Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Music, It’s the Music!

December 30, 2014

mostly new york 153

I’ve been working on a post about Mario Bauza playing Clark Park in Detroit.   I hope to finish it soon.

I’ve been listening to old Cuban music including singer Benny Moré and conga drummer Chano Pozo.

I still play vinyl, audio-Cassettes and CDs. Most of my radio music-listening is local station WRCJ-FM, more for the jazz than the classical.

I listen to music online occasionally. I haven’t yet really moved over to MP3s, though I have “dabbled in them” a bit.

I hear a lot of jazz, blues and international/world music.

I hear rock, pop, hip hop, funk, oldies, folk and new pop too.  I cast a wide net.  I love a lot of music.  Earfood!  I could start naming names, but what’s the point.

R.I.P. Charlie Haden, Gerald Wilson, Alberta Adams, Horace Silver, Buddy DeFranco and too many others.

I’ll try to get back to posting more here in 2015.

“Le Be Bop!” meets the Parkers!

March 27, 2014


I found this in the “curiosity bin” at the old Sam’s Jams record store.  It was in Ferndale, Michigan.  It was probably in the 1980’s.  I’ve kept it and displayed it at times.

I have no idea who artist is.  This was drawn in pencil on the torn off cover to a set of old 78 RPM records.

This was on the other side:


Detroit’s Sixto Rodriguez, part two

September 20, 2013
Rodriguez at the Old Miami in Detroit, September 2012

Rodriguez at the Old Miami in Detroit, September 2012

It’s been a year since I last saw Rodriguez perform at the Old Miami show.  It was really something.  It was in their backyard and the weather was fine.  They were filming it for a feature on TV’s 60 Minutes program.  There was a large, enthusiastic crowd.

It seemed to be a mix of friends, family and folks who know him from “around the neighborhood” combined with new fans and people from the suburbs.

I was mostly in the front, off to the side of the stage.  He played two sets.  It was a good show.

I’ve seen Searching for Sugar Man several times now, of course.  It won the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature.

He’s been touring overseas and has two shows in New York City next month.  The one at Radio City Music Hall is sold out already.  I wish him all best and hope to see him again sometime.

Rodriguez at the Old Miami in Detroit

Rodriguez at the Old Miami in Detroit

The 60 Minutes Show:

I missed this one:

Then there’s his honorary doctorate  from Wayne State University.  This page has a lot of links to articles about  Rodriguez:

There are reports of Rodriguez recording new material:

At the Old Mimi, in front of the stage

At the Old Miami, in front of the stage…

Detroit’s Sixto Rodriguez

August 8, 2012

I’m walking down Forest, between Trumbull and Third.  In the distance, I see an unusual figure.  As he gets closer, I see that the unusual shape of this person is due to a guitar, which he’s carrying on his back (or over his shoulder).  As he gets closer still, I see it’s none other than Mr. Sixto Rodriguez.  I make my hellos, then we both go on our way.

I’m a walker.  I don’t drive.  I’ve ran into Rodriguez quite a bit.  He’s a walker too.  He’s been a vital part of the downtown Detroit scene for years.  I used to run into the late Howard Armstrong (aka Louie Bluie) too.  Walkers!

I remember when Cold Fact first came out.  They used to play it on the local, Detroit alternative FM station, WABX.  I have an issue of BIG FAT magazine, circa 1970.  Jimi Hendrix is on the cover.  He’d just died.  Inside is an ad reading RODRIGUEZ FOR COMMON COUNCIL.  I’m sure it’s the same Rodriguez.  He ran for Detroit’s City Council, right?  If I find the ad, I’ll scan it and add it here.

I didn’t hear of him for a while.  In 1992, I moved down to the Cass Corridor/ Cultural Center neighborhood.  Rodriguez was very much on the scene.  He’d always help with the street fair, the Dally in the Alley.  He talked me into helping take the stage down in 2000.   Despite my having health problems, I pitched in.  He was also active with “my tribe” on Fourth Street.  He’d help with the stages and with the cleanup the next day.

In the late 1990’s, he was telling me stories about playing big shows in South Africa.  I believed him.  I soon had proof though.  The Detroit Public Library had a copy of his “live in South Africa” CD Live Fact.  It seems to have gone missing.  At the time though, I checked it out and enjoyed hearing it.

He’s played shows in Detroit, over the years.  For a long time, it was like a “rare treat'” to hear him play.   Since his two early 1970’s records were re-issued on CD, he’s been performing here a lot more often.  I hope that the new documentary film brings his music to a wider audience.  It seems to be doing so thus far, early on.  As of this writing, I’ve not seen it yet.

Once, I was about to leave a Chinese Food takeout restaurant.  He was just coming in at the same time.  They were playing some curious but cool “Oriental pop music.”  Rodriguez commented “Yeah, I really like this music!”  Enthusiastic!

Detroit’s Grande Ballroom, “Riffs and Contexts”

April 5, 2012
1966 Artwork by Rob Tyner

1966 Artwork by Rob Tyner

Louder Than Love, the new documentary film about Detroit’s Grande Ballroom opens in Detroit tonight.  I won’t be going though.  Both shows are sold out, hours before showtime.  I should have got tickets when I was at the Detroit Institute of Arts last Sunday.  So it goes.

There are two things I forgot.  Rock and Roll is big business and everybody loves the home team.  Hopefully it’ll play elsewhere, and soon.

I never went to a show at the Grande.  I do have memories of driving by it with friends, just to check out the scene.   I think we tried to get into a show once, but it was sold out or decided not to go in.  Thus, I do have vague memories of its exterior, back when it was a going concern.

If I was 2 or 3 years older, I’m sure I’d have gone there.  I did get to see the MC5 and the Stooges, in the early 1970’s.

I’ve gone past its empty, abandoned shell many times.  I’ve seen that.

The picture above was a newspaper ad for the first Grande show.  It may also have been a flyer or poster.

I was going to reconstruct a partial list of Grande shows here.  Then,  I found that that’s already been done at this site here:

Other Detroit Clubs of that era: The Drumbeat Club, The Absolute Zero Coffee house, The Poison Apple, The Raven Gallery, The Et Cetera, The Chessmate, The Living End.

Happening in Detroit: In October 1966, Robert Kennedy visited Detroit.  Vietnam War protests grew more frequent.  In 1967, the scene included Plum Street, John Sinclair and the MC5,  the May “Belle Isle Love In.”  Then there was the Detroit Uprising (popularly known as the Detroit Riots).  1968 was the year of many protests and the murders of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy.

Some show I’d liked to have seen there: 

On the Jazz and “Rhythm and Blues” fronts, in 1967 on December 29-30, John Lee Hooker in 1968 on August 30 & 31 Howlin’ Wolf on September 6, 7 & 8 B.B. King.  Then, in 1969, on April 18 & 19 Chuck Berry on May 16 Sun Ra & Led Zeppelin and (the next night) Sun Ra & the MC5 on June 27 & 28 Chuck Berry & Slim Harpo on August 15 & 16 Bo Diddley

Then, various pop and rock music, in 1967 on November 25 & 26 The Fugs & The MC5 on December 9 Moby Grape & the MC5.  Then, in 1968, on February 18 The Byrds on March 9 The Who on March 29 to 30 Sly and the Family Stone & the Fugs June 1  Love, The Crazy World of Arthur Brown & the Psychedelic Stooges on July 13 The Who & Pink Floyd on October 12 Eric Clapton sat in with John Mayall as a “surprise guest” (after playing with Cream in another part of town) then on October 30 & 31 the MC5 recorded their first record for Elektra.  In 1969, on February 22 & 23 the Paul Butterfield Blues Band & Van Morrison on April 11,12 & 13 The Velvet Underground & the Nice.  On January 23 1971, Phil Ochs did a benefit for the Winter Soldier investigation.

I could go on and on (Janis Joplin & Big Brother and Holding Company, the Kinks, Tim Buckley etc.)  But yes, there were some sweet shows there, to be sure.

Then, not at the Grande, but produced by Russ Gibb.  On February 23, 1968 Jimi Hendrix played the Masonic Theatre.  Soft Machine, the MC5 and the Rationals opened the show.  On November 12, Hendrix played Detroit again, at Cobo Hall.

The official Grande Ballroom site:

The new Documentary film:

Recent news:

The Concerts by the River in Jefferson-Chalmers, Detroit

March 17, 2012

I lived in the Jefferson-Chalmers neighborhood for close to 25 years, a good part of my life. These concerts were pretty wonderful. I got to most of these shows and others.

Frank Bach, John Sinclair, R.J. Spangler, James O’Donnell, Rick Steiger and my friends and my siblings were all part of the scene. There were also sorts of neighborhood people, and too, various Detroit music lovers in attendance.

The park’s by the Detroit River. There’s a canal off to the side, or there was. I haven’t been there in years. I’ve been back to the neighborhood, but not to the park. It was a beautiful thing and it a shines with golden memories. Some of those memories entered through the ears.

Just this line-up alone: Griot Galaxy and Bird-Trane-Sco Now. “Sco” was for Roscoe Mitchell. The young James Carter played in this band. Griot Galaxy is legendary and beloved.

Then the Detroit reunion show. The Sun Messengers opened, including some of my friends (previously mentioned). Then the All Star Band including Marcus Belgrave, Charles McPherson, Roy Brooks, Ken Cox and Will Austin! Wow!

People had picnics. Some even went swimming. I might have other posters or flyers for this. If so, I’ll post them as I find them.

Frank Bach played a big part in these shows:

“Frank also served on the board of the Creekside Community Development Corporation, using his experience in the music industry to lead the production of the annual Concerts By The River jazz series.” (from the site linked to below).;view=text

Jefferson Chalmers:

My First Real Performance

October 4, 2011

In late November of 1978, I did a show or two with my friends in the jazz ensemble Kuumba.  I’d been to a few practice sessions to get “in tune’ and to make sure that the band had an idea of what I was going to do.  I think I’d done a few things at our Catacombs Coffee House.  These were mostly solo or done with just one sax and/or drumming as backup.

This was different, as it was with a whole band.  In a way,  I think that they were my first real performances.  Ten years later, in 1988, I started to do puppet shows.  Fifteen years later, in 1993, I joined the Don’t Look Now Jug Band.  Twenty years later, in 1998, I co-founded the Space Band (aka spaceband).  This latter is most similar to what I did here.

Kuumba started as sort of a neighborhood band.  Most of us grew up in and around the Jefferson-Chalmers neighborhood, on Detroit’s East Side.  It was almost like a jazz “garage band” at first.  I think I remember an actual garage show, or maybe two.  They played at the Catacombs Coffee House sometimes.  I was on the staff there.

They turned into the Sun Messengers a few years later.  The main people I knew included Rick Steiger, James O’Donnell, R.J. Spangler and Jon Worrell.  Jon also did puppet shows, which helped inspire me to try that.  Rick’s still in the Sun Messengers.  James and R.J. co-lead the Planet D Nonet.   They both do other stuff as well.

With the band, including Jon Worrell

I was doing hard work with a landscaping company.  I’d rake the leaves into a tarp and lug them into the truck.  Around this time, I finished with that work.  From my Journal at that time: November 22 “Go to a Dress Rehearsal with Kuumba.  The Lion’s Club’s really small…I do my spontaneous poetry (The Land Without Clocks) to the tune of Rick Steiger’s “Capture the Moment.”  The band is described as including “James O’Donnell, Musa trumpets, Rick, Tim and Fred on saxes, Jabbar on Baritone Sax, Dave Springer on bass, Rick on percussion, Sule on drums and Gary Laehn on trombone.”  Tunes included “Brainville” and “Take the A Train.”

I know that the Rick on sax was Rick Steiger.  The Rick on percussion was R.J. Spangler.  Jabbar was the late, great Arnold “Jabbar” Clarrington, right?  I see in the photos that Jon Worrell played sax  and clarinet.

The next day was Thanksgiving.  Then that Friday, November 24, 1978 was the show.  I’m not sure where it was. Was it at one of those bars on Charlevoix on Detroit’s East Side.  Or was it at the same “Lion’s Club” where we rehearsed?  The latter is more likely.

My notes at the time: “It’s on!  The first thing you notice is that its way too crowded, over 200 people in that little place….I have a conference with the band right before they go on.  They’re in their ties and sharp/hot clothes.  Kuumba takes that “A Train.”  I’m on about the fourth number, “Capture the Moment.”  I go up and chant and shout pure, spontaneous poetry.  It’s real “stream of consciousness poetry, bases on the theme of the “Land without Clocks.”  It’s the point where all arts become one, the face on the wall out of the curved, reclining sphere of deepest eyeblack.  YES.  I’m a “hit.”  More surrealism, yes!  The band continues.  I go talk to folks.”

The first three photos are of my performance with Kuumba.  The last two photos, I think I took. Jon did an Alfred Jarry/ Pere Ubu puppet show.  Kuumba played a second set, going into the wee, wee hours.

The band including Rick Steiger and Jon Worrell

In addition:

January 14, 1979, Sunday, the Catacombs Coffee House: “I do some poetry with the KDJ Sun Messengers: Spangler, Akunda, Jabar and Musa, sax, percussion etc.  It goes really well.  I do a few old things and new ones done spontaneous/on the spot.”

Tom Ze

March 31, 2011

I’ve long loved the music of Brazilian Tom Ze.  He’s an experimentalist yet is accessible to those of us with open ears.

I’m really into Brazilian music from samba to forro to Bossa Nova to Tropicalia and more.  Ze started out as part of the Tropicalia movement in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s.  Then he sort of “fell off the map.”  Only the most devoted Brazilian music fans were aware he was still working.

Then later, in 1990, David Byrne released some of his great 1970’s material on the Luaka Bop label.  Then came, The Return of Tom Ze in 1992.  This helped to bring him back in the spotlight, outside of Brazil.

From 1998 to 2010, there have been five more records that I’ve heard (and maybe a few that I haven’t).  His work is consistently wonderful to me.  It always sounds like “my kind of music.”

He uses homemade instruments and household appliances to make his music.  He always seems to be experimenting and “pushing the envelope” a bit.

Also, when I can find English translations of his work, it’s always well worthwhile getting a better idea of just what he’s saying.

Here’s further information and a poem.  Hooray for Tom Ze!

his Wikipedia page:

in Portuguese:

A 1992 piece:

A 1993 interview:

A 2001 article:

Information on a 2006 documentary film:

A 2010 article:

At the end of last year, I wrote a poem for Tom Ze in my long-running “zine-thing” Thing” The Poetic Express and here it is:

Samba in a Maze

in the thread of music, in stitches,

notes cloak themselves and dance around the shadows

___blurry, yet “much tropicalista.”

making this, out of that:

machines that sing out and make beats.

What you wear effects what you play.

Fun is for fun.  Love is for love, don’t break it!

Cylinder Recordings

February 4, 2011

I’ve heard my share of recordings transcribed from the old cylinder recording process.  They’re usually pretty scratchy sounding like distant voices from the past. 

Yet some of this material is fascinating to me.  I’m surre I’ll find time to check out some of the old sounds ready to hear at various websites, especially the University of California, Santa Barbara stuff.  It looks like they have quite a bit.

You have to be a real “music nut” to get into this I think.  Sometimes I’ll hear a few things that sound just ok before I hear something funny, odd or surprising.  Like much of exploring popular culture, it’s like panning for gold.

Sometimes the patina of time-passed produces it’s own charms.

I’ve heard of modern day performers recording stuff on cylinders, interesting.

a source for early recordings on CD:

The history of cylinder recording on Wikopedia:

wax cylinder recording fans:

Walt Whitman’s voice?

from The Department of Special Collections of the library of the University of California, Santa Barbara:

Burnt Sugar (in Detroit)

November 10, 2010

at MOCAD November 5, 2010

I’ve always been curious about the musical group Burnt Sugar.  I’d heard good things about them, but very little of their music.  I caught them here, last week and got some of their recordings.  Both were quite good and most enjoyable.

I’ve been reading Philip Freeman’s 2005 book Running the Voodoo Down The Electric Music of Miles Davis.  It’s a nice overview of Miles’ music from 1968 to 1991.  It includes a section on Burnt Sugar and their “expansive vision.”  Freeman notes that “Their music absorbs funk, reggae, electronica, jazz, rock, soul, hip-hop, heavy metal, and twentieth-century classical, and combines it all into a heady, psychedelic sonic trance, built on a foundation of thick, muddy basslines, that feels like it could go on forever.”  It also quoted writer/bandleader Greg Tate on Miles, Jimi Hendrix and more.  I remember reading a lot of Tate’s old writings in the Village Voice too. 

I have two Burnt Sugar/The Arkestra Chamber records.  One from 2001 (the first I think) and one from 2004.

This performance, entitled TWO OR THREE THINGS SHE KNOW ABOUT WILD:  A Primer In How Sisters Freely Conduct Themselves in The D, included a contingent of Detroiters.

The band included Mazz Swift  on violin and vocals , Latasha N. Nevada Diggs on effected vocals & Soundscapes,  Greg Tate on laptop, guitars and baton, Jared Michael Nickerson on bass and The Next Detroit Harmolodic Arkestra (Joel Peterson on upright bass, Duminie Deporres, James “the Blackman” Harris, Skeeter CR Shelton, Michael Carey and others).

The Detroiters  “sat in” with the regular Burnt Sugar group.  They did a special piece organized for this performance.  It was quite good, I thought, well performed, funky and fun.  I’d seen them rehearsing the night before.  I just spied it from the sidewalk for a minute.

They have some things in common with one of my own musical projects, Detroit’s Spaceband.  These include use of projections (“light shows”), spoken word/poetry, unusual instruments and unusual combinations of instruments.  Greg Tate conducted most of it, standing on top of a box.

There was a good vibe to the whole evening.  Most of the local musicians, I’d seen many times, in a variety of contexts.   The regular Burnt Sugar, New York band that I spoke with were friendly.  It was out there!

Information on the MOCAD performance:

Some video interviews from All About Jazz:


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