Wednesday, December 14, 2005

jamming in Madison

My plane touched down in Chicago a couple of nights ago while the Steve Miller Band rather appropriately sang "Jet Airliner" through my earphones connected to the in-flight entertainment system. It sounded surprisingly good, despite Miller meaning very little to me. On arriving in Madison, Wisconsin a few hours north (my favourite city in the US), I was met by my friends Pete and Maggie, who informed me Miller had gone to University here (having been born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin). So the local music connection started before I'd even touched the ground.

Unfortunately I'd arroved too late to witness PROG, the prog-rock tribute band they'd just seen that evening who were playing Yes, Gabriel-era Genesis and Jethro Tull at a local bar (very well apparently). That would have been amusingly disorienting, since despite the material being British, I first got into it when living in Wisconsin in the 80's - so with my body clock set at 6:30a.m., hearing a bunch of Madisonians performing "Watcher of the Skies" or "Siberian Khatru", I'm sure I would have completely lost track of what country I was in.

Yesterday morning I was recovering from jetlag, doing yoga in Pete's apartment while listening to bluegrass and country on WORT, the truly excellent listener-sponsored local community station. The afternoon was spent reading a dauntingly huge Ken Wilber book and practicing my saz technique (the saz survived the journey in its new fibreglass flight case, which I had to order from Turkey).

Peter Fee and I
Peter Fee and I, Stevens Point, Wisconsin, 2002

In the evening I headed over to Maggie and Ken's place for a session (they live next to the lake Otis Redding's plane crashed into). Ken used to play bass in Central Wisconsin's finest psychedelic danceband The Stellectrics, who eventually morphed into Irene's Garden. Currently he's playing with a "dark pop" band called Sunshine for the Blind here in Madison. In fact he was away rehearsing when I got there, so Maggie and I played some saz and guitar stuff, including a beautiful Hebrew prayer she knew, set to a modern melody. Peter and his flatmate Dave came over soon after, then Ken.

A thoroughly enjoyable psychedelic jam followed, most of which got recorded:

Maggie - acoustic guitar, flute, bells, percussion, kazoo, voice
Pete - acoustic guitar
Ken - electric bass guitar
me - saz
Dave - manualism

Dave was urged to join in on the last piece, having been described by Pete as a "handfartiste". I've since discovered that what he was doing is called "manualism", and there appears to be a small worldwide scene devoted to this artform!

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