A Stitch In Time

A Stitch In Time is now playing at the Pelican Cafe.

It is a song about the 6th Mass extinction otherwise known as the Holocene extinction. Oceans did sing to the sunsets. And once a whale did swim by.  That’s all you get. Just a stitch in time.

A Stitch In Time

There was a day
Not so long ago
The sun did rise
To the East

CHORUS
That’s all you get
Just a stitch in time
Dilly dally
And it does fly

And then the sun
Kissed the Mission
And found a friend
In the fog

CHORUS
That’s all you get
Just a stitch in time
Dilly dally
And it does fly

Oceans did sing
To the sunsets
And once the whales
Did swim by

CHORUS
That’s all you get
Just a stitch in time
Dilly dally
And it does fly

CODA
Don’t feel so bad
It’s happened before
Haven’t you heard
There’s bees.

Paul Lyons 8/2022

Kenny Wheeler and That Amazing Sound

I was thinking about Kenny Wheeler the other day. Coming out of a store where all the music was processed and the horns were not real I thought about that great Kenny Wheeler sound.

Kenny Wheeler (14 January 1930 – 18 September 2014) played the trumpet, lead bands and composed some beautiful music. His trumpet sound always had a bright singing quality. He played daring, audacious leaps soaring into the upper registers. I always got the felling when he played he put everything on the line.

A few Kenny Wheeler Videos

A Scene with Kenny Wheeler

And this one from a studio session where you see him in the trenches of studio work. Amazing musician, trumpet player, composer.

Kenny Wheeler at 82 plays trumpet on “Color Sample”. From the album “Bro/Knak”

“Color Sample”. From the album “Bro/Knak” by Jakob Bro in collaboration with Thomas Knak. Album released on Loveland Records 06th July 2012. More info: http://www.jakobbro.com

2022 Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival SF Journal Awards

The 2022 Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in Golden Gate Park  was back to true form; there were so many bands that I lost count. Since COVID 19 hit the festival has been on hiatus save for the online streaming variety which I did not check out.  My buddy Steve from Atlanta was in town to take in the festival. We went all three days, listened to over twenty bands, and had a blast.

In 2022 the weather varied a lot.  The mornings on Friday and Saturday began clear but by 1 pm on both days the fog came in and the temperatures dropped significantly. No need for an artificial fog machine at HSB 2022, many times the stage and musicians were obscured by fog.  During the Drive By Truckers‘ set it began to look like a dystopian, gothic hallucination. Yes, that is the stage there in the fog.

Drive By Truckers' set at HSB 2022

Often October has some of the best surf, but during the HSB 2022 weekend that happen on only Saturday morning.. Saturday began with clear skies and long beautiful shoulder to head high waves. We did not venture into the waters this year but took in the waves as spectators along the Great Highway.

Without further ado,  here are the 2022 Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival SF Journal Awards.

BEST BLUEGRASS BAND – AJ Lee and Blue Summit

AJ Lee and Blue Summit are a hard working band from nearby Santa Cruz that is often on tour, playing festivals and shows all around the world. It is awesome that they were invited to the 2022 Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival as often the festival overlooks some amazing local bands. Their set featured everyone in the band and the solos and breaks were first rate. A local treasure that people in the Bay Area would be wise to to check it, even if you do not like bluegrass. It is really hard not to like this band. You can go to this festival and it is entirely possible to avoid hearing any country or bluegrass bands. I ran into some friends later on who were walking  by the little Bandwagon Stage and were blown away by AJ Lee and Blue Summit. It’s bound to happen.

BEST GOSPHEL SET – DeShawn Hickman with Charlie Hunter

It is not very often that the musicians that hail from Berkeley, that grew up in the Jazz, Funk and Hip Hop scene get on the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival bill, but Charlie Hunter arrived as the bassist with DeShawn Hickman. Since it was Sunday, they did an all-Gospel set and it was wonderful. Great pedal steel guitar,  nice singing by DeShawn’s sister and of course some solid  bass by Charlie Hunter.  Just take note, that Charlie Hunter is a first-rate jazz guitarist. This was at the Bandwagon Stage that is starting to become one of those best secret spots of the festival.

MOST TREACHEROUSLY CROWDED SHOW – Elvis Costello

Elvis Costello was perhaps the most well-known name at the festival and the Gold Stage was completely packed during his set.  Just getting around up on the road felt a bit treacherous. When we finally met up with some friends and found a spot the sound was not so good. It was the kind of set that seemed to be more about being there than the music. Eventually Elvis played some of his classic hits and all was good. Alison, may aim is true.

BAND WITH THE MOST RAW ENERGY and BEST COSTUMES  – Las Cafeteras

Las Cafeteras is an LA band that to me was one of the big surprises. The energy they brought to their set was off the charts. Amazing costumes and high energy dance moves. The very direct, politically-charged lyrics speaking to various issues of social justice really worked in the San Francisco festival setting. A band to definitely experience live.

MOST AMAZING TRUMPET PLAYER – Eric Gordon with Galatic

We had an excellent spot for the Galactic set at the Swan Stage. On the same stage, that a few years back Terrance Blanchard played so well, the younger Eric Gordon simply blew the house down with his powerful, impeccable trumpet. The tradition of phenomenal trumpet players that come from New Orleans continues.

BEST BABY BOOMER SET – Jesse Colin Young

I never had any Jesse Colin Young albums when I was a kid but always liked his name and surely heard his music on the radio.  It is the name of either an 19th century bank robber, a Supreme Court justice or  an unstoppable NFL halfback. Due to the cancellation of Cymande, I made the trek over to the Porch Stage and caught the Jesse Colin Young set. His acoustic guitar with lots of reverb and soulful voice came together well. My neighbors close by let me know that many of his songs sounded nothing like the originals. Jesse’s house burned down in one of the recent fires and getting out playing may be a way to get back on his feet. He did play the classic Get Together that became a big hit while he was with The Youngbloods.

Love is but a song we sing
Fear’s the way we die
You can make the mountains ring
Or make the angels cry
Though the bird is on the wing
And you may not know why
Come on, people now
Smile on your brother
Everybody get together
Try to love one another right now
Get Together

BEST MOTHER DAUGTER SINGING DOU – O.N.E The Duo

It is really great how many women were a part of the 2022 Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival.  One of the more unusual groups was a stellar, gospel oriented mother, daughter group. There was no more hiding behind the mic on the harmony parts and singing was strong and true.

Until next year, that is the SF Journal 2022 Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival Awards.

ABOUT
The Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in San Francisco is a little like Jazz Fest in New Orleans. Big-name bands, many kinds of music and a festive atmosphere. One of the amazing things about Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival is that even though there are tens of thousands of people, it is always a  peaceful event, and in the end people seem to get along just fine and often make new friends. Everyone seems to pack out the trash pretty well too. Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival. Warren Hellman’s party.  Communal music therapy.

PAST AWARDS

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass 2022 – Preview and Recommendations

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass: A FREE gathering in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco featuring dozens of musical acts on 6 stages.

September 30 – October 2, 2022.

https://www.hardlystrictlybluegrass.com/schedule/


This link above is pretty much all you need to know about this music festival that goes back more than a decade, and is free and unusual.  The now deceased, banjo-playing billionaire Warren Hellman’s fortune keeps it all going and hires the bands and now extensive security. Thanks Warren! The music is an odd mix of genres but comes down to some country and bluegrass bands, old geezer, baby boomer bands, alternative rock and pop bands and a few local bands. For a young band, your way to get the gig is to be in the industry and a hard working touring band that has paid some dues, traveled many miles in a van and probably slept in a lot of Motel 6’s.

Whether you experience Hardly Strictly Bluegrass at one stage with a group of friends, a blanket, chardonnay and lots of stinky cheese and olives or want to catch a lot of stages, travel light and fly solo or with a like-minded buddy or partner in crime is your choice. I tend to go with the fly solo thing as there are so many bands it seems a shame to be tied down to one spot.

Here is my list of people I hope to hear, but as always things change and I may find myself eating brie with some strangers at a stage listening to someone I never knew that then becomes my new favorite band.

PAUL’S HAPHAZARED PICKS FOR THE HSB 2022 FESTIVAL

AJ LEE AND BLUE SUMMIT

AJ Lee is a local band that most people in the Bay Area do not know, which is strange because they are really good.  Santa Cruz bluegrass at its best.

ASLEEP AT THE WHEEL

Country swing from West Texas. Nothing like some Dizzy Gillespie thrown in with your Hank Williams

CEDRIC WATSON

Some Bayou sounds not to miss.

CYMANDE

This looks like a really interesting band far from bluegrass.

DASHAWN HICKMAN W/ CHARLIE HUNTER

ELVIS COSTELLO

FARE THEE WELL: CELEBRATING THE SONGS OF JOHN PRINE, NANCY BECHTLE, JUSTIN TOWNES EARLE & MORE

JESSE COLIN YOUNG

RHIANNON GIDDENS W/ FRANCESCO TURRISI

SATYA

It is always good to checkout the Bandwagon Stage were the local folk get up on stage. Not as crazy as the other big stages.

Remember to keep hydrated, pack a few extra snacks and maybe a few extra cans of quality beer for when you find yourself next to some other friendly festival goers .  See y’all on Monday.

John Boutte and Echoes of New Orleans

The 2022 French Quarter Festival in New Orleans happened and all was pretty much back to normal with maybe a few more people than years past – it was packed. It is a great festival and the music of New Orleans and Louisiana shines.  So many bands. So many acts. So many restaurants. So much amazing food.  It is one of those events that will bring back meaning to your life. Every time I have gone to New Orleans, I discover a musician who simply knocks my socks off. This year it was John Boutté.

John Boutté is a New Orleans native. His set at the GE Stage in Jackson Square had me spellbound. He combines a beautiful soulful voice with phasing that makes your hair stand on edge. His ability to speak from the heart in an honest, heartfelt way completes the experience. During the set he made a plea for non-violence. He wondered why war and guns have not been made illegal.  He made a pledge for peace. Then later on in the set he cut his finger on his tambourine, and pointed out how we are all part of the human race and the color of our blood is all the same red.  A stage hand handed him a towel. A beautiful, poignant moment in the city of music – New Orleans.

Below is a John Boutté WWOZ video during the pandemic. Enjoy.

Ron Carter and the Finding the Right Notes

I think that the bassist is the quarterback in any group, and he must find a sound that he is responsible for.
– Ron Carter (Finding the Right Notes – 2017)


“After a couple of months on the road with the band, Herbie began to feel frustrated. He was copying all the other pianists but not allowing himself to come out from hiding. Finally the frustration came to a head. “I thought I’ve just got to play, to really play,” Herbie said. If that conflicts with Miles, I’ll just have to bear the consequences. So at the Sutherford Lounge in Chicago one night, I let it loose. I figured Miles was going to fire me after the set, but he leaned over to me and said. “Why didn’t you play like that before” That shocked me. Then it dawned on me that a copy is never as good as an original. Miles wanted to hear me. And so did Ron and Tony.”
– Herbie Handcock quoted in (Finding the Right Notes – 2017)

Remembering Pat Martino

Pat Martino (Patrick C. Azzara) (1944 – 2021) passed away November 1, 2021. He was an amazing guitarist and had a life story that is interesting on so many levels. The most unusual aspect is that in 1980 after a brain hemorrhage, Pat lost all his memory and had to literally relearn how to play guitar from the very beginning. He then went on to continue his career as a phenomenal jazz guitarist.

Martino had been performing until a hemorrhaged arteriovenous malformation caused a “near-fatal seizure” in 1980.[5] The resulting surgery which removed part of his brain left him with amnesia and no recollection or knowledge of his career or how to play the very instrument that made him successful. Martino says he came out of surgery with complete forgetfulness, learning to focus on the present instead of the past or what may lie ahead. He was forced to learn how to play the guitar from zero. This circumstance is crucial to understand his career and his particular way of thinking. – Wikipedia

Here on Angel Eyes, Pat Martino has the melody and is featured.

There are a few documentaries that follow Pat Martino’s journey. Martino Unstrung is an excellent look into Pat Martino’s musical and medical life and should be fascinating to anyone in the fields of music, psychology, medicine or brain science. I highly recommend this film.

While I have been an avid jazz fan since listening to my dad’s Duke Ellington and Henry Red Allen records in high school, I had not listened to much Pat Martino. I knew his name but did not own any of his music. This is how it worked before the internet.

In 2010, Pat Martino had some gigs in the San Francisco Bay Area.  He was playing Kimball’s East. My high school-aged guitar-playing son had just fallen in love with jazz and was a big Pat Martino fan. He had purchased tickets to hear Pat and his friend for some reason could not go. I was invited to go to the concert.  We took the ferry over to Jack London Square and arrived a bit early. Knowing where the back stage entrance was my son seemed determined to shake Pat Martino’s hand. The bouncer at the door called up to see if it was alright if a kid and his dad came up for an autograph. “No problem. Send them up.”

We went to the dressing room and there was Pat and his young piano player hanging out. Pat was eating sushi and what we both remember is that he was drinking a quart carton of whole milk.  Sushi and milk. An odd combination. Pat was gracious and we basically just hung out for about fifteen minutes. He had these very clear alert eyes that often seem to be enlarged because of his thick glasses. He probably signed a CD and then I took this photo.

Pat Martino and Kai Lyons backstage at Kimball's East
Pat Martino and Kai Lyons backstage at Kimball’s East

It is 2021 and people born in the 1940s are starting to pass on a regular basis.  Many of these folks are my heroes. Pat Martino. A beautiful cat. RIP.

Epilogue

If you watch the documentaries about Pat Martino, one of the common themes is how guitarists had a lot of respect and admiration for Pat. There is the story of George Benson. then a young cocky musician, going of to hear Pat Martino for the first time thinking how could this skinny Italian kid from Philly be any good. Needless to say George was blown away and left the show a humbler man. The photo below is of these two amazing musicians and speaks to the diversity in this genre of music the industry calls “jazz.”

George Benson and Pat Martino
George Benson and Pat Martino

For further reading, Pat wrote an autobiography.

Here and Now!: The Autobiography of Pat Martino

This is an excellent book and I highly recommend!

 

 

 

 

Ray Barretto in 1973

In 1973, Barretto recorded the album Indestructible, in which he played “La familia”, a song written by José Curbelo in 1953 and recorded by the sonero Carlos Argentino with the Cuban band Sonora Matancera; Tito Allen joined as new vocalist. Allen left the band after “Indestructible”. This series of departures left Barretto depressed and disappointed with salsa; he then redirected his efforts to jazz, while remaining as musical director of the Fania All Stars. In 1975 he released Barretto, also referred to as the Guararé album, with new vocalists Ruben Blades and Tito Gomez.
-Wikipedia

How we learn new stuff every day. Incredible.

And people close to me often wonder why I refuse to give my white pants and long-sleeve red shirts to Goodwill.

Overture, MIDI, GM Instruments, Audacity

Overture 5.2.1, Fast Track Pro, MIDI, GM Instruments, Audacity 2.42, TASCAM DR-1 (to record the final Audacity production, any digital recorder will do or even another computer)

BEWARE: THIS IS INSTRUCTIONAL:
That is how you can take an Overture 5.2.1 score and create an MP3 file. Make sure you have the latest version of Audacity or you may not be able to play MIDI files.

STEP 1:
I am on a Windows 7 machine. The first thing to do is buy and download the stuff above. Audacity is Free.

STEP 2:
Write an amazing and complicated piece of simple song with Overture. Make note of the tempo of the song. Mine was 170 beats per minute.

STEP 3:
Export what you did in Overture as a MIDI file. The key for me was to just use GM Instruments and not the sound card from my Roland Keyboard.

STEP 4:
Import MIDI you exported out of Overture into Audacity.

STEP 5:
In Audacity create a new track by going to Generate > Rhythm Track.

STEP 6:
Do an offset so that the tempo in the rhythm track gives you a count off for recording other tracks. For some reason my MIDI was a little off. Zoom in and get it at the correct spot.

STEP 7:
When you are finished, plug in the TASCAM DR-1 into the headphone jack on you computer. Set the mode on the DR-1 to “Line In” and play your Audacity file while recording it on you DR-1.

STEP 8:
Plug your TASCAM DR-1 into your computer and retrieve you masterpiece.

A little more complicated than baking a cake. This is here so that in 6 months when I want to do the same thing… I got the notes.

Be careful out there everyone!

Late Night at the Pelican Cafe – Candela at El Rio

Late Night at the Pelican Cafe is an experimental web site where I post historic recordings of various bands from the San Francisco Bay Area. You can just go to the post and music will play.  Listen to the sound of a bar or club filled with people, listening and dancing to a live band. Many of these recording are live recordings from a quality analog cassette tape recorder  ( SONY TCS-580-V) positioned on the floor in front of the trombone player. For around fifteen years I was a freelance trombonist and arranger in San Francisco.

Candela Live at El Rio – 1992

CANDELA LIVE AT EL RIO – 1992
In the 1990’s I had the fortune to play many Sundays at El Rio. At one point it felt like I was the house trombone player. On this particular Sunday the band was a phenomenal line-up of San Francisco based musicians – many players, including myself, were filling in for regulars. You can hear solos by Wayne Wallace, Rebeca Mauleón, Ramon Lasso, Paul Lyons, Michael Spiro, Jorge Polmar and others. Rebeca Mauleón’s piano Solo on Bailando Asi is outstanding.

CANDELA – 1992
Edgardo Cambin – Congas and Lead Vocal (Solo on Yembeke)
Jorge Polmar – Bass
Rebeca Mauleón – Piano (Solo on Bailando Asi)
Sandy Cressman – Coros
Ramon Lasso – Piano (Solo on Yembeke)
Wayne Wallace – Trombone (Solo on Yembeke)
Eric Rangel – Timbales
Michael Spiro – Bongo (Solo on El Cuarto)
Paul Lyons – Trombone

Current Candela Website

https://musicandela.com

Remembering Bahia Cabana – 1600 Market Street, San Francisco

Remembering Bahia Cabana - 1600 Market Street, San Francisco

INTRODUCTION
In 1992 I played in a band lead by Marcus Lopez called Cubanacan. In this band, on this night,  I was taping the band so as to learn the tunes. The tune is Richard Kermode’s Catalina. and you can hear the solos of Peter Cornell,  Paul Lyons and the late great Richard Kermode –  a great musician with a huge spirit who earlier had worked and recorded with Santana and Janis Joplin. Richard could play a wicked montuno.

Fito Reinoso – Voice
Marcus Lopez – Bass
Louis Romero – Timbales
Geraldo from Cuba – Congas
Richard Kermode – Piano
Peter Cornell – Sax
Paul Lyons – Trombone

ACT 1 : AN ELECTRIFYING EXPERIENCE
Besides unemployment, anxiety and pondering your mortality, the Covid-19 pandemic is a time for cleaning out closets. Going through some old stuff I ran into a postcard from a bygone era. In the 1980’s and 90’s Bahia Cabana in San Francisco was a hopping club on Market Street in San Francisco with a tropical vibe and live music many nights of the week.  The bands were mostly Latin bands playing samba or salsa and it catered to a dance crowd.  The place must have been crazy during San Francisco’s Carnaval.

Remembering Bahia Cabana - 1600 Market Street, San Francisco
Postcard from Bahia Cabana – 1992

Long before the pandemic and before the rise of the internet, there were many clubs and bars like Bahia Cabana employing musicians. It is hard to imagine but in the late 1990’s, five nights a week there were at least five clubs up and down Mission Street that had bands with full horn sections and multiple singers.  Most of these bands were cover bands that played the hits of the day and also the many regional Latin tunes – merengue, rancheras and cumbias. San Francisco is home to a lot of people from Central America where cumbias seem to always be popular.

But that is a bygone era.  For years, live music in clubs has been in decline and Latin clubs are few. When you do hear a live salsa band it was often just a quartet with various people sitting in and the entire band playing for a tip jar.

But back to Bahia Cabana – a place were I could have been electrocuted to death.  Bahia Cabana had this third world vibe down to the electrical system.  I remember playing there in the 1990’s with Julio Bravo and looking at the wiring backstage for the sound system and wondering if everything was legal – wires going every which way like spaghetti. Next thing I know after attempting to plug in an amp, I got an electrical shock unlike anything I have ever received. I stepped back and wondered for a second if I should go to the emergency room only to be reassured by the trumpet player that if may hair was not on fire and there were no visible burns that everything was fine.  It was a strange feeling.

Bahia Cabana –  an electrifying and shockingly happening hot spot long gone.

A few years later Bahia Cabana opened another club in the basement – music by a DJ, lots of flashing lights, drum and bass, loud pounding sounds and surely a smoke machine. I wondered how they got that by the San Francisco fire department and being in the basement was a bit concerned for safety reasons. Sure enough, sometime around 2000 the entire building caught fire and Bahia Cabana closed down for good.  Another victim of using unlicensed, non-union electrical  contractors who do not ground service panels. But Bahia Cabana would have closed soon after with the invasion of the tech industry, increased rents and the changing economics of the San Francisco.

I think I will keep the postcard as a keepsake.

Review: Country Music | A Film by Ken Burns

Before the internet, there were armies of salesman that would go door-to-door selling encyclopedias. It was thought that without the latest Encyclopedia Britannica it would be impossible for your kids to write their history papers.  Today, Wikipedia has assumed the role of the encyclopedia but in the realm of video, it is the documentaries of Ken Burns . Home-bound due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I decided to bite the bullet and buy the nine-episode Country Music | A Film by Ken Burns documentary on Amazon. Under $50 it comes out to about five bucks an episode. Country Music | A Film by Ken Burns is a fun romp through the twentieth century and a great way to discover new artists and bands, but in the end it was not so much about the music but a postcard parade of the people and musicians.

Introduction

Ken Burns approaches his documentaries as though he is writing an encyclopedia; he always goes wide but rarely very deep. This gives the viewer the impression that what they are seeing is the unvarnished truth.  Every documentary is stylistically exactly the same in his pedantic, dry, documentary style. If you watch  Ken Burns’ The Civil War, Jazz or Baseball they are all identical and Country Music maintains this consistency.  The serious voice of Peter Coyote narrates though out and the titling and production are all the same. It is the Ken Burns encyclopedia and while it is great to get an overview of these subjects, the more you know about the subjects, the more disturbing and slightly irritating it becomes. Things are left out. Stereotypes are reinforced. A strange middle ground seems to always be the goal. If a topic seems a bit risky, the next scene brings it back to something more conventional.  Controversy is avoided. For instance,  even though you can count notable black country musicians on one hand, nevertheless there is Wynton Marsalis  as usual adding comments and insights from the wings.

“I was talking with a friend of mine about this the other day; that country life, as I knew it might really be a thing of the past and when music people today, performers and fans alike, talk about being “country,” they don’t mean they know or even care about the land and the life it sustains and regulates. They’re talking more about choices – a way to look, a group to belong to, a kind of music to call their own.”
Johnny Cash – The Autobiography of Johnny Cash

What really is “Country” music?

The notion of the genre of country music and what artists are “country,” like the word “jazz,” is forever perplexing and something more to do with the business of selling the music than the actual music.

“Three Chords and the Truth”
–  coined by Harlan Howard in the 1950s which he used to describe Country music

What really is “country” music? From a musical standpoint, “Three Chords and the Truth” does seem to get at a good definition but some of the best country songs use secondary dominant chords extensively (e.g., Salty Dog) and the dominant II chord is usually the climax of the song . But do forgive me. I am writing about the music, not the people. I sort of like Cash’s geographical take on country – it ain’t “city.” Ironically, the history of bluegrass was actually aided by country folk moving to the city and longing for simpler times in the country.

One of the most redeeming qualities of country music are the lyrics.  What ties all  country musicians together is the singer/songwriter, cowboy or as it is often called troubadour. This may be true, but what I find in many of the successful country musicians is a rebellious streak. They seem, from a sociological standpoint, more like punk-rockers than anything else. Jimmie Rodgers, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson and even Hank Williams were pushing the boundaries and going against the norms. In the film, it seemed a bit odd, but confirms my take, is that Marty Stewart named Woody Guthrie as being “about as country as it gets.” Which begs the question, then why did not Pete Seeger get even mentioned in the documentary? He was as  country as Woody Guthrie and sparked the revival of the banjo with his banjo method book. Surely many country banjo players used his book to learn the instrument. Where folk ends and country begins, blues music ends and country begins, are all blurred lines. Who Ken Burns allows into the country club surely has something to do more with politics than the actual music. Perhaps to be country, is to have played at the Grand Old Opry or recorded in Nashville.

One thing that Burns avoids is how most of the country musicians tended to be far more politically progressive than their reactionary, predominantly conservative, Republican audiences.  This is particularly true starting in the late 1960’s after the South went Republican. One of those important factors not really delved very deeply on, perhaps to avoid controversy and not alienate the core country audience, who would prefer to see the rebellious nature as a sort of cowboy libertarian streak, and be done with it.  That the documentary ends in 1996 is surely convenient as it makes it possible to avoid bands like the Dixie Chicks that called George Bush out on his criminal and ill-conceived Iraq war.

Race and the almost Mythical Older Black Musician

One of the reoccurring themes in the movie is race, which is dealt with in an often incomplete fashion. From the documentary we learn that many of the early country stars at one point in their youth had a profound experience with an older black musician.  Jimmie Rodgers, the father of country, learned how to play from an older black musician down by the railroad tracks. There were two other big musicians that come to mind but who’s names I forget that had similar experiences with older black musical mentors.

Country music is a predominantly white people’s music with a few invited guests – Charlie Pride, DeFord Bailey as noted examples. Perhaps the most amazing country album is Ray Charles’ country album that is pure countrypolitan and a smash hit.  But issues like how the heck did Charlie Pride play in the segregated Jim Crow South are never brought up. Why, unlike in jazz, there are hardly any mixed-race bands? And, why, in every episode,as interludes, there are black and white photos of rural impoverished African-American families, gathered outside their shack of a house, with no explanation of why this photo is chosen?

Feminism and the Taboo Word

The the 1960’s. Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton, Emily Lou Harris, Patsy Cline  and others became huge country music stars. It is truly phenomenal how many powerhouse women came on the scene. Interestingly, Burns never uses the term “feminism” and instead describes this as – “at the time they called this woman’s liberation or women’s lib.” He goes on to described the woman as “feisty” or “strong-willed.” Just an observation of how language can influence perception and define history. In the late 1960’s there was a massive feminist movement culminating in the E.R.A. that never passed. One wonders if Burn’s never using the word “feminism” was intentional.

Country Music | A Film by Ken Burns. Well worth the price of admission, and a great way to get a broad-brush view of the topic of country music but a film that makes you question everything.


INTERESTING ALBUMS OF NOTE FOR PEOPLE WHO NEVER HAVE OWNED A COUNTY ALBUM IN THEIR LIVES AND DO NOT LIKE COUNTRY

I did not grow up with country music. Folk music, pop, rock and roll, jazz, classical. Not country. My parents were from the north and primarily urban, well-read and  educated. Below are albums for people who do not like country music.

Jimmie Rodgers with Louis Armstrong

It is a true fact, not out of some E.L Doctorow novel, that the father of country music, Jimmie Rodgers cut a record with Louis Armstrong. This is simply as strange as realizing that Aretha Franklin’s funkiest rhythm section was all white boys. Blue Yodel 9 is evidently a country song.  This was before the music industry was putting labels on absolutely everything.

Johnny Cash many years later got together with Louis Armstrong  and played Blue Yodel 9.


Ray Charles

One the the best-selling country albums of all times is Ray Charles’ Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music .  Ray Charles would probably sound great reading the phone book, but here you have some heavy New York and L.A. style production and  Ray, growing up country, just sings these country songs like he is in the shower.


Willie Nelson

Read Willie Nelson’s autobiography Its a Long Story. I once heard that Willie always wanted to make a bebop album, so Stardust is as close as he got. His early love for Bob Wills and country swing opened him up to all kinds of music and he sings these mostly jazz standards with great phrasing, relaxation and  outstanding  pitch. Some of the standards sound a bit like music I would hear in a bowling alley in some sleepy Midwest town, but if they call this country, I’ll take it.

An amazing character, Willie is featured a lot in Country Music | A Film by Ken Burns. To get the full story of what happened when Willie’s house outside of Nashville burned to the ground, you have to read Its a Long Story. Willie is sitting in a bar in Nashville and a friend rushes in to inform him his house is burning down.  Willie races off in his pickup and when he gets to the house the fire trucks are already there and the whole place is surrounded by yellow “do not cross” tape. At that point, Willie asks if anyone is inside. When he learns that everyone is safe, he makes a dash inside the house. He returns safe with just two things. His trusty, beat up guitar and a guitar case full of marijuana.  That is a true story ready for the movies that does not even need a screen writer.


Johnny Cash

An epic career and a unique person and musician. He did a bunch of albums on the themes of Native Americans which would be interesting to check out. Growing up in federally subsidized  housing and picking cotton from a young age, Johnny Cash to me is really a punk-rock, soul artist who happens to be white.


 

Pelicancafe.net Has Reopened

BREAKING NEWS: The Pelican Cafe has reopened after being closed for a few months because of no apparent reason. We still do not serve any food, coffee or beverages. Newly remodeled, the virtual cafe has been open since April and is now primarily experiential.

At the Pelican Cafe you can experience the Pacific Ocean in a visceral way – at least as visceral as possible in an internet browser. The videos posted are all from Ocean Beach in San Francisco and correlate to the time of day that you visit the web site. Addition videos will be added soon.

GO TO THE ONE AND ONLY pelicancafe.net

Special features include Late Night at the Pelican Cafe. Recently posted is a live performance at El Rio in 1997 of the San Francisco band, Mazacote.

Mazacote Live at El Rio – 1997

 

Paul Lyons – San Francisco – April 2020
Cafe Manager

Paul Bley – Time Will Tell – “A scale is a very ugly thing”

“A scale is a very ugly thing and it’s a bad discipline to expose your ear to bad music in the name of technique.  If you decide what to play and what aesthetics to use in your choices then the “how” will follow. There is a basic advantage in not being able to play well, in that if your music is very simple then you are less likely to play bad notes. The more notes you play the more likely you are to play a lot of bad ones. By limiting your choices you improve the result of your music. I went through a period in my life when rather than trying to make my music sound better I started eliminating things that didn’t sound good and everyone said that I had made a great improvement, but what I had done was just housekeeping.”
Paul Bley – from Time Will Tell – Conversations with Paul Bley (2003) – Norman Meehan

Such an odd perspective, but it makes sense that Paul Bley would say that scales are “ugly.” I think what he is saying is that scales, when played like “scales,” are ugly. When played like music are just music. The notion that you get rid of bad notes in your playing by simply playing less notes is pretty funny!

if your music is very simple then you are less likely to play bad notes

This is perhaps the definition of a bluegrass solo, or what the cowboys call a “break.” Good jazz musicians never have a hard time with “wrong” notes as that is sometimes the fodder with which they create their motifs.

Feel free to comment below.

El Tapatio Closed for Good – Another Live Music Venue in SF Gone

SCENE 1:  Heraclitus and the River of Time

Cities change. Over time buildings are torn down. Businesses close. People move or get pushed out. New structures rise out of the ground. People move in. In San Francisco buildings and warehouses are being torn down and replaced at an alarming pace with large condos (most of them market or luxury rate). All that is left are the memories, echos and  photos of bygone eras. One such place is a large working-class dance hall in the outer Mission, a few blocks past Ocean Avenue but before Daly City called El Tapatio

At one point El Tapatio was a rock & roll spot.

“In 1967 it was called The Rock Garden. The Grateful Dead performed in this building 4 times in 1967. Jerry Garcia’s Mom was in the audience.” – slip n.- Laytonville, CA – Yelp Comment

SCENE II:  Five Sets a Night

In its last incarnation it was mostly frequented by folks from Central America and Mexico out on the town, all dressed up to go dancing, trying to forget the drudgery of life. There was a large wooden dance floor but outside of that the carpet floor of El Tapatio was a mosaic of discard chewing gum, so plentiful it looked like a pointillist painting. After visiting the club, the next day you would often have to scrape gum off the sole of your shoes. In the 1980’s and 90’s you could dance to a ten piece salsa band four nights a week. How do I know this? I played in a band that did five sets a night, Thursday through Sunday.  The gig started a 9 pm sharp and ended at bar-time around 2 am.

  • Two lead singers
  • Piano
  • Bass
  • Timbales
  • Congas
  • Four Horns – Alto and Tenor Sax, Trumpet and Trombone

In that band were some solid players. Bill Theurer played lead trumpet. Mario Vega on tenor, Donaldo on timbales. Carlos Ramirez, rest his soul, now deceased, held down the bass. Playing twenty hours a week the band got pretty good. We played the hits of the day. Bamboleo, Devorame Otra Vez, Lluvia probably.  Some salsa classics no doubt. Oscar De Leon. El Gran Combo, Hector LaVoe. Being in the Outer Mission we would also play a lot of cumbias and even Mexican rancheras. A lot of songs about food – Sopa de Caracoles, Patacon Pisao. I remember Perez Prado mambos and other odd classics from the 1940’s and 50’s.  Nelson, one of the lead singers had this huge voice and could sing bel canto. He would belt out, very dramatically, beautiful Mexican ballads.  The gig paid $55 a night. It covered my rent and helped put my wife through grad school. Friday and Saturday nights were packed and the owner at one point surely enjoyed the ride.

SCENE III:  All Night Long

San Francisco during the 1980’s and 90’s was buzzing with salsa and cumbia bands.  After working the El Tapatio we would sometimes head down to Ceasar’s Latin Palace, now Rocapolco, and hang out and hear such great players as Orestes Vilato, Anthony Carillo and Raul Rico.  At Ceasar’s you could still get a drink after hours but the liquor often seemed like something they found in the cleaning supply closet – dangerous concoctions that tasted like lighter fluid and could easily wear a hole in your stomach.

SCENE IV:  The Ghost of Perez Prado in the Halls

A friend of mine in the trades said that they are tearing down El Tapatio and building the tallest building on Mission Street, meaning at least six stories tall. It will be a large housing complex of some kind. I doubt that the first floor will feature a large dance hall, but probably the ubiquitous cold glassy retail space with the “for lease” signs in the window for perhaps years. Time will tell, but one thing is for certain – the ghost of Perez Prado will be wandering the halls late into the night shouting out mambos.

Still alive down the block is Taqueria Guadalajara, that has been there for at least thirty years. People “in the know” travel miles for Guadalajara. I walked by last week and a line stretched out the door.  Some things do stay the same. A carnitas burrito “super” hopeful never goes out of business.

Taqueria Guadalajara
4798 Mission St, San Francisco, CA
Closes at  1 AM

 

 

2019 Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival Awards

The 2019 Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in Golden Gate Park took place under clear skies, gentle 3 foot surf and mostly light winds and warm temperatures. For the last few years, the festival no longer has the Arrow Stage but replaced it with a much smaller Bandwagon Stage. Not to worry, all the stages were packed with incredible lineups of working bands. I went for three days and saw a total of 17 shows. Here is the 2019 Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival SF Journal Awards.

In the past, these awards where the “Pelican Cafe Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival  Awards,” but the Pelican Cafe got bought out by the San Francisco Journal, so the awards will take up this new moniker.

BEST SOLOIST – Adam MacDougall- Lebo and Friends

Adam MacDougall was playing the keys with Lebo and Friends Sunday on the Gold Stage. Behind what seemed to be about eight keyboards, Adam had command of each one. He would go back and forth between a Fender Rhodes and a Hammond B3 and then something else.  In a day when music is streamed endlessly and often becomes like wallpaper to people’s lives, Adam played solos from another era when really being able to play and having a distinct voice were the main objectives. Great solos with soul and chops.

SONG OF THE FESTIVAL – We Shall Overcome

Friday is probably the best day to go to the festival. Crowds are lighter and less rambunctious. The programming is less rock and roll and often a bit highbrow but always top-notch. During Bill Fisell’s set they did We Shall Overcome and sort of got the audience to sing along.  I then left and headed to the Banjo Stage where the Kronos Quartet did a tribute to Pete Seeger – Seeger at 100. Soon the Kronos Quartet did We Shall Overcome and this time the audience joined in with a bit more punch and participation. I forgot that Pete Seeger wrote so many  great songs. One that was sung was Where Have All the Flowers Gone.  It is an anti-war anthem that is timeless.

Where Have All The Flowers Gone
Pete Seeger

Where have all the flowers gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the flowers gone?
Long time ago

Where have all the flowers gone?
Girls have picked them every one
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?

Where have all the young girls gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the young girls gone?
Long time ago

Where have all the young girls gone?
Taken husbands every one
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?

Where have all the young men gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the young men gone?
Long time ago

Where have all the young men gone?
Gone for soldiers every one
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?

Where have all the soldiers gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the soldiers gone?
Long time ago

Where have all the soldiers gone?
Gone to graveyards every one
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?

Where have all the graveyards gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the graveyards gone?
Long time ago

Where have all the graveyards gone?
Covered with flowers every one
When will we ever learn?
When will we ever learn?

MOST TREACHEROUSLY CROWDED SHOW – Robert Plant

Somehow the word got out that Robert Plant was playing Saturday. The entire field by the Gold Stage was packed to capacity. Just getting up and down the hill was a strange exercise in physics. It was as if the entire area was some sort of new-found organism, thinking from some central command. You could sense a sort of claustrophobic anxiety in some people in the crowd. Fortunately, I made it to a good spot of the hill and was able to take in the entire set.  What a great band! The violin player was simply outstanding and a real powerhouse dancing and playing her fiddle with amazing sound and rhythm.

As the show went on people started jumping the newly installed fence that keep people off the back hill. In years past it was always good to take in a show from these hills where the eucalyptus grows. Though a bit far away, you can get your own space and often a very good view of the band.

BAND WITH THE MOST RAW ENERGY – Poor Man’s Whiskey

Sometimes your best-laid plans just take a detour. This happens most the time when you are entering the festival.  Heading in Saturday we passed by the Swan Stage and were drawn to the sounds of  Poor Man’s Whiskey. Poor Man’s Whiskey has played HSB so many times you lose count. They are one of the few local area bands beside Laurie Lewis that seem to play the festival every year. What is so charming about Poor Man’s Whiskey at HSB is that they bring the A team to the gig. Their music goes back and forth between electrified Irish fiddle tunes played at break-neck speed,  like a group of 20 somethings on an all night bender, to original ballads that are played with subtlety. Raw Northern California energy. I once was a bluegrass festival and hanging around the campfire were a few people from Southern California. One of the guys had an observation – “Southern California is where they sell the music. In Northern California is where they play – up here they pick.” Poor Man’s Whiskey keeps that tradition alive.

BEST CHORUS OF ANY SONG – Jesus and Elvis by Hayes Carll

Jesus and Elvis

Jesus and Elivs
Painted on velvet
Hanging at the bar here every night
It’s good to be back again
Oh, me and my old friends
Beneath the neon cross and the string of Christmas lights

Another anti-war song that is picturesque and very clever in that country sort of way.

BAND I MISSED THAT I WISH I SAW – Flor De Toloache

I am not sure how a mariachi band made it on the bill, but Flor De Toloache worked the Bandwagon Stage on Sunday. I was at a great set by Joan Osborne at the Rooster Stage where Joan eventually passed out with heat stroke. A good friend said that the all-woman band Flor De Toloache based in New York crammed the group on the tiny stage and played a great set.  In music festivals, with six stages, you cannot be two places at once.

BEST PICKERS – The Punch Brothers

I ended the festival at the Rooster Stage and heard the Punch Brothers. Every member of this quartet is simply outstanding. They redefine music and take it in directions that are new and original. You definitely had to be close up to hear this group as they play with a nuance, subtlety and ensemble that the SF Symphony only dreams about.

PROLOGUE

This year there was added security to the festival. National Rent-a-Fence surely made a lot of money fencing in the entire festival. This was a minor inconvenience but marked an end of an era where the festival had this magical pre-2001 vibe. Thankfully, there were no violent incidences. Perhaps instead of paying hundreds of extra policeman to stand around the festival, the festival could provide another water station out on the road by the Gold Stage. They had a water station at the Banjo Stage. It seems odd that that is the only one. In the hot sun you definitely need the hydration after all your beer and water runs out.

Until next year, that is the SF Journal 2019 Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival Awards.

ABOUT
The Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in San Francisco is a little like Jazz Fest in New Orleans. Big-name bands, many kinds of music and a festive atmosphere. One of the amazing things about Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival is that even though there are tens of thousands of people, it is always a  peaceful event, and in the end people seem to get along just fine and often make new friends. Everyone seems to pack out the trash pretty well too. Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival. Warren Hellman’s party.  Communal music therapy.

PAST AWARDS

AJ Lee and Blue Summit – Don’t Miss this Band!

It is a strange thing that in this information age more people do not know about the band from Santa Cruz, California by the name of AJ Lee and Blue Summit. Last Sunday I went to the show at the Chapel and along with the usual familiar bluegrass community heard a really great line up of bands. It was the  Be Unbroken: Bluegrass Fire Relief Benefit Concert & Auction , a benefit for victims of the recent Butte County fires. On the bill were The T Sisters,  Lost Radio Flyers and Blue Summit. Blue Summit closed out the show and unlike other times I have heard them they were rightfully placed as the headline act.

Even though AJ Lee and Blue Summit are all under twenty five and AJ is just twenty they play and sing with a skill, soul and maturity beyond their years. That they have not been signed to a big record deal is amazing. That they often get called upon to play opening sets for bands way under their level is surprising. That they do not get called upon to play big festivals or even big local festivals like Hardly Strictly Bluegrass is just strange. People in San Francisco into all genres of music should know about this band – they are that good.

Anyway, this post is a big shout out to AJ Lee and Blue Summit. AJ’s singing is steeped in the blues and when she plays the mandolin hold on to your hat because she can really play. When you do see them on some trendy late night show in a few years, just remember that I warned you, but I have been saying that for a few years now.

SEE: https://www.bluesummitmusic.com/

 

 

 

 

 

 

2018 Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival Awards

It is again a great honor and privilege to be able to bestow many of the great musicians and participants of the 2018 Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival with the prestigious Pelican Cafe Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival Awards. We have been giving these awards out for at least the last five years, and this year the committee had a hard time agreeing on some of the winners. So many acts! So little time!

Usually early October in San Francisco has people dialed into a local professional baseball team as the playoff games often conflict with the festival, but not this time. By the time the festival began, the scrappy Oakland A’s had already lost a one game wildcard playoff game to the Yankees, so the baseball distraction was never to be.  The San Francisco Giants season was pretty much over by the All-Star game.

Instead, the mood was rather one of shock as the only score that seemed to matter was the game in the U.S. Senate – it was on many people’s minds.  Brett Kavanaugh, with a 50-48 vote was confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court, and once again the voices of women were disregarded and ignored. The court now has added a very mediocre mind,  accused sexual molester and rapist, conservative partisan ideologue to the court and you can safely say that the “old boys network” is still in charge.  One can only hope that the midterm elections puts more woman and progressives in the upper echelons of government. I am not optimistic. We are an illiterate populous and our media is controlled in such a way that the narrative is often scripted by the wealthy plutocrats and truth is in short supply..

But to take a break from that madness and sorry state of affairs there is the 2018 Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival and what a great time it was.! Music is the best medicine.


BEST WAVES AT OCEAN BEACH: Friday Morning

I always begin the awards with a weather round up. The entire weekend during the festival experienced beautiful weather – sunny skies, and while the wind was strong out at the ocean from the northwest, it was actually not bad at the festival. In terms of surf, Friday morning before the wind came up was the best to be had. The waves were about 6-8 feet and really fun. After that, the wind picked up and it was all about the music.

Ocean Beach on Friday

BEST FESTIVAL DOG: The pleasant female pit bull hanging out on the main lawn at the banjo stage.

Talk about a chill dog and this dog was really fun to hang with. She just chilled on the lawn and nothing phased her at all.  People walking by practically stepping on her, strange smells, food dropping all over the place.  She was at the next blanket over and we enjoyed Dave Alvin, Mavis Staples and Allison Krauss together.  Why does Dave Alvin play blues harmonica in first position, I will never know but it did not even get a howl out of this pooch.

Favorite dog

BEST HORN SECTION: Booker T. and the three guys just nailing the classic tunes

The Booker T.  show on Sunday at the banjo stage was packed with talent. Lead singers nailing the classic R&B tunes. The horn section, seemingly a bunch of youngsters, were never introduced but these guys sounded great and  played with both power and dynamics. At festivals like this it is often the supporting characters that are what elevate the whole experience. The Booker T horn section was outstanding.

Booker T.

BEST SET THAT I ALMOST MISSED: Don Was

I was hanging out with friends on the Gold Stage when I heard this amazing trumpet player. Who could that be? Turned out it was Terrance Blanchard wailing away. I made a b-line to the Swan Stage and caught the set from the road which is a good perch to see what is really going on on stage. Then Bob Weir was invited into the jam and he sang a tune “Days Between.” Very cool!


THE BOB WILLS AWARD: Aki Kumar

Besides being a great harmonica player, Aki puts on a completely entertaining show. His style is what has been called Bollywood Blues and he sings these awesome songs in what I guess is in Hindi. He has the ability to lead a group, play and sing extremely well, communicate with the audience with joy and humor and keep every tune playing back to back just like Bob Wills did it with the Texas Playboys. His band often used the sitar. Talk about some cultural fusion! What is also cool about Aki’s approach is he really lets player take extensive solos.

Paul with Aki Kumar.

BEST BANJO PLAYER AWARD: Tim O’Brien’s Banjo Player

I actually did not hear too many banjo players. The banjo player with Tim O’Brien’s band did not bother me too much. He gets the award.

Tim Obrien

BEST WOMAN TRIO: The Wailin’ Jennys

There seems to be more and more woman trios out there, singing great harmonies and pickin’ some fine mando. The Wailin’ Jennys put on a great set at the Swan Stage. Really good three part harmonies with some modern touches. They did an a capella versions of Paul Simon’s Love Me Like a Rock that was awesome.


ABOUT
The Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in San Francisco is a little like Jazz Fest in New Orleans. Big-name bands, many kinds of music and a festive atmosphere. One of the amazing things about Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival is that even though there are tens of thousands of people, it is always a  peaceful event, and in the end people seem to get along just fine and often make new friends. Everyone seems to pack out the trash pretty well too. Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival. Warren Hellman’s party.  Communal music therapy.

PAST AWARDS

YouTube’s Content ID – A Case Study

UPDATE: 10/2023: This CD now streams at about $900 per 1 million views. For those keeping score. However, the streaming services and providors are now taking out about 25% for taxes off the top. 

How much do artists get paid for YouTube videos? The other night I was going over some fascinating numbers for the 2000 Azabache CD that a few years ago we started selling on CD Baby which then registered the album on all the digital streaming services and affiliates – Amazon, iTunes, Deezer, Spotify… the list goes on. This article is a look, for those who are curious – and I am sure there are many, at what the accounting looks like from just YouTube when you get paid “royalties” though their Content ID system. Do let it be known that the payout to artists entering the program is 30% while YouTube gets 70%.

Below are the plays just on YouTube which for 2017 came to 2,561,994 – that is two and a half million plays for just one year of a CD that is now eighteen years old!

On that CD I co-wrote one of the songs and most of the arrangements. I had a feeling at the time that the music would resonate with people as everyone on the project was in the zone. I choose to not be paid as “work for hire” on this project but wrote up copyright agreements instead. Below are the YouTube royalty statistics for 2017.

Azabache YouTube  Royalties 2017 – $162.52

SONG PAYMENT NUMBER OF PLAYS
Cinco a Diez $9.48 72,473.00
This Moment $51.04 213,489.00
Luna Cha-Cha-Cha $0.01 42.00
Simplemente Complicada $0.63 2,523.00
Surrender $0.00 5.00
Montuno Street $19.71 257,237.00
Batman and Spiderman $70.44 1,982,296.00
Besitos de Coco $10.74 33,216.00
Thanks for the Mambo $0.47 713.00
$162.52 2,561,994.00 Plays

So if you were ever wondering how much the artist gets paid (if anything) when you listen to a song on YouTube it is $0.00006343496 – or around six thousandths of a cent.

1 view pays $0.00006343496
It takes 157 views to make 1 penny
1 dollar is made after 15,764 views

If each time a YouTube video was played it paid the artist a penny it would a different story 2,561,994 * .01 = $25,619.94. When was the last time you bent down to pick up a penny. I do it all the time now.

I do not know the whole story about the woman who stormed YouTube with a gun a few months back but I did hear that it had to do with the meager payouts. Perhaps the general population should be more informed as to these business arrangements as I often am amazed at how little people know about publishing and royalty payments in general – especially in the digital age.

So how did we get to this situation?  The Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 which I believe is against the spirit of the U.S. Constitution.

 [The Congress shall have power] “To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.”

– Article I Section 8 | Clause 8 – Patent and Copyright Clause of the Constitution.

The reason that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act is so flawed is that it is impossible to have your music NOT on a platform. Meaning there is only an opt-in but no opt-out as the DMCA created a “safe harbor” which should now be obvious to anyone was a gift to the tech industry.  If Azabache decided to leave the YouTube program there would be no way to make it so our music would be off the YouTube platform. In what way does that qualify as the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries? There is nothing exclusive in terms of copyright when dealing with YouTube. Perhaps this is one of the many reasons for the huge income disparities in our society.

So each year we split up our meager earnings from this project. Create other works of art and music. Play our gigs. Teach. Do our day jobs. Bring truth and beauty into the world and keep the spirit whole.  Just like before the internet when music publishers screwed over the artists, the artists keep it real and bring the joy.

Below is an extended sample of a song called “This Moment.” I usually do not care for Latin music in English, but love this song and Manny Martinez’s lyrics and rhythm just work. 

This Moment
J.M Martinez/ (5:54)
Arr. Paul Lyons

 

To purchase the album

https://store.cdbaby.com/cd/azabache1

Also see

https://sfjournal.net/blog/azabache-cd-now-available/

 

Michael Watson and Amazing Musicianship

It never ceases to amaze me how many truly phenomenal musicians call New Orleans home. Most of these musicians are unknown to the jazz world and the rest of the world.  I heard Michael Watson  play trombone and sing  in April 2018 at the French Quarter Festival in New Orleans and was blown away.  An incredible trombonist and an extraordinary singer,  it is truly odd that more people do not know of this amazing talent.

We heard him play with Bill Summers and his band Jazalsa. Ben Casey on bass, and one of the many great Batiste family drummers on drums.  The entire band was outstanding.

To get an idea of the breadth of Michael Watson’s musicianship and talent, here are two videos. At the show I heard, his trombone playing was both explosive and extremely sophisticated all at the same time.

I do not understand why these videos have so few views. I must have strange tastes in music.

 

3 Best Music Documentaries on Netflix Streaming – November 2017


I Called Him Morgan

I have watched this documentary two times it was so good. The great trumpet player Lee Morgan lived a life of many ups and downs.  When he was just eighteen, Dizzy Gillespie hired him and Morgan became a featured soloist in Dizzy’s big band.  Before the movie I only knew Lee Morgan from reading album covers and the Blue Note sessions, in particular John Coltrane’s Blue Train. I had heard of a rumor that Morgan was shot in a bar at a young age by his wife. You hear a story like that and your imagination just runs wild with scenarios – all fictitious.

I Called Him Morgan is inspired by a cassette tape interview of Helen Morgan, Lee Morgan’s wife.  Besides the amazing trumpet playing and prolific music-making, what is refreshing about this documentary is that all the people interviewed are black; there are none of the usual erudite white jazz critics.  Just about every person that was on the bandstand the night Morgan died is in the movie and is interviewed. Billy Harper’s and Wayne Shorter’s insights and emotions are particularly illuminating.  The photos of the Blue Note sessions are incredible. In the end it is inspiring to see these incredible musicians all seemingly healthy and vibrant in their seventies and eighties.


The Zen of Bennett

Even if you do not like Tony Bennett, this documentary about the making of one of Tony Bennett’s duet albums is beautiful. The film features Bennett’s recording sessions with Andrea Bocelli, Lady Gaga, Amy Winehouse, John Mayer, Willie Nelson, and others. It is very informative for anyone who wants to live a long life, what are the qualities of the “good life.”


Jaco

Jaco is a 2014 American documentary that depicts the life and death of jazz musician Jaco Pastorius. The film was directed by Paul Marchand and Stephen Kijak and produced by Robert Trujillo of Metallica and John Battsek of Passion Pictures. The film features interviews with Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Sting, Joni Mitchell, Carlos Santana, Jerry Jemmott, Jonas Hellborg, Bootsy Collins, and Flea. (from Wikipedia)

If you are a bass player and do not know who Jaco Pastorius is, you are not a bass player. Jaco redefined the bass. The movie Jaco gives a deeper insight into Jacos’s life, his family life,   great footage of concerts and interviews and his tragic struggles with mental illness.  We all miss this guy.

Two other great Documentaries NOT on Netflix

The reason you are reading this post is that  you have a Netflix streaming account and are looking for movie suggestions, it is raining or snowing outside, and you just cannot get it up to go to church or the corner bar.   Suffice it to say that the greatest music documentary of all time is not a music documentary but a boxing documentary called When We Were Kings about the famous “Rumble in the Jungle” heavyweight championship match in 1974  in Zaire between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman. What happens in the course of that event and the musicians involved is phenomenal.

And then there is the movie  Muscle Shoals about an Alabama city that holds a prominent place in music history and the funky rhythm section that finally gets some recognition. But you are limited. You have Netflix streaming.

2017 Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival Official Pelican Café Awards

The 2017 Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival was blessed with great festival weather – sunny and never too hot or too chilly and the winds never blew too hard. Out at the ocean there was a large short period swell in the water and moderate onshore winds in the afternoon so unlike some years in the past the surfing was not happening. Good thing there were over 100 bands and 6 stages to experience some great music. Coinciding with the festival were the Blue Angels flying maneuvers over the city of San Francisco. Sometimes a single jet would stall right above Golden Gate Park and then shoot like a rocket straight up only to then arch moments later with a big turn. Many oohed and aahed. Some who have seen the darker sides of war and reality and probably have been through this  routine before, looked to the sky with one-finger peace signs on both hands and sneers on their faces. The middle-aged woman M.C. at the new Victrola Stage just sighed and said something about if only we used all that money for the schools. Starting with Billy Bragg on Friday and going through many acts was a theme of political awareness and either concern for the state of things in the world or ways to contend with the fear and despair.

One of the ways was to simply enjoy all the music and friendly company. As you can see by the photo below, the festival began quite peacefully.

Stressful beginning. Victrola stage in background

BEST HORN SOLO:
Francisco Torres solo on Watermelon Man – Trombone

There are no trombones in bluegrass music  that is certain, but at the 2017 Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival there were at least two. I heard more saxes, trumpets and trombones than I did banjos.  Both the banjo and the trombone have known to break up marriages as both are actually very hard to play. Francisco Torres plays trombone and plays it very well with Poncho Sanchez and his Latin Jazz group. They played at 11:40 am on Saturday at the Swan Stage.  The crowd,  a bit subdued, seemed like they were either waiting for the coffee to kick in, the neighborhood blunt to take effect or maybe were simply biding time till “that cool band plays at 2:30.” Overall the band seemed a bit under-microphoned but Poncho Sanchez and his Latin Jazz group band is full of veteran-pros and eventually you knew you would hear something great. I have heard Francisco Torres play trombone live before and was impressed. This guy has great chops and outstanding musical sensibilities and can even channel John Coltrane. His solo on Watermelon Man was outstanding.

MOST AMAZING SOUL SINGER OVER THE AGE OF 75:
Don Bryant

People who have been attending the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival for years know that part of the fun is discovering new musicians and bands.  On Friday I heard the The Bo-Keys. The horn section was fantastic playing with impeccable ensemble. The baritone sax had this beautiful fat sound and and held down the bottom like a anchor.  The arrangements were a little unimaginative but I am told that that is the classic R&B style (I guess Tower of Power never got that memo). Anyway, the second half of the set featured Don Bryant and let me tell you this guy is still going strong. Decked out in a gorgeous ornate black and silver jacket, at 75 he gave a clinic on singing R&B. He was channeling the voice of Otis Redding, James Brown and Sam Cooke all at once – all while having a  great time. The style of blues shouting has many casualties in the vocal world and I hear that people who sing in this style are often  frequent visitors to the  Ear, Nose and Throat clinics across the land. It is an especially difficult style to sing night after night. Don Bryant seemed like the Pavarotti of R&B  and for the entire set he  looked like he was having a gas. All the E.N.T. people should really just figure out how this guy does it. Case closed.


I would rather live a short life of love, than a long one of fear

Lucas Nelson

BEST stage TO BE ON SUNDAY:
Swan Stage

There are basically two approaches to attending the festival. One is to pack light, stake out your spot on one stage then meander over to other stages. This way you can maximize your band count. I know many people who do this and I have come to the conclusion that if you choose this route it is best to go the the festival solo. Alone, you can head off and hear Allison Brown in a moment’s notice. The other approach is to simply bring enough food and drink for the day and stay at one stage that your party has chosen as the best. Sunday I was traveling solo but nevertheless ended up spending four hours at the Swan Stage around a very friendly crowd. For me, the line-up of Poor Man’s Whiskey, Randy Newman and Lucas Nelson (Willie Nelson’s son) was the highlight of the entire festival. Outstanding!

Most Improved:
Poor Man’s Whiskey

Speaking of which, Poor Man’s Whiskey’s set was excellent. I am not sure if there are new members in the band or they changed their beverage of choice but these guys brought it on – great vocals at times, awesome songwriting and some truly interesting guitar solos. Their sound is many things – a bit country, a bit rock and roll, a little Northern California jam-band. During the set one of the band’s members proposed marriage to his girlfriend. That was pretty special.


It’s play time now. There’s no democracy. Democracy’s gone.

Randy Newman

BEST SET BY A MUSICIAN WHO HAS WRITTEN MUSIC FOR OVER 8 PIXAR FILMS:
Randy Newman

When musicians become commercially successful sometimes people no longer take them seriously. Randy Newman’s body of work is outstanding. Sitting at a grand piano playing solo he quieted everyone down and truly delivered. He played some new songs (a funny one about Putin) but also played classics like Short People.

MOST AVANT GARDE SET WHERE PEOPLE JUST GOT UP AND LEFT:
TIE: T-Bone Burnett & Ornette’s Prime Time Band Reunion

The Pelican Cafe has been giving out these awards for six years now and this is the first time that the judges have split their decisions. In the category of Most Avant Garde we have a tie! You had to have been there.  T-Bone Burnett did over an hour of a new direction he is going. Electronic music with prerecorded tracks, a drummer and T-Bone Burnett doing spoken word. There was some mention at the beginning of T.S. Elliot but at a festival like this, subtleties are lost.  Probably pretty cool stuff if you are in the right mood and a smaller venue. At a festival this size you need to paint with a fatter brush. Ornette’s Prime Time Reunion Band played many of the old tunes and sounded really interesting. There were loud like a rock and roll band.  I now am musing over what it would have sounded like if Ornette and Charlie Haden had done the gig as a duo.  Maybe they were up in the clouds flying around in those airplanes. Stranger things have happened lately.

>>>>>>>>>>>

The Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in San Francisco is really like Jazz Fest in New Orleans. Big-name bands, many kinds of music and a festive atmosphere. One of the amazing things about Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival is that even though there are tens of thousands of people, it is always a  peaceful event, and in the end people seem to get along just fine and often make new friends. Everyone seems to pack out the trash pretty well too. Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival. Warren Hellman’s party.  Communal music therapy.

 

PAST AWARDS

https://sfjournal.net/blog/2016-hardly-strictly-bluegrass-awards/

 

https://sfjournal.net/blog/the-2015-hardly-strictly-bluegrass-awards/

https://sfjournal.net/blog/2014-hardly-strictly-bluegrass-festival-official-pelican-cafe-awards/

https://sfjournal.net/blog/2013-hardly-strictly-bluegrass-festival-official-pelican-cafe-awards/

https://sfjournal.net/blog/2012-hardly-strictly-bluegrass-festival-highlights/

 

 

 

 

San Francisco Pride Parade 2017

June 25th, 2017 was the day of the big parade for San Francisco Pride – a celebration of diversity. For many years I had not paid attention to this event, usually trying to avoid the traffic congestion associated with such a large crowd in town. This time I had relatives and family marching along with the California Bluegrass Association Pride float. Below are mostly photos of California Bluegrass Association Pride float but I could not help myself to get photos of all the “diversity” and “causes.”

Intact Genitals are a Human Right
Intact Genitals are a Human Right

I vaguely remember the Gay Pride parade as being in the Castro but that was years ago. This year it was amazing how many sections were corporate – VISA, Google, Facebook, Workday, Wells Fargo, Intel, Bloomingdale’s, Levis just to name a few. These were all pretty tame in terms of visual presentation and you just had to wonder about the concept of punching the clock for your corporate job and walking down Market Street for your gay pals at VISA – how tame.

Foreskin is not a Birth Defect and It’s Not Your Mother’s Penis 

Signs at the SF Pride Parade

How times have changed as there are surely a few old timers in the gay community scratching their heads about the irony of success. Unlike a lot of parades the music in the Pride Parade is not really the showcase. When there is music it seemed to steer towards a prerecorded sort of night club drum and bass thing. Strange I never heard “I Will Survive,” Tina Turner or even Tony Bennett. There is a musical history to this movement.

Nevertheless, here were some truly interesting and bizarre groups. My favorites where the “Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence” (just the name is awesome), Church Ladies for Gay Rights dressed in loose-fitted old fashion dresses,  and the many church groups marching.  -The group against circumcision – Foreskin is not a Birth Defect and It’s Not Your Mother’s Penis was an interesting juxtaposition to the many medically altered people marching.

California Bluegrass Association Pride Float
California Bluegrass Association Pride Float

Then the California Bluegrass Pride Float came by. The float was truly awesome with the rainbow colors and a sort of front porch theme. The band was picking some fast fiddle tunes when they went by our spot. I am not sure if bluegrass has been played in many parades but the high register of the instruments and the lack of brass and drums make it a bit tricky to garner much impact.  It sounded a bit like bees a buzzin’.  But overall it was truly great to see some headline acts participating on the float – veteran Laurie Lewis along with members of the band Front Country.

While in the San Francisco bluegrass community there are actually very few openly gay people,  you could tell it was pretty special for Brandon Godman who came to San Francisco after being outed and discriminated against in Nashville. Brandon is an amazing fiddle player and was welcomed into the San Francisco musical community with open arms. In San Francisco, people are usually not discriminated against for who they love and choose to sleep with. Just ask the Church Ladies for Gay Rights standing up for others in their community. Women have been shit upon and pushed around since the beginning of time so look out –  the Church Ladies got your back!

[ CLICK ON IMAGES + ]

BREAKING NEWS! We Insist! Max Roach’s Freedom Now Suite – Temporarily out of stock.

$45.73 on amazon.com

Temporarily out of stock. Order now and we’ll deliver when available.

Great to hear that vinyl is still the go to medium! Booker Little on trumpet is completely amazing! This is an album that I am not familiar with that is perfect for these times. It is truly incredible that it is over 50 years since this was made. It gives you the feeling that in present times we are moving backwards

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/We_Insist!

Toots Thielemans – An Epic Life

A bit late on this post but it does not really matter as Toots Thielemans was a timeless artist. His life and music were extraordinary. If you want to read the standard obit, peruse the the New York Times – Toots NY Times Obit. We will be hearing his music for years to come and his genius will live on.

If you want my take on great Toots Thielemans albums see https://sfjournal.net/blog/essential-toots-thielemans-albums/


As the year came to and end it was interesting that there was a lot of media covering the musicians who passed away in 2016. Prince, Bowie and George Michael seemed to get all the press. Interesting artists for sure but their lives and music were retold incessantly in print and on the radio. Toots on the other hand lived to 94, at least 30 years longer than the three above and played in so many genres and eras it was a life that had a Forrest Gump quality. He was places that defined music and art for years. Imagine in the late 40s playing with Charlie Parker and then Benny Goodman the next year – two people who were at the top of American music but in very different social and cultural worlds. For many years he was working in New York just scraping along, playing jazz gigs and studio dates – TV commercials and movies. Then an amazing era where he played Brazilian music. A few years on salary with ABC studios. Imagine that happening today!

One thing left out of the usual obits is the fact that where he finally made some money was with writing a song called Ladyfingers that was recorded on Herb Albert’s Whipped Cream & Other Delights It was a simple little ditty but with every album sold – over a million, Toots got a penny. So he took his $100,000 and bought a house and probably breathed a bit easier.

There is an interesting eBook you can read about Toots written by his friend Paula Marckx. If is more like just hanging out with Toots for a few hours but fun to get his take on his life and the twentieth century.

The Sound of Toots Thielemans
by Paula Marckx

Within the book are a lot of links to unusual videos. Toots traveled a lot and did all kinds of commercials. Here is on from 1982 in Japan. Pretty hilarious!

http://adland.tv/commercials/suntory-toots-thielemans-1982-100-japan

Anyway, rest in peace Toots. Thanks for all the great music. Most people probably have heard Toots from the theme to Sesame Street and various pop albums. One that I remember that had that enchanting Toots Thielemans solos and sound is Night Game by Paul Simon, a song that is never ever covered. Too difficult to pull off with the changing meters and that amazing harmonica solo.

We will be discovering more of Toots work for years to come. It was an epic life.

The Last Doctor’s Lounge Bluegrass Jam – San Francisco

Doctor’s Lounge
4826 Mission St, San Francisco, California 94112
Wednesday, November 30, 2016
8pm to Midnight

For around 3 years the amazing band The Beauty Operators has played a monthly, third Thursday of the month gig at The Doctor’s Lounge. It was one set then an open jam. Sometimes as many as 15 people would get up on “the stage” and join the effort. It has been a fun run.

But alas, the lease ran out and the owner of the building is upin’ the rent 80%. Good grief! Such is life on the Royal Highway now known as Mission Street. The Dr’s Lounge location has been a bar for over 50 years with a lot of history, some memorable, some probably people will want to maybe forget. I remember a few years back in December showing up for the gig and there was a fundraiser – a crab feed to raise money for a school I think. The place was all dressed up. White table cloths. Candles. The crab, garlic and white wine smelled like heaven. We serinaded them with a trio for the first set. Cool gig.

But usually the place is frequented by the locals. Working class folk. Most making an honest dollar. Retired longshoreman. Roofers. Handyman. Cooks and cleaners.

Anyway, if you are in the area – San Francisco, Mission and Onondaga, stop by by for a pint. They are five bucks. If they reopen as a bar I predict some major inflation.

Doctor’s Lounge
4826 Mission St, San Francisco, California 94112

Photos from the last night at the Doctor’s Lounge (click on images)

Digital Millennium Copyright Act 18 Year Anniversary

Passed on October 12, 1998, by a unanimous vote in the United States Senate and signed into law by President Bill Clinton on October 28, 1998, the DMCA amended Title 17 of the United States Code to extend the reach of copyright, while limiting the liability of the providers of online services for copyright infringement by their users.
wikipedia.org

It is 1998 – The Senate Now Has E-Mail
Let’s Have a Party!

18 years ago today the Digital Millennium Copyright Act was passed. I would wager that very few people even know what the DMCA is, but it has affected modern life substantially. It is in many ways just one more version of an old story of plunder by larger more powerful entities, and the taking advantage of the smaller, but often more vibrant creators. In many ways, it has made it so the copyright laws in such industries as music are pointless.

But let’s back up a bit. Everyone can remember the transition that happened when CDs came out and then everyone was ripping their CDs to MP3s and handing off 100 gig drives full of music files to their buddies. Then there was Napster that simply stitched all these drives together in one big mass orgy of free MP3s. Napster got the injunction primarily because the established music industry  had no cut of the racket. Along come tech giants like Google, Apple, Microsoft and Samsung and to cover their liability the DMCA made perfect sense. If someone has “illegal” music on their devices, they should not be held accountable. Furthermore, if someone uploads a Beatles tune as a video with a picture of Ringo Starr as the graphics to YouTube, why should YouTube be held accountable for such blatant infringement? All good and well. But that was 1998. Today is 2016. I am certain that in 1998 most members of the Senate had no idea the true implications of the DMCA. In 1998, most of the members of the Senate probably did not even know how to manage their own email. They were still licking stamps.

The DMCA’s principal innovation in the field of copyright is the exemption from direct and indirect liability of Internet service providers and other intermediaries.
wikipedia.org

Let’s look back a bit. In 1998 the leading browser of the day was Netscape 2. Internet Explorer was at version 5.5. If anyone remembers IE 6, imagine how terrible IE 5.5 must have been. Windows 98 had probably just been released.  Man, that is scary. My point is that the DMCA has not been updated for 18 years and is an extremely flawed piece of legislation. The large tech companies have in many ways based their entire industry on the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. It allows for basically everyone to break the law everyday and not have to worry about it. When was the last time that a cop pulled someone over and wanted to check if the person had pirated music on their phone? There probably is thousands of dollars of contraband on everyone’s devices. Ain’t gonna happen.

Times Have Changed – Google Is Our Master of Information

But this is what is disingenuous about the DMCA. Companies like Google know just about everything about you. What you buy. What websites you visit. Your birthday. Your favorite color.

In 2016 they have the ability to determine if a piece of music is copyrighted via matching wave forms, and indeed this is how they “monetize” this work.  But YouTube refuses to acknowledge this UNLESS they are in a position to make money off of that music – they make money anyway but that is another post. The only way the copyright holder can get the videos of their music taken down is with take-down notices. If a song is popular, this can mean hundreds of separate videos with the same song on it.  The artists cannot simply tell the ISP such as YouTube “I do not want my work on your network.” YouTube is sort of like that creepy neighbor running a crack-house who borrowed your weed-whacker last spring and refuses to give it back claiming ignorance. Musicians, songwriters and composers have better things to do with their time than chase down illegal version of their work.

YouTube is sort of like that creepy neighbor running a crack-house who borrowed your weed-whacker last spring and refuses to give it back claiming ignorance. Musicians, songwriters and composers have better things to do with their time than chase down illegal version of their work.

Which brings me back to 1998. Do you really think in 1998 anyone could predict such entities as YouTube or Facebook? And unlike the owners of these companies, I believe these entities are not just platforms, they are simply publishers with free content providers and creators. These publishers have to take responsibility as well for copyright infringement. It is within their technical realm but they are playing dumb as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 suits them just fine. The DMCA is to their advantage.

The real master of deception with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act is  YouTube. Facebook, Twitter and the like have simply entered personal lives and monetized birthdays and other important life events until people depart from this world. Personalized marketing on steroids that the users all agree to though without  really reading the privacy policies.

But all such companies are the modern-day plunderers. Instead of grabbing continents, forests, rivers, enslaving the natives and digging for gold, they are plundering your personal events and consumer habits along with the likes of great artists like James Brown, Elton John, Charlie Palmieri, Vince Gill,  Willie Green,  Slayer, Bette Midler, Woody Guthrie (the list is endless) and any person who has recorded or published a piece of music in the last hundred years.

Conclusion

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act needs to be reexamined and rewritten every five years to reflect and take into consideration the changes in technology, creativity and platforms. It is an important part of combating the many inequities in our society.

The 2016 Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Awards

It is with great pleasure that we were asked again to present The Pelican Cafe 2016 Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Awards . So many great bands… so many stages. It is a world-class event still free to everyone.

As usual, I start this post with a brief assessment of the weather. The first week of October in San Francisco is usually the beginning of our “Indian Summer,” that two month period of time between the horrid fog of summer and the torrential rains of December, where we get some consistent sunlight and winds often blow out of the east. Surfers take to the ocean, as this time of year is when the waves are at their best. Last year during the festival was no exception, but this year during the The 2016 Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival the northwest winds were already beginning to howl at around 9 am. Of course this made it so the entire weekend was not what surfers would call “rideable.” It also had another effect. On many of the stages facing west, the sound got literally blown away by the wind. It is not ideal to have these winds when putting on an outdoor festival.

The winds off Ocean Beach San Francisco on October 1, 2016
The winds off Ocean Beach San Francisco on October 1, 2016

People (all three of you), who follow this publication, know that every year I give out these precious awards to the deserving people and musicians. It is a lot of work narrowing down the selections, but I think I nailed it this time around.


Outstanding Billionaire of 2016:
Warren Hellman

It is easy when you attend a free festival to give thanks to the person paying for everything. In our winner-take-all economy, that guy is Warren Hellman, who now is somewhere six feet under and must accept this award posthumously. Unlike, one of the current presidential candidates, Warren Hellman actual had a passion for something other than himself. That was bluegrass music and the banjo, and he actually gave money back to the community. He spent his days as a banker and venture capitalist and somewhere along the way started the festival. He made so much money that he has funded The Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival for a decade after his death in 2011. Mark your calendars. That would be 2021. Thanks Warren. The entire American Beverage Association and all the corner stores within a mile radius of Golden Gate Park really thank you.


Rebirth Brass Band
Chadrick Honore – Trumpet Player in Rebirth Brass Band

Outstanding Musician:
Chadrick Honore – Trumpet Player in Rebirth Brass Band

I took off work early on Friday as I simply had to go see the Rebirth Brass Band play at the Arrow Stage. The band, with a long tradition and many members over the years, is playing really well these days. The trumpet player Chadrick Honore was simply on fire and the way he plays trumpet makes it look effortless. As usual, New Orleans’ musicians are much more than just playing an instrument. Chadrick was singing and working the crowd as well. But, his playing was truly outstanding. It is curious that as time goes on with The Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival that there are more wind instruments and less banjos. I would wager there were fewer banjos this year than any of the last five. Perhaps the festival should be renamed The Hardly ANY Bluegrass Festival. But that is OK with me. Just bring on more bands from Louisiana.


This one needs to be replaced...
This one needs to be replaced…

Terrible Speaker that Needs to Be Replaced
Banjo Stage

With that Northwest winds howling and blowing the trees, I was wondering if that speaker about 100 yards down the meadow from the Banjo Stage was even on? Yes it was. But, let me tell you – it sounded like crap. Sometimes speakers like this just get old and fall apart inside.


Actually not a bad spot to see a show at the Rooster Stage. Jackson Browne, somewhere down there.
Actually not a bad spot to see a show at the Rooster Stage. Jackson Browne, somewhere down there.

Best Babyboomer Singing “Life Soundtrack Songs”
Jackson Browne

I have never been to a Jacksom Browne concert. Now I have. It was pretty good. He played a lot of his big hits, titles that I do not know but the melodies that have been ingrained in you somehow. He is a great singer-songwriter and I came to realize that what he really writes are simply hymns. Lots of IV to I. Lots of V SUS chords to I. All good. Not very bluesy at all. During one of his songs he got about 8 bars in and simply stopped. I have know idea if he suddenly forgot the words or the chords, but he just took a little pause and started it all over. I think half the audience didn’t even noticed. Performers take note.


Band that Never Made it Due to Flight Delays
Geno Delafose and French Rockin’ Boogie

With a name like that, how would you NOT want to go all the way across town and check it out. But alas, the flight was delayed and they missed the show.


During Curtis' set at the Arrow Stage
During Curtis’ set at the Arrow Stage

Amazing Special Treat of the Festival
Curtis Salgado

Man, can this guy sing and play harmonica. A really special musician who has been there through the years. It is truly strange that he was not listed on the schedule. Curtis is the “real deal.”
http://www.curtissalgado.com/


Strangest Aspect of the Festival
So few San Francisco Bands

In the early days of the festival, word has it that there were actual a fair amount of San Francisco bands on the stages. Not so much these days. Sure there are local musicians like Boz Scaggs, part of the booking, and locals who get the gig playing behind him, but I find it perplexing that the band Front Country, a really good bluegrass band from San Francisco, is not on one of the stages. There are many other great San Francisco bands people in the area do not even know. The closest thing this year, was the showcasing of the Little Village Foundation, a local non-profit that is doing some really good work. Diverse and very Northern Californian.


Anyway, I caught about 12 bands in total, a bit less than years past but it was about right. All of The Pelican Cafe 2016 Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Awards are guaranteed for 30 days from this reading. After that you are on your own. Go out and hear some live music from the locals. Until 2017…

Past Years Winners

The Photos (Click on Images)

Echos of New Orleans

I wanted to post this video back a while back and found it in my files. It is a trumpet section practicing in a neighborhood near Frenchman’s Street in New Orleans around jazz fest this past April. Unlike most of the world, I often like hearing musicians practice more than the actual performance. You can learn a lot just from how they go about breaking down the music and get a real sense of the amount of work it takes to play well. I do not know what this tune is but I was walking and heard this trumpet section practicing. A guy came up to me and started trying to bum some money off of me. I asked him to just give me a few minutes to listen to the horns. He explained to me that they were running the scales and that you get a better sound if you tighten your lips. We converse for a bit and I spotted him a few Washington’s for keeping the block safe.

The scale they were playing is what sometimes is called the diatonic bebop scale. I remember hearing that David Baker coined the term but it does not really matter, as I call it the New Orleans scale.

What I love about it is the tension of the I to VII to flat VII. How about the “Welcome to America” scale.

new-orleans-scale

The 2016 New Orleans Jazz Festival First Weekend Awards

New Orleans Jazz Fest 2016

At the New Orleans’s Jazz Fest you can buy tickets at the gate. We never had to wait more than a few minutes. The price per day was $75 and we paid no service fee. One day, my cousin Ben had one to give away. Thanks Ben! This simple information was not easy to find. I would rather give a few more bucks to the festival than Ticketron. Just saying.

Paul, Guy from Argentina and Steve. Three outsiders making the trek to one of the Holy Lands of music.
Paul, Guy from Argentina and Steve. Three outsiders making the trek to one of the Holy Lands of music.

First, I need to give a disclaimer that this essay is absolutely ridiculous. There is no way to give awards out at this festival. Every day at the New Orleans Jazz Fest there are at least 60 bands on all kinds of stages. To possibly cast judgement and give out an award, besides being absurd, you would have to literally be six places at once. Instead, in the interest of confessional writing so prevalent today, I will simply highlight the journey and give out a few awards , the most accurate being the one at the end – MOST OUTSTANDING MUSICIAN IN NEW ORLEANS.

Below are the groups that I heard. Many were planned. Others just sort of happened based on the bathroom lines and meal breaks. By the end of the day the portapotties look like they were ready to tumble over but never did. In the concessions, the trout with crab on top was excellent. All the food was really good.

Friday, April 22

Alexis Spight
New Orleans Classic Recording Divas featuring The Dixie Cups, Wanda Rouzan and Jean Knight
Kermit Ruffins
Real Untouchable Brass Band
Michael McDonnald
Steely Dan

Saturday, April 23

Big Sams Funky Nation
Tad Benoit
Keith Frank and the Soliel Zydeco Band
DeJonnette, Coltrane and Garrison
Boz Scaggs

Night at a Club
George Clinton and Parlament

Sunday, April 24

The New Orleans Suspects
Henry Butler and Jambalaya
Leroy Jones and the New Orleans Finest
The Zion Harmonizers
Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter
John Mayall

Other Shows of Note
Treme Brass Band at DBA
Harmonica Marathon at Frenchman Theater

INTRODUCTION

Every time I go to New Orleans I cry. In fact, I remember the exact moment that I cried every day of the festival. It often happens unexpectedly. It is similar to what happened to me the first and only time I got acupuncture. I am not sure modern medicine has researched it but crying, especially for joy is a good thing and the therapy is all that sometimes works to get you through the ups and downs of life. It is cathartic and surely the great balancer of the soul.

Alexa Spight in the Gospel Temt
Alexa Spight in the Gospel Temt

The first day we had a very rough plan and were a little disoriented as we entered the gates. To get our bearings we walked into the Gospel Tent and heard Alexis Spight. We sat in the front row, as it was an early show and there I was overcome with emotion. Her voice was strong and clear and you could hear decades of gospel tradition in her voice. The band seemed a bit under rehearsed but the spirit was there and it seemed like the entire group just went with it. And as it does often with the first show, the tears came streaming down my cheeks. Probably not the first person to wail in the Gospel Tent.

Keith Frank and the Soliel Zydeco Band
Keith Frank and the Soliel Zydeco Band

The second day it was listening to Keith Frank and the Soliel Zydeco Band. Many times I heard people in New Orleans area say that Zydeco songs “sound all the same.” To me this makes no sense. Sure the accordion can be irritating, in the same way as say the banjo, but the songs do not sound all the same. One of the grooves from Keith Frank sounded like James Brown or perhaps something James Brown appropriated. The next like we were on the Bayou in a cowboy hat. Somewhere, during that James Brown groove it hit me again. Keith Frank with his two kids under ten, one on accordion and the other on cowbell by his side, it just got me again. Tears of joy.

Which brings me to an award.

BEST TROMBONE SOLO IN A SECOND LINE BAND

The Real Untouchables Brass Band… the guy on the far right – stage left.  I was unable to figure out his name and apologies about that, but if you show up and San Francisco I will buy you dinner. His solos combined the street sound, the grit and dirt with great pitch and rhythm. I can never get enough of second line brass bands. The reason why I liked this guy’s playing so much is his sound. Full of dirt and smears and all in a very organic, lyric way.

Real Untouchable Brass Band
Real Untouchable Brass Band

Later that day I heard Steely Dan with the very fine trombonist Jim Pugh who’s long career even includes writing the theme that still runs for NPR’s Morning Edition. But Pugh’s playing, when he finds himself in a bit of improvisational jam, relies on his squeaky high chops and lots of notes. In New Orleans, trombones usually just go with growls and smears. The Untouchables trombone player had that and much more.

But I have become distracted. On the third day I broke down listening to Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter. The crowd was building up for this one. Big names in jazz. Not a seat in the Jazz Tent. Standing room only. I thought – do people really know what they are getting into here? Herbie and Wayne are some of the most expert improvisers on the planet and the show was just that. Herbie played both acoustic and electric and his synth work brought to mind some of Wayne’s work with Joe Zawinul and Weather Report. Too much music for many folks ears which for the rest of us meant a good seat as people left. The last tune they played was something I would have never expected. A modern, sort of loosely constructed version of “Now’s the Time” in a boogaloo groove. This was not a 12 bar blues but more of a free-flowing thing and was a great vehicle for Wayne’s sparse but thematic solos. He played all soprano throughout the entire set.

BEST TENOR SAXOPHONIST I HAD NO IDEA WAS SO DARN GOOD

Ravi Cotrane. What an excellent player. Period. Not sure how you follow in the footsteps of his father John but Ravi does it well.

ODDS AND ENDS

Some notable experiences while in New Orleans were crashing a Crawfish Boil party in the Garden District and finally learning how to propery eat these bugs. We left that party a bit too early only to be packed like sardines into Frenchman Street clubs and hear some of the locals sweat it out with the tourist crowds.

After the second day, eating another crawfish boil in the garage of a house next to the festival and then heading off to catch George Clinton and Parliament at a club in the Wearhouse District. Now that was about as funky as it gets. 15 member band. George sitting on a stool in the middle of it all directing traffic. I have a feeling there is not a conductor on the planet that could pull that off with such effortlessness. Everyone got a moment to shine and band was dynamic. George is still going strong.

MY PARTNERS IN CRIME

Special awards go to Ben my nephew and Natalie who put me up and Steve my buddy from high school who was an amazing partner on this adventure in New Orleans. Steve still has the ability to scope out a situation, make friends, avoid getting mugged and still brush his teeth when he gets back to the crib at 2 am.

THE WEEKDAYS BETWEEN

Steve caught a plane back home on Monday. I stuck around New Oreans until Thursday riding around on Ben’s bike and exploring New Orleans and taking photos. One day Ben took me to the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and the Barataria Preserve. We hung out in the swamps with the snakes and alligators for a few hours. Tuesday night I caught The Treme Brass Band at DBA with Ben. It was a great to hear them on their home turf. Shamarr Allen on trumpet sounded to me of tradition and essence of New Orleans. Cities get their signature sounds and in New Orleans that sound is the sound of the trumpet. Shamarr was playing what looked like a cornet looking pocket trumpet – tarnished brass, with a sound and skill that would make Louis Armstrong smile. Shamarr’s playing reaches back a hundred years but makes a clear statement about the present. His sound and chops will just blow your mind. Beyond that his singing and rapport with the audience was simply awesome. Everyone was having a great time.

MOST OUTSTANDING MUSICIAN IN NEW ORLEANS

Shamarr Allen… need to say more.

LEAVING

For a few days I probably did not cry. That will happen after you experience about 30 bands over three days. You are all cried out. But, leaving New Orleans, heading to a wedding in Austin and seeing that Megabus in the distance, with Houston on the front, it happened again and I got all choked up. New Orleans. I wouldn’t want to live there but a great place to visit and hear some great American music.

[click on images]

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4 Best Documentaries on Netflix Streaming

Looking for a movie on Netflix Streaming? It seems that documentaries are the largest category in Netflix. Below are four movies that I highly recommend.


Eddie

The Legend of Eddie Aikau
http://www.netflix.com/title/70273674
If you do not know who Eddie Aikau was, you will by the end of the movie. A remarkable person, amazing athelete and incredible life. Indeed, “Eddie would go.”


Little White Lie
http://www.netflix.com/watch/80020254
This documentary is remarkable, not only for the story but also the fact that the filmmaker is so young and yet makes a film that is so mature.


tony

The Zen of Bennet
http://www.netflix.com/watch/70236498
I have no idea why this movie has only three stars in places. Even if you do not like the music and singing of Tony Bennet, the movie is a great view into a man, way up there in years, who still has it all together. Features many pop artists including Amy Winehouse.


muscle-shoals

Muscle Shoals
http://www.netflix.com/watch/70267584
There is no reason why this is at the bottom of the four. I am assuming that you have already seen this movie. This is the sort of history that always seems to get torn out of history books. You may be Caucasian but that does not mean you cannot be funky.

BREAKING NEWS! After over 8 years, Google’s Content ID system is STILL IN BETA!

NUMBER OF DAYS content identification tools for YouTube HAS BEEN IN BETA

[getdays]


BETA [bey-tuh or, esp. British, bee-] adj.
A pre-release of software that is given out to a large group of users to try under real conditions.
– PC Magazine Encyclopedia


We all are amazed at this tech giant Google and their many other companies such as YouTube. Their ability to meet the technological challenges of our times is phenomenal. Back in June 14, 2007, they announce an exciting new program called content identification tools for YouTube. I am certain the marketing department had many long meetings trying to figure out a catchy name for this new tool.

The state of our video ID tools
(From googleblog.blogspot.com – June 14, 2007)

“We’ve been developing improved content identification for months, and we’re confident that in the not-too-distant future, we’ll unveil an innovative solution that will work for users and content creators alike. This is one of the most technologically complicated tasks that we have ever undertaken. But YouTube has always been committed to developing sustainable and scalable tools that work for all content owners.

Even though we haven’t given too many details, we’ve been hard at work.”

Hard at work? Really? Then why is this program still in BETA?

From my submission 11/28/2015

And then when you try to see what is going on with your Content ID submission you get a denied. Just because you took down videos to protect your copyrights should logically have no bearing as to the fact that you own the copyrights to that material.


Ted calls Google, which owns YouTube, “a company that has done more to impoverish musicians and other creative professionals than any entity on the face of the planet.”

Ted Gioia from
http://www.artsjournal.com/culturecrash/2014/10/stop-working-for-free.html


So Google, just so you can keep your important projects up-to-date and rolling out in time, I will keep a YouTube Content ID in BETA widget on the right column of this website. Keep up the hard work Google! Maybe some day by the next millennium in the year 2107 Google’s YouTube Content ID project will get out of BETA and have a Release candidate of this product. Trust me. I am NOT holding my breath!


“Imagine a business model where you are given all of the music publishing content for the last hundred years for free. After you build the initial interface, you basically do not have to do anything. The system is set up so that users and fans just give you content even though they have no rights to the ownership of that content. With much of this illegal content you garner about 50% of all advertisement revenue generated by that content. This can go on indefinitely. Sounds like there is no way you can fail. You will make billions off this stuff. YouTube just laughs all the all the way to the bank.”

Anonymous

FURTHER READING ON THE SERIOUSLY FLAWED Digital Millennium Copyright Act

Passed on October 12, 1998, by a unanimous vote in the United States Senate and signed into law by President Bill Clinton on October 28, 1998, the DMCA amended Title 17 of the United States Code to extend the reach of copyright, while limiting the liability of the providers of online services for copyright infringement by their users.

Here is a really funny transcript of a Senior Copyright Lawyer’s speech to congress in April 2014 Why the Digital Millennium Copyright Act Is Working Just Fine… by Katherine Oyama ,Google Senior Copyright Counsel.

Check out the absurdity with this comment

Congresswoman Judy Chu, a job creation advocate from California, provided real time proof that Google was failing in burying pirated sites in their search results. Barely typing in a few keystrokes associated with the Oscar Winning Film, 12 Years a Slave, numerous pirate sites appeared immediately on her iPad near the top of Google’s first search page. Unfazed, the representative from Google continued to extoll the progress that was being made by her company in pushing these pirate sites down in their rankings.

Azabache CD Still Available but Most People Stream

Azabache is/was a salsa band from San Francisco, California. Twenty-three years ago the CD was published by Leopard Music. I am guessing that only 1000 were printed. The music industry was in flux as always, and with the rise of Napster and MP3s everywhere publishing was finding its feet.

Since that time, the CD has made its way around the globe mostly streaming, but probably in suitcases as well. A big thanks to Amazon, iTunes and Spotify for their automation, tireless domination and and endless servers and warehouses, otherwise we would be licking stamps and going to the post office.

Listen to SOME SAMPLES

STREAM AND BUY THE CD at the following retailers:

BREAKING NEWS: CD BABY NO LONGER SELLS CDS, Go figure…

Where’s the CD Baby Store?
CD Baby retired our music store in March of 2020 in order to place our focus entirely on the tools and services that are most meaningful to musicians today and tomorrow.
https://store.cdbaby.com/

(Thanks for letting us know. Does that mean we threw the baby out with the bathwater?)

To order an actual CD, you no longer go to CD Baby. CD Baby is now only a digital distribution facilitator. The music industry is always changing. CDs are now 8-tracks. Jewel boxes in everyone’s basements gather dust until the next wave. A gosar! A bailar!

Remembering Allen Toussaint

I am not sure that many Americans know the name Allen Toussaint. I surely did not until I was well into my twenties. Like so many really important things, Mr. Toussaint was not a part of the standard core curriculum. I think Allen Toussaint should be on a stamp! He was an incredible musician and force in 20th Century American music. Period. But unfortunately, Mr. Allen Toussaint has left the building and passed away November 10, 2015.

Allen Toussaint
January 14, 1938 – November 10, 2015

You can read about this amazing guy here http://allentoussaint.com/

Harry Shearer’s radio show, Le Show, this week plays an interview with Allen Toussaint from a few years back. It is about ten minutes in, just past the “apologies of the the week.” http://wwno.org/post/le-show-week-nov-15-2015

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

I am not qualified to write about this man. I heard Allen Toussaint play live just one time. It was at the San Francisco Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival in about 2012. It was at the Star Stage and I was simply amazed that there were not more people in attendance. Allen Toussaint, on the stage, with a grand piano, for free!!! He was there with a quintet. I remembering seeing him back stage, impeccably dressed, smoking a cigarette, by himself. He seemed to be going over the lyrics in his head. His gaze was far off and he seemed to be talking to himself. He was about to go out and sing about twelve tunes in a row, probably a few he had not played in a while. His band seemed in a bit of disarray. But then they hit and all was good. I distinctly remembering him sing a beautiful rendition City of New Orleans by Steve Goodman. Like the absolute pro he was, he nailed every verse.

Night time on the City Of New Orleans
Changing cars in Memphis Tennessee
Halfway home – we’ll be there by morning
Through the Mississippi darkness, rolling down to the sea

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Rest in Peace Allen Toussaint.

Chata Gutierrez Mural Celebration

Photos of Soltron, Anthony Blea, Orlando Torriente, Louis Romero and Carl Perazo outside the House of Brakes.
South Van Ness and Mission. 10/10/2015

A minute of Sotron….

Had to be there.

The legacy of the late Chata Gutierrez, radio personality and salsa DJ on KPOO and KPFA, remains in the forefront for Mission District locals. The Chata Mural Project aims to showcase Gutierrez’s cultivation of heritage through an honorary mural by Carlos Kookie Gonzalez — and the proposed location: The Mission.

SFWEEKLY

While the rest of the city was battling the fog, the Mission had a special day honoring the late Chata Gutierrez, a very influential person in the San Francisco music scene. Her shows on KPOO and KPFA informed the entire Bay Area about Caribbean, African and various American musics.

Many local groups played and the 48 MUNI bus keep passing by. Beautiful restored from the late 50s cars were parked out front of the House of Brakes while the music found its groove. The mural is beautiful.  It was the old neighborhood crowd and only they knew the significance. Louis Romero, John Calloway, Karl Perazzo, Anthony Blea on the same stage!! Soltron, full or original material and some solid songs are  building upon the tradition.

 

 

The 2015 Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Awards

Once again, it is an honor and privilege to present the Pelican Cafe 2015 Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Awards to some of the outstanding musicians and acts at the festival. This was probably the seventh Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival that I have attended. The Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival always takes place the first weekend of October in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. In 2015, the weather was superb, with clear skies both days. By the afternoon on both days a moderate to strong west wind started blowing.It was nice to see the trees swaying in the breeze but the sound traveled away with the breeze as well. I went for a few acts on Friday and for most of both Saturday and Sunday. So much music. So many stages. There are always trade-offs and you cannot be two places at once. I missed a few shows I had circled but caught some great acts unexpectedly. This year I mostly listened from the grassy field at the Arrow Stage. Not too crowded and close to the little Band Wagon Stage were some of the real troubadours sing their songs. After flying solo on Friday and Saturday and meeting some real characters, Sunday was a grand party with my honey and some good friends. While Joe Jackson, Boz Scaggs and the Indigo Girls were all just grand playing their hits, it was the lesser known groups that to me really shined.

BEST SONG WRITER IN THE SPIRIT OF WOODY GUTHRIE

Tim Barry

Tim sang “Prosser’s Gabriel” for his album 28th & Stonewall and it was sung with such passion and honesty it really made my day. A man who seems on the edge, his song writing is excellent. His message to the crowd was “do something that scares you.” His passion for the moment came through.

BEST TRUMPET SOLO

Mike Olmos

Mike is a local trumpet player from the Bay Area and grew up in the East Bay. In years past I heard him play with Boz Scaggs and Jimmie Vaughan. His solos with the New Master Sounds were awesome as usual. Unfortunately, when the leader Eddie Roberts introduced Mike Olmos, the crowd sort of looked out vacantly off to the distance. San Francisco. A city with little clue as to the amazing quality of some of the local talent.

BEST FIDDLE PLAYER WHO MAY HAVE DROPPED ACID FIVE MINUTES BEFORE THE DOWNBEAT

Nicky Sanders

Speaking of local talent, Nicky pretty much took over the last tune and man can he play! He is a showman in the tradition of Paganini and will quote some the great classical works in his solos, from symphonies to classical themes all in a very whimsical way. Originally from San Francisco he obviously had home field advantage and pulled out all the stops. Just simply off the charts.

BEST BAND OF REALLY TALENTED MUSICIANS

Punch Brothers

Some things in life are just not fair. I had head the Punch Brothers a little here a little there. I left work early on Friday and biked to the festival. Starting the weekend with the Punch Brothers was awesome and they play with such amazing virtuosity and musicianship it is just breathtaking. The only problem was that after the Punch Brothers the only direction left to go musically was down. While every musician in the group is simply amazing, the banjo player was the one who really impressed me.

WORST BAND OF THE FESTIVAL (OR “HOW DID THEY GET THIS GIG?”)

Michael Franti

I know a little of Michael Franti’s work from an early Spearhead album. It is an awesome album with some stellar Bay Area players adding to the over sound. Charlie Hunter. Some amazing singers. What happened? Franti’s work now is somewhere between a frozen yogurt commercial and a group therapy session at the YMCA. Audience participation is one thing but when that is the point of the show it all seems silly. At one point I began to think that it was to cover for the fact that Michael has a hard time finding the pitch. Someone get with that man and work with a strobe tuner!

BEST LOOKING SAX PLAYER WITH A COWBOY HAT ON

Jay Reynolds

Jay was probably the only sax player at the entire event and there is something just sort of strange about a sax player wearing a cowboy hat and cowboy boots. I had always wanted to hear Asleep at the Wheel. It is such a strange sound that must be extremely regional. Country Swing, which sounds like 40s big band music but everyone is wearing cowboy hats and instead of trumpets and a sax section the sax, fiddles and a guitar play these tight arrangements like they know them in their sleep.

Ray BensonRay Benson backstage after the show

The leader of the band, Ray Benson was amazing. So relaxed it made me think I was hearing a Bing Crosby 45 record at 33 rpm. Man can that guy sing contra-bass. There is no award here for the lowest note sung at the festival, but Ray would win it by about two whole octaves.

Musician getting the boot

REALLY STUPID RULE THAT WILL BE THE DOWNFALL OF THE FESTIVAL

NO BUSKING

At one of the first festivals I attended, I heard a band called Fruition. Youngsters from Portland who were busking off to the side, behind one of the structures. They were really good, so good and real you kind of wondered why they were not on one of the stages. Probably next year, or in a few years they would make the Porch Stage or maybe the Arrow Stage you thought and then and you could reminisce about when you saw them in 2004 back behind the maintenance shed.

This year when I was leaving the festival, walking down the street, I saw a very traditional sounding bluegrass band being shut down by security. The band was simply playing as people left. The irony was that at the time all the stages were playing rock and roll and these fine young gentlemen were playing the tunes Warren Hellman would have played. It just seemed ironic and strange to be kicking fiddles and banjos out of a bluegrass festival.

While the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass is world-class and amazingly free, you have to wonder why the kabash on people playing in the street. All great American music comes from the street. To not allow for this sort of expression seems strange, ignorant and antithetical to so much of the songs being sung inside the gates. Time for an area for the buskers. Time to water the seeds. I think a lot of people who go to the festival to hear bluegrass would be in agreement. After the Warren Hellman money runs out, that is what will be left.

Butterfly Jazz Trio – CD Second Year Anniversary

On August 29th 2013, I assembled a band in a studio in Half Moon Bay, on the Pacific Ocean and made a CD. This Saturday that band (the Butterfly Jazz Trio) is playing again at their steady gig at The Burritt Room by the Stockton Tunnel in San Francisco. Saturday, August 29th 2015 makes it two years.. Come on down and grab a CD (only a few left) and check it out!

The cast
Kai Lyons – Guitar
Erik Von Buchau – Drums
Dillan Riter – Bass

The spot
Burritt Room in the Mystic Hotel by Charlie Palmer
417 Stockton St, San Francisco, CA 94108
Phone:(415) 400-0561

Some samples

Overture
My son, Kai Lyons plays guitar and in 2013 I spent many Saturday nights hanging out down in this mysterious place called the Burritt Room in the Mystic Hotel down by the Stockton Tunnel a few blocks from Union Square. There is cheap parking in the garage across the street and it is a nice walk from the Powell Bart. There are so many options but I highly recommend the New Delhi Restaurant on Ellis. The Burritt Room is a restaurant-bar with fancy cocktails and special cuts of meat and fine dining. A crazy place, I would run into Willie Brown or see Tony Hall walk in the door. Often it would be a few German tourists with that sort of wide-eyed, I am a visitor here having walked up mountains on the wrong side of the planet look. Anyway, listening to the band, I got this notion that I should get these guys in the studio. They sounded great! The one day session down the coast was pretty cool.

A little background
Kai met Erik when he was a toddler. When we lived in Bernal Heights Erik lived about a block away and Kai went to daycare with Erik’s son Cole at Joni and Red’s house across the street. The joke is that it is quite possible that Erik changed Kai’s diapers at point. Dillan and Kai met while busking in the BART and at the Ferry Building. Dillan had played bass for just a few years, but his work ethic, listening ability and drive have always been constant. The band has gone through many changes depending on work schedules and which way the wind is blowing. The addition of Parker Grant, graduate of the University of Miami and East Bay native on piano has been awesome. Often Brandon Etsler plays drums but this Saturday the lineup will include Erik Von Buchau on drums so it is a two year anniversary event!

Come on down!
The CD was a limited run and there are just a few left but they will be available at the Burritt Room this Saturday night. I feel blessed just to hangout and hear these guys play.

More info
http://www.kailyons.com/buy-cd/

Who is the Real Bill Evans?

If your last name is Evans, I would never name your son Bill. The Bill Evans’ of the world are all just way too talented and original. Your son would have such large shoes to fill, he would never get out bed. Some day he would end up an insurance adjuster in some far off town like Des Moines. Of course, if you live in a city, and are over say 45, Bill Evans is the great jazz piano player who worked with Miles Davis and all the heavies in the 60s – yeah, that guy. But wait, I am mistaken, you probably meant Yusef Lateef, the fine sax and flute player would did many sessions and was born, strangely enough with the name Bill Evans, but changed his name to Yousef Lateef later in life. Probably a good move. But then again, perhaps when someone says Bill Evans you start thinking of the saxophonist by that name. Famous for a few years but I don’t hear much of that Bill Evans. But wait, I know the guy you are talking about! Bill Evans the banjo player form California and plays shows festivals and clinics. Yeah, that guy. He’s the bomb!

The 40th Annual Father’s Day Festival

“You can play like me – now go get your own style.”

Bill Monroe – as recalled by David Grissman on the Vern Stage at Mando Madness – Saturday, June 20, 2015

Bill-Monroe-3

I have been to the California Bluegrass Association. Father’s Day Bluegrass festival about four times. My entire family, including cousins, aunts and uncles once removed attend and the festival is a combination of three stages but mostly jammin’ all night long until the sun comes up – literally 5:30 am. Often some really fine players do this all-night jamming, playing mostly classic bluegrass and old time songs in the classic way. People stroll from campsite to campsite in middle of the night and sit in with complete strangers – the music being the currency of friendship.

If you attempt to take a nap in the tent in the middle of the day, you will be listening to the fiddles and guitars and banjos and dobros. They crank out three chord songs one after another and often a completely different group one campsite down will start another tune a whole step away. Often the two bands will play in the same tempo, starting songs at slightly different times so you get an interesting polyphony going. A major over G major. The one chord of the first key bouncing off the four chord of the other. Chords changing in odd places. The tunes stopping and starting at unusual spots. It all sort of echos through the trees and if you are like me, forget about sleeping for more than about ten minutes at a time. You feel like you are on a carnival ride and even the bluejays head out of the neighborhood for more tranquil climes. Ear plugs are no match for a 5 string banjo.

When I arrived on Saturday at about 10 am with my niece Laura, the sun was shining, it was nice and warm and people were stirring. Some had jammed until 5 am the night before. Others looked like they had not slept a wink. My strategy this year was to set up the tents as far away from the “jam zone” as possible. This worked great as my one night stay was very restful in a secret, undisclosed location up a hill, under some pine trees by some sleepy RVs. Just far enough away from any of the pestering banjos.

I only saw a few shows this year. David Grisman Bluegrass Experience with his son Sam Grisman on stellar bass was great but my affinity with David Grisman comes from a discovery of his Dawg music – a jazzy, sort of gypsy form of music he pioneered in the late 70s. I remember having Hot Dawg on vinyl and cassette and listened to it for about two months straight. Tony Rice and Darol Anger complete an interesting group. However, The David Grisman Bluegrass Experience plays a more traditional style and material – Scruggs and Doc Watson tunes.

I heard The Kentucky Colonels Reunion who played pretty well for some really old guys. They seemed like a pick up band of good ‘ole buddies. From some reason those were the two main acts I heard as I realized that the banjo player one camp over could have played the main stage. In fact the entire group one camp over could have formed a band and played the main stage in about five minutes flat. So a lot of the music I heard and played was in the camp.

Sunday was spent with more jamming, Father’s Day breakfast, a Lucia Birthday cake and then a few hours on the Yuba River where the water level was about normal. We baked ourselves on the granite boulders and the Sierra water washed away the worries of the city. The California Bluegrass Association Father’s Day Bluegrass festival. The tradition lives on.

On the SOTA Arts Proposition in San Francisco – Rethinking Arts Equity

This essay is a comment on the the recent proposal, In Support of Access, Equity and Diversity in the Arts at Ruth Asawa School of the Arts and Throughout SFUSD” by Commissioner Rachel Norton and Commissioner Matt Haney, by the SFUSD that was passed unanimously. I find it unfortunate that it passed unanimously as disagreeing about things is what makes the end product a lot better. But the title of the proposition is one of those political maneuvers that happens so often these days. Name it something that everyone can rally around but have the actual action items be a bit weak and not get to the root of problems. Of course everyone is for “Access, Equity and Diversity in the Arts.” If you are not, it is political suicide. Just think of Clear Skies Act of 2003 by George Bush which really did not have a lot to do with air pollution. I have great respect for Congresswoman Barbara Lee who does not just flow with the pack.

If you want to read the actual proposal, you can download it here: In Support of Access, Equity and Diversity in the Arts at Ruth Asawa School of the Arts and Throughout SFUSD” Commissioner Rachel Norton and Commissioner Matt Haney

Photo0327

Introduction
Passed by unanimous vote, the “In Support of Access, Equity and Diversity in the Arts at Ruth Asawa School of the Arts and Throughout SFUSD” is an interesting attempt to remedy San Francisco’s school system engrained problem of an uneven school quality through out the district. In particular it singles out the arts and SOTA, but this problem goes way beyond the access to arts education. The problem has to do with the actual enrollment process in SFUSD.

In the 1970s there must have been school busing in San Francisco; sending poor kids across town to the nice school further west and vice-verse. Now in SFUSD there is a “choice” system, which means any student can apply to any school within the District. This I remember being called OER ( Open Enrollment Registration). http://portal.sfusd.edu/apps/departments/educational_placement/HistoryStudentAssignment.pdf

This gives students and parents the ability to choose what school a child will attend. Sounds great!… right? Now I can send my kid to one of those nice schools in a neighborhood with all those fancy houses. Every parent in San Francisco has gone through this process and for people outside of San Francisco, it is often a stressful thing and results in intense discussions between parents taking care of kids at playgrounds and social gatherings. But why do we even do this sort of enrollment process with school choice in the first place? By the very concept, it is saying that one school is better than the other. What often happens is parents who spend a lot of energy advocating for their children get into the better schools. If you want to get rid of inequities in SFUSD, get rid of school choice. Be diligent in making sure there is equity in all the schools from kindergarten onward.

Why this is important for not only equity but the environment and traffic. Have you ever noticed how light the traffic is in town on certain weekdays? This is because when public school is on a holiday there are literally thousands of less cars of parents driving there kids off to school across town. Young kids is San Francisco rarely go to their neighborhood school. This means they are strapped into the back seat with their breakfast cereal and carted off across town to Clarendon or Miraloma or one of the “good” schools. Does that sound like equity? To me, that sounds like we have a class of the privileged and one that gets the dregs. This all becomes compounded. These “good” schools then have PTA’s that raise a lot of money that is for extra programs for their school – things like art and music and field trips and gardening projects. The less desirable schools will valiantly try to raise funds but not to the point of actually creating “artist in residency” programs.

Why does inequity continue? Often, the elementary school years in a family’s life are incredibly formative. Families, kids and parents make very strong bonds during this time. Families at this time are incredibly busy simply living life. But for the society as a whole this process of school choice actually engrains and deepens the education inequities. If you want to address inequities in the SFUSD, start at the source – get rid of school choice and bring quality education to all schools. Lift up the the schools in the east part of town with more resources and the best teachers.

How School Choice Does not Address the issue of Inequity
Just look at these images of the school ranking by greatschools.org and you can see that there is an institutionalized racism in the quality of schools by neighborhood.

TOP
sfusd-top

MIDDLE
sfusd-middle

BOTTOM
sfusd-bottom

So if you live in Hunters Point, the Bay View or even the now trendy Mission and want to go to one of the “good” schools, head West young man and just hope that you have a parent who has been advocating for you and a car to schlep you across town. Otherwise, if you live in the barrio, you will be sent to your local school that scores a 1 or 2 and you can forget about those free piano lessons and cool art classes. By making the schools in the east part of town better, you will lift up the entire neighborhood.

Two things in the Resolution that Are Good
There are two things about the resolution that are good. One of the main aspects of the resolution is to create a summer program for students from less advantaged neighborhoods, so that they can get more arts “training.” I am not sure why you need a proposition to make this happen but so be it. This is a great idea and it has always amazed me that this approach has been lacking. If you want to increase the overall citizenship and keep people from going to jail, the arts does truly change lives and engage people in creative ventures and create more well-rounded people. But this should not be in anyway dependent on SOTA. It is just a good idea.

The other aspect that I like is the idea of increasing transparency in the audition process. There are many departments at SOTA and the process of auditioning is often convoluted. Sometimes very talented kids are asked to re-auditon not because they are good enough but simply to challenge their commitment and desire to be at the school. This seems disingenuous and childish. Often times extremely talent and motivated kids do not get into SOTA because of a difference of genre. If SOTA mission is to be a conservatory of European art, that is a problem. We now live in the New World in America, so lets be a bit more embracing of our own cultures. Let’s have some self respect.

Race and SOTA
I have had two children attend SOTA during various times in their high school journeys. While SOTA is 37% Caucasian in both departments that my kids participated in, it was obvious that the directors looked at each applicant with an understanding that all kids do not have the same advantages. There were students who where “people of color” accepted into the theater and guitar programs that had no prior experience but are simply very talented and had the desire and drive. The directors and people auditioning could see this and they got in.

Now look at the racial mix of another prestigious high school, Lowell, where the majority of students are Asian. Is that something to be upset about? Having public high schools that accept students based on merit is a slippery slope that will always lead to controversy.

But Why is There An Arts School Anyway?
The concept of an arts school as a pre-professional training is actually not such a great idea. Most high schools use to have pre-professional technical training in other subjects – classes in woodworking, auto mechanics and sewing but those have pretty much disappeared. The concept that there is one school that focuses on pre-professional training in the arts seems odd. Why isn’t there a school that has pre-professional training in say other blue collar trades?

But the problem with having an arts high school in San Francisco is that it makes it so all the other high schools have truly dismal performing arts programs. Anyone who is good at say the violin or singing or dance will end up at SOTA. Because of this talent drain, all the other high schools then end up having performing arts groups that are actually much worse than some of the middle schools. This is truly embarrassing and I have the utmost respect for music teachers in these disadvantaged schools. It is tragic. Balboa High School has produced some great musicians – Wayne Wallace, John Calloway and Gary Flores to name a few I know and now the band program is almost non-existent. It has no momentum.

In high school, the goal of arts education should not be to produce the next Broadway star or the next Picasso. The goal of arts education in high school should be so that all students have access to the arts so that they may live an enriched life with a broad appreciation and understanding of the arts. Playing musical instruments. Throwing pots. Learning about painting all contribute to a more intelligent, well-rounded citizen. If they end up pursuing the arts as a career, they can go down that treacherous road after they graduate.

Cuba and its Music – Thoughts on Ned Sublette’s Amazing Book about American Music

“So imagine the Zarabanda, the Congo god of iron – the cutting edge, if you will – traveled on a slave ship with his magic, his mambo, and his machete as soon as the New World was open for business. Then he went back through Havana, across the ocean again, where he got all of Spain dancing, then covertly crept upward through Europe – through the servant’s entrance, of course – and became part of what we now call classical music. In the process, his name was frenchified, he lost his drum and his voice, and his tempo slowed way down. All that remained was the distillation of his dance onto the lute and the guitar, with only the barest trace of the original flavor remaining. Today we call that process going mainstream.”

Ned Sublette Cuba and its Music – From the First Drums to the Mambo (2004)

In December, my brother-in-law, Ted “Banjo” Kuster gave me Cuba and Its Music: From the First Drums to the Mambo by Ned Sublette. It is five hundred and eighty pages long and I thought that it would take me until the following December to finish the book, but it was a page turner, at least for any musician who plays American music. In 1998 I wrote a book called Arranging for Salsa Bands – The Doctor Big Ears Essay were I stated – “Let us look deeply into music and explain why things are the way they are.” Ned Sublette goes very deep.

There are many fascinating ideas in the book. One of the main ideas is that African music has had a much larger effect on Western classical music than we realize as the quote above illustrates. The Zarabanda is the grandmother as the Sarabande which composers like J.S. Bach used in pieces like his Bach Cello Suites. And as has been duly noted in many books, the influence of Cuban music on North American music is often ignored and unacknowledged.

The Elephant in the Room – Ned Sublette on the Spectrum of American Music

“If you ever heard an America sax player fail to lock in while jamming with a salsa band, or heard a Cuban band take on a bluesy jazz tune that doesn’t feel right, you know for all that Afro Cuban and African American music might have in common, they’re also very different than each other.

Why? Because essential elements of these two musics came from different parts of Africa, entering the New World by different routes, at different times, into different structured societies.

Ned Sublette Cuba and its Music – From the First Drums to the Mambo (2004)

Here Sublette points out how the differences between the Muslim influenced sub-Saharan Africa as opposed to the forests of the Congo. It is the thesis of the book and he convincingly states the case. This concept alone is worth the price of the book.

Ninth Voluntary Infantry Immune Band from New Orleans

During the time of the Spanish-American war, 1898, the US Army sent a band from New Orleans to Cuba. At the time they thought that black people were immune to yellow fever. Unfortunately they were not. Just imagine the mind set of the military. “Let’s get those jammin’ horn players from New Orleans and send them into war in Cuba. They will do anything!” Anyway, the Ninth Voluntary Infantry Immune Band from New Orleans went down to Cuba for about a year.

“There is no documentation of the Immune Band having performed in Cuba, and it is impossible to say whether their stay in Cuba affected the course of New Orleans music or not. But if a band of the best horn players could stay in Cuba for nine months without absorbing something, at a time when the oquestas typicas were all the rage in Cuba, they would be unlike any musicians this writer has ever known.

Ned Sublette Cuba and its Music – From the First Drums to the Mambo (2004)

As in many places in the book, the scenes seem almost like historical fiction. It would have been fun to hear this band and if they make a movie, just think of coveted gig of being the costume designer for this epic Hollywood blockbuster! Sublette, of course, points out that Havana and New Orleans were were like cousins both being important and vibrant port towns. Wild and crazy places. The Immune Band was just one of many cultural exchanges.


Puerto Rican’s in New York – The Jones Act

The 1917 Jones Act gave Puerto Ricans U.S citizenship. This enable Uncle Sam to fortify the army for the nastiness of World War I. But the Jones Act would also change the cultural and musical landscape in New York in very interesting ways. Most folks just think of West Side Story but of course much more was going on in the art and music worlds.

Any history of jazz that doesn’t mention Puerto Ricans, is leaving something out.

Ned Sublette Cuba and its Music – From the First Drums to the Mambo (2004)

Modernism

Then Sublette presents this heavy concept about modernism that probably makes many academics roll their eyes, but which is an interesting perspective. They did not teach this point of view, in terms of African influence of European music when I was in school, that is certain. Part of the concept has to do with the looting and display of African art around 1900, and that this art was being influential to the abstract artists in Europe such as Picasso and his “Africa period,” but it also has to do with the empowerment of black artists no longer in Africa.

It would later become academic common practice to speak of modernism as being a move toward abstraction and stylization and away from representation and realism, it could perhaps be better explained as the consequence of the liberation of black creativity – which to many white people was an abstract concept.

Ned Sublette Cuba and its Music – From the First Drums to the Mambo (2004)


Conclusion

These are all the quotes I will pull from Ned Sublette Cuba and its Music – From the First Drums to the Mambo (2004). There are many more but at this point you’ll just have to buy the book. The book finishes with a few sections about the Mambo and explores briefly the beginning of television, Desi Arnaz and Perez Prado. It is curious to think that Prado and his dissonant, in your face music, was banned from writing in Cuba and had to go off to Mexico where he eventually became an international sensation. There is mention of many Mexican movies that feature his music that I am really interested in checking out. Prado’s music introduced an adventurous dissonance, resolutions to a dominant 7 #11 b9 chord for example, that now we associate with Mambo, but it was very disturbing for many. I have a feeling that this adventurousness then helped propel some of the more interesting work of later “salsa” artists, like Eddie and Charlie Palmeri, Willie Rosario, Ray Barreto and many of the Fania record label.

This era, from about 1970 to 1990, when the urban music of the Harlem Renaissance known as “be-bop,” a music that signaled the end of jazz as dance music, a harmonically and rhythmically rich music that was pushing the status quo, completely fused with the Cuban son and other rhythms in such a way that made both musics even more vital – and people danced. That is not in the book but is my thesis, and I am standing by it!


If you are interested in actually writing for Latin music groups and want to explore more some of the basics of clave, orchestration and arranging, I would seriously recommend the book below. I reread it last week, and I still think it fills a void in the published material in this field. Below is a link to the first chapter which is pretty silly but actually very important. A lot of people from France seem to be buying it.

THE ART OF CUING A SALSA BAND – THE SPONTANEOUS ARRANGER

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Feel free to comment on any of the quotes above with the discussion below.

Toots Thieleman’s Solo on Con Alma East Coast West Coast 1994

This last month I have been a bit obsessed with Con Alma by Dizzy Gillespie. It took me a few days to really start to understand the changes. I found that playing the chords slowly on piano in the lowest register possible and really getting the counterpoint and voice-leading in my head, helped a lot. Then of course, being the compulsive, analytical creature that I am, I transcribed Toots Thieleman’s solo from his album East Coast West Coast (1994). This is another get Toots album with a stellar group of players from John Scofield to Mike Mainieri to Charlie Haden on bass, Peter Erskine on drums, Terrance Blanchard. I mean… how can you possibly go wrong with this album. 5 stars on Amazon.

Toots’ ability to milk the meaning out of ballads will always amaze me. Like some of his other work, he will bring an arrangers perspective to the tune. Con Alma starts as a ballad in 4/4 time. Two measures before the solos begin, the tune turns into a 6/8 waltz. When the tune ends we are back into a very rubato ballad. Brilliant!

Here is the Toots solo.

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Toots-Thielemans Solo on Con-Alma (pdf)

YouTube, Bob Marley and Following the Money Trail

Everyone likes cheap. Get a deal on something and you feel good. More money for maybe something else. The only thing better than cheap is free. And so I pondered the economics of YouTube videos, especially how you can listen to just about any track made since the beginning of recorded time on YouTube. For musicians and the public alike, this is simply amazing. For free, you have access to an amazing wealth of music. Download a YouTube to MP3 ripper, and you can claim to be a pirate way beyond the skills of Captain Jack Sparrow.


Ted calls Google, which owns YouTube, “a company that has done more to impoverish musicians and other creative professionals than any entity on the face of the planet.”

Ted Gioia from
http://www.artsjournal.com/culturecrash/2014/10/stop-working-for-free.html


For example, I was checking out the music of Bob Marley and noticed that just one of the YouTube videos had 15,514,525 views. 15 million views! I also noticed that before the video there was an advertisement. How does the licensing of this music on YouTube work and whom gets paid out? Does the estate of Bob Marley get a cut? Does the person who uploaded the video get something? How much does Google get paid?

After searching on the web for an answer I found very little. The best article states that the deals are private but one recent stat for a popular video got just $38.49 for the 2,118,200 views. Something seems terribly off here. Google is a company worth 78 billion dollars paying the creatives chump change.


Google/YouTube deals are covered by non-disclosure agreements – and do not allow independent labels to demand audits


http://www.theguardian.com/media/2012/oct/10/music-streaming-songwriters-youtube-pandora

So you really have to ask the question, who is the robber baron here? Much of Google’s acquiring of vast wealth is simply based on the exploitation of content and ridiculously low payouts. If the estate of Bob Marley got just one penny for each of that videos views, it would amount to $150,000 dollars. Larry Page. Seems like it is time to pay the band.

I would also like to add the copyright notice for this article. Seems like this is always on all the recordings and books I have purchased.

If anyone has more complete information, say how much does the estate of Bob Marley make on the vast amount of copyrighted material available on YouTube, please email me or add a comment below.

Copyright © 2014 by Paul Lyons

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.

Hunter S. Thompson Music Quote

“The music business is a cruel and shallow money
trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and
pimps run free, and good men die like dogs.
There’s also a negative side.”

― Hunter S. Thompson


What a great quote. Things have not changed at all but I thing now it would be a “long fiber optic trench.” Stay positive friends in the biz. The act of playing music, in the end, is the reward. The vultures are still in the suits, and be wary.

2014 HARDLY STRICTLY BLUEGRASS FESTIVAL OFFICIAL PELICAN CAFÉ AWARDS

As is the case with years past, The Pelican Café gives out awards for the Best of Hardly Strictly. It is a great honor to have been chosen once again for this task.

BEST FIDDLE PLAYER

Joe Spivey with The Time Jumpers Featuring Vince Gill, Kenny Sears, Dawn Sears and Ranger Doug Green

Joe Spivey played some great fiddle on the Banjo Stage during this set on Saturday and for me it came at a perfect time. I had just had an earful of Deltron 3030 with The 3030 Orchestra at the Gold Stage (what a disaster that show was, especially in terms of sound) and needed to hear something down-home. There is something beautiful about bluegrass fiddle when played well. It combines speed, a singing sound and when done well a lot of funky polyrhythms. Joe Spivey has probably been delivering on this and more for years. He sounded great.

BEST SINGER THAT MADE YOU WONDER “HOW CAN ANYONE SING LIKE THAT AND NOT LOSE THEIR VOICE

St. Paul w/ St. Paul & The Broken Bones

If you like in-your-face, soulful, Aretha Franklin southern Gospel singing, St. Paul is your ticket. He can simply belt out tunes, one after the other like there is no tomorrow. His stage presence, in a dapper blue suit and entertaining banter was perfect for his throwback style. If you are a singer or study voice, you must check out this guy. He does not take prisoners.

BEST BAND PERIOD, NOT IF AND OR BUTS

Jon Batiste and Stay Human

I must confess that I have a weakness for music from New Orleans. There is a beautiful combination of elements – spontaneity, virtuosity, soul, community, creativity and an artist to audience communication that transcends other music’s. Jon Batiste and Stay Human show at the 2014 HARDLY STRICTLY BLUEGRASS FESTIVAL was outstanding. It all started with just the drummer coming out on stage playing just a tambourine in a very funky style. He was then joined, one at a time, by other members of the band. Alto sax, then tuba then Jon Batiste on a trumpet looking melodica. They played in a very traditional but polyphonic style. The set was full of surprises. For many tunes they would get behind there instruments, Jon at the piano, the drummer at his kit and just make magic. Funky numbers. Traditional tunes. At one time the sax player picked up a curved soprano and played a tune that harkened back to Sidney Bechet. Other times they would break into a sort of modern jazz, free-jazz thing that would make Ornette Coleman smile, then in the next moment they played a corny 70s tune, Killing Me Softly with just horns. The ensemble playing was impeccable. They closed out the set by heading out to the crowd in a line, playing their instruments, marching band, second line style. Pure magic.

BEST SURPRISE BAND THAT YOU NEVER HEARD OF THAT REALLY SOUNDED GREAT

The Lone Bellow

From Brooklyn, New York, The Lone Bellow’s set at the 2014 HARDLY STRICTLY BLUEGRASS FESTIVAL just made you wonder were this alt-country band will be in a few years. Fine guitar playing and really impressive, authentic vocals by the entire group. Kanene Donehey Pipkin (mandolin, vocals) can really sing this stuff. As group singing goes, The Lone Bellow was amazing. Strong. On pitch. Well rehearsed.

BEST CANADIAN BAND WHERE OVER HALF THEIR SONGS SOUNDED LIKE DON MCCLEAN’S “AMERICAN PIE”

Blue Rodeo

I suppose of you like that sort of formulaic 70s pop tune sound with the predictable hooks and uneven singing this would be your band, but they could have thrown in a “drove my Chevy to the levy but the levy was dry.”

Prelude

The Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival always takes place the first weekend of October in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. In 2014, the weather was superb, with clear skies both days. Unlike some years, it was actually a bit too hot for some people and at many stages people sat far away preferring the shade of the trees. Ocean Beach had a long period swell running, sixty degree water temperatures and east winds so the surf was good. The Giants were in the process of defeating the Washington Nationals in playoff baseball. On Saturday, the festival was not as crowded as usual as the baseball game was in the afternoon. That game lasted six and a half hours and was won by the Giants in the 18th inning on a Brandon Belt home run. Life is good in the Bay Area.

Next year I think I am going to hang out a bit further west at HSB. Closer to the old time stages and the music from Appalachia. Ralph Stanley, winner of a 2013 HARDLY STRICTLY BLUEGRASS FESTIVAL OFFICIAL PELICAN CAFÉ AWARD played the Banjo Stage on Sunday but I was already parked with my family at the Star Stage listening to Rosanne Cash. The difficult choices we have to make this time of year.

Essential Toots Thielemans Albums

I have just finished a series of transcriptions of Toots Thielemans solos from a various albums. After having done a few in 2013, I made it a New Years Resolution to do ten. Why someone would take on such a maniacal task is beyond me, but people have done crazier things. Ten for Toots – 10 Toots Thielemans Chromatic Harmonica Solos – Transcribed and Analyzed, will be available in both ebook and paper form in September 2014. If you are interested in adding a few jazz albums to your collection that feature the great Toots Thielemans, start with three. This is after many years of narrowing down the list. Toots is the man!

Here are my top three.

toots-aff
1. Bill Evans Affinity (Warner Bros., 1979)
Toots playing on this album is magical. The rapport between Toots and Bill Evans is great and just about everything about this album makes it a must have. It is one of those albums where in many ways the music is so collaborative, who the leader is not needed. Toots had a lot of input on the choice of material for this album. The tunes bounce back from jazz standards to interesting takes on more contemporary material. A few really unknown tunes are also played. The quality of the harmonica micing with this recording is probably the best I have heard. Great band!


toots-bites
2. Man Bites Harmonica! (Riverside, 1958)
A great straight ahead jazz album and Toots plays with a lot of drive throughout. The pairing of harmonica with Baritone Sax (Pepper Adams) is unusual but works really well. I am putting this as number two as it will give the listener some perspective as to how Toots’ music developed over time.


If you love Brazilian music and want to discover artists that will blow you away, this is your album!

anonymous


toots-brazil
3. The Brasil Project (BMG, 1992)
I have not heard The Brasil Project 2, but after hearing The Brasil Project, I must say that this is a phenomenal album. Not only does if feature a who’s who in Brasilian music, Toots playing is simply outstanding. The songs by Joao Bosca and Djavan are excellent. Luis Bonfa playing his song Black Orpheus in a definitive way, will make you rethink this now jazz standard after may years of abuse north of the equator. Outstanding production values.


10 Toots Thielemans Chromatic Harmonica Solos – Transcribed and Analyzed

By Paul Lyons

TenForToots_tn

Now available at Lulu Press – Print

Now available at Lulu Press – Digital

An in-depth look at the style of one of the great improvisors of the last 50 years. Excellent for not only chromatic harmonica players, but jazz players of all instruments.

 


Table of Contents

  • Introduction – 3
  • Why Transcribe – 5
  • Don’t Blame Me – Man Bites Harmonica! (Riverside, 1958) – 6
  • Three In One – Man Bites Harmonica! (Riverside, 1958) – 11
  • Sno’ Peas – Bill Evans Affinity (Warner Bros., 1979) – 18
  • Blue in Green – Bill Evans Affinity (Warner Bros., 1979) – 20
  • Jesus’ Last Ballad – Bill Evans Affinity (Warner Bros., 1979) – 23
  • Only Trust Your Heart – Only Trust Your Heart (Concord Records, 1988) – 26
  • C To G Jam Blues – Footprints (Polygram Records, 1991) – 30
  • Felicia and Bianca – The Brasil Project (BMG, 1992) -36
  • Coisa Feita – The Brasil Project (1992, BMG) – 38
  • Everybody’s Talkin’, Midnight Cowboy: Original Motion Picture Score [Soundtrack] (1969) – 45
  • Conclusion – 48
  • References – 48
  • Etudes – 49 – 80

1983 Open Letter – The Declaration of the “Sh!t Hit the Fan”

I was organizing my vinyl the other day when I came across an insert to an album. It was from a Elektra, a division of Warner Brothers and it was a plea to consumers to stop making copies of the album. The insert was signed by a lot of leading jazz musicians who were probably all Elektra artists. At the time most people had a turntable and a cassette dubbing deck. Copying vinyl to tape was pretty standard practice. That was how we listened to music in cars. Everyone had “mix tapes” that were essential for any road trip. It is pretty funny to think that the record industry was concerned about cassette tapes. That was nothing! The digital era, fifteen years later made taping look like the good ole days.

An Open Letter1983 Elektra/Asylum Records

We musicians thank you – for buying this album, for supporting our music and our careers.

But we have a problem, a serious one, we can do little to cure without your understanding and your help.

Very simply put, the growing practice of unauthorized home-taping of our albums is doing each one of us a great damage. Yet most people don’t give it a second thought.

It’s no big thing, it might seem, to let one of your friends make just one copy of this album. After all, just one copy can’t hurt too much.

Or can it?

Look at it from our point of view. Home-taping is now so common-place, so unrestrained, it has to put a sizeable dent in our incomes, is jeopardizing our recording and “live-appearance” careers and is already causing record companies to limit the number of new artists and new albums they invest in and promote.

The plain fact that your friends ask to make their own copy of this album means they are fans. Obviously they must like our music. That’s great – for us as artists and great for our futures

But we need more – more understanding and appreciation of the bind we’re in.

Jazz is not a mass-market phenomenon. We wish it were. Our art form is not for everyone. It’s appeal is to a select, sophisticated audience – a one-on-one kind of music.

We rarely reach anywhere near “Gold” or “Platinum” certifications for sales. The truth is that even big-time bootleggers ignore our product because they have learned even our biggest “hits” add up to too-small numbers. They figure it hardly pays them to rip us off.

So you do not have to be a computer expert to realize that just one single, unauthorized, home-taped copy may represent a significant percentage of our total volume. And shouldn’t be dismissed as merely a meaningless free-for-all. It’s more than just a numbers game to us.

If the practice doesn’t stop, we are all losers. You are losers too – what with record shops cutting down the number of jazz albums they normally carry, your ability to choose from the wildest possible selection is shrinking everyday.

(If you or your friends can’t find another copy of this album in your regular record shop, please let us know. We’ll attempt to get it there as quickly as possible.)

Some people may not want to hear this. But the only way we and other jazz artists know to stop the of home taping and other forms of copying is to appeal to you and your sense of fair play.

We welcome any thoughts, suggestions, comments, questions or answers (pro or con) about this letter or about our music. Of course, we’ll reply to as many as we can.

We need your support. It’s not charity we’re asking for – just your helping hand. We can only suggest that this album be limited to one to a customer.

Thank you.

Butterfly Jazz Trio – First Time Around CD

cover-for-web3

There are still a few copies of this limited release CD. Listen to examples and get the CD at Add to Cart at CD Baby!

Album Notes
Kai Lyons – Guitar
Erik Von Buchau – Drums
Dillan Riter – Bass

Recorded at Granada Studios in Half Moon Bay on August, 29, 2013, FIRST TIME AROUND by the Butterfly Jazz Trio is a spontaneous romp through some funky grooves, subtle ballads and straight ahead explorations. The session was inspired by gigs the Butterfly Jazz Trio played in downtown San Francisco in various bars and hotels during the summer of 2013.

All tunes were chosen like they had been on the gigs – spur of the moment, like many of the great sessions of the late 1950s and early 1960s. Two takes were done of most tracks but invariably the first was the one chosen. Freshness and immediacy was the agenda. There are no click tracks, prefabrications or overdubs of any kind. Just real instruments, listening, talented players and a splendid warm-sounding tube amp built by Rico Macalma, the engineer on the session.

At around 5pm, the crew packed up realizing that we all needed a break. We headed up to the Mission District in San Francisco for dinner. Time to chill before another gig at a hotel off of Union Square.

CD-DVD-offset600

If you are a fan of the jazz guitar trio, music that swings hard and melodies that stay with you long after you finish that last track, check out the CD. Makes a great gift too. You may just want to listen to it again and again.

A FEW SAMPLES

There are still a few copies of this limited release CD. Listen to examples and get the CD at Add to Cart at CD Baby!

Engineer & Mix by Rico Macalma, Mastering by Rainer Gembalczyk
Executive Producer & CD Design – Paul Lyons
Unauthorized copying and reproduction prohibited.
Copyright 2013 – Butterfly Jazz Trio – All Rights Reserved – kailyons.com

Adventures in YouTube. The Salsa Arrangements that Changed the World

Every now and then you have to pay attention. It seems the older you get the faster time goes by. The other day I searched on YouTube for some of the songs that I composed and arranged back in the late 1990s with various groups in San Francisco. Some of these tunes have 100,000 plays which is sort of cool but I am sure that at this point no one in this group is making money off those plays. We did it for love anyway. And the dancers.

Arrangements by Paul Lyons

Orq. Azabache – This Moment

Hi. This is Paul Lyons the arranger of this song and many tunes on this album – Azabache from 2000. Thanks for posting this video.

What makes this song so cool is that it is a salsa song about breaking up. There are very few of those. Usually salsa songs in English are love songs and are quite corny. Not with this one.

These charts where written originally for trumpet, trombone and baritone sax. Notice that on this recording the band played the song with trombones. What is so strange about this recording is that the second mambo I wrote originally as an afterthought to the song. I always imagined a solo on top of the trombone line. But I love this tune and knew it would touch people.

Julio Bravo, Sin Rencor


Arranged by Paul Lyons from San Francisco. Another tune I actually do not remember arranging. 2000 was such a crazy time. People thought the world was going to end. I just had had my second kid, a daughter Lucia. At the time I was writing about one arrangement a week and every now and then complete originals would be commissioned. The phrasing of the horns is stellar. Bill Thuerer, Derek James, Stephen Khuen. The orchestration is how it was written.

Simplemente Complicada – Orquesta Azabache.wmv

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7z7Cr-zIX2Q
Composed and Arranged by Paul Lyons. Lyrics by Ray Martinez. This is a tune/melody that I wrote that Ray wrote lyrics to. It was about a relationship he was having at the time. So Ray put words to the song and then brought it back to my place with a scratch recording. We probably hung out for a while and brainstormed some ideas. I then wrote the arrangement that afternoon. All of the songs on this album came together in one six month period and I am certain this project (Azabache 2000) was self produced. It is not in print anymore. Someone call Ray and tell him to press a few thousand more.

Azabache – Cinco a Diez


Arrangement by Paul Lyons (Azabache 2000). About 100,000 views makes me scratch my head at how crazy the music industry is. This is a very cool tune about a very difficult situation – 5 to 10 years in jail.

Learn How to Write Salsa Charts. Certified by the Club Owners Association of Northern California.

If you are interested in purchasing the sheet music – arrangements for any of the songs above, email