For the Record…

Axamaxa once posted the following descriptions on a website that brokered musical groups for hire (largely a wedding reception and show-band type of outfit). Under the section in the form-letter about ‘Services Offered’ was written:

We play Original Compositions (and some cover material of our preference) and bring you our talents and musical performance just as we do everywhere we go. We are a band of Professional Musicians, playing our Material.
We are good at what we do and we are plenty hip, but what we are not is a tribute band or a high-stepping whoop it up for the crowd kind of motivational cheerleader squad.
We are also grown-ups and have no inclination to pretend to be Elvis, or ZZ Top, or anybody else other than ourselves.
So many times, someone with good intentions will try to hire us to play their father-in-law’s wedding reception and ‘could we play radio songs from the 70’s and 80’s and, you know…kind of whoop it up to get the crowd on their feet?’… that kind of thing.
Wouldn’t it be antithetical for a Soul and Smooth Jazz combo to hop up on stage and holler at the front row or jump up and down like a pogo-stick?
And I think it is wise to say something about this up front, because we’re not that kind of band nor the right kind of people for that; whereas there are those who are and other bands that do.
So we are trying to avoid disappointed expectations when we have to decline the job playing for Renaissance Weddings at the Tea Room, or Sunday Morning Service in the Butterfly Garden, etc.
If you want a very hip and serious Original band to play for your seriously hip event, then we are pleased to offer you our sincere service. In lieu of that we thank you in advance for your respect and understanding in this matter.

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Clave with Spang-a-lang

In the continuing effort to define our style, the newest ‘Percussionist’ wanted advertisement reads something like this:

“We’ve developed a lively and rhythmic style that sounds something like a funky gospel-esque boogalooo. A basic funk-beat works extremely well (running 16ths, either straight or swing, with a reliable ‘rim-crack’ on the 2 and 4). We also like any various soft versions of that for the Smooth Jazz (possibly with a little ‘spang-a-lang’). Plus some ‘minimalist’ down-tempo Soul stuff. Then again, Son Montuno with 3-2 clave (jazz salsa), or Soul-Jazz, if you’re familiar with any of that kind of thing . Honestly though, it’s not as difficult as it might sound. We play our Originals. We also play cover tunes but we enjoy taking them into our own special world. If you’re inspired, we graciously invite you to spread the ubi-jubi with us.”

Rhythmic Silence in Ubi Jubi Music

The OM band got a lot of great press over the 2015 Labor Day events. It seems to me that some of that might be didactic in elaborating on ‘Ubi-Jubi-ness’ and just what that really is. To that end, consider the following want-ad¬†which appeared around that time during the search for an Ubi-Jubi Keyboard Player:

Keyboard Player Wanted (Guilford, Alamance, Orange area)

Small, local band looking for subtle keyboard player. You do not need to know anything; we can teach you. Additionally you should be positive in general and open-minded about the following:

Our style is funky and laid-back with sort of a jazzy groove. This means that we are interested in players making space in their playing for other players. The Idea is that you imply more with fewer notes and with ‘rhythmic silence’. It is so much more about what you don’t play and how you manage that than being busy playing stuff all over everybody else. That means that you would artfully punctuate with soft understated chord clusters and rhythm stabs and the masterful presentation of a hip-sounding chop or two at just the right time. Don’t over-do it. The harmonic structure is theoretically complex being often in the realm of extended sevenths, 9ths, 13ths and some sharp11s, but you don’t need to worry about anything like that because we will insure that you have the simplest, reductionist, down-to-the bare-bones, scanty-voiced cluster technology available to humanity at your disposal. A soft touch and a smooth approach will get you the position. We aren’t too concerned with virtuoso scale-mastery or big-band standards or classical repertoire, etc. We need you to be open to fitting-in and not messing us up. I’m being fair to everybody about this, okay? ūüôā
Also come to the gig clean and sober.

Also of interest to the subject of Ubi-Jubi, but most especially relating to Musicosophy’s expression of it is this selection from the Burlington (NC) Times:

Original Musicosophy Band plans fun Musical Chairs show

The Original Musicosophy Band has ‚Äúdeveloped a type of Universal Harmonic Unity,‚ÄĚ according to the band‚Äôs co-founder, guitarist and producer, axamaxa.

‚ÄúWe grew out of local sessions that we had where all Musical Elements were related to all things through a Living Sonic Consciousness. As strange as that sounds, it was also very effective, sounded melodic with a pleasant sweetness, and held a fascinating intrigue. We continued to develop this idea to the point where we just had to share it with others. In so doing we formed our band, which has continued to grow and consolidate into one organic whole when we play now.‚ÄĚ

So Ubi-Jubi, it seems is more about what is implied by the ‘rhythmic silence’, artfully applied, than about which notes are actually employed. Also, in reading the article by Charity Apple in the Burlington Times, we find out that both Sound and the Silence that encompasses it are related by an Integrated Unity. This indicates that the ‘playing of spaces’ within the Music is rooted in this Universal Harmonic Oneness that ties together all things and is Essential in Musicosophy’s expression of Ubi-Jubi.

Pantaris and Velocity

The bottle came down on the table with a thump: Saint Pauli Girl. It was a very special night and the energy was high. The Gem Sisters, Pearl and Ruby, were playing and everyone it seemed needed to be there. Word was out all over Erosion Canyon and beyond in the hidden whereabouts that grace the wrinkles of Appalachian topography: the happening scene would be at Woodlands (pig-pickin’ and barbeque) in Blowing Rock, this Friday night. And what a fine scene the Gem Sisters put on with their homespun duet of sincere Americana from Steven Foster to Hank Williams sprinkled liberally with their own original compositions. Before the night was through, many a cross would be peeled from the bottle. (During deep tavern confessionals, the paper cross always gets peeled off the bottle; Miller and ‘the Girl’ respectively.) Pearl and Ruby always evoked a Mood.

Pantaris and Velocity would surely be there. They had been studying the Sisters for months, now; analyzing everything about their performance because they were singer/song-writers, too. Well, Velocity had written the most, while Pantaris fancied himself a lead player. And all this didn’t happen by accident; surely there was some Invisible Hand, guiding their destiny towards a big Future.

Pantaris met Velocity while working in the kitchen of The Tack Room (number 3 restaurant in the US, at the time; whose various incarnations include Fabian’s, and the Ruddy Duck. Fabian was quite a good guitarist, himself.). Fabian Botta’s father (Oscar) had given Velocity his nick-name (‘Velocito’, in Spanish). Velocity was going through a rough divorce from his former wife and was out of a home and Pantaris was recovering from a similar tragedy and looking for a room to rent, so the two pooled their struggling-artist resources and rented a trailer on the edge of Boone, NC. Pantaris had recently acquired his Harmony electric in a trade for his electric bass (with Bright Forward; see Mountain Rain) and also a Gibson amp (with tremolo) from Dean, a locally famous Dead Head who actually knew Uncle¬†Tom (Dr. Thomas Hosicke), but that is a whole other, completely weird story that we won’t go into.

The Three of us (Pantaris and Velocity and Dean) were having toast and coffee at a local restaurant (the Mountain House Restaurant, near Southend: see this review, and here) one morning when Dean said, “See that elderly gentleman over at the next table?”. We all looked around, but nothing unusual registered; there were many elderly mountain folk in Appalachia. Dean continued, “That’s Doc Watson (here and here) and his family. (Wife and son, Merle). They drive up here about once a week from Deep Gap”. Man, Dean really got around. Dean taught Pantaris how to play Franklin’s Tower. And Velocity had a book of scales that he gave to Pantaris, who studied them religiously during that era of music-making. It had a picture of this lead guitar-player on¬†the front with the coolest-looking ‘fro: who could resist learning from that book!

Now the trailer park was outstanding in the field of strangeness. For example, during a typically heavy Boone snow, Pataris built a snow-hive beside their trailer. How peaceful and quiet it would be to sit inside in muffled solitude and contemplate the wonders of Nature. Within an hour of its completion, millions of indigent Appalachian children swarmed the area (like ants at a picnic) staying at all hours day and night, hollerin’ and generally raising cane to the point that, sleep-deprived and irascible, Pantaris had to charge the youth and ¬†stomp down the snow-hive into mushy powder before they all would leave (as Pantaris yelled at them, shaking his angry fist). Another thing that made that particular trailer-park special was that, for some inexplicable reason, Velocity turned out to be a Chick-Magnet. He was on special terms with literally scores of the lovliest, most fascinating women from all over the Watauga Valley. In puzzling over this feature, we decided it must be his irresistible charm, his knowledge of Dr. Who episodes, and his affection for Chocolate cake (which we lived off of with a steady diet: breakfast, lunch and supper; starving musicians that we were).

Velocity’s songs were deep and locally famous: Barlow (which was later developed into a sport), Yellow Flowers, Cotton Jenny, Mullah of Qintar, and Baseball Player. I ran into Velocity, arbitrarily, one day in Charlotte NC while standing in line at a movie theatre. Later on, he sent me a compilation of his latest work: a masterpiece featuring something akin to British Punk. Velocity told me one night on Hobo Hill (in Boone) that he had a disdain for playing the same old styles from bygone years and liked to continue his Intellectual growth, His new compositions reflect this Ideal.

Authentic Native Tarheel Ubi-Jubi (part 1)

The first thing that crosses someone’s mind when encountering this phrase, and certainly the most natural, is: ‘what is it’? But this is not an easy question to define because the answer lies in that fact that it is a style of Music and Music needs to be listened to to be understood, more so than described in words. That having been said, it could also be noted that Musical styles and categories are often things developed by Theoretical Musicologists or perhaps promoters within the music industry and Ubi-Jubi is something acquired and developed by the Practical Musician: the Player of Music.

To do the phrase justice, we ought to note that there is a location attached to the ‘Ubi-Jubi’ part as well. In placing that location in the goodly land of North Carolina (from which many Authentic and Original Musicians hail) it is only fair that we include most of the entire Piedmont area of the Southeast; in particular North and South Carolina and parts of South-side Virginia. Coastal Plains communities with their Provincialisms are often masking enclaves of Ubi-Jubi as well. So we begin by noting enclaves and communities which are somehow tucked away and insular from the tide of blandness which sweeps across the more populated areas of mass transition. This would include the branch-heads and back-woods hollows as well as the smaller villages which still retain their original populations of pioneering families whether colonial or displaced by historical circumstances (richly diverse and many). That these communities are vestiges of fugitive conditions, as fascinating as that may be, does not necessarily impact the nature and style of the music, in my opinion. It only addresses the ‘why’ of insularity which helped to preserve its¬†Authenticity because the refugees preferred the isolation. Now we understand the ‘where’ but let us pursue the ‘what’.

At its Living Roots, Authentic Native Tarheel Ubi-jubi grows out of the Rhythm. Therefore it is Rhythm first and foremost. Music without Rhythm is like a car with no engine: it doesn’t go anywhere. We must be straightforward in the statement that there is a special gift from the Mother Continent inherent in Ubi-jubi which is indigenous Afro-Caribbean. That Africa is the source of the special syncopation is easy to follow but why the Caribbean influence? It is my opinion that something Caribbean was acquired during the North American Passage while at way-stations in Haiti, perhaps. Without going into the scholarly details about the French, English, Dutch and Spanish imperialism and their respective Island provinces, it would be plain enough to set the Haitian influence into situations which resulted in influential New Orleans styles (and the Early Roots of Jazz). That these influences play a part in Ubi-Jubi is plain enough but does not entirely address the locational aspect of Piedmont Ubi-jubi. That the English colonization of Jamaica resulted in Cameroon insurgency may serve to explain the Roots of certain features of the Piedmont Ubi-jubi (more on this later) is not enough to explain the Indigenous influence on Piedmont syncopation. To explain this (in my very humble opinion) we would need to look to the Coastal Communities of South Carolina, even as far as Charleston and Savannah (Ga.). This opinion is because the Virginia Africans consisted of ‘Domestic Populations’ centered around Richmond. As painful as these theorizings are, it is just to proceed with an account of the Afro-Caribbean influence in Ubi-Jubi Music. Let us now consider something more comfortable about this influence.

The Magic Aspect of this Syncopated Jubi is that it ties together Strong Personalities of the Diverse Community in a Unified and Harmonious Way without sacrificing the Originality of the Individual Personal Resonance. Remember that the Indigenous African Tribesman was Strong and Indomitable but contributed Strength to his Community through the Tribal Council, and this council was underscored with the oneness of the Drum Circle. That the Celtic Scot could be assessed similarly might be addressed in a later essay, which speaks to the Piedmont refugee situation mentioned above. Anyway, for now: Okra, Syncopation, the Blue Note, and of course the People are the most precious gifts to come across the Atlantic from Africa and grace our fair land, contributing greatly to what we are (and where we are to go). And Syncopation, like Okra; is the Ingredient that thickens the Stew and holds the Pot together. During Improv, it is easy for the combo to come unglued (unrelated diversities) unless the Recipe is based on a syncopated root-structure. This Syncopated Root is what holds the Improvising personalities together during performance. It is really Magical.

What happened that brought the Coastal Influence upward into the Piedmont uplands? The answer is at once completely obvious and at the same time intensely personal and therefore almost hidden in secrecy. Without belaboring the point, it is clear enough to point out that this leadership by Tribal Council became incorporated into the Institution of the Church, especially via the fervent Independence of the Missionary Baptists. That the Local Church meetings play a crucial role in the operation of local black communities is perhaps an understatement. And what characterizes perhaps the second most beloved aspect of the local church-service? Why Black Gospel, of course! And so Authentic Native Tarheel Ubi-jubi has almost one foot still in the pew, as it draws heavily on the influence of traditional backwoods foot-stompin’ gospel styles. Though gospel styles¬†are many, I would conjecture that the roots go back to a South Carolina Gospel style and become mediated as per the variant locations encountered along the way.

Part Two will continue with more on this elaborate and fascinating discussion of Authentic Native Tarheel Ubi-jubi, with respect to the Harmonic Structure.

Mountain Rain

In the early days right after college, or it might have been during the latter days of college -it was towards the end of Summer, possibly August- axamaxa was visiting some of his good college friends, and he was staying in a spare room in the back of a small house that they were renting. The house was located on the Southeastern end of a small knoll towards the back-side of Howard’s Knob; secluded and adjacent to the wild-wood. This location suited axamaxa because of its mysteriousness. We know that it was in late August because Virgin’s Bower was a-blooming ‘neath the¬†open¬†window to axamaxa’s room.

Axamaxa had already been staying on a site way, way back on the back-side of Rich Mountain near Tater hill. He had a motorcycle that he got around on in those days and he had met a Hippie Chick who drove her dirt-bike up the mountain to thehippie chick site. She was quite an Earth-People type of woman and they had a lot in common at the time. Boy, those were fun times. The Earth-People Community was a rich resource of interesting characters and inspiration for the arts and music.

There was a Co-Op (called The Mountain Food Conspiracy) down in Boone, NC which also served as the headquarters of Bean Mountain Soy Dairy. Bean Mountain made a lot of tofu and distributed it throughout the Southeast to places like Charlotte, NC and Atlanta, Georgia. Counter Culture types could often get a paying job at Bean Mountain that fit well with their membership duties at the Co-Op. It was a great meeting-place for the Earth People, some of whom lived in abandoned places such as Erosion Canyon, usually in large old houses that they could swap maintenance for in lieu of too much rent money. These were tiny functioning Communes (or kibbutzes) where the residents worked together to tend the bees and orchards and practice organic gardening methods such as French Intensive, and the like. From such a heritage grew Appalachian State University’s Watauga College Program (and here) which has of late grown into a regional sustainable energy initiative. Axamaxa lived in East Dorm (Watauga College) for a while, where he met many later residents of Erosion Canyon.

At any rate, it was while staying at the home of friends on Howard’s Knob, that he decided to form a small Musical combo with them. Axamaxa had an old Harmony Electric Guitar (the kind that Sears sold) which he had obtained from one of the friends, in exchange for axa’s old Electric Bass. And the Bass Player’s high-school sweetheart (later; wife) played the keyboards. They did not have a proper keyboard stand on which to put the¬†keyboard, so they improvised by employing an ironing board instead. They thought this looked pretty cool, so the ironing board idea stuck.

Many of the Hippies of that era did Fabric Arts, whether Batik or Weaving, and of course the ubiquitous tie-dye; and axamaxa was certainly one of them: a little bit famous for his weird tapestries. So he worked up a Banner Tapestry to hang behind the band when they played. The Banner featured Nootka, Tsim-tsiam, or Kwakiutl Iconography and is quite striking. The name of the band was written boldly across the banner in Tsalagi script (Cherokee): DOh-duh-LANH a-GAANH-sskanh. It seemed like it had been raining in the mountains for a long time (as it often does in the Southern Appalachians), so, like, the new name was really apropos!

Ironically, this banner art has served as the basis of Musicosophy’s T-Shirt and Logo design artwork, to this very day.

The Fledgling Musicosophy Band

So time goes by and we find axamaxa’s profile on a few scattered musician’s sites (e-jam, bandmix, etc.), looking for personnel. By this time he has invested quite a bit of effort into the art of jazz. And the trouble is that most everyone on the websites wanted to play loud and distorted¬†(metal, grunge, shred, ‘kick-ass’), or rap. Now axamaxa is a Peaceful, Kind, Artistic¬†and Spiritual type of person and does not particularly savor cacaphonous¬†discord, so he was not running into much success there.

But one gentleman stood out by way of his open-minded willingness to pioneer into new directions. So after some correspondence, arrangements were made to get together for some jam time. Things went really well and the two guitarists developed a lot of playing-time together. During the course of this free-play, a little style began to emerge and that style was based upon the early Pinciples of Musicosophy.

Lee styled 01
Brother Lee Samuel Palm in the early days of Musicosophy

So as not to get too far ahead of ourselves here, Let’s talk about this other guitarist a little bit. The other guitarist is none other than Brother Lee Samuel Palm of Gibsonville, NC. Brother Lee is a mighty fine person and lives a good, responsible life with his lovely wife and their two families. He was at the time, and still is, the leader of his own band, The Groove Town Prophets, at that time a Blues Trio. Brother Lee has played a lot of guitar styles (Country, Bluegrass, Folk, Pop, and Rock)

The Groove Town Prophets when they were a power trio
The Groove Town Prophets when they were a power trio

and has studied Classical Guitar, but the Blues holds his interest more than anything. He especially likes Texas Blues and of course St. Hendrix. This is to be expected once a guitarist achieves a certain level of technical proficiency. Much to his credit however, he showed genuine interest in the emerging style guided by the Principles of Musicosophy.

In fact, both axamaxa and Brother Lee were noticeably fascinated with the potential of this approach and the astonishing results that they were getting out of it. Flabbergasted again and again, they decided to try it out on the world at large and to form a band  together as the vehicle of its expression. In so doing the fledgling Musicosophy Band was born.