Music : Coming and going at Nectar's
Coming on Saturday: Easy Star All-Stars. Imagine a reggae version of the Beatles' "Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" or a dub version of the Pink Floyd classic, "Dark Side of the Moon." A purist would flinch at the very thought of altering a single song from either of these classic albums. New York-based record label Easy Star Records not only imagined turning these albums into something new, they produced them with critical success. Easy Star Records is Victor Axelrod (Ticklah), Michael Goldwasser (Michael G), Patrick Dougher and Victor Rice and a grouping of New York-based reggae musicians and dub artists. Formerly a group of studio musicians, they became the Easy Star All-Stars, a touring group who will perform their cutting-edge music at Nectar's this Saturday, Sept. 5.
Beginning as a studio ensemble, Michael G and Ticklah, the two Easy Star principals, produced their debut CD, "Easy Star Volume One." Their numbers grew as they added musicians to new projects. In 2003, the success of their "Dub Side of the Moon" pushed them into touring. That was followed by the cover of Radiohead's "Ok Computer," entitled "Radiodread," in 2006, and their latest "Easy Star's Lonely Hearts Dub Band," released in April of this year.
And going: Renowned guitarist Leo Kottke played to a full house at Nectars this past Saturday, August 29. Tables and chairs were set up at the last minute on the dance floor in front of the stage to accommodate the crowd - many of us aging refugees of the Woodstock generation.
Carrying his six-string Taylor acoustic guitar, Mr. Kottke walked onto the dimly lit, stage in a dark shirt, dark pants, and hiking boots. The stage was empty except for a microphone on a stand, a few cables, a footswitch, one unnoteworthy chair and a twelve string guitar lying on its side pointed like a loaded but sleeping machine gun toward the audience. There was no introduction, no ear- rattling recorded music in the background and no warm-up act - just Leo Kottke and his guitars.
Kottke made a name for himself in 1969 with the release of his ground-breaking album, "6 and 12-String Guitar" on guitarist John Fahey's Takoma record label. By the mid-70s his records were in the collection of just about every member of the 60s generation.
Mr. Kottke's unique fingerpicking style is instantly recognizable - a unique combination of blues, folk, jazz and classical techniques. No one else sounds like Leo Kotke.
Primarily an instrumentalist Mr. Kottke played mostly selections from his early albums. He also added his distinctive baritone voice to a few offerings inspiring some in the crowd to sing along. He never slowed down through his 90-minute set.
Mr. Kottke's virtuosity still amazes. He brought out his slide for pieces on both six and twelve-string guitars. His signature songs use a syncopated, polyphonic form with an innovative finger-picking style, and if you weren't looking, you would swear the sound was coming from two guitars.
While he worked the fretboard of his guitar with what were no doubt parts of his practice sessions, Kottke launched into extemporaneous monologues. His stories ranged from personal impressions of our weather ("I've never been this damp"), to some humorous disquisitions on his family history and the origins of some of his songs.
After a remarkable show, Mr. Kottke picked up both of his guitars, smiled and left the stage. Acknowledging the thunderous ovation he returned for an encore.
It was for me the rediscovery of an incredible musician whose music had been the background for a formative period of my life. If we are lucky he will return in the future and play for us again.
Easy Star All-Stars 8 pm, Nectar's at the airport. Also appearing, The Pulse Prophets. 21 and over. $25; $20 advance. 508-693-1137; email@example.com.