Saturday, September 09, 2006

gig 022 - 1st Anniversary House Band #9

1st anniversary gig at Café Pazzazz
where i've played maybe 20-30 times in the past 12 months
and which was just renovated to hold 75 people

(Café Pazzazz is a cozy and friendly bar in the exquistely charming and cool village of Val-David, Quebec, in the Laurentian mountains about an hour north of Montreal, Quebec, where I have been living for the past 20 months. As of this post I have moved to Ottawa.)

it was an all-star cast of first-class musicians
(for example, I learned last night from our pianist Gary that he was the drummer in the house trio at the legendary Rockhead's Paradise in Montreal's Little Bugundy for 6 years (!) in the early 70s, when cats like George Benson were known to stop by and sit in when in town, and where his bandmates were the inestimable, original and angular jazz guitarist Nelson Symonds and his ancient cohort Nick Aldrich on bass. Nick had played with Cab Calloway back in the 30s and was kind of a freak of nature because he could play jazz walking bass while fast asleep, and frequently did so onstage. It was amazing to hear Gary had been so tight with those cats because they were my heroes growing up, and had really turned me on to the jazz life by regularly letting me hang and play with them all nite long when i was just 15 or 16)

HOUSE BAND #9 - Anniversary Edition
Tom Sokolow – drums
David Gauthier - electric guitar
Richard St-Aubin - acoustic guitar
Francis Myrand - electric bass
Gary Lindner - keys
Felix Leroux - percussion
Guy Seguin - tenor sax
me - tenor sax

3 sets
9:30 pm-1 am
100 or so people crammed in
Val-David's usual assortment of fun-loving freaks

much fun
all the tables pushed to the side and everyone dancing
but exhausting
very exhausting after the drive from ottawa
where we moved this week
and especially with all those amplified instruments next to me
(no mic for me - it's brutal to have to blow so damn hard all night long!)

so what with the move to ottawa this may be my last gig in Val-David for a while
in fact i think i'm going to sign off on this gigblog for now
it's been a blast
and maybe now it's ready for publishing...


Number of gigs: 22 gigs in about 6 months
Venues: 7 venues in 3 cities – New York (gig 009), Toronto (gig 021), Montreal (gigs 011 and 013)
and 4 towns in the Laurentians - Val-David, Val-Morin (gig 002), Ste-Agathe des Monts (gig 015), Saint-Sauveur (gig 014)
Audiences of more than 1,000: 3 (gigs 017, 015, 008)
Audiences of less than 25: 3 (gigs 002, 009, 021)
Best paycheque: $1,000
Worst paycheque: $0 (twice)
Different bands: 12
Poetry gigs: 5 (gigs 001, 009, 011, 013, 021)
Solo gigs: 2 (gigs 013 and 011)
Gigs recorded: 4 (021, 017, 008, 003
MP3s on this blog: 2 (gigs 017 and 003)
Gigs with risk factor of 9 or higher: 4 (gigs 021, 017, 014, 001)
Gigs with riff factor of 9 or higher (i.e. 100% improvised): 14


and for this last entry:

Risk Factor: 5
Riff Factor: 10
Wild Card: living in exile
Cash Factor: 7
Parking Lot: cars parked 3 deep beneath a full harvest moon
Joy: superabundant grooving all around
After gig snack at 2 am: Tim Horton's soup and sandwich combo

Saturday, August 19, 2006

gig 021 – w/The John Waynes

Thursday August 17, 2006
The Red Guitar Art House and Café

John Sobol – vocals
Wayne Kelso – keyboards

15 people
2 x 45 minute sets
6$ cover
100% improvised

quality recording made
mp3s to be uploaded here shortly

Well this was a challenging experiment
Wayne and I have never done our thing in public before
and only ever played together twice before at all
and since we are playing totally free
and especially since I am riffing entire sets of poetry
true freestyling
well it was something I looked forward to with both anticipation and concern

the fact is that even tho I have improvised as a poet onstage many many times
I've never set out to do 90 mintues of it in front of an audience
especially without falling back on any tried and true repertoire
or on my horn playing
just 100% out and out extemporization all night long
daunting to say the least

but being rather daft I gave it a shot and all things considered it went very well
having Wayne – a tremendously humble, responive and propulsive musician – beside me, made a huge difference

the miniscule turnout was not that surprising but did have a substantial impact on the poetry
since it was mostly family
let's just say I prefer playing for rowdier audiences who know me less well
i ended up staying in a fairly mellow mode
spinning yarns
mildly fantastic
sometimes mundane
reveries about childhood in brooklyn
about the urban igloo in the egg factory
about Buddha's dreams
about coral spores
about the bartender blues
and a whole lot else I can't recall
and won't until I get to hear the recordings

Feedback was useful from family and from Paul Dutton, who was there:

1) break up the narrative linearity more often
2) sing more
3) give the audience more context
4) give your riffs titles in the moment
5) give evenings themes to help audience members situate themselves
6) repeat myself more again to help audience find themselves
7) play my horn
8) have more of an edge
9) be more physical

I was pleased to get all this feedback
especially since these are all things I already know and do regularly
but just chose not to do during this gig
due to the already demanding circumstances of simply seeing if I could successfully riff for 90 minutes

which I now know i can
so next time I'll keep those other possibilties in mind
and as I also told people
this kind of work is so responsive to external energy and cues
that in the quiet cafe confines it's not surpring that my work was chilled out
a drunken rowdy bar or a big outdoor festival produces different kinds of riffs, no doubt

after Wayne and I concluded
Eric St.Laurent took the stage with a cellist (Shelly Lo? something like that)
Eric was the guitarist on my 1990 CD Blue History
tho he's been living in Berlin for over a decade
this was the first time I'd seen him in probably 15 years
we jammed (me on sax this time) and that was fun
even tho i was seriously bagged by that point
Eric is a very funny very funky dude
Wayne came and jammed too and really got into some cool grooves with the cellist
Wayne's a remarkably powerful and subtle player
and a great collaborator

very very well treated by sister Corry, proprietor of the Red Guitar

looking forward to the next iteration of The John Waynes


Risk Factor: 11
Riff Factor: 11
Success Factor: decent
Wild Card: family
Cash Factor: 1
Parking Lot: Left the van overnight and didn't get a ticket or towed!
Joy: 4
Obliteration: 7
Travel: 7 hours each way
Sacrifice: Gave up a high-end 3-date tour in Florida for this - i must be mad

Monday, July 31, 2006

gig 020 – House Band #9

Saturday July 29, 2006
Cafe Pazzazz, Val-David
9:30 pm-12:30am

John Sobol – sax
Tom Sokolow – drums/batterie
David Gauthier - electric guitar
François Myrand – basse
Richard St-Aubin – acoustic guitar

3 sets
no cover charge
75 people

usual musical mayhem
with one slight difference
this time we were forced to play quiet all night
due to complaints by neighbours
which was in fact fine
as i rarely use a mic there and it can get ptetty loud
so we chilled
relatively speaking of course
still a lot of intensity
just quieter than usual

i was sick
almost bailed on the gig
but the show must go on
and the gigblog too...

20th gig since I started this gigblog in february
plus I had a about 10 gigs in January
so about 30 gigs in the first 7 months of 2006
1 a week on average
so it goes...


Risk Factor: 2
Riff Factor: 8
Volume: 5
Wild Card: shhhhhhhh
Cash Factor: 7
Parking Lot: a busy night in Val-David

Saturday, July 22, 2006

gig 019 - House Band #9

Friday July 21, 2006
Cafe Pazzazz, Val-David

John Sobol – sax
Tom Sokolow – drums/batterie
David Gauthier - electric guitar
François Myrand – basse
Richard St-Aubin – acoustic guitar
Felix Leroux – percussion

Probably 75 people jammed into the little club in Val-David
renovations are under way to expand significantly tho so we'll be playing to bigger houses soon
a great night as always
we started late because at the 1001 Pots festival across rue de l'Eglise they were showing a Japanese film about ceramics and sex outside under the stars
i missed it but it sounded good...
highlights of our night included our finale
"With Or Without You"
another inspired off-the-cuff song selection by our special guest guitairist david gauthier
(last time he played with us his finale suggestion was Coltrane's Africa - which was a real blast)
we ended up doing a dub version of the U2 song that I turned into an evening outro by adding
"Everything's gonna be all right" riffs on sax and then on the mic
wrapping things up nicely
getting an encore even
after 3 sets
which we dutifully did

as always some pretty wired people in the crowd
it's nice to get the deep appreciation that people show
nice to feel the love
but sometimes it comes in from some pretty weird angles
and with some bizarre baggage
still, you learn to take it as it comes

Risk Factor: 3
Riff Factor: 9.9
Wild Card: A super-intense Vincent Van Gogh look-alike telling me about his pit-bull-skin jacket (?!) and how our show was a tonic against the bad-vibe inflicted by having been passed by a swarm of Hells Angels on the way to the club (yeow!@)
Cash Factor: 7
Parking Lot: sex and ceramics
Joy: 10
Obliteration: 9
Jays vs. Yankees: Jays win 7-3

Friday, July 21, 2006

gig 018 – House Band #9

Friday July 14, 2006
Cafe Pazzazz, Val-David

John Sobol – sax
Tom Sokolow – drums/batterie
Gary Lindner - piano
François Myrand – basse
Richard St-Aubin – acoustic guitar

Another merry night of musical mayhem
gary is not only a killer drummer but a monster keyboard player too
and tom is just a nutcase on drums
i love his unpredictable totally madcap playing
as usual an excellent night


Risk Factor: 3
Riff Factor: 9.9
Success Factor: kowabunga
Wild Card: I often space out when I'm playing a solo but I've been trying to keep my eyes open more --- well, tonight i spaced out with my eyes open and noticed at one point that without realizing it i had been staring directly into an audience member's crotch for about five minutes while soloing - i didn't really care but i don't know how he felt - another strange onstage moment
Cash Factor: 6
Parking Lot: 1001 pots
Joy: 7
Obliteration: 7

Sunday, July 02, 2006

gig 017 - w/Born to Run @ Mohegan Sun

June 30, 2006
The Wolf's Den
Mohegan Sun, Connecticut

CLASSIC ALBUMS LIVE presents Bruce Springsteen's Born To Run
"Cut for cut and note for note"

John Sobol – tenor sax
Craig Martin – lead vox
Steve Butler - drums
Nick Hildyard - piano and vox
Jeff Pearce - bass
Marcus Garrison - keys
Stephen Bahnesli - guitar

7pm and 10pm sets
hard to gauge attendance
the club was not as packed as usual
but there were probably several thousand people listening
in the vast surrounding casino
which remains one of the most over-the-top joints you could ever hope to encounter

This was a great gig
a great band
a great album
and great fun

we definitely rocked it HARD
Craig sang Bruce much better than I thought he'd be able to pull off
buttles remains the most rocksolid drummer around
nicky as always a musical powerhouse
jeff and marcus and stephen all nailing their parts beautifully
all in all a blast

check out the posts on our message board

as for me
i had the immense challenge of blowing Clarence Clemons' parts
'the big man' blows like a muthaf***ka and i had to learn to do the same for this gig
he has pretty much the biggest baddest sound around
and tremendous musicality too
it was awesome to study this master of the screaming sax
steeped in the stomping wailing honkytonk r'n'b horn idiom that is so rarely heard these days
tho updated and with a ferocious edge
apart from the sheer power (like Clarence I can now blow down tall trees with my horn)
the greatest lesson was to learn to manhandle my horn WITH MY MOUTH
this goes against everything most sax players are taught
(not that i ever went to music school or anything)
but it took me a long time to realize that for Clarence the music is in the mouth not in the fingers
he shapes every note with huge bends, growls, slurs, spins, slpas and cries that constitute an incredibly rich narrative vocabulary
and NOBODY plays their horn that way these days
but now I do
big up to the big man!
thank YOU!

Here's us doing the epic song Jungleland

I can't wait for us to do this show again somewhere...


Risk Factor: 11 (JUNGELAND is terrifying)
Riff Factor: 1 ('note for note' baby)
Props: Standing Os and booty shaking in the aisles
Wild Card: dead guy stretched out in the lobby
Cash Factor: 11!
Parking Lot: dead battery
Joy: 10
Obliteration: 9 (post-gig only tho)
Travel: burning rubber 450 miles each way

Sunday, June 25, 2006

gig 016 – w/House Band #9 (special edition)

Samedi 24 Juin
Cafe Pazzazz
10:45pm – 1:00am
50 wildly inflamed people
our groove band unexpectedly playing Coltrane's "Africa"
like a herd of elephants trumpeting
on the evening-ending suggestion of excellent guest electric guitarist David Gauthier
what a scream!
guest drummer tom sokolow absolutely killing elvin-like in back
second gig of the night
gotta be up the next morning at 4:45am
to leave to go rehearse in Toronto
happy st. jean!


Risk Factor: 2
Riff Factor: 11
Success Factor: saintsblood
Wild Card: predictably high-octane national bender
Cash Factor: 7
Parking Lot: a black mecedes on packed earth leaking roaches
Joy: 10
Obliteration: 8
Conjuring: Ace of Spades

gig 015 – w/Nouzote a la Fete de la St. Jean

Vendredi 24 Juin, 2006
Sur la plage a Sainte-Agathe
2,000 personnes
first gig of the night

the band was Nouzote
an absolutely smoking Quebecois quartet
playing original chansons with a funk/gitane edge
folk uzeb maghreb fiori
several albums out
a lot of cred and killer chops
skilled professional musicians
playing tunes they knew inside out
with a fat fat sound and good gear
and after 8 years this was almost their last gig
they've already broken up as I write this a few days later
as planned
to pursue other personal paths
so it was a rich fabric in which to weave some magic
sitting in on a few tunes
quickly reviewed at sound check in the tent behind the stage
(tho felix the superb frontman initially had his guitar tuned down a half step, which fucked me up for a while as he forgot to tell me)
then blew my best at the gig
with many friends and fans in attendance
and of course family
louis sophie and annie all being happily present
a great time
really cool cats
very welcoming
out on this fabulous beach under the stars and trees
beer sold openly and consumed widely
dozens of kids running around
hundreds of teenagers
thousands altogether
good fireworks after our set
big smiles all around
happy st.jean


Risk Factor: 7
Riff Factor: 9
Success Factor: rock n roll for the whole family
Cash Factor: 7
Parking Lot: police boats offshore
Joy: 8
Obliteration: 3
Patriotism: 7

gig 014 – FusionArt

Samedi 17 et Dimanche 18 Juin, 2006
FusionArt – Evenement Artistique Mettant en vedette les talents de 25 jeunes artistes des laurentides
Chalet Pauline Vanier a Saint-Sauveur, Quebec

J'ai crée un band qui a donné 3 shows
composé de musiciens sans experience
des décrocheurs et des dérapées
qui ont tout donné pour la musique
et pour eux mêmes
un band rhythm'n'blues
qui a répeté a 5 occasions seulement
ces trois tunes:

Hit the Road Jack
Can't Get Next To You

dans le parking du chalet pauline vanier a saint sauveur
sur la scene construit pour la fête de la st. jean une semaine plus tard

des jeunes qui avaient de quoi a être fier:

Voix: Myriam Gervais (17 ans)
Guitare, Basse Electrique et Voix: Marie Joëlle Bellemare Thériault (23 ans)
Batterie: Sebastien Dion (30 ans)
Percussion et Basse: Gabriel Lagrois (20 ans?)
Guitare Electrique: Eli Gerber (13 ans)

et moi qui jouait du sax et chantait (!) et qui menait le band au complet

une trés belle experience
une trés belle réussite pour nous tous
avec ces gens qui n'avait jamais donné de spectacle dans leur vie
ni déja fait de la musique avec d'autres

et c'était bon
ça groovait
ils avaient du talent
ils ONT du talent
comme tant parmis nous

et je les souhaits tous des succés dans le futur
de même que tout les autres participants dans le projet FusionArt/Horizons Artistiques
Marie-Eve, Valery, Justin, Martin, Vincent, Emélie, Ian, Laurence, Vanessa, Karyne, Val et autres

j'ai travaillé a temps plein avec ces jeunes pendant 2 mois en les aidant a réaliser leurs projets artistiques de toutes sortes
forge, murale, electromusique, danse, chant, théatre, décoration, éducation, etc.

merci et bonne chance a vous tous

message importante:
embrassez les opportunités d'évoluer qui vous seront présentés
même s'ils vous amenent ailleurs et demandent beaucoup
et respectez-vous!


Risque: 11
Jam: 7
Succés: nous SOMMES musiciens
Loto: Wish You Were Here comme encore joué sans préparation
Cash Factor: 4
Parking Lot: 200 membres de AA et une parade de Harley Davidsons
Joie: 10
Destruction: 0
Magie: L'Harmonie dans Une Bonne Direction

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

gig 013 – 2 Million Years of Technology @ SAT/Nettime

Tuesday May 30, 2006
@ SAT (Société des Arts Technologiques) in Montréal
Part of CPR (Critical Practice Resuscitation)
an Nettime North America gathering
hosted by The Upgrade and MUTEK
7pm - 7:45pm

A solo performance by me
a stripped down version of my one-man show
2 Million Years of Technology
done for an audience of about 40 or so

i think it's fair to say it was a smash
as Tobias c. Van Veen
who booked the event
said to me afterwards:
"There wasn't one person in the place that wasn't totally locked in to what you were saying"


Some good friends showed up – Hans, John and Christine
nice to see you guys
i had fun
it may have been the best version of that piece that I've ever done

it's usually longer
the full version is 75 minutes
but it worked well streamlined too
the audience was a bit uncertain at first
as they usually are when someone stands up and seizes the floor purposefully
but i won them over

the strangest part was that just before i went on there was a webcast performance from some freaks in Belgium
who were webcasting brutal static and feedback and white noise
which was being blasted through the house PA
and along with this music were giant projections of what appeared to be a woman gratuitously smearing herself with and eating what she kept telling us – via the layer of typed poetic rambling text over the video stream – was her shit
so that was pretty damn disgusting
shades of gg allin
and in this case i was saying thank god for mediated experience
but it was a long and somewhat arduous half-hour that was one hell of an unusual opening act
be that as it may we all survived

later in the evening i was in the mood to play some more
there was an electro groove maker and VJ making some cool sounds
i still had my mic set up and horn out so i suggested i might jam
but to no avail
as the digerati were not down with the living interaction
not to read too much into this one response
nor to blame the dude especially
but it has been my experience
based on my having bum-rushed-the-show countless times over the past 30 years
in venues all over the world
that white guys almost always say no to jamming with strangers onstage
whereas black musicians almost always say yes
in fact
here is an amazing story

it was 1983 and I was 20 and living in an apartment on Ontario street east in Montreal
i passed an outdoor stage being set up on St.Denis street a few blocks from my house one afternoon on my way home
a band that i had seen around, and that played some of the same bars I did with my band at that time, was setting up
they were a reggae band called JabJab
i spoke briefly to the drummer
chatting about the gig that was being planned
i asked too whether i could come play with them
he looked at me for a moment and asked my name
"john" i said
he nodded and mumbled something
i went home
later that night i returned with my horn
to my amazement the crowd was vast
there were easily 5000 people crowding the surrounding blocks
the band was kicking and i had a great time dancing in the crowd with a couple friends
by the time the show was finishing i had long since given up on jamming with them and i was entirely ok with that too
as obviously this was a much bigger event than I had anticipated
but then
to my everlasting gratitude and amazement
the lead singer said
"Now, for this last song, we'd like to invite a sax player, John, up to the stage."
I was stunned.
I was also about 500 people away from the stage and found myself pushing through the crowd
sax case over my head
shouting "here, ici, here I am" until i finally made it
hauled myself up
took out and assembled my horn
and turned to the band and the crowd ready to play –
now, this had obviously taken some time
and people had been really patient
and you have to realize that this band didn't know me from adam
and here they were at the climax of what was probably their biggest ever show
and what do they do?
they invite a complete stranger
a guy who might completely and totally suck and ruin their night
up to play with them
it was beautiful.
Needless to say I didn't suck and we had a blast
playing (of course) Bob Marley's Jammin' first and then for an encore Third World (or was it Black Uhuru's) "Rally Round the Black, Gold and Green"
it was sublime
an extraordinary act of generosity and faith
i'll owe those guys my respect til the day I die
and I try to live by that example

SAT is located almost at the corner of Saint-Laurent and Ste Catherine in Montreal
an area i have so many memories of
it's the raunchiest part of town
the red light district
and as a teenager i played in bands endlessly all around there
going back to 1979 actually
in fact here's a link to another memoir of mine about that time and place:
the area's changed somewhat but not that much
right next door is Club Soda where I played justa couple years back
and then because we were on tour we slept in our tour bus in the greasy parking lot next to it

an enjoyable night
proving once again that i have to get this poem out into wider circulation because fully two thirds of the audience congratulated me personally after the show
saying how much they liked it
and that means my message is hitting home
and needs to be heard


Risk Factor: 8
Riff Factor: 4
Success Factor: not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse
Wild Card: scat art warmup act
Cash Factor: 0 :(
Parking Lot: skid row memory lane
Joy: 6
Obliteration: 3
Poetic power: 10

Sunday, May 28, 2006

gig 012 – w/House Band #9

Saturday May 27, 2006
@ Café Pazzazz on rue de l’Eglise in Val-David, Quebec
9:30 pm-12:30am

John Sobol – sax
Jean-François Barbeau – drums/batterie
François Myrand – basse
Richard St-Aubin – acoustic guitar

35 spectators
Set 1: 35 minutes
Set 2: 35 minutes
Set 3: 35 minutes
Improvised instrumental jams on simple and not-so-simple song forms
Serious grooves and extended blowing on my part
especially due to the absence of our lead guitarist Lauren
so I blew and blew and blew
can't beat it really
had some fun with the crowd too
found a voice with whcih to address them
something that has been somewhat elusive at Pazzazz
a rowdy voice
hectoring and playful
stirring things up
very nice
not so loud without Lauren too
easier for me to fill the room without worrying about using a mic
managed to play In A Semtinmental Mood over some completely unrelated groove and found that Duke's timeless melody was like ambrosia – I could twist it and turn it any which way and it was always scorching achingly gorgeous
even over this unconnected groove
very cool


Risk Factor: 3
Riff Factor: 9.9
Success Factor: always a knockout
Wild Card: no electric guitar
Cash Factor: 7
Parking Lot: 100,000 mosquitoes
Joy: 8
Obliteration: 7
Peace: 10

Monday, May 22, 2006

gig 011 - w/Taqralik Partridge, Sean Mcgarragle, Trevor Tchir and Jill Battson

Sunday May 21, 2006
@ Casa del Popolo, Montreal

An exciting evening of Words and Music hosted and curated by my old pal, the estimable Fortner Anderson
at one of the funkier bars in town
Casa del Popolo on St.Laurent (owned by members of Godspeed You Black Emperor)

50 people
5 buck cover
beer and purple haze of thick nicotine smoke
a decent stage managed by Steve the soundman
fabulous art on the walls by Les Georges Leningrad

a really excellent night all around
began with me blowing a funky saxophonic fanfare over Mingus' Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting
which Steve the soundman had put on by happenstance as background music
I waited til the track got to the funky handclap breaks and then went onstage
grabbed my horn and hit the funky horn breaks with Booker Ervin, who was on vinyl
then as Steve (on my last-minute instruction) lowered the music slowly i walked offstage
right through the bar and out onto st.laurent street
stayed awhile blowing at the traffic and the night
turned around and came back in to some raucous applause
fortner followed me back onstage and i introduced him with a loud "Hear Ye, hear ye!"
it was a nice way to start the evening

the first performer was Sean Macgarragle from Vancouver
i'd not heard him before tho i did know he's a youngish cat who's been active recently putting on spoken word events out west
his work was not uninteresting
although he suffers from the verbal tic so common to slam-bred poets of speaking in a rapidfire patter for no reason at all
what this generally does is camouflage the weakness of the wordsmithing
although in his case he did show flashes of quality
i did admire his topicality as he recited poems dealing honestly with his relationship to each of his parents
and only after completing the poems offhandedly mentioned that his parents were in the crowd
it was deftly handled and took some balls
tho his language still needs plenty of work

Trevor Tchir is another young cat from out west
edmonton this time
an earnest and tuneful folksinger
fingerpicking and a fine prairie baritone
one song was far superior to his others
it was about urakainian famers selling moonshine in Nellie McClung's Alberta
a fine song

Jill Battson
whom i hadn't seen in some years
also happened to be present and delivered a poetic excerpt with some flair

But the highlight of the night
apart from me of course ;)
was without a doubt the superb poetic performance by
Taqralik Partidge
who informed us she had just begun writing a little over a year ago –
luckily for her (and for us)
as only an oralist could deliver language so effortlessly
and with such a centred presence –
she's ethnically Inuit and was raised in Kuujuuak in northern Quebec
many of her poems deal with her childhood up north
at summer camps far upriver, thousands of years and miles from the rules of the white world
just as they also deal with the urban experiences of homeless Inuit in Montreal
where she has lived for over a decade
but Taqralik is young enough to be culturally aligned to hiphop
and much of the last decade in Montreal has obviously been spent rhyming
or at least listening to beats and rhymes
because she delivers with the sly finesse and flow of a fine MC
not hiphop exactly but influenced by its vibe
this is Inuit knowledge cloaked in black rhythms
sensual and tough and vital
and the result is somethign else
especially since most people who use the hiphop idiom – black or white – are fronting
and this woman is definitely not –
i know i wasn't the only person there was knocked out
by the depth of Taqraliq Partidge's living language

as for me
well i blew up a storm
did some poems that I've rarely performed
like Green Sun and Tintinabulatron
and also Planet Struck, which I dedicated to Voltisse
whom i only just learned passed a couple years back
and then I played some screaming horn in a new poem called Shame
and started it all off with Orderly Orderly
all in all a nice set
turned some folks on...


Risk Factor: 5
Riff Factor: 5
Success Factor: no doubt
Wild Card: Taqraliq
Cash Factor: 9
Parking Lot: the dirty boulevard
Joy: 9
Obliteration: 7
Got home: way too late

Monday, May 15, 2006

gig 010 – w/House Band #9

Saturday May 13, 2006
@ Café Pazzazz on rue de l’Eglise in Val-David, Quebec
9:30 pm-1:00am

John Sobol – sax
Lauren Belec – guitare electrique
Jean-François Barbeau – drums/batterie
François Myrand – basse
Richard St-Aubin – acoustic guitar

50 spectators
Set 1: 40 minutes
Set 2: 40 minutes
Set 3: 40 minutes
Improvised instrumental jams on simple and not-so-simple song forms
Serious grooves and blowing

Well we really tore the roof off the joint
as usual but more than usual too
in this our familiar home
Lauren was in a hard-rocking mood and i was fed up with various things and needing to cut loose
all in all it made for a crazy ride
people screaming and yelling and dancing all night long
which is cool considering we ain't no dance band

i was completely exhausted by the time the third set rolled around
it's brutal to play unamplified with a kickass drum kit and three amplified guitars (bass, electric and acoustic)
all they have to do to turn up is tweak a knob whereas i'm blowing my guts out hour after hour
but hey i 'm not really complaining
at least i do get to blow endlessly and have everyone really get into it
very rewarding and fun if also gruelling as hell
another night in the music mines


Risk Factor: 2
Riff Factor: 9
Success Factor: over the moon
Wild Card: Mukhti's hair catching fire
Cash Factor: 6.5
Parking Lot: pouring rain
Joy: 9.9
Obliteration: 9
Burnout: 9

Sunday, May 07, 2006

gig 009 - w/Lyubomir Levchev and Bob Holman

Saturday April 29, 2006
@ Bowery Poetry Club, New York

John Sobol – vox

Well, it was supposed to be a performance of my one-man show
Two Million Years of Technology

i even made a cool flyer:
but i was so busy i didn't get much promo done beforehand
and when we arrived on a gorgeous sunny spring morning that also happened to be the day of the biggest ever (in USA) anti-Bush protest which was going by a block away
well I realized that
as they say in french
"il n'y aura pas un chat"
in other words nobody was going to be at my way-too-early gig on this beauitful day
(although Lisa and Isabelle did in fact show up - Thanks!)

So we hung out, Bob Holman and I and Annie and the kids
and waited for the 1 clock poets to arrive with their audience
and when they did it turned out to be a celebration of Bulgaria's most revered poet
Lyubomir Levchev
to whom Yevtushenko said, when Levchev was being criticized from both the right and left, "You can't make a lion out of a thousand cats" and who also reportedly reported, metaphorically or literally I know not, that when Lyubomir walks the streets of Sofia people toss flowers at him
LL was a grizzled and canny old fellow who was present with his wife on the occasion of a new translation of his poems into English
and so we all chilled
and I riffed a poem for Lyubomir and the protesters and Lisa and Isabelle by way of introduction
that, while not exactly brilliant, was nonetheless on point I think
and we all listened to the Bulgarian verses and their english equivalents
energetic language but simple narrative open verse
lovely at times
mostly interesting to meet the man
who had a real sense of humour and a puma-handled ivory cane
the kids drew his warty portrait with bic pens while he read and then gave them to him afterwards
gifts he received graciously
all in all a worthy encounter
another excellent poetic adventure
thanks Bob

Risk Factor: 7
Riff Factor: 10
Delivery: 7
Wild Card: Plan A out the window, Plan B from Bulgaria
Cash Factor: 0
Parking Lot: 300,000 pissed-off protesters

gig 008 - w/Classic Albums Live

Friday April 18, 2006
@ The Wolf's Den in the Mohegan Sun Casino, Uncasville, Connecticut

CLASSIC ALBUMS LIVE – Dark Side of the Moon

John Sobol - sax
Rob Phillips – lead vox and guitar
Leslea Keurvorst – vox (incl. Great Gig in the Sky)
Rob Cooper – keys
Kevin Young – keys
Steve 'Schnitzy' Szirai – bass
Marty Morin – percussion, vox and effects
Troy Feener – drums

1,000+ spectators (highly approximate as we were playing in a vast casino)

7pm set: 60 minutes
10pm set : 60 minutes

Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon
performed cut for cut and note for note
by our killer band
at the wealthiest casino in north america
Spencer Davis was at the gig as he was playing the same stage the next night with his band
the place was outrageously opulent and surprisingly gorgeous
we played our asses off
(for audience comments check out this post from the Message Board
or this one

a great gig with great folks
the same band we toured the maritimes with in february
(too bad that was before i started this gigblog!)

Risk Factor: 3.0
Riff Factor: 0.5
Music: 11
Success Factor: are you kidding, we're playing Dark Side of the Moon
Wild Card: 1st class all the way baby
Cash Factor: 9
Parking Lot: so big I got lost for an hour
Travel: 7 hour drive each way
Family: @ Mystic Pizza

Sunday, April 23, 2006

gig 007- w/House Band #9

Saturday April 22, 2006
@ Café Pazzazz on rue de l’Eglise in Val-David, Quebec
9:30 pm-12:30am

John Sobol – sax
Alain Juteau – guitare electrique
Gary Lindner – drums/batterie
François Myrand – basse
Richard St-Aubin – acoustic guitar

50 spectators
Set 1: 40 minutes
Set 2: 40 minutes
Set 3: 40 minutes
Improvised instrumental jams on simple and not-so-simple song forms
Serious grooves and blowing
no recording
no press
no cover charge
our regular gig
alcohol sold and consumed
general musical mayhem

Alain subbing for Laurent did a fine job
wailing guitar licks and solos
also a flute player sat in
not too much to say about it all other than it was business as usual
hardblowing and (at our best) badass grooves
though unusually a couple of train wrecks too

Risk Factor: 2.5
Riff Factor: 9.5
Success Factor: invincibility
Wild Card: the babysitter
Cash Factor: 7
Parking Lot: a hard spring rain falling
Fun: 8
Domination: 9.5

Sunday, April 02, 2006

gig 006 - w/Lauren Belec and Gary Lindner

April 1, 2006
@ Café Pazzazz on rue de l’Eglise in Val-David, Quebec
9:30 pm-1:00am

John Sobol – sax
Laurent Belec – guitare electrique
Gary Lindner – drums/batterie

30 spectators
Set 1: 40 minutes
Set 2: 40 minutes
Set 3: 40 minutes

A trio that had never played together as a trio
although we had been part of a quintet on a couple of occasions
a beautiful experience
laurent and gary are both terrific players
the three of us made for a heavy blend

gary is a slick and mellow middle-aged cat who plays his Gretsch kit with power and purpose
laurent has a sublime lyrical streak stashed in a Detroit penthouse suite

the gig was a blast
especially the last 2 sets

i put together a song list and in the first set we played 4 or 5 tunes
but it was weak and stilted
Gary said fuck it we should just play
jam the whole set nonstop for the second set
which we did
and it was stellar

same the thing in the third set
a long collective improvisation
i had foolishly forgotten that we didn't need tunes to play great music
and once we left them behind it was fine
a super trio experience for all i think
audience included
who were highly appreciative
as people always are at Pazzazz and in quebec in general
warm audiences
(this is mostly because quebecers like to have fun together in public and making loud noises and shouting is one of their favourite ways to do it – local hockey legends like Guy Lafleur regularly get 15-minute standing ovations when introduced at hockey games)

and as mentioned in gig 005, a redemption of sorts
on a personal level
as i played with full confidence
exploring my horn, my sound, my moods in a different way than I had heard Guy play the night before
less certain, more risky perhaps, more edge
just my own idiosyncratic vocabulary, dialogical powers and sense of living narrative form
it was good to reclaim me and to not worry about what I'm not and will never be as a musician
I'll never sound like a Breckerite and I have no desire to
(no disrespect to MB saxophone god)

lots of fun in the bar
interesting characters
a great night of playing with fine people


Risk Factor: 4
Riff Factor: 9
Success Factor: to the moon
Lesson: tunes get in the way
Cash Factor: 7
Parking Lot: mud and spring snowbanks
Interactivism: 4
Joy: 9
Obliteration: 7

gig 005 - w/House Band #9

Friday March 31, 2006
@ Café Pazzazz on rue de l’Eglise in Val-David, Quebec
9:30 pm-12:30am

John Sobol – sax
Lauren Belec – guitare electrique
Jean-François Barbeau – drums/batterie
François Myrand – basse
Richard St-Aubin – acoustic guitar

50 spectators
Set 1: 35 minutes
Set 2: 35 minutes
Set 3: 35 minutes
Improvised instrumental jams on simple and not-so-simple song forms
Serious grooves and blowing
no recording
no press
no cover charge
our regular gig
alcohol sold and consumed
people freaking out
general musical mayhem

the night's surprise was another sax player who showed up
Guy Seguin
a guy I didn't know but who had brought his tenor and come hoping to play
so i told him he could come up in the 3rd set
the band had a blast in the first 2 sets as usual
i was exhausted well before the night was over
almost blown out
my only excuse being that
it had been a real loong week
and the fact that
i was blowing amidst a full drum kit and three well-amplified guitars (bass, electric and acoustic)
while i had no microphone
so i spent those two sets turned up to 11

and that's when i invited Guy to get out his horn
i'd learned he was a friendly but kinda quiet guy
who'd moved to Val-David a year ago same as me (!)
and had studied at the Conservatoire and UdeM and McGill
and he played like it
i mean he really blew beautifully
exquisite finger control, lip action and harmonic invention
tasty too

so that was kind of a surprise to me
me standing up there feeling kinda beat
and suddenly this guy blowing the hell out of his horn
in my band and in my bar!

i'd like to say i turned on the jets and left him reeling but it ain't so
i played ok
in the third set
but i was a bit thrown off
not just by his sudden appearance
but by his style of play
which was generally Breckerish

that kind of harmonically-focused technical mastery
is sort of inherently virtuostic and often over-achieving
(some people think it is also inherently soulless but I do not agree)
but it's virtuosity has always intimidated me
because it's not how i play at all
yet it's how many of today's top sax players and musicians approach things
(even though
when i think about it
most of my musical heroes did it very differently)

still, it left me asking some questions about myself musically
which, thankfully, were answered the following night (gig 006)

Risk Factor: 4.5
Riff Factor: 9
Success Factor: stimulation
Wild Card: The Competition
Cash Factor: 7
Parking Lot: spring mud and dirty snowbanks
Interactivism: 4 (subtle saxy articulation of a powerful literatized narrative challenge (Breckerism) by the classical grove groove Guy, me being of the bluesologist's aural boneyard where words blossom and reek)
Concern: 8.5
Obliteration: 8.5

Saturday, March 04, 2006

gig 004 - w/Alan Gerber

Saturday March 5, 2006
@ Café Pazzazz on rue de l'église in Val-David, Quebec
9:40 – 12:40

Alan Gerber – vocals, keys, fiddle, slide guitar, powerstomp (
John Sobol – tenor sax (

Ist set bandmembers
Eli Gerber (13) – electric and acoustic guitars
Hannah Gerber (10) – vocals and tambourine

40 spectators
Set 1: 65 minutes
Set 2: 75 minutes
All Alan's own tunes except for a few old faves like You Are My Sunshine & Summertime & I'll be Glad When You're Dead You Rascal You
Alan's tunes are fabulous
masterpieces like Bad, But Not So Bad, Quick Service & Embarassed
some that I just heard for the first time tonight
(this being only our second gig together)
are irrestible
his is a stunning repertoire of original songs
and his interpretations are out of this world

no press no pizza no dressing room
$18 dollar cover charge
about 3/4 full and very charged up
mostly by Alan
who is an animal
relentless yet sublime
and totally out of his mind
in the music

but still very skilled at being in the here and now
exceptionally so
his approach to his audience is really like a busker's
show no mercy
resistance is futile
the way a good busker can part a sea of people with a wave
alan does it with a song
and googlyeyes

and in particular i think what he does that is the same as a busker is he constantly addresses his audience directly as himself – tells them exactly what he's doing at any time, narrates the moment, tells people what he's going to do next, and then does it
and then tells them the next thing
and they love it

so that the interstitial moments eventually merge with the performances
become one narrative moment
all equally fun and in-your-face
and all equally Alan and nobody else
and he's funny and fast as hell

and the letting go
combined with the killer barrelhouse piano
and the fun
and the great songs
would be badass enough

were it not for the chicago firecracker up his ass
the whistling kid from the windy city
singing blue alleys in black vinyl grooves
preaching each song with a powerful conviction
singing the blues
like it was an electric rebirth

praise be to funk
in the warm embrace of the appreciative crowd
it is

I blew hard
played the first set's songs better than in rehearsal
and in the second just jammed on all kinds of alan's songs

overall I played pretty well
but blew out my reed early in the second set
made my horn playable but aggravating

alan liked when we were rocking
him wailling slide electric stomp blues like a fiend
me wailing right next to him
catching his melody line and us really ripping it up like a buzzsaw
yeah there were several moments where it was really very happening!

for anyone who has read my blog this far and who doesn't know Alan Gerber here are two amazing facts about him:

1) he's played with Muddy Waters, Lou Reed, Jimi Hendrix, John Lee Hooker, Jerry Garcia and lots of other amazing musicians and he is definitely worth checking out and 2) he's my neighbour

Amazing eh?


Risk Factor: 8
Riff Factor: 8
Success Factor: Humbling Exhaustion
Wild Card: Eli and Hannah
Cash Factor: 8
Parking Lot: covered in snow
Joy: 9.5
Obliteration: 9

Friday, March 03, 2006

gig 003 - w/House Band #9

gig 003

Saturday February 25, 2006
@ Café Pazzazz on rue de l’Eglise in Val-David, Quebec
10:20 pm-12:30am

John Sobol – sax
Laurent Belec – guitare electrique
Jean-François Barbeau – drums/batterie
Félix Leroux – congas
François Myrand – basse
Richard St-Aubin – acoustic guitar

50 spectators
Set 1: 40 minutes
Set 2: 40 minutes
Improvised instrumental jams on simple and not-so-simple song forms
Serious grooves and blowing
8 track minidisc audio recording made
& no press
& no cover charge
alcohol sold and consumed
audience noise
but only the good kind

this is a band that has played together before
we’ve worked maybe a dozen dates at Pazzazz Café
some members are old friends some are new
for me they are all new friends
Richard, the acoustic guitar player, is a part owner there
It’s a very good band
we rock the house
It's a damn good jam band
I call it
Le Bon Jambon Band

We play richard’s original tunes
And we play a blistering Scofield tune
And we play Herbie Hancock's most funky Chameleon
And I can’t wait for us to do Joe Farrell’s Canned Funk
the rhythm section grooves relentlessly
and Laurent is a fantastic guitar player
he can really lay it down any way you need it done

we have a lot of fun together

conjuring tunes on the fly
like tonight this is how we composed one tune:

richard starts one of his ‘tunes’
which are basically 2-chord vamps
but they’re cool and he plays them like a groove machine
and I turn to Laurent as the rhythm section kicks in
and say:
"we’re in a plane
on the tarmac of a runway
and we’re preparing to take off
we're going to take off and fly
and then
we’re going to jump from the plane with parachutes on
and fall"

and that’s what we do as a song
making every last bit of it up on the fly
in dialogue
along a narrative spline
live in front of people

here’s a link to the (completely unmixed and totally live) recording of it:


  • We’ve made a lot of songs that way
    Usually Laurent and I just figuring out a quick plan as the groove starts
    Sometimes he makes suggestions
    Now that he knows how
    But it is me that leads us in this compositional direction
    Always has been

    See the first couple times we played together
    A quintet
    There were no charts
    Which is fine
    But more than that there were no defined song structures
    The tunes were guitar patterns that Richard likes to play
    But we had no idea how to play them as a quintet
    Especially Laurent and I as the lead players were getting in each other’s way
    And it was frustrating
    And not that great musically
    and of course we only gigged and never rehearsed

    So at a certain point I said to Laurent
    Whom I’d not known before
    “listen, here’s what we’re going to do: before each tune we’ll make up a song structure and we’ll follow it on the fly, in the tune, OK?”
    And Laurent was skeptical
    Because it’s not how people normally compose or jam
    But he agreed to try it and so I said: “I’ll play an intro
    You play a melody and then I’ll take a solo
    Then you take a solo
    Then we’ll both play the melody
    Then we’ll end”
    Or something like that
    And we tried it and it totally worked
    And made the music work for the first time as a group
    Because we understood our roles and responsibilities and opportunities
    And could not only make our statements strong but could support each other’s
    So that was the beginning

    The next stage was to design shapes to go along with the roles
    I’d say:
    “Ok, we both come in with long tones for an intro
    slow and deep
    and then we both play a melody exploding with punches"
    And it would be a groove in A minor and we’d go off

    So from there it wasn’t a big leap to saying:
    "The backseat of a car at night driving towards the city in the rain
    we get to the highway and then we get to the city.”
    And we’d be off.

    And then it was just like:

    “We're on a boat, going down a river, and you’re looking out one side and I’m looking out the other. We describe what we see.”


    “This one’s for the people in new orleans”

    And if we were lucky, that’s all we’d need.

    Did I mention that at this show (gig 003) people went insane all night being totally blown away? Yeah it was all pretty fierce, fun and funky.


    Risk Factor: 2
    Riff Factor: 9
    Success Factor: !!!!!
    Wild Card: Exhaustion
    Cash Factor: 7
    Parking Lot: covered in snow
    Interactivism: 2
    Joy: 9
    Obliteration: 8

    gig 002 - w/Toutes Choses de Paille

    gig 002

    Saturday February 25, 2006
    @ Théatre du Marais, Val-David, Quebec

    John Sobol – sax and vox
    Michelle Bastien – voix et mouvement
    Marguerite Morin – voix et gestes
    Michel… – flute et synthésiseur
    Nathalie Levasseur – sculpture performance
    Line Dicaire – chant et piano
    Gilles Matte – voix et conception
    Sylvain Fontaine – technicien

    23 spectators
    Set 1: 60 minutes
    Set 2: 40 minutes
    Entirely scripted and choreographed (except for brief improvisational interludes by me)
    Video recording made
    A couple small previews in local papers
    $14 tickets
    booze not sold
    but beer available in the fridge if you left a toonie in the cup

    the show was Toutes Choses de Paille
    all things of straw
    a multidisciplinary thematic poetry show
    video projections, recitations, songs, scatterings
    conceived by a group of poets and artists who live in the laurentians north of montreal
    of which I was this time a willing participant
    the entire show in French
    combining original poems with excerpts of poems by famous French poets
    exploring the metaphors of wind and sand and straw
    with lovely songs interwoven by line dicaire
    her own and old favourites everybody in the room but me knew
    like Pauvre Rutebeuf by Léo Ferré, the celebrated Québecois chansonnier of years past

    Gilles was the director
    Leading us as a cast of collaborators
    Into an assembly of poems staged and blocked and seamed
    Michelle flung upon the floor of the theatre
    Nathalie hanging rattan sculptures made from old chair guts
    Marguerite sifting sand in her hands

    I got to call the winds
    At the start of the show
    With my horn

    If you blow through a sax
    Very hard
    But keep from making the reed vibrate
    It makes a deep whooosshhing sound
    So I called the wind with that sound
    In and around the mic
    Until Michel arrived with the big synth winds through the p.a.
    swirling around the room
    It was a nice effect
    With the huge fans coming on too and all
    Blowing the sheets covered with blue block letter poems hanging from the rafters

    Very nice
    And unlike the night before (gig 001)
    Here nobody else was talking

    People loved it
    They were really thrilled
    It moved them quite a bit
    Figuratively not literally
    Because literally they did not move at all
    The show being in a theatre
    theatre = immobility

    This is not the first show this group has done together
    There have been others in the past year
    I saw one
    Which is why I was interested in working with them at least once
    Because Gille’s concept is really quite original
    Not completely
    But certainly nobody else is putting on poetry shows of this nature
    The antithesis of slam
    Very French in its aestheticism and oratory
    More introspective than hiphop
    More romantic than anything else
    I mean this is quebec
    Sophisticated, sensual and tough enough
    Though always a bit insular
    As this is a country and its people

    So a solid show
    Much better than I had expected it to be based on the 2 rehearsals I had been to
    (they had had more)
    and again
    people really liked it

    I riffed in French again
    And actually got off
    In that dark quiet solemn space
    An improvised poem that succeeded in weaving together strands of the night’s language and moods
    which I had failed to do the night before (gig 001) in my first try at public french riffing
    So that was satisfying

    I learned a new way to create collaborative poetic performances
    I learned I can riff in French if the setting is right
    And that maybe that’s not so different from English riffing

    And I learned about Saint-John Perse
    Gilles asked me to read a few lines that he selected from Saint-John Perse’s Gallimard book-length poem, Les Vents
    I had never read the man before
    But on Saturday night I got to speak these words to an audience already entranced by poetry:

    Et le Poète aussi est avec nous, sur la chaussée
    Des hommes de son temps.
    Allant le train de son temps, allant le train
    De ce grand vent.
    Son occupation parmi nous: mise en clair des
    messages. Et la réponse en lui donnée par illumi-
    nation du Coeur.
    Non point l’écrit, mais la chose meme. Prise
    En vif et dans son tout…

    Et le Poète encore est avec nous, parmi
    Les hommes de son temps, habité de son mal…

    Mais attentive à sa lucidité, jaloux de son auto-
    rité, et tenant clair au vent le plein midi de sa

    (from Les Vents, Saint-John Perse, 1946)

    Here’s my translation:

    And the poet too is here with us
    In the streets of the men of his age
    Taking the train of his times
    Riding the great trade winds
    His occupation amongst us: revealer
    of messages. Response in him given in the ill-
    uminated Heart.
    Not in writing. But in whole
    Live sound…

    And the poet is with us still
    With the men and women of his times
    Inhabited by his pain…

    But attentive to his lucidity
    Jealous of his authority
    Cutting the clear wind toward
    the high noon of his vision


    Risk Factor: 5.6
    Riff Factor: 6.6
    Success Factor: Strong Success
    Wild Card: Saint-John Perse
    Cash Factor: 0.0
    Parking Lot: 13 cars by a frozen river
    Interactivism: 5 (my accented French improvisations an inter-eruption of the already thinned literate skin by the spoken word
    although significantly the rest of the spoken poems were read and/or recited by memory from texts, somewhat like proto-awol activities before the letting go of the page, of the tune, of the text altogether) / additionally, collective cut up performances and sharing of texts as babbling tapestries onstage/words hung from banners and projected on screens/songs and music/bodies in movement/everybody mic'ed/overall a very unusual semantic stitching, blending of idioms and vocabularies, balancing of imperatives, literate and oral and even slightly post-oral (digitized synchronicity and enabling of meaning-mixing w/electronic sound and image) with intention too, from an interactivist design perspective not groundbreaking but effective in a blunt way i kind of like, because it puts the poetry first and I always believe that the best poetry will always grab people, an event rather Interdisciplinary than Interactivist in concept and approach)
    Joy: 7
    Obliteration: 2

    gig 001 - w/Tom Walsh

    gig 001

    Friday February 24, 2006
    @ Café Pazzazz on rue de l’Eglise in Val-David, Quebec

    John Sobol – sax and vox
    Tom Walsh – trombone and samples (

    26 spectators
    3 sets of 30 minutes
    entirely improvised
    no recording & no pictures
    & no press
    & no cover charge
    alcohol sold and consumed
    audience noise
    wanted and unwanted

    a surprised audience in a rural quebec bar on a Friday night
    finding tom and I
    playing happily way out there as a duo

    tom’s crashup mashup sample mayhem maybe made a few folks uneasy
    and maybe my weird poetry did the same

    but few
    if any
    were able to resist his ‘bone playing
    which is of the finest hew
    and I had my own horn too

    with far more souls remaining than leaving
    to fully sample the night’s varied offerings

    I worked entirely in French
    For the first time ever
    Improvising poems publicly in Quebec in the Quebecois language
    For an entire evening
    And found it difficult indeed
    Despite my fluency

    What I lacked was words, a rich enough vocabulary

    Mayakovsky said: “Poets! You must fill your pockets, fill your storehouses with words. Words must spill from you!”

    Working in French I lacked the ability to spill
    Because my wordstore was weak

    The best riffs were those I took slow
    Paced out
    Placed out
    Plenty of silence
    And space
    Dropping phrench phrases over tom’s superior sampled soundscape

    tom's approach is hands-on midi-triggering and knob twirling
    database management
    real-time polyphonic orchestrations
    serial serendipity of waveforms
    using clips
    short and long
    remixed and matched
    he's a real-time composer working with changing palettes of choice samples
    and it's very very cool

    When I relaxed
    And let my voice out
    On the waves of the words I did have
    Things began to move

    The experience was filled with lessons:

    • my riffing in English is enabled by my ability to surf the flow of words without thinking too much about what they mean…and definitely without searching for them but rather letting them come…because one always comes, swimming up from the miasma of meanings into utterance

    • my riffing in french is disabled by my inability to surf thusly on an incomplete wordscape…lacking the depth, my French ocean of words tumbles me incessantly into vortexes from which I cannot escape…when I just can’t find a word to say and none comes…it’s the most brutal and banal failure…and I did have a few of those…tho with skill one can always hold on to enough of the moment to at least try to redeem oneself…and usually succeed…but still…the collapse has been witnessed and felt by all…

    • surfing is an apt metaphor in light of the walls I encountered while riffing in French…in English I feel that those mental pitfalls are still there but I can ride above them, as in a speaking meditation, but in French my avocabularism drove/dove me into dead ends repeatedly…

    • I found poetic respite and succour in story…telling the longest riff of the night as a tale…of a great snow serpent slithering down from the north beneath the blanket of snow lying thick over the country…

    • that story ended somewhat weakly, but at least it ended, which is always a strength and a relief…the worst part of the dead end walls that I encountered riffing in French was that my excursions flamed out, which not only denied me the ending power but scuppered the merits of the creative tension that I had built…no ending is much much worse than a bad ending…

    • tho still there were some successes with the riff. I just have no idea what they were. I only remember the failures

    • a challenging collaboration with the sampler – Tom’s instructions were to pay close attention to the repeating patterns and sample families that would appear and sometimes return… this was sometimes tougher than it sounded...It was like learning how to play an instrument not just jamming with a musician…but I think we still made messy sense of it all

    By the way, Tom Walsh is a blast. Literally, figuratively and furiously. Check him out.


    Risk Factor: 9.9
    Riff Factor: 9.9
    Success Factor: Survival
    Wild Card: Duke Ellington
    Cash Factor: 6.5
    Parking Lot: Covered in Snow
    Interactivism: 6
    Joy: 7
    Obliteration: 7