IMG_0661On Friday night (July 8) my pal Dave Jensen and I saw Bob Dylan and his Band at Forest Hills Tennis Stadium. It was a treat to see the maestro, still a tremendous artist at 75. On an almost perfect evening, a vibrant, vigorous Mavis Staples opening the show (below right), and it was a treat to hear her power through `Slippery IMG_2073People’ and `For What It’s Worth’ and finally `I’ll Take You There’. Most excellent. Bob favored a broad brimmed hat, and moved about the stage in with a gait that seemed part shuffle, part skip. Dylan has been excavating the American songbook for the last year or so, and I can’t say it’s always been to my taste; it’s rather like visiting an extremely intelligent friend whom, you find, is currently immersed in the art of baking biscuits. Nothing wrong with that; it’s just that we’ve got a lot of biscuit bakers. There is still only one Bob. But this excursion seems to have done wonders for Dylan’s singing; it’s more ambitious, more expressive; he’s giving a broader vocal performance than I remember. This really paid off in the second part of the show, where he began singing about getting old. He played “Spirit on the Water’ (`You think I’m over the hill/ You think I’m past my prime/ Let me see what you got/ We can have a whoppin’ good time’); `Scarlet Town’ (`In Scarlet Town, the end is near’); “These Long and Wasted Years” (“We cried on a cold and frosty morn/ We cried because our souls were torn/ So much for tears/ So much for these long and wasted years”); and finally “Autumn Leaves” (`I miss you most of all my darling/ When autumn leaves start to fall’), written by Joseph Kosma and Jacques Prevert, with English lyrics by Johnny Mercer. Then, for his first encore, Dylan played “Blowing’ in the Wind.” I have never been a huge fan of the song, with its wise-beyond-its-years lyrics, but this was special. Singing with great expressivity in his old man’s croak, performing in this terrible week, Dylan brought a perplexed weariness to the song. I found it unbelievably moving.


aLosLobos1280x720On Saturday the 20th, after many years of longing, we went to the Clearwater Revival Festival in Croton Point Park. I was very excited that the advertised line-up promised a chain of performances by Angelique Kidjo (below left), Shelby Lynne (v. exciting!), Los Lobos (!), Neko Case (!) and David Crosby. AngeliqueKidjo1280x720aJosephArthur1280x720Alas, it was not our day. Shelby Lyne cancelled (Joseph Arthur (left), who filled in, was very entertaining and interesting), and then it rained, and rained some more, and then some more, and finally I bagged it before half the bill came out. Too bad!


Robert Fripp-630-80
“All my life, I have loved music, and never in my life have I been the tiniest bit musical. Not only can I not sing in tune, I cause others to fall off key. Not only can I not dance, my dancing has often caused injury to others, most memorably on a St. Patrick’s Day in Chestnut Hill, Pennsylvania, when at the conclusion of a dance I exuberantly dipped my wife-to-be and smashed her head into a door frame. I took guitar lessons for two years, giving up only when my teacher noted that inasmuch I had never been able to tune my instrument, or even tell if it was in tune, I would probably always—his word—stink. Clap in time? Forget it.

And yet, when I saw that the legendary progressive rock band King Crimson, in its eighth incarnation, was on tour again, I was reminded that there was one night, nearly thirty years ago, when I did play an instrument, in a band, before an audience, capably. And we were great. As much as anyone, the man responsible was Robert Fripp, King Crimson’s cerebral, brilliant, exacting, intimidating lead guitarist.”

To read the rest on newyorker.com, click here.


DSCN0051On Wednesday we motored across Tennessee to see Graceland, the surprisingly modest home of Elvis Presley. Meh. Banal testosterone-infused sixties styles. The miracle is that he happened; his personal effects are just leftovers. Here is his grave, left, and on the right, the only bit of wit I saw in the place :
Afterwards, we left Tennessee, drove through Arkansas, Missouri, and into Kansas, where we spent the night in Topeka.


get-attachmentThanks to a lucky drawing (and, I suspect, lousy ticket sales, ) Dave Jensen and I got to to go to Town Hall to see “A Night of Improvised Round Robin Duets,’part of the Red Bull Music Academy Festival. What we saw were 17 gifted musicians playing a series of duets. The music was mostly jazz and get-attachment-5get-attachment-2electronica, and the musicians were, with the exception of the venerable Allen Toussaint (who was practically a classicist in this crowd), were unknown to me. The performances were, in no particular order, interesting, boring, entertaining, beautiful, get-attachment-4get-attachment-3get-attachment-7>get-attachment-6unstructured, impenetrable. Some of the stuff was tired–brass players speeding up and down the scales, guitarists atrangling strange, Hendrixian cries of anguish from their instruments. The bits were often best when drummers were involved and providing some structure. The greatest revelation was the singer Petra Hagen, whose voice is powerful, glistening, supple. She is someone I want to learn more about. Pictures: Top: closing jam. Middle pair: Karsh Kale, Kaki King and Jamie Lidell; Petra Haden and James Carter; Bottom four: Trumpeter Dave Douglas; Shigeto; Wadada Leo Smith and James Carter; the great Allen Toussaint.