T Lavitz

As many of you know, T Lavitz, my friend and former bandmate, died unexpectedly on Oct. 7 2010. I have been thinking a lot about T since then, running through experiences of so many times and conversations in my mind as people do about others, but with both a disbelief and poignancy that there won’t be any more.

Rod Morgenstein told be about a tribute that Derek Sherinian was putting together to T that will be published in Keyboard magazine that we could possibly contribute to. I found it very difficult to put my thoughts into words. I didn’t want to simplify T, or my relationship to him. But I really wanted to say something, so this is what I wrote:

“I met T at a small bar near Miami over 30 years ago. Rod had heard him at the University of Miami and recommended him as a possibility for the band, so we went and heard him play. It was mainly Miami ‘jazz club’ music of the day, but he shined through it. He sounded great, and was so enthusiastic and something just felt really right about him being in the band even from that first night.

We all became close friends over the years sharing so many experiences together as bands do, but T and I especially spent a lot of time together back then. We were both very social and liked meeting new people and just exploring the world and finding interesting situations. I’m sure it has been said by many, but T was someone who could just light people up, they would be very glad to see him and be around him. I include myself in that group, and even years after the band broke up and I would see him with Jazz is Dead or the re-formed Dregs, it was just fun and natural, as if we simply picked up from the last moment.

But I want to go back and point out how I felt when I heard a couple of parts on the first album that he played with the band on “Dregs of the Earth”. The really short organ solo on “Twigg’s Approved” just sent me into a spin and still does with its perfect touch and note choices. There was so much feel beneath his hands on an organ. Of course, the other tune was “I’m Freaking out”. That was really a feature for T and again, the first time I heard it, it just killed (and still does). It really captures him as a musician. There is a section in the middle with the electric piano sound which I loved hearing and playing at the same time because it felt like it was almost just him and me for that whole section. I felt proud of him and proud to be in a band with him. His blend of jazz and rock organ and everything else simply has a power and brightness and happiness to it that just comes out through the notes. From then there were many, many notes played and heard and life stories I will value forever. There is something in every song. It is weird, even though I haven’t spent nearly enough time with T in the last number of years, his untimely death has ripped a part of the past out of the present and it leaves a huge hole. I’ll always see and feel T the man in my mind, by hearing the music we still have from him.”

Here is an obituary with some sweet comments about T in the guestbook link. A friend has also created a Facebook group, both of which are worth checking out. I have also found lots of great videos of T on YouTube. And Rod Morgenstein posted the beautiful eulogy he gave at T’s memorial service.

I think all these things are good for us…

Les Paul, Tivo, Netflix On Demand

I watched the 2007 Documentary “Les Paul: Chasing Sound”. It was really great and I highly recommend it. Actually for anyone, it is a very interesting and inspiring story. I had not heard some of the very innovative music he has done. And he was over ninety in this documentary….gad…

The other awesome thing about this is that, I simply stumbled on it while searching the Netflix library, then said add it to my “instant’ queue. There it was…simple as that. The TV is a terrible place to browse shows, so you still have to use Netflix, but there site is not bad. I’m impressed at how simple it is.

The Devil and Daniel Johnston

Ok, this has to be one of the weirdest movies I have ever seen. Only for people who are seriously interested in understanding pop culture and derangement and mental illness at the same time. It is very hard to watch, yet compels you until the end. Watch it if you really like off-kilter movies and documentaries. If you get far enough to see it, I highly suggest the viewing the extras for more context. Much better and more moving and educational than any of those intelligence erasing reality shows that everyone seems to smoke like crack. Here is an excerpt from the official site:

“As an artist suffering from manic depression with delusions of grandeur, Daniel Johnston’s wild fluctuations, numerous downward spirals, and periodic respites are exposed in this deeply moving documentary.

As a reclusive teenager growing up in New Cumberland, VA, Johnston began showing signs of unusual artistic ability at an early age. He religiously recorded his thoughts and stories onto cassette tapes, directed intuitive Super- 8 films starring himself in multiple roles ala Peter Sellers, and created expressive comic book-style drawings and animation in the basement of his family’s home. However, in the eyes of his fundamentalist Christian family, Daniel simply wasn’t contributing to society in a useful or productive way. After running off on a moped and joining a carnival, he landed in Austin, Texas, broke and alone. It was there he began to hone his musical career, recording folk songs on a series of homemade, lo-fi cassettes, which Daniel handed out free to fans, friends and journalists in the early 80s. With the help of a timely break and the thriving Austin music scene, Daniel managed to secure a brief spotlight on MTV making him a minor celebrity. But just as he was beginning to make a name for himself, his inner demons began to surface and Daniel’s ongoing struggle with manic depression became more and more evident in his songs and drawings.”