Golden Age Of Radio

Magnolias in early April at Durand Eastman Park
Magnolias in early April at Durand Eastman Park

A previous generation claimed the title but this is the golden age of radio.

I sat down to clean up some Margaret Explosion recordings this afternoon, just trimming the front ends and drawn out endings – maybe dropping a few middle bars, but I still had WAYO window open and I clicked on the live button. I was drawn into Alla Boara playing live in the studio. They are a Cleveland band that does modern arrangements of Italian folk songs and they’re playing tonight at the Lovin’ Cup, another Bop Shop sponsored show. Kyle Brown’s “Up on the Roof” (soul, jazz, doo-wop, rhythm and blues, instrumentals and other oldies-but-goodies) sucked us in for the next hour and led right into Jason Wilder‘s “Fantastic Voyage.” Jason had reached out to me yesterday to say he was planning to play a Margaret Explosion song and he wanted me to suggest a Sun Ra song to follow it up with. I chose “Lanquidity.”

We regularly listen to our brother-in-law’s WAYO “Magic Radio” show on Wednesday’s and sometimes Joe Tunis’s show on Fridays. Our neighbor, Rick, has a cool show on WITR. Then there is Howard Thompson’s “Pure” show on WPKN and Kevin Patrick’s late night “So Many Records.” Armand Schaubroeck’s show on Rochester Free Radio is always a blast. Long live radio!

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The Explosion Of…

Tiny Mayflowers in the snow
Tiny Mayflowers in the snow

Doug Rice often comes to the Margaret Explosion shows so he is on our mailing list. When we emailed him about Wednesday’s gig we included a link to the video from our last gig at Skylark and Doug emailed back. “you sound better without a sound system.” Doug used to do sound professionally at big shows in the park in Brooklyn and for bands at Mass MoCA. Last night, at the Little, we played without a sound system. Travel warnings about the ice and snow made for a really quiet night. The twenty five or so people who were there were quiet and listening. The music was better and strangely, we sold more cds (no lps) than we have in long while.

Pete Monacelli was there and he sent us a poem he wrote while listening.

the little
Margaret Explosion
dinner
bottled water
+
the explosion of silence
the explosion of quiet
the explosion of soft
the explosion of…
+
lament in time
lament anger
lament self-destruction
lament
+
reach for light
face pressed against glass
yearning
for life’s meaning

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Out Of The Frying Pan

Pat Moschiano performing with Frying Pan at Skylark Lounge in Rochester
Pat Moschiano performing with Frying Pan at Skylark Lounge in Rochester

Pat Moschiano organized a gig for four bands at Skylark. The show was dedicated to Dave Ripton and the proceeds went to his favorite charity, AA. Pat’s band, Frying Pan, went first. He was backed by Phil and Ken from Margaret Explosion and Brian from Nod (on the drum riser). Pat delivers his Kerouac-like lyrics like Mark E. Smith from The Fall or James Murphy in LCD Soundsystem while the band mines Chicago blues. We were thrilled to be able to hear the lyrics this time.

The place had filled up by the time Annie Wells took the stage, with people who had not been in the same room together in a long time. Stan Merrill showed me his scratching technique for making swinging sixties style movies. He moves his finger up and down on the lens dial as he shoots. Don Blair gave us a recording of Ripton reading four poems in the 80’s in this very same room. The place was called Mothers. Annie played three of Dave’s songs but it was hard to hear them. Still this one was the best thing I heard all night.

Margaret Explosion played next. Ken’s electric bass gave us an especially full sound. I set about half of Brian’s drums aside and played the rest. I kept getting my foot stuck under the bag of sticks that was hanging off the tom tom. We are used to playing without a sound system so Peggi’s sound is a 50/50 mix of natural sax sound in the room and the pickup to amp with some digital delay. Here the room sound was lost and her pickup collected the whole band and sent that through her effects and out her amp (which was miced) and into the PA. We could have made it all work with a sound check but none of that mattered. We were there for Dave. Through tears Dave’s daughter told us the last place she went with her dad was to Margaret Explosion at the Little.

I looked through my pictures of Nod before the gig, inspecting Brian’s kit before sharing it. I did a file search for Nod and came across a photo I took years ago of the Penfield Road underpass. I was confused as to why that photo was in with all the Nod photos and then realized the graffiti on the bridge read “No Draft.”

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Command I

Melissa Davis playing cello at the Little Theatre Café
Melissa Davis playing cello at the Little Theatre Café

“Command I” in PS Elements nicely altered the photo I took on Monday night of Melissa Davies and her cello. She was playing with Andrew in their duo, “Wren Cove” and she will playing there tonight with Margaret Explosion. We hope. Part of the fun is wondering who will be available for gigs. In the last year alone we’ve played gigs without the cello, without Peggi’s sax, without Ken’s bass and for the last two month’s without Phil on guitar. And the wild card is Jack on bass clarinet or guitar. He would like to be there every gig but only manages a few.

Wren Cove sounded otherworldly on Monday. Their best songs, often improvised and always in minor keys, completely sweep me away. They both loop fragments of their instrument’s sounds and play on top to create rich, gentle soundscapes. They are playing Friday night at  Red, White, and Brew on State Street.

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Joshua Redman Trio

Joshua Redman performing at Hochstein School of Music in Rochester, New York
Joshua Redman performing at Hochstein School of Music in Rochester, New York

I remember checking out Joshua Redman years ago – because I liked his father so much, all those classic records he did with Ornette. I loved that stuff. I have no right to be a snob but the son’s music just seemed too straight. Jennifer, from Teen Empowerment, asked if we’d get the word out about last night’s show because Tone was bringing him to the Hochstein. I’m so happy we went. We really loved the show.

Hochstein, a former church built on the grounds of an Underground Railroad stop, is a great looking venue but problematic for sound. You can hear how ambient the room was in my Kenny Garrett video. When we saw Tom Harrell and Esperanza Spalding here all I could think was how much better he had sounded in Kilbourn. The band last night opened with just sax, voice and piano and it sounded fantastic. With the drums and bass tacked on the sound lost its focus and delicacy. Gabrielle Cavassa, the ultra lounge style vocalist, fit beautifully with Joshua’s sax and Paul Cornish fluid piano. I did like the two snares Nazir Ebo used. One one fat and sloppy and the other tight and bright. I would like to hear the trio in a jazz club with tiny tables and expensive cocktails.

With the whole world in sync NPR posted a Tiny Desk concert with Joshua Redman the morning after this show. They opened with the same song and you can hear what the band sounds like as a trio by listening to the first few minutes of this.

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See You In Church

My grandfather would would finish every visit with “See you in church.” I would chuckle but it made no sense. He went to Saint Boniface and we went to Saint John’s.

Steve Black has created a video for “Rosary,” my personal favorite track on our new lp. Shot in NYC and tweaked with AI from Haiper, it is almost as if Steve was sitting in with the band as we fell into this hypnotic groove. Phil Marshall’s understated, sinewy guitar in dialog with Pete LaBonne’s effortlessly magical piano, Peggi Fournier’s melody, as relaxed as Colorblind James’ “Ride Board,” Ken Franks big bass and my drums making sure the song goes nowhere and Steve Black’s hallucinatory visuals. And do I have to mention that the song captures what it feels like to say the rosary.

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Sun Ra Sunday

Durand Eastman January 2024
Durand Eastman January 2024

Fresh, twinkling snow and temperatures in the low twenties made for another perfect ski today. Three in a row. We plan to get out out early tomorrow before this all melts. They haven’t groomed the trails this year. Maybe that is a thing of the past. We don’t mind trudging. We worked our way up to lake and found a large shelf of ice and snow out where the sand bar is. It looked like it started at the mouth of the river and runs all the way to the Sea Breeze Pier.

I added to my Sun Ra library over Christmas with Rodger Coleman’s “Sun Ra Sundays” book and this morning I read an entry on “Nothing Is,” an essential Sun Ra recording. Originally released on the ESP label in 1969, it is a live recording from a 1966 performance at Saint Lawrence University in Canton, New York. Brian Williams from The Goners went there and I asked him if he was at the show. He told me it was very memorable and one of the best cultural events at SLU. The original release was edited by Sun Ra and fit on one lp. ESP recently unearthed over ninety minutes of unreleased material from the concert as a two-CD set entitled “College Tour Vol. 1: The Complete Nothing Is…”

I’m happy to report Margaret Explosion’s “Per La Prima!” lp is getting some healthy local airplay. Scott Regan always plays a track before one of our gigs on his WXXI “Open Tunings” show. Rick Simpson has played a few tracks on his “Gumbo Variations” WITR show. Cal Zone’s “Magic Records” show picked the lp as one of his Best of the Year releases. And Joe Tunis’s “Numbers,” also on WAYO, played “Disappear” this week and let the lp side play out through “Rosary” and “Daydream” while he back announced and yammered on. It was beautiful.

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Circle Game

Bobbie Henrie and the Goners at Abilene 2023
Bobbie Henrie and the Goners at Abilene 2023

The years go by but each one goes in a circle at the same time so that brings us to another Goners Christmas Show. Bobby is a marvel. He plays guitar upside down, sings, solos and covers most the arrangement of classic swing, jazz, country and rock n’ roll Christmas songs by himself. Brian Williams is the sturdiest of accompanists, reading charts while slapping and even twirling his bass. Jimmy has the coolest drum set in town and he plays it better than anyone I know. This band makes rock n roll sound like the lord’s music.

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Play Along With Margaret Explosion

Door with blue painters tape NYC
Door with blue painters tape NYC

When Jack isn’t too busy at the Bagel Shop he joins Margaret Explosion on bass clarinet or guitar. We were hoping he could make it on Wednesday because Peggi was unable to play. The Explosion without Margaret. I distracted Peggi while we were walking and she fell and broke her little finger. That digit and the surrounding mechanism is essential for playing soprano sax.

We have always played the same way regardless of who can make it but this was different. Melissa, who was unable to make the last gig, was there, thankfully, so her cello became a focal point for most songs. Phil’s guitar stole the show in the one below. I was tempted to say we were an instrumental band for the night, like one of those Play Along With records, but we are always an instrumental band. Peggi’s sax playing is our voice and we missed her.

Song number 10 from 11.22.23 Margaret Explosion performance with Peggi
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Wedding At Cana

Chuck Cuminale playing catch at Earring Picnic in Durand Eastman Park mid 1980s
Chuck Cuminale playing catch at Earring Picnic in Durand Eastman Park mid 1980s

The other day, just down the road from where this picture was taken, we ran into Bob Begy walking his dog in the park. Bob was good friends with Chuck and he asked us if we had ever seen the alternate version of the Bible that Chuck wrote in high school. Bob said he had a copy somewhere in his house that he had been trying to locate. We told him we’ll borrow it when he does.

Chuck was a poet. I walked away thinking of his “Wedding at Cana,” a song Colorblind James played at my sister’s wedding.

“The wedding party had just begun
People getting lose and having fun
Til Mary overheard the father of the bride
In a panic ’cause they had run out of wine

Mary said, “Son, they have no wine”
Mary said, “Son, they have no wine”
He said, “I can’t help that Mom, it’s not my time”
Mary said, “Son, they have no wine”

Mary told the waiter, “Do what he tells you
Take what he gives you and buy what he sells you
Listen to him once and listen to him twice
Don’t ignore any of his advice”

Well, even Jesus was smiling now
He always liked to help out anyhow
He said, “I’ll need seven buckets, all in a row
All of ’em filled with H2O”

The waiter was gone for ten minutes or so
And then he came back, just like he was told
He said, “Here’s your seven buckets, all in line”
Jesus said, “That’s not water, it’s wine”

Just then a man walked by with a frown on his face
Saying, “Suppose that I might have a taste?”
Mary winked and said she thought he could
So he drank a cup and said, “Boy, that’s good”

He said, “Most people serve the good wine first
And as the night wears on, the wine gets worse
But you certainly have shown a lot of class
You’ve saved the best wine for last”

Jesus told the waiter, “Don’t say a word
About what you’ve seen and what you’ve heard”
The waiter agreed and he tried hard too
But by the very next day, the whole town knew”

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Thank You

Margaret Explosion performing at at RCTV4 in Rochester, New York
Margaret Explosion performing at at RCTV4 in Rochester, New York

It was so good to have Jack back in the fold at our record release party on Wednesday. He says he would join every night if he could the bagel business hard core. The is a help wanted sign out front every time we stop by. We played as a five piece with Peggi’s sax and Jack’s bass clarinet to right and Ken’s unmiced double bass in the corner (that acts like a giant speaker cabinet) and Phil guitar amp and pedalboard to my left. Both Pete LaBonne, shown at the left of the photo above and Bob Martin, shown at the right, live out town now but they are both on the album. And Melissa Davies, who has been playing cello with us for the last year, was spending the night with her kids.

Because we billed the night as a Record Release Party we expected a noisy crowd but it was just the opposite. The room was full and all eyes and ears were focused on the band as we stumbled our way through an improvised set of thirteen songs. The Zoom recorder and mic, in the foreground above, captured the night for us. Here is song number 3.

listen to a live song from Margaret Explosion at the Little Theatre Cafe on 10.04.23
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Free Music

Margaret Explosion album "per la prima"
Margaret Explosion album “per la prima”

We sold quite a few records at the release party but I surprised how many people told us they didn’t have a turntable. And when I told those people that Per la Prima! is available on all the streaming services I was surprised again that they didn’t belong to any of those. So I promised I would make the songs available here as free downloads. It’s not like there is a whole lot of money in this business.

The album is getting some airplay as well and it’s interesting which song they chose to play.. Scott Regan on WXXI followed a Clash song with “Yard Bard.” Rick Simpson on WITR chose “Edge of Town,” the last song on side two and Cal Zone on WAYO’s “Magic Records” played ” played “Pungi Pie.” He followed that up with Pharaoh Sander’s new Luaka Bop release.

listen to Rosary from Margaret Explosion lp “Per la Prima!”
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For The First Time

Poster for Margaret Explosion "per la Prima!" record release party Wednesday, October. 4, 7-9pm at Little Theatre Café
Poster for Margaret Explosion “per la Prima!” record release party Wednesday, October. 4, 7-9pm at Little Theatre Café

After twenty five years, seven cds and one 45, Margaret Explosion is releasing our first vinyl lp. Entitled “per la prima!” it was recorded in the Café over the past few years. Your voices may be on this record! The espresso maker is there and Pete Monacelli can be heard saying “Yeh” at the end of the second song.

Margaret Explosion album "per la prima"
Margaret Explosion album “per la prima”

The album features Peggi Fournier on soprano sax, Ken Frank on upright bass, Phil Marshall on guitar and Paul Dodd on drums. Also included are three songs with Jack Schaefer on tenor sax, bass clarinet or guitar, two songs with Melissa Davies on cello and two songs with Bob Martin on guitar. It is jam packed!

We hope you can join us at the The Little Theatre Café on Wednesday, October 4, 7-9pm as we celebrate its official release. We won’t be playing any of these songs on Wednesday (we try not to repeat ourselves) but this will be a special performance. Albums will be available for $20 at the show. The songs on the lp are available now on the steaming services.

Listen to “Rosary” from Margaret Explosion lp “per la prima!!” Pete LaBonne plays piano.
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Nobody Like Nod

Nod at Abilene September 2023
Nod at Abilene September 2023

Nod was playing “Summertime,” the first song from their 1992 debut as we entered Abilene on Tuesday night, one the last official summer nights. We hear Carbon Records is planning an lp release of that classic. Nod has added other players over the years, Hugh, Larry, Chris, Jack but they have always sounded best as a trio, the essential parts. Better to hear their unique brew off off kilter rock and roll.

Margaret Explosion "Nude" September 13 2023 at Little Theatre Café
Margaret Explosion “Nude” September 13 2023 at Little Theatre Café

Speaking of off kilter, Peggi and I listened a 45 minute, edited version of Wednesday’s Margaret Explosion gig on the way downtown. The last time Ken couldn’t make it on bass we played with Tim (pictured above with Nod.) This time we went without a bass player and were at first alarmed by the void. But by the end of the gig we were enjoying ourselves. It is always more fun out on the edge. I made a cover for the mp3 and posted it here.”

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Triple Header

Tom Kohn and Jan dancing to the Fox Sisters at Abilene
Tom Kohn and Jan dancing to the Fox Sisters at Abilene

Tom and Jan really know how to throw a party. They reserved Abilene for Jan’s biggish birthday. There was an open bar, plenty of food and two bands. The Fox Sisters were playing on the patio when we arrived. Their sound was echoing through the empty streets downtown as we parked. They have a classic mid sixties sound like the bands we used see at all those teen dances in Rochester. Except they don’t cover Smokey or Jr, Walker or Mitch Ryder, they write their own material and the one Phil wrote was a beauty.

Stew Cutler Trio at Abilene
Stew Cutler Trio at Abilene

Inside the vibe was darker. The Stew Cutler Trio got right down to business with their barrelhouse blues. Cutler has worked with Percy Sledge, Eddie Floyd, Wilson Pickett, Fontella Bass, Earl King, David Sanborn, Bill Frisell, Lester Bowie, Charlie Hunter and Jimmy Dale Gilmore. They reach full boil in minutes and didn’t stop.

Debby Kendrick Band at Little Theatre Café
Debby Kendrick Band at Little Theatre Café

We got to the Little Theatre Café n time for the second set of the Debby Kendrick Project. Debby is so good, so soulful, so sweet, she attracts the best musicians in the city. The drum chair is waiting for Pete Monacelli’s return but it was amply filled last night with Tony Hiler.

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Stereo Guitars

Margaret Explosion performing on RCTV in 2013
Margaret Explosion performing on RCTV in 2013

Margaret Explosion played for the Highland Park Conservancy in Highland Park Friday evening. Bob Martin, pictured on the right above, was back in town for the gig. Pete LaBonne, shown above on piano, Jack Schaefer on bass clarinet weren’t there but Melissa joined us on cello. Phil Marshall, our primary guitarist, played on the opposite end so I enjoyed stereo guitars from my perch. The temperature was in the mid-eighties when we started playing but cooled down as the evening went on.

Our walk on Saturday took us down a dead-end where every house on the street was having a garage sale. The house at the very end had a big box of pencil sharpeners, the steel covered kind they used to have in grade schools. I said, “Wow, that’s a lot of pencil sharpeners” loud enough for the proprietor to hear me but I didn’t get any reaction. On the same table were two brand new, black 14″ Evans 360 drum heads like the one I have on the front of my kick drum. The proprietor told me his son bought them and then changed his mind on the color. I bought them and plan to put them on my snare and floor tom. All three of my drum heads will now have black heads.

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Big Top

Fallen double oak out back
Fallen double oak out back

We were both sitting at our computers when one half of a rain soaked double oak came down about thirty feet from our window. This one didn’t take out any power lines or stop any traffic so it will sit there for a few years before we have room for any more firewood.

Its good to see Sinéad’s “Nothing Compares” racking up seven million more views in the days since she passed and headed to half a billion. And it was good to watch something other than Sparks” smash on YouTube.

We make a point of playing music for an hour or so every day when we have a gig coming up. It is my favorite configuration, Peggi on sax (without her pickup or amp) and me on drums. Not that it would work as entertainment but I find it extremely satisfying. We usually just start playing and let a melody develop and take hold. Peggi has an endless supply. Lately we’ve been drifting toward circus-like themes with stops and starts for punctuation and today we found ourselves playing ABBA’s “Fernando.” Near the tail end of our sessions we sometimes revisit a few Margaret Explosion themes and then call it a day.

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Props To Propeller

New Math 1977 Dale Solo, Kevin Patrick, Paul Dodd, Robert Slide and Gary Trainer
New Math 1977 Dale Solo, Kevin Patrick, Paul Dodd, Robert Slide and Gary Trainer

Propeller Recordings releases a collection of early New Math songs today and the band will play at 3 Heads tonight. We won’t be able to make the record release party but we caught the band on Wednesday night at the Record Archive’s back room. The place was packed with familiar faces. We were standing next to Rick Cona from the Chesterfield Kings and Brian Goodman from Projectiles. I was New Math’s first drummer and lasted almost two years, long enough to record this classic with Howard Thompson.

Despite reuniting without the original lead singer, Kevin Patrick, the band sounded great, one song after the next. Gary, the bass player in this lineup was saying something into the mic when Roy, the third and best drummer, cut him off and said, “my friend Gary wrote every one of these fucking songs.” Some great songs for sure but just after that they played “Can’t Get Off the Ground,” the best song of the night. Dale Mincey wrote that gem.

On the way home we caught our brother-in-laws’ radio show, “Magic Records” on WAYO and cruised home to some early Curtis Mayfield..

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In My House

David Murray outside the Bop Shop in Rochester, New York
David Murray outside the Bop Shop in Rochester, New York

Peggi and I got to the Bop Shop a half hour early to insure we could get a seat down front. The show was sold out but that doesn’t mean much when you can stand in the aisles of records. We found seats behind the counter just off to the left of the stage, close enough to the PA that I went back out to the car to get our earplugs. David Murray was out front smoking a cigarette and after he stubbed it out I asked if I could take his picture. He looked so good in this blue suit.

David Murray and Kahil El Zabar at Bop Shop in Rochester, New York
David Murray and Kahil El Zabar at Bop Shop in Rochester, New York

Kahil had a problem in sound check. His thumb piano kept feeding back. We have seen him so many times I could tell he was a little rattled. Despite that they opened at full tilt with a rousing number, Murray reaching for the stars on tenor sax and Kahil pounding his drums. Kahil started the second song with a beautiful melody on thumb piano. It didn’t feedback but it was no match to Murray’s sax. They settled into their trance-like groove on the third song, “In My House.” Both Kahil and Murray sang, Murray played bass clarinet and Kahil the Cajon. In Kahil El’Zabar’s house you can pray, reach to the soul, sing and dance… day or night!

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Talking To The Gods

Nduduzo Makhathini Trio after first set at Kilbourn Hall Rochester International Jazz Fest 2023
Nduduzo Makhathini Trio after first set at Kilbourn Hall Rochester International Jazz Fest 2023

I’m thinking the Nduduzo Makhathini Trio’s performance last night at Kilbourn Hall was the best thing you are going to see at this year’s Jazz Fest. I don’t know how anyone could top it. They had it all, in the tradition of the giants like Pharaoh Sanders and Sun Ra.

We arrived about twenty-five minutes before the show but we were still able to snag front row seats. We forgot our earplugs and the woman sitting next to Peggi gave us a Kleenex to fashion some plugs. We didn’t need them. Nduduzo Makhathini’s melodies were propelled by Zwelakhe-Duma Bell le Pere’s bass while Francisco Mela closed his eyes and played the most beautiful, delicate drum parts. The sound was luxurious. A celebration of life and an offering to the gods.

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