Thursday, December 30, 2010

The 10 Top Selling Jazz R & B/Soul Ballads

I am always looking for information about the music buying habits of today's music consumers.  The other day I found an iTunes site that listed all of the music that iTunes currently sells by sub-groups. I first came across a list that was entitled "Adult Music" expecting to find singers and songs from the Great American Songbook but no... the list was for songs with lyrics that might not be appropriate for younger listeners.  I did not know any of the songs so I searched on.   I found two other lists that did contain songs I recognized.  I want to talk about the first list that was titled "R & B/Soul Ballads". I was surprised to discover that the number one selling song was my all time favorite Golden Oldie, "In The Still Of The Night" by the Five Satins. Can you believe that a rock & roll song that was recorded over 50 years ago is the number one R & B/Soul Ballad song sold by iTunes in 2010. I loved it in the sixties and still love it today. Of the top 10 best selling songs, there was only one that I was not familiar with, "Pledging My Love" by Johnny Ace.  It seems that Johnny Ace was a noted R & B singer in the fifties who committed suicide back stage on Christmas Eve in 1954. Mr Ace still commands interest from music fans to this day.  Take a look at the list below and share any comment about the top 10 or other candidates you think should have made this list.

                                TOP 10 BEST SELLING R&B/SOUL BALLADS BY iTUNES











Thursday, December 23, 2010

Top 10 Christmas Songs Sold On iTunes In 2010

I thought it would be interesting see what were the biggest selling Christmas songs on iTunes this year. I was surprised and glad to see that "White Christmas" was still Number One on the list.  This is great news because it means lot of young people have become fans of this wonderful song. It is also telling that the number 10 best selling Christmas Song was "Donde Esta Santa Claus" by Augie Rios. The hispanic music market continues to grow and will continue to pick up market share going forward. 

Top 10 Christmas Songs Sold On iTunes 
    1.  White Christmas By Bing Crosby
            2.  The Chipmunk Song-The Chipmumks
                                3.  Rudolph, The Red Nosed Reindeer-Various Artists
                            4.  I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus-Jimmy Boyd
 5.  Jingle Bell Rock=Bobby Helms
         6.  The Christmas Song-Nat King Cole
                       7.  Snoopy's Christmas-The Royal Guardsman
              8.  Here Comes Santa Claus-Gene Aultry
                              9.  The Little Drummer Boy-Harry Simeone Chorale
          10. Donde Esta Santa Claus-Augie Rios 

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Amazon Takes Only A Tiny Bite Out Of Apple

I recently read that the research firm NPD Group reported that iTunes now controls 66.2% of online music sales.  In just a few short years, iTunes has taken over a massive amount of the online market and it is not over yet.  However, they are getting some intense competition from Amazon who is now in second place with 13.3% of the online market.  In an attempt to take market share from iTunes, Amazon has been selling selected CDs below cost in order to attract customers.   Still even with lower prices than iTunes, Amazon sales only grew 2.3% compared to 3.0% for iTunes. Some industry people have been saying that iTunes has been putting pressure on labels to pull back on the deals they have been giving Amazon.  ITunes needs to be very careful with any attempt to limit Amazon's ability to discount prices because it begs for an antitrust action. iTunes should be happy with their huge market piece and let Amazon continue to lose money selling CDs below cost. iTunes in my opinion, needs to be very careful not to do anything to slow or block competition because they already control the keys to the online market with their iTunes program that so far no competitor has been able to match.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Even Christmas Standards Can Get A Little Old

While I still believe that "Standards" are songs that never get old,  I have to admit that hearing the same Christmas song being played 50 times within a 30 day period does make me crazy.  Yes, these are the Christmas songs that we all love but enough is enough.  After hearing the great Nat King Cole sing "The Christmas Song" ten times in two days, that was more than enough for me (or anyone else, I suppose).  In order to escape having to hear the same Christmas songs being sung by the same artists over and over again, I decided to pick some artists singing Christmas songs that are great but don't get as much play.  A sort of personal Christmas playlist.  So here are a few of my current favorite Christmas songs that you might want to add to your collection this year. There are lots more that I have missed, so if you have your own favorites, please share them with me.

1.   I'll Be Home For Christmas                                           B.B. King

2.   Please Come Home For Christmas                               Andrea Bocelli &
                                                                                            Natalie Cole
3.   Silent Night                                                                   Boney James

4.   Ave Maria                                                                     Johnny Mathis

5.   Blue Christmas                                                              Elvis Presley

6.   O Tannenbaum                                                             Andrea Bocelli

7.   We Wish You A Merry Christmas                                  The Drifters

8.   Please Come Home For Christmas                               The Eagles

9.   Silent Night                                                                     Chantieleer

10. Let It Snow                                                                     Diana Krall

11. White Christmas                                                            The Drifters

12. It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas                 Dean Martin

13. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas                         Luther Vandross

14. Jingle Bells                                                                     BzK

15. Baby It's Cold Outside                                                    Ray Charles & Betty Carter

16. Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer                                 Ray Charles

17. Winter Wonderland                                                         Oscar Peterson

18. Santa Claus Is Coming To Town                                    Dave Brubeck

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Coldplay's New Christmas Song, "Christmas Lights"

I really like some of the music being released by the group Coldplay.  So when I recently came across a story on the music blog about their new Christmas single, "Christmas Lights", I  went to iTunes to hear it. The lead singer of Coldplay is Chris Martin and he really is one of the outstanding young singers in the music industry today. I believe Coldplay has the ability to bridge the musical difference today between pop music and the "Great American Songbook".  No easy trick! "Christmas Lights" could have been a contender as a great Christmas song except for a small opening part of the lyric that talks about getting into "Another fight on Christmas night".  I think the rest of the song is wonderful. I would guess that my opinion will not be shared by the millions of Coldplay fans, but for me the group missed the chance for this song to enter my "Christmas Song Hall of Fame" because of what I think was an unnecessary part of the lyric. If anyone has an opinion on this new release, I would love to get some comments.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Marilyn Maye is Magical!

On Saturday, December 4 my wife and I attended the Marilyn Maye show at NJPAC titled: "Mercer...The Maye Way".  As we were leaving the theatre, I knew writing a review would be very difficult.  It is hard to find words to express and capture the talents of such a polished and talented performer. It's not just her voice that captures everyone in the audience. It's her stage presence and understanding of the meaning of the music and lyrics she sang. Sinatra once say that there were three qualities a singer must possess in order to become a major star.  One of the three was that a singer needed to project a personality to the audience that would make them wish they could hang out with the singer. Let me just get it out... I wish I could hang out with Marilyn Maye and gain insight about her life and how she has chooses her music.  She needs to write a  book, and I would offer a possible title: "The Maye Way".

Marilyn's program on Saturday evening was all Johnny Mercer with the exception of the first two songs.  Marilyn hit the ground running with an up tempo version of the great Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II song "The Song is You".  She followed with "Love Being Here With You". Lyrics written by Peggy Lee and music by Bill Schluger. From this point on it was all Johnny Mercer and Marilyn Maye.  Marilyn sang an unbelievable 30 Johnny Mercer songs in an  hour and 15 minutes without coming up for air. I think most of us have an appreciation for the songs and lyrics of Johnny Mercer but once you hear someone as talented as Marilyn Maye sing his songs one after another, you can't help but be in awe of this man's ability to write lyrics that tell stories we can all relate to.  Marilyn spoke of her admiration and love of Mercer's Music and the effort it had on her.  She then added that she never got the chance to meet him but if she did, she most likely would have married him. My take is a little different, if Johnny Mercer ever heard Marilyn Maye sing his songs, he would have wanted to married her!
I would like to list just a few of my personal favorite Johnny Mercer songs that Marilyn sang:
1.   Satin Doll
2.   Summer Wind
3.   Moon River
4.   Come Rain or Come Shine
5.   The Days of Wine & Roses
6.   That Old Black Magic
7.   Goody Goody
8.   I'm Old Fashioned
9.   Day In, Day Out
10. Too Marvelous For Words
11. Emily
12  Drinking Again
13. Laura
No one who loves songs and lyrics from the greatest American composers should miss the chance to hear Marilyn Maye sing live.  Don't take my word for it, listen to Ella Fitzgerald who called Marilyn "The greatest white female singer in the world".
If it was within my power, I would make it a requirement for all young singers to see and listen to Marilyn Maye before they ever perform.  She sets the mark for all American singers both young and old.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

iTunes Top 10 Best Selling Beatles' Songs

Just about everyone in the world knows that iTunes was the winner in the hot contest to get the rights to sell Beatles' songs. I just read an article in Entertainment Weekly ( that reported that iTunes sold over 2,000,000 Beatles' songs and 450,000 albums in its first week of sales. It has been several decades since these songs were released and I can only say it is truly amazing that, "The Beatles' Song Book" is still so popular.  I don't consider myself an expert in Beatle music but I am interested in any current list of their most popular songs.  So I have listed below the "Top Ten Best Beatles' Songs Sold On iTunes During Their First Week".  Personally, I am in agreement with all of the selections on the list except for one, "Dear Prudence".  I would like to get some comments from anyone who thinks they know why "Dear Prudence" would be on the Top Ten list because I don't have a clue.  Also, is there any Beatle fan out there that would have guessed that "Here Comes The Sun" would be the most popular selling Beatles' song this first week of sales?  All other comments about these Top Ten Selections are welcome.

1.  "Here Comes The Sun"

2.  "Come Together"

3.   "Let It Be"

4.   "In My Life"

5.   "Blackbird"

6.   "Something"

7.   "With A Little Help From My Friends"

8.   "Yesterday"

9.   "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds"

10. "Dear Prudence"

I want to mention that I did read a few blogs that thought the iTunes Beatles sales numbers were not good.  They came to this conclusion because the top selling Beatles song for the week did not come close to the sales numbers for the best selling songs on the week. I think these writers missed the point very badly.  Consider the fact that most of the millions of current Beatles fans already have all of the old Beatles albums.  And even if they didn't, considering these albums/CDs have been available for years, I believe these sales numbers are remarkable. Who bought 2,000,000 songs and 450,000 albums?  I believe the answer is the younger generation that is the heart and soul of iTunes who are just discovering the Beatles. Just the other day, I was talking to an 11 year old who had just recently become a Beatles fan and was buying their songs for his iPod.  I am sure this is what is happening all over this country. It will be interesting to see if iTunes sales of Beatles songs continues over the next year. My guess would be that they will.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Beale Street/The Soul of Memphis: "Sounds Like The Blues"

  The R & B Review

Tim Marchio is back again writing about his recent visit to Memphis and arguably the best music street in American, Beale Street.

I recently had the opportunity to go to Memphis on a business trip.  I had heard of Beale Street but did not have a real expectation of what it was.  Within walking distance from my hotel was an area one block long and lined on both sides with blues clubs highlighted by BB King's club.  Make no mistake, these were not high end expensive eateries with occasional music on the weekends.  These were authentic, old, some a bit weary from age, bars where Delta and Chicago Blues were the order of the day.  I went out on a Monday and Tuesday night to walk around and was greeted with at least five live acts each night at various places along the strip.  I was able to wander in and out of the clubs to take in a bit of each.  The feel is old and authentic.  Mr. King's club was located in an original building set up for southern hospitality, food and music.

In one club there was an older man playing harmonica from his new (self produced) CD with his much younger backing band, playing real blues as he lived it.  Next door, actually part of the same club, was a younger band playing the blues they loved, but most likely hadn't yet lived.  A interesting juxtaposition, yet both were authentic, good and musical in their own style.  I was entranced by the variety and quality of the music, because, when all is said and done, isn't that what this is all about, the music? 
On Tuesday evening I was on my way to BB King's club to see a band talked up by a waiter when I was there for lunch.  As I walked past a bar I heard some music I liked, so I sauntered in.  With 3 other patrons in this club, I saw a band (members in their twenties it seemed) play songs from Otis Redding, Clapton, Hendrix, George Thorogood and even the song "Wipeout" (by request from a slightly inebriated guy at the bar).   I thought they were quite good and loved their ability to change style so readily.   Then I went to BB Kings' where there were many more people and the band was more professional and experienced (also playing a Hendrix tune, The Stones and other blues standards).   
I have never seen a more special block for music.  Memphis has a very rich history in Rhythm and Blues, Soul and RockElvis lived here and the careers of many famous artists started in the two studios founded in Memphis; Stax, who had the likes of Isaac Hayes, Otis Redding, Booker T and the MG's, Wilson Pickett and more; and Sun Records had Elvis, BB King, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison were both located very close to Beale Street.  This area provided a true fusion of Blues, Soul, Rhythm & Blues and Rock & RollSun and Stax launched the careers of so many visionary, iconic and important artists in several musical genres in such a short period of time. It is impossible to overstate the importance of this city in the history of music and it's influence in music as we hear it today.  Try to find an artist today that has not been at least partially influenced by some of the artists whose careers were launched by Sun and Stax.
I doubt it can be done. 
Interestingly, when I was being taken back to the airport to leave this great music oasis, I spoke to the cabbie and found out that he had played with the great Albert King and had written songs with and played on the recorded versions of several Al Green tunes.  I could have spoken to him for hours.  He also worked as a sound engineer at BB King's.  What a rich history.  Apparently the music doesn't leave this place, it may take a short sojourn but it always comes back home to Memphis.  This is where it all happens and where it always will.  This city, this small strip of old buildings, sings with the music of the blues and the call to those who feel its magic is so magnetic, Beale Street will remain the home of this particular form of art. 

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

American Music Awards: Let's Play Follow The Leader

I watched most of the "American Music Awards" last Sunday night and thought to myself, "this show could have been a documentary on why the music industry in American is declining". I think I know what's hot in today's music scene and try not to judge today's music product based on my tastes.  But was it my imagination that a lot of today's young singers all sound alike?  And look alike? And dress alike? And I am not totally sure but after a while it sounded like a lot of these singers were singing the same song. The producers of this show and others like it, have good reason to use elaborate dance routines while these young "Stars" are singing.  Could it be that they are trying to hide the fact that many of these young "Stars" have voices that are unremarkable?  Don't get me wrong, there were a few exceptional performers on the stage last night, but too few to support a pop music industry that needs help badly. By the way, does anyone know if wearing dark glasses improves one's voice? I spend a lot of time looking into the past to find the musical gems that I missed, which is a much easier task then looking for the musical gems of today. Just one man's opinion.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Gladys Knight Honors The Great Performers Before Her

"Before Me" is a tribute CD released on May 2, 2006.  This CD was produced by the talented music genius, Phil Ramone. The orchestra is perfect for these jazz ballads and standards. I can't find out who these superb musicians were but if anyone out there does, please share the info with me. I love the sound of Gladys Knight's voice and while her voice on this CD is smoother and clearer, it works perfectly for this group of great songs I have listed below.  I particularly loved her version and arrangement of "Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me". "This Bitter Earth"is also one of my favorites on this CD.   I read a lot of reviews for this CD and was surprised to see quite a few reviews from Gladys Knight fans that were  not moved by it.  I think the problem is that  the core Gladys Knight  fans like her when she is sings R & B and gospel songs and had difficulty moving into these jazz  standards.  I had no problem, in fact, the songs on this CD fit  like an old comfortable glove. If you love the sound of Gladys Knight and the great evergreen songs listed below, you need to get this CD.  Over the past few years, we have seen many popular contemporary singers like Rod Stewart, who have put out CDs of songs from the Great American Songbook. While I was personally happy to see this occur, most of the product offered has been pretty average in my opinion.  None the less, the results were good for all lovers of these great songs because Mr Stewart and others have exposed their fans, many for the first time, to our "Special" music. I have listed the songs on this CD below and wonder how many of my readers can identity who the performers were that did the signature recordings of these songs.  If you can name any or all of the signature performers on these songs , please let me know.

1. "Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me"

2. "The Man I Love"

3. "Good Morning Heartache"

4. "Since I Fell For You" 

5. "God Bless The Child"

6. "This Bitter Earth"

7. "I Got It Bad"

8. "Someone To Watch Over Me"

9. "But Not For Me"

10. "I'll Be Seeing You"

11. "Stormy Weather"

12.  "Come Sunday"

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Wynton Marsalis And The Jazz At Lincoln Center Orchestra: Jazzmen Exceptional

Take one part Billy Strayhorn, add one part Duke Ellington, one part Stan Kenton, one part Maynard Ferguson, and one part Arturo Sandoval and what do you get?  "The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra", that's what!  Friday night November 12,  I had the listening pleasure of hearing and seeing Wynton Marsalis and the "Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra" at NJPAC.  This group is comprised
of 15 of the best soloists I have ever heard in one place at any time in my musical life.  With most jazz orchestras of this size, maybe you get to see four or five of the members playing a solo, but not in this orchestra.  Every one of the 15 had their shot at a solo before the one hour and forty-five minute show was over.  The orchestra consisted of five saxes, four trumpets, three Trombones, one bass, drummer and piano player.  The highlight of the evening for me was when the orchestra played the Duke Ellington's arrangement of "The Peanut Vendor".  This song brought me back to the late 50's, a time when I listened to this song over and over again played by the great Stan Kenton band with Maynard Ferguson on trumpet.  Here it is 50 years later and the song, the arrangement and the orchestra never sounded better.  Wynton Marsalis is clearly a musical genius by any measure and one of the good guys of jazz.  His resume is just unbelievable. He began his classical training at the age of 12 and attended the Julliard School at age 17. He made his recording debut in 1982 and has since recorded more than 70 Jazz and Classical albums.  He has won nine Grammy Awards and in 1983 became the first artist to win both a Classical and Jazz Grammy in the same year and he repeated this feat in 1984.  It's clear he is a classic jazz gentleman. He still loves to play and play he did,  preferring to sit with the trumpet section and be one with the band. All and all, a totally enjoyable evening!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Liz Callaway Shines At NJPAC

Last Saturday, I had the pleasure of seeing and hearing Liz Callaway in person for the first time.  What a voice, what stage presence, what great songs she sang.  I have been a fan of her sister Ann Hampton Callaway for a while, and now I am a fan of both sisters. It never ceases to amaze me how much greater enjoyment there is in experiencing a live performance. Liz's stage credits can only be described as outstanding.  She made her Broadway debut in Sondheim's "Merrily We Roll Along".  She also received a Tony Award nomination for her performance in "Baby" and appeared as "Grizabella" in "Cats" just to name a few of her credits.

Her NJPAC show was entitled "An Evening With Liz Callaway" and her program included many songs from her new CD "Passage of Time".  I loved every song she sang.  I loved her pure voice and most of all I loved her original interpretation of every song she selected.  What a difference it makes when a singer understands the meaning of the lyrics of a song and then has the talent to musically present the meaning to the audience.

Liz was so impressive singing "Memory" from the role she played in "Cats" that I really felt she stunned the audience.  I have never heard it sung better!  She sang a great combination of "Raindrops Keep Falling and Singing In the Rain".  This was followed by "Make Someone Happy" combined with "Something Wonderful" from the "King and I".  This was the first of a series of a Cabaret series at NJPAC.  The next performer in this series is the legendary Marilyn Maye on December 4.  There are tickets still available, and you should make the effort to hear one of the great cabaret singers of our time.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Miles Davis, Simply The Best!

There are a lot of talented trumpet players we know and love but there is only one Miles Davis.
His projection of a song's emotions is raised to a point where the listener can almost touch, as well as, hear the lyrics coming from his trumpet. Miles Davis has always been an exceptional instrumentalist who had the musical sense to bring some of the best players in the US to his recording sessions. The results of these sessions produced some of the best sounds ever recorded. Picking just one favorite from the vast list of superb songs is almost impossible. What makes this effort a little easier for me is that I have always been drawn to the great love songs Miles Davis recorded. These songs reach their top emotional level when listened to with someone you love. The best CD I found that demonstrates this is "Miles Davis Plays For Lovers". Released in 1966 and remastered in 2003. This CD is the best of the best. My favorite song that no instrumentalist has ever done better, even to this day, is the Rodgers & Hart classic,"It Never Entered My Mind". The great piano playing on this song and many of the songs on this CD is done by Red Garland with Philly Joe Jones on drums and Paul Chambers on Bass. I would like to add that Chris Botti has done an excellent job in covering several of the Miles Davis love song classics. I recently heard Chris say that Miles Davis was one of his first musical heroes and the Miles Davis influence can clearly be felt in Chris Botti's recent work. I love the sound of Chris Botti's trumpet but, for me, Miles Davis still remains in a class of his own. One last footnote, there is a trumpet player in the California desert, Rancho Mirage to be exact that has this wonderful ability when playing his trumpet to transfer all the emotion of the music and lyric directly to the listener. I am talking about my friend, Steve Madaio. Steve has the same ability that Miles Davis has when it comes to playing a great love song. I really love two songs Steve does that our from the "20 Greatest Songs Ever Written" list, "Here's That Rainy Day" and "What's New". I have never heard any instrumentalist perform these two great songs with more skill and emotion than Steve Madaio. If you are ever in the Rancho Mirage area, you can find Steve playing at "The Rancho Las Palmas Resort & Spa" in the Blue Ember Restaurant. If you can get there, it will be well worth the trip. Mention either of these two songs to Steve and there is a good chance he will play them for you.

I would love some feedback about your favorite Miles Davis recordings. Also, tell me about any other trumpet players you think have reached a similar level as Miles Davis, Chris Botti and Steve Madaio.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Buddy Guy Live, The blues Guitar Legend Plays on!

This posting on the Music Man Blog was written by  guest writer Timothy Marchio.  Tim has been a reader of this blog from the beginning and his area of interest is R & B especially blues guitar players. Tim will be posting other articles in the future for our new section:
                   THE R & B REVIEW

On Saturday, 10/23 I went to see Buddy Guy in concert at the Patriots Theater at the War Memorial in Trenton, NJ.  I have been a blues fan for a few years and I have heard other current rock/blues players like Clapton and the late, great Stevie Ray Vaughn sing the praises of Buddy and the influence he has had on them and the current crop of blues players.  In fact, Clapton once said in an interview that Buddy Guy was the best guitar player alive!  Well, I have to say now I understand.  Aside from the fact that Mr. Guy is 74 years young, he put on a great show for 90 minutes.  He bridges the gap from Howlin' Wolf and Muddy Waters to today.  In one section, he did songs from Hammond, Clapton and Hendrix and sounded great in all styles.  He also spoke often to the audience and it seemed like a more intimate show than the size of the venue would seem to allow.   It was really great to see a true legend who just still wants to play.  His voice was off with a bit of a cold (as per him) and he told us that the promoter suggested he cancel.  Buddy's response was "I don't know how to cancel".  Good for me.  He played some standards like Hoochie Coochie Man and some of his own music. I picked up a CD of his several years ago called Sweet Tea which was a fusion of hard rock and blues.  Great sound.  He is still a pretty theatrical player and showed off a bit.  On one song, he walked through the audience with his guitar singing and playing.  It was as if we were all in a huge living room.  If you ever get a chance to see Mr. Guy, don't pass it up. 

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Smokey Robinson's "Timeless Love" CD

I have been a Smokey Robinson fan for years especially when he was pouring out all his Motown hits. But today I want to talk about a CD that Smokey released on June 20, 2006 that I think didn't get enough attention in the music world. The CD is "Timeless Love" and it contains some great songs from the "Great American Songbook". The recent efforts of superstars to recording "Standards" like the ones from Rod Stewart and Barry Manilow, while great commercial successes,  don't do much for me musically. On the other hand,  I do credit these great artists for providing exposure to some great songs to their fans.  Smokey Robinson's "Timeless Love" is different because rather than singing these "Evergreens" in the style of Sinatra or Bennett,  in this CD Smokey interprets each song to perfectly fit his own unique style and voice. When Smokey creates an arrangement, the listener has no doubt that the unique sound he will hear is Smokey Robinson and not an imitation of another popular singer.  The voice and the arrangements are totally Smokey Robinson. Each time you hear the songs on this CD you will increase your appreciation for his talent.  That's what I experience and it's been one of my favorite CDs for the past couple of years.  Some of my personal favorites are:
            1. "Our Love Is Here To Stay" written by George & Ira Gershwin
            2. "I've Got You Under My Skin" written by Cole Porter
I think he interprets these great chestnuts beautifully.  I also liked:
            3. "You Go To My Head" written by John F. Coots
            4. "Our Love Is Here To Stay" written by George & Ira Gershwin
            5. "Time After Time" written by Jule Styne
            6. "I'm In The Mood For Love" written by Jimmy McHugh
If you want to hear some of these songs before you buy, click on the iTunes link on the top right of my blog. You can hear a little of all 13 songs on this great CD.  If any reader already has the CD or has heard it or are just purchasing it, I would love to get your comments.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Music Man Blog Recongizes Epernay Restaurant's Support of Young Music Students

I want to share with my readers the wonderful experience I had over the last couple of months putting the public spotlight on some great young student singers from the Northern New Jersey area.  I am  involved in a French Restaurant in Montclair called Epernay.  I wanted to find a way to give young students the opportunity to get some experience performing in a small, intimate, public setting. At the same time, give our customers something special and exciting to listen to that would add to their dining experience. So we established the Tuesday night "Epernay Supper Club Series".

It took a long time to find the right students and put together a plan to have the students sing a song every 5 to 10 minutes during the (3 hour) prime dining hours.  The purpose was to spotlight the student singers while the customers enjoyed their dinner.  The experiment has proven to be an outstanding success for all involved. Epernay was very lucky to have two wonderful students star in the opening of the "Epernay Supper Club Series".

Our first student singer was Joe Longthorne who lives in Essex Fells, NJ and is currently a student at "The Boston Conservatory Of Music".  Joe did 4 performances at Epernay and each one got rave reviews from our customers. We hope to have Joe again when he is back home on school vacations.
Joe Longthorne

Our second student is a music major Freshman at Montclair State University in Montclair, NJ.  His name is Michael Robinson and it was thrilling to listen to this young man sing not only songs from the Great American Songbook but also do several great Broadway show songs.  Michael performed for 4 Tuesdays and did an outstanding job.  We intend to bring Michael back whenever his busy school schedule allows.

Michael Robinson

The management at Epernay is fully committed to providing an opportunity for young music students to get experience performing before a real live audience and are planning to continue our Supper Club Series in the future.  It is exciting to find talented young people who have learned to love and sing songs from the "Great American Songbook".  

I know all my readers love to listen to all kinds of music as I do.  We listen to great sounds on our ipods, our radios and our CDs.  But as good as these sources are, there is nothing that will ever replace the emotional thrill of listening to live music.  Let's all do what we can to support live performances so they will continue to be an important part of our lives.  Epernay is looking for other talented students who would like the opportunity to perform for a very appreciative live audience.  If you know anyone please let me know.

Friday, October 15, 2010

John Pizzarelli & Jessica Molaskey, A Dynamic Duo

On Tuesday, October 12, my wife and I had the pleasure of attending  the John Pizzarelli & Jessica Molaskey show, "The Heart of a Saturday Night" at the Cafe Carlyle in New York City. First, if there is a more intimate or romantic cafe setting in the US, I have yet to discover it. Each time I get to hear John Pizzarelli he just keeps getting better. He is never  satisfied with his past performances and keeps pushing the envelope with his playing, singing and song selection skills. But the skill I like the most is his ability to take a "standard" that we all know well and perform it in a new arrangement that makes the song new again. This was the first time that I had the pleasure of hearing John's wife, Jessica Molaskey perform live and I really enjoyed her selection of songs and wonderful voice.  I heard her sing on CDs and radio shows but actually seeing her sing in person was a real treat.  She presents herself as a seasoned professional. Prior to the show I wondered how the voices of John and Jessica and their different approach to songs would sound once they sang together. After the first few songs, I had no further questions. While both performers have a very different approach to the songs they love, the warmth and  mutual respect they generate provides the bridge between their styles. I know a lot about John's background and family, and I can only guess that Jessica has been fully assimilated into the new Pizzarelli extended family. It really works for both of them and lifts them to a higher level of performance. I am not going to review all of the great songs they performed as the "New York Times" has an excellent review you can look up on line.  However, there was one song that I must mention. It started with John singing a soft and lush version of Irving Berlin's "Count Your Blessings" and then a seamless entrance of Jessica's voice singing parts of the wonderful Jonathan Larson song "Seasons of Love" from the musical "Rent".  The show runs through Nov 6th.  If you can get to see this show, it is really worth the effort.  John and Jessica, thank you for the wonderful evening, and please plan to do more shows together in the near future!        

Monday, October 11, 2010

Montclair State University's Kaleidoscope 2010 Is An Explosion of Music

I thought the circus was the "Greatest Show On Earth" but I just found out there are now two "Greatest Shows".  Friday night I attended "Kaleidoscope 2010" at the Alexander Kasser Theater on the Montclair State University Campus that featured both students and faculty of the John J. Cali School of Music.  This performance, that was "Sold Out", was part of the "Peak Performances @ Montclair" series that presents performances of dance, theater and music throughout the year. The audience was treated with over 300 performers, playing, singing and dancing a rainbow of wonderful music from Puccini's Tosca sung beautifully by faculty member Stephen Oosting to "Symphonic Dances from West Side Story" performed by the MSU Wind Symphony and the BFA Musical Theater Dancers. There were also performances by various Ensembles from Brass to Percussion that were finely done.  For me, the highlight of the evening was the performance of "Samba" by "The Shanghai Quartet" that featured faculty member David Singer on clarinet. This suburb piece of music was written by Robert L. Aldridge, the Chairperson of the School of Music at MSU. I loved the music that was a perfect marriage of Classical and a Jazz-like arrangement fitting together like a glove. The level of dexterity performed by faculty clarinetist David Singer can only be described as breathtaking.  Montclair State University is definitely fortunate to have the gifted composer Robert L. Aldridge chairing its School of Music.  I believe this piece of music has just been recorded by "The Shanghai Quartet" and when I get more information I will share it on my blog.

Overall, I totally enjoyed the 90 minutes of non-stop music and loved the fact that the audience not only got to experience the level of musical skills of the current students of the School of Music but also  the exceptionally talented faculty.  My congratulations to the students and faculty for putting on such a professional performance.  "Peak Performance @ montclair" continues with programs all through the academic year, and you can get additional information

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

"Ray Sings, Basie Swings", A Review

If you like Ray Charles and the Count Basie sound, I guarantee you will love "Ray Sings, Basie Swings". This outstanding CD was produced by John Burk in 2005.  There is an interesting story behind the CD. John Burk produced what I believe was the last CD Ray Charles recorded before his death, "Genius Loves Company". It was outstanding and won a well deserved Grammy. From what I have read, some time after Ray's death Mr. Burk came across a tape simply labeled, "Ray/Basie".  It was then discovered that the tape contained Ray Charles vocals with his own band.  John Burk then came up with the great idea of combinding some new arrangements for the  current Count Basie Band with Ray's voice tracks.  The results are golden and produced some sounds I think are truly outstanding.  In particular, I think the arrangement of the Beetles' song, "Long and Winding Road" is the best version of this song I have ever heard.  The Basie arrangements behind Ray's voice never gets old for me.  There are two other gems, "Oh, What a Beautiful Morning" that Ray had recorded before, but I think this version is worth hearing again.  I also really liked, "Look What They've Done To My Song".  You probably already have some of these songs on this CD from other Ray Charles recordings but in my opinion, you will enjoy them even more on this CD.
By the way, I checked this CD out on iTunes and you can get it now for $6.99.  This is a great buy for 12 songs, that's only .59 per song.  Just hit the iTunes button on this blog and check out the songs I have recommended.  Then let me know what you think. Amen!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Music Man Blog Celebrates it's First Birthday

I wanted to use the first anniversary of the Music Man Blog to review its progress over the past 12 months.  The first posting was  on 9/27/09 and there have been a total of 46 postings to date. It wasn't until May 2, 2010 that I was able to start capturing accurate stats about the number of visits to this blog. So the numbers below are just for the five month period beginning May 2010 and ending September 2010.

Pageviews By Countries
1. United States                  759
2. Russia                               77
3. Canada                              40
4. Brazil                                 32
5. Germany                           27
6. Japan                                23
7. United Kingdom               22
8. Singapore                         22
9. Argentina                          18
10. Ukraine                            17
11. Hong Kong                     15
12. Latvia                                9
13. Malaysia                            5
14. Netherlands                      3
15. United Arab Emirates       2
I will admit that there were many times over the last year that I felt that I was writing this blog just for myself. That was not a problem because writing about artists and good music is a lot of fun to me.  But these stats show me that there is an audience out there that love great music and performers as much as I do.  I always knew that the Russian people had a great love for American music especially American Jazz and how great that I attracted a few to my blog!

Highest Month for Pageviews  
I am very excited that last month, September 2010 had the highest month for pageviews at 575.  This means the number of people finding and reading past blogs is growing.  As I said before, these stats have only started to be captured as of May 2010.  The total pageviews from May to September 2010 was 1191 so having 575 pageviews in one month is pretty cool!

National Ranking From Technorati
Technorati is the leading organization that tracks the level of activity for Blogs across the world.  Music Man Blog is ranked number 104,824 out of 1,241,893 blogs they track.  Puts us in the top 10% of all active blogs after one year, not bad!

Original Oil Painting Posted With Blogs
It has given me real pleasure sharing my oil painting with my readers.  To date, I have posted 28 of my painting on this site.  I believe that painting and music fit perfectly together and enhance our enjoyment of both of these arts.

Many thanks to all who have entered the Music Man Blog. I look forward to sharing more music and art with all my readers during the second year of this blog. If you have not yet joined my blog as a "follower", please do, I would love to have you on board.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The 20 Greatest American Standards Ever Written

 It's hard for me to believe that it's been a year since I first published my list of "The 20 Greatest American Standards Ever Written" on this blog.  My last posting of this list was on November 8, 2009.  It's time to take another look at this list to see what changes need to be made, if any.  For new readers to this blog, in order to qualify for the list, the song must be over 50 years old.  In addition to the list of songs, I have listed my favorite personal recording of these songs as a good starting reference for anyone who wants to hear what I feel is the definitive recording of all these wonderful ageless songs. Also I am ranking the 20 songs from one to twenty with one being the best of the best.  Of course, picking 20 songs out of thousands is not easy and I know every reader will have their own favorites and their own ranking and I encourage any and all comments from all of my readers.
A few comments about the changes in the list. We have a new top number one song, "You've Changed" as sung by the late Eva Cassidy.  So sad for all of us that we lost Eva at such a young age.  There are lots of recordings of this great song, but I keep coming back to her version.  How good was she to push Sinatra's version off the list?  Yes, her recording is that good!  Speaking of Sinatra, he is listed as the "Best of the Best" on five songs and it was a coin toss with many more.  Only confirms the fact that Frank Sinatra was and still is the "Chairman" of the "Great American Songbook".  I took two great songs off the list, "Body and Soul" and sadly my long time personal favorite, "Misty".  I needed to make room for "My One And Only Love" and "These Foolish Things". Lastly, "Where or When" came close to breaking into the lineup.

1. You've Changed: Eve Cassidy
2. What's New: Frank Sinatra
3. The Nearness of You: Norah Jones
4. Here's That Rainy Day: Kenny Rankin
5. Embraceable You: Lena Horne & Frank Sinatra Duet
6. The Very Thought of You: Tony Bennett & Paul McCartney Duet
7. My Funny Valentine: Carly Simon
8. I've Got You Under My Skin: Frank Sinatra
9. Over The Rainbow: Ray Charles & Johnny Mathis Duet
10. Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered: Ella Fitzgerald
11. In The Still Of The Night: Frank Sinatra
12. Night And Day: Frank Sinatra
13. Someone To Watch Over Me: Nancy Wilson
14. At Last: Etta James
15. All My Tomorrows: Frank Sinatra
16. The Way You Look Tonight: Tony Bennett
17. They Can't Take That Away From Me: Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong Duet
18. All The Things You Are To Me: Carly Simon
19. My One And Only Love: Nancy Wilson
20. These Foolish Things: Dinah Washington

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Brian Wilson Does Gershwin

I just finished listening to the new Brian Wilson CD, "Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin".  Let me cut to the quick, if you like the Brian Wilson sound, you will like this CD.  If you like Gershwin you will like this CD. If you like the Brian Wilson sound and Gershwin songs, you will love this CD.  It turns out that the only Gershwin song that Brian knew before he made this CD was "Rhapsody in Blue" because he said his family played the record all the time at home and the melody really got into his head and has never left.  I find it hard to believe that in all the years Brian has been a major player in the music industry, he never got to know any other Gershwin songs. But that's exactly what he said when he was interviewed on XM radio's Nancy Sinatra show last week. This fact makes Brian's approach to many of these Gershwin gems very interesting.  He sang each song with an open mind and without any restraints caused by hearing the many classic recordings.  One other comment from Brian was that he was musically influenced at an early age by the music of the Four Freshmen. I had never heard this before and in thinking back about the "Beach Boys" sound, you can pick up some of the voice harmonies that the Four Freshman made famous.  Personally I really liked the CD.  I enjoyed the "Pop" approach to these "Super Star Songs" from the "Great American Songbook".   In particular, I really liked Brian's arrangement of the Gershwin song "The Like in I Love You".  I was not familiar with this Gershwin song but loved the melody and lyric. There are also four songs that sounded very much like the "Beach Boys": "They Can't Take That Away From Me", "I Got Rhythm", I've Got A Crush On You and "Nothing But Love". I loved them all.  And last but not least, there were five songs that Brian did as a solo that showed me a new side of his great talent.  His approach and sound was just great on: "I Loves you Porgy", "Love Is Here To Stay", "It Ain't Necessarily So", "S'Wonderful" and "Summertime".  At times Brian sounded the way I think "Sting" would sound singing these songs.  I hope this CD is very successful for Brian and encourages him to do another CD from songs listed on my "Top 20 Greatest Songs Ever Written in the Great American Songbook". I would be honored to work on the development of the playlist with Brian. Brian, have your people call my people!
Get the CD, you won't be disappointed!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Has iTunes Killed The CD Business?

I have been reading a lot lately about the slide in sales of CDs and have some observations and comments.  In my opinion, the decline in sales of CDs is directly related to the success and growth of iTunes.  In addition,  the music industry was not able to develop "out of the box" thinking and was content to stay within the status quo position they have embraced for the last 25 years or more.  However,  the music industry could have seen this change coming if they had bothered to ask the CD buying public this question: "If you could buy just those songs on a CD that you really liked instead of buying all the songs, what would you choose?".  I think it is pretty clear that the public's answer would be to buy only the songs that they loved and avoid any songs that were just OK. So it is not a surprise to read that artists today are putting out CDs that don't appear high on the charts while at the same time, a few of the songs on the same CD are hitting the top of the charts.  What does this trend mean for today's recording artists?  My guess is that it is not the end of the world for these talented musicians just a different world.  These artists need to create the best personal web sites available to attract customers who may have heard one of their songs, love it and want to see what other work the artist has done.  So the focus turns away from individual preselected CD to the entire body of work an artist has produced. The customer, in effect, will then create their own CD from the artist's body of work.  I think this is a good thing for the customer and the artist. Over the long run, the artist should be able to develop a strong loyal customer following and also will be rewarded for the development of his or her best work.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Rdio VS iTunes, Will It Just Be No Contest?

I have never subscribed to a monthly online music service because I am a big fan of iTunes.  However I wanted to alert you that there is a new monthly online music service, Rdio, that wants you to pay a monthly fee of $9.99 to access their music catalogue.  I read about this new music service in an article that was written by Allen Hoffman in the business section of THE STAR LEDGER on August 13, 2010.  According to the article, Rdio believes that it can succeed because of the ease of using their catalogue that contains over 7 million songs from major labels. It appears that Rdio is a mix of a music site and a social site.  Rdio allows you to create your own playlists just like iTunes but also will encourage  interaction and sharing of playlists with other Rdio subscribers.  An interesting concept, but at this point I can't see this business taking off.   If the music public continues to turn away from stealing music from online sites, then this would help Rdio get subscribers.  The major problem I would have with Rdio is that they will be controlling all of your favorites and play lists that we have spend many hours collecting and developing.  If you had this subscription for a couple of years and then decided to drop it, you would lose access to all your musical creations. But this is just my feeling, the younger generation does not seem to put a value on owning their favorite songs as long as they have access to them.  I also have to admit that I never thought I would enjoy sharing comments about music on a public blog with unknown people, but here I am.  So I will watch the progress of Rdio with an open mind and wish them the best. If any readers have any comments about this topic, please share them with me.    

Monday, July 26, 2010


As I have mentioned before in these blogs, one of the cool things I like to do is listen to CDs that have been released in the past by artists that I have missed along the way.  One artist that only recently caught my interest is Ann Hampton Callaway.  I can't believe that I had not been exposed to such a creative genius until recently.  This again confirms for me that there is real value in looking back and searching for gems that have been missed.  I first came across a CD Ann released in 2002 entitled, "Signature".  This title was perfect because the tunes Ann recorded in it do represent her signature sound and approach to the lyrics of some great songs. I particularly loved "You Turned The Tables On Me", "Tenderly, "Good Morning Heartache" and "For All We Know" recorded with help from the wonderful voice of Freddy Cole.  The second CD I found, "Slow" was released in 2005 and it is also a winner.  The tracks I liked the most were "Slow", "Never Let Me Go" the Carole King chestnut, "Will You Love Me Tomorrow?"and "You Belong To Me".  Ann's latest release is "At Last" and it's on my "To Do" list to review. I can't end this posting about Ann without commenting about her voice.  Ann's voice is rich, dark, warm and comfortable and has so inspired me that I am going to dedicate my recent oil painting posted at the top of this article to Ann Hampton Callaway.  It will now be entitled my "Ann Hampton Callaway" Still Life.  I believe the painting reflects the richness and warmth of Ann's wonderful voice, looks and personality.  You can catch several of Ann's performances on "YouTube".

By the way, Ann's talented sister, Liz Callaway will be appearing in NJ at NJPAC on November 6, 2010 and it is worth making the effect to get to see her act. 

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Smooth Jazz In New York

Hi again, sorry it's been so long since I posted a new blog.  My schedule has been over the top for the last couple of months, and I have been working on a few other projects.

I heard some great live music over the past few months and wanted to share with you my experience on the "Smooth Jazz Cruises 2010". This is a jazz cruise that leaves from Pier 61 at the Chelsea Piers every week.  They have a different artist playing each week, all with the smooth Jazz sound.  We saw Spyro Gyra and they are still playing great sounds.  These cruises are really cool! You can have dinner on board or you can just have a drink and listen to the sounds.  As you might know, our area no longer has a smooth jazz radio station, and I still don't understand why the New York area can't support a smooth jazz station because both the 6:30 and the 9:30 shows were sold out the night we attended.  Being an old sax guy, hearing the Spyro Gyra sounds was a real treat for me.  It was a perfect night to be sailing on the Hudson admiring the skyline of the "Big Apple", sailing really close to the Statue of Liberty and admiring the water views  to die for!  They have cruises scheduled every week through the summer.  My advice is to check it out.  You can google "Smooth Jazz Cruises 2010" to get all the info.

CD Review: John Vanore, "Primary Colors"

Trumpeter, Composer, Producer, Educator and Bandleader John Vanore has just released a long-forgotten studio recording of a duet he reco...