Allee Willis--An appreciation

An Allee Willis featurette The unexpected death of multi-talented songwriter Allee Willis Tuesday (Dec. 24) left the many who knew and loved her—and the countless others who were deeply affected by her music--stunned and saddened. “What a talent, what a character, what a loss,” tweeted fellow Songwriters Hall of Fame inductee Diane Warren. “Rest in musical power.” Recalled the Hall’s president/CEO Linda Moran, “Allee Willis was a true renaissance woman, talented in so many areas. Her induction into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2018 was a highlight of her career. She reiterated numerous times to me how it changed her life and brought attention to her as a songwriter in a way that she never

Peter Asher keeps his 'Musical Memoir' fresh

Peter Asher, with help from Walker County, performs Linda Ronstadt's "Blue Bayou" at The Cutting Room Peter Asher has been performing his Peter Asher: A Musical Memoir of the 60s and Beyond for several years now, adding new autobiographical bits--recollections, photos, videos--each time around. Indeed, he’s got so much material that he’s filled a new book (The Beatles A to Zed, derived from his SiriusXM From Me to You radio show on the Beatles Channel) with it. The current Musical Memoir, as evidenced at New York’s Cutting Room on Dec. 11, retains the general format: Clever taped open and close by Asher’s friend Eric Idle, followed by a discussion of the postwar/post-empire/pre-British Invas

Ageless Judy Collins still going strong with latest album

The titletrack of "Winter Stories" As The New York Times noted last month, Judy Collins is 80—and still performing 120 shows a year. But the hook for the feature was the Nov. 29 release of her latest album Winter Stories, a collaboration with Norwegian folk singer-songwriter Jonas Fjeld--and with backing by American bluegrass group Chatham County Line, with whom Fjeld previously recorded three albums. It follows two other recent collaborative albums from Collins: the Grammy-nominated Silver Skies Blue with singer-songwriter Ari Hest (2016) and Everybody Knows with Stephen Stills (2017). The songs on Winter Stories were “very easy” to find, says Collins. “‘Fallow Way’ is a song I wrote and re

BETTY, with Gloria Steinem, ushers in the holidays at New York's Cutting Room

BETTY at The Cutting Room, Dec. 8, 2019 With City Winery in transition to a new location, BETTY’s annual holiday show took place Dec. 8, under the Winery’s auspices, at the packed Cutting Room. More significantly, brilliantly wacky Amy Ziff (cello), who with sister Elizabeth Ziff (guitar) and Alyson Palmer (bass) have been the beloved musical/political trio since the mid-1980s, continued last year’s complete turnaround in holiday demeanor—from total negative to apparent positive. “I’m just an ordinary rock star trying to talk about holiday miracles,” Amy said, imploring the SRO room to “identify the miracles” of the season—much as she did at last year’s holiday show. In fact, she reprised he

Robert Earl Keen shoots for the moon in this year's Christmas show

REK Christmas Countdown, Dec. 5, 2019, Town Hall There are a lot of Christmas shows—and then there’s Robert Earl Keen’s. This year’s theme is “Christmas Countdown,” and centers on the 1969 lunar landing. At the Dec. 5 tour stop at New York’s Town Hall, Keen and his band took the stage to the 2001: A Space Odyssey movie opening theme (Richard Strauss’s Also sprach Zarathustra), the stage being a wondrous prop-laden Christmas Countdown fantasy of spacecraft, Christmas trees and decorations, and cigarette boxes evoking Keen’s evergreen chestnut “Merry Christmas from the Family”—with emerging band members costumed as 1960s music legends. Keen, though, was decked out in a suit festooned with gala

Darlene Love's expanded Christmas show doubles the love

Darlene performs her classic "Christmas Baby Please Come Home" with Bryan Adams last year on "The View" Darlene Love always does a great job mixing her Christmas classics with her non-holiday hits and other fare at her annual Christmas show, but her current edition, as evidenced Dec. 2 at Manhattan’s Sony Hall, is her best yet. Sure she starts out with “Jingle Bell Rock” and “Marshmallow World,” the latter from the landmark 1963 A Christmas Gift For You From Phil Spector album, following it with a pair of secular Spector gems in “Wait ‘til My Bobby Gets Home,” on which she sang lead, and “Da Doo Ron Ron.” And she continues with Christmas songs (“White Christmas” and “Winter Wonderland”—also

Natalie Merchant and Francisco J. Núñez receive top 2019 ASCAP Foundation awards

From left: ASCAP Foundation executive director Colleen McDonough, ASCAP Foundation Life in Music Award recipient Francisco J. Núñez and ASCAP Foundation Champion Award recipient Natalie Merchant (Courtesy of The ASCAP Foundation) Natalie Merchant received The ASCAP Foundation Champion Award Wednesday night (Dec. 11) at the 2019 ASCAP Foundation Honors presentation at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Frederick P. Rose Hall, while The ASCAP Foundation Life in Music Award was bestowed upon composer and leading music educator Francisco J. Núñez. The annual ceremony was filled with stellar performances by several Foundation award and scholarship recipients--including the two major award winners. “This ev

After 17 years with Little Richard, drummer Derrick 'D'Mar' Martin gives Rick Estrin &am

D'Mar drumming at Iridium (Photo: Arnie Goodman) Blues great Rick Estrin wasn’t kidding a few weeks ago when he told an interviewer that Derrick “D’Mar” Martin, the new drummer of his band Rick Estrin & the NIghtcats, had kicked the entire group way up in terms of entertainment value. In fact, Estrin humbly turned away from the suggestion that he himself is the best entertainer on the music scene—even when Forbes last month affirmed it. “The second-best entertainer, maybe,” Estrin said prior to the band’s triumphant Nov. 24 gig at New York’s Iridium club, happily handing the top honor to Martin. “He’s amazing. He was Little Richard’s drummer for 17 years [1995-2013] and does s**t I’ve never

Gays Against Guns and artist/activist Robin Bell collaborate in D.C. action naming gun violence vict

Gays Against Guns' "Human Beings" filmed by independent video journalist Sandi Bachom According to Gun Violence Archive, there were 35,993 gun-violence fatalities as of 3:39 a.m., Dec. 1 this year in the U.S.—though that number increases by the minute. Tomorrow night (Dec. 2, at 6 p.m. ET), at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., award-winning visual/projection artist and activist Robin Bell, in conjunction with Gays Against Guns (GAG), will present Lives Lost in 2019, a projection of all the victims’ names onto the building’s facade. The event coincides with the day’s Supreme Court hearing involving gun rights---the first case it has heard on the issue in 10 years. The case concerns an attempt