When Albhy Galuten skipped school in Westchester for janitor/gofer work at Atlantic Studios in New York, he saw sessions in which Aretha Franklin recorded her career-making hits. (First husband of my Schenectady-born friend Nancy Lyons, Albhy was maybe the first barefoot Grammy winner, for producing the BeeGees’ disco hits.)
Albhy recalled that Aretha would play a song through on the piano and he would write the “head-sheet,” chords and words. Then, while he ran down the hall to Xerox the head-sheet, she would play it again and the Muscle Shoals session band (Duane Allman sometimes played with them) would work out parts. After Albhy put the copies on the music stands, they’d record a take and seldom needed more than three takes to get it. We’re talking “Chain of Fools,” “R-E-S-P-E-C-T,” “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man,” “Dr. Feelgood,” “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” “Think” — you know, the songs that made our transistor radios jump out of our hands, made us speed in our parents’ cars.
Mixed with grief at Aretha’s (not unexpected/too early) passing lingers sheer awe at how she shaped that towering music herself, from the piano. Near the end of a Mountain Music Club listening weekend, gospel tracks recorded at 14 at the piano in her father’s church knocked us all flat.
We won’t hear another like her, but how amazingly lucky we are to have been alive to hear her.
“How can I miss you if you won’t go away?” sang Dan Hicks. Morris Day & The Time, John Hiatt with the Goners, Donnybrook Fair and the Blasters went away. We missed them, but they’re back.
Morris Day & The Time, Minneapolis masters of club-funk and co-stars of “Purple Rain,” so polished they practically glow in the dark, play Rivers Casino & Resort (1 Rush St., Schenectady) tonight. 8 p.m. $55, $45, $35, $25. 518-346-6204 www.riverscasinoandresort.com
The Goners were the best band (of many!) that singer-songwriter John Hiatt ever led. Friday at The Egg’s Hart Theatre (Empire State Plaza, Albany), they’re playing together again: Sonny Landreth, guitar; David Ranson, bass; and Kenneth Blevins, drums. 8 p.m. $59.50, $49.50, $39.50. 518-473-1845 www.theegg.org
Also Friday, in The Egg’s smaller Swyer Theatre, our own ’70s Irish rebel folk-rock trio Donnybrook Fair plays again, the latest installment in a welcome reunion. From ’78 to ’85, they branched out from local bars across the U.S. and across the pond. Welcome back, boys: Kevin McKrell, David McDonnell and Jeff Strange. 7:30 p.m. $29.50
Also Friday, LA rockabilly/cow-punk pioneers the Blasters — Phil Alvin and Keith Wyatt, guitars; Bill Bateman, drums; John Bazz, bass — play the Hangar (675 River St., Troy) 8 p.m. $25. 518-272-9740 www.hangaronthehudson.org
Rambling with friends visiting from Wisconsin last Thursday, I saw we were in Galway and pulled into the Cock ’n Bull’s empty parking lot on impulse. I asked the kitchen crew, “Is Rick around?”
Owner/impresario Rick Sleeper welcomed us, though they weren’t open yet, and invited us back later for the Evan Christopher and Eli Yamin show.
My jaw dropped. I’d totally missed that in the crush of music all over; otherwise I’d have urged you to go. Christopher had celebrated New Orleans with a strong band at the Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival in June; clarinet/piano duets in the cozy C’nB promised intimacy deluxe.
They delivered big, mostly New Orleans tunes from their 2013 “Louie’s Dream” album in the first set, and wider rambles in a second they added mainly for Sleeper, too busy in the kitchen to see much of the first.
Mixing reverence with swagger and skill, Christopher and Yamin knew just what to do with these limber, luscious tunes, suitable for fluent free-associating, for both depth and fun.
A slow New Orleans staple “Winin’ Boy Blues” (Jelly Roll Morton) opened in cozy restraint, all eloquent attention to detail. Then Mary Lou Williams’ “What’s Your Story, Morning Glory?” loosened up everything before they played Duke Ellington’s “Mood Indigo” straight at first, then as a rambunctious blues graced with a stunning, explosive Christopher clarinet run. Yamin sang “Stop This World” with all the wryness of Mose Allison’s original, then Christopher celebrated Sidney Bechet’s so-sweet “If You See My Mother.”
They returned to Duke’s book for “The Mooch” early in the second set; spare and strong before stomping the tempo via an elbowed glissando up the keyboard.
Yamin’s deconstruction of “Just One of Those Things” challenged the audience to name that tune; then after a snappy stride number, they played “Just” again, straight and swinging. Yamin’s elbow slammed the keys in a jaunty “What Is This Thing Called Love”; and they closed hot with “Cock ’n Bull Blues,” written on a previous gig here; they had to retrieve the framed sheet music from the wall to recall their parts.
The music was all about memory and movement; songs we know, with new tempos and chords giving everything familiar a fresh feel.
Duet partners for a decade, Christopher and Yamin played in one another’s synapses — telepathic, tasteful and tight.
The show felt like family, especially after Christopher dialed up his 2-year-old daughter (he calls her “Boo Boo”) — “gotta show her Daddy is working,” he told us.
But Christopher’s work is the most elegant play.