Jump to content

Mark Blackburn

  • Posts

  • Joined

  • Last visited


  • Location
    Winnipeg Manitoba Canada

Recent Profile Visitors

4,301 profile views

Mark Blackburn's Achievements


Proficient (10/14)

  • Reacting Well Rare
  • Dedicated Rare
  • First Post Rare
  • Collaborator Rare
  • Posting Machine Rare

Recent Badges



  1. Among living virtuoso guitarists I have five favorites – and could make the case that each of them in turn is “best" in his own way. Including Brazilian-born American Walter Rodrigues Jr., who just shared with fans his latest take on "SING A SONG" – from Sesame Street – made famous by The Carpenters. Composed words and tune by Joe Raposo a fine musician himself, who would have delighted in this version -- barely two minutes and taken at the perfect bossa nova tempo. Funny how a 'jazz samba' approach can bring new life to an old favorite. No better example than this, you may agree.
  2. MUSIC TO OUR EYES - Horse racing as a religious experience Quick: Which horse ran the Kentucky Derby in under two minutes? The only one ever to do so – a record that has stood for 50 years. A horse whose heart was literally “twice the size” of any other. My musical sister Andrea, who says she has “never missed” seeing the event on TV, shared a feature (below) that is short, yet filled with favorite memories from the movie of that 'true life' story – “Heart of a Champion.” Actress Diane Lane (her best role?) played Penny Chenery – beloved owner of a horse voted among the “Top 50 Athletes of the 20th Century.” P.S. Honorable mention goes to John Malkovich for his endearing performance as jockey Ronnie Turcotte (still with us, living in New Brunswick Canada, age 82) who was as astonished as anyone, when Secretariat finished the Belmont Stakes 31 lengths (some estimates as high as 36) ahead of second-place “Sham.” I love superlatives, in all sports, don't you? Especially one about the “greatest horse" -- by a country mile!
  3. TONY BENNETT – Midnight Sun It's 4 in the morning and Siriusly Sinatra satellite radio is playing the best arrangement I've ever heard of Johnny Mercer's MIDNIGHT SUN – sung by Tony Bennett. I recognize the orchestration – by a friend of my father's Robert Farnon. Friends since Bob arranged a song by a soldier George Blackburn to play on the BBC in the months before D-Day 1944. Both of them born in 1917, they died within a year of each other, having maintained their friendship, by letter and by phone: Dad in Ottawa Canada, and Mr. Farnon on the Channel Island of Guernsey. It's from a Tony Bennett album that, coincidentally or not, I'd brought up from our basement recently, just to look at the cover of a black vinyl LP that never made it to compact disc format. “THE GOOD THINGS IN LIFE – Tony Bennett & The Robert Farnon Orchestra.” Farnon who stayed in England after WWII, created for Tony's Midnight Sun a huge, open sky orchestration – worthy of the phenomenon that Japanese visitors tell us is at its very best, right here in Manitoba. Apparently we are 'the place to be' for the most spectacular Northern Lights displays anywhere on earth. (Certainly the one closest to a major city with an international airport and regular connecting flights to Japan.) The source of my favorite “I had to pull over to the side of the road” story – about Mercer hearing the instrumental version while driving in his car -- and finding the closest pay phone, to ask the DJ at the radio station: 'Who wrote that song?' Vibes virtuoso Lionel Hampton co-wrote the melody with Sonny Burke in 1947 (a very good year). The story made it into the song's Wikipedia entry (below) --- Wikipedia Johnny Mercer was driving along the freeway from Palm Springs to Hollywood, California, when he heard the instrumental on his car radio and started to set words to the song as he drove.[6] The lyrics were first recorded by June Christy for her 1954 album Something Cool. One famous recording of the song with the Mercer lyrics is by Ella Fitzgerald on her album Like Someone in Love from 1957. Fitzgerald recorded the song again in 1964 for her album Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Johnny Mercer Songbook and once more in 1978. "Midnight Sun" also became part of the repertoire of Carmen McRae after she recorded it first in 1955. Natalie Cole sang the song in a tribute show called "We Love Ella" at the University of Southern California's Galen Center in 2007.[7]
  4. Google to be reminded that Jessica Tandy won the 'Best Actress' Academy Award in 1990 for “Driving Miss Daisy.” A lot of musically-inclined moviegoers had been rooting for Michelle Pfeiffer to win that Oscar for her “Susie Diamond” role – as lounge singer with “The Fabulous Baker Boys.” Most everyone's favorite scene: 'The Audition' – and the evolving subtlety of The Boys' facial expressions, as they realize what's happening, starting the moment “Susie” selects MORE THAN YOU KNOW. “And play it slower,” she says at the opening. Then, at song's end, a simple “So?” – glancing at both of them, as she resumes chewing her gum. That's Michelle Pfeiffer's actual singing voice – as coached by one of my longtime musical heroes – composer/arranger Dave Grusin – who played all the piano parts, instructing Jeff Bridges especially in how to make it look real. There are several versions of this delightful scene at Youtube. This one, the longest and “most viewed” is best, you may agree. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pxSjP6JkAis
  5. Hank Williams was a self-described 'hell-raiser' who died of alcohol poisoning at age 29 in the back seat of a chauffeured Cadillac en route to his next performance – New Year's Eve 1952/53. Shortly before his passing, the acknowledged 'King of Country Music Composers' wrote the words and tune for a seemingly out-of-character song titled HOUSE OF GOLD. Never recorded by anyone except Kenny Rankin. My personal favorite of Kenny's recordings – self-accompanied with gorgeous jazz chords on nylon-string guitar: a lush string section shows up for the second chorus courtesy Sinatra arranger Don Costa. In liner notes at the time Kenny said that Costa was “a close family friend” who'd given Kenny his “first set of guitar strings.” Alone among Sinatra's great arrangers, Don composed all his charts on guitar. Anyway, just imagining Kenny Rankin and Don Costa smiling down on John Pizzarelli's solo rendition. Taking it personally with tears of joy! HOUSE OF GOLD was included in the middle of a cluster of John's own favorite ballads with the word “Dream” in their lyrics. Endearingly he forgets some of the words to “This Time The Dream's On Me” but not so with HOUSE OF GOLD. At the 31:11 mark for this song alone (or 30:20 for the segue from “Dream's On Me”). https://www.facebook.com/watch/live/?ref=watch_permalink&v=830255599135018 https://www.facebook.com/watch/live/?ref=watch_permalink&v=830255599135018
  6. KENNY RANKIN - Haven't We Met? If you're young and musically literate you can still be forgiven for not knowing the name KENNY RANKIN. (Wiki note below.) Kenny Rankin left us 15 summers ago when he died of lung cancer at age 69. He was, I liked to say, “one of my two, all-time favorite singer/songwriter/guitarists.” The other is John Pizzarelli who keeps Kenny's memory alive at regular intervals. Sometimes with the help of John's wife, singer Jessica Molaskey – on their weekly “5 o'clock Somewhere” live-streamed show. For their most recent show-closer, they picked HAVEN'T WE MET. “I haven't any makeup!” joked Jessica to remind us this was completely unrehearsed. You'd never know it, as they take the song at a slightly faster tempo than Kenny's original, and their vocalese in unison and harmony is nothing short of amazing! At around the 1:00:54 mark. Which is to say, "Another great show! Thank you very much. https://www.facebook.com/JohnPizzarelliOfficial/videos/1124459351940440/ https://www.facebook.com/JohnPizzarelliOfficial/videos/1124459351940440/ Wikipedia Rankin's song "Haven't We Met" was performed by Mel Tormé and Carmen McRae, while Stan Getz said of him that he was "a horn with a heartbeat". Rankin's accompanists have from time to time included pianists Alan Broadbent, Mike Wofford and trombonist Bill Watrous, and on such occasions the mood slips easily into a jazz groove. But Don Costa's full orchestral arrangements were used to back his voice to critical acclaim, following a trend in the wake of Harry Nilsson with Gordon Jenkins and Linda Ronstadt with Nelson Riddle, to emulate the lush soundscape that some say was best with Frank Sinatra's Capitol recordings. Rankin was also deeply interested in Brazilian music and his Here In My Heart, on which he used jazz guests including Michael Brecker and Ernie Watts, was recorded mostly in Rio de Janeiro. More contemporary songs were given an airing following his move to Verve Records, including the Beatles' "I've Just Seen A Face" and Leon Russell's "A Song For You." Rankin's own unique gift for reworking classic songs such as The Beatles' "Blackbird," which he recorded for his Silver Morning album, so impressed Paul McCartney that he asked Rankin to perform his interpretation of the song when McCartney and John Lennon were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Rankin was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer in May 2009. He died in Los Angeles, California - where he had resided for many years - from the disease on June 7, 2009. He was 69 years old.
  7. “My Greatness does not depend on yours,” says Doyle Dykes in this, my new favorite of his weekly videos – quoting God as speaking to him directly: “Not audibly, but indelibly, within my being.” This after what Mr. Dykes himself declared to be his own “worst ever” public performance at the Grand Ol' Opry. The borrowed guitar he was playing, with new strings he had just incorrectly installed, and "the 30 foot cord that felt like 300 feet when I was trying to reel it in.” Rather than play something fast, he decided on the spot to play his solo guitar arrangement of a beloved hymn HOW GREAT THOU ART. After he came offstage everyone including his wife and daughters told him that his performance was wonderful! “Didn't you hear the audience?” they said, “the applause?” No, said Doyle adding: “I was the only one there who missed it!” Later when most in need of some Divine explanation Doyle said he felt, more than heard, these words: “My Greatness does not depend on yours.” Pick it up at the 29:55 mark. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UEmapCL3Qnw
  8. CARLY SIMON – I'll Be Around American composer Alec Wilder – a dear friend of Sinatra's who championed his work – had one hit song I'LL BE AROUND. Best version I ever heard by Carly Simon – playing right this minute on Siriusly Sinatra. Maybe my favorite track on Carly's landmark album TORCH from the summer of 1981. Has it really been 43 years? Just as lovely as ever, you may agree. Composer Alec Wilder has a Wikipedia entry with a 'new' anecdote about I'LL BE AROUND that wasn't there last time I looked. “Wilder said, in an interview with music critic Jay Nordlinger,[3] that the song came to him in a taxi cab in Baltimore. Just the title. "I spotted [the title] as I was crumpling up the envelope some days later. Since I was near a piano, I wrote a tune, using the title as the first phrase of the melody. I remember it only took about 20 minutes. The lyric took much longer to write."
  9. Michael Bublé - Me and Mrs. Jones Below the video at Youtube an admirer compared Michael to Sinatra "at least a little." [Compelled to respond:] "A tie for first with Harry Connick Jr. But Frank was impressed by great vocal ability -- like Jack Jones and, of course Tony Bennett. And on that basis, superb vocal control, strength throughout his range and purity of tone, texture, timbre -- Michael Buble has it all. Knowing that he is such a sincere and humble person is icing on the cake!
  10. It's a live performance, her first moments with a mic in that "full of brass" setting. Prediction. Ashley Orlando will be at her best in a studio recording of this gem. With a Neumann mic like Frank and Tony always required. I'm just so prejudiced in favor of modern covers of this gem -- best song written in 1939, which is saying something! Deepest thanks for sharing The Kingwood Big Band. https://www.facebook.com/mark.blackburn.3910/
  11. Siriusly Sinatra satellite radio is playing my favorite Don Costa arrangement of Cole Porter's Night and Day – from the SINATRA & STRINGS album (1961) for Frank's then- brand new 'Reprise' record label. Nancy Sinatra recalled a moment backstage, sitting in Don's lap, watching her Dad perform another song from the same album, in concert with a large stringed orchestra -- Harold Arlen & Johnny Mercer's (My Momma done tol' me) BLUES IN THE NIGHT. “My best chart,” Don told Nancy. I'd say “tied for first place” on an album chock full of 'favorites'. Sinatra recorded Night and Day on four previous occasions, but had never included the “beat, beat, beat of the tom tom,” opening verse. Each time I hear it, and the closing orchestral flourish approaching its crescendo, and Sinatra unleashing the full power of his voice (at its peak in the early '60s) I get goosebumps. Every time! You too?
  12. A lot of musicians including James Taylor and Mr. Diana Krall Elvis Costello will tell you their favorite Paul McCartney Beatles song is PENNY LANE. I concur. You too? Just Googled to be reminded that “The piccolo trumpet is the smallest member of the trumpet family, pitched one octave higher than the standard B♭ trumpet. Most piccolo trumpets are built ... ” Permit a personal recollection, please. The winter of 1967 my Dad was in London England trying to get a play produced. In our hometown of Ottawa Canada his comedy “A Button Missing” starring Rich Little, broke “50 years of box office records” and with friends as 'backers' putting up 20 or 25 thousand dollars (an immense sum in those days) Dad was off to London's West End. He quickly succeeded in lining up “The Third Man” on TV, Michael Rennie to play the lead role of “Drinkwater” an inventor trying to patent an artificial woman. But then Dad also had to find a director too. He did: I forget the name but he'd directed a comedy about the love life of flight attendants “Boeing, Boeing” and he told Dad that A Button Missing was “much funnier” and predicted it would be a hit. But days turned into weeks and Dad had to return home empty-handed. A measure of his integrity: he found ways to return ALL his backers' money. I remember this because he brought me back one gift from London: The Beatles' latest hit – PENNY LANE. The 45-rpm “Parlophone” (no big hole in the middle – an attractive, factory-made insert instead). The only-in-England version featured a seven-note closing flourish by the cornet player. You never got to hear that in North America. Just checked for the latest “remastered” version at YouTube and sure enough, it's the “American/Canadian” version, whose final seven seconds consists of 'feedback' – a single note from guitar or synth (or both). Pretty, but not nearly as nice. 12,424,502 'views' for this official version "re-mastered in 2015." Thanks for sharing.
  13. Google for “Who has coverered A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square? To learn it was "Written in 1939 with words by Eric Maschwitz and music by Manning Sherwin, this romantic ballad was quickly established as a standard of the lounge repertoire, and has been recorded by Vera Lynn, Nat King Cole, Bobby Darin, Frank Sinatra, Perry Como, Harry Connick Jr., Mel Torme, and Rod Stewart among many others." It won a Grammy for Manhattan Transfer, whose version is playing right now on Siriusly Sinatra. Their vocal arrangement by Gene Puerling who founded the Hi-Lo's and Singers Unlimited.
  14. SINATRA -- Night and Day It's 1:24 I'm unable to snore . . . and Siriusly Sinatra satellite radio is playing my favorite Don Costa arrangement of Cole Porter's “Night and Day” – from the SINATRA & STRINGS album (1961) for Frank's then- brand new 'Reprise' record label. Nancy Sinatra recalled a moment backstage – sitting in Don's lap -- watching her Dad perform another song from the same album -- in concert with a large stringed orchestra -- Harold Arlen & Johnny Mercer's (My Momma done tol' me) BLUES IN THE NIGHT. “My best chart,” Don told Nancy. I'd say “tied for first place” on an album chock full of 'favorites'. Sinatra recorded Night and Day on four previous occasions, but had never included the “beat, beat, beat of the tom tom,” opening verse. Each time I hear it, and the closing orchestral flourish approaching its crescendo, and Sinatra unleashing the full power of his voice (at its peak in the early '60s) I get goosebumps. Every time! You too?
  15. Playing right now (3:00 a.m.) on Siriusly Sinatra -- maybe my favorite song by Harry Connick Jr. “Well you can't have a dream and 'cut it to fit' but when I saw you – I knew: we'd be together, like a wink and a smile!” I guess it's like a song my musical father could have written. That's certainly his style of 'stride piano.' One of those songs that make you … well, wink and smile!
  • Create New...