Where Have I Been? Where Am I? Who Am I? Why Should I Be?

“How slight a thing will disturb the equanimity of our frail minds!”

                Charles Dickens, from Oliver Twist, 1838


I hate reporting from the road, so since I’ve been gone for four weeks, save a few hours each weekend, I held everything until now. 2015 has already turned out to be interesting, to say the least. Several lounge albums came my way unexpectedly, including late 60s Butler, PA duo, The Specialists, “Tomorrow’s Standards” complete with the misspelling, “Tommorows” right on the front cover! Another General Assembly (Show) LP from the early 70s, and mid-70s New Jersey lounge weirdness from The Muzzy Band, “How Was It?”. (Frankly, it was awful – but I love it, still, for the sad, sad humor.)

Breaking away from the lounge recordings, another slab of plastic arrived here, The Serpent Power, “Ourobouros”, a limited edition on 180 gram virgin vinyl from Locust Music. I got #229 of 500. This consists of two compositions, 1 & 2, which are free form psychedelic excursions into strange places while in the KPFA studio in 1969.Participants include: Bob Cuff, rhythm guitar; Clark Coolidge, drums; Jim Moscoso, bass; David Meltzer, guitar/vocals; and J.P. Pickens on banjo. Others sitting-in on these sessions include Daniel Moore on shenei, bells, conch shell, and Christian on alto sax. The music was spontaneous – this collective had never worked together as a unit before!

While my wife was healing from back surgery, I put together a CD of songs she liked, some of which she requested for the comp. I have to admit, it turned out nicely, consisting of the following:

Orleans – Still the One

The Stylistics – You Make Me Feel Brand New

Beverly Bremers – Don’t Say You Don’t Remember

Stealers Wheel – Stuck In The Middle With You

The Marshall Tucker Band – Heard It In A Love Song

Earth, Wind, and Fire – September

Carly Simon – The Right Thing To Do

Olivia Newton-John – I Honestly Love You

Toto – Hold The Line

Pure Prairie League – Amie

Rita Coolidge – We’re All Alone

Kenny Loggins with Stevie Nicks – Whenever I Call You Friend

Exile – Kiss You All Over

Paul Davis – I Go Crazy

Benny Mardones – Into The Night

Janice Ian – At Seventeen

Phoebe Snow – Poetry Man

Marty Balin – Hearts

Israel Kamakawiwo’ole – Somewhere Over The Rainbow/What A Wonderful World

Then it was off to Asheville, North Carolina. I really did not expect to go to any performances while there, but sure enough, I stumbled onto a solo acoustic guitarist, Chris Rhodes, who did several covers from the 60s and 70s. He had a CD available that I picked up – all original tunes in a jazz/blues style. We talked and I found out that he used to live in LA, and had friends in Normal Heights in San Diego. He played venues along the coast from Rosarita, Mexico to Long Beach, leaving the area in 2001 for North Carolina.

My next stop was Houston, Texas. While I did not have time to go out evenings to hear anything I made it a point to make contact with Jandek, the outsider artist who has kept his true persona a big mystery. Jandek has been recording albums since 1978, and has never revealed his true identity all this time. He only began performing live in 2004, and is very selective of who accompanies him – always top performers in the avant garde scene or local experimental artists where he is performing. He usually ignores efforts from “fans” who contact him. I invited him to dinner and he responded. While he reminded me of his policy – not to communicate with anyone other than those who arrange his concerts – he wanted to thank me for my invitation and hoped I enjoyed my stay in Houston. He had tried to arrange for a San Diego performance at one of the universities but it fell through. Perhaps I can do something to change this. Hmmmm.  Jandek is on the far right.

On to Pittsburgh, my favorite big city in the USA, and my old stomping grounds. My good friend, Jim Ulery, made arrangements for us to go to the James Street Gastropub & Speakeasy on Thursday night, where there was a jazz jam, coordinated by famed jazz drummer, Roger Humphries. Talk about small world, one of my students used to work at the Speakeasy and knew Roger Humphries & his bass player, Dwayne Dolphin. So I made myself known to both Roger and Dwayne. In an email to my friend, Tony Janflone, Jr, he said to say hi to Roger. Well these connections opened further conversation with these guys and before you know it, Roger is introducing Jim to George Heid. What he didn’t realize is that George was Jim’s drum instructor only about 40 years ago. George had also been the drummer in the Super Blues Band, a jazz/rock trio which also included Tony Janflone, Sr (my guitar teacher) and George’s brother Bill Heid on keyboards. We were sitting there and I was talking about saxophonist, Kenny Blake, and how great it would be to see him live. Kenny’s album, “Interior Design”, had made it to #15 on Billboard’s Top Contemporary Jazz Albums chart in 1991. Tony Janflone, Jr. appeared on that and his follow up album, “Rumor Has It”, which charted at #20 in 1992. Well, wouldn’t you know, Kenny was there and did one song with the group. When he left the stage, I went over to talk to him. We got to talking about Tony and he raved about his playing. Being an open jam evening, there were several student players from one of the local universities who took turns performing with the jazz giants on stage. As for the music, it was straight ahead progressive jazz, from cool bop to Latin jazz. Humphries had played with Dizzy Gillespie, Ray Charles, Freddie Hubbard, Herbie Mann, to just name a few. Besides their own compositions, they did numbers by Horace Silver, Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock and others. Wonderful artistry with a lineup of saxes, trumpet, piano, electric bass, and drums with an occasional trombone. A wonderful evening. Roger Humphries band.

Kenny Blake on sax.

Then it was on to Springfield, Illinois, and single digit temperatures in the morning, getting up to the high twenties most days. This was the week of Lincoln’s birthday so there were many Lincoln celebrations but no music events close enough to endure the cold weather to get to. It was a week of consulting and hibernation.

Got back to warm San Diego on Valentine’s Day and Nancy and I went to the Caliph that evening to hear Blue Velvet. They are now a trio consisting of Kevin Cavanaugh, Maggie Taylor, and Normandie Wilson. Surprisingly, they are even better than before, with many new numbers and reworked old ones. I had requested “My Funny Valentine” and Normandie did an amazing job with this difficult song. They also acknowledged us, mentioning that this was Nancy’s first outing after having major surgery. A real nice touch. Dave Fleminger was there and shared our table. He is currently engineering Normandie’s next solo album. Can’t wait to hear this one.

Tonight we will head to Lestat’s West to hear the Robin Henkel Horn Band with Whitney Shay. It has been awhile since we’ve heard them. Should be a nice treat.

And that catches us up to the present that just passed a moment ago. I am home for a week so I will try to get into some topics that I’ve neglected for far too long, which is part of what I wanted to do with this all along.