This afternoon in the lobby of the Cadillac Hotel, Nelson Lunding seems to have continued a Labor Day Weekend tradition with a return appearance:
Nelson Lunding in performance (courtesy of Concerts at the Cadillac)
Lunding is a master bluesman, whose education was reinforced when he moved from New York to New Orleans. He remained in New Orleans until Hurricane Katrina hit, after which he took his expertise to San Francisco. He subsequently crossed the southern border, establishing a reputation first in Mexico and then in Guatemala, where he now lives, having settled in the colonial city of Antigua.
As with past visits, Lunding both sang and played the Patricia Walkup Memorial Piano, an instrument that, since it was made in 1884, probably predates the performance of blues as it is now practiced. Most of the selections were of Lunding’s own creation, which is to be expected among those who actually perform the blues, rather than just listen to recordings of it. That practice, however, depends heavily on knowledge of a generations-old collection of motifs, which can be reconfigured in a wide variety of combinations to support any number of different harmonic progressions. (Remember, the practice of reconfiguring familiar motifs goes all the way back to the early days of singing plainchant; and it is basically the same practice that David explains to Walther in painstaking detail in the first act of Richard Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg.) Thus, what is important is not which fragments Lunding appropriates but the refreshing spontaneity with which he can work them to his own ends.
Nevertheless, as was the case last year, he devoted a few selections to other composers. This afternoon, perhaps in explicit recognition of Lunding’s fondness for San Francisco, one of those composers was San Francisco’s own Vince Guaraldi. Rather than playing any of the Peanuts music that did so much to raise Guaraldi’s profile, Lunding turned to his best-known “pre-Peanuts” song, “Cast Your Fate to the Wind.” He also played Zequinha de Abreu’s “Tico-Tico no Fubá,” making it sound more like ragtime than like a Brazilian choro.
All this took place during a really hot afternoon when it was good to be sitting under a rotating ceiling fan. However, Lunding did not see to be phased by the temperature. His heart was in making the music, and that was enough to win over the attentive listener.