Following the release of my second album, the Fiddlehead Band played together regularly throughout the upper Midwest and beyond. We became tighter musically and personally and the material really started to develop. Our concerts were high energy rocking events and we took off on some great jams inspired by the Allman Brothers, the Grateful Dead, and the swinging jazz musicians of another era. With that spirit in mind, I started recording some live shows and scheming about adding a second drummer. The tapes were always mixed live to two track stereo and in each case there was one or more problems that couldn't be fixed making them unfit for professional release. The opportunity to record a live concert using multi-track digital tape and the addition of another drummer came about in the summer of 1994 at the Big Top Chautauqua in Bayfield, WI.
On August 24 Dan Kleiman, Clyde Stubblefield, Jeff Eckels joined me along with drummer/percussionist Dane Richeson and guitarist Jim Ouska for the debut of the six piece Fiddlehead Band. Dane, head of the percussion department at Lawrence University in Appleton, WI had played many gigs with me but never at the same time with Clyde. You should have seen the sparks fly between those two that night and many other times since! With a little bit of friendly "competition," a whole lot of respect for each other, quite a bit of common ground, plus their own unique set of skills, it felt like I had just bolted twin jet engines onto my little wooden acoustic violin. When I counted in the first tune it seemed like the band lifted right off the stage into a musical orbit and it was an exhilarating thrill ride to the very last note. There was so much hot music I made it a double album.
Jim Ouska is a well known R&B guitar player from the Twin Cities who I had played with in a variety of configurations but again, this night brought together a specific personnel for the first time and it felt like I had assembled a really special band. Warren Nelson, the "ringmaster" gave us a poetic introduction that you can hear before the first tune.
"Where do the blues hit you?
Where in the body and brain
Does the pain of lying awake
Take its twelve bar run over the music of this living
Over what's not to be
Not to be found out
Not to be figured out
Just to be felt in the solar plexus of last night
Oh yeah my baby left me
And I hate my job
And my car's broke down again
And I'm outta beer!
And no matter how much money I deposit
It's gone before the first
So I say don't give me no folk music tonight
Don't give me no pastoral symphonic pasture of lazy daisies
Hit me in the heart
I've had 'em before and I'm gonna get 'em again
The jazz pizzazz dirt roll finger note bending
Music slender blues
Fat with pain
And the stain of so many years
Catching all the tears that you'll never see
Hit me with the blues
So I can go home happy!"
"Randy Sabien and the Fiddlehead Blues Band..."
"JD Meets the Rhythm Section" - an original from "Fiddlehead Blues" kicked up a notch.
"Summertime" - with an added solo violin cadenza up front.
"Crisis" - a funky number by trumpeter Freddie Hubbard with a rockin' groove. I use an octave box to give the violin a boost at the end.
"Capricious" - I learned this tune from a Billy Taylor album that featured jazz violinist Joe Kennedy, Jr. I trade off riffs with Dane on the quika, a Brazilian percussion instrument. The violin imitates the sound by pressing the bow deeply into the G string while dampening the string and getting a squeaky rhythmic sound making it "talk."
"Greensleeves" - another tune from In a Fog with Dan Kleiman taking the piano solo.
"Moanin'" - I love this classic Bobby Timmons tune from Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers. I like to turn up the amp and play real lightly with the bow to get a flutelike sound.
"Subterranean Blues" - I wrote this primitive blues on the guitar and named it for my roots group The Subterraneans.
"Just Chillin'" - a very cool funk tune written by Wisconsin guitarist Roger Brotherhood. I learned it from a recording by another Wisconsin guitarist, Don Linke.
"Fourth Dimension" - from my first album In a Fog but with more of a 12/8 groove and a rocking attitude.
"Blues March" - with two drummers how could I not turn them loose on a march? Another classic from the Art Blakey repertoire written by Benny Golson. And off we go into the distance marching down the street with the Fiddlehead parade...see you next time...
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