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.

CD Review: Clairdee Releases Her Forth CD, "A Love Letter to Lina"

San Francisco based Vocalist Clairdee has admired and been a fan of Lena Horne since she was four years old.  Clairdee was not just in...