Posts Tagged ‘John Coltrane

10
Feb
09

Concert from another time

I went over to the refurbished Waterbury Palace Sunday to see the Derek Trucks Band. The concert had a vibe that can only be described as straight from the ’60s. That’s what I said to my son, Matthew, who is 11, in between one of the songs of the approximately one-hour, 45-minute set. I told him if he ever wanted to know what it was like to be at a late ’60s concert, this was it.

That appears to be one of the things Trucks and his capable group of musicians intends to achieve each night as they start a long tour of the States this month in support of their recently released album Already Free.

dtrucks3The setting was perfect for it. The Palace is a proscenium theater, with its newly reupholstered red velvet seats, in all its original ornate glory, particularly the design and decor of the ceiling,walls and balcony of the hall. The light show, projected from the back of the stage, provided stunning yet subtle atmospherics, and the band played a bluesy roots style of music with world and jazz shadings that put the emphasis on inprovisational playing, everything that turned the music and show business in general on its ear from about 1966 to 1969. Probably most important the audience sat and listened to the music for about 90 percent of the show, with the exception of several standing ovations and the encore, unlike the mindless standing throughout an entire concert you find at venues such as The Meadows and even the Oakdale Theater.

The performance was low-key as far as stage presence with very little chatter in between songs, but it was absolutely incendiary during the 12 tunes, many drawn from Trucks’ six studio albums.

Trucks plays slide guitar, with chords mixed in, about 80 percent of the time and he is a master of the technique, perhaps the greatest of his time, along with his friend and collaborator Doyle Bramhall II. In a type of playing that would seemingly have limited technical options available, Trucks, who plays without a pick, never lacks for creativity, using the slide in expressive and unique ways, always balancing melodic development with raging fire.

When he does take it off and plays single string solos as he did on two numbers, he shows just as much improvisational skill and inspiration. In the middle of the set, the band played Alan Toussaint’s Get Out Of My Life, Woman, made popular in the ’60s by the great Paul Butterfield Blues Band, and later John Coltrane’s interpretation of My Favorite Things, both extended versions that saw Trucks soloing single string style with the first perhaps the most interesting and moving solo of the night.

The rest of Trucks band is stellar, including Kori Burbridge, equally adept on an array of keyboards, including Hammond B-3 and clavinet, and flute; Todd Smallie, bass; Yonrico Scott, drums; Mike Mattison, lead vocals; and Count M’Butu, percussion. Several of Burbridge’s solos on keys and his answer backs with Trucks on two tunes were inventive and soulful. His flute playing is at once precise, flowing and technically adept.

The band included their Dylan cover of Down In The Flood from Already Free as the second song of the set, fueled by Trucks’ driving slide rhythm and two songs later played the Eastern flavored Sahib Teri Bandi/Maki Madni, both of which featured melodic lines and solos with strong Indian influences.

Meet Me At The Bottom, a John Lee Hooker song with a riff similar to Rollin’ And Tumblin’, highlighted a lower volume, two-song segment in which both Mattison and Trucks sat at the front of the stage. They closed the main set with a ripping version of Sleepy Johns Estes’ Leavin’ Trunk, made popular by Taj Mahal on his first album in the ’60s, and the encore was the title tune from Soul Serenade.

The evening was sheer pleasure as we were transported back to a time when music, performance and creativity were the order of the day. Nice to be reminded of it.

The set list:

I Know

Down In The Flood

Crow Jane

Sahib Teri Bandi/Maki Madni

Get Out Of My Life, Woman

Already Free

Meet Me At The Bottom

Blind, Crippled & Crazy

My Favorite Things

We’re A Winner

Leavin’ Trunk

Soul Serenade

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03
Feb
09

CT Rock ‘n Roll: Pulse Part 2

I touched on a sliver of Connecticut Rock ‘n Roll in the ’60s in a previous post. Here is a little more of the story, particularly to clear up some misconceptions and inaccuracies that have been on the web for a long time.

bramriggsetwpaulsPulse was a group formed from the ashes of two bands managed by Doc Cavalier, who owned Syncron Studios in Wallingford, later Trod Nossel. One was the Bram Rigg Set (left), who had formed in 1966 and had a single on Kayden, I Can Only Give You Everything, the other the Shags, who had enjoyed great popularity in New Haven and the state for several years with singles such as Wait And See and Hey Little Girl. Both broke up in the summer of 1967.

The break-ups were motivated by Doc to form one stronger group from the two. I had been with the Bram Rigg Set for only about six months and toward the end of that time the band was fracturing. In 1967, our lead singer Bob Schlosser was already living in Rhode Island and by the summer we were not rehearsing as a full band and usually only playing on weekends. The Shags had several regional hit singles to their credit but their popularity was waning a bit.

The first version of the band, which was called The Pulse, note the subtle difference, was made up of three members of the Shags and three from the Bram Rigg Set.  From the Shags – Carl Donnell, vocals and guitar, Tommy Roberts; vocals and guitar and Lance Gardiner, bass; from Bram Rigg – Beau Segal, drums, Peter Neri, guitar and Rich Bednarcyk, keyboards.

There are a couple of interviews out there that say this group had two bass players and I was one of them. That’s ridiculous, there were never two bass players. I never rehearsed with this version of the band. Since I was going to school in Boston, first to Boston University and then Berklee School (later College) of Music, I was just not available. And I’m sure Roberts wanted Lance in the band. That was fine with me at the time, despite my missing playing with Beau, Peter and Rich, with whom I’d formed a strong musical bond.

The Pulse went into the studio and started recording. From what I gleaned from Beau they were trying to come up with a single. They did and Doc sold it to ATCO, a subsidiary of Atlantic. Unfortunately the tune was Can-Can Girl, a bubble gum confection written by Roberts with the famous Can-Can melody on horns grafted into the middle of it. It quickly disappeared. The B side, a little more esoteric, was called Burritt Bradley. The single can still be found on eBay as well as record fairs for about $40.

This went on for about six months. I’m not sure what exactly precipitated the breakup but by the beginning of 1968 I received a phone call from Beau and he asked me if I wanted to be in Pulse, a new version of the group that would be a blues-rock based outfit. I said yes and ruined my college life, well to some extent. Because for the next four months or so I commuted on weekends to Wallingford for rehersals. But it was well worth it.

In fact, it was quite a heady time for me musically. During the week, I was studying doublebasse with an extraordinary player, Nate Hyglund. I had bought a beautiful Czechoslovakian bass in Boston and a french bow and was learning classical pieces even though Berklee was a jazz school. Looking back, what’s funny, considering Berklee has become more of a contemporary music school with strong jazz roots, is that electric bass was a non-entity at the school. It didn’t exist.

I’ll never forget near the end of the semester, Nate  brought an electric bass he picked up into a rehersal room I was practicing in to ask me what I thought about it because he had no idea. He had gotten lucky. He had a weathered but beautiful Fender Precision he bought for a song. He planned to use it on some pickup gigs around town.

It was a truly amazing atmosphere to be in. I was studying arranging with Herb Pomeroy, the inspirational trumpet player and teacher, and alto sax player John LaPorta! I mean John LaPorta had played with Charlie Mingus for freak’s sakes. Pomeroy on occasion played with a faculty sextet around Boston that included Charlie Mariano, another legend who recorded on Impulse, played with many greats from that label and had been married to Toshiko Akioshi, who would later lead one of the greatest big bands in the world.

Another wonderful thing about being at Berklee was it had an extensive reel-to-reel tape section in its library on the top floor of the old building on Bolyston Street, where all the classrooms were housed. I spent hours and hours listening to everything from Coltrane to Miles to Monk to Mingus. They actually had a copy of Sgt. Pepper’s, so the school was getting hip to pop and rock, but for the most part I just absorbed all of this great jazz from the late ’40s to mid-’60s, discovering all kinds of musicians I had not been exposed to such as Eric Dolphy, who played with Trane, and John Handy, who was on some Mingus sessions as well as leading his own quintet, and so many more.

One last thing about Boston. I went to Club 47 in Cambridge that semester to see the Gary Burton Quartet, one of the first true fusion bands. Burton was an alum of Berklee who played vibes like few others. He had recruited a young guitar player, Larry Coryell, who is still one of the only players I’ve ever heard who can cross over from jazz to rock and back and not sound like he’s a jazz player playing rock. Bobby Moses was the drummer and the inventive Steve Swallow the bassist. It was definitely one of the most memorable concerts I’ve seen and believe me I’ve seen hundreds over the years. My date had to drag me out of the club after their second set because she had to get back to her dorm.

All that was during the week. On the weekend, I was in a very hip blues-rock group with my best friends. You couldn’t ask for much more.

More later.

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