Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Most people that hit middle age have had their share of New Year's Eve experiences where they ended up like the fellow pictured above. Tonight, I will not be in this condition.
I am still in Mexico with my family (or "my ladies" as I like to call them). They are not big party/night life people. The resort is having a massive blow-out party down on the beach - they have set up a restaurant, bar, bandstand and dance floor down there. The cost is 850 peso per person - about $65. That isn't a ridiculous price tag, but I couldn't get any takers among my ladies. We are going to have a quiet evening - well, as quiet as possible since there will be hundreds of party people on the property all night.
Since I have been at leisure the past few days, I had time to read and listen to music on the iPod. I am almost finished with my 6th book. My favorite of the six was the 1990 novel by Kurt Vonnegut, "Hocus Pocus." I somehow missed this book when it was originally published. Vonnegut is in top form, weaving multiple story lines and a large cast of characters into his satirical, cynical look at late 20th Century America. Best line: "The two prime movers in the universe are time and luck." This is a thought worth pondering as we enter a new year.
On the iPod, I have gone back into my library of tunes by the two Chicago blues harmonica greats Little Walter Jacobs ("LW") and Big Walter Horton ("BW"). I could write pages on each of these musicians. Only fellow harmonica-playing geeks like me would want to read it. LW didn't invent the Chicago blues harmonica sound (John Lee "Sonny Boy" Williamson gets the nod on that score), but he expanded it, changed it, invented musical techniques never used before, and continues to influence anyone who picks up the tin sandwich. BW is equally awesome, but he is about tone and rhythm.
A final note - remember New Year's Eve 1999? The Y2K freak-out? What a scam. On that New Year's Eve, my wife and young children braved the snow and rode in a horse-drawn wagon through the streets of Evanston IL. We ended up at a party in a seafood restaurant, dancing with our friends and neighbors until the wee small hours to tunes spun by a DJ that we knew well - he was the adult son of our next door neighbors. Now that was a good time.
Monday, December 29, 2008
I thought that I was done posting blog entries for the year, but I am waiting for one of my womenfolk to finish in the shower - down time.
We have escaped to Puerto Vallarta and the weather is a complete relief after the first blasts of what looks to be a wiched Chicago winter. Everything is terrific, except we all got sick yesterday - that miserable gastritis stuff that I won't describe in detail, but you know what I mean. So we were up all night and in misery until we finally dug out a doctor on Sunday to prescibe us the meds to end the insanity. We got on the pills last night. We are better today.
My wife is a native Spanish speaker, so we do well on our trips to Mexico. My family occassionally travesl to San Luis Potosi', which is where my wife's Mexican family lives. SLP is a very large village that is still mainstream Mexican. Puerto Vallarta is a vacation mecca that feels much llke other resort areas. There are many wealthy Mexicans in our hotel, but scads of Americans and a smattering of Europeans and Canadians. It's nice, but it isn't mainstream Mexico.
Since my wife is bilingual, she ends up acting as our family "mouthpiece" and interpreter. I feel guilty about this. I should be a fluent Spanish speaker, but I can't really communicate much in Spanish - I can order food at a restaurant and know several random words. Once we get into full sentences and such, I am dead meat. I resolve every year to become conversational in Spanish. So far, I haven't done it. It will be on my 2009 resolution list (again).
Iguanas are all over this resort - they are like squirrels in Chicago. A lean and lanky specimen jumped into the kiddie pool this morning, generating quite a lot of excitement for the kiddies and horror for their parental units. Bah! It was harmless, and very entertaining. Iguanas are very good swimmers. One of the staffers fished him out with the pool net. I was sorry to see him go.
Time to leave - the shower time is over.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
I just said goodbye to my pregnant daughter and son-in-law. We had a very nice British Christmas Eve meal - roast beef, Yorkshire pudding, roasted root veggies and apple pie with ice cream. I am quite full, facing a kitchen full of dirty dishes.
On December 19, the Mystery Band had its last gig of the year at C.J Arthurs in Wilmette IL. We did not fill the house - the weather was awful - but the music was magical. In the words of my guitar player, The Fret-burner, "When we make the music right, it is better than an orgasm." True words. We had to recruit a drummer at the last minute, Brian T. Brian plays with Koko Taylor; he was in the horrific auto crash that injured Koko's entire band last summer. Brian is still limping; can't put his full weight on his leg (it was severely fractured in the wreck). Brian is a monster drummer, bad leg or no bad leg. Darryl Coutts sat in on keyboards, so the Mystery Band had a lush, exciting sound. It was a great way to end our year of performances. Too bad we didn't have a couple hundred people in the audience.
This past year was very unusual. The U.S. elected an African American president - and a liberal, to boot! The credit markets locked up and the world has plunged into a "Great Recession." Like many people, I am much less wealthy than I was a year ago. But I really don't care that much - easy come, easy go, right? I am heading south for a few days to defrost and won't be back in the frozen U.S. heartland until New Years Day. So Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, Happy Kwanzaa and Happy New Year. I will be back atcha in 2009.
Friday, December 12, 2008
Bobby opened his set with a wicked, hard-swinging cover of the Beatles tune "Can't Buy Me Love;" and the music just got better from there. I didn't catch the names of his bandmates, but they were as passionate about the music as Bobby. I had to move right in front of the bandstand to hear because there were a bunch of drunken braying donkeys hanging off the bar creating a wall of noise.
Bobby Broom has an amazing life story, which is described in detail on his web site. He has been playing professionally since he was 16 years old; he spent many years playing in Dr. John's band and then he decided to settle in Chicago. We are very lucky to have this guy in our town - he is the Michael Jordan of the jazz guitar. I hope that he gets better crowds and attention at Pete Miller's than he did this past Wednesday. Get out and support the brother, people!
Monday, December 08, 2008
Evanston IL 60201
Blues, funk, jazz and soul are the musical genres that I prefer, but I ventured into the world of light classics yesterday.
My 16-year old daughter began singing with the Evanston Township High School ("ETHS") a capella choir this fall. On Sunday, she was in her first public performance, singing Christmas carols at the Evanston Symphony's Christmas Concert at the ETHS Auditorium. The student singers entertained prior to the concert and at intermission, and they were terrific. A capella singing is not for sissies - intonation can be tough to maintain, getting voices to blend is a challenge (particularly adolescent voices). My daughter and her 30+ colleagues pulled it off. The leader of the choir, Ms. Reed, is very passionate about vocal music and her students love her.
I caught the first half of the Evanston Orchestra concert; had to split after intermission. The Evanston Orchestra is a very credible group - one of the best community orchestras I have ever heard. The musicians are all volunteers and they have day jobs (one of the trombonists is a parter in a large Chicago law firm, for example). The orchestra was established in 1945 by returning WWII veterans. As a community orchestra, it has wandered among venues in Evanston, settling into the Pick-Steiger concert hall at Northwestern for some concerts and the ETHS auditorium for others. The Evanston Orchestra does five concerts a year (including the Christmas show).
The group was all gussied up in formal attire at Sunday's show. I always thought that it was odd that classical musicians are forced to wear tuxes and formal dresses when performing. Don't these clothes constrict movement and breathing (two important activities for orchestral musicians)? In spite of their stiff attire, the orchestra sounded luxurious, laying out lush arrangements of "White Christmas," "Sleigh Ride," and a bunch of other traditional carols. The orchestra was joined by the Evanston Dance Ensemble for a medley of themes from Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker. The dancers were young folks - 12-18 years old, I would guess - and they were fun to watch.
I am ashamed to admit this is the first time I have heard my home-town community orchestra. It won't be the last.
Sunday, December 07, 2008
Bill Gilmore, proprietor of Bill's Blues Bar in Evanston, IL, is fond of guitarist/vocalist L.V. Banks. The South Side bluesman hits Bill's Blues every 6 weeks or so. He was holding down the middle of the evening on this past Saturday (between the indie rock group and the reggae D.J. that came on after midnight). If you like your blues raw, unpolished, gritty and loose, L.V. is your guy. By the way, Mr. L.V. Banks is not related to the late, great Chico Banks (I checked with L.V. last night).
He is no youngster - he celebrated his 76th birthday this year. L.V. arrived in Chicago in the 1960's from Greenville, Mississippi - he is in the second generation of Delta blues artists that came to Chicago to try to make a living; about the same age as Buddy Guy and Eddy Clearwater. In L.V.'s case, stardom didn't come knocking. He has played the clubs in Chicago for over 40 years; he finally got his first record out in 1995. The second disc was released in 2000 (both were issued by Wolf Records, a European label). That is the sum total of his recorded output over four decades as far as I know. L.V.'s son, Tre' Hardiman, is one of the "young gun" blues guitarists in town - yeah, the apple don't fall far from the tree.
L.V. Banks and the Swingin' Blues Band is a casual group. They kick off their songs in a relaxed fashion and build the groove around L.V.'s stinging guitar tone and effective vocal style. Banks likes to banter with the crowd ("So what y'all want to hear next? Fast or slow blues?"). The band stuck to the Chicago blues repetoire - "Hoochie Coochie Man" was covered; so was "Rock Me Baby." An attempt to fulfill a request for an Al Green tune ("Love and Happiness) ended badly. But the band's blues was as real as it gets.
L.V. and I know each other, a little, so he called me up and I played harp and sang a couple of tunes. Mr. Banks is a gentleman and it was a joy to play with him - a very comfortable experience on a very cold night.
Anyone in Chicago that loves pure blues needs to see L.V. Banks. His music used to be played in every other tavern on the South Side in the 1950's and 1960's. Catch him before he is gone...
Saturday, December 06, 2008
Visitation Tuesday, December 9, 2008 4-9pm Smith & Thompson Funeral Home 5708 W. Madison, Chicago, IL 60644
December 10: 4242 W.Roosevelt Rd. United Missionary Baptist Church.
Wake: 7:00pm-8:00pm; Funeral 8:00 - 9:00pm.
It will be sad to say good bye to such a talented young man.
Friday, December 05, 2008
I dig this picture of me with Piano Willie. It was taken backstage at the 2005 Chicago Blues Fest. Willie is an awesome old-school piano dude. I have never seen him play an electric instrument.
So I spent some time with Grant Kessler today - he is designing the packaging for the CD. Grant is a great photographer and has terrific design skills. He is also a damn fine harmonica player.
So here is the track listing for the Mystery Band CD:
1. It’s A Mystery 5:42
First Guitar Solo – OSee Anderson
Second Guitar Solo – Anthony Palmer
2. My Dog & Me 8:08
First Guitar Solo – Anthony Palmer
Second Guitar Solo – OSee Anderson
3. Hey Jose’ 4:32
Guitar Solo – OSee Anderson
4. After Party 5:07
Guitar Solo – Anthony Palmer
5. I’m Tryin’ to Quit 6:03
First Guitar Solo – OSee Anderson
Second Guitar Solo – Anthony Palmer
6. Cheat Me Fair 7:57
Guitar Solo – Anthony Palmer
7. How Much Longer 7:45
First Guitar Solo – OSee Anderson
Second Guitar Solo – Anthony Palmer
8. Get Out and Walk 6:40
Guitar Solo – OSee Anderson
9. All I Need Is Your Love 6:21
First Guitar Solo – OSee Anderson
Second Guitar Solo – Anthony Palmer
10. Payin’ Taxes 7:36
Guitar Solo – Anthony Palmer
11. Work, Work, Work 6:38
Guitar Solo – Anthony Palmer
All songs written by Chris Gillock, published by G-FreeThoughts Publishing (BMI)
Arrangements by Chris Gillock and OSee Anderson
Here is yet another "snip" from the CD Liner Notes:
Mr. G: Harmonica, Vocals, Percussion
OSee Anderson: Guitar
Anthony Palmer: Guitar
E. G. McDaniel: Electric and Acoustic Bass
James Carter: Drums
Producer: Jim Reeves
Co-Producer: Chris Gillock
Recorded March 22, 2008 and March 29, 2008 at Reeves Audio Recording, Evanston IL (www.reevesaudio.com)
Engineer: Jim Reeves
Mixed and Mastered by Jim Reeves
Photographs: Grant Kessler
Art Direction and Design Grant Kessler
Thank You To: My wife and partner, Consuelo Alonzo Gillock, for her love, patience and encouragement; Joe Filisko, Harmonica Virtuoso and Guru, for introducing me to the history and heroes of the Chicago blues harmonica style; Jim Reeves, genius producer/engineer, for his meticulous mixing and sage advice on various musical and technical topics; Elizabeth Gillock Blackwell, for introducing me to the Old Town School of Folk Music and for being a wonderful daughter and a fabulous singer; Ben Gillock/Amanda Gillock/Sarah Gillock, for not being too embarrassed by their crazy dad; Bill Gilmore, Proprietor of Bill’s Blues Bar, for letting the Mystery Band launch in his club; E.G. McDaniel, Anthony Palmer, OSee Anderson and James Carter, for aiding and abetting in the creation of the music on this CD; Stuart Miller and Jeff Guylay, my partners at Colonnade Advisors, for putting up with my weird hobby; Ken Zimmerman, Proprietor of the Harlem Avenue Lounge (Berwyn IL), for bringing the Mystery Band to the western suburbs of Chicago; The Morseland in Rogers Park – Chicago, for its support of the Chicago blues scene; Neil Lifton and Duke’s Bar in Rogers Park – Chicago, for keeping the tradition of musical taverns alive and well in Chicago; C.J. Arthur’s in Wilmette IL, for booking gritty blues bands in their respectable establishment; Tom Albanese, harmonica star and friend, for his encouragement and support; Shoji Naito, triple-threat bluesman (harmonica/guitar/bass) for his quiet guidance and musical excellence; AND TO ALL THE GREAT MUSICIANS THAT HAVE PLAYED IN THE MYSTERY BAND!
Anthony Palmer, E.G.McDaniel. OSee Anderson, James Carter, Twist Turner, Shoji Naito, Sammy Fender, Mike Finnerty, Harlan Terson, Mike Wheeler, Illinois Slim, Tom Holland, Steve Arvey, Carl Davis, Jon McDonald, Tom Crivellone , Mark Wydra, Andy Meacham, Felix Reyes, Dave Herrero, J.R. Wydra, Karl Meyer, Adam Kraus, Steve Hart, Tom Susala, Kevin Summers, Mike Azzi, Smokin' Joe Pratt. Rudy Kleiner, Orlando P. Condon II, Tino Cortez, Highway RickEy Trankle, Merle "the Perkolater" Perkins, Mike Linn, Tim Austin, DeWan Austin, Louis Powell, Aaron Almon, Robert Pasenko, Brian James, Barrelhouse Bonnie, Darryl Coutts, Frank Catalano and Bob Centano (Mr. Centano is the only septuagenarian baritone saxophonist/flautist to perform with the Mystery Band).
Check out the Mystery Band’s MySpace Page: http://www.myspace.com/gandthemysteryband
Check out the Mystery Band’s website: http://www.mrgandthemysteryband.com/
Check out Mr. G’s blog: http://g-freethoughts.blogspot.com/
Thursday, December 04, 2008
Here is another "snip" from the CD Liner Notes:
Here is a little info on the Mystery Bandsmen:
Mr. G, Harmonica and Vocals: Mr. G started out on the west coast in the San Francisco Bay Area. He soaked up the intense funk/soul/jazz scene out there, as a fan and as a trombonist in the horn section of various funk and jazz bands. After finishing his education in the Chicago area, Mr. G put down the trombone and began goofing around with the harmonica. He became a student of Chicago blues and found his voice as a barroom singer, songwriter and harp player. Mr. G has a day job, and he intends to keep it.
Anthony Palmer, Guitar: They call him “The Fret-Burner,” and other guitar players are awestruck when they hear him play. Born and raised on the West Side of the Chicago, Tony Palmer has supported many of the legendary blues players – Otis Rush, Lurrie Bell, Bobby Rush, Sugar Blue and many others. Tony was a member of the hard-touring Joanna Connor Band for 12 years, and then joined the Jimmy Burns Band in 2003. He provides Jimmy with virtuoso guitar support that is the backbone of the band’s sound. Tony has been a Mystery Bandsman since the first Thanksgiving night gig in 2003.
Greg “E.G.” McDaniel, Electric and Acoustic Bass: E.G. was also an original Mystery Bandsman on the Thanksgiving 2003 gig. He is Tony Palmer’s partner in the Jimmy Burns Band and one of the first-call bass players on the Chicago blues circuit. E.G. has provided the foundation for many blues notables, including Eddy Clearwater, Buddy Guy, Hubert Sumlin, Katherine Davis, Erwin Helfer and many others. E.G. was born into music – his father was the legendary Chicago blues/jazz guitarist, Floyd McDaniel, his mother was the wonderful singer/pianist Bessie Jackson McDaniel and his cousin was the late, great Bo Diddley (aka Ellas McDaniel). E.G. is a rock solid, tasteful player.
OSee Anderson, Guitar: OSee is a multi-faceted guitarist who has mastered the blues, jazz, funk and rhythm and blues. He began his professional career at age thirteen, and has performed with The Staple Singers, Al Green, Screamin' Jay Hawkins, James Cotton, Billy Branch, Albert Collins, Lonnie Brooks, John Mayall, Buddy Guy, Junior Wells and many others. He has also led his own band, The Hit Squad, in the late 1980’s. OSee is also a talented songwriter, and his songs have been recorded by many artists, including James Cotton. OSee has recorded three CD’s under his own name.
James Carter, Drums: James is the youngest Mystery Bandsman on this CD. He has mad percussion skills, built over 30 years of drumming (he started when he was 6). James works with E.G. and Anthony in the Jimmy Burns Band; he also played drums for many years for his uncle, the late, great bassist/vocalist Willie Kent. James has been hotly sought after by many blues greats over the years, including Sunnyland Slim, Johnny Littlejohn, Melvin Taylor, Byther Smith and many others.
More to follow......
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
I am pushing to get this project completed. The liner notes are written; I am working with my buddy Grant Kessler on CD design and photography. I found a place that will produce 1,000 CD's in jewel cases with a four-page booklet and shrink rap for under $1,000. If I can sell all 1,000 at a decent price, I will break even (plus a little) on the project.
Here is a snip from the liner notes.....
The Mystery Band was born in a bar. Bill Gilmore, proprietor of Bill’s Blues Bar in Evanston, Illinois, had no band booked for Thanksgiving night in 2003. Being a hanger-on at the bar and an occasional blues singer/harmonica player, I offered to assemble a band for that night. It gave me an excuse to go out and work off my Thanksgiving dinner. I didn’t know who would show up to play; I just started calling my favorite musicians – so we became “the Mystery Band.” Several folks attended the show that night, looking for a break from family togetherness. Thus began the Mystery Band experience.
We remain a proud bar band. But we are different than a standard bar band. The mission of the Mystery Band is to bring Chicago’s finest blues musicians together and have a ridiculously good time. Over the past 5 years, more than 45 terrific musicians have joined the Mystery Band (maybe for only one gig). We almost never rehearse – it comes together on the bandstand, sort of. But I started scribbling out a few blues songs to amuse myself, and then people started asking if they could buy our CD’s. Well, we didn’t have any product. So this CD is our effort to respond to our small group of dedicated fans. It is unusual for The Mystery Band to get organized like this – improvisation and accident are our core values. But it has been a gas to get in the studio and cut these tunes. We tried to stay true to our roots – there is very little overdubbing on this disc, and the all of the tracks were recorded in one or two takes. And we didn’t rehearse – we pulled it together at Jim Reeve’s studio in Evanston. I hope you enjoy the songs.
The supporting musicians on this disc are among the finest blues/R&B players in the world, and they are my “go-to” guys – I use them on as many gigs as possible. It is an honor to play with them.
The band loved working at Reeves Audio, run by the legendary Jim Reeves – one of the unsung heroes of the recorded music industry.
More to follow......
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
We lost a giant of the blues guitar today - Chico Banks died unexpectedly and way too soon. He was only 47 years old. He is part of the "killer guitarists" in the third generation of Chicago bluesmen (first generation included Muddy Waters, Little Walter, Jimmy Reed, Howlin' Wolf et al; second generation included Buddy Guy, Lonnie Brooks, Eddy Clearwater, Magic Slim et al, third generation included Melvin Taylor, Bernard Allison, Billy Branch, Chico Banks et al). Chico played the blues, he played R&B, he played funk, he played gospel and yeah, he could play rock too. Music was Chico's family business - his dad, Jessie Banks, was a fabulous guitarist that played with the great gospel group the Mighty Clouds of Joy.
Chico was also an engaging vocalist - his vocal stylings are guaranteed to bring a smile to your face. He was a fine songwriter. He was a great talent that was in the process of breaking out when he died. He was loved by his fellow musicans and legions of fans around the world.
I was vaguely aware the Chico had some health problems, but I had no idea that he was seriously ill. This is a huge shock to the blues community in Chicago.
Light a candle, people.
Monday, December 01, 2008
The Chicago branch of the family traveled west last week to enjoy Thanksgiving with the Portland branch of the family. The turkey was great (smoked outside, until the rain forced a transfer to the oven). And Portland OR is a unique place - great scenary, great beer, great coffee, great pinot noir, great seafood, great cheese and great music. If there is a heaven for Mr. G, it will look a lot like Portland.
On Friday might, my brother, my nephew and I were in the mood to catch some tunes. There were plenty of opportunities that involved a fairly long drive. But there was also a place nearby that had some music going on - the Tillicum Club (known locally as the "Tilly"). We drove less than five minutes to get there. It was pretty full; the crowd was skewed toward middle age. It looks like a neighborhood sports bar, but there is a small stage and a dance floor in the club. The stage was occupied by the Schwing Daddies (pictured above). The group was a very talented quartet, covering blues standards and Motown stuff. The group usually goes with two guitars, but for this gig, they had an organ player. It was nice to hear a big Hammond B3 with the Leslie speakers in such a small space. It was clear that many of the folks at the Tilly were regulars that knew the band members well. There was no cover charge - just a tip jar. I think these are guys with day jobs, doing music for the love of it.
Playing in a sports bar for no money, taking your wages in elation - that is a common fate for musicians.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
I feel very happy to have this product in the can. I spent this morning writing liner notes and credits for the CD package. I have the master and the specs for the recording; I need to design the artwork and layout for the case and find a good CD manufacturing shop. With luck, I can have it ready before Christmas.
The Mystery Band recorded these tunes back in late March. Some of the songs had topical lyrics that are already past their "freshness date." I think I will leave them on the record. This CD is a snapshot in time, sorta.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Monday, November 24, 2008
Here is my favorite quote regarding the Citigroup bailout (thus far):
In the news this morning is $20 billion of new capital to Citibank from TARP but still no money for the Big 3. I can already hear the scream out of Detroit. What’s the difference between the two? Well, to put it bluntly, giving cash to Citibank is like performing the Heimlich maneuver on a choking man while giving cash to the Big 3 is like giving mouth-to mouth to a recently dug up corpse.
John P. McNulty, Publisher, Private Equity Professional Digest
Bleah. But quite colorful.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
So I am in Phoenix AZ, home of Camelback Mountain and desert critters like the Road Runner pictured above (mmBeep beep). The weather is marvelous here - high 70's/low 80's during the day, upper sixties in the evening. Unfortunately, this is a business trip so I have been in conference rooms and offices for 12 hours each day. Once we have exhausted ourselves with work, I stumble out of the office building and go next door to the hotel. This project has hit a snag, I have a lot of time and energy invested, and it may go down the pipes. It is tough to get anything done with in this "fear and loathing" economy.
Last night, I went for a walk - there is an underpass that allows one to cross the busy 6-lane boulevard (Camelback Road) without dealing with traffic. On the other side is the Biltmore Fashion Park - a massive mall housing a Macy's, an Apple Store, a Tommy Bahamas, Williams Sonoma, Brookstone, California Pizza, Ralph Lauren and many other temples of consumption. There was a local shop called "This Little Piggy Loves Cotton," which I gather has something to do with children's clothes.
Also in the Biltmore Fashion Park - many fountains (fountains in the desert? This is disturbing). Elderly couples huddled on the benches near these fountains, engaging in heated, loud discussions (deafness may be a factor in the high volume). I finally got tired of strolling around the mall and found a joint called "Sam's Southwestern Grill." I stumbled in and ordered a Grand Canyon Margarita. Sam's was a little busy on a Tuesday night with young women drinking and complaining about their boyfriends/husbands. I drank up and fled back to the hotel.
The economy is a burning platform and we have invited Barack Obama to take it over and make it into a paradise. He is going to try things that won't work (every president makes mistakes). The liberal rhetoric on the current crisis is wrong - it isn't deregulation alone that caused our problem, it was collusion between the political class and the titans of the financial sector. It took a long time to create this mess; we will be in the shit for years to come. Obama has a very tough job.
I get to go home and see my womenfolk tomorrow. Can't wait.
Monday, November 10, 2008
Sunday, November 09, 2008
Scott has a day gig and a young family. In addition to the Morseland, he sometimes plays the early acoustic set at Buddy Guy's Legends in Chicago. Scott also put together a "kiddie music" act which he performs at schools, birthday parties and the like. He claims that the kid gigs can be fun, but they also can be unmitigated misery. Ah yes - the exciting romantic life of the working musican....
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
The press and the people are all marveling that the United States has elected an African American president. Yes, that is significant. But the REAL revolution is that, for the first time in our country's history, our government will be led by a die-hard fan of the Chicago White Sox. Here is President Elect Obama throwing out the first pitch during the 2005 American League play-offs, back when he was still pretty much unknown outside of Chicago.
He is charismatic, intelligent, articulate and level-headed. AND he is a White Sox Fan. So we should be OK, people.
Saturday, October 18, 2008
Mervyn's was a classic post-war success story. In the summer of 1949, 29-year old Mervin G. Morris opened the first Mervyn's store in San Lorenzo CA, about 20 miles south of Oakland. I grew up in San Leandro CA, the first suburb north of San Lorenzo. My mother would drag me to Mervyn's every fall to buy my back-to-school clothes. Mervin Morris was an innovator. He was one of the first retailers to focus on young families with modest incomes; he was one of the first retailers to offer revolving credit accounts to customers; he was one of the first retailers to advertise sales in large newspaper ads. My family was right in Mervyn's target demographic and I spent many hours in that store in San Lorenzo. The company grew and opened stores all over northern California.
Mr. Morris sold his company to Dayton Hudson (aka Target) in 1978. They neglected it for 26 years, then flushed it in a sale to Cerberus in 2004. Cerberus is a vulture investor/hedge fund. They could give a hoot about the company's history or legacy. And of course, few people care about Mervyn's as a brand - Target, WalMart and the rest of the discounters repeatedly kicked Mervyn's butt.
In 1976, I graduated from college. The economy was pretty weak (sorta like it is now). I had two job offers - one was to join the management training program at Mervyn's, the other was to sell life insurance (gag me). I couldn't stand the idea of peddling budget underwear to the masses, so I went to grad school instead. In a way, Mervyn's is the reason I continued my education, ended up in Chicago, and have the life that I have had.
Thus the twinge of sadness.
Barbara Mahany and freelance reporter Brian Cox
September 29, 2008
In the end, they ditched the guy-in-the-gorilla-suit concept. Same with the cloak of darkness. Instead, armed with a slingshot, souped-up lacrosse sticks, a plastic whiffle-ball thrower and six baskets brimming with 724 seed bombs—yes, seed bombs—the motley mob of guerrilla gardeners attacked in broad daylight Saturday, brazenly circling the cyclone fence that wraps a big dirt lot at Chicago Avenue and Main Street in Evanston. "Bombs away!" cried guerrilla-gardener-in-chief Carla Hayden as the sky filled with a mix of clay, compost and wildflower seeds in what looked like a storm of flying falafel balls. Along with the meadow-making armament, the botanic bombardiers unleashed their vitriol for the developer who had dug a giant hole last year, left it to ooze mud and dust and then, last week, called in bulldozers to fill it after funding for a condominium tower dried up. "We need to take it back," said Charlotte Briggs, co-conspirator of Trowels on the Prowl, the ad hoc group that organized the attack and is plotting more seed-sowing operations. "It's just an ugly hole, with an ugly fence. "You have to think: How can you make change by doing what might not be in other people's plans but you can get away with?"Attempts to reap the developer's reaction were fruitless. But none of the gardeners seemed worried about stirring the constable's wrath."If we do," said Hayden, "I'm going to handcuff myself to a wildflower."
Thursday, October 16, 2008
I spent some time on the telephone today (like every day). The financial panic and deepening economic downturn is grinding on people. I spoke to several Republicans. One of my Republican friends told me that he has decided not to vote in November - "I violently disagree with Obama on every issue and McCain is an idiot." Another Republican friend said "After eight years to prepare, the best my party could come up with was McCain? God, we deserve to lose." Republican voter turn-out may be below expectations this year.
The Republican base may be excited about John McCain (or Sarah Palin), but many garden-variety Republicans are not. John McCain is an admirable man, but he isn't carrying the day with Republicans, let alone independents.
Sorry, I will get back to musical topics next time.
Sunday, October 05, 2008
Friday, October 03, 2008
This situation was over ten years in the making. Two core truths were forgotten: (1) Living outside of your means leads to disaster, eventually and (2) If the credit is bad, no amount of mathematic manipulation can make it good. Fulminating about greed and lax oversight is satsifying, but misses the heart of the problem. Lots of good intentions, small errors and moral failures created a firestorm. It will take a couple of years to flush this from the body of our economy. Yup, I am an optimist - just a 24 month decline and recession.
One of my fellow daytime businessmen/nightime harmonica playas just got the news that he will have more time to practice his instument - his employer laid him off. CKM is a bright young guy, an internet marketing professional, he will land on his feet eventually. There are hundreds of bankers treading the bricks; hundreds more will join them. It ain't going to be pretty.
My little firm is sailing along - the dislocation creates opportunities for small fry like us. I can't say how long we will continue to experience good fortune, though...
Thursday, August 21, 2008
Oh, Lord, it has been a week of losses. Phil guy died at the age of 68 after his battle with prostate cancer. He was a kind, generous musician; deserving of far more recognition than he received. As Buddy Guy's brother, he faced the challenge of overcoming a close relative's fame. Phil was always pleasant to wannabe musicians like me. This is a recent picture of Phil, from the Chicago Blues Fest last June
Thursday, July 31, 2008
Last week, Joe Beck died. He was almost 63 years old - still young . Like Hiram, Joe could play with everyone, but his music came from the jazz side. He collaborated with a wide range of artists - from Miles Davis to Frank Sinatra to James Brown. Here is a link to Joe's obituary from his hometown newspaper.
Hiram and Joe both played with David Sanborn (the great jazz fusion alto saxophonist). They also both collaborated with Gil Evans, the great jazz composer and arranger. These two fanatastic guitarists moved in the same circles, and left the scene together.
Yeah, its a coincidence, but still eerie.
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Several species of dragonfly are known to collect in large swarms. In most cases this appears to be due to very favorable feeding conditions in the area. It may also be a "courting" group with males actively searching for females. This is less likely as males are much more aggressive to each other when looking for a mate.
Some dragonflies gather in swarms before moving to a new area (like a bird migration). The reasons for this are unclear but may be due to population pressures. There are records from the US of migratory swarms.
Monday, July 28, 2008
As I rode my bicycle at dawn along Lake Michigan this morning, I was reflecting on the fine musical weekend that just passed. The Mystery Band was a pure blues unit on Friday and was a jazz/blues hybrid on Saturday. We had two musicians that played their first gig with the group over the weekend, and they handled the challenge well.
On Friday, I had the honor of playing with the great Felix Reyes, also known as "Uncle Fe." This was his first gig with the Mystery Band. Felix hails from Dallas and now lives in Chicago, but he spent quite a bit of time in Atlanta. His first band, in Texas, was called the "Weebads" (fabulous name!!). In Atlanta, his band, Felix and the Cats was a very important pillar of the Atlanta blues community. The Cats played B.B. Kings birthday party in the mid-90's and also played at the Atlanta Olympics. Mr. Reyes was also instrumental in the development of several young blues players, most notably the young guitar phenom, Sean Costello who recently died before reaching his 29th birthday. Felix and Sean are pictured together at the top of this post. Felix moved to Chicago several years ago and he is a fantastic guitarist, songwriter and vocalist (he wrote tunes for Susan Tedeschi and currently does music production work for the Oprah Winfrey Show and independent films). This cat is very heavy, and he just killed on Friday. The other members of the Mystery Band on Friday were all top Chicago blues veterans - Harlan Terson on bass, Tom Crivellone on guitar, and Aaron Almon on drums. These aren't my regular bandsmen, but the group sounded tight and we were having lots of fun.
The Friday night gig at Bill's Blues started slow, but turned into a frenetic dance party when a large group of folks came in at around 10:30 p.m. They had just left a wedding reception and were is a party mood (many had consumed a number of adult beverages prior to their arrival at Bill's). We had women down on the ground kicking up their legs and flashing their scanties to various interested observers. It was a very fine night for the Mystery Band.
On Saturday, a different Mystery Band assembled at Duke's Bar in Chicago's Rogers Park neighborhood. Duke's is a classic Chicago tavern with a small side room that contains a tiny stage and P.A. system. The Mystery Band plays there regularly (for the giggles, not the money). On Saturday, the Mystery Band consisted of Mike Finnerty and the Heat Merchants, with Mr. G up front on harmonica and vocals. Mike Finnerty is one of the tenor sax giants of Chicago; his band consists of Andy Meacham on guitar, Adam Kraus on upright bass and "Street Beat Pete" Castranova on drums (this was Pete's first gig with the Mystery Band). The Heat Merchants are not completely familiar with the various blues grooves typically explored by the Mystery Band, but the typical Mystery Band is not generally familiar with the changes to "Body & Soul." It was an interesting gig. We played blues, jazz and country tunes. We had some great moments and some not-so-great moments. Duke's Bar lets patrons bring their dogs into the joint, so we had two canines wandering around as we played.
These Mystery Band shows are always great evenings, full of stories and odd moments. They are times to be treasured.
Monday, July 21, 2008
I have had the pleasure of playing with many fine blues people over the past 4+ years since I kicked off the Mystery Band. One of the men I have come to know is an especially talented musician. He has it all - technique, a huge musical vocabulary (blues, R&B, funk, jazz, country) and he still loves to play after over 4 decades of mileage. My friend is a deep well of musical wisdom and creativity. He also is struggling with health problems, relationship problems and acute money problems. This man is in a rough situation. He is neck-deep in the blues.
So check out this chain of events: (1) My friend's car develops problems; it is stalling unpredictably and he is nervous about driving to gigs. (2) The mechanic that looks at his car tells him "you need at least $800 worth of work." Lacking the bread, my friend reclaims his car. (3) An argument with his intoxicated significant other leads to a scene and she busts the windshield of the car. Now it can't be driven at all. (4) Unable to drive to gigs, my friend's cashflow declines - not much dough available to repair the car. (5) After tapping friends for a loan, my friend gets his car partially repaired. (6) My friend parks the car in his usual spot in a lot in his very tough Chicago neighborhood. The car gets towed. (7) After paying a large fine to re-claim the car, my friend parks it on the street in his neighborhood. Within three hours of parking it, the car is stolen. He is forced to cancel his gigs for the coming weekend.
This is the type of negative loop that will bring a strong man to his knees. Sympathetic friends can help somewhat, but that source is finite. The blues life is a total bitch.
Light a candle for all the working musicians out there. As Eddy Clearwater likes to say, it is a hard way to make an easy living.
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
"The weather forecast for tonight: dark. Continued dark overnight, with widely scattered light by morning. ... What we have here is a Canadian low, which is not to be confused with a Mexican high."
"If crime fighters fight crime, and fire fighters fight fire, what do freedom fighters fight? "
"If lawyers are disbarred and clergymen defrocked, doesn't it follow that electricians can be delighted, musicians denoted?"
"I'm completely in favor of the separation of Church and State. My idea is that these two institutions screw us up enough on their own, so both of them together is certain death."
"If the No. 2 pencil is the most popular, why is it still No. 2?"
"One tequila, two tequila, three tequila, floor."
"If a parsley farmer is sued, can they garnish his wages?""If the 'black box' flight recorder is never damaged during a plane crash, why isn't the whole airplane made out of that stuff?"
"Whose cruel idea was it for the word 'lisp' to have an 'S' in it?""Why is there an expiration date on sour cream?"
"If one synchronized swimmer drowns, do the rest drown, too?"
"One nice thing about egotists: They don't talk about other people."
"If the police arrest a mime, do they tell him he has the right to remain silent?"
"What if there were no hypothetical questions?"
"Atheism is a non-prophet organization."
" 'I am' is reportedly the shortest sentence in the English language. Could it be that 'I do' is the longest sentence?"
"The word bipartisan usually means some larger-than-usual deception is being carried out."
"Dusting is a good example of the futility of trying to put things right. As soon as you dust, the fact of your next dusting has already been established."
"Have you ever noticed that anybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac?"
"I was thinking about how people seem to read the Bible a whole lot more as they get older; then it dawned on me — they're cramming for their final exam."
"If it's true that our species is alone in the universe, then I'd have to say the universe aimed rather low and settled for very little."
"Most people work just hard enough not to get fired and get paid just enough money not to quit."
"Some people see things that are and ask, Why? Some people dream of things that never were and ask, Why not? Some people have to go to work and don't have time for all that."
"When you're born you get a ticket to the freak show. When you're born in America, you get a front row seat."
And here is my all-time favorite:
"The most unfair thing about life is the way it ends. I mean, life is tough. It takes up a lot of your time. What do you get at the end of it? A Death! What's that, a bonus? I think the life cycle is all backward. You should die first, get it out of the way. Then you live in an old-age home. You get kicked out when you're too young, you get a gold watch, you go to work. You work 40 years until you're young enough to enjoy your retirement. You do drugs, alcohol; you party; you get ready for high school. You go to grade school; you become a kid; you play; you have no responsibilities. You become a little baby; you go back into the womb; you spend your last nine months floating ... and you finish off as an orgasm."
Thank you, George.
Friday, June 13, 2008
Here is Tyler's message:
I wanted to let you know about a one-day blues festival my friend and I are putting on at the Congress Theater (Blues Day Festival). It is on July 12th and it is for a good cause. It is an event for the whole family and part of the proceeds will be donated to Blues Kids of America and the Koko Taylor Foundation. Doors open at 9:00am where a blues clinic for kids will begin. Kids will learn how to play the blues on various instruments. The music starts at roughly 3:45pm with the Columbia College Blues Ensemble. There will be 9 other acts throughout the evening and Lonnie Brooks will be the headline act ending at 11:00pm.
Monday, June 09, 2008
There is a fine young guitarist in Chicago - let's call him "Young Buck." Young Buck has been playing since he was a teenager, and has been a sideman for many of the blues greats, both in Chicago and in touring bands. Young Buck can truly play and he sings pretty well. He is ambitious, and has his own band - let's call them "the Buckaroos."
Now Young Buck was supporting a great, elder statesman of the blues - we will call him "Old Vet." Old Vet had been on the scene for decades and never quite achieved break-out, star status. He was heading in that direction though. He started playing some of the better rooms in Chicago (including Buddy Guy's Legends) and he got some dates in Europe. Things were looking up for Old Vet.
So Old Vet got 2-week tour in Europe, but he was going to be backed by local European musicians - he had to leave Young Buck and the rest of the band back in Chicago. Young Buck noticed that Old Vet seemed to have a double booking - he was scheduled to play in Germany on a Saturday night when he was also scheduled to play at Legends. Young Buck saw an opening.....
Buck called the booking manager at the club. "Hey, Vet is going to miss his date - he will still be in Europe." "That's strange," said the booking manager. "Vet told me he would be back in time." "Well," said Buck," I double checked the schedule and he is double booked. But don't worry, I'll take the gig with my band, the Buckaroos." The booking manager agreed to this since he had a hole in his schedule.
Buck then got on the telephone and called the other sidemen in Vet's band. "Hey, Vet's double booked and I am taking the gig at Legends. My band is going to play it. Sorry - your services won't be required." This did not please the other guys in Vet's band. No, sir.
So my friend (who was a member of Vet's band) placed an international call to Vet. "Old Vet, do you know you are double booked - in Germany and at Legends, same night?" "No I am not - that is an old schedule. I cut the tour short so I would be back in time to make the gig," said old Vet. "Hmmm," said my friend. "Buck called the club and told them you wouldn't be there and he has taken the date for the Buckaroos." "The FUCK you say," said Old Vet with a chuckle. "Well, tell the guys to get to Legends early with a substitute guitar player. We will give Buck a little schoolin'."
And so Vet and the band were on stage, ready to go, when Young Buck and the Buckaroos rolled into Legends for the gig. Buck was caught, deer in the headlights. Vet said, "I been all over this town playin' for 45 years and nobody, NOBODY, steals my gigs, Buck. Oh, and you're fired. Please leave the club quietly and quickly." Young Buck stammered a bit, then left. The Buckaroos all quit his band that night.
This is a small piece of the drama that happens in Chicago's blues community. In truth, there are too many musicians chasing too few gigs. This can cause bad behavior....
Sunday, June 08, 2008
Monday, June 02, 2008
I knew Bo was sick - heard about the stroke he had in Iowa. I had heard that his rehab was going well, but I guess his heart just gave out. He had diabetes for many years.
Bo was a giant; hugely inventive. His sound was instantly recognizable and broke new ground. Countless rock and blues artists covered him or imitated him. And he didn't make anywhere near the money that he deserved...
Thursday, May 29, 2008
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
All my major projects at work are on hold. The Mystery Band CD is on hold - I cancelled my studio sessions so I could be available in the hospital. My wife has not left my girl's hospital room, so I am looking after my elder daughter ( who isn't the most independent teenager in the world). I am beat and still worried.
Sorry, no music content today. Family trumps music.
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Wednesday, May 07, 2008
May 7, 2008
Cabdriver Thanked for Returning a Stradivarius
By RICHARD G. JONES
NEWARK — The violinist stood on a makeshift stage between two lampposts crowned with a patina of bird droppings, under a weathered vinyl canopy hastily erected outside Newark Liberty International Airport in the taxicab holding area. The audience watched him in awe, about 50 drivers in three rows, their yellow cabs a few feet behind, some lined up neatly, others askew.
As Philippe Quint spent half an hour playing five selections, the cabbies clapped and whistled. They danced in the aisles, hips gyrating like tipsy belly dancers. “Magic fingers, magic fingers,” one called out. Another grabbed the hand of Mr. Quint’s publicist and did what looked like a merengue across the front of the “stage.”
Afterward, the virtuoso was mobbed by drivers seeking his autograph on dollar bills, napkins and cab receipts.
“It was so pleasing to see people dancing — that never happens,” said Mr. Quint, 34, a Grammy-nominated classical violinist. “These people, they work so hard, I doubt they get a chance to get out to Carnegie Hall or Lincoln Center.”
So Mr. Quint took Carnegie Hall to them, in a miniconcert that was his way of expressing a simple sentiment: Thank you.
On April 21, Mr. Quint accidentally left a Stradivarius violin, valued at $4 million, in the back seat of a cab that he took from the airport to Manhattan on his return from a performance in Dallas. After several frantic hours, the Newark police told him the violin had been found and was at the airport taxi stand with the cabdriver who had taken him home. The two connected, and the violin was returned.
“Anybody out here would have done the same thing,” said the driver, Mohammed Khalil, waving a hand at his laughing, dancing colleagues.
The city of Newark awarded Mr. Khalil, who has driven a taxi here since 1985, a Medallion, its highest honor. Mr. Quint gave him a $100 tip when the violin was returned, but he wanted to do more, so he arranged for Tuesday’s concert in a parking-lot-turned-theater.
Clad in black, with his dark hair falling over his closed eyes, Mr. Quint dazzled the crowd with a theme from the movie “The Red Violin”; Gershwin’s “It Ain’t Necessarily So”; a Paganini Variation; and the Meditation from Massenet’s opera “Thaïs.” Joined by his friend Michael Bacon, a guitarist (and the brother of the actor Kevin Bacon), Mr. Quint played a piece they had composed, “Seduction Blues.”
On the horizon, there was the blocky spire that was the air traffic control tower. Every now and then a seagull would alight on one of the trailers where the cabbies play dominoes during their wait for fares. Occasionally, a silhouetted plane would glide by overhead, providing a rumbling accompaniment to the music.
But despite the setting — or maybe because of it — Mr. Quint’s audience seemed particularly moved by his gesture.
“I like that he came here,” Ebenezer Sarpeh, 46, said, in the accent of his native Ghana. “And, yeah, the music, I like it.”
It was Mr. Sarpeh who burst into spontaneous applause on several occasions and started yelling “magic fingers” during one particularly deft moment. Later, he took a turn in front of the stage and his fellow cabdrivers laughed and cheered while he shimmied and moonwalked, the Newark Taxi Cab Association’s answer to Justin Timberlake.
Like many of the cabdrivers in attendance, Mr. Sarpeh said it was the first recital by a classical violinist that he had ever attended. A few confessed that they had little more than a passing familiarity with such music. But they were proud to surround Mr. Khalil, who sat front row center in a black suit with a pink shirt and matching tie.
“If one cabby does something good, we feel like we all do something good,” said Patrick Cosmeus, 43, who has been driving for a decade and seemed a little sheepish as he admitted that he had seldom found anything more valuable than a forgotten cellphone in his taxi. “But everything we find, we always return it,” he added.
“Everything we find is valuable to someone,” Mr. Khalil pointed out. “If you lost your pen, you would think it was valuable.”
The violin that Mr. Quint left behind, which had been lent by two benefactors, was still being inspected for any problems from its journey, so he played the Tuesday program on a Guarneri.
Afterward, Mr. Quint posed for photographs with Mr. Khalil, whom he has also invited to a September concert at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall. As he signed autographs, he retold the story of his lost violin and its triumphant return.
“He saw how distressed I was,” Mr. Quint said of Mr. Khalil. “He just gave it back to me and he noticed I was in no condition to go home by myself. So he said, ‘Why don’t I give you a ride home?’ I said, ‘No, no, it’s OK, I’ll take a bus, I’ll take another taxi. He said, ‘No, I’m happy to give you a ride back, because you’re my last customer.’”
As he had planned for months, Mr. Khalil retired from driving a cab the day he took Mr. Quint home.
Don't you feel a little better about the world after reading this story?