Here are some of the latest happenings going on these last few months at Nightowl Studios and in the "homeland".
First, Sunday was Yvonne's birthday!!!, and we stayed close to home celebrating with Alex, her dad Bob and sister Michelle!!!
Since her diagnosis last September, we spend a great deal of time taking care of Yvonne's health and have visited many specialists from Bethesda, Maryland at NIH to UCLA, City of Hope and Cedars Sinai. We are constantly researching all about brain tumors and the treatment options that are available. We are completely focused on the next step, given that no one has a protocol for reducing the size of a severe, inoperable brain stem tumor such as Yvonne's.
Fortunately, Yvonne has been feeling pretty good, except for the constant fatigue and double vision, and the latest MRI showed the tumor has not grown in the last few months. Such a welcome change from the fall and winter when the radiation and chemo took its toll and we were house-bound. We are now taking advantage of every day and have actually gotten in some nice trips to just chill and enjoy some different surroundings.
In April we went to our favorite place on the Central Coast, Los Osos and Montana De Oro state park. This is a hidden gem, a very dramatic coastline plateau where massive wave Pacific swells hit the rocks. The trail is level, and there are a few little cove beaches. Then we went to NIH, National Cancer Institute in Maryland for our consult and had some extra time to visit with MD/VA friends and get our supply of Ledo's Pizza. We stayed right next to Great Falls in Virginia. Spectacular!!
We just had a great 10 days in Hawaii in May; six days on Maui before our show with Peter White and Michael Paulo in Honolulu. We saw our good friends Phil and Angela Benoit. Phil (David's brother) was kind enough to lend me his Casio Privia, my favorite lightweight keyboard, for the week so that I could keep my fingers limber, and I sat in on their gig at Ami Ami, a very nice restaurant in Kihei.
While we are celebrating every day together, we took advantage of the calendar most evenings out at some of the finest restaurants on the island - telling them that it was our 25th wedding anniversary, which is this month on June 14. Actually, we've been together 30 wonderful years!!! Each restaurant did a nice little thing for us and we were able to enjoy some of their better desserts, usually free of charge.
After chilling on the ocean for six days in Maui, we flew to Honolulu for the show with Peter and Michael and it was a great evening. Unfortunately Yvonne was really tired and didn't make the show, but it was nice to play for all of our Oahu friends. Then, three more days on Waikiki Beach staying at the incredible Sheraton, thanks Julie Loo, and we were ready to come home, recharged, and went right in to Kaiser for Yvonne's six week Mri. The great news is that the tumor has not grown and although she is still having some daily symptoms, we were relieved.
I should also mention the great show we had in May at Spaghettini in Seal Beach. It was great to play with the guys, Joel Taylor, Ernest Tibbs, Dave Hill, and Keith McKelley. I also had a great time doing a co-bill show with Everette Harp in Albuquerque, NM and a fantastic show at Manchester Craftsman's Guild in Pittsburgh with Peter, Vincent Ingala and myself for their 30th anniversary.
I'm looking forward to my own solo shows, especially in my hometown of Annapolis Maryland at Ramshead onJuly 9. My last visit there in October of last year was a great night, with Scott Ambush (Spyro Gyra), Brad Collins, Deren Blessman and Stanley Cooper. Another fun show coming up is Aug 6 ( 5-6:30PM) here in Thousand Oaks. Our good friends harpist Lori Andrews and bassist/husband Bart Samolis have invited Ron Boustead, Pat Kelley and myself to join them for a couple of songs each in their show. It is free, and a beautiful setting at The Gardens of the World.
I have to thank all of you and our Facebook friends for their good thoughts and support during this challenging time. We all get older, and cancer takes its toll on so many, but we have to fight and continue to be our own advocates. It has been very interesting, and a bit frustrating, to hear so many different opinions from the smartest neuro-oncologists in the country.
Musically I've got a few interesting things planned and in the works. Some new, very intimate, solo piano and dynamic "world music" songs are in the can, and future plans for a very live, funky collection....and another "concept album" that is top secret for now. However, I will admit that I have been preoccupied lately -with life- and it will take some time to put on the finishing touches and release my next project(s). I always take an organic approach and try not to let the pressure of time or deadlines force the music.
Speaking of "organic", I have recently purchased a Hammond B3 "clone", the Crumar MOJO.
It is my new personal challenge to get my jazz organ and left-hand bass chops up, going back to my roots listening to Jimmy Smith, McDuff and Groove Holmes on Paul Anthony's jazz radio show in DC. This new, vintage recreation has a great feel and sounds just like the Hammond B3 I used to play at my Dad's restaurant as a teenager. Well, I never played it for people back then........the dining room was always pretty dark. The story is, at age 13, I started my restaurant "career" (busboy, dishwasher, cook, etc...) working as the cleanup guy on Sunday afternoons when the Bowie Inn was closed. I would vacuum the dining room and clean the bathrooms. If I got finished before the opening at 4pm, Harry would get the key to the B3 and let me play on the beautiful organ that belonged to Ted Freed, a great organist who played solo on weekends. I really didn't know what I was doing, except playing "Inna Gadda Da Vida" and a few other rock licks over and over but I loved the sound. Later, I did take organ lessons on the Hammond C2 in the church at McDonogh School in 9th grade. I owned a Farfisa then, with a real Leslie 145!! After that we had a little quartet that played dinner music at The Bowie Inn with Dale Carley on trumpet, Jeff Davang on guitar, Steve Pronk on bass and myself on my new Fender Rhodes - one of my first professional gigs.
Someone just reminded me of one of my first sessions in LA in 1983, for the Jazz/Soul great Gene Harris. I was called in to play synthesizers and did some overdubs. I never got a copy of the LP, but here is the cover. But then, you might ask, what was the first record date I did....? Besides the Bowie High School Starliners "fundraising" LP, here it is, found it on ebay:
Together, Tim Eyermann and I took part in our first original recording project in 1974: we drove up to rural PA to a studio to put our own music to the spoken word recordings of Naturalist Euell Gibbons reading Henry David Thoreau. We improvised some and I used some of my song ideas and Minimoog to make a free-form sound tapestry.
Ok, that's enough history. Looking forward to playing live, writing more music and celebrating every day.
Gregg www.karukas.com (exclusive autographed CD's and other goodies) www.cdbaby.com i-Tunes Amazon June 23 - Newport Beach, CA Gregg guests with Peter White at The Hyatt Newport
- July 8 - Dobson, NC (Charlotte area) Jazz At The Vineyard -CANCELLED due to organizational problems. Sorry for any confusion.
* July 9 Annapolis, MD Rams Head On Stage
- Aug 6 Thousand Oaks, CA Gardens of the World 5-6:30PM (Gregg guests with Jazz Harpist Lori Andrews and Ron Boustead) * Sept 2 Pensacola, FL Gulf Coast Summer Jazz Fest.
- Oct 1 - Temecula, CA Gregg guests with Peter White and Marc Antoine * Oct 7 - Norfolk, VA The Attucks Theater (tix on sale soon) * Oct. 14 - San Diego, CA Jazz Diego with Paul Brown , Larry Carlton, Michael Paulo, Jessy j. and more
- Oct 21 - Avalon, CA Gregg guests with Peter White and Marc Antoine