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Wednesday, May 29, 2013


Hang on, folks, because this region is about to experience some seismic activity, straight up from California, in the form of rocking, swinging, knock-your-socks-off piano music. Carl Sonny Leyland will appear in Seattle and Portland this week and you don't want to miss him. (Show information below)

Even at a young age, Leyland understood American music and made it his own.

I had heard about Leyland long before I met first him at a jazz festival. There he played traditional jazz, one of the types of American music he first heard and loved as a boy growing up in England. From there, he began a career as a pianist that went on to include a move to the United States, nine years as a musician in New Orleans before heading to California, and the development of his expertise and authority in piano blues, country, Boogie Woogie, Rockabilly, and Western Swing. There is no one else like Carl Sonny Leyland.

If you have the idea that no one person could do all of that and do it well, think again. Or better yet, just watch and listen to him playing a wide selection of numbers in the videos on his website, here, including some original compositions. I've included more at the end of this post. You can read his complete biography here.

Carl Sonny Leyland

"I am very happy to have a chance to play in Seattle and Portland and spend a few days in such a beautiful area," Leyland told me. "I have made some great friends there and  hope I can return frequently!"

If you live anywhere within 500 miles of Portland or Seattle all I can say is this: "Get your tickets now to see and hear Carl Sonny Leyland." And time's a wastin'. His first show is this Thursday night, May 30, in Seattle.

Here are your opportunities to hear Leyland in the Northwest:

Thursday, May 30, at Slim's Last Chance, 5606 First Ave. S., Seattle, WA 98108. Phone (206) 762-7900. He will be performing at 9 p.m. as a special guest with the Seattle Rockabilly band The Black Crabs.
On Friday night, he has a private engagement. But you can catch Leyland playing again with The Black Crabs at The Landmark Saloon, in Portland, Oregon. He will perform there at 9 p.m. on Saturday, June 1. The Landmark Saloon is located at 4847 SE Division St., Portland, Oregon. Phone: (503) 894-8132.

Now, here is a special treat for you, a selection of videos beginning with some Boogie Woogie improvisation at house concert. He makes it look so easy.

Here Leyland plays and sings "Stagger Lee." (below)

Or maybe you would prefer some traditional jazz. Michael Steinman, New York jazz scholar and writer and the author of the blog Jazz Lives, included it in a post. It features the Carl Sonny Leyland Trio, with bassist Marty Eggers and drummer Jeff Hamilton, at Dixieland Monterey in 2011. Read what Steinman has to say about these fine musicians (joined by Marc Caparone on cornet) in this post: "My Main Men: (Rockin' in Ventura) ..."

If you're like me and you just can't get enough, come see Carl Sonny Leyland and The Black Crabs while you have the opportunity. Then let's invite him back to the Pacific Northwest soon. He likes it here. When he visited Tacoma last year, my husband and I took him out to lunch at Chambers Bay Grill.

Welcome back, Sonny! See you soon.

Carl Sonny Leyland visited Chambers Bay in 2012

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Saturday, May 25, 2013



I never expected to have Bourbon Glazed Pork Ribs for breakfast. But I had to. You see, I’d been thinking about that take-home container in the refrigerator when I went to bed the night before, and it was the first thing I thought of in the morning. Why? Because, it held what remained of my dinner at Maxwell’sSpeakeasy and Lounge in Tacoma— namely, the best ribs I’ve ever tasted in my life. In my opinion, they’re probably the best in the world.
I first learned of this dish during my interview with Chef Hudson Slater about the new spring menu, back in April and immediately put them on my “must try”list. Don’t picture typical barbequed ribs.Think instead of savory, slow cooked comfort food, although they do come with a tangy Scotch bourbon and beer barbeque sauce on the side.
“We do a wet, then dry, rub on the ribs and make sure all of the seasonings are worked into the meat,” the chef told me. “We then smoke them in house and cook the ribs covered, low and slow, for many hours. It is a labor of love, but well worth it

After giving a portion to my husband, the slaw is revealed.
Yes, indeed. I never expected to have any leftovers at all, once I tasted the first bite. Dark and slightly crispy on the outside, the ribs greeted me with a mouthwatering aroma of smokiness and came as two racks, each conveniently pre-cut in half. They covered my plate, with tiny oven browned new potatoes and a heap of Maxwell’s popular (for good reason) fennel and Fuji apple slaw peeking out from underneath.

Even though I saw the size of the portions, I still didn’t expect leftovers. I planned to share some with my husband. And you know how ribs usually are—a lot of bone and not all that much meat. But in this case, they turned out to be meatier than I imagined. At $21, this menu item is a true bargain.
inner delights of the blackened prawn sandwich

In spite of the fact that he’d ordered the special sandwich of the night—a fabulous blackened prawn po’ boy—he did want to try the ribs. That’s when I discovered the surprise that made me declare them the best ever. When I went to fork up one of the halves to pass over to him, it just fell apart cleanly into bare bones and sumptuous, thick, unbelievably tender pieces of pork. Forget the extra napkin I’d ask the waiter to bring. Forget my visions of stickiness everywhere and feeling like a cave woman. This was an experience of eating ribs I’d never had before; I could easily and neatly do so with only a fork.
fork tender and going fast

There was no room for dessert. But what’s a person to do when Chef Hudson tells you he just went to the local farmers market that afternoon and bought fresh strawberries? I’ve made plenty of desserts with strawberries, but I’ve never used them in a cobbler, so I just had to try it. He topped his with crunchy, buttery, oatmeal goodness and Olympic Mountain Ice Cream. Does it make me less guilty if I tell you we shared?

So that, my friends, is why I came home with leftovers and had ribs for breakfast. I even had a few of those cute little potatoes left over to have on the side. Until you’ve tired starting your day this way, you’ll never know what you’re missing. Now, I suggest you go on down to Maxwell’s and order a plate of Bourbon Glazed Pork Ribs so you can have your own leftovers for breakfast. You can’t have mine.

Top photo by Hudson Slater. Remaining photos by Candace Brown

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Tuesday, May 21, 2013


                           postcard image loaned by Reed Fitzpatrick
One hundred and ten years ago today, citizens of Tacoma stood around and gawked at a spectacle—the raising of the totem pole whose fate the city now ponders. But the city does so without a full appreciation of the circumstances surrounding that event, thereby ignoring some very significant local history. Sensitivity to native cultures, political correctness, and practicality combine to create a controversy here, because the pole is rotting and no one seems to know what to do with it. But, to my amazement, the most important part of the story is the part getting the least attention, and that is the pole’s relationship to the visit of former President Theodore Roosevelt.

See News Tribune articles:

In 2010, skilled researcher and writer Michele Bryant and I coauthored a book titled “The President They Adored—Washington State Welcomes Theodore Roosevelt in 1903.” (It is out of print but will soon be available again as an e-book.) While working on the book, the fanfare surrounding the president’s tour of 17 cities and towns in Washington, and the extravagant preparations made, astounded us. Coming up with a totem pole taller than Seattle’s 60-foot model was typical of the many, sometimes outlandish, ways jurisdictions vied for the president’s attention. This totem pole, carved on the shores of Vashon Island, did get his attention during a visit that included a parade, a lavish banquet, the laying of the cornerstone of the Masonic Temple, and two 21-gun salutes. But before I get into all that, let’s return to the almost frantic totem pole scene the day before.

By the afternoon of May 21, 1903, the crowd at the base of 10th Street in Tacoma had grown to several thousand. Tense anticipation charged the atmosphere as a crew of twenty men attempted to raise the approximately 100-foot, 15,936-lb. totem pole—claimed to be the largest in the world—to stand in front of the Tacoma Hotel. At any moment it could fall and splinter into pieces. Already, just as the pole began to lift, a hook had broken off and done some damage.
Daily Ledger newspaper clipping from 1903

The Tacoma Daily Leger reported:
“The descending block made a dent in the figure of the bear man at the base of the pole, but nothing but can be readily repaired. Had the pole been a foot higher at the breaking of the gear, it must necessarily have broken in two over the supporting false work about midway of the length. A second start and the strain on the five-sheave tackle was seen to be too great, and hoisting was stopped and the pole backed while the lower block was made fast to a point higher up the pole, giving a greater purchase with less strain.
The inch-and-a-quarter hoisting rope was run taut by twenty men with a smaller five-sheave tackle, making the purchase require for twenty meant to hoist the pole equal to ten bocks. The strain drew the main rope small, but the higher the pole went the less grew the strain until when erect and towering to nearly the height of the Tacoma hotel alongside, it took back-ropes to prevent the pole coming forward of its own weight.”

Daily Ledger newspaper clipping 1903

And that was only the beginning of the excitement that gripped the city for two days. Here are some excerpts from “The President They Adored” concerning Roosevelt’s stop in Tacoma:
~All of Tacoma waited for the resident’s train that afternoon of May 22, 1903, with citizens crowded into all possible vantage points, “… above the housetops, or dipping from every window,” according to the Daily Ledger, a copy of which cost a nickel at that time. Men swung their hats and women and children waved their flags. A twenty-one gun salute fired from Puget Sound as the Commander in Chief stepped from this train.

Soon a procession rolled toward Wright Park with the president in his carriage, sometimes standing, sometimes sitting, talking, laughing, smiling, and showing his teeth. He stepped onto an elevated platform to address a sea of thirty thousand upturned faces.
~From Wright Park, the procession approached the Masonic Temple building site, so the president could lay its cornerstone. The stand was decorated with bunting, and a large American flag stretched over the president’s chair. Hundreds of Mason, wearing their traditional white aprons, watched as Brother Roosevelt stepped from the platform to the stone, picking up the trowel and placing some mortar on its underside, his inexperience causing laughter and words of encouragement. After a short speech and the traditional scattering of corn, wine, and oil—emblems of plenty, joy, and peace—the Tenino sandstone cornerstone was swung into place.
~The masses cheered as the president’s carriage approached the Tacoma Hotel with many following the procession along the guard ropes. The banquet reception boasted Northwest floral beauty at its finest, with decoration of pink roses, Solomon’s seals, asparagus fern, huckleberry, Oregon grape, white lilacs, kinnickkinnick, tall palms, and rhododendrons—the Washington State flower. Outside the hotel, dogwood and Scotch broom framed a large American flag draped over the doorway.

~The totem pole captivated Roosevelt with its distinctive carvings and enormous size. As his carriage passed by, he raised his arm, pointing at the pole’s features from top to bottom and seemed to honor it by removing his hat.
~The president admired all objects of beauty and fine workmanship, including an elaborately embroidered silk cloth that was draped over his carriage. This relic, dating from the 16th century and probably made by nuns as a cover for a catafalque, survived as a 400-year-old heirloom passed down through the family of Mr. Joseph Moore of Tacoma. Even in 1903 it was valued at thirty thousand dollars.

~A salute of twenty-one guns was fired again the next morning as President Roosevelt left Tacoma aboard the luxurious steamer Spokane. It flew the dark blue presidential flag with its golden eagle as they headed north to Bremerton, two hours away.
page from "The President They Adored"

Considering that a century and ten years is a mere blink of an eye in terms of history, how quickly events are forgotten. Whether or not you are a fan of Theodore Roosevelt, his tour through the state would have amounted to an unforgettable day for the tens of thousands of impassioned people who came to see him along the route, often climbing trees, even telephone poles, leaning out windows, covering rooftops, and crowding train stations, just for a look. When he visited Spokane a few days later, as our book describes, “… it was said that never before had so many people assembled in the vast region between the two mountain ranges of the Rockies and the Cascades, and no one there ever expected to see anything like it again.” 
I hope this background information will influence the city to preserve the totem pole, not letting it rot, but finding an indoor location where it can safely be displayed. It represents more than a rivalry with Seattle. It represents a time when Tacoma’s citizens felt a sense of unity, excitement, pride, and joy as history was made before them. We could use a reminder of how that feels.
cartoon from Tacoma's newspaper, The Daily Ledger, in 1903

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Wednesday, May 15, 2013


The Northwest Repertory Singers will give voice to some of life’s richest moments at their upcoming concert, “Songs of Love, Lust, and Laughter.” And just as those moments pass too quickly for all of us, so did the past season for fans of this highly acclaimed vocal ensemble. Their final performance for the 2012-1013 season takes place at 3 p.m. on Sunday, May 19, at Mason United Methodist Church in Tacoma’s Proctor District, the last chance to enjoy their stirring music until October. You won't want to miss this one, especially considering the delightful theme.
The ensemble’s Artistic Director Dr. Paul Schultz gave me some enticing details:

"This concert closes a terrific 2012-2013 season and has something for everyone. The Songs of Love include Brahms' Liebeslieder Waltzes for piano four-hands and my wife, Donna Gartman Schultz, joins accompanist Marjorie Skreen as the third and fourth hands. Songs of Lust are covered by selections from section three of the very popular Carmina Burana (The Court of Love). I will guarantee you'll leave laughing after a couple visits from PDQ Bach and songs carrots and rutabagas by Seattle's John Muehleisen."
Schultz will present a lecture between 2 p.m. and 2:30 p.m., before the performance begins, to offer background and enhance your experience of the choral music you’ll hear. With his warm and charming personality, his talks always entertain as much as they enlighten.

Surprise, delight, and occasional laughter make every Northwest Repertory Singers a thrill to attend. After hearing a vocal music performance of such unsurpassed quality and beauty, you will leave reminded that, in spite of all the turmoil in the world, we were meant to live with joy. Take a look at the joy in store during their 2012-1014 season by clicking here. The video below, from a past performance, shows the love, talent, and professionalism each dedicated member brings to the group. Here are some accolades.

Mason United Methodist Church is located at 2710 N. Madison St., Tacoma, WA 98407. If you’ve ever visited the Proctor Farmers Market, you’ve seen the large white church building on the street corner at the market’s west end. It’s also home to one location of the FISH Food Bank, and donations of non-perishable food or cash on the day of the concert, or any time, are deeply appreciated.

The last day to purchase tickets online is today, Wednesday, May 15, and you can do so, without a service fee, online at Brown Paper Tickets or by calling (800) 838-3006 or (253) 265-3042.

Unless they sell out early, tickets will also be available at the door: $18 general admission, and $15 for senior/student/military. Children under 12 are free.

And those tickets entitle you to discounts at three Proctor District Restaurants. See the NWRS newsletter for details.

Instead of your usual activities (gardening, housework, errands) why not treat yourself to something truly memorable this weekend?

Photos were provided by, and used with the permission of, Northwest Repertory Singers.

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Thursday, May 9, 2013


Six-string guitars dominate music these days, so four-string tenor guitars and the musicians who play them don't get the attention they deserve. Mark Josephs, an accomplished musician himself, on both guitar and harmonica, wanted to change that. His love of the instrument and his awareness of some outstanding players inspired him to launch an annual four-day weekend event called the Tenor Guitar Gathering. It will take place in Astoria, Oregon, May 30 – June 2, 2013, for the fourth time, using the acronym TGG4.
Mark Josephs, founder of the Tenor Guitar Gathering
“What we try to do is have a really fun event that is extremely inexpensive,” Josephs said, “and this year we have so many tenor guitar players that we couldn’t put them all in one night.”

If you’ve never heard of a tenor guitar you’re about to meet a special member of the stringed instrument family, a member with a small but fiercely loyal fan base. Tenors are nothing new; they’ve been around for about a century. Like tenor banjos—widely used in traditional 1920s and ‘30s jazz—tenor guitars have only four strings, instead of the usual six. They are tuned in fifths, using the notes C-G-D-A. But if you think that means they’re two strings short of being a real guitar, or only two-thirds as musical, think again. Listen to John Lawlor as he shows how great a tenor guitar can sound.

In 2010, Josephs and his wife, Karen, bought a home in this historic town, located in Oregon’s extreme northwest corner, where natural forces of the mighty Columbia River and the Pacific Ocean meet. It seemed the perfect setting for the birthplace of his idea.  
“Walking around the quaint town of Astoria, pop 10,000, I thought it would be a great place to have the world's first tenor guitar gathering,” Josephs told me. “No one else seemed to be able to get one off the ground, so I decided to throw a party and see who would attend.”

Fortunately for him, he’d landed in a town that embraced his quirky idea and radiated plenty of positive energy that kept him going. One individual, in particular, proved to be a great supporter. Gordon ‘Gordo’Styler owned a local business called the Astoria Guitar Company. When approached with the idea of hosting the gathering there, Styler enthusiastically agreed. “He was also a beloved volunteer programmer on local radio station KMUN,” Josephs said. Without his help, the first three gatherings (TGG1, TGG2, and TGG3) never would have happened. Sadly, shortly after TGG3, Styler died. This year’s event is dedicated to him.

Josephs said, "Gordo's brother, Bill Styler, a guitar builder, has caught the bug and has built some of the most unique tenor guitars in the world, due to hearing about TGG1 and attending TGG2. Bill will be at TGG4 and is a very strong supporter of the annual event." Here's video of Josephs playing Bill Styler's unique double-neck electric tenor guitar, the first in the world.

Gordo Styler would have loved TGG4, because each gathering ends up bigger and better than the one before. Attendees enjoy features like no-cover lunch concerts at Clemente’s Restaurant and TheBridgewater Bistro, jam sessions (one of which is on a trolley), workshops taught by some of the world’s best tenor players, an all-day tenor guitar luthier exhibit in the banquet room of the Rogue Ales Public House, two outstanding evening concerts, and much more. And anyone who attends will see more tenor guitars than they’ve ever seen in their life.
EZ Marc Poschman with his National
The Astor Street Opry Company, a non-profit community performing arts organization, offers their theater for AN EVENING OF TENOR GUITARS, which turned into two evenings this year. Different artists will perform on each night, from 7 p.m. until around 10 p.m. both Friday and Saturday. Tickets are only $15 for one night or $25 for both. That’s truly a bargain price for a total of 13 acts. Part of the proceeds will go to local radio station KMUN and the Astor Street Opry Company.
“I’m excited to have John Lawlor flying out from the East Coast,” he said. “I haven’t seen him in about 30 years, and I consider him to be one of the greatest jazz tenor guitar players.” Josephs grew up in Atlantic City, New Jersey and met Lawlor there. He shared his memories with me:
“Around 1970 or so I met up with John Lawlor, from Philly, who came to the shore to play with his brother Jim, a drummer. They called themselves The Lawlor Brothers, and John played a four string tenor guitar tuned CGDA. I was maybe 23 and John was maybe 20. I had never seen a tenor guitar, or heard of one. John was my first introduction to the instrument, and I was curious (still am) about all musical instruments. What impressed me about John's playing was that he could play anything—old time, swing, Cream, Hendrix. And I heard the voicing, so different from my six string guitar.”
Lowell “Banana” Levenger of the band The Youngbloods is another amazing musician who plays tenor guitar. (Read an interview here.)Josephs called him “an incredible musician’s musician.” Levenger plays piano, six string guitar, and an Italian-made five-string tenor guitar with an extra string tuned a fifth below. “In fact,” Josephs said, “on their big hit song Get Together he actually played guitar, not Jesse Cullum Young.

In addition to Lawlor and Levenger, the lineup includes Josh Reynolds (son of NickReynolds of the Kingston Trio) with a band called The Lion Sons, plus The Renegade Stringband, Myshkin, Jean Mann, The Quiet American, Professor Douglas Fraser, EZ Marc Poschman,  Jack Ponting (friend of Nick Reynolds), Tom Molyneaux, Carl Allen, Mark Josephs, and others.
The Lion Sons - Mike Marvin, Josh Reynolds, Tim Gorelangton - keeping the spirit of Nick Reynolds, The Kingston Trio and the tenor guitar alive and well!
The Tenor Guitar Gathering isn’t even five years old yet, but it has quickly grown from the low-key event Josephs first created to the point of needing more structure. In 2012, he formed the Tenor Guitar Foundation, a non-profit organization with a six member board of directors and the slogan “Fostering Musicianship Four Strings at a Time.” Josephs is president. They also started a Tenor Guitar Hall of Fame.
My advice? Order your tickets for TGG4 now. I have a feeling they will go quickly, and by next year the word will have spread so far you might be lucky to get tickets at all. Don’t miss the chance to experience part of guitar history and meet some of the people who helped write it. Someday, when this event is famous, you can say, “I was there back in the years when it all began.”

Now, for your enjoyment, I've included more videos demonstrating why tenor guitars deserve a special gathering to honor them.

And here are interesting posts about tenor guitar from Michael Steinman's "Jazz Lives" blog, loaded with videos.

HANNA, PHIL, AND STEFAN: “TENOR MADNESS” (Feb. 2010)    Hanna Richardson's generous donation to the Tenor Guitar Foundation helped make TGG4 possible.


TENOR MADNESS (Nov. 9, 2009)



Candace Brown - Writer and Musician