Something Beyond

'beyond, the river,' by 'bunchadogs & susan' on Flickr

[Image: “beyond, the river,” by a photographer whose name displays simply as “susan” (her full account name, though, is “bunchadogs & susan”). I found it on Flickr, of course, and use it here under a Creative Commons license. The photo was taken by a pinhole camera.]

From whiskey river:

An Inventory of Moons

If you live to be very old, you may see twelve hundred full moons.
Some come in winter and you trudge out into the deep snow to
stand beneath their glow. Others come to you in the city and you
take an elevator up to the roof of the highest building and set out
a couple of folding chairs to watch it glide across the sky. Or the
moon finds you along a foreign shore and you paddle out in some
dingy and scoop its reflection from the waters and drink it down.
The moons of your old age are the most potent but seem few and
far between. They make their way into your marrow and teach it
how to hum. When your final moon arrives, it’s as if youth has
come back to you. Though instead of flaunting its yellow hat, now
it’s dressed in black.

(David Shumate [source])

and:

…many of us in this time have lost the inner substance of our lives and have forgotten to give praise and remember the sacredness of life. But in spite of this forgetting, there is still a part of us that is deep and intimate with the world. We remember it by feel. We experience it as a murmur in the night, a longing and restlessness that we can’t name, a yearning that tugs at us. Something in our human blood is still searching for it, still listening, still remembering. Nicaraguan poet-priest Ernesto Cardenal wrote, “We have always wanted something beyond what we wanted.” I have loved those words, how they speak to the longing place inside us that seeks to be whole and connected to the earth.

(Linda Hogan [source])

and:

On the windless days, when the maples have put forth their deep canopies, and the sky is wearing its new blue immensities, and the wind has dusted itself not an hour ago in some spicy field and hardly touches us as it passes by, what is it we do? We lie down and rest upon the generous earth. Very likely we fall asleep.

(Mary Oliver [source])

[Read more…]

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Midweek Music Break: Gary Moore, “Still Got the Blues (For You)”

[Lyrics]

Like many — maybe most — Americans with an interest in music (blues or otherwise), I know very little about the Northern Irish singer-songwriter-guitarist Gary Moore. The little I do know about him and his music, I’ve picked up after he died of a heart attack, at age 58, in 2011.

But he apparently was very well-known in Europe, especially among musicians. Wikipedia:

In a career dating back to the 1960s, Moore played with musicians including Phil Lynott and Brian Downey during his teens, leading him to memberships with the Irish bands Skid Row and Thin Lizzy, and British Band Colosseum II. Moore shared the stage with such blues and rock musicians as B.B. King, Albert King, Jack Bruce, Albert Collins, George Harrison and Greg Lake, as well as having a successful solo career. He guested on a number of albums recorded by high-profile musicians.

This single, from the 1990 album of the same name, was his best-selling release in the US, at number… [heavy thud] 83 on the Billboard 200 list. In contrast, it went gold or platinum throughout Europe (especially Sweden, where it rated a double-platinum designation).

On the way into work today, The Missus and I were talking about the knack of American Idol (and similar competitions) for unearthing outstanding musical performers — whether we’ll buy their music or not — from non-musical fields. We think about the people we’ve known who work in shops or blue-collar jobs but bring fairly sophisticated listeners to their feet, or to tears of appreciation, in karaoke bars and church choirs. It’s a little sad, in a way, to think about all the hidden talent that doesn’t make it as professional musicians (or artists, writers, and so on, for that matter).

But it’s another sort of sadness — and another level of it — to think of all those who made their way as musicians, whose music we’d love… if we’d only heard it while they were alive.

Gary Moore: now there’s a name I want to hang onto.

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Midweek Music Break: B.B. King, “To Know You Is to Love You”

B.B. King

I had this clever (well, okay: lame) idea to devote this Mid-Week Music Break to a playlist about gratitude of one kind or another, for one experience or another. But after riffling through the stacks (so to speak) for a good long while, wow, I was not coming up with a lot of winners.

Well, not unless you count hymns which (if we are to believe hundreds of old elementary- and Sunday-school music performances) were sung by 17th-century Massachusetts Pilgrims as they hastened and chastened to the Thanksgiving table… even though the hymns weren’t written for another two hundred-plus years.

Then I landed on a number by B.B. King, called “Thank You for Loving the Blues.” It’s not bad in its own right — a mix of talking voiceover and King’s characteristic, spectacularly flourishing guitar. (As I understand it, King wrote the poem he’s reciting.) But what really called to me was another piece from the same 1973 album — this one, the funky, epic eight-minute title track.

“To Know You Is to Love You” was written by Stevie Wonder and Syreeta Wright for the latter’s debut album, Syreeta. When B.B. King went to Philadelphia to record with with the band known as MFSB — who’d backed up the O’Jays, the Stylistics, Billy Paul, and other vocalists associated with the so-called “Philly Sound” — Stevie Wonder joined him and sat in at the keyboard. In an appreciation written a few years later, Rolling Stone writer Bob Palmer said:

The title tune alone is worth the price of admission. Stevie Wonder and Syreeta Wright composed it. Stevie plays electric piano, B.B. turns in a powerful vocal performance that is ably supported by his crackling guitar, and the incomparable Sigma Sound [Studios] rhythm section—the musicians who back Billy Paul, the O’Jays, the Intruders, and the Stylistics—contributes a hefty punch.

“Hefty punch” — I’ll say, especially in the horns. (Depending on whether you expect them or not, their sound may either get you up dancing or knock you back on your heels.) But then Palmer added:

The tempo and the minor mode have a superficial resemblance to “The Thrill Is Gone” [a King signature number, also on the album], but structurally “To Know You Is to Love You” isn’t a blues.

I don’t know enough about music to understand what “structurally” means in that context. But I do know that this powerful number both solidly resembles and radically departs from B.B. King’s sound as I’d come to expect. The instrumental breaks are above all pure (whether they’re powered by King’s guitar or by the horns), and I’ve got to say that both the rhythm on the chorus and the lyrics — at least as King interprets them — leave little doubt what the singer means by “knowing” the object of his affection. (Biblical, indeed. And yes, there was probably some gratitude in the relationship… eventually, once things calmed down a little.)

[Below, click Play button to begin To Know You Is to Love You. While audio is playing, volume control appears at left — a row of little vertical bars. This clip is 8:35 long.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

[Lyrics]

(For an excellent review of both the album as a whole and this particular song, check this post over at Derek Anderson’s blog — “the music blog where music matters.”)

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Weekend (Something Like) Music Break: The Lake House Band,
“Five Dollar T-Shirt Blues”

'laundry day' (photo by user 'eleanor ryan,' on Flickr)[Image: “laundry day,” by user eleanor ryan on Flickr]

You’d think a computer professional who got new computers both at work and at home within a few days’ time would be in a shuddery ecstasy of geek excitement. More power! More speed! More software! More… cool!

Speaking only on behalf of the computer professional nearest to my heart, however, I must disagree. Along with all the exciting new-new-new stuff comes quite a bit of drudgework, frustration, and uncertainty. Drivers have to be downloaded. Entirely new versions of favorite software have replaced the old — or gone out of existence altogether, or never been upgraded to match more recent hardware and OS realities and conventions. Old peripherals suddenly don’t even connect to the new boxes, because (say) “I’m sorry, but we no longer build PCs with parallel ports.”

Still, in the process of restoring old and often forgotten data from one computer to the next, you do come across some gems.

[Read more…]

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Midweek Music Break: Benny Goodman Orchestra, “One O’Clock Jump”

Count Basie wrote this iconic Big Band number in 1937, and played it as his theme song for half a century. Almost every other band of the time recorded its own version; the one presented here made its appearance at the Carnegie Hall debut performance of the Benny Goodman Orchestra, in January, 1938.

Over the course of its six-and-a-half minutes, the performance is apparently structured as a series of solos (we’ll get back to that apparently in a moment), by piano, tenor saxophone, trombone, clarinet, and, well… something else:

[Below, click Play button to begin One O’Clock Jump. While audio is playing, volume control appears at left — a row of little vertical bars. This clip is 6:34 long.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

You might be curious what the “jump” in the title refers to. Wikipedia provides several hints, without fully answering the question:

  • Jump music — more properly, jump blues — “was an extension of the boogie-woogie craze.” (An example of boogie-woogie music previously covered here was “Beat Me Daddy, Eight to the Bar”… featured, of all things, in whiskey river Friday post in 2010.)
  • “Jump accomplishes with three horns and a rhythm section what a big band does with an ensemble of sixteen,” and
  • “The tenor saxophone is the most prominent instrument in jump.”

In Goodman’s version, saxophonist Babe Russin does play a central part. Easily the longest solo comes from Goodman’s clarinet, and Jess Stacy on piano and Harry James on trumpet stake out their own territories with characteristic assertiveness.

But — and here we get back to that apparently mentioned a few paragraphs ago — the real star of the performance is the rhythm section. You may not even notice it through much of the song, although it’s always there, pumping the whole thing along. But at around 5:09 it takes the stage almost exclusively, in an astonishing, all but exhausting run of something like thirty* cycles (bars?) of nothin’ but rhythm, the clarinet and other instruments simply twining around in embellishment.

Just for comparison, here’s one recording by Basie’s own band. It’s shorter and faster, but unmistakably the same song:

[Below, click Play button to begin One O’Clock Jump. While audio is playing, volume control appears at left — a row of little vertical bars. This clip is 3:47 long.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

___________________________

* I’ve counted them several times, but keep getting swept up in the music and losing my place. Thirty is the number which crops up most often, heh.

P.S. No, the image at the top of this post doesn’t really have anything to do with this song. But I cracked up at the title. The singer pictured at the bottom right is Ruth Etting, who recorded one of the very earliest versions of “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” (as featured at the bottom of this post).

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Midweek Music Break: Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks, with Warren Haynes, “I’d Rather Go Blind”

[Video from In Performance at the White House: Red, Hot, and Blues]

[Video above not working for you? In its place, I offer you the audio only:]

I'd Rather Go Blind

[Original lyrics, by Etta James]

I first encountered the name Derek Trucks within a few years after I’d moved down here. Some kid was doing a show at a club in town — an amazing blues guitarist, said the newspaper preview, and only a teenager: 14 years old or so. How amazing? He’d toured with Buddy Guy. He’d performed with the Allman Brothers. The kid was hot.

[Aside: I’ve got something like a third- or fourth-order connection to him, too. His uncle, Butch Trucks, is the drummer for the Allmans. When Butch was in elementary school, he attended a dance with my Missus-to-Be on his arm — his very first date.]

Susan Tedeschi has had some kind of career of her own, dating back to her childhood. She grew up listening to blues and gospel music, and eventually played Austin City Limits and Lilith Fair. (Her voice, says Wikipedia, has been described as a blend of Bonnie Raitt and Janis Joplin. I don’t believe even that does it justice.) She also toured with the Rolling Stones, B.B. King, Bob Dylan, and, well, the Allman Brothers.

Trucks and Tedeschi married in 2001, and continued their separate careers. Recently, wanting to minimize their kids’ exposure a typical touring-musician family’s lifestyle, they set up a studio in Jacksonville, FL, and formed their own band, the Tedeschi Trucks Band. Their first album, Revelator, came out last June; it’s a killer, and I’d intended with this post to cover a couple of tracks from it for you.

But in doing a little research about it I stumbled on the above recent performance on the PBS special In Performance at the White House: Red, White, and Blues. Tedeschi and Warren Haynes share the vocals while Trucks’s slide guitar tears up the instrumental lead, on “I’d Rather Go Blind.”

The song itself, co-written and first recorded by Etta James in 1968, holds legendary status as one of the best, most successful B-side recordings in pop-music history. The A side was an even bigger hit, “Tell Mama.” In her autobiography, Rage to Survive, James says that she never liked “Tell Mama.” (“I didn’t like being cast in the role of the Great Earth Mother, the one you come to for comfort and easy sex.”) But about “I’d Rather Go Blind,” she relates this story of label executive Leonard Chess:

When Leonard heard the song the first time, he got up and left the room ’cause he started crying. That touched my heart. Other cats I know would have wanted me to see them cry, just to show me how soulful they were. I liked that Leonard did his weeping in private. […] When he came back in the room, he said, “Etta, it’s a mother… it’s a mother.”

It does no disservice to James’s memory — she died shortly before the above video was recorded — nor to the talents of Tedeschi, Trucks, and Haynes, to say that this performance lives up to the song.

Just for completeness, here’s the reference version — Etta James’s mother of a performance:

I'd Rather Go Blind

____________________________

Note: Hat tip (and a deep bow) to my little brother for introducing me to Revelator.

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