Thursday, May 23, 2024

The Maagic of Surprise

DUKES FANS:  

“Being a sentient being makes one capable of experiencing surprise. But surprise is not going to come up to your door, knock, and ask to be let in. To encounter it, you have to be out in the world, heads up, and open to it.” 

                                   Anon.  

  

       I love that quote. It is one of the ways I try to meet the world, and if there are times I am not in that frame of mind and I can recall it, it helps me get back to that openness to the world. 

    

     I am thinking about that quote because of experiences I had Tuesday in the wilds of Phoenixville, one of my favorite towns. I was In Phoenixville to record some harp on a track by my friend Paul Michael, a great guitarist, songwriter, and singer who used to live and play in the Philly aera for years. We did the recording, and I went off to the Phoenixville Library to see if I could display a poster for The Dukes’ upcoming show at Steel CityWhile in the library, getting water and getting out of the hot sun, the bus I planned to take back to King of Prussia Mall as the first leg of my trip back to Philly arrived 5 minutes early and passed by. Another one wouldn’t come for an hour or soI was loudly upset for a bit, then I breathed deeply and decided to respond to the situation rather than just react to it. I decided to walk a few blocks further on Main Street to Steel City to get a bottle of water. 

        

    In so doing I passed a record store-yes, a genuine record store with vinyl records-that I had not noticed before. I went in to see about dropping off a poster, and the sign in the door of the shop announced an LP entitled “Radical Optimism” Hmmm. I went in, introduced myself to Shawn, the owner, showed him the poster, and things somehow took off. We went from talking about what radical optimism meant to both of us, to talking about the blues in Phoenixville-yes, he is a real blues fan-to talking about our youths, what being in a record store means and feels like, and our relationship with blues, jazz, and gospel music. I flipped through various record racks and had the feeling of again picking up, looking at and reading an LP cover. It turned out that Shawn Cephas' father, James, owned King James records, a legendary chain of 3 Philadelphia record stores. One was at 52nd and Market Sts, near where I grew up, and I listened to and bought some of my earliest jazz records there. We then talked about clubs we had both been to, such as The Aqua Lounge, and The Second Fret, and memorable concerts we had been to as well as special moments listening to the radio years ago and before the internet and You Tube. It was an amazingly wonderful experience, and I made a new friend. And it only happened because I missed the bus and for some reason, decided to keep walking instead of stewing in my disapointment.

  

   So surprise is out there waiting, and it can come in wonderful and totally unexpected ways. Yes, sometimes surprise brings unpleasant things to us that we have to face and deal with, and that can be painful and tough. But often it is something small and delightful that gives us something that inspires us, makes us smile, brings a laugh, and reminds us that there are good things and good people in the world. We just have to be out there and open to it. 

(Shwan’s store is Forever Change  https://foreverchangesrecords.com   

Another great record store is Hideaway Music on Germantown Ave in Chestnut Hill : https://hideawaymusic.org )

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Deep Spring

 

DUKES FANS: 

  

“Every blade of grass has it angel that visits it and whispers, “Grow..grow.”  

                                       The Talmud  

  

“Spring is nature’s way of saying, “Let’s Party!”  

                                        Robin Williams  

 

This is the time of the year I often refer to as, “Deep Spring.” And this year it is exceptionally “deep.’ The steady rains we have been experiencing have led to an incredibly lush landscape with redbuds, magnolias, irises, roses, various lilies, and more all strutting proudly in gardens all over Mt Airy, Germantown, and Chestnut Hill. And the trees, grasses and bushes are all glowingly green and wildly overgrown. My wife, Penny, both loved and hated this time of the year. She loved it because it put her into full gardening mode-planting, trimming, mulching and more. And she hated it because it meant constant mowing of the wildly growing grass and trying yet again to cut back on the eternal ivy growing on the fences.  

However one feels about it, it is impossible to ignore the growth and natural life that is so boldly present. It is all around us, and it is undeniably here. I know I will have to hire a gardener to do the work that I was never any good at, and I will have to mow the front of the house and cut a lot of weeds. I do not like doing either of those things..(smile) But doing them is another reminder that the Earth and nature are doing their thing, joyously and fully. And we are lucky to be both witness to it, and if wish, participants in it. It is a joyous time. Happy Deep Spring 

DUKES OF DESTINY   
1) Sunday, May 19th RAIN DATE Chestnut Hill Home and Garden Fest; Germantown Ave & Bethlehem Pike: Philadelphia, PA; 11:30-1:45;  Chestnut Hill Home + Garden Festival - Chestnut Hill       
The unofficial return of spring has been pushed back as there was a 70% chance of rain Sunday. So the rain date of Sunday, May 19th will be the return of The Chestnut Hill Home and Garden fest. We have played this gig for a long time and love it. Lots of craft vendors, great food, families galore, and of course, music. Come celebrate spring with the Dukes in the great Chestnut Hill area.      

2) Friday, June 14; Steel City Coffeehouse and Brewery;203 Bridge St; Phoenixville, PA 424- 924-8425; $20/adv; $22 day of show; THE DUKES OF DESTINY LIVE 6/14 | STEEL CITY COFFEEHOUSE & BREWERY  

  We are excited about returning to one of our favorite spots in one of our favorite towns. We have not played here since before the pandemic, and we are looking forward to our return. Phoenixville has a great restaurant and food scene, and Steel City is a great listening room that is now also a brewery with craft brews and great food and snacks. Great sound system; comfortable seats with great stage views, wonderful waitstaff and vibe: we love this place. If you have seen us in Phoenixville before, come on out and welcome us back, and if you haven’t, you are in for a treat.   

3) Friday, June 28; World CafĂ© Live with Johnny Never and John Colgan-Davis as Opening Act; 8:30 PM; 3025 Walnut St; Phila. PA; 20 adv. $25 door; 215-222-1400;    

  We did this double bill last year at WCL, and it was such a wonderful show with such a great turnout that we are doing it again. This is one of our favorite clubs in the area. This place has a great sound system, room to dance, great food and beverages, and a great staff. Johnny Never and John Colgan-Davis, contestants in this year's International Blues Challenge in Memphis TN, open the show with a set of acoustic Delta and Piedmont blues. Then the Dukes do a set of electric blues, including some new arrangements and originals. It will be a night of incredible blues at a fantastic club with great seating, great sound, and wonderful food. Come on out and enjoy. Early reservations are strongly suggested.          

(If you know of a place, club, event, or private party that could use a little Dukes’ energy, let them know about us and us about them. Thanks (www.dukesofdestiny.com)  


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Thursday, May 2, 2024

Joyous Sounds of N'awlins

 

DUKES FANS:     

Another Amazing Burst of Sound, Food, and Culture 

      Back in October of 2022, I wrote a missive about the history of MUZAK. I noted how it served at first to ease people’s nerves and help them adjust to this new thing called the elevator, then to help workers be more productive and positive at work, and then too try to make us less bored and upset in stores, train stations and airports. These days the sound effect is probably not MUZAK; it is often streaming internet channels such as Sirius FM. And the choice in these venues is often soft jazz or soft cover versions of rock hits by bands such as The Doobie Brothers and Steely Dan.  

      Last week I was in an airport going to the baggage area, and the comforting sounds were “Further On Down The Road You Will Accompany Me by Taj Mahal, “Further On Up the Road” by Bobby "Blue" Bland, and "River’s Invitation” by Percy Mayfield. And these were the real recordings! This soundtrack could only be happening in one place: I was back down in New Orleans, Louisiana.  

      Last week was the first weekend of JazzFest, and I was down in N’awlins, soaking up the music, the food, the architecture and cultures and having a great time. This was my third time at the Fest, and while I am a year older and it is harder moving throughout the whole festival site, I had a ball. I heard some folks I love that I had not seen in a while: Joe Louis Walker, Rosie Ledet, Buckwheat Zydeco, The Iguanas, and Tuba Skinny. I also got introduced to some folks I had not heard of before; singer/guitarist Mr Sipp, Luther Kent, Marc Stone, and the absolute amazing Midnite Disturbers -- a 12-16 piece horn “jam" band featuring some of the city’s best musicians. Talk about musical overload! 

      As usual, there were also great cultural things -- this truly is a jazz AND HERITAGE festival. There were dances, storytelling, crafts, and music from different Louisiana Native American nations. There were demonstrations of crafts such as woodworking and blacksmithing. There were workshops and demonstrations of cultural sewing design and cooking from African-American, Haitian, French, and Caribbean cultures. One of the great things for me about this aspect of the festival is the large number of children involved in the crafts and music. Louisiana is a place where each of the cultures that live in the state continue to effortlessly pass on their traditions and innovations down to the next generation. JazzFest is one place where the children get to shine, and they had key roles in the presentations. And the student brass bands were spectacular.

      This was my third time at the fest, and I plan to go for at least one of the two weekends for as long as I can. Like last year and this year, I will go a day or two before and stay a day or two after to see more of that wonderful town. This year I had a walking tour of the Treme district, saw the Jazz Museum, spent time again looking at the architecture in the French Quarter and beyond, and had some great seafood. All in all, it was a wonderful time, full of constant, joyous times, and wonderful music. 

      This weekend is the last weekend of the Fest, and it features a lot of diverse people, from The Rolling Stones to Bonnie Raitt to Trombone Shorty. I invite each of you to go to the Festival website, look at the schedule for a given day, and then go to the website or YouTube channel of whichever musicians strike your fancy You will, of course, see many you recognize and have heard. But it may also be good to go and explore the websites or You Tube recordings of some folks with whom you are unfamiliar. There are a lot of wonderful things going on at this fest just waiting to be discovered. Dip your toes in. Enjoy!