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Oatmeal, anyone? An Evening with Ottmar Liebert


When my daughter was small, she would refer to Flamenco guitarist, Ottmar Liebert as “Oatmeal”.  “Listening to Oatmeal again, Mom?”  she would ask.

Screen Shot 2015-08-17 at 10.36.40 AM© Stacy Alexander – 2015

Last night, we were treated to two hours of this graceful guitarist’s skilled execution of some of the most incredible music I have ever heard.  Liebert was joined by bassist, Jon Gagon and percussionist, Chris Steele.  They had definite chemistry, and put on an ideal show in an intimate Portland venue in the Alberta Arts District.

Screen Shot 2015-08-17 at 10.40.34 AM

© Stacy Alexander

Ottmar Liebert is what guitar playing is all about.  He is in tune with his craft to the point that it seemed, at times, that he and the guitar were one instrument.  He was graceful, and seemed comfortable in his own skin, playing, most of the time, barefoot, with his eyes closed, seemingly oblivious to his surroundings, riding the waves of his own creations.   I believe he was playing a small DeVoe guitar, but it didn’t have any markings on it that I could see, so I’m not certain that is what it was.

Since 1986 Liebert has lived in Santa Fe, New Mexico. In 1992 he purchased an “alt-ranchette” just outside the city, with an adobe guesthouse he built as a recording studio.  In May 2006 Liebert was ordained as a Zen monk by Dennis Genpo Merzel at the Kanzeon Zen Center in Salt Lake City, Utah.  He had a very strong presence….one of peace and goodness.  Both John and I sensed this immediately as we watched him.

(I couldn’t get the video of Luna Negra to embed.  This video (above) is an earlier performance.)

I have been unable to find a video of Jon Gagnon, his bassist, but will post one here, if i do later.  He  was simply put, rock solid in every way.  Jon had a huge presence and voice on a 4 string fretless which sang like an baritone opera singer…or, at times, a French horn.  I couldn’t figure out what one of his bass instruments was at all it.  The one shown here was huge, and had a EB-like headstock and a body shape of something like a JP and a morsh.   Its  tone was full of mwah, but soulful and crying. The  fretboard was  coated with something shiny. I’d not seen anything like it before.

Screen Shot 2015-08-17 at 10.54.47 AMThe drummer, Chris Steele, was not to be believed.

Screen Shot 2015-08-17 at 10.57.15 AMI did find a video of Chris playing, and I encourage you to watch it.  He is truly a unique player, and fantastically talented.

There is a video on YouTube that I couldn’t manage to embed here.  Please look it up.  It is called “Good Drums, Bad Turtleneck” by Chris Steele.  This is the video to watch to really see this man’s talent.  You can find it here:

The Alberta Rose Theater is a sweet little venue….very small and intimate, which was the perfect place to hear a trio such as this.  John and I ate the venue’s delicious  hand pies and sipped Perrier as we basked in the warmth and beauty that these musicians presented to us. We had such a nice evening.   These guys are  true professionals…plain and simple.  They were tight, knew exactly what they were doing, and provided the audience with an amazing show.  ’nuff said.  Well…no….NOT enough said, actually.

As I was sitting there watching these incredible musicians, I though about my dear friend, another musician, and felt so sad that his life has taken the path that it has.  It could have been him up there on that stage last night….but as they say…”When you lie with pigs….”  He has made some not-so-wise choices.   I’ll leave it at that.

Philip Seymour Hoffman, Dead at 46



One of the finest actors and directors this world has ever known was found dead in his Manhattan apartment this morning, of a suspected heroin overdose.  What a waste of life and talent.    He and one of my film industry friends were close friends.  She is in deep mourning today.  I saw him live in “Death of a Salesman” and John and I saw him when we were coincidentally stuck in a Hollywood traffic jam together a few years ago.  He was right beside us.  I looked over and waved at one point, and he gave a smile and a little wave back.  I’m sure he forgot that instantly, but I never will.    Each time I saw him act in a film, I marveled at the fact that he was even better than he had been in the last one.

This is a sad day for the world.

Andy McKee – American Picker


One of my favorite guitarists, Andy McKee plays “Gates of Gnomeria,” his own creation, taking listeners on an ethereal, dreamlike journey.    I thought he should have named this piece, “Gates of Guernica” instead, since the guitar looks like it could have popped right out of Picasso’s most famous painting.

Andy’s  masterful picking is unlike that of any other guitarist I have ever heard…and the guitar itself? Just LOOK at that thing!  Don’t quote me on this, but I believe this is called a harp guitar.   I couldn’t find any info on what it is, exactly, but I suspect it might be a custom made Michael Greenfield, since that was a guitar manufacturer that was mentioned on his website. If anyone knows, (Richard?)  please speak up. I love the rich, full tones that soak their way into the brain gradually as this tune progresses.

Andy is from Winfield, Kansas, of all places, and has managed to forge a style that dictates originality. I spent some time in Winfield visiting relatives when I was a kid, so I can understand how this guy would have plenty of time to practice. There didn’t seem to be much going on there.

Andy is one of those guys who has not had to spend a lot of money to promote himself. He taught himself how to play, and entered the prestigious National Finger Style Guitar Championships in Winfield, Kansas. He was one of the top finalists. After that, his pure, raw talent was enough to cause his fans to spread the word about him on their own, and he gave them the free reign to do exactly that. At last count, his YouTube video plays had exceeded 120 million!

This is what happens when one has confidence in his or her playing, and allows fans the freedom to promote what they love. Some musicians try to control each and every aspect of their music, including who can listen to their stuff and watch their videos and where. On today’s music market, doing this is a fatal mistake. The music world has changed so much through the years! Those indies who do not heed the call of modern promotion in this way, are never going to find the success that they’re looking for unless they have a major record deal. Andy is the perfect example of how it all works to let the indie flow pick up one’s music and deliver it to the listening ears of adoring fans.