November 22nd, 2004


It's a popular skunk...

It seems that Skunk in the Parlor could become a bit popular, so I need a cover for the sheet music. If anyone feels compelled to donate a black-and-white drawing for it, that'd be way cool. I can envision either a skunk having wandered into a Victorian parlor and all the humans running around in a panic, while the poor skunk is just wanting to listen to the piano ... or simply a drawing of an anthro-skunk playing the piano.

Anyway, at this weekend's West Coast Ragtime Festival, I presented the score to pianist extraordinaire Tom Brier, who has recorded two of my compositions on his albums. He had not had a chance to hear the MIDI file yet, but he looked at the score and said, "I want to try this out right now; let's go to the musicians' lounge." He played through it remarkably well as usual, though there are some unusual and surprising things in the tune, harmonically speaking, which caught him out at first. Moments later, professional musician Patrick Aranda (he once was the pianist at Disneyland!) came in and saw the score sitting on the table. I told him it was something I'd just completed. He looked at it and said, "Do you mind if I try this?" (as if!). So he took it to the other piano, next to where Tom still was sitting, and they ended up playing it as a two-piano duet. For seeing the tune for the first time, it's amazing how well they did! Yes, some of the surprises resulted in wrong notes, but in other cases they were working like a normal duet pairing would, adding fill-ins and octave shifting.

Saturday night, I had my music folder open for some reason or another when pianist and bandleader Elliott Adams came by and saw Skunk. He immediately asked how he can get a copy! Then he began looking at some of my other tunes and I ended up giving him copies of a fair number of rags, as I had done for Patrick the day before (he had said he wants something new and challenging and he'll have one or two for sure in his repertoire by the time the Sutter Creek Ragtime Festival comes around next August).

But this Skunk seems to be showing the potential to be a decent seller once it gets played for the public. I'll need a cover in order to have it for sale, though!

If Elliott likes my tunes, which Tom (who is a reasonably close friend of his; they're both rabid collectors of old sheet music) seems to think is a strong possibility, I wonder if he might arrange one for his popular band, the Porcupine Ragtime Ensemble. I'd be so amazingly pleased if that happened! Heck, just hearing a public duet performance of one of my tunes would make me smile a lot.

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At the festival for the first time was Patricia Lamb-Conn, the daughter of Joseph F. Lamb, one of the "Big Three" ragtime composers along with Scott Joplin and James Scott. Lamb was the son of Irish immigrants and a native New Yorker. When I had an opportunity to speak to Patricia (now 80 years of age), I told her how much her father's music was an inspiration to me, as the first non-Joplin ragtime I'd ever heard (and Lamb quickly became my favorite), so without him I wouldn't have become a ragtime composer. Then I mentioned that I'm also descended from Irish New Yorkers. I told her my family is the Odell/O'Dell family of New York, and her reaction was quite peculiar. Her eyes went a bit wide and she said with incredulity, "Oh, a Lamb with an O'Dell!"

I didn't, but perhaps I should have done, ask what she meant by that. Is there some kind of bad blood or other history between the two families? I'll be wondering this forever now, I'm sure...