When Jack Rose died in Dec. aged just 38, Michael was totally devastated. I think he felt that he couldn’t handle going over for the funeral, that wasn’t how he wanted to remember him, so he was elated to be asked over to play at the two memorial concerts being organised, one in Philadelphia, Jack’s chosen home town and the other in NY, planned for the weekend of 13th / 14th Feb. to coincide with the release of “Luck in the valley” what will now be Jack’s final recording.
John Allen of Virtual records who released “Time Past and Time Passing” in the US and Regina Green, Jack’s US agent, scrambled together at very short notice, a few other shows, the first in Baltimore immediately being scuppered by a massive snow storm that dumped 4feet on the city in as many hours. We holed up in Brooklyn with our great friend Tara Young, she’s been shooting a documentary on Michael over the last couple of years which includes a very touching tribute from Jack to Michael which would be shown at the Philly show (much to Michael’s excruciating embarrassment). Another plus of being in NY an extra day was meeting up with one of Michael’s jazz heroes, bass player Gordon Edwards who ran the legendary jazz funk outfit Stuff and had played with so many other jazz greats. He still occupies the same apartment on Riverside Drive he’s had for decades except he shares it now with his recently married bride and our old friend, Bridget St. John. Gordon gave Michael a mint copy of Grant Green and Cornell Dupree, vinyl of course, which I think completes his Grant Green collection now. God knows how many bottles we went through, Gordon just sits at his bar and dispenses anecdotes and wine and we’re happy to partake of both.
We just managed to slither out of NY mid week to head up to Boston, courtesy of another snow storm that clobbered NY this time ( thanks John for that drive) and that evening was the first meeting with Glenn Jones, who’s music I already knew and loved, and one of the people Michael had talked about in glowing terms. Rightly so too, because not only is Glenn the most beautiful of guitar players and writer of wonderful melodies, he and his wife Norah are absolutely what we would call over here “the salt of the earth”. It’s been a privilege to get to know them. It’s funny though what things stick in your mind too. The sight the next evening of Michael playing a sort of charade type game called Gestures ( he had no choice) with Frank and Leslie’s beautiful brave seven year old daughter Tinka, trying to mime the word “tonsils” was one, totally unrelated to music and yet very much a result of it. Hospitality from people we’d never met but whose love of Jack bound us all together.
Next day we drove up to Amherst West Mass. with the Jones’s to play the Unitarian Church that MC had first played nine years ago, the sound of both Glenn and Michael (who even played unbugged that night) in that lovely arched room was a joy. We stayed with Matt the first of two giants I would meet that weekend, and drank an ’85 bottle of Pomerol that his Dad had given him , surrounded by thousands of albums-vinyl of course.
The Philadelphia Memorial, in the Latvian Society was a roller coaster of emotions for everyone, most of all I imagine, for Laurie, Jack’s wife. The musical line up was just about as eclectic as it’s possible to get in one evening but managed to include most of the “family” of friends and musicians that made up Jack’s world and Michael felt privileged to be included as one of them. Their musical genres spanned the joyous sounds of the Black Twigs through to ultimate “drone” and the jazz avant garde of Thurston Moore’s quartet, including MC along the way (Thurston being the second giant I met). Michael unfortunately had sound problems which was a disappointment for him but even that couldn’t detract from what will always be, a memorable event.
Michael Chapman - Trains @ the valentine for jack rose memorial concert, nyc, 14/02/10
Thurston Moore Andru and Michael Chapman
Talking with so many of these people, I get the impression that whilst someone like Thurston is the unofficial mentor / patron figure for this disparate group , it was Jack who was very much the pivot around which the many of them revolved. He was the mover and shaker, he dispensed the wisdom and encouragement far beyond his 38 years. He’d fight your corner , literally if necessary as on the night Glenn Jones was having a hard time with a bunch of drunk ignoramuses in a bar gig in London and Jack leapt on the stage shouting “come on you gap-toothed Limey mother f......s- come and get me, come on!”
The NY memorial, the following night , was a slightly more restrained affair with a slightly different line up, the highlight of which, for both me and Michael, was a stunning piece by guitarist Tom Carter, impossible to describe, you had to have been there.
Michael Chapman and the NNCK Brooklyn Feb 15th 2010
Our final night, still in NY was organised by good friend Keith from the The No Neck Blues Band and the venue was none too promising in a fairlyseedy area of Brooklyn and two hours late getting underway. Keith had persuaded Bridget to play and she was rescued wandering the streets outside in the inevitable blizzard trying to find a way in.
Michael was adamant though that these things had a way of coming together and boy was he right. Bridget did play a couple of numbers with Michael accompanying her and Keith joining on percussion for “Lazarus” and then Michael continued for a blistering solo set finishing with “Memphis in Winter” on a vintage telecaster (courtesy of John Allen) to be joined by the entire No Neck ensemble including Michiko a diminutive Japanese noise machine in her own right with a penchant for natty hats, fulfilling one of Michael’s musical ambitions to play with this out and out noise band. Fantastic!
Thank you Keithso much for that finale to the trip.
I never got to meet Jack but I know we’d have got on like a house on fire. We’d have talked food all day long, favourite recipes, most memorable meals, the quality of your bread base which I now know to be crucial for good pizza. And him and Michael would have toured together, even played together as they’d planned to on their upcoming European tour, well into Michael’s twilight years, and the bond they had right from the get go despite the thirty year difference, would get stronger and stronger. None of that will happen now, but the legacy of the man and his music will survive and thrive . Go out and buy “Luck in the Valley” Thrill Jockey Records (thrilljockey.com) and you’ll see why.
Andru Chapman Wrytree Feb. ‘10
PS: If being a No Neck for the night fulfilled one of Michael’s ambitions, you boys down in Virginia better take heed, ‘cause now he wants to be a Twig