Sunday, October 22, 2006

Eldritch Street/Keep On the Sunnyside!

And speaking of les maisons de musique spirituelle/houses of the holy (see my last blog concerning playing "The Golem" in the Eglise de Saint Jean-Baptiste up in mon mon mon, mon Montreal): as a performer you really get a lot of extra texture, that certain frisson caught in the moment poised between two worlds (waking life and dreamtime) playing in old churches, synagogues, burial grounds (consecrated and otherwise)--the Paradiso in Amsterdam is a primo example, a stately old church back in the day that morphed in the 60's into THE premiere Dutch showcase for the cream of contemporary Gesang der Junglings (music for children of all ages, i.e., everybody, given half a chance to throw off their curmudgeonly psychic armor)--the Velvets did their Amsterdam reunion gig their, Stones played their too a few years ago, I've played there about 20 times beginning in 1980 with Captain Beefheart, and never fail to get an intense spiritual lift (like, way over yonder, to quote James Brown) performing there...played a wonderful old church in Hamburg around '98 doing a solo guitar concert that was dedicated as spiritual explorations into the realm of the sacred (a hip young female pastor booked this gig), acoustics are usually awesome in such venues and this was no exception...played a synagogue in Miami a couple years ago right across from Jackie Gleason's old auditorium that had similar marvelous sound...St. Ann's in Brooklyn was of course a fantastic place to play for some years for avant-garde musicians/singer-songwriters thanks to the tireless efforts of artistic directors Susan Feldman and Janine Nichols, Susan has since dome a wonderful job developing the Arts at St. Ann's Warehouse under the Manhattan Bridge ( St. Ann's is where I first met the miracle of 24 year old Jeff Buckley)... played in the cemetery in Jedwabne Poland in July 2001 after an official apology ceremony in a field nearby presided over by the president of Poland who dedicated a memorial to the slain Jewish community decimated in July 1941 (among whom I number my family on my mother's side)...

Gary performs at the "Wine Cellar Cabaret", Eldridge Street Synagogue, NYC, 10/18/06

Shelley Hirsch, Bob Holman and Gary at the Eldridge Street Synagogue "Wine Cellar Cabaret" event, NYC, 10/18/06

photos by Rachel Rabhan | Click to enlarge

and just played the magnificent crumbling 19th century Eldridge Street Synagogue in the heart of Chinatown, in the company of vocal alchemist Shelley Hirsch and word magician Bob Holman...the place fell into desuetude some years ago and is now a designated landmarked NYC historical site, and I'm embarrassed to say I had never visited there before in after almost 30 years of living here until I get asked to perform there by Hannah Griff (thank you Hannah!), who is doing a fantastic job bringing new cultural events/artists in to reconsecrate the space, which still retains its Moorish decor on the walls over the bimeh (they are working to reconstruct the interior fully now)...Bob and I took a stroll into Chinatown before our performance and wandered into an incredible hole in the wall named Prosperity Dumplings (hear hear) where you could get 5 decidedly non-kosher fried pork or veggie dumplings for a buck fifty...such a deal! Afterwards Shelley and Bob made with the words, Shelley with her amazing vocalese skills is a real speaker-in- tongues, and is one of the pioneers on the Downtown scene (I first caught her at a Sunday Brunch in '82 with Denman Maroney), Bob of course is the renowned poet/proprietor of the Bowery Poetry Club/professor up at Columbia and is a joy to know and work with...I played steel guitar improvs while the pair riffed, bent, twisted, and recombined some of Bob's word jazz texts and the sounds floated up to the heavens and rang out in the rafters of this ancient Jewish tabernacle...audience was a gratifying mix of young and old folks and I look forward to returning there to play as it felt like home, you opened the door and walked into another world, I can't really describe the sensation, but the place retains the smell, the musty atmosphere, spirits of times you'd think were long gone are still hovering there watching over the place..

saw a magnificent concert at Carnegie Hall last night on the occasion of Steve Reich's 70th birthday, I've loved his music ever since purchasing the budget priced Odyssey album in the 60's of new electronic music that had Reich's great spoken word loop piece "Come Out" on it (a phrase from which, "Come Out to Show Them", was quoted by Don Van Vliet/Captain Beefheart at the end of his "Moonlight on Vermont" composition from his "Trout Mask Replica" album, which DVV admitted to me on first meeting him)...I sat next to Steve Reich at one of Michael Dorf's Downtown Seders at the Museum of Jewish Heritage a couple years ago which also had Lou Reed, Laurie Anderson, Daniel Liebeskind, Jerry Stiller, Janis Siegel from Manhattan Transfer, Basya Schecter, Yale Evelev, and a host of other luminaries attending/performing, he was exceedingly friendly to me, said he'd heard about Beefheart's appropriation but had never actually heard it, anyway last night's performance of his "Music for 18 Musicians" literally had me and my friend Tim Powell and Jody Breslau catching our breath at the finis it was that powerful, hypnotic, transcendental...some of his music played by the great Kronos Quartet and Pat Metheny in the first half of the concert brought tears to my eyes...ran into Bob Hurwitz from Nonesuch in the interval and he was beaming at all the good vibes and great music resounding all around that evening (it was absolutely sold-out)--best concert I've ever seen at Carnegie Hall since I saw my original musical mentor Leonard Bernstein ("Music's Monarch" is how the Times described him upon his death, in a banner headline) conduct the NYPO (he was by then their Conductor Emeritus) in Mahler's First Symphony during in the late 70's...

I'm off to LA now to work in the studio with Chris Cornell on his new solo album in the company of the great producer Steve Lillywhite (U2, among others). Chris was the Voice of Soundgarden, and currently Audioslave--and he is one of the best singers I've ever heard, bar none...and I'm really honored to be working with him.




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