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How “Skiffle” changed the world

A new book by Punker-turned-Folkie musician, Billy Bragg: He writes a ” thorough, compelling survey of a transitional genre that burned briefly but brightly in the UK in the latter ’50s.”

Roots, Radicals and Rockers: How Skiffle Changed the World

Billy Bragg. Faber & Faber, $29.95 (464p) ISBN 978-0-571-32774-4

In his first book, musician, left-wing activist, and sonic archivist Bragg has crafted a remarkable history of skiffle, a particularly British music genre. Initiated by amateur players obsessed with the blues, jazz, and folk, skiffle lured teenagers obsessed with all things American and eager to dance away post-WWII conformity and deprivation.

Lonnie Donegan recorded Leadbelly’s “Rock Island Line” in 1954, ushering in the skiffle element in British post-WW II music.

Bragg has dedicated his volume not to Donnie Lonegan – the king of skiffle, but to “every kid who ever picked up a guitar after hearing Donnie Lonegan.”

With a DIY ethos and three-chord tunes, skiffle inspired a generation of British lads to pick up guitars, including among them Mick Jagger, Paul McCartney, Jimmy Page, Van Morrison, Rod Stewart and a young extraterrestrial who would later take the name “David Bowie.”

Roughly a cross between folk and R&B, skiffle quickly succumbed to the other two genres and faded from the charts, even as its former disciples led the British Invasion. Bragg impresses throughout with engaging prose and painstaking research.

He further enlivens the text with personal insights and witty asides that give the material a unique cast few professional writers would dare. The introduction of dozens of new figures in the last third of the book diffuses the narrative but that’s a minor demerit to an accomplished work. Ending with a flourish, Bragg convincingly argues for the emotional connection between skiffle and punk rock, something Bragg would know about better than most.

Coming out of my music funk

By Kathy Edwards McFarland


Ted Gioia (Photo by Dave Shafer)

Mr. Ted Gioia,, just released his Top 100 recordings for 2017.

This may not be a big deal for some of you, Dear Readers, but his compilation, to me, is not only impressive, but boldly inspiring.

His journey through more than 1,000 albums during this past year, culling his top picks and testifying against the lack of accessible information about the lush, wide range of quality music in all its vibrant genres and forms is priceless.

I enjoy sharing my favorite music with others. But in the last few years, a different
motivation has spurred me. I believe that the system of music discovery is broken in the current day. There is more music recorded than ever before, but it is almost impossible for listeners to find the best new recordings.  

The most creative work in music is increasingly found on self-produced projects and releases from small indie labels— to an extent hardly conceivable only a decade ago.  Very little of this music ever shows up on the radio, where formats seem to get narrower and narrower with each passing year.  

Music fans once heard good new music at indie record stores, but most of them have closed. Or they could read reviews in the newspaper, but both the newspapers and the music reviews are shrinking or disappearing.

And the big record labels are the worst culprits of all, picking acts for their looks or their potential appeal to fourteen-year-olds, or some other egregious reason, and in general jumping on the most trivial passing fads.

On the other hand, the Internet presents an almost infinite amount of music and music commentary—yet where do fans even begin to separate the good from the bad and ugly?  

My personal solution to this dilemma has been to listen to lots and lots of music, and try to identify recordings of quality and  distinction.

This year, Gioia relinquished his numerical ranking, instead, alphabetizing the best recordings, “because each of these albums deserves recognition and the sequential ranking tended to focus too much attention on just a few recordings.

The full list appears soon enough. My take on Gioia’s epic undertaking is one of shear admiration. His work as a musician and writer has set him above most critics and music writers. With passion and attention to fairness and detail, he once again has offered a beauteous musical mix: Pointillistic Anti-Jazz (huh?) to Contemporary Music for Youth Chorus, Illegal Ethiopian Dance Music to Anonymous 16th Century Polyphony for Nuns … Yes, Jazz of all stripes is in there – tip of my hat to the Bernstein piano pieces, Miles Davis’ works, and a new album by Ahmad Jamal. I am also glad to find one of my personal favorites, Americana artist Rhiannon Giddens, on the list.

For the complete blog post and and the 100 Honorable Mention roster, visit

Here’s my list of the 100 best albums of 2017 (in alphabetical order this year). They are drawn from all styles and all genres. Happy listening!

  • John Luther Adams
    Canticles of the Holy Wind
    Contemporary Choral Music
  • Teddy Afro
    Illegal Ethiopian Dance Music
  • Arca
    Fragile, Ultra-Slow Latin Electropop
  • Daymé Arocena
    Contemporary Afro-Cuban Music
  • Sam Baker    Sam_Baker_LOD
    Land of Doubt  
    Raw, Self-Produced Singer-Songwriter from the Texas Prairie
  • Scott H. Biram
    The Bad Testament
    Funkish Punkish Country Music
  • Björk
    Groove-Free Techno with Flutes & Birdsong
  • Theo Bleckmann
    Elegaic Jazz
  • Stefano Bollani
    Mediterraneo: Jazz at the Berlin Philharmonic
    Jazz with Classical/Cinematic Ingredients
  • Brooklyn Youth Chorus
    Black Mountain Songs  
    Contemporary Music for Youth Chorus
  • Betty Buckley
    Story Songs
  • Sarah Cahill
    Eighty Trips Around the Sun: Music by and for Terry Riley
    Piano Music Composed (or Inspired) by Terry Riley
  • Celestial Sirens/Musica Secreta
    Lucrezia Borgia’s Daughter
    Anonymous 16th Century Polyphony for Nuns
  • Bill Charlap
    Uptown Downtown
    Jazz Piano Trio
  • Billy Childs
  • Clann An Drumma     orderofthestag
    Order of the Stag
    Tribal Drumming with Scottish Bagpipes
  • Gary Clark, Jr.
    Live in North America 2016  
    Electric Blues
  • Anat Cohen Tentet
    Happy Song
    Semi-Big-Band Jazz
  • Jessi Colter
    The Psalms  
  • The Como Mamas
    Move Upstairs
  • Andrew Cooperstock
    Leonard Bernstein: Complete Solo Works for Piano
    Modern Classical Music
  • Danish String Quartet
    Last Leaf   
    Nordic Folk Music/Chamber Music
  • DeJohnette/Grenadier/Medeski/Scofield
    Old Rock in New Jazzy Guises
  • Del Sol Quartet & Gyan Riley
    Terry Riley: Dark Queen Mantra
    Music for String Quartet and Electric Guitar
  • Ani DiFranco
  • Emerson String Quartet
    Chaconnes and Fantasias: Music of Britten and Purcell   
    Chamber Music
  • Emika
    Czech Orchestral Art Pop
  • Brian Eno
    Ambient Music
  • Heloísa Fernandes
    Brazilian Music/Jazz
  • Fink    finks1
    Fink’s Sunday Night Blues Club, Vol. 1  
    British Blues for Moderns
  • Champian Fulton
    Jazz Piano
  • Galley Beggar
    Heathen Hymns  
    British Folk-Rock With a Touch of Metal
  • Molly Gebrian & Danny Holt
    Trios for Two
    New Music for Viola, Piano and Percussion
  • Rhiannon Giddens
    Factory Girl
  • Stanley Grill
    At the Center of Things   
    Contemporary Chamber Music Inspired by Early Music
  • Erik Griswold
    Ecstatic Descent   
    New Music for Prepared Piano
  • Jo Harman
    People We Become   
    Moody British Singer-Songwriter Comes to Nashville
  • Stephen Hartke     stephenhartkedesc
    The Ascent of the Equestrian in a Balloon
    Contemporary Classical Music
  • Fred Hersch
    Open Book   
    Solo Jazz Piano
  • Jennifer Higdon
    All Things Majestic   
    Ecology-Inspired Contemporary Classical Music
  • Ifriqiyya Électrique
    Sufi Trance Music from Tunisia with a Post-Punk Twist
  • The Infamous Stringdusters
    Laws of Gravity
  • Vijay Iyer
    Far From Over
  • Ahmad Jamal
  • Jasper String Quartet
    Contemporary Chamber Music
  • Jlin
    Black Origami  
    Percussion-Driven Multicultural Dance Music
  • John Joubert    johnjoubertjaneeyre
    Jane Eyre  
    Contemporary Opera
  • Mari Kimura
    Voyage Apollonian
    Music for Violin & Interactive Computer
  • The Kraken Quartet
    Separate / Migrate
    Dance & Trance Music for Percussion and Electronics
  • Julian Lage & Chris Eldridge
    Mount Royal
    Nguyên Lê & Ngô Hồng Quang
    Há Nôi Duo   
    Vietnamese Music/Jazz
  • Charles Lloyd
    Passin’ Thru
  • The Magnetic Fields    magnetic-fields-50-song-memoir
    50 Song Memoir   
    Pop-Rock Art Songs
  • Rudresh Mahanthappa’s Indo-Pak Coalition
    Jazz/South Asian Music
  • Laura Marling
    Semper Femina   
  • Hayes McMullan
    Everyday Seem Like Murder Here
    Previously Unreleased Country Blues Recorded in 1960s
  • Björn Meyer
    Ritualistic Music for Solo Bass Guitar (Six-String Electric and Acoustic)
  • Father John Misty
    Pure Comedy
    Faux Ecclesiastical Singer-Songwriter
  • Stanton Moore    SMToussaint
    With You In Mind: The Songs of Allen Toussaint
    New Orleans Funk
  • Randy Newman
    Dark Matter   
    Mordant Singer-Songwriter
  • North Mississippi Allstars    NMA-P4P_Cover.indd
    Prayer for Peace
    Roots & Blues
  • Víkingur Ólafsson
    Philip Glass: Piano Works    
    Minimalist Piano Music
  • Ed Palermo Big Band
    The Great Un-American Songbook, Vol 1& 2
    Irreverent Rock Repertory Big Band Music
  • Aaron Parks
    Find the Way  
  • Maurizio Pollini
    Chopin: Late Works
    Classical Piano Music
  • Billy Porter (with Guests)
    The Soul of Richard Rodgers
    Flamboyant Updatings of Broadway Tunes
  • Chris Potter
    The Dreamer is the Dream  
  • Awa Poulo
    Poulo Warali   
    Peulh Music from Mali
  • Quercus
  • Jason Ricci & The Bad Kind
    Approved by Snakes
    Dirty Harmonica Blues
  • Pepe Romero/Vicente Coves    Romero
    Federico Moreno Torroba: Guitar Concertos 2
    20th Classical Music for Guitar
  • Ryuichi Sakamoto
    Soundtrack Without a Film
  • Cécile McLorin Salvant
    Dreams and Daggers
    Jazz Vocals
  • András Schiff
    Encores After Beethoven
    Classical Piano Music
  • Adam Schoenberg
    American Symphony/Finding Rothko/Picture Studies   
    Neo-Romanticist Contemporary Orchestral Music
  • Raymond Scott
    Three Willow Park: Electronic Music from Inner Space 1961-1971
    Previously Unreleased Electronic and AI Music from 1960s
  • SFJAZZ Collective     MileSFJZ
    Music of Miles Davis & Original Compositions
  • Peter Silberman
  • Songhoy Blues
    West African Desert Rock as Political Protest
  • Tyshawn Sorey
    Pointillistic Anti-Jazz
  • Wesley Stace
    Wesley Stace’s John Wesley Harding
  • Colin Stetson
    All This I Do For Glory
    Experimental Saxophone Trance Music
  • Sufjan Stevens, Bryce Dessner, Nico Muhly and James McAlister
    Introverted Pop for Star-Gazing
  • Quinn Sullivan
    Midnight Highway  
    Bluesy Rock-Pop
  • Systema Solar    systesorum
    Rumbo A Tierra
    Tale of Us
    Tech-Noir Chillout Music from Deutsche Grammophon
  • The Tangent
    The Slow Rust of Forgotten Machinery
    Neo Prog Rock
  • Otis Taylor
    Fantasizing About Being Black  
    Trance Blues
  • Chris Thile & Brad Mehldau
    Chris Thile & Brad Mehldau  
    Jazz/Folk Hybrid
  • Thundercat
  • Tinariwen
    African Desert Blues
  • Tohpati Ethnomission
    Mata Hati
    Indonesian Jazz-Rock
  • Ralph Towner
    My Foolish Heart
    Jazz Guitar
  • Tribalistas
    Contemporary Brazilian Popular Music
  • The Unthanks    unthanksmd
    Diversions, Vol. 4: The Songs and Poems of Molly Drake
    Brooding Songs by Nick Drake’s Mother Molly Drake (1915-1993)
  • Kamasi Washington
    Harmony of Difference
    Jazz with a Tinge of Soul/R&B
  • Dale Watson and Ray Benson  daleandray
    Dale & Ray
    Roadhouse Country
  • Willie Watson
    Folksinger, Vol. 2.   
    Folk Music
  • The xx
    I See You   
    Dream Pop
  • Miguel Zenón

Ray Phiri, S. African Jazz artist, dies at 70

Music news: Ripping and reading

By Kathy Edwards McFarland

Back in newspaper’s day, when TV/radio news reporters simply read the print stories for their programs, it was called, “Rip and Read.”

So, as editor of my blog, I call it as I do it …

New York Times

Ray Phiri, the South African guitarist who reached an international audience backing Paul Simon on the albums “Graceland” and “The Rhythm of the Saints” and who founded Stimela, a widely acclaimed, long-running band that confronted apartheid, died on Wednesday at a clinic in Nelspruit, South Africa. He was 70.

Ray Phiri performing with Stimela in Johannesburg in 2007. Credit Lefty Shivambu/Gallo Images

A family friend and spokesman, Paul Nkanyane, announced the death and said that the cause was lung cancer.

The African National Congress, now South Africa’s ruling party, said in a statement: “Phiri was a voice for the voiceless and a legend of our time. An immensely gifted composer, vocalist and guitarist, he breathed consciousness and agitated thoughts of freedom through his music.”

Mr. Phiri’s guitar playing held echoes of African traditions, full of percussive subtleties and springy rhythms, which he merged with a fluent understanding of soul and funk and delivered with a warm, rounded tone. He sang in English and in South African languages with an earnest sense of urgency, while his lyrics recognized adversity and called for love, determination, honesty and unity.

Raymond Chikapa Enock Phiri was born on March 23, 1947, in what was then called the Eastern Transvaal of South Africa. He grew up near Nelspruit, an agricultural area in what is now the province of Mpumalanga.

His stepfather, who was from Malawi, played guitar but gave it up after losing three fingers in an accident. Mr. Phiri took that guitar and largely taught himself to play.

He moved to Johannesburg in 1967 to work as a musician.

Stimela grew out of a soul band Mr. Phiri founded in the 1970s, the Cannibals, which had a string of hit singles in South Africa. He and members of the Cannibals formed Stimela (the name means “steam train”) in the early ’80s. Mr. Phiri led the group, wrote songs, played guitar and often sang lead vocals.

Stimela merged the flexibility of jazz and the sleekness of R&B with the buoyant rhythms of South African styles like mbaqanga; its songs also recognized the tensions of living under apartheid. Its three-decade career as a top South African band began with its debut album, “Fire, Passion, Ecstasy,” released in 1984.

In the ’80s and early ’90s, Stimela’s music came up at times against the limits of what could be publicly expressed under apartheid. Some of its songs were banned from broadcast on the state-controlled radio station, SABC, notably “Whispers in the Deep,” which urged, “Speak your mind / Don’t be afraid.”

Despite the radio ban, the 1986 album containing that song, “Look, Listen and Decide,” became a best seller.

Where Did We Go Wrong,” a 1984 duet with a white singer, Katie Pennington, was also refused radio play.

From left, Joseph Shabalala, Miriam Makeba, Paul Simon and Ray Phiri during a concert in Zimbabwe in 1987. Credit Associated Press

Mr. Simon recorded “Graceland” in 1985 and 1986, working on most of its songs with African musicians in Johannesburg and New York City. Mr. Phiri and two other members of Stimela backed Mr. Simon on the album track “Crazy Love, Vol. II,” and Mr. Phiri was part of a South African rhythm section that Mr. Simon brought to New York for further recording.

Elsewhere on the album he played guitar on the title track and on “Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes,” and was credited as both guitarist and co-arranger on “You Can Call Me Al,” “Under African Skies” and “Crazy Love, Vol. II.”

Mr. Simon paid tribute to Mr. Phiri on his website: “He was a beautiful, masterful guitarist and an inventive musician. He will be remembered as a patriot who used his music to fight apartheid and brought that message to the world.”

After the release of “Graceland,” in 1986, Mr. Phiri joined Mr. Simon’s touring band to perform songs from the album worldwide. “Graceland,” which introduced much of the outside world to the sound of South African music, has sold more than five million copies in the United States alone and won the Grammy Award for album of the year in 1988.

“It was an opportunity to sensitize the world about the apartheid regime,” Mr. Phiri said about “Graceland” in a 2013 interview with The Financial Gazette, a Zimbabwean publication. “We managed to bring the world’s attention to the apartheid monster.”

Mr. Phiri also appeared on Mr. Simon’s 1990 album, “The Rhythm of the Saints,” and toured with him into 1992. He rejoined Mr. Simon for a 25th-anniversary tour with the Graceland band, documented on the album and DVD “The Concert in Hyde Park,” released this year.

But Mr. Phiri’s career in South Africa was far more extensive. He had gold and platinum albums there with Stimela, which has continued to tour and record. Stimela’s 2010 album, “A Lifetime,” was named best adult contemporary album at the 2011 South African Music Awards, the country’s equivalent of the Grammys.

Mr. Phiri also had solo side projects, and produced and wrote songs for other acts. He was a longtime member of South Africa’s National Arts Council. He received a lifetime achievement award at the South African Music Awards in 2012. There was no immediate information about survivors.

In 2011, Jacob Zuma, the president of South Africa, awarded Mr. Phiri the Order of Ikhamanga, a national honor, citing “the successful use of arts as an instrument of social transformation.” In a statement on Wednesday, Mr. Zuma called Mr. Phiri “a musical giant.”

“For me, music is the closest thing to religion,” Mr. Phiri said in “Under African Skies,” a 2011 documentary about the making of “Graceland.” “And if it’s utilized in the right way, it can inform and bring people closer, and they can find solutions to their problems.”

Jimi’s new guitar

By Kathy Edwards McFarland

Tonight:  Jimi Tunnell (Steps Ahead)with legendary percussionist Jose Rossy (Weather Report & Patti LaBelle), Mario Cruz (saxes, EWI), Jeff Plant (basses) and Dennis Durick (drums) at Dan’s Silverleaf, 103 Industrial, Denton. 8 pm. Tickets – $10.

Jimi Tunnell, is a fantastic performer, a recording producer, but first and foremost – an amazing guitarist. A very integral part of his music is his custom-made “Strat” – a singular instrument that has helped craft his signature sound for almost 30 years.


A few years ago, Jimi realized his irreplaceable model was becoming fragile, and at risk from the airline travels he put it through. A new, traveling model was needed.

Not an ordinary instrument, Jimi needed to work with a guitar-smith who could construct an instrument to coax the nuanced phrasing and precision modulation required for his phenomenal fusion Jazz.

I wanted the resonant body – porous, densea headless model with the bridge I wanted – a tremolo arm that had precision for incredibly subtle phrasing,Jimi said. “I got in touch with Allan Holdsworth*, and Tim Miller, who had guitars made by Rick Canton.”

He found Rick was “was really into that.”

* Allan Holdsworth, a spellbinding guitarist who influenced generations of jazz and rock musicians with his innovative sound, has died unexpectedly at age 70 – April 15, 2017. FMI:

Rick Canton, based in the high desert of New Mexico, has been designing and building guitars professionally for the better part of a decade. He creates guitars with a focus on ergonomic design, an artist’s sensibility and a musician’s ear.


The Jimi Tunnell model (in progress) by Rick Canton.

Jimi sent me his design specifications and we have been working on his model over the past two years or so,” Canton said.

Canton chambered the alder wood body for the more resonant quality Jimi required, and having tried a bridge that wasn’t to their liking, finally found the exact element.

The bridge Jimi wanted “had not been designed yet,” but Geofferey McCabe,, finally offered a bridge design with a locking tremolo – one that could augment string settings with a wheel.

It’s not just the guitar, Jimi added, it’s the guitar and the amplifier.

“I’m using the new guitar a lot more,especially for traveling, but if I’m in town (Denton), my other model is on stage with me as a back-up.”

Jimi said he is tweaking stuff with his new guitar all the time.

“I consider this the Beta model,” Jimi said.

The Jimi Tunnell Model

Jimi needed to find a replacement for the guitar he had been using for 25 years. He approached Rick with the design he wanted and worked with Rick to ensure the new guitar would replicate the tonal characteristics and playability of his previous guitar while expanding on its dynamic and ergonomic qualities.

2017 Arts & Jazz Fest rain dance

Two festival goers brave the muddy mess that was Quakertown Park. Though the weather was rough last weekend, it didn’t stop Dentonites and visitors from breaking attendance records. From the 2015 North Texas Daily story,

By Kathy Edwards McFarland

Well Dear Readers, the time has come to raise the tents and have some fun … the 2017 Denton Arts & Jazz Fest is this weekend: Fri, April 28, 3pm – 11pm;
Sat, April 29, 10am – 11pm; and Sun, April 30, 11am – 9pm.

Unfortunately for the past couple of years, my scooter, that I rely on for long distances, is not made for off-track, muddy conditions, and I found the difficult truth is I had to use the sidewalk around the park perimeter to not only get to the Jazz Stage, but I had to remain on the concrete for the performances. Anyone else using canes, walkers, those with babies and their strollers, etc., be forewarned. (High-heels are so not for this event!)

Please understand, I do enjoy Quakertown Park321 East McKinney (Corner of McKinney and Bell), and the Jazz Fest, but Texas weather does not always cooperate.

I have pulled up the DAJF Denton Accuweather forecastSevere thunderstorms predicted for Friday afternoon, strong thunderstorms Saturday and cool, partly cloudy conditions Sunday. (

So, I’m calling for full-on Woodstock conditions. The main Jazz Stage central area gets really muddy and soft. Trails do not accommodate scooters and strollers …

This year, the three-day, FREE event, with more than 3,000 musicians, artists and performers attract over 225,000 annually to enjoy the culturally diverse music and art, offers many reasons to brave the wet, Spring conditions:

Festival goers peruse the art on sale in the Denton Civic Center during the Denton Arts & Jazz Fest. Discover Denton. Original. Independent.

  • Friday night

Jack DeJohnette, Ravi Coltrane & Matt Garrison(Friday, 9:00 pm – Jazz Stage)

In a career that spans five decades and includes collaborations with some of the most iconic figures in modern jazz, NEA and Grammy winner Jack DeJohnette has established an unchallenged reputation as one of the greatest drummers in the history of the genre.

He is one of the most consistently inventive jazz percussionists in history, having emerged in the 1960’s playing with John Coltrane, Charles Lloyd, Thelonius Monk, Keith Jarrett and many others. Considered one of the most influential jazz drummers of the 20th Century, DeJohnette incorporates elements of jazz, free jazz, world music and R & B, making him one of the most highly regarded and in-demand drummers. FMI: Visit

  • Saturday night

Aaron Neville(Saturday, 9:00 pm – Jazz Stage)

Although Aaron Neville is often compared to singer Sam Cooke in terms of sheer vocal refinement, he has a voice and style uniquely his own. He is well known as part of the New Orleans sound of The Neville Brothers. Musically, of course, you know Aaron as a lover, not a fighter. The strange trajectory of his recording career began in 1960 when he recorded a single with producer/writer Allen Toussaint. FMI: Visit

  • Sunday night

Brave Combo(Sunday, 7:00 pm – Jazz Stage)

Trying to describe Brave Combo‘s music requires a pretty extensive vocabulary- at least when it comes to musical styles. For the past three decades the Denton-based quintet has perfected a world mix music that includes salsa, meringue, rock, cumbia, conjunto, polka, zydeco, classical, cha-cha, the blues and more. They are America’s premier dance band and a rollicking, rocking, rhythmic global journey­ offering what one critic recently wrote: “Even if you come for the party, you’ll leave with something of a musical education.”

The band is comprised of founder Carl Finch who was recently inducted into the Polka Hall of Fame, Finch sings vocals and plays guitar, keyboard and accordion. He is joined by Danny O’Brien on trumpet, Alan Emert of drums, Little Jack Melody on bass guitar and Robert Hokamp on guitar. FMI: Visit

*The Denton Festival Foundation, Inc. produces the event with the generous support of sponsors such as the City of Denton, the City of Denton Parks and Recreation Department, the Dallas/Fort Worth American Federation of Musicians Local 72-147 and many individual corporate and individual sponsors. It is because of these generous sponsors that the event remains free to the public.




By Michael Steinman

If you haven’t heard Andy Brown play guitar, you’ve been deprived of deep subtle pleasures.  First off, Andy loves melody: he doesn’t see George Gershwin’s composition as a series of chord changes.  And he understands the song emotionally: no howling double-time arsonist passages on a love ballad.  His tone is beautiful; his rhythm is steady but flexible.  And he’s mastered the very difficult art of turning his guitar into the most delicate orchestra, playing what George Van Eps called “lap piano,” deftly offering the listener a melodic line that even the most jazz-phobic could follow, while offering melodic-harmonic figures that also keep the rhythm going.  In some ways, he is more reminiscent of Hank Jones than of any guitarist I know.  Listen and see that I do not overpraise him.

Under-appreciated live music Texas towns

By Kathy Edwards McFarland

I couldn’t hold back any longer – after scanning another lazy cobbled-together write-up of Denton and San Marcos (two of my favorite places) – I am standing tall to write the story these two cultural gems deserve.

I begin with my college town, San Marcos … I graduated from Texas State University


Texas State University’s Old Main.

(Southwest Texas State University, back in my day) … a quaint town with a river running through it, I find has grown bigger and better.


Located about 20 minutes south of Austin on Interstate 35, San Marcos has played host to cheathamsttens of  thousands of students, faculty and staff for decades. Because of its proximity to Austin, the Music Capital of Texas, and being on a major highway, San Marcos has developed into a savvy Texas music city with stalwart live music venues such as Cheatham Street Warehouse, 119 Cheatham St.

Taking notes from the Center for Texas Music History at Texas State University (San Marcos), I found many of Kent Finlay‘s friends in the music world help define Cheatham Street‘s allure, and Finlay‘s passion for all things Texas (honk-tonk) music.
Kent Finlay, Dreamer is the latest book in the John and Robin Dickson Series in Texas Music: Though not a household name for the general public, Kent Finlay (1938–2015) was one of the world’s best-known and best-loved promoters, mentors, and gurus of Texas music. In 1974, he founded the Cheatham Street Warehouse in San Marcos as a venue for live music and an incubator for young talent. In 1977, he drove to Nashville


Cheatham Street Warehouse has been a San Marcos Live Music institution since 1974

and took with him a young, unknown singer named George Strait. On that trip, Strait recorded a demo that laid the initial foundation of his sensational career. Finlay’s friends and fans also include such Texas music fixtures as Todd Snider, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Jack Ingram, James McMurtry, Joe “King” Carrasco, Marcia Ball, Radney Foster, Eric Johnson, Hayes Carll, Omar Dykes (Omar and the Howlers), Terri Hendrix, and Ray Benson (Asleep at the Wheel). These and many others have contributed first-person interviews to this volume, which pays tribute both to Finlay and to his unselfish love for Texas music and musicians. 

*Editor’s Note: Randy Rogers purchased Cheatham Street Warehouse from Kent Finlay’s family after his death in 2015.

San Marcos

Venues: Click on the link to view this week’s Live Music in San Marcos web page:

Festivals: Visit – to get the latest on San Marcos annual events. Below are some highlights –

  • February 3-4: Eddie Durham Jazz Celebration and Hill Country Jazz Festival
    From big bands and combos to individual instrumentalists, the Hill Country Jazz Festival will feature some of the best performers west of the Mississippi River. A very special portion of the festival will be a celebration of Eddie Durham. Durham, a Texas jazz legend and San Marcos native, was a renowned guitarist who pioneered the use of electric guitar in jazz music.
    Evans Auditorium – Texas State University,
  • April 7-9: Swing on the Square, San Marcos Downtown Square

    Dave Martin of Carolyn Martin Swing Band clowns for fans during Swing on the Square.

    The 25th annual Swing on the Square festival is a weekend full of live music and family fun. Swing on the Square takes place in historic downtown San Marcos and hosts live music on three stages. There will also be a BrewHop (craft beer tour), Hall of Fame Show, farmers’ and arts market, Cowboy Gospel show and street dancing.

  • Sept. 2-17: Mermaid Fest SMTX, Various San Marcos Venues
    Mermaid Fest SMTX is a celebration that highlights the mermaid as a symbol of guardianship for our river with mermaid themed activity throughout our city. Three primary events will make up the event schedule: The Mermaid Ball, The Downtown Mermaid Parade and culminate with The Mermaid Splash – a river, music, environmental awareness and arts festival.

Education:The Center for Texas Music History,, at TSU, offers a treasure trove of programs and projects such as Graduate and undergraduate courses on Texas and Southwestern music history, Texas Music Café: A weekly radio and television show featuring the diverse talents of Texas musicians, The Journal of Texas Music History, The Handbook of Texas Music and Texas Music History Online.


There’s no excuse for Denton flying under the Live Music Radar for so long, but never mind … here’s the latest on this beautiful North Texas city:


Denton Courthouse Square

  • 35 Denton – the music festival that has rocked Denton’s foundation for eight years, with a week-long schedule of workshops, live-band outdoor concerts and standing-room-only bar-stage gigs. This year, 35 Denton is taking a break. What?
    But wait, there’s more on the calendar –
  • Denton Arts & Jazz Festival, this year scheduled for April 28-30, is the granddaddy of Denton Live Music festivals. Headlining Friday night is Jack DeJohnette Trio (Jack DeJohnette, Ravi Coltrane and Matt Garrison), and 2017dentonjazz_headliners600Saturday, Aaron Neville, sings his sweet New Orleans ballads, and Sunday evening, closing the Festival – Brave Combo (founder Carl Finch, Danny O’Brien, Alan Emert, Little Jack Melody and Robert Hokamp), with their Nuclear Polka stylings. The Denton Quakertown Park, on 32 acres in the heart of downtown, provides the perfect setting for the 2-½ day event that is free to the public. More than 3,000 musicians, artists and performers attract over 225,000 attendees annually to enjoy the culturally diverse music and art.

The best in Denton Live Music runs the gamut from house shows and Denton Courthouse on the Square concerts and jams, to Andy’s Bar, located in an historic building on the Courthouse Square, and (est we forget) the go-to music venue Dan’s Silverleaf, 103 Industrial.

A true Texas Music icon in itself, Dan’s Silverleaf (formerly Dan’s Bar) has offered a


Dan’s Silverleaf

refreshingly super-mellow atmosphere, star studded rock, jazz, blues and country acts from around the state and the world, and a sound system equation to be envied by even the most popular clubs in the DFW area. This club is a completely unique experience and destined to become a legendary venue in the annals of Texas music. –

Venues: View for details.

Festivals: View for complete listings.
Guaranteed, if there is an event in Denton, you will hear live music …

  • March 24 & 25
    Inaugural Denton Folk Music Festival, sponsored by the Denton Songwriters Guild.
  • April 19-23
    Thin Line Fest – A documentary film, multi-genre music, and competitive photo festival held in Denton, TX. Each year, international documentaries of many interests are shown, national multi-genre live music acts and regional photographers come to Denton to exhibit their talents.
  • April 28-30
    Denton Arts & Jazz Festival (see above)
  • Sept. 22-24
    Denton Blues Fest, presented by the Denton Black Chamber of Commerce.

  • Sept. TBA
    Oaktopia – a Music and Art Festival, with performances and exhibits in multiple venues around Denton. Norah Jones headlined the 2016 festival.


The University of North Texas offers a stunning array of choruses, vocal and instrument orchestras and bands, ensembles performing Baroque, Chamber, Symphonic, and Jazz. Performances are scheduled throughout the school year and during special times in the summer – visit for details.


One O’Clock Lab Band with guest vibraphonist Stefon Harris.

world-renowned vibraphonist Stefon Harris

  • The Jazz Repertory Ensemble is a learning and performing group dedicated to the collection, study, preservation, and recreation of classic music from the entire history of jazz. With over 500 compositions in its library, ranging from small combo charts to big band works, the ensemble exposes students and audiences to the rich tradition and inspiring work of many legendary performers and writers.
  • The University of North Texas Symphony Orchestra is an 80-member ensemble currently under the direction of Maestro David Itkin. Membership is drawn from the finest musicians attending the UNT College of Music. The orchestra was established in 1938 and has played concerts regularly for over 70 years. During this time the orchestra has had only seven regular conductors.
  • The One O’Clock Lab Band is a large jazz ensemble, which includes five saxes, five trumpets, five trombones, guitar, piano, bass, drums and percussion players. The director of the One O’Clock Lab Band is Alan Baylock.

Texas Woman’s University Music Department offers live music performances by a


TWU Clarinet Ensemble.

variety of bands, orchestras and ensembles, such as the Texas Woman’s University Chamber Orchestra, performing both chamber music and orchestral literature, The TWU Jazz Ensemble and Pioneer Jazz Combo, and the Wind Symphony, performing a diverse and challenging repertoire at concerts both on and off campus.  Visit for details.

My fervent wish is that you, dear Readers, take the little information I have presented here, then Go. Do. Discover more of these two Live Music destinations and write your own stories.

Jazz, heritage fest line-up

By Kathy Edwards McFarland

It’s been a while since I was there with good friend Linda Jones, but the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival has just as much fun, music, workshops and entertainments as any year previous.neworleans_jazzfest_header_2016

The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation is the nonprofit that owns the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival presented by Shell.

Check out the full line up of artists here – – the 2017 Big Easy event runs April 28 through May 7.

Oh, don’t stop me now! The Music lineup is immense, with headliners such as:

  • Stevie Wonder


    Wayne Toups

  • Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
  • Maroon 5
  • Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds
  • Kings of Leon
  • Usher & The Roots
  • Harry Connick, Jr.
  • Meghan Trainor
  • Lorde
  • Snoop Dogg
  • Alabama Shakes
  • Pitbull
  • Widespread Panic
  • Trey Anastasio Band
  • Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue
  • Earth, Wind & Fire
  • Wilco
  • Darius Rucker


    Anita Baker

  • Patti LaBelle
  • NAS with guests The Soul Rebels
  • Buddy Guy
  • The Meters
  • George Benson
  • Aaron Neville
  • Corinne Bailey Rae
  • Irma Thomas
  • Elle King
  • Dr. John
  • Jonny Lang
  • Tower of Power
  • Jon Batiste and Stay Human
  • Amos Lee
  • Preservation Hall Jazz Band
  • Big Freedia
  • Maze Featuring Frankie Beverly


    Bob Dylan

  • The Revivalists
  • Leon Bridges
  • Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk
  • Dawes
  • Galactic
  • Blues Traveler
  • Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes
  • The Mavericks
  • Rhiannon Giddens (One of my favorites … unique and amazing!)


And so much more! If you plan to see and hear everything, you may be disappointed.

New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival is once again located at the Fair Grounds Race Course, centrally located at 1751 Gentilly Boulevard, 10 minutes from the French Quarter. Hours are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.


2016 Fantasy Map

An historical celebration of Cuban culture at Jazz Fest in 2017!

In 2017, Jazz Fest honors New Orleans’ deep historical connections with Cuba by hosting the largest celebration of Cuban culture in the U.S. since the 1950’s. More than 150 Cuban artists are invited to participate in the 2017 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival Presented by Shell, most of whom will be in the U.S. for the first time!

With Cuban rhythms as the heartbeat, the 2017 Festival showcases Cuba’s extraordinary musical vitality with performances by pop stars Gente de Zona, Grammy winner Septeto Santiaguero, jazz legend Chucho Valdés, timba kings Los Van Van and much more!

Let the good eating begin



Food is abundant and , you know it, c’est si bon! From Cafe du Monde‘s beniets and iced coffees to meatpies, crawfish, jambalaya and international wonders like Cuban sandwiches and Jamaican Jerk, you will enjoy the sweet dilemma of what to eat, and how much.

Tickets (

General admission tickets are each good for one day. First weekend tickets are good for ANY ONE DAY of the first weekend – April 28, 29 or 30. Second weekend tickets are good for ANY ONE DAY of the second weekend – May 4, 5, 6 or 7.

General admission tickets include access to all performances on day of use, as well as the wide variety of food and beverages available for purchase, art exhibits, crafts booths, and much more.

1st Weekend Single Day Tickets (April 28, 29 & 30)
Early-bird advance ticket: $65 through February 14
Regular advance ticket: $70 from February 15 through April 27
Gate Price: $80
(each ticket valid for any single day of the weekend)
Child’s ticket: $5 (available at the gate only, ages 2 – 10, adult must be present with child, children under 2 are admitted free)

2nd Weekend Single Day Tickets (May 4, 5, 6 & 7)
Early-bird advance ticket: $65 through February 14
Regular advance ticket: $70 from February 15 through May 3
Gate Price: $80
(each ticket valid for any single day of the weekend)
Child’s ticket: $5 (available at the gate only, ages 2 – 10, adult must be present with child, children under 2 are admitted free)

Live Jazz Fest recordings are available via

Shaw’s Latin Jazz work gets trumpter’s, Grammy’s attention

By Kathy Edwards McFarland

Congratulations Brian Lynch on his Grammy Nomination – Category Of Best Latin Jazz Album – for “Madera Latino – A Latin Jazz Interpretation On The Music Of Woody Shaw”

NPR Jazz Critics Poll for Top Latin Jazz Albums of 2016!
Latin Jazz Corner #1 Album of 2016
Jazz Times Editor’s Pick Feb. 2017 Issue
New York Jazz Record Best Of 2016

Four years in the making, Grammy Award-winning trumpeter Brian Lynch’s “Madera Latino” (Latin Wood) project, exploring the music of jazz innovator and master trumpeter Woody Shaw in a Latin Jazz format with today’s top trumpeters, is out and already garnering tremendous attention.

The music of the late, great Woody Shaw (1944-1989) – an innovative and highly individual musical lexicon, expressed through both his chosen instrument of trumpet and his equally distinguished compositions – set a standard of excellence and modernity for Black American Music that has not been surpassed in the 50 years since he first came onto the jazz scene. Madera Latino is an exploration of this giant’s music as viewed through the lens of authentic Afro-Caribbean rhythm and framed by the loving treatment of his compositions in virtuosic Latin Jazz style by Grammy Award-winning trumpeter Brian Lynch. It is also a heartfelt tribute to the genius of Woody by a all star lineup of today’s top trumpeters: Lynch, Sean Jones, Dave Douglas, Diego Urcola, Michael Rodriguez, Etienne Charles, Josh Evans, and Philip Dizack.

In trumpet combinations from duo to quartet, these eminent horns explore Shaw classics including In A Capricornian Way, Tomorrow’s Destiny, Zoltan, Song Of Songs, Sweet Love Of Mine, and more, along with two original pieces – one a extended suite – written by Lynch in salute to the profound influence Woody has had on him as a player and composer.

The band for Madera Latino fulfills the promise of Lynch’s audacious concept with élan, precision, and joyous creativity. Percussionists Pedrito Martinez and Little Johnny Rivero, along with bassist Luques Curtis, were integral to the success of Lynch’s 2006 CD Simpático, a Grammy Award winner in the Latin Jazz category. Add drummer Obed Calvaire, percussionist Anthony Carrillo, and pianist Zaccai Curtis, and a mighty rhythm section emerges to spur and challenge the trumpeters to their utmost efforts in praise of Shaw.

“The combination of Woody’s music and the Afro-Caribbean clave concept was always a natural to me,” states Lynch. “I’m very happy, after many years of thinking about this idea, to finally be able to actualize this tribute to my musical hero, Woody Shaw, in the distinguished company of these amazing trumpeters and my musical family.”

“I am very proud of what Brian has done with this project, and particularly of the depth of sincerity and the meticulousness with which he has treated the re-interpretation of Woody Shaw‘s original works within the Afro-Latino idiom. My respect and gratitude go out to the musicians on this recording for keeping the spirit of this music – and of one of its last great innovators – alive and strong in the 21st century.” – Woody Louis Armstrong Shaw, III

Brian Lynch Presents: Madera Latino: A Latin Jazz Perspective On The Music Of Woody Shaw
Distribution: Amazon, CD Baby, ITunes, and select independent record retailers, as well as directly through

Hollistic MusicWorks is the record label and creative conduit of Brian Lynch – Grammy Award winning trumpeter, composer, arranger, bandleader, and educator. In addition to hosting Lynch’s own recording projects, HMW provides a home for other artists deserving of respect and recognition, ranging from veteran artists such as legendary drummer Killer Ray Appleton and the brilliant pianist/composer Rob Schneiderman, to emerging new artists personally mentored by Lynch.


Sharing another great Jazz post from Jazz Lives …


Although technology — whatever that means — keeps telling us we are “all connected,” and it is easier than ever to click a “like,” to instant-message someone, I think many of us feel, in the midst of the crowd, more isolated than ever before.


But community is always possible.  I offer this tender example from — oh, only eighty years ago.

The song is WHERE OR WHEN, by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, from the musical BABES IN ARMS, which premiered in New York April 14, 1937.  I don’t know when Benny Goodman, Teddy Wilson, and Gene Krupa first heard the song or had the sheet music (possibly well in advance of the show’s premiere, because who wouldn’t want to know, sing, play a new score by Rodgers and Hart?) — but they performed it at the Madhattan Room of the Hotel Pennsylvania, on October 23, 1937.  (An aside: the…

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