Creating beauty is not easy. In surroundings that may be hostile to it, the energy necessary for creation requires a particular focus and perseverance. The act of creation may seem quietly defiant. In their diligence, the artists tell us, “We don’t really need you all to sit in rapt silence; we will keep on our own paths — doing what we know how to do, doing what we live for — even if you don’t notice.”

Such was the case when Ray Skjelbred played solo piano last month at Pier 23. And since “jazz” is often characterized as rhythmically propulsive, engaging our senses through hectic energy, I offer Ray’s musings on three pieces that are, like the voice of Cordelia, “soft and low.” Two are defined as love songs; the third sounds like one as well, even though its title has no romance in it.

Listen closely. Beauty never goes out of fashion.

MARY’S SPECIAL (for and by Mary Lou Williams):

YOU CAN DEPEND ON ME (with echoes of Earl Hines, Louis Armstrong, Jimmy Rushing, Lester Young):

LOVE IN BLOOM (for Bing Crosby and Jack Benny):

When I sent these three videos to Ray for his comments, he wrote back, “Many years ago when I first started playing piano and visiting Berkeley I used to stay with Dick Oxtot and I learned later that his daughter would quietly stand behind me while I played, look at the pattern in my Hawaiian shirt, then imagine stories that went with the music and the pattern. Your point of view reminded me of that.”

I encourage you to invent their own sweet narratives while Ray creates his own variations on love in bloom, a garden of sounds.

May your happiness increase! 

6 responses to “LOVE IN BLOOM: RUMINATIONS by RAY SKJELBRED (July 8, 2014)

  1. Just heard Ray tonight at this very piano… My first time to Pier 23. Despite the distractions, it’s a great place! And Ray kicks butt on solo piano!

  2. “Love In Bloom” was rather devalued by Jack Benny’s send up of it. Here Ray not only restores its innate tenderness but also adds a bluesy touch which hints at an earthiness in the tenderness.

  3. A very special man, playing very special music, and never sounding better!!
    Thank you so very much for this one, NM

  4. Ray Skjelbred; always entertaining !

  5. Thanks for posting this…I’m very fond of Ray Skjelbred. 😊😊

  6. A talented man, Dump the Hawaiian shirt, put on a Tuxedo and go to the Top of the Mark Hotel and sit down one night at cocktail hour and play like that, and make more money in tips alone than you make at Pier 23. Quiet appreciative audience of people with money.

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