Kendra Steiner Editions

August 10, 2017

5th in the series of Natchez poems, THE DIFFICULTIES, THE IMPOSSIBILITIES, from Bill Shute (KSE #382)

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 10:04 am

(note: thanks to all who came out to my reading at Artpace on August 8th, as part of the Right Now Experimental Music Festival….we had an audience of 65-70 for my set, and the entire evening was a great success with exciting performances from many cutting-edge experimental sound artists…including KSE recording artists MORE EAZE and DANE ROUSAY)

the fifth release from the recent poems written in Natchez, Mississippi

BILL SHUTE, “THE DIFFICULTIES, THE IMPOSSIBILITIES”

(KSE #380, poetry chapbook)

edition of 41 hand-cut, hand-assembled copies

$6 US postpaid / $7 elsewhere postpaid

payment via paypal  to     django5722(at)yahoo(dot)com

please leave note with your order letting me know which items you are ordering and your mailing address…..thanks!


“to trust chance is to hear voices” — Jean-Luc Godard

the difficulties cover pic

I composed SEVEN six-page poems during my two weeks in Natchez, Mississippi, in May 2017, and here is the fifth one to be edited and formatted: THE DIFFICULTIES, THE IMPOSSIBILITIES. The final two will come out gradually throughout the year, and I also hope to record all seven later this summer for 2018 release. As usual, it’s open-field poems filtered through the consciousness of a narrative persona who is up to his waist in the muck, but looking toward the horizon (I’d say stars, but these were written during the daytime)—-JUNK SCULPTURE FROM THE NEW GILDED AGE.

Cork-lined reveries of  exploding water-heaters and garage doors that won’t close….frozen music on the brink of intelligibility….no subject, no object….like the butterflies, I strive to remain well-camouflaged, sensitive to the tonal changes between the tragic & the absurd.

These seven pieces written in Natchez will eventually be collected in a full-sized professionally printed book, but as always, the home-made KSE chapbook publication is the only publication in the original formatting, with the original art, with the original epigraph (this time from Jean-Luc Godard, see top of post), and in the intended form of its creation. There are only 41 copies….grab one now, while you can.

Each of these chapbooks is a stand-alone piece (the “serial poem” concept of Jack Spicer seems to fit my work well), so don’t worry about what order they are in. I consider each narrator to be a unique person telling his/her unique story from his/her unique perspective. I as poet am just the actor playing the part, the gallery-operator assembling the exhibition.

Many times I see a film or view a painting or hear a piece of music and feel as though its creator has experienced the same kind of epiphany which I experienced in the creation of a particular poem—-or perhaps I should say that the work creates in the viewer/listener the same kind of epiphany which I feel the poetic assemblage I am offering up SHOULD create in the reader. I’m not mentioning poetry here because if I felt another poet was doing what I do in the way that I do it, there would be no reason for me to take the time and effort to repeat what’s already been done. I learned my craft when I was younger through close study of the works of Paul Blackburn, Ted Berrigan, Larry Eigner, Frank Samperi, Diane Wakoski, Robert Creeley, William Carlos Williams, and others. I took what I learned from them and combined that along with my own aesthetic and life experience and structural tendencies and reading and education, and the result has been my poetry. I still consider someone like Hart Crane or Emily Dickinson the ultimate in what one can achieve poetically, and I continue to read with a passion the poems of Melville, W. S. Merwin, John Ashbery, Stuart Z. Perkoff, Leland Hickman, and many others, but I can’t really talk about “influence” in those cases because my work does not resemble theirs in any obvious way….and with a Crane or a Dickinson, who could EVER be worthy to loosen their sandal straps….or even be mentioned in the same sentence? In the case of, say, a Blackburn or a WC Williams, it should be clear to most readers what I have taken from those gentlemen and how I have developed it and/or extended it. You can take or leave the end result (or, in most cases, be blissfully unaware that it even exists), but that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

I mention all this about feeling a kinship with works in other disciplines because as I re-read THE DIFFICULTIES to write this post, it dawned on me that it reminded me of a silent comedy short I used to own back in the 1980’s on a VHS tape…..the 1927 short MOVE ALONG, featuring Lloyd Hamilton. It’s not on You Tube,, but you can read an excellent appreciation of the film here: http://silentbeauties.blogspot.com/2012/05/move-along-1926.html

Also, at the time of this writing, you can view the film in so-so quality (about the same as my old VHS tape, actually) here: https://free-classic-movies.com/movies-02/02-1926-07-25-Move-Along/index.php

You don’t need to watch the entire thing….check out the first three or four minutes, and you’ll get a good sense of where I feel I’m coming from with this series of poems, and THE DIFFICULTIES in particular. In fact, while it is too pretentious a title for a comedy short, you could probably re-title MOVE ALONG as THE DIFFICULTIES, THE IMPOSSIBILITIES and it would be a fairly accurate label. This comparison may seem odd or confused to many—-however, if it makes sense to you, then you are probably my ideal reader. Nice to meet you!

I hope you find THE DIFFICULTIES, THE IMPOSSIBILITIES interesting and worthwhile. Thanks for your reading all these years!

Also available, for the same price:

($6 US ppd/$7 elsewhere ppd)

KSE #380 (poetry chapbook), BILL SHUTE, “Time Crystals,” 4th of the Natchez poems

KSE #378 (poetry chapbook), BILL SHUTE, “Meltdown,” 3rd of the Natchez poems

KSE #376 (poetry chapbook), BILL SHUTE, “New Jerusalem,”  2nd of the Natchez poems

KSE #374 (poetry chapbook), BILL SHUTE, “Guest Register,” 1st of the Natchez poems

the difficulties cover pic

August 7, 2017

WOW, WOW, BABY! 1950’s R&B, Blues & Gospel From Dolphin’s Of Hollywood, Volume 3

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 7:05 am

WOW, WOW, BABY! 1950’s R&B, Blues & Gospel From Dolphin’s Of Hollywood, Volume 3

Ace Records (UK) CD, CDTOP 1438, released in 2015

01  Heavy Artillery (aka The Solid Rock) – Big Boy Groves & His Orchestra featuring Roland Mitchell

02  Man Have I Got Troubles – Scatman Crothers

03 Wow Wow Baby – The Hollywood Four Flames

04  Pete’s Boogie – Memphis Slim

05  S.K. Blues – Jimmy Witherspoon

06  Years And Tears Ago – Little Margie with Big Boy Groves & His Orchestra

07  Oh Baby – Floyd Dixon

08  Step In The Right Direction – Brother Prince Dixon

09  I Walk All Night – Johnny Fuller

10  Elaine – Scatman Crothers

11  Yak Yak Woman – Marvin & Johnny

12  Sleep, Drink And Play – Earl Burton

13  Traffic Ticket – Big Boy Groves & His Orchestra

14 My Love Is Real – James Reed

15  Hey Rube – The Mellow Tones

16  Never Can Tell (When A Woman’s Going To Change Her Mind) – Floyd Dixon

17 Lonely, Lonely Woman – Little Eve with Big Boy Groves & His Orchestra

18  Teenage Party – Jimmy Witherspoon

19  Fancy Pants – Tap Anthony & His Orchestra

20  Don’t Blooper – Grady Chapman & The Suedes

21  All Messed Up – Vernon Anders

22   I Need The Lord To Guide Me Everyday – Brother Prince Dixon

23   Teenagers Only – Little Margie with Big Boy Groves & His Orchestra

24  Oh Yeah! (aka Rock And Roll) – Chuck Higgins & The Mellotones

WOW WOW

Los Angeles music entrepreneur John Dolphin first came to fame as the colorful owner and operator of a 24-hour-a-day record store DOLPHIN’S OF HOLLYWOOD (not located in or near Hollywood) , which opened in 1948 and became famous locally for having a DJ broadcasting live from its window. Dolphin soon realized that if he had his own labels and controlled all aspects of recording/pressing/etc., then he would not have to be paying OTHER people or companies, so he launched in 1950 his Recorded in Hollywood label, eventually to be followed by the Cash and Money labels. There was always a refreshing rawness and spontaneity to the Dolphin operation. Supposedly, his release schedule is a discographical nightmare, with numbers repeated or skipped, B-sides replaced without warning or logic, etc. And the recordings themselves have a refreshing, one-take quality (even if they weren’t one-take). The labels continued until Dolphin’s death in 1958….although his widow Ruth revived the Money imprint in the 1960’s and released a good number of first-rate soul singles into the early 70’s (these are collected on three Ace-label comps, The Soul of Money Records, all very much worth owning). Specialty released a compilation of 1950’s R&B from the Dolphin archive in the 1990’s, compiled by Billy Vera, and eventually UK Ace acquired Dolphin’s catalogue and so far they have issued three various artists compilations devoted to 1950’s R&B/blues from this rich archive.

Dolphin did not seem to have some grand scheme or over-arching vision for his labels; he was not searching out a particular “sound” or exploring the limits of some vision of music. He was looking for records which he could sell at his store, promote locally, and perhaps get a national or regional hit out of. His was a cash-based business, and he was not a man who wasted time with contracts or royalties. This approach might have driven a business major crazy at the time, but in hindsight it led to a wide variety of recordings (he even recorded country music, including one song I’ve heard which was composed by Murry Wilson, pre-Beach Boys!) from a wide variety of artists—-people who didn’t record for anyone else, local performers who were popular in clubs but not on record, artists from elsewhere who were temporarily in the Los Angeles area, performers whose managers/producers felt they were “on the way up” and saw Dolphin as an outlet where they could “break” their talents, and well-known professionals who could easily knock out a solid, quick session for Dolphin for pocket money and not worry about where or when or how it would be issued. With this approach, Dolphin managed to document a wide swath of the rich music and cultural scene of Black Los Angeles in the 1950’s. That’s what has made these three volumes of Dolphin material so exciting and enjoyable. YOU are there on Central Avenue during one of the great periods of music history, essentially dipping your ladle into the soup pot of Los Angeles R&B and pulling out 24 rich and delicious sips, all of which are obscure and raw and fine and flavorful.

You get two tracks from Scatman Crothers (many years ago I reviewed a compilation of Crothers’ singles for various labels, on the German “Hydra” label, for Ugly Things magazine, and you should find that comp ASAP), which alternately showcase his skills as a blues singer and as a vaudeville artiste; vocal group rarities from The Mellow Tones and The Hollywood Flames and the young Marvin & Johnny; two deep Gospel tracks from Brother Prince Dixon; rockin’ sax-led nightclub R&B from Big Boy Groves; one-off material from well-known blues artists Memphis Slim, Floyd Dixon, and Jimmy Witherspoon; and finally, an anthemic track by sax honker Chuck Higgins. It’s all hardcore Los Angeles R&B (except for the Gospel tracks, of course) and shows the diversity of the scene, and it’s all new to me, except for a handful of tracks which are either alternate versions of things issued elsewhere or taken from that 1990’s Specialty album. However, that’s not a major problem—-I can’t imagine anyone who owns that album (as I do) complaining because this 24-track collection contains one excellent track after another. It’s as if you are a fly on the wall in Dolphin’s back-room studio during one of the richest periods of Los Angeles music.

Can’t wait for Volume 4—-thanks to Ace for doing such a great job mining the Dolphin vein (and also for mining the other Los Angeles labels they control: Dootone, Combo, Modern, etc.). By the way, vinyl collectors might want to seek out an old vocal group compilation called DOLPHIN’S OF HOLLYWOOD: THE DOO WOP SESSIONS on the Swedish Mr. R&B subsidiary label “Earth Angel,” which was of course a label devoted exclusively to Los Angeles recordings. You can still find that LP for a reasonable price.

WOW, WOW, BABY! 1950’s R&B, Blues & Gospel From Dolphin’s Of Hollywood, Volume 3 offers up an instant party, one which will satisfy the hardcore collector of this kind of music and which should hook the neophyte, who will surely be ordering the other albums in the series and then Ace’s MELLOW CATS AND KITTENS series of archival digs through the Modern records catalogue. WOW, WOW, BABY! has been a regular visitor in my home and in my car for a few years now, and I want to share the excitement with YOU!

 

August 6, 2017

WHO’S GUILTY (15-chapter serial, 1945)

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 7:17 pm

WHO’S GUILTY

a 15-chapter Columbia Serial, produced by Sam Katzman

first chapter released in December 1945

directed by Howard Bretherton and Wallace Grissell

starring Robert Kent, Amelita Ward, Tim Ryan, Jayne Hazard, Minerva Urecal, Charles Middleton, Davison Clark, Wheeler Oakman

approximate running time: 5 hours

chapter titles:

  1. Avenging Visitor
  2. The Unknown Strikes
  3. Held For Murder
  4. A Killer at Bay
  5. Human Bait
  6. The Plunge of Doom
  7. A Date with Fate
  8. Invisible Hands
  9. Fate’s Vengeance
  10. The Unknown Killer
  11. Riding to Oblivion
  12. The Tank of Terror
  13. White Terror
  14. A Cry in the Night
  15. The Guilty One

who 1

WHO’S GUILTY, an early Sam Katzman serial at Columbia, after he moved on from Monogram, is not highly regarded among serial fans. If you judge it according to the same criteria which make early 1940’s Republic product the standard by which you judge serials, then it surely would fail. However, I think I’ve viewed this serial 10-12 times in the last 25 years, and I find it very entertaining. It’s a shame that so few of the Sam Katzman-produced Columbia serials have ever been given a legitimate release by Columbia/Sony. Other than the Superman and Batman serials, BLACKHAWK is the only one which comes to mind. Surely, the George Reeves serial ADVENTURES OF SIR GALAHAD would sell a good number of copies, based on Reeves’ name alone! Many of the Katzman serials have a slightly goofy quality to them—-I’m reminded of the feel of some straight-to-video action films of the last few decades. That makes them, to me at least, enormously entertaining. Also, remember that most serial viewers would never watch ALL 12 or 15 chapters. Super-fans would, but according to my parents and other people of that generation who attended serials in theaters back in the day, the average viewer might see maybe 1/3 or 1/2 of the episodes. Continuity was not an issue to most viewers, and if the chapter you happened to see had the right “feel” to it and entertained you, it was a good serial to the viewer. WHO’S GUILTY has a delicious collection of whodunit “types” played broadly, each chapter throws out a lot of “mystery” when viewed separately, there is both action and humor in every episode, and the attempt to fit a whodunit into the serial format was a novel and admirable thing to do, IMHO.

who 2

Please remember that this serial was NOT meant to be seen straight through….it was meant to be seen in weekly installments, and by an audience which probably would not have seen every episode. I see that I reviewed this serial 14 years ago at the IMDB. Here are my comments from 2003:

One of the first of the Sam Katzman-produced serials at Columbia, WHO’S GUILTY is a bit different from the standard serial in that it is a murder mystery, and beginning with the second chapter each suspect is trotted out after the credits while the narrator points out incriminating things about him/her. My children saw this part of the film and though it was like the game CLUE come to life on the screen. This feels like a Monogram Charlie Chan film spread out over fifteen chapters, but minus chan and number one son and Mantan Moreland. Reliable b-movie leading man Robert Kent (Phantom Rider, She Shoulda Said No) plays a state investigator called into the case of the murder of a wealthy businessman, a man who lives in a mysterious estate and has all kinds of suspicious relatives who are waiting for their inheritance. Kent’s comic sidekick (combining the number one son and Birmingham Brown roles, to continue the Chan comparison) is longtime comic actor and writer Tim Ryan, who has played similar roles in Bowery Boys and Chan films, but NEVER this dim-witted or clownish. There are constant red herrings, and the film makes some detours into subplots that wear a bit thin (a subplot in Mexico lasts three or four chapters, a gangster subplot comes up later), but 15-chapter serials almost always have some padding. Overall, this film’s old-fashioned over-the-top acting (from the supporting players only–Kent is a stoic hero), occasional mysterious settings, and intriguing murder mystery add up to an entertaining, campy serial. However, unless you like the more humor-laced murder mysteries of the 40s (Boston Blackie, Chan, etc.), you probably will find this film unsatisfying and laughable. Taken in the right spirit, it can be refreshingly unpretentious entertainment and can provide a wonderful mix of laughs and thrills. Special mention should be made of Charles Middleton’s wonderful performance as the suspicious butler–often sharpening knives with a gleeful look on his face!

I still stand by those remarks, and if you like low-budget Monogram or PRC mysteries of the 1940’s, and having a FIVE HOUR serial version of one of them is a dream come true, then you’ll want to check out WHO’S GUILTY, from one of the grey-market dealers offering it.

who 3

By the way, if you want a very different perspective on the film, I highly recommend the review at the website The Files of Jerry Blake, which should be a go-to source for any serial fan. Blake’s write-ups are always accurate and informed, and he’s the kind of guy who will know which 1940’s serial is used to provide stock footage in a 1950’s serial. I just happen to like the elements here; he does not. I should also point out that he describes things very well….his description of Tim Ryan’s character as resembling Pat O’Brien doing a combination of Milton Berle and Huntz Hall is EXACTLY how Ryan comes off. That combination is very appealing to me! Check out his write-up on the film at https://filesofjerryblake.com/2013/02/27/whos-guilty

August 5, 2017

Billy Dooley Comedies #2 (Grapevine Video)

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 6:01 pm

BILLY DOOLEY COMEDIES #2

available on DVD and Blu-Ray from Grapevine Video

ordering info: http://www.grapevinevideo.com/billy-dooley-2.html

billy-dooley-2

  1. Dumb Belles (1927)
    Director: William Watson
  2. Wild Wallops (1927)
    Director: William Beaudine
  3. Water Bugs (1928)
    Director: William Watson
  4. Campus Cuties (1928)
    Director: William Watson
  5. Sea Food (1928)
    Director: William Watson
  6. Gobs of Love (1928)
    Director: Arvid E. Gillstrom
  7. Happy Heels (1929)
    Director: William Holland
  8. Off the Deck (1929)
    Director: William Holland

Back in the 1980’s and early 1990’s, I had a very good collection of silent and early sound comedy shorts on VHS….I traded with other fans, and enjoyed many super-obscure shorts….although as you know, when you make a copy of a tape for someone, the image suffers quality loss with each succeeding generation of copy, so I was able to see some amazing stuff, but the quality was not that great….which is why, I’m assuming, I’ve yet to see a lot of that stuff be reissued on DVD….the quality would be below even Alpha Video standards!  Only the person with the original print could have it duplicated to produce a watchable product, not someone with a fourth-generation copy.

Producer Al Christie, though not as well-known as a Mack Sennett or a Hal Roach, ran a comedy factory for many years, into the early sound era. In the mid-to-late 20’s, he had a stable of comedy-short stars including Billy Dooley, Jimmie Adams, Bobby Vernon, and Jack Duffy.

In this new collection from Grapevine Video, we’re treated to eight Billy Dooley shorts from 1927-1929. The images I’ve included should give you a good idea of what Dooley was like. Billed as “the silly sailor,” he reminds me of some kind of cross between Larry Semon (physically, not in the style of his comedy) and Lupino Lane with a twist of Harry Langdon but much more animated. His persona is a sailor (also named Billy) who means well but stumbles into outrageous situations—-he remains eternally optimistic as he faces pitfall after pitfall, leading to pratfall after pratfall. I mention Lupino Lane because Dooley is also an amazing physical comedian, with gymnast-level abilities in terms of elastic body movement and tumbling skills. It’s no surprise that, according to the Encyclopedia of Vaudeville, Billy Dooley got his start doing trick bicycle riding, rope tricks a la Will Rogers, and comedic dancing. He also radiates positivity, and it’s not hard to see why he became a successful star of two-reel comedy shorts.

billy dooley

The eight shorts in this collection were originally released as two-reel comedies (meaning they were probably in the 18-20 minute range), and during this period Christie was distributing his product via Educational or Paramount. The picture quality on all of these is excellent (how else could Grapevine also offer a Blu-Ray of these?). Unfortunately, it seems as though many Dooley shorts do not survive in their original release form.

The sixth and seventh shorts, Gobs of Love and Happy Heels, in this collection are presented in something resembling their original form, with the original inter-title cards (with cute stick-figure cartoons of Dooley!) and silent, but they are from 1937 Hollywood Film Enterprises “Cine Art” re-releases for the home market. According to comments on the Silent Comedy Mafia discussion list, HFE released these in both one-reel and two-reel versions, and the one-reel versions sold much better, so I guess that’s why each of these two “Cine Art” reissues run only 11 minutes each instead of, say, 18. However, not having seen the original two-reel versions, I must say that these two shorts work just great in the abbreviated format. Dooley can still work his magic 90 years after the fact, and lovers of physical comedy will adore his antics. They are fast-moving, feature fun and colorful supporting casts, and provide a great vehicle for Dooley’s amazing acrobatic comedy.

billy billy

The other six shorts appear in a somewhat different form. I’m old enough to remember when, as late as the end of the 1960’s and the early 1970’s, low-budget UHF and indie TV stations played old cut-up and recontextualized silent comedy shorts, often with hokey sound effects and narration, and often totally divorced from their original context, as cheap filler. The children who would catch these would not know any better, and someone watching a UHF station at 3 a.m. would likely not really care about the sanctity of the print of some 20’s slapstick footage used to fill a 14 minute gap between a Hoot Gibson 30’s indie western and a dubbed Italian sword and sandal film. What we get in these six shorts is most (they run about 12 1/2 minutes) of an original  Billy Dooley short, but with the inter-titles taken out (although they do have the original Christie Paramount or Educational title cards) and with constant narration and over-the-top sound effects. I get the sense that the narrator saw each film once, made some notes, and just free-associated his way through the short the way someone would “call” a high-school football game for a small-town radio station. Although Dooley generally played “himself” in these films, he’s given the character name “Harry Heave-Ho” (!!!!) here, and I’m guessing the “plots” of the original are changed quite a bit in the narrating. We’re also often told what we are watching on the screen over and over. Although I doubt I ever saw these particular versions of the Dooley films on UHF as a child, I DO remember this phenomenon of crudely narrating and ham-fistedly (if that’s a word) scoring silent comedy footage, so I did feel a slight (very slight) sense of nostalgia…in that NO broadcast outlet has shown this kind of thing in 40 years, probably. However, it is somewhat annoying….fortunately, though, you can turn the sound off and watch it silent. Even without the inter-title cards (which are cut out due to the narration), anyone could figure out the plot (or listen to the first 10 seconds of narration, and THEN turn it off) to these, so perhaps you should enjoy them silently. In any event, thanks to Grapevine (I’ve been a customer of theirs since the VHS days of the 1980’s!) for presenting these rare versions of these wonderfully entertaining silent comedy shorts of Billy Dooley, probably the only surviving versions of them. As we move farther and farther away from the Golden Age of Silent Comedy Shorts in the 1920’s, with dozens of new selections playing local theaters each month back then, this material becomes more and more precious….and fortunately, just as funny as ever….if not MORE SO, since someone like Billy Dooley is a practitioner of a lost art.

95 minutes of silent comedy joy from a man who delivered the goods short after short after short….although not a name mentioned that much today, alas. Order from Grapevine at the link found at the top of this post….

billy costar vera

(Billy Dooley’s frequent co-star VERA STEADMAN, who’s in six of these shorts)

August 4, 2017

Memphis Jug Band 1932-1934 (Document Records BDCD-6002)

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 2:15 pm

memphis jug 1

THE MEMPHIS JUG BAND

The Complete Recorded Works in Chronological Order 1932-1934

Document Records BDCD-6002

The first rule of acting is that you cannot play a drunken character while you are drunk. Then you are a drunken person and incapable of having the command of your body and your faculties that a successful acting performance requires. You have to, as a trained actor, create a contrived set of speech and body movement particulars which creates THE EFFECT of a drunken person in the way that people expect it on the stage or on film. Similarly, you cannot create a “party” atmosphere on a phonograph record just by setting a mike out at an actual party—-the result would be incredibly tedious. No one would want to listen to it….no one would want to BE AT IT based on what they heard. If you think about successful “party atmospheres” which have been created on record, they are all totally contrived….yet they work. Think about the various productions of Norfork, Virginia’s FRANK GUIDA such as Gary US Bonds’s classic “Quarter To Three”….Guida knew exactly what elements to put on a record to create the idea of a party in the listeners’  minds, and not to put to much there because it would then be too cluttered. Whenever I hear a Guida production with the party atmosphere, I want to be there.

Undoubtedly, one of the main selling points of the recordings of the Memphis Jug Band, who were at their commercial peak between 1927-1930, was that their records had the infectious feel of a party, but it was concentrated on a phonograph record and created the EFFECT of a party through suggestion and atmosphere. The Memphis Jug Band were very popular in their day, and both Black and White (segregated) audiences had a joyous time at their performances, from what I’ve read.

The core of the pool of musicians who were associated with the MJB—-Will Shade aka Son Brimmer, Charlie Burse, Vol Stevens, Charlie Nickerson, “Poor Jab” Jones, Hambone Lewis, etc.—-understood how to create an infectious party vibe on record. While the songs, often country blues-based but with occasional pop references and reflecting the larger popular culture of the day while being totally based in the African-American experience of the South, especially the rural South, always had appeal, the SOUND of these records is for me what made them special. The rich textures of the mandolin, jug, kazoo, guitar, harmonica, washboard, “bones” and cowbell and other rural percussion, create a thick stew of sound, and its rhythm oozes and shakes like jelly.

The individual members of this loose collective continued to record off and on until as late as the early 1960’s, but their best known body of work was for Victor between 1927 and 1930, and these have been available on a Yazoo LP and then CD for decades….an album I’ve played hundreds of times over the years. However, what I’d like to discuss here is a lesser-known collection of recordings, the ones they made immediately post-Victor, between 1932 and 1934, which are assembled on a Document CD.

Evidently the gigs and recordings were organized by Will Shade, and after the band’s recording heyday, 1927-1930, at Victor, there are two groups of sessions documented on this Document CD which are joyous and really worthy of your attention.

Five tracks were recorded by Gennett for their Champion budget label in Richmond, Indiana, on one day in August 1932. This was the heart of the depression in terms of record sales, which were a small fraction in 1932 of what they’d been in 1927-29. It’s no surprise that these were on the budget Champion label, which would be slightly more affordable than a full-priced Victor or Gennett 78 to the working-class jug band lover of the day who wanted a taste of that party flavor in their own home. It’s also clear that someone, either the label or the musicians themselves, decided it would be a good thing to jump on the “hokum” bandwagon—-although that style had peaked a few years earlier with the countless imitations of “Tight Like That”, it still sold records, and even today can still put a smile on people’s faces and get their toes tapping. So four of the five songs are in that vein, but with the patented “deep” and eclectic textures of sound and infectious dance rhythms of the MJB. The fifth, “Come Along Little Children,” sounds like a secular adaptation of a Gospel song, and is a wonderful sing-along track about how we are out to “raise a roo-kus tonight.” It’s interesting to note (see below) that while two of the five songs were released as a solo 78 by the MJB, the other three songs were backed on 78’s with a song by another artist. Was the label hedging its bet here, thinking that two different artists would have twice the appeal of one? At this point, who knows? Also interesting to note the name change of the band here (see credits below and the disc pictured)….budget labels sometimes used pseudonyms so the artists could still use their “real” name on higher-priced labels, but of course by doing that, they were not taking any advantage of the residual name value of The Memphis Jug Band.

memphis jug 2

Next, the another group of recordings, sixteen masters, was recorded in Chicago in 1934 and released on 78’s by Okeh and Vocalion. These hearkened back to the classic MJB sound more than the Champion sessions did, and also benefited from the addition of a raw and jaunty fiddle as one of the alternating lead voices. These songs often have an infection call-and-response vocal, or vocal interjections from a second band member in contrast to the lead vocal (not unlike what Bob Wills would do on his records), and once again we have a rich and thick stew of sound here, with the sweet-and-sour taste of mandolin, jug, kazoo, various rural percussion instruments, a strummed guitar that even the mediocre dancer could latch onto, and the wonderful floating voice of the fiddle. While the 1934 recordings have been reissued elsewhere, this Document album is of great value and is not hard to find, and contains all the 1932-34 post-Victor recordings, a period of the MJB’s career not that well-known.

Of course, all of the JSP albums from the MJB are essential purchases, especially Volume 3 which contains both their later Victor sessions AND alternate takes from the earlier sessions. There is also a CD on Wolf which I’ve owned for decades called MEMPHIS JUG BAND: ASSOCIATES AND ALTERNATE TAKES, 1927-30 (Wolf WBCD-004). This album repeats the alternates from the third JSP album, but also offers 17 additional tracks which are solo recordings under the names of MJB members and colleagues, many of which have essentially the same personnel and are all joyous and richly textured recordings which make you feel like you are at one of “Boss” Crump’s parties or at some rural fishfry. Over the span of many decades, these musicians are STILL able to create a true party vibe and put a smile on people’s faces and get their toes-a-tapping. That’s certainly a wonderful and precious gift. Also, those interested in the area of “African retentions” in the blues of the 20’s and 30’s could investigate the MJB’s sound elements, particularly the “little instruments,” and find much worthy of study.

pic jug 2

(above: Robert Crumb’s classic portrait of the Memphis Jug Band)

Also worth finding for the fan of this sound is the Old Tramp CD of 1939 recordings of the MJB’s Charlie Burse and His Memphis Mudcats, along with sessions from the same year by James DeBerry and His Memphis Playboys. Burse recorded for Sun in 1950 (though the tracks remained unissued at the time), so I guess everything comes full circle.

PIC JUG

August 3, 2017

Bill Shute poetry reading at Right Now Experimental Music Festival, Sat. 5 Aug, 7 pm, also with performances by More Eaze and Dane Rousay!

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 10:03 am

RIGHT NOW

Just a reminder (locals and friends of the KSE Facebook page already know this) that I’ll be doing a poetry reading as part of the RIGHT NOW EXPERIMENTAL MUSIC FESTIVAL at Artpace here in San Antonio this Saturday, 5 August, at 7 pm.

Poems read will include

–FIND A PLACE TO DIE (dealing with the current national nightmare, presently available from KSE)

–GUIDE DOGS AND BARTENDERS ON THE GULF COAST

–MELTDOWN (one of the recent Natchez poems, presently available from KSE)

–44  HARMONIES (inspired by the John Cage composition “44 Harmonies From Apartment House 1776”)

–and also, Dane Rousay and I will be doing a poetry-and-percussion duo performance based on my 2009 poem BUTTERFLY MIND.

Many acts will be featured from 3-11 pm, but those with a KSE connection are conveniently back-to-back…..More Eaze will follow my reading, at 7:30, and Dane Rousay in a duo with Svetlana Zwetkof will be performing at 8. Admission is only $5….and FREE if you arrive before 5 pm. Please stop by and say hello before or after the reading. See you there.

 

August 2, 2017

Manfred Werder, “2005(1)”, Winds Measure Recordings 28

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 9:19 pm
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Manfred Werder

2005(1)

Realized and recorded by Jason Kahn

Winds Measure Recordings 28 (8-cd set)

recorded in 2010, released in 2012

further info/ordering: http://windsmeasurerecordings.net/catalog/wm28/

wm28-face-ff-lg

As with any genre of music/composition, from bluegrass to minimalism, the field recording category rises or falls on the ingenuity and depth of both the composer and the performer. In the case of a skeletal composition such as Werder’s 2005(1) (you can read about the piece here: http://manfred-werder-archives.blogspot.com/2013/05/on-20051-winds-measure-recordings-wm28.html ), the performer is given an incredible amount of latitude, and among the many performances and recordings of the piece one can find online, for me the interpretation by Jason Kahn deserves special attention and should be considered a kind of “classic” of its type.

We’ve released a number of albums at KSE which have featured field recordings—-the two which come to mind first are Alan Jones’s use of under-water recordings and Russ Alderson/Xanthocephalus’s use of ornithological recordings—-and a number of other albums have used found elements (and Matt Krefting’s works come to mind with that), but the PURE field recording, not altered or “treated” or used as one element in a sound-gumbo, takes things to another level.

It’s ironic that the “field recording” genre has emerged in the last few decades, a period when people are closing themselves off from natural sound. When I find myself in a public place where people are sitting around waiting—-for instance, at the Department of Motor Vehicles or at a tire shop or dentist’s office—-I am usually the only person who is NOT hooked up to a set of headphones or ear buds. When I see runners or walkers moving down my street, most of them are connected to some sound source. Oh, I realize that in past periods most folks probably were on automatic pilot and weren’t really LISTENING to their environment (in the way that a John Cage or a Zen master would have wanted them to), but at least they could HEAR a car horn, or a slipping fan belt, or a skateboard, or whatever. We seem to be experiencing so much of daily life SECOND HAND, consuming and digesting sounds and images PRESENTED TO US rather than from the environment in which we are existing.

I’ve always been someone who has listened to his environment. Once back in the 1970’s, when I was travelling through Western Kansas, the friend who was driving mentioned, somewhere past Goodland, heading toward Colorado, “boy, there’s nothing out here,”….to which I responded, “yes, there’s nothing to get in the way.”

At one of my security guard jobs back in the 1980’s, the employer wanted me from 10 pm to 2 am, and from 4:30 to 7:30 am, but did not want to pay me a full time salary, so I had to clock out for that two-and-a-half hour period. I did not have a car at the time, and there was no bus service in the middle of the night, so the most sensible thing for me to do was to simply stay at the worksite, sit out on the loading dock facing the city below, and soak up the environment. I would turn the lights off on the dock, so the dim glare of the distant lights from the small city below would fade in and out, here and there, one color then another, movement in one direction then movement in another, and for long periods of time, only the stars and the moon, and of course, they would evolve constantly through the night, and some nights not be much of a presence at all. Then there were the sounds of the night. Clanks or thumps or squeals which were miles and miles away, which I could construct scenarios for, the hum of the rare car on the street below or a more distant hum or tire screech from another road to the east or the west. Although I lived at the time in a tobacco-growing state with low taxes on cigarettes, they were still expensive with the little I was getting paid, so I’d usually bring about 4 of them with me to work, and smoke one every half hour or so during this down-time in between shifts. The constantly changing visuals and the distant symphony of varying sounds pulled me in, I’d smoke a cigarette here and there, but time became irrelevant, and before I knew it, 4:30 had arrived, and it was time to clock back in and start my morning rounds and responsibility.  It was far more satisfying than some Light Show with music by Pink Floyd or a screening of Fantasia because it was infinitely more subtle and ever-changing and it was real–it was not being “presented to me.” It was also free.

I  grew up on the side of a mountain, west of Denver, with Highway 6 down the bottom of the hill from me. I would sleep with my window open most of the year, and as my bedroom faced the road below, I would turn out the light after reading, and would just listen to the sounds outside as I fell asleep. Who knows how that affected my dream-life. Ask the fourteen-year-old me, as the present me does not remember.

The raw material of natural sound is something I’ve long appreciated, and I still do. Such is the material from which Jason Kahn’s interpretation of Werder’s piece has been sculpted. I’ve used the term “sound sculpture” for a number of KSE experimental music albums where texture is an important component—-works by Fossils, for instance—-and I’m going to use that term here too because it emphasizes the three-dimensionality of the sound, in a way that the image of a “canvas” does not.

The way Jason Kahn has interpreted this work is to make 31 eighteen-minute field recordings, at the same time each day at the same location within a Zurich train station, for each of the 31 days in the month of March 2010. Kahn has made a number of artistic and technical decisions here to create this 31-installment sound sculpture, something that anyone who thinks the field recording genre is “easy” should consider. He wisely chose a recording location which is NOT near the trains or near the passengers coming to and fro—-one gets the impression that we are located at some less-traveled section of the station…..the trains can be heard at a distance, the murmuring of people can be heard at a distance, although some people come rather close to the recording device and then move away from it. This is not some sound effects recording of trains….it is a recording of a live environment, and placing the sounds of the trains and the passengers and the like at a distance reinforces the resonance and the three-dimensionality of the space. It immerses you in this world. And it’s an infinitely fascinating world….just like the one you and I are in, and can go out and experience as soon as we get off the computer or portable device where we are reading/writing this. Reality has become an installation.

I’ve made a number of references in other writings to Warhol’s massive suite of SHADOWS paintings, which were for many years contained in one room at the Dia Beacon in Beacon, NY, right next to the Hudson River. I had the privilege of experiencing that exhibition and spending many hours among the paintings. I have an analogous experience, but in sound, when I listen to the 31 sections of 2005(1), spread over 8 cd’s.

Kahn has carved 31 sculptures-in-sound for us, and he’s served it up as a series work. Is it tedious, I can hear someone ask (though probably not someone reading the KSE blog). Only if immediate experience and phenomena are tedious, and if they are, I’m sure Netflix has a number of acclaimed series on and available for binge-watching.

For me, it is an important and beautiful work, and one of the most beautiful aspects of it is that when a CD is over, I can go outside, sit on the porch or walk around on my street, and “realize” my own version. A version that is always present, always varying, always rich and unpredictable and full of textural variation…and always free. They may want to  turn water from a natural resource into a commodity, but they can’t do that to our immediate environment and its sensory impressions….or perhaps I should more accurately say, they haven’t figured out how to do that yet. Give them time. Until then, grab one of the remaining copies of this rich and beautiful and deep 8-cd set—-stop, slow down, disengage the gears, and immerse yourself in this world…in 31 installments. As composer Werder states in his interview about this piece, “I’m looking for a situation where for a certain time something like ‘the world’ would appear. Not one to look at or listen to. Not one to project concepts onto. One to be part of, where in a chaotic and infinite becoming something like a real sense of meeting and sharing would emerge.” Indeed!

manfred werder 2005.1

jason kahn: actualization & recording

zürich hauptbahnhof, march 1 – 31, 2010, each day at 10 am

disc number – tracklist:
I:
01-3-10 18:00
02-3-10 18:00
03-3-10 18:00
04-3-10 18:00

II:
05-3-10 18:00
06-3-10 18:00
07-3-10 18:00
08-3-10 18:00

III:
09-3-10 18:00
10-3-10 18:00
11-3-10 18:00
12-3-10 18:00

IV:
13-3-10 18:00
14-3-10 18:00
15-3-10 18:00
16-3-10 18:00

V:
17-3-10 18:00
18-3-10 18:00
19-3-10 18:00
20-3-10 18:00

VI:
21-3-10 18:00
22-3-10 18:00
23-3-10 18:00
24-3-10 18:00

VII:
25-3-10 18:00
26-3-10 18:00
27-3-10 18:00
28-3-10 18:00

VIII:
29-3-10 18:00
30-3-10 18:00
31-3-10 18:00

wm28o11m

Addendum: the day after posting this blog entry, I was reading an article from the BBC News Service about secret codes in the espionage community, and ran across the following passage, which perhaps explains another appeal of the 31 days of train station field recordings:

“It’s quite difficult to generate a completely random number because a system for doing so will, by its very nature, be predictable – exactly what you’re trying to avoid. Instead officers in London found an ingenious solution.

“They’d hang a microphone out of the window on Oxford Street and record the traffic. “There might be a bus beeping at the same time as a policeman shouting. The sound is unique, it will never happen again,” says Stupples. Then they’d convert this into a random code.”

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