Tag Archives: Dan Balmer

“MOONSHADOW DANCE”: REBECCA KILGORE, ELLEN VANDERSLICE, and MIKE HORSFALL

I’m delighted to tell you about a new Rebecca Kilgore CD, delicious and new. I’ve repeated NEW in the first sentence for a reason: MOONSHADOW DANCE is not only a new plastic artifact in a new cardboard sleeve, but it contains new music — songs by Ellen Vanderslice, Mike Horsfall, and Rebecca herself.

MSD_Cover

The idea of the singer-songwriter is such a familiar one in the last half-century that I won’t make a fuss about it.  However, our Rebecca has made her wondrous reputation by singing “the Great American Songbook,” which in most cases has meant songs from the late  Twenties to the late Fifties, with some exceptions. And for most CD-buyers and audience members, that has meant a certain amount of comfort.  Rebecca is a happily curious Songhound — she searches out deserving songs whether they are rare or familiar, and they glisten when she sings them.  But at a concert, for instance, I can almost feel the audience sigh with pleasure when Rebecca finishes the verse of a Rodgers and Hart song and tenderly makes her way into the chorus.  “A beloved friend,” is our unspoken response, our happiness at hearing something we have the most tender feelings for.

It is of course possible and even delightful to devote one’s career to singing or playing the familiar.  Louis never got tired of WHEN IT’S SLEEPY TIME DOWN SOUTH, and Hot Lips Page is reputed to have said, “The material is immaterial.” But the great pleasure of this new CD, MOONSHADOW DANCE, is that almost every song is a new creation by Vanderslice, Horsfall, and Kilgore.

But before any reader panics and snorts, “New songs?  Why doesn’t anyone sing any of the great old songs anymore?” and reaches for a familiar sheaf of 78s . . . here’s some pleasing evidence that “new” doesn’t have to mean “loud,” “coarse,” or “postmodern,”when the songs are written by the masterful Ellen Vanderslice, Mike Horsfall, and our Rebecca:

Not only do you hear Rebecca’s silken voice, but the melody and lyrics are beautifully crafted — no cliches, either musical or lyrical — but with a certain fresh flair, so that a listener doesn’t think for a moment, “Wow, that turn of phrase must have been the cat’s meow or the cat’s pajamas in 1929.”  Rather, this song and the fifteen others on this disc are musically substantial but not imitations of older songs, and the lyrics sound the way an elegant, witty speaker of this century might talk.

A digression about the video: words and music by Ellen Vanderslice, music by Mike Horsfall.  Musicians are Rebecca Kilgore, vocal; Randy Porter, piano; Tom Wakeling, string bass; Todd Strait, drums; Dan Balmer, guitar; Mike Horsfall, vibraphone / arrangement.  The wonderful dancers are Rachel Lidskog-Lim and Jack Lim.  (I am a literal-minded type, so I was relieved that the pasta did not get overcooked and gummy and that Rachel and Jack — unlike me — can cook so neatly that they don’t mess up their formal clothes.)

Back to the CD.  On it, you’ll hear wry portraits of contemporary life (a blues about the civilization and its discontents) that are mildly reminiscent of Portland’s master viewer-at-a-slant, Dave Frishberg, but there are plenty of songs about songwriters’ favorite subject: love.  There’s ONE LITTLE KISS, AEOLIAN SHADE, I’M NOT SUSCEPTIBLE TO LOVE, UM MINUTO A MAIS (ONE MINUTE MORE), TO HAVE, TO HOLD, TO LOVE, ONE MORE TIME TO SAY GOODBYE, and the even more emphatic THAT’S IT!  There’s also what I believe is the first recorded performance of Rebecca’s multilingual fantasy, THE DAY I LEARNED FRENCH.  And I already have found myself humming BIRTHDAY SONG, GENERIC, which has a hilarious punchline.

The instrumental accompaniment from Randy Porter, Tom Wakeling, Todd Strait, Dan Balmer, Israel Annoh, Steve Christofferson, Marco DeCarvalho, David Evans, Mike Horsfall, Tim Jensen, Mike Horsfall, John Moak, and Dick Titterington is first-rate: singer Susanna Mars joins in on YOU MAKE IT LOOK SO EASY.

It’s a very rewarding CD, full of small sweet / tangy surprises.  I predict that some of the “new” songs” will become memorable friends in one or two listening.

Now — if you live in Portland, Oregon, and are reading this early on Sunday, January 31, 2016, you have a special opportunity to enjoy this music in an experience larger than your earbuds: a concert from 2-4 PM, with Rebecca, Randy Porter, Todd Strait, Tom Wakeling, Mike Horsfall and other musicians, as well as dancers Rachel and Tim from the video above.  Details here at the bottom of the page.  Also on that same page you will find links to help you purchase the CD as a disc or download.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to get dressed up and cook some pasta.  And MOONSHADOW DANCE will be the entirely fitting soundtrack.

May your happiness increase!

SHE BURST INTO SONG: REBECCA KILGORE, ROSSANO SPORTIELLO, NICKI PARROTT at the ALLEGHENY JAZZ PARTY (September 22, 2014)

Rebecca Kilgore has been one of my favorite singers for more than two decades now.  But life is full of surprises, delights that catch us happily unaware.  At the Allegheny Jazz Party last month, our Becky stepped to the microphone and announced that she — with the help of two dear friends — had written a song.

And then she sang it.  And it was delicious.

The song is THE DAY I LEARNED FRENCH, and she really did dream that she had mastered the language.  When she awoke, she wrote down the melody and sketched out some lyrics.  Mike Horsfall added the harmonization, and Ellen Vanderslice contributed more clever lyrics to give this Kilgore-fantasy its charming shape.

I am thrilled to be able to share this song, and Rebecca’s sprightly performance, with you. And let us not forget those two international jazz masters, Rossano Sportiello and Nicki Parrott, who add their own je ne sais quoi to it all:

For those who — as I do — delight in the spiffy, stylish lyrics, here they are.

 

THE DAY I LEARNED FRENCH

Verse:

One night I lay me down to sleep

I said a pray’r and counted some sheep

But something strange occurred that night

Was I insane? Let me explain…

 

Refrain:

Oh, the day I learned French, I recall with delight

How I woke with a start, feeling ever so smart:

I’d learned French overnight!

And not just parlez vous I knew French through and through

When so sweetly, j’ai dit “oui completely, the day I learned French

 

In a tiny boutique, lingerie from Paris

Seemed to fit parfaitement in the life of une femme

Who could parler so free

And it’s simply magnifique, to discover I could speak

Like a native, creatively phrasing, the day I learned French

 

It was easy, comme ça, comme ci, voilà, voici, j’ai appris

Merci beaucoup, s’il vous plait, alors, le fait accompli!  [to CODA last time]

 

I looked up at the sky, et j’ai vu le soleil

It was shining so brightly I knew this would be a spectacular day

And the birdies sang cui, cui! They were speaking French like me

We were swingin’ and singin’ the Spring in, the day I learned French

CODA:

You can try this at home, if your slumber is deep

You don’t need an excursion or total immersion, just drop off to sleep

And as quick as un, deux, trois, you can dream in French, voilà!

It’s amazingly, dazingly crazy, the way I learned French

It’s easy voici: Merci beaucoup, à bientôt, adieu

Le fait accompli!

 

Music by Rebecca Kilgore and Mike Horsfall
Words by Rebecca Kilgore and Ellen Vanderslice
Copyright 2014 Cherry Pie Music, PO Box 29103, Portland OR 96296

This isn’t the trio’s sole creation.  Non.

In late July, some of Portland’s finest jazz musicians gathered at Dead Aunt Thelma’s Recording Studio in Sellwood to record fresh original material. Project partners Rebecca Kilgore, Ellen Vanderslice, and Mike Horsfall teamed up to produce 18 original songs, with each partner contributing melodies, harmonies and lyrics to the collaboration.  For the recording session, they brought together a dream team of musicians: Randy Porter, piano; Tom Wakeling, string bass; Todd Strait, drums, with guests David Evans, tenor sax; Dan Balmer, guitar; Jon Moak, trombone; Tim Jensen, flute and alto flute; Israel Annoh, percussion; Steve Christofferson, melodica; Mike Horsfall, vibes and arranging. Special guest Susannah Mars performed a duet with Rebecca on “You Make It Look So Easy,” and contributed vocal harmonies on “A Christmas Lullabye.”

A CD release (details to be announced) is just one of the ways the team hopes to make this sparkling new music available.

And something festive nearer at hand: Becky and friends will be releasing a Christmas EP with 3 original songs.  The title cut is “It’s Getting To Be That Time Of Year” with words and music by Ms. K.

May your happiness increase!