Mixed Media Online Gets a Backstage Pass

In the aftermath of Christmas and near the end of the football season, I managed to attend two music events that were very much under the radar and visited a recording session in progress.

Fornatale & Garfunkel

Pete Fornatale, legendary FM DJ and author, gave a talk and an audio-video presentation in support of his book on Simon & Garfunkel’s Bookends album at the Port Washington public library on December 28th. At the end of the presentation he stunned the small crowd by bringing out Art Garfunkel. Garfunkel is slowly recuperating from throat problems and is easing back into singing.

The small, intimate performance, Garfunkel’s second recent one with Fornatale, featured four songs sung with just acoustic guitar backing. Although a little ragged and tentative, Garfunkel at less than 100% is still a better singer than 90% of the auto-tuned voices on the charts these days. Garfunkel sang four songs, including “Scarborough Fair” and “Sounds of Silence”. He also hung around long enough for an informal Q&A, fielding questions from both Fornatale and the audience. When asked to name his favorite songwriters for example he said, “Randy Newman, Paul Simon, James Taylor, Jimmy Webb and Stephen Sondheim.” He praised Taylor as someone with whom he loves to sing. Garfunkel appeared very relaxed, articulate and thoughtful in his answers. I will treasure hearing one of the truly great singers of the rock era perform in such an informal intimate setting and to hear him answer questions about his remarkable career.

By the way, Fornatale, actress Phylicia Rashad and singer Rosanne Cash will be the recipients of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) Foundation’s 2012 AFTRA Media and Entertainment Excellence Awards (The AMEES). The honorees will receive their awards at the AMEES dinner gala benefit to be held Feb. 6, 2012 at The Plaza Hotel in New York.

Secret Soul Special

James Morrison is part of the British soul revival since he released his debut album in 2006. His new CD The Awakening (Universal/Republic), his first album in three years, is his best yet and appears on the brink of exploding in America.

Morrison played an exclusive, secret, invite only show at the tiny Dominion bar and performing space in NoHo in Manhattan on January 17th. With the CEO of Universal Records in attendance, Morrison played one of those shows by an artist about to break wide open in a small club people will be talk about for years to come. Playing his new album almost in its entirety, Morrison sang great and received wonderful support from his crack band. The new album is beautifully produced and I really wondered how it would come across live. If anything, some of the songs sounded even better live, expanding into to raucous soul rave-ups.

Morrison is an engaging and energetic performer bursting with youthful exuberance. He truly seemed to be enjoying himself and is very lighthearted in his approach. He will return to the states with a full-scale tour in the spring.

Dylan Uncovered Revisited

I sat in on one of the sessions for the upcoming Huntington-based Paradiddle Records second Dylan Uncovered release. Butchers Blind was the band and the Dylan song it cut, “Queen Jane Approximately,” is one of my favorite Dylan songs for many reasons. The band’s take on the song is almost Steely Dan, Can’t By A Thrill-like in feel. Butchers Blind is one of the local bands most likely to explode nationally and it’s scary how good this band is considering how young its members are. Bill Herman, who runs the label with Tom Crawford, also played me a few other tracks for the upcoming Dylan release. A track by Jack’s Waterfall, another local band on the cusp of breaking out nationally is also a knock-out.