FIVE MINUTES OF HEATED BLISS: RAY SKJELBRED AND HIS CUBS at SACRAMENTO (KIM CUSACK, CLINT BAKER, JEFF HAMILTON, KATIE CAVERA: May 24, 2014) and A BRIEF EMERSONIAN INTERLUDE: RAY SKJELBRED, March 8, 2014.

The song is CHINA BOY and I believe the next words of the chorus are GO SLEEP, but you couldn’t find a finer example of being brilliantly awake than this performance.

These five musicians are billed as RAY SKJELBRED AND HIS CUBS, with Ray at the piano, the occasional vocal, arrangements and spiritual-ethical leadership; Kim Cusack, clarinet; Katie Cavera, guitar; Clint Baker, string bass; Jeff Hamilton, drums. (Study Hamilton’s melodic accompaniment and solo!)

This performance comes from the Sacramento Music Festival (although I may have the rapidly-changing name wrong) in a delightfully compact room on May 24, 2014:

That is compelling evidence of the magnificence of this little band: hot and delicate all at once, plunging forward with the greatest relaxation. I hope our paths intersect before too long.

In 2014, I had the serious luxury of encountering Ray in a variety of settings at a number of festivals and gigs: I look back on those days and those sounds with wonder — both that they occurred and that I was able to witness them and capture them.

While I was sauntering through my archive of unreleased performances by Ray and friends, I found something unusual — although not unusual for those of us who honor and follow him, those of us who have seen him at jazz festivals, moving from one venue to another, becoming friends with each new piano, taking its pulse by playing it, meditatively yet with strong emotions. During the Jazz Fest by the Bay in Monterey, I knew his meditative ways well enough to turn my camera on him before he became part of the ensemble — Bob Schulz’s Frisco Jazz Band, in red polo shirts. And I was rewarded.

Ray told me, “The piano interlude is sort of what I like to do as I adjust to a new piano and setting.” I’ve heard him explore rare Ellington, a Monk blues, Thirties pop songs, and more. I hear the laandmarks of a characteristic blues strain and Bud Freeman’s AFTER AWHILE.

But the interlude so strongly made me think of someone who probably spent no time at the keyboard and who died long before Jess Stacy was born . . . I mean Ralph Waldo Emerson, who wrote in SELF-RELIANCE, the source of these lines: “It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.“

Yes, perfect sweetness, mixed with Chicago grit and California musing. Thank you, Cubs. Thank you, Ray.

May your happiness increase!

One response to “FIVE MINUTES OF HEATED BLISS: RAY SKJELBRED AND HIS CUBS at SACRAMENTO (KIM CUSACK, CLINT BAKER, JEFF HAMILTON, KATIE CAVERA: May 24, 2014) and A BRIEF EMERSONIAN INTERLUDE: RAY SKJELBRED, March 8, 2014.

  1. Ida Melrose Shoufler

    Both videos are fantastic!! Ray Skjelbred is one of my piano heroes. I don’t think I have ever met a nicer man! He was instramental in the “rebirth” of my fathers music! The seminar he put togeher in CA, a few years back, about my father, is priceless to me, He sent me a copy of the whole seminar! Thank you so much Ray, and thank you my dear Michael,,You are another fella with a heart as big as New York!!

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