The Key(board) to the Stones

ON THE NE CORRIDOR LINE SOMEWHERE BETWEEN PHILLY AND NEWARK – While I’m wrapping up a day trip to NYC I stumble across a charming little article written by keyboardist Chuck Leavell buried in the “Business Travel” section wayyyy in the back of Tuesday’s New York Times.

I’ve always been a fan of Leavell’s, who has a pretty amazing resume: Since he joined the Allman Brothers as a teenager (check out his YouTube dissection of “ ), he’s played with Eric Clapton, Blues Traveler, George Harrison, and dozens more. He’s also a pretty fair jazz pianist, and has written books on tree farming and conservation.

But what he’s best known for (and the article is mainly about) is being the pianist and music director for the tours of the Rolling Stones. Which means he’s on the road, and in the air. A lot. Like two years for the most recent “Bigger Bang” tour of the Stones:

In an airplane you have a captive audience, which makes everything easier. I’m well versed in the huge catalog of songs the Stones have written, recorded and performed. Obviously we can’t get to all of them since there are more than 400, but I try to find a balance of the new, old, interesting and unusual. After writing up the set, I’ll consult with Mick, Keith and the others on the particulars of a concert. And a lot of work gets done while we are en route to various destinations.

Quite an image, innit? Chuck sitting down the Mick and the boys, going over a set list like a wedding caterer deciding on the menu.

For more on Chuck, check out this interview and performance from 2002 on the new NPR Music site….

If You’re Going To San Francisco….

…Flowers in your hair are no longer necessary (what, you don’t remember the song by Scott McKenzie?), but do make a point to check out the History of Audio exhibit in Terminal Three (mostly United Airlines gates). Word has it that it was put there to coincide with the AES convention last October, and it runs through the end of this month. So maybe I’m the last to find out about it. But if you are even remotely interested in how sounds to us over the radio, television, in movie theatres, and our homes, it’s absolutely terrific. Of course, also a trip down memory lane for the RoeDeo (Dr. Wizard dryly noted that it was a slightly more organized version of what’s lying around in the attic), with (mostly accurate) biographies and photos from the Golden Age of Hi-Fi, and earlier, including such luminaries as Lee De Forest, FM Radio inventor Edwin Armstrong, Henry Kloss, Edgar Villchur of AR fame,

Ray Dolby, and the brilliant English visionary Alan Blumlein.
And the “stuff,” of course: (grabbed from the SFO website:)

One hundred and thirty years of audio inventions are on display—from Thomas Edison’s first sound recorder, to systems that produce theater-quality sound in your home and digital players that put a thousand songs in your pocket. The importance of sound in our lives is evident in the many inventions that are closely associated with the generation that enjoyed them—the Victrola, the hi-fi stereo system, the eight-track player, the Walkman, and presently, the iPod. The only constant is change, and as the development of sound technology continues, one day even the iPod will seem as quaint as a wind-up gramophone.

My favorites included a 1946 “disc cutter” for making your own home 78s (in case you thought a DVD burner was a new idea!), a vintage 8-track tape recorder, and, from 1956, an early Ampex 2″ video tape machine bought by CBS and in use for decades. The thing looks bulletproof. And the piece de resistance: An original
“Highway Hi-Fi” for playing records in your brand-new 1956 Chrysler – replete with a photo of a beaming Lawrence Welk using one in his new Hemi ragtop. Priceless.

All This Is the Music of Waters

Back from an extended trip Way Out West (where the “other” kind of rodeos take place) drinking in the vastness of the land and the magnificence of the arid red rock formations carved by wind, sand, lava, and, most especially, water. No pithy observations here, just wonder. Okay, and perhaps a couple of quotes, first from the intrepid one-armed explorer John Wesley Powell, whose travels down the Green and Colorado rivers in the late 19th-century included modern-day Bryce Canyon, Zion National Park, the Grand Staircase, the Grand Canyon, right down to Lake Mead, the man-made pond outside of Las Vegas created by the construction of Hoover Dam:

Thus the Grand Canyon is a land of song. Mountains of music swell in the rivers, hills of music billow in the creeks, and meadows of music murmur in the rills that ripple over the rocks. Altogether it is a symphony of multitudinous melodies. All this is the music of waters.

And, from more recent times, the park ranger-turned-anarchist Edward Abbey, who loved the Arches National Park above all others:

It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it is still there. So get out there and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, encounter the grizz, climb the mountains. Run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, that lovely, mysterious and awesome space.