Hermeto Pascoal a.k.a o Bruxo (the Sorcerer) Slaves Massâ
By George C Glasser
|Posted by [email protected] on July 30, 2017 at 3:15 AM||comments (0)|
I recently watched the PBS documentary on Fred McDowell titled “Shake’em on Down.” As usual, McDowell’s performances blew me away. The sheer power of his lyrical bottleneck guitar work, driving rhythm, and voice generally convert the most snobbish and reluctant contemporary audiophiles into true believers.
Of all the musicians and singers in any genre of music I have ever heard, Mississippi Fred Mcdowell is, in my opinion, and without a doubt is my favorite. I wake up to a cup of hobo coffee and one of his tunes just about every morning - just to step into the day with a shot of fearless confidence.
McDowell was discovered back in 1959 by American ethnomusicologist, Alan Lomax, best known for his numerous field recordings of folk music of the 20th century. When Lomax came across Mcdowell, he was just a field hand working the cotton farms in Northwest Mississippi and pretty much gave up performing at house parties and juke joints. He was never been recorded before.
The beauty of listening to people like McDowell is that they didn’t have the electronic gadgetry as a crutch to produce with cleaver, polished and processed music; they only had (for the most part) cheap acoustic guitars that often tended to drift in and out of tune and their voices to rely on to put a tune over. They didn’t have a backing band to fill in the gaps. They had to to be heard over the rancours juke joint/house party crowds - a mellow, easy listening approach was out of the question. They had a keep the hard drinking crowd moving and shaking all night long all by themselves. If they couldn’t do that, they’d be out the door.
I’ve heard some great players, but I’m always awe struck when I listen to people like Mcdowell simply by the power of their presence.
What’s most impressive about McDowell’s body of work is the consistency. A lot of the old Blues musicians did some great work, but tended to fall short on other pieces when it came to putting over a string of tunes; however, Mcdowell had a relentless rhythmic drive accompanied by the strength of his voice and amazing bottleneck work that followed through on every tune.
I could write a lot of flattering intellectual diatribe about Mississippi Fred Mcdowell, but the best description is pure, raw electricity - getting struck by lightning and loving it.
Once Mcdowell gets into your head, you’ll never - ever get him out, but it ain’t a bad thing to have his tunes drifting around in your brain.
The documentary, “Shake’em on down is a well done poignant tribute to McDowell and well worth watching.
SHAKE EM ON DOWN
Shake 'em On Down' is the story of Fred McDowell, the godfather of the North Mississippi style of blues. Through interviews and never-before-seen footage of Fred McDowell and other blues legends, the film tells the story of a Mississippi sharecropper who went on to influence the music of the Rolling Stones, Bonnie Raitt, RL Burnside, Taj Mahal and the North Mississippi Allstars.
Shake’em on down
https://youtu.be/64T6ugyWXAA" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">https://youtu.be/64T6ugyWXAA
Going to the River
https://youtu.be/9TyzAAwJnIw" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">https://youtu.be/9TyzAAwJnIw
Blues Maker (1969 Documentary About Mississippi Fred McDowell)
https://youtu.be/LCyVuOHmh9A ¬" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">https://youtu.be/LCyVuOHmh9A
https://youtu.be/LCyVuOHmh9A ¬" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">
https://youtu.be/LCyVuOHmh9A ¬" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">
https://youtu.be/LCyVuOHmh9A ¬" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">
https://youtu.be/LCyVuOHmh9A ¬" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">
https://youtu.be/LCyVuOHmh9A ¬" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">Â
|Posted by [email protected] on May 29, 2017 at 3:30 AM||comments (0)|
[Gris-gris is a mojo pouch traditionally carried in the left pocket - containing herbs, oils, stones, small bones, hair and nails, pieces of cloth soaked with perspiration and/or other personal items gathered under the directions of a god for the protection of and/or to bring good luck to the owner.]
Back in 1968, I heard “Walk on Guilded Splinters” off “Gris-gris” on the San Francisco underground radio station, KMPX, and the tune blew me away. I went down to Tower Records and bought the album.
Growing up in Tampa, Florida I was exposed to New Orleans Voodoo and Afro Cuban Santeria practices along with the local variations..
Then, there were tales of Marie Laveau, the infamous, New Orleans Voodoo Queen who snatched bad kids up in the dead of night and spirited off into into the swamps - never to be seen again.
I loved visiting the dimly lit root doctor shops. There was a smell about them, somewhat a mysterious and sinister quality of must and dried herbs. Shelves were lined with what appeared to be religious candles, but inherently, I knew everything in the shops had a double meaning. I got caught up in the mystery of it all. When I was a teenager. I even made forays to buy “Aunt Ida’s Pomade” especially blended to attract women, which did a better job of repelling mosquitoes than attracting women.
Rebennack’s music and lyrics on “Gris-gris” captured it all for me down to smell and sounds of the cypress swamps - musty smell of old cemeteries after a rain storm . I knew what he was talking about when he mentioned “goofer dust” and “black cat oil” in the lyrics - he was talking to me like a bonafide root doctor. He even adopted his title from Doctor John Montane/Montaigne, considered the father of New Orleans Voudou.
The original Dr John Montaigne/Bayou John was busted in the 1840s for practicing voodoo with Pauline Rebennack, who is purported to be a distant relative of Rebennack.
Shortly after I got the album, Rebennack opened for Thelonious Monk at sparsely attended concert at the Carousel Ballroom in 1968.
Monk was great, but pretty much what I expected, but Rebennack hit the stage in full, feathered Mardi Gras regalia along with two topless, Nubian backup singers. I was completely blown away by the scene, but more importantly by the music.
I saw him again that year at the Fillmore opening for Janis Joplin, but it was Rebennack’s
performance that was the indelible memory. I didn’t even remember seeing her until I did some research for another article.
Rebennack’s credentials as a musician date back the his childhood in 1950s New Orleans where he learned his piano licks from the greats. His most profound influence was Professor Longhair who trail blazed the New Orleans style of R&B.
In the late 1950s, he cofounded the mostly African-American cooperative “All For One (AFO) Records.” He went on to do a stent with the “Wrecking Crew” doing studio work in Los Angeles in the mid 1960s.
“Gris Gris” is listed in Rolling Stone Magazine's top 500 albums and rightfully so in my estimation. In 1968, Rebennack masterfully combined the musical elements of Jazz, Zydeco, African rhythms, Psychedelic Rock, and Blues to conjure a new style of New Orleans, Voudou music.
Ahmet Ertegun, cofounder of Atlantic Records, was initially reluctant to release Gris-Gris, exclaiming, according to Rebennack’s autobiography, Under a Hoodoo Moon, "How can we market this boogaloo crap?" One of the best albums of the Twentieth Century came close to collecting dust and rotting away in some archive.
Over the years, the more I listen to Dr John’s body of work, the more impressed I become. He’s been around the music scene since the the mid 1950s. He’s still performing, and commands the respect of his peers and audiences alike.
“Gris-gris” is one of those albums that every cut is brilliant, and the album is a great adventure - it gets better with every listen.
“Gris-gris” - https://youtu.be/P7pdF7yKLtg
1989 Best Jazz Vocal Performance, Duo Or Group - "Makin' Whoopee"
1992 Best Traditional Blues Album - Goin' Back To New Orleans
1996 Best Rock Instrumental Performance - "SRV Shuffle"
2000 Best Pop Collaboration With Vocals - "Is You Is, Or Is You Ain't (My Baby)"
2008 Best Contemporary Blues Album - City That Care Forgot
2013 Best Blues Album - Locked Down
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
2011 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee
|Posted by [email protected] on April 28, 2017 at 5:55 AM||comments (0)|
Miles Davis said that Hermeto Pascoal was "the most impressive musician in the world."
Pascoal is a master of many instruments and leans toward the avant garde. You can hand Pascoal “anything”, he will make music with it. While he can use technology, he’s not reliant on sophisticated engineering to create complex sounds. When it comes to music, Pascoal is, undoubtedly, as his moniker states, a virtuoso “o Bruxo.”
Pascoal was born in a remote region of Brazil without electricity in 1936 and went on to shape post Bossa Nova Brazilian Jazz, and as of date has been prolific and influential in the world of Jazz.
I started out listening to Pascoal’s work with Airto Moreira on Quarto Novo’s 1967 album and was impressed at how many instruments he played and his virtuosity on each as so many times, multi instrumentalists are ‘jacks of all trades, and masters of none,’ but Pascoal mastered the instruments he plays.
My second taste of Pascoal was on the 1971 Airto Moreira album produced by Gary McFarland “Natural Feelings.”
Miles Davis featured Pascoal on the 1971 album, “Live-Evil” on which he composed three cuts.
I’ve followed Pascoal since the early 1970s, and my favorite album is “Slaves Mass,” 1977 produced by Flora Purim for Warner Bros. featuring Ron Carter on bass, and the ubiquitous Airto Moreira on percussion/drums.“Slaves Mass” is an unrecognised masterpiece. The album moves flawlessly from structured compositions to Free Jazz. The compositions move from pleasant to disturbing, to elation to insanely frenetic, and the album never gets boring.
Airto’s polyrhythmic percussion work drives the album flawlessly from one cut to the next so there’s no slack.
“Slaves Mass” is one of those innovative albums that many Jazz musicians listen to and draw from the experience. Unfortunately, the album never made the mainstream because it was overshadowed by more commercially digestible fare.
For those of you who care to dig deepper than the superficial layers of music and are adventuresome, “Slaves Mass” will take you on an enjoyable, hypnotic adventure.
Slaves Mass - 1977: https://youtu.be/O3q1WNArobw" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">https/youtu.be/O3q1WNArobw
onjunto Som 4 - 1964: https://youtu.be/xvnFk3arP5Y" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">https/youtu.be/xvnFk3arP5Y
Sambrasa Trio - Em Som Maior - 1965:https://youtu.be/TEQuvkOzGPg" target="_blank" rel="nofollow"> https/youtu.be/TEQuvkOzGPg
Quarto Novo - 1967: https://youtu.be/Awo2JBeRcgI" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">https/youtu.be/Awo2JBeRcgI
George C Glasser
|Posted by [email protected] on March 30, 2017 at 11:35 AM||comments (0)|
Area wise, San Francisco is not a big city - only 47 square miles. Most of the clubs were located either in North Beach or the Fillmore District. It was about a ten minute bus ride from to get from one place to the other.
The jazz clubs mainly were located in the Fillmore, and there was about any type of music you wanted in the North Beach clubs. Consequently, there was a lot of cross pollination of musical styles happening. However, it was mostly adventurous Jazz musicians that sat in with some Rock bands at late night gigs.
On one evening of club hopping, I caught three name acts in North Beach alone, a Folk, Jazz, and Rock gig.
The premier Rock club was the Matrix started by the founding member of the "Jefferson Airplane," Marty Balin, as a venue to showcase the band, but went on to showcase international acts. (There's quite a few live recordings of bands on Youtube that played at Matrix.)
In 1966/early 1967 the whole San Francisco music scene was casual and more of a hometown thing. It was commonplace to sit next to a musician you saw night before at a coffee shop the next day or at some Jazz club catching Willie Bobo or Thelonious Monk and not think anything of it - it was like meeting a neighbour on the street - a nod of recognition.
The quality of the local Rock bands were making a quantum leap from being average club bands to journeyman musicians and attracting international attention among fellow musicians.
North Beach coffeeshop conversations always turned to who saw who and what groups were playing where and when. Life seemed to revolve around the music scene.
Bill Graham's Fillmore Auditorium was fastly becoming the place to play for most of the groups, and Graham started locking up all the best acts in most every musical genre.
The second venue was the Avalon Ballroom the hardcore Hippie hangout where Chet Helms featured mainly local talent and groups up from Los Angeles. The Allman Brothers Band played their first gigs there under the moniker of “The Allman Joys.”
The scene was rapidly evolving into something more substantive than simply Rock bands doing Saturday night dances as a fusion of styles seeded and sprouted among the musicians.
Ralph Gleason, Jazz critic for the San Francisco Chronicle, took an interest in the "Jefferson Airplane" and began promoting them in his column, and soon included more aspiring local Rock groups worthy of note.
A few local groups were incorporating seasoned horn sections. A group called “The Loading Zone” was the first band I heard that you could classify as a fusion group with a top notch horn section. You couldn’t actually classify them in any category as they incorporated many musical elements into a unique sound https://youtu.be/zYTnsjqXrfw
However, back then, the guitar was king, and evolving technology added an extra dimension.
Hometown Guitarists like Jorma Kaukonen of the Jefferson Airplane” started experimenting with feedback, and John Cipollina of “Quicksilver Messenger Service” was pushing his work to the limit. (The best example of Quicksilver’s work is their 1969 album, “Happy Trails” - https://youtu.be/fCG0oqWT5wc).
At the time, Cipollina and Kaukonen were pioneering new and unique styles indigenous to the San Francisco Bay area.
Most bands also used a rhythm guitar, and the Jazz influence was evident. Usually, with Rock bands, the rhythm guitarist just chunked out metronomic chords, but with groups like the Airplane, Quicksilver, and Country Joe and the Fish, and others, there was syncopation incorporated with transitional lead tradeoffs transforming the mundane into something interesting. Most of that innovation came from listening to
Blues bands where it's common practice for guitarist to do tradeoffs and emphasis the rhythm guitar. .
The rhythm sections became more sophisticated with the inclusion of conga drums, etc.
The bass players were doing more intricate work. It was an expedited learning curve for everyone involved, and the audiences expected more and more out of the musicians driving experimentation even further into unknown territory.
"Quicksilver Messenger Service" had the best guitar duo outside the Butterfield Blues Band guitarists, Elvin Bishop and Mike Bloomfield with Cipollina and Gary Duncan.
In 1966, The “Paul Butterfield Blues Band” released the album “East West,” which never got much popular acclaim, but regarded as a seminal album by many critics. On side one, they covered Nat Adderley's classic “Work Song” brilliantly with Mike Bloomfield fusing a Blues style with an Indian Raga feel. Butterfield’s harmonica work and searing guitar duets by Bloomfield and Bishop pushed the tune to another level.
The title cut of that album, “East West” was a classic frenetic opus - an Indian Raga/Blues fusion and probably the first cohesive, extended jazz orientated piece by a Rock/Blues band. It was inspired by Miles Davis and John Coltrane’s work in that area https://youtu.be/qvIUdDtOO9E.
Interestingly, while all this was going on, and it was still, basically, an underground scene that hadn’t grasp national/international attention to any degree other than from other musicians. However, in 1967, the release of the Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit” off the album “Surrealistic Pillow” hit number eight on the Billboard chart to become the anthem for the evolving psychedelic revolution, and enjoys popularity to this day.
The release of “White Rabbit” marked the emergence of the San Francisco music scene onto the national and international stage.
Grace Slick, vocalist, for the Airplane penned “White Rabbit” and said that as far as developing song, she listened to Miles Davis and Gil Evans’ “Sketches of Spain,” and drew from Ravel’s Classical piece, “Bolero.”
By 1967, what once was an underground scene started to become a full fledged, “flower power” movement. At first people trickled into San Francisco, and as spring evolved to Summer, more than one hundred thousand people flooded into the small city surrounded by water on three sides.
The stage was set for a three day event that was the advent of the rock festivals. In June 1967, “The First Monterey International Pop Festival.” ‘Monterey Pop’ as it became to be known, was the prototype for all major music festivals to come, but it was unique at the time because of its inclusiveness. Not only did the lineup include many well known pop groups as well as the local staples, but also Jazz artists such as Hugh Masekela and Lou Rawls.
Monterey Pop featured thirty-three acts over that three day period.
The legendary classical sitar artist,Ravi Shankar, was there as well as Soul singer Otis Redding backed up by Stax Record session bands, “Booker T and the MGs” and the “Mar-Keys” who were also featured acts on their own.
“The Who” and Jimi Hendrix made their incendiary debut in the US market at Monterey Pop.
Aside from vaulting many acts from obscurity to stardom, Monterey Pop sported the most sophisticated sound system for a large scale event to that date.
Fortunately, highlights of that festival were documented in the film, “Monterey Pop,” produced by D.A. Pennebaker https://youtu.be/3N3eDAiRaN8).
Eric Burdon penned the song, “Monterey” that best summed up the experience in a song (https://youtu.be/Mvs8U0oxnlI).
Shortly after Monterey pop, I went to a concert at the Fillmore where Jimi Hendrix was second on the bill for headlining Jefferson Airplane. Opening for them was Jazz guitarist Gabor Szabo. Curiously, as an unintended consequence, it was Szabo’s performance that stuck in my mind - even to this day, some fifty years down the road, I still have Szabo in my collection. I went out and bought his Album “Spellbinder” the next day (https://youtu.be/jb1SHMJKQJo).
It was that Summer in the San Francisco the stage was set for an international revolution in music and culture, but it was also the beginning of the end for the intimate underground scene in San Francisco.
The city was jampacked with pilgrims from all over the world looking for peace, love, free sex, and just getting stoned. Haight Street became a seething mass of humanity punctuated with panhandlers, drug dealers, and bus loads of photo snapping tourists. However, Bill Graham’s Fillmore and Chet Helms’ Avalon began attracting even more international acts they incorporated with other musical genres expanding the audiences’ experience and introducing the featured groups to new concepts. It was a learning experience for everyone involved.
Instinctively, I knew the renaissance wouldn’t last, but with a sense of urgency, I wanted to experience as much of it as possible before it dissipated into history and silly, nostalgic reminiscences by people trying to relive the past.
Form 1966 through 1970, if a person was into music, the San Francisco Bay Area was the place to be because all the great acts came to you, and it only cost a pittance to get in the door at one of the music halls or clubs.
On Saturdays and Sundays, most all the local bands did free gigs in the Panhandle at Golden Gate Park - there was always something happening.
Retrospectively, it’s one thing to read about a significant era or be on the fringes when it’s happening, but it quite another being at the epicentre of a burgeoning revolution that changed the world. I was fortunate to be there. As much as people try, it can never be recreated, but music is the legacy that best tells the story..
Next up: “Requiem for a Juke Joint Troubadour.”
Back in the mid 1980s, I got into the Blues underground while living in St,. Petersburg, Florida. The whole scene was pretty much relegated to gun and knife clubs and biker bars. If you wanted to hear some authentic Blues, you had to take your chances.
I got acquainted with a fellow, Deacon Fuller, and wound up promoting him for a year or so. The experience wasn’t for the faint hearted, but a worthwhile adventure nonetheless.
|Posted by [email protected] on February 27, 2017 at 4:45 AM||comments (0)|
In 1965, at the Newport Folk Festival, Bob Dylan shattered the established Folk Music scene by doing an electric set shortly after the release of “Like a Rolling Stone.” It was controversial to say the least. Dylan was booed by audiences, and vilified by fellow Folkies, and critics. However, it was Dylan that fused Rock and Roll with the Protest Folk music of the day into what became known as Folk Rock.
From that point, more and more, once purist, Folkies got electrified and more and more, Rock and Roll musicians started covering old Folk songs.
Rock & Roll got more political along with being revitalized. The fusion happened and shook the status quo to it’s bones.
I never owned a Dylan album until I heard “Highway 61 Revisited,” his first electric album. Being one to always scour the liner notes and check out the personnel. I was looking for the guitarist because his work was impressive and captured my attention with his tasty licks. A fellow named Michael Bloomfield was Dylan’s guitarist.
Shortly, after that, I was fishing around a department store record department looking for something interesting and came across [titled] “The Paul Butterfield Blues Band.” album. None other than Michael Bloomfield was listed as one of the guitarist on the album.
On the back of the album, in a little box, it said, "We suggest that you play this record at the highest possible volume in order to fully appreciate the sound of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band". I’d never seen that on an album before, but after listening to the first few bars of the first cut, I cranked the volume all the way up.
Instantly, it became my favorite album, I’ve always had a copy in my possession since then and worn out numerous copies.
I liked British bands that were Blues based like the Animals, Rolling Stones, and Yardbirds, but the Paul Butterfield, played with a sense of urgency and intensity I never heard before. That album is on the Billboard top 500 Best Albums of all time list and regarded by many as a seminal, game changing recording from that period.
During that era, in the United States, political unrest was fomenting and the music was beginning to both reflect the discontent of the youth and push an agenda for change.
There was a generation of kids that grew up under the constant threat of a nuclear holocaust, the battle for civil rights was at it’s height, there were inner city riots, and the war machine was conscripting working class kids for cannon fodder in Vietnam.
General malaise was fomenting among the American youth - there was a revolution in the making, and the music was fueling the festering discontent.
I was in the middle of it, looking at being conscripted into the military, and I wasn’t too anxious to get my ass blown-off for some cause that didn’t make any sense to me. My options were, get sucked up for cannon fodder, go to jail, become a fugitive draft dodger, or volunteer for and hope for the best.
I joined the Air Force in 1965, and in 1966 wound up on a flight crew stationed in Sacramento, California about a hundred miles from San Francisco.
The first three day pass I got, I was off to the Frisco, but landed first on Telegraph Ave. in Berkeley and into a world totally alien to me.
After I came down a little from the contact high, I noticed psychedelic posters for concerts plastered on about every available space.
One psychedelic poster caught my attention: “Bill Graham Presents A Blues Rock Bash - Dance Concert - Paul Butterfield Blues Band - Jefferson Airplane. The thought of seeing the Paul Butterfield Blues Band play live was a magic moment, although I never heard the Jefferson Airplane. It was like it was my destiny to be at that place at that time.
I hitchhiked over to San Francisco and managed to find my way to the Fillmore. As I recall, the Fillmore was like swimming around in a surreal, incense saturated world inhabited by long hair freaks. I was completely out of place and feeling paranoid - like an acid trip without taking LSD as I waited for the show to begin. The feeling always brings to mind a line out of Donovan's song, “Season of the Witch,”
“When I look over my shoulder,
What do you think I see?
Some other cat looking over
His shoulder at me
And he's strange, sure he's strange”.
The people there knew I was completely out of place because everything about my appearance said I was in the military or a very naive narcotics cop down to the highly polished shoes on my feet.
A lot of the people there were as paranoid of me as I was of them, but we were there for the same reason - to hear some great music. There was only about five or six hundred people there.
The Paul Butterfield Blues Band more than met my expectations, but the Jefferson Airplane was something new. It was Jack Casady’s bass runs that caught my ear. I’d never thought much about bass guitar before that.
The Airplane had all the right elements, and I fell in love with their sound. They were polished, but still had a rough, street edge, and like the Butterfield Blues Band, there was a sense of urgency in their music.
That experience was like finally making the pilgrimage to Mecca with a bonus of being turned on to something new. However, the Butterfield Blues Band sounded better live than on the recording.
In an interview, Carlos Santana said that the when the Paul Butterfield Blues Band came the San Francisco, they upped the ante for the other groups. The members of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band did their apprenticeships playing in the South Side Blues Chicago clubs with Muddy Waters, Howlin Wolf, Little Walter, Buddy Guy, Elmore James, and other legendary Bluesmen. Butterfield also had two seasoned Bluesmen in his rhythm section from Howlin Wolf and Bo Diddley’s bands.They were a force to be reckoned with, and heavily influenced the San Francisco bands during that period.
The Jefferson Airplane was a good pairing at that gig as Marty Balin and Paul Kantor had put together a comparable line up, and everything meshed perfectly. They recruited a jazz drummer, Spencer Dryden which also helped put the band in a different class than most of the others.
After the concert I wandered around the streets and found myself in the Haight Ashbury district - the epicenter of the counterculture movement Some kindly Hippies noticed I was lost and bewildered and took me to a Digger’s crash pad. That was another experience that I never encountered before.
That was my introduction into the San Francisco scene, and after that concert, my life’s path took on a totally new direction.
My stent in the military ended shortly thereafter by a mutual agreement that they didn’t want me there, and I didn’t want to be there. I ended up in San Francisco - right smack-dab in the middle of the burgeoning underground music scene and movement that would impact the world to this day.
If you dug music, San Francisco was the place to be, Jazz clubs, the Fillmore, Avalon, coffee houses/Folk clubs, and clubs like the legendary Matrix. I was in ‘hog heaven.’
Part Two: The Jazz/Rock/Blues fusion
Leading into 1967, the concert halls in San Francisco, Bill Graham’s Fillmore and Chet Helms’, Avalon, billed eclectic lineups. A Rock band could be opening for a Jazz artist or vice versa. At the Rock clubs, a famous Jazz musician might drop by and sit in with a local band for a set.
|Posted by [email protected] on February 3, 2017 at 3:15 AM||comments (0)|
This is, more or less, an introduction to an ongoing blog about my experiences as someone who digs almost all kinds of music, but moreover, has a lot of respect for musicians. Well. that’s because as much as I try, I’m not very good at it. I’m lot better at listening to music than playing music.
I grew up in Tampa, Florida, and in the late 1940s and 1950s. My first memories of being aware of musical styles was when we used to drive from South Tampa out to North Tampa to visit my grandfather out in the country. We drove through three sections of town, Ybor City (Cuban), then through the Back section, and finally into the sparsely populated, White countryfied folks section.
The music drifting out of the various restaurants, juke joints, and honky tonks was a musical journey in and of itself. It went from Xavier Cugat (Afro Cuban) to Elmore James (searing Blues), to Hank Williams (Cajun country).
Tampa is the largest port in Florida; consequently, there was also a broader international and heavy Caribbean influences, and just across the bay was St. Petersburg, a bustling tourist town that drew around a half-million people during the winter months along with transients following the warm weather and winter jobs.
In St Pete, along with the ‘Snowbirds’ came the regional music from their neck of the woods. I got my first tastes of Jazz, Classical, and a plethora of Mid West and East Coast po’folks’ music while visiting my cousins who lived in St. Pete.
Then, there was the church music blasting out of the White and Black Pentecostal and Baptist churches on Sunday morning. Sunday church meetings the Deep South are events, not a sanctimonious occasions.
However, the real events were the the traveling Holy-Roller, tent revivals - they were the precursors to the TV evangelicals - lot’s of spirited entertainment with a healthy dose of hellfire and brimstone.On occasion, me and some friends used to pop a quarter into the box to go in and catch the show.
Leon Russell’s late 1960s and early 1970s concerts were based on a ‘Southern, tent revival meeting’ theme - his 1970 Fillmore East concert on Youtube is a brilliant example of the feeling and style. In his heyday, Leon fired the crowds up into a hand waving frenzy.
Sometimes, on Sunday afternoons, I used to go down to the Hillsborough River and watch the baptisms accompanied a string band, maybe some drums, and lots of sanctified singing. You ain’t never seen a baptism until you seen a Pentecostal or Baptist dunking baptism - so much for that solemn bullshit in establishment churches.
Florida was still pretty much wilderness back then, and I was fortunate enough to have a fairly impoverished childhood. For awhile, we lived in the country around people who were more impoverished than we were - they didn’t have electricity or running water. That’s where it gets interesting because the people had to make-do with what they had, and make their own entertainment. It was also where I saw people making homemade instruments from stuff the salvaged off scrap heaps and plucked out of trash fires.
Some of those people could reach out and touch your soul with with nothing more than a one string, diddley bow and their voice.
Moving through time, my real revelation came in 1959 at the Florida State Fair during the segregation days. Me and my chums climbed over the fence and were wandering around trying to pickup girls when I passed by a tent where a black guy was playing an electric guitar and shapely,dark skinned girls were dancing outside as a teaser - it was a Chit’lin Circut, Black Hoochie-Coochie show. It was guy playing the guitar that caught my attention, not the scantily clad ebony girls. In my fourteen years on this planet, I never saw anything like that before!
I immediately bought a ticket for fifty cents, but my friends were too chicken to be seen going into a Black show and being the only White folks there. The the Black and White sections were separated with a rope down the center of the aisle. I was the only person in the White section, but the Black folks side was SRO, and I was beginning to think I was the main attraction. However, when the performers hit the stage, the rope vanished, and I just became another face in the dancing crowd.
At the time, little did I know, the guitarist that mesmerised me was the legendary Guitar Slim (Eddie Jones). I had five dollars from collecting soda bottles, and I spent two bucks of it going back to watch him play. I was absolutely amazed at his stage style, singing, and virtuosity on the guitar.
The third time went back, the barker snatched my arm and whispered slyly. “You likes them chocolate drops, dont’cha?” It wasn’t the ebony girls, Guitar Slim done sanctified me or I got my soul possessed by Satan himself from listening to that music. That day changed my perception of reality - things ain’t never been the same since.
After that experience, to my ears, most all the Rock and Roll playing on the radio was was just perfunctory, soulless garbage, and I went exploring.
Late one night, I got tired of listening to the local Rock stations play the same ten tunes over and over again. While I was spinning the tuner dial, I came across Jimmy Reed playing “I ain’t Got You” on a Memphis station drifting in and out while bouncing off the ionosphere - some six hundred miles away. I became a big Jimmy Reed fan and still am - he was a genius at capturing fleeting moments and images in his simple, yet poignant lyrics.
The next day, I made an antenna out of window screen and mounted it on the roof so I could pick the station up, but the signal strength depended on it being late at night and conducive atmospheric conditions - not very dependable.
The same year year, I heard Ray Charles’ “What’d I Say” and hustled up the money to buy his albums. That was the first turn on to Jazz - Ray was more than just an R&B man, he touched on everything.
He came to town the next year, and I begged, borrowed, and stole to get enough money to see that show.
Again, segregation was still in place, but Ray didn’t play for segregated audiences. There was a lot of redneck cops to make sure the salt and pepper didn’t get mixed together. They had a rope down the middle of the aisle again - but - it was an SRO crowd and the cops couldn’t do anything about the salt getting all mixed up with the pepper at the back of the auditorium. As far as race goes it was a toss-up as to who outnumbered who at that concert.
It was an experience because things like that make one realize the power of music to transcend prejudice and cultural differences.
Turned out that it was two, local Black operated radio stations that promoted the show. The next day, I checked out the stations. One station had the best, most diverse programing - it was like the forerunner to the first underground stations in the 1960s that played an eclectic range of music. They covered everything from popular R&B to Gospel, Soul, hard core Blues, and Jazz.
That’s when I got into Jazz - I heard Jimmy Smith’s “The Sermon” and was hooked. At the time, I didn’t know it, but I was also listening to cutting edge work by Miles Davis, Ornette Coleman, and Brubeck among others - 1959-60 was they year that Jazz took a new direction.
The Jazz DJs very knowledgable about every aspect of Jazz and backgrounds of the musicians; consequently, it was more like a college class than simply listening to the music.
I got to be friends with a couple of the DJ’s - I guess they found rather novel that a 15 year-old White boy was calling-in requesting a Bobby “Blue” Bland song or a piece by Horace Silver.
Back in those days, I had to keep my record collection and musical preferences under wraps from my peers because most of them were a bunch of stone cold, redneck racists - if they knew my taste in music, I’d have been getting my ass kicked or worse for being a “Nigger lover.”
One day, a friend who played drums in a band saw several Ray Charles and Muddy Waters’ albums in my record collection - turned out he was into the same music I was. That’s when I discovered it was musicians that I had the most in common with and got established in the underground - the fringes of society.
Since those days, I’ve had a good times, heard great music, and a had lot of great adventures.
I’ve been fortunate in that I had the opportunity to see many of the legendary musicians and groups perform live in small venues, and many before they became legends.
Over the years, my musical preferences shifted from Jazz to Rock to Blues to the avant garde, or whatever caught my fancy at the time, but I always go back to the Blues where my journey started - my roots - so basically that’s how this blog is going to work - “Flights of Fancy.”
Next Up: 50 Years Ago - “The Summer of Love”
Fifty years ago, a seismic event happened in San Francisco that not only changed the course of history, but the direction of music. The Counterculture movement was born from and driven by music: San Francisco was the epicenter of the “Counterculture” movement - the term, “Hippie” was coined there. The concert halls, Fillmore Auditorium and Avalon Ballroom, were the Mecca for the top acts in the world and drew thousands of people to the Haight-Ashbury and Golden Gate Park in 1967. The first international pop festival, “The Monterey Pop Festival,” happened that summer featuring Otis Redding. At Monterey, Jimi Hendrix set fire to his guitar, and Pete Townshend smashed his guitar to pieces - it was history in the making. By a fluke of fate, I was there to be a part of all of it.