Building Up Steam ~ Brickdrop and Stratton ~ Sat 30 Jan 16

It’s hard for me to separate which subject to talk about and how to ‘weight’ the mix.  We have two really exciting (and not just to me, I am quite sure) things going on here at Grizzly’s Pub atop the base lodge at Stratton Mountain.

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One, of course, is strictly musical, as in great music and listening greatly; the other is more about the business end of the music business.  In both cases, the positive words (and vibes) to follow will be muchly about growth and building a brand.

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Brickdrop, the up-and-coming “smooth funk” band from Burlington, is playing an afternoon set here at Stratton, which (in my ever-so-humble opinion/assessment) is an up-and-coming music venue.  Credit where it’s due, and right quick: Andy McQuerry came on here as a Food & Beverage Manager a year and a half ago or so, and within a couple-few months he began constructing and executing a brilliant scheme.  Judging by how well it’s going so far, we can only hope that he doesn’t go for world domination as his end game- or that he does, maybe.  Last year and the year or two before, we came here a bunch of times to see Twiddle on some weekend nights; these shows were a pretty big deal and pretty much exceptions to the rule for this situation.  Successful they were, though, and packed to bursting, with waiting lines at the foot (feet?) of the stairs all through the night.  The resort also did a few music things throughout the year, as many of ’em do to bring in some traffic in the ‘other’ seasons.  Such activity was pretty well capped-off and maxed-out at its level, though.  We can guess that the balance of budget, effort and return was about at the threshold of ‘just enough’ to justify the moderate, perhaps ‘obligatory’ point of saturation to keep sufficient prescence in the marketplace, and we might further surmise that the ‘system’ as it then stood had become customary and sufficient.  As such, without reach or growth, the usual course will become one of status quo and stagnancy- not to mention, the ‘establishment’ mentality and ‘entrenchment’ dynamic that settles in, locking the whole thing in to a complacent state of dormancy, thinly-veiled frustration, and a feigned appearance of satisfaction.  Just spitballing, here- all none of our business, anyway.

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And so, along comes Andy- a young chap with vision, energy, and such pleasant disposition that he brings just the right mix to the mix.  Somehow, the guy manages to work from a regular Manager’s job, and then communicate his ideas and convey his enthusiasm so that the powers-that-be were sufficiently swayed to give him some reign, whereupon he began building the concept of this location as an actual music venue, one to compete in a whole ‘nother segment beyond just off-season resorts.  No alpine slides, waterparks, or mountain-biking camps are necessary here- although, top management can certainly still conduct and combine such ventures.  And the golf school here at Stratton (tennis, too, right?) has been a matter of well-repute for a good long while now, anyway.

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I’m talking too much.  You get the idea.  The thing is growing, and Burlington-based Brickdrop is charting a parallel course as they track their way along the rungs of exposure and name-recognition that any aspiring artist must, and they have such a talented musicality going for them that we can observe this development with no qualms or questions.  This is a band that warrants and deserves good things, even if only as a matter of Reward for their artistic integrity.  Anybody remember a certain humble scribe describing their then-nascent sound and style, and singing their praises numerously- and not least for playing according to their own calling?  This is cool stuff, and most folks dig it once they hear it (how can they not?), but there ain’t a whole lotta phat-city radio-bands playing the kind of almost entirely instrumental, highly listenable and decidedly danceable ‘smooth funk’ that follows in a wispy and barely-discernable ‘tradition’ that might be said to descend from the adventurous roots of early ‘cool’ and through the paths of Miles Davis, as further explored by the likes of Herbie Hancock, stepping aside of the voluminous ‘fusion’ genre (with perhaps a nod to Weather Report, f’rinstance) before arriving at a place of stimulating and entertaing balance. 

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This ‘balance’ is more juxtaposition really, as the elements or ‘threads’ that are wound together are a surprising (but not at all shocking) combination.  The whole, sonic and conceptual outcome of it all is at once exciting and listenable.  This latter term, ‘listenable’ will usually carry a connotation something like ‘pleasant’ – like elevator music.  Not so here!  Take that pleasantness, that smoothness, weave in a distinct and phat thread of groove and the further punch of solid funk, and add in an occasional atmospheric waft and tie it all together with a group of musicians that respect their art, take some risks, and follow their Muse- then, consider that all of this shows through in the element of Composition.  We almost can’t quite parse out which of their songs are versions- it’s all so uniformly characteristic, without the dreaded aspect of ‘sameness’ that might plague a less skilled and creative group. It’s one of those sum-as-greater-than-its-parts things.

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So, it looks to this observer like this band and this venue are on just about parallel paths, with each building up steam at similar rates. Grizzly’s has actually opened up the ‘wings’ on its upstairs floor, and they took out the extra-huge stairs that took up the whole middle of the space; plus, they moved the stage. Even so, the place is purt-near packed. And likewise, Brickdrop has consolidated or maybe focused their personnel and their sound, swapping-out the keyboards for a second sax. Two, being one more than one, constitutes a ‘section,’ as in “horn section,” and thusly are they now qualified to call themselves a Funk Band. If they want to. Cuz they are, for sure. But they’re a whole lot more, and other, too. Kinda like a ski resort/lodge that turns into a bona-fide live music venue- that’d be ‘more,’ certainly!

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One more thing- and I already said it in person, so… we’re good! Couple o’ times now, we’ve seen/heard Megan sing. This would have been at Mahattan Pizza in Burlington- fun place, but packed to the gills like sardines, with the band stuffed into the corner, literally- poor Rob, all walled in and hardly no elbow room; it’s always the drummer suffers most. So, under this less-than-ideal sonic setup, and maybe fighting for amperage with the keyboards at the time, her voice -or rather her singing, at any rate- was at least adequate and perfectly pleasant; nothing at all to complain about for the occasional departure from strictly instrumentals. This time, however… we got a new attitude! The lady sings with soul, like she has a soulful spin to her vocalizations, and it’s a similar sound to what’s real popular on the charts these days. So, just in case if these young ‘uns wanna put that kinda swang in their thang… it’s a could-be!

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And, once again, my speech exceeds my swath…  or, my reach my grasp…  I’m the last one out, even after the band-  except for Andy!

Jimm O’D ~ The Dusty Turntable

Higher Calling @ Higher Ground

There are times when the Muse descends. We’ve talked about this before.  It occurs to me, though, that there may be times when the Muse has no need to descend, or to move much at all. Some artists might dwell within the spirit of their craft, so much so that the Muse is familiar to them. The condition of being “in the zone”is so readily accessible that it’s like meditation- a state of centered-ness, being fully present in the moment, can be always within easy reach. And when this knowledge, this understanding-at-depth, is shared among multiple individuals, a common link can be formed. A common name for this spiritual connection would be ‘community,’but in some cases it exceeds or transcends mere conversance or convergence. At times this rapport can reach a level of intuition, so finely tuned and yet broadly shared that the group becomes an organism- a gestalt is formed, a single artist with multiple aspects and outlets. With music and musicians, this gestalt being can come into existence, change form, swap components, and always uphold and draw from the overarching spirit of music. The Muse is accessible and ever-present, without the need for particular visitation or occasional accession.

Not that I’ve ever thought about this before- well, maybe… a little, here and there. Probably when observing, like an outsider -a welcome one- looking in, or a wide-eyed child witnessing a thing of beauty as it unfolds into reality; I have probably pondered the possibility that a transcendent state of Muse-musicianship might be available and accessible to a few like-minded and similarly-spirited individuals at such times as they open themselves to it with intention, even seeking it out, and not just as a matter of arbitrary occasion or circumstantial happenstance.

Brickdrop ~ Elephant ~ Monsta’ Party   ~   Higher Ground ~ Burlington ~ 160123

 

Twiddle-ish Trifecta, 2 of 3

We haven’t talked yet about the first of three Twiddle-related events, almost in a row.  Saturday night at Higher Ground was pretty near “off the hook-” so much so, in fact, that I really want to sit down and address myself to giving it a good go.

Tonight, Monday, Gubbilidis is at Outback Pizza in Killington (not Ludlow, I discovered en route).  Now, do we really need to go through the connections and lineage again?  I suspect so, as I’ve been missing the parental unit a whole lot for a while now, so many might not have it all clear.  Fact is, they’ve really burst out this last year, just as the poster and the campaign suggested last winter or spring, and just as the growing body of Frends knew and predicted.  So they’re playing bigger venues and touring farther from home.  Especially with the recent release of Plump, their third and newest studio album (fourth overall, counting the preceding Live at Nectar’s double-disc), the guys are working pretty hard.
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So… we got us a fairly full house here in the Outback, at least out here in the back of the place- the joint is quite a bit bigger than the other, formerly connected restaurant just down Route 100.  Since taking over and doing some work on the rearmost area, they have created a homey little music hall.
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From the glass doors on the left (back wall) to Mohawk Bob on the right, a hundred people, maybe two, can eat, drink, dance and dig. The band at hand is starting to reach a level similar to where the four-piece was at a couple of years ago, and other related projects are gaining momentum as well. Mickey Solo draws ’em in as well.
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So, for the uninitiated: Gibbilidis is a duo, though they really do sound much bigger, made up of Zdenek Gubb and Mihali (Mickey) Souvaladis.  Mihali’s acoustic six-string and Zdenek’s five-string, with the skill and techmology available to the former and the skill and technique at the hands of the latter, especially with his “highly percussive bass” stylings, as the promo info says, all combine to fill up and round out the sound and the house.

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As often happens at one of these shows, guests abound. Chas Kanney looks to be staying up with his sax and trumpet for most of the second set, while a few others come and go. Isaac French, f’rinstance, intonates on one number and sings another; Honeycomb beat-boxes on a couple here and there; and the Largish One even handed over his axe to be wielded for a bit by another feller.  I half-expected the guy to drop that bass to the floor, unable to lift it- you know, like Thor’s hammer.

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These guys are going a good ways over-time. There’s energy in the room; how could they not follow the muse and continue to deliver on the promise of positivity that comes with all things Twiddle-ish? Really! There is a grateful and lively spirit wherever these guys play, as this duo or otherwise. And it’s fun when they pull out a set-list loaded with a bunch of Twiddle songs, to see them get a different spin- in fact, this is where Mickey will first debut a lot of his stuff, playing it in and working it out for a smaller audience. A few covers come out as well, so as to pave the way for guests as well as entertain the fans. This is something that cannot escape notice: there is no disappointing these frends- whatever the band(s) does, they love it. They cheer, they dance, they sing along regardless of a song’s origin- if these guys are doin’ it, them fans are lovin’ it.

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This holds true over a wide range and eclectic mix of material, too; and most of it happens on the fly, or off the cuff (or hook)- spontaneity and improvisation are the predominant principles here. While the stuff is plenty familiar to them all, and much might be made into muscle memory, jamming is the preferred method of expression and enjoyment, and this also holds true for each of the players, however they come together in their several permutations.

Gubbilidis was the first Twiddle offshoot (besides Mihali solo) to be named and billed and played out, so it makes sense that they should play as well and as smoothly as they do. Though, of course, that’s always how they do it. They are just such fine, skilled, sensitive and intuitive musicians; if they weren’t so damn young, we might call ’em consummate.

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Mary, the Monday Music Manager, oughtta get a prize, by the way. These offshoot bands are not always the easiest to track down and pin down for a date.  And, for those not necessarily in the know, these gigs can be risky ventures.  Every now and then, though, the show goes so obviously well that it seems a safe bet the house is happy. In some cases, it’s a safe bet that it’s a safe bet- like, around central Vermont and a growing region, and with all things Twiddle-ish.

Jimm O’D ~ The Dusty Turntable

Dynamite Johnny @ Liston’s, Worthington

One of the many problems that comes as part of the package doing this has to with taking pictures (surprise, surprise):  In this case, the device is working well enough and the lighting is cooperative, but I find myself entirely unable to convey the energy in the house here at Liston’s tonight.  Such an energy comes with the turf anyway- I mean, how many live music venues are there within a reasonable drive of… anywhere out here?  The natives are restless! 

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Try as I might to snap a picture that will convey the energy in the joint, it just ain’t happ’nin.  I’ll have to describe it best I can.  It’s crowded in here!  Liston’s probably holds only a hundred or so before it gets to be Sardine City, and when the music is high-energy, it can get mighty warm as well.  And Dynamite Johnny is, most assuredly indeed, whatcha call high-energy.  Except when he brings it down, but even then it’s rock-solid.  We got a little somethin’ different goin’ on tonight, too- Guy DeVito must be elsewise occupied this time out; John Clark and long-time stalwart Billy Klock have a new (and young) feller on bass tonight, Dan Stevens, from around Saratoga Springs.  I happen to have had a taste of the scene from the area around Albany and up; they likes their funk and soul and jazzy jam-bands so it’s readily apparant what we’re hearing in the sound tonight that’s a little different from the usual Dynamite Johnny thang: a touch of funk in the low end!

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We’re still rocking firm and solid here (I mean, Billy Klock… right?), but all through the first set the ‘urban element’ seemed to kinda bubble up.  Folks here dig it; Liston’s is a hard-rocking roadhouse kinda place, just right for the blues-based boogie that goes great with brewskis and a dance floor.

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Steve, the guy what owns the joint, has a great ear and nose for the right bands to book- we’ve seen that in our occasional visits here before.  According to scuttlebutt, he treats ’em right, too, which ain’t neccessarily so in all cases these days.  He even gets some semi-stars from beyond the local pool at times, like for the annual pig-roast parties; like James Montgmery last time out, and Jeff Pitchell with his band of notables another time.

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So… what-all we got goin’ on all up in heah, like I say, is ninety-nine kinds o’ rock-solid, hard-driving, blues-based rock-&-roll, with a touch of funk this particular time.  Best example: “Who Do You Love.”  Muddy Waters, uh-huh; George Thorogood, you know it; the other big one I can’t call it up right now, it’ll come to me… the Doors, yeah, but somebody else too.  At any rate, consider the number.  Think of the steady and insistent and, again, solid rolling of the drums that lay down the foundation and damn near define the song, but without dominating it-  then think of it with Billy Klock at the kit.  It’s like they wuz born for each other, that driving punch and the punchy whack that comes with the calm, cool, yet aggressive animal that is the whackenaceous Billy Klock.

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Now, if ya got that sonic ‘image’ in mind, take that same, happy whack-job and effective funk bass, and transfer the both of ’em, along with Johnny’s powerful, psych-laden guitar and his earthy, gritty voice, to a whole plethora of material.  Folks here was diggin’ it, and I am just about out of time and wifi!

Jimm O’D ~ The Dusty Turntable

Another Son Glides to Dust

I just heard the news from BJK.  Bit of a shocker, that!
http://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-35279642

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Not unlike Dec 1980, fresh out of Navy boot-camp and home in bed with
my gf (first time in . . . months);  and right where the pleasant afterglow
normally comes, hear on the radio of John Lennon’s shooting and death. 
Stops one in ones’ tracks and holds all reality still for a dizzying moment.

Funny thing, somewhat:  I have just, just, JUST now been listening to my own particular ‘slice’ or reference-frame for Bowie, or tracks from it anyway.  I burned a quick CD just yesterday or (maybe it was the day before) of a compilation concept I’d had in my head….
The title became “Heroes,” the name of the middle record in The Thin White Duke’s mid-70’s Berlin Trilogy.  The song is something of an almost-underground or alternative FM classic, as is true of the whole Low-to-Lodger trio, with Scary Monsters as a post-script and the 2-LP Stage standing as a live document for the period.  That title track, with Robert Fripp’s immediately recognized and instantly classic lead lines, became the opening cut; and the listening experience closed with Blondie’s 1980 live take on the number- again, with Fripp guesting.  The rest of the 80 minutes is lovingly filled with a baker’s dozen of studio samplings featuring Fripp and his unique guitar embellishments on what is, for me, a hugely entertaining collection of proto-punk, not-pop, non-hit, New Wave faves.  The thing also serves pretty well as a Young Person’s Guide Fripp & Eno, as these two are all over the selections from the period piece as it crosses-over between British Intellectuallati and urban angst as exemplified by the scene down in the Bowery section of New York City (I.e. CBGB’s).

So, yeah… all of that.  I was a college disc-jockey at the time, theoretically unearthing the next ‘new’ thing for the ‘dinosaurs’ to ingest (or big, commercial stations tocatch on to); and here were these slighty older gents, Fripp & Eno, collaborating with Bowie, Blondie, Peter Gabriel, Daryl Hall, David Byrne and that band of his, plus at least one of the Roches, as well as a formidable and multi-tentacled coterie of top-tier art-ish axe-men from both sides of the Big Pond.  It’s pretty easy to fill up a disc with one track from each of the albums of the era; in fact it’s hard to keep within the time limit.  Disc Two hovers on the horizon, waiting to pick up the peripherals from parent-bands like King Crimson or Roxy Music (for starters), plus all the extras from related projects, solo efforts and side tracks… and then there’s Devo- more of a stretch there; and Eno’s other enormous accomplishment as producer, U2, clearly falls outside the parameters at hand.  Disc Three comes to mind as well… somebody stop me- or bring me to Rhino Records!

All of this is what Bowie means to me.  It’s BIG, and fairly few have ever even heard of such stuff.  ‘Twas but a moment in time, when the underground, the commercial, and I (in my mind, at least, and perhaps a few others) all converged and shared ideas and a mission.  Methinks this is what Bowie stands for: rugged individuality, constant growth, and earned success with a popularity that springs from sincerity and leads to a place of respect and regard- and all without escaping a healthy measure of controversy and ups & downs, as well. 

Just a couple o’ quick thoughts….

Jimm O’D ~ The Dusty Turntable

… Where’s Jopey…?

John Cantalini Band with bassmeister John O’Boyle and Tim Smith subbing for drummer Joe Fitzpatrick… we’re at SkyBox in Southwick.  Walking in with mah boi Jeff and Steve from California, the guys were halfway thru Kenny Wayne Shepherd’s “Blue on Black” – way past the song’s original running time, actually, but with a few minutes’ extended improv to welcome us in.  I LOVES me some artsy jams, man!

Amazing Grace Revisiited… indeed!  …nuthin’ like the sweet, plaintive wail of a Lap Steel guitar to bring out the heart and soul and spiritual tones in that classic hymn.  Letting the song stand on its own is always a good idea- the instrumental treatment fits the longing-ness and emotional soul of the melody; and John Cantalini’s delivery and ’embellishments’ coincide nicely with the spirit.

Rick Handville, from down around Hartford, just happened to have his PRS in the car or whatever…
He come in to SkyBox to get some o’ that John Cantalini Band, and our boys had him sit-in for a three-way of songs.

Finishing with “Black Magic Woman,” pretty much the Santana way, and segue-ing into the instrumental section, “Gypsy Queen,” shows all present just how versatile and powerful that pretty guitar is, in the right hands.  Now, the guy might not have fully realized what he was getting himself into here.  He’s known John C since back in the days when disco hadn’t quite died yet, but he’s only ever played with John O’Boyle a couple of times; and Tim Smith -the drummer- never!  Think about this, now: pretty risky manuever, it seems to me, to go into a challenging change-up like that, when it switches over.  Lotsa band’ll just ‘clip it’ right there at the seg, put a finish to it…  With a couple of top-tier pros along for the ride, though… ya oughtta see ’em cook!  Rick passes the ‘spotlight,’ figuratively speaking, to Tim who not only rolls with it and rises to the occasion admirably, he in fact kinda blows us all away.  This is friggin’ great!!!

It’s been prolly like two years, maybe more, since I met Rick at J’s Crab Shack, sitting in with Tommy Whalen on one of his jaunts with Livio Pop and Bob Laramie.  He played a Strat that night, to the effect that his tones were low and kinda ‘plunky,’ a chickkin pickin’ in the bayou kinda sound- like Walter Becker playing Clapton tones.  Pretty sure I said something like that at the time.  Now, though, the dude is playing with just as much skill and finesse, but a whole lotta flash and panache as well.  That pretty PRS can make all kindsa noises, good ones- what we got here this time is a hard-rocking fusiony-kinda sound.  I mean, this guy sounds SO good, I couldn’t help but tell my good friend,  the esteemed (and extremely good-natured) Mister Cantalini, “You SUCK… now!!”  I’m kinda not real sure that the other folks here at the SkyBox, laughing tho’ they surely were, had a real clear understanding that I was just kiddin’ around.

Jimm O’D ~ The Dusty Turntable

Dragonfly Debut (?!?!?)

Christina Cantalini makes some beautiful music- three albums of it, so far.  By “beautuful,” one can read ‘beautiful voice,’ or ‘beautiful songs,’ or beautifully produced; whatever- they all apply, and they all go equally for each of the three releases.  The newest CD by Christina -whether billed with The Flying Cantalini’s or not- is called DRAGONFLY; it’s about a month old now.

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Here’s the thing:  if there was a CD release party, I missed it- and, really, what are the chances of that happening?

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Tell ya what, I have more to say about this immaculately conceived and recorded record, and about pretty much all aspects of it.  Most of these thoughts will apply to the two eariel releases as well, so it begins to sum up to a more daunting project.  But I’ll do it!  So far, I have listened to the other two only once, or maybe 3 or 4 times, depending on how you figure it.  I had a three-hour drive to New Hampshire for a New Years Eve barn party and Van Burens show, and I managed to make a four-hour tour of it; but I mostly didn’t mind.  Having already tracked thru the new one, Dragonfly, many more times than once or thrice, and having subsequently come into possesion of the earlier pair, I was Ready To Listen.  I got thru whole songs without backtracking; two or three at a time even; but there was no way I could sit patiently while driving and just listen.  Too many things grabbed at my attention!  A guitar riff will beckon to me readily, especially when it’s executed by an expert- take The Royal Scam, for instance: is that really is just a Steely Dan album, or is it a Larry Carlton project almost as much- right?  And when, as in the case of Christina’s newest disc and the one before it (the one actually billed as a “Flying” band), with husband John Cantalini as the lead guitarist at hand, well… yes, I have a certain interest. 

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While the other flyers seem to be John O’Boyle and Joe Fitzpatrick on bass and drums, with Joepy’s Kunkel/Sklar compatriot, Rudi Weeks, taking over bass on about 40% of the tracks, the whole listening experience becomes that much more fun and fascinating.  So, it might be something musical that gives me a whack; it might be the turn of a phrase or a guess at a lyric’s deeper meaning; or it might just be the overall everything of a composition and how it comes together au entiere.

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Anyhoo…  three of the aforementioned four “Flying Cantalini’s” also make up the John Cantalini Band.  Said JCB has a show tomorrow (tonight, by this time).  Wouldn’t it be cool if the beloved and, as may or may not have been mentioned above, beautiful Ms Cantalini were to show up at the SkyBox tomorrow and lay a few on us…?  in lieu of an actual party, per se…

Jimm O’D ~ The Dusty Turntable

Harvest Moon … in a Different Light

Really- think about this:

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Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon,” an outstandingly pretty song by a guy who has written more than a few of them (and their antitheses as well), done in manner like a chamber music ensemble- but on the back porch, or at your local Tex-Mex eatery.  Perhaps most to the point, just imagine if you will that lovely, lilting and sweet song done by a three-piece with guitar and bass… and accordion!  Ah’m a-tellin’ ya man, it’s a beautiful thang!

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Especially with Doug Pit’s cavernous, mountains-big vocal chords wrapped around the delicately-spun melody and the words, normally sung in such a high register but handled here with falsetto applied by a guy with a BIG voice, at the high end if his three-octave range…   and John Fuller’s bass brings nuthin’ but a compIementary low-end to the mix. In fact, I was just stopping in to ask Brother Larry for a techno-handout, and I wuz o-u-t on my way, but… naww, this grabbed me!

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Even before Doug’s set, though, as soon as Eva Cappelli walked in with her semistar entourage (lol), the atmosphere lifted from “all is well” to “ain’t it grand” – like, a mini- Grand Ole Opry, right here in Hadley.  She’s like that, Ms Eva is.  Folks were starting to roll in here at Mi Terra, with Maestro Larry pleasantly meandering through an introductory set of country-road, folksy songs; things were picking up just fine… and then all of a sudden, it’s like a party in here!

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Same personnel as discussed above, but with Eva at the head of the pack also.  The whole scene takes on a dimension of hootenanny- the GOOD kind, the fun kind, like hangin’ with the kin-folk on a beautiful day!  So I just had to share….

Jimm O’D ~ The Dusty Turntable

More Pop Than Jazz, with a balance of both…

I came to Bertucci in Amherst half-or-better expecting an eclectic and esoteric mix of mostly instrumental songs dazzlingly  played on nylon-stringed acoustic  or classical guitar; maybe some origininal compostions on twelve-string, possibly something like another local chap, Burrie Jenkins…  I may have been wrong on most of the particulars, but I had the right idea.  Zack Danziger dazzles when he plays, but only at times of, and as placed by, his choosing- like, when it’s appropriate.

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Table's-Eye View

The spirit in which the singer-songwriter-guitarist performs his material is, pleasantly, much as expected- which is to say, lively, lighthearted, and supremely skillful.  His style might call to mind the wisp or trace of a certain Kenny Rankin quality, but with earthier tones,  with a deeper (dare I say), more ‘manly’ voice.  The repertoire tonight, given the situation, is a decades-spanning review of pop-charts past, all delivered in a decidedly jazzy, pop-vocal way.  So: all in a spirit as anticipated, but a good bit different in the details of execution.  The runs are certainly quick, sharp, precise, and of the quality that makes one want to hear the guy wail on electric, but without feeling like anything is missing.  Doug Hewitt unplugged! 

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Zack’s ‘special guest’ tonight is the lovely-voiced and very lovely Kate Nicolau.  Their vocal pairing is perfectly pleasant, and in fact so very delicate that whenever a song ends quietly, without the hoped-for round of applause (a not-at-all uncommon phenomenon in a dining-room setting), it is immediately evident that the cause of the seeming lull on the audients’ parts is more a matter of hushed reverence than reluctance or recalcitrance- they’ve been mesmerized by the sweetness of it all!

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Toward the end of the last set; next-to-last song in fact, the duo does a number of Kate’s choosing.  Zack suggests that he doesn’t know the song; “good thing she brought a chart,” (not that these ears can tell)… and here the greater depth and sensitive softness of the lady’s singing style and voice come more to the fore.  Following that with a Duke Ellington selection, such as might not likely be tackled by an undeveloped singer, Kate’s tones stay pure (and so very sweet) that one might almost wish that the maestro had been the supporting artiste- almost.

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A fair number of friends, fans and fam have come to Bertucci tonight, for this first in what appears to be a fairly regular residency.  The casual/upscale mix in this comfortable and family-friendly atmosphere all seem just right for this diverse yet balanced blend of songs and styles.  The name, ‘Zack Danziger’ is fairly familiar from over the years, but the exact moment of initial awareness or exposure escapes recall at the moment, but the name does ring…  As soon as I first put Katelyn Richards, “Have Yours Too” CD (2013) in the player, I was instantly enamored of the atmospheric beauty that presents with the first song.  “Around the Corner” has since become an all-time favorite, and not just from among the roster of ‘local’ artists- I mean, I just plain love that song!  The vocal and the production (by Lincoln Hubley) are exquisitely ‘elevated,’ as in lofty, classy and tasteful.  Within a few minutes’ rapt and rhapsodic, sonic soaking, the layered guitars sent this listener scrambling for the album cover to sift through the credits.  And there it was, right alongside a whole bunch of area greats: Zack Danziger, steel- and nylon- stringed guitars.  Joe Boyle is admirably absent on the opening track; it’s all Zack.

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Here’s my next listen: Zack Danziger’s promo compilation; half originals and half interpretaions… time to hop in the car!

Jimm O’D ~ The Dusty Turntable