Archive for September, 2010
About six months after writing a series of pieces in 2009 on Cream concerts I’ve been to, I was contacted by Ken Melville. Ken was in the band Catharsis in Boston in September, 1967 and opened for Cream for their one-week run of concerts at the Psychedelic Supermarket in Kenmore Square, just a stone’s throw from Fenway Park.
I went to see Cream on a Sunday, the first night of the engagement, which was supposed to last two weeks but only survived the one. A detailed description of the concert, a particularly memorable one, is available here.
I do recall an opening act, but don’t remember much about the band. To my amazement, Ken sent me some photos from that week after leaving a comment on one of the posts. Taken by his girlfriend with a Kodak instamatic, as I recall, the photos above and on the following page show the band on stage and in the dressing room with Ken and some of his friends.
It’s all quite remarkable really that more than 40 years later, we’re viewing photos from that week.
Also on the page, you will see two shots from their June, 1968 date at the original Oakdale Theatre in Wallingford, Conn. A piece on the two shows at Oakdale and the last concert I saw of Cream during this stretch in the fall of 1968 at the New Haven Arena during the Farewell Tour is available here.
It took a jury of people to identify the Oakdale shots, which I’ve come across through an astute friend on the Internet. A fellow who worked at Oakdale and another similar summer tent theater in Rhode Island identified it by the lighting grid you see above Clapton’s head. Also the shot with Jack Bruce sitting on the edge of the orchestra pit includes Rich Bednarczyk in the foreground of the pit, surfer blond hair, who played keyboards for my band Pulse.
There is also a piece on this site describing the April, 1968 concert at Woolsey Hall at Yale in New Haven here.
If you’re an avid Cream fan, it’s likely you’ve already come across these. The only place I’ve seen them is in a few of Ken’s posts to a music forum. The subject, of all things, started out as a discussion of whether Clapton used a Gibson ES-335 on the classic cut Crossroads from Wheels Of Fire. I don’t think that was ever resolved but some of the discussion is interesting and, of course, Ken’s photos are the highlight.
All quite heady. Click on continue reading for the other shots. (continue reading…)
It’s not often I get to see an act twice in a calendar year. Last year, The Derek Trucks Band; this year Grace Potter & The Nocturnals. We saw Potter at the Infinity Music Hall in January, when I knew virtually nothing about them, and this past Sunday at the Ridgefield Playhouse, knowing a little bit more, well considerably more.
The performance Sunday was every bit as good as back in January but it was quite different. The Playhouse is a nice venue, my first time. It looks a little like a refurbished auditorium with a proscenium style stage, which in fact it is, being the auditorium of the old Ridgefield High School. A very high ceiling helps provide excellent acoustics and there isn’t a bad seat in the house, which holds about 500. We were about seventh row left on the aisle.
The main difference in this set was that it was more of a slow burn building into a fiery peak rather than a hit-you-over-the head, drive-it-right-at-you affair right from the beginning. In contrast to the Infinity opener Medicine, an infectious blues-rock tour de force, the group opened with That Phone, a nice tune but a strange opener with guitarist Scott Tournet doubling with Matthew Burr on drums.
Much of the first set was filled with tunes from the group’s latest self-titled album. It included Oasis, another moderate to low-key tune, which was given an extraordinary arrangement featuring an extended vocal vamp by Potter; Apologies; Money, more of an upbeat tune; the country-flavored One Short Night and the others listed below, including Tiny Light. If you are at all familiar with their material, you get the idea.
The second set opened low-key as well with a two-song acoustic coupling, featuring Potter, Tournet and second guitarist Benny Yurco, but after the reggae-inflected Goodbye Kiss, the group started cranking it up with the scorching Hot Summer Night from the latest and building to a climax with Stop the Bus and Medicine to finish off the set. The group returned for an 18-minute encore leading off with White Rabbit, then Paris, and what was the regular set closer at the Infinity, Nothing But The Water to end the proceedings.
Check my earlier review of the Infinity show for more details on some of the live renditions of these tunes. The band, which also includes bassist Catherine Popper, was in fine form at The Playhouse. Potter’s voice and stage presence are still impressive and hot, one of the best voices around today in rock. The band plays very well together as a unit, and Tournet does some nice soloing. And Potter’s songwriting is inspiring.
Lacking any photos from the gig without a watermark, I give you two performances from Jimmy Kimmel Live in July, which give you an idea of what to expect if you haven’t seen this outfit, and a video of Paris. One of my favorite new bands, I love how they mesh the roots of American blues-rock and country with a modern day musical sensibility. Catch them.
One Short Night
Ain’t No Time
Treat Me Right
Hot Summer Night
Stop The Bus
Nothing But The Water
Tenor saxophonist Steve Marcus introduced guitarist Larry Coryell to Gary Burton, master of the vibraphone, sometime in 1966. I always thought it was the other way around, i.e. Burton saw Coryell in The Free Spirits in New York, which he actually did, and then the Coryell-Marcus association came later.
According to notes from the reissue of Marcus’ album Tomorrow Never Knows, he already knew Coryell through mutual friend and pianist Mike Nock, who lived with Coryell in Greenwich Village. After Burton saw Coryell play in 1966, he asked him to join his quartet with drummer Roy Haynes and bassist Steve Swallow. What resulted was a truly inspiring combination of players, who played jazz with a difference. They were all well-schooled in the bop and contemporary jazz traditions but they also skirted rock and pop territory with rhythms and feels you just didn’t find in jazz.
The quartet produced the landmark Duster, then Bob Moses replaced Haynes and the group recorded two more albums, Lofty Fake Anagram, which pushed further into rock territory, and the exquisite Live at Carnegie Hall. Coryell was incorporating rock tendencies more than anyone in the group with a fierce, biting tone at times and the use of feedback and rock phrasing juxtaposed with his masterful jazz leanings.
Shortly after Coryell left the quartet, he joined Marcus for two of three albums that were among the first to fuse rock and jazz. The records featured jazz-schooled players, who loved rock and pop as much as the jazz tradition they came up in, and showed them displaying more of a rock attitude than ever before for jazz players. These albums are certainly among the first genuine examples of the fusion of the two genres.
The first, Tomorrow Never Knows in 1968, featured the Beatles psychedelic title track, along with another Fab Four offering Rain, the Byrds’ Eight Miles High, Mellow Yellow by Donovan and two other tracks, including a Coryell composition, Half A Heart. A fine album with outstanding interpretations.
Then came Count’s Rock Band, the peak of this triptych and our Hidden Treasure No. 8 in ’69, followed by the mostly forgettable The Lord’s Prayer, sans Coryell, also in ’69. According to Marcus’ notes, Gary Burton, who was a neighbor of Marcus’, actually produced the first album, but when it landed on Herbie Mann’s new imprint Vortex, distributed by ATCO, Mann got credit for production on all three outings. Joining Marcus and Coryell on Count’s Rock Band and Tomorrow are Moses on drums, Nock on piano and Chris Hills on bass.
Count’s Rock Band follows the pattern of Tomorrow and includes covers of Simon & Garfunkel’s Scarborough Fair with Marcus on soprano sax and The Stones’ Back Street Girl. But the two Hills compositions, Theresa’s Blues and Ooh Baby are easily the album’s highlights and make this record a gem. (continue reading…)