When St. Paul musician/composer Richard Griffith went to Paris a few years ago, he laid one of his CDs among other mementos at Man Ray's grave at Montparnasse Cemetery. He felt like his pop CD — "filled with silly songs about trousers and dogs" — was a fitting tribute to the Dadaist. A few months later, he got an e-mail from Navarrese filmmaker Oskar Alegria, director of a new documentary on Ray's 1927 short film "Emak-Bakia" (Basque for "leave me alone"). Alegria had spotted the CD on the grave, played it and liked it so much that he asked Griffith to compose a song for the film. "At first I thought, 'Oh, it's a new version of the Nigerian prince scam,' " Griffith told I.W. But he knew it was the real deal when Alegria sent pictures of himself picking up — and putting back — the CD, scenes which also wound up being in the movie. The documentary will kick off Walker Art Center's cinema season Saturday, when multi-instrumentalist Griffith will accompany a screening of "Emak-Bakia" with live electronic music and meet Alegria in person for the first time. As for that CD on the grave? Maybe it's still there.
George Jones' Stash
It's well-known that dying can be a great boost to a musician's sales. Secret Stash Records co-founder Eric Foss, however, wants it to be known that his Minneapolis-based label's surprisingly high-profile new release — a vinyl reissue of country legend George Jones' 1957 debut album, "Grand Ole Opry's New Star" — was in the works long before Jones passed away in April. "This was a hard one to get done," said Foss, who hinted that the deal could've been even harder to nail down postmortem. Recorded for pioneering Texas label Starday Records, the album has never been reissued in its original form, Foss believes. So as not to confuse fans on Secret Stash's more funk- and soul-centered brand, the label is creating a new imprint called Reserve Records, which will house other country and rock records in the future. They're staging a Jones tribute concert as a release party Saturday at the Turf Club with the Blackberry Brand Boys, Curtiss A, Frankie Lee, Eleganza and others.
I.W. had to park out on the streets surrounding Old Log Theater last Friday, so packed was the place for the opening of "Cowgirls." The less said about that stinker of a musical the better ("Cowgirl with head in the sand"), but we digress. Lots of theater folk were curious to see the new Old Log, now that Greg and Marissa Frankenfield have taken over, with artistic director Kent Knutson. Lots of actors — Kasono Mwanza, Josh Campbell, Mo Perry, Jim Cada, Suzanne Egli, Jen Burleigh Benz and Terri Parker-Brown — were in the audience. Jack Reuler from Mixed Blood, Hubbard Broadcasting exec Dan Seeman and Iveys maestro Scott Mayer made the trek out to Excelsior. It was fun to see the old place so lively, at least in the audience if not on the stage.
Sax with the
man next door
Music man J.D. Souther heard the saxophonist practicing in the downtown Minneapolis hotel room next door. So the guy who wrote big hits for Linda Ronstadt ("Faithless Love") and the Eagles ("New Kid in Town," "Best of My Love") did what any enterprising musicmaker would do, he called the room and invited the sax man to sit in with him at the Dakota Jazz Club. And that's what Evan Francis — in town two days early while his boss, Michael Bublé, was appearing on TV's "The View" before his Wednesday concert at Xcel Energy Center — did. In fact, he winged it for 40 minutes with Souther's trio on Monday, playing mostly standards ("Cry Me a River," "Don't Get Around Much Anymore") and even Souther's only solo hit, "You're Only Lonely." "He's a bad dude," Souther told the Dakota faithful. "I'm going to check that [website] out on my steam-driven computer."
A neighborly reunion
When we got him on the phone recently to preview Friday's FLAG gig at First Avenue (with his fellow Black Flag alumni), Los Angeles punk vet Keith Morris told us right away how he's happy to be sharing the bill with Minneapolis' own Replacements at this weekend's RiotFest in Chicago — in part because he's hoping for a little redemption. "The last time I saw them was extremely disappointing, like they were ready for it to be over," said Morris, who also was in OFF! and Circle Jerks. Not just a fan, Morris told I.W. that he and 'Mats bassist Tommy Stinson used to be neighbors in L.A. "We got along swell, but never got the chance to play any music together."
F. Scott's thoughtbook
As a teenager, F. Scott Fitzgerald was not particularly deep, but he sure was passionate — and fickle. "Since dancing school opened this last time I have deserted Alicia. I have two new crushes," he wrote in his journal in 1911. That journal — which Fitzgerald called his "thoughtbook" — once was available in only a very limited edition but has now been published by the University of Minnesota Press. The book will launch Sept. 24 at the James J. Hill House in conjunction with Fitzgerald's 117th birthday party (Fitzgerald will not be there, but cake will be) and the launching of a nonprofit, Fitzgerald in St. Paul, which will promote Fitzgerald's local legacy and history. Reservations are required for this free event; call 651-297-2555.
After a hiatus lasting nearly 40 years, four massive limestone finials have returned to the downtown Minneapolis YWCA. The six-foot ornaments originally graced the roof of the Y-Dub's 1929 home. They were salvaged when the building was demolished in 1974 and relocated to the Marquette Avenue side of Orchestra Hall ("for safekeeping," said the YWCA's Mary Jones); construction of the hall's new lobby prompted their recent return. The carved quartet is temporarily lined up on Nicollet Mall, with a plan to incorporate them into an upcoming redesign of the YWCA's exterior.