Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is

November 7, 1970 Chicago releases Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is!

day 214

I’ve talked before about my high school band TIGHT with Kenny Kirkland and Angel Fernandez.  Well, we covered all Chicago’s songs and Kenny Kirkland would teach me all my piano parts and he would write out all the horn parts. He was a genius musician.

Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is has an intricate intro that I was too lazy to play.

Actually, I don’t really like the intro that much.

Actually, I don’t really know the intro. Maybe that’s why I don’t like it.  But I love the song.

We’re having a Nor’easter here in NY. It’s exhausting.

I know what time it is. 8 o’clock. Time to watch TV.

I know what time it is.  Time for popcorn.

I know what time it is. It’s Obama time!



Beautiful Dreamer

July 4, 1826 Happy Birthday to the Father of American Music, Stephen Foster!

red white and blue

Happy 4th of July to everyone.  Loved having my son Casey home for a week. We sang. We ate. We napped. We chatted. We napped. And sadly, we just dropped him off at Newark airport and Claudia’s very tearful. He’s a good dude, my son. Both my sons grew up really good. Thank god for their mother.

Tonight’s the Macy’s fireworks but it’s too hot to go out and watch.  I like to watch fireworks but am always a little freaked out about lighting them myself, what with me being a pianist and the whole blowing up the hands thing and all. I hated watching my kids light them too. Our old dog Emmet, who we inherited from Claudia’s cousin Diane (we miss you, Diane) hated this time of year and would hide in the closet with every boom.

My 1st cousin Johnny is the Firework King and has quite a show going on tonight. He’s in Milford, PA not far from  the Brevis country house. In Pennsylvania fireworks are legal. They sell them in every supermarket.

When I was a kid we had ash cans, cherry bombs, mats of firecrackers, roman candles, bottle rockets and my favorite, sparklers.  I know, I’m a wuss.  One afternoon when I was about twelve years old, me and the Amico boys, Joey and Philip and Chris, were all hanging out, climbing garages and fences a couple blocks away from my house.

We never used sidewalks. We would cut between houses through everyone’s driveways and we loved climbing on top of the garages. So, one day we’re on this garage and Philip Amico has an ash can, the most powerful of the fireworks, and he lobs it into the neighbor’s backyard and it lands on the guy’s hammock and blows the whole thing up. We scatter and run like hell in every direction. I make it home safely, and think, “Phew. All good.”

I sit down to dinner with my family and all of a sudden the doorbell rings. I don’t think anything of it and my mom yells SKIP GET OUT HERE and at the front door is this guy now holding Philip Amico by the collar and Philip’s sobbing cause he got caught and when the guy asked him who did it he blamed me so the guy wouldn’t take him to his mother’s house. Philip I’m still pissed at you for that! Not really!!

Today’s song is Beautiful Dreamer, written by Stephen Foster who is called the Father of American Music and July 4th is his birthday.  How perfect is that?

Whenever I hear Beautiful Dreamer I think of my buddy Kenny Kirkland and his nickname, Utica Dreamer.

At the intersection of Utica Avenue and Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn is a diner that every musician ends up in at 2 in the morning after their gigs, and in high school, after gigs with my band TIGHT (with Angel Fernandez, Kenny Kirkland and Frank Bisignano) we’d end up in this diner, too. But Kenny had a long Utica Avenue bus ride back to his house, so sometime’s he’d pass on the diner.

So, one night we go in to the diner and Kenny goes to the bus stop.  We’re in the diner for over an hour and when we came out Kenny is sound asleep on the bus stop bench –  he probably missed like three or four buses and Frank Bisignano starts singing to him, “UTICA DREAMER DREAM UNTO ME” and that’s how Kenny got that nickname. You sort of had to be there.

But, happy 4th yall!

The Weight

May 26, 1940 Remembering Levon Helm on his birthday.

Maria. She's deaf.

I pulled in to Nazareth

That’s the first line of The Weight.  I know now this is a town in Pennsylvania, but in 1970 I thought this was the theme song for my high school, Nazareth Catholic High School in Brooklyn.

When I pulled into Nazareth for the first time it was like entering a frat house. An all-guys high school with young hip teachers and a couple of stuffy brothers (religious brothers, that is).

I entered the music room downstairs and that’s where I met Kenny Kirkland.  He and Lenny Sinisgalli (arranger, sax player who wrote….some jingle….Schaefer beer?) were playing a blues.  I knew I was in the right place.

There was a room down the hall from the music room called S.A.C. (student activity council).  This is where the magic happened, where all the debauchery was planned.  In my class I had a great gang of real dudes who became very close.  There was Dennis Cheng (he passed away some years back. I wonder if his dad is still alive…) and Mark Boyle (both he and Dennis were best men at my wedding) and Tommy Ryder and Joe Bonacci.  There was Jude Hayes, and Higgy and Neil Spadaro who became a top cop in NYPD and Tim Gallagher who I’ve reconnected with on facebook and Michael Deering, one of the funniest dudes ever, who passed away in 2008. We were a crew to rival Belushi’s on Animal House.

Well, this song, The Weight, was played at every dance in high school, and I’ve listened to it for thirty years and today is the first time I’ve ever sang it.

Happy Birthday Levon.  Rock history.  You were the soundtrack of my life.


Feelin’ Alright

April 27, 1969, Joe Cocker makes his television debut, singing Feelin’ Alright on the Ed Sullivan Show.

can i add a little guitar?

There are a few funky piano licks that defined my groove when I was young.  Joe Cocker’s version of Feelin’ Alright was definitely one of them — although I never really play anybody else’s lick exactly “as is” probably because once I start playing I can’t remember how they go (what with the ADD and all:) .)

Stevie Wonder on Superstition was the master class in funk.  Last year I got to play Superstition with Stevie and Michael McDonald.  Stevie played clav, Michael played the motif, and I played a 7 foot  Steinway grand (pretty freakin cool)!

Another big influence on me in the funk was my old buddy Kenny Kirkland who passed away in 1998.  This brother was the Michael Jordan of piano. He had perfect pitch, a photographic memory, triple jointed hands, and a passion for music that was unsurpassed.

Today, one of favorite funky keyboard players is my buddy Chris Fischer.  My son Dylan and I are his biggest fans.

Feelin’ Alright