Tuesday, October 13, 2020

David Greenberger and Prime Lens "My Thoughts Approximately," 'It Happened to Me," David Greenberger & Shaking Ray Stevens "Tramos tthat go think IN THE NIGHT," David Greenberger and Dozens "Near the Edge of the Penny Jar Spill," David Greenberger, Keith Spring & Dinty Child with Keith Hashimoto "take me where I don't know I am," David Grennberger & The Pahtone Scooters" "Fractions by Stella," Diavd Greenberger and A Strong Dog "so tough"

(Pel PEL, 2011-2019) Over 40 years ago Chicago-born seeker/art-brain man David Greenberger started interviewing residents of a nursing home at which he worked and put mostly short, self-contained, sometimes borderline non-sequitor excerpts of his interviews in a quiet, poetic, strange zine. This work made its way into comics, films, radio, a Ted Talk, and for over 25 years, full length albums of Greenberger reading the best moments of his explorations into the memories, thought processes, inhibitions (and lack thereof), brilliance, disconnectedness, ultra-connectedness, history, and poetry of the elderly. While I have an affinity for some of the best albums in the past that were collaborations where David spoke over the music of rock and roll square pegs (Terry of NRBQ, Paul Cebar of the Milwaukeeans), the last decade or so of recordings that I have heard see talented collaborators mostly finding less rocking ways to compliment the words of the wise. It sometimes gets more exciting when the musicians get weird ("Fractions by Stella" features oddball improvisors, including Tatsu Aoki and Eugene Chadborne) or more music-ish ("so tough" kind of swings at times, and in the rhythmic "Tubes and Juice and Air," an elder American's assessment of how a TV works is borderline sung by Greenberger, locked into the musicians groove). But even when the music delivers an eclectic, jazzy vibe ("Tramps," a nice album to start with for new DG fans, even dips into jump blues) the music is almost always a near-neutral backdrop, the words are the thing. Occasionally those words contain semi-lurid material ("so tough" has strip poker and vampires, there is true crime and Frankenstein on "Fractions"), but usually the profundity of mundanity is part of the point. The most recent, lengthy, soothing one I heard was creating at an artist's residency, because this is recognized by artists as art, and had cover art by an artist (Ed Ruscha). And though Greenberger has been a musician for decades (Men & Volts is one of many bands he was in) he does not draw on his musicianship to deliver this word jazz, he draws upon genuine empathy for and genuine fascination with humans and their brains and lives and triumphs and tragedies. His calm tones tell tales with love, and that is why I listen, no matter whom he collaborates with. And also for funny Frankenstien stuff.

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