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Monday, May 29, 2017

Taj Mahal at 75

I must have first heard Taj Mahal on record at my Cousin Elliott's sometime in the early 70's, and I remember immediately being impressed by his deep rough voice and authentic finger picking style. From very early on, he had his own unique style, his own lovely arrangements of classic Blues songs, as well as things he adapted, rewrote, or wrote from scratch. Taj has always been the real thing - a true original in the framework of traditional and Folk Blues.

It was only a couple of years later that I had the pleasure of hearing him live at the Mariposa folk festival in Toronto and then at a few more festivals...

Over the decades since the 70's, Taj has continued to explore different facets and streams of Blues and Folk music, including some of his Caribbean roots. He has performed all around the world, and put out many different kinds of albums from acoustic duets to full acoustic bands with horns, to completely electric bands, each album completely different from the previous one ...

Last week Taj Mahal turned 75 years old, and he doesn't appear to be slowing down much, as he just released a new album and embarked on a concert tour, collaborating with Keb' Mo' on their joint project "TajMo".

The last time I saw Taj in person was on the Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise of January 2006 in the Carribean, where, aside from performing with his famous Phantom band, he would hang out on the deck by the pool, with a big cigar, and chat with anyone who wanted to sit down for a bit...always a great dresser, Taj seems to like hanging out with some of his audience and have long chats...

Happy 75th Birthday Taj!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Robert Palmer Speaking about Blues Guitarists

"The great Blues guitarists are gifted with an acute sensitivity to the finest nuances of pitch, the subtlest differences in the attack and tone and decay of every note. In most cases, they learned when they were children to listen carefully, to size up a stranger in a few seconds by the timbre and inflection of his voice. And they play the guitar the way they listen, with an ear for the minutest details of phrasing and touch and meaning. They are great guitarists not because they can play more notes per minute than lesser musicians or because of their ability to fashion fancy, flashing phrases, but because they have a surer command of the Blues language."

Robert Palmer writing about Otis Rush, with big thanks to Libi for the bringing me the book "Blues and Chaos, the writings of Robert Palmer"

A few Pearls of Blues Wisdom

“the Blues is church, you sing about God, you don’t talk about how you felt last night.
The Blues on the other hand, is information - something that consoles, or brings peace, or some news.”
 **** James ‘Blood’ Ulmer  ****

"There is no greater thing to do than the Blues if you are a musician.
There is nothing easier or more difficult. It's a symphony of the soul, there is no question about it"

**** Sam Phillips - founder of Sun Studios and Sun Records, Memphis, Tennessee ****


“Leave your ego, play the music, love the people.”
**** Luther Allison ****

Monday, September 12, 2016

Meeting Steve Peskoff Again

Steve Peskoff Trio at Beit Haamudim

The first time I met Steve Peskoff was at the Jerusalem Cinematheque in the fall of 1987. I was playing a regular weekly gig there on Sunday nights, backing up the singer Libi on guitar. Libi knew everyone in the Jerusalem music scene, and would call up different musical guests each time to sit in with us. One Sunday day night, she called up Steve Peskoff, as I took a break and sat down in the front row to listen. Now, for the sake of full disclosure, I did have a little bit of 'weed' earlier in the evening, but that certainly should not diminish my estimation of Steve's playing, quite the opposite, it may have made my reaction to his playing much more extreme...

As I watched this tall skinny man and his Pedulla custom guitar playing through a few changes and going into a long solo, I suddenly found myself in total awe. He seemed to be saying something to himself over and over as he got deeper immersed in the music, maybe chanting or even praying to himself. After about 20 minutes, I said to myself: "I'm going to go home, burn all of my guitars, and never ever play another note, ever!

Steve Peskoff Trio at Beit Haamudim

Well, as the years passed, and I got to know Steve, and performed with him on stage from time to time, I sort of relaxed, and of course, didn't burn my guitars, and continued to play. On one or two occasions where I managed to put together some sort of band, and invited Steve to be a part of it, having him next to me on stage felt like I had a safety net under me - like I could do no wrong as long as he was there. That is just how good Steve is, but unfortunately, not very many people have heard him in the last 10 or so years, and not enough people really see what a gem of a musician and a person he really is.

After so many years of not seeing Steve in person, this evening I got to hear Steve performing live in a trio with his son Haim on drums, and Michael Edward on bass, and it was nothing short of refreshing and wonderful. (A new Jazz series has opened up at the Beit Haamudim on Rambam St. near Nahalat Binyamin, with shows every night of the week)

Monday, August 15, 2016

Son Seals and the Tel Aviv tour that never happened

Son Seals had a birthday a couple of days ago, he would have been 74 years old, and as I played his recordings, listening to his powerful screaming guitar solos and his rich unique voice, I couldn't help but thinking about the meeting that ALMOST was...

I think it was in the winter of 1998/99 - I was asked to recommend a number of Blues artists that the Camelot club in Tel Aviv could bring over for a week's stay. Son Seals was one of the names I suggested, and one day the Camelot club phoned to ask me to prepare some questions for a phone interview with a Chicago based artist who might come to perform here. I soon found out it was Son Seals I was about to interview for the monthly Camelot music magazine. They set a date for the tour, sometime in mid winter, when he wouldn't be too busy with festivals and touring the USA. At the end of the phone interview, we both said "See you soon in Tel Aviv..."

Son Seals - Friday Again

Well, the night of his arrival came and went, I kept calling the Camelot management to see if maybe his flight was delayed due to winter conditions, but no news was to be had... I started sending out emails to people in the Blues community, including Bruce Iglauer the owner/founder of Alligator Records, where Son Seals was on contract for over 35 years...finally, word got out that Seals was hospitalized and had his lower leg amputated due to complications with diabetes. Son recorded one more album, but he stopped touring, and the show in Tel Aviv never happened... Son Seals had a fairly hard life, went through many serious troubles, and passed away at the end of 2004, leaving behind a small treasure of ten albums, 2 of them live albums recorded in downtown Chicago.

the Son Seals story

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Refreshing Blues from Lazy Lester

My new car radio seems to have a mind of its own, completely! I cannot figure out the logic it uses for selecting the next song or next folder to play from my USB flash drive... It's certainly not sorting by any kind of alphabetical, and not by numerical 32GB USB drive can hold at least 200 different albums in MP3 format, and I don't always remember which ones are on there... so I play a game of musical roulette each day on my way to work, clicking the forward and back buttons until I land on an album I want to hear...
Sometimes I land on something that is a very nice surprise or a 'blast from the past', like the three Lazy Lester albums that I recently landed on by coincidence while searching the treasures on this drive...
As the week went by, I found myself listening to more and more of these Lazy Lester albums, which include originals by Lester, as well as covers of classic blues like Five Long Years or Scratch My Back by Slim Harpo, who was a fellow Louisianna "Swamp Blues" singer, and someone Lester recorded with on occasion. Lester also recorded and toured with Lightnin Slim, Katie Webster,
Lonesome Sundown, Whispering Smith, Silas Hogan, Henry Gray, and many others.
Lazy Lester circa 1960

I find Lester's music to be very refreshing - good solid old Blues of the 50's-60's variety with the slight difference that Lester comes from the Lousianna "Swamp Blues" tradition.
His most recent album is You Better Listen released in 2011, and
Lazy Lester at 83 years old still seems to be going strong!
Lazy Lester today

Here are a few Lazy Lester hits to give you an idea -
Lazy Lester - Sugar Coated Love
Lazy Lester - They Call Me Lazy

this classic song by Lazy Lester from the early 60's has an eerie kind of premonition about the science of cloning!
Lazy Lester - The Same Thing Could Happen To You

" when you cut your toenails off, don't ever leave 'em in a crack,
because before you leave the jailhouse, man,
you're going to meet yourself coming back..."

Monday, July 25, 2016

Re-Appreciating Fred Neil

I think that anyone who has ever heard one of Fred Neil's original recordings has felt real awe at the depth and clarity of his voice, as well as the energy and originality of his singing style. The problem of course, is that not enough people have ever heard those recordings, and Fred Neal's self-imposed semi-retirement after 1970 did not help matters at all. (The main reason for his retirement - Fred had a big interest in protecting Dolphins, and apparently Neil and Ric O'Barry founded the Dolphin Research Project in 1970, an organization dedicated to stopping the capture, trafficking and exploitation of dolphins worldwide.

Just to give you a reference point on Fred - in 1966 he wrote the classic "Everybody's Talkin' " which only became a hit when Harry Nilsson recorded it in 1968, and became even more popular when it was included in the soundtrack of the hit movie "Midnight Cowboy" in 1969. According to the Bob Dylan biography Chronicles, Fred Neil was instrumental in helping the young Dylan to find cafe gigs, food, and shelter back in his first years in New York city.
Aside from "Everybody's Talkin' ", here are links to some of Fred Neil's classics that I can point you to:
"Blues on the Ceiling"
"Other Side to This Life"
"That's the Bag I'm In"
"I've Got a Secret"
"The Dolphins"
In this age of countless CD reissues, a fantastic 2-CD set ("the Many Sides of Fred Neil" - Collectors' Choice Music 1999) has been released which encompasses 3 of Fred Neil's original albums, plus a number of rare singles and outtakes, and I highly recommend it. The set includes:
 - "Fred Neil" - 2nd solo album 1966
 - "Sessions" - 1967
 - "The Other Side of This Life"
 (live recording released in 1971)

Ba De Da
I get so tired
Hangin’ around this town
All this old city life
Should bring us fellow down
Badada dada
Dadada dada
Dadada dada
I get so tired
Trying to sleep at night
All this old city life
They keep on burning bright
Badada dada…
I get so tired
Hangin’ around this town
All this old city life
Sure brings a fellow down
Badada dada…

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Real true Blues by Mickey Shaviv in Tel Aviv

I first heard Mickey Shaviv on Israeli radio back in the early 1980's when he had a hit making pop-rock power trio named Tango...Mickey was an in demand bass player at the time for a number of prominent Israeli singers and stars. A few years later, I heard him at a private party singing a couple of original Blues songs in Hebrew and accompanying himself on hot guitar.
Fade to 1989, and Mickey had a fresh young band called 'the Blue Eyed Brotherhood', and I was finally introduced to him by my good buddy Avner Strauss. I was fascinated at the time by Mickey's repertoire- nobody else in Israel but me knew about any of those songs or the artists that wrote them...I instantly felt there was a special connection there.
Mickey moved to Canada for a good number of years, disappearing from our local music scene...
Mickey returned sometime in the late 90's, and I booked him to play at my SummerBlues festival in the summer of 2003 or 2004. We finally had a good 'sit down' and discovered we had so many musical influences and interests in common - like the phenomenal Jazz guitarist Lenny Breau, or Jazz-Blues artist Mose Allison. or the Downchild Blues Band that has been running for almost 50 years, and was an inspiration to the  Blues Brothers...Very few people on this earth truly appreciate Lenny Breau's guitar playing sensibilities, but Mickey is one of them, and he incorporates some nice Lenny style Jazz 'comping' and harmonies in his Blues playing.  
...So now it's a Sunday night in late July 2016, and I'm sitting in a small Tel Aviv pub at the end of the bar next to the band, listening to Mickey Shaviv fingerpicking a vintage Fender Strat guitar with contrabass and drums backing him, playing an eclectic mix of jazzy arrangements to Blues standards and more. Classic, classic, classic, this is how the Blues should be played.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Buddy Guy is still awesome at 80!!!

Buddy Guy turns 80 in 2 weeks on July 30, 2016.
I had the good fortune to see and hear Buddy at the ancient Roman built Caesarea Amphitheater in Israel, and WOW! I mean WOW! We should all be so lucky to have his stamina, presence of mind, and his voice at age 80!!!

Buddy gave us a wide sampling from his musical legacy and history, doing a stream of consciousness medley of songs fading or segueing from one song to the next, He had quite a few "hot licks and dirty tricks" up his sleeve too - masterfully playing the guitar in many different modes - from heavy rock to delicate slow Blues soloing, and also a little "playing with" the guitar - strumming or tapping the strings with a drum stick, a handkerchief, rubbing the guitar on his shirt, his pants, playing with his teeth, or walking the stage while playing the guitar behind his back. He also took a stroll around through the crowd at one point, never stopping the guitar playing, and at one point singing a few lines with a wireless mic.
Buddy is also a master at demonstrating or musically "quoting" the styles of other famous players, such as Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, and more...each one accompanied by a little story of his experiences with that artist.

In addition to his music, Buddy gave us a message of love, kindness, and understanding for each and every human being.

to quote Buddy:
"Do you have to suffer to sing the Blues?
NO! Just keep living..."

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

200th Show - Traveling Blues on IDC International Radio!!!

Join me tonight at 20:00 (Jerusalem time) for a special 2 hour show of Traveling Blues with live musical guests to celebrate the 200th show - it'll be fun!!!

Tune is via streaming on this page: