Rod Stewart – Merry Christmas, Baby

Each year I like to get a new Christmas album that celebrates the season by filling our home with traditional holiday songs as we decorate the tree and living room. What better way to honor the birth of our savior, Jesus Christ 🙂 than to fill the music of our heart.

I am pleased to see that Rod Stewart will release his first Christmas recording, Merry Christmas, Baby on October 30, 2012. Rod’s command of the Great American Songbook and his later career emphasis as a torch singer has built him an expanded fan base.

I am especially looking forward to the track that features a “virtual duet” with Ella Fitzgerald as they are accompanied by Chris Botti on trumpet. This is a multidimensional collaboration with digital technology playing a key role in bridging the past and the present.

I have been a fan of Rod Stewart’s ever since I saw him perform as the lead singer for the Jeff Beck Group on July 3rd, 1969 at the Fillmore East in the East Village in New York City. He was a striking figure that night in purple turtleneck and a long white knit scarf. He strutted that stage like a dandy.

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My Jazzy 60th Birthday in the West Village with Family :)

Yesterday was just one of the coolest, laid back days in my recent universe. Rosemary and I headed down to the West Village section of New York City to celebrate my sixtieth birthday. We first stopped off at Tabouli Grill in the Bulls Head section of Stamford. Rosemary has raved about this eatery so we had a quick-lunch which featured a Mango Smoothie and roasted veggie pita. It was delish.

We then proceeded on to the Jazz Record Center at 236 West 26th Street in Chelsea. I have yearned to shop at this store for years. I had just read an interesting article in Jazz Times magazine about jazz retail which gave me more specifics about this jazz mecca. It was well worth the journey as I immersed myself in one of the most extensive inventories of jazz merchandise I had ever browsed before. I made a solemn vow to return at another time to look and buy more extensively. The amount of books, vinyl and t-shirts to look at were amazing to say the least. I purchased three CDS, Sonny Rollins, Saxophone Colussus, Charles Mingus, The Black Saint and The Sinner Lady, and Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, A Night in Tunisia.

We then checked into our hotel, the SoHo Grand Hotel on West Broadway. Catching our breath for a second we soon headed off to the West Village for dinner and a late evening jazz concert at The Blue Note.

We parked near our son’s apartment which saved us a parking fee. Matthew joined us as we walked to One If By Land, Two If By Sea. It is a contemporary restaurant that used to be the carriage house of Aaron Burr. The food is over priced but very delectable. We had a few laughs and it was nice to dine as a family in our son’s backyard.

My son gave me a great gift for my sixtieth birthday, The SMiLE Sessions Box Set by The Beach Boys, the long-lost now, happily resurrected music collection has finally seen the light of day in late 2011.

Trust me this going to get a serious listen on the Bose sound system the next few days 🙂

Music is God’s Voice – Brian Wilson

Rosemary and I bid Matt goodnight. We headed around the corner to 131 West 3rd Street to The Blue Note to catch Chris Botti and friends at the 10:30 p.m. show. We waited online outside the prestigious jazz venue. It was our first time attending a jazz concert at The Blue Note. It was cold and we were online for an hour before they let us inside. We were given really good center section seats directly across from the bandstand where Chris Botti would be stationed.

They squeeze you in tightly at the long tables but the chairs were more comfortable than they appeared. Chris Botti and his band took the stage at 11:00 pm and played an eclectic 90 minute set. This was our first Chris Botti concert. We liked his horn playing and his stage camaraderie a lot.

I have just become familiar with the music and mastery of Chris Botti. He is a very apt horn player, bandleader and composer. He cuts a great figure as a celebrity and he is a fashionable guy.

This is his seventh annual extended appearance at The Blue Note. He calls this jazz club his residency, deservedly so. Chris exudes a strong electric magnetism which increased my respect for his musicianship. He plays the horn in a very skilful way that is never intimidating, captivating your senses. He serenades on the trumpet as you find yourself being happily carried along.

The Blue Note jazz club creates an immediacy that allows you to interact with this popular jazz artist and his fellow musicians. Chris Botti was joined by Geoffrey Keezer on keyboards. I first discovered Geoffrey Keezer on Artist Share where I downloaded Aurea. He proved to be phenomenal live, proficient with his touch on the keys.

Carlitos del Puerto from Cuba played standup and electric bass. He articulated the instrument well. I enjoyed how he accented notes and chord progressions. He was fun to watch. Leonardo Amudeo was the lead and rhythm guitarist from Uruguay. He proved to be powerfully deceptive as the evening progressed. I was taken with his guitar playing, which I found confident and explorative.

The core musician who blew me away the most was Billy Kilson. He had such a way of popping the drums in his kit that I was never bored with any selection he played. He brings an excitement to the drums as Chris Botti pointed out. When Billy Kilson hit his stride I was bopping along enthusiastically and Chris Botti took delight in my enthusiasm for his drummer.

There were two special guests that added a rich dimension to the evening’s music. Caroline Campbell was a spirited and authoritative violinist. She had a very commanding style with the violin which you eagerly followed.

The other guest was Lisa Fischer who is a very strong r&b (and much more) songstress. Her demeanor puts you immediately at ease as she ranged from torch song to opera to popular song. I could see readily why Mick Jagger values her as a backup singer for the Rolling Stones. Chris Botti mentioned that Lisa Fischer has been singing with him these past 18 months and the benefits of that partnership were quite clear last night.

I love that Chris Botti made himself available after the show to sign his new CD. I had him sign his Chris Botti in Boston work. I thanked him for making my 60th birthday very special. He smiled as he looked up from signing and said, “Happy Birthday”. It was a cool way to end a marvelous evening.

The Secret Of Life

Today is my 60th birthday. Wow, I can’t believe it. Who knows where the time goes….Its a day I have both welcomed and dreaded. But I have told myself the past few days that the secret of life is enjoying the passage of time. A song by James Taylor. The strength of James Taylor’s words and conviction offer solace as I reflect on what my life has been and what I have accomplished.

I could not have completed this journey up until this point without my loving wife Rosemary and my son Matthew. They give me reason to live. I am excited that tonight we’ll all be together for dinner in Greenwich Village. I couldn’t have a better birthday present than enjoying their company.Then Rosemary and I will attend a jazz concert by Chris Botti at The Blue Note in the Village.

To me this is the secret of life, enjoying the passage of time with those I love and having music tie the bow neatly on the package of my existence. It  truly is a good life that God has given me to live. 🙂

The Secret of Life

By James Taylor – Copyright 1977 Sony Entertainment, Inc.

The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time
Any fool can do it
There ain’t nothing to it
Nobody knows how we got to
The top of the hill
But since we’re on our way down
We might as well enjoy the ride

The secret of love is in opening up your heart
It’s okay to feel afraid
But don’t let that stand in your way
‘Cause anyone knows that love is the only road
And since we’re only here for a while
Might as well show some style

Give us a smile now
Isn’t it a lovely ride
Sliding down
And gliding down
Try not to try too hard
It’s just a lovely ride

Now the thing about time is that time
Isn’t really real
It’s all on your point of view
How does it feel for you
Einstein said that he could never understand it all
Planets spinning through space
The smile upon your face

Welcome to the human race
Isn’t that a lovely ride
Sliding down
Gliding down
Try not to try too hard
It’s just a lovely ride

Isn’t that a lovely ride
Oh mama yes
See me sliding down
And gliding down
Try not to try too hard
It’s just a lovely ride

Now the secret of life is enjoying the passage of time