It must have been a brisk autumn night, as the weather was ideally inclement for a stroll through the back ways and lanes of Toronto's downtown west side, along the curves and dips of the Garrison creek, formerly called the Bull creek, south from Davenport to Queen, into the still beating heart of Parkdale's musical magic hour.
The first time I brought the gang from Valued Customer down to Not my Dog, it was an appropriately synchronistic occasion. I carried a boombox and described to them the ideal James Brown sourcebook, which I would find in a used bookshop later that same week. Serendipity is not chaos, as I might have argued a few years earlier in the same bar.
"They remind me of me. "
Said Johnny awesome.
"I hate them"
I first met Patrick Power, guitar and vocals, through Craigslist. I had posted a call for scores composed for violin cello flute and oboe, having no real means to present any such music.
Patrick invited me to hear his string quartet, performed at gallery 345 as part of Torontiad 2. He gave my sister guitar lessons. We had tea and talked about jazz. I sensed that the pedigree of instrumental proficiency and thero-storical background possessed by VuCu refracted through their native classic rock and post-millenial rap
would find fertile modes of sonic articulation in the mid-century black American avant garde.
Then came Torontiad three, a workshop in which we both rehearsed brass duets for french horn and tuba. Due to an allergic hyper sensitivity, my eyes were bleeding during most of this time, and somebody else had to turn my score into a PDF format acceptable to the players. Patricks piece sounded like Stravinsky vs Zappa. Mine sounded like medieval mush.
Justus Gustus is an enigmatic, well-coiffed sort. I admire his savvy lyrics and the frenetic trance of his powerful delivery. He plays his guitar through a golden JVC boombox I left on Patrick's doorstep last time I moved and downsized my collection. He lives in cinespaces and dates projectionists.
The Victory Café open mic was another happy time. Few jammers actually discovered this jam during its ill-fated three month run, and I was often left to entertain in marathon sessions with the rapman. Unless VuCu came in, and then it was a lovely romp of an evening. One of my best moments in Mirvish village was killing it free styling to a Bran Van "Drinking in LA" instrumental. ( L A, L L A, L A W Y E R S...)
Just as much fun as playing the Elvis Costello Challenge with my aunts Ann and Leah, or getting goofy and doing pratfalls during a zombie rap jam called "bodies on the ground".
I also got to jump in on a VuCu set at the Holy Oak a couple years back, in the midst of a sexy song called " perfect body"
Essentially VuCu serves, in my timeline, to justify and encourage my shamanic status as a goofy, wise, dirty old(er) man. I enjoy quipping that I am the Satie of whatever this post-jazz rap thing is called, and that they will outshine me as its Debussy, but that's just me being all cute and musico-historical.
O how i love their merch! They design their own stylish shirts, sometimes stiched together from multiple sources.
My birthday party recital, "so long summer" farewell parties, and a one off open mic, all held at the Belljar Café, were also graced by VuCu members.
I did a session for Patricks solo project: the "piggga" album, my first studio rap after a dry period away from the jams and the joints. I mustered some rambling shout outs over a 6/4 beat and was offered more future collabs.
If you're still reading this without having heard the music of Valued Customer, now.might be the time to mention that they are on some next level. Look up their bandcamp. Turn off the Netflix and chill.
When valued customer came to visit us in the Soo last summer, it all came back to me. Bohemia. Vast art-historical pipedreams. Distortions in my perception of time....
Vucu are growing up, and hosted the Gore Street open mic as a full blown new thing panmodal jazz combo. Actually, their show in the Sunshine laundromat last summer was possibly the best we put on last year. If only I could find the videos...
A couple days later Vucu trumpeter David Baldry was back in town with Reenie and rocking Gore Street once again. At 180 Projects, I confessed to him that since the Holy oak I didn't think the band could maintain their hip hop approach without a drummer, and that the laundromat show had changed my mind.
But the last time I met up with my boys at the dog for my now-regular xmastime gig, things went a bit awry. A buddy of theirs had smuggled some outside beers into the open mic on Wednesday, and their act was barred for insulting the owner. Steve Mozarowski showed up at the last minute to replace their set. I think they'll come back again this summer to visit and play. I think their next album is going to astound:-) I think next time the cypher is going straight to video;-)