Midnight ramblers

By LLOYD SCHWARTZ  |  April 8, 2010

Going back, so we can get full circle, as a young musician, seeing in small intimate settings the great masters, the truly great masters, the men who helped continue these wonderful art forms, music, and being able to be in the same room as, you know, Elizabeth Bishop or Robert Lowell and hearing the conversation and the talk and the ticking of the clocks and realizing that there was another world if you fought for it and wanted to sacrifice for it. And at Athens Street, when you’d walk in there, it was as if you were walking into a church. There was just something very holy, something about the smell, something about the books and the polished old clocks, the old polished silver. Somehow, some of that rubs off. It wasn’t, “Hey, I hung around in bars with Bob Dylan” — it was being next to these great artists and learning something about them by their manner and their intensity. . . .

As an artist at that time, it seemed to be a healthier environment to learn, to learn the art of performing, to absorb. I try to keep my antennae open for new things, but also I’m not afraid to say that what I do like are the musicianship, the tradition. I was brought up under the shadows and power of two different forces: one Little Richard and Elvis Presley, and the other Arturo Toscanini and Beethoven, and to see the same emotional conviction. As an innocent kid, there was this expression, this involvement of body, mind, and soul that was complete and 100 percent.

Lloyd Schwartz can be reached at lschwartz@phx.com.

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