Wednesday, November 1, 2006

Cool Smoke, Sweet Rhythms & Dizzy Fun

Hi there -

It’s been awhile...

I had some time off in June and July so I took that opportunity to hear and sit in with some folks. Bruce Barth had the weekend gig at the cool uptown NYC club called “Smoke.” Sang a tune or two with them which was a treat for me and they sounded great. In Rochester, NY at the Woodcliff Lodge I was a guest with pianist Eldar Djangirov and his trio. That was quite fun. And what energy! This great venue is sadly not happening for awhile due to a change of ownership. Pete McCrossen was the very gracious host and talent buyer. We will really miss him and the venue.

Next, in Kansas City to play a favorite venue in August, “The Blue Room.” Always good to be there with Bob, Rod and Todd. Saw many friends and lots of family. The Blue Room (part of the American Jazz Museum) is in the historic area of KC called “18th and Vine.” We love and appreciate them for being part of what keeps jazz ALIVE in KC. Back in NYC, I sat in at Sweet Rhythm with the wonderful tenor player, Bob Kindred (also with Kansas City roots). He and his band sounded sweet and lovely.

In September, from the Big Apple to the Little Apple. We played a very cool benefit event at the Kansas State University Alumni Center, Manhattan, KS, for Friend of the Beach Art Museum. I truly loved being 'back on the prairie' at that time of year. While hiking in the area we even heard coyotes and owls at night. (OK, we had to go searching for them a little, but they were there!) While in the area, we were also invited to visit a lovely horse and buffalo farm. We had wonderful hosts during that whole visit to Manhattan. We left there to play a private event in Austin, Texas at the Four Seasons. What a neat city! I wish I'd had more time in it.

Seattle at Jazz Alley was next. Always love being there. That trip also included singing the US National and Canadian anthems for a Seattle Mariner's vs. Toronto Blue Jay’s baseball game. I had done that before and it's a kick!

The next week was in Oakland, CA at Yoshi’s. My Mom and I took an over-night train together from Seattle to Oakland. That was really fun - trains ROCK! Yoshi’s is a great venue. I sang there with both Nancy King and Jon Hendricks. What great nights of music we had! The band (Bruce, Todd and Peter Barshay) played beautifully. We hope to do more of those shows with Jon and Nancy - the Footprints team. Also got to meet Rita Moreno who was in the audience. What a great lady! The wonderful singers Madeline Eastman and Paula West also dropped by.

Back to NYC at Dizzy's (Lincoln Center) with Nancy, Bruce, Todd and bassist Vicente Archer for a great week there. Many 'luminaries' drop in throughout the week: Wynton Marsalis, Eric Clapton (who had been playing across the hall), Mark Murphy, Freddie Cole, Jackie Cain, Helen Merrill and Barbara Feldon. The pianist David Budway played with us the last night. It was great fun.

Our next stop with Nancy was in St. Paul, MN at the Fitzgerald Theatre (where the movie, “Prairie Home Companion” was recently filmed). Loved working there and saw many friends and family. Pianist Laura Caviani, along with Bob and Todd sounded beautiful.

Following were some one-nighters, double billing with Diane Schuur. We played beautiful theaters in Birmingham, AL; Atlanta, GA; and Charlottesville, VA. Great fun. From there we went West to another great venue in El Cerritos CA. in their Performing Arts Center. Todd and I played with favorite 'local' LA players: guitarist, Larry Koonse and bassist Tom Warrington. We were treated to great audiences in a great venue.

Heading East to the Windy City for gigs at a favorite historic Chicago 'joint' (the one and only owner- Dave Jemilo would approve of that term), “The Green Mill.” He runs that place like nobody's business and we love being there. The first time I played there (one of my first 'national' gigs way back when) he gave me a “life-time verbal contract” which I'm happy to still be fulfilling. Todd and I played with great Chicago bassist Larry Kohut and wonderful Seattle pianist Randy Halberstadt. Bill McGlaughlin joined us there and was accompanied by many of his radio colleagues at WFMT.

The next stops were in Omaha and Lincoln. We did a masterclass at my alma mater, University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) for music students. They were held in the same auditorium where as a student, I had attended soooo many concerts, given both my junior/senior piano recitals, and heard Dizzy Gillespie and Mel Torme give masterclasses. It was quite a feeling! That night we performed for the UNO Alumni folks and were happy to do so.

In the University of Nebraska at Lincoln (UNL) we performed at the beautiful Lied Center with the Nebraska Jazz Orchestra. They've been together for over 25 years. It was thrilling to play with such a great big band. We did lots of masterclasses with UNL students while there and really enjoyed it. Next was in Denver at a great new club called The Soiled Dove. Strange name for a jazz club but don't let that throw you. It's a great place and I hope to go back soon.

That’s it for now. The year will soon be over which is hard to believe. Peace and love to all and
Thank you for listening . . .


Saturday, July 1, 2006

Groovin' Away

Greetings, it's been awhile!

Way back in February Rod Fleeman and I performed with the Jazz Surge Big Band in Florida, a very nice group of players and great crowds. Singing with a big band is fun for me and I enjoy the change. It's also great when the band leader is flexible and open to ideas, which he was!

Onto Pittsburgh, PA at the Manchester's Craftman's Guild with Rod, Todd and Bob - This was a very cool venue. We need more of those! We double billed with the Freddy Cole Trio for four nights. Really enjoyed them. Next, onto Erie, PA for the Jazz Society concert. They were very good to us. I hope their series continues to be successful. Next, we played in Kansas City at the Heartland Theater. It’s always good to be back there. Played along side some KC favorites for this fund raiser - great fun!

Kennedy Center was a treat. We enjoyed the beautiful hall and the wonderful crowd. Bruce Barth, Rod, Bob and the addition of drummer (and native Omahan - like me), Victor Lewis was one swingin' band. In April, we went to Sioux Falls, SD. I saw many familiar faces there: friends who had driven from several different areas, even my Mom! Also a good venue.

Onto Philadelphia, PA for shows at the Zanzibar Blue. I really enjoy Philly and that club. Bruce, bassist Doug Weiss, Todd and I had a great weekend. Then, a week at the Blue Note in NYC double billing again with Ron Carter. 'Footprints' was just released and this was a good send off. Along with Bruce, Todd and bassist Ed Howard and the wonderful sax man, Steve Wilson made up the band. We had an excellent week there. Next was another great city - Boston, and at another favorite venue - Scullers. Bassist Vicente Archer joined Bruce, Todd and I there. It’s always a pleasure to be in that club.

Then I journeyed across the country to the lovely area of Yakima, Washington where guitarist Dan Balmer and bassist Jeff Johnson joined Todd and me. It was a very fun band and special venue. That's a series definitely worth checking out. Back in NYC, we got to hear Nancy King and Fred Hersch at the Jazz Standard, It was a wonderful evening, both are amazing musicians.

Bruce and I were invited to Toronto to perform in a JazzFM 91 celebration - great group of people at that station. On some time off, Bill and I went to see birds in Cape May. Beautiful wildlife sanctuaries there and we saw some amazing dolphins too! We dined at The Merion Inn where our friends/pianist, George Mesterhazy and Vicki run a wonderful restaurant with jazz (George!) What a charming place!

Bruce invited me to join him on a benefit for “John Hall for Congress.” It was a fun event with good music and a good cause. Ed Howard and Montez Coleman joined us too. The very next day, onto LA to play Catalina's. I got to work a little with good friend (and lyricist on “Footprints”), Chris Caswell on some projects. I also appeared (as pianist/singer) on an episode of the popular soap opera “The Bold and the Beautiful.” Interesting experience! Pianist Bill Cunliffe, bassist Tom Warrington, guitarist Larry Koonse, Todd and I had all a great week at Catalina's. I'd never been to “The Hampton's” before and this venue was beautiful. Got a glimpse of the beach too. Unfortunately there's not usually enough time to sight see. We try to when we can and would like to go back there.

The Rochester International Jazz Festival was one of the most enjoyable festivals I've ever played. They really know how to put it on there. They had great crowds, beautiful venues, and varied artists. We (Bruce, Todd, Vicente and I) played two full shows and one was filmed for PBS. We will try to let people know if that is aired nationally.

Onto the Toledo, OH Festival where I had invited Nancy King to join us. Ann Arbor bassist Paul Keller joined us too. We were all looking forward to a great outdoor set but the weather had a different idea. We were caught in a huge storm and after four very wild attempts at playing, we all had to ‘high-tail it’ for shelter. Jon Hendricks was set to join us for a tune or two, but none of that got to happen - too bad! After it let up, Jon did do an abbreviated (but spirited, of course) set. Then the weather cleared up and Al Jareau played. Very fun to hear him groovin' away. We hope to go back and "finish it” sometime!

I got to hear the Vanguard Orchestra the other night. They very kindly played the Thad Jones tune, “Tiptoe” at my request. They sounded great! Just back from Coral Gables, FL. Speaking of weather, last year Katrina was just on her way through when we went there. It was quite an experience. But, we played the concert this time to an enthusiastic, sold out crowd in a beautifully renovated church that has an interesting, eclectic series, also very worth checking out.

I am now looking forward to a low-key summer with some travel for fun too. Also, I’ll be spending time at home in NYC working on different projects.

I want to thank those of you who write in to comment about our performances and how you are enjoying “Footprints.” I appreciate your words of encouragement and your support. Also MANY thanks to Jazz Radio for helping make “Footprints” #1 for 7 weeks!! This is fantastic! THANK YOU!!!

Hope to see you down the road somewhere and
Thank you for listening . . .

Wednesday, February 1, 2006


Hello there -

It's been awhile! Looking back at the end of 2005 just before we recorded this next project... NYC's Dizzy's Coca Cola Club in Lincoln Center has got to be one of the prettiest clubs anywhere. With a great view of Central Park and a very beautiful interior, it's a pleasure to play there. Nancy King and I, along with Bruce Barth, Todd Strait and Peter Washington did a night of (mostly) Charlie Parker tunes. It was a blast.

With these same players plus Nancy and Jon Hendricks, we recorded the next album called “Footprints.” It will be out in mid-April. I'm very excited about it. Then, we went onto Spokane, WA to play with the big band there. It was a great group of players and a wonderful crowd.

Next, we did a gig at Pepperdine University with Bruce, Joe LaBarbera and Tom Warrington. This was without the benefit of our luggage and a very late flight arrival. I went on stage with airplane attire, no sound check, and not feeling very well. But it seems that people understood and I'm very grateful! Still with no luggage I 'stopped off' in Los Cruces, NM to hear the premier of my friend Bill McGlaughlin's new piece with the orchestra there. It was sublime.

The next stop was in Seattle at Jazz Alley and still no luggage. Fortunately my Mom got to come to that one, and I borrowed her clothes. Fortunately she's very hip. Playing with Bruce, Todd, Rod and Jeff Johnson just got better every night. It was a great band and we always love Jazz Alley. Rod and I did a live thing at KPLU-FM with folks who had written lyrics to “Let's Do It” for a fund raiser. Dick Stein's very cute idea - really fun. The last two days there I got my luggage. Traveling is definitely not glamorous but it gets you there!

I went to Berkeley, CA to Fantasy Records Studios to mix the new CD with Nick Phillips (our producer) and Bill. We had AMAZING weather there in such a beautiful place and I got to take a couple fun hikes. Back to NYC we played Birdland with Bob Bowman, Todd and a new pianist (for me), George Mesterhazy. We had a great week. Birdland is one of my favorite clubs.

Onto St. Louis for a one nighter at a club called Finale with Todd, Gerald Spaits on bass, and St. Louis pianist, Reggie Thomas. From there we headed to another favorite spot: Kansas City! In KC we played the beautiful GEM Theater in the historic 18th & Vine district. Rod and Bob joined us. Bob's mom, Jean Bowman, passed away that weekend. We all loved Jean. She was a great supporter of the music and a special lady.

I went to Minneapolis where my Mom and sister, Elisa live. We did a concert and several masters classes for Elisa's kid’s school. The group with me there was with Todd, Laura Caviani and bassist Gordy Johnson. The kids also played for us. I admire teachers so much!! And I admire parents who encourage their kids in music. It's harder these days to do that and budget cuts in the arts are no help . . . so, good for them!

After hanging there for Thanksgiving, it was back to NYC. I played a Clos du Val private party (fund raiser) in New Jersey with Bruce and bassist Vicente Archer. Great wine and food! I had a restful December/holiday season at home: had a few get togethers with friends, got to go hear live music, and went to the opera at the Met. Then we visited family in Philadelphia. On into the New Year, we (Bruce, Todd and Vicente) played a concert at the IAJE Convention in NYC. As always, we saw so many friends/musicians there.

Next, onto New Orleans for a concert/fund raiser for WNO at the historic Snug Harbor in the French Quarter. Fred Kasten did a magnificent job of putting it together and we had great crowds. I played with the wonderful 'local' band there “Astral Project.” What an interesting and energetic band and great group of guys!

It was quite an experience to be there this time of course. Yes, there is so much devastation, yes - our government needs to follow through (hook up the FEMA trailers for starters!) ... Still, I have to say the spirit is still there in that great city. Wynton Marsalis has said (many other too) that it's so vital for New Orleans to maintain it's unique CULTURE (as well as getting the city running again) Amen! We all need to do anything we can to help.

I just got back from two wonderful weeks in Hawaii visiting with my sister, Tracy. Another unique culture that needs preserving however we can.

All for now, and thank you for listening and for reading.