An interesting week, June 8-14, 2008

I have known Paul Reisler for 25 years, since we met at The Winnipeg Folk Festival in 1982 when he was playing with Trapezoid. I recorded with him on many projects, most recently the fascinating “At Night The Roses Tango” a few years back. Since then, we’ve played concerts of this music every June in Virginia where he lives. This June, I played 2 concerts, one at the small theater run by Loren Maazel at his country estate, the other in a park in Vienna, VA.

The Maazels’ venue is unique, in the middle of nowhere, totally unexpected. It is small- about 85 seats, but capable of staging operas- full lighting system, an orchestra pit, Boesendorfer piano, PA, etc. It was very inspiring to perform on a stage that has featured some of the world’s greatest classical musicians. Adding to the inspiration was the presence of the great singer Ysaye Barnwell from Sweet Honey in the Rock. Maestro Maazel’s extremely gracious wife was our hostess, making us feel welcome, almost like family members, and the whole staff were the same way. We were treated to a delicious after- concert meal, and stayed in the luxurious guest house down the road.

After that, I had a few days off and got to visit with my friend Lorraine Duisit, another former ‘Zoid, whose album  “Hawks and Herons”, I recorded on in 1983. It is still one of my favorite recordings. She is writing a lot of new music and sounds wonderful. We have started collaborating- she just composed a musical setting for my poem “Make Your Heart a Garden”  (which you can read here at levyland.com).

I also visited Shahin Shahida, guitarist/producer who plays in the Genesis ensemble with me. Vocalist Humayun Khan came up and we jammed and recorded late into the night at Shahin’s studio in his mountain home nearby. Very inspiring, and much more of that to come. Then, I drove to Washington DC and lobbied Congress to help get a bill passed that will FINALLY pay musicians for their performances on terrestrial radio broadcasts. Up till now, only the composers of the music have been paid. So the record labels and musicians’ union got a group of us together to lobby. My group included Alejo Poveda (drummer for Chévere), and studio legends David Spinoza and Neil Steubenhaus. It was fascinating, and I just found out that the legislation was approved by committee, so it will actually go to a vote and perhaps become law.

Then I played the second concert with Paul in a beautiful park in Vienna, VA, for a very enthusiastic audience. I drove my rental car to Takoma Park to the home of my dear friend, Marika Partridge. She used to program all the music for “All Things Considered”, played lots of my stuff in between news items. She and her family are special friends of mine. They were having a party, and I played an impromptu solo piano concert for them, which was about as much fun as I’ve ever had doing that. After a short night’s sleep there, I flew to Detroit, where I was driven to Ann Arbor to rehearse for A Prairie Home Companion. It is always a great experience and this was no exception. The beautiful Hill Auditorium was packed with over 4,000 rabid fans, and they really liked my solo feature, “Blues in Triplicate”, that I wrote specially for the ocassion.

At the after- show party the next evening, I mentioned the name of the one person I know in Ann Arbor, and the person I was talking to said, “Oh, he’s right over there” It was Peter “Madcat” Ruth, one of America’s great harmonica players. I have known him for many years, and he had played at an outdoor festival right next to the hall where I had played- at the same time! One of those odd things…And with him was Benj Kanters, from Evanston, who used to run Amazing Grace and Studiomedia Studios. He was visiting his daughter who attends U of Michigan. Small world…

After a week like that, it was good to get back home, feeling inspired, energized, and gratified.

 

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