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All music is folk music, 'cause we're all folks - Louis Armstrong

Author Topic: Andy Cohen, Blind Boy Paxton and the Little Brothers at Jalopy  (Read 381 times)

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Offline Mr.OMuck

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Andy Cohen, Blind Boy Paxton and the Little Brothers at Jalopy
« on: November 04, 2011, 12:04:26 PM »

 I'd like to focus on Andy Cohen here because I've spoken about the other performers at length previously. I'd heard about Andy years before hearing or meeting him, people like Pat Conte and Frank Basile and Jerron Paxton always seemed to speak fondly and respectfully of him.
Andy is a lifer. He's been at this since the sixties and now at sixty five is a true old master of the fingerpicked guitar. He is also, like me I think, a product of the music available on record by the mid sixties. While the Yazoo era certainly left its mark on older players, most of why he and I play this music was determined prior to the plethora of works introduced by that company. In fact pre & post Yazoo is not a bad distinction to draw in attempting to characterize performers of this music. What that amounts to is that the old blues available to us was much less, and the examples by individual artists, much less comprehensive. However it was also the age of rediscovery and the personalities of people like Big Joe Williams, Mississippi John Hurt, Libba Cotton, Bukka White, Lightnin' Hopkins, Mississippi Fred McDowell and in both Andy and my case Rev. Gary Davis loomed large. I'm guessing that of those mentioned Lightnin' Hopkins exceeded all others in recorded output, but Gary Davis did pretty well too, with his magisterial four volumes on Prestige, and others on English labels like 77 & transatlantic, Stinson, Vanguard, His great Riverside record shared with Pink Anderson on one side , and other obscure concert tapes cropping up here and there. I've often sited his Prestige record of instrumentals, "The Guitar & Banjo of Rev. Gary Davis" as being the American vernacular equivalent of Bach's Well Tempered Clavier.
Well Andy seemed to have been as gobsmacked by Davis as I was and has dedicated a good part of his artistic capital towards the mastery and interpretation of his music. Davis must have recorded Samson & Delilah at least a dozen times with various word and verse configurations as well as guitar bits appearing in one or another version that are absent in others. Andy's version sounds like all and none of these versions. The first thing that strikes you when watching him perform this song is the obvious feeling he gives off that you are about to participate in an event with extra musical properties. What those are exactly is hard to say. Is it that the song you're about to hear is also something of a dramatic exposition? Is it the performer calling our attention to the difficulty of the piece, or its special place in his feelings, or his pride in his mastery of such a complex piece? Maybe all of the above.
One thing that is not ambiguous is his love of this song. His playing here is fairly spectacular in several ways, first in the evident fact that the music is not yielding itself up easily. There is struggle involved in playing this piece and the outcome is in no way assured, and yet he manages to ride the more complex passages to a successful conclusion with both him and other guitar players in the audience somewhat exhausted by the effort. If Davis used to make it all look easy, (and he did) Andy makes it look as hard as it actually is. I like that about his playing. He is an incredibly knowledgeable player who has not, I am guessing, disdained activities like practicing scales. His ability to get around the neck and get the notes he wants is mightily impressive. He picks with great intensity on an ancient slope shouldered banner headstock Gibson with medium or heavy strings, egg slicer high off the fingerboard. For any player of this music Andy is a Joy to watch and hear. His singing is as good as it needs to be and is skillfully and generously given as are all of Andy's musical offerings. His is the spirit of a time when this music had not yet calved off of the body of "Folk" music and when a concert was akin to a communal exercise in creating the spirit of solidarity necessary for the political struggles embroiling the audience. More than just echos of that were present last night as Andy paced nervously, anxious about the safety of his daughter who was at Wall street as a legal observer. And yes he did sing alongs...God bless 'im!

Jerron as usual was amazing. His piano playing is becoming stratospheric!

The Little Brothers were just so Damn good.
Last night I chose to sit in the front row and was very glad I did.Kim's singing, good right out of the gate is getting even better as is true of her superb fiddling, and Frank's guitar playing is freaking amazing! We here all know that but, there was some element of his micro-timing last night , meaning the exact moment the finger hits the string and with specific force to produce a sound of a certain duration, that was so sharp and accurate that I found myself saying "wow" repeatedly under my breath. An amazing bit of musicianship and an absolute pleasure to witness.
His singing was strong and very much tailored to the pieces. Mike Hoffman also did yeoman's service on Banjo-mandolin and the trio sounded once again like hearing a fine classical ensemble rendering up pieces that, to paraphrase Bob Dylan speaking about Mike Seeger's playing, were being played as well as they possibly could be played.

What a great night of music all in all. I look forward to the day when our dear friends at Jalopy decide to make more serious attempts to pack the house, like shuttle busses from the Lower East Side or Bleecker street. The music deserves a larger audience though a more musician friendly and generally simpatico venue is hard to imagine.
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

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Offline blueshome

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Re: Andy Cohen, Blind Boy Paxton and the Little Brothers at Jalopy
« Reply #1 on: November 05, 2011, 03:08:31 AM »
Thanks,
A review that well considered and written at least goes some way to compensate not being there.

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