What I’m Listening To

One of my friends, who is also a Fur Peace Ranch regular, and also an avid reader of Checkin’ the Levels, left me a comment asking me what I was listening to and if I would post it next time I blogged. Well …..I blogged about the NEW HOT TUNA and got so wrapped up in the sounds…..I forgot to include my full report on my recent listening pleasures. So……here it is. Well, first off……I have been listening to that NEW Hot Tuna quite a bit in this last week. I put it in heavy rotation initially so I could check it out and write a review…..but what happened was……I loved the CD so much, I just left it in the player and listened to it over and over again. That is a very good sign……and it makes me flash back to the golden days of vinyl, when I would get a new record and play it over and over until the grooves smoked.

Anyhey……I have been listening to alot of African music as of late. Aside from my long-time love of Reggae music……at one time I was really fired up on the Afro-Beat sounds of Fela Kuti and the Ju Ju music of King Sunnny Ade. But……I hadn’t listened to this style of music in some time. One of my friends had laid a nice compilation CD of Modern African music on me and it started the fire burning again. In the last couple of weeks I have bought about six new Afro- Sounds CDs…..two of these are great compilations of African music from back in the prime time of the 1970′s. These are imports on the Sound Way label. Nigeria Special: Modern Highlife, Afro-Sounds and Nigerian Blues 1970-6 is one of these …..and the other one is Ghana Special: Modern Highlife, Afro-Sounds and Ghanaian Blues 1968 – 81. These two collections are quite fantastic. The music is blazin and the compilation puts together alot of hard to find artists and songs onto CD. Extensive and really informative liner notes accompany these two CD sets in a booklet format. Someone has really done a lot of work in assembling these two collections and I’m impressed and grateful.

Another Afro-Beat artist has just released a new CD and I’m playing this one over and over too. The artist I refer to is Tony Allen and his new CD is titled, “Secret Agent“. Tony was Fela Kuti’s drummer for many years and even Fela is on record as saying without Tony there would be no Afro-Beat. These two, Fela and Tony, were the architects of the Afro-Beat-Sound. This one is a real winner and aside from the infectious grooves……there is a heavy horn section presence, that I really dig.

Also…….I have all the Bunny Wailer music on vinyl…..Jamaican releases for many…..but only the great Blackheart Man on CD. I was getting a hankering for wanting to hear Bunny’s second release….Protest….and when I went to look for the CD, well, dag-nab-it……I found out it was out of print. But in quicker then soon come time, I was able to locate this out of print CD through the second hand market. Now with it in my possession……I’ve been listening to it pretty regularly…….and loving it. Another NEW Reggae collection, just released, is also getting a lot of ear time…this being….Jammy’s From The Roots 1977 – 1985. Jammy’s refers to the GREAT Lloyd ‘Prince Jammy’ James who was a great record producer in the days of roots and culture. Some of the artists on this CD you will have heard of…some I have not heard of……but all the tracks are great! Appropriately …..all the tracks were recorded at the top spots for Reggae Roots in Jamaica……King Tubby’s, Harry J’s, Channel One and Jammy’s. All the great Jamaican studio musicians are present laying down some heavy support rhythms. Real nice.

I’ve also been listening to some “commercial” sounds as well. Getting into the NEW Jimi Hendrix, “Valley of Neptune” and the latest Massive Attack, “Heligoland”. So…..there you have it. Thanks Rob for asking…..you might have started something here…….Look for more “What I’m Listening To” blogs in the future. Some readers might wonder…..”When does he find time to listen to all that music?”…..so I’ll tell ya…..I never tire of the sounds of music, so I’m listening to music while the morning coffee is brewing ……the CD player in the truck plays constantly……I get to listen to music
in my very hip office cabin……and I’m playing the boombox (Yes, I still use one) when I’m out workin’ in a yard. Music makes a great soundtrack for living…………….Live UP and Listen UP…….plenty of good sounds in Jah universe.

Jazzed Up At The FPR

We’ve put the wraps on another GREAT Fur Peace Ranch weekend. This was our first – big session camp weekend – here at the Ranch in the beautiful hills of SE Ohio. I say big session because not only did we have the Captain of the camp, Jorma, here teaching, but he was also joined by two real heavyweights in the music world…..Stefan Grossman and Larry Coryell. We had a great mix of
students that was predominately made up of “repeat offenders” along with some new students. I’m not usually aware of who will be coming to the Fur Peace on a camp weekend until the day before arrival. When I started to go through the list and cabin assignments…..I’m like….no way, wow, all my favorite people are coming in this weekend. As Debbie has pointed out to me….I do have lots of favorites, still the concentration was deep and strong. The new folks were all great as well and the combination was a beautiful thing. Sometimes I look at the Ranch as a microcosm and when I look around at all the fine folks that come through our doors…..I think how lucky I am……and I also think that if the world community had the energy, spirit, music and friends like we spend our time with in the course of a weekend……well, just lookout…..there would be no problems, no worries and alot of good music in the air.

We were so happy to have both, Stefan and Larry, back to the Ranch. Stefan is such a treat and a treasure!!! He is the consummate teacher and does alot to prepare for his class. He made up a nice instructional booklet just for his Fur Peace visit with 15 songs that he taught his students along with a CD. All respect Stefan……what a nice thought and great learning tool, and he gave one to each of his students.

Part of Stefan's FPR student pack

Part of Stefan's FPR student pack

Larry got down to the Ranch just in time to start his afternoon session. He had played up in Quebec the night before and had really done some hustling to get to the Ranch. He jumped right into things and got the place swinging. Jorma had a great class too! Lots of teaching and learning as our three professors worked diligently with their eager students.

Saturday night was our first concert in the 2010 concert series and what a way to kick off the season! We started things off in our usual manner with Vanessa and I taking the stage to greet the crowd and make some stage announcements. After we had said about all there was to say…..I prompted the entire audience into a stellar version of Happy Birthday in honor of Vanessa’s birthday as
the staff promenaded down the aisle with a birthday cake ….. candles a burnin….not that there were a bunch of them. The cake was delicious and they had spelled out the “Happy Birthday Vanessa” in red, gold and green……now I don’t know where they got that idea……but I dug it. Stefan took the stage and treated all to a fine hour of country blues guitar. He was in top form and you could tell he was enjoying the evening and the audience ……he had the whole house clapping through one song……until the stop spot came up……and he also got everyone to sing along to “My Creole Belle”. Brilliant fun is what this master spun during his set. Stefan as a young man learned his craft from the old Blues Masters of the day…… Rev. Gary Davis, Skip James, Son House, Mississippi John Hurt among others. He channeled them during his performance and added some colorful stories that were an added treat. The beautiful thing about hearing Stefan play or teach is that you feel the link from way back as he connects these early masters to the present day……..they left their treasures in good hands.

Larry Coryell took the stage after the intermission along with his bass player, Jonathan Wood and drummer Jun Saito and they came out swinging. Opening their set with Milt Jacksons, “Bags Groove”, they totally put us in the groove and the mood for a night of Jazz. In introducing Larry I declared that he is arguably Jazz’s greatest living guitarist and I would stand by that. His set was fantastic!!! He played one of my all time favorite Larry songs….”Dragons Gate” along with Thelonious Monk’s “Twinkle Tingle”…..we got to hear the Theme from Black Orpheus as well as his beautiful original ……named after his beautiful wife……”Tracie”. He also played a solo piece on acoustic guitar, “Bolero”, and one of our regulars came over to me and told me that alone was worth the price of admission. At the end of the night Stefan joined up with Larry for a fine jam!
Larry Coryell and Stefan Grossman share the stage for a rare encore

Larry Coryell and Stefan Grossman share the stage for a rare encore

What a night…….boy, we were all jazzed. Larry has such a nice way about him and he is also quite articulate…..He remarked to the audience how happy he was to return to the Fur Peace Ranch….. “Jorma’s castle of culture in the wilderness.” Yeah, Larry.

While I do try to give my blog the feel of a journal into a day in the life of…….I also will try to spice it up a bit from time to time with some precious information…..and here is some. Just about when I was saying my goodbye to Larry, I asked him….”What are your favorite three Jazz albums?”…..Now aside from having too many favorites, I also have a ton of records accumulated from my time in the business and a life long love of record collecting…..so these kind of things interest me…..and here they are: Wes MontgomeryIncredible Jazz Guitar of“, Bill Evans – “Live at the Village Vanguard, Vol. 1” and Miles DavisMy Funny Valentine: Live at Lincoln Center“. Good stuff and a great time.

Sunday’s student performance was another winner. The variety and talent on the Fur Peace stage was staggering. BIG UP to all, cause it truly was all good. I was very happy that Brett E. asked me to play a song with him. He knows I’m a big Dylan fan and we decided to do ” I Shall be Released”. While running through it on Sunday morning Alan D. heard us and he was adding some nice sounds on his twelve string while sitting off to the side…..but he wasn’t out of ear range and we pulled him on in as a part of the performance. Now on top of this we added the fine sounds of Mitch’s accordion and Vanessa’s harmony vocal to make the song complete.
Hurl, Vanessa, Brett E, Alan D, Mitch R during Sunday's student performance

Hurl, Vanessa, Brett E, Alan D, Mitch R during Sunday's student performance

Come Sunday night……another treat……we all got to hear a brilliant and magnificent set from JORMA…..solo…..and just for us! I get to hear JK alot and although he always sounds great……he went past that this night. Alot of happy campers leaving the concert hall that night. Everyone was inspired and a group of students got a jam going that went into early morning. Everyone has left now…..but the groove remains……and many memories of another great weekend here at the Fur Peace.


I’ll be putting together a final recap of our great time at the Full Moon Resort in Big Indian, New York in the next few days. But first…..One of our dear Fur Peace friends has been in touch with me lately……..he has a bad case of Reggaemalidis. Some of you may wonder what that is about……..so, I’ll tell you. You see Steve has caught the vibe and caught it bad.

It happens when you dig in deep to Reggae music and it bites you with a solid one-drop riddim……add some conscious lyrics …….and you are taken by the sounds and can’t get enough of it. So……Steve reached out to the I, knowing that I am all about Reggae, and asked me for some recommendations. I sent him a note with my TOP TEN and have decided to put it out there for all to see and feel………….I would encourage any or all to submit there Top Ten Reggae favorites and we’ll drop them into the comments section of CHECKIN THE LEVELS…….Here’s mine….

1.) Marley – Natty Dread
2.) Marley – Survival
3.) Tosh – Equal Rights
4.) Culture – Two Sevens Clash
5.) Heptones – Night Food…..Unfortunately……out of print….I think they are getting ready to release a deluxe version
6.) Bunny Wailer – Black Heart Man
7.) Gregory Isaacs – Cool Ruler
8.) Gregory Isaacs – Soon Forward
9.) Dennis Brown – Wolfs and Leopards
10.) Spear – Marcus Garvey

Yes, these are all from the classic days…….that’s where my head and heart are at…….classic roots and culture! My favorite Reggae CD at this moment in time is by the EASY STAR ALL-STARS it is called Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Dub Band. This is a real fun listen….the Easy Stars are the ones that did DUB SIDE OF THE MOON in 2003. That CD was tremendously successful …. it was a reggae version of Floyd’s – Dark Side of the Moon. So ….. for the new release they have taken the Beatles’ classic, Sgt. Peppers, and they perform the album in its entirety with a special guest vocalist on each track. You get to hear Luciano doing “With a Little Help from my Friends”……Matisyahu does a crucial cover of “Within You Without You”……My favorite might be…..the mighty U – Roy doing “Lovely Rita”…..but the whole thing rocks nice and steady. Great idea and they have collected some of Reggae’s greats to sing the songs. Before making the trip to Big Indian for our FPR on the Road Workshops, I took a short but full trip to N. California for the Sierra World Music Festival.

What a great event this is and my tam is off to the fine people who are responsible for putting it on. The festival has been going on for years and it is known for presenting some of the finest music in the World ……especially Reggae sounds…..at a very nice spot in Booneville, California. This year’s lineup was top shelf……my favorites were……The Easy Star All-Stars, Heptones, Abyssinians, Sly and Robbie, King Sunny Ade and the Itals. I’m already looking forward to doing it again next summer. Alright, Peace and Good Vibes……………Nuff Respect!!!!!