Tom reminded me of NRBQ today, covering Sun Ra. I only saw them once, at the Bottom Line, opening for Carla Bley, the jazz pianist. It was a great show, with lots of interaction between these young and dynamic and eclectic musicians. It seemed like a great gift at the time, a synthesis that seemed completely musicianly and spontaneous and fun. Which it was, at least that last one.
I went to see Carla Bley a few years ago and she is still a masterful presence and a great composer and a fine piano player, but what was young and vital and improvised and alive had grown old and brittle. Still beautiful, but more like a museum than a garden. That’s how it happens for all of us.
Browsing through YouTube just now I found this cover, by NRBQ on their first album, of a Carla Bley song called “Ida Lupino,” about the actress who starred with Humphrey Bogart in High Sierra and the great truckdriving drama They Drive by Night. Lupino had a slight acting career, playing hard luck gals, and then became a television writer and director, an unusual career change for a starlet.
Carla Bley’s version, with the great Paul Motian on drums, sounds quite a bit different.