Last night I watched Joe Henry at a dinner/jazz club called the Dakota here in Minneapolis. The venue took a little while to get used to—I am a little weirded out by music needing dinner to make it an event—but once I settled in the show was really amazing. I’ve been really into Joe Henry as a producer for years but never really listened to his work as an artist, and now that I’ve seen him live I feel like I have catching up to do. It was a powerful show.

After the show I snuck towards the stage to say hi to and basically fawn over drummer Jay Bellerose, whose playing and general attitude towards music has been really inspiring to me over the years. I told him as much and the resulting conversation did very little to change that.

What I am trying to say is that last night was a pretty good night.


So…lots going on in the still-cold-but-slowly-defrosting-in-the-teasing-rays-of-Spring city of Minneapolis lately.

Along with the sunshine comes a slew of albums I’ve been working on the past few months…you can check them out here if you’re interested. Jim’s (aka the Mad Ripple) record was particularly fun as I showed up to the studio at 9 p.m. and by midnight we had the entire record (well, the drum tracks) in the can. If I get to do his next record I plan on getting fourteen songs in 30 minutes, and I might even attempt a “second” take, which I hear is all the rage in studios nowadays.

My Big Project this Spring is producing a record with my friend Dave Olson…Dave is from Iowa City and has a great sense of melody and song. It’s a challenge for me as that side of music isn’t really my forte (can “sonic insanity” be considered a forte?) but an exciting one. More bulletins as events warrant…

The biggest news for me personally over the last few months was saying goodbye to a weekly gig I’ve been playing for the better part of two years. Nye’s in NE Minneapolis is still the best place to be in America on a Wednesday night but it’s time to move on and find some new musical road for awhile. The band—Molly Maher, Erik Koskinen, Paul Bergen—is awesome and I’ll still be playing with them from time to time.

There’s a saying, though, that when one door closes another door opens, and behind that door will be a band called Davina and the Vagabonds who are looking for a drummer. That’s the saying, right? Either way, it’s a pretty accurate because as of now I am officially a Vagabond. Davina’s music is a lot of fun; it’s sort of rooted in New Orleans jazz and swing but it definitely veers off into uncharted territory every now and then. It’ll be interesting to see where we go… Also, to say this band stays busy is kind of an understatement, so if you’re living in a city of some sort with people and buildings chances are we’ll be playing there soon.

I made this little mix a few months ago while trying to sell a set of DW drums…I used the kit on all of these songs and while the drums didn’t sell the mix is a pretty good snapshot of some things I’ve been working on the past year.

Silver-sparkle Ludwig drums

New (old) Ludwigs at Sound Emporium in Nashville.

Advice from Thelonius Monk

My friend Erik hipped me to this—advice from Thelonious Monk as recorded by Steve Lacy. Very cool and relevant, and I need to have this printed out on flyers. (via


If you never knew Chris Gaffney, I’m not sure that this little eulogy is going to help any. To tell the truth, I didn’t know Chris very well—at least, as well as others—or for very long. But the memories I have of him are just as good as any…and they feel good writing them down.

I met Chris while playing in what was to become the Hacienda Brothers. Born from an “all-star” band of sorts, the early version of the Hacienda Brothers featured Chris Gaffney, Dave Gonzales, and Teddy Morgan. We had a lot of trouble settling on a name. Chris’s suggestion? The Axis of Evil. Perfect. I think up until the day he died Chris was a little disappointed that name didn’t get picked.

Chris was always a lot of fun, even when he wasn’t. He loved music but hated being in the studio. I like to think that listening to that first record I can hear the difference between the first takes—when he still wanted to be there—versus anything later. Chris was the kind of guy to wear his heart on his sleeve, no matter what shape it was in. 

I had a lot of fun talking with Chris on the road. He would tell me completely random stories about his boxing career or his war career or his music career; stories that, looking back, make me realize that it’s surprising this is the first time Chris has died. He’s lived enough lives to have done it a few times, at least. 

One of the sweetest and most meaningful things ever said to me was from him. “Richard,” he said, “I know I’m not your real grandfather but if it’s okay with you I’d like to be your musical grand-dad.”

“You can’t be my grandfather,” I said. “You’re the same age as my dad.”

“Well,” he said. “We’ll work something out.”