Friday, December 4, 2009

Another Touch Down at Duff's Garage

I will unleash the Howlin' Ra project again tonight at Duff's Garage in Portland. Witrh Chris Miller on guitar, and at least one special surprise guest.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Northwest Pianorama Rides Again

I'll be appearing as part of Northwest Pianorama with my pals DK Stewart and Kenny 'Blues Boss' Wayne this coming Thursday (Dec. 3) at the fabulous Triple Door in Seattle. Showtime is 7:30 p.m.

We'll have a terrific band behind us, featuring Peter Dammann on guitar, Don Campbell on bass, and the legendary Jimi Bott on drums.

This will be my only scheduled 2009 Seattle appearance, and I'm looking forward to being back in the Emerald City.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Howlin' Ra Ship Docks in Duff's Garage

Since my birthday's this week, I'm looking to have a par-tay!

That means I'll be slavin' over a hot piano in good old Duff's Garage down in Portland this Friday (Nov. 6, at 9:30). I'll have the Willing Victims with me, plus the Mythocratic Transformation Horns and the legendary Chris Miller (Irma Thomas, Marcia Ball) on guitar.

I call the whole aggravation my Howlin' Ra project. You sort of have to imagine Howlin' Wolf singing Sun Ra arrangements of Bill Monroe songs, backed by Mud Boy and the Neutrons in a Texas roadhouse. All disguised as boogie-woogie blues. But later for the descriptions -- this is good time music. So turn up the treble and bop cat bop. The less you think about it, the more sense it will make.

And once again, I'm happy to say, this show is a CBA co-sponsored event.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Santiago Chicken

In his heyday, the fame of "the hardest working bird in show business" extended beyond U.S. waters:
Like every ballpark, Estadio has peculiarities – a lighted foul pole, 'Home Club' painted in English on a dugout, bullpens beyond the outfield fence containing actual bulls. The arrival of a mascot at home plate delights the foreigners. Yellow-feathered, red-combed, the rooster wearing the uniform of the Cuban national team bears a curious resemblance to the San Diego Chicken. "Look, it's the Santiago Chicken," someone quips. The game slipping away from the home side, the rooster takes his head off to peck at home plate, as though casting some weird voodoo spell. "No, it's the Santeria Chicken," another tour member says ...

Monday, November 2, 2009

Canadian Treasure

The great Sun Ra said that he respected "all sincere musicians, whatever kind of music they play." Recently I had a chance to play with someone who embodies that ideal: the great Canadian jazz trombonist/pianist/composer Hugh Fraser.

Hugh and his amazing quintet happened to be appearing at Hermann's Jazz Club in Victoria, B.C. last Saturday night. Hermann's is as fine a venue for jazz as you'll find almost anywhere; no need to bring an electronic keyboard because the club provides a fine grand piano. It was the perfect spot to see Hugh and his combo, playing for people who really appreciated the music.

I had met Hugh briefly at a recent benefit for the Victoria Jazz Society, at which we both performed as part of a blues revue. As soon as our party was seated, someone slipped Hugh a note telling him that I was in the audience, and before I knew it I was sitting down at the piano. I led the band in a Sun Ra number, because after all it was a jazz scene. But before I could leave the stage, Hugh was telling me, "No, no, no, stay where you are, you've got to sing the blues."

And play the blues we did. I've never been made to feel more welcome on somebody else's stage. I did one of my numbers ("Meet Me With Your Black Dress On"), and Hugh's band played it as well as it's ever been played. I've shared the stage with some pretty good bands, but none better than these guys (the combo included Campbell Ryga on alto and soprano saxes, Ross Taggart on piano and tenor, Ken Lister on bass, and Dave Robbins on drums -- all of them certifiable A-listers).

Afterwards, I went back into the audience and Hugh took over at the piano and played "Mode to McCoy," his fabulous tribute to McCoy Tyner. I was glad I played earlier, because (believe me) no one could have followed that!

If you've never heard this man's music, by all means check him out! He's got the kind of energy, talent, and heart that made me want to ever do this thing in the first place.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Summit Meeting in Victoria

I'm looking forward to performing with some great Canadian musicians this Saturday night at the second annual Blues Summit in Victoria, BC. It's a fundraiser for the Victoria Jazz Society, a group I'm very happy to be supporting.

Among those performing will be Tom Lavin from Powder Blues, Lisa Mann up from Portland, and Victoria's own Bill Johnson, with his band. Bill is a legend in these parts, and it's great to get to play with him.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Arkabilly Music: Sun Ra Meets Moon Mullican?

It's back to Portland this Friday for a return engagement at Duff's Garage, a wonderful club I always enjoy visiting. We had a full house last time at Duff's, and we're hoping for another good turnout.

This time around I'll have Jimi Bott on drums, Don Campbell on bass, Paul Brainard on guitar, and the Mythocratic Transformation Horns (Joe McCarthy on trumpet, Brad Ulrich on baritone sax and clarinet, and Dan Fincher on tenor).

To hear a little sample of what we sounded like last time, go here. Yeah, I know: the piano's way back in the mix, but you can sure feel the groove.

As far as what's new in our show, folks can expect to hear a lot more more of the Sun Ra material people seem to like so much. And we're bringing back some of our oldies, including 1948 (Vanport Flood), because people keep requesting them. Plus I've been spending a lot of time listening to Memphis Slim at the Gate of Horn, one of the greatest blues albums ever made.

Ok, Portland -- hope to see you there!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Art, Protest and the Press

In an essay arguing that "artists have a duty to dissent," a self-described "marketing strategist" makes the following point:
" ... the art community, as a counterpart of the press, has been given special rights written into the Bill of Rights, known broadly as freedom of the press ..."

Really? So Picasso was a kind of Heidi Collins? Rene Magritte was the Wolf Blitzer of Belgium?

It's not that I don't think artists have a right, or even a duty, to protest ... but surely their freedom to dissent doesn't derive from defining art as some sort of appendage to journalism.

Does it?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A Portland Date at Duff's Garage

Had a ball at Sunbanks! Now it's time to head on down to Portland for my show Friday night at Duff's Garage. I'll have Chris Miller with me on guitar (fresh from his tours with Marcia Ball, Irma Thomas and other greats). Plus the Willing Victims and the Mythocratic Transformation Horns.

Some "secret" surprise guests are expected as well. I know one thing: a good time will be had by all!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Sunbanks Weekend

I'm off to play the Sunbanks Blues Festival on Saturday. My show starts at 4:30 p.m. I think it's really cool that people can now buy Day Passes at Sunbanks!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

"How Do You Define the Blues?"

I'm asked this question so often, I thought I'd answer it here. To me, blues is music that lifts you up without lying to you. It doesn't ask you to believe anything you can't feel. It takes you outside yourself without disrespecting any aspect of your life. And when it's right, when "everything comes together," it takes you to that place where you realize -- sometimes quite suddenly -- that the music is listening. Sun Ra called it "outer space." Others might call it some kind of mythocratic transformation. You don't have to call it anything. Why argue about it, when you can go there right now?

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Rockin' Out With Sun Ra

On Saturday night, April 4, I was a guest on Tom D'Antoni's show on KMHD in Portland. We talked mainly about the Paul deLay memorial show at the Aladdin Theater (which took place the following night), and about the music of Sun Ra. I played some of my favorite Ra tracks as a sort of "introduction" to his music, with emphasis on his juke-joint roadhouse origins. Here's the interview:

Don't miss Ra's astounding live solo version of Take the A Train, which starts at about 21:00 minutes into the show. You'll also hear some of my own music.

Monday, March 9, 2009

R.I. P. Willie King: The Blues Liberator

Alabama's greatest bluesman is dead. If you've never heard of Willie King and the Liberators, you've been missing out on a good thing. Discovering his music and his message was one of life's great pleasures for me.

For anyone who wants to help with funeral expenses and to create a historic marker celebrating Willie King's life and works, here's an address;

Willie King Memorial Fund
c/o West Alabama Bank
Attention Tammy
PO Box 406
Aliceville AL 35442

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Off On A Comet

Science reporting in an Associated Press article on Comet Lulin apparently can't pass the sixth grade smell test.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Rolling Out Their New Spring Roster

Whatever fee the Washington Speakers Bureau charges to hear this guy speak, it's a bargain -- compared to what it cost us over the past eight years to hear him for free.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Northwest Pianorama Live on CBC

You can listen to Northwest Pianorama's performance at the 2008 Edmonton LaBatt Blues Festival Live on CBC.

The amazing Ann Rabson was filling in for D.K. Stewart that day. CBC producer Dan Cherwoniak took the photo -- see more of his shots by clicking on the link. Or see a really cool fan photo here.