After last night’s Valentine’s Ball (which was truly a blast, hope you enjoyed it as much as Dana and I did!), I wanted to at least start the show tonight with something that fit into a Valentine’s Day theme. Of course, as I’ve been playing the Carpenters for my girlfriend for the past couple of days (turns out that she didn’t realize that I have some Carpenters in my library). So that made the choices for my opening set quite easy. We heard a lovely selection of their classic material: We’ve Only Just Begun, Top of the World, (They Long to Be) Close to You, A Song for You, and Goodbye to Love.
While watching the Grammys this evening, I was saddened to hear of the passing of the great jazz drummer Joe Morello. He did some great work with the Dave Brubeck Quartet, and was a fantastic live drummer. So we heard a few cuts from their classic 1959 album Time Out: Blue Rondo a la Turk, Strange Meadow Lark, Take Five, and finally Kathy’s Waltz (which was marred by a rather grievous technical disruption).
During our Dave Brubeck set, we received a telephone call from a happy listener who wanted to hear some more Carpenters. I am always happy to take requests, especially when I can actually fill them. So although I do not have the song that he specifically requested, we were still able to fulfill the request with two more classics: Superstar, and Rainy Days and Mondays.
Also during the Grammys, I heard of the passing last year of the avant garde composer Milton Babbitt. Most folks will not be familiar with the work of Milton Babbitt, who actually worked as a math professor at Princeton from 1943-1945, before joining their music faculty. From there he moved to the faculty of the Julliard School in 1972. He was hired by RCA, possibly in the late 50s – early 60s, to work on the RCA Mark II Sound Synthesizer, the first programmable synthesizer, and created a number of works for that early keyboard. The fact is that, while Babbitt’s work was extremely avant guard, using serialist and twelve-tone compositional techniques (about which he wrote several scholarly papers), his work was instrumental in the establishment of the electronic synthesizer as a viable musical instrument – thus, without the work done by Milton Babbitt, the modern musical world as we know it today would be vastly different. Tonight we heard recordings of two such pieces, his Reflections for Piano and Synthesized tape, as performed by Robert Miller on piano, then his Philomel for Soprano, recorded soprano, and synthesized sound, with Bethany Beardslee singing (the person for whom it was written).
We close the show with some live Jimi Hendrix, from the recently released Winterland box set, recorded live in October of 1968: Tax Free, and Lover Man.