Tucson Musical Journey #1
Lazy Ed and the Stratoloungers
This is post number one about some of the musicians and bands I’ve been involved with since moving to Tucson in 1989, in no particular order. I’ve been extremely fortunate to have landed work with the best Tucson has to offer and the band I’ll be writing about today was one of my top five, to be sure.
In 2003-04, Ed Friedland put together version two of his band called Lazy Ed and the Stratoloungers and he asked if I’d like to hold down the drum chair. His idea and impetus for the band was to capture a New Orleans vibe, performing some classics from that region (Some of our earliest rehearsals took place where I am now sitting as we bought Ed’s house in the Spring of 2004).
A bit about Ed: He has held down the bass chair for the Mavericks for the past several years and he has released many bass instructional method books to high acclaim. He has many videos under the moniker “The Bass Whisperer.” More about the maestro toward the end of this article.
Speaking of world class, few can play New Orleans piano like Arthur Migliazza. Arthur was still in Tucson during this time, shortly before he went off to make his name. In 2015, he was the main attraction of the critically acclaimed Off Broadway show Boogie Stomp! at the Elektra Theatre in Times Square. Check out his website for more about this amazing man.
On tenor sax and vocal was Sidney George who we unfortunately lost a couple years ago. Sidney got his start with Mac 'Dr. John' Rebennack many moons ago and I got to know him as a friend and compadre in the early 90s. Sid was born to play this style of music, hailing originally from Thibodaux, LA.
On guitar and vocal was Danny Krieger who is still working quite a bit in Tucson, mostly with his wife, Nancy McCallion, but also with his long-time cohort, Steve Grams. Not only is Danny one of the Arizona’s most accomplished slide players, he was the voice, in 1965, for the Oscar Mayer Wiener cartoon. Claim to fame, indeed.
Last, but not least, Carla Brownlee held down the bari sax chair. Carla also was the sax player with my band, the Carnivaleros, for several years and played most of the sax solos on my recordings from 2003-2020. For you Kansans reading this, Carla was also the sister of the infamous Lou Whitney of Springfield, MO fame. Lou was known as a sound engineer for such artists as the Del Lords, Dave Alvin, and early Wilco. His bands also achieved high acclaim; the Skeletons and the Morells. (RIP 2014) Carla still lives and works in Tucson, mostly with the Bad News Blues Band and the Desert Divas.
The band was short lived and we mostly played at the now defunct French Quarter on Grant Road to tens of people. The irony of that, as is quite often the case for ‘local’ bands, is that the players in this band (excluding me) were and are of world class caliber and on top of their game. Ed will tell you he hates his own singing, but that’s beside the point…it was the groove and feel of the band, along with the strong instrumentalists that made it click. We were fortunate that Ed got Marshal Jones to record from his van one stormy night…here are some live takes, warts and all.
So just a bit more about Ed…he posted somewhat recently about his transition from being an educator to a touring musician and thought it was worth re-posting here:
Just wanted to address my consistent absence from the "world of bass" for the past few years. Since I've been on the road with one band going into my 7th year, my "bass needs" have been very specific. When it comes to gear, it all revolves around what I need to do my job. When I freelanced, that encompassed a lot! I played every type and size of gig imaginable, and so my gear closet became an entire garage. Meeting the sonic requirement of the Mavericks gig is pretty simple, I need big, fat, punchy bass. I need to sound like an upright bass recorded in the 50s, a Latin player, and I need a fairly dark, straight ahead Fender tone. No slap on either bass, no treble. Boom, boom, boom. I'm covered for that, which tends to reduce my interest and curiosity for the new stuff. It seems very unlikely that I will ever need a "modern" bass tone ever again.
Musically, what I need to provide requires very little knowledge. Triads in quarter notes over the 1 and 5 chord makes up about 60% of our repertoire - seriously! Sometimes it's a minor key. Yeah, there's more to it of course. Not much technique involved unless you consider physical endurance technical. I don't need fast chops, I need "all night long" chops. Repertoire is the biggest requirement. To play with the Mavericks, you not only need to know 30 years worth of album cuts, you need to know most of Raul Malo's solo work, and then... pretty much every other song ever written that falls between Pink Floyd and Willie Nelson. You have to know jazz standards, Latin standards, country standards, Americana standards, R&B standards, classic rock standards, Ska tunes, Disco tunes... And after 40 years of freelancing... I do.
My teaching has always reflected my real life experiences, but forgetting the fact that I have no time for it - how do you teach people the skills I use now? I've basically retired from teaching. I'm in life experience acquisition mode. I'm just not in the space where I want to order my thoughts the way I did when I was a great teacher. Now, I'm the guy you DON'T want to study with! Better you should buy my books!
I spent the bulk of my adulthood staying local, playing the money gigs, doing the family man thing, writing books, writing articles, teaching... making decent money, supporting my family. Now, I'm single, kid is a grown person, I'm touring constantly - and when I'm home, I'm just trying to get back to center. At 19, I was wearing a tux with a powder blue ruffled shirt, playing the lounge at the Logan Airport Hilton with Al Vega, legendary Boston lounge lizard. Instead of playing rock and roll and getting laid, I was learning every jazz standard and show tune ever written, and making $47.50 a night (the bread sucked, but it was steady). So, at 55 years old, suddenly I found myself touring the world with a band. It's the childhood I never had!
I guess I'm sharing all this to explain why I'm not really "the Bass Whisperer" anymore. I mean... once in a while something comes up that I'm really excited about and I want to share it with the world... so I do. During the Covid work stoppage, I tried to get back into it, but I'm no longer the guy with his finger on the pulse of what's out there. I'm no longer the guy that wants to explain the chord scales for jazz tunes, or give a damn about how you hold your right hand when you slap. Whatever! Make it go boom! In the time I took away from the world of bass, shit got real. Everybody is killing it on Youtube. Everyone is a genius, everyone is a chops monster, everyone is a Super Geek. I'm not interested in most of it, and certainly don't feel like competing with the likes of Davey504, or Adam Neeley, or Charles Berthoud. I like all of them, they've done great work, and to my way of thinking - set a new standard I don't care to live up to. And I'm definitely no where near as cute as Aron the Bassplayer. So, pardon my lack of enthusiasm for the newest modeling multi-effect pedal, or 17K Fender Hot Wheels bass, or whatever is new and cool. Nothing floats my boat quite like cranking up my G&L shortscale with flats and foam, rolling the treble all the way off and pumping LOVE out to our audience. What we do, the energy we create - it goes through the walls of the concert hall, out into the universe. I feel like we're helping to heal the world every time we play. Yeah, it's like that. So... not to say over and out.. just wanted to share a little about why I'm not around much.
Ed may be playing the basic root notes with the Mavericks, and for good reason, but here’s a little taste of a workshop he gave in Austin a decade or so ago. Skip ahead to 4:30 or so to hear his command of improv on the instrument.
And lucky me, once in a while, when Ed’s not on tour, he’ll stroll into Borderlands on a Sunday and sit in for several songs. Always a treat.