Music Writing by Carson Arnold
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WHERE'S SANDY NASSAN?
Sandy Nassan, my search for you is over. For far too long now I've hollered your name to the blue, and with no response, I turn back 'round, but yet with one slight, steady look back...Where could you be? Some recent guitar stint here and there for Therese Edell? You in the photograph, a twenty-two year old gaze- 1970 -hidden in the mustache, one guitar, and maybe nothing else, friend, we've seen you everywhere. But alas, I leave you to the belly. Though could you have been indeed swallowed like so much of your generation? Another rub-off who proudly passed the test, tuned-in, dropped-out but secretly signed-in and snitched when no one else was watching? Or Nassan, are you now Ornette Coleman who rehearsed when the concert was hours gone? I'm outta here, into the dim light and the retreat of the page. Maybe you'll hear me then, who knows. They call you jazz. I don't.
Fa-Bam! Ga-Lam! Du-Wam! Suddenly the wishbone broke and everybody left the room except Sandy Nassan who picked the two pieces right up and ran a lone opus on his 1970 aucostic-jam Just Guitar. An album that's basically...strange...then good...then rather great, (where am I?) soon genuine. But fa-bam!, something else turns its wings. Earth of a symphony. Quite frankly, it's just a young man ontop of a stool jammin' the meat out of his guitar. However, bloody fingers and broken nails in all, a type of sound like this ripping through the gate of the contemporary jazz drizzle was remarkably alien to the tab during that current time. White-boy jazz that is. No doubt the crowds were just beginning to recover from Sarah Vaughn no longer yummin with the blue-eyed flock in "Moonlight In Vermont" and Louis Armstrong's lobster-eyed ham. They were becoming hip to a street revolution that they saw reflective and republic to their new pour of modern classical music: free jazz and no longer top-secret. But hush-hush, these same great bells that promised to ring us right into the beyond, soon lost its shell and rambled right into the tin-alley of another noise, where sshh, we've been stuttering ever since.
Who cares, though, to the one's who were melodious enough to the seeds of a few good Judy Collins', nothing could sincerely harm you, cuz', after all, beauty was no longer for sale. The Reed's, Rotten's and the Cale's; that's where the open hay was thrown and where the money lay. It was this same exact freeze that REM's Michael Stipe would later document in '95 when singing "wrap my hand in plastic to try and look through it" that Nassan had absolutely nothing to do with. He was just one of the many sorry losers aced with the jack of hearts at that point. As Henry Miller would go on to describe the artist who'd find fortune in the gases of the new Millennium, Nassan was both this and the face of the Millennium before it. Somewhat of a "fool on the hill" when beginning, and somehow a victorious "nowhere man" in the end. Go figure. The hump of the seventies is best described as an age and era of tipsy vulnerability, and Embryo, Nassan's hardwood label, was one of the many netherlands for such refugees to float their dreams into a supreme hour where neither the provocative or the evicted could interrupt the vision of serenity. Whatever... Regardless of whether Nassan wanted to be chopped-up as "jazz" means nothing now, this is all, thank god, that's leftover. Just an old wanted-poster lost in the tossing turn of life and rhythm.
Just Guitar reveals a fate that Nassan should've been a true folk singer. Jazz, kiddo? Nah, forget it, that's for mad-dogs; live bitten or die clean. Though the record is absent of any conceived words or vocals- give or take a few gum-sighs in between fret-gaps, scat and screams- his harsh-spring of rapidly strumming counter-clockwise up and down the neck is under the same howling haze as Tim Buckley's "Gypsy Woman". Better yet, Doc Watson with an open eye off Haight-Ashbury. Nevertheless, guitar itself is a livid-lung-love here and vocals, man, would've jolted the album with a magical potential to burn the sky alive and toast the stars in two. Instead, Nassan torched it all by not singing, the ultimate trek, and with my guess, gained no friends doing it. Composed with nuttin' but a good simple guitar where Nassan feels, touches and sinks into the tenderness of each note that is either mad delicate or soft haywire, we are living. One instrument, ten fingers and all eyes closed in the note of peace. Yessir, a raw-bone that was far too dangerous for the Robert Fripp's to grasp and way too simple for the McLaughlin's to approach. Folk emeralds of Basho-sorts and jazz yips of Charlie Christian flourish all throughout Nassan's unpredictable maze, however the Persia-Djiango jams that unfold in his seven-minute versions of Jimmy Van Heusen or Burt Bacharach are all solos of an almost yodeling in-utero. His prints would be soon filled in years later by the claws of the city new wave with Elliot Sharp's flux-riot noodling- which is all fine- that is, if you like tin-men with little courage and too much brains. But the gamalen of the "weird" was never Nassan's gospel. Sure, he was a fine janitor-of-lunacy, but think about it, the all image of a-boy-and-his-guitar would and could never be a spectacle. More folk, more free, and exactly why this Cincinnati kid should've sung his damn heart out. It was there, friends, it was there. A whsiper in time like one blue sheet on a close-line swaying the arch of a soft and sunny breeze. Du-wam/Du-wam/Du-wam.
You bet I'm a sailing myth-maker, cuz' the kids aren't alright without ones like Nassan; somebody you can believe for and hope in. Dylan may of told us that Cinderella was too easy, yeah...but friends, there are some who don't even own the slipper, don't even have that midnight hour, but keep a small wardrobe of secrets humming like one guitar all waiting to be played right on like an album worth living for a life worth dying for. So where are you?
(Sandy Nassan, Just Guitar...1970, Embryo)
--Carson Arnold - June 8, 2003
copyright 2003 Carson Arnold
H(ear) is an online music column consisting of interviews, articles, and investigations written by Carson Arnold. As a freelance writer for various magazines and liner notes, living in the woods of Vermont with his family, Carson widely encourages one to submit their art, writing or any interesting piece of material that you would like to share. H(ear) is accepting both promos and demos for review or any other valuable music-related subjects. If you wish to make a comment or would like to receive H(ear) weekly by email please contact Carson at firstname.lastname@example.org
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