Thursday, April 30, 2009

Taps, played from the horn and heart of a child

Excerpt from Andre Rieu’s concert during the World Stadium Tour in Amsterdam Arena, the Netherlands, on 28 June 2008.

Amazingly beautiful .. Melissa Venema, age 13, is the trumpet soloist.

Here is “Taps” played in its entirety.

The Original version of ‘Taps’ was called ‘Last Post’, and was written by Daniel Butterfield in 1801.

It was rather lengthy and formal, as you will hear in this clip, so in 1862 it was shortened to 24 notes and re-named ‘Taps’.

Melissa Venema is playing it on a trumpet whereby the original was played on a bugle.

Day is done, gone the sun,
From the hills, from the lake,
From the sky.
All is well, safely rest,
God is nigh.

Go to sleep, peaceful sleep,
May the soldier or sailor,
God keep.
On the land or the deep,
Safe in sleep.

Love, good night, Must thou go,
When the day, And the night
Need thee so?
All is well. Speedeth all
To their rest.

Fades the light; And afar
Goeth day, And the stars
Shineth bright,
Fare thee well; Day has gone,
Night is on.

Thanks and praise, For our days,
‘Neath the sun, Neath the stars,
‘Neath the sky,
As we go, This we know,
God is nigh.

André Rieu's World Stadium Tour excerpt

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

RIP John King

John King, undisputed prince of classical ʻukulele, dies at 55
Prelude from the Cello Suite, No. 1, BWV 1007 performed on unaccompanied ukulele by John King.

John King, Who Made Ukulele Ring With Bach, Dies at 55

John King adored Hawaii, though he lived there for only a few years as a boy. The “Hawaiian room” in his Florida home was stuffed with hundreds upon hundreds of hula dolls, leis and other artifacts. He once owned 400 Hawaiian shirts, more than enough to wear a different one every day of the year — which he was proud to do. Is it a surprise that Mr. King played the ukulele?

And boy, did he play that ukulele. His huge hands and stocky wrists darted and danced up, down and across the tiny instrument’s strings in a way that few, if any, players have ever attempted.

Mr. King resurrected a guitar technique from the time of Bach to play a piece that was almost certainly never before tried on a ukulele, Bach’s Partita No. 3, and went on to play other difficult classical works with dazzling mastery. He opened pathways of sound unimaginable to those whose memories of the ukulele involve Arthur Godfrey, Elvis Presley and, of course, Tiny Tim.

The Journal of the Society for American Music last year called Mr. King “perhaps the world’s only truly classical ‘ukulele virtuoso.’ ”

Mr. King’s death at 55 on April 3 at his home in St. Petersburg, Fla., sent shock waves through the ukulele universe, which has widened with enthusiasts now clustering on the Internet and at festivals around the country. His wife, Debi, said that Mr. King died of a heart attack, suddenly and completely unexpectedly.

In one of the tributes that pervade this online universe, Jim Beloff, a leading ukulele player, calls Mr. King’s work in classical ukulele “the finest in the world, and the finest we will ever see in a long time.”

Tom Walsh, a board member of the Ukulele Hall of Fame Museum, said in an interview last week that Mr. King was “adored by the ukulele community,” most of whom faced an inescapable realization: “I could never possibly play like that.”

The foundation of Mr. King’s achievement was reviving a Baroque guitar technique and applying it to the ukulele. The technique involves playing each succeeding note in a melodic line on a different string. The ukulele — which is tuned so that the four strings go not from the lowest to the highest note but instead run G, C, E, A — turns out to be great for doing this. (An illustration of ukulele tuning can be found at The result is a bell-like quality of sound in which individual notes over-ring one another, producing an effect that some compare to a harp or harpsichord.

“The people Bach originally wrote this music for must have been fabulous musicians, because this stuff is really hard to play,” Mr. King wrote in an essay. “My heart is in my throat whenever I play these pieces in concert.”

In another essay he expounded on the sheer difficulty: “The truth is it’s a crazy way to play the uke; ease of execution is all but sacrificed, subordinated to whatever it takes to get that shimmering, harplike sound. It works for me, because when I play it that way, the ukulele sings.”

John Robert King was born in San Diego on Oct. 13, 1953, the son of a naval officer. The family moved a lot; when John was 6, they lived in Hawaii. His mother took up the ukulele to get a feel for local culture, and John imitated her. He noticed two things: it was difficult, and he had “absolutely no talent.” So he took up the guitar and progressed impressively. He ended up taking lessons from Pepe Romero, the classical guitarist, and Pepe’s legendary father, Celedonio.

After attending Old Dominion University in Virginia, Mr. King became a guitar instructor at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg. He also worked in the campus bookstore.

He picked up a ukulele occasionally, but not successfully. Then he learned that the diminutive ancestors of today’s guitars were tuned like ukuleles. He tried Bach on the ukulele and was deeply intrigued. He soon commissioned Gioachino Giussani, the Italian luthier, to make a ukulele expressly for classical music. After a decade of practice, he put out a record, including the Bach partita, on his own label in 2001.

Pepe Romero concluded in the liner notes: “The sound of the ukulele is exquisitely well suited for Bach’s music, and I delight in this discovery.”

Mr. King made a second record, again on his own label, Nalu Music. It was music composed in the later part of the 19th century by the members of the Hawaiian royal family, in the decades before the state’s annexation by the United States. Many pieces had not been played for a century.

He also wrote books of arrangements for the ukulele, including works by Mozart, Chopin and Scott Joplin. At his death, Mr. King was working on a book about ukulele history, beginning with its introduction to Hawaii by the Portuguese in the late 19th century.

In addition to his wife, Mr. King is survived by his daughters, Katie and Emma King and Amy King Majer; three grandchildren; his mother, Delores; and his brother, Paul.

Mr. King liked to pick his uke at his neighborhood Starbucks, where he said he did not feel nervous, because people had no expectations.

Mr. King, who always wore a hula skirt on Halloween, had a prized possession: a Hawaiian shirt of the same color and design that Montgomery Clift wore in the movie “From Here to Eternity” — bought in 1986 for $500.

He often said that his fondest desire was to move to Hawaii and live in a shack in the mountains near the beach.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Airborne Toxic Event - Sometime Around Midnight

And it starts...
Sometime around midnight
Or at least that's when
You lose yourself
For a minute or two

As you stand...
Under the barlights
And the band plays some song
About forgetting yourself for a while
And the piano's this melancholy soundcheck
To her smile
And that white dress she's wearing
You haven't seen her
For a while

But you know...
That she's watching
She's laughing, she's turning
She's holding her tonic like a crux
The room suddenly spinning
She walks up and asks how you are
So you can smell her perfume
You can see her lying naked in your arms

And so there's a change...
In your emotions
And all of these memories come rushing
Like feral waves to your mind
Of the curl of your bodies
Like two perfect circles entwined
And you feel hopeless, and homeless
And lost in the haze
Of the wine

And she leaves...
With someone you don't know
But she makes sure you saw her
She looks right at you and bolts
As she walks out the door
Your blood boiling
Your stomach in ropes
And when your friends say what is it
You look like you've seen a ghost

And you walk...
Under the streetlights
And you're too drunk to notice
That everyone is staring at you
And you so care what you look like
The world is falling
Around you

You just have to see her
You just have to see her
You just have to see her
You just have to see her
You just have to see her

And you know that she'll break you
In two

Monday, April 13, 2009

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Lester Young - Blues for Greasy (1950)

Life Magazine photographer Gjon Mili joined with jazz producer and Verve-label owner Norman Granz to produce the short film "Jammin' the Blues" in 1944 with Lester Young, Red Callendar, Harry Edison, "Big" Sid Catlett, Illinois Jacquet, Barney Kessel, Jo Jones and Marie Bryant. The film was nominated for Best Short Subject at the 1945 Academy Awards, but didn't win.

The pair came together again in 1950 to shoot footage of leading jazz artists of the day, but when funding dried up, the film ceased production and sat on shelves for 50 years (except for a few snippets which found their way onto bootlegs).

Blues For Greasy is one of those pieces shot by Gjon Mili and Norman Granz, using musicians from his Jazz at the Philharmonic tour.

Harry 'Sweets' Edison: trumpet
Lester Young: Tenor Sax
Flip Phillips: Tenor Sax
Bill Harris: Trombone
Hank Jones: Piano
Ray Brown: Bass
Buddy Rich: Drums
Ella Fitzgerald: Vocals