Friday, July 10, 2009

Life in New York City

BULLETIN: Why Did Pres. Obama Pick Ghana to Visit? OIL! A Military Base in Africa. OIL! OIL! OIL! Genetically Modified Crops, Too. But Mostly OIL! We Are Competing With Communist China For Control of African Wealth, esp. OIL!
The Wonderful World of "Keepin' On Keepin' On"

I try to break away from my peeps occasionally. I give up on music and go hide in literary corners and begin writing poetry again. GAHHHWD! Like one of my ghostly relatives when he realized he was a poet, I should immediately leap off the highest building in town. And then something will happen and my peeps will call me back. A funeral earlier this year when I was back among the blues brethren that I had so long ago turned my back on. An avoidance of going down and singing with a friend's Latin-jazz fusion band. An avoidance of the women in that ilk who love me. And then, I get a chance email. "Hey, Wolfie, you wanna come to a's so and so and so and so and they've got this idea...and so and so asked me to see if you were interested in bringing a harmonica and doing a blues solo...?" blah, blah, it's a dance program...WAHHH! Whoooaa. I was suddenly intrigued. A dance program, jazz tap vs. flamenco, two ladies of dance combining genres...the idea of this dude who I knew from making a recording with him...and the drummer on this gig, too; and later I'm to find out the bass player I know and love, too, who played a jazz festival gig with, hell, I had an offer to come back into my world, the only world I feel at home in...

So I trotted off to this rehearsal. It was on West 54th, near Broadway. Holy shit, I thought to myself (and, yes, I do use expletives in my thoughts), that's Times Square--and Times Square is so SQUARE these days--speaking my generation's lingo, a generation of "hips," "with its," "the cool" vs. the SQUARES, the god-damn STRAIGHTS! Straights didn't always mean heterosexuals! The straights my generation fought were those who like sheep stayed in herds, punishing those sheep who tried to wander off on their own--a shepherding mentality--the mentality of the Christian and Islamic bibles--the traditions of goat and sheep herders--the hearty animals of the desert--or the high mountains--manna from the heavens of our three great desert religions--meat to eat, hides to tan, wool to spin into yarn, horns to blow--the beginnings of saxophones and trumpets and sackbuts and manzellos and stritches!

I'm bopping along here with Mingus Ah-Um tap dancing through my headphones directly into my brain; how I increase my serotonin. I love the pharmaceutical commercials that are selling depression as a disease now rather than a behavioral problem due to environmental and instinctual pressures (stresses; hypertensions)--the "pill" salvation these SSRIs are supposed to bring poor old overstressed, force-marched souls who totally collapse under any pressure--you give those people these anti-depressants and you addict them to drugs like Zoloft and the now-forgotten Prosac--and when they think these miracle pills have gotten rid of their depression they go off them--their lives they think are back to "normal" (whatever the hell that word means--"nothing" to a nonconformist like me) and they go off the meds and soon the same old pressures are back taxing their wall-hitting minds and the next thing you know they've murdered their families--oh, pill-pushing shrinks say, that's only in isolated cases! Do you know how many depressed neurotic Americans are on these kind of drugs? I have an incident in my family of a relative being on so many antidepressants and impulse-controlling meds when he went under the gas for a routine operation, he didn't come out of it.]

I got off the subway, the D train, at the 7th Avenue station at West 53rd, right in the heart of the theater district. I came up and headed west across 7th and over to Broadway. I am a thin show-biz-looking kind of clown--I was wearing my Tanya Tucker tour tee, my UNT sidelines cap, my some-Italian-designer-name jeans, my Medici 'roo skin sneaks--I mean, me walking through the theater district, what a show-bizzy-looking attitude I emote, through the tourist geeks all lined up waiting to buy $100-bucks-a-seat tickets--to see some American Idol amateur doing a Broadway stint or some Hollywood has-been making a comeback (Bernadette Peters is one of those Broadway types who makes a lot of come-backs) in some revival--and how sick of revivals am I! Where are our Broadway playwrights today? Are they all in England? I'm so sick of the Brits. I hate the Brits! I do. And there's a new book out called How the Beatles Ruined Rock and Roll--beware, though, the author sounds like a White dumbass with a cock-a-mamy theory that sounds like he may have gotten it from Gunther Schuller--I say this because I heard the guy interviewed and he mentioned Paul Whiteman--called Old Jiveass Paul the Beatles of his era--by then I was hollering, bullshit, bullshit, bullshit--and Fuck the Beatles--and I've said this with loud vehemence since 1964. Those Brit amateur bastards killed our only original musics--first by mocking them, then gaining celebrity from that mockery (because they were White by the way, not because they were doing our music better than our stars--compare the Beatles to the Ike and Tina Turner Review--you talk about blowin' the Brits away--off into Neverland!)--then getting rich enough to start being able to record their own music, a continuation of British church-mode music (Lydian mode?)--take "Eleanor Rigby" for instance--there's no "soul" ("swing") in that song. Even Ray Charles, as hard as he tried (the best version ever made of "Eleanor Rigby"), couldn't swing that morbid Brit damp cold banks-of-the-Mercy cry-for-help! And I hear their influence in the generations that followed my be-bop bunch--I call my generation the "ignored" generation--"overlooked" generation. And I've got 9 minutes of the "Pussy Cat Blues" in my ears NOW--in my headphones! What a good word. Make that stereo-headphones and you have a different meaning--now we have digital-headphones--and that's another meaning. And six minutes into the "Pussy Cat Blues" is a trio stretch--sax, clarinet, trombone in riffing unison--and god-damn, how soothing a goodly swung blues is--and now I'm imagining a certain dancer dancing to this "Pussy Cat Blues." Hot damn! But then on with my tale..."a little fortissimo, please, I've got a yarn to tell," Jimmy Durante says in "You Gotta Start Off Each Day With a Song."

So I walked through the lines of turistas and the windblown garbage along Broadway up to 54th and then found the place I was looking for--next door to the Iquana Restaurant--went up and walked back into the world of my peeps. The minute I walked into the rehearsal space, I knew I was back. They had started already. A tall, lanky, raven-haired beauty was up tapping. My friend was on drums...and my friend was playing the guitar and singing...and his wife was there....

The tall, lanky, raven-haired beauty turned out to be Dolores Sanchez. I was nailed to the cross of love immediately. What a lady! She's my kind of artist--she plays jazz with her feet! And those long legs--she can do 32nd notes easy as pie--and she was lovin' changing styles in mid-stream--even tapping to a flamenco section while my friend the guitarist sang.

This guy is Basilio Georges, a Greek from Milwaukee who discovered this woman, Aurora Reyes, and got whole hog into flamenco, and they started this Flamenco Latino thing in their dance studio--and this show is Basilio's idea. He wants to combine jazz tap with flamenco--then in comes this flamenco dancer--La Meira she calls herself, and she starts driving her hooves into those boards--Jesus! She shook the rafters.

These dancers! The energy they have. They can't quit dancing. They dance while they're explaining what they want--they dance when they're breaking--Sanchez can't stand still. Her legs are tapping while she's clicking with you. She's hood, learned her tap to the swing of her neighborhood sidewalk as a young girl looking skyward--she's Latina but NYC Latina--quick on the draw--able to read you intuitively/tacitly--able to jump ahead of you with a little "Uh-huh, you on it! You on it! You're cool," then she does a fingersnap and does a point of comprehension at you. Wow, what a woman! I'm totally impressed with her and keep my eye on her for a good thirty minutes as she was working out this routine with Basilio.

Then La Meira gets up and goes through her routine--she's flamenco all the way, Jose, and I catch myself not interested in the traditional way she's dancing and I'm watching Sanchez doing her thing off to the side. Then the two dancers do a combo thing--which I didn't think worked because flamenco is not as swinging as jazz tap, which depends on 4/4 time for its rhythmics--so the flamenco dancer had trouble hitting the jazz tap ones or coming off a "shave and a haircut" attempt and missing coming back in on a one.

Then Basilio told me what he had in mind for me. I was a little nervous. Turns out he'd written this dance routine based on an old Blind Boys of Alabama diddy called "Down in the Hole"--a lot of White dudes had done it, too, and Basilio referred to Tom Waits's version--I am not a Tom Waits fan--I find him an imitation--a talented imitator, but an imitator just the same--but I agreed to participate...

And it worked out fine--"Down in the Hole" turned out to be an almost 20-minute-long song and dance thing--with Basilio, Aurora, and me singing a verse apiece and me playing harmonica fills between the lines and then playing a harmonica solo after the first verse, after which Dolores Sanchez does a jazz-tap jam to the band's, bass, guitar, harmonica, drums, kicking out tap riffs behind her--accentuations for her to step off to...

So here we go. I'm back in my world again. Showtime Saturday night, 8 pm, and I'm back on stage again--a small but a highlight role. I'm ending the blues set with one of my Holy Roller powerhouse outputs--my voice can literally rattle the windows of the joint--and me and Dolores Sanchez end it with a one-two-three STOP.

"I'm back in the saddle again," old Gene Autry used to sing. Yep, I'm saddlin' up for another trail drive.

for The Daily Growler

Keeping Up With the Kurds
from The New York Times Website:
BAGHDAD — With little notice and almost no public debate, Iraq’s Kurdish leaders are pushing ahead with a new constitution for their semiautonomous region, a step that has alarmed Iraqi and American officials who fear that the move poses a new threat to the country’s unity.

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