Archive for the ‘music’ Category

Happy 90th Dave Brubeck

December 14, 2010

The Street Parade wants to wish a very happy 90th birthday to jazz giant Dave Brubeck, still young and going strong. Brubeck was born Dec. 6, 1920 in Concord, CA. His most well-known piece, “Take Five” (written by his musical cohort and jazz pioneer saxophonist Paul Desmond) showcased Brubeck’s and Desmond’s interest in experimenting with time signature. “Take Five” was written in 5/4 time, “Pick Up Sticks” is in 6/4, “Unsquare Dance” is in 7/4, and “Blue Rondo a la Turk” is in 9/8.  More importantly than his experimentation with time signatures is Brubeck’s ability to counterpoint different times within a single piece, often having the drums work in one time signature while he played piano in another, creating an idiom that is all his own. He has received well-earned accolades throughout his career, most recently receiving Kennedy Center Honors in 2009, an honorary Doctor of Music Decgree at the Monterey Jazz Festival in 2009, an honorary Doctor of Music Degree from the George Washingt0n University in 2010, and the Miles Davis Award at the Montreaux Jazz Festival in 2010.  Brubeck is still a vital musical force and the Street Parade wishes him many more years of jazz. Here he is in Germany in 1966 playing “40 Days”:

100 Years of Louis Prima

December 10, 2010

In my book of poems Keeping the Tigers Behind Us, there is a villanelle that imagines my death. The poem repeats the line “Play Louis Prima in memory of me.” How sad, then, that the Street Parade failed to commemorate Louis Prima’s 100th birthday a few days ago.  I knew it was his birthday but just didn’t get around to posting anything, and for this I hang my head in shame. Prima’s music has been a constant on the Street Parade playlist and never fails to bring a smile and liven up the room.

Prima, born Dec. 7, 1910 in New Orleans. Over the course of his career, he mixed Dixieland Jazz, Swing, Big Band, and mixed all with an Italian gumbo driven by his bigger-than-life personality. He cut his chops in New Orleans, following in the same lineage as Louis Armstrong, for many years before moving on to NYC, where his jumpin’ and jivin’ music created the ambience that made 52nd street known as “Swing Street.”  His composition “Swing, Swing, Swing,” was his biggest hit, and is perhaps the most covered tune of the swing era–Benny Goodman may have been better known for the tune, but it was that crazy cat Prima who first made it sing. He spent many years as a Vegas act with Keely Smith, and most importantly to the Street Parade’s ears, backed by the great honkin’ tenorman, Sam Butera and his band the Witnesses. The combination of musical personalities was unbeatable and has given us some of our most enduring swing music.

There were many who followed in his footsteps, but there was only one Prima. Here’s to Louis and I’d still say it: Play Lous Prima in memory of me.

Happy B-Day Dr. John!

November 24, 2010

Dr. John in Vienne France, 2006

Yes, the Street Parade is a few days behind schedule on one of its important dates. Dr. John, Mac Rebenack, celebrated his 70th birthday on Nov. 21 and the Street Parade wishes him a happy one.

I remember when I was a teenager, all I knew of Dr. John for many years was his wonderful rendition of “Such a Night,” on the Band’s Last Waltz. I had no idea really of how important he is as a musician for probably a decade until, in my mid-20s I was fortunately turned on to his real body of work. New Orleans second line music, rhythm & blues, a touch of psychedelia and you get amazing albums like “Gris-Gris,” “Gumbo” and “In the Right Place” (recorded with the Meters and Allen Toussaint).  As a session musician, he has recorded with the Rolling Stones, the Band, the Meters, Van Morrison, Carly Simon, and the Neville Brothers among others. He has become the voice of New Orleans, and to celebrate his birthday, here’s a little sample of his bad muppet voodoo self from the early 70s:

RIP Solomon Burke

October 12, 2010

MB and I were driving home from the East Coast yesterday, and stopped to celebrate our anniversary and 10-10-10 at the halfway point, Columbus Ohio. After a stop at a brewpub and a wonderful meal at a fusion restaurant, we were wandering downtown and both looked up at the same instant at a scrolling newswire as it announced the death of Soul and Rhythm & Blues legend Solomon Burke.  Burke apparently died of natural causes at the far-too-young age of 70 in the Amsterdam airport.

There has been enough written about Burke elsewhere over the years that I don’t feel the need or the ability to really eulogize him here. I’ll just say that you either know his work or you don’t. If you do, then you know what the world has lost. If you don’t, then I’d say it’s past time for you to discover his work. The easy place to start is to go to his website where they’re playing his recent work, as strong as he ever was: Then, once you’re hooked as I know you will be, then go through his long and illustrious catalog and enjoy. One of the all time great voices of soul music. His work has been an important part of my life and I’m deeply saddened by his passing.

RIP Solomon Burke
March 21, 1940 – October 10, 2010
Ever and always, the “King” of Soul

See ‘Ya Later Alligator

January 19, 2010

The Street Parade was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Bobby Charles, Louisiana songwriter extraordinaire.

The Cajun Charles was born Robert Charles Guidry in Abbeville Louisiana in 1938. He gained early fame writing songs for Fats Domino, Frogman Henry and Bill Haley & the Comets, including “See ‘Ya Later Alligator,”  “Walking to New Orleans,” and “(I Don’t Know Why I Love You) But I Do.”

Charles experienced a revival when he appeared with The Band in the Last Waltz (his version of “Down South in New Olreans” included on the album is a classic) but he was always a reluctant performer, releasing a few albums while living in near seclusion. His songs were more famous than he was, and he seemed more than content to leave it that way as he dealt recently with a range of disasters from fire to flood to cancer. He has remained largely unknown although enjoying an almost cult-like following in some circles.

Charles agreed to stage a “comeback” at the 2007 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival,  but he was forced to back out at the last minute due to health issues. Mac “Dr. John” Rebennack, Marcia Ball, guitarist Sonny Landreth and other admirers performed his songs in his absence.

“He was the champion south Louisiana songwriter,” Landreth said. “Everybody had a favorite Bobby Charles song. He had the gift.”

“I never wanted to be a star,” he said. “I’ve got enough problems, I promise you. If I could make it just writing, I’d be happy. Thank God I’ve been lucky enough to have a lot of people do my songs.”

In the 1970s, Mr. Charles wrote a song called “The Jealous Kind.” Joe Cocker recorded it in 1976, followed by Ray Charles, Delbert McClinton, Etta James and Johnny Adams. Kris Kristofferson and Gatemouth Brown covered Charles’s “Tennessee Blues,” as did newcomer Shannon McNally. Muddy Waters recorded :Why Are People Like That”; so did Houma guitarist Tab Benoit on his Grammy-nominated 2006 album “Brother to the Blues.”

He could not play an instrument or read music. Songs popped into his head, fully formed. To capture them, he’d sing into the nearest answering machine; sometimes he’d call home from a convenience store pay phone. In a recent interview he said, “I can hear all the chords up here,” he said, pointing to his brain, “but I can’t tell you what they are.”

Charles’s 1972 self-titled album is one of the Street Parade’s all-time favorite albums. Working with a remarkable back-up band including Rick Danko, Garth Hudson, Levon Helm, and Doctor John, Charles is at his Louisiana finest. This is one of those albums I can never grow tired of hearing. It was a hard-to-find classic for many years, but it’s easily accessible now after recently re-released. Any fan of the Street Parade should really have this album.

Once again, the Street Parade is sad to announce a musical loss such as this, but certainly happy to spread the news of good music. Bobby Charles, we’ll miss you.

Bobby Charles

Happy Birthday Frank

December 22, 2009

A big musical birthday this week, one of the Street Parade’s holy trinity figures: ZappaDylanGarcia. Frank Zappa was born Dec. 21 1940 in Baltimore., MD.  Baltimore has just officially named the 21st as Zappa Day. From social commentary and satire, to avant-garde composition, to brilliant guitar work, Zappa’s influence can’t be overstated.  Zappa challenged the status quo on many fronts. As a plainspoken curmudgeon, he confronted just about every group and ism imaginable.  He pioneered the artist-run independent record label, launching his Straight and Bizarre imprints back in 1969 and later founding the Zappa, DiscReet and Barking Pumpkin labels. He mocked middle-class mores, took on racial inequality and discord, and  satirized everything in sight, including disco and new-age movements. He also took on the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC), delivering memorable testimony about the First Amendment at a congressional hearing.

With an unswerving conviction, Zappa remained an often brilliant voice of dissent to the end of his career. When the music industry began branding albums with voluntary warnings about offensive content under pressure from the PMRC in the mid-Eighties, Zappa wrote a disclaimer of his own, which he stickered on his releases: “WARNING! This album contains material which a truly free society would neither fear nor suppress. The language and concepts contained herein are guaranteed not to cause eternal torment in the place where the guy with the horns and pointed stick conducts his business. This guarantee is as real as the threats of the video fundamentalists who use attacks on rock music in their attempt to transform America into a nation of check-mailing nincompoops (in the name of Jesus Christ). If there is a hell, its fires wait for them, not us.”

Zappa died in 1992, but certainly not his music.

Frank Zappa

RIP Steve Ferguson

October 21, 2009

The Street Parade was very sad to learn of the passing of guitar great, and NRBQ co-founder, Steve Ferguson who died at age 60 due to cancer on Oct. 7. Steve Ferguson formed NRBQ  in 1967 with  keyboardist Terry Adams, , singer Frank Gadler, drummer Tom Staley, and bassist Joey Spampinato. It’s true that Ferguson only played with the band for a few years, but his influence on the band’s direction as a whole and particularly on his successor Big Al Anderson were vast. When they hired Anderson, the primary qualification was for the new guitar player to be able to even come close to playing Steve’s intro to “Flat Foot Flewzy.” Ferguson said he had the right hand of a country player and the left hand of a blues player. Throw in a touch of Sun Ra to the mix and you’ve got the heart of one of the best live bands ever. Ferguson and Anderson played together on the 1972 album “Scraps”–one of the all-time greats. The original album and the collaboration with Carl Perkins are also amazing. Finally, as listening tribute, I’m going to suggest his recent reunion with Terry Adams, “Louisville Sluggers.” Good fun and goofy R&B to the core.

steve ferguson

On another related note, any NRBQ fan will also be saddened by the loss of “Captain Lou” Albano on Oct. 14. Yea, yea, yea, forget the Cyndi Lauper connection, it’s all about the Q. As Lou screams at the end of “Captain Lou”:

They’re talking about me!
Captain Lou Albano!
Maker of champions, baby!
Twelve tag-team champions!
I take them, I mold them,
I think it’s charisma, it’s pandemonium!
It’s psychedelic pandemonium!
Ah ha ha ha ha ha! I, am “the Guiding Light,” ha ha!

The Last Lonely Eagle

July 24, 2009

Over the last year,  it has really felt like the Street Parade is an obituaries page as we’ve lost so many great ones lately. Well, the Street Parade is deeply saddened to announce the loss of the original psychedelic cosmic cowboy John “Marmaduke” Dawson. Dawson formed the New Riders of the Purple Sage in 1969 with a pedal steel-playing Jerry Garcia and helped pen many of the Grateful Dead’s songs with Robert Hunter. The original NRPS album with Garcia, Phil Lesh, Dave Nelson and David Torbert and Mickey Hart is an all-time classic. The band toured for many years in the early 70s with the Grateful Dead in incredibly long shows billed as “An Evening with the Grateful Dead.” Steel guitar genius Buddy Cage eventually took over duties from Garcia and the band went on to record a series of nine albums over the next six years, the best of which include Powerglide, Gypsy Cowboy, and The Adventures of Panama Red.

Dawson had been in ill health with stomach cancer for many years and had moved to Mexico where he passed away peacefully yesterday.

It’s difficult to find footage from the old days, but here’s some fairly fuzzy footage of the band in 72 doing “Truck Driving Man.” Just a taste of what the band was about, but as always you can go to the vintage self-titled album.

John “Marmaduke” Dawson 1945-2009
“The Last Lonely Eagle”


Good Stuff for the 4th

July 8, 2009

MB had friday off work and then she took a vacation day on Monday, so we had a nice four-day weekend together. Friday was a kind of putzy day, painted a bathroom that really needed painting, got the last of the plants in the ground that we’ve been trying to plant for a month or so, drank some good beer (Left Hand Warrior IPA, semi-sweet but a pretty good hop bite at the end) and went out to dinner.

Saturday, our good friends John and Hilary from Minneapolis came to town for the night.  It’s always great to see them. The day was oddly rainy and kind of cool for the 4th of July but it was just right for us. We thought about going down to the I.C. jazz fest but decided we’d rather cook out and hang out with a good bottle of wine (or two) and talk. The weather cleared and it was a beautiful summer evening. Kebobs on the grill with cous-cous, a nice bottle of Chateauneuf-du-pape that John brought, lemon cake and berries, and good conversation late into the evening. Fireworks surrounded us but all at a distance, some lights arcing above the trees, but mostly flashes and lots of noise. Really a perfect 4th for us.

Sunday morning we went for a nice hike on the Sac and Fox trail with J & H, some pretty good birding considering how dense the foliage is now (and John taught me the Common Yellowthroat’s song so that now I can recognize it). After J&H headed up to Minneapolis, MB and I headed down to the Jazz fest. We saw just a bit of Chris Potter. It sounded good, but it was a little more dissonant than we were in the mood for at that point. But the combo of Bill Frisell followed by Dave Holland was brilliant all around.

I have been a long time Frisell fan. Now he’s not exactly what I’d call energizing music (for that, see upcoming comments about Dave Holland or last year’s fest with Bonerama and Medeski, Martin, and Wood). The music is rather hypnotic. It was really perfect for a hot summer afternoon with the sun setting behind him as he worked his loops, and echoes, and delays to sublime effect, circling around themes and teasing them out, easing in to strains of Americana classics and dissolving into some molten psychedelia and back out. As much as I’m a fan of Frisell, though, what really made this show was the cornet of Ron Miles. His sound was absolutely crystalline and fit in with Frisell’s guitar work brilliantly, at times the two of them melding into one distinct sound, at times perfectly complementing and counterpointing.Their version of Sam Cooke’s “A Change Gonna Come” was stunning, fresh and innovative while still carrying the emotional depth of Cooke’s original. As I say, it’s not jump out of your seats music, it’s much more about subtlety and sonic textures and landscapes. Really a lovely, lovely set. Here’s a video I found of Bill with Ron Miles. They didn’t have the sax with them, and this drummer is different (but Tony Scheer was on bass), but I wanted a video that caught Frisell and Miles, so enjoy:

Dave Holland I was not as familiar with. Certainly I know him from his famous work on bass with Miles Davis from the Bitches Brew era and know his name quite well, but I didn’t quite know what to expect. In the end, I think that made it an even better show for me. His band is simply stellar: Robin Eubanks on Trombone, Chris Potter on saxophone, Steve Nelson on Vibes, and Nate Smith on drums. Like Frisell’s set, this was also about exploring sonic landscapes, and they covered a wide range of textures and emotions, all of them were driven by Holland’s stunning basswork. But unlike Frisell, this music was at times jump out of your seats music. They received many long standing ovations throughout the show as the band played with an unbridled passion and energy. Each member of the band is an incredible soloist, but what really moved me was the ensemble work. When all went together, the musical textures created an amazing tapestry of sounds that would almost feel as if it were going to explode, that it would be impossible to pull back together but just at the edge of real chaos Holland would pull them back in.  “Secret Garden” highlighted some great improv solos and numbers like “Lucky Seven” and “Easy Did It” really highlighted the ensemble work. A great, great show. Here’s a clip of “Easy Did It” from last fall, unfortunately a very short clip and they’re really just getting rolling as it ends, but a bit of a sense of what the quintet sound is:

Then, finally, for Monday MB and I went biking along the Cedar Valley Nature Trail. A perfect sunny, warm, breezy day. We got back and made barbecued tempeh on the grill, put it in sandwiches with roasted poblanos and another really nice evening. As I said, the perfect long weekend for us. And we hope you enjoyed your holiday as well.

RIP Koko

June 4, 2009

The Street Parade is saddened to announce the death of Blues legend Koko Taylor, June 3, 2009. Taylor was born in Tennessee on Sept. 28, 1928, and later moved to Chicago where she became known as “The Queen of the Blues.”  She worked with the likes of Willie Dixon (who had discovered her, leading to her first contract with Chess Records; Taylor also covered many of Dixon’s songs), Howlin’ Wolf, and Little Walter. After Chess, she became one of the internationally-known figures of Alligator Records. She influenced the likes of Bonnie Raitt, Janis Joplin, and Susan Tedeschi and was still performing over 70 concerts a year when she died at the age of 80. For a listening/viewing tribute, here is Koko Taylor performing the Willie Dixon classic, Wang Dang Doodle with Little Walter. Enjoy!

Koko Taylor: Sept 28, 1928 –  June 3, 2009