Monday, June 04, 2007

Jim James and James Brown ...sort of

I had another really cool weekend of music -- just by happenstance I attended two benefit concerts. The first was a benefit for Kush Griffith, trumpeter and arranger (I think) for the Godfather of Soul James Brown. Kush was in a wheel chair but still very capable of delivering the funk. Playing along with him were two other members of the band, drummer Melvin Parker and his brother Maceo on saxophone. We went on the spur of the moment; it was a show also featuring Brigid Kaelin on keys and vocals. I've seen her a couple of times, as a guest artist at other shows and she's always impressive. We do have a wealth of local talent in Louisville. It was a lot of fun--and the music was great.

We were lucky enough to get tickets for Jim James (featuring Sarah Elizabeth and Ron Whitehead) along with local artist and musician Andy Cook, and Jim's My Morning Jacket bandmate, Carl Broemel. The concert benefited the owners of the venerable Rudyard Kipling -- a performance spot for artists of all types for a couple of decades in Louisville. The first set was Ron W.'s poems interspersed with Sarah's songs (including several duets with Jim). Sarah has a beautiful voice that blended very nicely with Jim on House of the Rising Sun, Sound of Silence, and (way cool) White Rabbit.

It's hard to overstate what an immensely entertaining, warm, lively, and sometimes dreamy set that Jim and friends put on in the second half of the evening. I've never seen MMJ live and I've only seen Jim on Austin City Limits, so it was quite a revelation. First of all, we're in a room that probably holds about 100 people, sitting and standing, and although there were a few feedback issues, the sound was really beautiful and rich. I know I'm lucky to have been in on this show in such an intimate setting. Jim is an unflagging powerhouse of a performer. He played for at least two hours just in his set, so I now understand why those marathon Bonnaroo shows are so legendary! I think his voice can't be appreciated as much if you only hear the recordings -- it ventures somewhere between the poles of ethereal and wailing, swathed in the dreamy reverb.

Inasmuch as you can get a vibe about someone just by observing them on a stage, Jim exudes a very gentle warmth, part down-home Kentucky boy, part Buddhist monk. There is something incantatory about his songs; they have a quality of snatching after something elusive. I suppose sitting in such an intimate setting, musically beguiled for such a length of time, tempts one to deconstruct the experience, but I'll heed the warning of Wordsworth -- to murder is to dissect -- and leave the rest to the imagination.


ciscobaby said...

Wow, finally a blog by someone i can relate to. Though I'm an idiot when it comes to music, I find a true book lover a rare and amazing find. Keep writing. Write about the books you read. I need new ones to get my hands on.

Selena said...

Thanks. I'll probably be posting more about books soon. I'm finishing up John Crowley's Endless Things from the Aegypt series. He is wonderful and demanding. I find myself looking up things as I read and pawing through a number of arcane reference books -- and some not so arcane, like the dictionary!