Monday, November 12, 2018

October-November 2018, Veterans Day, Back to Birmingham 50 years later

Celebrating Veterans Day, this November 2018, with a new song, that almost fell into my lap.  Since 2014, I've been promoting my services on Airgigs,  as a long time studio musician, on keyboards, sax, vocals, guitar, full production demos, and the whole tracks.  Recently I started offering my services as a composer, putting music to a client's lyrics.  I accept, or decline, depending on the lyric, and how it's constructed, and if it grabs me in an emotional way, and not the money.  I also require a collaboration agreement, to avoid any potential conflicts. 

 I got a writing request from a combat veteran, from Iraq and Afghanistan, to compose to a lyric he wrote, called "The Dust Blows Forward, blows back".  I don't know much of his story, but the images in the song, seem to be of a dust storm in the Iraqi desert.  The song also deals a bit the mental effects of PTSD, which they used to refer to as "Shell Shock"  The VA reports veteran suicide rates at 20 per day, a shocking report.
 The lyricist wanted an alt rock kind of feel, similar to Tom Waits.  I added the military snare drum, to give the military vibe.

I've had my issues with American military involvement since Viet Nam, and other non declared conflicts, in the world.  When I turned 18, my draft number in the lottery was #39, and luckily my student deferment kept me out of the conflict, thousands of miles away, in a war I didn't support.  I moved to the San Jose bay area in 1977, which became  "Little Saigon" one of the largest Vietnamese populations outside of Vietnam, after the fall of Saigon.  They had a large music scene, and as a studio musician, many of my studio clients were Vietnamese karaoke tracks, CDs, movie soundtracks, and live shows. These were some of my favorite people I've worked with, and I learned much from their culture, and the difficult challenges of those seeking asylum, from war torn countries, One of my Vietnamese friends and client, left as a teenager, with only the shirt on his back. 
 We could still learn from their stories, in this era of building walls.   

Throughout my music career, I've met many of the policy makers of US foreign policy, that affect us all, including Colin Powell, Henry Kissinger, Donald Rumsfeld, Nancy Pelosi, and others.
WWII, was different, we had to save Europe from Hitler and Nazi Germany.  I've visited Nuremburg, and the site of the mass Hitler Rallies, much like the Trump MAGA Rallies of today.  As a young boy, my parents took me to see "Judgement at Nuremburg", in 1962.  I didn't fathom that such horrors could take place at that age, but I've seen the movie a few times as an adult, I read "Rise and Fall of the 3rd Reich" and numerous documentaires.   These things should be taught in the public schools, because the Nazi hate crimes have increased in the USA since Trump became President.  We need to teach our kids that democracy is fragile, and more than words on an ancient document, and can be taken away by the stroke of a pen, a racist cop, or a corrupt election, with voter suppression.  

 I've toured Germany as a musician, since 1993, my wife Maria is German, (Spanish Born) I've visited the concentration camps, and the Holocaust museums, and know the effects of racism, and dog whistle politics, which have resurfaced in the era of Trump, starting with the birther movement, that propelled him to the highest office in the land.

I was in Bonn Germany, 1995, (birthplace of Beethoven) doing a concert, on the 50th anniversary of 'VE DAY, WWII, with the Long John Baldry Band, Long John, who I toured with from 1987-2003,  was born in London during the height of the German Blitzkrieg, his father helped defeat the Nazis, Our band was Canadian, USA, and British. A German woman came up after the show and gave me a hug, and thanked us all and those on whose shoulders we stand, for her freedom, a moment I shall never forget.  With Trump's isolationist, nationalist agenda, I worry about our strong alliances, with our allies, NATO,  are breaking down.  I believe in building bridges, Not walls!!  
This picture speaks a thousand words, with Merkel and Macron, at the graves of the fallen

 Touring with Long John Baldry, (who discovered Elton John, and me in a 20 year later line of succession on the keys) especially through Europe, on the long bus and train rides, was always a great history lesson.  He knew probaby more, than most of my history professors, and seeing these important places are forever in my memory. 
I'm forever grateful, because I met Maria,  my wife to be in 1996,  on one of those great tours, in her hometown near Frankfurt Germany 

 My new upcoming CD, "Tweakin Some Twang" an Americana fusion of country, Blues, Gospel, Rockabilly, Soul, New Orleans, Cajun and Classical, includes worldwide musicians, from Canada, USA, Russia, Holland, Germany, Austria, and Spain.  

Sweet Home Alabama, 2015

I moved to Orange Beach Alabama, August 2015, where I spent many great summers with my parents as a teenager in Gulf Shores, AL.  I moved back from Vancouver BC, and started working at the Perdido Beach Resort as a solo piano Vocalist.  I've played Gospel music much of my life, as Organist at the Bebee Memorial AME, (African American Episcopal) church in Oakland California, around 2000-2004.

After coming to Orange Beach, I looked for a Sunday Morning church for I could be a part of it's musical experience.  I found a notice on Craigslist, which was heaven sent, with 2 ministers from the Unity Church, Jim and Donna Mullis, who have become great friends, and inspire me every week, with their message of inclusion,  

Path to Peace

Last month, I was part of the music production, a multi ethnic Choir of "Path to Peace" in Foley Alabama, a gathering of God’s children, including black, white and Hispanic churches, for reflections on the Christian call to reconciliation between races and ethnicities with music, worship and reflection. The goal is to start a dialogue that will lead to lasting friendships and dissolve racial lines that have been drawn in our community’s sands.

  Growing up in the Jim Crow south, in the Methodist church in the 50s and 60s,  Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi, with it's violently enforced apartheid, had a virtual  silence, indifference, and apathy, regarding the intense struggle for civil rights  going on around us.  If it were not for music and sports, we may not have come as far as we have today, with the holy trinity of the south, Jesus, footbal and guns.
The Church has come around recently, opposing Trump, on it's separation of immigrant families.  

 As a blues, soul, and Gospel musician, with also a background in classical music, the music of the black church, from radio, records and television, and the old hymns, with roots in the German, English Reformation, were co-existing in my upbringing, and I learned to play many of them.  European church music were the foundations of music theory, and learning these amazing harmonic voicings on piano, and voice, were the building blocks that are like a DNA of music in my brain that has never left me.  The Blues and Gospel of the Mississippi Black culture, co-existing in my musical and cultural dichotomy childhood were something I deal with to this day, with demographics, and what's gonna grab the people.
 If I were a dancer, I would be like Prince up on the Grand Piano, if I was a piano virtuoso, I could seque from Mozart to Jellyroll Morton, and celebrate all that music has to offer. 
  I grew up and learned to sing in the choir,  in the Capitol Street Methodist Church, with it's beautiful 1912, Gothic Style Revival, grand pipe organ.  The Church is now located in what now resembles a ghetto, now falling down, looking like a war zone, but a result of White Flight to more affluent suburbs.   Before


In 1960, my family moved from this Jackson neighborhood, to Birmingham Alabama, in an all white suburb called Vestavia Hills.  Birmingham was had a thriving downtown, concerts, a great symphony orchestra, that the school board would bus the kids downtown once a month to hear at the local city auditorium.  I had a great classically trained vocal teacher as a teenager, Dr. Vernon Skoog, head of the Birmingham music of city schools,  when my voice was changing, who taught me how to control my voice, from the diaphragm, vocal chords, and the nasal head tones, that I still remember to this day.  It wasn't the music I was most fond of, but I still use the techniques I learned from him to this day.

My favorite DJ in Birmingham, Dave Roddy, was promoting weekend shows at a National Guard Armory, with black R&B acts, from New Orleans, like Irma Thomas, and Otis Redding at high school dances, and discovered me during this time at aged 13.  Along with my brother, Chip and his band, the Ramblers, I opened for many of the top pop, soul and rock acts of the time, including Billy Joe Royal, Bobby Goldsboro. It was an amazing time to be part of this music scene, in Birmingham, while so much history was being made, on many fronts.

On Saturdays,  I'd ride the city bus down Red Mountain, to the movies with my friends,
get a hamburger and coke at the Crystal Hamburger, while the black kids my age, would used a "Colored only"  "to go" window around the back.  They were showing off some of the latest hip dance moves on the corner to us white kids.  On a dare, I invited some of them to come hang out and eat with us, at the Crystal, and they thought I was joking, crazy, or ignorant to the way things were,  as they apparently had been trained to obey the Jim Crow laws since early in childhood,  that had been in place for generations, and a violation could mean a beating, a cross burning or a hanging.
I didn't know who or what "Jim Crow" was, but often when walking downtown, I would see black men and women, carrying protest signs saying "Jim Crow Must Go" outside the big department stores, where I later met Dr. Martin Luther King, at Pizitz dept store, where he had organized a boycott, because they refused to hire black employees.  These brave kids, became the foot soldiers of the Birmingham civil rights movement, facing fire hoses, police dogs, beatings and jail.   During my October visit to Birmingham, my wife and I visited the Birmingham Civil Rights museum, where so much history was made. 

Justice Delayed, Justice denied 

On September 15, 1963, I was 12 years old, on my Dad's Birthday, my family witnessed the aftermath of the 16th Street Baptist Church  Bombing while driving to his birthday dinner after church. Four young girls died in the bombing, by the KKK.   FBI director J. Edgar Hoover closed the investigation of the terrorist bombing in 1968. The case was re-opened, and 24 years later, Prosecutor and now new Senator Doug Jones, also from Birmingham, was 9 years old at the time of the bombing,  was the prosecutor, and finally got a conviction in the case.

 Two months later, JFK was murdered in Dallas, where I lived for 4 years, in the 70s, and drove over the the assassination site hundreds of times going to work, or shopping, which always gave me a chill and a sadness, of this time of my life, and wondered what great things he could have achieved.

  This is my brother, Steve Sanders account, of that day, that changed our city forever, and was a turning point in the movement for equal rights.   Steve is a 6 time Emmy Award winning Television Journalist on WGN Chicago
"JLS, you may not remember but that horrific1963 bombing took place on our father's birthday, Sept. 15. We were heading downtown after church for a birthday lunch. As we drove closer to the bombing site, I still recall the pall of dust in the air and police barricades. About 15 years later, that scene was seared in my memory as a young radio reporter covering the trial of Robert Chambliss, one of four KKK terrorists responsible for the bombing."

This week, October 2018, of our Birmingham visit, 11 Jews were massacred in a terrorist attack, by a gunman, and a Synagogue in Pittsburg. Pipe bombs sent by a Trump supporter, to prominent
 Democratic leaders.  I thought we had progressed as a country, since those dark days in the 60s, and these times, since the election of 2016, we have regressed.  Here's a picture of our visit to Birmingham, with my wife Maria in a statue in Kelly Ingram Park, honoring the heroes of the Civil Rights movement.  

On October 29, I performed for the "Stars of the Industry" restaurant, and Hotel awards dinner, in Birmingham, one of my first visits back since my family left Birmingham 50 years ago.   The Perdido Beach Resort, where I've been performing for the last 3 years, won Alabama Hotel of the Year, They have been very supportive to me, and my wife, and I'm very grateful of my music position there.

Here's a picture of the street I grew up on, in Vestavia, a suburb of Birmingham, many great memories of this time.  My 2 brothers and I were a big part of the Birmingham music scene. There was always a jam session or rehearsal in this house where I learned to sing, play piano, bass, guitar, and drums. In 1968, our family was transferred to Monroe Louisiana.  It was a sad time for me, leaving the life I had here in Birmingham, but I've had an amazing life, and just celebrated my 67th Birthday.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

In the Studio December, January, February

Happy New Year 

Hope you all had a great Christmas holiday, and and wish you all a great 2018.  I've had some time off from my steady gig at the Perdido Beach Resort, Orange Beach,  had a great family reunion here in Orange beach with my brothers Steve, Chip, sister Cindy, and extended family.  

In 2014, I started my CD "Tweakin some Twang" crowd funded originally by Kickstarter, which didn't reach it's goal and all of the money was refunded to the original donors.  I switched to Indiegogo, which allowed the recipient to keep all funds raised.   To all my generous donors, I'm so sorry this has taken much longer to finish than anticipated. 
I started in 2014, with some great sessions, with basic tracks recorded in Sacramento and Berkeley,  overdub sessions in Vancouver, Spain, Alabama, Los Angeles.  

The funds raised were not enough to cover the expenses, and with my touring schedule and live performance schedule after moving to the Alabama Gulf Coast, the CD has taken much longer than anticipated.  The mix down engineers that I had hoped for were charging about $500 per song, which ate up much of my recording budget, so I've found a few that will deliver a great product, and will sound great.  
Here's one of my favorite tracks from the CD "Joy In the Morning" written for my beautiful wife Maria, who is the muse and the love of my life

Just started back on my house gig, Perdido Beach Resort, great Christmas reunion with my family in Orange Beach, Christmas Eve in New Orleans, 

We have a new Grandchild coming in March, and hope to go back to Spain, near Seville.  
Great Spiritual studies, and inspiration playing music, Sunday Mornings at Unity Church Gulf Shores Alabama, 
Welcome back Snow Birds. 
Played my first Mardi Gras Ball, with a Tower of Power Cover band, "Everybody's Here" in Mobile, which held the first mardi Gras Celebrations in the USA in 1792

 My connection with Tower of Power go back to 1975, opening for them in Dallas,  and then a great musical association, arranging "Oakland Zone" horns for them, and my Doc Kupka Solo Cds, Doc Goes Hollywood, Kick it up a Step, and "Bumped Up to First Class" 

I'll be taking orders for the new CD "Tweakin some Twang" Pre-sale order at $15.00 

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Working with online music clients from home

In the Summer of 2014, I was living in Spain with my wife Maria in the Small Village  of her family, and her birth, in Villar Del Rey, population about 2000.

We were in between concert tours, in Germany, Italy Croatia, Slovenia, and I had a keyboard, a studio mic, a laptop, and a wifi connection. I started posting my session player music website resume to various online session player services and since then, I've built up a very good roster of clients.  I'm still working 5 nights a week, as a solo piano vocal entertainer, but enjoy taking on some very interesting projects.
Many of my music clients come from  Airgigs, A website where artists can hire session players, vocalists, mix down engineers, etc, I'm listed as a sax player, keys, vocal, arranger and full demo production.
Here's a track I Wrote and sang for the Cosmic Pimp Band in Switzerland called Main Squeeze

More of my Session work to come.

Friday, February 10, 2017

February 2017, From Orange Beach Alabama

Hello friends, It's been too long since I've written a newsletter. Since my last writing, I married the girl of my dreams. Maria Silverio Gomez. We met in 1997, on a Long John Baldry Tour, in Fulda Germany, where Maria lived for 36 years. 

We found each other on Facebook, after too long apart, We were married in October 2015, Since August 2015, we've been living in Orange Beach Alabama, Where my family vacationed every summer during my childhood and teen years. I had a condo here, and sold it in 2010, just before the Deepwater Horizon Spill. 

I'm working between 6 and 7 nights per week, at the Perdido Beach Resort, playing grand piano in the Lobby, and The Fish River Grill, My last tour was the Summer of 2014, It's a bit lower profile than some of my huge concerts on the road, but the weather is great, I am writing and finally finishing my long overdue CD, that was crowd funded, 

I'm currently working on a 4 volume release for the Yamaha Disklavier player piano
for Player Piano Premier, featuring 40 of the greatest songs from Elton John.  
I was the pianist with Long John Baldry, for many years, the blues legend who discovered Elton in the mid 60s as a young man.  His music has been an inspiration since I heard his 1st CD in the 1970s,  I'll post some of the audio version of these,  it's been quite challenging to put his vocal and piano style into a cohesive arrangement, but the results have been beautiful

Recently I performed with one of the best artists on the Gulf Coast,  Mr. Lee Yankie, and the Hellzyeas at the Florabama,  He's an amazing guitarist and I hope to do some recording with him soon.  

Will send more updates as they come. Maria and I just got back from a wonderful Christmas Celebration with family in Germany and Spain, Will post a few pictures and rough mixes from the new CD, Best wishes, peace and love