Thursday, July 14, 2005

art of the jam 9

"we're gonna turn the wreck room into a blues bar," lee allen said. and sure enough, he did -- for one night, at least.

lee just joined the experimystics, a three-headed hydra of texas blues/zydeco/r&b veterans (that'd be "tex-lectic" gtrist-singer-songwriter james hinkle, accordian master ponty bone, and jovial washboard daddy johnny mack), replacing stoney bass, who sadly passed away on the fourth of july. with a gig booked on friday, jam night seemed like a good opportunity for the band (with gunzi trevino on drums) to do a little public rehearsing.

hinkle's no stranger to the wreck, having played there for various benefits and fwac events, as well as making legendary late-night visits, like a wily santa claus in a natty fedora -- truly, james is the stylin'-est cat this side of jesse sierra hernandez -- to bestow wreck denizens with gifts of bbq chicken and crawfish on occasions when he was able to liberate some leftovers after performing at hip pocket theatre. he just won the blues category in the fweakly music awards, and has a new cd, straight ahead blues?, to boot.

i first saw ponty -- who splits his time these days between dallas and austin -- when he was playing in joe ely's band, opening for the clash at austin's armadillo world headquarters back in '79. he still makes that squeezebox sing sassy. kansas native johnny has been podnuhs with hinkle for at least a decade, since the days when they used to hold forth at the old pennsylvania pub, and his gave myself the blues from a coupla yrs back is one of the two or three best local blues releases in recent memory.

johnny's sunday night jam at the keys lounge on july 24th is planned as a tribute to stoney, with donations accepted to help defray his medical expenses. the cowtown blues aristocracy will be out in force. _was_ a rehearsal, but for listeners who are into the _process_ of music-making as well as the "product," watching some people's rehearsals can be more entertaining than some other people's shows. for those so inclined, it was _interesting_ to witness the usually in-your-face six-string bassist lee in laid-back, lockin'-it-in-the-pocket mode as he learned the toons; the resolution of a disagreement between various bandmembers over the chord changes to willie nelson's "night life;" and the easy banter between the musicians that gave way to a more focused demeanor once folks started to filter in from the bar to listen.

one avid but inordinately vocal fan insisted on engaging the men onstage in a lengthy dialogue on roky erickson, doug sahm, and various and sundry other texas music-related topics, but the positive outcome of his interruption was a version of sir doug's "stoned faces don't lie" sung by hinkle. like all the best blues players, james doesn't play a lot of notes, just the good ones, and at times, he'll use slides and reverse bends to produce snaky, pedal steel-like lines. when another fan put a $20 in the tip jar and respectfully requested that johnny mack sing cookie and the cupcakes' zydeco classic "matilda," johnny was only too happy to oblige. ponty carried himself with an air of dignified repose, and injected a little cajun spice into everything the band played.

when the experimystics finished, the few jammers who showed up (minus regulars steve huber, who was out of town; darrin kobetich, preparing for his trip to colorado; and damien stewart, recording with goodwin) played for about 45 minutes, dipping deeper than usual into the hendrix bag because i didn't know any of the black sabbath and van halen songs lee and joe cruz wanted to play. (and ray, i _tried_ to get lee to play "search and destroy," honest injun, but either he ignored it or it went right over his head. is it a generational or, um, a _cultural_ thang? _you_ decide!) the highlights of the set were joe's drum solo on "third stone from the sun" and a version of "voodoo child" with hinkle tearing it up on my fine, fine, supafine indonesian squier (and using pedals, which might have surprised a few people, but not me, 'cos i was in the keys the night the hinkle band took on, um, "whole lotta love").

jam-meister lee has still more surprises up his sleeve. "for awhile, i'd given up inviting new people to the jam," he said, "but i'm gonna start inviting some new ones soon." stay tuned.


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