Program Notes

"We deeply regret having to write this at all, so please forgive the impersonal form." So begins a fax I requested last week from DB Recs in Atlanta. Sorry, but I feel the same way. Cold, impersonal. Stunned, maybe. And very uncomfortable broaching this in a stupid-ass newspaper column. But it's not Stevie Ray or Big Sam or any of the other celebrity stars who crashed too soon, so it's not news, I guess. Not many people knew Jody Grind, though more and more were discovering the pleasantly in-your-face, jazz-folk-country influenced rock band from Atlanta since the recent release of their second DB album, Lefty's Deceiver. That's not to take away from Jody Grind's excellent 1990 debut One Man's Trash Is Another Man's Treasure, which Dallas Observer critic Robert Wilonsky stated, "ranked among that year's finest albums."
I remember when Jim Johnson was working on that record as a producer, how excited he was about this new band's prospects, how they'd had to bother Peter Buck in order to borrow a specific guitar so the record would sound just right. That was something that set the Grind apart, the carefully placed instrumentation, often surprising but always contextual; they achieved everything bands like Cowboy Junkies aspire to. Lefty's Deceiver sounds like a breakout. The band evolved a bit, streamlined a little, and brought in revered percussionist Michael Blair to produce.

In April Jody Grind was playing live shows in Alabama and Florida to support the new album. Early Easter morning they were headed back north after a Saturday night show at Sluggo's in Pensacola, cruising along I-65 in two cars, nearing Montgomery, Alabama, when a camper apparently jumped the median and smashed head-on into one of the cars. Robert Hayes, who played stand-up bass and was 24 years old, and drummer Rob Clayton, 22, were killed. Close friend Timothy Tyson Ruttenber, a performance artist who used the name Deacon Lunchbox, was also killed. (The Alabama State Troopers/Highway Patrol, who reportedly investigated, do not have a listed telephone number in the state of Alabama, according to phone company officials.) Jody Grind had a series of shows scheduled that week, including a big fund raiser for the Georgia Environmental Council. The Hayes family has requested contributions be made in his name to that group. The phone number for the Council is 404-607-1262. A Robert Clayton Memorial Scholarship Fund for the Georgia State University School of Music has been set up, the number there is 404-651-3676. Ruttenber's family has directed contributions to Project Open Hand (404-525-4620). I think I'm just gonna sit here with this old Jody Grind "sneak preview" promo tape, the one that says "Happy New Year!" and "Welcome to the 90's" on it, and listen to singer Kelly Hogan jerk tears out of "Mood Indigo."

Because of a long and ugly history - too boring to go into here - with Miami cable-teevy monopolies Miami Cablevision and, now, TCI, I don't have the privilege of watching the Heat on the Sportschannel or the incredible array of cool stuff emanating from Cable-T.A.P.'s Channel 36 (on all systems). This prehistorical predicament also helps justify why I'm way behind on this item: This Saturday at 10:00 p.m. is the last airing of a show featuring the great Randy Bernsen. The program is produced by jazzmeister Ed Bell in conjunction with his WLRN-FM radio show Lunchtime Miami, with Victor Carlisle as director. I've seen it (on tape, of course, not cable). Great stuff. In future episodes, Bell intends to spotlight mainstream jazz and Brazilian and Haitian musics. Now if we can only clear up those nasty allegations about TCI's business practices reported not long ago in the Wall Street Journal, and settle my own dispute with these creeps, maybe I'll get cabled.

Or maybe I'll just cut out the middleman and go satellite. That way I could add radio to my pleasures by dialing in Galaxy 6 Satellite Channel 22 5.80 Audio, and then, on Fridays and Saturdays, I could listen to Steve Alvin's World Jazz Federation, Andy Harlow's Salsa Caliente, and Paul Ewbank's Sky Blue. I hear technology promises soon a small audio satellite dish that could be attached to your car window. And then, of course, we have to start thinking about Digital Audio Broadcasting....

How much of the big teevy tribute to Freddie Mercury were you able to stomach? The Mercurial one had a great, huge, operatic voice that ranged far and wide enough to carry Queen's theatrical song/presentations (and raunchy-rock enough for burners such as "Tie Your Mother Down"). None of the heavyweights who waddled out to sing Mercury music comes close. Liza Minnelli's hilarious vibrato, the flat meandering of Robert Plant and Roger Daltrey, the caterwauling of Annie Lennox - if this was a tribute, I'd hate to see the parody. My ol' pal Deborah Wilker up at the Sun-Sentinel hit on another downer: Most, if not all, of the perpetrators on the bill had something to sell, needed some exposure. Paul Young? Yikes, you're right Deb. Any starfest where Axl Rose doesn't sound half bad compared to the others is in real trouble.

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Greg Baker