Sunday, December 09, 2007

The Spirit Made Fleisch

Just back from a mind-bending, transcendent out of town gig up at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in North Adams, just down the round apiece from lovely Williamstown, currently a veritable winter wonderland in the Berkshires where the snow lay roundabout deep and crisp and even though I did not bring my full arsenal of guitars and effects I did more than manage to move the crowd effectively with my lone 1926 National steel guitar and voice, as part of a program entitled "Songs of the Spirit"...a really good and comprehensive community rallying point focused on ecumenical devotional music and otherwise that has been an ongoing work in progress for the last couple year courtesy of my friends Jonathan Secor and Brian Young...Jonathan I've known for many years as the former booking agent for Mass MOCA, where I've performed several times in the past, and who's now ensconced at MCLA--and Brian, a music producer, curator and audio whiz I know from bumping into at several music events here in the city, particularly Globalfest...

They had asked me to take part in a program of spiritual songs that also featured the Pakistani-American rock guitarist/singer, leader of Pakistani rock gods Junoon, and roving global ambassador Dr. Salman Ahmad, who I'd met once before at Steve Paul's house in the city (small world), and who was en route to Oslo the day after our show to perform at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremonies along with Alicia Keys and several others... Salman is a great guy and a superb musician...and he's also friends with the my friend fantastic UK-based Indian female vocalist Najma Akhtar with whom I've been in the studio collaborating on new songs (small world indeed!)...

and after my solo set, which ranged from my arrangement of "Let My People Go" to my original "Jericho" to the Hebrew hymn "Hinay Ma Tov" to "The Minstrel Boy" (perhaps the oldest pop song in the English language as popularized by the Irish tenor John McCormack, based on the Irish melody "The Moreen" and featuring pointed anti-war lyrics by Thomas Moore--a fantastic version sung by Joe Strummer appears over the closing credits to the film "Black Hawk Down")--which got a rousing reception from several hundred folks who had crowded into a former Jewish temple that's been converted into an MCLA auditorium...

afterwards I was invited to jam with him and his excellent tabla player Dibyarka Chatterjee, the son of S. Chatterjee, the famous Indian musician--and we really kicked it up a notch-BAM-jamming on Salman's tune "Bulleya", a minor key blues raga from the Junoon album "Parvaaz", me improvising glass-finger bottleneck lines against his rapidly strummed electro-acoustic, while Dibyarka lay down a groove that wouldn't quit...and then we were joined by the opening act, estimable local singer/songwriter/guitarist Jamie Choquette and his rocking band (big props for Jamie's kicking rhythm section) on the Carlos Santana song "The Calling", I switched over to my '66 strat and let it rip...and what can I say, the place went nuts--we 3 guitarists took turns weaving solos in and out of the hypnotic groove, and Jamie's female vocalist really added a soulful and funky touch to the proceedings...special mention should also be made of the local Children's Choir who opened the evening and who were delightful to listen to...and also the readings from various interdenominational spiritual texts between each set from some of the MCLA student body members...I also want to thank graduating senior Courtney Parker for her very gracious hospitality in helping to arrange an incredibly smooth and easy gig all the way (they should all be as nice as this one!)...

The week before, Gods and Monsters held sway at our beloved Bowery Poetry Club (you can see some shots of us max'n and relax'n taken here by Siobhan Mullen, the fetching Irish rock photographer known as "Shivers"), my friend Max and her guy were also filming it and snapping madly away, can't wait to see the video footage...Ernie, Joey, Jason and Billy played as men possessed as we debuted 5 new songs, which went over really really well with the crowd-- plus we were joined by Jerry Harrison's daughter Aishlin, who is currently studying at the Clive Davis School of Recorded Music at NYU, on a rousing version of "Ultra-Shark"--yeah!!

Gods and Monsters (l to r: Jason Candler, Billy Ficca, Gary Lucas, Aishlin Harrison, Joe Hendel and Ernie Brooks) at the Bowery Poetry Club, NYC, 12/1/07

Gods and Monsters at the Bowery Poetry Club, NYC, 12/1/07

Gods and Monsters serve tongue, NYC, 12/1/07

Gary and Aishlin Harrison, Gods and Monsters at the Bowery Poetry Club, NYC, 12/1/07

photos by Shivers | Click to enlarge

This week I'm playing with the extremely talented, witty and debonair Nick Reece, a modern day Oscar Wilde, providing music for his one-man show "The Art of Being Nick" at Ars Nova in the city on Tuesday night...followed by a one-on-one reunion Thursday night at the Bowery Poetry Club with my old co-conspirator in Fun, Peter Stampfel, in the guise of our psychedelic folk duo The Du-Tels, to cap and celebrate a week-long screening of the documentary about Peter's legendary band The Holy Modal Rounders, "Bound to Lose", which is playing at the Anthology Film Archives all week (hint hint) and which I've already written about extensively in this here blog...Peter is a veritable American folk music institution (who should be institutionalized-- just kidding!)...and he and I are going to revisit our very extensive backlog of songs old and new and borrowed and blue and green and chartreuse--chestnuts roasting on an open fire of the heart and hearth, you might say--a veritable Fleischerei (check my "Fleischerei", a tribute to the great Max Fleischer, in a National steel medley of Betty Boop and Popeye 'toon tunes on my Tzadik album "Busy Being Born")--including a few Xmas goodies, and even a few Hannukah ones as well (if you count Groucho's "Everyone Says 'I Love You' as a Hannukah song, that is!..)...(btw, the Du-Tels album "No Knowledge of Music Required", which was mucho praised in Rolling Stone upon release a few years ago, should be up and available for downloading at Itunes and elsewhere before ya know it...)




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