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Captain Abu Raed A Wonderful Inspiring Jordanian Movie

I saw the Abu Raed movie last night and it was terrific.  Lovely tale of an older widowed knowledgeable man with 2000 books who finds a Captain’s hat that he sheepishly plucks out of the garbage.  He lives in a poor neighborhood in Amman, Jordan and works at the airport, actually, as a janitor.  But now, when he wears the magical captain’s hat, the neighborhood kids think he is a pilot and want him to tell them tales of his many adventures.  He tries to confess to them that he is not a captain, but then he gets carried away and there is the tale, plus that of his next door neighbor Murad, a young handsome son of a very very abusive father who beats his wife and kids esp when drunkish.  Then there’s the beautiful unmarried independent female pilot who is an important part of the story and all of this interweaves into a very romantic but dire movie that deserves every award it can get.  The lead actor and the female pilot are both splendid, as are all the children, and the cinematography.

The question of a woman’s role in an environment where woman are not very well protected by society is portrayed here.  No veils.  This must be Jordan in the new millenium, yet they are expected to be subordinate, as is the poor woman who is the next door drunken clothes salesman’s wife.  The female pilot is unmarried, says she doesn’t want to get married (to her father, who keeps finding wealthy enuff young men who are nerds who she has no interested in meeting or marrying), but longs for someone intelligent and interesting.  Like Abu Raed.  Whose wife died five years ago, but has wisdom and vision, tho is stuck on his path after death took his one son and his wife time back.  Abu Raed is a great character, mild, helpful, yearning, tho he has never left the country (of Jordan).  Go see this one.

Dave Alvin and the Guilty Women Heat Up The Talkhouse 7 12 09

Well, I was surprised when the six woman band accompanying Dave Alvin came out on the stage.  What a hot night it was.  Dave Alvin is one of the great guitarists of the world.  His last appearance at Stephen Talkhouse had him on the electric guitar for the whole show with the Guilty Men.  He was more sober, and less acoustic.  This time his cast led him in a different direction.  There were four and five part harmonies in songs like ‘Downey Girl’ and fiddle solos by Laurie Lewis and Amy Farris; hot lap steel guitar solos by the beautiful Cindy Cashdollar; super-steady drumming by Lisa Pankratz (who looked like Diego Rivera’s wife (twice married – to each other) Frida Kahlo with that flower in her hair off to the left side), and Sarah Brown in the middle of it all holding it together on the bass.  Oh, and then there is Dave’s childhood sweatheart Christy McWilson on the lead vocals of songs like ‘Weight of the World’ and ‘Potter’s Field’ – the latter having mucho four and five part harmonies as the ladies sang the chorus ‘Bury Me in Potter’s Field’.  A bit morbid, but you gotta go anyway and sometimes we do think about it and Christy wrote this song and it’s on the new CD.  Apparently this group was assembled in only 2008 for a San Francisco bluegrass festival, and now they are on the road tearing it up. 

For the entire show proper, Dave played acoustic guitar, and the band was showcased to great pleasure.  Then for the demanded encore(s) Dave strapped on his electric instrument and wowed us all out in Amagansett, especially with the last tune that ‘tells us everything that we have to know about life…a tune written by….?Doris Day?’   Yeah.  Don’t know if my mother would have adequately appreciated undoubtedly the hottest version of ‘Que Sera Sera’ ever performed.  Maybe 8 or 9 minutes with everybody cookin’ but especially Mr. Alvin blasting thru it, flying and penetrating the tune’s essence and rocking beyond anything else done last night.  That peaked off the night.

P.S.  I picked up a Laurie Lewis CD called ‘Earth and Sky’ that is stupendous.  Mostly bluegrass.  Just about every song is terrific.  She hails out of Berkeley, California.  Downey is where Dave is from.  He and his brother formed the Blasters out of Downey.  Which is just down dee road from Whittier, where Christy McWilson hails from (also shamed ex-President Richard Nixon).  These are towns in the San Bernadino valley west of Los Angeles.  Where all the smog collects when the ocean breezes blow it from the freeways and city, toward the trapping mountains….

P.T. Walkley and Band Perform At The Talkhouse 6/9/09

P.T. Walkley and his band were a magical surprise show at the Stephen Talkhouse
last Saturday, June 6, 2009. P.T., a rather experienced songsmith and singer, with
terrific phrasing skills and a great lyricist – – with the words not flowing quite as
expected they would – – proved that going out to the Talkhouse, after missing Reel Karma a few nights before, still made for a wonderfully inspiring evening. Many of the tunes were short and sweet. The tang and beauty of the melodies linger still, especially the guitars as they faded away in the super short pieces: Lizzy Lee Vincent (no relation to Gene ???) from Birmingham (Burmingumm) UK
was the man in the black tie and gray shirt on the lead, and P.T. did his overall choreographing/trumming and plucking and driving songs from beginning to end. Mike Nolan was loverly in his little hat on the pedal steel, especially on the last few songs. But the star for me for joie de vivre, energy, and expertise was the vibrant, wild, sometimes manic, fiddler Earl Maneein. He had a brimmed Mao Tse Tung kine of green hat and stomped his brisk feet whether he was firing thru
a song or stomping about the extablishment. Absolutely loved him and his contribution to the music. The Brothers Kulund, Nicky (drums) and David (bass) bottomed up the rhythm section with fire, constancy and pizzazz. Marc Trachtenberg played pretty extemperaneous fitting piano
noteage thru each tune upon which he tickled his keys – – he also contributed to the vocals.
How about this for an example of Walkley’s lyrics: from ‘Comin Over’ with the great last line >
Biding my time/One glass, I’m passing through/Waving goodbye while whispering I love you/I think about you/I think without you I’d be blue/Is it coming over you/Wake me when my dream comes true…..

Yes, P.T. is a very romantic fellow. In fact, his tall slim beautiful wife Michel sings in the band and plays the tambourine. Many of the tunes are actually rather Beatle-esque. Though without a doubt in my mind, the hottest song done by the band that night was ‘Four Cheers.’ Apparently, this song was originally done with/by P.T.’s former band the Blue Jackets. There is a video of
it available on the internet via YouTube, but it pales in comparison to how they all did it live at the Talkhouse toward the end of the show (after a ‘Suicide..’ David Bowie cover that was mildly fair). Lizzy Lee played some really hot licks to begin the tune, his loose tie ahangin’ over the guitar neck, then the band came in, and they cooked. My advice to P.T. is: record your current members doing this song either live or in the studio and release it! If it comes out close to how you sounded on June 6, 2009, maybe you will have yourselves a beeeeeg hit!?!

The two songs ‘Mediocre’ and ‘To Be Somebody’ were interesting to end the CD ‘Mr Macy wakes alone’ and similarly in concert…but not the ideal subjects for music to play over and over again.

P.T. Walkley has a very very bright future. He and his band sound great in person. Go out and see hem whenever they come to your town. They/he may likely become a familiar and popular ame/phrase/buzzword in American culture in the years ahead.

Danny Kalb Great Guitarist Performs At The Talkhouse in Amagansett, April 10, 2009

Danny Kalb used to be the lead guitarist with the Blues Project back in the 1960's, with fellow prominent band member Al Kooper. Most of you today will know the band Blood Sweat & Tears, which Mr. Kooper formed after the Blues Project broke up. Mr. Kalb was not part of that band. Great show April 10, 2009; band members described, song by song laid out for you from that night.

Shinobi Ninja Rocks The Talkhouse July 1 2009

Shinobi Ninja! High energy, Baby Girl, D.A. rapping and rocking, twin brothers Maniac Mike (guitar) and Terminator Dave (drums) anchoring the band, six terrific musicians putting their hearts and souls out there in Amagansett at Stephen Talkhouse to start off the month of July 2009. Watch out for this band. They will make you shout and pout and be happy and wacky, bouncing off the walls, partying defiantly, leaping into a low ceiling somewhere in Brooklyn or Mumbai....

Best Films of 2008 Hamptons Int’l Film Festival

Another year, another great Hamptons International Film Festival.  Many different films show us how the world looks thru many different eyes and lenses in 2008.  And these films come to us, if we are able to visit the cinemas hosting this terrific festival.

‘Song of Sparrows’ – might as well start at the top.  Best film of the festival in my eyes.  Fantastic cinematography.  Maybe best I have ever seen complementing the story of a blue collar father portrayed by ?Reza Naji trying to survive.  It all starts on an ostrich farm, and that is different.  Ever watch ostriches move, and run?  Unique!  And the director, Majid Majidi, has to be one of the best directors alive.  Or even dead!  It turns out he also was the director for my two favorite films: ‘The Color of Paradise’ and ‘Children of Heaven.’

Now I have seen all three of his monumental films at the Hamptons International Film Festival (HIFF)  over the years!  What a credit to this festival!

Karim is the character for whom life does not flow smoothly, yet he can fix anything, has the confidence to do almost anything.  The colors in this movie make the viewing of it a visual/mental orgasm, along with all the perspectives and scenes you are blessed to see.  Whenever this movie comes close to you, go see it, along with Majidi’s other movies I mentioned above.  You will not regret it.  Remember, these are Iranian movies, so explicit political commentary would not be wise to make.  Poetic plot and visuals is the way the director has chosen to work.

Next great film:

‘Taking Root:  The Vision Of Wangari Maathai’ took the prize for me as the best documentary.  Wangari Maathai is perhaps the most important individual in modern Kenyan history.  After the English
colonialists came in and tried to make an England out of Kenya,
cutting down so many of the land’s trees, laying railroad tracks and roads, subjugating the people with the unction of missionary religion, there came two dictators, Kenyatta and Moi, who further subjugated the people.  Ms. Maathai noted how important trees were to the survival of the country, combating soil erosion and drought.  This caused her to start a tree planting movement in 1977.  This led to a confrontation with President Moi who wanted to build a towering skyscraper and a very tall statue of himself on the last piece of public parkland in Nairobi.  If this occurred there would be no place for the common citizen to freely sit and/or gather in the capital city.  Moi made fun of Maathai, in a typical man-rules macho manner.  Then the women who had had their sons arrested for various political reasons by Moi’s henchmen decided to call a hunger strike and sit in the still existing park.  After a few days, Moi tired of the embarrassment and had his forces destroy their little tent, beating the women and anyone else who tried to fight back.  Maathai was beaten unconscious, ending up in a
hospital for several days.  The world press picked up on the story.  Naturally, the Moi project had been backed by the World Bank, but with the adverse press, the Bank withdraw its approval of the project.  Maathai had won a victory, which led to Moi’s downfall after two decades.  Much of this was captured on film, which the producers Lisa Merton and Alan Dater, beautifully displayed,.  The colonial footage was particularly stunning as was one particular statistic: 100,000 Kenyans
were killed as a result of the English incursion, with only ~350 English dying.  This is almost the exact ratio we see in Iraq today: 1,000,000 Iraqis have died as a result of the Bush administration incursion there, with about 3500 American soldiers dying.  As time passed, Maathai was elected to parliament, and was the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize.  Her wisdom and determination are in evidence as we hear her talk and act, starting with her Green Belt
Movement, along with many other women.  Planting trees to combat erosion and drought, leading to a political movement freeing the nation from dictatorship and the entrails of colonial thought.  Religion however remains to erase much of Kenya’s native culture unfortunately, as has occurred in so many African countries, and other colonially demeaned lands.

‘Slumdog Millionaire’ also played during the festival.  I confess I did not see it, for I heard it had already been picked up and would be shown in the USA commercially.  Subsequently I did indeed see it, and reckon that it is one of the best films of the twenty-first century.  The scene in the outhouse on the boardwalk with the younger protagonist brother has to be one of the most classic scenes ever filmed, especially in terms of comedy.  The director, Danny Boyle, is not an Indian.  He also made ‘Trainspotting’ which I had to exit from within the first ten minutes due to its graphic sensationalism of injecting heroin, the lover spitting on the needle before inserting it.  Those who dislike Slumdog object to its Boyle-istic sensationalism, and lack of Indian involvement.  However, the original creation was written by an Indian.  The colors in this movie are unbelievable, as is the cinematography.  {But not to surpass that in ‘Song of Sparrows.}  The story is very current, with plenty of tension, and some real purty faces.  Go see it is all I can say.  Despite any detractions, still, the movie overall is great. 

More comments on films will follow in the forthcoming weeks, as time permits…….

Rickie Lee Jones Performs Fantastically At the Talkhouse Summer 2008

Rickie Lee Jones, the ‘legend’ as it says on the plastic paste-on to her 2003 release
‘The Evening Of My Best Day,’ visited the Stephen Talkhouse for the first time on the
first full day of summer, June 21 2008. She used to be gay and cool, actually gave
herself the title ‘Duchess of Coolsville’ for her triple Rhino CD compilation, but this
nite she was very diva. Very strict. Someone talked in the front row and she commented on
it in the middle of one of her songs very acidly. That was in the middle of the show.
When she was at the piano playing a song she said she seldom does in concert ‘Pirates’ some
bobo’s cellphone went off several times in a row. She didn’t say anything because she
was too into singing lyrics like “I’m just tryin to have some fun/until the Pirates come/and
take me//and I won’t need a pilot/got a pirate who might sail/somewhere I heard far away/
you answer me/so I’m holding on/to your rainbow sleeves//well, goodbye boys, oh my buddy
boys/oh my sad-eyed Sinatras/it’s a a cold globe around the sea/you keep the shirt that I
bought ya/and I know you’ll get the chance to make it/and nothin’s gonna stop you/you just
reach out and take it/You say – So Long, Lonely Avenue/So Long, Lonely Avenue.”

(Rickie Lee probably loved and repeatedly listened to David ‘Fathead’ Newman’s great jazz
version of ‘Lonely Avenue’ released in 1972, of which its composer, Doc Pomus, said
“‘Lonely Avenue’ has been recorded many many times, but I can’t think of a version that
I find more satisfying.” ‘Pirates’ is actually the title cut of Ms. Jones’ 1981 Warner Bros.

Yes! The Duchess, the legend, expects to be treated appropriate to her talent, which is immense and amazing. Thaint no one on this Earth that can sing, or would sing like Rickie Lee. She can purr and raise her voice to the rafters and still hit every note. She does this continuous sustaining of her voice, especially near the end of songs, where other bands might be doing an electric guitar or maybe a flute solo. On one song she used the pocket and curve and flexion and opening of her right hand to change the flow of her vocal sounds to the microphone.

This was an experience of a lifetime to see where she has progressed to in the
performance and composition of her music. Especially sitting about nine feet away from
her, in the fantastic Talkhouse, where I’ve been lucky enough to see musicians from
Buddy Guy to Diblo Dibala to Jesse Colin Young to a super-hot Los Lobos one magic
night several years ago.

Ms. Jones’ music can be very jazzy, innocent, rocky (as in rock and roll), feminine,
slinky, sunny, funky, full of the grandeur of falling in love, or the pain of a life
lived for celebration, but sometimes falling into deep holes. She says in her latest
release (2006) liner notes that the inspiration for its songs came from a book
called ‘The Words’ by Lee Cantelon, which she states is “a modern rendering of the
words of Christ.” She did the song ‘Nobody Know My Name’ from that CD amidst a very
clean guitar framework, building and stalwart, around her incredible vocal. When
you heard a song start this night, the beat, the rhythm, the melody, might seem
one way, but then, when Rickie Lee came in…who knew it could go in this direction that
she was taking it. By the way, the CD, the latest one, is called ‘The Sermon On
Exposition Boulevard.’ Just checking it out actually, but all the vocals are

Rickie Lee was telling us that these last eight years have been terrible. She went to
say how you couldn’t write straight plain songs about the Bush administration’s
mal-doings because then you might not be able to get a job. But, with a devilish smile,
she revealed that she had created ‘Ugly Man,’ obviously about our current and
worst president evah. It’s a sort of jazzy sad tune, where she does mention his father.
It’s the first cut on her 2003 CD, by the way, where she also has a tune
called ‘Tell Somebody (Repeal The Patriot Act)’ so don’t think Rickie Lee has
gone totally inner and indulgent in her middle age.

And her guitar playing led the way, including a very unique wah-wah solo on a song
called ‘Scary Chinese Movie’ which sounded totally different from her recorded version,
and at least a thousand times more interesting and rocky and searing.

Seeing her in person again, and understanding the lyrics, allowed some songs to be
appreciated in a different way. Here, I would give you ‘The Horses’ as one example,
where she is singing about her daughter going through heroin problems, as she had,
but she can listen, hoping her daughter will talk to her about it all, and she’d
‘Pick You Up, Pick You Up, Pick You Up….if you fall.’ Of course, that verse is
what stands out when you listen to ‘The Horses.’ But, with different listenings
different words can be heard, as when we were present this night at the Talkhouse.
But basically she is trying to be there for her daughter and singing to us “Don’t
you worry ’bout a thing little girl/Because I was young myself not so long ago/
And when I was young/And when I was young, oh I was a wild, wild one.”
(‘The Horses’ is from a 1989 release ‘Flying Cowboys.’)

Rickie Lee sang one of her more haunting ballads, probably one every Rickie Lee
Jones fan loves: ‘The Last Chance Texaco’ off her 1979 self-titled first vinyl album.
It has California based/placed lyrics like “A long stretch of headlights/Bends into
I-9/Tiptoe into truck stops/And sleepy diesel eyes/Volcanoes rumble in the taxi/
And glow in the dark/Camels in the driver’s seat/A slow, easy mark…Well, he
tried to be Standard/He tried to be Mobil/He tried living in a World/And in a
Shell/There was this block-busted blonde/He lover her – – free parts and
labor/But she broke down and died/And threw all the rods he gave her/But
this one ain’t fuel-injected/Her plug’s disconnected/She gets scared and she
stalls/She just needs a man, that’s all.”

That was her solution back then, when she was young and bouncy and beautiful
and wild and crazy. Her audience has aged with her. It is always interesting to
see the crowd any performer draws into the Talkhouse. This one was semi-hippie,
not too many folk under 40, everyone very respectful, except for a few talkers that
Rickie reprimanded. But then they must’ve been a bit dipsy-doodled too, as the one
feller who called out in request “Play Last Chance Texaco” about five songs after
she had already done it. Many of us reminded him how out of it he was, though,
it should be said that most songs were performed in unusual styles and arrangements
as compared to their recorded, commonly expected versions.

For her first encore Rickie Lee happily did ‘Chuck E.’s In Love’ which was very
popular for her back in 1979. That was the very first cut on side one (vinyl albums
have two sides for you too young to know) of ‘Rickie Lee Jones.’ The lyrics are
very jivey, like: “He sure has acquired a cool and inspired sorta jazz when he
walk/Where’s his jacket and his old blue jeans?/If this ain’t healthy it is some kinda
clean?…I think that Chuck E.’s in love/Chuck E.’s in love/With the little girl who’s
singin’ this song….”

There’s a lot of joy and mischief and poetry in Ms. Jones’ music. Lately, add religion
to the mix, or maybe spirituality. She’s not had it easy with problems with cocaine and
heroin and who knows what else. But she still can sing and perform with the
best of our living musicians today. I am very grateful to have seen her again, in
still top form and irascible as she is. By the way, she did apologize to the audience
as she finally walked off the stage saying “I hope I didn’t scare you too much.”
Rickie Lee…Rickie Lee….