Earth’s Ambassador To The Universe: Chuck Berry (1926 – 2017)

Below is an except from a skit on Saturday Night Live that aired on April 22, 1978. It says all that’s need to be said about Chuck Berry’s importance to the universe.

From Saturday Night Live 04/22/1978 

Skit Name…….Next Week in Review
Maxine Universe…..Laraine Newman
Mitzi Molnar…..Jane Curtin
Cocuwa…..Steve Martin
Kreeg Antwoord…..Dan Aykroyd

[ open on futuristic set, with TITLE CARD ]

Maxine Universe: Good evening, and welcome once again to “Next Week in Review”, the show that believes any news is old news if it’s already happened, and dares to predict what’s going to happen next week. [ to her guests ] Well, psychics… you did superbly again last week. You batted 1.000 once more. Mitzi, you predicted that the Panama Canal Treaty would be approves by a 68-to-32 vote… Cocuwa, you predicted that Harry Reasoner would be leaving the ABC News because he didn’t fit in with the plans… and, Kreeg, you predicted correctly that world heavyweight boxing champion Leon Spinks would be arrested for driving without headlights and having cocaine in his hat. Um — but let’s get on to tomorrow’s headlines: What does next week look like? What’s going to be the big story?

. . . . . . . . . . . . .

Maxine Universe: Well, uh, Cocuwa — you predicted every Time Magazine cover for the last two years. Um, what’s going to be on the Time Magazine cover this week — uh, next week — the Pope’s cloning, the nuclear dump disappearance, or the Boone-napping?

Cocuwa: NONE of the above, Maxine! You know that my adopted name — Cocuwa — means “To help without compensation” in Hawaiian. And I have NOTHING to gain in ANY way from the personal wealth of my great gift. I believe… next week’s Time cover… will be about the recent communication from outer space.

Maxine Universe: Well, what — you mean a foreign planet will actually send a message next week?

Cocuwa: No! A foreign planet actually SENT us a message last week. Next week, the government will reveal the message to the public.

Kreeg Antwoord: [ coughing ] You see, it all started on August 20th, 1977, when NASA put up a recording of the sounds of Earth on Voyager I. A two-hour long tape included, uh, natural sounds of animals, a French poem by Gaugliere, a passage from the Koran in Arabic, messages from President Carter, United Nations Secretary Kurt Waldheim, music — everything from classical to Chuck Berry.

Maxine Universe: Uh — and you’re saying that the, uh — another civilization has found the tape?

Cocuwa: Yes. They’ve sent us a message that actually proves it. It may be just four simple words, but it is the FIRST positive proof that other intelligent beings inhabit the universe.

Maxine Universe: Uh — what are the four words, Cocuwa?

Cocuwa: The four words that came to us from outer space — the FOUR words that will appear on the cover of Time Magazine next week — are: [ he holds up the magazine” “Send More Chuck Berry”.

[ the audience applauds enthusiastically ]

Here’s a link to the full sketch on SNL 04/22/78:

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Posted in Classic Rock

Call To The Higher Consciousness . . : Larry Coryell (1943 – 2017)

I was literally on my way out of town when I heard the news that guitarist Larry Coryell passed away. Nowadays, I am reluctant to write posts on the latest musician to pass away since it seems that every week another musical hero leaves us but this one felt personal. Coryell was one of my favorite guitarists in the early Seventies when I was starting to play guitar and his playing and several early records of his had an enormous impact on my playing and musical development overall.

I’ll leave the biography to other sources like Wikipedia ( and instead talk about my favorite records of his and the live performances of his that had the biggest impact on me.

I first heard of Larry Coryell via reviews in Rolling Stone and The Village Voice as one of the handful of musicians who were developing this new music called Jazz Rock. I remember my brother having a copy of his first record Lady Coryell which has one of my favorite guitar solos on the tune Treats Style (I wrote about this solo in my post “How Blue Can You Get . . .” : Some Lesser Known Blues Solos Worth Checking Out here:

I think the first Larry Coryell record that I bought was Barefoot Boy (Flying Dutchman Records, 1971). The record was a bit unfocused but the highlight was the Coryell tune Call To The Higher Consciousness (such a sixties title). The clip below is not the version from Barefoot Boy. Frankly, that version is marred by a long boring drum solo in the middle. The one below is a much shorter, more concise version that still has that early seventies hippie jazz vibe and great playing from Coryell.

Larry Coryell – Call to the Higher Consciousness –

The following year Coryell released Offering (Vanguard, 1972) with his band Foreplay (not to be confused with the later fusion group Fourplay). This is one of my all time favorite records. I know it’s not a brilliant, amazing, history making record but it just continues to speak to me forty five later. There is a loose jazzy interplay within the group (Steve Marcus, soprano sax, Mike Mandel, keyboards, Melvyn Bronson, bass and Harry Wilkinson, drums along with Larry Coryell, guitar) with a unforced rocking energy that I find missing in later Fusion groups. Again, Coryell’s guitar playing is great. He freely mixes a jazz vocabulary with rock and blues guitar articulations and attitude. At this time, he’s playing a big Gibson hollowbody jazz guitar loud, resulting in a very cool overdrive tone. I remember seeing this band several times, notably opening for Captain Beefheart at Town Hall in NYC in October of 1972 and then as part of of the Newport In New York Jazz festival in June, 1973 in Wollman Skating Rink, Central Park, both times totally blowing me away. Below are clips with my three three favorite tunes from the tunes from the album.

Larry Coryell – Foreplay

Larry Coryell – Offering

Larry Coryell – Scotland I

In 1974 Coryell formed a new band, The Eleventh House, featuring trumpeter Randy Brecker and drummer Alphonse Mouzon. This band always struck me as sounding a little more of what we now associate as Fusion. Not as much improvisational interplay within the band, more of a soloist/accompanist texture but they  still rock out while putting out some impressive playing. The record benefits greatly by having some pretty good tunes with actual melodies and hooks. Here, special mention must be made of keyboardist Mike Mandel, the only holdover from Coryell’s previous group, Foreplay. Mandel contribute my two favorite tunes on the record, Adam Smasher and Joy Ride. They’re not complex compositions but they provide great springboards for some inspired playing from the band. Those two tunes are followed with clips of two more songs from the record, Coryell’s Low-Lee-Tah, with a cool flanged guitar intro and Funky Waltz, a Alphonse Mouzon tune with a great beat and hook.

Larry Coryell & The Eleventh House – Adam Smasher

Larry Coryell & The Eleventh House – Joy Ride

The Eleventh House with Larry Coryell – Low-Lee-Tah

Larry Coryell & The Eleventh House – The Funky Waltz

After these records, my own musical interests took me elsewhere but these records and shows were integral part of who I am now as a musician. Thanks.

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Posted in Jazz, Music Appreciation and Analysis

K.I.S.S. . . . : A Methodology To Help You Get Your Groove On.

Below is an excellent video from sax player/keyboard player Jeff Schneider who has a You Tube channel with a lot of cool information on improvisation, saxophone technique, r&b keyboards and other topics of interests to my fellow music nerds. This video deals with an idea that can benefit all musicians: improving your groove. It’s been my observation that one of the traits that distinguishes the advanced player from the intermediate one is their rhythmic authority, their ability to groove. Jeff presents what I consider to be a simple but effective exercise to help a musician solidify their ability to play with rhythmic confidence. Like many simple but effective ideas, it starts with the concept of less is more or to put it another way, Keep It Simple Stupid (a.k.a K.I.S.S.). Get a metronome, set the click for beats 2 & 4 (so that the click simulates a snare drum) and work on your groove, one note at a time. Jeff also makes an important point: to not just to play in time to the metronome but to learn how to convey feeling in your playing, which is the point of playing music all along.

4 Notes That Will Make Your Groove SOLID!!

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Posted in Improvisation, Music Theory

“I’m Not Dead Yet” . . . : Neal Casals and Circles Around The Sun

I recently played in a session for a potential new jam band project where a good part of the time was spent jamming on vamps and progressions taken from the Grateful Dead. Being an old Deadhead and having played in more than one Dead/Dead Adjacent band, I was in familiar territory. Not certain where this project will go but one  possibility is something not unlike Neal Casals and Circles Around The Sun.

The band Circles Around The Sun is a direct outgrowth of the Fare Thee Well series of concerts put on as the final live performances of the remaining “core four” members of the Grateful Dead. Justin Kreutzmann (son of drummer Bill Kreutzmann) produced and directed five special films that screened in between sets, incorporating archival photos and footage of the Grateful Dead. Justin commissioned Chris Robinson Brotherhood guitarist and part-time member of Phil Lesh and Friends, Neal Casal, to create the soundtracks. Casals put together a band consisting of CRB keyboard player Adam MacDougall, bassist Dan Horne (Beachwood Sparks, Jonathan Wilson) and drummer Mark Levy (The Congress) and went into the studio and recorded five hours of music.

The music succeeds in walking a fine line of being evocative of the Dead (and in many instances, specific songs of the Dead) while also being more than mimicry. They really nail the spirit of the music while never just copying. In some ways it reminds me of the Beatles parody/tribute The Rutles (see my previous post on The Rutles here: You hear the music and it immediately reminds you a certain song but only for a moment, then it goes somewhere else. To pull this off well, you really need to speak the language of Dead.

The clips below provide the set break music for July 4, 2015 and July 5th. 2015 shows. The July 4th set break begins with a guitar riff that any Deadhead would immediately identify as Ramble On Rose but quickly morphs into something else entirely. The July 5th set breaks starts with a chord progression vaguely reminiscent of Box Of Rain before it too goes off into parts unknown.

Fare Thee Well- Set Break Music 2015-07-05 Neal Casal –

Fare Thee Well- Before Show Music 2015-07-04 Neal Casal –

The set break music Casals and company provided for the Fare Thee Well shows made a big impression on the fans in attendance as well as the fans who were watching the shows on pay-per-view. As a result Rhino records released a 2 cd set of the music and Circles Around The Sun have done a number of live shows. Go here for more info on the Rhino set:

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Posted in Grateful Dead, Music Appreciation and Analysis

For Mary . . . . .

HUSKER DU – Love is all around (Mary Tyler Moore Theme)

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Posted in Music Appreciation and Analysis

“Blues for New Orleans” . . . : Duke Ellington, the New York Public Library and Me

So here I am, fourteen years old and just starting to get into jazz beyond the contemporary bands of the day. I wanted to go deeper but the the number of records one can buy on a fourteen year old’s allowance is pretty limited and hell, I didn’t even know if I would like it. The first straight jazz record I bought (based on a glowing review in Rolling Stone magazine) was John Coltrane’s Live In Seattle, not a record for the jazz neophyte and not one I was able to appreciate for many years. Luckily for me, my local public library had a decent record section. I would regularly find records of jazz greats that I would take out and listen to for two weeks at a time. I would soon visit other, bigger library branches to check out what they had, eventually leading me to the mother lode: the New York Public Library at the Lincoln Center For The Performing Arts. It had the biggest record collection of any library in the city and I would regularly visit it on a two week basis. The importance of finding this music resource on my life can not be underestimated. It sounds melodramatic but it’s true. I would read in a music magazine about musician X. I would see a record by musician X in the library. I would check it out, adding it’s sounds to the wastebasket that is my brain and becoming one of the potential things I can now draw upon for musical inspiration.

One of the first jazz records that I found at that local library was New Orleans Suite by Duke Ellington (1971). I listened to the first cut, Blues For New Orleans and I was there. It wasn’t the electric blues filtered through young white musicians that I was used to. Instead of electric guitars there were saxophones and trumpets and trombones (oh my!). And it was soooo cool! The cut opens with a quiet musical conversation between Ellington’s piano and the organ of Wild Bill Davis before the sax section goes into the first of many cool blues riffs, with the organ playing fills throughout. Another chorus, another cool riff played the band. The tune then flows into a series alternating choruses between alto saxophonist Johnny Hodges (in his last recorded blues) and organist Wild Bill Davis with the horns playing interweaving riffs all around them. After not hearing this song for so long, I’m amazed how it just knocks me. If you know someone who says that they don’t like jazz then play them this tune. If they still don’t get it then I say forget them (IMHO of course).

Duke Ellington – Blues for New Orleans


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Posted in Jazz, Music Appreciation and Analysis

A Haiku For The Holidays 2016

Here We Go Again
Another Year To Give Thanks
Happy Holidays

Silver Bells  on the Chapman Stick Guitar

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Posted in Chapman Stick
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