Saturday, April 26, 2008

Lost another hero.

RIP Jimmy Giuffre.

"Jimmy followed his own angel," trombonist Bob Brookmeyer, a former member of Mr. Giuffre's trio, said yesterday. "He was one of the most courageous and dedicated men I ever met. He didn't care about what was profitable. He did what he felt was necessary."

A truly important musician. I've spent a lot of time listening to his music, but I always think "I should listen to more". Listening to his "Piece for Clarinet and String Orchestra" as I type. What an amazing, diverse body of work. That so many experiments would yield successes is remarkable. A giant. Goodbye, Jimmy.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Plus ca change, plus c'est al meme chose.

Snaggle tooth and sleepy eyes, me and a Les Paul, 25 or 30 years apart.

UFO at B.B. Kings NYC – 4/12/08

Well, not quite 30 years to the day, but close enough to have some meaning. It was 1978 the first time I got to see UFO live. Probably had to be the “Lights Out” tour since it was the ‘classic’ lineup – Mogg, Way, Parker, Schenker, Raymond. So, was going to see them in 2008 simply an act of nostalgia? I’ve often railed at old rock stars preening around on stage as hair-plugged and dyed shadows of their former selves. Was this just like all those people who flock to doo-wop shows to catch a glimpse of their former heroes?

I figured they would be good. They made their reputation as a live band. Their last few albums were really good. Vinnie Moore is a class guitar player, though I confess I like him best when he leaves his shred past behind. I wasn’t really expecting them to be great, though. But great they were. With Schenker gone it’s Phil’s’ band. Also with Schenker gone, you can depend on them actually showing up and playing (though I hear they had to cancel at least one date, not sure if it’s due to illness or low ticket sales). So, it’s Phil’s gig, and he makes it a good one.

Is he just another old rock star strutting as if he were still in his 20’s? Hell NO! He even made a few cracks about being shown on the big video screens on either side of the stage, complaining that he’s not a young Johnny Depp, and that he knows he’s bald. This is less like Mick Jagger doing the chicken walk, and more like seeing an old bluesman out doing what he does. No one ever really thought it was weird for Muddy Waters to perform into his 60’s. No one thinks twice about B.B. King hitting the road into his 80’s! These aren’t rock stars. These are rockers. This is what they do. I would bet that none of them really have enough money to not do it anymore. But to me that just adds to the urgency to really deliver. It’s more about delivering the music than it is about delivering a show. Old rock stars preen and count the box office. Old rockers rock and head to the bar!

Phil sounded great. I think his delivery has matured and he’s turned into a great singer. He also isn’t just going through the motions. He puts everything he’s got into every note. Even when he screws up the words (it’s always funny to hear the crowd sing the right lyrics and him sing the wrong lyrics), there’s an honesty that’s there. It’s not some over-rehearsed spectacle, it’s a bunch of musicians playing music as hard as they can.

Andy Parker back on drums was a joy. My brother in UFO (and in many other things, too) Vinny said that he thought he sounded better than he did 30 years ago, and I have to agree. His groove is more relaxed, more on. His brings a different thing to the band than Jason Bonham did while he was playing with them. It just sounds more like UFO with him again. The grooves are the right grooves, the tempos are just a little more right, the fills all catch the vocal and instrumental parts a little better. It’s just more right.

Paul Raymond deserves more love than he gets. Just like it took me a long time to realize that John Paul Jones was a huge reason Zeppelin sounded as good as they did (especially live), the same goes for Paul. His rhythm guitar sound is full without ever becoming over-saturated. The keyboard parts are spot on. (He could do with a new hairstyle). And how many songs did he really write?

We missed Pete Way. Mostly because it’s always an adventure to see what might happen when he’s around, but Rob De Luca did a fine job of holding down the bottom. (Probably plays better than Pete, though he’s not Pete, know what I mean?).

Vinnie Moore – here’s a guy with a tough gig. Yet, he manages to fill it better than anyone could imagine. He treats the original parts and solos with just enough reverence. He plays the really iconic parts, suggests the important parts, and gives you his own stuff whenever he can. I respect the way he handles this. My buddy Vinny was even won over by the end of the night.

Speaking of which – I kind of forgot what Vinny’s like at a concert. He’s sort of like a NY Times food critic at a restaurant. Critically taking everything in, showing little or no reaction. After about the first 4 or 5 songs I’m wondering to myself – “Does he hate it? He’s not clapping. Is he disappointed?”. Then they played “Only You Can Rock Me”. When Andy Parker played THAT fill, Vinny turned and gave me a look. OK, things are looking up. Then, when Vinnie Moore played the studio solo note-perfect (better than I ever heard Schenker play it live) he turned and gave me an actual smile. He’d been converted!

The band is certainly back in town, giving it as good as ever. Here’s to many more!