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Posts Tagged ‘jerome kern’

This is a sampling of the bloggers I follow.

First is Asakiyume, from whom I learned everything I know about blogging, including how to borrow a photo from another site in such a way that readers will go to that site. She is an editor and a novelist, and she blogs about a wide range of topics, from personal to global.

In this post she compares a chest of drawers in a local coffee shop to something she saw in the animated Japanese feature Spirited Away. She offers many inspiring social justice ruminations plus thoughtful literary criticism, especially of fantasy and science fiction: the interstitial world.

KerryCan is a retired English professor who is very serious about crafts, selling many of her own on Etsy. She is a chocolate maker, a weaver, a quilter — you name it. I like her description of studying and resurrecting a forgotten quilt art in a recent post on “redwork.”

“I have been using an inexpensive child’s lightbox to trace the redwork panels on to paper,” KerryCan writes, “so I can keep them. Then I trace from the paper version on to off-white cotton fabric. As I trace and then stitch, I enjoy the designs. There are flowers, lots and lots of flowers. And there are animals; some are the ones the maker would know from the farm and some are exotic, known only from books or dreams.

“My favorite blocks, though, are the ones with the people, and, especially, children. The children depicted are not the cute and pampered and romanticized children of modern America but are serious and, often, awkward-looking.” Check it out.

New England Nomad is a perfect blog for learning about hidden places that even natives don’t know. The Nomad takes lots of pictures and provides detailed information on directions, special features, parking and costs. You may have heard about the Newport Cliff Walk, and the Nomad covers it, but do you know the “gem of Rhode Island,” Colt State Park in Bristol? Read about it here.

A Musical Life on Planet Earth blogger doesn’t post often, but when he does, Wow. Not only is he a music teacher and singer, he is deeply knowledgeable about the American Songbook, Broadway in particular — Rodgers, Hart, Hammerstein, Harold Arlen, Irving Berlin … . He cleans out the local library when doing research for one of his featured-composer shows. Find everything you ever want to know about the great Jerome Kern at this post, and listen to Will sing.

I’ll be doing more of these blogger recognitions from time to time, but before I leave today, I have to say I’ve been riveted to relatives’ Burning Cloud Blog, detailing the ups and downs of five months in a sailboat. Most of the posts are written by the children in the family. Read the entry “I have operated a lock” here.

Photo: New England Nomad
Colt State Park, the “gem of Rhode Island.”

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I was delighted when Will McMillan asked me to review his Blame Those Gershwins CD, with music composed by Steve Sweeting, who also is on piano.

I think the first time I became aware of singer McMillan was in a production of the musical Tortoise, in which he played a sweet, low-key guy unimpressed by the hectic modern world. But I may have seen him in television ads when he was a little boy. He’s been performing that long.

I’ve listened to this CD several times now, and I’m really loving it. The title song playfully borrows themes from the greats — the Gershwins, Cole Porter, Johnny Mercer, Jerome Kern, Irving Berlin, and more. It tells the story of a fan who finds more comfort in the American Songbook than in the unreliable world of romance (but who is also able to poke fun at himself).

I ought to think twice;/Should I really be relying on Kurt Weill for advice?/Life doesn’t rhyme like lyrical knowledge/You get from Rodger and Hartenstein College.

The lyrics for that song are written by Sweeting, who wrote the words for several of the other songs. The joyful “Bounce to the Wave,” with words by Betina Hershey, had me thinking of swing dancing but may suggest other bouncy activities to you, including children jumping on a new mattress. One tune was created for a lovely ee cummings poem that I wish we had known about when Suzanne and Erik got married. The cummings poem we chose was more obscure. In fact, I told the congregation, “We don’t know what it means, but we like the way it sounds.” (“Not even the rain has such small hands.)

McMillan wrote the lyrics to several songs, including “Stuff,”  in which he ponders his good fortune in experiencing the beauty and peace of nature and compares those wonders to other “stuff” we collect in our getting and spending world. He asks, “What have I done in some other life, to be blessed with this stuff,” reminding me of an uncharacteristically plaintive Elaine Stritch singing “somewhere in my youth and childhood/I must have done something good.”

Sweeting’s gentle, wistful persona in “Wait” is self-critical for hoping that something wonderful will happen without action on his part — and for being so resigned. “I sit and watch a year or ten just slip away/I let life come to me,/If it doesn’t,/Say it wasn’t meant to be.”

I really loved each song for its different strengths: the carefree “Let’s Go to the River,” the hopeful “What Am I Doing Alone,” the wise and accepting “Let It All Go,” in which Sweeting suggests that if a poem fails to flow and a friend fails to know when you need a friend, “Maybe the answer/is to love a poem and to write a friend.”

This is music for the thinking music lover. It is thoughtful without being cerebral. It doesn’t talk down to the listener. The questioning, patient vibe suggests a tentativeness that is a kind of strength, a self-knowledge that is OK with not having all the answers and an openness to receiving the joy that is offered. Amazon has the CD. And iTunes. It’s going to be my companion in the car at least until I have all the lyrics memorized.

Oh, and kudos to Doug Hammer, McMillan’s longtime piano collaborator, for the recording and mixing on this one.

McMillan and Sweeting’s launch party is October 2 in Somerville, Mass. Call 617 628 0916. Or check Brown Paper Tickets online.

Will McMillan and Steve Sweeting, the guys behind the jazzy, bluesy CD Blame Those Gershwins

Will McMillan & Steve SweetingA

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