June 10, 2006
For those of you who wonder what I’ve been up to recently- I wrote 9 new compositions for a new harmonica instructional video filmed at my house by my webmaster Chris Sampson with filmmaker Otis (blanked on Otis’ last name). They are in 9 keys, and I played them on a C harmonica for the sake of music theory. There is an Indian – style piece in Db, a Spanish tune in Ebm, a swing tune in E, a Klezmer- style piece in Fm, a Tango in F#m, a funk tune in Abm, a bossa in A, a bluesy swing tune in B, and some Blues in C and Bb.

Recently, I read the biography of film composer Bernard Hermann- Citizen Kane, Psycho, etc. An amazing story. Also another book of interviews with film composers. On my long plane rides to Europe and back, I became addicted to crossword puzzles. I did them till my brain shut down and I fell asleep.

On piano, I have been trying to become more proficient at playing classical piano music. As someone who is primarily a jazz musician, this can be an incredibly frustrating endeavor. But it is very gratifying, and the hard work pays off, especially for my left hand. I’ve been tryiong to play some of the 24 Preludes and Fugues of Shostakovich- they stuck in my head from hearing Sviatoslav Richter recordings years ago. I’ve been revisiting several Mozart Piano Sonatas, the Debussy Arabesque #1, several Scarlatti Sonatas that I used to play 30 years ago (…), the Brahms Rhapsody Passionato and his beautiful Intermezzo in Bbm.

Fox and I have been playing a lot of Dvorak pieces- the Sonata in G, Songs my Mother Taught Me, 4 Romantic Pieces, and the Romance in Fm, as well as playing through the Beethoven, Tchaikowsky, Brahms, and Glazounov violin concertos, with me stumbling through the more difficult orchestral passages. We always go back to the Mozart and Beethoven sonatas, too.

In Jazz, I continue exploring the ins and outs of Coltrane’s “Giant Steps” period, trying to more thoroughly internalize the 7 modes of the Lydian Augmented scale system, and I am always writing little tunes, which sometimes develop into bigger ones.

Just last night (June 9), I sat in with The Flecktones at The Chicago Theater. It was a lot of fun- we played “Sex in a Pan” and “The Sinister Minister”, with an amazing Victor Wooten bass solo at the end. A few months ago in the same theater, I sat in with Donald Fagen, playing “What I Do” from the “Morph the Cat” cd. That was a thrilling experience for me. I had to rush down there on a break from Chévere at The Green Mill, play, and then rush back. It was an experience I will never forget.

Also went on a wonderful outing to Iceland in May, courtesy of Garrison Keillor. We played a 3 hour show carried live on Icelandic Radio, which was edited down and broadcast May 20 as “A Prairie Home Companion”. The morning after the show, I got to see some spectacular scenery- waterfalls, geysers, etc. The images stayed in my mind for weeks. I hope to go back some time.

I recorded 4 tracks on harmonica for bassist/composer Matt Geraghty at CRC in Chicago. Also recorded 12 tracks on piano for a very diverse cd featuring Alberto Mizrahi, produced by Stuart Rosenberg at The Tone Zone in Chicago, Roger Heiss engineering. But wait, there’s more….Anthony Molinaro and I recorded our June 3 concert for our 2nd cd, Joel Fox engineering.

A project released earlier this year is Bonnie Koloc’s “Here to Sing”. I produced it at my house. Joel Fox engineered and mastered. I played piano and harmonica, and hired great musicians who played their hearts out on this. It’s special. The cd is available at www.bonniekoloc.com. Here is a review from Sing Out Magazine:

Sing Out! review
Here To Sing
Reviewed by Rich Warren

Bonnie Koloc is not a folk singer. Now that is out of the way, I can say she is fabulous. She sings blues, jazz and the odd folk song. Her versatile, fluid soprano pours forth effortlessly wrapping itself around whatever song it touches. Similarly, the songs wrap themselves around Koloc. Wisdom and passion burnish her performance to a fine patina. While Koloc has been singing and recording since the early 70s and is something of a super star in the Chicago area, Here to Sing is the first album to do her justice. Much of this can be attributed to producer and multi-instrumentalist Howard Levy. Although Levy is joined by other accompanists, the CD is far from over-produced and the musicianship shows exceptionally high quality. Koloc penned seven of the 12 songs on this CD. Her opening “Red Hot Red” ignites the CD with a sizzle, but her song that follows “Slow Dancing to the Blues” shows the remarkable range of her voice. Her intriguing song “The Snake” is an involving allegory. Koloc also does great justice to North Dakota farmer Chuck Suchy’s folk-style songs “Dancin’ in the Kitchen” and “Its Great When It Rains.” She has a lot of fun with Willie Dixon’s “Little Red Rooster.” Her interpretation of “Skylark,” the classic by Hoagy Carmichael and Johnny Mercer is an absolute keeper. If I set the CD player to repeat a single track, that would be it.

Koloc’s “I Love You Waltz,” written for her husband, sure sounds like a folk song. However, on the next track Koloc also displays a sense of humor with her song about the foibles of marriage “Crumbs in the Butter,” which she performs like a 1950s doo-wop classic. If you want to hear a knockout performance of diverse, well-chosen material, Koloc is Here To Sing.

Reprinted with permission from Sing Out! v.50#3. (c) 2006 Sing Out!All rights reserved.

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