[LAU] OT: ed blackwell on musical saw (WAS: Double bass (Kontrabass) Recommended listening.)

Dave Phillips dlphillips at woh.rr.com
Sat Jun 7 07:31:43 EDT 2008

bernie arai wrote:
> On Fri, Jun 6, 2008 at 7:41 AM, Dave Phillips <dlphillips at woh.rr.com 
> <mailto:dlphillips at woh.rr.com>> wrote:
>      Not quite as weird as seeing
>     Ed Blackwell play a saw solo with Mingus, but still pretty strange
>     stuff.
> there are two aspects to that statement that i'm very interested in!  
> first, when did you see blackwell playing with mingus?  i though danny 
> richmond pretty much played every mingus show for the last thirty odd 
> years of the band.  second, obviously, is when did blackwell statr 
> playing saw?  i wonder if there are any recordings...
We saw Mingus twice in the 70s, once in a club in Cleveland (I forget 
the name) and once at Gilly's in Dayton. Blackwell played with him on 
the Cleveland gig, Danny Richmond was with him in Dayton. And as far as 
I can find, there are no recordings of Blackwell with Mingus. :(

We met Mingus, even took him out for dinner a few times. At Gilly's I 
met his pianist of the time, a young Don Pullen. I had a wonderful time 
with him, just talking with him on his breaks. The audience probably 
numbered in the low twenties, it wasn't much of a turnout, and Don was 
very generous with his time.

Btw, Mingus went into quite a spiel about treating the saw as a musical 
instrument. Blackwell's solo was very sweet, as I recall, and it was a 
serious performance. I also recall that the other members of the group 
seemed terrified of Mingus.

Between Cleveland and Dayton we caught some amazing shows back then. I 
saw the Cecil Taylor trio at Gilly's, met Robert Jr. Lockwood in Kinsman 
(a suburb in Cleveland), and hung out with Pharaoh Sanders when he was 
artist-in-residence at Western Reserve (!). The Cecil Taylor gig was 
memorable: He played two sets, one "tune" per set, and each set lasted 
about 45 minutes. Suffice to say, The Man was awesome. The club was 
nearly empty then too, maybe about fifteen people in all, counting some 
whores and their pimps.

But truly one of the oddest shows we ever caught was Sun Ra performing 
in the basement of a Lum's restaurant in Ann Arbor MI. We were hanging 
out in Ann Arbor, someone noticed a sign that announced Sun Ra playing 
that evening at Lum's. Lum's is long gone now, it was a franchise 
restaurant specializing in the Standard American Diet (the SAD), and it 
was the last place where anyone would expect to see Sun Ra. So we called 
the restaurant, found out it was true (the owner was a Sun Ra fan and 
managed to snag him for a one-nighter), and we went. It was 
unforgettable, on a par with seeing Captain Beefheart. It was the full 
Arkestra too, there was hardly room for the audience (it was a packed 
room, I'm happy to say).

I was lucky, I got to hear a lot of my heroes in live shows back then.

Here's one of my favorite stories about the difference between shows 
then & now: In 1970, January I think, my brother and I went to Detroit 
to catch a show at the Grande Ballroom. The show opened with an 
excellent group from Ann Arbor, name long forgotten, that played a very 
progressive jazz/rock blend years before I heard the word "fusion". 
After them, a newcomer from England, a fellow named Joe Cocker, who had 
an extraordinary band (they got two encores) and was in top form 
himself. After Joe, The Who, when they still had Moonie on the kit. They 
had recently released Tommy, and they performed a good chunk of it that 
night, along with a good selection of their hits. It was a superb 
performance, another unforgettable night.

Oh yeh, the difference: My ticket cost $6, and no, I didn't forget any 
zeros. :)



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