What’s Happening, Man!

“I said now Cecil’s got his new piece; He cocks it, shoots it BANG! between three and four. He aims it at the sailor; He shoots him down dead on the floor. Oh, you shouldn’t do that; Don’t you know you’ll hit the carpet, don’t you know you’ll mess the carpet?”

–  Lou Reed, from “Sister Ray” , The Velvet Underground – White Light/White Heat 1967

As I write, I’m listening to Air – “Sexy Boy”, from the album, Moon Safari. (All of Air’s albums are wonderful chill music!) Sort of apropo for all the LGBT backlash and Indiana political idiocy of the moment. But I don’t want to talk about that. I “just got back from Carolina” to continue my quote from Lou Reed’s “Sister Ray”, which in Lou’s own words “was done as a joke – no, not as a joke, but it has eight characters in it and this guy gets killed and nobody does anything. It was built around this story that I wrote about this scene of total debauchery and decay. I like to think of ‘Sister Ray’ as a transvestite smack dealer. The situation is a bunch of drag queens taking some sailors home with them, shooting up on smack and having this orgy when the police appear.” Greenville, South Carolina was a really nice, quaint town with a very developed downtown dedicated to the arts and fine cuisine. In other words, I enjoyed my visit. There was a piano bar at the Westin, which I walked past every evening when going to dinner. I never stopped by. So I ask myself “Why?”. And myself says back to me, “Uh, I dunno. Tired, I guess.” I’ll accept that. I really hated that while flying home Thursday night I was missing some great things happening in San Diego. First, there was The Zombies tribute at Bar Pink, hosted by Normandie Wilson and Bart Mendoza, with True Stories, Scott Mathiasen & Mojo Working, Wayne Riker, Shake before Us and others. And, at the same time over at Lestat’s we had Western Collective, 22 Kings, and The Yes Team. I was heartbroken. But I don’t want to whine. After all, I have seen some really great performances the past three Friday evenings!

Liz Grace and The Swing Thing

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Liz Grace fronts the excellent country band, Three Chord Justice, but has now branched out to apply her vocal skills to pop and jazz music, from the swing band era into the early ’60s. She was backed by her husband, drummer Mark Markowitz; saxophonist & keyboardist, Leo Dombecki; John (sorry, can’t recall the last name) on guitar, and a string bassist for whom I can’t remember his name at all….now, just because I cannot recall their names, please don’t think that this reflects on their abilities. On the contrary! These guys were new additions to the band, in place of Bob Ryan on guitar and Doug Walker on bass, who appear on their CD. We saw them Friday the 13th at Proud Mary’s Southern Bar & Grill in Kearney Mesa, proving that Friday the 13th does not have to be unlucky. They ran through a repertoir of great standards including: “Autumn Leaves”, “La Vie en Rose”, “Fever”, “Fly Me to the Moon”, “(Get Your Kicks on) Route 66”, “Days of Wine and Roses”, “Summertime” and a few instrumentals like “Music to Watch Girls By”. The versatility of the band and Liz together made for a pleasant music experience. After seeing Liz with Three Chord Justice and hearing her solo CD, “No Justice”, I wondered if she would bring a country flavor to these standards. But no, she delivered them as if she had been transported to that era, with her very sweet, clear, perfect pitch voice. The band was tight, and each took turns with some incredible solo work. I was eyeing John’s guitar all evening, a gypsy-styled acoustic electric – he let me try it and I noted how amazingly light the instrument was, with a very crisp, pure tone. John’s solo work was thoughtful and tasteful – a little like Gabor Szabo, with none of the flashy “let’s see how many notes I can fit into a bar” kind of showmanship. Instead, he complimented the singer all the way. This is a band I want to see again, and again, and again.

Missy Anderson

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Taking a turn to soul and blues, the next Friday at Proud Mary’s we saw Missy Andersen and her band, consisting of guitarist Heine Andersen, Michael McKinnon on bass and Michael J. Minor on drums. Missy grew up in Detroit, spent time in NYC honing her skills, and now lives in San Diego, and man ‘o man am I glad. Missy has been nominated for best Soul Blues Artist, Female in the 2015 Blues Music Awards in Memphis; not a minor feat. Missy did a few covers, like Billie Holiday’s “God Bless the Child”, but there were also many self-penned songs from her latest CD, In the Moment. Heine’s guitar was so much fun to watch! He would move from groovin’ Cornell Dupree and Bobby Womack R&B styles to more frenetic fretwork akin to Mike Bloomfield. And Missy – Missy hit on every emotional heartstring with that soulful voice. Sometimes the words I choose just don’t do the singer justice and this is one of those times. Go hear her for yourself if you are in San Diego or Riverside Counties. I also loved the interaction between Missy and the players – especially drummer Michael Minor who was having way too much fun, we could tell. We left with huge smiles that would not come off for the rest of the evening. Yeah!

Chickenbone Slim and The Biscuits

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It was to Proud Mary’s again we proceeded to go this past Friday night. This time to have fun watching and listening to Chickenbone Slim and The Biscuits. As Chickebone’s Website says “If you like your blues with a down home greasy feel, …Chickenbone plays in a traditional blues style, part Chicago, part Texas, part Mississippi, and all right!”  That quote says it all. I can’t match it for describing their playing. I didn’t catch the name of the bass player this go ’round, but he and Dane Terry (of Cadillac Wreckers fame) were filling in on bass and harmonica. Drummer, Malachai Johnson, kept everything in order, laying down some solid beats while Chickenbone layed some blues on ya! All I can say about Dane Terry is – dynamite! I love hearing him play blues harp and he and Chickenbone played off each other on several numbers adding to all the fun. He didn’t disappoint, playing some of the favorites I enjoy hearing, like his theme song “Good Evening Everybody”, and Slim Harpo’s “Shake Your Hips”. They did several numbers from some of the great bluesmen, including one by local legend, Tomcat Courtney. Got to visit with Chickebone (Larry Teves) and Dane Terry during a break. Walked out with a Chickenbone Slim guitar pick! Another fun-filled evening.

In Other News

I am deeply saddened by the passing of two music legends this past month – Daevid Allen and Michael Brown. Daevid hailed from Australia, was one of the original members of Soft Machine, then when he could not return to the UK from France due to visa issues, he formed the band, Gong. Gong became a tremendous influence on me in the mid-70s with their merging of a jazz-rock fusion style and total psychedelic insanity. After leaving Gong in the mid-70s, and heavily influencing the group Can AM des Puig who recorded the legendary “Book of AM“, he moved to Majorca, Spain and recorded the album “Good Morning” with Spanish band Euterpe. The Gong albums of “The Flying Teapot Trilogy” as well as Gong’s selections on the Greasy Truckers’ Live at Dingwalls Dance Hall LP are some of my favorites of this genre. The “Good Morning” album is also a favorite. Allen came out of the beatnik era – heavily influenced by William Burroughs and Sun Ra. He was 77.

Michael Brown was keyboardist and songwriter for ’60s baroque psych band The Left Banke. He penned their two major hits “Walk Away Renee” and “Pretty Ballerina”. A hit for The Cherry People, “And Suddenly”, was also part of The Left Banke repertoire and penned by Brown. After leaving The Left Banke, he joined The Stories, who with Michael on keyboards and arrangements, had a hit with “Brother Louie”. He also had a hand in the formation of the band Montage. Brown was 65. Well that’s it for now. Tonight heading to 98 Bottles for the 6th Annual Women in Jazz concert. Then it is off to San Rafael, California tomorrow.