An aging man and his can of craft IPA!…. Playing your town/The Outpost was a true pleasure. ————–Nels @ Outpost —- photo by Mark Weber
THEN & NOW
One hopes that maybe some-
How, homo sapiens has a recessive gene
Laying dormant, that
Will come out of hiding and save us
With whatever magic characteristic
We need, so far unknowable to us,
We can’t grasp it, continuing
Headlong into disaster, not so unlike
The fall of Babylon (539BC) where a vain and
impious ruler, an idiot king flush
with his own importance (one papyrus reads:
He muddled the rites
He confused the oracles
He ordered an end to
the most important rituals
He looked at the sacred images in the temple of Esagila
and uttered blasphemies
Then as now, we’re on a merry-go-round
with a crazy man at the switch ———
In the 50s and 60s we had Rachel Carson
with her majestic & poetic warnings that
the natural world was heading toward collapse
(at our hands) and then, remember that other
best seller THE POPULATION BOMB? and still, in
our naivete we thought it possible
that each of us
not produce as many babies as
Queen Victoria & Albert (9)
This path seemingly of planned obsolescence
Decline & catastrophic collapse
This time there won’t be a box office
like at Stonehenge and a nice docent
to show us around our ruins (there won’t
be any of us left) Even the insects, who
some of us comforted ourselves would carry on Life,
are now dying off in mass numbers, thank
you pesticides, the meek shall not
inherit the earth, apparently —————-
The trees will be uprooted by Apocalyptic winds
Tsunamis as tall as the Empire State Building
will engulf the earth . . . .
GEEZUS, how did I get so far off track?
I sat down to meditate on these two photos
of Nels and myself
and innocently write about Then & Now, but
an Old Testament prophet took me over
and I lost control of my quill
Tom Rainey = absolute MASTER. I am so lucky I get to play with him! The man has played with practically everyone at one time or another, and after tons and tons of mostly “straight ahead” jazz gigs ended up on the more avant-garde/improvised end of the spectrum, expressing and innovating and otherwise seriously committing to the moment and to ongoing mastery. Check out his trio with Ingrid Laubrock and Mary Halvorson!
A brilliant young man and his blurry guitar pick…. I can’t rally say enough about Julian. He is a great friend/collaborator/supporter and one of the greatest musicians ever. And this is a cool portrait, Mark!
A true giant of the bass (and yes – he’s taller than me…), Chris Lightcap!
(This is NC4 at Soundcheck —- not their “stage attire” —- Feb. 8, 2o19) Yep! Except me, I think. Wore the same shirt all day! This was only the second stop on the tour, but I remember the gig fondly. Some seriously cogent improvising went down AND I got to return to El Patio for dinner and hang with you!
The NC4 hits Albuquerque! With bassist Chris Lightcap standing in for Jorge Roeder, (and drummer Tom Rainey + guitarist Julian Lage), this concert was one of my favorites from our 2-week trek through the western United States. Great space, great staff, great audience = some really cogent improvising. Many thanks to everyone there! ———- photo by Mark Weber —- February 8, 2o19 Outpost Performance Space
Tom Rainey —- February 8, 2o19 —- Outpost Performance Space – photo by Mark Weber
NC4 @ Outpost Performance Space —- February 8, 2o19 – photo by MW
It’s hard to trick this modern techno digital camera to snap blurry photos, so, I just fired a dozen bang bang bang until a few of them came out like this——————-February 8, 2o19 – photo by Mark Weber
AS OLD FROST SAID OF FIRE & ICE
Listening to Nels Cline 4 in concert
I think of dichotomies, mixing
and matching, and drama, in that
life is so many mirrors reflecting
back and forth
layer’d, tumbled, tumultuous,
parallax: where foreground, background,
and the camera are all moving at same time
Like a poem in parataxis
The quartet spinning in circles
around the steady drummer
triangulation, parallax, fire & beauty
As our man Ralph J Gleason once said: “a
particularly happy amalgamation of individual talents,
stewed, brewed, and cooked together long enough
to emerge as a single thriving throbbing organism”
NC4 seesaws back & forth
between moments of extreme tender beauty
and everything going up in flames
the flickering of light on the surrounding forest
from our fires at night
the constellations wheeling in the sky
Nels Cline —- September 26, 1997 —- photo & line drawing by Mark Weber
Nels Cline & Mark Weber —- May 15, 1982 Los Angeles
Then and Now, or is that Before and After? The intervening years and all that ——– I remember recording my first Cd (1995) out in LA and ever-faithful Nels slipping out of a studio across town to join us for an hour and lay down some tracks before returning to work on the Fibbers record, I think it was ————— This replication was shot by Roch Doran on February 8, 2o19 Albuquerque
John Fahey: I first heard John Fahey’s classic album “Days Have Gone By” at my Junior High friend Alan Eder’s house. His brother Bob owned it, and the Fahey name/image came to us in anecdotal fragments imbued with mystery: He lived in Venice and was a stone alcoholic, he had studied at UCLA and collected 78s from all over the Deep South, he had a connection to Alan Wilson/Canned Heat, he owned his own record label, which was unusual then… All of these stories/details ended up possessing a pretty high degree of veracity. But what about the music? I remember listening in Alan’s room during a sleepover, lights off and strobe candle burning (we may have smoked some weed…) and listening in silence to “Days Have Gone By”, the train sounds mixed in with this rather haunted-sounding yet distinctly folk-blues fingerstyle guitar. Very enigmatic, full of pauses as he strummed dissonant discoveries in his open-tuned compositions. I loved it! Not much later, he released what may be my two favorites of his solo guitar recordings: “America” and “Fare Forward Voyagers”, that latter a kind of tour-de-force, recorded during his sober yoga association with Swami Satchidananda and his devotees (and still quite underrated, I think). “America” made a deep impression, what with it’s amazing and slightly bizarre album art featuring pages depicting Fahey and the artist Patrick Finnerty in the desert, cavorting with turtles, etc., and containing the now legendarily abstract/episodic “Mark 1:15”, which made a deep impression on me compositionally and sonically. All of this said, I did not become a total Fahey worshipper simply because he released a lot of records I wasn’t all that fond of. But that itself is part and parcel of his iconoclastic, contrarian genius. He was NOT seeking to be loved/worshipped. And, much like Frank Zappa, he openly expressed distrust and disdain for the Hippie culture of the day.
It was a few years later, in maybe 1980, that I finally heard Fahey ‘live’ at McCabe’s Guitar Shop, an intimate and legendary venue in which I heard many inspiring musical performances. I went with my friend George Winston (yes, THAT George Winston, who I had befriended as a record store customer and who had recorded initially for Fahey/Takoma and was yet to record “Autumn”). Fahey was apparently fighting a virus of some sort and was sweating a lot as he swigged beer from a huge pitcher onstage. He ended up being in pretty bad shape, so George drove John’s car and I followed him to Palms (West L.A.), where we put John to bed as his then-wife slept and crept out into the night.
When Fahey left Los Angeles for Salem and got sober again, my friend Mike Hogan – then putting out my records along with many other on his small label little brother (lower case letters important) – had befriended the erratic Fahey and managed to release a double 7″ of echo-laden solo guitar by him. Somehow, I ended up doing a short Northwestern tour with my old Trio + Fahey solo and a fine post-Sonic Youth band from Portland OR called Her Number Thirteen. Weird, I know! Fahey insisted on playing last and each time he played he managed to clear the room almost completely – particularly while performing a plodding waltz that repeated without variation until almost no one but we musicians and the employees of the venue were left. In Eugene, at Sam Bond’s Garage, the only people remaining were my band, Her Number Thirteen, the employees of the venue, and Chan Marshall (AKA Cat Power) and her friend Mike, who had come down from Portland for the show (Chan was living in a sketchy neighborhood with members of Truman’s Water back then and we were friends from her early NYC days). In Portland, Fahey was spotted driving by and seeing the sketchy venue/neighborhood and just kept on driving! But he was very friendly and respectful to me – in his off-hand way, at least – and was enjoying a period of renewed energy/interest in his work as he became fascinated by what we might now look back on as the Indie-rock underground, “noise” music, etc.. It was maybe around this time that the term “American Primitive Guitar” was born and being attached to John and his work but it, like so many other such imprisoning epithets, does not resonate with me.
The last time I saw John was at The Ash Grove in what I guess was its last iteration on the Santa Monica Pier. I had been asked by my old record store mate Sam to play a half-hour solo set. This German singer-songwriter I had never heard of named Sebastian or something was sort of the headliner, and a tribute album to him had been released, spurring interest in a man who had become a hermit out in the High Desert or something. He was a killer slide player. Anyway, my half hour seemed to upset the mostly-KCRW crowd who had only come to hear this Sebastian fellow, but Fahey seemed to really like my set and, while balancing a huge bowl of tortilla chips on his copious belly said to me (from behind his then-trademark dark glasses), “So Nels. You just played everything I was going to play! I guess I’m gonna have to really step up tonight and play some new stuff!” Hah hah. Quite the joker! He got up and played (McCabe’s booker) John Chelew’s crappy Washburn acoustic/electric directly into the P.A. and drenched in reverb. And yep – played that plodding waltz until almost everyone in the place had left.
As I said goodnight, Fahey discovered that I had not been paid. I had done the gig for free – just to be included, to hear him, really. I was just sort of tacked on to the show. He became furious and wanted to go back into the Ash Grove and raise a big stink, but I talked him down. We said goodnight and I never saw him again.
John Aloysius Fahey’s death had an unexpectedly powerful effect on me. I, like everyone, knew he was not a healthy man. Au contraire! But the world without Fahey roaming around in it felt….wrong. I was sad. And I want people to know how important he is – on more levels than just guitar playing. I recommend a recent biography of him by Steven Lowenthal called “Dance With Death”. It’s balanced and concise and gives one a pretty good picture of this complicated, alienated, childish, brilliant man who happened to find himself through Delta blues and other music of the 20s and 30s in the Deep South and took it to heart, made something personal yet reverent with that input, with that inspiration. ———–photo by Mark Weber @ The Lighthouse, Hermosa Beach, California – June 1, 1976
I have completely lost touch with Bruce — an amazing guy who recorded us — even Alex and me in our parents’ garage when we were 13 years old! He was always an electrical engineer wizard, even as a teenager. His parents sold Amway and for a sec Alex and I got roped into that, a total mistake! Bruce’s father worked at Lockheed, I think, and after graduating from Harvey Mudd in Claremont, Bruce took a job very briefly in the aerospace industry, only to leave in disgust early on and turn his back on what would surely have been a fancy career. I believe that on the last few days he worked at – was it Hughes Aircraft? — he wore a gas mask the entire work day! Around the period shown here Bruce had recorded James Newton’s first record, Horace Tapscott, David Murray, etc., etc., and set up his remote recording equipment for me to record that short film of John Carter & Bobby Bradford as he had a previous commitment that morning (the morning after he recorded Eric Von Essen and my first record, “Elegies”, I think). Remarkable… Love to Bruce wherever he is! —————photo by Mark Weber —- Bruce Bidlack doing sound for Sun Ra (that’s Marshall Allen behind him) —- April 2, 1981 Los Angeles
I remember these concerts very well. In a bold move, Eugene and John played the Century City Playhouse on 2 nights: the usual Sunday and a following Monday night. I attended both nights, and one of the two (sorry I can’t recall which one) left me slack-jawed with amazement as they fell into a sort of cyclical pattern and gradually sped it up; Chadbourne licking a balloon and rubbing it on his acoustic guitar, etc., long-haired Zorn in cutoffs and a football jersey holding his clarinet between his legs and with his alto and curved soprano saxophones hanging around his torso… All-improvised in what I suppose one might at this point call a unique response to the developments of the avant-garde improvised music of Derek Bailey and Even Parker, among others. When I later learned that Chadbourne and Zorn were touring via Greyhound bus with maybe one change of clothing – maybe NO change of clothing! — and seeing Eugene in full milkman whites… well, I became doubly amazed by them! ———–photo by Mark Weber —- November 28, 1977
I see one of Alex’s old drum rugs on the left, so maybe this was a double bill of some sort? I met Wayne Peet and John Rapson one night at the Georges Sand Bookstore when they played one evening during the work week. Lee (Kaplan) had heard about them and their trio with experimental guitarist John Stevens (was it John?) and wanted me to check them out for possible booking into the Century City Playhouse series. They had all come in from Santa Barbara. I guess one could say the rest is history. We all became — and still are — friends and collaborators. Wayne has recorded me and practically everyone in his garage studio Newzone in West Los Angeles and has played on/arranged/recorded tons of music of all sorts. John Rapson just retired from his position as head of the Jazz Department at Iowa State. And that trio that I heard back then — I believe they were called The Joe Doppler Quintet even though they were a trio – was unremittingly avant-garde and GOOD. Wayne and Vinny (pictured here) ended up collaborating on everything from Vinny’s Large Ensemble arrangements to movie soundtracks. And Wayne played on and recorded/mixed/co-produced one of my favorite of my own records, “Destroy All Nels Cline”, while I spent time in his groups Doppler Funk and The Wayne Peet Trio (there are recordings out there, people!)… Photo by Mark Weber —- February 7, 1981 @ Storie-Crawford Studio, Santa Monica, this trio of Vinny (woodwinds), John Rapson(trombone), & Wayne Peet(piano) on a double-bill w/ Nels & Eric Von Essen duo
Chris has been playing in The Grandmothers for years now, I guess. This shot having been taken in 2002, I think it’s around the time my brother Alex and I were playing with Don in a trio he called The Akashic Ensemble wherein he played only prepared piano and an EMS Synthi suitcase synthesizer and recited poems and whatnot about the cosmos, science…. It was really fun – mostly entailing graphic scores of various sorts. Don asked me around 2003 or so to play in The Grandmothers, then I didn’t hear from him for over a year, during which time I joined Wilco (!). Don is one of the great musician characters of all time and has a fascinating history. Someone should make a movie about him! Chris is a phenomenal drummer and soulful dude. He and I had a duo for a hot minute in which he played tabla and kanjira (sp?) and I played baritone guitar and bass recorder. We played themes from Keith Jarrett’s “Survivor’s Suite” in fake raga style. —- photo by Mark Weber —- August 23, 2002 Los Angeles
I don’t remember VAT! No drums? This looks like a variation on the band formed for Tim by my brother Alex for his first recording, “The Five Year Plan”. Of course everyone looks so young here because they were! Glenn Ferris moved to Paris not long after this and continues to play amazing trombone as far as I am aware. An amazing guy in all ways and a monster trombonist who had played a lot with Bobby Bradford, Frank Zappa, et al. Vinny bringing the power to the baritone saxophone… I wrote a song dedicated to him on my first record, “Angelica”, called “The Lung”, an appellation inspired by his immense lung power. Sorry that I don’t recall this concert, though! —- October 28, 1979 photo by Mark Weber (the drummer on this date was Alex Cline)
(Nels is writing most of the Commentary on these photos, but I jump in now and again: I had asked what the acronym VAT might mean —- Vinny Alex Tim?) ———- photo by Mark Weber —- October 28, 1979 Century City Playhouse ————–and now Nels: I knew it! Great photo capturing Alex in his full late 70s glory! I have no idea where VAT came from, though! Your guess is a good one, though that makes me think it should have been GRAVT or something….!!!
Horace Tapscott and his ardent supporter/documenter/producer Tom Albach, caught in a recording studio somewhere. Tom took it upon himself at some point in the 1970s to document anything and everything Horace was doing/wanted to do, which resulted in dozens of recordings that would never have happened otherwise, from records of Horace’s Arkestra to many solo piano sides, trios with Roberto Miranda and drummers Donald Dean and Fritz Wise, all through the 1980s… Tom was quite an irascible fellow; a cigar-chomping loudmouth who was über-passionate/opinionated and a really sweet man down deep. I never knew him well, but I am certainly grateful for his dedication to Horace and his music. I hear Tom is still around at an advanced age battling various serious physical challenges. Sending healing vibes to you, Tom!… ———–photo by Mark Weber —- January 27, 1981 @ United-Western Studios, Sunset Blvd