Tag Archives: the Marx Brothers

HOORAY FOR CAPTAIN SKJELBRED!

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!

SWEET SOUNDS FOR STEPHANE: JON BURR, HOWARD ALDEN, PAUL PATTERSON at JAZZ AT CHAUTAUQUA (September 22, 2012)

Jazz festivals and parties sometimes go full-throttle in an attempt to please the audience by exciting it (PERDIDO by Flip Phillips, anyone?) but it is always so delicious when things quiet down for a piano recital, or something pretty.  “Pretty” doesn’t have to mean dull or morose, as this chamber-jazz set proves . . . string bassist Jon Burr’s tribute to the violinist Stephane Grappelli, someone he worked with for a dozen years.  Accompanying Jon on this sweet voyage are violinist Paul Patterson of the Faux Frenchmen and the illustrious Howard Alden.  All of this was recorded at Jazz at Chautauqua on September 22, 2012.

Savor! (which is very different from the waitperson putting down your plate and commanding you to ENJOY . . . I assure you).  This compact, evocative program manages to evoke Ivie Anderson, the Marx Brothers, Duke Ellington, Bing Crosby, Louis Armstrong, Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, and Dooley Wilson.  Ah, the power of the great songs!

ALL GOD’S CHILLUN GOT RHYTHM:

MOONGLOW:

PENNIES FROM HEAVEN:

AS TIME GOES BY:

Ah, you must remember this!

May your happiness increase.