Weddings seem to clump together, don’t they? You can go for years without being invited to one, and then, all of a sudden, you have four or five to attend. It’s been a year like that for me—thank goodness. These are some dark times that we are in, and to see new couples striking boldly out into the unknown together does my heart good. I’m always interested in the music they choose. In France this spring, the wedding party was serenaded by two button accordionists outside city hall. In Malibu in July, the beautiful bride was my middle daughter, who had a looping violinist perform pop tunes. My niece’s wedding in Maine in August featured an amazingly adroit female folk singer. And next month is my nephew’s wedding in Long Beach, where the featured musician will be yours truly. This will be my second wedding playing traditional Appalachian melodies on solo frailing banjo. A trend? Only if we make it one, my friend. I hope all your upcoming events are hopeful ones.
When my band Chaise Lounge played a concert with the Pan American Symphony Orchestra this spring, I knew it was being recorded, but didn’t think much about it. Then the recording engineer, Jeff Gruber of Blue House Productions, invited me over to have a listen. I was amazed at the clarity and sonic presence of the recording. But what most impressed me was simply the energy Jeff captured. It has been quite a while since the band has released a live album, so I picked 12 songs from the concert to release on CD. Some are old Chaise Lounge favorites, with a lush orchestral backing. Others are songs chosen just for this occasion, like Astor Piazzolla’s “Oblivion.” This has become the Chaise Lounge CD that I am most likely to put in my car’s CD player. Yes…I do that.
My orchestral music has been featured in seven children’s concerts over the past six months. In years past, this might have bothered me: I always like to imagine my listeners as sophisticates, grown-ups who during intermission sip martinis and maybe even (dare I say it) smoke cigarettes. But I’m beginning to come around. Recently, I went to hear the Capital City Symphony play my jaunty and nostalgic 12-minute piece My Own Personal Rocketship for an audience full of Washington, DC public elementary school students. It was an attentive if boisterous crew, and the piece got as great a reaction as I could have hoped for. Afterwards, the kids stuck around to learn more about the instruments from the players. At right, concert-master Robert Spates explains the intricacies of violin playing to a few interested third-graders…or should I say “future sophisticates.”
Sometimes a gig comes along that seems like it’s just about the money, but it rarely turns out to be in the end. This one was a vanity album project that came my way via master rock producer Jim Ebert. The client, Dave, was a man on a mission: to record an album of emotionally meaningful songs as a peace offering to a beloved family member. Dave would sing on the project, but he had zero thought of releasing the album commercially. It was simply a plea for connection through music. I got to arrange the pieces and then play piano in the studio with a bunch of top-flight rock session guys, including the remarkable guitarist Buddy Spier, drummer-to-the-stars Andy Hamburger, bassist Greg Watkins and a superstar horn section consisting of Al Williams on sax, Joe Jackson on trombone, and Kevin Burns on trumpet. With Dave’s emotions flowing through all the sessions, it turned out to be a very good rock recording and an unforgettable musical experience for me.