Inspiration

Last night’s binge has not completely blitzed my mind. Starring blankly at the half-eaten bagel and cardboard cup of steaming coffee, the quarter notes finally float together to form an original phrase in C-sharp. Would it be enough tonight to divert the chattering students from their foamy beer to listen to my guitar for a moment? I grab the pencil wedged above my ear to jot the notes on my napkin and stuff the white paper in my shirt pocket. Three coins clatter on the counter. Twirling the pencil, I push the glass door open, squint, and walk slowly into the brilliant sunshine. There is still time before the gig to remove the stubble from my cheeks and chin.

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Improvisation without Premeditation

“Such virtuosity! Captivated by the artist, we decided to book him on the program. A judicious choice. The synergy was very quickly realized between the charmed audience and the musicians,” says Jacques Panisset, director of the Grenoble Jazz Festival in France in 2006. Such an enthusiastic tribute to the talents of the Larry Redhouse Trio.

To listen to Larry play a track from his Spirit Progression CD utilizing the talents of Robin Horn, drummer, and Mike Levy, bassist, click the arrow:

Larry Redhouse

Following in his mother’s footsteps, Larry’s talent first appeared at the age of 3 in Seaside, California. He reached with his right hand up to the keys of the upright piano in the corner of the living room and picked out the melody of the Marines’ Hymn. His father Rex, a Navajo, was a civil auditor at the army base at Fort Ord, just north of Seaside. Rex met Larry’s mother, a classically trained pianist, in the Philippines where she played “Boogie Woogie” for the GIs during World War II.

There was a lot of music in the Redhouse home. He listened to the Beatles on the radio in the early to mid 60s. The youngest of four brothers and two sisters, he remembers the backyard concerts for the neighborhood kids in Seaside. The siblings cut out cardboard guitars and colored them with crayons. With the radio blasting and using milk crates to bang on for drums, they put on a show. There was a sense of performance and musicality even then. His father had a tenor voice and liked to sing. Not only Native American chanting but he also sang popular songs on a local radio program. He enjoyed opera and mimicked the great tenor opera stars. Larry remembers watching him driving with one hand and tapping the steering wheel with the other while he hummed a Navajo chant. Continue reading

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The Neys Have It

Paul Amiel is a musical artist, scholar, and philosopher who currently emphasizes the music and instruments of ancient cultures, Turkey and East Asia. He plays exotic instruments like the Turkish ney (a flute) and Chinese guqin (a long horizontal stringed instrument). He “wallows in a constant state of not knowing anything and seeking things to learn and process,” but it is a long path which he enjoys traveling. He is a keen and articulate observer of the music scene with a wry sense of humor.

Click the arrow to listen to Paul’s group, Summer Thunder Chinese Music Ensemble, play Yi Zi Mei while you read:

Growing up in multicultural Los Angeles and now performing a variety of ethnic musics, Paul’s own ancestry, as proven by his participation in the Genographic Project, is Welsh, Basque, French, and Irish. He claims a close genetic link to Cro-Magnon man as well, which makes him very proud.

Paul Amiel

His first musical experience was at 4 years old when his mother taught him a song on the ukulele. His home was always full of strange instruments that his father, who was not a musician, liked to have lying around. While many kids may have had a piano or guitar in their house, Paul’s home also had flutes, whistles, a xylophone, banjo, ukulele, and baritone as well.

Though Paul first learned flute in elementary school, he fell in love with instruments at that time. He was the student who, if they needed a French horn or oboe player in the band, would take the instrument home, learn how to play it, and come back. He then played the string bass, electric bass and flute in high school. He was a singer and played keyboards in rock and roll bands, but realized that the other guys in the band were not necessarily there for the music. That was when he got out of rock and roll. He continued in mainstream music studying piano at Humboldt State University, but he never liked it. To him, the piano was a big heavy box, a complex machine, with white keys that looked like teeth. He studied it seriously for a while but never enjoyed it, saying it felt “like typing on a xylophone.” Continue reading

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Many Hats

Mike Levy is a multi-talented artist who has 15 stringed instruments and a boxful of percussion instruments in his collection. He sings, composes, owns and runs a production studio, record label, and a publishing house.

To listen to Mike play his composition “Straight Up, Right”, while you read, click the arrowhead below:

Mike Levy

Mike Levy

Mike’s first experience with music was a guitar lesson at the age of 7. His budding career as a guitar virtuoso lasted 2 hours until he returned home, tripped, and snapped the neck off his guitar. His parents quickly switched him to the piano, a more durable instrument. His whole family was musical, some of whom were professional musicians. They were music players and music listeners. Everyone played as an amateur at some point in his or her lives. His mother played the piano and a little classical guitar. His father played the trumpet. An uncle was a professional songwriter. His grandparents played the flute, piano, and guitar. Their encouragement for Mike was for him to broaden his interests but not necessarily to begin a career track. Continue reading

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A Uniquely Clear Voice

Competing on American Idol brought Crystal Stark sudden local and national celebrity. Her talents are still eagerly sought by event organizers.

To listen to Crystal sing a clip of Eyes Wide Open while you read, click the arrowhead below:

Crystal Stark

Crystal Stark

The music started with Crystal. She didn’t come from a family of musicians or singers. When Crystal was still in her car seat, she heard Smoky Robinson singing by himself. Later, when he sang in a group, Crystal was able to pick out his voice. She tried to sing along with everything she heard on the radio. She grew up listening to 70s music, particularly R & B because that was what her parents were into.

Her mom began bringing her to church when she was 10. She didn’t have a choice about attending but she started to get involved. There was music and opportunities for her to sing and grow in her talent and build character as a person. Attending church was one of the best things that happened in her life. It keeps her grounded and focused.

Her big voice was natural for her. She just sang. She didn’t do special exercises to improve her voice. She didn’t know it was unnatural to be able to sing. She thought everybody could sing. She didn’t realize how well she could sing until she got older. Continue reading

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Beware the Grease Spots

Audience members attending the open house sporting Birkenstocks and T-shirts maneuvered carefully around the grease on the floor of the RV mechanic’s garage. Carrying their purses, the audience fingered the sale clothes racks at the department store.

Matt Mitchell

Dressed in ties, suit coats, and gowns, the audience listened carefully to the Pops Concert at the Tucson Music Hall. His fluency in diverse styles allows Matt Mitchell to carve out a successful career as a frequently seen guitarist in many venues of the Tucson music scene.

Matt’s musical journey began at age 7 in a visit to Aunt Mildred’s house. He picked out “On Top of Old Smokey” by ear on her electric piano. Following this success, he took piano lessons for 5 years, studying classical music. He discovered the guitar at 15 and was into pop, rock, and heavy metal for a brief period. Going into college, he returned to studying classical music on the guitar. Wisely, he learned to read music. This set him apart from many other guitarists who only play by ear or from those that learned ‘Tab’, a visual representation of the fret board that is an overly simple version of music.

Pause for a moment to hear Matt play Romanza.

For the year and a half before graduating from college, Matt was already making some income playing music. Once he graduated, he had to get a grasp on how to survive. He was very anxious but within a few months he was really psyched. He was making a living. He realized that if he just played one style, he had limited opportunities. He needed to diversify. First, he learned to play jazz. Continue reading

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She’s “Magik”

“Rhythm…Soul…Passion…It has the ‘Wha’ (pedal)…It’s joyful…Danceable…Think Sly and the Family Stone.” That’s how Kate Becker, principal of Kate Becker and the Zodiacs, defines Funk, an important component of the band’s sound.
Kate forged a successful career as a singer, songwriter, and businesswoman Kate Becker out of a turbulent youth. Through friends, spirituality, and her mother, she learned that there were tools that she could apply to herself, and that she was the only one that could make a difference to her well-being. She had helpers like magical stones or tarot cards at a young age.  Then she started blending herbs and teas and became a Reiki practitioner.  She felt that if she was helping others, then she was helping herself.  She started singing at a young age but she was a dancer and it didn’t even occur to her to sing seriously.  She invested her creativity and energies into dance classes and performances until her teens when her knees gave out.  Her heart was broken but she didn’t take up singing right away.  “It was a bad time.  It was early teens and that is when some of us start getting into trouble.  So, I chose trouble over dancing.”   Continue reading
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