Charles Lloyd New Quartet @Wesleyan University Review

Rosemary and I spent a memorable evening in Middletown, Connecticut last night enjoying ourselves as patrons of the arts. First we savored a superb dinner at Tuscany Grill on College Street. The pan seared scallops over angel hair pasta served in a spicy but oh so tasty sauce was exquisite. We highly recommend this two-floor Italian restaurant. The service was impeccable. We sat upstairs in the restaurant, overlooking the bar, directly across from the high-definition TV screens mounted on the opposite side wall. CNN was broadcasting special coverage of the breaking developments in Egypt which continued to be unsettling. Change is going to come, but what will it mean for the rest of our planet in terms of next-level co-existence?

We finished our meal quickly to get to the Wesleyan University Crowell Concert Hall to hear a pre-concert talk by Sarah Politz. We got a little lost trying to find the building so we missed Sarah’s presentation. 😦 I wonder if Sarah has slides available and how I might contact her about that information? (I’m open to suggestions…)

The Wesleyan University Center for the Arts eleven-building complex houses classroom and studio facilities in support of arts programs at the university. The CFA Spring 2011 calendar offers a comprehensive choice of  leading, innovative world music performers. Anthony Braxton, noted American composer and jazz musician is a Professor of Music in the Wesleyan Music Department.

The Crowell Concert Hall is an architectural wonder with a breathtaking interior design. The stage is all housed in wood with creative textures of multi-tiered roofs that jut out at different angles. The acoustics of this 400+ seat venue are aesthetically pleasing. This was the perfect venue for the Charles Lloyd New Quartet. I felt like we had lifted and placed into the music setting that served as the backdrop for the ECM live Charles Lloyd Quartet recording Rabo de Nube.

I was finally getting to witness Charles Lloyd after many decades of  silently desiring to see him perform live. Charles Lloyd has a spirituality and presence that is very commanding yet humble. He plays the sweetest saxophone I have ever heard. His sax was constructed of soft white gold. His energy was amazing as he drew us in from the first breath.

Charles Lloyd is magical to watch. His phrasing on the sax captures your senses. He accents his saxophone playing with sweet melodic verse contrasted by spiritual meditation of the highest order. I would have to say he creates a church that effectively communicates each person’s sense of self-worship and faith. I truly loved watching him perform as he lifted his leg and knee to further accent the notes. He is a band leader who delegates telepathically and the quartet responds with instinctual punctuality.

Charles Lloyd is complemented by three super talented jazz musicians. Jason Moran on piano has the touch of the keys on the Steinway that mesmerize your senses. My wife and I have seen Jason play before with his bandwagon at Long Wharf  Theater in New Haven, where he did a recreation of Thelonious Monk‘s famous 1959 Town Hall Concert complete with black and white vintage 35mm footage. He made Charles Lloyd smile several times when he improvised or stretched out on his piano solos.

Charles Lloyd offered a varied music program.  His execution of “tenderness sutras” wove rich tapestries of the heart within us. He invited Jason Moran’s wife, Alicia Hall Moran, who is an extraordinary mezzo-soprano vocalist to accompany their version of “Go Down Moses”. Alicia’s operatic voice added a beautiful, haunting accent to the American Negro spiritual. What really struck me was the irony of hearing this song’s lyrics in light of the revolution of change happening in Egypt at the same moment in time as they played. History repeating history…

 

When Israel was in Egypt’s land: Let my people go,
Oppress’d so hard they could not stand, Let my People go.

Go down, Moses,
Way down in Egypt land,
Tell old Pharaoh,
Let my people go.

Charles Lloyd, tenor and alto saxophone, flute

Jason Moran, piano

Reuben Rogers, double-bass

Eric Harland, drums and percussion

Alicia Hall Moran, mezzo soprano

The New Charles Lloyd Quartet also features Reuben Rogers on stand up double bass. He was very relaxed in his role yet his ability to slap the notes or strum the strings earned your immediate respect.  I especially loved how into his distance he would go. taking us on that journey with him. His double bass I think was made of deep cherry red wood and it produced an eloquent resonance.

Eric Harland blew me away with his inventive drumming style. His technique and sensibilities captivated my attention as soon as he started at his drum kit. He would rest a folded over tambourine on the high hat or use the sets of bells he had on draped on either side of his drums. He had a really cool way of using his drum sticks to accent the music. He would drag the tip of the drum stick across the cymbal top at just the right point in the selection. He was never overpowering when he drummed but you paid strict attention to his drum shots and rolls as they were all very unique

Charles Lloyd made time after the concert to meet with fans and sign autographs. I was thrilled to meet him. He signed my concert program and the CD cover of his latest CD, which we heard a few songs from that night, The Mirror . I thanked him for his healing music. He folded his hands in prayer and bowed ever so slightly. I left his company elated and reassured being in his spiritual presence.


Buddy Guy Bluesman

Cover of "Damn Right I Got the Blues"
Cover of Damn Right I Got the Blues

Is it just me or is this winter giving you a major case of the blues too? Well Buddy Guy has a solid cure for the winter doldrums. Every January Buddy Guy takes up residence at his club,
Buddy Guy’s Legends in Chicago. Wish I was in Chicago catching his act at his house 😉

Buddy Guy is 74 years young. He’s been making some great music these past few years. Buddy Guy’s legacy has produced a treasure trove of classic blues gems. Three major highlights I enjoy from Buddy’s treasure chest that I play often are A Man and the Blues (1968), Damn Right, I’ve Got the Blues (1991) and Sweet Tea (2001).

He’s been a major influence on Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck and other guitar greats. He’s seminal to blues and rock and roll.

I’ve seen Buddy Guy several times live. He’s always an electrifying showman. The first time I saw Buddy Guy live was at The Salute to The Blues in 2003, where he played a rocking track with Angelique Kidjo and Vernon Reid, “Voodoo Child”. This number was performed at 3 a.m. in the morning, we were exhausted after 8 hours of concert and filming set changes. But this song launched us to our feet.

I next caught Buddy Guy at Toads Place in New Haven, Ct where John Mayer showed up unannounced. That was such a cool evening, standing at the edge of the stage watching them both play the blues with such earnest and mutual respect.

I then saw Buddy Guy just up the road apiece at Gathering of the Vibes in 2007, in Bridgeport, Ct. Here’s a Go Vibes video of Buddy Guy playing “Louisiana Blues.”

The last time  I saw  Buddy Guy live was at Madison Square Garden as Jeff Beck’s guest for the 25th Anniversary Rock and Roll Concert, October 30, 2009. Jeff Beck is so in awe of him.

Eric Clapton invited Buddy Guy to play at his Crossroads Guitar Festival in 2010 in Chicago. Buddy Guy has also appeared at the 2004 and 2007 Crossroads Guitar Festival events.

Here is some video footage of Buddy Guy, Ron Wood and Jonny Lang together in 2010.

Buddy Guy’s latest recording is called Living Proof, a most appropriate title In an earlier post this week about B.B. King I featured the video of the collaboration between Buddy Guy and B.B. King, “Stay Around A Little Longer.” It is one of two guest star tracks on Living Proof. The other guest track features Carlos Santana and Buddy Guy on “Where The Blues Began”. The rest of Living Proof is solid and distinct.

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Muddy Waters

I’ve been waxing nostalgic about the blues this month. I hope you are enjoying my recollections. Today’s post is dedicated to my favorite blues artist Muddy Waters.

I was very fortunate to see Muddy Waters perform twice live in concert. The first time was on October 7, 1978 at Players Tavern in Westport, Ct. Players Tavern was a small bar and nightclub  situated on the same property with the Westport Country Playhouse. Muddy Waters and his band were the only act that night and this club held no more than 250 people. A nice intimate setting, where you could pull up a table close to the stage.

I was walking across the bar room floor, with my head down not watching where I was going. Next thing I know I bump straight into this guy who knocks me right on my ass, my glasses went flying and I was a little stunned to tell you the truth. I look up and there is this big black hand outstretched offering to help me to my feet.

“Are you alright son?”, he says. I am quite embarrassed as he helps me to my feet. I dust myself off and another person hands me my glasses.

“I am thank you sir. I am sorry for the accident.”, I say.

“No son, its my fault I was just heading to the bar to order our table some drinks. What are you drinking? I’d like to buy you a drink for your troubles.”

I realize that it is Pinetop Perkins who has bowled me over so I agree to accept his offer. I ordered a rum and coke.

“Young man why don’t you join us at our table before the show begins.”, Pinetop says as he gathers the drinks.

I smile and say, “I’d be happy to do so.” So I help Pinetop bring the drinks over to the table.

Seated at the table is Bob Margolin and Muddy Waters himself, a woman on each arm. Muddy is entertaining everyone with jokes. Pinetop Perkins introduces me.” Muddy, I knocked this young man on his kiester on the way to the bar. He was a little shook up so I I asked him to join us.”

Muddy Waters smiles at me and says. “Hello son. I trust you’re none the worse for the wear. Feel free to join our table.”

Well as a major blues fan and someone who admires Muddy Waters and his band, I have totally hit pay dirt. I got to hear some great Chicago blues stories. It was very cool to get to meet the band before the show, they were so relaxed and comfortable in this setting.

I was given a seat right in front of Muddy Waters where he sat on a stool and played harmonica and guitar. What a treat it was to be that close to a living blues legend. Pinetop Perkins would smile at me from the piano as he played.

I had a fantastic night. After the show Pinetop said I hope you won’t be too sore tomorrow. I assured him I had forgotten about the pain which was replaced by good fortune.

The second time I saw Muddy Waters was from the seventh row of the New Haven Coliseum on April 29, 1979. Muddy Waters opened for Eric Clapton that night. He had the coliseum rocking with his inimitable style. His mojo was workin. Eric Clapton joined Muddy Waters for three songs, one of which was “Key to the Highway.” I loved the respect and admiration they showed each other on stage. Eric Clapton was very humble to be with Muddy. Muddy Waters was like a father figure to Eric Clapton.

ALL IMAGES © COPYRIGHT PAUL NATKIN

Killing Floor

“No time for the killing floor

No time left for you” – “No Time” by The Guess Who

So what exactly is meant by the phrase, “Killing Floor”? Who coined the phrase?

Killing floor stems from a classic old song associated with Chicago electric blues. Killing floor is also a reference to the place in the slaughterhouse where the stock was killed and then butchered, hence a scene of danger, difficulty, bloodshed, etc. A point of no return.

“Killing Floor” is a 1964 blues song recorded by Howlin’ Wolf, a.k.a. Chester Arthur Burnett on Chess Records, the definitive blues label. The guitar riff that opens this classic blues anthem was created by Hubert Sumlin, who is still playing today. Witness this “Killing Floor” video highlight with David Johansen and Hubert Sumlin filmed at Radio City Music Hall in 2003.
Rosemary and I attended this 5 1/2 hour star-studded event which was the Year of the Blues 2003, a 100 year celebration of the founding of the blues. The concert became a Sony Picture Classics feature-length film, Lightning In A Bottle, directed by Antoine Fuqua (Training Day) and produced by Martin Scorsese.

Musicians performing “Killing Floor”

I first heard “Killing Floor” on Electric Flag’s album, not realizing it was originally written and performed by Howlin” Wolf. It makes total sense now with Mike Bloomfield being a blues guitarist born and raised on the blues in Chicago. Electric Flag played “Killing Floor” as a great driving song with Mike Bloomfield on guitar, Buddy Miles on drums and Nick Gravenites on vocals. I really like the horn arrangement on this track from A Long Time Comin (1968).

One of my all time favorite recordings

Jimi Hendrix loved playing “Killing Floor.”  He was a fantastic blues guitarist. Here is his performance of “Killing Floor” from The Monterey Pop Festival in 1967 with The Jimi Hendrix Experience.

Led Zeppelin often played “Killing Floor” in their live set during their first concert tour of the United States. Killing Floor” evolved into “The Lemon Song” (Led Zeppelin II).

B. B. King – Daily Post 2011 #23

B. B. King is a national treasure. He is the undisputed “King of the Blues”.

We have seen B. B. King eight times live in concert. He is a consummate performer.

He’s 85 years young. We’ve watched him hold an audience spellbound in the palm of his hand.

I have a couple of  favorite B. B. King concert moments to share with you.

We last saw B. B. King at the Ives Center in Danbury, CT on the Western Connecticut State University campus. They have a band shell on the water where the artists perform. B. B. King was the headliner for an all day blues festival. He received a 10 minute standing ovation when he hit the stage. He was seated on a chair at the edge of the stage. Picture B. B. King with his orchestra around him, in front of a moat that separated him from the audience.

He then said something very funny to us all. “You know, I should have brought my fishing pole.” Referring to the water in front of him. That got a huge laugh from the audience. I think of that moment often.

That’s what I really love about B. B. King. He is in command of the moment.

Another true story about B. B. King was the second time we saw him in concert at Foxwoods Casino‘s Fox Theater in Ledyard, Ct in 2004. We had front row seats that night and I was making a connection with B. B. King, seated to his left.

He had just finished playing, “The Thrill is Gone“. He then took his guitar pick and sailed it right to me. It flew through the air perfectly and landed under my seat as I tried to catch it. Try as I may I could not find it, in the darkened theater. When the concert was over several people came over to where I was sitting and tried to find the pick for themselves. I was so afraid one of them had found it. But they all walked away without it.

I had given up hope locating that souvenir. I reached under my seat for my souvenir bag that I had gotten purchasing a B. B. King t-shirt in the lobby before the show. Much to my joy I discovered the guitar pick in the bag. B. B. King had sailed his guitar pick right into my souvenir bag under my seat. How cool was that?

If you get the chance go see B. B. King in concert. You will enjoy your evening and who knows maybe he’ll throw you a souvenir at the end of the evening.

Harry Chapin 30th Anniversary – Daily Post #14

Verities & Balderdash
Image via Wikipedia

This year marks the 30th Anniversary of Harry’s passing. I’ve been thinking about Harry a lot lately. I have written two blog posts this year alone about Harry Chapin, one about his second recording, Sniper and Other Love Songs and one about his third recording, Short Stories.

I plan to publish more concert and personal memories about Harry Chapin soon. I was very fortunate to meet Harry Chapin on several occasions. He was a warm, wonderful, obliging person. If I can ever find the interview I did with him at Paul Leka‘s Connecticut Recording Studio  I will publish that as well.

I hope you will enjoy these two pages scanned from my music concert scrapbook. In the mid-seventies I too was a FM jock on a couple of college radio stations. I also wrote music articles for a local free entertainment magazine known as The Entertainer.  I included the two articles I wrote in 1974 about Harry Chapin for this post.

I saw Harry Chapin and his band recording Verities and Balderdash in Bridgeport in 1974. That’s another story for another day 😉

As Harry always said, “Keep the Change”. 🙂

Charles Lloyd – Wesleyan University Jan 27/28 – Daily Post 2011 #4

Music is a healing force.” – Charles Lloyd

Charles Lloyd will be visiting Wesleyan University on January 27th for a panel discussion about the spirituality of music and again on January 28th when he will be performing an evening concert with the Charles Lloyd New Quartet. A pre-concert talk will be held at 7:15 p.m. by Sarah Politz, a Wesleyan Music Graduate student.

The Charles Lloyd New Quartet consists of Charles Lloyd on flute and saxophone, Jason Moran on piano, Reuben Rogers on bass,  and Eric Harland on drums.

The latest recording by the Charles Lloyd New Quartet is entitled, Mirror. It is a studio recording that creates an exquisite pastoral setting that accommodates “the need and the call for some tenderness,” says Lloyd.

Mirror was recently reviewed by Nate Chinen, esteemed jazz critic for the NY Times. His review echoes my sentiments about this recording. I consider Mirror one of the Top 10 recordings of 2010.

The dimensionality of an artist’s discussions about music as a healing force and the spirituality involved is of keen interest to me. Wesleyan is an ideal backdrop for this dialog because they have leadership ministry and world music programs. I am jazzed about the opportunity to explore these discussion with Charles Lloyd and other guests.

Anthony Braxton is the Music Department Chair at Wesleyan University and it is my sincere hope he will be directly involved with Charles Lloyd’s appearances on the Wesleyan campus.

I am looking forward to this rare opportunity with Charles Lloyd  to learn more about his music and views on spirituality at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Ct.

A Conversation about Music and Spirituality

with Charles Lloyd and Guests

Thursday January 27, 2011

4:15 p.m. in the Center for the Arts Hall

Free Admission

Sniper and other Love Songs – Harry Chapin – Daily Post 2011 #3

Harry Chapin after his concert at the Paramoun...
Image via Wikipedia

Harry Chapin is one of our favorite all-time singer-songwriters.  We were privileged to see him perform eight times from 1974 through 1979 . His concerts were a rich mixture of fun, provocative thoughts, and pinch of balderdash.

Harry was always personable and graciously accommodated my requests for interviews several times. I’ll never forget the night he did two back to back concerts for the World Hunger Year charity at Fairfield University and afterwards came back to the college radio station to do a 45 minute interview with me over the air live on WVOF-FM 88.5.  What made this interview significant was that this was the station where I conducted my “Sunday Morning Sunshine” radio show. Harry’s single was the song I used to open every show 🙂

Harry had a special quality about him, he treated you like an equal by honoring what you knew, then he would add to your collective consciousness with his unique perspectives about music and life.

His second album Sniper and other Love Songs was released in October 1972. It was a change in music direction with its added intensity and depth from Harry and his band. His Top 40 hit, “Taxi” from his first album, Heads and Tales was riding the charts in 1972, so Sniper and other Love Songs was quite the contrast.

Sniper and other Love Songs is a mixed bag of story songs, hit singles and folk classics. “Sniper” is a gripping song that puts you in the mind of Charles Whitman, the 1966 Texas  clock tower assassin. Harry’s portrayal of the sniper is eerily poetic as we find out why the sniper kills others. The voice in the sniper’s head that Harry sings about are the echoes of a mother ignoring and blaming her child for being born. The sniper’s last words, “I was, I am, and now I will be”, are an ironic triumph over a neglected life on earth which perhaps sheds the final insight into the psychology of the sniper, who is on a tortured quest for self-actualization.

Our other favorite two songs on this CD are “Better Place to Be“, which is a song that I urge you to listen to understand the aching of the human heart. “Circle” was a song Harry Chapin performed often as the encore at his concerts. We would join hands in the audience, chiming in with him and the band as their extended theater in the round.

I plan to write more about Harry Chapin on this blog, as I gather up my memories, so until that time 😉

Circle, Written By Harry Chapin, Lyrics copyright Harry Chapin Foundation

All my life’s a circle;
But I can’t tell you why;
Season’s spinning round again;
The years keep rollin’ by.

1. Sunday Morning Sunshine
2. Sniper
3. And The Baby Never Cries
4. Burning Herself
5. Barefoot Lady
6. Better Place To Be
7. Circle
8. Woman Child
9. Winter Song

Charles Xavier, Xmas Vibe

December 4th, 2010, Charles Xavier – “Xmas Vibe”

The Buttonwood Tree,  Middletown, Ct.

Mini-Vibraphone: Charles Xavier

Vocalist: Marcelle Gauvin

Guitar: Felix Rentschler

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“The ear is the only true writer and the only true reader.” – Robert Frost

The Buttonwood Tree’s art-style living room created an intimate ambiance for Charles Xavier’s Christmas avant-garde compositions. The setting proved to be an eclectic backdrop for the Charles Xavier, Xmas Vibe performance on Saturday, December 4th, 2010 in downtown Middletown. The proximity to Wesleyan University, famous for its renowned world music program, lent musical credibility to the evening’s proceedings.

Charles Xavier’s Christmas CD, Xmas Vibe is a mixed media abstract expressionist work.  It contains a combination of traditional Christmas songs which are first framed and then extended through various treatments a la musique electronique (Edgar Varese).

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The music format took on unique blends as the ensemble varied between Charles Xavier using a Mac Book computer for orchestral accompaniment and a primary focus with the mini-vibraphone. Charles’s role as jazz musician, composer, and arranger generated intriguing waves of energy. The various soundscapes guided the listener through new ways of interpreting old and familiar holiday classics.

Charles and his fellow musicians grounded us in such Christmas favorites as Silver Bells which allowed for the painted scenery to be enhanced with sensations’ of Oriental strivings, sharply accented by Church tower bells.  It was a total sensory experience immersing audience members in layers of textured sound, allowing the mind to escape to new realms of serenity.

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Charles Xavier and his group made effective use of mixed media especially when it combined spoken poetry offset by vibraphone peels and pinpoint electric guitar riffs. The selection Round Hill featured the poetry work of French poet , Charles Baudelaire’s The Enemy (1821-1867, Paris ,France).

The renditions of Christmas songs were a savored treat. Let It Snow conjured up the vision of jazzy feel sleigh ride across new fallen snow. A highlight of the evening was the Peanuts ,Charlie Brown classic by Vince Guaraldi, Christmas Time is Here. One could just tell this was Charles favorite piece as it is mine.

Felix Rentschlers’s efforts on the guitar were soft, yet melodic, achieving an astral plane when the tonality required. The slide guitar on the Christmas hymn, Silent Night was very poignant and lifting.

The metaphor that Felix and Charles established was both complimentary and evidenced precision in their craft.

Marcelle Gauvin’s vocals were a smart, added touch and she accented the holiday songs with a nightclub jazzy essence that contributed just the right musical collaboration layer to the mix.

There were several other Christmas selections performed that evening, such as Oh Christmas Tree with a French accordion technique that literally transported us to a riverboat on the Seine. O Holy Night fit in perfectly as the standard we all know and love.

The evening ended with an original composition by Charles Xavier, entitled Christmas Day is Almost Here. A wonderful composition that is evident of the joys and merriment that Christmas brings us young and old. Fittingly this selection closed out the evening as we thanked our musical trio, our host, Anne-Marie Cannata of The Buttonwood Tree and headed out into the mist of a New England holiday evening.

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