The Low End Vocal Avatar of Encinitas

Greetings Good Folks, it’s a Miles morning and right now they’re playing “Milestones” with Coltrane’s sonic exploits filling this most magical summer morning air. After reading the book last week about the making of Kind of Blue I’ve been revisiting some of his classic sides and it’s a joy to reconnect with old friends. I grew up with this music via my Dad’s turntable and his after work bongo in the living room while listening to jazz records sessions. We thought he was weird but later learned he was on to something. Look at me now, 40 years later and still tranced by this music.

Last week’s hit at 98 Bottles with Bop Mod was a huge success. The musos brought the goods and there were great solos by all. The good people of jazz showed up and filled the room with receptive ears and enthusiasm. It was a joy bopping through the changes and the new version of “Lucy in the Sky” has supreme potential. Thanks to all that made it out and if you want to check out the details you can read Robert Bush’s account of how it went down. He reports, “the San Diego jazz all-star aggregation known as Bop Moderno took the stage in The Back Room at 98 Bottles like conquering heroes and proceeded to lay it down for a sold-out house of enthusiastic supporters– conjuring up two hours of non-stop music.”

Bop Mod hitting at 98 Bottles with (left to right) Peter, Gilbert, Duncan, Tripp and Gunnar.

Bop Mod hitting at 98 Bottles with (left to right) Peter, Gilbert, Duncan, Tripp and Gunnar.

Other cool print media currently circulating — our recording Dr. Einstein’s Spin with my String Consort captured the attention of writer Jim Trageser and he shared his experience in the latest edition of the San Diego Troubadour. In his words, “It’s also why fans of local jazz guitarist Peter Sprague should check out the second recording of his String Consort, Dr. Einstein’s Spin, with the sound of cello, viola, and violin joining Sprague and his longtime associates, bassist Bob Magnusson and drummer Duncan Moore.”

Click here for Trageser’s full lexiconic ride.

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It’s with a sad heart that I share the news of a good friend of ours that has left us for the next chapter. A. Paul Bergen passed away on July 6 at his home in Encinitas with his wife Linda and his daughter Shani by his side. I miss him dearly.

A. Paul Bergen and Linda were regulars at my Thursday night Roxy gigs and they even had their own designated table situated right in the front. It’s there that A. Paul would roll up in his wheel chair and he and Linda would order food and then proceed to focus with intense listening and joyful enthusiasm with the music. They made the music better just by their presence!

I knew A. Paul had music flowing through him from a deep place. I first met him a zillion years ago at the Fanfare Recording Studio in El Cajon. The studio had multiple recording rooms and I had arrived early so I looked around to see who else was recording that night. I stumbled into a session with a vocal group singing a wild Gregorian chant like piece that was intended for a car commercial—creative 1980’s marketing genius at work. What blew me away was the dude that was singing the bass part had such a fire and intensity he was shaking the speakers loose. Wow! Low end insanity and all of this emanating from a pretty small guy zipping around with crutches. I knew from that moment that this fellow wasn’t phoning it in.

And phoning it in wasn’t even a word or concept within his vocabulary. Fast forward a bunch of years and A. Paul and Linda would be in the audience at my gigs and I would talk with them and learn about A. Paul’s earlier years touring around the country singing in vocal groups, recording in the studios with the likes of John Williams and Norman Luboff, about his love of painting and about his creative writing exploits. He later gave me one of his paintings and another time he invited me to play an opening set at one of his hilarious book signing events. This cat could weave a story and he had us all up in stitches reading from his first novel, “Naked In The Tub With Vera.” He was living a wonderful creative life in spite of a body that wasn’t fully with the program. That takes great strength and courage to continue on without bitterness and self pity. A. Paul was cooking!

Most recently the Roxy sessions were morphing into a much more loose 2nd set concept and it’s there that on several occasions we were graced with A. Paul’s extremely low and rich vocal contributions to the music. I launched into a slow raunchy blues and A. Paul would fashion a wicked vocal complete with scatting and a made up lyric line that would take us all down. Little did the audience know the magic that was inside of this lanky fellow in a wheelchair. Linda would be all smiles as her old man once again rode the transcendence of music. It was transporting!

In later Roxy sessions A. Paul sang “Willow Weep For Me” and our next idea was for him to sing my silly hard hitting “Power to Rock” tune and bring his Tom Wait’s growl and his special brand of humor to the mix. He had learned the tune but was waiting until his health improved to pull it off. I’m so sad that I never got to hear what he could of done with the song.

So Mister A. Paul, you will be missed and remembered. Our lives are fuller having known you.  The low-end vibrations of Encinitas will forever be in your debt. Travel well beloved low end vocal avatar of Encinitas.

My plan is at the next Roxy hit later this month I’ll start out the 2nd set with “Amazing Grace” in A. Paul’s honor. Join in if you can and we’ll celebrate one of earth’s great humans.

A. Paul belting the blues at the Roxy! His lovely wife Linda to his left and that's Johnny Minchin on harmonic and me on the guitar.  photo by Rick Sokol

A. Paul belting the blues at the Roxy! His lovely wife Linda to his left and that’s Johnny Minchin on harmonica and me on the guitar.
photo by Rick Sokol

Gearing up for this week the wonderful Nina Francis is making the drive down from L.A. for a night of jazz music with Tripp and I at Ki’s Restaurant. Nina is a music student at USC and this summer is working an internship at a music publishing house in L.A. She’s jumping into it full on and it’ll be great to hear her sing once again. Come on out one and all!

Peter and Nina rehearsing at SpragueLand

Peter and Nina rehearsing at SpragueLand

It’s been a couple of years since I’ve had the good fortune of hearing Steve Kujala change the course of the planet’s rotation merely with his flute playing. He can do this you know! Hah!

Steve and I have a wonderful long history making music together and it’s joy that he’ll be coming down to San Diego to play a concert with me and the boys at the Coronado Library on Saturday afternoon. It’s a free event and we’ve got a great program planned. We’ll revisit some of our classics including “Na Pali Coast” and “Fretless Flute Song” along with 2 new pieces of mine. See you there I hope!

Getting ready to read it at the Coronado Library with (left to right) Bob Magnusson, Peter, and Steve Kujala.

Getting ready to read it at the Coronado Library with (left to right) Bob Magnusson, Peter, and Steve Kujala.

That’s it for today friends. Jump in the ocean if you can, it’s super warm today…

all best, Peter Sprague

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“Rounded Corners”
I wrote this tune back in the late ‘80’s and it became a regular anthem for Steve Kujala and I through the years. It’s got just the right blend of samba, cool chord moves, and a sweet release vamp section at the end that reminds me of Crosby, Stills, and Nash in some way. It’s in this area of the tune that Kujala takes off and makes the whole thing levitate. The song title came to me as I was working on the computer with PageMaker and one of the options you could choose was to have rounded corners instead square corners to soften the look, to add some kindness to the design. This seemed like a good fit to this gentle bossa nova. Check it out!

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