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The New Morning of Garland Jeffreys

October 20, 2013

garland jeffreys

garland jeffreys

PARIS – In retrospect, I see it as very appropriate that Garland Jeffreys performed his gig in Paris last night at the New Morning venue on the rue des Petites Ecuries. The street was created in 1780 and it was near the royal stables. The thing is, Jeffreys, 70 years old this year, appears to be at the start of a new morning of his life – and you can’t hold this royal stallion down!

As regular readers of this blog will possibly have noticed, I hardly ever go to concerts myself, since I’m always trying to find open mics and jams to play myself, and so I say, how can I go and watch someone else without having a chance to get up there myself! In fact, last night, I left the Garland Jeffreys concert at the New Morning saying, “If I can learn that much about performance and pop music by going to a concert, I want to go a LOT more often!”

I had been alerted to the concert by a friend – who does go to lots of concerts – and as I had narrowly missed going to Jeffreys concert last year due to travel constraints, I said, “Go!”

Noooo regrets. Garland Jeffreys is one of the most unique cult figures in pop music, and at 70 years old, he puts on a show that is so much fun, so cool, so audience-friendly, that I can’t imagine anyone walking out without being touched. Jeffreys is not the greatest singer in the world, his melodies and songs are not epoch making or breaking compositions of extraordinary originality. But all the parts of this guy come together to create a real unique experience. He IS a natural showman, he gives everything he has – sometimes too much for his own good, as when he jumped backwards off a box cube at the edge of the stage and narrowly missed – or actually beautifully hid – seriously damaging his shin on the corner of the box. He leapt the meter or more height from the edge of the stage to the audience on several occasions to be amongst the audience, hug and kiss the women, and generally whip up a storm of great vibes with the audience.

It was only in seeing Jeffreys that I could really feel as if I understood something about this guy I knew some stuff about – and knew some of his music – without ever really understanding what he was all about. In fact, again, he is the sum of many amazing parts. A unique character, cult figure, and really a consummate showman. He is also a kind of musicians’ musician: From Brooklyn, he majored in history at Syracuse University with Lou Reed before the latter formed the Velvet Underground. He was friends with Bob Marley, has played along with Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Bruce Springsteen, Patti Smith, John Cale and even Sonny Rollins.

Garland Jeffreys Started Way Back in the 1960s

His first solo album, Garland Jeffreys, came out at Atlantic Records in 1973. He has recorded several more, including “The King of In Between” in 2011 and this year, “Truth Serum.” In the last couple of years has been touring all over, and is in the midst of a 30-date tour at the moment – if I heard that correctly – and at 70 years old (I repeat again), he said he is now on what he calls “The 90-year plan.”

The latter means he wants to keep on playing and performing until he is in his 90s. This little bit I actually heard from him myself in a short conversation after the show. He came out to sign CDs for the spectators after the show and stayed for what I think was around half an hour. But an hour and a half or so after the concert he ended up sitting in the same restaurant around the corner from the New Morning where I was sitting with my friends. So I took the opportunity to speak with him briefly – he was sitting with a group of around 12 people, at least some of whom seemed to be simple fans – although he has many friends in France.

He appears, in short, to be going through a fabulous renaissance at age 70, and I didn’t see a single person in that full house of the New Morning who appeared disappointed. For me, the key to Jeffreys IS his personality, his personage, his true emotion, his character, his past, his outlook on life. At a time when Rodriguez has risen out of obscurity at 70 to be a star, there is one point of comparison with Jeffreys: They are both street poets, one of Detroit, the other of Brooklyn.

A Comparison Between Garland Jeffreys and Rodriguez?

But the comparisons stop there – as Jeffreys’ flamboyance – think Springsteen – is far from that. Oh, yes, Jeffreys has also been the subject of a documentary – directed by Wim Wenders and produced by Martin Scorsese.

The great news is that above all some of the recent songs were fabulous – we loved this song he did about his grandmother, also, by the way, which was very, very emotional.

With a background like this, with a talent like he has, the biggest question I think I would have after leaving the New Morning last night was not about Garland Jeffreys and who he is and what his talent is all about. It is why 90 percent of the spectators last night had grey hair! In an age when kids in their teens know more pop history thanks to YouTube and the Internet than that which I have spent a lifetime trying to absorb, why is Jeffreys not more on the radar with them?

Jamming at the 25° Est, and a Videograph from Garland Jeffreys

June 29, 2012

Garland Jeffreys

Garland Jeffreys

Two completely unexpected posts, but the second part is cooler than the first. First part is just to say that I took my guitar with me to celebrate the birthday of a friend of a friend since I decided I would go to the Cabaret Culture Rapide blues jam afterwards. I ended up playing guitar and singing for an hour or more at the birthday party, at the 25 Degre Est bar and restaurant, outside on the terrace with a cool breeze blowing. I played some of my songs, some cover songs, had an audience, felt great. But here is the more cool post:

Last month I was exchanging emails with someone from the entourage of a very cool American rock musician, Garland Jeffreys, about his then upcoming concerts in Europe. He was about to play in Belgium, and then he would play in Paris. I could not get to Belgium, and as it turned out, I could not even make it to his Paris concert, as I had to go on a reporting mission to Le Mans, in France, on the very day he was playing in Paris, at the Divan du Monde, on 2 June. I returned to Paris from Le Mans too late.

Judging by a revue I read about the concert, I missed something great. Now flash forward today, lunch, in Paris, near the Place de Clichy. I was having lunch with a man I had met at a sports conference in Turkey in April, another longtime Paris expat named Ciaran Quinn. It turns out Quinn likes this blog, and it also turns out that he comes from a very musical family and has music in the blood, but mostly as a spectator. He suddenly popped out that he had just seen the most amazing concert, that of Garland Jeffreys, in Paris on 2 June!

So we got to talking about Jeffries a little. The thing is, Jeffreys is one of those almost cult American musicians on the periphery who has had a very cool career, and was once even considered to be the next big, big, big poet musician to pick up the relay from Dylan – that was back in the 1970s. Jeffreys is also famous for having gone to university with Lou Reed, and befriending him before he even started the Velvet Underground. Jeffreys started out in all those places Dylan did – and where I also tested my chops, in failure – in Greenwich Village, like Gerde’s Folk City, The Bitter End, the Gaslight, Kenny’s Castaways, etc.

He played lead guitar on John Cale’s first solo album, Vintage Violence, of 1969. (That got me wondering if he ever crossed paths with my friend Frazier Mohawk, who just died, and who produced Nico’s album, The Marble Index, with Cale.) Jeffreys released his first solo album in 1973 at Atlantic Records. The album actually had Dr. John on it, and the Brecker Brothers – who later did sensational stuff with Joni Mitchell. (Oh, AND it had David Peel on it, whom I had met at Gerde’s Folk City in 1976 and thought was full of shit in his stories about being friends with John Lennon, until I saw his album “The Pope Smokes Dope,” and other things….) Jeffreys was also in a documentary film directed by Wim Wenders and produced by Martin Scorsese, in 2003.

So we’re talking a real monument here, and a great musician, singer and writer. And he has just recently come out with a new album, called The King of In Between. Oh, and dammit, had I made my way to Amsterdam on 28 May – when I think I was in Monaco – I would have seen him take the stage with Bruce Springsteen, at the latter’s concert.

Okay, so what is the purpose of all of this?!?! It is just about how things come around. So here I was today sitting there in this brasserie eating lunch with Ciaran Quinn, who is an expert in sports-related Internet promotion and other such web related things – he’s got a contract with the Olympics this year – and he tells me he saw this concert that I had wanted to go to. THEN: He tells me about this sensational idea he came up with to create what he calls – I think he called them this – a “videograph.” This is not an autograph, where a celebrity simply signs a paper and says a few words of hello and how are you… this is a thing where you hold your iPhone video camera up and ask the celebrity for a few words as an autograph – a videograph. In this case, the videograph was for Ciaran’s young son, who is a musician, and Ciaran asks Jeffreys to say why music is so important to him. Very, very cool. But also I thought it a wonderful loop in the story of how I had been corresponding with Jeffreys entourage, almost went to the concert… then had it all come back to me a month later, in the form of a videograph. Someone better make an app for these things – a videograph book!!! (Maybe they already have….)

Here is the videograph:

Thanks Ciaran….

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