Musical Interlude – Working Bands

As a 20-something – hell, as a 30-40-and 50-something – I spent time during many evenings watching, listening and dancing to live music. I developed relationships with musicians, from jazz to rock and folk to some absolutely non-categorizable stuff – I’m talking to you Jack Velker. šŸ˜‰

In the end it led me to appreciate all those hard-working bands whose love for what they played and wrote led them to toss out a live performanceĀ  enthusiasm I felt warmed over enough to grab for myself. Today I include a few bands whose body of work mirrors this ethic.

First up – These guys are still traveling and making incredibly good music. They totally prefer live performances and they don’t need help in getting across what they love so much. This one goes a ways back, but it remains simply one of my all time favorite songs of any stripe:

Including the Neville Brothers is a true no brainer. These guys are peripatetic travelers and have been for decades. Rather than wait for their Big Hit, they rely on a fan base who love music and who appreciate the stunning talents of each member of this talented musical family. Quintessentially New Orleans, these guys are also quintessentially hard working.

I’m pretty sure this artist just gets better with age.

He just got back from touring pretty much all of South America.

Finally, a pure favorite of mine……..who just recently made a new album.


Music Interlude – Amina Claudine Myers

I discovered this great artist by accident – as we so often do. I was on a Bill Laswell search, another very seminal creative musician who had employed so many of my favorites – from Karsh Kale and Pharoh Sanders to Lilly Haydn and Sonny Sharrock.

The second video will be Amina playing with Bill and with Lilly Haydn and Kale – it remains one of my all time favorite musical videos.

Amina spent long years with The Art Ensemble Of Chicago, breakthrough jazz artists of cutting edge style who love playing with all sorts of limits and busting through those. She very much belonged with these amazing musicians, fitting in perfectly with her piano and, most particularly, with her organ abilities. I honestly believe she maximized what the Hammond Organ can do in the 2nd video. Stunning.

First, plain beauty on piano and an innocent rendition of blues without words – but wow……….a gorgeous voice. It’s long – Amina does not conform to commercial demands that I can see, but one can easily come back and finish it easily. It stays pretty. šŸ˜‰


Now her “Material” work…………… I can’t get enough of this:

Finally, something just plain sweet. Wonderful, delightful, light-hearted piano:

Amina Claudine Myers – what a great talent.

Musical Interlude – Miles Davis

Growing up, I had Miles in my house as a youngster. My parents were not rabid jazz fans, but they had some eclectic tastes which included lots of Ray Charles, Beethoven, Duke Ellington, Frank Sinatra and Broadway tunes such as Porgy and Bess. These vinyl memories are the first records I could spin and play at my own remove. I was completely partial to Ray Charles, myself, and much of the Jazz had to wait for later for an impatient young rockin’ and rollin’ Rockabillyist like young Master Steve.

As I recall we owned “Birth of The Cool” on which John Coltrane played along with a record where Miles played with the immortal Charlie Parker. I sort of recall a complete Coltrane album as well.

For my generation, Miles was older – a virtual icon from my parent’s generation and – even then – rather Avant Garde for anyone but the rather hip, urban crowd. Listening now to those old tracks, one is stunned by how good the man was – how true and melodic and how utterly moody as his trumpet carved soft chucks of shared Time out of the patterns and disparate occasional dissonance of the Jazz of the 40’s and 50’s – when time and melody often got sacrificed to an atonality of urban expressionism.

Then Miles did a few remarkable things. As the culture underwent its tectonic changes, he grabbed the bull by the horns and tried yet newer innovations in his corner of the music sphere and began nearing a rock and roll type of melody and expression. First with “Bitches Brew”, then with this amazing soundtrack to the movie, “Jack Johnson”, Miles commissioned what he referred to as “the best Rock And Roll band ever made”.

In 1971, using John McLaughlin, Herbie Hancock, Steve Grossman, Billy Cobham, and long time steady bassist Michale Henderson, Miles was able to cobble together musical geniuses to play alongside him, producing what I have always considered his greatest later work. It is long, but the latter parts of this tune, when Hancock absolutely rules with the Farfisa organ, it becomes greater than ever, bringing the entirety into a memorable listening experience.

This is my own tribute to Miles Davis, from his Tribute To Jack Johnson.

Right Off!

Musical Interlude – Ginger Baker

Ginger Baker was last identified by many as the drummer for Cream. Now in his 70’s, he still rips it out, along with some of the world’s best musicians. In the first tune, Ginger drums while uber-illustrious jazz bassist Charlie Haden plucks the bass and Bill Frizell strums the guitar in his fashion. The bass solo is a bit long, but the song shows Baker’s evolution, complete with his rolling style.


The second tune is a favorite Cream tune of mine, also made recently as they reunited in Royal Albert Hall in 2005, after 30 years apart. It seemed electric.

Baker’s reputation is messy, with a drug reputation – no doubt well-deserved. But he is still a rocker and shaker, he seems healthy as heck now and he makes brilliant music, with excellent players.