Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Blues awards of 2005

Since my brother has created the Nork awards for Cantopop, I'm going to start my blues awards of 2005.

Hall of Fame: Johnnie Johnson, Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, Wilson Pickett, Little Milton

Blues Entertainers of the Year:
1. B.B. King
2. Buddy Guy
3. Koko Taylor
4. Bobby Rush
5. Pinetop Perkins

Blues Bands of the Year:
1. Rod Piazza & The Mighty Flyers
2. The Fabulous Thunderbirds
3. Little Charlie & The Nightcats
4. Bob Margolin's All-Star Blues Jam
5. Clarence Turner Blues Band

Blues Albums of the Year:
1. About Them Shoes - Hubert Sumlin
2. For The Chosen Who - Rod Piazza
3. Bring "Em In - Buddy Guy
4. 80 - B.B. King

Blues Guitarists of the Year:
1. Hubert Sumlin
2. Buddy Guy
3. Alex Schultz
4. Roy Gaines
5. Kirk "Eli" Fletcher

Blues Harmonica Players of the Year:
1. Rod Piazza
2. Kim Wilson
3. Carey Bell
4. James Cotton
5. Rick Estrin

Blues Pianists of the Year:
1. Jay McShann
2. Floyd Dixon
3. David Maxwell
4. Bill Heid
5. Kevin McKendree

Blues Bassists of the Year:
1. Calvin "Fuzz" Jones
2. Bill Stuve
3. Jeff Sarli
4. Mookie Brill
5. Jeff Turmes

Blues Drummers of the Year:
1. Willie "Big Eyes" Smith
2. Jimi Bott
3. Sam Lay
4. Big Joe Maher
5. Richard Innes

Blues Vocalists of the Year:
1. Buddy Guy
2. Johnny Dyer
3. Solomon Burke
4. B.B. King
5. Little Milton


Reactions to Oscar noms...

I know it's cliche and lame for me to comment on this, but I decided to do it anyways.

This is by far the least surprising Oscar nom year. What happens to the old days when David Lynch was nominated Best Director for "Mulholland Drive," Sean Penn and Samantha Morton for "Sweet and Lowdown," Richard Farnsworth for "A Straight Story," and Terrence Malick for "The Thin Red Line"?

Definitely no "straight story" this year.

Anyway, I was hoping Walk The Line would make the Best Pic top 5 and Woody Allen for best director. But then an uninspired Spielberg snubbed those deserved nominations. "Munich" is by far Speilberg's worst film since "Jurassic Park II: The Lost World." Even a notch less inspired then the horrible "War of the Worlds." When is he going to make a good movie again?

I was really pleased to see Amy Adams being nominated for best supporting actress for "Junebug." First, that performance is so sweet and adorable. Many internet posters wonder if girls like that exist in real life. A big question mark for me too. Then I saw her in one episode of NBC's "The Office." Again, her cuteness blew my mind. I then dug up her filmography and found out she played Leonardo DiCaprio's wife in "Catch Me If You Can" and realized that I had long been fascinated by her. She's going to be the next big thing in Hollywood.

Honestly, many films need to be recognized this year and the Oscars didn't do them justice. Here are some of my honorable mentions, in no particular order:

Match Point
The Wedding Crashers
Me and You and Everyone We Know
The Squid & The Whale
Walk The Line

Good night and good luck, everybody.


Monday, January 30, 2006

The blockage of chi and "collective recollection"

Happy Lunar New Year to all.

Just went to see Neil Labute's play Fat Pig last night at the Studio Theatre. It was not a wholly satisfying experience, but that's also the trademark of Neil Labute. It's like going to see a Todd Solondz or Abel Ferrara flick, you know you're going to disturbed. But I've always been a fan of Neil Labute's biting and brutally honest dialogue ever since the film version of "In The Company of Men." My favorite was "Your Friends and Neighbors" starring Jason Patric and Amy Brenneman.

Anyway, the play was pretty good. It nails all the cliche issues of how the society views fat people. But it doesn't give any solutions. Just like the movie "Crash." Maybe there isn't one. Go check it out if you're a huge Labute fan or if you're into brutal verbal abuse.

The weekend also made me think of a phenomenon known as "collective recollection," or simply "collective memory." For people like me born in the late 70's in Hong Kong, our collective memory would be the golden 80's, watching "430 Spaceship" on TVB, or Stephen Chow and Lung Ping Kai in "Black and White Vampire" or EYT, etc. Songs by Alan Tam, Anita Mui, Leslie Cheung, and George Lam bring back memories of our childhood. That's what movies like "McDull: The Alumni" aim to do. How cool is that to go into a theatre and reminisce all times with people who grew up roughly in the same era as you?

You can't go back in time. However, you can find bits and pieces of your memory from photos, songs, film, and memorabilia from that era, like baseball cards, Panini cards, (thank god for) DVDs, old comic books, etc. That's why art is so important. Art is timeless and expresses timeless matters.

I think people connect more in coffee shops than nightclubs because you can hear them much better in the former and you're less likely to say "What? What?"

Van Morrison always talks of "The Healing Game." I believe that's genius! We need healing all the time because our chi is blocked. The most effective healing of all is the human touch. I'm still pensive but the healing has begun.


Tuesday, January 24, 2006

What is hip?

Along the lines of the Tower of Power song, here's a random list of what is hip.

Can't wait to see the new McDull film that is half cartoon and half real people. May break some new ground. The first McDull film was a nostalgic look at old Hong Kong with a poignant ending. The second one was even sadder and more philosophical. This one aims to please with a stellar cast (of a who's who of Hong Kong actors) during the Lunar New Year. Watch the trailer here.

Ang Lee and "Brokeback."

Hacken Lee's wedding.

Cecilia Cheung and "The Shopaholics."

Erroll Garner may be the most romantic jazz pianist ever.

Art Tatum's music is the language of God.

The greatest filmmakers in the world have a way of romanticizing the past or the present: Wong Kar Wai's "2046," Peter Chan's "Perhaps Love," Woody Allen's "Match Point," Ang Lee's "Brokeback Mountain," Truffaut's "Jules and Jim," and Claude Sautet's "Un Coeur en Hiver."

Most romantic song of the week: John Coltrane's "It's Easy to Remember."


Thursday, January 19, 2006

The wicked Pickett dies

I'll telling ya, they're leaving us one by one. Now it makes me more sentimental when we play the song "Mustang Sally." I'm not usually crazy about that song. Because no one did it the way Wilson did it and no one can do it better since.


Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The Aftermath of the Golden Globes

It's that time of the year to indulge myself in one of my disingenuous posts. The Golden Globes. I watched it last night and came to the following conclusions:

Mary-Louise Parker looked absolutely exquisite.

Back to the speeches. Steve Carell, Geena Davis, and Hugh Laurie gave the best speeches, with superb comic timing. Sandra Oh's acceptance speech was heartfelt but rushed and confused. She acted like a maniac. Reese Witherspoon's speech was as well-paced and elegant as she looked last night. She was radiant. Was Joaquin Phoenix on crack when he was on stage?

All in all, the TV people gave much better speeches than the Hollywood people.

Onto the dresses, or overall looks. Kate Beckinsale was a 10. Also I was charmed by Charlize Theron, Natalie Portman, Keira Knightley, Jessica Alba, Michelle Williams, Reese. Oh, and didn't I mention Mary-Louise Parker, who also said she'd like to make out with every one of her cast members. Now I'm really curious about "Weeds."

Faux pas for Scarlett Johansson. Anne Hathaway was elegant but she looked too pale. Heath Ledger's earrings have got to go. Sorry I digress. Back to the girls. The "Desperate Housewives" looked too desperate to please and ended up having a fashion disaster. The ultimate disaster of the evening was Mariah Carey though. Oh my god. She looked horrible in that dress.

Zhang Ziyi was very appropriate in her dress too. And Russell Crowe surprisingly behaved. I couldn't understand one word coming out of Penelope Cruz's mouth.

Awardwise, "Brokeback" is going to carry over to Oscar's time. P.S. Hoffman seems unstoppable too. Ang Lee's gracious speech may help him finally win an Oscar. Thanks for wishing us happy new year in Chinese too. Witherspoon looks like a "shoo-in" for actress. I still hope Giamatti picks up some steam for the biggie. We'll talk more come awards time.

And I hope I don't see Mariah Carey in that dreadful dress again.


Saturday, January 14, 2006

Ave Maria

My brother Roger's December 2005 version. Imagine Ronald Cheng singing Bach. Click here to listen.


Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Two of the greatest filmmakers alive!


Monday, January 09, 2006

More gig photos. With Bob Margolin, Mookie Brill, Mark Stutso at Sweet Caroline's.

And more Cabin Fever photos.



My friend KLEE has posted a few "meat and potatoes" entries on his blog. My posts, on the contrary, have been nothing but lame lately. No concrete details about my daily life, just constantly general posts about this and that. There's no passion in it. Granted, I haven't felt jazzy or groovy lately. I've just been back in that late autumn mode, the Van Morrison state of mind. Perhaps even back to Square One.

I thought my Christmas break in NYC would be an important one, but it turned out to be just one of those typical long weekends. Perhaps I need new inspirations. I try to find some in books and movies. Lately I've been re-reading a book that I love, entitled "Music's Spring and Autumn" (in its direct Chinese translation). Bit by bit, I've gradually retained that refineness I once had. Perhaps that refineness serves as my motivation to move onto better things and my guiding light.

I had a weird dream last night about being back in my high school and middle school classrooms, being with the classmates I once studied with. It's a strange feeling. It gave me both pressure and unspoken joy. Pressure, because I don't want to sit in another classroom taking another test again (but it just seems like I've been taking tests all my life). Joy, because I truly enjoyed my classroom days. I was the strongest and most confident then. Because I knew what I was doing and saying. I was a King in the classroom.

I don't know where this post is going, frankly. This is not to reaffirm I'm a nostalgic person. I am. But it goes deeper than that. Perhaps my relationship with life is that of Chopin and George Sand. Just trying to find what's missing in each other's soul. This is to begin 2006 on a good note. The dream was a wake-up call to me. I need to regain that refineness and confidence that I once had, with a spice of nostalgia. And with a little bit of luck, my soul's loopholes will once again be mended.

Impromptu is sometimes a cool breeze when one's searching for solutions.


Friday, January 06, 2006

I'm stranded!

No New Year's resolutions. Just trying to be a better human.

Gig last night was fantastic. Haven't really played an official gig since mid-December and I was back. The first set was just warm up. Clarence, Bill, Spencer, Jack and I put on a tremendous second set and moved the audience including Jonathan after a four-hour drive from Jersey. The audience was slim, but a quality one. Clapping at the right place.

Tonight is the shit. Come to Cherry Hill Park!

Anyway, not much going on elsewhere. I'm trying to catch "Match Point" and "Munich" this weekend. Read a book. Apply for jobs. The whole ten yards.

Here we go again.


Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Some cool pics from State Theatre

As promised. Look at how chilled Pinetop is.


Monday, January 02, 2006

Time to be grateful

The last two days of 2005 turned out to be two greatest days of my 2005. In addition to sitting in Bob Margolin, another unexpected thing happened on New Year's Eve. First, a little background.

I was bummed we didn't get any New Year's Eve (NYE) gig this year. A bit disheartened and not wanting to spend any money, I was planning to either stay home or hit a movie, because all my friends had made plans and I was waiting until the last minute because I was optimistic that a last minute gig would come through. I was wrong. My friend Dave persuaded me many times to come to Rams Head to see Deanna Bogart because he and Becky and their friends from PA had already purchased tickets. He even e-mailed me on Dec 30, saying, "There's no other place to be on NYE other than Rams Head." So I called up the venue and they told me the tickets were sold out. Dave said, "Don't worry! Come anyway. I'm sure Deanna can get you in."

So on NYE, I arrived in Annapolis at around 8:45 p.m. All the streets were closed and packed with people. I was lucky to get a parking spot. Got out of the car, and walked into Rams Head. I was standing outside, and thankfully, Deanna was standing in the buffet line right in front of Dave and Becky. Dave told Deanna I was here. Deanna came out with a plate of food, greeted me a warm welcome and told the staff, "He's with me." This means, not only did I not have to pay for the event (which I would gladly do), but I also could get to sample the buffet food (which turned out to be excellent). The only (dis)advantage was, I had to sit right next to the sound guy, because the place was jam-packed and there was literally not one open seat. The drawback turned out to be an advantage because it was the best seat in the house in terms of viewing and volume. And I could learn a few things from the sound guy. I felt like I was a distinguished guest because the food, the desserts and water kept coming.

Anyway, Deanna put on a great show. I had seen Deanna with other people and listened to her CDs (and sat in with her twice), but this was the first time I saw dbb live. Their performance was a highly energized once and I was especially impressed with bassist Eric Scott and drummer Mike Aubin because they were doing some very cool stuff together and they were completely locked in. Eric had an awesome "singing" bass solo at one point. Deanna got an A+ in stage presence. She catered to the listening and dancing audience equally well, and she balanced amazingly with her singing, standing up from her seat while playing keyboards, and playing saxophone. Her music was blues-oriented but not straight-ahead blues. She did many of her originals.

The magic moment came during the end of the first set when Deanna asked while playing a bluesy intro, "Henry, do you have a harp in G? Come on up here." I was stunned. I did not expect she would call me up (since I just arrived impromptu and did not expect to sit in). Well, I felt like I was a rock star and proceeded smoothly to the stage when Becky handed in my harp case (while the blues intro was still being played like an anthem welcoming me up there). That was when I felt like, as the title of a Howlin' Wolf song suggests, "Sitting on the top of the world."

My solo was an inspired one, as the band backed me very well. Everybody seemed to have fun while I was up there. The audience went wild. More people danced. Even more people stopped dancing and listened. After the first song, I was ready to get off the stage, but Deanna and Eric insisted that I stay, "Where are you doing?" I stayed for 2 more songs, and that ended the 1 hour and 45 minute powerhouse first set.

I was glad I was a part of that powerhouse set. Moreover, I always had dreamt to play at Rams Head. It was indeed a dream come true for me to play at Rams Head with one of my most respected and favorite musicians Deanna Bogart. And it happened on NYE. What more can I ask for? I thank Dave for inviting me out that night. It made my 2005 and I look forward to 2006.

Randall Koenig, Deanna's tour manager, sent me these photos a couple of minutes ago. I'd like to thank Randall for taking these pictures and share them with you.

Check out Deanna in the background on keyboards.

Kajun Kelly on guitar and Mike Aubin on drums

Eric Scott on bass

P.S. I've just received news that DC jazz drummer Mike Smith passed away today. It's indeed very sad. Mike's one of the best drummers I've heard in this area. I might've played with him a couple of times. Pam Bricker called Mike Smith, "One of the best musicians on any given instrument." Rest in peace, Mike.

P.S.S. On a happier note, Larry David wrote this fabulous piece telling us why he won't see "Brokeback Mountain" and it had nothing to do with homophobia.


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