Album progress 

Hey there friends, just wanted to let you know about the progress on the album. Almost all of the instrumental and vocal overdubs are finished. Sara Caswell came in and laid down some stunning violin work. The folks over at Q Division in Somerville have been helping out with tracking vocals. Mark and I have been picking takes and doing some editing at Thornewood Studios. I think one more tracking session should do it!

Of course, then we have mixing to do. And then we get to the part that requires skills other than musical skills - promotion and marketing.

And now for the horn section 

I don't know how we got so lucky, but we did trumpet and saxophone tracking this week with Jason Palmer and Walter Smith III. Normally when you bring in new musicians to a session you have to explain the vibe/mood/approach to everything. Not with these two. They heard the basics and got golden takes right away. Should have taken 6 hours; finished in 3. I can't wait until you hear this stuff.

Lap steel tracking 

Kevin Barry is the master. I went to his house and recorded overdubs on my upcoming record. He played lap steel mostly, but at one point I said, "you know, I'm imagining sort of a baritone guitar sound here," and he jumped up and said, "let me go get mine! I never get to use that thing!" So beautiful. He plays lap steel like a theramin, moving his fingers and hands around in mysterious shapes that result in mind-bogglingly gorgeous sounds. His intonation is so so so SO excellent.

W.A. Mathieu lessons 

Thanks to a Berklee faculty travel grant, went to Sebastapol California to study with W.A. Mathieu. His concept of harmonic experience is changing my musical life, helping this jazzer see beyond 2-5-1's. What a dude this guy is. Absolute wealth of knowledge and WISDOM.

Tracking..... 

Starting work on a new album! This is going to be the best one yet, with unique versions of standards, some original songs. It will blend straight ahead jazz, early 1970s NYC grit, and wide open country spaces.

Piano: Mark Shilansky

Guitars: Kevin Barry

Basses: Marty Ballou

Drums: Austin McMahon

Pedal steel guitar 

I can't hear pedal steel guitar without thinking of getting my hair cut with my dad.

In the 1970s, I was growing up in Kearney, Nebraska. My dad and I would hop in his car, a sporty 2-door Chevy Monza, and put on the AM radio. Some catchy song like "Tie A Yellow Ribbon" would be on. At Galen's Barber Shop, he always had the country station playing. This wasn't the polished country-pop music of the 1990s. It was slower and sadder.

When we arrived, dad would get his hair cut first. Galen was a massive man with a gentle voice. My dad, a physician, knew Galen and, it seemed, everyone else in our plains metropolis of 20,000 because they were his patients. People came to him with their health problems and he went to them for his car repairs and hardware and insurance. Not groceries: almost all the places to buy food in town were by now big supermarkets, though there was a standalone butcher shop for steaks, because you couldn't get Nebraska beef at Hinky Dinky. Dad knew everyone by name. "You might as well go visit the people in their place if they come visit you in yours," he said.

When dad's haircut was finished Galen fired up his massage machine, a vibrating motor with two handles attached to a rectangular red leather pad, and rubbed down his shoulders for a few minutes. Then it was my turn.

The first time I ever went to the barber shop I was scared of the big barber and I cried. But now as a big boy I felt bad that I had judged Galen like that and hoped I hadn't hurt his feelings. I sat in his chair as he got out his scissors. Each time I came in now, he adjusted the chair and remarked how tall I was getting. I leaned back; relaxed. Conversation stalled and the music on the radio pushed through to fill the room. The ghostly keen of a pedal steel guitar penetrated me with its mysterious sorrows. I didn't even know what the instrument looked like, so the cutting electric warble was pure disembodied emotion. This wasn't for music for singing along with, this was music to make you sad. Why would you want music like that?

I knew that people sometimes just needed to see my dad for a rash, but sometimes it might be something more serious like diabetes or arteriosclerosis. Sometimes he just needed a haircut, but sometimes he needed to replace the washing machine or get the roof fixed. And surely there were even more serious things still, things I knew nothing about, things that made you feel like they feel in the country songs.

Sitting in the barber shop I knew that some day Galen would adjust the seat all the way down and my shoulders would be big enough for the massage machine. Some day I would know people's names, people who weren't my family or close friends, and I would depend on these people and they would depend on me.

And some day I would understand the big feelings that I heard in that pedal steel guitar.

New NEFA status for VVQ 

Fee support for Vintage Vocal Quartet may be available to nonprofit organizations through the New England States Touring (NEST) program of the New England Foundation for the Arts. Visit www.nefa.org for more information.

Find our artist profile on CreativeGround.

Since VVQ is eligible of the NEST grant program, this means that nonprofit organizations from a New England state other than Massachusetts can apply for grant funding that may cover up to 50% of the artist fee for public performances and related community activities.