Renato Caranto

MusicWatch Weekly: Second summer chills out

Portland cools down with Montavilla Jazz Festival, two-score local bands, orchestral hip-hop, and a bunch of bleached assholes

Happy Indonesian Independence Day! Seventy-four years ago today, Indonesia declared its independence from the Netherlands after three centuries of Dutch colonialism (I’ll bet you thought they were always just about tulips and weed). To celebrate, here’s a little video (if you can’t read Indonesian, skip on down):

So in a minute I’m going to tell you where to hear a zillion local composers rock out this weekend, and Senior Editor Brett Campbell has some things to say about the Montavilla Jazz Festival starting tonight, but the gamelan band I’m in Bali with just played its freshly blessed instruments for the first time this morning, so as soon as I wipe these tears of joy out of my beard I think it’s about time to give you all a little music theory lesson.

Caution: All comparisons to Western phenomena are meant as a starting point, not an accurate description of genuine Balinese music. The present author is no expert, but only an egg. Caveat emptor.

Start at your piano, accordion, Casio, or other Western style keyboard. All those white keys make up the diatonic major scale, and if you shift around the starting pitch you get the seven so-called church modes. Music students learn about all that in first year theory and never use them again.

Start with the note E on your white-note keyboard. Play the next two white keys: F and G. Then skip one, to B, and then to C. Skip up to E and you’re done. In the West we might call that a Phrygian Pentatonic. In Indonesia they call it pelog, and it’s everywhere. Even the ubiquitous roosters crow in pelog.

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It’s King Louie Time

Blues organist Louis Pain and his trio are releasing a new CD of original songs, "It's About Time," this week. It's been worth the wait.

The insert for the King Louie Organ Trio’s new CD, “It’s About Time,” looks like a photo album of friends and family.

Fittingly so. Friends, mentors and family inspired Northwest blues stalwart Louis Pain’s album, as it says on the cover, and they’re name-checked in songs such as “Frances J,” which opens the album and honors his late mother, the feminist poet Frances Jaffer, who was also Pain’s first and biggest booster, signing him up for organ lessons when he was 16.

It continues with “Brulie,” the childhood nickname for former Tower of Power guitarist and longtime friend Bruce Conte, whose wonderfully economical and to-the-point guitar style adorns six tracks. (Conte recorded his parts over the tracks in a studio in the Philippines with an engineer he works with there, and the tracks were e-mailed back to Jim Hage, the CD’s co-producer as well as engineer, at Portland’s Long Play Recording. They are among the very few overdubs on this aggressively analog recording, which was recorded live and direct to analog tape in Hage’s studio.)

Louis Pain in his Washougal, Wash., man cave. Photo: Jon Foyston

Pain’s wife, Tracy Pain, is the inspiration for “Island Girl,” of which Pain says with a straight face, “If you think you recognize the melody, you’re mistaken” – after which the song opens with a brief but direct quote from the “Hawaii Five-0” theme. There are songs for grown kids and grandkids, such as the gorgeous, churchy “Bry-Yen: I Believe in You” and “Lupus Tylericus.” “Big Brothers” is exactly that, about Pain’s brothers; and “Blues for Pierre” is inspired by his stepbrother, Peter.

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