Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Heartbroken again

Visions' closed. What the hell? Anything independent left? I saw a few cool movies here: Brown Bunny, Panic, Venus Beauty Institute, Happenstance, Chris Nolan's Following, and the Legend of Ron Jeremy. Most of all, I miss the Bar Noir!

What a shame.


Inspirations don't come very easily

Other people's vacations make me smile, especially when their experience is so different from mine. Some people have the ability to enjoy the simplest things in life. I do admit I have a tendency to be difficult at times. Life's short. Might as well enjoy as it goes.

Nothing interesting to report except this is a busy time of the year when my Mom and my aunt visit and my brother's graduation is today and tomorrow. Al Gore is the keynote speaker. I'm interested in hearing what he has to say. Friday we're flying to New Hampshire to attend my cousin's graduation and I'll reunite with my high school buddy Yu Lui, a genius in his own right.

It's funny how the harshest critics of your stuff have actually not heard your stuff. I've been reading Miles Davis' autobiography and he proclaims he hates the critics. Critics were especially harsh on him in the beginning because he was young and came from a wealthy family. He says while critics hated what he was doing at the time, fellow musicians gave him the kudos. It's true. Miles proposes that they should make fellow musicians the critics. If a heavyweight musician does not mind playing with you or ask you to sit in all the time or call you for gigs, you know you're doing the right thing. The ones who post nasty things on bulletin board or send you nasty, vicious e-mail, you can be confident that they have never been to your gigs or heard you because you have never seen them before. They only heard it through the grapevine and specialized in name-dropping.

I've heard so many praises about the Nighthawks from people who have never gone to a Nighthawks show. I'm not berating the Nighthawks; they are a very good band. But you can't make that assumption until you have actually heard them live or on CD. I hate name-dropping. Clarence may not be a household name but he deserves more credit than he is given. Paul from Groove Authority says, "This band is some of the realest blues I've heard, and I've been everywhere in the country and listened to a lot of blues." Mary Shaver, after playing the Elise Martin Crosby fundraiser gig, said to me, "You can hold your own as one of DC's best harmonica players." Thanks, Mary.

I treasure these opinions because these are fellow musicians who have heard me play and played with me and they have the first-hand account of what really happens. Last Saturday, we played Toulouse and the band never sounded better. Borrowing Jeff's phrase, if you haven't seen this band, you're a dumb loser.


Monday, May 16, 2005

Fries with that?

The Eggfest turned out to be a lovely Saturday afternoon in the parking lot of a corporate warehouse. Let's call it a gourmet food festival. Unlimited beer, food, and a green chair. The sun wasn't so fierce so we were able to sit under it without getting burned listening to some mediocre blues, and really savoring Todd's Spanish ribs, which disappeared literally within seconds. They were so good. Todd's a genius, and so were we for participating in this insider thing. A best kept secret if you asked me. What a treat!

My 10th year high school reunion is coming up soon. I'm rather excited to go back. The 5th year one was a trip and I can only imagine what's going to happen this year. I love my alma mater and this is a good chance to see if people have put on some weight so I can laugh at them. We'll be able to find out if people do change after all these years. My inclination is that they don't. Let's see if I'm correct about this one.

Brunch with good friends is also a treat on Sunday afternoons. Shooting the breeze, reminicsing old times, getting encourgement from those who will trust you no matter what. Life isn't so bad after all. There are a handful people I know who are genuinely kind. Very kind. They are few and far between, but there are some in this world. Grab them; don't let them go.


Thursday, May 12, 2005

Black or white? Green eggs and ham?

This is an interesting topic to explore but it's bound to offend some people. So throw the punch at me if you will.

Bottomline: America is a musically segregated society. Does it have to be this way? My brother was talking to this girl from Nigeria before going to see Alicia Keys. She told him that in Nigeria they listen to a lot of white music, even Hall & Oates. Then, of course, we walked into Alicia Keys concert and it was 80% black. By 80%, I'm giving it a very lenient estimate. The only white people there are either middle-aged white couples or white college girls who go there with their black boyfriends. And when Alicia was empowering the females in the audience, the black females were the most responsive. You'd think Alicia would draw many different kinds since she won so many Grammies. Interesting observation!

Of course, I went to other concerts as well: Eric Clapton, Phish, Gov't Mule. All white audience. I'd expect some black folks to be there since their music incorporate a lot of blues. But then again, you will find few black people at blues concerts these days. They've all switched to hip-hop or really bad reggae. I went to a Buddy Guy concert and 75% of the audience was white. And everybody at Rod Piazza's concert was white. According to Dave Jackson, there was only one black performer at the entire DC Blues Society Contest last year. At the Baltimore counterpart, all the judges were white. White people make up the majority of the Blues Foundation these days. Perhaps that's why only one black guitarist (Kirk Fletcher) was nominated in the "Best Guitarist" category this year.

The only evenly distributed black and white ratio concert I went to was Prince. It was 50/50. I have a lot of respect for the guy since he appeals to both races. It's a charm that not many artists have.

When I listen to music, I don't try to categorize it by skin color. It's unfortunate that many people do in America. They divide it into black music and white music. For instance, Galactic is a funk band in New Orleans. It's lead singer is black. However, there are few black people at a Galactic show because it's considered white music, so is Medeski, Martin & Wood, even though the group plays some mean funk. But since when is Buddy Guy considered white music? My man Mark D'Alessio says, "since he started hanging out with Clapton."

I was talking to this black guy at Cafe Toulouse and to my surprise, his favorite group is Steely Dan. That's what music should be: color-blind. I think there should be an affirmative action program for music in addition to college admission.

I'm reading the autobiography of Miles Davis. Miles has a unique view about white folks. He resents the archetypical white male in America who rips off black people. Yet, he's great friends with Bill Evans, Gil Evans, Lee Konitz, etc. who are white musicians. He even hired Konitz and Gerry Mulligan to be on his Birth of the Cool record which pissed off a lot of blacks at the time. But then, he also says, even though some of these white cats were voted No. 1 in the Downbeat polls, they know that they're not the best playing this music and they sure know they didn't start this music. Miles's damn right. But Miles' color-blind too, for he says, "I'll hire whoever who can play my songs. I don't care if they're white or black or green or brown."

It's funny. Big Joe Maher said one time at 219 when a bunch of white people were sitting near the bandstand and just couldn't stop talking in the middle of his drum solo, "I hate white people sometimes." At my show last Saturday at Cafe Toulouse, this black guy just grabbed the microphone and started singing some made-up blues off key. What pissed me off the most was when some black folks came up to the late great Pam Bricker during her break at Westminister Church and said, "White girl, you've done your homework." Not only has Pam done her homework, she kicked butt at the subject matter. She sang better than a lot of so-called black vocalists in DC.

My all-time favorite story of racism is that I was playing the harmonica in the subway, a black kid (about 17 years of age) came up to me and said, "You're playing a black instrument." I countered, "Really? All I see is that it says it's made in Germany."


Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Without question

Gavin Fallow is the most exciting young bass player in the scene today. He's the next Christian McBride in the making. I witnessed it all last night. And Amsterdam did do him some good. His playing is full of passion and heart. It's simply amazing. Now that he has his schedule online, be sure to check out one of his shows. For all I know, he may not be in DC much longer.


Monday, May 09, 2005

Good morning heartache...

...was a song that Alicia Keys sang last Tuesday. She did a pretty good job at it.

Ever since I'm back in the Chitlin Circuit, there are people who welcome me back and people who try to drag me down. You see, humans are complex beings who tend to create troubles of their own and then get stuck and complain. Between that and my daily routine, ramblings, and activities, I'm just happy as "a pig in shit," to borrow one of my friend's sayings.

There are a couple of cool things. Gavin finally launched his website, an overdue one. Now I have no trouble finding out where he plays. I haven't heard his playing since he returned from the Netherlands. How pathetic is that?

I also discovered this great hot jazz singer from New Orleans called Linnzi Zaorski. Wow, she sounds like one of those old 30's & 40's recordings from Helen Humes, Ma Rainey, and her arrangements sound like that of Django Reinhardt/Stephane Grappeli's gypsy music. I've been listening to her songs for about four days straight and haven't got bored of it. She's my new favorite since Lisa Ekdahl. I hope she'll be a star someday. It's good stuff. Reminds me of the opening credits in Woody Allen movies. If you feel nostaglic, you should just get her CDs. Brings back early memories.

Jeff, if you want to sell me one of your iPods, I'm willing to pay $90 for it.


Thursday, May 05, 2005

Back to the Chitlin Circuit

5505. A brand new day. The Chitlin Circuit welcomes me back.

Hope you do too.


Wednesday, May 04, 2005

The point to drive home

The Alicia Keys concert last night was pretty awesome. She gave her best and her arrangements were quite good but she had too few songs (only two albums to her credit) and when she done singing "If I Ain't Got You" everybody just wanted to go home and they didn't demand an encore. The audience was 80% black. There's a lot of Stevie in her playing, and she pays proper respect to the blues and old black music (unlike the horrendous so called "R&B" today). It was a good show and she gave great energy, and she can sing too. I probably won't see her again for a little while, but if Alicia keeps doing what she's doing, in ten years she'll still be the talk of the town. And then she'll have more songs.

Palindromes was another misanthrope view of a schizophrenic society in Todd Solondz's world. A notch up his previous Storytelling but hasn't lived up to his best film Happiness, some scenes in this movie are worth chewing and pondering. The scene where these disabled kids dance to a Gospel song is almost as funny as the last scene in Napoleon Dynamite. And characters from his first film Welcome to the Dollhouse pop in and out of this film. It's not difficult to call Solondz a genius, but he's more unconventional than he's talented. He knows that he's talented but he chooses to select uncompromising topics. In the film it's abortion. His films are the American equivalent of French director Catherine Briellat, another controversial filmmaker who is not afraid to cross the line.

I'm hungry. I need some breakfast.


Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Stand up comedian at his best

Great Michael Hui site if you're a fan of Hong Kong's all-time greatest comedian.


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Weblog Commenting and Trackback by