Monday, July 29, 2013

Bluesy & Artsy Interlude

We've been away from home for a couple of nights - travelled with husband's daughter and son-in-law to Salina, Kansas, husband's old hometown, a four to five hour drive from our current abode. We went, mainly, to see Boz Scaggs in concert, Friday, but did lots of other stuff too.

The concert venue was the lovely Stiefel Theater. This is a renovated art deco era movie theater, perfect size for a concert, much nicer than those awful cavernous arenas which hold what seem like billions and billions, you can't really see the artists without binoculars, and even when you can hear the music above the screams and whistles of a hyperbolic audience, it doesn't sound right.

Boz Scaggs, singer/guitar player who started out as part of the Steve Miller Band is still in good shape and good voice, now aged 69. A superb band is touring with him too - even have a saxophone player - can't go wrong when there's a sax around I always think. The many blues-tinged songs he performed came from his newest album, Memphis, including a gentle cover version of Rainy Night in Georgia, and some of what husband whispered to me were his old hits. I wasn't familiar with these rocky styled songs though.

This was my favourite - Sierra

I don't recall Boz Scaggs doing much in England back in the day (or if he did I missed it - rock wasn't my thang). I knew of Boz Scaggs only from one of his more recent CDs I have -But Beautiful - a set of songs from The Great American Songbook. He didn't sing anything from that CD on Friday evening though.

Any vocalist or musician who can sing and play from The Great American Songbook, and do it credibly these days, has to be a true artist. Scaggs, from his But Beautiful CD, did seem to have a feel for the genre, though in the blurb handed out at the concert he's reported as having this to say on the subject:
"I'm not a jazz musician or singer, but it showed me a whole new world of vocal expression. It was important to me in the way that I perceive music, in terms of harmonics and in using my voice as an instrument. These records were incredibly challenging, like nothing I'd ever done before."
Several older rock and pop stars have tried their hand (or voice) with varying success on the Great American Songbook, which contains, in my opinion, some of the greatest songs and melodies ever written. George Michael did, I think, one of the best of such albums, his Songs of the 20th Century. Dang, but he should have been one of the all-time greats. Rod Stewart's versions of Great American Songbook numbers are so-so; Robbie Williams should really have waited a few more years before launching into that genre but did a reasonable job on his Swing When You're Winning, he didn't exactly disgrace himself.

As well as attending the concert we did other artsy stuff too: on Thursday evening we saw a movie at Salina's tiny Arts Movie Theater: the film showing was "The East". It's not as arty as their usual fare, but a decent enough tale along broad Karen Silkwood-ish lines. We visited three different galleries/art museums on Friday: one in Salina showing a rather weird set of modern art installations which we pondered and wondered over; and two venues in the Swedish-flavoured cute little town of Lindsborg, half an hour's drive from Salina.

Lindsborg is proud of their local art luminary Birger Sandzén, the town has a very good memorial gallery of his works.

We also ventured into The Red Barn Studio which, we discovered, stands as a memorial to another local artist and all-round craftsman, Lester Raymer. We approached the old house in which it's based through an overgrown shady leafy garden, not knowing exactly what to expect. We were welcomed and given an interesting tour of the house and lots of the amazingly versatile artist's work.

As well as being a talented artist in oils and woodcuts, he did beautiful, intricate quilting, embroidery, sculpture, toy-making, furniture making, iron-work, using lots of re-cycled materials. He had worked through the depression era, using whatever he could find to create his arts and crafts. The Red Barn also provides studio space for visiting artists. There were four or five in residence on Friday, all busily working, but more than willing to stop and chat to us about their work.

We did a lot of stuff in a short time - thoroughly enjoyed all of it!


mike said...

The Steve Miller Band was one of my favs from the 1970s. I certainly appreciated Boz Scaggs' guitar strumming when he was part of the Miller Band.

We just lost JJ Cale, another fav of mine from that era and genre.

One of my sisters lives in Manhattan, Kansas, about 70 miles from Salina. I've been through Salina many-a-time on my way to various destinations, usually west. Most of these middle-of-Kansas towns are very interesting and have a vivid history starting with the pioneer days. Enduring citizens, as many weathered the cattle rustling days and the dust bowl era.

Dr. Seuss' "I Can Read with My Eyes Shut" has a sign, "Salina, Kansas, birthplace of Curtis A. Abel, 2,376 miles". FYI: Dr. Seuss attended Dartmouth with Abel and Abel was obviously born in Salina.

I spoke with my sister over the weekend and she mentioned the very unusual COOL weather they were having. Upper 60s daytime and low 50s at night. Geez...could I use some of that cool air!

mike (again) said...

I voted for Bill Clinton, favoring him over daddy Bush in the 1992 election (but I did like Independent Ross Perot!). I did not like Clinton's deregulation policies of the utility and banking industries, NAFTA, and pre-war Afghanistan stance; these have come back to bite us on the butt.

In retrospect, his presidency was the halcyon days compared to Bush Jr and Obama. He's become an interesting character post-presidency, as has first lady, Hillary!

I share your pleasure of the saxophone. Clinton could play the sax with tremendous gusto and artistry...I liked the guy for that alone!

Twilight said...

mike ~~ I think we visited Manhattan once during one of our "wandering" trips. I like Kansas, and Nebraska. they don't get much flattering by writers in general though. Even a favourite travel writer of mine, Bill Bryson once wrote “I was heading to Nebraska. Now there's a sentence you don't want to say too often if you can possibly help it.” :-)

I kind of wish my husband had never left Salina - I'd have enjoyed living there - though he warns me of the very harsh winters whenever I tell him that.

Yes, the temperatures were considerably cooler than we're used to in SW Oklahoma in July, and it rained all day and all night on Thursday! Things cleared up nicely for Friday though, but stayed around low 70s.
That was the most rain I'd seen in a single day since I arrived on these shores.

Twilight said...

mike (again)~ re Bill Clinton : I liked what I knew of him, from gleaning bits and pieces via British TV and reporting.
One thing about him that has remained in my memory very clearly is from the time immediately after the 9/11 tragedy. He visited "Ground Zero" and talked to local people in such a wonderfully warm manner, it brought tears to my eyes watching him, and seeing their warm reactions in return. He certainly has that special charisma that cannot be learned - it has to be born in a person.

Playing saxophone is an added extra benefit!

Whether Hillary would have been any better Prez than Obama is hard to know - but I bet she'd have taken a tougher line with the GOP on certain things. She certainly had wider experience and knowledge of "the game" and its "players". She'd still have been in thrall to the real Powers That Be though.

anyjazz said...

Happy accounting of our trip. It certainly was a fun time. We saw lots of things new. And the encore sights were enhanced by the shared experience with K and J.

Twilight said...

anyjazz ~ Thanks - yes, agreed!