Coyote Mercury

words, birds and whatever else by James Brush

Year: 2006 (page 1 of 32)

The Last Post of 2006

Yes, it’s the same picture as last year, but then it’s the same weather outside too. A tradition, perhaps?

Happy ’07.


Galactic at La Zona Rosa

We caught the first set of Galactic’s show at La Zona Rosa on Thursday night. They were touring without the singer who appeared on Ruckus and instead performed an instrumental set, which I enjoyed. Jam bands don’t really need singers since the vocals tend to get in the way of exploration anyway.

Highlights included a rendition of “Bittersweet,” the only tune on which I thought I’d miss the vocals, but it sounded even better without. They closed the first set with a song that sounded familiar to me. My wife told me it was “Cashmere” by Led Zeppelin. Galactic, of course, is the far superior band and they managed to turn a Led Zeppelin tune into something funky and, to me, interesting.

Despite enjoying the music, we left early, feeling a bit defeated by the whole thing. Not the band, but just the sorry circumstances one has to endure to “enjoy” live music. When I add up the fact that there’s nowhere to sit, too many people in a cramped room, and the late hours, it becomes increasingly easy to walk away from a show after I’ve had enough.

Perhaps I’ve gotten spoiled lately, seeing bands that don’t draw much of an audience and so places aren’t crowded, but I realized that I just can’t stand in one spot for the hours on end that so much of the improvisational music that I love requires.

Mainly, I wanted to be outside in the fresh air, surrounded by fewer people, and, more than anything, I wanted a place to sit. Galactic was good, lots of energetic exploration of their funky grooves, and I’d probably have stayed if there were chairs or if it had started earlier or if my back wasn’t hurting.

I guess I’m getting too old for this. Damn.

James Runs Miles’ Voodoo Down, Part 1

One of the things I really like about vacation is the chance to listen to music,  not listen as in playing it in the background while doing other things or sitting in traffic, but listen as in sit in front on the stereo focusing on the music as one might read a book.

Today, the book we started was Miles Davis’ live electric output from the early 70’s. We got the Cellar Door Sessions for Christmas, which means that we have – I think – all of the live material that was released between 1970 and 1975 when Davis went on hiatus.

First up was Live at the Fillmore East (March 7, 1970): It’s About That Time. This two-disc set features Wayne Shorter on sax playing his last gig with Miles, Chick Corea on electric piano, Dave Holland on bass, and Jack DeJohnette on drums with Airto Moreira on percussion. The material is primarily drawn from Bitches Brew, which had yet to be released and probably had the audience wondering what in the hell had happened to Miles Davis.

The sound is raw and a bit murky. This material was only released a few years ago and probably was recorded without the intention of releasing it. Despite the murkiness of the sound it reveals Miles in transition (of course when was he ever not?) testing new material and making a sharp break with the past. Here his band sounds muscular and enormous and Shorter’s sax playing is as aggressive and intense as ever. The best parts are on disc two: “Bitches Brew” and “It’s About That Time/Willie Nelson.”

Next up comes Black Beauty: Miles Davis at Fillmore West recorded on April 10, 1970. It features the same lineup as It’s About That Time except that Shorter is gone and has been replaced by Steve Grossman. The sound on these discs is clean and crisp and it’s apparent that the band has gotten very comfortable with the Bitches Brew material.

Highlights include an exceptional rendition of “Miles Runs the Voodoo Down” with a great Grossman solo over Holland’s pulsing bass. The tune ends with a fuzzy keyboard freakout followed by what is probably my favorite version of “Willie Nelson.”

This “Willie Nelson” has a funky feel that leads into a nice call-and-response bit between Miles and Corea on the electric piano. This shifts into Corea playing a simple riff for Miles to solo over until Holland comes in mirroring the riff on bass. Miles exits and Corea takes his turn soloing while Holland continues the original riff that Corea had begun.

After “Willie Nelson,” Miles takes over with a short “I Fall in Love Too Easily” from his Seven Steps to Heaven days. This provides a brief and lovely interlude that acts as a respite from the electric explorations and funky fury of the previous tracks. It doesn’t last long, but it’s a poignant reminder of Miles’ past and a place where the audience certainly had a chance to catch its collective breath.

Next up came At Fillmore: Live at the Fillmore East recorded June 17-20, 1970 by the same group that recorded Black Beauty, but with the addition of Keith Jarrett on organ. This album consists of four medleys comprised of selections of tracks recorded over the four night stand.

“Wednesday Miles” was my favorite, comprised of “Directions,” a 53-second “Bitches Brew” that made me wonder what the other fifteen minutes must sound like, “The Mask,” “It’s About that Time,” a muscular stomp-down groove that shifts into a pensive, searching trumpet solo floating above a seething volcanic stew of keyboards and bass before shifting into “Bitches Brew/The Theme.”

“Saturday Miles” has a very futuristic electronic feel to it, almost as if the music with all its bleeps and skronks was made for robots, but then Miles’ trumpet comes in on another “I Fall in Love Too Easily” that segues seamlessly into “Sanctuary” together lending a lonesome human feel, a different version of an imagined future, before spiraling into the pumping chaos of “Bitches Brew.”

At Fillmore more than anything is a sampling of four nights of what must have been amazing music. I hope someday Columbia will release a complete At Fillmore box set as they have done recently with the Cellar Door Sessions recorded in December 1970.

Taken together these CDs give a fascinating glimpse of Miles Davis taking the Bitches Brew material on the road, exploring and expanding on the new sounds before he permanently added guitar and got funky(er).

Merry Christmas

And, here’s the tree…

This year we ran out of time so our tree is decorated only with white LED lights. At first I wasn’t sure, but I kind of like the simplicity of it. Besides, what could be greener than white LEDs?

Merry Christmas.

A Very Special Holiday Weekend Hound Blogging: New Kitchens and Couches

For Christmas, three pups in one post each enjoying their vacation.

Joey checks out the kitchen, looking for easy openings…

Phoebe looking good on a red couch…

And, Daphne in a ball, doing what she does best…


Want to make a fast friend by saving a greyhound in Central Texas? Check these pups out. Or go here to find a greyhound near you. You can also go here to find out why greyhounds are running for their lives.

If you have dogs who need proven leadership, go here to find a cat.

How Wonder Woman Taught Me About Santa Claus

Last year’s Christmas posts about the various holiday traditions still stand whether it’s decorations, Christmas music, movies and TV, or food and drink. We even packed up the pups again and drove to Orange for a few days with my in-laws, though we’ll be back in Austin tomorrow for Christmas with my family.

Perhaps I’ll post a picture of this year’s tree, which relies on a far different decorating strategy than last year, though it’s still the same artificial tree.

Until then, the tale of how I learned that Santa was really my parents…

One day in the mid-70’s, seemingly months before Christmas, but possibly only a few days I snuck into my parents’ closet looking for a place to hide from whichever kid had been designated as ‘It.’ I crawled across piles of shoes and boxes and as I neared the back, I discovered some paper bags.

‘It’ was getting closer and things were happening fast, but I noticed a Wonder Woman action figure in one of the paper bags. I thought it odd that my parents had a Wonder Woman action figure, but I wasn’t going to lose a game of hide-and-seek worrying about it.

I forgot about the whole thing until Christmas morning when I saw that Santa had brought a Wonder Woman action figure to my little sister. Odd, I thought, but I filed it away until I could investigate further.

Days must have passed in which I tried to avoid the truth, but eventually I had to know. I entered the closet and snuck to the back. Naturally, there was nothing but open space. No paper bags. No Wonder Woman. No more Santa.

When I brought this up to my parents, they let me join the conspiracy and asked me not to tell my younger siblings. It only took a few minutes after that to figure out the truth about the Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, and the Great Pumpkin.

This Post Isn’t Here

Guest blogging at In the Pink Texas again: Dallas Catholic Schools to Send Students to Pro-Choice Rally.

Let’s Watch a Carl

Note: This post is part of the Carl Sagan Memorial Blog-a-Thon in honor of the tenth anniversary of Sagan’s death.

When I was a kid in DC, I used to love visiting the Air & Space Museum. I collected everything I could get from NASA and thrilled to the images that came back from the Vikings, Pioneers, and Voyagers. I also watched Cosmos even though I didn’t understand half of what Dr. Sagan was talking about.

What I did understand, what came through loud and clear, was that sense of wonder. That awareness that there were whole worlds happening out there. Here was a man who was humbled and in awe of this grand universe of which we’re only a small part. But here, too, was a man who wanted to know all the mysteries of the universe, who seemed to be seeking knowledge for its own sake and yet possessed of a desire to share that knowledge as if in sharing it he could fill us all with the kind of wonder that makes one recognize the preciousness of life.

I gained much from joining Carl on the deck of the Ship of the Imagination over the years. I found a love for knowing, not to be a know-it-all or to amuse friends with an impressive command of trivia, but for the kind of knowledge that fills the soul, fires the imagination, and makes us whole.

As an adult, I read Cosmos and Billions & Billions and was struck by not just his passion for scientific discovery but by his compassion for his fellow beings. One thing he said or wrote (I can’t remember) that has always stayed with me was something to the effect of “if we find life on Mars, then we must leave and not go back because then Mars would belong to the Martians.” It’s this desire for knowledge, this thrill of exploration tempered by a profound respect for and love of life that I most admired about Carl Sagan.

There’s another Carl connection in my life. When I was first getting to know the woman I would later marry, we found ourselves in a video store uninspired by the shelves of recent releases. Finally, she said, “Let’s watch a Carl.”

“A Carl?”

“You know. Cosmos. I love that stuff.”

I couldn’t believe it. Something in me knew that I’d found the person I wanted to share my life with. Here was someone who was as moved by the vastness and wonder of the universe as me. Someone who had gained at least a part of that from Carl Sagan.

I hadn’t seen Cosmos in years, but we rented “Blues for a Red Planet” and fell in love cruising with Carl on the Ship of the Imagination.

Thanks, Carl.

Fancy Pants and Pretty Sashes

Recently, my copy of the Austin American-Statesman came with a glossy, shiny, glorious section that documents the doings of Austinites who appear to think prom shouldn’t just be for high schoolers anymore.

It’s called Glossy.

Color (and, yes, glossy) pictures of gentlemen in purple sashes and ladies in formal gowns smiling pretty for the camera beckon to be examined. There are ads for expensive cars and condos. It all looks so nice and elegant and sparkly that I just want to pack up and move back to Dallas where I can be part of that life too.

But, no, this is Austin. This came in my Austin American-Statesman, and for the life of me I can’t figure out why. Am I supposed to want to put on a tux and go to one of these gala things? Should I be jealous of the men in their sashes (when ma’s in her kerchief and I’m in my cap)? Do I need to know who’s going where? Should I be impressed?

Is this what I should aspire to?

At first I worried about the fate of Austin, but then I found that it only goes to certain neighborhoods, one of them, being mine, I note with a certain amount of horror. Are these my neighbors? Should I find my world tinted green by the lenses of jealousy.

I guess, at the end of it all, I’m left only with that great bloggy exclamation, heretofore unused here: wtf?

Weekend Hound Blogging: Houndspotting

Joey came to us an addict. He takes tranquilizers for his anxiety, but we’ve been trying to ween him off. He’s down to half his dose of junk and, so far, no dead puppies have been seen crawling across the ceiling. He’s a few weeks away from his final hit, but I think he’ll be fine without it.

Of course, there’s final hits and then there’s final hits, but in the meantime using Phoebe as a pillow is a good way to relax.


Want to make a fast friend by saving a greyhound in Central Texas? Check these pups out. Or go here to find a greyhound near you. You can also go here to find out why greyhounds are running for their lives.

If you have dogs who need proven leadership, go here to find a cat.

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