So this is the little page where I tell you what’s been happening friend to friend, things I’m excited about and a brief answer to the familiar question busy travelers get all the time, “Where ya been?”
The gradual reopening…
One highlight was being asked by Susan Hayden to participate in her literary series, Library Girl, for Library Girl Presents: Wild is the Wind – Tribute to Nina Simone. It was an amazing collection of writers and artists doing pieces inspired by Ms. Simone. I decided to do an a cappella version of “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free,” a song I’ve always loved and have performed in a couple other contexts — in a Freedom Songs set with David Crittendon, and as part of an Emmett Till remembrance produced by Kevin Spicer at Highways.
I’ve continued to score short films for All Saints Church in Pasadena. That’s been a really great experience.
The meditation for All Saints Day was shot by Alison Pill and the text from Sirach/Ecclesiasticus contained in “The Inclusive Bible: The First Egalitarian Translation” (https://bit.ly/32NMd6T), read by Len DeVane.
This was set for the Homecoming Service in the sanctuary, in which only the priests and readers were present. The piece was conceived and edited by Alison Pill and Shane McRae.
And this was a joy to do for the Blessing of the Animals. It’s read and filmed by Alison Pill. And I got to imagine that I was composing for PBS in the early 70s!
I’ve also gotten back into doing some Zoom shows for kids, but it’s nothing like it was before. However, kids can still throw that joy back to you even through a Zoom window!
Most exciting to me is that I feel like I’m writing some good songs. There’s nothing like a deadline to kick me into gear, as the short films have and the song I wrote for the “All’s Well That Ends Well” show. The great thing about getting in gear is that you keep driving. So I hope to keep that up and share some of them with you in time.
Four months into “Safer-at-Home” during this pandemic and six weeks after George Floyd’s murder.
The first few weeks were rough, then I started practicing and writing, joy returned. Then it got rougher. But then writing began with a new purpose.
You can read about it more extensively in my friend, Pete Abraham’s interview:
Then, I was called to work with All Saints Church in Pasadena with an amazing group of creative people. I put “The Witness is in Our Breath” together using prayers selected and read by Steve & Clara Williams, audio from street protests, and Phoebe Boyd, a formerly enslaved woman, interviewed in 1934 (from where I got the title). Steve Williams put together this lyric video:
This led me to be asked to speak to the Racial Justice Ministry, for which I wrote the essay, First Born, Beige Son
There may be a video of the event surfacing soon.
Please stay safe and inspired.
The past few months have been really gratifying. I’ve mostly been woodshedding, as they say, becoming a better musician. And, in the midst of that, I had an opportunity to score a film and see the release of an album I began three years ago.
The film is about the caregivers to the people in a transitional living facility. The project is by a photographer turned filmmaker named Rebecca Truszkowski and it’s a subject dear to both of our hearts. Her grandmother, and my mother (not the same woman), both spent a good part of their lives caring for mentally ill homeless. What’s so beautiful about this film is that so many of the current caregivers had been clients at the facility before dedicating their work life to offering others a hand up. The music is clean acoustic guitar that tries to reflect the beauty of those who work so hard to provide a loving place from which to begin again for people who’ve been through some horribly difficult situations.
The album is called “Mood Swings” and the artist is Larry Wolf, whom I’ve mentioned a few times on this site. He was one of the circle of actors Robert Downey Sr. used for his movies back when Iron Man was just another dog in the “Pound.” It’s mostly a jazz record, with a little bit of Leadbelly. I produced a much of it, played guitar and harmonica, and contributed some BVs. Because Larry is a good actor, he’s such a good musical storyteller. But, this isn’t an actor’s record, this is a seasoned vocalist, digging into the essence of songs you may have heard hundreds of times…or not. Larry also adds some of his own verses and commentary to evergreen standards. What’s gratifying to me is that the reviews have been so positive, with special mentions for the guitar playing in a group with veterans of Jazz artists I’ve admired for years. And if I can share an intimate thought, I did have a moment listening to the rough mixes where I heard myself and felt like I was playing like I’d like to hear someone playing. That may sound silly (and all self-criticism is still close to the surface!), but it’s a wonderful feeling to step into a world and feel like you can do just what you wanted to do within it.
- Take Effect: September 2019: LARRY WOLF WITH FOUR CATS & A CANARY
- Jazz Weekly: August 12, 2019: Reviews: Larry Wolf : Mood Swings
- Michael Doherty’s Music Log: July 29, 2019: CD Review
And if you haven’t heard it on KJAZZ in Los Angeles, the reviews link to it and you can find it here.
Other things to emerge from the shed have been a couple of nice solo jazz guitar gigs and of course the great fun of singing Nilsson at the beginning of the summer.
Autumn is my favorite season, so I’ll have more good stuff to share with you before too long, I hope!
Previously new… (Yeah, why not… from 2017)
- This is crazy…I thought I’d be updating this a little more often…but since I moved into the little studio I talk about below (which has gotten cooler and more functional over the past year), I was in La La Land, playing in a band with Ryan Gosling. As fun as it was to film, the coolest thing was seeing myself on the screen at the Cinerama Dome where I saw so many great musical films growing up, like The Sound of Music, Fantasia, Yellow Submarine and The Doors. Now I was up there in a ridiculously perfect 80s suit playing an A Flock of Seagulls song!
- I just did an episode of Scandal for ABC, again as a guitar player in the band. Now that was surreal, as I’m a total Shonda Rhimes geek. Why was I hanging out with these people who are usually contained on my TV screen? And how come they’re all so freaking nice?! I mean, the Prez, “Mellie Grant” was the perfect audience member as we played, the kind that gives you all that supportive love with her attention and smile…and we were miming! I had a blast! You’ll find me in the last season, Season 7, Episode 2!
- And I’ve really gone Hollywood, now that I’m living a 10 minute walk up (barely) into the hills from the Capitol Records building on Hollywood and Vine. I can walk to my studio in 30 minutes or walk to the Hollywood Reservoir in 30 minutes. It’s all that’s amazing about Los Angeles, urban and peaceful.
- I’m still really excited about my studio. This is my second room since I started putting things together. My first was in Laurel Canyon, walking distance from home, but the noise overwhelmed the charm and I moved to a new place on the top floor of a building near Sunset and Highland. How can the heart of Hollywood be quieter and calmer than Laurel Canyon? Well, I was on Laurel Canyon Blvd on the ground floor… Oh, I didn’t mention that Jimi Hendrix, Frank Zappa and many others recorded on the ground floor here, so it’s got some magical juju!
Anyway keep checking this page for more. And while you’re here, drop me a line and let me know what’s you’re up to, okay?