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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Starting the Day Off with Santa ... and a Jazzy Gift for You after the Concert!


Well, sorta.  It was the day that our children, Sarah and Matthew were going to be entertaining the masses (albeit small masses) at Claire Ritter Studios, and we thought it would be a good idea to start their day - and ours - off with a wonderful breakfast.  So, we went to one of our favorite breakfast spots - The Big Dog Cafe, in Waxhaw, NC - and who do you suppose was cooking up the eggs and bacon?  Santa, by golly!  And yes, that is really him.  He works hard doesn't he? And he's jolly too!  And that is also his real beard - and padding.  Yep, Santa whipped us up a super-duper breakfast at the Big Dog Cafe and he even posed so that I could take a picture.  Just in case you didn't believe that Santa really lives in North Carolina and has a real job between Christmas holidays. 


I have such a wonderful family.  They waited patiently for our server while trying to decide on chocolate milk or orange juice.  Glen, however, had his eye on Dad's iPhone and wanted to play one of the 400 games he had downloaded.  Sarah played table piano and Matthew made faces at everyone.  I took pictures - that's my job.  We were all excited about the concert.


Sarah looked so elegant in her dress and high heel shoes.  Such a beautiful young lady she is becoming.  Where did my little girl go?  Now she wears hosiery, heels, and makeup.  Matthew didn't want me to take his picture.  Typical boy.


The children practiced their pieces before the concert and were prepared, but boy were they nervous.  The drive through the country to get to the studio didn't help to calm their nerves either.  Of course, Tango, Claire's precious pooch, greeted us when we arrived, and she helped to calm the children.  I think Tango has us all figured out, though.  She knows we're going to bring her a treat.

Claire Ritter

Claire started the evening concert off with her rendition of John Lennon's "Imagine" in the key of "E."  It was beautiful.  For those of you who are new here, Claire Ritter is a renowned Jazz musician and recording artist.  She is also an outstanding music teacher.  She has a surprise for one of our readers at the end ... so keep reading!


Matthew was one of the first up to the piano and he played beautifully.  He did not, however, pause between his 2 songs so that we could all applaud. He went straight from Prelude right into Brown Bag Boogie without missing a beat.  "Matthew - slow down darlin'!  You need to give us time to applaud silly!"  "Great Job!"


Sarah played Scott Joplin's "Maple Leaf Rag" and then ...


Nocturne as a duet with Claire Ritter on her electric keyboard.  They struggled a bit through this song, but got through it just fine.  Sarah was so upset. Nerves and a duet that you haven't practiced together but once does not make for a flawless piece. We were all really proud of her, though, and honestly, I don't think anyone noticed but Sarah and us, since we had heard her play the song a hundred times flawlessly before the concert.


The joy of the evening was at the end, when Sarah played a piece that she had composed. Earlier in the year, Sarah composed a piece called "Spring Mystique" and you could hear the birds chirping, the rain falling, and the thunderstorms and lightening.  In this composition, "Tales of Autumn" you can envision the leaves falling and the cool breezes blowing.  Fortunately, though, for you, you don't have to settle for these pictures of the concert.  You know why?  Because I have shaky bad video and audio so you can see it and hear it for yourself ...

Recital 2008 from Susan Vaughn on Vimeo.


Of course, this concert would not be complete unless I offered you an opportunity to experience jazz from one of today's finest jazz musicians - Claire Ritter - and her cd "Waltzing the Splendor" by Zoning Recordings.


This is what "Jazz Review" has to say about the music of Claire Ritter and this cd:

CD Title: Waltzing The Splendor

Year: 2007

Record Label: Zoning Recordings

Style: Straight-Ahead / Classic

Musicians: Claire Ritter (piano), Jon Metzger (vibraphone), Jane Hart Brendle (violin), Ashima Scripp (cello), Dave Holland (bass on bonus track 16)


Pianist Claire Ritter has a reputation for creating American jazz, which could be why when you listen to her latest release Waltzing the Splendor, you may find yourself envisioning a ballroom ambience with the music accompanying the vocal stylizing of Bing Crosby as Grace Kelly glides across a low-lit stage.  Though Ritter’s songs are all instrumentals, the lyricism of her piano phrasings along with the whimsical patinas of vibraphonist Jon Metzger, violinist Jane Hart Brendle, cellist Ashima Scripp, and bassist Dave Holland, delivers an album with beautiful elocution liken to Crosby’s singing and Kelly’s dancing.  It will make you wonder what ever happened to the days of ballroom dance that honed the likes of Rosemary Clooney and Bing Crosby.  The turns in the phrases of Ritter’s music have traditional workings with a contemporary torque that gives ballroom jazz a current standing in today’s marketplace.

Maybe it is Ritter’s rendition of the classic tune “Over The Rainbow,” which has been famously sung by Judy Garland in the past that gives Ritter’s music its ballroom dance flavor, but many of her songs leave the listener with an impression of ballroom lifts and low-lit lounge music especially in “Valsa” and “Integrity.”  Ritter composed four tracks for the album that are etudes for the piece Four Jazz Serenades For Georgia O’Keefe, Opus 23.  These tracks range from lightly flowering piano keys and gently swinging motions in the strings for “Orange Red Yellow Gold” to whimsical pirouettes and long strides in “Painter’s Serenade” and slits of cascading piano keys knitted along “Waltzing The Splendor.”  The fluidity of the fly-by piano keys for “Echo Meadow” has optimistic hues, and the doddering keys of “Hot Pepper” produce a catchy trolley rhythm.  The angelic sonorous of the xylophone and piano keys for “Carolina Canto” resonate like a children’s lullaby, while the tenderly strolling keys of “Telepathy” are impressionistic of a leisurely walk through a picturesque vista.


Ritter delves into more abstract jamming sessions and loosely fitted piano keys on “Suppose” and “Funky Feet,” which brings her sojourn into the realm of avant angles and improvised creations, and the wiry bass grooves of “In Between” follows this approach.  Ritter does perform a series of flashy piano jumps for “Punch” and “Hot Pepper,” which gives these tunes a jazzy jingle vamp, but the album is dominant in sprinkling piano keys and lush silhouettes that may remind you of the music of Bing Crosby.  Even though it was not Bing Crosby who inspired Claire Ritter’s 9th studio album Waltzing the Splendor.

Ritter reveals in the liner notes about the making of the album, “After visiting New Mexico and ‘Ghost Ranch’ a few years ago, I became enthralled with Georgia O’Keefe’s independent spirit as an abstract artist.  Of course, all art is connected and the musical ideas started flowing.  I could see and feel the piano and strings in the desert…All I can figure is composer meets painter – let imagination and nature say the rest.”

Waltzing the Splendor is a sonic portrait of America’s natural landscape.  With a catch phrase like “Going Green” stuck in everyone’s thoughts today, Claire Ritter has sonically gone green interpreting the greenery of America’s pastures into music.  If you never thought of America’s natural landscapes as giant ballrooms, Waltzing the Splendor lets you realize it for yourself.

Tracks: Punch; Over the Rainbow; Integrity; Echo Meadow; Valsa; Four Jazz Serenades for Georgia O'Keefe, Opus 23: No. 1 - OrangeRedYellowGold, No. 2 - Painter's Serenade, No. 3 - Strings in the Desert, No. 4 - Waltzing the Splendor; Telepathy, Hot Pepper, Suppose, Funky Feet, Carolina Canto, Punch, In Between, Waltzing the Splendor, Hot Pepper

Record Label Website: http://www.claireritter.com/recordings.html

Artist's Website: http://www.claireritter.com

Listen or Buy: http://www.ccnow.com/cgi-local/sc_cart.cgi?8661911331298660


But for my readers, Claire and I are giving away a cd to one reader who answers this question:

What style of music do you enjoy the most and why?

Note: I don't know how to play the piano anywhere near as jazzy as Claire Ritter.  I do, however, know how to finagle a sponsor now and then for a giveaway, and that is just what I did here.  ha ha.  Thank you to Claire Ritter (and Tango) for sponsoring this giveaway!  I love Claire Ritter and I know you will too.  She sure plays a jazzy piano!