Search This Blog

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Buddy Miles - Another Big Loss

I have been a Buddy Miles fan dating back to the Electric Flag days. He died too soon...RIP Buddy. Here is the obit from his hometown paper in Omaha NE.

Buddy Miles, an Omaha drummer and singer who played with legendary guitarist Jimi Hendrix, died Tuesday night at his home in Austin, Texas.

The 60-year-old musician died of congestive heart failure, said his publicist, Duane Lee, of Dallas.

Born George Miles Jr. in Omaha in 1947, Miles had been fascinated with drums since age 6. "His father found him outside in the back yard practicing on some trash can lids," said Miles' partner, Sherrilae Chambers of Dallas, in a 2004 interview.

He joined his father George Miles' jazz combo, the Bebops, at age 12. Miles dropped out of Omaha North High in 1965, a few days before he was to graduate, to pursue a career as a professional musician. He received an honorary diploma from the school in 1998.

In 1967, he co-founded the Chicago band Electric Flag with Mike Bloomfield, who had just left the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. The group broke up after its second album, and Miles formed the Buddy Miles Express.

He met Hendrix in the early 1960s but didn't begin collaborating with him until 1969, when Hendrix produced an album by the Buddy Miles Express.

Miles was drummer on Hendrix's landmark "Electric Ladyland" album before officially joining Hendrix's Band of Gypsys with bassist Billy Cox a few months later. Miles wrote the Hendrix classic "Them Changes."

He worked with a variety of acts through the years, including the Ink Spots, Ruby & the Romantics, Wilson Pickett, the Delfonics, Stevie Wonder, Bootsy Collins, David Bowie and Santana.

"You name it, he sat in with them," said longtime friend Victoria Rose, who met Miles at a party in Hollywood when she was 17. She and her husband saw him perform last September at a club in Seattle.

During the early '70s, Miles was imprisoned twice on drug convictions.

In 1986, he became known as the voice of the California Raisins in a commercial campaign that yielded his hit rendition of "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" and a platinum "California Raisins" album.

Omaha musician Craig Balderston remembers jamming with Miles occasionally in the Mighty Jailbreakers, a local band, during the mid-'90s.

"He would sit in and sing with us. He was a fantastic drummer and a fantastic singer," Balderston said.

In 2004, Miles performed at the Omaha Riverfront Jazz & Blues Festival and was inducted into the Nebraska Music Hall of Fame that year. In 2005, he was inducted into the Omaha Black Music Hall of Fame.

"He was a great, influential musician and a wonderful person and friend," Rose said. "He was just a good soul. I think he's up in heaven with Jimi now. I think they're rocking."

His mother, Frances Miles, died in 1999. His sister, Gloria Miles, died in 2002. Survivors include his Chambers, a niece, nephew and stepchildren. A private memorial service will be held. ---

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Matthew Curry - 12-year old Blues Guitar Hero

On February 7 - less than a week ago - at the New Lafayette Club in Bloomington IL (downstate from Chicago, home of Illinois Wesleyan University and Illinois State University) an amazing scene unfolded. There was a group of touring blues stars in town for a one night stand on one of the coldest days imaginable. Tommy Castro (guitar) from San Francisco, Ronnie Baker Brooks (guitar) from Chicago, Magic Dick (harmonica) from Boston and Deanna Bogard (keyboards and sax) from Baltimore were pouring out energy at a mid-week, in-transit, on the road gig. The show was hot, then the band brought up a local player - a 12-year old blond kid named Matthew Curry. THIS KIDS CHOPS ARE BEYOND BELIEF!!!!!!! sent a link out with its newsletter (Blues Blast). Anybody out there who reads this blog, check out young Matthew! He is a prodigy, a savant. You can see some concert footage by clicking here. Right after this youngster finished his first tune with the band, the power grid in Bloomington failed - a complete blackout!! A coincidence? I think not! Too many hot blues guitarists sucking up the juice last week in downstate Illinois.


The Question

The greatest achievements of Western Civilization are the implementation of its core ideas - the importance of human rights, rationalism, freedom of thought and expression, the supremecy of law and equality under the law, the separation of church and state, self-criticism and governance via liberal democractic principals (that is "small l" liberal, not "Big L"). As Americans ponder the candidates for president (indeed, all candidates for any political office), the "big picture" question is "Who will further the implementation of the core ideas of Western Civilization in the United States of America?"

All other issues are secondary.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Super Tuesday - Something is Different This Time

I voted at 6:00 AM this morning, eager to beat the rush. My polling place is Washington School on Main Street (can't get much more middle-American than that!). Nothing much has changed at my polling place over the years, except you can use a touch-screen electronic polling machine instead of a paper ballot (choice left to each voter). The same senior citizens handle the poll monitoring and organization duties, the same folks stumble in at 6AM to vote (my friends and neighbors).

Then, something different. I saw Charlotte, a high school girl who recently turned 18 years old, in line and bright-eyed. She was with her mother, Laura. I have watched Charlotte grow up; she has been my neighbor since she was born. Like most teenagers, she is not usually conscious at 6AM, but today she was up and totally focused on casting her first vote ever in this 2008 Illinois primary. She registered at Evanston Township High School on her birthday.

I am an old voter; this is election day number 20 for me; I always show up right when the polls open. I have never seen a teenager at the polls at 6AM before. HMMMMMMM....

I suspect that this is the "Obama Effect," and it made me feel happy.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Another Living Musician I Love - Jon Hendricks

Jon Hendricks loomed large in my musical upbringing. I did lots of serious listening and hanging out in Berkeley in the early to mid-1970's, and Jon was a local guy. He taught some courses at UC Berkeley and Cal State - Sonoma, but he also would show up in various places to sing. He is an enormously creative lyricist and an ebullient singer who basically invented the world of vocalese (writing lyrics to fit instrumental jazz tunes, including the complicated bebop solos). He might be most famous due to his role with Lamberts, Hendricks and Ross - the vocalese trio that gained a measure of fame in the 1958-1964 period. But his work covers a lot of ground, including theater, television and journalism. Jon left California in 2000 and returned to his hometown of Toledo OH (quite a massive change from the Bay Area). He was appointed Distinguished Professor of Jazz Studies at the University of Toledo.

Jon would pop up at obscure bars and coffee houses when I was hanging around Berkeley during my college years. And he still pops up unexpectedly. Here in Chicago, the vocalist Kurt Elling is a huge Hendricks fan, so he brings Jon to his gigs. There was a great night at the Green Mill night club on Chicago's north side a few years ago - Jon and Kurt sang together, and some of it was included on Kurt's disk - "Live in Chicago." If you want to hear something fun and awesome, check out Kurt and Jon doing "Going to Chicago." Two singers and a bass fiddle walking the blues - wicked stuff, man.