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If I had one biscuit, and you hadn't eaten nothin' in a month, I'd break it in two and eat both pieces - Yank Rachell to Howard Armstrong in Louie Bluie

Author Topic: Nick Katzman & Thomasina Winslow at The Good Coffee House  (Read 757 times)

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Offline Mr.OMuck

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Nick Katzman & Thomasina Winslow at The Good Coffee House
« on: May 07, 2011, 03:53:11 PM »
Last night the eminent mathematician and guitar picking enthusiast and fine player in his own right Jeff Cheeger & I shlepped out to Brooklyn (how else does one get out to Brooklyn?) to the venerable Good Coffee House . Housed in the very beautiful century old Society for Ethical Culture building facing Prospect Park, the Good Coffee house has been presenting Folk musics of all stripes for thirty plus years or so, in a beautiful oak paneled room with stained glass windows and ethically uplifting quotes in gold leaf in some medieval looking script strategically placed on the dark wooden ceiling beams. It is a taste of the faded glory of late 19th century New York and a rare intimate setting to hear music and interact with performers. Kudos to whoever keeps the place going.

A little history. I met Nick Katzman right around 1971 or 2 soon after I had studied with Gary Davis. He and I just happened to show up at the same time at one of my neighbor's apartments and since he had a guitar with him we discovered our mutual interest. He was a very impressive player.  Interesting factoid: Nick's younger brother Steve, Ari Eisenger & I all went to the same Upper West Side, left wing private school, although my tenure was rather brief due to money problems and "other" issues. So when you are talking about regional Blues, don't omit New York's Upper West Side (parenthetically, also the neighborhood with the greatest number of classical musicians in the world).

Nick occupied the floor-stage area of the room with two metal body resonators, (a friend had a third) an Epiphone  amplified cutaway J-200 copy which was not worse than many actual J-200s I've played and a confusing array of preamps, amps, electronic boxes of all kinds and bright orange cords that lent the stage the aspect of a construction site. He also had a device which I first thought had some medical application as he inserted it into his shoe like some kind of foot pulse monitoring device, except that it turned out to be a kind of microphone used to amplify the tapping of ones foot. One could definitely describe the scene as "wired".

Nick opened with several Gary Davis instrumentals familiar to most here, Twelve sticks, Maple leaf Rag, Slow Drag, and such. His playing was adept and confident, sometimes brilliant, and its clear that he hears this music through his own sensibilities' lens and produces variations, as do we all, that make his versions unique and ultimately more interesting to me than a straight transcription approach. As someone who plays the same material I was struck by the things Nick focused on that I de-emphasize or gloss over and vice versa. As Andy Cohen and I reasserted to each other the other night, everybody who plays his music gets a little piece of Davis but nobody really gets it all. That would mean, among other things, that even were you to be as accurate in your recreations as Ernie Hawkins undoubtedly is, there's still the whole vocal realm to be considered, and that may just be an impossible or ill advised pursuit. Nobody gets it all, but what Nick gets he gives back with great skill and above all musicality.

I've been struck before by the difficulty facing contemporary country blues players in terms of required repertory. The original players, with some exceptions, like Big Bill Broonzy who was one of the first to cover Blind Lemon, only had to worry about sounding like themselves. We revivalists may have to sound convincingly like Mississippi John Hurt, Tommy McClennan, Gary Davis and Skip James. Its really quite daunting when you think about it. So when you hear someone like Nick who can convincingly render Robert Johnson's & Gary Davis' music more than competently, you have to be impressed. His playing and singing isn't hit you over the head style, rather it is steady, honest, intelligent, well crafted, music professionally played by a very experienced performer. There was something in Nick's approach that was more akin to that of a good classical player than what we've come to associate with a Blues player and it was not at all a bad thing. His singing was understated but surprisingly nuanced and true to the source, particularly with the Robert Johnson and later Muddy Water's stuff. He'd sing in a way that made me newly aware of what I was not remembering of the source material and I kept finding myself silently registering an "AHA" of appreciation as he tapped into those elements. I enjoyed his set enormously.

Thomasina Winslow who has been performing and recording with Nick for quite a while is the daughter of the late Tom Winslow. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Winslow
She is quite a good singer and very clean guitarist. She has a friendly, attractive stage presence. I believe she studied with Nick for a while.
Another old friend of Nick's, Rich Goldstein, I believe accompanied him on Mississippi Blues, an Upper West Side standard back in the day.

I was very glad to reconnect with Nick and hear someone who's now an old master at work.
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

http://www.youtube.com/user/MuckOVision

Offline frankie

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Re: Nick Katzman & Thomasina Winslow at The Good Coffee House
« Reply #1 on: May 07, 2011, 09:07:44 PM »
Thanks for the review, O'muck - it bugged me to miss this, but it couldn't be helped.  Did he mention any other NYC area appearances?  Did he and Thomasina play any Lottie Kimbrough songs?  He and I corresponded about one or two numbers a few years back.

Offline eagle rockin daddy

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Re: Nick Katzman & Thomasina Winslow at The Good Coffee House
« Reply #2 on: May 08, 2011, 05:02:07 AM »
Thank also O'Muck, I would have like to see Thomasina, I missed her at the Caffe Lena on 5/1.  I knew her dad some, and remember her as small child running around Lena's years ago.  Tom was so wonderful.  He was one of the best singers of old songs I had ever heard. 

again thanks for taking the time to write the review.

Mike

Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: Nick Katzman & Thomasina Winslow at The Good Coffee House
« Reply #3 on: May 08, 2011, 05:45:11 AM »
Jeff seemed to think that they did do a Lottie Kimbrough tune but I can't seem to recall which one. The song I remember Thomasina doing most clearly was Bo Carter's "Go Back Ol' Devil" a devil of a song to pull off. Nick didn't mention any other NY appearances but I'd check the usual suspect venues just to be sure.
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

http://www.youtube.com/user/MuckOVision

Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: Nick Katzman & Thomasina Winslow at The Good Coffee House
« Reply #4 on: May 08, 2011, 07:21:12 AM »
I just remembered that Nick & Thomasina did several sung duets including two Tampa Red songs including one of my faves "If you want me to love you". I am very interested in the idea of and lack of harmony singing in contemporary country blues and this was an interesting look into the untapped potential of this device.
More should try it out imho.
« Last Edit: May 08, 2011, 10:06:17 AM by Mr.OMuck »
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

http://www.youtube.com/user/MuckOVision

 


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