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August 15, 2017:

PUT A LITTLE PEPPER ON IT

Bruce Kimmel Photograph bk's notes

Well, dear readers, this week is flying by, like a gazelle doing the Limbo whilst singing the Armenian National Anthem. And today would be a good day for some most excellent vibes and xylophones as I’m going to have to hopefully quickly deal with the cloven hoof of negativity – this I will do in an e-mail and hope I can delay any further discussion for another couple of weeks, perhaps right after the Kritzerland show.

I can tell you that yesterday was a productive day of productivity. I only got about six-and-a-half hours of sleep, did my morning ablutions, and then went and had an early lunch consisting of one chicken Caesar salad. Then I picked up a couple of packages and came home. Then Robert Yacko and Alby Potts arrived and we did a complete run-through of Robert’s show. It was actually quite a good run and Robert is learning how to pace himself for the act, which is a very important thing to learn. And he really takes direction so wonderfully. I adjusted a couple of lines, added one little comic bit, and just gave a few performance notes, but it’s getting better every time he runs it and I think it’s quite an entertaining show. This one’s going to be interesting to see – most times the first time a performer does an act I’ve directed, they do it in front of a friendly crowd of friends and fans. But Robert’s gig in Coachella is for complete strangers. And frankly that’s a good thing, because if it works there it will work anywhere. Friends will always woo-hoo and give you great energy. With strangers who haven’t necessarily any history of the performer, you have to get them and keep them and the storytelling has to make sense and be interesting. I think we’ve done a good job in that department and Robert is a superb singer and actor.

After that, Lanny Meyers and Richard Allen arrived. Lanny is orchestrating Levi, so Richard and I played through the score – well, Richard played and I sang. We made some adjustments as we went along, I made a few arrangement decisions, especially about the first music we hear in the show, and Lanny listened and formulated some ideas. The idea of this session was not only to let him hear the score but to figure out what the band will consist of, as there were several ways to go. After hearing it all, Lanny agreed with my first instinct that I had at the beginning of the year: a band of seven – two keyboards, bass, drums/percussion, two reeds (playing just about everything, reeds-wise), and violin. I think that will give us a very interesting sound and will work well with the music. I find these kinds of sessions exhausting, and this one certainly was – two hours of it – but it was productive and good and Lanny can now go to work on a few of the numbers where we’re certain the keys are correct. Richard still has charts to finish – he’s done more than half of it so far – taking the chicken scratch lead sheets we were given and turning them into piano/vocal charts, from which Lanny will create his orchestrations.

They left and I wasn’t really in the mood to watch anything last night, so I listened to music for the rest of the evening, whilst doing work on the computer. The composer of the day was the marvelous African-American composer, William Grant Still. I listened to all his symphonies, which were really terrific. I wasn’t all that thrilled with the Naxos recording quality, and the band certainly isn’t world class, but the music is tuneful and fun and his symphonies have brevity, which is a pleasant change. I then listened to the Bay Cities disc I issued of Still’s Lenox Avenue and a piece for violin and orchestra, played by Louis Kaufman, who gave us his only existing copy of it. Louis was a character – we did three or four CDs with him at Bay Cities. He’d always come to the mastering session, listen, and his one and only comment about the sound of the violin was, “Put a little pepper on it.” That’s my kind of comment. The title piece, Lenox Avenue, is like a radio play – narration and music, and it’s a pretty bad-sounding recording, but it’s just a wonderful work, and the violin piece is also wonderful. If you’ve never heard his music, the Naxos discs are very inexpensive. I had a cheese sandwich, and then an extra low-cal bun toasted with some butter for my evening snack. Kind of gross all the way around, but I needed to eat something.

Today, I need them vibes and xylophones, although I won’t have to write the e-mail until very late in the day. I have some banking to do in the morning, I’ll eat something light but fun, I’ll hopefully pick up some packages, then I’ll relax until six, when Robert and Alby arrive. We’ll talk through some stuff, maybe run some patter and cues, then our ten people will arrive and we’ll run the show for them so Robert can get an idea of how folks will react to things. Then perhaps we’ll go out for a snack after.

Tomorrow and Thursday are meetings and meals and meals and meetings, then on Friday I drive up to Coachella – it’s about ninety miles and I’m hoping it won’t take more than a couple of hours to get there. I have directions, but I’ll also put the address into Google Maps so that nice lady can talk to me as I’m driving. I hope to be there by one-thirty and then at two we’ll do a cue-to-cue so I can hear the sound and see what the lighting is like. Then show time is at seven, I’ll hang out after for a half-hour, and then head back home. I have things to do on Saturday, but I’m hoping Sunday will be a day of rest. I also must finish casting the anniversary show and get everyone their music.

Well, dear readers, I must take the day, I must do the things I do, I must, for example, do some banking, eat, deal with the cloven hoof of negativity, hopefully pick up some packages, then do a run-through with a small audience. Today’s topic of discussion: Who are your all-time favorite African-American performers? Let’s have loads of lovely postings, shall we, whilst I hit the road to dreamland, where I shall remember the immortal words of violinist Louis Kaufman – “Put a little pepper on it.”

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