A Visit To Mya-Moe

I’m the fortunate owner of two Mya-Moe ukes, both of which are beautiful, and get used regularly when I’m on stage.  Just a week ago my wife and I had the privilege of visiting Gordon and Char Mayer and Aaron Keim, and touring the Mya-Moe workshop, located across the lane from Gordon and Char’s beautiful home overlooking the Columbia River in White Salmon, WA.

Here’s Aaron, hard at work on an new instrument:

photo 1 MM (4)

And here are some ukes-in-the-making that’ll be heading to their new homes before too long:

photo 2 MM (3)

The folks at Mya-Moe have set up a wonderfully comfortable and efficient workplace.  It was really fun to spend some time with them, and to see where these great instruments are made.

For more information about Mya-Moe ukuleles, visit www.myamoeukuleles.com, and check out their uke festival schedule (so you can play a couple of them yourself, and learn just how great they are).  And if you’re in Southern Oregon or Northern California, don’t miss Aaron & Nicole Keim’s “The Quiet American” (www.quietamericanmusic.com) shows coming up next month, in Ashland (October 15th, www.brittfest.org/performances/quiet2014), Santa Cruz (October 16th, www.ukuleleclub.com), Modesto and Roseville (October 17th, www.funstrummers.com/8.html and www.thestrumshop.com), and on the wonderful Old West Uke Train trip on the historic Virginia & Truckee Railroad, Carson City NV (October 18th, www.playuke.net/uketrain).

Finally, while away on our trip I received an interesting comment to an earlier post, reading:  “Piece of writing writing is also a excitement, if you be familiar with then you can write if not it is complicated.”  Which at first I figured was spam from someone for whom English was perhaps a 13th or 14th language.  But on re-reading it, it’s more like poetry!  And what a great musical analogy.  As in, “Playing-playing ukulele is an excitement if you know the tune, but if not … well, it’s exciting anyway!”  Perhaps the writer is a fellow fan of the wonderful song “Happy Talk” from “South Pacific.”  As in “You’ve got to have a ukulele dream; If you don’t have a ukulele dream, how you gonna’ make a ukulele dream come true?”

Keep those comments — and dreams — coming.


Get Your Tickets Now!

I have a new workshop and show coming up, Saturday November 8th at The Strum Shop, in Roseville CA


Tickets available at:  http://thestrumshop.com/concert-tickets

This is going to be a really fun evening.  I’ll be starting out at 6:00 pm with a workshop for ‘uke enthusiasts of all ages and skill levels, centered around the Billy Rose/Yip Harburg/Harold Arlen song “It’s Only a Paper Moon.”  We’ll learn about song chords in the key of E-flat, and a bit about how great songs get put together. Then at 7:00, it’s showtime!  We’ll be singing and playing (with a bit of sing-along and play-along from all of you) a collection of America’s greatest songs from the silver screen, the stage, and the heart of Tin Pan Alley.  The Ukulele Rob Trio will feature vocalist Tori Sundheim; vocalist and ace musician John Wilusz (you’ve heard him play chromatic and diatonic harmonica with me, and he’ll be bringing his guitar, too); and on bass the amazing Zack Sapunor, a veteran of Jim Cullum’s NPR “Riverwalk Jazz Band” and Wayne “The Train” Hancock’s band, and now featured with jazz festival and swing combos that include Sacramento’s Au Brothers Band, Hot City, the Sac-Town Playboys, and more.

And leading up to the November 8th show, the Ukulele Rob Trio (this time with Trio regular Dean Chance on bass) will be doing another Feature Performance as part of The Torch Club’s weekly Acoustic Open Mic on Wednesday October 15th.  No cover charge.  We’ll be playing from 7:00 to 7:30, but the Open Mic gets started at 5:30, and there’ll be lots of other great music.  And if you sing, tell jokes, play an instrument, etc., come early and sign up for a 10-minute performance slot!  The Torch Club Wednesday Open Mic is the friendliest open mic in town.  (Over 21 only – the Torch Club is on 15th Street between I and J in Sacramento, across the street from the west side of Memorial Auditorium.  Info at www.torchclub.net)

Got a glass of water?

Those of you living in parts of the world where you’re coping with floods, typhoons and hurricanes may not have heard the news:  Here in California we’re in the midst of a doozy of a drought.  It’s gotten so bad that our Grizzly Bear took off for Michigan, leaving us with a new state flag:



And to whoever submitted the comment, “Great post! I have two teenaged daughters and I find the talking, arguing, and discussing of parenting this stage quite exhausting. But every so often there are glimmers of maturity, of pennies dropping, of understanding. Thanks for the reminder to distinguish between preferences and biblical morals, I think this is the biggest thing for me to learn”:  I think you’re spam.  (Your on-line name, “Cheap Nike Air Max” and your hyperlink to a site trying to sell illegal, cheap, trademark-infringing clothes were either giveaways or really bad choices on your part.)  But if you’re serious, drop me another comment.  I had two teenaged daughters at one time.  They were a delight.  They still are.

And if you want a nice hyperlink, check out www.ooktown.com.  Home to Stuart Yoshida’s really fun monthly OokTown Podcast.  If you play ukulele, Hawaiian steel guitar, or just like listening to interesting talk about music, you’ll really enjoy it.

At the Torch Club this week

I’ll be back at the Wednesday evening Acoustic Open Mic this week, with at least two “Hawaiian” songs (i.e., the Tin Pan Alley, Hapa-Haole type) to send off the just-concluded summer, probably singing sometime between 7:00 and 8:00 (but come at 5:30 so you don’t miss any of the great music).


Then at the 9:00 show this Wednesday, Sacramento favorite Musical Charis:

Musical Charis

And then this Thursday night, 9:00, Hot City, featuring Zack Sapunor:

Hot City

Great week.  More info at www.torchclub.net.




Trad Jazz Lives!


Sometimes it’s called “Trad (i.e., traditional) Jazz.”  Sometimes “Dixieland” (tho’ Trad encompasses a lot of other styles).  Sometimes “OKUM,” for “our kind of music.”  It’s the staple of jazz festivals all over the world.

It’s also the staple of what appears to be the largest demographic at these festivals.  Older folks.  As in the “Greatest Generation,” folks like my Dad and late Mom, who when I was little would play for me their favorite record, a 10″ LP reissue of the Original Dixieland Jazz Band’s early recordings, and who, when we visited the Bay Area, would leave my brothers and me with our grandparents so that they could go into San Francisco to hear Turk Murphy.

One of the great voices of “OKUM” is a monthly tabloid-type magazine, The American Rag (www.theamericanrag.com), full of fun stories, interviews, histories and information about upcoming festivals and shows.    While too often The American Rag’s letters section leans a bit heavily toward reader missives bemoaning how the Baby Boomer Generation (i.e., folks like me, now in our mid-60s) is dragging American down into some sort of political and social cesspool, I’m always impressed by the obituaries.  I’m convinced that the secret to a long and happy life is to play traditional jazz, as it seems most of the recently departed musicians were still playing in their 90s (and even at 100 and older).

But Trad Jazz isn’t just for the older set.  A lot of great young musicians are on the scene, and always worth hearing.  Among them, a favorite group I most recently heard this past Sunday at the Second Annual Hot Jazz Jubilee in nearby Rancho Cordova, the Au Brothers. The Aus grew up here in the Sacramento area.  Gordon is now based in New York City, where he appears with a number of popular jazz groups.  Justin, a member of the Red Skunk Band, is based out of California’s Central Coast.  And Brandon has stuck around Sacramento, but definitely isn’t “stuck,” playing with groups like the Crescent Katz and the Harley White Jr. Orchestra.  (www.aubrothers.com)

The brothers’ own “Au Brothers Band” usually includes their uncle Howard Miyata, of Three Rivers CA (near Sequoia National Park), who plays trombone in festival favorite The High Sierra Jazz Band, and plays tuba and Sousaphone with the brothers.  They always add a great drummer (Danny Coots, shown above, is on their new CD, and Saturday they brought in Ed Metz, Jr., from Florida).

Also joining them on Saturday were L.A.-based Katie Cavera on banjo, guitar, and vocals.  (Katie also plays bass and ukulele, spreading her versatility among a lot of groups that include regular Disney California Adventure small-combo The Ellis Island Boys and the HUGE Vaud & The Villains.  Check Katie out at www.katiecavera.com.)  Not to mention Festival Special Guest Bob Draga.  Draga, another Floridian, has parleyed his skill on the clarinet and his warm sense of humor and ability to connect with both audiences and musicians into becoming “the” star to have at one’s traditional jazz festival.  (www.clarnet.net)

Finally, rounding out the Au Brothers’ busload of special musical guests was Sacramento-based Zack Sapunor.  I’ve mentioned Zack before, in my February 18 post about the Sac-Town Playboys.  A veteran of a lot of great jazz bands (including the Jim Cullem Jazz Band of NPR’s weekly “Riverwalk” program), Zack seems to be everywhere these days, adding his amazing slap-bass sounds to all sorts of music.  You can hear him in person this coming Thursday night at Sacramento’s Torch Club when he appears with Hot City (or check out www.zacktown.com.com for his schedule).

If you haven’t gotten the trad festivel “bug” yet, I hope it hits you soon.  There’s a tremendous amount of wonderful music at these festivals, played by musicians from junior high age up to top performers in their 80s and 90s.  And whether they’re in the former group and just learning the music, or have been performing for 50 years or more, each performer puts a new spin on it every time.