Chapter 26…

The Patron did just the trick. Hopefully, she was picturing herself on a tropical beach somewhere, hopefully with a guy who didn’t make her look like she actually ate a tennis ball. She was relaxed.

Good. Gives me some time to think. Really really need that. Time to assess what we’ve got so far.

a) Jenn supposedly missing, sister Janice goes looking for a private detective…not the police.

b) Sister not exactly forthcoming with information. And yet hired me. Why hedge stuff from the guy who’s on your side?

c) In a world where even little kids have phones, no one in this thing has called anyone else in this thing. That’s Jenn, her sister, her daughter, her ex- husband, several ex- boyfriends….and not to omit good old Bobby. Who used to be involved with Jenn. And apparently Janice too. Hence all the tennis ball references. Great… a family tree with no freaking branches on it.

d) Did Janice know about Jenn, et cetera? Talk about motive. Everybody in this thing has a motive. Going to have to look at all of them.

e) So that means that the cop at the top of the stairs is the probable bad guy, so far. If that’s true, then he’s likely ruining evidence as he goes along. And the prophetic writing on the wall… left by the hoodie guy who just ran out?… the one who the investigating detective seems totally disinterested in? Or maybe someone who was here much earlier…Janice? Ex-husband? Good Old Bobby? Maybe even Jenn, for all I know. Maybe even daughter Kendra, before she went to school this morning. What the hell is really going on here?

I have the sinking feeling that I’m being used as a cover by someone. Probably Janice. But why?

Time to think outside the box a little. Time to climb out of the box altogether.

Time to make something unexpected happen. Poke around a little.

I called Jenn’s old cell number, still in my list from years ago. Maybe we can find Jenn by just asking her where the hell she is.

And just then…wouldn’t you know? Another phone started ringing. It was coming from Janice’s little black patent-leather handbag.

Really?

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!!!!…

The other day, just after watching the Lakers get massacred/pounded/swept/entombed by Dallas, I came across another genuine surprise. I was bored and fidgety from four days of not walking around on my plantar fascitis foot, and even though I suppose the ibuprofen and smuggled Canadian Labatt‘s ( Thank you, Brian!) must have helped immensely, I was still, after all, a CCOB ( cranky,cranky old bastard ). By then, I had actually gone to CCCCOB ( cranky, cranky, crusty, creaky old bastard).

Well, Kobe’s demise and the Labatt’s helped a bit, and I was wondering how many ibuprofen you could take at once without causing a seizure; flipping channels and passing time.

On HDNet, which runs concert stuff on Sundays, I found a video of something/someone I had never heard of previously. Has apparently been around for quite some time, and quite successful. But how could that possibly be, thought I, since I am an eminent authority on All Things Good In Music, and if CCOB is not previously aware, then said subject is obviously not worthy.

The subject was Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals.

I’d describe them as an old-school Little Feat/ Marley/ Phish kind of jam band. Except they didn’t jam that much. Ben Harper has a very laid-back semi-Jamaican sort of writing style, very acoustic and simple. But then he pulled out an exotic Les Paul– looking lap steel and did some really excellent slide playing. He needs to be on that Allman/ Trucks- school roster. Very impressive.

Then back to simple again, doing a song called ” I Always Have To Steal My Kisses From You”, apparently a gigantic hit. But how could that be…etc, etc. ( a true CCOB rarely concedes a point ).

A very charming,  straightforward I-IV-V song, disarmingly catchy, yet with a child-like quality to it. Great hook.

And in the middle of this…the bass player started to solo.

Given the song’s nature, I thought this would be akin to Slayer showing up in the middle of a Teletubbies video.

But…he somehow managed to integrate the solo in beautifully. He started scat singing, Ella Fitzgerald style, doubling it on bass, and making it work. Backed by an Oliver Howard on drums, this went on for several minutes, never losing the thread of the song. Never overly aggressive, perfectly and comfortably in control of it all.

Best damned thing I’ve seen in years.

His name is Juan Nelson.

And if, like CCOBs everywhere, you were also not previously aware; you are hereby charged to go forth, seek out Juan Nelson, and be uplifted. I myself am feeling much less CCOB-ish than I had been previously. Wonders never cease.

So go already…oh, all right. Here, I’ll help you get started.

[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qnOfghygS7k&feature=player_detailpage

A brand new music thing, and the Lakers kicked to the curb. What a great day.

Go Celtics!

Mr.B, and Mr.B…

Ludwig von Beethoven is 240 years old.

 More than any other single aspect of music, I have come to appreciate dynamics; the dramatic contrast that can be created between things that are very soft and very loud. Ludwig was an absolute master of this, and I have probably written somewhere else by now that if Ludwig had access to modern electric instruments, he would likely have tried to conquer the world. After all, he wrote a symphony for Napoleon and then yanked it back again after Napoleon declared himself Emperor. He was apparently good with the whole world domination thing up until that point. We all have our limits…

On the other end of the world domination scale; my sole guitar student and I have been working up a short JS Bach piece originally written for two violins and cello. We call it ” the Beer Song” because Bach supposedly wrote it for an Austrian duke who was visiting the German court, and who couldn’t wait to get to the pubs.

As with all Bach material, the individual parts are disarmingly simple. Each can be played pretty easily, and each has its own little flair and character. The top line carries the hook, or main melody; with a supportive second part that is actually the more difficult one, and a mainly  straightforward bass line. Seemed like a good project for an intermediate student. The plan was to have me do the top line, him the second, and I would afterwards  add the bass line to finish it as a three-track recording.

My little plan was going along nicely. We learned and rehearsed the two violin parts; and then came time for the bass line. I thought it would be good to play the second part and the bass line together, as further exposure to part-playing in general. The absence of the melody should not hamper the execution of the other parts…right? So says the widely experienced and seasoned instructor  (WESI).

So; we borrowed a bass ( a fretless copy of a Fender Jazz).  WESI thought that the bass part would be a five- minute piece of cake. WESI was a bit premature in that. I can play it alone just fine; but in combination with the other parts, I drop it every single time. That’s because WESI is  suddenly prone to every single bad habit that WESI is being paid to instruct the student to never fall victim to ( always believe in your ability, don’t rush the tempo, trust in the parts as they’re written, always play with conviction…all that crap). And, mind you, this is not exactly a Brandenburg Concerto we’re looking at here. Bach probably wrote this on a cocktail napkin while the Duke was staring down the cleavage of a German princess. Hell, Bach was probably staring down the cleavage and  writing  on the napkin. Maybe this music is more about the Princess than the beer. This is not rocket science. It’s not even bottle-rocket science.

I’ll get it. I know that. It’s not about the music. It’s about the brain/foot/mouth connection. I seemingly don’t have trouble with those executions. But it’s teaching me something about ensemble playing that I thought I knew already; that chamber-music players are the baddest MFs out there. A symphony is more like a lot of people playing simple parts, and the co-ordination of it all is where the art is. But chamber groups are playing stuff that is genuinely difficult, and they are cueing only off each other. No conductor involved. And that is extremely impressive.

Maybe Bach’s ghost will make a special visit from Leadville to watch the futile struggles of WESI. Maybe he and Beethoven can toss my useless corpse over the second-story balcony. Maybe, with some luck, I’ll land on Rihanna, and her useless corpse will break my fall. Maybe I don’t sing so well either. Maybe she’s a better bass player than I am. Maybe she should get her ass up there to try a little Bach-style ensemble playing.

Maybe I should just shut my old ass up and do the damned bass line.

Lest We Forget…

With all this Adoration of the Stratocasteri going on lately ( thank you for all the supportive responses!), I would be remiss not to make mention of the sterling cast of supporters that always seem to surround J. Beck like a newly-raked November leaf pile ( NRNLP).

Leaf afficionados know that the best leaves are actually in November; drier, crunchier, better for jumping into.  I can no longer be tempted to indulge; at my age and general condition, I would likely throw out a hip or trigger a back spasm, and have to lie there mewling piteously, in the rain, or maybe even an early snow, with the theme to ” Dr. Zhivago” playing softly in the background. How awfully sad.

Back to The Theme. Jeff has always required superlative players in support, and has fielded some spectacular rythym sections over the years. I’ll not list them; if you are a true follower, then you’ll uncover them on your own. Drums and bass are the very heart of any support cast; not  at all to lessen the importance of keys, horns, etc: but there is often something purely magical about drums and bass. Consider Redding/ Mitchell; Bonham/ Jones- that sort of thing. Rythym sections have often saved the bacon of many a headliner. And not just in rock and roll.

I am compelled to insert a plug here for my own Don and Ed. I worked with them for many years, and I firmly believe that they were Siamese twins from hell who simply couldn’t be allowed to torture the same body, so they had to be  separated. No records kept. They not only smoothly and effortlessly saved me when I screwed up, they had some frighteningly non-verbal way of knowing when I was about to screw up. They were waiting for it. They were in control-always. I think that most people assume that singers or guitar players lead bands. No; the truth is that a good rythym section drives a band from the rear.

Don and Ed are currently supporting Bad Andy. ( http://www.badandyrocks.com/ )

With all that said, I’ll close with a clip of The Bass Solo That Changed The World. Tal Wilkenfeld, with Jeff Beck at the Crossroads festival a few years back. This got so much attention so fast that her career was fairly shot into space ( as if a gig with Jeff Beck wasn’t already enough…)

CCOB Reporting In…

These are the liner notes from ” Emotion and Commotion,” the latest release from Jeff Beck; written by Steve Lipson, who produced Jeff for the first time.

Sitting 6 feet away from Jeff Beck, while he casually plays something that no one else could get close to has been an extraordinary experience. Jeff’s ability to play the simplest of melodies and make it sound great is unsurpassed. He makes the instrument sing like a voice, and with total apparent ease. His nonchalance about his equipment makes his abilities shine all the more, yet his concern with his music being as good as possible is always foremost in his mind.

As I finished the album, I said to Harvey that he was the only artist I’d be happy to start making another album with immediately. For as long as I can remember, Jeff has been my guitar hero, the guitarist that neither I nor anyone else could ever compare with. It’s been a major pleasure and priviledge to play a small part in the career of the defining guitarist of our times, the self-deprecating, brilliant Jeff Beck.”

Somewhat of a cheap post for me, just copying the liner notes out like that. There are a few spots on this record where you can kind of tell that the producers didn’t quite know how to get it just so, but there’s a lot where they did. The programmed keyboards are a little artificial here and there, but not too badly. But there’s also real orchestration on here, three great singers, and most of all, JBeck’s capacity for playing five perfect notes where anyone else would have stuck fifty in there. Like the last verse phrase in ” Somewhere Over The Rainbow”- six perfectly bent notes, all from the same single stroke, ala Roy Buchanan. If you listen very carefully late at night, you can hear the sound of Stratocaster players all over the world sobbing gently into their shirtsleeves.

All but one.

You really, really ought to get this music somewhere, somehow. And if you’re very adventurous, dig up some Roy Buchanan, too.

If you do, don’t be scared of the pants. He was completely serious. It was the seventies, for God‘s sake. Roy was the first guy that the Stones asked to join after Brian Jones‘ demise. Can you picture Roy in his snappy orange golf pants, and Jagger in a pink Speedo? Jeez Louise…

Kinks in Kontrast…

We have come a very, very long way. Right?

Right!!

Do They Still Make Geritol?

And if they do, could I buy some ? I don’t care what it’s for…please, just sell me something…

They do, sadly. Different packaging. I just found that out.

If you remember Geritol from years past, then you ‘ll understand this little rant very poignantly.

 One of the worst moments in the life of a 50’s-60’s kid was the dreaded Lawrence Welk Show. This meant an excruciating hour each week where  life was absolutely devoid of any meaningful input, and our typical Disney-driven landscape was unceremoniously stripped away, laying bare a world of bleak, colorless alien culture, and patrons who were apparently in desperate need of vitamin supplements.

And Geritol was the only thing they bothered to advertise; a brownish liquid goo that smelled like old, old sneakers. I actually don’t know that for a fact, but come on, what else could it have been?

Yes, I agree… no one should ever have to know what was really in there. ( Or still is…)

But regardless of all that… I want to buy some. I really do.

I don’t want it. What I want… is to once again feel that a corporation is even remotely concerned with my buying demographic. I don’t have a porcelain bathtub, never mind two, and I’ll be damned if I’d be dragging them out onto a nearby beach… so I’m not buying that stuff.  With my luck, I’d probably misread the label, take a double dose, and end up in the ER where an emergency amputation would have to be performed. And have to take Geritol twice a day for the duration of my miserable existence.

I often relay to  friends and associates variations on this theme; Old Guy Goes To The Guitar Center. I am convinced that I could appear there wearing a Santa hat, a leopard-spot thong, and roller skates with lights on the edges. There is nothing, nothing that I can do to get waited on in a Guitar Center. I have re-arranged stock, played all the expensive do-not-touch-without- a -salesperson-in -attendance guitars, and glared derisively at everyone in the building. Nothing works. I have to buy stuff online because there is no alternative. I am truly invisible. I am an economic persona non grata.

No one cares if I buy musical stuff anymore… or cars, or clothes, or skis…shoes, most food, lawnmowers, TVs, …well, okay, the skis are a bit of a stretch, but it’s the principle involved. I can buy Cialis, and Poly-Grip, and AARP. No-risk insurance- no salesman will call, and that’s because they don’t give a damn where I live anyway. And Flomax ( can you believe that some ad guy somewhere actually thought that up, and got paid for it…). But I don’t want to take a canoe trip with weird guys that smile way too much. They won’t sell me the canoe to begin with.

So can I just buy the damned Geritol? Hey, look… there’s a coupon on the box from The Scooter Store…

I

Published in: on September 30, 2010 at 3:20 pm  Comments (1)  
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Can You Believe That?

It worked, just like Eddie said it would. Amazing.

After arriving early, setting up, running a little sound check, and tweaking a few last-minute problems….. the pre-amp on the guitar itself malfunctioned after only five minutes in. Didn’t see that coming.

Played the whole thing straight up.  A guy with a classical guitar in the middle of a pasture…very pastoral…would make a great oil painting. They pretty much couldn’t hear me, which was fine, because the wind kicked up just enough to keep blowing the music off the stand and into the woods. But now that bears in rural Massachusetts have discovered a packet of Guiliani etudes, I’m sure they’ll be holding guitar studies of their own real soon. The Westport Institute for the Advancement of Hunting, Gathering, Foraging, Classic Guitar, and Hibernation. I’m already pretty good at two of those things…They’ll call it AHGFCGH for short, and that’s what the emblems on their brown corduroy blazers will say…very Haavaad.

At any rate, a complete success overall. I was the hero. Have a request for another in December, but I think I’ll do better if I always play outside…don’t want them to hear too much…

Thank you, Mr. Izzard. Who better to advise on human nature, bridesmaids, and bears than an Executive Transvestite?