Thursday, February 02, 2006

Baby It's Hot Inside...

Gary and Taj Mahal backstage at Merkin Hall, NYC during the New York Guitar Festival

photo by Glynn Emmerson | Click to enlarge (hosted by flickr)

Had a coupla very sweet gigs here last week, starting with a particularly piquant set at Merkin Hall (y'all know 'bout Merkins, doncha? Cue Eddie 'Cleanhead' Vinson's "Gimme Back My Wig"...And don't you forget Peter Sellers' hilarious turn as President Merkin Muffley in "Dr. Strangelove", the most doubly Yonic moniker ever, the Yin to the Yang 'o the name of the former master of Yale's Jonathan Edwards College, the duophallically dubbed Beekman Cannon).

This was my second turn this season playing as part of the NY Guitar Festival, this 'un a Tribute to Skip James, pour moi the deepest and darkest and quirkiest, most original blues artist ever. In fact, James Hillman, former Director of the CG Jung Institute, heard some of Skip James's music on a student film soundtrack during his guest lecturing stint at Yale in the early 70's and instantly pronounced Skip James one of the most resonant, archetypal, and hypnagogic musicians he had ever encountered.

Last time I played up at Merkin (smile) it was as part of another NY Guitar Festival thingy, this one a Tribute to Robert Johnson. Next day I got a call from a guy at Maysles Films (Gimme Shelter) who had accidentally caught me playing live on John Schaefer's radio show that night (they were simulcasting our performance), and thought I'd be a good bet to score their new documentary "Lalee's Kin" for HBO (heard my music and dug it and wanted more of it--always the best kind of professional engagement, for sure.). This time around I started the show playing solo and gradually worked up to the full band--plus got to wax enthusiastic about Skip James and spar and josh with the emcee John Schaefer: I had to, if only for the benefit of the paying customers, who might not of known too much about Skip James as the program notes were kind of light on details of the Skipster's sad saga (as in, nada). Fantastic full house went bananas for us at the end (and throughout the entire set, come to think of it).

Saturday I did double duty sitting in at the Bowery Poetry Club with my ancien ami des Rounders Sacre et Modale, the one and only Peter Stampfel, now a co-leader of maestro John Kruth's new acoustic ensemble. Along for the easy ride was playwright/actor/and former Rounders drummer (and former Patti Smith squeeze) Sam Shepard and his son Walker, both of 'em on dueling banjos--and both of them also super nice and friendly as could be (and both of them gorgeous hunks, according to Caroline). I got in on the fun and played a few numbers with them like The Stones' "Factory Girl", and then did The Du-Tels duo thang with Peter (we did an album awhile ago entitled "No Knowledge of Music Required", which got our mugs in Rolling Stone and our asses onstage in England, Ireland, Scotland and Holland). Nice to flex those beatnik folknik nudnik muscles again (and don't bogart that bluegrass, please). Then poet emeritus and BPC proprietor Bob Holman read a couple of his Cap'n Billy's whiz-bang golly-whomper world beating pomes while I complemented his verbal bravado spinning 220 thread-count sheets of sound ceiling-wise where they stayed up there 'a billowing all night long, long may they wave, matching his every utterance with appropriate ear-cleansing kling klang...sounded so DAMN good we're gonna do it again and do it some more that's nasty by golly that's nasty for shore on Feb. 26th, same hour same joint...

then it was Gods and Monsters time and I kid you not, Billy and Ernie (and sax roamer Jason Candler) get better and better and better as we started out standing (always beats sitting) proud to steal her anything she sees and standing firm delivered de letter on a whole batch of new songs--been rather happily inspired lately, truth to tell :-) (and I will draw a discretionary veil over the corporeal surroundings and goings-on at this particular, uh, juncture).

Delightful Pakistani homegirl Shaista Hussain was inda house looking foxy as usual, and Emmy award-winnin' tv producer Peter Bull, late of Bill Moyers' parrish, and...and...saw my former teacher, the legendary editor and writer Bill Zinnser, do a wonderful gig playing jazz piano with his partner the New Yorker cartoonist Arnold Roth on tenor at the Cornelia Street Cafe, was it on Thursday last week? Dunno, exactly... been working hard! (Beats hardly working...)

and Sunday, my day of rest (not) we had a little reunion party at Camino Sur (great new Latin American eatery up in Hell's Kitchen next to the Zipper Theater on 37th Street) for old friend Bill Mosely, who was in town (well out at the Meadowlands to be precise) for the Chiller Theater Horor Convention where he signed autographs by the blood-spattered gazillions for myriad fans who dig his Choptop and Otis grotesqueries/Grand Guignol personas the most, as rendered in genre classics (well sorta) "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Two" and this year's worldwide hit "The Devil's Rejects"...during dinner we got an actual cell phone call from the irrepressible Lucy Chase Williams (see my last couple postings) to whom we bequeathed our horror film franchise at Yale upon graduation,and to whom neither Bill nor I had spoken to in about 31 years (s'hard to keep up sometimes)-- she sounded like she's doing great, working for the likes of Tim Burton and other Horrorwood notables..good on ya Lucy!

and--our dinner was graced with a surprise pop-in (pace Larry David) from the brand new COO of Time-Warner, our way longtime (35 years) good friend Jeff Bewkes ("Thank you Mr. President!")--Jeff looked great, young, rangy and sharp as ever, and regaled us (me, Caroline, Bill, and our other old friends Gib Smith and Jimmy Angell, along to fete Bill on one of his rare NYC appearances) with tales of hobnobbing with the likes of Ted Turner, and what it's like riding the corporate whirlwind from his aerie high atop the new Time Warner complex on Columbia Circle. Jeff's off this week to (hopefully) straighten out the AOL situation--best 'o luck JB! (The Other JB). .. now if Bewkes can only get David Chase to give Alabama 3 much deserved on-screen credit at the end "The Sopranos" for the use of their "Woke Up This Morning" as the show's signature theme song week after week, would be a beautiful thing indeed...

"I gotta go now...gotta go now" (The Kinks)




Anonymous Sign Twirlers said...

I like the Kinks quote at the end. Muswell Hillbillies is thier best album.

10/03/2008 2:11 PM  

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