Charlie's Blues

by George F. Spicka


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Charlie’s Blues is about my friend and colleague Charlie, who has stage IV cancer and is undergoing chemotherapy.

We became friends several years back while attending a jazz improvisation workshop.  The friendship was sealed when we discovered our mutual interest in classic cars.  We ended up doing gigs together and driving our respective vehicles to shows.  A year ago, he hired me to play with his group at a steady restaurant gig in Baltimore’s inner harbor, a gig which has now lasted over a year. Charlie ate healthy and worked out regularly. This past September 2011, Charlie, who had just turned 60, told his friends that he had been diagnosed with cancer of the kidney. The initial prognosis was good, that the cancer was contained. When the diseased kidney was removed, the worst was realized. “Invasive and aggressive” were the words he used to describe his situation.  He has now begun chemotherapy. Since the outset of the disease, he has told me and others about how it has affected his life and what is to be expected as time passes.  He is determined to see this through, to overcome.  He still plays music and drives his classic cars. Perhaps most important of all, it has brought him and his wife Susan close together. Thus was born the inspiration for Charlie’s Blues.

I’ve already composed and arranged the piece, which is based upon the traditional 12-bar blues format, for a quartet ensemble featuring reeds, piano, bass, and drums.  However, Charlie’s Blues is an up tempo, contemporary jazz-blues, with modern harmonic content.  The first chorus is in 5/4 meter, while the second is in 6/4. The solo sections reflect these multi-meter contrasts too. Of special interest is how the melodic theme is seamlessly modified between the two contrasting choruses. These compositional features will help demonstrate musically some of the emotions those with cancer experience.  Video editing will then be used to add visual material to the finished audio recording.  Featured will be clips from the recording process, scenes referring patient’s experiences, and images of Charlie.

The request for $7,000 will cover the costs of musician rehearsal and recording fees, recording studio time, audio and video editing, administration, and the purchase of a computer and software for video editing.  Any monies beyond what are used will be donated to cancer research. The finished video project will be uploaded onto sites like YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook, MySpace, and similar sites, for the purpose of adding to the public’s awareness, the personal impact of cancer on one’s life.

By supporting this project, you will become a part of this purpose: both in terms of causing increased understanding about the far-reaching personal effects of this terrible affliction, and in the stimulation of increased support for cancer research nationwide.

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    • January 31, 2012 devra m breslow Community Member

      very promising concept from one who was a pioneer in hospital arts programming

      • January 31, 2012 George F. Spicka Artist

        My mother-in-law, an intelligent and active person when we first met, succumbed to Alzheimer's. In her last years, she was most responsive to art and music.