Thursday, February 19, 2009

The steel pan and the standup bass strike lightning

My photographs of the Guitar Circle we hosted Monday night in John Eiler's garage have a hazy quality that owes to my disinclination to use a flash (and apparent inability to hold perfectly still long enough for room light to stream into the camera). But some of the people who were in the garage for a long night of intense music and moonshine have pointed out that the haze shrouding the images is oddly fitting.

Here we have split images of the night's surprise collaboration, Josh Weinstein on upright bass and Baba Mike Nelson on steel pan.

Josh in performance was itself something of a surprise. He is best known as a producer of the innovative KDHX show All Soul, No Borders and, more recently, as an upstart oral historian who has been documenting living jazz legends.

What Josh doesn't broadcast, being a modest man, is that he has quietly been developing chops and instincts for improvisation on the double bass. If I am not mistaken, the great William Parker is one of his teachers.

In part because it was so unexpected and so different from the other performances, Josh's turns in the circle seemed to leave the strongest lasting impression among Guitar Circle regulars, including people who know and love Josh dearly but really had not pegged him as a musician. From now on, they surely will.

It speaks to his ability and instincts that Baba Mike joined in on his steel pan. Mike embodies the living history in St. Louis of the music Josh most cherishes. Mike has learned his crafts from the very best artists St. Louis has produced, including Clark Terry, Oliver Lake and Oswald Moses, who showed him how to tune and play the pans.

Unless he is teaching, Mike just doesn't mess with music that isn't ready. Josh was ready. Baba Mike was born that way. I would like to think the vein of crackly light you can see in his pan, here, is an image of the lighting that lit up the room for the brief time these two men were making music together in that dimly lit garage.


My photo of Josh includes an image of Thom Fletcher as spectator. In a cool reversal, Thom's shot of the same performance, posted on his Flickr site, shows me (and John Eiler, Sunyatta Marshall, Heather Corley and Jon Cournoyer) as spectator.

1 comment:

Colin said...

i like the blurry shot, too. And i have the same tendencey to turn the flash off- more atmospheric color that way. i can always punch things up later.