“What’s That Song With The Cello? . . . : J.S. Bach Cello Suite No. 1 Prelude in G Major

I’ve previously written of how the New York Public Library provided a invaluable resource in my early music self education (https://roymusicusa.com/2017/01/13/blues-for-new-orleans-duke-ellington-the-new-york-public-library-and-me/), Pre-internet, it was the only way I would get to hear musicians and pieces of music that I read about. I was reading up on Bach and was fascinated to learn that he composed a series of pieces for solo cello, solo violin and solo flute. Given that these instruments are for the most part restricted to single line melodies (yeah, the cello and violin can play two notes at a time but that ability is very limited), they are not the type of instruments typically featured in solo instrumental pieces. Those are usually reserved for instruments that can supply their own harmony like keyboards. So it was with great interest when I was able to take out of my public library a recording of a couple of the Suites for Solo Cello. The first piece on the record was the Prelude for  Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major and I was hooked.

I have since heard the Prelude thousands of times, often as background music in commercials for products that are suppose to convey some sense of class. It is ubiquitous. For a time it was my old Razor cell phone’s ring tone. Google famous cello tunes and it will come up as #1. The video below helps to explain why.

As the video explains, the piece itself isn’t very complicated but then takes it’s simple musical elements and uses them to create something much greater that the sum of it’s parts.

That famous cello prelude, deconstructed

Guitar arrangements (known in classical music terms as transcriptions) of the Bach Cello Suites are a mainstay of the classical guitar repertoire Below is guitarist Ana Vidovic’s performance of the Cello Suite No. 1 Prelude in G Major.

Ana Vidovic plays from the Cello Suite No. 1 Prelude in G Major BWV 1007 – BACH

This is amazing music that has and will stand the test of time. When the world is becoming a little too much I find myself going to Bach to convince myself that there is still truth and beauty and good.

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Posted in Classical, Music Appreciation and Analysis

A Blast From My Past: CPY at the Lone Star Roadhouse

I had a birthday not to long ago so I thought it would be appropriate to dig out something from the digital archives. In the late Eighties through the mid Nineties I played bass in a number of projects with a common pool of musicians. Often these projects lasted for literally one gig. One of the projects that actually lasted longer than that (i think something like 5 gigs) was a power trio I did with friend and amazing guitarist Frank Capeck and drummer Kieth Polishook called CPY. I never played in a power trio prior to this, the majority of bands I was in before this had two guitarists and sometimes a keyboard player. The change in format really did have an impact on the way I played bass in this band verses the larger ensembles. Ultimately, given the stark bare bones sound of the trio and the nature of the material, I went with a straight ahead no frills approach, Ultimately my job was to provide support for the guitarist to do his thing. Luckily we had a great guitarist who carried it off with style and grace.

The following clips are from the Lone Star Raodhound in NYC, somewhere around 1992. It’s from an old VHS video tape so sorry for the less than impressive video/sound quality.


CPY at the Lone Star Roadhouse – Led Boots


CPY at the Lone Star Roadhouse – Oh Well!


CPY at the Lone Star Roadhouse – Voodoo Chile

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Posted in Classic Rock, Jam Band

“The Bear Got You” . . . : Steely Dan and The Lost Gaucho

Gaucho was the album that (for a time at least) broke Steely Dan. Recording began in 1978 and over the course of a two year span, the band used at least 42 different musicians, spent over a year in the studio and went way over the original money advance given by the record label. Coming off the highly successful and critically acclaimed album Aja, the recording of Gaucho was plagued by a litany of problems: lawsuits, recording issues, disputes, health issues, and even death.

Even before recording started there was a legal battle between the record labels MCA and Warner Brothers over the rights to release the album with MCA eventually winning. Fagen and Becker relocated from LA to New York City but the Steely Dan recording process of endless takes, and countless hours in the studio clashed with many of the hired studio musicians who become increasingly unhappy with Becker and Fagen as time went by. Dire Straits guitarist Mark Knopfler, who was recruited to play guitar on “Time Out of Mind”, likened the recording experience to “getting in a swimming pool with lead weights tied to your boots.” After assembling an ensemble of studio musicians from the local New York scene, along with Steely Dan favorites such as Michael McDonald and Larry Carlton, recording was underway.

Disaster occurred when an early favorite song , “The Second Arrangement”, was accidentally erased by an assistant engineer. The band attempted to re-record the track, but eventually abandoned the song entirely. Things only got worse. In January of ’80, Walter Becker found his girlfriend, Karen Stanley, dead of a drug overdose in their Manhattan aprtment. To add insult to injury, Stanley’s family then sued Becker for $17.5 million claiming he was the reason for her death on the grounds that he had introduced her to heroin and cocaine. Eventually the two sides had settled out of court for an undisclosed amount, but those around Becker have said he never got over it. Three months later Becker was struck by a taxi cab stepping off a curb. The result was a fractured right leg which had rendered him immobile. For weeks, the only way that Becker could communicate with Fagen and the engineers was through telephone.

To say that Fagen and Becker grew more and more disenchanted with the process would be an understatement and eventually they scrapped much of what had been recorded previously, including several entire songs. This brings us to The Lost Gaucho.

In addition to “The Second Arrangement”, a number of songs were written for the album which were not included in the final release. Some of them were included on a bootleg titled The Lost Gaucho, which features recordings from early in the sessions for the album. These included “Kind Spirit”, “Kulee Baba”, “The Bear” and “Talkin’ About My Home”, as well as “The Second Arrangement”. An early version of “Third World Man”, with alternate lyrics, is included under the title “Were You Blind That Day”. You can hear them in the videos below:

Steely Dan – The Second Arrangement (Restored 2nd demo)

 

Steely Dan The Bear Lyrics (Re-mastered)

 

Steely Dan – Talkin’ ‘Bout My Home

 

Steely Dan – Kulee Baba – Gaucho Outtakes

 

Steely Dan – Were you blind that day – Gaucho Outtakes


Steely Dan – Kind Spirit – Gaucho Outtakes

 

Finally, the video below goes into the story of Gaucho and The Lost Gaucho.

The Lost Gaucho (1980)… Steely Dan’s Alternate Album | Not Lost Media –

 

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Posted in Classic Rock, Music Appreciation and Analysis

A Haiku For The Holidays 2019

A Song For Those Here
And For All Those Who Are Not
Let Us Play For All

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Posted in Country/Bluegrass, Jam Band, Music Appreciation and Analysis

“I’m Verklempt”* . . . . : Blue Sky by Quail

Full disclosure: I’ve known Anna Young (bassist, composer, arranger and all around awesomeness) and her brother Nick Young (mixing and mastering – sonic and otherwise) literally their entire lives. So it is with the greatest of pleasures that I present the first single from the band Quail. They are music students from Ithaca College in upstate New York and are a remarkably poised R&B/Funk band. The single “Blue Sky”, written and arranged by Anna Young, strikes me as a popier version of Amy Winehouse, with a great jazzy horn riff that will definitely ear worm it’s way into your head.  It’s now on all your streaming services

Spotify – https://open.spotify.com/album/3sOxmJRDEWeoD8zrIEIiwh?

Apple Music – https://music.apple.com/us/album/blue-sky-single/1487225700

CD Baby – https://store.cdbaby.com/cd/quail1

 

Quail – Blue Sky

 

They also have a GoFundMe page to crowd fund the recording of their first album:

https://www.gofundme.com/f/quail-records-an-album?utm_source=customer&utm_medium=copy_link&utm_campaign=m_pd+share-sheet


* Verklempt
– A Yiddish word that describes a person who is too emotional to speak.

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Posted in Music Appreciation and Analysis

“Embryonic Journey” . . . : Three Guitar Instrumentals By Jorma Kaukonen

My previous post talked about John Fahey, Leo Kottke and the “school” of acoustic fingerstyle guitarists who created an amalgam of folk, blues and country guitar styles, sometimes mixed with jazz, Indian raga and other world music elements. Wikipedia referred to this as “American Primitive Guitar”, a term I remember being used by Guitar Player magazine in the seventies. It occurred to me that if someone listened to the Jefferson Airplane album “Surrealistic Pillow” or if they watched the final episode of tv show Friends, they already heard an example of this guitar genre. They were hearing Embryonic Journey by guitarist Jorma Kaukonen.

It was a song that almost never saw the light of day. Kaukonen composed the tune in 1962 as part of a guitar workshop in Santa Clara and included it on Surrealistic Pillow at the band’s behest when they heard him playing it during some studio recording downtime. Yet for a tune that it’s composer considered album filler at the time, it became important enough to the band’s legacy that it was part of the short set that the band performed when it was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame.

“Embryonic Journey” 1996 Induction Ceremony Performance Jefferson Airplane

For the guitar geeks out there, the video below is a excellent tutorial on how to play the tune with a link to a transcription, courtesy of an excellent You Tube channel, Six String Fingerpicking, definetly worth checking out (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCwlVsO07aW_I_L50zRo_sjQ/featured)

Embryonic Journey by Jefferson Airplane – Guitar Lesson (TABS)


Tab for Embryonic Journey –
https://www.sixstringfingerpicking.com/embryonic-journey/

 

The second instrumental tune of Jorma Kaukonen I want to feature is Mann’s Fate, the closing tune off of the first Hot Tuna album, itself a cornucopia of fingerpicking delights. The clip below, comes from a show that was on the San Francisco NET station KQED called “Folk Guitar”.  Like Embryonic Journey, it comes from the folk guitar tradition but goes beyond it, with a Bolero sounding middle section that takes it a world away from the campfire songs that were the staple of acoustic guitar songs you heard up until then.

Mann’s Fate – Jorma Kaukonen & Jack Casady (Hot Tuna) 1969

 

The video below concentrates on the turnaround riff of Mann’s Fate but also gives a quick run through of most of the song in general.

“Mann’s Fate” guitar turn around Hot Tuna tutorial

 

The third Jorma instrumental tune I want to cover is their classic Water Song from Hot Tuna’s third album, Burgers. Water Song is possibly the most beautiful and fully realized instrumental that Jorma ever wrote. It strikes a perfect balance between the acoustic and electric sides of Jorma and Hot Tuna, featuring Jorma’s outstanding finger picking guitar work alongside Jack Casady’s contrapuntal bass playing.


Hot Tuna – Water Song – 3/22/1973 – 46th Street Rock Palace (Official)


The video below unfortunately is a bit of a tease, it is an excerpt from an instructional video of Jorma teaching Water Song. At least you get to learn that the tune is in open G tuning and see a bit of how to play the intro. Still better than nothing.

Jorma Kaukonen teaches “Water Song”

The wikipedia entry for the song Embryonic Journey has as it’s genre Psychedelic Folk. I think that ‘s a very apt description for this music. Acoustic in nature, definitely drawing on the folk, blues and country guitar styles but not being bound to them.

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Posted in Classic Rock, Jam Band, Music Appreciation and Analysis

“Like geese farts on a muggy day”: Leo Kottke’s “6- and 12-String Guitar”

Sometime in the early seventies I began reading in Guitar Player magazine about a group of acoustic guitarists. Their music drew upon the traditions of folk, ragtime and blues but often would also incorporate other elements such as Indian raga. They played what is known in guitar geek land as fingerstyle guitar, a technique of playing the guitar by plucking the strings directly with the fingertips, fingernails, or picks attached to fingers, as opposed to flatpicking which plays notes with a plectrum (aka a “pick”). For a solo guitarist, playing fingerstyle offers the possibility of sounding like more that one guitar by playing multiple parts. The right hand thumb play a bass part while the index, middle and ring fingers pluck out the melody and flesh out the harmony.

The spiritual father of this school of guitarist was John Fahey, whose recordings from the late 1950s to the mid 1960s inspired many guitarists who wound up furthering the music. The most well known of these is Leo Kottke, who made his debut recording of “6- and 12-String Guitar” on Fahey’s Takoma label in 1969. Kottke primarily focuses on instrumental composition and playing though he also sings occasionally in a baritone voice described by himself as sounding like “geese farts on a muggy day”. He would make comments like that during the funny and bizarre monologues that would intersperse his concerts between playing solo tunes on 6- and 12-string guitars.

Finally I was able to get a copy of “6- and 12-String Guitar” (also known as the “Armadillo album”, after the animal pictured on its cover) and it did not disappoint. The tunes have a driving, syncopated pulse that draw upon on blues, jazz, and folk music and will not fall into the background the way more “new age” solo guitar music does.

Below are the audio only clips of three tunes off that album including the epic Vaseline Machine Gun (gotta love that title). Check it out.

Leo Kottke – Watermelon


Leo Kottke – Busted Bicycle


Leo Kottke – Vaseline Machine Gun

 

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Posted in Music Appreciation and Analysis
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