Monday, July 03, 2006

A Song of Summer

...was the name of Ken Russell's classic 1968 BBC Monitor film about the great English composer Frederick Delius, based on Eric Fenby's memoirs (Fenby the young chap who sacrificed his own career to aid the blind, ailing Delius--then in the advanced stages of tertiary syphillis-- by getting the music that was still swirling round his head down onto manuscript paper before he died)-- a heart-breaking story, a wonderful film, and it was Delius' symphonic tone poem "A Song of Summer" I punched up on the old Itunes last night in my solitude when the rains came to break the leaden tropical miasma hanging over the city, rain bringing sweet release, sunset peeping brilliantly through the thick purple skies over the Hudson River flowing outside my window--this after a week or so soaking up so much great music to be found on display in NYC ("New York is a Summer Festival" was the slogan du jour during the Lindsay administration, and was holding strong when I moved here 30 years ago--and it's still true).

Brazilian Girls keep getting better and better, Sabina came out wearing a giant Chinese coolie hat at their free show on the 15th Street Pier last Tuesday night and launched into "Lazy Lover" from under her lid, and afterwards doffed it to reveal her lissome self looking more beautiful than ever, in full throated lovely voice-- and despite some intermittent sound problems, she and the guys got the crowd pumped and adrenalized nicely with some new tunes from their forthcoming album "Talk to La Bombe", and she brought on a little girl named Tallulah near the end of a too too short set, squatting down with her mic and prompting the girl to sing the lyrics to a PG-rated version of "Don't Stop". And the rain blessedly held off till they were finished.

Next night Diamanda Galas delivered a typically intense and stunning set of "Dark Songs" (her latest programmer, as they say in Variety) at Joe's Pub, Diamanda's last name might as well be Callas as she is a true monstress sacre, with her formidable scary avant/operatic pipes and Gothic incantatory blackmass blues situated at the crossroads of the Pit and the Pendulous (there was even a little Garland thrown into the mix this time-- Judy as well as Lily, pace Howard Hawks' and Ben Hecht's "Twentieth Century"). She did a fantastic version of Ralph Stanley's "Oh Death", holding long vibrato'ed notes while her impressive forceful clawed piano explorations (but I mean jazz!) wandered into minimalist aleatory patterns that kept hovering/fading/ swelling back again and again like a recurrent nightmare, a real momento mori-- music that literally provoked chills: to paraphrase Van Vliet, whose range and vocal prowess on a good day she more than rivals, Diamanda doesn't make music...she makes monsters. (In fact she sat near the front of the house and cackled her way through one of my band's sets at the Mercury Lounge here in '94, one of the early multi-vocalist incarnations of Gods and Monsters, with Emily, Dina Emerson, and Richard Barone--great vocalist, also on my forthcoming album-- taking turns in the vocal catbird seat--afterwards Lady Di told me that I was the only guitarist she'd ever consider working with...s'true, I'm not making this shit up) (but I ain't holding my breath either...a prudent policy, after some very hard lessons learned about divas of both sexes over the years). Rock on with your bad self, Diamanda!

Thursday night was a screening at the Walter Reade Theater in Lincoln Center of a documentary called "Bound to Lose" about one of my favorite alltime bands, The Holy Modal Rounders--and having played on and off with main guy Peter Stampfel as The Du-Tels for many a year it brought a tear to see Peter really and finally get his due in this superbly affecting film. One of the biggest pleasures also was seeing how much good stuff they got out of Steve Weber as an on-camera force 'o nature, right before he did a runner on the 40th Rounders Reunion show in Portland a few years ago. I know they were considered crazed acid Folkies, but here Weber comes off as pure demoniac Dionysian rock energy and attitude (see my last blog posting), waxing philosophical and hilarious about his hellbent party ethos under the verdant leaves and eaves of his ramshackle tabernacle in the woods of hippie haven, New Hope Pa.--home of my boys Ween, also-- and herein observed at play trying to pry the bottlecaps off myriad microbrews, unsuccessfully (btw, Peter is a big bottlecap collector, he collects 'em from all over the world, and once asked me to bring him back a bunch from a solo residency I was playing in Tokyo). In the Walter Reade audience paying their respects were Jim Fouratt, Bob Christgau, Peter Keepnews, Irene Trudel, Ed Haber, Stu Shimmel, Tuli Kupferberg's old lady whose name I forget (sorry!), and my guy "hypnotist collector" Mitch Blank, who introduced me to his friend in the next seat over, the lovely Susie Rotolo (Dylan's early NYC squeeze/muse/conscience).

Speaking of Steve Weber and the Dionysian, Portugese music writer Rui Silva (author of a forthcoming tome on The Doors) has just emailed me to remind me that today is the 35th anniversary of Jim Morrison's death in Paris. Now I remember visiting Pere-Lachaise once (Elli Medeiros, the sultry French superstar I was staying with, lived quite near by--by the way she is simply super singing "Skin Diving" on my forthcoming album "Coming Clean") and unsuccessfully attempting to find Jim's grave. Appollinaire, Eluard, Chopin, Ernst, Melies, and Callas (!)--finding their sepulchers was no problemo, for starters...but Morrison's shrine eluded me, until...

I was eventually led to Jim's gravesite by hordes of young Polish Catholic school kids who were running wild in the cimetiere looking for Morrison, kids who had been flown into Paris specially to cheer on the Pope (yeah!) as John Paul was making a major speech in Paris that week. Wouldn't you know it that the wayward, (Pan)Piperish, pie-eyed spirit of Jimbo was calling out to these children in the dulcet tones of the Lord of the Flies, singing a siren song of Dionysos?

"The Power of Jim Compels Thee!"

And these happy go lucky Polish kids eventually led me to the sacred wood, Morrison's final resting place--which I found covered in yellow crime-scene tape (and much bathetic graffiti, on the order of what one usually finds inscribed on the walls of far too many dressing rooms)... seems the night before some crazed fan had absconded with Jim's head (actually, the marble bust of Morrison that normally presides there over his plot) (was the second or third time this had happened, too). O That Demon Rock 'n Roll!

Now the reason I bring this up in conjunction with Weber is that Jim Morrison, for all the Dionysian qualities that made him such an iconic shaman, also teeters precariously on the lip of the Ludic abyss in our collective memory, which casts him too as somewhat of a clownish buffoon, exposing his weener in Florida and all (and don't get me wrong, I adore The Doors!) (Blood on the sheets in the town of New Haven, indeed). And this holds true as well for Weber, for Iggy, for Beefheart, for Axl Rose, for pity's sake...As Wyndham Lewis wrote in "The Wild Body": "The gladiator is not a perpetual monument of triumphant health: Napoleon was harried with Elbas: moments of vision are blurred rapidly, and the poet sinks into the rhetoric of the will". And Jim was obviously aware of this, and wrote and spoke of himself ironically throughout his mercurial passage on Earth (besides his brilliant songs, one of his most endearing and saving of Graces). ("Pretty good, pretty good, pretty neat...pretty good!"). The only non-ironic shamen I can think of are typically, the world's worst most blood-thirsty dictators. Raucous Role (playing), indeed...

(should also mention re Morrison that I'm old friends with Patricia Kennealy, the former Rock and Pop editor and white witch who married Jim as depicted in a Wicca (media) ceremony in Oliver Stone's flick...and that she read some of Jim's unpublished erotic love poems to her set to my music, when I accompanied her at the Union Square Barnes and Noble several years ago...)

Saturday and Sunday I treated myself to one of the city's best summer pleasures, namely Summerstage at Central Park, a free outdoor dejeuner sur l'herbe avec la musique--big crowds and a festivo atmosphere and lots of summer sun pouring down, saw my pal ace Times photog Jack Vartoogian in the trenches snapping madly away... Ska Cubano came on and played their first gig in the US and were a rollicking joy mixing mambo and ska styles and what have you with 2 male kibbitzers in front exhorting the crowd to shake it (and o yes they did, too) and they had a gorgeous female tenor/baritone player who blew the house down under the canopy during her solo...

and Balkan Beat Box followed and were really good too, led by my friend Ori Kaplan who snakedanced onstage with an auxillary brass band and a sexy belly dancer who worked up the collective sweat and 2 female singers sweating as well and sweetly emanating forth with a vocal delivery on the order of les mysteres de la voix bulgares and a Rachid Tah-esque front guy ratcheting up the pressure and exhorting and cavorting the crowd hither and yon, band mixing Balkan and klez with partydown beats...

then I had to split so missed Antibalas, who I've heard before (a big Fela fan, I can stand them okay)...and next day was Jose Gonzalez, an Argentine Swedish singer/songwriter/guitarist whose Nick Drakish stylings the crowd lapped up but left me feeling a little bit unmoved, shall we say-- but I dug Seu Jorge and his Brazilian groove band very much and I got to thankfully view it all from the Sky Deck this time along with Caroline and Pakistani galpal Shaista and her 2 little tykes (very well-behaved they were too) and critical theorist/band leader Greg Tate and beautiful Imani Uzuri (soon to host some forthcoming Summerstage concerts, catch her at Makor this weekend, she is the real deal) and author with a hot ms. in the making Christa Bell, and a bevy of beautiful ladies and gents of all colours all gathered there thanks to Summerstage maven Alexa Birdsong (you go, grrrrrl!)--birdsong reminding me of my favorite Delius composition "On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring"...




Blogger bob kesto said...

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7/11/2006 3:09 AM  
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