Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Last week: Squier; worst band; jazz in Sq Hill

Playing right now: Booker Ervin - That's It!

I went to Jerry's Records yesterday and even though I had a boatload of albums that I want to listen to, and several that I need to review in the coming week or two, I had to buy this Booker album. He was a tenor sax player best known for his work with Charles Mingus on albums like Mingus Ah Um. And I'm pretty sure was connected with the "Texas tenor" style, because he was really soulful and had a beefy sound. But hearing him in the context of a quartet, w/o Mingus' dynamic personality, he sounds a bit like Coltrane, tone-wise. Which is no slight to either of those guys. This is a good album. Plus it has Pittsburgh native Horace Parlan on the 88s, along with his steady trio mates Al Harewood (drums) and George Tucker (bass).

The other album I bought at Jerry's was Billy Squier's Don't Say No. Now, I hear you laughing out there. "Billy Squier, what the hell? 'The Stroke' is a goofy kinda dumb song." Well yeah, "The Stroke" might not be "Misty Mountain Hop" but it's fun and it's bride price gets upped when it's in the company of "My Kinda Lover," "In the Dark," and "Lonely is the Night." FOUR CLASSIC ROCK SONGS ON ONE ALBUM??!?! C'mon, brothers and sisters, when was the last time you saw someone do that? You think Blink 182 or Green Day is capable of that? I'll answer that for you. "No." Plus some of the deep cuts on Don't Say No are pretty nice pieces of boogie rock too. In short, Billy did everything Foreigner tried to do, and did it a lot better. He's the template, man.

Plus, I've heard it said that Mr. Squier fancies the men instead of the ladies, which boosts his cred with me even a little more. I mean, Rob Halford --- sure, I guess you saw that coming, unless you miss the clues like me. I wore the same studded wristband in the early '80s, but I thought it was punk rock, not heavy metal and I thought Halford was your typical sexist dude who could found in the front row at the strip club with Vince Neil.


But I'm getting offtrack. So Billy Squier is gay too. More power to him. Where is he these days? I want to add him to my list of people whose touring band I would like to join. Billy, if you're reading this, I'm a bass player of 20 + years. I'll play "The Stroke." Do I have to sing on key?

Speaking of bands of dubious merit......
When is someone going to come out and tell the truth about the band Morningwood -- that they're the worst band around at this moment. Surely I can't be the only one to feel this way. But since nobody else has come out and said it, I will:

Dear Morningwood,

You guys are horrible and I feel really embarassed for your singer. Sure she has a great set of pipes, but all that gesticulating during songs makes me think that you find your gestures clever and witty when in fact you just look, um.....really embarassing.

I first stumbled across them when they opened for Gang of Four last year, which was ironic because Morningwood seemed like the type of band that somehow would have wound up on a bill with Go4 in the early '80s. They really sounded like the kind of band that existed in the 80s that was somewhere between Pat Benatar and "quirky" rock. During the set, the singer - whose name I would know if I was more responsible, but that would require another run downstairs, which I don't feel like making at the moment - added to her performance by putting on a headband and doing aerobics during the guitar solo; did the move-the-hand-down-in-front-of-the-face-change-expression-from-happy-to-sad thing that we all learnend when we were 14. Ever seen an insecure person try to win people over with jokes that aren't funny? Know how that makes you feel? Yeah, that's how I felt.

The reason all this is coming back to me now is that Morningwood was on David Letterman last week and I had to watch to make sure that they were the band I saw open for Gang of Four and that they were indeed as awful as I remembered.

The answers were yes and yes.

The band's whole shtick seems very early '80s, which is the time when I was in high school. Said singer reminds me of someone who might have been in the drama club. A normal gal; not nubile, maybe a tad chunky -- and let me say now that, despite what I feel about this band, it's nice to see a female singer that ISN'T nubile and pre-fab -- who knows how to sing. And decides to give this rock music thing a show, acting mock-sexy, but funny at the same time.

That's the only way you can explain the moment during last week's performance when she turned around, leaned backwards and gave her body a good shake. Was she making fun of go-go dancers? Did she even think it through that hard? Well, it looked bad.

In conclusion: Morningwood -- worst band at the moment.

I dug out some of my Charlie Parker Verve albums last week. There was an original copy of a Parker Verve album up for auction and I was going back and forth on it. Twice now, the bidding opened at $3 and no one bid. It looks to be in fairly decent shape, outside of a few album cover wear marks. But I have all the tunes. The album is called Swedish Schnapps and features mostly quintet stuff with both Miles Davis and Red Rodney. All of it is one volume 2 of the Verve two-fer that I have. Of course, it'd be cool to have the original, but after I play it a few times, would I ever go back to it? Hell, I almost forget I had Mulligan Meets Monk until yesterday. (I played it over breakfast today. See previous listings commentary.)

One of you reading this (is there anybody out there?) should bid on it. It's a great record. Take the temptation away from me.

But in listening to those Verve albums I realized that I don't like a lot of the Bird With Strings sessions. The first one, with "Summertime" and "Just Friends," that included Mitch Miller in the orchestra, are pretty good, but the 1950 sessions just don't seem to gel that much between the arrangements and his playing. The early ones have a sense of adventure to them at least, especially "Summertime," which is downright haunting. The rest are kind of nice.


Last Friday, I went to Gullifty's in Squirrel Hill to see my buddy Don Aliquo play. Gullifty's just started having jazz in the past few months and I've been meaning to get in touch with Don again. We met when I decided to do a story on him for InPittsburgh in 2000 and we've kept in touch. Although it's been close to 2 years since I last saw him. Sure enough, on Friday morning I heard a plug for this gig on WDUQ, so I decided to check it out.

He sounded really good, and the group he had included the drummer that I like best behind him. John Schmidt. This guy really knows how to light a fire under a band. Trumpeter Sean Jones sat in for a few songs. He really seemed to have a Dizzy style going during some of his solos, but the way he constructed things was pretty innovative and also it complemented and Don, and maybe even gave him a kick behind to get him to play even better.

In closing I have to mention that I grew up in Squirrel Hill and even though there were occasional shows at the American Legion Hall on Forbes back when I lived with my folks, Squirrel Hill was never really a live music 'hood. So it was pretty mind-boggling when walking out of Gullifty's at 1:30 that I wasn't on the South Side or the Strip or even a block from my house in Polish Hill. I was on Murray AVenue, the area where residential tranquility and commerce come to commingle. And it's only a mile from my folks' place.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Matthew Shipp - One

(Thirsty Ear)

Pianist Matthew Shipp might not be a household word, but his accomplishments have done a good deal to keep the spirit of jazz music alive and moving. In addition to playing in the David S. Ware Quartet for over 15 years, grounding the tenor saxophonist’s gales of sound, he has overseen the Thirsty Ear label’s Blue Series, which includes an array of forward-thinking jazz albums. Shipp himself has appeared on several of those releases including some that, a few years ago, were dubbed “jazztronica.” Here, Shipp skillfully proved that free improvisation could meld with electronic beats to create something that was groovy and cerebral.

For One, Shipp stepped into the studio alone and created 12 pieces that flow together like a 40-minute suite, thanks to careful editing. Much of the album has touchstones in jazz music, but in his careful hands, it sounds highly unique, and doesn’t adhere to a standard definition of jazz. “Gamma Ray,” has a funky feel of Bud Powell as its base, for instance, but once he states the theme, Shipp’s right hand discards any set time signature and flows freely over the melodic line. The blues creeps into the emotional tone of his Shipp’s solos, but when he plays a straight 12-bar blues, it sounds anything but standard. “The Encounter” carefully hides the structure behind some dark riffs that feature a lot of rumbling from the low end of the keyboard, which still sounds equally enthralling.

At times tranquil, other times spiritual (one track paraphrases “Angels We Have Heard on High”), with a little thunder thrown in for seasoning, One provides a new look at the solo piano and reveals another side of an extremely versatile performer.

(The review was originally written for a Pittsburgh publication, but it never ran, hence the posting several months after the album's release. Don't let that discourage any curiousity in checking it out.)

Gutbucket - Sludge Test

Sludge Test (Cantaloupe)

While the rest of the word contemplates whether Gutbucket is a punk rock band that plays jazz or a jazz band that plays punk rock, it’s more important to consider that the band straddles both genres on Sludge Test without making the end result sound like a novelty. Sure, Naked City set that musical ball rolling in the late ‘80s, but all those 20-second blasts of composed noise sounded the same after awhile. (And you’d think John Zorn would’ve gotten tired of resorting to that same shrill, above-the-normal-register squeal.)

Gutbucket — who, like the Zorn-led aggregation, also hails from New York — can blast a listener across the room with the progressive thrash of the album opener “Money Management For a Better Life,” but they’re equally as interested in more complex piece that takes a while to unfold. The best of the latter comes with “Throsp%,” a six-minute tone poem that starts with surf guitar and a slow two-chord groove and builds up through layers of melodies into a climax wherein Ken Thomson’s alto sax starts to boil. And the whole thing, which the band compares to Godspeed You! Black Emperor, still manages to sound pretty amidst the frenzy.

In between, the group combines heavy rock with quarter-tone sax melodies (the title track); a nasty array of bass guitar scrapes leads to a heavy riff that could have been lifted from Blacks Sabbath or Flag (“Underbidder”). The album ends with “Danse de la fureur, pour les sept trompettes,” a movement from a larger piece written by French composer Olivier Messiaen while imprisoned in a Nazi camp in 1941. An impressive undertaking — drummer Paul Chuffo wrote his own part while his bandmates transcribed their parts — it sounds a little too math rock-y and gets a little rigid when all four instruments move in parallel motion. It lacks the loose, swinging quality of their originals.

Throughout Sludge Test, the group isn’t afraid to utilize overdubs to widen the sound, which finds Ty Citerman creating several voices of guitar parts. Chuffo gets in on the act, adding a whole other kit to “Punkass Rumbledink” and giving it extra kick. Thomson’s gives his horn a brawny tone that carries a density equal to his bandmates. Bassist Eric Rockwin, who wrote half the album, often holds down the bottom end and adds melodic color the music simultaneously.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Thinking about Gerry Mulligan

Finally found a way to change the time. So from here on out, hopefully it won't look like I'm posting three hours before I actually do it......

Playing right now: Nothing (although over breakfast, I listened to Miles Davis' Collector's Items and Andrew Hill's Andrew).

I got my copy of the Gerry Mulligan Quartet album Reunion with Chet Baker in the mail yesterday. Now, maybe I shouldn't say anything because I only paid 99 cents for it in an auction, but it came in an oversized envelope that was slightly padded, but didn't protect the record from careless mail carriers who might've tried to bend it or simply tossed it around. (It didn't even have "fragile" stamped on it.) So it arrived warped. The seller gave me a vague description of it when I asked, because he didn't have any description posted with the listing. No wonder no one else bid on it. So it's worth 99 cents but I probably wouldn't've shelled out $5 in postage if I knew about the shoddy packaging job.

But it is a great album, which leads me to today's post; a post that will also include ruminations on Mulligan Meets Monk, which showed up about a week ago -- another auction win.

1957 seemed to be a pivotal year for both Gerry Mulligan and Thelonious Monk. Miles fired Coltrane, who kicked his drug habit and played with Monk for several months in a band that was by all accounts pretty colossal. By the end of the year, Trane was back with Miles for a band that has been well-documented. For Gerry, he did the album with Monk and recorded several sessions for Pacific Jazz including the aforementioned one that got him together with Chetty again.

At first, Mulligan Meets Monk sounds kind of ....well, languid. Easy going. But really, there is some good interaction between the two guys. Mulligan kind of plays over and around Monk's weird accompaniment style, but he really gets some good ideas going on "'Round Midnight" and "I Mean You." The recording could have been a little better. Two tracks have bass solos and you'd think Wilbur Ware was in the other room, they're so faint. And you can barely hear drummer Shadow Wilson on "Midnight" and "Sweet and Lovely." Of course maybe that speaks to Wilson's skill and keeping a soft tempo going. But I'd rather hear him a little more.

I was looking through the booklet with Mosaic's Gerry Mulligan Quartet Pacific Jazz set, and the notes, in passing, said that the energy at the 1957 reunion date didn't match the original stuff that Gerry and Chetty did. True, it's different, but the album is still a really good one. Dave Bailey, who'd play with Gerry for a while, is the drummer and none other than Henry Grimes plays bass. And Henry is really prominent, as if to say, "This isn't a mellow West Coast date. We have some drive here." He really steers the quartet.

All but one of the 8 cuts are written by other people. That's worth noting since a lot of the best quartet stuff of theirs was written by Gerry. They play songs like "Stardust" and "Surrey With a Fringe On Top" which have a lot of the counterpoint arrangements that were similar to the earlier quartet stuff. They also do Charlie Parker's "Ornithology" which is the first time that I can recall them doing a straight up and down bebop tune. It's funny, at the end, they don't go back and play the theme, something unusual for that era, I think.

That reminds me, I forgot to comment on the fact that the version of "Rhythm-a-ning" on Mulligan Meets Monk has a slightly different melody than the way it's normally played. They kind of scale it down. As far as I can tell that was the first time Monk recorded that song, at least for Riverside, so I wonder if it was still a work in progress at that point.

By the way, I have to mention that the copy of Mulligan Meets Monk arrived looking like the total opposite of Reunion. It's an original and while one of the seams is ripped a little, the cover is otherwise in beautiful shape and the record plays really well. There's something about those shiny album covers from the '50s that set my heart a-beatin'.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

The Sugar Bears and what they mean to me.... this screen was popping up, there was a clock and I could've changed the time so that it wouldn't look like I'm posting three hours later than I actually am...(Does that make sense? Look at the time for this post and add three hours.0

But that's not why I'm writing....

I pulled out my Sugar Bears album and put it on a few minutes ago. As I mentioned previously I heard several of these songs on records that came with Sugar Crisp boxes back when I was, oh, five or six years old. Now these songs sound like bubblegum music (maybe the Monkees) if it was created by one of those we'll-put-your-lyrics-to-music scam jobs. With a little Up With People thrown in for good measure. I mean look at these lyrics:

I just want to be friends with you
We can do the kinds of things
that good friends do
(From the song "Kinda Friendly Things")

Yet the songwriters weren't no names. Baker Knight was a Nashville songwriter. Mitch Murray wrote "How Do You Do" which Gerry and the Pacemakers did after the Beatles rejected it in favor of "Please Please Me."

At the same time, when the insipid "Happiness Train" started, with the baritone sax implying a train whistle over a Keith Moon-y drum roll, it made me feel all warm inside. When "Feather Balloon" came on, sung by pre-rasp Kim transported me. Nothing dirty. Even though the song PROBABLY has an underlying sexual meaning to it, she sounds more like the kindergarten teacher that you kind of have a crush on even though you don't know what a crush is.

I wish I could put mp3s of these songs up. But I only have it on vinyl.

I've been thinking of auctioning off my copy of the album. Thank God I bought another copy of this at a yard sale. WHY WOULD I EVER WANT TO GET OF IT? HOW COULD I LIVE?

Erin Boheme - What Love Is

What Love Is
Concord Jazz

With a stylish look that would fit in on American Idol, 19-year-old Erin Boheme bucks standard convention by avoiding the pop market in favor of an attempt at being a jazz singer. She has the voice for it and she had the good sense to not make her debut album the umpteenth interpretation of the Great American Songbook. In fact, six of the 11 tracks were co-written by Boheme. Yet, while What Love Is portrays a young singer with great potential, it also shows that she has yet to establish a strong identity.

Before the album was released, Boheme was already getting attention for “One Night With Frank.” In dreaming about Mr. Sinatra, the song references the titles of 19 of the Chairman’s signature hits, with the end results sounding corny and more like an attempt to gain approval from his audience. (It worked since she has his family’s blessing.) Her version of the Sammy Cahn-Gene DePaul standard “Teach Me Tonight” indicates Boheme could become a good torch singer, but Cole Porter’s subtly raunchy “Let’s Do It” falls short. She tries to sound low and husky, but it merely sounds affected and plays up her youth and inexperience. Someone should have told her that her pouty cue to saxophonist Tom Scott (“Would you play it, Tom?”) makes her sound like a bad lounge singer, a style she should avoid at all costs.

The inclusion of a Tracy Chapman cover and the original “Someone in Love” indicates Boheme might be hedging her bets, believing a crossover into the singer-songwriter camp might work if the jazz gig doesn’t pan out. But with stronger material, and perhaps fewer arrangements for strings, Boheme could become a jazz vocalist with her own style. In the meantime, she might want to take the advice of her song that ironically concludes the album: “Don’t Be Something You Ain’t.”

Andrew Hill - Time Lines

Time Lines
(Blue Note)

Alfred Lion, the founder of Blue Note Records, regarded pianist Andrew Hill as a creative voice in the same league as Thelonious Monk. The label signed Hill in the early 1960s and released several of his albums throughout that decade, but his work wasn’t funky enough for hard bop fans, nor was it “out” enough to merit a connection with the free jazz movement, so Hill was overlooked by all but the faithful. Time has a way of changing things. Today, the pianist’s work is highly regarded and his entire Blue Note output, including several sessions that sat in the vaults for decades, are all available.

Time Lines marks Hill’s third association with the label (following a brief return during the label’s rejuvenation in the late ‘80s). It features his working quartet — Hill, Greg Tardy (reeds), John Hebert (bass), Eric McPherson (drums) — along with trumpeter Charles Tolliver, who hasn’t played with Hill for over 30 years. The eight tracks prove that Hill still plays with a signature approach to melody and rhythm. Much of the music avoids a set tempo, relying instead on McPherson’s pulse that moves parallel to Hebert’s bass textures. Tardy alternates between tenor saxophone, clarinet and bass clarinet, giving each piece a different color.

Two compositions appear twice, but each provides a different look at the music rather than merely serving as alternate takes. The quintet opens the album with “Malachi” while Hill closes the album playing it alone. Dedicated to the late bassist Malachi Favors, of the Art Ensemble of Chicago, it pays homage and it simultaneously sounds uplifting as it unfolds. Two versions of “Ry Round” have slightly different sections and time signatures to fuel the improvisation. The theme of the title track appears to be based on a simple line of just a few notes, but the musicians develop that simple framework into a rich set of solos. In a few songs, Tolliver lapses into a similar pattern, shooting a burst of staccato notes, but he fit into the mood of the piece rather than sounding repetitive.

Nearly 70 years old, and recently diagnosed with lung cancer, Hill never let external factors impact the way he played music and albums like Time Lines prove that his commitment was worth the effort.

(This review was submitted to a local paper but since it hasn't run in the nearly 2 months since submission, I thought it would be a good start to my online reviews. More will come soon. By the way, I'm listening to Hank Mobley's self-titled album now. Not to be confused with his album called Hank.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

What I did this morning

This posting was written this morning. Half way through I got the flash notice that said "not able to find Blogspot" or something like that.

Anyway, read on....

Playing right now: Quasi - When the Going Gets Dark
Trying to decide if I should do one long entry, broken into several sections, or several separate entries. As you read this, of course the decision will have been made, but the thought process is still going on as I type.....
Last Thursday was Amoeba Knievel's show at Quiet Storm with Setting Sun. And Black Forest. We didn't know Black Forest was playing until we got there. Actually I checked my email right as I left work and there was a message from Gary from Setting Sun who mentioned them. I wasn't sure if they were a local band or a group that was touring with them. They were local. And in high school. And they were pretty good. Their originals sounded good, but they covered "The Wind Cries Mary" and "A Friend of the Devil" which sort of seemed to go against the rest of their material which was a little more in the indie rock/straight forward vein.
Setting Sun were awesome, just like last year when the Fearnots played with them. They're a trio from NY, actually from a borough just outside of Manhattan, but I forget where. Erica, their drummer, does this thing where she rocks back and forth while she's playing and sometimes she focusses her playing all on the snare drum, sometimes just playing with one hand and singing harmonies real loud. She's fun to watch. Gary is a great songwriter. And they had a new bass player this time out, Johnny.
But we were setting up to play, we were informed that we had 20 minutes to play. It was only 10:00. Now nobody told us that coming in. And at the same time, no one asked. There was a breakdown in communications with the band, when at the end of the night Tommy said he thought I had booked the show. He booked it. I merely put in a good word for us.
But wait, I'm getting ahead of myself......
So we planned to cut the set short as we went. We tore into the songs with reckless but focussed abandon. Great props from Tommy A. But the soundman decided at the end that it'd be okay if he didn't give us the "one more song" or hand-across-the-throat-cutoff gestures, and just turn off the p.a. So that was it.
But Setting Sun liked us.
Got up for the estate sales on Saturday. Found one in Sq. Hill that had a bunch of records w/out covers and a pile of covers, some with records. Among the batch I found an album by Pittsburgh pianist Walt Harper that I had to pick up in part because trombonist Nelson Harrison is on it. I met him when I used to go to the Crawford Grill and he's one of the coolest people you'd ever want to meet. Just a fountain of history and energy. The record's funny: there are versions of "Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In" and "Grazing in the Grass."
The big take at that sale was a handfull of 45s, which I usually don't look at. But this stack of promos looked as clean as the albums looked dirty.
2 copies of the Temptations' "Run Away Child Running Wild"
David Ruffin's "My Whole World Ended" (on red vinyl!!)
The Sundae Train, who looked curious and worth it and are on a label called B.T. Puppy Records. They kind of sound like the Cyrkle, but not as good
The Uniques' "You Don't MIss the Water." It was in a fancy sleeve with the label logo (Paula Records) on it. I looked them up and they include Joe Stampley, who became a country star.Beau Brummels: "Cherokee Girl"
Everly Brothers: "I'm On My Way Home Again"
Ray Bryant: "After Hours"/ Quizas Quizas Quizas". Bought this one mainly for the B-side, which Nat Cole did on his Cole Espanol album. Ray's version is a little funkier.
Eddie "Knock on Wood" Floyd: "I've Got to Have Your Love" on Stax. Let's just say "KNock on Wood" it ain't.

The other sales I went to weren't all that good. Or I went on the wrong day.


I FINALLY finished reading Blowin' Hot and Cool a book I had to review for JazzTimes. I thought I'd never get it read. But that's because I didn't budget my time as well as I should have. Plus I have this problem where I kept nodding off while reading it. maybe it was author John Gennari's problem and not mine. Sorry, John.


I have to weigh in on this: An original copy of Hank Mobley's Soul Station went for $1050 on eBay yesterday. That's right - no decimal point needed there. One grand + fifty. And the thing was, the bidding went to $1000 and stayed there for a day or two before the final escalation.


I don’t either. Maybe get a new roof. Go on vacation for a week.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m into finding original Mobley albums as much as the next guy, but I could never justify paying $100 for a 47th Street Blue Note record let alone one-thousand freakin bucks. Even if that IS supposed to be his best album. I’d like to meet the winner. Maybe I should do an interview with him here.

Blogger has told me twice that my connection was lost as I was writing so I’m now typing in a word document with the hopes of pasting it in when I’m done.

Have to get ready to do an interview for JazzTimes. And the shower beckons. Then work.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

We are not at the opera

Playing right now: Sunny Murray & Sabir Mateen - We Are Not At the Opera

Drum and sax (sometimes flute) duo. Sunny is the father of free jazz drumming. He played with Albert Ayler and Cecil Taylor with a style that I think he once described as "the sound of cracking glass." I saw him in 1998 in a duet with the alto sax man Sonny Simmons. The performance was notable not only for the music but for Sunny's 10 minute tirade that preceded the show. He hit the roof when he saw that the drum kit provided for him didn't fit the specs of the one requested in his contract. He ranted to the audience about all manner of stuff.

I'm going to start writing about music other than jazz soon. I was planning on posting some straight up and down CD reviews yesterday, my day off. But I just happened to look back at some old emails to see that the 5 disc reviews I owed JazzTimes were due that morning. So most of my day off was spent pounding out reviews. Not that it was bad. They were 200 words each, but I like to put some time into them and be able to walk away from them, come back and do some final tweaking before sending them off.

I managed to get a little bit of time out of the house, sitting in a coffee shop, reading and listening to music. (In case I haven't mentioned it yet, that's my ideal setting for a day off. It's also a past time I refer to as "being a beatnik.")

Went to Paul's yesterday and bought 4 used discs: the aforementioned Murray & Mateen disc, Sonic Youth's Sonic Nurse, Prince's 3121, and Quasi's When the Going Gets Dark.

The last disc was my breakfast listening. I would like to expound more on them too in the future. And maybe I will. Their last disc (Hot Shit) sounded pretty good at first, but the more I listened to it, the more bleak it sounded and the more it bummed me out. Sam Coomes has always been dour, but it started to sound forced, or that he was sustaining this mood out of obligation. In initial listen, the new one sounds pretty good. If it didn't make me cranky over breakfast, I have strong hopes.

Speaking of which, me head hurt a little this morning. I went to see the Hope-Harveys at Arsenal Lanes last night and the bartender was serving the drinks in big cups and making them strong to boot. I shouldn't've had that second one.

Came to the show right after Amoeba Knievel practice. That went well. We have a show on Thursday at the Quiet Storm. Anyone within the Pittsburgh city limits should come because we'll be playing with Setting Sun, a really great band from NY.


Sunday was the big slew of yard sales in Highland Park. They were handing out maps at a couple intersections. I circled the ones that mentioned records and went to them first.

Overall, the houses I visited didn't have much good junk. I mean, maybe it just wasn't what I would ever want but nothing floated my boat. An older couple had a slew of albums that were all either disco or bad '80s rock. And the entire Charlie Rich catalog. I found a Grace Jones' Portfolio album (it has "La Vie En Rose"!) and asked the lady if $1 was good. She looked at me gravely ("grave" + "Ly", not "gravel"+ "Ly") and said "No -- $3." I put it back, which was smart because my next stop was at an apartment complex where there was another batch of disco going for 50 cents per album. Not only did I find Portfolio I also got another album by Grace, Fame. What I listened to was pretty awful, though. Glad I didn't pay $3 for it.

The night before, I was telling Jennie that I was thinking of selling my copy of the Sugar Bears album. They were a bubblegum band built around the mascot of Sugar Crisp cereal, Sugar Bear. People born after 1980 probably only know him as Golden Bear or something like that because all the cereals took "sugar" out of their name in the '80s. Anyhow, Kim Carnes (pre-rasp) did the female vocals on this album. And I found my copy at a church flea market in 6th grade after listening to the Sugar Bears records that came on the back of cereal boxes way back when. So I'm thinking of selling it, when lo and behold I found another copy in a musty box of albums at a house sale. Should I sell both? Keep one? Which one?

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Not all estate sales yield gold.

Playing right now: Gerry Mulligan - Complete Pacific Jazz Quartet stuff

Quintessential beatnik music if you ask me. Man, a few hours ago I couldn't stay awake trying to listen to a record and now here I am online. Well the morning's treks to estate sales yielded a few interesting tales....and little else.

I think I'm now part of the early bird contingent. I'm not in with the early birds, but at each of the 3 estate sales I visited, I got there early and waited in line until they started. Now, okay, I may be one of those people, but I'm not one of those people. For instance, I wouldn't light up a cigarette (if I smoked) while waiting in line in your front yard. Maybe a decade or so ago, that was no big deal, but the guy behind me was doing that today and it just seemed a little inconsiderate. Where did he put the butt when he was done?! Probably on the ground. Nice fella. Hey pal, mind if I ditch this empty coffee cup in YOUR yard? Dude, it's biodegradeable. Chill, man.

Also, if I'm waiting in line and you come around the back to put your garbage cans out at the curb, I won't badger you about where to enter the house and get snotty when I don't like your answer.

OK, time to switch voices and tell you what happened. See, we're waiting in line, a few of us having come from another uneventful estate sale a few blocks away. This one where we're waiting was on a fancy part of Beechwood Blvd. This guy comes around the back with the cans like I said. And a guy in line asks if we're at the right door. In his defense (which I'll retract in a minute), one of the signs on the streets said the sale started at 8, and it was about 8:15 by this time so we could've been in the wrong place. But the paper listed 8:30, the correct time.

Owner says the auctioneer who's running the sale will be there soon. Guy in line: "So this is a pro sale?" Owner doesn't understand what he means. Guy gets impatient -- you know a professional sale. Owner kind of stumbles over his words but explains, yeah it's an auctioneer but it's not an auction.

Well I guess the guy in line didn't like the answers and mumbled something about the owner "not speaking English" so he left. It was ridiculous. You get here early, wait in line and when the guy doesn't speak clearly and doesn't get your lingo, it's suddenly not worth it. That just leaves more stuff for us.

Not that he missed anything. The auctioneer guy was a smarmy so-and-so who tried to hoodwink me with the records I picked up. I found a David Thomas (Pere Ubu) album, a single by Young Lust (old Pgh band) and a bunch of flexidiscs from Trouser Press magazine. I asked if he'd take $3.

He wanted $15.

AND he tried to convince me that since the Young Lust record had "special edition" written on it, that it was real valuable. "There's about $70 worth of stuff here." If that wasn't enough of an insult, he tried to convince me that Jerry's Records would sell that single alone for $15. "I know Jerry. He give me low prices and then mark it up at the store."

Yeah, you know Jerry. I can tell by your lack of knowledge here. But as a good auctioneer, he talked all over me and twisted his words around to try to reinforce his point. There was no use trying to get my point across. I left the records there.

Ironically the owner of the house played in local punk band years ago and was a nice guy. We talked a little when he saw me carting the records around. I hope he saw them laying on the table after I left, realized the auctioneer was alienating people and got annoyed at the him.

Today was the first day I came home empty handed from estate sales.

But it didn't matter because when I looked on the porch this morning before I left, the Andrew Hill album I won (Andrew!!) was sitting there. I listened to it over breakfast and was almost late for work.