The Death Whisperer Series

The Death Whisperer Series
The Death Whisperer Series available at

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Petteri Sariola and FlipFlop Pinot Noir

Pete Sarriola is a crazy young Finnish acoustic guitarist. The way he simultaneously slaps, taps, and picks the drum, bass, rhythm, and lead parts reminds me a bit of Kotaru Oshio, who appears in one of the videos. Oh yeah, sometimes he sings, too. As you’ll hear in one of the videos, he tried to form a band, but it didn’t work out, so he plays all the parts himself. He has a background in classical music that expanded to pop, rock, and you-name-it. But most of all, I would describe his music and style as acoustic funk. In 2005 he became youngest artist to receive the Nokia Young Talent Scholarship. He’s quite the funkmeister and I hope you enjoy him

With Adam Rafferty and Ulli  Boegerhausen, the Way You Make Me Feel:

Pete’s a lighthearted fun kind of guy, so I suggest we accompany him with one of my favorite varieties of fun wines from FlipFlop. Their Pinot Noir is a light wine with a red fruit nose and lots of cherry and spice on the palate. Very nice finish for a wine that costs only seven bucks. Weekend’s almost here, so enjoy!


Sunday, September 25, 2011

Ramsey Lewis & Calstar Pinot Noir

I’m going to depart momentarily from the guitar to bring you one of my favorite jazz pianists. In 1974, I attended a concert at Purdue University where a friend’s band was backing up Ramsey Lewis. That night, when Lewis’ trio launched into the most soulful version of Slippin Into Darkness I’d ever heard, I got hooked on his music. To this day, that tune remains one of my favorites.

Lewis was born May 27, 1935 in Chicago, so we share a certain city heritage. He attended DePaul University and joined up with drummer Isaac “Redd” Holt and bassist Eldee Young to form the Ramsey Lewis Trio. While they initially concentrated on jazz, their music evolved into more of a pop sound with Lewis’ 1965 hit “The In Crowd” paving the way to his becoming one of the most successful jazz pianists ever. Three of his single hits, “In Crowd”, “Hang On Sloopy”, and “Wade In The Water”, went gold.

In addition to recording and performing, Lewis hosted a morning show on Chicago "smooth jazz" radio station WNUA (95.5 FM) until May 22, 2009 when their format changed.

Lewis is artistic director of “Jazz at Ravinia”, a outdoor concert venue in Highland Park, IL and helped organize Ravinia’s Jazz Mentor Program. Ramsey also serves on the Board of Trustees for the Merit School of Music, a Chicago inner-city music program and The Chicago High School for the Arts. In 2005, he created the Ramsey Lewis Foundation to help connect at-risk children discover the world of music. Ramsey still lives in Chicago along with seven children, fourteen grandchildren, and one great-grandchild. He’s a musical giant with a heart to match.

With a class act like Ramsey Lewis, I suggest a 2009 CalStar Cellars Pinot Noir ($20.00) from their Sangiacomo Vineyards. The wine is crimson in color with a fragrance of honeysuckle and berries. The palate is filled with notes of raspberries, cherries, and a touch of vanilla with subtle tannins. The finish lingers with a bit of spiced cranberry. An excellent wine to go with some excellent music. Enjoy!


Saturday, September 24, 2011

Ry Cooder & FlipFlop Riesling

Ry Cooder is one of my favorite eclectic guitarist, singers, and composers. He is known for his slide work which is among the best that ever played. He has a keen interest in roots music from both the U.S. and the world and had collaborated with musicians from a plethora of countries. His solo work is eclectic, encompassing folk, blues, Tex-Mex, soul, gospel, rock, jazz, and just about every style you can name. He was ranked 8th on Rolling Stone’s list of The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time. He’s played with way too many artists to mention including the Muppets (see Pigfoot Shuffle). I find his music to be playful and just downright fun. He was also the guitarist who played for Ralph Machio in his duel with Steve Vai in the movie Crossroads. Hope you like him.

Crossroads Duel with Steve Vai:

I’m going to pair Ry with a wine that I would term “fun”. Flipflop wines come in several varieties, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Riesling, and Moscato and are priced at $7.00 a bottle. I’ve had all of them and can attest they’re great quaffing wines. What’s a quaffing wine? These aren’t wines you’ll find in a Michelin three star restaurant, rather these are wines when you come home midweek after a long work day and want something to put the fun back in life.  And at this price, they’re great value, especially since for every bottle of FlipFlop sold, Soles4Souls provides a pair of shoes to someone in need. So you can relax over a glass and know that you’re providing something for someone less fortunate. Tonight I’m reviewing the Reisling. It has a honey and peach aroma that’s followed by similar flavors augmented by a touch of apricot and citrus. Sitting out watching the stars, listening to the crickets, with a bottle of FlipFlop Riesling and the music of Ry Cooder is a great way to end the day. Enjoy!


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Paul Gilbert & Lattanzio Family Syrah

Paul Gilbert, born November 6, 1966, is an American shredder guitarist. He is well known for his technical guitar work with Racer X and Mr. Big, as well as many solo albums and numerous collaborations and guest appearances with other musicians.
He was voted # 4 on GuitarOne magazine’s list of the "Top 10 Greatest Guitar Shredders of All Time", and holds a spot in Guitar World’s list of the 50 Fastest Guitarists of All Time. His guitar playing is reminiscent of Yngwie Malmsteen, with his fast-driven solos and extreme-level technique. Gilbert gained recognition as one of the fastest guitar players in the world due to incredibly technical pieces like "Technical Difficulties" "Frenzy", "Scarified", "Y.R.O." and "Scit Scat Wah".

In 1988 he left Racer X to join with Billy Sheehan in forming Mr. Big. Gilbert continued playing in Mr. Big until the late 1990s. He left the band in 1997 to pursue a solo career. Although he’s a shredder, he has an interest in classical pieces, which he adapts to his guitar style, several of which are included below.  This is “pump it up” music to get you up for the weekend, so let’s get to it. Enjoy!

I’m pairing Paul Gilbert with a 2007Lattanzio Family Syrah, Sonoma Valley. This wine is sourced from fruit taken from Fedrick Ranch, a Syrah vineyard planted with clones from the great appellations of France’s Northern Rhône – Cornas, Hermitage and Côte-Rôtie. These cool-climate appellations produce the world’s greatest Syrahs.

It’s a vivid, deep purple and from beginning to end the wine has a fragrance of blueberries, blackberries, and violets with flavors that match the aroma. Its taste will send shivers down your spine as the first burst of sweet dark fruit combines with the fresh spiciness that makes up one heck of a bottle of wine. As the wine breathes, the spiciness grows in classic Syrah fashion. It’s a muscular wine to go with the muscle guitar of Paul Gilbert. Enjoy!


Sunday, September 18, 2011

Eric Mongrain & Chad Cabernet Sauvignon

Erik Mongrain is a Canadian composer and guitarist. He uses a unique acoustic style with a wide array of different techniques, approaches and textures reminiscent of Michael Hedges. Erik taught himself guitar from the age of 14, beginning initially started with an electric guitar. But he developed an interest in classical and acoustic guitar after hearing the work of Bach. He taught himself to read music and began composing.

Early on he was inspired by the work of Metallica, Jimi Hendrix, and Kurt Cobain, but when he was 18, he heard the work of guitarist Don Ross, which was a new revelation and he realized he’d found his niche. As he focused on a solo acoustic style, he was heavily influenced by the work of Michael Hedges and began to experiment with a technique known as lap tapping in which the player lays the guitar across their lap, and taps the strings on the fret board with both hands. He is one of the most unique guitarists on the musical scene today.

I’m pairing Eric with a Chad 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon ($19.00). It’s a blend of California Red Hills and Howell Mountain Cabernet. The latter region generates some of the most expensive, yet fabulous Cab’s to come out of California. The Chad has a dark ruby color that explodes with red berry aromas and a sweet red raspberry and cassis palate. The long ripe berry finish leaves your mouth watering for more, just like the music of Eric Mongrain. Enjoy!


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Kenny Burrell & Mollydooker Two Left Feet

Kenny Burrell was born on July 31, 1931 in Detroit. He began playing guitar at the age of twelve, influenced throughout his life by Charlie Christian, Django Reinhardt, and Wes Montgomery. He made is recording debut as a member of Dizzy Gillespie’s sextet in 1951 and later toured for a year with Oscar Peterson.  He has recorded over 100 albums that have included a host of jazz luminaries.

He is a master player of bebop style guitar with flawless technique and was reputed to be Duke Ellington’s favorite guitarist. He is also an accomplished composer whose songs have been recorded by great artists such as Ray Brown, Jimmy Smith, Grover Washington Jr., John Coltrane, June Christy, Frank Wes and Stevie Ray Vaughn and include the 1998 Grammy Award winning song, “Dear Ella”, performed by Dee Dee Bridgewater. Listening to his music is a great way to ease through the week. Enjoy!

I’m pairing Kenny Burrell with a 2008 Mollydooker Two Left Feet, a blend of 68% Shiraz, 17% Merlot, and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon that spent 11 months in 50% new French and American oak. It’s an opaque purple color that emits an enticing aromatic array of blueberries, blackberries, and spice. Two Left Feet is dense, sweet, and layered on the palate, with flavors of dark plums, blackberries, chocolate, and silky tannins. It has a dense texture characterized by a well-rounded mouth-feel and a silky finish. Simply put, it’s delicious. The combination of this wine with the music of Kenny Burrell is a sensory samba. Enjoy!


Sunday, September 4, 2011

Richie Havens & Rockledge Pinot Noir

Tonight I’m featuring one of my favorite folk/guitarists from the 70’s, namely Mr. Richie Havens. Born in Brooklyn on July 21st, 1941, Havens was the eldest of nine children. At an early age, he began organizing his neighborhood friends into street corner do-wop groups and was performing with The McCrea Gospel Singers at 16. At age 20, Havens left Brooklyn, seeking artistic stimulation in Greenwich Village. He saw the Village as a place to escape to, in order to express himself. He had first went there during the beatnik days of the 1950s to perform poetry, then drew portraits for two years and stayed up all night listening to folk music in the clubs. It took a while before he thought of picking up a guitar.

Havens' reputation as a live performer earned him widespread notice. His Woodstock appearance proved to be a major turning point in his career. As the festival's first performer, he held the crowd for nearly three hours (in part because he was told to perform a lengthy set because many artists were delayed in reaching the festival location), and was called back for several encores. What is incredible to me is that the song, :Motherless Child/Freedom that became both Havens and a Woodstock anthem was completely improvised after he ran out of tunes

Following the success of his Woodstock performance, Richie started his own record label, Stormy Forest, and delivered Stonhenge, one of my favorite albums of the 1970’s. Havens uses open tunings and, although his chords are not difficult, his rhythms are incredible. You might notice, as I did when I sat ten feet from him at a concert he gave at my alma mater, DePauw University, that he sings without his upper false teeth. It’s an interesting little fact, but doesn’t diminish the virtuosity of one of the great folk guitarists of modern times.

I’m going to pair Richie with a 2010 Rockledge Pinot Noir ($20.00). This is a concentrated wine with Burgundian balance rarely found in a Carneros Pinot Noir. It’s deep ruby color explodes with a nose of cherries, raspberries, and cranberries, while the palate is full of intense red fruit. Nice long finish with moderate alcohol content. Very nice for listening to vintage folk guitar on a cool night that signals the end of summer. Enjoy!