This edition of Jazz Beat is devoted to Tom Reney’s interview with Geoff Muldaur, the singer/guitarist/banjo player whose associations include the Jim Kweskin Jug Band and Maria Muldaur in the 1960s, and Paul Butterfield’s Better Days in the early ‘70s.
Muldaur was a central figure in the music scenes in Cambridge in the ‘60s and Woodstock in the ‘70s, but by his own account, he went “into the repair shop” in 1983 and left music for about 13 years during which time he became an executive in the steel industry. Since his return 20 years ago, he’s released critically-acclaimed solo albums, “The Secret Handshake,” and “Password;” resumed his partnership with Kweskin on the album, “Penny’s Farm;” and devoted an album to the music of jazz legend, Bix Beiderbecke, “Private Astronomy,” which includes Muldaur’s arrangements and orchestrations for jazz combo and chamber ensemble. He’s also been a regular guest on “A Prairie Home Companion.”
Don’t mind— Tom didn’t-- Geoff referring to Bob Dylan’s performance of “Maggie’s Farm” at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival as “Penny’s Farm.” The discussion about the painter Larry Rivers near the end of the interview refers to Rivers’s portrait of Muldaur for the cover of “Password.” The memoir they refer to is entitled, “What Did I Do?”
Interspersed are recordings by several of the artists they discuss: Duke Ellington (“Lightnin’”); the Swan Silvertones (“How I Got Over”); Lonnie Johnson & Eddie Lang as “Blind Willie Dunn” (“Guitar Blues”); New Orleans clarinetist George Lewis (“Burgundy Street Blues”); Paul Butterfield (“Mellow Down Easy” and “Work Song”); Muldaur with Better Days (“Small Town Talk” and “Please Send Me Someone to Love”); Bill Frisell (“A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall”); and Muldaur’s “Wild Ox Moan,” “Got to Find Blind Lemon,” and “Just a Little While to Stay Here.”