May 192016
 

funny metronome

As a much younger musician I made the same mistakes many musicians do when it comes to tempo… I tended to look on it as broken down into 3 or 4 groups, like many things e.g. slow/medium/fast and so fast I’m leaving town. Just like small/medium/large or ordering your steak rare/medium rare/medium/medium well/don’t dare the next one of the chef will go nuts. Working as a guitarist I worried about the faster tempi and whether or not I could handle technique needed two execute the tune. It all changed for me when I began to lead bands or conduct ensembles and most particularly work with vocalists. I now began to understand that the string section needed to know how long fermatas would be, or how fast a phrase was so they could gauge their bowing. Similarly vocalists and their breath control has to be budgeted with regard to phrasing dynamics and indeed emotional expression – in there end it all has to appear to be happening naturally.
 
I am going to focus on what we loosely describe as a ‘medium tempo’ – by virtue of it’s name, neither too fast or too slow. To some, unfortunately they don’t get it and view this as a single tempo but to anyone who has worked with vocalists where the lyrics are so tied to breath control  will tell you that the most subtle variation in tempo has a magical effect on the music. In preparation for recent Sinatra 100th Tribute performances the role of tempo is to the fore. Through his career he would vary tempi on some tunes just for effect. Listen to the tempo of Where Or When (The Billy Byers chart) on the Live At The Sands album and compare it’s brighter medium tempo to the VERY laid back tempi he would often choose later in life. The Live version of Under MY Skin was one that floated around too. Having THE rhythm section of Lewis Nash and Peter Washington on our performances meant we always fund that perfect groove we call “The Pocket”.
 
Listen sometimes to how a band leader or vocalist/soloist will count off a less experienced band and the band will come in at a different tempo. So how do you cure this? Practice imagining the tempo you want and then count it off and play. I will never claim to get it right all the time but I use some tricks to avoid getting it wrong.
 
Identify a part of the song that best exemplifies the tempo in the pocket. Now count it off.
Similar to above, may something in the arrangement will help you find where the best tempo sits – I used to use the sax figure on the bridge of Nat Cole’s Ballerina to get the tempo correct. If the triplets were too fast we were then playing a jig!
Practice playing the song completely out of tempo and then wind in to tempo in a way that any musicians playing with you will hear right away. The late Tommy Flanagan was a master of this and it always excited me when I hear Peter and Lewis inching with Tommy towards the tempo they would eventually settle on.
 
Anyway… I figured I’d toss this out there as a conversation starter. It was inspired by the meticulous attention given to the slightest tempo nuance by Lewis Nash and Peter Washington in our Sinatra Tribute gigs. There are enough recordings of Sinatra in rehearsal out there for a listener to hear how much effort he put in finding that ‘pocket’ and then witnessing the effect it has on the overall performance. Sometimes the difference from one song to the next is marginal but crucial.
 
On the subject of interpretation of this music. There is nothing more stiff to me than when when someone tries to produce verbatim or ‘drumbatim’ what was played by Irv Cotler or Alvin Stoller on the recordings. You only had to hear Sinatra live to know that he didn’t sing these songs the same way all the time. Need some examples? Check out the following:
Any performance with Basie.
Check out the Ellington album (even with it’s documented difficulties).
The Australian live album with Red Norvo.
The small group appearances in Paris and London (Royal Festival Hall footage is on the boxed set).
 
I am hoping that musicians who have developed a cynicism for playing with vocalists will find this useful as they take responsibility for their role in the disconnect too – and I’m not forgetting that there are singers who have worked hard to earn that cynicism! Thankfully, for me, they are in the minority.
 
Until the next one,
 
Be Well,
 
David
 

 Posted by at 9:33 am
May 202014
 

GeorgeM

Yes! You read it correctly. Now let me explain…

As we come close to the concert that will pay tribute to the late George Mesterhazy I thought you might like to know some background to what makes this year’s concert different. In a word strings and you could add woodwind to that word. We have a live chamber orchestra and I say live because George never did get to write for real strings. He provided memorable string arrangements via keyboard for Shirley Horn’s grammy (was it a winner or nominated?) album May The Music Never End and his piano playing was always so orchestral and that’s what seems so unfair – he never got to write for a real orchestra. He came close a few times and we all know by his exquisite taste and harmonic choices that he would have written pure beauty – ALWAYS. Furthermore, he loved arrangers and he and I (BTW not just me) talked for hours and hours with him about various arrangers mostly Robert Farnon, Johnny Mandel and more recently Vince Mendoza who George loved. Two years ago George’s good friend Barry Miles, the legendary pianist/arranger/composer mentioned that maybe we could do a concert with strings at the MAC Center in Cape May and we talked about the challenges involved with that – but we also sowed the seed of some ideas that are now about to bear fruit. It was fascinating to me how he and I, and later we would find also Vicki were on the same page with so many ideas. One recurring one was finding a way to take George’s piano notes and orchestrate them for strings and we discussed some ideas about that.

The next year passed quickly and I never heard from Barry as funding hadn’t been raised and I was on tour of Ireland with the Dublin City Jazz Orchestra and would be traveling back to the US on the same day as the Cape May concert was set to happen. It was later that summer (last summer) that I stayed with Vicki at the Merion Inn and she began discussing the string idea again. I tossed some ideas at her and we both began to get excited and then Vicki seemed to panic for a minute as she abruptly stopped further discussion as she wanted to talk with Barry Miles about this and wanted to make sure we didn’t get too far down the road making plans. Barry had been music director of these concerts since George’s passing and I remember Vicki asking if I thought we could work together on it. I love collaborating and I must admit, even I wasn’t prepared for the enjoyment this concert and preparation for it would bring. I made a 2nd trip down to Cape May and joined Barry, his wife Elaine and Vicki at the Merion where we had a meeting and a pasta dinner upstairs from the Merion. My two boys were with me and were too excited to settle, making their mattress into a trampoline and making it almost impossible to have a meeting. Elaine played with them a bit and they would seem to settle and then … off again. We did, at that point get an early framework for what you will hear on June 8th. Barry has a clarity about how he puts a project together that has taught me so much. Sometimes I feel I take the ring road around some areas where I could have taken a more direct route and can always benefit from the kind of cogent planning Barry brought by way of his experience and leadership.

I don’t want to discuss specific songs that are planned for performance as it may take away the element of surprise but for anyone who knew George – you’ll know his love affair with the Great American Songbook meant he could draw on many eras with well known and not so well known songs. With great vocalists like Paul Jost and Paula Johns singing, pianists like Barry and Dean Schneider and then add in one of George’s longest standing collaborators Joe Barrett on clarinet. Joe told me that George played many instruments with him – he was the bassist on a couple of gigs and knowing George he probably played guitar in some gigs too. All of the above makes me feel that between all of us we have helped George reach a dream –  he has finally written for strings and we have the privilege of bringing this dream to fruition!

The chamber orchestra consists of a small string section and three woodwind players. The great Diane Monroe from Philadelphia, one of the finest violinists on the scene will lead the strings and I’m particularly delighted by that as we have worked together quite a few times with Steve Wilson’s project. Diane has put the section together while the woodwinds are made up of Bob Rawlings on flute/alto flute/clarinet, MaryLou Newman on flute/alto flute and clarinet and my good friend Doug DeHays is playing an impressive array of doubles with bass flute/alto flute/bass clarinet. George’s long standing rhythm section of Bobby Shomo and Tim Lekan on drums and bass respectively will bring back many memories for anyone who went to ‘Jazz Night’ at the Merion over the years.

Playing at the Mac Center brings us to one of The most beautiful seaside towns on the Eastern Seaboard – of course I’m talking about Cape May, New Jersey. A hotel room in Cape May in summer season is like gold so to get to spend time in this beautiful part of the world adds to the joy of our visit. As always the drive down conjures up many memories for me of driving down to the Merion to play with George, Timmy and Bobby and like all of us onstage that night I am reminded of how much I miss my friend.

 

PS I thought of writing this after I’d already gone to press 🙂 George and I would occasionally dream/talk out loud about how great it would be to write a project together  like they did in the old days and be so busy that one might start a chart while the other finished it – we had heard the stories of Marion Evans and Don Costa doing that and crediting the arrangement to Don Evans. What would George and I have done? George O’Rourke? or David Mesterhazy? Well, we have a new team as Barry, without knowing George and I often talked about this, suggested we do the finale tune together and we did!  WHAT FUN that has been and while I’m at it – one of my charts is really a joint arrangement of George’s and mine. Just like we always talked about…

 

 Posted by at 10:46 pm
Feb 202014
 

I have often found it difficult in recent times to answer the question “What do you do?” Why is this difficult you may wonder? It is difficult when you try to narrow it down to one ‘thing’ only but not difficult I simply answer that I’m a ‘musician’. This is usually followed by a question, that seems logical, “what instrument do you play?”. So…, I’m going to attempt to spell this out along with a few answers to questions I haven’t been asked too much outside but do ask of myself – more on that a little later.

When I first drove my parents crazy to keep playing “Fine Girl You Are!” by the Clancy Brothers over and over (a song better known by it’s real title: The Holy Ground) I can safely say that the thoughts of me playing or singing these songs were not present in me at all.

Playing guitar?

Air guitar to Hello Goodbye in the late 60s to playing Let It Be on piano (much to the chagrin of my first piano teacher). Then there’s the harmonica on a coat hanger strapped around my neck, held on by tape while I channelled my inner Dylan or Donovan, or Joshua Rifkin playing Scott Joplin, all the folkies on TV like John Denver, Ralph McTell, Planxty, Paul Brady BUT… it was Paul McCartney’s Red Rose Speedway album that captured me. Two songs fell of my fingers almost right away Single Pigeon and When The Night along with the hit single My Love, featuring Henry McCullough’s great guitar solo. Macca led me through my teen years and I still love his sound today but somewhere along the way a change fell upon me. My brother Michael showed me my first few chords and my memory of his musicality is quite strong. He seemed to be able to play anything he tried to, also his ear seemed to be able to pick up anything with the minimum of effort.

Jazz (early days)?

Hearing Louis Stewart on RTE, Irish TV was initially over my head but my father loved his playing so much and would pay special attention when he saw him and over time, it began to captivate me too. Louis The First and Out On His Own, both produced by the late Gerald Davis were a huge, early influence on me.

Hearing Pat Martino for the first time floored me. His tone, touch, lines, taste and concept – everything about him just grabbed me. Soon, I would find myself trying to be like him, use the same strings, stone picks and wondering whether I could ever meet him, hear him live or even study with him! Along with Louis I was also receiving guidance of a local resident, originally from the UK Bert Crosland, a rhythm guitarist in the style of Freddie Greene, playing on an old Gibson guitar, so old, that the name Kalamazoo, not Gibson was on the headstock. Bert scared me in to learning so many tunes, was always encouraging when I would express crazy ideas like wanting to arrange for big band, compose music, write for strings… never once tried to put me off and ALWAYS seemed to try to find ways to help me explore these ideas.

Arranging/Composing

I loved the quality of writing Sinatra seemed to inspire in his arrangers and thanks to Bert and indeed RTE DJs I would learn the name of Nelson Riddle, later in the amazing Robert Farnon via Louis Stewart – Louis was Bob’s guitarist of choice. Linda Ronstadt’s collaborations with Nelson Riddle seemed to please me a lot more than the critics – I always felt Riddle got a different sound on the ballads with her – a darker, more pensive sound in the orchestrations.

So what do YOU do David?

The short answer is I love music so much that I want to experience it in as many different ways as I possibly can. As I move through this path I find the answer changing slightly (sometimes) also radically (also sometimes).  I love to play my guitar, write arrangements with and for others, I love composition because of the freedom you experience as you create something., I love conducting these arrangements and compositions and hearing them come to life. Sometimes, writing to existing arrangements or formats for small groups can be a little hard to get the juices flowing but when approached as a different discipline, i.e. a collaborative effort  the doors fly open and the creative juices start to flow. From the first guitar lessons I gave to Breffni Murphy after he convinced me to teach through to working with the kids at

So what do WANT to do?

This is a short answer. I would love to score films – the idea of setting music which suggest or assist a scene, create a mood or help tell the overall story would excite me and hopefully there are still some film makers who like to use a composer for that purpose as opposed to the Hans Zimmer approach of having a team write various cues while their names are way down in the final scrolling credits. One of these days I’ll be writing a post on the experience of scoring my first feature film…until then, writing for orchestra, big band and various ensembles while playing guitar will keep me plenty busy 🙂

 Posted by at 9:15 pm
Aug 282012
 

Over the years I have read the many debates about strings in jazz and have participated in some along the way. One of the frequent complaints tends to center on the overuse of long tones by arrangers – also referred to as ‘footballs’, ‘goose eggs’ and some others that escape me right now. More often than not these show up as pads – long sustained chords, especially in ballads but also in up tempo tunes too. Why? Sometimes it’s because they sound so beautiful, thinking of Johnny Mandel’s beautiful use of pads while other times it is pure lazy arranging. This coming weekend saxophonist Steve Wilson is premiering a suite a wrote for, and dedicated to him called Journey To Wilsonia and I thought I’d write a few words about why – apologies for any repetition from other posts. This piece came about as a result of a meeting with Steve about a month ago when he mentioned the festival, the lineup and the surprise contact Steve’s manage Laura Hartmann had received from the organizers offering to increase the size of the strings. Don’t even mention the fact that these strings are drawn form the Detroit Symphony and the Michigan Opera Company – that’s all it took. We both knew this was a golden opportunity to tackle something Steve has wanted for sometime. Let me explain… From working with Steve I have become aware of how much freedom he has afforded me on what are basically his projects, so it was no surprise that he wanted to create an atmosphere of interaction with the strings that would take them out of supporting cast roles and bring them right into the middle of the conversation. His desire to engage his fellow musicians was clearly extending way beyond his jazz collaborators. It is with this in mind that I began to write the suite –  chose to feature strings only with Steve on the first movement  A Joyful Synergy – the name comes from Steve’s tune dedicated to the late James Williams, which he called A Joyful Noise. I also thought of the beautiful imagery I visualize always found when I hear a title Make A Joyful Noise Onto The Lord from the African American church hymns. For the record, other very moving titles I have come across are If I Could Hear My Mother Pray Again and It’s You O Lord , Standing In The Need Of Prayer (thinking of Hank Jones and Charlie Haden here). I’m not religious but I am fascinated when oppressed cultures (I’m from one myself) have had a strong belief system despite very little evidence that their prayers are being heard. During the writing of this work I have found myself thinking a lot of James Williams and how Fintan O’Neill and myself could sometimes run into him in up to three jazz clubs in one night – James called us the ‘O’ factor – I will never forget running in to Fergus and Rosaleen Linehan (appearing at the time in Dancing At Lughnasa on Broadway) in Bradley’s when James was playing there. He and Fergus got chatting as they waited to use the tiny bathroom in Bradley’s and upon hearing the accent James asked Fergus where he was from, suspecting he was Irish. James then told Fergus there were two of his compatriots at the bar and introduced us. Fergus, was still at stage the Arts Editor of the Irish Times and was quite proud that two musicians he had just met (us) were known by our fellow New York based players. Steve was very close to James, they made several recordings together as well performing together a lot. I don’t know what it was but Ido know this, once Steve started talking about how much he wanted to involve the string players more – a flame lit inside me, I couldn’t wait to get home and start writing. By that night I had sent them the opening two minutes in an audio file generated by Sibelius to make sure I was headed in the right direction – Steve responded with a strong Yes! and that was all it took. On the subject of pads 😉 I think there are only about 8 bars maximum in the midst of that first movement – the rest is all conversation! If you are in the Detroit area this Saturday at 6pm (Set. 1st) come by and join the party!

Best for now,

David

 Posted by at 2:15 am
Jul 282012
 

The above title is the name of a three movement suite I am currently working on for saxophonist extraordinaire, Steve Wilson. I was a fan of Steve’s playing when I first became aware of him back in the 90s – probably through the late James Williams. I first played with Steve when I sat in with Fintan O’Neill’s band at the Guinness Cork Jazz Festival around that period. I was immediately struck by his warmth and remember very clearly that he and Don Sickler decided to give me the break on Philly Twist when I sat in. I walked from the Jazz Standard with Steve and Nina one day after a Discovery program session (I think that was also in Fintan’s band) and again, loved talking to both him and Nina. Cut to a many years later when Steve’s manager Laura called me to discuss the possibility of a project with strings – one that included the Bird With Strings charts – many of which I had at the time. This was around the time I was starting to play the guitar again, hoping to hide out until I was ‘ready’ – or at least, giving myself a year before I took stock. So much for that, I was less than one month into my plan when Laura called and I suddenly found myself working with Steve and bassist Ira Coleman and a SUNY New Paltz faculty string quartet. That was Spring 2009 and we’ve been quietly working on the string project ever since. A highlight for me was when Steve put together a remarkable string quintet (with Diane Munroe on violin) for his birthday celebration week at Jazz Standard along with Bruce Barth – piano, Ugonna Okegwo – bass and Lewis Nash – drums.

 

Now, on September 1st – I have the privilege of appearing with Steve at the Detroit Jazz Festival on the main stage with a stellar quartet consisting of Renee Rosnes on piano, Peter Washington – bass and Bill Stewart on drums. Diane Munroe is leading a string section that has grown from quintet to a much larger section featuring players from the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. Steve has wanted to engage the strings in a more interactive way since we first did this project and now seemed the perfect opportunity to do that. After a meeting with Steve in the last week I jumped straight in and begin writing “Journey To Wilsonia”. Much of my inspiration is coming from hearing Steve on the last night of his weeklong run at the Standard. Why? Because he played so many different styles within the jazz idiom that week and nailed everything with an energy and precision that you don’t see often. Over the next few weeks I will try and post a blog, or if I figure it out, a video blog on the path to completion and performance of “Journey To Wilsonia”

Until the next one…

 Posted by at 9:54 pm
Jul 162012
 

I have just received news that an application to the Arts Council of Ireland to fund a tour featuring my music (arrangements for others, myself, compositions etc) has been successful. In my entire career I have supported numerous applications for other musicians coming here to the USA, and was delighted to do so BUT this is the very first time something of this magnitude has been given the ‘go’ signal for a project of mine. What began as a phone call from Allen Smith (Jazz On The Terrace) to see if the interest was there on my part, to a successful application could only have happened with a lot of work in the background by Allen – after 34 years as a professional musician I am, let me say it again VERY grateful to him, and Ciarán Wilde, my good friend and founder of the Dublin City Jazz Orchestra. Ciarán has said he wanted to this for some time and has been quite vocal about it! I can’t begin to say how much I look forward to a big band tour around Ireland playing music from my book to date. As an early indicator of some of the music to expect for a tour like this – here are some possibilities:

  • Arrangements for Lewis Nash/Terumasa Hino Big Band (from their inaugural Japanese tour).
  • Charts written originally for use in The O’Rourkestra.
  • Commissioned compositions, including those by DCJO.
  • Arrangements that were written and/or composed to feature artists like Jeremy Pelt, Peter Bernstein, Paul Jost along with many vocal charts. I have been a longstanding fan of how arrangers write for vocalists in a big band or orchestra.
  • So you want a sample of standards? The One I Love Belongs To Somebody Else, Where Or When, Moonlight In Vermont, My Ship, Nobody Else But Me…

While we await the exact dates, here, in no particular order, is a list of the venues:

  1. Civic Theater, Tallaght, Dublin
  2. Gartan Lane Theater, Waterford
  3. Dolan’s Warehouse (Limerick Jazz Society Presenting), Limerick
  4. Ballina Arts Center, Mayo
  5. Mermaid Arts Centre, Bray, County Wicklow

I will post dates in the calendar when we settle on them – I am, VERY excited to be asked to do this,

Thanks Allen and Ciarán!

 

 Posted by at 4:28 am
Jul 022012
 

Next to the loss of my beloved parents I would have to say that the passing of pianist/arranger and friend extraordinaire on April 12, 2012 has been the most difficult loss I have faced through bereavement. His selflessness is legendary – George, put simply, loved people and left them in no doubt of this through his generosity. This has also been the first death I have experienced where countless people are reaching out to one another trying to make sense of all this. When I played a ballad with George (most often we would play For All We Know) I felt like I was part of something way bigger than myself and knew that George’s accompaniment was on a whole different level. Not just me! The great Shirley Horn, Mark Murphy, Gary Burton, Rebecca Parris – should I go on? thought so too!

George often laughed raucously when he recounted the story of how a teenage Howard Alden, upon hearing George’s guitar playing said “You sound like you play another instrument really well!” George, despite being mainly known as a pianist played guitar in some high profile situations too. He told me that when he played with Billy May’s band he picked a different instrument each to focus on doubling and by the end of the two week run he had doubled each instrument at one point or another. I will continue to add anecdotes to this post as I go along – I want anyone with fond and funny stories of George to share them here.

 

Since the above was written I have spoken with Alex at the Zinc Bar about hosting a tribute to George in the fall (will post a date in the gig calendar when we settle on a date). I have asked Paul Jost to help me put this together. Along with many special guests we will have the O’Rourkestra perform in what will be probably our first show together since George passed – more to come on this .

 

Other George news – we are hoping to do that string writing workshop as an inaugural event for the George Mesterhazy Foundation – will post on that in the next few days hopefully.

 Posted by at 12:22 am
Oct 072011
 

I was talking with George Mesterhazy recently and told him of a quote I had seen on a musician’s page on Facebook – here I go paraphrasing “The right to be heard does not automatically include the right to be taken seriously” – attributed to Hubert H. Humphrey. We both laughed as we thought about what that meant. Here, says he hypocritically 😉 I talk about the downside of blogging, sounding off on Facebook or Twitter. On the positive side, celebrities are able to tackle in the first person any rumors that are put out by tabloids while that freedom also includes the ability to post complete fiction and present it as truth!
Recently I have seen a lot of blogs appear where musicians are having a go at one another in a way that saddens me. It might take many forms, someone blogs or tweets a statement that IMO is designed to get a reaction and then appears appalled by the intense reaction it generates. Someone else might start a ‘fight’ on a thread about music or musicians start slagging off one another in writing. No matter what way they choose, they all seem to hide behind silent text, text that will often obscure the tone of its intent and sometimes not. I also feel that much of what I see written might not necessarily be spoken as comfortably as it seems to have been written, but that’s another topic with exploring. Early on in my career I got to take a lesson with Pat Martino. I was 23 and he was (and still is BTW) my hero. It was very obvious to all that I held Pat in such esteem – even he couldn’t escape my starry eyed gaze as I realized I was sitting opposite the man whose music I loved so much. In the opening minutes of the lesson he ended by debilitating awe by somehow making me feel we were just two people sharing a moment – an amazing ‘moment’ that lasted 5 hours. The manner in which he disarmed my borderless awe gave birth to a friendship that has endured to the present. I have been out of contact with him personally for long stretches but his remarkable spirit has permeated much of what I do musically. All this happened because he showed me a degree of respect as a fellow artist that, frankly, I wasn’t expecting – hadn’t even imagined it. As she showed me his octave dispersal technique on the chromatic scale he smiled at my reaction as I recognized from first hearing it on his solo on the bridge of “It’s Alright With Me”. This was LONG before he published these lines but not before he cautioned me “I’m showing you something that other guitarists don’t have – please don’t use this as a weapon against other musicians – (pause) – Never look down because if you do, at that moment you lose complete sight of ALL that is above you!”
Having experienced the above early on I am saddened when I say musicians hurling insults at one another and hope they can find the restraint necessary on their path to mutual respect – Hey! Peace and Love was not a bad thing! Can we try it again?

 Posted by at 8:11 pm
Apr 082011
 

Okay, first a glimpse back to the dark days. I know I’m not alone when I tell you that there were times in my life when I never saw Ireland and England reaching a point where we would see an official visit from a reigning Queen of England to Ireland. If ever there could be one, I can certainly admit that I would have regarded you as crazy if you told me that she would visit Croke Park – the scene of the original Bloody Sunday, and the Garden Of Remembrance – where those executed after the 1916 rising are honored along with all who fought for our freedom. When the second Bloody Sunday took place violence up north escalated to a point where the idea of peace was fantasy land. Why? We had bombings up north and in England, eventually down south (attributed to MI-5 – an allegation that has never been disproven), a shoot-to-kill policy among police/army of ‘eligible’ youth – ie those who could be an IRA member. Glimmers of hope came when a Manchester police chief called John Stalker was appointed by Thatcher to do a report, that she fully expected him to whitewash and deny all allegations as baseless. One problem; John Stalker was an honest cop who joined the police force to do his civic duties and was honest to the bone. He proved, with recorded evidence that such a policy existed and found himself dismissed from his job while he himself was ridiculed. He was accused of associating with a known criminal – there was a photograph from high school of him with someone who would become a known criminal. So, forgive me for being despondent.

Next on to the Bermingham Six and The Guildford Four:
I remember well the night when my Dad told me had seen a news flash that the first of these cases had collapsed and we both watched in disbelief as the celebration of their release was now taking place in real time. This involved an admission of a miscarriage of justice to a people who believed their system was flawless and has since been depicted in the movie In The Name Of The Father. Some time later there was apology by Tony Blair for the famine and then before we knew it Bertie Ahern, Tony Blair, Bill Clinton confirmed that agreement had been reached on a ceasefire as lasting peace was sought with a feeling of optimism never really felt before. John Hume’s courage in openly having discussions with Gerry Adams, is to me the real catalyst in getting us to the point of peace. He was ridiculed early in the process for meeting with ‘terrorists’ when it was an open secret that both governments were having ‘behind closed doors’ meeting in both the 70s and 80s.

In my own family, my Uncle Tom (my mother’s oldest brother) fought in the GPO in the 1916 Rising) – I believe he 17 years old (or was it 16?) He was a wanted man for much of his late teens.

Alright, enough looking back, I believe this visit from the Queen and the choice of locations for the four days shows tremendous courage and has been intended to celebrate the closeness that now exists between the two countries. Having lived in the USA for a number of years I soon discovered how much we had in common with our seemingly distant neighbors. Tea, football, real-time unscripted interviews with sitting politicians on TV and Radio and one of the loves of my life: Fish’n’chips with malt vinegar 😉 There are those who oppose this visit, some questioning the sensitivity of it (anniversary of Dublin and Monaghan bombings) and it is at times like this I think of Maya Angelou’s wonderful “On The Pulse Of Morning” poem from the first Clinton inauguration:
History, Despite it’s wrenching pain, cannot me unlived, and if faced with courage, need not be lived again. She closed out her wonderful poem with a moving tone of optimism:
Here on the pulse of this new day You may have the grace to look up and out And into your sister’s eyes, into Your brother’s face, your country And say simply Very simply With hope Good morning.

I hope that the spirit of this visit will help the spirit of the Irish public who have been battered with the economic woes of the last few years as they face the sadness of mass emigration, unemployment etc. I thank those who have had the courage to push forward with this visit.

 Posted by at 8:13 pm
Mar 142011
 

Well… Speaking of turntables – I recently got my father’s Garrard 301 with SME pickup arm brought back from Ireland thanks to Fintan O’Neill. I have no idea how much this cost my Dad back in the day but know that he bought through a combination of paying hard earned money and the good old fashioned barter system. The Garrard 301 BTW is now regarded as a collector’s item by audiophiles and I am about go down the path of bringing it back to life. Step one involves a new plinth while the SME arm will go to Canada for repair and rewiring. As time goes by I will post on the progress but in the meantime I’m going to touch on the much discussed subject of vinyl versus CD etc…

I have been playing Vinyl, CDs, Digital Audio files (aiffs, mp3s etc) on the stereo at home when I have a minute – usually later at night. So far, I have been playing the vinyl on a turntable I received courtesy of Jon Mele, who also happens to play the drums in the O’Rourkestra. Even with the turntable being as Jon described, the weakest link in my system – vinyl still sounds the best on it. Or wait, does it? The answer is yes until I started playing flac (lossless audio) & aiffs on a Logitech Squeezebox server. The Squeezebox sounded good by itself, playing flacs from a usb flash drive or using and HP MediaSmart server BUT it wasn’t until I got an Emotiva DAC recently that I started to hear audio that rivaled vinyl for sound imaging and sound stage. I rate vinyl and DAC treated audio files top of the charts followed closely by SACDs so maybe vinyl will seize the lead again when the Garrard is brought back to action!

More soon…

David

 Posted by at 8:08 pm