Mark Knopfler, Greek Theatre

September 22, 2019 I was 17 the first time I heard “Sultans of Swing”, and I was not amused. Who was this nasally sounding, semi-spoken Brit with circular breathing like hammer-ons? But, it didn’t take me long to figure out that those tunes and that Strat playing were off the charts extraordinary. “Down to the Waterline”, “Water of Love” and, of course, “Sultans”, off Dire Straits eponymous 1978 debut, had a hypnotic ear lock on my head. To this day “Making Movies” is a high watermark that never receded, and “Telegraph Road” (in both it’s studio and live versions) from their follow-up “Love Over Gold” is definitely in the band’s pantheon. Then “Money for Nothing” broke, Knopfler switched his Strat for a Les Paul and the whole world was dialed in, and while I went along, it didn’t have the same nuance and elegance of previous records. The band held on for another few albums and I was fortunate to catch the “On Every Street” tour, their last, in 1991. Knopfler has released 10 solo discs since then and mixes his earlier catalog with this material when he tours. His latest, “Down the Road From Wherever”, is a quieter, thoughtful affair […]

David Crosby, Saban Theatre

September 10, 2019 Croz always comes straight at you and from the heart, burned bridges and all. No surprise his Sky Trails tour two-setter at the Saban Theatre was so warmly greeted, from the “In My Dreams” CSN opener to the “Wooden Ships” and “Ohio” closers. “Eight Miles High”, “Guinnevere” and “Long Time Gone” were first set touchstones, and the set closing “Deja Vu” stretched for all the band to showcase their musical voices. Drummer Steve DiStanislo working skin on skins to subtle and expressive effect, James Raymond, producer, arranger and son of Croz on keys spotlighted. Michelle Willis lending her Rhodes inspired runs and vocals. Crosby had an origin story for all, but especially bassist Mae Liesz, whose busking turn led to love and touring. And then guitarist James Pevar, who has been playing with Crosby for 30 years, brought the tune back from the edges to that rolling 6/8 we all know. The exquisite “The Lee Shore” opened the second set. Crosby later sharing some of his darker moments as a junkie and how Jackson Browne pushed him to finish “Delta”as a turning point in his recovery. An a capella take of “What Are Their Names” sent shivers […]

Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, Greek Theatre

August 16, 2019 If you have ever been into the Dead, and written off JRAD as just a Dead cover band, you are so missing the point. For me, this band goes places I haven’t been, fueled by the Dead’s musical canon. If you made it to the Greek (or any show on this tour), you know what I’m on about. No emulating here. No Jerry or Bobby role. Just flat out all in. They take it down, when they could go up and explode when they could go low. One thing is clear, the music will never stop. And isn’t that really the point? Some deep dish visuals from this one.

NEWPORT FOLK FESTIVAL 2019, FORT ADAMS, RHODE ISLAND

July 26-28, 2019 As the sun dipped to meet Naragansett Bay a few Sundays back, the 60 years since the first Newport Folk Festival seemingly came full circle. The Fort Stage crowd serenading Rambling Jack Elliott, and the dozens of singers and musicians paying tribute to the spirit and songs of Pete Seeger (who appeared at the first Newport in 1959) with one last chorus of “Goodnight, Irene”. On what would have been the troubadour’s 100th birthday, it was producer Jay Sweet who encouraged the audience to have the last word and shower the stage with the love shared by all who performed and attended over the course of the three days. That the Lead Belly lyrics so simply convey love lost and always eternal, was a fitting coda to a closing set that left me more than a little teary. In a good way. Let’s just say that there are moments as a photographer when you have to put the camera down, and take it all in, and this was one of them. Welcome to Newport Folk. Newport 2019 was true to form. Full of collaboration, a few surprises and plenty of discoveries. But what was most different about […]

Mack Avenue Records Takeover with Alfredo Rodriguez and Cameron Graves Trios, Mr. Musichead Gallery

December 12, 2018 What a monster night last Wednesday with the Mack Avenue Records Takeover of Mr. Musichead Gallery. Featuring two richly textured and completely energized piano trios. The new to me Alfredo Rodriguez was lyrical and joyful, as if the best of mid-career Pat Metheny flowed through the ivories via Cuba and Brazil. Bassist Munir Hossn, he of the cheshire grin and constant motion, would switch to a nylon string cutaway in quieter moments, and both Rodriguez and Hossn picked up the sticks to join drummer Daniel Rodriguez in percussive celebration before closing with a samba take on “Thriller”. (Q, a big influence on pianist Rodriguez). After a break, Cameron Graves took the rest of the night in another direction, mixing material from last year’s stellar “Planetary Prince”with new material for his trio, that includes Maximillion Gerl on bass, and the phenomenal Mike Mitchel on drums. Graves and fellow West Coast Get Downers Kamasi Washington, Miles Mosley, Ryan Porter, Ronald Bruner, Jr. among them, continue to shape and push and challenge and tug at jazz traditions, and hearing this trio do it’s thing in such an intimate space was a thriller of a different sort. Especially, drummer Mitchel, who […]

Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, Wiltern Theatre

November 8, 2018 A quick interweb search shows more than 500(!) Dead influenced or tribute bands. Yup, the reach of the Dead is just staggering, whether the generation is golden or newly spawned. To whit, “songs are like fairy tales,” Phil Lesh said in a recent Relix Radio Hour podcast, “all versions are true…I can predict that they’ll still be playing these songs in 100 years”. I give you Exhibit A. JRAD. Hear me out. Joe Russo’s Almost Dead (“JRAD”) plays Dead songs fearlessly and all in. Excursions that land rooted to the tune and journeys that are a head shaking helluva ride. These guys embrace the spirit behind the songs and make them completely their own. With JRAD, I don’t relive the Dead, inasmuch as feel what they did to me then in real time now. I hit my first JRAD show last week (one of two dates at the historic Wiltern Theatre), a generous two setter that was in high gear from the opener (Golden Road to Unlimited Devotion) to the last note of the encore (Samson & Delilah). And, I have to say, they brought more life to Dead tunes than just about any Dead related show […]

Trombone Shorty’s Voodoo Threauxdown, Greek Theatre, Los Angeles

September 15, 2018 My handy wiktionary tells me “throw down” is “to accomplish or produce something in a grand, respectable, or successful manner; to “represent””. Well, when it comes to the travelling New Orleans road show billed as Trombone Shorty’s Voodoo Threauxdown, to say that the four acts crossing the country this summer just represented, is like saying we live in uneventful times. Uh, yeah, they represented, alright. This had to be one of the best shows of the season.   This threauxdown was as close as Jazz Fest gets on the road. New Breed Brass, Pres Hall, Galactic and Shorty would be a great day on any Fest stage. That they’ve been at mid-size venues from coast-to-coast and back again is like musical room service for those with a taste for New Orleans.   When New Breed kicked off at 7, for a brief (20ish minutes), but very punchy set, the Greek was looking a little sparse. That wouldn’t last long. No breaks for this brass, they had their foot on it for the full 20.           By the time Pres Hall picked it up at 7:30, the sun was down and seats were filling […]

Hot Tuna (Electric), El Rey Theatre, Los Angeles

September 6, 2018   Birthed of the 60s, the Haight, ingestibles and another time, before jam bands became a thing, there was the Jefferson Airplane. A band I was too young to see live, but burrowed into me, nonetheless. I soared on Grace Slick’s vocals and got interplanetary with Paul Kantner. But guitarist Jorma Kaukonen and bassist Jack Casady were the instrumental beating heart of the band. Casady with that tree trunk tone and Kaukonen’s signature fretwork and reedy vocals. The Airplane is generations gone, and (good riddance), all the clunky spin offs that followed are long past, too. Space captain Kantner left us a few years back and Slick left music in the late 90s (though she remains a very active visual artist).   Fortunately, Hot Tuna, the Casady-Kaukonen psychedelically rooted blues trio is rolling into year 50, with an electric tour that stopped at the El Rey Theatre the Thursday after Labor Day. Like other recent tours, multi-dimensional guitarist Steve Kimock joined the Tuna for a good part of both sets (the K-men run deep, Kimock a teacher at Kaukonen’s Fur Peace Ranch Guitar Camp, which sounds like a pretty special place to hang, if you got the […]

Newport Jazz Festival 2018, Fort Adams, Rhode Island

Music keeps you young. One didn’t have to look further than 92-year old George Wein introducing 80 year-old Charles Lloyd on Saturday to figure that out. Wein, co-founder and patriarch of all things Newport Jazz, was delighted when Lloyd wanted to kick off his ninth decade at Newport and Wein bestowed him the honor of 2018’s artist in residence, with Lloyd performing in strikingly different musical settings over the festival’s three days.   Count myself lucky this year to cover both the Folk and Jazz weekends at the Fort and still had the glow from the Folk Festival as the town pivoted with ease from one to the other. Monday night was a table setter at the 5th Element for trumpeter Doug Woolverton and Joshua Hill, an up and coming pianist who sat in, and I would get to know better as the week went on (and so will you in the years ahead).   As with Folk the previous weekend, discoveries are at the heart of Newport Jazz. And while I consider myself pretty steeped in the stuff, I was familiar with, perhaps, a quarter of the acts coming into Friday. While Still Dreaming featuring Joshua Redman and Brian […]

Newport Folk Festival 2018, Fort Adams, Rhode Island

July 27-29, 2018   In a recent podcast, producer Jay Sweet reflected on Newport Folk this way “if this festival for you is about the headliners, I don’t think this is your festival”. Not that the headliners were too shabby. Jason Isbell (with a David Crosby sit-in), Unannounced (aka, Mumford & Sons) and the closing Change is Gonna Come set, more than held down the Fort. But Newport Folk (and Jazz) is about discovery, collaboration and experimentation. It’s The War & Treaty, The Weather Station, This is the Kit, Charlie Parr, Phoebe Bridgers, and Glorietta, to name a few that stood out. It can be “a bunch of people from a bunch of bands playing a bunch of songs” as Eric Johnson said from the Quad Stage, during Saturday’s Beneath the Sacred Mountain set. If not for Newport, The Lone Bellow (Sunday) and Hiss Golden Messenger (Saturday) would not have worked their way into my world years ago. Not to mention all the goodness my ears and heart enjoyed in between the new and familiar.   The Fort’s four stages are close, but not tight, and stage times rarely compete like so many other festivals where you can’t tear yourself […]