Friday, July 16, 2010

A Fug and an Organ Man

Playing right now: Lee Konitz New Quartet - Live at the Village Vanguard (Enja)

There's a lot to report from the last week, but right at the moment time doesn't allow, so I'll cut to the chase - two more deaths of unique individuals.

First on Tuesday came news that Tuli Kupferberg of the Fugs passed away a day earlier. He considered himself "the world's oldest rock star," since he was well into his 40s by the time he started the Fugs. He had already established himself as a poet and Lower East Side fixture by then, a role he continued probably until his last days. He had the demeanor of both a bohemian wild cat and a warm Jewish grandfather, of which he was probably both.

I met Tuli in 1989 at the CMJ Music Marathon. He was in the audience at a panel discussion where Kramer was one of the panelists. Shimmy-Disc was getting ready to put out Tuli's first album in decades. He offered me some simple but effective advice about continuing to publish a fanzine - which could probably be boiled down to "write what you feel - don't fight the feeling - keep doing it." He looked a little scruffy, but upstairs he had it all together.

I deeply regret not having seen Gene Ludwig play more often. He was truly a master of the B-3. He had a deep, deep sense of swing and knew how to make that 400-pound beast move as lightly as an alto. Maybe it's time to stock up on Gene Ludwig albums in the collection.

The Post-Gazette obit said that he flipped a coin to decide whether he was going to be a full-time musician or a civil engineer. Guess which one out. And think - as I always like to point out - where we'd be if he had gone with civil engineering. One person's decision can affect a lot more people than they realize, directly or indirectly.

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