I’m not going to wax poetic about concerts by our own Santa Monica jazz legend, drummer Peter Erskine. I just did, two weeks ago. So here’s the simple announcement. He will be playing again at spiffy LAX jazz club Sam First, two nights, two shows per night, next Friday and Saturday June 25 and 26. This trio drops the horn and brings in the inspired Alan Pasqua on piano.
GET OFF THE STAGE!!
The one I’ve been writing about in the previous two NOTEWORTHY columns, but this should be the last hurrah.
It’s the stage where, when you climb up there from your garage or bedroom, with only your naked talent between you and the audience, you will be judged.
If that doesn’t appeal to you, stay home and play, sing, paint, dance, write, act, where you won’t be judged. Just for your own artistic satisfaction. But, but… the spotlight, the money, the fame, the groupies, the limos, easy reservations at great restaurants — it’s tempting, to take that shot. But you have to know, people will shoot back, if they don’t dig what you’re laying down.
One little mention, FOUR WEEKS AGO, among dozens of music remembrances over three decades, and here I am still writing about it. But while the daughter of famed Guarneri Quartet violist Michael Tree wrote me about my mild chiding of her father for not sitting in with a country band at a party of mine in NM — 40 years ago! — the fallout has been interesting. Never cry about something that looks bad until you find out, with time, if it really is, I always say.
About the Guarneri Quartet. Despite the group’s name, only one instrument made by the celebrated Guarneri family of Cremona was played for any significant time by a member of the quartet: for many years David Soyer used an Andrea Guarneri cello made in 1669. He later switched to a Gagliano cello made in Naples in 1778. (I guess he wanted to get a newer, snazzier model.)
At one point in the mid-’90s the quartet was offered the extended loan of a set of four rare Stradivarius instruments owned by the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, D.C. They declined, preferring to play the instruments each had chosen for himself. First violin Arnold Steinhardt compared the task of finding a violin well matched to a performer’s style to that of finding a spouse, explaining, “After much trial and error, each of us has found what could aptly be called his musical soul mate.”
Let me relate to those who might not know — you know, those rockers, and folkies and jazzbos, and those under 40 — that the Guarneri were considered instrumental, shall we say, in the burgeoning popularity in the’70s and ’80s of chamber music, in particular string quartets. (As has the Kronos Quartet been so influential in their realm.) The group’s extensive touring, recording, teaching and other outreach influenced a generation of young musicians. I was fortunate enough to see them twice, in the cultural backwater that Albuquerque was for many years.
We scored better with classical acts, and the best modern dance troupes. Then along came UNM computer whiz, young dean Tom Hogg, and suddenly both Jimi and Janis were there shortly before their deaths, Led Zeppelin on their first tour, Blue Cheer, Steppenwolf, and directly in Hogg’s wheelhouse, at UNM: The Rolling Stones with Stevie Wonder opening, Led Zep in the Pit, Grateful Dead, Cream’s farewell tour — one of only 18 U.S.
venues, that was a miracle — Joni, Yes, Chicago (when they were still good), John Lee Hooker, Alice Cooper, Roberta Flack, Rod Stewart, EL&P, CCR, Jethro Tull twice, Fleetwood Mac, Cat Stevens, Elton John, Boston, Bette Midler, Labelle, The Pointer Sisters, all in their prime, and more. The Ramones in a tiny basement campus coffeehouse (playing at full stadium volume) — and then Hogg moved to L.A. and the good bookings went with him. He joined Ticketmaster early on and made them what they became, the new way to sell tickets to every concert on earth; he was their computer booking guru, going to city after city to set up systems that revolutionized concert sales. I know, you hated their fees at first, but now you could get your precious tickets for certain without having to stand in a line all day at the Forum, to maybe get them, maybe not.
HIDDEN LOCAL TALENT
But before I leave Tree, one more unexpected little tidbit from all this, that is so typical of this unique, fascinating cast of characters we have here in Santa Monica. You can know someone for years and then find out all sorts of things you never knew about them. (I know a respected local businessman who was offered the chief’s daughter while in the wilds of Borneo years ago. Formal wedding with grass skirts all around, bones in noses. Far away, long ago, but he lived it. I saw photos.)
I received a note from a friend, a leader in the neighborhood, a sharp observer and effective activist. A smart cookie. But wait, there’s more.
“When I was growing up, my main instrument was piano. But I also took violin lessons and played in orchestras from elementary school through four years in the USC Symphony Orchestra, where we performed symphonies and operas. Beethoven, Dvorak, Wagner.
“Classical training, at least in those days, did not include improvisation. Or playing ‘by ear.’ And most of us don’t have perfect pitch, so we can’t just sit down and play perfectly something we’ve heard only once, as many jazz musicians can, for instance.
“We were also taught to aim for perfection in our public performances. So, if you had asked me to sit in with a country band and play songs I didn’t know, I would also have refused — not because I don’t like country music or feel superior to musicians who play that style of music, but because I would have played badly.
”…that’s my long winded defense of Michael Tree.”
OK, I get it. Who knew this old friend had the background to school me in this? Anna Tree, and her late father Michael — I still wish that jam had taken place, but maybe I imputed rashly the reasons behind it. Too late for an apology?
CELEBRATE PRIDE MONTH — And learn something, too! If you’re like me and you love learning about the minutiae of LA history, particularly through the lens of music, then you will want to check this out. Metro Art and Dublab partnered last year to create “Deep Routes,” a special series of multimedia deep dives into musical subcultures of Los Angeles, their mission being to explore intersecting histories embedded into the streets, buildings, and neighborhoods of the city. Episode 5, “Silver Lake, Industrial Strength Queer,” takes a historic look into 1980s 1990s Silver Lake and its former days as a very queer, adventurous, punk and provocative landscape. The show features music, interviews and firsthand accounts, and is hosted by Chris Cruse, nightlife organizer, DJ, and founder of QueerMaps.org, an interactive website documenting LGBTQIA+ locations throughout Los Angeles.
Listen to Deeper Routes here: https://www.dublab.com/schedule/88446/metro-art-amp-dublab-present-deep-routes-episode-5
Charles Andrews has listened to a lot of music of all kinds, including more than 3,000 live shows. He has lived in Santa Monica for 34 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at email@example.com