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At last you can get your Jazzed Desserts!

After much fumbling about and a truly hideous number of hours editing, I’ve finally put together a show based on an idea I got from Fran Snyder of ConcertsInYourHome.com.

They’re essentially a “mini house concert.” A brief gathering of friends for food, conversation and live music in an intimate and approachable setting. They’re easy and inexpensive to host. They’re strictly acoustic so you won’t upset the neighbors. (But you should invite them, they’re a great way to strengthen existing friendships and forge new ones.)

I’m available solo for these shows and with my duo, Hobbit & Hare. Currently we’re limiting this to the greater Seattle area, but we could be convinced to roam a bit farther in the future.

Find out all the details here.

Could Victory Be Within My Grasp?

Yesterday was a decent busking day for Hobbit & Hare, but the best part of it for me was in the second set. I managed to play harmonica on 3 choruses during one song and keep the ukulele part going as well. Two of the choruses were pretty decent. The other one managed to escape total suck territory.

(Hey! I’ll take what I can get!)

Faithful followers of this site (both of you) may remember that I’ve been working on recovering my harmonica-on-the-rack skills for some time. I’ve run a few “test flights” with dismal results. This is the first time I felt like I was getting it. At least in front of an audience. Sitting on my couch with nobody but the cats around and I seem to be able to blaze away. Many musicians will probably identify with that one.

I spent a lot of years playing harp on a rack and got rather good at it. But that was while playing mainly blues on guitar. How I played guitar is quite different from how I play ukulele. Plus now I’ve strayed into jazz territory and it turns out that you need to play straight harp for many tunes instead of the cross harp that blues is more comfortable in. (Here’s an explanation of straight vs. cross harp.)

As I’ve been messing around trying to add harmonica to songs I already know I tried If Youse A Viper, an old marijuana song that features two standard jazz tropes; the AABA song structure and the 1-6-2-5 chord progression (aka rhythm changes, as it first appeared in the George Gershwin tune, I’ve Got Rhythm). Suddenly things were clicking! Turns out the rhythm changes haven’t strayed too far from their blues roots. So a lot of the hot licks and cheap tricks I used to use fit right in with no problem.

(And there was great rejoicing.)

One minor problem remained. Sketch and I haven’t played If Youse A Viper for a long damn time, and I didn’t want to throw a curve at him when I was likely to be struggling a bit. Not that he wouldn’t pick it right back up, but better safe than sorry. So I thought through the songs we play regularly, looking for a rhythm changes tune in the same key. (Because the harmonica I have that’s in the best shape is a diatonic C harp, and you have a limited choice of keys with a diatonic. If playing cross harp on a C, the key is G.)

 Then I remembered Angel Of The Ukulele Cabaret, a song by Marla Goodman. (I learned it on YouTube. Here’s the Hobbit & Hare version.) It’s an AABA song, in the key of G, using a variation of the 1-6-2-5 progression, and Sketch and I play it frequently. Better yet, it’s arranged so that you have several solo bits, but each of them is only one A section in length. It lets me break back into the harp solo schtick a little at a time.

(Cue angelic choir.)

It’s going into heavy rotation in our sets until I’m comfortable with it. Then we’ll add If Youse A Viper.

After that I’ll likely be working on straight harp for a bit, starting the whole process over again.

Such is the musicianer life.

A Little Moisture In Redmond

the mighty Snakez!

Back on August 11th Snake Suspenderz performed as part of sort of a “mobile Moisture Festival unit” at the Redmond So Bazaar. We got to play on the spif stage you can see in the picture above. It looks like something out of the 1930’s (art in and of itself) and is built on a trailer! I’ve inserted a gallery of other pics from this show at the bottom of the post. Click on any of them to get a full-screen slideshow.

(all photos on this page are ©2016 by James McDaniel. used by permission.)

The Snakez opened the show with a few tunes and then emcee extraordinaire Simon Neale took the stage. In his picture you will note the fine mustache Simon sports. He keeps in shape using his own brand of mustache wax. I’ve been using Simon’s Mustache Ryed Wax on my mustache too.

Simon then introduced Saffi Watson, who came out and amazed the crowd with her contortionist act. She also does aerial work, acrobatics, and hand-balancing. Saffi first performed in the Moisture Festival at the age of 6! (with the Amazing Circus 1-ders of the School of Acrobatics and New Circus Arts, aka SANCA).

Many of the Moisture Fest folk are also involved with the annual British Pantomime show, held at Hale’s Palladium, the home of the Moisture Festival. In fact, our fearless compère Simon often plays the Dame character in them. Thus the next act was Mr. Fantastic, the pantomime horse. Expertly trained by Maque DaVís, with the (more or less) able assistance of his clownish sidekick (played by Norma Baum), Mr. Fantastic garners fans of all ages wherever he goes. (For this show Mr. Fantastic was played by Alison Snyder and Jennifer Wensrich.)

Godfrey Daniels was next. Godfrey is whimsy personified and has become the Moisture Festival mascot. As you can see in the picture, kids dig him. So do adults.

Born in Denmark, Henrik Bothe has truly remarkable skills that include plate spinning, straitjacket escape while riding a unicycle, pickpocketing his audience volunteers and balancing atop an 8′ tall freestanding ladder. Henrik actually filled two spots on the bill, doing some balancing, some juggling, his crazy straitjacket escape (as pictured below), and closed the show with his plate spinning.

The Snakez played a few more tunes to wrap up the night.

It’s loads of fun working with these people and the audience was large, attentive, and loudly appreciative. I’m so lucky to have fallen in with such a talented and, let’s face it, wacky group of friends.

Damn Weather Guessers

I carefully and repeatedly checked the weather forecast all day yesterday. It was saying “rainy in the morning, clearing in the afternoon.” So I…

  1. Sent an email last night to Sketch outlining a (certainly doable but) different and somewhat more complex logistics plan to maximize busking and minimize expense. and…
  2. Did not send an email to Carey  (who plays marvelous trumpet solos while still keeping the beat going on a snare drum) because the logistics would have been one or two  layers deeper in the complexity department.

And what happens when I check the forecast this morning? The ~40% chance of early rain drops to 3%, and the clearing up bit moves earlier in the day.

It’s not that I don’t enjoy playing with Sketch. It’s that it’s moving into prime busking season here in the Pacific Northwet and it’s more fun to play with a larger group. And can be more profitable too. Trios and quartets will attract more attention than solos or duos.

Ah well. You pays your money, you takes your chances. The last couple days Sketch and I have busked have been pretty good. No good reason it has to be different today.

Busking And Hugs

Yesterday Hobbit & Hare once again took our usual place on the bridge in the Pike Place Market and, despite the heat and humidity, managed to churn out 3 sets of music. The first two were fine, both crossing our minimum threshold for a “good hat”, but the third one just busted out all over.

For one thing, a nice lady was returning to Australia and took a video of us for her son-in-law, assuring us that he was a musician and would just love us. She left a $20 bill in the tip jar. Yeah! But before that

We had a good crowd hanging around that included a young couple (early to mid-twenties I’d say), and a small group of little old ladies, all dressed up for their big day on the town. They all stayed around for several tunes, tipped, and also decided to leave at about the same time. The young gal stopped in front of us and said some very complimentary things (bless her little cotton socks!). She then asked if she could hug me.

I said, “if you don’t mind hugging sweaty old men, sure!” She laughed and hugged me. Meanwhile…

One of the little old ladies apparently overheard this and she turns around and says, “oh, me too, please!” So she hugs me and gives me a kiss on the cheek. She thought I was just the cutest thing. No, I’m not a mind reader, she said so.

I would have been just as happy without the muggy heat, but I’ll take lots more days with fat hats, hugs and smoochies.