I’m a Fan Friday: Twenty-One for 2021 – #2

Manhattan, NYC – August 2019

The first time I heard the band Nickel Creek was just over twenty years ago.

They were playing the Pennsylvania Folk Festival that summer, and Malisa and I drove from south Jersey – where we were living at the time – just for the day so we could see them live.

We had worn their self-titled CD completely out in the car, over the prior year or so. We were so excited to see them in person.

The other acts that preceded them (they were the headliners) were good. We enjoyed them.

But when Nickel Creek came out, I could instantly feel something was about to be dialed up several musical notches.

The first thing I thought was that they all looked even younger in person than on their album cover – a feat that in itself I found pretty extraordinary. That was instantly wiped to the side in my consciousness when they began to play.

Amazing musicians, all three of them, but Chris Thile almost instantly commanded all of my attention. His complete and utter control over his mandolin led to an offering that my heart gratefully accepted and, at one point, left me in a puddle of tears I never expected to shed.

I’ve posted about him several times on this blog, and you’ll definitely be hearing more about him here in the future.

This video, though, is something uniquely special.

Vulfpeck is a funk band out of Minnesota, one with which Thile has performed several times. Their “Live from Madison Square Garden” show is terrific.

This video is taken from Live From Here with Chris Thile and is one of the most soul-lifting performances out there in the videosphere.

Pay special attention (after you’ve listened to it all the way through a time or two, of course) to the 3:00 minute mark.

Chris, Joe Dart (bass), Cory Wong (guitar), and Woody Goss (keys), take this jam session in a direction that begins at 3:00 and culminates in something that EVERYONE KNOWS IS ABOUT TO HAPPEN at 3:19!

It’s AMAZING!!!

How is it we all know where that arriving point is in the music? We all know when it occurs, and there is no way to hold back the knowing of it.

What is that connection?

That, my friends, is art at its very best!

Enjoy!

I’m a Fan Friday: Twenty-One for 2021 – #3

Bristol Borough, PA – September 2019

I saw a LOT of movies during the 1980s. It’s what we did. We went to the movies. To the theater. To the cinema!

I saw White Nights in the theater, when it came out in 1985.

I couldn’t drive yet, so it was probably one of my friends – who had their licence already – who found themselves carting around as many theater geeks as could fit in whatever type of car their parents owned to the movies on some given night.

Right out of the gate, this film thrilled me. I had never seen Mikhail Baryshnikov dance in quite this way before. I had seen plenty of ballet but not like this.

This scene is the opening credits of the movie. It’s a truncated version of a ballet by Roland Petit, but I didn’t know that then.

At the time, I thought this particular ballet was something done for the movie, something written especially for the film. I didn’t realize how famous a piece it was, and who was involved in the original collaboration.

Le Jeune Homme Et La Mort is a ballet – choreographed by Roland Petit in 1946, with a story by Jean Cocteau – that tells the story of a young man driven to suicide by his faithless lover, set to the  Passacaglia and Fugue in C Minor, by J. S. Bach, BWV 582.

I have felt the pull this character seems to be feeling. I have felt the pain and desperation this man expresses, as he pushes and pulls in an effort to simply quiet his mind.

I know this man, and that “knowing” is what my work is leading me to, what I’m interested in exploring.

What is this connection we feel to others brought on by a piece of art? Why do I know how he feels? How is it that we can share these feelings?

But this piece doesn’t make me what to share this character’s fate, simply because I know his pain. On the contrary.

This performance of this work makes me want to live because of the very fact that I do connect with something being communicated, something that could only be communicated in this way – through the medium of art, ballet, in particular.

Enjoy this luscious emotion fest! (And, I’ve a bonus treat for you below this video!)



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BONUS: This is a full performance of this wonderful, haunting piece. Well worth your time.

I’m a Fan Friday: Twenty-One for 2021 – #4

Bristol Borough Waterfront – September 2019

I’m not exactly sure when Miles Davis came into my seemingly separate orbit.

I don’t know when I first heard his music. Maybe it was playing in my experience as a young person but I wasn’t fully aware of it, or who it was that was playing?

The likely thing is that I had heard Miles’ sound somewhere in my youth but just didn’t know how to pay attention to it yet.

I do remember the first time I ever came in contact with this tune, though.

On a summer night in 1990, my roommate Keith Parker and I went to a jazz club in Oklahoma City to hear this band that was beginning to gain some attention beyond the local scene.

I don’t remember the name of the band, but I remember like it was yesterday being completely enraptured by this tune and the way they played it.

When they finished, the band leader (whose name was the name of the band; I do remember that but nothing else) said,

“That was ‘So What’ by Miles Davis”

and I was like,

“If this song is on this band’s album (cassette tape), I’m buying it!”

It was, and I did, and I wore that tape OUT!

As good as I remember that group’s terrific version of this tune being, imagine my delight when I found the original some days later.

From the 1959 album “Kind of Blue,” this is a really terrific live version of “So What” by the great Miles Davis.

Enjoy!

I’m a Fan Friday: Twenty-One for 2021 – #5

Bristol Borough, PA – 2019

The term “Mob” has never really enjoyed the kind of popularity that its family members have had.

“Crowd,” “Group,” and “Assembly” have all had their troubles from time to time (sometimes misinterpretations, sometimes not), but “Mob” has never been given a whole lot of positive press.

The events of the past week haven’t helped matters much. Obviously.

But, if you’re a friend of this underdog term, there is good news. Just when all might seem lost, in comes “Flash” to the rescue!

Pair “Flash” with “Mob” and you end up with one of the greatest things of all time: the flashmob.

“FLASHMOBS”!

I love ’em!!

Here’s one of the great ones, but don’t take my word for it. After you’ve watched this joy, feel free to follow down the rabbit hole of videos that are the “Mob” in its absolute Sunday best!

Enjoy!

I’m a Fan Friday: Twenty-One for 2021 – #6

Corner of Cleveland and Wilson Streets – Bristol Borough, PA August 2020

Jacob Collier might be the most well-rounded, universally talented musician I’ve ever encountered. He has a kind of genius that just flows out of him as if his musical sensibilities were nothing more than ordinary occurrences of everyone’s everyday life.

That’s because they are.

It can seem like, no big deal.

But it is a very big deal, indeed.

His collaborations with the always fantastic Becca Stevens have produced some really beautiful and important musical moments in the past few years.

This one is my favorite.

Listen, especially, to how Jacob fills the first minute with a complete improv while Becca is tuning her guitar.

Genius, I tell you!

I’m a Fan Friday: Twenty-One for 2021 – #7

Burlington-Bristol Bridge – October 2020

Say whatever you want about celebrity culture, etc, etc…

I honestly think these folks had the best of intentions and actually inspired many people when they released a rendition of John Lennon’s song, “Imagine.”

I think that’s terrific, I really do.

On the original video on YouTube, everyone sings a quick phrase without any instrumental accompaniment and the snidbits are edited together. The problem is, no one thought to decide on a key.

That’s important.

You could listen to that version, but why would you ever do that when you have Charles Cornell’s fantastic work?

In the video immediately below, Charles brilliantly bridges together these lonely, musical island intentions with the most essential (though apparently so casually overlooked) element of song – musical structure.

It’s a perfect metaphor when considering intentions. What holds them together? Are they coherent?

Imagine what harmony is really like.

Enjoy!

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(BONUS! Below is the “making of” video for the above)

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I’m a Fan Friday: Twenty-One for 2021 – #8


New Jersey – 2020

White Nights is one of my favorite movies.

I just watched it again a couple of weeks ago, and it holds up like gangbusters for me.

The story’s got the obligatory 1980’s, anti-Soviet propaganda angle from the Hollywood studios, to be sure, but even that can be exciting in its way.

What makes it one of my favorite films, though, is the way the creative team let their stars shine.

Gregory Hines is so fantastic in this early scene. It follows closely on the heels of the opening credits – where co-star Mikhail Baryshnikov flexed his performing genius – and gives him an opportunity to show what he’s made of.

It’s one of the great musical numbers ever put on film.

I can’t think of more words.

Watch and be joyful.

That’s it.

That’s all there is to it

I’m a Fan Friday: Twenty-One for 2021 – #9

Our Honeymoon in Paris – June 2017

It’s not at all difficult for me to think about Paris when I’m feeling out of sorts. So, that’s what I will often do.

It’s not just the sites of the city but also the sounds.

I love the instrumentation of the cafe-jazz sound; it instantly transports me to a memory that makes me smile.

I found the Avalon Jazz Band this summer thanks in no small part to the YouTube algorithm.

Founded in 2011 by its lead singer, Tatiana Eva-Marie, this group nails this style to perfection.

I’m sharing this particular video because you might recognize the tune. (Remember this?)

Enjoy this wonderful group and buy their new album!

I’m a Fan Friday: Twenty-One for 2021 – #10

East Point Lighthouse, Heislerville, NJ – September 2020

During my years in undergrad at Oklahoma Christian University, I sang in an a capella quartet with my dearest friends.

We called ourselves, Selah.

Doug Lalli, Evan Burkett, Todd Brooks, and I simply loved to sing, and we probably loved singing together the most.

We had a sound that connected us. It still does, even after all these years.

When I listen to this video of The Gesualdo Six, I imagine these fellows probably have a similar feeling about themselves. It sounds like it to me, anyway.

Todd passed away in the fall of 2013. I was away from home doing a production of “Spamalot” at the time I found out the news. I didn’t handle it well at all at the time. I’m still not sure if I totally have.

I found this group, The Gesualdo Six, on YouTube a while back and instantly thought of Selah–my friends, my band of brothers.

I hope this performance does your heart the good it always does mine.

I’m a Fan Friday: Twenty-One for 2021 – #11

Bristol Borough, PA November 2020

My mother hates crowds. Hates them.

I, strangely enough, kind of love them.

I know that sounds weird, coming from a pretty big introvert like myself, but I can easily get lost in a crowd and not be mad about it.

In June 2011, a job I loved and thought I would retire from came to an end. The East Brunswick School Board couldn’t pass the budget, so my non-tenured can got kicked to the curb.

Losing that job really stung.

My best friend of over thirty years knew I was down and got a hold of two tickets to see the Dave Matthews Band in Atlantic City on the 26th.

It was one of the best experiences of my life.

I got lost in the music and the common love for it with 45, 000 other seekers. I’ve never felt more at one with such a crowd in my life.

This video is footage of that very concert!

I go to it to remember I have friends that love the hell out of me.

I go to it to remember that I am, indeed, deserving of so much more than being a line item on a budget sheet.

So are you!