This Past Week, Vol. 1on Nov 01 in Working Life by seanharkness
Some weeks there is just so much activity that I don’t have time to write about each thing in any depth. So I wait until I have time…’maybe after next week’ – which now looks the same as this past one, and so on until three weeks go by and there’s still no blog post save a review or two that have come in. [Which I love, by the way. Being written about is still a relatively new thing for me, and I feel blessed to have occupied the time of some very talented and observant writers. “And other people”.] Blogging is also a new thing for me, and I’ve been told that one is supposed to be as regular as possible. Kinda’ the whole point, I guess. And so it occurred to me that a weekly recount of recent events might keep things moving. Here’s the first of what will hopefully become a weekly ritual.
As always, I welcome feedback, suggestions, and comments of all kinds. One thing I was considering, actually, is to have a ‘Taka’s Corner’ segment somewhere here and feature the fine photography of Takako Suzuki Harkness. Most of the content would be related to the posts, plus her favorites on any subject. Any takers?
Fresh back from a House Concert in McKinney, TX, this relatively easy day contained only two hours of rehearsal with Danielle Grabianowski, Nate Buccieri and Lennie Watts directing, then a show with Deb Berman.
The rehearsal was both fun and productive – a combination I find goes REALLY well together. We rehearsed at The Singer’s Forum , a very cool place that Danielle has brought me to for the first time. It’s a beehive.
Then the show was great fun. Deb and I have been developing this duo show for quite a while, and this was our second show. She’s enjoying good attendance so far, and we got a couple good reviews already. We do our own thing and we have a blast.
Another two hours with Danielle, Nate, and Lennie. Two days from our first performance, almost ready…
Then a quick dash uptown to make the downbeat at Iridium with Terese Genecco and her Little Big Band. I’ve written about this one before [link], and told in detail how much I enjoy this gig. I might have overenjoyed this particular week – I hope I don’t owe anyone any apologies. Terese was really on her game. The night really smoked. We had a sub in on sax who I met and heard for the first time: Scott Kreitzer. I hope to cross paths with him again – he freakin’ ROCKS. So good.
Early lunch with Kitty Skorbela and Ben Niemczyk of Miranda Music to discuss our plans to make a new Sean Harkness video or three. I love these people for their support and enthusiasm. Good stuff coming your way very soon…
The evening show was with my new friend Carole Demas. She celebrated her 70th birthday this year by doing a series of shows at the Laurie Beechman Theatre with my old pal Ian Herman music directing and tearing up the piano. For those of you who don’t already know her, she has Broadway and TV credits going back to the late sixties. She was the original Sandy in Grease, and she had a 12 year run of a children’s show called The Magic Garden. Her husband Stuart was also an integral part of the show doing sound design.
Somehow, I got to talking about Les Paul with F. Murray Abraham afterwards. A very passionate music lover apparently. There were so many other luminaries in the audience that this one requires a complete blog entry of its own. Carole’s story is much more than I could ever cover here as well – I’ll keep it to my experience with her.
Normally on the last Thursday of the month I would do Dan Leary’s extravaganza over at Comix, but I sent in a substitute because this was the night of Danielle Grabianowski’s first show. She has such an original sound, a distinctive persona, and inherent lovability that I begged her to let me work with her. The show went really well, with only minor skinned knees. Nate Buccieri and I are thoroughly enjoying getting to know each other musically too – this is our second production together of what will hopefully be many.
This one was a bear. At the end, Mike Herriott and his business partner Tim Valade were coming down from Toronto for a 10:00pm business meeting at my place with my lawyer and his partner. But at the beginning, I had to catch an 8:45am bus to start what became a two hour journey to The Bronx to rehearse with bassist/artist Mimi Jones [a.k.a. Miriam Sullivan]. Then a 5:00 soundcheck for a 7:00 show with Marcus Simeone.
This was my first show with Marcus. That voice of his is a Gift. We performed mostly songs from the new recording that Miranda is producing for him with my dear friend Tracy Stark music directing from a very soulful piano. Steve Doyle plays bass with us on the gig and Mary Anne McSweeney is on the recording. Before the show, we gave it the working subtitle of ‘By The Seat Of Our Pants’, which it was. Sometimes that makes magic.
I particularly love playing in this ‘Nat King Cole Trio’ format of just piano, bass, and guitar. Not having a drummer forces us to really listen and internalize the groove, giving even rockin’ numbers a certain intimacy. Steve is particularly good at this as he hits every week at Birdland’s Cast Party with pianist Ted Firth. They are the entire band for an endless stream of singers. And Tracy can do anything. This show was another in the new trend of ‘let’s get Sean to play ukulele on a song’. And sing backups. You asked for it…
After a long late-night business meeting at my place with The Canadians it was rough getting up and out for an 11:00 am soundcheck in Newark, NJ. So incredibly worth it, though. Mimi Jones taught students and their families at the NJ PAC about The Blues. It was her first time doing this kind of a presentation, and let me tell you: she’s a natural. She had everyone singing the blues scale in a rhythm they were stamping out with their feet and hand claps. So many wide-eyed people with hands up at every question.
Her band has really begun to gel too, with Camille Thurman on saxes, Chris Eddleton on drums, and Miki Hayama herself on piano. She had us prepare a medley of tunes that utilized the concepts she was talking about, had us each demonstrate a thing or two, and even had prerecorded snippets of field hollerin’ and Delta blues. Gary Walker of WBGO was our host and M.C. Everything I’ve done with Mimi so far has been wonderful: The Blue Note, the Jazz Standard, Smoke, Smalls, The Philladelphia Art Museum, Symphony Space, Top Of The Rock, Aged, ___ cable TV in ___, Edison Ballroom with Gregory Generet – and New Year’s at his house! – but honestly, this program she gave had its own special thing and I hope she does more of that.
The rest of the day was all about my guests from Toronto, and H2 business. And solving a human Rubik’s Cube on the train. But I digress.
This morning I had to start out early again, getting myself up to Doug Oberhamer’s home studio in Harlem to record a duet with Kate Dawson. The Bernstein/Sondheim classic I Have A Love is such a beautiful song, and she and I have developed a lovely arrangement for just voice and guitar. We performed it a whole bunch this year at Triad and a recent appearance at Birdland.
More and more people are trusting me with duets and it pleases me to no end. So much so that at first I thought nothing of sight-reading one on stage at the Blue Note today with Jack Donahue. I say ‘at first’. About three bars into my intro I got this rush of ‘are you insane??’ But Jack started singing and it just flowed from there. This was my first time on stage with Jack. If you don’t know him yet, well, you will soon. All the right stuff there, and then some. His band is first rate as well: Randy Ingram on piano, Peter Brendler on bass, and Jared Shonig on drums. They’ve been working these arrangements long enough that they’re a heartbeat together. Then there’s the solos…. No joke.
As I was beating my hasty retreat from Greenwich Village the streets were filling up with Haloween revelers of all shapes, sizes, colors, orientations, and cosmic derivation. There was an army of cops everywhere; you’d think a riot were imminent. Me, I went as a jazz musician… You?