LIVE: The Chandler Travis Three-O & David Greenberger @ Caffe Lena, 11/21/15

December 8th, 2015, 4:00 pm by Greg
The Chandler Travis Three-O

The Chandler Travis Three-O

Review by Fred Rudofsky

A full house was transported to other worlds on a recent Saturday at Caffe Lena in Saratoga Springs by the Chandler Travis Three-O, guided by the evening’s emcee-songwriter David Greenberger.

Those worlds featured a terrific assortment of songs from the recent Bocce and Bourbon: The Comfortable Songs of Chandler Travis and David Greenberger, a collection that spans more than 15 years of recordings. Adorned in his customary bathrobe, pajamas and rumpled hat, a barefoot, Telecaster-sporting Travis led Fred Boak (vocals), John Clark (string bass and vocals) and Berke McKelvey (various brass and woodwinds, vocals and keyboards).

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“(You and Me) Pushin’ Up Daisies” imagined in a skewed way the prospect of growing old together, then merged into “Air, Running Backwards,” a song with a gentle hook and fine falsetto moments. “It’s never been done before – this might be why!” cracked Greenberger from the front row in a borrowed orange blazer after pondering the use of an emcee with a vested interest in the evening’s setlist. Of course, that observation meant that the next two songs – “Anne,” an ode to a beautiful, unattainable woman (punchline: she’s married) and the clarinet-driven “Bocce and Bourbon,” which does not appear on the new album – were not co-written with Greenberger. Hey-oh!

Other songs from the recent collection, however, popped up throughout the evening. Greenberger introduced “The Strongman of North America” as the “rich and potent side of one’s demise”; the dual vocals of Travis and Boak, beatnik bass of Clark and roller-rink keys and alto sax riffing of McKelvey made it a three-minute gem. “When the Roses Shine in Picardy,” inspired by Greenberger’s work in a nursing home in 1979, waltzed like an old cowboy song over an acoustic guitar and various interjections from the multi-instrumentalist McKelvey – the late Ronnie Lane would have loved this one. Crowd favorites “Make the Small Things Pretty” and “Calling Me Back Home” featured some of the most tender vocals of the set.

Yet the other worlds beyond sunsets filled with bocce and bourbon made inspired destinations, too. Four songs from a tentative musical were given spirited renditions; “National Geographic” (“all the things I never studied/let me learn them now”), “There’s Always Time for a Murder Spree” (dark in an Addams Family sort of way), “My Forgetful Creature” (a Beatlesque piece with sublime bowed bass) and “High Branches” (skewed keys with a pop hook that brought to mind Syd Barrett and John Lennon) stood right next to the best work the two songwriters have done.

With a repertoire that rivals Sleepy LaBeef or Dale Watson, it was no surprise Travis and company found ways to sprinkle in an ode to negative thoughts (“Shut Up, Shut Up, Shut Up”), a new Christmas song (“Hey Santa!”) and baroque funk rave-up (“Bosco”). Introduced as a song that “features a dancer,” “Untitled” inspired Travis and Boak to freeze in mid-jig several times like catatonic mimes. Ska chestnut “Which One Would You Save?,” the deep soulful jazz of “Someone Somewhere Loves You” and crowd-mingling encore “Things to You” closed out an extraordinary evening.

??? (instrumental)
(You and Me) Pushin’ Up Daisies
Air, Running Backwards
Bocce and Bourbon
The Strongman of North America
All in a Day
I Need You (Only You)
A Man Who Walks on Air
National Geographic
There’s Always Time for a Murder Spree
When the Roses Shine in Picardy
My Forgetful Creature
Make the Small Things Pretty
Calling Me Back Home
Shut Up, Shut Up, Shut Up
Hey Santa
By the Way
High Branches
Which One Would You Save?
Someone Somewhere Loves You
Things to You (NRBQ)

David Greenberger

David Greenberger

Fred Boak

Fred Boak

Chandler Travis

Chandler Travis

Chandler Travis

Chandler Travis

3 thoughts on “LIVE: The Chandler Travis Three-O & David Greenberger @ Caffe Lena, 11/21/15”

  1. Denise Borden says:

    Thank You Fred Rudofsky for taking us back to that wonderful evening of music with the Chandler Travis Three-O and their cohort , lyricist and host for the evening , David Greenberger on the night of Nov. 21st at Caffe Lena .
    Thank You Fred for this fine recollection of that evening . Thank You Joe Deuel for some fine photos and Thank You Nippertown … And of course a big Thank You to Chandler Travis & David Greenberger for the many gorgeous songs they have given life to and the amazing musicians who season them to perfection

  2. barbara price says:

    A minor correction: Travis was uncustomarilly attired in a shirt and pants, not a robe this time, though PJs appeared to be peeking out from his pant leg

  3. Damn, that was a fun show and a fun read, too! Heap big thanks to my fellow Fred; it’s always great to see you in the audience!

    A few setlist corrections:
    The opening instrumental is called “Cooties”
    “Bosco” is “Vasco da Gama”
    “Which One Would You Save” is an old chestnut called “Your Wife and Mother” (I believe both it and “Untitled” are scheduled to appear on the next Chandler Travis Philharmonic album, “Waving Kissyface, Volume 1”)
    “Someone Somewhere Loves You” is inexplicably titled “Bob What’s-Is-Name” (words that appear nowhere in the lyrics).

    and I *think* I remember that we threw in our stripped-down rendition of “When I Grow Too Old to Dream” at the very end of the night (lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein – we base our version on one by Arnett Cobb that’s really swell)

    Great to see you – and great pics by Joe Deuel! I don’t think I’ve ever looked quite so life-like!


    – Fred “The Valet”

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