GREG ‘n AL’s Run for the Border(s)/JIMMIE RODGERS – Sc. I
Greg & Al at Borders – June 26
Don’t know why I hide almost all my current, mid-2010, real-time performing efforts under a bushel, but I do. Here’s one I almost forgot.
Greg Connors and I played a gig two Saturday nites ago at the Borders in Mt. Kisco to a small but enthusiastic audience. It wasn’t our very first performance together but the first one on command, in that Greg was asked by Borders to perform and then called me to play with him.
It turned out to be a musically rich nite, two sets well played, as they should have been what with our many rehearsals, including the one here that included Full Moon Flashlight. I also wood-shedded a lot on my own when Greg wasn’t looking. But it paid off. We hit our marks crisply, as if we’d been playing together for awhile, but with spontaneity and a sense of discovery that, as I was later told, seemed to keep me on my toes, as if alert to Greg’s penchant for on-site stylistic variations and arrangement initiatives. The performance seemed to more than satisfy an appreciative audience. The sets included, but were not limited to the following pieces, almost all of them originals by Greg:
Day Inn Day Out
Full Moon Flashlight (Title song from Greg’s last CD)
I’m a Masakist (sic)
Hallelujah (Leonard Cohen)
Where is My Windfall
Enemy of a Whole
Long Way to Atlanta (Words: Greg, Music: Al)
We’ll be playing there again on the last Saturday of this month (July). The actual date? You do the math.
More on the Jimmie Rogers screenplay from ten years ago.
SCENE I (assuming scene in previous post, with Jason and his garage band, is back-story introductory material).
Much intercutting between Nashville recording studio and JR’s RR funeral cortege.
Soundtrack is Nashville recording studio in pre-take moments, musicians bantering and trading licks. Prob. two electric guitars, one acoustic guitar, steel guitar, keyboard, electic bass, fiddle, drums, percussion. Most of the players can’t see each other because they are sitting between head-high baffles, but they hear each others’ instruments and voices via a rough mix in their headsets. And that’s what we hear, too, as the camera cuts or pans from one musician to the other, each player in his own splendid isolation, always at a remove from direct visual contact with everyone else, but nevertheless hard-wired into each other by the babel coming thru the ‘phones.
At first the licks and chatter are random, as they tune, adjust sound levels, talk to the engineer, etc. But you can hear they are responsive to each other’s noodlings and begin to copy and trade fragments of what each other is playing. Gradually, two musical “voices” emerge louder and more present in the mix, and we realize the two are having a little musical showdown.
They trade with and mock each other musically and seem to be well matched in technique and musicality… until one of them plays something that they (and we) hear as being subtly but clearly different in tonality than what they’d been playing up ’til then. The mood of the music has changed. It’s going in another direction. The second musician follows it for a while, they continue to trade licks, but eventually the first musician, the mood-changer, proves to be more of a master of this style than the other guy, and the latter drops out of the contest.
There’s laughter, light applause and comments from the other musicians, who’d stopped their own tuning and noodling, to listen.
[J: Here is where I know we have to do some recording studio research, because I can’t quite get the pitch of Nasville studio musician banter. In the meantime, this is the idea, altho’ drawn neither long nor finely enough.]
Somebody–could be any one of the disembodied instrumentalists–says something.
Voice 1: HEY, BUBBA, THAT’S SOME TAN YOU GOT YOUR ASS THERE.
Other voices [in mock Black dialect]: YEAH! SHEEIT, MAN.
GET DOWN, MAN. YO’ MAMA. CHILL, DUDE. HURT YOURSELF, etc.
Voice 1: [good naturedly]: MAN, YOU CAN’T PICK THAT SHIT HERE!
Voice 2: YEAH! WHATCHA DOIN, MAN?
Voice 3: AW, HE’S JUST BEIN’ POLITICALLY KO-RECT, MAN. YOU
GOT ANYTHING WRONG WITH SOMEONE BEING POLITICALLY KO-RECT,
OR DO I HAVE TO REPORT YOUR ASS TO THE NAACP OR SOMETHING.
New Voice: NAACP AND JESSE JACKSON CAN’T HELP YOU HERE, MAN.
Efx: Voices are silent, but musical noodling and control booth
sounds hover in BG]
Voice 3 [beat]: UH HUH. WHY YOU SAY THAT, BOY?
New Voice: ‘CAUSE IT AIN’T COLORED, THAT’S WHY, BOY.
Voice 3: WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?
New Voice. THE LICK, MAN. IT AIN’T SOUL.
Voice 3: WHO THE FUCK ARE YOU, ROLLING STONE? THEN IT’S FUNK. OR
HIP-HOP. OR WHATEVER IT’S CALLED THIS MORNING.
New Voice: IT AIN’T CALLED ANYTHING.
Voice 2: THEN WHERE’D IT COME FROM? WHERE’D YOU GET IT, BOY.
Voice 3: WATCH OUT WHO YOU CALLIN’ “BOY,” BOY.
Voice 2: THEN TELL ME WHERE YOU GOT IT?
New Voice [beat]: JIMMY RODGERS.
[Voices silent, studio sounds hum in BG]
Voice 2: RIGHT, MAN. JIMMY RODGERS, THE YODELIN’ CLOCKMAKER.
Everybody: Hoots, hollers and yodels, self-consciously talk to
each other in hillbilly lingo, play some corny licks
[It dies down.]
New Voice: YOU ASKED ME, I TOLD YOU.
Efx: Several voices continue to diss JR, but always with an
undertone of embarrassment at what they, as professional country pickers, know is the real truth–that JR invented the music they make their livings playing, and that he’d added content to other kinds of music, and made sure lots and lots of people heard him, whatever he was doing.
In the meantime, on the soundtrack we have begun isolating a lick in an old JR recording and matching it with what the first musician was doing. Eventually, the two licks come into registration, perhaps signaling a take is about to start. [That would be the super-hot Dolly Parton performance of “T-for-Tennessee” you’re going to get for us.]
But…not before the camera, in its continued panning and/or cutting from musician to musician, reveals that the player of the lick (who is NOT the guy that verbally defends JR) is black. In fact, several of the players in the studio today are Black.
The music coming from this mixed group is molten. The excitement of the groove they’ve slipped into makes ethnomusicological observations irrelevant.
We can fade out of this scene and into the next one, or stay to the end of the take, and go someplace with a casual discussion that leads to JR’S impact on ALL American vernacular music after 1935, or…?