Songwriting with Soldiers?

Songwriting with soldiers a powerful way to tell their stories
Scott K. Fish, Special to the Piscataquis Observer • September 14, 2018

“For me, art is to tell truths that are hard to tell. Songs are incredibly powerful vehicles to get you into another person’s heart,” Mary says as her video begins. She tells of her invitation from another Texas songwriter, Darden Smith, to “come be a part of a [military] veterans retreat.” Fifteen veterans and four songwriters working for two-and-a-half days at a retreat center.

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Willie Salutes Sinatra: Return of the Gentleman’s Code

SKF NOTE: Willie Nelson, one of my favorite musicians, released his new album today, a tribute to Frank Sinatra titled, “My Way.”

Last night, prior to today’s album release, I listened to Willie sing “One for My Baby (And One More for the Road) from his new album. What a classic tune. Music by Harold Arlen, words by the one-and-only Johnny Mercer. Boy, could Mercer write lyrics. He was a good songwriter too.

In the very early 1970s I first heard the song “One for My Baby” on Frank Sinatra’s “Live at the Sands” album and loved everything about it. Soon I was singing the song, brushes in hand, sitting behind my Gretsch drumset at The Steamboat Lounge, Nicky’s Tavern, and almost every other place I played.

Willie gets my two thumbs up for his rendition of “One for My Baby.” Yes, his 85-year old voice is weaker, scratchy, and can’t hit all the notes he once hit. But to my ears, Willie’s voice — heck, his entire 85-year old musicianship — adds to the song much more than it detracts.

I bought my copy of Willie’s “My Way” and look forward to listening to it. By the way, whatever happened to the “Gentleman’s Code“?

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Father of the Modern Steel Drum, Dies at 90
Ellie Mannette, Father of the Modern Steel Drum, Dies at 90
By Karen Zraick — Aug. 31, 2018

As a child in Port of Spain, Trinidad’s capital, Mr. Mannette became fascinated with…bands…using trash cans and buckets as drums…to create different sounds. [H]e sought to elevate and expand the craft of steel-pan music, and to share it with the world.

He became a master tuner, builder and teacher. …Mannette Instruments in Morgantown, is a major supplier of the instruments in the United States, and he trained students in tuning at West Virginia University for nearly 20 years.

Mannette was among the first to fashion a [chromatic scale] steel drum [to] play any melody in any key.

Today the steel drum is the national instrument of Trinidad and Tobago.

[Manette] was inducted into the Percussive Arts Society Hall of Fame in 2003.

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Joe LaBarbera: My Gretsch Set-Up with Chuck Mangione

SKF NOTE: In the early 1970s Joe LaBarbera was recording and performing with Chuck Mangione. The group released three excellent albums with Mr. LaBarbera: Land of Make Believe (Mercury, 1973), Bellavia (A&M, 1975), and Chase the Clouds Away (A&M, 1975).

LaBarbera played a Gretsch kit with his drums and cymbals positioned at odd angles — which you can see in the accompanying Gretsch magazine ad.

This excerpt LaBarbera answering my questions about his Gretsch set-up with Mangione. I actually saw Joe play this Gretsch set in concert with Mangione at a Long Island, NY club called My Father’s Place. LaBarbera played great. It would seem drums/cymbals at these angles would make playing more difficult. But, as Joe says in this excerpt, he used this configuration for about five years.

I came across this exchange on the start of my Joe Englsh interview tape. I don’t remember anything about this conversation with LaBarbera. The English tape was no doubt right at hand when I needed a tape to record Joe LaBarbera’s answers.


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Papa Jo Jones with Louis Armstrong

SKF NOTE: Papa Jo Jones here in the drum chair once held by his friend Big Sid Catlett. Papa Jo is always fun to watch because there’s always something drummers can learn from him.

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Louis Bellson’s 1940s Gretsch Kit in ‘A Song is Born’ Movie

SKF NOTE: There’s quite a cast of jazz greats in this A Song is Born 1948 movie clip including a very young Louis Bellson on his original mid-1940s Gretsch double-bass drum set. Some wonderful footage of Louis. Watch for his drum solo and his using his right hand under his left hand while playing his hi-hat. Very cool. Thank you to the amarallmusic YouTube channel for posting this.


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Chico Hamilton on Thelonious Monk


“My favorite explanation of why [Thelonious] Monk’s playing was ground-breaking came from Chico Hamilton: ‘Man, I have played with piano players who play with all the white keys. I have played with piano players who have played with all the black keys, but I have never played with no motherfucker who played in between the cracks.’”

Source: “The Baroness: The Search for Nica, the Rebellious Rothschild,” by Hannah Rothschild, Alfred A. Knopf Publisher, 2013

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