A Question of Time
Chuck Leavell calls Randall Bramblett the best kept secret in the South. He's a musician's musician, a prolific composer, and highly regarded keyboard and saxophonist. Like Chuck Leavell, Randall Bramblett initially gained serious recognition through his work on Gregg Allman's first solo album, Laid Back (1973), and his subsequent multi-instrument contributions to the live Gregg Allman Tour album. He is perhaps best known for his singing, playing, and composing in the band Sea Level, but he has also recorded and played with Robbie Robertson, Steve Winwood, Elvin Bishop, Bonnie Bramlett, the Atlanta Rhythm Section and many more. He has also released seven solo albums.
Randall's classical pick is the premier of Igor Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring" in Paris. The demanding music and extreme dance steps coupled with the provocative opening bassoon solo caused some in the audience to boo and whistle, which escalated to loud arguments. Eventually fist fights broke out and degenerated into a full scale riot. Even the arrival of the police couldn't completely restore order. Stravinsky is reported to have been so upset that he ran out of the theater in tears.
For blues he selected Howlin' Wolf at Weiller's juke joint 1950s. This of course was Howlin' Wolf at his high point with the legendary guitarist Hubert Sumlin at his side. Critic Cub Koda declared, "no one could match him for the singular ability to rock the house down to the foundation while simultaneously scaring its patrons out of its wits." Indeed, at 6'6" and 300 pounds with a voice to match, Howlin' Wolf must have been a force to behold.
John Coltrane live at the Village Vanguard in New York in 1961 is Randall's jazz choice. Imagine being there for "Chasin' The Trane," a wise choice considering these performances are generally regarded as some of the greatest live jazz recordings of all time, and a highpoint for Coltrane.
Finally, for his rock moment in time Randall picked the Rolling Stones performing at Georgia Southern College, Statesboro, Georgia on May 4, 1965. Kids paid $2.50 to see The Rolling Stone "from England," sponsored by Sigma Epsilon Chi. Of course Brian Jones was still with the band at this point. I couldn't find a setlist of this concert, but they were promoting their new LP The Rolling Stones Now!(1965) which contained:
Rolling Stones: May 4, 1965
"Everybody Needs Somebody to Love," "Down Home Girl," "You Can't Catch Me," "Heart of Stone," "What a Shame," "Mona (I Need You Baby)," "Down the Road Apiece," "Off the Hook," "Pain in My Heart," "Oh Baby (We Got a Good Thing Goin')," "Little Red Rooster," and "Surprise, Surprise."
For classical music, it would be tempting to go with J.S. Bach, Mozart, or Liszt, but as long as we're going back in time, I'd want to experience something extra. So I would like to be part of the 12,000 people in 1749 who endured a three hour traffic jam of carriages in London to hear an outdoor performance of Music for the Royal Fireworks by Handel.
The formal concert was held in Green Park on April 27, 1749 in a specially constructed stage, with the music included to provide background for a royal firework display. Murphy's law struck and the building caught on fire, but I would have selected the rehearsal performance a week earlier anyway. It was held at Vauxhall Gardens and was open to the public, thus the massive traffic jam.
For jazz, I imagine being a fly on the wall at Gil Evan's basement apartment on 55th Street behind a Chinese laundry in the late 40's when Charlie Parker and Miles Davis were there together. At the time Miles was in Parker's band, perhaps somewhat intimidated as a soloist, yet drawn to tighter arrangements with a more complex and subtle approach to rhythm and textural elements. I would love to witness a discussion with Gil, Miles and Bird in that little apartment with Gil on his lone piano, and them with their horns as they explored what would come to be known as cool jazz.
It's very difficult for me to come up with a blues pick. In terms of pure enjoyment I would have probably gone with seeing Howlin' Wolf or Elmore James at a club in the fifties. However, given only one chance to go back and experience something, I would pick seeing the greatest Delta bluesman of all time, Robert Johnson. I must admit that his limited and primitive recordings don't really move me, but his songwriting was truly remarkable. For that reason I'd like to experience Robert Johnson as more than a tinny old recording and a couple of photographs.
I imagine seeing Robert Johnson performing on guitar and harmonica for tips in front of a barbershop. He was reportedly very ingratiating with crowds and would take requests, along the lines of, "if you can hum it, I can play it." He would have been playing the popular tunes of the day, not only blues, but also country and jazz. He made friends and fans wherever he went which made it easier and more profitable to return again. What a thrill it would be to hear him play and listen to his banter with the crowdliving on tips, you know he must have been a master of his trade.
For rock, the festivals mentioned above are very tempting. However, because they are well preserved on film, I would instead follow Johnny and the Moondogs on the October day in 1959 when they auditioned at The Carroll Levis "TV Star Search" held at the Empire Theatre in Liverpool, England.
The trio was made up of Johnny Lennon who had just turned 19, Paul McCartney age 17, and George Harrison age 16. I think it would be fascinating to see the group dynamics and interpersonal relationships, watch them rehearse, perform, and come down after the show. I'm curious if their potential, given what we now know, was identifiable then.
So now, how about you?
Rhoda Scott: screen capture
Rolling Stones: Kevin Delaney
A view of the illuminations: Wikipedia