Thursday, July 31, 2008

Wednesday, July 30, 2008


I went to see Swing! at Music Circus tonight. One of the most polished shows I've ever seen there. The singing, dancing, and musicianship were all first-rate.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The magic of branding

Here is a logo I drew for
Please purchase their products and/or services.

65 miles for a cup of tea

My Welsh friend Mike Gundy, who I knew in Peace Corps, recently sent me this photo. Here is the accompanying text:


Ok I admit it. New Cellphones with Cameras are usefull.
Even with their dodgey, tabloid Alien Quality, I have convincing Photos to show that I cycled 65 miles to England for a cup of Tea.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Album of Bear Valley photos... click on thumbnail to see them

Four Seasons tribute at Bear Valley Music Festival

The wisdom of stage hands.

This man is a stage hand at the Bear Valley Music Festival. He said, "Bear Valley is a drinking town with a skiing problem."
Another stage hand fixed a loose step with gaffer's tape (commonly called "gaff"; and to "gaff" means to put gaff on something).
"Is there anything that gaff won't fix?" I asked.
"No. That and zip cable."

The After Party

After the show, we all went to the Grizzly Lounge (the bar at the lodge where we were staying) and found it already full of audience members. It's pretty much the only bar in Bear Valley. It took forever to get a beer.
There was a trio playing that included a woman playing guitar and ukelele; a harmonica player wearing a vest that had a series of harmonicas in little pockets; and a bass player.
The woman reminded us all of a famous actress whose name we couldn't remember. Finally someone said, "Kathy Bates!" I assumed that the singer was constantly hearing about the resemblance, but later someone asked her and she said that she'd never heard of Kathy Bates.
Eventually Ken Stout got his sax and sat in with the band. Then Tracy brought his flugelhorn and sat in too. Tom Lopes took over the bass, and with that, our band had hijacked the entertainment. The people didn't seem to mind.

Our Jersey Boys

The show was a big hit, despite many mistakes, especially in the second act. At one point, the singers skipped about sixteen measures of the song. Amazingly, the whole band found where they were and continued on!
Audience members were dancing in the aisles.
When the singers were introducing the band, they called me "Tom Stivers." (At the time, I didn't even notice, because the sound was so garbled.) Soon after, I received a note on my keyboard that said, "After the show, the first beer is on me. Chris."
As I said, I didn't even know he had said my name wrong. I thought he was apologizing for some other screw-up that I had saved him from.
After the show, a promoter was very interested in booking the show for some other event.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Dawn and Ronnie

We walked all around this lake today. Rich people have cabins on the edge. We met one of them along the way: she was very friendly. She says she met her husband 49 years ago while listening to Frankie Valli! Moreover, she is named Dawn and her husband is named Ronnie, and we're performing two songs named "Dawn" and "Ronnie" tonight! The singers will definitely mention her during the show.

The lodge

The lodge is properly rustic. In the big center hall, the furniture looks like it was made from railroad ties. Big fat hardware.

Bear Valley

Yesterday we had our rehearsal at the Red Lion, the same place where Ron's big band plays each month. The four singers are all Broadway guys; one told me that he'd been in Chorus Line in New York. I talked to another one about Music Circus; the star of our Sweeney Todd is a friend of his. Music Circus has a great reputation in New York, partly because they pay so well. "If I could get a job in Sacramento for the summer, I'd be a happy chorus boy."
We rode to Bear Valley in a little bus. More like a shuttle, really. We had to fit all of our equipment plus fifteen people, so every seat was full.
When we got to the lodge, we had to unload our own equipment and then truck it 300 yards to the tent.
I found out that Brad Larson (the Steinway tuner in Sacramento) is staying here for the whole festival, tuning for the concerts.
I brought my keyboard. It's a lot more work -- if I'd been playing the festival piano I wouldn't have to bring anything -- but for a show like this, digital piano makes a lot more sense. You can control the sound a lot better and they need synth strings for one song.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

This painting of Billie Holliday is on the side of R5 Records, owned by Ross Solomon, the founder of Tower Records.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Space toys

My customer today has the greatest collection of science fiction toys and books that I've ever seen. Click on the picture to see it larger.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Are you down for some music prep?

I went into the production office today to help Pat with the inserts for Sweeney Todd. He put some funny stuff into it. Notice the composer's name. The phrase underneath the music refers to my recent duck cartoon.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Friday, July 18, 2008

Artists aren't very organized

This guy printed up business cards but forgot to include his phone number so he handwrote it on each one.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Old and bitter

Yesterday I was talking with Shelley Denny about a Sacramento pianist who died a couple of years ago. "Too bad he became so bitter in his old age." It turned out that he resented the fact that he never became a national jazz artist. (Instead, he raised a family, became one of the most respected musicians in town, and had legions of adoring students — including me.)
I had no idea.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Unsolved mystery

I was leaving the Sacramento Memorial Auditorium early this morning when I noticed papers all over the street and sidewalk. I picked one up — it had the texture of car tires on it — and noticed it was from the Piano/Conductor book for Hairspray. I picked up more pages. Some young women noticed I was picking up pages. They picked up more pages and handed them to me.
Strangely, no one at Music Circus seems to be missing this book. Is someone else also doing the show? How did the pages get there?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Please don't ever do this

This is the underside of the lid of a Baldwin L grand. Somebody used duct tape to attach a microphone and now the finish is ruined. Duct tape should only be used to tie up a hostage.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The real thing.

Setting up for Catherine's 60th birthday party. Scott's singing and guitar work on the Santana medley "Black Magic Woman"/"Gypsy Queen"/"Oye Como Va" was mesmerizing.
Tonight Rachel is out at her friend's house playing the video game "Guitar Hero," but Scott is a real guitar hero.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

My fifteen seconds

I finally got a decent check from ASCAP... which included fifteen seconds of music sold to Dancing with the Stars! Amazing.

Accident waiting to happen

I was tuning a piano when suddenly I heard the sound of screeching tires. I braced myself for a crash that never came. It turned out that it was a squeaky door, which you can see and hear above.

Friday, July 11, 2008

By the famous for the famous

This is a painting by my old school chum Nina Weiss. It's in the home of a celebrity in Chicago who will remain nameless. (I've learned my lesson.)

Thursday, July 10, 2008

And fruit flies like a banana

This reminds me of an old joke:
—Do you smoke after sex?
—I don't know. I never looked.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

The right kind of mind for the job

I went into Metro Electronics and said to the salesman: "Remember me? I bought an adaptor this morning, and I want another."
"No, I don't remember you." He glanced at the adaptor, which I had in my hand. "But I do remember the RFA-8892."
This is an esoteric piece that they probably sell a few a year.
Responding to my astonishment, he went on: "I also remember the number for the first phone I had in the seventies. And my first VISA card.
"But I can't remember what happened yesterday."

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

My tuning teacher, Antonio

Last Sunday's Bee had a front-page story about how local people are dealing with tough economic times. The first segment featured Antonio Bombal, who taught me to tune pianos 24 years ago. Read the whole article

Monday, July 07, 2008

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Why Johnny can't ignite

When I was a kid, young boys routinely blew off their fingers with cherry bombs. The American youth of today can't even light a pile of sawdust with a blowtorch. (As I used to say to my little brother: "You couldn't light a pile of sawdust with a blowtorch.") No wonder China is kicking our butts.

Feminist plum

I present this plum in homage to Frida Kahlo, Eva Hesse, Judy Chicago, Miriam Shapiro, and all the other great feminist artists.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

What would Frida eat?

We went to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, mostly to see the Frida Kahlo show. In the cafe they had a Mexican stew in honor of her. It was a good show but on the way home we ran into horrific traffic — it took us three hours to get back to Sacramento. I was a wreck by the time we got home.
The whole trip took 6½ hours. Here's how it broke down:
Driving there: 1½ hours
Looking at Frida Kahlo show: 1 hour
Lunch in museum cafe: ½ hour
Looking at permanent collection: ½ hour
Driving home: 3 hours
Not to mention a 3 hour nap recovering from the drive home.

Response to a birthday card I sent

Thanks for the birthday greeting! Mighty thoughtful. Can you believe I'm
51?! I used to be 16, Mark!

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

JB's Lounge

The Ron Davis Big Band played for the first time in the remodeled lounge at the Red Lion, renamed JB's Lounge (formerly Savannah's Lounge). It looks swank, and the sound is much better. The cocktail waitresses are wearing bondage outfits that push up their boobs. I think I need a spanking.
Jack Stanfill, the drummer, brought a married couple from LA that he's known for a long time. He is a pianist, and she sings. They sat in and kicked ass. The band sounded amazing.

Funk Shui

Rehearsing with my old friend Scott Berenson and his band Funk Shui. We're playing a sixtieth birthday — covers of rock classics.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Once in a lifetime chance

At the book sorting they had a complete set of the Chicago Great Books for nine dollars. I sort of wanted them, but where would I put them? We have so many books already.

Don't ever wash it

This piano was signed by William R. Steinway.