February 2006


les_escaliers_de_montmartre_paris.jpg

Reading James Salters’ travel writings called ‘Then & There’. It’s such a beautiful mood he creates writing about Paris;
“There is the knowledge of the senses that includes carnal happiness, and a greater knowledge that comes from intellect and reason. In the life we admire, one succeeds the other but does not dislodge it. Sin, as a saint explained, is a turning away from eternal things toward things merely temporal, but not all such turning is sin.
Sometimes over Paris but more often in provincial towns there rises a comforting sound, a sound of reassurance, the voice of the steeples and towers, the bells. They divide the day at noon, the dark at midnight, and the hours between. They are a steadying and a warning: all is not ended, all is not flesh.”

I love hotels. Backstage dressing rooms, too. They’re Way Stations. Make yourself comfortable, you’re only here for a moment. Once I was in Paris for a little over a month. I changed hotels every few days on purpose. I wanted to get to know the city from a different vantage point every few days. I stayed in 14 different hotels. It was great. A different morning coffee spot each day. I had always wanted to live there. I had a lot of royalties coming in and I was free, or at least, more free than I’d ever been. The problem was, it was all just fantasy. What was I going to do there. If there’s a Pop Music scene there, it isn’t one that I fit into. I remember having lunch with a French A&R guy. He liked my songs, but Johnny Halliday is still King there, and he sings in French. I ended up in London for a few months. That was fun, but cold and gloomy after a while. I flew back to New York and that’s when I realized I belonged there. It felt a little bit like Paris or London but it was home, and there was plenty to do. Music and otherwise. I was in a hotel room the other day in Phoenix, Arizona. Looking out across the suburban sprawl and desert, it certainly didn’t bring to mind Paris. But then, if you were there with a certain someone, staring off at the mountains that surround the ‘city’, the cool dry desert air coming in through the open window, maybe even Phoenix might be magic.
Have I mentioned Adam Levy here before? He’s a guitar player I met on the scene in New York. He plays in Norah Jones’ band and wrote a few songs on her second album. We wrote a song together called ‘I Put a Spell On You’, and he just sent me a live version from a forthcoming album he recorded with his trio at ‘The Living Room’ in New York. What a killer album. I will post some of it on my streaming radio station, when he’s ready to release it. He has a beautifully refined guitar style that he takes to a wild raw place on this group of songs. No Pro Tools studio production will ever match what he captured that night. I started writing the song after reading Nina Simone’s biography of the same title. What a life story she had. Speaking of Paris, they loved her there and that’s truly where she belonged, though she got her career start in and around New York. She certainly had a ‘don’t f*ck with me’ attitude coming off of her. The kind that fragile people build around themselves, in a hopeless effort to protect their frightened souls. She was like a Black Blanche Dubois in a way. Straight out of Tennessee Williams, one of ‘The Fugitive Kind’.

I put a spell on you
From which you won’t recover
If you even think about
Taking on another lover

A fighter I was born
And no one fights to lose
I’ll use the weapons of the spirit
To put a spell on you

Spanish moss and angel wings
And a lock of your hair
I light a crimson candle
Whisper a midnight prayer

I put a spell on you
And watch it fade from black to blue
At least I had what I wanted
For a moment or two

I put a spell on you

The music world is a traveling Circus world. Such intimacy between the players, brief, and then scattered again, off to some other Far Away Place. We lost a drummer brother in December and I just found out about it. George Javori was someone I recorded an album with, back in Brooklyn, a few years back with my friend Timothy Hill. He was a special soul, you sensed something otherworldly about him. I recall standing up for him from a bullying engineer trying to get him to play something that would’ve been easier to record than his usual unigue style. He chose to exit this life of his own volition, and none of the reassurance that he is merely moving on to another plane of existence, will make me feel better about the loss. Here’s a beautiful Dylan lyric to ponder:

“I’ve seen love go by my door, it’s never been this close
before….when somethin’s not right, it’s wrong….you’re gonna make me
lonesome when you go……….flowers on the hillside bloomin crazy,
crickets talkin back and forth in rhyme, blue river runnin slow and
lazy, oh I could stay with you forever and never realize the time.
Situations have ended sad relationships have all been bad, mine have
been like Verlaise and Rimbaud, there’s no way I’d compare all those
scenes to this affair, you’re gonna make me lonesome when you go.
You’re gonna make me wonder what I’m doin, stayin far behind without
you, you’re gonna make me wonder what I’m sayin, gonna make me give
myself a good talkin to. I’ll look for you in old Honolulu, San
Francisco and Ashtabula, gonna have to leave me now I know, but I’ll
see you in the skies above in the tall grass and the ones I love,
you’re gonna make me lonesome when you go”

On my way to a show in Phoenix. If the West was once wild, well, now it’s one big strip mall.
Really, they should give it all back to Mexico, from whom we stole it.
Have you seen the movie, ‘A Day without A Mexican’- no nanny to raise your children, no gardener, no construction workers, no car repair, no one to ask you ‘paper or plastic’ at the checkout line. It would be a worse disaster than
any mudslide, earthquake, or Enron scandal.
Drummer for the Phoenix show is Walfredo Reyes, Jr. Fantastic, charismatic player and person.
He has toured with Santana, Stevie Winwood, David Lindley and many others. His Dad and Grandfather are/were famous Cuban musicians and Walfredo carries on the soul and spirit you might expect from that vibrant corner of the world.
Here are the lyrics to a Phish song written about him. Have no idea what it’s referring to but…

WALFREDO

It must be ten years since I saw you
Grooving at Hunt’s with El-Rayo-X
Lindley’s hair was so greasy
Who knew then what would happen next

We were eating crab at Merriweather Post
We went up to that mountain in Stowe
We laid in a field in New Mexico
Walfredo, where did you go?

What did you do?
Who put you up to it?
Where did you go?
How much did you get paid?
How do you do?
How did you know where I lived?

Walfredo Walfredo
Walfredo Walfredo

Next time we saw Karl and Raul
Rodney had taken your place
He played like the wind and the water
But we still missed your smiling face

And when we finally made it to Trento
Ooh Rocko William had taken the throne
Stood on the field next to Davie
Ooh just to keep him from feeling alone

What did you do?
Who put you up to it?
Where did you go?
How much did you get paid?
How do you do?
How did you know where I lived?

Walfredo Walfredo
Walfredo Walfredo

No one has had more chances than you
Life isn’t fair and what can you do?
Alex had more chances than…

Now when I think back on you, Walfredo
Those were times I’ll never forget
The snow fell in Vail, Colorado
When Fish played the vacuum and ruined your set

…back to Walfredo
Leaning back on your stool
Looking cool behind that paint splatter kit
But not as cool as Raul

What did you do?
Who put you up to it?
Where did you go?
How much did you get paid?
How do you do?
How did you know where I lived?

Walfredo Walfredo
Walfredo Walfredo…

The Great Fires
by Jack Gilbert
  
Love is apart from all things.
Desire and excitement are nothing beside it.
It is not the body that finds love.
What leads us there is the body.
What is not love provokes it.
What is not love quenches it.
Love lays hold of everything we know.
The passions which are called love
also change everything to a newness
at first. Passion is clearly the path
but does not bring us to love.
It opens the castle of our spirit
so that we might find the love which is
a mystery hidden there.
Love is one of many great fires.
Passion is a fire made of many woods,
each of which gives off its special odor
so we can know the many kinds
that are not love. Passion is the paper
and twigs that kindle the flames
but cannot sustain them. Desire perishes
because it tries to be love.
Love is eaten away by appetite.
Love does not last, but it is different
from the passions that do not last.
Love lasts by not lasting.
Isaiah said each man walks in his own fire
for his sins. Love allows us to walk
in the sweet music of our particular heart.

Portrait Number Five: Against A New York Summer
by Jack Gilbert
  
I’d walk her home after work
buying roses and talking of Bechsteins.
She was full of soul.
Her small room was gorged with heat
and there were no windows.
She’d take off everything
but her pants
and take the pins from her hair
throwing them on the floor
with a great noise.
Like Crete.
We wouldn’t make love.
She’d get on the bed
with those nipples
and we’d lie
sweating
and talking of my best friend.
They were in love.
When I got quiet
she’d put on usually Debussy
and
leaning down to the small ribs
bite me.
Hard.
.

People often ask me what my typical day is like. Fortunately, they’re all different with the one constant being that I read the New York Times over coffee every morning. It’s downhill from there. Pretty amazing that they put together that quality level of writing every single day. Margo Jefferson is my favorite writer. Beautifully inspired about whatever she shines her light on. She has a new book out about Michael Jackson that I’m sure is great, not that the subject interests me much. Another writer that I love is Cathy Horyn. Oddly enough, her subject is fashion. Since fashion itself has absolutely no content whatsoever except the pursuit of your money, she gives free reign to her imagination to create connections between things not previously connected. What a wild circus that world is, beauty, desperation, great heights and low lows. Probably not unlike the music biz, including the lack of content part. Here’s the beginning of an article from today: “It’s a well established plot of the film and literature worlds, if not the actual one, that men live in fear of women. They fear being dumped, humiliated, punished and eventually addresssing their wives as ‘Mommy.’ And if men think about it, the sexual revolution may have brought them more chicks, but now deep into middle age, they find themselves questioning…” Here she goes into a reference to Prada etc. Perhaps not the stone cold truth but certainly an element of truth in there. Speaking of men & women, I watched “Y Tu Mama Tambien” the other night. In the studio until 4AM, I watched the subtitles, out of the corner of my eye. What a beautiful glimpse into the joys and sorrows of the coming of age years. In a couple of years, my son will be out there on the front lines. God help him. Hope I can be there for him through the love wars, though from what I hear from friends with teenagers, Dad is not the one you turn to for advice on this stuff. Here’s the poem by Fairfield Porter that I mentioned in an earlier post:

The Loved Son
by Fairfield Porter

When a loved son turns his back and goes
Down the street on a bicycle become too small
His overcoat flapping absurdly behind him
Maybe only as far as the beach

My heart is suddenly wrenched out of me
And I might as well let go and be done with it
And stay heartless, for what use could regret be
If my heart must no longer follow him?

When the grown boy turns his back and leaves
Looking forward to college or even to the army*
Glad to be grown up happy to be gone
Counting his new dependence, as independence

I think how carelessly I have regarded him
With what little penetration I have known him
And have not listened to the pleasant wit
That marks the shrewdness of his watching mind

In whatever new place for a short time his home
Surrounded by companions of his own age
Carrying with him no baggage of infancy
But the disappearing scars of his childish wounds

His new friends now, freshly for the first time
With contemporary easy intimacy
In a flash of insight looking in his eyes
Know the depths of his being and love him instantly

*this poem is circa 1950, I believe-not sure
how many kids dream of the army these days

Been reading a biography of James Salter in my rare free moments. With the exception of Oprah’s reading club, I don’t know who reads anymore. I know that in New York, where bookstores are everywhere, and winter is long, you see people reading something everywhere, on the subway, on park benches, over coffee in the one million cafes. Elsewhere, I’m not sure. James Salter’s best seller sold 22,ooo copies. Mariah Carey has sold 22 million CDs, probably in the last 6 months. Not sure what that says. Speaking of men & women & sexuality, you ought to read Salter’s classic, “A Sport & a Pastime.” That is , if you’re the reading type. If not go to YouTube.com, search New Orleans, Jimi Hendrix, Amsterdam, anything, and be prepared to be glued to your computer. It’s the new addition to the Flickr.com, MySpace.com world of killing time. People post home videos, music videos, videos of girls slowing eating ice cream cones, whatever. The live footage of Jimi Hendrix from the 70s is worth slogging through the rest.