The Trick Is To Keep Going

Archive for January, 2010

Concerts Vol. 11: Traffic

by on Jan.30, 2010, under Music

Winter and spring of 1968 in Boston was a particularly memorable and remarkable time for me as far as the music to which I was exposed.

Steve Winwood in a photo taken in 1970, but the stage setup with his Hammond B-3 in the background is similar to the Boston Tea Party circa May 1968. Winwood is playing the Gibson Reverse Firebird he played at the Tea Party as well.

Steve Winwood in a photo taken in 1970, but the stage setup with his Hammond B-3 in the background is similar to the Boston Tea Party circa May 1968. Winwood is playing the Gibson Reverse Firebird he played at the Tea Party as well.

My group Pulse opened for the Lovin’ Spoonful at the Back Bay Theatre; I saw Michael Bloomfield’s Electric Flag at the Psychedelic Supermarket, where I had earlier first seen Cream; I caught The Paul Butterfield Band, first at Back Bay and later at the Supermarket with Elvin Bishop assuming the lead guitar role for the first time; I became a convert of sorts after seeing The Doors in concert at Back Bay; and I met Taj Mahal in the apartment I was staying in on Commonwealth Avenue, of all places.

Cream played at Back Bay as well, although I actually caught them near my hometown in New Haven at Yale’s Woolsey Hall. And in early May of that year, I got a chance to see another of my favorite artists and groups, Steve Winwood and Traffic at the original Boston Tea Party.

The Tea Party was formerly a synagogue on Berkeley Street at the corner of Appleton and I remember taking the subway near Bolyston and Mass Ave. to get there. I was by myself for this concert. At the time, I was enrolled at Berklee School of Music, majoring in performance on double basse and I had moved to a small apartment right around the corner from the school, where I lived on my own.

When in Boston during the week that spring it was a pretty solitude existence of going to classes and practicing and studying. On the weekends, I would come back to New Haven, Wallingford in particular, to rehearse at Syncron Studios or play one or two gigs with Pulse.

The Boston Tea Party (2003). You can see the entrance just to the left of the corner of the building.

The Boston Tea Party (2003). You can see the entrance just to the left of the corner of the building.

I knew the original Traffic foursome had been reduced to three as Dave Mason had left Winwood, drummer Jim Capaldi and flutist/sax player Chris Wood for what at the time were described as musical differences. There was probably some truth to that because Mason’s contributions to the English version of the first Traffic album, Mr. Fantasy, were largely pop confections, including a semi-British hit in Hole In My Shoe. Although there were apparently some personality conflicts as well.

A couple of Mason’s tunes survived on the American release, originally titled Heaven Is In Your Mind but quickly changed to Mr. Fantasy. But most of that first record, released in the U.S. earlier in the year, was a wonderful mix of blues, soul, rock, pop and what would later be called world music.

Traffic was a literal melting pot of contemporary music and the group had one of the great singer/keyboardists in Winwood, who sounded a little like Ray Charles, one of his influences, with a soulful voice well beyond his years. (continue reading…)

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Grace Potter comes out at night

by on Jan.21, 2010, under Music

Grace Potter belts out a lead with bassist Catherine Popper and rhythm guitarist Benny Yurco in the background at the Infinity Music Hall on Jan. 20.

Grace Potter belts out a lead with bassist Catherine Popper and rhythm guitarist Benny Yurco in the background at the Infinity Music Hall on Jan. 20.

In the fall when I purchased tickets for the Grace Potter and the Nocturnals show at the Infinity Music Hall this past Wednesday (Jan. 20), I really didn’t know too much about either Potter or her band.

I was looking for a show so we could go back to one of our favorite venues in Connecticut. The come-on promo at Infinity’s web site is what inticed me, plus the timing was right, the night and so forth.

After getting the tix, I explored the Net a bit and found a number of videos of the band, although I didn’t know at the time the band would be slightly reconfigured when the date came around. I was impressed. I found Potter obviously has a set of prodigious pipes, and although still fairly young, 27, has been playing for a quite a while — the band was formed in 2002 —and evidently has been touring relentlessly.

Her range is striking as she effortlessly hits stratospheric notes and although her voice has its own special quality and character, there are moments when she recalls Janis Joplin in phrasing and inflection, only with a smoother, more proficient delivery and attack than Joplin ever exhibited.

Potter at the B-3.

Potter at the B-3.

The music is blues- and soul-based rock with elements of country, reggae and American roots music at times. The band is strong throughout, but this is definitely a unit whose whole is greater than the sum of its parts, meaning they gel beautifully as a group. And, of course, they have an extraordinary frontwoman/singer, who plays a lot of Hammond B-3 and some guitar throughout the night.

No question Potter is what makes this outfit special. She writes interesting blues-drenched tunes with direct, quirky and glib lyrics. I was basically hearing everything for the first time, but I didn’t note a clinker of a tune in either of the two sets the band played.

The setlist and photos come from fans who are evidently much more familiar with the group than I and there is the feeling from them that this night was one that started cool and finished hot. It appeared from here that the set started hot, cooled in places and then was taken up a level during their return for the second set. Though many of the songs were memorable even at first listen and built on fiery, infectious grooves, I can’t think of one that was better than the opener, I’ve Got The Medicine That Everybody Wants. (Check out the video below from July, 2009). The only tune that felt out of place and curious was the cover of Take My Breath Away from the movie Top Gun, not because Potter didn’t sing it wonderfully, but it’s simply not much of a song. (continue reading…)

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Song Stylist Anita O’Day

by on Jan.15, 2010, under Music

If you’ve see the film Jazz On A Summer’s Day, shot at the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival, you are probably familiar with Anita O’Day.

Anita O'Day Life Of A Jazz SingerConsidered among the five greatest jazz singers of the Golden Age — Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Sara Vaughan, Carmen McRae and O’Day — she is the only white singer in the group and perhaps the least well known.

Her artistry, singular style, virtuosity and attitude put her in this select company, which she richly deserves.

The subject of Robbie Cavolina and Ian McCrudden’s documentary from 2007, Anita O’Day The Life Of A Jazz Singer, released on DVD in ’09, she was a fascinating personality who started with big bands in the 1940s, adapted flawlessly to bebop in the late ’40s and ’50s and was the first jazz singer on the historic Verve Records in the mid-’50s, recording a string of memorable records that sold unexpectedly well.

She also lived the life of a jazz singer to the fullest and with it came the often seen pitfalls. A heroin addict for 15 years from the mid-’50s until 1968 and an alcohol and pill abuser after that, she lived hard and cool and made no apologies as is shown in many cuts from the film with interviewers Dick Cavett, David Frost, Bryant Gumbel and segments on 60 Minutes.

But she survived, working well into the ’80s and ’90s and coming back in the early 2000s with an album, Indestructible, and performances in New York until her death in 2006 at 87.

She is also interviewed by the filmmakers for this documentary at age 84 and her insights, remembrances and anecdotes are invaluable in helping explain her extraordinary career. (continue reading…)

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The elusive Buzz Feiten

by on Jan.06, 2010, under Music

In the past year, Buzz Feiten has been the subject of several posts here, along with ones on his collaborations with keyboardist Neil Larsen.

We have to some extent documented his work in The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, the original Full Moon, The Larsen-Feiten Band, a reunion of sorts with Butterfield and his more recent projects, including The New Full Moon of the early 2000s.

But his work is at best elusive, somewhat rare and definitely difficult to track down with so many albums going in and out of print. Mostly out.

Coming across the video below was a happy find. It features Feiten with The New Full Moon band that released an album around 2002 (although this clip is acutally dated Jan. 11, 2007) and included original Full Moon bass player Fred Beckmeier, reed man Brandon Fields, drummer Gary Mallaber and keyboard player Jai Winding playing the opening cut from that self-titled album, Hey, Dinwiddie, a dedication to the great tenor sax man Gene Dinwiddie of the Butterfield Band and the original Full Moon.

If you haven’t actually heard or seen Feiten yet, then this clip is for you. The tune is a soulful, funky, blues-drenched track, right in Feiten’s main groove.

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