Vernon “Spot” Barnett carries his eighty years like a gentleman, his storied career working with Ike and Tina Turner, Ray Charles, James Brown and closer to home – Bobby Blue Bland and the West Side horns with Doug Sahm and Augie Meyer, gracing decades and genres with his signature style. A native of San Marcos, Texas, Spot is a local icon and friend of our hostess, Becky Tomblin, who has sponsored many musicians from San Antonio to Austin. Lucky Tomblin, bandleader and producer of the Clifford Antone biopic Antone’s, Home of the Blues was a beloved patron of artists and musicians who continue struggling to make it in towns that have become far too expensive for them to live.
Enjoy this master sax man and storyteller, a wise and shining soul of eighty years, still in love with life.
In 1985, I was one of many bohemian artists hanging around Dixie’s Bar and Bus Stop, a music video show that aired on the now defunct Austin Music Channel. Working at the Amdur Gallery, creating satirical videos, drawing and painting, playing soccer and riding my bike (see Riffing on Patti Smith) – life was good. And Austin was great! In honor of International Women’s Day, I offer the many faces of Sydney Wallace, starring in MirrorMirror.
Human progress may unfold more obliquely than forward and back, but life is change. I suspect one of the reasons we have generations to discover who we are is because mortality is a key to our humanity. As David Bowie said, we can’t trace time.
Between fear and love, our greatest sins and most beautiful creations define us. We are so close, yet so far from our best – lost in the desert with God the angry Father, who is too busy putting his fingers in the dyke of our Abrahamic religions to teach us human kindness. The son of God made love the foundation of his message, with limited success and the caveat of a second coming, flaming sword in hand. That has certainly given man’s inhumanity some deep cover, and something to look forward to: a Day of Judgement, the End Times. Warrior cults are really death cults, despite their promise of resurrection.
Time to take another look at the Man in the Mirror
Michael Jackson 1988
After watching I am Not Your Negro and seeing the sneering, hate filled faces and the violence of white, American men, it’s easy to understand why James Baldwin lived abroad for so many years.
It wasn’t so much a matter of choosing France—it was a matter of getting out of America. I didn’t know what was going to happen to me in France but I knew what was going to happen to me in New York. If I had stayed there, I would have gone under, like my friend on the George Washington Bridge.
You say the city beat him to death. You mean that metaphorically.
Not so metaphorically. Looking for a place to live. Looking for a job. You begin to doubt your judgment, you begin to doubt everything. You become imprecise. And that’s when you’re beginning to go under. You’ve been beaten, and it’s been deliberate. The whole society has decided to make you nothing. And they don’t even know they’re doing it.
Yet we do not give up hope, despite our cruelty and our greed. It’s time to wake up and give our children a world built on peace, on respect and on kindness. Let the patriarchy go, make a place for all people and change is gonna come.
The B3 Summit at Antone’s this Saturday reminded me of why I love this city. Where else will four internationally renowned jazz, rock, soul and funk influenced organists share a bill designed for music nerds and musicians? I predict we will not see the likes of a groove this deep for some time.
The Hammond B3 is part of the soundtrack of our lives, from its heyday in the 50’s and 60’s in jazz or rock. From Ray Manzarek of the Doors to the incomparable Jimmy Smith, it’s the “take me out to the ballgame” sound of classic Americana.
Ike Stubblefield has played with Motown legends like the Four Tops, The Temptations, Marvin Gaye, Martha Reeves, Stevie Wonder and Rare Earth. His soulful R&B style helped forge the sound of Al Green, Ike & Tina Turner, Curtis Mayfield, B.B. King, The Pointer Sisters and George Benson and more recently, Cee Lo Green. Ike’s band is the first featured in the video highlights below.
Luckily, three of these four B3 masters live in Austin. Red Young has played with musicians ranging in style from: Eric Burdon, Linda Ronstadt, Dan Hicks, Joan Armatrading and George Clinton to Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Jessi Colter, Dolly Parton, Tanya Tucker with time in between on the Sonny and Cher show. More entrepreneurial than most, he has owned nightclubs and performs throughout the world in many different formats – both piano, organ, on vocals, conducting, producing and arranging his own and others’ compositions. See upcoming gigs for the many flavors of Red. Brannen Temple, the drummer featured in the video has worked with Eric Burdon, Lizz Wright, The Dixie Chicks, Sheena Easton, Chaka Kahn and too many Austin acts to name. Look for him at the One 2 One, Elephant Room and Antone’s with Red Young and many others. Mike Malone, the saxophonist featured in the video, plays with NuJazzSwing and often with Brannen Temple and other jazz musicians in town.
Dr. James Polk & Centerpeace may keep a more relaxed pace than his counterparts, but he is no lightweight on the national music scene. Polk is best-known for his work with Ray Charles, touring as an organist, pianist, writer, arranger and conductor from 1978 to 1985. He’s Texas born and bred, with roots in Deep Elum, along with Ornette Coleman. He moved to Austin in the 1970’s, forming James Polk and the Brothers, featuring Angela Strehli, with WC Clark on bass and John X Reed on guitar. These days, his main focus is on the Dr. James Polk Academy of Arts and Technology and helping to hold down the jazz scene in Austin.
Cheers- it’s Independence Day, 2016. So how do we want our freedom to ring? For a few, for the many, for me and you but not them? Truth – we’re in it together – people, other living beings, the earth, our known universe.
I’m remembering Dr. Martin Luther King today and the practice of non-violence in pursuit of freedom for the people of his beloved community. He speaks of both, below:
In a 1957 speech, Birth of A New Nation, Dr. King said, “The aftermath of nonviolence is the creation of the beloved community. The aftermath of nonviolence is redemption. The aftermath of nonviolence is reconciliation. The aftermath of violence is emptiness and bitterness.” A year later, in his first book Stride Toward Freedom, Dr. King reiterated the importance of nonviolence in attaining The Beloved Community. In other words, our ultimate goal is integration, which is genuine inter-group and inter-personal living. Only through nonviolence can this goal be attained, for the aftermath of nonviolence is reconciliation and the creation of the Beloved Community.
In his 1959 Sermon on Gandhi, Dr. King elaborated on the after-effects of choosing nonviolence over violence: “The aftermath of nonviolence is the creation of the beloved community, so that when the battle’s over, a new relationship comes into being between the oppressed and the oppressor.” In the same sermon, he contrasted violent versus nonviolent resistance to oppression. “The way of acquiescence leads to moral and spiritual suicide. The way of violence leads to bitterness in the survivors and brutality in the destroyers. But, the way of non-violence leads to redemption and the creation of the beloved community.”
The core value of the quest for Dr. King’s Beloved Community was agape love. Dr. King distinguished between three kinds of love: eros, “a sort of aesthetic or romantic love”; philia, “affection between friends” and agape, which he described as “understanding, redeeming goodwill for all,” an “overflowing love which is purely spontaneous, unmotivated, groundless and creative”…”the love of God operating in the human heart.” He said that “Agape does not begin by discriminating between worthy and unworthy people…It begins by loving others for their sakes” and “makes no distinction between a friend and enemy; it is directed toward both…Agape is love seeking to preserve and create community.”
It’s time to earn our freedom from denial and work together to create the beloved community. What’s stopping us? Whatever does not make us free.
When my heart aches, wondering if we can actually become humane beings, I am grateful for the blues.
Happy 87th Birthday Miss Lavelle White. We love you.
Two months ago I attended one of the Austin Music Summit meetings at Strange Brew and met Bak Zoumanigui, an Austin podcaster and blogger. A veteran of Austin’s nightlife, his website The FeedBak features videos and podcasts from 2 am interviews, stories in the night and most recently, three excellent shows highlighting the City of Austin’s process of soliciting feedback from citizens at art and music summits. The recommendations for stabilizing the Austin creative ecosystem can be found here.
I’ve been here since the 1970’s, going to school, working at UT, the Austin Public Libraries, as a waitress, gallery assistant and unpaid artist and writer. Artists and musicians created what is a now storied entertainment scene during a time in which housing and the cost of living was kind to creatives. The same two bedroom cottage I rented in Travis Heights for $125 a month in 1976 would sell for at least $500,000 now. Affordability is one of the biggest challenges working artists and musicians face in 21st Century Austin.
This is an ongoing conversation, in the meantime check FeedBak podcasts to catch up:
FDBK Ep. 098 – Save Austin Music Part 1 – Work With The City. Do Not Rely On It
Interviews with Rebecca Farrell, an attorney at Austin Music Law and Tee Double, the founder of Urban Artist Alliance, helping urban artists learn about the business side of the music industry.
FDBK Ep. 099 – Save Austin Music Part 2 – Bet On Music Tech
Yesterday, Bak talked with Music Summit organizers at City Hall in his 100th podcast for the Feedbak. If you were not able to attend the meetings, these conversations are the next best thing. Please give them a listen and use the link in the photo below for the last in the series. Austin is striving to find ways to keep the city livable for artists and musicians. Thanks Bak, for getting the word out and please consider joining the fight and donating to the FeedBak!
The collective at the Thornton Road Studios, located by ABGB at Oltorf and Thornton Road boasts an important victory for artists trying to live and work in Austin. In February, the Austin City Council decided 10 -1 in favor of denying a request for a zoning change, which would have razed the studio complex in favor of a mixed use development (read more condos). It seems that every available parcel of land in South Austin is being gobbled up, transforming lush, green tracts on Del Curto Drive and Clawson Lane into crowded, condo tunnels. Mayor Steve Adler has launched the Austin Music and Creative Omnibus Resolution which seeks input from the creative sector on keeping Austin artist friendly, stemming the tide of increasingly unaffordable housing and venue loss. In short, a battle for the soul-y of our city and I don’t just mean our “brand.” This is one of a series of posts about the summits, which The Austin Chronicle reported on in April.
In addition to the creation of a Cultural District downtown on Red River and the thinkEAST living and working development, I would encourage cultivating creative corridors that are already developing organically in South Austin (SOCO, SOLA and SOCHACA) and in North Austin (BURO). Rather than building new units, it might be wise for the city to reclaim and upgrade apartments and offer grants to venues (like Strange Brew) that share an intention to grow collaboratively with other vendors or partners like ACC.
Following Maceo with Prince, transcendent even in death. Dionysus will return in another form, but Prince will remain the Master of Funk. David Bowie might have loosed the bonds of gender, but Prince made it so very sexy. And he wasn’t stingy, sharing that sexiness with his crew, mostly women, much like Dionysus. Tearing it up on the dance floor instead of in the forest, roving bands of high heeled men and women partook of the sacrament of sex, offered by his highness. Prince confronted the issues of the day, operating as a cultural icon, an oracle for a generation straddling Boomers and GenX.
Turning out the joint in Detroit with dance, sex, music, romance. From the Musicology Tour. School’s in people!
Prince’s managed his public persona like his stagecraft. His reserve, the dignity and lack of pretense made him one of the locals in Minneapolis and gave him a measure of privacy few icons retain. Enigmatic, seductive, ageless and generous, not seeking anyone’s approval.
Deeply religious, Prince lived his faith rather than proselytizing, despite becoming a Jehovah’s witness.
One of his hardest fought (and won) battles was for the rights to his music. Struggling over decades, he took back control of his catalogue and his image. His decision to release his new album HitNRun on Tidal, Jay Z’s streaming service was a fresh start, one that other artists are pursuing.
“Prince has always been a visionary, a free-thinker. We’re honored to offer his breadth of work, 1999,Purple Rain, etc., music that has inspired so many, on Tidal. We’re also excited to be the home for his new upcoming album, HitNRun. Both Prince and Tidal share the belief that all creatives should have the opportunity to speak directly to those that love and support them. This partnership with Prince represents Tidal’s philosophy in its truest form, a 1 to 1 connection and direct delivery of artistry to the world.” Jay Z
The artist, the lover, the soul of funk: Prince’s music will continue providing inspiration to musicians across genres – Don’t believe me just watch.
My first trip to the new Antone’s was also my first live Maceo Parker experience. I’ve been a fan since his James Brown days, then Parliament, Life on Planet Groove and beyond. He’s still 2% jazz and 98% funky. The band featured in the video below includes: Maceo Parker (sax/flute/vocals), Dennis Rollins (trombone), Will Boulware (keys), Bruno Speight (guitar), Rodney “Skeet” Curtis (bass), Marcus Parker (drums), Martha High (vocals) and Corey Parker (vocals).
Hard to keep the camera still when you gotta shake everything you got. Happy music for him and all the fans getting their groove on. I liked the new Antone’s location, next to Eddie V’s and the Russian House, which long since replaced Amdur gallery on 5th. What’s old is new on a block where I worked and played for many years.
Art is never more obscure than when it invokes the language of the unconscious. Thankfully, we have guides – shamans who venture into the unknown and return, inviting us to join them . Avant garde artist Joan Miro is a shaman of symbolic art. I saw his “Experience of Seeing” exhibit at the McNay Museum in San Antonio and entered the realm of the body/mind in order to see it. Joan Miro acknowledges:
It is difficult for me to talk about my painting, since it is always born in a state of hallucination, brought on by some jolt or another – whether objective or subjective-which I am not in the least responsible for.
Art critic Waldemar George described it in 1929 “as the painting of a physical vacuousness that easily balances out its interior magic, with ties to cosmic sentiment and the intuition of mystery seen in the ancestors, like those who painted the caves of Altimara, whom he specifically mentions on one hand and to “congruent paintings, brought to life by strange homunculi and fantastical plants on the other. In this defining moment there came to be an encounter between the escape from speres and the attraction to the abyss.” Jacques Dupin elaborated, “There remains a space where things and beings can abide and encounter one another through a series of exchanges and metamorphoses, and this passing site is none other than the earth: neither sheltered from the risk from below, or the beckoning from above.”
Arthur Brown knows something of above and below, exhorting us to hold a vision in our heart, to face our fears and join him in the formless depths of Zim Zam Zim.
Miro’s paintings and found object sculptures beckon us to see space as a psychological landscape – to respond without preconception to what comes our way, as children do.
I will make my work emerge naturally, like the song of a bird or the music of Mozart, with no apparent effort, but thought out at length and worked out from within . . everything becomes strange, shifting, clear and confused at the same time. Forms give birth to other forms, constantly changing into something else.
Arthur Brown invites us with many of the same numinous symbols as Miro: the spirit bird of our imagination, woman, sex and the fire of fear, rage and ultimate annihilation. An existential burlesque that finally asks, “Who the fuck am I?” in this montage from his Strange Brew show in Austin (without his full band).
As we traipse from day to dreams, through all the stages of our lives and our imagination, it’s a good idea to keep a healthy dose of humor amidst the drama. So why do we even enter into the shape shifting realm of the unconscious?
Quoting Miro, ” As Kant said, it is the irruption of the infinite into the finite. A pebble, which is a finite and immobile object, suggests not only movement to me but movement that has no end. In my paintings, this translates into the spar-like forms that leap out of the frame, as though from a volcano.
That volcano is the fire of creation in the heart of Zim Zam Zim.