The fog comes on little cat feet.
It sits looking over harbor and city on silent haunches and then moves on.
Reading it on a page, you may not hear the rhythm in the words, but if you hear a recording of Sandburg reading it, it’s there. The jazz drummer Matt Wilson found it a loop of Carl reading the poem while driving somewhere, listening, finding the beat in words that formed a haiku of sorts, perhaps beating out that haiku rhythm on his steering wheel. Somewhere he found the rhythm.
“Fog” is one of 18 tracks on a project/album Wilson calls “Honey and Salt,” borrowing the name from a poem by Sandburg and the title of one of the poet’s many books. It’s also the name of a jazz combo Wilson is taking on a short California tour that includes a slot on the prestigious Monterey Jazz Festival. The tour begins here, kicking off the 12th season of the Redwood Jazz Alliance with a jazz meets spoken word concert Tuesday, Sept. 12, 8 p.m. in HSU’s Kate Buchanan Room.
Sandburg was an American poet laureate and much more. He was a newspaper writer and editor, sang and wrote folk songs, wrote an acclaimed biography of Lincoln and books for kids. They called him the “Poet of the People” because he spoke for those “who did not have words or the power to speak for themselves.” He was the epitome of word to power.
Wilson can point out mile markers the led him to Honey and Salt: Matt grew up in Knoxville, Illinois, not far from Carl’s hometown Galesburg. There was that term paper on Sandburg Matt wrote in junior high, and a book of his poems he picked up in New York City when he moved there in ’92 pursuing a music career in the jazz mecca. In 2002 Wilson received a Chamber Music America New Jazz Works grant to put music behind Sandburg's poetry. He put on a few concerts, then filed the work away, one of many projects he wasn’t quite finished with. (I can relate.)
A couple of years ago he pulled out the file and set himself a deadline. Sandburg died 50 years ago in 1967 (what’s now known as the Summer of Love). That seemed like a good time to mark that anniversary.
This summer Wilson released Honey and Salt: Music Inspired by the Poetry of Carl Sandburg. It’s an album as eclectic as Sandburg’s work, mixing spoken word with jazz inspired by blues, gospel, country, New Orleans marching bands and funk.
For the related tour, another Dawn, pianist/vocalist Dawn Clement takes her place. On the record, Wilson enlists jazzy folks to read Sandburg including jazzmen Bill Frisell and Christian McBride and the actor Jack Black. At the KBR, RJA promises (unnamed) “local luminaries to do the honors.” Following RJA tradition, Wilson and his Honey and Salt compatriots offer a free workshop at 11 a.m. on Wednesday Sept. 13, in Music 131 at HSU. Be there. You won’t regret it.
Let’s leave off a poem by Carl:
Honey and Salt
A bag of tricks—is it?
And a game smoothies play?
If you’re good with a deck of cards
or rolling the bones—that helps?
If you can tell jokes and be a chum
and make an impression—that helps?
When boy meets girl or girl meets boy—
They all help: be cozy but not too cozy:
be shy, bashful, mysterious, yet only so-so:
then forget everything you ever heard about love
for it’s a summer tan and a winter windburn
and it comes as weather comes and you can’t change it:
it comes like your face came to you, like your legs came
and the way you walk, talk, hold your head and hands—
and nothing can be done about it—you wait and pray.
Is there any way of measuring love?
Yes but not till long afterward
when the beat of your heart has gone
many miles, far into the big numbers.
Is the key to love in passion, knowledge, affection?
All three—along with moonlight, roses, groceries,
givings and forgivings, gettings and forgettings,
keepsakes and room rent,
pearls of memory along with ham and eggs.
Can love be locked away and kept hid?
Yes and it gathers dust and mildew
and shrivels itself in shadows
unless it learns the sun can help,
snow, rain, storms can help—
birds in their one-room family nests
shaken by winds cruel and crazy—
they can all help:
lock not away your love nor keep it hid.
How comes the first sign of love?
In a chill, in a personal sweat,
in a you-and-me, us, us two,
in a couple of answers,
an amethyst haze on the horizon,
two dance programs criss-crossed,
jackknifed initials interwoven,
five fresh violets lost in sea salt,
birds flying at single big moments
in and out a thousand windows,
a horse, two horses, many horses,
a silver ring, a brass cry,
a golden gong going ong ong ong-ng-ng,
pink doors closing one by one
to sunset nightsongs along the west,
shafts and handles of stars,
folds of moonmist curtains,
winding and unwinding wisps of fogmist.
How long does love last?
As long as glass bubbles handled with care
or two hot-house orchids in a blizzard
or one solid immovable steel anvil
tempered in sure inexorable welding—
or again love might last as
six snowflakes, six hexagonal snowflakes,
six floating hexagonal flakes of snow
or the oaths between hydrogen and oxygen
in one cup of spring water
or the eyes of bucks and does
or two wishes riding on the back of a
morning wind in winter
or one corner of an ancient tabernacle
held sacred for personal devotions
or dust yes dust in a little solemn heap
played on by changing winds.
There are sanctuaries holding honey and salt.
There are those who spill and spend.
There are those who search and save.
And love may be a quest with silence and content.
Can you buy love?
Sure every day with money, clothes, candy,
with promises, flowers, big-talk,
with laughter, sweet-talk, lies,
every day men and women buy love
and take it away and things happen
and they study about it
and the longer they look at it
the more it isn’t love they bought at all:
bought love is a guaranteed imitation.
Can you sell love?
Yes you can sell it and take the price
and think it over
and look again at the price
and cry and cry to yourself
and wonder who was selling what and why.
Evensong lights floating black night water,
a lagoon of stars washed in velvet shadows,
a great storm cry from white sea-horses—
these moments cost beyond all prices.
Bidden or unbidden? how comes love?
Both bidden and unbidden, a sneak and a shadow,
a dawn in a doorway throwing a dazzle
or a sash of light in a blue fog,
a slow blinking of two red lanterns in river mist
or a deep smoke winding one hump of a mountain
and the smoke becomes a smoke known to your own
twisted individual garments:
the winding of it gets into your walk, your hands,
your face and eyes.
“Laugh as peaches in the summer wind / Let rain on a house roof be a song.”
I have plans for those summer peaches and we could use a rain song to quench those fires turned our sunrise and sundowns red. Sing. Laugh.
Another poet and Arts Alive affairs
I used to joke that Jerry Martien was the poet laureate of Manila — until he moved to Elk River. Friday Northtown Books hosts a reading and book signing of Jerry Martien's latest collection of poems, Earth Tickets.
It draws on work he wrote when he lived in Manila, taking care of his dear old mother and a dear old old house, walking among dunes, living, loving, laughing, etc. Northtown tells us the book also includes “well-known work, poems of protest and mourning and celebration, now in a limited edition produced by Bug Press and with a cover landscape by Joy Dellas,” one of his old friends from Manila (and one of my favorite painters).
Since this is the second Friday in the month it’s an Arts Arcata night. You know the routine: Art and music all over town. I got an email from my friend Colin Trujillo, bassist of No Good Redwood Ramblers noting, “We are playing HumBrews after Arts Arcata [showtime 9:30 p.m.] and we are thrilled to have Rogues’ Gallery opening up for us.”
BTW, I also got several invitations to an earlier 5 p.m. show with the Rogues at Wrangletown Cider Co. with Pizza Gago doing dinner (optional), so I guess they’re doing double duty.
Colin continues, “This is our first show in a while and we are super excited about it. We will be doing some new material as well as plenty of ‘bluegrass’ favorites [inside joke] and original songs from our two records.
"We are also excited to have Evan Morden joining us on the fiddle. Evan plays with the Vanishing Pints and the Gatehouse Well and is a really terrific fiddler. I am also hoping we can coax Michael Walker, local luthier and guitar player extraordinaire, into joining us on stage to sing and pick a couple after his set with Rogues Gallery. Thanks as always for helping us get the word out.”
We’re all just a catastrophic visit to a doctor away from potential financial ruin because of the failures in the American medical/insurance system. I’ve never talked about the oft-fatal flaws in our healthcare with the local lawyer Zach Zwerdling; I can only guess where he stands on the subject. We’re usually talking music, since he plays guitar on the side and his son Nate plays music too.
For the last few years, Zach and co. have been throwing a small private benefit affair they called Lawnstock on his front lawn at his place above Arcata. He’d get his friends’ bands together and typically ask those who attended to make a contribution to help out some family in need. It was big fun.
There was always a limit on how many could come since there was scant room to park by his place, so he’d shuttle folks to and fro. But for Lawnstock 2017, this Saturday (Sept. 9, 11 a.m.-7 p.m.), Zach and company took the benefest to the next level, moving the show to a much bigger lawn, the one in Perigot Park in Blue Lake.
They’ve expanded the event into an all-day festival with the requisite silent auction, vendor booths, bbq, beer, etc. and music galore including Ghost Train (Zach’s in the soul/rock band), Dynasty One (a funk big band fronted by C-Baker and including Zach’s son Nate, also playing later (9 p.m.) @ the Logger), plus more local faves The Detours, The Yokels, That Buckin' String Band, Rachel Beccaria, and special guest, Amanda Fields, here from Nashville.
The event will benefit a young girl named Kiarra Plante, daughter of Alisha Watson and Mike Plante. Kiarra was diagnosed with a potentially life-threatening medical condition, something beyond Humboldt’s inadequate hospitals and doctors, so she’s been traveling for treatment. Lawnstock is partnering with Hope for Healing a Cause for a Cure Inc., a local nonprofit that assists locals who have a life-threatening illness or injury offering help with financial hardship, including travel costs, medication, medical supplies, food and unreimbursed time off work for parents. That’s what neighbors do, we help each other.
Best hand wins
Back in the day, we called that waterfront dive in Eureka the Vista, or sometimes the VD (wink, wink, nudge, nudge), but officially it was Vista Del Mar. It had a couple of other names for awhile, but now the Vista is back. Thursday, Sept. 7, they’re teaming up with Cruzin' Eureka and the Boys and Girls Club to host this year's Cruzin' Eureka Poker Run End Up.
The event features appropriately named soul/blues/rock bands playing: The above mentioned Ghost Train (the long dead railroad is across the street) and Cold Blue Water (the bay is the other direction). The Vista will offer food and drinks for those 21 and up.
What’s a poker run? Classic cars drive around town like on a scavenger hunt, drawing cards along the way. Best hand wins, and in the “end up” park in the Vista’s lot for a "VDM Show & Shine" championship. It’s a free all ages thing for those who come to ogle the cars with a raffle with stuff from generous sponsors.
The Vista is asking just two things: “We encourage people to park down the road or in the big dirt lot near Jack's and walk down since our entire parking lot will be used for this event.” Also, “don't drink and drive! Bring a DD!!!”
Where it’s @
With apologies to Beck, here are a few other things to do, briefly:
On Friday, Sept. 8 @Redwood Curtain Absynth Quartet breath fire;
@Blue Lake Casino Money: Pink Floyd Tribute;
@Synapsis Nova Sounds of Infinity, a “sound bath” with gongs, crystal bowls, tuning forks, etc. played by Marjo Lak, BOA and others;
@Siren’s Song alt. country with Roselit Bone from PDX and locals Mojave Green and Electro Saloon;
@the Logger mo’ alt. country by Gun Hill Royals from L.A.
@Synapsis Nova, Spectrum presents Wild at Heart, a drag show with Nova Six, Anita Lemonparty, etc.
@Humbrews Play Dead plays some Dead music
@Mateel Community Center Anthony B with reggae for farmers and friends plus locals Altar Tones (September 9)
Monday, Sept. 11 @the Jam The Mike Dillon Band from New Orleans, in which Matt “plays vibraphone and rants into the microphone,” plus punk/jazz/freak/funk by Future Friends of Sound.
9/12 @the Jam The Mark Lettieri Trio with the guitarist from Snarky Puppy, Points North from the Bay and locals The Velvet Touch;
@Humboldt Brews, Turkuaz, a nine-piece alt. funk band from Brooklyn.
There’s more happening elsewhere, but that’s already too much to do. Enjoy the peaches…