Monday, October 4, 2010

Michael Hedges & Friends: Get Back

This last week I received an email from my old college friend Greg Rector. If you remember, I mentioned Greg a while back as he always had the most amazing album collection of anyone on campus. Greg and I reconnected last year via Facebook. I hadn’t seen or heard of him since the seventies, but he has served as the inspiration for this blog on more than one occasion.

In last week’s email, Greg who has been a regular concert attendee since the 70s, related that he and his wife will be seeing Elton John and Leon Russell in concert and that caused him to reminisce about 1972.

I was fortunate to catch Elton at St. John’s (old) Arena in Columbus [Ohio]. I had not paid too much attention to the "Honky Chateau" album - had it, but didn't concentrate on content. When Elton came on stage that night, much to my surprise was "some fiddle player" - wow, interesting. Obviously, not just any “fiddle player” but Jean Luc Ponty! Simply amazing! Then that summer, I went to the Akron Rubber Bowl (not a rock music hotbed) and was fortunate to catch Jefferson Airplane and lo and behold - there was little old Papa John Creach! These were my first intros to the violin in a concert environment and both where amazing. I thought maybe you could get creative.

Well Greg, you have your wish. All of this week, I’ll feature the violin as a rock n’ roll instrument. While some of the names people will be familiar, others will not. I’ll be fitting these into the mold of my regular daily features.

We’ll hear of course from Jean Luc Ponty, Papa John Creech, and a few others. In fact Elton John’s “Honky Chateau,” an album I hadn’t listened to for decades, came out of the closet and proved to be an excellent album by the bespectacled Reginald Dwight that I am featuring it on Saturday. It features Ponty on two cuts.

Today’s Monday Cover is by the late Michael Hedges who was a phenomenal guitarist and harp-guitarist. Hedges often took the guitar to newer heights and greater possibilities with alternative tuning schemas. This undated recording from the New Varsity Theatre in Palo Alto, California was from either the late 70s or early 80s. Backing Hedges is Michael Manring on bass and Darol Anger on violin.

I first became aware of Anger’s music in the magazine “Frets” in the late 1970s. I won a year’s subscription to this new publication by submitting a winning crosswords puzzle to its parent publication – “Guitar Player.” Anger's music and instruments were often featured in “Frets” despite the fact his violin has no frets.

In 1977, Anger became a founding member of the David Grisman Quintet that included Grisman on mandolin, Anger on violin and other assorted instruments, Tony Rice on guitar, Todd Phillips on second mandolin, and Bill Amatneek. This album was pivotal in that it was moving Grisman’s style from Newgrass to a nomenclature he coined as “Dawg Music.”

To me, Anger was a complete unknown; however, he had impeccable talent. His clandestine status did not last long as Anger was constantly contributing on numerous albums in various styles. In today’s cover recording, Michael Hedges leads the trio in an acoustic version of The Beatles’ “Get Back.” Because of the sparse instrumentation in a live context, you can experience Darol Anger’s talent in all of its glory. Enjoy!

The Beatles & Billy Preston Live

This 1969 recording comes from the motion picture "Let it Be" and features The Beatles live on the roof of the Apple Records' office in London. Billy Preston accompanies the Fab Four on a Fender Rhodes electric piano. Shortly after this song, the municipal bobbies broke-up the impromptu session.

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