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  • Jazz Appreciation Month – This Kat’s Two Cents…

    Posted on April 30th, 2010 "Tiki Chris" Pinto 3 comments

    jazz-legs-saxAs Jazz Appreciation Month (suitably monikered “J.A.M”) comes down to the last few bars, I thought I throw in a few riffs of my own.

    My take on Jazz Appreciation: Most people who don’t like jazz have two main complaints: There are no words, and a lot of it sounds all the same. Well kids, jazz does have words, as vocalists the likes of Ella Fitzgerald to Mel Torme to Billie Holiday to Dean Martin can attest to.

    That's me, playing Tenor Sax

    That's me, playing Tenor Sax

    As for the sounds…Here’s the deal, in my humble opinion… you can’t really appreciate jazz until you see and  hear it live, see the musicians play,watch them pour their soul into a solo, see the sweat drip off them as they strain to push that perfect blue note out of a horn. There’s a dynamic in watching jazz live that you just don’t get from an album. Remember, this music was invented when recording was a novelty. These guys played live, and that was their life. Once you see jazz kats jam in person, then you can get hip to the recordings, because instead of hearing a bunch of notes getting thrown around, you catch the real drift the players are laying down. That’s Jazz Appreciation. Can you dig it? yeahhhh.

    Now, a little bit about jazz and me, for any of you kats and kittens who might be in the mood for a little story. I added this recording of me playing Take the A-Train on the Tenor Sax just for fun. I’m a little rusty but hey, after 2 drinks I sound great!

    The first jazz song I ever remember hearing was a sort of modified version of All Blues (Miles Davis). It was on Sesame Street, a goofy cartoon skit with a jazzy triangle and a square. (see it here on YouTube). Even at that early age, something clicked.

    Doing a funny clarinet skit in a high school talent show

    Doing a funny clarinet skit in a high school talent show

    My old man was into Progressive Jazz (Modern Jazz, Traditional Jazz) and turned me onto some kool players like Miles Davis and Sonny Stitt. At around the same time, my Grandfather introduced me to the music of the Big Bands – Miller, Dorsey, Goodman, Shaw. He gave me my first Big Band record, Star Dust by Artie Shaw. That tune has followed me all my life.

    When I was around 11, I decided I wanted to play an instrument. I didn’t know much about jazz other than what I was hearing on the Muppet Show, when kats like Dizzy Gillespie would star. First I wanted to play the trombone. Then I heard a Harry James record (I’ve Heard That Song Before) and decided the trumpet was for me. I sold my small coin collection and bought a King Cleavland (still have it).  I didn’t want to take lessons – wanted to figure it out myself. I couldn’t get much sound out of it, but tried like hell anyway. Then one day my old man came home with a clarinet. It was missing some keys in the low register, and the reed was held on with electrical tape.

    Playing Sax in "Who Shot The Piano Player?!", a StarDust Productions murder mystery dinner show

    Playing Sax in "Who Shot The Piano Player?!", a StarDust Productions murder mystery dinner show

    Turned out to be a very old horn, a turn-of-the-century job. Bought a ligature and a new reed, and started getting some sound out of it. Not long after I picked up a cheap student clarinet in good shape, and started playing along with records, matching the sounds. Still couldn’t play a melody, but I was at least getting sound out of all the holes. Then, on a warm summer day in 1982, while walking around a flea market with my grandmother I came across a vintage licorice stick in great condition for 15 bucks. I convinced grandmom to lay out the dough for it, and that was the start of something big. I swear, that horn is magic. Magic in the real sense – for after fiddling around with it for just a few days, I sat down on my bed and made an attempt to play a song…first few notes…sounded wrong…changed the fingering…and just like that, I was playing Moonglow, in a way that would have made Artie Shaw and Benny Goodman proud.

    Playing a party in Atlantic City with Tony Deluca, 1990

    Playing a party in Atlantic City with Tony Deluca, 1990

    Soon after I got an alto sax, then a tenor, and taught myself how to play them just like the old-time kats did back in the 20s. I never learned to read music too well, just enough to get by in the college big band but not enough to hurt me none. I play from the heart, I play what I feel. I can play solo or with a group of kats and the better they are, the better I am. I played professionally during the 90s, and after swinging down to the Sunshine State in 2000 decided to play only for myself. I still dig the standards, bossas, latin jazz and bop. Never really got into fusion, but can appreciate what the kats were doing at the time. In the early 90’s someone turned me on to Dexter Gordon, and that got me into post-bop Modern Jazz more than ever.

    Today I continue to listen, learn and play. I’m still discovering players and songs from the 70+ years of great jazz, from Louis Armstrong to Louis Prima, from Duke Ellington to Charlie Parker. I’ve been blessed to have seen a few of the greats in person; I’ve been lucky to have watched some of the legacy bands like Miller’s and Count Basie’s carry on the tradition. I saw Duke Ellington’s son, then his grandson lead the Ellington band. I sat in Atlantic City lounges and got to experience Sam Butera and the Wildest  from five feet away. And once, for just a few minutes, I got to meet and talk with Wyinton Marsalis. Man, I am one lucky son of a gun.

    Sax on the bar, too much (or not enough) Bourbon

    Sax on the bar, too much (or not enough) Bourbon

    -Zoot Jackson keeping it kool at the Tiki Bar.
    Tiki Lounge Talk, the Retro Blog for Swingin’ Hipsters who dig the Tiki Culture Beat.

    Check out the Jazz Appreciation Month Website here.

  • 53 Chevy Belair Custom Hot Rod “StarDust” Video!

    Posted on April 28th, 2010 "Tiki Chris" Pinto No comments
    Rusty Tiki Car Club at Tiki Lounge Talk

    Rusty Tiki Car Club at Tiki Lounge Talk

    errrr rrr rrrr rrr  Vrrrooooom  Vrumm Vrumm Vrumm Vrumm VARRROOOOMM VARRRROOOOOOM…

    The throaty sound of a hot split-six in the night. The engine revs up, falls off, revs up, falls off. Red-hot exhaust headers ticking. Juiced-up carb spitting gas down the throat of the this monster as fast as it can take it.

    I’ve been working on (and driving) my 1953 Chevy Belair Hot Rod since May of 1990. As the 20-year mark of owning this 57-year-old classic 1953 Chevy Belair Hot Rod "StarDust"approaches, I decided to do some major service ops on her to get her better suited to Florida’s roadways. I recently rebuilt the Holley 390 carb, tightened the front end and just this last few months completely restored the entire braking system, from new shoes to new lines, wheel cylinders and rebuilt master cylinder.

    So last night, just for fun I took her out of the garage and drove her around the neighborhood. She ran smooth and fast. Stopped pretty good, too. Then, for fun, I decided to throw together a quicky video (with Christine in mind!)

    Her name is StarDust. And she’s a beast.

    Tiki Chris reporting from the Tiki Culture Web Lounge (Blounge™)

  • Matt Helm in The Silencers, 1966 – Mod Movie Monday at Tiki Lounge Talk

    Posted on April 26th, 2010 "Tiki Chris" Pinto 6 comments

    Matt Helm, The Silencers 1966

    Matt Helm, The Silencers 1966

    First, I’d like to thank the team at GOOGLE for helping with a potential attack. They identified a possible hacking threat, notified me immediately, removed my site from their search listings to protect others (you) very quickly. As soon as I was able to make sure the site was clean the re-instated my search engine rankings within a few days. Thanks Google!

    The Silencers starring Dean Martin as Matt Helm, Daliah Lavi and  Stella Stevens.

    Watch out, Derek Flint. Move over Austin Powers. And take a back seat, James Bond – Matt Helm is on the case!

    When the cold war was at its peak and spy thrillers were taking the place of westerns and war movies, America answered the 007 call with a few good men – one of the best being Matt Helm, a suave, lady-loving swinger who could catch the bad guys, snap some great photos and make love to the girl in the same scene.

    This series of movies gives us a fantabulous peak at the styles, cars, furnishing and hot chicks of the swingin’ ’60s. The movies are combination thriller-comedies, with the main lean towards funny. With Dean Martin at the helm (as Helm), you get that groovin’ mix of humor, sex appeal and crooning.

    Stella Stevens and Dean Martin

    Stella Stevens and Dean Martin

    This particular flick, one of my favorites, features a 1960s beauty named Daliah Lavi who’s got the right curves in the right places and a sexy accent that will make you melt. Stella Stevens drops in with her crazy figure too. And there’s an all-too-short cameo by the beautiful Cid Charise, dancing her way through a sultry nightclub scene (she sings too, but apparently it’s not her voice – she’s dubbed by a then very young Vicky Carr.)

    While 007 sported an Aston-Martin, Matt Helm had himself a good, solid American car – a 1965 Mercury Parklane Station Wagon – of course his was modified somewhat by Chuck Barris…The car now resides at the Volo Hollywood Car Museum in Volo, Illinois. Leave it to Dean Martin to make a station wagon kool, huh?


    Since Dino’s favorite drink was the Martini, set yourself up with a pitcher before the show starts. Martin also loved Italian cuisine, so go with that for your dinner and a movie. Maybe a nice Penne ala Vodka with grilled chicken and zucchini. And make sure you watch it with someone who looks like Stella Stevens, you know, for full effect.

    -Tiki Chris reporting from behind the Tiki Bar.
    Tiki Lounge Talk – The Tiki Culture blog for Retro Kats & Swingin’ Kittens

  • Hukilau 2010 is coming up fast!

    Posted on April 25th, 2010 "Tiki Chris" Pinto 1 comment

    hukilauThe Hukilau 2010, June 10-13, Fort Lauderdale By The Sea, Florida

    Tiki Lovers come together each year where the palm trees sway and the rum flows freely (but not free, of course!). Join the fun at the Hukilau 2010 in Sunny South Florida this June. Tickets start at $15 pp for Saturday’s festivities and max out at $85 for the 3-day Aloha Pass, which gives you access to everything except the shuttle and the Á La Carte stuff.

    We made it to last year’s for the Saturday stuff and let me tell you, it was a blast. Hawaiian music, retro-swingy-twangy-surf music, dancers, art, booze, Tiki torches, fun decor and a Tiki bazaar all sorts of fun stuff to blow your green on.hukilau2009

    Appearances by Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid and Jeff “Beach Bum” Berry, along with live music, seminars, great food and a special evening at the world famous Mai Kai make this event something you’ll remember for years. So if you’ve got the time and the lettuce, come on down to the Hukilau this June. Look for Colleen anp d ole’ Tiki Chris – like last year, I’ll be the guy in the Hawaiian Shirt.

  • Living Retro: The Schwinn Riverside 7-Speed Cruiser Bike

    Posted on April 20th, 2010 "Tiki Chris" Pinto 10 comments

    Knock me your lobes, hip kats and swingin’ kittens…’cuz I’m droppin’ you a line on a keen new set of wheels – The Schwinn Riverside 7-Speed Beach Cruiser!


    Now this rig isn’t your ordinary coaster. It’s got the kickin’ retro styling of the famous 1950s Schwinn cruisers with a mod-setup 7-speed gear box and a bunch more goodies, can you dig it?

    This is bike is in the groove with old-school fenders, rear rack, deco decals and paint job…but it gets hip to new tech with linear caliper brakes, aluminum wheels, padded grips, a spring-action seat and of course that rockin’ & rollin’ 7-gear tranny! With all that going on this cruiser is stellar, Daddy-O!

    I’d been spending a lot of time riding my old man’s original late 40s-early 50s Roadmaster Luxury Liner around. That bike is the boss, but it weighs about 400 pounds. You don’t just pedal it, you drive it. And that takes a lot of wind out of this kat, so I decided to go with something that had a few more gears than just one. I wanted to get a bike that looked like the old style jobs, and after a few years of waiting and watching finally found this Schwinn Riverside at the local K-Mart.

    My old man's ’53 Roadmaster Luxury Liner

    My old man's ’53 Roadmaster Luxury Liner

    Apparently they only sell them at K & Sears, so if you want one you’ll have to trudge over to your nearest store – or order one online, for an extra delivery charge. (Ain’t that crazy? They charge you to deliver it – and it gets delivered to the nearest store, not your house. Kookie.)

    The only thing missing off this bike is a real, retro-matic kool-o-rama tank with a built-in horn, like the Roadmaster. Who knows, maybe some kat will fabricate one and sell it on Ebay…they’re already selling kits to add a gas engine to this baby!

    -Tiki Chris for Tiki Lounge Talk, the Tiki Culture Blog for people who are hip to this swingin’ scene.