Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Abi Gezunt! (Did Ye Get Healed?)

...was the watchword of the day (and should be everyday) last Friday Oct. 12th, a sensationally sunny morning when my buddy klezmeister violinist/film director/university prof/polymathic profuse-ter Yale Strom assembled about 90 or so well-known Jewish musicians from all over the world (nominally klezmer--but hey, as I don't quite fit that frame let us say Yale was a bit, uh, catholic in his selection process) to remake/remodel the famous 1958 Esquire b&w Art Kane photo "A Great Day in Harlem" which captures a group portrait of 57 COMmmmm-unists I mean NYC-based jazz musicians assembled on the stoop of a Harlem tenement (Art Kane actually was the daddy of former Gods and Monsters drummer Jonathan Kane--a fact hitherto unknown to me until me Jonathan and Oren Bloedow--G&M circa 1992--were traversing the Wisconsin dells with our Cassady-esque driver madman Calvin Aberle at the wheel when Jonathan casually remarked that, as good a photog as he was, he would never be the equal of his father...and putting one plus one together I asked "Is your dad Art Kane"? Yes indeed, and ye gods, a couple years later me, Jonathan, and my then bass player the fantastically inventive Jean Chaine played at a memorial service for sadly deceased Kane pere at Cooper Union...just about every NYC based art director was there to salute the genius of Art Kane--who actually had a novelty hit 45 as 'Lee Kane' on Capitol in 1951 with the immortal "Oh What a Face"...but that's another story)...

Yale's idea was to transmogrify/re-sanctify the photo tableau as "A Great Day on Eldridge Street"--and assembling at a very early hour indeed for bagels and whitefish and hummus and vot-not in the basement of the historic landmarked Eldridge Street Synagogue--another new yawk roadside attraction you absolutely must visit if you ever plan to motor (lower) east--wotta pahty, everyone there was There--Eldridge Street Synagogue's lovely Hanna Griff, Yiddish singer par excellence Elisabeth Schwartz, fetching Basya Schecter of Pharoah's Daughter, clarinet daemons supreme David Krakauer and Don Byron, trumpet man Paul Brody all the way from Berlin whom last I jammed with in Kazimierz, Krakow's old Jewish quarter, at the 2003 Krakow Jewish Culture Fest--a magnifique minyan of Jewish music champeens including Klezmatics Frank London, Matt Dariau, Lorin Sklamberg, & Alicia Svigals; Marty Ehrlich, Steve Bernstein, David Licht, Greg Wall, Michael Alpert, Matt Dariau, the incomparable Theodore Bikel--and my brother John Zorn, who had me rolling in the aisles and later out in the street with his anarchic/sardonic sensayuma (a rebel rouser of the spirit after my mein own heart, a tummler, a short order chef of amusement)...Leo Sorel from the Yiddish Forward snapped the photo which you can view here:

From the "Great Day on Eldridge Street" celebration--over 90 famed Jewish musicians gathered on the steps of the historic Eldridge Street Synagogue on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, 10/12/07, Lower right front: Gary Lucas (in pink hat), to his left John Zorn, to his right David Krakauer; Directly behind them: "Great Day" organizer Yale Strom (in red shirt) and singer Elisabeth Schwartz (wearing a red flower); Also in photo: Frank London, Theodore Bikel, Don Byron etc.

photo by Leo Sorel, conceived and curated by Yale Strom | Click to enlarge

That night Caroline and I went up to 175th Street for a great night in Harlem at the United Palace Theater, the opulent and many-splendoured capacious former Loew's art deco movie palace very well preserved indeed from the 20's replete with several balconies and restored church organ, where two of my alltime favorite vocalists were holding forth: the legendary Bobby "Blue" Bland, and Van Morrison. His Regal Majesty Mr. Bland opened in seemingly slightly reduced circumstances/health, was led onto and off the stage by a retainer, and sadly sang seated--but he managed to hit some beautiful heights still with his supple honey-suckle voice still commanding attention over classic Joe Scott-arranged gems like "That's The Way Love Is" and "Cry Cry Cry"--he even produced a patented squall or two--the mainly white audience mainly chatted throughout, oblivious to the soul picnic set before them, but fuckit, whaddya expect these days--I consistently place Bobby's 1961 album "Two Steps from the Blues" on my Top 10 Desert Island Discs list (and am eternally grateful to Mr. C for turning me on to this masterpiece)--big thumbs up to Van the Man for selecting Bobby to open for him (and for bringing it all back home to Harlem--Steve Paul told me Van summoned him up there as his guest last time he was in town... Steve used to feature the young Van regularly at his legendary Scene club in the 60's during the Bert Berns produced "Blowing Your Mind!" era)...after Bobby finished there was a slight intermission and then Van came out and stoned everybody as usual, incredible pipes still, immaculate band (anybody know who the pedal steel/slide guy was?--fantastic player), Van rocked the house and them some (Them shared a bill with Beefheart at the Avalon Ballroom in '66, and Don told me that he enjoyed hanging with Van, who asked him how Don had learned to blow blues harmonica so well: "Van, you just drive down the road, roll down the window, and hang your hand holding your harp out in the wind--and you'll hear the free-est, blues-iest harp playing ever...")...Caroline and I were in ecstasy during the show, we love Van Morrison, I've taken cassettes/cds of both Van and Bobby Bland on the road with me for years-- so this was a dream concert for us...on the way out down the United Palace stairs I noticed signs festooning the lobby with some religious bromides/apothegms affixed, as indeed, this deco joint has been Reverend Ike's home base for years (yes, the very same, shall we say, controversial practitioner of "Thinkonomics", and the "Blessing of the Cadillacs" )--Best sign read: "It is better to be Nice then to be Right" (good one)..."Send in your blessings, and You, too, can learn the Secrets of how You can become--a Lucky So-and-So!"...

Up to Woodstock next day as Caroline had 2 films she'd cast on view at the Woodstock Film Festival: the Wim Wenders-produced "The House is Burning" (directed by new German cinema badboy Holger Ernst--screening of this film at Cannes much lauded by Peter Bogdanovich)... and Sol Tryon's "The Living Wake" (got a fantastic review in Variety)..and we stayed with old friend BBD&O producer Peter Feldman and his inamorata the lovely Lisa, graphic designer extraordinaire (Peter is genuinely a lucky so-and-so) at his cool house deep in the Mt. Tremper woods ...drove down to Rosendale to its funky old theater (very Last Picture Show) and was quite proud of Caroline's work for "House is Burning" (didn't see the other film unfortunately), an excellent film on the order of Larry Clark's "Kids", about a dysfunctional blue-collar Jersey family and their wayward son about to be shipped off to Iraq--expertly cast and acted on a Cassavete's level of realife, mix of actors and young non-professionals...Sunday morning Peter and I ran into Mr. Woodstock. Michael Lang, quite by accident in the local Mt.Tremper supermarket, who told me how much he'd dug Gods and Monsters' set at the Bearsville Theater the week before (yes!)...

We got back into the city late Sunday afternoon and then Sunday night I raced uptown and it was another descent into the Yale-strom as the Strom-ster, who'd been leading klezmer parades and events all over NYC and environs over the weekend since the "Great Day on Eldridge Street" photo shoot, finished with a gala Jewish music show at Symphony Space up on Broadway, which we were scheduled to play...Ernie Brooks looked like a no-show but at the 11th hour arrived just in the nick having motored his way from Long Island City in a record coupla minutes and me, Jason, Billy and him hit the boards to deliver my song "Jedwabne", which got a surprisingly (to me anyway, as it/we sounded like nothing else on the 3 hour plus bill that night) loud and positive reception from the crowd...wish I'd brought some cds to sell as alot of folks were looking to sample our wares afterwards :-( ...I especially enjoyed Theodore Bikel's set, what a consummate showman! Still going strong at 83 (we should all be so fortunate...abi gezunt!)

Monday night old friends Ruth and Steve Hendel were feted at the Chelsea Pier Lighthouse by a celebrity-studded crowd for their generous support of the New Group and New York theater in general (hot director Scott Elliot described them in his keynote address as "the Medicis of Larchmont", following some howlers from Ethan Hawke)...Tony Kushner and Wally Shawn were in the house, Ernie Brooks too with lovely wife Delphine, Richard Lorber from Koch/Lorber who just released Godard's "La Chinoise" to theaters (and which I'd just seen coincidentally seen that afternoon at Film Forum--great film, heavily referenced in Bertolucci's "The Dreamers"), also producer Stewart Rekant, for whose Showtime film "Trust Me" (about a summer camp for Christian, Jewish and Muslims) I'd provided music for a couple years ago--nice folks abounding, good food too, which we had to walk off snaking down the west side through Heinekenplein/ Gansevoort Hotel-land...

Had a great gig at CMJ at the Knit albeit a tad on the late-side (1:30am is not my idea of a salubrious starting point), lovely Patricia Boushel from Pop Montreal was there, in fact the whole crew from PM (D Seligman and co.) had driven down for the festival; also my guy Neil West the head of Itunes UK/Apple London; Ben Scheur and his bandmates from the cool band Escapist Papers; also my old friend Professor Hugh Foley in from Oklahoma for the festivities who so helpfully doubled as my roadie for the evening, probably one of the few roadies on the planet with a Ph.D-- he and Jason Candler had a fond reunion as both of 'em used to DJ on the infamous New Afternoon Show (along with Colleen 'Cosmo' Murphy) on WNYU FM where I first made my NYC solo radio debut in '86-' night Noisettes Shingai Dan and Jamie played a terrific set as part of the Afro-Punk themed fete at the new Fillmore New York (s'funny, looks EXACTLY like the old Irving Plaza--how could that be??) ...and then went down to the Knit to catch a furious noise-core set from Montreal darlings AIDS Wolf featuring Andre from Pop Montreal on guitar and Seriepop silk-screen designers Yanick on drums and the fabulous Chloe on lead vocals (they produced my "Sounds of the Surreal" poster on display in the preceding blog), band generated a furious insectival drone of extreme noise, howling feedback, pummeling drums, manic and precisely splattered/detuned/re-jiggered guitars, big Beefheart fans to a man and a woman they did themselves proud... missed the Ruins unfortunately but hung with Tetsuya Yoshida their incredible drummer afterwards and discussed the Japanese new music scene outside the Knit it was raining intermittently but the 2:30am vibe was serene and friendly and...and...

and don't you dare miss John Leland's great new book "Why Kerouac Matters--The Lessons of 'On the Road' (They're Not What You Think)" from Viking Press, an appropriate publishing house if ever there wuz for this trenchant examination of the classic Kerouac bildungsroman...



PS Another Pop Quiz: First one to contact me at with the correct answer wins a copy of Seriepop's full color silk-screened poster from my recent "Sounds of the Surreal" performance at Pop Montreal:

The famous 6 note repetitive opening motif of Bernard Herrmann's classic "Vertigo" theme (covered on my first album "Skeleton at the Feast" as part of my "Hitchcocked" medley, soon to be reissued digitally) derives from which famous 19th century classical composition? (Hint: an opera).


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link