Posts Tagged ‘music’

How to Sing the Blues

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By Lame Mango Washington

  1. Most Blues begin, Woke up this morning.
  2. I got a good woman is a bad way to begin the Blues, ‘less you stick something nasty in the next line, like I got a good woman, with the meanest face in town.
  3. The Blues are not about choice. You stuck in a ditch, you stuck in a ditch; ain’t no way out.
  4. Blues cars: Chevys and Cadillacs and broken-down trucks. Blues don’t travel in Volvos, BMWs, or Sport Utility Vehicles. Most Blues transportation is a Greyhound bus or a southbound train. Jet aircraft an’ state-sponsored motor pools ain’t even in the running. Walkin’ plays a major part in the blues lifestyle. So does fixin’ to die.
  5. Teenagers can’t sing the Blues. They ain’t fixin’ to die yet. Adults sing the Blues. In Blues, adulthood means being old enough to get the electric chair if you shoot a man in Memphis.
  6. Blues can take place in New York City but not in Hawaii or any place in Canada. Hard times in St. Paul or Tucson is just depression. Chicago, St. Louis, and Kansas City still the best places to have the Blues. You cannot have the blues in any place that don’t get rain.
  7. A man with male pattern baldness ain’t the blues. A woman with male pattern baldness is. Breaking your leg cuz you skiing is not the blues. Breaking your leg cuz an alligator be chomping on it is.
  8. You can’t have no Blues in an office or a shopping mall. The lighting is wrong. Go outside to the parking lot or sit by the dumpster.
  9. Places for the Blues:
    • Good places:
      1. highway
      2. jailhouse
      3. empty bed
      4. bottom of a whiskey glass
    • Bad places:
      1. Ashrams
      2. gallery openings
      3. Ivy League institutions
      4. golf courses
  10. No one will believe it’s the Blues if you wear a suit, ‘less you happen to be an old ethnic person, and you slept in it.
  11. Do you have the right to sing the Blues?
    • Yes, if
      1. you’re older than dirt
      2. you’re blind
      3. you shot a man in Memphis
      4. you can’t be satisfied
    • No, if
      1. you have all your teeth
      2. you were once blind but now can see
      3. the man in Memphis lived.
      4. you have a retirement plan or trust fund.
  12. Blues is not a matter of colour. It’s a matter of bad luck. Tiger Woods cannot sing the blues. Gary Coleman could. Ugly white people also got a leg up on the blues.
  13. If you ask for water and Baby give you gasoline, it’s the Blues.
    • Other acceptable Blues beverages are:
      1. wine
      2. whiskey or bourbon
      3. muddy water
      4. black coffee
    • The following are NOT Blues beverages:
      1. mixed drinks
      2. kosher wine
      3. Snapple
      4. sparkling water
  14. If it occurs in a cheap motel or a shotgun shack, it’s a Blues death. Stabbed in the back by a jealous lover is another Blues way to die. So is the electric chair, substance abuse, and dying lonely on a broken down cot. You can’t have a Blues death if you die during a tennis match or getting liposuction.
  15. Some Blues names for women:
    • Sadie
    • Big Mama
    • Bessie
    • Fat River Dumpling
  16. Some Blues names for men:
    • Joe
    • Willie
    • Little Willie
    • Big Willie
  17. Persons with names like Sierra, Sequoia, Auburn, and Rainbow can’t sing the Blues no matter how many men they shoot in Memphis.
  18. Make your own Blues name (starter kit):
    • name of physical infirmity (Blind, Cripple, Lame, etc.)
    • first name (see above) plus name of fruit (Lemon, Lime, Kiwi,etc.)
    • last name of President (Jefferson, Johnson, Fillmore, etc.)
    • For example, Blind Lime Jefferson, or Cripple Kiwi Fillmore, etc. (Well, maybe not Kiwi. )

Michael Bates

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Michael Bates and Co.

The Ironworks hosted Michael Bates last night, showcasing his Outside Sources release with Quinsin Nachoff, Russ Johnson, and Jeff Davis. The venue was great, Michael was disarmingly charming on stage and his backup was technically impressive. Unfortunately, my stylistic tastes seem to be outdated.

Michael gave us an idea of how everything fell into place while organizing the tour by describing the chaotic travel itineraries that his backup had to endure. All these guys were at either end of a 12 hour flight to various European destinations with high culture.

Acoustically, these guys were pushing my boundaries. This is something that I can appreciate intellectually, academically and artistically. The complexity of both the music’s inspiration (often Michael’s favourite writers or personal experiences) and it its resulting manifestation were both theoretically and technically impressive. We had complex discordant harmonies on top with fast runs and a massive dynamic range with the two horns. The drummer had fantastic independence and varied his tools from sticks, to brushes to mallets and hands while Michael on his abbreviated travel bass added the drive. All of this was obviously well arranged and well rehearsed.

That being said, I found my only avenue to the music was an intellectual one. I couldn’t dig the chaotic harmonies or busy style any other way. With no pianist or guitarist to flesh out the middle ranges, it was like the horns were flying high on the brash overly spiked peaks of the mountainous drumming and rockout simple but rythmicaly sophisticated bass licks. These guys obviously could swap from 3/4 to 26/89 without skipping a beat. But, man, that kind of stylistic chaos only resolves to meaning by it’s counterpoint with simplicity and melody. I kept hoping for the sunrise of melody – like the Bad Plus do well – but they never gave it to me.

I understand that music is a give and take from musician to audience as much as any non-verbal means of communication. And there are means of effective communication. I might be uneducated, because these guys are obviously way better musician’s than me both technically and financially, but I had to keep a wall securely up between me and the music in order to appreciate it. That’s ineffectual communication if you ask me.

Photo by Scott Friedlander

iF:06 Icebreaker

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Music in Changing Times, Queen Elizabeth Hall

I was eagerly anticipating this event and thankfully it turned out to be as wonderful as I’d hoped. The evening presented an interesting cross section of experimental music from Michael Gordon and Frank Zappa to John Godfrey and Philip Glass. And the performance of Glass’s Music with Changing Parts was the reason I attended. It structurally consists of some 80 small musical units that are related to each other by an additive process. The units are performed rhythmically in unison by the ensemble, but at various points in the work, ‘changing figures’ are indicated. At these times players are free to change to new harmonies.


Katia Labeque Band, QEH

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Despite the fact that the Katia Labeque Band displayed a high level of technical virtuosity (there were fast runs and multiple shots all performed with the proof of good rehearsal and proper arrangements), I found it very challenging to listen to this concert. And I was not alone: I have never seen so many people get up and leave a show so early in its duration.