The Trick Is To Keep Going

Tag: Woolsey Hall

Concerts Vol. 13: Jimi Hendrix

by on Feb.21, 2011, under Music

By the fall of 1968, I had seen Cream four times, another of my favorite artists The Paul Butterfield Band five times, The Electric Flag with Mike Bloomfield, Traffic, The Stones, The Beach Boys, among a host of other artists, but I had yet to see Jimi Hendrix.

Jim Hendrix at Woolsey Hall, Yale, Nov. 1968. Photo by Joe Sela. Courtesy of Wolfgang's Vault.

Jim Hendrix at Woolsey Hall, Yale, Nov. 1968. Photo by Joe Sela. Courtesy of Wolfgang’s Vault.

Two members of the Bram Rigg Set, Peter Neri and Rich Bednarzyk along with the group’s road manager Mike Geremia had met Hendrix on the street in Greenwich Village in the summer of ’67. The three had ventured into the city after the first night of a weekend engagement in Brewster, N.Y. The group’s drummer, Beau Segal, and I had driven back home after the gig and our lead singer Bobby Schlosser had also opted for his long trek back to Rhode Island.

The boys had run into Hendrix at about 3 a.m. on Bleecker Street I believe opposite the Cafe Au Go Go and he was affable, friendly and wished them well.

Beau got to see The Jimi Hendrix Experience by accident that same year in the fall. He traveled into the city to the Cafe Au Go Go to see a show billed as Eric Burdon and The New Animals and found when he arrived that The Experience had replaced them on the bill. Nice surprise. And, of course, Beau raved about them.

Hendrix was still a bit of an unknown quantity at the time here in the States as opposed to the United Kingdom, where he was a sensation with a string of single releases and his first album.

Notwithstanding the bizarre ads in Billboard during the summer that showed the three Afro-adorned musicians on the inside cover of the industry magazine and the buzz in musicians’ circles, the album Are You Experienced? had just been released and there was no single from it running up the charts. It was probably getting the majority of its play on the new FM radio stations, particularly the college stations, which were just starting to play what became known as Album Rock programming.

When I had played the first track of the album for guys in my dorm at Boston University in Sept. 1967, before I transferred to Berklee School of Music, some of them thought there was something wrong with their record players. True. Those same guys would come to love Hendrix in a few months. (continue reading…)

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Concerts Vol. 4: Heavy Cream

by on Apr.23, 2009, under Music


In Concerts Vol. 3, I wrote about the single concert performance that was probably the best out of hundreds I’ve attended and certainly the most influential: Cream at the Psychedelic Supermarket in Boston, September, 1967.

That wouldn’t be the only time I would see this amazing trio. I was lucky enough to see them three more times in a little more than a year. The second opportunity came in April, 1968. I was still going to school in Boston at Berklee School of Music and coming home on weekends to rehearse and/or play the Connecticut club scene with Pulse.

cream-another-portraitCream was scheduled to play at Boston’s Back Bay Theatre in April, but they were also going to play near my hometown in New Haven at Yale’s Woolsey Hall on April 10th and I decided to come home for that, mainly because I had a new girlfriend who was still in school in New Haven. This would be our first big concert date. That made sense.

The intact ticket above is from that date. I didn’t  hold on to many tickets or stubs from that period, but I kept this one tucked away in an old wallet. I’m glad I did. The reason it’s intact is that the Yale students didn’t take or rip any tickets, they just looked at them. Thank you, Yalies.

After playing for a week of a scheduled two-week engagement in Boston in September, 1967, Cream cut short its stay there over money problems with the owner of the Psychedelic Supermarket, not to mention they disliked Boston because of the discrimination and derogatory comments on the streets they endured, and moved on to play New York at several venues, including the Cafe Au Go Go and Village Theatre (later Fillmore East).

They also played two shows in Michigan, the second at Detroit’s Grande Ballroom in a much booted performance with fairly decent sound, a pretty good example of what they sounded like that fall. From there, they toured Europe fairly extensively, leading up to the release of their second album, Disraeli Gears (November, U.K., December, U.S.), the record that really started to break them as a big act. (continue reading…)

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Concerts Vol. 3: Fresh Cream

by on Apr.16, 2009, under Music

I mentioned in Concerts Vol. 1 that one of my earliest major influences from a live show was seeing the Paul Butterfield Blues Band at the Cafe Au Go Go in the winter of 1966-67. That remains true but there was a series of concerts that had an even bigger impact for me. I saw Cream play live four times in 13 months between September, 1967 and October, 1968. After the first show, nothing would ever be the same for me musically.

I had just arrived in Boston for freshmen orientation at Boston University in the first week of September, 1967. Back then, freshmen came up to the school for a full week before classes, unlike today when orientation is usually finished up in less than two days by many colleges.

classiccreamI was having mid-afternoon waffles at a small breakfast/dinner restaurant near Kenmore Square when my buddies, one of whom was a fellow bass player from Connecticut, and I found out that Cream, yes that Cream, would be playing practically across the street at a new club called the Psychedelic Supermarket. I was astonished by my good fortune that Cream, one of my favorite bands would be in town, just a few blocks from my dorm on Commonwealth Avenue, and that they were scheduled to play for two weeks! I intended going more than once.

My first encounter with Cream was in one of the old listening booths at one of the best record shops in Connecticut in the ’60s, Cutler’s, which was on Broadway in New Haven. In the spring of 1967, my friend and fellow band-mate in the Bram Rigg Set, Beau Segal, told me I had to check out this group from England that featured the Cream of the crop among British blues musicians and were aptly named.

I went down to Cutler’s with a friend, Holly Lovig, who if you remember accompanied me on the trip to see that first Butterfield concert in New York. Those listening booths at Cutler’s were great. One of the clerks would spin a record on a turntable in back of the store’s elevated counter and pipe in the music to one of I believe at least two booths, which was wood and glass and had a large glass pane in the door so you could look out at the store while you listened. Precursor to the headphones you find at record stores today. (continue reading…)

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Bolero, Beck-Style

by on Apr.13, 2009, under Music

Billed as the Legendary Jeff Beck, the guitar maestro walked onto the stage of the 4,000-seat MGM Grand at Foxwoods Saturday night decked out like a white knight. He had on a white T-shirt, white vest, white scarf, skin-tight white pants tucked into white boots with fringe and a white, the body naturally yellowed, Fender Strat with a white pickguard.

Jeff Beck LiveHe launched into what has become in the past few years his traditional opener, Beck’s Bolero, a Jimmy Page composition from the classic 1968  Truth album with the Jeff Beck Group, which influenced most of the heavy blues-based rock that would follow in the 1970s (see Led Zeppelin). The album cut is heavily produced. In concert, the tune benefits from a scaled down, tight, spare version with his four-piece band: Vinnie Colaiuta, drums, Tal Wilkenfeld, bass and Jason Rebello on keyboards.

The tune set the stage for a set consisting of most of Beck’s best known tunes from his fusion era, which now spans the mid-to-late 70s to present day. The Pump and You Never Know, from the ’80s album There And Back, followed. Beck is still in command of his considerable and unique skills, playing in his hybrid style, sans pick, of using his thumb and fingers and producing a trademark sound with effects he generates  mainly through only his hands, sounds he has been noted for since his days with the Yardbirds in the mid-’60s.

The first ballad was the stellar Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers, from Blow By Blow, the album that really brought Beck to prominence as a solo artist in the 1970s. The tune, though, was dominated by Wilkenfeld, a 23-year-old female wunderkind, who took a breath-taking solo and received a big response from the audience. (continue reading…)

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Performing now … the one and only Jeff Beck

by on Mar.01, 2009, under Music

Late last year, Jeff Beck released his third live album since 2006, Performing This Week … Live At Ronnie Scott’s, recorded at the legendary London jazz club. Later this month, a DVD of the performance will be released by Eagle Rock Entertainment.

beckronnies-2Beck, acknowledged as one of the world’s greatest guitar players, has had a varied career that started in earnest with the Yardbirds, replacing Eric Clapton, through two versions of the blues-rock based Jeff Beck Group and on to a long run at the forefront of fusion music. When Beck made the transition to jazz-rock  in the ’70s, he finally started garnering appropriate accolades for his prowess. As the guitarist in the Yardbirds, he was well-known to the general public in England but not so much in the States. Still, as early as the mid-’60s he was experimenting with extraordinary sounds on the guitar before many of the decade’s guitar heroes, including Jimi Hendrix, who cited Beck as an influence.

He is currently on tour with the proficient and powerful quartet that recorded at Ronnie Scott’s with him and includes Jason Rebello, keyboards, Vinnie Colaiuta, drums and young Australian wunderkind Tal Wilkenfeld, bass. Beck will be stopping in Connecticut at the MGM Grand at Foxwoods April 11.

So why three live albums since 2006? Well, the latest is really the first of the three to enjoy a wide-ranging release. Live at B.B. King’s (from 2003, released in ’06) was an import that is now apparently out of print and only available through places like the Amazon Marketplace for about $45. Official Live Bootleg USA ’06 (2007), originally sold at shows, is also fetching the same price on the open market but is actually also available at Jeff Beck’s website for $15.

Ronnie Scott’s has 11 of its 16 tracks in common with Official Live Bootleg’s 14, and nine in common with Live At B.B. King’s 16. So it would seem there isn’t a great deal of difference among the three, at least in repertoire. But if you had to own one it should be Ronnie Scott’s. The sound is the best of the three and the performances are standard-bearers for Beck’s catalogue.

The set opens with Beck’s Bolero from the seminal blues-rock album Truth by the Jeff Beck Group, with Rod Stewart and Ron Wood. Originally the B-side of a Beck single that preceded Truth, the bombastic production of the recorded version that featured one-half of the future Led Zeppelin (John Paul Jones and Jimmy Page, who wrote it), Nicky Hopkins on piano and Keith Moon on drums, is replaced here with a tight sounding masterpiece of economy and passion, featuring the recognizable melodic lines of the original with improvised segments.

It’s followed by John McLaughlin’s Eternity’s Breath, which serves as an intro to Billy Cobham’s classic Stratus, from the album Spectrum, a record that helped establish the fusion movement in the early 1970s. It’s also probably a bow to Tommy Bolin, who played lead on the original and died in the mid-1970s of an overdose while on tour with Beck. The tune fits Beck like a glove and one wonders why it’s taken him so long to make it  his own.

The first 10 songs on the album are by other writers, including three by Tony Hymas (Behind The Veil, Blast From The Past and Angel), who produced Beck’s most successful album artistically in the past two decades, Who Else? The Jan Hammer tune You Never Know, Stevie Wonder’s Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers and Max Middleton’s Led Boots from the album Wired are also among the first 10 tracks and all presented here in note perfect and heartfelt performances. Angel is Beck at his most lyrical employing the hybrid technique of only using his thumb and fingers, having eschewed using a pick long ago.

The frantic Scatterbrain, from Blow By Blow, is kicked up a notch higher in tempo than its recorded version, the Mingus tune Goodbye Pork Pie Hat intros to Beck’s own Brush With The Blues, the two of which share a similar feel, and Hymas’ Space Boogie, Big Block, a Hymas-Beck-Terry Bozio composition, and the exquisite interpretation of the Beatles’ Day In The Life lead to the finale Where Were You, another Hymas-Beck-Bozio tune.

Where Were You is particularly noteworthy. It features Beck’s technique of playing the strings with just the vibrato arm after producing a harmonic with his left fingertips, something he originated with this tune on the album Guitar Shop.

A word about his band members. Colaiuta has probably been with Beck the longest and he is a consummate drummer, dynamic, driving, explosive and technically rarely equalled. Rebello exhibits tasteful wizardry on keys and Wilkenfeld, 22, is matured as a player well beyond her years. She takes an inspired solo on Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers and is solid throughout matching Beck on all the uptempo unison lines.

The DVD will include 13 of the tracks on the CD and one additional tune, People Get Ready with Joss Stone guesting.

I’ve seen Beck three times since 1969 and plan on seeing the Foxwoods show. The most recent was at Oakdale in 1999, with a band that included Colaiuta and guitarist Jennifer Batten, in a mind-boggling performance that has been preserved on a widely distributed gray-market item. Previous to that, I caught him on his Wired tour at the Waterbury Palace in the mid-1970s with Jan Hammer, a tour that would later produce a live album. It was another stellar night of pyrotechnics.

The first time though was probably the most interesting from a historical viewpoint if not from a performance one. In support of the Truth album in May, 1969, the original Jeff Beck Group was booked for two shows at Woolsey Hall at Yale. I had tickets for the second show, so we didn’t show up until about 9 p.m.

The opening act was Rhinoceros, a New York based heavy rock outfit, with an album on Elektra. Although we didn’t know it at the time we arrived, Rhinoceros evidently blew the audience away in the first show leaving little reaction for Beck and his group. I’ve seen this happen to headliners a few times over the years and it’s a very strange phenomenon.

So we were startled from our second-row seats to the right of the stage when the Jeff Beck Group opened the second show. As to Beck’s performance, it was fine. They played most of the material from Truth and sounded good if not great with the addition of Hopkins on an upright piano. It was a joy to finally see him and hear Stewart sing live (I didn’t realize Beck actually sang part of Let Me Love You), but they did seem in a bit of a hurry to leave the premises.

We later heard Rhinoceros’ set was a good one, but we weren’t really interested in seeing them and didn’t stay. It wasn’t until talking with James Velvet, a fixture on the New Haven rock circuit for years, about different concerts we’d seen in common that he told me the details about the first Rhinoceros set. Now Beck opening the second set finally made sense to me. The group evidently didn’t want their crew to bother breaking down and resetting the equipment only to be upstaged again, so they opened their own concert for the second show! Then they made a quick getaway, never to return to New Haven.

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