Wednesday, April 11, 2007

An hour blogging every day ...


and, frankly, I wouldn't make any headway in my multiple writing and music projects. So that's why I've been away so long.

Herewith, another Top 10 list -- the stuff that's occupied my time and my mind in recent weeks:
1)Cormac McCarthy's The Road -- I finally got around to reading it, and the hype is to be believed. His writing in the novel is simple, direct and starkly beautiful, in a manner not dissimilar to that of Ernest Hemingway. The subject matter, of course, is 180 degrees removed from that of Hem. McCarthy offers horrible, horrifying images from the point of view of a dying man and his young son, trekking across America, in the wake of nuclear annihilation. I could go on, but I won't, except to say this: It's the most powerful, most disturbing piece of fiction I've read in a long while. And no, Oprah didn't make me do it. (Although, yes, let's applaud Oprah for giving The Road the kind of publicity that has resulted in pushing the novel to the top of the latest trade paperback list).

2)To follow up on the below post ... Prince has received some of the strongest reviews of his life for his performances in Las Vegas. The most recent overview of the Purple One, circa now, appeared in The New Yorker, in an April 9 piece written by Sasha Frere-Jones: " It doesn’t matter that the artist, who is forty-eight, has released only a handful of decent recordings in the past fifteen years. He is perhaps the greatest living performer in the pop tradition."

3)After much back and forth, changing our minds and then changing again, my wife and I have decided to go to Jazz Fest, aka the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, this year. It's just weeks away and, as usual, the lineup has me frothing at the mouth: Dr. John, Astral Project, Van Morrison, Soulive, Lucinda Williams, Kermit Ruffins, Subdudes, Lucky Peterson, James Carter, George Porter Jr., Bonerama, Mofro and Kirk Joseph (all on 4/27). Norah Jones, Rebirth Brass Band, Rod Stewart (will he play his good early-career Faces stuff or the recent shlock?), Pharoah Sanders, Mose Allison, Henry Butler, Jon Cleary, Tab Benoit (4/28). Irma Thomas, Bonnie Raitt, Jerry Lee Lewis, Marcia Ball, Arturo Sandoval, Gillian Welch, New Orleans Social Club, Irvin Mayfield and the NOJO, Theresa Andersson, Dr. Lonnie Smith, John Mooney (4/29). And so many more.

4)I had a great time playing the 20th annual Child of the Sun Jazz Festival, several weeks ago at Florida Southern College in Lakeland. This time, I called my group the Philip Booth Jazz Quintet, and it was essential a sequel to the PBJQ group that played the fest in 2000 (I previously played with a different band of mine, Greenwich Blue and twice, I think, with the FSC Faculty Jazz Group). I was joined by guitarist LaRue Nickelson, trumpeter Dwayne White, vibraphonist Sam Koppelman and drummer Ian Goodman for a set about evenly split between tunes associated with Nat and Cannonball Adderley ("Jive Samba," "Sack of Woe" and others) and New Orleans-related pieces, including "St. James Infirmary," "Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?" and Hoagy Carmichael's "New Orleans," Carm reharmonized by LaRue. Check out these pix, shot by Matthew Wengerd, a bass player and graduate student in jazz studies at the University of South Florida School of Music. As it turned out, bassist Santi Debriano, part of the blue-chip band headed by guitarist Roni Ben-Hur, played my bass during his set. I'd like to think I'm picking up vibes from the bassists -- John Orr, a one-time Monk sideman; the late, great Walter Booker, longtime anchor man for Cannonball and then Nat Adderley -- whose hands have touched my bass, a 100-year-old instrument made by Edmund Paulus in Austria (I think).

If you're in Lakeland on a Wednesday, check out Matt's trio at the Starbucks at 3801 US Hwy 98. The group plays from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m., and admission, of course, is free. On Matt's blog, he recently wrote about the fun and the complications of getting his own band going. I can relate.

5)Sam Koppelman (see above) and I have formed a new trio with drummer Don Capone.
Trio Vibe is the name of the group, and we'll be playing at Della's this summer in Brandon -- one weekend in July and one weekend in August. And we're planning on stopping by the WMNF jazz party tomorrow, April 14, to do some playing that may actually be heard live on the air. More details to come. Sam and I will be playing with saxophonist Jeremy Powell and drummer J.T. in a show on Mother's Day at USF Botanical Gardens. More details to come on that one, too.

6)BTW, Jeremy, who played and recorded with my now-defunct Ghetto Love Sugar band, is now involved with a new Clearwater music school, Musicology, headed by local guitar great Peter Mongaya. Check the site for info about the school's events, including twice-monthly jam sessions.

7)Speaking of New Orleans, and a guy who has done so much to bring attention to the beleaguered city and its jazz musicians ... I had a good time hearing and seeing pianist/singer/matinee idol Harry Connick Jr. when he played Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater recently. My review appeared online at Jazz Times. Earlier, I reviewed Connick's simultaneously released new CDs, Oh My Nola and Chanson du Vieux Carre, for

8)What else have I been reading? Talk Talk, the superbly written, quite funny latest novel from T.C. Boyle, a road story/revenge tale/contemporary relationship saga about a deaf woman who goes on a cross-country quest to track down the con man who has stolen her identity; Werewolves in Their Youth, a terrific collection of short stories by Michael Chabon; and, going back a few decades, Evelyn Waugh's Decline and Fall, a dry comic satire concerning the misadventures of one Paul Pennyfeather, an ex-Oxford intellectual who encounters an odd lot of educators as a teacher at a private school. Written in 1928 and set in the 1920s, it definitely feels like an inspiration for later books taking place in academic settings, particularly Kingsley Amis's wonderful Lucky Jim.

9)Speaking of major contemporary novelists ... Kurt Vonnegut died April 11, and it was indeed a blow to the world of American literary fiction. "His novels — 14 in all — were alternate universes, filled with topsy-turvy images and populated by races of his own creation, like the Tralfamadorians and the Mercurian Harmoniums," Dinitia Smith wrote in the New York Times obit that appeared April 12.

10)Just got the word that my old guitar-playing friend Mike Pachelli, now based in L.A., is working on several projects with Randy Stonehill, including the soundtrack for a feature film on the life of Larry Norman, THE pioneer of the Christian rock movement. More from Mike: "Randy Stonehill and I have been VERY busy producingand recording various artists for Stonehill Productions at my West Hollywood based studio -Fullblast. We just finished South African blues artistEric Sawyer and work is in progress for Brian Rennick,Rich Cummins, and Ted Aukerman." In recent years, Mike has also toured the world as guitarist/musical director for Frank Stallone, Sly's brother.

Nice to see a former Tampa Bay area musician (by way of Ohio) and a friend continue to have so much success with his music. Way back when, I had the opportunity to play some trio pieces with Mike and drummer Kenny Loomer, for a show that Mike hosted on the old WTMV station, a WB affiliate. And I later played with Kenny's brother, Glenn, also a drummer in the now-defunct Bop City band, which included vibraphonist Sam Koppelman, saxophonist Joe Teston (in the original version of Greenwich Blue) and guitarist Domenick Ginex, now a successful purveyor of online lessons. Funny about these connections, but here are a few more: Glenn's wife Laurie's last name is Chase, same as my wife Callie's maiden name. Our sons are both named Chase, and both age 10. And they both play music: My son plays bass, and Glenn's son plays drums. No, we didn't plan that.

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