Dregs 2017…40 years from Free Fall

So there is a whole history of the band somewhere, or maybe I will write it, but in 1977 we released our first album, Free Fall. Or as Steve used to call it ‘Eerf Fall’ because of the way they made the cover look. (See the silly cover here). I say ‘they’ because the record company and especially the people in LA treated us like a bunch of hicks from the south, and dressed us up, and came up with the whole thing,

Anyways, prior to that we had been kicking around Augusta and the south since 1975 when all the guys graduated college, and I had dropped out having lost a year or so somewhere…We played all over, slept on many floors, had many crazy experiences, blah blah, someday to be recounted with all the inaccuracies of memory impacting the accuracy of the stories. Anyways, it was actually an awesome time, as we finally felt we were getting some vindication and making headway signing with a major label and having a real release under our belts. The band at that time was Steve Morse. Rod Morgenstein, Allen Sloan, Steve Davidowski, and me.

So why am I writing this? Well, this particular configuration of the first commercially recorded band is still around, and we all got together at Steve’s studio in Florida to jam on the old tunes for a couple of days in early January. It was just fantastic to reconnect and play through some of the great compositions that Steve wrote even back then at such an early age. We sort of sucked a bit sometimes, but then again we also sort of sounded great! The short of it is that we all agreed that we could put something together that would be presentable to play these songs live again for an audience. So there is a lot to be worked out, and hopefully it can be, but there is nothing solid yet. Hoever, just the fact that we all did this, and of course, we just played some freakin’ awesome music was so cool and inspiring.

Below is a shot of us at dinner on the last evening:

Standing – David Sloan (Allen’s son), Allen Sloan, Rod Morgenstein, Steve Davidowski. Seated, me and Steve Morse

 

Anderson Ponty Band (Tucson)

Saw them at the Fox Theater in Tucson the other night. They played some remakes of Yes tunes that were pretty cool, and the music/musicians were superb.

– JLP performed flawlessly and amazingly. He played a beautiful solo that was just way out there and very ethereal and lovely. And he still played with fire and passion, hitting all the notes with his impeccable precision even on a couple of things from back in the ‘hi-fusion’ days.
– Subdued bass from Keith Jones…until necessary! Then unleashing monster 6 string playing for a wonderful solo, and a creative intro to a version of Yes’ Roundabout.
– Powerful drumming from Rayford Griffin with a really great solo piece.
– High energy. multi-instumentalism, and super good playing music vibes from Jamie Glaser.
– Wally Minko the keyboard player was great too and filled it all in without showboating.
– Jon Anderson maintained his complete otherworldliness, while ‘mostly’ hitting all the notes. Seems like a genuinely nice guy and it was cool to see him in a such an intimate venue. What a legendary musical history he has. I saw Yes play three times (Close to the Edge, Tales from Topographic Oceans, and Relayer…omg were they great)

Anyways, it is well worth seeing them if they are coming near to you. It is not a retro concert, but is especially likable if you have a musical past affinity to the music of JLP or JA. And all the musicians are worth noting and following up with if you have not heard of some of them.

T Lavitz

As many of you know, T Lavitz, my friend and former bandmate, died unexpectedly on Oct. 7 2010. I have been thinking a lot about T since then, running through experiences of so many times and conversations in my mind as people do about others, but with both a disbelief and poignancy that there won’t be any more.

Rod Morgenstein told be about a tribute that Derek Sherinian was putting together to T that will be published in Keyboard magazine that we could possibly contribute to. I found it very difficult to put my thoughts into words. I didn’t want to simplify T, or my relationship to him. But I really wanted to say something, so this is what I wrote:

“I met T at a small bar near Miami over 30 years ago. Rod had heard him at the University of Miami and recommended him as a possibility for the band, so we went and heard him play. It was mainly Miami ‘jazz club’ music of the day, but he shined through it. He sounded great, and was so enthusiastic and something just felt really right about him being in the band even from that first night.

We all became close friends over the years sharing so many experiences together as bands do, but T and I especially spent a lot of time together back then. We were both very social and liked meeting new people and just exploring the world and finding interesting situations. I’m sure it has been said by many, but T was someone who could just light people up, they would be very glad to see him and be around him. I include myself in that group, and even years after the band broke up and I would see him with Jazz is Dead or the re-formed Dregs, it was just fun and natural, as if we simply picked up from the last moment.

But I want to go back and point out how I felt when I heard a couple of parts on the first album that he played with the band on “Dregs of the Earth”. The really short organ solo on “Twigg’s Approved” just sent me into a spin and still does with its perfect touch and note choices. There was so much feel beneath his hands on an organ. Of course, the other tune was “I’m Freaking out”. That was really a feature for T and again, the first time I heard it, it just killed (and still does). It really captures him as a musician. There is a section in the middle with the electric piano sound which I loved hearing and playing at the same time because it felt like it was almost just him and me for that whole section. I felt proud of him and proud to be in a band with him. His blend of jazz and rock organ and everything else simply has a power and brightness and happiness to it that just comes out through the notes. From then there were many, many notes played and heard and life stories I will value forever. There is something in every song. It is weird, even though I haven’t spent nearly enough time with T in the last number of years, his untimely death has ripped a part of the past out of the present and it leaves a huge hole. I’ll always see and feel T the man in my mind, by hearing the music we still have from him.”

Here is an obituary with some sweet comments about T in the guestbook link. A friend has also created a Facebook group, both of which are worth checking out. I have also found lots of great videos of T on YouTube. And Rod Morgenstein posted the beautiful eulogy he gave at T’s memorial service.

I think all these things are good for us…

3 Movies – The Lives of Others, Fast Food Nation, Factotum

The Lives of Others - A german film made in 2006 with some excellent acting, story, and score. It is always refreshing to come across something that is just not stupid in it design and aspirations. This is a complex movie that highlights some complicated emotional situations that can take place as a result of crazy external circumstances. It takes place 4 years before the unification of Germany (1985) which already seems like ancient times. I had not explored the meaning of what it must have been like living in West Germany during what I consider 'modern' times...anyway, it is basically a suspenseful drama so watch it if you are in a thoughtful mood. And did I mention I really liked the score?

Fast Food Nation - a really good, if depressing movie. I hesitated for a long while because I didn't want to be confronted with a lot of animal gore. There is some, but it really is minimal and necessary. I really like Richard Linklater's movies so I had to see it eventually. Another complex movie that can take you out of your own little world and give pause for thought about how other people live.

Factotum - I wouldn't say it is a great movie, though I did watch it in all its depressing glory. I had a fascination with Charles Bukowski in the late seventies and early 80's. He seems a little less interesting to me now...but the score to this movie is just great (and they are his lyrics actually).  I had never heard of her but Kristin Asbjørnsen wrote it: