Thursday, February 18, 2010

Corey Harris and the 5x5 Band At Regattabar

We have been wanting to see Corey Harris in concert ever since we saw him perform a song with Henry Butler  at the 2001 Handy Awards in Memphis.  But whenever he has played in the area, we have been either out of town or had previous commitments. So when we heard that he was playing at the Regattabar, we were very excited. Craig and I arrived at the venue at around 7 o’clock for the 7:30 show. We were the first ones there and were seated at a front-row table about 5 feet in front of Corey Harris’ microphone. We knew we were in for a great night of entertainment, but we were hoping for the band’s sake that more of a crowd showed up.

More people did arrive, and there were probably about 50 or 60 people by the time they hit the stage. Craig and I were the only two seated at a four-person table, so there was plenty of room to sit comfortably. Corey and the 5x5 Band took the stage soon after 7:30. The band consisted of Corey on guitar, Ken Joseph from Trinidad on the drums,  Ralph DuJour on  bass, Gordon Jones on the sax, and Chris “Peanut” Whitley on keys and piano.

As they launched into their first tune, Craig immediately  recognized it as Bob Marley’s Redemption Song. It was a nice jazzy instrumental treatment. Then Corey took the mic as they launched into a medley of songs from the albums Downhome Sophisticate and  Backlash was a standout. The band got into a groove immediately and blurred the lines between blues, reggae, and jazz. Brand new songs mingled with classic traditional fare like Catfish Blues.  Having such a great seat in such a small crowd was awesome because we could fully make eye contact with the band as they played. They were clearly enjoying themselves and seemed glad that the audience was having fun as well. The crowd wasn’t huge, but they sure were attentive.

Corey explained that Sista Rose was written for a an old girlfriend in Cameroon. He performed Mami Wata with a poetry slam feel. They also played a couple of other selections from Daily Bread, including the title track and Got to Be a Better Way.

Song after song was familiar to us. The band eventually took a break and Corey switched to his acoustic guitar. He sat down (once again 5 feet in front of us) and started to play. He played a song that he said he just recently wrote about Paul Bogle, a Jamaican revolutionary from the Morant Bay Rebellion . He then introduced Skip James’ Special Rider Blues by saying that he recorded it in Niafunke, Mali with Ali Farka Toure. It was a great little acoustic set.

Then the band came back and played a few more tunes. They finished up the night with Corey calling an audible for Sweatshop.  They finished at around 9:15, perfect for a weeknight show. We got to speak with Corey and talked to him a little bit about Mali. Craig apologized for the low turn-out and Corey said “Hey, not your fault. You did your part!” He signed our discs and we got a photo with him. We then spoke to Peanut and had him sign a disc for us as well (, which he produced). He was happy that we already owned the disc (which they were selling at the show) and had had a chance to hear it. He told us that they worked really hard on the album and that it took them several months to make it; that they would work on one song for a week at a time just to get it perfect. Craig said that we loved that they opened with Redemption Song and Peanut laughed. He said that they did that “to mess with people’s minds because we look like a reggae band and we wanted to have fun and challenge people’s expectations.” They did indeed look like a reggae band, three of them were sporting long dreads, and Corey’s were tucked up into a tall hat.  He’s a tall guy to begin with, but this made him look even taller.

Everyone we spoke to was incredibly nice, and really gracious. They really took the time to talk with us. On our way out we saw the drummer, Ken Joseph, sitting at a table. He had really noticed Craig grooving in the audience, and asked if he plays drums. He told Craig that “he has the hair for it”  (pointing to his own bald head). He shook our hands and said that sometimes they really prefer to play for smaller crowds than in giant halls. He thanked us for coming out and invited us to head down to the Narrows in Fall River on Saturday night to see them again.

If you are a music fan into blues jazz, or reggae, GO SEE THIS SHOW. You will not be disappointed. We were absolutely blown away.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Our new godchild Eddy Humberto

We recently visited Guatemala for the baptism of our second godchild, Eddy Humberto. It was wonderful to once again visit our dear friends Humberto and Paulina and their lovely family - daughters Vanesa, Paola, Yasmin, Yoselin, our goddaughter Aracely,  baby Eddy, and their cousin Rocio. They always treat us like family, and this was our fifth time visiting the family and staying at their home.

 Godparents and godchild

 Humberto, Craig, Eddy, Steph, and Paulina

The family at Eddy's baptism


Eddy on baptism day

Although the new school year usually starts in mid-January, it was delayed this year due to teacher contract negotiations. So the girls were around all day on weekdays as well, which was very nice for us. When we last visited in July, Eddy only had two teeth, and wasn't yet able to walk. But this time he was fully walking (and running) on his own, with a smile full of new teeth. And of course the girls have grown, also. Little Aracely is now as old as Yoselin was on our first visit. And the older girls now help Humberto to run his office. We are very proud of all of the kids. They are growing up before our eyes!

Paola, Steph, Aracely, Yasmin, Rocio, Craig, Yoselin, Vanesa, and Eddy
We like to bring small gifts for the children. On our last visit, the card game Uno was a big hit (the directions are easy to explain even in our broken Spanish). This time we brought Jenga, which was very well received. In addition to playing by the rules, they also used the wooden pieces as building blocks and dominoes. It provided for days of fun for young and old.

Playing Jenga! Craig, Yasmin, Vanesa, and Paulina

We went on numerous walks with the family, watching sunset over the volcano-ringed Lake Atitlan, and buying street-vendor churrascos for dinner. We went to the market with Paulina to buy the day's fresh food, and took a tuk-tuk home with the groceries. Our camera suffered an accident on the first night as I dropped it, which rendered its flash inoperable. So we  had the challenge of replacing it in Panajachel, being completely unprepared. We settled on a Canon PowerShot at Quick Photo on Santander Street. It took double A batteries and SD memory cards, so it would be compatible with easily available batteries and media. Of course, Quick Photo didn't sell SD cards, so we wound up buying those at the Fuji store. The new camera worked very nicely, and didn't have the 20-second video limitation of the previous camera. So everything worked out, and we got higher resolution photos and video during the remainder of the trip.

Vanesa and Paola - sunset at Lake Atitlan

Yasmin and Eddy
Eddy's baptism took place on Sunday January 24 at Iglesia de San Francisco in Panajachel. It was a very nice service. Eddy was dressed in an adorable little white suit with bow tie and pocket square. We walked home from church and then gathered with Humberto and Paulina's extended family at their nephew's restaurant, Restaurant Cafeteria Yulex. We had a lovely breakfast of huevos rancheros and black beans, and then later we had a delicious lunch of traditional pulique soup with chicken served with tomalitos. We had had this before at Aracely's baptism. It was a wonderful day, and we spent time playing with the kids' cousins, Loren, Laisa, and Yesmy, whom we had met in 2008. We got to spend time with Paulina's father and sisters Olga, Isabela, and Estela, their brother Carlos and his wife Vilma. We visited with Humberto's mother and his sister Juana. They are all so kind to us and treat us as part of the family.

Humberto, Eddy, and Paulina's father

Neli, Aracely, and Yesmy

Craig and Laisa

Cousins Loren and Aracely

On Tuesday, when it was time for us to leave, all of the kids begged to be able to accompany us on the 3 hour van ride to Guatemala City. Humberto was giving a tour that day, but Paulina agreed to accompany all of the kids (including cousin Rocio) on the ride. It was so sweet of all of them, especially given that the younger kids get car sick when riding on the windy mountain roads. But they all wanted to be able to spend those final hours with us before we headed back home.  After dropping us at the airport, they enjoyed lunch at Pollo Campero (a popular Guatemala chain of fried chicken restaurants) and then took the 3 hour drive back home. Now that's love!

 Aracely and Craig


Churrasco on Calle Santander

Paola and Eddy

Yoselin and Yasmin

Rocio and Vanesa