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