Tag Archives: jazz

Journey Through Latin America (Part 8)

It took slightly less than 12 hours to travel from Alegria, El Salvador to Leon, Nicaragua.  I woke up at five AM so I could do some rudimentary Chi Gong exercises before catching the 6 AM chicken bus to Santiago de Maria, then another bus to San Miguel, then another still to El Amatillo at the border with Honduras.  Two enthusiastic young men immediately helped me into  tricyclo taxi and pushed me through both immigration posts and left me at the shuttle for Nicaragua.  This was a ¨”combi” that had to fill all 12 seats before we left.  The highway in Honduras was full of potholes, but the worst part was arriving at the Nicaraguan border where more enthusiastic men wanted to help me, though this time I was not being pushed around as easily.  The immigration post in Nicaragua was the worst I´ve yet seen: unorganized, took 30 minutes, half of which for the official to get change for my $20, the fee was $12.

I had a leisurely lunch at the bus stop and took another shuttle to Chinandega, then yet another to Leon, where I finally got a cheap taxi, just $1 to my hostel.  I was so glad Lazybones had a swimming pool.  I was exhausted.

 

Leon is an interesting place.  I like it, so its difficult to describe accurately without seeming derogatory.  Its dirty, yes, but by now I´ve come to the conclusion that garbage exists whether it is hidden or not, so I´m not offended.  Its old and lots of buildings are falling apart.  It is lively and offers a lot for the wanderer to see.  I feel like it is Antigua´s opposite in some ways, dark and seedy, and not entirely tourist minded.  It took me a while to get some shots of the ubiquitous horse and cart.

 

I can´t say that Nicaragua is significantly cheaper than El Salvador, but I have found a couple of places where I can eat well for under $2.  One is Pelibuey (Nicaraguan for Lamb) where it is hot and sweaty, like most of Leon, and the racket next door is from a gym.  Well, the racket is mostly from the street, its very noisy in Leon.  The other good spot is a French bakery called Pan y Paz where I took this photo (the juice is guayaba and the croissant chocolate) first class quality.

I´ve been here a few days, mostly just to recover from that horrendous day of travelling.  I lucked out and caught a Cuban Trova act at La Olla Quemada,  Fulancito y Tal, really world-class performance.  I finally felt like I was in the Leon of my imagination.  Alas, I did not have my camera.

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Texas Blues–“Put ‘n Will”


Help Make My Dream Real

 

       My big dream then, is to travel through Central America playing my music in exchange for room and board, until I arrive in Lima, Peru.  Once there, I hope to get a good gig in a fine hotel, where I could live for a couple of months and be able to spend time with my son.  This is a pretty outrageous dream, I know, and that’s why I need your help.  In fact, this is the main reason I put together my website and started this blog.  I need help of various kinds, from friends and acquaintances.

 

            First of all, I need to sell my inventory of oil paintings (can’t take ‘em with me) or perhaps find a business who would like to display them for several months.  I would be willing to drive several hours from Tucson to deliver these paintings, if anyone knows of such a place.  While I travel I plan to try my hand at watercolors—they take up much less space.

 

            Secondly, I need contacts throughout my route—in Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Ecuador, and most importantly Peru.  Any contact is super, but especially valuable would be folks in the hospitality industry—hotels, restaurants, tourist agencies.  Also, if anyone has visited these countries and knows of a groovin’ spot where I might play, or where tourists “in the know” like to gather, this would be great  information.

 

            Lastly, and this is so easy for all of you.  Favorite my website (not my blog) or otherwise attach www.artbylowell.com to your site.  This is crucial for my site to show up in searches, something to do with Search Engine Optimization.  I need people to find my site, buy paintings and video downloads, follow my blog, help with all of the above, and become part of my Great Dream.  I am most humbly yours, Lowell  (aka Luis)


Working at Austin Records

            One slow Sunday morning, Herschel Cunningham came to Chuys for breakfast.  I sat down and told him I was majoring in sound engineering and he responded just as everyone in the music industry did, “You can take classes in that?”  Well, he let me intern at the studio for free, mostly cleaning up and taking out the trash.  I did find some interesting items in the ashtrays, in fact I got the feeling that the musicians were leaving roach offerings for “the kid.”  There was some great rock’n’roll music made there, and the occasional country act came through, but most of all it was a blues scene. 

            Austin’s Riverside Sound, at the far end of Riverside Drive, on the edge of town, was basically created as a playground for Richard Mullen, Stevie Ray Vaughan’s engineer.  It was his gold albums that hung on the wall, from Stevie’s first two, that made the studio, and Richard was part owner.  Richard Mullen never got the credit he deserved for Stevie Ray’s success, although he really enhanced the music with the same pristine, other-worldly sound he had given Christopher Cross, of “Sailing” fame, years before.  Later, Richard was Eric Johnson’s main engineer for over a decade, which says a lot.  It was incredible watching and listening to Richard meticulously craft every nuance into those tracks.  He charged $70 per hour at the time, and he took all night, slowly slurping down a 12-pack of Miller Lite, to make every project as perfect as possible.

            Most of the acts that recorded at Riverside were blues players that would hang out at Antone’s, the greatest blues club in Texas.  One time Clifford Antone brought to the studio some old guys from Chicago that used to play with Howling Wolf—Hubert Sumlin and Co.  The drummer (E.G?) derided me for keeping “our” beer in the fridge, where “that bassplayer” could get to it.  “Can’t you drink warm beer?” he asked. 

  My first album credit was on Trash, Twang, and Thunder—Big Guitars of Texas.  That was a very impressive experience, and it made a huge impression on me.  The producer basically just gathered six of the best players he could get ahold of and put them in the studio together.  In four days they came up with what turned out to be a Grammy Nominee.

Of course the band I was most involved with was Omar and the Howlers, a jamming blues rock act that packed Austin clubs on a weekly basis, when they weren’t packing stadiums in Sweden, where they were treated like gods.  This was an Austin Records group and I was doing anything and everything needed to release their albums, and later to get them signed with CBS.  Those guys were good friends and I really enjoyed hanging around with them.  Omar has always been an inspiration to me as a model of how to focus on what you do best and putting your all into it.

Click on the links to see videos of these performers.


Entering the World of Music

          I said I would talk about my time working for Austin Records, so here you go.  First, I want to go back to when I dropped out of Biology, and therefore Pre-Med.  This was at the University of Texas at Austin, and I went to all the classes and studied, sort of.  I was flayling in the lab, but the turning point came when I looked at my mid-term, consisting of three or four essay questions, and I had no clue.  I shocked the professor by turning in a blank page after five minutes.

            So I’m sitting outside the Commons, enjoying the scenery, and wondering what will become of me, when up walks my friend Drew.  I complained that I couldn’t even major in Music because I wasn’t proficient enough at the baritone, which I didn’t want to play anyway (I wanted to learn Cello.)  “Why don’t you major in Radio-TV-Film?” suggested Drew, “Its so cool, there’s even an audio sequence for sound engineers.”  And that was the moment my life was given direction (the direction towards a cliff, a waterfall, and a wild ride, but never mind.)  I loved music, but I wasn’t a great musician, so becoming a sound engineer seemed to be just the ticket.

A Fun Funky Place to be

            I met Herschel, the owner of Austin Records, because his wife Judy was a waitress at Chuys, where I worked also (I’ll have to talk about Chuys another time, it was an awesome place to work.)  They had a big after-concert party for Stevie Ray Vaughan on the eve of a big European tour.  Everybody sat around and drank too many margaritas, then suddenly gathered around Stevie Ray for autographs.  Mine was illegible.  One girl asked him to write something personal, so he wrote “Greetings from Margaret.”  She asked what that meant and he replied “its personal.”  I heard that Stevie Ray left his car parked in front of Herschel and Judy’s house—six feet from the curb on a through street!  It was still in good shape when he returned from the tour six weeks later.                       Stevie Ray Vaughan “Lenny”  

Stevie Ray Vaughan


Art or Music, Choose NOW

one of the first paintings I ever made

            It was at the end of my fifth year of elementary school that I was forced to choose between Art and Music.  I remember standing at the bus-stop with Sam Saldivar and discussing it.  We could only have one elective, and we wanted both.  We ended up choosing Band, mostly because our friend Scott, a year older, was in Band.  My public school education never allowed me the opportunity to pursue both Art and Music seriously.  As a result, it wasn’t until I was 26 years old that I discovered a passion for painting.

            I was sharing a condo with a fellow who took his TV with him when he moved out.  For the first time in memory, I had no access to television, and I didn’t want to buy one.  As an alternative form of visual entertainment, I started oil painting.  My Mom had a set of brushes and paints from a class she’d taken years before.  I actually started out painting on watercolor paper instead of canvas!  With painting I’ve discovered how to achieve short-term dreams—I’ll get an idea, then I paint it, or try to.  I am completely self-taught.  My first idea was of an ocean seascape with a huge Sun in the sky.  I was just having fun, but I liked how it turned out.  Even though it was on watercolor paper, it has still survived to this day (mounted on foam-board.)  My second painting was a truly visionary idea.  I was admiring a black & white photo in the newspaper (remember those?) of a singer named Anneke.  Then I noticed how the image was composed of a dot matrix—black dots on white, white dots on black, and several fascinating connections resulting from the variable size of the dots.  I decided to translate the image (on paper again!) using blue for the black areas, and yellow for the white (except the lips had to be red.)  At the time, I was painting for fun, so I didn’t worry about how long it would take.  It took a long, long time.  But I enjoyed it immensely, long after a new roommate arrived with a TV.  I used a magnifying glass to count the dots and copy the shape of them.  Thus I developed what I later coined “Matrix Pointelism.”  It is terribly time-consuming, but it is a very meditative activity, which I find quite relaxing.  Years later, when I showed a professional artist my work, he advised me not to market this material with my other work.  Because it is so time-consuming, he was convinced I would go insane if the public demanded quantities of it.  That is why I invented my alias—Luis Sabor, to represent me as the eccentric creator of all matrix pointelist works.  Now Luis is the stage name I use for performing music.  Interesting how everything connects to everything else, hmm?

original available at artbylowell.com


Remembering Cuba

In December ’98 I was lucky enough to travel to Havana with the band Ache’ Pa’ Ti for the Annual Jazz Festival.  It was so awesome, I stayed for a full month. We got to watch some world-class acts up close, even back-stage like Los Van Van here.   Here’s a great video.


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