PBS GRAMMY PEFORMANCES — Friday night was the PBS presentation of Great Performances which showcased the Grammy Salute To Music Legends – on February’s Grammy night, 7 artists were chosen for the Lifetime Achievement Awards.
Leading off was the induction of Neil Diamond, that had Monkee-Micky Dolenz performing “I’m A Believer,” which Neil wrote for the group and midway through the performance, Diamond himself stepped onstage to sing with Dolenz; who was clad all in black, like a pop-music Johnny Cash. Diamond sounded -and, looked- terrific.
The show was taped in July at L.A.’s Dolby Theatre and word quickly spread that Dolenz’s performance was spot-on. With a fiery band led by Greg Phillinganes, the song was the perfect opener. Dolenz’s voice sounded better than ever and with Diamond there, it was a Grammy-moment for sure. Even departing chieftain Neil Portnow sitting in the audience, was smiling.
The next just stunning performance was The Meters, who performed their tremendous “Fire On The Bayou.” With a history of being repeatedly snubbed by the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame, this year, The Meters finally received the recognition they deserve as a pioneering and hugely influential force behind funk music for the last half-century toward the end of the show. Their on-air montage opened with an endorsement from The Rolling Stone‘s Keith Richard, who explained succinctly, “The Meters are one of the greatest, funkiest bands from New Orleans or anywhere in the world.”
Original Meters members and founders, drummer Joseph “Zigaboo” Modeliste, bassist George Porter Jr., and guitarist Leo Nocentelli were on hand for the ceremony and the trio was also joined by Cyril Neville, a longstanding member of the band who was brought on by his brother, The Meters’ founding keys player, Art Neville.
They also performed “Cissy Strut,” marking a feel-good and cathartic segment for funk lovers around the world. Furthermore, Art Neville’s son and Dumpstaphunk guitarist Ian Neville was also on hand after the musical performance to accept the award in his father’s stead.
Additional recipients included renowned British rock act Queen; Queen of RockTina Turner; country music icon Emmylou Harris; pioneering swing artist Louis Jordan; and famed “Wrecking Crew” studio drummer Hal Blaine. Additionally, the night also celebrated a number of Special Merit Awards, including Bill Graham, Seymour Stein, John Williams, Tony Agnello, and Richard Factor. Turner’s pre-recorded acceptance-speech was particularly special as she thanked not only friends and family, but her record company and the promoters. Face it kids, the record companies, publicists and promoters most always get left out … so, it was a nice touch.
The show was just perfect and provided some terrific performances. If you missed it, check your listings. Must see for sure.
TOO LATE TO STOP NOW —Van Morrison has been on a creative roll in the past two years. He is about to release The Prophet Speaks, his fifth album since September 2016. Morrison started the momentum with Keep Me Singing (2016) then followed up with Roll With the Punches and Versatile in 2017. In April this year out came You’re Driving Me Crazy. The Prophet Speaks will be available December 7 continuing the five albums over two years, two months and one week.
“It was important for me to get back to recording new music as well as doing some of the blues material that has inspired me from the beginning,” Van said about The Prophet Speaks. “Writing songs and making music is what I do, and working with great musicians makes it all the more enjoyable.”
Morrison has covered blues artists for The Prophet Speaks but not the obvious songs. The album features songs by John Lee Hooker, Sam Cooke and Solomon Burke as well as six new Van Morrison compositions.
The musicians are Joey DeFrancesco (the artist co-credited on You’re Driving Me Crazy) and his band (including Dan Wilson on guitar, Michael Ode on drums and Troy Roberts on tenor saxophone).
SHORT TAKES — Friday was Cousin Brucie day in Palisades Park, New Jersey. One of the true gentlemen in the business. Congratulations! … We’re still reverberating from the recent Chick Corea show here at The Blue Note in NYC, when we discovered a Live At Montreux DVD of Chick with Return To Forever, recorded in 2008. And, even better, it was with their signature lineup of Stanley Clarke, Al DiMeola and Lenny White. While our enthusiasm for the band is evident, the two-disc set was pretty amazing, especially on the group’s “Romantic Warrior” and “Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy.” On the former track, DiMeola and Clarke’s solos are just sensational. Jazz-fusion at its best … We watched the second episode of NBC’s New Amsterdam and really enjoyed it. I did feel that it seemed similar in tone to NBC’s This Is Us. One look at the credits told the tale: it was directed by Peter Horton, of Thirtysomething. Ken Olin, of the same show, is one of This Is Us’ producers and has directed several episodes. thirtysomething, for those that remember, was quite the groundbreaking show. Olin and Horton were two of the great cast on that show. Now, here’s a show that’s worth re-booting … And, there’s a new film out documenting Studio 54 (from Matt Tyrnauer). It’s from Zeitgeist Films that many years back did the Eli Kabillio doc on The Fantasticks! called To Remember (2003).! Here’s the review from Variety: https://variety.com/2018/film/reviews/studio-54-review-sundance-1202673346/
NAMES IN THE NEWS: Tony Smith; Jim Burgess; Shep Pettibone; Glenn Friscia; Vito Bruno; Marty Markowitz; Peter Abraham; Steve Walter; Alan Rothstein; Bobby Shaw; Vince Aletti; Tony King; Tony Martino; John Addison; Maurice Brahms; Paulette Weiss; Mark Bego; and, CHIP.