Living the blues
As blues notes writhe in the background, James Armstrong tells a story - a true story from his life.
“Early in the morning, eight o'clock in the morning, I was playing with my two little boys on the floor,” he said. “One was two-and-a-half, one was 9 months old. Some guy just walks in the house and I said, ‘What are you doing here? Get out of my house.' He puts his finger up to his mouth as if to say, ‘Shhh, be quiet.' And walked in the kitchen and started looking in drawers.”
The blues guitarist didn't understand what the man wanted in his Bay area home.
“I'm not a big guy, I'm not a fighter, I'm not that kind of person, so all I know to do is call 911,” Armstrong said as he recounted the 1997 incident for behindthebeat.net, a web site run by ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) featuring musicians talking about their art and lives.
As he dialed the number, Armstrong looked to see where the man was who had brazenly walked into his home.
“I turned around to see where he was at and he had his arm cocked back with a knife.”
The man stabbed the musician in the upper shoulder, causing severe damage to nerves in his left arm and hand. But the assailant wasn't done. He picked up the guitarist's older son and threw him from the balcony of the second-story apartment to the ground below.
“I thought he was going to finish us off, but he turned around and went elsewhere and did some other damage to some other people and finally got arrested and will be in prison for a long time,” Armstrong recounted.
The child is “going to be OK,” the guitarist said at the end of the story. He, too, is OK, even though he lost some dexterity in his arm and hand, ending his ability to do high-speed runs up and down the frets of his guitar.
After a year of rehabilitation, Armstrong was back in the recording studio for 1998's solid, soulful “Dark Night,” a musical recounting of the events. (Guitarist Michael Ross took over instrumental duties for the still-recovering musician on the album.)
Three years later, Armstrong was completely back, playing his guitar and singing his stripped-down blues on “Got It Goin' On.”
The man continues to refine his delicate blues augmented by his renewed passion for his creating art.
“Things are back on track,” he said. “I feel like a little kid again.”
Enjoy a man enjoying making electric blues shorn of excess and frills but full of life.
“I used to have goals. I used to have major goals. But after I got injured, they all were gone,” he said. “Now I would just like to be able to get the music out there and just let people know that the blues does not have to be depressing. It can be fun, it can be therapeutic, it can fill your soul.”
Sa Feb. 18, 8 p.m., Famous Dave's BBQ & Blues, 3001 Hennepin Ave. S., $5. 822-9900, www.famousdaves.com.
He's almost indescribable, so critics often lump names together to describe John Zorn. Miles Davis surfaces a lot, as do modern composers such as Karlheinz Stockhausen and Christian Wolff. Charlie Parker's name comes up, as does Duke Ellington's and Frank Zappa's. Led Zeppelin. King Crimson. Burt Bacharach. X. The evocative list goes on almost as long as a list of his 100-plus album releases.
This avant garde improviser and composer will be at the Walker to play with his band Electric Masada in their only U.S. appearance this year.
They play a set at 7 p.m., followed at 9:30 p.m. with “Music for Films,” featuring members of Masada and experimental American films (chosen and scored by Zorn), including “Maya Deren's “Ritual in Transfigured Time,” Joseph Cornell's “Rose Hobart,” Kenneth Anger's “Eaux d' Artifice” and Marie Menken's “GO GO GO.”
The evening begins at 6 p.m. with a conversation about career and music with Zorn and Walker Performing Arts Curator Philip Bither.
F Feb. 17, 6 p.m., Walker Art Center, 1750 Hennepin Ave. S., $40 ($35 for Walker members) 375-7600, www.walkerart.org.
It's an odd word describing an old, complicated photo process. Developed in the 1850s, photogravure begins by making a glass transparency from a film negative. The image is then transferred to copper coated in gelatin and then bathed in acid, eventually leaving an etched copper plate of the original photographed image.
New York-based artist and printmaker Luther Osterburg uses the old process to make prints of his miniature models of ancient-yet-futuristic flying machines and extraterrestrial spacecraft hovering over shanties and shacks comprising shadowy cities.
Osterburg's exhibition, “Strangely Familiar: Photogravures by Lothar Osterburg” is open until March 17.
M-F, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Highpoint Center for Printmaking, 2638 Lyndale Ave. S., Free. 339-3400, www.highpointprintmaking.org.
Michael Metzger can be reached at [email protected].