Where does The Road to Ubatuba take you?
In the case of Peter King’s CD, it leads to a "musical master" (In Pittsburgh) and his simmering, surprising amalgam of folk, jazz and blues. Ten original songs offer melodic invention and lyrical insight, spanning a map of the world (Brazil in the title cut, “The Capital of Idaho” and “Women Overseas”) and a map of the heart. The disc also offers fresh arrangements of the traditional “Corrina, Corrina,” Gordon Lightfoot’s “Early Morning Rain” and Robert Johnson’s “Walkin’ Blues.”
Guitarist/vocalist King receives inspired assistance from some of Pittsburgh’s finest, including percussionist Jim DiSpirito (Big World, ex-Rusted Root), saxophonist Eric DeFade (Billy Price, Salsamba), harmonica player Marc Reisman (Houserockers, Ernie Hawkins) and bassist/producer Mark Perna (Leslie Smith, Don Aliquo Sr., Jack Erdie).
The foundation of King’s distinctive style is unusually broad and rich, ranging from singer-songwriter gigs to formal training in classical composition and jazz guitar. He has performed at the Three Rivers Arts Festival, Smoky City Folk Festival, Shadyside Summer Arts Festival, Calliope House concerts, the Backstage Bar in Theater Square and many other venues in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Ohio. His teachers include Brazilian/jazz guitarist Marty Ashby, who heads MCG Jazz in Pittsburgh, Duquesne University guitar chair Bill Purse, and the legendary arranger John “Doc” Wilson.
King has earned the respect of presenters, critics and in-the-know Pittsburgh songwriters and musicians. Here's what they’re saying:
"Jazzy, easy-going acoustic folk-pop in the vein of vintage James Taylor and Paul Simon" - Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
“Intricate guitar work, exciting singing and evocative, richly melodic songs.” — Philadelphia City Line News
“Proof yet again that we don't have to look any further than our own back yard for great talent.” — Shadyside Summer Arts Festival
"The Road to Ubatuba" was launched to a packed house at Pittsburgh's Club Cafe on April 28, 2006, and King’s musical journey is shifting into higher gear. Interviewed about the CD, he was philosophical concerning its prospects.
“One of the themes that comes up often in my songs is the passage of time,” he says. “There’s one song, “White Blossoms,” that’s sort of based on the old “Rubaiyat,” a poem by Omar Khayyam about living, loving, drinking wine and generally just focusing on the moment.
“That’s kind of how I feel about this record. I had such a kick doing it, playing with all these great musicians. Whatever happens or doesn’t happen, I just want to keep making music that I’m proud of and passionate about. And, hopefully, music that makes people feel good.”
"Ubatuba + 3 (almost): The next CD? It's done!" (March 28, 2009)
-- By Peter King
I've been blogging forever about how I’m working on another CD. Now I’m beaming as I type these words, because I am proud and excited (and relieved) to be able to tell you that my new CD is finished.
As in “Done. Completed. Finalized. Ready. Worked over within an inch of its life.”
"Dancing on a Long Leash" will be launched Friday, Nov. 6, 2009 with a performance at Club Cafe -- the South Side Pittsburgh venue where we also launched "Ubatuba."
As with any loving daddy looking at his newborn, you’ll forgive me if I say the new CD is pretty terrific!
But (there’s always one of those, isn’t there?) while the music is primed to pop, a few details need to be hammered out. Just a few, including artwork, pressing, promotion, etc. It’s a whole new world of things to drive me crazy!
Nevertheless, I am thankful and somewhat delirious that the hardest part is done.
The new disk features my core band of Marc Reisman, harmonica, and Mark Perna, bass -- plus Mark Weakland on drums. It showcases some of Pittsburgh’s best soloists, including saxophonist Eric DeFade, clarinetist Lou Schreiber and keyboardist Max Leake. It also boasts some terrific guest singers: Heather Kropf, Autumn Ayers and Doug Wilkin.
As for the songs, fans at my gigs been hearing some of them live for two and a half years -- evolving as we change the arrangements or I alter a line or two of lyrics: “That's My Girl,” “Connoisseur of Lawns,” “Cindy,“ “Time is Watching” and “Number One in Lichtenstein” among them. I’ve also worked out an arrangement of Van Morrison’s great “Brown Eyed Girl.” Trust me -- it’s something of a re-invention rather than a rehash.
Can’t wait till the fall.
In the meantime, my first CD, “The Road to Ubatuba,” is still alive and well and available right here on CD Baby (!).
As always, thanks for listening,
"Ubatuba" + 2: The next CD? It's coming, I swear!" (April 28, 2008)
-- By Peter King
Today I'm celebrating another birthday, as well as the second anniversary of the release of "The Road to Ubatuba." As you can see from reading "Ubatuba + 1" below, I had hoped to have my next CD finished by now. However, the course of true love (love for music, in this case) ne'er runs smooth.
We tried to do the CD live in the studio, somewhat in the manner of a jazz quartet, even though my style is at least as much grounded in folk, blues and pop as it is in jazz.
It was a noble, perhaps quixotic effort. But we — myself, producer/bassist Mark Perna and engineer extraordinaire Doug Wilkin — weren't satisfied with the results.
Recently, we switched to the more standard "pop" way of producing, with isolated instruments and the capability to punch in and out (overdub) at will.
We've come to fully appreciate the beautiful, crystalline sound of each instrument when no other instruments are bleeding into the track, and we've found that you can still swing even when you're overdubbing.
I've also realized that the click track is my friend! (On the last CD I didn't use one.) What I had previously thought of as a soulless machine that destroyed the idosyncracies of each musician's sense of time, I now think of as a really good swing drummer -- say Jo Jones or Louie Bellson -- who never lets you drag the tempo. You're still free to play with time in subtle ways.
Yeah, we're learning as we go. At last, we're getting somewhere!
Besides, if you look hard enough, on every rusted guitar string there's some silver coating: I have been playing my newer songs both solo and with a band (Mark Perna on bass and Marc Reisman on harmonica) for more than a year. They're road-tested. De-bugged. Not like Windows Vista. They don't need service packs.
Some of you have heard these songs: "Connoisseur of Lawns," "Let's Go For a Ride," "Cindy," "Time is Watching" and "Number One in Lichtenstein" among them. I'm grateful for the response I've gotten from audiences when I've played them.
Speaking of audiences, the last year has been a good one for live gigs. I opened for national acts including Willy Porter and Todd Burge. I played my first house concert, part of the intimate, homey Resaca Series in Pittsburgh's Mexican War Streets. (Where else can you be crooning a quiet ballad as a dog wanders by?)
And I found myself in rotation at the Backstage Bar at Theater Square, one of Pittsburgh's hippest, most casually elegant venues, where the food is good, the staff is friendly and efficient, and management treats the musicians well.
One other thing I mentioned in "Ubatuba + 1" is my desire to converse more with you, the fans that enable my music-making addiction.
I want to post more messages on my Website (call it a blog if you must) and read your responses. That's proved tough for me to do, because I've been dependent on a dedicated but overworked Webmaster to post things for me.
However, I've been struggling with the basics of HTML and Dreamweaver, and I've finally reached the point where I can post messages myself.
Look out! That means any time the spirit moves me, I can pontificate for the benefit of my wife, sister and whoever else might possibly care. If that includes you, pontificate back. I'd love to hear what you have to say.
In the meantime, if you haven't heard "The Road to Ubatuba," of which I remain quite fond, now's your chance to buy it -- before the new CD comes out, and before, um, hmmm, well, Christmas, and, uh, now's your chance to buy it!
How's that for a sales pitch?
“Ubatuba + 1: Thoughts on an anniversary" (April 28, 2007)
-- By Peter King
Today, April 28, means something to me for two reasons. It’s my birthday, for one thing. For another, it’s a year to the day that I launched my CD "The Road to Ubatuba" with a well-attended and, I think, well-played and appreciated gig at Pittsburgh's Club Cafe. We sold cartons of CDs, if that's any indication -- they arrived by UPS just in time.
Certainly the band was killer — regulars Mark Perna on bass and Marc Reisman on harmonica, as well as saxophonist Eric DeFade, percussionist Jim DiSpirito and drummer Jeff Berman. I’m sure we’ll all share the same stage again some day, and I might just bill them as The Really Good Band. That’s because many people said to me, “Peter, that was good. That band was REALLY good!”
But enough of that magical night. I’m not writing this for the sake of nostalgia, but rather to update fans of my music about what’s transpired in the past year and what’s coming in the future.
“Ubatuba” has done better than I could have realistically hoped. It’s been heard (and bought) around the world, from Australia to Montenegro to Montreal. It’s served as a calling card that has opened doors for me to play some wonderful concerts and club dates. It has also helped introduce me personally to some wonderful people — fans, fellow musicians and new friends.
And “Ubatuba” is still selling — oddly enough, the cool thing about being an “indie” performer is that you don’t explode with a hit and risk fizzling out from there. If you’re lucky, you get to watch your music percolate gradually through the Internet, where it doesn’t seem to get old quite so quickly as yesterday’s teen-pop sensation. (In other words, I’ll never sell a million, and I'll never be mistaken for a teen.)
Anyway, about the coming year: I’m writing new songs for the next CD, which my producer, the aforementioned Mark Perna, assures me will get done come hell or high Monongahela.
I’ve written about seven tunes so far, and I’ve revamped one of my old, old tunes. I’m also working on a version of a traditional tune, in the spirit of the last CD’s “Corrina, Corrina.”
Some of you have heard me play these tunes at gigs. Please feel free to let me know what you think, and why, as you’re a kind of a focus group, if you don’t mind my thinking of you that way.
In the coming months, I’m also planning to participate more in my Web site (www.peterkingmusic.com). The music, of course, is the main thing, but as an ex-music critic, I guess I can’t keep my mouth shut or my hands off the keypad entirely. There’s some interesting facts and stories and tall tales surrounding the tunes I play and the places I’ve been and the things I’ve seen that I’d like to tell you about.
I don’t want to hog the conversation, though, so I’m counting on you to message me back.
While I’m talking about the past year, I shouldn’t forget to mention one other significant event — I got married. Before January 20, whenever I introduced the song “Silly Goose,” I would explain that the title referred to a term of endearment for my significant other. Now, I’ve had to change the banter a little, because my S.O. has become my beautiful wife.
So when you put all that together, it’s been a good 12 months. Here’s to another 12, and to you — the people who get a kick out of the music I make.
I can’t thank you enough for listening.