Scott Joplin Memorial Bench Bookmark

Almost two weeks ago I subbed in on plectrum banjo with a world-class 13-piece Ragtime ensemble called the River Rasin Ragtime Revue. It was an honor and a privilege to play some pure, beautiful, exquisite and simply fun Ragtime music with this group. 

Probably the least important, but also the only material thing I took away from the experience was a bookmark commemorating the dedication of the Scott Joplin Memorial Bench in St. Michael’s Cemetery, East Elmhurst, NY. This bench is significant because Scott Joplin, who most of you have heard of as the King of Ragtime, was buried in an unmarked grave and no monument was erected in his honor until now. That would be like if Elvis had been buried in an unmarked grave and no one did anything about it until fifty years from now.

In some ways that’s what I’m all about. Drawing attention to the treasures of our cultural past, buried just below the surface without any markers to draw attention. On the other hand, the steamroller of culture is always moving forward and some things will be forgotten no matter what. In any case, try and live in the moment because nobody knows what tomorrow may bring!

All right, are you still with me? Welcome to my world of email world. In this email I will mainly tell you about the upcoming tour dates, one very special new video, some new records I’ve been enjoying, and a hearty book report. Let’s begin!

Upcoming Tour Dates
– Tomorrow! Noreast’r Festival in Mio, MI, w/Corn Potato Duo (Lewis/McCaw)
– Tue, 6/12 – Zal Gaz Grotto in Ann Arbor w/Terry Kimura et al (JAZZ)
and then it’s time for a Midwest tour with Roochie Toochie!
– 6/21 Players Pub in Bloomington, IN
– 6/22 Mystery Gig TBA somewhere south of Bloomington
– 6/23 Indiana Fiddlers Gathering aka Battleground in Battle Ground, IN
– 6/24 Hedgehog Music Showcase in Arcadia, IN
– 6/27 CSPS in Cedar Rapids, IA
– 6/29 Workshops at St. Louis Folk School
– 6/29 The Focal Point in St. Louis, MO
– 6/30 Espenschied Chapel in Mascoutah, IL
and that’s the end of the Roochie tour
– 7/1 Western Illinois Museum in Macomb, IL, w/Corn Potato Duo (Lewis/McCaw)
and that takes us up into July, what should be the “busy season” but somehow I have zero gigs the entire month. July 22-27 I will be on staff at the August Old Time/Blues & Swing Week in Elkins, WV and then I will most likely head to Clifftop and for sure to Galax.
After Galax we are doing a Corn Potato String Band tour in the UK – dates TBA, stay tuned! – followed immediately by the Wheatland Music Festival back in Michigan.
Very Special New Video
I’ve been working with a new project made up of old friends I met when I was living in NYC ten or so years ago and we’re calling it Lovestruck Balladeers. In October we will do our first tour and we have this video to show the world that we are a good band, worthy of attention! What do you think? Do you have any ideas for good venues for a five-piece eclectic early jazz group like this? Here’s the video – I hope you like it!
New Records I’ve Been Enjoying
I picked up some records on my travels and have been enjoying them very much. Without gushing too much I’ll just list some of them here, provide links where I can and maybe a brief description:
Steam Machine – Old Time String Band from Minneapolis
Miss Myra and the Moonshiners – Party Jazz from Minneapolis
David Bragger – Professor of Old Time Music at UCLA, great fiddle and banjo, recording the living greats
Buddy Spicher & Billy Contreras duo albums By Request and Dueling Bows – Outrageous Twin Fiddle Jazz
Matthew Hartz The Marion Sessions – Master of Texas Contest Fiddling and Multiple World Championship Title Holder – also super great guy I got to tour with in April!
Jake Sanders – Estrellas de Radio – Beautiful string jazz instrumentals, plus Italian waltzes and polkas and more. Oh yeah, and I played on this. All the Lovestruck Balladeers played on this. Check it out, it’s really good.
Yellow Bellied Sapsuckers – Old Time and Original Songs Duo + Band – Great songs, singing and playing
River Raisin Ragtime Revue – So far I’ve only listened to their Animal Fair album and it is excellent. They have a few more to check out as well. Everything this group does is top-notch.
Toddle Shakers – “Tickeld, Too” – Fresh & Funky Party Music of the 1920s & 1930s – from the West Coast. Loving this.
I also unearthed a little treasure trove of CDs I got from my friend Diptanshu when I was in India (Five years ago?? Can it have been that long ago?) Some powerfully transcendent yet emotional religious music from the Baul Fakirs of Bengal – here is an example – as well as more modern Indian folk/pop music such as Chandrabindoo – amazing singing and creativity.
I almost forgot to promote my own album
I recently released my first and only all-original album. It includes the hit song Crazy Cats — Check out the music video! Here is the link to the free download of the album. Knock yourself out! If you prefer not to download things I made for free or even stream it and would rather read a description, here you go:
Softgels style is what comes before and after the during part. Enhance your groove spirit and mind essence with party fun time Softgels. More modern than jazz or techno, more old-fashioned than airplanes or the internet, Softgels music is so inside you now.
For my one-line description I call it lo-fi loop-based dark funk smooth jazz with absurdist tendencies.
A Hearty Book Report
Yesterday I finished reading The Beautiful Music All Around Us: Field Recordings and the American Experience, by Stephen Wade. I spent about a year reading it and I can’t recommend it highly enough to anyone interested in the roots and meaning of American music and cultural traditions. Here are a few of my notes from reading this book:
hearing music in its natural environment like seeing a polar bear in the wild vs. in a zoo
“folklore, a concept that unites specific communities with wisdom and knowledge rooted in the past, not as something inherently remote, but as something intrinsically local” — What is local now?
meaning & context of a song can change, however “every artistic expression has an ideology underneath”
folklore as creative expression vs folklore as a cultural record
“the choice of every note involves an act of will”
“the song and its singing are indissolubly connected”
“It doesn’t matter where a particular song or tune originated; what does matter is what has become of it.”
“Tricks of embellishment, originally the property of one player, once exhibited, become the property of all the players in his vicinity if they be of sufficient merit to catch their interest.”
Goodbye for now
That’s all for now. Keep in touch, write me back. I love to hear from you. I love even better to see you. Come out to any of these shows you can and say hi!
Until then,
Party on,