Friday, January 20, 2012

The LOLCat with a Ball Bat

A couple of years ago I was at a gathering of writers and climate change activists at a retreat center above the Columbia River Gorge.  I was participating in the discussion and playing music for the get together.  Also participating was a young writer from Montana named Hank Green.  Hank runs the blog which reviews green technology, and, with his brother John, the website Vlogbrothers.

Some weeks after the workshop Hank sent me a 58 second animated video illustrating a poem he'd written, and asked if I'd be interested in providing music for it.  Over the course of a week I messed around with several different styles and instruments, and sent him 2 or 3 drafts to choose from.  Here's the way it turned out:

Hank clearly had nurtured his fan base: within a week or so of posting the video, it had some 40,000 hits.  Now, a couple years later, it has twice that.

The resulting fame has been fabulous.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

5th & B Rounds out 2011

This past Fall 5th & B played one Sunday afternoon each month at the Sunnyside Up cafe in Corvallis.  Those were the only times we got together.  We're spread from Eugene to Portland, and we work, have family responsibilities, and a million other things to do.  But when we get together we leave all that behind and travel together to another space and time.    The videos in this post were all shot in December at our last gig of 2011.

We often start off our journey with a wonderful old tune by Charles Mingus, Nostalgia on Broadway.  We've never done it the same way twice, and we never know where it's gonna go.....

The band is led (is that the right word?  Maybe "chased" is more accurate) by percussionist Dave Storrs, whose fingerprints are all over everything we do:

Under Storrs' influence we do a lot of drumming.  It's humbling, clarifying, mesmerizing.  The following bit of drumming led circuitously to a klezmer tune arranged by Mike Curtis.

Not so much seen as heard, and not so much heard as felt, bassist Page Hundemer lays down a solid groove on top of Dave's rythmic bedrock.  Even when he's wrong, he's right:  as long as Page is on, we are never lost.  And, his fashion sense is impeccable.  Here he is setting off for a gig, dressed for success:

Dave Leslie drives down from Portland hauling his Roland Fantom keyboard.  Like Mike, Dave studied composition and has developed his own sophisticated harmonic sensibility.  Here's his  "Fragments" interpreted rather freely, with quite a diversion along the way......

"Dancing Boys" is an arrangement of an Afghan folk tune I heard when Kerry and I were Peace Corps volunteers in Afghanistan in the early '70s.  I heard it at Gulbadine's Tea House in Pulikhumri, where truck drivers would stop to eat and rest on their way North to Mazare Sharif or South to Kabul.  Here I'm playing it on a 1950s National Steel lap guitar.

So that's it for 2011.  I wonder what's in store for 5th & B in 2012?  We'll likely keep playing to tiny crowds (both in number and in personal size: we are especially popular among children and dogs).  It seems that what we make up in musical talent we lack in business acumen.  But maybe that's alright.  It's nice to go home after a gig and sleep in my own bed.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Ed and Reub: Music around here

Ed and Reub: Music around here: Music can be heard regularly in our house, and as I write this I am listening to my husband John, who is a jazz musician, practicing class...