I just got some good digital ink, being named by CBS Online as one of the Best Singer Songwriters in Los Angeles. Click on that link and you can see the article. There are so many great writers in this town who would qualify, but I’m grateful for the mention.
I read a couple of great books on my recent Hawaii vacation. Both of them about explosions of musical genius, of different kinds, but sharing a common theme: Absolute commitment that, at times, blocks out everything – and everyone – else of importance in one’s life, but that creates art that soars above the mundane and the predictable.
The first was “Straight Ahead; The Story of Stan Kenton” by Carol Easton. I received a copy of this excellent book as a gift when Carol was brought to a show of mine by her daughter, Liz Kinnon, who, for short time, taught jazz piano to my daughter. I was familiar with Stan’s work, partly since I knew one of his arrangers, the great Pete Rugolo, through my association with Henry Mancini.
Stan led a big band through the pre-and post-WW2 years that defied the “dance-band” genre of the day, reaching for new sonorities and a cutting-edge sound that made him one of the fathers of “modern jazz,” and helping launch many careers, from Mel Torme, Anita O’Day, Lee Konitz, June Christy, and Art Pepper to Gerry Mulligan, Stan Getz, and Maynard Ferguson. With single-minded devotion, Stan put his music ahead of family, friends, and any chance of an easy road. But what amazing music it was. If you’re a fan of jazz, big-band, or just a lover of great music, find it online and buy it. Unfortunately, it’s not available in Kindle.
The second is “Here Comes Everybody,” James Fearnley’s account of the glory years of the Celtic punk band The Pogues. James was the accordion-player in the band, and an aspiring writer, so he kept a pretty detailed journal of their rise to fame in the ‘80s, initially playing seedy dumps, in crowded and disgusting touring conditions, through which their youth and fighting spirit carried them. It’s also a searing account of one Shane MacGowan, the main songwriter and front man of the group, without whom, The Pogues might have been a blip on the radar screen. He was a horrible, vomitous wreck to be in a band with, yet he wrote some of the most achingly beautiful songs ever. As time went on, every gig was a crapshoot as to whether Shane could even function and get through the songs. Eventually the drink dulled him, but for a time he burned with an alcohol flame as bright as Brendan Behan, Dylan Thomas, and the whole panoply of drunken poet-saints. Sometimes what makes you beautiful can also kill you.
I’m doing my best to get another CD (album? Collection of songs?) done and out the door, so I don’t have a lot of gigs scheduled for early August, but here’s what’s coming up.
Sunday, July 27th, I’m doing Steven McClintock’s “The Songwriter” Concert Series in Huntington Beach, along with my friends Mark Pocket Goldberg, Alan Roy Scott, and I’m gonna get to meet and hear Kieran Strange, Brad Parker and Lisa Linehan. If you can’t be there in person, it will be streaming worldwide at http://www.irocke.com/. 6pm if you attend, 7pm if you’re streaming.
Thanks to everyone who receives my missives, and especially to those who are still reading by this point. As the airlines say, I know you have lots of different choices for your internet time-wasting.