Don “Sugarcane” Harris’s Vintage Era

Cover of "Usa Union"
Cover of Usa Union

I was listening to John Mayall‘s USA Union (1970) recording this afternoon. What really caught my ear was the stellar performance of Don “Sugarcane” Harris on electric violin.  USA Union was a continuation of  John Mayall’s  musical jazz/blues period which featured “no drums” that began with The Turning Point (Live -1969) and Empty Rooms (Studio – 1970).

John Mayall’s USA Union band consisted of:

John Mayall – Electric guitar, keyboards, harmonica and vocals

Harvey Mandel – Electric guitar

Larry “The Mole” Taylor –  Acoustic and electric bass

and Don “Sugarcane” Harris – Electric violin

Sugarcane Harris was in high demand from 1969 – 1971, his vintage years. Frank Zappa was a major fan of the American rock duo Don and Dewey so he recruited Sugarcane for his jazz avant-garde recording, Hot Rats. Frank Zappa continued to use Sugarcane on Burnt Weenie Sandwich, Weasels Ripped My Flesh, and Chunga’s Revenge.



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Meeting Across The River – Bruce Springsteen

Cover of "Meeting Across the River: Stori...
Cover via Amazon

Hey Eddie, can you give us a ride?

There are some songs we hear in this life that are hauntingly epic and touch our souls deeply. One such song is Bruce Springsteen’sMeeting Across The River” from the masterpiece Born to Run album. I’ve always been drawn to this song when I hear it played. It doesn’t hurt that my name is Eddie also. 😉

File:Borntorun.jpg

The song creates a picture which resolves into a black and white film noir. It’s one of those songs I would love to direct and produce a short film about, if I had the money, time and shooting location. For now, I’ll limit my theater of the mind to what is available about “Meeting Across The River.” Rest assured the dream is never far away.

“Meeting Across The River” was the “B” side to the single, “Born to Run“, which made it to the #23 position on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1975. According to the booklet in the 30th Anniversary Edition of Bruce Springsteen‘s Born To Run the musicians who recorded this song at the Record Plant Studio in New York City are:

Bruce Springsteen, Vocals

Roy Bittan, Piano

Richard Davis, Bass

Randy Brecker, Trumpet

My favorite line in the song, “this guy don’t dance”.

The song inspired a book of 20 stories by different authors, Meeting Across the River: Stories Inspired by the Haunting Bruce Springsteen Song .

As an experiment I purchased the Amazon Kindle Edition so I can listen to “Meeting Across The River” and read each author’s interpretation. I also purchased the audio edition of this unique book which was edited by The Boss himself. My lovely wife, Rosemary gave me her Barnes & Noble gift card to get that, thank you dear. (She’s a much more intense Springsteen fan than I am. She bought us tickets in 2009 to see Bruce & The E Street Band Concert #2 and Concert #5, the last concert at the old Giants Stadium before they gave it the Wrecking Ball!) .

I found thisYouTube video to be the best live version of “Meeting Across The River”. It was captured in 1978 at the Capitol Theater in Passaic, New Jersey. The video is choppy and cuts out but it’s so classic Bruce in athletic t-shirt, emoting at the microphone stand with Roy Bittan on piano.

Asides

My son Matthew bought me the 30th Anniversary Box Set as a Christmas present in 2005. His teacher and mentor at The School of Visual Arts was Chris Austopchuk. Chris is Vice President of Sony BMG Music Entertainment where he also handles art direction and design for Bruce Springsteen. Matthew was an intern for Chris at Sony and met Bruce Springsteen in Chris’s office a few years back.

Another friend of mine Ed NaHa was the A&R coordinator at Columbia Records for Born to Run when  it was certified Gold by the RIAA.

Hey Eddie, can you give us a ride?

Taj Mahal and Los Lobos at The Klein 2/19/11

We are subscribers to The Fairfield Theatre Company who produce and deliver quality concerts in our local market. Last night we attended the Taj Mahal and Los Lobos event at The Klein Memorial Auditorium in Bridgeport, Ct.

The Fairfield Theatre Company is a true class act. They e-mail you an evening guide that informs you about the specifics and logistics for the event. The guide shares a listing of local restaurants that offer discounts to ticket holders.

We appreciate value-add features like the FTC Evening Guide in addition to the first-rate acts they book and promote. We will be attending the last tour of The Radiators at Stage One in Fairfield on Saturday, February 26th.

It was really good to see the Taj Mahal Trio perform. Taj Mahal has a very immediate style and epitomizes the blues with his unique voice. He took the stage with his trio and went right to work playing f without being announced. I found that method very engaging. His set was a great combination of the blues and world music. He was ably backed by Bill Rich on bass and Kester Smith on the drums .

Taj played my favorite song of his, “Fishing Blues” with great aplomb. He mentioned fishing for blues and stripers in the Hous (short for the Housatonic River) and the place went nuts. It was a great tip of the hat to our local fishing business, as Taj is a world-class sports fishing professional.

Los Lobos, from East L.A. took the stage next and started their set acoustically playing acoustic songs from Acoustic En Vivo. They played Rosemary and my personal favorite track, “Saint Behind The Glass” magnificently. I have seen Los Lobos eight times in concert now and I must admit they are always exciting, creative with their music.

Their set was a mixed potpourri of their musical catalog. Cesar Rojas led us through “Yo Canto” which is a very danceable number.

Their regular drummer Cougar Estrada couldn’t join them on this tour as his wife is close to having their baby. David Hidalgo’s son (who is also the Los Lobos guitar roadie), David Hidalgo Jr. sat in on the drums. Louie Perez also drummed on two numbers as well.

This was the first concert I could hear Steve Berlin the best on keyboards and saxophone. I like how Steve accent’s Los Lobos sound with his riffs.

David Hidalgo played a Gold Les Paul Gibson and played the accordion on several songs. I find when Los Lobos plays songs that express their musical heritage, sung in Spanish I get a chill. They command my immediate respect as their music shows their culture.

The encore was a special treat as Los Lobos invited Taj Mahal to jam with them and jam he/they did. A fellow fan, Frederick Matt shot this video from the second row in front of me last night. It captures the spontaneity of Taj with Los Lobos singing “Lucille” by Little Richard. They ended their three song encore with “Guantanamera” which featured bassist Conrad Lozano on lead vocal.

I also wanted to share the art piece we have hanging in our foyer that Los Lobos signed for us last summer in New Haven after their concert on the green. Ain’t it cool, it was Rosemary’s idea to have them all sign this kerchief after the show.

Samuel Charters, Blues Hall of Fame 2011 Inductee

The Blues Foundation will be holding their annual Blues Hall of Fame induction on May 4, 2011. It’s part of their annual Blues Music Awards event.  I would love to go to Memphis, Tennessee some day with Rosemary and be an active part of this event. So yes, this is a bucket list item for me 😉

The Blues Hall of Fame Inductee who I am writing my daily blog post about is Samuel Charters.  I was conducting research for a future daily blog post about the Albert King with Stevie Ray Vaughn In Session CD/DVD recording when I happened upon Samuel Charters name as the person who wrote the liner notes for this auspicious blues event.

I pride myself as an amateur ethnomusicologist.  I graduated from the University of New Haven, minoring in music and ethnomusicology was my heart of hearts goal in 1974. I haven’t let go of staying in league with music study. I value music historians such as Alan Lomax and music journalists such as Peter Guralnick , Paul Oliver and Robert Palmer. It stands to reason that Samuel Charters would be on my radar screen as a blues music subject matter authority.

Samuel Charters (81 years young)  is being deservedly recognized for his vast contribution to the study and promotion of the blues music idiom. Samuel Charters has written seven books about the blues. He is also a noted subject matter authority on jazz and has written six titles about jazz.

His book The Country Blues is a definitive publication that sews together the threads of blues history in a musical and cultural quilt. It was, in his words, “an effort to force the white society to reconsider some of its racial attitudes, although it was a cry for help” for the blues artists.

What I find very fascinating is the contribution Samuel Charters, along with his wife Ann Charters have made to the legacy of music and literature. The Charters have collected substantive information about the blues, jazz, and African diaspora music. Ann is a noted subject matter authority on the Beat Generation which is another developing interest of mine. She wrote the first Jack Kerouac biography (which received co-operation from Kerouac himself).

Ann Charters is  a professor of American Literature at UCONN. Please take note of her illustrious curriculum vitae. http://english.uconn.edu/directory/uploads/cvs/charters.pdf

Samuel and Ann Charters split their time today between Sweden where they live (they grew disenchanted with the American political landscape and who could blame them) and the University of Connecticut in Storrs, Connecticut. They have unselfishly donated several large collections to UCONN’s Thomas J. Dodd Research Center for ongoing scholarly research.

I plan to spend some quality time researching a book I want to write at this facility. I can’t wait to pour through their exhaustive collection. Samuel and Ann Charters Archive of Blues and Vernacular African American Musical Culture

Thank you Ann and Samuel Charters for your devotion to the preservation of arts and literature! You enhance scholarly pursuit of the origins of music and the beat generation with very skillful detail.


Favorite Albums – Blood, Sweat and Tears, Child is Father to the Man

Blood Sweat and Tears, Child is Father to the Man is one of the most repeat playable recordings in my collection.  It was released on February 21, 1968. I love the horn arrangements, the vocals, and the lyrics. The album flows effortlessly from track to track.  Al Kooper is total genius on this recording. Give it a spin, its timeless.

 

 

 

Patti Smith at the 92nd Street Y

We spent an enjoyable evening with Patti Smith and special friends Wednesday night at the 92nd Street Y on Lexington Avenue in New York City. This event was rescheduled from January 6th which worked out in everyone’s favor, especially when you consider the blizzard we had in January. Last night was almost balmy as we walked around the area finding a restaurant and stopping in Crumbs Bake Shop for an Artie Lange cup cake 😉 

This was our second annual event featuring Patti Smith at 92 Y. Last year we saw Patti in a dual reading with her friend, Sam Shepard, thoroughly enjoying each other’s company. (Sam is a playwright, actor, television/ film director, folk singer and short story writer.)

As we found our way to our seat we were handed a blank 3×5 index card to ask Patti Smith a question for Q&A.  I came up with a question, jotted it down and handed it to the usher just before Patti Smith made her entrance.

Patti Smith was delightful as her improvisational and comedic selves were in harmony. She started the evening with the song I was hearing in my head,”My Blakean Year” which aptly portrays her poetic soul. Patti then switched to readings from Just Kids, which recently won the National Book Award for Non-Fiction. I really love when she shares Robert Mapplethorpe and the time they spent together at the Chelsea Hotel.  They have a beautiful, eternal friendship.

Photo by Joyce Culver for 92Y (Thank you for the picture, Joyce)

Patti then introduced Lenny Kaye through a passage of her book. Lenny Kaye has played 40 years with her as a member of The Patti Smith Group. Patti paid tribute to the late actress Maria Schneider by performing with Lenny a poignant, engaging version of “Redondo Beach” from Horses.

She then switched back to readings from her  book, interspersing her poems, injecting fun with impromptu asides with the audience. She read another passage from Just Kids, which set the stage to introduce Sam Shepard who was a surprise guest. Sam played guitar with Patti and Lenny, as we saw Sam Shepard the folkie emerge.

Our favorite part of the evening was when Patti recalled that she had to do Q&A. Lenny Kaye took the question cards out  of the front pocket flap of his sport coat. Much to our joy Lenny Kaye soon read our question. Lenny said, “Patti, this question is from Ed & Rosemary Jennings, who write, “What are your sentiments about Saint Francis of Assisi?” The audience chuckled at what seemed a random and obscure question. I had asked it purposely because I had read that Patti Smith’s next record will have a song about Saint Francis of Assisi.We love to know what influences artists to write and record their songs. Patti said that this was another commercial announcement (she lovingly promoted her friend and photographer Judy Linn’s book several times that evening.) Patti cautioned the audience that this was an important question as she graciously spoke about Saint Francis’s warm way with matter of the heart making significant contributions as an environmentalist and animal activist.  Patti was fair in saying that people of various faiths have come to respect Saint Francis’s contribution to the planet over the centuries. We smiled at Patti’s answer as devout Catholics, who hold the saints of the church in high esteem.

A person in the audience then asked Patti, “When will the record be coming out?”.  She shot right back at them, “When it’s ready.”

The music performed was a combination of poetry, as well as early influences. We especially liked the rendition of the first song Patti Smith and Lenny Kaye collaborated on in 1971, “Fire of Unknown Origin”.

My favorite moment was when Patti couldn’t find the eclectic passage in the book about her first meeting with Allen Ginsberg at the Horn and Hardart Automat. A fan finally yelled out, page 122. Patti replied. “You’re the best.” I love the beat generation and poet connection between Patti Smith and Allen Ginsberg. I had the rare privilege of meeting Allen Ginsberg in 1973 at the University of New Haven.  I sat next to him at a press conference before he performed “Howl” in our campus entertainment room. As Patty points out in her book, “I looked into those intense dark eyes punctuated by his dark curly beard…”. That image Patti described is just how I recalled Allen Ginsberg as I watched him answer questions posed by local reporters in the student conference room.

Here is a color handbill of a memorial tribute to Allen Ginsberg held in Ann Arbor, Michigan that we keep in our home office 🙂

The evening was capped off by Patti Smith, Sam Shepard, Lenny Kaye and the audience, singing and clapping to “People Have The Power“. Patti dedicated it to freedom and Egypt.

OUR SOUL IN CAIRO

Brothers and Sisters
we are with you
The People have the Power
To redeem the work of fools
Upon the united
the graces shower
It’s decreed the
People rule.

(Courtesy of pattismith.net, ihavesomeinformationforyou, http://www.pattismith.net/news.html)

We then got online to have Patti Smith sign Just Kids in paperback and the new Judy Linn photography book, that Judy Linn also signed for us. We were privileged to get the book before its March 1st general availability date. Great keepsakes for a beautiful evening of literary musical expression.

We thanked Patti for answering our question and she said to us, “I hope you’ll like the song when you hear it.” We have a feeling we will, Patti 🙂

Frank Zappa and The Mothers

Fillmore East – June 1971
Image via Wikipedia

Frank Zappa was one of the most innovative musicians, composers and arrangers of our time. A genius on many levels his music is comprehensive in scope and far reaching in its magnitude.

Frank Zappa played The Fillmore East many times. The live recording of The Mothers from the final month at The Fillmore East took place on June 5th and 6th, 1971. This was a historic concert event in that John Lennon and Yoko Ono joined Frank Zappa and The Mothers on stage. It was an interesting, eclectic collaboration, not without it’s fair share of drama, before, during and after the concert.

The cast of characters also included Phil Spector as the infamous post producer of the live concert that was recorded and released after The Mothers as a bonus disk, Live Jam with Sometime in New York City.

(This post to be continued…)