LET'S GO GET ’EM
John Sinclair continues his relentless output of Jazz-Blues-cultured poetry-set-to-music with his latest tasty gumbo treat: John Sinclair & His International Blues Scholars from the Studio Zen in Amsterdam.
The musical and artistic happening from which this album was distilled stretched over a week in late August 2010 and combined fortuitous timing and logistical effort on behalf of the musicians and those who helped “make the shit happen.”
The Project—John Sinclair and his International Blues Scholars—refers to a trans-Atlantic collab between John’s Amsterdam band mates Vincente Pino (from Venezuela), Leslie Lopez (Puerto Rico) and your humble author (from Stourbridge, UK) together with Tom Worrell from New Orleans. This kind of International collaboration is typical of the musical fusion that often bubbles up around John on his travels between America and Europe and around the globe.
The recording idea started with a Mardi Gras Indian Funk band called the 101 Runners who invited John to join them at a music festival down in the south of France. Some of the 101 Runners joined us in Amsterdam on their way back to New Orleans for a live gig at the 420 Café featuring Chris Jones on percussion and Tom Worrell on piano (fully exploiting a mini-Korg Midi keyboard) with Vincente Pino, Leslie Lopez (who also made a remarkable recording of the show), John Sinclair and I, Steve Fly.
The live 420 Café show and the following Studio Zen recording sessions were captured in acrylic on canvas by the New Orleans painter Frenchy, also traveling with the 101 Runners, and ink on Perspex by the UK Graffiti Aerosol Ninja called CHU. Like all good happenings around John Sinclair, the music and painting and the word were blending and spilling over each other.
The recording sessions took place at Studio Zen, hosted by Brother Mau (who provides guest vocal on “Smells Like Sulfur Here”), facilitated by Dr. Larry Hayden and recorded and mixed by Leslie Lopez. Mau, Annie, Pops and all the characters from the Zen were most helpful during our hectic schedule. After the tracks had been laid down Leslie Lopez spent many hours in post-production balancing and mixing the album resulting in the sizzling cuts right here where you’re sitting now.
“That Old Man” introduces John’s Global journey, set to music improvised on the spot by Tom Worrell and picked up by the rest of the band with swing. “Humphf” shuffles along John’s Thelonious Monk poem into a whole new place on a musical framework devised by John’s Rotterdam collaborator Mark Ritsema, arranged by Vincente Pino and featuring Tom Worrell’s finger talking.
“Scuze me while I kiss the sky” kicks on the heat with an ode to Jimi Hendrix set against the incendiary playing of Vincente Pino, adding a rock drill-edge to the session. “Smells Like Sulfur Here” mixes music from “The harder they come” by Jimmy Cliff with a speech by Hugo Chavez set to verse and recited by John, creating another stunning juxtaposition and commentary on America’s imperialist aspirations and those of the bard.
“Let’s go get ’em” is dedicated to its composer, John’s late brother David, poet, White Panther and agitator for change in the Sinclair tradition. The poem is called “Pontiac’s speech to the white man” and incorporates a shamanic Mardi Gras Indian chant set to a funk pulse and intoned by the entire cast of artists at the Zen, peppered with David’s imagistic voyages into the wild gardens of America; trampled and destroyed in parts, thriving and buzzing with the elements: animals, flora, birds and organic life in others.
“We Love Big Chief” showcases John’s epic history and celebration of Mardi Gras Indian culture and the bridge with the Plains Indians of America and the African American journey, and the melting pot of “tales of the tribes” from New Orleans, where the music captures the rich textures of life so authentically. Inspired by Chris Jones of 101 Runners, John’s poem is set to “A love supreme” by John Coltrane, chanting “We love Big Chief, we love Big Chief, we love Big Chief” to our heart’s content.
Above the Hash Museum, Amsterdam
February 7th, 2011