The Death Whisperer Series

The Death Whisperer Series
The Death Whisperer Series available at

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Stanley Jordan & Donnhoff Krotenphul Riesling Kabinett

Tonight I’m featuring a fellow ex-Chicagoan, the incredible Stanley Jordan. Jordan burst onto the music scene in 1985 as one of the pioneers of a relatively new guitar style—tapping. He began his music studies at the age of six, studying the piano, which he still plays like a virtuoso. At the age of eleven, he shifted his focus to the guitar and in 1981 earned a BA in music from Princeton University, studying theory and computer music.

As you’ll see, he has a unique style of playing, tapping the melody with his left hand while chording with his right. It allows him to do something I’ve never seen others try, that is, play two guitars at once or the guitar and piano simultaneously. His unique approach starts with a Arpege model guitar made by Vigier Guitars. It has a flat fingerboard allowing it to have a very low action (0.5/0.7mm) that facilitates his tapping technique. The second part is his tuning. He plays the guitar in an all-fourths tuning, EADGCF from bass to treble, which he says simplifies the fretboard and makes it logical.

In addition to playing, he has developed music software and published papers on the topic in APL Quote-Quad and the IBM Systems Journal. And if that doesn’t make him unique beyond being a performing/recording musician, he also has a Master’s degree in music therapy from Arizona State University.

If you’ve never heard him, I think you’ll like him.

Lady still got the blues:

One of my favorite summer wines is a Riesling and the 2011 Donnhoff Krotenphul Riesling Kabinett ($20.00) is a great example.  Light straw colored, its aroma has notes of peaches and honeysuckle. The taste is full of juicy white peaches, lemons, and honey. It’s a light, crisp wine and perfect for summer. Try it with Stanley Jordan’s music. You’ll like it.


Sunday, June 23, 2013

Robert Johnson & Beckman Vineyard's Cuvee Le Bec

You can’t talk about blues guitar without mentioning the legendary Robert Johnson. His influence on modern blues and rock and roll is undeniable and many of his tunes like Crossroad blues, Walking blues, and Sweet home Chicago have achieved canonical status, anthems of the blues genre.

It’s amazing that one hundred two years ago, a dirt-poor African-American boy was born who would grow up to learn to sing and play the blues influencing music for a century and beyond. He was the king of the Delta Blues singers influencing Eric Clapton, the Rolling Stones, the Allman brothers, and many others who’ve sung his praise and honored his legacy by recording his music.

He recorded 29 songs between 1936 and 1937 for the American Record Corporation, which released eleven 78rpm records on their Vocalion label during Johnson¹s lifetime, and one after his death, but he plied his craft on street corners and in the juke joints of the south. His life has been romanticized because so little is really known about him. His life is surrounded by myths from a deal with the devil that led to his incredible musical mastery to the tragedy of his death due to poisoning in 1938 by a jealous boyfriend that prolonged the agony of dying for three days.

But one thing is certain. His musical ability left a legacy of guitar mastery that is some of the most complex and difficult music to play. Even Eric Clapton acknowledged its difficulty in an interview I posted some weeks back. So enjoy one of the consummate bluesmen whose influence will continue for generations to come.

Travelin riverside blues:
I believe I’ll dust my broom:
When you gotta good friend:
If I had possession over judgment day:
I’m a steady rollin man:

We need a powerhouse wine to compliment Robert Johnson, so I suggest a Beckman Vineyards 2010 Cuvee Le Bec. It’s a blend of 44% Syrah, 34% Grenache, 13% Mourvedre, and 9% Cournoise, very similar to what one finds in France’s Northern Rhone region. It has aromas of dark berries and pepper with a fruity palate that’s rich in blackberry and raspberry. The Cuvee Le Bec is a very balanced wine with a long, lingering finish, just the thing for one of the Delta Blues greats of all time. Enjoy!


Friday, June 21, 2013

Who needs a band? and Hugel Pinot Blanc

Decades ago, I heard an unbelievable one-man concert by Phil Keaggy during which he used a Jam Man looping pedal to create multiple guitar parts and sounds turning his solo act into a veritable symphony. More recently, I’ve seen more and more artists using looping techniques in concert augmenting their solo work to the point that they no longer need a band. Hey, it’s a good idea because unless you have a multiple personality disorder, there are no conflicts between band members over what to play, how to play it, and where to gig. You don’t need a bus to haul your equipment, in fact, you can fit it in a VW and save on gas and hotel expenses.

It’s gotten to the point where there are contests specifically for loopers (not the movie). So tonight I’m featuring a group of very fine examples of the art including three whom I feel are at the top, namely Peter Luha, Ed Sheeran, and the master of them all, Phil Keaggy. Don’t miss Naoryu and DJ Berlin, two very creative young ladies. Actually, all of them are very creative and prove the maxim, “Who needs a band?”

Another summer favorite of mine is Pinot Blanc. They’re a bit confusing because these wines, although usually made from Pinot Blanc grapes, could also be made with Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Auxerrois, or a blend of any of these four. The one I recommend tonight is a  2009 Hugel Pinot Blanc Cuvee les Amours Alsace ($15.00). The nose has aromas of pears, apples, and a bit of pepper. The taste explodes like a fruit bomb with fresh apples and apricots, vibrant acidity, and a long, long finish. It has a rich mouthfeel and is another great choice for summer sipping and listening to some very creative guitarists. Enjoy!


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Rock gone acoustic & Heron Pinot Noir

Nothing stretches an electric guitarist more than playing a brains-against-the-wall rock tune unplugged. It’s much harder to disguise screw-ups when you’re playing acoustic. So, tonight I thought I’d take a look at some serious rock tunes played by their respective bands in an acoustic format. It amazes me how beautiful some of these songs sound unplugged. Listen to Stevie Winwood playing “Can’t Find My Way Home,” the Eurythmic’s “Here Comes The Rain Again,” or the Scorpion’s “Send Me An Angel” as examples. Others seem more amenable to toe tapping and a nodding one’s head such as “Panama” by Van Halen or catch Joe Perry’s slide work on “Monkey Off My Back.” Very cool. Some very nice guitar work here. Hope you enjoy it.


Bruce Springsteen

Steve Winwood/Blind Faith
Can’t find my way home:

Eric Clapton

Bon Jovi

Van Halen

Jethro Tull

Monkey off my back/Love me two times:

Brian May (Queen)


Cheap Trick


Here comes the rain again:


The Pretenders

My favorite reds for summer are Pinot Noirs. They’re light, fruity, and wonderful. So tonight, try a 2011 Heron Pinot Noir ($15.00). Heron winery is out of San Francisco and isn’t a vineyard. Rather, they buy grapes from all over the world to make one fine wine. For a Pinot at this price point, it’s stunning. The wine is bright ruby red and quite complex with aromas of cherries, vanilla, and a touch of pepper. It’s more like a French Burgundy with flavors of red cherries, cranberry, and vanilla and higher acidity than a California Pinot Noir. For $15.00, you can’t beat it. Enjoy it with some very tasty acoustic rock.


Sunday, June 16, 2013

Joyce Cooling & Pelissero Piani Barbera

We need something smooth and cool to slide into the week, so cool it is, Joyce Cooling, that is. Joyce is a guitarist, vocalist and songwriter, with an eclectic style and sound that just gets your body swaying. She’s funky, she’s soulful, and just doggone nice listening.

Although Joyce now lives in San Francisco, she was raised in the New York area in a house that, as she says was “filled with music.” Her musical influences are diverse and include everyone from Joe Henderson, Wes Montgomery, and Miles Davis, to James Brown, Led Zeppelin, Frank Zappa and Jimi Hendrix, to Ravel, Stravinsky, Bach, and Brahms, to Hermeto Pascoal, Elis Regina, João Bosco and finally Jobim. Her teenage years were spent sitting on the steps outside of the Village Vanguard and other Manhattan jazz clubs. Although she was underage, the bartender at the Vanguard saw how much she loved the music and let her hang out on the steps.

Joyce is self-taught and learned to play by ear, which led to the development of her fingerpicking style and its unique tone. In my opinion, she’s sounds a little like Larry Carlton. She’s played with some biggies including jazz giants Joe Henderson, Stan Getz, and Charlie Byrd. In addition, she’s garnered several prestigious awards including the Gibson Best Jazz Guitarist of the Year Award and Best New Talent in the Jazziz Reader’s Poll.

Her style and music is great for unwinding from a hectic day. Hope it helps you get through your week.

If I had to describe Joyce’s music with one word, it would be playful. So, I’m pairing her with a playful wine, a barbera, namely a 2008 Pelissero Piani Barbera ($19.00). This not a wine to over-analyze or spend much time thinking about. It’s a comfort wine that simply works. Pulling the cork releases a flood of aromatic flowers and cherries, cherries, and more cherries. It’s packed with sour black cherries, tart, but not too tart and accompanied by soft tannins. This wine begs to be quaffed, and if your looking for a food to accompany it, try pasta tossed with something simple like olive oil and fresh parmesan. Appropriately, it’s a smooth drinker to match the smooth sounds of Joyce Cooling.