The Trick Is To Keep Going

Tag: Paul Butterfield Blues Band

Concerts Vol. 14: Led Zeppelin

by on Dec.29, 2011, under Music

Led Zeppelin in Paris Smaller Size












In early August, 1969, there was quite a buzz about Woodstock. I don’t believe anyone, even at that late date, anticipated how big it was going to be. At least not among my friends.

Most of us were not planning on a trip to upstate New York though. On Sunday the 17th during the festival weekend, a concert was scheduled at the original Oakdale Music Theatre, with its theatre-in-the-round stage, in Wallingford, Conn., that was not to be missed, Led Zeppelin.

We’d seen Cream there the previous summer and myriad other mid-to-late ’60s acts: The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Lovin’ Spoonful, Ray Charles. Shows I didn’t get to see included The Who, The Doors and Chicago. One of my bands, The Bram Rigg Set opened for The Dave Clark Five in late summer, 1967. It was an almost-perfect venue to get an up-close look at performers. Seating was perhaps no more than about 2,000, the closest within about 15 to 20 feet of the musicians, sometimes even closer when they came to the edge of stage, which was only a few feet off the ground.

Zeppelin’s first album was released in early 1969 and it made quite an impact. Surprising really. Jimmy Page was well known and I’d seen him with the last version of The Yardbirds in 1967 at the Village Theater in New York. But Robert Plant, John Paul Jones, John Bonham, where did they come from? (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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Ford updates the blues tradition

by on Aug.17, 2009, under Music

Acclaimed guitarist Robben Ford has an affinity with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band of the mid-1960s that featured the duo guitar lineup of Elvin Bishop and Mike Bloomfield. I can relate to that.

robben-ford-live-1That was one of Ford’s earliest influences and he has kept that foundation of blues and blues-rock alive in his music, combining it with jazz sensibilities to form his own brand of fusion. Throughout his career, he’s played with many diverse, high-caliber musicians from Joni Mitchell to Miles Davis, and Ford’s varied skills have been consistently on display as a solo performer since the late 1980s.

At the Infinity Music Hall in Norfolk, Connecticut Sunday night he devoted a large portion of his approximately 80-minute set to his latest album Soul On Ten, released last week. All but three of the album’s 10 tracks were recorded live at The Independent in San Francisco. The rest were recorded live in the studio.

Ford, a multiple Grammy winner in the blues genre, is a virtuoso who has embraced recording his latest offering live with no overdubs because he and his band are fully capable of producing perfectly executed tracks in a single take that capture the spirit and feel of a live performance, something that is so often lacking in layered studio recordings. (continue reading…)

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Woodstock Extras

by on Jul.05, 2009, under Music

It couldn’t have been more than two hours after writing Woodstock revisited and stating it was unlikely I would be purchasing the latest re-release of the rock festival that I walked into Costco and found a copy of the 40th anniversary Ultimate Collector’s Edition at a price I wasn’t expecting. So low, that is. Of course, I picked it up and bought it.

woodstock-extras-discMy main interest was not in the Director’s Cut, which I had bought back in the early ’90s, but in the Extras disc, Woodstock: Untold Stories. It includes about three hours of material with nearly 150 minutes of previously unreleased performances, the rest consisting of documentary video segments.

The inclusion of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band was the main attraction for me, despite the band performing only one song, but the disc also includes The Who, Jefferson Airplane, Santana, Joe Cocker and first-time appearances on a Woodstock disc by Johnny Winter and Creedence Clearwater Rivival.

The viewer will have to sit through a somewhat painful first half of the disc though to get to the good bits. That may affect your decision on buying the set at all. You can skip over most of that of course, but it does reduce the portion of the footage that will draw you back for repeated viewings. (continue reading…)

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Woodstock revisited

by on Jun.19, 2009, under Music

If you haven’t noticed the Woodstock blitz is on. The 40th anniversary of the most famous rock festival in history is being celebrated with a number of new releases on CD, DVD and Blu-Ray.

woodstock-40thThe only question left is whether Michael Lang, who produced the original festival, will stage anniversary events in August. There were reports earlier this year about free concerts in upstate New York and Berlin, Germany, but nothing is confirmed.

The video of the festival has been re-released by Warner Brothers in at least three versions, a two-disc Special Edition, and a three-disc Ultimate Collector’s Edition on DVD and Blu-Ray. It comes in a funky fringed box and features a 225-minute Director’s Cut and an additional three hours of bonus material and previously unreleased performances by artists such as Creedence Clearwater Revival, Santana, The Who, The Dead and The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, among many others.

Despite all this, there are still performances that won’t be included, most notably The Band. But others such as Creedence and Mountain will be making their first appearance. Blu-Ray will set you back about $60, while DVD can be had for $42. You can find a list of the 18 bonus performances here. (continue reading…)

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From the Vaults: Hidden Treasure, No. 2

by on Apr.06, 2009, under Music

After writing about Martha Velez’s 1968 release Fiends & Angels, I realized there are a number of albums that qualify as either era-defining or being highly influencial despite not having gained widespread recognition. These records weren’t huge sellers on first release but still made an impact, mostly with musicians, and all stand up today.

full-moon-albumThe self-titled album Full Moon from 1971 fits into this category. Three of its members came from the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, drummer Phillip Wilson and tenor saxman Gene Dinwiddie (billed as Brother Gene Dinwiddie throughout the album’s credits), both of whom joined Butterfield around 1967 for The Resurrection Of Pigboy Crabshaw, and Buzz Feiten, who joined Butter a little later in ’68 replacing guitarist Elvin Bishop. Feiten, who did a stint with the Rascals after Butterfield, was one of the most unusual additions to Butterfield’s band, younger than most of the other players, precocious, almost punk for 1968. He brought a different sound and style and great versatility to the band with his piercing Fender Strat, cut more from a soul vein than blues.

They joined forces in 1971 with keyboardist Neil Larsen, from Florida, who later in the ’70s would record a string of exemplary jazz-fusion albums and also delve into pop rock with Feiten in 1980 as the Larsen-Feiten Band, and bassist Freddie Beckmeier. Over the years, Larsen and Feiten have also become legendary session players who have worked on hundreds of albums and with a who’s who of the music industry.

The resulting album, produced by Alan Douglas (yes, that Alan Douglas apparently, famous or perhaps infamous as onetime keeper of the Jimi Hendrix archive) was far from a blues-rock workout. It incorporated elements of soul, R&B and early jazz fusion built on strong songwriting from all members. Vocals were shared and more than capable and the playing a combination of forward-moving jazz, rock and soul with proficient and inspired soloing. (continue reading…)

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Concerts Vol. 1

by on Mar.11, 2009, under Music

The first in a series that will focus on concerts I’ve seen and serve as companion pieces to the Connecticut rock ‘n roll scene posts I started with Connecticut’s Own and Pulse, Part 2.

butter-1I’ve been to quite a few concerts over the years, many influential, some inspiring. The earliest big venue shows were in the fall of 1965, both at the New Haven Arena. In early November, it was the Rolling Stones with Brian Jones on second guitar in the wake of their summer mega-hit Satisfaction. The Stones sounded and looked great, but it was a relatively sedate performance compared with ones for which the band became infamous. A side note on the Stones show is that the first time they were booked for the Arena, the summer of ’64, the show was actually canceled because of insufficient ticket sales. Amazing. The second show, the Beach Boys with Brian Wilson on bass, on Thanksgiving Day. The Boys wore yellow short-sleeved oxford shirts with gray slacks, not their customary black-and-white and white khakis (I guess because it was a holiday) and with Brian in the fold sounded like angels. Two rather different groups but both rode the singles charts and that’s what drove the music industry at the time.

But the earliest show that made a huge impression on me was in a much smaller venue, the Cafe Au Go Go in Greenwich Village in the winter of 1967. The headliner was the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. But let’s back up a little.

I had been playing bass since 1964 in a couple of garage bands, most notably the Vanguards with Gary Gerard and Peter Neri, whom I would later play with in Bram Rigg Set and Pulse. I also played with and learned quite a bit from the Aiardo brothers, Tony and Peter, from North Haven who played first as the Highlights and later as New England Jam. They played everything from weddings to proms to clubs such as the House of Zodiac on Route 34 on the West Haven/New Haven line. They were schooled more than most musicians in the area and worked constantly. I’ll never forget a few years later when working with them again temporarily, we played a wedding in the afternoon, a dinner-dance in the early evening and an after-prom into the early hours. This was pretty typical and I learned a great deal from both of them, particularly Peter, who was a brilliant guitarist and was my second bass teacher. (continue reading…)

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Concert from another time

by on Feb.10, 2009, under Music

I went over to the refurbished Waterbury Palace Sunday to see the Derek Trucks Band. The concert had a vibe that can only be described as straight from the ’60s. That’s what I said to my son, Matthew, who is 11, in between one of the songs of the approximately one-hour, 45-minute set. I told him if he ever wanted to know what it was like to be at a late ’60s concert, this was it.

That appears to be one of the things Trucks and his capable group of musicians intends to achieve each night as they start a long tour of the States this month in support of their recently released album Already Free.

dtrucks3The setting was perfect for it. The Palace is a proscenium theater, with its newly reupholstered red velvet seats, in all its original ornate glory, particularly the design and decor of the ceiling,walls and balcony of the hall. The light show, projected from the back of the stage, provided stunning yet subtle atmospherics, and the band played a bluesy roots style of music with world and jazz shadings that put the emphasis on inprovisational playing, everything that turned the music and show business in general on its ear from about 1966 to 1969. Probably most important the audience sat and listened to the music for about 90 percent of the show, with the exception of several standing ovations and the encore, unlike the mindless standing throughout an entire concert you find at venues such as The Meadows and even the Oakdale Theater.

The performance was low-key as far as stage presence with very little chatter in between songs, but it was absolutely incendiary during the 12 tunes, many drawn from Trucks’ six studio albums.

Trucks plays slide guitar, with chords mixed in, about 80 percent of the time and he is a master of the technique, perhaps the greatest of his time, along with his friend and collaborator Doyle Bramhall II. In a type of playing that would seemingly have limited technical options available, Trucks, who plays without a pick, never lacks for creativity, using the slide in expressive and unique ways, always balancing melodic development with raging fire.

When he does take it off and plays single string solos as he did on two numbers, he shows just as much improvisational skill and inspiration. In the middle of the set, the band played Alan Toussaint’s Get Out Of My Life, Woman, made popular in the ’60s by the great Paul Butterfield Blues Band, and later John Coltrane’s interpretation of My Favorite Things, both extended versions that saw Trucks soloing single string style with the first perhaps the most interesting and moving solo of the night.

The rest of Trucks band is stellar, including Kori Burbridge, equally adept on an array of keyboards, including Hammond B-3 and clavinet, and flute; Todd Smallie, bass; Yonrico Scott, drums; Mike Mattison, lead vocals; and Count M’Butu, percussion. Several of Burbridge’s solos on keys and his answer backs with Trucks on two tunes were inventive and soulful. His flute playing is at once precise, flowing and technically adept.

The band included their Dylan cover of Down In The Flood from Already Free as the second song of the set, fueled by Trucks’ driving slide rhythm and two songs later played the Eastern flavored Sahib Teri Bandi/Maki Madni, both of which featured melodic lines and solos with strong Indian influences.

Meet Me At The Bottom, a John Lee Hooker song with a riff similar to Rollin’ And Tumblin’, highlighted a lower volume, two-song segment in which both Mattison and Trucks sat at the front of the stage. They closed the main set with a ripping version of Sleepy Johns Estes’ Leavin’ Trunk, made popular by Taj Mahal on his first album in the ’60s, and the encore was the title tune from Soul Serenade.

The evening was sheer pleasure as we were transported back to a time when music, performance and creativity were the order of the day. Nice to be reminded of it.

The set list:

I Know

Down In The Flood

Crow Jane

Sahib Teri Bandi/Maki Madni

Get Out Of My Life, Woman

Already Free

Meet Me At The Bottom

Blind, Crippled & Crazy

My Favorite Things

We’re A Winner

Leavin’ Trunk

Soul Serenade

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