The Death Whisperer Series

The Death Whisperer Series
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Monday, March 28, 2011

Tim Hawkins & Hugel et Fils Pinot Blanc

Got back from the Netherlands Sunday night and I’m feeling human again, so I thought I’d get back in the swing of things with something light. Tim Hawkins is both equally gifted and twisted. He is an unusual comic, blending his crazy sense of humor with slick guitar skills, a thousand faces and voices, and some pretty nice improvisational chops. His total package makes him one of the most unique guitar acts on the circuit. People think he lives a rock-star life, but as Hawkins says, “Believe me, Mick Jagger never gets lost in a Hertz parking lot looking for his Ford Focus.”

His songs are parodies of big hits, many of which become ear candy, that is, you won’t be able to get the lyrics out of your head. Case in point: “Dogs on fire,” a parody of Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m on Fire,” begins with the opening lines, “Hey little girl, don’t ya get upset, I’ve got some bad news, better call the vet, oh no. As the flames go higher, oh, oh, oh, the dogs on fire.” I laughed myself silly. You will too, and gentlemen, pay attention to “Things you don’t say to your wife.” Enjoy!

Dogs on fire:

Old Rock Star Song:


Things you don’t say to your wife: 


I can only eat margarine:

I don’t drink beer:

One verse songs:

A wiff of Kansas:

My arms are broken:

Tim’s music and humor call for a light, fun wine, so I suggest a 2008 Hugel et Fils Pinot Blanc “Cuvée Les Amours” (~$11.00). It’s an Alsatian white wine that can be found in most wine shops across the world. It is composed 100% of Pinot Blanc. The nose is quite fruity with aromas of tart apples, vanilla, and a touch of ginger. Golden in color, it bursts with crisp green apples and nectarines on the palate backed up by fine acidity. It has a very nice mouth feel and is a wonderful wine for drinking alone with the music and humor of Tim Hawkins. Enjoy!


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Harry Sacksioni & Peter Lehmann Chardonnay

One of the inconveniences of international travel is that your biological clock gets really screwed up. So here it is, 4:00 AM in Amsterdam and after hitting the sack at 9:30 following a long but excellent series of business meetings, I find myself wide awake with 4 hours before meeting my traveling associates for breakfast. What to do? Well, why not explore the world of Dutch guitarists, and I found a good one.

Harry Sacksioni’s guitar career began as a nearly self-taught musician. He developed an idiosyncratic style of playing melody, harmony, and an independent bass line simultaneously, much like Adam Rafferty, one of my favorite American guitarists. He cut his first album in 1974 and it apparently became a huge seller in the Netherlands and Belgium, helping to gain him public of his special talent. His career now includes 25 CDs and records, many of which achieved gold status. In 1994 he received the Edison award, Holland’s highest musical honor, for his CD, “Who's Pulling the Strings.” As you will hear from the music I’ve included, he is a phenomenal guitarist with a sense of melody and technique that fuse into a truly unique style. Do not miss his arrangement of Stevie Wonder’s I wish. It’s remarkable. Enjoy!

The Hitchhiker:



Killer Queen:

Blue Moon:

Le Chanson:


Urban Dance:


De Jacht:

Walk Over:

Ali’s Shuffle:

Here Comes The Sun:



I Wish:

And to go with Harry’s music, I suggest a 2008 Chardonnay from Peter Lehmann. I’m not a particular fan of California Chards as I don’t care for the buttery taste characteristic of most of them. However, Peter Lehmann’s version is more French style with a pale gold color and aromas of citrus and juicy fruit. It’s tart and jazzy, filled with lemon, white peaches, and none of the heavy oak or butter that I can do without. Not terribly complex, but a good wine for drinking while you contemplate the early hour listening to some great guitar music. Enjoy!


Friday, March 18, 2011

Bela Fleck & first Class Shiraz

I’ll be taking about ten days off from the blog as I travel to Europe on business. So tonight I thought I’d take a break from the guitar and introduce you to, in my opinion, the greatest banjo player in the world—none other than Béla Fleck. He reinvented the sound and image of the banjo through his interpretations of bluegrass, classical, jazz, and even funk.

Born and raised in New York City, Béla began his musical career playing the guitar. But listening to the sounds of Flatt & Scruggs on the 1960s show, the Beverly Hillbillies, drew him to the banjo and he never looked back. In September of 1973, he entered New York’s High School of Music and Art as a French horn player, but he was soon relegated to the chorus, due to, if you can believe it, his lack of musical aptitude. Since they didn’t offer banjo, he took private lessons from Erik Darling, Marc Horowitz, and Tony Trischka. Béla joined his first band, "Wicker's Creek" during this period. Living in NYC, Béla was exposed to a wide variety of musical experiences.. One of the most impressive was a concert by "Return to Forever" featuring Chick Corea and Stanley Clarke. As a result of hearing their music, he began experimenting with bebop and jazz.

Several months after high school, Béla moved to Boston to play with Jack Tottle's Tasty Licks. While in Boston, Béla continued his jazz explorations, made two albums with Tasty Licks, and at 19 years old made his first solo banjo album Crossing the Tracks, on Rounder Records. This is where he first played with future musical partners Sam Bush and Jerry Douglas.

In 1981, Béla joined the progressive bluegrass band New Grass Revival, led by Sam Bush on mandolin, fiddle and vocals. The group took bluegrass music to new limits, and through the course of five albums, charted new territory with their blend of bluegrass, rock and country music. During the 9 years Béla spent with NGR, he continued to record a series of solo albums for Rounder, including the ground breaking 1988 album "Drive". He also collaborated with Sam Bush, Jerry Douglas, Edgar Meyer and Mark O'Connor in an acoustic super group called Strength in Numbers. In 1989, he formed the genre-busting group, the Flecktones, the members of which were and are superstars on their respective instruments. The Flecktones went on tour with Dave Matthews Band in 1996 and 1997, and Fleck is featured on several tracks on DMB's 1998 album "Before these Crowded Streets."

Already a powerfully creative force in bluegrass, jazz, pop, rock and world beat, Béla made a classical connection with "Perpetual Motion", his critically acclaimed 2001 Sony Classical recording that went on to win a pair of Grammys, including Best Classical Crossover Album in the 44th annual Grammy Awards.

If you ever have a chance to see the Flecktones in concert, DO NOT MISS THEM! They are spectacular. Enjoy!

Big Country:

Scratch & Sniff:  (Check out theJazz bassoon)

Breakfdast Feud:

Celtic Medley:

The Sinister Minister Part 1:



B song:

The Flecktones unplugged:



Lochs of Dread:

With a classy musician like Fleck, I think I’ll pair him with R Wine’s 2007 First Class Shiraz. The nose boasts aromas of vanilla, black licorice, black raspberry, and cassis. This wine is best tasted after letting it breathe for an hour or two. After 2 hours, the wine becomes silky smooth, gliding across the palate to a beautiful finish. It shows rich flavors of creamy cassis, black licorice, blackberry, and vanilla that meld together into a beautiful, fully structured wine. Very nice and the perfect accompaniment to the music of Béla Fleck. Enjoy!


Saturday, March 12, 2011

Tim Bowman and Miro Zinfandel

It’s college basketball season and in my house, we can get rather wound up over our favorite teams, the Kansas Jayhawks and the Wisconsin Badgers. So, to decompress after an exciting game, I’m featuring the music of Tim Bowman, one of my favorite smooth jazz guitarists. Born in Detroit on April 22, 1959, he was raised in a traditional black church denomination where, oddly enough, secular music was frowned upon. Tim got hooked on guitar through a guitarist in his church. Initially he was self-taught, but later was awarded a two year scholarship to the Detroit Music School. One of Bowman's mentors was Joe LeDuca who was the music producer for the "Xena: the Warrior Princess" TV series.

In May 1996 Bowman printed up 2,000 copies of his initial CD and started promoting the album around Detroit. The city's smooth jazz radio station WJZZ started playing four tracks concurrently and in five weeks one thousand copies of the CD sold on consignment through the local record shacks. If you like what you hear, pick up his new CD “Smile.” Enjoy!

Summer Groove:

Dubai International Jazz Festival:

Sweet Sundays:

Soul Dream:


All I Need Is You:

I’ll Be There:

Table For Two:

Motor City Shuffle:

High Def:

Sweet Sundays:


Mr. B.:

I need a bold wine to go with the sounds of Tim’s music, so I recommend a 2008 Miro Zinfandel ($22.00). It’s dark purple with a ruby edge. The aromas of cherry, cinnamon, clove, and black pepper combine with blackberry and blueberry to greet the nose. The Miro Zinfandel is a big, bold wine with blackberries and blueberries flooding the palate followed by strawberry, red raspberry, red currants, and a touch of cinnamon with a long, mouth-coating finish. It’s a fabulous Zinfandel that perfectly compliments the smooth sounds of Tim Bowman. Enjoy!


Thursday, March 10, 2011

John Martyn & Morgan Twelve Clones Pinot Nior

John Martyn, born Ian David McGeachy in 1948, was a brilliant British guitarist/singer/songwriter. Over his forty-year career he recorded twenty studio albums and worked with artists like Phil Collins, Eric Clapton, and David Gilmore. The London Times described him as an electrifying guitarist and singer whose music transcended the boundaries of folk, jazz, rock, and blues.

He began his professional career at the age of seventeen, playing a blend of folk and blues, and rose to a prominent place in the 1960s London Folk scene. He had a long time collaboration with jazz bassist Danny Thompson, with whom he partnered until his death.

As was the case with many musicians in the late 60s, he became addicted to drugs and alcohol, which resulted in the breakup of his marriage. Martyn sank into a dark depression for several years, but it actually enhanced his song writing. He pulled out of the darkness and again rose to musical prominence. On February 4, 2008, Phil Collins presented Martyn with the lifetime achievement award on behalf of the BBC Folk awards. The BBC said, “his heartfelt performances have either suggested or fully demonstrated his idiosyncratic genius.” Eric Clapton stated that Martyn was so far ahead of everything, it was almost inconceivable. John performed several songs at the ceremony accompanied by John Paul Jones (Led Zepplin) on mandolin.

Martyn died of double pneumonia in a hospital on January 29, 2009. His music truly transcends genres. I hope you enjoy him.

May You Never:

Johnny Too Bad:  

Make No Mistake:

One Day Without You:


So Much In Love With You:

Couldn’t Love You More:

Head and Heart:

Bless the Weather:

Spencer the Rover:

One for the Road:

Small Hours:

I'm pairing John with a 2007 Morgan Twelve Clones Pinot noir ($21.00). The wine is medium ruby red with aromas of dark cherries, vanilla, and strawberry. The palate is full of cherry, strawberry, currents, and a touch of mocha with a long, flavorful finish of fruit, fine tannins, and a bit of spice. All in all, a very nice Pinot Noir and perfect for kicking back after a long week and relaxing to the sounds of John Martyn. Enjoy!


Sunday, March 6, 2011

Stanley Clarke & Simi Cabernet Sauvignon

In 1971, Stanley Clarke, a tall string bean bassist from the Philadelphia Academy of Music, exploded onto the New York jazz scene. There he played gigs with renown bandleaders such as Horace Silver, Art Blakey, Dexter Gordon, Joe Henderson, Pharaoh Saunders, Gil Evans, and Stan Getz. It’s also where he met a budding young pianist/composer named Chick Corea. Working with Corea and their newly formed jazz/fusion band, Return to Forever, Clarke became a pivotal figure in propelling the bass into a role as a viable melodic solo instrument.

RTF was a showcase for each of the quartet’s strong musical personalities, composing prowess, and instrumental voices. The band recorded eight albums, two of which were certified gold (Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy and Romantic Warrior), and another of which won a Grammy award (No Mystery).

Together with his trademark Alembic bass guitars, Clarke launched the bass revolution. He is credited with pioneering the percussive slap funk technique first used by Larry Graham (Sly and the Family Stone), but Clarke is quoted as saying Graham only had one lick. Stanley built his facility to frightening speed, and then adapted it to complex jazz harmonies.

In 1974 he released his his first solo album entitles simply Stanley Clarke that featured a classic bass piece entitled “Lopsy Lu.” In 1976 Stanley released School Days, of which the title track is now a bona fide bass anthem. I’ve included both for your listening enjoyment. By the way, Clarke says if you’re serious about being a jazz bassist, you need to get his recording of School Days and learn it note for note.

Stanley developed into far more than just a bassist/composer. He’s scored both television shows and films that include Boys N the Hood, What’s Love Got to Do With It (the Tina Turner Story), Passenger 57, Higher Learning, Poetic Justice, Panther, The Five Heartbeats, Little Big League, and Romeo Must Die. As you can see, I’m a big fan. Hope you will be too after you hear him play.

Lopsy Lu:

The Dancer:

East River Drive:

Mothership Connection:


School Days:

Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy:

Justice’s Groove:

Wild Dog:

The Toys of Men:



Hot Fun:

Funny How Time Flies:

Bass Violence 1975-2008:

I’m pairing Stanley with a 2007 Simi Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($20.00). It’s mostly Cabernet Sauvignon (92%) augmented by some classic Bordeaux varieties (3% Merlot, 3% Malbec, 1% Cabernet Franc, & 1% Petit Verdot). The wine is a deep ruby red that opens with aromas of cherry, blackberry, toasty oak, and spice. Its palate is fairly complex with cherry, blackberry, vanilla, and a touch of caramel that finishes with dark chocolate. It’s a good value and a classy wine to match the music of Stanley Clark. Enjoy!