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What I’m Listening to This Week

by TOM D'ANTONI

Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band 40th Reunion. DVD 2006

This concert took place in the UK in January of 2006.

I don’t feel like I should have to explain who they are and I will not, but I know I should because the band had a relatively short lifespan, was British, never had a hit, and was too strange to make it out of cult status.

I am a member of their cult. Wanna buy a flower?

Missing only the dearly departed Vivian Stanshall (a man), the band is led by another man who calls himself Neil Innes, but doesn’t look a bit like Neil Innes did forty years ago. Also appearing are old men impersonating Roger Ruskin Spear, Rodney Slater, Vernon Dudley Bohay-Nowell, and Legs Larry Smith. Also also appearing is the electric trouser press instrument, and the theramin leg.

Also also also appearing: Big hello to big John Wayne, xylophone. Looking very relaxed Adolf Hitler on vibes. Eric Clapton on ukulele. Yeah! Digging General de Gaulle on accordion. Really wild, General! Thank you, sir. Roy Rogers on Trigger. We welcome Val Doonican as himself. (Hello there.)

Among others.

Viv was such a huge presence in the Bonzos, that several people have stepped in to fill his shoes, including Stephen Fry, doing recitations such as:
“My darling, in my cardboard-coloured dreams, once again, I heard your laugh. And I kiss, yes, I kiss your perfumed hair. The sweet essence of Giraffe. And each
time I hear your name, oh, oh, my, my, how it hurts! In the wardrobe of my soul…in the section labeled “shirts.”-from “Canyons of Your Mind.”

Phil Jupitus stepped in for the dead Viv with a bowel-moving rendition of “The Strain,” Stanshall’s ode to taking a shit.

The audience was so attuned that when Innes athked the muthical lithp, “Do you like thoul muthic?” the audience replied, “No,” en masse. Tho did I.

The audio sucks, the shooting sucks, Innes loses some of his voice as the night wears on, clams abound and few of the props seem to work; in other words, a perfect evening.

When they started playing “Jollity Farm,” I cried.

I’ll repeat that, the shirt event.

Nancy King Untitled CD c. mid-1990s

Nancy King is in the top 5 of our greatest living jazz singers. Thankfully, she is just now, at an age somewhere over 55, getting some of her due. She’s quirky, scatty, bright, sarcastic and sweet, with the evidence of a difficult yet rewarding life advertised on her face.

She has been active nationally with a recent CD with pianist Fred Hersch.

She has lived most of her life in Portland, Oregon where she has frequently collaborated with the virtuoso bassist Glen Moore of the band “Oregon,” as well as her long time pianist, Steve Christopherson.

She burned this CD for me in 1997 for an appearance on a radio show I was doing. I’m not sure when it was recorded, but I’m guessing it was shortly before that, maybe not. I played it underneath our interview, stopping along the way to talk to her about aspects of what we were hearing.

To tell you the truth, she puts all the current slim, cute jazz divas to shame. What she’s got, only time and life gives you. Thank goodness she’s still around to communicate that.

She’s bop, she’s ballad, she’s irony and love, she’s a brat and a seductress, as contemporary as they come but with deep roots. You can find a not-so-up-to-date website at www.nancykingjazz.com.

Raymond Scott “Reckless Nights and Turkish Twilights” CD 1992/1998

Call me old fashioned, but the father of cartoon music never sounded better. Of course, as every schoolboy knows, Scott didn’t compose these familiar tunes to be used in cartoons. He had all but abandoned Hollywood for New York when Carl Stalling decided to put some of Scott’s music to Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies.

In addition, what most people don’t know is that Scott was a pioneer of electronic music, building proto-synthesizers and other such machines. He also composed hundreds of jingles and other ephemera. Odd then, that he is best known for music to chase wabbits by.

He was also Dorothy Collins’ husband and led the band on “You’re Hit Parade.” (Ask your grandfather.)

One of the oldest methods self-entertainment includes the following: 1) smoke some dope, 2) turn on the TV, 3) put some music on, and 4) turn the TV audio off and continue to change the channels till the music fits. Laugh if you like, but it still works. And it’s still just as much fun.

It works with old movies, it works with Wolf Blitzer and the other night Raymond Scott’s CD worked with a silent Dada film from the 20s. It worked really well. Like it was written for it.

Might have just be me. Doesn’t matter.

The CD I have is a 1998 re-mastered version of the original 1992 transfer to digital. Ray would have loved it.

Papa Grows Funk “Live at the Leaf” CD 2006

Even if Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk occupies the throne of New Orleans funk bands, PGF is thatclosebehind. This was recorded live last April at the Maple Leaf Bar, a creaky old place in New Orleans. It might look like it’s going to fall down any moment, but the Leaf is a cathedral of great music.

PGF has been holding down Monday nights there for years, in that narrow, sweaty, way-to-loud room next to the bar where you swear that any moment the whole place may explode, implode or otherwise self-destruct due to the level of funk and blues. I’m not exaggerating.

John Gros (pronounced Grow, hence the name of the band) holds all the keys to the rooms where they store the legacy of the great New Orleans piano players. He knows it, lives and plays it. It’s in him. It is him. Add fiery guitarist June Yamagishi, ultra-cool Jason Minglesdorf on saxes, Fatback Mark Pero on bass and you’ve got all the funk you can use. They have had one major change in their lineup in the past year or so. Although Jeffrey “Jellybean” Alexander is a fine drummer, nobody can replace Russ Batiste. Nobody, nohow.

Still, if you’re 3000 miles away from New Orleans like I am, slipping this CD in the drawer and closing your eyes will very nearly make you sweat no matter what the temperature.

P.S. Now that they’ve got the live CD done, they could use some new tunes.

 

Salif Keita “M’Bemba” CD 2005

Have you ever seen a bad review of a world music recording? I never have, although I don’t go looking for reviews good or bad. I think it’s probably politically incorrect to not like something like this. Not that this is a review. I don’t know what this is. David Vest just told me I should write these things, and he’s rarely wrong about such matters.

My taste in African music tends toward old Ethiopian soul music and Tabu Ley Rochereau. And I don’t keep up with it. This didn’t grab me. I know that Mali is supposed to be where the roots of American music lie. I wanted to like this. I paid cash, retail full price, too.

I am prepared to be wrong.

Delmark Goldfarb “Up To My Neck” CD 2004

From the deep past when men were men and it was cool to play in jug bands, comes Del Goldfarb who spent some time working for the Blues Museum in Memphis, organizing the collection by day and trying on clothes worn by Johnny Cash and Billy Lee Riley donated to the museum by night.

He also spent a long time playing with jug band legends like Fritz Richmond and people like John Sebastion. Both of them are on here, plus Cody Dickson from the North Mississippi All-Stars. Del lives in Portland, Oregon now where he plays, records and drives a delivery truck.

The title of the album refers to major back surgery he had a while back which is documented on the front of the CD by a nasty photo of the scar running up to the back of his neck.

This is a pretty amiable, kinda dog-eared good-timey type-a-thing. Which is also pretty much describes what Del is like, too. Find it at www.delgoldfarb.com

“James Brown’s Funky Summer” CD included in August 2006 issue of Mojo Magazine

Mojo, the British music magazine always includes a CD and most of them are spectacular. Not all of them. I never want to see another album of Beatles or Kinks covers, but this one falls into the classic category.

Not only does it include, “Gut Bucket” a cut from James Brown’s new recording due out next year and a welcome return to his brand of funk instead of following trends, something that’s left him in the wilderness for decades. The best thing about the tune is that he seems to have regained his voice which had been reduced to a hoarse shout. He’ll never have the ballad voice of “Please, Please, Please,” but he actually sounds like James Brown on this.

The rest of the disc is filled with musicians who worked with Mr. B or covered his tunes. One from from “Maceo (Parker) And All The King’s Men” is included. I found that LP years ago. It was recorded (poorly) during a time when Maceo and James weren’t working together. Bootsy Collins, Fred Wesley, Bobby Byrd, Vicki Anderson and Lyn Collins from various versions of the Famous Flames/JB’s have solo cuts. Tammi Terrell, Albert King (Cold Sweat), Soul Survivors (minus the traffic), Roy Brown (!), The 5 Royales cover other JB tunes.

The magazine is always a treasure, even if I don’t care about British pop (and never did), but this CD makes it extra-special.

TOM D’ANTONI is a writer and TV producer/reporter living in Portland Oregon. His book “Rabid Nun Infects Entire Convent and Other Sensational Stories from a Tabloid Writer” was published by Villard/Random House in November.

 

 

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