Dave Rose has been working at all levels of the music industry for a couple of decades now, in which capacity he's had some success (managing country star Allison Moorer and perennial Grammy winner Bruce Hornsby, for example) and also made plenty of mistakes. And he's drawn on that body of work, the bad as well as the good, to write a book about the music business. Read about that, plus details of the reading he's doing this weekend, in Friday’s paper.
Big country shows are pretty much the lifeblood of Time Warner Cable Music Pavilion at Walnut Creek -- as in just about the only thing keeping the city-owned amphitheater still going at this point. So here's a big chunk of the venue's 2013 schedule, its Country Megaticket of big arena-country acts coming to Walnut Creek this year. Pre-sales start on Tuesday and prices range from $199 to $799.
Tim McGraw, Brantley Gilbert, Love and Theft (May 4)
Kenny Chesney, Eli Young Band, Kacey Musgraves (May 23)
Brad Paisley, Chris Young, Lee Brice (June 8)
Luke Bryan, Thompson Square, Florida Georgia Line (July 13)
Keith Urban, Little Big Town, Dustin Lynch (July 26)
Blake Shelton, Easton Corbin, Jana Kramer (Aug. 9)
Miranda Lambert, Dierks Bentley (Aug. 24)
Jason Aldean, Jake Owen, Thomas Rhett (Sept. 13)
Rascal Flatts, The Band Perry (Sept. 27)
Meanwhile, Durham Performing Arts Center has also unveiled a choice country-leaning booking: Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell with Richard Thompson Electric Trio, playing DPAC on March 30. If you don't get in on any of the pre-sales, tickets go on sale Jan. 25.
For the past half-decade or so, every year around this time I've been checking in with Cary's Don Rayno about when he might be finishing his book -- the second installment of a mammoth two-part biography of 1920s-vintage superstar bandleader Paul Whiteman. Finally, a bit more than nine years after part one appeared, it's here.
Book uncovers unsung bandleader
By David Menconi, News & Observer Oct. 1, 2003
CARY -- Every evening, after a day of planning retreats for pastors, Don Rayno descends to his downstairs writing room to spend a little quality time with a mostly forgotten bandleader named Paul Whiteman.
Hundreds of neatly cataloged Whiteman files sit in a pair of five-drawer file cabinets. Notes, photographs, old newspaper clippings and tour itineraries, copies of musical scores -- two decades' worth of obsession await Rayno's attention. His collection is probably the largest this side of the actual Whiteman archive at Williams College in Massachusetts -- which is so big that even Rayno has only gone through a fraction of it.
And all for a musician who usually elicits a "Paul who?" when Rayno mentions his new book, "Paul Whiteman: Pioneer in American Music" (Scarecrow Press, $49.95). Rayno, a Cary resident, is making a case for Whiteman as a musical figure who does not deserve his current obscurity, and not just because he was as big a star as any musician in America during the 1920s.
Today, Whiteman is not as well-known as some of his former underlings. A young Bing Crosby got his start singing in Whiteman's orchestra, which also employed the Dorsey Brothers (whose own orchestra would be an early proving ground for Frank Sinatra) and the legendary songwriter Johnny Mercer.
He was also instrumental in the creation of George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue," one of the 20th century's most durable pieces of music. Whiteman commissioned "Rhapsody," and his orchestra was the first to perform it in 1924 with Gershwin himself at the piano.
Rayno's book is a 773-page scholarly biography that is about as thick as the Raleigh phone book and twice as heavy. And this is just volume one, covering 1890 to 1930. Volume two, covering the last 37 years of Whiteman's life, won't see print until 2006 at the earliest.
Which is quick considering how long it took to write volume one.
"Volume two will not take as long," Rayno promises. "A lot of the research is already done. You know, I didn't think I'd ever do this. Seeing this book surprises me, too. But I've had a ball."
Whiteman specialized in symphonic jazz, applying classical rigorousness to jazz stylings, and "Rhapsody in Blue" helped take it to the masses. But his music's symphonic trappings and lack of improvisation had something to do with Whiteman's eventual fall from favor.
"That was one of the lines in the sand distinguishing him from African-American artists," says Jim Ketch, chairman of the music department at UNC- Chapel Hill. "Whiteman would codify rhythmic figures, write it on the page, and play a stylized package that was presentable for high-society listening and dancing consumption. Gradually, however, people came to identify jazz with music that was less stylized and showed more individual creativity with in-the-moment improvisation."
A racial chord
There's also an element of racial tension to the historical record. At the height of the Jim Crow era of segregation, Whiteman was a white man known as the "King of Jazz," and he became a target. The Brooklyn rap duo Gang Starr's "Jazz Thing," from the soundtrack to Spike Lee's 1990 film "Mo' Better Blues," tried to take him down a peg with a verse that went, "The real mystery is how music history created Paul Whiteman or any other white man/And pretended he originated and contended that he innovated a jazz thing."
"Ken Burns also took an unfortunate cheap shot in 'Ken Burns Jazz,' dismissively referring to him as 'white man,' " Rayno says. "Critics have dismissed Whiteman over the years, which I think is wrong -- especially if you haven't listened to the music, and most haven't. Whiteman had great relations with African-American bandleaders at the time, especially Fletcher Henderson. And Whiteman was at the center of a lot of private interactions and jam sessions between black and white musicians, even though they couldn't play together in public."
By way of providing the other side of this argument, Rayno's book has 250 pages of prose (in very small type) and a 500-page appendix that includes a day-by-day chronology of Whiteman's life through May 1930.
A new hobby
Rayno, 46, a former nuclear chemist, learned about Whiteman thanks to his interest in Bing Crosby. While indulging his passion for big-band music by researching Crosby, Rayno discovered Whiteman and became intrigued by all the notable musicians who passed through his band. Studying the jazzman became a hobby, with Rayno planning vacations around visits to the Whiteman archive in Massachusetts.
In the early 1990s, Rayno got serious about turning his research into a book. He eventually secured a deal with Scarecrow, a small publisher specializing in music books, to do a definitive two-volume biography.
Rayno's book is better suited to music libraries than casual reading, but it recounts some fascinating history. The story behind "Rhapsody in "Blue," for example, almost sounds like the basis of a stage play. Whiteman commissioned Gershwin to write a piece for a concert titled "Experiments in Modern American Music," which Gershwin forgot all about until reading about the concert in a newspaper.
Under intense pressure, Gershwin cranked out "Rhapsody" in a matter of weeks, on such a tight schedule that Whiteman's orchestra barely had time to rehearse it. He also had to be talked into including the piece's signature E-major slow theme, which Gershwin had written years earlier. Yet "Rhapsody" was an immediate sensation that greatly enhanced both Gershwin's and Whiteman's popularity.
In Whiteman's case, however, that popularity didn't translate into a well-known legacy. He was largely forgotten by the end of the 1950s, and today is not as well-remembered as peers such as Guy Lombardo or Lawrence Welk.
"He did a lot of different styles and didn't fit into any one easy category," Rayno says. "So he never had a place to be remembered. But maybe this book will help some people discover Paul Whiteman. Unless I'm with a group of really elderly people, I can pretty much count on getting blank stares when I mention his name."
RALEIGH -- Just in case you were wondering, there are some audiences that even the mighty Avett Brothers can't rouse into motion.
Just 12 days after a raucous new year's eve show that worked a packed Greensboro Coliseum into a delirious frenzy, the Concord-based Americana band was the featured musical act at Gov. McCrory's inaugural ball Friday. Appropriately dressed for the occasion in black suits, the Avetts took to the Raleigh Convention Center stage for a two-song mini-set shortly before McCrory gave his speech.
They played two numbers from their latest album, the Grammy-nominated "The Carpenter" -- "Live and Die," which is also the end-credits song to the new movie "This Is 40"; and "February Seven." That was one joyous uptempo song and a somber slow one. And it was quite nice, even if the setting and their short time onstage didn't lend itself to their usual ways of cutting loose.
As for the crowd response, it was good, even if the black-tie audience mostly kept to their seats. But as the Avetts waved goodbye and left, the crowd did reward them with a very polite standing ovation.
Rolling Stone magazine is running another of its online contests, in which the winner is chosen by reader vote. This one is called "My Family Rocks" and it drew more than 20,000 entries when it went online in November. And there's a local family among the 12 finalists: "The Hallman Family, Lexie and the Mira(cle)." Lexie Hallman is a single mother and music director at Raleigh's Temple Beth Or; and if she wins, it will be worth a new Hyundai SUV and a trip to next month's Grammy Awards.
Scroll on down to Hallman's listing and help our local folks out. Vote early, vote often.
GREENSBORO -- Toward the end of the Avett Brothers' epic Monday night show, Seth Avett looked out over the new-year's-eve throng gathered at Greensboro Coliseum. "Thanks for having us at your party," he said, demonstrating admirable modesty by acknowledging the Avetts' bond with their fans. But let's make no mistake about who the hosts were.
Arguably North Carolina's best growth industry, the Avetts draw rabid crowds of faithful fanatics worldwide. They had a large 2012 with a top-10 album and Grammy nomination, and more big things are on the way in the new year (including a spot at next week's gubernatorial inauguration). But this show made a pretty spectacular take-away for the year just past, a wide-ranging two-hour-plus performance by one of America's best live bands.
Following a solid 55-minute opening set by Amos Lee, the Avetts came onstage done up for the occasion in matching white suits, which did not keep them from matching their audience's fevered intensity. Seth Avett spent much of the show's opening stitch airborne, jumping up and down, and the 15,000-voice accompaniment on "Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise" was something to hear.
Somehow, the Avetts make an arena feel as intimate as a front-porch hoedown. They don't scream quite as often as they used to, but Monday's show still rocked plenty hard, swinging between wild-eyed frenzy and pensive ruminations. They might be the world's first heavy-metal jugband and if that sounds weird, you'd just have to see it to get it.
Scott Avett moved between piano and banjo, occasionally blowing harmonica and hopping on top of the kickdrum at the front of the stage. Bob Crawford went back and forth between standup and electric bass, while Joe Kwon was his usual dervish on cello. And Seth busted out some four-way-hips dance moves that got over on sheer exuberance.
While the full-band arrangements were great to hear, there's still something ineffably cool about the Avetts when they strip down to the core trio of Seth, Scott and Crawford, which was the configuration for a mini-set starting with "Paranoia in B Flat Major." They also ventured out into the crowd to play a handful of songs on a satellite stage at the back of the arena floor, highlighted by Seth's cover of the Jim Croce chestnut "Operator" (proving that great songs are where you find 'em).
Back on the mainstage, the closing hoedown raveup of "Laundry Room" was my favorite part of the show, with Scott working the kickdrum as psychedelic lights pinwheeled across the arena's ceiling. They rocked up the jittery "Kickdrum Heart" with an almost metallic arrangement, ending with Seth on his knees beating the bejesus out of an electric guitar, and the folk-noir of "Geraldine" took us to the brink of midnight.
As the band vamped on "Auld Lang Syne," the crowd counted down the last 10 seconds of 2012. Confetti and balloons rained down, which turned the rest of the show into a collective game of volleyball -- punctuated with the sound of quasi-fireworks, as the balloons popped one by one.
The encore ranged from hopeful ("Salvation Song," with the Avetts' sister Bonnie out to sing) to furiously rocking ("I Killed Sally's Lover," in another acoustic-metal arrangement). Then they hit a note of quiet triumph with the majestic "I and Love and You" -- "three words that become hard to say."
But for anybody in Greensboro Coliseum as 2012 turned into 2013, it wasn't hard at all.
Well, here we are at Dec. 21, 2012. Today is the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. But it's also, if mythology connected to the Mayan calendar is to be believed, the last day ever (which would make it even shorter, come to think). So if the world really is ending today at 6:12 a.m. Eastern Standard Time, let's go out in style: with a song.
Between Rosebuds and Brantley Family Band, 2012 has already been a really fine year for Christmas music around here. And now we have a late addition to the Triangle holiday-music canon, "Bing Crosby" by Chapel Hill student singing group The Chorus Project. Co-produced by Seamus Kenney (who originally recorded the song with his band SNMNMNM) and iconic dB's co-founder Chris Stamey, it's a lush pop gem with impeccable vocals from the 25-member chorus and 15-year-old lead singer Wilson Plonk.
Hot off the presses, recorded just last Saturday, "Bing Crosby" is available for only $1; but you might opt to kick in a bit more than that since a portion of proceeds are earmarked for KidZNotes, a Durham-based orchestral music program for low-income students. You can buy the song here; and check the video here.
So it's down to that time when Christmas is coming, but not nearly soon enough -- and that's not because you're anticipating it with anything like eagerness, but if you hear one more sanctified, treacly version of "The Little Drummer Boy," you're going to scream. Nevertheless, I'm here to tell you that the next nine days and nights have some cool and offbeat holiday options that you might actually enjoy, in terms of events as well as last-minute gift suggestions. For more, read on.