Monday, November 16, 2009

Crush Thy Velvet

"We few
we happy few
we band of brothers"

(Al's montage of the Velvet Four-many years ago)

I know this blog has become terribly tedious in that I am not revealing deeply held and suppressed black memories of my days at Staunton Military School nor the wild and carefree days of high school and college (I will write them down. That's a promise.), but rather have been concentrating on my current musical life. To be truthful, the guitar has been a faithful friend through all these years and one that I can always count on for support. Yes, I anthropomorhize a box of wood, but it has always been my terra firma, my grounding, my center. It has brought me to despair at times and seemed to be nothing more than an empty dream, but it always returns as an important release valve.

I lay no claim to being a physic, but months ago a picture appeared in my mind of four Velvets who could emerge not only as the group's center, but could function as a separate and different musical entity. The Veebs are scattered at this point: two live out of town and others have many other projects that keep them busy. When an opportunity arose for this group to play, I jumped in with both feet.

Last Friday, we had our first rehearsal. A casual gathering at the House O'Weg, the instrumentation is simple: percussion, two classical guitars and Cuatro. Oh, and fine rum. That's essential. The Weg was a most generous host.

What I want and what the other members want is unclear at this point. In fact, we didn't even talk about a general direction, when I arrived, rehearsal was already underway. Get guitar out, and jump in, baby! I had visions that we might discuss the general direction, but in our typical fashion, right to the tunes.

I was really surprised at how it sounded. Finally, we got to work on some vocal harmonies. This came through on Cana Brava, an old tune about sugar cane. (Fits right in, yes?)

That sounded so good, I thought like we could contribute to the coro of the next song, Chan Chan, we had Nelson sound out the words slowly and phonetically. Talk about tough. While the song is only four chords, singing the not-so-easy chorus is going to take some work. This is good. We need challenges.

Weg started playing a salsa type line on his Cuatro. This began a long exploration with a song just beginning to take form. Out of the repetition that is exploring and shaping a tune, a chorus started to emerge. Right now, this remains a sketch.

I called an old tune, Dame La Mano Paloma (The Puerto Rican song.). I did not realize it was Christmas song. What the hell, who's going to know? It's a merengue and they generally have a ripping tempo.

Rehearsal came to an early close. Weg and I sat around and finished the Solera. It had been quite a while since we had a chance just to talk. Back in the day, we were hanging around all the time, calling each other every day and constantly coming up with the most experimental music you can think of. It was a time, as I see it, when anything was possible and a certain amount of youthful naivite fueled our crazy pieces. The recordings are full of analogue noise and the equipment we had, especially mine, was primitive, but I still have affection for them. I think all composers think of their pieces as children and they become a part of your personal history regardless of their musical substance.

Our friendship has a rich personal history that got sidelined for a while after the band broke up. I'm glad we are back to beings buds and fellow musicians. We always had a unique musical chemistry. No doubt. His life has undergone some major changes and he reflected about those life changing tidal waves. But, what can you do?

He took me down to the basement and what a wonder it is. It's like the Old Curiosity Shop. You could spend days down there.

On the shelf, jumped out a memory: a recording of the Just Say Yes Tour. I told him, "You are the archivist. I thought I had some old stuff, but you have the collection." He told me that tape has been on the list to be digitized. Oh lord. Let's keep that among band members, ok? I can just imagine.

I cruised back home at an hour unimaginable early. Driving slow through my favorite place, Kanawha City, my meager brain began to get all philosophical. We are older now. Old guys with mortgages, gas bills and all the inescapable burdens of adulthood. Yet, there is still fun to be had in music, in friendship and,

of course,

in fine rum.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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