'DurgaKali on Her Mother's
Name for Her'
"Fine As You Are"
Ah, the chance to write particularly about transcendent musicians!
Hamid Drake and I became acquainted in 2012--New Orleans, as
I marveled at his playing with William Parker and Kidd Jordan and
then with Johnny Vidacovich in the Ashé Cultural Arts Center. Maryse articulated his affects aptly; "Hamid is in another categrory." He and I did a five-date tour of California in April 2014,
joining with Alex de Grassi as the GALLOP Trio for shows at Duende in Oakland and at the SPACE Theater in Ukiah. My brother Kenton summed up nicely what Hamid provides, following our duos at Beyond Baroque in Los Angeles: "Hamid
gives you everything you need."
The poem 'DurgaKali on Her Mother's Name for Her' is part of
a play about two couples on a beach of India, following their
nearly sleepless attendance at a weekend-long 'Party'. The play's name is "We Are Rainbows Dancing Before Mountains Explode."
DurgaKali is a Hindu woman of Bhopal and then New Delhi who's become the partner of a former mujahid, Ahmed, himself in his 20s and a soul wrestling for understanding and acceptance in accord with teachings of the poet and sage Mohammad Iqbal. DurgaKali and Ahmed are both warm and brave characters, like
their friends Ranjit, a Sikh, and Emily of Kentucky.
Hamid already had in his widely versed bag of knowledge a song
to Kali. We recorded the album Singing In The Airport over four hours in Rick G. Nelson's Marigny Studio on February 20, 2016.
The album's title derives from a poem inspired by another great
exponent of Sufi arts, the composer and singer Ustad Shafqat Ali Khan.
Hamid and I doing "Some Rain Tonight" at the Emerald Tablet in San Francisco, where we performed with
Jonathan Richman on April 15, 2014.
Writing about the Suspect Many is a tall order. This band of more
than a dozen musicians on our two albums between 1989 and 1991,
We Could Use The Rain and then Love Is The Main Flame, is replete with vivid personalities and "tree-mendous" (Buster Worley, a hook-tender in the Thorne Bay, Alaska logging-camp)
abilities. We had/I used five drummers on those albums: Babatunde Lea, Kenny Blackman, John Law, Randy Gallerin, and Mike Sims. Two bass-players, George Cremaschi and Marty Holland. Three guitarists: Dhyani Dharma, Jon Karr, and Steve Fundy. The group JoiJoi (Louise Robinson, Michelle Jacques, Darlene Spears) as backing singers on Love Is .... Two percussionists: Babatunde and James Henry. Richard Howell on saxophones and Mike Rose on trumpet. John Baker always on
piano or electric keyboard.
Whatever the configuration, the Suspect Many never failed to be
all-in and devoted company. They gave me so much!
Dhyani Dharma and John Baker were my main collaborators in song-writing. Dhyani is one of parts hardly believable in their depth and variety. Raised in Nice, France as Jean-Luc Mas. His father a Roma who arrested in Algeria conspirators against DeGaulle right around the time that Jean-Luc began with guitar at age four. The same year he entered a Buddhist monastery. Later studied in Spain under Andres Segovia with Paco de Lucia. A Classical prize-winner AND a member of the Rock band the Paratroopers. Chief assistant to Boulez at the Paris Opera and a collaborator with John Cage and Xenakis. The novelist peter plate introduced Jean-Luc / Dhyani to me in September 1989 after I returned from the Soviet Union, Spain, France and England. We were fast friends. Music from him flowed and fit into lyrics and
melodies of mine as we drank wine and Taj Mahal beer in his Chenery Street flat. One session occurred on afternoon of the Loma Prieta earthquake; we decided to roll on with the session under candlelight. Why waste an hour?
"Fine As You Are" came to me in Las Vegas, the morning after running a Marathon that finished there, February of 1989. A fellow runner inspired it. Dhyani gave it its chords. Further feeling is adumbrated through the lush fretless bass of George Cremaschi, the tenor-saxophone of Lewis Jordan, the drums-set of Babatunde, John's piano, and the midi-effects of Jon Karr. I love the portrait they achieve in this song.
with Dhyani, recording the album Poems from Flares in his Mission District apartment, 2004. Photo by Julig.
with George Cremaschi and Jon Karr at a Suspect Many rehearsal, 1990. Photo by Claude Palmer.