Farewell to Sally - A Musical Tribute

Reading Time: 2 minutes.

Sally Fifteen years ago, newly divorced, and new to the area, I wandered into the local animal shelter. It was a cacophony of barking dogs, each—I’m sure—bewildered, and hoping for better circumstances.

In one cage, there were two dogs. One at the front, barking and frenetic. The other cowering at the back in timid silence. The assistant unlocked the cage door, and I sat on my heels looking in. Slowly and silently, the dog at the back came forward, looking into my eyes in a way I’ve never seen a dog look before or since. It felt as if she was looking right into my soul. Everybody who ever met her knows that look.

Ever so gently, she walked up to me, put her paws on my hips, took one last look deep into my eyes, then gently rested her head on my shoulder. Needless to say, I looked no further that day. At the shelter, they called her “Precious”. She came home with me. I called her “Sally”. She was one year old.

As I write this, that day was fifteen years ago. She’s currently asleep at my feet, and in two hours, I have to take her to the vet and hold her as I let her go. Arthritis and the ravages of time have finally got the better of my sweet girl.

It has been fifteen wonderful years. Being a musician, I don’t have the traditional work schedule, so we have spent nearly every hour of that time together. She’s been my constancy, my company, and my very best friend.

Sally: thank you for every precious day. We’ve experienced so much together. I desperately want to eke out every possible hour with you; to selfishly have one more hug; have one more feel of that beautiful soft fur as I kiss the top of your head, but I know now it’s time to let you go. Forgive me.

Godspeed, my precious girl. I’ll never forget you. Of one thing I’m sure: I Can’t Smile Without You. xx

Scales for Jazz Improvisation

Reading Time: 8 minutes.

I have played a lot of scales over the years. I mean a lot. One of the first things my father drummed into me when I was first learning piano, was to learn all my major and minor scales. I have done the same with every instrument I have played. On piano, I play these with each hand, and with both hands—in similar and contrary motion.

I even spent quite some time learning, and practising daily, all the modes of the major and minor scales. That, alone, equates to 252 scales! Yes, I’ve played a scale or two.

I’ll let you into a secret, though: I consider much of those hours, days, years a waste of time. Let me explain:

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Sheltering in Place

Reading Time: 1 minutes.

This Coronavirus pandemic is hitting many people hard. Some of the people who were affected first were musicians. Every musician I know has lost every gig, and even in-person teaching has had to stop.

Still, some people out there are having a far tougher time than us. I’m currently in the mountains, in my motor home, sheltering in place. I’m missing playing with other musicians. What else to do but play with my own accompaniment?

The Revelation

Reading Time: 5 minutes.

Man holding a Chromatic Harmonica I wonder how many people out there are aware of what it’s like to play an instrument for many decades, and then have to go back to the drawing board and fundamentally change their entire playing technique. I count myself as one of those people, and I don’t mind admitting that it involved a lot of hard work to “unlearn” those decades of playing things the wrong way.

My hope with this post is that I help one or two people to avoid the trap I fell into, and save them a lot of time.

I take solace in the fact that at least one extremely well-known jazz harmonica player admits to having had to go through the same process, and I would venture to say that many have done the same, and many more have yet to come to: THE REVELATION.

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The Case for the Harmonica

Reading Time: 5 minutes.

Chromatic Harmonica I have played many instruments over the years. My father was a professional pianist so, naturally, he tried to get us kids interested in that instrument when we were growing up. Unfortunately, he also wasn’t the most patient man. As often happens with parents teaching children, he simply didn’t have the patience for it.

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