Writings About Music

Promised Land

Michael Robinson with audience members following a performance in Beverly Hills.


Promised Land by Chuck Berry crystallizes the excitement of moving to Los Angeles. In 2007, I was invited to a private club in Beverly Hills where Harry Dean Stanton was performing with his country music band. I happened to have my tenor saxophone with me, having come from a jazz club in Studio City. Stanton noticed the saxophone in its case and shouted: “Get up here and blow that thing!” So, unbelievably, I found myself playing country music obligatos and solos aside his vocals. Wearing an Indian kurta draped with multi-colored scarves together with a black art deco hat sporting dried white flowers, my appearance was likely surrealistic even for Hollywood. Harry had me solo so much the hostess of the party complained, saying that people had come to hear him and not me. I completely agreed with her and immediately packed up my tenor while Harry looked on nonplussed.


Stanton introduced Chuck Berry's magnificent Promised Land to me, and I love his rough-hewn, epiphanic and polyhued interpretation with Jamie James on guitar, together with more well-known versions by Berry, Elvis and others.




This generously encouraging attitude displayed by Harry, welcoming strangers in a strange land, was also found in the way Rodney Oakes, Carl Stone and Jeannie Pool all had me on their radio shows several times beginning almost immediately after landing here from Manhattan in 1990 following a one year stop over in Maui.



One of the pieces played during my first Imaginary Landscape radio program on KPFK FM hosted by Carl Stone was Delayed Response. The next day, I received a phone call from two men who had been driving on the 405 freeway during the broadcast. They had pulled off at the next available exit so they could listen more carefully and write down the name of the composition and composer when the music was over. They insisted upon meeting me, and I invited them to drop by later in the week. The extreme enthusiasm they voiced for my music was both startling and welcoming to the promised land praised by Chuck Berry.



Gift is the first composition played during the interview above. Since the audio quality in general is not that great, taken off the air, here it is again.



- Michael Robinson, August 2016, Los Angeles


© 2016 Michael Robinson All rights reserved


Michael Robinson is a Los Angeles-based composer and writer (musicologist).