Thursday, September 16, 2010
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
It was with some trepidation that headed to Big Bear Lake for the Cowboy Gathering to play with the Stardust Cowboys. It's long drive from Sacramento, 470 hot dusty miles.
Friday, August 13, 2010
When I was young, my buddies and i would call each other and say "let's jam today", meaning lets get together and play some music with no real goal other than playing. Later on when we said "jam" it meant improvising with no predetermined structure, as in "jam band".
Monday, August 9, 2010
If ever there was a musician’s musician, it would be Joe Lev.
He was born in 1952 into a family of musicians steeped in the controversial melting pot of Chicago’s folk-music community.
“My parents, Milt and Marge Lev, were part of the big folk-music scare of the late ’50s and early ’60s,” Joe said. “My mom studied guitar at the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago with Frank Hamilton, a replacement for Pete Seeger in the Weavers. I remember going backstage at a Frank show and seeing how entranced I was. He told my mom, ‘Get that boy a banjo.’”
His family moved to Sacramento in 1958, where his parents joined the newly formed Folk Music Society.
“My folks soon were officers. We went to concerts, workshops and hootenannies,” Joe said. “I remember my parents dressing me up in my little wool suit to hear people sing about sharecropping, gambling, drinking and women of ill repute. Sitting in the dark, I was captivated by the magic one person with a guitar, some stories and good song could weave.”
One milestone event was bringing the then blacklisted Pete Seeger to American River College. Joe may have just been 8 years old but the memories and the messages he heard made a huge impact on him.
Music surrounded Joe. His mother gave guitar lessons and classes; folk music was it for him until he was 12 when his older brother, Ben, brought home a Fender guitar and Silvertone amp.
Soon, bands were practicing in his garage every week and Joe traded his banjo for an electric guitar.
Music has been the one constant in Joe’s life, “a unifying thread, a fascination bordering on obsession.” Growing up in the north area of Sacramento near Carmichael, he and his friend, Paul Narloch, had a whole series of bands.
Just after graduating from high school, Joe and Paul were in his first “good band,” Buckwheat.
“We were Americana, 30 years too early,” Joe said. “We had a sparkle like the Flying Burrito Brothers. It was an idyllic time; I was out of school and still living with my parents. My friends lived nearby and we played a lot … just a bubble in time, hanging out with my friends, playing down by the river almost every day. We played a lot a hippie-type gigs and had a really good following.”
When he was 20, Joe met “Bongo Bob” Smith who introduced him to Oscar Robinson. Oscar ran a music school in Oak Park where Joe learned to play bass.
“I was like a musical monk, taking classes, practicing and playing for 10 hours a day for the whole year,” Joe said. “He taught me being a musician was a respectable profession. You have to be willing to do the hard work. It just depends on how much you’re willing to suffer.”
It was a new mindset for Joe and changed the path of his musical career.
Oscar put together a band called The Hustlers (1972 to 1974). “It was my debut as a bass player, which turned out to be the best decision I ever made.”
Since 1970, he has played on average 200 gigs annual in bands that cross over into nearly every genre of music.
He has been married to his best friend, visual artist T.J. Lev for 16 years. They make their home in downtown Sacramento.
Joe has played with Steve Foster and the Jokers, Bayou Boys, Jahari Sai Quartet, Frankie Lee, Wingnut Adams Funky Soul Brigade, Mick Martin and the Blues Rockers, The Bayou Boys Band and the Stardust Cowboys.
He teaches at The Guitar Workshop in Sacramento and volunteers with Blues in The Schools. He played at Dillian’s Bar and Grill with Two Tone Steiney and The Cadillacs, and currently hosts two weekly Blues Jams with along with The Jokers in Rocklin and the Jimmy Collazo Band in Roseville. Joe jams with Olen Dillingham, a Lincoln resident and member of Western Swing Hall of Fame.
Last spring, The Jokers played their Sun City Lincoln Hills debut concert to a full house.
”The harder we rocked,” Joe said, “the more they liked it. I witnessed the magic only music can create as boomers, octogenarians and better were transported to another space and time, through the music of their youth.”
Joe is not only a musician’s musician. He embodies the best parts of the ‘quintessential unrepentant hippie’ by bringing people together to celebrate life in joy and harmonious humanity.
For more on Joe, see http://morethanatouchofgray.blogspot.com
Friday, August 6, 2010
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
This being Garcia Week (between his birthday and his yahrzeit (anniversary of his leaving) I figure this to be as good a time as any to ruminate on his meaning to the world and his meaning to me.
Friday, July 30, 2010
Of course by now I need to tell you that I do most of my work as a sideman for various recording artists and bandleaders. I love being an "essential sideman" to paraphrase Ron Carter.
Monday, July 26, 2010
Friday, July 23, 2010
Friday, July 16, 2010
Tuesday, July 6, 2010
Monday, June 28, 2010
Monday, June 21, 2010
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Sunday, June 13, 2010
Saturday, June 12, 2010
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
Saturday, June 5, 2010
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
Thursday, May 27, 2010
Monday, May 24, 2010
Saturday, May 22, 2010
Thursday, May 20, 2010
Monday, May 17, 2010
Thursday, May 13, 2010
I spent many hours with my parents record collection, I would put a stack of albums on the changer(remember changers?) and let the wonderful sounds just take me away. I remember loving the Weavers, the famous folk group that included Pete Seeger. They played with such energy and conviction and I already idolized Pete.
Other records I dug were by Sam Hinton, a folk singing marine biologist from San Diego who we got to know, Ed McCurdy and Oscar Brand. Another record I just loved was called Sandhogs. It was a folk opera written by Earl Robinson about the poor Irish immigrants who built the tunnels under the East River in NYC.
One day I discovered a record on the Folkways label whose name I have long forgotten. But it was a blues record featuring Brownie McGee, Sonny Terry and Big Bill Broonzy being interviewed by the incomparable Studs Terkel and performing songs. The first song was Key to The Highway and it just blew my mind. I must have listened to that record 100 times that month. Somehow the music just grabbed me and the interviews as well. When Studs said "Charlie Parker said you got to live it or it won't come out of your horn" I had no idea who Charlie Parker was but I wanted to LIVE IT too.
Thus began my life long love for the amazing art form of blues music.
Sing on brother, play on drummer............
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Thursday, May 6, 2010
Folk music is the source, Big Bill Broonzy or someone said "It's all folk music
you never heard no cow singing it"
My first musical memory was seeing a Pete Seeger children's concert. It made a huge impression on me when Pete took an ax to a log and sang an old chain gang song:Take this hammer(whup!) carry it to the captain(whup!).....
My parents were part of the big folk music scare of the late 50s and early 60s. My Mom studied guitar at the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago with Frank Hamilton, a replacement for Pete Seeger in the Weavers. I remember going backstage at a Frank show and seeing how entranced I was he told my Mom "Get that boy a banjo".
We moved to Sacramento when I was 6, and we joined the newly formed Folk Music Society. My folks soon were officers and we went to concerts, workshops and hootenannies.
I remember them dressing me up in my little wool suit to hear people sing about sharecropping, gambling, drinking and women of ill repute. Sitting in the dark I was captivated by the magic one person with a guitar, some stories and good song could weave.
The FMS grew into producing concerts I remember Brownie McGee and Sonny Terry pulled a no show(my introduction to the world of the blues. I saw Judy Collins, Sam Hinton,Walt Robinson, and many more great folk singers.
The high point was bringing the then blacklisted Pete Seeger to American River College. I don't remember how it happened put Pete ate dinner at our house and asked for desert. The concert was a sell out at $1 a ticket and Pete tried to give back some of the 90% of the door he got.
Exposure to real folk music(we hated the cheesy Kingston Trio/New Christy Minstrel kind)led me to fall in love with songs. They just took me away, each one was like a little 5 minute novel that came to life between my ears.
I was exposed to so much great music that laid the foundation for all I have done since.