Tag Archives: music

Music Reviews: “Moved by Blues” -The Pete Wyoming Bender Band, Rickenbackers Music Inn

Intro by Red Haircrow

Compared to many private venues in Berlin, Rickenbackers Music Inn is generously spacious enough to accommodate a sizeable crowd in its many nooks and cranies while still maintaining a very intimate atmosphere. Yet when you have a crowd that swelled to the size the legendary Pete Wyoming Bender Band drew on Sunday night, 31 March? It was packed wall to wall. Every table was reserved, standing room only.

Rickenbackers by Red Haircrow

From my perspective in one front corner generously suggested to me by Pete, I waited for the gig to begin while observing some typically Teutonic behavior in a modern sense: an older German couple glanced at their recently delivered plus-sized hamburgers with mild dismay before beginning to delicately go at them with a knife and fork. People, you just pick them up and take a big ol’ bite.

Next, there was a ten-minute discussion between several people on how a young woman might deal with a stool with one leg shorter than the other. They finally folded up coasters so it could sit evenly, but I couldn’t help but think, what did it matter? They were not at Berlin’s fabulous symphony orchestra hall, so what did they expect? They were there for the music, or should have been. I was, for that and a couple of beers.

Close Set by Red Haircrow

I suppose it’s my background in psychology, which can include so many other disciplines and nuances, that I watched the faces of the performers as a clue to how they feel about the music and bandmates, not while they were actively playing of course, but when they were listening to the other members. Also, it’s curious how their instrument of primary choice reflects what seems to somehow reflect them-

Warsteiner by Red Haircrow

selves, especially the ones I’ve met before or knew personally.

Paul Playing by Red Haircrow

In this case, there was Paul Schwingenschlögl on trumpet: friendly and upbeat but with a surprising sultriness. Zam Johnson on drums: direct, attention-getting and relentlessly exciting, and Pete “Wyoming” Bender himself, whom I found on short acquaintance suggestive of great depth and passion, with an infinite love for music and people in every word and gesture. There was the lead guitarist whose name I didn’t know, as well as the bass guitarist whose persona matched his instrument, and the special guest, saxophonist Detriot “Detroit” Gary Wiggins, who closed his eyes, smiling, patient and enjoying himself while waiting for his solos.

Zam Johnson by Red Haircrow

There was no impatience or indifference on the faces of the players whether they were active or not, and several times, if you were paying attention, you could catch the spark of communication between them with no words being spoken: inside humor or a heartfelt nod of “great job, bro, I’m feeling you” evidenced by a sudden smile, a quick glance or a special, personal crescendo because they utterly knew their mates were backing their rise. This might not seem like something special, but when you consider that a number of these musicians regularly play with other people: different gigs, different places, even different types of music? It is spectacular when they can come back again and achieve this level of harmony and meaning.

In the end, that harmony can be attributed to Pete Wyoming Bender, who can pull these talented men together and direct them in song after song that moved their audience. The Incredible Pete Wyoming Bender Band completely satisfies lovers of the genre, not just delivering songs one might know, but infusing every single one: every word, every cord and key with profound knowledge, appreciation and respect.

BAND MARCH RICKEN final

 

*Except for the last photo with titling for the Pete Wyoming Bender Band, all others were taken by and are copyright to Red Haircrow.

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Music/Event Review: “The 105 Lenz-Kubach-Johnson Jazz Trio at Luisabad Bibliothek”

Bibliothek Ceiling by Red Haircrow

Bibliothek Ceiling by Red Haircrow

In some ways, as you might imagine, Berlin is a city of contrasts. You have staid Germans, whether young or old, going about their lives and business, primarily interacting with those who look and act like them, besides the Germans who are eclectic, whether young or old, who reach out to and enjoy peoples of all kinds: different cultures, different languages, differences of thoughts and behaviors (among other things). Not knocking the former at all, you have those who can combine and/or appreciate their own culture and music, and those of others. And of course, you have a huge multi-cultural mix of people otherwise.

You also have a distinct slice of ageism here. You see it is advertisements for employees or business partners, start-ups, and projects of all kinds: “We are a hip young team searching for other young people to______.” Fill in the blank, as you will. But the primary attitude prevails in that set that only young people, and usually those under 25 and no older than 30 at most (!) cannot be knowledgeable to trends, or be hip, cool, smart, funny or anything else. If you are older than 30? You are to be dismissed, ignored or blinked at owlishly.

Whatever your ethnicity, your background, your age, or how you felt at the moment…for I came to this venue straight from work and was rather worn-looking, and felt out of place in the crowd of, by majority, “proper” Germans, stylishly dressed, the kind that, unless forced to, never look at or acknowledge you at all if you are not like themselves: The jazz Trio at Luisabad Bibilothek were vivid in a moment outside of time.

The music played by the trio of Uli Lenz (piano), Gerhard Kubach (Bass), and Zam Johnson (Drums) soon took me beyond b, but oundaries, most especially because most of the others didn’t interest me at all. Art transcended comparative age, and the trio were hip, cool and happening, even if the younger crowd have their new slangs and phrases to describe the same.

Mural by Red Haircrow

Mural by Red Haircrow

It was an undeniably beautiful venue, an intimate venue, with probably no  more than seventy-five chairs (at the most) fanned out for the pieces of the trio: piano, bass and drums. Playing jazz favorites like “Morning Star” and “I Cover the Waterfront,” I recognized almost all the music, and on row three, aisle seat, I had a very good view of Zam and the other two players.  The performance was superlative with the musicians clearly displaying, without words, their love for their art and craft, as well as the players who’d gone before them. If you had the “soul,” you could feel the music in the different way than politely nodding.

Seated next to me, on the left, were two older gentleman who obviously “felt” the music.  One was obviously a former drummer whose staccato finger and hand movements on the top of his brown-trousered thighs showed his knowledge of the pieces being played, shadowing Zam’s alternatively slow, hypnotic movements in one set… contrasting to the high energy moves in another. On the old drummer’s farther side was a gentleman with nails carefully trimmed and rounded on long, eloquent fingers which almost perfectly followed Uli Lenz’s playing.

You don’t have to be 20 to be cool or happening. Just because you’re over 3o doesn’t mean you have no appeal, energy or can’t truly “feel the love” anymore. Even if “they” say at Der Spiegel magazine that Leipzig is the New Berlin for hipsters, and that all the young artsy, German musicians are headed that way? I say let them go, if you can’t appreciate the vibrant scene that is still here or if only those who are young are to be considered as worthy.

Sure, I would have felt more comfortable in some basement or backstreet lounge with lowlight, a drink in one hand and perhaps a cigarette in the other, among people willing to look you in the eye and acknowledge you as human just like themselves, but these three guys played their hearts, souls and fingers out, and rocked the venue. They transcended the venue. Lovers of classic jazz mixed with jazzed contemporary? Don’t miss them next time. Check http://105lenzkubachjohnson.com/ and Facebook pages for next.

The Three by Red Haircrow

The Three by Red Haircrow

 

*All photos were taken by and are copyright to Red Haircrow.

 

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Music/Event Review: “White Boys CAN Have Rhythm”: The JazzKeller Gig

Ensemble by Red Haircrow

My eyes kept going back to his feet: the right tapped once, then the left tapped twice. Right: two taps. Left: three, and on and on, in a pattern that was anti-pattern. The ruddy hue of his face suggested distress, but obviously he was in his medium: the tall, long-legged slim man in slim grey trousers and short-sleeved narrow cut shirt. His grey hair was cropped close, and he looked like an average German businessman of the cool (not meaning hip) and clipped variety….before he’d stepped on the stage and started playing. And his feet tapped away as he slightly swayed to the music, blasting out an alto sax solo that drew building applause.

I’d been invited to the intimate venue in the “keller” (cellar in English) by Zam Johnson, whom I’d met by chance when he’d come into the restaurant a couple of weeks ago. And on Friday evening, 5 October, I’d found the JazzKeller at Oranienburgerstr. 67, and made my way down the steps to Aufsturzand was pleased to find myself on the guest list and able to get in early to have a chat with the guys before the show started.

MUTARENSIS was the idea by Paul Schwingenschlögl, who composed and arranged the blending of a jazz horn section and Indian, African and various Asian influences into a magnificient show that was high energy, and at times quirky and funny and at others, powerfully moving. As translated from the definition on their web announcement: musical stereotypes and strictures were put aside as they mixed electronics, African drum, Indian tabla and European jazz.

Paul by Red Haircrow

And while Mr. Dango entertained us with traditional songs from his native Africa, Jan von Klewitz played his alto sax and tapped out his own rhythm, backed by trumpeter Paul, and trombonist Hilary Jeffrey whose body movements never matched anyone else’s but who never missed a beat. Amazing. So, white boys can have rhythm, and I use the term “white boys” similar to the phrase, “white boys can’t dance” which is also untrue. Some might move different than you might, or I might, as a Native American, but they do it their own way…and in this case, they did it wonderfully.  A great night!

Mr. Dango by Red Haircrow

The Players:

Ravi Srinivasan – vocals, tabla, electronics
Zam Johnson – drums, electronic percussion
Ibrahim Baba Dango – vocals, talking drum
Arsène Cimbar – djembe
Hilary Jeffery – trombone
Daniel Allen Oberto – trumpet, congas
Jan von Klewitz – alto sax
Paul Schwingenschlögl – trumpet, fluegelhorn, keyboard

Link to my posting at JazzKeller Gastebuch.

*All photos were taken by and are copyright to Red Haircrow.

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Song of Fire by Jon O’Bergh

Review: “Song of Fire” is a unique type of what is essentially a memoir and personal journey through the author’s experiences in which the love of music was dominant. It is written as a series of vignettes combining both words and musical tracks you can download to fully appreciate the depth of the author’s passion as scenes of his life are revealed as the motivation of composing a song. Even were a reader deaf, the descriptions of melody and sound might be quite provocative. Some of the titles include “Loma Prieta”, “Orpheus in the Underworld”, “Uncertainty” and “The Blue Grotto.”

The writing itself is expansive, and was refreshingly mixed with intelligent, well-written prose and vivid memories often combining contemporary observations and historical perspectives. The commentary was both informative and interesting discussing everything from Mayan cosmology or Darwinian theories; from cacao bean differences to the innate attraction to music most of us are born with. Definitely a work of creative non-fiction, whether you are a true lover of music and its history or not, “Song of Fire” was what I call a beautiful work, and revealed aspects of the author’s life. What I particularly appreciated also was the author’s presentation of the sometimes utter normalcy yet special dynamics that gay life and relationships can naturally have.

I absolutely have to say this is one of the best books of its type I’ve ever read in my life. I literally had tears in my eyes while as I read and listened, for I’d rarely experienced anything that spoke to me strongly. I felt I’d been privileged to share the spirit of one I find comfortable soul-wise. Thank you, Mr. O’Bergh for letting me read your work.

Reviewer Note: Some prefer to get right into a book, but unlike a print copy, which you can usually flip over and find the synopsis on the back cover, with e-books that’s not an option. You download them after deciding to purchase after reading the description, and you start reading at your convenience. Sometimes it is easy to forget what it is exactly about if there was a long pause. This author chose to include an “about this book” section at the beginning. I completely appreciated that because I didn’t have to do a web search for it until I wanted.

  • Publication date: June 12, 2011
  • Publisher: Jon O’Bergh
  • Available at eMusic (music, and other places online), Smashwords (text and music)
  • Genre: Memoir, Non-fiction, Autobiography
  • Source: Author

Description: From the rotational beat of a pulsar in space to the rhythm of the heart, music infuses everything in the universe. Is it possible that music is the essence of the universe itself? The narrator in Song of Fire is on a journey to discover this fundamental truth. The interconnected stories are a rhapsody on the elements that constitute how we experience the world: the moments of humor, sorrow, passion and revelation that give significance to our origins and endings.

The vignettes are arranged according to how they resonate with one another, and are organized into four chapters titled after the four elements: Fire (Tales of Music, Love and Passion), Earth (Tales of Appetite, Desire and the Body), Water (Tales of Soul, Spirituality and Compassion), and Air (Ghost Stories, Spirits and Tales of Passage). As the narrator explains, supernovas “collapsed in an explosive release of energy, creating and dispersing the heavier elements into interstellar space: oxygen, for the air we breathe; carbon, present in the earth as the basis of life; and the marriage of hydrogen and oxygen to create water, which constitutes two-thirds of our bodies. We are literally made of stardust. A bit of fire. A bit of earth. A bit of water. And a bit of air.”

The real incidents that comprise Song of Fire range from the poignant to the humorous: love and loss; the history of chocolate; hurricanes and earthquakes; a close brush with a mass murderer; eye-opening journeys to other cultures; the presence of God. Accompanying the stories are links to original songs that provide another dimension through which to experience the tales. The songs are included with the purchase of the ebook and can be listened to online or downloaded.

 Author Bio:

Jon O’Bergh has been playing piano since the age of 7. He graduated from the University of California at Irvine, where he studied piano performance and composition while performing with a rock band. He has released 7 CDs, including “Intergalactic Odyssey”; “Specters of Twilight”; “Songs from Other Planets”; “Meditations from a Lost World,” which reached #3 nationwide on the NAV chart; “Sacred Spaces”; “Carta,” which reached #1; and “Millennial Landscapes,” which reached #2.

He has recorded and performed with the jazz/funk fusion band Gemini Soul, and co-produced songs for Marcel on his 2003 release “Uptown : 2025 A.D.,” and for Jarrod on his debut CD “Every Part of Me.” Jon has written songs, music for television, and concert music. “Timescape 2” for piano and violin introduced his music to San Francisco audiences in a concert that was subsequently broadcast by National Public Radio station KQED.

Website: http://obergh.net
Blog: http://obergh.net/songoffire

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