music, technology & life in pasadena, california


The French horn must be really hard to play, because it sure sounds like it.

- Wayne Bergeron, trumpet player

January 25, 2008 | Link to this entry


For months, Los Angeles has been buzzing with the news that the twenty-six year old Venezuelan conductor, Gustavo Dudamel, will take over the reins of the LA Philharmonic from Esa-Pekka Salonen starting in the 2009-2010 season. Videos of his performances with the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra have been popping up on YouTube and all of a sudden, music education a la El Sistema, Venezuela’s heralded music program for young musicians, has been pushed to the forefront after a long period of neglect. Let’s hope that the excitement and fervor lasts and brings back a strong arts program to our school kids’ everyday curriculum.

And to prove that he has indeed arrived, Pink’s, the legendary hot dog stand on La Brea Avenue recently named a hot dog in honor of our future music director. The Gustavo Dudamel consists of a “stretch” hot dog with guacamole, American and Swiss cheese, grilled veggies, jalapeno and tortilla chips.

January 16, 2008 | Link to this entry


Here we are in a fresh new year and as I look back on 2007 I’m humbled by how much I have to be thankful for. As a working musician, I’m blessed to get to play every night with great players and good friends down at Wicked. They’re truly a second family, incredibly supportive and hilarious at the same time…how many people get to go to work and absolutely love everyone they work with plus produce such high quality work?

My first family, the one at home that keeps me going every day, has no equal. My wife, Laurie, is always there for me, working hard at her job as a fashion designer and as a mom to Elise. She fields everything from cuts and bruises to making sure we eat our fruits and veggies. She arranges school tours, checks out school scores, is the keeper of our social calendar (slim as that may be these days). We’re both so busy sometimes that we communicate via email, both for its convenience and the big plus that it helps us (me!) remember things we need to talk about.

Talking to each other about the usual household and family stuff isn’t so easy with a four year-old in the house. Elise likes to insert herself in the conversation whenever she can, especially if we’re talking about stuff that is boring to her. She’ll quickly exclaim that I have to “pronounce” her as she grabs her toy microphone to belt out yet another performance of her latest favorite. She corrects my lyrics if I happen to be singing Wicked songs around the house…that’s when she’s not asking me to stop singing because it hurts her ears.

Yesterday, when she was drawing in her notebook I asked her what all the squiggles were. She told me it was a picture of a “maginaw”. A maginaw, what’s that? She told me that a maginaw was when you went on vacation with your mommy and daddy to South America. Oh, OK! The next picture was of a “hemadash”. A hemadash, she explained, was when you got lost in a dark and spooky forest and you could only see one little light in the distance, and it was your mommy looking for you with a flashlight.

You can see why I’m so thankful…

January 10, 2008 | Link to this entry


I first heard Paula Cole on one of those late 1990s music shows that used to air late at night, maybe it was Sessions at West 54th Street. It was after a gig so I settled in to see what was happening and there she was. I hadn’t heard anything about her before that night but immediately I was hooked.

The songs were wonderfully crafted pop tunes with an interesting harmonic vocabulary. Her lyrics spoke of a young woman coming of age and making her own way in the world. Her voice was mature with a long range and she sang with the purity of conviction. It wasn’t the usual pop act going through the motions. This woman really cared about the music, the music really mattered and it was infectious.

Now, after many years away from the music business, Paula is back with a new CD called Courage. In the intervening years, she got married and had a child, but was lured back by producer Bobby Colomby. (Her website blog now hints that she is divorcing.) Paula has grown amazingly during her time away, and this new offering is full of great songs & playing all wrapped in a terrific sounding production.

Bobby Colomby, as you may recall, was the original drummer for Blood, Sweat & Tears who eventually graduated to record producer. He’s known for the now-iconic Jaco Pastorius, the bassist’s first solo album which turned so many musicians’ heads upside down. Here he’s collected a group of sympathetic musicians who perfectly complement Paula’s vibe.

Los Angeles studio legend Dean Parks plays guitar on much of the CD, and he’s at his best on tunes like Comin’ Down. His understated electric guitar drives the tune and he even elaborates on dobro for a section. Dean’s playing is always so simple and so spare, but it’s always exactly what a song needs to propel it and set the mood. He’s one of my favorites and his good taste runs rampant throughout. Mark Goldenberg shares the guitar duties here with great sounds as well.

I’m also excited that a few of my friends from the Wicked pit get to play with Paula, too. Kathleen Robertson and Melissa Hasin are in the string section playing violin and cello respectively. They comprise the entire string section at Wicked and are two of the finest players I know with a great attitude to match. Ian Walker, who is a sub in our pit, plays bass on a few numbers, a position he shares with Jimmy Johnson on the CD.

As I was listening to the CD in my car, I was struck by how much Paula is influenced by Joni Mitchell. I guess I never realized it, but it was a revelation nonetheless. The sound of her voice, the way she scoops into high falsetto, the evocation of pure sound; and although their music is totally different from each other’s, it’s nice to know that someone is carrying the torch with lyrics of piercing insight combined with a music that embraces intelligence and taste. Don’t miss this one…

Note: When I visited Paula’s website I was surprised (and thrilled) to see that she was offering a live version (for playback) of Joni’s River from Blue. I don’t know how long that’ll be up there, so you should check it out soon.

January 6, 2008 | Link to this entry


Paul Viapiano is a guitarist working in film, television and live performance based in sunny Pasadena, California.

You can email me here.

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