Take Me Where I Don’t Know I Am is the latest album from David Greenberger, once again melding monologues with music for a result he likens to “a band fronted by a guy talking.” Derived from his conversations with the elderly, the text is expanded and abstracted, always emphasizing the unique voice of each character. Greenberger celebrates the ordinary and the inescapable realities of change and loss with dignity, respect and wit.
Informed by a long friendship, Keith Spring began composing the pieces to which Greenberger, letting the emotional bearing of the music suggest a direction, developed the text in advance of them all going into the studio together. The monologues range from the jovial (“Digging into Embarrassment”) to the cantankerous (“This Weather”), and from the analytical (“From Snakes to Jewelry”) to the mournful (“My Hope”).
Artist David Greenberger is best known for 32 years of his periodical, The Duplex Planet, which was borne out of his conversations with residents at a small nursing home in Jamaica Plain, MA beginning in 1979. Over time Greenberger’s monologues evolved to integrate music, the elements working in tandem. Greenberger has recorded and performed with a range of musical collaborators, including Terry Adams of NRBQ, David Hidalgo & Louis Perez of Los Lobos, Robyn Hitchcock, Ralph Carney, Glenn Jones, Wreckless Eric, 3 Leg Torso, and Birdsongs of the Mesozoic.
Keith Spring (composer, instrumentalist) began his career in Louisville, studying and playing with Don Murray and Jamey Aebersold. He is most known for his decade and a half as tenor saxophonist with NRBQ’s horn section, the Whole Wheat Horns. He played on and wrote arrangements for Martin Mull’s first three albums for Capricorn Records, co-producing the third, as well as for his 1973 BBC television special. Spring recorded and toured with Travis Shook & The Club Wow, as arranger and musician, and co-produced their self-titled 1974 debut album. After a decade as keyboardist with the Chandler Travis Philharmonic, he set aside performing to focus on his work as a composer.
Dinty Child is a multi-instrumentalist and songwriter, most often seen performing with Session Americana. He plays regularly with the Chandler Travis Philharmonic, Catbirds, and as sideman to a number of singer/songwriters including Rose Cousins and Kris Delmhorst. He occasionally performs solo and fronts the fifteen-piece party band, The Funky White Honkies.
Trumpeter Keiichi Hashimoto has been in demand in the Boston music scene for the past couple of decades. Due to his ability to find the emotional heart in a wide range of musical settings, Hashimoto has been a featured soloist in concerts of music by Osvaldo Golijov and George Russell and can be heard on recordings by the Jazz Composers Alliance Orchestra to the Chandler Travis Philharmonic.
The British publisher Boatwhistle Books has just published The Golden Rule: Collected Poems (all 271 of them!) by Ernest Noyes Brookings. It includes an introduction by David Greenberger and an appendix with, almong other things, the fascinating piece on Brookings written by Dr. Al “Blaster” Ackerman that originally appeared in the long out-of-print book of poetry by Brookings published in 1983 by Innerer Klang, We Did not Plummet Into Space.
To order: http://boatwhistle.com
More on Brookings here: http://duplexplanet.com/brookingshouse.html
15 January 2016
I’m heading to Chicago in a couple weeks for the second phase of the recording project with Robyn Hitchcock and Mark Greenberg. We started work on it a couple years ago, recording at the Wilco Loft studio. Robyn played guitar, Mark drums, and I played bass. In these upcoming sessions we’ll be shaping them into the pieces into their final forms, with my monologues being added. After that Paul Cebar and Kelly Hogan will add background vocals! The third and final phase will be the mixing, mastering and manufacturing of the CD.
As with the first part of this project, I’m raising funds by selling artworks of mine. Buy any $250 worth of my art and you’ll receive it right now, then you’ll be thanked on the CD, receiving five of them as soon as it’s released. You can choose from the thousand-plus recent drawings (and older paintings) in the albums here. Any combination that gets you to $250 will do it. (For example, three Priced-the-Same-as-My-Age drawings plus two in the Ringo series come to $252.98.) Ten buyers got on board the first time and that’s what I need this time as well. Contact with any questions, and please do pass word along about this.
Bocce & Bourbon: The Comfortable Songs of Chandler Travis & David Greenberger is being released June 12, 2015 on the Iddy Biddy label.
Bocce & Bourbon is a nineteen song testament to Chandler and David’s enduring friendship and the richly varied songs they’ve written over the past thirty years. David wrote the lyrics and Chandler composed the music and sang them with his different ensembles. The collection includes seven previously unreleased songs, one radical rearrangement, and eleven that have appeared on various releases by Travis’ many musical vehicles: The Chandler Travis Three-O, The Catbirds, The Chandler Travis Philharmonic, The Incredible Casuals, solo, and with Rabbit Rabbit.
“David and I first met in 1980,” Travis recounts. “He worked in a nursing home for a couple years back then and had started The Duplex Planet, a publication built around his conversations with the residents. Besides the hundreds of issues that appeared from 1979 to 2010, it also spawned books, CDs, a comic book adaptation, and many performances of monologues with music. He was at the beginning of that long and wonderful journey and I had just started up with The Incredible Casuals, which also turned into something that spanned a few decades. At the same time David was playing bass with Men & Volts who released five albums over the course of the eighties. (A four LP box set titled Honeymoon Luggage was issued earlier this year.)
“He lived in Boston and I lived on Cape Cod. When we visited each other’s homes we were both pleased to discover that they were similarly stuffed with knickknacks, ephemera and music. He had co-written Men & Volts’ “Records Go ‘Round” that the Casuals covered and it became a staple of our sets. I asked him if he’d like to write with me and our first song was “(You and Me) Pushin’ Up Daisies.” That was also the first of a handful of “old man” songs we’ve written, including “This is Home,” “January,” “The Strongman of North America,” and “Take Me With You,” which are also on Bocce & Bourbon. At this point we’ve written some fifty songs. When we started, he’d send lyrics that I’d put to music, but in the last few years we’ve done more that start with the music, with him adding the words to my melody.
“I was asked what I love about David’s lyrics, and I said that it’s the same thing I love about The Kinks’ Village Green Preservation Society and a lot of their material from that period. It’s pastoral and unusually concerned with the minutiae of life – the little things. It’s unpretentious and never overblown, just matter-of-fact empathetic; there’s no grand statements. And I’ve always admired his facility with images. He takes his time, he’s very sweet, a little odd and definitely funny, and I just love him.”
“By the Way” and “Air, Running Backwards” join the rich tradition of love songs.
“I’ll Wait” paints a gently sympathetic portrait of an indigent fellow holding on to his dignity.
“The Strongman of North America” is from the vantage point of an aging man looking back on the finer things in life.
To me, my work is equally about seeing and not seeing. Looking at something very closely is both a necessity and the result of my process that includes piercing, punching, threading, knotting and weaving through paper. Looking so closely that the thing itself disappears metaphorically and on a certain level, quite literally.
In my earliest works I recognized I was engaging with women’s words and work quite deliberately. This further manifests through my intuitive and responsive approach to process and materials, which in the end compels contemplative observing. So the work is meditative and quiet, even minimal; it may trace a thought or a moment but does not document or record.
All my works in this exhibition are a form of palimpsest, that is, what was previously printed on the page is eradicated in order to create something new.
I painted for most of the 1970s, before, during, and after attending Massachusetts College of Art in Boston. Within a decade I had redirected my artistic inclinations into my publication, The Duplex Planet, created out of conversations I had with elderly men at a nursing home in Boston. In the past decade I returned to visual art, picking up near where I’d left off, but now infused by the course of my artistic career.
I’m interested in the ways concepts are recalled, how one word leads to another through unlikely connections such as shape, length, rhythm, consonant and vowel patterns, as well as in the threads of overheard conversations. The recent works included in this exhibition are small square drawings of patterned fields, sometimes comprised of words or small marks, and occasionally simple objects, giving the appearance of abstraction but revealing themselves to be quite specific, and sometimes humorous or autobiographical.
For me, being an artist involves expressing ideas, idiosyncrasies and foibles. I push myself within parameters until boredom sets in. Boredom is an important state to move through. It calls on your introspection. I like drawings I can begin and end in one sitting. Doing art is a little like adult day care for me. I make the drawing, then pick myself up and go home.
WigWax Records has released (March 2015) the 4LP vinyl box set Honeymoon Luggage by Men & Volts. This is comprised of a remastered reissue of the band’s classic 1985 album Tramps in Bloom along with the Boomtown LP that was slated for release in 1986 but was never issued, and two more LPs of unissued studio recordings: 1005 Songs Vol. 1 and 1005 Songs Vol. 2.This deluxe set (complete with 12″ x 12″ booklet of notes and photos) is available here along with more information about Men & Volts (formed in 1979 by Phil Kaplan, Jon Proudman, David Greenberger, and Roger Stevenson). The individual albums can also be purchased as downloads through CDBaby.
Fractions By Stella by David Greenberger & The Pahltone Scooters was released on 21 October 2015. Recorded by in 1994-95 by Frank Pahl at his Wyandotte, MI studio, this was a first foray into a more fully blended melding of monologues with music after the series of Duplex Planet Radio Hour shows in NYC. This was originally released in 1999 with a different cover and title in a limited edition of 100 copies by the Indiana Ponk label. Players include Pahl’s band Only A Mother, Davey Williams, Eugene Chadbourne, Tatso Aoki, and members of The Billy Tipton Memorial Saxophone Quartet. The monologues are based primarily on some of the favored characters in The Duplex Planet, especially William “Fergie” Ferguson (“Smoking is a Pleasure” and “Phil Sphiconi” are standouts).