For the time being, New York native guitar wizard Jeremiah Lockwood is a resident of Palo Alto, Calif. Make that “reluctant resident.”
“I’ve been here two months,” he said in a telephone interview last week. “I’m at Stanford working on a Ph.D. in education. I have some family out here and my wife’s entire family is out here. It’s beautiful and the climate is impressive.”
So what could be bad?
“It’s a culture of nowhere,” Lockwood replies. “It’s a completely invented environment.”
He concedes, though, that his California period is still in its early stages.
Lockwood, 36, will certainly be bicoastal at least part-time. He’ll be back in New York to perform material from his new album “Lockwood!,” which showcases his first musical love, Piedmont-style acoustic blues, and for a memorial tribute to his mentor and friend, the late Carolina Slim, on Oct. 27 at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola (Jazz at Lincoln Center, jazz.org).
Slim, born Elijah Staley, died last February at the age of 87. His presence as a street singer around New York, particularly on the city’s subway system, gave him an impact that reached far beyond his modest recorded output. As Staley told The New York Times in 2002, “People think I got to play in the subway. I don’t got to play in the subway. I want to play in the subway.”
Lockwood recalled their meeting at a street fair in 1993, “I had spent my bar mitzvah fortune on an electric guitar and amp, and I started playing blues on the street the next day. I saw him on the Upper West Side playing, and I pushed myself upon him and asked if I could play with him.”
They ended up playing the entire day, the beginning of a collaboration that would stretch for many years.
“He took me under his wing,” Lockwood said. “I played with him every week, at least one day a week on the subway, but there were other gigs as well. We played at Belmont Racetrack, private parties in Westchester and Long Island, local libraries, old age homes, and one year at the World Music Institute’s festival.”
They also spoke on the phone “all the time,” he noted. “It was an amazing education.”
Lockwood’s blues education blended seamlessly with his other, very different musical influence: his grandfather Jacob Konigsberg, who was a prominent cantor.
It was his experience being mentored by these two commanding musical presences that led Lockwood to Stanford.
“I was looking for a way to recreate my experiences in a specifically Jewish context,” he explained.
Lockwood is enrolled in an interdisciplinary program that links the School of Education and the Jewish Studies program. He has added a little ethnomusicology to the mix, and is focusing his research on issues of cultural transmission and apprenticeship. As someone who has been a living vessel of two disparate musical cultures, Lockwood is uniquely well suited to such work.
In the meantime he also continues to perform. The new CD (System Dialing Records) is a journey back to his days with Carolina Slim, but his latest recording with his band The Sway Machinery has already been mixed and should be released after the first of the year.
As for his life in Northern California, he admitted laughingly, “I will adjust more but this is probably not forever.”