Sunday, September 30, 2012

Musical Fundraiser in Warminster, PA

7-minute version of The Bad Plus's new CD "Made Possible."

Ethan Iverson gave a magical piano performance with commentary this afternoon for our first New Directions' Home Fundraiser at the home of Harriet and Steve Rellis of Warminster, PA.

I'm listening to the entire album right now which is super-energizing and toe-tapping. The Bad Plus played tunes from Possible at Chris's Jazz Cafe in Philly over the weekend.

In our intimate living room gathering, Ethan played w/o sheet music and started us out on a musical history of jazz. Here he is warming up at the keyboards.

First, tho, at my request he played two preludes and fugues by the master J S Bach. The counterpoint sounded remarkably jazzy. You can hear it here. Ethan said the Prelude and Fugue in E Minor is very difficult to play.

We heard the famous ragtime pieces of Scott Joplin, a precursor for the "strider" form of piano playing by James P Johnson.

You can listen to Ethan play Johnson's famous "Charleston" piece here.  He was part of a cadre of pianists raising money for Johnson's unmarked grave in Queens that was finally erected in 2009.

Black artists, said Ethan, have tremendous financial difficulties. Johnson had perfect pitch and total recall of music he heard, starting as a kid living within access of NYC, according to Wiki.

Ethan would give a little history about each tune and how it fit in with jazz history.

Before the show I asked him why he wears a suit for his shows. He does so b/c then he always knows what to wear and also b/c his favorite pianists from yesteryear dressed in suits.

Ada mentioned that Obama, he- whom- must- be re-elected, only wears gray suits for the same reason.

Then we heard Bud Powell and Monk (the melancholy Round Midnight), both of whom had mental problems. On a previous visit to Willow Grove, Ethan and I drove to another point in Willow Grove to find where Bud Powell had grown up. Here's my post about it.

Ethan concluded with a song he wrote about Bill Hickman, stunt driver. Bill was a pretty tough guy on the movie set and Ethan wondered what it was like for the guy when he went home. He envisioned him sitting in the kitchen eating TV dinners and I suppose drinking beer.

Anyway, it was a surprising and delightful finale to a diverse, thoughtful and exciting program. Bravo!

Sarah's sitting on the soft champagne-colored carpet. Helen Kirschner sat on the floor behind her, barefoot, with great earrings on.

Every seat in the room was taken and the plants gave him a standing ovation.

Before the concert, we had Sarah's buffet lunch.

Here's Ron Abrams talking to hostess Harriet. As an RN, Harriet and her husband volunteered to administer flu shots yesterday to any Bucks Co resident who wanted one. She gave hundreds and hundreds of shots. (PS: It only hurts for a second)

Here's Steve Rellis, who gave us a tour of their great house. Their newly redone kitchen offers granite countertops on which you can put HOT FOOD directly onto the counter.

And what a spread it was!

Two main courses: poached salmon with cucumber sauce (yogurt, sour cream, fresh-garden mint) AND curried chicken salad with almonds and red grapes. The green salad featured fresh chopped beets and both peccorino and roquefort cheese.

Offscreen was the most marvelous h'ors d'oevre imaginable: bacon wrapped around a date filled with cheese and an almond.

I bot delicious gourmet olives from the Giant, as well as shrimp for shrimp cocktails. There was also broiled cauliflower and ginger carrots.

Sarah made up the menu so it would be easy to prepare in advance. She emailed me the ingredients and I hied over to the Giant where I spent so much money I got 40-cents per gallon off on gas.

We (she) made everything yesterday at my house with the help of my sister Donna. We also got two cartons of Starbucks coffee for free b/c ND is a nonprofit.

Rich Fleisher, DO, runs every day. Rich says he has trouble explaining what a DO is - donut-shop operator? - drugstore owner? - or possibly doctor of osteopathy?

Anyway, now he has trouble explaining about a new center at Lower Bucks Hospital, where he works, that does transgender operations. Its founder, Dr. Christine McGinn, was on Oprah.

Sarah was a researcher in the newly published NY Times best-seller Eat and Run by ultra-marathoner Scott Jurek, so she got Rich Fleisher an autographed copy of the book. Jurek is a vegetarian and was once criticized for his diet, but proved he could be a world champion w/o consuming meat.

Scott is running with a native American, member of a particular tribe known for super running abilities.

I read the first chapter where Jurek is running thru Death Valley. Jurek only runs in races 100 miles or more. He made it thru the first 70 miles in Death Valley but was only halfway thru when he collapsed. It was a learning experience for him that changed the way he thought about life and running. Read about this exciting trip here.

Jurek's mom was diagnosed later in life with painful MS. She told her son, "Don't worry about me. I'm tough." 

Although they train, they punish their bodies and a few ultras perish during their runs. But, ultimately, it's not about the body, says Scott. It's about the mind.

Kitchen smiles. Oh, c'mon, Jane, did the sparkling cranberry juice make you pucker up?

I bought Stewart's Root Beer for Scott. He let me finish the last two sips. (Gotta watch me sugar level.)

"Tree" and Jerry Forstater devour the shrimp. They fell in love at first sight. Tree was impressed b/c Jerry was a vegetarian. They remained vegetarian for 13 years, but the lure of the flesh runs deep in our DNA.

Here kitty kitty. Sure enuf, Samantha came right over to Helen, glad to be free. Samantha spent the concert enclosed in the Sun Room, quietly dancing to Johnson's The Charleston.

Unfortunately I didn't get photos of everyone. How could I miss Arleen and Stephen Weinstein? We all gobbled up her moist banana chocolate nut bread.

Here's Sarah's chocolate-covered strawberries. I made seven trips to the Giant yesterday to get the right ingredients. I couldn't seem to get the correct chocolate but finally did.

My mom also made Lemon Squares for the third dessert. I called her up after the party to thank her. I was on my exercise bike lowering my blood glucose to a most respectable 84.

Here's Tracey who arrived with her friends Holly and Ellen Rosenberg. I was so happy to see them! Tracey got a job as a "peer specialist" and loves it.

Here's me and Harriet, the host, who is also a master bridge player. I love the sconce over the piano.

Sarah and Ethan relax after all their hard work.

Ethan said he'd never performed before a small audience but really enjoyed it. These salon-type performances were common back in the days when keyboards were called claviers as in The Well-Tempered Clavier by J S Bach.

The intimacy is thrilling.

One of Ethan's fans is a young man from Philly named Josh. His bipolar sister does very well in her home on LI, married with kids.

Josh read about our fundraiser on Ethan's blog and that's how we all got to meet him. Ethan said he's an internal medicine doctor.

Fans come in all forms.

The newest fan is Grace Catherine Deming. We stopped by for dessert - OMG - Nicole made these unfrigging believable pumpkin spice bars with choc chips and CREME CHEESE FROSTING. I only had three pieces.

We sat and watched TOY STORY THREE, an amazingly fantastic movie made by Steve Jobs' Pixar films.

And then they left - Sarah and Ethan - back to NY on the AMTRAK.

Fast and furious as the "Made Possible" CD I'm listening to. I highly recommend it. Here, lemme find a review for ya.

The Times review is a little - how shall we put it? - opaque?  I'll see if I can think of a better word while I'm falling asleep. Then, as usual, I'll run downstairs and change it.

Oh! Almost forgot. After we got home, my new tiger, Willow Growl, was so happy to see Ethan.

C'mon over and meet my very first pet. He's already housebroken and has been declawed.


  1. It sounds wonderful! Wish I could have been there. You are very fortunate that your family supports your work and lends their talents to your terrific cause/calling.

    Does your tiger friend have a name?

  2. i wish you could've been there too, isis! i named the tiger Zoltan, as in the hungarian composer zoltan kodaly. it just came to me. and then he gave a great big GROWL!!!