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Archive for February, 2009


Saturday, February 21st, 2009


80902778CG050_NEW_ORLEANS_J © Getty Images

Fird “Snooks” Eaglin, Jr.
New Orleans rhythm & blues songster
(January 21, 1936 – February 18, 2009)


Whether you watched or just listening to him, you were bound to be moved. Snooks Eaglin radiated soul, the real thing, and that was that. Some considered him “a human jukebox,” while others tapped into just one of his many facets — country bluesman, folksinger, street musician, urban soul singer, rhythm & bluesman, take your pick — and put up with the rest. You never knew what Snooks was going to play. One of my favorites is his version of Curtis Mayfield’s “It’s All Right,” except Snooks takes the song and does to it what he does with all the songs he covered. He made them into Snooks Eaglin songs that yuou preferred to the originals. The3 cry in his voice was always fresh, and so was the laughter. When Snooks Eaglin sings “St. James Infirmary,” you are present at the viewing of that woman “stretched out on a long white table, / So sweet, so cold, so fair.” The word perfunctory would go out of business if you had to use it to describe anything about Snooks Eaglin. He always sounds fresh and unpredictable. New Orleans through and through, the great singer and self-styled guitarist loved his homebase. You can hear in him all the Crescent City spirit that Hurricane  Katrina and her flood couldn’t kill off. “All right!” he shouted at the start of every song. All right, Snooks Eaglin, all right, all right! The 50 years I’ve spent listening to you and cultivating the sound-seeds and pictures you planted in my heart have helped keep me sane and satisfied.

— Al Young


Hello, Al —

As you know I have always loved Snooks Eaglin and aspired to get my own music anywhere near where he was from the start, and that was fifty years ago. Ironically, it was only last Wednesday night when I performed my once-a-year concert locally. I had a small trio, and felt for the first time I was doing something in the spirit of Snooks Eaglin. Ain’t that jess how it goes! Friday morning I read that he had died.

What a loss. Your descriptions about him cover what I feel, other than I feel nobody else was doing the New Orleans style of accompaniment on guitar. I mean strumming the rhythm, fitting in a bass line at the same time, and putting in sporadic lead lines like filligree work … and all the while singing with that ever so wistful soul voice of his. Top this off with a fine dose of originality and taste and  the songs always came out in an improved version.

Way back, maybe 1961, there was the first mail-order catalogue for folk music items, put out by the Denver Folklore Center. I was working in that area and Harry Tuft, the owner, asked me about Snooks Eaglin. I am proud that I replied that he was the “greatest” even way back then, and they put that quote in the catalogue.

So, I’ve been a fan of Blind Snooks Eaglin since I started in music, and I still am.

Amongst his many talents I feel one has gone unnoticed, so I will mention here that his instrumental rendition of “High Society” is among the very greatest finger-style guitar pieces I have ever heard, and he recorded that on his early New Orleans Street Singer album , which I think was 1959 on Folkways Records.

Thanks to you for posting such a nice link.

Marc Silber
Berkeley, CA



Snooks Eaglin plays the San Francisco Blues Festival,1996
Photo © Michael Mendelson

snooks-on-arhoolie1 snooks-eaglin-heritage snooks-geo-porter

Country Boy in New Orleans | Rural Blues | Eaglin with George Porter, Jr.


Snooks Eaglin’s Wikipedia entry

npr-logo spkr Lars Gotrich: Soul Guitarist Snooks Eaglin Dies at 72
(National Public Radio)


spkr1 Snooks Eaglin sings “St. James Infirmary”

wee-play2 Snooks Eaglin and George Porter, Jr.  perform “Baby, Please” at the Lone Star Roadhouse, New York City



Friday, February 20th, 2009



“Not only is Louie Bellson the world’s greatest drummer,”  Duke Ellington said of his former drummer, “he is also the world’s greatest musician.”



Louie Bellson

[Luigi Paulino Alfredo Francesco Antonio Balassoni],


(July 6, 1924 – February 14, 2009)


© Los Angeles Times


It was my pleasure to meet Louie Bellson in April of 1999. The occasion was the UCLA celebration of Duke Ellington’s 100th birthday, organized and hosted by guitarist and professor Kenny Burrell of UCLA’s Jazz Studies Program. I was one of three poets invited to take part in this three-day centennial festival; the other two were poets Michael S. Harper and Lucille Clifton. Among the participating musicians were Milt Jackson, Lalo Schifrin, Anthony Brown, Billy Childs, Ray Brown, John Clayton, Jack Nimitz, George Bohannon, Herbie Hancock, Jimmy Smith, Bobby Rodríguez, and veteran Ellingtonians: Fred Berry and Louie Bellson. I found it enlightening toi hear Bellson tell of how Ellington had written out parts for everyone in the orchestra for the performance of his renowned Afro-Eurasian Eclipse. “Hey, Duke,” Bellson said, “where’s my part?” To which Ellington replied: “Louie, you’ll know what to do. You’re the drummer.” During the daytime lectures and presentations at UCLA’s Royce Hall, a frail Louis Bellson sat in the audience with his second wife Francine. With his jacket draped over his shoulders, he looked every ounce the dignitary. One morning Dr. Burrell asked from the stage if the room were getting too warm, and should he have the thermostat turned down? Francine Bellson spoke up at once. “Don’t you touch that thermostat,” she yelled up at Burrell. “My husband is cold.” Turning to have a look at her, I wondered how Bellson’s first wife, Pearl Bailey, would have handled the moment. He simply smiled and looked straight ahead.

— Al Young


pearly-cig-louis Courtesy photo

Pearl Bailey pauses for husband Louie’s tender light


Don Heckman: Louie Bellson Dies at 84 (Los Angeles Times, February 17, 2009)

The Drummerworld tribute

Scott Yanow’s biography and discography for Louie Bellson at




The only official Louie Bellson website



Duke Ellington conducts his band in a 1957 performance of “Skin Deep,” which Bellson composed as a vehicle for his own percussive brilliance.



Wednesday, February 18th, 2009


“The only white woman who ever had soul.”
— Miles Davis


April 28, 1926 – February 7, 2009


Blossom Dearie, jazz chanteuse


It was Blossom Dearie’s vulnerable voice we heard singing the “the girl’s part” on “Moody’s Mood for Love,” King Pleasure’s hit single back in 1952, the same year Dearie moved from New York to Paris, where she founded the Blue Stars of France singing group. “What is all this talk / About loving me, my sweet?” she sang. “I am not afraid / Not anymore, not like before. / Don’t you understand me?” The record rose high on rhythm & blues charts, and all the jazz crazies knew the words by heart. We thought King Pleasure had written the lyric, but, as time revealed, it was Eddie Jefferson. The whole thing had started in Stockholm, when saxophonist James Moody had borrowed Swedish bopster Lars Gullin‘s alto saxophone to make a recording based on Jimmy McHugh and Dorothy Fields‘ “I’m in the Mood for Love.” On the old 78 rpm disk, Dearie’s name shrank beneath Pleasure’s.  She seems, though, to have never looked back. Over the next 60 years she would build a sparkling international reputation for herself as a consummate jazz chanteuse, a delicate-voiced cabaret singer and pianist. Like all other lovers of jazz vocals, I followed her record and performing career. Wherever she played in San Francisco, patrons were made to understand that they weren’t to talk or clink or clatter at their tables during her sets. Blossom Dearie was a crank and an exacting, demanding artist. But she was our crank. My favorite of her many albums is Blossom Dearie (Verve Jazz Masters 51), where she sings “They Say It’s Spring,” “Rhode Island (Is Famous for You),” “Little Jazz Bird,” and “Blossom’s Blues.” In addition to tracks laid down Russ Garcia’s Orchestra, the album includes Dearie (at piano with flautist Bobby Jaspar. guitarists Herb Ellis, Mundell Lowe, bassist Ray Brown, and drummers Jo Jones, and Ed Thigpen). Who knows how many lives were patched or saved or prolonged by the sound of Blossom Dearie’s fragile, teasing and always poetic voice?

— Al Young


blue-stars-of-france Obit Blossom Dearie

Dearie’s very first recording | Dearie in Copenhagen, 1981 |  AP file photo


Stephen Holden: “Blossom Dearie, Cult Chanteuse, Dies at 84” (New York Times, February 6, 2009)

U.K. Telegraph obituary (February 9, 2009)

spkr-icon In Memoriam: Blossom Dearie on NPR’s Piano Jazz (with Marian McPartland)

Blossom Dearie Day (In separate accounts, Bill Reed and Joel E. Siegel present intimate memories of the artist they loved)

Frank Gannon: In Memoriam: Blossom Dearie, 1926-2009 (The New Nixon: News and Commentary about the President, his Times, and his Legacy, February 9, 2009)





blossom-dearie-verve Click and sample


wee-play Performing her own “I’m Shadowing You” and “Winchester in Apple Blossom Time,” plus Dave Frishberg’s “I’m Hip” (Blossom Dearie, circa 1985)


Remembering Blossom Dearie


Yoshi’s, San Francisco
April 19
2 pm matinee
7 pm evening show


A San Francisco native, jazz/pop musician Jacqui Naylor may be sampled in recorded performance  on her recent album, Losing My Religion, right here, right now with a click.

Jacqui Naylor is available to the press for interviews.


Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009



Go to the original at Tricycle (Spring 2009 issue)


Riches of a Different Market

Fresh produce offers food for thought in a time of crisis.

By Gary Gach

webgach Corn © Joanna Pecha / StockPhoto

Being rich, being poor, means nothing without being.
— Sharon Riddell,
The Zen of Money

The week of the Stock Market Crash of 2008, I happened to be walking to the farmers’ market. It afforded me (puns intended) a wealth of insights, a few worthy of accounting here. Such hard times as these have plenty of dharma doors we all can enter.

So there I was, with a chunk of hard-earned life savings evaporating in the stock market and sensing the economy itself clearly poised for bitter struggle ahead. But I’ve never really fully abandoned the hippie credo with which I came of age: voluntary simplicity that harmonizes with Buddhist ethics. So now I’ve got some good news and some bad news. The good news: I’ve already tightened my belt buckle. The bad news: I’ve already tightened my belt buckle.

But that morning, last August, I was wondering how others were making out, yet found myself instead trying to measure my losses in terms of people before me in the buzzing foot-traffic swarming around the open-air stalls. Everybody, I could see, has a story. The diversity of faces at a farmers’ market rivals that of the produce, from all walks of life, gender, and paint jobs. I wanted to reach out, but I couldn’t make sense of my situation by comparing it to anyone else’s. I felt frozen, constricted, alone in the crowd.


ggg5 Gary Gach

Then I bumped into my friend Marc, who was happily accompanying a bunch of fresh flowers en route to his lover. To strike up a conversation, I asked if he’d heard that one trillion dollars had left the economy today. No sooner were the words out of my mouth than I realized I had no real idea of the meaning of what I’d just said. Fortunately, his reply was a hearty belly laugh, and I had to laugh too. Glancing at all the lively transactions going on around us, he exclaimed, “So then money’s really a hallucination, is it?” He widened his eyes for rhetorical emphasis, and we both shared a bigger laugh. “Ah, I see,” he continued, on a roll now. “All I have to do is walk up to that farmer over there, show him a piece of green paper, and he’ll look at it and know how much stuff I can walk away with!” Marc’s a screenwriter, and his wit is easily contagious. He makes six-figure deals for movies that may never be seen, much less made, and he hasn’t a penny of his own in the bank: whatever he is paid goes mostly to his son and ex-wife. Were I to enumerate for him how much of my savings went zip! in the stock market that day, he’d probably say politely that it was good I had something to lose.

There I go again. You’ve probably done it too. Measuring self against others. It’s a bit like gossip, isn’t it? Who’s up, who’s down. Who can really know anything about anyone else if not about ourselves first? How much energy do we all waste in such bad investment of our attention? It’s a toxic mimic of compassion, this blind speculation about others. Having indulged in it, I found it fueling fear (of scarcity and failure), only furthering selfhood’s prison of isolation.

Call it yet another lesson in life’s Dharma Delicatessen. I sat down on a bench, just to stop and watch as my body and mind grew calm in being aware of breathing … and the blank between in- and out-breaths. Beside me was the stall of Green Gulch Zen Farm. The crew was still unloading and setting up. Nothing for sale yet; shoppers passed on by. Void of reference to scales or cash boxes, each head of kale and bunch of beets shone, quietly luminous, mysterious, luxurious: as is. Just perfectly manifesting the entire cosmos, the adequacy of earth, air, water, and heat—all deliciously manifesting a sangha of Buddha-nature together. Beyond price.

Just then the stand opened for business and I went about stocking up on my week’s grub. It’s a true joy to share in the wealth of Endless Life with the zen farmers.  Like the Buddha’s original sangha, they’re a kind of buffer against the seismic rumbling of social upheaval: in his day, it was the Axial Age, moving from agriculture to a market economy; in ours, who knows where we’re going?

Isn’t this part of the challenge of Western Buddhism, to continue and share the practice through worldly realms? This monastery doesn’t go through town with alms bowls but instead pitches a tent in the marketplace, and the town comes to it.

And me, I saw that mindful marketing means more than buying organic because it tastes better and is healthier for my body and the earth’s body, and that being a localvore means more than saving gallons of fossil fuel for transport from farm to fork. These are all good, but there’s a greater opportunity for precious practice: to see and understand and be the kindness, compassion, equanimity, and limitless rejoicing of Ah, how good it is to be alive.

Enriched, nourished, I’m walking my veggies home. And if, when I turn a corner, I come upon a houseless person, there’s yet another opportunity to stop, unloosen the constricted heartstrings of this small package of ego, and practice selfless giving. Giving a nonjudging ear, the healing of deep listening, along with a round coin as token of love’s dignity. No “thank you” necessary: no grasping onto labels of giver, givee, or gift, in the utter generosity of this wonderful moment. Openhanded and openhearted. Then on home, to put grub away and resume my new vow: rounding up accumulated unused stuff to recycle to charity.

Facing the challenges of the seasons ahead, I find myself reorganizing my life. Clearing space helps set my inner house in order as well, with space for interaction with others along the Way. Gripped by a collective challenge, how can we not come together as one?




Author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Understanding Buddhism (3rd ed.), Gary Gach has contributed to Harvard Divinity Bulletin, Inquiring Mind, The Nation, The New Yorker, Turning Wheel, and Yoga Journal. He teaches Buddhism and haiku, and he blogs at

© 2009 by Gary Gach and Tricycle


buddha_buy cash-bundles1
Gary Gach: What Would the Buddha Buy?
(from Adbusters)



Sunday, February 1st, 2009




Langston Hughes, poet laureate of Harlem USA;
an inspiration worldwide
(February 1, 1902-May 22, 1967)


An ongoing tribute compiled by Al Young




Timeline 1840-2009 with Langston Hughes as focus

Books by Langston Hughes