Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival 2003 - a Musician's Log

Tuesday   February 18

The past few years I’ve been curious to what the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival is all about. Hampton and Idaho seem such a far stretch yet there is a prosperous history dating back to 1985 when Hampton first performed and donated $15,000 towards a music scholarship program.

This is the festival’s thirty-sixth year and eighteenth since being renamed for it’s favorite patron.

Over 293 schools and 10,000 students from Alaska, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Texas, Washington, Wisconsin, Wyoming and British Columbia compete in the festival.

For nearly a decade festival publicist Virginia Wicks has kept me present with each roster change - add on performance and ceremony. I’d planned attending last February but became immersed in organizing the first National Jazz Awards, which unfortunately coincided with the event. This time tickets arrived well in advance and preparations made in timely order.

I love traveling but am apprehensive about making the first move, sort of like dress rehearsal before for a major performance. It’s during this period I battle anxiety. Once in flight I tend to settle in.

This morning was no different.

It’s been an unforgiving winter in Toronto where temperatures the past five weeks have nose-dived well below zero much of the time – minus twenty-five centigrade with wind chill. Combine that with an ever-present layer of dingy snow and granite like ice - too many days absent sunlight and you’ve got the ingredients for mass despair - hopeless depression. Not yet factored in the equation - long lineups and US Immigration.  

Check in was little more than a blemish on the day as I faced an hour and half baggage tote and pull through what seemed a six mile maze of numb bodies all striving to reach one immigration officer. Security is thick and prevalent with questions to the point and probing. This I don’t mind considering the current state of international affairs.

Next up, two hours and ten minutes holed in the cabin of my US Air flight waiting for a cue to exit. Seventeen planes lie ahead facing a rigorous deicing. The flow of air inside the cabin fluctuates between dead hot to slightly breezy. I had totally forgot packing necessary paperback and magazine in computer pouch and finished reading the Toronto Star morning edition with plenty tarmac time to kill.

A good twenty minutes pass before we get a solid bath clearing the wings of snow and ice. Just as we begin taxing to position the Captain cuts in to say we’d be returning to our original gate due to a malfunction in the nose cone. If it was as dry as my nose cone I figured a good lubing was in order.

Two hours and ten minutes pass before we taxi back in position and lift off. I love a good send off but this one only welcomed anxiety.

Throughout the flight to Denver I wondered if a connection to Spokane would be in the cards. No such luck. As quickly as I exited I was directed to the Customer Service counter to find half of the six-mile lineup waiting to reacquaint themselves. Another hour passes before a miracle occurs - I actually secure a seat on the 5:10 to Spokane and an additional five hours to will away.

I don’t know if it was the comfort of hearing those words or a sense of security moving in that made the unsettling anxiety dissipate. I think it was also the ten-dollar calling card and warm call home.

Once in Spokane, I find myself standing at a stilled baggage ramp begging for that big black case with all toiletries and clothes to come rushing forth. Not a chance. Lost!

I take a deep breath, fill out the necessary documents and meet several young faces sporting signs pointing to Moscow, Idaho and the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival.

Within the hour I meet drummer Jeff Hamilton, a few side musicians, and vibraphonist Terry Gibbs. Now, if you’re making an hour and half drive in deep darkness a bit frayed and confused, Gibbs is the guy you want riding shotgun.

At seventy-eight the man is a live wire capable of firing up a community twice the size of Idaho. Throughout the drive Gibbs told some wonderful stories, reminisced, laughed, talked of his new label, favorite recordings and wondered if there were any vibes around to do a bit of practicing.

Welcome to the Palouse

I’m always curious about the landscape of any given destination. To know I was in the Palouse region somewhere in the Idaho panhandle invited curiosity.

The Palouse is located in Southeastern Washington and North central Idaho in an area ripe with rolling fields and forest lands. The word Palouse originates with a large village of Palouse Indians and is from the Sehaptin Indian word for village and large rock. The village was located at the junction with the Palouse and Snake River.

Many communities lie within the Palouse region. Pullman, Washington and Moscow, Idaho are the main hub cities, with many smaller surrounding towns nestled among wheat, lentil and dry pea fields and natural forestlands. The Palouse Hills have unusually rich soils that produce high yields of wheat, barley, dry peas, lentils and canola, which supply an international market.

The University of Idaho enrolls nearly 12,000 students from across the country and more than 60 foreign lands.


After settlers arrived in 1871, the town became known as “Paradise Valley.” In 1877, Samuel Neff filed for a postal permit under the name of Moscow because the area reminded him of his hometown of Moscow, Pennsylvania. Moscow grew with the arrival of the railroad in 1885.

Wednesday – February 19

The big discussion early morning was concerning the future of the Lionel Hampton Center.

With five million committed - an architect, advisors and site secured - supporters of the Lionel Hampton Center remain a great distance from raising $40 million to erect a center to house a national jazz archive, twenty million in scholarships and endowments for the festival, 1200 seat performance hall, classrooms, in an effort to bring jazz and education under one roof. With an economy nose-diving near recession and the great Hampton now a bold figure from jazz’s illustrious past, the ambitious project may have to linger until the economic residue of 9/11 has been cleansed from the system. The Dotcom philanthropist is no longer a potential donor going the way of the last receding Ice Age.

I met publicist Virginia Wicks promptly at ten a.m. to be carted to a morning workshop given by the instrumental quintet Five Play lead by Buffalo native and drummer Sheri Maricle.

Virginia is the international media voice in raising awareness of the event. Wicks was long time publicist for vocal great Ella Fitzgerald and trumpet icon Dizzy Gillespie. Her ties with the American jazz community are extensive and endearing.

The Sub Ballroom of the University of Idaho served as center stage for Five Play’s performance and question and answer session. The room was three quarter filled as Maiacle led the quintet through tidy versions of “Sentimental Journey, Just in Time, No Greater Love,” climaxing with “Caravan.”

Maricle on her own is a seasoned pro possessing all the given attributes a well-rounded jazz drummer needs to power an ambitious ensemble. Front line players, saxophonists Karolina Strassmayer and Anat Cohen played it safely down the middle pretty much the same temperature throughout. Bassist Nikki Parrot rolled nicely with Maricle as did pianist Chihiro Yamanaka.

The question and answer period in some ways was more compelling in that each woman comes from a country far beyond this continent - Austria, Japan, Australia. Each painted a different portrait why they chose to relocate to live the jazz dream on these shores.

Next up - University Auditorium and sixteen year old phenom - pianist Eldar Djangirov.

The young Russian has been in the United States barely five years yet he’s consumed much of jazz’s history. His solo segment attested to that.

Djangirov began with Chick Corea’s marvelous “Armando’s Song” which in many ways sounded very much like the original down to the soloing. The same could be said for Oscar Peterson’s “Nigerian Marketplace,” Duke Ellington’s “Love You Madly”, Bill Evan’s take on “Body and Soul” and Monk’s “Bemsha Swing.” All were reverently played - neatly colored with the master’s harmonic and melodic preferences. Which brought me to question where is Eldar in all of this.

Djangirov played one original “Perplexity” and finished with Wayne Shorter’s “Footprints” which in itself begged closer observation.

Djangirov has piano technique light years beyond most practicing players even many of the current icons but lost in the long exercise is a personal statement - room for interpretation. Some of his most original moments were in the harmonic restructuring of “Body and Soul” which Eldar performed later with Claudio Roditi and Slide Hampton at clinic number two.

Roditi plays a rotary valve trumpet whose history can be traced back a hundred years and is a popular instrument with Europe’s great gypsy musicians. Here again the music was safe, guarded and familiar.

With Hampton and Roditi probing standards “Body and Soul, Speak Low and Milt Jackson’s “Bag’s Groove” pianist Djangirov was freed of his devices and asked to think his way through solo passages. This he did with greater creativity.

During the verbal exchanges with students Hampton spoke of humility - John Coltrane’s great humility and that music is the most important thing and it should be absent ego. He also attached a dream context to the standard ”Speak low” informing everyone that it was originally sung by the beautiful big screen actress Ava Gardner in a movie.

The evening all star concert billed as the Pepsi International Jazz Concert was high on talent but short a couple headliners - Paquito D’Rivera and pianist Hank Jones both were hindered from making the trip due to the east coast blizzard of 2003.

Even without both parties the show went ahead as scheduled and as musically structured as the daytime presentation.

We arrived to catch the remaining moments of Russians - saxophonist Lembit Saaesalu and pianist Leonid Vintskevich. Next up a splendid quartet featuring pianist Benny Green, guitarist Russell Malone, bassist George Mraz and drummer Lewis Nash. The quartet played a seamless version of “East of the Sun” which gained momentum through the heated soloing of Malone concluding with a riveting display of virtuoso technique and thoughtful soloing from drummer Nash.

While settling in for what was perceived a full set of material from the headliners, pianist Eldar Djangirov slides in to do a lengthy intro to “Caravan” then rides the rhythm section through a energy filled performance.

Thursday    February 20

We took a break from day-long clinics to travel the countryside to the Lapwai community –home of the Nez Perce Indian Nation. Throughout the hour and half journey I couldn’t help but marvel at the terrain – the long hilly slope of the land, the steep valleys – land absent foliage other than a few evergreens providing shade over a few distant farmhouses.

At one time there were more than fifty bands of Nez Perce Indians covering an estimated seventeen million acres of land in northeastern Idaho, southeastern Washington, and north central Idaho.

Lionel Hampton and side musicians had made the exchange trip since 1996 entertaining school children from elementary through high school. The students gave him a feather and made him an honorary chief of the Nez Perce tribe. With Hampton’s passing tradition was carried on by drummer Wally Gator Watson and quartet. 

After an hour-long excursion through jazz and rhythm and blues a few students of Lapwai elementary performed the Iron Butterfly dance in traditional dress supported by tribal drums.

These were moments Hampton cherished. It’s a credit to festival organizers such connections remain in tact.

The evening concert billed as a tribute to the late great jazz bassist Ray Brown proved to be a first class affair.The night featured splendid duets between guitarist Russell Malone and pianist Benny Green. Performances from trombonist Bill Watrous, saxophonist David Fathead Newman and a wonderful version of “The Nearness of You” from the flugelhorn of Roy Hargrove sitting in for Clark Terry.

There were varying degrees of ability presented as four student vocal winners showcased before the large crowd along with a student big band playing a heated version of “Straight No Chaser”.

Friday    February 21

We were back at Sub Hall for an extraordinary vocal workshop with Roberta Gambarini. I found an opportune location front left facing a large speaker. The next hour Gambarini proved why she is the rarest of rare talent competing for space amongst the Diana Krall’s and Nora Jones. Gambarini is perfection. Throughout verse and course on “Lush life, Triste, Deep Purple” and other choice standards Gambarini sang with great warmth, clarity in large full-bodied tones. Each vocal phrase was delivered with purpose and just the right degree of emotion.

This was also a terrific learning session for pianist Eldar Djangirov. Accompanying a singer is vastly different proposition from playing solo. There were times the young pianist had difficulty separating himself from advancing a tune for his own purpose to that of allowing the singer free rein to guide the action. As time passes and experience comes to play Djangrirov will hear the rhythm and delivery as a silent metronome and be able to follow each vocal line with the most appropriate harmony and pacing.

Later that afternoon the Roy Hargrove Quintet were set for what would prove to be one of the grand highlights of the festival – a clinic / performance.

Surrounded by pianist Ronnie Matthews, saxophonist Justin Robinson drummer Willie Jones the Third and bassist Duane Burno, Hargrove and company soared through an original “Circus, Freddie Hubbard’s “First Light” a gorgeous read of the ballad “The Very Thought of You” and another self-penned excursion  “Promise”. All the players fielded questions about attitude, the difference between east and west coast playing, and learning. Bassist Burno and pianist Matthews reminded students that the best education for playing jazz was still on the streets. Each discussed the limitations to curriculum jazz.

The evening became a joyous occasion with the appearance of James Moody. Moody began with a brisk take on the old jazz chestnut “Cherokee” playing with great virtuosity on flute. Moody then switched to tenor saxophone and was teamed with trumpeter Claudio Roditi on “Tenor Madness” before performing his signature “Moody’s Mood For Love.” Singer Roberta Gambarini joined in to bring the tune to a rousing finale. Throughout Moody kept the humor content high even making a reference to ex-heavyweight champion Joe Frazier being in attendance after which he’d caught everyone’s attention then delivered the punch line; “Oh, that’s not the champ. I’m sorry about that lady.” The lines have been used hundreds of time and are familiar to musicians but one can’t deny the timing. It’s still terribly funny.

Singer Ethel Ennis, longtime Hampton sideman trombonist Benny Powell and Bill Watrous provided additional highlights before more students were featured main stage.

Saturday    February 22

Saturday afforded time to check out the “Celebrating Hamp and Ray” photographic retrospective downtown Moscow.

The day was bright and sunny and air as pristine as cool mountain water more than conducive for a long walk.

Destination? The Prichard Art Gallery midway down Main Street.

Moscow looks much like the renovated outlying farming communities that surround Toronto making the gallery a natural component in the cultural fabric of the populous.

I’d met curator Grayson Dantzic, son of famed jazz photographer Jerry Dantzic in Toronto a couple summers past during the outstanding photographic exhibition of jazz images., Mid Century Jazz at the Stephen Bulgar Gallery. I’d hoped to connect and involve myself in some of the striking photos once again. No such luck.

The exhibit was presented in a dark upstairs area far above the main floor arena of pop art. The images were soft copies of the originals in some cases resembling RC prints.  The young lady manning the telephone had not a clue a photographic exhibit inhabited the premises or the whereabouts of Grayson Dantzic. So much for the visuals.

Mid afternoon with vocal giant Ernie Andrews proved more compelling. I traveled with Andrews from the University Inn to Kenworthy Performing Arts Centre. I’d brought Andrews to the Beaches International Jazz Festival in Toronto nearly a decade earlier. At seventy-five he’s the last of a handful of frontline male jazz vocalists still working. If there were a comparison to be drawn it would suitably be to the late Joe Williams. In fact, Williams spouse and that of Al Grey sat by each other during Andrews somewhat confessional session.

Andrews exhibits a bit of swagger and deep blues roots which surface often throughout the sequence of material. He’s totally convincing whether singing an all out blues shout of crooning a favorite jazz standard.

Clinics are not his forte. This one played more as a reflection on a career – good choices bad choices - the children and beyond. There were lapses when Andrew’s musings neared melancholy – almost like an aging prizefighter facing his estranged manager.

The rhythm section of the Lionel Hampton New York Big Band backed Andrews. The marriage didn’t exactly take - in that the hard vein of blues that pumped life into the music had little influence over the backing unit.

Andrews fared better during an evening slot in front of the Lionel Hampton Band with bassist/conductor John Clayton at the helm. This was something to watch.

Clayton fired up the ensemble on “Lucky So and So.” If you’ve never heard the marvelous version with the Gene Harris Big Band then you’ve missed the very best of Andrews.

Clayton ruled the band with a smile, cup of the hand, rhythmic body language and brilliant instincts. Andrews for his part jazz stepped himself center stage – right to left with immense style and grace. The voice rang strong and impressive.

Before Andrews surfaced Lou Rawls did a nifty bit of bouncing blues.

Rawls has it all – huge hits, radio, television, big dollars, large arenas everything that comes with universal popularity. He’s calm, smiling and seriously comfortable in the limelight.

A few bars into a vintage blues it became apparent what a terrific talent he’s always been. It’s the blues that brings him into the light. This is the sound from which his distinguished career was launched and one abandoned along the way for soft pop. The murky choices have in some ways diminished the potential catalog of memorable recordings.

The evening also showcased the “Hampton Trombone Factory” with the Lionel Hampton School of trombones and special guests.

Spokane     February 23

Here I am once again facing Homeland Security.

I empty every possession into various trays and separate twenty spent rolls of film of which should never be radiated. An officer takes them aside and individually wipes them down and places a cloth in what looks like a Zamboni, which actually is some kind of ionizer. The process goes on an eternity as each roll is smeared with the pad. Another officer takes my shoes away to be x-rayed while another scans my backpack, jacket and body. Lord, help us!

It’s at this moment I smile with anticipation that Canada is but a few hours away.

Reflections in jazz.

The Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival is a special event unlike any I’ve ever attended. The hospitality and organization is first class much like the imported talent. Treatment of the press and photographers was a welcome relief from that accorded us by the jazz festival organizer in Barbados.

It’s hard to be critical of a situation that comes fresh as a spring breeze and a community that embraces it so passionately. Hotel rooms for next year’s event are already accounted for. The persistent cheering for every solo and formidable performer led me to question whether I was really at a jazz happening or an N’Synch concert.

A special thanks to Lynn Skinner, the crew, the performers and Virginia Wicks.  Everybody’s efforts made my stay a pleasant affair.

Bill King

Diana Krall - early career interview 1998

Diana Krall’s emergence as a popular jazz artist didn’t occur overnight. Year’s of study and terminally long engagements helped shape her sound. Recently, she collected her first Grammy award for Best Jazz Vocalist and two Jazz Report Awards; Female Vocalist of the Year and Musician of the Year. Her current recording When I Look In Your Eyes has passed double platinum sales in Canada and moving quickly towards Gold status in the United States.

Bill King: Can you pinpoint the moment when everything just seemed to fall in place for you?

Diana Krall: It was when I realized I had the creative freedom to be the artist I really wanted to be without worrying about compromising what I had to do. I worked really hard commuting to a gig in Boston while living in New York for about four years. Even with a recording out, I was still doing it.

As a new artist, I was struggling to make a living, but it was an opportunity to keep learning and playing especially since it was a seven-hour gig per night. It was hard schlepping through the snow and the long train rides, but I wanted to stay in New York.

I was talking with someone the other night who was congratulating me on my success. I told them one of the most important things about success is that it allows you to be a creative artist and to grow faster.

B.K: Like so many Canadian musicians, you suffered through weekend gigs like  Meyer’s Deli, in Yorkville, where orders for corned beef sandwiches and Hockey night In Canada drowned out the music at the other end of the room. Soon you were able to move downtown to the Underground Railroad where you attracted a listening audience. Did these experiences help clarify the need to bypass gigs that didn’t advance your career?

D.K: The Underground Railroad was about two people. John Henry and his wife. They believed in what I wanted to do and gave me an opportunity. I was talking with John Clayton about this at the International Association of Jazz Educators’ conference. We were discussing the importance of recognizing an individual’s ability and giving them a good environment in which to grow.

I look at the situation at the Underground Railroad like that. John and his wife were kind of like a mom and dad to me. I wasn’t thinking about career advancement at the time.

I’m never one to put down any genre of music because I listen to all kinds. I realize that many other people are just as serious about their music as I am about mine. Just because you are playing in a band in a hotel lobby doesn’t mean you are not serious about your music.

I also believe you should want to make people happy with what you are doing. Rather than bypass certain gigs, I created the kind of work that would help me grow as an artist even though at times I was compelled to eat in a cafeteria and not fraternize with the guests. I was directed to go downstairs and drink my cup of coffee with the hired help. That wasn’t respectful to me as an artists, but I’ve always decided to make each place my own and hire the best musicians possible.

B.K: Canadian women have had an unprecedented impact on the international music scene. There’s Anne Murray, K.D. Lang, Shania Twain, Cleine Dion, Sarah McLachlin, Amanda Marshall, Jann Arden, Renee Rosnes, Jane Bunnett, Ingrid Jensen and yourself. Why do you think the masses find these artists so alluring?

D.Krall: I don’t know. I’ve been reading Karen Kain’s autobiography, which is completely inspiring to me. I look at her as a woman who went through similar experiences to me, but in a totally different art form.

I’m inspired by Joni Mitchell and many other Canadian women who I see as my mentors. Besides Karen Kain, there’s Renee Rosnes. She moved to New York and was just fine. It’s like the comedians. Why are there so many great Canadian comedians. I don’t know the answer to that.

B.K: What was your first entry point to the United States?

Early on, I was able to study with Jimmy Rowles and Ray Brown for three years in Los Angeles. That was a goal I had to apply for. I had to plan out my project and submit to Canada Council. In the end they came through. It would have been very difficult with a Canada Council grant.

Monday, May 14, 2012

That Glorious Night in Gloryland!

Bill King

There are days we walk in complete daylight basking in the glow of possibilities then others blindly searching for solutions to problems either invented or given.
When I began working through Gloryland I knew there was a sleeping vision focused on the far horizon. There were notes scattered in the brain needing assembling. There was also a narrative waiting to be invented – then spoken. That would happen when the soft caressing voice of Liza Paul delivered the opening phrase- “Early on the soundtrack to my life came from the 1,500 miles of mountain range called Appalachia,”this following Jay Douglas’s spine tingling vocalizing of ‘Savannah Rising.’ You always hear people say words have consequences – hopefully in this court of judgment the verdict favors the sweetness and bitterness of life in this hundred year extended family journey. That history is written through observation, whispers, gossip, embellishment, full blown characters, first hand encounters and vivid imagination.

How many times I have reread Tennessee Williams, Hemingway, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez in wonderment - sentences that cut through the pages fully realized and picturesque. No word out of place or without consequence.
When I was asked by Everton Paul and Jay Douglas to let them produce a night around the solo piano work in Gloryland I hadn’t thought about a narrative. I was so high from the invitation and kind gesture it was only the next morning when I sat down behind the piano a story began to emerge.

We sometimes take for granted the power of each individual note choosing to impose a cluster of scales knowing they make the hands feel comfortable and warm and most times ignore the singular power of one note facing another from opposing corners. I’ve learned a lot from the process. Twelve notes full of color and strength allowed to walk a deliberate pace can punch through the atmosphere - penetrate living skin and settle inside the marrow of the living soul.
When Jay and Everton told me Jackie Richardson wanted to be part of the occasion my heart pounded a dancing beat. Then imagination soared. I knew then there was an open canvas – time to paint in broad strokes and big bursting color.

Next day I lured singing sensation Stacey Bulmer under the big top and a few days later young dancing star Gillian Leask came to mind.

Stacey and I have been grinding it out since she left Sheraton College. It was her graduation video posted on YouTube that so intrigued singing Tom Waits. I knew then and there she had more spirit, talent and joy in her than many countries.
Gillian on the other hand was a blissful accident. George Randolph of the Randolph Academy for the Performing Arts employed me to document in video a fifteen minute school performance interspersed with other dance studios at the Fleck Theatre. It didn’t seem to be a competition but more an exhibition of the depth of talent in participating organizations.

The last performance of the Randolph showcase appeared from total darkness with only the sound of piano hinting there was more in the darkness than melody. As light began to inhabit the stage Gillian emerge from the shadows. What came next was beyond words – or maybe two – Sleeping - Beauty.

We all have friends – some a great distance away - others within range. Then there are your art friends – the ones who never stop talking and sharing new gizmo's – ideas and vision. Film maker Stephen Smith has been just that person in my life. Stephen dreams and encourages – listens and shares. Those are rare qualities in today’s social media universe a real living breathing saint.
Always on top of the mountain – the person who has to listened to the continuous clatter of mostly responsible playing – not so harmonious singing and the sometimes invasive invitation –“ Would you listen to this – the umpteenth time.” That would be my lovely Kris.

She heard my dying animal sounds recorded by Atlantic Records founder Herb Abramson in 1968 and still to this day claims that buried acetate hides my real identity – cat murderer!
Liza, Liza, Liza!

I`ve have known Liza since she was a zygote. I have photographed her and sister Anna since childhood. This sister act roars.
Recently, I caught her in her own play – `Pomme is French for Apple`. She dazzled and shocked! It was not only the boldness of words but her sweet delivery that reigned in my head. Needless to say – I heard her telling the story of Gloryland and that she would do brilliantly.

The rehearsal!
OK.. Jackie and Jay in the same room – my sound outfitted basement or the war room – where no battles are fought but victors usually emerge.

As soon as they opened up on 'And the Earth Shook that Day`.. chills zinged through everything thing in the room including four thousand Cd's with Ester, Sarah, Etta, Ella, Billie, Otis, and Teddy - all present.
Jackie messed with Jay until his only protection - uncontrollable laughter fought back. This was heaven in a cloistered basement as only a music Zeus could envision.

Jackie is like no other. She is every grand moment in time – a wealth of experience and knowledge – a calming presence and mythical apparition - one that resides over the planet like the Goddess ambassador of goodwill, good intention and kindness.
Jay is the summation of soul music – Otis in the morning and Lloyd Price when the shades go down and pure goodness at both extremes with deep passion at the core.

Everton Paul (The Carpenter/Apostle) – the magic man who graces  family and friends like a beacon of light from a far away star.- all goodness and purpose - built the time purposeful set and managed the business like a champ.
Then there is son Jesse who walks, talks and dines on music like it`s the last meal of his life. To have a son like Jesse in your daily life is like having a joyful, curious, artful, loving sentry posted at your front door by God.

The Afternoon before the big night..
I start my Saturday with a pick-up from `Grumps`Woloshyn and gut wrenching laughter.

`Grumps' has been very, very good to me leading up to the big night always speaking lovingly about the occasion and giving  out the wrong address. We usually start the show bouncing a range of celebrity, sports and cultural newsworthy topics off each other. When I say bounce – I mostly mean opening salvos. Ted knows by now I`m a loose AK 47 and I know he`s battleship red. Hilarity prevails. Well, I had no intention of relaxing at home and leaving my pal T – alone with show producer Dan Jacobs so I appeared for three hours of the four hour call at Newstalk1010. I needed that. Ted is big fun, big life and a constant source of humor and amazement.

The big 50Th celebrate Bill night.
Well not really – kind of a coincidence the occasion marked fifty years since I joined the American Federation of Musicians at age fifteen. That bold move was more for a way to grab attention and hopefully get folks in seats to experience Gloryland. Look, I`m not nostalgic – looking back at fifty years leaves me feeling a bit strange. I live in this moment and those up ahead. I crave tomorrow!

To believe I was as relaxed as I appeared on stage is a fallacy. I`m an emotional bundle of disconnected wires that bounce about striking pavement and water - desperately in need of repair. I hear all – see all and am fully concentrated yet a worry man. Once I began the overture and Jay slipped into `Savannah Rising` I knew I had no choice but to march on.
The night was magic – supreme beauty. I`m playing and watching - already looking ahead. I hear the marriage between the narrative and the music – the set – the dance and future.

Backstage production manager Mark Smith kept everyone informed and feeling they were the most important person on this night. Mark is a pro and another of that rare breed of human beings whose passion for art and living supersedes all else – a truly giving - gifted kind person.

Who paid for this? Well, let's be frank big help came from arts lover and shaker Gary Slaight - Slaight Music. Gary and I have been making sweet music the past twenty years starting with Liberty Silver "Live in Session!" and up to now tonight! Oh yes - there were more expenses... Gary's right hand man Derrick Ross championed our night giving it the kiss of life.

There was a beautifully tuned and reconditioned nine foot Steinway there for battle. Steve Jackson Pianos came to the rescue and delivered the gorgeous instrument for my undeniable aural appetite.

Today – I`ve revised Gloryland and added a final song - `Dance, My Daughter`.. one that I believe is the key ingredient in pacing. I need violinist Anne Lindsay to share this moment with me and also join in on `The River`s Edge`.. I say that because she gives me goose bumps when we play together and hope she reads this.

I`m writing this Monday May 14, 2012…

Bill King

Monday, May 7, 2012

Gloryland (Tales from the Old South)

"It sounds like the “Complete Faulkner” in one song!" - Don Loney/Executive Editor/John Wiley & Sons Canada LTD.

Gloryland (Tales from the Old South)

Early on the soundtrack to my life came from the 1,500 miles of mountain range called Appalachia. It was the blues, the hymns, the folk ballads and spirituals that haunted the region like ghosts hidden in the night wind - traveling along unseen currents and carrying with it a mix of English, Scottish, Irish and African-American influence and history.
Every year we’d pack up the station wagon and head further south to visit aunts and uncles and at times search for a long lost relative rumoured to be among the living deep in the Tennessee woods. All of these excursions connected to father’s upbringing in the minute border town Hazel, Kentucky.

The Great Depression whipped them out. Tobacco farming was the family business – the other- survival. The crash of ’29 left every family in peril. The farm was lost – the kids barely had enough food on the table to encourage physical growth and decisions had to be made who would attend school and who would work the fields.

Gloryland (Tales from the Old South)  is my pastoral portrait of family – the family that tilled the land and for better or worse endured the history and conditions in a region where thousands of lives were spent, racism institutionalized, a genuine mistrust of government prevailed and a belief problems should be solved through resourcefulness. Beyond the hardships it was a place where song and sound illuminated people’s lives with joy, humility, inspiration and situations.
Along the rivers there were baptisms and picnics – lover’s quarrels the occasional burial. The devil was everywhere – at least that’s what the preacher saw and ranted about Sunday morning. Further south was gator land – places you never sink a foot into a pool of mud. Farthest south, the smell of burning cane fields sweetened the midnight air.

There were coal miner’s strikes that would burst into to all out war. Near the rails hobos rode boxcars through lush countryside seeking the occasional meal and handyman work. Along the way there were the juke joints, chicken shacks, forgotten plantations, overgrown ante bellum castles and more churches than countable.

The piano was the centerpiece - the recorder of history - the spokesman – the outlandish showman rarely contained. You boogied, you ragged, you waltzed and you embraced. It was a music born deep in the hills, languid small town streets and bustling seaports of the old south.
Gloryland  is my sensory recollection communicated in twelve solo piano tone poems.
Bill King – acoustic grand piano / composer (Night Passage Music) SOC AN
Mike Haas – engineer/mastering at Inception Sound Studios 2012

Contact:             416  530-2524  
Bookings: MGAM, Inc.705 King Street West, Suite 1713
Toronto, ON. Canada M5V 2W8   416.534.4993   email