Complete sentences

I just saw Frank Rich and Fran Lebowitz at the Strathmore Music Hall in a lecture sort of event.  They sat in two chairs and talked about the State of the Nation. That was the show. Both their political stripes run bright blue. It was a Republican bashing boldly playing to the dangerous and hostile environment of Montgomery County, Maryland. Ha.  They were both very funny.  But what impressed me about both of them was their ability to speak in complete sentences.  Even their short, pithy comebacks had a subject and a predicate.  Frank Rich is from DC (Wilson HS) but is now a New Yorker and has been since he was the chief theater critic for the Times in the ’80s.  Fran Lebowitz was not born in New York either.  But I cannot imagine anyone being a more complete Manhattanite.  Their comfort with language is astonishing. They both make their livings with the English language, yes. But how they manage to keep their thoughts so far ahead of their mouths and construct such elegant verbal masterpieces is beyond me.  Their conversation is publishable.   I can only think of a handful of raconteurs like this.  Oscar Wilde. Gore Vidal, William F. Buckley, Johnny Carson, Carl Sagan, Hubert Humphrey…  Ok, the list is actually very large. It certainly does not include me.  I can’t get a full thought out of my mouth without a string of “ums” and “ahs”.  Last night’s conversation was a virtual jam session of bon mots. There is no trick to it.  Just be incredibly bright, know a lot and talk a lot.  It is still impressive.

Eric Hampton

Everyone should be able to identify their favorite choreographer.  No matter how little you know about dance, no matter how little you follow anything in the dance world.  It is just like painting… if asked you probably have a few favorite painters.  Miro?  Picasso?  Gauguin?  Monet?   My favorite choreographer was and still is Eric Hampton.  He was the first choreographer whose work  really spoke to me.  Since then ( 20plus years) I have found others.  But Eric’s work is still my baseline for *what I like* in choreography.  It is an amazing great combination of classical ballet technique, modern movement and vaudeville-style physical slapstick.  Last night’s retrospective at Dance Place was a feast for Eric Hampton fans. 

Musician and composer Charlie Barnett says he was born in the wrong era.

“I was born out of time,” says Barnett. “I think I should have been Henry Mancini.”

An award-winning film composer, Barnett is also a founding member of the six-piece jazz ensemble, Chaise Lounge, performing Saturday afternoon at Joe’s Record Paradise in Silver Spring.

Barnett, who is a talented pianist but primarily plays guitar for Chaise Lounge, says he’s heard the band’s sound described as “post-modern lounge.” But Barnett says he prefers a slightly more comprehensive description.

“It basically sounds like pop music played by jazz musicians, recorded in 1962 at Capitol Records Studio,” he says.

Saturday will be a homecoming of sorts for the six musicians — Barnett is joined by vocalist Marilyn Older, drummer Tommy Barrick, saxophonist Gary Gregg, trombonist John Jensen and bassist Pete Ostle — who all hail from the metro area.

“When we get to play locally, it’s really fun,” says Barnett, who’s lived in Bethesda for 20 years. “We hardly ever get to.”

“It’s cool to be in Silver Spring,” adds Barrick, who calls the city home. “If I wasn’t bringing my drums, I’d probably ride my bike.”

In addition to its convenience, Gregg says playing close to home means the band gets the opportunity to see a room full of familiar faces.

“It’s like meeting old friends,” says Gregg who lives in Arlington, Va. “It’s people who have sort of followed us over the years.”

The group recently honored its hometown roots with the cover art of their latest album, “Insomnia,” featuring local favorite and Bethesda cornerstone, the Tastee Diner.

Saturday’s gig will feature songs from “Insomnia,” which, like Chaise Lounge records before it, is available as a CD and in vinyl.

“There’s nothing like vinyl,” says Barnett. “It’s just the sound everybody craves, including me.”

“A Very Chaise Lounge Christmas,” out Nov. 1, and featuring reworked carols, original songs and covers of holiday classics, will also be available as an old-school record.

“There’s a certain kind of organic excitement about having a record made,” says Barnett. “Making a record is so much more labor intensive than making a CD. … It’s an artistic object more than CDs can ever hope to be.”

It was more than 10 years ago that Barnett and lead singer Older recruited Barrick, Gregg, Jensen and Ostle to form Chaise Lounge.

“I found a group of my favorite studio musicians,” says Barnett. “The next thing you know we have a band and we have gigs. How fun is that?”

“When we came together everything click[ed],” adds Gregg. “It was like we’d known each other our entire lives. It’s just like a great fitting pair of shoes.”

Despite their busy schedules and commitments to other ensembles — Barrick also plays with the Radio King Orchestra and the Swingin’ Lincolns, and Jensen is a member of the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra — the members of Chaise Lounge have managed to make this ensemble a top priority.

“Chaise Lounge always comes first,” says Gregg.

“Even though I’m busy, Chaise Lounge is my main group,” adds Barrick. “I will pretty much put it in front of everything.”

Jensen says the experience playing with other ensembles actually benefits Chaise Lounge’s music.

“Playing with different musicians and different bands gives you something to take back to Chaise Lounge,” he says.

While Barnett says experiences like the one with Chaise Lounge are often expected to “run their course,” the members of the band have remained dedicated to monthly rehearsals.

Jensen credits Chaise Lounge’s longevity to the chemistry between band mates.

“Nobody’s tense,” says Jensen. “So many times in the music business people are tense and that’s a poison to the creative spirit. But there’s a shared element of fun, shared element of joy.”

“You become like a family,” adds Barrick. “I only choose to play in bands that are going somewhere. Everybody is in this because it is moving somewhere.”

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Mentor

In July I was asked by the Strathmore Music Center to be one of their mentors for their AIR (artists in residence) program.  All together there are six young emerging artists. I was assigned two: Deborah Bond and Owen Danoff.  When Strathmore first called I had to suppress the thought that screamed through my head… ” Hey, when did I stop being a young emerging artist cross over to the eminence grise category? ”  The answer is: years ago.    I got over myself and now I am very happy to be part of this.  All of the emerging artists are talented.   And they have an unbelievable supply of young energy that is infectious.  The program is run by Betty Scott, a former schoolteacher, who brings a discipline and structure to this that is somehow strict and relaxed all at the same time.    Chaise Lounge is playing at the Strathmore Gala at the end of October and several of the AIRs will be sitting in with the band.  Last week we had a rehearsal with Isabelle DeLeon on drums, Integriti Reeves singing, Christylez Bacon on beatbox and personality, and Owen Danoff on guitar and vocals.  They all came prepared and ready to bring it.  I am mentioning  this program in case you know someone who would benefit from this.  I think that each of these artists is going to come out of the year long program with a much clearer understanding of all that it takes to have a performing career in music.   And in case you are called to be a mentor- Say yes. 

Vinyl

Just got the test pressings.  Once again… “Test Pressings”!  for our new LP,  ” A Very Chaise Lounge Christmas”.  Official release date is Nov 1.

With our gig coming up at Joe’s Record Paradise, I am living a retro vinyl dream

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