Tunes on Tuesday – St. Thomas

Why this tune?

I’m writing this from St. Croix in the US Virgin Islands. We heard a jazz concert here on one of our first visits, and weren’t surprised when the band closed the set with “St. Thomas,” named for another island in the VI. We associate the tune with Sonny Rollins, who recorded it first in 1957. I learned from KUVO Jazz that this was not the first recording of the tune by a jazz musician. Randy Weston recorded his version of this tune a year earlier with the title “Fire Down There”.

Dig this detail!

Back in DC and other places in the US, it’s more common for jazz bands to close the set with Kenny Dorham’s New York Theme or some other melody on “rhythm changes,” the chords of Gershwin’s I Got Rhythm.

I’d love to hear what jazz bands in other parts of the world play at the end of their sets. I wrote a closing theme for the DC Jazz Jam in Washington, DC, which I look forward to playing when we get back to live jam sessions.

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Sonny Rollins: St. Thomas

Video summary of this week’s tune

Randy Weston: Fire Down There

Kenny Dorham: NY Theme

Oren Levine: 18th Street Theme

Tunes on Tuesday – Alternative Facts

Why this tune?

I have been working with the International Center for Journalists for several years on projects supporting independent journalism and countering disinformation. When I heard a government official talk about “Alternative Facts” on the news, that moved me off the couch and to the piano to start writing a response. I call this process “turning indignation into inspiration.” I had Charles Mingus’ “Fables of Faubus” in my head, and hope the tune managed to capture some of his spirit and energy.

I chose to not write any lyrics for this tune, to keep the focus on the overall mood instead of specific subject matter. I thought “Faubus” was also an instrumental, but learned only recently that Mingus did write lyrics for his tune, which Columbia refused to include on the original recording.

Dig this detail!

Lionel Lyles contributed a spectacular solo in the recording of this tune on my album Making Up For Lost Time. He then paid me the compliment of recording his own arrangement of the tune on his album Simplistically Complex in 2019. I encourage you to check out his version (below) and the whole album. I’m always thrilled to hear other musicians interpret my tunes.

I would appreciate donations to support Tunes On Tuesday and my other projects!

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Video summary of this week’s tune

from Making Up For Lost Time: Lionel Lyles, tenor sax, Mark Saltman, bass, Paul Jung, drums

from Simplistically Complex, by the Lionel Lyles Quintet

Charles Mingus, “Fables of Faubus”

“Faubus” with the lyrics

Tunes on Tuesday – I Believe In Rhubarb

Why this tune?

Spring means gardening, which in my case was the inspiration for my first song with lyrics, “I Believe In Rhubarb.” If you’ve heard me perform this with Barbara Papendorp and others, you’re heard the story – I mentioned to a friend that my wife doesn’t like rhubarb, and in fact doesn’t believe in it, at least not as anything anyone is supposed to eat. My friend replied “I believe in rhubarb,” which struck me as such an excellent song title that it deserved a song to match.

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When I started writing songs back in 2008, I was determined not to write anything too serious, sticking to fun topics like vegetables and public transportation. Since then I’ve expanded my range and explored more personal topics like love and loss. If you’re a songwriter, I’d like to hear about your journey, and how you came to write about different topics. 

I would appreciate donations to support Tunes On Tuesday and my other projects!

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Beth Logan Raffeld sings Rhubarb in 2009

Barbara Papendorp and Russwin Francisco sing Rhubarb in 2013

Tunes on Tuesday – For A Tree

Why this tune?

This year’s national Arbor Day is on April 24, and I’m celebrating the day original song dedicated to the trees, called For A Tree. This is part of an ongoing project to write songs for holidays that don’t, in my opinion, have enough good ones. I recorded For A Tree at home with vocalist Barbara Papendorp.  

Dig this detail!

The Arbor Day Foundation has come up with creative ways to celebrate the trees even when we can’t get out to see and plant them in person. For example, if you post a picture of your favorite tree on social media with the hashtag #arbordayathome and tag them, they’ll plant a tree for you. I of course posted the video of my song.

I would appreciate donations to support Tunes On Tuesday and my other projects!

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Tunes on Tuesday – An August Day In April

Why this tune?

This week I’m celebrating spring with one of my songs. We were visiting friends in Ithaca, NY on a hot April weekend. It was so hot that our friend remarked that it was like “an August day in April.” How could you not write something with a title like that? It’s a fun song, that I hope will help us all to think about happier times ahead.

Dig this detail!

For my album Making Up For Lost Time, I had the crazy idea to record this with all three of the singers I worked with on the project, Tony Gudell, Barbara Papendorp and Aaron Myers. I was really impressed that they and the band pulled off an arrangement of this song for three singers in three different keys.

I would appreciate your support for Tunes On Tuesday and my other projects!

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HillFest!

I’m honored to be performing at this year’s HillFest on October 12. This is the third annual free jazz festival put on by the Capitol Hill Jazz Foundation. It promises to be a memorable day of superb music. I’m planning a fun set featuring new arrangements of tunes from Making Up For Lost Time plus some other surprises.

The all-day festival on the 12th caps four days of activities, including a conference and education workshops.

Three Wammie nominations for “Making Up For Lost Time”!

I’m thrilled to announce that my debut album Making Up For Lost Time was nominated for three Washington Area Music (Wammie) awards, including Best Jazz Album and Best Jazz Song for the original songs “Alternative Facts” and “Let’s Wander.”

The awards will be announced on March 30 and 31, 2019 at a music conference and awards concert presented by The MusicianShip, a non-profit music education organization sponsoring the awards program.

December gigs

Here’s my list of gigs for December, featuring an exciting DC Jazz Jam with the great Fred Foss on alto sax, and performances with Barbara Papendorp (12/26) and Aaron Myers (12/28).

I’m also celebrating the release of Making Up For Lost Time at a house concert on the 13th. Please let me know if you’re interested in that, so I can send along the details. 

In addition to all that, I’ll be going into the studio with the Lucky So & Sos to record a couple of tracks for a future release. Stay tuned for more info about that project!

Happy holidays and Happy New Year!