Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Hey, kid! Wanna hear a bunch of Yardbirds demos from '66?

Beck was already been out of the band by this time, and the producer was Paul Samwell-Smith -- go fig. Apparently the track ("You Stole My Love") was never finished, but one of the takes turned up on the long-unavailable Cumular Limit. Enjoy!





Monday, November 28, 2011

Robbie D. Love - "I'm the Ghost Man"

New track from The Red 100s' prolific workaholic, who somehow found time to show up (with his bandmate Raul) for the li'l Stoogeband's set at Lola's last night (before the Queers).

Heartbreakers Live @ the Lyceum, 1984

Pssst! Hey, kid! Wanna see a Stooges coverband that wears Santa suits?

Pssst! Hey, kid! Wanna hear a New York Dolls bootleg?

An hour's worth of pretty hot performance, live at the Matrix in San Francisco, 1973. Thanks to A2 denizen and AMG scribe Mark Deming for the link.



Sunday, November 27, 2011

Wizzard - "Are You Ready To Rock"

Sometimes I post Roy Wood clips just to wind Matt Hickey up, but this is really like some weird nightmare, especially when he starts playing the bagpipes.

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Owl and the Octopus - "Music to Jog To"

I'm not one of those cyborgs that jogs with earbuds, but if I were, I'd definitely want to avail myself of T. Horn's latest solo wonderment.

FZ - "Dupree's Paradise" @ the Roxy, L.A., '73





Thursday, November 24, 2011

Zappa's Universe

I was still in the Air Force when these shows happened in '91. FZ was supposed to attend but had to back out due to illness. Mike Kenneally (the Ed Crawford of Zappadom) and Scott Thunes (everyone's favorite bassplayer) from the '88 band along with Mats Oberg and Morgan Agren, the Persuasions, Rockapella, Steve Vai, Dweezil Zappa, Dale Bozzio, and Joel Thome conducting the Orchestra of Our Time. I had the CD back in '93, but the vid is much better.





Mo' Robbie D. Love

This kid can't get out of bed without releasing a new rekkid. Yesterday it was The Thanksgiving EP.



Today, it's The Black Friday EP.



Why, he's even more productive than Matt Hickey. And that's saying something. Wonder if he has goats too?

Andrew Greenaway's "Zappa the Hard Way"


There have been a ton of books about FZ over the years, starting with David Walley's No Commercial Potential back in '71. My faves are Frank's highly idiosyncratic autobiography The Real Frank Zappa Book and Ben Watson's exhaustive Situationist academic treatise Frank Zappa: The Negative Dialectics of Poodle Play. I couldn't even bring myself to read David Gray, Barry Miles, and Neil Slaven's bios for the same reason it took me until last year to read Paul Trynka's 2007 Iggy tome; you can only get so saturated with information, even on an interesting subject.

Andrew Greenaway's Zappa the Hard Way, first pubbed in 2010, is a different kettle of fish, however. Rather than taking the macro career/life-overview approach, it trains its focus on a particular and hitherto not-well-documented (in print, anyway) phase in FZ's musical odyssey: his final tour, which took place in 1988 with a 12-piece band, including five horns, playing a repertoire of over 100 songs that included classical pieces, TV show themes, and classic rock hits as well as material from all stages of Zappa's oeuvre. That band fell apart on the road in welters of acrimony, resulting in the cancellation of the tour's last leg and costing Zappa, he claimed, $400,000.

It's been a long time since I abandoned the quaint (but common among FZ fans of a certain vintage) notion that the original Mothers of Invention were his "best" band (which I clung to even after witnessing the Roxy and Elsewhere, Bongo Fury, Zappa in New York, and Baby Snakes lineups in the flesh). Zappa's '80s aggros (which mostly trod the boards while I was preoccupied with Guarding Freedom's Frontier) were longer on vocal power (employing as they did different combinations of Ray White, Ike Willis, and Bobby Martin), shorter on the instrumental music that I preferred -- one reason why I find the Does Humor Belong In Music DVD, which documents an '84 NYC show, unwatchable save the opening "Zoot Allures."

The riddim section of Scott Thunes (bass) and Chad Wackerman (drums) anchored Zappa's bands from '81 (when both were aged 21) to '88 -- a chops-heavy tandem that combined punk-rock energy (Thunes) with jazz-rock metric flexibility (Wackerman). Surprise to discover on reading Zappa the Hard Way that the two hated each other's guts. (At one point in the tour, Greenaway reports, the drummer told the onstage mixing tech to take the bassist out of his monitor completely.)

Thunes served as straw boss during the band's late '87 rehearsal phase. His abrasive manner managed to incur the wrath of all of his bandmates save "stunt guitarist" Mike Kenneally, which resulted in such incidents as percussionist Ed Mann mocking Thunes (using the "Clonemeister's" own words) on mic during a concert in Pennsylvania, the defacing of Thunes' laminated backstage pass by a member of the road crew, and the scratching out of the bassist's name from a cake which was presented to the band in Austria (for which he retaliated by obliterating Mann and Wackerman's names). Ultimately, the horn section refused to continue the tour unless Thunes was fired. Zappa considered the expense of going back into rehearsal with a replacement and canceled the remaining dates. Sic transit gloria FZ, all recounted as objectively as possible by Greenaway.

Lately I've been spending a lot of time watching the DVD of the '88 band's performance in Barcelona, which was originally broadcast on Spanish TV. While it's a flawed document -- the horn soloists are undermiked, and there are numerous dropouts in the soundtrack -- it provides ample evidence of the band's onstage prowess (they compare favorably with the Brecker Brothers-augmented lineup I saw at the Palladium in NYC in '76), while showing nary a sign of the underlying tension.

The range of their repertoire is dazzling. There's a suite of political songs that wound up on the Broadway the Hard Way album; Zappa vocal R&B pastiches from Freak Out!, Cruisin' with Ruben and the Jets, and Chunga's Revenge; arrangements of classical pieces by Stravinsky, Berlioz, and Ravel; FZ's versions of "Whipping Post" and "I Am the Walrus" (the '88 band also played "Stairway to Heaven"); classic FZ instrumentals like "The Black Page," "Black Napkins," "Sofa," "Watermelon in Easter Hay, and "Strictly Genteel;" and best of all, a version of "Big Swifty" wherein Frank conducts a band improvisation in the same way he did on Weasels Ripped My Flesh, in the Baby Snakes film, and in the famous Youtube clip from Australian TV. While FZ was reportedly not happy with the quality of his guitar solos on that tour, to these feedback-scorched ears, they sound as facilely inventive and aggressively in-your-face as anything on his "guitar" albums.

Author Greenaway is a Brit Uberfan who oversees the idiotbastard.com website. Zappa the Hard Way is definitely a fan's book. It's published by a company (Wymer Publishing) whose other products include a Ritchie Blackmore fanzine and recordings by a Deep Purple tribute band led by Mk I bassist Nick Simper. Greenaway's text has lots of first-person POV, but he's also extensively interviewed most of the surviving principals (notable exception: Wackerman), as well as drawing on secondary sources. There's a charming foreword by Zappa's sister, Patrice "Candy" Zappa-Porter, and a revealing afterword by Pauline Butcher, FZ's '68-'72 secretary whose own Zappa tome (Freak Out! My Life with Frank Zappa) was just pubbed.

Not exactly a revelation, but an interesting aspect of the Greenaway book is its focus on FZ's sexuality, which casts a different light on his own take on "Marriage (As a Dada Concept)." Yes, kids, Uncle Frank was a horn-dog. Thunes: "[FZ] spent a lot of time describing in detail many of his sexual exploits but never told me if he loved his wife or his kids..." Or this, from Zappa's daughter and "Valley Girl" singer Moon Unit, writing in 2009: "Our rock royalty of a dad toured for nine months out of the year, cheated on my mom when he was away, but always came back to us, to sleep all day and work all night. When I was little, 'Mom' meant let people be themselves so Dad doesn't leave us for a groupie and we can keep food on the table and a roof over our heads." Or this from Butcher: "[Frank] had often told me that, after music, lust was the most important thing in his life...it does appear that [on the '88 tour] this man who was so into lust all his life, was suffering from sapped energy and a loss of libido."

Was Frank sick on the '88 tour? Did he use the band's disharmony as an excuse for pulling the plug when in reality he was no longer up to the physical demands of life on the road? Did he let the band's interpersonal dynamic get out of control because he lacked the stamina to intercede? Considering the retrospective sweep of the band's repertoire, and one particular line from "Jesus Thinks You're a Jerk" ("And if you don't know by now / The truth of what I'm tellin' you / Then surely I have failed somehow"), it occurred to me that perhaps Frank recognized on some level, perhaps subconsciously, that this was a valedictory tour. (He'd already vowed never to tour again after outings in '82 and '84.)

More sympathetic is the reminiscence by Swedish drummer Morgan Agren of the encounter he and his childhood friend/keyboard player/fellow Zappaphile Mats Oberg had with Frank before the '88 band's Stockholm show, and their subsequent guest appearance with the band onstage (playing a then-unreleased FZ composition, "T'Mershi Duween," that they'd learned off a bootleg tape). After hearing Agren and Oberg play his music, Frank tells Oberg (who is blind), "You have listened to my music so much -- you should know what I look like." Agren continues, "Frank took Mats' hand and laid it on his forehead, and Mats began to feel how Frank looked! And Frank said, 'Don't forget the famous nose!'"

Zappa the Hard Way is a worthwhile read for any FZ fan -- sort of a darker, real-life 200 Motels.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Woodeye/Me-Thinks/Badcreek pics @ meezlady.blogspot.com

My sweetie posted some of her pics of Woodeye, The Me-Thinks, and Badcreek from Saturday night's extravaganza at Lola's on her photo blog. Click on 'em to make 'em big and leave her a comment why doncha?

11.19.2011, FTW

It seems that in the last month or so, my sweetie 'n' I have been out more than in the previous year. But it's not every day that we get a chance to see Woodeye, one of our all-time fave bands, who folded the tent a few years back but have played a couple of reunion shows since then. (Good bands don't have to break up, they just don't need to play all the time.) We missed the last one (at Lolaspalooza, when I was playing earlier in the day and didn't have the intestinal fortitude to go the distance), so when we got wind of this latest oppo, we were determined to make it. Especially after the mighty Me-Thinks were added as direct support (even though I feared an overwhelming attack of Wreck Room nostalgia), following openers Badcreek (whom I've been meaning to see live).

It would be impossible to overstate the importance of the Wreck Room in your humble chronicler o' events' personal cosmology. As I've said elsewhere, I've spent a lifetime obsessed with the idea of music as a locus of community; El Wreck is the first place I ever experienced that -- back when I was attempting to earn a living as a freelance journo between 2002 and 2004, and later, right up to the demise of my all-time fave rockaroll dump in September 2007. I met many of my best friends there; I played there every Wednesday night for two and a half years; my sweetie 'n' I celebrated our wedding and my 50th birthday there. And Woodeye and the Me-Thinks are two of the bands I associate most closely with El Wreck.

I was surprised that Lola's didn't run a second bar for the evening, but then again, two of their bartenders were performing; it surely couldn't be because they didn't expect a good turnout. Lots of old familiar faces in the crowd, as well as onstage.

The guys in Badcreek are mostly old veterans and familiars of the late Cadillac Fraf, playing a nice line in what used to be called "Y'allternative." This is convoluted, but their recordings remind me of Neil Young fronting the Blonde On Blonde band (or maybe Mott the Hoople) in the same way as Wilco's Being There (only album of theirs I own) reminds me of Ray Davies fronting the Exile On Main St. Stones.

Live, Badcreek is more energetic and aggressive (in the manner of disbanded local cowpunks Jasper Stone), but this isn't always for the best. Even with an Andre Edmonson mix, frontman Eric Waldron tends to lose out to the general din, and the songs take a back seat to the sound of the band. They've only been gigging since the spring, though, and with a run of shows coming up in December and January, they remain an interesting work in progress. (Someone suggested, and I agree, that they ought to gig with Barrel Delux.)

Speaking of bands from Haltom City, the Me-Thinks were in rare form Saturday, once Ray resolved some tuning issues. (What _did_ musos do before digital tuners? Oh yeah, that's right -- they were just out of tune a lot. But wasn't it Hendrix that said "Tuning is for cowboys?") Andre had Marlin and Bandy's amps firing from the side, and you could really hear their individual parts distinctly -- a plus. The newer material (the two songs from Me-Thinks' recent 7-inch plus other, unrecorded ones like "Loudensucke") sounded as good as the "classic" toonage from their Make Mine a Double E.P. And Jon Simpson's a powerful and underrated drummer. I told him later that this might have been my favorite Me-Thinks performance since he took Will Risinger's place behind the traps.

Then Woodeye.

When my buddy Geoff from Philly, who knows good rock from bad, braved his fear of Texas to come down for my wedding, he was singularly impressed by Woodeye among the bands that played our wedding party. (I was sure he was going to like the Me-Thinks more.) Their 2003 CD Such Sweet Sorrow remains in my personal top 10 for its decade; seriously, have Wilco, Uncle Tupelo, the Bottle Rockets, or any of their ilk made a rec so emotionally impactful? I think not.

Carey Wolff is still as full of self-deprecating horseshit as ever, but I think he's come to realize how deeply folks are affected by his songs, and how beloved is his band that stopped being a going concern when Scott Davis moved to Austin to make his living as a muso rather than a bookseller. These days, Scott is an in-demand session player down in America's Live Music Capital (R), and he and Kenny Smith (the Woodeye drummer that finally "took" after a Spinal Tap-like succession) tour with No Depression fave Hayes Carll.

On this particular night, Scott was rockin' a new SG (rekindling my SG lust yet again), to which he'd added a Bigsby tailpiece, through Fender Deluxe and Marshall clones built by the Orbans' guitar player. Scott's always been the most tasteful of players, with the sweetest tone (in the manner of Pablo & the Hemphill 7's Steffin Ratliff), but you could hear all the playing he's been doing in his fretwork on all the old familiar Woodeye faves. And proud papa Graham Richardson remains the punk-rock wild card behind the Thunderbird bass.

"West Texas Sunset" has the most immediately recognizable intro this side of PH7's "Freedom," both of which I heard innumerable times back in Wreck Room daze. My favorite Carey Wolff songs are the slow, mournful ones -- "Stupid Man," "The Fray," "Motel Room," and "Our Song," which he dedicated to me 'n' my sweetie, imagine that -- in which he puts more plainspoken raw emotion on the line than the average songwriter. (Dre Edmonson remembers a night when Woodeye played the Wreck without a drummer, doing all slow songs, and the bar sold a ton of whiskey shots.) The one that's stuck in my head right now is "Smolder": "You can cry all you want / I can say I'm sorry until I turn blue / You can try all you want / But you can't make me love you."

They can rock out, too, on "How To Lose" (another classic intro), "What's the Matter with Me" (the closest thing in their book to a generic country-rock ditty, and a fan favorite), and their cover of the Replacements' "Can't Hardly Wait" (which I will always think of as a Woodeye song). The audience showed their appreciation with multiple rounds of shots, and Carey responded by singing the title track from his I'm Still the Darkness CD, which always sounded like a Woodeye song, anyway. If he'd played "Nineteen" from that shiny silver disc, it'd have been a perfect evening for me. As it was, it was just a real, real good one.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Pssst! Hey, kid! Wanna watch a Captain Beefheart documentary?

JATSDFM - "Monobus"

That overachiever Matt Hickey releases yet another album in his Joe and the Sonic Dirt from Madagascar guise. You can stream/download it and read his explanation here.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Sonny Sharrock in NYC, 1988



With Melvin Gibbs, Abe Speller, and Pheeroan akLaff.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

HIO in the FW Weekly's blog

The Italian kid gives us a mention here. (Thanks, Ant'ny!)

MC5 - "KOTJ" @ Friar's Club, Aylesbury, 2.11.1972

Near the end, but still powerful.

Mott the Hoople - "At the Crossroads"

Mott covers Sir Doug. Yeah!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Arcana - "Gone Tomorrow"



Teague pulled my coat to this: From 1997, Tony Williams' last recording, in a Bill Laswell-led ensemble that also featured Pharaoh Sanders, Byard Lancaster, Graham Haynes (cornet), Nicky Skopelitis, and Buckethead. One to seek out.

Mind if we dance wit' showdates?

I asked for a few shows, and for my sins they gave me some:

11.27 Stoogeaphilia @ Lola's w/the Queers and four other bands
12.6 HIO in Denton w/Homemade Dance Project (invitational)
12.8 HIO in Denton w/Homemade Dance Project (invitational)
12.10 HIO @ Doc's Records: Cavalcade of Unpopular Musics 2 w/Drift Era, The Panic Basket, Darrin Kobetich, Breaking Light
12.16 HIO @ Black Box Performance Space, Denton w/Big Rig Dance Collective
12.17 HIO @ Black Box Performance Space, Denton w/Big Rig Dance Collective
1.14 Stoogeaphilia @ Cowtown Bowling Palace
1.20 HIO @ Simone Lounge, Denton
1.29 HIO @ The Cellar: Improvised Silence, hosted by HIO (this is an ongoing series, last Sunday every month)

Who'd a thunk it?

Working on a Stoogeaphilia date at the Wherehouse with Fungi Girls, Spacebeach, and the Mike Haskins Experience. Also a Stooge date at Doc's with one of Big Mike Richardson's cover bands. And HIO may play an invitational house show in December or January with trombonist Patrick Crossland. So there.

The Ballad of Mott the Hoople


And I guess I lost just a little bit on the journey
- Ian Hunter, "The Journey"

Rockumentaries are a dime a dozen. After all, isn't every band's story basically the same? The best examples of the genre chronicle the careers of performers who are themselves habitual self-mythologizers: The Kids Are Alright, MC5: A True Testimonial, We Jam Econo.

And was there ever a band as self-referential as Mott the Hoople, who made a concept album about their own failure (Mott) as well as not one but two about madness (Mad Shadows and Brain Capers, the latter still a regular spin around mi casa), and capped it all with a valedictory single about breaking up ("Saturday Gigs")? Well, sure there was: the Clash. But they were co-led by a muso (Mick Jones) who spent his formative years trooping around the UK following Mott. So there.

I've been infatuated with the idea of music as a source of community since I was a teenager, which is why I was so easily won over by bands like the Who (with their Mod claque), the MC5 (with their Grande/Trans-Love Energies/White Panther cabal), and the Clash (whose other leader arose from the Ladbrooke Grove squats).

You couldn't find a more _organic_ example of this phenom than Mott, who were thrown together by a mad genius obsessed with Blonde On Blonde (Guy Stevens, who'd previously assembled Procol Harum but lost out on producing "A Whiter Shade of Pale" when he was charged with amphetamine possession and thrown in Wormwood Scrubs for eight months) but made their name on atypically-cathartic-for-the-time (1969) live performances and a lack of rockstar pretension that inspired uber-fanatical loyalty from a small army of young acolytes that included Jones and future journo Kris Needs.

By 1972, the wheels were about to come off the Mott cart when David Bowie saw them, was floored, and offered them a perfect glam era hit single ("All the Young Dudes"), even though they'd already decided to call it quits. Transatlantic fame ensued, including a week-long stand at Broadway's Uris Theater, where your humble chronicler o' events -- who was in the habit of playing air guitar to Mott with his buds, even though a couple of us could actually play by then -- witnessed their performance and intuited, for the first time, the hollowness behind the theatricality of big rockaroll shows (which led to my life-long preference for shows where you can feel air from kick drum heads and speaker cones moving your clothes around, as opposed to the kind where you have to squint at a Jumbotron to see the band), and the fact that Mott frontman Ian Hunter (b. 1939) was relatively old.

Mike Kerry and Chris Hall's documentary The Ballad of Mott the Hoople traces this trajectory in a lively way, including on-screen interviews with most of the principals (bassist Pete "Overend" Watts declined to participate, and Guy Stevens died by his own hand in 1981), as well as important observers like lead singer-turned-road manager Stan Tippins (the ultimate team player), Jones, Needs, ace engineer Andy Johns, Queen drummer Roger Taylor (whose band toured with and learned from Mott), and American tour manager Leee Black Childers. Hunter, guitarist Mick Ralphs, and drummer Dale "Buffin" Griffin come across as clear-eyed and unpretentious as you'd expect, while organist Verden "Phalley" Allen's thick Welsh brogue almost requires subtitles.

True, there isn't as much live footage as one might expected from the ton that's viewable on Youtube (but not embeddable here) -- there's just enough to give you a taste of the band's live insanity and whet your appetite for a more complete sampling that, as of yet, doesn't exist on DVD (although three complete songs from Mott's 2009 reunion are included in The Ballad of...'s bonus features) -- but the stories are good enough to be worth the price of admission by themselves.

Viewing the film, I realized that the Mott I saw in '74 was living on borrowed time. The Mott album was the result of Hunter's determination not to be seen as a Bowie satellite, and it succeeded: the record's passion and heart are real, and enduring. After that, though, he'd pretty much shot his load. The follow-up, The Hoople, sounded like a glam caricature and was amateurishly produced to boot. Ralphs soon decamped for Bad Company, for whose first album he took "One of the Boys" from the All the Young Dudes LP, sped it up, added a different chorus, and wound up with a big 'Meercun hit: "Can't Get Enough."

Ralphs' replacement by Luther Grosvenor aka Ariel Bender (as engaging on-screen as he was onstage at the Uris) gave Mott a shot in the arm, but it was purely a holding action. Grosvenor's subsequent replacement with ex-Bowie sideman Mick Ronson was too little, too late. By then, Hunter says, he'd realized that at the end of Success' rainbow, "...There's nothing. The fun is the ride. There ain't no station." Amen, brother.

Rockumentaries might be a dime a dozen, but Mott the Hoople was one in a million.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Mark Growden's "In Velvet"

Since his last release, Lose Me In the Sand, singer/composer/multi-instrumentalist/modern day troubadour Mark Growden has been on a roll. Recently relocated from San Francisco to New Orleans, he's got a new job as artistic director for NOLA's Marigny Opera House; new digs with an art room and a music room within walking distance of the mighty Mississippi; an exhibit of his visual art in the works; and a new band, the New Orleans Heavies, a hot nine-piece aggro that features three other horns and another singer alongside Mark's baritone sax and vocals. He seems nourished by the Crescent City's vibrant musical community, and the dark and celebratory vibes of that historic town's decaying Napoleonic grandeur.

"I'm playing more of other people's music than I have in years," he said on a recent visit to the Fort, when he and duo partner Eric McFadden performed for students and faculty at the Jo Kelly School -- Fort Worth ISD's intensive services campus for medically fragile, multi-disabled students -- as well as playing a gig at fonky Fred's. He also said he's been writing songs on his daily walks to the river.

As a result, his new album In Velvet, scheduled for an early 2012 release on Porto Franco Records, is the first since Live At the Odeon where I wasn't already familiar with most of the material via numerous live airings by the time I first spun it. (Of the songs on In Velvet, Smokey Robinson's "You Really Got a Hold On Me" has been a staple of Mark's solo sets for years, and he performed "The Love of It All" and "Sunday Afternoon" live with McFadden.)

In Velvet was recorded live in the studio to maximize spontaneity and vibe; going forward, Growden says all his albums will be made this way. It's eye-opening to hear him in a setting where his banjo and accordion aren't the dominant instruments, and worth remembering that he was a saxophonist first, only taking up those other axes and learning to sing when his horns were stolen. His vocal power, always impressive in intimate settings, is perfectly suited for fronting this large and unabashedly extroverted ensemble. His music's always had a folkloric base, and indeed, several of the songs here are traditional tunes with some lyrical reworking by Growden.

"Drivin' Into the Sunrise" -- great title image! -- kicks the door open with a rollicking groove worthy of Dave Bartholomew, featuring drummer Charlie Kohlmeyer making like Earl Palmer and the horns playing up a storm. (I always wondered what a Mark Growden rock 'n' roll record might sound like.) "The Love of It All," a highlight of both duet performances I witnessed, introduces vocalist LaTosha Brown, and her soaring gospel pipes nearly steal the show.



"Jumpin' Judy" is a band-arranged second line strut that opens with the deep song of Peter Harris' stand-up bass and gives the horns (trumpeter Wendell Brunious, tenorman Eric Traub, and altoist Loren Pickford), Hammond B3 wizard Larry Sieberth, and Growden's longtime guitarist/In Velvet co-producer Myles Boisen a chance to shine.

On "Something Within Me," as my sweetie observed, the preacher's kid from NoCal comes full circle, reminding us how much of early R&B, rock 'n' roll and soul came directly out of the black church. Listening to this track reminds me of walking around Oak Cliff on Sunday mornings when I first moved to Texas, listening to the music from Holiness churches where the bands had drummers and saxophones.

"The Old Lady From Brewster," the album's first single, is a traditional song from the Georgia Sea Islands that Growden's performed with his Bay Area bands, but the New Orleans Heavies transform it into a jumpin' R&B number which Growden and Brown sing with abandon -- "I got paint all over me" indeed! (Hear it via Soundcloud here.)

An added plus: In Velvet even has "rockin'" and "mellow" sides. The latter commences with an album highlight, the instrumental cover of Ry Cooder's "Paris, Texas," which packs the same emotional wallop as the intro to "If the Stars Could Sing" on Growden's classic St. Judas album from 2010, adding cinematic sweep and color to the mood: part Coltrane-esque soul rinsing, part wailing gutbucket lament. "Sunday Afternoon," written by Boisen, has a nice sense of place, and of peace, painting a picture of an idyllic urban interval. The band version of "You Really Got a Hold On Me" loses none of the intimacy of the ones Mark's been playing solo for the past couple of years.

"Old Dutch Davis" features the band on a jazz waltz. "That's All Right" has nada to do with Arthur Crudup or Elvis (thankfully); rather, it's another gospel-infused soother, giving Sieberth (on piano this time) and Brunious room for simple, soulful solo statements. The valedictory "Here's To You" has the same off-kilter riddimic lope as some of Growden's darker, fin de siecle cabaret pieces, but here it's suffused with warmth, and grace.

Mark says that since he's shifted his base of operations to the Gulf Coast, we in the Metromess can expect to be seeing more of him -- a good thing. He'll be back at the Kessler Theater in Oak Cliff on Thursday, December 1st, opening for eclectic guitar genius Marc Ribot. You'd be a fool to miss this.

Monday, November 14, 2011

HIO - 11.11.11 Nightmare

Short film by Terry Horn with soundtrack by HIO here. This was projected during our 11.13.2011 performance at the Cellar.

HIO Live @ the Cellar, 11.13.2011

T. Horn posted his recordings of last night's "HIO classic" performance here. Terry played turntables, laptop, and bass; Hickey, keyboard and electric gopichand; your humble chronicler o' events, guitar and electric kalimba. Thanks to Mark Kitchens of Stone Machine Electric for being "the audience."

The Red 100's pics @ meezlady.blogspot.com

My sweetie posted some of her pics of The Red 100's on her photo blog. Click on 'em to make 'em big and leave her a comment, why doncha?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Pssst! Hey, kid! Wanna hear a new Leslie West album?

My drummer from college just shared a link to the ex-Mountain man's Unusual Suspects. From the squealing harmonics on "Standing On A Higher Ground" (with a guest appearance by Billy Gibbons, no less), sounds like he's still got it.

11.11.-12.2011, FTW

Celebrated 11.11.11. with my sweetie by going to Lola's so she could take pics of The Red 100's in a room Andre Edmonson dressed. (She'll post some of 'em on her photo blog when she's had time to go through 'em.) This was something like their eighth Fort Worth gig in the last two months, which perhaps (along with their opening slot) accounted for the scant attendance. Also, there was a band playing Collective Soul covers outdoors a couple of blocks east, which Dre said went on until 2am. (Wonder how they got around the noise ordinance? When the li'l Stoogeband played in the 7th Haven lot a couple of years ago, El Hombre was there at 10p to make sure we shut it down.)

Onstage, The Red 100's are chaos incarnate in the best way. On this particular night, Raul Mercado was having enough guitar problems to be in Stoogeaphilia or something: his cord failed on the first song, which necessitated some quick troubleshooting while Robbie D. Love and Kyle Scheumach held the groove down. These boys might be rough, with a riddimic sense that threatens to come careening off the rails at times, but they're stone pros in the "show must go on" sense. Later on, Raul had to swap out guitars mid-song, after which the 60 cycle hum from his (possibly ungrounded?) single-coils was almost like a fourth instrument in the mix.

Robbie D. Love likes climbing up on/jumping off of stuff more than any muso I've seen since the Immortal Lee County Killers' Chet Weise. Also during the first song, he was balancing precariously atop his guitar amp (which he had on its side, presumably for more height) when it toppled over. Again, the boys didn't miss a beat, even though Robbie's plastic Viking helmet lost a horn.

And Raul's stiff-limbed robot dance resembles someone in the throes of a seizure. It's the same impulse that made Pete Townshend use strings as heavy as bridge cables on his SGs, and kick Abbie Hoffman off the stage at Woodstock, or the reason why I feel like I've been thrown down a flight of stairs the morning after I play a Stoogeshow. In case you hadn't figured it out, I think these boys are out to lunch: same place I eat at. I was sorry (but not surprised) to hear that they'll be moving to Austin soon, but Kyle assured me that they'll be back. We live in hope.

The next night, we ate dinner at Ray's Prime Steak & Seafood, a recently expanded West Side spot located across Camp Bowie Blvd from the Ridglea Theater at 3206 Winthrop -- the first street I ever lived on in the Fort, although my crappy apartment was south of Camp Bowie, in the shadow of Ridglea Bank. It was the inaugural night of Johnny Case's new gig in Ray's new piano bar, with Johnny still utilizing the Yamaha grand that Sardines owner Sal Matarese donated to him for his 28 years' faithful service there.

Ray's is a definite step up from Sardines, a beautifully appointed room (lots of dark wood paneling) with a clientele that _dresses_ for dinner. While the menu is a tad pricier than Sardines', it's still possible to get an entree for under $20 (I had a nicely smokey duck l'orange on a bed of spinach and mashed potatoes, while my sweetie chose the wonderfully creamy lobster ravioli, each $17), while the above-average calamari appetizer was a ten spot.

We were happy to see Mark, a favorite Sardines waiter, was on the staff, and the service was prompt and attentive, but had a totally different vibe than the young, high-energy crew that made Sardines in its heyday such a popular date spot (we ate there with my family the night we were married).

Johnny's still waiting to find out the configuration of the combos he'll be using on weekends, and suspects that any straight-ahead jazz playing he wants to do, going forward, will have to be at Arts Fifth Avenue. While we had to suppress the urge to applaud when he finished a number -- it's not exactly a listening crowd -- it's a great place for Johnny to have landed, and we hope he has many more good years there.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Robbie D. Love's "Love Vibrations"


Ebullient ultra-extrovert Robbie D. Love's band, The Red 100's, have gotta be 1) the most exciting new band I've beheld since, I dunno, The Mooney Suzuki; 2) the gigging-est mofos in the Fort, and they're from Dallas, for goodness sake; and 3) playing at Lola's tonight, so my sweetie 'n' I are gonna celebrate 11.11.11 by catching their set so she can take pics of 'em on a stage Andre Edmonson dressed.

Listening now to Robbie's solo debut Love Vibrations. Basically all the songs are just excuses for him to blow lead over simple acoustic guitar and percussion backing. He played all the instruments, too, except for a guest appearance by his Red 100's bandmate Raul Mercado on one track. Robbie D. sings, um, like a guitar player; his audible influences range from Funkadelic to My Bloody Valentine to the Velvet Underground.

To these feedback-scorched ears, it's just nice to hear a young cat that's so clearly in love with the feelthy sound of distorted electric guitars. The Red 100's are getting ready to take some downtime to write and record some more. I'll be anxious to hear what else these brash brats have up their collective sleeve.

ADDENDUM: I think "Midnight Tide," wherein the dirty lead/clean backing equation gets inverted, is my fave track here.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Everything Is an Afterthought: The Life and Writings of Paul Nelson by Kevin Avery


Reading this book moved me a lot more than I thought possible for a biography-cum-anthology of a music scribe's work -- especially one whose scrawl I'd barely read. Of Paul Nelson's writings, the only ones I remember vividly are the four articles he contributed to The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock & Roll in 1976, on Bob Dylan (written in the form of a detective novel and withdrawn from the second edition of the book), Rod Stewart, folk-rock, and Lou Reed-David Bowie-Mott the Hoople.

But Nelson was one of _the guys_, and present at the creation to boot. Born in Minnesota, 1936, he established the template for rock criticism with his writings on folk music in the proto-fanzine Little Sandy Review. He gave the future Bob Dylan his first Woody Guthrie records (actually, Bobby Zimmerman _stole_ them, which he admits in his autobiography, although he only mentions Nelson's roommate and collaborator Jon Pankake in that connection), and quit Sing Out! magazine over the publication's lambasting of Dylan's plugging in at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival. His personal integrity remained sterling to the bitter end.

Nelson got the New York Dolls signed to Mercury Records, for whom he worked as a publicist and A&R man from 1970 to 1975 (recounted hilariously and at length in the self-interview "Looking Back"). He edited the Rolling Stone record review section from 1978 to 1982, then walked away from writing (and ultimately, music and decades' worth of friends) after clashing with publisher Jann Wenner over the section's direction, wound up working in a Manhattan video store, struggled financially, and died alone in his apartment, aged 70. When his body was found, he'd been dead for a week.

Nelson was a stereotypical gloomy Swede who had complicated relationships with his family, abandoned a wife and son, and pursued a series of unsuccessful romantic affairs. He had obsessive-compulsive tendencies, and struggled with dementia in his later years. He'd contract for work that he never delivered, a few of his pieces were recycled for publication more than once, and he labored for years on a never-completed screenplay. But he had a gift for intuiting an artist's intent and eloquently expressing that understanding. He loved cinema (Little Sandy Review could have been a movie rag but for a coin toss) and detective fiction, and his music writing was filled with allusions to the former and rendered in a painstakingly-crafted style that borrowed its taut, clean-lined lucidity from the latter.

Author Kevin Avery -- a Nelson Uberfan who's also compiled for publication his subject's extensive interviews with Clint Eastwood, conducted for an unwritten Rolling Stone feature on the screen icon and filmmaker -- recounts Nelson's life is as poignantly as Doug Simmons' 1991 Village Voice interview with ex-New York Dolls drummer Jerry Nolan (now downloadable as a PDF), or Josh Alan Friedman's Austin Chronicle piece on Keith Ferguson. He had access to all of Nelson's papers and associates.

Avery recounts Nelson's memorial service, where writer Anthony DeCurtis decried his colleague's winding up working in a video store, to which Nelson's friend Michael Seidenberg responded, "I think all you guys just get nervous that this can happen to you." Part of why I find Nelson's story so disturbingly resonant, I have to admit, is that I see something of myself in him (although he accomplished significantly more and operated on a more highly exalted plain than your humble chronicler o' events), and something of my father (who spent the last 30 years of his life working on an academic paper that was never completed, let alone published).

And part of why I didn't read Nelson more extensively back in the day is because he, like most of his contemporaries (save St. Lester), was more concerned with the primacy of the text than with the way things _sounded_. He violated the journalistic taboo against getting close to the subject, and made friends of performers like Jackson Browne, Rod Stewart, and Warren Zevon -- which meant that he was able to achieve a depth of insight not available to conventional interviewers. I just didn't happen to have any interest in those people back then, although I can see the magnitude of his achievement, reading those pieces now.

The ones that stand out the most for me -- besides the aforementioned Mercury reminiscence -- are the Dylan piece from the Rolling Stone book; a retrospective of the New York Dolls' meteoric rise and fall, penned for the Village Voice a month after their demise; and Nelson's harrowing account -- written for Rolling Stone over months and finally run in a truncated form that devastated its author -- of Warren Zevon's struggle with alcoholism. (Now I'm going to have to seek out a copy of the the Rod Stewart book Nelson collaborated on with St. Lester, to read their conversation "Two Jewish Mothers Pose As Rock Critics.") You might have different favorites, if you care more about, say, Jackson Browne or Bruce Springsteen than I do. But if you care enough about music criticism to be reading this blog, you owe it to yourself to pick up a copy of Everything Is an Afterthought.

Robbie D. Love - "Love Vibrations"

Solo debut by The Red 100's guitarist-bassist. Check it! Review to follow.

SRB - "City Slang"

The one that got away.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Pssst! Hey, kid! Wanna hear a live-in-the-studio Rocket from the Tombs recording?

From 2003. Available to download for a ten spot via Hearpen.

HIO - "11.04.2011, part 1"

Some noises we made up in Denton last weekend while rehearsing with Home Made Dance Project are here.

Johnny Case opens at Ray's this Saturday

Proof positive that you can't keep a good man down: Fort Worth jazz pianner institution Johnny Case writes, "My official opening date at Ray's is Saturday, Nov. 12 at 7pm. Yet to be determined is whether duo or trio on weekends. I'll play solo Tues.-Thurs. starting at 7 each night." The spot is located at 3206 Winthrop, off Camp Bowie Blvd (between Bryant Irvin and Westridge). Best believe we'll be checking it out.

Monday, November 07, 2011

JATSDFM - "LCD"

It's here! The latest Joe and the Sonic Dirt from Madagascar offering, LCD, is finally finished and downloadable for free via Bandcamp. You know what to do.

Johnny Case and Mark Growden/Eric McFadden pics @ meezlady.blogspot.com

My sweetie 'n' I don't get out much, but this past weekend we made it out to see a couple of shows, and she's posted some of her pics of the Mark Growden/Eric McFadden duo at Fred's and Johnny Case's last night at Sardines on her photo blog. Click on 'em to make 'em big and leave her a comment, why doncha?

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Julius Hemphill - "Dogon A.D."

Friday, November 04, 2011

FZ's "You Are What You Is"


Released in 1981, Frank Zappa's You Are What You Is provided the same kind of social critique of its time (the dawn of the Reagan era) that We're Only In It for the Money had for the Summer of Love. The liner copy included an idiosyncratically overemphasized essay, originally written for Newsweek (which declined to run it), in which the present-day composer railed against TV, politicians, unions, and bean counters, sounding more like the small business owner he'd become than the social nonconformist he'd started out as.

The album didn't sell, in spite of Zappa's 1981 Halloween show at the Palladium in New York City being televised on MTV -- after the network refused to air a video for the song "You Are What You Is" on the basis of its depiction of a Reagan lookalike in an electric chair, not to mention some egregious racial stereotypes. (The performance has since been released on DVD as The Torture Never Stops.)



To these feedback-scorched ears, YAWYI is the high point of Zappa's work between the magnificent, unreleasable-in-its-time sprawl of Lather and the unashamedly retrospective, aborted 1988 tour, with the possible exception of his 1985 testimony before a U.S. Senate committee that was considering mandatory labeling for recorded music based on lyrical content.

I'd lost the Zappa thread after moving to Texas in '78, but for three or four years prior to that, I was a dyed-in-the-wool Zappaphile who regularly attended Frank's Halloween extravaganzas at the Palladium (and once, I think, at the Felt Forum in Madison Square Garden), including one of the shows recorded for the Zappa In New York album (which collected all the live tracks originally intended for Lather) but not the ones filmed for Baby Snakes (had a ticket but had to work).

I was underwhelmed by Sheik Yerbouti and Joe's Garages 1-3, which confirmed all my worst suspicions about FZ's propensity for the lowest common denominator, some foreshadowing of which had appeared on his albums from Overnite Sensation through Zoot Allures -- the crass, vulgar, "stupid funny" songs that only seemed in later years like a utilitarian way for the composer to finance his more artistically worthy projects.

So I dropped FZ in favor of punk and free jazz until around 1990, when I was an instructor at the SAC NCO Academy and officed with another guy who self-identified as a former "head," and was a Zappaphile to boot. (You could always tell guys in the military that used to have long hair by the way their ears stuck out from pushing now-shorn hair behind 'em.)

I first heard songs from YAWYI -- the '81 Palladium versions of "Dumb All Over," "Heavenly Bank Account," and "Suicide Chump" -- on 1988's You Can't Do That Onstage Anymore, Vol. 1 compilation. Then, my office mate let me hear the whole album (and Them Or Us) on homemade cassettes. In spite of my general preference for vinyl, YAWYI remains best heard on CD, since the songs all run together and the listening experience is more seamless in that format.

From the opening "Teenage Wind," it's clear that the 40-year-old Zappa, who'd once been touted as a generational spokesperson for "the kids" by no less an authority than Life magazine (which, in 1968, ran a Zappa-penned essay under the title "The Oracle Has It All Psyched Out"), was on the wrong side of the big generational divide: "FREE IS WHEN YOU DON'T HAVE TO PAY FOR NOTHING OR DO NOTHING / WE WANT TO BE FREE / FREE AS THE WIND."

The fan's amusement of hearing Frank lampoon a hapless Deadhead is undercut by the knowledge that we're all really in the same boat -- Zappa fandom is a subspecies of the same idiot consumerism he derides, even though it's also the mechanism that pays for his "project-object." The claim that all entertainment artifacts are not created equal is a tenuous defense. (For your humble chronicler o' events, the lyrics to Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Prevention's "We're Turning Again" hit even closer to home: "Now Jimi gimme some feedback...You can feed back the fuzz tone from your wah-wah / While you bend down / And set your stuff on fire" makes the iconic seem ridiculous.)

Original Mothers "Indian of the group" Jimmy Carl Black appears to reprise some 200 Motels shtick before Frank and his ensemble (including the double-barreled vocal power of Ray White and Ike Willis, the best singers he'd employed since Napoleon Murphy Brock, George Duke, and Johnny "Guitar" Watson graced One Size Fits All) demonstrate that he still had the musical goods, starting out with a histrionic doowop ballad in prog-rock clothes ("Doreen"), following it with a leering groupie observation as reggae parody ("Goblin Girl"), then overlaying one on top of the other, adding some sprechstimme vocal meltdown and a tossed-off, face-melting guitar solo.

Even more amazing, instrumentally, is "Theme from the 3rd Movement of Sinister Footwear," in which 21-year-old Berklee refugee Steve Vai transcribes a hot Zappa guitar solo and plays it back against the original in unison with tuned percussion and bass clarinet, over a different rhythm track than the one that accompanied the original solo (an effect Zappa called "xenochrony"). While Zappa's '80s bands lacked the personality of the original Mothers or the lineup with Flo and Eddie, they gave their leader more musical options.

Lampooning ladies who lunch ("Society Pages") and yuppies who want to live forever ("I'm a Beautiful Guy") might seem like shooting fish in a barrel, but Zappa demonstrates that he still has a keen observational eye on "Beauty Knows No Pain": "Beauty is a bikini wax 'n waitin' for yer nails to dry / Beauty is a colored pencil, scribbled all around yer eye / Beauty is a pair of shoes that makes you want to die / Beauty is a...Lie."

What's missing from Zappa's '81 vision is the compassion he occasionally showed for his '67 audience even as he mocked them. Compare Money's "Mom & Dad," "Absolutely Free," "The Idiot Bastard Son," and "Lonely Little Girl" with the portrait of the vapid drug casualty in "Charlie's Enormous Mouth" and "Any Downers?"

After paying a visit to the "Mudd Club" that almost sounds as if he's _enjoying himself_ ("You can take it from me / I should know / 'Cause I go / Every time I'm in town"), Zappa has some fun at the expense of the religious right. (One wonders what he'd think about the way things have gone here since the '80s.) While he sounds a little smug and self-satisfied, it still makes for some powerful music, especially when he follows what's basically a spoken word performance on "Dumb All Over" with yet another steaming guitar solo (better on the record than at the Palladium).



Ugly misogyny disguised as sociological observation returns with "Jumbo Go Away," followed by the Doors pastiche of "If Only She Woulda" (with a solo that rubbishes everything around it like a movie monster trashing a Tinkertoy city) and a reprise of the 1980 single "I Don't Wanna Get Drafted" that was indicative of Frank's misunderstanding of the new political dynamic: it's more expedient to conduct overseas military adventures with an all-volunteer force. (One also wonders what his take would have been on post-9/11 fear and xenophobia.)

All in all, YAWYI is what it is: a snapshot of the passing scene from a highly individuated observer. As irritating as Zappa could be (and I'm a _fan_), we won't see another one like him. Our loss.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Johnny Case ends 28-year run at Sardines

Sad news for jazz fans in the Fort: pianist Johnny Case's long-running engagement at Sardines Ristorante Italiano will end this Sunday after 28 years. The restaurant is closing and will be replaced by a bar. While Case said he'd been told he'd be part of the new arrangement, he learned last week that was not to be.

Generations of Fort Worth jazz fans have gone to Sardines to hear Johnny dip into his extensive repertoire of standards, both solo and, on weekends, with small groups of musos who valued the opportunity to learn from him. Over the years, they've included bassists Charles Scott (R.I.P.), Byron Gordon, Kyp Green, Toby Guinn, Jeremy Hull, Drew Phelps, and Daniel Stone; drummers Eddie Dunlap, Duane Durrett, Don Sowell, Danny Tcheco, and Ron Thayer; guitarists Jerry Case (Johnny's brother), Clint Strong, Sam Walker, and Keith Wingate; multi-instrumentalist Chris White; percussionist Joshua Manchester; saxophonists Mario Cruz and Dave Williams; trombonist Pat Brown; trumpeters Leonard Belota and Leo Saenz; and vibist Joey Carter.

I asked a few of Johnny's familiars to weigh in with reminiscences.

Jon Castleberry (former Sardines manager): I feel bad that I have taken for granted that he would always be there. I started bussing tables there in '83, but really remember him and his music when I started bartending there in '87.

He had a tremendous impact on me -- many wise words. His wealth of knowledge for musicians and music is equal to none. I loved the way he knew my favorites "Back at the Chicken Shack" and "Besame Mucho," and played them when he knew I had time to listen. He introduced me to great stuff I never would have bought or even knew to listen to from old country to some obscure jazz.

A memory that I will always cherish is a day I met Johnny for lunch at Spiral Diner on Magnolia. He had a copy of
An Epic Life, Willie Nelson's biography by Joe Nick Patoski. Johnny was a big contributor [to the book]. He had Joe Nick sign it for me, and gave it to me at lunch. I guess that memory is my favorite because he shows what a thoughtful and caring person he is.

Sam Walker (guitarist): In the early 90's, when I was just getting back into music after a long layoff, I was playing at a place called Guidi's on Camp Bowie every Friday and Saturday. My gig was over at 10pm and I would stop by the old Sardine's almost every night after the gig to sit in.

I was trying to get my playing together and Johnny was very supportive of me. I went to his house and took several lessons from him. He was always encouraging and exposed me to new players that I hadn't heard of. One of those players was Grant Green who became one of my biggest influences.

Johnny was always supportive of the young, aspiring jazz musicians. This is one of the main contributions to this type of music that he has made, along with his own playing and recording. He is keeping the music alive by helping the next generation to continue playing jazz.


Drew Phelps (bassist): I think the first time I played with Johnny might have been at Weatherford College with Duane Durrett, James Clay, and Dewey Redman. I paid my Sardines dues with Al Malacara and then Kelly Durbin when the joint was on Camp Bowie, so I didn't play with Johnny a lot until later, when I could take a night off to go play Sardines. It's a drag to think that place won't be there any more. I hope Johnny finds a place to land. The DFW area needs him to keep showing the young bass players how to play in the classic jazz piano trio setting. The number of good bass players he brought into the world is more than I care to count.

Leonard Belota (trumpeter): I cannot remember meeting Johnny, I have known him since the '80s. As a budding jazz player, I learned as much from him as I learned from anyone. Also, it has been a great privilege to listen to him change and grow; I think this is the only way to learn this art form completely. How to play every note with meaning, how to nuance a phrase, how to build a motif on a motif on a melody. How to put the music ahead of ego, how to be open and humble around other humans, especially fragile musicians. How to live a creative lifestyle and love your family and respect the sanctity of life. I met his wife Kitty much later. Not enough can be said about artists' wives; they are as special as their spouses and in this case maybe more so. Longevity with a creative body is trying and deserves its own praise. Johnny will go on to create and amaze, but places like the old Sardines are slow to make an appearance. Fort Worth is my home and I love it dearly; its creative artsy side is legendary. However, growing small group jazz formats here has been a struggle.

Joey Carter (drummer, vibist, and pianist): I had heard about Johnny and his brother from my dad for years. Before the Sardines gig, Johnny played a lot of "casual" dates in town, and my dad, who is a singer/bassist, knew and respected both of the Case brothers. I believe that Johnny had even subbed for my dad on bass. I don't believe they actually worked together much, but they certainly knew each other.

I had heard Johnny at J.R.'s once when I was still in high school, and heard the trio a couple of times at Sardines when I was in college, but I did not start going to Sardines on a regular basis until I was out of school. I think it was probably 1992 when I started going a lot. It took me a while to get up the guts to ask him if I could sit it -- on drums: that was all I did back then. He was always nice but quiet and maybe a little hard to read. I started sitting regularly on weekend nights; Don Sowell knew my dad well and he was always very gracious to me. I was working private clubs gigs at the time, which I hated, but going to Sardines after that was always a great release. I got to play jazz with great players. I loved music again when I did that, and it really kept me going.

I bought my vibraphone in 1994, and immediately asked Johnny if I could bring it down on a solo night. He said yes -- Johnny actually played vibes on a few Time Warp Top Hands [western swing group led by Tom Morrell] tunes -- and after the first night, I remember he said that I had a lot of work to do, but if I kept getting better, I could come back. I came back every week. He was (and still is) so inspiring to play with. In that period, he showed me tunes, made me play things I didn't really know, made me listen; he is the best teacher I ever had. He also gave me my first regular gig as a piano player in 1998. (The Sardines gig is also the longest regular gig I have ever had!) I was pretty bad, but he knew that I would get better and not offend anyone; I am eternally grateful for that.

I have had many great nights with Johnny, but the most memorable is one where I played one tune with Johnny and the great Charles Scott on bass. We played "Invitation" in a bossa style. Charles played half note roots and 5ths the whole tune and held the fort while Johnny swirled around the pulse like he was casting spells and weaving magic. I was playing, but really I was caught up in listening. I simply reacted to what I was hearing with the drums. I felt like I was listening from outside of myself and playing with my subconscious. I was in the zone. It was the first time I truly listened, and I grew more as musician that night than I could ever think possible. The feeling of it is still very clear, and I think I can credit that night with any of the skill I have now.

I know that I am not the only person in town who has been influenced this way. Almost every bass player in the area has played with Johnny at Sardines; it was school for a lot of us and that is thing I will miss. Johnny will still be around and I think he will be playing soon somewhere, but it is hard to imagine anyplace being quite like that. I hope I am wrong about that. Johnny's impact on the Fort Worth jazz scene is deeper that it seems on the surface. Every jazz player I know from Fort Worth has passed through those doors at some point and I think that the Sardines staff (at least the original staff) knew that and was supportive of the musicians.

Let us not forget that every gig has an end. Twenty-eight years is a great (and unheard of!) run. Johnny will be OK; maybe it will kick people like me in the butt enough to make gigs happen with him.


Caroline Collier (former Sardines bartender): I have learned that while others copy jazz, Johnny Case captures its real essence. I worked at Sardines off and on for about five years out of 10, and in all those nights of hearing his “daily devotional,” I don't think he ever missed a note. Literally, not one. At least, not that my untrained ears noticed.

Back when Sardines was on Camp Bowie, we used to say that Johnny was responsible for the flood of supernatural occurrences that happened in that rickety old building. Jazz, moreso than other genres, flirts with that mystical connection between music and the unknown, and Johnny seemed more like a sorcerer than piano player. To my more opportunistic friends like Byron Gordon and Arthur Castillo, Johnny was a great mentor. He would patiently allow them to sit in, sometimes while they were still waiting on tables. No customers seemed to mind, though, because Sardines was Johnny Case. The food was secondary.

In the new location, Johnny really pushed the boundaries of jazz as far into the future as they would bend. I appreciated seeing him blend his strong political convictions into his music with [his 2005 CD]
Love's Bitter Rage. He introduced me to a lot of new players like Daymond Callahan and Daniel Tcheco. Johnny knows more than anyone else about the history of jazz in Fort Worth (and elsewhere, but especially here), and he would share stories with anyone who would listen. Many dined at Sardines just for this reason.

While Johnny will go on and make more great music, the fact that he won't be playing in public six nights a week is a big loss for Fort Worth.


Amy Matarese (Sardines owner's daughter/former manager): My first experience of Johnny Case was when I was just a wee girl of 11 years old. Johnny began gifting us with his great presence, wonderous soul and elite jazz at Sardines in 1983. By this time, I had been witness to the untamed style of life that Sardines tended to draw on from its employees, entertainers, and customers since 1977. I had had my fair share of absorbing the energy which seemed to exude from Sardines and these times, yet was not prepared for the powerful journey Johnny Case would provide us the opportunity to be part of.

Being very young and sensitive, I sensed a world unfold before me with uniqueness that would place us all within the Fort Worth Cultural District for decades to follow. It was a world for the iconoclast alone and I was fortunate to hear, see and feel the magic of jazz from the hearts of Johnny Case, the Johnny Case Trio and Friends for most of my life.

The impact & memories are numerous and profound. The experience is one of greatness and honor. The loss beyond measure.

We thank you Johnny for your dedication, loyalty, expertise and heart. We are lesser without you.


Joey Carter said that original Sardines owner Sal Matarese, who still owns the restaurant's grand piano, is gifting the instrument to Case in appreciation for his years with the establishment. Here's hoping that an enterprising restaurateur or club owner with an appreciation for the good stuff will step up and offer Johnny and his piano a new home.

If you've been meaning to get over to Sardines to check him out, better do it before Sunday.

ADDENDUM: Happy ending!

Pssst! Hey, kid! Wanna see "the best band you never saw?"