Monday, April 28, 2008

Correction & Apology

(The following was composed Friday afternoon, but Charter prevented me from sending it out until I could find a way to bypass them by installing my own SMTP server. This is the first mass test of my new system, I hope it works. My apologies for the delay. The whole affair with Charter has scrambled my mail list too, so if you have opted out of the list and still get my reports, please let me know and I'll fix.)

Having received one outraged response (and many supportive ones) to my posting about Sean Costello, I do see the need to step back a bit from what I reported. I went with the news from very inside sources, friends' internet groups, and the grapevine in general that Sean had passed away from a drug overdose, after hearing and reading over a week's worth of what were nonetheless rumors waiting for an official report. All those rumors could still be wrong, so here is the latest official word I could find via Google and AJC:

The cause of Costello's death has not been determined; it will be a couple of weeks before toxicology test results are available. The Fulton County medical examiner's office has said there were no signs of foul play in the Cheshire Bridge Road hotel room where the musician was found.
In lieu of flowers, donations to the singer's non-profit, The Sean Costello Foundation for Bi-Polar Research, are requested. To donate, call 678-384-0063 or e-mail
I do apologize for sending an unconfirmed report, that puts me down in Drudge territory. Those of you who've sent me various multi-forwarded emails know that I always Google them and if it's a hoax (and it usually is) I write back that it was false and shouldn't be sent out without checking. As most of you know, I usually insist on including links that confirm what I'm talking about. This time, I did not and should have, because doing so would've forced me to see the cause of death is still officially unknown. I don't know that the results of the toxicology tests will ever be made public, or even that they should be. If the tests do come out negative, and if I am so informed, I will be very happy to have been wrong, and will say so immediately. I will not wait 10 days to collect more info as I did before. I want to make very clear my respect and honor for the man,
and my condolences to his family and friends. If on the other hand the tests confirm what I said, I will say nothing further to draw attention to this unfortunate event, as the people who need to know will already know. I already wish I didn't know as much as I do about the whole sad affair.

But most of all, my lack of realization that mentioning the topic at all would pour salt in fresh emotional wounds was shockingly stupid. I deserved some of what I got. I have promised to never again compose emails after 3AM, I need all my wits and then some.

(fresh material follows)
Now, taking Sean out of the equation, let me add that within the same two week period I'd been made aware of four other drug & alcohol problems within my circle of friends and family. When Sean passed away, that was all just too much for me and I just had to speak up. These matters have to be discussed, embarassment or not, because lives and families are at stake. Silence equals death. So please, if there's someone in your circle that needs talking to, or more, care enough to do what it takes. You don't want to live the rest of your life wondering if you let a friend die. I know.

Unfortunately the gentleman who demanded this apology won't receive it because he also demanded to be removed from my email list, and I obliged as I always promised I would. To the couple dozen of Sean's other friends and insiders who wrote to thank me for what I said and share grief, thank you for taking the time, that was nice of you. For the rest of you, once again I am sorry. Doing the right thing badly is still bad, and I hope you'll forgive my fumbling.

I'm just a poor boy whose intentions are good,
Oh Lord, please don't let me be misunderstood.

There's a little bit more I should have clarified and supported. I also mentioned that poppy farming in Afghanistan is way up (true, 300% in the last 10 years) and that "the Taliban used to keep a heavy Muslim boot on the poppy fields there" (also true). However, further research muddies the waters quite a bit there. Some believe that the Taliban's restrictions were actually coldly calculated to keep the price of drugs high, to protect their (unproven) profits. The Taliban is allegedly betraying their conservative morality by selling (or at the very least allowing to be sold) opium and all its derivatives. They also supposedly made up to $25 million a year from
a tax on poppy production. But it gets stranger. Osama allegedly "has talked about going after the West by coming up with a new, more potent strain of heroin and getting it into Europe or the United States to undermine them." Oh goody. Also, the Northern Alliance (resistance against the Taliban) funds themselves mostly, you guessed it, by farming and selling opium. And here's the forehead-smacking finale: in 2001, the US Government gave $43 million to the Taliban to "support drug eradication in return for a Taliban pledge to eliminate Afghanistan's massive opium crop." That program is reported to have had "mixed results". I'd say so. For one thing, immediately after the 9/11 attacks, the Taliban appeared to be dumping their stockpiles on the market, and the price of heroin in Europe dropped from $746 a kilogram to $95. So, if I seemed to be defending the Taliban (I was not, I am no fan of ultra-conservative totalitarian theocracy) I hope you'll see that I do not care for them one bit. If you want more info, just Google "Afghan poppy" and get all you need.
Old but very relevant article:
Afghan poppy production since then:

That was a lot more than I thought I was going to say, but I felt I needed to clean my messes up. I promise to be more careful. For instance, I will go to bed and re-read this tomorrow before sending it.

Now, while I'm here, a bit of music report: Friday's show at Little Alley was fun as always, but much more so for being Barbara's birthday party. My thanks to her many devoted friends and family who came out to party with us and have an extra good time.

Saturday was one of those busy days: a full slate of students, a drive-through meal, and an outdoor show at a wine-tasting party (as a duo with Mary Langdon, supporting her CD "Lovers and Liars"). Then a dash down to the Emory neighborhood to play what turned out to be a high school graduation party with Rashaan Griffith Band. I fully expected to be hated, to hear comments like "Hey do you geezers know anything from this century?", but that was not the case. The little cuties actually requested nothing modern, they asked for Mustang Sally and Play That Funky Music and other hits of the 60s and 70s, and then danced with joyful abandon. Sometimes I love being wrong. But after 12 hours of either playing guitar or driving, it was good
to be done for the night.

Many of you remember Leszek Wawer, the Polish guitarist who jammed with us so often at Darwin's and other places. He wrote me from Chicago with the following:
Hi everyone,
My friend Leszek (there's more Leszeks out there, can you believe it?) has a live broadcast on May 1st of the guitar event that has been taking place annually in my beautiful city of Wroclaw over the last several years.

The Thanks Jimi jam with more than 1500 guitar players earned Leszek his entry to the World Guinness Book of Records. And then, it is truly unique event and shows Leszek's amazing organizational skills - especially as the concert is being held in the heart of beautiful city of some 2 million people.

Give it a trial this coming Wednesday - I think it will be really interesting. See the city. Hear the music. We may all want to visit Wroclaw next year. I am taking early reservations...

What: Thanks Jimi Festival
When: Wednesday, May 1, 11AM EST

Here are some high lights from the previous years of the event clearly showing it is an interesting event:

Leszek (the one you know)

Also, Jon Schwenke writes the following about his Tuesday night gig with Andrew Black and John McKnight:
Thanks so much for the plug @ Londzell's. However it is no longer a jam. Jason Pastras, Luke and I host one @ Bradley's Bar in Marietta on Wed fron 9 to 12 though.
I hope you can come enjoy some music this Wednesday at Bella Bocca in Marietta, or Friday at Little Alley in Roswell. Or one of the other fine groups at a venue near you. Live people need live music. Thank you and good night.

Something fun:

Friday, April 25, 2008

Music Report for April 25, 2008

Hello Friends, it's time to catch you up, and prepare you for the future.

I had a couple interesting gigs over the weekend. One was a sweet fill-in gig with the illustrious Chicago Joe Jones & friends at Killer Creek Steakhouse in Roswell (joined by Dave Hewitt, formerly of Humble Pie, Georgia Satellites, and others). The other was a beautiful outdoor wedding, as a duo with singer Adrienne Reynolds.

Last week I began a new gig with Larry Griffith Band at Bella Bocca in Marietta. This has turned out to be a nice little venue, deserving of good music and your patronage. It's a bit hard to spot, so do this: head west on Hwy 120, past Marietta Square, and keep going west as it becomes Whitlock. One mile past the square, you'll pass Nik's Back Porch on the left (which I'll discuss in a minute). A bit further ahead on the left, as you rise up a hill, you'll see the Clock Tower stripmall, which is mostly hidden. Turn in there, and Bella Bocca has the corner location. There are outdoor tables, so nice this time of year. Our hours are now 8PM to 11PM, so c'mon out. You can sit at the tables, or at the bar.
Bella Bocca Wednesdays 8-11PM
999 Whitlock Avenue
Marietta, Ga 30064 770-795-8984

On the way home, I stopped in at Nik's to visit Aaron Simpson's gig, and found a lively jam in effect. I had taught a full slate of students, then played a gig, so I didn't stick around very long, but I did see Atlanta jam icons John McKnight, Barry Richman and Terry Bradley there, among many other musicians and old friends. I happened to arrive just as Barry was coming onstage with a crew that included (say whut?!?) an electric kalimba player! Also called the
African thumb piano, the kalimba is not as popular here as, say, the bassoon. I've seen exactly two played onstage, the other time being in Earth Wind & Fire in 1975. This guy had it running through more pedals than I own, and an expensive amp. I don't know how many gigs he gets, but I'm glad I saw this one. God I do love jam nights! After you visit our show at Bella Bocca, stop by Nik's to take your musical experience to the logical next level. Say hi to Aaron, a very nice kid and fine young artist.
Nik's Place Restaurant and Bar (aka The Back Porch)
645 Whitlock Ave. (aka Hwy GA-120)
Marietta, GA 30064 770-792-6666
about 1 mile west of Marietta Square
across the street from Waffle House
Free Wi-Fi, good food!

On the way home, I also got a chance to slow way down in Historic Roswell (you can do that in the wee hours) and locate the future home of Red Salt, a new club by the folks at Little Alley. It's just a few doors north of Pastis. So far the plan is to have it open by June, and for me to be playing there at least some Saturdays while holding down the Friday spot at Little Alley. It's an "intimate" venue, so I won't have room for a band, only a duo. It'll have to be with someone small and cute because she'll probably have to sit on my lap. (just kidding, Barbara) Regardless of size, you can bet the food will rock because Chef Richard is amazing and getting better. If
you've eaten at Little Alley you know what I mean.

Speaking of my trophy sweetie Barbara, she and her daughter Tina just returned from Hawaii, just in time to celebrate her birthday at Little Alley tonight (Friday the 25th). By all means, stop by and wish her well, and I'll be there to make sure everyone has some music to dance to (she loves dancing, she MUST dance, that's how I met her). Your presents are not necessary, but your presence is. I will not specify which birthday this is, but it does include a zero. The
music starts at 7:30 and goes to 11:30, family-friendly, smokeless indoors, outdoor tables available.
Little Alley Fridays 7:30-11:30
690 Holcomb Bridge Rd.
(behind the Wolf Camera, at HBR & Grimes Bridge/Old Roswell Rd)
Roswell, GA 30076 770-992-9198
free parking, TOP quality food & service!

And finally, a plug for my dear friends and first-call bandmates Andrew Black, Jon Schwenke and John McKnight, who hold court at Londzell's on Tuesday nights. It's another jam night, so go there and make some joyful noise with them (and maybe me).
Londzell's Jazz & Blues Cafe
2300 Holcomb Bridge Road, Suite 309
(Kroger center near Centennial High, east end)
Roswell, GA 30076 678.795.9100

In other news, it's been a sad week for Atlanta's music scene. Blues artist Sean Costello, a rising star, the Next Big Thing, died April 15th of a drug overdose. Beloved by everyone who met him and a lot who didn't, he had been privately battling depression and bi-polarity for years, and finally lost, a day before his 29th birthday. You'll find that Google knows him well, there's even a brief Wikipedia article on him. The few times I played with him were pure joy, and he was always happy and polite when we chatted, same as I've heard from everone else I know. Ellen Hamby documents the Atlanta music scene with her camera, and has several good videos of him:
A bit of curious clicking will lead you to lots of Ellen's other videos.

Adding another blue note to Sean's dirge is that another, much lower profile, local musician known to many of us has, shall we say, fallen into a giant crack. I'm going to keep his name private, but I wish I could only remember him as a fine human being and artist, rather than
the thieving wreck he has become. My heart goes out to those who tried unsuccessfully to salvage him.

It is wise to learn from your mistakes, but much wiser to learn from someone else's. Learn from these two fine examples: if you need help, get help, there's no shame in that, but stay away from drugs. Modern drugs are not like the relatively cute little drugs of the 1960s, they will make you either die or wish you had. And avoid anyone who has anything to do with them (except pharmacists, of course). If you have been recently involved with such a person, I suggest you increase your personal security by keeping a close eye on your credit (I don't know how hard it is to have your numbers changed), and chatting with your neighbors about keeping an eye on each other's property (they don't need to know why, it's just a good idea). Learn some lessons from that TV show where former professional burglars break into homes as a form of security audit.

Interesting point: 90% of the world's opium and opium derivatives (such as heroin) come from Afghanistan. The Taliban used to keep a heavy Muslim boot on the poppy fields there, but since the Americans came and killed so many of them the farmers are enjoying huge drug harvests, up manyfold from previous years. Oh goody.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Music Report for April 9, 2008

Hi friends, just a quick note to tell you some late-breaking news. This just in...

One of my heroes, Sarasota Slim, is coming to Atlanta and has asked me to come play with him at Darwin's tonight (Wednesday 4/9). I'm not sure if I'll be playing the whole evening; he's hired me before, but his email said "bring your guitar and pick a few" with no mention of a business arrangement. No matter, I'll make music with him any chance I can get, or just enjoy sitting and listening. Either way is great. I highly recommend this act; great tones from great guitars, masterful playing, and he's always had an amazing band every time I've seen him.
Darwin's 4/9 9PM $8
1598 Roswell Rd. (Hwy 120)
1 mile east of The Big Chicken (El Pollo Grande)
Marietta, GA 30062 (770) 578-6872

Thursday, I'll be doing a dinner show (6 to 9PM) with Larry Griffith at KC Pit BBQ in Sandy Springs, near The Punchline.
234 Hilderbrand Rd. NE
Sandy Springs, GA 30328 404-459-6497

Starting next week, I'll have regular Wednesday night shows with Larry Griffith at Bella Bocca in Marietta (near Nik's on Whitlock).
Bella Bocca (Wednesdays, 9PM)
999 Whitlock Avenue
Marietta, Ga 30064 770-795-8984

As of March 2008, over 6,000 American troops came back from this century's foreign wars (errr, "police actions") only to commit suicide. Various difficulties with family, employment, health, finance, the VA, whatever, drove these incredible men & women to do what Saddam and Osama could not - end their lives. Today at the airport, I passed by some USO volunteers applauding a lone soldier who was coming out of the concourse area. A bit later, a group of male & female soldiers sat down next to me at the Wendy's. When I finished breakfast, I stopped and said "Hey guys, thanks for everything". Did their efforts and sacrifices make America and the world safer and better? The jury's still out, but I sure hope so. If not, it wasn't their fault; even if they didn't believe in their missions (most do) they have to follow orders or they get imprisonment or execution. Think again of the phrase "Support our troops" and remember that whether you agree with their civilian commander-in-chief or not, the well-being of these troops (and their families) is just as much our responsibility as ours is to them. Clearly what our government does for them is not enough (ask any war vet, and remember, over 6,000 suicides!) so the rest is up to us. Do what you can to help and protect the people who protect us. Here's a
good place to start: