Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Steven and Jim Show

The next stop on my two-week-long piano crawl was Omaha's Rockbrook Village Shopping Center, the "Play Me, I'm Yours" stop that featured Paula Wallace's charming take on a Wurlitzer studio piano from the 1950s or 1960s (or maybe the 1970s). 

Paula gave the piano a Cinderella-themed look...right down to the presence of a fake mouse!

At any rate, if you're an American and your formal education took place between the 1950s and 1970s, chances are one of the schools you went to had a Wurlitzer studio piano...or one by competitors like Baldwin or Everett.

I didn't get to see Paula this time (although I met her at the "PMIY" kickoff at Memorial Park on 8-23-2013).

In fact, the only person I saw at Rockbrook Village the Tuesday (9-3-2013) I stopped by was...none other than Steven Raphael.

When I got to the Rockbrook Village gazebo, Steven was playing and singing "Ain't Misbehavin'." 

I knew Steven was (and still very much is) an excellent pianist (as a matter of fact, he got his own public access TV show on Cox Cable Omaha not long after moving here to Nebraska from California in 1998)...but I didn't know he sang, too.

Man, I really loved what Steven did with that Fats Waller-Andy Razaf classic from 1929. 

After that, Steven became the listener and turned the piano bench over to me. 

He wanted to know if I'd gotten any requests since the local "Play Me" kickoff...and I told him about a little boy named Joel, who saw me at Memorial Park after the art exhibit officially got under way. 

Joel's favorite song is "Baby Elephant Walk," from the 1962 movie "Hatari!" And I'd never even tried the song until "Play Me, I'm Yours" came to the Omaha/Council Bluffs/Bellevue area...but now, because of Joel, I'm getting more comfortable with the Henry Mancini composition. (Speaking of Henry Mancini...after giving Steven "Baby Elephant Walk," I tried "Moon River..." from another movie, 1961's "Breakfast at Tiffany's.")

The conversation Steve and I had eventually came down to memory. 

And he wanted to know how I'd been able to remember people's names, what with me meeting so many during the local "PMIY."  

Steven found out that I try to repeat the person's name after I meet him or her; then I try to match the name with the person's face. 

Then he said something rather profound after I (sheepishly) told him that they tell me I've got a photographic memory: "Everybody's got a photographic memory in something." 

He's right.    

And what Steven Raphael said ranks right up there with one of my dad's favorite messages: "It's always the end of the world...for somebody."  

It comes down to what each of us tends to focus on.   

Steven and I had a ball as the next phase in our get-together shifted over to trading tunes with each other...and I ended up recording two of his numbers ("St. Louis Blues" and "New York, New York," the latter being the theme to the 1977 film of that name).

Then he turned around and caught me doing two more songs ["Ma (He's Making Eyes at Me)" and "In the Good Old Summertime"]

Anyway, the four numbers are now up on  

We kept it up until the clock struck 11:54 AM, when Steve and I went our separate ways (he to go back home not far from Rockbrook Village, I to go back home in the Dundee part of town). 

But I took a little detour...back to the Midtown Crossing Shopping Center.

And when I got back to that fun 1920s Werner upright, I did what I said I'd do: 

I fired up "The Crazy Otto."  

Speaking of fired up...wait 'til you read my next post. (It's about what happened at Omaha's most popular shopping center...another of the ten "non-rogue" street-piano sites in the area.)

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