Between Stations

Stars_Beneath_the_Sky

“Abe parked in the hills above Monrovia. A crystal clear night.
Lights like diamonds, glistening all the way to Long Beach.
Kim snuggled close to him.
The car radio was tuned to KRLA
Dinah Washington singing ‘What a Difference a Day Makes.’
Art Laboe urging listeners to head out to El Monte Legion Stadium on Saturday night. Ran through the singers and groups appearing there. Kim took note of the names. Little Julian Herrera. Don Julian and the Meadowlarks. Don and Dewey. Ernie Freeman. The Coasters. Johnny Otis.
She twiddled the dial.
KFWB.
KGFJ.
Hunter Hancock.
Al Javis’s Make Believe Ballroom.
Huggy Boy.
DJs playing black music.
Kim desperately wanted in on the action.
As she explored what the dial had to offer, she said,’You know, this is just the tip of the iceberg…’ ”

from Cry for a Nickel, Die for a Dime by Woody Haut

For the last couple of weeks I’ve been traveling in a deeply noir, parallel-L.A. universe (circa 1960). It’s a mood that will be a little difficult to shake. Jazz pacing, blues heart, Cry for A Nickel, Die for a Dime spins you through an L.A. that wouldn’t have been on any tourist’s map: East Pasadena/Hastings Ranch, South Los Angeles, Monrovia and, perhaps most poignantly, that twilight of old Downtown just as it nods off for its 50-year slumber.

Duplicity, murder and a maze of con games keep things in flux in freelance photographer Abe Howard’s world.

What deeply contributed to the mood that I’m still swimming in is the music — on disc, on bandstands, on wish lists and — like for Abe and Kim in the above moment — traveling over the air. While L.A. as place becomes clear on the page, to get a sense of what you might be drifting through aurally, there’s now a playlist of music that keeps company with what’s on the pages. You can navigate over here to Woody’s blog for some backstory and a link to a lush imaginary soundtrack.

image: Lights of Los Angeles and adjoining cities, as far distant as 60 miles, as seen from Inspiration Point, Mt. Lowe, 5,000 feet above the sea via Water and Power Associates

Sessions

The Wrecking Crew — Hal Blaine on Drums via LMU Magazine

How much or little work you got was a constant calculation. Denny Tedesco grew up watching his father, Tommy, a prolific session guitarist, practice what he preached. “He kept guitars in the trunk. He had four phone lines in the house. The first thing he’d ask when he hit the door: ‘Any calls?’ ” Conversation wasn’t about that day’s gig, rather always about tomorrow.

from my piece up at LMU Magazine. To read the rest click here.

Out of the wings …

Guitarist Tommy Tedesco

Guitarist Tommy Tedesco

LIKE MANY, I had been long waiting for a look at filmmaker Denny Tedesco’s documentary about the L.A.’s famed group of session musicians, The Wrecking Crew.

Earlier this week, I got a chance to speak with Tedesco, son of session guitarist Tommy Tedesco, about his 19 years behind-the-scene efforts to finish the film and secure the music clearances. I wish I had had unlimited space because Tedesco can spin and loft an anecdote like his father. And there were many.

Like any company town, L.A. had it’s own factories. Evidence of work was everywhere. But instead of smoke stacks churning out soot, Los Angeles’s airwaves were full of the fruit of their labor — music.

“They were in a factory town and they were pumping out music and it was fast,” Tedesco says, “But some factories make Rolls Royces while others make Pintos.”

While the decades-long gig kept him close to home, Denny’s father lived a life on the road — L.A. surface streets, freeways and canyon passes. Paging through his father’s old work books were enlightening. Though Denny says he felt his father was around much of the time, it was, he now realizes, an impression of presence, looking back at all the dates, pages and pages of 10, 13, 15 hour days. “My Dad kept his guitars in the car. Always. We had four phone lines at home. And he had an answering service. This was 1968! There was no way someone was going to get a busy signal. The first thing he’d ask when he hit the door: ‘Any calls?'”

It was all about staying a float. 

My piece goes up tomorrow — I will post it then — but until then here’s the film’s trailer:

“all the possible directions”

Jack-Kerouac-1

“I felt the sensation of each of the directions I mentally and emotionally turned into amazed at all the possible directions you can take with different motives that come in like it can make you a different person — I’ve often thought of this since childhood of suppose instead of going up Columbus as I usually did I’d turn into Filbert would something happen that at the time is insignificant enough but would be like enough to influence my whole life in the end? — What’s in store for me in the direction I don’t take?”

― Jack Kerouac, The Subterraneans
Born March 12, 1922

Touchstones and Keepsakes: Chinatown’s New Orleans in L.A.

IMG_6874.2015-02-04_022117

A FEW months back, I’d heard word about a spot opening up in Chinatown that was going to bring a little bit of New Orleans to L.A. It got my hopes up, but I also knew to be sure to be a bit measured with my expectations. We’ve been disappointed before. Frankly New Orleans is difficult to get right — the accent as well as the food.

Slipping into Little Jewel back in August, I saw from the start that this was going to be different. Strikingly so. Since then,
I’ve been following the evolution of this market/deli and rendezvous for the last six months.

For many transplanted New Orleanians it’s already become a freeway-close home away from home.

You can click here to find my piece about Chinatown’s Little Jewel of New Orleans.

Executive Chef Marcus Christiana-Beniger greets customers at The Little Jewel of New Orleans -- photo by Lynell George

Executive Chef Marcus Christiana-Beniger greets customers at The Little Jewel of New Orleans — photo by Lynell George