Saturday, February 12, 2005

Back to Steve Johnson

I received in the mail this week a CD entitled Bluestoons, by Steve Johnson. I was pleased to receive the unexpected disk, and listened to it right away. (The prolific Johnson just does not slow down!)

It’s a solid blues album with catchy rhythms and some nice blues riffs. It’s solidly produced, the gratifying “East West” being my favorite cut on the disk. After two listens I can say I truly enjoy it.

Which is saying a lot. I know my own taste in music, and most of the CDs that I buy I know I am going to like. But I have received numerous recordings and CDs as gifts, and I am not always as pleased with such gifts as I was after receiving Bluestoons. For example, I am unable to locate my Zamfir album, with apologies to my friend George. It has not stood the test of time as far as my musical tastes are concerned. (Also, Shawn Drover with Megadeath gave me their Countdown to Extinction album while I was in Los Angeles in 1992, and I think I passed it on to someone months later with the cellophane still on the cassette.)

But there have been times when others have shared their musical tastes with me and the album has stayed with me over the years and remains a favorite in my collection.

The first is Sting’s Ten Summoner’s Tales, which my roommate brought home after its release in 1993. (I had been a fan of the Police, but had not followed Sting’s solo career unitl that point.) We listened to the songs on that album together that night, and there was not one on the disk that did not immediately capture my imagination. Sting has been a favorite of mine ever since.

The other is Now is the Hour by the Charlie Haden Quartet West. Joining the jazz bassist on the disk are pianist Alan Broadbent, Ernie Watts on sax, Larance Marable on drums as well as a string orchestra filling out the cuts on this CD. It’s good jazz, but mellow, West Coast jazz, and was a gift from my friend Mike in 1996. It remains one of my favorite disks to this day.

Honorable mention goes to Tim for Sam Phillips’ Martinis and Bikinis and to Curt for Cachao’s Master Sessions.

Will Steve Johnson’s Bluestoons stand the test of time and rank as one of my favorite CDs years from now? We’ll have to wait and see. In the mean time, might I recommend the book Show Me Microsoft Windows XP by the ever-versatile Steve Johnson? The man just will not slow down!

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Sun Breaks

This weekend seems to be going remarkably well, and I think the reason is that I awoke yesterday morning to a whole lot of blue in the sky and a very bright sun.

Seattle this time of year is typically gray and rainy. I heard Sting comment once that Seattle reminded him a lot of home, meaning England. I have never been to England, but I hear it’s often grey and rainy there, too.

I had not heard “sun breaks” forecast by TV meteorologists until coming to Seattle. Sun breaks are short periods of time during the day when the gray ceiling opens up a tad and actual sunlight breaks through the clouds. It can be a glorious thing after six or seven straight days of drizzle.

When much-needed sun breaks do happen, they are always commented upon, with gratitude, by appreciative Seattleites.

Sunshine often provides amazing restorative physical and psychological properties to Seattleites. I heard somewhere that Seattle sells more pairs of sunglasses per capita than any other major American city. I don’t know if that’s true, but I personally have gone out and purchased sunglasses because of an unexpectedly sunny day.

Here is a rundown on my sunglasses:

Pair 1: Cheap drugstore variety. $8. Plastic tortoise shell frames with very dark lenses. I carry them in my laptop bag. They are with me almost always, serving as my emergency redundant backup pair.

Pair 2: Foster Grants for about eighteen bucks, metal frames, modern design, purchased while out of town and finding myself unexpectedly bathed in sunlight. This pair is kept in a little case in my wife’s car.

Pair 3: Very similar to Pair 2, purchased at Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia, SC, under similar circumstances. I keep them in the sun visor of my car.

Pair 4: My “good” sunglasses, purchased at the Bon Marche in downtown Seattle after someone had placed a $70 pair of sunglasses on the “$14.99 or LESS” rack. It is without a doubt I chose the best pair of sunglasses on the $14,99 or LESS” rack. I was too embarrassed to tell the cashier of the mistake and went ahead and paid for them. These I keep in their case in my car.

The other sixteen pair I have purchased since moving to Seattle are spread out across Seattle in a variety of restaurants and coffeehouses, including the Broadway New American, B&O espresso, the Elephant and Castle, the late Minnie’s Cafe and the now-demolished Palmer’s.

The blue sky and sunshine I woke to yesterday are gone. Forecast for today? Rain. All day. But I am still hopeful for a few sun breaks.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

From a Post Card

Steve Johnson loved ketchup. "I love that rich tomato flavor," he once said. We had been discussing the double-LP Peter Gabriel Plays Live. Steve would spread ketchup on toast. "Why not?" he replied when I called him on it. "It's the jelly of the tomato family."

Steve used to keep ketchup packets in the pocket of his waistcoat. He called it his packet pocket. "In case I get an itch for a tomato shot," was his explanation. "It's that pick-me-up that gets me through the day."

Others disagreed.

"That's pointless," Tim H. told me, about fifteen years ago, when confronted with Steve's penchant for tomato shots. Steve would tear open the ketchup packet and squirt its contents into his mouth, an act that Tim found mildly revolting.

Tim would take "salt hits" before exams from little Morton's packets he would pick up at Hardee's.

John T. preferred tartar sauce.

What did Jay K. prefer? "Mayonnaise. In packet form. Preferably Duke's. I cannot abide Hellmann's," he told the Post and Courier.