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Despite Seeger’s death, his spirit lives on

Thursday, January 30, 2014
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When I phone-interviewed the late and very great Pete Seeger years ago, I asked him about the Peekskill concert at which Seeger, Paul Robeson and other progressive folkies sang, then were attacked by thugs throwing stones at their cars.

Pete told me: “I went home and combed the broken glass out of my children’s hair.” In his voice was forgiveness and fearlessness.

He made the cowards who named names to the House Un-American Activities Committee look like moral pygmies. Pete refused to discuss his politics or even his votes. Sentenced to a year in prison for contempt of Congress, he was ready to go when the feds backed down.

I think Pete Seeger is one of the greatest human beings of the past 100 years — along with Franklin Roosevelt, Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and a handful of others. In his last year, he played here twice, with his sister at Proctors and as the moral center of Farm Aid. We’re lucky we had him as long as we did, to show us what living by principles looks like.

Arlo Guthrie once told me about the John Birch Society boycotting a Seeger show in New York where Arlo’s school was bused to attend. The Birchers were handing out leaflets condemning Pete, so Arlo feigned enthusiastic agreement and offered to help. When they handed him some leaflets, he grabbed all of them, tossed them in a sewer, then went in to see the show.

When told of Pete’s passing, Arlo Facebooked a sweet message that ended this way: “Well, of course he passed away! But that doesn’t mean he’s gone.”

Grammy ties

Former Schenectadian Nancy Lyons and I rented gorilla suits to attend a Frank Zappa and the Mothers show featuring Captain Beefheart at the Palace Theatre in the summer of 1975. Zappa won a Lifetime Achievement Grammy in 1997, nine years after he played the Palace on the last-ever tour before he died. Nancy’s husband, jazz bassist and producer Jimmy Haslip, was nominated this year for Best Pop Instrumental Album for Jeff Lorber’s “Hacienda.” (Her first husband, producer Albhy Galuten, was perhaps the only winner ever to accept a Grammy barefooted.)

The Albany Symphony, whose home field is the Palace, won a Grammy Sunday night for Best Classical Instrumental Solo for “Corigliano: Conjurer — Concerto for Percussionist & String Orchestra”; Evelyn Glennie, soloist; David Alan Miller, conductor.

Also, MASS MoCA stalwarts Roomful of Teeth won Sunday as Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance for their self-named debut.

Lastly, and this seems nonlocal at first, but bear with me: Terrance Simien & the Zydeco Experience won Sunday for Best Regional Roots Music Album for “Dockside Sessions,” the first zydeco artist to win two Grammys. When Simien played Alive at Five in 2008, he took me into his dressing room, pulled out his first Grammy, won just months before, and handed it to me. They are heavier than they look, and they mean a great deal.

So big ups to David Alan Miller and the Albany Symphony, Roomful of Teeth and Terrance Simien.

Check on www.nippertown.com, my favorite music and arts site, for info on the nine Grammy winners coming here to play soon.

Guitars and drums

The Egg goes guitar crazy this week with exceptional string-master shows.

Fronting his bayou country trio, Louisiana slide-guitarist Sonny Landreth may be one of the loudest performers ever to rock The Egg. (Alejandro Escovedo is the other) But on Friday, he plays in a soft-spoken duo with Cindy Cashdollar, a comparably accomplished player.

Both played sideman gigs — Landreth mostly with John Hiatt and Cashdollar first with neighbors around Woodstock (Levon Helm, Rick Danko and Paul Butterfield), later with Asleep at the Wheel, Van Morrison, Ryan Adams and others. And both have made solo albums — Landreth most recently on 2012’s “Elemental Journey” and Cashdollar with “Slide Show.”

On Friday, they play alone and together at The Egg (Empire State Plaza, Albany), Landreth likely on electric slide guitar and Cashdollar on dobro and steel. On YouTube clips, they go for subtlety without going overly sweet. Show time is 8 p.m. Admission is $28. 473-1845 www.theegg.org.

On Wednesday, “Guitar Passions” brings together Sharon Isbin, Stanley Jordan and Romero Lumbambo: masters of different styles. Isbin plays with classical elegance, and loves collaborations. She was instrumental (sorry!) in the La Guitarra all-women fretwork showcase at Troy Savings Bank Music Hall a few years back with Patty Larkin and Kaki King. “Guitar Passions” began as a recording with Jordan, Lumbambo and many more. Jordan adapted a novel string-tapping technique to jazz. Brazil’s foremost guitarist, Lumbambo plays soft strings, finger-style. He came into his own collaborating with singer Luciana Souza and cellist Yo-Yo Ma but now performs and records as a leader.

In “Guitar Passions” on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. at The Egg, Isbin, Jordan and Lumbambo play alone and in combinations. Admission is $34.50.

Not a guitar in sight at the Jazz Drum Battle on Saturday at The Egg at 7:30 p.m. Hosted by (drummer, duh) Michael Benedict & Bopitude, the Battle features guest drummers Bob Halek, Mark Foster and Pete Sweeney, plus percussionist Brian Melick and the Bopitude guys: trumpeter Chris Pasin, tenor saxophonist Brian Patneaude, pianist David Gleason and bassist Mike Lawrence. Admission is $20.

Proctors piano

No guitars at Proctors (432 State St., Schenectady) tonight either, when pianist Lincoln Mayorga plays “Gershwin in New York and Hollywood.” A Hudson Valley resident, Mayorga has explored jazz on both coasts, notably as house pianist with Walt Disney Studios. He’s worked with classical orchestras, rock bands and jazz combos of all styles. Show time for Lincoln Mayorga’s “Gershwin in New York and Hollywood” is tonight at 7:30 p.m. Admission is $25. 346-6204 www.proctors.org.

Mattea at the Hall

On Saturday, country singer Kathy Mattea sings at the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall. Writing and singing at the crossroads of country and folk, the West Virginia native has increasingly made music about her home state, where mines and scars pock a beautiful land and the struggling people digging coal and farming. Her two latest albums, “Coal” (2008, nominated for a Grammy for Best Traditional Folk Album) and the bluegrass-flavored “Calling Me Home” celebrate and examine the traditions and trials of the people of home. However, she also has a broad reach: She recently co-starred with Nashville’s all star combo the Long Riders in re-creating Neil Young’s “After the Gold Rush.”

Show time for Kathy Mattea is 8 p.m. Admission is $29, $20; $3 student discount. 273-0038 www.troymusichall.org.

Reach Gazette columnist Michael Hochanadel at hochanadel@dailygazette.net.

 
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