Sunday, December 30, 2007

"More Than a Feeling"' - Boston

more than a feelin...

My second of three tribute selections in the last three days of the year. This one to Brad Delp, lead singer of Boston. He committed suicide earlier in the year. Bummer. The thing about Boston was that nobody really knew who any of the individuals were - including me. But what the members of the Class of 1976 at St. Clare's knew was that this was a great song at a dance. Totally easy to sing along to, and with that great clapping bridge about 3/4 of the way through? C'mon, it doesn't get much better than that.

Debbie HATES Boston. But it turns out she's in interesting company. Wikipedia reports that
"More Than a Feeling" is #2 of pop songs that respondents were too embarrassed to admit that they liked
Ha Ha.

But it's still a great song to clap along to when you are at a dance.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

The Theme - Oscar Peterson Trio


Many famous people left us in 2007. Among them, just recently, was Oscar Peterson, a virtuoso of the piano.

I somehow came across Oscar Peterson because of the album "Side by Side" done with Itzak Perlman. I love love love listening to it when I want high quality background music. On a rainy Sunday morning, on a long flight, or a long train ride. He was revered by his contemporaries. Duke Ellington called him "the maharajah of the piano." Nice praise from the Duke.

I have to confess that I am not a HUGE jazz fan, but as I get older I find myself gravitating to the traditional, sort of roots oriented jazz of the 40s, 50s, etc. About a week ago I downloaded a bunch of songs of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, and more and more I find myself listening to folks like Ella Fitzgerald, Joe Henderson, Django Reinhardt, and other legends.

Peterson was Canadian, and came to be known in the US when he played an unbilled set at the Carnegie Jazz at the Philharmonic session in 1949ish. And he kept playing, all over the world, until a few years ago. A legend for sure.

So long Oscar.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

December (George Winston)

Press Play:

George Winston song. He is such a talent and I think of him, and the other Windham Hill musicians, any time when a cup of tea or coffee, a newspaper or good novel, and relaxing background music are involved. Will Ackerman (founder of Windham Hill), Scott Cossu, et al - they are all awesome.

And a roaring fire. That's what George Winston and December in DC conjure up for me.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Hawaiian Wedding Song - for Gramp

Today would have been my grandfather's 104th birthday. He died 13 days after his 100th birthday, in Santa Clara, California. More than any song, this one reminds me of Gramp. Here's the thumbnail of his story:

Diego Callejon was born in Estepona, Spain. It's a small town on the Costa del Sol, near Malaga. When he was seven years old, in 1911, he and his family loaded up onto a ship and traveled halfway around the world to their destination - Hawaii. The boat was no pleasure cruise. They traveled in steerage - aka with the cargo and cattle - and dozens of people got sick and died, including Gramp's sister, Mary, who died soon after they arrived in Hawaii.

Why Hawaii? Because Gramp's father, Antonio had some friends and relatives who had gone to Hawaii a couple of years earlier, that's where their new life and his parents' opportunity lay - as farmerworkers at a sugar cane plantation. Child labor laws being nonexistent, Gramp and his siblings went to school a little, and worked in the sugar cane fields a lot, especially after his dad got sick and the company wanted him to work off their debt. In 1917 the family moved again, this time to the San Francisco Bay Area. They were post-WWI migrant workers, handling apricots, asparagus, tomatoes, prunes and other wonders of the "Valley of Heart's Delight."

The rest, as they say, is history, at least in our family.

Those next 85ish years are truly the stuff of the American Dream - from "nothing" with a second grade eduction, to suitor and then husband of Mary Bronk, to business man (via the ranch on Capital Avenue in San Jose that I loved as a kid), to respected member of the community and the school board, to homeowner, and to father, grandfather and great-grandfather who showered all of us with (sometimes tough) love, and secretly pressed $20 bills into our hands, even after we were making plenty of money on our own. He was the real deal, self-made, and a gentleman. When people ask me who in my life I admire, I typically say "my grandpa."

It was a happy coincidence that today I spent two hours once again facilitating a community session for the Washington Area Women's Foundation - and this one was attended mostly by women who have recently come to the United States, just as my Grandpa's family did. Sure, the times are different, they are from Central America rather than Europe, and some of them are documented, some aren't...but at the core these women are no different from my ancestors. They left their home countries to try to forge better lives for their families, and they are struggling to "get ahead" here in the good old U. S. of A. Their courage, determination and faith carries them forward. Just like it did for Jimmy Callejon.

So, why the Hawaiian Wedding Song? Because this is a song I remember from my childhood and early adulthood that will always remind me of my grandparents. My grandfather adored my grandma, and when she died suddenly in 1997 he was heartbroken. I'd say he was heartbroken, in some ways, until the day he died. They loved to dance (especially he did), and I vividly remember them dancing to this song at every chance - including on their 50th wedding anniversary in 1975. On the day of the celebration of their union - their golden anniversary - this elegant picture was taken...Not long before they took to the floor to dance to the Hawaiian Wedding Song.