SITTING HERE IN LIMBO
Waiting for the tide to flow. Like a bird without a song. (Jimmy Cliff, from “The Harder They Come,” the essential reggae movie, Jamaican-made.)
Everything in its time, I believe. A tide builds until it becomes crashing waves, but it starts small. We are waiting for more songbirds to land on the live music stages but they are flying in, and not without a song. Limbo means having nothing while waiting for something, but we are getting delicious tastes. I can attest to it, and I haven’t had to travel any further than 20 minutes. Sometimes, a 20 minute walk to Harvelle’s, on Fourth Street.
Since I have already diverted from our live music situation here… that soundtrack album has spent disproportionate time on my turntables (or CD players or on my laptop as I work) since its release in 1973. There have been long periods where I started my day with it every morning, who needs ya, demon coffee? The collection of talent plus those songs on THTC is probably not matched.
Seeing the film (thank you, The Guild Art Theatre in Albuquerque, an oasis in a cultural desert, still open, one of the best in its time) changed my music life, and the feel for reggae it gave me, rudimentary as it was, but visceral and embedded deeply, led to my getting assignments for magazines and newspapers to write about reggae, shortly after I arrived in LA from NM.
OF COURSE, I KNEW
I was a neophyte, and already had met a dozen LA writers who knew so much more than I did, but I quickly learned, it’s whoever steps forward and says, I can do that! (Of course, then you have to deliver.) After a couple of published pieces I was known as “that reggae writer” (dig the emperor’s new clothes!), even more after I stretched my credit card to the breaking point to hop on a Tom Linton Island Flight Tours direct flight to Jamaica for the Reggae Sunsplash Festival a few months later, 1981. I wrote about that experience (and was that ever an experience!) in tandem with Jeff Silberman for Music Connection magazine, and joyfully returned to Sunsplash the next two years. My reputation was now established firmly. Ha! If they only knew. Fake it till you make it, right?
I wrote a comprehensive History of Reggae in LA for BAM Magazine, impossible without the assistance of my good friend Roger Steffens, a world authority on the vital Ital island music, and specifically on Bob Marley.
And for the last 48 years the soundtrack to “The Harder They Come” has not gotten old — that is truly remarkable.
GETTING BACK IN THE GROOVE
When it comes to the return of live music here. I’m a little surprised. I would have thought there would be a stampede once the possibility to perform returned, from financially crushed venue operators to the musicians fed up with playing to their phones.
The remarks I’ve heard from stages so far attest to the relief and joy, the release of pent up creativity in front of real people. If you have favorite performers, you should catch their first shows back, they might be exceptional.
It’s a phenomenon that has always interested me, that “time upon the stage,” that so many performers live for. For some, the hours or days leading up to that hour or so on stage are just killing time waiting for their real life. I always have heard from performers how important that energy back from an audience is to those performing.
I would have thought everyone had enough time to form a detailed plan for reopening, just waiting for the “Go!” from Sacramento. But maybe the cash flow is hard to juggle, and I know there has been a problem with some places, most places, restaffing. Damian and Jason at Harvelle’s are manning the bar alone seven nights a week, and slammed all night long.
SO, WHAT IS PLAYING?
Jazz club Sam First near LAX, the last to shut down and first to open, has a quartet lead by the formidable JOHN BEASLEY, pianist-multi-instrumentalist-composer-arranger-producer-radio host and Grammy-winning, Emmy-nominated (music director, “Jazz at the White House”), big band leader of MONK’estra, played with Freddie Hubbard, Sergio Mendes, Hubert Laws, John Patitucci, Peter Erskine, with shows Friday and Saturday nights, 7 and 9 p.m., $25. I’ve only heard Beasley play once, in somebody’s garage — well, it was when I did an interview a few years back with drummer Peter Erskine, the garage was his beautiful backyard studio, and he surprised me by bringing John along to accompany him. And yes, that was an amazing treat I won’t forget.
Next Wednesday evening you might want to check out two shows there with guitarist Marcel Camargo featuring vocalist Jessica Vuator, because the pianist will be the superlative GERALD CLAYTON. 7 and 9 p.m., $20.
I try to recommend only artists I’m familiar with, or somehow otherwise certain about, but last week I went with pianist Eric Reed at Sam First because booking agent Dave Robaire was certain I would absolutely dig him. Turns out I did not get to see him. But I’m going to go with another second-hand recommendation here, because the new doorman at Harvelle’s, Ron, a stand up guy, said just the right things to convince me I should catch EM THE MASTER, every Tuesday night this month at Harvelle’s, 9 p.m., $10. If he hadn’t given me the tip, I probably would have checked her out because of the quite intriguing description linked to the Harvelle’s website.
Next Thursday I will tell you more about the abbreviated but sounding sensational season for WILL GEER’S THEATRICUM BOTANICUM outdoor theater in Topanga Canyon, one of LA’s absolute treasures, for decades, but I’m betting a lot of you have never gone. Tsk tsk. Do yourself a favor and correct that oversight, please.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org