Category Archives: Jazz

LAAFFing September 2010

Below you’ll find a quick tour of some of the things I’ve seen since September started moving along with the music of the Rhythm Rascals Hank Bones & Mike Gray who I recorded Johnny Mercer’s Ac-Cen-Tchu-Ate the Positive with back in January. You’ll just have to imagine the gorgeous day Red Hot Sugar Babies had Saturday playing the bandstand at Antler Village on the Biltmore Estate  with special guest Hank Bones since I didn’t take pictures that day. Most of the photos are from the view at the Magnetic Poetry Van yesterday at the Lexington Avenue Arts & Fun Festival. Thanks to everyone for playing this weekend! I’ll be back out to play again with the Red Hot Sugar Babies on Wednesday evening at the Wedge.

Tip Jar Economy

Everyone I know is trying to sell something. Whether it’s a piece of jewelry they made or a life insurance policy. I wonder where timber mogul William Randolph Hearst was when they decided to allow consumers to use paper as legal tender after he helped ban the industrial hemp that George Washington grew. Regardless, our lives are now planned around pieces of greenish paper and how they flow through our hands.

I felt like a “sell-out” putting Google ads on this website for a while, but they never paid enough for the bother. I finally put a donate button right below the booking link a year ago, but I don’t think anyone has ever clicked that button. I do get some booking emails though (that aren’t spam) and actually turn real ideas into real dollars. Really though this blog has always been a labor of love. If I didn’t love it, I wouldn’t do it. If I love it for all it can be, then like a well-watered garden it begins to grow.

So, here are a couple fresh new songs out of the notebook free for you to read. You may even find me singing them on a street corner near you. If you feel so moved you can always leave a tip through the “feed the muse” button whether in the form of dollars now or ideas for dollars later.

* * * * * * * *

Moving On

See that train a coming?
Gonna jump that open car
Let it take me far — down the track.
My baby’s up & left me
Now there’s nothing to hold me back.
Been blue too many days,
Now it’s time to move on with this pack.

See that shooting star,
Blazing cross the sky?
That’s what I’m a-chasing as you see me zooming by
And I may never catch it,
But I’m sure to learn to fly.
I’ve been caught in a lazy haze
Now it’s time to touch the sky.

Don’t tell me I can’t do it
Because my heart and will are set
If you don’t bet on me,
You’re bound to lose your hat.
You see I’ve had enough of crying
Listened to far too much a-lying,
Now this light is going to shine as bright as it can get.

* * * * * * * *


Won’t you take me down
to where the water is cool?
Just hold my hand a while
Listening to crickets woo.

Tell me a story,
Doesn’t have to be true,
Of something that made you smile
Talk of laughter too.

Let’s shed society’s shackles,
That gossip raises my hackles.
Just whisper something sweet
& it will be a treat.

There’s sunshine in your smile,
Starlight in your eyes,
Your voice is an angel’s melody
Straight from heaven & that’s no lie.

Summer heat

This summer has been hot! I don’t know what the actual temperatures have been, but I find that biking around town means a whole lot of perspiration. (In other words I feel like I’ve spent most of the summer a sweaty mess.) The Red Hot Sugar Babies have lived up to their name so far, and July was full of steamy shows like the one at Rogers Park captured in the video here:

The Red Hot Sugar Babies from Erik Olsen on Vimeo.

I’ve also been weeding gardens, writing articles, learning & writing more songs on the ukulele, and trying to keep my brain from melting. Fire seems to be the theme as it burns away the debris of the past. Any day now I’m hoping to take flight with new wings like the phoenix. August has been so steamy with showers that it’s been hard to see the way clear to launch toward anything new. If anything I’ve learned to rely on myself more since even the best of friends will sometimes turn and walk away from you. But, I’m grateful to my roommates and the friends who have continued to offer their support as I burn through all this mess.

September is starting to shape into something while the rest of the year remains a big blank page for now. Now back to dreaming up a plan of action for the journey into the heart of winter so I don’t end up frozen.

Opposite ends of an evening…

I’ve been struggling lately to find the words. After writing for other people, it becomes hard to write for yourself again. But, out of last evening came a couple of pieces, the first either a jazz or jump blues little number and the second an odd piece that if nothing else shocked the bar fly that asked to read it as soon as it was finished. (I guess he was imagining me a modern female Bukowski.)

These two pieces came from opposite ends of the evening where my focus was to put pen to paper more than to write for an audience, but I haven’t blogged lately, so here you go…

Sweeten up Papa

I just fell off from thinking again
Blew a fuse and had to make amends
It wasn’t that I ever want to blow,
But I started getting frustrated with how it might go.

Darling you know I’d never do you no harm
Still I hope & pray to be back in your arms
But the way you’re acting lately baby
Ain’t no way to treat a lady
So it’s time to turn you loose.

Sweeten up papa & come back home.
Lighten up mister, don’t you leave me alone.
But if you treat me like a dog and won’t throw me a bone
My heart will finally break and turn to stone.


Open the door
With the knob that turns
Rather than knocking forever
On the barred entrance
From your last exit.

Softly let go of the clenched fist
Allowing the light of a new dawn
To dance upon your palm
Then lift your head to greet the sun
with shining eyes.

Out of the shadow of last night’s storm
a sunflower bursts in the light of morn.


Even a raging muse needs inspiration sometimes. Last night it came in the form of the music created by Aaron Woody Wood. You can find out more about him and his current album project here on his kickstarter project page.

Some like it hot!

Ooops! A whole month has gone by without a new post. There’s no way to catch you up on everything, but I’ve been writing some articles for the local weekly the Mountain Xpress & playing hot jazz with the Red Hot Sugar Babies & learning to ride my bicycle around town in 90 degree weather so I’m reducing my carbon footprint on this earth while getting myself back in shape from the west coast tour. Whew! Also, I’m learning how to stretch those dollars farther, find the river to cool off from the heat, & barter what I can for what I need. The faster the crazy spins, the more I long for the simple.

I had a great conversation with Margo Timmins of the Cowboy Junkies last week and look forward to one this week with Nat “King” Cole’s brother Freddy Cole for the Mountain Xpress. I’m excited to catch both of these musicians live when they play Asheville in the next few weeks.

Friday night after a steamy show with the Red Hot Sugar Babies at Roger’s Park in Tryon I returned to Asheville to catch a little something special at LaRue’s Backdoor that made me dance with joy. Check out this video that captures the sound of the band even if it fails you give you the visual of the whole Bill Murray Experience. They’re hot!


Can you tell me where that piano man’s bin?
It seems he’s done run off a’gin,
Leaving all his friends an kin,
Or else he ain’t living, an that’s a sin.

Don’t think that I would do him wrong,
T’ain’t my bid’ness where he has gone,
Yet folks bin askin’ all along
So that is why I wrote this song.

It goes: doo doo doo dit
doo doo di doo
doo be doo doo dit
doo doo be doo
doo doo doo dit
doo doo di doo
doo dit da doo dit
da doo be doo doo doo

Well, if you see him, give a smile
Raise a glass to the weary miles
Remind him he’s bin away too long
And home is callin’ with a song.

It goes: doo doo doo dit
doo doo di doo
doo be doo doo dit
doo doo be doo
doo doo doo dit
doo doo di doo
doo dit da doo dit
da doo be doo doo doo

I love a piano

I have an addiction to piano players. I admit it. I first fell before I even started school. Bernard was in my Saturday composition session with my best friend Kristen Austin at Mrs. Nibbelink’s house. By the time we started first grade this meant games of chase around the playground at recess until I switched schools in second grade. Later, I would finally hear him play at a high school vocal jazz competition where both of our schools were competing. I remember how he made my heart flutter when he played and then sink when I saw all the girls from his choir draped around him in adoration. We said hello, spoke of what a great teacher Mrs. N was, and that was it.

I won’t go into detail about all the moments since then, but there have been enough to make the pattern clear. I think it has something to do with that old routine of the female vocalist with a man on the piano. There’s something very intimate about a well matched set. I’ve met a few of those too. In fact one of my favorite moments of the Sacramento Jazz Festival in 2008 was the piano and vocals series on Sunday morning. Listening to John Sheridan and Becky Kilgore together was a dream. Both of them were so tasteful and complimentary to each other that the time flew by seamlessly. They played with each other and for the audience at the same time.

There are several excellent teams in Asheville that have been around since before I landed in town such as Evans & Coppola, Sharon LaMotte & Bill Gerhardt, Stephanie Morgan & Chuck Lichtenberger, and Vendetta Crème & Aaron Price to name a few. Each pair has their own style and special flair that sets them apart in what they do. While it’s always a pleasure to listen to them, there’s still this longing that someday rather than prince charming riding up on a horse, my dragon at the piano might appear.  Oops, careful what you wish for…

Now I can’t really call this fellow “my” anything because he will never belong to me or anyone else but himself. However, when he plays a piano I can’t help but dance and sing. When we first met I handed him a book on Jelly Roll and two CDs filled with Scott Joplin, Fats Waller, & Jelly Roll Morton. He immediately aimed for Crazy Chords aptly named for somewhere in the neighborhood of 17 chord changes in the first section alone. He was learning this by ear as well, no chart. Might as well tackle the hardest one first I suppose. That’s what I would have done. Over the next several years we filled the house with music, collecting records and inviting the best players we could find to join us bringing the old tunes back to life in our mountain hideaway.

However, there are no happily ever after stories about paper bag princesses and piano playing dragons, at least none that I’ve read. Dragons prefer their freedom, and paper bag princesses are used to doing things their own way without appearing ladylike. In short, there’s a lot of fire and little willingness to compromise. This makes for exciting music, but a very unstable home.

It’s been over a year since our mountainside in Tryon literally caught fire (not by our doing amazingly). The home has foreclosed and we’ve had several months of separation in different cities this winter conveniently missing each other. But, the word keeps reaching my ear that he’s returning. I’ve seen the signs in complicated dreams, getting caught behind a Reese trailer, or just being tormented by Reese’s peanut butter cup commercials. I’ve even had people ask, “When are you going to bring that piano player back?” as if I had any control over his doings. Asheville has missed the fire of the passion that Reese Gray puts into his music and inspires in the musicians around him. Now that the deep freeze of winter has passed, things are about to get hot. “If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen,” they say (whoever they are). If you see me running off to the west into the sunset after next week, you’ll know why, but send me the recordings because I love all that jazz.

Here’s one that someone uploaded to YouTube from Berlin, Germany on New Year’s Eve while he was away:

Reese Gray Encore in Berlin with White Ghost Shivers