News Archive

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~November 2021~

NEWS - I have a little new information. My Yeti Chasers job at the Third Place Commons has been moved up to earlier in the day. Those jobs are typically 7:30 to 9:30, but now we are 3 to 5. I was told it was covid related and I didn't understand at first, but the site manager explained that business in evenings has not been good and daytime was better. We are on stage, but share a large space with three restaurants, a book store and a large gathering area. It is a unique circumstance. However, I have just learned that some other bands that have been in the return to music there, have been too loud and businesses have said they are losing, not gaining customers. A new reality. Ah, we are, of course, an acoustic band, with no amplifiers. No problem. It is a reminder that audience, time and space all matter in how you approach playing music for people you may not know.

I have finished my virtual concert of original songs for Kenyon Hall. It will appear on youtube, probably mid-November, but I don't have a date yet. My trio with Jacob Zimmerman and Matt Weiner is now scheduled for a live performance at Kenyon Hall in January. No time yet.

~October 2021~

NEWS - I have some new activity in October and November. One interesting development is that the video person who did virtual concerts for Kenyon Hall before our friend and music director Lou Magor died a few months ago, is getting back into the concert program. He has asked me to do a virtual concert there. It will be solo and all my original compositions. We film October 8 and it will be available for viewing a few weeks after that. I am also happy to have a trio night at The Royal Room in November.

Here is a little story. Right after World War Two my family sailed for Norway to see how our relatives were doing after being free of Nazi occupation. We sailed on a ship called the Gripsholm and one thing I remember was a persistent rumor that Greta Garbo was on board. Since she had retired from film and was generally mysterious and reclusive we thought it was just a rumor. But a few days ago I decided to check her name in connection with the ship and sure enough there were many stories and pictures that she sailed to Sweden (where we landed) on the Gripsholm, July 1946. It was all true. I sailed to Sweden with Greta Garbo. All for real.

~September 2021~

NEWS - The state of the world seems to be moving forward and backward at the same time. Just as the virus slowed dramatically and the world opened up, the Delta variant and slowing down of vaccinations pushed the negative conditions back to more dangerous levels. New music work is coming along, but more slowly and more carefully than ever. I have some new things on the calendar page, but the new and growing standard is that everyone must be fully vaccinated and wear masks. OK. That is reasonable and sensible.

I have a new job right away, September 1 with Jonathan Doyle, and the Third Place Commons has asked the Yeti Chasers to play in November.

The world can get out of the dark days, but we have to be smart and work together. My daughter works 12 hours a day at Sacred Heart hospital in Spokane.

~August 2021~

NEWS - Music is back at the Pink Door in Seattle. I worked with Jacob Zimmerman and Matt Weiner on Wednesday July 28. It looks like their group will be playing every Wednesday, although I won't be a regular part of it. There are now some other things, although the world is still moving slowly.( I wish we were all vaccinated.) Two musical scenes will be returning in September. The Puget Sound Traditional Jazz Society will have its first meeting since February last year. I will be with the Dave Loomis band, September 19 and the Royal Roomis reopening September 15. I will be there that night with a small group of piano players who will play the music of earlier, historical pianists. I will be playing the music of Earl Hines. The calendar page will have details.

~July 2021~

NEWS - The biggest Seattle news of any kind is the heat. End of June to beginning of July have 100+ temps and records being broken. I am trying to keep my dog cool. The Fresno Dixieland festival is something to look forward to. Temperatures will be hot there too!

Early in June I played a house party for members of the East Bay Stomp dance people. It was an exciting return to a real world. Jacob Zimmerman led the group and Matt Weiner, Eric Eagle and I provided the rhythm. They are an enthusiastic and appreciative group, July 2 I will play for them again in a trio led by clarinet and sax virtuoso Jonathan Doyle. I am glad to have some work at last and a good crowd!

~June 2021~

NEWS - Live music is slowly getting started. I will be playing at the Fresno Dixieland festival July 9-11 with the Bob Schulz Frisco Jazz Band. This event is normally held in February and so it was one of the last events to take place last year before everything shut down. Participants and attendees need to be fully vaccinated or show a negative test within 72 hours of arrival at the festival. Good Idea! I also am tentatively playing in September for the Puget Sound Traditional Jazz Society. That one still has to be settled, but Fresno is definite. And the more people are vaccinated the more the world will open up again.

~May 2021~

NEWS - For the last several months I have been anticipating a piano concert at Kenyon Hall, just about my favorite place to play. Sadly, this will not happen. Lou Magor, the wonderful guy who runs it died unexpectedly a week or so ago. This was a shock to many Seattle musicians and a big personal loss. He ran Kenyon Hall with a great sense of joy, he understood, respected and appreciated the musicians who played for him and he had a loyal subscription crowd that always showed up for his creative mix of entertainment nights. We Will miss him.

One night when Jacob Zimmerman, Matt Weiner and I played there, Matt recorded part of the evening through his phone and it turned out quite well. Our first song was After Awhile and Lou can be heard and slightly seen giving us an enthusiastic introduction. On YouTbe at After Awhile. See full playlist at PLAY ALL: Ray Skjelbred Trio - Kenyon Hall April 20, 2019

Nothing else on the horizon, but I think more will come soon. But we need a higher vaccination rate for that to happen. Soon I hope.

~April 2021~

NEWS - April has arrived. Seattle weather shows a few warm moments, but it is still colder than I wish for this time of year. Baseball begins April 1 and that is good.

My friend Jacob Zimmerman has figured out an ingenious way to play music in the pandemic time. He has a rehearsal space that is next door to a wonderful coffee shop and restaurant. There is a narrow alley space behind both places and the restaurant has put some carefully distanced tables out back. Jacob then opens the back door to his space and plays solo clarinet for diners. He remains inside and the customers actually never see him. Last week I had a mushroom pizza and listened to some beautiful music.

My film "Piano Jazz- Chicago Style" should generally be more available for anyone to see now. Bob Morgan, who did the sound, has made it publicly available through his site. Also, anyone who wants to see my participation in the Mary Lou Williams night at the Royal Room can see it on youtube by going to Loudswell Mary Lou Williams Ray Skjelbred.

March was supposed to be Women's Month. I have been fortunate to have played music with many wonderful women musicians, including Barbara Lashley, Barbara Dane, Jen Hodge, Lori Lyster, Rebecca Kilgore, Victoria Spivey, Katie Cavera, Anita Thomas and more. All wonderful

Piano Jazz- Chicago Style, click here.
Mary Lou Williams night at the Royal Room, click here.

~March 2021~

NEWS - So many days during the last year have seemed like the same day that I am glad to see some positive, special days as we turn from February to March.

Feb. 27 - My dog's birthday (13)
Feb. 28 - My second Covid vaccination
March 1 - the first Chicago Cubs exhibition game
March 14 - Daylight Saving Time begins
March 20 - Spring begins

My virtual concert with the music of Mary Lou Willisms appears to have been a success. The picture and sound quality were excellent and there were many viewers. The business that conducted the concert hopes I can do more in the future. Meanwhile, I will, at some point, have a virtual concert at Kenyon Hall in Seattle. Details not settled. I continue to wear a mask and stay six feet apart, even from my shadow. And there are signs that we may see music in the world later this year.

~February 2021~

NEWS - For the first time in almost a year I have actually have a definite musical engagement. I will be live but the event will be virtual. February 17 at 7:30 PST, the Royal Room in Seattle will host PIano Starts Here, one of a series of tributes to piano players, this time featuring the music of Mary Lou Williams and Thelonious Monk. I will be one of four pianists, a group that also includes Nelda Swiggett, Ryan Burns and Alex Guilbert. I will mostly be playing the swing style, blues and boogie woogie music of Mary Lou Williams. There are links to the event through the Royal Room Facebook page and Anyone can view the event but donations are gratefully accepted through paypal, venmo and, I believe, credit card.

~January 2021~

NEWS - I can't help but feel that 2021 will be better, eventually. Late January should bring some fresh air to the world. I still have a virtual concert coming up at Kenyon Hall in Seattle, but no definite date yet. I will post that as soon as I know. Be careful, wear a mask and no big parties is the standard still. My best wishes to everyone for a good year.

~December 2020~

NEWS - For the first time in many months I have a bit of actual music news. Lou Magor, who runs Kenyon Hall in Seattle where I have played several times and where my film Piano-Chicago Style first appeared, has asked me to do a concert in the new virtual style. I don't quite know how this works but he does, so some time in the next month or so I will do a solo concert in an empty theater. No date is set but I will supply a date as soon as possible. In the meantime, here is a little poem.

Jess Stacy's Tremolo

He plays
like a hundred crows
bursting out of a cottonwood

~November 2020~

I am writing this on November 4 with my thoughts about country floating, suspended in the air, a hard way to face the day. On the other hand, November 2 was very decisive. I became 80 years old. Some friends set up a very comforting zoom meeting with me and I am happy to be in good health.

I don't have any live music coming up but if you look at Michael Steinman's website Jazz Lives, you will see he posted some new youtubes of my Cubs band and the music is very lovely.

~October 2020~

NEWS - A poem offering.


to just play one chorus of
"The One I Love Belongs to Somebody Else"
an old friend turns over and dies,
a Black Lives Matter sign disappears,
a homeless man looks at the coins you gave him
and says,"That's not enough"
and pine needles wedge into windshield wipers,
streak the clear world.

~ September 2020~

NEWS - I am feeling fine. Because I scheduled an elective procedure (injection for back pain), Kaiser protocol required me to be tested for the coronavirus. I was negative and that made me feel good.

~ August 2020~

No new news again this month. We are still in difficult times but with effort, things will get better. Wear a mask, keep your distance and learn to live more simply for the time being. Best wishes.

~ July 2020~

No new news for July. We are still in difficult times but with effort, things will get better. Wear a mask, keep your distance and learn to live more simply for the time being. Best wishes.

~ June 2020~

NEWS - Of course there is not much news. I just hope all my friends are healthy and being careful. I have written a little poem and I guess you could say a jigsaw puzzle is a metaphor for our world, perhaps suggesting the difference where we are and where we would like to be

Jigsaw Puzzle in Time of Covid-19

The pieces yearn for each other.
Little twists with soft, round arms
reach out to open spaces
that almost fit, but not quite.
They want to lock together,
but there is only one good match
and they may never find it.
Now, nothing locks together,
they are scattered on a wide plain,
inches apart for safety,
and yet searching for something,
like 500 little turtles who can only
look for what they find.

~ May 2020~


Bob Mielke, a very great jazz artist, a hero on trombone and a dear friend, has just died at 93. For me, Bob defined a special place and time for so long that it seems impossible he could be gone. I am thinking here of Berkeley, especially, and Oakland and the whole East Bay culture and jazz scene that went back to the 1940's and that I was lucky to be part of from the 1960's to the 1990's. Mielke was always there, soulful and deep, always part of any little house party or session, as well as a leader in some of the most creative Ray with Bob Mielke"traditional" jazz gigs, concerts, festivals and recordings. For a long time you could zig- zag across town and find Bob, or Dick Oxtot with his banjo, or Walt Yost or Earl Scheelar on several instruments, or P. T. Stanton on guitar or trumpet, or Jim Goodwin on piano or cornet, or Barbara Dane, or Barbara Lashley or Bill Erickson, and many others nearby. Berkeley was alive with good jazz, sometimes at a moment's notice. Bob Mielke and the wonderful Bill Bardin were always the trombone players.

I remember I first heard Mielke on record about Christmas time 1961. A trumpet playing friend Bob Cooke had an LP of blues by Barbara Dane accompanied by a true all-star cast of Don Ewell, piano; Pops Foster, bass; P.T. Stanton, trumpet; Darnell Howard, clarinet; Bob Mielke, trombone. The music was full of passion and individual voices with skill, good taste and a sense of clear, open space between the horns. Mielke was wonderful and although I didn't fully understand it at the time, I can say now that he played with a lip vibrato and a lovely fluttery tone, especially when he lipped notes up and down with a sort of soft, popping sound. He had a sound like a human voice. I also heard the dark tones with his plunger mute and how he used a Harmon mute with the stem removed. It had a mournful, far away sound that I can never forget.

In 1963 on one of my early jazz visits to Berkeley I was fortunate to be part of a jazz party upstairs over Earl Scheelar's Auto Service where Mielke, Barbara Dane, Dick Oxtot (my first connection to the bay area) and Earl Scheelar were playing, and I got to sit in. From that time on I loved the Berkeley scene and felt lucky to observe, learn and participate in much of Mielke's future music. Several times in the late 1960's I got to hear a revival of Mielke's original Bearcats band from the 1950's with P.T. Stanton, trumpet; Bunky Colman, clarinet; Pete Allen, bass; Oxtot, banjo and Don Marchant or Bill Dart on drums. It was a deep and original sound, sort of like New Orleans music mixed with Duke Ellington. There was a rich sense of melodic and harmonic continuity. They played freely but with arranged passages that Mielke called "spaghetti strips" of written music. The other musicians have been dead for years and now that living history is over.

I remember in the summer of 1964 playing piano at LaVal's in Berkeley with Mielke and other good musicians like Ellis Horne on clarinet and Don Marchant on drums. I felt very much at home. And comfortable with Mielke. He was always a great "part player" with other horns but also an experimental and lyric creator in small or unusual combinations. In fact, during my years at the Bull Valley Inn in Port Costa during the 1970's, Bob would often be my horn on a two person job, not the usual path for a trombone. He loved playing melody with a big, beautiful sound, the sound of blues was in everything he played and he could play harmony with a piano solo.

Through the 1970's, 80's and into the 90's Mielke often played in various combinations with Dick Oxtot and in Ev Farey's Golden State band, Bob Neighbor's Sunday band at Earthquake McGoons, with his own New Bearcats band and my own Berkeley Rhythm. I was happy to be a part of all that. Wonderful musicians like Mielke's long time friends Bill Napier, Richard Hadlock and Jack Minger were regularly a part of all this. Of course, Mielke also directed the Oakland A's band for many years. And I was lucky to sub for him on trombone when he had other gigs.

Starting in the 1940's Mielke had a remarkable career with a stunning combination of major players. Mielke recorded and worked with Bunk Johnson, Sidney Bechet, George Lewis, Lu Watters and Bob Wilber. Some of those musicians had styles that were quite different from each other, yet Mielke was able to fit in with all of them. How was that possible?

First of all, Mielke's style brought together a wide range of influences. One of his early heroes was Geechy Fields, a New Orleans style trombonist with an uncluttered blues approach. He also absorbed the harmonic part playing of George Brunies and was influenced by the sound of swing players like Benny Morton and Claude Jones. He believed in beautiful tone production and he could shift from one style to another and it was always his true self. Mielke listened to the other horns, filled gaps and allowed open spaces among horns. Traditional jazz is often seen as music with three horns: trumpet, trombone and clarinet. That isn't quite true, but it is often the case. And in the hands of musicians who simply play without a sense of order, it can turn into a kind of mush, a Dixieland blur of sound where individual horns get lost in the overall sound. That never happened when Mielke played and I think of several good illustrations. Among the many bands that Ted Shafer assembled, the most exciting by far for me was the band with Ray Ronnei on trumpet, Bob Helm on clarinet and Mielke on trombone. They were three very different players and their sound could have clashed, but they didn't. Their recording together highlights each horn at all times, even during ensemble. The same quality emerged in Mielke's Bearcats. P.T. Stanton played some fast flourishes on trumpet, followed by stark open spaces. He relied on Bunky Colman's clarinet to fill a big solo space. Then Mielke responded somewhere in between with a mix of part playing, and New Orleans and swing styles all at once. Also, in a memorable national public broadcast with Muggsy Spanier and Darnell Howard as frontline partners, the same thing happened. No Dixieland mush. Everyone was in the right place and Mielke was brilliant in ensemble and solo. He knew where to be in relation to the others.

Most jazz musicians have to wear suits or even a tuxedo from time to time. Mielke did, of course, but that is not the way I picture him. I see him in his old fashioned cap, khaki pants with suspenders, hiking boots and a stage defined by a line of mutes and a canteen. He was a Berkeley guy, a liberal thinker, dedicated to truth and beauty in the arts. No show business. He had plenty of self-doubts about his playing but he was always in the right place, even when he didn't trust himself. Mielke had a reputation for being grumpy and sometimes intimidating to other musicians. I never had that experience. He was quick to laugh and always fun to play music with. In 1969 when my family moved to Berkeley, Mielke was just moving out of his house on Benvenue. He passed it on to us. Before he lived there, our friend Dick Oxtot lived there and before that, Bob rented a room there in the 1940's. I guess that's the tribal part of Berkeley jazz, the part I remember most, and with Mielke always in the center of it.

(In December 2005 I wrote a long, feature story with full biography on Mielke for the Mississippi Rag magazine. In 2008 Jim Goggin published a book called Bob Mielke---A life of Jazz. And they both bring detail to Bob's long and creative story.)

~ April 2020~

NEWS - World news is major in a way we have never experienced before. One result, naturally, is that all live music performances are cancelled or delayed. I have no work in April and after that we shall see. Take care.

~ March 2020~

NEWS - I had a variety of wonderful musical experiences in February, but sadly, the recent death of Bob Jackson, a wonderful cornet player and my oldest friend in music, dominates.

I met Bob Jackson 60 years ago. Mike Duffy ( a new friend of mine then and fellow student at the University of Washington) took me to Shoreline High School where we met Bob in the band room. He was a couple of years younger than we were. I remember he was wearing a red sweater vest and holding his cornet. Mike, Bob and other friends at Shoreline had experimented playing early jazz/dixieland and I was in the process of learning to play the piano. We became good friends very quickly and I remember many intense, transformative times that we listened to jazz records and learned skills and good taste by following the examples of jazz masters.

From the beginning, Bob's horn playing was warm and passionate. He never had to learn that. It was in him. But he also spent time developing the art. I remember he particularly liked Mutt Carey, Muggsy Spanier and Kid Howard. As our common interests grew larger, we eventually started the Great Excelsior Jazz Band which played New Orleans jazz with heart and soul for many years.

Bob Jackson's music and his life always reflected his authenticity as a deep and decent person. Bob's mother had been an important figure in the west coast YWCA. She was dedicated to fair play, equality and diversity in life, all qualities that became part of Bob's character. He became a conscientious objector and devoted his life to gentleness and helping others. I always heard that character in his music and in our conversations about history, culture, politics and spirituality.

For many years, as I have played music in other parts of the country, there have always been people who come up to me and say "How is Bob Jackson?" or they tell me a story about how much they liked him or miss seeing him. He touched many people who will not forget him. There was no glitz, no show business, just Bob Jackson in truth and goodness.

~ February 2020~

NEWS - February brings the annual Fresno festival. I will be there with Bob Schulz and, as always, I especially look forward to playing music with the great clarinet player, Kim Cusack. In March the Grand Dominion Jazz Band will play at the Seattle Traditional Jazz Society meeting, the first time in several years that an out of town band will have been brought in. I hope that is a good sign. I will be there as a supporter of old friends.

I started the year by rereading Knut Hamsun's novel Mysteries, maybe for the fourth time, one of my deep book friends. And I just finished a biography of Howard Zinn, one of America's great political historians. Music is slow around me right now, but there are a couple of new things on the calendar for March.

~ January 2020 ~

NEWS - In 2020 my age will reach a new decade number. I don't care too much for that, but I am glad to still be sailing along. I am happier that Daylight Saving Time begins March 8 and also that we can all now begin to enjoy music from the 20's without having to look back in time. Every day is a day I have waited a year for and that is always something to look forward to.

~ December 2019 ~

NEWS - We had a lovely blues night at the Royal Room in November. A young woman whom I did not know played a couple of convincing boogie woogie numbers, the owner Wayne Horvitz played some subtle blues. Alex Guilbert showed his skill on some obscurities and I let go with a mix of Art Hodes, Jimmy Yancey and Joe Sullivan. I was followed by Paul Moore, who played blues with a passion. I always feel that deep and convincing blues playing is at the heart of everything else. And you don't always have to be playing a blues to make blues be part of the rest of your music. That is where my jazz always starts.

In December I will head north to Bellingham to play with Gerry Green in a strong New Orleans style, then play the Puget Sound Traditional Jazz Society with Dave Loomis and an authentic version of the music of Lu Watters. The two bands are quite different but both real and authentic efforts. That is what matters.

At this point we are three months away from the pitchers and catchers heading to Arizona for Spring training. And I will be born again.

~ November 2019 ~

NEWS - I don't have a lot of work coming up in the next couple of months, but i know there are some creative dates in the mix. November 8 and 9 I reunite with Rebecca Kilgore at Kenyon Hall in Seattle. When I used to work in the Roadrunners years ago, she sang and played guitar. Matt Weiner will be with us on bass both nights and Jonathan Doyle will be there on the Saturday. At the Puget Sound Jazz Society meeting I know that Jacob Zimmerman will be pulling out some obscurities written by my old friend Darnell Howard, an absolute jazz legend. On November 20 at the Royal Room I will take part in a blues piano night and I know I will play songs by early Chicago blues creators.

~ October 2019 ~

NEWS - A big change is coming to my piano routine. After playing at Salty's for over six years, the Dave Holo trio will not be there after October. They are going a different direction, but indicated we might come back again next Spring.

My new CD has arrived. I recorded at The Royal Room, and the whole thing looks and sounds the way I hoped it would. Bob Morgan, who did the sound for my film (also at the Royal Room), set up microphones in exactly the same way. It seems clear and natural.

I will be playing an interesting night at the Royal Room in November. Alex Guilbert and I will take turns at the piano on the theme of blues and barrelhouse.

~ September 2019 ~

NEWS - I recently did a new solo recording at The Royal Room in Seattle. We are just starting to assemble the loose parts of production. I look forward to two trips in September, first the bay area and then a jazz festival in Toledo, Ohio. I have one Pink Door evening in Pike Place market in September and we have a new starting time. It is now 7-10. People who look for us should get there an hour earlier than before.

My wife Elsa Bouman is currently having a showing of her collage work at The Gallery at the Town Center in Lake Forest Park. Her artwork will be displayed until September 28 from noon to five, Wednesday through Sunday. She has created wonderful surrealistic images.

~ August 2019 ~

I had a very satisfying trip to the bay area in July and more than anything I appreciated the chance to meet so many friends in many places. I will be back in September, so please note locations on my calendar. I am also looking forward to taking the train from Seattle to Emeryville. I love train rides. August is a light month of music for me but I am especially looking forward to playing at Kenyon Hall where the crowd is friendly and listens well and our host Lou plays the mighty Wurlitzer during intermission.

~ July 2019 ~

My recent recording project with Marc Caparone went very well. Marc came up to Seattle and we spent two days at the Jack Straw studio doing a creative balance act between trumpet and piano. Marc, who is in the family of Louis Armstrong, Red Allen and my old friend Jim Goodwin, was absolutely wonderful.

Shortly after the Lacey festival I will be heading down to the Bay Area for a series of jobs that are listed on the calendar page. And I have made plans to visit my good friend Bob Mielke on his birthday---age 93.

We have an interesting night coming up at the Royal Room in Seattle. July 17 Alex Guilbert, Jacob Zimmerman and I will have a tribute to the piano players of Chicago, right up my alley.

~ June 2019 ~

Dave Holo recently told me that we have been playing together at Salty's in West Seattle for the last six years. I found that hard to believe but on checking my calendars, I found it was true. Hmm. What is the secret of music job continuity? First of all, Salty's is very busy, very successful. It does not depend on music for its survival. We are simply part of an overall successful enterprise. That is a rare happening, but for now, I will take it.

In June the great trumpet player Marc Caparone will be visiting Seattle. He will lead a band for the Puget Sound jazz society and then we will spend a couple days doing duet recordings. I really look forward to some special music.

The Lacey jazz festival is at the end of June. I am excited that my Cubs band will be a full time part of the experience. Because of date and scheduling conflicts, Katie Cavera will not be there, but replaced by the also wonderful Josh Roberts on guitar. We will also have the equally wonderful Matt Weiner on bass. Clint Baker was overbooked so we are happy to have one star replace another.

Here is a poem of mine from a few days ago.

How to Play Jazz
Like birds before first light,
your breath is a wilderness.
Silence is love
and your whole life is full of
beautiful mistakes.

~ May 2019 ~

My trio had a wonderful night at Kenyon Hall in April. That is a very special place with a mixture of informality and a concert setting. People come there for listening. In the same month we performed, there was also a drama group, a juggler, a magician a, a Wurlitzer organ recital and a Django Reinhart style group. It looks like we return again in the summer.

May 12 is Mothers' Day and the opening of the Lake Forest Park farmers' market. I have been playing my rare Dolceola instrument there for many years and I love the setting. I don't list it on my calendar because I only play when the weather is good and I don't have a regular gig conflict. The Dolceola is a piano-zither combination, it makes a lovely sound and I can carry it and set up in a small space between vegetables and flowers.

The Dolceola was manufactured over 100 years ago in Toledo, Ohio, a place I will visit in September to play with John Gill's band at the Grugelfest jazz festival. Toledo is, of course, also famous for the Toledo Mudhens baseball team.

The end of June brings on the return of the jazz festival in Lacey, Washington. I really look forward to this because my Cubs band will have a full seven sets to play. I will also play with the Evergreen Classic Jazz Band and on a Thursday pre-festival concert with the Fat Babies from Chicago. If the schedule allows, I hope to be in the ragtime set as well.

~ April 2019 ~

I always enjoy satisfying convergences. One life experience pours into another like a dramatic meeting of rivers. I have been asked to talk to some music students at the Hillman City Collaboratory April 8. Young jazz and blues people. And the sun is shining more these days. And I will travel to Three Rivers, California to join with the Bob Schulz band for a festival. And baseball is beginning. And I get to see Bill Griffith, the author of Zippy the Pinhead. Griffith will appear at Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park. And my dog is smiling at me. Good Convergences.

~ March 2019 ~

Every year I note that my two favorite holidays are the first day of Daylight Saving Time and the opening day of baseball season. I always feel like I have now made it into the new year and life is blooming. This year the first day of the time change is a triple header. March 10 begins the new time, my Yeti Chasers band is playing that day at the Olympia Jazz Society meeting and it is Bix Beiderbecke's birthday. We will play some Bix obscurities that day, things like 'Loved One' and 'I'm On the Crest of a Wave.'

~ February 2019 ~

I look forward to the Fresno Mardi Gras Festival the second weekend in February. A big part of all such events is the opportunity to see old friends.

Rae Ann Berry is the most prolific youtube producer. You can search through her work and find almost anything you want. She has been very generous in recording my efforts. Michael Steinman is another person who gives great support to musicians through his many youtubes. I am glad to say that I have been recorded by him as well. Multiple camera efforts with editing to make a genuine finished film is something much more complicated. My film on Chicago style piano was very well done with three cameras. And now there is a new youtube presentation from KNKX radio station in Seattle, taken during a live broadcast recently where I played as part of Jacob Zimmerman and his Pals, 'Song of the Islands'. The camera work and editing are really excellent. You can find it by looking up Jacob Zimmerman KNKX.

~ January 2019 ~

One of my recent poems "In the Cemetery", which will be published in early 2019 by the Exit 13 poetry journal in New Jersey, has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Winning is a longshot, but being considered is positive. The Pushcart is an annual anthology of what is considered the best writing from all the small publishing houses in America. I look forward to 2019---more sounds and words to explore, more strangers to meet, more political change to look forward to, more ducks, more pickled herring, and more baseball.

~ December 2018 ~

I am rereading one of my favorite books, Wonderful Life by Stephen Jay Gould. He explores the stunning findings in the Burgess Shale, a paleontology site in the mountains in eastern British Columbia, where a huge supply of never before seen species were discovered in fossils in the early 20th century. They go back 500 million years and once provided inspiration for a poem of mine about who would read Emily Dickinson 500 million years from now. I guess the end of 2018 and the beginning of 2019 seems small by comparison, but I only have my human hopes to go on. I am optimistic. There are good signs. And I am ready for more..

~ November 2018 ~

I have been reading The Third Chimpanzee by Jared Diamond and have found a wonderful chapter about art. The noted artist Willem de Kooning was asked to compare and evaluate two paintings. One was by Georgia O'Keefe and the other by an unknown artist. De Kooning preferred the unknown artist for daring, intensity and emotion. What he did not know was that the second piece was painted by an elephant with a brush attached to her trunk. I doubt that an elephant could play piano, but what daring, intensity and emotion if she could. The element of the unconscious is always part of art, be it painting, writing or music.

~ October 2018 ~

I seem to be playing more these days at the PInk Door and the Eastside Stomp. A busy restaurant and a swing dance are quite different but they are both wonderful settings.

Looking ahead to November, I will be at the West Coast Ragtime Festival and including a seminar on Kansas City Frank Melrose, as well as playing piano. On November 30 my film gets its first public theater showing at Kenyon Hall in West Seattle. It is a cozy place and the setting even includes a mighty Wurlitzer organ. I will play piano at the conclusion of the film.

~ August 2018 ~

After a long pause, my website is up to date again, thanks to Warren Jennings who has kindly offered to continue the work that Katie Cavera did for me for so long. The main news that I can mention right now is that my film "Piano Jazz, Chicago Style" that John Ochs produced last year was first accepted as an official selection of the New York Jazz Film Festival, then was declared an award winner as history/documentary. I don't quite know what all that means, but I think it is positive.
Ray Skjelbred from film "Piano Jazz, Chicago Style"
Image is from Ray's film "Piano Jazz, Chicago Style."
Unfortunately, the video is no longer available on YouTube.

~ January 2018 ~

Two major jazz festivals came to an end in December: Sacramento and Lacey. Although the reasons for the decisions were quite different, the effect is the same and I have many good memories from both. I actually played in Sacramento starting with the first one and I have been there with many groups, most notably my Cubs band, but also Hal Smith, Bob Schulz, Phil Howe, Bob Mielke, Turk Murphy, Simon Stribling the Jubilee Jazz Band of Lynn Hall,the Port City band and several jazz club groups. My greatest memory comes from meeting and spending time with Jess Stacy in 1975 and 1976. That second year I played with my old Seattle band, the Great Excelsior Jazz Band. In Lacey, the festival was ready to proceed, but St. Martin's college had a change of plans about using the space.

This all reminds me of a moment from many years ago when I was at the Chattanooga festival and Mike Duffy pointed to the audience and said, "They are all older than we are." That may not be entirely true anymore, but it certainly is part of the equation and a big reason why festivals are having a hard time. I have enjoyed playing at festivals because they have provided a place to play but I also have been skeptical because I am not confident that preserving everything only in the name of "dixieland" is sensible. I like good music and it has many directions and evolution is inevitable. Get young people interested? Girls dressed like flappers and boys wearing straw hats and arm garters are heading a direction I would rather not follow. Here is a good festival: The Fat Babies, The Cubs, Grand Dominion, a Norwegian Hardanger fiddle ensemble, Australian aboriginal music, a string quartet, an Irish tenor, music from Trinidad, and so on. That would work for me. Swing dancers have made special "Weekend" music, a festival direction that seems to be working. Encouraging dancing is always helpful.

The city of Bothell has just purchased 90 acres of land from a golf course and it has been set free as parkland. Big, wonderful news. blueberry

~ December 2017 ~

December and January are the beginnings and endings because we say they are. Like all space and time, they go in a circle. You just have to hold on.

Jacob Zimmerman had some wonderful arrangements for his recording session. I am looking forward to seeing it become a final recording. It was full of truth and beauty.

In the dark and fearful climate we live in these days, I always appreciate all the truth and beauty I can find. The thoughtful music. Thoughtful resistance to an iron hand government. Poplar trees. Paul Krugman. Good dogs and cats. A literate public. PBS, bodies of water and all the families of nature.. And the two important words from Lost Horizon---"Be kind.". .

~ November 2017 ~

During the last year I have played many dances at the Eastside Stomp at the Aria Ballroom in Redmond. The place always seems packed and the mood is very positive and friendly.

I have more work coming up there with Jacob Zimmerman and Jonathan Doyle, two wonderful reed players. The crowd loves to dance but they also have enthusiastic respect for the musicians. I appreciate that.

The Yeti Chasers will be back at Third Place Commons, 7:30 to 9:30, November 18

I write this on Halloween. I plan to be FBI agent Gordon Cole. I need a black suit, a hearing aid and a loud voice. I can do it.


~ October 2017 ~

When I am not on another official job, I enjoy playing my Dolceola at the Lake Forest Park Farmer's Market. Little kids seem fascinated as they pass by, mainly because from the other side you can't see how I am producing music. Not many people know my songs, but last week when I played "I'll Take You Home Again, Kathleen," a woman told me that was her name. I mix some old jazz, cowboy songs, Woody Guthrie, ragtime and gospel music. There are some limitations to the instrument: only certain key signatures are available and it is not very loud. But the quietness seems to pull people in. I like it that way.

Thinking about quiet things is a contrast with our current world of ego and lies as a form of government, so I thought I should mention my favorite cowboy film:Four Faces West. It has all the typical trappings of a traditional western, but no gun is ever fired. That is a miracle. And Joel McCrea, one of my heroes, actually empties out his bullets to get sulfur to add to a smudge pot to save a Mexican family near death from Diphtheria. And that act allows the sheriff to catch up with him. I can understand that kind of use of a weapon.

Dave Holo returns to Salty's this month. He will also be part of the Dave Loomis Good Herb jazz band at the Puget Sound Traditional Jazz Club meeting. And there is the Burien Jazz Walk, with many band involved, including The Evergreen classic band and the Yeti Chasers.

I have been eating many blueberries lately.

~ September 2017 ~

At the end of September I managed to do a film for John Ochs at the Royal Room here in Seattle. He wanted me to discuss Chicago style piano and my own evolution as a piano player. I put my focus on Earl Hines, Joe Sullivan, Jess Stacy and Art Hodes and me too, with attention to selected biography, technical demonstrations, personal connections and song samples. I can't say absolutely what I feel about the result, but somehow I went for an hour and twenty minutes without a pause or edit. Maybe that is a good sign. I will see the results soon.

October 6 Josh Roberts will assemble his great version of the Benny Goodman sextet material at the Aria Ballroom in Redmond. This will feature the magnificent vibes playing of Marina Albero. Marina, Josh on guitar and Jacob Zimmerman on clarinet play some fast harmonies and make it sound comfortable. Jen Hodge is on bass and it should be a great night.

Pismo Beach festival comes on the last weekend of October. I will be there with Bob Schulz. Baseball playoffs begin October 6 and a certain team I know will be part of it.


~ August 2017 ~

Well, it looks like we have a scheduled date (in September) for a film that John Ochs wants to produce. We don't know everything that will happen yet, but I will take a four hour time period at the Royal Room to play piano, talk about Chicago style jazz piano, demonstrate some piano figures that usually appear in the style and say some things about my own piano journey, especially as it relates to Joe Sullivan, Earl Hines, Jess Stacy and Art Hodes. We''ll see what happens.

I return to the Bay Area in August (by train) for a night at Pier 23 then on to the Sutter Creek Ragtime Festival.

Dave Holo continues to recover from heart surgery, and in August Matt Weiner, Jacob Zimmerman and I will carry on at Salty's. Dave should be back in September.

My favorite fish is the bluegill. My favorite writer is Eudora Welty. My favorite national park is Lassen. My favorite gum is Beemans. My favorite planet is Earth---poor thing. I am also fond of the planet Mongo.

beemans gum

~ July 2017 ~

The California tour of my group The Cubs is coming up right away in July. You can check the calendar page for information. I especially want to mention our appearance at the Bird and Beckett bookstore in San Francisco. This is at 653 Chenery St. and we play July 6 from 7:30 to 9:30. The bookstore is a new venue for us and the success depends on having a good turnout. I hope to encourage all our friends and fans in the bay area to come to this performance in a very intimate setting. I may read a few poems too.

The Cubs have also been invited to appear at the Lacey jazz festival next year and I look forward to that as well.

I have been absorbing the new Twin Peaks series. The episodes play like an Earl Hines piano solo, daring and leaping. In one episode I saw Beau Sample and Alex Hall from the Fat Babies playing in a band in the mythical world of Twin Peaks.

Also, on the Tuesday after the Cubs tour I will be playing solo at Pier 23.

ray skjelbred and the cubs at cline

~ June 2017 ~

In July my Cubs band has a solid tour in California. You can look on the calendar page to see where and when. The music is really wonderful and it is always an adventure to piece together the gigs and the people from different parts of the country. We will have the usual lineup of Kim Cusack, Katie Cavera, Clint Baker, Jeff Hamilton and me.

Dave Holo has some health problems right now and we anticipate his recovery and return to Salty's later in the summer. For now, Matt Weiner and I are figuring out the next couple of months. We are fortunate that Jacob Zimmerrman can join us for most of it.

I recently played a weekend of Benny Goodman sextet stuff with Josh Roberts wonderful group. And I discovered Marina Albero, a magnificent musician who mostly plays piano and hammered dulcimer, but with us played vibes and she really swings. Good stuff.

Lacey jazz festival is coming up at the end of June. I will be there with the Evergreen band and one set with Dawn Lambeth and Marc Caparone. And a piano set with Jeff Barnhart and Conal Fowkes.

Ray Skjelbred and his Cubs (Featuring Dawn Lambeth & Marc Caparone) play "Wherever There's Love" on November 25, 2016 at the 37th Annual San Diego Jazz Fest and Swing Extravaganza.

~ May 2017 ~

I am writing this just before flying to Madison, WI for a festival with Bob Schulz. This is one of my favorite places and I always try to absorb the surroundings as much as I can. When I am in the presence of cows I know I am in a good world, large and mild.

May 17 is Norwegian Independence day but I will also be playing the music of Earl Hines and Mary Lou Williams at the Royal Room. They were both explorers who traveled through jazz history, they had many true selves inside themselves and they were both great heroes to me.

The Lacey festival comes at the end of June. In addition to playing with the Evergreen band, I will be on one solo set and one set with Dawn Lambeth and Marc Caparone. That's a pleasure. Next month I will outline the July tour for my little band called the Cubs. We have a week of work in the bay area.

The Dawn Lambeth Trio plays "I've Got a Feeling I'm Falling" on November 25, 2016 at the 37th Annual San Diego Jazz Fest and Swing Extravaganza.

~ April 2017 ~

It has been a long, gray time of life. I hope April brings some needed light. The Yeti Chasers play for the Bellingham Traditional Jazz Society April 1, and Jim Armstrong will be joining us. April 2 the Chicago Cubs begin their new season.

Some other interesting things are going on. I will join Matt Weiner and group at the Edmunds Center for the Arts April 6 to play music before a silent film feature. Dave Loomis will have a band doing Lu Watters arrangements at the Royal Room April 20, And at the end of the month I am off to Wisconsin Rapids and Madison to play concerts with Bob Schulz.

A very interesting evening will be May 17 when I will play piano solo at the Royal Room on a night dedicated to Earl Hines and Mary Lou Williams.

There are some interesting new youtubes. Michael Steinman has some of my solo playing and with Marc Caparone and we have some delightful things with Meredith Axelrod, Josh Roberts, Jacob Zimmerman and Matt Weiner.

~ March 2017 ~

My favorite national holiday is coming up---March 12, the start of Daylight Saving Time. Nevertheless, my lovely calendar to benefit Children's Hospital has it listed as savingS time, and there are plenty of news announcers (so dishonest) who will also call it that. Perhaps the concept of a savings account is responsible, but the idea is that you are "saving time." That day is the start of Daylight Saving Time.

February was very busy with Fresno and Seaside festivals and a very full weekend of work with Jacob Zimmerman. Much good music but now I need to talk with my dog more.

ray and pika

I am the son of an immigrant and proud of that. And you can't be too careful. The former Norwegian Prime Minister was recently stopped at the border. Is the current direction of America wicked? Or just silly?

~ February 2017 ~

I was very happy to take part in the great march on January 21. Very early in the morning I took the bus downtown. There were only about six people at my stop and by the next stop there were about 200 and most had to be turned away. The spirit of the day was strong, gentle and inspiring. A Native American group with drumming lead the people and I was happy to be part of it and know that the best of America was alive. A layer of hatred, fear and ignorance are always just under the surface and I am glad to see that the people really do exist.and will continue to fight for human rights and decent behavior. One my heroes,poet William Stafford, said he was a "citizen of the world" and rightly so. I hope to stay with all of this energy for the next four years.

And there is jazz. February is very busy. I will be at two festivals (Fresno,Seaside) with Bob Schulz, and Marc Caparone, Kim Cusack and I have a couple of sets at Seaside as well. The weekend of Feb. 17-19 I have six jobs, five with Jacob Zimmerman and I am thrilled that two of my favorite musicians -Meredith Axelrod and Josh Roberts- will be joining us.

Check Michael Steinman's Jazz Lives blog to catch Dear Old Southland a duet that Marc and I did last Thanksgiving in San Diego. Marc's playing is powerful and inspiring jazz at its highest level.

And now for a delicious meal of blueberries and pickled herring.

~ January 2017 ~

It is almost the end of the year as I write, a time when people look back on the year, but I would like to look back on many years during this time period. I played a New Year gig at the Bull Valley Inn in Port Costa for seven or eight years, and four years at the Fairmont with Turk Murphy. There was an interesting time a few years back when I played with a band for an NPR New Year's Eve production of Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me. Most memorable of all was my New Year's Eve with Earl Hines. I played solo and then he followed with a big band. That was 1982, not long before he died.

So here is an interesting plot. A billionaire with many oil interest connections does everything he can to manipulate the enthusiasm of "the people" so that they will elect him as president, a "friend" of the people. But he really is power hungry and wants to feed his ego. His plan is to become an autocratic ruler and not care about "the people" once he is elected. Does this plot sound familiar? Yes, it is the story from the 1941 film Meet John Doe. It also seems to resemble something else going on in the world.


Not much new on the music front but the Yeti Chasers have been asked to move to the second Friday of the month at the Royal Room. We will try it in January and see how it goes. Friday, with terrible rush hour traffic, is a much tougher time than Saturday, our usual day. May 17 I will take part in an evening of Earl Hines and Mary Lou Williams music at the Royal Room. That sounds good.

Let us all stay energized. We are going into dark times in America. Be kind, fair and wise.

~ December 2016 ~

The recently completed San Diego Festival was a delight on many fronts. I had some solo sets, two wonderful sets with The Cubs and Marc Caparone sitting in for Kim Cusack, and three delightful sets with the Dawn Lambeth trio. She sings exactly as I want someone to sing; lovely jazz without trying hard to prove that it is jazz and a sweet no show business stage presence. Dawn chooses rich, lyrical songs that I love to play. And Marc is magnificent on horn. His version of Dear Old Southland was just stunning. It is also looking like we may all be back to do it next year. I hope.

I will have a new CD out in a few days. I can never be sure of these things, but there is a quiet element that emerged on this. I wasn't looking for it, but it took me along for the ride.

There will be new events for the calendar and festival lists for next year and I have some other things that I will probably know more about a little later. One delightful thing just came up. In addition to my work with Bob Schulz at the Seaside Festival, they have asked me to assemble a trio which will include Kim Cusack and Marc Caparone. What could be nicer.

And the Cubs are still world champions.

~ November 2016 ~

On November 2, 2016 I became 76 years old----and the Chicago Cubs won the world series.

~ October 2016 ~

I will be working on a new piano recording in October, leaning toward late 20's Armstrong-Hines things, plus some surprises. It is always a test of something, not necessarily skill. Will the music be accurate? Will it really be me? Those two questions often battle each other.

I am picking up more swing dances with Jacob Zimmerman over the next few months. That is always a good thing.

Looking farther ahead than usual, I can note some festivals down the road. I will be with Bob Schulz at Fresno, and Seaside in February and in Madison in April. I just heard from Tom Jacobus and the Evergreen band has been invited to Lacey. So I will be there too.

Baseball is overwhelming me right now. I want to enjoy it all, but I can't relax with it. Well, I love the Chicago Cubs and that is the whole story.

In another month we will elect a new president. I think it is important to consider things wisely, and after two seconds of thinking,and observing, I knew all I needed to know. Vote and protect us from ignorance, hatred and crudeness.


As I write this, the Labor Day Hot Jazz Jubilee is a few days away and the Cubs have a full seven sets. Katie and Clint will also be seen in other musical settings as well.

September 17-18 Bob Schulz will be visiting Seattle and we will be playing Saturday at the Royal Room and Sunday at the Ballard Elks for the Traditional Jazz Society.

My favorite gig is one I can walk to! The Yeti Chasers play at Third Place Commons in Lake Forest Park September 30.

I have just learned new information about the San Diego Festival. I was always scheduled to play with the Dawn Lambeth trio. It turns out that she, Marc Caparone and I will play three sets, I have three solo sets and two with the Cubs. First I heard of it was a few days ago.

My old friend Bob West has died..I have known him from 1962 and he was a dedicated jazz and blues man. More than that he was generous with his life and time. He gave freely to others. Bob bought my old houseboat on Lake Union and I always stayed with him when I came up from California to play here. I had seen him often recently, and although I knew he was gravely ill, it still stunned me.

I don't know how far ahead a person can plan a life, but I have just marked on my calendar all the dates for the baseball playoffs. I notice that the seventh game of the world series is scheduled on my birthday. I hope that means something good.

~ September 2016 ~

~ August 2016 ~

The California tour of my little band called the Cubs was a happy and successful time. A lot of hard work, planning and late hour driving were part of it, but it was satisfying to bring the sound of very real and intimate Chicago jazz out into the world. My thanks to Kim, Katie, Clint, Jeff, Rae Ann, John Plut and all the venue and festival people for making it work.


Ray Skjelbred & His Cubs
(l-r) Ray Skjelbred, Clint Baker, Katie Cavera,
Jeff Hamilton, and Kim Cusack. Photo by Barbara Sully

I will be back in California in August for Pier 23 and solo playing at the Sutter Creek Ragtime Festival, including a duet set with Marty Eggers. Labor Day weekend the Cubs will be together again at the Hot Jazz Jubilee in Sacramento.

Here is a recent poem that will be published in the Summer edition of Off the Coast from Maine.


Bits of tan fur pressed into the black road.

Cedar Waxwings eat all the cotoneaster berries
in one afternoon.

Our greatest achievement is that strangers
can sometimes sit quietly next to each other
in public places.

~ July 2016 ~

I happily look forward to the northern California tour with my band The Cubs. You can find more information on the calendar page,but we will be at Rossmoor, Thursday, July 7, the next day at Borrone's in Menlo Park, Saturday at the Cline Winery festival and later in the day an augmented group appearing as the New Berkeley Rhythm at the Bootlegger's Ball in San francisco, and finally at the Napa Traditional Jazz Society in Yountville on Sunday. We are Kim Cusack, clarinet; Katie Cavera, guitar; Clint Baker, bass; Jeff Hamilton, drums; and I will play piano. At the Bootlegger's Ball, a swing dance, Clint will switch to trombone, Marty Eggers will play bass and Marc Caparone will join us on trumpet.

Ray Skjelbred & His Cubs
(l-r) Jeff Hamilton, Katie Cavera, Kim Cusack,
Clint Baker, and Ray Skjelbred

Sir Charles Thompson has died. He was much loved by many musicians and listeners, yet he traveled through jazz history in a way that was as understated as his playing style. No one ever used open space between the notes the way he did. He was a great inspiration to me and I am glad to report that he was 98 when he died.

I recently did a studio recording/radio program with Jacob Zimmerman and Matt Weiner. It was really lovely. Jacob is a major talent on alto and clarinet and I want the world to know him. Fortunately we have an increasing number of jobs coming up down the road.

The Lacey festival was fun, but laughing with Jeff Hamilton and Marc Caparone was the best part!

~ May 2016 ~

In early May we are off to Grand Haven, Michigan to play an anniversary party for Jack and Judy Clapp. They just want piano solo and I am happy to oblige for some really nice people.

Around Seattle I am playing more and more with Jacob Zimmerman,a wonderful reed player and a dedicated student of jazz history and good taste! May 1 we play at Capitol Cider, then a special one night May 3 at the Royal Room with New York guests Emily Asher, trombone; Mike Davis, trumpet; Jay Lepley, drums. And Matt Weiner will be on bass. The trio, Jacob Zimmerman and his Pals will be recording at Jack Straw studio in June and I look forward to that as well.

June brings two special events. On June 18 I will be playing my Dolceola as part of the Lake Forest Park secret garden tour. I set up in a garden and play as people walk by. Also, the Lacey Jazz Festival comes at the end of the month. I will be with Bob Schulz and that is good. It has been a few years since he has had his band there. I will also be happy to see Joep Peeters, a long time Dutch friend of American jazz musicians. He set up my work in The Netherlands two years ago. I hope we get to play together.

I also can't help but mention the Chicago Cubs, who seem to be winning almost all of their games. I kind of like that.



The Yeti Chasers will not be playing at the Royal Room during the summer, though we are expected back in September. They have something else in mind, but we will survive. June 19 will also be the last Puget Sound Traditional Jazz Society meeting until next September. I will be there with the New Orleans Quintet with Jake Powel, Dave Holo, Steve Wright, George Goldsberry and Matt Weiner.

The May trip to Michigan was wonderful. With one night in Chicago I finally got to see Jane Addams' Hull House, one of the most remarkable creations in American history. Name any social cause or a fight for the rights of people, especially the poor and immigrants, and she was there. In her bedroom the museum has a wonderful display with her Nobel Prize on a pedestal next to J. Edgar Hoover's FBI file on her during the time he tried to catch her as an agitator and troublemaker.There was no end to her depth, intelligence and commitment to decent lives for all. I was very moved.

The Lacey festival is at the end of June. I will be glad to play with Bob Schulz again and also have a chance to catch the fine Fat Babies band from Chicago. Then in July the Cubs have their delightful tour of the bay area.

One more big thing. Our dear friend, beautiful trombone player Bob Mielke will be 90 in July!!!

Ray & Bob Mielke

~ April 2016 ~

I can see eagles every day, the temperature is starting to get into the comfort zone, baseball is beginning and I get a bit of satisfaction from new poems and songs. I have always loved turning band material into piano solo stuff. It seems like an endless world of untapped exploration. Recently I have been fooling around with Jimmie Noone's El Rado Scuffle and the Mielke's Bearcats song Blue Guaiac Blues.

Just a few days ago I reread Joseph Conrad's End of the Tether, a wonderful tale, full of tumbling irony at the end, and the memorable line, "You begin to see things when you are going blind." There are many kinds of blindness. About 37 to 40 percent of the voting public seems blind to me right now, but I have a poem for it.


Selling exploding cigars
to one man---
selling matches that won't stay lit
to another.

Joseph Conrad

I guess I have not mentioned jazz much. The steady jobs go on and my next festival is Olympia in June.

My favorite animals? Dog, cow, duck, wolf, pig. And they all make music that I love.

~ March 2016 ~

February turned out to be quite a bit different than I expected. Bob Pelland, the fine pianist and leader of the Grand Dominion Jazz Band had some health issues that were severe enough that I filled in for him at the Fresno festival, and then the recently completed Seaside festival. I have always felt very connected to this group, originally when it had my first music friends, Bob Jackson and Mike Duffy, and now with good friends Clint Baker, Jeff Hamilton, Gerry Green. Bill Dixon, Jim Armstrong and Mike Fay. On the Seaside job, Jeff Hamilton also had some health issues and Clint's son Riley took over on drums. Riley is 15 and knows how to play. And knowing how, means not just skill, but listening, swinging and good taste. I enjoyed both festivals and felt very at home with a group that weaves together a sense of knowledge, swing and passion. Bob and Jeff are both recovering and I hope they are back at it soon.

March 16 is a special piano night at the Royal Room. I will be one of about a dozen piano players who will play a couple of songs each. Should be very interesting. Three nights later, on the 19th, the Yeti Chasers will appear there.

I am hoping the word gets out for Jacob Zimmerman at Capitol Cider. Our first night there is March 6 from 5:30 to 8. Jacob, Matt Weiner on bass and me.

Baseball is coming. And I am ready.

I am writing this the day after the Oscar ceremony where black performers were not considered for awards and it seems a good moment for me to consider some of my favorite actors of color.

Juano Hernandez, who created passionate and intense characters in Intruder in the Dust and The Pawnbroker. Great face and voice. Great belief in his character.

Sabu, who really was an Indian boy who tended elephants. His sweet charm and sense of humor dominate his early films, especially The Thief of Baghdad.

Gary Farmer, a native American who gives his passion in many films, including Pow Wow Highway and Smoke Signals.

Nina Mae McKinney, who appeared in many early black music films, but who also played prominent roles in features Hallelujah and Pinky.

David Gulpilil, one of my favorite actors, an Australian aboriginal who notably appeared in Walkabout and very recently in Charlie's Country, both films where his sweet and kind nature and love of the land is pitted against racist policies and attitudes. Those two films are over 40 years apart, but it is the same guy, young and old, believing the good things about people and culture.

jess stacy

Nina Mae McKinney

~ February 2016 ~

I regret that I must mention the passing of another fine musician, Ham Carson, a veteran hot jazz and swing player who has been part of the music scene for a long time. I didn't play with Ham too much, but we did record together along with cornetist Jim Goodwin on the LP Taking a Chance that John Ochs produced. Ham also played in the Great Excelsior Jazz Band, my first group many years ago, though Ham was there during the time after I had moved to California. For many years he led a group at the New Orleans Creole Restaurant in Pioneer Square in Seattle and, I believe his last public performance was a sitting in appearance with the Yeti chasers at the Royal Room a couple of months ago. He was a skilled and expressive player who had a lot of Chicago jazz in his.soul. He will be missed. It seemed he would always be here.

The Yeti Chasers have now been playing at the Royal Room on a monthly basis for the last year. Starting in February we shift to the third Saturday of month and, as usual, the early shift, from 5 to 7:30.Doors open at 4. The Royal Room presents a wide range of music and I will be taking part in a piano series there, I believe during March.
Bob Schulz and the Frisco band will be at the Fresno festival, starting Feb. 11, a Thursday, pre-festival night, then on Friday and Saturday. We do not play on Sunday.

In March I begin what I hope will be some steady work at Capitol Cider on East Pike St. in Seattle. This is Jacob Zimmerman's group and we are joined by bassist Matt Weiner. Jacob is a rising star in many directions in jazz and I am always happy to work with him. For now we are scheduled for the first Sundays in March, April and May.

John Ochs and I are in an early talking stage about making a film where I talk about Chicago style piano, show some of the ways of playing Chicago style and demonstrate how it all came about. Focus would be on Earl Hines, Joe Sullivan and Jess Stacy.

jess stacy

Jess Stacy

~ January 2016 ~

I just had a little poem accepted by a little poetry magazine. Lilliput is really small and a great pleasure to read and be part of. The poem this time is:


The smallest bug in the world
just landed on page 53
of Kim Addonizio's
"Starlight at the Lucifer."
And because I was reading
I flicked him away
with my little finger
just as I saw
he made a shadow.

It is that time of year when we look ahead or behind at our own lives or the whole world. We use all our senses but most of all we use language. Memory is our greatest force and we use it to absorb all directions at once. The current political campaign made me think back to working at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco, where many customers appeared to be very wealthy. I clearly remember a sense of privilege that went with money. Rich people sometimes expect to get whatever they want because they assume it is theirs for the taking. If you disagree with them you are wrong because you are not on the same level. This attitude is what I see at the top of the Republican list.I also see language turned into jingles and vagueness. It is a most alarming turn of events and the lowest level of political behavior I have ever seen in America.

And that made me think of It's a Wonderful Life, when, during the depression, Jimmy Stewart tries to stop people from taking half the value of their money from Mr. Potter. The people thought he was doing them a favor, but Stewart (George Bailey) says, "Don't you see? Potter's not selling. Potter's buying." He was amassing more wealth by taking advantage of them. It was manipulation. It was a kind of bullying, just as I see it today in politics.

Oh, and there is music. One special note in February is the Bob Schulz appearance at the Fresno Jazz Festival. Otherwise, I continue on with the Yeti Chasers at the Royal Room and with Dave Holo at Salty's.

wonderful life

~ December 2015 ~

November ended with delightful music at the San Diego jazz festival. I played a full schedule with Bob Schulz and two sets each with my Cubs band and with Marc Caparone and Dawn Lambeth. That trio was a first,and Marc is going to look for more opportunities. The sound is a little different than the Cubs---smaller, quieter, but devoted to swing, beauty and surprise. Most of all I like the good company of my friends there. No doubt there will be a variety of youtubes from Rae Ann and Michael Steinman that will reveal some of this music.

The trip home was quite an adventure. My Sunday night plane was delayed about an hour and a half by bad Seattle weather. Then we took off and flew about two hours, enough to be close to Seattle. Then the pilot came on with an announcement that the weather had worsened and we we flying BACK TO SAN DIEGO.I felt a bit lost In San Diego I wandered outside and a shuttle driver asked me where I wanted to go. I told him that I didn't know and he took me to a Motel 6. I felt like I was living a scene from the Marx Brothers Night at the Opera. The brothers, stowaways on a ship, disguise themselves as famous aviators to escape the law. When called upon to explain their transatlantic flying exploits, Chico says the first time they tried to fly they got halfway and ran out gas and had to return. The second time they got within sight of land and ran out of gas and had to go home. Then they made it the third time. I had the feeling we were almost there when we had to turn back.

We are aiming toward the end of the year. I wish I could change some things in the world---get rid of opinions formed by fear, hatred formed by ignorance and loud voices, and violence formed by a gun culture. Maybe I can't but I did the following poem recently and maybe some surprising things can change the world after all.

~ November 2015 ~

Well, November will be busy. It is my birthday month and election month. Let's keep fighting for fair play, equality and intelligence. Voices of darkness are loud throughout the land.

I will be at the West Coast Ragtime Festival Nov. 20-22 but note that I will play at Pier 23 in San Francisco the Tuesday before. Also I head to San Diego on Thanksgiving to play with Bob Schulz, my Cubs band and Dawn Lambeth and Marc Caparone. Schedules can change but if you peek at the current schedule you will see that Dawn has the first set of regular programming that begins the festival on Friday and the Cubs play immediately after that in the same room. That is exciting. There are many festivals and special events coming up in 2016 but I am not listing them yet. Some details and official business have to be worked out. But I look forward to it. One special thing for sure is that my Cubs band will have a California tour in July. I was worried it might not happen this year. We will be at Borrone's in Menlo Park July 8, Cline Festival in Sonoma July 9 and Napa Jazz Club July 10. There may be more jobs attached, don't know yet, but we are definitely there. Next month I will add other festival and special job activity.

The Yeti Chasers will play Nov. 4 at the Royal Room from 7-9:30. I hate that our schedule has bounced around so much, but jobs were in conflict for November.

Now some fast thoughts about things that make my soul be what it is: fresh asparagus, dogs, Jean Arthur, the Field Museum, Don Redman, kingfishers, prairie grasses, Erroll Garner, Randolph Scott, oatmeal cookies, ducks,Willa Cather, Rod Cless and Charles Coburn.


~ October 2015 ~

Last month at the Puget Sound Jazz Society meeting, our tuba player Mike Walbridge suffered some sort of attack during a break and emergency people came and took him to a hospital. He has what he called "afib" an irregular heart beat. That seems stabilized now, but unfortunately he broke his ankle when he fell and after some time in the hospital he is now in a recovery center at Anderson House, which is very near me. Mike is improving but can't put weight on one foot now. He is getting physical therapy and should be going home soon, we hope.

Although the Yeti Chasers are supposedly playing the fourth Saturday at the Royal Room, we are actually playing the third Saturday in October and we don't have a set date yet in November. That's how it is when one side or another has conflicts. But we are still there and closing in on a year of music in a supportive place.

chief black hawk

The Yeti Chasers had a wonderful time at the recent Jazz Band Ball Festival in White Rock, B.C. We were able to supplement our band with Josh Roberts on guitar and the combination seemed perfect. We all pulled together in rhythmic harmony and Josh was a big part of that. We move to the Kalispell Festival in the second week of October. The best part of any festival is seeing friends from different places all pulled together in one spot and seeing and playing with the fine young Canadian musicians.

The Chicago Cubs wild card playoff game is October 7.

ray as a bunny

~ September 2015 ~

The next couple of months are busy and full of revisions of schedules. So I need to mention that the management of Salty's wants the Holo group to play the last Friday in September. I can't because I will be at the White Rock Festival. So, don't look for us on September 18. We won't be there. Also, the Royal Room has a conflict with our fourth Saturday in October, so we will be playing the third Saturday in October, the 17th. It is always hard to alert the audience to these things, but we will try.

chief black hawk

On a bright note I can say that Johnny, Elsa and I will all be featured at the Third Place Commons in Lake Forest Park, and all within a month's time. As August ends the Yeti Chasers play August 28 from 7:30 to 9:30. On September 5 at 6:30 Johnny Skjelbred will be featured as illustrator on a wonderful children's book, Star Dancing Girls, and on September 19,26 and Oct. 3 from 1-3 Elsa will be featured teaching weaving. I think that is pretty amazing.

Check the calendar page. Bob Schulz is coming to Seattle, the Yeti Chasers are going to White Rock and Kalispell and, well, the Chicago Cubs are playing beautifully. How will I be able to play piano if I have to look at playoff games? We'll see.

~ August 2015 ~

The little California tour of my Cubs band was a wonderful experience. The band seemed to have an inner happiness and outer swing that went together quite comfortably as we played at Rossmoor, Borrone's, Cline Festival and Napa Jazz Club. I will need to start working on this sequence for next year. I hope it happens.

kim cusack

The Cubs perform at the Cline Wine & Jazz Festival
(l - r) Jeff Hamilton, Katie Cavera, Kim Cusack, Clint Baker, & Ray

I also played a solo night at Pier 23 in San Francisco and will be heading there again on August 11 before going on to the Sutter Creek ragtime Festival. Also, I am happy to say the Yeti Chasers will be playing at the Third Place Commons August 28, from 7:30 to 9:30. That is close enough for me to walk to.

chief black hawk

Earl Hines

I play records and CD's about evenly I guess, but sometimes I pick up a CD of music I already have, just to play in the car. I recently got a Louis Armstrong/ Earl Hines offering and listened, really listened to the Carrol Dickerson Orchestra playing "Savoyager's Stomp." I was stunned by the piano solo, which I had forgotten. I listened to it over and over. The whole big band drops out and Hines solos as if he were a man from another planet. Open space and jagged runs dart about in an asymmetrical way but always gathering a force toward order and beauty. It was one of my greatest listening pleasures. Music as exploration and passion.

~ July 2015 ~

Here is a tiny poem of mine that was just published in Lilliput, the appropriate poetry magazine.


Everything, nothing---
the keys---I reach into soft soil.

My Cubs band tour is coming up soon---four days in the San Francisco bay area. For the first time I can announce that Kim Cusack comes from Temecula, CA, much closer than Chicago. Details on the calendar page.

kim cusack

Kim Cusack

chief black hawk

Chief Black Hawk

We are at about two years at Salty's on Fridays. They want us to play from 6-9, starting an hour later, but we are not sure yet if that is happening.

I am reading the autobiography of Chief Black Hawk, leader of the Sauk Indians, a courageous character who fought to reclaim native land that was taken unfairly in a treaty signed by people who were not authorized to do so. Good for him. The final battle of the Black Hawk war was fought in Bad Axe, Wisconsin, a tiny place that I have been to. I just saw mild cows. I always trust cows.

~ June 2015 ~

Mike Duffy was my friend for 55 years. He died Memorial Day weekend. He was a passionate musical listener and bass player and we stayed good friends all this time because he was also a deep person in many other ways. Mike and I shared an abiding involvement in literature, teaching, history, politics and, in general, a linking of cultural connections. Mike was my first friend in jazz, even before I began playing piano and I will miss him forever.

If you check the calendar you will see specifics listed for the tour that my Cubs group is doing in July. I will also be playing at Pier 23 in San Francisco during that time.

The Yeti Chasers in general are scheduled to play the Royal Room in Seattle on the fourth Saturdays of the month but note that it will be the third Saturday in June because three of us will be in Lacey for the festival. playing with the Evergreen Jazz Band and happily adding Katie Cavera as a guest on three sets.

By the way, an extra delight for visitors to Salty's in West Seattle to see the Dave Holo trio (with Matt Weiner on bass and me on piano) is the addition of several parts of the famous old ferry Kalakala.


It was designed in the 1930's as a streamlined and very different looking ferry. Sort of like a rocket ship on water. The pilot house is on the edge of the parking lot overlooking Puget Sound. You can look out the round windows and imagine all you want.

~ May 2015 ~

I look forward to our Yeti Chasers job at the Third Place Commons on May 8. This is really local for me. The commons is a wonderful community place in Lake Forest Park with music, a book store, good food, a stage for various presentations, and many groups, formal and informal that meet at large tables scattered around a comfortable open space. I imagine we will have a good collection of nearby friends for this one.

A note about the Royal Room: The Yeti Chasers will be back on the fourth Saturday of the Month, May 23, but in June we shift to June 20., the third Saturday to avoid conflict with the Lacey festival the following week.

The Royal Room

New things: A new CD sponsored by Earl Scheelar is now in the world. Old tapes from 1971 of Earl on reeds, Jim Goodwin, cornet, Bob Mielke, trombone; Lueder Ohlwein, banjo and guitar and me on piano. The session was recorded in Earl's auto shop in Berkeley. Also, I have been invited to the West Coast Ragtime Festival in Sacramento in November.

And the Chicago Cubs are sailing along. They have many wonderful young players and it is a joy to watch them.

~ April 2015 ~

With April the world begins. I watch the buds every day to see their growth. Some days I am startled by how much they have changed. When the huge tree fell in the yard our mountain ash and group of blueberry plants were overwhelmed so completely that I didn't even know where they were, or had been, amazing since the Ash is about 15 feet high. But now the tree is gone, with cut up firewood and huge piles of mulch in its place But the blueberries earned a little poem.

Blueberry Ballet

under the fallen tree
after the chainsaw
they arched their backs


And it is true. The blueberries, bent under all that weight, did not break, but lifted up when the heavy limbs were pulled away.

And days of going to the lake are starting to happen ---the ducks, eagles, blue herons, kingfishers, geese, swans and good old crows and seagulls.

April 19 on the Puget Sound Jazz Society we have a group called Ray's Friends. If you want to know, it will include Dave Holo, trumpet; Dave Loomis, trombone; Paul Woltz, saxes; Mike Daugherty, drums; Jake Powel, banjo and guitar; Dave Brown, bass. May 8 the Yeti Chasers will play at Third Place Commons, just down the hill from home. I look forward to that. I am there almost every day.

~ March 2015 ~

Neither music nor baseball can compete with a huge tree, about 120 feet, that crashed through the neighbor's fence and filled my yard. Yes, I am glad it didn't hit me or the house, but the cutting, shredding and hauling are enormous. And due to go on for a few more weeks


The Cubs had a wonderful time in Fresno. I am always thrilled by the sound and I am grateful that so many musicians listen closely to this band. We next play in the bay area: Rossmoor July 9, Borrone's in Menlo Park July 10, The Cline Winery Festival July 11 and the Napa Valley Jazz Society July 12. Beginning with those engagements Jeff Hamilton will be our regular drummer. And we thank Hal Smith for all his great drumming.

The Royal Room in Seattle is planning on my Yeti Chasers band being a permanent monthly experience, with a few bumps along the way for conflicts that were established earlier. We play Feb. 28, March 28. Our April date was supposed to be April 25 but it has been moved up to the 11th. Fourth Saturday of the month is always the target.

Of course my two favorite dates are coming up soon: March 8, the beginning of Daylight Saving Time and April 5, the Chicago Cubs opening game. These events always whisper to me "you have made it to another year."

~ February 2015 ~

The Royal Room debut of the Yeti Chasers (First Thursday band) was quite a success. We had a packed room, everyone was enthusiastic and we will be back there Feb. 28. Too early to say, but this might turn out to be a good long run setting. It is a good room, good people working there and a good piano and sound system.

Fresno is coming up soon. Bob Schulz and the Frisco Band and my Cubs group. Good music.

At long last I get to play a trombone job, this time at the Hummingbird Saloon with Mike Daugherty, Feb. 17.

The wonderful Ernie Banks has died. When he first rose to prominence as the greatest Chicago Cub ever, I spent almost every day that summer going to the ball park. When ballplayers left the clubhouse, they hurried to their cars and maybe signed a hurried autograph or two on the way. Ernie Banks stood there, surrounded by kids. He kindly talked to every kid who wanted to meet him. He was the Buddha of baseball. I loved watching him. His talent, his quiet, his love of baseball and people.


~ JANUARY 2015 ~

As Walter Brennan said in Meet John Doe, “I know the world’s been shaved by a drunken barber.” Well, I can’t argue but I always look forward to all the amazing little things that go on in life. The First Thursday band is embarking on a little adventure at the Royal Room in Seattle. We will be playing the fourth Saturdays for the first four months of the year (Jan. 24, Feb. 28, Mar. 28 and April 25) and hope to keep going if the whole thing is supported by enough jazz community involvement.

We will be playing from 5-7:30, the usual lineup of Steve Wright on horns; Dave Brown, bass; Mike Daugherty, drums; and me. We also agreed to change the band name, and maybe it will stick---we’ll see. We will be Ray Skjelbred and the Yeti Chasers, a name I find appealing and one I used long ago. The Royal Room rightly felt that a group called the First Thursday band that played on the fourth Saturday would just be too confusing. OK. We will be playing at 5000 Rainier Ave. S. and hope to see as many listeners as possible. Tell your friends. Doors open at 4:30.


The Fresno festival returns Feb. 12 – 15. I will be there with Bob Schulz and the Frisco band and my Cubs band will also be there. Good stuff. Also Salty’s is staying positive with three Friday nights in January.

The year 2015 is springing into action and pulling with it all the glory and all the pain of the history of world. There is always the force of the past as we go forward. I am thankful for Jane Addams and Eugene Debs. Franklin Roosevelt and Emily Dickinson, Earl Hines and Mary Lou Williams and all the forces of life that have pulled me/us along this far into an unknown future.

ray at a cafe
Ray at a café in Delft

Ray Skjelbred and The Cubs performing at The Cline Jazz And Wine Festival last year.

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