On a Tuesday, from 9:59 a.m. to 11:14, at Coupa Cafe, Palo Alto
Twenty years ago, or so, I produced a music series A Quantum Decoherence of Jazz shows. The series (not a festival) comprised five shows and ten acts. The acts, in order of billing were: Charlie Hunter Quartet, Will Bernard Quartet, Broun Fellinis, Anibade, Galactic, Stephen Kent, Eda Maxym and Friends (Members of Trance Mission and Beasts of Paradise), Toledo, Action Plus, Mingus Amungus, and Dave Ellis Quartet. I made a poster for the event — my concept, graphic design by Michele Nelson. Yes, that’s an appropriated photo of Stephen Hawking, the physicist.
That run of shows was part of a six-year tenure, 1994-2001, during which my small company, Earthwise Productions of Palo Alto, brought roughly 150 similar events to Cubberley, the former high school turned community center. The series was eclectic, but was mainly rock. Charlie Hunter more than any other artist encouraged me to continue to book jazz shows there; he said it was a listening room and not a bar; he felt a connection to his fans there. Charlie appeared in five different shows, in five different configurations: trio, quartet, quintet, Pound for Pound and T.J. Kirk (in fact, the only joint appearance of CHT and T.J. Kirk, in September, 1995 — and the first actual sellout of the 300-capacity room).
This series in some ways was an elaboration of my relationship with Charlie, if you look at it as building four other shows (and booking 10 other acts) around his availability as an anchor. Also, the summer before, 1996, I produced a run of shows, not quite a thematic series, and a poster called “Warm Weather Series” that included an appearance by Medeski Martin and Wood. The MMW was a huge hit, in that it sold clean — there were really no walk-ups, or, rather, we turned away 50 people — and the band seemed in rare form. The weekend that MMW appeared, we also booked dates with Cake and AFI.
Galactic was added to the Broun Fellinis bill. The agent, either Mike Luba on referal from Adam Shipley was adding to an anchor in SF on likely their first Bay Area tour. The were definitely paid support money not headliner money, even on this scale, although they did have core followers (there was an after-party on Olive Street, in one of those live-work lofts, off El Camino). Anibade was the showcase for Ledisi Young, that Ledisi, who later moved to New York, first for Broadway (“Caroline or Change”, I saw) and then for Verve and eventual Best New Artist nom, for soul or funk rather than jazz, and a career. I remember I got her autograph on one of those little paper belts that wrap a stack of 20s. The jazz series was eclectic, pushing towards funk and world music rather than just the Charlie Hunter – Broun Fellinis axis that was my introduction to the scene (Elbo Room, Up and Down Club, Prawn Song records, Ubiquity and the like). Later, and partly thru Charlie and his team my jazz tastes broadened to include, at shows: Bill Frisell, Danilo Perez, Steve Lacy, Leon Parker, Oliver Lake, Taylor Eigsti and others.
The poster lists four sponsors who paid a tiny percentage of the risk. Gerald Brett, an arts commissioner and father of a teenager, arranged for for those and was supportive of the initiative during its ebb and flow. Tickets were sold via “Drapers, Groovesmith and CD Land” all casualties of the gentrification of Palo Alto retail, or displacement of retail by tech workers.
The shows had a uniform price of $12, in an era when my typical event was $8 to $10. In reality, I might have charged $20 or so in order to re-coup. A subsidy of Earthwise in those days was me living with my parents and getting free office space and rooming. Earthwise continues into its 20th year and includes an artist management legacy although it is relatively inactive compared to the Cubberley days. My tax return from 2015 I filed last month included income versus expenses Schedule C for two events. Potentially I would someday re-focus on something as intense as The Cub, but more realistically that boat has sailed. I was indie (and jazzy) in the nineties; today I am somewhere looking for, but certainly not hiring and hipping people to the Galbraithian “countervailing power” to restore a Democracy. Writing about music and culture (and my own footprints, from years ago) is less satisfying than producing concerts.
The peculiar name came from an article I saw in the New York Times about a purported breakthrough in our understanding of science. My lay understanding (I’m also a former ad agency copywriter) means that just as you cannot predict exactly where a particle is (or is that Heisenberg?), you might be surprised to find, on a given night, that if you walk into a music venue (or defunct high school auditorium) amazing music. I guess by extension, but to a smaller likelihood, non-zero, if you read about “a quantum decoherence of jazz shows” in Palo Alto and Cubberley, on a social media page or forum, it does indeed increase your likelihood of hearing this music. (or is that Sapir-Worf?). I hope it does.
When I saw the biopic about Steve Jobs and Apple it suddenly occurred to me the possibility that either he or one of his key people might have attended one or more of the Cubberley shows and had an “aha moment” of his own about how the proliferation of computers could bring a quantum change in how consumers experience music. The way I, with a certain amount of time and money, more than talent, could personalize my playlist, and share it, could, due to Moore’s Law and all be a type of model of how to shift that company from business machines (competing IBM) to music (competing with Sony and then Universal). There was definitely a handful of hipster VCs who I met at the Cub and signed my mailing list. Which is ironic if part of my motivation (or delusion) was to counter industrial advances with direct experiences. The Cubberley Sessions could have been a model for the IPOD in the way that a Turing computer predicted and “precursed” various advances in computer science and industry. I thought of this when Jobs and his daughter were on the rooftop, in the parking lot. In the movie.
By the way I recently destroyed all the extant and overrun copies of that poster, minus 40 or so that I am putting into sets. I have 60 lots of 40 copies each, destined to be reconfigured as 40 sets of 60. I hope to sell 20 and gift 20 to museums and archives. Meanwhile, they are in my storage space. Or, cyber space.
Steve Cohen sent me a screen capture of a social media page which covered Palo Alto cultural history from Dave Brubeck at the Bandbox to someone’s curation of my poster, which spurs this recollection. Elsewhere in Plastic Alto (which is itself an Ornette Coleman reference) I have a long (rambling) history of jazz here and or a poster gallery, either of which could have been the source of the social media recent cite. (Unless Colleen S was one of the nearly 1,000 who attended one of those shows and saved the poster!)
It occurs to me that a quantum decoherence of jazz shows could comprise five dates in 1997 and several more,for instance, in 2017, twenty years later. Stay tuned. Or, as Royal Stokes might sign, “keep swingin’”.
- Here is a lift from Palo Alto Weekly’s short preview of the Charlie Hunter show, probably by Jim Harrington: Jazzin’ up Jamaica There have been country versions of Beatles’ classics, punk renditions of folk tunes and symphonic takes on top-selling rock records. So perhaps it’s time for a jazz recording of one of Bob Marley’s great reggae works.Popular eight-string guitarist Charlie Hunter has done his jazz thing with Marley’s 1974 classic “Natty Dread,” which contains the reggae standard “No Woman, No Cry.” But Hunter and his quartet do more than just re-record the album, they translate it. “No Woman, No Cry” is rendered as a ballad with Hunter’s guitar taking the lead. “Dem Belly Full (But We Hungry)” is infused with Latin rhythms; “Natty Dread” gains a New Orleans groove; and the new version of “Bend Down Low” has been called a gospel-speed metal romp.The Charlie Hunter Quartet cruises into Cubberley Community Center Theatre, 4000 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, on Friday, March 28, as part of Earthwise Production’s “A Quantum Decoherence of Jazz Shows” series. The Will Bernard Quartet opens. The show starts at 8 p.m. and tickets are $12. For more information, call 949-4507. The leading online retailer notes that “Natty Dread” came out that same week, March, 1997 such that the Cubberley show might have been one of the or the very first live performance of these songs as a set. Years later I had the Marley version on continuous play but at the time of the very enjoyable jazz show, I would not have recognized the melodies. Geoffrey Himes notes that Charlie’s arrangement of “No Woman, No Cry’ has an allusion to “Tennessee Waltz” which to me is like Charlie’s take on James Brown / Rahsaan Kirk / Monk, or, and my stage manager Dave Womack emphasized this in our contemporaenous discussions, although it might have been in his writings, Charlie, as part of T.J. Kirk at Cubberley, two years before, as part of an encore, ripped thru a guitar solo that quoted several famous rock solos or heads. I spent 3 more minutes sampling from this cd and hope to find it in my archive (which is still not quite seeing it live, but not a chore a bore or like having your teeth drilled).
- To the extent that this article is partly in response to a social media forum about Dave Brubeck in 1950 compared to this series in 1997, I should probably point out that Mingus Amungus is or was a Charles Mingus tribute project whereas I don’t think Mingus himself played in Palo Alto. The Mingus Big Band authorized tribute and repertoire project, managed by Mingus’ widow Sue Mingus, including a version with actual Mingus contemporary and bandmate Jack Walrath — my friend and one-time client — did play at Stanford a couple times in recent years. And, Monk himself in his heyday did play Paly High, thanks to the young Danny Scher, quite famously. Compared to T.J.Kirk, at Cubberley, Earthwise but not in the Quantum Decoherence. Get it? Elsewhere I write that I met Danny Scher while putting up this poster. He had read about or heard about the series. I have a recent picture of Danny I could insert here.
- This might be it, the New York Times, Feb. 18, 1997, George Johnson: Only when the electron is measured, or somehow disturbed by the outside world, does the superposition break down: the particle crystallizes from the quantum haze and becomes fixed in space and time. It is this process, called quantum decoherence, that gives rise to the everyday world in which things can be in only one place at a time. Which to me at the time might have sounded like how to book bands. This 1
- This is a little bit silly but here are crib notes from nearly 20 years later of these 10 acts in the decoherence: Charlie Hunter, 8-string guitar wizard, performing as a quartet which I think means reeds were Kenny Brooks and Calder Spanier; Will Bernard Quartet, another guitar based jazz group, and I met Will thru Charlie, as they were recommended to open for MMW the previous summer; Broun Fellinis, led by David Boyce, and played Cubberley three times; Anibade, recommended by agent Yavette Holt, shortly before Ledisi went solo; Galactic, from New Orleans, and now they usually play the Fillmore or Warfield; Stephen Kent, Eda Maxym and Friends (Members of Trance Mission and Beasts of Paradise) — digiridoo based group, and I do recall some of Kent’s Palo Alto students showed up; Toledo, featuring Toledo Diamond, from the same LA-based label as Broun Fellinis (Moonshine), he was sort of like a cross between Tom Waits and Prince, with super-sexy backing singers; Action Plus, led by Joe Gore, another guitar hero, more of a lounge act or novelty act; Mingus Amungus(led by Miles Perkins), and Dave Ellis Quartet, who I met originally thru his early work with Charlie, not to be confused with David SQWRM Ellis who later did Charlie’s album art or his brother John Ellis, who briefly was in Galactic before several albums with Charlie. Dave Ellis brother of Zoe Ellis. Joe Gore not to be confused with mystery writer Joe Gores, although I always thought they should collaborate, and Joe Gore should do a noir soundtrack, based on a Gores story. I think Dave Ellis appeared in both bands, his combo and Mingus Amungus, maybe just on baritone sax, or I recall Miles Perkins saying he was going to ask Dave Ellis to bring his baritone sax.
- Actually it might be fun to reprise the Toledo Show b/w Action Plus or Toledo Diamond either backed with or paired with Joe Gore to produce something new and noir-ish in that the LA Times says that Toledo channels Raymond Chandler (i.e. “The Big Sleep” and “The Long Goodbye”) while just by the freak association of the names Joe Gore could or should do Joe Gores. Maybe I could find a way to do a tribute to by own father, Paul Weiss (1924-2015, as in I’m still in mourning) “Long Goodbye for PEW” using this thread and here we have the perfect difference between being a concert promoter and merely a blogger: does mentioning ideas actually help actualize them or just lets the air out of them? The LA Times: Backed by a jazz-accented quartet, Toledo speaks, cackles and howls his words into an ancient microphone. The spirit of Raymond Chandler pervades the cozy room as Toledo takes his audience–which frequently includes the likes of Johnny Depp and Snoop Doggy Dogg–on a journey through seedy hellholes, drug dens and damaged love affairs.
- The Toledo Show is now called one of the longest running and best kept secrets in LA, and is playing this Sunday, 5/29/16 at Harvelle’s in Santa Monica. In this screen capture, we presume the hand and not the nipple is Toledo:
- Ledisi who now has six studio albums, 374,000 twitter followers and has appeared she says and I believe her nine times at the White House; Ledisi Anibade Young i.e. her band name was also her middle name; I briefly had her cell number:
Ledisi whose road to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue included a stop at 4000 Middlefield
Likewise if I cornered Joe Gore somewhere and reintroduced myself he would likely remember Cubberley, but not that it was part of a series (or the decoherence part, although he is quite technical) — he may have also played the room with Steven Yerkey. He’s not really considered a jazz guy, just a guitar god. In his words:
First: My attitude about guitar changed. I’d witnessed musicians without a shred of conventional skill creating sounds that left me breathless. I’d heard players with more ability than most of us could acquire in ten lifetimes disgorge dismal puke. I stopped caring about things I couldn’t do and embraced my quirks. I realized that playing expressively was more important than playing “well.” Second: I started getting invited to play on cool records. First, Big City’s old roadie, Les Claypool of Primus, recommended me to Tom Waits, and I went on to contribute to seven of Tom’s albums. I worked on two PJ Harvey albums and toured with Polly’s band for a year. I got to work with Jon Hassell, Lisa Germano, Stephen Yerkey, Meat Beat Manifesto, and the late Kathy Acker. I was signed to Rykodisc as a member of the quasi-jazz band Oranj Symphonette and made two Action Plus albums with my most frequent collaborator: Elise Malmberg (a.k.a. “wife”). Eventually I quit my grueling day job. I think Elise was known as “Ursula” when in character as the “action” part of Action Plus.
- This doesn’t go here at all, but I cannot resist. It’s a true story. I got to cut and paste it somewhere, lest it gets scrubbed from the world’s knowledge base: Leni Stern, doing a mixer for the Jewish Bulletin, at Crown Plaza Palo Alto, $15 less a discount if you are a Jewish single and you place a personals ad, presented by Earthwise Productions:
Friday, December 3, 1999
Guitarist to jazz up singles party
by German guitarist Leni Stern will perform with her quartet Wednesday evening at a Chanukah Schmooze at the Crowne Plaza Cabana, 4, The event, which begins at 7 p.m. with entertainment at 8, is sponsored by the Jewish Bulletin and Earthwise Productions.
That includes Stern’s childhood — she grew up a few miles from what remains of the Dachau concentration camp — and her successful battle with breast cancer some years ago.
Stern is actually best known as a jazz musician. She is a three-time winner of the Gibson Award for best female jazz guitarist. She once aspired to a career in the theater. However, “the guitar was always my first love, and I didn’t want to just play a little.”
The recording artist has just released her 10th CD, “Recollection,” which features a collaboration with David Sanborn.
She left her homeland in 1977 to study at the Berklee College of Music in Boston and relocated to New York in 1980.
Jazz critic Bill Milkowski wrote in the liner notes for her “Recollections” that “as her muse continues to take her farther afield from jazz, she has come to express herself more genuinely and deeply.”
But “I’m still a jazz musician,” she told Boston Globe writer Bob Blumenthal, who called her “one of jazz’s most lyrical and distinctive guitarists.” She added: “Or maybe now something of a rock musician.”
She will be accompanied at the Schmooze by drummer Kenny Wolleson, saxophonist Dave Binney and bassist Don Falzone. Tickets to the event are $15, with discounts for those who place personals in the Bulletin’s “Such a Match” section.
Mark Weiss of Earthwise Productions said his intent is to build community using music.
“It’s a Jewish-themed holiday event, but it’s open to music lovers of all backgrounds,” he said.
For information, call (650) 949-4507 or (415) 263-7200. Oy. This was a two-part experiment in using the Cabana Room of the hotel, near the pool, about 150 capacity but these events drew slightly less. The other show was Joey Baron band. At the Leni Stern event, all the Jewish single girls were hitting on the sound man, Mark Svein, the Norwegian-American co-worker of Andy Heller of LDR Sound, he reported.
9. There is a new Stephen Hawking series about science and I watched and taped two episodes this week.
10. Joe Gore the producer, writer and guitarist, with or without Toledo Diamond the choreographer and bandleader in LA, what about not film noir and pulp fiction but literary influenced, circling back to a further not-actualized concept, a musical adaptation of the Wallace Stegner short story “Pop Goes the Weasel” (which makes reference to a fairly odd and mysterious bit of music and verse history). The Stegner story was 1930s Los Angeles, race and class issues. Gore meanwhile has a book about the music industry. In a parallel universe, we can already see and hear all of the above. By the way, didn’t Joe Gore play with The Eels? (The Eels, bandleader narrates a film on parallel universe theory)