Category Archives: Mark Weber Music Blog

Tony Russo sings The Christmas Song

We all should have an Uncle Tony. Indeed, many of us have an uncle or two who loves to sing. Tony Russo is the kind of guy who harkens back to another era when crooners ruled the charts. Upon listening to him sing “The Christmas Song,” I immediately thought of Tony Bennett, another Tony, whom he reminded of, as well as Nat “King” Cole, who made the definitive version of this classic Christmas song.

Tony RussoTony Russo hails from Syracuse, New York. There he sings jazz and adult contemporary songs, complete with his warm, engaging tone. As a music maker, he not only sings but can play guitar and fiddle as well. If you ask, he’ll tell you he has been in show business all of his life and that music is his passion.

The Christmas Song

Besides “The Christmas Song,” you can hear the crooner tackle classics like “The Summer Wind,” “What A Wonderful World,” and “Sway” on his website. Be sure to check out his version of “Return To Me.” His voice is just right for that one!

Every December, people listen to holiday songs. “The Christmas Song,” which Tony croons, is also known as “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire.” Originally, it was known as “Merry Christmas to You.” Frankly, I think most people just call it “Chestnuts.” The song came about back in 1945 when Bob Wells and singer Mel Torme wrote it. Interestingly, “Chestnuts” was written during a blistering hot summer!

The Nat “King” Cole Trio first recorded “Chestnuts” in 1946. Cole re-recorded it several times. His 1961 version is the one that’s generally regarded as definitive.

As you’d imagine, the song is covered by many artists. Tony Russo does a nice job with it. You can also hear him singing “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” here.



Sofasound remixes Justin Bieber

Sofasound (aka John Sofia) is an EDM/hip hop producer who has done something impressive: made quite the remix of Justin Bieber’s “Love Yourself.” It’s available for free as a download from Sofasound’s Soundcloud:

Sofasound is “undefined by genre,” though he tends to remix R&B and rap hits from his studio in Florida.


His credits include several artists, including Mistah F.A.B , Emoney, Obvi, Trizz, R-Mean, HBK CJ, Rey Res, and Young Gully. Obviously, not all of these artists are known by the mainstream, whereas Justin Bieber is. Perhaps that’s why Sofasound’s putting emphasis on the “Love Yourself” remix, in order to get the most people to hear a sample of what he does, and does well.

Sofasound has the ability to take a song you think you know well, and tweak it so it becomes something else while still maintaining its original essence. With 18 tracks available on his Soundcloud page, with more to come, Sofasound is a prolific producer with an emphasis on tones, beats and instrumentation. It’ll be interesting to hear Island Mind, Isolation, his EP coming soon.

Meanwhile, take some time to explore the songs on his Soundcloud, including “Us2,” which takes the classic “Just The Two of Us” and updates it for today’s audiences. It’s still a chill groove, but it’s more spacey and electronic with an emphasis on the drum riff. I definitely enjoyed it and would add it to my iPhone music mix on shuffle.

For fun, do give Sofasound’s Lay It Down~ (Steelix flip by Sofasound) a listen, which starts out as if it’s a warped wax record playing, followed by an almost video game-like roller coaster of sound.

Sofasound succeeds at taking music and putting his own stamp on it, so that your ears can’t help be drawn in for a groovy listen. Catch him on Facebook or Twitter.  –Mark Weber

Alt-Rock from Desert Chariot

Desert Chariot

You never know where you’ll meet your bandmates. In the case of the alt-rock band Desert Chariot, two of the band members met in an unlikely place: a shoe store in downtown Denver.

A couple years ago, Ian McGonigal and Daniel Patchin both worked at the same shoe store. They got to talking and discovered they had a lot in common musically. Both were interested in rock music, playing guitar, and songwriting. Later on they formed a rock band with Lou Sanfacon on drums and Dave Bond on bass. Desert Chariot, the band, got its start in 2014, and made their debut at Herman’s Hideaway in Denver.

If you’d ask the band what they were about they’d probably say “redemption and perseverance.” Being a band that likes to regularly write songs, they enjoy the recording process. Listen to their latest song, “Don’t.”

Clocking in at just under three minutes, like good rock songs do, “Don’t” starts out with guitars grinding away. When the vocals come in, you’re transported to another time and place in your mind. Maybe it’s a British club in the 1990s, maybe it’s outerspace, or maybe it’s a smoky garage in the middle of America. Dave Bond’s bass-playing stands out on “Don’t” helping it move along while McGonigal and Patchin provide ample guitar riffs. There’s definitely a punk aesthetic to “Don’t,” with a little bit of “screamo” infused to give it extra passion.

Desert Chariot’s music is alt-rock, which is a genre of music that emerged from the independent, underground scene of the 1980s, becoming especially popular in the 1990s. It has its roots in punk rock of the 1970s, coupled with new wave in the 1980s.

If “Don’t” is any indication of what’s to come from Desert Chariot, alt-rock fans will want to put this band on their radar screen and keep tabs on them. “Like” the band’s Facebook page here.

Kids and Teaching Them Music

music kidsI know a guy who plays guitar named Tommy. He asked me if I’d be interested in teaching music to kids. I said yes.

There’s a group of Christian home school moms who bring their kids to a nearby church every two weeks. The moms do a Bible study and talk about adult stuff, while the kids go to several classes: art, gym and music.

I had the pleasure of assisting Tommy with his class of older kids ages 10 and up, and then I was in charge of the class for kids between the ages of 7 and 9.

Here’s what I learned…

Kids at that young age love to move around. They can sit still for a couple minutes, but any chance you give them to walk, bounce, dance or run– they’ll gladly take it! So we played games like musical chairs. They loved musical chairs.

Next, I discovered that I wanted to teach them as if they were college students and yet they were little kids, so I had to adjust accordingly. What’s common knowledge for me is literally unknown to them, so we ended up concentrating on learning “Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge” and “F-A-C-E.” Thank God for flash cards my teacher friend lent me– the kids loved looking at the various notes and guessing which ones they were. They especially liked when I’d have three notes on the staff that formed a word like “BEE” or “DAD.”

I did not have the use of a computer, a screen or even a proper classroom setup with tables and chairs. Class was held in a noisy auditorium adjoining the gymnasium…an in-use gymnasium.

I had to make do with what I had. I went to the local library and got out picture books that showed the various instruments like drums and flutes and tubas. Like a teacher would show picture books to their class, I was in front of some two dozen little ones paging through the books and seeing how well they knew their instruments. Some of them recognized instruments because their family members played them. I was fascinated that this was all so new to most of them.

I tried to have each class meeting have an overall theme. So, the first class was about music in general. I asked each kid what they liked and got answers like “singing and dancing,” “the sound of the drums,” and, surprisingly, “Vivaldi!”

Since it was a Christian home schooling group, I talked about music in the Bible and the relationship between music and God. As a class, we came up with a list of places where music is used, from movies to speeches, parades to funerals, and then some. We talked about how different music evokes different emotions. It can be used to “scare people,” to “help them rest or sleep,” and, of course, “to dance.”

I enjoyed teaching music to kids.

We covered basic concepts like melody, harmony, rhythm, tempo, the treble clef, and musical genres.

I would use my iPhone and some big speakers to play the kids different styles/genres of music. Seeing as this was a class of Christian home schooled kids, I wanted to make sure they knew more than just church songs and musicians. They needed to know who Bob Dylan and Elvis Presley were, as well as many other famous artists, if they were/are to interact with their “unsaved” peers and elders, right? Yes!

For musical genres, I picked a song that I thought best represented a particular genre, and then one by one each student would come up to the front of the class and say one or two words of what came to mind while hearing that genre. The answers I got were, as you’d imagine, both interesting and right on. For hip-hop, descriptive words included “shaking, dancing, leaping, African tribes, a car tipping over, and noise.” Rock music got “break the door down, shake your head, a beehive on your head, guitar slammin’, knock out, and plugging ears.” Classical music made the kids say, “haunted, in the dark, dramatic, wedding, nervous, God, and parade.” Folk elicited both “happy” and “sad,” as well as “rolling down hills, falling asleep, and on a farm.” I like that the kids said “dress up, boogie, old school, and jazzy” for jazz. Blues got them saying, “patterns, mole in mouth, jump in seat, rock-n-roll, and The Incredible Hulk.” Top 40 pop garnered responses like “dance, city, cymbals, love, disco, annoying, fun, and evil.” When I played a funk-dance tune, I got some fun responses like “brain explode, ants in pants, smash a box, peppy, pool party and hands in the air!”

I love listening to different genres of music, so I wanted to be sure to cover as broad a spectrum as possible. For some of these Christian home schooled kids, they never heard Latin, Reggae or Celtic music before… With Latin music, they said words like “happy, beach, Mexico, maracas, limbo, jump, tango, and shake.” Reggae got “dance-weird, catchy, alive, mad, cry, clap, bingo, and break the floor.” Celtic music made the kids think “jig, riding a horse, lullaby, ear worm, tapping feet, colors, and the apocalypse.”

My music class also did some singing. I wanted them to do a slow worship song, but after one attempt, I knew they needed something more upbeat and simpler with less words. Besides singing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat,” I got them singing “This Little Light Of Mine” and “I’ve Got Peace Like A River,” both of which they ended up performing for their friends and family members during the end-of-the-year recital.

During the class, we also talked about fame and how it can be used for good or destroy a person. The kids tried their hand at songwriting, as well as getting up in front of each other to perform songs and dances. We covered love songs, patriotic songs, God songs, and more.

All in all, I was thankful to spend time with these young minds and introduce them to musical sounds, ideas and concepts. My hope is that they at least have an appreciation for music and all its diversity…and, at most, some of them make music their passionate hobby and/or full-time career in life. –Mark Weber