Category Archives: Daily Tune On

Sidewalk Fave – Anthony “If It Be Your Will”

There were so many moving performances in the Leonard Cohen movie “I’m Your Man,” it was hard to choose one. But Antony is such a different sort of character and his performance of  “If It Be Your Will” was so emotional and beautiful, that he is where I ultimately landed for this entry.

To me Antony has such an unusual sounding voice it rises above most others.  Watching him perform you feel as if you are being given entry to a very private moment, a glimpse into the man’s soul, and if you move you might break up the chemistry or you could be asked to leave. He seems to channel his voice from a deep place within. At times he can look uncomfortable and even disturbed, moving his hands back and forth, digging to the place inside himself where his expression lives. But you know what he is touching is very pure and as its essence is revealed his vocal performance comes alive and washes over you.

Antony, whose full name is Antony Hegarty, plays with a group called Antony and the Johnsons.  You can also see and hear him in the Lou Reed movie, “Berlin,” Steve Buscemi’s movie “Animal Factory” and several others.  He can be heard on the soundtrack to the Dylan inspired movie, “I’m Not There,” as well as many other artistic vehicles.   In 2005 Antony and the Johnsons released the “I Am a Bird Now” LP on the Secretly Canadian label.

To see Antony perform “I’m Your Man,” simply click on the link below or cut and paste it into your browser.

Also posted in Sidewalk Faves

Sidewalk Faves – Lucinda Williams

“I think about you and that long ride, bite my nails and get weak inside.”  How can one not love Lucinda?  But I have to say it was hard to pick just one song to start leading us down that long and winding Lucinda Williams road.

I’ve been a big fan of Lucinda’s for a number of years, albums before her most well known, “Car Wheels.”  And yes I refer to her as Lucinda, not Lucinda Williams, because by now we should be on a first name basis.

I’ve listened to her lament; sing about love and loss, read the lyrics to her stories, and seen her in concert many times over.  I have visited Lake Charles, Greenville, and Nacodoches; felt her every word and moved to every chord.  I’ve dreamed of being Lucinda, and also been happy I’m not her.  Sometimes she’s seemed too sad!  But I’ve always wished I had her talent and her guts.   Her talent, because it is evident in her writing and the way she expresses it; her guts, because she says it like it is to her.  She’s not afraid to share her raw emotion.  You can hear it in her lyrics and the sound of her moans as she sings.

Lucinda Williams is both great and depressing, but sometimes it is just what I need, to hear someone suffering in love more than me.  Other times she is so damn sexy that I strut around my apartment as if I were singing to 20,000 people and they all thought I was the sexiest bitch on the planet.  She’s sorrowful, sexy, lyrical and sensitive all in one, and the woman rocks!

“Right In Time” is just one of many Lucinda songs I love, and I hope my Daily Tune On choice today is “Right In Time” with you.

To view Lucinda Williams singing “Right In Time” either click on the link below, or cut and paste it into your browser.

Daily Tune On – Peanut’s the Holidays and Vince Guaraldi

It’s hard for me to enter the holidays and not think of the “Peanut” holiday specials and the extraordinary music of jazz pianist Vince Guaraldi.

Born in San Francisco in 1928 Guaraldi played many “casuals” (west coast term) or what on the east coast is referred to as “club dates,” before getting his first break of filling in for jazz legend Art Tatum.  He later created a trio with good friend jazz guitarist Eddie Duran and bass player Dean Reilly.  He could also be heard on recordings for the Cal Tjader Trio, but spent most of his time honing his skills playing live in clubs in the North Beach section of SF, clubs like the Hungrey I.

Guaraldi continued to do session dates with Frank Rosselino, Cal Tjader and others, toured with Woody Herman’s band, and played with the Cal Tjader Quintet at the first Monterey Jazz Festival where they received a standing ovation.  Soon Guaraldi was garnering fame nationally and internationally.  Moved by the soundtrack by Antonio Carlos Jobim for the movie “Black Orpheus,” Guaraldi hit the studio and did a recording of his impressions of Jobim’s music in a record entitled “Jazz Impressions of Black Orpheus.”  “Samba de Orpheus” was the first cut or single from that album to be released with what was known back then as a “B” side cut on the back side, a composition that was called “Cast Your Fate to the Wind.”  It’s said that a DJ in Sacramento was responsible for helping to bring about the notoriety and future acclaim for the jazz composer by simply flipping the record over and playing the “B” side cut on his show.   This helped to create Guaraldi’s first Gold Record and earned him a Grammy for Best Instrumental Jazz Composition.

Lee Mendelson around this same time was trying to produce a Christmas Special about the Peanut’s comic strip characters by Charles Shulz.  He actually heard the cut of “Cast Your Fate to the Wind” while riding in a taxi and contacted Ralph J. Gleason the jazz columnist for the SF Chronicle.  Through this connection he was put in touch with Guaraldi.  Mendelson then asked Guaraldi to write the music for his special and Guaraldi soon created the piece that became known as “Linus and Lucy.”  Guaraldi would go on to compose the music for 16 “Peanut Charlie Brown” specials before his untimely death at the age of 47 due to a heart attack.

Well-known and loved by many the Guaraldi music of the Charles Shulz classics continue to live on and visit us each holiday season along with Charlie Brown, and all his friends whom over the years and generations have became our friends too.  Below is a cut of the very familiar  “Thanksgiving Theme,” recorded by the Vince Guaraldi Trio.  To hear the piece simply cut and paste the link into your browser.

Vince Guaraldi Trio Thanksgiving Theme

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Shawn Colvin, Corrine Bailey Rae, Beth Orton, Amy Winehouse and Me

Recently I have found myself listening to and loving the album of Shawn Colvin’s from the mid nineties that is the least critically acclaimed or well liked of her work, her album “Cover Girl.”  But presently in the confines of my apartment my neighbors can hear it playing through the walls and I’m finding myself loving it.  I don’t understand why the critics were so harsh when it came out?  I think it’s a good body of work and I like the song choices she made.  Somehow in the late fall of 2008 it is resonating with me like never before.  I can’t tell you why, but it is fitting my mood.   Lately I guess I’d have to say it’s been a girl thing.

In my CD player right now it is all girls.  I just checked it out to see if I was right.  Besides the “Cover Girl” CD of Shawn Colvin, I found Corrine Bailey Rae, Beth Orton, Amy Winehouse, and even an old CD recording of myself.  I’m surprised Lucinda Williams was not in the mix.  For some reason they are like comfort food or my favorite pair of jeans.  They make me feel strong and safe, protected, even when Amy Winehouse is singing and telling us that she’s refusing to go to rehab.  Perhaps it’s the resonance and tones of the female voice or these female voices in particular.  They are soothing and smooth in their simplistic complexities and rich textures and are just generally pleasing.  Their songs and sounds are diverse, but they are all likable in their differences and as a whole make sense to me.  Maybe as the leaves are falling and the trees are being stripped bare, these women are having the same effect on me.  Perhaps as I become naked in my thoughts these women have been there offering up food for the soul, shelter and clothing for the spirit.  Whatever it is, it’s been a formula I have unknowingly been working holding their music close to my chest letting them lead me into this next season.

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Daily Tune On – Robert Leroy Johnson Delta Blues Legend

I don’t know a single serious blues, rock, or jazz guitar player who is not familiar with or has not studied the playing of Delta Country Blues legend Robert Johnson.  Born in 1911in Hazlehurst, Mississippi and dead by the age of 27 Johnson left a mark so big that he is honored by his legacy to this day and will continue to be by future generations of musicians, singers and guitarists.  His influence to blues and rock has been one of the greatest of any musician from the 20th century.

Not much is known about the life of Robert Johnson and many of those facts have been disputed, argued, and strung together, but his recordings were real and no on can deny or disregard their greatness and influence.  Martin Scorsese puts it aptly in his forward to the film-script about Johnson by Alan Greenberg, “The thing about Robert Johnson was that he only existed on his records.  He was pure legend.”

His mother, life, multiple stepfather’s and stepmother, his half siblings, where he lived and traveled, the women he married and had affairs with, and the children he fathered or helped to raise, all shaped Johnson creating their own history, myths, textures, teachings, and along the way provided him with his musical mentors.  A few of those teachers included bluesmen Willie Brown and eventually his partner Son House, and Ike Zinnerman.

In 1936, Johnson through a talent scout in Mississippi named Spier, was put in touch with a man named Ernie Oertle who had a recording studio in San Antonio, Texas.  It was there that the shy Robert Johnson recorded a three-day session that produced 16 selections.  Several of those songs included the well-known “Come On In My Kitchen,” and the infamous blues song “Cross Road Blues,” which was made even more famous by Eric Clapton and his band “Crèam.”  A year later Johnson went to Dallas where he recorded another 11 records.

The last year of Johnson’s life it is said that he made it north and east to play his music and that several of his records had been released in the south.  At the time he was living in Arkansas but was playing for a few weeks at juke joint in Greenwood, Mississippi.  Johnson supposedly had a thing for the club owner’s wife.  Not taking kindly to Johnson’s advances, the club owner also the bartender, put strychnine in an open bottle of whisky, handed it to Johnson ultimately poisoning him.  He survived for a period of time after the poisoning, but died soon after.  Some say that in a weakened state, he contracted pneumonia and died from complications.  Others say he could never have been poisoned by strychnine at all as it has such a distinct bitter taste.  But the one thing all the historians and scholars can agree upon is that Robert Leroy Johnson was one of the greatest bluesmen to inhabit the planet and he was 27 at the time of his death.  To this day the controversy of his death and the place of his burial are disputed, thus there are three different sites that mark his grave and hold claim to being the final resting place to this great musician and singer.

To hear Robert Johnson sing “Cross Road Blues,” either click on the link below or cut and paste it into your browser.

For a comprehensive look into the life of Robert Leroy Johnson, check out the link below.

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Daily Tune On – Tania Maria – It’s All In My Hands

“I love you.  Do you love me?”  That’s what I remember from my first Tania Maria concert.  This beautiful passionate Brazilian woman got on stage, sat down at her piano bench and began to call out to the audience, “I love you.  Do you love me,” repeating it several times.  I was hooked before she played her first chord.

If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time you already know that I have a soft spot for Brazilian music and for hearing the Portuguese language being sung in a Brazilian accent.  There’s just something about it that is so beautiful, poetic, and romantic to me.  There is also fire and passion in the music of Tania Maria and I am drawn to it. I’d have to say in my estimation Tania Maria covers it all in her writing and performance.  She is beautiful, poetic, romantic, fiery, passionate, and a sensitive and expressive singer and keyboardist. The poetry of the songs she writes dance off the page and her deliverance makes it all come alive.  Whether she is playing a song that is upbeat or a ballad, it’s all in “her” hands, and heart.  A wonderful performer and a masterful pianist Tania Maria began playing music at the age of 7.  By the time she was 13, her father, a very good amateur musician, had her fronting a band.  Since then she has always been her own leader.

Her family was musical including her four sisters, but the other siblings opted to become professionals.  Maria started on that path too and actually went to Law School but her love of music was too strong and ultimately won out.  Surrounded by the sounds from her country, the samba, and popular music of Brazil, Maria absorbed these rhythms and styles and eventually fused them with her love of jazz.  Influenced by the likes of Oscar Peterson, Sarah Vaughan and Bill Evans, Antonio Carlos Jobim and Milton Nascimento, her music became a synthesis of all this and more.

Tania Maria released her first album, “Olha Quwm Chega,” in Brasil in 1971. Since then she has released 20 plus more.  In the late 70’s Maria decided to move to France, which turned out to be the ultimate jump start of her career as her audience expanded in the process.  It was during this time that Maria started to tour and it was on a tour in Australia that the singer/songwriter/keyboardist met famed jazz guitarist Charlie Byrd who made the connection for her with the jazz label Concord Records.  From there her career took off.  In the 90’s she moved from France to New York, but currently resides in France once again and continues to record, tour, and play.

Tania Maria has played at just about every famous jazz club and jazz festival in the world as well as many other prestigious venues, and has appeared on numerous television and radio shows throughout the world.  Maria is dear to many people’s hearts and is both a loved and well-respected musician around the globe.  And in answer to your question Tania, “Yes, I do love you!”  Your playing, performances, discs and songs over the years have brought me countless hours of joy and happiness.

To hear Tania Maria sing in English her song, “It’s All In My Hands,” simply click on the link below or cut and paste it into your browser.

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Daily Tune On – India.Arie Gets To “The Heart of the Matter”

I always loved the Don Henley song, “The Heart of the Matter.”    Then I heard India.Arie singing the Henley standard and I thought, “I might even like her arrangement better.”  Either way, it’s a great song and “The Heart of the Matter” is felt in each word that she sings.

India.Arie was born in Denver.  Her mother was a former singer on the Motown label and her father was an NBA basketball player.  As a child she was encouraged to play and sing and to learn multiple instruments.  When her parents divorced her mother moved the family to Atlanta (Arie also has a brother.)   But it wasn’t until Arie was at the Savannah College of Art and Design that things really started to take shape.  Arie started to play guitar and began to discover songwriting and her own voice as an artist.

In the late 90’s Arie helped to co-found the Atlanta based independent music collective, “Groovement” that started its own label named “Earth Share.”  A song that she recorded and put on a compilations reel unexpectedly jump-started the young artists career.  That one song led to her being asked to perform at the 1998 “Liltih Fair.”  Soon after she caught the attention of a scout from Universal/Motown, and the rest is history.

With a style that encompasses R&B, soul, jazz, hip hop and rock, India.Aria has fused together a sound that crosses over many borders and seems to erase the many boundaries that can confine each border.  Her first album “Acoustic Soul,” was released in 2001 and debuted at number 10 on the Billboard 200 Chart while coming in at number 3 on the “Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums.”  Nominated for a number of Grammy’s that year, it wasn’t until the release of her second album, “Voyage to India,” that she actually won her first Grammy.

It was four years later in 2006 when Arie released her third album, “Testimony Vol. 1 Life & Relationship,” that she sang the Don Henley classic, “The Heart of the Matter.”  Right now she has a new single out called “Beautiful Flower,” that is a song from her soon to be released upcoming album entitled, “Testimony Vol. 2 Love & Politics.”  That record is expected to come out in February 2009.

Below you’ll find a live recording of India.Arie singing “The Heart of the Matter” and “Umbrella” at the North Sea Jazz Festival in Holland.  To view this video either click on the link below, or cut and paste it into your browser.

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Daily Tune On – Hani Naser Music Master for Peace

I thought I was going to be writing a piece on string virtuoso and one of my favorite players David Lindley, but I’ll save that for another day.  Instead I want to write today about an extraordinary Jordanian musician with whom David Lindley has collaborated, and who is both a master oud player and a master percussionist.  For those of you who don’t know what an oud is, it’s a fretless string instrument with a bowl like back and usually 11 strings, five sets of two strings paired in the same tuning and an eleventh string which is separate and tuned low.

Hani Naser’s music would best be described as organic.  It comes from feeling and intuition.  He plays in the moment.  He says his music doesn’t have a perspective or an opinion.   It is spontaneous and it is spiritual.  Known by many musicians Hani Naser has played with the likes of Jackson Brown, Bonnie Raitt, Ry Cooder, Jim Keltner, Steve Miller, Los Lobos, The Violent Femmes, Don Henley, Jennifer Warnes, Israeli singer/songwriter David Broza, Paco De Lucia, Santana, Quick Silver Messenger Service, John Hyatt, Warren Zevon, Ruben Blades, Lou Reed, Blind Boys of Alabama, David Lindley, and many other great performers.  Without a doubt in one of these recordings or performances you have heard him play, you just didn’t know who it was.

Growing up in the hills of Jordan he likes to tell a story about his grandfather who was the village poet.  Every morning his grandfather would grind his coffee and tell stories at the same time.  Naser says his music and sounds were first developed from listening to these stories as his grandfather made his coffee.  Hearing the words float over this sound and the rhythmic crunching of the coffee created the texture from which he built his career as a musician.  His collaboration with string master David Lindley for seven years produced what critic Paul Harrar called, “One of the best jam sessions in the music business,” and   their album “Live in Tokyo,” was chosen by Guitar Player Magazine as one of the top 100 albums of the last decade.  And if you’re a fan of “World Music,” he was featured on Hamza El Din’s album “A Wish,” which topped the World Music Charts.

Hani Naser’s music is about communication.  He is an active participant in using music to help bridge differences between people and countries, and as a force to help bring about peace.  He collaborated with Israeli singer/songwriter David Broza and together they toured the war torn Middle East.  They were also asked to perform by their home countries at the signing of the peace agreement between Israel and Jordan.  Another way that Naser uses his music is by giving workshops called “The Healing Powers of Rhythm and Music,” where he delves into the spiritual dimensions of music.  He continues to lead these workshops at Esalen in Big Sur, CA.  To Hani Naser, “every drum has its own voice.”  And through his years of playing with other musicians, and connecting to people through performance, he has come to believe that “we are vibrations,” and “sometime vibrations get out of sync.  Music I have found brings back that balance.”

To learn more about this extraordinary player, where he’s touring, giving workshops, his latest recordings, go to his personal website which is listed below.  Just cut and paste the link into your browser and explore.

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Daily Tune On – Bjork, “Wanderlust,” the VMA’s and Iceland

With Iceland setting the tone for the beginning of this week, how could I write a “Daily Tune On” and not write about Bjork?  The answer, I couldn’t.  Having come from Iceland’s punk rock scene and risen to fame as one of their most original and notable singer/songwriter/actress’, Bjork actually began her career at the age of 12 when she recorded her first album of mostly cover tunes.  Born to a father who was a well-known union leader in Iceland and a mother who was politically active, I would believe from a very young age she was taught personal expression was a good thing, and to speak up and be heard, which of course she has.  It’s reported that over her career she’s sold approximately 15 million records.

She is known for her work with the punk band “KUKL” with whom she toured Europe, her work as the lead singer of the band the “Sugarcubes,” whom she helped to bring to “cult” status in both the US and UK, and later as a solo artist, singer/songwriter, and accomplished actress.  Bjork has been nominated for 13 Grammy’s, several Golden Globes, and even an Academy Award for her starring role in the 2000 movie, “Dancer In The Dark” where she was also named “Best Actress” by the Cannes jurors and won critical acclaim for her album, “Selmasongs, her score for the same film.

Her pop music sound is described as a collection of genres put together and assembled in Bjork’s own unique fashion. There isn’t a lot of gray in her music.   What I mean is that I think one either likes her music or they don’t.  I haven’t listened a lot to Bjork, but I believe I’ve fallen into the category of someone who likes her music when I have.  No one can say she’s not original, and that takes courage.  Besides she’s got a great soprano voice, and you can count on a lot of artistic and personal expression in all her recordings.

Yesterday, October 20th, Bjork released her new single “Nattura” through her own label “One Little Indian.”  The single will initially only be available on iTunes, but will be released digitally everywhere on October 27th.  The song is in support of the Nattura Campaign helping Iceland provide sustainable and eco-friendly options for their country and to come up with ways to help Iceland best use their natural resources.  All proceeds from the track are being donated to   Thom Yorke from “Radiohead,” is featured on backing vocals.

And just this past week Bjork’s music video to her song “Wanderlust,” won “Best Art Direction,” “Best Indie/Alternative Video,” and the top honor of “Video of the Year” in the UK’s 2008 Music Video Awards show.  Below is a link to the video and song.   To access it, either click on the link below or cut and paste it into your browser.

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Daily Tune On – 5 Ways To “Imagine” John Lennon

I think the piece I wrote about David Barratt’s audio sculpture, “Karito,” going up in the United Nations Visitors Gallery this week has stayed in my subconscious and subtly set the tone for this week and how it should end.  John Lennon’s “Imagine,” with him singing it, is too big for “Cracks In Sidewalks,” but I kept coming back to the song.  I guess I was thinking about peace, peace, peace.   With the presidential election around the corner, and the economy pretty much tanking, it is a more pleasant thought.  And I am hopeful, hopeful that these thoughts of peace will soon become our reality.  “You may say I’m a dreamer.”

Since I decided I couldn’t use the Lennon version of the song as it’s just too famous, but still couldn’t get the song out of my head; I thought wouldn’t it be interesting to explore five other artists interpretations of his song.   So that’s what I set out to do.  I spent the afternoon today, listening to a multitude of arrangements of John Lennon’s classic song of peace, “Imagine.”  Besides the artists below I listened to Jon Bon Jovi, Dolly Parton, Patti LaBelle, Queen, and on and on.  A lot of people have sung this song.  But below are the 5 Ways To “Imagine” that I chose.  They are quite diverse and cover a wide range of singers, ages, and styles but in each of the performances you will hear the artists unique and heartfelt interpretation of this classic that we all know and love.  I hope you enjoy them.

To listen to the performances below either click on the link you want to hear, or cut and paste it into your browser.

Neil Young from the 9/11 Tribute to Heroes Concert

Avril Lavigne singing John Lennon’s “Imagine” in aid of Amnesty International’s fund raising effort to save Darfur.

Mark Knopfler & Chet Atkins – Imagine (instrumental)

Jack Johnson

David Archuleta, 17 year old American Idol runner up

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