Javi Santiago Plays Monk in a front yard.

I met Javi Santiago through my friend Marian Moore. Javi went to school with Marian’s son Jamie, who is a producer and hip-hop artist. In 2007 Javi was selected to attend the extremely competitive Dave Brubeck Institute and he’s been doing great stuff ever since.

The hilarious thing is this is the first time I’d heard Javi played. Considering how bizarre the piano is I couldn’t believe how great he sounded. I knew right away this was a guy who had it all, swinging, great chord and note choices, great ideas and phrasing.

Last June I was back in Minneapolis and I went down to the Ice House to hear him play on a Friday evening. He sounded great, and although it was a real piano sound, even then it wasn’t a real piano, it was a digital one. Next time I hope to hear him on a Steinway D in a concert hall!

I think its a little obvious that Monk is the perfect music for this piano. And I would be mortified if that was an insult to Monk and his music in any way shape or form. Monk’s music just becomes more and more important in the canon of great music every year, and this year we celebrate the centennial of his birth. But I gotta say it sure sounds cool in this permutation as well, and I like to think he would have enjoyed it.

By the way the editor of this video has the title wrong. The song is “Eronel” not “Ask Me Now”.

 

 

The Red Herring in Duluth, Minnesota

On November 2nd, Robin and I headed up to Duluth to meet Troy Rogers at the Red Herring for an evening of random pianists playing in a variety of styles and approaches for the final public performances on the “21 Pianos” piano. Robin starts this video and then a couple of other stellar, and open minded, pianists. the objects you see on the right are art of Troy’s robot instrument set up. Later that evening I played the piano with Troy and some other improviser’s from Duluth. A great night!

 

 

BOB DYLAN

Well it’s embarrassing, and a trip made a thousand times by middle aged men just like me, but Hibbing was only about an hour out of our way after leaving Deer River on the way back through Duluth to the twin cities. I’d always been told there wasn’t much to see, I expected a very small, and sort of depressing place and it was far from it. Seemed to be a decent size town with beautiful houses, businesses and what not. We spent most of the time trying to get Siri to tell us where Dylan’s home was, and not sure we ever found it. Some photos here, the main drag, the street in his honor, the railroad tracks not too far from downtown, etc.

Well I wrote this post a few days ago, only to wake up this morning and discover that he has won the Nobel prize in literature. So it seems like the right day to post this.

“When your gravity fails you, and negativity don’t pull you through.” Nobel prize as far as I’m concerned.

 

RED WING-UNIVERSAL MUSIC CENTER

Universal Music Center is on the campus of the Anderson Center, just on the way out of town from Red Wing. Kids come for lessons. And Susan Forsythe and Mike Arturi were kind enough to invite a few to meet with me, and play my piano. The oldest girl played something of her own, but then after hearing the others proclaimed, “I want to play something people already know”, which turned out to be from the movie Frozen. It was something I’ve realized from the beginning, that the familiar is often the most interesting on this beast, it’s the differences that are at least amusing, and often intriguing, occasionally compelling.

 

WTIP

WTIP is an independent radio station way up north in Grand Marais near the boundary waters. Will Moore is a DJ and music programmer there, and I met him through my sister-law, Robin Eschner, who did a big project in Grand Marais about John Beargrease, the legendary musher and mailman who delivered mail throughout the north shore. In any event two staff members joined me besides Will, both pianists. Martha Marnocha and Sherri Lindskog. Here is a video of Sherri playing “Ain’t She Sweet” and Marth playing Oliver Nelson’s “Stolen Moments”. Also Martha with “The Girl From Ipanema”, not sure if the lyrics would fit over this version. Also some pictures from The Clearwater Lodge where we spent a few days after our time in Grand Marais.

THOSE WHO MADE THIS POSSIBLE

After we left Minnesota, I spent a few days driving East and a few days settling in to the Blue Mountain Center, where I am extremely grateful to be for another 3 weeks. I have a ton of stuff to edit, and will start posting soon, but I want to start with an acknowledgement of the folks that made this all possible.

First the McKnight Foundation, working with American Composers Forum funded this project, and the ACF has been really helpful connecting me to various folks. Especially in St. Cloud and Fergus Falls, which were both fantastic. There is a picture here with Bill, Laura and Kris at the office in St. Paul.

Next I want to thank my dear friend Marian Moore. I met Marian when I was in 9th grade and she was in 8th, in Washington D.C. We have been friends ever since. She has been incredibly generous in letting me stay at her home in Minneapolis, and in contacting all sorts of friends, and this is a person with a LOT of friends, and lots of connections were made. I have been joking that I should say. “21 pianos” supported by Marian Moore with additional support from the McKnight Foundation.” Obviously I am joking but I honestly don’t know how it could have ever happened without her, something I should have thought of ahead of time!

A picture of her, off to the woods with kayak and car. Also a picture on her porch of our friend Jearlyn Steele, who I met through Marian, and with whom we collaborated with on Robin’s record, Rockabye. It was great to see her again, and I hope we make music again in the future.

Finally, when I was first there in June, an old friend from D.C. was visiting Marian as well, Cate Whittemore. She is a painter, and as we talked about the project she drew this wonderful map for me.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

GUEST POST: NICA JOINS FOR FINAL (for now) MINNESOTA DAYS

 

After a brief but sweet stint at the Mill City Farmers Market Saturday morning (including renditions of the McGarrigle Sisters, Debussy, Sinatra, Amazing Grace, etc) we hit the road and headed North to Fergus Falls. The lovely folks at Springboard For The Arts  had invited us to participate in the town’s fourth annual Kirkbride Arts & History Weekend – a weekend of events celebrating the historic Kirkbride Building , a former “asylum for the insane” that has been vacant since 2005.

We set up shop in front of the building itself, a sprawling castle-like estate perched above town. A few eager players tried the piano, including the town’s church organist who played a spooky rendition of Bringing In the Sheaves, which felt fitting against the abandoned backdrop.