Dan McKinnon sings

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

Friday, November 17, 2023
I put up a version of Speak Low yesterday. (You can read about the song itself in the blog entry below this one.) Although the video was doing ok hit-wise (in my humble music world), I didn't like it. I had just seen a video by a really good jazz guitarist about being kinder to yourself and cutting yourself some slack (not hating) your recordings, but even with that, I just felt uncomfortable with keeping it up, so I deleted it.

I did another this morning. Here it is (on YouTube—I learned that it's always good to tell people where links go :):


I feel ok about this one, though it is not great. Anyways, I don't want to get in the habit of posting something one day and taking it down the next. It's about progress, not perfection (that's what they say at church :)

Thursday, November 16, 2023
I just posted Speak Low to YT so now have to write this because I said I would.

This song is just so weirdly good!!!

The chord structure blows my mind. It is quite unusual in my experience. You can read about Kurt Weill on Wikipedia if you're interested. Like others, he was a multifaceted person musically.

The words are poetry. Wow. Ogden Nash was mainly known as a poet / humorist. These lyrics are unusual in my experience.

My solo on this leaves a lot to be desired. But whatever. I'm trying not to think and stress about stuff so much. There's a musical friend I know who is on a much higher plane musically. I asked him his advice on improvising through bridges of songs that have a circle of fifths (or fourths, whatever) like on I Got Rhythm. He said, "Well you could put some of the melody in there. People aren't really listening to the harmony anyway, the rhythm is more important." :)

I'll blow some minds by putting this in for the sample vocal version of Speak Low, a surprise non-traditional jazz singer (the vocals on this tune tend to be torchy, the instrumentals quick):
(Note that the following four links in this blog entry all go to YouTube)


And then there's this for the sample instrumental version, which is just a wonder:


Special Thursday, November 16th bonus track, one day only!!! (I mentioned him in the previous blog entry below; now he's with another monster)


Special second bonus—afternoon version—for jammers of any ilk, and their friends, and anyone who might or might not ever attend a jam session in their lifetime:


Tuesday, November 7, 2023
Passions. I was told, and believe it, that a passion is something that you're very interested in, and in a sense find purpose in, but that you are willing to suffer pain for. Some of our interests flag in light of pain. And then we find something else to get interested in. This is the difference between a passion and an interest.

People talk about "the passion of Christ." There is even a film by that name. Though I believe in Jesus, I have only watched that movie once all the way through, and then looked at various scenes a second time. But even that was some time ago. It is just so intense and heavy. It costs something to deal with the pain in that movie. The Bible says believers in Christ must be prepared to suffer for their faith. It is a warning to help us get prepared for that. And I, like others I know who believe in Him, are not keen on being reminded of it. Just being honest.

Anyway, I intended to write about music today, and will do so. It is an intense interest for me, and even involves willing to suffer pain to get better at it. Practice involves some discipline and pain. And getting out to play with others in whatever form, jam session, gig, choir, band practice or whatever, costs something, sometimes even physical pain. I know there has been emotional pain, sometimes quite a bit, as a result of difficulties and conflicts with gigs and jam sessions. Rejections. I could tell some stories.

Today I won't go into any one thing in depth, but just throw out some things I've been thinking about.

  • I wrote a song once (one of just a few I've composed) that I was under the gun to create, and prayed to God for help in creating it. It was completed by his grace. I wanted to create a song similar in form to a psalm. It was when I was a leader of a Christian arts group. It wasn't until recently that I realized that the chords and structure may have really come from God, because I just didn't think musically the way that the chord structure (and other elements) came out. It was smarter and more advanced than I could have come up with on my own, and in another paradigm.

    In essence, it involved changing the key of the song midway through, tonic major to tonic minor. It was so far out of my wheelhouse that I attribute it to God stretching me and expanding my narrow limits.

    There are a number of other songs that do this. One of the most known is "On Green Dolphin Street," a jazz standard written in 1947, and still played today. The first two bars are in the tonic major, Eb, and then shift to the tonic minor. What? It is very unusual, and gives the song a feel (at least for me) that is unlike any other.

  • Through a musician friend's suggestion, I listened to some Cory Wong. And had my mind blown. Now I know why even at some old school jazz jams youngsters show up with Fender Stratocasters. (Fender Telecasters, on the other hand, have been used across all genres of music for some time—including more and more jazz players, including me.) Back to Cory Wong. There's just a lot going on under the surface with this young man. Holy moly. He is extremely talented in many areas. And yes, he has always played a Strat in the videos I've watched.

  • My honeymoon with my Telecaster came to an end several weeks ago. The way my pickup coils on the inexpensive Telecaster I bought operate is not exactly "hum bucking". The guitar made a loud buzz when plugged into the amp. The leader of the jam session and I took about five minutes trying to fix it (all while we were on stage with the audience waiting). This occurred in an old, restored building. I attribute it to unshielded, ancient wiring in the building, a restored firehouse. So now I am gun shy about taking my Fender single-coil guitar anywhere to play, and default to my other guitar, a Yamaha (that is a Gibson ES335 copy), that has real hum-bucking pickups that have never failed me. (There are solutions for the Tele, but I'm too broke right now to implement them. Maybe someday.)

  • Benny Benack III. Monster singer and monster trumpet player, all rolled into one person. Social Call (his grandfather and parents were musical, so he has had a leg up from an early age)

    Surprisingly, I was turned on to this dude by my pastor.

Monday, October 16, 2023
The movie "Moneyball" (which I'm watching for about the fifth time) starts with a quote from Mickey Mantle: "It's unbelievable how much you don't know about the game you've been playing all your life."

This is the way I feel about my relationship to music, listening to it, singing, playing guitar, performing.

I started my musical journey when I began to listen, really, to hear, the music my parents played around our house as I was growing up. Being white, as are my sisters and I, they favored Roger Williams, the Dukes of Dixieland, Errol Garner, and the Tijuana Brass, among others. We lived near Dayton, Ohio, and in the winter it would snow and sometimes enough to get us out of school for a day or even more. Being in our warm house, reading—which I loved to do— with the cold and snow outside, listening to music, was a wonderful time for me. It was during one of these that I began to really hear and have an emotional engagement with the album "The Lonely Bull," Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass's first big album. I could really feel those Latino melodies and harmonies, and the emotions they evoked in me. It was like listening to a story. The lonely bull, speaking of course about the loneliness of the bull fighting for its life in the ring, but also about any loner, and Herb Alpert.

I always felt some kind of a connection to Alpert. His aloneness and creativity, and how he seemed to turn that aloneness into creativity. He had a feel for what sold in the musical marketplace, but was also an artist.

I began to take guitar lessons because my parents thought it was a good idea. I hated practicing. I remember sitting in my room during the time I was supposed to be practicing leafing through the pages of Afred's Basic Guitar Method looking at the pictures. Guilty.

Had a young, hip guitar teacher during the early rock years who gave me chords to songs by the Beatles, the Animals (House of the Rising Sun), and other pop hits. But I wasn't that engaged with it.

The music bug bit when I got a place in a swing band in the 1970s. Playing charts, chunking chords four to the bar, an occasional solo like Charlie Christian, though I did my own thing rather than what I should have been doing, copying him as a foundation for my later playing.

I could not earn a living with it, so played intermittently throughout my life. When I retired I began to really study and practice. During recovery from major hand surgery, I took a few lessons (emphasis on "few") from notable PNW singers (Jake Bergevin and Greta Matassa). I got a weekly gig at a local restaurant playing for tips (and sometimes paying others to play with me out of my pocket). I got few gigs, mostly learning from jam sessions (mainly) and open mics. But I did get some gigs, at local bars and restaurants, and senior communities.

And after all that I'm right with you Mickey, where we started this post. I'm still learning that although playing music isn't all about listening—I mean you do have to know some scales, chords, and arpeggios, and know some melodies, and have a sense of rhythm—it is still mostly about listening.

I was talking to an old, accomplished musician the other day and he said that he and his friends used to get together for listening nights. No instruments. They'd just sit around and listen to LPs. (back when LPs were the only option for listening to recorded music) What a great idea! Who would do that now? With no visuals? Fuggetaboutit!

Monday, October 9, 2023
It's been forever since I've written in here. Sorry.

I was coming home from a church retreat and out of the blue while driving had to urinate badly. Imagine my chagrin when I couldn't go very much, with the urge increasing! I drove to our city and to the ER. I was at the ER for a few minutes and then pain hit like I had never experienced before. Thus began my education on passing a kidney stone. I wrote this song from this episode.

Anyhoo, God brought me through. It was hard. A few days before I was to meet with the urologist intending to schedule surgery, the stone passed. Only it wasn't one, it was two. It took 20 days to pass. I hope I don't have to have another. But I had it easy compared to some. One guy I know has had twelve. He has passed some, had the laser surgery (which he said was very painful because of the stent they insert in the ureter that one has to have removed later in another procedure, without medication), and the sonic treatment.

After that experience, I felt like a different person. Much lighter and energetic and even younger. And it put my other issues into perspective. Providers often ask, "On a scale of one to ten with ten being the most pain you've ever experienced, what is your pain level now?" My definition of "ten" is way more pain than it used to be. That is a fact, Jack.

Anyhoo, getting back in the saddle I guess. Music-wise. My wife and I sang "One Day at a Time" by Kris Kristofferson at a jam session the other night. Then I got to say why the song is special to me. Here is a version we did a while back : One Day at a Time

Other than that, I've been doing more instrumentals. I did Tenderly, All the Things You Are, and Stompin' at the Savoy, all posted to YouTube.

I also posted a video my wife captured on her phone of a waterfront jam session during the summer. I asked the guitar player to play with me because he was better than me :)

It Could Happen to You live from the Sea Jazz waterfront jam, sometime in August or late July of this year.

I'm adding this later because it needs to be said. I'll use the excuse of old age for not remembering most of the names of the players I sang with at the Sea Jazz jam, but wow. Really A-list jazz musicians. The young Black man I traded fours with is as we used to say, a monster. Listen to how he takes my ideas and embellishes and builds on them. I do know the name of the first tenor player, Max Bennett, a great musician and really nice dude.

If you're interested, you can find all my YouTube videos here: My Videos

Monday, August 21, 2023
God drops things in my lap sometimes, wondrous things. Today I'll share one that happened last night.

I was surfing around YouTube, a guilty pleasure I engage in fairly often. (I confess I also look at my own videos and imagine what others might think of them, and my views help to boost their hits slightly.)

The person(s) who invented the algorithm of which videos appear on my landing pages (which are different for my desktop computer and smart tv I believe) were pretty smart. It uses which videos I've watched in the past and the content of my already-posted videos, but it also seems to exhibit some AI creativity. There was a video of a woman named Aubrey Logan explaining what jazz scat singing is, and how she does it, that caught my eye. I watched the video and was blown away by it on several levels.

So I watched some more of her stuff. With each one, her stature as a jazz singer, instrumentalist (trombone), musician, songwriter, performer, and artist increased. The unexpected and wonderful finale was realizing, by listening to one of her compositions, that she is also a Christian who composes with deep spiritual, lyrical, and poetic gifts.

(The following videos are links to YouTube.)

The first video I listened to that started everything: Scat Singing Explained - example with Dexter Gordon transcription

Two examples of her songwriting and pop appeal (in "LA" she sings, "I make six figures, and I'm broke..."):


LOUBOUTINS 2.0 (I had to google it, but Loubboutins are expensive shoes, some of which have red soles, or "bottoms" :)

And saving the best for last, here is her stunning take on Psalm 139, which she titles One Three Nine

And the final deal-closer, she whistles!!! (as does Trish Hatley, I add, name-dropping)

Thursday, August 3, 2023
All this great sunny, dry weather opens up opportunities to play music outside and inside.

I did my first regular gig in months last Sunday, reminiscent of those I did before Covid, in which I had to do all the coordination of lining up sidepersons, repertoire, and in this case, creating a spoken presentation regarding my experience with songwriting. I filled in for a singer / songwriter who had to cancel several days before the performance, which occurred on the Edmonds waterfront on Sunday afternoon under the auspices of the Port of Edmonds. Through the sacrifice of Rachel and Peter, who work with the Port, I was furnished with a really great PA and all its components including something I don't usually have, a viable monitoring system that gave the performers real-time feedback. It was pretty awesome not to have to worry about a lot of that stuff during the performance. (I should say that I did not have a sound person during the sets, but the gear was set up beforehand so well that I didn't need one.)

Other than that, my musical life these days includes a fair amount of jam sessions, open mics, and busking, which I like. I am getting better at playing guitar and singing at the same time. Busking is particularly good for that. When one presents a song in a busking situation, or any situation, one gets the ball rolling and keeps it rolling, hopefully without any visible straining. One begins to learn which aspect of playing—singing, playing chords or fills, or keeping the implied, (sometimes silent) background beat—keeps things going, now this and now that, and draws people into the song. Busking, open mics, playing gigs, and jam sessions are all on the job training.

There is certainly a place for woodshedding, which is getting by oneself, often with recorded audio of others to analyze and copy. On YouTube one can not only find many things to emulate (for free), but there is a setting where one can slow the recording down, without changing the key!! One can find, analyze, and copy, often in a pretty granular and repetitive way, the music one wants to learn.

But the sound of one's own instrument or voice in a woodshedding environment, often a bedroom, can be stunningly dissimilar to the sound environments one is thrown into on a gig or in a jam session. There is a lot going on in most playing environments, and one has to learn "on the job" how to adapt and find through experimentation what works: playing with one's sidepersons (or lack thereof), fitting one's audio contribution to the others' regarding frequency and bandwidth. And relating with the audience. I am a shy person, so am learning more about the "show" aspect of furthering my presentation and message. I thank God that I feel I am making progress. Through practice and experience, one can get more relaxed and less rattled, though with me there is often "nerves" to cope with.

Wednesday, July 19, 2023
Yes, I'm still the curator of this blog :)

Things are going along. We're enjoying the good weather a lot.

Doing a fair amount of playing and listening these days. Last week I had four public performances in two days, though three of the four were at jam sessions or open mics. The other was busking, which was about an hour of playing outdoors.

Yesterday was an odd day, and not without disappointment. But God encouraged me. I busked a while at my favorite place, which is on the beach. I set up on a bench, and there are some other benches around, the nearest about 30 feet away. Three people of the older generation (I would be included in this) were sitting side by side on a bench. Each had a book he or she was reading. When I started to play, none looked up. All the time I played, they did not look up, and gave no indication I was there. Neither was there much attention given to me by others who walked by. (One kind woman gave me $5; for me it isn't about the money, but the money stands for something, that the giver appreciates and applauds my effort and risk.)

From there I went to an open mic. I have certain songs that will come into my purview, and I work them out to the point of performance. Such was the case with Dallas Holm's "A Broken Heart," and an old standard named "The Way You Look Tonight."

But all the slots at the open mic had already been taken. I went home pouting. Wanting to play for someone. Feeling frustrated by my busking, and the closed door at the open mic.

My wife and I got in the habit of playing dominoes and card games during Covid. We have an Alexa device, and we are to the point where we can say, "Play music," and "she" will play a string of surprisingly good musical choices based on songs similar to what we've listened to in the past. Last night we heard one that especially caught my attention because of the burning alto sax solo. It was Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga. I googled their version of the song and came up with the sax player, Steve Kortyka. I looked him up on YouTube, and a video he did on busking caught my attention. I felt God was encouraging me to counter my rough busking day. If this guy, a musician who plays with the big names, still busks, then certainly I in my low estate should not give up on it. :)

Thursday, July 6, 2023
"This month's" featured cut is a blast from the past that opens up all kinds of ideas and musical tangents. I suppose I should give a little context.

I am pretty old. Even in my younger, more musically unsophisticated days however, I had ears (!) Sometimes you hear a few notes or a phrase and it immediately arrests you and draws you in. Such is the case with me for Freddie Hubbard. What a player! What a composer. Technically magnificent but with an overarching lyricism. (The wikipedia link to Mr. Hubbard gives context and background about him, but the real thing is just to listen to him a bit.)

Hardcore jazz musicians would probably disdain my take on Mr. Hubbard. They would gravitate toward his bop works, but I admit a fondness for what some jazz critics called crass commercialism. Such is this month's cut, Little Sunflower.

And I apologize for not bringing you Mr. Hubbard's original. Instead I want to direct you toward a version by a group led by Dr. Lonnie Smith that features everyone in the band, Smith (o), Linda Bloemhard (v), Berthil Busstra (k), Rolf Delfos (as), Jan van Duikeren (tr), Guido Nijs (ts), Phil Martin (d), and last but certainly not least, in fact for me the most featured player, Ton van der Kolk (b). (He, the bass player, dances throughout the tune and imo carries everything else that happens.)

I like this cut for the following reasons:
  • Every player is a virtuoso, yet they have great band chemistry,
  • Along this same line, each player, including especially the vocalist, is equal, part of the team, instead of vocalist being the prominent voice. She sings the words way into the song, and in other settings this would be the end of the song, after her singing, but in this case, the horns come in for a chorus, and then the highlight of the song, Smith's improvisations, come last (which admittedly is like a tag). This community of players trend I believe is what is happening in jazz and embraced by such players as Kurt Elling (v) and others.
  • There is a sentimental emotion attached to this tune for me, having listened to it by Mr. Hubbard in the the Creed Taylor days of yore.
  • Got to say something about that flugelhorn player. The boss of the beach, bra. Fitting that he would shine on Mr. Hubbard's, a brass player's, composition. (One commenter said he actually studied with Hubbard.)
  • I am getting more and more into tunes that feature vocalists and instrumentalists playing unison or harmonic lines together, as they do in this cut
(According to Andrew Hamilton of AllMusic.com, the lyrics, which were added later, are by Al Jarreau.)

Dr Lonnie Smith & The Jazzinvaders - Little Sunflower - Live @ Lantaren Venster Rotterdam (link goes to YouTube)


Tuesday, June 13, 2023
The weeks fly by. Just a little comment about a new video I posted, Tea for Two. (I am extremely influenced by the songs I hear anywhere, especially at jam sessions; I heard this one recently and couldn't get it out of my head.)

Wednesday, May 10, 2023
I apologize for the long delay, again. Exactly one month since I've posted. Been having some health problems. But God is still good. I feel better this week.

Today I created a music video for YouTube, my first one in some time. I have been performing in public (and doing other things) and haven't had the time or motivation. Jam sessions. Sometimes you hear sublime music at them. Other times they can be disappointing. Yesterday I prepared a song to sing at one. I went to the jam session and it just didn't work out. So kind of in frustration and as a way to capture some of my rehearsal yesterday, I recorded and videoed How High the Moon. I inserted the head to "Ornithology" for the second chorus, sung not played. (reminds me of James Bond: shaken, not stirred :) Ornithology, which is the study of birds, was a reference to bebop alto saxophonist Charlie Parker (whose nickname was "bird" because his sax lines soared—and he liked to eat chicken). He and trumpeter Benny Harris wrote the melody. The chords were borrowed from the swing standard "How High the Moon."

I'm so happy the weather is getting warmer. Lord have mercy. And to actually see the sun for a change does me such good.

My wife and I have a bird feeder not far from our patio window. To see those little characters come and eat gives us such joy. They are shy little creatures when it comes to people and other things, but can give each other a hard time regarding sharing :)

I hope you're having a good spring.

Monday, April 10, 2023
Today I was listening to a video on YouTube, Anita O'Day singing "Beautiful Love." The song had been requested at a jam session and I didn't know it, so was researching it. This particular rendition is a great cut with Ms. O'Day accompanied by a combo that features Barney Kessel on guitar.

Afterward, YouTube automatically loaded a somewhat random video—"somewhat" because the artist and song are unpredictable, but the genre is usually jazz—that happened to be Natalie Cole singing "When I Fall in Love." After the video runs a minute with Cole singing and David Foster playing piano, she is joined by Ruben Studdard, and they sing a duet of the song. When I Fall in Love (on YouTube)

If you are unaware of David Foster, and like music, you may want to research him a bit. He is ubiquitous on albums and CDS, as well as televised music specials, for example here, a video of Andrea Bocelli singing Besame Mucho - Live from Lake Las Vegas Resort, USA / 2006. (He does this in C minor, which is my key, but I assure you I do not hit the note G4 at 2 minutes 38 seconds into the video!!)

Back to the Natalie Cole / Ruben Studdard cut. Sometimes when I listen to clips, I am struck by such a sense of beauty that I pause the video for a moment and just absorb. In this case the gentleness and beauty of the music and these two people, with all the other musicians contributing, was overwhelming and tears came. I am happy to be this sensitive to music. (It took me a lot of hard knocks to get this way.)

I love this song. It is the epitome of the way God feels about a romantic relationship. One of commitment and lifelong love, and opposite to the casual, brief sexual relationship that seems so prevalent these days. Ms. Cole's father Nat King Cole sang a wonderful version. At one point I became so enamored of the song that I recorded it and put it on YouTube. Later I took it down. What was the point when one has the Coles singing it?

White people, get a clue. Many Black people exist on a higher plane. To me it is apparent by this cut and many other things.

Thursday, March 23, 2023
I enjoy going to places to hear music in my retirement. The day before yesterday I visited the Owl 'n' Thistle Tuesday night concert. I would call it a "jam," but especially this time, the performance by Eric Verlinde's house band before the jam was the main thing.

The house band was Eric on keyboard, Paul Gabrielson bass, Jacques Willis drums, and special guest Pablo Rivarola trumpet. Rivarola hales from Portland these days apparently, so is not a regular Seattle fixture.

Each member of the house band played wonderfully, and they played together. Rivarola especially was spellbinding in his artistry, simplicity, technique, and lyrical qualities. He is such a young player and yet has such an incredible grasp of what comprises excellent music and improvisation. And so very tasteful. Every note is full and a treat for the ear.

Verlinde and Gabrielson played great as usual, but I was especially stuck by the drumming of Willis. I know from experience that he is one of the finest vibes players I've heard, so he has the harmonic element of music. But to hear his rhythmic leadership and accompaniment was just wonderful. As he plays, his eyes stare into space. I've seen Stan Getz do this in person. It is as if their ears have become their eyes in a lyrical landscape. I so wish I had more of an ability to do this. May God grant it is my prayer.

The jam after the house band set was disappointing after the first song by Scotty Bemis, who played Teach Me Tonight with Gabrielson and a capable drummer very well, as usual. Maybe the jam picked up after I left, I don't know.

Again I'm struck by the complexities and paradoxes of jam sessions. I believe one can hear the very best music sometimes at jam sessions, and jams certainly have a beneficial influence on players because the cross pollination exposes everyone to things they will need in their musical careers. On the other hand, I've found that there can be problems and disappointments and even hurt as well. I just pray that all of it works together for good for the music and players' growth.

Friday, March 17, 2023 (St. Patrick's Day :)
I thank God for where I am musically.

There are many seeming obstacles and disappointments like always in my music life, probably the most poignant being not many opportunities to play, especially live. I do have some jam sessions I can go to, and there is YouTube, thank God. Without those there would only be busking, which is limited by season.

However, my hearing is waking up. It is a joy, and it is delightful. Originating I believe in the Black community, a phrase came forth some years ago, about hearing, in the sense of perceiving, but more deeply, hearing and understanding and connecting and finding meaning so strongly that the feelings are impacted in the listener.

"Heard that!" "I hear you, man..."

I was just listening to Amy Grant and one of her sidepersons played a phrase on bass that I really heard, as described above. Man, I just stopped the recording. I recognized there was something happening there, and in other bass parts in the song.

There is something of a tragedy in this in that I don't have the bandwidth (brain) to analyze, appropriate, and fit it into my own music. But I can hear things now. And it is just awesome. God blesses old people. I am one. And He has things for us that make life fun and joyful and worth living. There's still such a lot of living to do, borrowing a phrase from the old song. (Which by the way I heard performed at a vocal jam a couple weeks ago—what a remarkable thing for a present-day singer to choose to sing this song!)

And at probably the most advanced (musically) jam session, the Owl 'n' Thistle, a group of young advanced players chose to play "I Remember You" at the jam. There is hope for music after all!

Monday, March 6, 2023
My newest post to YouTube is I'll Be Seeing You. Last week one (early) morning I took my wife to the train station in Seattle. She was going to Spokane to visit her cousin. We embraced and she sang the phrase, "I'll be seeing you, in all the old familiar places." It was out of the blue that she did this, and surprised both of us I think. We were standing on the sidewalk in front of King Street Station, near Occidental Park, The Owl 'n Thistle Irish Pub (jam house in the old Coleman Building), and the waterfront. In an instant memories of being together in these and other places flashed through my mind and emotions. It was very moving. I was struck by the uncertainty and transitory, fleeting nature of life, and even of our marriage relationship.

My heart was smitten, in a mostly good, but a little sad, way. And in the moment I thought of my love for her and the familiar places where we've been, and unlike previously, these memories were not insubstantial, random, nor inconsequential, thin, fading, nor ghostlike. I felt love and strength in them. Since that time, the song I'll Be Seeing You has been in my mind and heart. (In my worst moments when this happens with a song, I wonder if it might be demonic; but it's also beautiful.) It seems the only way to be delivered is to study, prepare, and perform the song.

When I got home I did some research and listened to several versions, got down to the nitty gritty of it. I was surprised to see that the song has an almost cult following of hip jazz musicians through the decades. I listened to several versions including those of Ella Fitzgerald, Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra, and Mel Tormé. But the version that stood out and grabbed me the most was Sonny Stitt's, an instrumental. (Now there was a player. Wow. Felt that. I think he had a hard life, like many jazz musicians. Some of his phrasing reminds me of Dexter Gordon.)

I put the song together and uploaded it. Mauro (Mr Sunnybass, a popular YouTube bassist) gave me permission to use his backing track. In his key, Eb, the high notes were out of reach for my voice, so I lowered it in software two half steps. (Question: what key did I do it in? :) This caused the visuals to go out of sync with the audio on his screen time. Oh well.

My recording is imperfect. (As I get older, I don't do a lot of takes, and sometimes do just one, as in this case; this more fully imitates a live performance, where there are no "do overs") My improvisation by voice and guitar I do not like. And I made a number of mistakes with the lyrics. But I'm not going to do it again. Too much work. And now that my version is out there, I am less hung up on the song and can move on with my life. I hope, God willing.

My version: https://youtu.be/EXwdrdD9si4

For musicians and others that want to understand Sonny Stitt's music and life perspective a bit more (besides listening to him play :), here is some text from his biography that I chanced upon, when I googled his relationship with Dexter Gordon.

Friday, February 10, 2023
Burt Bacharach died Wednesday, February 8th.

His music was part of the soundtrack of my teenage years because of all the airplay his songs got in the 60s and 70s when radios had a monopoly on in-car tunes. (I'm not even sure we had 8-track players in those days.)

Since those days I still listen to Bacharach. When Barack Obama was president, he had many cultural events at the White House, including the presentation of the Gershwin Prize to Bacharach (and to his lyricist Hal David posthumously). This is a marvelous live performance of popular artists singing Bacharach / David songs. (These links go to videos on YouTube, only the second of which is at the event mentioned previously; you can search on YouTube to find more, including by such artists as Sheryl Crow [Walk on By], Diana Krall [The Look of Love], and others.)

Dionne Warwick sings Alfie

Michael Feinstein sings Close to You

Marilyn McCoo sings One Less Bell to Answer (This is an unusual setting for the 5th Dimension to perform in, an episode of It Takes a Thief starring Robert Wagner.)

I sang Alfie at a jam session on Thursday night. The band didn't really know the song, so the subtlety and power of it were diminished. On a whim I went to another jam session with a better pianist. I wrote my name on the list to get in line intending to sing Alfie.The vocalist before me sang Alfie, not knowing that I intended to sing it, and wishing to honor Mr. Bacharach's passing. (It happens; always be ready with a couple songs, vocalists! I'll also mention that it would be very poor etiquette for me to do the song right after someone else did it, or perhaps even the rest of the session.) He did it better than I, so I was satisfied, wanting only to honor Bacharach and David.

Mr. Bacharach once said it was his favorite of all the duo's compositions. I love it. I love the message most of all, but also the unusual almost rhetorical writing, the questions, the ending. I believe it is a Christian song. It is one of the most unusual and unique musical compositions I know. It took me about five years to get the nerve to sing it in public, because of its vulnerability, range and technical requirements. A commenter on YouTube had this to say about the song: "One of the most complex songs to sing. There are only a few who can sing this great gem which is written by the greatest songwriting team ever, Burt Bacharach (music) and the late Hal David (lyrics). A really astonishing song..."

Friday, February 10, 2023


You're welcome

Monday, January 30, 2023
Lots has happened in the last month or so, on many levels, including musically.

One afternoon we visited a local pub that has had a longstanding Friday afternoon musical offering. The guy whose gig it was had another gig and got his friend Bernie Jacobs to sub for him. Jacobs is one of the most musical guys I've ever heard. He sings, scats, jazz yodels, plays tenor, alto, and flute. He is a charismatic and fun performer and entertainer. He has a dynamite ear and works well with his sidepersons.

At the break we were talking and he showed me his bandaged finger, which had gotten smashed by the garage door. I forget how many stitches he said it took to put it back together. He mentioned it was still a bit hard to play, though he had just done well on a flute number. He said his saxes are harder to play than the flute, with his bandaged finger.

I said, remembering a Lucas Brar video I'd just seen on YouTube, "There's no wrong notes in jazz," thinking this would encourage him to play without fear of making a mistake due to his bandaged finger.

He looked and smiled at me for about five seconds (a long time), and said emphatically, "Yes there are!"

Wednesday, January 11, 2023
The link at the end of today's blog entry leads to a testimony by Kirk Whalum on YouTube.

"Kirk Whalum (born July 11, 1958) is an American R&B and smooth jazz saxophonist and songwriter. He toured with Whitney Houston for more than seven years and soloed on her single "I Will Always Love You", the best-selling single by a female artist in music history...

"Whalum has recorded a series of well received solo albums and film soundtracks...

"His musical accomplishments have brought him a total of 12 Grammy nominations. He won his first Grammy award in 2011 for Best Gospel Song ("It's What I Do", featuring Lalah Hathaway) alongside lifelong friend and writer Jerry Peters."
  — Wikipedia.org

The YouTube video may have been recorded on a phone. The sound quality is not that great. But much can be gleaned from it about Whalum's life, God's heart and spirit, and music.

I encourage you to watch it when you have some time, and to watch it to the end. As a musician I found his encouragement to other musicians and his openness to play with them especially cool.

I understand why God promoted him. Whalum focuses his life on Christ, he's a great musician, and he is a leader as a musician and a Christian.

Please have patience with the sound quality! :)


Monday, January 9, 2023
My most recent YT video was captured by my wife while I took my turn at a vocal jam at Egan's.

I introduced the song I did, Secret Love, and gave an anecdote about singing it at church at an open mic. The point was that Jesus is my Secret Love. Now I shout it from the highest hill. Now my heart's an open door. My secret love's no secret anymore.

Here is a link to my impromptu version of Secret Love on YouTube.

Some of the musical luminaries who used to attend Eastside Foursquare Church in Kirkland, WA (where I sang this song some years ago), were Don Lanphere, Jonathon Pugh, Gary Verrill, and Matt Simmons. I wish some of their musical genius had rubbed off on me. :(

The recent night at Egan's was a great musical event with a wonderful house band made up of Osama Afifi on bass, Hans Brehmer on piano, and Scott Ketron on drums. Soloists included Nancy Erickson Lamont, David Arteaga, Nicole Walters, Leah Stillwell, and others. The evening was hosted by Pat Johnston and Arlene Sanvictores.

Thursday, January 5, 2023
Hey, I just thought of something...

BTW, thanks for visiting my site / blog. You reached out and risked clicking a link that for all you know could be a security risk. I appreciate your visit and hope you find something that helps your life.

Yesterday I mentioned that I haven't had much feedback from this website by the email address on the Contact page. (I did get a fairly urgent inquiry from a fellow guitar player who wanted more information on the major operation I had on my fretting hand—which apparently affects quite a number of musicians) {link goes to a YouTube video in which a musician and hand surgeon discuss this}.

So this is an invitation for you to contact me with your feedback about the site and any comments or questions you may have...

Please see the Contact page of this website...

Wednesday, January 4, 2023
I really have no idea who visits and reads this blog. For example, even though I have an e-mail address on the contact page of this website, only once or twice in several years has someone actually sent me an e-mail.

But for anyone who is perhaps a musician or someone who posts musical performances to YouTube, today I've decided to reveal things I've learned along the way that may be helpful to you in your musical journey, a reward to you for taking your time to reach out and visit this website.

On some songs I post to YouTube. I play multiple instruments. I mainly sing and play guitar, and I play a little bass. Examples of songs in which I sing, play guitar (lead and rhythm), and bass are People Get Ready and You Is Me.

With I Decided to Make Jesus My Choice, I played one-handed piano. On only one song did I play all instruments—My Offering, in which I played even the percussion. (I don’t usually do percussion because I know so little about it; however, I know, love to listen to, and have played with some just unbelievable drummers, and have the highest respect for them—drummers in general seem to not get the attention and respect they truly deserve.)

Some of the great drummers I listen to and like in the Pacific NW are Jeff Busch, John Stout, Mark Ivester, Doug Kleiber, Mark Jelsing, and Jerry Garcia (who takes a lot of jesting for having the same name as the musician in The Grateful Dead).

Because of my emphasis on busking this last summer, which I usually did alone, I had to be able to do the following: 1) carry a whole song by myself, 2) perform with a looper, or 3) perform with a backing track. These are three very different performance modes, though in my case 2 and 3 use the same hardware device, a Boss RC-3 Loop Station. In the following paragraphs, I will break down each of these performance modes.

    1) Playing live with my voice and guitar

This takes some practice. The guitar provides melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic support, so even the guitar is wearing three hats. :)

    2) Recording new loops while performing; and singing / playing with them

In this scenario, one creates a loop and then sings / plays subsequent choruses with the just-recorded loop. Takes a lot of practice to begin and end the loop properly, as well as keeping timing consistent while recording—otherwise you have problems at the end of each chorus

    3) Using the looper as a backing track to play prerecorded loops

I've learned how to record accompaniment in .wav files, and then put those loops onto the looper beforehand using my computer. The looper holds up to a hundred prerecorded loops. In recording these loops, sometimes I play the instruments, and sometimes I use backing tracks I create in Band in a Box (BiAB). BiAB deserves at least one if not more whole entries in this blog. It is just an unbelievable tool. Because of the musicians whose instrumental recordings are available in it, one can end up being accompanied by some pretty famous musicians. For example, on the audio for my video Girl from Ipanema, I am actually playing with Ron Carter!! (never thought that would happen)

I guess that’s enough for today. Information overload.

Tuesday, December 27, 2022 (and updated with more material about piano / guitar accompaniment styles Monday, January 2, 2023)
Just as a way to end 2022, I wanted to talk about a few of my videos, some of which were posted this year (and maybe some last year, I can't remember). Anyways, the following videos are ones I made that are on YouTube.

Favorite spiritual video
I think this would have to be I've Decided to Make Jesus My Choice. This is because, like some other videos I've made, there was no sheet music anywhere, no chord charts available, etc., so I had to go all by ear. Also with this one, I am playing (one-handed) piano in a style I'd like to think is reminiscent of Black Gospel. That was the intent anyway. I learned a lot about piano with this (for me considering I know so little). Guitar playing is so, so much different than piano playing. The subtleties of playing piano may even require more study and practice than guitar. I especially think this is true regarding playing chords. With piano one can keep one finger on the same note and move two other fingers one step and come up with a totally different chord, for example a tonic to a 4th or 5th (in some inversion of either). I thought guitar playing was hard. I think piano is more difficult.

Regarding playing chords, I come from the tradition of using the guitar as part of the rhythm section of a big band (and combos). So we have several decades of this discipline, best epitomized by Freddie Green of the Count Basie Orchestra. But he was the most well known of a whole cadre of rhythm section guitarists. They say that Green never took a solo. Contrast this with the single-note solos first brought into the fore by Charlie Christian. So you began to have hybrids who played as part of the rhythm section, but were also featured as soloists. (Barney Kessel and Herb Ellis come from this tradition, but were pioneers in branching out into areas where more and more focus was on the guitar, culminating in combos that did not even have a piano.)

I took lessons in the 1970s from a guitarist named Al Turay. The big band guitarist has to know how to play block chords in a four-beats-to-the-bar manner regardless of tempo. Of current guitarists who still play this style (among many other styles in their repertoires), I believe the "swinginest" is John Pizzarelli. He plays some rhythm accompaniment with his brother Martin on bass that is the most cool thing I've ever heard. These guys have this rocket science of swing figured out. Here is an example video on YouTube of this style of rhythm guitar playing:

https://youtu.be/0QLYv7fGn6k?t=51 (please note that there is no drummer in this combo, thanks to the guitar and bass who carry that role)

At any rate, the block-chord style of accompanying (or "comping") accentuates the guitar as a kind of harmonic drum, as differentiated from a more flowing piano accompaniment where the chords have inner movement and are often used for fills, accents, and embellishments, which sounds quite different (and complements) the rhythm guitar.

Here is my favorite among my spiritual videos (before I got off into the piano / guitar comparison :)

Favorite secular video
This would have to be Christmas Time Is Here. This is because, unlike other videos I've made, most of it was created by my friend and supremely gifted musician Darian Asplund. (My part in it is mediocre.) But his is just indescribably cool, from arranging to playing most of the instruments—all but one— to really just managing the whole project. I've heard a lot of versions of this Vince Guaraldi song, but I think no matter what this is compared against, high profile or otherwise, Darian's version is my favorite. I'm really proud of it, and am thankful I had a part in it.


Monday, December 26, 2022
YouTube videos



Tuesday, December 20, 2022
It's been forever since I posted, with many thoughts and experiences having passed by.

Like last spring, I've been dealing with digestive issues, and like then, two ER visits and weight loss. Coincidentally, to the pound, I've lost the identical number of pounds, which is nineteen. But in the last week I've felt better and can eat a little more presently.

While this issue ran its course, another health issue—which I won't go into—also affected me.

Musically speaking I have not been very productive, but as usual, I listen and observe. I scanned Bob Dylan's new book while I was waiting for a prescription at Fred Meyer. Interesting, but weird. One song he wrote about in particular was disconcerting and repugnant to me, and I did not agree with what he said. He was breaking down the writing of the song and said that the songwriter was writing from the perspective of a serial killer. Wow, I listened to the song and did not even get close to that interpretation!!!

So that was disappointing because I am a Dylan fan. But because of this I won't be seeking out Bob Dylan stuff anytime soon. (Speaking of Dylan, I remember last summer a musician friend and I were hanging out on the waterfront in a place frequented by musicians. Sure enough, a local jazz legend showed up with one of his students, opting for an outside lesson (beautiful sunny day) instead of the more restricting teaching studio. My friend wanted to do a Dylan song, Blowin' in the Wind, so the two trumpets improvised lines while he played guitar and sang the song. It was way cool and off the cuff, actually a great experience for the young student in improvising and adapting, which is what music is often about.)

The other night a song came on that arrested me.

I have been moved by the song The Prayer for some time. I've heard a number of versions. My favorite was an unknown dad and his daughter that I happened upon on YouTube.

A couple of the lines in the song sometimes bring me to tears. It presents such a simple, childlike trust and relationship with God. The phrase "when shadows fill our days" is something I can relate to.

This version is by Danny Gokey and Natalie Grant. Some years ago I discovered (on YouTube) Gokey's first appearance on American Idol. Watching that made me cry. Watching that changed me as a person and gave me more love for God and a love of Danny Gokey. He appeared on American Idol because that was a dream of his wife before she died. This young woman left a devastated young husband who nonetheless still believed in God. You can still find that performance on YouTube if you're interested.

Anyways, here is Gokey and Grant's version. I chose one with limited visuals so the lyrics and melodies and harmonies can get the attention. One can, with this video, expand the text below the video to see the lyrics. The Prayer by Danny Gokey and Natalie Grant.

Wednesday, November 9, 2022
I did a lot of busking this last summer. It was some of the most meaningful and fulfilling performing I've done, mainly because of the freedom (no strictures on faith songs or secular songs (for example even faith songs that would not be favored in church), and the connections with people in real ways, especially kids. Thank God there are kids in this world. We adults would be lost without them. Jesus said, "Unless you become as little children you will in no wise enter the kingdom of heaven." That is meaningful to me.

There have been a number of times recently at jam sessions when I sang and played and felt that the band and audience were with me. That is not nothing.

But after the weather turned rainy and cold, busking was out the window, and I didn't have an outlet for music, other than jam sessions and YouTube videos, both of which I value, but each has its issues and downsides. One advanced player I know, who still attended jam sessions the last time I saw him, said truly, "Anything can happen at a jam session, and usually does." YouTube videos are a lot of work, and have unexpected troubles connected with them. I can be extremely happy with my performance on one (it does happen occasionally!) and find that there is some visual element that detracts from the whole presentation, that I am too worn out or lazy to redo, that is, the whole performance has to be redone, including audio, because the previous take will not fit the new visuals.

My manager (just kind of kidding), my wife, got me a gig with one of her secular women's clubs that she participates in. It was a trip, man. I hadn't done many gigs during the pandemic (although one I did I had to wear a mask while singing. Even now many people do not take the risk of meeting publicly without masks. This particular group does.

The gig was during the day, so it turned out to be difficult to get a bass player to accompany me. Took about a week. But I finally did, the redoubtable (worthy of respect) Tim Koss. Holy moly I'm glad he was on the gig. Lord have mercy. (An African American brother I used to fellowship with, whenever I would say Lord have mercy would say, "Oh, He does," almost as a mild rebuke.)

We were fed and treated with much kindness by the leaders and members of the women's group, like celebrities. That was before we played. :) (just kidding)

The unusual thing about this gig, which lasted a bit less than a standard set (we played for about 35 minutes), was that our audience sat in rapt silence as we performed. They had already eaten, and unlike my preconceived notions, did not talk while we played. It was like a devoted group of classical music lovers attending a chamber ensemble. It was surprising and even unnerving!! What the?

I had prepared so it went off ok I guess, and Tim is a skilled and experienced player.

Next thing is... ??? (God knows)

Saturday, October 29, 2022
Google Photos and YouTube know things about me. Each keeps tracks of things in the past and reminds me of them, usually things that I've forgotten. For a moment or even much longer, I'm transported, and say to myself, "Oh yeah, that!"

In the case of the pictures, Photos says, "On this day, or this week, (a time variable from a year to seven years)..." and shows a picture or several. Sometimes these can be poignant, for example a picture of our recently departed, beloved cat. There is a picture that is almost scary, and poignantly funny, of my wife sitting at the kitchen table, to the right, and at the other end of the table facing the camera, Boots sits staring into the camera. He is sitting on the same kind of chair as Donna, as though her equal, giving me a hard stare. This is no doubt food related. (We don't feed him at the table, but on this occasion he appears to be expanding his privileges and moving up in the world, as though the idea just occurred to him, that eating at the table was a right.)

Regarding YouTube, I can get lost listening in its wealth of music, and often do. It showed on my landing page yesterday a video or two of Kristin Korb. "Oh yeah, her!" I thought to myself. I had forgotten.

About four or five years ago two friends and I went to the Black Box Theatre at Edmonds College to hear her. I think this was the second-best concert I've heard. Although the place was well filled, it is a smaller venue. I think that added to the intimacy and the at-times subtle interplay of the band. We could hear everything. Every sound each player made contributed to the whole.

I said it was the second-best concert I've been at, but it featured the best drummer I've ever heard. (Maybe someday I'll write about my first favorite concert.) Kristin Korb played with two other stellar musicians the night I heard her, Scandinavians not well-known in the US (but they should be). Snorre Kirk on drums. Magnus Hjorth on piano.

Something happened at that concert. It is hard to describe, but everyone felt it I believe, the musicians as well as each audience member. This is why I like music, and why I play and why I attend many performances. Sometimes when I perform I sense that a certain audience member or members are right with me and are gaining something special from the performance. I can tell by the faces. (Maybe that sounds arrogant, but I believe it's true, and that it's the gift of God.)

That night I went with my friends, who happen to be Christian evangelists, and each felt it also, something emotional and even spiritual. Afterward each went up and spoke with the musicians, who were open and conversational, and declared that it somehow felt like God was there enjoying the concert as well.

Here are a couple of Ms. Korb's videos on YouTube:


The Man I Love

Saturday, October 29, 2022

I noted about a year ago in this blog how much I like Toby Mac. Musically creative and attractive and gospel based. I heard several songs this morning that I liked. One was a collaboration with Zach Williams named Cornerstone. Wow.

Donna and I heard Zach Williams live at the Monroe Fairgrounds a year or so ago. That was fun.

Anyhoo, if you want to read the old post about Toby Mac, here it is from September, 2021.

Wednesday, October 26, 2022
Many musical things happen that are too numerous to describe or comment on.

My wife and I watch tv and saw a number of episodes of American Idol earlier this year. Although that competition ended months ago, The Voice currently has a hot competition going on.

I thought the chemistry of the judges on American Idol was intriguing. The episode in which Aretha Franklin's granddaughter (Grace Franklin) competed comes quickly to mind. To me, Lionel Ritchie was functioning as a loving pastor when he voted not to advance her, saying she was not ready. I agreed; although I thought she was ready technically, the onslaught of emotional and spiritual pressures she would have had to confront as a result of instant stardom might well have destroyed her. I was really impressed with Ritchie, not only for his unpopular move to keep her from advancing, but additionally for standing against Katy Perry, who believed Franklin should advance and became so angry with Ritchie that she had a tantrum and left the set. So he paid for what appeared to me to be protecting Ms. Franklin.

Currently on The Voice are judges John Legend, Gwen Stefani, Camila Cabello, and Blake Shelton. Much of the Hollywood glamour and intricacies of pop singing, culture, and what is currently popular escape me, but with both the contestants and judges, it is easy for me to see that they are all extremely gifted musically and professionally. It is fascinating for me to watch, though much of it goes over my head regarding the songs and their writers and the performance arts and maneuvers.

Today I had a bunch of onerous household chores to do, mainly in one location, so I put YouTube on a certain topic and listened as it played automatic playlists created by either a computer or a person. The topic today was Scott Hamilton, the swing saxophonist.

My parents liked him a lot, especially my dad. In his early days, Hamilton could be heard in the high profile role of accompanying Rosemary Clooney (incidentally, George Clooney's aunt), famous in her own right as a prominent singer from 1946 until her death in 2002.

Anyhoo, Hamilton burst on the scene in the 1970s as an artist already formed, in the mold of the saxophone greats of the 30s and 40s. Man can the dude swing! Listen to "
When You're Smilin'," for example.

Thursday, October 20, 2022
Here is a YouTube video from Herbie Hancock that I found helpful in freeing one up when playing / singing: https://youtu.be/FL4LxrN-iyw

Monday, September 19, 2022
Two more jam sessions, one on Thursday at Station 18 in Ballard, and another at Darrells in Shoreline on Sunday evening, last night. Thursday, Jerry Garcia (d), Kevin McCarthy (b), Colin (p). On Saturday night my wife and I attended a free concert and dance. Sunday, Wolf Kienzle (g), Kevin McCarthy (b), and Paul Miranda (d).

Saturday's concert and dance was at Third Place Commons in Lake Forest Park. The Commons sponsors music that is free to the public each Friday and Saturday night. It is a different band each time. This time it was a big band named Seattle Jazz Network. They were really good. As we arrived we noted that, surprisingly, Trevor Pelletier—who I mentioned previously in this blog (Friday, September 9th entry)— plays electric and upright bass for this group. The dancers were out in force for this one and the band did not disappoint. Very good female vocalist. Really, all players were good, the big band repertoire was fresh and creative regarding arrangements, and musicianship was very high.

Regarding the jam sessions, I have, not exactly a love / hate relationship with jam sessions, but rather a love / sometimes dislike relationship. The bottom line is—at least for jazz players, and probably pop and other genre players as well—jam sessions provide an opportunity for growth, an essential form of cross-pollination and sharing for musicians.

Now, do top players still need to attend them? Maybe not. But I will say this, the musicians that are good enough to be in the house band are exposed to so much material and accompaniment needs from other jammers and vocalists that they can't help but make huge growth strides themselves.

I had major surgery on my hand in 2019 and both before and after the operation could not play guitar. I channeled my passion for music into learning to sing. A practicum is defined as “a practical section of a course of study.” Jam sessions are practicums, at a very reasonable monetary cost. (A Berklee School of Music practicum probably starts at about $300 per.) As my hand healed after surgery, and continuing to the present, I have attended a number of vocal and instrumental jams in which there is a house band that provides backing for each singer, as well as for each instrumentalist. As much as I benefited from, and needed to get time in on, singing before an audience, for me it was as wonderful, or even a better experience, to listen to how the house band came up with creative ways to help other people sound good. It is a type of servanthood that is very inspirational to me.

Jam sessions can be an opportunity for failure, so there is risk. But if one isn't failing sometimes, I doubt that one is growing. There is always a risk in getting on the bandstand. It can result in failure. But there is also an opportunity for artistic expression, beauty, healing, and communication in ways that are perhaps impossible in any other medium. That's the power of music, or rather the power of God working through music.

To get personal and transparent, I have at-times grave fears about my guitar playing. If I know a song, I can often play satisfactorily on it. But at jam sessions, especially if I cannot control the tempo, key, and other variables by singing, I am put in a place of needing to play an unfamiliar tune, or one that is played fast or in a key that is unfamiliar. Kevin McCarthy, who orchestrates which jammers play when and with whom, pushes me a little by putting me in unfamiliar situations. I made progress this week because at both jam sessions I was put in the (uncomfortable) position of playing unfamiliar material by sight reading and by ear. I did ok, and just doing ok is huge progress for me. Others are more able to do this, either by gifting or more study and experience, but for me these small strides make me a little more confident next time I take the stand. It means a lot to me, and I thank God.

Friday, September 9, 2022

*Note   I added a new category to the list of instruments above, namely "vs". It stands for vocal scatting, a separate but of course related skill to singing. (Not that many vocalists, even jazz vocalists, do it.)

I am really influenced by what I hear. It often stays with me, sometimes for days. I went to a jam session on Sunday and heard an awesome local bass player, Trevor Pelletier, play the head (melody) on Tenderly during the song while on stage. I remember being on the stand about five or seven years ago and being offered to play a solo on this song. I declined. That was wisdom. But this song stuck in my head for several days recently after Trevor and the band played it. Thanks Trevor! :)

I come from a musical world in which my heroes are "ear players," mostly Black men and women who navigate completely by ear in their approach to music. Often these people express regret at having never learned sight-reading and theory, but nevertheless just crush the material they do. Some local examples are Bernie Jacobs (as, ts, fl, v, vs) and Paul Green (v, h). (Years ago I was at a jam session in which Paul had just sung, and another local vocalist of some repute joined him on the stand so they could sing together. The new singer passed out copies of his song to the musicians so they would know the key, harmonies, and feel—a professional courtesy and tradition with some vocalists—and gave also a copy to Paul. I was watching Paul, though I'm not sure others in the audience were. He looked at the piece of sheet music a good 15 seconds. Then he turned it upside down and scanned it another 15 seconds. Then he put it aside. He said not a word. I was chuckling but the act may have escaped most observers. This experience perfectly captures Paul's humor and musical style.)

So I spent part of a day working on Tenderly and Body and Soul, just for my own edification, not intending to ever perform these songs necessarily. I just felt I owed it to myself as a jazz musician to get more of a grasp on these two fundamental pillars of American jazz.

Transcribing has been my enemy for most of my life. I successfully fought it until several years ago. One day I was crossing the street to get the mail and the song People Make the World Go Round came to me, and I just felt I should transcribe it. Just like that!! All right let's (finally) do this thing! It was like I was given strength and resolution instantly to tackle that which I'd avoided. I had a copy of Sibelius and began listening to the song (freely available on YouTube).

I have found transcribing to be a very difficult and lonely endeavor. I was soon in over my head and tempted to give up. I am stubborn about not giving up, but it was overwhelmingly difficult. My resolution eroded. It was then I am convinced I had a supernatural experience that was the key that unlocked its inaccessibility. I was looking at some posts about the song and happened to come upon a post in which the author claimed that there are certain parts of the song that change time signature. Wow.

What are the odds of finding that? Pretty sure I'd already given up on the transcribing. I was charting out the song in Sibelius, and these time signature changes made all the difference. It was still difficult, but what a boost! I eventually transcribed all the different instruments and put them together in Sibelius and created a soundtrack. (maybe one of these days I will post it)

I also found that some people held the Stylistics in such esteem that they called them "The Mozarts of Motown." !!!

I am to a place where I have and value my own relationship with music. Of course this is dependent on playing with others, both giving what I have to offer, and taking what they have to offer. And that's the beauty of it. But what I have to offer, I've found, costs something to gain.

Thursday, September 8, 2022
Technically it's still summer, but at my last jam session, the fall and September songs made their appearance (Autumn Leaves and September Song).

It's been a good summer musically for me. Initially it started a little rough by my giving up playing bass with the worship band at church, due to the difficulty of learning so many new songs at my advanced age, and my novice skills at playing bass. The catalyst for me quitting was due to a certain Sunday for which I'd prepared pretty intensely. (My song-learning process—which many would question as being unnecessarily time-consuming—involves figuring out the parts by ear. In this case, I was writing out the parts in Nashville Number System notation to help me remember 'on the gig' the work I did.

I got up early to go to rehearsal before church. When I opened my bass case (soft type) at church, I found the headstock on my bass had split, rendering one tuner not operational, and its string unplayable. This was enough of a distraction that although I still tried to play, I did so poorly because my preparation patterns for playing the songs involved using that string. A better bass player could have adjusted, but I was unable to.

After so much work it was heartbreaking, not just that Sunday, but others as well. Just getting the bass fixed or replaced wasn't the answer. I looked deeper and realized that it just wasn't a good fit. I wasn't enjoying playing or worshiping. So I let it go. Thankfully, the first-chair bassist stepped in and handled that needed role in the band.

God very mercifully opened other outlets for my musical expression. To some extent, this was in the ways of yesteryear, namely, playing and singing secular songs. I had peace about this, however. For many years I've wrestled with the tension between playing / singing secular vs. spiritual music. After so many years, I've come to the realization that there is not a definite line between the two.

Which brings to mind the recent passing of a great woman, Patrinell "Pat" Wright, founder of the Total Experience Gospel Choir. In God's sight, her choir work was only one facet of a remarkable and wonderful woman who bore so much good fruit for God's kingdom. She mentored and cared for youngsters in the choir and elsewhere. She was deeply involved in supporting and fostering the African-American community. Here is a link to the Seattle Times article honoring her life. (kudus to the photographer who captured her spirit in the pictures)

My friend Calvin West used to dance at some Total Experience Gospel Choir performances. He is the one who told me of her passing. Living in Everett, I'm not sure I would have heard otherwise.

I did attend one of the choir's last concerts at the Moore Theatre two or three years ago. At that event, in addition to singing spiritual songs, Ms. Wright also dressed as—and sang a tribute to—Aretha Franklin. In reading the Times article, I perceived that Ms. Wright also felt the tension between performing spiritual and secular music. For the Christian musician, this tension can at-times rival that of other deep issues like faith vs. works (I've found :)

Well, back to me and my musical summer. I sang three times at SeaJazz jam sessions. These are held at the Edmonds Beach and sponsored by the Port of Edmonds. They are over for this summer, but even if you're not a jazz person, you might find them interesting. Another huge draw is that they are free. And the talent is off the charts, mostly local musicians.

It was a summer of busking for me. I would guess that I busked 10 to 20 times this summer, far more than usual. All of my performances were at the Edmonds beach, either in the park by the fishing pier, or in back of Anthony's Home Port restaurant. The earlier questions I raised about performing secular vs. Christian music don't really apply when I busk, so this mode of expression certainly has some pluses. I can play as many Christian songs as I like, sometimes with stunning results. For example, one day I was performing a Christian song, and right as I got to the line, "Jesus Christ, my living hope...," two Muslim women added money to my tip jar. (I should say that having a tip jar helps me defray the money I spend on batteries—often there is no A/C power where one busks— and also for gas.)

Additionally, I sat in at the Oxford Saloon in Snohomish with a band named Swingtime Express, which is Paul (bass), Tom (piano), Steve (sax), and Prentice (d). They are all stellar and accomplished players. I also sat in at Darrell's Tavern in Shoreline.

Darrell's has a long-running jazz jam session on Sunday nights. It is hosted by Kevin McCarthy, a really good bass player whom I've known for some years. Also featured in the house band at this session are Jerry Garcia (drums) and Wolf Kienzle (guitar). The musicality at this jam session is off the charts. The time I sat in, an excellent bass player named Trevor played bass, and a good horn man named Allan played soprano. Wolf is one of the best musicians in the Pacific NW, as are the other members of the house band, Kevin, and Jerry. What a pleasure to be there and hear such high musicality. I've been to so many jam sessions and musicality is in short supply at many.

Monday, August 22, 2022
I created another music video recently. I decided to play guitar and sing at the same time on the song I mentioned previously in this blog, Who Can I Turn To. You can view it here on YouTube.

I confess I went back and fixed a sour vocal note in my recording software. :)

I mentioned some things previously in this blog about Who Can I Turn To, and also made additional comments and put them underneath the video on YouTube in the video author's comments box. What a poignant song. Wow. Though people may turn away, Jesus promises never to do so.

I feel like I am a rare hybrid secular / Christian musician. My cross to bear I suppose. Nevertheless, occasionally I do sit in with secular bands, as I did a week ago at the Oxford Saloon in Snohomish. The band’s name is Swingtime Express. Really good players. Coincidentally, I used to play in a swing band in the 1970s named The Swingland Express, under the direction of John Holte. That was a trip and often a lot of fun. (If something isn't fun occasionally, why do it?)

My guitar needs work for a saddle buzz and fret buzzes. The shop I use, Mike Lull's Guitar Works, in Bellevue, WA, is booked up two months in advance, so I will have to live with those annoyances until then. I have a place in the queue in September. I have dealt with this shop a number of times in the past and they do good work.

I hope you are having a fun summer.


Tuesday, August 16, 2022
Just uploaded my first audio / video to YouTube in some time. Months. Moon River. Recording is always a trip. I do my own, but we recently went into a recording studio to support a friend who is a singer / songwriter. Really interesting to see it from the "pro" side. We were at Binary Recording Studio in Bellingham, WA. The engineer is Bob Ridgley.

I never know what to say about an upload. It is such an evolving process and many, many decisions to make. I recorded the comping (guitar) first, then added a subtle bass track, solo guitar, and then the vocal. Remind me next time not to wear my sweatpants. After all the video and audio were recorded, I noticed that the camera could see below my waist, like a nightmare Zoom meeting.

I titled it in a way that suggested a hipper sound, but it's all relative. Years ago, I was pretty enthusiastic about an instrumental, 4/4 recording by George Benson, Joey DeFrancesco, and Will Kennedy (organ trio).

When I play it solo, I usually play it in 4/4. That probably stems from when I first got enthusiastic about the tune. I remember that one time I called the tune at a jam session and disaster struck. I hadn't told the bass player that I wanted to do it in 4/4. Live and learn. For a while we weren't friends after that. Stick to the basics at jam sessions and don't assume too much. Also, wise up (talking to myself). Don't be so full of yourself. Probably only guitar players get excited about organ trios. (and of course, organ players, not to mention drummers, for whom it's probably a dream gig with lots of exposure)

Come to think of it, about a year or more ago I got re-enthused about Moon River when I heard Eric Clapton and Nathan East do it. Solid, man. Plus I love the tune. One time I was singing it and got to the place where it goes, "there's such a lot of world to see," and broke down. I had a picture in my mind of an older person (like me) talking to a young, eager person who wanted to explore the big, wide, wonderful world. But the older person knows there's at least as much heartache as cool stuff, if not more.

Monday, August 8, 2022
For anyone who looks at this blog, I apologize for not keeping it more up to date.

It has been summer for some time, and sadly, occasionally now, as happens each year, thoughts of a few seasonal fall songs intrude into my "endless summer" mindset, unwelcome and unbidden. ("Summertime" by the Gershwins is still appropriate to play, however.)

I am older now, and each new approaching fall / winter season brings subtly more intense and daunting thoughts and feelings of short, cold, grey, wet days, and the potential depression associated with this. But God is with us and will help us, whatever may come.

I have given up trying to play bass for the worship band. In essence, it was too much for my humble musical skills and ability to learn new songs.

But God has mercifully opened up some other outlets for my musical interests and gifts, such as they are. Much of this has to do with busking by myself at Edmonds Beach (not always by myself, though). Twice I've sung with jazz groups who were performing there. And one day my friend Jim sang and played "Blowing in the Wind" and two jazz trumpeters played accompaniment. This happened spontaneously and was really cool. So much potential when unusual instrumentation is used with songs. Gives them more subtle power.

One day I was channel surfing on our tv and came upon the old Ed Sullivan show. I heard and watched a performance by Tony Bennett, Who Can I Turn To. Wow. That is a deep and poignant song. And it ends without a clear resolution, "Who can I turn to if you turn away?"

So I started figuring it out. I checked my Real Book eventually and discovered I got a number of the chords right. I am learning it and may perform it.

This brought back memories of Dexter Gordon performing the song. At a certain time in my life when I was still working, his version of this song got stuck in my head for a month or so. I believe it is my most favorite jazz ballad. Here it is on YouTube.

I do know, as a Christian, that God will never turn away from us. And yet, everyone in this present life probably deals with loneliness to some extent. And there is a special loneliness that arises when there is miscommunication and misunderstanding with family and friends. Jesus said that there would be this kind of conflict even among family members, especially regarding belief in Him.

But I thank God so much for my wife. We are often on the same page in many wonderful ways. :)

Thursday, July 7, 2022
Here it is the beginning of July, and I haven't posted for over a month. (for good reason)

I got Covid at the end of May, out of the blue. I had my two serial vaccines, and was boosted twice. I went with Pfizer for the first two, and after reading a persuasive article on the Mayo Clinic website by a noted expert in which he said it was ok to "mix and match," I went with Moderna for the boosters, at their proper intervals, because I read an article claiming that Moderna was the better vaccine.

Considering my age, my health provider and a noted Pacific NW epidemiologist recommended Paxlovid, an experimental antiviral. It was not fun for me to take because of the side effects, but it did lessen my temperature and symptoms. After quarantining for five days, I began to improve. (the full CDC quarantine is 10-14 days, which I followed)

I should say something about the home vs. the clinic, more reliable test (which I will call the PCR test). I had a test, the home test, which said I was negative, and later that day, as my symptoms worsened, I had the PCR test at a clinic, which said I was postive. Since then I gauged whether I had Covid or not by the PCR test only.

After my quarantine and after taking the antiviral to the point where my symptoms lessened, I began to work around the house, inside and out, and felt pretty good. That evening symptoms returned. The next day I was sick again. I went in for the PCR test at the clinic, and had somehow gotten Covid again. (The doctor was flabbergasted; he said I had "Covid rebound," a somewhat rare occurrence that happens with Paxlovid.) This second infection required another bout of quarantine.

Both times the disease hit me pretty hard. It definitely was not testing positive with no symptoms; it was the opposite. I not only slept through the night, I slept as much as six to eight hours a day. That was a blessing. When I was awake I felt truly awful—bad racking cough, incredible joint and muscle pain, demonic headaches that felt like a two-by-four was exerting enormous force on my head and brain, and a significant temperature, both times.

The biggest miracle, an answer to many prayers by me and others, was that although my wife and I lived in the same house for the month I was affected, she did not get the disease. (She has had all four vaccines, all Moderna.)

I am ok now. I can work. The psychological and emotional after effects of the disease were not trivial. Brain fog especially, and some fear of getting the disease again, were difficult to work through at times. (I also had a bad, ennervating cough that hung on for three weeks. That was truly a drag.)

I don't know how to explain the fact that I was vaccinated and boosted and yet got the disease. I suppose people who are against vaccination will take this and run with it. But two providers said that possibly my life was saved by the vaccines I received, and I did not have to go to the hospital.

Sunday, May 29, 2022
Just a short entry about a song that inspires me because it blends good, solid gospel singing (from an old hymn, yet) with jazz, what to my ear sounds like New Orleans improvisational jazz led by a clarinet (with drums, banjo, guitar, standup bass).

The song, and even this version of it, is not new. It was composed by George Duffield and George J. Webb (apparently in 1858), and is listed in at least one hymnbook (as #616).

The version I like is by Bart Millard, lead singer for MercyMe, and is included on his album "Hymned Again," released in 2008.

Here is Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus on YouTube.

The clarinet improvisation around and through Millard's light, refreshing, rhythmic treatment of the lyrics is truly wonderful to me. The band makes this possible by creating a swinging framework of guitar and banjo anchored by that awesome standup bass.

Cheers! Have a nice day.

Tuesday, May 10, 2022
Somehow Will McFarlane has come back into view. A guitarist originally from California, he was part of the burgeoning Christian Contemporary Music (CCM) scene in the 1980s. I've talked about him in this blog before, Tuesday, May 18, 2021. His music played on Christian radio stations along with Leon Patillo, the Sweet Comfort band (featuring Bryan Duncan), and others of that era. On a list I looked at, he is included among "the top 100 Christian rock guitarists" of all time. (Phil Keaggy is number one on that list. :)

His Christian albums were Right from the Start (1982), A Colony of Heaven (1984), Only the Heart (1987), Hear the Voice (1991), and Axe to the Root (1998). The song I am most familiar with is You Call Me a Dreamer.

Anyhoo, I am still looking at the Nashville Number System and beginning to appreciate its pluses. One clear advantage it has over other notation systems I know of is that it is very sparse, only containing essential information, but nevertheless allowing a musician to see the bigger picture of a song and allow her/him to spend less time reading and more time playing and feeling the music. (In my previous entry I reported how I got access to it through the teaching of Travis Dykes, and his recommendation of a certain book about the system by Chas Williams; the book contains charts and testimonials by famous session women and men who use it. I was interested in that as much as the system itself.)

McFarlane became a session musician familiar with the Nashville system. Here is a YouTube performance video in which he uses it.

Here is a video of Mr. McFarlane talking about his move to Muscle Shoals from LA.


And just for fun, here is a YouTube video of McFarlane leading a bunch of musicians on a fun but not necessarily Christian song: Blues Counsel w/ Phil Keaggy - River is Rising - Grace Chapel (aka a whole lot of telecasters, and stratocasters, and a couple o' Gibsons). As can be heard, all these musicians are stellar, but there are some real heavyweights here: Al Perkins (played with Dolly Parton for some years), Tony Hooper (Bryan Duncan), and the bassist, Rick Cua.

Saturday, May 7, 2022
In my previous entry I considered posting a tutorial on YouTube about the necessity of learning music by ear. I'm so glad that I didn't. I think music students should use their ears more and their eyes less. I'm not alone in this. Aimee Nolte, one of the best singers and piano players in the world in my opinion, created a YouTube video named The Day I Put my Real Books Away.

In the last 10 years I've been trying to develop my ears and I've been influenced by a number of what I call "ear players." These are the heroes of the music industry as far as I'm concerned. There have been a number of such (local) musicians and singers who have been very inspirational to me, for example Bernie Jacobs ((f) (as) (ts) (v), Phil Sparks (b), Paul Green (v), Eric Verlinde (p) (v) (b), and Farko Dusomov (b). (see musical instrument abbreviations chart above) (caveat: some of these players read music, as well as using their ears...) As one who has used his eyes too much musically, my attempts to use my ears more, and preach that this was the only way, caused me to get out of balance somewhat.

A musician who is influencing me on YouTube these days is a bass player named Travis Dykes. I just find it really interesting to listen to his advice on getting better musically, but I also learn a lot from his stories of touring, performance experiences, and life. He gives strategies for improving on one’s instrument, but even more importantly, how to interact in the music industry in a way that gives one an air of professionalism regarding employers, other musicians, and audiences.

One of Mr. Dykes' tips was to buy a book about the Nashville Number System by Chas Williams. To this point, I assumed that the Nashville Number System was very similar to the Roman numerals jazz musicians use to indicate chords and chord functions regardless of key. These Roman numerals describe chord relationships within any key, so by learning this system, a professional musician can quickly change keys without having to rewrite a chart.

What I learned in the last week was that there is a huge need for charts whether they are in classical notation or the Nashville Number System. One session and in-demand performance player, Brent Mason, described how the house band at songwriters’ nights would have to accompany as many as 20 singers a night. Without a very lean and effective system to deal with this need, they would have been sunk. Of course the best way to perform songs is to have them committed to memory, but the demands on professional players make this impossible. No one could do it. Think of the huge amount of pressure on the house band on American Idol. It is incomprehensible.

What I saw, especially in regard to professional musicians, was an enormous and intense need to learn and play songs, often off the cuff or with minimal preparation time, for example on the bandstand or in the studio with little rehearsal time.

My space to elaborate here is very limited and there's much to say, but to create a tutorial diminishing charts and reading would have been unwise.

I just created a couple new YouTube performance videos. On the most recent, I was having some real problems with things like one or two bars between sections of the song (verse and chorus for example), and during performance I couldn’t remember which sections had one bar, two bars, or more between them. I created my first Nashville number chart and it was immensely helpful. A Nashville number chart is so succinct. Writing out the chart in classical musical notation would have taken forever, and had much unnecessary information.

Monday, May 2, 2022
A new blog post! (about time)

Time flies.

God is amazing. His goodness and wonder cannot be plumbed. That's an old-fashioned way of saying it is more than anyone can comprehend or appreciate. And yet there is a simplicity and beauty to God.

What's been on my mind lately musically are a number of songs and a potential project, a teaching video on YouTube. Yes. It's true. As if the world needs another tutorial.

I saw an ad on the door at Guitar Center for guitar teachers. I thought about it for a long time. It had a definite appeal, and I wanted to know why. I decided it was because I believe I do have something to teach that might help somebody.

Although I am not a particularly good "doer," (those who do, do, those who cannot do, teach :) I have put some time and effort into music, singing, and performing, for quite a while. If nothing else, teaching would provide a way for me to save people from some of the dead ends and time wasters I’ve encountered along the way. Plus, I could preach on the necessity of learning by ear instead of by sight, which I feel is important. (But I probably emphasize this so strongly and often that it becomes counterproductive.)

There are a number of reasons not to start such a project. The perfectionist in me knows how much work it would be to embark on such a task to make it effective. But we'll see.

Last Saturday my wife and I went on a drive. There is beautiful countryside in these parts, and the weather was good for the Pacific Northwest. Viewing these sights refreshes my mind. Saturdays one of the sub-channels of the FM Christian radio station plays old Christian Contemporary Music (CCM) from the 1970s to about five years ago. I get a big charge out of it. There is a nostalgia element as I hear favorite songs from yesteryear and remember some of the things I was going through in that time of my life. Additionally, I hear some genuinely great singers and musicians and marvel at them anew.

I heard a song by Russ Taff. He is truly a great. I began to think about the notion of "cancel" in the sense of cancel culture, because at a certain point late in his life it was discovered Taff had a hidden addiction. There was a feeling, a spirit, that seemed to undermine and disqualify all the music he had created in his entire life. But I don't accept that. He was and is a tremendous Christian artist.

I also thought of Bryan Duncan. I have waxed on about him previously in this blog. (You can just search on this page or the blog archive for that if you're interested; or go to the Wednesday, June 23, 2021, entry) What a singer and musician!

It appears I may join the worship band at my church. I would be playing bass. (That will no doubt be a stretch.) Lord help me.

Friday, April 1, 2022
A simple recommendation with some caveats.

Steven Spielberg's West Side Story (2021).

  • Some of the dance numbers are pretty sexy, and there are steamy sexual situations, especially between characters Anita and Bernardo. The film has a PG-13 rating, but considering the sex and especially the violence (see below), some young psyches may not be able to cope with it.

  • My wife couldn't handle the heaviness of the coming death, violence, and tragedy, so bailed about the 2/3 mark. Parents be strongly cautioned. Although the sex may skate by with a PG-13 MPAA rating (granted that there are other films with this rating that may have even more sex), the heavy pall of death, rape, and violence should give it an R rating in my opinion.

The movie is a masterpiece on many fronts. Casting (I read that 30,000 people auditioned), choreography, music, performance, and others. The most amazing thing to me was the believability of the characters as real people in the drama, which singing and dancing can erode, but in this it was perfect. If there were no dancing and music, the film would have played strongly, in my opinion.

And the film does not shy away from its strong portrayal of racial / ethnic problems, poverty, and the captivity of people of various ethnicities—all of them poor—to a small, heavily populated area where intense friction is bound to occur.

Tuesday, March 15, 2022
I did my first gig yesterday since last summer. In light of recent developments in Europe, I doubt very many people were thinking that this was the first meeting of this type (a women's Christian meeting) that did not have a mask mandate in maybe a year? Peril regarding the crisis overseas, reminiscent of Hitler's attacks on weaker countries over 70 years ago, shifted our country's attention away from the pandemic.

The gig was a lot of logistics. I'd forgotten how involved it can get. Fitting an amp and guitar and microphone into a very small speaker's podium area, working with restaurant staff and the groups' leaders regarding the setup and the program. I don't think I've ever arrived at a gig too early, even though I allotted myself plenty of time, usually. There's just too much to do, and something nearly always happens, the solution to which burns up the time cushion.

As I thought about having done this before a number of times, I remembered the times I hired others to accompany me on the bandstand. Without exception I felt the money I spent for their pay was more than worth every penny, by a long shot. I especially thought of Darian Asplund. Always punctual, properly and sharply dressed, to say nothing of his contributions musically, which were indescribably cool. A multi-instrumentalist, arranger, and a plus in every area. A real pro. Yet humble enough to play with me :) (Did I mention he's a nice guy, interacts with audiences well, and is a team player?)

I played instrumental guitar music, hymns mostly, while everyone ate. It was at Shawn O'Donnell's American Grill and Irish Pub in Everett. I was impressed with the staff, facility, and food, big time. KJ was my restaurant liaison, and she went the second mile to make sure I had what I needed, musically and gastronomically. Even sent home with my wife and me abundant corned beef and side dishes.

I thought I was going to be paid in food, but even that changed, and I was given an honorarium. During our part of the program, I was to play one song (an original) named Song of Ascents, bring Donna my wife up to join me for a second song, and then close out with a third. (As it turned out, there was not enough time for the third.) The speaker was very good. It was right that they cut out my song to give her priority and more time. Her name is E.M. "Cookie" Miller, and she is an author, poet, and speaker. She is part of Healing Hearts Ministries.

Monday, March 7, 2022
I have a funny (odd) relationship with musical keys. One of my first major gigs (which I did periodically for some time, even traveling with the band occasionally) was playing with a big band (swing) under the leadership of John Holte. John was like someone who was teleported from about 1936 (give or take a decade or two) to the 1970s (when I played with him). It was a very musically rich environment with a heavy emphasis on the music played in the US between the Bix Beiderbecke years and about 1950.

The most profound way this influenced me (or warped? though I see it as complete blessing) was the keys we played our songs in. I think the locus was Bb, going north (colder keys) to F, C, and occasionally one sharp, but often going south to the warmer climes of Eb, Ab, and even Db. All of the latter are in my way of thinking the warmer, friendlier horn keys. Unlike most guitarists, I tend to avoid E, A, and B, and even occasionally G (unless context or necessity compel me).

To this day I gravitate toward the flat keys. I love them. My feelings aren't that comfortable with the sharp keys. Just being honest. My association with the African American church added more pull to this, where I find F, Bb, Eb (not as much), but especially Ab, Db, and even occasionally Gb.

Of course the really good players in the Pacific NW (like Eric Verlinde, Dean Schmidt, Phil Sparks, Bernie Jacobs, and others too numerous to name) play in any key, instantly and adeptly. Eric has told me more than once that he enjoys the challenge (in real time on the bandstand) of playing in keys more rarely used in jazz. I remember a night years ago at the now-defunct Shuga's jazz club. I can't remember many things about a certain number performed but what I do recall are the following. Lavon Hardison (v), Eric V. (p), and Wolf Kienzle (g). Breakneck tempo. Wolf may have forgotten his guitar strap, as he was sitting on the edge of the bandstand, which was only a foot off the floor. Knees and guitar in his lap, struggling like everyone else to stay on this fast-moving roller coaster of a song. But they all just crushed it! Wow. It was exhilarating and fun. And the players were surprised and pleased with how things had gone.

I asked Wolf afterwards what key it was in. Key of A. Vocalists are crazy. But saying that is harsh; they just have a different perspective. Playing in A is not so hard for a guitar player because she or he can just move their fretting hand a couple positions (though recalling the ii, iii, and vi and vii chords at high speeds is not easy for lack of use). Vocalists are a different breed.

I have a really good Christmas album by Lauren Daigle and figured out the key of one of the songs I like. A again. Nooo!!!! The horn players may have been sweating on that one. Or just really good.

Wednesday, March 2, 2022
My previous post (February 22) was motivated by a feeling of injustice regarding the hymn "How Great Thou Art." The song came together in the late 1800s from a traditional Swedish melody and a poem written by Carl Boberg. It was popularized by George Beverly Shea and Cliff Barrows during the Billy Graham crusades. It has been sung by many people through the decades, including James Cleveland, Dolly Parton, Carrie Underwood, and too many to mention. Elvis Presley even has a popular version.

Yet somehow the copyright for this song has come under the authority of the following Performing Rights Organizations (PROs): Sony ATV Publishing, Kobalt Music Publishing, Adorando Brazil, UMPG Publishing, Polaris Hub AB, LatinAutorPerf, Capitol CMG Publishing.

This means that everyone who performs this song must pay a copyright fee to these organizations.

The melody is not original, but rather traditional, so it's impossible to pay anyone there. The lyrics are from a poem whose author died in 1940. Do any of his heirs get money from the Performing Rights Organizations?

Technically Sony and the other PROs could sue me for my videos of it on YouTube.

I really like the song. It glorifies God, and in the second verse tells us who God is, the Father of Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, February 22, 2022
I have thoughts and feelings. Some are about music, others not so much, though somehow they do overlap in imagination and creativity, and in other ways.

I woke up this morning and felt to take all my videos that had copyright hits against them off YouTube. It is just too much of a risk, considering the dubious benefits of keeping them up. Those who do not have YouTube videos may not know what I'm talking about.

The videos I create and upload to YouTube are both songs I created and songs I have learned that others created. For example, a song created by someone else that has meant much to me in my life is "God Will Make a Way" by Don Moen. During times when my path through life was difficult and unclear, this song has helped me to believe that God is in fact leading me through the storms and deserts, and is with me. This brings no little comfort, and I would like others to be able to share this comfort in their pain and confusion.

I figured out the song and went to the effort of recording it and uploading it to YouTube. But immediately in my (private, accessible by password only) YouTube channel account, listed by that video I read the fearsome words "Copyright claim". In other words, YouTube's copyright algorithm that checks (quite thoroughly I've found) whether any content in one's video is copyrighted material found some in the Moen cover song and flagged the video. The penalty could be severe or nonexistent. I've not experienced any penalties so far, but of my flagged videos, none have over a thousand hits. I doubt the copyright holders would make the effort to come after me, considering the millions of posters on YouTube. But why take the chance?

This represents loss for me. I would still perform these songs in a live performance, and that is what I will have to content myself with, though my live performances in any kind of venue are very rare these days, for a number of reasons. These are pandemic related in large measure, but not solely for this reason. Two local venues, one in particular, had sex harassment issues connected with them. I have not made a final decision on whether I will ever return to the one with the lesser issue, but the venue with the much more serious issue I doubt I will ever return to. It involves a local music performance venue where the owner is accused of (and has been charged with) rape for systematically adding drugs to customers' drinks and taking advantage of them while they were impaired. I used to go to this venue and sometimes performed there. I or my wife could have been drugged by a drink I paid money for there, and taken advantage of. It is just horrible. The accused has been named by a number of victims, mostly women, but at least one male.

I should also point out that the copyright police, in the form of agents who work for Performing Rights Organizations (or PROs such as BMI, ASCAP, and SESAC) also surveil local performance venues like pubs, restaurants, and coffee shops, anywhere music is performed live, no matter how small and humble the locale, number and skill of performers, and whether anyone involved is making any money from the performance. This could even be a free performance, or one in which tips is the only method of payment, even a street performance. Pls look up the word "draconian". It is appropriate. Though of course songwriters and composers have a legitimate argument and should have their intellectual / artistic property protected. But is there a balance here somewhere? {Nevertheless, singers and musicians, the only safe route is to write your own stuff...}

When I started writing this post I had no idea it would lead here.

The sad thing is that even if a club is barely staying open due to money issues, and provides artistic outlet for well-meaning and humble musicians and singers who are either making no money or "peanuts", the cost of a license paid to BMI and / or other PROs is not cheap. (I think it is about a thousand dollars a year; it does however cover any song played in the premises during that time.)

Friday, January 28, 2022
I'm making a little musical progress. It's about time. (Some people make this amount of progress when they're in elementary school.)

I find that my ear is getting a little better. With repitition and paying attention to the bass (and the piano chords at times), I can figure out songs by ear. Some people can do this on the spot in real time on the bandstand. I need to have a guitar or piano handy to duplicate and check the notes I'm hearing.

But I think this is the real way to learn music. I'm in favor of teaching kids by ear at a young age. Not the way I learned.

I was lamenting the lives of musicians today. They just want somebody to listen to them. Spending so much time, investing so much of themselves, even if they love it, doesn't feel complete to me without an audience. I'm thankful for YouTube, which provides an outlet for many musicians / singers.

I got a gig today, playing three songs at a Christian meeting. The pay is a free lunch at the restaurant where we'll be. First gig since July, 2021. It is a miracle. I hope Covid has taken a hike by then.

I only busked once last year, in the summer, near the beach. It was rewarding. I had a number of meaningful interactions with people. I'm thankful for it. Maybe by the grace of God I brought a little sunshine into a life or two.

We watched "The Roosevelts" on PBS. There are seven installments. I found it fascinating. (I can see how some might not be that keen on it.) My interest was flagging a bit by the end of the first installment as I realized how much of an imperialist Theodore Roosevelt was. But near the beginning of the second installment he redeemed himself by inviting Booker Washington to eat with Roosevelt's family at the White House. The firestorm this created was just unbelievable. A white Southern Democrat Senator, Benjamin Tillman, suggested killing 1000 African Americans in retaliation. This was 30 years after the Civil War. I came to see that Roosevelt was a friend of the common person regardless of race, and his cousin Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who is the subject of subsequent installments, was even more of one. FDR was instrumental in establishing social security, abolishing child labor, limiting the number of hours people worked a day, and establishing workers' unemployment compensation. He also guided the country through the difficult years of the Depression and World War II. But not without his wife. Eleanor Roosevelt was his equal and teammate in these things. Sometimes she was more then his equal and even led in issues like equal rights and women's rights.

Monday, January 24, 2022
I have an app on my desktop computer that changes the wallpaper to whatever photograph is current for the day on MS Bing. Today it is a remarkable picture of Lower Manhattan, New York City, at night.

One can see all the intricate and gargantuan changes humankind has made to the land and sea in this shot that covers maybe 15 square miles. One assumes that there must be 1000s if not tens of 1000s of people represented in this small fragment of the whole. [edit, 1/25/2022—I got to poking around in Bing and Google and found that in Manhattan reside 1.69 million souls. So I should have said hundreds of thousands or maybe even a million, considering this shot of Lower Manhattan covers maybe 1/4 of the whole of Manhattan—it is the most densely populated place in the US and one of the most densely populated areas in the world, with 72,000 people per square mile...]

Think of the activity, the production, the consumption, the myriad forms of communication by voice, text, email, social media, the complex human relationships just in this one relatively small fraction of New York represented by the picture. It is absolutely overwhelming.

And yet the Bible says God knows how many hairs are on each person's head, something that not one person knows about herself / himself. God hears each word of each prayer and answers each prayer; my devotional said this morning that a delay in answered prayer is not a refusal.

Thank God for God!

He is real and has come to us in Christ Jesus. That's just the truth. A humble God, not a grandiose one who flaunts his power and micromanages us and our lives.

Ask Him to reveal Himself to you. Pray to Him and listen. Communicate with others who believe. These things reveal a wonderful savior who knows what it's like to live on planet earth as a human.

Friday, December 7, 2022
The story of He Keeps on Doing Great Things for Me, my newest upload to YouTube.

I believe I first heard the song in the 1980s when I attended a number of predominantly African American churches. A Google search reveals some versions on YouTube and little else, no history, composer, nothing.

I spend a fair amount of time on YouTube and a version of the song appeared on my landing page a month ago or so. It featured Cory Henry (vox, organ, and another keyboard instrument) and TaRon Lockett (d). It was mind-blowing, like from another planet in its virtuosity. It also served as a gateway to two other versions on YouTube, those of LaShun Pace and Tessie Hill. Because Henry is so skilled, I relied more on the other two versions in creating my version.

I lived with the song for several weeks. Various events, calamities, responsibilities, and my own listlessness and self-doubt contributed to keep me from working on it much, or just in spurts. Yesterday the Lord blessed me to get it together. I think key in that was to accept my limitations and accept a couple tracks I'd recorded earlier and use them as accompaniment. As I learn parts I come up with barely acceptable results that on second thinking I believe are not good enough. But the thought of perfecting them seems like a Herculean task and so I do nothing.

I had recorded a bass track with a lot of influence from LaShun Pace's and Tessie Hills' bass players. I did this with a midi keyboard plugged into my DAW, Reaper. Then I did the same for the organ track. A couple days before recording God did a breakthrough in my health, and then a night or so later after a painful trial He came to me by night and encouraged me in a special way. I wish I were a more expressive person because what God does for me deserves all the praise I can muster.

He Keeps on Doing Great Things for Me on YouTube

You can search for Cory Henry doing He Keeps On... on YouTube without a problem. But here is another one of his:

I Decided to Make Jesus My Choice

Friday, December 7, 2022
I give honor and remembrance to a great man, the actor Sidney Poitier, regarding his passing yesterday. I am a real fan. I came through the 1950s and 60s and I remember how racist those times were, especially to African Americans. It was and is astounding to me to see him in his brave roles standing against white cultural injustices, and so long ago. He was one of the Hollywood celebrities who attended as a group the March on Washington in 1963, with Harry Belafonte and many others, Black, Caucasian, and perhaps others of other ethnicities.

Monday, December 20, 2021
Merry Christmas. Life goes on, and God keeps helping and blessing us. I just had my birthday on Saturday. The weather outside was frightful and oppressive so we didn't go out all day. I was also "feeling under the weather" on my birthday, so that was a bit disappointing.

My wife Donna told me to do what I wanted on my birthday. I am still really interested in music. So I worked out a solo guitar arrangement, very short, of I'll Be Home for Christmas and posted it to YouTube. It came out better than I thought while making it. It wasn't perfect, but I was satisfied with it. I don't get many hits with my videos, but that's ok. I am just grateful that I can still play and do my small thing.

Monday, December 13, 2021 (afternoon post)
I'm going to blow the socks off the parameters of this blog. I was practicing my vocal warmups, and as often happens, they don't keep my mind engaged (but are dyn-o-mite for developing muscle memory for singing, which I believe is vital in using one's voice as an instrument). Here's what I was thinking about while practicing.

God knows that in a marriage relationship sex is a pretty big deal. And yet if that is a man's main focus and motivation in courting a woman, the relationship may not survive if they marry. I believe God wants to develop other qualities and gifts in a man that complement the sexual relationship, which God knows is very important in itself. (He invented it! :)

There exists a template for how God wants things to go, and it is all about delayed gratification. If one can just trust God, He will reward one's faith. Keeping sex until after marriage, a commitment and even a covenant, is very difficult. "What if we're not sexually compatible?" "Let's see if we are before marriage so we don't make a big mistake." But that is human reasoning, and it is faulty. God is able to reward those who respect the marriage relationship, which always takes a measure of faith, and faith involves a measure of risk.

We recently watched The Chosen Christmas special. It is available on YouTube for free now, after opening in theaters nationwide. It is made up of a longish Christian musical concert featuring a number of prominent artists, and a gospel play of the nativity.

We have modeled for us in the demeanor and actions of Joseph God's view of a man's responsibilities to his wife. Think of the faith of Joseph. He sticks with Mary though she is pregnant not from him. He is deeply motivated to protect and provide for her. We know from the Bible that eventually they do have sex because Mary has several other children that are not born of the Holy Spirit.

I'll bet when Mary and Joseph did have sex, God caused it to be the best!

But we can learn a lot from this. For various reasons, sex can be a huge problem and disappointment in marriages, maybe even more often problematic than wonderful. But if a man or woman can pray and wait on God and go on with life doing good and following God, God will eventually bless and help in this area that can be so deeply satisfying and rewarding. If the man can develop a good and caring relationship with his wife outside the bedroom, it may not result in sexual intimacy right away, but it sure helps pave the way for that. The important thing is to have patience in the storm and in the waiting.

Sometimes these things can take years. Don't divorce. Some have found that the same issues arise in a new marriage as were in the previous.

Counseling can do wonders also. (I recommend Christian counselors, but even secular ones can be used by God to help people.)

Monday, December 13, 2021 (morning post)
Some more ramblings that nevertheless may connect or get you thinking.

Nuance. As I get older the concept expressed by this word becomes important and even critical at times.

It's really important in music and art. And speaking. And other important stuff like preaching.

I could talk about the difference (and balance) between "ear players" and sight readers. That's a deep one. Most of the African American players I've heard and played with tend toward their ears. And God bless them for it. It is hugely valuable and keeps things on track in a number of vital ways.

I keep a journal, and have for years. One famous guy said, "How can I know what I think unless I see what I write?"

I was at a Christmas concert yesterday and it was not connecting, so I got my phone out (surreptitiously) and read a few entries in my journal from years ago.

One said this, "Dan [that's my first name], when you read this in the future I want you to know that despite your body pain, sleep challenges, and painful struggles, be encouraged and hang in there." So I read that sitting in a church on Sunday afternoon 3 years and 10 months after I wrote it. A note to Dan of the future, from the Dan of 2018. Just happened to find that entry in a journal with hundreds of entries in it. Because of some work that needed doing on our house, I was working with a ladder for extended periods last week and went outside of the established parameters of allowable work I can do and not have my hip pain flare up. It hurts these days, as it did when I wrote that note. Tell me there isn't a God. A really good God who encourages us in our trials.

The mind is an amazing thing that God made. Even in art and music, there's a lot going on subliminally in the creative process. I've played solos that were recorded that I thought sucked. Six months or a year later I listen to it and thought the opposite. Oh, that's what I was doing!! Not bad! (Or what my whole mind was doing, and my conscious mind didn't catch it at the time—but maybe someone listening caught it)

God is good all the time.

Happy Monday!

Sunday, December 12, 2021
Yesterday's post was that for a relationship with a person to grow, or to improve an art or skill, an investment of time is needed.

This is true of a relationship with God, I've found. To get closer to God, to know Him as a friend, it costs something.

During my initial encounter with God, it was apparent that I had to decide who God was because two groups of people I knew were telling me different things. The first group used the Bible to describe God in secondary ways, but their main contact with and way of knowing God was through the leaders of their group. (Later, I would learn that this group was a cult, but at the time I didn't even know what that meant.)

The people who believed the Bible, which was really just my Christian friend and his wife, told me that if something the other group told me contradicted the Bible, I would have to choose whether to believe what they said, or believe the Bible. The key thing was that the group who did not believe the Bible also did not believe in marriage. They did not allow it in their group. They also didn't believe in working for money, that there was something inherently wrong with physical paper money (the Bible is against the love of money). Lastly, they said that a person should not eat any food that brought an animal into bondage. (That eliminates about 70% of foods; they didn't eat dairy and of course did not believe in eating meat. They would not even eat honey because that brought insects into bondage.)

All that to say this. Reading and even studying the Bible is one of the main ways to find out about God.

Some of the other ways are praying, worshiping, and gathering with other believers so that each member of the body of Christ can share her or his unique gifts with others. Fasting has a place also. The Bible says God always rewards prayer. God also always rewards fasting.

So surely as important as spending time with people and with music (or other arts or skills) is spending time with God. In fact, the Bible says that if a person seeks God first, God will add whatever else is necessary for life to that person.

Saturday, December 11, 2021
More ruminations on life and music!

When I was working, everything seemed to be about bandwidth, which is how much focus, energy, and motivation someone has left after taking care of essential survival things like paying bills and supporting oneself, and a family if they have one.

My musical world is small, but I really like music, and I have some experience, high highs and low lows, and much in between. The lows caused me to give up sometimes, and / or reevaluate my goals and expectations regarding music and the investment I put in it.

What really inspired me today was watching a video by Kevon Carter. I'll put a link to it at the bottom of this post. If you watch and listen to that, you don't need to be reading this (and that's why I put it at the bottom :)

I was struck by what an impossibility it is for anyone to get good at music, or any art form. One has to dedicate one's life to making music to get good at it, and along the way there isn't much recompense to live on. One has to get a day job, often. In other eras, there were a lot more paying jobs for musicians, so they could learn on the job and make a modest living as they got better. But presently it seems like one is either a very popular well-paid musician / singer or doesn't make any money at it. There just isn't much work for mediocre musicians who want to improve their craft.

I was listening to Lauren Daigle's Christmas album today. The musicianship (and singing) is so high!!! (I commented on this last year, which you can see here.)

As one strives for musical mastery, I think there comes a moment of truth, so to speak. One realizes that really the only way she or he can stick with the rigors of an artistic life is to spend time with their art, and to really be curious about it, and want to learn about it, and that this is the heart of it, this relationship with the art. And that it is enough. (I just heard Aimee Nolte say that she likes to spend time at night by herself playing piano in the dark just for herself—a perfect example!) Come what may, whether success in execution or not, and whether public recognition or obscurity.

Anyway, the promised link to Kevon Carter. He is talking about learning to play in different keys, but really he is talking about this thing we call art and music and passion. He is talking about relationship. To get better at something, one has to spend time with it (or them, for a person). It is pretty profound. I love how he develops this. Try to watch the whole thing if you can. It is a video on YouTube. Here is the link.

Saturday, December 4, 2021
I'm still working on my singing, though I don't have much outlet except for YouTube videos. By outlet I mean a chance to perform for people.

I have days when I think I've improved and don't sound half bad. Then I have a day like yesterday when I start trying to sing in the morning, and my voice is several half steps lower, and I have little control over it. Just the day before I could do things that I can't do. It is very discouraging.

I think God led me to a video on YT that relieved some of my fears.

Yolanda Adams has gained well-deserved acclaim and respect as a dyn-o-mite gospel singer. Like CeCe Winans, she is a person of integrity regarding keeping her singing pure and focused on the Lord. Anyhoo, I watched a video of her teaching and giving some tips on singing. Some of her challenges I have known also as a singer (she mentions the difficulty she has singing in the morning several times), and it was very encouraging to hear that someone that talented and skilled has speed bumps and things she has to work on and deal with. The video is here if you're interested. (Well, I don't do well on the circular breathing, praise God—I don't even try that one! Maybe some day... I used to not even try lip rolls but now see that they are a valuable tool for working on your breathing. Posture and breathing, singers! Preaching to myself...)

I'm trying to work out another song. But it's a bit of work. Plus, I am a sleep-challenged individual and some days it feels like it's impossible to get it together. I used to have some discipline but seems like it got up and left!

Monday, November 29, 2021
For today's blog entry I'd like to point you to a remarkable young man named Kevon Carter.

On YouTube he has 76 million hits on his numerous videos, which include serious and humorous presentations centering around music from a Black church musician's perspective.

He has some really funny videos that I laugh out loud at. Although he is a Christian, he includes videos that focus on more secular topics, though of course there is a lot of overlap.

His humor is often self-effacing. Here is an example: I Quit

But I like his worship videos also. Here is an example of an original of his: Give Him Praise (note: volume needs increasing on this one :)

Thursday, November 26 (day after Thanksgiving), 2021
As I start today's blog entry, I admit I'm winging it. I feel the pressure to keep entries coming, as I'm pretty sure I detect lower hit numbers if I don't keep things fresh. But deciding which of my many thoughts to publish and emphasize is not easy. Aside from freshness, I like to share my faith, but prefer to do so in an organic way. Sometimes, however, there is an immediacy that works against "organic," but this immediacy can be counterproductive if too aggressive.

Musically I've had some thoughts. I tried to watch Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. I don't know about previous years, but this year the music performers (not talking about the marching bands, but the popular artists) did not have to be in the parade, but appeared to perform off-route in various one-off stages, each venue probably just for one performance (for variety), probably somewhere in New York, where the camera and some live audience viewed the artists.

It was unreal how many big-name popular entertainers performed, including Carrie Underwood, Nelly, Tauren Wells, Foreigner, Jon Batiste, and about 14 others.

The message I got was not much related to the real meaning of Christmas. Which is fairly normal, even to be expected. One can appreciate good vocals and instrumentalists after all, as well as choreography, even if the lyrics and dancing are pop fluff. But the words and dancing were salacious, the costumes skimpy and calculated to emphasize sexuality, in spite of the freezing weather that caused singers' breath to condense. After a time, I switched over to the football game, not only uninspired musically, but my optimistic search for good music was damaged and I was irritated as well. So much for that investment of time. Life is too short.

I found some previously recorded Christmas videos of mine that I posted on a whim. One in particular deserves some explanation because of the virtuosity of the performers (those who were not me). :)

I'm talking about Christmas Time Is Here. Darian Asplund is a Cornish graduate and multi-instrumentalist I've had the pleasure of knowing for several years. I've also performed with him in public on occasion. He is the best musician I know, and what the old-school people (like me) would call a consummate professional. Shows up for performance in plenty of time, always dressed really well. Plays tastefully and has a reserved and appropriate stage presence. Discreet. Covers my mistakes. But those are the peripheral stuff. Just listen to the selection, maybe without looking at the visuals, to focus on his playing, his fills, his various contributions that work together complementarily to enhance the whole, the mood, the feel.

Just as integral to the music was Robert Seager's wonderful drumming.

Thursday, November 11, 2021
Yesterday God gave us quite a day. We visited my wife's mother in the group home where she lives. (She used to live with us, but there came a time when we could not furnish her the care she needed.) Afterward, we just started driving north on I-5. We got off at Arlington, but instead of turning right as we usually do, we turned left onto a street I'd never been on before. It's called the Pioneer Highway.

Continuing along this route had a much different feel from the other side of the freeway, less populated and quite spectacular scenery and views. (The other side of the freeway is beautiful, but evokes different feelings.)

Eventually we found ourselves between Conway and LaConner here in Washington state. I turned off at a side road I'd been on before and drove to a park on the Skagit River. As we sat in our car, a large bald eagle swooped down within feet of the surface of the river and caught a fish in its talon. It continued upstream, but then looped around and landed about fifty feet away from us on the bank of the river. After it waited a good five minutes, turning this way and that surveying the area to make sure it were a safe spot, the huge, majestic, wild being began to eat its lunch (and dinner probably). All of this happened right in front of us.

We continued on to LaConner and ate a sandwich at the LaConner Tavern. We sat in the heated area outside in back. We basked in the light and warmth of the afternoon November sun on the shielded patio. At one table sat a Polish man and woman visiting the US, and at another table, two Japanese women who lived in the Seattle Metro area and were "day tripping". We had conversations with each pair. (One of the Japanese women was especially loquacious.) She had been a longtime Japanese language instructor at Blanchet High School in Seattle. Her friend spoke little English, but there was something about her spirit that was so friendly and engaging.

Driving back to I-5 later, we passed a place by the side of the road where a number of cars had pulled off. There were hundreds—if not thousands—of snow geese present. Some were grazing in nearby fields, but many flew in wild but somehow synchronized waves, circling now here, now there. A loud, eerie and plaintiff call issued from hundreds of beaks simultaneously and spontaneously, creating one textured, mystical, moving chorus. It was otherworldly.

I awoke this morning with the song The Lord's Prayer by Albert Hay Malotte in my mind. I sang it into my DAW, but did not feel to record video of myself. Later I prayed with Donna about what kind of visuals to put with it if I were to post it to YouTube. I don't know if this was the answer to our prayer, but here you have it on YouTube: https://youtu.be/61P6cYyjKCQ

Friday, Nov 5, 2021
We were driving toward a small city near us after church one afternoon recently and some red leaves dropped slowly, artistically in front of us. It was a moment. It was an arresting and beautiful moment.

Not long afterward, as often happens in the fall under such conditions, the song Autumn Leaves came to mind. For me the beauty and sadness of the song is not related to a missing lover. I have a wife I love and appreciate each day, and God has given us a great gift; He has blessed us to fall more in love with one another as the years pass. How can this be? It is the gift of God. I do struggle with loneliness in my life, but I would really be a lonely person if it weren't for my companion Donna.

One day I felt the freedom to record a new version of the song. The recording process is such a trip. It is indescribable. One never knows what's going to happen in my recording sessions anyway.

Here it is on YouTube: https://youtu.be/TIW9NYgaQek

Thursday, October 28, 2021
I posted another video. It had been on my mind for some time, and I even posted a previous version to YouTube, left it overnight, and took it down. My guitar was out of tune. At first I thought I could live with it, but I just couldn't. Really bugged me.

Then my wife and I hosted a friend who had major surgery for five days. Took care of him until he could get back on his feet. (all this time the music project was on the back burner)

In a way it's a miracle it ever got redone at all.

I should explain the title. It's called "Rhythm changes" (link goes to my version on YouTube). When "I Got Rhythm" by George and Ira Gershwin was published in 1930, the song made such a significant moment in jazz that the chords of the song became the foundation for other songs, especially songs jazz musicians liked to play at jam sessions. So every jazz musician has to have knowledge of these chord changes and the A-A-B-A form it uses, though the A-A-B-A form is used on countless other songs published over many decades. A-A-B-A form describes a composition in which there are four sections of eight bars each, and three of the four have identical (or nearly so) chords used in the same order. The bridge is the "B" section, and has altogther different chords and order (but is also eight bars long).

I took liberties with the lyrics to reflect what is more real to me in my life, with my Christian faith:

I've got my God, I've got my gal,
I've got music, who could ask for anything more?

I've got daisies, in green pastures,
I've got my God, who could ask for anything more?

Old man trouble, we don't mind him,
You won't find him, hanging out round our door.

We've got God's light, we've got God's Word,
We've got sweet dreams, who could ask for anything more, who could ask for anything more?

I don't know how I got to this place where I am a Jesus follower and interested in spiritual and secular music.

For more information about my recording process, read below.

My current process is different than previously (and probably different than many musicians on YouTube). I have evolved to more of a "live" method rather than multi-tracking. I use a Boss RC-3 looper to lay down the background track, then play the melody, solo, and sing to the background. I stop the looper at the end and play an outro live.

I plug my guitar into my amp. I also plug my mic into my amp. I record just one track that has background, melody, solo, and vox recorded at the same time. The only thing I do to the audio track before publishing to YouTube is normalize it to give it a little volume. (I used to record guitar, voice, bass, and percussion separately and add reverb, compression, and equalization in my Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) software.

Saturday, October 9, 2021
We go through our days that begin at morning like un-thrown 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 and 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.

For more blog prior to March, 2021, click Blog archive