Friday, August 31, 2007

Good Concerts Coming To Kentucky Center

The 2007/2008 Kentucky Center Concert Season has been announced. Shows catching my eye are Nickel Creek, Buddy Guy, Natalie MacMaster, Steve Riley & The Mamou Playboys, George Carlin, Chris Botti, Chick Corea & Bela Fleck, and The Count Basie Orchestra.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Stevie Wonder On Tour

I've always been a big fan of Stevie Wonder and his music. I found the following article in yesterday's edition of The Wall Street Journal:

The Wonder Who Is Stevie

You hear Stevie Wonder's influence everywhere in contemporary pop and R&B. The use of synthesized polyrhythms, lyrics that report on inner-city life, romantic ballads that soar to their peak: If we can't say Mr. Wonder invented these staples of today's scene, let's agree that no one's ever done them better. As a vocalist, his impact is unsurpassed; R&B singer and producer Raphael Saadiq once told me, "Everybody who has a tone tries to sing like Stevie." Today's R&B and hip-hop stars see him as a man who rose from Motown's stable of artists to seize control of his own musical destiny as a songwriter, producer and performer. As such, he's the model for the pop entrepreneur.

While Mr. Wonder's influence is ubiquitous, he isn't. His current tour, which began in San Diego on Aug. 23, is his first in 12 years. (He's done the occasional one-off benefit and private performance.) It's a curiously brief tour: only 13 dates in small and midsize venues, including two at wineries, in late summer as vacations end and students head back to school. But to my mind, any opportunity to see Mr. Wonder perform is an event, given his gift and how he's presented it for four decades. I attended the second show on the tour, on Saturday, at Harveys Lake Tahoe Casino and Resort's outdoor stage, as excited as I've been for a show in years.

Though not without some trepidation. Mr. Wonder's most recent album of new material, 2005's "A Time 2 Love" (Motown), was his first in a decade and was fairly tepid, at least by his high standards. That, and his lengthy absence from the stage, hinted at a cooling passion, though Mr. Wonder is only 57 years old and seems in robust health. Two Web sites dedicated to him, and, suggest neglect. Compare them to sites associated with some of his greatest contemporaries --, or, for example -- and you'll insist he deserves the kind of lovingly comprehensive overview these others receive.

But as the moon rose over Heavenly Mountain (and the garish glass-and-steel casinos and hotels), Mr. Wonder arrived onstage and quickly dispelled any fears that his fire has diminished. Joined by his daughter Aisha Morris -- a singer who made her recording debut as a newborn less than 1 minute old on "Isn't She Lovely," on her father's 1976 album "Songs in the Key of Life" -- Mr. Wonder took a moment to thank the audience and dedicate the tour to his late mother. Then he sat with his daughter at a grand piano and performed a flawless "Love's in Need of Love Today." It was a touching moment, and one that foreshadowed the intensity of the evening's performance.

Backed by 11 musicians, Mr. Wonder easily shifted from ballads to crackling up-tempo numbers. Of the former, "Visions" and "Overjoyed" allowed him to display his prowess as a singer, especially in the upper register, using his characteristic flights of note-bending vocalese known as melisma with seeming ease. (Blaming Mr. Wonder for the overused, often poorly executed melisma in today's "American Idol" school of pop singing would be as off the mark as blaming Miles Davis for smooth jazz: A good idea done well by some has been bludgeoned into cliché by the imitative and less gifted.) In "Golden Lady," which simmered with an undertone reminiscent of "Mercy, Mercy Me" by Marvin Gaye, Mr. Wonder's former drummer and Motown colleague, and in "Ribbon in the Sky," he pushed the technique to an extreme, challenging the band, especially bassist Nathan Watts, to find a way to respond.

The up-tempo songs from his mid-'70s albums reminded us how Mr. Wonder blended rock's boiling undertones with the urgency of soul, as the insistent sound of his synthesizer set the groove in "Higher Ground" and allowed the tension to mount as he ushered in "Living for the City." Yet "Signed, Sealed, Delivered (I'm Yours)," which came at the end of his classic soul period, hinted that that kind of interplay was already in his jazz-inflected work. For the song, he moved from the synth back to the grand piano and performed a descending bass line that revealed the funk and snap he'd carry forward.

Charming, effusive, Mr. Wonder was in a mischievous mood throughout the evening. "I'm a blind man with a shotgun," he declared to anyone who'd think to approach his daughter. He told a long story of how he came to write "My Cherie Amour" -- he was a young teen and wanted to impress a resistant girl, and Mr. Wonder did both coy voices to explain how the attempt at conquest unfolded. Realizing drummer Chris Johnson was having an extraordinary night -- his cymbal play on "Master Blaster (Jammin')" dazzled -- Mr. Wonder, a terrific drummer in his own right, suggested they'd have a one-on-one battle behind the kits before the tour was over. At the end of "Signed, Sealed, Delivered (I'm Yours)," he shifted into a country version of the song, prompting the audience to sing with a twang. A few bars of Ernest Tubbs's "Walking the Floor Over You" followed.

But his most playful moments came during the music. He compelled the band to stutter, stop and start during a fierce "I Wish," which came out of a knotty "Sir Duke," his tribute to Ellington, Basie and those who preceded him as an inspiring bandleader. He toyed with the riff of "Superstition," playing off the beat and showing the song's roots in both rock and jazz. He extended the ending of the Latin-flavored "Don't You Worry 'Bout a Thing" and, later, offered a snippet of Chick Corea's "Spain."

Throughout the evening, the audience -- middle-aged couples, teens, parents with their kids -- was enthralled, singing and dancing along. From my perch in the bleachers, I couldn't help but notice that with Mr. Wonder, you don't just clap on the two and four: His music makes you a polyrhythmic machine too, tapping your feet on the one and three, bobbing your head between beats, and swaying as you smile. Suddenly, if only for a few hours, everybody's got soul.

I walked away beaming. Never for a moment was there a sense that Mr. Wonder's best days are behind him. In the presence of his talent and energy, it was far from a foolish thought to believe that he will continue to add to his legacy.


• McMenamins Edgefield Amphitheater Troutsdale, Ore., Thursday
• Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery, Woodinville Wash., Friday
• The Mountain Winery, Saratoga, Calif., Sept. 4
• Greek Theater, Los Angeles, Sept. 5
• Charter One Pavillion, Chicago, Sept. 10
• Meadow Brook Music Festival, Rochester Hills, Mich., Sept. 12
• Chastain Park, Atlanta, Sept. 14
• Pier 6 Concert Pavilion, Baltimore, Sept 16
• Radio City Music Hall, New York Sept. 18

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Foley Warriors 16, Madison Middle Panthers 6

The Panthers came up short on the scoreboard last night, but Matthew (#94) played very hard and was tough on the line. He applied constant pressure throughout.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Sharon Hall Receives Job Promotion

Today Sharon begins her duties in the position of Administrative Assistant II in the Division of Public Relations and Marketing at EKU. She enjoys her work at EKU and has met many friends there. I am very happy for her.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Caproni's Offers Great Food & A Breathtaking View

I took this photo during breaktime at my gig last night while sitting with friends at a table beside the window inside Caproni's Restaurant. A small storm had just been through the area and left the rainbow for all to admire. Looking through the window at the rainbow, the bridge, the train track, and the river, we agreed that the dining view here is about as good as it gets.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Matthew Hall Dominates In 8-0 Madison Middle Panther Win

Last night the fighting Panthers of Madison Middle took on the Braves of Clark Moores in a titantic clash of the titans. It was the season opener of the 2007 football season for each of these crosstown rivals.

Panther Warmups, Matthew Is #94

Matthew Hall was clearly the outstanding player on the field. (Of course I could be a little bit biased.) He played on every snap, both offensively and defensively. As an offensive tackle, Matthew whipped his opponent all night long and opened huge holes for his running backs throughout the game. On defense he played nose tackle where he racked up 8 1/2 tackles, two quarterback hurries, one quarterback sack, and forced a fumble. (Stats courtesy of Matthew Hall.)

The hard fought affair remained scoreless until the the final minute of game when the Panthers scored a touchdown and added a two point conversion. The defense held Clark Moores on the final drive giving the Panthers the 8-0 shutout win. Matthew told me that he wants the defense to go the entire year without giving up any points. He also wants to average 10 or more tackles per game. One thing about that boy, he can set some lofty goals.

Matthew Was All Smiles After The Game

Monday, August 20, 2007

Melody Hall Goes To College

Melody Fit Everything In The Jeep

Sharon and I helped Melody move to her new home Friday. She now lives at UK. If we are lucky, we may see her at Thanksgiving or Christmas...we'll just have to wait and see. She is very excited about the UK experience.

Making Sure She Didn't Forget Anything

It is certainly important for a parent to provide their kid the essentials for dorm life. We made sure that Melody brought a microwave oven, small refrigerator, alarm clock, computer, and so forth. We were sincerely hoping that we didn't forget something that she would really need.

Another Student's Essentials

When I saw the Easy-Bake Oven that another student brought, I immediately worried, "Did I fail Melody by getting her a microwave instead of an Easy-Bake Oven?" Will it be possible for Melody to enjoy Easy-Bake cakes even though she won't have the Easy-Bake Oven to cook them? I know the cakes are supposed to be properly cooked by the light bulb in the Easy-Bake Oven, not a microwave. All the planning that I had done to make sure that we didn't overlook any essentials...did I blow it by not getting Melody an Easy-Bake Oven? Am I a failure as a father?

As I left the UK campus, Melody hugged me and let me know that I was still a good father even though I had not provided her an Easy-Bake Oven for her college experience. She said that she would be sure to make friends with the girl that brought the oven...that way she could borrow the oven in the event that she absolutely just had to have one of those cakes.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Drummer Max Roach Dead at 83

Max Roach was one of the masters of jazz drumming. He died yesterday at age 83. He is most famous for his bebop style developed while playing with Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. Roach also played with Miles Davis and Coleman Hawkins. He was known for his ability to simultaneously play several rhythms, his innovative and creative musical ideas, and his use of cymbals for melodic lines during improvisation.

I was fortunate to meet Mr. Roach in 1979 at Jazz Blues Alley in Washington, DC. I was at the club to hear the great clarinetist Buddy DeFranco. I met Buddy at the Friday night concert and quickly became friends with him at break when we talked about a mutual friend, Lexington jazz clarinetist Paul Thatcher. When I showed up the next night to hear Buddy play again, at break he came over to my table and invited me to come with him to meet "a very special person that was in the audience". It was a thrill for me when Buddy introduced me to the legendary Max Roach saying "here is my friend David Hall from Kentucky".

Now that Mr. Roach has passed, all jazz drummers will move up a rung on the talent ladder.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

New James Taylor Album Coming

I've always been a fan of James Taylor and was happy to find the following information from an 8/13/07 Reuters story:

Coffee shop chain Starbucks Corp. said on Monday its new Hear Music record label will release a live album by singer-songwriter James Taylor this holiday season.

Taylor's "One Man Band" will be the third album released by Hear Music, which was formed by Starbucks and Concord Music Group earlier this year. An album by folk singer Joni Mitchell will hit stores in September.

The label's first release, Paul McCartney's "Memory Almost Full," had sold 496,000 copies in the United States as of August 5, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Sales at Starbucks stores account for 46 percent of those sales.

Starbucks' influence as a music retail outlet has grown in recent years. Before forming its own record label, it posted a big success with the Ray Charles album, "Genius Loves Company," which won eight Grammy awards.

Hear Music releases are available at U.S. Starbucks and traditional music retailers.

"One Man Band" will be an "intimate retrospective of 40 years worth of songs," Taylor said in a statement, and will include live recordings of "Something in the Way," "Carolina in my Mind," and "Fire and Rain."

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

A Relaxing Jazz Dinner Gig

When keyboardist Kevin Moreland called me to work a relaxing jazz dinner gig at Embassy Suites, I jumped at the opportunity. I always enjoy working with talented musicians such as Kevin, especially when we are to play jazz. He described the gig as "it's going to be fun, they are a small group wanting to hear jazz, smooth jazz, and maybe little soft r&b mixed in as they eat dinner...and there is not going to be a dance floor set up nor an open bar."

That sounded very fact, perfect! "No dance floor" means we will be able to stick with cool music and "no open bar" means things should be relaxing and an early finish to the evening. These are the makings of a great gig!

Sometimes gigs don't go exactly the way we anticipate. I knew things were going to become interesting after we honored a request for the Brubeck/Desmond classic "Take Five" and saw everyone get up from their dinner table and start dancing on the carpet. I've played gigs for over thirty years and had never seen people dance to "Take Five", a song written in 5/4 time. From there our "jazz gig" turned in to a full blown "rock the house" party. Instead of playing Jobim, Grover Washington Jr, and Cole Porter tunes, we ended up playing "The Electric Slide", "Hot, Hot, Hot", "Cha Cha Slide" and "Shout".

Though our gig wasn't what we expected, we adapted to what our client wanted. They had a ball and have already asked us back for the next "jazz dinner". I'm going to bring my Stan Kenton "Adventures in Time" and Don Ellis cds to see if they can dance to that!

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Matthew Hall Playing Football For Madison Middle

Matt is pumped up about playing football for the Madison Middle Panthers. This is his first year of playing organized football. The grueling practices started this past week and caused him to feel sore muscles he didn't even know he had. In the summer he normally stays awake late in the evenings playing video games, but this past week he has hit the sack early every night.

On Friday he proudly brought home his team helmet. He carried it with him from room to room and put in on and took it off numerous times. I had to make sure that he didn't try to sleep with the helmet on. He was very excited to be a football player!

I thought this to be a good time to explain to him some of the benefits that playing on the football team will bring him. I told him of how football will help develop his discipline and responsibility, help him understand how to work together as a team and the synergy that brings, teach him the value of honorable competition, improve his physical and mental shape, and lastly, that the girls will be interested in him. I told him that the girls will all follow him around as he walks around school. They will want him to take them to dances. They will want to meet him at McDonald's. They will want to help him with his school work. They will want to sit beside him in the lunchroom. They will try to sit at the desk next to him in the classroom. After telling him all this, he had a puzzled and worried look on his face. After thinking about it for a few minutes, he asked me "Dad, if I just kind of ignore them, but in a nice way, do you think they'll leave me alone?" I told him that it probably wouldn't work and that this the one downside of playing football.

He may elect to remain on the football team, but we'll just have to wait and see.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Ain't Love Grand?

As I played sax last night at Giuseppe's, a young man proposed marriage to a beautiful young lady. He waited until after dinner, got up from his chair, knelt in front of her, and then popped the question as he offered to her a gorgeous ring. She answered "yes" and began to cry as they embraced. He had the evening planned out perfectly, and I consider it an honor to be the "musician of choice" for the occasion. Giuseppe's was the perfect place.