I’m so happy to be writing an arrangement of I’ll Be Seeing You for piano/pipe organ – a good friend of mine, Ron Lenz, from Washington invited me out to do a church gig – I’m doing some classical music as well – which is stretching my boundaries a bit – I’ve played classical all my life for fun, but never in public since high school days. 

Anyway, I’m digging this whole piano/pipe organ thing – of course, problem is if I put out an album like that as usual the critics/radio stations won’t get it – it’s a little frustrating sometimes, but everybody’s in the same boat so I don’t complain 🙂

update: I just realized I could call the album “Travis Shook – Hitting the Pipes”  except that I’m probably the only one that would find that funny

nothing much to write.  My wrist hurts from riding the bike – haven’t been able to play for several weeks.  That’s cool – just wanted to knock the political blog down a notch.  Fats Waller was awesome.

I’ve written about genius pianist Donald Shirley before.  He’s lived above Carnegie Hall for many years now and is over the age of 80.  They are about to evict him along with other 41 other artists, most of home are elderly and have lived there for dozens of years.

I’m all for capitalism, but I’m not for changing the rules whenever a corporation feels like it.  These studio apartments were set aside for artist housing in 1960, and need to stay that way as part of our cultural heritage, and, well just for the sake of not kicking elderly geniuses out of their apartments.

For more than 100 years, a unique collection of musicians, painters, sculptors, actors, drama coaches, photographers, architects, educators and related professionals have occupied the studios above Carnegie Hall as part of Andrew Carnegie’s mandate to house a comprehensive creative community.

Icons of American art and culture have lived, worked and studied in the Artist Studios: Marlon Brando, Leonard Bernstein, Marilyn Monroe, Lucille Ball, Isadora Duncan, Jerome Robbins, George Balanchine and Martha Graham are only a few of the legends that have called the Artists Studios an artistic haven or home. John Leguizamo, John Turturro, Mira Sorvino, David Duchovny and Richard Schiff.

If you want to get involved you may sign the petition here:


The first time I recognized the magic of European classical music was when pianist Richard Goode came to a small church in Olympia, Wa.  I think I was in my twenties by this time (or maybe my teens), and although I loved jazz, classical music was only interesting, nothing more.  Anyway, he started playing some Bach, and it was beautiful, organic, alive.  I was totally transfixed throughout the entire concert.  I was hearing something that lived and breathed just like me.  And Bach was written how many centuries ago?  The idea that it was “old” music never crossed my mind.

This was the same experience I had seeing Ornette Coleman in concert.  I couldn’t really get into his recordings so much, but the first time I saw him live I felt like I had just heard and witnessed something miraculous. Which leads me to the point of this entry:  For a newcomer, in order to “get what all the fuss is about” in jazz or classical music, I believe it has to be seen live.  At least once, but preferably multiple times to really give it a chance.  Kind of like drinking coffee – I sure as heck didn’t like it the first few times I drank it, but once I got it, I … actually, I need to cut down on coffee.  Moving on:  Once a new listener can witness the energy firsthand, then they can recognize that spirit in a cd or video, but from my experience it’s hard for most people to hear what’s happening if they’ve only been exposed to recorded media. 

Opera, especially, is almost completely flattened out on a video – it simply has to be seen live.  And it needs to be seen live in a big concert hall – that’s what opera is designed for. 

Contrast this with a lot of rock, pop, rap, etc… which seems to present itself better in recordings.  Often it’s very effective in on cd or video, because the engineering process adds a lot of subtleties that often aren’t really weren’t there when the band played the music (assuming there are musicians).  This is why a group might sound great on record but are very often disappointing in a live situation.

So this is my new theory: 

Jazz, Classical = Better seen live

Current popular music (MTV, BET) = Better on recording

I heard Hank Williams for the first time about a year ago.  I was totally floored, I can’t sing him enough praises – click here to hear what all the hype is about:


Barack Obama’s speech about race was right on the money.  I’ve been reading the blogs a little bit and it’s very disturbing to hear the ignorance in people’s comments, and the obvious fear by caucasians that Democratic nominee Barack hates America, hates white people, and wants to destroy this country. 

Barack’s approach to this speech was extremely rare in the political realm: he decided to be honest, keep his dignity and integrity, and in so doing gave one of the most intelligent  and well-crafted speeches you’ll ever hear in a public forum on the subject of race by a political candidate in America.  Unfortunately, this speech might have been a little too intelligent for most caucasians in America.

Decide for yourself here:


I just watched Dogville starring Nicole Kidman et al, and all I can say is wow! Great, great movie.  Someone compared it to My Dinner with Andre, which is just wrong because My Dinner with Andre was stupid and sucked balls while Dogville was very well thought out and is great!  Every once in awhile I felt like a line was a bit obvious or clumsy, but overall the message in the film was very clear.  It’s the kind of film that can be talked about for hours afterward, it’s also the kind of film that’s almost 3 hours long and if you grew up in a short-attention span world like me at first you might be tempted to give up – but for those that take the time to get involved the pay-off is well worth it.

Having a great time watching Celebrity Rehab on VH1.  I don’t watch a lot of tv, but when I do it’s either South Park or VH1 reality shows.  My attention span is too short for much else.  It’s a good show, it’s definitely a real rehab, they’re doing the real stuff and Dr. Drew seems pretty cool as a counselor.  

It got me to thinking about my rehab days, and addiction in general.  It’s funny that I have never regreted a single mistake made or shameful experience that I’ve had, unless alcohol or narcotics was involved.  Because then I wasn’t around to experience the mistake, it’s like reading about somebody else’s mistake in the newspaper.  So, being disconnected from me, the mistake was wasted on somebody else.  If I had made the mistake in my sober mind, then it would’ve been me that made the mistake, so the experience was lived through and (hopefully) learned from, right?

In the same vein the only comments I’ve ever regretted are comments made in echo of another person’s voice.  I’ve done it many times, it’s natural to want to do that, but if I don’t feel it, then it’s not me talking, it’s someone else.  I know we’re supposed to respect our elders and all that, but isn’t it more respectful not to copy them?  And it’s even worse when we copy our peers.  Then we’re imitating imitators (not all younger people imitate, but most do).  A lot of people live their whole life as an echo – I feel like our whole job should be to resist that urge.  An echo is safe – “Who was that?  Oh, nobody there, just an echo.”

Me and Veronica lead a panel discussion at the Jazz Improv convention entitled, “Singers vs. Musicians – Is there a difference?”  It went great except that out of the 30 or so people in the room there wasn’t a single musician there.  It was all singers or vocal jazz fans.  You can read a review here. (you’ll have to scroll down – best to search for Travis Shook on the page)

We decided to run the panel as an open-forum type discussion, neither me nor Veronica are interested in pontificating for 50 minutes to a crowd – like most people do.  I mean, if you’re not McCoy Tyner or Abbey Lincoln I don’t want to hear you talk for 50 minutes, sorry. 

Anyway, The question came up: Does a singer have to scat in order to be a jazz singer?  There was a resounding, unanimous NO! from the crowd, followed by laughter, because this was one thing all jazz singers agree on and are maybe a little frustrated by:  Just because there were a few jazz singers in history that could scat well - Ella and Jon Hendricks being a couple examples – the musicians, critics, and record labels think that a singer has to scat in order to be singing jazz! This is wrong, it has always been wrong and will always be wrong.  Because of this kind of thinking, the jazz critics have helped elevate a number of singers to superstar level just because they open there mouths and sing “doop de do” never mind that they’re missing half the notes and that its corny. 

What makes a jazz singer is that they phrase like a horn player.  If you can’t scat like Ella, or at least hit all the notes and not be corny – don’t do it.  But if you can, then by all means go for it.

Bearing in mind the overwhelming majority of legendary jazz singers did not scat, here’s a very small listing of some of my favorites off the top of my head that (as far as I know) never scatted a single note:

Nat King Cole

Dinah Washington

Abbey Lincoln

Nina Simone

Billie Holiday

Joe Williams (maybe more blues than jazz but one of my favorites so I’m putting him on anyway!)

Irene Krall

Peggy Lee

I’m reading Moby Dick again (I read it once about 15 years ago).  I’ve never seen such a divisive book between men and women as Moby Dick – most guys who have read it, love it, most women hate it.  Just something I always noticed.  I’m just as enthralled as I was the first time around with the taste of the saltwater and the cold night air, the wild lofty wisdom juxtaposed with detailed descriptions of a sperm whales head, and especially the old scraggly bearded arrrgghhh people – but I’m starting to have trouble with the whale killing parts in my old age.  Since I moved to Woodstock I’ve stopped eating mammals (but still eat fish and birds).   Really strange how the environment one lives in can totally change a person’s outlook.  That’s why I never believed the supposed old wisdom that “wherever you go, there you are”, or to put it another way “you can’t run from yourself”.  Not true!  I’m way better off psychologically and creatively living outside the city than I was living in it.  In a similar vein, George Bernard Shaw once remarked, “Do not waste your time on Social Questions. What is the matter with the poor is Poverty : what is the matter with the rich is Uselessness.”

Anyway, there was a scene in the book where Stubbs stuck a harpoon into an injured whale and twirled it around until its heart exploded.   Pretty intense.