Keeping the GAS (Great American Songbook) Flame Burning: “Laura”

August 31, 2015

 

Roger Crane Song Scout

Roger Crane Song Scout

 

By Roger Crane, the Song Scout

BACKGROUND / DISCUSSION

Admittedly I lose objectivity when discussing the song “Laura.” In fact, I love the song so much that a friend once recorded eighty-three versions (yes, 83!) for me, ranging from trumpeter Clifford Brown to the Four Freshman to saxman Sonny Stitt.

Of course, my affection for this classic is not uncommon. For example, Cole Porter declared that “Laura” was the one song he most wished he had written. I also love the source movie and Vera Casparay’s excellent mystery novel it was based on. And who does not love Gene Tierney’s portrayal of Laura Hunt in that 1944 film.

Surprisingly, David Raksin’s evocative theme almost never made it into the film. He was not brought in as composer until after the shooting had been completed. The director, Otto Preminger, had originally wanted to use Gershwin’s “Summertime” but couldn’t secure the rights. He next chose Duke Ellington’s “Sophisticated Lady” as the theme.

Raksin protested. “What?” said Preminger, “You don’t like it?” “Of course I like it,” said Raksin.” Everybody likes it. But it has nothing to do with your movie.” Preminger gave him the weekend. “Come in Monday with something you like better, or else we use ‘Sophisticated Lady’.”

All else is history. Raksin’s haunting melody can be heard throughout the movie whenever detective Mark McPherson (Dana Andrews) drifts into a reverie over the lovely Laura whose murder he is investigating. Although the general public and jazz musicians embraced Raksin’s melody from the start, it was generally considered too complex for a popular song. But an instrumental version became so well-known that moviegoers pleaded with 20th Century Fox to turn it into a song.

Oscar Hammerstein penned some lyrics as did Irving Caesar but neither satisfied Raksin who finally chose Johnny Mercer. And happily his poetic lyrics bring Raksin’s difficult but lovely music to life with such imagery  as – –

“Laura is the face in the misty light
Footsteps that you hear down the hall
The laugh that floats on a summer night
That you can never quite recall”

Raksin’s ethereal melody was an ideal vehicle for the West Coast cool jazz performers. For example Dave Brubeck recorded it with both his Octet and his Trio. In 1949 Gerry Mulligan wrote an arrangement of “Laura” for Claude Thornhill and then recorded it on several occasions with his own bands. In 1955 Clifford Brown recorded a sublime rendition with strings. Charlie “The Bird” Parker also recorded a “with strings” version that is highly valued in the world of jazz. Another personal favorite is Nat Cole’s instrumental rendition in his 1952 Penthouse Serenade recording, Pianist Bill Evans also included “Laura” with Claus Ogerman’s orchestra.

Most of the jazz versions have been instrumentals. But many of the better singers have recorded “Laura” including Frank Sinatra initially with Axel Stordahl in 1947 and a decade later with Gordon Jenkins. Perhaps the best selling jazz vocal is by Ella Fitzgerald in a 1964 recording.

A Few Sample Recordings

1) The Classic (in jazz circles) Charlie Parker with Strings.

2) Sinatra with Gordon Jenkins in 1957 (incl. lovely video)

3) Ella in 1964 from her Johnny Mercer Songbook recording

4) Last but not least, the lovely trumpet of Clifford “Brownie” Brown with strings

You may also wish to investigate recordings by the following.

Cal Tjader (with Paul Horn) from Monterey Concert, 1959

Patricia Barber from “Live-A Fortnight in France,” 2004

Bill Evans with Claus Ogerman, 1963


Brian Arsenault Takes On: Ken Bruen’s “Green Hell ” and Erik Larson’s “Dead Wake” (The Sinking of the Lusitania)

August 26, 2015

 

Brian Arsenault

Brian Arsenault

By Brian Arsenault

Ken Bruen’s newest installment in the Jack Taylor series, Green Hell, arrived in that neat little Amazon box a couple days ago and I’m about halfway through it. I could have finished it by now because his writing enters the eyes and brain as easily as breath enters the lungs. But I don’t want to. Bruen’s books are all jewels that sparkle and reflect light in surprising ways.
As Jack might say of his favorite writers, I want to savor it as I have the previous 10 books in the series. If you haven’t read of tortured, battered, Jack drinking his way around Galway while violently seeking justice and goodness, usually unsuccessfully, then you have reason to believe. Start with The Guards and read them all in succession. I envy the uninitiated so much that I almost didn’t provide that recommendation. “Fuck knows,” as Jack would say, I am bitter you might still have that opportunity.

Bruen writes with such sparseness, such economy — not a wasted phrase or pointless digression. No filler, no distractions, no meanderings. Cuts like a knife so sharp that you’d order coffee, tea for Jack, before you realized you were bleeding.

It’s no accident, I think, that the counterpoint character to Taylor in Green Hell has come to Ireland to complete his dissertation on Samuel Beckett. Bruen is the street level cousin of Beckett, not one more word than required, no ornate, decorative phrases or punctuation. Hemingway’s part of the same family.

The only additional step Bruen could take toward minimalism would be to stop using quotation marks like the endlessly wordy Joyce did. No accident there, either, that Beckett assisted Joyce’s efforts to finish Finnegan’s Wake, though Beckett bridled at being referred to as Joyce’s secretary.

But I digress. Back to Bruen. At one point he taught English in Africa. To have taught the language to non-English speaking people Bruen must clearly have known his stuff, such as now obscure aspects of the language as the difference between a gerund and a gerundive. (Look it up if you care. I had to as memory fades from those figures of speech you use even when the reason is forgotten.)

Thanks Miss Cunningham and all those marvelous eighth grade English teachers. To push the language, to shake its foundations, to violate its rules, to write so sparse that you don’t even need complete sentences, you have to have known what the rules are. If not, it’s just babble.

All that dissonance and melodic twists Thelonious Monk brought us were possible because he understood melody, notes, scales. He bent the instrument, the form, in new ways because he completely grasped the old ways. And Monk knew silences are as important as notes.

The silences in Bruen’s writing are to let you breathe.
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The other centerpiece of my summer reading this year has been Erik Larson’s Dead Wake, The Last Crossing of the Lusitania.

Like Larson before his exhaustive research, I have carried the notion through my adult life that the German U boat sinking of the Lusitania — killing about 1200 of the 2000 passengers and crew aboard including 120 Americans — took the United States into World War I. In actuality, the Lusitania was sunk in 1915 and the USA didn’t enter the war until 1917 when the cumulative effect of German submarine warfare, which damn near won the war, finally exhausted the bumbling Wilson’s patience.

Wilson was overseeing a recession damn near as bad as the Great Depression, damn little generally known about that as well, while playing golf daily during his adolescent-like pursuit of a second wife.

As with World War II, England led by that S O B Churchill, was trying to draw the United States into the war. Though English intelligence knew that a particular sub was sinking ships directly in the path of the Lusitania the Brits sent no naval vessels to escort the world’s most luxurious ocean liner through the most dangerous waters. They didn’t even give the Lusitania’s captain, William Turner, adequate warnings. Some in English “intelligence” services were nearly giddy that the ship’s sinking might get the States fighting with them in a war with no real reason for being.

True to governments everywhere and at all times, the English Admiralty, again led by Churchill, did everything it could to blame Turner for the sinking. Even after a very serious hearings officer exonerated Captain Turner, Churchill authored a book that included the false accusation. Every time I try to avoid the many conspiracy theorists there are about everything, I run into an historical example that it happens again and again. Lies upon lies until they become twisted truths. Rulers seeking their ends by whatever means. Conspiracies most foul. Governments simply can’t be trusted, any time anywhere.

Human hubris just as bad. A mere three years after the sinking of the unsinkable Titanic in 1912, the “world” didn’t believe any nation would sink the world’s new finest ocean liner. Even if it was carrying war materiel to England and even though the Germans, in fairness to its military high command, had run ads in American newspapers prior to the last embarkation of the Lusitania that said it would be subject to naval attack.

Larson, as he did previously in the marvelous In the Garden of Beasts about the United States ambassador to Nazi Germany trying in vain to get his government to recognize The Beast at the doorway to World War II, brings the enormous tragedy of the Lusitania down to families and individuals about to be plunged into the hell of a sinking ship. Children playing games on the deck, light flirtations at lunch, sumptuous menus in first class all blasted by a torpedo that many passengers saw streaking through the water.

Imagine that, you see it coming. You see it coming but you can hardly believe your eyes. Then it hits. Two explosions, no one is sure what the second one was caused by, then you are reassured by the ship’s officers that the Lusitania can’t sink. Then it promptly sinks and you are thrown into the water with the dead and dying all around you. Imagine a drowned baby floating by you. Imagine trying to find your second child who’s below deck while you try to figure out how to save the one with you.

War of course comes down to countless deaths upon deaths but quoting how many died at the Somme or the Ardennes Forest is just numbers. Larson lets you see that it is people, always people whose hopes and dreams and cares are simply washed away as if they’d never been.

My fear is that the children of the twenty-first century will never learn, because it’s not taught adequately in schools, that the twentieth century from which their parents sprang was one of strife and conflict previously unequalled in the world. And that the “heroes” of the time from Churchill to Wilson to even Roosevelt have damn near as much to answer for as Hitler and Hirohito. Will kids growing up today even learn who they were?

If not, terrible peril awaits. And even if they do.

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To read more reviews, essays and columns by Brian Arsenault click HERE.


Live Music: Celebrating Frank Sinatra with Leslie Kendall & Friends at the Paschal Winery

August 23, 2015

 

Don Heckman

By Don Heckman

The music of Frank Sinatra was in the air Saturday night in the amiable environs of the Paschal Winery. The music, that is, which Ol’ Blue Eyes vividly brought to life in his long career as an entertainment world icon. The music of the Great American Songbook.

The performers celebrating the centennial of Sinatra’s birth were singer Leslie Kendall and the stellar backing of the Ed Dunsavage Trio featuring drummer Chicken Hirsh and bassist Joe Cohoon with special guests Dmitri Matheny on flugelhorn and Tony Hayes on tenor sax and vocals. It was an immensely entertaining way for the Siskiyou Music Project to wrap up its 2014 – 2015 season.

The catalog of songs associated with Sinatra could have provided enough classics for a week of perfomances. Kendall and the players chose two hours, starting with “Nice & easy” and winding up with “The Lady Is A Tramp.”

Leslie Kendall

Leslie Kendall

Kendall’s interpretations were dynamic and enthusiastic. In the early part of the program, singing songs such as “In the Wee Small Hours,” “They Can’t Take That Away From Me” and “Come Fly With Me,” she occasionally verged into emulating the Sinatra style, not a wise choice.

In the second half, however, her versions of other tunes – “I Get A kick Out of You,” “Angel Eyes,” “One for My Baby” and others — she was comfortably within her own style, singing warmly, telling the musical stories convincingly and swinging with irresistible rhythmic flow.

Another high point of the program was delivered by saxophonist Hayes, a gifted instrumentalist who also sang appealing versions of “Witch Craft,” “Night and Day,” “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” and more.

Tony Hayes, Dimitri Matheny, Ed Dunsavage and Leslie Kendall

Add to that the stunning work of the entire band. Several instrumental numbers – “You Go To My Head’” and “What Now My Love” showcased the players at their best. Matheny, a jazz artist with a well established reputation, repeatedly demonstrated how worthy he is of the critical praise that has accompanied his high visibility career. He also wrote most of the band’s crisply swinging arrangements for the performance.

Tony Hayes and Dimitri Matheny

Hayes, not yet a well-known figure in the jazz world, is one who will, nonetheless, be heard from in the future. Remember his name.

And some final praise for the Dunsavage trio. Guitarist Dunsavage has done a remarkable job of bringing world class performers to the Siskiyou Project’s program. But beyond that, he and his trio have also provided some of their own fine jazz moments over the course of the entire Project season.

Because of the overflow turnout for this event, Dunsavage announced that the Project’s Sinatra Centennial program may continue on December 12, the actual Sinatra birthdate. For information check the Project’s website HERE.

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Photos by Faith Frenz.


New Release: Carol Welsman’s “Alone Together”

August 8, 2015

Jazz pianist/singer Carol Welsman introduces the arrival of her latest album.

Carol Welsman

Carol Welsman

I’m so excited to announce that my new album, ALONE TOGETHER, is now available to download on iTunes, and the CD will be released and available for purchase on September 18. I hope you enjoy this recording. It’s my truest to the jazz art form to date.

Don Heckman, International Review of Music, had this to say: “ALONE TOGETHER, a memorable collection of classic and contemporary songs, affirms the brilliant blend of jazz skills at the heart of [Carol’s] musical artistry.”

I thank him dearly for the kind words. I’m very proud of this project, and I feel tremendously fulfilled returning to my roots – and my passion – as a jazz vocalist and pianist.

Download it now

Click the link below and listen to all of the tracks on iTunes. Download what you like and tell your friends all about it!

Download ALONE TOGETHER


Doc Wendell’s Prescription For Fat Girl: Fats Navarro Memorial No. 2: Nostalgia (Savoy)

August 4, 2015

Devon “Doc” Wendell

By Devon Wendell

For many occasional jazz listeners there are only 3 great trumpeters that come across their minds and lips, and they are of course Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie and occasionally Louis Armstrong. For those of us obsessed with the music’s many genres and glorious history (like myself) the list is much longer and consists of dozens of the instrument’s greatest innovators, ranging in a large spectrum of styles.

The player who made me want to quit the guitar and trade it in for a trumpet in college was the great Fats Navarro. I don’t believe one could or should compare the style of “Fat Girl” (as he was nick-named) to that Dizzy or Miles, although he played with both men and was a big influence on Miles. But Navarro’s influence didn’t stop there. Clifford Brown, Donald Byrd, Lee Morgan, and Freddie Hubbard (to name just a few) were all students of Navarro’s fluid style. Navarro could be a fast virtuosic player, but it was his lyricism, sweet tone, sense of rhythm, and his confidence that made him so unique and swing as hard as he did. Navarro was one of the key contributors to the bebop era of the 1940s and one of the most important musicians in the entire history of jazz.

Just about every Fats Navarro record you can find is going to be excellent but I thought I’d select the very first one that I ever owned, suggested to me by the great jazz trumpeter and educator Dan Miller many moons ago.

Fats Navarro Memorial No.2: Nostalgia consists of 3 separate recording sessions of the late 1940s for the Savoy label, not only under his own name but also under the names of Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis, Dexter Gordon, and Tadd Dameron.

The first four tracks are from The Fats Navarro Quintet recorded on December 5, 1947, featuring Charlie Rouse, tenor saxophone, Tadd Dameron, piano, Nelson Boyd, bass, and Art Blakey on drums.

“Nostalgia” is a Navarro classic. The harmonic brilliance between Rouse and Navarro on the song’s head is fantastic. Navarro and the band swing oh so sweetly. Navarro plays a muted trumpet and produces the warmest tone you’ve ever heard in your life. I could always envision Sarah Vaughan singing Navarro’s solo note for note in my head. It would have been completely logical.

“Barry’s Bop” “Be Bop Romp” and “Fats Blows” are some of the greatest bebop recordings ever made. Rouse (who would play in Thelonious Monk’s band of the ‘60s) was already a unique tenor saxophonist with a fat, round tone and an astute knowledge of the bebop language.

Navarro’s high notes hit you like a left hook from Joe Louis. He then sings melodically through his trumpet with the most amazing rhythm. Navarro’s rhythmic sensibility allowed him to swing beautifully across some the most complex and frenetic chord changes. Dameron’s piano comping is delicately tasteful and the perfect accompaniment for Navarro. Art Blakey’s drumming is much more subdued on these sessions than usual but you can’t imagine him playing any other way on this date.

The next few tracks culminate from the Dexter Gordon And His Boys session on December 22, 1947. Here we have Navarro with Dexter Gordon, tenor saxophone, Tadd Dameron, piano, Nelson Boyd, bass, and Art Mardigan on drums.

“Dextivity,” “Dextrose” and “Index” are burning. Dexter Gordon and Navarro had a brief but very special chemistry. Gordon’s tenor lines unravel slowly, telling a story. Navarro’s solos are shorter but like Bird (with whom Navarro had performed and recorded with several times during his career) Navarro could say it all within four bars. And everything he would play in that short space would be impossible to forget. The sound of Gordon and Navarro together is bright and joyful. The love of this music is felt throughout every gorgeous nuance.

The next session on this compilation was called Eddie Davis And His Beboppers, recorded on December 18, 1946 with Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis, tenor saxophone, Huey Long, guitar, Al Haig, piano, Gene Ramey, bass, and Denzil Best on drums.
These three sides (“Stealin’ Trash,” “Hollerin’ & Screamin,” and “Calling Dr. Jazz”) have a harder edge to them than the material from the other two sessions. Davis’ tenor sax lines honk and shout like an R&B player, Long’s guitar harmonizes wonderfully with Davis and Navarro. Navarro again plays shorter, more concise solos that are more potent and memorable than Davis’s or Long’s. Fats could take you there as quickly as possible with what sounds like an unmatched level of confidence. He was obviously very aware of his immense talents.

Fats Navarro Memorial No. 2: Nostalgia features some of Fats Navarro’s most brilliant playing from several essential sessions recorded for the Savoy label. Once you hear Fats blow, you’ll never forget it and this is an excellent addition to anyone’s collection.

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To read more posts, reviews and columns by Devon Wendell click HERE.


Record Rack: “Suite for Flute and Jazz Piano Trio” and “Ode to Thinking”

July 27, 2015

 

Brian Arsenault

By Brian Arsenault

Claude Bolling’s Suite for Flute and Jazz Piano Trio  (Steve Barta Music)

Arranged by Steve Barta

But (Not Too) seriously, folks.  I am pretty far over my head reviewing Steve Barta’s new arrangement of Suite for Flute and Jazz Piano Trio.

For one thing, I don’t know Claude Bolling’s 1975 original work. In ’75 I was more concerned about the direction of The Who and horrified at the popularity of The (self aggrandizing hipper than thou treacherous) Eagles.

For another, while I’m reasonably conversant with jazz up to a point, I don’t even know most of the vocabulary of the classical.

So here I am listening raptly to a reworking of a piece that bravely combines the two and, I’m told, had the misfortune of being popular so it wasn’t particularly well liked by critics of either genre. Additionally, in Barta’s update, a jazz trio is brought together with a string quartet and a full orchestra.

Sound intimidating? I thought so but therein is the remarkable thing. It’s immediately accessible to all. All at least who can journey from the joyous to the reflective, from lilting laughter vanishing quickly in the air to moments of sadness that are never maudlin. Beauty is what pleases, Acquinas said, and this album pleases on so many levels.

It’s theme music for a rainy Sunday morning that brings the brightness to the day. The album combines instruments and clusters of instruments that one seldom hears played together. Yet it never jars. Baroque flows into blues into a jazz rift and a symphonic echo. I think it must be complex to assemble and yet it flows into the ear as smoothly as air itself.

And how did I get this far into the review without remarking on the flute of Hubert Laws and the piano of Jeffrey Biegel? They can hear each other. They can “speak” to each other. They can interweave their charms and celebrate the many other fine musicians to be heard here. The notes and the silences both pure.

I was deep in my own thoughts and then suddenly the album was over. The room seemed just a little empty.

* * * * * * * *

Bobby Long

Ode to Thinking (Compass Records)

I’m sorry, Bobby. I’ve liked and reviewed an earlier album. I was impressed by your book of poetry. But good god, man, I got about halfway through your new album, read on to the lyrics of some of the later songs, and decided that good mental health required that I stop listening.

We’ve all heard and loved tunes about bad love affairs and the miserable state of the world, both realities no doubt. Yet if your lovers have all been as bad as you say perhaps you need to rethink your mutual selection procedures. And I need some insight into the misery of the world, not simply your seeming regret that most of us are stupid.

The blues were about how rough life can be but they were largely made to help folks feel better. On this album, you’re like a tourniquet closing off any sense of joy. That place you liked when you were young that burned down. No wonder you’re “not going out tonight.” Too depressed. And the purple prose (poetry) of the lover who will “drink my blood like wine.” Oh please. And anyway I think you missed that vampire as sexy thing.

I am not saying there isn’t intelligence in the verse. There clearly is. And you can turn a phrase with lyrics like an “empty wishing well” and “the CD players start to rust.”
But perspective please. Irony please. Humor please. Self taken less seriously. The age of consumptive poets is over. Or ought to be.

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To read more posts, reviews and columns by Brian Arsenault click HERE

 


Live Music: Barenaked Ladies, The Violent Femmes, and Colin Hay at the Greek Theatre

July 27, 2015
Mike Finkelstein

Mike Finkelstein

By Mike Finkelstein

Last Tuesday night, a good old-fashioned triple bill pulled into town at the Greek theater, a triple bill headlined by Barenaked Ladies, and supported by the Violent Femmes and Colin Hay. It seems that in recent times, acts don’t interact much on stage during one of these tours. They simply go onstage in their respective bubbles and do their shows. This was happily not the way things would play out Tuesday night. Members of all three acts came and went throughout each other’s sets and there was clearly camaraderie between them. This made for a very entertaining night of shared music.

Colin Hay

Colin Hay

The evening began early, at 7 o’clock with Colin Hay, whom most of us who were listening to radio in the 80’s will remember from his days with Men at Work. There is something reaffirming about watching one guy with an acoustic guitar an hour before sundown playing masterfully to an audience that would only be accurately described as sparse. It didn’t matter to Colin, he sounded great and the audience dug it, giving him a standing “O” at the end.

A song like Men at Work’s “Overkill” works beautifully as a solo acoustic number. Hay has a very warm way of stroking the right blend of vocals and guitar to bring out the essence of a tune. His last tune, a fine little folk song named “Next Year People,” featured an appearance by Barenaked Ladies’ Kevin Hearn on accordion, and worked the theme of overcoming metaphorical drought. Hay’s set was short but sweet and he definitely earned that warm reception.

Next up were the Violent Femmes. There were shirts being sold at the merch stand, which advertised that the Violent Femmes have been making American music since 1981! Thirty-four years of longevity, even with a hiatus or two in there. Their backline and instruments were in place during Hay’s set and one really couldn’t help notice the humungous saxophone, a B flat tubax, located center-stage, wondering how it was going to figure in with the VF’s show (it sounded so low that it became a bit obscured in the mix). Sitting there so mysteriously, it had to be close to 8 feet tall looking like some sort of machine from the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.

Violent Femmes

Violent Femmes

The Femmes hit the ground running with their most popular tune, “Blister in the Sun,” and with that, they had the rapidly expanding crowd on it’s feet and in the palms of their hands. The vibe onstage was a lot like one of those times where a group of street musicians has attracted a huge throng of people and are just killing it for the folks. At different times there were anywhere from six to ten players onstage, including the ubiquitous Kevin Hearn on accordion. Because the stage was arranged with all the stations next to each other, their were several different pockets of activity to swing the focus to. The VFs feature three unorthodox yet super-engaging instrumentalists in bassist Brian Ritchie, drummer Brian Viglione, and saxophonist Blaise Garza. All three performed with a lot of motion, but it always looked natural, not a put-on for the big stage. Ritchie is a tall guy with a big hat, a huge stage presence, and he usually plays an acoustic bass guitar, (a bass with a much deeper than normal body). Viglione plays a drum kit full of not-so-ordinary drums and he does it vigorously while standing. Garza was all over the stage and was never far from that towering tubax.

The 45 minute set blew by. Perhaps the best tune of their program was “Gone Daddy Gone.” The chords to this tune are pretty much “I’m Not Your Stepping Stone,” played backwards and forwards, but the VFs put their style all over the bare bones. Brian Ritchie had to play marimbas to give the song its signature sound, which allowed for Barenaked Ladies’ bassist Jim Creegan to come out and play Ritchie’s bass part like a champion. At the end of the marimba break, Ritchie reached dramatically over the whole set of marimbas to peel off the last run. It was a necessary move but it looked mighty cool, and it made for fine showmanship during a great song. And, of course, Kevin Hearn was up there with his trusty accordion.

Barenaked Ladies

Barenaked Ladies

Barenaked Ladies were top billed Tuesday night, though on this particular occasion the Violent Femmes may have had as many fans in the house and could have easily have pulled off headlining. BNL turned in a crisp set punctuated with clever little tidbits of between-the-tunes banter. Several of their songs I recognized, although I never knew it was them before. Before the night was over there were a whole string of tunes I wanted more of. “The Old Apartment” is a great tune, a 4/4 rocker with a weave of crunch, jangle, and open space about the powerful memories in a home from the past. The next tune was “Odds Are,” which built on the same quick strummed acoustic guitar sound but with catchier hooks and a near rap delivery of the verses. If it sounds good, use it.

Barenaked Ladies have two very engaging players in bassist Jim Creegan, and keyboardist/lead guitarist Kevin Hearn. Creegan was probably their most compelling figure. He’s all long legs, arms, and fingers and with his long antelope strides, he covered a whole lot of stage surface. Creegan also spent much of the evening playing a rockin’ style of standup bass. To get that much motion while tethered to such a large instrument is a bit of true showmanship. Hearn, for his part, pushed the tunes along on keys but when he played lead guitar he shined the brightest. He took “Pinch Me” to another level. And, considering that Colin Hay was already onstage singing with the boys, an already great song went a little higher.

The BNLs also like to deliver their lyrics in raps when the mood strikes them. And when they splice it together with a catchy guitar riff, the result is a fun song like “One Week.” Moments like these, when a familiar song becomes something bigger live, are the payoff for going to see live music. The show wound down with an off the wall medley of everything from the Cars to Queen and even a cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll.” But, before this started they played their own wistful-yet-kinda-silly “If I Had A Million Dollars.” This song is so pretty in its simplicity, and with an exemplary sing along chorus, that it couldn’t help but satisfy.

In the end, I had the opportunity Saturday night to see two bands I’d always meant to catch up with, and one singer/songwriter whom I’ll always be up for seeing. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear a Violent Femmes’ or Barenaked Ladies’ tune or two at the next campfire I happen to. The tunes are that good.

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To read more posts by Mike Finkelstein click HERE.


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