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Wednesday, November 20, 2013


... it happens, again and again... everytime I feel down, blaming over people noises, or being in a rear row at a concert or the distance to the venue... BANG!... the joy of attending to a live gig hits you like a truck at the stomach... also if I was sooo angry for a bad concert (wrong venue) with Sakamoto and Morelenbaum, a couple of years ago!!!
Then, some months ago, seated one meter from Ralph Towner and Oregon in a small jazz club made me into again concert going...
Again, only few weeks ago, in Basel, Hopkinson Smith’s lute and Fred Frith’s guitar and effects… in the same evening!!!
I got SUCH a shock from that evening at Schola Cantorum Basiliensis for above mentioned “Basel Plucks” concerts that no audio system will never, ever give to me.
Yesterday evening, only a couple of blocks from home, I had the rare opportunity to enjoy John Hammond Jr. with his harmonicas, his Stubb's 000 acoustic and his '35 Duolian resonator guitar... and his incredible voice, of course.

 A chance I had after winning on my actual so-so health and being so deeeeply tired after my daily job... a friend told me about the concert and also bought the ticket for me... I only had to push myself to the venue:-)
 Imagine: a true (white) bluesman who knew everyone, was in Greenwich Village at the right moment (also if a lady - John remembered - after Dylan and Baez '60s "folk-boom", told him declining a gig on West Coast "You’re not playin' fooolk muuusic!;-)") and in Chicago, who, at a point of his career spanning 51 (fiftyone) years made a... Triumvirate with Dr. John and Mike Bloomfield (yeahhhhh!) and then, alone again with his guitars, spent most of his life on the road since early '60s... now playing at the Conservatory of (classical) Music in my hometown!

Yet the venue was soooo appropriate... intimate enough with its centuries old walls to accomodate about 200 people in awe, carefully and fondly listening to the music and the short stories mr. Hammond told the audience to introduce every song...

"I was in Chicago with Sonny Boy Williamson... showed the new car I bough in LA to my best pal, the late Mike Bloomfield... I was working, aged 19, at a gasoline station and a Porsche convertible arrived... the driver and... a Martin D-45, on the back seat... WOW, I was looking, petrified-like, a myth of a guitar, also worth 3-4000 bucks back then... the driver asked... doya like the guitaaar, son?... yes, I told him... are you a guitar player? yes... pick it up and strum it... the gentleman was flipped;-) and... hey, he was Hoyt Axton... I got this way my first record deal... in LA, wthout a car... I still remember I walked for hours after my first gig as a pro... having no car in LA was a pain in the ass... in the '60s like now..." and so on and on and on... quoting the great bluesmen he met and played with or simply commuted on his new car in Chicago - i.e. Howling Wolf (aka the huge, late Chester Arthur Burnett), Buddy Guy, Big Joe Williams, Sleepy John Estes, Big Bill Broonzy, Blind Willie McTell, Skip James, Sonny Boy Williamson, Willie Dixon, Muddy Waters and many others.

Mr. Hammond's witty stories and stage elegance as a performer made my day, indeed...

His guitar playing was a driving force, rich in sound and dynamics, both on Stubb's and on Duolian's...

John Hammond and Mauro Ferrarese

Suddenly, at some point of the two hours concert, I had a flash:  WHAT the hell are we (audiophiles) talking about, really??!??!

... nothing... NOTHING will be better of, say, being seated in first row, looking the artist in the eyes while he sings and plays, sweating and shows his craft, smiling or laughing after his jokes and tales, handclapping and screaming "Hyahhhhh!" or the like and after the gig, meeting and chatting and sharing and complimenting and humanly touching the core of his art... this elusive "thing" coming from an artist, making his own the most useless of jobs, for Stock Exchange and economists... but a so necessary, vital presence these flawed days!

Triodes, gears, cables... digital ripping (...) and our audio paraphernalia... 100% purest BS!

Like when I'm playing my guitar, alone or with friends, I'm the music... listening - first hand - to the real thing cannot be surpassed also by the most expensive audio system in the world... also it the artist is playing a cartonboard guitar into a (cheap) SM-57 mike, live music wins.

It's misteryous stuff...

John Hammond's superb guitars were very nicely miked, no pick ups... and the voice, lightly amplified was so powerful and deep and rich and natural (you'd bet it;-)))?!?!)... imaging and other audio lingo?

... ah, ah, ah... talking about blues, maaaan! 

Talking about "red roosters";-))) and "shakin' babies", no jokes!!!

Serious stuff, indeed!

Enjoyed the evening immensely... had a chat with mr. Hammond and his wife, quietly seated close together, outside the hall shortly after the concert, shaking hands and smiling and thanking and signing autographs... that's living blues, that's (fearless, body-guards-free) living music.

In our homes, with our audio systems we only support - nicely or badly - the memory of the real thing...

Don't we all?

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