L i v i n g in W a v e s
Bert's preoccupation with waves - especially of light and sound - has led to musical collaborations, photographic journeys, and even some of the technologies people use everyday.
Life too comes in waves, and in the past few years Bert has been playing more music than ever, with a series of shows in Northern and Southern CA celebrating guitarists, trumpeters and composers who've been major influences.
American Songwriter connected us with Adam Lisicky who interviewed Bert for their Bringin' it Backwards Podcast. Bert's weave of tech and music is full of surprises, give it a listen!
Manhole Music is an independent record label formed on the Stanford campus in 1979 to release the first pressing of Bert's vinyl Take Me Home, now collected as a psychedelic folk classic. The label has grown to include several artists with new originals and intimate covers, in genres from folk to rock to latin and straight ahead jazz.
released June 4 on Manhole Music: Circle back!
A 20 year retrospective box set featuring the Flying Other Brothers with performances by Bob Weir, GE Smith and T Bone Burnett
Rolling Stone Magazine chose a duo from this box set to premiere in April, and in May Relix premiered the FOBs backing Bob Weir on "Jack Playin' Jane" - a 28 minute jam combining Bobby's compositions Jack Straw and Playin' in the Band with Dylan's Queen Jane Approximately.
All 22 tracks are now streaming worldwide on Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube, Pandora etc.
Before the pandemic: Deep Dives by Bert & Izzy
A quintet co-led by Bert and esteemed Puerto Rican pianist/producer Izzy Tanenbaum brought 8 entirely different shows to a dinner theater in Northern CA. With the energy of latin jazz, they honored songwriters ranging from Joan Baez to Stevie Wonder to Sting to Leon Russell to Izzy himself. Highlights have been collected into a live album available as CDs and downloads at ManholeMusic.com, and available for streaming on all major platforms.
Videos from Mar 6 2020 (our last Deep Dive concert before the pandemic)
Most people who know about Herb Alpert think of a kind of smooth mariachi he created in the early 60s, inspired by music he heard at a Tijuana bullfight. But he also created the most successful independent record label in history, with a roster that will blow your mind. Below you can hear our renditions of two tunes released on A&M Records (stands for Alpert and Moss).
Stanford and Psychedelia
There’s a current in music that arguably got its start on the Stanford campus in 1960, when Ken Kesey was a grad student there. This concert, performed to a packed Campbell Recital Hall on the Stanford campus in Oct 2019, laid out the evidence for that argument. The performance featured the work of amazing Stanford visual artists projected on the wall behind us. Tapping the photo opens to our mid-concert rendition of Strawberry Fields Forever, with the aerial photographs of George Steinmetz.
The Deep Dive series:
The Wonder born Stevland
Stevie Wonder survived an incredibly difficult childhood to become one of the most successful songwriters of all time. So many of his tunes sound great in a latin style that Izzy and I had a hard time keeping the show under two hours. Stevie's vocal style is nearly untouchable, and Joan Baez who attended this show whispered to me it was a bit odd watching a white boy try to sing his songs. But what goes around comes around - the next night she went to the Stones concert where Mick Jagger was doing much the same. And the hit single Stevie wrote in 1965 - Uptight (Everything's Alright) - was inspired by Satisfaction!
Latin Jazz Standards
My latin jazz partner Izzy Tanenbaum has the deepest rolodex of latin artists that I know. For this performance of latin jazz standards, we were joined by Julius Melendez (from the Santana band) on trumpet, Carlos Ramirez on vocals and hand percussion, and Hazel Bermudez on vocals, along with the latin sax & flute specialist Tod Dickow (who our friend Smith Dobson was kind enough to introduce to us).
The Blue Note Catalog
Blue Note Records was started by two Ashkenazi Jews who escaped Berlin in the late 1930s and settled in New York City with the mission of finding the heart of jazz, which they found among African-Americans who were writing their own music. Starting in the late 40s with the great Thelonius Monk, they amassed a catalog of bebop, hard bop and post bop recordings that are still growing in popularity a half a century later. SmithDobson V, having recently performed an all-Monk show at SFJazz, was primed to join us for this show - tap here for three of the Monk tunes we performed
Another of our heroes who got his start in Tijuana, Carlos grew up playing a bit of mariachi fiddle and a lot of R&B guitar. After following his parents to Northern CA, he was discovered by Bill Graham and catapulted into worldwide fame with his band's unforgettable performance at Woodstock.
Latinbaum - Izzy's tree of latin jazz
Our first Latin Deep Dive focused on Izzy's own journey from Puerto Rico to Colombia and Boston and now - lucky for us - to the Bay Area. Featuring Charlie Channel on bass, Tio Pabon on congas, and the incredible Curt Moore on drums.
Bert's brew featuring Tommy Occhiuto
In 1959, tenor saxophonist Lester Young died from "alcohol use disorder". His bandmate Charles Mingus wrote an elegy, Goodbye Pork Pie Hat. Tommy blew our minds and got radio airplay with this beautiful rendition we performed at a place called SharePath. This live recording also features Chris Cortez on drums, Charlie Channel on bass, Jansen Verplank on keys, and yours truly on guitar.
Channeling Chet Baker
In 1950, a 20 year old Army Band trumpeter living in SF's Presidio and playing after hours in the tenderloin was asked by Charlie Parker to fill in for Miles Davis on Parker's west coast gigs. The rest is history.
Tap Doug Klein's photo to play video:
Dark Side of the Moon performed by a trio
One of the crazier things to come out of 2017's total solar eclipse was the trio of guitarist Bert Keely, drummer Larry Marcus, and pianist Roger Bourland deciding to perform Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon from start to finish with nothing pre-recorded but an alarm clock and a cash register. Here's a sample of how it was done live at Angelica's Bistro in Redwood City CA.
Photo by Lex Passaris (from the Hollywood show)
Deep Tracks from manholemusic.com:
Cinema Paradiso (Main Theme)
Jimi Hendrix' Angel
Steely Dan's Black Cow
BertsEye - A photoblog
Bert dove into digital photography to capture the sights while making psychedelic sounds, touring the US as guitarist in the Flying Other Brothers. He has since published eight photographic memoirs from his travels, telling stories with images and commentary that make for a joyously rhythmic experience. His 8 coffee table books are available at Blurb.com/user/bzbert. Here's a short blog of some familial moments:
Feb 2018 - The Philippines (Finally!)
Cynthia was born on the island of Luzon, in a tropical paradise with 10 thousand islands and 100 million inhabitants. For decades her mom told us not to go - too disturbing, too dangerous. This year her mom can hardly remember anything, so we finally flew to Cynthia's birthplace and got to know just five of the islands: Luzon, Corregidor, Mactan, Bohol, and Cebu. Just as we felt visiting India, we found the natural settings to be marvelous, the urban settings filthy, and the people incredible, with much more energy and civility than we could possibly expect. But what impressed us most were the natural wonders and people's celebration of them. Here Cynthia's trying her best to summon courage to jump into a canyon pool (she never did - but seemed happy to watch her kid-husband do it over and over!
August 2017 - Howling at the Sun
The total solar eclipse was quite a thing to witness. But what I found most enchanting was the behavior of the witnesses. Tap the photo of Beth Setrakian for my favorite thing I've done with a video camera to date:
July 2016 - In Over His Head
Just a few years ago it seems, our son Brandon was learning to swim. Now at the same neighborhood pool he's underwater with his own daughter Noli. Grandparents talk about how much fun this is, but few mention one of the greatest joys: watching your son be a father!
Dec 2015 - What Would Marcia Say?
My love of music came from my mother. She also gave my sister Cathy a rugged elegance and gave our little sister Ginny her gift of laughter. And suddenly Mom is gone.
Everyone eventually loses their mom. I've seen it many times, but never imagined feeling the way I do now. It' suddenly clear that for half a century there has been an umbilical cord connecting to Mom. The nourishment included her persuasion that I could become whatever I wanted. With no constraints other than to be safe, be decent to others, and appreciate the joys that come in life.
Mom never had any interest in controlling others. And yet this woman had a HUGE personality. How can one be so deeply influential without being pushy? Well, she was astute. But it also helps that she loved simplicity. So with a few words she could brightly light subjects that others would avoid.
Only when her body became weak did Marcia's essence become fully clear. She had always known what matters most in life. She had stayed curious, self-sufficient, responsive to others' needs, and funny - knowing how humor helps this world go 'round. Living this way, plus being lucky in love, had given her an astonishingly deep satisfaction. Focusing on things naturally within her control, Marcia showed us how an individual can easily make the world a better place.
Especially in the words she chose near the end - when each word took seconds to prepare - Marcia showed us how to live. Big questions will remain unanswered in life, and that's just fine. A little question we like to ask each other now is this: "What would Marcia say?
Nov 2014 - Life's Second Half
Not long ago, 50 was an age most humans didn't reach. It's now an age some of us aspire to double. And many of us now think of 50 as the start of life's second half.
My sister Ginny is a case in point. A brilliant Physical Therapist, being available to her patients means not getting many chances to take consecutive days off. But when she turned 50 she took a few off with me, just driving around Northern California and talking. Occasionally we'd come across a breathtaking view, she'd walk and I'd photograph. Just after sunrise at Death Valley's Zabriskie Point, she seemed to be contemplating the ups and downs that lay ahead.
June 2014 - telluride, the smaller the better!
Every June, dozens of the world's best musicians congregate in Telluride for the Bluegrass Festival. Some only play the main stage, but many participate in "Nitegrass' sessions in tiny venues where you can experience astounding music-making up-close.
This is the Sheridan Opera House, where for several years now our friends Punch Brothers have closed the festival with a late nite jam. Jammed together around Gillian Welch are some of our favorite musicians: Sara Watkins, Gabe Witcher, Bryan Sutton, Aoife O'Donovan, Chris Eldridge, Dave Rawlings, Sean Watkins, Paul Kowert, Chris Thile, Ronnie McCoury, Willie Watson, Sarah Jarosz, a mandolin player I don't recognize (sorry!) and finally Noam Pikelny & Led Zeppelin's John Paul Jones.
2013 - Can't Stop Designing
I stopped working full-time in 2009, but can't stop designing. Home remodeling is an easy way to get a fix, Megan's new degree in Landscape Architecture drove this project: a green roof, solar trellis, and faux-slate roof with stainless steel eaves and gables. One goal was to make the carport - which is very close to the street - part of the landscape rather than part of the house. Another was to include solar panels in a way that feels integral rather than a tack-on afterthought. A third was to eliminate the fire hazard of shake shingles by re-roofing with something lightweight but also substantial. Fourth was to have no visible gutters or downspouts.
2012 - Getting high in the Himalayas
As soon as he felt recovered from triple bypass surgery, my running mentor Mike Nuttall asked me to accompany him on a 100mi Stage Race in the Himalayas. It became the trip of a lifetime, including a week exploring the Khumbu region around Mt Everest. I guess this was a 'selfie' (before the word became popular). I took it at 18200ft atop the Kala Patar ridge, showing Mt Everest and Nuptse above and Everest Base Camp below.
2011 - a new College track site in New Orleans
On graduating high school, our first 37 College Track students in New Orleans were able to meet Bill Clinton (also the first in his family to go to college). Great inspiration to aim high, as these students embark on their college careers. Thank you Bill for the down home eloquence that's in everything you say.
2010 - Gone surfing
I'm going to learn to surf well, before it's too late. This isn't a selfie, it's Darryl "Flea" Virostko, the Mavericks legend who was acting as Water Patrol at my favorite surf spot - Steamer Lane, Santa Cruz. The wave wraps a cliff, turning north into a dependable offshore breeze, and sometimes continues for up to a quarter mile before ending at Cowell beach.
2009 - The Wedding Singers
Megan and Brandon, singing Nick Drake's "Northern Sky" during Nate and Katie's spectacularly blustery Big Sur wedding.
2008 - opening BertsEye
In 2008 I started transitioning out of full-time work, to make room for other passions best pursued while young. Kris Kristofferson said "Freedom's just another word for nothin' left to lose". Well even then there's something you don't want to lose, and that's TIME.
We now start each day asking "what sounds most exciting today?" and jumping up to follow that excitement!
This is the edge of the Great Salt Lake. After driving Megan most of the way home from Ithaca, where she earned her Landscape Architecture degree at Cornell, I ran as far towards the lake as I could, and found a moment of perfect stillness. Alone except for a sun worshiper, a tumbleweed, and billion sand flies.