If I ever need to or want to remember a bit of what I felt like at twenty or if I ever need or want to know what 1972 felt like to me, all I need to do is to put on Exile on Main Street. Frustrated, angry, afraid, defiant, excited, and wanting more.
John White and I were outside all night in Denver, in line, to get tickets. We played cards and talked with the other maniacs. A month later, the show opened with Stevie Wonder and then, after that treat, The Stones came on and wailed for the rest of the night.
Soul Survivor1972 wasn’t the best time in the world. I had a student deferment from the draft (thank God), but the war (we only had one then) was going on, the Beatles were gone, Nixon was president, the climate of everything was about to change drastically, and the whole world seemed crazy. It was time to turn up the volume.
I hope there is always room in this world for deep, silly, serious goofballs like Peter Stampfel. There’s no telling how he got to be this way, but it seems he began with an unshakeable and unique take on things.
Throughout a lifetime of music, he has given the world many strange songs of sweetness and light and performed infinite interpretations of tunes that for many people altered their perceptions permanently. He’s fronted many groups that shine like lighthouses across the enormous sea of conformity, business as usual, and complacent consumers. The Fugs, The Holy Modal Rounders, Stampfel and Weber, The Du-Tells, The Bottlecaps, The Unholy Modal Rounders, The Dysfunctionells, and others too numerous and obscure to remember or mention.
When The Iceworms Nest Again
He plays fiddle, banjo, sings, writes songs, tells stories, and, I’m sure, has many other talents. He has seen it all, from the great Midwest (in his case, Wisconsin) to folk-infested Bleeker Street, to dreamy California. He’s made music in his own way, on his own terms.
Midnight In Paris
At 77, he’s getting to be kind of an old guy, though through recordings and in spirit, he’ll remain ageless. For most of my life, he’s always been on one of my shoulders (devil or angel?) singing something that made me feel better. I’m grateful for that and glad he’s still doing it.
Max Richter is described as a post-minimalist. That could mean anything, but what’s true is that he did arrive and begin to create after minimalists like Steve Reich and Terry Riley and Phillip Glass. He is a composer who has worked performing in person, writing film music under the cover of darkness, and in studios, loaded with electronics.
Richter blends classical, electronic, and rock and roll (or as modern guys simply say it now, rock) into a style he has called post-classical. All these labels aside, he’s had the training and the experience to allow us to think about him as a musician and composer in a pure and simple sense and, at the same time, as one who is aware of and operates within the infinite breath of what’s come before.
He performed for 10 years as part of a group called, Piano Circus and, though I know a little about what that group was and did, I’d rather imagine it as the many wonderful images conjured by that name. He has studied, experimented, composed, and found an audience who can now follow whatever direction he takes and listen to what he is discovering and creating. This includes music for the stage, ballet, opera, performance, installations, recordings, and whatever else seems appropriate.
In 2012, he released a recording titled, Recomposed by Max Richter: Vivaldi – The Four Seasons. This takes The Four Seasons as its starting point and loops and builds on and subtracts from Vivaldi and leaves in its wake something else, entirely new and beautiful. This is the one I’ve been listening to for a couple of years. The music here is from that recording.
In 2015, he released Sleep, which lasts over 8 hours and whose parts sometimes match natural sleep cycles. For this piece he consulted with neuroscientist David Eagleman and, though that doesn’t make it approved by the scientific community, it does inform it. I’ve fallen asleep to both of these pieces and parts of several other compositions and this is a kind of listening that leaves me refreshed and eager for more. The music is beautiful and, like all great music, speaks to a part of myself I was unfamiliar with until hearing it.
Bill Monroe, David Grisman, Richard Greene, Clarence White, Jerry Garcia, Vassar Clements, Tony Rice, and countless others all have Peter Rowan in common. It is said that he was born with a guitar in his hands, which must have been uncomfortable for his mom, but lucky for his soon to follow brothers.
When I Was A Cowboy
He’s a fixture, shining brightly, at every festival and has been for years immemorial. He can’t play a bad set. His songs touch bottom in the deepest places. He’s smiling, warm, and, at this point, downright avuncular, or whatever the grandfatherly equivalent is.
Stay thirsty, my friends.
The Free Mexican Airforce
He’s the kind of guy who brings his guitar everywhere and, also, brings his own campfire, with the sound of the river off in the darkness. We get to sit around, occasionally joining in, and enjoy the trips he takes us on. Old timey, bluegrass, newgrass, tejano, reggae, rock and roll. His old friends are ours. He’s sharing his stories and his moments and his and ours are all getting mixed together. He follows a trail he’ll continue on until all that is left is a cloud of dust and a faint, Hi Ho, Silver.
So many songs, so many performances, so many records, so much great feeling. And, don’t forget the yodeling.
Documenting the music is important. In jazz, combinations of musicians come together and break apart so often that bands that have an actual life together are a rarity. That’s good as it makes for more invention and more creation, but I hate it when that great band is just a memory or that incredible jam floats off into the night. I want to have the possibility of hearing it some time or be able to hear it again. That’s unrealistic and greedy and impossible and ridiculous, but that’s the way I am. Twenty, forty, a hundred years on, I want to be able to cue it up and hear what was happening that night, with those guys. It’s not the same as feeling the heat of the room or seeing the sweat of the players or hearing crowd react to that last solo, but it lets me hear something that was once upon a time and allows me access to something that will never be again.
This tune, La Cruz, is from an album by Barry Wedgle and a bunch of guys he brought together in Boulder around 1979. It’s an example of music that might have slipped away in the hubbub of working and living and playing, but, instead, still exists for us to enjoy. I remember hearing this tune in person and all the wonderful players. I think most of them are still playing – the nimble Jerry Grannelli on drums, the legendary Fly McLard on horns, Barry on guitar, lucky Phil Sparks on bass, Jay Clayton’s beautiful voice, Collin Walcott, Paul McCandless, Geoff Lee on piano and others.
It was back in those days that Barry taught me how to listen. He made me sit down long enough and become quiet enough to focus on whatever was playing – Sonny Rollins, Paco de Lucia, Beethoven, Monk. He played endlessly with a dedication that was all-consuming. He helped me understand that the world isn’t always and doesn’t necessarily have to be ruled by order or authority and that passion is the fuel for everything. He showed me the finer points of hanging out and we hung out at countless gigs, listening to whoever was playing. It was an education.
Sometimes its easy to forget the past as it falls behind in the wake of the moment, but, when the music starts to play, it comes back, just as it was when everyone was putting it all together. It deserves attention and I try to still hangout in that special way that acknowledges and celebrates all the endless moments of creation.
Darius Milhaud was a composer and teacher who fled the Nazis and came to the United States in 1940. Once here, he taught at Mills College in San Francisco. Among his graduate students were Dave Brubeck and Burt Bacharach. Before coming to the US, he had long been an acclaimed composer and musical force of nature. He composed quickly and prolifically.
Le Boeuf Sur Le Toit
La Creation Du Monde
As a young man, he acted as secretary to the French ambassador to Brazil and soaked up the popular music there, including that of Ernesto Nazereth and the music surrounding Carnaval. These sounds found their way into many of his compositions, notably Le Boeuf Sur La Toit and his Suadades do Brasil. He also traveled to New York, in the twenties, where he heard jazz in Harlem. This influence can be heard in his La Creation Du Monde.
He doesn’t smile much in pictures, but he does in his music.
One of three waltzes from Madame Bovary
He was grouped together with Satie and Poulenc as part of Les Six, French composers reacting to the heavy influence of Wagner and Richard Strauss. His music drew on all of these influences and on the rich classical traditions of France. Later, he wrote an autobiography, which sums up his many years of creativity called, My Happy Life. That about says it all. What a lucky guy.
Two selections from my all-time favorite – Suite Provencale
Jose Neto recorded an album in 1987 that, for me, has never gotten old. It’s acoustic guitar and original compositions. I’ve played it a million times. Okay, not a million, but a lot.
With The Trees
He’s originally from Brazil and started playing at age four, giving him lots of time to practice. Before this album, Mountains and the Sea, he had played with Henry Belafonte, Paquito D’Rivera, Herbie Mann and Airto Moreira. There’s a great tune on the Airto album, Humble People, called Move It on Up that shows him developing the electric chops that would serve him well in the future. Since all this stuff in the past, he’s played a lot of fusion guitar and toured and collaborated with Steve Winwood, but it’s these old tunes that really get me.
The music is quiet, melodic, sweet, mysterious. It’s a moment of creation that I’m glad didn’t get away. It’s funny how these things stay with us.