News Archive

~ DECEMBER 2008 ~

Hello. I guess I have a website and I especially have to thank Katie Cavera for establishing it and thinking it was worth doing. However, I still think people shouldn't get too fancy about themselves. Beware of the Western ego. Still, you may find useful information in the different categories. Of course the useless information is even more important.

News. I just played with John Gill's band at the San Diego jazz festival, and I was reminded again of the importance of cooperation, camaraderie and wise listening in music. John, Leon Oakley, Orange Kellin, Hal Smith, Clint Baker and Marty Eggers were all good shipmates. No rising up of the layers of Western ego.

More music news will come later on. But just to start off this web with a sense of identity, here are a few lists.

My five favorite birds are the red-winged blackbird, pileated woodpecker, bald eagle, mallardduck and crow.

My five favorite films are It's a Wonderful Life, Wagonmaster, My Darling Clementine, The More the Merrier and Meet John Doe.

My five favorite novelists are Knut Hamsun, Eudora Welty, Herman Melville, Joseph Conrad and Peter DeVries.

My favorite tractor brand is Case.

Favorite cow is Jersey.

Favorite figure from American history is Eugene Debs.

Favorite actress is Jean Arthur.

Favorite brewery ---Leinenkugel. Well, that's enough news for now.

~ JANUARY 2009 ~

Well, we have just fought our way out of the snow! No driving for 18 days. No garbage pickup for over three weeks, no mail for a week, newspapers buried in snow. Lake Forest Park, WA had deep snow for a long time. Beautiful, but too much. I am looking forward to solid ground.

New Year's Eve I worked with Miss Rose and her Rhythm Percolators on SAYS YOU, an NPR radio show that is full of creative language play. We did two shows and they are scheduled for broadcast later in January, but I can't be sure when. I love word games and language surprises and this show is really wonderful with word jokes, erudition and improvising!

My new piano cd "The Art of Solo Piano" is due any day now. This will be on the new Orangapoid label. The Ray Skjelbred and his Cubs cd should be ready soon. I also know that a couple of other things are in the works: a cd with Garvin Bushell that will be on Delmark and the Wild Bill Davison memorial band that should be out on Jazzology soon. Richard Hadlock and Leon Oakley have worked on these projects.

My calendar indicates three days of music in the bay area and I look forward to that. Of course I can use the work, but I love the getting together with good friends. You can check the calendar page for where and when.

Last month I received notice that my poem "To The Carrion Stars" had been nominated for a 2008 Pushcart Prize. It was originally published in Off The Coast, a poetry journal from Maine. I don't expect it to be selected but the nomination is good enough. I appreciate it. I have reproduced this poem on my poetry page for

Making favorite lists is kind of fun. Here are a few more:

favorite pie - gooseberry
favorite song that would cause me to pass out if a leader called it - Love for Sale

some favorite actors - Jimmy Stewart, Gary Cooper, Henry Fonda, Ben Johnson, Richard Farnsworth, Joel McCrea, John Mills.

some songs that are always beautiful - Don't Blame Me, For All We Know, Come Sunday, Ghost of a Chance

favorite baseball players - Lou Gehrig, Phil Cavaretta, Hank Sauer, Ernie Banks

~ February 2009 ~


The Orangapoid
(an artist's rendering)

Hello, I had a lovely trip to the bay area in January, playing with the Yerba Buena Stompers for Charles Campbell's Sunday birthday party at Bimbo's, joining Ted Shafer at Champa's on Friday and performing a piano house concert for Warren Jennings on Saturday. Of course I am always happy to see some special friends like Richard Hadlock, Bob Mielke and  Ray Landsberg, and have a chance to visit with my son Joad and his wife Erin. And it is great fun to see the guys in the bands. I also managed to sell some of my new Piano Solo recording, which is now available through me on the new Orangapoid label. As I'm sure most people know, the Orangapoid was a sacred ape with a horn on his head and he lived on the planet Mongo. It could only be overcome by stabbing the white spot on its throat. I remember one time when that happened.

Seven years ago I found a Dolceola at a garage sale in Seattle. This is a very rare and beautiful musical instrument, sort of a tiny piano with a zither-like sound. It is less than two feet wide, has true piano workings inside and tiny keys that are about the size of fireplace matches. I was about to fly out of town that day but told Bob West, who bought it, then after a long time to figure out what to do to repair it, he made several contacts and Dan Grinstead ended up restoring part of the body and restringing it. The Dolceola now works and I am practicing every day to figure it out. Because it is so small, the left hand has a mix of single notes and triad chords. The concept of what people call "stride" piano can be accomplished by moving fingers back and forth in roughly a two inch span. But it's not easy to play. The Dolceola is really two concepts at once. There is a middle C and it goes up two octaves like a real piano, but below middle C the "home" sound is Eb and there are seven tones in groups of three: a bass note, a note on the chord and then a triad. The sequence on the keyboard is not like a piano. I can't explain more, but I can say the notes like C, F and G are found on black keys! It is a challenge but it makes a wonderful sound. I am getting myself ready and getting the hang of it. My biggest problem is getting my fingers stuck between black keys.   More soon.

In March I will return to the bay area. March 15 at the jazz club with Bob Schulz, and MONDAY March 16 at Pier 23. I wanted to emphasize that because Pier 23 is always on a Tuesday, but they had other plans for Saint Patrick's Day. If you are a Pier 23 regular, just remember the Monday.

I have not mentioned baseball in a long time, but I will be there. I seem to have no choice but to part of the Chicago Cubs. Frustration sometimes, but generally a stable force in my life.

Look for some
new pictures. –>


Darnell Howard

Ray and Darnell Howard

In Seattle I hope people will keep supporting the New Orleans Creole Restaurant. Dave Holo is a fine trumpet player who leads two separate bands on Mondays and Tuesdays. Ham Carson plays most Thursdays and the Bob Jackson band is the first Thursday group. And I hope people will continue to support the Puget Sound Traditional Jazz Society. I will be there several times this year. And the fine Grand Dominion Jazz plays there in May, on Norwegian Independence Day!

I like to make little lists every month. Here goes for February.:

Favorite books of the last two years: Ghost Soldiers by James Tate, The Maytrees by Annie Dillard, Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson.

Favorite clarinets I think of when I pull out old records: Jimmy Noone, Frank Teschmacher, Darnell Howard, Bill Napier, Benny Goodman, Barney Bigard, Edmond Hall, Lester Young, Pee Wee Russell.

JIm Goodwin

Jim Goodwin & Ray

Favorite living piano player I would most want to listen to right now:
Jim Goodwin

Favorite words: when, since, although, if, even if, as, because

Favorite Heaven: Cubs win!

Favorite Hell: Fox News

Favorite actresses besides Jean Arthur: Shelly Duvall, Joan Blondell,
Ann Sheridan, Sissy Spacek, Spring Byington, Betty White


~ March 2009 ~

My two favorite "holidays" are the first day of Daylight Saving Time (this year March 8) and the opening day of baseball season. On rare occasions they even converge! I love early morning, long days and baseball, especially daytime baseball. And I will be following every moment of Chicago Cub life this season. This year I will be playing piano at Tutta Bella with Mike Dougherty and Matt Weiner from 5-8 on the first day of Daylight Saving Time. Good stuff.

February has been a quiet music month for me. I don't mind. But in March things pick up. I will also play with Bob Jackson at the New Orleans Creole Restaurant on the first Thursday, then head down to the Bay Area to work and record with Bob Schulz and play MONDAY, March 16 at Pier 23.


I have been hard at work learning the Dolceola. The left hand follows an eccentric pattern but I am getting it. Long ago I was a mail clerk at the Sea-Tac postal center and I could toss letters in little slots that seemed hard to memorize at first and then they became automatic. Same way on the Dolceola. I am certain that I will be recording very soon on this ancient and charming instrument.

Darnell Howard
Ray and Darnell Howard

The other day I was thinking that my favorites lists are things that I do all the time in my head, but that I usually omit something or someone important. And I thought of two wonderful piano players I wanted to mention: Sir Roland Hanna and Erroll Garner. They are explorers. Lewis and Clark on the piano. Try to find Roland Hanna's
recording of "Century Rag." The beauty of his ideas just amazes me. And Erroll Garner. I think staring at his left hand could bring about world peace.


My favorite trombone players:
Lawrence Brown and Dickie Wells.

My favorite automobile is a
1940 Plymouth.

Favorite cartoonist is Carl Barks.

Poplar is my favorite tree.


Erroll Garner

JIm Goodwin

Jim Goodwin & Ray

I hope to see some old friends at the New Orleans Jazz Club of Northern California meeting March 15 and then again at Pier 23 the next day. Be sure to check the calendar and the poetry page. They keep
changing. Of course I am changing too. I am getting furry and my teeth are getting longer. Ooops, I better go.

~ April 2009 ~

Hello again. I have many changes on the website this time. I hope they are fun to see. I just received a copy of a new CD that was originally recorded in 1982, has just come out on the Delmark label and is called Garvin Bushell and Friends - One Steady Roll. Richard Hadlock organized the music, Al Hall did some arrangements and it includes Richard, Garvin Bushell on clarinet and bassoon, Stu Wilson on bass, Leon Oakley on cornet, John Markham on drums, Barbara Lashley vocals and me on piano. Garvin Bushell, 81 at the time of this recording, was Richard Hadlock's reed teacher and a major figure in jazz history. He worked and recorded with Fats Waller, James P. Johnson, Jabbo Smith, Fletcher Henderson, Cab Calloway, Bunk Johnson and John Coltrane! We want to thank Bob Koester for putting it on his fine label from Chicago.

Garvin & Richard

(l-r) Garvin Bushell, Richard Hadlock, & Ray

March I had a fine time in Berkeley, Oakland and San Francisco, playing, recording and visiting with friends. Rae Ann youtubed the evening at Pier 23 and a whole bunch from that night is on her youtube site. Maybe some of those will pop up here soon. Pier 23 is always wonderful and when I realized what year this is, I could honestly announce that it had been 50 years earlier that I first walked into the place to find Burt Bales. Of course I was under age.

In April I venture to Port Angeles to join Simon Stribling for four days of intense and satisfying music. Then at the end of the month I will travel to Chattanooga. Bob Schulz, Hal Smith and I will do a jazz history concert at the Chattanooga art museum, then we will be part of the Chattanooga jazz festival. I will also try to catch an AA level baseball game during time off.

I continue to develop my instincts on the Dolceola instrument and have now reached a transaction agreement with Bob West, who sponsored the restoration of this amazing instrument. I am buying it and will likely take it with me to any festival that I can drive to.


JIm Goodwin

Hank Sauer

Baseball is about to begin. I have included here a photograph I took when I was fifteen. That is Hank Sauer, the great Chicago slugger, about to throw a baseball. The Cubs had just traded him to the Cardinals. I was very sad, but happy to see him. In later years I used to see Sauer sometimes, sitting in the stands of the Oakland Coliseum. He had a prominent nose, long gray hair feathering out to the sides and a big straw hat! I remember walking up to him and telling him that
I came from Chicago. He smiled because he knew what that meant. In those days in Chicago it was just baseball. They didn't even play the Star Spangled Banner. I loved it. The summer I was 14 I went to almost every game and it is still my strongest memory.


I do want to have at least one of my "favorites" lists. Here are my favorite singers.

Bob Nolan, Bing Crosby, Washington Phillips, Big Maceo, Cab Calloway, Joe Turner, Don Redman, Hoagy Carmichael, Lloyd Perryman, Gene Autry, Tampa Red, Walter Huston, Red Allen, Louie, Milton Brown, Jimmy Rodgers...Lee Wiley, Connie Boswell, Maxine Sullivan, Ethel Waters, Barbara Lashley, Marlene Dietrich, the Boswell sisters, the Rhythm Boys, the Sons of the Pioneers, the Mills Brothers.

~ May 2009 ~

My friend Jim Goodwin has died. I feel it deeply, and although I know words can’t do anything about it, words and memory are all we have. Jim was much loved by many people, not just for his one-of-a-kind musical qualities, but also for his intelligence, wit, imagination, lack of pretense and that wildly independent, boyish nature. How and why he died doesn’t seem so important now, and even though we all worried about what seemed to be a self-destructive path, the reality was still a shock because that boy-like quality had always seemed indestructible and part of us all.

I first met Jim in 1967, when we played some jobs together with Monte Ballou in Portland, Oregon. On one occasion I camped out at his house for a couple of days while we worked on a recording with Monte. Jim had a piano and we fooled around with some duet stuff that caused us to make discoveries about each other that led to a long musical partnership. Jim suddenly was making wild explorations on his cornet, he had tenderness and ferocity and a lot of Wild Bill Davison in him. I was loping along, with a Jess Stacy influence, and we hit it off. I loved the daring and poetic leaps ---and swing!--- in his playing. Not only that, but when Jim sat down at the piano I heard a kinship. He had been affected by the same people I loved: Jess and Joe Sullivan, Earl Hines and Art Hodes. The sound of hot swing, Chicago style and deep blues was all through him. Jim was the best cornet player I ever heard and my favorite contemporary piano player.

When we got hungry that day, we went to a 7-11 store and bought some beef jerky. Jim tasted it as we drove back, didn’t like it, stopped the car on the freeway, put the beef jerky in front of a tire, then drove over it. I realized I was meeting a new kind of person, someone I needed to meet. We would have years ahead where we could “play” imaginatively and discover the surrealistic potential inherent in every moment of life. For me the music was just a starting point. We played baseball, read Donald Duck comics and generally laughed a lot.

Jim Goodwin & Ray

In August 1969 my family and I moved from Seattle to Berkeley. Jim moved down from Portland a few days later, and for many years lived with me in various places --- a back room in a house that had been passed on to me by Bob Mielke, a little apartment over a garage on Bancroft Way, and a big attic over what we called the second Benvenue House (Mielke’s was the first).

Before this time, Jim had briefly been in New York, learning to be a stockbroker, a profession he walked away from pretty quickly as he called himself “the world’s youngest retired stockbroker.” From that point on, he worked entirely as a musician, never completely making a living and floating from one home to another. But he was a rising star and quickly became in demand with all the great Bay Area musicians, who also took him to their hearts. Eventually Jim expanded his world with trips to Europe, especially with his appearances at the Breda Festival in The Netherlands. Still, he once told me an idea he had about an ideal job, and it didn’t involve music. He would live in the woods then hike a long, beautiful trail, and when he got to the end, someone would be there and Jim would say, “Everything’s all right down at my end.” Then he would return.


Music in general was not so important, just the right music. I remember one time Richard Hadlock brought Joe Sullivan to my house and Jim and I were thrilled to be sitting around, talking with our hero. We were playing tapes of jazz and at one point, Bob Zurke started playing Joe’s anthem “Little Rock Getaway," and Sullivan loudly growled, “C’mon Zurke that’s not how you play it.” We loved Joe, his musical pride and his desire to do things the right way. Jim and I would often recall that day and how Joe reacted. Music needed passion and poetry.

The first time Jess Stacy played at the Sacramento Jazz Festival, we were both knocked out. I pushed my way to the stage and partly crawled under the piano. I wasn’t going to miss it. When Jess started I saw Jim nearby. We were both crying at what we heard.

And there were the daily adventures. Once, Jim and I decided to have a suit marathon, and because a marathon is 26 miles, we agreed to wear suits and ties for 26 days, no matter what we were doing or how uncomfortable we were. Another time Jim built a “human” on my front porch, with shoes, pants and shirt full of some kind of stuffing, a realistic old man mask and cutouts of boxer Chuck Wepner’s eyes inserted into the eye holes. Then Jim poured him a glass of wine, lit a cigar for him and placed him in a rocking chair. Then he tied a string to the chair, which he secretly rocked back and forth from inside the house, just hoping someone might pass by and be fooled by his creation, even if it were for only a few seconds.

Jim once tape recorded himself painting a fence. I have the tape. Every now and then you hear a car go by. Otherwise it is silent for a long time. The best part is that Jim allowed that it didn’t turn out as well as he thought it would. Another time, Jim, John Smith, Lueder Ohlwein and I went to a fancy music job without any shirts because the leader said he would supply special shirts for us to wear. We got pretty literal.

We often worked together at Mandrakes with Dick Oxtot, and one time Jim said he wanted to impersonate me and we could stage a fight about which one of us was the real Ray Skjelbred. He got a false beard, wore one of my Cubs caps and a red and black checked shirt, same as mine, and we had a mock fight in front of the piano, each of us claiming to be me. Although this happened in a jazz club, this kind of humor was only marginally public. It was an elaborately shaped experience for friends, and if it was only observed for a second or two, that was enough. Of course music was the same way. Everything was personal, nothing was commercial.


We played for many years as a duet at the Bull Valley Inn in Port Costa. Many wonderful friends and musicians joined us there and everyone knew you would never hear anything the same way twice. I can’t list everyone but John Smith was very important to Jim and joined when he could. Ray Landsberg was there, and Bob Mielke, Burt Noah, Clarence Jackson, P.T. Stanton and so many more. During that time we made a fine recording with the Yeti Chasers. The full name is Port Costa Yeti Chasers and it came about because one night on the long, twisty, dangerous, rural road back home from Port Costa, Jim and I both had to stop to take a leak. We heard footsteps in the dark, large ones, and they sounded like two feet, not four, which would have indicated a local cow. We knew a creature was after us. Thus the name. We also did some wonderful recordings together with the Berkeley Rhythm band, a floating cushion of swing.

As times passed, Jim was gone to Europe off and on and other wonderful players took his place: Richard Hadlock, Bob Short, Bob Neighbor and so on. All wonderful people. I am happy to say that out of his European travels there is now a new (1979) CD of Jim with a great cast of musicans and friends, the Sunset Music Company, a musical fireball with Dan Barrett, Bill Carter, Luder Ohlwein, Mike Fay and Jeff Hamilton that is available on Blue Swing Records.

By the end of the 70’s, Jim had moved back to Portland. He stayed at his mother’s apartment for a while, then a big flat, where I met Retta Christie, who did so much to keep Jim going in his last years, then the wild farmhouse out at Camp Brownsmead near Astoria and finally an apartment in Portland. When Jim moved back to Oregon, the daily life connection closed down, but we did see each other off and on and I got his many typed letters and wild drawings, which I have kept and none of which had much to do with the world as others see it. We were great admirers of Carl Barks drawings of Donald Duck and in addition to his own wildly original work, Jim could reproduce Barks’ ideas, but always with a twist. In one Donald comic there is a small, obscure painting of a duck, relative on the wall, an old duck with a big beard and wide, staring, innocent eyes, a look Jim often assumed. He took that stamp size painting and made it a large, full-blown painting, which I have on my wall. But I missed Jim and the spirit of Berkeley life with him. No longer would we spend long hours playing my ancient Foto-Electric football game with Jim’s team, The Jamaican Zombies and mine, The Wild Hogs, while we drank beer and listened to Horace Henderson records in the background.

In later years Jim kept his independence, sometimes stubbornly so, against the wishes of doctors and friends until, I suppose, it caught up with him, which leads to the final perfect story. Jim once played a game of Monopoly with friends, but wouldn’t buy property. He just kept going around the board, staying loose, not wanting to be tied down, even with a Monopoly house!

In saying what I have said, I know I have left out details and important people, but I can’t go on too much longer! Machteld Van Buren, his wife and longtime companion is a lovely person and knew who Jim was. His Seattle friends, who first met Jim when he filled in for Bob Jackson in the Great Excelsior Jazz Band, and especially Bob West, a friend who helped Jim in the last few years. Of course Fred Bowman, his lifelong Portland friend. And many more.


The poet and undertaker (for real) Thomas Lynch says the dead don’t care, and I suppose that may be true, but the poet William Stafford, writing about the death of his son, talked about the “days he could never lose,” and I suppose that’s also true. Jim had many wonderful days he could never lose, and as long as we have words and memories, we won’t lose them either.


Other News – Two good things: I have finished the Doceola recording and am sending it off for production. Also, the Ray Skjelbred and his Cubs CD on Jazzology has now come out and I recommend it! Kim Cusack is wonderful. I just finished a positive festival in Port Angeles with Simon Stribling and am now off to Chattanooga with Bob Schulz.

NOTE: Click the photo to the left to see a dolceola video.

~ June 2009 ~

I am grateful to have received many kind responses to what I wrote about Jim Goodwin last month. I have added more pictures of Jim and they are in a stack on the gallery page. I always hope anyone will check around on the site because I make changes all the time. The news changes, but pictures are also always a little different from month to month, and I put up new poems each time. The calendar, of course, keeps moving forward with new things.

Clint Baker was here on Norwegian Independence day and I had fun showing him the Nordic Museum and the Norwegian Fjord horses. Of course he also played at the Puget Sound Jazz Club, mostly drums then joining Bob Jackson on horn with the Grand Dominion Band. Clint will be taking Bob's place in the band now, but Bob will still be active, just not traveling. In fact Bob and I will be playing at the Puget Sound club in June and also at the New Orleans Creole Restaurant. I also have a mid-month trip to the Bay Area, then the Olympia Jazz festival at the end of June.

Fjord horse

Norwegian Fjord horse.


The Dolceola CD is not quite out, but should be available soon. June sometime.

People often ask if I will be in certain musical events and I am glad to report that I will be at the West Coast Ragtime Festival this year. Good fun and many good piano players there.

NOTE: Click the photo to the left to see a dolceola video.

~ July 2009 ~

The Dolceola cd is now out! Also, the WIld Bill Davison memorial concert, recorded in Berkeley a couple of years ago is also available. Dolceola, on Orangapoid is available through me, from the website and also on gigs. Wild Bill concert can be purchased through Jazzology, along with the Ray Skjelbred and his Cubs cd. I feel a bit embarrassed by the sudden release of so many cd's, but the truth is that they come from different sources, recorded at different times and just happened to converge right now.

The Olympia jazz festival gave me an opportunity to play a few songs on the Dolceola and the crowd seemed surprised by this mysterious instrument. A positive reaction. Rae Ann was there and did some video of a few songs that may end up as youtubes soon.

I will be going to going to the bay area in a couple of weeks. You can check calendar about that. Always wonderful at Pier 23 and the annual Cline Winery festival are features.

doceola video

NOTE: Click the photo above
to see a dolceola video.

Also visit:
for more dolceola videos.



Now for something really important: my favorite names of jazz musicians.

Jelly Roll Lipschitz
Balls Ball
Eustern Woodfork
Boojie Centobie
Abe Lincoln
George Washington

And my favorite current television show: Spongebob Squarepants.

~ August 2009 ~

Hot weather. I love it and I love four in the morning on hot days. I just got back from a good (and hot) trip to the Bay Area and I had fun at Pier 23, the Straw Hat in Rancho Cordova, a recording with Joan Craig, the Friends of Jazz in Danville and the Cline Jazz and Wine Festival near Sonoma. After many trips to Berkeley and some wonderful other places this year, it now looks like I have no trips down there in the near future. I will be at the West Coast Ragtime Festival in Sacramento, but that will be in November and no connecting links that I know of.

The last few months I have been a little rushed about changing pictures, but I have some new things this time. In the Home section, you should notice my father's stocking garters and the whole feel of black and white. I will include here a picture of Bill Napier and Bobby Gordon, two of the greatest clarinet players in jazz history.


I wanted to put this in because we were all in Atlanta one time, and during a set identified as "Clarinet Summit," the top, I suppose, these two guys were wandering around in the lobby of the hotel, not included, and me grumpier about it than they were, or should have been. What summit could not include Bill Napier and Bobby Gordon?

I have also put a Roadrunners picture in the Information section. What a wondeful band that was. And then a picture of Bob Mielke and me at the San Diego Jazz Festival on the calendar page. Bob is a wonderful trombone player, old friend, and creator of the most wonderful trombone sound this side of Lawrence Brown.

I have been hearing about the Dolceola from many people I don't know. One person, a janitor, sent me a picture of one he found in the garbage! I have been having fun with it and selling quite a few of the new cd. Now I have to decide if I can go to Sacramento with it for the Ragtime Festival. I can't fit it on a train or airplane, and certainly not in baggage. I can drive but fear snow in the Siskiyou Pass. Still, that may be the best choice.

doceola video

NOTE: Click the photo above
to see a dolceola video.

Also visit:
for more dolceola videos.

Jim Goodwin. September 19 some friends will be gathering in Hillsboro, Oregon for a Jim memorial. I hope to make it, though I have a potential conflict with a job I agreed to that might or might not happen. So, now, here is the story of the Singer and Jim Goodwin. We were driving along in Berkeley one day when we saw a bright, yellow sports car. It was a Singer and for sale at a price that somehow was possible for Jim. He bought it and also got boxes of spare parts and an extra motor. We took it all back to the Benvenue house that I got from Bob Mielke. The motor was hard to move and we dragged it on an old rug until we gave up and left it in the yard. Oscar Anderson, who owned the house we lived in and the one in front where he lived, complained and wanted us to move the motor. I don't recall that we ever did. Later we went to see Lu Watters and on our return the car would not start. It was not reliable from the first. Lu kept saying goodbye and we kept on not leaving, until finally Lu got too cold and went back indoors. All the boxes of car parts, whatever they were (and neither of us knew), ended up in Jim's small room. When Marshall Peterson of the New Orleans Jazz Club of Northern California informed Jim that he was an All Star in the jazz club and would appear in a concert to demonstrate that fact, Marshall asked for a biographical entry from Jim, and (of course) all the other chosen musicians. Jim wrote back, "Sheriff Peterson, what is 26 years old and sleeps with car parts? Answer: Jim Goodwin." That was Jim's "auto" biography.

eddie lang

Ray Skjelbred assorted favorites:

Mr. Hulot's Holiday, Monument Valley, Fra Diavolo, Eddie Lang, Hack Wilson, Amélie, Mr. Peepers, Ming the Merciless, Orchids in the Moonlight, Richard Farnsworth, Wisconsin, Mary Lou Williams and Milton Brown and his Brownies.

~ September 2009 ~

I like to watch trees and since I am able to look up and find myself surrounded, I can easily lose track of where each tree begins. On what property does it stand? Some are mine but many more start somewhere else and they run together. How can someone own a tree? If anything, we are lucky to be owned by them. Saw an eagle far up today. And every night the crows fly away from the sunset. Are they going home from work?

Two new cd's will be out soon. One is a slightly revised version of the Yerba Buena Stompers that I was happy to be part of in a recorded January concert for Charles "Duff" Campbell's birthday party. I also recorded with Glenn Crytzer's Blue Rhythm band, a 13 piece orchestra that really does do Basie, Ellington, Goodman, Lunceford arrangements. That should be ready by October. A small version of the band will play at the old Century Ballroom that month for a cd party.

The Art Of Solo Piano

I have just finished reading Jane Addams' wonderful book Twenty Years at Hull-House. She was one of America's greatest teachers and spiritual leaders who, in 1910, wrote about her work with the poor, immigrants and culturally impoverished. She spent her life fighting for the rights of people and, strangely enough for 100 years ago, she fought to make the government take a stand and help people with health care. Hmmm. She devoted her life to helping others and was, of course, called a socialist for her efforts to protect children, working girls and non-English speaking, rural, immigrant familes who were crowded into dreary tenements. My goodness, Jane Addams. And remember, Benny Goodman and Art Hodes began their music learning at Hull-House. Bless her.

stan musial

Stan Musial

Other things in the world that I love:

Stan Musial,
the Columbia River,
Knut Hamsun,
pickled herring,
Benny Morton,
Rod Cless.

~ October 2009 ~


The Great Excelsior Jazz Band with Bob Jackson (the tallest one.)

Bob Jackson has decided that it would be best for his health if he shuts down his playing. I feel sad about this but I also treasure him as a person and want him to be healthy. He was very ill in September in a way that has happened at least once in each of the last three years. Bob just doesn't seem able to fight it off and he is now going to take it easy. The First Thursday band will continue, however, both at the New Orleans restaurant in Pioneer Square and at the Puget Sound Traditional Jazz Society in December. In fact I have thought of a motto. "Wherever there's a first Thursday, we'll be there." At least I hope so.

I attended the Jim Goodwin Memorial day in Hillsboro a couple weeks ago. Although I have dark thoughts about death, I was happy to see so many old friends who gathered together because of Jim. I was one of the speakers and tried not to repeat what I had written here. Mark Caparone and Simon Stribling both played horns later in the music portion, and they both showed their allegiance to Jim in their playing. And Jeff Hamilton, John Smith, Mike Fay, Richard Hadlock, Dave Frishberg, Dave Evans, Karl Walterskirchen, Mike Duffy and Bob West all were there. Many Portland people I did not know. Thanks especially to Fred Bowman, Barb Houser and Retta Christie in organizing and preparing.

I seem to be playing a healthy mix of gigs at The Pink Door, The New Orleans restaurant and the Century Ballroom.

Rebecca Kilgore comes to Seattle this month with "friends" who will play at Leif Erickson hall as well as the Puget Sound jazz meeting.

My little "Cubs" band will be playing for the Arizona Jazz Society next May. Good. More on that later.

I watched an old Joel McCrea film today. That is who I want to be when I grow up.

Joel McCrea

Joel McCrea with Fay Wray in
"The Most Dangerous Game."

~ November 2009 ~

Each Hour Teems!

A few CD notes. The Glenn Crytzer Blue Rhythm band CD is now out and it sounds quite different than anything I have ever worked on. Big band arrangements mean that I can never look up from the music, but the results are interesting and they swing. Also, Ted Shafer's new recording is out on Merry Maker 38. Leon Oakley and I joined his regular group to honor 50 years of Ted's recordings.

The Art Of Solo Piano

I was fortunate to hear and see the wonderful poet Arthur Sze at the Seattle main library in October. His observations and writing are absolutely original and I have put a poem of his on the poetry page, a poem that ends "each hour teems." Of course those three words define the daily miracle, the source of all poetry and music.

Now here is a film quiz. I will give a line. Guess the film and the answer will be below.

film poster

1. "So its number one, is it?"

2. "Why don't we become bandits?"

3. "You have big, broad shoulders, but you are not a man."

4. "Paso por aqui."

5. "You ever heard of tacklin'?

My Seattle music connections have grown stronger with new people and new places. I really appreciate that. Still, I am going to festivals. Sacramento Ragtime Festival this month, then Fresno and Seaside in February. Port Angeles in April (with both Bob Schulz and Simon Stribling) and Sacramento in May (with Simon and Bob again). I will also be at the Chattanooga festival in April with Bob.

I am very aware of crows these days. They seem to be very tolerant of our behavior.

Film quiz answers:

1. Treasure of the Sierra Madre. Bruce Bennett says this to the three men searching for gold, after they decide to kill him.

2. Fra Diavolo. Stan Laurel says this after he and Ollie have been robbed of their life savings.

3. High Noon. Katie Jurado says this to Lloyd Bridges. He certainly isn't Gary Cooper.

laurel and hardy

4. Four Faces West. a key identifying line in an amazing western in which no gun is fired. Naturally the hero is Joel McCrea.

5. The Last Picture Show. Ben Johnson gently chides a football player. Ben Johnson was gentle.

The weather is turning wet and windy. Hang on.

~ December 2009 ~

Had a good time at the West Coast Ragtime Festival last month. Tom Warner has youtubes of me and others that are worth a look. I played a set and seminar with the Dolceola and had a great response from a rather surprised audience. I was also lucky to play Dolceola on a set with Craig Ventresco and Meredith Axelrod.

ragtime logo

It all fit together. I love what they do and the guitar duet is my favorite part of the festival. I also enjoyed playing with Hal Smith, Marty Eggers and duets with Sonny Leyland. A new person to me was Taslimah Bey, a black woman from Detroit, who played sensitively, with open spaces between notes.

I have a variety of good local jobs in December and a highlight will be the Puget Sound Traditional Jazz Society with my group from the New Orleans restaurant joined by Jim Armstrong, Paul Woltz and Jake Powel.

christmas eve

Right now it is about two and a half months until the pitchers and catchers start working out. I can't wait. Also the Cubs will be in Seattle in 2010.

We know some favorite Christmas films, but here are a few I like that are not so well known: "Christmas Eve" with Randolph Scott and George Raft; "Three Godfathers" with John Wayne, Pedro Armendariz and Harry Carey Jr.; "Meet John Doe" with Gary Cooper. I also put my favorite Christmas poem on the poetry page.

~ January 2010 ~

At the end of the year I always watch the film "Meet John Doe" and I am always moved by the ideas and by Gary Cooper. In one, long, slow scene (something Frank Capra was not afraid to try) the great character actor James Gleason talks with Cooper about goodness and decency. When he refers to Jefferson and Lincoln, he calls them "lighthouses in a foggy world" and I always think about the lighthouses and the fog and how we survive and are guided day by day. Historically I certainly think of Jane Addams and Eugene Debs, and Eudora Welty and Ernie Banks and all the people who are gentle, yet decisive.

ragtime logo

In our current world people yell at each other all the time, but not just on the street. They yell on 24hour news stations, and blogs and survivor shows. The gentle yearning for a giving and creating world is still there, but often covered by noise. I think of Bill Moyers and the Lehrer Report. I think of the sound of Bobby Gordon's clarinet, I think of Katie Cavera and Clint Baker and Bob Jackson. And many more people I can't possibly list.

pika face Lighthouses. And all the good dogs and cats. And horses and worms. And poets like Arthur Sze and Dorianne Laux. And the mountains and rivers. And the fennecs and gooseberries. And mashed potatoes. And ducks. And Jim Goodwin. And whatever brings truth, beauty and gentleness to the world.

~ February 2010 ~

Festivals get going again this month with Fresno and Seaside. I'll be in Port Angeles and Chattanooga in April, Sacramento in May. I also have three Bay Area trips planned in May, June and July with gigs at Pier 23, The Freight and Salvage, Clint Baker's job at Borrone's and the Cline Winery festival among other things.

In Seattle my First Thursday band from the New Orleans Restaurant has been great fun. We keep expanding our repertoire with things like Yearning and Blue, Hello Lola, Tennessee Twilight, The Old Man of the Mountain and many more surprises, all thanks to the talent of Steve Wright, Dave Brown and Mike Daugherty.

Books - Right now I'm rereading the Earl Hines/Stanley Dance book called The World of Earl Hines. The prose and chronology are sometimes chaotic, but often Hines is right on when talking about his own style, and I occasionally have "It's a Wonderful Life" moments and wonder what my life would have been like if he had not been born. On page 52 Hines talked about his link to Louis Armstrong and said, "Now when people talk about my 'trumpet style' I think they usually mean when I play phrases in octaves like a trumpet player would play, but I used tremelo to give an effect like his vibrato, too. I'd reduce the weight of the note and use the sustaining pedal as the sound of the note thinned out." Yes, that's it exactly!

earl hines

Earl Hines and Ray Skjelbred
at the Press Club, San Francisco,
sometime in the 1970's.

~ March 2010 ~

One of the remarkable events of February was the piano crush that Dan Grinstead orchestrated. He has always enjoyed hopelessly bad pianos as a new musical sound and over the years has recorded many pianists playing seriously on terrible pianos. In fact he is planning a CD of these remarkable sounds. I did some recording on a recent clunker he had and when he decided to dump it later, he arranged for it to be crushed at an industrial shop in Seattle. I attended and noticed that the crushing press had a pressure of 250 tons.

With that in mind, I was wary of flying objects, but happy to experience the crushing. I have written a little poem about the experience and that appears on my poetry page. The force was extraordinary, but the sound was thrilling. I could not help but think of Dylan Thomas and his Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night Poem. The piano's last gasp was ferocious, especially compared to its whining and cloudy slow death up to the final moment.

crushed piano

It looks like some more steady work is opening up in Seattle. Glenn Crytzer has settled a plan for his smaller jazz band to play at the Century Ballroom on the First Sunday and Third Wednesday of every month, starting in April (yes, first one on Easter, but 4th of July the place is closed). This is a big dance venue and Glenn is hoping to bring the dancers and jazz fans together. I will be in the group and look forward to something new.
dog years

Poet Mark Doty recently wrote a book called Dog Years, a wonderful exploration about love, death and dogs. I just read it and I see my dog staring back at me even more now. Other recent poets I have read include Tony Hoagland, Charles Simic and Billy Collins. I find it satisfying to know that good writers are alive in the world and could continue to write new books. Keep the soul on fire.

Looking forward to the Port Angeles festival. I will probably bring my Dolceola for a little bit of playing. And then Chattanooga.

By the way, my poetry books are available through me. You can see titles and sample poems on the poetry page. You Are Here and Greatet Hits are $10 and Disposition of Stones is $5 You can send to 19526 40th Place NE., Lake Forest Park, WA, 98155. Oh, Greatest Hits was not my idea for a title. It is from a series that the editor is producing. I don't think I could give anything that title!

~ April 2010 ~

Spring and baseball. The best. Warmer weather brings me to life. We had almost 70 degrees today in Seattle, in March. When the Lake Forest Park farmers' market starts up, I think in May, I believe I will be taking my Dolceola down there and play sweet tunes mid the tomatoes and berries. I have checked on the appropriateness issue and I am happy to say that my Dolceola and I are welcome. Of course we are just going into April now, and I must be patient.


crushed piano

Photo by Tom Warner

I will be playing every first Sunday and third Wednesday with Glenn Crytzer and his Syncopators - 9:30-12:30 at the Century Ballroom, Seattle. This is a good little band that swings hard and implies the sound of a much bigger band. We start in April on Easter Sunday!

I will be playing in the Port Angeles Jazz Festival with both Bob Schulz and Simon Stribling. Very busy! When the smoke clears on Sunday, I hope to play a few Dolceola songs. Doubling is not easy, but I am happy to play in two good bands.

A few days after Port Angeles, I will be off to Chattanooga with the Schulz band.

Dan Grinstead tells me his production of a CD of piano music on horrible pianos is just about to come out. It will include a CD of piano music plus a DVD of the actual crushing of the last piano used. Wow! I have a couple of tracks on this.

In May I will be going to Berkeley for the first of three trips there this year. Sunday, May 9 I will join Bob Mielke at the Freight and Salvage, Tuesday I will be at Pier 23, Wednesday I go up to Rancho Cordova (Sacramento) to play at the Straw Hat, then Friday at Borrone's with Clint Baker.

People often ask me about Bob Jackson, a wonderful cornet player and my lifelong friend. He is doing very well. Last week we biked from here to around the north end of Lake Washington and ended up at the Red Hook brewery. It was an effort and Bob was just grand!

dog years

I own a boat, a Portland Pudgy, a little rowboat and it is wonderful in a land of lakes. It has had a few problems, but they are getting worked out and drifting in water is a wonderful idea.
I love it.

I don't know how, but I have had plenty of time to read in the last month. I read The Truth About the Holy Bible by Robert Ingersoll, a lovely little book that Johnny Wittwer gave me years ago. Then I read Blix and Moran of the Lady Letty, two obscure books by Frank Norris, romantic and daring things. I read the US constitution, a piece that bubbles over with references to an America that does not and could not exist any more. The writers were slave holders---- good men, but slave holders, and they did not know about Darwin or women or a non-agrarian society. Still, a good effort that needs plenty of interpretation by an enlightened society. I read McTeague, a wonderful novel by Frank Norris. A month ago I read The Octopus, my favorite of Norris. This was a man who knew how to make characters we cared about. Now I am reading a wonderful biography of Eugene Debs.

We have new neighbors, a group home of people with mental handicaps and a floating group of people who oversee them. I love these people. They have good hearts and kind manners. How lucky to live next to them.

~ May 2010 ~

May, June and July are going to be busy times. I have to remember to pull weeds and run with the dog. The steady work at Seattle's magnificent Century Ballroom seems to have a future. The Glenn Crytzer Syncopators group has tight arrangements. I am trying my best to read the music! The big Lindy Hop crowd seems to like it all. The band includes Glenn on guitar; Steve Mostovy, trumpet; Craig Flory, reeds; Benji Bohannon or Mike Daugherty, drums; Dave Brown, bass; Rays, piano. The rhythm section with Mike and minus Glenn is the same as my First Thursday band.

June 13 I will be playing accordion with Glenn at a private party. It's been a while since I squeezed it. Playing trombone, accordion and Dolceola are secondary to piano, but make life interesting.

May 23 my Cubs band with Kim Cusack, Katie Cavera, Hal Smith and Clint Baker will be playing a jazz concert for the jazz club in Chandler, Arizona. We've been looking forward to this for quite a while.The band will also be playing for the Puget Sound Jazz Society in Seattle in October.


April 18 I attended a poetry reading by Sharon Olds. I read all of her books before the reading. I love her writing and public reading qualities. Let the words carry you. Let your voice be the vehicle for images and sounds that you can't help saying. I feel the same way about music. The entertainment in music is the music itself.

I also read Bob Hilbert's book on Pee Wee Russell, thanks to Tom Schmidt, who sent me a copy. I have always enjoyed Pee Wee and how his musical mind worked.

dog years

~ June 2010 ~

I have been really busy with music and travel. I had a big trip to Chattanooga, then on to North Carolina, all with the Bob Schulz band. And I had a good week in Berkeley, Oakland and the bay area right after that. I love playing at Pier 23 and had fun seeing old friends. The Freight and Salvage job with Bob Mielke and Barbara Dane was lovely. The musicians were very supportive of each other: Clint Baker, Laurie Lewis, Bill Reinhart, Jeff Hamilton, Richard Hadlock, Marc Caparone all tuned in.



At the Freight And Salvage with Bob Mielke
(l-r) Jeff Hamilton, Bob Mielke, Marc Caparone,
Richard Hadlock, & Barbara Dane
photo by Clint Baker

May 23 my Cubs band played in Chandler, Arizona for a very appreciative crowd, thanks to Rae Ann Berry's support and sponsorship. That band is like no other and I think the crowd could feel it.

Note: The above video was made by Rae Ann Berry.
For more videos of The Cubs in Chandler, AZ please visit:

I made my first trip to play Dolceola at the Lake Forest Park Farmers' market in May and it was very successful. I felt comfortable playing and the crowd seemed fascinated. I have some specific future dates listed, but I think I may not list more after June, because I will try to always be there if I can, and I know there may be inevitable conflicts. So, that is how it will go. The idea that people are strolling by is something I like very much, because the audience is constantly changing. The world is new, over and over again.

I am finishing reading D.H. Lawrence's lovely book Studies in Classic American Literature. It is sort of crazy and conversational, not typical research or criticism. And it strikes at the heart of America's desire to KNOW and UNDERSTAND all experiences. This book was written in the 1920's but sees into the thinking behind many fearful and destructive conservative American thinking patterns that have grown to be more visible in later years. Lawrence believed in the hot blood of creativity, the holy ghost of the human heart.

dog years

I also have finally discovered the identity of a marvelous woman whose monologue about her religious experiences I heard part of, several years ago. Julia Sweeney is the creator of "Letting Go of God," a gentle, sweet probing of life on earth: intelligent, witty and unpretentious. It is scheduled on Showtime several times in June.

Well, after a wild ride at Sacramento with Bob Schulz and Simon Stribling, I will return to the bay area June 8 and play at Pier 23 again. Thanks, Ray Skjelbred

~ July 2010 ~

Hello. Anyone who has ever gone to the Sacramento Jazz Jubilee knows the tunnel under the freeway that connects old town to downtown. It kind of reminds me of the Pottersville sequence in the film It's a Wonderful Life---loud, crowded and cacophonic. People along the edges of the tunnel are usually selling something, handing out leaflets for restaurants, appealing for donations and sometimes announcing and declaiming. This year I heard someone yelling about the end of the world. He also carried a sign with a date on it that was a week old. I was delighted and knew this was an automatic poem in the making. He seemed so serious I wondered if maybe the world had already come to an end and we just didn't know it yet. Maybe it was like all questions of faith, where you just have to believe. Well, for better or worse, the new poem is on the poetry page now.

Chris Tyle's "A Tribute to Pee Wee Russell" cd has finally come out. I was fortunate to be in the group and it is a wild and exciting ride. Chris is normally a wonderful trumpet player and an in-demand drummer, but not many people know about his clarinet playing, and that is what he does so effectively on this recording. Katie Cavera plays bass, Hal Smith is on drums and his wife June Smith plays guitar. You can order this cd through Jazzology. Next year I will be playing with Chris's band in Port Angeles at the Jazz in the Olympics festival.

Chris Tyle's Pacific Players
dog years

In July I will be going to the Bay Area again to play at the Cline Festival, Pier 23, Borrone's and other places as well. This looks like the last trip down there this year.

I am getting more opportunities to play with Simon Stribling's Ale Stars. We will be playing at the Aberdeen Rain or Shine festival in September and the Vancouver festival in October.

I am reading Joseph Conrad's The Shadow-Line. There is not a breeze in sight. The ship is drifting!


~ August 2010 ~

I enjoyed my trip to Berkeley in July, probably the last one there this year. With five jobs close together I got to see good old friends like Clint Baker, Leon Oakley, Bob Mielke, Ray Landsberg, Ev Farey, Marty Eggers, Virginia Tichenor and many more.

With warmer weather, the Lake Forest Park Farmers' market has been even more fun. I will try to be there any Sunday afternoon when I have the time. I will be playing the Dolceola amid strawberries and salmon. Even though the hours are 11-4, I usually play something more like 11-2.

Vacation coming up with travel by airplane, boat and train. I will be crossing Lake Michigan for the first time.

Chris Tyle's Pacific Players


dog years

I am always delighted when I find a Stephen Jay Gould book I have not read and now I am zooming through The Flamingo's Smile. Gould was an evolutionary biologist with great wisdom, humor and kindness in his writing. He knew a great truth that applies to science or art: little things matter.

The sun is coming out and I must away!


~ September 2010 ~

I see there is now a news archive, thanks to Katie, and I even read back through it myself. I learned quite a bit!

The focus of August was a visit to Milwaukee and Michigan farm country. I felt lucky to travel part of the trip by boat and train. At the farm in Allegan, Michigan I was busy in the pursuit of Leinenkugel's beer, the flight, song, and dance of Sand Hill Cranes, cicada songs, two more Stephen Jay Gould books and a delightful and cranky collection of essays by H.L. Mencken. On the poetry page I have a new poem that gathers some of this.

I suddenly have a new trip to the San Francisco bay area, just when I thought that was over for this year. On the calendar page you will see that I am doing a house party for Warren Jennings in Santa Rosa on Sept. 12, then Pier 23 on Sept. 14. Contact information for Warren is available there.

Chris Tyle's Pacific Players

Ray Skjelbred and his Cubs will be playing two jobs in Seattle: October 16 from 4-8 at the New Orleans restaurant, then the next day for the Puget Sound jazz club from 12:30 to 4:30. We can use all the support we can get, especially at the restaurant. Come see us.

dog years

Sand Hill Cranes are remarkable. In flight they look sort of like Superman from the old television show, arms and legs flying straight out in front and back; when they dance in fields they tend to look like John Cleese; and when you hear their voices without seeing them, they sound like adolescent wild turkeys who are gargling. They don't resemble Bing Crosby but they do kind of remind me of Sterling Holloway. Remember, he was the stork who delivered Dumbo to his mother!


~ October 2010 ~

I am looking forward to October 16 and 17 when my little band the Cubs will be playing in Seattle for the New Orleans Creole Restaurant and the Puget Sound Traditional Jazz Society. In addition, we have now been asked to play at the Olympia Jazz Festival next June and some more things are pending. That is good news. Hal Smith will be able to play Seattle on Sunday, Mike Daugherty will be on drums Saturday. Jeff Hamilton will be with us next year at Olympia. Also, Dave Brown will be joining us in Seattle, as Clint Baker has a scheduling conflict. This means a bit of blending between the Cubs and my Seattle group, the First Thursday Band, a wonderful group. It should be a special weekend.


The Cubs (l-r) Hal Smith, Kim Cusack, Katie Cavera,
Ray Skjelbred, Clint Baker

I have been very busy in September with Simon Stribling, Bob Schulz, Glenn Crytzer and a trip to the bay area where I got to play some duet things with the wonderful Meredith Axlerod at a house party given by Warren Jennings. All good music, but I need to sit under some trees with my dog a little more.

I have been reading Jim Harrison this last month, including Dalva and The Road Home which I am not quite done with. He is very internal. Characters do things, but mostly their memories are triggered by what they are doing and there are many stories within stories. He loves the land, the native people and dogs and he is a solid writer.

I must admit I have a birthday soon which represents a marking line in life, I suppose, because people love mathematical symmetry. Of course that is not very real. How many days exist in a year? Just ask Stephen Jay Gould about that. But such a birthday does cause me to think again about who I am. Reflection, or thinking back has been a part of my life since I was very little. At four I was melancholy about a jacket I wore when I was two, and so on.

I do know that I will never use a leaf blower. I will never use the words "option" or "bottom line." I will never willingly play any songs with the following words in the title: fingers, knuckles, hands, keys, black and whites, 88's or anything of that nature.

jess stacy

Jess Stacy

But I love the world and every precious second of life. I can recall every year that I have lived by events, travel, people, books and, of course, deaths. Joe Sullivan died in his mid-60's. He was tough but drank himself to death. Earl Hines got to 80 by taking pretty good care of himself, even though he had a busy musical schedule. Jess Stacy was 90. Well, he walked away from music, tended his garden, took long walks and was a quiet man. He may have been the wise one. Who knows?

You can check the poetry page for my new sandhill crane poem.

~ November 2010 ~

I had a great train ride to Vancouver to begin October. This lovely ride goes along the water most of the way and I felt relaxed and comfy. At the end I played with Simon Stribling at the Vancouver festival. Unfortunately, it seems that this will be the last Vancouver festival. We recorded while we played and if all turns out well, there may be a new CD soon. My personal highlight there was that I finally figured out the chords and baseline that Thelonious Monk plays on Sweet and Lovely. That wasn't really relevant at the moment, but very satisfying.

I have recently learned that one of the tracks from Glenn Crytzer's Blue Rhythm CD (Chasin' the Blues) appears in a new film called Leading Ladies. This is an independent film that has drawn positive reviews at film festivals. Glenn tells me that my piano solo is audible in the film. Well!

blue rhythm cd

I was thrilled to have my band the Cubs appear in Seattle at the New Orleans Restaurant and the Puget Sound Jazz Society Oct. 16-17. On Saturday Mike Daugherty and Dave Brown played in place of Hal Smith and Clint Baker. It felt to me like the First Thursday band and the Cubs had joined together. Good. My two favorite bands.

harrison book

A few new things have come up. I am playing with the Black Swan band at the Ocean Shores festival and next August I will be playing piano at the Sutter Creek festival.

I continue reading Jim Harrison, now going back to a reread of his wonderful book The Woman Lit by Fireflies.

My birthday is November 2, election day. I worry this year. Fear, ignorance and hatred seem to be roaming the land. I especially worry about the trend toward a new interpretation of "common sense," which seems to mean a willful suspension of intelligence based on fact and conscience. I just saw "Inherit the Wind" with Spencer Tracy. The evolution battle is an old one, yet it seems to have to be fought over and over from one generation to the next. That is kind of thing I mean. William Stafford said he stood for the "forlorn cause," which may be the only place to be. Well, I believe in reading, thinking and being inclusive in this odd world. That is all for now. Except yesterday it occurred to me that Earl Hines has been dead for 27 years. Will he be forgotten? I hope not. But we have to fight for it, just like anything else.

~ December 2010 ~

In early November I played a festival at Ocean Shores, WA with the Black Swan Jazz Band and made a wonderful discovery about a singing group from Vancouver called Company B. They get their name from the Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy song made famous by the Andrews sisters, but the real thrill is that they have unraveled the harmonies of the great Boswell sisters and do a number of their songs with great accuracy and feeling. I most enjoyed Lonesome Road, one of my favorite Boswell numbers. They are talented, unpretentious and charming, a rare and wonderful quality in today's cockeyed world.

In late November I joined John Gill's Yerba Buena Stompers in Clearwater, Fla. I have a warm spot in my soul for the old Lu Watters sound, even though it is not the direction I head toward on my own. Good guys and authentic, righteous sounds in the band. I was happy to see John again, and Clint Baker, Orange Kellin, Leon Oakley and others. They bring a passion to the style and I was happy to be part of it. And then make it back to Seattle just before the snow hit.

blue rhythm cd

December and January are fairly light music months for me. It is good to pause. I have quite a few festivals coming up next year, starting with Fresno and Burien in February, Port Angeles, Three Rivers and Chattanooga in April, Sacramento in May, Olympia in June, Sutter Creek in August and Strongsville, Ohio in September. There are more in the works but not definitely set yet. I will also have three or four trips to the Bay Area and I always look forward to that.

harrison book

Musical travel always brings odd leftover time in motels. I always appreciate that on TV there is usually a rerun of Law and Order, one of the few truly decent programs on television.

Who are your favorite character actors? Here are some of mine: Harry Davenport, Thomas Mitchell, James Gleason, William Demarest, Charles Coburn and Ward Bond.

I am still reading through many Jim Harrison novels, all of them reflective and wonderful. I am thinking of reading straight through the Bible next. Maybe. And then all of Darwin.

~ January 2011 ~

OLD YEAR - The ability to make use of memory is our most powerful human gift. We think about things within space and time and the process never stops. Births and deaths are, of course, powerful marking points in our memories and I wanted to briefly comment on two deaths from late 2010 that affected me and my whole journey of becoming who I am. I refer here to Jack Minger and Phil Cavaretta. I did write about the death of Jim Goodwin last year, but I generally avoid the topic because it is a busier one than I want it to be.

But here goes. Trumpet player Jack Minger was one of the most creative musicians I have ever known. He could hear exact melodies and chord patterns of everything he played and then wildly or gently he could spin out daring new versions of both. Some people thought he was a bebop player, yet he spent most of his time in traditional jazz bands. But he was neither. He played Jack Minger jazz: surprising, full of experimental melodies and with a traditional swing that so often landed dead center on the beat. Jack always seemed perfect to me but I think he got caught between musical styles and he was never appreciated as much as he should have been. I know that long ago he recorded with both Jack Sheedy and Wally Rose in musical situations that didn't do justice to his great swinging and lyrical playing. I also know that more recordings do exist now, mostly informal ones and they do demonstrate his powers.

The New Bearcats

Left, Pete Allen; top to bottom,Tony Marcus, Bob Mielke, Bill Napier; left to right, Ray Skjelbred, Jack Minger, Don Marchant. Photo 1980's

Jack played a long time with Dick Oxtot and Bob Mielke's New Bearcats. He also worked in duet with me for several years at the Washington Square Bar and Grill in San Francisco. When we played I remember him showing me close details about songs I didn't know as well as I should and the style of music was just "us," maybe a mixture of Bill Coleman and Shad Collins mixed with Thelonious Monk and Earl Hines. I loved it. Jack was a bright man, sort of a loping, friendly, casual, unpretentious star. I liked his company, even though he was mysterious and private about his own life.

But we could talk about music. One time I remember learning Orchids in the Moonlight and I couldn't quite figure out the tricky melody. Although Jack had not thought of it in years, he was able to give it to me exactly right. Another time I hummed an obscure song for him and he said, "That's Rendezvous with a Dream." He identified the theme song from W.C. Fields' film Poppy. The only other musician I remember who knew that song was Jim Goodwin.

Jack may not have been famous, but he made his mark as an artist and a person. Jack Kerouac even wrote about him, and as a part-owner in San Francisco's Cellar Club Jack was involved in the "Beat" scene of jazz and poetry.

I am sad that Jack is gone. I will miss his hearty but ironic laugh and his experimental musical phrasing. He used to drive for Meals on Wheels in my Oakland neighborhood and sometimes I would see him and he would stop and we would talk for a bit before he rushed off to bring food and his good nature to someone who needed it. Well, I'm glad my good musical friends around San Francisco loved Jack and appreciated him for who he was. Jack never merely demonstrated a jazz style. He knew his history but when you listened to him, you had to really listen. You would always hear something you had never heard before.

Phil Cavaretta is a different story. I never knew him but I did see him play----baseball. When I was a child he was my first Chicago Cub hero. And if anyone was ever a "Chicago" guy, it was Phil Cavaretta. He went to Lane Tech High School and I remember whenever I went past the location (Addison and Western) I would say to myself, that's where Phil Cavaretta went to school.

He joined the Cubs when he was 18, moved down the street to Wrigley Field (also on Addison), played over 20 years in Chicago, hit ferocious line drives and was on three Cubs world series teams. Cavaretta was at the end of his career when I first saw him, but at first I was a little too young to realize it. I just thought he was Phil Cavaretta who would go on forever, and then one day he was gone, even though I stayed loyal to him. I'm sure this was part of my development, my association with people who, for one reason or another, are not part of the main scene. I tended to identify with aging athletes. Joe Louis was another. I wanted them to succeed against all odds. They had become underdogs or outsiders. I've always thought my feelings about literature, life, music and politics were affected by these early sports heroes. Goodbye Phil Cavaretta.


Phil Cavaretta

NEW YEAR - Well, I am sorry to say that there are some musical setbacks for 2011. For one, my job with Glen Crytzer at the Century Ballroom has been reduced to the first Sunday of the month. The third Wednesday has been eliminated. Second, I was going to play with Simon Stribling at the Sacramento Jublilee in May, but now his band is not performing there. Third, and it is a big one, the Port Angeles Jazz Festival has been cancelled. I was really looking forward to this, in fact doubling with Simon's band and Chris Tyle. So, I have good local jobs, the First Thursday band is in a live recording process and the fine Fresno festival comes up in February.

harrison book

My reading has been fun and wild lately. I finished Per Petterson's new book, then I really did plunge into the Bible. After Genesis and Exodus I needed a break and read Thomas Hardy's Return of the Native. Now I am back to reading Leviticus and mixing it in with the adventures of Zippy the Pinhead. Guess which one seems more logical to me.

Check the poetry page for what I have learned from Genesis.

~ February 2011 ~

Sorry, I don't have much work in February, but each event is special. From 11-13 I will be playing with Bob Schulz in Fresno. Many good people will be there, including friends in the Grand Dominion band and the New El Dorado band. February 19 I will be at the one-day Burien Jazz Festival. Old friends Butch Thompson and Rebecca Kilgore will be there as well, along with Dave Frishberg, the Holotradband , Pearl Django and Casey McGill and the Blue Four Trio. Of course on the First Thursday, my band will be playing at the New Orleans Creole Restaurant. We have two nights of live recording already done and will do one more in March (skipping February) and then I will put a cd together. I am happy with what we have so far and happy to be playing with Steve Wright, Dave Brown and Mike Daugherty. I have also been working with Mike Duffy on a cd of live recordings of Jim Goodwin, me and other friends, stuff that is from the Bull Valley Inn in Port Costa, Ca. from the 1970's.

I am currently totally immersed in a recent biography of Thelonious Monk written by Robin D.G. Kelley. It is comprehensively researched and always focuses on the combined qualities of Thelonious Monk as artist and man. It is, for me, the best musical biography I have ever read. Here is a little sequence with Monk "teaching" saxophonist Steve Lacy.

For Lacy it was like being in school, or as he put it, "like about five schools rolled into one." "He had a way of teaching you without saying anything...I had like slick tendencies. I wanted to be really modern and sharp and hip...And he would correct me." By "slick tendencies,"he meant that he would play a lot of complicated phrases that allowed him to show off his virtuosity on his horn, but he would stray from the melody as well as the rhythm. Monk's injunctions were clear: "Don't play all that bullshit, play the melody! Pat your foot and sing the melody in your head, or play off the rhythm of the melody, never mind the so-called chord changes...Don't pick up from me. I'm accompanying you!"


Thelonious Monk

This sounds a lot like what Johnny Wittwer told me. Also, if you listen to Monk play he is always inventing new chords and harmonies but mostly playing the melody, which is the glue that holds it together. The book is astoundingly notated and it is easy to trace every step of Monk's life. I even found the night I saw him at Mandrake's in Berkeley in 1971. I highly recommend this book!

Well, the pitchers and the catchers get started in a few weeks. Baseball, and I can breathe again. Baseball, warmer weather and dogs and the world is mine.

~ March 2011 ~

Good news for my little band called the Cubs. We have been invited to play at the Arizona Jazz Festival in Chandler 2012. We have to wait a bit, but I am happy to know it is happening. We are also playing this year at the Olympia festival at the end of June and the Sacramento Jazz Society meeting Sept. 11.

Also toward the end of June a large herd of goats will appear at Horizon View Park in Lake Forest Park. They will be eating back the blackberries and it is planned as a fun community event. When I found out about it I was enthusiastic enough that the people involved wanted to know if I would volunteer to help with the goats. Of course. I probably will have to keep them apart from any wandering sheep, because I know that is a big problem.


Mike Duffy and I have made good progress on putting together a CD that is mostly Jim Goodwin and me.These are all live recordings from the Bull Valley Inn in Port Costa, CA that were done in 1977-78. Jim and I played there seven years, from 1973 to 1980. Bryan Shaw has been editing the original recordings, the sound is much improved and we now have a test pressing of the final choices. The First Thursday band will also be assembling live recordings from the New Orleans Creole Restaurant in Seattle. It sounds good so far!

the jazz ear
I just finished a book by Ben Ratliff called The Jazz Ear. The author strains a bit too much with precious language. It gets a little cute, but I was also happy to read about many modern jazz musicians that I don't know well. Dewey Redman was interesting to me because he and my older son Joad played together in the Berkeley High School jazz band. I enjoyed the thoughts of pianist Andrew Hill who, in writing about Earl Hines, exactly defined what I believe about solo piano. He described Hines as "concertizing" tunes. He would just be in a bar playing a pop tune, but he would explore it and expand it and turn it into a whole concert adventure. And it came from his ideas at the moment. It was not a prepared piece, a piano showpiece or anything like that.

Ornette Coleman is someone whose music has always been difficult for me to listen to (Monk felt that way too!) but I liked his thoughts. He stressed the importance of ideas, not style and sound, not notes. I can hear that in his playing and I absolutely believe it myself.

Well, I have also read about one third of the way through the old testament and I have finally found a book in it that I enjoyed and that seemed to show insight and compassion---the book of Ruth. It is about people being sensitive with people. The Lord does not intrude and kill 70,000 or so, as usual.

I won't be changing poems on the poetry page this month, but I do have a one line poem I will throw in here. It is absolutely the kind of poem that needs to be seen as well as read.

What is owed to Keats?

~ April 2011 ~

Things keep looking up for the little band called Ray Skjelbred and his Cubs. We have now been asked to play at the Fresno festival in February 2012. Ahead of us we have Olympia (Lacey) this June, a jazz club meeting in Sacramento in September, then Fresno, followed by the Arizona festival in Chandler later in the year---November.

This month I venture to Three Rivers, CA with Bob Schulz. I have not been there since I met Lueder Ohlwein there many years ago, when music was first beginning in that area. Later I am on to Chattanooga, extending into North Carolina. Good fun riding the free Chattanooga shuttle and looking around. And searching out vintage railway stuff.

the cubs

Ray Skjelbred And His Cubs:
(l-r) Hal Smith, Kim Cusack, Katie Cavera, Ray Skjelbred, Clint Baker

Three CD's are now getting very close to breathing the air. All three are live recordings: Simon Stribling's New Orleans Ale Stars, recorded in Vancouver last fall; the First Thursday Band with sessions from three nights at the New Orleans Restaurant here in Seattle; stuff from Port Costa with Jim Goodwin from a long time ago. Recordings have lots of fussy work connected with them and I look forward to the end and some good, new music available.

the jazz ear
I got to see the great Julia Sweeney perform live last month at the Tractor Tavern in Ballard. She is brilliant: sweet, smart and unassuming. It made me think of famous people I have bumped into. Alistair Cooke once bought me a drink at the Fairmont Hotel. Ted Williams shook hands with me and said he would trade "whatever baseball ability he had" (the greatest hitter ever) if he could play piano. Elisha Cook Jr. , the gunsel in The Maltese Falcon once requested that I play Ace in the Hole and that he would sing it. He then disappeared, never to be seen by me again.

Baseball is beginning again and I would like to include my new baseball prose poem called "Right Field."

I think the guy in right field was doing tai chi, and because of how he extended and twisted his arms and legs, Jim said he looked like he was practicing "The Art of Sneaking up on People," even though he didn't seem to know we were there. True, he did get there first, but it was a baseball field, after all, and we outnumbered him roughly 18-1. So we decided to compromise. We considered him "in play," a sort of living ground rule double, but in general we would try to avoid him and pretend he wasn't there, which would make us even, since he had not yet acknowledged our presence.

During the game the people who played right field (usually the last ones chosen in pickup games) started playing in front of him to protect him from balls hit that way, which made them feel more important than they usually did. Then the batters tried to hit to left as much as possible and everything worked out just fine, even though our tai chi man suddenly disappeared without any of us noticing him get away. Then, after the game, several of us (both right fielders and a few others) hinted that they would like to play his position the next time we got together, so we all said we would talk it over. We wanted everyone to have a good time.

Poetry from last month will now appear on the poetry page. It was just one line last month!

~ May 2011 ~

The theme for the Chattanooga Jazz Festival this year is West Coast Trumpet Players. I know that sort of means Lu Watters and Bob Scobey, who are the defining names in the west coast style linked to the Yerba Buena Jazz Band, but it also made me think of how blessed I have been to play with so many other "west coast" trumpet players who have or had a wide range of styles. I think of Bob Jackson in Seattle. We started out together in the Great Excelsior Jazz Band. And Dave Holo is a fine player who works two nights a week at the New Orleans Creole Restaurant. Jim Goodwin, of course, is a giant artist who came from Portland. I also played often with Bob Short who is mainly known as a tuba player. He played with Monte Ballou in Portland, as did Jim's father (on drums). And Chris Tyle, who is going off to England for an extended stay. He is a wonderful musician. (And his father also played drums with Monte Ballou!) In Vancouver there is Simon Stribling. In the Bay Area I think of P.T. Stanton, Bob Neighbor, Byron Berry, Jack Minger, Leon Oakley, Ev Farey, Robin Hodes, Bob Schulz, and Clint Baker. Heading farther south I think of Marc Caparone and Ray Ronnei. I have been very lucky to play with all these varied west coast trumpet players.

Another notable thing in Chattanooga is the Bessie Smith museum (she came from Chattanooga). It is walking distance from the festival.

The First Thursday Band CD is now in production. I like the variety of material that illuminates the playing qualities of people in the band. Mike Daugherty sings "Never Had a Reason to Believe in You" and "Try Getting a Good Night's Sleep" two rare and wonderful songs by Red McKenzie and then Don Redman. Bob Jackson has a guest vocal on "James Alley Blues." Some of the cozy songs are "Yearning and Blue," "Cavernism" and "Solid Rock." A few youtubes of the band recently appeared on the Michael Steinman blog "Jazz Lives."

the cubs

Bessie Smith

Two new books of poetry have come out that I think are worth noting. Billy Collins has published "Horoscopes for the Dead" and Dorianne Laux has appeared with "The Book of Men." Good Books. She is probably my favorite current poet.

Here is a little baseball poem of mine.


I hope Adam Greenberg can forget
his only major league at bat
a single pitch
which hit him in the head
and ended his career
which was so unforgettable
to everyone else.

One last thing. I believe I have come to a staggering halt in my effort to read straight through the Bible. I did get 500 or so pages into the Old Testament. So I am trying the New Testament and I am nearly done with Matthew. There sure seem to be a lot of people possessed by demons and people who are crippled, blind and leprous. Jesus goes non-stop healing people. But the little things stick to me. In Chapter 15, Verse 21 a Canaanite woman appeals to him to save her demon possessed daughter and at first he does not answer her, but then says that he is only sent to save the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Wow!! Then she continues to beg and plead until he finally breaks down and meets her request. But it is obvious that the healing is generally "restricted."

the jazz ear


The month of June will bring Goat Days in Lake Forest Park and the Festival in Lacey.

~ June 2011 ~

First I want to note a great sense of loss with the passing of my old friend Bill Bardin. He was greatly admired as a thoughtful and soulful trombone player, a man whose notes always seemed to be in the right place and whose open spaces between the notes were lovely and legendary. He was very kind to me in my simple efforts to play the trombone and I always enjoyed talking with him about two of our favorites: Lawrence Brown and Dickie Wells. Still, the death of the man is the thing of greatest importance. Bill was an understated personality, always kind and supportive. I liked his quiet understanding of life's mysteries. He never needed to play a note to be a wonderful human being. We were blessed to have him in our lives.

I have been anxiously waiting the arrival of the First Thursday band CD, though I am now aware that it will not quite make it for the June first Thursday job at the New Orleans restaurant in Pioneer Square. But soon, a few days later, maybe in time for us to take to our gig at the Bellingham Traditional Jazz Society meeting June 11. The new Simon Stribling New Orleans Ale Stars CD has appeared, however. It looks good and sounds good, though it does not have a label or number. Anyone interested might try to get it through Simon's website. Bob Williams in Sacramento also has copies.

the cubs

Simon Stribling

The Lacey/Olympia festival comes later in June. I will be there with Bob Schulz and this will also be the first festival appearance by the little group Ray Skjelbred and his Cubs. The Cubs, by the way, have just made an agreement with Jazzology to do another CD. That is exciting news.

If anyone needs to hear Dolceola music, I will be playing at the Lake Forest Park Farmers' Market whenever the weather lets me. The market runs from 11-4 every Sunday but I usually play from around 11-1 ---without a pause.

I include here some artwork from my son Johnny. He is very talented and his imagination takes surprising turns. These paintings are from a series called Animals and Numbers.

Johnny's Art

Johnny's art 2

Johnny's art 3

Finally, I have had the opportunity to see the great Margaret Leng Tan perform in the music building at the University of Washington. She plays works by Henry Cowell, John Cage and other piano experimenters. She hold her foot on the sustain pedal, then strums, plucks and sweeps across the strings, mostly playing from inside the piano. She is passionate about this approach and it shows in her playing. She makes the world new as she throws herself (literally) inside the piano. I love the realm of sound and experimentation. Music should always be an invention and there are no limits if you let yourself go with brain and heart.


Who will read Emily Dickinson
500 million years from now?

Perhaps on a steep slope,
a being, not like us,
taps a hammer through the shale.

He searches for the whole world
in that thin light between the stones.

Each step carries him to something saved.
It is here. It is not here.
He is always alone.

Ray Skjelbred

~ July 2011 ~

During Lake Forest Park Goat Days Elsa took this lovely picture of three goats doing their particular brand of harmonizing with nature.

These are clearly not gruff goats. The composition of the picture is exquisite and a reminder of what Eudora Welty said about photography: the moment passes quickly and you must be ready. Goats are beautiful, curious and intelligent. Hmmm. Maybe when the goats and sheep are separated on some future important day, I will know where I want to line up.

the cubs

First Thursday Jazz Band

The First Thursday Band CD is now available! The Glenn Crytzer Syncopators new CD has also come out. The First Thursday guys were very happy to see the glowing review from Michael Steinman on his Jazz Lives blog. He also has included several youtubes of New Orleans Restaurant performances of the band that Steve Wright has provided. I can happily and honestly say that we play a kind of jazz that exists nowhere else in Seattle. Our special thanks to Bob Morgan for his dedication and engineering. The CD will be available from now on at all our First Thursday performances and anywhere else we play.

The little group known as Ray Skjelbred and his Cubs had a wonderful time playing at the jazz festival in Lacey, WA. Everything in our approach to music is knowledgeable, personal and passionate. There isn't much show business. The Music is the entertainment. And the amazing thing is that the crowd loved it. I think they really heard it and felt how we felt. It was a great musical experience.

I will be taking one of my trips to the bay area next month. The dates will be on the calendar page, but a couple of the highlights are that I will be at Pier 23, July 12 (I have not been there since last September) and I will be at the Cline Winery festival July 16, playing solo piano and one set with the Black Diamond Blue Five, a very good band that plays many Clarence Williams songs.

One other new thing is that I will join my old friend John Gill and the Yerba Buena Stompers in Evergreen, Colorado on the last weekend of July.

A month ago I finished rereading Jude the Obscure, Thomas Hardy's darkest novel. Then I read the book of Job, which seemed an appropriate next step. Does anyone ever read Edgar Allen Poe's one long piece of fiction, the Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym? I reread it after many years. It is a wild story, completely crazy and, I think, unquestionably Poe's best work. Finally, I read the last book of the Bible, the Revelation of John. I especially liked how Christian martyrs who were beheaded will get eternal peace ahead of other people.

I also hate to report that Jazzology records is having hard times, is in debt, and has cancelled all recording plans. This includes the plan for the Cubs to make a second CD. We will still do it, but will have to rethink how and when.

I have not been writing much poetry, but here is the best of what is most recent.

The Creature From The Black Lagoon

He was green and blue, slimy and popeyed,
and he was just the size of a man
wearing a rubber gill man suit,
ugly and misunderstood, especially when
fondling the feet of Julie Adams
on that expedition up the Amazon.

But what was it like to be sort of a fish
and almost a man
and living right in the Amazon,
right in the Black Lagoon, after all.
How did he pass the time
before that expedition arrived.

And did he ever wonder if
people thought he was
nothing more than a man
wearing a gill man suit?

creature from the black lagoon

~ August 2011 ~

By now most of the world seems to know that I broke my hip in a bicycle accident July 2. I wish I could forget it but I can't. I won't give details, but I had to undergo surgery that day, I now have three pins holding things together and we are waiting to see how everything heals. I had to cancel all July music jobs. After consultation with my surgeon and physical therapist, I recently decided to cancel all August jobs. The time was just too short to risk it. I miss the work, I miss the money, I miss seeing friends and listeners and I am sorry I can't tell everyone personally. I apologize to anyone who didn't know and who came to see me in July. I believe by September that enough healing will have taken place that I can get back to work. Even my surgeon thinks so. I know I will have to learn some new rules about stomping my feet! I thank all the people who have contacted me. Check the calendar page for September work. There is some good stuff there. Also, the Jim Goodwin live recording from Port Costa is just about to go into production. That is good news.


~ September 2011 ~

July and August had a ghostly quiet for me. All music cancelled and long recovery from a broken hip that is still part of my life. I believe I can carry on in September, even though I just took a nasty fall that fortunately missed my hip and broke nothing else. Many of my wonderful friends have dropped by to see me and to take me for rides during the last two months. I really appreciate it.
Earlier today I was stretched out on the couch with an ice bag under my lower spine and another under my neck. I was listening to the Classic Arts station on television while looking high into the tops of many Douglass Firs, where birds I normally don't see were cavorting. Two goofy Golden Retrievers were sticking their noses into my face. Everything was perfect, except I hurt. That will change soon.

The Ray Skjelbred-Jim Goodwin CD has gone through production and we are now waiting its arrival.

The Glenn Crytzer band will not be playing at the Century Ballroom in October and November. In fact, I'm not very busy then either. I hope to see old friends in my September travels.


~ October 2011 ~

The CD Ray Skjelbred and Jim Goodwin, Live at Port Costa is now available. Good music and good memories. No one was like Jim. Available through me.

Right now my hip is improving rapidly and I am trying out a new world without crutches. My right foot has developed a pain but perhaps the end is in sight. I just want to walk.

Jim Goodwin CD

My Bay Area trip worked out very well, with special thanks to Warren Jennings, Jeff Hamilton and Ray Landsberg, who drove me from one job to another. Good youtubes from Rae Ann are now available on her website and through Michael Steinman on Jazz Lives.

Good jobs with Bob Schulz, here in Seattle and then in Cleveland. I was looking for Larry Doby, but no luck. My foot really hurt in Cleveland, but hip, hip hooray. Whenever I am on the road and can't get anywhere, I am always happy to see reruns of Law and Order. Decency and good behavior.

Pismo Beach festival coming up at the end of the month, but otherwise October is light. I just want to put my feet up and dream about the world. Glad to have a small break.

~ November 2011 ~

As we head into November, my fourth month since breaking my hip, I am walking pretty easily with no crutches. I am sore here and there but the bones are healing and bonding with titanium pins. I feel grateful for all this and more than ever I appreciate every little moment of daily life, especially everything connected to mobility.

I have recently been listening over and over to the Lionel Hampton recordings of the late 1930's that made use of magnificent players from the Ellington and Goodman orchestras. What a thrill to hear Jess Stacy and Lawrence Brown together. And I love Hampton's vocals. He sings with plenty of open space between the notes and everyone seems to be playing large, round notes: Coleman Hawkins, Cootie Williams, Johnny Hodges and others. To let the music be a "sound" of round, warm, lovely swing is the key to all good music for me. I sure hear it in these recordings. Nothing brittle, nothing hippity, hippity, nothing a fragmented extension of fragmented technique. How I love it. Of course I am prejudiced but I also hear some good "round" sound in my two favorite contemporary bands: the Cubs and the First Thursday Band.


Lionel Hampton

There is very limited active music in my life right now, but I continue to work around Seattle with the First Thursday Band and Glenn Crytzer's Syncopators. In December the First Thursday Band will add the great trumpet of Chris Tyle as we play for the Puget Sound Jazz Society. We've all missed Chris, who has played mostly in England during the last year. For me the next festival after Pismo will be Fresno in February with both Bob Schulz and my own Cubs band. I look forward to that.


Bertrand Russell

I am currently rereading Bertrand Russell's book In Praise of Leisure. I read most of his books a long time ago and perhaps I will embark on a big reread of his ideas on politics, economics and human behavior. Here is a sample: "Until the deep conflicts of nations and classes which infect our world have been resolved, it is hardly to be expected that mankind will return to a rational habit of mind. The difficulty is that, so long as unreason prevails, a solution of our troubles can only be reached by chance; for while reason, being impersonal, makes universal cooperation possible, unreason, since it represents private passions, makes strife inevitable." The current misrepresentation of prejudice and ignorance as "thought" by some political candidates is an example of what Russell is referring to. These days it is called "truthiness."

Despite a staggering quality in my poetry recently, I do have a new poem that does not make me run and hide from it. "Developing" will appear in the Fall edition of Off the Coast, a monthly poetry journal from Maine.


I don't recall how young I was
the day I carried a pan of water
and sheets of blank paper
into my dark closet,
where I dipped the paper
into the water
and waited for images to appear
the way I had seen film developed
in countless movies.
A sudden discovery, a detail of truth
would always emerge
from a watery nothing.
Perhaps the blowup of a date
on a newspaper
would overturn a murder conviction
based on the shaky testimony
of a woman named Wanda Skutnik.

I don't know what I really expected to be there,
but I do know I had joined the ranks of the faithful
who don't know how things work
and that I might continue to put pieces of paper
into pans of water in darkened rooms
and wonder why I would never see anything,
until the day came when I realized
it might be delightful
just to tell you I had done it.

~ December 2011 ~

I have noticed that I find myself checking the list of festivals and special events that Katie Cavera and Clint Baker list on their calendar pages and I finally realized that perhaps I should do that too. I will put a 2012 list here in the news this first time, then shift it to calendar from then on. People often like to plan for something that is bit down the calendar road. So here it is. I don't know if this is complete for the year, but it certainly looks pretty good to me.


    – Upcoming Festivals & Events: 2012 –

Feb. 10-12

The Cubs and Bob Schultz 's
Frisco Jazz Band

Fresno Mardi Gras (Fresno, CA) For more info visit:

March 2-4
Bob Schultz's
Frisco Jazz Band

Dixieland Monterey's Jazz Bash By The Bay (Monterey, CA) For more info visit:

March 10

Glenn Crytzer's Syncopator's and Dave Loomis

Highline Jazz Festival

March 16-17

First Thursday Jazz Band and Rain City Blue Blowers

Seattle Jazz Party, Holiday Inn at Seatac

March 23 - 25
Bob Schultz's
Frisco Jazz Band

Redwood Coast Jazz Festival (Eureka, CA) For more info visit:

April 27 - 29
Bob Schultz's
Frisco Jazz Band

Capital City Jazz Fest (Madison, WI) For more info visit:

May 4 - 6
Bob Schultz's Frisco Jazz Band & Buck Creek

Performing at the Chattanooga Traditional Jazz Festival (Chattanooga, TN). For more information visit:

June 29 -
July 1

Ray Skjelbred and His Cubs

Olympia Jazz Festival. For more information visit:

July 14

Solo Piano

Cline Winery Festival (Sonoma, CA)

August 10 - 12

Solo Piano

Sutter Creek Ragtime Festival (Sutter Creek, CA) For more information visit:

November 2-4

Ray Skjelbred and His Cubs

23rd Annual Arizona Classic Jazz Festival (Chandler, AZ) For more info visit:


I am engaged in a pretty fair amount of dance gigs for the Lindy Hop scene in Seattle. The dancers are young, talented and energetic. There are many youtubes that demonstrate what they do and Seattle is a very busy Lindy Hop center. Most of this I do with Glenn Crytzer but I am getting to plug into some other bands as well. The calendar page will indicate a few of these things in December.

I am nearly at the end of Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States, a book of almost 700 pages filled with documentation and examining American history from a dramatic and often shocking point of view. The Jackson administration is seen through the eyes of the Cherokee people, Civil War and reconstruction from an African-American viewpoint, and so on. He was obviously inspired by my favorite historian Richard Hofstadter and he is relentless in seeing corruption and cruelty that dramatically represent a pattern in American history. For example, the idea of avoiding taxing the rich is not a new idea. It goes back forever in our history and has never led to jobs for people. The wealthy just get wealthier. I may not agree with all his conclusions, but the writing is powerful and it is researched thoroughly. I also recently read Seabiscuit, a gift from Dan Barrett, and a good book in many ways. It seems odd to get excited about a horse race from the 1930's, as if some sort of rooting for horse could affect the outcome now. But we learn to care about the horse and the characters.


~ January 2012 ~

The days are getting longer! The musical highlight of December was the First Thursday band's appearance (third consecutive December) at the monthly meeting of the Puget Sound Jazz Society. For this session we added Jake Powel on guitar and banjo and Chris Tyle on trumpet. Everything seemed to fit and swing in a just right sort of way. Steve Wright and Candace Brown took a bundle of youtubes. They turned out well and some have appeared on Michael Steinman's "Jazz Lives" blog.

January looks to be a long, dark month, but February not only brings the beginning of baseball spring training, but also the Fresno Jazz festival where I'll be playing with Bob Schulz and the Frisco band and my little group called Ray Skjelbred and his Cubs. The Cubs have five sets, including one with soprano sax man George Probert.

I'm including here a beautiful tribute to Jack Minger from his friend Marilyn. Jack was often my musical partner and I wrote about him when he died last year. The youtube includes a charming, obscure Ellington piece and a photo collage of Jack taken at different ages and in settings with musical friends and family. For many of my old musician friends, you would see a side of Jack you might never have seen before.

One of my favorite writers, Russell Hoban, died this last month. He had a remarkable career which began with his work as a writer of little children's books, then more mature books for older kids, then startling and creative novels for adults. I suggest Bread and Jam for Frances, Emmett Otter's Jug Band Christmas, The Mouse and his Child and The Lion of Jachin-Boaz and Boaz-Jachin. He was a deep and brilliant writer whose career I have followed for years.

Bread and Jam

A year ends and a year begins. Again, memory is the greatest human quality. I remember Joe Sullivan's left hand, fresh blueberries, the Burlington Zephyr pulling into East Dubuque, Illinois. I remember the first time I read Russell Hoban. And here is a little memory poem.

My Father, 12 years after his Death

Most of all
I can still see
his missing finger.

~ February 2012 ~

Last month I anticipated the dark days of January. They have also been illuminated by snow so intense that life sort of came to a stop. I couldn't drive for a week and some life problems and issues got more complicated. Still, the snow physically made the world bright and that's a good thing.

Sometimes I get started on an idea and can't stop. I started writing ragtime compositions recently. Of course the most fun comes in making titles, but I had the idea to retain traditional meter and syncopation and make my own kinds of creations inside the form. I have written Little Elmer's Rag, Balls and Strikes Forever, Sandbag Rag, Lean and Griefy and most recently Picot, a Spanish tinge number. I guess I have fun reexploring traditional forms to see if they can be worked out differently in a sequence of ideas that is only 16 measures long. I recall Emily Dickinson, for me the most radical of all American poets, who explored wild combinations of language, image and rhyme and did most of it within the framework of traditional Christian hymns, which is to say Ballad Stanza, alternating eight beats and six in four line patterns. I am delighted by this little project and would like to see where my enthusiasm takes me. Accepting limits of form sometimes increases the energy to find new life in unexpected places of sound. I give you one stanza by the great woman.

I noticed people disappeared,
When but a little child,---
Supposed they visited remote,
Or settled regions wild!

Michael Steinman wrote many kind words about the new CD with Jim Goodwin. He referred to our "conversations" which he may have meant musically, but the CD does have a few. When we play "The Charleston" you can hear me saying "No Charleston beat, ever." That's how we did things.

Jim Goodwin CD

Looking forward to Fresno. I hope to see a good turnout. This is a major festival with good music. I wish it well.

~ March 2012 ~

The little band called Ray Skjelbred and his Cubs had a wonderful time at the Fresno Jazz Festival. For many reasons, I think we caught the audience by surprise. The band swings in a way that is like no other group at festivals and it was obvious that Clint Baker, Kim Cusack, Katie Cavera and Hal Smith were having a good time. The audience can sense that. Rae Ann Berry made a number of wonderful youtubes. One of them was "Blues for Sir Charles," a reference to a piano player, Sir Charles Thompson, whom I greatly admire. His biographer saw the video and let me know that Sir Charles, at 93, is still active as a musician and might be able to see the video of "Sir Charles."

Playing "Blues For Sir Charles" at the Fresno Jazz Festival.
For more videos of the Cubs, visit Rae Ann Berry's Youtube page.

Don Jones of The American Rag approached me about doing a story on The Cubs, which I have now done, Katie has supplied him with a band photo and Hal will be writing something about me. At this point, Don plans to feature us in his April issue. As always, I'm amazed by anything like this. I certainly appreciate it and this kind of coverage could very well lead to more opportunities for this good, little band.

If you check the calendar page you will see a busy time for festivals in March. The Highline Jazz Festival should be interesting in that I will reading piano parts for a Dave Loomis big band that plays 20's arrangements of Duke Ellington and Fletcher Henderson. I think they had fast fingers in those days.The following weekend I will be at the Seattle Jazz Party at the Holiday Inn at Seatac, on Friday with the Rain City Blue Blowers and Saturday with my First Thursday band. Our playing schedule on Saturday is noon to one, then 3:45-4:45 and 7:30 - 8:30. I hope more and more people will show up. Jerry Green's new band The Crescent City Shakers will be there with us as will the Uptown Lowdown Jazz Band.

My son Johnny will have his artwork on display in the Henry Gallery at the University of Washington. I don't know when yet, but the work is six panels, a kind of surrealistic view of homelessness in Seattle. He is a wonderful artist.

My blueberry plant is getting a profusion of pale green and rose-colored buds. What could be more wonderful.

blueberry bush

Here is a poem "Ladder" by one of America's finest poets writing today, Jane Hirshfield.

A man tips back his chair, all evening.

Years later, the ladder of small indentations
still marks the floor. Walking across it, then stopping.

Rarely are what is spoken and what is meant the same.

Mostly the mouth says one thing, the thighs and knees
say another, the floor hears a third.

Yet within us,
objects and longings are not different.
They twist on the stem of the heart, like ripening grapes.

~ April 2012 ~

I am happy to be out front for two wonderful bands: Ray Skjelbred and his Cubs and the First Thursday Band. After a successful time at Fresno the Cubs have been invited back for next year. We also happily discovered John Plut's live recordings from Fresno which we are going to issue on CD sometime soon. The uninhibited quality of live playing is a joy to behold, and Kim Cusack sounds wonderful. The recording is not as perfect as a studio job, but really quite good and you can hear the whole rhythm section clearly. Next stop for the Cubs is the festival at Lacey, WA at the end of June. The First Thursday band had a good time at the Seattle Jazz Party, a three day festival at the Holiday Inn at Seatac, WA. Everything felt loose and I got to play a good grand piano. The First Thursday band will be back at the New Orleans Restaurant on April 5. We also are playing the Jazz and Oysters Festival in Long Beach, WA in August.

The recent Highline Jazz Festival was fun because I became immersed in the Dave Loomis arrangements of Ellington and Henderson music of the 1920's. For a band that had only one hour of rehearsal time, we really pulled it off. Sometimes I felt I was in the middle of Duke Ellington recording. Matt Weiner, who played a strong and sensitive bass in this band, also joined the wonderful Del Rey on another set. She knows many directions of early American music and plays the ukulele with swing and plenty of blues feeling.

April brings my Wisconsin trip with Bob Schulz. I want to walk quietly and smell the trees. If I am lucky, maybe I can exchange glances with a cow.


Here is a little prose poem I recently wrote about the business of music.

blueberry bush


My hands came off, just when I was due to play the piano, so I convinced a couple of nearby swans to crawl into my armpits and they could play for me. Oh, their necks were lovely and looked more like graceful arms than my arms ever could be.
Articulation was difficult. After all, they were hitting the keys with their beaks. But the important thing is that we got along pretty well. When I asked them what they wanted to play, one of them giggled and said, "How about Man Lake?"

~ May 2012 ~

I am pretty busy at the end of April, beginning of May with the Madison Jazz Fest and Chattanooga festival. They have both always treated musicians well and the settings are beautiful. I love hiking around. It is also disappointing to report that this will be the last Chattanooga festival. That is a big loss. I have also just learned that the first Sunday in May Century Ballroom gig of Glenn Crytzer's Syncopators will be the last one. Some of the world seems to be disappearing!

I am glad to note that I will be joining Barbara Dane at the Freight and Salvage in May. This is a mother's day/birthday for Barbara event that we have done several times before. Barbara will be 85 this time and says this will be the last one. She is not stopping singing, just big shows with lots of planning. The Berkeley trip will also allow me to play at Pier 23 May 15. I always look forward to that. But I will get back to Seattle for the big May 17 Norwegian Independence day celebration. And some pickled herring.


Ray at Pier 23
"Pitter Panther Patter"

Next time I hope to have more to report on progress of the Ray Skjelbred and his Cubs live from Fresno CD.

~ June 2012 ~

I had a satisfying trip to Berkeley in May and the show with Barbara Dane at the Freight and Salvage was probably the best yet. Richard Hadlock was there, Clint Baker, Marty Eggers and Bill Maginnis, plus others from Barbara's family and friends. I was especially happy to see Bob Mielke in the audience.

I had fun at Pier 23 and played a number of my new ragtime experiments (Rae Ann filmed them) and I am now in early planning for a CD of ragtime with emphasis on originals and some Dolceola numbers.


Ray & Bob Mielke

I have plenty to look forward to. I missed the First Thursday gig at the New Orleans last month because of Chattanooga, but we will all be there for June. Olympia Festival is coming at the end of the month, my Cubs band will be there and we will have many new songs. No news yet on the live Fresno CD. July brings another trip to the bay area with the Cline Winery Festival, Borrone's and Pier 23. A couple of new big things have come along. I will be playing at the West Coast Ragtime Festival in Sacramento in November, and the Bob Schulz band has been invited to the Bix Beiderbecke Festival in August of next year.

franz kafka
Franz Kafka

I have been reading straight through Franz Kafka's fiction. Right now I only have The Castle left. It is always fun to read this way, especially with old fictional friends. I was surprised this time around by how much he relies on extended dialogue in fairly static scenes. That is not always effective, but I like how he invents an entire world that no one has ever seen, but that contains all the frustrations of the world. Here are a couple of first lines.

The Trial - "Someone must have been telling lies about Josef K., he knew he had done nothing wrong but, one morning, he was arrested."

Metamorphosis - "As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect."

~ July 2012 ~

In mid-June I got the steroid injection in my back that I get every four months and though I don't quite know how to define a miracle, this injection is the closest thing I know. In a day all my back pain was gone and the world looked considerably brighter. My son also graduated from high school and that makes me feel brighter too. Oh, I still have my dark side. I will never smile with leaf blowers, John Boehner or Cabela's. There are limits.

I have been playing my Dolceola at the Lake Forest Park Farmer's Market and one day at the Lake Forest Park Secret Gardens tour. Then I recorded six numbers for a ragtime CD that now is truly in the works. The piano stuff will come soon.

In Chicago, Bob Koester of Delmark records has heard some of the Ray Skjelbred and his Cubs live recording from Fresno and it looks like he will produce it. I don't know when, but we have made a step forward.

I have enjoyed playing Monday nights in June with Dave Holo at the New Orleans Restaurant. He is easy to work with and a good trumpet player. George Goldsberry is on clarinet, Geoff Cooke on bass and Jake Powel on banjo and guitar. The Monday night band is where music first began down there many years ago, first with Bob Jackson and now with Dave.

At the end of June, start of July I am with my Cubs band at Lacey, WA festival, then another bay area trip, starting with Pier 23 on July 10. The rest of the trip is on the calendar.

franz kafka
James Tate

In the last few weeks I have been rereading James Tate poetry books. Here is a good one.


No one was allowed to know the name of the town executioner, and he wore a mask at all times. If we spotted him doing his errands in town, grocery shopping or whatever, we would follow him and taunt him. "Hey, Mr. Executioner, how many have you whacked today?" He's not allowed to speak back to us, so we figure we really get under his skin. We don't really dislike him, it's just his job after all. We don't really know who gives him his orders, some committee probably. Mr. Executioner is married to Mrs. Executioner and she too must wear a mask at all times, and their children wear masks as well. They don't even know who they are.

~ August 2012 ~

With the arrival of August the Boise Hawks come to Everett to play a series with the Aquasox in low class A rookie league baseball. I will be there and wearing my new Boise Hawks baseball cap that a friend Margie (from Boise) brought me during the Olympia jazz festival. Boise is a Chicago Cubs farm team and I am excited to see young players keep the world going on its most untroubled course.


The First Thursday band will travel to Long Beach, WA for the Jazz and Oyster Festival August 19. See calendar for details.

I also have another trip to the bay area for Pier 23 August 14 and my first journey to the Sutter Creek Ragtime Festival. The only thing I know for sure is that Sonny Leyland and I will have a duet set. The temperature there is near 100 and I could use a little warmth.

The Bob Schulz band is now set for sure to play in Seattle in September for the New Orleans Restaurant and the Puget Sound Jazz Society. This has been a a tradition for quite a while that has now become more financially difficult. But here it is, one more time.

Election year. The constitution of the United States sure has been mentioned a lot lately. I hope everyone reads it. This document has plenty of wisdom, but was also written in the 18th century. Women basically had no rights, black people were considered 3/5 of a human being, America was expected to always be an agrarian nation, the industrial revolution had not happened yet, evolution had not affected our thinking, and only men of property were considered valuable members of our society. Nobody's perfect.

franz kafka

A clerihew is an intentionally awkward poem named for a man named Clerihew who wrote that way. The form is actually fun. You begin with the name of someone, then rhyme with it, then add two more lines that rhyme. The poem is an observation about the person but with intentionally exaggerated rhymes and inconsistent line lengths. Here are a few of mine.
franz kafka

Antonio Alfonseca
was a relief pitcher who tried to make a
special pitch with his twelve fingers,
a sort of curve that turns and lingers.

Louis Armstrong
practically invented the hot song.
Any hip listener flips
when Louie puts a horn to his lips.

Thelonious Monk
heard notes in a chunk.
He played in the cracks,
sometimes with sax.

Vice-president Tyler
was a compulsive information filer.
That's why he knew just what to do
after Tippecanoe.

~ September 2012 ~

Joe Spencer recorded some wonderful, live stuff of the Ray Skjelbred and his Cubs group at the Olympia Jazz Festival. I am currently making good progress getting it together for a CD I bet will be ready for our appearance at the Arizona Festival in November. Bob Koester is working on another one for the Delmark label from our appearance at Fresno in February.

August heat in Sutter Creek, California is amazing. About 110 when I was there for the Ragtime Festival. Actually I enjoyed it and the charm of the old town. I played one set with Sonny Leyland, and Marty Eggers and I did a duet at the final concert. It was all pretty informal and friendly. The First Thursday band had a wonderful trip to Long Beach, WA where we played at the Oysters and Jazz Festival. The crowd responded very positively and Mike Daugherty ate the most oysters


I am happy to add a Pier 23 appearance in November, the Tuesday before the West Coast Ragtime Festival. It was logical to connect the two dates.

I have a few thoughts from William Stafford as I finish reading his book Every War Has Two Losers (which I have read many times).

franz kafka
William Stafford

"Anger is not conducive to perception."

"Everybody's equal, not in the Jeffersonian sense, but equal in the face of the magnitude of what we don't know."

"Don't tell me anything that requires forceful talk: that carries a contradiction in its pocket. 'Forceful truth' is an oxymoron."

"Beat your megaphones into ear trumpets."

Stafford was a remarkable poet, lifelong pacifist and conscientious objector.

~ October 2012 ~

The Seattle jazz world lost a major heart and soul force in music this last month. Gaye Anderson, who ran the New Orleans Creole Restaurant in Pioneer Square and supported jazz musicians for almost every night of the last 27 years, died suddenly and left an entire jazz community in grief and wondering what comes next. Gaye cared personally about the musicians and the jazz scene and carried all her efforts inside her as she promoted music and gave opportunities to countless musicians of every musical direction. In a typical week, you would hear New Orleans style, swing music, varieties of modern jazz and blues bands. She stood with them all and provided a venue that my friends from out of town have always said is like nothing they have ever seen in recent years. I am a particularly informal sort of person and I loved the fact that we could be ourselves, our informal, true selves when we played.

We can't predict the future, but for now, Gaye's nephew Joe is keeping everything going and all of us hope the tradition continues. Starting September 24, there was a week-long tribute to Gaye by Seattle musicians, showing our respect and love for the place and for Gaye and her beliefs.

As an extra note, my friend Bob Jackson, who started our current First Thursday band and who worked with me in the Great Excelsior Jazz Band, was the first featured performer there many years ago. That band also included our friend Mike Duffy on bass.

oystersGaye Anderson

The Ray Skjelbred and his Cubs Live from Lacey CD is in production now and should be available soon. A ragtime piano and Dolceola CD is not far behind.

There is not much music out in the world for me in October, just the New Orleans Restaurant at this point, but plenty of interesting things are coming along. In November I will play at Pier 23 and the West Coast Ragtime festival and the Cubs will appear at the Arizona festival in Chandler. New items next year include the Bob Schulz band at Evergreen, CO in July and the Bix Beiderbecke festival in Davenport, Iowa in August. That group will also perform at the San Diego Festival in November of next year, where the Cubs will also play two sets. There are other things out there too. More later.

franz kafka
Eugene Debs

A little over a month until the election. I never forget Eugene Debs and his line, "As long as there is a soul in prison, I am not free." The prison can be a wide net: racial inequality, women's rights, gay rights, economic strangulation of good people who only want to contribute to the social contract, and on and on. The battle has existed since the beginning of the nation. I hope we do the right thing.

~ November 2012 ~

As I write this I am getting ready for the Chandler Jazz Festival with my Cubs band and I am pleased to say that the new CD "Live from Lacey" is now available. It catches the band in a loose and swinging mood. As a live recording the vocals (only a few), are a bit distant, but the playing is solid. We have Joe Spencer to thank for getting Kim Cusack's great clarinet and the unified sound of the rhythm section.


Ray Skjelbred & His Cubs

My recently finished ragtime CD is also just about ready. That one includes my new piece "Cochineal Rag" which fits a colorful and red mood. The Cochineal bug comes from Mexico and South America and lives most often on its host plant--- the prickly pear. When squished they turn a bright red color and have been used as dyes for hundreds of years, most often in clothes but sometimes in food and drink. See Starbucks about that! Emily Dickinson wrote a wonderful poem about a hummingbird where she used Cochineal as a metaphor for hummingbird color. Here it is:

A Route of Evanescence
With revolving Wheel---
A Resonance of Emerald---
A Rush of Cochineal---
And every Blossom on the Bush
Adjusts its tumbled Head---
The mail from Tunis, probably,
An easy Morning's Ride---

top dog

My dog Pika is a prize winner! She got a basket of goodies from the Mud Bay animal store after she won the "I am a good dog at the Lake Forest Park Farmer's Market" contest. It was her smile that did it.

~ December 2012 ~


Ray Skjelbred & His Cubs

After a wonderful time with the Cubs at Chandler, Arizona, I had fun playing at the West Coast Ragtime Festival in Sacramento. I always love seeing Craig Ventresco and Meredith Axelrod and in addition to solo sets I joined with Marty Eggers for a piano duet set and played trombone in the Saturday night March. My new ragtime CD arrived too late for me to have in Sacramento but was waiting for me when I got back. It has a lovely cover by Johnny Skjelbred and musically I experimented with original pieces and my business of re-imagining classic material. The CD will be available on the bandstand and by mail through me.

The First Thursday band is playing more gigs the next few months. In addition to our First Thursday dates, we are playing for the Puget Sound Traditional Jazz Society in December, the Bellingham Traditional Jazz Society in January and in Vancouver and White Rock, B.C. in March. See calendar for details.

I just finished reading Jack London's Martin Eden, which I think is undoubtedly his most complex and mature work. The main character is clearly an autobiographical offshoot of London, and a wild character devoted to writing but fighting against conservative, establishment thinking. He has conflicting views as his mind develops throughout the story. No wonder this book was not popular when it came out but is his most lasting serious literature. Some of London's writing is dated but his ideas are active and progressive. A good man.

It is now less than three months to go before the pitchers and catchers start working out.

Martin Eden

~ January 2013 ~

My new piano CD is available now and you can always get it from me by mail or on a bandstand. Maybe next time I will have a picture up. The music is ragtime, my originals and some reimagining of classic rags. Good recording job at Jack Straw studio in Seattle.

As the year ends, the New Orleans Creole Restaurant, touchstone for traditional jazz in Seattle, is in a state of flux and there are plenty of facts, rumors and mysteries about the future. What we do know is that new management is taking shape and considering the financial state of the restaurant and the future of music there. The prognosis has not seemed bright so far, but we will know more in January. The First Thursday band is set to play Jan. 3, but everything after that is on hold. Apparently the bands for Tuesdays and most Thursdays, the Holo Trad Band and Ham Carson, will not continue on those nights. Also, it also looks like the Monday night jazz will continue, at least for now, but in what form, well, we don't know, though Dave Holo will be involved. I think the mystery of the club solvency is real and because of that the whole concept of "future" is very indefinite. I hope to have more information in another month.

First Thursday band looks forward to the Bellingham jazz society Jan. 5 and I look forward to a new and sudden date at Pier 23, Jan. 22, filling in for Virginia Tichenor who is recovering from recent surgery. March 9 the First Thursday band will appear at the Highline Jazz Festival.

As the year ends I can say, as Walter Brennan said in Meet John Doe, "The World's been shaved by a drunken barber," but I hope it gets better. The end of the world came and went and hardly anyone noticed. So maybe it could be worse. William Stafford said "Every war has two losers." and I agree. Every act of injustice that is met by more violence and injustice keeps all the little wars of humanity going. I am grateful now for clear voices, people like Bill Moyers, Paul Krugman, Kim Stafford and all people who love people, facts, intelligence and history. The quiet of the land can prevail, but we have to really believe it and live it.

Martin Eden

~ February 2013 ~

No big news yet about the New Orleans Restaurant, but a few specifics. The First Thursday Band will not be playing there in February. They have a private group with their own band. We don' t know about first Thursday in March, but we are playing the Saturday night, March 23. I have yet to figure out their plan or direction. I think the New Orleans Restaurant future is still very much unclear.

As I write this I am getting things ready for the trip to Fresno. The Cubs group will have five sets and I will also be playing with Bob Schulz. I will bring plenty of copies of the new Cubs CD and this will be my first opportunity to have my ragtime CD available at a festival.

Good news about Chattanooga. The festival that ended last year is going to start up again, same time, same place, new management. I will be there with Bob Schulz. One other new thing is that I will be returning to the Sutter Creek Ragtime Festival in August.

Cubs LIve CD

"Live From Lacey 2012"

Now available

Here is a poem by William Stafford. It is one I have always sort of carried inside me.


Animals full of light
walk through the forest
toward someone aiming a gun
loaded with darkness.

That's the world. God
holding still
letting it happen again,
and again, and again.

~ March 2013 ~

Fresno Festival was delightful this year. I had fun with my Cubs and with Bob Schulz. The best part is that both groups are already invited back for next year. The short term good news about Seattle music is that the First Thursday band will play first Thursday, March 7 and Saturday, March 23 at the New Orleans Restaurant. . I have been told that circumstances at the New Orleans are changing almost daily, so no future notes yet. Check my calendar for information on the Highline Festival in Des Moines, March 9 and Blues to Do at the Garden House, March 15, where I will be playing solo.

On the recording page you will see my new ragtime CD with great cover art by my son Johnny.

One other music note: the Chattanooga session is all set for this year, the first weekend in May. I will be there with Bob Schulz.

I just finished rereading a wonderful book of poetry by James Tate and am now reading correspondence between Eudora Welty and her New Yorker editor. Ms. Welty is my favorite writer, an insightful artist and a sweet soul.

Cubs LIve CD

"Ragtime Piano"

Now available

Now, to celebrate my two favorite national holidays: the beginning of daylight saving time and the opening of the baseball season.

~ April 2013 ~

The First Thursday Jazz Band is now back on a regular schedule of first Thursdays at the New Orleans Creole Restaurant. We may also play an occasional Saturday, so things down there are looking up a little bit. A steady plan is really important so people can count on something happening.

John Falk is to be praised for restarting the Chattanooga Jazz Festival. The Choo Choo hotel is also more directly involved now. I will be there with Bob Schulz the first weekend in May.

I will be working on a new solo CD in April, songs I love, favorites to play, things that provide room for exploration. I recently saw Earl Hines in a remarkable video on something called Vimeo that you can see on youtube. It lasts almost an hour and shows Hines talking and fooling around at the piano. I was thrilled by the whole thing and happy to see Hines use the word "exploration" when he talked about playing. That is how I see it. The only "style" is the exploring imagination.


Click the above photo
to view the Hines video.



Eudora Welty

I have assembled bay area trips for July and August. In July I hope to play at Borrone's (if it is a music night) July 12, then the Cline Winery the next day, then a jazz party at Dick Austin's house in Alameda the day after that, and conclude at Pier 23, Tuesday, July 16. In August I will be at the Sutter Creek Ragtime Festival 9-11, then Pier 23 on August 13.

I am currently reading my way through the work of Eudora Welty for the third time and loving everything even more than I have in the past. I find myself right now inside her huge novel Losing Battles and having mind and ear fun.

And now for the sound of wooden bats hitting baseballs.

~ May 2013 ~

May begins with my return to Chattanooga with Bob Schulz. This is a wonderful tradition, as long as we can dodge tornadoes. The event is now called the Choo Choo Fest.

I have finished a new piano CD and the production is about to begin. I just made a few explorations with favorite songs.

May 12 the Lake Forest Park farmers' market begins and I will be there playing my Dolceola when my schedule and the weather permit. I usually play about 11-1.

I recently finished reading Eudora Welty's Losing Battles and had a sudden inspiration to read Ibsen's Peer Gynt. It moves quickly and is filled with fantastic characters and scenes. To me it seems completely different than Ibsen's other work and I love the mad self-discovery or lack of it in the main character. Reading it also made me recall Grieg's "Incidental Music" which is very well known but still moving. I particularly love the harmonic melancholy of Aase's Death.


Edvard Grieg

~ June 2013 ~

My new piano CD should be here at the beginning of June. I did a mix of favorite songs and, as always, I try to be my true self, but also pay tribute to the people I regard as elders of the tribe. I wrote notes this time that explored that belief. Johnny Wittwer (my teacher), Burt Bales, Jess Stacy, Joe Sullivan, Art Hodes and Earl Hines were the main "elders" in my life, people whom I saw, knew, listened to and learned from. Music, to me, is a kind of tribal experience and the truths and skills are handed down. I was fortunate to know all of these great men in various settings and I always feel in their debt.

Of course I feel very influenced by more than piano players. I always feel the presence of people like Red Allen, Pee Wee Russell, Dickie Wells and other key horn and rhythm players whenever I sit down to play.

June is still a light time for me, but July and August will be very busy. I will list a cluster of dates on the calendar page.

I continue to reread James Tate's poetry books and am now digging into a reread of Knut Hamsun's short stories. They both have a sense of daring with language and ideas. I feel a great sense of experiment and improvisation when I read them. Their directions are not necessarily musical, but they certainly seem musical as their words sweep across the page.

Knut Hamsun

Knut Hamsun

~ July 2013 ~

June has been a grim month for me. I had a serious fall, broke six ribs and sustained a severe hematoma on my left hip. I am slowly improving and expect to be part of the world again soon. Unfortunately I could not take part in the June First Thursday band date at the New Orleans restaurant and on top of that we will not be there in July since the first Thursday falls on the 4th of July.

I can happily say that my new piano CD is out. It was recorded well, represents of mix of some of my favorite kinds of things to do and will be available with me on jobs in the future. And I have quite a few in the next two months.


~ August 2013 ~

I am surviving after my May 31 fall with six rib fractures and two pelvic fractures, plus followup problems that grew from extreme painkillers, no sleep and little eating. I am not quite dancing yet, but I am in the world, eating, sleeping, playing and traveling.

The recent Berkeley trip was wonderful because so many people were kind and helpful. My son Joad and his wife Erin, Bill Reinhart, Rae Ann Berry, Jeff Hamilton and Clint Baker made things comfortable for me and I got rides to all five jobs I played.

We have more good, live recordings of the Cubs band from John Plut and I am beginning to think about doing something with them.

I am writing this before the end of the month so I am about to go to Evergreen, Colorado with Mike Daugherty to join Bob Schulz there. Kim Cusack is not well, will not be at Evergreen and I wish him an effective recovery. Then I am on to Davenport, Iowa and finally back to Berkeley, mainly to play at the Sutter Creek Ragtime Festival.

I am in the middle of reading Stephen Jay Gould's last book, The Hedgehog, the Fox and the Magister's Pox, a wonderful exploration of the links between science and humanism and a study of why science and religion do not need to be enemies.

I have been in a deep "listening" mode lately. That doesn't mean music, or just music. I like the wind through poplars or a dog's sigh as much as one lovely plucked note by Eddie Lang. Of course I don't like leaf blowers, amplified music or Republican congressmen. And maybe a lovely sound is as much the notes not played as the notes played. Or perhaps there is a sound for me lightly touching my dog's neck.


Stephen Jay Gould

~ September 2013 ~

August --- and I began to feel fairly normal again, walking, sitting, eating and playing music. I loved going to Davenport for the Bix festival. I feel connected to the way he looked at music (of course I am not alone) and I enjoyed ambling along in a good river town. I even managed to convince a shuttle driver to veer slightly off course and take me to the Beiderbecke home. The picture on the home page was taken by the wife of another musician and shows me standing in front of the house just after I walked around on the porch. From the way I look at the world I just couldn't help but think of Bix bounding down those steps with a baseball glove or with a dog. I reread Dick Sudhalter's book BIx Man and Legend right after that trip and the reading felt different this time. I sensed the geography of his life. Music in Davenport was especially good with Andy Schumm and Josh Duffee groups outstanding in giving life to the Beiderbecke material.

I also enjoyed a good Berkeley trip and a run up to Sutter Creek for the ragtime festival. The musicians are treated very well by everyone connected with the festival and I enjoyed it, especially a duet set with Marty Eggers.

September and I am really glad to finally return to the New Orleans Restaurant with my First Thursday band and then with Bob Schulz. We will have a wonderful guest, Evan Arntzen, playing the clarinet in Kim Cusack's place (Kim's health is slowly improving). Schulz has produced a new CD which is a duet with me and promises to be interesting. Bob lets himself go in some new directions and they sound good!

I have suddenly come up with a new bay area trip at the end of October. You can check the calendar page for information.

Here are some of my favorite words, an anthem from Eugene Debs, the first paragraph from his speech to federal court as he was about to be sentenced for sedition in 1918. His crime? He was against war and spoke out about it.

"Your honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free."

Good man.


Eugene Debs

~ October 2013 ~

The Bob Schulz band had a good time in Seattle and we hope to do it again next year. Well, we will have to wait and see about that. Bob brought copies of his new CD, a duet between us and I enjoyed it, especially because I had never heard much of it. Bob played very lyrically, very beautifully. I especially liked Winin' Boy, Pennies from Heaven and Because My Baby Don't Mean Maybe Now. I only have a few copies but it should be available from Bob Schulz and you can find his website on my links. Piano and Trumpet (or cornet) is an old tradition in jazz. Jelly Roll Morton and King Oliver did it and so did Earl Hines and Louis Armstrong. In more recent years I know Ellis Larkins and Ruby Braff recorded as a duet and I did with Jim Goodwin.

Some new developments in Seattle with the New Orleans Creole Restaurant, which I understand is now to be called Bourbon Street New Orleans, or something like that. After several decades of playing there, Dave Holo has decided to not play Monday nights any more. Jake Powel is leading the group and, at least for now, Steve Wright is playing horn on Mondays. Dave Holo is now playing some Fridays at Salty's in West Seattle. I will also be filling in some dates on both of those jobs when pianist Peter Koch is traveling. Check calendar for when.

I am always thinking about repertoire in music, either as soloist or band member, and the thing that always drives me is the belief that what you choose to play should allow the best of your true self to emerge. For me that means a mix of wonderful songs from different styles and eras. I suppose the end result is that the audience should hear a particular person playing music rather than a particular style that person represents. One hero for me in that belief is Milton Brown, leader of the Brownies, a 1930's Texas western swing band. They swung and played hot music but they drew their material from pop tunes, jazz standards, waltzes, ragtime, old country music and so on. The final sound, however, was the Milton Brown band, not an abstract style of music. Hearing that band was the important thing.

Johnny's Painting

My son Johnny is a talented artist and recently painted a wild scene that I include here. It seems to be a praying mantis cutting hockey players in half. I don't like violent scenes but the true reality is that they are watermelons and without slicing them, you would not know that! I guess a sliced watermelon is not so violent and without slicing, how would you know they are watermelons?

~ November 2013 ~

I write this from Berkeley in the middle of a pleasant music trip with Pier 23 and gigs with Clint Baker and other friends. I am having a bit of fun with new songs these days. No One Can Take Your Place has become a favorite, a Bix and Trumbauer lovely. I also thought to try On Revival Day as a slow blues. What else? I'm More Than Satisfied and Get Happy are surprise things that I have fun doing differently than the expected directions. And a good Bud Freeman song called I Don't Believe It.

At Pier 23 I bumped into Fred Chao, a memorable student of mine from long ago. He was a delightful, creative and poetic fellow who continued on that path and is now a successful artist/ writer with one graphic novel published and another to be published soon. He is, of course, still delightful and creative. I suggest looking at Johnny Hiro, his story of the adventures of a young man and woman who deal with a combination of daily life and surrealistic adventures in New York. He reminds me again that it was my great, good fortune to be a teacher.

In Seattle I have more work at Salty's with Dave Holo. This has a hint of steadiness to it but I won 't say that yet. First Thursday Band welcomes back Mike Daugherty from a trip to Morocco! He will also join Bob Schulz as well as my Cubs band in San Diego.

johnny hiro

I think it is time to list festivals and special events for 2014. They will be on the calendar page and there are several more I know are coming that are not quite official yet.

That's it, except I am working on a poem about the blues with my kind of angle. A piano player knows he has the blues more than ever before. But when he plays the world in front of him goes through a blues experience. His playing CAUSES grief, TB, loneliness, train whistles, flooding and many more things. I have had fun with it.

~ December 2013 ~

I am writing a little early for December as I will be in San Diego with both my Cubs band and Bob Schulz and his band. I also have a solo set that Sunday morning. I have not been there for several years and I look forward to returning.

There are some music changes in Seattle and it looks like I will be playing more. I am now playing regularly Monday nights at the New Orleans Creole Restaurant with Jake Powel and the New Orleans Quintet.

San Diego Fest

Also I am playing regularly but on a month by month basis on the first and third Fridays with Dave Holo at Salty's in West Seattle. I am also going to be playing with the Evergreen Classic Jazz Band. They will be at the Lacey festival at the end of June.

Next festival after San Diego will be Fresno, one of my favorites. Mike Daugherty will again be playing with Schulz and the Cubs bands.

I have a little prose poem about the blues which I submit here.

Blues Party

A man was playing piano at a party. I've got the blues, I've really got the blues, he thought, as he bent the notes and twisted melodies more passionately and effortlessly than ever before.
He looked up and saw a woman crying. Then a man decided to leave his wife. As he strode to the door she threw her arms around his legs and he dragged her down the hallway. Then a woman left her husband and he threw his arms around her legs.
Someone screamed that there were bedbugs in the couch. Several others started pulling boll weevils out of their sweaters. A minister pulled a bible out of his pocket and slammed it to the ground. A man in one corner of the room suddenly was aware that he had TB. Another man grimaced and drank a glass of muddy water. A train whistle moaned in the distance.
Out the window that evening sun was going down and the streets were lined with broke and hungry people. One frightened old man crawled into a hollow log. In the distance the farmland had turned to dust. Then the rain started. Lightning and thunder. The flood water was rising.
Back in the room a woman was shouting about her boyfriend. "I'm gonna stab him through his heart and he's gonna wake up dead." And the piano player kept playing and thinking, I've got the blues, I've really got the blues.

~ January 2014 ~

Big things are happening at the New Orleans Creole Restaurant (now Bourbon St.) and I have to undo some of the things I said last month. Dean the owner has some big reconfiguring in mind, starting in January. The bandstand will move, the bar will move, the kitchen will move, the tables will move, and it will take time. The First Thursday band at this point is scheduled to play Jan. 2 before construction and revision begins, but then the plan is that the place will be closed January, February and into March sometime. No one can know for sure when it will be ready, but the good thing is he wants to maintain the mood and music. So, for now, we wait. I will generally advise all who want to hear music there to call in advance. I can't really predict the times.

Fresno festival coming up in February. I will be there with the Cubs, Bob Schulz and Clint Baker. We all look forward to it.

December and I look back on the year. I am grateful for people like Paul Krugman, Bill Moyers, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren who are intelligent, have consciences and display a factual understanding of the history of the United States. I am grateful for the US Postal service, for baseball, the printing press, good dogs and independent farmers. I am grateful that I am still inspired to play music, even though it sometimes seems like a forlorn cause. And I love earth, air, water and fire. My hope for the future is that more of the the most creative, sensitive and talented musicians will receive recognition and understanding. I would love the world to know about Marc Caparone and Kim Cusack and Mike Fay and Mike Walbridge and all kinds of people who are skilled and play from their souls. More art, more heart. The world needs it. The entertainment of music is music itself. That is my hope.

I have been thinking of a great idea for a festival. All the musicians would be in a big room and eating snacks and drinking beer and talking about everything and laughing and laughing. Then after a couple of days everyone would go home. But the laughter would continue. The ultimate "yes" of life.

~ February 2014 ~

I am currently a little out of touch with the New Orleans restaurant in Seattle but I did learn they will be open in February on a part time basis in relation to football, but the reconstruction is going to go ahead. I have been given a definite date of March 4 for the general reopening, which would mean that my First Thursday Band would reappear on March 6. Well, March 4 is the target. I hope it works but I don't how anyone can be sure. Everyone should please call ahead somewhere near those dates.

As I write this I am looking forward to the Fresno Festival in February. This is probably my favorite, with good venues all in one place, good treatment from festival directors and much good music, including Clint Baker's Band, Bob Schulz, my Cubs group, Grand Dominion band and the Devil Mountain band with its ever widening repertoire. I will be with Clint, Schulz and, of course, my own band.

I don't ever want to write obituary entries but I really must say something about the recent death of the wonderful Bobby Gordon. He was quiet and tasteful in his life and his playing. He never played a note too loud, never a note in the wrong place and never a barrage of silly, egotistical note flurries. Deep jazz and deep sensitivity are two things I find slipping away in the world and Bobby's passing diminishes us all. I worked with him for many years in Hal Smith's Roadrunners and I learned a lot of subtlety from him. My favorite story about Bobby came at a Sacramento Jazz Festival many years ago when I was playing with Bob Mielke's Bearcats. We had Bill Napier on clarinet, a man among the greatest in jazz history and Jack Minger on trumpet, a creative man and one of my favorite musicians. We were playing a late night set outdoors on one of those very cold nights that sometimes occur at the festival and the venue was a large, rectangular pit in the ground. The wind was blowing and it was generally not an appealing place to be. Mielke is not a slick entertainer. He is a jazz artist and not someone with snappy patter or anything else to talk a crowd into staying. And at one point, with the cold and the wind blowing and the desolate looking site, I looked out at the sea of empty folding chairs and was astounded that there was only one person in the audience. It was Bobby Gordon. He was sitting there calmly, as if everything was perfectly normal. I know he came to see Bill Napier, but there he was, alone in dark and the wind. He was a soulmate and we were happy to see him. Well, as poet William Stafford said, "the forlorn cause is where I live."

bobby bill and ray

(l-r) Bill Napier, Ray, and Bobby Gordon

~ March 2014 ~

It has been impossible to get a definite sense of the future at the New Orleans Restaurant. They are working on it. A recent sign on the window said they would open mid-March, but Jake Powel, who leads the Monday night band, talked with the owner who now thinks it will be mid-April and even that is a guess. I don't know. Anyone who is interested should call in advance, but it looks like it won't be soon. Meanwhile my job at Salty's is still there and some good festivals are coming along.

Jazz Festivals are quite a phenomenon. As much of the jazz crowd got older, I believe festivals developed because they seemed more convenient and likely perceived as safer than the old world of late hours in bars. Still, because they are hard work to assemble and many volunteers are needed, some festivals are starting to disappear. I don't know what will replace them, but their evolution to oblivion is not hard to conceive. I have learned to enjoy them, although I have always been skeptical of mass entertainment. I think something new or combinations of new things could come along. The current interest in swing dancing is part of a solution. Also, I like the idea of good jazz seen as part of a continuum of good art, rather than one style of music of varying artistic integrity all lumped into the same bowl. Good jazz and Tibetan music would thrill me. Swing piano and recorded bird songs. One good jazz band mixed with a good film. A very traditional New Orleans band and an early cowboy swing band or string quartet. I am not thinking of pop appeal and trying to win a younger audience by any means possible, but simply a blending of quality art experiences that would lead to a blending of an audience that had many interests and knew that what they were going to hear was special in some way.

SO, I will be playing at Monterey where my favorite performers will be Kim Cusack and the sea lions. That is not the name of a band, but two wonderful sounds. My favorite part of any festival is when I come home and my dog greets me. I also like travel to exotic places or at least places I would not have thought of, and I love seeing old friends who arrive from around the country. In Madison, Wisconsin in April I will get to see my remaining family and I can feel the air of the Midwest that I love. In Sacramento there are the trains and the lovely Sacramento magpies that abound along the river next to old town.

bobby bill and ray

Kim Cusack

My Cubs band will really be doing a tour of the bay area in July. All the details are just about worked out. July 10 we will be at Rossmore, July 11 we will take part in activities at Borrone's, July 12 we play at the Cline Winery Festival in Sonoma and July 13 at the Napa Valley Traditional Jazz Society. We owe a special thanks to Ken Keeler and Rae Ann Berry for the idea and planning. For those days you will see Clint Baker, Jeff Hamilton, Katie Cavera, me and Kim Cusack, the only one of us who plays in my Cubs band and the official Chicago Cubs band that plays at Wrigley Field.

The world needs more sunshine, more beer, more woodpeckers, more listening.

~ April 2014 ~

April is the kindest month. The days grow long, baseball begins and the eagles are soaring over the north end of Lake Washington. Well, that may be, but news on the redesigning of the old New Orleans Creole Restaurant just plows along. The latest report indicates the permits are almost set and work about to BEGIN, with a new arrival time of mid-May. I will still be with Dave Holo at Salty's on the first and third Fridays and the wonderful Madison, Wisconsin festival at the end of April.

I have not made a list in a long time so I thought I would list my favorite jazz groups. I am also surprised by how many of them have "orchestra" in their name, so I will generally leave out that detail. Don Redman, Spike Hughes, Milton Brown and his Brownies, McKenzie-Condon, Bud Freeman Summa Cum Laude, Luis Russell, Jimmie Noone, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Earl Hines, Spike Hughes, Joe Sullivan Cafe' Society, Louis Armstrong and his orchestra, Cab Calloway, Coleman Hawkins-Red Allen, Horace Henderson, Bob Mielke's Bearcats, Vic Dickenson Vanguard band, Bix and his gang, Bix and Tram, Lionel Hampton about 1939.That ought to do it!

I have been having fun reading an eccentric combination of books recently, including Pride and Prejudice and Red Badge of Courage, rereads after over 30 years. I read Emile Zola's Theresa, an extraordinarily grim novel. Most delightful is Keeper, a very lovely first book of poetry by an old friend and teaching partner of mine, Kasey Jueds. Great eye and ear and heart.

Watch for my Cubs band in May at the Sacramento Music Festival.



~ May 2014 ~

Every month I have something new to say about the New Orleans Creole Restaurant, but never anything that leads to a conclusion. The latest report is that they will open in mid-July and that they will be keeping the same musical policy. This place is over 100 years old and permits and work on the place are obviously complicated.

The Sacramento music festival is not too far away right now. One thing that listeners can look forward to is that the scheduling does try to put bands that have stylistic connections near each other in time and space. For example, the Golden Eagle room in old town is a great old location and on Saturday my Cubs band plays there at 11am, the Bob Schulz band follows at 12:30 and the Grand Dominion band follows at 2pm. Three in a row of top stuff. Kim Cusack and I will be in Cubs and Schulz, Clint Baker and Jeff Hamilton will be in Cubs and Grand Dominion. It is a neat little sequence. The complete schedule is now available on the Sacramento website.

A big trip. At the end of May and a couple of weeks into June, Elsa and I will be traveling to The Netherlands. This is a vacation plan, though it looks like I may have about three days of music work that have come up. The music is tentative right now, but likely will happen. I also think there will be good beer. We will be gone May 29 through June 17.


April 23 was the 100th anniversary of Wrigley Field. It is considered quite a landmark in baseball, but for me it was always home. When I was a kid it just seemed that that was how baseball should be played. It was in the beautiful daylight, the time that kids play ball. I loved my team and ballpark, no matter what. I didn't think of it as historic. It was just daily life to me. There was no loud rock music between innings or pitches. In fact, there was no music at all. Of course I do appreciate the current Cubs band at the ballpark but I remember the silence, the bats hitting the balls, the long batting practice, no national anthem and Ernie Banks, the nicest man who ever played baseball. I guess my feeling about my "home" parallels my feeling about music. Nothing needs to be entertaining. The thing itself is the entertainment. A line drive by Frankie Baumholtz was enough, but so was an outfielder picking up a hot dog wrapper and putting it in his back pocket. Play good music and keep playing it and go as far as you can by doing that. Only invent what is in your heart.

~ June 2014 ~

The Sacramento Music Festival is now over. I must admit my favorite part was the pole vaulting exhibition in the middle of the street. I love track and field events. The hot weather is also very exciting. My little Cubs group was very well received and, as always, seeing old friends is wonderful.

We are now off to Iceland, then The Netherlands and I have three piano days there courtesy of Joep Peeters. I will note locations on the calendar page.

At the end of June the big festival at Lacey comes along and I will be there with the Evergreen Classic Jazz Band.

~ July 2014 ~

As I write this I am heading into the jazz festival at Lacey, WA where I will be playing with the Evergreen Classic Jazz Band and enjoying the company of old friends in bands like the Grand Dominion, West End and Yerba Buena Stompers.

The trip to Iceland and The Netherlands was wonderful in many ways. I especially appreciated Machteld Van Buren and Peter Van Lier for our comfy time in the north of Holland and Joep Peeters for setting up three music jobs for me in the south. Maybe more than anything I loved the old town of Delft and the nearby countryside, the canals the goats and sheep and the Belgian beer.

July brings a major journey, a real five day tour for my little band called The Cubs. A lot of planning went into this trip and you can check the details of where and when we will be by looking at the calendar page. Kim Cusack will be there, and Katie Cavera and Jeff Hamilton and Clint Baker, even with a broken foot.

Today I happened to think about one of the songs I sing: Any Time, Any Day, Anywhere, which came to me from the Mills Brothers. Then I listened to their recording again. I was overwhelmed by the beauty. The blend of their voices and the subtle swing were spellbinding.

It made me think of Emily Dickinson's poem "I Died for Beauty" and the truth of that thought. The Mills Brothers had full hearts and they made my heart full. And that is what I believe. Music should make your heart full.

One more thing. Here is a little poem of mine that was very recently accepted by "Lilliput" which is, of course, the world's smallest poetry journal.

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

~ August 2014 ~

The north end of Seattle has a tradition of putting old pianos on unexpected street corners in the summer and inviting people to play. Today (7-28), while taking my dog Pika to the Sammamish River trail, I found one. Surprise! I tried out Weather Bird Rag, then we continued on our way, a couple of old dogs.

My Salty's jobs with Dave Holo seem to be prospering. We played a Saturday morning brunch recently and may do more. Business is good and we play every first and third Friday from 5-8.

piano in park

In August I go to Sutter Creek, land of 100 degree weather. And a good piano festival. Right now I am carefully watching the fire in Plymouth, a little town just a few miles north of Sutter Creek.

The Bob Schulz band comes to Seattle in September, to play at the Traditional Jazz Society meeting at the Ballard Elks club, and to play somewhere else on Saturday. The location is not definite yet, but I will find out. We still don't know about the New Orleans restaurant in Pioneer Square.

And the First Thursday band has not had a place to play since January, but we will be at the September Jazz event in South Surrey, followed by the Kallispell festival a week later at the beginning of October. . All or nothing. September 26, Friday, I will be playing with Simon Stribling, then Saturday and Sunday with Simon and my own First Thursday band. In Kalispell I will be with the Evergreen Classic band and the First Thursday group.

A character in Moby Dick dramatically said, "We don 't want thunder, we want rum." I feel the same way, except Red Hook IPA might be even better.

~ September 2014 ~

It looks like the band called the Cubs will be back in the bay area next year! We have confirmation from the Cline Winery for their one day festival, plus Rossmoor, Napa Valley Jazz Society and Borrone's. The details will be a little different from last year, but the trip will be quite similar. The exact details will come later. For anyone who follows the Cubs remember that our next appearance is at the Fresno Mardi Gras in February.

It turns out that I am the subject of a discography, a thorough bookkeeping of all recordings that I have made. Gerard Bielderman is in charge and it is apparently all ready for sale through his website. It was quite an undertaking, which I know, because I had to add and correct many things which only I could do. Nevertheless he had a good start going when he contacted me. If you contact him you will see other discographies by musical friends such as Clint Baker, Hal Smith, Chris Tyle and more. I am not sure who wants or needs such things these days but I find it interesting to look at one of the pathways through my musical life.

Of course the discography got me thinking about all the tiny steps that led to me playing music. The 78's my parents had (no jazz). My favorites were Bing Crosby Decca recordings, beautiful music and a good starting point. I took accordion lessons for years. As I look back I am not sure why, but along the way I got a fake book and used to turn the pages and fool around with the songs before I knew that might be jazz. And then more and more things happened, starting with me hearing a jazz radio show from Tacoma called "Rampart Street Parade." I believed there was a Rampart Street in Tacoma. I'm older now.

piano in park

September and the festival in White Rock B.C. is coming up. Also, the Bob Schulz band will be in Seattle, this time playing Saturday night at a place called the Royal Room in the south end of Seattle.

~ October 2014 ~

As I write this I am about to go to South Surrey, BC to play a festival with my First Thursday band and with Simon Stribling's Ale Stars. The following weekend I will be in Kalispell, Montana with the Evergreen band and the First Thursday band. A busy period.

I sadly report that my old jazz friend Bob Graf has died at the age of 96. I first met him when I was 18 and he was a close friend and mentor for many years. He was there when I began playing piano and he was a constant supporter of the Great Excelsior Jazz Band when we first began playing.

He was clear minded until the end and he always was a smart and intense jazz listener. He didn't get cheated on life experiences but still it is hard to imagine him not there. John Ochs is working on ideas for a musical night for Bob sometime in the future but I can't put it on the calendar yet. There are still things to be worked out.

When Bob Schulz and the Frisco band recently visited Seattle we made a great discovery of the Royal Room in the south end of town. It looks like a new place to play, has a good piano and everyone was comfortable playing and listening there. This is also where we hope to have a musical evening for Bob Graf.

piano in park

The Royal Room

UPDATE: October 25, 3:30 to 6:30, Ray Skjelbred and the First Thursday band will be playing for an event to celebrate the life of Bob Graf. Family and friends will gather at the Royal Room in Seattle at 5000 Rainier Ave. S.

~ November 2014 ~

Well, the First Thursday band has been busy and will continue to be in the future. We had a wonderful time in South Surrey, B.C. and in Kalispell, Montana for festivals with a lot of good music. I also played with Simon Stribling in the first one and the Evergreen band at the second. First Thursday band is already invited back to Canada for next year. We also recently played the musical celebration of life for Bob Graf at the Royal Room in the south end of Seattle. Management liked us so much they want us to come back and play an early evening slot, sort of 5-8, but we are not sure of exact times or dates yet. It is very encouraging. A great place to play. We will also be playing for the Puget Sound Traditional Jazz Society in December..

The work with Dave Holo at Salty's has also picked up. We are playing there five times in November and,again, management likes the music. Because we don't yet know our December schedule and I don't know dates for the Royal Room, I know my calendar will not be complete, but I will add more later. The local work is very welcome since I don't have any festival work until February.

October 19 I played Dolceola at the last Lake Forest Park Farmer's Market of the season. I was very happy to be sitting across the aisle from some Alpacas and a lovely display of beets.


Alpacas from Heart of Dreams
Family Farm (Duvall, WA)

I recently read Bound For Glory, Woody Guthrie's sort of surrealistic journey through mostly his early years. And Arthur Sze's great new book of poetry, Compass Rose. He is the only writer I know who seems to be writing about everything that ever happened in time and space and doing it in every poem. And now I am reading Boys in the Boat,the adventure of the 1936 Olympic rowing team, a story that develops mostly along Lake Washington, right where I am living now. And rereading Peter deVries' wonderful Cat's Pajamas and Witches Milk, one of my favorites of his.

~ December 2014 ~

As I write this I am about to go to the San Diego festival. Sort of a last minute experience but there it is. I have four solo sets and four with a trio including Hal Smith and Beau Sample. Should be good

The Dave Holo trio has the first three Fridays of December at Salty's in West Seattle and there is some talk about making it every Friday. The First Thursday band plays for the Puget Sound Traditional Jazz Society Dec. 21. We have Jim Armstrong and Dave Holo added and very likely Josh Roberts on guitar, if his passport renewal is done in time!

I once had a long talk with Ted Williams, maybe the greatest hitter in baseball history. And what did he want to talk about? Piano. I will never will forget what he said. "I would have been willing to trade whatever ability I had as a ballplayer if I could have played piano." And here I am, playing piano. Ted, I would have traded with you. I didn't even have to be the greatest hitter ever in order to play piano.

Baseball is only a few months away.



Ted Williams