this just happened...knock at my door followed immediately by two long rings of my buzzer.
i say, 'i heard you the first time,' as i open the door with one hand and balance the piece of pizza i was eating in the other. it's a cop. he's got a green coat on. not nypd. his partner flanking me down the hall about 5 feet away is wearing a more fatigue-like uni, baseball cap, boots.
'are you dred scott?'
'can we come in and talk to you?'
'no, i'll come out.'
i go in and put the piece of pizza on the counter, grab my phone and go into the hallway.
'were you at ft. tilden park yesterday?'
'what were you doing there?'
i'm thinking, shit, did i park too close to the piping plover sanctuary? the sign said i could park there. and we were careful not to walk in the habitat the whole time we were there.
'uh...i went to the beach with my wife and daughter.'
the talking cop looks at his partner.
'did you happen to see a volleyball game while you were there?'
what? volleyball. wtf? did a volleyball go into the piping plover habitat? we had a volleyball we were playing with but it never went into the dunes. and i'm thinking...no. there were only a few other people on the beach. and nobody was playing volleyball. oh! yes...
'yes! yes, we did! it was on the way out of the park. 2 girls were whooping 4 girls on the other side. i stopped to show my daughter.'
'did you say anything to the girls?'
'yeah, something like you guys are really good. they said, thanks. we drove away.'
'uh-huh. that's exactly what the complaint says.'
'did you happen to notice a woman on a bicycle?'
'well, she photographed your plate and filed a complaint that you were leering at the girls. and that you said what you said you said. i asked her, did he have his genitalia out.'
'WHAT??!!' i'm getting this isn't about the piping plover. this is about MY piping plover.
'we have to ask. we get that, you know?' the other one talks for the first time.
'she said, no, you didn't have it out' the first one says. 'and i told her then he's not doing anything wrong. even if he takes pictures.'
this is getting absurd.
'so you guys are here because i wasn't doing anything wrong, even if i wasn't with my family doing nothing wrong.'
'she asked us to talk to you. we said we would so we did. i'm sorry to waste your time and ours.'
'who is this woman? she must be connected somehow to get you to investigate something for her that isn't even a crime.
'have a nice day, sir.'
memory lane - 2.10.19
it is now february, 2019. my last dispatch was a year ago. it doesn't seem like that long ago because there have been distractions from my bike riding listening project - some of them health related, some of them professional and there's the small but growing matter of my 7-yr-old, the most fantastic distraction i've ever had. i can enthusiastically and guiltlessly procrastinate on anything if my daughter is the reason.
i've been on 5 rides since then. just 5. or rather, just 5 that i did the project - put my itunes library on shuffle, document the playlist and write about it. it's not that i haven't been riding the bike. i have. it's that i joined the itunes streaming service for $10/month. this service is death to me, the musician, but as a lover of music, it's been incredible. almost any album i can think of is on there. and most of the new music i want to hear from friends and colleagues. i keep a list in my phone - by far my favorite and most useful iphone feature - of all the records i used to own or that i was close to that i have forgotten or haven't heard in a long time. when i lived in san francisco, there was a vibrant world music scene that i was very much into. a lot of the music on my list is from these very formative years.
african music i had only heard through george collinet's radio show, afro pop, was being performed all over town. cuban music was also new to me at the time and i suddenly found myself playing with the great josh jones. i was never into rap and suddenly found myself co-founding one of the first bands to integrate live music with rappers, alphabet soup. this was a major growth period for me that i never really looked back on. i just kept going. but once the enormous hall of music was at my disposal, i started going through my list and checking out as many of these old influences as i could find. the list was pretty long as i would add an album when something reminded of it or it just randomly popped into my consciousness. over the last year, i've become reacquainted with some great albums on my bike rides:
i started to get into oregon when i got to san fran and eventually wound up becoming friends with their reed player, paul mcandless. that led me to their percussionist, colin wolcott, who died before i had the chance to meet him. i got to know bay area prodigy, peter apflebaum, around the same time and he turned me on to don cherry, who till then i had only thought of as the guy from ornette. and then there's nana vasconcelos. i can't remember who first alerted me to the existence of the great, egberto gismonti, but i am grateful. i became obsessed with him and all of his albums and his music has remained close to me. i think his favorite of mine is, duos voces, a breathtakingly beautiful duo recording with nana. nana, don cherry and colin walcott had a band called codona that made three records that i listened to a lot at one time. colin walcott also made a very beautiful duo record with guitarist steve eliovson called dawn dance that i am enjoying again.
my life in the bush of ghosts
i wasn't a huge fan of the talking heads. i liked some of their songs and i really liked the idea of david byrne as i was starting to become interested in the intersection of music with art school practitioners. eno was too ethereal for me at the time. i thought his ambient music was jive but i was aware that he produced my two favorite heads albums, remain in light and fear of music. when someone turned me on to my life..., i loved it. it inspired the band i was in an the time, third plane, to make the song, 'another jazz casualty,' which features televangelist, ernest angsley in a way that is similar to the eno/byrne record.
to me, josh jones is the bay area personified. he is at least half chinese but speaks spanish, is a master congalero, plays all the parts on the drumset and with his hair slicked back and his pencil-thin moustache looks hispanic. what an education he gave me. i knew next to nothing and he would just show me. play it like this. he was very generous because cats can be very testy if you play the wrong shit in that genre. one time this cuban guy, butch, threatened to kill me if i deviated from the montuno again. we worked it out. josh would give me a conga during the rhumbas that went on after the gigs till dawn. i could get a good sound but didn't know what to play. josh would show me and i would just put my head down and repeat that rhythm with the best sound i could get out of the drum. it gets complicated when they start singing - a natural wonder in itself that they can do that while playing. but i just kept playing the rhythm josh gave me, never faltering. i earned butch's respect eventually.
during this time i listened to a lot of cuban and salsa music. two of my favorite albums i still have on vinyl and listen to often - mongo santamaria's, up from the roots and yambu. but there are many more that have been lost in the shuffle of transiency. i got to see pancho sanchez several times while living in the bay area. i had papa gato and sonando back in the day. i've been relistening to papa gato on the itunes and realizing i know every note i heard it so many times. sonando has turned out to be something of a rarity - it's not on the streaming services. lp's are hard to even find and cd's of this recording can be $100. i found a 'very used' cd copy on amazon for $20. looking fwd to that arriving. other albums i can recall and have been catching up with:
new york now! - daniel ponce
this one starts with an insane rhumba very much like the ones josh used to lead at the up and down club. this is an all-percussion record except for one track that has some soprano sax on it.
tambo- tito puente
i don't remember this record but it's on my list. maybe when i hear it, i will remember it. it's not on the streaming services so i bought an (i'm hoping) good vinyl copy for $25 because the cover is so cool. what IS on itunes is a collection of 78's from 1949-1955 i never heard and can't stop listening to.
when i showed up in san francisco in 1989, there was african music everywhere. it seemed like everyone was in an african band. at least most of the horn players i knew were. i had good friends in the band kotoja that played around town all the time. i had african hats. we had percussion jams all the time and would go to the public ones in parks around berkeley. i never was in an african band as much as i loved the music. the keyboard parts were too repetitive and i was trying to do my own thing. but i was sure influenced by it all. i have 3 lp's that are special to me i listen to all the time:
introducing hedzoleh soundz - hugh masekela
bobby - king sunny ade
casamance au clair de lune - toure kunde
i have over a dozen cassettes i made of the afro pop show that i go back to. and i have some unique cassettes of gaspar lawal, adesanya and foday musa sosa that i could not hear in any other format. and i have this live bootleg cassette of the national dance company of senegal performing in philly. a girl i dated briefly was one of the director's wives. for real. i guess he had so many wives it was cool if she dated me. but a lot of the african music i was into has been forgotten or lost to me from those days. again, through the years i've been keeping a list. and through the itunes, i have found a few old friends recently:
jungle rhythms and chants - subri moulin and his equatorial rhythm group
this brings back memories. must've listened to this record a zillion times. i love that it's just percussion and singing. african rhumba.
soul makossa - manu dibango
the list had the manu dibango recording, electric africa, on it. when i checked the itunes i discovered i hated this recording now. it's later in his career and the drums are electronic and sound shitty. why did i used to like this? but there were a bunch of other albums and i saw soul makossa and remembered that one. and it's great! mj (or 'q') ripped off the title track on that hit, 'do you wanna be starting something?' they settled out of court.
drums of passion - olatunji
this is the one that started the african music fixation for me. it's a famous recording from 1959 and it's so cool that anyone can listen to it anytime they want. i wish i had access to music like this when i was a kid. it was a struggle to hear music like this - a trip to the library to hear field recordings, a radio show, or the occasional exotic lp find. i hope my daughter takes full advantage of the chance to learn about whatever she wants because it was never been this easy to get access to knowledge and beauty.
batik - batik/ralph towner
trellis - batik/ralph towner
debbie downer - courtney barnett/sometimes i sit and think and sometimes i just sit
etherraggae - third plane/combination music/unreleased
sideshow - blue magic/soulful spell
pentsatonic - brian allen/hernan hecht/vitamina hueipi
i don't like to turn on the music till i am on the promenade away from cars. as i walk the bike across the bridge over the highway, i can see the top quarter of the big bridge. it's always there. never moves. even when you can't see it. it's a warm winter day and the air is warmer than the water so an advection fog has covered the narrows and the battery, almost reaching the city. i learned about fog in my bay area days. there are a few types of fog but the one that rolls under the golden gate and stretches all the way across the bay covering berkeley is the same kind as this. and it was a very common occurrence out there. it happens here in the narrows but not that often.
i carry the bike down the steps to the promenade, hit 'shuffle,' get on the bike and start pedaling. i hear a ride cymbal playing some fast swing and immediately recognize it to be jack dejohnette. a twelve-string plays chords with harmonics. ralph towner. batik. it goes perfectly with my view. i can see about ten feet out into the glassy water. no wake. there are some ducks and buffleheads floating to nowhere; the buffleheads kind of in formation, the ducks kind of in pairs. i look back and can't see the bridge at all but i can see the anchor on the brooklyn side clearly. typically, you'd hear some ship horns but maybe nobody's moving around out there because i don't hear any. one long blast every two minutes means a ship is 'making way under power.' that's good - sort of an fyi. if you ever hear one, two or three short blasts, that means a ship is going to maneuver. one would mean altering course to starboard, for example. i've never heard that. that would probably mean evasive maneuvers. not good.
the algorithm could know it was foggy, right? it's a 'smart' phone. there is a weather app on my phone. it could just know, couldn't it? how else could you explain not one but two songs from the ralph towner recording? music that goes perfectly with fog; ambient and mysterious. i love this record. i'm finding i say that a lot during this project. but i really do love this one. it's so easy to listen to, yet it is also full of complexity. ralph towner is one of my favorite musicians, too - equally great on both piano and guitar. and i especially like the sound of the 12-string when he plays it - a sound i would typically associate with out of tune folk music. those things are a pain in the ass to keep in tune.
and jack...i may have close to every recording jack dejohnette has played on. i know i have every one under his name. he is far and away my favorite musician and as usual, he plays great on batik. he gives so much to the music - his creativity, his authority, his virtuosity, his humility. there's really no one else i can think of that is like him or has recorded that much consistently great music. find me a recording jack is on that is only just good, forget about bad. there ain't none. and we're talking about 100's of recordings.
eddie gomez. his incredible virtuosity kind of distracts me from the big picture on some recordings. in others, it is just what is needed. three quartets comes to mind as an example of his greatness. batik is another. there is a lot of room in this record for bass to stand out but it kind of doesn't. eddie contributes to the ambient or airy quality of the music with lots of long tones to go along with his incredible solos - a couple of which are with the bow and not so notey. they're almost not even solos. other places, he's the anchor around which the guitar and drums can float and interact. and his tone is so pure it really blends in with the sonic landscape, at the same time reaching your ear clearly. it's all kinds of bass playing. it makes the group a real trio - like a triangle. dude is a master bassist.
the algorithm must have a sense of humor because after 25 minutes of vibing out to the reverb-heavy beauty and subtlety of batik, it hit me with this courtney barnett track and i nearly fell off my bike. loud, angry, funny and sarcastic, courtney barnett gives me hope for the future. she is a young, aussie rocker and this is only her first record. and it rocks. it fucking rocks. the whole record.
in college, i was in a band called, third plane. it started in a bar called, bauhaus, on main street in akron, ohio's, empty downtown of empty storefronts surrounded by empty factories. this was the first song we ever learned. it is from the john abercrombie album, night - one of my favorite all-time albums.
i am playing keyboards. wilbur krebs, guitar. joe brigandi, drums.
Embed for etherraggae
sideshow...the arranging, the orchestration, the vocal harmonies, the chord changes. this is the philly soul sound. they don't make 'em like this anymore.
a few years back i got an email from a guy i didn't know, also on my label, ropeadope. he lived in mexico city and played guitar and had a band called, a love electric. and would i like to join them for a two-week tour-half in cali and half in mexico. i don't think i checked the band out before i responded, i would love to.
turns out, the band is incredible. this was 5 or 6 years ago i did this and they are still going strong. todd clouser is the guitar player and now singer. aaron cruz plays bass. and hernan hecht, the drums. so that's how i met hernan. he is a vegetarian, has a home studio he built and loves his dog. he is from argentina and is very imposing looking. but he is not imposing at all. he is super nice and cool. he just LOOKS mean. he gave me this recording, vitamia hueipi. it's him and trombonist, brian allen and a some electronics. again, not the kind of music you would think aaron would make looking at him. i feel i became close friends with todd, hernan and aaron in the short time we were together. music can do that. this music is nothing like, a love electric, a kind of energy-jazz-rock. ambient/avant garde would describe this track a bit better.
Embed for pensatonic
lonesome cowboy bill - the velvet underground/peel slowly and see
the church where i belong - marty sammon/sammon/holland 190 proof blues
the cuckoo, too - taj mahal/nat'l blues
i can't quit you baby - little milton/the chess box
cygnus x-1 book II: hemispheres - rush/hemispheres
II. apollo (bringer of wisdom)
III. dionysus (bringer of love)
IV. armegeddon (the battle of heart and mind)
VI. the sphere
ray's idea - phineas newborne, jr/harlem blues
i was playing at the old nublu on avenue c and east 5th street with my funk band i called, groovula, like dracula. we were in the second half of our set and in walked lou reed. nublu was very dark but he had his lou reed outfit on and was unmistakable. he wasn't wearing the lou reed shades - it was dark - but it was him - black everythng - hair, t-shirt, jeans, jacket and boots. yep. lou reed.
it wasn't unusual to see lou reed. he got around. at the time of this sighting i hadn't been in nyc that long and i'd already run into lou reed twice, each time in an elevator. i said nothing and of course, neither did he. one knows not to talk to lou reed. years later when i got the job at del posto he would come in from time to time. i always played, 'it's a perfect day', when he did, because i thought that is just a ridiculous song, the way he sings it like andy williams or some other crooner. and the scmaltzy string arrangements. it's just awful.
or is it? it has taken me a long time to dig the velvet underground and lou reed - the out of tune guitars, the bad singing, the simple, often corny songs. the only thing that seemed to make them 'cool' is they all wore black and they hung out with warhol. shooting dope is supposed to make you 'cool' but it doesn't. so that didn't impress me either. i just didn't get it. but once i started to look at it as art and not music, i started to appreciate it. if they were kidding or being sarcastic or it was some kind of performance art, i get it. if they were serious, i don't. it's just crappy.
i was watching lou reed watch me. we were pretty damn funky but dude didn't move a muscle - not even a toe tap. he had positioned himself at the corner of the bar on a stool not 10 feet away from me. i had sunglasses with me so i put them on so i could watch him. like i said, he was a fucking statue. it was kind of fucking me up, like, should i play a deconstructionist solo that's sparse and quirky or should i just do my thing - get in the pocket and play lines. i decided i didn't want to sound shitty on purpose the way he does so i just did my thing, checking out lou reed to see if he was reacting to anything i played. dude was a sphynx.
we finished the set and i quickly packed up. there was another band on after us. i put my gear in a corner and went over to the bar to get a beer. there was a spot next to lou reed so i sat down. he was alone. i thought i might ask him if i could buy him a drink but he'd been there for half-an-hour and there was no drink in front of him. right. his liver was probably shot. what else could i say? i was going to say something this time. i had a reason. he'd been sitting there watching me for 30 minutes. i didn't need an introduction. since he didn't seem to be there to hear us, i figured he knew the next band. i leaned over and said,
'so...you here to see the next band?'
he looked over at me, his black eyes drilling a hole in my forehead, 'yeah.'
'are they any good?'
o--kay. i went back to my beer. he got up and went around me, taking a stool two stools away that had just vacated at the end of the bar. there he could have his back to the wall and people could only approach him from the front. but they didn't. he was lou reed.
marty sammon has played in buddy guy's band for years. we met through coco taylor's drummer, rick king, a guy who says goodbye on the phone by shouting, 'ok! stay up!' sometimes i call rick just to hear him say that at the end of our conversation. it makes me feel good and lifts my spirits. marty and i became friends and everytime marty comes to town with buddy - they are all from chicago - we go out, usually in search of a good steak. marty is an incredible piano player and singer and i admire what he does greatly. and he's hilarious. man, we have had some laughs. this track is a song of his and he sings and plays on it. here are the lyrics to the first verse. it's not hard to see why we are such good friends.
you ought to check
the church where i belong
where the pastor is a pothead
and he never talks to long
the alter boys are drinking and the choir's on cocaine
the entire congregation
ain't feeling any pain
and you never sing no sad, mournful song
in the church where i belong
high priests in the temple of syrinx, the oaks and maples disagree while dionysius and the gods battle over the fate of man. i don't care one way or the other about the lyrics when it comes to rush. like zep, the lyrics are not why i am listening. battles for evermore in the darkest depths of mordor with the cold winds of thor blowing didn't put me off zep. so that wasn't a problem for me with rush. i liked the riffs, the drums and the guitar solos. i have ALL the zep on vinyl but i only like 3 rush records - this one, permanent waves and moving pictures. the rest of their stuff i'm not so into. when i was learning to play the bass as a teenager, geddy lee's unusual rickenbacker sound and great playing reminded my of chris squire - the bass very audible and punchy, not just holding down the roots of the chords but also standing alone as a part. i played along to those three rush records, all the zep, fragile and close to the edge. i wouldn't say i'm a huge prog rock devotee but you had to be able to play to hang. so my musical journey would naturally go through some of those bands. elp was my first concert at 13 but i couldn't play any of their music till years later. brain salad surgery pretty much blew my little teenage mind.
just what i love about this project - after the rush, here comes some phineas newborne. what a contrast. i've tried to dig him because he had such technique on display. he is regarded as one of the better players of the piano in jazz and i know him for playing lines with both hands two octaves apart. he's not the only one to have done it - that was an identifying feature of oscar peterson - but he did it a lot. i bought this recording knowing nothing about it. i just wanted to check out some phineas. and ray brown and elvin seemed like an unusual combination. the session sounds unrehearsed. elvin plays through the first solo break on this track. phineas has such strong technique he just powers through. same with ray. elvin plays all over his solo but you can still focus on ray. i liked listening to it. the cats weren't always perfect but that wasn't the standard then. as anthony braxton said to me on my very first recording date when i wanted to do another take of a duet we had just played, 'mr. scott. so there was a little mistake. we are not robots.'
it's a long way to the top - ac/dc/high voltage
old devil moon - the pacific jazz quartet featuring sasha dobson/unreleased
hook - pj harvey/rid of me
i didn't know what time it was - sonny clark/sonny's crib
semi suite - tom waits/the heart of saturday nite
the phone call - the pretenders/demo
epri 6 - dred/ideas in motion
wave - jobim/wave
all the young dudes - mott the hoople/all the young dudes
moon face, starry eyes - teddy wilson/origin unknown
i may be wrong - gerry mulligan quartet/gerry mulligan quartet
there is still quite a bit of snow on the ground, especially where it was piled from plowing or shoveling. the tiny tires of my folding bike can't go through any snow at all. the wheel just turns and the bike jack-knifes. i couldn't get to the promenade from shore rd without carrying the bike over the unshoveled path so i took shore road to the pier, hoping the promenade itself had been shoveled. it wasn't but i could see a lot of concrete and the sun was out and it was warm for january. i portaged over some impassable snow a couple times but was able to ride all the way back to the bridge without wiping out.
high voltage is one of those records along with dirty deeds that i have digital and vinyl copies of, i like them so much. ac/dc is not really ac/dc to me without bon scott. yes, they bounced back from his death with back in black and that is a great record. but the sound of bon's voice - the character, the mischievousness - brian johnson just didn't have that, though he surely sang his heart out.
the track with sasha was done live in my basement on 17th st. - neal miner, bass. rob sudduth, tenor sax. yours truly, drums. the band is connected on this take. it's the kind of take you want in the studio - loose but tight, creative, everyone feeling free to get inside the music. this is one of the best drum solos i've ever played that got recorded. this is how i would want to play all the time - listening and reacting and adding to the picture but still percolating and feeling good.
Embed for old devil moon
i love sonny's slick arrangement here. this is jazz in the classic sense - right down the middle, swinging and singing. philly joe and pc. i think spike wilner turned me on to sonny. he is not as well-known as some of the pianists from the 50's, a decade crowded with great jazz musicians that made a lot of records but he is one of the cats, for sure. he has a way of playing that is not aggressive or flashy that i like. he is understated.
totally didn't know or remember this waits track. it's remarkable because he uses his real voice - not the gravely, drunken, hobo-warming-himself-next-to-an-oil-drum-fire-in-the-train-yard voice. and it's a beautiful voice. i know he was influenced by the crooners he heard growing up - perry como, dino, andy williams, jack jones, johnny mathis, bing, frank. i can hear it. my mom loved all those guys and we had all their records, too.
interesting to hear this pretenders demo. i've heard this song a hundred times and never could catch the mission: impossible lyrics. they are much clearer in this demo version that came as a bonus track. martin chambers doesn't quite get the instrumental bits that are way tighter on the album version. pretenders I and pretenders II are another two records i have digital and vinyl copies of. i'm reading her autobiography right now. Embed for the phone call (demo)
this is another 30 second cue for the electric power research institute. Embed for epri 6
wave...what a cool album cover. you just know the music is going to be cool.
did not know this kurt weill tune. mike, the maitre d' at sofia's was/is a huge teddy wilson fan. sofia's is gone. mike is not.
i may be wrong but 'i may be wrong' sounds a little like 'taking a chance on love.' this band....i have all their records on vinyl. in fact, i collect pacific jazz records and have maybe 50 of them. i love the imprint - a piece of art takes up the whole cover and the band name and title are at the top. chet, gerry, shelly manne, joe pass, art pepper, bud shank, gil evans, clare fischer, paul desmond, lee konitz, russ freeman, chico hamilton, annie ross. the label had a sound that was focused and recognizable. it was west coast. it was cool.
come back to sorrento - carmen mcrae/out of this world
horse tears - goldfrapp/felt mountain
heaven - stones/tattoo you
bendy - dred scott/prepared piano
theme from the munsters - jack marshall/tv theme songs
sci fi - frank locrasto/locrasto
r.j. - miles/e.s.p.
vangelis - memories of green/blade runner soundtrack
big butter and egg man - louis armstrong/the 25 greatest hot 5's and hot 7's
i can see by my last entry i haven't been on the bike in 3 weeks. i can also see when i look at the floor that i have gained 5 pounds over the holidays. i have not been able to get back on the bike because of the cold - i draw the line at 30 degrees - and then it snowed. i thought i might make some of lidia's minestrone and that takes 30-45 minutes. then i thought that's about the same time as a bike ride so what if i put the iphone on shuffle and make the soup?
lidia was walking by the piano awhile back right after i had made it the first time so i told her as much. she stopped to ask how it turned out. i said it was delicious and that i didn't know that step about toasting the tomato paste. she said,
'THAT is where you get the flavor!'
i wanted to include a link to the recipe but the one that comes up doesn't have that step. i distinctly remember:
for several minutes each....
olive oil with the garlic and pancetta
add the onions
make a hole in the center of the pot and plop down the tomato paste and toast
add the potatoes and stir
THEN you start adding liquid, beans, veggies, etc.
i couldn't find that exact recipe again. weird.
is the smart phone really that smart? 'come back to sorrento'? first song? granted, it's a jazzy version in english but how did it know? weird.
this goldfrapp album is easily one of my favorite albums in the new millenium. i don't hear much in the pop world i like in the 21st century and it makes me feel old and irrelevant but this record is great. i forget who turned me on to them. i guess you would call it 'down tempo' in the modern sense. but it isn't sparse like portishead. it's at times downright cinematic. it's nice to be able to call music from this genre, 'beautiful.' i never tire of hearing it. i've listened to this record a lot.
ok. this stones track sucks. i never want to hear it again. i went on my computer and deleted it so it will never come up again. i knew that was going to happen eventually with the stones. it's not even funny. if it was funny how bad it is, i could keep it. not funny - horribly, awfully bad.
john cage wrote a famous collection of pieces for prepared piano called, 'sonatas and interludes.' he 'prepared' or altered the sound of the notes by placing screws, plastic pieces, nuts, bolts and rubber stoppers in between the strings of 45 of the notes. i thought it might be cool to do that to the whole piano - all 88 keys - and to really spend some time with each note, seeing if i could make each note a small universe of sound. i left the piano that way for two months, recording improvisations right after i did the modifications and then recording another set of improvisations after the piano had been that way for two months. interestingly, i wound up using about an equal number of takes from each set. in this track, in addition to the stationary preparations, i used a tuning hammer and pressed down on the string itself, sliding it up and down, creating the illusion i am bending the note.
again with the locrasto. i know. i love this record. but in this little bike riding project, i've heard it 3 or 4 times. there are thousands of songs in my cloud. wtf?
love the soundtrack to blade runner. chariots of fire, not so much. some eno had been coming up in this project. i think i mentioned how ambient music doesn't bore me anymore.
my favorite louis armstrong is the hot 5's and 7's. i'm certainly no louis expert but he seems to be playing his horn better and more creatively in this period - especially when you consider the time. i guess i'm like that with chet, too - i'd rather hear him play than sing. although, louis sings on this track. like chet, they began to insist he sing and i cared for them less. louis was the king, though, no doubt. i can't believe i've lived in nyc for almost 20 years and i've never been to his house in queens. shameful. i can say in my defense, though, i have only BEEN to queens 5 times if you don't count the many us opens and laguardia. and i work at the frank sinatra high school for the performing arts a few times a year. other than that....my niece lived in astoria for a little while. i visited her. but queens....wait, jfk's in queens. been there lots. ok. i'm going to go. you can go to queens college nearby his house and check out an enormous archive of him talking shit with his buddies in his study - hours and hours of tapes. got to do it. i'm going to....
you be my baby - ray charles/what'd i say
dance all day - bari koral family rock band/rock and roll garden
french suite #4 in e-flat - bach/gould
sem contencao - bebel gilberto/tanto tempo
to bring you my love - pj harvey/to bring you my love
goldberg var 19 - bach/gould '55
song for sharon - joni mitchell/hejira
this ain't no russian novel, baby - the dred scott trio/live at the rockwood music hall
any major dude will tell you - steely dan/pretzel logic
allegro (1884) - satie/thibaudet
get it right the first time - billy joel/the stranger
if you could see me now - chet baker/chet
i've had a long association with saxophonist, jay collins. i played in his band for some years and before that he used to sub in alphabet soup. we have had a lot of laughs together. he turned me on to a lot of music i was not aware of, or was aware of but hadn't really checked out. of course, i had heard ray charles but jay really turned me on to him and many other 'blues' singers i had not heard - percy mayfield, jimmy mccracklin, lee dorsey and king curtis.
i played bass, piano and organ on this bari koral track. it's from her 1st album. i think i have a co-producer credit on this album. eric halvorson on drums since the beginning almost 15 years ago.
a lot of gould playing bach has come up and i never comment about it. what is there to say, really? i have all of his bach recordings and i have not heard better interpretations - including the re-recorded goldberg's. it's like every version is the one. frank sinatra comes to mind. he just owned the songs he sang making it very difficult for other singers to sing more definitive versions. who could do a better version of 'my way'. well, sid vicious' version is epic - but also epically different.
speaking of goldberg's...up came #19 of the '55 interpretations of the goldberg variations. people have asked me if i prefer this recording or the version he did in '81, the year before his death the month after his 50th birthday. i can say there are individual variations that i like better. i like the '81 version of this one, for example. it's way slower and kind of haunting as opposed to the sort of stately treatment it gets here. but there are others from '51 i like better - the aria, itself, for example. and the ripping version of the first variation i like better than the '81. and so on.
dan tepfer recently came up with an interesting project - follow each of bach variations with one your own. pretty balsy. but when you consider that in the improvisation you are not constrained by form or the chordal movement of the originals - it is the 21st century, after all - it's not so scary. personally, i'd be more worried about fucking up the originals. first things first...you'd better play the bach variations themselves flawlessly and dan does. he made a recording of it. it's pretty cool. if you can go hear him do it....even better.
'song for sharon' is one of those joni songs i never paid much attention to. but the shuffle knows no favorites and that's the point. i listened to this joni song like i had never heard it - this song about love and marriage and the two different paths old friends have taken. it's beautiful poetry. i went here and read it as a poem after listening to it and it really blew my mind how good it is.
one day my ex and i were having an argument. she wanted to know WHY i did that thing that i did and didn't believe me when i told her i didn't know. i just did it. it was a mistake and i'm sorry. i'll try not to do it again. i wasn't thinking. and that's the point....i wasn't thinking. it was a dumb mistake and i should've known better. that's WHY there is no why. she couldn't accept that. i was surely up to something. i had been reading some russian lit at the time and was always annoyed when i had to flip to the front of the book where the list of characters is printed to see who this or that minor character was. if it's so complex i can't keep track of who's who, it's too complex for me. so i said to her,
'look. this ain't no russian novel, baby. it's real simple.'
she said, 'that's a good song title.'
i tried to make the song sound simple by using a lot of triads.
one thing about the steely dan track. i love the way fagan plays the electric piano part - so subtle, yet so full of information. and so funky.
yes, the billy joel. i never liked his fake tough guy thing but dude is a songwriting hit-maker who sang his ass off. it's a little cabaret for me but i thought the stranger might be a good album to try at del posto since he sells out like 25 nights in a row at madison square garden whenever he plays there...still. so i'm checking it out again. the songs are really great pop songs. i like listening to them. the 'la-la-la' shit in this one annoys me a little, though.
the chet is so beautiful it almost takes my breath away. this is a really great album. his first after leaving pacific jazz and going over to riverside, i believe. there aren't many records of chet just playing.
when i got to the pier today, this was on the ground....
epri 3A/9.4.05 - dred/ideas in motion
autumn leaves 2 - pacific jazz quartet featuring sasha dobson/unreleased
lazy lover - brazilian girls/don't stop
palms - frank locrasto/night people
tillie 3 - dred/the satie project/unreleased
have a cigar - pink floyd/wish you were here
eronel - monk/criss-cross
crossing - oregon/crossing
lola - the kinks/best of
the phone call - pretenders/pretenders
time for the hard stuff - dred scott trio/live at the rockwood music hall
'epri' refers to the client - the electric power research institute. this was a slightly different version of a cue i did that you can hear in one of the other dispatches.
sasha dobson is one of my oldest and dearest friends. 'friends' doesn't really describe our relationship. 'family' would be a better word. when my daughter was born, she held one of my wife's legs, i held the other. i'm good friends with her older brother, smith, who lives in san fran and plays everything. and her mom who is a great singer. in 2001, her father, bay area piano legend, smith sr., died very tragically in a car accident coming home from a gig. he was just 54, one year older than me. it's heart-wrenching to remember him. what a family. they all have/had an incredible natural gift of musicality and artistic sensitivity. even sasha's grandmother sings great. i've known sasha since she was just 17. she moved to nyc a couple of years after i met her - i think i met her through smith but i can't remember. she was a kid. fast forward 10 or so years and i find my way to nyc and we became reconnected. by then she was singing like a seasoned pro. over the years we became closer personally and played a ton of gigs together. she is one of the few jazz singers that almost prefers to sing without chordal accompaniment. i know it's partially because of the hole her dad left in her life - no more chords. but it is also because she sings so freely that chords can get in her way. when there are no chords, the ear of the listener leans forward, giving sash all the attention and you can really her the beauty and artistry of her singing. she first heard me playing drums in one of smith jr's bands that he played vibes in. so she has often called me to play drums on gigs. that lead to this specific project that never made an album - the pacific jazz quartet. a lot of the pacific jazz label albums had no chords - the mulligan/baker quartet, for example - so that's where the band name came from. our other old friend from the bay area, rob sudduth, had moved to nyc. and we were all great friends with life long new yorker and incredible bass player, neal miner, so we started this project. this track was recorded live in my basement.
lazy lover, cassanova
you roll over
when i want more
it bears mentioning again the i love this frank locrasto record. the story i wrote for the liner notes is on here somewhere.
i came across this book of satie's containing 20 short pieces for piano in a bookstore sometime ago. he called it, 'sports et divertissments'. it was written in 1914. on one page is a short piano piece written in satie's hand with comments of his written under the music. the one he called 'la chasse' - hunting, for example, has the text written throughout the music:
'do you hear the rabbit singing? what a voice! the nightingale is in its burrow. the owl is nursing its children. the young wild boar is going to get married. as for me, i am knocking down nuts with rifle shots.'
on the facing page is a full-page, color illustration by charles martin. my copy is cheaper and black and white. it's a great concept - especially now. the bottom has fallen out of the music industry. noone wants to pay for music anymore. as a musician/composer whatever, i have given a lot of thought to how to monetize my art. one day i thought, what's one of the things you never get rid of when you move - your art books. you sure get rid of your cd's. you just put them in your computer or a hard drive or they go into the cloud. your art books you will always want to look at. the work will mean different things to you throughout your life. so. i thought i'd try and make a couple of these satie-style books because i am friends with so many artists now in my early old age. there will be one focusing on one artist, one focusing on a different artist, a kids one with illustrations done by kids with piano music being playable by kids and so on. the first one i'm almost through with focuses on animal artist, tillamook cheddar - tillie. she has recently passed and this is to be her first posthumous collaboration. i've chosen the plates with the help of her assistant, bowman hastie, and i've composed a dozen piano pieces so far. this is one of them.
i love oregon. i became aware of them when i moved to california. they have made maybe 30 albums but this one is the last one with all the original members. percussionist colin walcot died in car accident in east germany while they were on tour just after recording this one - hence the title, crossing. he was only 39.
it's jazz, for sure - mostly improvised but it is a different kind of jazz. i wouldn't know what to call it. some people might refer to it as 'new age' but that has a shallow connotation to me, although there are definitely great musicians in that genre. it is not typically heavily improvised like jazz, like oregon. i'm inclined to think oregon invented some kind of genre that i can't really name - new age jazz? it really makes you think how confining labels are to the idea of music - something that can be observed from so many personal references that to label it hampers the experience.
i got to play and hang some with paul mccandless in my california years and he is not only one of the nicest guys i've ever met, he is also one of the most skilled and sensitive players i've ever heard or played with. the sound he gets out of his oboe or soprano sax is so pure and beautiful and his technique is flawless. just great. paul and i had some good times at smiley's in bolinas, where he lives.
i saw the kinks in the 80's in the music hall in the cleveland public auditorium. i was not a big fan. i liked some of their songs but they were never a big influence. my friend wendy, however, was a rabid fan - all kinks, all the time. she kept trying to get me deeper into them and i was like, meh. then she took me to hear them. ray davies is one of the best performers i have ever seen. he was so generous. in a huge theater full of people, he made you think he was singing just to you. when they came out for a couple of encores, i was on my feet cheering, i was so happy to see him - like an old friend. when the encores were over, i was genuinely sad that i wasn't going to get to keep hanging out with him. i saw him 20 years later doing a solo show in nyc at the edison theater. of course, wendy had driven from cleveland to see him with me. same thing. just so generous is the only way i can think to describe him as a performer.
the last track i call a 'drinking song'. the melody has some difficult intervallic jumps and the chords are tricky to improvise over. if you've had too much to drink, you will fuck it up. the trio played at the rockwood music hall every tuesday nite at midnite from 2005-2011 and ken rockwood had the idea to make a live record - the first one made at the rockwood music hall.
yedidim hiou zehirim - emil zrihan/the rough guide to morocco
french suite #5/gigue - bach/gould
when the lights go out - jimmy witherspoon/the chess box set
ccc 10.3 - dred/idm
golberg var 19 - bach/gould
i can’t get started - bird/the genius of charlie parker: night and day
smiling faces sometimes - the undisputed truth/best of
ccc 7.1 - dred/idm
a man has dreams - mary poppins
in 2010 i took a ride with a couple of buddies in an audi A3 from fez in north central morocco all the way to accra, ghana. that meant we basically drove through all of morocco - through marakesh, on to agadir and then through the 1000 miles of undeveloped, mostly unpopulated western sahara. we tried to not drive at night but we fell behind our schedule and a couple of times were driving as the sun was setting. my most vivid memory is of the light fading across the scrubby desert while the radio played the unaccompanied singing of the koran - beautiful and haunting. i picked up the rough guide cd before i went to get ready for the trip. i’m working on a book about the trip.
ccc stands for the california conservation corps. it was founded in 1976 by gov jerry brown. here is a link about who they are and what they do - https://ccc.ca.gov/who-we-are/about/. this track was the ending credit segment that went into the doc commemorating their 40 year anniversary.
smiling faces. smiling faces tell lies. and i got proof….
ccc 7.1 is the first repeat of this project. for the first time since i started this project, i skipped a track. again, what does the algorhythm actually do? apparently, it doesn’t go through ALL the music before repeating.
finally, i turned my daughter on to mary poppins because i loved it as a kid her age - 6. this track is about the catharsis the father goes through when he realizes his children’s lives are slipping away from him. there are a lot of rubato sections and advances this crucial plot point in a way that dialogue never could. written by the sherman bros who famously hated each other.
a nightingale sang in barkley square - bud powell/the genius of bud powell
hope street - frank locrasto/locrasto
wreck up a version - king tubby and friends/dub gone crazy
new newlywed game show theme (take 2) - dred/benny chacha/on spec fail
don’t stop - fleetwood mac/rumours
daniel and the sacred heart - the band/stage fright
low key lightly - duke/anatomy of a murder violin solo
dear doctor - stones/beggars banquet
verset laique et somptueux - satie/thibaudet
gone at last - paul simon/still crazy after all these years/demo
my library did not know the recording the bud powell was from. it’s in a playlist called, ‘misc jazz’ - jazz music i come across one song at a time for various reasons. sometimes i will collect several versions of a song i am trying to learn. so i googled the track and the computer corrected my spelling of 'barkley’ to 'berkeley’. where i found a version on youtube incorrectly spelled. even the wikipedia entry - i guess not so suprisingly - spells it 'berkeley’. anyway, this is a great version. bud had his own style and sound. you know it’s him as soon as he starts playing.
frank locrasto asked me to write a short story for the liner notes of his first album, locrasto. i listen to this record all the time. it’s super cool. it sounds like future music to me. so i set the story a little bit into the future. it is reprinted below in the blog somewhere.
when i met my wife, she was working post on the new newlywed game show. i think chuck barris wrote the theme song they were using and they had to keep using it till he died. he died. and i had a connection, so benny cha cha and i took a run at it. nowadays, all this kind of work is done on spec - for free. u make the jam and if they pick your jam over the dozens of other jams, you get paid. when i work for ideas in motion, they pay me half up front, half on completion. they pick ME for the project. that rarely happens anymore - unless you’re mike post.
my boss at del posto likes my idea of playing whole albums. big boss, joe bastianich was in last nite and dug my version of aja. so now everyone is suggesting albums to do. mario suggested quadraphenia. that’s a double lp with a lot of b side material. i’m going to try who’s next instead. it’s a challenge to play such simple music solo on the piano. aja is harmonically very rich so it kind of plays itself. rumours was suggested so i put it in my library so i could become familiar with the non-hits of which there are exactly 4 out of the 11 songs. pretty amazing collection of songs. it will be a challenge - there are maybe 10 chords on the whole album. on this track, doing some deep listening, i think - and have always thought - mick fleetwood is a great drummer. and the way that buckingham doubles christine mcvie's vocal on the chorus. it’s subtle but it gives it the grit and growl her thin voice can’t do.
the duke cut - i hate violin in my jazz but there is a long piano intro that’s nice. this is a bonus cut not included on the original lp. i generally don’t want to hear bonus cuts. they didn’t make it on the original for a reason. sometimes it’s a space limitation - lp’s max out at 80 minutes - usually, not.
more satie. i think i’m onto something here. satie didn’t know his music would come up a lot in a shuffle algorhythm. but i know. next album after the two i’m working on now - make dozens of 1 minute piano pieces.
another album i’m learning all of is still crazy after all these years. no filler on that recording - all great songs w plenty of harmonic information to translate to solo piano. this is a bonus track demo that came with the digital recording i could do without.