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Hi everyone…well we are almost two weeks out from the show and I haven’t even announced the official line up of the show “Rock the Glam”!  Last year we had these awesome guys starting from left to right, Bob Sach on bass, Dan Aakhus on keyboards, Johnny J. Rivera on guitars, Matt Vocalist extraordinaire, Mike Meecham on Drums, and Joey Singer on Piano, in addition to Carlos Perez (not photographed) on percussion, and Tom Ehlen on Trumpet.

Last years crew

Last years crew

This years line up will be a mix of last years crew and some new invitee’s.  Unfortunately Joey, Mike, and Matt will not be joining us.  Joey is now the new musical director for Mama Mia, “YAY”, who is not allowed to sub out for the gig, Dan will be sitting in for an orchestra where he could not sub out as well, and though we loved Matt our budget required us to find a local vocal talent this year so we couldn’t have him back.  Which leads me to our new line up…drumm roll please….

Benjamin Hale

1922309_10153814457835282_552521282_nI love this guy…this picture says it all.  Ben and I probably met about eight years ago, but this is our first musical colab since then.  He has been busy playing the roll of Johnny Cash in the show “Million Dollar Quartet” which spotlights the last studio session Jerry Lewis, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, and Carl Perkins were in the studio together.  Great show if you have a chance to go and see it.  So although he can sing very looooow, you will have to come and see what I am making him do at the show…it will amaze!  He will also be filling in here and there are guitars when needed which is awesome to have the option with another vocalist.

 

Emilio Rivera 

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Emilio is our latest recruit and fresh out of school, which is a blast to see new talent emerge on the scene, and yes you guessed it folks, this is Johnny J. Rivera’s son.  I can’t wait until rehearsal when we get to see what he can do.  If your father didn’t just have vocal surgery you would probably be in for some good harassment Emilio…we will go easy on you! =)  So cool to have you aboard.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jess Gopen

10157164_630964066986826_4535485186582759551_nAfter we lost Mike we were referred to Jess Gopen.  He’s definitely got this rocker edge I love about him, which will work perfectly for some of the tunes we have planned for the set list.  He is the drummer for Clint Holmes who has a monthly show at the Smith Center as well.

 

Dan Ellis

1959471_10151906345771338_1607611259_n The first time I saw Dan play was when I was seeing the Scintas show down at the D Theater.  I was then referred to him after my piano guy got called out to play for Terry Fator…the nerve! =)  Dan was so generous to come on board since his schedule is crazy, and since he still had a show that night.  He wanted to do something for the Shade Tree which makes it even cooler to have him.

I have quite a few other surprises planned for the show, but you will have to come to see what I’m talking about.  Tickets are available at http://www.thesmithcenter.com and the show is July 12th @ 7:30 pm.  If you are traveling from out of town and are wondering where to stay, The Smith Center is closer to Fremont street (the old Vegas) so you can stay down there or on the north end of the strip where the Wynn is.

If you check back in after the 4th maybe I’ll post some footage from rehearsal.  Until then here’s a good pic from last years show with Dan Aakhus, Johnny J., and Carlos.

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Much love friends,

AZ

Last weekend I received some sad but happy news as I learned of the passing of my friend Holly’s grandmother Mary Roberts.  I of course was sad for her passing, but happy that she no longer had to deal with health issues….she lived a long full life.  I met Mary for the first time a couple of years ago while we were shooting a sizzle reel for a TV show.  Holly told me about how her grandmother loved music and had been writing and playing her whole life, but that she really didn’t have a chance to do much with her music.  On one occasion while she was in Las Vegas she met Frank Sinatra in which she thought this song “Why Did You Say Good-bye?” would have been a great fit for him, but after being passed to his assistant she never pursued it any further.  Sitting next to Mary while she played was like jumping back into the 1920’s and 30’s.  It was magical…I could hear exactly how I would produce her piece.  She sat and taught me the melody and we had a good  laugh while she kept playing song after song for me.  I was in love with my life that day.  Watching her play I was amazed at how easy her old hands swept across the keyboard as if it was nothing…I couldn’t even imagine playing music like she did.

Mary 1 Here is a picture of Mary in her prime…I love the hair and clothes from this era.  I would have loved to live during this time except for the whole women had zero rights, and racism was still very big.  I probably would have gone to jail…Thankfully I was born in a time where I could waste my energy on something more productive like Mary.  Mary shared with me that it was her dream to have people hear her music, and to hear it produced as most of her songs were recorded to a hand-held recorder as piano and vocal.  Fast forward a year later and I was doing a special jazz concert for the Rape Crises Center in Las Vegas at the Smith Center, produced by Bart Doerfler.  I told Bart I really thought it would be cool to do this song for Mary.  I had heard that her health was declining, and I thought if we could just make one of her dreams come true that would be the highlight of the show for me.  One person that really helped make this come to life was Joey Singer.  Joey is the most talented piano player and arranger I have worked with thus far.  All I had was a little mp3 of her playing this song, which I had sent to another player who said it would take him quite a bit of time and money to figure out what she was playing.  Joey thankfully was able to figure out charts and what to play in no time…a true pro.  I will always be grateful to him and all the other band members Bob, Dan, Johnny, Tom, Carlos, and Mike for putting this together with very little rehearsal time.

So goodbye sweet Mary, you have opened my heart a little wider…and I will always remember this moment where your song came to life….(oh and the package you sent with all the cartoon drawings you spent hours doing on the outside.  I’m sure you gave the mail man a thrill as well as myself.)

So my friends…”Why Did You Say Good-bye”, written by Mary Roberts….hope you enjoy!  If you feel inspired to share this story with anyone else please do…maybe more people than Mary ever realized will get to be part of her dream by your sharing.

AZ

“Why Did You Say Good-bye” lyrics

Why did you say good-bye?

I often wonder why…

What did I say, is there a way?

Have you an alibi?

Was there a someone new?

Someone who stepped right through…

My one romance, is there a chance, to prove my love to you?

I keep saying to myself, you shouldn’t feel bad

Love is just like a game.

Although I’m praying and pretending I am glad,

My heart aches just the same

Why did you say good-bye
I often wonder why…I love you so

Want you to know…why did you say good-bye?

Back in the studio….

I’ve spent the last few days in the studio working on a couple of pieces for a project that was started a looooong time ago.  We are not at the button room (Ajay’s) studio this time, but are spending time working with Sean Williams who has a nice little studio he is starting to build in Las Vegas, which allows him some time to learn some master Ninja mixing skills from Ajay and for me to continue learning and doing what I do.  This time I was in charge of all the vocal edits, so that was fun working with Sean on that, and coming up with the best vocal we could get.  Today I will be in the studio doing some background vocals, and then hopefully we will finish up the mixes.  Here are a couple of pics from the last couple of sessions….

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Hopefully we will be able to wrap this up by Thursday and then on to the next!  =)

AZ

I have to apologize to all of you out there that I haven’t kept up on my blog as of late.  Not that I haven’t thought about it a ton, I have just been tired of writing as I have been working on a book project, and opening my computer to blog is like coming home after a long day of answering phones to a phone ringing off the hook.  I kinda needed a break.

I’m not going to re-cap too much about what has been, just looking forward to what will be.  Today I wrote some lyrics for Dave Rosa who gave me a songwriting assignment without music, and only a map of syllables and lines that would have to rhyme…it was hilarious..I have nooo idea how the song sounded, but he did say when he played it on his end a lot of it fit into the music he had crafted. Why I think this is an interesting exercise is that I had to imagine what I thought his music would sound like and then pick lyrics I imagined he might use, it was a good stretch for me and taught me a new way to extract concepts, lines, and ideas for other projects, as so much of the song on my end sounded disjointed.  What could have been awesome is if he imagined something I would musically write and we had this really weird marriage of music and lyrics.  When all was said and done the song I wrote for him, I called it Silent Coma…knowing Dave this title says it all.

I’m attaching a rehearsal video that Dan Aakhus recorded from our last benefit concert for the Rape Crises Center.  What a great time with everyone involved…this was our first run through of the song, and as you can see we are a little rusty, but whatev…..it worked out perfectly the next day, and that’s why we rehearse!  I’m looking forward to more shows with these incredible players!

Also after the loss of all those beautiful children in Connecticut a tribute video was made with the song Eden’s Angel released last year as a fundraising tool for children with special needs.  It’s a beautiful way to remember them in a positive way, after such tragedy…and I’m glad the song is being used for something that can help people heal from loss.

I’m so thankful that you still read the blog.  Thanks for stopping in and for sharing with others.  I dig you for that.  More to come…so be cool!

Much love,

AZ

Edens Angel Promo

So the second player I wanted to introduce is Tom Ehlen.  In Vegas he really needs no introduction as many say he is the best this town has…so check him out!

TOM EHLEN

Tom Ehlen learned to play the trumpet in Ohio school bands, performing with the Ohio State University’s Jazz Workshop band in the late 1960s. In 1970, the “road” called and he performed with various traveling groups and bands, culminating with the Glenn Miller Orchestra in 1975-1976.  In 1977 Tom was called to Las Vegas to play lead trumpet in the Stardust’s Lido show, a Parisian review. That has turned into thirty-five years of performances in Las Vegas for shows ranging from Broadway shows such as The Producers and 42nd Street to the most-popular reviews and concerts. In between, Tom can be found wherever there is music, including industrial shows, casual dates, jazz combos, big bands, and many stars.  In addition to the Stardust house orchestra, Tom worked in orchestras from the Desert Inn, Sands, and Caesars Palace. He has backed top musical performers such as Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Tony Bennett, Ann-Margret, David Foster, and many others. On occasion Tom performs with the Tom Ehlen Big Band in Las Vegas.Burt Bacharach and Tom first worked together in the late 1980s, when Tom played the Burt Bacharach/ Dionne Warwickshow at Caesars Palace. Several years later, Tom was invited to join Mr. Bacharach’s group and remains touring with him. Also he currently performs in the revue, Vegas! the Show, at the Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood. Tom and his family live in Las Vegas.

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If you haven’t bought tickets….here is the info, come play with us!!

 

 

Meet the Band…

Well we are almost two weeks away from the show, and I wanted to introduce some really talented musicians I’ll be working with for our upcoming show at the Smith Center in Las Vegas.  So today I’ll start with Mr. Dan Aakhus.  I was introduced to Dan a couple months ago by a music colleague and friend Johnny J. Rivera, whom I’ve also had the privilege playing with at a couple of my shows.  I rehearsed with Dan last week and I was blown away at how awesome he was.  He doesn’t play a ton right now as he works as a Physical Therapist, and can’t commit to constant shows and touring, so I feel lucky that we get him…here’s a little more about the man.

Dan Aakhus is a Las Vegas based musician with many years of experience playing lounges and showrooms. A graduate of the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston, Dan has been the musical director for lounge acts and shows including ‘Island Magic’ which played at the Sahara Hotel and Casino for many years. Many years ago he was musical director for a show called ‘Excitement ’79’ featuring an up an coming young impressionist named Danny Gans. More recently Dan has helped arrange and produce tracks on Johnny j Rivera’s CD ‘Trying To Catch Rain’. Dan is a Board Certified Orthopedic Physical Therapist. He is married with two beautiful children, Danny and Annie.

“Keyboards are my bag baby…”

I’ve been working on our upcoming show today and I’m completely stoked to officially have Matt Trygg on board for vocals.  If you don’t know who Matt is here is a youtube video of us bumming around in the studio… He and I will be getting together to rehearse next month for this show at The Smith Center.  Here’s another track of him singing “Back at One”… Super killer voice!  I’d hop on getting tickets if you haven’t yet, since the venue is nice and cozy…not a lot of seats in the house.

I’d love to write more but its one of those days where I’m jamming through to get shhhtuff done.  Til next time!  Peace my friends.

Ashton Z.