Follow by Email

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

After 25 years, Good Bye Black 47

Black 47 eh?
 I can't believe it's been 25 years but I remember when they started out playing bars on Avenue A in the East Village which was our neighbourhood. 

Sinead who was a publican's daughter from Cobh, and was Antoinette's pal when they were both employed at Saatchi & Saatchi the ad agency, which was located on the corner of Hudson & Houston. Sinead was a backup singer and used to bang the tambourine for them. Her friend from Cork, Mary,the other banshee backup, was engaged to Tom Hamlin the drummer. One Friday evening Sinead comes home with Antoinette after work and has dinner with us @ our flat on East 3rd Street and afterwards we were sitting around drinking beer and gabbing when Sinead stops suddenly and jumps up: 
"Damn we've got a gig tonight!"., says she. So I says "Calm down" and I asked where and when this gig was, and she says to us "Some bar on Avenue A!"
 She didn't know the name of the venue but I had a slight idea and Antoinette has me walk her over to find the place and make sure she gets in. T'was between 10th & 11th on the west side of A and upon reaching tried to persuade the bouncer fellas that Sinead was in the band whilst Sinead is hopping up and down between them trying to, and eventually succeeding in, catching pal Mary's eye, who had been wondering where she was and what she had been up to and wisely stood near to the front entrance. My contribution to music history thereby accomplished, I buggered off home.
Map of East Village Suites

Sunday, June 1, 2014

celticgods: Remembering Grant Green

celticgods: Remembering Grant Green: I was fortunate to see Grant Green in person when I visited my brother Jim in the Bay area back in 1974. It was amazing and though I...

Remembering Grant Green

I was fortunate to see Grant Green in person when I visited my brother Jim in the Bay area back in 1974. It was amazing and though I was already listening to George Benson and Kenny Burell seeing Green in a club setting was a mind-blowing experience for me.

Soulful, funky, rhythmic-he was all of these but was blue at the heart of it.  Died at the way too young age of 44 years old.


Grant Green (St. Louis, Missouri, June 6, 1935 – New York, January 31, 1979; some sources erroneously give the birth year as 1931) was a  guitarist and composer.

Recording prolifically and almost exclusively for Blue Note Records (as both leader and sideman) Green performed well in hard bop, soul jazz, bebop and Latin-tinged settings throughout his career. Critics Michael Erlewine and Ron Wynn write, “A severely underrated player during his lifetime, Grant Green is one of the great unsung heroes of jazz guitar … Green’s playing is immediately recognizable — perhaps more than any other guitarist.” Critic Dave Hunter described his sound as “lithe, loose, slightly bluesy and righteously groovy”. He often performed in an organ trio, a small group with an organ and drummer.

Apart from Charlie Christian, Green’s primary influences were saxophonists, particularly Charlie Parker, and his approach was therefore almost exclusively linear rather than chordal. The simplicity and immediacy of Green’s playing, which tended to avoid chromaticism, derived from his early work playing rhythm and blues and, although at his best he achieved a synthesis of this style with bop, he was essentially a blues guitarist and returned almost exclusively to this style in his later career. Green used a Gibson ES-330, then a Gibson L7 with a Gibson McCarty pickguard/pick-up, an Epiphone Emperor (with the same pick-up) and finally had a custom built D’Aquisto. George Benson said he would turn all the bass and treble off the amp, and max the midrange. This way he could get his signature punchy, biting tone.

Green was born in St. Louis, Missouri. He first performed in a professional setting at the age of 12. His influences were Charlie Christian, Charlie Parker, Ike Quebec, Lester Young, Jimmy Raney, Jimmy Smith and Miles Davis, he first played boogie-woogie before moving on to jazz. His first recordings in St. Louis were with tenor saxophonist Jimmy Forrest for the Delmark label. The drummer in the band was Elvin Jones, later the powerhouse behind John Coltrane. Grant recorded with Elvin again in the early Sixties. Lou Donaldson discovered Grant playing in a bar in St. Louis. After touring together with Donaldson, Grant arrived in New York around 1959-60.

Lou Donaldson introduced Grant to Alfred Lion of Blue Note Records. Lion was so impressed with Grant that, rather than testing Grant as a sideman, as was the usual Blue Note practice, Lion arranged for him to record as a bandleader first. Green’s initial recording session went unreleased until 2001, however, owing to a lack of confidence on Green’s behalf.

Despite the shelving of his first session, Green’s recording relationship with Lion and Blue Note was to last, with a few exceptions, throughout the Sixties. From 1961 to 1965, Grant made more appearances on Blue Note LPs, as leader or sideman, than anyone else. Grant’s first issued album as a leader was Grant’s First Stand. This was followed in the same year by Green Street and Grantstand. Grant was named best new star in the Down Beat critics’ poll, 1962, and, as a result, his influence spread wider than New York. He often provided support to the other important musicians on Blue Note, including saxophonists Hank Mobley, Ike Quebec, Stanley Turrentine and Harold Vick, as well as organist Larry Young.

Sunday Mornin’ , The Latin Bit and Feelin’ the Spirit are all loose concept albums, each taking a musical theme or style: Gospel, Latin and spirituals respectively. Grant always carried off his more commercial dates with artistic success during this period. Idle Moments (1963), featuring Joe Henderson and Bobby Hutcherson, and Solid (1964), featuring the Coltrane rhythm section, are acclaimed as two of Grant’s best recordings.

Many of Grant’s recordings were not released during his lifetime. These include Matador, in which Grant is once again in the heavyweight company of the Coltrane rhythm section, and a series of sessions with pianist Sonny Clark. In 1966 Grant left Blue Note and recorded for several other labels, including Verve. From 1967 to 1969 Grant was, for the most part, inactive due to personal problems and the effects of heroin addiction. In 1969 Grant returned with a new funk-influenced band. His recordings from this period include the commercially successful Green is Beautiful and the soundtrack to the film The Final Comedown. Grant was also a huge influence on guitarists, from George Benson to Stevie Ray Vaughan. Still to this day guitarists try to get his signature sound, Idle Moments is considered one of the top 100 jazz albums of all time.

Grant left Blue Note again in 1974 and the subsequent recordings he made with other labels divide opinion: some consider Green to have been the ‘Father of Acid Jazz’ (and his late recordings have been sampled by artists including US3, A Tribe Called Quest and Public Enemy), whilst others have dismissed them (Michael Cuscuna wrote in the sleeve notes for the album Matador that “During the 1970s he made some pretty lame records”).

Grant spent much of 1978 in hospital and, against the advice of doctors, went back on the road to earn some money. While in New York to play an engagement at George Benson’s Breezin’ Lounge, Grant collapsed in his car of a heart attack in New York City on January 31, 1979. He was buried in Greenwood Cemetery in his hometown of St. Louis, Missouri, and was survived by six children. Since Green’s demise, his reputation has grown to legendary status and many compilations of both his earlier (post-bop/straight ahead and soul jazz) and later (funkier/dancefloor jazz) periods, exist.

Monday, April 14, 2014

celticgods: From the Independent: The Forgotten Irish Revoluti...

celticgods: From the Independent: The Forgotten Irish Revoluti...: Ireland’s forgotten revolutionaries: The Irish president’s meeting with the Queen was a landmark, but few acknowledge why peace took so ...

From the Independent: The Forgotten Irish Revolutionaries

Ireland’s forgotten revolutionaries: The Irish president’s meeting with the Queen was a landmark, but few acknowledge why peace took so long

Irish revolutionary politics were nothing new, but revolutionary nationalism triumphed as British politicians saw off the alternative

Obviously, it was overshadowed by Prince George in New Zealand – never try to compete with babies – but apart from that, was there any state visit so suffused with the feel-good element as that of the Irish president, Michael D Higgins, to Britain last week? It was a love-fest from start to finish. The Queen – possibly relieved to be entertaining someone as modestly-sized as herself – beamed unrestrainedly at Michael D.
He beamed not only at the Queen but at everyone in sight. For such a very good talker as the president, having to make seven heavyweight speeches in four days must have been heaven. He’s a poet and a sociologist, so he’s good at the kind of mellifluous circumlocution that invests Anglo-Irish relations these days.
But the fly in the ointment – at least so far as Tory pundits were concerned – was the presence of Martin McGuinness in this company. The Sinn Fein man was in all the footage of the state banquet at Windsor Castle – chatting with every appearance of amiability with David Cameron and Enda Kenny, the Irish premier – and again with the Queen at Windsor for a meeting of Northern Irish politicians, and finally tucked away at the back of the royal box with the DUP leader, Peter Robinson, at the jamboree for the president at the Albert Hall, alongside Prince and Princess Michael of Kent. For people such as my old friend, Stephen Glover, of the Daily Mail, it was all too much. If the Queen keeps company with Martin McGuinness, he wrote, it’ll be al-Qa’ida operatives next.
What no one from this end of the spectrum ever does is ask why Mr McGuinness exists. I mean, not qua human being – that’s over to God. I mean, why the militant republicanism he represents was necessary; why the constitutional options for dealing with the Irish problem took so long; why Sinn Fein trumped the Irish parliamentary party in the first place; why – in short – we got where we are now.
For the answer to that, we need to go back exactly 100 years. Well, a bit more possibly, but a century would do nicely. Because that’s when the last chance for resolving the Irish question peaceably and in a unitary fashion was stymied. It’s when the Third Home Rule bill granting self-government, excluding defence, to Ireland was passed, but leaving out Ulster, first temporarily and then permanently.
It was the last time for resolving the Irish Question by peaceful means and it was vitiated by a terrifying combination of violence and the threat of violence, not from Republicans, but from Ulster Unionists bent on ensuring that Home Rule would not apply to Ulster, or at least to the “plantation counties” – what turned into the six counties of Northern Ireland. Two previous Home Rule bills from Gladstone had already been seen off, the second by being blocked by the House of Lords.
And just when it seemed that Home Rule might finally happen, after the House of Lords lost its power of veto, British politicians gave way to the revolutionary methods adopted by Ulster Unionists – chief of which was the formation of a paramilitary army intended to resist the writ of parliament, equipped with guns and ammunitions run from Germany. In their resistance they were backed to the hilt by the British Tory party as represented by Bonar Law, a Presbyterian minister’s son. It must be said, though, that most of the British players in these events, incuding Churchill and Lloyd George, were influenced, like him, by an instinctive antipathy to Roman Catholicism. And without that recourse to physical force; to violence (which Britons invariably associate with Irish republicanism), the state of Northern Ireland would never have come into being. At least not the way it was constituted.Fine dining: the banquet at Windsor CastleFine dining: the banquet at Windsor Castle
Not many people talk about the revolution of 1914, do they? But that’s what it was. And the implications remain quite devastating for anyone inclined to complacency about Britain’s model of parliamentary democracy, which is why these events really should be remembered.
The Irish historian, Ronan Fanning, has subtitled his recent book, Fatal Path (Faber, £10.99), about the decade 1912-1922, as: “British Government and Irish Revolution”.
Except that the revolution wasn’t primarily Republican, but Unionist.
“The term ‘revolution’”, he writes, “is rarely ascribed to the Ulster Unionists’ successful resistance to the third Home Rule Bill. Yet, given their rejection of parliamentary authority as expressed between 1910 and 1914 through the government’s democratic mandate in the House of Commons, in the creation and arming of the 90,000-strong Ulster Volunteer Force, in the establishment of a provisional government in Belfast in September, 1913, and in the mutiny threatened by an elite corps of British Army officers... and endorsed by the British Conservative Party in March 1914, a revolution it undoubtedly was.”
The mutiny he refers to here was the Curragh Mutiny. In response to the formation of the Ulster Volunteers and their successful shipments of guns and ammunition from Germany, the government decided to undertake a show of military force. But it ran into the flat refusal of British Army officers based in the Curragh to move against the Unionists, with whom they very much identified. The response of ministers was to capitulate. (The Army’s reaction was very different when Irish nationalists began their own gunrunning in response, on a much smaller scale: soldiers sent to deal with it fired on a crowed of Dublin civilians, killing four people.) George Bernard Shaw – a Dublin Protestant, and the single most articulate proponent of Home Rule and opponent of partition – was scandalised by the subversion of parliament. In the 1912 preface to his Irish play, John Bull’s Other Island (the one that amused Edward VII so much, he broke his chair laughing), he wrote about the shattering of his illusion that “Parliament... was still what it had been in the heyday of Gladstonian Liberalism, when it was utterly inconceivable that an Act of constitutional reform, which had been duly passed and assented to by the Crown, could be dropped into the waste paper basket because a handful of ladies and gentlemen objected to it, and the army officers’ messes blustered mutinously against it.”
Asquith, the Liberal prime minister, was not easily discomposed, but even he was perturbed by these events. In fact it is fair to say that by the time the Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in Sarajevo, ministers rather welcomed this chance to kick the Irish question into the long grass. Asquith wrote to his friend, Venetia Stanley, on 28 July: “What you say apropos of the War cutting off one’s head to get rid of a headache is very good. Winston [Churchill] on the other hand is all for this way of escape from Irish troubles, and when things looked rather better last night, he exclaimed moodily that it looked after all as if we were in for a ‘bloody peace’.”
The lessons of all this were not lost on Irish nationalists. The inevitable result of the success of Ulster Unionist tactics, and the capitulation of British ministers to the threat of force, was that the position of the constitutional nationalist leader, John Redmond, was terminally undermined. His Irish parliamentary party, which had held the balance of power in Westminster, was discredited even before the 1916 Easter rising.
Respectable parliamentarians looked increasingly ineffectual and were inexorably displaced by the revolutionary nationalists in Sinn Fein.
It’s interesting to speculate what might have happened to nationalist rebels such as Michael Collins, had the Third Home Rule bill passed. He’d probably have been a successful businessman. But it didn’t pass and the state of Northern Ireland came into being, as a “Protestant State for a Protestant people”. That was the context that created the politics of Sinn Fein and ultimately Martin McGuinness. Irish revolutionary politics were nothing new, but revolutionary nationalism triumphed because British politicians saw off the alternative. Yet, to a remarkable degree, these events have mostly passed over the radar of even educated Britons who take on board, in a Downton Abbey way, that Irish Home Rule and Ulster opposition to it was a big deal before the First World War.
Back to the present: during the Windsor Castle Banquet for President Higgins last week, the Queen promised, astonishingly, to her guest that “my family and my Government will stand alongside you... through the anniversaries of the war and of the events that led to the creation of the Irish Free state”.
Naturally, the centenary we’re thinking about this year is that of the Great War, but by rights, we should also remember what happened just before it. Sometimes, the recollection of history can be historic in itself.

Monday, April 7, 2014

celticgods: Céad míle fáilte

celticgods: Céad míle fáilte: Now that St Patrick's Day has passed by and the world has as per usual forgotten about Ireland, the Irish and their history I am putt...

Céad míle fáilte

Now that St Patrick's Day has passed by and the world has as per usual forgotten about Ireland, the Irish and their history I am putting this down as it has been on my mind for a while.

My friend Jim Morrow the lover of Yeats and son of the West tells me there is a new history of Ireland he is reading and related to me how difficult it is to read about Cromwell's conquest. This from wikipedia:

The extent to which Cromwell, who was in direct command for the first year of the campaign, is responsible for the atrocities is debated to this day. Some historians[5] argue that the actions of Cromwell were within the then-accepted rules of war, or were exaggerated or distorted by later propagandists; these claims have been challenged by others.[6]
The impact of the war on the Irish population was unquestionably severe, although there is no consensus as to the magnitude of the loss of life. The war resulted in famine, which was worsened by an outbreak of bubonic plague. Estimates of the drop in the Irish population resulting from the Parliamentarian campaign vary from 15–25%  to half and even as much as five-sixths. The Parliamentarians also deported about 50,000 people as indentured labourers.

This from Irish Central: 

Clearly the "Lord Protector"  was responsible for yet another of Ireland's "holocausts", perpetrated by the English over the ages.  The English to this day don't understand why the Irish in particular do not wish to be maltreated and denigrated as second-citizens, to be cursed as "papists", etc by joining them in the "Greater Britain" which now seems to be devolving anyway.  
For me I have always been astounded by the virulence of the hatred the English developed for the Church in such a short time and for the most immoral and flimsiest of reasons.

Today the media in Europe, Canada and the USA never discusses a more complete Irish history which must include an honest look at all the nightmares visited on Ireland and the Irish by the English through power, greed and hateful racialism down through 800 years. 
In our time if it is discussed at all, it is as if Irish history begins with the Easter Uprising of 1916. The centuries before that occurrence - all of the complexity, characters progress, defeats, movements, and political discourse -  is submerged below a sea of British history in which the Irish are viewed as ungrateful, contrary, bog-stomping, savages, quaint in manner and appearance when the English observer feels benevolent, and ugly, backwards, and violent when he's not.

Just as Europeans, (who love to call the USA "racist") never seem to have a frank, open, serious debate on their parts in the African slave trade. These nations like Spain, Portugal, France, Holland and of course England that commenced, developed, profited immensely by, and in the end summarily abandoned all responsibility for the victims of what must be viewed as the worst single atrocity in the history of human interaction.

When one looks back and compares it is easy to see that the English practiced for their future empire, on poor Ireland and its peoples, instituting all the hateful policies (rendition, deportation, partition, racialism, genocide, forced-labour plantations) that became so well known as Britannia ruled more and more of the world's peoples. When it became apparent there weren't enough Irish to man their outposts, they plundered an entire continent to staff their sugar, cotton, and coffee plantations.

They love to point fingers now, the Europeans, and perhaps that is a good thing, but at one time they countenanced no interference or showed any tolerance toward critics of their imperial will.  I think it's high time for more serious re-evaluation and compensation if not reparations.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Part Two of The 80's, or I'll take you to a restaurant that's got glass tables, so you can watch yourself while you are eating

Mirror in the bathroom, click click click - Part 2

Ok so we had our look down, right smart!
On our first visit to London together the dollar was strong against the pound the Christmas and post xmas sales were on sooooo, we went a bit nuts.To the West End we went where I found a peg-legged prince-of-wales checked double-breasted suit with tight pleats and small cuffs, and a pair of blue baggy trousers that tapered down very tightly to the cuffed ankle and were lined which made them very comfortable and warm during the challenging NY winters. I had bought these new in London on the King's Road across the street from where Vivienne Westwood's shop Sex had been..those,.plus a pair of patent leather dress lace-ups and a pair of pointy blue perforated shoes with Doc Marten soles further down the street. I wore those blue perfs or the black Loake's tassels often with those blue pants.

Antoinette had a really hot vintage black and white patterned crinoline dress, a Dior knockoff suit with the cutest miniskirt from Renaissance, plus in London we got her this hand tooled and distressed leather jacket w/ matching tapered trousers. The outfit was striking, she still has it, beautifully lined too, people used to stop her in the street in Manhattan.

We never left home without our shades, Ray Bans of course.....
So one payday I wandered down Broadway to Canal Jeans' location there and after drifting past the poseurs and poofters I hit the men's racks, half an hour later, for less than $50, I was leaving the shop with a pair of woolen, deep-pleated, big cuffed, subdued vertically striped, high-waisted trousers (like I had seen in a Madness video), a men's vintage white cotton broadcloth shirt with narrow button-down collar, and a men's waistcoat that complemented not only the shirt & trou, but the two pairs (1 pair black, 1 pair pale grey) of Italian-made men's lace ups i had found on W8th Street 2 or 3 door s down from the 8th Street Playhouse, the theater that MADE Rocky Horror Picture Show a classic, as well as being the only theater to show films by Jean-Pierre Melville and others.....

So we went out to Peppermint Lounge, Negril, Irving Plaza, Roseland Ballroom, The Ritz, The Palladium, CBGB, Bowery Ballroom, The World, The Hotel Diplomat, the Reggae Lounge and so on........

The East Village at that time was the epicenter for all our activities. There were a couple of restaurants and bars that existed on the fringe which did a great weekend business from the Bridge & Tunnel people who wanted to be cool but found the Lower East side a little too edgy and those places were as far as they went and their purpose in the world has now transferred to Hoboken NJ so the Jersey kids don't have to cross the big Hudson River to scary ol' New York any longer. I am sure their moms sleep more comfortably now.
 But on St Mark Place and Avenues A or B or 7th street there were Ukranian & Polish restaurants at which we could all afford to eat-.pierogies, pot roast, mashed spuds, sauerkraut boiled green beans endless cups of coffee it was pretty much like what my German grandmother made at home and cost 4 bucks!

The Eastern European social clubs had pool tables and sold Heinekens for a buck-fifty and we would just nip out across the street to Tompkins Square Park to smoke our weed.and then back across again.
It really was like a big playground for the over-18 year-olds and the cops didn't care as long as you weren't violent or naked (before midnight at any rate, afterwards.....).
The paths through Tompkins Square Park were like the punk Champs Elysee and 5th Avenue where everyone paraded their take on style/fashion/politics/protest/hip/glam/flash personified by hippies/punks/goths/artists/mods/skinheads/... deep breath .... rockers/skateboarders/Rastas/New Romantics/club kids/greasers, not-so-grand faire de promenade of anarchists and wanna-be's....

.....socialists, communists, Hare Krishnas, born-againers, right-to-lifers, drug vendors,squatters, homeless et cetera, and on up St Marks they went. Sometimes though, in those days, you could find yourself alone in that park. Undistracted, peaceful almost bucolic.

Eventually the once vibrant vintage clothing sources dried up one by one, the cool clothes disappeared leaving vestments fit only for lumberjacks (grunge) and mental hospital refugees (hipsters) which is what you have seen the past 20 years. The new fashions were not what my very good mate, Nigel, or I could stomach- giant lapels, giant wide neckties, stupid contrasting collars and cuffs Yuuccchh!!! 
So we took the bold step of visiting the Mohan Brothes in the Lincoln Building on 42nd Street directly across the street from Grand Central Terminal and the Pan Am Building and one block further up Vanderbilt to Conway's Bar our local.
The Mohan Brothers were Indian chaps who ran ads in the NY Post & the NY Daily News offering bespoke suits and shirts for the discerning New York Knicks, Nets, Giants, Yankees, etc...

Nigel and I met up one lunch hour and took the elevator up to visit the Mohans and were met by very nice fellas who showed us dozens of books of samples as we tried to explain that we were trying to re-create the 60's Brooks Brothers suits that were the mod formal dress - wool worsted, narrow lapels, 3 buttons, double side vents.  Their offer was hard to refuse so we didn't - 3 bespoke suits, any fabric we liked, for less than $700 US dollars.
Even if they turned out just OK you couldn't beat $230 per suit anywhere, and to our delight they turned out pretty damned well.
Well, 2 fittings and one month later we were called to pick up our suits. I had ordered a plain dark blue suit medium weight, a charcoal gray cashmere, and a Glen Plaid replica of Sean Connery's suit in Goldfinger.They had your name sewn on a label on the inside pocket, fecking magic.

Matched up with our English and Italian foot wear, "Made In USA"  Oxford dress shirts, narrow vintage ties, Nigel and I presented a very sharp contrast to the off-the-peg Italian made designer,suits we saw in the street and in our offices. I mean,  bankers still wore only grey or blue baggy recent vintage Brooks Brothers (who had lost their way over the years) or department store knockoffs thereof. The "stylish" guys (Armani, Cavani, baloney) had kipper ties, garish shirts, big braces, often in braided leather, and matching expensive designer- tasseled wing-tipped shoes.
Oddly, looking at the ads right now and how the men on tv like Don Draper in Mad Men or Michael Westen in White Collar, or the characters in the very aptly named "Suits" are dressed, fashion has only just caught up to us.