Following my “Farewell Tour” of Forest Park venues in 2011, I naturally assumed my music career was over. But when I discovered Music Box Records on Roosevelt Road, my itch to perform returned.

I contacted the partners, John Mautner and Manases Rivera, and they agreed to record my latest (and only) CD. They opened Music Box on Dec. 27, 2011 after transforming a currency exchange into a state-of-the-art recording studio. When I walked in, I was struck by the performance space, with its gleaming wood floor and grand piano. Manases and John had invested six figures in renovation and recording equipment.

They hosted over a hundred recording sessions their first year. Reaching out, they partnered with two Chicago high schools to produce fundraising CDs. They also provided rehearsal space for some top professionals, including musicians who back Beyonce and Aretha.

Meanwhile, the partners built relationships with Forest Park businesses, buying equipment from Kagan & Gaines, enlisting American Music World to move the piano and enjoying frequent meals next door at Andrea’s Restaurant. Their mission is to help local artists realize their dreams, like a Forest Park rapper who came in with a handful of lyrics and walked out with a complete song.

When I found out how affordable it would be to fulfill my own musical dream, I was sold. I also thought I could help the partners toward their goal of launching their own record label. My finger on the pulse of public taste, I figured solo piano, with no vocals, would be the next craze to dominate pop music.

I was soon laying down crowd-pleasing tracks featuring jazz standards and Beatle songs. Manases, a professional keyboardist in his own right, wondered why I wasn’t pushing the pedals. I was aware of these three pedals, certain that one had to be the clutch, but never learned how to use them. Manases demonstrated how they help the harmonics.

Between tracks, I came into the booth to listen to the playback. John noted that many musicians and vocalists have never heard themselves play. This was my first time. I was blown away by my original arrangement of “My Funny Valentine.” I could picture people rushing out to buy the CD.

My stage name had been “Johnny Dangerous,” but in the studio they were calling me “One Take.” We laid down four potential Grammy winners in little over an hour. Like many a Music Box musician, I couldn’t wait to pop it into the CD player.

For my next recording session, the partners suggested I add a bass player and drummer. This will mean a reunion of my legendary jazz trio, the Senior Moments. In the meantime, I’m planning a tour to support the new CD.

Is the Brown Cow still available on Tuesday nights?

John Rice is a columnist/novelist who has seen his family thrive in Forest Park. He has published two books set in the village: The Ghost of Cleopatra and The Doll with the Sad Face.

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