Goodbye, Little Rock ‘n’ Roller
The legendary Marshall Chapman led off an unusual evening at the Time Warp Tea Room, one of the few places incongruous enough to contain what happened there over the course of three hours on Saturday night. Chapman, the sharp-edged Nashville songwriter who has a reputation something along the lines of a Southern Patti Smith, played a few solo electric-guitar pieces, “Why Can’t You Be Like Other Girls,” “Rode Hard and Put Up Wet,” and “Goodbye Little Rock ‘n’ Roller.” The last title doubles as the name of her memoir of Nashville in the ’70s and ’80s, from which she read some pretty funny anecdotes of John Prine, Kris Kristofferson, Waylon Jennings, and herself. “I never read in a motorcycle tea room before,” she said. “At my age, it’s hard to find new experiences.” Chapman is a very lean 59.
The room was about full, and remained packed for the jazz-rock-driven performance poetry of Jack Rentfro, occasionally on megaphone, backed by guitarist Tim Lee, vibraphonist Phil Pollard, and others, and finally a short set by R.B. Morris, with an unusual amalgam of the Tim Lee 3 and the not-yet-defunct Band of Humans. Interpreting the multi-layered Time Warp in dance was unannounced performer and back-up singer Ali Akbar, doing the Time Warp. (Jack Neely)
Jazz in Space
The emotional tribute to the late, great percussionist Samarai Celestial at the East Tennessee History Center lacked nothing but a well-stocked bar. A racially balanced crowd of about 140 people showed up at the History Center on a weirdly chilly Sunday evening to hear two sets by bands led by Knoxville’s two most durable saxophonists, Rocky Wynder and Bill Scarlett (the latter recalled meeting Wynder at Gordon’s Townhouse on Cumberland Avenue, back in 1957), with several of Knoxville’s bebop stalwarts—keyboardist Chico Crawford, guitarist Harold Nagge, bassist Taylor Coker, keyboardist/saxophonist Tom Johnson, and drummer Keith Brown. The audience got more than they expected.
Serving as MC, Samarai’s old cohort Donald Brown introduced a surprising array of guest artists that included Samurai’s son, Nija, who did an unusually slow-building but explosive drum (almost) solo, accompanied only by James Pippin on congas. Clifford Allen, trombonist for Kool and the Gang, who were said to be playing a private party in town, joined in on several songs during Scarlett’s set. An old friend of Brown’s, Allen served as Yin to the Yang of Michael Ray, also of Kool’s Gang and sometimes Phish, among others, but formerly of Mr. Celestial’s old band, the Sun Ra Arkestra. The rarely repressible Ray entered wearing sleigh bells and a red cap and blew a wild trumpet, and as the rest of the band kept playing onstage, he charged into the audience as if leading a one-man parade, offering the startled a visitation of the eternal Sun Ra spirit in this sober room often reserved for historical and genealogical lectures.
Brown himself was content to MC that evening, letting his talented sons Keith, who filled in for a while on keyboards, and Kenneth, who played drums in the last set, take his place on stage. A fundraiser for a music scholarship in Samarai’s name, the event was said to be the first of many annual tributes to the much-beloved Samarai—and an early kickoff to the Knoxville Jazz Festival coming up later in the month. (J.N.)
You Haven’t Forgotten, Have You?
Darryl Worley—singer of the most unfortunate 9/11-themed song to hit country radio, “Have You Forgotten?”—had a few days off between tour dates and was spotted at Calhoun’s on the River on Friday, April 11. He hung out at the half-empty indoor bar with two male friends, drinking Bud Light before 5 p.m. He seemed perfectly friendly and had no problem feeding a fan his name when the gentleman only remembered the title of his hit single. In between polite swigs he laughed charmingly and talked about his hair (“I just got 10 inches cut off,” he said), the difference between riding horses and bulls (“I got on that bull, man, that was scary!”), his height (“I’m 6’6”, and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. Nah, be average. Be normal.”), and progress on a screenplay he said the pal to his left wrote. He also had some words for Knoxville. “We spend a lot of time in North Knoxville,” he said. “We love Knoxville, man!” (Amanda Mohney)