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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

R.I.P. Davy Graham - Brit guitar virtuoso

It's a sad day for guitarists and guitar fans around the world!
R.I.P. Davy Graham (1940-2008)

For those who are not familiar with Davy Graham (born in Leicester to a Scottish mother)
he wrote a famous little guitar instrumental named "Anji" (sometimes spelled "Angi")
(not to be confused with Mick Jagger's song "Angie")
Graham was a pioneering young virtuoso guitarist who was equally adept at playing
English Folk songs, Beatles, American Blues, modern Jazz, and even Indian music on his guitar.
I recommend the album "Folk , Blues and Beyond" as a starting point that represents his best work
[ Folk Blues and Beyond on AMG ]

His Blues and Jazz interpretations were particularly fresh and innovative in the early 60's when most acoustic players were still deep in the Folk traditions, and I guess that is my attraction to Graham's music - his take on the Charles Mingus tune "Better Get It In Your Soul" for example, which echoed the John Renbourn/Bert Jansch take on Mingus's "Goodbye Porkpie Hat" from the same period. They were all part of the same scene of what I would term "Acoustic Avant Garde Guitar", pushing the boundaries of what one could play on an acoustic guitar at the time.
Graham was to me the most mysterious of the group because he was much less accessible than the rest - his recordings were very hard to find until recently when the digital download age resulted in an explosion of reissues of many of Graham's albums from the 60's (many of those are uneven or not up to the same standard as "Folk Blues and Beyond" and "3/4 A.D.", so you must preview each album before buying).

The song Anji was named after Graham's big love at the time (early 1960's)
and was recorded by Paul Simon on the album "Sounds of Silence" (1966)
Paul Simon also used the tune as the basis for his song "Somewhere They Can't Find Me"
Fellow Scotsman and friend of Graham's - Bert Jansch recorded the definitive version of Anji on his album "Lucky 13" (1966)
and continues playing Anji to this day in his regular repertoire on stage.

And of course, there is the Israeli connection to this story - a man named Sidney Katzenel (another Scotsman)
who was a friend of both Bert Jansch and Davy Graham, and lived in Israel from the late 60's onward
(Sidney lived in Nahariya, where he was a high school teacher and a musician),
Sidney claimed that he had a direct hand in the composition of the song Anji.

And more Israeli connections - the namesake of the song, Anji herself, apparently migrated to
Israel sometime in the late 60's, and was living in Rosh Pina.
I don't know if she is still alive or her whereabouts,
but some people in the Israel folk community have told me they once knew her...

Rest in peace Davy Graham...

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

In memory - Robert Lucas

A YouTube clip dedicated to the memory of recently departed Blues great Robert Lucas

see this entry I wrote about him: Robert Lucas R.I.P.

Odetta Gordon - another legend has left us

Holy crap!!!
that was my immediate reaction as I just heard from a friend about the passing on of Odetta Gordon.
Another legendary artist gone.

I heard in the Blues circles recently that Odetta was in hospital and that
she was expected to get back on her feet in a few weeks.
- I was hoping to send her a copy of my book while she was recovering...
- She was very much hoping to sing at the Obama inauguration in January...

I met Odetta in 1980 at the Toronto Folk Festival,
I was asked to accompany her from the artist's tent to the stage (where I was a stage hand),
she put her arm under mine and let me lead her across the festival grounds.
I was a bit nervous, I mean this is a person I had known as a legend since my early childhood, and here I was arm in arm, walking her through the festival grounds.
She was very dignified, had great poise and posture, was colorfully well dressed, but also smelled strongly of perfume and booze at the same time!
The minute she got on stage, there was no doubt who was the greatest singer at that festival...

Rest in peace great lady.