Posted by: seanoldblog | 2011/06/14

Aloft – Windham Hill

Windham Hill Records released Mr. Harkness’s first solo CD after many singles on various compilations.  The very first single was Summer Solstice [track #2 here] and was the title track to the first Summer Solstice compilation.  Producer Brian Keane was Sean’s first guitar teacher in 1978 and they kept in touch over the years…  Keane’s signature production style created a very [overly?] lush presentation for Harkness’s compositions, which were always conceived as trios: two acoustic guitars and bass. Sean Harkness - Aloftrhapsody_bttnNapster_bttneMusic_bttnAmazon_bttn


  1. Siempre Conmigo (5:24)
  2. Summer Solstice (3:59)
  3. Aloft (5:21)
  4. Paradise Reef (5:01)
  5. Cuchullain’s Dream (4:03)
  6. Puesta Del Sol (4:51)
  7. Coming Home (5:13)
  8. Coconuts (4:34)
  9. Luna Baillando (3:48)
  10. Green Mountain Trail (3:46)
  11. Wynkus McGynkus (3:51)
  12. Harlem River Drive (4:35)

Sean Harkness: acoustic and electric guitars, fretless electric bass
Liz Story: piano (‘Aloft’)
Gil Goldstein: accordion (‘Puesta’)
Jay Rowe: synthesizers (‘Siempre’, ‘Paradise’)
Federico Gonzales Pena: Synthesizers (‘Summer Solstice’)
Brian Keane: additional synthesizers
Phil Bowler: bass (‘Puesta’)
Emedin Rivera: percussion (‘Siempre’, ‘Aloft’, ‘Coconuts’, ‘Luna’)Steve Scales: percussion (‘Summer Solstice’)
Mark Walker: drums (‘Paradise’,’Harlem River’)
Yomo Toro: requinto, cuatro (‘Puesta’)
Ken Gioffre: tenor saxophone (‘Coconuts’), Jaime Finnegan: trumpet (‘Coconuts’)

Produced by Brian Keane

Recorded and mixed by Brian Keane, Jeff Frez-Albrecht, and Sean Harkness at Little Big Feet Studios, Monroe, CT, assisted by Tom Skarupa, David Anderson, and Mark Chernhoff.

“Coming Home” mixed by Phil Magnotti.  Additional recording on “Aloft” at the Carriage House, Stamford, CT by Brian Keane, assisted by Jeff Frez-Albrecht and Andy Katz.

Digital editing by Keith ‘Only Because I Care’ Chrigwin at Little Big Feet Studio

Mastered by Marian Conaty and Brian Keane at BMG Studios, NYC

Liz Story appears courtesy of Windham Hill Records

Yomo Toro appears courtesy of Rounder Records

Artist management [at that time]: Fred Kewley Management, Nashville, TN

Legal affairs: Jon M. Waxman, Esq.

Music and Art Careers mentored by Randall B. Plourde at Evergreen of Vermont (802) 862-6674

Thanks to my immediate family: John, Lin, Jeff, and Florence Harkness

My extended family: Rich Acocella, Tuck Andress & Patti Cathcart, Jim Branca, Gamal Buhaina, Chris Butler, Brian Camelio, Keith Chirgwin, Francie Conway, Peter Desrosiers, Jeff Frez-Albrecht, Pete Gardiner, Steve Gentile, Uncle Hugh [Hardy], Eric Hoh, Chad Hollister, Brian Keane, Jerry Lavine, Miss Lizzie [Forest], Chris Mayone, Leslie McCurdy, Jon Mover, Allen Palmer, Chris Peterman, the Phillips Family, Randall Plourde, Bill Pond, Smadar, Chin & Scott Sonu, Liz Story, the Vaughans, Vytas Valliusaitis, Jerry Winner, Bill Whitefield, Chip Wilson, Monique Winstanley, Jimmy Yozell

A special thanks to Ron McCarrell, Larry Hamby, Lisa Matlosz, Andrea Franklin, Janet Miner, Sonny Mediana, Laura Chapman, and all the friendly and helpful staff at Windham Hill

with Will Ackerman

w/Will Ackerman at 30th Anniversary of Windham Hill

A&R: Larry Hamby

A&R Administrator: Andrea Franklin

Art direction: Sonny Mediana ~ Design: Jonny Lee ~ Front cover photography/Image: Tomas Gibson/Sanae Robinson ~ Photography: Carol Weinberg

Posted by: seanoldblog | 2011/06/08

Bistro and MAC Awards 2011

Bistro and MAC Awards 2011

Phil Ramone shook my hand as he walked off the stage with Dionne Warwick.  Someone handed me a thick glass tile…

…with the words:


Outstanding Achievement

 …etched into it from the back.

I walked up to the microphone.  As the applause died down I directed my focus stage left towards the table where my wife Taka, my father and his girlfriend Melanie, and my brother Jeff were sitting and I began,

“Family…” then to the whole room, “friends and colleagues, members of the Bistro Committee, thank you!”

Just then, a brash voice from a table just in front of me hollers, “Hey, your ZIPPER’S down!”

And it was.  Really.  All the way.

After a few pithy remarks and the laughter died down, I continued with what I had to say:

“My favorite part of The Show is the opening announcement.  You know, the ‘Voice Of God’ that says: [in my poor French accent – imitating J.P. Perreaux] ‘ladies and gentlemen, please turn off your cell phones and electronic devices…’  I like that moment because it calls everyone to the present.  Right here, right now, completely ready for whatever is about to happen.  Hopefully something wonderful.

“We in this Grand Tribe of ours – and when I say ‘we’, I mean everyone, from the sound booths and back-stages to the rehearsal halls, recording studios, the directors and composers and actors and dancers and singers and musicians, and everyone involved in the Entertainment Industry – we are in the Business of Creating Moments for People.  And at the same time, we do that for each other; and for ourselves.

“Personally, I am absolutely thrilled to be a part of that process, and with these people, each and every time.  I also think it’s wonderful that we stop from time to time and acknowledge that, and each other, with these [point towards the slab of glass with my name on it].

“I’ve never had one of these before.

“But my words are not enough to express the profound gratitude I feel, so I composed a piece of music for you, for this moment, right here and now.  Let’s see if it works…”

Then I played this [link to mp3 coming soon – sorry!] solo guitar piece (on my new signature Walden 12-string guitar!).

There was what felt like a hearty response to that, and as it faded, I sat down on the stool behind me in a silence that seemed to last an hour.  I was about to play as an accompanist for Liz Lark Brown, coming up right after me.  Someone was supposed to follow my song with her introduction… and didn’t.  I finally broke the silence with “ok, back to work…”  Slightly awkward moment.  But not nearly as awkward as having my fly down for my first ever award acceptance speech.

Liz eventually came up with Nate Buccierri, Joe Iconis, Heidi Weymueller, and Matt Wigton and performed ‘Oh So Quiet’  from her show ‘Tarnished’.  Big fun.

A couple songs later, I came back up to play Folsom Prison Blues with Carole Bufford and Nate.  More fun!

My father had driven all the way up from southwestern Virginia with his girlfriend the day before.  They announced then that they were planning to marry.  How ‘bout that?!  My brother flew in from Denver that day.  My wife wore a beautiful Kimono for the occasion, also to remind people about Japan and their continuing need for support.  It was a very, very special evening.  One I will never forget.


The MAC Award night was different in that the Manhattan Association of Clubs and Cabarets gives awards to people by vote from within the club, like the Grammys.  I had no idea if I would win or not.BB King’s is a great room for a party like this, and it was a full house.  It was also the 25th anniversary of the MAC Awards, so they had all this old film footage, pictures, and stories that were at once informative, poignant, and hilarious.

Taka came with me and we made a real night of it, sitting at the Miranda Music table with Kitty Skrobela, Tracy Stark, Marcus Simeone and Greg.  Miranda artists collectively brought in three awards that night, so there was much rejoicing.

Unsure as to whether or not I would win anything, or what the program of events was, I was minding my alcohol intake.  Well into the event, I decided that a glass of good Scotch wouldn’t render me completely unfit to speak if I had to, so I found my good buddy Steve Doyle and we hit the bar.  Just as I put the glass to my lips, I heard my name called.  I ran up to the stage to accept the MAC award for ‘New York Debut – Male’.  How exciting!  The lovely Lorinda Lisitza handed me a big chunk of Plexiglas and gestured towards the podium with the mic sticking out of it.  It was clear I had to say something, so I went up and asked,

“So how many people here actually saw my show?” [medium applause]  “Now that there’s an award for it, if I was to run it again, how many of you would like to see the show?”  [livelier applause…]

[I thought to myself – shit, I wish I had prepared something…  Probably ought to say some Thank-Yous…]

“I’d like to thank my delicious wife Taka for her love and support, the folks that helped make the show work: J.P. for making it sound right, and Eddie the bartender, Lorinda, and the staff for making it feel right in the room …and I’d like to thank Tanya Holt and my lawyer for helping me to finally get paid…”


Well, it got a big laugh.  I beat a hasty retreat from the stage after that.

This year the winners were to perform after their acceptance speech.  I had the new jazz-box this time – the Wilson Nouvelle Oval [separate blog post coming very soon] – and sang my own very modern interpretation of the classic ‘Out Of Nowhere’, complete with a full quote of the Star Trek theme during the instrumental break.  It felt great to do that for some reason.

During the opening vamp I spoke briefly about how I’d come to New York fifteen years ago and was just getting over the culture shock; how New York was just now starting to really feel like home, thanks in large part to the people in this room who within the last couple years seemed to appear as if from out of nowhere…

Then once again, Liz Lark Brown & Co. came up right after me.  This time we did Kyrie Eleyson and brought the house down.  So much wonderful energy in that song, and a sparkling chemistry between Liz, Heidi, Nate, Matt, and me.Then there were photos and interviews and… wow.  What a year this has been so far.  Never an award before and now two.  It is most gratifying to be recognized.  It never occurred to me that it would be; that has no bearing on why I do what I do.  But as it’s all happening I feel very fulfilled to be a part of something much larger than myself.  Thanks!


Posted by: seanoldblog | 2011/05/16

April – May 2011 Gigs

This post will attempt to catch up with the activities that have kept me busy since my last entry of the same nature.  The Bistro and MAC Awards will have their own entry, H2 Duo has its own, Walden gets an article, the New York Times article will post separately, and I must post a very special entry for Chip Wilson’s creation: the Nouvelle Oval archtop jazz guitar.  This here post is about day-to-day life.  In no way does that imply mundane, anything but.  So, let’s get right to it…

Since our return from that glorious excursion to St. Croix with Carole Demas, the first project was Randie Shane.  She had seen my solo show [which just won a MAC Award!…] and wanted to do something on that level of intimate, authentic, and unpretentious.  We performed as a duo, she was relaxed and generous, the song choices were both fun and meaningful, and it was a success.  We thoroughly enjoyed the process of arranging songs from John Mayer, Sondheim, Ben Folds… even the classic Ian Herman arrangement of “I’ll be Seeing You” from the Broadway musical “Swing!”.  And Ian was in the audience opening night…

Then Mark Miller’s septet hit at Mile’s Café, with Nicki and Anton Denner, William “Beaver” Bausch, Gary Wong, Cliff Lyons, Mark and me.  Taka came to immortalize us in pixels, and we all found our way to my new favorite izakaya afterwards for a round.  Mark’s music is soul-flippingly beautiful, by the way.  Keep an eye out, he’s coming up.  In fact, he’ll be arranging music for Canadian Brass and H2 this year.

The next night was a show at the Duplex with Colleen McHugh and the Red Carpet Trio [that’s my name for it…].  Tedd Firth, Steve Doyle, and me.  Colleen is one of the special ones.  Not little bus with a helmet special, I mean talented for real.  Chops for days, repertoire, and the ability to improvise and hold her own in uncharted waters makes for an exciting show.  Nothing dull here.  Check her out in the New York Times.

New Jersey Shakespeare Theatre has an annual fundraising Gala that I’ve now done three times, under the musical direction of Doug Oberhamer.  Doug sets the gold standard.  It’s always fun with him, and in a room full of stars, both in the audience and on stage.  Good gig.  Looking forward to next year already.

Terese Genecco’s monthly gig at Iridium was notable this month for the new special guest she’s got on board now – Nicolas King.  Sixteen years old and stealing the show wherever he goes.  A very exciting talent to be around.

Annie Kozuch and I started working on her Feinstein’s show [August 15] with pianist Frank Ponzio.  Oooh, I’m  gonna’ like working with these two.  Very musical, lovely people.  More as it comes on them.

The Player’s Club hosted our Trio with Jimmy Norman on Thursday the 31 of March.  Brute Force was the host, and Freddie Simpson, Steve Loecher, and I played Jimmy’s songs and standards to a very appreciative audience.

Duvid Swirsky, Craig, Jim Blazer

Craig Taubman had me working in April.  We were in the New York area for a couple dates, and then in Dallas.  I love Craig.  That gig fills my soul.  He gets a separate entry one of these days too.  I have so many pictures and notes from my travels with him that it might even be a book someday.  Or blackmail.  While we were in Dallas I also got to see my dear friends Andy Maliskas and Stacy Cassidy and had a great visit.

Andy M. & Stacy C.

Here’s one for ya:  at Jillian Lauraine’s Barbara Streisand tribute concert [“Hello Gorgeous” at the Laurie Beechman Theatre, Saturday, April 9] I not only played in the band, but I also sang a medley of duets with her.  I summoned my best Neil Diamond for “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers”, and then channeled Barry Gibb for “Guilty”.  It worked!  She was fabulous.  I’d do it again in a heartbeat.  We have more coming – a reprise of that show in October, and we started developing a new show that will have us sharing the spotlight even more.

Todd Murray came to town and did his beautiful song “And I’m Leaving Today” at a MAC showcase with Alex and Steve and I.  Daryl Glen had me in the studio for a few tracks.  Melissa Heche [see Ears] did her show at Triad, this time with Skip Ward on bass along with the rest of the great band from last time.

Tycoon Dog got me back on the horse, kicking off their season with a long run of outdoor shows stretching into October.  Come see this one, it’s fun.  Rockin’.

Doug Acosta had a fun event at Astra with Matt Ray, Ritt Henn, Beaver Bausch, and me.  Lina Koutrakos and Dan Gross created this wonderful new musical theatre piece called Souhtern Rain.  We workshopped it a bit last year, now we’re doing recordings, then they get funding, then it goes to Broadway and we all live happily ever after.  Right?

Diane Hess and I finally got together and recorded a guitar/voice duet at Michael Ferraiuolo’s studio.  After playing it down a few times I was stunned to learn that she had composed it – sounded like an old standard.  Beautiful piece.

Elizabeth Tryon now has Doug Oberhamer musically directing and accompanying her and we had a lovely evening at Frank & Mary Skillern’s private theatre in the Upper East Side.

Marcus Simeone brought me back in the studio with the Miranda Music family; Sarah Rice had me onstage at Birdland for Zani’s Furry Friends benefit; I helped Larry Kerchner present three wonderful songs at the New York Sheet Music Society’s annual Songwriter Series; and one evening I got to visit and jam a little with Brian Kramer.  Brian and I met in Stockholm, Sweden, where he lives.  The Brooklyn-born guitarist has quite a scene going on over there and it was a treat to catch him on a return visit to New York.

Me, Brian, and Speedo

Now to head upstate to work with Jeff Haynes on a project for Pete Seeger…  Thanks for reading along.  Let me know your thoughts, reactions, feelings, innermost desires, and philosophical musings.


Posted by: seanoldblog | 2011/05/15

Signature 12 String by Walden

One of the most exciting things to happen lately was when Walden Guitars created a guitar for me.  I had a few requests for a 12 string and had never owned one.  We collaborated on the design and they really hit a home run.

There is now talk of having me come to the Summer NAMM show in Nashville this July to demonstrate it, followed by a clinic tour of the Northeast.  They did release it at this past April’s Musik MESSE in Frankfurt, Germany.  At last year’s MESSE they had a billboard up with my image on it:

Then this year they featured that image on the cover of their 2011 product catalog:

I wrote a short piece for them to describe my experience with the 12 string so far:

Walden 1012e-SH_______________________________________

I came to realize that although I have been getting many requests to use a 12-string on shows and recordings, I have never actually owned one.  A great many of my heroes had incorporated them into their art – from Pat Metheny to Glen Campbell, Ralph Towner to Mick Ralphs – I knew it was a craving I had to indulge.  I called Walden.

The Supra Natura 1070 was such a perfect instrument for me that I wanted a 12-string in the same line.  I have never been a big fan of dreadnaught guitars for a variety of reasons, and I wondered if the Grand Auditorium body could sprout a 12-string neck?  Apparently, it could – now here it is; they did it!

Like all my other guitars, I need my 12-string to be versatile, the way the G1070ce is.  I never know from one week to the next what the project will be.  And then there’s my original music, where I’m constantly drawing on as many influences as I’m aware of at any given time.  I need a guitar that can keep up.

So far I’ve used the G1012e-SH on recordings with other instruments, and in layers with other guitars.  I’ve also used it in very intimate performance situations: solo, in duet with voice, and a duet with trombone.  In all cases, it has held its own just fine.  It has a full range without exaggerating or overpowering any frequency.  Just nice and even, full bodied sound.  It has a voice I can control easily, yet it rings out loud and clear with its own character.

I’m proud to bring this instrument out on a gig.  It always gets comments, both from other performers and from people in the audience.  The only complaint I have at this point is that it’s really hard to put down.  A guitarist has to sleep once in a while too, you know?

Thanks Walden,

Sean Harkness


Posted by: seanoldblog | 2011/05/14

Writing experiment

East Meets West Guitar Trio

This evening found me at La Lanterna In NYC’s Greenwich Village watching three of the world’s most accomplished guitarists interacting as a trio.  I’m friendly with Paul Meyers [recently acquainted], am familiar with Gene Bertoncini [of course], and was just introduced to John Stowell.  What follows is a stream-of-consciousness account of the East Meets West Guitar Trio’s performance.

The iPad was on the table, along with some fine Italian meats and cheeses, the best olive oil, and a glass of Taliskar.  I typed as the music flowed.  To keep it real, I didn’t even edit or spell correct.  The iPad OS has some interesting otto phil for misspellings, but hey – that just makes it more interesting on some level.  Let me know if you enjoy this type of entry.  i enjoyed doing it, might just do more…

* * *

Weird chords… from all.

Swingin’ bass line with odd voicings.  Lots of misfrets, following the muse

Stowell, more clear, round dark.  Articulate.  Oops.

Paul, nylon, takes the thread, with love…  Ooh.. More weird chords with yummy lines in between

Is there a song here?

There it is.  One at a time, now all three.  Gene chord melody, John bass line, paul lite comp and counter melody.

Gene first solo.  Paul walks, low D.  After a spell John adds lite chords.  They listen so attentively to one another.  Lite touch, not jack Wilkins.  Gene sounds better with these guys.

As gene’s solo ends, paul lite-argues with the the owner to please close the door or it will be too cold…  Smiles…

John solos, more linear than gene. Digestible, not too heady.  Swingin’!  Paul still walks…  Now gene light comps…  They’ve done this before.

Paul goes now… Gene walks.  Bright lines!  Playful motifs, conversational. Also swingin’.  Here come the silly chords…  Wee!

Now John adds lite chords.  Paul takes it up a notch….  Gene takes four, now John, now paul, many rounds, HeY NoW!  An orchestrated out chorus!

So much trading, complimenting…

Hearty applause from all 7 of us at La lanterna…

More weird gene chords, something’s coming…  Paul melody…  Brazilian..  I should known this but I don’t.

I now have a three cheese plate with prosciutto and salami…  Patee..  Best olive oil…  Perhaps I have died.

John is so clear.

Gene is smiling and just tapping a light rhythm on his neck..

Gene solos now, such elegant ideas, not so polished, but full with love.. Big slides..  Interplay instead of a big finish, goes into the song, not the credit.  Love.  John leads it now, clear as the snow.  I should know this song.  Bonfa?  Jobim?

paul up voicing, John bass, gene noodle…  Big yummy chord finish…

O grande amour!  Paul gives title!  Jobim it was.

Now for the jitterbug waltz…  Gene starts, lollipop so open.
Now we’re talkin’.

Gene is sooo not polished.  It’s charming.  His ideas work.  Paul has such elegant harmony.  John’s class is understated, yet plenty present.

Now it half time swings in four…  Paul solos.  Blues lick???  Ok, back to bebop.

Now we waltz again.  Gene, oh gene.  John interpolates the yummy ‘A’ melody…  Dead air while John goes…. Big silly chord, fast licks, back and forth, chord solos, out head… Dancing, harmony, swing, tag out…

Gene blazes the trail to the bridge… Careful now ,  strange chord end…   Oh yeah!  Gene tunes down the low E to meet the D they’ve been in, banjo style.  Nice!!

Tuning… Together letting all strings ring and adjusting…

“Everything I love” by cole porter, the bill evens reharm….  John Stowell solo.  Methinks he’s heard lennie breau.  Paul stands erect, head up, eyes closed,… “Yeah!” Says he…gene looks down, around… John waves his head around as he navigates the turbid waters of the improv over these crazy chords…

I’m getting drunk on serious olive oil.  And these heady sounds…  This is a convincing possibility for paradise.

Now he comes into a cohesive time.  Big fat chords with a common ringing high note.  Gorgeous.  Constant structure… Sharp 11s

Now gene goes solo.  Hitori de…  Rio is here, giving back rubs to the guitarists, and smiles.  Serious guitar lover from japan.

Deftly negotiating different feels and approaches to a common thread.
John and paul (!) Join in with full rhythm, swing this time.  Medium, strong.  Clear melody now.  Ahhhhh.  Gene takes it over, two GTRs comp, now John takes the next eight, now paul…  Nice arrangement!

Each leaves the other a motif to play with, paul just took a big one! Now gene, now John, so clean.  Paul’s eight… Alone!  Angular, now gene, equally so, John more refined.  Paul snaps on two and four then takes his eight alone, they really trade!

My goose liver pate smells like feet.  Good thing it tastes better.  Way better.

Now they all go together!  And it’s not a mess!  Fun!

I sense a big finish coming…  And such listening, interaction, trust…

Big sharp eleven chord!

One more with thanks…

Gene!s solo is as rich as my pate.  John takes it alone now, softly, so clean.  Gene goes bluesy Brasilia
Paul comps now while gene continues single note.  Exploring all sides of the equation.  John adds tastefully.

Paul takes it, turning the beat around in the first four, over the bar line shit.  Nice.  Goes single note, big round ones.  Confident, ascending, hint of blues, gene hits a Spanish chord on the five…  Paul responds, now george benson-ish stuff…  Big chords in a melodic line.  Now octaves a la Wes.

John takes it with legato picking.  Nice contrast to paul’s finger style.  Two nylons and an electric solid body with a funky design from some offbeat dude in Oregon.  With good graphite trees.

Trading little ones now.  The room is dark, the tables small and close, the kitchen serious, the waiter condescending and bumbling at the same time, the Italian fare curling my toes good, the spontaneous counterpoint, now the chords, big major sevenths, now an out melody.  I’m at once thrilled, and sad that it’s almost over.

Gene takes a light approach…  Long tag… Vamp on the one, now a sharp nine…  Brown out.

This one’s gonna’ cost me.

Paul imitates a linguica!  Now just snapping on the guitar bodies… In rhythm…  Basic pulse….  Done with a giggle.

He says it’s their first show!  World premiere!

Paul thanks the crowd.  They break.  Bills are paid, friends unite, chatter resumes, thank yous and pleasantries.  Many guitar players meeting, agreeing.  New alliances  forged, shared.

I say good bye to paul, thanks for the heads up, good bye to John, clear as a bell, loved it, goodbye to gene, thanks for sharing yourself with us.  Again.  Almost at the door…  …what’s his name?  Sean Harkness ?  Hey Sean!  (says Gene!) Come see me on Monday nights in the room that used to be the zinc bar.  No cover!  Bring a guitar.

Maybe I imagined that last part….


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