Jeff Beck at his Best: Emotion and Commotion


For those following the tweets: this rabbit hole opened with a look for #JeffBeck's latest work. Found! Full Grammy Award winning album streaming:  #MusicMonday  (As you may have noticed, the great guitarist was really the common thread that linked up my tangential web surfing and tweet streaming today.) What a gorgeous piece of work!  Emotion & Commotion, his first studio album in seven years, finds him backed by a 64-piece orchestra on some of the tracks, including arrangements of Gustav Mahler's "Symphony No. 5"  and an emotive piece from the film score of Atonement.  Be sure to check out his exquisite note bending renditions of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" and Jeff Buckley's "Corpus Christi Carol."  Some of his very best work, and there's no sign of any loss of energy or technique in his playing. In my mind, he is still one of the greatest living electric guitarists around - and light years ahead of most of us.


Jeff Beck and Brian Wilson on a Jazz/Blues Classic


Back to the roots with #JeffBeck and #BrianWilson. The tune is by Mingus, dedicated to fellow jazz luminary Lester Young.  At 71, Beck shows he's still one of rock's greatest with a wailing blues @ around 1:40.  He has always been one of my favorite guitarists, as expressive as any of the masters, with jaw dropping chops displayed amidst tasteful subtlety and restraint. Never hesitant about exploring any of the musical genres he loves, from rockabilly to jazzrock and neoclassical, his recordings and performance have covered and honored artists ranging from the Beatles and Stevie Wonder to Charles Mingus and Thelonious Monk. 


Beatlemania Masquerade - Just 2 Days Away

Calling all Beatles fans here in Puerto Viejo! Okay, amigos, "Don't Let Me Down."  I know you're busy, but, if you haven't already decided on one, please take a moment to consider a character to recreate for the upcoming Beatlemania in Transylvania Pre-Halloween Masquerade Ball, coming up this Wednesday, October 30. My live show that night will present a whole evening of Beatles songs, spanning the band's career (including a number of their most sing-alongable) for your listening, dancing and fond memory reminiscing pleasure.  
But that's only half the fun. Dressing up as any of the Beatles or as any of the many characters appearing in their songs and their movies will qualify you to compete for the prizes to be awarded that evening. Still, as promised, I have some suggestions for you. How about the Paperback Writer or Mother Nature's Son? You could be the reeeeal Nowhere Man or maybe Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.  You'd be guaranteed to raise a smile as Sergeant Pepper or the Sun King. A couple might want to dress up as Desmond and Martha from "Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da" or "Get Back"'s Jojo and Loretta, and "Come Together." And speaking of which, there is always Old Flat Top, with his "juju eyeballs" and "hair down below his knees." You could also consider disguising yourself as Julia (John's mom,) or "let it be" Mother Mary herself.  Doctor Robert is always available ("Ring, my friend - I said you'd call.")  Bungalow Bill might be a good choice, or perhaps dear Prudence or Polythene Pam.
If you're a dog lover, you could get creative and arrive dressed as Martha, my dear, (Paul's beloved English sheepdog) or (Hey) Bulldog.  If you're looking to honor the holiday's frightful tradition with something a bit scarier, maybe Maxwell Edison (majoring in medicine) - deadly silver hammer and all - will fit the bill. Mean Mr. Mustard is another less than friendly possibility. And, while he may be a gardener, the Octopus could create quite a stir, too. But otherwise, let's not forget that long-suffering but nameless heroine, She, whether the poor lass is "leaving home (Bye, bye)" or coming "in through the bathroom window." Last, but not least on my song characters list is "the one and only Billy Shears!"
If none of those suggestions have sparked your imagination, maybe you'll find your inspiration in a fab four film. Why not dress up as the great Swami Clang from the "Help" movie or Paul's grandfather from "A Hard Day's Night"? Or Pepperland's elderly Lord Mayor or Old Fred the sailor from "Yellow Submarine"? The "Magical Mystery Tour" offers even more choices, like Ringo's Aunt Jessie and the magical mystery tour director, Jolly Jimmy Johnson. Then there's the tour hostess, Miss Wendy Winters, and the conductor, Buster Bloodvessel. So many choices, so little time!
The show starts at 7:00, with slow season budget-friendly Beatlemania bocas at the bar and heartier traditional English pub dinner specials on the menu all evening. The Cocles kids "will dance and sing as Mr. Kite flies through the ring - so don't be late!"

Beatlemania in Transylvania - a Mop-topped Halloween Eve


It was October 31,  1963 - fifty years ago.  It was Halloween, I was in the seventh grade, and the Beatles were yet to come into my world.  But the seeds of the so called British Invasion were planted that day when Ed Sullivan, the iconic Sunday night American television variety show host, had his arrival delayed at London Heathrow Airport by a crowd of screaming teenagers welcoming the Beatles home from their tour of Sweden.  Always on the lookout for a new attraction, Sullivan wondered about the possibility of booking the band for an appearance on his show. A few weeks later he'd be meeting with their manager, Brian Epstein,  and booking the Beatles for an unprecedented three consecutive editions of his weekly show the following February. 73 million viewers would be watching the first of those performances - which, according to the Nielsen ratings, was "the largest audience that had ever been recorded for an American television program." Those shows would be my introduction to John, Paul, George, and Ringo, and I would never be the same again.  So, in commemoration of Ed's big idea, we'll be combining a celebration of this little known day in Beatles history next week along with a bit of the more traditional Halloween fun at our first ever Beatlemania Masquerade Ball show on Wednesday, October 30 at La Costa de Papito from 7 to 10 p.m.  Yes, it 's a day early, because the kids wouldn't hear of giving up their trick or treat time on the 31st. This way, you get 2 nights to haunt the neighborhood.


Michael "Mac" McKearn's New Band, Salvador Idaho


#MusicMonday: Back in the late 80's I had the good fortune to play in a Midwest-based power pop band called somomojo, led by singer songwriter and frontman extraordinaire Michael "Mac" McKearn.  Since leaving Madison in 1990,  I've continued to follow his work over the years and have never been disappointed - other than my regret about not being able to catch him  live again.  I've shared the stage with a lot of great performers, but Mac's electrifying performances and charismatic stage presence set a new standard for me that has never been rivalled all these years. This has a lot to do with how deeply he connects with the audience in a live show, pulling them in and taking them along on a roller coaster ride through uncharted territory that doesn't let up before the last strains of the night's closing number. And then there is his magnificent voice, combining the tone and delivery of Peter Gabriel with the rootsy grit and blue-eyed soul of Don Henley and David Baerwald.

That's why I'm always excited to hear about a new project Mac has undertaken, like his new band, Salvador Idaho. This group features some of the best of McKearn's collaborators and is playing all original material - two reasons to be doubly enthused about catching them live and scooping up any recordings they produce in the days to come.  Though he's worked with a number of co-writers over the years, Mac long ago achieved what many artists aspire to for their entire careers - his own distinctive sound. I'm not talking about a stylistic thing, though - McKearn can flip genres faster than a short order cook turning hotcakes and tastefully combine them with the flair of a gourmet chef.  But whether there's rural twang or urban funk behind that voice, once you've come to know know it, you'll always recognise it.  
And then there are his lyrics - Mac's songs take us into scenes straight out of cutting-edge indie films, full of raw emotion and biting wit. They find their perfect context in the new band's sound, highly cinematic itself, but with enough raw energy and instrumental prowess to stand up with the very best contemporary pop rock. But don't just take my word for it - experience it yourself in their live demos, streaming at  And, for those of you lucky enough to be in the Madison/Janesville/Chicago area, get out and catch them performing this stuff live whenever you can!
For the rest of us, we'll have to settle for those preview tracks and whatever else they release on the web until their album comes out. But meanwhile, if you're like me and just can't get enough from that taste, follow the links posted on the Salvador Idaho site to the myspace pages for a few of Mac's previous projects, and you'll probably get lost in the  library of this guy's work as you wonder why he's not an international star or at least an artist you'd read and heard about long before.  And be looking forward to that first album!

The Return of Jim y Carter


Back at Chili Rojo in Puerto Viejo tonight with percussionist Carter V. The show starts at 8:30 p.m.


What makes a birthday worth celebrating?


With the arrival of yet another 8/21, I find myself reflecting on what makes that worth commemorating with a party or a celebratory concert like I’m giving for my Puerto V friends tonight. These thoughts were triggered by a breakfast table dictionary exploration of the origins of a Spanish phrase (a new habit of mine that I’m trying to encourage because it help with vocabulary building.) This time I was dissecting the traditional birthday greeting in Español, “Feliz Cumpleaños.”  Instead of simply celebrating the day of a person’s birth, like the version most of us northern-bred folk grew up with, these words honor the completion (cumplido) of their accumulated years.  


Hmm . . . this certainly gives the day special relevance in the case of a young child (like my granddaughter, who just turned 2 a couple weeks ago) or an older kid who has reached an age that’s traditionally honored for particular significance (like “sweet sixteen” in el norte or “quinceañera” around here.)  But I’m thinking it also might give the day greater meaning to those of us who’ve already dipped into the second half of our personal centuries on the planet. And I don’t just mean, “Way to go, bro’ - made it though another one!” but also a moment of appreciation for the accumulated experiences and accomplishments, loves and losses, and moments of joy and realization that make our lives worth remembering.  


For me, this brings to mind songwriter Michael MacDonald’s line, 

“Let me just go down as saying that I’m glad to be here. 

Here with all the same pain and laughs everybody knows.”

And then, my own: 

If I never did what I did,

I might never be able to do what I do.

And I wouldn’t know what I know

if I hadn’t been through what I’ve been through.


Overall, my life is good, and I’m grateful that it includes so many great people to share it with. Here’s wishing the best to you all!


Summer Shows


Opened my summer season last weekend at #Le Cameleon Hotel's Numu Restaurant & Lounge, and I'll return for another another Saturday night of music there tomorrow. My weekly Tuesday shows have also resumed at #La Costa de Papito. Got some cool new covers in the set, along with more loop jam surprises. I've suspended the Sunday brunch shows this month to get some more studio time in because I really want to get these recordings done and out there to you. Stay tuned for updates and new live show video soon!


La Playa Beckons


Strolled down to Chiquita Beach today after breakfast for a late morning swim before another afternoon of rehearsing for the upcoming summer live performance season. All alone in the warm and clear turquoise water under a sunny, cirrus-frosted, bright blue sky,  I felt mighty grateful to have such an incredible experience all to myself for the second time in the last week - the only soul in sight on that beautiful reef-lined shoreline - and to be living here in this amazing place.  Headed home filled with new inspiration and enjoyed a very productive afternoon polishing up new material and revised arrangements for my Big Mix shows, which will be resuming in the next couple weeks. See you out there soon, Costa Rica friends!


Downtown . . . where all the lights are bright


I'll be back in downtown Puerto Viejo tonight playing at the new Monli Restaurant (just south of TexMex & Parquecito corners in the space that used to house the old Cafe Ivon.)  Zenaida and Pacal have created an attractive and cozy little upstairs space overlooking the sea - the perfect place to enjoy Zenaida's culinary skills, developed over her many years of experience in restaurant kitchens throughout the area, sip the beverage of your choice, and share an evening with my little Big Mix. Hope to see you there, PV friends!