The Stumble

And the first shall be last… to paraphrase.  This was the 1st tune the guys laid down at the recording session I was filming last spring and it’s the last one I have left to post. They used the old Freddy King tune, “The Stumble” as a kind of warm up. It worked because they were hot by the end, Hadley Hockensmith guitar, Phil Driscoll keys & trumpet, Bill Maxwell drums, Michiko Hill piano, and Pee Wee Hill bass.

Once again, just as on all the other songs from this session, the guys were playing with their ears, not their eyes, since there were no charts to work from.  It was a great day in the studio with some soulful blues tracks laid down.  My only regret is that there weren’t more tunes recorded, meaning there are no songs to post from that day.  However this was so good, I have no choice but to try and convince everyone to get together again soon and make some more music.  Hopefully they all enjoyed playing together as much as we like listening to them.

Fairy Circles

Part 3 of my video Namibia: The Big Empty has some nice aerials of something called, Fairy Circles,” a rather unique feature of the Namibia landscape that looks as if it were painted by space aliens using the desert as their canvas.  We also fly along the skeleton coast and get a good sense of how it got its name. In this video we also land at the Cape Cross Fur Seal colony, the world’s largest fur seal colony.  You’ll see and hear some 100,000 seals on the beach, but since this is a video you will be spared having to smell the pungent ordor of 100,000 marine mammals.

Deadviei, Namibia

Part 2 of my Namibia video features deadviei and sossusviei, perhaps the most photographed spot in Namibia.  The deadviei is a beautiful but eerie sculpture garden created by mother nature’s extreme mood swings.  Here she’s turned a former lake into a dead pan of white clay surrounded by giant red sand dunes.  And scattered around the former lake bed are the remains of trees, starved to death by drought, their skeletal remains left to bake in the sun for hundreds of years, the dryness of the climate making it impossible for them to decompose.

Namibia: The Big Empty

You’ve heard the expression, “You can’t see the forest for the trees,”  meaning you sometimes need to step back and look at the big picture.  Well that statement certainly applies to the country of Namibi in Southern Africa.  Since there aren’t a lot of trees in Namibia’s huge, mostly desert landscape, maybe the phrase should be slightly altered to read, “You can’t see the desert for the sand.”

Bottom line, to fully appreciate the texture, color, variety, and the grand scale of Namibia’s landscape a view from above is essential.  Once that perspective is understood, then you can move in for the closeups to complete the picture of the country.  I recently went to Namibia with a group of friends trying to capture as much of the country as possible from both the air and the ground.

My home movies contain a lot of this duel perspective and the images are so strong on their own that even my camera work couldn’t ruin them.  So although I put the pictures or home movies together for the friends who were on the trip with me, I thought I’d share some some of the video with anyone else who might be interested in seeing pictures from this most visually spectactular country.  This is part one of what I call, Namibia: The Big Empty.

Looking for the Beat

I went to the home of musician Giba Conceicao in Salvador, Brazil to get a percussion lesson so I could more fully join in the festivities of Carnival this year.  What I got was yet another lesson in humility.  Because it seems as if everyone is beating a drum or shaking a rattle or simply shaking their body to the beat of the Samba at carnival time, I thought with some help from Giba I would soon be able to blend right in to the rhythm of the locals.

Giba gave me a quick demonstration of what sounds could be made on several of his different percussion instruments so I could get an idea of which ones I might want to try.  Let me admit up front that for me they were all harder to play than they looked.  I began the session thinking, “Really how hard can it be to just shake a rattle or beat a drum with one stick or with your hands.  These are like the first instruments ever played by humans.  Surely I can match musical chops with my Neanderthal ancestors.”  Wrong.  Or at least wrong if Neanderthals ever mastered the Samba.

The Samba is the driving force of Carnival, but it soon became apparent that I should not be allowed behind the wheel of the Samba car.  I need to use a designated driver.  Or if I can’t resist the music and insist on shaking something, then it is essential I get fully into the spirit of Carnival and wear one of the elaborate masks.  With a mask there is always plausible deniability.

I tell the story of Carnival in Brazil and my attempts to learn the rhythm of the Samba this week on my radio show National Geographic Weekend, but this video has some of the highlights of my musical adventure in Brazil.

Serve Somebody: Phil Driscoll

Musically it’s a short journey from blues to gospel, or as some might say from Saturday night to Sunday morning.  They’re both, when good, music you feel deep in your soul, which gives voice to the emotions you sometimes can’t find your own words to express.  This connection between the musical genres is fully evident when some of my musician friends in LA recorded a version of Bob Dylan’s, “Serve Somebody,” for me last year.

They had shown up as a favor to me, to lay down some blues songs I could record on video.  I’ve called it Boyd’s Blue Adventure session, but it was really up to the guys to play whatever they wanted.  One tune, which I posted previously, called, “Case of the Blues” was made up on the spot, but all were done without any written score to keep them on the same page.  Instead they were on the same wave-length musically, and that connection is what made all the songs that day work so well.

Phil Driscoll couldn’t resist the opportunity of having these great musicians in his studio to take the blues over to the Gospel side with, “Serve Somebody.”  Phil is on keyboards, trumpet and vocals: with Hadley Hockensmith guitar; Bill Maxwell drums, Greg Mathieson organ; Michiko Hill piano; and Pee Wee Hill bass.