October 19, 2005 Toronto
On the road: I arrived in Toronto Monday night. No hassle at customs. The person assigned to pick me up didn’t show, so took a car in. Flying so quickly across lands, waters and sky and earth territories can make you forget yourself. It usually takes me a few days to remember myself. The soul can travel faster than the speed of light, but traveling by plane is rough.
I stumbled into Brian Wright-McLeod’s Renegade Radio Show at 8PM a few hours later. His new book is out from the University of Arizona Press: The Encyclopedia of Native Music. (See note following.) He played “This is My Heart”, “Fear” and the “Had-It-Up-To Here Round Dance.” We visited. I caught a taxi back to my digs and was regaled by the Chinese taxi driver’s story of meeting up with an alien when he was a child in China.
Tuesday I spent in solitude: rehearsing and practicing my set list (a proposal of 18 tunes, including Desireless and Europa). To dinner with G. F. who helped set up the gig with Hugh’s Room. (See poster announcement.) I will be playing with the Shane Anthony Band Thursday night. He took me to Hugh’s Room. We heard an amazing guitar player/singer Kelly Joe Phelps. Scoped it out. Intimate. Excellent sound. People come to hear the performances. That’s good to know. The last and only time I played in a club was at Indian Market several years ago with Poetic Justice. The infamous R. R. asked us to open for him at a restaurant on Canyon Road. We were in the middle of our set when word went out that Kevin Costner was in the audience. R.R. and his band squeezed us mid-song off the tiny little stage. We had to pass our equipment out the side window. He didn’t pay us either. We eventually got the money from his manager who was embarrassed by his behavior.
We’ll see what happens here. Wednesday we rehearsed. Had to cut tunes. The sets are way too long. Decided to cut among others Desireless and Europa. I didn’t have charts—and they were the least developed. If I play them I want to make them my own, not do someone else’s arrangements. More work, beloved work. Somehow have to balance it all. Great musicians. I’m looking forward to it. Getting revved up. Have been for weeks. Was hesitant to accept the gig in the first place. G.F. said they were jazz musicians. The only other gig I had played with jazz musicians was in San Fran a few years ago. My appearance was only a set. Two wonderful musicians: I’d met with them, laid out the tunes. We need to rehearse, I said. No, they said, we don’t need to rehearse. I made sure they had my notes, chords, semi-charts and recordings of the tunes so they could be ready. On the downbeat they went off into free jazz mode and I was left standing there trying to find my way into what didn't appear to be my songs anymore. That was the worst gig I ever had. Wasn’t reimbursed for my room for one night, either. So it goes. Makes a good story.
That’s what I told myself a few years ago as I walked along the New Jersey Turnpike dragging my bags at 2A.M. one dark morning. This will make a good story. And it did. Maybe I’ll save that for next time.
Couldn't download the Hugh's Room Poster. It goes something like this:
AVR and Laughing Dog Productions Presents: JOY HARJO AND THE SHANE ANTHONY BAND, HUGH'Sroom, 2261 Dundas St. West, October 20th 8:30 PM. $15 at the door, $13 in advance.
Also check out:
The Encyclopedia of Native Music
More Than a Century of Recordings from Wax Cylinder to the Internet
University of Arizona Press
464 pp. / 47 halftones / 7 x 10 / 2005
Paper (9780816524488) $26.95
Cloth (9780816524471) $55.00
Want the word on Buffy Sainte-Marie? Looking for the best powwow recordings? Wondering what else Jim Pepper cut besides "Witchi Tai To"? This book will answer those questions and more as it opens up the world of Native American music.
In addition to the widely heard sounds of Carlos Nakai’s flute, Native music embraces a wide range of forms: country and folk, jazz and swing, reggae and rap. Brian Wright-McLeod, producer/host of Canada’s longest-running Native radio program, has gathered the musicians and their music into this comprehensive reference, an authoritative source for biographies and discographies of hundreds of Native artists.
The Encyclopedia of Native Music recognizes the multifaceted contributions made by Native recording artists by tracing the history of their commercially released music. It provides an overview of the surprising abundance of recorded Native music while underlining its historical value.
With almost 1,800 entries spanning more than 100 years, this book leads readers from early performers of traditional songs like William Horncloud to artists of the new millennium such as Zotigh. Along the way, it includes entries for jazz and blues artists never widely acknowledged for their Native roots—Oscar Pettiford, Mildred Bailey, and Keely Smith—and traces the recording histories of contemporary performers like Rita Coolidge and Jimmy Carl Black, "the Indian of the group" in the original Mothers of Invention. It also includes film soundtracks and compilation albums that have been instrumental in bringing many artists to popular attention. In addition to music, it lists spoken-word recordings, including audio books, comedy, interviews, poetry, and more.
With this unprecedented breadth of coverage and extensively cross-referenced, The Encyclopedia of Native Music is an essential guide for enthusiasts and collectors. More than that, it is a gateway to the authentic music of North America—music of the people who have known this land from time immemorial and continue to celebrate it in sound.
Brian Wright-McLeod (Dakota-Anishnabe) began working as a music journalist in 1979. His column "Dirty Words and Thoughts about Music" appears bimonthly in News from Indian Country. His activist work in Native rights took him to the airwaves on CKLN 88.1 FM in Toronto in 1985, where he continues to produce and host Renegade Radio, a live two-hour weekly music and issues program.
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