If, fifty years into the future, in November, 2071, nothing is known about I, Mark Bennett Weiss, except that I had something to do with the video above, that would be enough. It would be wrong, but nearly true. I did meet Diunna Greenleaf, the Houston-based blues singer and songwriter, on October 5, 2021 at Greaseland Studios in San Jose, but the video was shot slightly before I arrived.
Two days later, however, and more to the point, Diunna played a pop-up blues show in Palo Alto, at Cogswell Plaza. I produced that.
And tonite, at the new Mitchell Park Community Center in Palo Alto, at 8:30 p.m she plays another concert, this one slightly more polished, yet still bluesy, I’m quite certain.
I’m writing this at Peet’s Coffee, near Stanford University and counting down the hours until the show. Twelve hours exactly. Ok, eleven hours and 54 minutes. [Update: 10.5 hours –ed; seven hours from now–ed]
I’ve got nine or ten shows on my books to wrap up 2021 and to engage and initiate 2022 — my twenty-eighth year in the music biz – but I am hoping to focus the next two days, Thursday and Friday on Ms. Diunna. Check back next year, when her new album comes out, or if you are reading this in 2071, you may have a whole catalog of Diunna Greenleaf studio and live sessions, and she may be in your pantheon alongside Aretha Franklin, Nina Simone, certainly, or a slightly lower echelon, you will put Diunna with Koko Taylor, Shemekia Copeland and Beyonce Knowles. I’m trying to get her in with the agents of Patti Cathcart (Tuck and Patti, from here in the 650– and Mary J. Blige — a guy named Keith Naisbitt of APA in Nashville; I don’t know him but I know Bruce Solar, especially from his Absolute days in San Francisco). Beyond tonite, I am hoping to be a Diunna-Greenleaf-evangelist, maybe Team Diunna, even.
Tickets are available for Diunna at EventBrite, and likely at the door. They are only $20. She is doing an “evening with” which means no opener, she’s the headliner. Kid Andersen, whose San Jose studio, Greaseland, is hosting the creation of her new album, is the technical producer of the show, bringing the sound; plus he will play. Diunna is in town for three days mostly to finish the recording, but will break away to release these live songs into the universe, for a small but appreciative audience, if I can look into a crystal ball that refracts or reflects only that much. But really, although she is relatively obscure, known mostly in blues circles, she may go down in history as an all-time-great, if the rest of this session sounds like these four-and- a-half minutes. Meeting her five weeks ago has certainly changed my life.
This is my second hard-ticket show after 18 months off. My Leonard Cohen Tribute with Sylvie Simmons and Bhi Bhiman, plus Aleta Hayes, Charith Premawardhana, Joey Chang and Caroline McCaskey, as Classical Revolution string section, went very well, though business was slow. My mission as Earthwise is to put on great events; not sure how to explain the consistent — through 20 or so shows at The Mitch, 2018 to present — social distancing, beyond the fact that, indeed social media disrupts traditional media and, frankly, knowledge, and the fact that I started producing events as a countervailing social construct in reaction to media and social media. People also used to say I’d draw bigger crowds if I moved my shows to Berkeley. But my charter is to de-colonize Palo Alto, free it from the corporate hegemony and groupthink and nihilistic media-rich capitalism. Three chords and the truth, yo.
PAST IS PROLOGUE, POWER TO THE PEOPLE
I met Diunna because my wife Terry had an appointment for a booster vaccine at Good Sam’s in San Jose, and I was killing the wait by checking on Kid at Greaseland; I walked in, and there she was, Diunna. Truth be told, I had not heard of her. But something about her presence tripped me out. It was her birthday — October 6, same as my late father’s; I kissed her on the cheek and took a knee – she was seated. We talked a bit and soon it was arranged that the band would break away two days later for an impromptu show at Cogswell Plaza. I had just produced a run of 15 free shows at Lytton Plaza, three blocks away, University compared to Lytton Avenue, but there was already an art show booked into the space, plus also at City Hall /King Plaza. Cogswell is fine– the trees frame the band nicely – -minus the fact that for whatever reason the City of Palo Alto would not let us use the power grid, or claimed the socket was out and they could not fix it. All in all the music was resplendent, but there was a weird tone set by the bureaucracy; hopefully that set of facts does not jinx or impair tonite’s permitted gig, indoors, hard-ticket, at the Mitch. It is a true fact, and a searchable public record, that in the heat of the discussion about producing this Diunna Greenleaf free concert, and the City’s role, I said that if they would not give us a permit or let us tap the grid that they would at least not shoot us, either. (The name “Diunna” sounds like the name “Breonna”, feel me? Three of us were Black. I sent this info in a note to City Manager and Director of Community Services, maybe the mayor. As my former client Stew says, in a song called “Florida” slightly different context but same overall milieu “Florida, Florida, you kill me; …it don’t matter if the weather is great if I gotta wear a bulletproof vest”). The people in the photo are Barry Simons attorney, with the camera, who literally was on the job just in case Florida and Atlanta ARE Palo Alto, and only posing as a videographer; Greaseland tech and harmonica wiz Nick Adams, Jimmy Pugh, of Village Music Foundation, funding the cd; Diunna; June Core, not on the album and not visible here – he’s Charlie Musselwhite’s drummer; Kid Andersen, of Greaseland Studios, from Norway, and the producer of 100 blues albums; Jerry Jemmott, likewise new to me as of five weeks ago but has a career spanning decades creating rhythmic basis for Diunna, Nina Simone, Aretha Franklin, King Curtis, people like that. People really like that, I should say.
Andand: later that day, T minus seven hours: I think its a good omen I’m eating hamhocks for lunch, my wife made; it might be a filipino recipe not Texas, but soul food methinks. Or close enough for Plastic Alt0 – the name references her fellow Texan, Ornette Coleman, who had an acrylic sax, a plastic alto. Whereas “earthwise” references the fact that the leaf mulch today is slightly different than the ones or such from October, so Diunna will sound slightly different tonite than she did on October 7. Which makes it worth seeing again.