Listening to Ray Price

December 28, 2017
Watching this to learn from Ray Price, ca. 1955.
Funny, but, forgive me for saying so, it seems like a foreign country. Like Lapplanders celebrating the coming of spring.
Aside from his singing, which I adore, here is what I admire in this performance: its modesty, the lack of pretence, the unassuming rhythm, its regularity and certainty, the melody easy to sing and to follow, the simple but essential harmonies, clarity in the lyric and superb diction, the joy with which it is delivered and received by the audience. So much to learn from.

Waylon and Singing Between the Lines

December 24, 2017
I admire the song with a seemingly simple lyric that can be sung “away from” its plain meaning, because there is, between the lines, something not obvious at first glance. This is what the singer can bring out in his delivery.
Since I’m listening to a lot of Waylon lately, let me use “Sandy Sends Her Best” (1973) as an example. The singer writes his former lover (who has, in his own words, waited “faithfully” for him) to tell her he’s running off with Sandy. The letter, which is the entire lyric, is a cruel, selfish, unapologetic statement of abandonment, which the cad who wrote it did not dare make face to face.
Perhaps the most faithless line, kicking sand in the face of one you’ve knocked down is this:
“Sandy sends her best and she and I both wish you well.”
Can you imagine the gall? But Waylon, with that very subtle masculine charm has a way of singing it, that one may even sympathize with this rotten S.O.B. Quite a chanteur he was, bold and daring, without much flexibility in his vocal tone or command, but a real master of exposing subtle intention in song.

More Songs Added to the Repetoire and Thoughts on Don’t Sleep in the Subway

December 20, 2017
More songs added to the solo repetoire:
For the Good Times – Ray Price
Help Me Make It Through the Night – Anne Murray  (I’ll probably use two verses and the bridge twice in a medley)
The Girl on the Billboard – Del Reeves
I’d love to adapt Petula Clark’s Don’t Sleep in the Subway for solo guitar and voice, but there is so much in the original recording with full orchestra, like that classic electric bass in the bridge and the natural reverb of the studio in which it was recorded. The only way to crack the nut, I think, is to take it in another direction and make it about the lyrics, rather than the whole musical experience. Must think on this one.
Never heard it before? You’ll love it! Just adore the spirit in which it’s delivered.
(My gosh, I just discovered the GREAT Tony Hatch wrote and scored this song. He’s my English Don Sebesky. Everywhere!)

A New York City Subway Christmast on The Spin-o-Rama Hour Podcast

December 10, 2017
Many thanks to Esther who plays two tracks from our (with Tony LaVorgna) album, A NYC Subway Christmas, on the The Spin-O-Rama Hour podcast of Dec. 3. What company! Danny Kaye, Carol Burnett, Nat Cole, Harry Connick, Wayne Newton, et al.
To listen to the show click here.


November 24, 2017

I’m grateful for our liberties, given by God, enshrined in our founding documents, because of which, given the sacrifices of those who came before, I can sing my own voice, without compulsion, any song I please to sing.

What Judee Sill Did For Me

November 14, 2017

Not too many years ago, when I first heard her, I thought Judee Sill could not sing. I even thought, oh God, another hack. That plain tone, Ohio accent, the focus on the bridge of the nose… (Can you imagine me doing this as a younger man? I’m sure you can.)

But I listened again, almost in contradictory fashion to my own will, having heard something very close inside of me. And then her voice opened within me. Or should I say, I opened to her voice.

I had forbidden, for some reason, myself to be touched at the level she reached in the way she chose to reach it. I learned to listen differently, beyond the notes and the words, if I might say, without resistance.

That’s what I learned from Judee Sill. I am sure, from what I’ve read about her, that she would never have entertained the possibility that decades after her death anyone would remember her existence on this planet, or that someone might be improved by what she’d recorded so many years before.

A Word About My Repetoire

November 12, 2017
No one that I know is saying this, but I will. I listen to perhaps 100 songs every week in order to pull a few into my repertoire. It’s not that I don’t listen to the current crop of singer-songwriters, but I find very little there in comparison to the older material, which is generally speaking, humble, strong, artfully crafted, short and to the point, and delivered persuasively by real singing voices.
There are exceptions. But the newer material, especially the young men, generally sing in a whining breathy nasal about me, me, me, primarily complaints about what they need, and who must give it to them. They write in unpoetic everyday language best suited to an email message. Rudimentary beats, little depth, lots of repetition, machine-like. And there is absolutely no joy.
I won’t be drawn in to commiserate with you in your misery. You have to move me by making your idea bigger than you.
I want to hear a real man’s voice. This weak, feminine approximation appalls me. If any of these guys want to attract a mate, I can’t understand how they do it singing this way.
Yes, George Jones was a plaintive voice and we hear his tortured experience, but there is a strength and an artfulness in it and in the songs he sang. I don’t hear that from the singer-songwriter today. That is why very little of my material is drawn from the current catalog.

Once Again Writing New Music for Voice and Guitar

November 11, 2017

I have this past year gone back to writing ballads, making new discoveries in language and melody I’d not known to be possible before. Whoever said life begins at 40, hadn’t yet gotten to 50.

Just today, I went back to the song “Age.” I’d written a first draft in 2012 and rewrote that several times over the past few years. Something wasn’t right and I could never put a finger on it until today, when like manna in the wilderness, it arrived. I hope to record it next year with bass, keys and strings.

Even More Great Song Added to the Repetoire

November 10, 2017
More great songs added to the repetoire:
Green, Green Grass of Home (Porter Wagoner and many others)
Careless Love (Snooks Eaglin)
Call Me Insane (Dale Watson)
Nobody But a Fool (Would Love You) (Connie Smith)
One of my favorite stanzas from Nobody But a Fool (writer: Bill Anderson):
Well people tried to tell me how you’d hurt me, I suppose
But I was blind as any bat and deaf as any post
You caught me like a tiger I loved you like a lamb
And knowing I still do just shows me up for what I am

New Richie Kaye Video: Four Brothers, Featuring Ernesto Vega, Clarinet

November 1, 2017

In 1947, Jimmy Giuffre, working as an arranger for Woody Herman’s Thundering Herd, wrote “Four Brothers” for Woody’s sax section of three tenor horns (Stan Getz, Zoot Sims, Al Cohn) and one bari (Serge Chaloff).

The “brothers” play the head together and then each player solos.  But since Jimmy Giuffre was a stellar clarinetist, we thought we’d do it like it’s never been done before: with a clarinet!

Some singers, like Anita O’Day, Sarah Vaughn and the Manhattan Transfer have done their own versions in which they scat, but here we feature Ernesto’s solo, while Richie plays the rhythm section. (And a great solo it is, too!)  18 players usually make up a big band.  Talk about economy!


The Texas connection: Jimmy Giuffre was born and raised in Dallas and attended North Texas State Univ., which is still providing music instruction to jazz musicians.  We recorded this at SugarHill Studios in Houston.  Our recording engineer was Cody Franz; our videographer, David Gaona.

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