“It’s hard to fight torpor.” That line popped up in Paul Schrader’s much-anticipated return to non-franchise filmmaking First Reformed and, to mangle Bob Dylan, both “rang true and glowed like burning coals” while I watched the film with my pal Rob. The movie wasn’t an official “thing I dug,” more “thing I’m glad I saw for the interesting nougat when it got out of its own way.”
But what spoke to me was the questions it posed about the point at which we’re no longer worth forgiveness; the way shitty means of coping build up and rust over for us like dumping Pepto Bismol in a glass of scotch (one of my favorite gross-out images from the film); and how difficult it is to break out of a rut before we’re ground just that smooth.
Lighter load this week because much of it was catching up with old friends, in town for the Origins Game Fair and elsewhere. The bookend photos come from these long nights of laughter.
Brett Burleson/Josh Hindmarsh/Doug Richeson (Dick’s Den, June 13, 2018)
The tradition of turning a Wednesday over to one artist for a residency at Dick’s Den is one of my favorite things in this town. In a no-pressure setting, someone can worry over new material, reform old collaborative groups, work with people they don’t usually, bring friends up on stage, or do all of these. That tradition is a prism refracting the light of everything I love about Columbus and especially everything I love about the nexus that is Dick’s Den when you get an artist with the kind of ranging tastes in material, style, and players as Brett Burleson.
Brett Burleson and Josh Hindmarsh have a tradition of playing gypsy jazz songs – and other tunes in that style best known for Django Reinhardt. Wednesday, they rounded the trio out with Grammy-winning bassist Doug Richeson. Jazzcolumbus impresario and great friend Andrew Patton and I stopped in expecting one round and half an hour of pleasant entertainment. I staggered home at 1:30am after two full sets. Picking my jaw off the floor.
Richeson’s expansive warmth provided the perfect backdrop for those two guitars and the handful of guests. It was immediately easy to see why vocalists kept the bassist in demand, including Tony Bennett. In that same spirit, the word that kept springing to mind for everyone on stage was conversational.
Burleson almost reminded me of Keith Richards here, his unshakable rhythm shifted from a straight up-and-down in line with the period they recalled through something more organic and modern, teasing textures from Hindmarsh’s leads and occasionally unfurling solos that were shocking in their grace and concision.
In the full, proper Dick’s spirit, unannounced guests enlivened the proceedings. Michael Kahn, on his way from another gig, brought his soulful soprano. He painted with glowing color, in step with the other three musicians but drawing them out into the less-chartered water. Local DJ, promoter, and singer-songwriter (as Whipped Dream) Laelia Delaney Davis sat in on vocals for the Gershwins’ “S’wonderful” that balanced lushness and restraint like a cool breeze on a sticky evening.
The trio-plus ran a gamut of classics in the style. Their take on Reinhardt’s own “Minor Swing” that felt like a beautifully restored piece of clockwork. Their “Take the A Train” vibrated the room with a propulsive bounce. Their Monk was a sensual, spiraling puzzle. The originals held their own against these time-forged tunes because nothing was played with a preciousness; again and again, we were reminded this was neither museum nor mausoleum.
Coming Up: Dave Alvin and Jimmie Dale Gilmore (Valleydale Ballroom, June 22, 2018; tickets here)
When two riders of the river of American music, Dave Alvin and Jimmie Dale Gilmore, teamed up a couple years ago it was one of the most no-brainer collaborations most of us could possibly imagine. These two share an encyclopedic knowledge of everything roots music, marrow-deep empathy for people, and a love of sharing stories.
Their first collaborative record features a couple excellent new originals – including the title track, like a couple of winking outlaws filling out a declarations form at the border – and more of the stunning interpretations they’ve both become more known for over the last few years, giving classics an intensely personal spin. Woody Guthrie’s “Deportee – Plane Wreck at Los Gatos,” features one of the most aching melodies of the 20th century played for maximum impact. Lloyd Price’s R&B classic “Lawdy Miss Clawdy” and the Memphis Jug Band’s “KC Moan” get lusty juke-joint treatments that take Gilmore’s high lonesome voice into new terrain with some of Alvin’s best guitar on record.
Both of these artists have a storied, special relationship with Alec Wightman’s Zeppelin productions. Alvin’s appearances at the Valleydale, especially, are always something special. If you’re in town, don’t miss this.