The Trick Is To Keep Going

Tag: world music

Island album released at cdbaby

by on Sep.07, 2017, under Music


When Pulse was finally finished at the end of 1970, three of the members moved to Manhattan, Beau Segal, Peter Neri and Paul Rosano. We started writing in a slightly different direction from the original blues-oriented Pulse and the quartet that followed. It’s more of a pop direction but there are elements of rock, country rock and blues, jazz and even yes Island music. We recorded these tracks at Blue Rock and Capitol and signed a publishing deal with Sam Gordon through the Grossman-Glotzer management office. Sam set up the studio time and was really quite supportive. He even managed to get Todd Rundgren to come down to Blue Rock and help us produce three of the tunes in this collection. It was a cool ride. You can purchase this album or individual tracks at cdbaby.com

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Three for 2010: Chieftains, Farnham & Beck

by on Jul.22, 2010, under Music


In the first half of the year, I’ve been listening to three CDs quite a bit, all beautifully executed but quite different from one another. They are easily three of the best records from the first six months of 2010 and three you should give a listen.

Chieftains San PatricioThe Chieftains’ San Patricio gives a featured billing to Ry Cooder, an occasional collaborator with the Irish group who writes, plays, sings, produces and arranges on this unusual yet intriguing mix of Celtic and Mexican music based on a fictionalized version of the story of Irish soldiers fighting with the Mexican army.

San Patricio is somewhat reminiscent of Santiago, another Chieftains’ effort from 1996 on which they blended Celtic sensibilities with Galician music from northwest Spain.

The group showed the direct link between the two musical heritages while including collaborators Cooder, Linda Ronstadt and Los Lobos, among many others.

The music on San Patricio is joyous, celebratory, heartfelt, forboding and ultimately upbeat and forward moving. The highlights are many, including the opener La Iguana with sensuous vocalist Lila Downs, who also appears on El Relampago; Ronstadt’s tender La Orilla de Un Palmar; the Cooder compositions The Sands Of Mexico and Cancion Mixteca (Intro) along with the song proper by Jose Lopez Alavez; March To Battle (Across The Rio Grande), which features a narration by Liam Neeson; and traditional numbers that feature Los Folkloristas and Los Camperos deValles.

It’s all a rich tapestry of the blending of these two musical styles that share so much in common.

The Irish soldiers, led by Captain John Riley during the war with Mexico (1846-48) were discriminated against and treated brutally by the American troops. So much so they defected to join a people with whom they had much more in common.

Although the thread of story on this record is entirely fictitious, there is no doubt music must have been a big part of the Irish soldiers’ experience as it is imbued so deeply in both cultures. A wonderfully realized example of what we now call World Music but is simply an inspiring work under any title. (continue reading…)

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Concerts, Vol. 12: Jack Bruce and Friends

by on May.23, 2010, under Music


Jack Bruce & Friends. From left, Bruce, guitarist Larry Coryell, keyboardist Mike Mandel and drummer Mitch Mitchell.

Jack Bruce & Friends. From left, Bruce, guitarist Larry Coryell, keyboardist Mike Mandel and drummer Mitch Mitchell.

After the breakup of Cream in 1968, it became a point of fascination to see what was next for the three members.

Eric Clapton got together with Steve Winwood to form Blind Faith, which lasted from late 1968 to the end of the summer of ’69, producing one album and an ill-fated tour. He then took up with Delaney and Bonnie Bramlett in their touring band, Delaney & Bonnie and Friends. That led to Clapton’s first self-titled solo album, produced by Delaney, which still stands as one of Clapton’s very best.

Ginger Baker quickly formed an all-star band of sorts after Blind Faith, dubbed Air Force and recorded a double live and a studio album under the name. It was short-lived. He went through many other musical vehicles in the ’70s and ’80s but always seemed to produce his best work when recording what we now call World Music, then in the ’90s recorded two extraordinary jazz albums with Bill Frisell and Charlie Haden.

As for Bruce, he had already recorded a straight jazz album, which bordered on free jazz, in August of ’68, Things We Like, even before the Farewell Cream tour of that fall.

That was followed by Songs For A Tailor (September, 1969), a truly amazing mix of R&B, soul, blues, folk and rock blended with his Celtic sensibilities, particularly in his vocals, and the enigmatic yet compelling lyrics of his writing partner from Cream days, Peter Brown.

After Songs For A Tailor, probably his most successful commercial album, he has continued to blaze his own path with a string of artistic achievements in his solo career and with others, particularly Kip Hanrahan in the ’80s and ’90s, that has in most cases escaped the music world at large and especially the rock press. That notwithstanding, it can be easily argued Bruce has been the most creative and successful artistically of the three members from Cream.

Jack Bruce & Friends poster 3 SmallIn early 1970 Bruce put an intriguing and accomplished band together to tour in support of Songs For A Tailor. Called Jack Bruce & Friends, I noticed they were to play at the Fillmore East the weekend of January 30-31 as the opening act for Mountain! Leslie West’s group, at the time, was of course doing very well commercially in the wake left by Cream, but it startled and somewhat annoyed me that Bruce would actually be opening for them.

Nonetheless, my girlfriend and I secured tickets and went to one of the early shows. As I recall it was the Saturday night performance, although it’s possible it was Friday. In the 1990s, I became aware of a recording of one of the shows from that weekend. That kind of stunned me at the time, but it’s now happened more often than you would think possible. At first I believed it was the actual show we attended but I have seen it variously listed as either early show Jan. 30 or late show Jan. 31. So it’s impossible to pin down.

Suffice to say, the setlist is the same as the show we saw. And the recorded document confirms that although this band had not been together that long, it was producing dynamic and intricate versions of Bruce’s tunes, mainly from Songs For A Tailor. (continue reading…)

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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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Derek Trucks at the Garde

by on Nov.06, 2009, under Music


It’s rare that I get a chance to see an artist more than once in a calendar year. It happened last night. I drove down to New London to see The Derek Trucks Band at the Garde Arts Center, a theater built in the ’20s, saved by the townspeople in the ’80s from becoming an open lot, and that is today completely restored and thriving.

derek-trucks-durhamI last saw the band at the start of their tour to promote the latest dTb album,  Already Free, back in February at the Waterbury Palace. That was an impressive show. I was familar with the group’s recordings in the studio at the time but hadn’t seen them live and it certainly was an eye opener. Simply put, dTb is one of the best bands out on the road today, Trucks is quickly becoming acknowledged as one of our finest guitarists, and along with Doyle Bramhall III probably the best practitioner of slide.

Seeing them again allowed me a closer look, not only because I was physically closer, about ninth row center, than in Waterbury, but also having seen them once I could focus in on various parts of the band while not being overwhelmed by the first experience of it.

For instance, I had a much bigger appreciation of bassist Todd Smallie this time. He was obscured in Waterbury from where I was and his sound not particularly distinct. I could see and hear him much better in New London and he showed himself to be a monster player at times, particularly on his solo spot that was a swinging, funky extended piece that played off the rhythm of Kofi Burbridge’s organ and took off into proficient flights in the higher register of the instrument.

I also noticed Mike Mattison has to be one of the most underutilized lead singers in rock and blues. It appears he’s not on stage for nearly half the set. Of course, that’s because dTb has always been an instrumental band first. It’s not a knock but he seemed absent more than at the first show. (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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