Friday, August 1, 2014

Teens & Young Adults Soar at PT Workshops & Blues Fest

It's heartening to see how many teens and young adults are participating in the workshops and jam sessions. They're all over the Centrum campus, boys and girls with or without guitars, players and singer, engaged in conversations about music, and who knows what. Some of them I've seen before. A lot happens in six years, they've grown literally and in their craft, they're on to something good, and they know it.

As is the case every time I come to the Blues Fest I'm a little overwhelmed the first few days, but eventually I settle into a pace that's comfortable. Sometimes I skip a period, go for a walk on the beach, take a nap, or practice in my "cell"by myself. Every night there are jam sessions in the dorm, in the hallways, in people's rooms. There's a curfew now, no all nighters allowed, at least not in de dorms. what happens elsewhere I don't know. I'm sure the kids do. I did when I was their age.

My old bud Everett Moran was doing sound at the McCurdy Pavilion for Maria Muldaur and her Red Hot Bluesiana Band. Hanging out with Ev off stage left was just the right place for me, old stage hand that I am.

Tonight and tomorrow night it's Blues in the Bars in Port Townsend proper.
Centrum's Acoustic Blues Show Case on Saturday afternoon is going to be too, follow the link, and take a listen. All of that'll bring a lot of folks to town, glad I've got a place to stay already.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Finding Your (Other) Voice in Workshop with Maria Muldaur

Looking at the Port Townsend Blues Fest's impressive Faculty line-up in the Red & Blues book I'm thinking how difficult it can be for newbies to make up their minds what to do and whose workshops to take. The first year I was here, that would've been 2008, I got nervous just looking at the schedule. Didn't want to miss a thing. You'll be running on empty pretty soon if you follow that track.

Be selective, focus on your priorities, and add some adventurous twists and riffs, and give yourself a break. There's no failing in keeping your sanity by going for a walk on the beach or hiking up the hill. Take in Public Art hiding between the trees, and read Sam Hamill's poetry chiseled for all to see. Look for wildlife, birds, coyotes and deer abound.

The above advice comes from Wesley Snipes via my wife. El Double Tee Double U ("Listen To The Woman," what Snipes' character tells Woody Harrelson's in White Men Can't Jump the movie that came out the summer after she and I got married).

Yesterday, I joined Maria Muldaur's workshop. 
Maria teaches two blues vocal classes, “Women Be Wise and Also You Guys” developing a blues repertoire that fits your voice AND “Finding Your Inner Blues Voice”, singing the blues with authenticity. Her pianist Chris Burns will be on hand to support the class.
We were all encouraged to sing a few lines from a song, I'll get back with you which one she chose for the gals, and which one for us guys. I may not remember the titles, but I do remember my surprise when I turned into a crooner the second time around. My voice strong and loud and, well, a gal I know from a Centrum Blues Intensive said I sounded kind of like Frank Sinatra.

Frank, eh? I've heard that before. My wife said the same thing. She said I ought to sing more without the guitar, so I can focus on strengthening my voice, and do some Rat Pack songs, cause it seems to be in my genes, or at least what I grew up hearing.  Go figure.

What did I tell you? El Double Tee, Double U. Sing! Or if you're a singer the same must be true for you, take a different kind of workshop, you may surprise yourself, find another voice than the one you thought you had.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Embarrassment of Riches at Port Townsend Blues Fest 2014

Yes, I'm back. Not that I haven't been at Fort Worden since 2011, I've taken a few intensives that I didn't report on here, but I'm finally back for the Blues Fest and settled in my solitary cell at the dorm.
Solitary, yeah, right ;-)

As long as you can hear your next door neighbor tune his guitar (no co-ed on my floor) and here the guys in the hallways jam, solitary is an oxymoron. And that's fine by me, I'm here to connect with, and learn from other musicians.

Centrum's Blues Program's Manager Mary Hilts made sure we all have our little Red & Blues book, and man its overwhelming to see who all are here, and what we can pick up by being in any of these artists' workshops.

Not sure yet whether I'm going to schedule the whole week, or play it by ear.
Puns intended where ever applicable.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

My OO-15 Martin and Me

So it took me a few months to decide which guitar to take to the Blues Fest —I was going back and forth between the Webber, the OO-15 and even considered the Lowden (well no not really, but you've got to show love to all of your instruments, and yes, I did hold the Admira as well) but in the end it was the Martin who won me over. I'm glad she did.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Blues Fest Musicians Aren't Suffering the Blues

Wednesday morning John Miller focused on 1950's Texax Blues which called for a different kind of tuning that the Pre-War tunes.

After the break I asked Mark Puryear if I could join his class. He seemed surprised. "Of course, there no need to ask," he said. Google Mark, and you'll find he's played guitar behind quite a few well known artists, among whom Blues Fest's Phil Wiggins. For a listen, check out  Songs of Peace and Forgiveness. Mark's class was focused on Bluesy Jazz, diminished and augmented patterns of finger pickin'. Great stuff.

Jefferson Glassie and Julie Littell of Peace Evolutions, LLC write:
Cool Down (3:59) – Phil Wiggins and Mark Puryear. Phil wrote this song in 1995 to tell young people to chill out. In this newly recorded version, Phil plays an edgy harmonica with Mark Puryear’s steady guitar. Phil is internationally famous and one of the best harmonica players in the world. He has toured and cut numerous CD’s with John Cephas over the years. “People automatically think of sadness and depression when they think of blues. But the blues is uplifting music, music to rejuvenate you, to nourish the spirit,” says Wiggins. 

Later in the afternoon we gathered in the Wheeler for an hour to listen to Corey Harris interview Taj Mahal, who gave a great performance in the evening.

Today another John Miller class, all the good stuff just keeps adding up. Later  and prep for participants presentation. The line-up was so long people played until about 1 a.m. or so. Having learned from earlier years, I put my name on the list as soon as it was posted. As number 5 I had to wait only 30 minutes before it was my turn. Before me a Frenchman who had indeed come all the way from France for the Blues Fest performed with Jerron Paxton. So I had the audience on my hand saying my song "France" by Keb' Mo' seemed an appropriate follow-up. It went well. Laughter in all the right places and I really enjoyed myself.

Guy Davis said, "You really got away from behind that guitar."
That's what I'd told him and other participants in his class, that I needed to sing more and not hide behind the instrument (in the theater we call that projecting your voice at the back row).
John Miller said, "Great job," and Jeff Scott told me he wanted me to do some recording at the end of the year. Talk about feeling good after playing!

The Blues reflects life in its many aspects; happy, sad, tiresome, painful, or fun. ~ Glassie and Littell

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

World Music | Fingerpickin' | Patterns and more @ Blues Fest

beach hotel
After the first night at the dorm I thought I might have to sleep on the beach for some shut eye. Luckily I ran into Gordon, a musician I met at Centrum in 2008. He gave me his extra pair of ear plugs, so last night I was able to muffle the sound of the all-night jam session in the common area on my floor. I'm glad to say I slept well, like a log.

John Miller
First class on the first day was with John Miller: Drop-D tuning and Pre-World War II songs. Had been looking forward to another live class (after Blues Fest 2008). The DVDs John puts out our great, especially for freelancers like me whose working schedules are so unpredictable they never manage to take live classes from beginning to end, but there's nothing like a live session. Today I went to his class again, probably will continue taking them every morning.

Guy Davis had each of the participants in his class come to the front to play something. When he heard my last name he came up to me, and embraced me saying, "Oh, brother, brother".
My version of Keb' Mo's "France" went down pretty well.

I joined Phil Wiggins' porch jam from 3:45 - 5:25 PM and man, my fingers hurt, but it was fun. After dinner I just listened to Jerron "Blind Boy" Paxton play piano and others jam with him.

Cheik Hamala Diabate
Cheick Hamala Diabate's class today was part storytelling. Each pattern he shows has a story attached to it.
World Music Live!

After the African beat I got my uke and joined Lightnin' Wells. This must be the first time that ukelele is taught at the Blues Fest. Lightnin' promised it would be easy to pick up the cords, and he was right too.

This afternoon Cheick and the Blues Fest's artistic director Corey Harris led an inspired porch jam in African music. Everyone was still going strong when I left for dinner, got to eat in time. Period.

There's a lot of good stuff going on, all day long, and you have to accept you can't do everything, and need to sit back and just listen at times too. But I've my mind set on taking an intermediate Piedmont class with Jeffrey Scott and check out Mark Puryear and then some...

Monday, August 1, 2011

Port Townsend Blues in the Clubs 2011

  Thinking about coming out to hear some Blues off campus?
$25 per-night club pass

The Undertown - 211 Taylor St.
8:00 PM - Son Jack, Jr. & Michael Wilde
9:00 PM - Lightnin' Wells
10:30 PM - John Miller

Key City Theatre - 419 Washington St.
8:30 PM - John Miller
9:45 PM - Phil Wiggins & Nat Reese
11:00 PM - Jeff Scott

The Boiler Room (all-ages) - 711 Water St.
Sunpie Barnes

8:30 PM - Cheick Hamala Diabate
9:45 PM - George Rezendes
11:00 PM - Sule Greg Wilson

The Public House - 1038 Water St.
9:00 PM - Lauren Sheehan & Mark Graham
10:15 PM - Jerron Paxton
11:30 PM - Washboard Chaz & Jay Summerour

The Cotton Building - 607 Water St.
8:30 PM - Mark Puryear
9:45 PM - Guy Davis (pictured)
11:00 PM - Son Jack, Jr. & Michael Wilde

Sirens - 823 Water St.
9:00 PM - Otis Taylor
10:15 PM - Otis Taylor
11:30 PM - The Ebony Hillbillies

The Upstage - 923 Washington St.
8:00 PM - Arthur Migliazza
9:15 PM - Pura Fé
10:30 PM - Erwin Helfer

The Undertown - 211 Taylor St.
8:00 PM - Mark Puryear
9:15 PM - Jeff Scott
10:30 PM - Lightnin' Wells

Key City Theatre - 419 Washington St.
Guy Davis
Guy Davis

8:30 PM - Lightnin' Wells & Mark Graham
9:45 PM - Cheick Hamala Diabate
11:00 PM - Sule Greg Wilson

The Boiler Room (all-ages) - 711 Water St.
8:30 PM - Washboard Chaz
9:45 PM - Lauren Sheehan
11:00 PM - Jerron Paxton

The Public House - 1038 Water St.
9:00 PM - The Jelly Rollers
10:15 PM - The Jelly Rollers
11:30 PM - Phil Wiggins & Blues Faculty All-Stars

The Cotton Building - 607 Water St.
8:30 PM-11:30 PM
Zydeco dance featuring Sunpie Barnes (pictured)

Sirens - 823 Water St.
9:00 PM - Corey Harris & Phil Wiggins
10:15 PM - Crow Quill Night Owls
11:30 PM - Crow Quill Night Owls

The Upstage - 923 Washington St.
8:00 PM - Son Jack, Jr. & Michael Wilde
9:15 PM - Sule Greg Wilson
10:30 PM - The Ebony Hillbillies