Today, November 2, is the birthday of one of our heroes — pianist / composer / singer / poet / imaginer / scholar Ray Skjelbred. He is an original, even when he is letting the great traditions flow through him; he is both inscrutable and generously open; he continues to improve life in this century.
No formulaic cupcakes with candles for Captain Skjelbred!
I offer instead a small musical mosaic of his own subversive creations — the first three when no one was supposed to be paying attention (someone might call it “making friends with the piano”) that I captured on May 25, 2014, at the Sacramento Music Festival.
Since I envision Captain Skjelbred as a quiet spy in the enemy country of mediocrity and repeater pencils, the fact that I caught him unaware might just be fair play. He does the same for and to us: in the fourth video, MY GALVESTON GAL (performed with his Cubs — Clint Baker, string bass; Katie Cavera, rhythm guitar; Jeff Hamilton, drums; Kim Cusack, clarinet) there is an odd and whimsical phrase Ray creates at 1:50 that makes me say, “What? What?” every time I hear it.
And he does it again, playing the piano, playing music, playing with our expectations — and always gratifying them in ways we didn’t know existed.
Thank you, Captain Skjelbred. We are grateful you are here.
Music for Groucho — Kalmar and Ruby, 1930:
A little Monkishness, or is it Monkiania?:
Some blues, sun-warmed, locally grown, organic:
And a pop tune from 1933, MY GALVESTON GAL, featured by Henry Allen, Coleman Hawkins, and Benny Morton — much-beloved silliness, with a particularly Skjelbredian interlude at 1:50:
And no one calls him schnorrer. (Julius can explain, or you could look it up.)
P.S. Should anyone wonder, “Michael, now you’re posting clips that last less than a minute? Have you run out of things to post?” The answer is, in a hushed tone, “You have no idea of what remains to be seen.” The idea of a mosaic of orts and fragments appeals to me, and I hope also to the Captain. Found poetry!
May your happiness increase!