Concert Highlights–The John Jorgenson Quintet at the Cutting Room, 7/26/2016

(Photo: Terri Horak)

“Touring musicians lead super glamorous lives,” declared John Jorgenson at the start of his John Jorgenson Quintet gypsy jazz gig July 26 at the Cutting Room.

Except, that is, for this particular night: Flying from L.A. to Hartford, Jorgenson had to land in Abilene in order for his plane to refuel, since its Dallas destination was too busy. So he was forced to spend the night in the airport waiting for a new connection, and while he made it to the Cutting Room on time, his guitar—and luggage—didn’t.

“I borrowed a guitar from Jason [his violinist Jason Anick], a shirt from Simon [upright bassist Simon Planting],” Jorgenson told the Cutting Room crowd. “Everybody contributed—except the pants I’m wearing are mine, because none of the others’ fit!”

Glamor aside—and despite the challenge of playing such intricate acoustic music as his quintet’s on an unfamiliar guitar—Jorgenson, whose latest release Divertuoso is a three-disc box showing his many musical facets, dazzled in his gypsy jazz mode. “Black Swan,” from the new set’s Returning disc featuring the quintet, was particularly noteworthy in its adaptation by Jorgenson from Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, specifically, the entrance of the “naughty” Black Swan.

“My grandparents gave me the Fantasia soundtrack as a child, and I loved Tchaikovsky ever since,” Jorgenson explained. He also gave background on the gypsy jazz genre, citing guitarist Django Reinhardt and violinist Stephane Grappelli as “the patron saints of this style of music.”

“They were inspired by Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Fats Waller and Benny Goodman, and played on acoustic instruments, which wasn’t being done in jazz at that time,” said Jorgenson, who demonstrated Reinhardt’s two-finger technique—he used only his index and middle fingers of his left hand after his third and fourth fingers were paralyzed after being burned in a fire—and closed with Reinhardt’s gypsy jazz standard “Nuages.”

He also lauded his band, besides Anick (also a mandolinist and one of the youngest instructors at Boston’s Berklee College of Music) and Planting (“one of the great bass players in gypsy jazz”), including drummer Rick Reed (“incredible stamina on brushes”) and rhythm guitarist Max O’Rourke, whom he singled out for having “the hardest job, because he’s always active and doesn’t get to rest.”

Jorgenson, incidentally, also played bouzouki—though he declares it a banjo for airport security. He said he would have played clarinet, but it was packed in a suitcase.

As for the other two Divertuoso discs, From the Crow’s Nest features J2B2—The John Jorgenson Bluegrass Band featuring Jorgenson on mandolin and guitar and vocals, Herb Pedersen on banjo and guitar and vocals, guitarist/vocalist Jon Randall and upright bassist Mark Fain. Jorgenson, of course, was a central player in country music’s great Desert Rose Band, along with Pedersen and Chris Hillman.

The third disc, Gifts From the Flood, consists of instrumentals played on prized instruments damaged during Nashville’s historic 2010 flooding, that have been painstakingly restored.

(Photo: Terri Horak)

More (Lesley) Gore

The New York Times Magazine has an annual end-of-the-year section where it commissions outside writers to pick someone who died in the past year and write a longer and more subjective piece than the straight obituaries. I was glad that Lesley Gore was one of the 20 or so chosen last month, and that the writer, Rob Hoerburger, did such a good job.

I think she was the first “celebrity” I met when I came to New York, other than Davy Jones and Tommy Boyce–both of whom I met at an East Side club whose name I can’t remember but is long gone. I think it was a Chem bank that was on the ground floor of the office building at 1775 Broadway where I worked at Cash Box, where I saw her walk in and followed her, gherm that I am. I’m sure I wasn’t the first lovestruck 30-year-old male to impose myself on her 20 years after buying “It’s Judy’s Turn to Cry.” That we became dear friends over the many ensuing years remains among my proudest achievements.

I worked hard on her behalf, writing about her at Billboard and and here. I tried to get her in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame while I was on the nominating committee and when I got kicked off—probably for bringing her and Nancy Sinatra and other deserving and still missing female rockers up every year—I put her in my own Rock ’n’ Roll Pantheon at examiner.

I was at BookExpo at the Javits Center on Feb. 16 when I saw an email alert on my phone that she had died. I was in the press room and maybe someone noticed tears streaming down my face. I had been calling her and leaving messages, and it wasn’t like her not to return them. Now I knew why.

I mentioned in my own last roundup of the people who died in 2015 who had affected me how Lou Christie, who had performed with Lesley since the early ‘60s, had said how she was one tough broad, essentially. This, of course, I knew. In Hoerburger’s piece, he had a great quote from her: “You gotta make your 16-year-old self proud.”

Lesley and Lou and Nancy, The Turtles, Chris Hillman, The Zombies, Eric Burdon, Darlene Love, Peter Noone, The Cowsills and all the other artists from my 16-year-old self that I’ve gotten to see and sometimes gotten to know, who are—or were—just as great as I remember them, as they were back then, for them I am so grateful. I’ve written this before, that they make you proud of where and when you came from, who you were and who you still are.

I’m proud that I knew and loved Lesley Gore.