It is late morning and I am sipping on Green Jade tea and listening to Tommy Klein practice Waltz in G by Ferdinand Carulli. It is interesting to catch up with the old schoolers to see what and how they keep up with the flow in these ever changing times.
Keep in mind that Tommy is so occupied with his acoustic guitar that he doesn’t even know that I am interviewing him. We are just chatting. Later I say thanks for the interview!
His guitar is a nylon string, student model, Gracia guitar that he says isn’t really expensive but it has a sticker on the inside that tells where all the wood came from and that it was made in 1970.
Mika: How long have you been practicing today?
Tommy K: This morning, I got up and started around 4:30am because I couldn’t sleep.
We started out talking about Harry Belafonte, Miriam Makeba and Bobby Darin. My friend Dan had been playing Belafonte yesterday at Bite Cafe on his Ipod – my 10 month old, daughter loved it. Suddenly I want to know more about Harry Belafonte. I am asking every musician that I know about Harry.
Tommy K : Harry Belafonte is an activist- back in his day he was King of Calypso. It makes sense that a toddler would find his music ‘bouncable‘. Calypso is enjoyable because it is dynamic with surprising sounds.
Mika: I see a spectrum of color while listening to Harry
Tommy K: My mentor and teacher, Jack Cecchini played as part of the band for Harry Belafonte and Miriam Makeba. Jack played with Bobby Darin too. Bobby Darin supported and marched with Martin Luther King. You can say that those performers were pioneers when it came down to entertainers joining movements and demanding civil rights.
One night in the early 90’s, when I was still operating the Vic Theatre… Miriam Makeba and her band were playing… I went outside to have a look around and there was Jack Cecchini standing in line! I got him out of line, brought him inside and put him in a box.
I didn’t know he was coming because I hadn’t talked to him in a long time. Jack hadn’t talked to Miriam in a long time. Everyone had a blast.
You should try to interview Jack. I bet he has some show business stories for you. Back in their day, those musicians were cutting edge. Jack played with all of them and he always slept with the band and didn’t go along with the black/white this and that separation nonsense!
Mika: How did you meet Jack Ceccini?
Tommy K: When I was 17 years old, I had a music teacher on the south side of Chicago who I’d been taking lessons from- one day he took me aside and said- look Kid, I’ve taken you as far as I can take you. It is time you seek another Teacher. He recommended Jack Ceccini who had a little store that was managed by his wife, Eve.
Tommy K: I wanted to learn from the best, so I called the store and booked a lesson. The rest is history!
Mika: Why do you practice classical music if you are considered a Jazz musician?
Tommy K: Classical has good format and good technique it can be applied to modern jazz and rock. You want to have good technique even when you play electric guitar!
Mika: I have absolutely no idea of what good technique consists of but I love Along the Watch Tower by Jimi Hendrix.
Tommy K: All Along the Watchtower? That’s a Bob Dylan tune. Jimi Hendrix liked Bob Dylan a lot.
Mika: That surprises me. They seem so different- but then I know squat about music.
Tommy Klein gets up from the music stands and walks over to his Mac. I think he was trying to find Bob Dylan doing All Along the Watchtower but comes up with Dylan doing Like a Rolling Stone instead.
Tommy K: Jimi Hendrix did like a Rolling Stone too.
Mika: I think of Bob Dylan as a poet. I must admit that all these years of dancing- I’ve only recently started paying attention to who wrote the music that I dance to. DJ have been handling all that stuff. I’m too cheap to put money in the juke box- I just say play some Rock or R and B.
Tommy K: Bob Dylan is a poet- he was saying something important to that generation when he wrote those songs… listen to the lyrics. Dylan has mass appeal.
Mika: What are you listening to lately?
Tommy K: Right now, I’m on this Opera’s Greatest Tenors kick. I made friends with this guy down the street- so happens he’s a accomplished, local, opera singer. He played me one of his recordings and he sounds just like Pavarotti- but then I don’t know much about opera. Anyway, we started this book exchange. I’m studying the history of opera and the greatest tenors. It’s cool. The funny thing is that I never like that kind of music before.
Mika: Why do you think that you were like that then and what caught your ear recently?
Tommy K: Well it is so organic. My neighbor has a collection of recordings and a Victrola. When he cranked up the album it was all scratchy and stuff but it sounded so ripe. I was taken aback. Back in those days the musicians had to get it right without sound studio technology.
Mika: Maybe you ran out of other styles and Opera is your last frontier.
Tommy K: Neeeh. As you get older, you get more open minded… Opera wasn’t my style… it’s an acquired taste- Guess now I am old enough to appreciate it.