Track of the Week: Chaka Khan, “Love With No Strings”

If there were any bit of a silver lining to Whitney Houston’s passing, to me it was seeing Chaka Khan on TV being interviewed. She looked terrific, she sounded great and she was really in control of the situations I saw her in on the teevee, which amongst the usual slavering media idiocy that week was like a cold Rolling Rock in the middle of the Gobi Desert.
Chaka Khan was one of those musicians who reached me through my little transistor radio in Coos Bay and showed me the power of vibrating molecules to produce this kind of cinematic euphoria. Such a powerful voice, with such extreme finesse and range in every way, it was like LeBron James dancing Swan Lake. So when Gary Haase got the call to produce a track for Chaka, and called me to co-produce it with him, it was quite a thrill, to say the least.
  Read more!

Track Of The Week: Score demos for “Kiddush Man”

Welcome to the “Track Of The Week”, in which I’m going to try to do a weekly post of some piece of music I’ve worked on, with the back story and the track itself.  I’ve done a lot of tracks at this point (hundreds of CD tracks, hundreds more TV/film cues) and some have some pretty good stories behind them;  a lot of them are damned good music to boot!  One quick note:  you may have noticed that Facebook has started to monkey around with whether, or to whom, they show people’s posts.  So if you like this idea and want to be notified for sure when the next one comes along, sign on to my spam-free mailing list (you can also download a free track from Third Rail’s debut CD) to get a note when a “track of the week” post is released!

Below are two different demos I did for the end sequence in a beautiful short film by Columbia graduate director Yitz Brilliant. The setup here is that there’s this obnoxious kid running around the synagogue, can’t sit still, can’t focus, “always doing the wrong thing”. And there’s a grouchy old man, kind of a needlessly grouchy-seeming old man, who keeps running after and catching him and yanking on his ear for “discipline”. It’s basically a silent film, there’s no dialogue, incredibly well done by a director who understands what makes a film suck you in. And in this end sequence, well, the sequence speaks for itself.  Read more!

Happy Birthday, Mike

It was always fun getting Mike Brecker to laugh. Nobody could make him laugh like Randy; we didn’t see them go off all that often, but when they hit it they both got almost paralyzed laughing about some story Randy had remembered or some little thing he said under his breath. But the hardest I ever saw Mike laugh was one time in London when we decided to go find “the best Indian food in London”. Mike had heard that it was this place called “Raj Doot”, so we got in a cab, I think it was me, James Genus, Mike and Dean Brown, and headed for “Raj Doot”. We expected maybe a 10-minute ride, but half an hour later we were still driving; we were kind of headed out of town, I think we saw some cows on the way, and we were thinking “this can’t be right”. We’re out on the highway, and finally we see a bit of neon up ahead and the cab driver makes the turn, and when we finally pull up after this whole odyssey we are at a restaurant called “Raj Poot”. And Mike just busted out laughing so hard that he couldn’t even get out of the cab for a few minutes. Happy Birthday Mike; I will always miss you.

Headed Home…

Sitting in Newark Airport for 7 hours waiting for a standby flight home, damned tired but buzzing in the best way over the last 2 weeks. Ended the tour last night in Prague at one of my favorite jazz joints, Agharta, which occupies a space that was built in the 14th century. It was built at ground level but is now a couple stories underground; Prague has simply built up above it. So much of what I love about Europe. What a really great couple weeks; completely blew right past my fondest wishes. Thank you TOM BRECHTLEIN, the perfect combination of power, finesse and musicianship on the Schlagzeugs and a feckin’ hoot in the van, and JANEK GWIZDALA, a musician of great dimension and inspiration onstage and another feckin’ hoot in the van. Every night was more fun than the last; I multi-tracked most of the gigs and we’ll be mixing up a live CD from this tour. And we have to give a shout to Luzia Fecke, the agent who actually booked us because she LOVED THE MUSIC and had faith that we could get over. Imagine THAT in this cynical world! Thanks to everybody who came out to the gigs; great audiences all. We will most definitely see you again next year with some new music and a CD to release!

Tapping my inner Ho.


Well. I’ve been snubbed by the Video Music Awards AGAIN. It is becoming obvious that I am going to need lessons in “twerking”; I invite my readers to submit their qualifications to teach me this essential musical skill. Yes, I am not 18 years old any more. But I WILL NOT go gentle into this good night!  TWERK!  TWERK AGAINST THE DYING OF THE LIGHT!

Pay Me.


    Gather ’round, kids, and listen to Old Man Whitty spin a tale of a certain musician who didn’t like to pay his bills, and how Rick Stellar*,  Gary Tones*, and Old Man Whitty** eventually got paid.  In about 1987, Rick, Gary and I all travelled to Chicago to do a couple gigs with “Miroslav Dabrowski”*** at a “Kielbasa Festival” there.  Skilled negotiators, the three of us, we arranged an exhorbitant compensation package of $200 each for 2 rehearsals and the gigs.  We went out there and played well, and after the gig, wouldn’t you know, that darned promoter gave Miroslav a CHECK!  Who’d’a thunk THAT might happen!  But darned if he couldn’t pay us because of that dadburned CHECK!  He would send the money first thing when he got back, we could rest assured!  Bearing in mind that at this time I was living on those cellophane tubes you can get at Pathmark that have a section with lentils in it, a section with beans in it, and a section that I believe contained almost entirely MSG in it, the idea being that you could make a pot of very salty stew with it.  And $200 was enough to buy 100 of those and several cases of Meister Brau, enough to sustain me for 3 months, or until I became famous, whichever came first.  Anyway, the days ticked by, and then the days turned into weeks, and the weeks turned into a month.  “Miroslav” wouldn’t answer his phone, of course.  And it became evident that he was living up to his reputation as a deadbeat.  But I was running out of cellophane tubes and, more importantly, Meister Brau, and listening to Rick and Gary, they were as well.  So we made an agreement that, whenever any of us was near Central Park South, where Miroslav had a plenty-nice 2-bedroom apartment in a high-rise on the corner of Central Park, we would go see if we could encounter him in person and extract at least some of our dough.  Another month went by with each of us stalking Miroslav in turn, and then one Sunday morning I got a call from Gary:  Miroslav was in his apartment;  he could be heard talking to someone in there.  Rick and I jumped on the subway and headed in.  And sure enough, we could hear Miroslav’s distinctive voice on the other side of the door.  We knocked and, if memory serves, he asked who it was and we said it was us.  And then, silence from in there.  So we knocked again.  And eventually knocked again, and soon we were all hammering on the door, yelling “DABROWSKI!  WE KNOW YOU’RE IN THERE!”.  It eventually became evident that we were not going to go away.  Finally the door opened and there was Miroslav, begging us sotto voce not to screw up some negotiation he was trying to pull off.  Unfortunately, we were having none of it and pushed through his apartment, telling him if he had anything to say, he’d better come into the room he was using as a very well-appointed personal studio to talk.  And of course he promised to put a check in the mail on Monday:   I will gladly pay Tuesday for some fusion two months ago.  And we told him that that wasn’t going to happen, and what was going to happen was that each of us was going to walk out of there with about $250 worth of his studio equipment, and we were going to hold it for two weeks.  If he paid us, he could have it back.  If he didn’t, we would head on down to 30th street and sell it.  I still remember him fretting around as we unplugged his gear:  “Do you hef to hev zat one?”  But we were undeterred, besotted as we were with the visions of the Land of Milk and Cellophane Tubes Of Legumes dancing in our heads.  I grabbed a Yamaha RX5 drum machine and a reverb unit, Rick got, I think, a Yamaha Wind Controller, and I forget what Gary got.  We never got paid, we sold the shit, and that’s how kharma came back into balance.  
Oddly, Miroslav called me to do gigs after that.  And even more oddly, I said “yes, as long as you pay me, in cash, in advance”.


One can’t afford to be too implacable in the Jazz Fusion Industry.



*Not his real name
**His real name
***This is NOT Miroslav Vitous, whom I’ve always loved but never met.

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