Friday, May 28, 2004

Writing from Jamaica

I know this is surreal, but I'm alive and well despite people here drive like maniacs and have no sense of time and can smell money from 3 feet away.

Money is how the country operates on, because it is such a poor society. So you kinda sympathize with the people, but it's pretty damn annoying every three minutes someone comes up to you and ask you if you want any weed.

I think Jamaica is good for single white (or Asian) females who really have a thing for Jamaican food (read between the lines) and lifestyle. But when you stay at a resort, it's the tourist lifestyle, not true Jamaican lifestyle. If you are hip enough to hang out with the natives, you're either destined to get ripped off or end up losing your dignity.

Jamaicans are natural born psychologists. Skip Psychology 101 in college and come to Jamaican to learn how to manipulate the human mind! The key is to outsmart the people and the culture, which is kinda like how to get by in some parts of China. No offense, but white males are the ultimate rip-off targets. So come with friends, bring some girls, it'll make you go along away.

Travelwise, we pretty much laid on the beach all day yesterday (without evening looking at the watch once. In fact, I hid my watch in a discreet little place). Went out to The Jungle (Negril's only nightclub) last night. Made a few new friends. Probably will hit Rick's Cafe, the waterfalls, etc. soon.

Sarah told me there are some fine men in Jamaica and I don't doubt that. For my purpose, it's non-applicable, but I'm certainly having a fabulous learning experience of how smooth they move. No wonder reggae is their national music!


Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Cicadas falling down like rain...

..banging against my windshield, and dying in front of my sight. Their grossness give me enough inspiration to write a song (see lyrics section).

Today I received in my mail the first CD of the live Jammin' Java session with Band of Blue. When I came across "Nice & Warm," I almost burst out in tears. This song meant so much to me in my listening, playing, and gigging career. Shane from BOB says, "'Nice & Warm' was definitely a high point of the show." Not only that, it was a high point of my life. I hope I'll play that song one more time before my hiatus.

Been semi-packing for the Negril, Jamaica tomorrow. If you happen to be in the area, give me a holler. This is the hotel I'll be staying.

See you in a week, kids.


Monday, May 24, 2004

Temporary retirement

After careful deliberation, I have decided I'm going to take a haitus in my blues harmonica playing. My Frederick Blues Festival show on July 24, 2004 with Liz Briones Band will mark my last public appearance, at least for a short while. In the meantime, I've gotta get my shit together and sort out some things and I feel like my gigging life has taken up a lot of my time and inhibited me from achieving some of my career goals. It's easy to say I'm gonna work and gig at the same time. The reality is, I've gotta get out of that mindset and rethink my priorities. Truly!

I promise I'll return to the blues scene with a vengeance in the near future, but this is obvious not the time. Meanwhile, I'll still go to shows and write about music on my blog from time to time. I hope I have left some well-thought-of legacy and have moved some people in some sort of way, profound or not.

Weekend was great. Went to a co-worker's birthday party. Arrived at the rooftop of The Reef at Adams Morgan (This was the second time I had to wait in line to go up to the rooftop since Eiffel Tower). There were lovely fish tanks on the second floor, too. I think people are nicer to me because it's summer. Some strangers even address me by name now.

Can't wait to go to Jamaica! Sarah gave me two excellent websites and lots of inside scoop. I must admit I wasn't truly ready for it until I heard the Beach Boys' "Kokomo" the other day. Made me want to re-watch Cocktail.


Sunday, May 23, 2004

Michael Moore wins the Palme D'Or

....puts a smile on my face (Look at Tarantino on the side).

Read Mike's speech on his website. Awesome!


Friday, May 21, 2004

More on Elvin and the current state of music industry

Besides Greg's thoughtful comment on Elvin Jones, my good friend Gavin from the Netherlands wrote me the following heartfelt e-mail:

i found out that elvin jones died the other day. i am very upset. i always wanted to play with elvin and meet him. my favorite albums all have elvin on them. i really broke down this morning listening to the larry young album "unity". now everybody in that group is gone from us. i can't help but cry while i sit here and listen to it. i am not a religious guy, but i think that elvin has definitely gone to a better place. it hurts so much that god has to take people like this from us. it has to happen sometime, but i felt while he was still alive that there was still a living link to the highest level of music ever. i don't know quite how i will be able to learn this art form that means so much to me, now that my greatest hero is gone. i know that bill has gone through this with losing larry young and so many other musicians who taught him not only how to play music. elvin's music has touched so many aspects of my life, far beyond merely my musicianship. his contribution to our world is eternal and really changed my life in so many ways.

Made a surprise appearance at Zoo Bar last night for 15 minutes. Played three good songs with Clarence, Gene and Jack. Fulfilled my thirst of not having played with this group since the Moses benefit. While Europa is slowly losing its momentum, I've gotten some new gigging opportunities like playing at a few festivals and new clubs this summer. On June 10, I'll be appearing with Clarence as an acoustic duo at Ellington on Eighth, thanks to Liz Briones who is always generous trading gigs with me.

There's also a good piece on BBC in which the biggest Chinese pop star Jacky Cheung laments the Hong Kong music industry. Cheung's critique of Cantopop is similar to that of American music these days. Untalented pop stars like Britney Spears and Hilary Duff dominate record sales leaving true jazz and blues talents suffocated. Within the jazz and blues genres, pretty faces are on the forefront while respected blues masters are playing at local clubs like Cafe Europa. Audience in Europe appreciate good music far more than Americans. Parisienne jazz clubs are packed every night. I went to the JVC Jazz Festival in Paris to watch Maceo Parker and Ron Carter and there was not one empty space on the lawn.

American listeners need to be re-educated, or else this music will only go down to toilet from now on.


Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Salute to Elvin

Jazz giants are leaving one by one. Today, one of the best drummers in the world Elvin Jones died of a heart failure. How many more is left? I once said the day B.B. King dies is the day the blues dies. I still believe that to this day.

All I have to say was that I was lucky to have seen Elvin Jones in concert last autumn before he passed away. That concert was a NAACP/Black Caucus tribute to Elvin, Hank Jones with the accompaniment of sax player Andrew White and bassist James King. Every single prominent jazz drummer in DC was in the audience that night. It was a night of great music, something that won't be repeated again.

The only way to keep jazz alive is to support the live performances. Next time when McCoy Tyner, Kenny Barron, Herbie Hancock, Oscar Peterson, Ron Carter, Lou Donaldson, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Jimmy McGriff come in town, do me a favor and go see them. You won't regret it.


7 steps to embark on a perfect romance (aka timing is everything)

Yesterday Doc Conlin wrote:

Why is it that any time new romantic interest brews, all the standouts from past seem to instinctively decide to "check in" and "say hello", simultaneously? Even the ones who have been incommunicado for, like, ever? Clockwork. What are you people not telling us?

Heather concurs, stating "I think there is some sort of direct calculation for hearing from exes/past crushes/past interests at the exact point of which you embark on a new romantic interest."

I have often used the example of instant noodles to analogize with the female perspective on romance. Instead of waiting patiently for the right guy to come along, they just jump right onto the next double-decker bus. Sooner or later they regret it and they start calling the guy they actually like just to say hello, but of course, it's too late because he already has a new girlfriend. This goes on and on and on...

The window of opportunity of two single people who are into each other meeting is extremely slim. Thus, love triangles or rectangles exist in one out of three relationships.

In this age where meaningful and quality romance is rare as uncooked red meat, I have the following solutions (this works for both guys and girls):

1. Keep a number of 5-7 prospective mates in your book (the more the better, but not more than 13 because it is hard to keep track);

2. Make sure they are evenly distributed geographically (e.g. 1 in Wyoming, 1 in New York, 1 in Tokyo, 1 in Prague, 3 in the same city you're located, etc.)
[Note: This is very important because you will at least have a place to stay if you decide to visit those places for work or leisure];

3. Draw a box next to each name;

4. Check in with them regularly. If they live in your city, eat dinner with them once every three weeks. If they live far away, e-mail or call twice a month and inquire about their romantic status after doing some small talk;

5. If they have recently become single, put a check in the box next to their name. Pay them a visit if they live far or invite them to a classy party if they live near. Then put on your moves and act groovy and go at it;

6. Repeat 1-5;

7. Add more mates to the list as time goes on, and repeat 1-6.

I guarantee by using this 7-step method, you're destined to dispel the myth that "I never had the right timing" because now you have command of every single mate's situation and you can manipulate it at the tip of your finger. If it doesn't work, e-mail me and I'll buy you a steak dinner.


Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Will 2046 be released in 2046?

It's Cannes season. Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 got a 15-minute standing ovation yesterday, giving a wake-up call to the Bush Administration. I can't wait to see it. What about the quarrel between Quentin Tarantino and Tilda Swinton about Hollywood's star system?

But the spotlight is undoubtedly on Wong Kar Wai (wkw)'s 2046, a film that he spent 4-5 years making it that film lovers jokingly predict that it will be released in year 2046. Not funny. For those who love Wong's work, you may already pick up his BMW short film The Follow and his previous film In The Mood For Love on DVD. I once wrote a mood piece on the latter film focusing on the concept of "romantic constraints," something I romanticize but no longer find pragmatic.

With 2046, the cast is to die for, besides Wong's regulars Tony Leung (see pic above, tremendously resembling Tom Hanks in Ladykillers), Maggie Cheung, Carina Lau, Chang Chen, Faye Wong, there are also first-timers including Kimura Takuya, Zhang Ziyi, & Gong Li. No one knows what the film is about; all I know is that it's a futuristic sci-fi film with characters we are familiar with from old wkw films. But we can expect 2046 will be mysterious, stylish, moody, and grand. You'll never know what you're gonna get, even after seeing it. That's the magic of wkw films.

2046 will premier in Cannes in two days. Let's see if it'll win Golden Palm.


Monday, May 17, 2004

Heart of gold

I never thought I'd use the title of a Neil Young song to begin my blog...well, life is unpredictable, isn't it?

My weekend was filled with sounds of cicadas, a little bit of blues, club owners' hostility, a meaningful fundraiser event, encouraging words from friends far, far away, and my brother's company. It was lovely to see two furry cats running around and about eighteen people smiling at me. Ryfie's still in pain. I told her Adam had a heart of gold and he meant well and wanted everybody to be happy.

Gavin e-mailed me from Holland and said he misses DC and wanted to call me and talk to everyone simultaneously. Karen and Richard from England came to see my gig during their extremely short stay in DC. Greg wrote something in the Comment section on Friday that lifted me up. Thanks to those who have either padded me on the shoulder or sent me comforting words or offered condolences to Adam's family.

You know who your real friends are at hard times, because most people don't give a shit.


Saturday, May 15, 2004

A dose of happiness

My great friend KLEE sent me this great gift today. It couldn't have come at a better time. It's a video clip of Clarence Turner Blues Band's appearance on Arlington Public Access TV back in Novmeber 2003. I promised some of you to post this sooner. Here it is. It's got "Big Boss Man," "Cold Feeling," and a swing number. I loved this performance because it was one of the most accurate shows I've played with Clarence without any jamming tendencies. We played the blues very seriously. Sorry the clip may not be perfectly in sync, but this is the best we can do at this time. It is about 24 minutes long and it may take awhile to download, but it's worth it.

The lineup is as follows: Clarence Turner (vocals, guitar), Henry Chung (harmonica), Gene Meros (sax), Kim Graves (bass), Sean Graves (drums). I don't know if we can get this same tight and fantastic group back again, but I am hopeful.

This is a dose of happiness in midst of a sad week.


Thursday, May 13, 2004

You and the night and the music

The gathering at Grand Slam in memorial of Adam went real well last night . Frankly, I don't think it could've gone any better. Special thanks to John for setting it up. It was a time for mourning and sadness, but everyone was so composed and positive that it made the atmosphere less solemn than expected. There was also some humor involved when everyone was telling their Adam stories. I think that's the way Adam would've wanted it. I also learned a few revealing facts about the accident and details of the funeral. I was so proud of everyone who was there.

After Grand Slam, Greg, my brother and I went to U-Topia to check out Pam and Chuck's Wednesday night duo show (after my one-and-a-half-year absence). There was nothing more appropriate than listening to Pam bopping like Charlie Parker on "Confirmation," rocking out on her congas, and playing the acoustic guitar, all at the same time while Chuck Underwood churned out some incredible guitar solos even on U2 songs. They went from jazz to pop to folk. They admittedly skipped their Radiohead cover. This is stuff you wish you heard in a collegetown coffee shop but never did. This is music that reminds you of pain but heals your wounds. Music lovers take note: Every Wednesday night at U-topia, 9:30 pm.

I just wrote a song called "Blues For Adam." It will be published on the lyrics page soon. Probably tonight after 6 pm.

Another piece of good news: Remember Moses Munene was still looking for furniture for his new apartment? Well, Clarence just called me and said he and his wife purchased a home and it had some furnishings Moses could probably use, such as an overhead microwave, mattresses, tables and chairs. I feel like I'm the charity king these days (but really I'm not).

Two more happy items: Mike Feldman from Band of Blue is featured and quoted in On Tap Magazine. And as to yours truly Sonny Boy, I have been inducted to Harmonica Links' Hall of Fame alongside giants like James Cotton, Phil Wiggins, Charlie Musselwhite, Carey Bell, Jerry Portnoy, Rod Piazza, etc. What an honor!

P.S. Adam's parents would appreciate hearing from you about your memories of their beloved son. Please send your Adam stories to


Wednesday, May 12, 2004

The Blues

The blues is a dying genre of American music. But I can guarantee you this: No matter where you go in this world, you can always find somewhere, someone is playing the blues. And the same thing can't be said about reggae or country or pop.

B.B. King once said, "Blues is not about sadness or depression. It's just a form of music we call the blues." Buddy Guy quips, "A lot of people tell me, Blues, they make you cry. I say, then you better not come see me, because I will make you the happiest person you ever seen!" Lou Donaldson says, "Not many people can play the blues. You can practice all you want, but you gotta eat the right food." Son House comments, "The blues is about the conflict between a man and a woman." Bill Heid says, "Anyone can play the 1-4-5, but not everyone can play the 1-4-5."

For years I've been re-formulating my own definition of the blues. Today I realized there's no need. The blues hit home hard this week: failing the bar and losing a dear friend and hearing my beloved ones cry but can't do anything about it.

The blues called me when I was 15. Today I'm living it. Maybe that's why Eric Clapton understood the blues immediately after he lost his son. The blues is not a concrete concept. It's a spontaneous feeling. It's about coitus, love, hate, acceptance, forgiveness, infatuation, the first thing that comes to your mind. Everyone's version of the blues is different. The blues is a unique experience that one's gotta live it to feel it. I once wrote a song with the following lyrics:

The blues is just the beginning
The beginning of the end
The blues is my only lover
The blues is my only friend

They still ring true to this day.


Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Ain't no sunshine when he's gone

Guys, I'm feeling better. Thanks for the words of encouragement and kindness from all of you, especially my parents, co-workers, church friends, and close friends (you know who you are). But really, the ones who need the most support and comfort are Adam's family and Ryfie. I just spoke to Ryfie about an hour ago, and she was still crying, and it breaks my heart to know that she's in such pain. Makes me think of a Bible passage: "Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep." -Romans 12:15. I'm doing the latter.

Sorry to Jeff I couldn't make it to Blues Alley last night. Aside from the fact that I wasn't in the mood (after all that's happened), I was still in Baltimore when my brother was packing. Seemed like it was a show where they "hanged the sheep's head but sold the dog's meat."

To my sheer delight, Jeff's writing about music again. I rejoice when he shares his Hammond B-3 knowledge, players who deserve wider recognition, and details of certain shows. And the reprise of the 3 Oakland jam songs is a nice reminder, as I still have fantasies about that Scandinavian jazz diva.

I'm going to Jamaica for 7 days starting May 26. It's a much needed vacation, and I need a break from all this craziness and disarray.


Sunday, May 09, 2004

I'm pulling through...

Happy Mother's Day.

The last 48 hours have been a life-changing experience for me. From Friday night at Europa to Saturday's Laurel Main Street Fest to Shirley Horn's breathtaking Library of Congress performance, this weekend was nothing but emotional. Then this morning, the most shocking of all - one of my best friends, Adam, passed away.

I've been debating whether I should post this, but my feelings need to be known. I'm in no position to say I've learned something valuable from this - because I'm just living through it. What hit me hardest is the close proximity of all this - how closely it has affected me. Shock is an understatement. I regret I had not been a better friend as I should have. Ever since Adam moved to Jersey, I had been MIA. We also had a couple of falling out's, and made up afterwards. It makes me feel guilty to have had such feelings toward him, and for what? As Shirley Horn said at the end of her concert after acknowledging having her drummer Steve Williams in her trio for the last 25 years, "I feel like crying." That is precisely what I feel now, and I will remain shocked in the weeks to come.

I dedicate the following poem to my old friend:

Hello old friend
How are you?
I'm pulling through but my pain is trivial compared to your loved ones'
Today is a very sad day
Sad not only because you had left us
but because I haven't justified my guilt and foolish pride toward you
Sorry we had drifted apart
And I regret that I never tried hard to sustain our friendship
and that I had treated you unfairly
I never meant any harm or ill feelings
Please accept my apology

Hello old friend
How are you?
I'm relieved that the last time I saw you
We had a good talk, a talk we hadn't had for a long time
It was very pleasant
and I hope that snapshot will last forever

Hello old friend
How are you?
It's raining in my heart
I know you have not left us
You just went on a long vacation to a place far, far away
In there you enjoy true freedom and space, something you had always desired
I hope someday we'll meet again, talk about old times
and continue our conversations about punk rock and salsa
and pretend no one is paying attention to the absurd topics
You once said David Grohl was the best drummer ever and I said Max Roach
Let's have those ridiculous arguments again

Hello old friend
How are you?
I'm pulling through...
and I hope that the next time I greet you
I'll say "I'm doing fine, and you"


Friday, May 07, 2004

Best thing since William Hung

If you think William Hung is this year's ultimate phenom, think again. Wing could beat him in a heartbeat. Wing is a 60 year-old Chinese lady who now lives in New Zealand. She has been a hit way before William and she has now 7 albums to her credit.

The best thing is she says "I have worked hard and I hope you have all found I am improving." This beats William Hung's "I gave my best" speech.

Listen to Wing here. I guarantee you'll have a mighty good time after listening to her. Recommended tracks: "Endless Love," "Dream Lover," "Memory," "Don't Cry For Me Argentina."

If you like her CDs, buy them.

This is a treat! I have not had such a good laugh since who knows how long. If you Mom has access to internet, send it to her, for it'll make the best Mother's Day present.

Henry Chung Dot Net is solely responsible if Wing ever becomes a hit in the United States. I will take full credit for her success.


Apology not accepted

What's worse? Clinton's cigar or the broomstick in question?

OK, an apology will not suffice to remedy the wrongs that the American military has done to the Iraqi prisoners, but a resignation will. The photos are breathtakingly upsetting (give me goosebumps so I will not post them), and the tools they used were horrific. Check out the list: threatening detainees with a pistol and with military dogs, sodomizing a prisoner with a chemical light and perhaps a broomstick, forcing naked prisoners into compromising positions and accusing them of being homosexual.

What's next? Baseball bats and kiwis?

It's funny Rumsfeld said, "To those Iraqis who were mistreated by members of the armed forces, I offer my deepest apology. It was inconsistent with the values of our nation." In reality, it is Rummy who is inconsistent with the nation's values - He's the typical example of what's un-American. Wolfowitz and Bush come closely behind.

The New York Times published a great editorial today urging Rumsfeld to go. For the well-being of American people and world peace, Rummy, please step down.


How sweet the sound

Today, I received an encouraging e-mail from Laurie Coburn:

To: Friends of Moses Munene

Good news! Another milestone for Moses!

We think we have found a suitable two-bedroom apartment for Moses and his friend Shuumi to share at a very reasonable price. It's located in a decent but low-icome area in NE Washington near Hechinger Mall at Benning Road, where there are a Shop-Rite and a CVS and good public transportation. The owners are a very kind older couple who are willing to make some minor changes so the apartment will be more accessible. Moses and Shuumi expect to sign a rental agreement tomorrow.

There is one caveat, however. There is no wheelchair ramp for getting into the apartment. The owners have consented to having one put in if we can find someone to do it. So now we are seeking volunteers to make a ramp. I spoke to Maurice about it today, and he promises to spread the word.

There are a few furnishings in the apartment: a loveseat and upholstered chair, a kitchen table, and a few odd chairs. These are adequate but not beautiful. There are plenty of closets. The apartment is very plain and could use some cleaning and decorating. They will need beds, dresser drawers, desks, and rugs, linens and housewares. A microwave would be a great help.

Our next project is to find a way for Moses to bring in some money while he is waiting for the documents that will allow him to hold a regular job. The lawyer says it is legal for him to volunteer in return for a stipend to cover his expenses. He has computer and teaching skills and is open to anything that he is able to do, such as pass out flyers, answer telephone, etc. If you hear of anything, please let us know.

So..... God is Great and God is Good! We are so thankful to Him and to all of you for your prayers, your moral support and your material support.

Peace and Blessings to you all!

Asante sana na Mungu akubariki!

I take this opportunity to thank everyone who participated in the Benefit for Moses concert and those who contributed and cared. Good deed indeed.

I will be performing in a benefit for Elise Martin Crosby scholarship fund on Friday, May 14 with Mary Shaver, Dave Sherman and Hurricane Howie, some of DC's best blues players. For details, please go here. Come and bring your friends.


Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Rainbow connection

Just saw a rainbow the size of a Buick from my boss's window. Behind White Flint Mall. From Lazy Boy to Bloomingdale's. Very symbolically corporate America. Beautiful nonetheless. This was the biggest rainbow I've ever seen. Beats winning the powerball.

Made my day.

Made me think of two songs:
1. "Rainbow Connection" by the Muppets with John Denver, later covered by Willie Nelson
2. "A Kiss at the End of the Rainbow" from A Mighty Mind

Any other rainbow songs you can think of?


Tuesday, May 04, 2004

4 talented, funky white boys

Very happy, for I received a CD today in the snail mail sent by Josh Espinoza (Band of Blue's bass player) capturing the band's fabulous performance at Jammin' Java on April 7, in which I also played harp as a guest. The band has complained that this CD is very rough mix and the bass and drums sounds are in outer space - basically, it needs a remix. I think it's already pretty good as a live recording. I picked the following song "Charlie (Never Return)" to put on the blog as a fans-only sneak preview of the CD.

It's one of the best songs that night, and we got the audience grooving. Shane's got really strong vocals on this song (and so does Michael on the background vocals). Josh's bass solo is pretty damn smoking! I actually like my solo on this cut (I usually hate it but this time it accurately captured what I had on my mind that night - it was close to what I had envisioned in my head). But the star of this song really was Gene Meros, the sax player, who churned out two thunderous solos and earned well-deserved cheers from the audience.

Band of Blue really has great potential. Just listen to the ending you'll know this is a small band with a big sound.


Mean guys

BBC's comedy series The Office is funny, funny, funny. It doesn't mirror my office setting, but it reminds me of my daily dealings with people. This is Curb Your Enthusiasm in Office Space. This also involves mean, nasty, and brilliant British humor on the verge of Simon Cowell, John Cleese and Hugh Grant's sarcasim. It takes a while to sink in (like Curb), but once it does, it's rewarding. A simply brilliant show!

You may recognize one of the actors, Martin Freeman (the porno actor from Love Actually), playing Tim. He's the show's conscience. He sees the office from the audience's POV. A very vulnerable performance.

Check out some of the dialogue:

David: "Look whether or not Anton is indeed a midget, or a dwarf-"
Alex: "No he’s a midget"
David: "What’s the difference?"
Alex: "A dwarf is someone who has disproportionately short arms and legs"
David: "Oh I know the ones"
Alex: "It’s caused by a hormone deficiency"
David: "Yeah… bloody hormones"
Alex: "A midget is still a dwarf but their arms and legs are in proportion"
Gareth: "So... what’s an elf?"

Dawn: "He proposed on a Valentine’s day, although he didn’t do it face to face, he did it in one of the little Valentine message bits in the paper. I think he had to pay for it by the word, because it just said ‘Lee love Dawn, marriage?’ which, you know I like, because it’s not often you get something that’s both romantic and thrifty."

The last British comedy show I liked was Mr. Bean. It's been awhile...


Monday, May 03, 2004

Freaky Monday

I rarely read IMDB's discussion boards, but this one entitled "Am I a pervert if I say that Lindsay Lohan has a nice set of bazookas?" caught my attention.

It has the potential to brighten up your day since it did mine.


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