Kelp on Muldaur

Geoff MuldaurWell, now I’m all excited about Geoff Muldaur coming to the First Encounter Coffeehouse in Eastham this Saturday (Sept. 27th – 8pm), and just wanted to spread the love. “Genius” is a word that’s bandied about too carelessly these days -at this point it might even be bad luck -but I’d be comfortable calling Geoff at least “genius-y.”

Starting with his work in the sixties with the Jim Kweskin Jug Band, through a brilliant series of relatively elaborate and adventurous yet relaxed releases both solo and with his then-Mrs., Maria Muldaur, on Warner Brothers in the seventies and early eighties, and climaxing a couple of years ago with his delightful and edifying Bix Biederbecke tribute, “Private Astronomy”, Geoff has consistantly proven himself as a force for good. (And keep in mind, if you don’t know that Bix was much more than a Dixieland player, you’re missing one of the most surprising and mellifluous anomalies of that era; Ry Cooder also covered a few of his tunes even further back, in 1987, in his lovely “Jazz” album.)

I’ve always been a huge Geoff Muldaur fan, always dug the Jim Kweskin Jug Band, flipped for the Warners stuff; his solo stuff is great, too, but he has such a unique and well-informed take on our blues, country, and Tin Pan alley roots and is such a fabulous arranger…. and a truly distinctive, strange and fabulous vocal style… that, uhh, something.

I remember being into the Kweskin Jug Band in the late sixties, in prep school yet (!), loving his amazing vocal on “Never Swat a Fly”, for instance… oh lordy, if I could hear him do that one I’d just about die! And since then, along life’s highway he has played with Dylan, Bonnie Raitt, the MaGarrigle Sisters, Van Dyke Parks, the legendary James Booker, and a host of others, so his creds are definitely in order.

It would be correct to say that I like the guy’s work.

When I talked to him today he was full of enthusiasm for the task at hand, and honored to have been appointed. He seemed to be one of those rare people who actually love their job (not that I don’t love mine -I probably just have a hard time showing my true emotions.)

He had amazing plans for the future, and they include an album of chamber music for clarinet, violin, bassoon, cello, french horn, and voice and/or guitar, to feature some tunes he has written to poems by Tennessee Williams; a horn band album, but not annoying crap modern horn band but a Ray Charles-style thing with smart charts and stuff; and an expanded two-cd re-release of “Private Astronomy”, which he expects to include many of the original recordings that he re-recorded for the album. All of which sounds like a swell list to me.

So it’s ironic that I, who have never seen Geoff Muldaur play ever, yet love him so, somehow don’t get to go to the show this weekend (I have a circumcision ritual that I just can’t move.) In fact, I believe this to be an example of general unfairness toward me by random gods (no offense) and it is moments like this that get on my nerves. Grouchy. Irritable.

Geoff, on the other hand, had recently toured Japan, and so was in that blissful state that can only be obtained that way. He said he had played with his old colleague, the great guitarist Amos Garrett, not more than two years ago, and that he was alive and well, playing and living in Canada. He said he’d enjoyed taking seventeen years off from the music biz (save occasional soundtrack work) after his years at Warners, and I tried briefly to get him to talk about whether the Warners years, and the pressure of spending serious money on brilliant albums that made no money, had been a contributing factor; but he didn’t rise to the bait, instead offering that even during his least musical employment, he had seen designing software for a steel company as “like writing a symphony.”

These days, Geoff Muldaur seems like a true accentuator of positives, at one point saying “I have a beautiful life where I get to travel all over the world and play for people.” He seems like that rare kind of guy who can actually enjoy himself in the present.

That’s good -I always figured he’d sort of have a handle on it.

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