Upcoming Gigs:

Sat, Oct 25: I'm back with Nite Hawks, playing early jazz at Indian Lakes.

Sat, Nov 15: I'll be joining Ken Slauf and Glen West with Crazy Wizdom at Adelle's in Wheaton.  8PM to 11PM.

Tues, Nov 18: The Chi-Town Showstoppers play an audition showcase for SPRA.  With any luck this will keep us coming back with a vengence at next year's summer festivals!

Sat, Nov 22: Second Time Around will be rocking it at the Lisle Arboretum from 5:30 to 9PM.

Thurs, Dec 12: The trio Crazy Wisdom takes the stage for a private holiday party in Schaumburg.

Fri, Dec 19: I'll be joining Ken Slauf and Glen West with Crazy Wizdom at Adelle's in Wheaton.  8PM to 11PM.

You can also catch me and my colleagues almost every Sunday at 10:30am at Elmhurst Presbyterian Church for contemporary, uplifting music.

I'm available for piano lessons.  If you're already well-versed in pitches, note values and time signatures, I can help you get to the next step.  My teaching will cover chords, intervals, scales, improvisation, reading lead sheets and much more.  First lesson is free, so email me and see what I have to offer. 




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For my upcoming gigs, check out the right hand margin.

Lots of other gigs on the docket, so check out the right hand margin and see if you can make it out for any of them.  You can also catch me most Sundays at 10:30AM at Elmhurst Presbyterian Church, 367 Spring Road in Elmhurst, IL.  

Fiction: As always, I continue to submitted short stories to various publications and contests, and I'm busily reviewing submissions for http://www.sixfold.org/.  You can still check out my most-recently published short stories in Volume 1 and Volume 2 of the YA periodical, Sucker Literary Magazine


Original Song of the Week: The One That Got Away

Review: Jackson Browne in Chicago

At sixty-six, Jackson Browne could easily phone it in and play concert after concert of the certified hits that came with regularity during the first decade and a half of his 40-plus year career, but on Tuesday night at the Chicago Theater he went a different route, playing deep cuts and new material along with a few crowd-pleasers for a balanced and effective show. 

Beginning with 1996’s “Barricades of Heaven,” 1972’s “Looking into You,” and two songs from his new album Standing in the Breach, it was apparent that this wasn’t going to be a greatest hits show, and the evening was all the more rewarding because of it.  Browne stitched his new material seamlessly with his older tunes, which you could take one of two ways I suppose: 1) his new material is as strong as his old material; or 2) his new material explores the same territory he’s been exploring for decades.  It’s probably a little of both, but when you have an absolutely stellar band with equally stellar sound backing you up, and you’re reciting lyrics like: The seeds of tragedy are there/In what we feel we have the right to bear… well, I’ll take a little familiarity with my new Jackson Browne.  All told, he performed seven songs from his new album.  If you had asked me beforehand if that was a recipe for a successful evening, I would have demurred, but to my ears many of the new tunes were as strong as the old ones.

After being assaulted at several arena shows lately, I was thrilled to be able to hear every instrument on stage without reaching for the earplugs, and I spent much of the evening admiring the guitar work of Val McCallum and Greg Leisz (who played dobro, guitar and lap steel), both absolute monsters at their instruments, and one got the feeling that Jackson Browne had as much fun watching these guys display their craft as he did singing his compositions. 

Alternating between guitar and piano throughout the evening, Browne sported an all-black outfit (as did the rest of the band), and the stage lighting bathed the musicians in shades of violet, with occasional splashes of color to enhance various songs, most notably the desert shades of “Leaving Winslow,” a song Browne introduced with a childhood memory of playing on a trestle bridge with his buddies and flattening pennies on the railway.

Early in the second set, Browne asked, “What would you like to hear?” and after a deluge of requests, he answered, “Yeah, I thought so.  But after that what do you want to hear?”  But as far as I could see, the request resulted in only one audible, the 1980’s hit “In the Shape of a Heart,” and the rest of the evening proceeded much as his previous concerts in Philadelphia and New York. 

I knew I could leave a happy man after Browne performed 1993’s “I’m Alive,” albeit a whole tone lower than his studio recording.  It became apparent during the show that keys had been adjusted to accommodate Brown’s aging voice, but that said, his signature mellow tone still sounded excellent, and I got the feeling that he could have hit the high notes consistently had he been forced to.  If there was one complaint about the evening, it’s that the band played on a similar energy level throughout with little in the way of dynamics; even some of the rockers came off sounding country.  But this is a minor quibble, and for the last selections of the concert, Browne broke into crowd favorites and rocked a bit with “Doctor My Eyes,” “The Pretender,” “Running on Empty” and “Take it Easy.”

As I was buying junk food at Walgreens after the show, a woman behind me said to her boyfriend, “I was hoping for ‘Late for the Sky.’”  I was too, but I give Browne a lot of credit for playing so much new music that was actually worth playing and worth hearing.  He continues to sing about the stuff that matters, from the Haiti earthquake, to politics, to the Gulf oil spill.  We need guys like Browne to continue to fight the good fight and to be willing to put new music at the forefront.  I'll take that over a greatest hits show any day.

Of Tina Fey, Randy Newman, Ebola and Kate Upton

In 1999, Randy Newman sang these words: “I have nothing left to say, but I’m going to say it anyway” and “Each record that I’m making is like a record that I’ve made, just not as good.”  In Newman’s inimitable self-deprecating style, it comes of both hilarious and ironic, since his album Bad Love is arguably among the artist’s best efforts; it’s actually my favorite album of his illustrious career.

I too have nothing left to say, it seems, as I’ve spent the last month pursuing activities that include not a word written, a note composed nor a chord recorded.  However, since I recognize that age forty-six is quite a long way from the coffin (once can hope, at least) that I better begin writing something or I’ll simply have to go the way of Billy Joel and call it a career (without, um…the actual career).  I figure, if Bob Seger can come up with something say even after no one cares, why not me?

So here goes…just a few things on my mind:

I’d be a lot happier for the Kansas City Royals were it not for all the former Brewers.  A little glimpse of what might have been.

I could not be less worried about Ebola.  So why is it taking up so much news time?  Somewhere around 32,000 U.S. citizens die from influenza each year, garnering less than a front page headline.

In a perfect world, I would be that guy who reads The New Yorker, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, I'd be up on my politics, I'd have read all the classics and I’d know three languages.   Alas, I am not that guy. 

Tina Fey, while an excellent writer and comedic genius, is no dramatic actress, and the film “This is Where I Leave You” suffers as a result, not to mention that author Jonathan Tropper writes his own screenplay and is just a little too faithful to his original work.  Sometimes an editor is necessary.

If an artist is going to go through the trouble of printing out its song lyrics with a CD, wouldn’t you suppose the lyrics should be easy to read?  Yeah, I’m talking to you, Rufus Wainwright, The Shins and Dave Matthews and Pink Floyd and Prince and…

The fall of the Milwaukee Brewers, as demoralizing as it was to witness, did in fact prove my preseason prediction correct.  On March 26 I wrote to some friends, “I said between 83 and 85 wins (earlier).  I'm going to go on the low side.  83-79, good enough for third place, but no playoff.”  The Crew finished 82-80.  Third place.  No playoffs.  I’d rather have been wrong.

I’ve heard that you should never look at another woman who’s younger than half your age plus seven years.  So for me, that’s thirty years of age.  Kate Upton is twenty-two.  So yeah, I’m failing that test.

Running once every six months does in fact make the run much more painful.  I finished a 5K last month in relatively good time and felt it for three days.

If my daughters are any indication, senior year of high school is no longer considered a fun year (mine was a blast).  They have been trudging through their existence, almost as if they were well into their second decade of a dead-end job that earns little pay.  I guess, in a way, they are into their second decade of a dead-end job with little pay, except that this year there is an end, and a year from now their lives will dramatically improve.  But for goodness’ sake, whatever happened to the notion of enjoying the ride?

Some gifts keep on giving: the vertebra I fractured in December of 1990 is coming back to wreak havoc on my neck.  Perhaps I should have taken a beginners lesson after all.  Unfortunately I was immortal when I was twenty-two.

In the category of “Lessons You’ve Learned but Don’t Heed,” I went on a record and CD-buying binge last month, and now I feel the stress of having all these albums that need listening too.  Perhaps this is why I have nothing left to say: I’m too busy listening to music!

Basic Rock from the 80s and 90s

A few weeks ago, my friends are I challenged each other to a difficult task: select songs from our record collections from 1980 to 2000 that had – as a minimum and a maximum – only guitar, bass, vocals and drums.  No strings.  No brass.  No tuned percussion.  No harmonica.  No accordion.  You name it.  Just the basics.  This was a much harder endeavor than any of us had expected, especially as we challenged each other to represent all twenty-one years – not so easy during the 80s when even the biggest rock and rollers resorted to filling in the soundscape with a synthesizer, an organ or a violin (yeah, I’m talking to you, Mellencamp).  For me, 1982 was the most difficult year to represent.  I started off all cocky: “No problem, I’ll pick U2, REM or The Replacements.”  Well, Mr. So-Sure-Of-Himself, U2 and The Replacements skipped 1982, and R.E.M. didn’t put out their first album until the following year.  That I was never into heavy metal or big-hair bands (or grunge, for that matter) made the task set before me seem impossible at times.  With a week to go until the big unveiling of our lists, I managed to find an LP from 1982 with a tune that provided the very basics.  Thank you, Cheap Trick.

The evening was a bit haphazard, and we ran out of time to represent each year, but here’s what I documented.  For each year, my selection is listed first, then John’s, then Kevin’s.  Yes, the Replacements and the various iterations that resulted from the band are over-represented, but that ain’t bad; the song by Bash and Pop was one of the highlights of the evening for me.


Billy Joel, Close to the Borderline

Cheap Trick, Baby Loves to Rock

Kenny Loggins, I’m Alright; John Wetton, Turn on the Radio


Pat Benatar, Take it Anyway You Want it

The Church, a song whose title I forgot to document

4 selections from Kevin: Romantics, In the Nighttime; Stray Cats, Runaway Boys; Billy Squire, I Need You; Adam Ant, Beat My Guest


Cheap Trick, Time is Runnin’

Marshall Crenshaw, Mary Ann

Kevin, opted for another 1981 release!


The Pretenders, Time the Avenger

John passed

Black Sabbath, Trashed


Big Country, Where the Rose is Sewn

Replacements, I Will Dare

Scorpions, Leaving You


John Mellencamp, Rain on the Scarecrow

REM, Kohoutek

Anthrax, Medussa


Joe Jackson, Hometown

Smithereens, Strangers When We Meet

Violent Femmes, Heartache


The Bears, Fear is Never Boring

Replacements, (a bunch from Pleased to Meet Me)

Jesus and Mary Chain, April Skies


The Pursuit of Happiness, Walking in the Woods

Pixies, Where is my Mind

Kevin passed


Blake Babies, Dead and Gone

Lou Reed, Stawman

Gene Loves Jezebel, It’ll End in Tears

1990 We didn’t get to this year, but my pick was…

Replacements, Attitude


Lloyd Cole, Weeping Wine

Meat Puppets, This Day

Concrete Blonde, Joey


Keith Richards, Eileen

Paul Westerberg, Waiting for Somebody

Kevin passed


Judy Bats, Simple

Buffalo Tom (entire CD of Big Red Letter Day); Bash and Pop, Friday Night (Is Killing Me)

L7, Scrap


Green Day, Basket Case

Neil Young, Piece of Crap

Nirvana, The Man Who Sold the World

1995 We didn’t get to this year, but my pick was…

Emmy Lou Harris, Where Will I Be


Barenaked Ladies, The Old Apartment

Rage Against the Machine, Bulls on Parade

Kevin passed


Old 97s, Time Bomb

Sun Volt, Picking up the Signal

Kevin passed


Fastball, Fire Escape

Lucinda Williams, Car Wheels on a Gravel Road

Beck, Bottle of Blues

1999  We didn’t get to this year, but my pick was…

Indigo Girls, Cold Beer and Remote Control

2000  We didn’t get to this year, but my pick was…

Steve Earle, Another Town

Short Story: The Missing Ingredient

My short story, "The Missing Ingredient," published in the winter 2013 edition of Sucker Literary Magazine, is now available for easy reading on my website.   

Alex is living the rock and roll dream, playing bass and singing for the power trio, Aunt Sally’s Nightmare.  But when his bandmates invite Maureen to sing lead, it soon becomes a battle for control.  Or could it be a battle for something else?

Go to Amazon to purchase the Young Adult anthology digitally or in paperback.

To read on my website, click here.

The Movie, Chef

When Jon Favreau made his big splash in the movie Swingers back in 1993, who could have predicted that he’d be playing a supporting role on TV’s Friends just a few years later?  The guy was clearly destined for bigger things.  Fortunately, since then he’s managed to carve out a nice resume of screenwriting, acting and directorial credits (Elf, Iron Man) and in his latest movie, Chef, he does all three in an absolute gem of a film.  I haven’t had this much fun at a movie all year. 

Favreau plays Carl Casper, a professional chef in LA who finds himself compromising his art due to restaurateur Dustin Hoffman’s insistence that he stick to the tried and true.  A novice at social media, Casper learns just enough from son Percy (Emjay Anthony) to become dangerous, and a series of self-induced mishaps – culminating in a videotaped tantrum in front of food critique Ramsey Michel (Oliver Platt) – puts him back on the job market, lost and uncertain of what to do next. 

At the prodding of Casper’s ex-wife, played by Sofia Vergara, Favreau and son begin a new business in Miami on a food truck, assisted by former line chef, Martin (played by the incomparable John Leguizamo).  They city-hop across the country, learning a few things along the way about fatherhood, work-ethics, and how to use social media as one’s advantage.  More importantly, the plot allows Favreau to show us his love affair with Miami, New Orleans and Austin, and the music and food that makes these cities come alive.

Favreau could have taken many predictable turns that would have made Chef yet another contrived Hollywood mess, and true, things are sewn up a little neatly at the film’s end, but the journey along the way is such a terrific romp, both sweet enough and irreverent enough to rope in my 12 year-old son (which ain’t easy), that a little contrivance toward the end is acceptable.  It’s not often a movie balances things so well (Favreau’s excellent Elf is one example), and Chef lends credence to the notion that a well-done character-driven film is often more interesting than a plot-driven film (though having both is even better).

Big name stars Robert Downey, Jr., Scarlett Johansson and Dustin Hoffman (not to mention Oliver Platt) all land terrific performances in small roles, but Leguizamo, sous chef Tony (Bobby Cannavale) and Favreau steal the show, along with Favreau’s father-son relationship with Anthony.   The dialogue seems natural and unforced, and Favreau’s obvious love of cooking shines, as he affectionately devotes numerous scenes that reveal just how much effort people are willing to expend – all for the pleasure of a fine meal.