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Jul. 22nd, 2014


Catamount Community Radio - July 20, 2014

I blame it on the supermoon. As I was driving to the airport to pick up the rental minivan, I was honked at once, and shouted at by a passing motorcyclist. I'm assuming the reason each time was that I was driving too slow, even though I was probably going around 55 mph. Once in the van on the way home I saw one near accident, as a car in the middle turning lane almost merged directly into another car, and then a guy nonchalantly driving in the bike lane. I had a premonition, but whatever. I picked up the spousal unit, the issue, the mother-in-law, the dog and the various and sundry luggage and off we were to Michigan. It happened in Dandridge, Tennessee. I was waiting at a light. It turned green. I proceeded out into the intersection when suddenly out of nowhere comes a Toyota Corolla. It plowed into the front of the van, completely tearing off the front bumper. F¶&k! Spent the night in Dandridge, got a replacement vehicle (Chevrolet Traverse, which I prefer to the Dodge Caravan), and drove all the way to Mancelona the next day (a 15-hour drive). But what a way to start the vacation. I knew it was around that date, and I just checked it: it was exactly that date. July 12, 2014. I've always been a pretty careful driver; in 34 years of driving I had never had an accident. And now, every time I'm behind the wheel I see danger everywhere. I feel like turning in my license.

So the screeching-of-the-tires sound effect that I use every Sunday to start the show had special resonance today. Nevertheless, it was good to be back doing radio after a week off.

Mary Ellen wins the cover contest with a perfect score. Dandy missed only one question, but that wasn't good enough this week!

1. Lake Street Drive is doing a number called "Rich Girl." Whose tune is it? Hall & Oates's.

2. Who is interpreting Cole Porter's "Ev'ry Time We Say Goodbye" on the tenor sax? - Sonny Rollins

3. Choose the number, between 0 and 9. The answer is nine (Bill Frisell playing Lennon's #9 Dream.)

4. What's the name of the tune Mongo Santamaría is playing? "In a Gadda-da-Vida"

Congrats to Mary Ellen, and happy birthday to both Dandy and Mary Ellen. Dandy, on the 17th; Mary Ellen, on the 21st.

Catamount Community Radio, Sunday mornings 10-12 (Eastern Coast) on WWCU-FM.

1. Jason Moran – Arizona Landscape
2. Studio Rio & Sly and the Stone – Family Affair
3. Charles Mingus – Self-Portrait in 3 Colors
4. John Pizzarelli – I Like Jersey Best
5. Keith Jarrett – Blackbird, Bye Bye
6. Bill Charlap – Fantastic Rhyrthm
7. Lake Street Drive – Rich Girl
8. Christian McBride & Roy Hargrove – Baubles, Bangles, and Beads
9. Donny Hathaway – Tryin’ Times
10. Django Reinhardt – Undecided
11. Sonny Rollins – Ev’ry Time We Say Good-bye
12. Nick Lowe – Lately I’ve Let Things Slide
13. Kacey Musgraves – Keep It to Yourself
14. Esbjörn Svensson – Belive, Beleft, Below
15. Ahmad Jamal – We Live in Two Different Worlds
16. Bob Marley – Mr. Chatterbox
17. Joel Fraham – Away from Home
18. Mary Ann McCall – Big Butter and Egg Man
19. Bill Frisell - #9 Dream
20. Anita O’Day – An Occasional Man
21. Duke Ellington – Solitude
22. Nick Lowe – What Lack of Love Has Done
23. Kool Keith – Alpha Omega
24. Count Basie – Bill’s Mill
25. Mongo Santamaria – In-a- Gadda-da-Vida
26. Paul Simon – Question for the Angels
27. Pizzacato Five – Baby Love Child
28. Allen Toussaint – Blue Drag
29. Bobby McFerrin – Jesus Makes it Good

Jul. 8th, 2014


Park Dialogue

LITTLE BOY: Can I pet your dog?

ME: Sure, but be careful, because he's high strung and might jump.

LITTLE BOY: You wanna see my tree house? I got my lunch box, some toilet paper and a spying place.

ME: In the bushes over there?


ME: No thanks. Watch out for ticks. You know what a tick is?

LITTLE BOY: I know what a tick is. One time I had one on my nuts. Nothing happened. There ain't no ticks.

ME: OK, See you later.

Jul. 6th, 2014


Catamount Community Radio - July 6, 2014

There's a dude in a Ford F-350 with a trailer (which I would imagine contains two Harley Davidson motorcycles) driving back and forth in the parking lot. Why, I don't know.

I was walking Roscoe yesterday, holding the leash with only one finger (so the other ten could rest - I have eleven so I can play Beatle chords) when the dog took off at a dead run. I didn't release, but I think I pulled about half the tendons in my hand. It only hurts when I move my fingers.

Today we went hoboing across this land of yours and mine. Chuck Berry:

I left my home in Norfolk Virginia
California on my mind
Straddled that greyhound, rode him past Raleigh
On across Caroline

Stopped in Charlotte and bypassed Rock Hill
And we never was a minute late
We was ninety miles out of Atlanta by sundown
Rollin' 'cross the Georgia state

We had motor trouble it turned into a struggle
Half way 'cross Alabama
And that 'hound broke down and left us all stranded
In downtown Birmingham

Straight off, I bought me a through train ticket
Ridin' 'cross Mississippi clean
And I was on that midnight flier out of Birmingham
Smoking into New Orleans

Somebody help me get out of Louisiana
Just help me get to Houston Town
There's people there who care a little 'bout me
And they won't let the poor boy down

Sure as you're born, they bought me a silk suit
Put luggage in my hands
And I woke up high over Albuquerque
On a jet to the promised land

Workin' on a T-bone steak a la carte
Flying over to the golden state
Oh, when the pilot told me us in thirteen minutes
He was headin' at the terminal gate

Swing low sweet chariot, come down easy
Taxi to the terminal zone
Cut your engines and cool your wings
And let me make it to the telephone

Los Angeles give me Norfolk Virginia
Tidewater four ten o nine
Tell the folks back home this is the promised land callin'
And the poor boy's on the line

Ah, and that Michigan water tastes like sherry wine. Yes, that Michigan water tastes like sherry wine. Mississippi water tastes like turpentine. Robert Plant told me there's a girl in California with love in her eyes and flowers in her hair.

Randy Newman, Louisiana 1927:

President Coolidge came down in a railroad train
With a little fat man with a note-pad in his hand
The President say, "Little fat man isn't it a shame what the river has done
To this poor cracker's land."

Tom Waits sang about his Jersey girl. Stars fell on Alabama. Bill Charlap played Leonard Bernstein's "Ohio" on the piano. In short, we covered a lot of ground.

It was just over a month ago that my brother and Maya heard Bobby Womack sing. Now he's dead. I played a little tribute to him today.

Mary Ellen and Jim Dandy tie in the cover contest.

1. Eric Alexander played the tune on his tenor. What is the tune and whose is it? - "She's Out of my Life," Michael Jackson.

2. What's the name of the tune, and who is playing it. The hint was it wasn't Bill Frisell, or Marc Ribot or Chester Atkins. - "Georgia" (or Georgia on my Mind") played by John Scofield.

3. Johnny Cash sang "Hidden Shame." Whose tune is it? - Elvis Costello's

4. Tom Waits sang his "Jersey Girl." Who famously covered it? - Bruce Springsteen.

No show next Sunday as Marco will be on the road. But I plan to get my radio on Sunday morning, July 20.

Catamount Community Radio, Sunday mornings 10-12 (Eastern Coast) on Power 90.5.

1. Lord Creator – Such is Life
2. Chuck Berry – Promised Land
3. Count Basie – Indiana
4. Jimmie Rodgers – T for Texas
5. Jelly Roll Morton – Michigan Water Blues
6. Roy Hargrove – Evr’ybody Wants to be a Cat
7. Dr. John – Waiting for the Train
8. Adriana Calcanhotto – Cantada (depois de ter voce)
9. Andrew Hill – Mira
10. Eric Alexander – She’s Out of my Life
11. Sun Ra – State Street
12. Led Zeppelin – Going to California
13. John Scofield – Georgia
14. Bill Charlap – Ohio
15. Thelonious Monk – Bright Mississippi
16. Coleman Hawkins – Out of Nowhere
17. Randy Newman – Louisiana 1927
18. Bobby Womack – That’s the Way I Fell about ‘Cha
19. Ben Webster – Stars Fell on Alabama
20. Johnny Cash – Hidden Shame
21. Allen Toussaint – Going Places
22. The Staple Singers – Long Walk to D.C.
23. Bruce Springsteen – 4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)
24. Tom Waits – Jersey Girl
25. Serge Gainsbourg – New York, USA
26. Miles Davis – New York Girl
27. Hall & Oates – Thank You For
28. Charlie Daniels – The Star-Spangled Banner


Jun. 29th, 2014


Catamount Community Radio - June 29, 2014

Last night I went to bed early, thinking I'll wake up nice and early, fresh and ready to go for tomorrow's radio show. The problem is, if you go to bed too early, you run the risk of waking up in the middle of the night, unable to get back to sleep. So I wake up, look at the clock, and it's like 4:24 a.m. It did give me an idea for a puzzle:

A palindrome is a word o phrase whose letters are identical beginning to end and end to beginning. Like "Hannah" or "race car." So, 4:24 is the numerical equivalent of a palindrome. During the course of a day, there will be numerous numerical palindromes on the clock. The first, 12:21 a.m. The first part of the question is, how many in the course of the day if your clock radio is on the 12-hour a.m./p.m setting? The second part, how many if the clock is set on military time (e.g. 3:00 p.m. is 15:00)?

The theme today was summer. "Summer Wind," "Summer Breeze," "Summertime" "All Summer Long," "Summer Madness," etc.

I'm quite fond of LFO's "Summer Girls," mainly because of the randomness of the lyrics:

I like girls that wear Abercrombie and Fitch
I'd take her if I had one wish
But she's been gone
Since that summer, since that summer

In the summertime girls got it goin' on
Shake and wiggle to a hip hop song
Summertime girls are the kind I like
I'll steal your honey like I stole your bike


Like the color purple, macaroni and cheese
Ruby red slippers and a bunch of trees

When I first heard the expression "Abercombrie and Fitch" it sounded more like a law practice than a clothing retailer. Sometimes I bust a move to this tune in the living room.

Eleni Mandell: "Spring can be tragical / but summertime is magical."

Jim Dandy comes back as cover contest champion, wrestling the title away from Mary Ellen like Catamount Community Radio wrestles the airwaves away from the electric guitars.

1. "Theme from a Summer Place" - Three part question.

a) Why was the tune written? - It was written for the movie "A Summer Place"
b) Who had a hit with it back in the day? - Percy Faith (1960)
c) Who is covering it? - Sketchshow (Ryiuichi Sakamoto and Haruomi Hosono)

2. On Kid Rock's "All Summer Long," where is the basic riff lifted from? - Warren Zevon's "Werewolves of London."

3. What famous rap tune samples Kool & the Gang's "Summer Madness"? - DJ Jazzy Jeff and Fresh Prince's "Summertime"

4. The Isley Brothers are covering "Summer Breeze." Who had a a hit with it originally? - Seals & Crofts

Catamount Community Radio, Sunday mornings 10-12 (East Coast), on WWCU-FM.

1. Harry Nilsson – Turn on your Radio
2. Miles Davis – Milestones
3. Frank Sinatra – Summer Wind
4. Larry Goldings – Back in the Day
5. Dionne Warwick – Do You Know the Way to San José
6. Aretha Franklin – Walk on By (Studio Rio Remix)
7. Tom Waits – Swordfish Trombone
8. Duke Ellington – Feet Bone
9. Sketchshow – Theme from a Summer Place
10. Lester Young – Way Down Yonder in New Orleans
11. Dinah Washington – When I Fall in Love
12. Louis Armstrong – Leap Frog
13. Tesfa Maryam Kidane – Heywete
14. Kid Rock – All Summer Long
15. Charles Mingus – The Hatian Fight Song
16. Sonny Stitt – I Don’t Stand a Ghost of a Chance
17. LFO – Summer Girls
18. The Isley Brothers – It’s Your Thing (Studio Rio Remix)
19. Eleni Mandell – Magic Summertime
20. Marc Ribot – Aquí como allá
21. Kool & the Gang – Summer Madness
22. Jackie Wilson – Baby Workout
23. Sarah Vaughan – Summertime (UFO Remix)
24. The Isley Brothers – Summer Breeze
25. Frank Catalano – Bang!
26. Gale Garnett – We’ll Sing in the Sunshine
27. Anat Cohen, Ingrid Jensen, Jason Moran – Three’s Free
28. Miles Davis – Summertime

Jun. 23rd, 2014


Catamount Community Radio - June 22, 2014

To celebrate her birthday (18th - I can hardly wrap my head around that!), the issue wanted to go zip-lining. So even though I'm afraid of heights, I decided to humor her. As soon as the show was over, I rushed home, we piled into the car and headed for Sevierville, TN to do the deed. It wasn't so bad; it was actually fun. We even stopped at a seafood place on the way home where I indulged in oysters, fried calamari, collard greens and beer.

I had my fun in New York City, the reason for which there was no show last Sunday. Today I played music by the great musicians I heard up there: Bobby McFerrin, Wynton Marsalis, Eric Alexander, and Anat Cohen. We heard Anat Cohen both on clarinet and tenor sax. A couple from Eric Alexander, including "The Star-Crossed Lovers" from the Ellington book. I quipped, "I'm not a star-crossed lover, but I do love cross-words." Plus, since it was Father's Day last Sunday, I played some father-themed tunes to compensate. Anita O'Day singing Cole Porter's "My Heart Belongs to Daddy"

While tearing off a game of golf
I may make a play for the caddy
But when I do, I don't follow through
'Cause my heart belongs to Daddy

We heard Paul Simon's "Father and Daughter":

If you leap awake
In the mirror of a bad dream
And for a fraction of a second
You can't remember where you are
Just open your window
And follow your memory upstream
To the meadow in the mountain
Where we counted every falling star

I believe a light that shines on you
Will shine on you forever
And though I can't guarantee
There's nothing scary hiding under your bed
I'm gonna stand guard like a postcard
of a Golden Retriever
And never leave till I leave you
With a sweet dream in your bed

I introduced "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag" thusly: "Well, the truth is I don't have a brand new bag, but my old bag is pretty groovy. I've got a pair of headphones in there, a notebook and a pen, and a map."

I framed the show with Bobby McFerrin's recent "Jesus Makes it Good."

Mary Ellen won the cover contest in a rout.

1. What's the tune Larry Goldings is covering on the 88s? - The Beach Boys' "In my Room"

2. What is the tune being done in the bluegrass style? And for extra credit points, what are some of the lyrics? - Elton John, "Bennie and the Jets" ("She's got electric boots, a mohair suit, You know I read it in a magazine...")

3. Anat Cohen is on the clarinet, but who is on the guitar on this duet, and what is the tune? - Bill Frisell on the guitar playing the Beatles' "Come Together." Jim guessed Marc Ribot, which is a good guess.

4. What tune is Eric Alexander covering on his tenor sax? - Al Green's "Let's Stay Together."

Catamount Community Radio, Sunday mornings 10-12 (Right Coast) on WWCU.

1. Bobby McFerrin – Jesus Makes it Good
2. George Benson – Song for my Father
3. The Cosmic Rays – Daddy Gonna Tell You no Lies
4. Wynton Marsalis – For All We Know
5. Paul Simon – Father and Daughter
6. MF Doom – Monosodium Glutamante (DJ Cucumber Mix)
7. Anita O’Day – My Heart Belongs to Daddy
8. Larry Goldings – In my Room
9. Ballin’ the Jack – Old Man Blues
10. T-Bone Walker – Papa Ain’t Salty
11. Pickin’ On Series – Bennie and the Jets
12. Nick Lowe – Hope for Us All
13. Christian McBride & Ron Blake – Shake and Blake
14. Fats Waller – Old Grand Dad
15. Kahil El’Zabar – All Blues
16. George Benson – Benson’s Rider
17. Eric Alexander – The Star-Crossed Lovers
18. Anat Cohen & Bill Frisell – Come Together
19. James Brown – Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag
20. Anat Cohen – The Wedding
21. Charlie Parker – Stupendous
22. Freddy King – The Bossa Nova Watusi Twist
23. Eric Alexander – Let’s Stay Together
24. Duke Ellington – Sepia Panorama
25. Duke Ellington – Harlem Air Shaft
26. Bobby McFerrin – Jesus Makes it Good


Jun. 21st, 2014


Anat Cohen – June 15, 2014

This gig was at the Village Vanguard, a club I’d never been to before. Right from the get-go, I have to say it was (along with the LCJO) the musical highlight of my trip to New York. I arrived early, as I always do, and was seated at the bar, which is small and at the back of the room. But the venue is small enough that you’re never that far from the stage.

Before the show started, Cohen was chatting with some friends who were also at the bar. I heard her speak Hebrew and English both. I resisted the temptation to approach her to tell her how much I enjoyed her playing at the James Moody tribute a year or so ago, when I saw her duet with Paquito d’Rivera.

Her first number she did on clarinet, an up-tempo ostinato thing. She combined bent notes with high-speed runs. On the rests she would smile and sway back and forth. I think you (at least I) enjoy live music more when it is obvious that the musicians are enjoying themselves, and even more if the musicians seem like warm, genuine, nice people. Cohen seems to me to be this type of musician.

I have in my library some of her tunes, as well as tunes by her and her brothers (filed under “3 Cohens"), but I must confess that the music she played this evening affected me more than any recordings I have of her. The trio setting (Cohen alternating between clarinet and tenor sax, bass, and drums), was more than adequate; I didn’t feel the absence of a comping instrument like the piano or the guitar.

When she puts the clarinet down and picks up the tenor it’s an odd sight, because she’s not a tall woman and the horn looks big in her hands. But despite her stature, her tone is huge, in the Coleman Hawkins, Sonny Rollins tradition. She can play it sweet and she can growl.

I think most of the tunes she played were originals, her own or by other members of the trio. She can sound old-fashioned or traditional and she can sound avant garde. How about this? Pharoh Sanders + Sonny Rollins + Ornette Coleman ÷ 3 = Anat Cohen.

At one point in the evening between tunes we heard the voice of an old woman coming from the kitchen (maybe not the kitchen, since they don’t serve food, but the room behind the bar). “I want a vodka, I said!” Everyone within earshot cracked up.

Cohen started the set with an original called “Happy Song” (she said she called it this because it is in a major key. Playing in a minor key is what comes natural to her). She played one called “Sure I Can” (originally, “Rhythm Changes in F”). The new title is because after a gig she is hungry and goes out for a few slices of pizza. Somebody told her, “you can’t go to Joe’s Pizza every night!” to which she responded, “sure I can!” She quipped at one point, “I hope you’re not missing any soccer games.”

As for standards, “For All We Know,” “I Don’t Stand a Ghost of a Chance” and “Mood Indigo.” All beautiful.

I remember her playing, all bluesy, the bell of her clarinet pointed out into the audience, her eyes closed.

Anat Cohen – clarinet and tenor sax
Martin Wind – bass
Kendrick Scott – drums

Matt Wilson was supposed to be sitting at the drums that night. Scott did a great job replacing him. A subtle drummer with a great dynamic range, from p to ff. Matt Wilson’s wife was to die of leukemia the next day, so our thoughts are with him and his family.

One of my favorite jazz shows of all time.


Jun. 20th, 2014


Eric Alexander Quartet - June 14, 2014

After the “Uptown Family Swing" gig I went back to chill in my room, because in a couple of hours I would be out to see another show. I had a ticket to see the Eric Alexander Quartet at Smoke (on Broadway at 105th St.). So after getting off the train at 125th St. I stopped in a convenience store and bought myself a tall boy. Back in the room I tried to figure out the best way to get there. I decided to take the local B train down to 103rd Street and walk the several blocks between there and the club.

Instead of eating in a restaurant I thought maybe I’ll just get a slice of pizza and save a little money. (I ate quite a few slices during this trip!). I got a slice to go and ate it while walking down the sidewalk. When I was finished I was about ready to throw the greasy paper plate into a trashcan on a corner when a rat came scampering out of the miscellaneous rubbish, startling me. At first I thought it was a squirrel. (I heard the New York City rats are smarter than their country cousins.)

My ticket was for the 10:30 show; as usual I was over-cautious and arrived at the venue (“Smoke”) at about 10:05. So I went to a bar down the street and had a couple of Stella Artois’s and divided my attention between the soccer game on the TV screen and the patrons’ billiard battles.

As soon as I got to the venue, I was seated at the bar immediately, next to some shaved-headed guy to my left. For some reason, I just didn’t like this guy. He struck me as a guy with a lot of money, who was probably a boss or supervisor of some sort, perhaps a lawyer, I just got the vibe from him (and from his conversations with the bartender) that he was used to being the man. But if we’re sitting at a bar listening to jazz, we’re all equal, regardless of our money or our power. Yes? I could be all wrong; maybe he is the sweetest cat out there, but that was my feeling.

Alexander plays in the hard bop style; almost every tune he did was hard driving and intense. He has great chops and strikes me as a sort of mischievous type. Although I hardly recognized any of the tunes, I very much enjoyed the show; perhaps a bit short on nuance, but heavy on the swing. The quartet:

Eric Alexander – tenor sax
Harold Mabern – piano
John Webber – bass
Joe Farnsworth – drums

Shortly after the gig started, special guest Steve Davis arrived with his trombone. One of the highlights for me was the interplay and harmonization between Alexander and Davis. While I’m not completely head over heels about trombone solos, I love the sound of the instrument in an ensemble setting.

They played maybe only one ballad during the evening. For an encore, Davis called “Blue Trane.”

Photos here.

Jun. 19th, 2014


Uptown Family Swing – June 14, 2014

Before going to New York, I do some research to figure out how I’m going to amuse myself. Music is always my first priority, followed by museums and food. I am not interested in shopping or Broadway shows, which is why I prefer to go alone, rather than en famille. This time around I was scrutinizing the Jazz at Lincoln Center website, and although there was nothing that I just had to see at Dizzy’s Coca Cola, on the calendar I ran across this. Called “Uptown Family Swing,” it was a performance by a youth dance troupe led by Aubrey Lynch II at the United Palace Theater way up at 175th Street (farther north in Manhattan than I had ever been). It was also free. My other option for this time slot was to go to Queens to see the Mets play the Padres (or was it the Brewers?). I opted for this show, because from my base I could simply “take the A train” a few stops north and I would be there.

So I’m waiting in line for my complementary ticket when a dreadlocked parent arrived with a ticket. His kid wasn’t going to dance that day so he decided not to attend the show. Everybody else in line was in pairs or small groups; I was the only loner, so he gave his ticket to me. That got me in early. It was general admission, so I decided to march right on up to the front row.

The opening act was the US Army Jazz Ambassadors, a highly competent, swinging big band. They did four numbers. Then intermission. After 15 minutes or so, in come the members of the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, filing in from a side door just next to where I was seated. There’s Wynton! There’s Ted Nash! There’s Marcus Printup! They’re playing in the pit … the world’s greatest big band in the pit!

The program advertised it as “a toe-tappin’ spectacular celebrating the timeless music of Duke Ellington.” That sounds about right. I can’t begin to describe (well, I can begin to describe, but I’m afraid any description I make will be woefully inadequate) how good the Ellington charts sound when played by this band of absolute aces. The program:

1. C Jam Blues
2. Ko-Ko
3. Braggin’ in Brass
4. Harlem Airshaft
5. Happy Go Lucky Local
6. Feet Bone
7. It Don’t Mean a Thing
8. Mood Indigo
9. Sepia Panorama
10. Kinda Dukish / Rockin’ in Rhythm
11. Chinoiserie
12. C Jam Blues (reprise)

This was without a doubt the musical highlight of my trip. Because of the dancers, the enthusiasm of the crowd, and the quality of the music, it was an experience to remember. I forgot all my petty anxieties and simply absorbed the music and the ambiance.

I think this is a Dominican neighborhood, but after the show I went across the street, found a Spanish tapas place, had a couple glasses of wine and the empanada del día. I headed back down to 125th Street contented. I still had another show to see that evening!

Photos here.

Jun. 18th, 2014


Bobby McFerrin & Questlove – June 13, 2014

While these guys may have rehearsed a little bit, I think this show was pretty much improvised. As we walked into the theater, Questlove was on stage alone, DJ-ing. When it was time to get started, out came Bobby McFerrin, who took a seat to the right of Questlove’s set-up (drum set, electronic drum set, and table with turntables, machines, computers). Bobby McFerrin can seemingly sing in any range, but for some reason he likes the upper registers and the falsetto, even though – in my opinion – his voice is best in a lower range, tenor or baritone. He can sound uncannily like Sly Stone if he feels like it. He likes to pound out percussion on his chest as he sings, as if he were imitating electronic music with his body.

McFerrin strikes me as a highly talented, grown-up kid, as if he were simply playing rather than performing. The whole mood of the show was playful. On the first number, Questlove played the drumset while McFerrin morphed from one tune to another, scatting three quarters of the time. Some of the numbers he touched upon: “I Shot the Sheriff,” Prince’s “Kiss,” the Beatles’ “Blackbird,” The Isley Brothers’ “It’s Your Thing,” Allen Toussaint’s “Everything I Do (Has Got to be Funky), "Tip-toe Through the Tulips,” “Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue,” and Led Zeppelin’s “Black Dog” (he scatted both Plant’s and Page’s parts), “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” “Flight of the Bumblebee,” and the Carpenters’ “Close to You.” You can imagine.

When this was over he spoke in the voice of some phlegmatic Englishman. Questlove then switched to the electronic drum-set and jammed on a funky beat while McFerrin went into fake convulsions. Questlove couldn’t resist imitating McFerrin. Then suddenly Questlove’s phone started ringing. He said he couldn’t turn off the ringer, because the phone was a Samsung … “It’s my mother, should I answer?” McFerrin took this as his cue for some vocal improvisation … Then Questlove quipped, “It’s not my mom, it’s the Tonight Show … I forgot to call in sick.”

Questlove: Are all your shows like this?
McFerrin: What?
Questlove: Are all your shows like this?
McFerrin: What do you mean?
Questlove: fun.
McFerrin: Yeah.
Questlove: We could go on tour; I could use an eighteenth job.

Later they were doing the riff from Elton John’s Bennie and the Jets, but McFerrin didn’t know the lyrics. He told the audience, if anybody knows the lyrics come on up on stage. Some douche came up on stage, and then confessed that he didn’t know the lyrics.

(Here are the lyrics, by the way, what they mean, I don’t know.

Hey kids, shake it loose together
The spotlight's hitting something
That's been known to change the weather
We'll kill the fatted calf tonight
So stick around
You're gonna hear electric music
Solid walls of sound)

Then later in the show, he asked if anybody could do any hip-hop dancing. A kid came up, he wasn’t bad, and McFerrin did his best to imitate his moves. He then invited up one of his students who did the beat-box while McFerrin scatted.

At the end, McFerrin even tried his hand at Questlove’s drums. He’s no drummer. It was adult kindergarten. I felt like we were witnessing what would more properly have taken place if McFerrin had called Questlove and said, "C’mon over and we’ll jam."

It was a good show. The mood was light, there was a lot of talent on stage, and we left feeling happy. Don’t worry.


Jun. 10th, 2014


Book Review – Stanley Crouch’s Kansas City Lightning: The Rise and Times of Charlie Parker

It’s been awhile since I’ve read a book that I just didn’t want to put down; you know, one of those books where you’re on page 183 and before you know it, you look down and you’re on page 287. This is one of those. (the truth be told, it's been awhile since I've read a whole book!)

This seems to be the first volume of a longer biographical project. It mostly covers Parker’s Kansas City years, with an excursion or two to the Big Apple and elsewhere. Crouch has been working on the book since the 1980s, and in that time he’s done a lot of interviews. This material enables him to tell the story as if it were a novel rather than a dry academic biography.

Anytime anybody talks about Parker, there are two broad topics: one is his music, and the other is his messy life. From early on in those Kansas City years, Parker dedicated himself to the alto saxophone with amazing drive, but at the same time seemed utterly incapable and unwilling to resist the temptations of drugs, alcohol and women. This is a familiar story. But in this book we can see the roots of it from when he was a teenager in Kansas City. Most of the accounts we are familiar with already are from his years in New York City.

So, as for his life, we learn about his mother’s dedication to him, his absent father (a Pullman porter), his troublesome teen-age marriage to Rebecca, his need to be out on the streets all night and his dalliances with drugs (which started at a very young age). As for his music, we hear about his early failures when he was laughed off the bandstands, his influences (Lester Young, Chu Berry, Roy Eldridge, and – most importantly – his mentor, Buster Smith), and his relentless drive to master his horn. (One of my favorite episodes is when Benny Goodman, making a visit to Kansas City, is put in his place by Smith in a jam session/cutting contest. The “professor,” despite being a great musician, was in most cases not interested in the spotlight but that night he felt obliged.)

Parker was intellectually curious. One minute he would be discussing philosophy and the next he would be sharing wine out of a paper bag with down-and-out juiceheads. His playing reflects this duality. Highly complex, lightning fast runs grounded with deep blues.

A talented storyteller, Crouch also knows his music and his history. The historical context and story of the young Bird are elegantly interwoven in this fine biography.

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July 2014




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