Monday, December 12, 2011
I woke up a few days ago to an email from a friend in Hawaii, who wrote to say Bill Tapia had died. Though this was certainly sad news, Bill had lived to be 103 and had enjoyed a remarkable life. During his career, he'd performed on ukulele with everybody from Louis Armstrong and Bing Crosby to Elvis Presley, and some of the true greats of Hawaiian 'hot' music from the 20s and 30s -- Sol Ho'opi'i, King Benny Nawahi and Andy Iona.
I stumbled upon Bill's music through a video on YouTube for the tune 'I Wanna Learn to Speak Hawaiian', playing ukulele and singing along with an archtop player chocking out chords behind him. He had a sweet, old voice. But then he took a ukulele solo that knocked me out -- no fireworks, just slow and easy yet modern and full of ideas that swung. His face was passive as his fingers ran the notes as they had for so many years, and it seemed like he was momentarily transported somewhere back a long time ago.
He was one of those guys I was peripherally connected to but who, by their very existence, helped in a small way to balance things out in a crazy world for me. I just felt better knowing that he was out there somewhere.
As my Dad likes to say, he graduated with honors.
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
As a regular part of this blog, I'm going to feature/link to comments by some of the great musicians I am privileged to know speaking on the subject of practicing your instrument. As a music teacher, it is just now dawning on me how important it is for me to help students figure out a practice regimen (let alone one for myself). So, to start off we have Danny Barnes. Danny and I recorded an album together many years ago, and he is a very inspiring and wise man with a lot of good ideas about things. This link is to a post on his blog found on the Danny Barnes website, which also features many other articles of interest.
Danny's most recent record is called 'Pizza Box', and I encourage you to check it out. Just paste the link below:
Saturday, January 16, 2010
Another entry in our 'things we like' category -- this time, the late, great Ray Condo. Some of you older hands probably had a chance to see Ray live (I never did...), but he's always been a great inspiration. 'Ft. Worth Stomp' is just one of many tunes from Ray and the Ricochets that covers many bases that are dear to my little black shriveled up old heart -- punk rock, old country, rockabilly. This cut gets me moving in all the right places and makes me want to break things. Killer.
Sunday, January 10, 2010
I just can't resist sharing some of the great videos I find on YouTube. Thanks to all the great folks who find and post this stuff!
This one features Red Foley and his band playing the Delmore Brother's classic tune 'Freight Train Boogie', live on Red's TV show 'The Ozark Jubilee' in the early 50's. The guitar player is one of my absolute favorites, Grady Martin. Grady was the master of the boogie-style guitar fills and solos, and his simplicity and sense of swing is an inspiration to me when I get all uppity and play too many notes! His double-neck guitar btw was made by the brilliant machinist/woodworker/inventor/visionary Paul Bigsby, who many consider the inventor of the modern electric solid-body guitar. He built this guitar in his garage. Enjoy!
Saturday, January 9, 2010
YouTube is such a great resource for old music -- this clip is no exception! The great Hank Garland performing his hit 'Sugarfoot Rag' live on TV, sometime in the 50's. The tune is based on an old fiddle tune (there's also supposedly a dance of the same name...) and Hank had huge, million-selling hit with this one at age 19 while playing with Red Foley. I remember years ago hearing Junior Brown live at the Aladdin Theater in Portland, and he used this tune as his encore piece which was just jaw dropping. A few years after this film clip, Hank was involved in a very serious automobile accident in which he suffered severe brain damage. That accident along with shock therapy he received in the hospital rendered him barely able to play the guitar, let alone walk. For those of you who enjoy jazz, you should check out his album 'Jazz winds From a New Direction' -- an all-time classic which features the incredible vibes playing of 17-year old Gary Burton. Hank was also known to have jammed with Charlie Parker, and was a very forward-thinking and inspiration musician. One of my patron saints.
Saturday, January 2, 2010
This is one of the hidden gems out there, if you've never had the chance to hear it. Jimmy Rivers was a fantastic guitarist who led an 8-piece dance band based in Brisbane, California in the early sixties after stints backing guys like Ernest Tubb. This record is a compilation of informal recordings made by his steel player Vance Terry, one of the most inventive and fleet fingered steel guitarists of all time. These live recordings were made in a bar/restaurant called DeMarco's 23 Club, where Jimmy and the band played several nights a week.
The tunes are great -- from swing and hillbilly standards to Art Pepper bebop ('Surf Ride') and the band just kills. Jimmy had a very strong Charlie Christian influence in his playing (who you should check out if you've never had the chance --he played with Benny Goodman's band in the late 30s/real early 40s. A cornerstone of American music), so his lines are bop-like but melodic and swing like crazy.
What I love about these recordings are their informality. It's basically a document of a really hot band at the height of their powers playing their asses off a couple nights a week at a rowdy bar that serves buffalo burgers.
This record has influence a ton of guitarists over the years, not only the Playboys but guys like Jim Campilongo (one of our favorites). Find it. Listen to it!