unfortunately side effects included some depression, tiredness, and disorientation the following day. This makes work a lot harder.

Firstly, I am working on a music project that seems futile. It is a cover of a song no one remembers. Secondly, I work to figure out many things about the song by doggedly playing and notating it, whereas the original—which I will never even get close to matching artistically, spiritually, or technically—remains freely available to anyone via YouTube. And yet I keep at, not sure why. It was after this day that I heard the following Fred Rogers' song.

Check out the lyrics to "You’ve Got to Do It":

You can make believe it happens

Or pretend that something's true

You can wish or hope or contemplate, a thing you'd like to do,

But until you start to do it (!)

You will never see it through,

Cuz the make-believe pretending, just won't do it for you.

You've got to do it, every little bit,

You've got to do it, do it, do it, do it,

And when you're through,

You can know who did it,

For you did it, you did it, you did it.

It's not easy to keep trying

But it's one good way to grow.

It's not easy to keep learning,

But I know that this is so...

When you've tried and learned you're bigger than you were a day ago,

It's not easy to keep trying

But it's one way to grow.

You've got to do it, every little bit,

You've got to do it, do it, do it, do it,

And when you're through,

You can know who did it,

For you did it, you did it, you did it.

Please note the following:

1) If you want to hear the song on YouTube, click here.

2) The person singing is Fred Rogers (not Tom Hanks).

3) The marvelous piano work is by Johnny Costa, Fred Rogers' musical director on the show.

With this encouragement, I will probably keep at doing my cover. I'm 70 years old. I encourage you to keep at whatever it is you're doing. Don't give up. :)

Thursday, June 3, 2021
I'm just going to put some random thoughts out there. They came to me as I was practicing. They are not thought through. (Maybe you can synthesize them into your process if you think they have merit.)

During practice for voice or an instrument, one is willing—willing in the sense of "I will to sing such-and-such, or I will to play this keyboard pattern on guitar or piano"—to do certain things. These require ideas that are executed in the real world via muscles and in instrumental music, mechanical manipulation of machines. (Yes, sadly even B.B. King's Lucille, his guitar, aside from emotional attachments and even attributing personhood to the instrument, was a machine. Almost seems sacrilegious or iconoclastic—tearing down an idol—to mention it.)

Aside from this willing and executing, other important things need to go on. These are the things that become more apparent to me as I gain experience in music and life as I age. The first of these is awareness. This has to do with hearing and listening to be sure, but is not limited to these faculties. One can also listen with one's mind, or heart, or feelings. Part of this listening has to do with getting in touch with the part of ourselves that creates music. (Hopefully more on this later...) It can be a real balancing act to tie into this part of oneself while one is simultaneously executing practice or performance routines. (To say nothing of being aware of any other musicians and singers who may be there.)

Cheers, and happy Thursday. Today I am practicing this morning to play my first paying gig in a year and a half. During this practicing lately, I realize that practice is essential to increase confidence, which definitely has a part in practice and performance.

Tuesday, June 1, 2021
I was just doing my vocal warmup today and got some thoughts I will record and share here now, putting aside my practicing a while.

(I have noticed an uptick in the number of viewers on this website. Thank you very much, if it is even real, as there are unscrupulous web hosters—or at least one, that I have direct experience with; in their deception, I was fooled for a time. They padded the numbers of hits recorded.)

Today however, I may be connecting with just a person or two of the about six or seven unique visitors my web hosting company tells me I am reaching per day. That is fine with me, to reach even one.

I learned a lesson and was reminded of it today by remembering a sermon by Pastor Trevor Horn this last Sunday. And that is, at the time you are hearing something, or learning of something, or learning something, it may not connect. It may take a while for it to become real and useful to you.

I imagine that some people who visit this website may not believe in God, let alone be Christians. That's all right. As Ken Kesey famously said, "Take what you can use and let the rest go by." (Did you know Ken Kesey was one of the first pro-life people in the world, aside from Jesus?)

I used to hate lip rolls (or trills) and refused to do them. For a long time. In a vocal warm-up, I just chose a vowel and practiced that instead. These days the vocal roll I believe is the most helpful exercise for improving my singing. Why? because it assures that your breathing is right. I took a voice lesson from the renowned Greta Matassa, and she said, "Don't hoard your breath!" "Sing as though you are sighing." (I believe that was critical in my case.) I believe vocal rolls encourage that needful exhalation via the diaphragm that supports our voice.

The point is that after years of avoiding lip rolls, I now value them above almost all else for voice improvement.

Pastor Trevor was talking about how God's presence helps us persevere. Boom!

Another topic when I heard it on Sunday went over my head, but later I thought about.

"The story is told that The Times of London at one point early in the 1900s posed this question to several prominent authors: "What's wrong with the world today?" The well-known author G.K. Chesterton is said to have responded with a one-sentence essay:

Dear Sir,

I am.


G.K. Chesterton

His witty reply is unnerving and unexpected. But it is also very biblical." (This quotation is from the article "Dear Sir, I Am" by Joe Holland, on the Ligonier website.

Enough said.

Saturday, May 29, 2021
Just listening to and watching "old" vids of Bryan Duncan on YouTube. Wow~

This cat is free in the Lord~ Watching this takes away some fear :)

What a creative, crazy dude! Lots of energy and he has fun when he performs. What a concept.

Tuesday, May 25, 2021
A different kind of day yesterday. I don't know if you are familiar with Leland Sklar. He is certainly one of the greatest pop bass players ever, and may well be the most prolific. His recording and performing career goes back 50 years, and he is still going strong. The individuals and bands he has played with is a veritable who's who of the top singers and players in the music industry, and he plays with Christians as well, like Barry McGuire, Kim Carnes, 2nd Chapter of Acts, Matthew Ward, and others.

Sklar posts daily on YouTube about the people he has played with over the years, each day selecting a different person or band. His broadcasts are somewhat impromptu, but also reflect his planning and thought for each, especially in the selection of the artist and the musical clips of the person that he chooses. I don't watch / listen to all his posts, but with some artists I can't help but watch because of my interest in that person.

All that to say that yesterday I had a Leland Sklar kind of day as I reminisced about and watched the great Bryan Duncan in concert and on albums. (This was not via Sklar, but my own thoughts and memories about Duncan, who I've known of since his Sweet Comfort Band days.) (What a resource YouTube has become!! And easy to take for granted.)

Bryan Duncan is just an incredible Christian singer and songwriter. From a young age he gave his talent to God and isn't shy about sharing his faith in his songs and concerts. I watched a concert he did in the Netherlands some years ago. Wow! He was matched with some really, really top musicians, who were also very good singers. There was a big crowd of predominantly young people who were super into his music. If you want to listen / watch, here it is on YouTube: https://youtu.be/Z-qBPcO6iZ8

Friday, May 21, 2021
Sometimes it's hard for me to hear the Lord's voice.

Jesus is real.

There's a documentary worth watching. It's named "The Journey of CeCe Winans". You can see it free on YouTube here.

I was heavy into the music scene in Seattle in the 1970s. I got in a real jam, and when the smoke cleared, I had accepted Christ. I got out of the jam. But I would never be the same. The person most instrumental in my coming to Christ was Ben, a white friend who I'd known since junior high. He'd "gotten saved" years earlier during the hippie days. He was one of the teachers in a predominantly Black preschool in Seattle's inner city. He married a Black woman and attended a predominantly Black Christian church. I accepted Christ in his front yard in the projects. Holly Park.

Eventually I left that church in favor of a Pentecostal Black church. This was in the early 80s. At just the right time, the Winans came into my world. I felt the love of God through their music, me, one of the only white people in my church and neighborhood. I felt it.

You gotta see this documentary. CeCe and BeBe her brother are pioneers. They are strong and good. Listen to them tell how it was as two of the very few Black people in white Christianity! They have integrity.

Anyhoo. Today I played an almost overdone Christian hymn and posted it. I'm sure the world has been waiting for my version, probably the most played song in history. Here it is on YouTube.

Yes, it is derivative. Tommy Emmanuel. Here's his rendition of the same song on YouTube. (Yes, I listened to his version before being inspired to play mine.)

Tuesday, May 18, 2021
A little over two weeks since my last entry. A lot has happened.

My health crisis got worse. I had an endoscopy and a colonoscopy. It wasn't too bad. The medical personnel were not only skilled, but personable and kind. It means a lot. I thank God for them.

For about a month or even more, I composed a song. It went through a lot of iterations. Toward the end, things came together, and even while recording, things happen serendipitously. Leeland Sklar, the great bassist, talks about this in his daily YouTube broadcasts. In each broadcast he picks a different artist that he worked with and describes what it was like to make music with them. Last night I listened to his description of Barry McGuire, a most interesting cat.

McGuire composed "Eve of Destruction." If you were alive in the 1960s (after 1965, when the song was published), you probably heard this iconic song.

McGuire became a born again Christian in 1971.

Back to the song I composed. There are stages when I write a song. It can be real work, but a funny kind of work. It's a kind of emotional / spiritual labor (as in giving birth, not that I know much about that physically speaking). It is kind of an audacious believing in oneself that despite the physical evidence you have as you first begin to get some words and notes, and your feelings about those things, you can keep going, you somehow keep at it. Fighting (or really just ignoring) strong feelings that it's worthless, and that I'm not an artist or musician of any worth. Somehow the song comes out anyway. It's called "My Offering." (click the title to see it on YouTube)

I played guitar and bass on the song, and it's the first time I've done percussion on one of my recordings.

One person described the song as morbid. It is that. When I composed the lyrics, I did not feel like I was long for this world, considering how I felt physically.

After I posted it, I was dinking around with a hymn several days later and recorded it. I posted it, but am dissatisfied with it, and may take it down. It amazes me that I spend time working on something and post it, and then just take it down. It seems like such a waste. (I've taken down probably half or more of my music videos over the years; I just don't think they're very good.)

Regarding my listening these days, I am really into Will McFarlane. He accompanied Bonnie Raitt for years and then gave his life to Jesus. I actually first heard one of his gospel songs almost 40 years ago. I am just amazed at the guy. He can play guitar like a ring in a bell, and he's got a great voice.

Friday, April 30, 2021
My health crisis has lessened a lot compared to what it was, but I'm not fully out of the woods. Let's leave it at that. I read in the Bible this morning that suffering produces perseverance, and perseverance, character. Let that be what is happening to me, please God, because that is valuable.

Last night I performed publicly at an open mic, my first public performance in over a year.

The night of music was conducted under permissions of the current Covid phase we are in in this county. Interestingly, the policy of this venue is, "bring your own mic," (BYOM). Many of the performers sing.

It was interesting to hear others, but the main idea was for me to get back in the saddle. I prepared for the foray, but as one waits to perform, and during the performance, and afterward, it seldom seems like preparation was sufficient. I suppose there is hindsight in this.

Some things went ok, others went well. Other things did not go well, chief among them technical problems in micing my acoustic guitar. This problem was primarily unforeseeable, and it was disappointing. After loud, bassy, rumbling feedback on one side and not being able to hear the guitar at all on the other, the soundman reached a compromise by trial and error during the performance. Performing while this was going on was rough and marred my confidence and the performance. One presses on. By the last song, things were working better.

Did you know that most acoustic guitars can be plugged into amps these days? One sacrifices some warm, woody, acoustic tones with an amp, but that is better than not being able to hear the guitar. Micing an acoustic guitar works in a quiet recording studio, not so much in a noisy club.

There is the possibility that some people in an audience may not listen to a performer, and there was some of that with each performer. But an experienced ear can tell if people are listening, even if there is background noise. There is a hush in the talk.

As I age, I'm realizing the cost of public performance. The stress. The energy needed to proactively analyze and adjust to quickly changing circumstances while under the pressure of people listening to and watching me carefully.

Age and experience have benefits. I thank God my message is clearer, stronger, and more urgent. My skill is increasing, and even more than that, I'm not letting worries about my abilities cloud my music and the spirit as much as previously.

I sang and played guitar on How Great Thou Art, Somewhere Over the Rainbow, and God Will Make a Way.

(Afterward, one woman asked if she could buy my CD. I told here that, unfortunately, I didn't have one.)

Friday, April 16, 2021
In the midst of my health crisis recently, a number of things happened. The most important and life-giving were words from the Bible that came to me when the pain and oppression were worst. This was usually at night as I lay hurting and sleepless, and opened my Bible as a last resort.

I got help from Psalm 139, how God promises guidance, but His main focus is holding us close. Verses 9 and 10: (no matter where I am, in heaven or the house of death, even the 'uttermost parts of the sea') "even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me".

I got help from Psalm 30, a promise of healing (verse 2).

I got help in Psalm 25. Verses 16 - 18, among others. God is still my friend and is with me, despite my troubles.

Also during this time I got the idea to reharmonize "What a Friend We Have in Jesus." I recorded it and put it on my phone. Then I went to the beach with my wife and she filmed me lip-syncing it. So for a change you don't have to look at my ugly mug inside, you can look at it outside where there are other things to distract you :)

Here is the reharmonization, which means that I created a new melody and chord structure, but kept the lyrics the same. Reharmonization of What a Friend We Have in Jesus - vox, cello, drums, guitars

I sincerely hope you are motivated by what I've said above, and the advice of the song, to believe in Jesus and pray to Him, and to read the Bible. He is very real, and he loves you.

A parting word. In the song, "trials" means difficulties. I think we can all relate to that. "Temptations" can mean situations we are led into by lust, which don't end well for us. But "temptations" can also mean a very difficult situation where we are tempted to lose faith.

Thank God the Bible lets us know that trouble in our lives does not mean we have fallen out of favor with Him. In fact the opposite is often true. "Many are the afflictions of the righteous."

Tuesday, March 30, 2021
A word about this website and blog. (I've noticed an uptick in visitors and want to help orient you.) My goal and hope is that this would be a resource for people of differing backgrounds and interests. I've had many interests, passions, and experiences. Music is one. In the midst of that journey, I found Christ and experienced things regarding the gospel. I am also a person living in the present time, which is without question a period of tremendous challenges.

For example, as described below and other places like FB and an online musicians' forum, I've described a debilitating condition of my fretting hand that eventually required major surgery. Before surgery and during the long and painful recovery, I questioned whether I would be able to play again. But now, after more than a year post-op, I can play again.

I was so pleasantly surprised to get an inquiry about my surgery experience from a professional guitarist named Jim in Texas. He had followed a link I left in an online musicians' forum to my website, and from there dropped me a line. We traded several long emails about my experience as he considers the weighty decision of having an operation like mine, which will impact his life and music in a big way for a long time, hopefully in the long run for the good (if he opts for the surgery). Giving people like Jim resources to aid them in their journeys and decisions gives my life purpose.

I also like to share my experience of God. For example, I've found that God loves to take what seem to be crushing, negative events at the time and redeem them. During the years my hand degenerated and got more and more painful to use for playing, and during my recovery post-op, I worked on my singing. I took lessons from notable Pacific NW singers Greta Matassa and Jake Bergevin (actually only one lesson apiece), sang in two choirs at different times (details below), and attended a number of vocal jams where I performed onstage (when it was my turn). In this way I kept my hand in music and performing, and improved as a singer. God redeemed the negative instrumental experience and expanded my horizons as a total musician.

I'm currently experiencing a health crisis (stomach cramping and diarrhea) that has brought three walk-in clinic visits, one lab visit, and one visit to the ER in the last two weeks. My recovery (I say in faith) is still in process. Additionally, I had one Covid vaccine so far, which my body didn't seem really happy about. Just being honest.

In the last couple weeks, my music involvement has been more limited. I did find a great video on YouTube by Alison Krauss and "her" band Union Station performing "There Is a Reason," a gospel song by one of the guitarists in the band, Ron Block.

I'm also slowly working on a new song. I have such low self-esteem as a songwriter. That is a major hindrance. Sometimes things flow in the creation process. With this one it has not.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021
Here's my newest video: voice and acoustic guitar Somewhere Over the Rainbow. This is my second version of this song. It is in Db, a whole step down from the first version to help me hit the high notes :)

There's a crazy story about how I got a Gibson Gospel acoustic guitar. Suffice it to say that it was at least a couple miracles. The guitar is a lot harder to play than my ES335 copy. No joke. But I like the way it sounds. An acoustic guitar makes a distinctive sound that some players like Tommy Emmanuel feature as their main instrument, though they can play an electric like a virtuoso as well.

I recorded this live in one take. It shows :) In the funny papers, they show a couple versions of the same picture and you're supposed to pick out the small mistakes between the two. There are a number of mistakes in this video. But I hope they don't distract from the general feel.

I recorded this with Reaper and a fellow named Max mixed it for me.

Friday, March 5, 2021
Just finished a song and uploaded it to YouTube. Precious Lord. The lyrics were written by the Rev. Thomas A. Dorsey, who also adapted the melody. The melody is credited to Dorsey, drawn extensively from the 1844 hymn tune, "Maitland". "Maitland" is often attributed to American composer George N. Allen (1812–1877), but the earliest known source (Plymouth Collection, 1855) shows that Allen was the author/adapter of the text "Must Jesus bear the cross alone," not the composer of the tune, and the tune itself was printed without attribution for many years.

Dorsey wrote "Precious Lord" in response to his inconsolable bereavement at the death of his wife, Nettie Harper, in childbirth, and his infant son in August 1932. (Mr. Dorsey can be seen telling this story in the 1982 gospel music documentary Say Amen, Somebody.)

Mr. Dorsey was a Black man. He recruited Mahalia Jackson to sing the song. It was also Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s favorite song.

Two of the first churches I attended and became involved with after I "got religion" in my 20s had predominantly African-American congregations and were pastored by Black men. I heard this song often. (For information about how I got religion, see the About page of this website.)

One night several weeks ago I awoke in the night. I forget what troubles I was going through at the time, but the words of this song came quite simply and distinctly to me. It helped. The next day I began to figure out the chords. This is the result.

This is one of my first songs created with Reaper, a digital audio workspace. I may elaborate at a future date.

Tuesday, March 2, 2021
It's been almost three weeks since I made a blog entry. I promised to talk a bit about performing live (including jam sessions) versus recording in a studio.

I decided to jump back into the live music scene some years ago after I retired. I bought a performance guitar (as opposed to my unamplified acoustic). I practiced a lot, learned a lot of new songs, and listened to music I was interested in online and live. I augmented this with attending jam sessions to listen and participate as often as I could. Occasionally I even got a real gig. I performed either by myself or with a few others at retirement centers. As a kind of internship I played once a week at a restaurant for tips. The pay was lousy, but the experience was priceless. I learned about playing in front of people, interacting with them, and cooperating with the restaurant staff, who were kind and supportive. It was a symbiotic relationship with them—we each benefitted from my playing in their establishment.

Many of the jam sessions were way above my head, as far as the caliber of players. I sure heard some incredible music. I participated occasionally. Each time I found the courage to play and / or sing, it was a trial, a stretching experience. I used to go often to the Owl & Thistle on the waterfront (jam session hosted by Eric Verlinde and Jose Martinez), and the Musicquarium, so called because of the huge aquarium near the stage and dance floor. (This latter jam session was hosted by Brian Nova and his band.)

There are some really great players in the Pacific Northwest. They are as good as anyone in the world. Many are obscure, sometimes really only known by other topnotch musicians. I could name many names.

Of all the hundreds of performances I experienced, three stick out as almost out-of-body. And coincidentally, one person was in two of these three.

There was a jam session for advanced players at the Angry Beaver in Greenwood. One night I came in and two musicians were playing by themselves while everyone listened, a departure from the usual bass, drums, chording instrument and multiple soloists, mostly horn players. Just guitar (Wolf Kienzle) and sax (Darian Asplund). They were playing Stardust.

The next notable experience happened at a jam session that took place on Sunday nights at Darrell’s Tavern in Shoreline—Wolf Kienzle playing Misty. (Of course Kevin McCarthy was probably playing standup bass.)

The third was Eric Verlinde (piano), Dean Schmidt (electric bass), and Jeff Busch (drums) at the Owl & Thistle. They played Henry Mancini’s Charade. Oh for a recording of that!

At a jam session, anything can happen (and usually does! :), and at times there is an art experience that takes place that is indescribably cool. There are some videos on YouTube of this kind of thing happening at church jams, mostly at African American churches.

Tuesday, February 9, 2021
Hey everybody, happy Tuesday! (or whatever day you see this :)

Wow, Pro Tools has a steep learning curve! Most of the time I have no idea what I'm doing. At one point recently it took me a half hour to get my tracks to play through my headphones. I realize confessing this does not cast me in a very favorable light, but if you are a novice at this or anything, maybe it will help you not to feel so alone.

I suppose it is not the best to be too transparent with some things. On the other hand, sometimes being so may help someone else to have more hope. I just finished another YT video, and this was one of the fastest to produce yet. I read where Miles Davis, in a very prolific period, did three albums in something like four days. Yes, he was creative, but he also owed his recording company that many albums and wanted to get out of his contract as quickly as possible so he could sign with a different record label he felt would be more in his interests.

I did an instrumental version of "Have a Little Talk with Jesus" about four years ago. The video I just posted is the same song with an added vocal.

If you watch the new version, you may notice that I recorded the guitar solo "live" during the vocal take. This more reflects a live performance. Which brings me to a topic I hope to cover in this blog that I've been thinking about lately—the night and day difference between public performance and recording in a studio.

One can go even further in the direction of live performance by including the jam session, which often erases the notion of rehearsal / practice. I have had the most incredible musical experiences at jam sessions. On the other end of the spectrum, recording, just the other day I heard of a well-known studio musician, a piano player, who was working with an incredibly famous artist and they did about 167 takes of the song. The session player got so frustrated with the artist that he asked him, "Do you want me to do the same thing on all the takes and try to get it perfect, or do you want each take to be something different?"

Further, I heard that when Ariana Grande does a song in the studio, they do over a hundred takes, and then use the best small sections of all those takes to create one super track! (They have the technology to do that.) Doesn't seem quite fair to regular blue-collar vocalists. Seems like there's something a bit dishonest about the studio. (A dishonesty that I've benefited from, to be frank.)

At any rate, the preceding paragraphs are a teaser for an upcoming blog post about the spectrum in music with the jam session at one end and many-take studio recording at the other.

Monday, February 8, 2021
I waited an eternity to retire. I have time now to follow some interests and passions. But my life is not all easy. There are some terrific artistic and technical challenges in making music, and it is a constant push to meet them. On the other hand, there is inspiration, and grace and gifts from God as resources. And just to have some time is not the end of the struggle. I watch tv and movies a lot. There is some amazing stuff out there. Last night, though, I managed to not settle for mediocre fare and explore some things on YouTube. Here also, there is some questionable stuff, but there is also material that is quite interesting.

Last night I studied about Brian Wilson of Beach Boys fame, and that led me to the mutual admiration—and outright competition—that developed between Wilson and Paul McCartney. Both artists were inspired, challenged, and even provoked by one another to make great music. It was nothing less than Ford vs. Ferrari.

What especially resonated with me were several clips of Paul talking about his experience of listening to "Pet Sounds," Wilson's revolutionary, symphonic album that came out in 1966 (around the time of the Beatles' "Rubber Soul" and "Revolver"). A number of reviewers feel that "Pet Sounds" was the greatest American album of all time.

And in my much diminished way, so much so that it is hardly worth noting, McCartney touches on something that I can relate to. A friend, Thomas, remarked on YouTube that with my last song "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," that it grabbed his heart. McCartney said of Wilson's "Pet Sounds," I found myself driving in my car with tears streaming down my face [listening to "Pet Sounds"]. It wasn’t really the words or the music, just something so deep in the song that touched me."

I mentioned in a previous entry in this blog regarding my rendition of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" that a couple times in rehearsing it I broke down crying. I was by myself. I couldn't explain this. So if this song that is very humbly crafted and full of technical deficiencies moves you, let's attribute it to God and how He has given us a great gift in the language of music, and uses weak, broken, fragile vessels in His generosity. I so desire that my humble musical efforts, and whatever I do, points toward Him.

Saturday, February 6, 2021
For the last period of time I've been thinking about, playing, and even preparing to record "Somewhere Over the Rainbow."

I was practicing "The Christmas Song," and noticed that two songs begin identically—a jump from the first note (tonic) up an octave to the same note. I recorded and posted "The Christmas Song" (actually two versions), and because it was no longer Christmas season, began dinkin' around with "Somewhere."

In the last week I seemed to get the go-ahead from the Boss and a key (the original, e-flat), even though it was at the upper verge of my range. Whatever.

I am changing the way I record songs (see posts below). At any rate, one has to make all kinds of decisions about how to go forward. "Will there be drums?" is one of the first big questions I often ask myself at the start of a project. I could literally write a book—or at least a longish short story—on this subject alone. It continually blows my mind that as long as I've been dinkin' around with music (which has also involved some serious study and exertion at times), there are some really basic things that I've missed. I confess that I have greatly undervalued drummers, for example. (That is putting it in a way that gives some grace to me.) I am sorry, drummers! I really am. (Even now I'm just learning about the relation between the bass line and the kick drum; some people learn this when they're teenagers.)

I read somewhere that "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" may be the most listened to song ever written. I came from a pretty strict religious (what would be the right word here?) "something". It was about 20 or 30 years ago in the midst of this that "Somewhere" entered my world. It sure seems like a spiritual song.

When a song becomes extremely popular (and some do), I believe that it touches some fundamental human issue. In this case, a kind of knowing that this present world falls far short of a yearning each of us has inside us for something better, even a sense that we were created for something better and grander and nobler than what we presently call life on planet Earth.

And isn't music crazy? It is just not formulaic. It moves in realms beyond logical and predictive ways, a really crazy, powerful language God has given us.

Now comes the time for me to be vulnerable. If you've read this far, congratulations (if you like this sort of thing).

Two times as I was rehearsing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" (rehearsing by myself), when I got to the bridge, I broke down and could not continue. Isn't that weird? It's also a little scary.

I read up on the song. It was written by Harold Arlen. He and a lyricist, Yip Harburg, wrote it for "The Wizard of Oz." Later Arlen's wife got a brain tumor and was institutionalized for seven years. Then she died. After that, wikipedia says, "He lost interest in life." My eyes moisten when I read those five words. It is scary to me as I realize that I am also losing interest in life. It is a result of all the hard knocks and pain. I mean things that just floor you. Sometimes through people close to you.

I yearn for the next life. Jesus is the door to that. It is not a religious life. It is a loving life.

And I did record it: Somewhere Over the Rainbow

Sunday, January 24, 2021
We went to church this morning and worshiped Jesus. There's nothing like it. He is the spirit of the living God. Sherry and Tim Muchira make a powerful worship duo.

My wife and I came home and ate our Sunday dinner. The Bucs beat the Packers. Not sure Aaron Rodgers will be able to get another SB ring. And at this point it looks like Kansas City will win over the Bills. I was pullin' for the Bills.

One thing I've learned: No matter how beautiful a Christmas song, it has a short shelf life. Who wants to listen to Vince Guaraldi's and Lee Mendelson's "Christmas Time Is Here" in February? July? September?

I learned "The Christmas Song" this year and uploaded it (vox with guitar, bass, drums) to YouTube. I worked out another version, a chord-melody solo on my guitar and recorded it recently, before I forget everything in the Christmas-drought months ahead. If I'm still around and playing next Christmas season, it will be easier to pick it up than to learn the song from scratch, but sheesh. All that work to play the song for a couple months at most. Here is the new chord-melody version: The Christmas Song by Mel Torme and Robert Wells.

Monday, January 18, 2021
Much has happened since I last updated this blog. Our national troubles, after so much turmoil through the summer and fall with disease and political and racial unrest, have only gotten worse with the storming of the Capitol in Washington D.C.

Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night. I lie there and my mind starts going, pondering and imagining many things. Occasionally I muster the strength to get out of bed and pray. I have a blanket handy and wrap that around me so I don't have to deal with the cold.

On such a night, the song "Sweet Hour of Prayer" came to me from my past. I sang it to God. It stuck with me the following day and I've been working on it for some time.

After working with a Zoom H4N mini recorder for almost ten years in posting my music videos on YouTube, I was ready for a change. The H4N is only about 8 inches by 4 inches, and 2 inches thick. Though a powerful and valuable tool for recording despite its size, I was ready for something easier to use and with more features. With the H4N, many aspects of recording are like "shooting in the dark" regarding features, resources, settings, and knowing what's going on while recording. With the advent of the use of computers in recording, along with tech gear that continues to get cheaper and cheaper, there is no reason not to upgrade to better recording tools. The use of a graphical interface for recording and mixing makes things much more manageable. (There are also a lot of complexities that come with digital recording, but that's what YouTube is for!)

I bought a relatively inexpensive audio interface (Focusrite Scarlett) to put between my voice and instruments and my computer. It came with free recording software. Influenced by Graham Cochrane, a freelance recording and mix engineer, who records free recording advice through videos on YouTube, I learned much about recording oneself at home. This is my first digital recording using a digital audio workspace, also known as a DAW (Pro Tools First, that came free with the audio interface).

It was a lot of work getting up to this speed, which is still just beginning. I'm a novice with training wheels. But in the long run I will have more control over my recording and can get a better product, I believe.

Here it is: Sweet Hour of Prayer

Thursday, December 24, 2020
I decided to do a version of "Christmas Time Is Here." I contacted my friend Darian Asplund, a musical prodigy, and offered to give him some dough in exchange for accompaniment tracks. Over the course of a week, the project developed into 10 tracks, with four of them drum tracks contributed by Robert Seager, a cohort of Darian's. I was so thankful for Robert's contribution and know that his tracks helped make this track sound great.

You can read below in previous entries how I warmed up to the song, first because of an experience I had with the song in the 1990s, and more recently first with Lauren Daigle (her version on YouTube), and then with Michael W Smith and Vince Gill (their version on YouTube).

I can't say enough about Darian's and Robert's tracks. I have worked with Darian a number of times. On one gig he played only piano. On another he played bass, piano, sax, and flute. He seems equally at home with any instrument. I was especially astounded by his piano on this current project. If I had heard the piano part without knowing who played it, I would have guessed one of the premier Pacific Northwest players like Darren Clendenin. The advantage he has in playing several instruments on a project is that there are no clashes in fills and complementary playing together, enabling the instruments to work as a unit, like an orchestra.

Monday, December 21, 2020
I was fascinated by some more music. Christmas music. I heard Michael Bublé and Lauren Daigle sing "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" individually. Since hearing this song years ago, I always like the lyric, "From now on, our troubles will be out of sight" and "From now on, our troubles will be miles away..."

What is this thing about trouble coming into our lives? It happens to everybody. "Into each life, a little rain must fall." Despite our hopes, it doesn't take long for trouble to find us.

I used to go to Eastside Foursquare Church in Kirkland, which had so many great musicians and other artists associated with it through the years. Gary Verrill (p), Michael Peterson (v, g), Don Lanphere (ts), Jonathon Pugh (tr), Matt Simmons (v, ts, g), Byron Prather (v, g), and on and on. In the 1990s I got a CD from a musician at church and took it home. I recall putting the CD on and looking out the window, seeing snow on the ground set against a grey, lowering sky. Christmas was approaching quickly with all its frenetic activity, but for a time that moody day there remained a stillness. In this context I heard for the first time "Christmas Time Is Here." I felt God's peace and presence, a gentle, sweet, simple feeling of the spirit of Christmas that had little to do with my usual thoughts, perceptions, and responsibilities.

It wasn't until this year I discovered the song was written by Vince Guaraldi and Lee Mendelson. They wrote it in 1965 for the first animated Peanuts Christmas special. I was already familiar with Guaraldi's great jazz work before his untimely death at a relatively early age.

I listened to the song on YouTube, vocals and instrumentals. Then one day on a lark amidst the strangling Covid constraints, my wife and I began to drive, not knowing where we were going, following our noses. We found ourselves in Snohomish. We went into a bakery to order hot tea and pastries. A jazz rendition of "Christmas Time Is Here" came on. It seemed like more of a sign than coincidence to hear that song at that time. We sat outside under a tent (no inside dining) with our hot tea and muffins.

I listened to Lauren Daigle do this song, and then noticed it was also on a CD by Michael W Smith that featured his duets with various artists. My wife asked, "Do you know what the "W" in Michael W Smith stands for? *Whitaker!*

I listened to the song. Because we happened to be listening to the song on an inexpensive player, I thought Smith did the vocals and his featured artist on that track, Vince Gill, did the guitar break. Later by accident I heard the song on YouTube on my computer with the good speakers. It was a whole 'nother thing!

Smith and Gill trade vocals and then sing together. Gill finishes that section by singing an octave above where he and Smith just sang together. Then a great guitar break, and more vocals to finish the song. So glad I found this a second time.

I have a remarkably high opinion of these musicians (Daigle, Smith, and Gill). For more info on Gill, I recommend listening to this interview in which he describes the times he was really stretched as a musician / singer. "How Vince Gill was in Over His Head - Talking about Sting & Brian Wilson". (I've skipped ahead in the video to the part where he talks about Brian Wilson, but feel free to watch the whole thing :) If you're interested, do a search on "Surf's Up Radio City Music Hall Vince Gill David Crosby" on YouTube and hear the song that stretched him so much.

Wednesday, December 9, 2020
A while back I finally got the courage and time to study and learn some guitar luthier things. During this Covid time I find a measure of peace watching a good luthier practice his craft, and there are a number of them on YouTube (for example twoodfrd).

I committed to intonating my guitar and watched a number of videos until I understood the logic of the procedure, which is not that rocket science-y after all. Previously I thought it was not something that could be changed with any degree of accuracy or improvement. This negativity had been building for some years, especially in light of a certain guitar I used to play.

When I first considered a musical "comeback," which in my case was humble, playing publicly in some manner (I thought about retirement centers as a way of hopefully giving seniors joy and improving as a musician and performer), I decided the guitar sound I liked best was that of a nylon-string guitar. This came about pretty much by just one cut from Eliane Elias's album I Thought about You, There Will Never Be Another You, which featured Oscar Castro-Neves (since deceased) on guitar (and a kick butt trumpet solo by Arturo Sandoval, as well as really good singing and piano by Ms. Elias, not to mention the bass playing :).

I won't dwell on the one-to-two years' struggle I had trying to make this guitar (Taylor nylon-string with piezo pickups) work in public performance. All the subtleties of the nylon-string guitar were lost trying to be heard on the bandstand even at a level equal to the other instruments, let alone when soloing. And the feedback problems were horrific. I gave it a good shot, but by the end of two years I gave up, discouraged. (I did however buy an Ibanez steel-string electric hollow-body, which it turned out had its own feedback issues, though less than the nylon.)

Aside from the issues just mentioned, there was also a pretty big intonation problem with the nylon-string guitar, which I believe is well known. I like to play octaves (ala Wes Montgomery) and the further I went up the neck—ascending or descending the neck is more likely with octaves because of the physics involved—the more dissonant this problem became. Steel-string acoustics and even electric guitars (as well as fretted basses) can have intonation problems as well. People told me that a guitar is never fully in tune, and cannot be. I used my energy to study theory, ear-training, and develop a repertoire, as well as get experience performing (and getting gigs and opportunities to play, like jam sessions), and leave guitar setup to the pros.

But recently I did intonate my guitar. (The biggest issue I had were that some of the saddles would bind when I tried to adjust them, risking stripping the flats of the screw heads; I ended up having to take the bridge off to get enough leverage on it to avoid this stripping.) Just last night I took the bridge off again and lubricated all the saddle nuts and bolts, which helped a lot.

The results of all this work were worth it. I have more confidence that wherever I play on the neck it will be in tune (considering I hit the right note :)

Live and learn.

For more blog, click Blog archive (December 8, 2020 and earlier)