Mike Starling / Blog

The music-photo connection

On the surface, music and photography may seem unrelated. But both communicate in a universal language that anyone anywhere in the world can understand. They transcend cultural barriers. They also play well together.

I recently started exploring making video mashups of my music and photo art. A recent sample is in my VIDEO section here on my ReverbNation page. Images are from my book "Live Without Dead Time: The Streets of Amsterdam." The music is "Sophie & Boscho" from my "Guitar Moods" CD.

I'll be posting new video mashups at my website. The direct link is mikestarling.com/video.

Pritzker Rules

The Pritzker Pavilion at Millennium Park has quickly become my favorite live music venue here in Chicago. Impeccable sound system, adventurous programming, a visual wonderland stage and free high-caliber concerts four or five nights a week all summer long. Who could ask for more? Some of my favorite musical moments from the summer of 2013:

• Fatoumata Diawara, an immense and undeniable talent from the Ivory Coast, and the darkly quirky Handsome Family (one-time Chicagoans now based in Albuquerque) in the Monday night Downtown Sound series.

• Jazz Fest highlights like Jack DeJohnette, Rudresh Mahanthappa, and old masters like Charles Lloyd and Bill Frisell reading each other's minds.

• The stellar double bill of Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni and our own Chicago Afrobeat Project during the World Music Fest.

• And another fine summer season from the Grant Park Orchestra concluding with The Rite of Spring.

And that was just the tip of the musical iceberg. Truly an embarrassment of riches, can't wait to see what's on tap for next year...

In Tribute to Mr. Cale

Just fired up my J.J. Cale playlist in memory of the legendary songwriter and guitarist, who passed away on Friday.

The Oklahoma native was a huge influence on me and boatloads of other musicians, even if he wasn't exactly a household name. Once asked whether it bothered him that fellow musicians considered him a legend while many fans did not even know his name, he said:

"No, it doesn't bother me. What's really nice is when you get a check in the mail."

Hear hear! His laid-back grooves and slinky guitar lines will live on in our collective musical memory for many generations to come.

Final note: According to the jjcale.com website, "Donations are not needed but he was a great lover of animals so, if you like, you can remember him with a donation to your favorite local animal shelter."

World Beat Zep

Chicago is embarrassingly rich in free live music in the summer. Robert Plant came back Friday night to play in one of cities that inspired him at the Taste of Chicago. Very cool to see him do a few old Zep songs, but even better to hear how he's taking them in new directions with his latest band the Sensational Space Shifters. The addition of Juldeh Camara, who played an African banjo-like instrument and a one-string fiddle called a ritti, added a particularly exotic world beat vibe to Plant's own progressive rootsy blues. Ramble on...

Is this thing on?

I'd like to thank my friend Bob Mueller in the Bella Brutto band for turning me on to Reverb Nation. Thanks Bob! Looking forward to seeing what I can find in the rabbit hole.