Back in the Recording Studio

Ku.eex’s vocalists: Nahaan, Clarissa Rizal, Om Jahari, Gene Tagaban, and Preston Singletary – December 2014

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Gene Tagaban, Om Jahari, Hahaan

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In the Engineers room with Randall Dunn, Preston Singletary, Gene Tagaban and Nahaan

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Randall, the sound engineer, makes it all sound soooo gooooood!  All recordings are done at Avast(!) Sound Studios, Seattle, Washington

Our names and personalities are as individually artistic as our band name “Khu.eex” which means “potlatch” in Tlingit.     Preston called us together for the past three days to record the vocals with the already-recorded instrumentation.  We worked on the vocals in this band to sound like a chorus with two and three-part harmonies of many, many voices as if there is a large group of singers as we do in our traditional songs and dances.  In the olden days, our songs were always sung with harmonies; we want to inspire our traditional dance groups to bring this element back – I feel “Khu.eex” can be a powerful venue to help this intent.

Om

Singer extraordinaire: Om Jahari

Om is the professional vocalist; the rest of us have sung (mainly our traditional songs) but we are not considered professional singers.  However, having Om on board helped “round us out!”  This is the first time the five of us have sung and recorded together; it was FUN!

Preston

Our fearless leader: Preston Singletary

I don’t know if Preston has been a prominent singer with all the bands he has been in over the years as a musician.  Khu.eex is his venue to begin to bring out his best voice.  Khu.eex is one of his longest-time, biggest dream coming true!  We who he has called together, are fortunate to share his dream.

Read my other posted entries about our band at:

http://clarissarizal.com/blog/a-lead-singer-in-prestons-band-ku-eex/

http://clarissarizal.com/blog/improvising-with-prestons-new-band-koo-eex/

An Evening With Shirley McLaine

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Chris Eyre, Native American film-maker presents Actress/Writer Shirley McLaine with a gift of a belt made by jeweler Randall Moore honoring her with the Lifetime Achievement Award

My friend Johana Moore’s son, David Moore, is one of two co-founders for the Santa Fe Independent Film Festival 6 years running.  Last week, Johana knew I was coming to Santa Fe for the weekend so she called me up the morning of my arrival and encouraged me to attend the 7pm ceremony honoring Shirley McLaine — she got me free tickets to attend the event which was followed by a recent heart-warming comedy featuring Shirley McLaine and Christopher Plummer in “Edie and Fred.”  The Lensic Theatre on West San Francisco Street was beautiful on the inside; I enjoyed the architectural design.  It was cool seeing Shirley in person; one of my favorite actresses, she just turned 80 in April this year – she sat in the audience with us!  Uncanny, like Chris Eyre looks exactly like all the photos of him!  Check out the Santa Fe Independent Film Festival on line.  And next year when you are in Santa Fe during mid-October, come join the fun!

And by the way, did y’all know that Shirley McLaine lives in Santa Fe?

A Lead Singer In Preston’s Band “Khu.eex”

 

17PerformAOf all the things I have ever aspired to be and do, it’s never been to be a lead singer, or one of the singers in a band!  Though at the request of my friend the glassblower, Preston Singletary, I thought I’d give it a go.  We sing traditional Tlingit songs with the back up of a fantastic sound called funk jazz fusion played by outstanding musicians that practically blew flutist Gene Tagaban and I right off the stage with the very first drumbeats at our very first performance in Seattle the night of June 20th.  We are called “Khu.eex”  (pronounced “koo eeeexch” which in the Tlingit language means “potlatch.”

Preston’s other band is called “Little Big Band” – this band is a totally separate band with a totally different sound from Khu.eex,  You may visit Little Big Band’s website by clicking here at “A Little Big Band.com”

The following are a few photos of “Khu.eex”  taken by Dan Shanks and I:

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Let’s introduce you to “Khu.eex” – L to R: drummer from New Orleans Stanton Moore, Clarissa Rizal, keyboard player from New Jersey Bernie Worrell, Seattle musicians: bass player Preston Singletary, flutist/spoken word Gene Tagaban, saxaphonist Skerik, lead guitar Captain Raab, and sound engineer Randall Dunn at Avast! Studios, Seattle.

Read more about the various band members & the recording studio on their websites:

Bernie Worrell, keyboard artist:  http://www.bernieworrell.com

Stanton Moore, drummer:  http://www.stantonmoore.com

Preston Singletary, bass:  http://www.prestonsingletary.com

Gene Tagaban, flutist/spoken word/singer:  http://www.storytellingraven.com/

Clarissa Rizal, singer/spoken word:  http://www.clarissarizal.com

Avast! Recording Studioshttp://www.avastrecording.com/

 

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Preston rounded up Gene, Captain Raab and Clarissa to create the set list.

I thought to myself “man, this is serious, we are really performing for an audience and are no longer in the recording studio…”  like “hello, wake up dearie, we are not in Kansas anymore…!”  The following photos are rehearsal shots:

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Preston, Stanton Skerik and Bernie during our one rehearsal directly before the first of two shows on the evening of Thursday, June 19th, Seattle,Washington.

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8Robert11TatooedPedals13GeneFlutes14RobPresSkerik0Rehearsal216BernieWorrellHere are a few more shots of our performances:

19PerformC18PerformB24KueexHWhen are we going to take this troupe on tour?  Well, a few things have to line up:  First, Preston is working on finalizing the recording sessions and it looks as though there is enough material for two CD’s.  Secondly, Preston’s two kids have to get a little older by about two years so that they can come on tour with us.  Thirdly, we have to do some fundraising (maybe via Kickstarter) to pay for the tour.

And fourthly, for me, now that my throat is pretty much healed from last Winter’s spell of pneumonia, I can continue to take my voice lessons from Brett Manning’s Singing Success.com - click here to find out more about how you can take these fun voice lessons — if I can take voice lessons, you can take voice lessons!  Being a part of Preston’s band, I feel like I have to contribute more than just being able to sing the native tunes; I have to really learn how to sing so my voice is an actual instrument allowing me to be more CREATIVE!!!

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Bernie Worrell with Dan Shanks (who was the photographer for most of the photos on this blog post).

Both Bernie and Dan (as well as Gene Tagaban) are part Cherokee — can you see the resemblance?  I can….(elongated shape of skull/face, certain width at bridge of nose, ears are flat to side of head, and the human kind graciousness of their character…)

Taking Voice Lessons

Brett Manning’s Voice Lessons on CDs and DVDs

January 12th was my first day of voice lessons.  It’s so much fun.  I practice while I am weaving.  It’s perfect.  I decided to take voice lessons because I know I can carry a tune in a bucket, but I decided it’s time to make that bucket resonate with it’s maximum voice capacity all its very own.

After singing with Preston’s band and knowing fully well that we will be doing another recording session within the next six months, I want to be able to put my best foot forward, or at least give it a little shoe!  I also want to encourage our Native singers of our traditional songs to learn how to sing better; to learn how to harmonize, and to really put our beautiful traditional songs into another light.  I’ve wanted this for years,…and it’s about time I get that ball rolling.

I researched on the internet and found Brett Manning’s course at http://www.singingsuccess.com/

I like his approach to singing:  “….if you can speak a language, you can sing…we’ll show you how…it’s real simple…relax…”

Already after just three days of simple exercises, I can FEEL the difference in my throat AND in my body.  This is a 6-month course.  I’m sticking by it.  I want to see, hear and feel who comes out of my body!

 

Improvising With Preston’s New Band “Koo.eex”

Preston’s new band tentatively called “Koo.eex” L to R: Gene Tagaban, Clarissa Rizal, Bernie Worrell, Skerik, Stanton Moore & Preston Singletary

Back in October on a Friday night, out of the blue, I received a text from Preston:  “…will you be a back-up singer in my band?  We will be recording a CD this coming December.”  —   “Huh? Like who does he think I am; a singer?  What makes him think I can sing?  He’s gotta be kidding….” —-  So, I didn’t answer him.  Four days later on the following Monday I got a call from Preston:

“Well hey, Clarissa, uh,…did you get my text?”  —

“Yes.” —

“Uh, well, what do you think? (and like how come you didn’t answer…!?)

“What am I supposed to think?  I do not recall ever indicating that I am a singer to nobody, like what makes you think that I can even sing, much less be a back-up singer in a band that is going to record it’s first CD!?”

“Hahaha.  Hey I remember those songs you sang around the campfire at the end of the two-week work session completing the glass and wood totem pole at Pilchuck…you blew everyone away…!”

“Preston, that doesn’t count…those were dirty songs…!”

“Yeah, well…it’s how you presented them,…it’s the way you sang.  I want that kind of energy in my band…will you join us?”

One of Preston’s bass’

Preston’s first love is music.  Not glass blowing.  How can I tell?  He gets that look in his eyes.  It’s that true musician’s look as if they are in another time and place; smiling inside out.   I grew up with a musician.  I’ve been around musicians.  Some of my best friends are musicians and although some don’t necessarily “make a living” creating music, there’s that “way of being”….So for those of you who think Preston is a hot glass blower and that is his first love, you got it all wrong.  I don’t care if the dude makes thousands on his work and thousands of art collectors have a piece of his work, his true love is music.  Bottom line.  —   But if you must check out Preston’s glass blowing website:  www.prestonsingletary.com

Bernie Worrell on keyboards – check out Bernie Worrell website at:  http://www.bernieworrell.com/   This guy is no ordinary keyboard player!  He is all over the board!

So Preston gathered together his friends, Gene Tagaban, Skerik and I along with two big name musicians (that at the time I didn’t know were big names), Stanton Moore and Bernie Worrell.  For the past eight years, Preston had imagined putting together a jazz/funk rock fusion band to record a CD.   He saved up money to do so; this December with the help of us buddies, he made his dream come true.  The sound that came out of this band was so fantastic and fun, it blew all of us away!  The music had become so much a part of me in just three short days, I barely slept.  I began to understand why musicians “move to a different drum.”  I began to understand why they stay up late into the wee hours of the morning.  I also understand why some become drug addicts or are alcoholics or at least have a stiff drink before they go to bed.  IT IS HARD TO GO TO SLEEP AFTER FEELING THE MUSIC IN YOUR BONES AND EVERY NERVE OF YOUR BODY!!!     Holy cow!

Gene Tagaban on Native flute, Skerik on sax

Who is that drummer, Stanton Moore?  Gawd, the guy can drum.  Like I thought my friend D.C. Duncan could drum and for the past 20 years I’ve always enjoyed D.C., but man, this Stanton guy is something else!!!  When I got back home after the recording sessions, I saw D.C. and asked him if he knew Stanton Moore.  He said “well, hell yeah, I have bought his CD’s and have made myself a better drummer through his instructions over the years, the dude is goooood!  The guy is THE drummer of all drummers – like he is #2 in the entire world –  Why do you ask?”

Stanton Moore on drums — check out the Stanton Moore Trio on youtube and if you are a drummer or wanna-be-drummer, this is the man to hang with; New Orleans born and bred – check out his website at:  www.stantonmoore.com

So, we spent three days improvising songs.  A total blast.  These songs were based on traditional Native songs of the Northwest Coast; we started out with the chants, then the band would slide on in and take off!   It was a honor to play with these guys; thanks for the invite, Preston.  I have appreciated every moment in actual time and now in memory!

Preston begins with a traditional tune – notice the child-size Chilkat robe in the background – I’d weave when I wasn’t singing…

Gene Tagaban has definitely made his way in the world with his storytelling and musical talents.  I had no idea the extent of his talent until this recording session.  He topped off these songs; he added so much depth and meaning.  His contributions rounded everything out, like bringing the entire fusion together full circle.  These are just my opinions folks, you do not have to believe everything I say here.  Just make sure you buy the CD when it comes out by the Fall of 2014; it’s nothing like you’ve ever heard!

Gene Tagaban adds a story of Raven…walking along a beach…check out Gene’s website at:  http://www.storytellingraven.com/

Preston Singletary on bass

Bernie Worrell’s keyboarding hands

After the excitement of the first song the entire band played, Stanton and Bernie vigorously shook hands, honored to play with one another

Skerik on sax – this guy rips — Skerik is an American saxophonist from Seattle, Washington. Performing on the tenor and baritone saxophone, often with electronics and loops, Skerik is a pioneer in a playing style that has been dubbed saxophonics.  Check out Skerik’s  FB page at:  https://www.facebook.com/skerik

In the sound room, Gene Tagaban, Bernie Worrell and Preston Singletary listen to the second day’s improv recordings

Sound engineer, Randall at the 1969 “board”

In the dining room kitchen, sound technicians and band members share home-made squash pie and baked apples hosted by Stuart, the owner of the “Avante!” recording studio – YUM!

Dinner at the Bitterroot Restaurant

After a fine day and night of playing together, and sharing a late dinner, Bernie Worrell and Preston Singletary share a bench and a smoke already reminiscing the “old days”…and the next project!

 

 

The “Bromley” by Head N’ Home

The “Bromley” hanging out on a Spruce in the middle of a blueberry patch – Hoonah, Alaska

Who would post a blog entry about a hat?  Me, because, because…uh, because…I am what you call an “artist.” —-  I gotta tell ya:  These leather hand-made hats are from the company “Head N’ Home” in California; they are expensive yet well worth every dollar – There are all types of styles; this one is called the “Bromley”.  I chose this one because it didn’t have a wide brim; I can still see the sky, yet my face is protected from the sun, rain and wind.  I’ve used this hat in all four seasons, surprisingly keeps my head warm and dry and brings out the “equestrian rider” in me; like I can “ride” any “terrain” in this world and keep myself  “high and dry!”

I encourage you to check out their website:  http://www.headnhome.com/

Playing Pagosa’s “Open Mike”

Though they’ve have known one another for over 35 years, Clarissa and Lis have never played music together until this evening at the “Open Mike” sponsored by Pagosa Brewing Company owned by friend Tony Simmons – David Chambers is on the congas – photos by Dan Shanks

Our sons have been friends since they were two years old; mothers and sons met at the co-op preschool in Juneau, Alaska.  Lis has been a celtic musician her entire adult life and has produced many concerts bringing Irish music to Juneau.  I used to play music in my early adult life until I  began having children; the house was too small to practice and play because it would wake up the kids; it wasn’t until after my kids grew up and I divorced that I finally had the time to play again; I  took up the ukelele!

Lis on guitar, accompanied Clarissa on ukelele, played 3 songs: a traditional Tlingit song, a Northern rendition of “Jeremy Row the Boat Ashore” and Clarissa’s first song she wrote over a year ago “Shifting Shanks”

Lis came down from Alaska and spent three weeks helping me get certain deadlines done before I returned to Alaska for the Summer.  The two of us worked, worked, worked the entire three weeks – While I was finishing a Chilkat robe with the same deadline as all of the work, Lis helped me dye weft yarns, cook bark, split bark, wash warp to make my weaving kits for a class; she helped lay buttons and sew them down on two button robes; she helped weed and water the garden.  It was wonderful to have full-time help with the things I would normally do if I didn’t have the time crunch of “getting outa Dodge” on time!—I’ve always said that women need a wife; a woman like myself definitely needs one full time all the time.  When I make enough steady money (hahaha!), I will have a steady wife! —  Playing this open mike together was about the only “free time” thing that Lis and I had time for!  Lucky us!

Two friends of mine who had never met until this evening: Lis Saya and John Tarbet enjoy the last act of the evening.

Celtic guitarist Lis Saya, accordian and saxaphone player John Tarbet, ukelele-ist Clarissa Rizal and guitarist Dan Shanks watched all the acts to the very end at the Open Mike; that’s why they are acting like this…!

Native Songs with the Uke

Clarissa and her uke

Like most of the performers at the Adaka Festival in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory June 21-27, I will play a 20-minute set.  I will sing Tlingit songs and my own originals accompanied by my ukelele on Saturday, June 22 at 1:45pm.  Check out the line-up of performers and artists on their website.  The Adaka Festival features traditional and contemporary Canadian 1st Nation performers and artists mainly from Yukon and British Columbia, with an occasional Alaskan(!).

I’ve been playing the uke a little over a year – this tool has become a spiritual/emotional life-saver – in my opinion, if you need to be “saved” in any way, this is the instrument that can help bring you a sense of balance.  I think that if everyone in the world played ukelele, even if they just strummed a few chords every day and didn’t sing, that eventually, the world would have consistent peace!  Yep.

As I mentioned, the Adaka Festival also features artists from the Yukon/British Columbia/Alaska region.  During the Festival week of June 21-27, I will also be teaching an introduction to Chilkat weaving class along side Ann Smith who will be teaching Ravenstail, and Ann and I are  spearheading another Indigenous Weavers’ Gathering .  On Friday, June 21, I will also be a part of a group art exhibit featuring a Chilkat robe I am recently completing, my latest button robes, a contemporary painting, along with a few Giclee prints and my button blanket series greeting cards.

If you are in Whitehorse, Yukon, come out and visit us!

Tlingit Songs Accompanied by Ukelele

Clarissa and her ukelele – which, by the way, was purchased at Hawaii Music Supply…

Who woulda thought I’d be playing Tlingit songs with the sounds of a ukelele?  Well, it was bound to happen sooner or later…!

I learned this song in 1972 from Harry K. Bremner, Sr., who then was in his mid-80’s.  He said I had the rights to sing this song because our clan, the T’akDein Taan Black-legged Kittywake had branched down from the Coho Clan on the Alsek River near Yakutat – the Coho who are the owners of this song.

Here I sing with the ukelele accompanying just a shortened version.

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The following is a shortened version of a T’akDeinTaan song written by J.K. Smith; my sister Irene Jean Lampe discovered this song on an old recording of clan elders.  I play a shortened version (without any of the words):

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My very first song I wrote called “Shifting Shanks” – It’s influenced by “spaghetti western” sound, like a combination of “cowboys and indians” – the song is about not being aware of our Western privileges; we have so many freedoms many other countries do not have…we are born with “silver suspenders…”

ShiftingShanks

 

The Addition of a Dear Friend: The Ukelele

After my mother and brother passed away in 2011 (along with other major “losses” in my life between 2009 and 2011), I felt I needed a “happy fix” or mend or healing; something that would help me let go of the trauma and drama.   For a long time, I felt a ukelele was coming to me, lingering around the eaves…then one fine Fall day in 2011, I bought myself the ukelele…and except for a 6 month period last year, I’ve been learning all kinds of songs and strums…it is truly the instrument of happiness and peace! – If everyone played the ukelele, there would be world peace!

At the beginning of 2012, I made a goal to learn one new song per week on the uke; i was going good until the first week of May (when the Ex presented another curve ball in my life).  Since May, I hadn’t played much less learn a new song every week – not until Christmas Day 2012; I spent the day playing.  My granddaughter was looking through these two song books (below) and I had forgotten we had these two gems for many years on the kids’ bookshelves.  Such a delight to find “Ghost Riders In the Sky”, “Tingo-Lay-O” and “This Little Light of Mine” (amongst other old timey favorites like “Michael Row the Boat Ashore” and “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”).  I play some of these songs with a combination of Native American chant, spaghetti western and Hispanic rhythm – if you can imagine that.

I learned three Christmas tunes including my all-time favorite “The Christmas Song” (starts out with “chestunuts roasting on an open fire…”) and I learned all of the above tunes as well.  I also learned the traditional Andean tune “El Condor Paza” made famous by Simon and Garfunkle.  I almost made up for lost time last year learning about 10 songs the past three weeks to the already 25 songs I know (4 of them Bob Dylan tunes).

For those of you who are interested in playing the ukelele, buy the next size up from the standard size uke, the “concert” size, from the Hawaiian Music Company.  Buy one with a plug-in so you can have the option of using an amp.  The uke is fairly easy to play.  To learn a few traditional and pop songs, plug into youtube and search for Ukelele Mike’s ukelele lessons.  He’s pretty simple, clear and ….well, different.

I appreciate the addition of this dear friend in my life.  Once I master this little guy, maybe in the next year or two, I am going to get myself the cello!

 

We’ve had these two kid’s song books in our family for over 25 years. They came with cassette tapes but those are long gone with all the moves we’ve made in that time period. Once you learn your chords, take up these books; they are packed with old-timey, simple songs that even your grandchildren will love to boogie!

I have no intentions of getting pulled off track this year if I can help it any.  I intend to learn one new song a week during this year.  Thank goodness I still have my aging wits about me that I can even REMEMBER the words to the songs!  heehee!

Playing ukelele during late Spring in the Colorado mountains at 10,000 feet amongst a grove of evergreens, aspens and wildflower meadow – the great thing about the ukelele is that it can go with you just about anywhere; it is lightweight and portable and when you put it in the overhead of the plane, people think you’re a violin maestro instead!

My friend Shar Fox just emailed me the group of folks playing ukelele, the Juneau JamBusters in Juneau, Alaska — check them out on their website at:  http://www.juneaujambusters.com/

I know where I’ll be when I return to Juneau!