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….

The Huckabee Band-wagon?

Huh. Little did I realize that when I posted about Ark. gov Mike Huckabee actually putting music and arts education on his campaign agenda, that he was becoming the It Guy among Republican candidates. The Boston Globe editorialized enthusiastically the other day, saying “when the former Arkansas governor starts talking about the importance of the arts and education, he’s practically Maria von Trapp harmonizing about the power of music and metaphor.” And guess who gets the big Style section treatment in the Washpost today?
Sample grab:
Huckabee has been seen as the cuddly antidote to what has been an awfully tough-talking Republican field. He’s the affable, compassionate, good guy and rock-and-roll evangelical who plays guitar and wants to hang with the Rolling Stones.

‘Course, it just might be that music is a far more interesting subject for reporters to cover than, say, Middle East geopolitics or subprime mortgage lending rates.

Or maybe this is a rare case of a political candidate with authentic knowledge and passion for a subject, and not the usual focus-group posturing. I’d like to believe that voters can tell the difference. Regardless, it’s fascinating to watch Huckabee ride this horse on the Iowa campaign trail as reported by the Daily Iowan:

“You’ve probably never heard a presidential candidate talk about music and art and the importance of it,” Huckabee said. “But if I don’t get to do anything else running for president, I want to make sure that this country hears that this is a vital part of future and a critical part of our education system.”

Also worth noting: the Post story was one of the paper’s most e-mailed articles today. I’ll be curious (and amazed, frankly) to see if any other candidates pick up this thread….