A Great Big Clipper Ship (June 13-16, 2018, Mt. Rainier/Seattle/Victoria BC)

13th: Reluctantly left Portland for Mt. Rainier State Park. Thrilling, and for the traveler we do recommend an annual parks pass!

Ain’t no quick way from that park to Seattle, so we jammed Local Boy Jimi all the way in, and it was a balm. I included this neat item in the playlist–you have to lean forward a bit:

Seattle: so many great things to do, but for us the greatest thing is boon companions. Jill (who offered us a bed): smart, hilarious, endlessly boisterous, and a heart as big as an ocean; Rex, our fellow Missourian who was also visiting: ace poem picker, situation-parser, spokesman for the public; Beth, my best friend since we were 18 at the University of Arkansas: a perfectly dangerous big-sister type with a subversive sense of humor and a heart as big as the ocean Jill’s heart is as big as; and Angela and Frank, whose amazing kiddo Cecilia is our kinda-godkid: joined in unholy matrimony, in amazing parenting, and staying young as their relationship grows older (no sin, no easy road). We all know each other well, to some extent accidentally, and when we converge the laughter peals, the suggestions alarm, the drink overtops the sandbars, pizza is the only necessary fuel, and the music ain’t no didgeridoo solo! Here’s a pic from shortly after our arrival:

Deep into the night, we plotted and planned, punched free selections into Jill’s ’70s-dominated jukebox (in her living room!), and tried to solve the world’s problems.

Yeah, that was just the 13th.

14th: Road trip! A 12-hour one! It’s easy when Jill’s got her van rocking out to classic garage rock!

Out to Deception Pass (it’s historic, but that name doesn’t bode well) for hiking, low-tide discoveries, arguments about didgeridoos (Nicole: “Didgeridon’t–unless you’re an aboriginal musician!”), facing up to fear of heights on the bridge over Dire Straits (yeah–it’s real), and miscommunicating over our splintered wanderings.

On the way back to Seattle, we waited hours at The Shrimp Shack for Dungenness Crab Burgers that were worth it, visited Ebey’s Beach and resurrected the didgeridoo theme thanks to Rex’s discovery (see video below), and got harassed by The Vanloads of Christian Athletes while waiting for the ferry. Arriving back at Jill’s, we honky-tonked into the night though I was out on my feet.

15th: You’d think we’d have to recover, but we were down at Pike’s Place Market with Frank and Angela, eating the best macaroons ever created at Le Panier, hoofing it over to meet the rest of the bunch at the Museum of Pop Culture–

–brunch Bloodies and great Hendrix and Nirvana exhibits–plus a fun “scream recording” in the horror exhibit that Nicole, Beth, and I tried), railing it to Chinatown for Dragonfest, King Noodle, and orgasmic origami, hopping in Jill’s van again for a foray to Hendrix’s grave–

–and to one of the best dive bars I’ve ever bellied up to, Darrell’s:

Along the way, Rex, Nicole, Beth, Jill and I envisioned a Seattle “underground history tourism” service that would have made Larry Flynt blanch. Dry eyes were not to be found. Much thanks to Darrell’s jukebox for this:

We continued some beer-drankin’ at Jill’s after, but the dawn would beckon Nicole and me at 5 the next morning…

16th: We took the Victoria Clipper over to Victoria BC–my first-ever trip outside the U.S.

We immediately took a bus out to Butchart Gardens and beheld much flowery glory–sorry, not too rock and roll, but it was indeed glorious.

I’m sipping a Molson’s in our room at the Victoria Regent, knowing what it sounds like when gulls cry. Tomorrow: a music injection from Turntable or Ditch’s? Or a lit re-up from Munro’s Books? We shall see. Off to Ferris’ Upstairs Seafood and Oysters…

O My Stars (June 11th-June 13th, 2018, Portland, Oregon)

Began Wednesday morning with a drive out to Multnomah Falls, east of Portland. Ravishing. Plus we got in some good climbing. We also drove down to the banks of the Columbia River to appreciate that behemoth more thoroughly. By the way, we’ve been listening to Season 2 of the In the Dark podcast, the gripping quality of such does make time fly when you’re in the car. The host drives me bats, though.

Once back in Portland, we drove through the downtown chaos, dined at the terrific Thai Peacock (hella dranks, too), then arrived at the shrine: Powell’s City of Books! My word–it is the book nerd’s Mecca. Of course, there is shopping porn:

Then, we headed out to Forest Park and St. John’s Bridge to explore (vehicularly, only) some of the terrain in Peter Rock’s great novel My Abandonmemt:

What about the music, you say? Well, some dude from Sunny Day Real Estate played about 25 feet from our hotel room (Doug Fir is the venue–seems connected to The Jupiter), but we looked askance and chilled in the evening to a cavalcade of hardcore honky tonk.

However, Thursday morning, driving west to Cannon Beach (my first ever view of the Pacific), we cranked up a “First Nations” playlist featuring the mightily missed John Trudell, the underrated A Tribe Called Red, the unmistakable Tanya Tagaq (Nicole survived four of her songs!), Martha Redbone, and assorted others.

I strongly suggest you visit Cannon Beach and The Haystacks. Also, Thomas is a cool server from Festus, Missouri, who works at Pelican Brewery: he’ll have great advice and knows his beers!

Later in the evening, speaking of My Abandonment, we visited Cinema 21 on 21st Street to take in Deb Granik’s film that was inspired by that book, Leave No Trace.

The film was shot in and around Portland, so it was neat to watch it with a local audience. It’s strong–Granik also directed Winter’s Bone, and she clearly has a gift for locations and directing young women. Surprise musical cameo appearance by Ol’ Snock (not this song, though):

Today: Mt. Rainier–and dear friends in Seattle!

In the Open (Sunday, June 8th – Wednesday June 11th, 2018, Missouri to Oregon)

Starting about 5 in the morning Sunday, we’ve been on the road to Seattle to visit some fond friends. We’ve crossed Kansas, landed in Denver (they have candy!), cut up through Wyoming to Yellowstone, cut across a corner of Montana then down and over through Idaho (no easy way to Portland!), and finally, here at rest in the funky Jupiter Hotel on Burnside in Rip City. Just walked over the bridge to Voodoo Doughnuts (they’ve put out two live Dead Moon albums, at least), beheld the city’s grappling with the teeming homeless and mentally unsound population, and are prepping for a nature outing and a Powell’s visit. Yesterday was a 14.5-hour drive, we got in at 10 and hit the bar, now it is go time!

We have “read” two books thus far on the trip: Tommy Orange’s promising, scathing There There* and the late Anthony Bourdain’s wild and eye-opening Kitchen Confidential (it took his death to finally motivate us to read it, sadly). Thus, little music so far. But…some:

We kicked off the trip with the above Freddie King masterwork.

Later, I forgot how great this song was:

In a Denver hotel after enjoying candy apple suckers from Totally Heavenly Candy out on the streets–

–we grooved lazily to Lady:

Driving up through Tetons Park to Yellowstone–

–we were reminded again of the ever-rewarding joys of Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys’ Tiffany Transcriptions (special attention to doomed guitarist Junior Bernard and magic fiddler Joe Holley):

Two old faithfuls confronted THE Old Faithful and felt joy of their own–

Then we struggled to escape Yellowstone–

–and get some momentum behind us, behind the music of a friend from Eng-uh-land (with help from his and our friend from Columbus, Ohio):

Couldn’t get these songs out of my head cutting across Oregon:

I may be back tomorry, or it may be awhile! If I’m livin’ right, it may be awhile, with Seattle and Victoria BC in the offing!

*One of the key characters in Orange’s book has a therapeutic relationship with MF Doom’s music. The page on which that’s captured is pretty insightful.

Pair of Threes (July 7th, 2018, Columbia, MO)

Pair of three from Louisiana this morning:

The great Bechet’s intense vibrato and thrilling, surprising upward swings on soprano sound almost avant-garde to my ear. He played pretty masterfully from the beginning of his career to the end; today, I concentrated on his Blue Note recordings (mostly 1940s sides), a reliable place to start for a beginner.

Louisiana’s most ferociously skilled and (one of its) longest-lasting Cajun groups knocked it out of the part with the fairly recent Carencro. Besides their usual solid originals en Francais, they take James Brown, John Coltrane, and Fred McDowell to the swamp. Never underestimate the Brothers Doucet–they can play any damn thing and swing you.

It’s hard to imagine any trumpeter getting within spitting distance of Louis Armstrong’s shining sound, vivacity, and invention–even in the Crescent City. Red Allen of Algiers was one of a few, however, who could, and he wasn’t a bad singer, either. These days, he’s overshadowed, but he enjoyed a solid career into the early ’60s. Here’s where it starts.

Pair of three kinda-sorta “outside” jazz albums this afternoon:

Nicole and I have been fortunate to see one of the great jazz father-and-son teams in person, though not playing together as they do here. Stereo-separated for aural convenience, the two Chicago tenors converse and “reason” (as a Rasta might say), Papa Von sounding just like an eccentric but leagues-wise elder in the left channel, sonny boy Chico in the right blowing open the barn doors like the young turk he was at the time–but able to shut and lock them tight with skill, finesse, and economy, too. Rhythm section’s crack as well.

I went through a Blythe binge not long ago when he passed from this life; I’m back on another thanks to reading of his Watts exploits in service to Horace Tapscott’s Arkestra in the excellent The Dark Tree. The above track is the only one on the abso-fab Lenox Avenue Breakdown during which guitarist James Blood Ulmer’s turned loose–it’s also the only track that’s fully out–but Black Arthur’s piercing, driving, yet lyrical alto remains the main attraction.

Hill’s another player who crossed paths with, and likely was encouraged, if not influenced, by Tapscott. This record’s challenging, even jittery (if that makes sense), the leader and band are in top form, and here’s one of very few chances to hear (Sun Ra) Arkestra star John Gilmore blow his horn in another context.

Hooked (July 6th, 2018, Columbia, MO)

John Lee Hooker. 1948-1951. Stripped down. Foot poundin’. Guitar plonking out a trance-line, then exploding into foreign, menacing noise. Whether they’re lines straight out of his head or he’s repurposing something he’s just heard on the radio, he stamps ’em with his late-night lonely moanin’ sound. Across these tracks, he already sounds old as the Mississippi–his recording career was just getting started, but he was already in his thirties.

Four discs, 100 tracks, played consecutively today and not a bored moment in my ear or brain, and that’s considering the man had three-four structural and rhythmic moves that he preferred to use repeatedly.

To cease with the waxin’ not particularly poetical, if you do happen to be looking for a way in to the world of John Lee Hooker, and you’re into buying material goods, the above set from JSP–the notes aren’t great, but the sound is stellar–will run you around $10 and it’s loaded with goodies: the original and often superior versions of Hooker masterpieces like “Crawling King Snake,” “Boogie Chillen,” “Sally Mae,” “Burnin’ Hell,” “Hobo Blues,” “House Rent Boogie,” and “I’m in the Mood,” plus great rarities like “No Mortgage on My Soul,” “Streets is Filled with Women,” and “Stomp Boogie.” The format is usually John Lee alone, and his stomping foot is miked up high. Maybe you don’t need all four discs, but every American home ought to contain a selection from this period of the artist’s life. On that note, enjoy the video (from about 15 years later):

Note: Living to Listen is hittin’ the fuckin’ road for 16 days starting just before dawn tomorrow. I may not be posting daily, but then again, last time I tried to stop I couldn’t. We’ll be traveling close to 5,000 miles by jalopy, so it might be reports from the road-trip playlist. But we’re listening to books, too, so it may not. Stay tuned!

Tapscott Trio (July 5th, 2018, Columbia, MO)

Up to my ears in a project today, so not much to say other than my continued exploration of Horace Tapscott’s (and UGMAA’s–the Underground Musicians and Artists Association) music continues to bring me great pleasure.

Tapscott plays great on this live recording, as does bassist Robert Miranda, but percussionist Sonship Theus is the star, sustaining an almost ritualistic tension for the better part of the set. Thing about Tapscott: his comrades are purt-near always ready, willing, and able to wreck shop.

Tapscott isn’t present on alto saxophonist/ flautist Dadisi Komolafe’s Hassan’s Walk, but Komolafe is one of the most aggressive players to emerge from UGMMA, and the rhythm section is the same as above, and equally impressive. Though Komolafe does fine on Monk and Shorter covers, his own title tune lets him step all the way out, and the tone he establishes on the traditional “Calvary” lives up to the song’s title.

Yep, this one is Black Panther-commissioned and Black Panther-sung, but the band arrangements and the group piano is Tapscott–enough to get him an FBI file.

Short-shrift Division:

I can only go with an album trailer here, but the energy and repetitions are so intense and even wild that, though it would drive most sane folks insane, it just might be my favorite jazz record of 2018. If you know Roscoe Mitchell’s Nonaah, imagine it ablaze.

Buzz Me, Baby (July 4th, 2018, Columbia, MO)

In the great George Jones documentary Still the Same Old Me, Johnny Cash, near tears, recalls raising a toast with Nick Lowe to The Possum: “To the best damn country singer in the world.” I get that feeling when I listen to Louis Jordan, as I did today while making tamales with Nicole. Jordan wasn’t exactly the best at anything, but his sly singing, ripping alto playing, sharp bandleading, and sterling songwriting and -picking touched almost everybody within earshot who was anybody in the next generation–by their own admission. Ray Charles (think of his boisterous version of Jordan’s “Let the Good Times Roll”), Sonny Rollins (think of Newk’s grabbing tone and mischievous wit), Bo Diddley (think of his “Say Man” series), and Leiber and Stoller (can you really imagine The Coasters’ 45 RPM comic slices of black life without Louis’ example?)–they were all touched. Further support for Jordan as a holy conduit from swing to rock and roll is that all roads to the matchless American landscape that flowed from Chuck Berry’s mind must travel through songs like “Ain’t Nobody Here But Us Chickens,” and that’s not even to mention Tympani 5 guitarist Carl Hogan’s riffwise influence on Berry. In short, this was patriotic listening today, and it wasn’t even that facile, as Louis still had a little toe inside the minstrel tent (listen to “What’s the Use of Getting Sober?”). He tears me up ’cause he had a vision that was fruitful beyond his own realization.

Short-shrift Division:

As long as Strut Records keeps sending me their subscription-only reissues, I’m gonna rep ’em. Vox kinda corny, rhythms and guitar not AT ALL.

Aaron’s never been better than on these gospel classics, sharpened and deepened by Joe Henry’s production and studio aces, augmented by none other than Allen Toussaint’s subtle, elegant touch.

For the house 4th of July activity, we watched one of the great rock and roll movies of all-time: Luis Buñuel’s The Exterminating Angel. If you haven’t ever, you might do it now for resonance’s sake: