written by Craig Fenton, Jefferson Airplane biographer
In April 2015 I received a call from Music & Film Producer Joe Viglione. The circumstances of the communication were to discuss the upcoming New York Yankee/Boston Red Sox three game series and to afford me an invite to attend a performance by Jeff Mastroberti.
Since the end of the 1970’s music and poetry in any form have often lacked originally, conviction, and memorable moments. With a profusion of people making up many demographics praising Jeff’s words and his meritorious skill in articulation along with the groundswell of approval Jeff’s gigs had earned made me resonate a loud “Yes” to Joe’s offer.
In 2002 Jeff had settled in Pennsylvania and the soil for his unique style had been planted. The term Spoken-Word often pigeonholes an artist and poet. The stereotypical definition is some girl or guy is reading from a book or scribed notes without musical accompaniment.
To place Jeff into a sea of conformity not only is insulting to his performances and vision but limits someone with his ability to reach a weightier base of exposure.
The case in point is the experience that I rubber-stamp to this day sitting in the audience soaking up the auditory sounds. Jeff immediately commandeered the room with a connection to his fans and a speaking style that was both pleasant, natural, and never condescending. Many of the Spoken-Word performers even in the most intimate of settings don’t make eye contact and seem to protect themselves with the Great Wall of China, rather than let the guard down and allow natural occurrences to be the order of the day.
In the sixty-minutes Jeff not only read flawlessly in a solo format from his 2012 book of forty-four poems, he also presented us with a backing-band that would without blemish play jazz, country, blues, and folk music as Jeff would open his soul, heart, and mind to the mesmerized audience.
Jeff’s third CD release “No, Condiments, Please” follows “Caution: Your Entering Jeffland” and “This Land Is Jeffland.”
The twelve tracks are taken from the 2012 book. It must have been forever painstaking to narrow down the choices to a dozen since any of the poems could have been successful in Spoken-Word form (without music representation) or with a group of musicians.
The first track “My Place” with an easy jazz feel behind it slams you to the mat during the first verse “My frown is becoming permanent, my crown is aching with pain” but salvation is obtainable as Jeff pens at the end “Believe in myself, God, and dream.” No predictability here, only a solution that allows Jeff to persevere another day.
The second selection “I Recall” immediately changes the route as the sounds of a finely-tuned old time country band keeps the beat as Jeff struggles with the need for the mighty dollar and the dependence having become the thirteen-thousand-pound elephant in the room. The superlative expression is highlighted by Jeff’s Spoken-Word interchanged with a peerless vocal.
As we fast-forward to track five “Onion Waits” it will rip your eyes open with the instrumentation at times reminiscent of the Beatles “Eleanor Rigby.” Jeff ponders is he insane or a master of words and imagery? The proficiency is clear, and he is the master of words and imagery.
Number eight on the docket is haunting. “Kimberly” with an intro redolent to one of the finest songs ever designed “Today” from the Jefferson Airplane. “Kimberly” contains one of the best lines a poet has ever carved, “She can please a beggar without ever giving him a dime.”
Finality for now with “The Rain” has become a reality, the CD is approaching the laser’s last spin. The words “I taught her to enjoy the rain, she taught me how to feel the pain” rip through the skin as a nurse changing a band-aid on a still open wound. The concluding sentence “I learn to live alone again” is not meant for eternal bleakness, only to memorialize the words from “My Place”, “Believe in myself, God, and dream.”
All the best,
Author: Jefferson Airplane “Take Me To A Circus Tent”
Jefferson Starship “Have You Seen The Stars Tonite”