Great time this weekend at the annual WMPG Record Sale! I hadn’t been able to go for several years, but this year I was able to take my two boys with me. My kindergartner has started his own vinyl collection, centered around the King of Pop, so he was thrilled to get to see so many records in one place.
I was psyched to find this Quincy Jones “Ai No Corrida” 45. That is one of my all-time favorite jams, and my kindergartner has hysterical alternative lyrics worked up. This Steve Gadd Group record from ’87 is amazing thus far. Excited to check out this Jean-Luc Ponty record, as well. But, the prize here is obviously Rasa.
Anyone who has paid attention to my musical rantings and ravings over the past many years knows that I have a rich story with this record in crazy and meaningful ways beyond simple explanation. It has been much more than musical enjoyment: it’s been a door, a gateway to encounters, and relationships, and messages from God. Every time I encounter this record, I have a bolt of excitement hit me, as I know there is meaning behind it. I have lately been at a fantastically low point, hence me being fairly quiet and “on hiatus,” but this encounter with this record again has really lifted me. This makes Copy no.4.
Since his passing, Gene visits me via his music all the time, and usually at a moment where some sort of sign or message is desperately needed.
Today was no exception when I found this staring at me from the shelves of the Goodwill where I frequently dig for records.
Gene was somewhat ambivalent about his younger years and pop output at the beginning of his career. He felt that he was too much of a pawn and not enough of the artist he knew he was. I’d never fault him for feeling this way, especially after his personal experience through the meat grinder of the music industry. However, this belies the genius he exhibited on many of these early recordings. At a very young age, he was considered one of the finer interpreters of Burt Bacharach. That’s no small feat, considering the luminaries who have tried on his songs for themselves.
“Spanish Lace” was first released in 1962 by Liberty Records, Gene’s label through this time in his career. The single features the famed Johnny Mann Singers, and unfortunately failed to move any further up the Billboard charts than #31.
Thanks, as always, Gene… you always pick great moments to visit.
Every day going out to work with my good friend Don Campbell and the band is a good day at work. Over the 13 or so years that we’ve played together, we’ve shared many special moments together on stage. Last night was definitely one of them. Big thanks to Don for always trusting me to be his wing man, especially in moments like this One at Mill Creek Park in South Portland last night. Having Jonathan Edwards sit in for the back half of our set was amazing. Getting to back him up on his biggest hits? Priceless, and infinitely memorable. Thanks also to Jonathan for being so accommodating with the photo. Best complement of the night? He said to me after the show, “those were some great grooves back there!”
Reeling from a massive tear in my personal space/time continuum, this week I got the rare privilege to join truly one of my favorite bands, Thanks to Gravity, in preparation for their reunion concert on May 20th. In what might be the most flattering and humbling invite, my friends Andy, Drew, and Sean asked me to play percussion for this fantastically rare event. The meaningfulness of this reunion concert swirls at such a current, it’s hard to know when the “then” stops and the “now” starts.
After my graduation from high school, I moved from my hometown of Nantucket to the North Shore of Boston to attend college. My bandmate Billy Voss, fresh of our summer busking together on Nantucket, moved shortly thereafter to Boston proper to pursue his music career. Obviously, Billy’s gig offers were infinitely more interesting than Old and New Testament classes, and I joined him frequently to gig around the city. At the same time, just a bit north, Thanks to Gravity was cutting in to their craft and making fans and currents of their own in the process.
In the years that followed, Billy and I had to realize that we were just a few steps behind where Thanks to Gravity were treading. They frequented our island in the summers over a few years for shows, and last I looked, their 8×10 glossy photo was still hanging in the Muse. We were unable to succeed in the major mission to get a song placed on the latest AWARE records compilation that summer, but I’ll be damned when it was released, we saw TTG had the opening and closing track on the release! And, while we met and hung with all the cats that came through the island on their tours like Vertical Horizon, Dave Matthews Band, Edwin McCain, and countless others, we missed getting to hang with Thanks to Gravity. Now I know its because they all drank milk and went promptly to bed after shows.
After I left college due to excessive absences, my roommate Nate shared his love of TTG, as he’d grown up in New Hampshire, and still considers them the state’s greatest band. Nate just reminded me the other day of his original artwork that appeared on the cover of our college’s literary journal, IDIOM, entitled “Eating the Moon,” inspired by the TTG tune of the same name.
When I first met Andy Happel some 15 years ago, I never thought I’d have the opportunity to share a stage with his band, never mind have the friendship that this time has allowed. We’ve played countless shows together through the years with Don Campbell, Andy’s solo material, and now our band, Los Galactacos.
Somehow, I feel that I’ve been practicing for this show with Thanks to Gravity for 20+ years now.
Los Galactacos is thrilled to be engaging in a residency at Frontier in Brunswick once a month; every second Thursdsay.
Los Galactacos will be performing on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve at Solo Italiano On Commercial Street in Portland. Please call ahead for reservations! Visit http://www.soloitalianorestaurant.com/ for details.
Please join the fellas (Andy Happel, Pete Witham, Drew Wyman) and I on Monday evenings for Mojito Monday Happy Hour at El Rayo in Scarborough, ME. We play music from the Americas, including Tex-Mex, Ranchera, Bossa Nova, Ol’ Time Country, Fiddle Tunes, Bluegrass, Jazz Standards, the Classic American Songbook, and more.
Los Galactacos plays Mojito Mondays
Monday Evenings from 5:30pm – 7:30pm
at El Rayo Taqueria
245 US-1, Scarborough, ME 04074
August 26th, 2016 | Portland Public Library Atrium, 5 Monument Way, Portland, ME
Irene Wanjiru was born in a small village on the slopes of Mount Elgon, an extinct volcano straddling the border between Kenya and Uganda. Irene has exhibited widely throughout Nairobi, and taught a workshop in wood carving for women at the National Museums of Kenya. She has been artist-in-residence for several summers at the Carving Studio & Sculpture Center in Rutland, Vermont, and is the 2015 artist-in-residence at the Spillway Fund in Southport, Maine.
Humans and animals both mythical and real interact in her art, inhabiting an imaginative, fecund world that is wholly African (the spirit and workaday worlds always just around the corner from each other), yet draws comparison to the surrealism of Max Ernst and the expressionism of Max Beckmann. Her work is at once dramatic and playful, revealing and life-affirming.