Finally I have my home recording studio set up. It took rather a long time to sort it out and for that little red box to arrive in the post. Now that I’ve set it all up, it’s ridiculously easy to record – plug in and go. Not only that, but it’s small enough that I can pop it all in a bag and go out and record in interesting places. Ooh, the possibilities!
Ellington seems an appropriate subject for a post on the eve of International Jazz Day. Such Sweet Thunder is a 12-part suite written in 1957 as a tribute to Shakespeare. Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn (composer/ arranger) wrote the music in three weeks, each piece inspired by a character or idea from Shakespeare’s works. I have listened to this album so many times in the last two decades and it still amazes me – it’s complex, beautiful, tragic, full of love and hate, darkness and light, with humour and sadness. The arrangements are exquisitely crafted and the band is impossibly tight. If I could only listen to one album for the rest of my life, this is the one I would choose.
I haven’t yet solve the problem, but I have finally solved the riddle of my digital mixing desk. After several weeks of trying to get it to talk to Garage Band, I typed the magical search words into googled to uncover the truth. The next model up will do it, but not mine. One riddle solved, now on to the next one.
Here’s Josh White singing The Riddle Song in the 1949 film The Walking Hills:
The kids decided we should all learn some songs so we can play together. This in itself makes me extraordinarily happy. They wrote a list on the kitchen blackboard and over the last few days we’ve all been practising the very cheery 1935 tune “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself A Letter.” And they always like a challenge so were doing it in A flat.
There’s a guitar in floating around my house. Not that I can play it – too big and too many strings for my little hands, I’ve always said. I have it so guests can play if they feel the urge. It hasn’t been played for a while and I thought it needed to come out of the case for a while. I gave it a tune and helped very gently by my son, learned enough chords to play a song. Maybe I’ll learn a few more over the next few months.
Apart from having a fabulous name, Derek Gripper is an amazing guitarist. He’s playing in the cracks. In the gaps of various African, Western and just plain beautiful musics. The resulting sound that is intriguing and compelling, and while at first it seemed he wasn’t going to talk much, as the concert went on he charmed us with stories, jokes and lots of smiles. My heart has been massaged with music.
Rehearsing is always a pleasure. Especially when it’s for one of my favourite small festivals – Melbourne Ukulele Festival – and one of my favourite songwriters – Leonard Cohen. I was going to post a clip of Leonard singing Come Healing live in Dublin, but the musical wormhole is a rich place. So much material to digest and I thought you might like Teddy Thompson’s version of The Ballad of the Absent Mare.
Snail mail is becoming increasingly rare these days, so when I open the flap of my mailbox and there’s actually something in there, it’s quite a treat. Today’s mail was a five star rating in the happiness stakes: Corin Raymond’s long awaited CD and book AND a ticket to see Amanda Palmer in Perth in a few weeks. What a perfect postal proffering!
It’s the second day of 38 degrees and everyone is tired from the first week back at school. Hot, sweaty and tired, we tootled off to a delightful gig lead by one of my favourite musicians, Melbourne guitarist Jon Delaney. Gypsy jazz and jazzy Beach Boys played beautifully in a wonderful room. The small people enjoyed it more than I thought and we’ve all come home inspired and with full hearts. There is so much joy in sharing music together.
Here’s a tune they played tonight – Le valse des niglos (The Waltz of the Hedgehogs)
I only discovered Gillian Welch a couple of years ago. She’s an extraordinary musician in that relaxed, understated way that the best musicians are. Dear Someone is the first song of hers I got to know. Like an old horse picking it’s way across the desert, it’s full of space and constant movement, just ticking along, one foot in front of the other.