A great discussion of finding your key by that extraordinary jazzman, Robert Vetter: “There are lots of misconceptions and misplaced embarrassment on this matter. I believe I can explain the process in a way that some of you might find helpful. There will not be a test at the end. I will teach you some basic music theory in order to give you the right perspective and then give a little practical advice at the end…”
One of the great musical pleasures in the Washington area is being able to sing at Bob Smith’s thrice weekly open mics (Saturday and Tuesday at the Morrison House in Alexandria and Fridays at the Serbian Crown in Great Falls).
On his blog page, there’s a regular round-up of who-sang-what at his recent open mic evenings. However, these are more than a dry recitation of names and songs, but are like terrific little radio programs. One of the highlights of each is the presentation by the host Ed Smith (Bob’s son and sound engineer) of an album.
I was tremendously honored to appear as a guest on two of the recent posts (the 6/4 post for the Serbian Crown and the 6/5 post for the Morrison House). I even got to discuss a CD — the re-issue of The Art of Mabel Mercer.
I always say that open mics like this are an invaluable “laboratory of cabaret.” If you can get a roomful of people to pause their conversations and listen to you, you know that you are on to something that can really work. (And you appreciate how much easier you have it when you’re doing a show and people have paid to come see you and actually shut up before you start to sing.)
Bob is a terrific player, knows a gajillion songs, and reads amazingly. He is usually joined by Robert Vetter, a terrific horn and guitar player. And Ed is a great sound engineer. But most importantly, the entire group make a concerted effort to make everyone who sings with them sound as good as possible. And boy, do they succeed in making singers feel and sound terrific !
One of the best open mic experiences in town is available Tuesday and Saturday nights at the Morrison House and Friday nights at the Serbian Crown when Bob Smith on piano and Robert Vetter on a variety of instruments hosts a coterie of singers. The team does an amazing job of creating an atmosphere where everyone feels warm and welcomed. And the music the team puts behind each singer makes everybody sound their best (and often beyond their best).
That sense of spritual generosity continues with the new video blog that Ed Smith (a.k.a. Smith fils), who runs sound for the evenings, is now producing for the team. Each blog report combines the who-sang-what report from the previous evening with musings from Ed’s encyclopedic knowledge of popular music and recordings. (His discussion of the musical influence of the Hi-Los’ influence for popular harmonics from the 3/9 episode is truly riveting.)
That’s a picture of me on Halloween, scaring the fellow revelers by singing You Fascinate Me So.
OK, I’ve been meaning to write forever about discovering how terrific it is to sing with Bob Smith. Ron and I originally, FINALLY, went to hear him for the first time in September at the prodding of the ever-prescient Kathy Reilly who had been raving about his Monday nights at the Madison Hotel.
Bob Smith is a really terrific keyboardist in a great swingy, jazzy style and he runs a very well-organized, totally charming, open mic experience. He is extremely fluid in playing the American Songbook standards in whatever key and style the singer requests. And, he’s also terrific at reading those few songs he doesn’t already know. And he draws an extremely pleasant crowd of folks who really seem to love music.
Not only that, but the Bob Smith Experience also features the amazing work of sideman Robert Vetter, who fills in on acoustic guitar, trumpet, melodica, and vocals. Completing team Bob Smith is his son, Ed Smith, who is co-producer, sound engineer extraordinaire as well as a terrific vocalist in his own right.
Of course, as so often happens when Ron and I discover something like this, the Madison gig came to an end (the way that these things do), just as we were starting to go. (And we did our best not to take it personally.) But Bob Smith at this point can be seen at the Morrison House in Alexandria on Tuesdays and Saturdays and at the Serbian Crown on Friday nights.
And next Tuesday night, he’s doing something special at his Morrison House engagement:
At the Morrison House Grille next Tuesday, 10 November. Mr. Robert Hannigan, General Manager of the Morrison House, Mr. William Smith, Manager of the Grille, and I will be hosting the first-ever “Morrison House Grille Salute to Veterans” event, and your participation is both needed and requested!
We are asking all of you attendees to dress patriotically, and our veterans to wear something that will identify their particular branch of service. Your miniature medals, a veteran’s organization cap (American Legion, VFW, AMVETS, etc), and/or a baseball cap with your branch of service would be perfect. If you can still fit into your old uniform, that would be even better. Needless to say, you won’t see me wearing my Class “A’s” due to the slight distribution in my weight since 2001. LOL!!
I will be passing out 4″ X 6″ American Flags throughout the evening. I will have printed song sheets with the lyrics of the 5 branches of service songs to be sung in reverse order (Coast Guard, Air Force, Navy, Marines, and Army). There will be a George M. Cohan medley sing-along and a rousing “God Bless America” at sometime during the evening. If you have a favorite military song please let me know and we will try and obtain the lyrics for everyone (maybe “God Bless the USA,” “Oh, How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning,” etc.)
The proceeds from the “tip jar” that stands atop the piano will go to the “Wounded Warriors Project,” an advocacy organization that assists returning service personnel who suffer from a variety of disastrous physical and mental maladies, and their families. You may visit WWW.WOUNDEDWARRIORSPROJECT.ORG to gain more insight into this very vital program. William Smith has also informed me that a portion of the proceeds from the food and beverage sales on Tuesday evening will also be donated to this organization.
I am also going to invite the commander, his officers, and the members of Alexandria Post 24 of the American Legion to join with us on Tuesday. I am a former vice commander of this elite group of veterans and I welcome their participation.
Please plan to be with us at our regular time of 8:00-11:00 PM on Tuesday, 10 November, for this first-ever “Morrison House Grille Salute to Veterans.” Rob, William, and I are very excited about this event and we hope you share our enthusiasm and willingness to participate! See you next Tuesday evening!