We drove West.
We drove past the sacred mysteries of Avebury, Stonehenge and Glastonbury.
We circled the Standing Stones.
We crossed the forbidding Moors.
We drove as far as we could go only stopping at the very edge of the Atlantic Ocean.
It was late when we arrived.
The Moon was silvering the waters.
Dazzled and drowsy we settled into familiar surroundings and breathed the salt tanged air as deeply as we could before sleep beckoned.
I woke, as always, at 6am and joined the joggers and dog walkers patrolling the golden sands.
The surfers in their camper vans were already readying themselves for the fabulous waves the tides would surely provide today.
Later on the whole family including our grand daughter, now almost 1 and an enthusiastic paddler, established camp on our own stretch of the beach.
That lucky old sun rolled around heaven all day as we intermittently swam and sprawled under its reviving rays.
The picnic basket was looted of every treasure and urgent patrols were sent out for relief supplies of fruit and ice creams.
As the Sun set we meandered back to our cottage with the adults fortified by just the right number of Gin & Tonics.
Perhaps it was the power of the Sun amplified by the G&Ts that led me to start humming a tune that seemed to have the, ‘Spanish Tinge’
What was that song?
I set my music library numbskulls to work as I watched the waves crash on the rocks outside our windows.
Then, praise be, I began to sing in my (very) halting Spanish :
Era la medianoche, when oimos the scream
“Se requieren cien taxis en el almeria de Chavez Ravine.
As soon as the words Chavez Ravine formed in my mind I knew the source of the sun dappled melody that held me enthralled – ‘Onda Callejera’ from Ry Cooder’s wonderful album from 2005, ‘Chavez Ravine’.
Now I was able to hit the button and luxuriate in the masterly musicianship of Ry and Joachim Cooder, Mike Elizondo, Joe Rotondi, Gil Bernal, Mike Bolger, and Ledward Kaapana.
Now, I could provide the harmonies for the true vocals of Little Willie G and sisters Juliette and Carla Commagere.
I doubt the Cornish Coast has ever heard such a midnight choir before!
The interplay between the musicians here is very special.
Listening it’s as if you’ve slipped into a dream state where all your senses flow together and your imagination is released to free float into the welcoming ether.
This is not a sound you can achieve by mere practice or calculation rather it is the result of inspiration grounded on vocation and spiritual immersion leading to musical bliss in the moment.
Catching such bliss on record is very rare so I lift my Sombrero high into the sky to salute Ry and his compadres!
This is the kind of performance which permanently changes the weather inside your head.
And, that’s a feat Ry Cooder has serially achieved throughout his career as he has searched the world seeking out new rhythms and textures to delight his own musical appetite and in consequence ours too.
Ry has since his boyhood has responded to the music, in all genres, that has attracted him by determining to meet the musicians who were masters of that sound and through playing with them inhabit the mystery too.
His whole career is essentially a musical pilgrimage with each record or collaboration a way station where he draws strength, nurture and inspiration for the road ahead.
From his third solo record, ‘Boomer’s Story’ here’s a song from 1932, ‘Maria Elena’ that in the care of Ry’s all star band continues to cast a tender spell.
Now was that 6 minutes or 6 Hours?
Musicianship of this quality makes a mockery of old Father Time’s supposed regularity.
When the above performance was recorded Ry’s Band was dubbed, ‘The Moula Banda Rhythm Aces’.
And, Aces they were everyone.
Attend to the gorgeous sway of Flaco Jimenez on the Accordion.
Attend to George Bohanon’s warm breeze in the night air Trombone.
Attend to the joyful elegance of Van Dyke Park’s Piano.
Marvel at the supernaturally supple rhythm section of Drum maestro Jim Keltner, Miguel Cruz on Percussion and Jorge Calderon on Bass.
Surrender and swoon as Ry orchestrates the whole magnificent ensemble as they lead us to musical nirvana.
Now, a simple miracle.
A collaboration between Ry and the great Cuban Guitarist Manuel Galbán.
There are no words of mine that can capture the glory of this take on, ‘Secret Love’.
Close your eyes, sit still and let the magic begin.
This is collaboration becoming communion.
Ry has a wonderful generosity in his musical life.
Foregrounding the talents of his collaborators through the acuity of his arrangements he creates the space for the magic to enter and bloom.
I wish Ry well on his continuing Pilgrimage for following in his footsteps has been an education and a blessing.
As always if a particular clip won’t play for you in this Post you will certainly be able to find a playable clip via YouTube in your own region.
The Albums, ‘Chavez Ravine’ and ‘Mambo Sinuendo’ (where Secret Love features) are unreservedly recommended.
Manuel Galbán is a legendary figure in Cuba.
His work with Los Zafiros is imbued with deep joy in music making.