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April 14, 1985 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 1985-04-14

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ARTS
The Michigan Daily Sunday, April 14, 1985 Page 5

Dr. John prescribes

fun

By Marc Taras
B ELIEF COMES easily to hippies and romantics
in general. In 1972, I was a junior in high school
who fit both these types. Belief came twice as easy. I
had discovered Ishmael Reed's visionary history
Mumbo Jumbo. It explained much. From this novel I
first learned the history of the hoochie-koochie man. I
recognized that this legendary American Shaman,
kin to the African ngana gana, who roamed the
bayou dispensing the sun, moon, and herbs from his
sachel, had a living representation in the world of
music. This was Dr. John, known then as the "Night
Tripper."
Reed's novel had unlocked the obscure riddlings of
the monumental Gris-Gris LP and rvealed Dr. John
as the embodiment of the ancient black wisdoms
which thrived in Harlem and New Orleans. When Dr.
John appeared in concert, I was among the patients
in attendance. I stared glassy-eyed and addle-
brained. Hoodoo. Goofer Dust. Feathered headdress.
Men becoming birds. The sun. The Moon. The her-
bs.It was all that I had imagined now actualized. It
was spellbinding.
Alas! The world of appearances! The willing
naivete of the young, the hip, the romantic. Halfway

through the show, the Doctor retired to his offices. He
left as the Hoodoo Man who awed me so. He retur-
ned . . . Wait! What is this? What's going on! The
veneer had been stripped away. It was the rending of
the veil. Where the shaman had stood was now the en-
tertainer. It was the same guy! Only now he wore top
hat and tails! A tuxedo! With a red sash! I was stun-
ned. Only the sequins in his beard and that peculiar
gravelly voice gave this fellow away. The transfor-
mation was complete.
This was a pivotal time for Dr. John. He had begun
the show as the good Doctor but by the halfway point
he had reemerged as Mac Rebennack - himself. Now
Dr. John plays Mac Rebennask and all is well. The
spell of the illusion has faded before the even stronger
spell of the reality. So this is Mac Rebennack after
all! Welcome! Welcome!
The world at large discovered Dr. John when he
turned out his only mega-hit "In the Right Place (At
the Wrong Timel" around 1975. Prior to this period
that song title summed up his career. Now, the time
has finally gelled for Dr. John and Mac Rebennack.
This guy has a remarkable history. He has been
working in music and production since he was fifteen.
mostly in the New Orleans area. He learned piano at
the side of the legendary Professor Longhair. He has
been a long time associate of the Neville Brothers and
the rest of the baddest folks from the New Orleans
scene. He has been one of the most recorded and most

in demand sessions players for years.
We have all heard him hundreds of times without
knowing it. He has established a tremendous
reputation as a producer of records since his years
with Huey Smith at Ace records. He is the kind of
musician whose very appearance at a session date
translates into instant credibility. He is a man of
great musical integrity. So when the concept of the
Night Tripper was allowed to fall away we were left
with an even more adult portion. Gumbo.
Finally the Doctor has recorded his first solo piano
LP, appropriately titled Dr. John Plays Mac Reben-
nack. And this is what he presents live. An
irresistably funky blend of gospel, blues, and bottom.
Lots of bottom. The guy lives in the cellar! When I
last saw him three years ago he had a song list twice
as long as your arm and reeled off the tunes almost
non-stop for over two hours. A mesmerizing piano
technique coupled with his specially smokey vocal
stylings held us riveted. There is no mistaking the
real thing.
I am still a romantic. Only a little less a hippie. But
I'm a few years wiser. I tell you: this is the genuine
article. Come to the Blind Pig tonight. The Doctor
will be in. He will bring along the charts which he has
wrought. He will bring along jes grew (see Ishmael
Reed)as well. We will all be healed. Go ahead. Tell the
Doctor all about it. I'm gonna tie a rag around my
head and run down the street and shout it.

'Madcat' Ruth seen here during his U-Ballroom show.
bMadcat' maarmarc
benefi.t performance

By Jacqueline Raznik
AT 8:00 p.m. LAST Friday evening
an unobtrusive figure clad in
faded blue jeans, a t-shirt sporting the
single work "Madcat", and a red
paisley overshirt entered the stately,
grandeur of the Michigan Union
ballroom. He mounted an unimposing
platform set before a bay window of
leaded glass, and picked up a har-
monica while tapping out a rhythm in
his stocking foot.
Perhaps a grassy sunlit hill would
make a more appropriate setting for
the boisterous nonsense of the multi-
talented Peter "Madcat" Ruth.
Nevertheless, Madcat's own musical
brand of the non sequitur freed his
audience from the confines of its
somewhat stuffy surroundings in an
evening of high spirited and quality
entertainment.
This was Madcat's third annual
fundraising concqrt for the Pound-
house Children's Center and the
folk/blues musician appeared to
recieve most of his support fromthe
off-campus community. The 100 plus
member audience was situated close
enough to Madcat to apppreciate his
every facial and , bodily- contortion as
he juggled a jew's harp, penny whistle
and African thumb piano, as well as
nine harmonicas, two guitars and
squirrel, duck, and bird calls
throughout his two hour performance.
All of this he accomplished while
manipulating a synthesizer.
Since Peter Ruth has gone solo he
has attempted to "expand the
folk/blues tradition by infusing it with
elements of jazz and rock - taking it
in new directions." New directions
they most certainly are. In his jew's
harp tune "All I Need is a Pig in a
Pen" Madcat inquires if any of us city
slickers know how to call a pig
properly. "Soooo Weeee," he squeals,
"a mantra only pigs really tune in
on". He finishes the lively rhythm
-with a few closing snorts.
An intrinsic part of Madcat's style
is intimacy. .He somehow incor-
porates references to the Ann Arbor
locality into his lively blues, men-
tioning Poundhouse, University
Hospital, 1-94 and belting out the
"university blues." The audience eats
itup.
Madcat picked up a fifty year old

steel guitar and made it sing as he
strummed the bildes the way it was
done in the 1930's, in the Robert John-
son tune "Come On Into My Kitchen."
Peter Ruth says of the steel guitar, "It
tells me how it's supposed to be
played". Yet, Madcat is surely the
master.
What is the philosophy behind Mad-
cat's madcap music? Mr. Ruth
relates that it is simply "having fun -
and not just superficial fun. It makes
me happy to play, and I try to share
this happiness with an audience."
The thirty-six year old musican has
been playing solo for the past three
years with no immediate plans of
forming another band. Peter-Ruth en-
joys having no one else to consult.
"It's all very spontaneous, I'm the
only one who knows what I'm doing. I
can put in extra measures, beats, and
words, bring in new chords or play a
bridge twice. A band would just be
lost." His music could not be more
spontaneous. Madcat prints no
programs because he selects the
songs to be performed minutes before
the show. After scratching their titles
on a sheet of paper Madcat puts the
paper at his feet, changing the order
and selection of songs throughout the
course of his performance.
So many blues musicians'have in-
fluenced Peter Ruth that he is reluc-
tant to give the whole list. After no lit-
tle probing Madcat reveal's that
Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, and
David Brubeck influenced him a great
deal. Madcat says of Brubeck "He is
such an amazing musician. Even
though his style isn't like mine his
musicianship influenced me." He
mentions harmonica players Walter
Horton, Sonny Terry, and Little
Walter. Madcat also includes Louie
Armstrong as an influence. "My
mother was always playing him
around the house."
Peter Ruth has set no goals for the
future except for "making music for
the nextseventy years." He likes the
Midwest and plans to stay here for a
while, although he leaves nothing as
definite.
Madcat classifies the blues on his
second solo album Madcat Gone Solo
(which was recorded in Ann Arbor's
won Blind Pig Cafe in 1983) as "blues
taken to the outer limits." Last
Friday night the audience soared with
Peter Ruth to the Madcat zenith of
blues.

Extremities'

confounds

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By Dennis Harvey
W ILLIAM Mastrosimone's play
Extremeties begins with several
minutes of almost unbearable tension
that plays on our prior knowledge of the
play's subject matter. As Marjorie
(Marcy McGuigan) wanders casually
in and out of her house in the midst of a
morning routine, everything about the
scene - the slightly dumpy thrift-store-
furniture ordinariness of the - living
room set, the vulnerability impied by
Marjorie's thigh-high shorts and
minimal robe - makes us apprehen-
sive of sudden attack and aware of the
meager safety of being in one's home.
When the attack does occur, it comes
not in the sudden jolt we fear but more
insidiously, in a sequence of confusion
rising to terror that's probably the
play's finest piece of writing.
Extremeties is about rape, and about
the expression of rage on part of both
victim and assailant. 'The play's first
twenty minutes or so set up the feeling
of violation on the part of both charac-
ters and audience in terms that are
traumatically vivid if perhaps a bit
protracted. From this poundingly in-
tense beginning, however,
Mastrosimone's work gets increasingly
befuddled in a storm of ideological and
dramatic conflicts.
Uneasily balancing a woman's
revenge fantasy - with exhaustive all-
bases-covered philosophical
examination of the legal, social,
physical and pyschological reper-
cussions of assault, Extremeties
careens from cresendo to cresendo with
a wierd unevenness of tone.
As staged by director Pauline
Gagnon, it is certainly never a dull
evening of theatre, and at times it's a
riveting one; but the occasional power
-is more due to the Performance Net-
work's staging and the disturbing
nature of the subject matter than
Mastrosimone's dramatic construciton,
which is frequently perilous.
Part of the problem of Extremeties is
that the knottiness of its central
situation - a sort of rotating role-
reversal between victim and assailant
- brings up so many issues that the

playwright is frequently forced to
suspend all credibility and use his
characters as mouthpieces for one
viewpoint or another.
The need to have one of four charac-
ters at some point stand in for just
about every conceivable societal
viewpoint sandblasts any believeability
on the part of Marjorie's housemates
Patricia (Kate Burke) and Terry
(Paige Sullivan). Patricia, a social
worker, is set up to get easy laughs off
her shallowly "sensitive" pop-
psychology-speak, while Terry is a
gratingly preppie snit who is strangely
blase (she's drinking a Tab and reading
Glamour a few minutes after arriving
home to discover a most alarming
situation). Patricia's openly an-
tagonistic attitude makes her own
eventual revealing of a past assault less
a revelation than -an ineffectual foot-
note. Both actresses do what they can,
but the roles are strictly types, never
fleshed out in recognizably human for-
ms.
Raul, the assailant, played by Atanas
Ilitch, is also handed far too many car-
ds to play in the effort to cover all
means by which an attacker can in-
timidate his victim from taking legal
action. And what are we to make of
some markedly curious behavior Mar-
jorie exhibits in the deadly quiet of the
first scene? Is her torching a slain wasp
with a match supposed to color our im-
pression of her behavior later on?
The twisting, turning nature of Ex-
tremeties' individual scenes often
results in a further confusing air of
macabre comedy, with lines of an
inescapably comic intent, sandwiched
among dead-serious ones like, "When
will you be satisfied - when you
become like him?"
Further undoing the play's rough shot
at consistency is the overall structuring
- a series of blackouts that end without
any real sense of conclusion. If Act II is
going to start at the exact point that Act
I left off, why bother?
A lesser error but a wild one is
following these tumultuous two hours of
drama with a rally-type song, "Fight
Back in Large Numbers," which is
sung out-ot-character by the people
we've just seen as victim and assailant

(playing bongos!). As a mood-
destroyer this is so ludicrously suc-
cessful that the mind boggles trying to
figure out just what the company
thought they were doing by including it.
Despite all these serious flaws - and
Extremeties is a seriously flawed play
- the play is worth seeing for the
visceral impact of its melodrama and
the importance of the subject.
Extremities plays tonight and April
18-21, 25-28. Shows on Sunday start at
6:30 p.m. and all other performances
begin at 8p.m.
764-0558
764-0558

STATE THEATRE
231 S. State St.
Daily 5:15, 7:20, 9:30
Sat. & Sun. 1:00, 3:10, 5:15, 7:20, 9:30

i

DeJohnette

's

jazz magic

to charm Ark

By Marc Taras
ACK DeJohnette is a rare gem.
Here is a guy who has become one
of the great drummers in the world of
jazz. He is regularly at the top of the
polls. He has also blossomed into one of.
the finest composers and bandleaders
around. When he sits at the helm of his
remarkably protean . Special Edition
group magical things start to happen.
The strongest musical traditions in
jazz, the most beautiful Ellingtonian
colorings, meet with the future of im-
provised music and embrace with a
strength and vitality for - today and
tomorrow. This Monday evening at 8
and 10:30 p.m. DeJohnette will unveil
his newest Special Edition at the new
and improved Ark under the auspices of
'Eclipse Jazz.
DeJohnette grew up in Chicago where

the hub of the mid-western free jazz
movement, Chicago's Association for
the Advancement of Creative
Musicians (AACM). After a brief stint
at Wilson Junior College DeJohnette
went exploring to New York where
organist John Patton hired him as a
drummer.
This was a pivotal time for DeJohnet-
te. He went on to work with John
Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, Bill Evans,
and many vocalists, including Abbey
Lincoln. He was part of the classic
quartet of west coast
saxophonist/floutist Charles Lloyd.
This group included bassist Cecil Mc-
Bee and pianist Keith Jarrett.
DeJohnette went on to work with Miles
Davis in his most fertile post-Bitches,
Brew electric bands. This variety
bespeaks his range of ability; he is
equally at home with lyrical ballads

Grammy winning LP's and now has yet
another all-star ensemble, and this
one's something special.
Special Edition combines
Ellingtonian heart and color with first
rate improvisations. The lineup of the
group has shifted from album to album,
and many of the finest young players on
the scene have contributed to the
Special Edition legend; saxophonists
Arthur Blythe, Chico Freeman, David
Murray; trumpeter Baikida Carroll.
Ebony stars shining rainbows in song.
The newest ECM release, Album
Album hints that the new Special
Edition is as exciting as its forebears.
Monday's Ark date will tell for sure.
Here's the lineup.
Howard Johnson will be featured on
baritone saxophone and tuba. You have
heard him with Carla Bley, Taj Mahal,
John Lennon and a host of others. You

Reid rounds out the bottom end with his
hallmark creative rumblings. He has
worked with many of the greats; Sonny
Stitt, Dizzy, Dexter Gordon, and Fred-
die Hubbard just begin the list. There is
great collective experience here and
plenty of room for surprises.
Jack DeJohnette will offer a free
workshop Monday at 5 p.m. at the
William Monroe Trotter House, 1443
Washtenaw.

ECOMEDY Needs for
COMPANY Fall '85 I
Live EXPERIENCEDI
* Informational meeting ( I
MONDAY. APRIL 15, 7:30 pm, UAC Offices
for more info call UAC 763-1107, Jay 996-1964, or
Sn 764-4788
-L&- - -

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