In A Silent Way

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First result of experimenting with iMovie and FotoMagico demo, and, recording off the monitor, a slideshow. Hope is to redeploy In Khorasan in a multi-media version, and do the same when I’ve got studio outtakes ready to go for the Tenzing project. (HD classical version on Explorations blog. Multi-media by Hippie Goat; me in design mode.)

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Nez’essary

In messing around with a slide.com show featuring the many hundreds of recordings that count as constituting the enormous ne plus ultra of my musical favorites, I surfed around looking for a cover graphic of an obscure LP by Michael Nesmith, Nevada Fighter. Several links lead to updated information about Mr. Nesmith, “Pa Nes,” and soon enough I was reflecting on my first encounter with his music.

Of course it was my original musical confidant and mentor, the amazing Dynamo Man, Jamie, who, after recognizing our affinity for country music and country-rock, early on in the fall of 1969, created first time experiences over luminaries The Byrds, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Grateful Dead, Linda Ronstadt, and, by the time 1970 rolled around, Michael Nesmith. | Wikipedia article |
Pa Nez at Pacific Arts
photo by Henry Diltz
I reckon not many late sixties era cowboy hippies found their was to Nesmith and The First National Band’s initial trilogy, released by RCA on their thin, rubbery excuse for vinyl. However, the Dynamo Man excitedly delivered the flexible slab of Magnetic South to the platter, and, as he often announced, ‘you’re not going to believe this Hoon!’

He was alluding to Nesmith’s iconic status as a member of one of The Monkees, created in 1965 by ‘programmers’ to be the stars of a mild counter-culture send-up and comedic TV show. Ironically, he didn’t know that in 1966 The Monkees were absolutely the band I related to most!

Pa Nez blew us away. Over the next year he completed his trilogy with Loose Salute and Nevada Fighter. His principle musical partner, pedal steel virtuoso Red Rhodes, was the crucial element in Nesmith’s country-inflected folk-rock. (Rhodes, joined our steel master pantheon, along with Lloyd Green, J.D. Maness, Sneaky Pete, Pete Drake, and Rusty Young.) I’ve read Nesmith described as a troubador. This seems right on the money, for Nesmith’s witty and grown-up songwriting provide settings for very personal music, rendered in his tuneful but wavering voice.

One can imagine that the honchos at RCA didn’t know what they were getting into with Nesmith. Apparently he had clout to release what he wanted to produce. There’s probably a good back story given that Nesmith’s clout played RCA in an era when it usually worked the other way around.

Nesmith played out his RCA string with the completion of the trilogy, Loose Salute and Nevada Fighter, the singular and volcanic Conway Twitty-meets-Frank Zappa and Pink Floyd hunk of psychedelic country rock, Tantamount to Treason Volume 1, (with the Second National Band, featuring the legendary guitarists James Burton and Al Casey.) Tantamount to Treason Volume 1, released in 1973, remains the only example of country rock welded to experimental psychedelia; it’s wonderfully unhinged stoner music.

Next was The Hits Keep On Comin’, duos with Rhodes, and beloved by Pa Nes fanatics for its intimacy and heart. Finally came Just Your Standard Ranch Stash, a lush and enjoyable melange.

Nesmith often is granted some royal status as a progenitor of country-rock. This rests on some of the country inflections he introduced into Monkees songs. That’s okay, but it doesn’t anticipate in anyway the murky origins of country-rock in L.A. and Woodstock and elsewhere. My own opinion is that Nesmith is more crucial for delivering masterpieces in the genre, after the genre’s 1967-1969 heyday. The Eagles earned millions, but Nesmith was the superior songwriter and auteur.

Dynamo Man and me, Hambone #1, wanted to meet Michael Nesmith. It was our intense high school desire to learn what made Nez tick. It wasn’t that we wanted to discover what the source of his musical genius was, it was much more directed toward discovering what was at the source of his being a visionary, of his being a sort of seer. After all, it was Pa Nez who figured out that VHS video would gain support on TV in short form music videos; it was Pa Nez who would point the way toward artistic control in starting his multi-media, artist-owned Pacific Arts.

I’ve collected some seeqPOD materials featuring Nesmith. There’s a precious and telling moment in the 1971 American Bandstand interview with Dick Clark, in which Clark asks Mike ‘if he considers himself to be a philosopher. Nez replies with an embarrassed nay-saying grumble. Pa Nez turned out to be much more than a mere philosopher.

excellent article @takecountryback
| cogent blog mention

Videoranch, Nesmith’s web site. Available there are the many masterpieces he’s produced over his long career. A suggested starting point world be the double CD set of Nez and The First National Band.

For the Love of Music Making

The great white soulman and musical mentor Delaney Bramlett passed away yesterday. He was 69.

This blog is not intended to mark losses or birthdays. Yet, Delaney’s moving on to the celestial bandstand compells me to suspend this intention. For one thing, I’ve wanted to mention Bramlett | Wikipedia | and something about the miliefrom which he first served notice, and, for another thing, Bramlett ties into some of the earliest roots of my musical own enthusiasms.

In 1970, I saw a TV concert broadcast on PBS. It was Leon Russell and I went out and purchased his first record on Shelter. At the time I didn’t know gospel music or southern soul from anything, and so I couldn’t peg what moved me. However,  I was struck by how much Russell and his large band of fabuloius freaks were enjoying themselves. One of my friends, in learning of my enthusiasm, turned me on to Delaney and Bonnie‘s Accept No Substitute. Great record but soon enough everybody in our musical karass is all over Delaney & Bonnie’s Atco debut, On Tour featuring Eric Clapton. Of course Clapton was the hook, yet this record resonated with me in just the same way Leon Russell and …Substitute did–no surprise–and the wonderful southern style and communal ethos laid the foundation for decades of future pleasures.

In 1971, Delaney and Bonnie released Motel Shot, and its hook was the presence of Gram Parsons. Soon enough my curiosity inspired me to connect the dots between southern styles of soul and country and gospel. Now, decades later, I’m reminded that the original thread leads back to Russell and the optimistic, stirring music of Delaney and Bonnie.

In reflecting upon all this, and figuring in my later understanding of how the music business came to work in the early seventies, the crucial point is this: around 1970 the major and small labels, having snapped up almost every extant self-contained rock band, offered their platform to sidemen and ad hoc ensembles of players. It was also the era of free form radio on which various one-ofs in this mode could earn a smattering of airplay. This opportunity was soon dissolved by rock’s success and the narrowing of radio formats during the mid-seventies and beyond.

Still, there remains the musical equivalent of a literature of sincere, front-porch style music, almost all of it provoked by the sheer love of music making, as opposed to maneuvering for huge hits. As I look back on this very brief moment, I can count all of Delaney and Bonnie, the fine records the Bramlett’s helped out on, such as Booker T. and Priscilla, the underground masterpiece by L.A. Getaway, (featuring the whiskey voiced Joel Scott Hill, Chris Etheridge, and Johnny Barbata,) and the three fine outings by Jesse Ed Davis. Similarly, across the country in Woodstock, NY, the communal ethos found advocates in the person of Geoff and Maria Muldaur, Bobby Charles, The Fabulous Rhinestones, and Paul Butterfield’s Better Days. Same vibe. The music of The Band is rooted in this ethos too. And, the southern wing is represented in the example of Duane Allman’s side man appearances, and by all sorts of invarably obscure sessions.

It should come as no surprise that all these musicians root their own musical roots in the rhythm and blues, country and gospel music of the fifties. Fold in the communal aesthetic–who shows up–and put it on the front porch or living room or hotel room (Delaney and Bonnie’s glorious Motel Shot,) or in the road house, and give it the side man’s modest to-the-side, ego, and it ends up not so different than the casual atmosphere that evokes the deep good times of casual yet devoted music making.

The following clip with David Rolston, captures the ethos and aesthetic perfectly.

I don’t know what the following clip is a trailer for, but you get the affable bear-like master reminiscing on the road in Clarksdale, Mississippi.


I’ll miss you and your music Delaney! Bonnie Bramlett, long divorced from Delaney, continues her own musical journey and she remains one of the great voices on the planet.
Delaney Bramlett.

Delaney & Bonnie & friends, with Eric Clapton

Delaney recently released A New Kind Of Blues. It’s superb as are his other records. | See DelaneyBramlett.com | The documentary The Festival Express is great stage and back stage glimpse–on tour–of the communal aesthetic.

ANy ol’ hippies and others are encouraged to comment positively.

Brotherhood

Chris McGregorIn 1976, having moved to Middlebury Vermont to run the record department of The Vermont Book Shop, I soon fell in with the musos broadcasting on WRMC-fm, the radio station at Middlebury College. My main guy there was Jon Hart. He was from Philadelphia and was a total jazz head. Late that winter I started guesting on his weekly show, and by the spring we were co-hosts. I learned a lot about jazz from Jon. He hipped me to Berendt’s The Jazz Book, to Sun Ra’s Philly roots, and told me of his many music quests to Third Street Jazz, the legendary record store in his hometown. In fact, he regularly brought back from such quests the limited edtion hand-coloured covers and records Sun Ra was producing in the seventies.

One of the rituals of doing or show was diving into the station’s large collection. By 1976 I was basically oriented to the great spread of Riverside and Prestige and Blue Note hard bop, and to the masters. Whereas Jon’s interests were broader and more advanced. He was a junior by then and he knew the station’s collection like the back of his hand. Before shows he would pull out, for example, Don Pullen’s ESP record, or those of Milford Graves and Guiseppe Logan, and have me deal with ’em! Jon turned me onto Pharoah Sanders, Randy Weston, Mal Waldron, and, bless him, he pulled out Dollar Brand’s African Piano disc on Japo one evening before a show. . . .turning point.

There was also in the collection a record by another South African, like Abdullah Ibrahim (Dollar Brand,) in WRMC’s collection. It was the Neon (RCA) pianist/composer/bandleader record of Chris McGregor. One evening we auditioned it. I know I dubbed it on a cassette. I don’t remember anything of the details of what we felt about it at the time. Although, invariably Jon and me got stoked by any sound of surprise we came upon. A few years later, I had acquired every last bit of McGregor vinyl I could locate, McGregor and his small band The Blue Notes, and his big band, The Brotherhood of Breath, his music became a mainstay of my own WRMC jazz show, Groovin’ High (1980-1988.) I became a crusader for his music as record maven and broadcaster. As well, early on I reckoned McGregor to be the South African equivalent, musically, of Charle Mingus.
Blue Notes Ogun Box
Although McGregor’s big band and combo music is volcanic too, the main point of it is that McGregor’s creative vision was attached to the people of South Africa. He states as much–as recounted by his wife Maxine in her book about her husband, Chris McGregor and the Brotherhood of Breath. McGregor met with acclaim in South Africa 1961 and 1963, convening various groupings of The Blue Notes starting in 1963. Unfortunately South Africa and its apartheid system provided a singularly dastardly environment for musical ambition and artistry.

Although McGregor would play farewell concerts in 1964 in South Africa, he, as did Abdullah Ibrahim and others, chose to exile himself by the end of that year. The sad fact is that McGregor managed to survive but never really thrive as a entrepreneurial musician over the next, his final, 25 years. Maxine tells that his insistence on the integrity of his music was “over the top,” unmanageable. Which is to suggest that no compromise for commercial advantage could carry for him any appeal. Yet, records were made, tours and nightlub stays were secured, and his run of iconoclastic and courageous artistic mission, today, turns out to have been well documented.
1st Polydor Records
The many musicians and listeners who were drawn to the deep contact point of the Brotherhood’s sound were transformed. I’ve never met anyone who’s been exposed to McGregor’s music who was ambivalent about the experience. For me, simply though records, my experience galvanized my understanding of the joyful humanity that is the fuel for any profound people’s music.

This fall, Ogun, the music label originally founded to document his music, has released the box set of the year (or any year,) Blue Notes: The Ogun Collection. It collects previously released and unreleased recordings made in the mid-sixtiez. mostly by the most famous core ensemble, Dudu Pukwana, alto saxophone, Mongezi Feza, trumpet, Johnny Dyani, bass, and only surviving member, drummer Louis Moholo. I was previously familiar with two of the sessions, so the new music just blew me totally away.

This isn’t intended to be a review. (Try Sid Smith.) For me, this is holy African music. Don’t resist. The past four ears have brought forth a steady stream of essential Brotherhood music. Just this past year all three of the Brotherhood’s Polydor sessions have been issued, including a brilliant unreleased date. An unreleased trio date is crucial. Previously unheard Brotherhood of Breath dates are being released by Cunieform. ‘Embarassment of riches’ underplays the magnitude of these gifts!
Trio Our Prayer

Recently issued Chris McGregor:

Blue Notes: The Ogun Collection (5CD)*
1. Blue Notes for Mongezi
2. Blue Notes In Concert
3. Blue Notes Farewell 1964
4. Blue Notes for Johnny

Very Urgent
Brotherhood*
Up To Earth
(all recorded for Polydor Records.uk)

Our Prayer (previously unreleased trio date)*
source: Downtown Music Gallery

Traveling Somewhere
Bremen to Bridgewater
Eclipse At Dawn*
source: Cunieform Records

*If you can’t get them all at once! Blue Notes: The Ogun Collection qualifies as a desert island recording. Reviews of the new issues.

W.C. Bamberger’s appreciation | Tony McGregor | The Blues Notes web site

Then there is the brotherhood of musos. Hat tip to Jon Hart; and to musicologist Doug Richardson, who laid on me a precious cassette of rare South African jazz from the 50’s and early 60’s, including several tracks of McGregor’s Castle Lager Big Band and the famed 1961 septet; and to Lars Rasmussen, who besides being a tireless supporter of South African jazz, (and Abdullah Ibrahim’s discographer,) has published an important book of biographical captures and rare photos, Cape Town Jazz 1959-1963. The Photographs of Hardy Stockman. Sad story: years ago I took the two Musica solo records of McGregor (Piano Song V1&2) to work to play in the store, and inadvertently left them on the back seat. Yeah, it was summer. It took ten years to track down some quality mp3s. (Turning up the records, each worth $500+, is impossible.) Here’s the opening track, the medley Burning Bush-Mbizo’s Baby, from Piano Song Volume 1. Enjoy.

 

update: December 21 site: Blue Notes The South African Jazz Exiles (hideously hard to navigate but a labor of love of one MFowler.)

Dub Collision Mix: Our Man Flint (I Need to Volunteer Today)

Our Man Flint

compiled by Dub Collision at nogutsnoglory studios

      1 Radio India – Trolling The Crossroads Of Bliss 05:36

 

      2 Alan Watts – The End 06:15

 

      3 Belgrade Dixieland Orchestra – Hello Dolly! 03:26

 

      4 Bim Sherman – Dub World 01:49

 

      5 Essence of the Earth – Night Spirit Walking 05:31

 

      6 Tom Ze – Filho do Pato 03:14

 

      7 Cyro Baptista – Tutuboli 02:59

 

      8 Mulatu Astatke – Kulunmanqueleshi 02:11

 

      9 Deti Picasso – Angel 04:43

 

      10 Sekolah Tinggi Seni Indonesia – Gendhing Munggang 02:35

 

      11 Chants liturgiques arméniens – Antienne 03:15

 

      12 Huun-Huur-Tu feat. Sainkho – Ovyur Hadyp 03:56

 

      13 Edward Vesala – Tahden Lento 03:11

 

      14 Menahan Street Band – Make The Road By Walking 03:02

 

      15 Omar Sosa – Rojo Changó 03:31

 

      16 Sjahin Durin f. Arto Tunçboyacýyan – Turqum Trance 05:46

 

      17 Rabih Abou-Khalil – No Mar Das Tuas Pernas 02:46

 

      18 Karya – Chi 03:13

 

      19 Ngqoko Women’s Ensemble – iNxanxadi 01:44

 

      20 Chinese Percussion 04:18

 

      21 Barack Obama – One Day I Volunteered 03:00

 

    22 Lee Perry – Our Man Flint 02:33

Hoon’s Tunes and More on Pandora

I’ve got five stations cooking on Pandora.

    Cold But Danceable
    Pop Purity Radio
    Feat Radio
    Pickin’ and a Grinnin’
    Hoon’s Tunes

I have no reason to believe there exists anybody who likes music who wouldn’t prefer to program their own stations by using Pandora’s front end to the Musical Genome Project, but feel free to check out what I’ve come up with. Were Pandora to provide a widget so it streams through non-Pandora pages, then my own creations could be made available via remote widget or player and then it would be a real killer app.

Rustic Illusions

My late friend Jamie helped me form my most abiding musical prejudices right from the git go starting in 1969. I came to him with hat in hand. He would pull vinyl out of his collection and donate it to the cause. At school he’d chuck me and tell me had another cardboard box of promos ‘just in’ from Warner-Reprise or Columbia. That was invite enough to know what we would be doing after school.

What do my prejudices owe him? It is easy enough to itemize: The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, Little Feat, Ry Cooder, Frank Zappa, Alan Toussaint, Richard Thompson, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Jackson Browne, The Band, Geoff & Maria, Bobby Charles, Bonnie Raitt, Taj Mahal, The Grateful Dead, and the list goes on and on. Mike Nesmith! He gave me a copy of The Kink’s Lola vs The Moneygoround. We were among the few who would rise to defend The Kinks against the Beatles and the Stones.

Then, as years turned into decades, we sustained a discussion about the record business. Although I had no track record whatsoever, Jamie welcomed my half-baked ideas about artist development. This led to actual adventures. We both survived the damnable beast, although he liked to play with it and I preferred to keep it far away.

Later, as a supporter and mentor of musical artistry, Jamie found his natural niche. This made sense, and his devotion echoed a deep value we both held: everybody is some kind of artist. Jamie was a cosmic cowboy gardener and of course it was better with him there in the studio helping you hear and see how good it was going to be.

 

Jamie liked the name for the band that never was: Anthem’s Rest. After we graduated from high school, Jamie urged me to buy a pedal steel guitar. I did so. He had a good idea how he would put my playing to use too, ‘after we get through college.’ We spent hours talking about what the fantasy band would sound like. Unbeknownst to me at the time, imagining mastery could not compensate for putting in the long hours to actually achieve mastery. Oh well.

Jamie's Hawken '72 yearbook page
Jamie’s Hawken ’72 yearbook page

The thing is, I suspect his vision for my own future contribution was like his vision for the many musicians he inspired and never ever gave up on. His belief was unwarranted with respect to me and my Sho-Bud. Yet his belief, generosity, and positive vibe needed no warrant or rationale. It’s just the way he was.

Goin’ Back

Jamie Bruce Cohen 1953-2008. Devastated. How can he be gone?

In September 1969 Jamie and I closed our latch the first day of 10th grade. Both of us were newcomers to prep school. Sometime later I entered his musical sanctuary–hard to describe–and got a glimpse of what I was in for.

He pulled out Moby Grape’s first record out of his enormous record collection and showed me the naughty cover. Played it. It would take many many words to describe how our musical and personal connection developed over four decades.

Jamie was the most relentlessly creative person I’ve ever met among the many many creative persons I’ve encountered. He was an all-rounder: musician, spoken word actor, writer, artist. But this list doesn’t capture fully the fact that he was always scribbling and musing and cooking and making experience his canvas too. He loved life and his people and, shit, well his biggest of hearts…

The Byrds. Our musical lodestar. On the day Byrdmaniax came out we set up his dad’s big ass speakers in middle of the den floor, smoked a bowl, and then laid down with our ears between the speakers. Jamie turned to me and said,

“This is what you call a first time listening experience!”

Surprised myself even

The Chinese built SX LG1 lap steel (via Rondo Music) is a cheapo guitar. It’s basically a nicely shaped hunk of green mahogany with a fretboard, and crap tuners, pick-up, electronics, and capped off by a wrap-around bridge. Throw on the strings that come with the guitar, and you have a unit that really isn’t playable out of its case. Oh, the nice case comes with the guitar. This has inspired a wag on the Steel Guitar Forum to describe the Rondo SX LG1 package as, “a case with a guitar included.”

The LG1 has a one piece bridge cover also configured to encompass the knobs. So, to change strings you have to pull the knobs off as well as unscrew the cover.

But, for $120 you do get that slab of wood and fretboard. The SX LG1 begs to be retrofitted with tuners, a new bridge, and pick-up/electronics. I figured I would do well to manage the bridge and pick-up. The last time I worked on a guitar was probably 30 years ago. I remember it well, because I badly mangled the job of fixing the intonation on the bridge of a National Reso.

This job went fairly well. I made a bridge out of aluminum angle. I bought the wrong size but beveled the working edge of the 2 3/4″ piece to be thin enough. I bought string-through ferrules and an EMG $20 blade pick-up from Stew-mac. I could have waited to take advantage of an expert’s drill press, but growing impatient, I drilled the string-through holes myself. I didn’t ruin anything.

Then I fashioned a cover for the knobs and electronics out of a $1 piece of craft composite board. Miraculously, had some Mahogany colored stain stored away.

Soldering the pick-up was the biggest challenge, mostly due to the well known “three hands” conundrum of soldering, and my rusty soldering chops. I should have resoldered all the electronics because the Chinese job was wretched. I did not; the procedure was aggravating enough as it was.

The basic goals were obtained. The modified SX intones fine, the pick-up balance is good and will improve when I slap on the new set of C6 Jagwires, and my testing for breakage hasn’t broken any of the very light electric guitar strings on the guitar. The SX sounds good too, although you can’t tell from the ambient-style tracks I’m recording now. And, needless to say, you couldn’t tell otherwise since I don’t really know how to play lap steel!

Dub Collision mix: Afro Bloo

DC-Afro-Bloo

    1 Cassandra Wilson Band f Marvin Sewell – Afroblue 11:31
    2 Chief Ebenezer Obey – Ijesha 3:12
    3 Up, Bustle & Out – Aqua No Ma! 4:55
    4 Karim Ziad – Sandiya 4:36
    5 The Pyramids – The River Ganges 11:05

[removed]
The inspirational kernal for this 35m mix is Marvin Sewell’s fine lap steel playing on a band warm-up before singer Cassandra Wilson took the stage at Umbria, Italy earlier this month. Incidentally, Cassandra’s new recording Loverly (buy@Amazon) is excellent.