Archive for the ‘Field Recordings of the Future’ Category

Twenty Years Ago Today

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2018

Margaret Explosion playing at the Bug Jar in 1998

Pete LaBonne, shown above on bass guitar, named the band. Casey Walpert gave us a gig playing happy hour at the Bug Jar on Friday nights and we stayed there for a few years. We never rehearsed and still haven’t. We improvised. Jack Schaefer played guitar, Peggi Fournier played sax and I played drums.

The group changed over time. Pete moved back to the mountains after three months and Greg Slack, who was usually there on Friday nights, took over on bass. The group grew in size, became unmanageable and slimmed down again. Bob Martin moved back from DC and joined on guitar. Ken Frank joined shortly after Bob and that worked well for fifteen years. Bob moved to Chicago and Phil Marshall took his place on guitar. Pete sits in on piano whenever he is town, he’s on most of the records, and Jack plays bass clarinet when his schedule allows.

Margaret Explosion is a concept and it seems to work despite the line-up changes. I like to think it keeps getting stronger. On Wednesday Pete will be sitting at the grand piano, Jack will play a few tunes on bass clarinet and we’ll give away some merch. I am grateful to all the people we’ve played with in these twenty years and I’m really exited about tomorrow’s gig.

Margaret Explosion - Tonic Party

Margaret Explosion – Tonic Party


Wednesday, May 9th, 2018

Albert Paley sculpture in front of old B&L Headquarters, Rochester, New York

It wasn’t the best night last week. The band sort of floated around themes but never nailed anything until that one song in the second set. We trapped ourselves in a spell and stopped time. The room got really quiet and we all knew we were into something good. I remember thinking. “I don’t want to blow this,” and then the power went out on the recorder. I don’t know if kicked the cord or what happened but we lost the recording. If I hadn’t let the batteries run down they would have taken over but they were dead so, poof, the second set was gone. The really cool thing was that all four of us were bummed. We are all on the same page and knew we had touched magic.

Of course, if we did have the recording, the chances are it would never have sounded as good as we remember it. Mike Rea tapes a lot of shows. Maybe he has a recording.

Margaret Explosion - Daydream

Margaret Explosion – Daydream

The Courage To Create

Monday, May 7th, 2018

Hamid Drake and Adam Rudolph performing at the Bop Shop in Rochester, New York

Two nights in a row at the Bop Shop. I wish I still bought records. I did look through a few boxes of 45s labeled “New This Week,” all vintage but in great shape, but I didn’t buy anything. We were there for performances by Amy Rigby on Friday night and then Hamid Drake and Adam Rudolph on Saturday. Hamid reminded us at the end of their set that we should all be thankful for performance spaces like this, an outlet for people with the courage to create. Drake was part of the first act Tom booked in his old space in the Village Gate and that was thirty years ago.

We have heard Hamid Drake with Fred Anderson and Ken Vandermark and Peter Brotzmann. He is a sensational drummer. Both he and Adam Rudolf played with Don Cherry, Yusef Lateef and Pharaoh Sanders. They learned from the masters. Years ago when Hamid played Milestones I asked him who his favorite drummer was and he told me it was Ed Blackwell, who he studied with. I reminded him of that conversation last night and he said he had moved on from Blackwell’s influence because he felt he was sounding too much like Blackwell, as if that’s possible. His mentor, Yusef Lateef, taught, “the tradition is to sound like yourself. To play your aboriginalness.”

Hamid says he “has been developing a hand drum concept on the drum set while Adam has been developing a drum set concept on his hand drums.” They played one long but perfectly controlled set and finished with a mesmerizing piece where Hamid sang a Buddhist chant while playing a frame drum and and Adam played sintir while throat singing backups. Despite subscribing to music streaming services, we bought their new cd,”Karuna.”

Amy Rigby Holy Card

Sunday, May 6th, 2018

Amy Rigby holy card on table at home

I still have my holy cards spread out on the rug in our living room. Still sorting and identifying the ones with no identification, apart from the distinctive iconography. Of course that is Santa Agueda with her breasts in a bowl but who is that shown with two lions and a Roman building? A half hour’s research proves it is Santa Thecla, the first woman martyr. Meanwhile the post card announcing Amy Rigby’s gig at the Bop Shop is still on our table. Catching it out of the corner of our eyes, both Peggi and I keep thinking it is a holy card.

Amy Rigby, performing without her famous husband, captivated a large crowd in the performance space at the Bop Shop on Friday night. She was in fine form as she presented her many gifts – her devotion to song craftsmanship, her charm and wit, her shared fandom and literary lyrics. I get “From to” but I’m still mulling over the lyrics to the enigma,”Robert Altman,” as well I should be. I am a huge fan of Amy’s writing so of course we bought her new augmented song book with lyrics to her new lp, “Old Guys.” as well as a hand picked selection of blog posts.


Monday, March 26th, 2018

Wind surfer in channel at Sea Breeze in Rochester, New York

We walked along the beach this morning with our back packs fully loaded. That would be just over and just under ten pounds each. We went up Oakridge Drive for a bit and then cut back into the park. We saw someone out on the golf course hitting balls. He was wearing headphones and he was surrounded by patches of snow. They looked like shiny white sand traps against the bright blue sky. Peggi found our first golf ball of the year, a brand new “Chaos” ball by Wilson. It seems like a strange brand name for such an orderly game.

We usually cut our own hair but occasionally we go to someone or they come here. We had arranged to have our friends’ daughter trim our hair tonight, before we leave for the Camino, and at the last minute she told us she wasn’t going to able to because her son had a bad cold. That was fine with us because we didn’t have to miss yoga.

Jeffery puts a lot of work into his classes. There is a natural flow to the class and the two hours fly by. He tells stories, in pieces between the durations of the poses and he effortlessly leaves the story to have us reposition before continuing. A woman in our class lived next door to Louise Slaughter and she and Jeffery went to Louise’s memorial service at the Eastman. The Clintons were there along with Nancy Pelosi and John Lewis. Jeffery was really moved by the service and eulogies. Apparently it was a real celebration of a life lived to the fullest.

Margaret Explosion plays one more Wednesday in March at the Little Theatre Café, 7-9pm. Here’s “Jack In The Box,” the first song from last week’s show, with Pete LaBonne on piano.

Margaret Explosion - Jack In The Box
Margaret Explosion – Jack In The Box


Monday, March 19th, 2018

Joe Daley Trio performing live at the Bop Shop

Joe Daley introduced his trio last night and then revealed their game plan. “What we do is we converse with one another for about an hour or so and you get to listen in.” The set began with an extended vibes intro by Warren Smith. He played vibes on Van Morrison’s “Astral Weeks” and hundreds of other records. Joe Daley joined on keyboard and Scott Robinson joined the conversation in with a deep, soulful baritone sax part. Warren Smith moved to Timpani. He is on the road with two kettledrums and they sounded so good. He is in his eighties now and he told me he fell in love with the instrument in school and he used to sneak into the band room to play them. I told him I loved the way they sounded in Sun Ra’s band and he told me he played with Sun Ra for a few dates in New York.

The prettiest piece they played featured Joe Daley on drone flute, an wooden instrument with three shafts, the outside two just playing one note each while the melody (in A minor) is played on the middle one. Scott Robinson played another wooden flute and Warren Smith played the drum kit with his hands. Joe said they always finish with a memorial piece and the one he played last night was dedicated to his late wife, Naomi. They were married for forty five years and she passed away just as they retired two years ago. It was mournful, sad and beautiful.


Monday, February 19th, 2018

Johnny O'Neal at the Penthouse in downtown Rochester

Leon “Ndugu” Chancler recently died. He played drums with Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, Weather Report and Hugh Masekela but also did some serious session work. That’s him playing the drums on the intro to Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean.” I really like this quote from his NYT obituary. “The player has to do much more listening than the listener coming to enjoy the music and if that player is doing that listening, he will become a great player.”

We heard Johnny O’Neil over the weekend up in the old corporate boardroom of Security Trust Bank. The eleventh floor space is surrounded by glass and you get a great view of downtown Rochester. It sounds good in there as well. Johnny O’Neil made a name for himself in New York in the early 1980s, drawing comparisons to classic jazz pianists like Art Tatum and Oscar Peterson. We had heard him before in an Exodus to Jazz series at Hochstein.

He plays piano in a trio setting. The bass player and drummer stay out of the way while Johnny works the room. He’s at home with the blues and sings about every other song. “She puts whiskey in her coffee, whiskey in her tea. Whiskey in her whiskey, too much whiskey for me.”


Tuesday, February 6th, 2018

Three trees on Lake Road in Webster

From “Leave the Driving” on the lp, “Greendale”
“The moral of this story
Is try not to get too old
The more time you spend on earth
The more you see unfold”

Maybe you already knew this but I just found out. Neil Young is giving away the store for a few months. Everything in his archives is available for streaming in a high quality format. You can really tell the difference. Pick your favorite song or album and give it a spin.

We started with “On The Beach” and then “Greendale.” Both sounded better than ever. We ran into a little hitch with “Landing on Water.” The timeline he provides is really cool as well. You can see how he would often record songs and then use them at a later date. He is a non-linear guy.

We walked down to the lake, across the seasonal bridge on to Lake Road and then up Bay Road where we cut back into the new homes off Dewitt Road that hover over the bay on the Webster side. It was a little over eleven miles by the time we got back. A few more pokes into Webster and we will be ready to keep going around the bay and back.

Long Live Joywave

Wednesday, January 17th, 2018


I think we first heard about Joywave from our tax preparer. The receptionist in his office was the mother of one of the band members. There are so many cool things about this band. The lead singer, Daniel Armbruster, for starters. A beautiful voice and so much fun to watch. Their website! When was the last time you had fun at a website? Back in the early web days for me.

There is the fact that they talk up Rochester every chance they get. They were cool as hell as “The Hoodies” right out of high school. Check them out restocking the shelves with their cd at a Rochester Best Buy. The coolest thing about them is they keep getting better. Most bands go in the other direction. Check out “It’s a Trip” from their new cd, “Content.” And with their incredible success they have released their own virtual currency #joycoin.

And then there is two striking similarities to a band I was in the early eighties. Joywave had their new album release party in the old revolving restaurant, the flying saucer like room that tops the old First Federal Bank. We wanted to go to that gig but tickets sold out way too fast. In 1983 we booked the Top of the Plaza for our first record release party. Joywave played the Planetarium and Personal Effects played there for three months in the mid eighties and recorded the soundtrack as our last album.

Tree Tats

Thursday, December 21st, 2017

Heavily tattooed  trees in Durand Eastman Park

Our snow has disappeared so we walked in the woods today. Odd how clunky the trail feels on the bottom of your feet after only a week of gliding through it on our skis. This trail, on the east side of Durand Lake, is a popular one for good reason. These heavily tattooed beech trees attest to that.

I must be running in the wrong circles because I can’t remember the last time I heard a really exciting local band, somebody doing something I haven’t heard before, something from left field. I keep running across bands that are all too eager to provide comfort food, pale imitations of what was once the good stuff. I know they’re out there. Like I said, “I’m running in the wrong circles.”

Black Thought from the Roots is wondering the same thing.
“We back again
For a couple things we lost in the fire
The drive, the desire to perform on a higher plateau
I’m at that show lost in the mire
Wondering how we got so far from inspired”

Thinking about checking Sirsy out tomorrow night at Three Heads.


Monday, December 4th, 2017

Richard Serra oil stick drawing at MoMA

We didn’t want to cut out of yoga early so we missed the first piece of Ossia’s “ShadeShifting” program this evening at Kilbourn Hall. It was called “Zugvogal” and it incorporated bird calls. The pieces we heard, all composed in the past twelve years, were spacey and beautiful, just what the doctor ordered after splitting wood for most of the day.

The final piece was stunning. The program notes described Toshio Hosokawa’s “Drawing” as “composed of highly intimate details. The smallest gestures and lines carry great weight. Subtle changes of color contain whole worlds of meaning. Airy canons at the beginning give way to splashes in the winds, until at the end the piece becomes meditative again, disappearing into a wisp of a cloud.”

It lived up to the billing.


Thursday, November 23rd, 2017

Couple in front of Louise Bourgeois drawings at MoMA

This is my kind of holiday. Gathering with friends and family to celebrate the harvest and express our thanks for such a bountiful life. I’m down with all of that.

My brother came out tonight with his Vietnmese squeeze. I haven’t gotten confirmation from Peggi yet but I could swear she played a South East Asian melody when they walked in. Our Buffalo fans were there, first time they’ve heard the band with Phil. And Phil stood up while he played. Bob established a guitar template before leaving for Chicago and Phil is in the process of shattering that. Geoff and Sara were up from NYC. Ken’s wife, Lisa, was there and it is always so much fun to see her although I get the message that we’re a little too tame for her.

Peggi is our leader and tonight she led us into an ultra lounge thing, suspending time as if there wasn’t anyone in the house. Ken sounded better than ever. The quieter I play the better he sounds. Pete was sensational on the grand piano. Even though we had five players in the mix there was all kinds of space. It was the best gig ever and I’m thankful for that.

Golden Banana

Sunday, November 19th, 2017

John Cale at performing Velvet Underground at BAM

How may times a day do you think the accordion guy on the F train plays “New York, New York?” He must be nearly out of his mind. We put a dollar in his hat and he got off the train when the song ended.

The first time we saw John Cale was at CBGB’s. I think it was late 1976. I just remember the New Math guys seemed to be impressed when I tried out for the band and told them we had just seen John Cale. New Math opened for John Cale at the Penny Arcade but I had already quit the band by then. Cale took the stage solo, playing bass guitar and wearing a hockey mask. And on election night in ’84 Personal Effects opened for John Cale. He had a TV set on stage tuned to coverage but with the sound off and he was chanting “four more years.”

He is playing three nights at the Brooklyn Acadamey of Music in celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the Velvet Underground’s first album. I bought that album when it came out based solely on the cover. It took me a few listens to warm up to it but it has always been one of my favorites.

At BAM he was in good form and he had a great band and plenty of guests. He opened with “Waiting For My Man.” The drummer channeled Maureen Tucker with no rack tom and only two cymbals. A tuba player joined him for “All Tomorrow’s Parties” and Cale played viola on “Venus in Furs.” Kurt Vile sang and played guitar on “Run Run Run” and was fantastic. And TV on the Radio’s Tunde Adebimpe did a great job with “Heroin.”

The various configurations of the band all sounded so good it was a letdown when the drummer put headphones on to play to a sequenced track. Thankfully, they only tried that on a handful of songs. I think Lou would have loved it.

A Night Like No Other

Wednesday, November 15th, 2017

Snake on the rad in the park, Rochester, New York

Tonight. Margaret Explosion plays the Little Theater Café Wednesday night 7-9pm. Hope you can stop out.

Margaret Explosion - Witness

Margaret Explosion – Witness

The Last Eggplant

Friday, November 10th, 2017

First snowfall with Autumn Leaves

Our kale plants are still thriving in this weather but the jalapeños and eggplants have had it. We picked the last of those. With the temperatures in the twenties we determined it was safe to go back in the woods. Our favorite trails had become so overgrown with invasive plants that we avoided them this summer. We feel like tick nets in warmer weather and hope science can find a way around this menace. For now, we feel safe below 20 degrees.

We met Phil Marshall for lunch at a Thai restaurant. It was basically a band rehearsal, one where we talked philosophy rather than play instruments. I guess it was a goals clarification discussion, confirmation that we are all on the same page and all want to get there quicker. I think it went well.

Margaret Explosion - Tonic Party

Margaret Explosion – Tonic Party


Wednesday, October 18th, 2017

Boat, dressed Shriners for a gig at Snake Sisters (now Lux) for a Halloween gig in the late eighties.

Kool & The Gang did a Spanish language version of their song, “Celebration.” It is the first thing i think of when I hear the word, “celebrate.” Phil Marshall is not even 24 hours into his 60th year on Planet Earth and we plan to celebrate tonight at the Little Theatre Café. Although this is only Phil’s third official gig with Margaret Explosion, he played guitar on two tracks of our 2002 cd “Happy Hour.” A link to “Three Chins,” an outtake from that project, is included here. Phil also played guitar with us (along with Bob Martin) in Boat, a late eighties party band. We’re shown here below on Halloween at Snake Sister’s Café, now “Lux” in the South Wedge. Phil is conspicuously not wearing the Shriner nose piece.

Margaret Explosion - Three Chins

Margaret Explosion – Three Chins

Abstract Instructions

Wednesday, October 11th, 2017

Orange motorcycle in front of Trata Restaurant in Rochester New York

Without rehearsals to talk things over you have to find time to talk between sets. The first week I felt as though it might help to gently reinforce the idea that Phil did not have to do Bob. I don’t even know if I got that out. Phil sounds great so I did not want to jinx anything. I did talk about how I find it most satisfying when I lose awareness of the part I am playing and find myself listening to the whole. Phil said he had a few of those moments. And I was thinking, “What kind of instructions are these to be giving to someone the first time they’ve played with us?”

Tonight, I said, “Don’t feel like you have to be polite.” That was a real clunker so I’m just gonna stay out of this. Margaret Explosion is an ongoing experiment, Wednesday nights in the Little Theater Café until December.

Jeff Spevak’s blog got a real shot in the arm when his Gannett gig ended. I’m thinking he’s going to write his way into the future. He came to my talk on Saturday and reviewed the show. Alan Singer is an artist, a teacher and the son of Arthur, a sensational wildlife artist. He came to the Witness opening and reviewed the show on his blog.

Witness, The Soundtrack

Sunday, October 8th, 2017

Music at The Liquor Store on West Main Street in Rochester, New York

Ossia’s New Music program for Thursday night was just what the doctor ordered, a real palette cleanser from the intense preparations for “Witness.” With six pieces from the past forty years the program was called “One +” and my guess is that is because each of the pieces, whether a duo, quartet, small ensemble or large ensemble, featured one instrument in dialog with the rest of the group.

A brass quartet opened the night with a piece called “Call,” “a short musical ceremony, “a call to the audience, an invitation to listen” – before the feast begins.

“Only the Words Themselves Mean What They Say,” for soprano and flute, was like eavesdropping on a three disjointed conversations, maybe one end of a phone call. Wore thin for me but got the night’s best response. Oliver Knussen “Cantata,” with oboe and strings, was abstract and transportive, my favorite piece of the night.

“Splintered Instruments” for harp and ensemble was a call and response where the ensemble mimicked and fleshed out the pizzicato harp. “A Lyrical Concertino,” performed here for the first time, lived up to its title. “Songs from Solomon’s Garden,” for baritone voice and large ensemble was mysterious and weighty. Listening to this piece I felt as though our destiny may have been determined in that garden.

Ossia’s New Music series gives us hope for the future.

Joe Sorriero and Tim Polland from Nod played a set outside of RoCo on Friday night. They were hired by the Rochester Biennial to perform and I missed the whole thing. They were packing up by the time I came out of the “Witness” opening but they gave us directions to the performance space on West Main, an old Liquor Store, where Joe Tunis had organized an “post-free jazz electronic music” performance. We heard Rafael Toral coax otherworldly sounds from a mysterious, hand-held box.

Developing My Picture

Wednesday, October 4th, 2017

Leo Dodd working on watercolor of Margaret Explosion

Leo Dodd is shown here, working on his painting of Margaret Explosion. Although it is unfinished, that is definitely Ken Frank on bass, Peggi Fournier on soprano sax and Paul Dodd on drums. And that’s Pete LaBonne on piano but he only plays with the band every couple of months. Is that Bob Martin? No. Wait, I think that is Phil Marshall, Margaret Explosion’s newest member, on guitar. Hope you can stop tonight and say hello to him. You can see the finished painting on Leo Dodd’ website.

Of course, we have not rehearsed with Phil. We never rehearsed with Bob or in the twenty year history of the band. That would spoil everything. We don’t have any songs to rehearse. We only have songs after having played them live and they will never sound better than they did that first time. We have tested this hypothesis. The interaction and exchange that goes on while the song is developing is something you cannot recreate. And why would you want to recreate when you could be part of creation?

Our first show with Phil is tonight at the Little Theatre Café 7-9pm Free Admission. Hope you can stop out.
Paul and Peggi

Leo Dodd and Paul Dodd have a show called “Witness” at Rochester Contemporary – Opening Friday Oct. 6, 6-9pm

And here’s a link to George Jones’ song.

Molly Malone

Tuesday, September 26th, 2017

Funny that John Gilmore stopped by today. It was 90 degrees and he wanted to soak in our pool but by the time we got down there he thought it was too cold. This time of year I don’t stick my toe in, I just jump in. I say “funny” because I was editing this 2014 footage of my father speaking at an artist’s talk at I-Square in 2014. John videoed it and he gave us a copy. My brother John and I were also in the show but I edited our parts out. I may post them as parts 2 and 3 somewhere down the road.

There is an artist’s talk at RoCo on October 7th for the “Witness” show with Leo and me. I guess they are doing it FB Live so you don’t have to leave home. My father won’t be able to be there so I’m posting this footage. It’s 23 minutes long and and I don’t want to spoil it for you if you actually slog your way through but my father mentions this song at the end and I want to dedicate it to him.