Archive for the ‘food & music’ Category

Jazz and Wine at Sunset Hills

April 21, 2010

SSHV Main EntranceSSHV Outdoor Porch

Sunday, April 18, 2010.  A beautifully chilly spring day.  I am no jazz drummer, but I am working on it.  And playing at it.  And loving it.  I played for Seussical: the Musical with a couple of buddies who decided it would be fun to play some standards together…so we booked a show at Sunset Hills.  We show up on jazz time, set up (me on a chair because someone had lifted my throne a couple of nights prior), and burned through some standards (“All Blues,” “Take Five,” “Blue Bossa,” “Oye Como Va,” [sure that’s a standard!], “Straight, No Chaser…”).  Man, it was fun.  The winemaker is friends with my buddies, so he sat in on guitar…it was a treat.  And he makes an enormously fine Viognier, with a bottle of which he sent us home. (That is the kind of criticism up with which I will not put…).  Wine and jazz…a good Sunday afternoon.  Hopefully we’ll do it again soon…


Coffee and Donuts

March 25, 2010

Charlottesville:  Spudnuts.  Lovingston: Trager Brothers Coffee–Ethiopia, Sumatra, or Bali.  Take a bite.  Chew once or twice.  Take a sip.  Whatever chemical reaction happens in your mouth at this time is noteworthy.  Undeniable.  Sweet and savory blending in a dance of titillating taste-bud heaven.  Okay.  It’s like music in your mouth.  I’m done.  More later.

Independent Food Local Music Independent Music Local Food

March 12, 2010

The cover of the February Paste magazine salutes the 1966 Time cover, the one that asked “Is God Dead?”  Only Paste is asking “Is Indie Dead?”  Not such a heady question, but one that speaks to music fans.  Several teenagers have asked me what I think of when I hear the word “indie.”  It got me thinking.  Not much, really.  Part of me thinks that it’s an intellectual, cerebral matter: no one is going to die over this question (hopefully, although I imagine there are some folks that could get riled up over this debate), and part of me thinks it is a more visceral concern–people make their livings writing and talking about this stuff.  But mostly I’m left shrugging my shoulders, thinking, “well…”

Here’s what I think:  People who pursue art for art’s sake–painting, drawing, music, cooking, writing–those are the true independents.  The folks painting beautiful monochromes in their basement, or the guys playing music in the basement with their friends–these are the people to respect.  If acknowledgment comes to them in their time, great.  If not, they will still be pursuing their craft.   I have been playing drums for a long time, and I hope I can pursue this path of integrity for the rest of my days.

And I think the same can be said for the local foods movement.  I think it’s great that people are realizing the importance of knowing where their food comes from.  Check out the movie Food, Inc. I can’t say it any better than that movie shows it.  I heard Dr. Steven Jones say this one time, concerning diversity training, and it can be applied to music, food, whatever–“Do we need to call it  diversity?  Call it whatever you want to call it—Call it ‘love everybody’–just do the work.”

Is Indie dead?  Who knows?  Here’s what I know: It means a lot to pursue what you love to do, whether anyone ever sees it, reads it, hears it, or eats it.  Here is a final thought from my good friend and mentor, Gordon Gottlieb, again–I defer to smarter people than me:

What “words of wisdom” can you offer young people entering the field today?
With so many styles of percussion/drumming available to the curious, one can choose to perform and/or teach a myriad of instrumental or theoretical techniques. The savvy student is one who has an overview of the cross-currents of our art, can hone in on what is essential for him- or herself, and come to the art with humility and honesty. Being a rhythmist defines what we are, suggesting a life of continual striving for a state of grace with pulse and time. Any of another mindset need not apply.

What is essential is invisible to the eye…St. Exupery

More later.

Dr. Ho’s Pizza–Music on Tuesdays and Wednesdays

March 2, 2010

I need to write about Dr. Ho’s.  Food and music, music and food.  I love the fact that they present music only on Tuesday and Wednesday nights.  I think that is cool.   It’s like a weekend in the middle of the week.  Dr. Ho’s is one of those hole-in-the-wall places that just feels good to walk into–people call you by name, and you’re more than likely going to run into someone you know–and like, even.  The owners are cool, the waitresses are cool and laid back…MB will even sit with us at our table and talk books.  The walls are beset with postcards, album covers (Humble Pie), all sorts of kitsch.  The bathroom is full of paper plate art–Grateful Dead themes, “wanted Dominoes Pizza” posters, “Dr. Ho’s Knows…”  It’s beautiful in its variegated mash.  Bands pile into a corner of the restaurant after the wait staff move out a couple of tables, making the already usually packed joint a SRO establishment.  Yes it can be a pain in the ass, but the bands they get are worth standing for…on a nice evening we’ll sometimes take our pizza out to the grass next to the building, eating on a blanket and peeping in every now and then to hear the music.

And the food.  Man.  Dr. Ho’s is the first place I’ve witnessed using celery leaves in a dish–in their incomparable beet salad…beets sliced paper thin, celery leaves, spicy pecans, olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and Caramont Farms goat cheese.  Good stuff.  Great stuff.  Their soups are delicious–potato & leek, butternut squash, minestrone.  The pizza.  We always get a mix of the tomato and pesto sauces, organic Italian sausage, artichoke hearts…it’s an old stand-by, but all of their pizzas are amazing.  Plus they have a great beer selection and serve the local Blue Mountain Classic Lager, which is about my favorite beer of all time, although that is a distinction that can be debated, depending on what’s available at the time, if you know what I mean.  Check out the web-site and look at the menu:

One night after eating at the Ho, as we drove home down 29, Mary Catherine said, “You’re going to think this is cheesy, but you know what that place reminds me of?”  Without pause, I said, “Cheers.”  It’s not cheesy.  Everybody knows your name.  It’s got great food, beer, music, and it just feels great.  Like it says on the wall…”Dr. Ho’s Knows.”

Food containers as instruments: thoughts on generative music

February 24, 2010

Okay.  The opossum story:  opossum in the chicken house.  Got it out with a shovel…the dog would have nothing to do with it.  Don’t have a gun, so put opossum in trash can.  Thought I would give it a 50/50 fighting chance by taking it to the river and tossing it over the bridge.  Poor opossum.  I hope he’s okay.  Won’t be coming back to the chicken house any time soon, I reckon.

I notice in posts prior I mention the idea of “more later” and then fail to write the more later.  Well, I’ll work on that.  More later.

Lots of music going on this week: Sarah White and the Pearls are recording (and, yes, I will  play less).  Seussical: the Musical.  Keith Morris and the Crooked Numbers…Two shows with Doug Schneider and Kate Lambert at Westminister Canterbury in Richmond, where none other than THE James Erb (Google that guy) told me he enjoyed the show from beginning to end.  That may have been the nicest compliment I’ve been payed about anything.  I used to eat at their house on Wednesday nights before choir rehearsal and I will always remember that he would not eat bread with spaghetti–too much bread product.  His brilliance is unique and his humor is broad.  He arranged a version of “Shenandoah” that is sublime.  He and his wife Ruth are two of a kind.  And his son is one of my longtime best friends. Awesome.

So, on Saturday morning, I meet up with John and we talk about his PhD dissertation, which will be about generative music.  We also get into some esoteric recording.  See post below.  Hanging out with John Priestly, one can expect anything, so it’s good to go in with no expectations.  Coffee.  Check.  Music.  Check.  Intelligent Conversation.  One sided, but check.  Recording weird sounds.  Check.  Being almost forty but feeling 17.  Check.  Mind expanding.  Check.  My admiration for John’s intelligence.  Check.

John introduced me to Brian Eno’s and Peter Chilvers’s program Bloom.  That stuff is crazy cool and brought up much discussion on the idea of  music ownership, composition, and collaboration.  Look it up.  Creating systems of music to reproduce notes randomly (or not so randomly) intrigues me.  I have been a fan of Eno for a long time (our son was born as we listened to Discreet Music on repeat [an idea I think Eno would commend]) and I enjoy seeing how he is climbing the face of music entire, scaling to new heights of creativity.  So we experimented with sounds.  He posted it on his site.  Below.

Stuart meets the ceramophone…(photo by John Priestly)

So, there we have it–bowls as instruments.  Maybe next time: food as instruments.  Send me your thoughts.  More later.

“I like what you’re playing, just play less.”

December 4, 2009

I play drums for a great band called Sarah White and the Pearls.  I have been a fan of Sarah for a long time and I am really happy to be a part of her band.  I am filling the shoes of the great Steve Ingham, who would still be her drummer if he hadn’t moved to Verona, Italy.  He is a great artist.  Check him out here:  He was the perfect drummer for Sarah.  He played a bass drum and a snare drum, and he sang great back-up vocals.  I find Sarah’s music a challenge and deeply moving.

Steve provided such skeletal and muscular support with his bare-bones drumming.   It was perfect for her music, letting the subtleties of her words and guitar playing shimmer above everything.  I love playing the drums–I like the bombastic volume and flurry of whacked-out notes.  And I like cymbals.  I used to have a lot of cymbals.  Some might say too many.  Now I only use two.  Sarah thinks that’s two too many.  Which has become a kind of joke between us.  But she has a point.

Cymbals are loud and can be distracting.  I have learned a lot from Sarah and Steve about being sparse.  Sarah really likes to work a song until she feels it is “totally perfect.”  The other night, after playing a song, “That was perfect.  Let’s do it again so we can work on totally perfect.”  Now, I’m no perfectionist (just ask my wife), but I appreciate the effort.  The more we parse these songs, the better they sound.  One of my favorite sentences that came out of Sarah’s mouth was, “I love what you’re playing, just play less.”

How am I going to tie this to food?  Who knows?  The one thing I can think of is salt.  As my mother says, “You can always add more, but it’s hard to take it out.”  So, play well.  Cook well.  Use salt.  Use cymbals.  And remember, I like what you’re playing, just play less.

“Be a chef.”

November 24, 2009

More on bacon, drumming, and patience.   So Clyde Stubblefield, when I asked him to hip me to some cool drumming ideas, thought a while before replying, “Be a chef.”

“You might have to sizzle-fry something over here.  Then you might have to stir something over there.  And slow cook this thing here.  Yeah, be a chef.”  This was some of the most profound advice about drumming I had ever heard.  Be a chef.  A chef commands his kitchen.  A drummer commands his instrument, and, in turn, the band.  Where does patience fit in?

Some of my favorite drummers are drummers who drum with patience.  They let the song build.  I will catch a rash of hell for this, but think about Neil Peart on “Tom Sawyer” or “YYZ”.  The first fills in the songs are cool, but as the song progresses, the fills get a little loftier, a little more complex.  Think about Simon Phillips on Pete Townshend’s “Give Blood.”  He builds it over the whole song and finally gives us the ultimate tension breaker with that 2:3 catch at the end.  Amazing stuff.  The inimitable Steve Gadd.  Understated.  Understood.  And I think of Dave King of The Bad Plus.  A guy who can drum circles around most of us, but he just lays it down on “1972 Bronze Medal Winner,” a song he wrote, and as his bandmates keep time, he stretches the time wherever he wants it to go and meets them back on the one, when he feels like it.  Patience.
You can’t rush bacon.  You can’t rush drumming.  Patience.  Writing this stuff makes me think of a thousand other things I want to write about…


The Throne.

Just fine vs. perfection.

More later.