Jazzed Up At The FPR

We’ve put the wraps on another GREAT Fur Peace Ranch weekend. This was our first – big session camp weekend – here at the Ranch in the beautiful hills of SE Ohio. I say big session because not only did we have the Captain of the camp, Jorma, here teaching, but he was also joined by two real heavyweights in the music world…..Stefan Grossman and Larry Coryell. We had a great mix of
students that was predominately made up of “repeat offenders” along with some new students. I’m not usually aware of who will be coming to the Fur Peace on a camp weekend until the day before arrival. When I started to go through the list and cabin assignments…..I’m like….no way, wow, all my favorite people are coming in this weekend. As Debbie has pointed out to me….I do have lots of favorites, still the concentration was deep and strong. The new folks were all great as well and the combination was a beautiful thing. Sometimes I look at the Ranch as a microcosm and when I look around at all the fine folks that come through our doors…..I think how lucky I am……and I also think that if the world community had the energy, spirit, music and friends like we spend our time with in the course of a weekend……well, just lookout…..there would be no problems, no worries and alot of good music in the air.

We were so happy to have both, Stefan and Larry, back to the Ranch. Stefan is such a treat and a treasure!!! He is the consummate teacher and does alot to prepare for his class. He made up a nice instructional booklet just for his Fur Peace visit with 15 songs that he taught his students along with a CD. All respect Stefan……what a nice thought and great learning tool, and he gave one to each of his students.

Part of Stefan's FPR student pack

Part of Stefan's FPR student pack

Larry got down to the Ranch just in time to start his afternoon session. He had played up in Quebec the night before and had really done some hustling to get to the Ranch. He jumped right into things and got the place swinging. Jorma had a great class too! Lots of teaching and learning as our three professors worked diligently with their eager students.

Saturday night was our first concert in the 2010 concert series and what a way to kick off the season! We started things off in our usual manner with Vanessa and I taking the stage to greet the crowd and make some stage announcements. After we had said about all there was to say…..I prompted the entire audience into a stellar version of Happy Birthday in honor of Vanessa’s birthday as
the staff promenaded down the aisle with a birthday cake ….. candles a burnin….not that there were a bunch of them. The cake was delicious and they had spelled out the “Happy Birthday Vanessa” in red, gold and green……now I don’t know where they got that idea……but I dug it. Stefan took the stage and treated all to a fine hour of country blues guitar. He was in top form and you could tell he was enjoying the evening and the audience ……he had the whole house clapping through one song……until the stop spot came up……and he also got everyone to sing along to “My Creole Belle”. Brilliant fun is what this master spun during his set. Stefan as a young man learned his craft from the old Blues Masters of the day…… Rev. Gary Davis, Skip James, Son House, Mississippi John Hurt among others. He channeled them during his performance and added some colorful stories that were an added treat. The beautiful thing about hearing Stefan play or teach is that you feel the link from way back as he connects these early masters to the present day……..they left their treasures in good hands.

Larry Coryell took the stage after the intermission along with his bass player, Jonathan Wood and drummer Jun Saito and they came out swinging. Opening their set with Milt Jacksons, “Bags Groove”, they totally put us in the groove and the mood for a night of Jazz. In introducing Larry I declared that he is arguably Jazz’s greatest living guitarist and I would stand by that. His set was fantastic!!! He played one of my all time favorite Larry songs….”Dragons Gate” along with Thelonious Monk’s “Twinkle Tingle”…..we got to hear the Theme from Black Orpheus as well as his beautiful original ……named after his beautiful wife……”Tracie”. He also played a solo piece on acoustic guitar, “Bolero”, and one of our regulars came over to me and told me that alone was worth the price of admission. At the end of the night Stefan joined up with Larry for a fine jam!
Larry Coryell and Stefan Grossman share the stage for a rare encore

Larry Coryell and Stefan Grossman share the stage for a rare encore

What a night…….boy, we were all jazzed. Larry has such a nice way about him and he is also quite articulate…..He remarked to the audience how happy he was to return to the Fur Peace Ranch….. “Jorma’s castle of culture in the wilderness.” Yeah, Larry.

While I do try to give my blog the feel of a journal into a day in the life of…….I also will try to spice it up a bit from time to time with some precious information…..and here is some. Just about when I was saying my goodbye to Larry, I asked him….”What are your favorite three Jazz albums?”…..Now aside from having too many favorites, I also have a ton of records accumulated from my time in the business and a life long love of record collecting…..so these kind of things interest me…..and here they are: Wes MontgomeryIncredible Jazz Guitar of“, Bill Evans – “Live at the Village Vanguard, Vol. 1” and Miles DavisMy Funny Valentine: Live at Lincoln Center“. Good stuff and a great time.

Sunday’s student performance was another winner. The variety and talent on the Fur Peace stage was staggering. BIG UP to all, cause it truly was all good. I was very happy that Brett E. asked me to play a song with him. He knows I’m a big Dylan fan and we decided to do ” I Shall be Released”. While running through it on Sunday morning Alan D. heard us and he was adding some nice sounds on his twelve string while sitting off to the side…..but he wasn’t out of ear range and we pulled him on in as a part of the performance. Now on top of this we added the fine sounds of Mitch’s accordion and Vanessa’s harmony vocal to make the song complete.
Hurl, Vanessa, Brett E, Alan D, Mitch R during Sunday's student performance

Hurl, Vanessa, Brett E, Alan D, Mitch R during Sunday's student performance

Come Sunday night……another treat……we all got to hear a brilliant and magnificent set from JORMA…..solo…..and just for us! I get to hear JK alot and although he always sounds great……he went past that this night. Alot of happy campers leaving the concert hall that night. Everyone was inspired and a group of students got a jam going that went into early morning. Everyone has left now…..but the groove remains……and many memories of another great weekend here at the Fur Peace.

Back in the groove again!

Well, we’re back at it once again here at the ole Fur Peace Ranch……just about to wrap up our first session of season number 13…..and it’s been a good one. This was one of the weekends we do a couple times a year where it is just Jorma and his trusty teaching assistant, Marjorie Thompson, passing on their knowledge in an intimate workshop setting…..only 10 students in the whole camp. It’s a great way for us to start a new season as it allows us to ease on in, before going full tilt boogie. We’re able to test the waters and make sure every thing is working and that we remembered all the things we do and I’d say that there is no doubt……we are back in the groove again. They were calling for storms all weekend, yet we were treated to a beautiful and sunny Friday before the storms did arrive. Still…..we never let weather dampen our spirits…..and it has been said…rain or shine it’s always a good time at the Fur Peace Ranch…..and it was. Jorma and Marjorie had a wonderful group of students and they were treated to some intensive and thoughtful workshop sessions. This arrangement also allows Jorma to give each and every student some one-on-one instruction and that is a priceless addition to the curriculum. Marjorie just loves teaching and she was always available to help with student’s individual needs as well as adding a session on the caged system for a bonus.

Aside from all the great teaching…..the kitchen staff was dynamite as were the meals they so lovingly prepare. Chef Chris……maximum respect to that dude…..he was on top of his game right from the get go and the meals were just better then ever…..and they’ve always been top shelf. Queen Deb is still here with us and aside from the help she provides in the kitchen she always adds a nice touch to the presentation……the food doesn’t only taste great….the way it is served and the way the dining room is set up is great too. Brenda…..the cookie lady……was in prime form too……and the cookies and cakes (especially that angel food cake and pistachio cake) were nothing short of bombastic fantastic!!! On Friday night we had for dinner a wonderful penne pasta with smoked salmon….on Saturday night we had ribs with sweet potatoes fries and scalloped potatoes……and cornbeef made from scratch for Sunday lunch, followed by a pistachio chicken with organic raspberry sauce for dinner. All these fine meals were accompanied by some wonderful side dishes and organic salads. Yes……we’re eating well!

The days here at camp are busy, with learning and eating filling up the schedule. Each night we had some real special happenings as well. On Saturday night Jorma performed a very intimate “Living Room Concert” for the students in attendance. We set up one of the Library rooms for the concert and it was just like being in a nice living room. We had folks sitting on the couch and easy chair……and some enjoyed a nice spot on the floor with some pillows to provide comfort. Jorma put on a heck of a great show and he also put together a wonderful setlist for the occasion….It went like this…..True Religion….Too Many Years (nice to hear this back in the mix)……Come Back Baby…..Things That Might Have Been (one of JK’s newest compositions that has been really growing on me)…..There’s a Bright Side Somewhere……Nine Pound Hammer……Izze’s Lullaby……Search My Heart……Uncle Sam’s Blues……Follow the Drinking Gourd……What are they Doin in Heaven Tonight……River of Time……Death Don’t Have no Mercy…..and Let Us Get Together.

Jorma's living room performance

Jorma's living room performance

You see what I mean? …..a fantastic set only surpassed by the fine delivery from the Captain! Another very cool aspect of this evening’s show was that it was totally unplugged…..no mics and no cords and I sure like that …….for several reasons. Very cool night and very special time!!!!

Saturday night was another special one too. For the second part of our “Living Room Concert Series” we were treated to a wonderful performance from Ms. Marjorie Thompson!!! Always good to see and have Marjorie around the Ranch and she played a wonderful show for us all. Marjorie performed in the same format as JK…..unplugged and acoustic….and her set had a fine continuity to it which showcased material from several of the 6 CDs in her discography. She performed songs from her just released CD…Good, Fast and Cheap and they are some of her strongest compositions. Marjorie’s set went like this……Weather Report…….Poster Child……So Long……Clean My House……She Loves You…..Too Old to Care…….Angels…….Good, Fast and Cheap…….Spirit Train……and Old Timers. A real nice night of music and a dynamic performance from Marjorie.
Marjorie performs in the living room

Marjorie performs in the living room

Well……The students are in the workshop building doing their last morning session before we break camp……it’s been a great weekend and I’m taking that to be an auspicious sign…..I ‘m going to have to wrap this journal entry up for now……but in closing I’ll add……Aside from the good eating…..the great lessons ….and great shows……we also had a wonderful student performance. We were able to do the student performance as a round robin….everyone in a big circle and everyone playing a song when it came their way. We went around that circle three times and man, oh, man……it was a lot of fun……The Student Performance was another really big show!!!

All this and a fellowship of friends and musicians that is down right good for the soul…….Bless Up!

. . . Here We Go Again . . .

Well it’s been real nice here at the Fur Peace Ranch this week as we all scurried about getting ready for the upcoming season. Yes, some nice warm and sunny weather……brought directly back from California….has been a big plus in creating the perfect environment for us to get everything done around here.

The outside grounds are looking real nice with Brother Jeroch putting his special touch on the landscape. The Tibetan Prayer Flags that hang at various spots throughout the Ranch have been replenished. The CD order has come in and the CD case in the Company Store is now full once again. The Library Building, which houses the Co. Store, a classroom and a second floor musical resource library has brand new carpet and Kelly has also given the walls a nice new coat of paint.

The Company Store sparkling with new carpet and paint!

The Company Store sparkling with new carpet and paint!

The truck driver from the local rock quarry has just left after spreading TWO truck loads of crusher run rock on our long driveway…..he’s done a nice job.The fresh shipment of Fur Peace Ranch Campfire Coffee …..just roasted on Tuesday…..was dropped off by Loraine from Silver Bridge Coffee. The entire kitchen staff has been in all week making sure everything they need for the start of our season is on the shelves and in the cupboards.

Yes, indeed …….Year #13 for the Fur Peace Ranch will commence tomorrow with the arrival of students for Jorma’s Special Weekend, with Marjorie Thompson and the Captain teaching the finer points of Finger Style Guitar that will give the students keys to the fingerstyle highway.

It’s funny……most of our employees have been here for a long time……long enough that we can all joke about how we wait till the last minute to finish things off. But you know what……I’m OK with it and I’d guess we all are……it has become our modus operandi… we all work good in a pinch and under pressure. As we get ready to leave for the day and look around this beautiful place that we call the Fur Peace Ranch…it is looking great and we’re ready….everything on the list…….ok, well almost everything……has been crossed off. So………….let the workshops begin and all the good times and good eating that come with them……it’ll be nice to see our people again.

And this is what I come back too???

So…….After a great time in California, I’m home — here in the Buckeye State of Ohio. I landed late at night in Columbus and a good friend was there to pick me up….even though it isn’t snowing …..the remnants remain of what must have been a lot of snow while I was gone……bummer that I missed out on that. I head into work on Wednesday morning and when I & I opened the door to cabin #4…..my office…..well I almost had a heart attack. Clutching my chest …..just like Fred G. Sanford…..my eyes look around the room and it dawns on me that my office has had a complete makeover……and they must have got a Rastaman to do it. Whoooooaaaa, boy…….and what an IRIE job he done.

Ras Hurl takin' it all in

Ras Hurl takin' it all in

While I was out in California, the boss lady…..Vanessa, had made arrangements with our great friend……and Rasta brother……Kevin Morgan to surprise me with a complete renovation of my office……with REGGAE in mind. I was so knocked out that I almost could not speak and just had to look and look……it was totally amazing. I’ve got a new wood-like laminate floor……and a very earthy green new coat of paint on the walls……and a desktop stained in the Ites colors of red, gold and green…..and red, green and gold shelves too…….another WHOOOOAAA BOY…….and a new oil painting of Bob as a centerpiece on the main wall. When I find out that Kevin did the work, I just had to ring him up. As I’m telling him how much I LOVE what he had done……I ask……”Where the Bob painting come from?….I never seen that around your house” ….and he replies….”That’s a gift I painted for the I”.
Ras Hurl enjoying his renovated digs

Ras Hurl enjoying his renovated digs

Well as you can see from this picture…..it is a very impressive painting. I would go as far to say……It is the best painting of Bob I’ve ever seen. Bob in about 1975….just starting to dreadout…. about the same time I seen him live for the first time. Well……you see why I was so knocked out. Anyhey, BIG UP and BIG THANKS to Ras Morgan and his expert helper…..Davo….also known as Dave Shaulis !!! It’s funny when I talked to Kevin, he was concerned about how he had put my things back in place……..and I had to say….no worries, mon…. I & I could not have placed them any better. A BIG, BIG thanks to Vanessa and Jorma too…..always doing nice things for the I…….Yes…..the blessings continue……give thanks!

Good Time In The Golden State

Dis mornin I woke up and was thinking about what a full and action packed time these last few weeks have been. Yes, it was just three weeks ago that I escaped the cold snowy Ohio winter for a reprieve in the golden state. The weather here has been just the best and the sun and warmth has been good for my soul, but there has been a good deal of other things pitching in as well. Of course MUSIC is and has been for a long time a big part of my life and these past weeks have been a nice dip or should I say soaking in the musical springs.

On the day we landed here in San Diego, Vanessa, my sister – Marylou and her husband – John, and I made a dash into downtown San Diego to catch the great Tommy Emmanuel in concert. I had been telling ML and John about Tommy for some time and it was so cool how well the timing worked. Well, Tommy was in prime form and they were just knocked out. For Vanessa and I the nice thing was getting to sit and enjoy a complete set of Tommy’s magical performance without being pulled away. It was just fantastic….his show covers it all in gold…The Merle Travis style……Chet Atkins….Les PaulDjango Reinhart and his own original gems. The music is accompanied by amazing stories and energy. Thanks a lot Tommy!

Over the next couple of days we hung around San Diego and did some chillaxin. My sister had everyone over for a pasta and meatball dinner on Friday night and everything was VA BENNE!!! My Italian Mom is and would be proud of her. My niece Brittany has a penchant for fine deserts and she made a cheesecake that was fantastic. Good eating tonight….Jorma put the icing on the cake with a beautiful Embryonic Journey that added a touch of surrealism to the evening. It is still sustaining in their living room. The next night Jorma did a rare private performance for some real nice folks in the San Diego area. Seeing Jorma perform solo is rare too these days and it made it all the more special….back to the roots. A big up to the hosts of this fine time…..your hospitality and good vibes really made for another great time.

Sunday comes and we’re convoying up the 15 heading to the Desert Hot Springs for our FPR on the road adventure. We pull into town a little early for check-in so we while away our time with a killer lunch at The South of the Border Mexican Restaurant. Fernando, the owner, is still here and the food exceeded our anticipation and boy did we have that. We’ve eaten there several times each of the last three years we’ve come this way and what can I say…..it’s so good it’s almost worth drivng here from Ohio. Suerte, Fernando…..keep it coming. The day ended with a nice soak in the mineral hot springs at the Resort….making sure the waters were perfect for our guests coming in on Monday for the workshops.

Come Monday….GE and I start the day with an early morning drive out to the Indian Canyons on the edge of Palm Springs. We hike into Palm Canyon which is a part of the Aqua Caliente Indian Reservation. The Cahuilla people have been stewards of this sacred land for centuries. We don’t see anyone except the tribal rangers until we start our walk back. The land is so peaceful and beautiful….we note the absolute silence other then the morning birds and ramblin stream…. and think what a perfect way to begin this day. We drive back to the spa and I spend some time in the hot springs and the big swimming pool. Later in the afternoon our people start to arrive and before long we’re orientating and having dinner. GE and JK decide to kick things off with a class that night.

The Captain and his class

The Captain and his class -photo: Joe Couri

Tuesday sets the pattern for what will be a very full week. The day consists of breakfast…workshop…lunch….workshop…..dinner …….workshop… and some time to also relax in the waters. We are being treated to some beautiful weather the whole time we are at the Resort. The temps are in the high 70s and low 80s and the clear sky affords us a nice view of the San Jacinto Mountains. Nights are clear with a bunch of stars in the sky and an occasional passing of a Correlian Star Cruiser…..class three.

We start our Wednesday very early as a group of us have made plans to catch Jah sun rise out on highway 74 at the vista point. Vanessa and Joe C. drive 10 of us out of the Resort at 5:20 am for our adventure.

Early morning flight crew

Early morning flight crew -photo: Joe Couri

A little light is starting to show as we make our way up the mountain ……. And then more and more light…….then the real star arrives to bath the sky in colors. The Salton Sea, some 40 miles away, reflects the colors back to the heavens. The day is off to a great start and it would only get better and better.
Sun Rise over the Sultan Sea

Sun Rise over the Sultan Sea -photo: Joe Couri

That night after dinner, GE and JK treat us all to a wonderful show in the Grand Ballroom. The show would prove a good starting point for the week plus of shows that GE and JK have scheduled for the west coast once the workshops are finished…..but let me not get ahead of myself here.
Jorma and GE Smith performance

Jorma and GE Smith performance -photo: Joe Couri

Thursday is another full day and we’re all looking forward to the really big show that night. My FPR associates and I always find great joy in the Student Performance that we usually do on Sundays at the Ranch….and it would be no different here at our workshops in the California desert. The Student Performance is just like an open stage except for….as JK notes…..we all like each other. That night we were treated to some great music and entertainment, as solo performers……newly formed duos…..GE’s
GE's class recital - Acoustic Guitarmaggadon

GE's class recital - Acoustic Guitarmaggadon -photo: Joe Couri

class (boy, oh, boy …can that Neil sing) and other singers and players of instruments took the stage.  Everyone brought something to the show….Marc got us going….Anne and Bob did my song…. I mean their song….my request…..and John D. never stopped …. following through to the delight of all…..respect my man! I got a chance to take the stage tree times. Joe C. and I did a nice version of The Weight, hitting the harmonies and sharing verses….when we got to the third AND, and the chorus……everybody was there. Next, I got a chance to play with my buddy Norm for a take on Dylan’s She Belongs To Me. GE joined us and played some nice and tasty leads. We were about ready to wrap things up, when I asked Vanessa if she wanted to do our song. Back at camp in Ohio we have closed many a Student Performance together with the Tim Hardin song Seems Like A Long Time. I first heard the song on a Brewer and Shipley record called Tarkio Road….it’s the same one with One Toke Over The Line on it and Rod Stewart also did a nice version of it on one of his early records….Well as we head for the stage here comes Izze right behind Vanessa and up onto the stage to share the microphone with her Mom.
Izze's open stage performance

Izze's open stage performance -photo: Joe Couri

Izze was the greatest….I’m not kidding…..hitting the harmony notes and starting and stopping at precisely the right moments. As I looked at Vanessa on my right and then turned to Jorma on my left….it was hard to decide who had the biggest
smile…..it was one of those golden moments. GE was there to accent the song with some delicately beautiful guitar work. So we call it a night and everyone in the room is feeling the love as we bring the performance to a close. THANKS TO EVERYONE….what a night. A group of us meet over in one of the hot pools for a late night soak and session….wait a minute……who’s that comin……it’s Captain Jorm jumping in.

We all have a nice breakfast and the teachers wrap up the week’s workshops with one more session before we all get ready to head out. We sure had a great time!!! We’re on the road just after 11:00 am as we are trying to beat it on down the line to Santa Monica before the traffic gets too crazy…..and we do. We check into a nice hotel right by the Santa Monica Pier and not too far from McCabes Guitar Shop, where Jorma and GE will be playing four soldout shows over the next two nights. Check out Jorma’s Diary for set-lists and a full report. What I will tell you is that I was so glad to be there to see the amazing music that poured forth from these two great guitarist and long time friends. GE has been coming to the Ranch since the very beginning and JK and him have had many an occasion to do some playing, but this was their first tour as a duo. Each show got better and better and during the course of those four shows ….not a song was repeated. The format was very organic….so don’t panic….with both players swapping songs and stories into the night. JK would add some nice lead work to GE’s song choice and GE would respond in kind. One of my friends wrote me after seeing them in Santa Cruz and said it was like seeing two friends jamming at their house and getting invited over to listen.

Sunday morning I say my farewell to the guys for now….it sure was fun…..they’re driving up to San Francisco and I’m heading over to Glendale to see an old friend. My friend lives just a couple of miles from the Gene Autry Museum and we head over there to have a visit. The museum is fantastic….they have an open stage going on with a large group of Cowboy singers and Cowgirls too… singing out. There is also a Western Artists Show going on and my favorite Western Artist, Howard Terpning has won first prize with the beautiful oil painting Sound of Bugles in the Distance. The original is on display and I’m in amazement with how life like his images are…..very cool. We go through all of the many displays of Gene Autry memorabilia and Cowboy culture of the old west. Later in the afternoon I make the drive across town to Long Beach for the 29th Annual Ragamuffin Reggae Festival. The lineup is top shelve and I have a very irie time listening to the mighty…Mighty Diamonds….Coco Tea….and a long time favorite…Gregory Isaacs. Gregory, the cool ruler, has been around for a long time and although he’s looking older and rougher then when I saw him on the beach in Negril in 85.…his performance is Super Irie and he’s hitting all the notes…..with sustain….oh, what a feeling……he stretches out on all his big numbers. I left the arena super stoked to drive back to the hotel.

Morning comes and I drive Izze and her Mom over to LAX and then I start my drive down to my sister’s place in San Diego. No one will be home until late in the afternoon so I decide to take my time and cut over to the Pacific Coast Highway around Oceanside. The drive is beautiful and I’m really diggin the sights. I make a long stop in Encinitas, again one of my favorites, for a nice long walk from Swami’s Beach all the way to Moonlight Beach and back. It was just one of those days…..Bless and Bless again.

After several days back in San Diego doing fun things with all family members…sunsets, beach walks, hiking, good eating and other things….I fly up to San Francisco for the weekend to visit some old pals. I’m there less then two days….but we find time for some good live music out on the town. On Saturday night we catch an exciting concert with Niko Vega and Soundtracks of our Lives. I wasn’t hip to either of these groups, but really glad my buddy was and that he had grabbed us some tickets….it was sold out. The music was primal rock and roll and I dug it.

Tomorrow I’m flying back to Ohio. It has been a great time here in California and as you can see…..I’ve caught some great music. This afternoon as I sat in my sister’s backyard the birds that have been singing sweetly throughout my visit, sang a beautiful farewell song…..and I thought…..it’s been great, now it’s time to get back to Meigs County, Ohio and get the Ranch ready for our opening weekend.