For the curious, I thought I’d write a few notes about the live Zony Mash CDs Kufala released last month. After the earthquake in 2001 and the demise of The OK Hotel in Seattle, The Rainbow became our regular club of choice for local shows. Although it never really took the place of the OK, it was fitting that we should have our final shows there.
The first CD opens with FYI. This was actually the penultimate tune from the second night, but I put it first because I wanted to create the feeling of a typical Zony Mash show. We opened many a show with this tune. Although I wrote the original tune, Tim later wrote a horn chart, which later became an inspiration for his guitar part on the theme. The solo is on synth. Then Andy takes the drum solo and off we go.
Notwithstanding the change in bassists, basically Zony Mash had three stages, which correspond with instruments I added to the mix over the years:
(1) The Hammond B-3 era, which I realize now I was never really happy with.
(2) Adding the Nord Lead synth, which you could call the classic period. FYIrepresents it perfectly.
(3) The final period with the Fender Rhodes, plus Keith doubling on string bass. This was a great leap forward for me. It meant we could cover a lot more ground. Also, I’m basically a piano player, even at the B-3. The Rhodes fits in with that fact.
The next three tunes are from the final period for the band.
Diggin’ Bones is one of Tim’s compositions. We only started doing it in the last year or so, but it’s a real favorite. There’s a great version on Tim’s first CD, complete with vocals. I felt bad because Tim memorized my tunes so quickly and I was much slower on his. I think I nailed it on this take though.
Easy is probably the most recent composition and also the least performed song in the set. We should have played these sorts of tempos more often, if only because Andy just digs in so beautifully. I love the opening theme on this tune.
Rotholz Cabaret is also a new one, never recorded before. Once this tune joined the repertoire we played it in every gig. It’s short and sweet, and fun as hell to play. I wrote the tune at 3 AM on my laptop in a hotel in the village of Rotholz, Austria, hence the title.
Let’s Get Mashed is a tune we’ve played a thousand times and it’s all about getting to hear Tim Young rock. This take has a classic Tim solo. To the highly observant, I screw up the transition for about 2 bars but the guys have learned to ignore that sort of thing years ago. They bring it on home after the organ solo.
Smiles goes way, way back, to even before the band was formed. Some time in the mid-nineties, while producing a record for Fontella Bass, I got Jerome Harris, Dave Tronzo, Stew Cutler and a drummer (whose name I forget) together to try some music. We looked at this and one or two others. I also tried it in a trio with Andy and Arne Livingston in Seattle before putting together the quartet that became Zony Mash. Mell did a great job mixing this one, which isn’t easy with all the stuff going on. Andy has the big solo while the rest of us hold on for dear life. The cue was a little loose on the head out, but hey! That’s what live records are for.
Inference is also a new one, and never before recorded. Keith has this on string bass and takes the main solo. We also play this one in Sweeter Than the Day and as of late it’s a personal favorite. It’s worth noting that the vamp is in Eb minor which makes this a real chop-buster for acoustic bass. Maybe the principal solo is on bass out of guilt!
I was thrilled that The Last Song made it onto the record. We hadn’t played this one much, and even when we did it sometimes didn’t really gel. I was pleased when I heard the playback on this nights’ rendition. The solo is all on Nord Lead.
Upper Egypt actually came from the opening set Friday night. I can’t really say enough about this tune. I bought Tauhid by Pharaoh Sanders at a used record store in Berkeley when I was 16 years old. It probably changed my life more than any other single record. Years later I shared a tour with Sonny Sharrock, and he would play this every night. I wanted to use it too. I’ve always made this a Tim feature, probably because Pharaoh’s solo always meant so much to me that I didn’t dare mess with it myself.
I’m Sorry is a tune by Tim, and one that we recorded, but it had kind of fallen out of the live repertoire. It’s a great tune, classic Tim Young, with a hint of irony (listen to the organ “theme”.) It’s also tailor-made for Zony Mash. Let’s face it – Jam Band, Jazz Rock, Funk – forget all that. This band has been about what psychedelic bands have always been about – white boys re-inventing the blues, for better or for worse.
We round out the first CD with John Zorn’s Sex Fiend. This tune has been in the book from the beginning and fits like a glove. As I recall, John described this tune as “The Meters meet Corrosion of Conformity.” Whatever it is, it’s always been a great closer for a set and a great set-up for Keith’s amazing electric bass solos.
Meet The Zony Mash was often a set-starter and we almost always transitioned into Slide By. This time was no exception – these were the first two tunes on Saturday night. I can hear the band sounding just a little shaky for the first minute or two before we find our groove. Tim takes the long solo going into the song change, and then I stretch out on Slide By. Slide By is in some ways my favorite tune I wrote for the band. Somehow it really feels closest to the core of my music. Anyway, this is a long one. The two tunes together clock in at about 23 minutes!
Rip Off comes up as a perfect antidote. This tune dates back as far as Smiles and Prudence RSVP as one of the first B-3 based tunes I wrote. We actually rarely played this tune in concert, although we often hit it in soundcheck. Zony Mash was never a funk band, and I always felt this tune was clever at best, but I think we got a pretty good take here so I decided it was a keeper.
Capricious Midnight comes from the Sweeter Than the Day repertoire but since we started using the Rhodes we starting doing it in Zony Mash as well. It was so nice to have a contrast from the heavier material and get into this zone. Acoustic or electric, we nearly always have a lot of fun with this song. It was originally from a sound track I did and included the band plus Bill Frisell, my friend and violinist Jen Charowhas, and Hans Teuber. It was also the very first time we played with Keith.
Triggerfingers is another Zorn tune we’ve been doing off and on for years. In fact, my first recording of it (besides the original Naked City version) was with Pigpen. The bridge where Tim solos is a tricky little business. Like Sex Fiend, it has these odd time bars and tricky licks but doesn’t sound like fusion at all (thank god) and really has some soul. I like that.
Prudence RSVP is probably the ultimate Zony Mash iconic composition. We’ve played it hundreds of times – but this may be the slowest tempo and the longest version ever – a whopping 18 minutes. I couldn’t believe it myself when I heard it. When I wrote it I had the Beatles’ Dear Prudence in my head.
Brand Spankin’ New was written when my son was first born, hence the title. It’s basically a shuffle with some funny twists. The theme is hard as hell to play, and Tim and I never fail to look up at each other with a combined look of panic and bemusement.
Spice Rack ends the whole shebang and in fact it was the last tune of the last night. I often would close a show with this one cause after the first two minutes we would get into a really open space that I enjoy after a long night of playing. Keith and Andy came up with the feel for the ending and we’ve been playing off it ever since. The little motif Tim and I work off of for the jam at the end comes from a horn parts I wrote for the Zony Mash plus horns project. In any event, the last 10 minutes of this 13-minute track is probably my favorite music of the whole 2 nights – and I hope you enjoy it too.