[Jandek] yet another Fort Worth commentary
django5722 at yahoo.com
Sun Jul 22 17:48:31 PDT 2007
The Rose Marine Theater is a nice 200-or-so seat older theatre just north of the Fort Worth
Stockyards. Anyone already on this list knows the line-up for this concert--Texas musicians
who might be described as "experimental, improvising roots musicians" for the most part.
I really admire Jandek throwing himself into wildly different musical situations at his concerts
and seeing what happens. For this "Fort Worth Hoedown", some of the lyrics and even the vocal mannerisms (the yodel was a hoot!) echoed elements of both classic country and classic blues songs, but filtered through the Jandekian consciousness. My son and I were right in front of our man, in row one, and it was great to see him animated by the rhythms of the band members. It was fascinating as he moved his body in waves with the musicians. I was nowhere near the front at the SXSW Austin performance, so I couldn't see how he was getting into the thick guitar-and-harmonium soup delivered up there--this was a much more intimate show. Truly, there was not a bad seat in the house. It was also clear how much fun our man was having. 95% or more of the lyrics were clearly audible, and some of the pieces were quite witty.
I liked how the band members gave each other dominant roles in different pieces, so
on one song the steel guitar would be providing the seed from which the band would pull
together a groove, another song the bassist (and was that a guitarron he had on one song?)
would provide the seed, etc. Considering Jandek's obvious passion for early Dylan, it's funny that at times this band reminded me at of an avant-garde version of some of the bands Dylan has been fronting in the post- 2000 version of his Never Ending Tour (with TWO Larry Campbells instead of one!).
If anyone's ghost was present at this show, it was actually the late British guitar innovator Derek Bailey's--at times, both the steel guitarist (who was awesome and whose own recordings I need to get NOW) and the fiddle player (ex-Bad Livers) when he was plucking at a small wooden square that I assumed was some kind of dulcimer, but which the blog review labels as an amplified kalimba, got off metallic daggers of electro blast and rough percussive slices of sound that sounded Bailey-esque.
When Jandek was tapping his foot and not actually playing or singing, I was reminded for
ten seconds here and five seconds there of the bubbling, percolating sound of the old
MUSIC IMPROVISATION COMPANY album with Bailey and Hugh Davies.
Yet a minute later there would be a beautiful lonesome aching steel guitar passage
or fiddle passage full of country soul (and keeping with the Fort Worth base here, another ghost that may have been present was electric guitar pioneer Bob Dunn, of Milton Brown's 1930s western swing band, some of whose playing was quite "out" and who I imagined smiling during some of steel guitarist Susan Alcorn's sequences).
Yes, the endings to the pieces were a bit tentative, but that often happens in an improvising situation where the musicians do not have a lot of experience playing together. In a way,
playing with Jandek must be on some level like backing Lightnin' Hopkins or John Lee Hooker or Uncle Dave Macon--someone who has his own sense of tempo and structure.
Bands provide a kind of pillow of sound that cushions the leader in whatever direction he chooses to go. However, there is a give and take between leader and band in the Jandek
shows I have seen and listened to on CD or watched on DVD. It's not like the Lightnin' Hopkins albums where the bassist and drummer create a vaguely defined backdrop and "don't get in Lightnin's way." This is group improvising and spontaneous creation of the highest order.
Imagine NEW YORK EYE AND EAR CONTROL, with Jandek in the Albert Ayler role.
Or an American avant-roots version of ASCENSION.
If any proof was ever needed of the high esteem in which Jandek is held by his fellow creative artists, one need only look at the incredibly high quality of the band members
he attracts whenever he chooses to play a gig in a certain town. It's often a who's who of
post-modern improvising music.
Can't wait for a FORT WORTH SATURDAY cd or, better yet, dvd. Definitely a night to remember!!!
San Antonio, TX
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