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Friday, December 28, 2007

Back to Music: Another Living Musician I Love - Otis Clay

Frank Zappa once said "Without music to decorate it, time is just a bunch of boring production deadlines or dates by which bills must be paid." I agree with his sentiment. So enough with the desperate state of the world and back to the music!

And let's talk about Otis Clay!

Most consumers of pop music think that "Trying to Live My Life Without You" was a Bob Segar tune. Yes, Segar had a hit record with that tune, but it was the great soul singer, Otis Clay, that first unleashed that terrific song back in 1972. Otis has a back story that sounds familiar - he grew up in Waxhaw, Mississippi and first started singing in church at the age of four. He came north to Chicago in 1957 and started singing with the "hard gospel" groups that were common in town at that time. He sang with the the Gospel Songbirds and the Sensational Nightingales. In 1964, Otis "crossed over" to secular music.

Otis had a number of successes early in his soul music career. You might remember some of his tunes - "That's How It Is," "I'm Satisfied" and "Got to Find A Way." Otis Clay's biggest successes happened in the early 1970's - that is when "Trying to Live My Life Without You" climbed the charts. But then, disco hit in the mid-70's, and Otis wanted nothing to do with that shit. Many soul singers rolled into the disco scene (the O'Jays, et al), but Mr. Clay stuck with the powerful emotion-packed soul music that he loved. His music disappeared from the radio and his records stopped selling in the U.S. So Otis did a very smart thing - he toured overseas, starting in 1978, where soul music was still hot. He is a bona fide hero in Japan and he also found audiences in Europe. Check out this video from one of his mid-90's tours of Germany.

Otis never really broke with his gospel roots. He continues to perform as a gospel singer - he headlined the Gospel Fest in Chicago last summer. So Otis is a double threat guy - a gospel star as well as a successful soul/blues man.

His vocal chops and physical presentation is classic old-school soul at its finest. I feel fortunate that I have seen him perform here in Chicago. Otis Clay always lays his heart on the stage.

Thursday, December 27, 2007


Hawh hawh hawh!!!!!

The Lull Between the Holidays

Yes, some of that money you spent during the Christmas shopping season was wasted - cash down the drain. And yes, you did have a few too many and played the drunken fool at the family Christmas party. But now the ripped wrapping paper and leftovers have been cleared away and things are relatively calm, until New Years Eve. So how should you spend the lull?


  1. RECESSION: According to the Economic Cycle Research Institute, 7 out of 10 Americans now believe that we are or soon will be in a recession (and economists will tell you, expectations tend to lead the economic cycle). The leading home price indicator is at a 6-year low, consumer confidence is dropping and oil prices are hanging in there in the $90+/barrel range (at $97/barrel this morning). We have just completed the 6th year of economic expansion; this is longer than the average growth cycle since the end of World War II. I think 2008 will be a down year. Mr. G sez, "Buckle up, people, it is going to be a bumpy ride."
  2. PAKISTAN: Some nutjob just killed Benazir Bhutto. This nation is absolutely chaotic. David Andelman wrote an interesting piece for on the mess in Pakistan. It is a long-standing quagmire and the U.S. continues to sink deeper. Money quote from Mr. Anderson: "America's experience in Pakistan, and in scores of other countries around the world, has demonstrated one critical reality. At one point in the trajectory of any dictator, you own him. At another point, he owns you. We've reached that point now with Gen. Musharraf. There's a good chance that Benazir Bhutto might have been able to break this cycle. Now, however, Gen. Musharraf has an excellent excuse to postpone or cancel elections he was no doubt little interested in holding in the first place." So we have nuclear-armed nation on the brink of civil war/state collapse. Wooo! This is a real-world horror show. Many terrible things could happen. So are ya worried yet?
  3. Global Warming Confuddlement: Al Gore has declared that catastrophic climate change is "imminent," that it is "an emergency," folks claim that the Artic summer icepack could be gone in a generation or so. This is my favorite free-floating worry. When I hear people speaking of "global warming" in passionate tones, I get the same feeling I get when the Jehovah's Witnesses come to my door - THERE IS ONLY ONE TRUE BELIEF!! But Wait!!! The New Statesman, a Brit Socialist magazine, just printed an article by the BBC's science correspondent stating that the temperatures from 2001 through 2007 have been statistically the same - no warming for the past six years! Eh? A statistical blip? CO2 levels have been marching up every year but not the temps? Now I am completely confuddled.

I could go on, but I won't. Three enormous problems that I can't control is enough to carry me through the New Year holiday.......

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Good Bye, Mr. Peterson

Oscar Peterson left us last Sunday - very bad news for piano jazz fans like me. He leaves a magnificent body of work, as bandleader and accompanist. I liked Nat Hentoff's reflection on Oscar, which appeared in today's Wall Street Journal. Here is what Nat wrote...

Oscar Peterson:
A Jazz 'Behemoth' Moves On
December 27, 2007

Only when it was absolutely necessary, Oscar Peterson wrote, would he go on stage before a concert to check out the piano, because doing so "might lead to preconditioned ideas, and they can in turn interfere with the creative process so essential to a creative jazz concert."

For Peterson, who died on Sunday at age 82, his full mastery of the instrument enabled him to keep striving for what to him was his ultimate reason for being. In his equally masterful autobiography, "A Jazz Odyssey: The Life of Oscar Peterson" (Continuum, 2002), he said of the "dare-devil enterprise [the jazz experience]" in which he engaged for so many years that it "requires you to collect all your senses, emotions, physical strength and mental power, and focus them totally on the performance. . . every time you play. . . . Uniquely exciting, once it's bitten you, you never get rid of it. Nor do you want to; for you come to believe that if you get it all right, you will be capable of virtually anything. That is what drives me, and I know it always will do so."

He wrote that after a stroke in 1993 that, at first, limited the use of his left hand. But "the will to perfection," as he called it, kept driving him, and as a result he regained much of his customary skill, and with it the satisfaction of continuing to surprise himself.

Born in 1925, Peterson was mandated by his father to practice piano at a very early age; but it was hearing Nat "King" Cole that fired his enthusiasm, and he won a talent contest at the age 14. By the 1940s, Peterson was already a presence on the radio in his native Canada and in Montreal clubs. But his audience began to greatly expand when jazz impresario Norman Granz heard him and brought him to New York's Carnegie Hall in 1949 for one of Granz's "Jazz at the Philharmonic" concerts, where the competition was so intense that many careers of the participants were enhanced.

Granz became Peterson's manager and close friend as they toured Europe and other continents. Also a producer of records on his Verve and Pablo labels, Granz extensively featured Peterson, not only as leader of his own trios but also as an accompanist for a wide range of other jazz masters whom Granz recorded. Among them were Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie, Lester Young, Coleman Hawkins, Ella Fitzgerald, Benny Carter, Ben Webster, Billie Holliday, Duke Ellington and Roy Eldridge.

As classic jazz players used to say of extraordinary peers, Peterson had "big ears." In all the varying contexts of these Granz recordings, he remained himself while also being completely consonant with the diverse stylists on those sessions.

A fascinating section in his autobiography describes what each soloist required of Peterson as an accompanist. For instance, Eldridge "would slide over to me and quietly ask, 'Can I get my strollers, please?' By this he meant that he intended to start simply with a mute aided by Roy Brown's bass in the lower register.

"He trusted the remaining members of the rhythm section not only to sit out and allow the excitement to build between him and Ray, but more importantly, to anticipate exactly where to re-enter and move him up a few notches emotionally."

Moreover, as a writer from the inside of the music, Peterson's profiles of other longtime associates prove him to be a master practitioner of jazz history and criticism. As he wrote: "To have played for these and other behemoths of the music world certainly served to educate me in areas in which that type of education just isn't available [and] served to deepen my true realization of the immensity of the music we know as jazz."

Because of the scores of albums Peterson recorded, it's difficult for me to select any as the best. So, subjectively, two that make me rise and shout are, "The Oscar Peterson Trio at the Stratford Shakespearean Festival" (1956) and "Night Train" (1962). (Both are on the Verve label).

Another autobiography that matches Peterson's in moving the reader into the life force of jazz is Sidney Bechet's "Treat It Gentle" (Da Capo Press, 2002). He writes of growing up in New Orleans: "That music, it was like waking up in the morning and eating. . . it was natural to the way you lived and the way you died."

And for Peterson, the pleasures of being inside that music recalled, he wrote, "the joyful exclamation [guiarist] Barney Kessel produced after [the] first evening in my trio. He came over to me after the last set, shook his head, and said with that Oklahoma accent, 'Oscar, that was better than sex!'"

Wherever he went around the world, Peterson's effect on audiences demonstrated the truth of Art Blakey's invitation to extreme pleasure: "You don't have to be a musician to understand jazz. All you have to do is be able to feel."

Mr. Hentoff writes about jazz for the Journal.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Main & Chicago Ave in Evanston IL - A Historic Piece of Real Estate; GONE

I am not sentimental about buildings. There are architechtural masterpieces that qualify as works of art, and then there are old buildings that are not especially beautiful. The two-story commercial building at the corner on Main Street and Chicago Avenue in Evanston was not a stunning architechtural gem. But the old structure had some serious history. It is now gone, torn down, a hole in the ground waiting to be filled by another nine-story, 71 unit generic condo building. The new building will be uglier and taller than the old building. Condo prices in the new "Main Street Station" development range from $299,000 to $540,000. With the decline in the real estate market, I am not sure these units will be absorbed quickly. Maybe the folks that really want to be close to the CTA elevated and METRA trains will shell out for these condos, but I doubt it.

So lets talk about The Main, as the old building was once known in my neighborhood.

Yes, it was a squat, unattractive structure, but it was old. I guess that it was built prior to 1900. It had a few decorative touches, but it was a pretty basic building that covered an entire block. In the early 1970's, a local real estate developer, Ed Noonan, decided to renovate the old girl and turn it into a shopping complex. This did not turn out to be a mall, however - the original structure was retained, the mechanical systems were updated, and the floor plan was altered to provide space for a variety of retail establishments on the first floor. Office space for various professionals (doctors, dentists, lawyers, massueses, etc.) was available on the second floor. Ed pulled off a rare real estate project, improved an old building and the neighborhood was better for it. He named the new shopping center "The Main." It was cool.

Shortly after the re-opening of The Main, a locally-famous and controversial tenant moved in. Amazingrace was a coffeehouse/collective that was born in 1970 on the Northwestern campus. It was awash in the hippie ethos of the time (leftist philosophy, organic food, folk music, communal living, etc.). Amazingrace and the university had a falling out, and the performance activities of the collective moved to The Main in 1974. Amazingrace became one of the best music venues in the Chicago area - and maybe the world - for three years. The collective expanded from folk into jazz, blues, soul and rock. In addition to Bonnie Koloc and Jim Post, Amazingrace hosted Luther Allison, The Siegel-Schwall Blues Band, the Mahavishnu Orchestra, Gary Burton, Jean Luc Ponty and the Grateful Dead. I saw Charlie Mingus there in late 1976, shortly after I arrived in Evanston from Berkeley CA. The Amazingrace space in The Main was unique - there were no food and drinks served (it didn't have a kitchen), and if I remember right, there were no seats. Patrons sat on a series of carpet-covered risers/steps that surrounded the stage. It was an awesome club, but it was run by anti-business/anti-profit hippies who were always bickering with each other. They fell behind on their rent, and the new owner of the building booted them out. A convenience store took over the Amazingrace space.....

Another wonderful business in The Main was the Main Cafe - a classic "breakfast all day" diner that is the mark of a quality neighborhood. The Main Cafe lasted quite a while - I think it was still operating in the early 1990's. The owners had the good fortune to receive the first license to operate a liquor store in Evanston (which is thriving on Davis Street); the diner business looked less exciting than selling hootch to thirsty college kids. I think there was a fire at the Main Cafe that precipitated its closing, but it has been gone for fifteen years now.

Travel agencies, carpet emporiums, optometrists, pizza joints, health clubs, and miscellaneous clothing retailers have all called The Main home through the years. And yes, the condo building will have first floor retail space, but it will probably charge higher rents, which means larger, higher volume venues (I am thinking that a Cosi's is coming to my neighborhood soon).

At one time, the intersection of Main and Chicago Avenue in Evanston was anchored by The Main, a nice old bank building, a convenient parking lot and the old Main Newstand. Now we have two butt-ugly condominium buildings and a construction site. Well, at least we still have the old newstand.

It is not an improvement to the area, that's for sure.

I understand that it makes sense to concentrate housing units around the mass transit spokes. I understand that folks like that "condo lifestyle" and they want to live in Evanston - close to Chicago but with suburban amenities. But the Chicago Avenue corridor from Dempster to South Boulevard is now choked with monstrous condo builidings that look like they were designed by the 1960's Soviet Union School of architecture. Why has this "progress" been so damned ugly?

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Frank Morgan - Heir to Charlie Parker - RIP

Be careful who you idolize, and how you idolize them. That is the message of Frank Morgan's life. He had an all-consuming admiration for Charlie Parker, and learned how to blow be-bop alto like the Bird. He also took up the Bird's bad habits, and ended up in and out of prison due to his use of heroin. From the late '50's through the mid'80's, Frank was off the scene due to incarceration - robbery, drug posssession, etc. He would get out, do another crime, and go right back in. He finally played his first New York club engagement in 1986; he got clean and stayed clean.

Frank gave us 20 years of great jazz; he found out he had cancer just last month and he went down quick. here is the Washington Post obit.....

Frank Morgan: 1933 - 2007
Noted jazzman who made a comeback

Heir to the hard-bop style of Charlie Parker had 30-year hiatus caused by addiction
By Adam Bernstein

The Washington Post

December 19, 2007

Frank Morgan, 73, a jazz saxophonist of impeccable ability, whose claim to the mantle of the celebrated Charlie Parker was clouded by his heroin addiction, died Dec. 14 at his home in Minneapolis. He had colon cancer and kidney failure.

Mr. Morgan, whose father was a guitarist with the vocal group the Ink Spots, was considered in his teens a promising interpreter of hard bop, a swing style of lightning pace.

Despite a 30-year absence from performing caused by addiction, he was remembered as someone who could bring emotion to the frantic sound in a way few had mastered since Parker. Parker, one of the great geniuses of saxophone, died from drug abuse at 34 in 1955.

Trumpeter Wynton Marsalis once said of Mr. Morgan's playing: "What comes out of his horn is soulful, full of fire and timeless."

In 1955, Mr. Morgan debuted as a solo artist with a beautifully made hard bop collection, but for the next three decades he was sidelined by heroin addiction and arrests. He served prison terms in California penitentiaries and formed a small ensemble at San Quentin prison in the 1960s with another addict and sax player, Art Pepper.

He credited a conversion to Islam during the end of what he called his "prison career" as a turning point for the better as well as an acclaimed series of performances at New York's Village Vanguard jazz club in 1986. A year earlier, he cut his second album, "Easy Living," which won praise.

With a bebop revival under way in jazz, Mr. Morgan made the most of his second chance. He said he was able to wean himself off drugs through methadone.

He was leader on more than a dozen albums. Among those he played with were Marsalis, pianists McCoy Tyner and Hank Jones, guitarist Kenny Burrell and singer Abbey Lincoln.

As a youth, he played the guitar but switched to alto saxophone after his father took him to hear Charlie Parker in Detroit. The younger Mr. Morgan said he began copying Parker's drug habit in hopes of channeling his talent. He was a full-blown addict when they met again a few years later.

In 1987, New Yorker writer George Trow collaborated with Mr. Morgan on a musical about his life, "Prison-Made Tuxedos," that ran off-Broadway in 1987. But Mr. Morgan, who performed in the show, expressed ambivalence about having to relive those years every night.

"I mean, I want to remember it, but I didn't want to dwell on it and deal with it again every night," he said. "I saw a lot of people killed. I'm out of that now."

Once asked why so many jazz musicians became addicts, he replied: "It's about being hip. Jazz musicians would rather be dead than not be hip."

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Jam Experiences - Bill's Blues Bar, Evanston IL

Tuesday night is Blues Jam Night at Bill's in Evanston. Tom Crivellone is the host - he is a talented but down-to-earth guitarist and vocalist who fronts a band ("Two for the Blues"). Bill's Blues is my local club, so I wandered down last Tuesday to hang out and play a little. Tom C. is an old friend, so he brought me up to play with his band. As a guitarist , Tom is technically adept and an excellent listener - he pays attention to what his band mates are doing and he reacts to it, complements it and enhances it. I enjoyed playing with him.

The jammers included a very interesting group of suburban blues-rockers. The band was anchored by Julia Plaunik on drums, a blonde with a wicked backbeat. She was a pocket master. Joining Julia in the group was Mary Dittrich on tenor sax. Mary has a huge sound and her lines are clean and creative - not too many notes, she stays within the idiom. The rest of the band was quite competent, but they faded into the background due to the star power of the two females.

Also in at the jam attendance was Scott "Hambone" Hammer, the host of the "Hambone's Blues Party" broadcast on WDCB (College of DuPage public radio. Hambone often has local musicians on the air to chat and play; he asked if the Mystery Band would stop by the studio early next year. Hell, yeah we will!

I don't hit the jam very often since I am up early in the AM on Wednesdays. I would like to be there every week -- the vibe is very friendly in the club on blues jam night. These people have been hanging out together for a while now; it is their Tuesday night ritual. It is good to have a happy ritual.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Jam Experiences - Legends, Chicago

So I hit the Monday night blues jam at Buddy Guy's Legends in Chicago a couple of weeks ago. This might be the best-attended jam in the Chicago area (and there are multiple blues jams every Sunday through Thursday in and around the city). At Legends, the jam is split between two hosts - Jimmy Burns and Brother John. Each leader runs two jams each month, so participants can choose to attend the Jimmy jam or wait a week and attend the John jam. Of course, many folks attend every week. It is usually packed with muscians and fans.

Jimmy Burns was running the jam the night I stopped by. Mr. Burns is one of the "real deal" bluesmen that have not received the recognition he deserves. He has a rich, gospel-tinged voice and an immediately-identifiable guitar style and sound. Jimmy is also an outstanding entertainer. His patter between songs is smooth and amusing; he makes people feel good. I often steal Jimmy's sidemen for my Mystery Band gigs. Anthony Palmer (guitar), E.G. McDaniel (bass) and James Carter (drums) are a very tight unit, and their musical skills are formidable.

The first musician that Jimmy invited up to the bandstand was a your fellow, 15 years old, named Blair Tuller. Blair picked up the guitar a couple years back and he has been working hard - playing along with blues records, I suspect. This was his first time at a jam - his father drove him to Chicago from Michigan, where they live. Blair hung in there with the pros, and laid down some nice licks. This fellow is going to be a major player if he keeps working.

I did a couple of my original songs with Jimmy's band, then high-tailed it off the stage. The Legends house manager, Harvey, button-holed me and said, "Hey man - Buddy wants to talk to you." Ulp.

I spent a little time talking to Mr. Guy; I felt unworthy of his attention. He apparently likes one of my originals; I sent the lyrics to his manager. This is pretty weird, and interesting.

I am waiting to hear back; probably will need to chase Buddy's manager to get a status report. Buddy said he was heading into the studio to cut a new album soon and he is looking for material. Ulp.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Ike Turner - Gone

Ike was a genius and a slimeball. His relationship with Tina has been examined to death - in the press, Tina' autobiography, the bio-pic based on that book, etc. But Ike also was one of the main creators of modern music - right up there with James Brown and Chuck Berry. He also launched the careers of cats like B.B King and Little Milton. But he had a total blues lifestyle - he missed his Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony because he was in jail on drug charges.

Here is the NYT obit....

December 13, 2007
Rock Pioneer Ike Turner Dies at Age 76

Filed at 4:51 a.m. ET

SAN DIEGO (AP) -- Ike Turner managed to rehabilitate his image somewhat in the past few years, touring around the globe and drawing acclaim that included his first solo Grammy earlier this year.

But the 76-year-old's prodigious musical legacy was forever tarnished by his image as the drug-addicted, brutally abusive former husband of Tina Turner.

Turner, known with his ex-wife for such songs as ''River Deep, Mountain High'' and ''Proud Mary,'' died Wednesday at his suburban home. No cause of death was immediately given.

In interviews toward the end of his life, Turner acknowledged many mistakes, but said he still carried himself with pride.

''I know what I am in my heart. And I know regardless of what I've done, good and bad, it took it all to make me what I am today,'' he once told The Associated Press.

In her 1987 autobiography, ''I, Tina,'' Tina Turner narrated a harrowing tale of abuse, including suffering a broken nose.

Ike Turner was hauntingly portrayed by Laurence Fishburne in the movie ''What's Love Got To Do With It,'' based on Tina Turner's autobiography.

In a 2001 AP interview, he denied his ex-wife's claims of abuse and expressed frustration that he had been demonized in the media while his historic role in rock's beginnings had been ignored.

''You can go ask Snoop Dogg or Eminem, you can ask the Rolling Stones or (Eric) Clapton, or you can ask anybody -- anybody, they all know my contribution to music, but it hasn't been in print about what I've done or what I've contributed until now,'' he said.

Turner, a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, is credited by many rock historians with making the first rock 'n' roll record, ''Rocket 88,'' in 1951. Produced by the legendary Sam Phillips, it was groundbreaking for its use of distorted electric guitar.

''I see Ike Turner in the company of James Brown and Count Basie as being supremely gifted band leaders, and I say that with no sense of exaggeration,'' said Tom ''Papa'' Ray, who co-owns an independent music store in St. Louis and for 20 years has hosted a local blues and soul radio show.

Turner's profile grew after he met 18-year-old Anna Mae Bullock in 1959. He quickly made the husky-voiced woman the lead singer of his group, refashioning her into the sexy Tina Turner.

Tina Turner declined to comment on her ex-husband's death.

''Tina is aware that Ike passed away earlier today. She has not had any contact with him in 35 years. No further comment will be made,'' her spokeswoman, Michele Schweitzer, said Wednesday.

The pair, who had two sons, produced a string of hits with Ike Turner on guitar or piano. The first, ''A Fool In Love,'' was a top R&B song in 1959. Others included ''I Idolize You'' and ''It's Gonna Work Out Fine.''

Rolling Stone executive editor Joe Levy said such songs acted as musical representations of their personal relationship. ''He's the big, ominous voice. She's the passionate, emotional voice.''

Their densely layered hit ''River Deep, Mountain High'' was one of producer Phil Spector's proudest creations. A rousing version of ''Proud Mary,'' a cover of the Creedence Clearwater Revival hit, became their signature song and won them a Grammy for best R&B vocal performance by a group.

Though they were known publicly as a powerful, dynamic duo, Tina Turner later said her husband was secretly an overbearing wife abuser and cocaine addict.

She said the cycle ended after a vicious fight between the pair in the back seat of a car in Las Vegas, where they were scheduled to perform. It was the only time she ever fought back against her husband, she said.

Ike Turner denied his ex-wife's claims of abuse, despite acknowledging in his 1999 autobiography, ''Takin' Back My Name,'' that he hit Tina. He denied in the book that the hitting amounted to beating.

After Tina and Ike Turner broke up, both fell into obscurity and endured money woes for years before Tina Turner made a dramatic comeback in 1984 with the release of the album ''Private Dancer,'' a multiplatinum success with hits such as ''Let's Stay Together'' and ''What's Love Got To Do With It.''

Ike Turner never again had the success he enjoyed with his former wife. After years of drug abuse, he was jailed in 1989 and served 17 months.

His career finally began to revive in 2001 when he released the album ''Here and Now.'' The recording won rave reviews and a Grammy nomination and finally helped shift some of the public's attention away from his troubled past and onto his musical legacy.

''His last chapter in life shouldn't be drug abuse and the problems he had with Tina,'' said Rob Johnson, the producer of ''Here and Now.''

Turner spent his later years making more music and touring, even while he battled emphysema. His songs were sampled by a variety of rap acts and he won a Grammy for ''Risin' With the Blues.''

Robbie Montgomery -- one of the ''Ikettes,'' backup singers who worked with Ike and Tina Turner -- said Turner's death was ''devastating'' to her. ''He gave me my start. He gave a million people their start,'' Montgomery said.


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Another Living Musician I Love - Frank Catalano

Frank Catalano is a torch-carrier, bringing the hot jazz tenor sax into his generation. He has been playing seriously for two thirds of his life - started around the age of 10, and he is about 30 now. Frank was one of those jazz band geeks in high school, but a hugely talented geek. He was playing in jazz clubs at the age of 17, and he has led his own group for years. He has also played with a long list of stars, ranging from Tony Bennett and Betty Carter to Santana and Destiny's Child.

One word describes Frank's playing - INTENSE! Take Michael Brecker, Sonny Rollins, Ornette Coleman and Dexter Gordon, mix well, then filter through a young man's high-energy persona, and you get Catalano's tenor sax sound. What is the source of this fire and fountain of ideas? He is a young cat from the 'burbs ferchristsake - his old homies are probably zoned out on video games all day. Frank is not the standard 20-something suburban slacker - he is a piece of work, people.

Oh, and here is the the cool Catalano story - he cut off the middle finger of his right hand while working on an old car when he was 16. After reconstructive surgery, he went back to the sax and mastered it - I am sure there was pain and frustration along the path. So Frank isn't some golden child of privilege - he is a determined S.O.B.

I was delighted to play with Frank on a couple of Mystery Band gigs last year. He is a good-natured guy, not arrogant at all (I might be arrogant if I could play like him).

So buy his record - it is good stuff.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

A True Story of a Working Musician's Dilemma

One of my good friends and a partner in The Mystery Band is facing a problem. He is an awesome guitarist, and he has reached middle age with an average amount of wear and tear. One of the items that is wearing and tearing is his rotator cuff - that group of muscles and their associated tendons that act to stablize the shoulder. His right rotator cuff is torn. This is an injury usually sutained by baseball pitchers or football quarterbacks due to repeated, forceful overhand throwing motions. Who knew that you can tear your rotator cuff through the repeated forceful pulling motions associated with the lifting of heavy guitar amplifiers? That is what has occurred with my partner.

Unlike many self-employed musicians, my partner does have health insurance. The tear can be repaired, and his insurance would cover it. But here is the dilemma - the surgery would force him to put down the guitar for at least three months. He told me. "Mr. G, if I go without working for three months, I might end up homeless." Health insurance is great, but my partner needs disability insurance, too. But disability insurance is wicked expensive, and tough for self-employed musicians to find.

My partner has a stop-gap solution - he is now lifting his amp with his left hand. Crikey.