Category Archives: GUEST EDITOR

From The Desk Of Preservation Hall Jazz Band: Music In New Orleans

Like most New Orleans-born-and-bred musicians, Ben Jaffe understands music not as a byproduct of the human experience but as a heart-deep part of that experience itself. Jaffe—tuba player, bassist and current leader/co-composer for the venerable Preservation Hall Jazz Band—comes by it honest, as they say. In 1961, his parents founded the Preservation Hall venue, a performance space especially notable during the Jim Crow era for being one of a handful in New Orleans open to both white and black players. What started as the venue’s de facto house band is now a pillar of the city’s musical history: a live performance, recording and educational outreach project 55 years strong and counting. PHJB’s new album, So It Is, continues the band’s longstanding custom of preserving and contributing new material to traditional New Orleans acoustic music. Jaffe will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our feature on the band.

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Jaffe: It’s not that we take live music in New Orleans for granted—we absolutely don’t—but we are used to hearing it every day. Our days are filled with passing parades, street bands, parties, festivals, concerts and going to church and funerals. Not a day goes by that I don’t stumble upon a live band. Perhaps this is how it should be everywhere. Music is who we are; it is essential to us, like food or air. It nourishes our soul. And the music of New Orleans is popping! From the young brass bands like TBC and Young Fellas to the rapper 5th Ward Weebie to the experimentalist Quintron, New Orleans has more going on than anywhere else in the world!

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From The Desk Of Preservation Hall Jazz Band: Documentary Film

Like most New Orleans-born-and-bred musicians, Ben Jaffe understands music not as a byproduct of the human experience but as a heart-deep part of that experience itself. Jaffe—tuba player, bassist and current leader/co-composer for the venerable Preservation Hall Jazz Band—comes by it honest, as they say. In 1961, his parents founded the Preservation Hall venue, a performance space especially notable during the Jim Crow era for being one of a handful in New Orleans open to both white and black players. What started as the venue’s de facto house band is now a pillar of the city’s musical history: a live performance, recording and educational outreach project 55 years strong and counting. PHJB’s new album, So It Is, continues the band’s longstanding custom of preserving and contributing new material to traditional New Orleans acoustic music. Jaffe will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our feature on the band.

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Jaffe: I’ve always loved documentaries and the people who make them. We’re surrounded by incredible stories. There’s something beautiful about watching a story unfold onscreen. I’ve always considered live musical performances on film a type of documentary. I started watching live performances on film in high school. Back then, everything was on VHS. If I heard about a Miles Davis, John Coltrane or Duke Ellington concert on tape, I would scour flea markets, used book stores and record stores for bootleg copies. There were some great spots in Cleveland and New York with incredible collections of shows on tape. Each tape held it’s own importance because it took so much of effort to learn about, track down and acquire. I vividly remember the day I came across the very rare and highly coveted unreleased Rolling Stones tour documentary Cocksucker Blues by Robert Frank in a tiny used book store in Los Angeles. It felt like I had struck gold. On another occasion, a friend gave me an interview and performance of my parents from the 1960s in Japan.

Some favorite directors include: D.A. Pennebaker, Les Blank, Robert Frank and Bruce Webber. Some of my favorite films: Streetwise, Hoop Dreams, Hands On A Hard Body, Crumb, Piano Players Rarely Play Together, American Movie, Soul Power and We Were Kings, Bayou Maharaja, Nanook Of The North, Let’s Get Lost, Harlan County, No Direction Home. Each film is unique and beautiful.

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From The Desk Of Preservation Hall Jazz Band: The Preservation Hall Foundation

Like most New Orleans-born-and-bred musicians, Ben Jaffe understands music not as a byproduct of the human experience but as a heart-deep part of that experience itself. Jaffe—tuba player, bassist and current leader/co-composer for the venerable Preservation Hall Jazz Band—comes by it honest, as they say. In 1961, his parents founded the Preservation Hall venue, a performance space especially notable during the Jim Crow era for being one of a handful in New Orleans open to both white and black players. What started as the venue’s de facto house band is now a pillar of the city’s musical history: a live performance, recording and educational outreach project 55 years strong and counting. PHJB’s new album, So It Is, continues the band’s longstanding custom of preserving and contributing new material to traditional New Orleans acoustic music. Jaffe will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our feature on the band.

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Jaffe: Being a member of the New Orleans community comes with a great responsibility. We started the Preservation Hall Foundation as a means to ensure the musical traditions of New Orleans are passed on generation after generation. Through the Foundation, we bring music education to schools in New Orleans and around the world. There’s something very important embedded in the DNA of our music. A deeper message of love and community, a joy, and a celebration of life that can only be communicated through the musical experience itself.

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From The Desk Of Preservation Hall Jazz Band: Public Art

Like most New Orleans-born-and-bred musicians, Ben Jaffe understands music not as a byproduct of the human experience but as a heart-deep part of that experience itself. Jaffe—tuba player, bassist and current leader/co-composer for the venerable Preservation Hall Jazz Band—comes by it honest, as they say. In 1961, his parents founded the Preservation Hall venue, a performance space especially notable during the Jim Crow era for being one of a handful in New Orleans open to both white and black players. What started as the venue’s de facto house band is now a pillar of the city’s musical history: a live performance, recording and educational outreach project 55 years strong and counting. PHJB’s new album, So It Is, continues the band’s longstanding custom of preserving and contributing new material to traditional New Orleans acoustic music. Jaffe will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our feature on the band.

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Jaffe: I’ve always been inspired by great public art: murals, graffiti, street art. Philadelphia always comes to mind when I think of cities that embrace great public art. Mexico is treasure trove of public murals. There’s great art all around you, just look up, look around—you’re surrounded! In New Orleans, somebody paints koi fish on the ground. They’re only visible when you walk over them. Everything has the potential to be a stage or a canvas. There are hundreds of great artists, but some favorites include: Banksy, JR, Osgemos, Shepard Fairey and Swoon.

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From The Desk Of Finn’s Motel: A Walk In The Garden Part 6 (Black Vernissage Tomatoes)

Finn’s Motel mastermind/auteur Joe Thebeau gifted us in late 2006 with the amazing, out-of-nowhere Escape Velocity debut, a concept album about leaving behind the drudgery of cubicle life and suburban malaise for some greater, unknown existence. Even with the help (cough) of a January 2007 MAGNET profile, it took Thebeau nearly 11 years to finally follow it up with the outstanding new Jupiter Rex (Victory Over Gravity). Thebeau will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our new Finn’s Motel feature.

Thebeau: Every year, when the Baker Creek seeds arrive, there’s a handwritten thank you note in the package and one packet of free seeds. It’s something you didn’t order and it’s tossed in as a little bonus for ordering from them. Even though you know it’s coming, it’s still a surprise to find out what it’s going to be. Last year, I think it was a type of cabbage that didn’t quite work out since my seedlings got swamped. This year, the free seeds are for Black Vernissage tomatoes.

Receipt of the seed order is often followed by a return visit to either the catalog or the website or both to remind myself of the details of what I ordered. And I try to learn a little bit about whatever the free seed is that year, as the packages are often unmarked. This year’s free seed description sounds interesting, but, the reviewer comments on the Black Vernissage tomato do not offer a lot of hope.

From a Baker Creek reviewer on June 19:
“Like a lot of others, I got the seeds free in my Baker Creek order. I could not get over what beautiful tomato plants these were and they grew and bloomed quickly and formed bountiful crops of beautiful little tomatoes. Then I tasted them. Yuck, what a disappointment. The texture was horrible, just pure mush. Thinking I had left the fruit on the plant too long I tasted less ripe and finally a green one. Still mushy and very similar to mashed potatoes, not at all like a tomato. I had hoped for a bit of flavor so I could use these for sauce but they were completely bland. I’ve pulled up these fruit laden plants and composted them. Such a shame that such a beautiful plant could be so disappointing.”

So far I am having exactly the same results as far as the plants taking off and looking great. But I haven’t harvested or eaten any tomatoes yet. I have just a few green ones on the vine. I keep giving them the skeptical side eye, wondering if they will be as bad as people are saying.

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From The Desk Of Finn’s Motel: Best Songs By Anyone Ever, Volume 6 (The Loud Family “He Do The Police In Different Voices”)

Finn’s Motel mastermind/auteur Joe Thebeau gifted us in late 2006 with the amazing, out-of-nowhere Escape Velocity debut, a concept album about leaving behind the drudgery of cubicle life and suburban malaise for some greater, unknown existence. Even with the help (cough) of a January 2007 MAGNET profile, it took Thebeau nearly 11 years to finally follow it up with the outstanding new Jupiter Rex (Victory Over Gravity). Thebeau will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our new Finn’s Motel feature.

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Speaking of T.S. Eliot references, I present Scott Miller’s “He Do The Police In Different Voices” as one of the Best Songs By Anyone Ever. The title was Eliot’s working title for his magnum opus “The Waste Land,” which was, itself, a reference to a line in Dickens’ “Our Mutual Friend.” Miller sure loved his references and cross-references. Though many would suggest earlier Game Theory records as being better (or maybe their favorite), I would submit the Loud Family’s Plants And Birds And Rocks And Things as Miller’s magnum opus. Maybe I feel that way because that album was my introduction to Scott Miller. I got Plants on cassette and saw the band live at Cicero’s Basement when they toured to support it. After that, I worked my way backward through the Game Theory records, where I would discover that the song snippet that starts “He Do The Police” is “borrowed” from the opening tune of Lolita Nation. Scott Miller loved to do the self-reference, cross reference, etc.

The arrangement of “He Do The Police” is not typical of what we think of as a great song, in the traditional sense. There is no big hook, no repeating chorus. It’s White Album Beatles as opposed to Hard Day’s Night. There’s a verse, which is Scott singing in his distressed Alex Chilton voice over a spare distorted picking electric guitar part accompanied by only a shaker to keep time. There’s an abrupt switch to a section (or should I say movement?) that is sort of like a chorus in the middle. An acoustic guitar and a cleaner electric guitar play point and counterpoint while Miller’s voice explores a higher register, making reference to the album’s title. Then, it switches back to the single distorted electric guitar and voice for a last verse filled with references that send us off to Google to figure out where they all came from. “He’s got to be good looking” likely from the Beatles’ “Come Together.” “The crystal blue persuasion” lifted from Tommy James. Etc. The guitar continues and trails off with panned spoken voice parts that sound as if they might be arguing, swirling as if overheard while walking down a busy street. It’s weird and wonderful and is the perfect setup for the more conventional second song, “Sword Swallower.” It’s hard to recommend just one song from the album. Like any magnum opus, it’s really best listened to start-to-finish.

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From The Desk Of Finn’s Motel: A Walk In The Garden Part 5 (Blue Lake Bush Beans And Golden Butterwax Beans)

Finn’s Motel mastermind/auteur Joe Thebeau gifted us in late 2006 with the amazing, out-of-nowhere Escape Velocity debut, a concept album about leaving behind the drudgery of cubicle life and suburban malaise for some greater, unknown existence. Even with the help (cough) of a January 2007 MAGNET profile, it took Thebeau nearly 11 years to finally follow it up with the outstanding new Jupiter Rex (Victory Over Gravity). Thebeau will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our new Finn’s Motel feature.

Thebeau: I don’t know if I like to eat anything better than green beans and “new” potatoes. Your mileage may vary, but for my money, a chopped whole white onion sautéed in bacon is the foundation for making great beans and potatoes. I think they call them “new” potatoes because they were dug up early and are still small. But, it just means the little red potatoes (about two inches diameter). I don’t grow potatoes because I use slightly raised beds and I am not sure how I would dig them up without tearing my beds apart. I don’t think I could tell the difference between home grown and those in the store, anyway. But, the beans are a different story.

I’ve dedicated garden space for beans every year. And every year I have at least one row of Blue Lake Bush green beans. In past years I’ve experimented with pole beans as well as different colored varieties. Last year we had long purple pole beans that produced quite a bit. Strange thing was they turned green when you cooked them, so whatever novelty there was in their purple-ness was sort of lost by the time you served them. And, sure, they were about four times as long as regular green beans, but you have snap them down to bite-sized pieces eventually, so I may not mess with those in the future. Besides, this year I needed the overhead trellis space for the Brandywine tomatoes—yes they could very well grow to seven-to-eight-feet high—so I opted not to get any pole beans.

I put in the standard Blue Lake Bush beans, as always. But this year’s adventure in beans is a Golden Butterwax bean that probably sounds more exciting than it has proven to be, so far. The golden color is nice to look at, but they taste pretty much like the green beans. There is some of name’s promised waxiness, but thankfully, it isn’t all that waxy. I haven’t really noticed any butter flavor, but they are good. We’ve had two big pots of green and golden beans so far, and more are on the way. Some years we’ve had so many that we have to start giving them away or finding new and creative ways to prepare them. I’ve tried canning them in the past, but that process pretty much makes them taste like canned beans. As you might expect.

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From The Desk Of Finn’s Motel: Top Five Coolest Cheap Trick Shows I Ever Saw (1. Trickfest 1, Ramada Inn O’Hare Airport, Chicago)

Finn’s Motel mastermind/auteur Joe Thebeau gifted us in late 2006 with the amazing, out-of-nowhere Escape Velocity debut, a concept album about leaving behind the drudgery of cubicle life and suburban malaise for some greater, unknown existence. Even with the help (cough) of a January 2007 MAGNET profile, it took Thebeau nearly 11 years to finally follow it up with the outstanding new Jupiter Rex (Victory Over Gravity). Thebeau will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our new Finn’s Motel feature.

The problem with saving this story for last is that it was actually, in my opinion, the precursor to a few of the other shows that I put in the top five. Without Trickfest 1, in 1995, there are no first-four-albums shows at the Metro in 1998. And, without Trickfest, there would likely not have been the return to form, self-produced, self-titled album in 1997 that Rick Nielsen himself described as the first album of the second half of their career. Without Trickfest, there is no boxed set with previously unreleased live tracks. There are probably no Cheap Trick/Steve Albini recording sessions. No Sub Pop seven-inch and no secret Albini re-recording of the entire In Color album (if you haven’t heard it, google it). You see where I’m going with this.

In the mid-’90s, the internet was still in its infancy. There was no Facebook or Twitter or even a half-way dependable search engine. It was rare for anyone or anything to even have a website. I’m not techie enough to explain how it works, but around 1993 the alt.newsgroups were the place to go for discussion forums (and free porn, but that’s another story for another day). This mutated into alt.music.xxxx. I hung out in a few alt.music groups, but the two I haunted with the most regularity were the Replacements and Cheap Trick forums.

The Replacements forum discussed what you might expect around that time. Are Paul’s solo records better than Tommy’s? Which Replacements records are the best ones and why? There were “with Bob” and “without Bob” camps. Etc. The Cheap Trick forum was a little different. The band hadn’t broken up, but they had changed direction quite a bit. While we were all glad that Tom Peterssen was back, there was less enthusiasm for the collaboration that resulted in “The Flame” and other tunes of that ilk. Much of the discussion centered on wishes for a return to the sounds from the first four albums.

At some point one of the forum moderators started talking about organizing a fan club and a fan club convention of some kind. Interest was gauged within the group, and it started to look like it could become a reality. Before long a date and location were chosen: Aug. 24, 1995 at the Chicago, O’Hare Airport Ramada Inn. I’m not sure why the date was on a Thursday, but it probably was due to an opening in the band’s tour schedule. If things went as planned, people were coming in from as far away as the U.K. for this first-ever fan-club event, billed as Trickfest. They would add the numbers 1, 2 and 3 as the success of this first one led to scheduling more.

About 250 hard-core Cheap Trick fans descended on the Airport Ramada. We were all still a little surprised that this was actually happening. In the earliest days of the internet we could have easily gotten scammed and arrived to find nothing but confused security staff. Instead, as we filed in, we were ushered to a large convention-type room with a small stage and a couple hundred folding chairs set up in front of it. Along the back wall there was merchandise display set up and a long table where the band was scheduled to sign autographs. This was actually happening.

The day was a blur of an autograph session, a photo shoot where the band stood with whomever had paid to have pro pics taken in front of a giant Dream Police banner, an all-request show, peppered with Q&A breaks. Kim Gisbourne does a more accurate play-by-play here.

Things were not the same after that show. Cheap Trick fired their long-time manager, Ken Adamany, who had presumably been leading them toward the hit record machine and had resisted the fan-club event. Then, they hired one of the forum members who had coordinated Trickfest, Carla Dragotti, as their new tour manager. And, the rest, as they say, is history.

More photos after the jump.

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From The Desk Of Finn’s Motel: A Walk In The Garden Part 4 (Ajvarski Sweet Peppers)

Finn’s Motel mastermind/auteur Joe Thebeau gifted us in late 2006 with the amazing, out-of-nowhere Escape Velocity debut, a concept album about leaving behind the drudgery of cubicle life and suburban malaise for some greater, unknown existence. Even with the help (cough) of a January 2007 MAGNET profile, it took Thebeau nearly 11 years to finally follow it up with the outstanding new Jupiter Rex (Victory Over Gravity). Thebeau will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our new Finn’s Motel feature.

Thebeau: Last year I took a shot at growing hot peppers. I had three Super Chili Pepper plants that did very well despite my having forgotten about them. I lost track of their place in the garden when some weeds moved in and I couldn’t keep up. When I finally did get around to weeding that area, I discovered plants full of tiny scorching hot peppers were hidden underneath. Great news, right? Except that’s when I had to admit that maybe I don’t like hot peppers as much as I had imagined that spring when I bought the plants. I picked them by the handfuls and shoved them into a veggie drawer in the fridge, thinking I’d do something with them eventually, but I never did. I even considered infusing some olive oil with the super chilies but never quite worked up the energy.

This year, when I was digging through the seed catalog I thumbed past the hot peppers and skipped over to the sweet peppers looking for something special. What I didn’t want was the regular old red, green and yellow peppers that are easy to find at the grocery store and taste just fine—no reason to spend the garden space on those. I wanted something different. What I discovered was a lesson in international foods.

The Ajvarski Sweet Pepper is from eastern Macedonia, where, according to Baker Creek, “These thick-fleshed traditional peppers are roasted on flat metal stoves, peeled, then ground into a traditional relish called ajvar, which is eaten spread on bread, often with sirenje, a local cheese similar to feta.” As soon as I read that, I knew my wife, Gina would be all over it. Anything involving a cheese even remotely similar to feta would be right up her alley. Usually she blocks me out when I read the seed descriptions, but this time her eyes lit up.

And, the story doesn’t stop there. Also from Baker Creek:
“Nearly every rural household puts up a supply of ajvar for winter eating. In autumn, Macedonians flock to the markets in fertile valleys in the East to buy bushels of the best aromatic roasting peppers from the local villages there, which is where the original seed came from, a gift from the students in the villages of Kalugeritsa and Zleovo.”

With all that cultural history, I was sold. We got off to a good start with the seedlings sprouting in planters in the south window, but less than half of them survived the transplant. I don’t know if I was too rough with them or if there’s something about the garden dirt they didn’t like as much as the potting soil. I do have four plants that survived and are looking pretty good. I’m not sure I’ll have enough peppers to make ajvar, but I’m going to try.

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From The Desk Of Finn’s Motel: Best Songs By Anyone Ever, Volume 5 (The Bangles “Dover Beach”)

Finn’s Motel mastermind/auteur Joe Thebeau gifted us in late 2006 with the amazing, out-of-nowhere Escape Velocity debut, a concept album about leaving behind the drudgery of cubicle life and suburban malaise for some greater, unknown existence. Even with the help (cough) of a January 2007 MAGNET profile, it took Thebeau nearly 11 years to finally follow it up with the outstanding new Jupiter Rex (Victory Over Gravity). Thebeau will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our new Finn’s Motel feature.

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Thebeau: Speaking of the Bangles, I nominate “Dover Beach” as one of the Best Songs by Anyone Ever. I would never have heard this song if not for St. Louis band the Love Experts, who covered the song as their set closer at a show they played at, you guessed it, Cicero’s Basement. (I seem to be working on a theme, but since I never saw Neil Finn or Don McGlashan at Cicero’s, I can’t weave that thread all the way through.) I didn’t recognize it as a Bangles song, in part because the Love Experts’ singer, Steve Carosello, is a guy. After the show, I asked about the song, thinking it was one of their own. Carosello hipped me to the early Bangles and we’ve been friends ever since. That’s also the night I first met Love Experts’ bassist Steve Scariano, who would later become the bass player in Finn’s Motel.

In 1991, Susanna Hoffs released her first solo album, When You’re A Boy. At that time, my friend Toby Weiss was editor of the fanzine Jet Lag. I begged and begged until Toby agreed to let me interview Susanna. I had been given strict instructions about being sure to ask about the new album, but I couldn’t help sneaking in a question about my favorite song, “Dover Beach.” I wanted to know who wrote what bits, music, lyrics, etc. I don’t think Susanna was as interested in answering questions about the Bangles at the time. The call ended mysteriously, mid-sentence. I did at least learn that she and Vicki Peterson had written it together. Of course, in the internet age, that information is no longer as mysterious as it to be seemed then.

“Dover Beach” starts with Vicki and Susanna banging on complimentary voicings of an E major chord. They build it up to a crescendo and then let it ring. Susanna’s plaintive voice steps in with, “If I had the time/I would run away with you/To a perfect world/We’d suspend all that is duty or required.” The band comes in with Vicki playing a snaking lead guitar behind verses about star-crossed lovers who can only ever seem to be together in dreams. There’s a T.S. Eliot reference in one of the verses, when Susanna croons, “We could come and go/And talk of Michelangelo,” borrowing from “The Love Song Of J. Alfred Prufrock.” The meaning of the Eliot line is somewhat unclear, though some have said it’s about making idle chit chat. In this context, I wonder if it’s just meant to be a bit of secret code shared between lovers.

I don’t think the song actually has a chorus. There are refrains of “oh, oh” in the magical way only the Bangles can do it. But, no chorus. After the second verse, there is a guitar solo. When they come out of the solo, the song changes to what would normally be a bridge. The bridge carries us to the last verse, which in turn leads back to a repetition of the first verse that slides into the ending. The outro is a guitar solo that collapses over a repetitive drum beat that fades out. It’s an ending almost as mysterious as the sudden disconnection of my interview phone call to Susanna Hoffs.

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