Sunday, December 20, 2009

Two Wings Good

About 6 weeks from my last posting and, hmmm, what can I say? A whirlwind of activity leaving me with little time to blog, a shame as I like to communicate with you guys as much as possible, but really, sometimes the business of living supercedes the telling of the tale... sometimes I had the best intentions to write after a show, only to find myself drained and with a few hours only to recuperate before heading for the next city (a fairly grueling schedule in another words for what was an amazing jaunt to 8 countries) I have a bit of free time as I am just back from Havana and still basking in the warmth of the sun despite freezing temperatures and a major snowfall outside here in NYC--so let's go to the video:

this particular jaunt overseas began the day after a salute to my friend and supporter the late great music writer Robert Palmer at the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame annex in Soho the night before I left for Las Palmas in the Canary Islands to perform with Najma Akhtar at the WOMAD Festival...a new book entitled "Blues and Chaos" (Scribners) is just out collecting some of the best of his incredibly erudite and passionate writing about all sorts of music; suffice to say, Bob Palmer was just about the best critic going in my estimation as he was also a player of note (get a copy of his band The Insect Trust's album on Capitol if you can find it) and could really inhabit the spirit of what he was trying to describe/evaluate--and as they say, he who feels it, knows it--I have a tape of him jamming with the Delta bluesman Cedell Davis at the old Tramps from the early 80s (Robert played a mean clarinet), plus he recorded with the Master Musicians of Joujouka, produced the great R.L. Burnside (their album "Goin' Down South" is a classic), and wrote THE classic book in the blues canon, "Deep Blues", the reading of which sustained me greatly during a very dark period in my life after the bust-up with my first wife in 1981--and also turned me on to seeking out some amazing music I never knew existed which has become part of my life ever since...and Robert was one of my first major encouragers when I decided to go pro in 1990, he gave my 1992 Gods and Monsters album on Enemy 4 stars in Rolling Stone...his ex-wife Debra Rae Cohen is an old friend going back to my days at Yale, and his daughter Augusta became a new friend upon the release of my 2001 "Edge of Heaven" album as she was heading up NYU's Chinese studies Department at the time (Flash! "The Edge of Heaven" will be officially re-released worldwide on Knitting Factory Records March 16th 2010, with 2 bonus tracks)...the party was a great success, I took my guy Mitch Myers along and ran into alot of old friends including Lenny Kaye, Vivien Goldman, Richard Barone, Robert Christgau, Josh Feigenbaum, Bob George, Ted Drozdowski, Anthony DeCurtis, Andy Schwartz, a whole bunch of folks I hadn't seen in awhile...

Next day I flew out to Las Palmas in the Canary Islands with a stop at the Madrid airport--quite a humid, balmy and tropical switcheroo from the grey coldness encroaching on New Yawk, one of the reasons I like touring so much...Najma and Sirish Manji our tabla player arrived a few hours later and we had a nice reunion followed by a rehearsal in a hotel conference room...the next day Najma and I spoke at a press conference at noon, some of which you can read here in Spanish, from the Canariasaldia website...the journalist described our show on the mainstage as "possibly the most interesting concert of the festival", and it was a good one, our first major live show since the release of "Rishte" followed on the heels of a workshop we gave on the cross cultural blues and Indian music connection, which was well received, Najma had the crowd going teaching them Indian scales, and we did an incantatory "Special Rider Blues"...and then we hit around 9pm on the mainstage with a sea of fans in front of us, Najma sang like an angel and Sirish and I rocked out on the various songs ("Soul Taker" was a real standout, as was "Parda")...and at the end the 5000 plus crowd gave us a mighty cheer and sustained ovation...there is footage from the concert now that we are reviewing and hope to post some of these clips on my YouTube OutFromUnderLive channel in the near future--so keep watching that space! Special thanks to Paula Henderson, Julie Guerrin and Rebecca Jones for such a super job of coordinating what must have been a staggeringly difficult festival to pull off so smoothly...

Gary, Najma and Sirish Manji at WOMAD Las Palmas, 11/14/09

Gary and Najma, mainstage WOMAD Festival Las Palmas Canary Islands 11/14/09

Gary and Najma rock out at WOMAD Festival Las Palmas, mainstage 11/14/09

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Next day we spent walking around and checking out the sites and sounds of Las Palmas--what a beautiful city, our hotel was situated right on the boardwalk ocean-front, and we found some delightful places to eat and hang, we saw some great acts also that evening including a workshop with Justin Adams and and the amazing Juldeh Camara...and then next day everyone departed and I was left alone in the hotel to work feverishly on my new solo score for the Spanish "Dracula" which I was due to premiere on Dec. 11th at the Havana Film Festival (I do some of my best writing in hotel rooms--no distractions!!)...two days of solitude and then it was off to Malaga Spain to play my "Sounds of the Surreal/Monsters from the Id" projects at Fancine, the Malaga Fantasy Film Festival courtesy of my friend Hector Marquez...Hector had done a wonderful job promoting this particular appearance with an interview in the week long festival program book...but truth to tell I was lucky to be able to play this as Vueling Airlines (the worst!) forced me to check my 2 guitars, which I normally carry on the plane on my back, in the hold of the plane (AND pay 200e overweight for this privilege!), with the result that when I arrived and was met by Hector's girlfriend lovely Eliezer Godoy outside Customs I immediately checked the guitars--and damn if my Dimarzio pickup hadnt come loose in my 1946 Gibson J'45 acoustic and was flopping around in the body of the guitar itself...lucky for me Hector's friend lovely Elena Aparicio Mainar knew a luthier, so the afternoon before the concert I was able to get my guitar repaired, no problemo (whew!)...and what an amazing gig I had on Nov. 19th, at a brilliant old cinema in Malaga, the gig was packed and I received a wonderful writeup in the local paper La Opinion de Malaga afterwards...Malaga was as always so much fun, after the show Hector Eliezer and Eliezer's niece went out and feasted on fried fish and serrano ham and tapas mmmmmmm...

Gary and his friend Eliezer Godoy contemplate an emergency repair of Gary's J-45, Malaga Spain 11/ 19/09

Gary does the brontosaurus playing "Monsters from the Id", Malaga Fancine 11/19/09

Gary plays "Sounds of the Surreal" at Malaga Fantasy Film Festival 11/19/09

Gary confronts "The Brain Who Wouldn't Die" performing "Monsters from the Id", Fancine Malaga Spain 11/19/09

Gary plays "Monsters from the Id", Fancine Malaga 11/19/09

Gary contemplates the void playing to Rene Clair's "Entr'acte", Fancine Malaga Spain 11/24/09

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Then it was off to Paris for a couple days, where I visited my old friends art-photographers Mark Lyon and Laura Brunelliere, saw the amazing young singer/actress Lou Lesage perform on the outskirts of Paris the night I arrived, and hung with their friends (and Lou's parents) Pierre Emery and Gil Lesage ... and holed up at my beloved Terrass Hotel working hard on my Spanish "Dracula" score...

Jumping to Venice, where I was met by photographer/new music devotee Pat Ferro, and later hooked up with my partner in Chase the Devil, Dean Bowman...Venice in late November was a shimmering misty jewel, and after great meal in the Ghetto at Kosher restaurant Gam-Gam with Pat I retired early as had to catch an early morning train to Trieste with Dean where were met and driven over the Italian border into Croatia to begin our Chase the Devil tour that in lovely Pula on the Adriatic coast... Pula was spectacularly scenic (with a wonderful standing Coliseum from Roman occupation days that rivals Verona's), and our promoter Željko Marković had done a splendid job promoting 2 nights for us there in a cinema, they were showing "2012" there which I thought was an appropriate opening act for us, as Dean and I are all about injecting positive spiritual energy and a healing vibe in our music, and God (only) knows the post-apocalyptic world could use more of this :-) The crowds were large and enthusiastic both nights, there were posters everywhere and a 2 page spread/ interview with us in the major newspaper Glas Istre, which you can read an excerpt from here...and Dean sang his heart out God bless him, the first night we did everything we knew and then some for a full hour and 45 minutes, the second night we scaled back the show a bit time-wise so as best to preserve his magnificent pipes.

Arriving in Venice, 11/24/09

Gary and Dean Bowman (Chase the Devil), Pula Croatia 11/25/09

Gary and Dean Chase the Devil, Pula Croatia 11/25/09

Concert promoter Željko Marković and Gary, Pula Croatia 11/25/09

Gary and Dean in Pula Croatia, 11/25/09

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Then it was back to Italy by train through Venice and up to Firenze, one of my favorite cities in the world, I last played there in the late 90's at the Teatro Verdi performing with "The Golem" on a bill with John Zorn and Mike Patton doing their improv thing and Phillip Johnston and the Micros accompanying Georges Melies films...this time we were booked in the Museo Marini Maritimi, originally a 9th century church and now a fantastic modern art museum, the place was filled to capacity and after a fantastic meal of Tuscan food at the wonderful "Il Lantini" ristorante with the promoters from Musicus Concentus Fernando and Giuseppe we played perhaps the best set of our tour, on hand as a special guest was lovely Marina Conti who journeyed to Florence from Roma to sit in on the show and with whom I last performed at the Madame Guitar Festival in September near Udine, Marina sang an amazing version of "Mojo Pin" that really moved he crowd to tears. day was a grueling travel day, up at 5 to catch a plane at 7 to Munich, then another plane to Berlin Tempelhof...from there we cabbed it to Ost Bahnhof only to find the regional train service, which was to have taken us to Frankfurt Oder, was out of service that weekend due to rail we wound u racing to another train station to take an S train to a small town, then a bus (!) to another small town, and finally another S train to Frankfurt Oder...when we arrived we found ourselves in the middle of huge Vocal Music Festival, with some wonderful acts on display from all over the world, kind of a mini WOMAD Festival, we had a good set when it was our turn and then it was up again early the next day for a train ride or 2 into the Austrian alps, where we settled in lovely Schwaz near Innsbruck for a gig at the great Eremitage club, I've played there several times and you get a wonderfully appreciative audience who really know their music, our wonderful agents from Saudades Tourneen in nearby Rotholz including the indefatigable Jakob Flarer plus Anna, Barbara and Wolfgang showed up en masse and we had a nice reunion, these angels had done a terrific job putting together this our first European tour and judging by their reaction and the crowds who gathered for our concerts throughout there will be more to come :-)

Chase the Devil in Frankfurt Oder, 11/26/09

Gary and Dean with Giuseppe from Musicus Concentus, Firenze Italy 11/27/09

Chase the Devil at Museum Marini Maritimi, Firene Italy 11/27/09

Chase the Devil at Vocal Music Festival in Frankfurt Oder 11/28/09

Gary and Dean in Innsbruck Austria 11/30/09

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Right about this time I got sent an amazing review of my "Rishte" album with Najma, from the latest Rolling Stone, courtesy of one of my longtime supporters David Fricke, a true saint of music who has consistently championed my playing and been in my corner since my first appearance on record with the release of "Doc at the Radar Station" ( for the last 30 years, in other words)...David really knows his stuff--excellent, informative and erudite, what can I say, David came through again with an absolute rave blush blush...

Another long travel day ensued with many changed of trains into the heart of the Czech Republic past Prague into Ust Nad Labem, a town I hadn't played in before (and I must have played about 10 cities in all in the CR over the ancestral roots on my Dad's side are there in fact, my Grandfather being born in Bohemia), weather was getting colder but still we had a fine show marked by the appearance of my old friend Richard "Faust" Mader, with whom I recorded "The Ghosts of Prague" and "Free Flying" in his Prague studio some years ago (the former is available for download on iTunes, the latter should be released digitally next year)...and the promoter Stepan Sucholeb, fresh from organizing celebrstions in Prague marking the 20th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution, was another friendy familiar face, as he had promoted several concerts of mines in Prague over the years...

Chase the Devil at Narodni Dum, Usti nad Labem, Czech Republic 12/2/09

Gary and Dean triumphant at the end of their final Chase the Devil European tour concert in Venice, 12/3/09

Full moon over Venice: Gary, Dean, and Silvia before Chase the Devil's final concert of their 2009 European Tour 12/3/09

Gary and Dean's final European tour concert in Venezia, 12/3/09

Gary chases the devil, Teatro Fondamenti Nuove, Venice Italy 12/3/09

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Next day we took a plane from Prague back to Venice, for perhaps our best concert of the tour...had a few hours to walk around the most lovely of European cities before we set up at a beautiful theater right off a canal under the aegis of Enrico Bettinello, who treated Dean and I to a wonderful Venetian meal before the show...the place was packed, and I think it fair to say we brought the house down, there is something about final shows on a tour that spurs one on to give their best...and our friend Pat Ferro showed up with a couple boxes of advance copies of our debut CD for Knitting Factory/Sony Red, they officially will be released on March 16th (along with my "Edge of Heaven" album) but the good folks at the label had pressed up some advance copies for us to sell on our tour; sadly, they had been held up in Italian customs until finally being liberated by any case we sold 20 immediately out of the box as they say, which bodes very well for the album I would say judging by consume reactin :-) (it's a good 'un, as they say...)

Home for a day and a half and then down to Nassau where I caught a plane to beautiful Havana--I's been invited to perform the world premiere of my new score for the 1931 Spanish "Dracula" at the 31st Havana Film Festival on Dec. 11th by invitation of the Festival Internacional del Nuevo Cine Latinomerica, and this trip stands out as a highpoint of the year for me (a year in which I made performing debuts in Brazil, Colombia and South America), a high point of my entire career in fact...

Such gracious warm and friendly people I met in Havana!! Special mention should be made here of wonderful Zita Morrina and Ivan Giroud, the programmers of the festival who ensconced me for 8 night at the fabulous 30's art-deco jewel, the Hotel Nacional de Cuba overlooking the Malecon...other fantastic folks I met include lovely Esther Cardoso the director of the Gaia Arts Centre, one of the most amazing theater spaces I've ever seen, a huge stage under a tent on the roof of an old building in downtown Havana with a view of the city to die for, Esther is partners in the arts ceter with my pal the English director Sebastian Doggart whose film "Courting Condi" was screening at the festival which is a terrifically funny and pointed film you should definitely try and catch, I recently contributed music to his latest documentary "American Faust" which just got a glowing review in the Huffington Post, you can order a copy of this stirring and very timely documentary now from Indies Direct...Esther took me to lunch on my first day there to La Divina Pastora, a wonderful Cuban restaurant situated next to an old fort across the bay facing downtown Havana, and later escorted me on a tour through misty old Havana late at night with wonderful live music spilling out on the street from so many clubs and bars and restaurants...Esther's cousin the dramaturge Mercedes Ruiz and her husband the fantastic singer/guitarist Aris Garit and their daughter Cynthis were a delight to hang with and cooked me several memorable meals including my favorite ropa vieja with rice and beans and sweet plantains mmmmmmmm...Toby Brocklhurts, an amazing English expat who knos all the ins and outs of Cubawas a wonderful Our Man in Havana type guide who was very very helpful and took me out the last night there to see some aming singers at the One Eyed Cat Bar near the hotel...and Toby's friend Luis Molina and his wonderful wife Olquita, Luis is one of the best guitarists in Cuba and leads a fantastic rock band Magical Beats, I jammed with him and them on two occasions and they knocked me out totally (the band consists of bass drums and guitar and 4 female flautists who did amazing work on a transcendental version of "Strawberry Fields Forever"--Luis is a big Beatles freak)...

Gary with Mercedes Ruiz and Gaia Arts Center founder Esther Cardoso, Havana Cuba 12/9/09

Gary at La Divina Pastora restaurant, Havana Cuba 12/09/09

Gary plays the world premiere of his Spanish "Dracula" score at the 31st Havana Film Festival, La Rampa Cinema 12/09/09

Spanish "Dracula" premiere, Havana Cuba 12/09/09

Spanish "Dracula" world premiere Havana Cuba 12/09/09

Gary plays Spanish "Dracula", Havana Film Festival, La Rampa Theater 12/11/09

Gary and his helpers/handlers Milton and Melba from the Havana Film Festival, Hotel Nacional De Cuba 12/11/09

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and the gig was a dream, special thanks to Melba and Milton from the Havana Film Festival who acted as my handlers/helpers, the La Rampa Cinema was absolutely packed with a fantastic mixture of [people, young and old, black and white, I played non stop for an hour and forty five minutes and received a prolonged ovation at the end , I was introduced by the chief film critic of Cuba who gave some background about the film (which was re-discovered in the 80;s in the Havana Film Archive! Yoj might say I was bringing Spanish "Dracula" back home...)...I received a major rave review and an interview in Granma, the main newspaper of Cuba a couple days later, web master Tany should be posting an English translation shortly...there was also a nice interview that ran in the Diario del Festival, the daily newspaper that was published each day and distributed around the festival events...and the official festival program book contained a page about my screening as well...I was so sorry to have to leave I can tell you, I was treated so nicely during my stay that I was missing the island even before I departed for snowy NYC Dec. 15th...

Entering La Rampa Cinema Havana Cuba for Spanish "Dracula" soundcheck 12/11/09

La Rampa Cinema lobby, Havana Film Festival 12/11/09

Gary plays Spanish "Dracula", world premiere La Rampa Cinema Havana Cuba 12/11/09

Great audience at La Rampa Cinema in Havana waiting for Spanish "Dracula" to begin 12/11/09

Great audience for Spanish "Dracula" premiere, La Rampa Cinema Havana 12/11/09

"La Sangre es La Vida, Signor Renfield"—Spanish "Dracula" premiere, Havana 12/11/09

Gary and his friend amazing Cuban guitarist Luis Molina

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Back now, and about to head off in an hour to London with Caroline for a working holiday/mother-in-law visit...

Meanwhile here's my Best of 2009 which ran in the Portuguese music magazine Bodyspace...and special mention should be made of two theatrical productions that were totally outstanding in 2009, "Fela!" on Broadway, which I've already written about extensively...and the Kneehigh Theater's production of Noel Coward's "Brief Encounter" which is playing now at St. Ann's Warehouse in Brooklyn, Susan Feldman, who was a major early supporter of my work with Jeff Buckley is the artistic director there, and she has done a fantastic job bringing all sorts of great theater and music to us jaded New Yorkers--both of these shows are not to miss!!

Lulu loves the snow...NYC 12/20/09

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And lastly, get ahold of Tim Lawrence's great book about my dear friend the late great Arthur Russell, "Hold On to Your Dreams" is a thoroughly engaging and gripping account of this crazy maverick musician who should be alot better known in the world...and thanks to Tim's great book, the tide is turning :-)

And I'll leave you now on a very, very high note...

(you don't have to be a believer to dig the spirit here)

Happy Holidays!!




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