Brotha Dan's Posts

Brotha Dan's Photo I'm a volunteer KDHX sound engineer and host of the Smoking Lounge on 88.1 FM. My blog will bring you news and notes from a musical journey that's on the outside looking in where nothing is taboo.

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Collaboration, GPS and Bonnie Prince Billy: An interview with the California Guitar Trio

Kat Touschner

The California Guitar Trio are starting a three-month-long tour here in St. Louis at the Old Rock House on Friday, February 24 as part of the club’s Listening Room Series.

They were kind enough to stop by the Magnolia studio to chat with me about touring, Robert Fripp and their newest release “Masterworks.”

After meeting at a Robert Fripp master class in Europe in 1989, Paul Richards, Bert Lams, and Hideyo Moriya decided to continue the craft they had learned from touring with Fripp’s League of Crafty Guitarists. Richards from Salt Lake City, Lams from Brussels and Moriya from Tokyo decided to congregate in Los Angeles and form their own group. Thus the California Guitar Trio was born.

Now some 20 years and 15 albums later, the group is still together and stronger than ever. Incorporating classical, rock and pop sensibilities into a trio format that never ceases to amaze audiences, the group has just released “Masterworks,” a classical album that covers the highlights of their career featuring live and studio recordings. Known for their quirky rock covers — such as “Freebird” by Lynyrd Skynyrd, “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen, and “Echoes” by Pink Floyd — this album focuses on the classics and features Tony Levin and Fareed Haque guesting on pieces by Bach and Vivaldi respectively. One of the more exciting performance groups touring, it’s always entertaining to see how they meld all these genres together during a show.

California Guitar Trio interview

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Concert review: No World Series game but plenty of power with Two of a Perfect Pair tour at the Old Rock House, Wednesday, October 26

I entered the Old Rock House on Wednesday evening two hours before show time to see the Two of a Perfect Pair tour featuring Adrian Belew‘s Power Trio and Tony Levin‘s band Stickmen, for a VIP meet and greet.

I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had been steeped in excitement for months after the announcement of this event, but unsure if my enthusiasm was to be shared. Much to my amazement any doubt was quickly erased. Standing before me were at least 60-80 people. There was Tony Levin — bass player for King Crimson, Peter Gabriel, John Lennon and Pink Floyd — standing just inches from me surrounded by others as enchanted as myself signing autographs, posing for photos and chatting away just like he was at a neighbor’s backyard barbecue. At this point I knew I was in for something special.

On stage there were two mammouth drum kits, two laptops, two towering bass rigs and a comfy stool. What was to come from this array, might just be the club concert of the year. Taking the stage shortly after 8 p.m. was Tony’s band the Stickmen. From my position crammed in the corner of the stage over by the drums (by now the room was filled to near capacity), I witnessed one of my heroes Pat Mastelotto climb behind his drum kit mixed with both acoustic and electric components. My adrenaline started to flow. Joining Pat and Tony on stage was Markus Reuter the Austrian born inventor of the Touch Guitar.This instrument is both guitar and bass in one played by “touching” the strings. This is how the band may have come about it’s name. Tony uses a Chapman Stick, which is played similarly by striking the strings on the fretboard. Of course Pat uses “sticks” to caress his playing surfaces on his drums: Ergo, the Stickmen.

Once the group were settled in behind their respective equipment, they soared into King Crimson’s “BBoom.” I could swear I saw many a chin hit the floor. To the uninitiated, this was a sight to see. Pure energy. For the next 45 minutes, the band played several songs from their CDs “Soup” and “Absalom.” A couple of my favorite selections being  ”Crack in the Sky,” featuring eerie vocals from Tony, a quirky hypnotic groove from Pat and soundscapes oozing from Markus’ Touch Guitar triggered from his laptop, and a cover of Robert Fripp’s “Breathless” from his solo album “Exposure” that is very rarely ever played. Then the musicians capped their all-too-short set with an amazing rendition of the “Firebird Suite” by composer Igor Stravinsky.

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‘By unexpected encounters’ An interview with Jean-Luc Ponty

Jean-Luc Ponty

Return to Forever IV will be coming to St. Louis on Thursday, August 25, bringing its legendary jazz fusion sound to the Fox Theatre. Last week, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jean-Luc Ponty, violinist of the first rank, who is currently touring with the group.

We discussed Ponty’s discovery of jazz, his interest in world music, collaborations with Frank Zappa and much more. Zappa Plays Zappa opens for Return to Forever IV at the Fabulous Fox.

Download the interview.

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Concert review: Exter vs. Kimock bring classical rock to Principia College, Friday, February 25

Exter vs. Kimock

Hey there, Brother Dan here. I would like to share with you a concert review I received from a long time listener and member of my show, Ryan Moore. I was able to witness a fantastic show with him featuring Exter vs. Kimock from Bethlehem, Pa. What he puts into words, I couldn’t say any better. Enjoy!

Originally, my Friday night plan consisted of sitting right here at my computer researching and writing about prostitution, and that plan was to continue until Sunday night. Lucky for me, that plan changed at about 9:15 p.m. when Brother Dan invited me to attend the Exter vs. Kimock show with him at Principia College, a Christian Science College about 20 miles from where I live in Edwardsville, Ill.

Both of us knew what type of college Principia was known as when we headed into the thing, but neither of us knew what to expect, other than phenomenal music being performed by Exter and Kimock. The gig was upstairs in a building known as Howard Hall, which took some time to find, but as we ascended the stairs to the venue, we knew we’d found the right place. The sounds of a traditionally set up drum set, being played masterfully, and a cello being played in a very unorthodox way, were the first sounds to greet us. The further up the stairs we went, the more clear the music became….

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Interview with Dweezil Zappa

Photo by Charlie Boswell

Dan Kinney, host of the Smoking Lounge, every Wednesday morning 3-5 a.m. Central on 88.1 KDHX, chatted with Dweezil Zappa on the eve of the rocker’s performance at the Pageant. The two talk about Zappa Day in Baltimore, touring, interactive concert technology and influences.

Interview with Dweezil Zappa

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A Phat New Release from Fattback

At Off Broadway on July 31st, Fattback premieres its second official CD, Canary, at a release party. The group from the wrong side of the tracks has put together a collection of tight, powerful, growling rock songs that will take you by surprise. This is not your mother’s Fattback. This version is mature and polished — if you dare to associate those words with these Saint Louis rockers. Known primarily as a party band, given to silly lyrics and dance anthems of a southern grunge nature, the members of Fattback have begun to stretch out and show their chops.

From the opener “No Account,” you are immediately awash in swirling guitars that make you hold your breath. “Sorry” has a vibe that will make you remember the days of lying in your room with headphones on, hiding out as you wait to sneak off to a show. The musicianship on this recording is worth noting. Dave Haggerty and Sean Dalmeyer create the sonic bed of guitars. Mike Apperson’s in-the-pocket bass lines compliment the rock-steady thunder of John Joern on drums. Grady Briedenbachs keys weave a texture that fills the spaces with pure power. No longer are there any glitches in sound: This is serious music. Having followed this band from its earliest stages, I find Canary to be one of the finest locally released discs I have ever put in my player. The production quality is near perfection. Their first release (Briefly a Zombie, 2007) had high expectations and had many great tunes, but missed the mark sonically. The boys have a real winner with this issue; the album will stand up against anything dropping nationally right now. The music business has lost sight (or hearing) of this kind of recording. What Fattback has done is harness soul and emotion in a harder rock model and made that soul accessible through a variety of genres. After hearing this recording I am already waiting for the next one. Canary was definitely worth the wait.

Screaming Headless Torsos (Minus the Screaming)

Jovol "Bam Bam" Bell, David Fiuczynski, Dan Kinney and Evan Merian

Left to right: Jovol "Bam Bam" Bell, David Fiuczynski, Dan Kinney and Evan Merian

On Saturday May 16, KDHX had the pleasure of welcoming to the Magnolia Studios a true guitar virtuoso: David Fiuczynski. Now David may not be a household name to most, but on the underground jazz punk scene he is a legend. The driving force behind the Screaming Headless Torsos, an experimental-free-jazz-punk ensemble from the mid ’90s, “Fuze” has paved the way for spoken-word heavy music. But a different faction (more like the Headless Torsos) visited us on this day.

David is touring behind his newest release, KiF Express, and brought in a trio consisting of Jovol “Bam Bam” Bell on drums and Evan Merian on bass. Both members of the rhythm section are recent grads of the Berklee School of Music in Boston, where David is a professor in the Guitar and Ensemble department. Expectations were very high. They did not disappoint! Jovol made the house kit from the station sound as if it were a custom-made Yamaha or the likes of some big name kit. Using an interesting array of modified cymbals on the heads to create a metallic sound, he caressed the skins in a blaze of fire and sensitivity that was amazing to behold. The crystal-clear, precision bass lines of Merian also made for a lively performance.

All three musicians are among the nicest people anyone could ask to meet. So humble, yet displaying all those monster chops, it’s amazing they even took the time to stop by. It took several hours after the session to finally get the tunes out of my head.

Unfortunately, I had to cover the Grateful Dead Hour, so I was only able to catch the last song of their Gramophone show on May 16. But given the sight of a nearly packed room of sweaty people, I imagine they rocked the house. Speaking with the band afterwards, I learned that they’ll be back later in the summer to bring their unique blend of heavy jazz to the masses. Many thanks to David for taking the time to stop by and share his amazing chops with us. I can’t wait for his return.

Check out the entire live performance late tonight (technically Wednesday morning, 3:45 am CST) on 88.1 FM KDHX’s The Smoking Lounge, listen to the show live on the web, or visit to stream the session after it airs.

And enjoy this sneak preview mp3 of tonight’s exclusive, in-studio performance. Let me know what you think!

“Shiraz” by Screaming Headless Torsos, Live at KDHX:

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Frank Zappa Memorial Bar-B-Que

Thank you to all that tuned into the Smoking Lounge on December 3rd for the tribute to Frank Zappa. I enjoyed talking to all of you, and had no idea there were so many people that appreciated this composer’s body of work. I will be doing this again for Frank’s birthday the week of the 21st. Please send in your e-mail requests so I can include as many as I can. I am going to include many selections from the numerous band members that have been in the rank and file of the Zappa machine.

For those of you that expect the reggae riddums on the program, never fear, this will only happen twice a year, to celebrate the man that influenced my love and passion for this medium we call music.