Stephane Grappelli Hall

I think the first lp I bought by Stephane Grappelli was the double set Satin Doll. I loved his playful, soulful tonality & the range of his music tastes. Never adventurous but never boring. He is a jazz master for sure. In my collection I have Stephanova, Live, 1971, Hommage a Django, Satin Doll, Duet with Menuhin 2 cds, Romouski 94. Some as stand alones, some at lp to cd transfers & some as mp3. All worth listening to.

The mp3 collection also includes some great tango work: Gotan Project: La Revacha Del Tango. Grand Salon Orchestra: Tango’s. Gotan is a more modern take on tango while Grand Salon is traditional. Both are fun. 

With them is Chile’s Los Jaivas: Alturas De Manchu Picchu; Aconcagua – this is latino progrock – a fine delightful mash up of folk, jazz, rock that is worth seeking out. Finally a pair of lps by Cacho Tirao: Guitarra, Imágenes – this is splendid latino guitar, a little experimental but beautiful & transporting.

Nearby on the jazz shelf is a stand-alone by guitarist Jim Hall: Concierto. A jazz standard is Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez, a classical piece for guitar, that countless musicians from Miles Davis to Emerson Lake & Palmer, have reinterpreted. Hall’s take is sweet thanks to Don Sebesky’s arrangement. Joining him are legendary Chet Baker & Paul Desmond.


Mark stepped on something. A harsh crack and an echo.

‘What was that?’ he stooped to see what he had crushed. A small silver bead. Glass. ‘Wonder what it was?’

‘Christmas beads, you know those strings for around the tree. When I was unpacking it to repack it, it broke. Beads all over the place.’

‘Not hard to visualize this place as full. Table, chairs, bed.’ Mark walked over to where the bed had been. The floor was scratched in the four spots where the legs had rubbed back and forth. ‘There’ll be something off the damage deposit for this.’

‘Honourably earned after years of use. And I don’t mean single occupancy either.’

There were lighter spots along the wall, where the various paintings and pictures had been. Different sizes and shapes. Peeling wall paper along wall near the bottom of a door that the cat had taken a dislike to it.

‘What happened to the cat?’

‘New home. Ginger was the first thing out of here in fact. He’s adjusted. Takes a while.’

Mark sniffed. ‘Don’t smell much of the cat here now. Good thing. That always makes it harder to rent.’

‘I suppose. Here are the keys. You have my number if there’s anything.’

‘Yeah. You did an okay job clearing out.’

‘As best as I could bother doing. Not really my responsibility is it? I’m not sure what to do about the crap on the balcony though. Gardening stuff.’

‘He liked to garden. I’ll see if the other’s tenants may want some of it. Those big pots looks useful.’

‘I was wondering …’


‘If I could be here a few minutes. Alone. Now that it’s empty of everything I want to just be here. Bare walls & dust. The door’ll lock behind me when I leave.’

‘Okay.’ Mark left. Strange notion but after years of being super here he’d seen his share of strange notions. What did the guy expect to get in an empty room? A chill. No ghosts here.

New tenants were already lined up. The waiting list was long. It was a big bachelor, could be made into a one bedroom easily enough. Might think on that. Raise the rent too, without having to do much work. 

Shame though, the guy that lived here had been such a good old guy. One of the long term residents. But when death comes it makes room for the next tenant.

every Tuesday 2019


Stratford Festival – Nathan The Wise

August 2-13: getting back to my roots in Cape Breton

August 8: Highland Arts Theatre: 

Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee on my trip to Cape Breton – sweet,eh? 


Shaw Festival – Sex (Mae West)

Stratford Festival – Little Shop Of Horrors

June  – Capturing Fire 2020 – Washington D.C. 

Hey! Or you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee in Washington at 2020’s – sweet, eh?

Like my pictures? I post lots on Tumblr


Chet Baker

Chet Baker – Jazz Around Midnight; in my jazz collection a set of his Big Band sides; on mp3 collection Plays & Sings the Great Ballads; plus a set with Miles Davis. Plays & Sings was my introduction to Baker, a cheap import with a dozen or so tracks, vocal & instrumental. His voice is vulnerable, a bit fragile in timbre but sweet. A song stylist as opposed to a ‘belter.’

His trumpet playing is fine. His sound is more emotional than, say, Davis. The Big Band sides are on Pacific Jazz – a major label in ‘cool’ in its day. His life is tragic – junkie, bad relationships. As a result of a drug deal gone bad he was beaten & had his teeth kicked out. I can’t imagine how a horn player would deal with that but he survived.. He sang more for one thing, but keep recording right up to his death. He died a junkie.

CBSky01 cloudy sky over Cape Breton

Also on the mp3 collection: George Shearing & Mel Torme – an Evening with; A Vintage Year; Mel alone: Swingin’ On The Moon. Mel is the opposite of Chet – not ‘cool’ by any means yet that guy could swing. On The Moon is a lp with every song being about the moon. His work with Shearing is the epitome of smooth.

CBSky02less cloudy sky over Cape Breton

To round out the mp3 collection is Cleo Laine, Ray Charles – Porgy & Bess: There was a trend at one time to do these complete recordings of Porgy & Bess. I have Miles doing it, even Fitzgerald & Armstrong tackled it. This version is a bit more soul than jazz and great work out of both of Cleo & Ray.

CBSky03 in the clouds in the sky over Cape Breton

Capping the mp3 collection is one of  that  spate of Bobby’s in the late 50’s/early 60’s: Curtola, Rydell and this one is Bobby Darin. Beyond the Sea is an extensive best of collection – rock, pop & swing – he had image problems but lots of talent. He recorded some great stuff but never got free of the Hollywood image machine to develop an identity. Fine stuff though & a pleasant voice that deserved better material than it often got saddled with.

The song Beyond The Sea is one of my favorites but the Americanized version of the French hit, La Mer, always leaves me a bit disappointed. More about it when I get to ‘t’ & La Mer’s composer Charles Trenent.


Seeds of Paradise

The sparrow flew from the eaves of one house to the next. Several others followed it in quick succession. They skittered along the edge, eyes on the bird-feeder in the back yard. Eyes on the seeds. Eyes on the squirrels that were after the bigger seeds, the sunflower seeds. Once the squirrels were done the sparrows descended.

Two alit first and pushed the seed casings around, another two joined them, one of the first two flew off and a new fourth joined them. The other sparrows lined up along the fence waiting their turn.

The squirrels had leaped off the feeder and to a near by tree. Two of them that would grunt and chase each other through to the next yards and to the next feeder. Or cross the damp grass to stop abruptly and start to dig for something. It appeared they didn’t know what or where they had hidden that something. Holes would appear scattered over the yard, in flower beds, even flower pots, as they searched for that something.

The cycle would repeat and repeat endless. Every two or three hours it would start. Birds, squirrels, digging, fluttering. The only breaks would be a crouching cat in search of mice – mice that were also attracted by the seeds. The birds would flutter away but the squirrels would go on, one eye on the cat and the other on their search.

Occasionally the cat would leap on the fence and across to the garage roof and gradually make its way to the bird feeder. Though after sitting patiently in wait there after an hour or so with no action it would stretch and work its way back to the ground.

The cat, the birds, the squirrels would all dart away when human foot was set in their paradise. Though if one sat silently long enough the birds would gather again, the cat may come forward for patting while the squirrels would sit high in the fir tree grunting and squawking with frustration.

To sit for a time would be rewarded with the approach of blue birds. Birds unafraid of the squirrels for that matter. They have been seen shooing the squirrels away with repeated darting and pecking. No dogs disturb the kingdom. Only the intrusive comings and goings of the humans who would fill the bird feeder, scatter pop corn or spend far too long doing their own digging in the soil for plants.

stream rainy day in Cape Breton

Billy Strayhorn

I’m jumping the jazz queue for this month; with Pride coming at the end of June I thought I would look at some gay music icons. In jazz there are fewer than one would expect, other than divas like Bessie Smith.

bury what’s been hid

On my shelf is ‘Lush Life’ a collection of Billy Strayhorn performances – solo, combo & with Ellington. He was an out gay man all his adult life – David Hajdu’s biography, also called ‘Lush Life’ goes into great detail about Billy’s career, accomplishments & his out life. Read it.

He was Ellington’s arranger, composer & co-composer for too many songs to list. It’s like seeing how much Cole Porter wrote. Amazing. Take the ‘A’ Train & Satan Doll – two of the better known.

reflection Danforth reflections

But he rarely took the spotlight. It’s not clear why not in the biography – perhaps being queer in private life was fine but being so & on stage at the same time wasn’t possible. He developed drinking and drug problems – standard for the frustrated.

The music is polished, full bodied and varied. He sings a few songs on this CD and has a good jazz voice – a bit like Chet Baker. His piano playing is superb. His lyrics are pointed, sometimes sad, and reflect his frustrations.

glass not even half full

Lush Life being a prime example: it starts: ‘I used to visit all the very gay places/Those come what may places’ and ends ‘Romance is mush/ Stifling those who strive./ I’ll live a lush life in some small dive/ And there I’ll be while I rot with the rest/ of those whose lives are lonely, too.’ Alcoholism killed him.




a song


notes float

hover in the air

a voice

perhaps a voice

I don’t listen that closely sometimes

nor do I care

listening is transport

to another place and time

without movement

without language


a song

voices merge   separate

violins twine cautious   then fully

power throb of choke hold that slackens


another note

another coin hovers

a flute


they join with the violins

the deep brass of coronets

also joins

a race

run around a melody

stomp it

hide it


speak it

plain simple

a single plucked


reverberates with melody




not too long

as I sit   listen

my heart beats in the hush

rapid with expectation

the large rush

several all whole


how large is that orchestra

how can it fit in my little speaker

how can it be contained by my ears


another listening

another day

another hour to sit

guitars pile metallic gratings around me

drums scatter around my eyes

move so quickly

the ears can barely follow them

to sort them out from the rapid flame guitar

cannot separate them from the voice

the soft gentle silky voice

the rough gravel voice

the several voices

all voice

in all songs

do the same thing

they merge   submerge

dance around destroy displace

replace enhance melody

the linger flicker of notes

take the strings of the heart

the voice of the heart

that flow follow through

a tease becomes sooth anger



slabs of guitar

scour the air

weld the steel of strings

to the windows

fill the corner

as full as full can be

stir memory

promising so much more

then over




hushed again

waiting for something to follow

sit in the comfortable chair

hear the melody

written before I was born

recorded before I was born

words before I could speak

a sound that speaks to me

to people I will never meet

people with better things to do

people who hear but don’t listen

people who deny this moment

this sound

this joy


another song wait

it doesn’t exist till I hear it

till it merges with my life

with my moments of

being the one to hear

the one to command

to relax   slip

into where it will take me


I give the music permission

to move me

touch me

take me

where no human can or will

I surrender to what I don’t understand

why that melody reaches out to me

why that guitar

why that voice

why that violin

why those chords

no tongue can describe

tree02 winter sky